DISCLAIMER: Don't own them, though I do covet them.
NOTE: Somewhat AU, basically after Genosha Scott takes off and Jean finds herself spending much more time with the Institute's newest addition, Emma Frost.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Underneath It All
By Janine


Part 5

Jean stumbled, the pale lights of the limousine distracting her momentarily, as Emma stalked towards her hands outstretched in what was supposed to be a menacing gesture. She was still watching the limousine pull away when she then felt the blonde near her and reacting in surprise more than actual fear automatically raised a psionic shield which the blonde then bumped into causing her to stumble back a couple of steps.

Jean stared in front of her when she realized what she'd done, only to see Emma looking at her with an absolutely stunned expression on her face. The wide-eyed shock and peevishness of the look sent Jean into a fit of laughter.

She was so completely hammed everything was funny.

"It's not funny," Emma grumbled recovering. "You've ruined my shoes," she continued glancing down at her feet crankily. Jean followed her gaze to see that Emma had stumbled back into a patch of mud, but that only made her laugh harder, causing her to wrap her arms around herself in an attempt to calm the shaking of her body.

"You think that's funny?" Emma asked approaching her once again. Jean thought the laughter should have made it rather clear that did, but responded anyway. Somewhere in her foggy brain she knew that admitting she thought it was funny was not a smart thing to do, but she did it anyway, nodding vigorously at Emma before pointing at her.

"You know what I think it is funny?" Emma asked sounded deadly calm which intrigued Jean and would have worried her if she hadn't been drunk.

"What?" she asked sounding genuinely curious.

"Shrieking redheads," Emma replied closing the last bit of distance between them and wrapping her arms around Jean's waist, her fingers moving towards the red-head's stomach beginning to tickle her as Jean squirmed in the circle of her arms giggling.

Jean squirmed and laughed and panted as Emma continued to tickle her, not actually liking the tickling at all, but unable not to laugh. She was becoming quite exhausted by the effort trying to squirm out of the blonde's grasp was causing, not to mention the lack of breath of laughter was causing, and when Emma hit a particularly sensitive spot Jean cried out loudly and stepped up her efforts to get away from the blonde's very determined grasp.

Emma clamped her hand over Jean's mouth automatically. The redhead's little scream had been quite loud and she became concerned that someone might have heard it. She was drunk but not drunk enough that she didn't care about being caught in a tickle fight while sauced up with Jean Grey. She would die before she let any of the X-Men see her in such a state. Die.

Ceasing her tickling torment for a moment Emma dragged Jean back behind a nearby clump of trees, whispering 'shhhh' to her when she heard the mansion door open.

When Jean quieted her in arms Emma removed her hand from over her mouth and let her arm drop down so that she was hugging Jean to her body once more, and rested her chin tiredly on the red-head's shoulder. The effort of dragging a squirming Jean back into the trees had made her kind of sleepy, and she allowed her eyes to flutter closed as she heard voices she didn't care to try and distinguish calling out into the night air.

Jean felt Emma relax against her back and sighed. She could feel the blonde's breath on her throat and chest, the contrast of the blonde's warm breath and the cool night air hitting her through her open jacket causing her to shiver slightly, the sensation not at all unpleasant. She felt warm everywhere Emma was touching her and wanted to see the blonde's face. She could still hear voices calling out nearby and was able to identify one of them as Ororo. Quickly she sent her friend a quick thought letting her know that the noise was just her and Emma. That they'd had a few too many drinks and it had just been an exclamation of surprise. She could sense that Ororo was curious and wanted to know more, but mercifully she let it go and called the others inside.

Once the voices were gone Jean turned in the circle of Emma's arm, causing the blonde to lift her head. They stared at each other for a moment and then Emma turned and looked around.

"I suppose this is good night," the blonde finally said her hands still on Jean's hips. She was oddly reluctant to let go of the redheaded telepath. She liked the feeling of Jean in her arms and wished somewhat idly that the search for the noise had gone on a little longer.

"I thought you'd walk me to the door, since you need to go in as well," Jean replied laughing a little as Emma's eyes narrowed and then widened as she realized it was true. The blonde had worn it well, but it was then that Jean realized Emma was drunker than she had been letting on.

"Yes but, we have an audience in there," Emma replied pulling herself up straighter so that she was looking into Jean's eyes. Absentmindedly she noticed that they were the same height and wondered why she had never noticed that consciously before. "This would be a better place for our good night kiss."

