The Look

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Thanks go out to my beta, kaly, who cannot be blamed for any remaining awkwardness. I exercised authorial privilege and bypassed several suggestions.

Ororo has it down to a science.

The cool, appraising look. The look that can say, "You are worthy" or "I am displeased" equally well, depending on the curve of her lips or the tightness around her eyes. All the while maintaining a sense of utter remoteness.

When people put you up on a pedestal, you have to be able to be able to play the part. If you mess up, Goddess help you, because when that pedestal comes crashing down it's the person perched atop it that gets hurt in the fall. If it weren't for Charles Xavier, Ororo thinks she might have shattered completely.

Charles picked her up and set her back on her metaphorical feet. This time she knew better than to get up on the pedestal again.

That didn't mean that she had forgotten what she'd learned the first time around. The Look is part of that. She doesn't use it much anymore. It makes the students flinch, which is counter-productive even when they deserve it, and it just rolls over Charles.

But it's good for taking Logan down a notch or two when his ego's getting in the way. And it works when some slimeball insists that "a beauty like you shouldn't be out alone." Most of the time. The rest of the time Ororo gives her hand-to-hand skills a quick brush up.

And now she's discovered something else that it's good for. She watches Kurt from behind it.

At first Ororo worried that he'd react badly to The Look. When they'd first met he'd had moments of such insecurity that she'd worried he'd simply...crumple. Then again, he'd also put himself in harm's way to help a bunch of strangers not once, but several times.

Here at the school, among friends, Kurt is a lot like he was just after she and Jean picked him up - only more so. His eyes are always alight, laughing at life, and his feet are always firmly grounded in his faith. Metaphorically speaking. His literal feet find their way up walls and trees on a regular basis.

In fact, that was the reason Ororo had first given him The Look. She'd wandered into the kitchen and, believing herself alone, had almost guiltily unearthed a bag of brownies from its hiding place in the back of the cupboard. A quiet chuckle had startled her and she'd spun, clutching the treat, to find Kurt hanging from the ceiling, grinning unrepentantly.

She'd leveled The Look at him almost without thinking. Kurt had done a back flip off the ceiling and swept a bow, still grinning. And he'd taken a brownie before he left.

No one had ever reacted playfully before.

Which made The Look all the better for watching him. Everyone else just thought she was being aloof. In reality, Ororo can't seem to take her eyes off of him. She wouldn't need a disguise if she could just forget he was there every now and then. But she can't.

It's not the fact that he's blue or that he's shaped a little differently than usual. It's not even the tail. Or, rather, it is all those things, but not in the way most people think.

Nearly everyone Ororo has met, human or mutant, moves in a way that's just a little...rough. Their arms swing out of time when they walk or they don't swing at all. Their elbows get in the way. They wobble on their feet, or they can't lift their eyes off the ground. Their hips sway too much, or not enough. They lean forward too aggressively, or slouch back, too shy. There's nothing wrong. It's just the way people are and Ororo knows she's no exception.

The few exceptions she has seen are almost always either dancers or martial arts experts. It takes a lot of awareness of how the body moves for someone to blend those movements into real grace.

Kurt is different.

It's like he was put together perfectly the first time around. Like he doesn't have to learn how to move - it's just a part of him. Always smooth, always balanced. On Kurt the tail doesn't look extra. In fact, it almost makes Ororo wonder why everyone doesn't have one. His hands and feet have strength in them to match that in the rest of his body. Despite his lean build, there's no part of him that looks fragile. Kurt can do things with body tension that even mutant strength couldn't manage.

Ororo needs to hide behind a mask when she watches Kurt, because half the time she can't help wondering what he'd look like unclothed.

What would his muscles look like as they tensed and relaxed beneath his skin? How does his tail change the way his back and buttocks tighten and slacken?

She imagines he must be evenly built all over. Mostly people, even athletes, have over-developed one or another set of muscles. Between the way he walks up the walls and the acrobatics he employs in both exercise and training, Kurt uses all of his on a regular basis.

The thought makes Ororo want to run her hands over him. Just to see. Or, rather, feel. And what would it feel like, to make love with someone that physically harmonious? Would she feel awkward, a mere accessory? Or would he bring her inside that feeling, make her feel as if she were as liquid as he looks...

Ororo closes her eyes for a moment, remembering what it felt like when he teleported her that first time. Here in the safety of the school, weeks after the event, she can lift the moment out of the desperation that had infused it at the time and remember how closely he held her. She strains to recall the split second when they weren't anywhere, when they were the only two people in existence.

When she opens her eyes again he's watching her and Ororo has to force herself to arch an eyebrow, refining The Look a little. Kurt just laughs. "I was a performer for most of my life, mein Freund," he says. "Putting me in the spotlight, so to speak, only encourages me."

"Really," Ororo says, with a small smile, and watches a little closer.