No More Secrets
The secret was out.
Ororo realised she'd been standing in the same spot for five minutes now. Her hand on the doorknob, books clutched in the other arm. On her way to teach a class before she'd heard the girls passing in the corridor outside, gossiping loudly. Kitty had overheard Scott and Jean talking in the kitchen yesterday. Jubilee didn't think it could possibly be true - Mr Summers and Miss Munroe? Rogue thought it would be sweet; Miss Munroe deserved to be happy and didn't they look good together?
She'd thought that when it was finally out in the open, she'd feel happy. So light that she could almost float. She would be able to touch him in public. She would be able to meet his eyes and smile. She wouldn't have to bite her lip to keep from screaming when they made love, because even in her attic room, people would hear.
All reasons why Ororo should be happy now that it seemed to be common knowledge. When Scott had told her that he'd spoken to Jean, that she knew now, she had been happy. But now she wasn't happy. She wasn't floating. She felt dull, empty. Like she wasn't really here, hadn't heard the girls go past.
Just wishful thinking.
So she stood just inside her office door, her hand on the doorknob. She didn't want to go out there now. Someone would ask her whether it was true. Whether she and Scott were actually together. And she wouldn't know what to say.
Ororo grit her teeth and leaned her head against the cool wood of the doorframe. She was being silly. Silly, emotional, irrational... a slew of other things that had never troubled her before. But they were troubling her now. And all because of a conversation she had overheard last night.
She'd been coming downstairs to make herself some coffee when she'd heard the voices at the bottom of the stairs. Scott's first, calling to Jean, and then: "Jesus, Jean. You look awful."
"I'll be fine." She sounded it too, like normal, collected Jean, but Ororo could only imagine what she must look like to cause Scott to react like that. Ororo was coming up to the top of the stairs, where she could have seen Jean for herself, when Scott's next words stopped her dead.
"Logan wanted me to tell you that he's moved his things out."
Moved out? And then a thought echoed an instant afterwards by Jean: "Why did Logan give the message to you?"
Ororo could almost visualise Scott's shrug. "I think I was the only person he could find. He's gone out. I think he wanted you to have space. Not to be afraid of your room." It was given out fairly grudgingly. Scott would never like Logan any more than he had to.
A pause, and then, so quiet, Scott asked: "When did you two... uh..."
"Break up?" Jean sighed. "If you must know, just this afternoon."
Feet on the stairs, then, and Ororo fled. She didn't want to meet either of them, Jean or Scott. Not now, when her head was spinning. She practically slammed the door to her attic bedroom shut, leaning back against it.
Jean and Logan, broken up this afternoon. After Jean had found out about Ororo and Scott. Coincidence, or had Jean's reaction to that news been part of her disagreement with Logan? Was Jean jealous? Did she realise the mistake she'd made and want Scott back?
Could Ororo do anything about it if she did?
Goddess! If she was thinking these things, she was sure Scott was thinking them as well. And he was downstairs, with a Jean who was obviously not in good shape. Obviously hurting. Obviously needing comfort.
If this was any other situation, she would be downstairs right now, making sure she didn't get it. But it wasn't any other situation. This was her best friend - two of her best friends. Friends who had been together for so long. Who had been so happy together. Who could be happy together again? What if they were meant to be? Could she get in the way of that? And for what? Nothing, really. Because if Scott and Jean were meant to be, and she kept Scott to herself, no one would be happy. She'd end up with nothing but dust and ashes, and so would Scott.
Better to let it be now. Better to let it go when it was barely formed and hadn't dug roots deep into her heart. When she could still, maybe, one day, summon a smile for the two of them together.
Wait and see.
Returning to the present, knuckles white on the doorknob, Ororo took a deep breath. She couldn't hang back now. The sounds of movement in the hallway outside were stilling. Classes were beginning. She was running late. People would ask her. She'd have to answer one way or another.
With a wrench, Ororo turned the handle, pulled the door open. She couldn't hide. She wouldn't hide. So she stepped out into the hallway, determined, resolute, composed. Herself.
And somehow, she made it through her two morning classes without being asked the Question. She could almost feel it in the pairs of eyes turned her way, especially in her senior class. She almost flinched when Jubilee stayed behind to ask a question, but it was only regarding an aspect of the forthcoming assignment.
