CHAPTER 9

The black dress shimmered on the bed as Kim worked very carefully to pull the panty hose up without ruining them. She twisted and tugged herself into them and then took a good look in the mirror to make sure they looked alright. The shoes were black dress slingbacks with two inch heels. Kim put them on and stood up while staring down at them. It had been a while since she'd worn these, and Kim had to push her mind away from happier days with her ex and focus on what she was doing.

Dressed in panty hose and shoes and nothing else Kim finished up her makeup. Her eyelids glittered and her lips were red. Kim gently used her hands to move the loose curls she'd put into her shoulder length brown hair into place, the curls softening her look and making her look more elegant than she normally did. Kim studied her cheekbones, one feature she'd always been told she should be grateful for, and then moved to carefully pull the dress over her head so it didn't mess up any of her hard work, moving the black dress down past her hips before adjusted the top and making sure it fit her well enough that she wouldn't slip out of it. She couldn't wear a bra with this dress, it dipped down in the back, exposing a large expanse of her back and in the front it showed a generous portion of her chest as well, stopping before getting into truly dangerous territory. It fell to just above her ankles, with a slit on one side that went up above her knee showing more of her leg if she moved just right.

Kim was just so glad the dress still fit. Turning slightly from side to side Kim studied her own curves to make sure it did what it was supposed to do, which was make her look like an attractive woman, one that people should take seriously as a woman. In her jeans and other site working clothes Kim tended to be more like one of the boys, but she wasn't going for that look tonight.

In one weeks time Kim had managed to even out her tan enough to pull this off. The elegant and unobtrusive necklace and matching earrings her father had given her for graduation were small focal points adding just a touch more class to the ensemble. Putting makeup and her wallet into a small purse, Kim took one last look at herself before leaving the room. The doorbell signaled that she was right on time.

Kim's footsteps on the wood floor clicked. When she got to the door she didn't open it right away, first she took a deep breath and tried to calm her nerves. The door opened and Kim felt herself start to smile as Jean's eyes widened when Jean saw her. Having Jean ask her out to this party, pick her up for it as well, it felt like being picked up for a date. Kim had decided to play it like that was what it was and see what happened. That was why her best and sexiest dress came out from the dark corner of the closet to finally see daylight again, instead of her more business oriented clothes she used for other work related evening party/business meetings.

Jean was wearing a green dress that brought out her eyes beautifully, eyes that seemed to smile. "You look amazing." Kim blushed at the compliment.

Kim let her eyes wander over the makeup and beautiful hairdo Jean had and was glad she'd dressed up, because this wasn't just a party with friends, a house warming party. "Thank you, so do you." It felt a little awkward, so Kim took a step outside and pulled the door closed behind her. "Shall we?"

………………….

The sound of music reached them as Jean and Kim walked up to the front door of the new building. "I hope we don't have to replace the flooring tomorrow." Kim muttered and Jean just smiled at her, making it seem more familiar, even as Kim gently held Jean's elbow as they went inside. Kim did notice that Jean didn't pull away, she even patted Kim's hand gently as they moved towards the crowds. Everyone was dressed up, Kim could see Ororo and Sage near a table of food, she glanced around until she saw the Professor and he glanced over at her from him conversation to nod hello.

Kim also saw Emma and Scott dancing in the distance, but she barely paid attention to them. "Are you thirsty?" Jean asked her with a small smile.

"A little."

"Let's go see if Ororo is keeping Remy from spiking the punch or if she's hoarding it all for herself."

"Oh, is this our Master Builder?" A deep voice asked and Kim turned to see Hank standing still staring at her and Jean with a smile. Kim no longer felt he was getting ready to bite when he did that. He was actually a very sweet man. "Oh Kim, you look exquisite tonight." He turned to look at Jean, "You both do."

"Thank you Hank." Jean smiled and reached to grab Kim's hand, "but you still can't dance with her until she's danced with me first." Kim couldn't help it, she knew her eyes had to be adoring as she looked at Jean, but she glanced away before Jean looked back. Kim worried she was getting caught up in a fantasy and it wasn't what she thought. The idea of looking foolish like that scared her.

"Well, I do look forward to when you are free Madame." Hank told her and bowed a little. He was so huge dancing with him would be hard to do, but Kim wasn't going to tell him no.

When they walked up to Ororo and Sage, Kim blushed at Sage slowly looked her up and down. It took a hint of a smile for Kim to see Sage was teasing her. That woman was so serious most of the time that it always took Kim by surprise when she wasn't being serious. "You look nice tonight Kim."

