They were laughing together - she loved watching Scott laugh - her drink halfway to her lips, when his phone rang.
"Damn," he swore, setting down his half-full drink on the bar to pull the phone out of his pocket. He looked at the display, and the smile leaked off his face. "Ororo, I'm sorry. I, uh... I should take this. Excuse me."
He slid off the stool, wove away through the crowd, leaving her alone at the bar. She sighed, changed her intended sip into a deeper pull, drained the rest of her drink.
The barman appeared. "Another?"
Her eyes flicked over him, down, away, and she pushed the empty glass towards him. "No. I think I've had enough."
Enough. Enough of this. It seemed like they'd been trying forever, half-fumbled attempts coming and going. Attempts at turning the defining friendship of their lives into something more. Things got in the way. Life got in the way.
Scott had been her first kiss. Under the stars at the back of the mansion, teenaged and just tipsy enough to feel a little dizzy, leaning against the upright of the gazebo. Not drunk enough to forget. She'd never forget. Not the feeling of his lips warm against hers, not the shaking rattle of his breath, not their laughter.
Never their laughter.
She loved watching Scott laugh.
That had been the summer after they'd graduated. A summer of long, lazy days, of learning to swim, and to drive, and both with him. A summer together, before years apart. She'd gone to Penn State. He'd gone to Berkeley. Life got in the way. But they'd laughed together on long phone calls, taking advantage of every special offer they could find and still running up huge bills. They were worth it.
"Bet you're driving the guys wild," he teased.
"They all want to see if the white hair's natural," she replied, and he laughed. "What about you? The girls trying to get behind your shades?"
"I'm fighting them off with a big stick."
Long distance was too hard. They'd decided that at the start. But she couldn't disentangle herself from him. Never. They were bound together.
It's just... things got in the way. Life got in the way. Jean, too. Jean got in the way.
Ororo had been the one to introduce them. Re-introduce them. Really introduce them. Jean had been an occasional visitor to the mansion during their schooling, but she'd been aloof, distant, not someone they'd had much to do with. But one summer break, both of them back at the mansion, Jean was moving in as well, becoming a part of the Professor's burgeoning vision. Becoming a part of their lives.
They were laughing in the kitchen over Chinese take-out when she came in, paused uncertainly in the door. Jean had been all uncertainty, those days. And Ororo had done it. "Oh Scott, you remember Jean, right?"
She remembered Scott hadn't looked like a man struck with sudden love.
"Yeah, I remember Jean. Hi."
It had taken time, and circumstances, and if the smallest details had been different, it might never have happened. But it did. Jean got in the way.
Ororo couldn't even hate her. It was unthinkable. She didn't want to hate her. They were friends. Not the best of friends, but close. Ororo had seen how Jean grew more confident, and Scott more thoughtful. How they both matured and benefited in the hands of the other. She went engagement ring shopping with Scott, and promised Jean she'd be her bridesmaid. And later, at the end, when words and worse had been hurled, Ororo had hugged Jean while she cried for an hour straight. Ororo let her fall asleep in her bed, and found Scott in the quiet depths of the mansion to let him know that Jean would be OK. Would he?
They still laughed together. She loved watching Scott laugh. That never changed. She wanted to love him. She knew, she'd always known, that they would be beautiful in love. Somewhere, somehow, she hoped it had happened. Here and now, there were too many shadows between them.
They would always be together. It would always be the defining friendship. But things got in the way. And she'd had enough.
Ororo dropped some money on the bar, and slid off her stool. After a moment's hesitation, she picked up Scott's drink, good whiskey and water, ice clinking as she brought it up to her lips. There was the faint mark of Scott's lips on the glass, and she pressed her own lips over the top. Took the barest sip, just let the whiskey touch her tongue.
When she set the glass down on the bar, a deep red smear of lipstick marked the rim.
When Scott came back to the bar, the lipstick was all that remained, on the edge of a glass half-full of whiskey and melting ice.
Enough by dee
All stories are works of fan-fiction by Dee. "Fan-fiction" means that she does not own any of the core creative concepts and characters, but she does heap adulation, appreciation and awe upon those people who do hold the intellectual property rights to those concepts and characters. Further, any instances of real people are fictional, and the author does not wish to suggest any truth should be attached to the actions, emotions and words attributed to them in these fictional stories.