Summary: X-Men movie universe fic,
post-movie. Rogue learns that some people have reason to
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters; I just own
the words of my story.
Distribution: If you already have permission to archive
my X-Men movie fanfic, than feel free. If you don't, please
Note: I got the idea for this story after reading
a description of Agent Gyrich on the X-Men Movieverse Fic
July 23, 2000
I've been to Manhattan a couple of times since I started
school at "Mutant High," but this is the first time
I've come to the city on my own. It feels a little strange
to leave the world of safety that the school offers me behind,
but I'm glad I've come here by myself. As much as I love
the school, I'm always aware that it's a refuge from the outside
world; a place where being a mutant is as normal as being
human. People like Jean can walk in both worlds. I want
to do that too.
I'm in New York City because I have a paper to write. My
assignment is to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and
look at a painting; to attempt to "understand its meaning
and structure and how it fits into the period." I picked
a painting called "View Of Toledo" by someone called
El Greco. I'd picked the painting because I liked the artist's
name -- it sounded a little like a mutant name -- and because
the painting itself wasn't like any of the other Renaissance
paintings we'd seen; there weren't any gloomy saints or chubby
cherubs or dour-faced women in veils gazing down at the floor.
It was just a picture of a lonely-looking city surrounded
by dark clouds and when I saw it I actually wanted to write
about it. And I hate writing reports.
The train ride wasn't bad at all, was actually much easier
than I thought it would be. I got my ticket and although
a few people looked at my hair a little curiously when I sat
down (it's not every day you see a seventeen-year-old with
a big white streak in her hair), no one said anything. I
looked out the window and watched the world rush past in a
blur. And before I knew it, I was at Penn Station and then
I was on the subway and now I am standing outside the museum.
And as I stand on the steps I start thinking about all the
people. There are so many -- on the sidewalk, on the stairs,
and when I get up the nerve to walk into the museum I'm stunned
by how big it is and by all the people moving in quiet groups.
So many people. I realize I should have worn gloves with
fingers instead of the ones that merely cover my palms. I
just didn't think about how many people would be around me;
I'd forgotten how many people there are in the world. I didn't
realize that I would be utterly surrounded by those who have
no idea of what I can do and would think nothing of brushing
against me to get to another exhibit or find something they
are looking for.
I finally find the painting after wandering around for a
while and I try to remember how I felt when I saw it in class.
But it's hard to recapture that sense of wonder and fascination
that I felt. I'm acutely aware of how hard I'm trying to
feel something and how mostly what I feel is a sense of panic
and fear as I watch people walk in front of me, hear them
walk behind me, know that at any moment one of them could
trip and fall and accidentally touch my skin and then things
would be very bad indeed.
I try to focus on the painting -- I stare at the clouds that
march across the top of the picture, at the gray buildings,
at the elongated hills -- but instead I find myself fascinated
by the frame, I find myself wondering what sort of frame was
around the picture after it was first painted, what the person
who owned the painting first thought of it, what the people
around me are thinking about...
There is a sobbing noise beside me and I turn to see a woman,
maybe ten years older than I am, fumbling through a tote bag.
After a moment, she pulls out a crumpled wad of tissues and
holds them up to her eyes.
She must feel me looking at her because she turns to me.
Her eyes are ringed with red.
"I feel so stupid," she whispers. "My husband
had a print of this painting in his office -- and just looking
at it..." She breaks off and turns away, rubbing her
eyes with kleenex again.
She frightens me. I can feel myself shrink away from her,
from all her pain. Her reaction is the kind of reaction I
want to have to the painting, it is the kind of reaction I
had in class; a real one, not merely pretending that is a
cover for only noticing everything else that's going on around
me. I shift, moving away from her, and she sighs. "I'm
sorry," she mutters, "it's just that my husband
died a few months ago and..."
My hands are sweating furiously inside my gloves and I can
hear my heart pounding in my ears. "It's okay,"
I tell her. But I don't mean it. I'm scared and I don't
know what to say and I keep looking down at the her hands
and watching her twisting her kleenex back and forth and I
can see that the tissue is shredding under her fingers and
falling gently to the floor.