"Thank you."

"I didn't know you cleaned up so nice." Ororo's eyes were a bit more dangerous than Sage's without seeming hostile, just far too intense, and Kim didn't like the glance toward Jean Ororo did as Jean poured Kim a cup. "You two look very nice." Ororo spoke just a little slower and Kim was grateful for the cup Jean handed her at that moment. It gave Kim a reason to let Jean answer Ororo.

"Thank you, you don't look too bad yourself." Jean spoke easily with her friend and Kim didn't really feel too awkward to find herself standing with Sage as the other two women spoke about the promotion.

"You've changed." Sage spoke those two words quietly and Kim's eyebrows drew together trying to understand the woman. "It's not just the clothes." Kim couldn't even begin to know how to respond to that. "It looks good on you." Sage gave a hint of a smile and then turned to face Ororo again as Jean and Ororo pulled Sage and Kim into the conversation.

Kim debated about whether or not to do it as she heard a soft slow song start. A few couples were dancing so it wouldn't seem strange to dance, but to pick this song would make a clear message. The singer's voice just started to join the music being played over the stereo and Kim took a step closer to Jean, rested a hand on her shoulder and leaned in to whisper. "Dance with me?" Kim's heart was pounding as she waited to see Jean's response.

Jean reached out and took her hand when Kim let her hand drop from Jean's shoulder. "I'd love to." Jean's green eyes stared into Kim's. Kim gave her a shy smile in return.

Kim and Jean stepped out to where the others were dancing, and Kim could see that someone had decided to dance with Hank. They stood facing each other for a moment and Kim took a hesitant step closer. "Jean?"

"Dance." Jean spoke so softly that Kim was reading her lips rather than hearing her. Jean's hand moved to rest on Kim's hip gently as Kim got closer and pulled her a little closer. "Can you waltz?" Jean asked by leaning in to whisper in Kim's ear. Kim just nodded so that her voice wouldn't reveal how much she liked having Jean whisper in her ear. "I'll lead."

"Why do you get to lead?" Kim smiled as they started to dance and teased Jean gently. "This isn't a mutant thing is it?"

"No, it's a redhead thing." Jean said as she led Kim to the right. "It goes with the fiery temper."

"I've never seen you get mad." Kim said as they started to dance closer together, resisting the urge to rest her head on Jean's shoulder. Jean did have a few inches on her, which was the most likely reason she was leading.

"When I do, it's fiery." Jean pulled back enough to look into Kim's eyes and Kim's eyes widened to see fire reflected in the redhead's eyes.

"I'm not scared." Kim moved forward to dance closer to Jean, leading for just a moment, before Jean took over. "I can handle you."

"Really?" Jean sounded amused, so Kim leaned in closer.

"Yep. You're not so tough."

"Oh Really?" Jean whispered it and Kim pulled back so she could look into Jean's eyes. Kim started to lean in, seeking a kiss.

"I would like to have everyone's attention." The music stopped and Kim froze as she heard the Professor's voice fill the room. Oh god, not now, Kim mentally groaned as she pulled back and sighed heavily. It had taken her so long to build up to that, Kim thought with more than a little irritation.

"I have to go up there." Jean spoke and Kim felt frustrated and wished that Jean weren't one of the guests of honor tonight, because then people wouldn't be pulling the redhead away from her just when Kim had finally planned to make a move. "We'll finish our dance later."

"Okay." Kim stood still for a moment as Jean moved toward the Professor, before deciding she didn't need to be on the dance floor for this. Kim walked through a milling crowd of people looking at the Professor and quietly chatting with each other, in her quest for the table and the punch. From what Kim had seen of the Professor's speeches, it might be a while before it ended.

……………………..

Jean was trapped, Kim watched as the crowd surrounded Jean to congratulate her and sighed. She'd need to be a mutant with some interesting powers to get past them all to get to Jean's side. The speech hadn't been as long at Kim feared, but with that crowd of well wishers it would be a long time before Kim saw her date again.

Feeling a little abandoned, and selfish for feeling that way, Kim moved to look at the balcony and to get some cool fresh air.

Kim found herself alone on that balcony as she stared up at the sky. It was an amazing night and the stars were glittering and shining more than Kim remembered seeing in a long time. Wrapping her own arms around herself she just stared up, looking for the moon, while listening to the soft night sounds in the distance, and the muffled sounds of the party in the building.

A shooting star streaked in the sky just past the moon and Kim leaned over the railing a little, feeling the cool stone of the railing as she stared at it and made a wish.

