(Not) Married, With Children

   The lights are down low, and Emma is cuddled up next to me, her long legs curled underneath her body. She and I managed to grab an evening alone together here at home while the rest of the team went out to sing karaoke down in the Village – not that I wouldn't have taken Emma if I'd gotten the chance, of course, but she'd probably have said no, anyway… it's not really her scene (Pity, really. I'd have loved to sing Money For Nothing to her). So instead, we're here in the mansion's rec. room, a DVD of Vin Diesel's last movie playing quietly in the corner (Emma wanted to watch the porn channel, actually, but we don't have it, thanks to the Professor not being that kind of guy) and a bottle of champagne open on the coffee table in front of us. Emma nods her head against my shoulder briefly, before she catches herself and blinks sleepily.

   "You still want to watch this, Emma?" I ask, carefully. "We could always… go upstairs, you know. I'm sure the neighbours wouldn't mind."

   "Oh, are you?" Emma says thoughtfully. "I think… I think it should be our business to make them mind." She runs her purple-painted nail along the underside of my throat and kisses me on the lips with her usual sexy enthusiasm. "I'm sure we could be loud enough if we wanted to, Bobby. Wouldn't you agree?"

   "Well, yeah, I might, if there were any neighbours around for us to wake up. That was kinda my point," I say, shrugging. "You're forgetting one tiny detail, Emma – everybody but Warren and Betsy is out tonight, and Warren and Betsy are probably still awake. That new kid of theirs is… well, put it this way: if he and Banshee had a screaming contest, Sean'd lose. I'm serious – I heard the kid when he was hungry, and God, he almost blew out one of my eardrums. I don't know how Betsy and Warren can stand it…"

   Emma rubs the inner corners of her eyes, sighing quietly. "And back we come to the new arrival," she mutters, irritably. "Please don't tell me how 'cute' he is, or tell me he 'looks adorable when he smiles', Bobby. I've heard that ten times from ten different people today, and I'm getting damn tired of it. Do you know how sick I am of feeling all those gooey thoughts sloshing about in my mind like treacle?" She sighs. "I'm sorry, Bobby. Shall we just watch the movie, and forget I ever said anything?"

   "Good call," I agree, before snapping my fingers and gesturing at the TV screen in excitement. "This bit coming up is so cool… makes me wish I was an action hero."

   Emma's dour expression turns into a naughty grin. "Oh, you're always going to be my action hero, darling." She squeezes my hip and licks my cheek delicately, which makes me turn my head and kiss her while trying to keep at least one eye focused on the screen (easier said than done, I'll tell you that for nothing…). "You certainly have the figure for it."

   "Oh, I get it now," I say, in a knowing tone, tapping the side of my nose. "You want me to put on my Conan the Destroyer underoos for you, don't you? Well, no dice, young lady – not unless you agree to Goth yourself up a little the next time we go out. I want to see you wearing something other than white leather. Not that you don't look great wearing white leather, but –" Before I can get any further, Emma puts a finger to my lips to silence me.

   "Bobby," she says flatly. "You're babbling."

   "That's a good point," I agree, trying my hardest to compose myself, "and well-made."

   "Of course it was," Emma says, refilling her glass from the bottle of champagne on the table. "You are talking to me here, remember. Intelligent debate and witty conversation are what attracted you to me in the first place, remember?"

   "Well, that and your gigantic –" Before I can finish my sentence, Emma gives me a freezing glare that tells me all I need to know about what she's going to do to me if I don't say something complimentary. "Bank balance," I finish, winking at her. She folds her arms and raises one eyebrow sceptically.

   "You know, Bobby, sometimes I think you say these things to test me somehow." Then she raises a finger to the ceiling and continues "Oh well. I suppose it's one of the things I'll have to get used to, if I'm going to eventually make you into a fully-fledged member of the human race."

   That makes me sit up, and put on as indignant a face as I can. "Hey! I resent that!"

