Moonlight and Memories

My first thought upon awakening is that it was all a dream. The sawdust feel in the back of my throat and the heaviness of my head tells me the alcohol part at least was entirely truthful. I give up sitting as a bad idea, and fall back onto the pillow. I have never drunk that much before. I usually have more control. But as soon as Scott removed his shirt...

The thought sends a tremour through me even now. Such a small thing, his bare torso, bathed in the warm glow of the firelight. A chest I had seen half a hundred times before, perfectly innocently. But my own reaction rendered this innocent no longer. Your stomach doesn't twist that way when a friend strips in front of you. I prayed no one would see my blush in the firelight. I was so nervous Logan could smell it.

Goddess, what a mess. I thought at the time that this was completely unworkable - thinking about a close colleague like that. I should never have let it start. Except it started so gradually, I do not think I could have stopped it. Sometimes, when I try to trace my feelings back to their source, I wonder if maybe it has been building since the first time I met him, so long ago. But he was with Jean, and that was that.

All of us had been shocked when Scott and Jean gathered us to make their announcement. It was a perfectly amicable separation, Jean declared, but no one looking at the ticking muscle in Scott's jaw believed that. The entire mansion was treading on eggshells from that moment, every second expecting Scott to explode. Except, of course, he never did. It did not surprise me. He has always been so cautious, so careful, so controlled. The perfect leader.

I admire control and restraint. I told him that. I wished the words back as soon as they were out of my mouth, and yet I also rejoiced at the thought that maybe, just maybe, he would see what I was saying. I admire you, Scott. You are everything I admire.

A dream, I decide. The memories are shot through with silvered moonlight. They seem unreal. A beautiful dream, one I will treasure, but a dream nonetheless. It's better that way, I tell myself. Less problems all around.

With a groan, I roll out of bed, one hand pressed to my forehead. The sky outside, thankfully, is clouded over, a flat sheen of dark grey. It mirrors my mood perfectly, and I wonder if my emotions have been meddling again. At this point, though, I honestly do not care. Gingerly, I dress, moving slowly. A glance in the mirror before I go downstairs for breakfast tells me I look as awful as I feel.

I am not first in the kitchen. Jean is half-slumped over a cloudy glass of aspirin, her usually glorious hair as limp as she is. Across the table, Rogue watches her closely. She looks up as I enter, looking faintly startled that I too appear hungover. She does not say anything, though.

Jean groans slightly, lifting her head from her hand and opening her eyes a fraction. "Mornin' Ororo," she whispers. She clears her throat, and winces a little. "Whose idea was this anyway?"

"Logan's," I remind her, and take a glass out of the cupboard. Water is what I need. Rehydrate myself. Then I might begin to feel human again.

I am half-way through my first glass of water when Scott enters. I cannot see his eyes behind his glasses, but he looks paler than usual. He greets Jean and Rogue, his voice a little rough, and turns to me. "Water," he notes. "What an excellent idea." And he reaches past me to take a glass.

In that moment I know. It is in the way he leans closer than he usually would. His breath is so warm on the back of my neck. His hip brushes my buttock. Then he moves back, leaning away to fill his glass. But I still know.

It was not a dream.

The knowledge is like a jolt of electricity through my system. Suddenly my fingers are trembling so much I have to put the glass down on the bench before I drop it. I close my eyes and take a deep, skaky breath. But that does not work, because playing across my closed eyelids is the image of him, shirtless in the liquid moonlight. Not a dream. A memory.

A sudden gust of wind rattles the windows. Scott pauses in his drinking, quirks an eyebrow. "Interesting weather today," he says blandly. But I can hear the joking tone, so subtle in his voice. I can hear it and I love it. He is teasing me. Laughing at my lack of control and feeling smug, no doubt, in the knowledge that he caused it.

I admit, it is a small shock to realise this sort of behaviour is coming from Scott, our stone-faced leader. All the time I have worked and lived alongside him, I never saw this other side to him, except for the barest hints now and then. A smile given in something other than grim satisfaction. A line a little more flippant. I knew his lighter side had to exist. It is just that while you are on the job is no time to be joking around. And Scott is always on the job. Always business-like, always apparently emotionless. Apparently. I, of all people, know that how much emotion you show bears no relation to how much you feel.

Still waters run deep. Trite, but true.

I wonder what other surprises Scott holds, hidden away from all but Jean. Until now. I feel like he is my very own secret garden, and I have been handed a key. I almost do not want to unlock the gate, worried that he may not live up to my anticipation in the flesh.

In the flesh. Moonlight-rimmed memories spring into my mind, and I have to hold tight to my emotions to stop the weather betraying me yet again.

Do not get melodramatic, Ororo. You know you want to peel him like an onion. Physically and mentally. Find out if the rest of that body is as fantasy-inducing as his chest. If the rest of his personality is as emotionally erogenous.

The thought brings a smile to my face - how could it not? I know he sees it as I empty my glass and place it on the draining board. I wonder how I could tease him in return. Mentally? The idea of teasing him physically is almost enough to scatter my carefully husbanded control to the wind. I wonder if he has this difficulty. Gripping hard to his self-control, that most precious commodity. Relishing how close it comes to slipping out of his grasp.