"It is so beautiful tonight." A voice whispered, surprising Kim. She turned to see Jean standing in the doorway, closing the door behind her.

"It was a little warm inside." Kim turned back to try and see her shooting star. "A little crowded. I'm sorry I left."

"It isn't like it's hard for me to find you." Jean moved to stand leaning over to the balcony to look at the moon. "Full moon, it really doesn't get more beautiful here at the mansion."

Kim was seeing the way the moonlight shown in Jean's hair. "No it doesn't." She whispered and Jean turned to look at her, clearly studying her. "You are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, inside and out." Kim took a step closer. Her heart pounded and her hands shook. "Jean," Kim's eyes fell to the door and then back at Jean, "I feel so close to you." Kim's hand moved out to caress red hair out of Jean's face as the woman watched her with soft eyes. "Can I kiss you?" Kim asked in a whisper, putting her heart out there on the line again, after all those lonely nights where she felt like she'd never be able to again. Looking into Jean's eyes, Kim realized she wasn't afraid.

Jean didn't say anything, but Kim could see the yes in her eyes and leaned closer, gently touching her lips to Jean's, slowly caressing lips with lips, until she moved a little closer, deepening a kiss that was slow and gentle and so very good.

Oh god, please don't stop, Kim thought as she kissed Jean, holding her tighter.

I won't, a mental touch from the redhead replied and the kiss moved to Jean kissing Kim's neck. "Yes." Kim hissed out as her hands moved through Jean's hair.

Yes what, Jean's mental touch asked as Jean's lips moved to touch Kim's ear.

"Yes there is a God, and I must be his favorite child."

Jean started to chuckle in Kim's ear. Kim grinned and moved to kiss Jean gently on the lips once the redhead stopped chuckling. Kim's voice softened and the teasing was gone from it. "Slower, or I'll need you tonight and it's too soon."

"Don't stop, and then slower?" Jean's smile was wicked. "There is only one of you in there isn't there?"

"You can't blame me for my thoughts." Kim moved closer, until Jean wrapped her arms around her. "But I want to do this right. I want a relationship."

"We already have one. This will just make it deeper." They stood on the balcony staring at the stars for a long time, close and just the two of them before they resigned themselves to joining the party again, if only to get to the front door and away.

Jean walked Kim to the door and kissed her goodnight. It took a lot of willpower, almost more than Kim had, to not ask Jean in that night. "How long do you want to wait?" Jean asked her and Kim couldn't help giving Jean a wry smile.

"I doubt I'll last long. Maybe three dates? That's the tradition isn't it? I give in earlier and you'll think I'm too easy and I wait too much longer and you'll think I'm frigid or something and move on to someone easier." Kim teased and Jean did laugh, but then she caressed Kim's hand.

"I don't need someone easier. We've both been hurt, and if it takes time, well, we can take that time to build something that can last."

Kim's eyes were glassy as she took Jean's hand in her own. "Yes, I want to build something that can last." Her own desires were for something lasting and real, and she could see that with Jean.

………………….

"I think this should count as a date." Jean's teasing voice had Kim blushing, because if this inspection of one of the dorm buildings counted as a date it would be the third. Jean had asked her to look at the building before it was blown up in some future catastrophe, and while it was a lame excuse to get Kim over to the school, Kim had eagerly left her lonely house to do it. It was just a walk through, and most likely Jean was already considering remodeling it. It did appear to be filled to capacity.

"If this is the best you can come up with for a date, then I think I need to shop around here a little more." Kim smirked, but to make sure the words didn't sting she caressed Jean's arm and leaned closer. "Take me out to dinner afterwards and it'll count." Kim's voice deepened just a little as she said that, her eyes staring into Jean's.

"I wish I could." Jean glanced around and pulled Kim into a room with her, it appeared to be the laundry room. "We have the Fantastic Four dropping by and I can't very well tell them that my girlfriend and I are leaving for dinner, but the kitchen is that way."

Kim felt a little shocked at the guest list. "No, I guess you can't."

"Stay for dinner?" Jean kissed her gently. "I promise a real third date, but it would be nice to have you with me tonight."

"Okay." Kim was a little nervous at the thought of being around heroes, or more heroes she guessed. She just didn't think of the people she worked with on a building that way, but they were. Jean was. "You have them over often?" Kim had to ask, not sure how she felt about this. She realized she felt a little inadequate actually.