She looks back at me for a moment. Her eyes are very red
now. She turns back to the painting. "I could never
understand why Henry liked it so much. I always thought it
looked so unhappy and stark. I once told him that it made
his office look like a funeral parlor..." She breaks
off and lets out another watery sob.
I look at the painting again and it doesn't look at all like
it did before; now I can't even remember how I felt when I
saw it for the first time at school. Instead of looking mysterious
and exotic and interesting, it just looks dreary and tired
and sad. Why on Earth did I think I could write a report
about it? "You were right," I tell her. "It
is a depressing painting. Maybe he picked it because he thought
it wouldn't distract him, because no one would ever want to
come in and admire it?"
I look over at her and she is smiling. The effect is almost
frightening -- the rest of her face is drawn and pinched,
but her smile is that of someone younger, someone who knows
what it's like to be happy. "That's what Henry always
said. That it was so depressing that it kept his boss from
coming into his office."
Before she smiled, I didn't really see her. I didn't think
about her loss, didn't really care about it because she wasn't
real to me. She was just a stereotype -- a grief-stricken
woman. No one else was looking at her, so why should I?
I said what I did about the painting because I was thinking
about how it looked to me. I didn't care about her loss.
But now, because of her smile -- so strange and so unexpected
-- she's more, she's more than a stereotype, she's more than
just grief. Just like I'm more than a mutant.
I can't deal with it. "I'm sorry," I tell her
and I am sorry. Sorry for her loss, my loss, for coming into
the city to look at this damned painting. And then I walk
away and stare blindly at pictures in other rooms until my
I really want to go home. I'm tired, from trying to remember
to keep my hands out of reach of others, and from just worrying
about being in the city in general. I head back down to the
first floor of the museum, telling myself that I can just
look up information about the painting on the Internet. Maybe
my next visit to New York will go better. But as I'm heading
outside, I see the woman I was talking to earlier -- the one
whose dead husband liked the same painting I thought I did
-- is headed in the direction of the cafeteria. And I think
about how I walked away from her because I was too scared
to talk to someone who seemed to be in so much pain. I walked
away because she became real to me, because I felt sorry for
her. What if Logan and Jean and Ororo and everyone else at
the school had done that to me?
I think about what Dr. X always says about understanding
and trust, and take a deep breath. I can't remember the last
time I had a conversation with someone who is only human and
I was rude to her. Is that what I want my interactions with
humans to be like? Is that how I want to cap my own past
Inside the museum cafeteria, I see that she is standing in
line to get food. I grab a tray and stand behind her, trying
to think of what to say. Sorry I ran off when you started
to cry? I freaked out because you made me remember that humans
can hurt too? But it turns out that I don't have to say anything
because she turns to me and smiles a little, waving her hand
in the direction of the food in front of us. "Can you
believe how expensive this all is?"
I shake my head and look around to see what she's talking
about. $2.25 for a container of yogurt? That is expensive.
She grabs a bottle of water and after a moment's hesitation,
I do the same thing. We talk a little as we wait to pay --
she tells me that her name is Kelly, that she is staying with
her parents in New Jersey while she tries to decide what she
wants to do, that she couldn't bear to stay in the house that
she and her husband owned anymore, that it has "too many
I stammer through my name and tell her that this is my first
trip to the museum. She smiles and tells me that this is
her first visit to the Met too and I say "Really?"
I must sound surprised (I am -- I never thought about the
fact that there are probably thousands of tourists milling
about here, I just assumed they were all more confident and
familiar with the city than I am) because she laughs and asks
me what I thought about the museum.
"It's nice. Big. Really big," I tell her and
we walk out into a swarm of people looking for a table so
they can sit down and eat. One of them bumps my shoulder
a little and I sway forward, my hands automatically flying
out to steady myself in case I fall.
