AN: Whew, okay so here it is! Slightly elevated maturity rating…need I say more? =) Enjoy!

Chapter Twenty: I'm on Fire

Hey, little girl, is your daddy home?

Only moderately exhausted, the bride pulled on her white gown the morning of her wedding. Izzie did her makeup while grilling her on the vows she'd just conjured. Cristina had managed to get out of doing anything remotely helpful, instead she stood near the door under the guise of keeping people out.

"…it was then I knew—"

"It wasn't until later I knew!" Izzie corrected, her voice impatient. "Think, Meredith! The first time you saw him was through a horny, tequila haze. The love part didn't come until later."

Cristina let out a snort of laughter. "Yeah, around the time you found out he was married."

Lexie tried to tie the bouquets once more, the ribbons working against her and time.

Meredith rotated her head to glare at Cristina, but Izzie grabbed her chin and turned her back toward her mirror. Armed with a brush, she stood poised above the seated bride.

Meredith sighed her annoyance. "I'm already married, the jig is up."

Still manning the door, Cristina said, "That's true."

"It matters!" Izzie said sharply. "The woman gave you her ring. The holy grail of rings." Her voice adopted a conspiratorial tone without lowering at all. "The ring she did not give Addison," she added matter-of-factly. "The least you could do is give her some nice vows to hear since you up and got married behind all our backs," she finished pointedly, her grip on the eyelash curler suddenly threatening.

"Damn," Lexie said for the fourth time, watching the array unravel. "Meredith, just walk down the aisle with one flower. I hear sparse is in."

Meredith didn't response, but Izzie did, her brown eyes shooting up from the work she was doing on Meredith's eyelids. "Use a rubberband, then cover it with the ribbon."

Lexie frowned at she stared down at the disobedient flowers. "Oh." She had not been responsible for the bouquets at the last wedding she'd been to—her own. She felt a wave of sympathy for bridesmaids everywhere and resigned herself to trying again.

Did he go away and leave you all alone

An hour later, all of them under the roof of the church, the music began and Lexie was the first to make her way down the aisle. Her lavender gown rustled against her legs as she walked. There was an advantage to bridesmaids planning the wedding: there were no hideous bows or tulle, just sleek, simple gowns.

There were many familiar faces in the pews. She tried not to think of the fact that all these people had, at one point, been seated for her own wedding, waiting for a moment not unlike this one. She tried not to think of their faces when someone had informed them no one would be walking down the aisle that day. She tried not to think of the pitying thoughts they were sending her way as she moved past them. Her fixed smile congealing, she inhaled and pinned it back.

Ten pews left and she felt zapped of all energy.

Her heart thrummed and she closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, they found Mark's. From his vantage point next to Derek, he gave her a slight smile. There was warmth behind the silence, warmth that made it possible to feel her toes as she walked, the cool stalks around her fingers, the heat of her hair against her bare shoulders. She smiled back at him, the motion gentle rather than big, and walked closer, her steps timed and sure. His gaze was steady as it carried her the rest of the way.

When she finally finished the journey, Izzie and Cristina behind her as they took their places near the altar, she looked down at her lavender and white bouquet. A moment later, the music changed and it was Meredith's turn to walk. Lexie saw a brief flash of white, but her eyes were drawn to the man across the aisle, whose eyes, she found, had never wavered from her.

I got a bad desire

O-o-oh, I'm on fire

At the reception, Mark danced with her without asking, merely setting her champagne glass down and leading her to the floor.

The music was slow and their movement was minimal, barely a sway with the rest of the couples on the floor of the Archfield banquet hall. Yet, despite the appearance of inactivity, Lexie felt heat overwhelm her body. The additional heat thrumming from him gave her no quarter. The air flowing through her nostrils was insufficient; she parted her lips and breathed in greedily.

She rested her hand on his shoulder, the other ensconced within his larger palm. His fingers traced idle patterns on the small of her back and she could feel his touch so vividly, her dress might as well have been imaginary.

As they danced, she kept her eyes on his lapel and the half-bloomed rose housed there. She'd made the mistake of looking at him earlier that day, while the wedding party had been photographed. He'd gruffed out a comment to hurry it all up and everyone had laughed. She'd been no exception, turning her neck to look at him. Her laughter had died upon meeting his eyes. Naked arousal had been etched in every feature; it had been blatant in the slight flare of his nostrils, the heat of his eyes.

Lexie had looked away and turned toward the camera, unsure of how to respond. No man had ever looked at her like that. Like she was edible. Like he was starving.

Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull

Now that they were actually touching, she was hesitant to take it too far and dispel the quiet chaos they'd created between them. It was basic chemistry, really. One had to swirl in the solution one drop at a time or risk rendering the entire experiment unsalvageable. So she kept her touch light and stiff, her eyes lowered and prayed for that delightfully pale purple color that signaled success.

For once in her overly verbose, nervous chatter-filled life, it was perfectly natural to keep quiet. She focused on the rasp of his jacket beneath her fingertips, the scent of lemon and warm skin that he always seemed wrapped in. Her pulse quickened and she knew he could probably see it beat against the skin at the base of her throat.

When yet another slow song began, she bit the bullet and shifted in his arms, pressing her cheek against the space near his shoulder. His hand tightened around hers, lifting it to his neck before finding her waist.

Though she battled with the decision for a while, when she finally curled her fingers around his short hair, the movement was fluid, idle almost. He stiffened against her, his fingertips digging into the skin of her hips. Lexie pulled back, uncertain of whether or not she had made him uncomfortable; added to much at once and ended up with the dark purple of failure.

Hoping to alleviate the situation, she said casually, "Beautiful wedding."

He made a noise of agreement low in this throat. "Looks like you were right though."

"About what?"

"City hall."

She laughed. "And Mrs. Shephard still gave her the ring." She shook her head, the sprig of flowers pinned in her hair moving with her. "Talk about lucky."

"I don't think luck has anything to do with it."

Shooting him a dubious look, she asked, "Then what?"

He tugged on her and she was against his chest again, her head tucked under his chin. "She just saw what Derek had known for a while," Mark said, his voice quiet.

She closed her eyes and felt the vibrations under her cheek. Lulled into comfort, her voice was lazy when she asked, "Which is?"

"That's she's the one."

She didn't have a response to that. So she just inhaled his scent and continued swaying. He said, "Nice job choosing the dresses."

Lexie laughed. "Izzie helped. We vetoed bows on butts."

"Good choice," he said casually. "Makes it easier to decide which bridesmaid to sleep with if you can see assets clearly." His palm roamed over the area in question and Lexie's eyes widened, slapping his upper arm.

And cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull

His voice interrupted her trance as he said gruffly, "You look lovely, Little Grey."

Her eyes opened though she kept her head nestled under his. "Thank you," she said quietly.

"I should tell you…" he started.

"Hmm?" she hummed, the heat from his skin warming her cheek through his charcoal suit.

"I don't want to be your friend, Lexie."

She stopped swaying, bringing his body to a halt against hers. Her face still hidden from him, she closed her eyes. Something rolled through her, starting in her throat and rippling through her until it stopped somewhere low in her abdomen. She wasn't sure if it was relief or anxiety, but it was delicious and terrifying all at once.

"That night," he continued, almost conversationally, "I told you I'd been patient and it's true, I have been waiting. I didn't want to start something you weren't ready for. And you weren't ready, Lexie, no matter what you told me."

She listened, scarcely breathing out of fear she'd miss something vital in his words. Somewhere along the line, they'd started swaying yet again.

"But I also told you I was through being patient." His hands tightened around her waist. "And even though I said a lot of things I didn't mean that night, that wasn't one of them."

Tell me now, baby, is he good to you?

Can he do to you the things that I do?

Her heartbeat quickened at the implication of his words. Part of her was convinced she'd exhaled at the wrong moment and misheard what he'd said.

Slowly, she leaned back in his arms to look up at him. His jaw was relaxed, but his eyes were intent on her face, searching for the slightest reaction. She swallowed, her throat painfully dry. Her hand slid down the clean line of his shoulder and found his palm, dry and warm. She brushed their palms together and wasn't sure if she felt the rasp of their skin or heard it or both.

She wanted to say something, something of weight and merit. Something worthy of what he'd just expressed to her. Yet words deserted her, leaving her in the middle of a crowded dance floor with nothing but the naked desire she'd harbored for him since the night she'd insulted him in a dive bar.

"Mark," she said instead, the name a reverent whisper on her lips. Then stronger, more insistent: "Mark."

She tightened her grip on his hand and led him through the throng of couples still dancing. They made their way around the ebbing tide of drinking and chatting guests, the buoyant atmosphere of the hall suddenly incongruent with the almost palpable tension between them.

They moved in single file, like a lethargic locomotive, their clasped hands the only link between them. His thumb traced indecipherable patterns along the sensitive skin of her wrist while they extracted themselves from the last of the wedding guests.