"Goodnight kiss," Jean repeated sounding confused. She wasn't sure whether Emma was joking about that or not and thought about actually asking the blonde whether she was joking or not when Emma's face suddenly came closer and closer to hers. The thought 'oh my god, she's actually going to kiss me' came into Jean's mind but she didn't move or raise her voice in protest. She simply stood there and allowed Emma to brush her lips against her own, softly, achingly softly, the contact lasting no more than a few seconds. It was perhaps the chastest kiss she had ever been given, and the fact that it came from Emma Frost who was perhaps the most unchaste person she had never known made it seem even more exceptionally tender. She sighed softly, exhaling a breath she hadn't known she was holding when she first felt Emma move towards her, her breath hitching again when she felt the blonde's lips on her once more, this time sweetly brushing against her cheek before moving to whisper in her ear, "I'll take you inside now".

Jean felt her heart throb painfully at the words until she realized that Emma simply meant that she'd walk her inside, a deep blush coming to her fair features as she thought about what her mind had immediately jumped to and the brief swell of excitement and terror it had caused.

"Come along, dear," Emma said in a normal speaking voice this time, taking a moment to do up a few of the buttons on Jean's jacket before turning her towards the door. "I think we've had enough excitement for one night," she continued as Jean began to walk without her guidance.

Emma's hand drifted up to her lips as she walked a step behind Jean, her thumb gently tracing the plump softness that had just been pressed against Jean's soft lips before she realized what she was doing and ripped her hand away from her mouth.


Part 6

Jean sighed and stared down at the table top barely resisting the urge to bang her head against it before turning to stare at Ororo. She really, really, really didn't want to be having this conversation right now. Her head hurt like a bitch, she was still tired as hell, and just felt generally shitty. She really didn't need to be getting the third degree from her best friend at the moment, she really didn't.

"It wasn't a date," the red-head said slowly, ignoring that fact that she had Emma had referred to it as nothing else all night. She had thought they were joking about that, but it had ended up sure feeling like a date, and she wasn't quite sure what to make of the whole experience. "We just went out. She said I was moping and it was easier to just give in then fight her on the matter," she continued reaching for her glass of water and taking a big sip. "Just because there was dinner it doesn't mean it was a date. I'm married for christsake!" she exclaimed irritably regretting it the moment it came out of her voice as she felt the rooms attention swing over to the table she and Ororo were sitting at.

"I just wish you would exercise some more caution around her," Ororo sighed wincing in sympathy as someone opened the door to the grounds letting in a flash of bright light that sent Jean recoiling.

"She's not as bad as all that," Jean responded tiredly blinking tears out of her eyes. She should have brought the sunglasses down. Damn appearances to hell she should have brought the sunglasses down. "How exactly am I supposed to guard against an invitation to dinner and a show?"

"You're purposefully misconstruing what I'm saying," Ororo said pushing her own glass of water over to Jean when the red-head reached for her empty glass.

"I know, I know," Jean said shooting a friend a grateful look. "I know you don't like her, hell I know everybody and their brother doesn't like her. I'm also aware that you don't trust her and I'll admit there's more than enough evidence and precedence to support those feeling," she went on sounding a bit weary. "But, I've spent quite a bit of time around Emma over the past couple of months, and while it wasn't always pleasant I can tell you that she's not a creature of pure evil. I've been inside of her mind, I've spent a lot of time talking to her and I can comfortably say that I'm on my way to getting to know her. I certainly know her better than anyone else here," Jean went on pinching the bridge of her nose, "and she's … she deserves a second chance Ro. I've seen glimpses of the person she keeps hidden behind that frosty exterior of hers and … I think I like her."

"She's different with you Jean," Ororo began carefully. She and some of the others had noticed that while Emma wasn't always exactly friendly with Jean she did seem to interact with her in a less obviously combative and provocative way than she did with every one else.

"Yes, she is, which is exactly my point," Jean interjected. "I don't treat her like she's still the enemy, I don't shot her death glares every time I see her, or make her feel like I resent her very existence. And, not surprisingly, she responds to that. You can't expect her to open up to you, to trust you when you make your hatred of her so very obvious," Jean went on. "She does have feelings. She's very good at hiding it, but the way you react to her, the way everyone treats her hurts her, and it makes her act even more cold and aloof."

