You need coolin', baby, I'm not foolin',
I'm gonna send you back to schoolin'.
Way down inside, honey, you need –
I'm gonna give you my love,
Gonna give you my love.
'Whole Lotta Love', Led Zeppelin.
Moira is an agent first and a woman second. That's the way she's always been – back in school, she had exponentially more academic trophies than boyfriends – and always shall be. (Frankly, she doesn't foresee herself getting a boyfriend any time in the near future, though Charles is tempting, with his silly pickup lines and his effortless charisma. Although, he has lain off recently, occupied with the students and with Erik – she presumes – which is a relief.)
But still – she's only human (and that phrase is just too ironic). She has tensions, frustrations, irritations – more than her fair share, actually, being a woman in an entirely male-dominated field. But she'd rather die than admit that sometimes, she likes to, well, bar-hop.
Not for sex, or for attention, or even for drinking (though she does do that) – just to get out, to be someone besides Agent MacTaggert. She likes to listen to loud music, sip a cocktail, and people-watch. She watches handsome men, with their slicked hair and their rollicking hips, dance with pretty, giggling girls. Sometimes those men eye her with interest (probably mistaking her, a nearly-thirty-year-old government agent, for a shy university girl), offer to buy her a drink, ask her to dance – she accepts their flirtations for a bit, then rejects them and sends them on to the next woman in the bar. They usually move on graciously, most of them seeming to understand by the look in her eyes that she can't let her guard down, not for anyone, ever, and certainly not for a stranger who'll be gone in the morning.
She is Agent Moira MacTaggert, but in those places, with no one who knows the agent around, she is just a nameless woman in a dress and pumps at the bar.
Anyway, when a certain little mutant mission landed in her lap, a lot of stress came along with it. Her third night at Charles's Westchester mansion, she discreetly calls a cab and slips into a black dress that nobody knows she owns. When the cab arrives, she gets in and tells the cabbie to take her to the nearest, nicest bar he knows.
He does, she pays him, she gets out, and goes inside.
The last damned thing she expects to see is three familiar faces seated at a table in the corner.
There's Raven, wearing a sequined navy-blue dress (Moira briefly finds it ironic that the dress mimics Raven's natural skin), a pair of silver hoop ear-rings dangling from her ears. Across from her is Alex, looking a bit like a mini-Erik with his leather jacket and the almost-tragic, sexy, jaded aura he's got going on in the dim, bar-room light. Hank is sitting there as well, biting his lip and looking every bit as awkward and uncomfortable as he always does.
She's seconds away from turning around and hauling ass out of there, but then she tells herself firmly, no. I'm technically the one who's allowed to be here. They should be back at the mansion, asleep or training or something. Although, note to self: if it's ever necessary to pull something off right under Charles's nose, do it while he's playing chess with Erik. Or with Erik, period.
So with that, she makes her way to the bar, careful to pick a stool that's as far away from the trio as possible (although she can still see them from here). She sits down and drums her fingers on the counter idly, waiting.
It doesn't take long for the bartender to notice her, and when he does, his gaze lingers a little too long on her cleavage for comfort, but oh, well. "Get you something, doll-face?"
"Vodka martini," she says, cool but not impolite. "Dry."
He nods and grins. "Alright."
It's then that a familiar voice speaks up next to her. "Holy shit. I mean – Miss MacTaggert?"
She turns, startled, and finds that she somehow picked this stool without noticing that Mischievous Mutant Number 4, Sean Cassidy, is sitting on the one right next to it. So much for not being noticed by one of the children who (in the government's eyes) she is partly responsible for.
"Sean," she says, surprised. "Oh, um – I didn't – see you there."
"I figured not," he says easily, looking her up and down in a way that's more than a little inappropriate. "What are you doing here?"
"What are you doing here?" she counters, raising her eyebrow at the beer in his hands. It's more than half-empty, though he doesn't yet bear the look of being intoxicated, leading her to conclude that that's probably his first drink. He's wearing a checkered suit jacket and white pants, which should look a little strange, but with his quirky good looks, he's pulling it off.
