Fourth Denial

It hadn't happened.

She hadn't brushed his skin with her bare fingers, felt the shadow across his jaw, hadn't itched to trace those contours and hadn't had the freedom to do it. Her heart was not pounding beneath her skin. Her hands were not remembering.

She'd absorbed him. Absorbed him. That's what she did. She was poison; she was danger; she was death wrapped up in a pretty package.

She hadn't touched him, not and felt him, unhurt, unharmed for far too long to be real. It was a fluke of her sense of time. She'd absorbed him.

She had.


Fourth Attraction

He went over it again and again in his head. Laugh, touch, silence, fear, drain. Laugh, touch, silence...

Something in the silence was missing. The last time... He raked one hand over his eyes, trying to think above the roaring in his skull. He hadn't forgotten the chipped porcelain, the brush of that soft skin.

Touch; silence; fear, wonder, and curiosity; drain and this pounding in his head.

What happened? What in the world happened? Fear? Wonder? Curiosity?

Laugh, touch, silence, fear, drain.

"Merde." He gave in about fifteen minutes into this dizzy, whirling feeling and went to find her.


Fourth Touch

In a moment, she'd changed everything, and she was still frozen, disbelieving. In one heartbeat, he was wiping the poker table with her to her chagrin; in the next, she boldly reached out and touched him--touched him.

Nothing happened.

They stared at each other, breathing harshly, neither moving. She could feel the rough texture of his jaw beneath her fingertips (he always had that shadow), but his voice was silent in her head. She could not feel him, be him, understa--

The look on her own face. His startled gasp.

She jerked her hand away—"Ah'm sorry"—and fled.


Double Play

They didn't join in the game of truth or dare. He sat off to the side on the window seat playing solitaire. It wasn't long before she laughed off the group and settled on her stomach in front of him. She crossed her legs and kicked her bare feet in the air, her long skirt pooling at the back of her knees.

She fiddled with a skewed card.

"Y' don' wan' t' join dem?" he asked.

She shook her head. Her hair was down and he watched how it rippled like thick silk. He wanted to touch it, run his hands through it, but he didn't want her to leave.

So he flipped over another card.

"Secrets don't have to exist for me," she said suddenly. "When Ah was with Bobby, Ah wanted ta get insahde him, understand him, and be understood... Ah think Ah'd lahke ta not understand for once."

He considered that. He had never thought that maybe the reason she was so forgiving was because she always, always understood.

"Y' don't know de first t'ing about me, petite." He uncovered the last card.

She stared up at him, something nameless flashing in her emerald eyes. "Ah know."


Double or Nothing

She rode out with Logan in the morning, hollering with pleasure from the back of his motorcycle. Three days later, Remy offered her help on her own. For the first time since she'd met him and they'd been working bikes together, she turned him down cold.

Red eyes narrowed and grew darker. 

She double-booked Danger Room sessions with Logan and started skipping her scheduled spars with her partner. Couldn't even say what it was frightening her so badly, except that look in his eyes when he laughed and the way her gut knotted every time he came so close and the way she watched his mouth and his grace and how his muscles rippled when he moved, and she wanted to be so close

"Ya just got a death wish, swamp rat?" She flinched out from under his arm. 

His jaw tightened. "What is wrong wit' y'?" 

She hugged herself, needing comfort, and turned away. "Ah told ya. Gettin' close ta me is death." 

Perhaps the long silence made her feel he'd finally gotten it, he'd back off. But when he spoke again, he was so close, she could feel his breath warming her temple. 

"Non, chère. Touchin' y' is."


Third Touch

Late nights playing cards were becoming a habit, and she found herself anticipating their ritual too much. He wasn't afraid to touch her—tickle her, elbow her, take a swipe at her with his pillow. She could feel fear under her skin every single time.

But when he brushed gloved fingers against her cheek to tuck a white lovelock behind her ear with the bare ones, she stopped breathing.

"Ah wish ya wouldn't," she told him softly. She stared at her hand, frowning over her cards.

"Chère..." His voice sounded sad and reproachful all at once. "I wish y' would."


Third Attraction

The first time he invited her into his room, he left the door open—like a gentleman. That was as far as the gentleman went. He was merciless at cards.

She'd accuse him of cheating while narrowing a fierce emerald glare at her hand, while he chuckled and explained to her what he had just done. He loved to watch her throw herself into the game, learning as if she was born to it.

"Mais, chère, y' poker face is terrible."

She snorted and laid down her hand.

He winced.

"Don't mattah that much with a flush." She smiled sweetly.


Third Denial

Logan found her down in the kitchen at one o'clock in the morning and gave her that look. He made a show of sniffing the air, and she knew it had nothing to do with the fragrance of Cajun cooking that lingered. Well... Almost nothing.

She crossed her arms and glared. "Got something to say?" she demanded.

He started to speak, then suddenly stopped. He tilted his head and studied her. "You really like him, don't you?"

It was her turn to suddenly stop. She opened her mouth, then shut it, then buried her arms in dishwater. "Won't wash themselves."

Third Training

"Late for trainin'," he said before he hauled her off the bed in a sputtering mess of blanket and glare.

Her reaction was reflexive, almost instant backlash of elbow and leg swinging out to catch his. He was faster, more awake, and deflected easily.

"De way I see it," "—blocked another hit— "we can practice in de Danger Room"—spun her around—"or right here."

He caught her back against him, and she flushed darkly. Their breath came hard.

She stiffened then and drawled, "Ah see."

He chuckled at her annoyance, then suddenly found himself on the carpet.


Third Bond

She didn't feel like living, couldn't say why breaking up with Bobby had her so depressed, but he was her first steady relationship—and her first failed one.

Remy was sweet. He made sure she didn't starve, all holed up in her room, but didn't bother her to talk when she didn't feel like it. She heard him run off more than one would-be invader—Kitty, Jubilee, Storm, Theresa—each one so sure she should get out and live again.

"Do you think Ah'm bein' silly?" she asked him once.

"Still a loss, chère." A light shrug. "We all grieve."