Releasing her hand, he pushed the call button for the elevator. They stood next to each other as they waited, all too aware despite a lack of any physical contact. Her body, she realized, consisted entirely of nerves, each of them responding to some silent call he'd issued. Frissons of heat circuited through her as her breathing grew shallow. Next to her, he stood stony-faced, his clenched jaw indicating he wasn't immune to the malady either.

A dull ache spread through her lower abdomen. The urge to touch him was strong and she briefly considered reclaiming his hand. But she didn't know if the slight contact would appease her nerves or make her fall off some cliff she couldn't remember climbing. She wasn't sure if it'd be enough or too much.

She opted to do nothing.

I can take you higher

By the time the elevator arrived, an elderly couple and a few businessmen had joined them. Lexie stood against one of the slick elevator walls, her back stiff with anticipation. Her body was perpendicular to Mark's, who stood near one of the adjacent walls. From her angle, she could make out his profile, rigid with the same energy that radiated from her.

The tension must have been obvious to the rest of the elevator's occupants because they all remained silent, the box growing more claustrophobic with each passing floor. Heat rolled off of him, enveloping her to the point where breathing was a chore. For a brief moment, she wondered what the rest of them were thinking. They had to feel it, see it—whatever "it" was had a life force of its own. Lexie's cheeks stained, her lashes arcing down as she lowered her eyes.

As the elevator stopped, Mark shifted to let the elderly couple disembark. The movement caused his hand to graze Lexie's bare arm. A brand of electricity she'd left within the pages of teen novels cackled through her nerves and did nothing to make breathing easier. She felt the touch throughout her spine and actually checked her arm to make sure it hadn't suddenly turned a telltale red.

Even after the businessmen got off, neither of them moved. Standing in silence as they waited for the elevator to make its final stop, they both watched the floor count rise. With a pleasant ping, the automated voice told him their destination as the elevator doors slid open.

Mark had his key card waiting by the time they reached his door. Some manners were inherent, even if his practice was sometimes flawed, and he held the door open for her.

It had barely found its home in the frame with a lifeless click before they reached for each other.

O-o-oh I'm on fire

It was physics that they'd end up against the wall of the foyer, just four feet away from the door. They clashed together with a force that spoke of desperation. Lexie, smaller and slimmer, was the object to give way. She stumbled backwards on her stilettoed sandals until the wall stopped her.

It was, however, greed that kept them pinned there. Mark's hands roamed the space of her back, palming the backs of her thighs as he hefted her up higher against the wall and him. When his mouth tore away from hers to sip the skin of her collarbone, she gripped his shoulders for balance, trying to give him help he didn't need by making herself as light as possible.

Within a matter of seconds, she felt his hands under her dress. Sliding up the length of her thighs in twin brands of heat, his hands pushed up the hem of her long dress.

He looked straight into her eyes while his thumbs searched for the band of her underwear. Normally blue, his eyes had blackened. Their breathing, uneven and ragged, mingled in minimal space between them. Her hair had loosened under the flowered clip she wore to the side of her head. She felt a stray strand fall against her cheek. It tickled, but she barely registered the inconvenience.

By then, he had slid her panties down her legs. She felt the gossamer material pool around her right shoe, covering the beaded work over the ankle strap. Lexie tried to shrug it off by arching her foot but stopped when she heard the rasp of his zipper.

At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet

Pupils dilated and throat dry, her hands dug into his stiff shoulders when he leaned into her, his mouth finding hers again. The kiss was hardly one of finesse and skill. Instead, it was fervent, seeking to give and take in equal parts. She broke it with a gasp, inhaling sharply when she felt him press further against her under the skirt of her dress.

He groaned, his head resting in the space between her neck and shoulder. All ten of her fingers plowed through his hair, her nails scraping his scalp to keep him exactly as he was. As if answering questions she didn't know she'd voiced, his arms tightened around her waist and across her back, keeping her body against his in a fierce hug. One palm found her nape, the other the niche of her hip.

Her face turned away from him, her cheek rubbing against the texture of the wallpaper as her breathing hitched. His grasp rendered the rest of her immobile and when her body tightened before jerking in short spasms, there was nowhere to go. He followed her, his forehead falling to the hollow of her throat.

In the immediate aftermath, they stayed still. The only motion between them was his forehead rolling in a slow cadence against her. She could feel his sweat transferring onto her skin as he moved. Most of his weight had fallen onto her, keeping her elevated against the wall. One of her legs slid from his hip, her toes pointed in a blind search for the carpet.

He alleviated the onus of his weight, allowing her to land on her own shaky legs. In a rustle that was thunderous in the quiet room, her dress fell to her feet. She was grateful because the dress then covered the telling evidence of her half-discarded underwear, which was still around her ankle and shoe like a diaphanous manacle.