"Sorry, were we not supposed to leave the mansion?" he asks, with a cheeky little smile. "Professor X didn't say we couldn't. And Erik didn't say anything about it, either."
Well, Erik doesn't say much, anyways. "I'm fairly certain that at some point either Charles – I mean, Mr. Xavier – or Mr. Lehnsherr mentioned to you that you all are not supposed to leave the house."
Sean raises his eyebrows at her. "You can call them Charles and Erik. We all do."
She sighs. So much for maintaining propriety. "Oh, whatever. Well – why aren't you over there, with Hank, Raven, and Alex?"
Sean shakes his head, glancing across the room at his team-mates. "Something weird's going on with them. They keep bickering, but at the same time – I don't know. So I left 'em alone and came over here."
Moira, too, looks across the room. Raven's seated a little too close to Hank to be proper, but Alex is leaning across the table towards them, and Hank's eyes (Raven's, too, she notes) are fixed on Alex's face. Odd behavior, but then, they are teenagers – they'll stay a little weird until some of those hormones die off. At that point, the bartender finally comes back with her drink. He gives her another flirty smile, but then someone waves him over and he darts off. Moira rather hopes he won't be back.
"You never told me what you're doing here," Sean says after a moment. He's sitting sideways now, one elbow propped on the bar. He raises his beer to his mouth and takes a sip, then licks his plush lower lip. She has the sudden, embarrassed urge to look away, and does.
"I just wanted to get out," she says, attempting to sound casual. She takes a sip of her own drink. "Same as you all, probably."
"Yeah," Sean says. "It's been a hard few days."
Moira can agree with that – they've probably had it even tougher than she has, with Charles running them ragged and the threat of death hanging over their too-young heads. And then there was what happened immediately before they'd arrived in Westchester – the death of Armando, the betrayal of Angel. And it can't have been easy to watch dozens of agents being brutally murdered.
She glances over at him. "I hope you don't plan to drink yourself sick."
"I'm Irish," Sean says simply.
"Pardon me?" Moira says, not quite making the connection.
"We don't get hang-overs. It's in our . . . genes, actually."
Moira laughs lightly at that, unable to help herself. Sean's just so open with his silliness, his boyish humor. "Then by that same token, I should be immune to alcohol. My parents are Scots."
"Seen any lake monsters lately?" he teases, smirking at her.
"I don't know, have you seen any leprechauns?" she retorts.
Sean abruptly looks very serious. "Leprechauns are real, Miss MacTaggert."
She hesitates, not sure if he's joking or not, and then his freckled face breaks into another grin. "God, you totally thought I was nuts for about five seconds, didn't you?"
She rolls her eyes. "Yes, actually."
He's still smiling at her, his eyes lingering on her face. He pauses a second, then asks, "Do you go out like this often, Miss MacTaggert?"
She winces. "Stop calling me Miss MacTaggert. I feel like a school teacher. Or an old maid."
She glances at him, meeting his eyes. "Moira is fine."
"Alright, Moira," he says, drawling out the word, then polishing off his beer and wiggling the empty bottle in the bartender's direction. She briefly wonders how he and the others intend to pay for any alcohol they're consuming (she wouldn't put it past Raven to have slipped some money from Charles – actually, she wouldn't put it past Raven to have thought up the entire thing) and whether they've come here in one of the sleek, expensive cars she'd noticed in Charles's garage.
She frowns slightly, thinking of his question. "What do you mean, do I 'go out like this often'?"
"I mean, do you put on sexy little dresses like that and come get vodka martinis and drink them, all aloof, alone at the bar?" Sean asks boldly. His expression isn't timid, but his pale, freckled skin betrays him – in the cheap light, she can see the pink blush painting his cheeks.
