Instead of dwelling on farfetched possibilities, he opted for a graceful shifting of the subject. "So, I'm guessing your boyfriend was rather peeved with your incessant 'worrying' over me, huh?"
A fierce glower promptly marred her features and her lip almost curled back in a disgusted sneer that closely resembled those of John's.
Well I'll be damned…if I didn't know any better, I'd say I was rubbing off on her, he mused.
"Oh no, not at all. In fact," she all but snarled, "during your absence my wonderful boyfriend has been gallivanting off with a certain Kitty Pride,"–she spat the name like it was a sour taste in her mouth–"whom he just recently admitted he had feelings for."
His eyebrows shot up at the news. Well, this was certainly unexpected. Who would've thought that the straightedge, has-a-stick-up-his-ass, perfect boy scout Bobby Drake was a two-timing cheat?
"As if it weren't obvious already," she continued bitterly, sadness now overtaking the furious spark in her eyes. "All that time they spent together…I couldn't stand looking at them anymore. So I broke it off with him. Almost two years…down the drain…"
Ah. So she was a woman scorned. He was desperately attempting to fight the overwhelming rush of smugness and pure delight at the knowledge that Iceman was not all halos and wings after all. Not only that, it meant that there was no longer any nuisance such as a boyfriend standing in his way.
With great difficulty, he managed to look sympathetic. Somewhat.
Seemingly lost in her unpleasant thoughts, it was a few moments before she spoke again. "You must really hate me."
The statement caught him off guard. Talk about a total change in topic…her rant apparently wasn't chronological. "Huh?" he asked her intelligently.
"I know you're aware that I took the cure," she explained, not looking at him. "I know you ran into Bobby when he was looking for me that day. And I know that you destroyed the clinic, probably thinking I was in there."
No! It's not…I wasn't trying to kill you! his head screamed in horror. He released his hold on her wrists and ran a hand through his fading dyed blonde hair. Even though he wanted so much to tell her the contrary, that he had never hated her, he knew that it wasn't true. He had hated her. She meant something to him, yes, but he had also hated her for it. He hated her for not wanting him. He hated her for making him care. And when she took the cure, he hated her for washing her hands of him. At least, that was how he'd felt.
But how could he tell her all that?
"Pyro…" she started when he remained silent.
He rubbed the back of his neck and held back a scowl. "Damn it, Rogue, call me John," he said edgily. It didn't feel right for her to call him by his "true" name. For some reason it sounded so much better when she addressed him by the name she always had in the past.
"Then call me Marie."
He glanced up in mild surprise at the request. Logan had been the only person he knew of who called her that, and that was because they were close…companions before they'd arrived at the institute. Even Iceman, during the time she'd dated him, had never been given the privilege to call her that. Granting John permission to call her by her real name made him feel…somewhat special.
"Marie," he tried, liking the way it rolled off his tongue. "…I don't expect you to understand."
He knew his error in choice of words the moment her jaw tightened and a rigid look passed over her face.
"I see," she bit out. That dangerous glint was reflecting off those brown orbs again. "So what is there to understand? Enlighten me, please." Her tone was hard. Not cold like earlier, but harsh nonetheless.
Now he did scowl, his temper rising in the way only she could make it. "What do you want me to say?" he snapped, hopping to his feet and whirling around so that his back was to her. How was it that they always pinballed back and forth between a civil conversation and a hostile quarrel? But this time there were pent up and undeclared emotions that accompanied the exchanged words. Both of them could sense it.
Addressing the wall, he said almost inaudibly, "I didn't blast that clinic with the intention of harming you. When I saw Drake again, I just…fucking lost it, okay?" His fist clenched tightly at the thought of the cheating prick. "But I absolutely hate the fact that you went and turned yourself into a human, Marie. It was more than you being a traitor or whatever to our race. It was like…you wanted to forget about your life as a mutant and you didn't want to have anything to do with them anymore, including me."
I felt like you were abandoning me.