It was all going well, in short, until she turned a corner coming back from her last morning class and almost ran into Scott. He was on his way somewhere, she noticed as she stopped abruptly, taking a half-step backwards. Of course, he was not-quite running late for his senior math class. Running close enough to late that he didn't stop, just brushed past her with a faint smile and a murmured: "Hello."
Enough contact to make her blood move a little faster. Enough of a smile to bring an answering one almost involuntarily to her own face. Enough of his voice to make her remember the things he'd whispered in the changing rooms yesterday. Before they'd both lost the capacity for coherent speech.
One thing hadn't changed since she stepped into the Danger Room two weeks ago. She still wanted him badly. And he wanted her, she knew that. The sparks they created together had only grown brighter. But was there more than physicality to it? Yes, she knew him. Up, down, inside out. The same way he knew her. The way living, working, breathing together for years will enable. They were close in more than just sexual attraction, but was that just a rationalisation? They weren't just screwing, because they were friends as well. But really, even being friends didn't prevent the relationship being just about sex, if that's what it was.
Could something like that survive the potential return of Jean-and-Scott, and everything that relationship had meant?
And then she realised that he was gone and she was still standing in the corridor, empty now but for a few students scurrying late to classes and giving her odd looks.
Goddess. She was coming apart.
She spent the afternoon in her office. Locked away. Hiding away. Ostensibly grading papers, but the wooden panelling of the walls was scrutinised more closely than the essays on her desk. Ororo still couldn't have described the grain of the wood. She barely saw it. Couldn't see it for thinking, wondering, agonising. She tried to stop, tried to focus, tried to put it from her mind. Might as well try to stop the seasons turning. And she cursed his presence in her life, that he could do this to her. That she could be falling in love with him and feel this helpless.
The sun slanted across the sky, sliding down towards the horizon. Broad bands of gold were painted across the walls of her office, darkening to a deeper burnished shade before fading. Until eventually she was sitting in the dusk, shadows deep around her. Ororo felt as though the deep blue air was leeching into her bones. Tired. Lethargic. Completely incapable of tackling this tonight.
She wouldn't go to dinner. She'd just get something from the kitchen, take it upstairs with her. Avoid the dining room altogether. Avoid seeing whether Scott was sitting with Jean.
A good plan. Except that just as she was closing the refrigerator, the makings of a sandwich on a plate on the counter, she heard the door open.
"Ororo?" Jean's voice. She turned around. Jean looked as beautiful as ever. Hair not quite as glossy as usual, true. A hint of haggardness on her face, maybe. It made her look vulnerable. Like she needed to be looked after. And Ororo could do without thinking things like that. So Jean's next comment, jerked out of a slightly shocked face, was a welcome distraction. "God, Ororo, you look awful."
She really was losing it, if people could see it. Where was her much-vaunted control now? Still present, still in effect, as she drew herself up and made a small smile flit across her face. "I am fine, Jean. Just very tired. And I think I may have a headache coming. I just want to go to bed." She took up the plate. "I know we should talk, but can we possibly postpone it?"
"Of course!" Jean's answer was laden with so much concern and sympathy that Ororo felt almost guilty for a moment. But it was all true. She was tired. There was a heaviness circling behind her eyes that bespoke a headache. And all she wanted was to curl up in bed.
Assuring Jean she did not need anything, Ororo made her way upstairs, the noise of the busy dining room below falling away. The quiet increased as she went on, until she closed the door on the silence of her attic. She set the plate down on her desk and managed to remove her shoes before falling onto the bed.
In a minute. In a minute she would get up again and have something to eat. But for now, she would just lie here and not think.
It was more than a minute later - more like fifteen - and she still had not moved when there came a quiet knock on the door. The faint click of it opening a little, and then a voice asked: "May I come in?"
Ororo sighed. "Of course you may, Scott."
The door opened further, and then closed quietly. Footsteps across the floorboards. "Jean said you were getting a headache. I thought you might like a neck massage. Works for me. Sometimes." All of his words were strung through with that faint hint of good humour that she treasured so much in him. Mmm... a massage. Working the tension out of her neck. His hands on her skin...