Actually, her own cheeks feel hot, particularly due to that one word, sexy. She spends so much time trying not to be sexy (save for when she needs to be, such as when she's doing her job and the only way to get into a secret meeting is by stripping to her bra and panties). Part of her is embarrassed and wants to scream this is not appropriate, but strangely enough, another part of her is almost . . . flattered.
"Maybe I do," she says, taking a sip of her martini, as if to punctuate her response.
Sean grins at her evasive half-reply, and asks, "What would all those suits say if they saw you here?"
"Oh, a variety of misogynistic things," she says, rolling her eyes.
"Jerks," Sean says. "Bet you're a helluva lot more capable than some of them. And quite a bit better looking, too."
Moira laughs lightly, then bites down on her lower lip. "Sean – you really shouldn't . . . make comments like that."
"Why?" the boy says, with a playful smile. Then, his smile slips ever so slightly. "Wait, am I making you uncomfortable?"
"No," she says, although she is, just a little. Because this is Sean, a kid, and because she has to work with him. She has to stay professional, at all times, especially when she's around people who actually know her name and face.
"I am," Sean says, his green-gray-blue eyes resting on her face (his eyes, she notes briefly, are an astonishingly pretty color). His cheeks have reddened again, and the combination of his bouncy orange curls, his checkered suit, and his pink cheeks make him look rather adorable. "Jeez, I'm sorry, Moira. I won't call you pretty anymore, if it bothers you."
She reaches out and pats his arm gently, surprising even herself at the contact. "Thank you. Though I do . . . appreciate the compliment."
Sean grins again, refreshing with his cheerful easy-goingness. "You're welcome, then. You don't mind if I hang around and keep talking to you, though, do you?"
"No, I don't," she says, with a smile that she has to try a little too hard to hide. It doesn't make sense, but she actually doesn't really mind too much. Talking to Sean has made the bartender lose interest in her, at least, and she doesn't want to send him back to fend for himself in the strange triangle that Hank, Alex, and Raven have made at their table across the room. So it's fine, for now, if Sean stays next to her and keeps talking. It won't matter, as long as she remembers that she's technically supposed to be Agent MacTaggert to him.
Two martinis later, that's a little bit more difficult to remember.
She's giggling into her hand, watching Sean play tricks on the bartender. He keeps whistling in the man's direction, higher and higher, somehow managing to keep a straight face while the bartender twitches and rubs at his ears. Moira finds it absolutely hilarious, even though she knows she shouldn't.
It's then that the glass in her hand cracks, thanks to Sean's talented vocal chords. Vodka spills everywhere, but luckily, she avoids cutting her hand on the glass.
The bartender hurries over with a rag, questioning with a grin, "Broke your glass, huh?"
"She sure did," Sean says, already moving in to wipe up the mess with a handful of napkins. "I've got it, pal." He grins at the bartender, who frowns slightly, but nods and walks off. Moira raises her eyebrows.
"I thought women were the only ones who could communicate something without saying anything."
"Huh?" Sean says, bemused, as he finishes mopping up the small spill.
"That's what just happened," Moira says, nodding towards the bartender. "He was coming over here to flirt with me, really, and you told him that you had it and he left. You told him to buzz off, essentially. And he did – he listened to a kid like you."
Sean quirks an eyebrow. "I'm not a kid, technically."
"You are compared to him. And me, actually."
"I'll be nineteen in December."
"And I'll be twenty-nine in July," Moira says, with a laugh. "You might be a government agent, now, Sean, but you're barely legal."
Sean frowns, looking away, and Moira, feeling guilty for possibly hurting his feelings, hastens to correct herself. "That's not a bad thing. Just – you're young."
"Yeah, guess I am," he says. The song playing on the radio changes then, replaced by a song Moira isn't familiar with. Sean's face lights up with his usual smile.
"Come dance with me," he says, getting up off of his stool.
"What?" she says, startled.
"Dance with me," he repeats. "You can do the Twist, right?"
"I – Sean, I really shouldn't –," she protests, as he reaches out to grab her hand. Not appropriate. Fun, but not okay at all.