"She has brought the distrust and apathy upon herself," Ororo pointed out not unreasonably.

"Yes, and she knows that," Jean replied sighing forcing herself to relax a little. "But at what point have we punished her enough? If nobody was going to give her a chance we should have stood up to the professor and told him to get rid of her. But by agreeing to his decision we also made an implicit agreement to treat her with a certain amount of professional respect," Jean sighed. "She's held up her part of the deal, and to make someone, especially a telepath live in an environment where it's acceptable for everyone to project every nasty thought they've ever had about her in her direction whenever she's in sight is cruel. It's cruel Ororo, and if you want to know why Emma is like she is all you have to do is imagine a childhood filled with such cruelty."

Ororo nodded and sighed. She recognized some truth in what Jean was saying, but she knew that it wouldn't be as easy for herself or the others to forgive Emma has it had been for Jean. Obviously whatever Jean had seen in her head that first night had deeply affected her impression of the blonde, and while that was well and good for Jean, the rest of them were going to have to find this other less hateful side of Emma Frost in their own due time.

"You feel strongly about her." It was a statement not a question.

Jean simply nodded having speechified herself out. Her head was throbbing again and she just wanted to lie down.

"I'll talk to the others," Ororo said, she could do that at least. She had been very careful to keep her emotions in check and her shields particularly strong when she was around the blonde to stop any negative feelings from leaking out, and while she had heard some comments from people when Emma wasn't around, she'd assumed that the others were doing the same. If that wasn't the case, Jean had a valid point and it needed to be dealt with. "I didn't realize it had been that bad for her."

Jean nodded but didn't say anything. Ororo hadn't noticed, nobody besides her had noticed because they didn't care to notice but she didn't feel like going another round at the moment, and her friend's statement was at least an acknowledgement. She herself had spoken to the worst offenders, but as much as it galled her she knew that coming from Ororo the warnings would have more pull. Somehow the opinion around the mansion was that Emma was some sort of pet project of hers, the Eliza Doolittle to her Henry Higgins or something, and as such that she had a biased view of the woman and they weren't required to listen to her.

"I appreciate that," Jean said finally reaching across the table and squeezing Ororo's hand to let her know that she really meant it despite her rather lackluster tone. "Listen, I'm glad that we had this talk. I think we should have had it before, but I need to take some Advil and get some more sleep."

Ororo nodded and told her to keep drinking water before standing up and allowing Jean to stumble back to her room for some peace and quite, and hopefully some fitful unconsciousness.


Part 7

Jean sighed contentedly before yelping and springing upright into a sitting position on her bed.

"It's just me."

Emma. Jean blinked, the voice belonged to Emma.

"What the hell!?!" Jean demanded blinking as she tried to focus on the slightly smirking blonde. "What are you doing in here?" 'And how?' she thought glaring at the blonde slightly, getting ready to accuse her of picking the lock when she remembered that she hadn't locked the door when she stumbled up from breakfast with Ororo.

"The world around town was that you were suffering from an abysmally awful hang-over. I thought I'd come by and offer my services," Emma responded running a hand through her hair as she gazed over at the sleep rumpled redhead. "When you didn't answer I let myself in."

"That's rather presumptuous, don't you think," Jean replied her voice more reasonable now that she had calmed down. Her head felt much better and it made her mood much more pleasant than it might have been otherwise.

"Perhaps," Emma admitted. "But your head feels better doesn't it?" she asked smiling knowingly. "Really darling, there was no need to suffer for so long, you should've come to see me. I could've fixed you up in a jiffy."

"I …" Jean sighed and flopped down. "I didn't think of you," she mumbled feeling kind of foolish. She had thought about how helpful it would've been if she could have used her powers on herself, but even with those thoughts it hadn't occurred to her to go to Emma for a cure to what ailed her.

"Yes, well," Emma said her voice cooling as she turned away from her to stare out into the relative darkness of the Summers' bedroom for a moment. "I am a rather recent addition to the household. Oversights are bound to happen."

Jean watched the blonde for a moment seeing the stiff set of her shoulders and not missing the slight chill that had come into her voice. She'd upset the blonde when she said she hadn't thought of her and that surprised her. Even though she had spent the better part of an hour trying to convince Ororo that the blonde wasn't made of stone, it still surprised her to see Emma revealing some emotion, even accidentally.