He raised a hand to halt the words of protest he knew were about to spill from her mouth. "You were right when you said I hated you. But not in the way you think. It's…complicated." He chanced a glance over his shoulder to see her reaction.
She just sat there staring up at him grimly, the phrase echoing through her head. The impulse to reach out and hold her in his arms was more persistent, but he battled it.
"You never saw it, did you?" he asked her in an almost accusatory tenor. "You never realized the source of conflict between Drake and me. You never opened your eyes and–"
Her hand on his arm stopped him. "I had dreams about you," she blurted, her face flushing a second later when she considered the implication of the declaration. How inappropriate did that sound?
However, he had no intention of making any smartass comments that would discontinue her elaboration. He only stared at her in silent interest.
Swallowing, she went on to say, "I've had them since…well, since I came here. Only, they didn't feel like dreams…more like…memories. And feelings." She scanned his face uneasily, her expressive eyes betraying the turmoil within.
His mouth was just about hanging open at the revelation. So she had them after all! All his hidden memories, secret feelings, silent wants and desires…
In a flash, he had turned and gripped her shoulders tightly with both hands. His glare bore into her as he disregarded her verbal objection to his touch.
"Why the hell didn't you say anything?" he demanded loudly.
"John, what's wrong with you–"
"They were just dreams. What did you want me to do?" she asked him almost pleadingly.
"This!" he snarled, lifting one hand to cup the nape of her neck and draw her close.
His lips crashed onto hers and he kissed her like there was no tomorrow. She didn't move at first, her body stunned into immobility as his other hand snaked around her waist to hold her to him. The kiss was passionate and intense, hot and full of fire as every emotion he'd ever felt for her came down to this moment. They were all contradictory emotions. Respect and disdain. Adoration and detestation. Love and hate. It was enough to make one's head whirl, really. But one thing was clear: he had always wanted her for himself and now that he had her, there was no way in hell that he was going to let her go. He lowered her down on the bed, moving his lips from her mouth toward her throat.
Unfortunately for him, her palms came up and shoved at his chest, effectively putting some distance between their heated bodies, yet not strong enough to fully push him off. Her cheeks were flaming bright crimson, her eyes as wide as saucers and her heart racing. He felt one corner of his mouth lift upward in a smirk as he gazed down at her swollen red lips and flustered state.
There was truly nothing more gorgeous than her furiously blushing form lying beneath him.
"What are you doing?" she asked breathlessly, completely baffled by his actions.
"What does it look like?" he murmured, lowering his head again toward her neck. She drew in a sharp breath as he brushed his lips fleetingly over her collarbone. "I was lying when I said I was in here only to test out the results of your so-called cure," he murmured, sliding one hand down her side as he rubbed his stubble on the sensitive skin of her shoulder. "The truth is I gave you those 'dreams.' They were my memories and feelings, as you thought."
"John…" she whispered unevenly as her body betrayed her by reacting to his ministrations. "Don't…"
"I came to your room every night while you were asleep," he went on. The pounding of her heart reached his ears as he raked his chin downward toward her chest. "It was the only way for me to tell you how I felt."
"What did you…?"
He paused to look up at her earnestly.
"I kissed you. Every damn night since you moved into the institute. I came in and kissed you."
She looked utterly mortified and her fingers curled to grip the front of his shirt like talons. "You what? John, what were you thinking? I could've hurt you that way, why would you–"
He silenced her with another kiss. Determined to finish out this conversation, she pushed him back again.
He let out an impatient sigh–more like a growl–and complied with her wish for him to behave. "I had no choice, all right? I saw you first. I made the first move. But you chose to date Drake, so what was I supposed to do?"
"Uh, keep it to yourself?" she replied as if it were the most obvious course of action.
He snorted at the absurdity of the suggestion. "Who do you think I am?"
"But Bobby was your friend."
"That's where you're wrong. He was more of an acquaintance. I'm not buddy-buddy with girl-stealing popsicle dicks," he said scornfully. "Who, by the way, then proceed to drop said girl for another one."
