FIC: Lament (1/1) PG-ish, Rogue
- Title: Lament
Summary: X-Men movie universe fic, post-movie. Rogue learns that some people have reason to hate mutants.
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 fan fic, than feel free. If you don't, please ask.
Note: I got the idea for this story after reading a description of Agent Gyrich on the X-Men Movieverse Fic site.
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 ok," 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 eyes burn.
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 as one?
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 memories." 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 work. "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 here too.
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 others?
"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 mine.
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 ways.
"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 aren't.
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 you are?"
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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