The bed dipped as he settled his weight on it, and she rolled away, sitting up on the other side of the bed. A deep breath, and she looked back at him. His face was blank behind the glasses. "Is something wrong, Ororo?"
That question was far too complex to answer right now. Change the subject instead. "It is a shame Jean and Logan have decided to end their relationship, don't you think?"
He frowned a little, obviously not understanding the sudden change of tack. "Jean seems to be taking it well, but I'm not sure," he said. "Have you spoken with her? I think she could use a friend."
Ororo shook her head slightly. She was looking at his hand, spread on the quilt. She couldn't look at his face. "I have not spoken with her yet. But she may prefer to cry on your shoulder." That hadn't really been what she'd intended to say. But it was out there now.
"I don't think that would be a very good idea."
"Why not?" Because it would lead to them resuming their relationship. Stop torturing yourself, Ororo!
"Because I don't want to make you any more worried than you already are by doing stupid things that are meaningless, but hurt you. If I comforted Jean now, it wouldn't make a difference to anything, but you'd feel anxious. I know. I've been there." His tone grew a little amused. "And I'm starting to understand how exasperated Jean got with me occasionally."
Not a good analogy. "Jean ended up with Logan."
The amusement was all gone when he answered. "Not until we were finished." Firm. No-nonsense. His leader, these-are-the-facts voice.
It didn't work on Ororo. She could hear it, knew he was using it. She looked up, at his face, the covered eyes. "And how long before we are finished?"
Scott frowned, and his hand lifted off the bed, stretched towards her. "Ororo, I-"
She didn't let him finish, standing up and stepping away from the bed. "No, Scott. I cannot think clearly when you touch me. And that is half the problem. I touch you, or you touch me, and the fire begins again. It is so bright, that fire. So beautifully bright. But Scott, we went from an admission of attraction to sex on the floor within twenty-four hours. In the past two weeks we have..." She trailed off, cleared her throat a little. "No fire can burn so fiercely for long, Scott. How long before we lose the energy to keep ours burning?"
"Ororo, no..." A pause while he expelled a long breath, bowing his head slightly and running a hand through his hair. "I have to... I can't..." A more exasperated sigh, and he stood and came around the bed, paused near the foot, keeping his distance. "I need so very badly for you to hear me. To understand. I know what you're saying. What you've been thinking. This... what has happened with us. It's, well... it's blown my mind. Because it's so damn good." He was gaining in intensity now, the calm he usually cultivated fading as he became animated. He took half a step forward, and though Ororo swayed a little, she didn't step backwards. She didn't step forwards either, though she wanted to. "It can't stay this way forever. But not to end. That's the last thing I want, Ororo. Please believe me."
He took another half-step forwards, and now she was almost within arm's reach, her hands a little restless by her sides and her eyes on the floor. But he made no move to reach out to her. "I don't know how to make you believe me. To trust me. The easy way would be to tell you that I love you. But that would be a lie right now." She flinched a little, but he moved in, half a step, and kept speaking. "Because you're right, this has been fast. I don't know if I love you yet. But I'll tell you what I do know." Another half-step. "I know that the other day I felt calmer and more at ease than I had in a long time, just relaxed. And then I realised it was because my shirt hadn't been washed since I wore it with you, and I could still smell you on it." A fraction of a step, but the space between them was so small now. He lowered his voice a little. "I know that when I say your name, or even hear it said, it goes straight through me like a bolt of lightning, but it also centres me. Grounds me." Barely three inches away now, murmuring. "I know it's not a conscious effort on my part to think of you, smile for you, want you." Not touching. Barely not touching. If she moved, she'd brush against him, and holding still was a sweet agony when she could feel the heat of his body. His voice was a warm breath on her cheek. "And I know what just sex feels like. It's not this." He couldn't - didn't even try to - keep the plea from his voice as he whispered: "Please tell me you feel it too."
Ororo's lips parted so slightly on a tiny sound; a weak, newborn-kitten sound that she couldn't have stopped. Her eyes fluttered closed as she slowly raised her chin. Her nose skimmed his cheek with a faint rasp of stubble. At the puff of her breath against his jaw a slight tremour went through him. "I feel it," she breathed.
He turned his head and their lips brushed, skin on skin, the faintest touch. His hands stroked over her hair, one coming to rest gently at the back of her neck as the other hovered near her temple. A paused moment stretched there, as they stood barely touching, breathing the same air.