   "I'm sure you do," Emma laughs, "but you were the one who said I was only attractive for my money just a second ago. This is fair payback, I think."

   To show my disapproval, I aim my finger at the centre of her face, cocking it like a pistol, and then drop my thumb as it was the hammer on that pistol. No sooner have I done that, than a small blob of snow appears on the bridge of Emma's nose, making her shriek with surprise and disgust, and quickly slap away the small powdery flakes before they can get up her nostrils. When she's satisfied that her face is clean, she glares at me again, looking like she might sock me in the jaw for my little prank.

   And then, just when I think I know Emma, she changes the rules again. Instead of hitting me, she leaps at me and bundles me off the couch onto the floor, where she throws one leg over my waist so that she is straddling me, and presses both of her hands against my chest so as to keep me flat on my back. "Oh no you don't, Mr Drake," she growls seductively, her blue eyes filling with a predatory gleam. "Nobody makes a fool of Emma Frost and gets away with it."

   "Uh… there's a first time for everything?" I say hopefully, keeping my hands where she can see them (just in case she decides she wants to make me act like a chicken). Emma shakes her head and brings her face close to mine, so that our eyes are directly opposite one another, and I can see exactly what she wants me to see – which is basically her face, and not much else.

   "Not for everything, Bobby," she whispers, her voice husky, before she draws back a little and trails a fingertip down the centre of my chest. "It sounds like you still have an awful lot to learn about life, wouldn't you say?" She gestures towards the bottle of champagne on the table in front of us and continues "Shall I pour some more wine? Maybe it'll help me get in the mood for some… educational activity." She grabs the bottle of champagne and pours a large measure into her empty glass, before she takes a long swallow of the bubbling liquid and licks her lips hungrily. Almost in the same breath, she's sliding her body close to mine and grinding her hips playfully against me.

   "You know, Emma," I say, matter-of-factly, while she starts to tug gently on my earlobe with her teeth, "for someone who hates babies, you sure do seem pretty keen to start making one right about now…" Emma makes an annoyed noise in the back of her throat and rolls off me, sitting up and folding her arms across her body as if she's protecting herself from something. She scowls at me and tries her best to look as irritated as possible (and when she gets annoyed… she gets annoyed. It's something that has to be seen to be believed – kinda like Vesuvius erupting or Hank trying to juggle meringue pies with his feet, in fact…).

   "Why does sex have to be about making a child?" she snaps, infuriated. "Why can't it just be about two people having fun together, sharing the fact that they love each other –" She stops, raising a hand to her mouth in shock at what she's just said – and for a moment, what I could have sworn was fear flashes across the surface of her eyes. Then she gets up off the couch and starts walking briskly towards the door, pulling her jacket around her shoulders like a suit of armour. "I have to go," she says in a low voice, looking at her watch and trying very hard not to look at me. "I'm very busy. I'll… talk to you later, Bobby. Goodbye."

   It doesn't take me more than a second or two to realise that if I let her leave, she won't come back, so I follow her through the hall outside the rec. room, calling her name and trying to get her to stop so we can talk. She ignores me, instead just dialling her driver on her phone and telling him to come and pick her up as quickly as possible. "Emma, wait," I plead again. "Please wait. What's wrong?"

   "I don't have to explain myself to you, Drake," Emma says quickly, without turning around. "This is best for both of us." She picks up speed as she walks towards the front door, her high heels clicking urgently on the tiled floor of the front hall. "Don't try and stop me."

   I can feel desperation welling up inside me, and it burns like hot fat splashing on my skin. Emma is still walking away from me, and I'm not doing too well at trying to get her to stop, so I reach out with one hand and freeze the front door frame, causing the door to stick fast when she closes one hand around the handle. Emma turns and glares at me. "Open this door," she snaps. "Let me go, Bobby. I'm warning you –"

   I laugh bitterly, suddenly amused by this whole stupid situation. "You're 'warning' me? What are you going to do, Emma? Hurt me? Fry my mind? Well, come on then – whatever you're going to do, do it." I open my arms wide, almost inviting her to jam the knife right back into the centre of my chest and twist it as hard as she can. "Come on, Emma – do it! I double-dog dare you."

