"One does not hate as long as one has a low esteem of someone, but only when one esteems him as an equal or a superior."---Friedrich Nietzsche


Emma wouldn't have gone in if the door hadn't been open.

She glanced in the office out of habit. If it had been Scott? Maybe she would have slowed down, walked with an exaggerated little sway of her hips.

Maybe not.

Sometimes Emma liked Scott because he looked at her and pretended he didn't think she was attractive. Sometimes she liked it because it made Jean angry, knowing that Scott's indifference was an act. Jean did, of course, know.

Most of the time it was the second reason. Something about Little Miss Mary Sunshine just pissed Emma off.

Maybe it's because she was destruction incarnate and everyone loves her, but I take a phone call and people assume I'm talking to Sebastian Shaw about another coup of the Hellfire Club.

It never made sense. Why everyone was so eager to believe Jean's little slide into darkness was an aberration, and that Emma's reformation was an act. It was tiresome, to constantly be thrown up against Jean Grey-Summers and found lacking. Jean caused a genocide. Emma survived one. And which of them was constantly under the microscope, constantly under pressure to prove herself worthy?

"You want something, Frost?"

Even Jean's voice irritated Emma. Pleasant and a little throaty, the kind of voice that would make a good phone sex operator. "Nothing from you, Grey," Emma responded. She hadn't realized she'd stopped in front of the office.

"You stand in the hallway and glare at people for fun? And it's Grey-Summers."

Emma had to try very hard not to repeat it's Grey-Summers back in the sing-song favored by ten-year-olds. She raised her chin and walked in, her gaze touching on the vase of red roses on the desk. "How pretty," Emma purred, perching on the side of the desk. "From Scott?" She took one of the roses, twirling it between her fingers.

"No. Tony Stark. We're leaving for Cabo San Lucas in the morning for a wild affair." Jean's mouth tightened a little. She leaned back in her seat. "Of course they're from Scott. My husband. For Valentines Day. And aren't you a little too old--" to be wearing that outfit "--to sit like that?"

"Aren't you too young--" to be wearing that outfit--"to be doing paperwork all day?" Emma smiled and raised the flower, pressed the soft petals to her lips. She felt a sudden, sharp spike of anger from Jean. Emma smiled wider. "You don't like me doing this?" Emma tilted her head back, traced the line of her throat with the flower.

"You look ridiculous, Frost. Get off my desk."

Jean looked pretty like this. Her green eyes slightly narrowed, her face flushed in anger. Her hair was loose today. Emma sort of hated Jean for being born a natural redhead. It figured. Everything comes so easy for you.

"That's not true. I just don't take short-cuts." Jean smiled, and it wasn't nice. Her entire body was tense, her posture unfriendly. "Like you."

"That's because you're not smart enough to find them." Emma smiled, just as sharp. She twirled the flower between her breasts. One of the petals fell off and landed in her cleavage. Emma looked up, bit her lip. Widened her eyes disingenuously. "Oops."

"Get out of my office."

"Your office, is it?" Emma leaned back on the desk. She was viciously glad to see Jean so angry, but couldn't have said why. "And should you really be swearing? Anyone could hear you, darling. Think of what the students would say." Emma tilted her head forward, let her hair fall over her face. Jean stared at her neck. Thinking about wrapping her hands around it, squeezing.

"I think they'd be distracted by the fact you look like whore."

Emma was surprised Jean said that out loud. She was thinking it, but Jean thought a lot of things she never said. Emma knew that because they were telepaths who lived with each other and had a staggering amount of mutual dislike. Emma heard all the things Jean Grey-Summers thought.

And everyone loved her the best. They didn't hear what Emma did. Emma leaned forward. "You know why we hate each other, don't you?"

"Because you're an evil hussy making a play for my husband, as though I'm too stupid to notice?"

Emma cast her eyes upward. God. "Because, darling," she cooed, sliding forward. If she moved any further she was going to end up in Jean's lap. Emma was breathing hard. Before a fight. Before the drop on a roller coaster. Before the car hit the guardrail. "There's nowhere to hide. For either of us. No quiet thoughts, to hide behind."

Jean half-stood. She reached out, her fingers wrapping around Emma's upper arms. Jean's fingers felt like fire. Emma thought she saw it, saw fire. The Phoenix was (curled tight) sleeping (licking up like flames) banked (to spill out) in the irises of Jean's eyes. It could have been a trick of the light.

"I have nothing to hide from you," Jean hissed. Her fingers hurt Emma's arms. Her nails were leaving half-moon marks on Emma's skin.

"No. But you do from everyone else." Emma stared at Jean and thought, quite clearly and succinctly, about Logan.

"Right. Nice try. Like no one knows about that." Jean laughed, harsh. No Little Miss Mary Sunshine, now. "See, I'm not like you, Emma. If there are things I'm not sharing, not saying, they're not the things that matter."

Emma's eyes narrowed. She knew, of course, that Jean was the better telepath. But Emma had learned manipulation from the cradle. While Jean Grey was learning to be an X-Man and save the world, Emma Frost was learning a different game entirely. She shoved her mind at Jean's, too fast for the other woman to stop her. Found something. Of course. When Jean thought about how she shared everything that mattered, she of course thought about the thing she didn't want anyone to know.

In Jean's mind, she saw fire. The irresistible lure of it, the flames and the power and burning, dark and hot and whole. How Jean woke in the night, sweating, fingers to her temples. How something called to her in a voice like embers, cracking and burning. "My. What would everyone do, if they knew? How you missed it." Emma clucked her tongue. "My, my. And here you almost destroyed the world."