Then Scott leaned forward. Just a little. Just enough. His hand on the back of her neck tilted her head slightly as his lips met hers.
Ororo had known him so well. But there had been so many things she hadn't known. Like how his fingers tangled so delicately but inextricably in her hair, curling through and around until his hands cradling her skull seemed merely an extension of herself. Like how, even just touching her with hands in her hair and his mouth on hers, he could make her breathless, make stars dance behind her closed eyelids.
Like how the fire could be so smouldering. Warm, comforting, capable of flaring into a roaring blaze, or of burning forever like this. Or both.
Ororo took that last step, moved forward to close that fraction of an inch that still separated them. She pressed herself against him, slid her arms around him to press him to her. The kiss deepened, his tongue met by hers.
With a yank, she pulled his shirt free of the back of his trousers, and he flinched away at the first touch of her cool hand against the warm skin at the small of his back. She smiled as his mouth left hers - couldn't help herself.
"Evil woman," Scott murmured, the huskiness in his voice almost making it a growl. She chuckled quietly as he nipped his way along her jaw, to that point just below her ear that he seemed so fond of. Her chuckle turned into a gasp. Ororo had to admit she was coming to appreciate it at well.
One of his hands freed itself from her hair to run down her back, skimming over her buttocks before shaping her hip. "You know," he whispered in her ear, "I didn't lock the door."
Ororo smiled, and eased away from him a little. "Then I will be right back."
She could feel his eyes on her as she walk across the room to the door. She was aware, as never before, of the roll of her hips as she walked. Of the way the soft wool of her skirt shifted against her legs. When she raised her hand to turn the lock, her fingers were trembling slightly.
No one had ever affected her this way. This morning it had made her curse. Now it made her smile.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed when she turned around, bending a little to place his shoes in a careful pair by the bedpost. Anyone else would have called it uptight tidiness. To her it was merely part of him. Why throw them where he'll have to take time to find them later? Unconscious order permeated every aspect of him. His face was turned to her with that faint and lazy smile. As he straightened, he held out a hand to her. "Come here," he said quietly.
She went. Went to him and leaned forward to nip at his chin before his lips caught hers and clung, lingered. His hands on her waist, pulling her down to him. Her skirt bunched up around her hips as she knelt on the bed, straddling him. Slid against him with her hands on his shoulders and swallowed his groan. Returned a moan of her own as his hips pushed against hers, one hand at the base of her spine, holding her close.
He wanted her, needed her. Her bottom lip caught between his teeth for an instant. His fingers teasing the lace edge of her bra and the top two buttons of her blouse undone already. The warmth between her legs - surging through the core of her - that was half him and half her reaction to him.
Ororo ripped one of the buttons off his shirt, getting it open and off. She needed him too. The button pinged against the mirror, rolled away. Neither of them payed it any attention. There were far better things to concentrate on. Like his hands, trailing so lightly as to almost tickle down her legs, and then up again, pushing up underneath her skirt to grip her hips and move her gently against him.
Their lips broke apart as her head tilted back, a sigh floating up her throat. Her hair slid over shoulders now bare because the blouse was a mere memory now, fallen somewhere. Who cared where when Scott's hand was curling around her neck, tipping her lips back to an open-mouthed kiss and his breath was harsh in the back of her throat. His other hand skimmed over her ribs because her hips were moving on their own now. She couldn't have stopped them. Even in the unlikely event that she wanted to.
When he stood abruptly, she stumbled a little, sliding against him as one leg wrapped around his thigh, slipping down to his knee as her concentration remained focussed on his lips. Those defined, slightly pouty and eminently kissable lips that moved across hers. Now nibbling softly as he found the fastening to her skirt. Now slanting hard against her mouth as she unbuckled his belt. He kissed her and she kissed him and everything else was extraneous.
Tumbling onto the bed now, gloriously naked. Lips finally separating as they rolled together; she came out on top, held close to him, her breasts pressed against his chest. Hands buried in her hair close to her scalp as the white lengths fell around them. A moment of stillness, of heavy breathing and damp silence.
"It's not just sex," Scott said quietly, but with strength, determination.
"I know," she replied.