   Emma's eyes narrow to slits, and she takes a couple of steps towards me, one finger extended towards me, as if she is accusing me of some terrible crime. "Don't make me hurt you, Bobby. I can hurt you really badly if I want to."

   "Promises, promises," I say, examining my nails for a moment or two. "I think if you really wanted to hurt me you'd have done it by now. That's what the White Queen would do, isn't it? As long as she gets what she wants, she doesn't care who gets killed. Am I right?" Emma stays quiet, her blues piercing me with their icy gaze. "Come on, Emma – am I right, or what?"

   It's at that point that I feel a stabbing pain in the centre of my mind, like somebody's shoved broken glass up my nose, into my ears, and down my throat all at the same time. Blood begins to pour from my nostrils and splash on the cold tiles. "I told you I could still hurt you," Emma snarls. "Now let me go."

   My head feels like it's been hit with a golf club about a hundred times – I can feel my brain trying to pour itself out of my ears – but I'm still standing, against all my expectations. Usually, in this sort of situation, Emma would have fried somebody's mind without thinking about leaving anything behind… which I think kind of proves she doesn't really want to hurt me at all. "That all you got, baby-doll?" I say, wiping at my bleeding nose with the back of one hand and smearing bright blood all over my knuckles, feeling my legs wobble a little. "Come on. Hit me with the good stuff. You know you want to."

   It's right then that I notice that, for the first time since I've known her, either as an enemy or as a lover, Emma's eyes are wet with tears. She shakes her head angrily and blinks them away so that they form two gleaming trails down her cheeks. "Don't make me do it again, Bobby. Please, just let me go."

  "No." Wiping at my nose again, I add another layer of ice to the inside of the door, knowing instinctively that the Professor will be furious, but not really caring right now. "Not until you tell me what it is that has you so spooked."

   "Isn't it obvious?" Emma murmurs, putting a hand to the bridge of her nose. "I said I loved you."

   Despite the pain in my head, I can't contain the grin that breaks out across my face. It's the first time Emma's said those words to me out loud (I never pushed her to say them, because I knew that she'd probably just blow me off with a sarcastic remark or raised eyebrows). Slowly I raise a hand to touch her face, but she pulls back, keeping a few paces between the two of us. "Emma… I don't get it. If you love me –"

   "Then I'm weak. Spineless," Emma spits, sounding disgusted at the idea. "Don't you understand? That's not what Emma Frost is supposed to be."

   "Why not? What's so wrong about being human once in a while?"

   "I'm not supposed to be that way!" Emma's voice snaps taught, and her hands curl into fists. I can almost taste her pain as it pours off her. "I'm supposed to be in control! That's what I do!"

   I rub the back of my neck with my left hand, feeling confused, but a little elated at the same time. On the one hand, it feels good to know that Emma actually cares about me on some level (if I'm honest, it's sometimes been hard to tell), but on the other hand, it's pretty terrible to see her so unhappy. However I feel, though, it looks like it's up to me to try to make things better, so I'm going to have to try my best to do just that: me, Bobby Drake – relationships counsellor par excellence.

   Oh, who am I kidding… this is probably going to be a disaster. But I have to try, right?

   "Emma… I…" I can feel my well-thought-out speech dying in my throat, so I take a deep breath and start again. "Look, all I'm trying to say here is that you don't have to feel so bad about feeling this way. It's okay, honestly." I give her what I hope is a reassuring smile, and then put my hand in hers. This time, she doesn't pull away, which is good. "Tell you what, Emma… since you told me something about you, why don't I tell you something about me? Fair's fair, right?"