"Careful," she says and reaches out a hand towards
my elbow. I jerk away from her touch and her eyes are puzzled
for a moment. And then her face clears. "For the first
couple of weeks after Henry died," she says, "I
couldn't bear to have anyone touch me. It seemed like everyone
wanted to hug me and tell me that it would be ok and it all
felt so false and so smothering, like they wanted me to tell
them that everything would be fine, that I would be fine,
that nothing else was needed, that they didn't have to do
anything. Have you just lost someone too?"
I nod because I have, sort of. I've lost being the girl
who planned on seeing the world and finding adventure and
falling in love and just having a normal life When I was first
told that my "gift" (Dr. X's phrase, not mine) wasn't
going to go away, couldn't be cured -- I got a lot of sympathetic
smiles and "Hang in there, kid" speeches and I hated
it. I didn't mind the sympathy, but I could tell that under
it was something else. A desire for me to accept what fate
has dealt me because that's all that could be done. "Sympathy
only goes so far," I tell her as we sit down at a table
and she shakes her head in understanding. "Exactly."
Can I tell her about who I am and what I can do? I should
be nervous -- the prospect of telling a human about my powers
should frighten me -- lord knows I've heard plenty of horror
stories from Ororo and Scott and everyone else -- but I'm
not. I'm excited. Talking to her has made me understand
what Jean and Dr. X are always saying about understanding
between mutants and humans. Maybe it can work, maybe it will
"I've just been in New York for a few months. I moved
here after..." I trail off and hold out my hands a little.
The gloves tip everyone off at school; I figure they'll work
She looks at me blankly. "You see," I continue,
"something happened and I changed and..."
Her face, which was open and friendly before, closes over
so quickly that I flinch. She stares at me and horror glazes
her eyes. "You're one of them," she says
and her voice is curiously flat and toneless. I screamed
after what I'd done to David. But he hadn't screamed. He
couldn't speak. I'd forgotten all about that, I'd managed
to block it out of my mind and remember David as he was before
me until now.
I back away from her but I have to stop because my chair
bumps into another chair behind me and I hear an irritated
voice ask me to be more careful. I press my hands together
and I am surprised by how cold my palms feel, even through
my gloves. Is this what the touch of my hands feel like to
"I..." I don't know what to say. Professor X
always tells us to be careful when dealing with those who
aren't like us, but he also says that understanding and compassion
are something we have to keep with us always. He says that
the world is a place full of possibilities, that the future
is something we make. I see now that he didn't tell me the
whole truth. I see now that he forgot to mention the past
and that some things can't be forgiven.
"I'm sorry. I just thought..." I mean it and
my words are so sincere that I want to wince at the pleading
in them. But I am sorry. I'm sorry that I have powers I can't
control. I'm sorry that the world turns and things change
and that humanity has moved on and altered and created something
new that scares those left behind. I'm sorry that I thought
that I could just reveal myself.
She reaches for my hands and I sit frozen in a moment of
terror that's punctuated by the suspense of wondering if one
day I could be as ruthless as others like me have been. I
could let her take my hand and everything inside her would
come to a stop. I could let her take my hand and see what
death feels like. I could let her take my hand and I could
take her soul. I could take her hand and her pain would become
I stand up, pushing my chair backward. The irritated voice
behind me is a little louder when it speaks this time but
I can't understand what it says, I'm only focusing on pushing
my hands behind me. "Don't."
She stops, held perhaps by the urgency in my tone. Then
her face twists and she stands up too. "What? Don't
tell you how it feels to know that your husband died because
something didn't care if he lived?" She leans forward
and for a moment, I'm terrified. The fury in her eyes is
enough to lay me open and leave me defenseless and screaming
and I wonder if this is how humans view us, I wonder if parents
warn their children to stay away from people like me. Is
that why no one spoke to me on the train?
"That's right," she says and she shakes her head
at me, as if I'm slow and stupid and don't understand anything.
"A mutant killed my husband. The coroner said it looked
like he'd been mauled by a bear. Do you think there are any
bears in Washington, DC? Everyone knows that my husband was
killed to warn Senator Kelly, to make him give up his work
to have mutants identified."