She watched the way his face darkened at the mention of Bobby Drake and it finally dawned on her that the two young men were indeed never actually "friends." They had never been seen together unless she was there, they never held a conversation unless it had to do with her, and once she had chosen one of them, the other became resentful of the relationship. Why hadn't she seen it sooner?
Meanwhile, he had softened his tone to say, "You never did let on that you knew how I felt about you, or that you even suspected. So what else could I do but give you up and leave?"
She gawked at him in astonishment. Surely he didn't mean…
"John…I'm not the reason you joined the Brotherhood, am I?"
He could tell she was appalled by the prospect of being responsible for his untimely departure of the institute. As much as he wanted to alleviate her fears, he had to make her understand. Now, if ever.
"I ran off with Magneto because I looked up to him, and my ideals and beliefs were similar to his. But yes, you were part of the reason I left," he admitted. "If you really want to know, you were the only thing that would have kept me here, if only you weren't so freaking caught up in your goddamn fairytale world with Sir Freeze-a-lot…"–he pretended he didn't hear her indignant hmph–"…and actually given me the time of day."
Her silence seemed to stretch on for hours. They remained frozen in their positions with him on top of her, facing off in a mute battle of wits. Neither one broke eye contact as both inwardly reconsidered where they stood on the justification of their individual sides. He was aware that no matter how he looked at it, he couldn't really blame her for anything. Using her absorption powers to transfer his thoughts into her had never guaranteed that she would comprehend the meaning of them or that she would recognize them as anything more than dreams. His disappointment in her failure to do so was his own fault for assuming that her understanding of those "dreams" would come in a matter of time. In a nutshell, he had taken the craven way and informed her of his feelings in her sleep, even though he knew that it was only a shot, and then became huffy and frustrated when she didn't get the message.
Once again he was revealed to be the coward. It was a bitter realization that he still had some maturing to do, no matter how badass he believed he was.
And to add salt to the wound, she had ultimately come to the same conclusion.
"Let me get this straight. You mean to tell me that you blame me for not acting as your anchor to this school, all because I didn't get it after you so clearly told me how you really felt about me by sneaking into my room and kissing me in my sleep each night, not even pausing to reflect on the possibility that I would have dismissed whatever thoughts you put into my head as a product of my subconscious imagination?" Her voice had taken on a dramatic crescendo and her face was turning an interesting shade of red, stemming from pure outrage. She shoved him off her and scooted a few feet away, bringing her knees up to her chest and pinning him with a glare.
He would be an idiot if he didn't know that he had dug himself into a hole. "Well shit, if you say it like that–"
"How else can you say it?"
Throwing his hands up in frustration, he got to his feet and matched her glare. "Goddamn it, fine! It was the wrong course of action! I was wrong, okay? There, happy? Music to your ears," he said irritably, feeling the heavy blows to his pride. Fuck if I know whether I'll ever live this down…
At least that shut her up for a minute. This was turning into a complete mess. Any illusions he'd had of sweeping her off her feet were immediately sacked at that moment. Still frowning, she scanned his face. What she was searching for, he could only guess. But she apparently found whatever it was because the glare lessened in intensity and he could practically see a light bulb flash over her head.
"Why didn't you just come out and tell me?" she asked him sternly, sounding like a parent scolding a naughty child.
His left eye started to twitch. The dreaded question. He'd been hoping to avoid it. Like the plague.
Instead of answering, he turned his head away from her and set his lips in a grim line. There was a very specific reason why he never told her to her face. But he sure as hell wasn't going to relay that information to her.
Unfortunately, she figured it out all by herself.
In another grand display of a mood swing, her eyes widened and she exclaimed, "You were shy!" Her lovely Southern voice positively drawled out that last word.
He stopped himself from cringing. Well, there went his reputation. He could kiss his bad boy, lady-killer image good bye. John Allerdyce, Pyro, master manipulator of fire, hot-bod rebel, was the shy type when it came to liking girls.
The notion of crawling under a rock and dying was suddenly a very appealing idea.