   "I suppose," Emma says sullenly, dabbing at her eyes with a Chanel-scented handkerchief. "You know, if this means you're going to show me your collection of antique baseball cards, I'm still leaving."

   Emma's remark makes me smile. At least it sounds like the old Emma is coming back, even if she's taking her time a little. "No, nothing like that. All I wanted to say was… well… I… I kinda love you, too."

   Emma scowls. "And that's supposed to make me feel better, I'm guessing?"

   "Well, that was what I was hoping for," I say, shrugging. "C'mon, Emma, I just laid my cards out on the table too. At least give me credit for doing that, huh?"

   Folding her arms across her chest, Emma adjusts her posture a little so that her feet are a bit more evenly-spaced, and then says something pretty rude under her breath. "All right, Bobby – let's say I do give you credit for being so honest. Where do we go from there? Do we settle down, get married, have a litter of adorable little pups and call ourselves a happy family, like the angel and his wife?" She sneers. "Don't be so naïve. Do you really think we'd be good parents?"

   I shake my head and wag my finger at Emma, like a schoolteacher who's just had a snowball thrown at his head. "Whoa, whoa, whoa – hold on there, peach-pie. Slow down a little." Then I lean back against the wall and rub my hands down my face, almost feeling the weight of the world rest on my shoulders. "I never said anything about the two of us having kids, or even getting hitched. You brought those things up yourself – sure, I might have made a wisecrack or two about it, but I never meant anything seriously." I hold my hands out sheepishly, as if to beg for forgiveness. "You and I… we're perfect the way we are right now: just two people enjoying being together. I promise I'll never put any pressure on you to be anything else. All right?"

   "All right, Bobby. You win," Emma says, before she raises an eyebrow and points at me. "Wait a second… did you just call me 'peach-pie'?"

   "Guilty as charged," I grin, taking the opportunity to plant a kiss on Emma's full lips while I can (before she can slap me for reaching beyond my grasp, that is). "A man's got to have some kind of a pet name for his girlfriend – right, pookie?"

   "Don't push it, Drake," Emma says flatly, before bringing her handkerchief up to my blood-encrusted nose and wiping at it delicately. "I'm… sorry about this, darling. I didn't really want to do it, you know."

   "So why'd you do it, then?" I demand, hands on hips. "It wasn't as if you couldn't have just made me think I was seeing Roseanne Barr naked, was it? This really hurt!" I'm not really as angry as I sound, but I think it's good to make my point somehow. With Emma, you have to find some way of making yourself heard, and this was as good as any…

   Emma shrugs, and continues to wipe gently at the tip of my nose until she is satisfied that I'm as clean as I'm going to get. "What can I say? Old habits die hard, I guess… although you just gave me a lovely contingency plan for when you really annoy me."  She wipes my face a few more times just for good measure, running her free hand through my hair and pecking my nose affectionately. While she's doing that, I can feel her manipulating my pain centres to ease the ache that still pulses through my head. As usual, her telepathic treatment works, and the sensation is pretty much gone after about five or ten seconds. When she can see my face loosen up a little, Emma smiles and strokes my cheek with the gloved fingers of her right hand, gently gnawing on the middle knuckle of her left forefinger at the same time, looking almost bashful about what she's just done (which is as far from classic Emma Frost as you're likely to get, really. Usually she's as upfront as Britney Spears, without any of the evil lack of depth). "There – Auntie Emma's made it all better again. Aren't you glad?"

   Rubbing my still-pretty-sore nose with a couple of fingers, I shrug noncommittally. "About the nose?" I say. "Sure. About you using Roseanne Barr's naked body to win arguments? I'm terrified."

   Chuckling, Emma slides herself up against me and slips her arms around my waist, before kissing me passionately on the mouth – and almost sucking out a couple of my fillings in the process. "That's the idea," she murmurs into my ear, her breath hot against my skin. "Je t'aime, mon amour. Je t'aime."