"I wish I could take these off," he added. "I wish you could look into my eyes and see everything there. I wish -"
Ororo cut him off with a finger laid across his mouth. "Your eyes are not everything, Scott." She leaned down, pressed her lips to the frame corner of his glasses, careful not to breathe directly on the lenses. "They are just a part of you, not all of you. And I can see so much of you." She shifted against him, and did not bother to hide her smile at his caught breath. "I like what I see."
He brought her face closer to his, almost close enough to kiss, to lunge a little and nip at those beautiful lips that were curved into a smile of their own now. "Good," he whispered, scant seconds before his mouth claimed hers again. Searing, possessive, demanding. 'Mine,' it said. 'Now.'
She said it back, reaching out to fumble in the drawer beside the bed, the once never-used box whose contents were rapidly being depleted. They rolled again; this time Ororo was on her back. Scott above her, over her, covering her as her thighs cradled his hips. When she felt him nudge against her, her mouth fell away from his on a faint moan. Her fingers pressed into his shoulders, her knees tightened against him.
She wanted him. Goddess, she needed him.
He slid into her inch by torturous inch as she arched slowly underneath him, her breath hitching in her throat. A thousand sorts of exquisite frustration. For Scott, as well, judging by the strangled rasp of his voice as he finally whispered: "Look at me, Ororo."
His hands cupped her face as she forced her eyes open, looking up into his shielded face. He was fully inside her now, but not moving, so she could breathe. She could think. She could think how beautiful he was at this moment as she trailed her fingers along his cheekbone, just below the glasses, down and over his lips. Lips that twisted under her fingers into the sort of smile that fanned the smouldering coals in her stomach.
"Your eyes are still blue." They were; she was hanging onto her control by sheer determination.
And then he moved, drew back, thrust deep into her, and all the determination in the world wasn't enough.
Outside, the night had been still, not a sound, as if nature was holding its breath. Then, suddenly, the wind whipped up. It lashed through the branches of the trees, making the leaves thrash. It tore at the petals of the old roses in the gardens, strewing them across the neat paths. It buffetted the house, gusting against windows closed tight.
Clouds scudded across the sky, making the moonlight fall in oscillating, slanting rays. And the wind grew more insistent, more turbulent, more juddering...
There were no more secrets. No reason to keep silent. When it became too much, when she could teeter on the verge of being unmade no longer, and fell into nothingness, when he wrung it from her, she could scream.
And she did.
* * * * *
Ororo always woke at dawn, with the first rays of the sun painting her ceiling. Usually she would rise, stand in the window to watch the sun shoulder its way above the horizon. But this morning she stayed in bed. Because this morning there was an arm holding her there, draped familiarly over her stomach. There was the steady exhalation of warm breath tickling her neck.
For the first time, Scott was here with her.
He was here because the secret was out, and she felt happy. She felt so light that she could almost float. She turned to look at him, glasses still firmly in place. She'd wanted him to sleep without them, had said she trusted him. He had joked that when he woke up, he wouldn't be able to resist looking to see if it was true, that he was here with her. She knew that was just covering the fact that he didn't trust himself. She didn't push it. Not quite yet.
One day she would, though. One day. It almost sent shivers through her that she could even think that concept. That there would be a one day with Scott. But she didn't doubt it. And that was the most wonderful thing of all.
"What are you looking at?" he mumbled, barely comprehensible.
"You," she replied. "You are beautiful." Leaning in, she pressed a kiss to his forehead. She couldn't see his eyes, of course, but she knew they were still closed. "Go back to sleep."
He mumbled in protest as Ororo slipped out from underneath his arm, but pulled up the blankets readily enough, and soon his breathing was back to its slow, steady rhythm. She smiled as she looked down at him. Scott was not a morning person. It took effort for him to drag himself out of bed every morning, and time (and coffee) to make him human before classes began. Most people didn't know that. She knew it.
Ororo padded down through the silent halls, in her nightshift and bathrobe, to the kitchen. It was one of the joys of rising so early, to her, this solitary time for breakfast. Over the years, she had found much of her trademark calm in this early-morning clarity.
It was an integral part of her routine. Everyone knew that. And hence Ororo wasn't really surprised when, as she was finishing her cereal, the door opened.