Thankfully, though, she was merciful. Edging back towards him, she timidly tugged on the hem of his shirt in an endearing gesture. "You should have been honest with me. It would have saved both of us a lot of trouble and heartache," she said softly.
The unsaid hint commanded his undivided attention. He felt a knot form in the pit of his stomach as he grasped the insinuation her words threw at him. His head immediately translated it:
If you had just told me from the start instead of hiding it behind all your smartass remarks and actions, I wouldn't have given in to Bobby's advances and I might have been yours.
While ten seconds ago he was losing the will to live, his mood did a complete one-eighty as one last spark of hope flared up inside him. Reaching down to hold the hand that was tugging on his shirt, he braced himself for what he knew she was going to say next.
"You having to watch me with Bobby, me losing Bobby to her…it sucks to know that it could have all been avoided." She watched absently as his rough thumb began to stroke the skin of her hand, and she took a deep breath before closing her eyes and whispering, "I still love him."
He had been ready for that, and so chose to ignore it as he reached up to tuck a tendril of platinum hair behind her ear. "If you could do it all over, from the first day you came here, would you choose me?"
She bit her lip and looked away from him, a warm sensation once again flooding her cheeks. "Don't flatter yourself. How do you know I even feel that way about you?"
"Considering that you were mumbling my name in your sleep…"
"John," she said warningly, the warmth growing, "stop being such a–"
"So how do you feel about me?"
It was a direct enough question, yet somehow she felt the need to beat around it.
Squirming a bit underneath his scrutiny, she frowned as she searched for the right words. "You've always been my friend, and even after you left I always thought of you as one–"
"I didn't ask what you thought of me," he interrupted, taking hold of her chin with his thumb and index finger and forcing her to face him. "I asked how you felt about me."
And with that, his lips descended on hers again. He was pleased to find her returning the kiss this time, her eyes closing in transcendent bliss. His hands came up to cup her face as he deepened it, gently tugging her toward him so that they were both standing. The feel of her soft curves against his body was heaven, and he resisted the urge to succumb to his repressed animalistic lust and take her right there. She, on the other hand, had been making half-hearted efforts to escape from his arms, which had wrapped around her waist to lock her in a tight embrace.
"Can you honestly say you don't reciprocate my feelings…" he whispered against her lips, "…when I can make you tremble with just one touch?" He trailed one finger down the length of her spine to prove it, grinning when she gasped and dug her nails into his shoulders as she shuddered.
"John…" she said breathlessly, feeling her knees literally going weak. "Stop. I can't think."
He kissed her again and again, his kisses growing more insistent and greedy as she abandoned all attempts at resisting him. Her fingers tangled in his hair and she moaned shamelessly when his tongue sought access between her parted lips. Before she knew it, she was back on the bed, her nightgown having ridden up past her thighs and settling around her hips. It was fortunate that John, busy exploring every inch of her mouth, hadn't noticed or else he would have lost all control then and there.
His hands glided over her arms, shoulders, and neck, marveling at the previously forbidden silky skin. She in turn raked her nails down his back, drawing a low growl from his throat. He ground his mouth against her almost painfully as he felt himself going over the edge. Their hearts were pounding in sync, the heat emanating off their bodies as they sought each other in unspoken fervor and need.
With one last remnant of reason, she broke the kiss and gazed straight into his burning blue eyes. "Of course you realize I'm only functioning like this because I'm under your spell." There was a teasing quality to her assertion, something he didn't miss.
"So you say," he replied, kissing her almost sweetly on her temple. "You know you want my touch."
"And what is it that you want?"
"To make you mine."
There were no words or actions that could oppose that statement, and as he lowered his head toward her once more, she allowed him to claim her in sweet, sweet surrender.
A/N: Thank you very much to those who reviewed the first part; your comments are much appreciated. Do forgive the rough edges of this one…I'm a bit rusty at writing these things. Actually, to tell you the truth, this was the first heavy kissing scene I've written. Ever. My specialty is humor, but I thought I'd give romance a try. Please let me know what you think, and thank you for reading!