"Come on, Moira," he says, pulling out the word again, heavy on the 'r', unintentionally seductive with it. He squeezes her hand lightly. "Just dance with me. No one will care but me."
No one will care but me. "Alright," she finally says, allowing him to lead her to the center of the bar, where a gyrating crowd has formed.
Sean guides her in the motions, though it's a very simple dance. Soon she's a little too into it for her own comfort, moving her hips eagerly, laughing at the awed expression on his face. Someone behind her twists against her, and she doesn't mind, she just laughs it off, lets Sean stand a little too close, lets him rest a hand lightly against her rocking hips.
When the song ends, he's close enough to her that she can see a bead of sweat on his forehead, caused no doubt by the heat of the bodies around them. She has the sudden urge to run her hands through his curly orange-red hair, make him nervous in a good way, make him sweat a little bit more.
The next song that comes on is a slow, mellow number. Most of the people on the floor clear out, with the remaining ones coupling together. Moira moves to head back to the bar, but Sean's hand on her hip tightens slightly, not nearly enough to hurt, but enough to make her still.
His eyes are wide, bright, youthful and hopeful. "Dance with me, Moira."
Moira doesn't want to disappoint this blue-eyed boy. ". . . Alright."
She steps closer to him, and he puts his other hand on her hip. After a moment, she reaches up, wrapping her long arms around his neck. He's not tall enough to tower over her and make her feel like a little girl at a junior high dance, but that's okay. She finds that she likes being able to look him in the eyes.
They're swaying back and forth, and the female artist is singing, "No one can tell me that I'm too young to know, I love you so . . .", and Moira wonders vaguely what her fellow agents – what Charles and Erik – what the kids – would say if they saw her now, in her makeup and little black dress and her stylish black heels, dancing in a dark bar with Sean Cassidy.
Sean's voice is low, but just loud enough for her to hear. "You're really beautiful, you know? I know I said I wouldn't tell you that again –,"
"It's okay," she murmurs. "I don't really mind."
"Good," he says, his normally bright smile, for once, shy. "I always thought that, ever since you first introduced yourself to me. I thought you were gorgeous."
"Thank you," she whispers, and means it.
When he carefully leans in to kiss her, she lets him, and she kisses back.
He seems surprised by that, but he pulls her closer, keeps kissing her, with the eagerness of a teenage boy but with a natural skill. He deepens it, and she allows it – more than that, she wants it with some part of herself that is never allowed to want.
The song ends, replaced by another fast-paced song that sends hordes of single young people back onto the dance floor. She breaks the kiss, gulps for air, takes one of the hands on her hips, and sets a brisk pace across the room.
This is wrong, this is so inappropriate it's not even funny, and the last shred of her professional persona is officially and totally ruined now, but damn it all. She pushes into the first bathroom they reach, which happens to be the men's room. Luckily – too luckily – it's empty. Sean watches with wide, shocked eyes as she locks the door.
She turns to him, faltering momentarily, and then he says in a low, surprised tone, "Moira –,"
She's pulling him in before she has time to think about it, kissing him, letting him crowd her against the door. She reaches up and twines her fingers in those curls, pulling just a little, reveling in his gasp against her lips.
After a few brief, frenetic moments of that, he pulls away from the door, bringing her with him with a hand placed on her side. She's against the counter before she knows what's happening, and his mouth is moving to her neck and shoulders. What he lacks in experience (he's definitely inexperienced, because she doubts any good little Catholic girl would have let him get even this far), he makes up for in eagerness. She moves her hands underneath his checkered jacket, running them up his back, leaning her head back, letting him kiss her, wanting him to –
He murmurs something against her collarbone, something vaguely innocent and utterly wanting that sounds like, "Moira, oh, Moira."
It's then that the weight of the situation hits her like a freight train. She gasps out, "Stop, stop.", and is incredibly surprised by the breathiness of her own voice.