"That didn't come out right," Jean said sighing. Emma had actually been the first thing that she had thought about upon waking, which had alarmed and disturbed her. She had purposefully been trying to put the blonde out of her mind all day, but that didn't mean that she wanted Emma to know that. "I just wasn't at my best this morning. And Ororo ambushed me as soon as I stepped out of the door," she continued draping her arm over her eyes. "I think I would've had a much better morning if I had been with you."

"My heart sings," Emma responded dryly but turned to face Jean once again. "Is your head feeling better now? You kind of interrupted me in the process." She supposed that she should have anticipated some awkwardness from Jean. She'd had more to drink than she planned on the night before and had found herself less controlled than usual leading to the unexpected end to their night out. She had managed to get some control of her inebriated desires and reel herself in enough at the last moment to make the kiss she gave Jean something entirely more innocent than she had originally intended, but she had still kissed her. Sometimes it was a burden to be a friendly drunk, it really was. Still considering that they were now sitting on the woman's marriage bed the morning after the awkward embrace, it was actually a relief that things weren't more uncomfortable.

"Much better," Jean replied sitting up again, crossing her legs under the blanket. "Thank you." She wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea that Emma had seen fit to play around in her mind when she was asleep, but she did feel better and if the blonde had tried anything invasive she would have been aware of it. It seemed the blonde really was only trying to help her out, and considering that expect for the day before she'd never seen Emma try to do anything remotely nice for anyone she figured that she wouldn't grill the blonde because of it. Besides she'd seen much more in her uninvited foray into the blonde's mind, and while she knew Emma wasn't pleased about it, even in her most combative moments she hadn't attacked Jean with that fact knowing the redhead had just been trying to help.

"Well, I suppose it was somewhat my fault that you were in this condition to begin with," Emma replied standing up and moving slowly around the room. It was the first time she had been in Jean's bedroom, which probably made entering without permission even more presumptuous but she didn't really care. "I really thought your people were better at holding their liquor."

"You know, despite my hair I'm not actually Irish," Jean commented with some amusement watching as Emma studied her surroundings, resisting the urge to glance around to see if there were any socks or underwear laying around on the floor. She hadn't exactly been expecting company.

"Oh I know," Emma replied not bothering to turn and look at Jean as she spoke. "It's just that it always seemed to bother you and I found that amusing."

"Charming," Jean replied sarcastically watching as Emma continued to stroll through her room.

"Yes, you seemed to think so last night," Emma replied opening up Jean's drapes which had been pulled tight for darkness and staring out at the Institute's grounds for a moment. "You like antiques, don't you?" Emma continued a moment later when Jean didn't respond to her previous comment. She hadn't really expected the redhead too anyway.

"Yes," Jean said carefully not terribly impressed by Emma's previous comment. Not because it was untrue but because it was truer than she was comfortable admitting. She had spent the morning trying to convince Storm that she didn't need to be wary of Emma Frost, but she found herself reconsidering her friend's words to be careful around the blonde – though the danger she was beginning to feel in Emma's presence was not what Ororo had in mind.

"I know a quaint little shop not far from here," Emma continued at Jean's guarded response to her comment. "We should go some time."

She had been getting increasing bored hanging around the mansion all of the time, but she hadn't realized exactly how much she had missed the outside world until the night before. Going out with Jean had entertained her and awakened a certain amount of restlessness in her. And the redhead actually hadn't been bad company when she stopped pestering her about her feelings and just relaxed and spoke to her like a normal human being. In fact she had somewhat enjoyed being around Jean the night before.

She wanted to get out of the house again, she didn't want to do it alone, and since she didn't hate the idea of spending more time with Jean she figured she could at least make the offer. After all, the redhead had practically been stalking for the past three months, it was about time she gave something back.

"That sounds nice," Jean said trying not to think about the fact that the offer was made simply to please her. She had seen Emma's office and bedroom, she knew that the other woman's tastes ran more modern and that it was unlikely that if they did go to such a shop that Emma would buy anything. "When were you thinking of?"

"T…" Emma started to say, the word 'today' on the tip of her tongue before she bit the words off. It was clear to her that Jean was slightly uncomfortable with what had happened between them the night before, but not uncomfortable enough to refuse to see her or speak to her. She was just a little spooked and if Emma handled the situation correctly she could smooth things over. But she didn't want to jump the gun. Desperation was highly unattractive.