"Not really, but they were on a joint mission with one of our teams. The jet will get back around dinnertime, so we invited them to stay and see the new building you designed for us." Jean told her, but Kim was slightly distracted by the way Jean's thumb caressed the back of Kim's hand. "It would be nice if they could meet our architect," Jean's voice became softer, "My architect."

"I guess I could stay." Kim only pretended to consider it, her evening if Jean weren't a part of it wouldn't have been very interesting. She might have started the Robertson house plans early, or she could have gone to the store and bought more paint to repaint what had been Vicki's office as she reclaimed it as a guest room, even if she doubted she'd need it. Nothing she couldn't do another day.

An hour later the jet landed and Kim reluctantly followed Jean towards it. Others were moving closer as well. When the ramp came down, Kim noticed Scott and Emma immediately. So it was Jean's old team that had been on a mission, Kim thought as she watched other faces, ones only familiar from television, follow Scott and Emma down to the ground. Jean smiled and chatted as Kim stood quietly, trying to pay more attention to the plane than the large brick of a man that came down the ramp next, knowing that staring was a bad idea even if he was so recognizable.

"Jean." The Invisible woman smiled and came closer to them. Kim tried to be just as invisible as that woman could become by being quiet as Jean and Susan Richards said their hellos.

"The building must still be standing." Emma muttered as she got closer. "So what are you doing here?"

Kim ignored her like she used to ignore the stuck up girls in high school.

"Reed, Susan, I'd like to introduce you to my girlfriend, Kimberly Brown." Jean smiled at her and Kim gave a tense smile to the visiting heroes, again pretending she didn't hear someone, but this time it was a stunned sound that might have been a word from Scott.

"It's nice to meet you." Susan was so polite and actually moved to shake Kim's hand, so Kim did it briefly, letting go as soon as it was appropriate so she didn't look like a fangirl stalker, especially not in front of Jean.

"Nice to meet you too." Kim nodded to include Mr. Fantastic in with that comment. The Thing and the Human Torch were just getting up to the growing group.

"Kim's an architect." Jean actually bragged about her in front of these people. "She helped us rebuild the school."

"Good person to know in our business, someone to help put it all back together again." Kim blushed as Susan said that with a hint of approval in her voice. Jean took Kim's hand and smiled at her.

"Yes, she is." Jean turned toward the building. "If you all need to use our showers before dinner feel free." Directions were given and the Fantastic Four were led away by Scott, who clearly would be asking questions of Jean later. It was so obvious he wanted to talk to her and Kim hated the idea of him doing it. There was nothing she could do though, this was Jean's fight if it became one.

"So, the Invisible Woman?" Jean asked quietly and small smirk on her lips and Kim blushed.

"What, was I obvious?"

"Not really." Jean moved closer, her voice a whisper. "I just couldn't help but hear you mentally telling yourself to let go of her hand."

"I love you." Kim whispered back, her body moving closer to Jean's so that they were nearly hugging. "I'm sorry I got a little star struck."

Jean wrapped her arms around Kim and held her close. "No problem. You're very discrete."

"I'd rather have an evening alone with my hero than spend the night talking with those." Kim made her feelings clear.

"Maybe tomorrow night." Jean kissed her lightly, "But tonight you'll just have to suffer with eating with your teenage crush."

"Okay, I did not have a crush on her." Kim tried to not smile. "And if my brother says I had a poster of her on the wall he's a liar. He's always been a liar."

"You had a poster?" Jean shook her head and Kim laughed at the almost baffled expression on Jean's face.

"No, I just wanted to see your face if you thought I did." Kim grinned and moved to try and avoid the playful swat Jean aimed at Kim's rear end.

…………………

Dinner was fine once Kim started to relax and just talk to the famous people like they were normal. Scott might have been staring a bit more than normal, but Kim was glad that he had to do that from much further down the large table and not next to her or Jean.

The Thing, or Ben as he'd told her to call him, sat across from Kim. "You build nice stuff. Big doors." He told her.

"I also designed the floor to take a lot more weight and had to raise the ceilings considerably so Hank wouldn't be hitting his head too often." Kim smiled and glanced over at where Jean was talking with Reed about something.

"That's important. I've been house hunting and the ceilings and doors are a big problem." He glanced down at the orange rocks that made up his body.

"You can have doors specially made. It isn't cheap, but that's what we had to do here." Kim glanced around and fought the urge to ask Ben to follow her to look at a few things she'd built into the place he might like to consider for his own home. "If you build do a one story with high ceilings and you can get the doors you need." She glanced at his body for a moment and hated to bring it up, but someone would have to or he'd end up with a house that didn't fit him right. "And you'll need a reinforced floor or you'll be tip toeing everywhere so you don't break it."