He obediently stops, going tense and lifting his head to look at her with wide, deer-in-headlight eyes. He has kiss-swollen lips and blush-stained cheeks and disheveled curls, and it's then that it dawns on her, he's eighteen. I'm one of his bosses.
She removes her hands from underneath his jacket and places them on his chest, gently pushing him away from her. Part of her heart breaks at the look on his face, but this has to be stopped.
"I'm sorry," she says, regaining control of her breath and her voice. "I can't, Sean. We can't."
"Why not?" he says, voice soft. "No one would have to know."
"I would know, and you would know," she says, with a sigh, feeling abruptly sober. "We need to keep things professional, Sean. I'm sorry if I – gave you the impression that I – well." She pauses, then adds, "I'm too old for you, anyways, sweetheart."
She winces internally. That term of endearment had just slipped out, an accidental indicator of how she really feels about Sean, this nice, funny, mutant boy with a crush.
"I'm sorry, Sean," she says again, as she heads for the door, careful not to wobble in her heels. She can feel his baby-blues on her as she unlocks the door and walks out, but she doesn't let herself stop, doesn't even hesitate. Moira MacTaggert is, after all, always an agent first.
She's bar-hopping again, but purely to get out of the house right now.
There's nothing more depressing than a thirty-five-year-old spinster sitting alone at her apartment, staring at a wall and thinking about just how pointless her life is.
She's no longer a CIA agent. She quit months ago, having finally realized that, after several years of convincing herself otherwise, she's never going to get her career back. Too much damage has already been done – her superiors have already branded her as incompetent. Sometimes she entertains fancies of going back to college, getting a degree in something brainy and scientific – genetics, perhaps – but that's a fool's dream, really. She's too old now, too female, too set in her ways.
She's staring at the countertop now, still holding on to an empty martini glass. Ordinarily someone might speak to her, but she probably looks as though she's about to cry. She sometimes cries when she drinks now. That's the only time she'll excuse it – the only time she'll allow herself to do it. But never in public.
She lifts her head briefly when the bartender drops by and offers to refill her drink – she accepts the offer – and it's then that she notices him. Sitting across the bar from her, staring dead at her.
He's familiar, in a frustrating sort of way. Things like that happen to her sometimes – things that remind her of things, faces, places that she can no longer remember.
After a moment, he gets up, and it's only as he's rounding the bar that she realizes he's coming to her.
He sits at the bar stool next to her, sitting sideways so as to look straight at her. His hair is short now (now?), and he has prominent freckles and pretty blue-green-gray eyes. He looks roughly twenty-five, but has one of those faces that will remain boyish until long after he's gone gray.
"Hello," she says a little hesitantly. "Can I help you?"
"I don't know, can you?" he replies, a small, easy little smile spreading over his face. "Do you remember me at all? I figured you wouldn't."
"I'm sorry, I . . . you're familiar, but I can't quite place you," she says honestly.
"Of course not," he says, eying her thoughtfully. "He's good, after all."
She frowns. Something, something deep inside, is screaming that she knows this young man. "Who's good?" she asks, confused.
"Professor Xavier," he says, and whoa, does that ring all sorts of bells.
"You know Charles?" she says, eyes widening as she sets down her drink and leans closer.
He smiles wryly. "I figured you'd remember him, of course. Yeah, I know him. I'm actually on sort of a – business trip for him right now."
"What kind of business trip?" she asks, her voice soft.
He glances around, gaze flicking over the patrons nearby. "I can't really tell you here."
She bites her lip. "Please – please tell me your name. I'm Moira MacTaggert."
He smiles, and that smile is so familiar. "I know who you are, Moira." There's a strange little drawl in the way he says her name, and she flushes slightly. "I'm Sean. Sean Cassidy."
"Sean," she repeats. "Sean, I know you. I just don't – remember everything."
He grins, reaches out, and takes her hand. She lets him, entranced by his natural, bright smile and by his pretty eyes. "I can tell you some stuff. If you come with me."
He squeezes her hand then, and Moira smiles back at him, thinks why not, and lets him lead her from the bar.