"Tomorrow, a nice leisurely Sunday outing," she finally replied turning around to face Jean once again. "If you think you can stand my company again so soon."

Jean smiled. "I think I might be able to manage it," she replied relieved by Emma's answer. For a moment she'd thought that the blonde was going to suggest they go today, and if she had she knew she would've had to turn her down, despite the sweetness of the offer. She was still to frazzled to be alone with the blonde for an extended period of time today, she needed some time to sort herself out, and, she thought ruefully, to fully recover from her last outing with Emma.

"Okay," Emma said softly stepping away from the window. "Well, I'll let you get back to your beauty sleep," she went on glancing at Jean as she spoke before taking a few steps towards the door. "Not that you need it of course," she continued as she reached the door. "Ta," she grinning at Jean before ducking out the door.

Jean sighed and lay down again, her mind now turned towards her outing with Emma the next day, beginning to both look forward to it and feel anxiously about it. She rolled over on to her side and pulled up her blanket once more, but she was fairly certain she wouldn't be getting anymore sleep that afternoon.


Part 8

<u>The next day …/u>

Emma lazily walked up behind Jean, leaning over her shoulder to get a better look at the picture the redhead was looking at, her mouth close Jean's ear as she spoke. "That would look lovely on the wall next to your window," she said softly, her eyes focused forward on the oil canvas painting hanging in a beautiful and elegant wooden frame.

"We already have a picture there," Jean replied quietly, her voice almost a whisper as she struggled not to jerk back and place some distance between Emma and herself. The blonde was standing so close to her that she could feel the warmth of her body through her jacket. It reminded her of standing in the bushes with Emma hiding from Ororo like teenagers who'd missed curfew because they were necking in the back of an X-Terra all night and she didn't want to be thinking about necking anywhere when she was near Emma.

Emma shuddered slightly behind Jean as she recalled the 'picture' in question. "That, my dear, is not so much art as an offence to good taste," the blonde replied finally take a step back and moving around Jean so that she was standing beside her. "Just because it's in a frame it doesn't imbue it with any actual artistic qualities. Caciocavallo Podolico and Velveeta might both be classified as cheese, but make no mistake they belong in two entirely different categories," she continued with a long suffering sigh as she once again tortured herself by imaging the framed picture of 'Snoopy's Last Supper' that hung in the Summers' bedroom.

Jean smiled, "So … the Snoopy one is the Velveeta, right?" she asked her smile growing as Emma glared at her before sighing wearily. There was something so delightful about pushing the blonde's buttons that if she could get paid for it Jean might've taken it up as a full time job.

~They say a picture is worth a thousand words~ Emma sent to her telepathically a moment later before projecting an image of the Snoopy picture in question on fire, intense frames maliciously licking the corners of the picture until it was nothing but a charred husk.

~That was a little harsh~ But the redhead was smiling as replied to Emma. The picture had been Scott's touch at decorating, and while she had nothing against 'Peanuts' she had never really been thrilled with its addition to the room.

"Perhaps," Emma agreed out loud turning to the eye the Charles Gaul print that Jean had been studying. "But you can't tell me that you wouldn't rather wake up to the sight of 'Flowering Magnolia' in the morning than a cartoon dog in aviator goggles."

Jean looked longingly at the picture for a moment longer before shaking her head. "I can't," she said finally. As much as she liked the picture and thought that it would have added to the atmosphere of the room, she didn't want to start changing the room and getting rid of the few touches of himself that Scott had bothered to add. It just seemed wrong on some level to get rid of it while he wasn't around.

"Yes, well, I can," Emma replied lifting her hand to wave one of the sales people over. She had a rather good idea why Jean was hesitant to buy the picture and didn't share the redhead's concerns in the least. Her bastard husband could just deal with the loss of his crappy artwork when he came slinking home.

"Emma," Jean began to protest watching the blonde as she tracked the sales person progress over to them. "I …"

"Mentioned that you needed a new bedside table," Emma cut in smoothly. "I've made up my mind about the picture so there's really no point in trying to talk me out of it. I don't know if you've noticed but I can be quite stubborn about things," she continued meeting Jean's eyes. "There was some nice bedroom furniture in the room on the left," she went on as the sales person reached them. "I'll meet you over there."

"I…" Jean started again.