"You do this often?" He asked and Kim gave him a puzzled look.

"I design houses."

"No, I mean making houses for big guys like me."

"This place," Kim glanced around at the room around them looking at the walls, but she didn't miss the way Scott was staring at her. Kim wondered if he was one of those men that didn't want his ex, but didn't want anyone else to have her either, especially a woman. She kind of hoped he choked on his jealousy and that Emma ripped him a new one for it. "I built this one to last. I've built another house but it wasn't for large guys. My brother's mutation makes him very small and I needed to figure out how to make a house that worked."

"Ya think you could make me a house?" He asked and it almost seemed shy. Kim smiled at him.

"I'm sure I could. I have a lot of ideas already I think you might like." She paused, not wanting to oversell him, but still believing she was probably one of the best to help him. "I could bring samples and ideas to the Baxter building for you to look at." Everyone knew where these four lived. That might be why he wanted a house.

……………………

The next night Jean took Kim out to a very nice restaurant and a local production of a play. It was a nice date, but Kim spent too much of it thinking of the fact it was the third and she was glad it was. Her own self imposed rule had been hard to live with, but she didn't want to rush things either. She didn't feel it would be rushing tonight, but she wasn't sure if Jean was ready. Scott apparently thought Jean wasn't gay, he'd said that to Jean the night before as Kim was getting ready to leave. Kim never got to hear Jean's reply. It wasn't vocal, but Kim did get to see Scott storm off.

The redhead wouldn't string her along so she wouldn't be alone would she? Kim thought as they drove up to Kim's house, worrying that Jean might not actually be interested.

"I am." Jean caressed Kim's leg gently as they stopped. "Don't let Scott's jealous tantrum make you doubt me. I am very interested in you Kim. I find you attractive inside and out." Jean smiled as she quoted something Kim had said to her.

"Come inside?" Kim asked, she didn't bother with the common lie about coffee. There was only one thing she was inviting Jean inside for.

"I'd love to." Jean told her softly and Kim's heart felt fluttery and nervous. They walked up to the front door, and Jean pulled Kim into a kiss before Kim could open the door.

EPILOGUE

"His power makes it so he can only wear synthetic clothes. Anything natural turns to dust on him." Jean told Kim while they sat in the office. "Wood too. We need to do something with his room so he can relax, change his clothes, just be able to exist without worrying about what he touches for a while."

"I'll bring some samples in." Kim started to consider what would need to be done to remodel one dorm room into something this boy could actually live in. "Let him see if they hold up to his power."

"You don't even blink anymore." Jean reached out and took Kim's hand, changing the business meeting into a personal one.

"After a few houses I just started to think about the problems and solutions and less about the mutations. People don't want a human doing any more than that." Kim admitted. Her after hours work on a few specialty houses for people that couldn't live in normal houses had taught her to see the issues quickly and problem solve even faster. She needed to be fast to keep her clients from starting to feel self conscious. She may have only had three clients so far, but she learned fast that once people found out she was a human she needed to prove herself fast or she'd lose the job when mutants assumed she couldn't understand, or didn't want her trying to.

"Poor baby." Jean caressed Kim's hair. "Eventually you won't have to work so hard to gain their trust."

"Yeah." Kim sighed and leaned into Jean's caress. It would be nice, but for now Kim was going to have to prove herself over and over again to nervous mutants just wanting to live as normal a life as the world would let them. She found the people she wanted to help have their homes, to make them fit, and it was worth the trouble she went through to see how happy she made them.

These after hours jobs paid for her house, but she would have agreed to do them even if they didn't. That last woman that Kim worked for was so happy she'd cried, because she'd never thought she could actually have a home that one couldn't be built to fit her. She made Kim feel like a hero.

"I could use some time in the hot tub." Jean rolled her head, stretching her neck and Kim moved to rub it gently for the redhead. "Oh, that's nice." Jean muttered.

"Go change and I'll meet you there." Kim told Jean as she stopped the massage.

"My suit is in the laundry." Jean grinned a little and Kim shook her head. She'd had to put up a privacy fence to keep the hot tub private after Jean started spending more and more time at Kim's house.

"I'd tell you to bring more clothes over if I didn't want you to hot tub naked." Kim leaned closer and kissed Jean. "Come on; let's work out your stress."

"I like how you say that."

"You are staying the night again aren't you?"

"I think it would be a good idea." Jean smiled just a little.

"Oh yeah, very good idea."

THE END