Jean was breathing fast. "Don't play this fucking game with me, Frost." She pulled, hard. Yanked Emma closer. Papers fell off the desk. "I'll fucking win. You know it. It's why you hate me. Not because we can't hide, or whatever bullshit that was you just spouted at me. Because you know it. I'm better. I have redemption, and you don't, not really. I have Scott. I have this school. You have nothing but a place on this team, tenuous at best, with people who don't trust you. Who trust me more, despite the fact I almost destroyed the world." The look on Jean's face wasn't a smile, but it could have been. "That sound about right?"

Emma wrapped her legs tight around Jean's waist. Element of surprise. She didn't mention Jean was right. She didn't need to. "But that's why I hate you, too. I can't hide." She jumped, slightly, and Jean stumbled backwards. They ended up with Jean in the chair, again. Emma on her lap.

"Get off me. Get out of here. Why don't you just leave? No one wants you here." Jean's hands were in Emma's hair. Fingers curling over winter-wheat strands, pulling. Her mind was thick, boiling hot. Emma could feel heat pouring off of the other woman. "Everyone hates you." Jean's mouth twisted again, into that same gruesome approximation of a smile. "Even Scott."

"Everyone's afraid of you," Emma purred, leaning forward. Her mouth right next to Jean's ear. Just below, where she could feel the race of Jean's pulse, fast and hard. "Even Scott."

Jean made a sound. Maybe it was rage. The sound Jean was making in her mind was worse. Louder. Emma was in danger. She pressed herself closer, against Jean's body. Pressed her mouth right to Jean's pulse. "I'm not afraid of you," she lied, her words forming against the salt of Jean's skin. This was the roller coaster, the drop, the fist, the fall.

"Yes, you are," Jean breathed, and there was something else in her voice. Clarion and trembling and ancient. Emma raised her head. Jean's eyes were nearly black, pupils dilated. Shadows having risen, swallowing the green. Emma was shaking, from something that may or may not have been fear. Excitement. Both.

"Darling," Emma murmured, sliding her mouth down Jean's neck. She tasted like cinders. Ashes. But sweet, too. Cinnamon, maybe. Emma couldn't think. She laughed, a little wildly. "And you don't hate me, either."

"The hell I don't," Jean muttered. There was less of that otherworldy something and more Jean, there. She grabbed Emma's hair, again, and pulled her head back. Kissed her. I hate you, and you're a bitch.

Mmm. Emma's hands were on Jean's shoulders. The two women were kissing. Like Jean was trying to devour her. I know. But you don't hate me enough. Emma moved, a little. So she was straddling Jean. Jean's hands were still in her hair and Emma was holding on to her shoulders. She was moving, just a little, because she couldn't help it.

Always knew you were a whore, Frost. Jean did taste like cinnamon. And anger, and fear, and even desire. Her hands were hurting Emma, wrapped like a vise in her hair and pulling for no reason other than to cause pain.

And don't you seem happy about it, right now, Emma sent back. Almost teasingly. But her psychic voice was shaking. I'm not a whore, Jean. If I were, you couldn't afford me.

Jean's tongue was in her mouth. She lifted Emma--telekinetically, it had to be--and shoved her thigh between Emma's legs. Let go of her hair enough to grab her waist. Emma tore her mouth away. Stared down at Jean, panting, while Jean moved her. Pressed her denim-covered leg between Emma's thighs. Emma was wearing a skirt and thin, satin panties. Looks like I'm getting it for free, Jean sent.

Emma smiled. She couldn't help it. She arched her back, bit her lip. Tilted her head back, so her hair fell soft and cool against the flushed skin of her back. "No, darling," she gasped, hands sliding up into Jean's scalp. She made sure to drag her nails, as hard as she could, when she did it. The sun was setting, behind them. Throwing gold and red, a halo around Jean. Maybe it wasn't the sun. Maybe it was already night. "Looks like I'm getting it for free."

"Who says," Jean growled--and it was a growl, too, low and throaty and angry--"That I'm going to let you finish?"

Emma's smile slipped. She leaned forward, kissing Jean again. Jean bit Emma's lower lip and sucked it between her teeth. Emma pulled Jean's hair, yanking her head back, trying to bite her neck. Jean twisted beneath her and shoved Emma hard, so that Emma's back hit the desk. Jean was still dragging Emma against her leg, back and forth. They were both breathing hard. Emma had no idea if the door was still open or not.

"I don't think you're going to stop," Emma informed her, bucking her hips. It felt good. The anger, beneath it all. That felt the best. Emma wasn't thinking about Genosha and she wasn't hearing wails and she wasn't thinking about how she was never, ever going to be good enough. She wasn't thinking about anything. "I think--"

"I think you should shut up." Jean shoved her fingers into Emma's mouth. Emma sucked on them. Jean gasped, and Emma smiled around Jean's fingers. Emma was going to come. The friction was enough, and she was close, and she didn't care--

Jean stopped. Stilled. "Scott," she breathed, and then, suddenly, she shoved Emma. Hard. Not with her hands, but with her TK. Shoved her so that Emma ended up across the room. Far away from Jean. Emma's body was throbbing and unfulfilled and aching. She was in an undignified heap on the floor. It took her a moment, as disheveled and disoriented as she was, to realize that Scott was on his way towards the office. Emma stood up, smoothed her hair back. She took a deep breath, fixed her clothing. She didn't look at Jean.

Jean walked towards the door. "You're not good enough. Not for him." Jean smiled and raised her hand. Emma actually winced, expecting to feel nails raking across her face. "And certainly not enough for me." Jean's fingers trailed over Emma's cheek. Emma turned her face, just slightly, toward the caress. Jean dropped her hand and left. She'd tucked something into the valley between Emma's breasts.

Emma looked down. Right into the soft, slightly bruised petals of a rose.