"Exceedingly, abrasively stubborn," Emma interjected once more her eyes still on Jean as she motioned absently to the picture she wanted for the saleswoman. "The frame as well," she added when the woman began to move towards the portrait.

"Emma!" Jean exclaimed. The frame was old mahogany with an intricate yet delicate hand craved design. She couldn't see the price tag on it, but based on some of the other frames of similar age and quality she knew that it had to cost close to three-hundred dollars.

"We've covered this, dear," Emma replied turning her attention back to the redhead at her exclamation. "It's becoming rather tedious," she continued before softening her voice. "I want to," she went on holding Jean's gaze. "Just smile and make my day."

Jean did just that, her lips curving completely of their own will. The present was, she thought, far too extravagant, especially considering that Emma had treated her to a very fine dinner not two days earlier. But she knew that to repeatedly refuse a gift could be just as rude and begging for one, and if she were to be completely honest with herself it felt rather nice to have someone pampering her. If Emma wanted to, she'd let her. After all, the blonde had hardly been joking about being ridiculously stubborn when it came to getting her way.

"Splendid," Emma responded nodding towards the saleswoman who had stopped taking the picture down during the exchange unsure whether she need go to all the trouble. "Go, peruse," she continued waving her hand about vaguely. "I'll find you," she finished tapping her temple playfully.

Jean shivered slightly wrapping her jacket more tightly around her as they walked down the small town's crowded main street. Although the store Emma had brought her to had had some lovely bedroom furniture she hadn't seen anything that would fit into the current layout of her room, and despite Emma's insistence that there was nothing stopping her from changing the layout so that they did fit, they left the store without any purchases other than the painting and frame.

Having a destination in the mind they hadn't really dilly dallied about when they arrived in town earlier that morning, but when they had finished with the antique store Jean had expressed an interest in exploring the town some. There were quite a few interesting looking shops around, and there was a pleasant, homey atmosphere that she felt like being immersed in for a while longer.

Jean jerked slightly as she felt Emma place her hand on her shoulder, forcing herself to relax a second later.

"You're shivering again," Emma said softly wrapping her arm around Jean using her hands to rub at her arms for a moment. "You're terribly sensitive to the cold aren't you?" she asked continuing her gentle warming motions, the question designed more to distract them both from what she was doing then a genuine inquiry because she wasn't quite sure what had prompted her to rub down the redhead like a shivering three year old who'd just gotten out of the bath, and she didn't want to be asked about it.

"I suppose I haven't fully adjusted to the change of season yet," Jean replied leaning into Emma's body seeking the other woman's warmth. She'd adjusted to the cold somewhat, but the feelings of warmth where Emma's hands were seemed to be making the parts of her that weren't being touched by the blonde seem so much colder.

"Well," Emma drawled allowing the increased contact Jean initiated without comment. She had started it after all. "I don't seem to be doing a very good job of warming you up," she continued as another small shiver ran through Jean's body. "It's probably because, according to the rumor mill, my internal temperature is somewhere below sub-zero."

Jean frowned at the comment. It was said lightly and she knew was intended to be amusing, but she didn't think it was particularly funny.

"I think you're doing an admirable job," Jean responded. "I appreciate the effort."

"Thank you, but I never cared much for participation badges," Emma related turning her head to face Jean, their faces so close that the blonde's breath caused the redhead's hair to flutter slightly.

Jean shivered again.

"Are you going to find a way to warm me up even if it kills you?" Jean asked trying to ignore the brief flutter in her stomach as she felt Emma's warm breath caress her forehead and the fact that her answering shiver had nothing to do with the cold that time.

"I don't think all that will be necessary," Emma said softly dropping her arm from around Jean and bringing it back to her own side, the backs of their hands brushing momentarily before Emma grasped Jean's hand in her own and tugged. "I do have a question of great import to ask you however," she continued as she led Jean by the hand across the street.

"And that would be?" Jean asked allowing herself to be pulled behind Emma like a giant Raggedly Anne doll.

"Do you prefer marshmallows or whipped cream?"

Jean blinked, rather thrown by the question for a moment before finally turning her gaze towards the direction they were moving in. There was an independent and rather quaint looking coffee shop a few meters away.

"It doesn't matter," Emma continued when Jean didn't respond. "I suppose you can always have both. After all, if you're going to give into temptation it's best to go all the way and be completely satisfied," she went on biting her plump bottom lip lightly before her lips curved sensuously up in a smile that could only be described as a lascivious.