While he had moved away just enough to let her stand, his body was still close, his hands on her hair as he smoothed down the wayward tendrils. "I'm sorry," he finally said, his mouth tightening around the corners as he stared at the top of her head, his eyes clearing into a dark blue. The sprig of flowers was now half in her hair and half dangling off, as if unsure whether or not to abandon ship. He fingered the plastic buds gently. "I didn't want it to be like that. Not the first time anyway."

She gave him a shaky smile. "Like what?" she asked, her voice a hushed murmur. "Perfect?"

He laughed softly and kissed her cheek, the gesture so reverent and chaste, she almost cried. It could have been a mockery seeing as how it was completely incongruent with what they'd engaged in…and against a wall no less. Yet somehow, between them, she could only see it as a compliment.

And a freight train running through the middle of my head

Now she wasn't sure what to do. There was an entire reception they'd left behind. A best man and a bridesmaid, while not the main focus, were of sufficient notoriety to invite notice of their absence. There was also the fact that Mark hadn't invited her to stay, nor was she sure she wanted to. She wasn't up to sitting around chatting. Her nervous system was shot to hell and all she wanted to do was lie down and relive every bit of it while she figured out how to breathe again.

Before she could say anything, he took her hand and led her further into the room. Though it was a different than the one he'd rented before, it was cookie-cutter enough to bring back memories. She smiled as she imagined herself a few months ago, stripping and throwing him down on the mattress. If the waiting was a prerequisite for what had just transpired, it had been worth it and much more.

He stopped at the foot of the bed, bringing her in front of him. His hands floated above her shoulders before changing tracks and moving toward her hair. They hovered there for a moment, as if unsure where to start. Uncharacteristically indecisive, his hands faltered and failed before falling to his sides.

"Are you just going to look at me?" she asked, laughing to alleviate the sudden sobriety thickening the room. The noise broke halfway through, leaving her nothing to hide behind.

"I'm afraid I'm going to break you," he finally said.

She smiled, finding the declaration silly in light of what they had already shared, but he didn't join her, his eyes roaming over her as if he'd never seen her before. She shifted uneasily under his scrutiny and looked past his shoulder to the mirror in the foyer. Most of her skin looked frighteningly pale, almost translucent. By contrast, her eyes were huge, their normal hazel color so dark her pupils were swallowed. His scruff had burned her, leaving patches of red across her face and neck. Strangely, she couldn't feel the irritation or the swelling of her bruised mouth. Despite what the mirror was telling her, the only part of her that ached as evidence was covered by her dress.

She flicked her eyes back on him, suddenly desperate to be touched. Goosebumps broke out on the flesh of her arms. "So break me."

At her words, his arms went around her in halo that never actually touched her. His chin aligned above her shoulder as he peered over at the back of her dress, his breath warming her skin. His fingers found the zipper of her dress and pulled down, all without brushing against her skin. She shivered as the material sluiced down her form and puddled near her feet.

She was about to toe her shoes off and step outside the ring of her dress when he lowered himself onto one knee and reached for her feet. Shock froze her and she stared down at the top of his head, which she realized oddly, she'd never seen before. His gesture was so humbling, part of her wanted to stop him, tell him it wasn't necessary. But the embrace of his long fingers around her ankle was so tender, she realized that perhaps the gesture wasn't entirely for her. It echoed of the kiss he'd pressed on her cheek moments before.

Swallowing, she stepped out of one shoe and then the other, her arm resting on his shoulder for balance. It was only when he stood, slowly rolling up to his full height that she realized she was naked while he was completely dressed. Without her heels, she was only level with the knot of his tie.

He stood before her, saying nothing just long enough for her to grow self-conscious. Shifting her weight between her bare feet, she could only bring her gaze as far up as his chin. "You could say something," she suggested helpfully, her cheeks flaming with something that had nothing to do with whisker burn.

"Lexie," he breathed once, twice, before finally drawing her against him, his arms wrapping around her small frame.

The texture of his suit was rough against her sensitized skin as he lowered her to the bedspread. Her palms slid under the lapels of his jacket and pushed it off. By the time he'd finished undressing, Lexie had had time to realize something she'd missed in the rushed voracity of the first time.

There was nothing wrong with her. George may have left her, but the loss had been his own. And the gain, she thought as Mark pulled her closer, the gain was hers.

Only you, can cool my desire

O-o-oh I'm on fire

AN: Please review!

"I'm on Fire" is written and performed by Bruce Springsteen.