"Good morning, Jean," she said easily, picking up the empty bowl and carrying it to the sink. "I was just about to make some coffee. Would you like some?"
The red-head stood uncertainly just inside the door for a moment, tying the cord to her bathrobe a little tighter. "Um... yes, please." She came forward then, taking a seat at the kitchen table as Ororo rinsed out her bowl.
Jean waited until her fellow X-Woman was almost finished with the complex business of setting up the percolator. And then: "You're feeling better this morning?"
Ororo poured the last of the water into the machine and turned it on. It began to gurgle quietly to itself and she turned back to the table. "I should have thought the entire mansion heard me feeling better last night."
Jean started a little, shocked silence as Ororo calmly took a seat across the corner from the other woman. "You... Just..." Jean made a fluttering gesture with her hand. "Just like that?"
Ororo watched Jean for a moment with her serene eyes before nodding. "Yes. Just like that. You are one of my best friends, Jean. I could say anything to you. I do not want that to change. And it will, if we stop mentioning certain things."
Long, pale fingers smoothed themselves over the lacquered grain of the table. "One of your best friends?"
"Scott is the other," Ororo replied without hesitation.
There was a long pause. The percolator spluttered and chortled. Jean sighed, braced herself to look up, to make eye contact. "Well, maybe not the entire mansion. Bobby Drake is a very heavy sleeper, you know."
Not a reconciliation, but an offer, a tiny acceptance, a step towards incorporating this new dynamic. Everything had changed; they had to change too. But change was never easy.
"He would need to be," Ororo said lightly, standing and going back to the percolator, now hissing to a stop. "Have you heard St John snore?"
"No, but I've heard Kitty and Jubilee ranting about it," Jean said, over the clink of coffee cups. "I still maintain he has nothing on Logan. When that man sleeps soundly, he sleeps /soundly/."
Ororo laughed, adding milk to one of the cups, and nudging the fridge closed with her foot. "Just because he is getting a good night's sleep is no reason why anyone else should, of course." She brought the coffee cups over, sliding the one with milk across the table to Jean.
Jean snorted, reaching for the sugar pot and dumping a heaped spoonful of sugar in her cup before pushing the pot towards Ororo. Who hadn't resumed her seat. Jean raised an eyebrow. "Not going to stay and drink your coffee?"
Ororo shook her head, opening the sugar pot. "I have papers I should have marked yesterday. I need to get going."
Jean watched the sugar spoon travel to the cup, and back. Three times. Three sugars, no milk. She knew who drank his coffee like that.
She looked up, met Ororo's eyes. And smiled. Just a small smile, but her first true, genuine smile in two days. "He's a very good man, Ororo. Look after him."
Change was never easy, but they were used to challenges. The white-haired woman picked up the coffee cup, and smiled back to her friend. "I know, Jean. I will."
* * * * *
Scott was still asleep when she closed her bedroom door quietly behind her. Pausing a moment, leaning against the cool wood, just to admire him. He was sprawled out on his stomach, head turned away from her, arms flung wide, the covers rucked down around his waist. The morning sun, dappled through the bare branches of the tree outside her window, played over his bare back.
As she came around the bed, Ororo felt something small, round and hard under her foot. She paused, crouched down, picked up the offending object between thumb and finger. A button. Small, clear, perfectly innocuous. But it made her smile. Standing, she set it on the bedside table, beside the cup of coffee. Three sugars, no milk.
She was just turning away when an arm snaked around her waist, pulling her backwards to tumble onto the bed with a faint yelp. A flurry of covers, and Scott half-covered her, his lips nipping at the corner of her mouth before claiming it completely, teasing, soothing...
"You were not asleep at all," Ororo complained against his mouth.
He just kissed her again, deeply, thoroughly, until her hand crept up his neck and her fingers tangled in his hair. He broke off, lowered his head to bite lightly at her shoulder. His thigh nudged between hers, pressed her more firmly to the bed.
"Scott," she laughed breathlessly, as he trailed a line of kisses along the neckline of her bathrobe, his fingers untangling the knot at her waist. "Scott, you are going to make me late. I need to take a shower."
"Shower, hmm?" And the way he said it, his breath warm against her neck, made her smile. But what really made her smile, smile as if her heart were going to burst, were his next words.
"We'll try that another time."
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