Jean licked her lips, her eyes focused on the suggestive smirk on Emma's full lips. As she watched, Emma's tongue peaked out to wet her own lips and Jean felt her heart beat sharply spike for a few seconds. Blinking against the unsettling feeling, Jean averted her eyes from Emma's. She actually wasn't feeling cold at all anymore.

"Well, after that display, this place better make one hell of a cup of hot chocolate," the redhead finally said forcing an amused – she hoped – smile on to her face. It wasn't the wittiest response she had ever made, but at the moment she wasn't as concerned with dazzling Emma with her verbal magic as she was with simply getting her mind off of her unexpected reaction to Emma's flirting.

Emma turned her head away from the young men playing football in the park. Despite growing up in New England she'd never really cared much for the game. She was far more interested in the woman standing at her side. Jean had spotted the game going on as they exited a clothing store and led them over to watch in a way that Emma assumed the redhead had intended to seem unintentional.

Deciding not to feign interest in the boys pummeling each other any longer she focused her attention on Jean, watching the way her eyes tracked the action intensely, her lips curving slightly when the team she'd decided to cheer for did well, and then the way she kind of pouted when they made a mistake. She was so every earnest, Emma thought, so very earnest in everything that she did. Emma usually considered such openness a weakness, but surprisingly she found Jean's lack of guile extremely attractive.

She had to fight the urge to reach out and touch the redhead again. She'd had the urge to be near Jean all day and had had varying degrees of success trying to ignore the impulse. She supposed it was because she could still remember the feeling of the redhead in her arms on the night of Jean's anniversary. Jean had felt oddly small in her arms and it had inspired some rather usual feeling of tenderness and protectiveness within her that she hadn't been able to shake. It was rather annoying really, but she couldn't seem to help it.

Emma noted that the redhead had seemed to forget about the cold as she became preoccupied with the game, leaving her hand exposed. The blonde telepath pulled her hand out of her jacket pocket taking advantage of the redhead's preoccupation and allowing the back of it to brush against Jean's, leaving their hands in contact once she had touched her. As their hands touched Emma turned her eyes back towards the game, pretending to follow it. A moment later she could see Jean turn her head to look at her out of the corner of her eye, but she didn't respond to the questioning movement. She simply continued to stare forward as if she hadn't noticed.

Jean turned back to the game a second later without withdrawing her hand.

"I'm sure there's some sort of strategy to the way their ramming into each other like rhinoceros's in mating season but I can't see it," Emma commented a moment later sounding bored as one of the boys in question was sent flying backwards after getting slammed into by a member of the opposing team.

"Oh, I'll admit there's a lot of unnecessary battering that takes place, but there's actually quite a bit of strategy involved," Jean responded wincing slightly as the boy who had just been run into staggered to his feet. "I'm not an expert or anything, but I think they're set up in a …"

Emma tuned out what Jean was saying because she didn't care. She did however remain looking at the redhead as she spoke. She was sure it appeared to Jean as if she were paying rapt attention to what she was saying, but really Emma was studying her again.

Jean looked even paler than usual because of the cold, but her cheeks held a perpetual flush to them that Emma thought was quite charming and sexy in a way. She'd always thought that Jean Grey was an attractive woman, but it had never really meant much to her before. She'd been thinking it more and more over the past couple of days however. Since their evening out she'd found herself paying considerably more attention to the redhead.

"Your hand feels like ice," Emma said interrupting whatever it was Jean had been saying, surprising the redhead by speaking.

"What? Oh," Jean exclaimed looking down at their now joined hands. "I hadn't noticed," she continued her eyes focused on Emma's hands as they rubbed hers in an attempt to warm them.

"Clearly not," Emma replied pausing in her ministrations for a moment. She'd had more physical contact with Jean over the past three days than she'd had in the three months that she'd been at the mansion. "Would you like to head back now?" she asked a moment later already knowing that the redhead would turn down the offer.

"Not quite yet," Jean said her attention momentarily turning back towards the game. "They're almost finished," she went on looking at Emma once more. "You don't mind do you?"

"Not at all," Emma responded her eyes tracking back towards the boys on the field. "It would be rather like stopping a book in last chapter," she went on allowing their hands to fall between their bodies once more though she remained holding Jean's afterwards.