I turn and step back to lean against the cabinets to watch him drain his water. His poise is perfect, as always. Despite the hungover tinges, he is still Scott. Still implacable and inpenetrable.

Jean groans from the table, setting down her half-drunk glass of aspirin with a thunk. One hand is over her eyes; the only thing holding her head up is her elbow braced against the table. "God, I feel awful," she whimpers.

"Finish your aspirin and go back to bed," I suggest calmly. "You will feel better if you sleep a little. Take some water, though. And drink it. You are dehydrated. That is why you have a headache."

Jean nods slightly, and tilts her head back to drain the glass, grimacing slightly as she sets it back on the table.

"Ah'll take her upstairs." Rogue jumps up, her eyes still a little wide. Three hungover teachers is obviously more than she can manage in one morning. Besides, it is the chance to do something unselfishly nice for Jean. Not one of us would baulk at that opportunity.

Unless the thought of being alone in the kitchen with Scott made us irrationally weak at the knees. I open the fridge beside me, pulling out one of the chilled bottles of water there. Scott passes me a clean glass, and I pass both to Rogue, who takes them with one hand as she helps Jean up with the other. Walking carefully, and a little unsteadily, Jean totters out of the room on Rogue's arm.

The door swings shut behind them, and silence descends on the kitchen. I lean on the fridge, the white surface cool against my back even through my shirt. Scott leans back against the sink, crossing his arms over his chest. I am watching him watching me. There are perhaps three steps separating us. I count them.

"Do you regret last night?" he suddenly asks.

Does he honestly think -? I replay my behaviour this morning; I have not been precisely encouraging. Though not discouraging. Is he feeling insecure? My smile returns. "I regret not being sober enough to remember it as well as I wish I could," I reply honestly. The alcohol-fragmented memories are tantalising. The taste of him, layered with scotch and gin. His sweat-slicked shoulder briefly under my fingers.

"Perhaps a repeat performance could be arranged," Scott murmurs, his voice low. His answering smile is quick and somehow intimate. He is still poised, however, and that brief perhaps-moment of uncertainty has disappeared behind his usual wall of confident calm.

I realise in that moment that I want to make his composure slip. And I wonder if I could do it. Interrupt that regular breathing, make it ragged. Illicit a gasp from those lips. Make that body shudder involuntarily.

Oh Goddess, could I make him scream?

I clamp down on my own self-control, containing the tremour that threatens to run through my own limbs. I want to do it. I want to shred his self-control. I want to do all those things. And I want him to do it all to me, too. A tussle of wills, perhaps? A wrestle for self-control...

Breathe, Ororo.

"That could be pleasant," I reply, equally quietly. "But there was something vaguely... unsatisfying about last night." A lie; it was perfection. But it is time for a little of that teasing.

Scott raises his eyebrows. "Unsatisfying?" he repeats.

"Hmmm," I indicate agreement, not attempting to hide the smirk that seems to find its own way onto my face. "Yes. Maybe it is just my faulty memory, but everything seemed to stop before... well, before it got good." Part of me gapes at this, like I am behaving wantonly. It feels unnatural, but it also feels good, especially as, watching closely, I see his grip on his folded arms tighten. A minor sign, but one nonetheless, and it heartens me. "I was a little disappointed," I finish.

"That's no good," Scott answers mildly. For all his casual stance, however, there is a new tightness in his posture that was not there before. His voice is a little more rough as he continues, "I would apologise, but I don't regret a single thing about last night."

Even through his glasses, his gaze is direct, stapling me against the fridge. The heat of that gaze and the lines of tension in his body give me the strength of will to stretch a little, press my hips back against the fridge. "Well," I almost whisper, "actions speak louder than words, anyway."

His arms drop from their folded position and he leans forward slightly. A surge of something akin to exultation ripples through me as I realise he is going to do it. He is going to cross the few steps between us. And then my imagination takes over, a thousand flights of fancy taking me in an instant. He could cross the space and lean against the fridge behind my shoulder, a repetition of last night. He could pin me to the fridge with his body, rather than his eyes, a glorious weight and heat. He could grab me by the hips, like he did when we were dancing, and pull me against him. All my fantasies end the same way, though; his mouth descends on mine, and I shatter.

I am not to discover which is correct, however, as at that moment the kitchen door opens and Logan swaggers in. Quick as lightning, Scott leans back against the sink, his face empty of expression and his posture all casual calm once more. I push off from the fridge, though, doubting my ability to simply stand there any more. Not when I do not want Logan to know what is happening between Scott and I before we know ourselves. Not when Logan probably wants to gloat about his lack of hangover and all I want is to feel Scott's hands and breath hot on my skin. The situation constitutes a cruel and unusual form of torture.

"I am going to go and have a shower," I declare. Hot water and steam might clear up this hangover. On the other hand, maybe a cold shower is called for.

Logan steps aside to let me out the door, a smirk on his face. "Not feeling too well, 'Ro?" he asks smugly.

"On the contrary," I reply, smiling at him, though my words are all for the man over my shoulder, "I have never felt better."

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