I can feel myself tremble -- I want to deny her words, even
as I know that mutants are so very human in some very awful
"What?" she continues. "Don't tell you that
his parents broke down and cried when they heard the news?
Don't tell you that my son wakes up every morning and asks
when Daddy is coming home because he's too young to understand
that his father is never going to come home? Don't
tell you that Senator Kelly sent us a note that said my husband's
death was a shame but that I shouldn't blame the mutant that
killed him? That I shouldn't blame the thing that slit Henry's
throat and left claw marks all over his body and then left
him to die?" She pauses and lets out a sob. "Senator
Kelly said that my husband would have wanted me to understand.
My husband didn't want to die, and he wouldn't have understood!"
She grabs for my hands and I stumble out of her reach, ducking
down and away. I get a quick glimpse of the tables around
us, of people staring at us and trying hard to act as if they
Her face is ugly in its fury now but the contortions of her
face -- the grin line of her mouth, the pale lines of strain
around her nose -- are almost beautiful too. "What?"
she says. "Afraid that a human might contaminate your
mutation? Afraid that you might have to remember those of
us who have no defenses against you?" She reaches out
again and she is too quick. Her hands clamp around my shoulders
and she pulls and pushes, moving me back and forth as if I
was a small child.
I thought I knew grief. I thought I knew what it was like
to have a life taken apart and away from you. I thought that
I understood because I lost the life I had before, I lost
the Marie I once was. But the grief I have felt is nothing
compared to what this woman has seen and her loss has consumed
her. "No," I tell her. "It's not that. It's
... when I touch people, they get hurt."
She pulls away from me and for a moment I'm not sure what
she will do. There is wildness in her eyes that I have never
seen in anyone else's. If Magneto could see humanity as it
is in these moments -- if he could see this woman, now, and
how lost she is in her pain, he would see that his battle
would not be easily won. I think he forgets that mutants
are just a twist on the evolutionary chain and not something
completely new. I think he forgets that humanity was around
before mutants ever were and that they survived plagues and
famine and each other.
The woman laughs and her voice is high and reedy. But no
one turns to look at us because we are in a museum in Manhattan
and time is a commodity more valuable than curiosity and tourists
don't want anything to ruin their good time. She continues
to laugh and the sound of it is harsh and grating and I want
to push my hands over my ears and chant the songs my mother
used to sing as she walked around the house waiting for my
father to get home.
"Of course" she finally says and the laughter is
still in her voice. "Of course. You know," she
tells me and now her tone has slipped into the conversational
and chills are working my way up my spine, "isn't it
funny that mutants are only ever given the powers to destroy?
What do you think that means? What do you think that means
I stare at her dumbly and she shakes her head at me. "Maybe
one day there won't be people like me around anymore. And
then you'll only have yourselves to fight. And when you're
gone..." She turns and walks away. I call out "Wait!"
before I can stop myself. She looks back at me and there
is a harsh smile on her face.
"Then what?" I ask. I am unable to look away from
the slash of her teeth in her face, I am unable to look away
from the pity and fury and anger in her eyes. I am unable
to look away as she prepares to tell me something I don't
want to know.
"There won't be anyone left to miss you," she says.
"At least my husband has that."
She turns away forever this time. I watch her until she
has blended into the crowd that surges out towards the front
of the museum, caught up in the business of leaving and moving
on with their lives. I watch her until she is gone and I
can't hear her laughter in my head anymore. Her final smile
still sits in my heart and I feel drained and empty.
I leave the cafeteria and head up the stairs. I still have
a painting that I have to see and now I know I will feel something
when I look at it. People pass by me as I walk and I notice
that I move my hands automatically. I move so that I won't
touch anyone and hurt them. I move my hands so that I won't
turn another person into a song of lament sung by others.
If I died, would anyone sing for me? Would anyone miss mutants
if they were gone?
I want to think the answer is yes, but now I am not so sure.
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