If Jean wanted to stay she would just have to do her best to keep her warm.

"Rather," Jean agreed looking down at their joined hands. She had expected Emma to release her hand but the blonde was watching the game again almost as if she had forgotten Jean's hand was in hers. Jean however was painfully aware of the feel of the blonde's hand against her own. Emma's hand felt pleasantly warm in her own and she was unnerved by how much she was enjoying the innocent contact.

Jean looked over at the blonde seriously debating the best way to nonchalantly remove her hand.

Emma released a puff of air as Jean looked at her, watching her breath condense and float away like smoke, before repeating the action once more. It was a rather childish thing to do and was not something she would normally do, but she knew that it would grab Jean's attention.

Jean watched as Emma entertained herself with her own breath for a moment, lifting an amused eyebrow when the blonde focused on her once again.

"Frosty." the blonde commented smirking.

Jean laughed and then lapsed into an amused smile before turning her attention back to the game. She felt Emma's thumb graze against her knuckles a moment later as the blonde shifted her grip on her hand but she wasn't as unnerved by the blonde's touch as she had been a few moments before. The blonde's little display of silliness had somehow undone some of the unease she had felt and forced herself to relax and just enjoy the moment of peace and companionship. Obviously Emma didn't think it was strange to be holding her hand that way, and it was rather harmless. Besides, she supposed that receiving casual touches from Emma Frost was not something that happened very often, and since her hand really did feel much better since Emma had taken it she could as well just appreciate the rare treat.

When she was reasonably certain Jean was preoccupied with the game once more Emma glanced down at their joined hands. Jean's skin looked so soft she wanted to stroke it with her fingers but she reined the urge in. It was a silly impulse anyway. She was already holding hands with the redhead like they were at a High School homecoming game and she wasn't going to make things even more ridiculous by molesting the redheads hand. Besides Jean might've removed the appendage if she'd started to practically make love to it in public and even though she didn't really want to, she was enjoying the simple contact.

Emma bit down on her lip as an aggravated sigh began to come out of her mouth. She was Emma Frost, she was the former fucking White Queen of the Hellfire club. She was a goddamn ridiculously gorgeous millionaire and she was worried about the reaction a milquetoast schoolteacher would have to her putting the moves on her. She couldn't even really believe that she wanted to put the moves on her. She'd never been so disgusted with herself.

"Do you enjoy jazz?"

Jean blinked and turned to regard Emma who seemed to be delighting in throwing her completely off balance. At least she assumed the blonde must have been enjoying it since she'd been doing it all day.

"Yeah," Jean replied slowly as if expecting Emma to change the subject again on her without a moment's notice.

"'Medeski Martin & Wood' are playing at Birdland Wednesday night," Emma began mentally kicking herself for even speaking the thought though she couldn't have sounded more nonchalant if she were unconscious. "They're quite good live. They tend to improvise changes to the rhythm and melody which is quite exciting. Do you like the old Jimmy Smith Trio? Their sound is very reminiscent of that," Emma went on without waiting for Jean to respond. "They take more liberties than Smith ever did of course, but the familiar combination of thick organ sounds and offbeat drum patterns are still their core. Are you free?"

"Um, sure?" Jean replied momentarily speechless in the face of yet another of Emma's unexpected verbal barrages.

"Don't sound so excited dear, you might rupture something." Emma frowned and turned away from her watching the crowd that had been viewing the game slowly start to disperse. She was sure Jean wouldn't know good music if it marched up to her in an empty room and bit her square on the ass. Besides, based on Jean's choice of a spouse it was obvious that the redhead didn't recognize quality companionship either. Really she was just trying to be sociable, but if the redhead was going to act like going out with her was a goddamn chore or something she didn't even see why she should bother.

"I'm sorry," Jean said reacting to the petulance in Emma's voice. It was the very similar to the tone she'd heard the blonde use the other day when she'd snuck into her room. "You just caught me by surprise. I'd love to go. I haven't heard of Medeski, but I love the Jimmy Smith Trio," she finished squeezing Emma's hand which was still intertwined with her own.

"Fine," Emma sighed sounding as if she were doing Jean a huge favor though she relaxed marginally and decided to make eye contact once more after Jean agreed to go with her. "Come along then," she went on tugging Jean's hand, still not releasing it once they began to walk once more. "I really would like to thaw out sometime before dinner."

Part 9

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