Title:Hand and Glove
Hand and Glove
I hate shopping.
Malls make me uncomfortable. Theyíre too crowded, too noisy, too full of strange smells. (Well, the smells from around the food court ainít bad, but me and my hyperactive nose had better steer clear of the perfume counter.)
So spending a Saturday afternoon at the mall isnít something I take lightly.
Iím doing it for a good reason, though. Rogue has been feeling a little cooped-up at the schoolósomething I can relate to, and who knows, maybe she got it from me. Anyway, she just needed to get out for a while. Iím sure her little boyfriend Bobby Drake wouldíve taken her, but heís busy helping Summers get some big math test ready for next week. (Cyclops is gonna make that kid just like him, I know it.)
So here I am, following Rogue around the mall with an armload of shopping bags.
I donít know why this girl gets to me.
Actually, I guess I should really say, I donít know how she got to me at first. Because since I met herÖ it got complicated.
And get your brain out of the gutter. I think Jean tends to exaggerate about the way Rogue thinks of me. She treats me like some kind of heroóor maybe a big brother. Funny thing is, itís kind of nice sometimes. Nice just to be with someone without keeping up fronts, the way I do with the rest of them. I gave that up with Rogue a long time ago. She knows me too well.
Rogue. I still donít know how she came up with that name, and I donít think it fits, but she seems to prefer it over Marie. (I guess I canít blame her on that one.) And maybe she thinks she stopped really being Marie, once she started collecting bits and pieces of other people inside her head.
Me among them.
I vaguely wonder, now and then, whether you might call it some kind of mind-rape. Doesnít feel that way to me. I suppose you could make that argument for the first timeóbut since Iíd just put my claws through her chest, Iíve really got no right to complain about an act of self-preservation.
Letís get away from that one. Last thing I needed was yet another nightmare.
But the second timeóthat was my choice.
It does bother me, sort of. Not for my sake. For hers. Last thing she needs is a little bit of me running around in her brainÖ not to mention Magneto. And yeah, heís the part that worries me the mostómaybe because sheís still got those white streaks in her hair to remind me. Of what he did, of what I did, of that whole lousy night. When I get to thinking about it too much, sometimes I wish Rogue would get her hair colored, but she tells me it looks cool.
It reminds me of him, but, God forbidÖ I think it reminds her of me.
When I get past that, she does look cute, though. Getting taken care of at the school has filled her outóshe was scrawny when we met. I think sheís also gotten a few weird fashion ideas from the other girls there, but today, itís black jeans and a bright pink T-shirt. Probably on purpose, just for going out with me. Theyíre simple clothes, like I wear. Except for the pink part.
And of course, those long white satin gloves.
Off she goes into a store throbbing with rave music and strobe lights. Creepy. If she ever goes in for that Goth stuff, so help me, Iíll take her over my knee myself.
So Iím sitting out this one, on a bench outside. Nice enough place, for a mall. Skylighted, airy, lots of indoor greenery. Might be an interesting place for some fight training, if it were empty.
A herd of about a dozen girls even younger than Rogue stampedes by, yammering about clothes and boys. Somehow, all I can think is the same thing the kids at the school make me think:
Where are these kidsí parents?
Thereís a difference, though. People who let their kids run around loose annoy me. But people who hand off their kids to strangers, or worse, even reject them completely, just because theyíre differentóthat makes me outright angry.
Donít tell anyone I said that. Theyíll think Iíve actually been paying attention to Professor Xavier.
Here comes Rogue, and weíre off again. I think of Jeanís upcoming birthday, and actually dare to follow her into the next store. Thereís some provocative things along one wallófun things to imagine Jean wearing. Itíd be a riot to slip one of them in with the rest of her presents, if only to see the look on old One-Eyeís face. Rogueís presence keeps me honest, though.
I ask her to help me pick something for Jean, and everything she suggests is red. Jean is overly fond of red, thanks to her loverboy with the literal rose-colored glasses. We settle on a long red skirt with blue flowers down one side, and I manage to make the purchase without feeling too self-conscious.
Just in case Jean has her doubts about my motives, Rogueís name will go above mine on the card. Weíll pretend it was her idea.
This mall is just fancy enough to have an indoor ice rink in the center. Now, hockey I can appreciateóafter all, Iím Canadianóbut I donít see much point to this plodding in boring laps around the overcrowded ice. Rogue must get the appeal of it though, because she turns to me and asks if Iíd like to skate. I hate to burst her bubble, but I shake my head. I had a nasty experience on the ice once, up north. Took a bad step on a frozen lake, and fell through.
Youíd have to get me drunk before Iíll tell that storyóand I donít get drunk easy. Unless I want to.
I already have all the blades I can handle, anyway.
I wouldnít mind if Rogue wanted to skate by herself, but she takes it all in stride, dropping the idea in favor of something more appealing. We take the escalator up to the second level, where the food court overlooks the ice rink. The smells from up here have been nagging at my stomach for the better part of an hour, so Iím only too glad to break for lunch.
As we sit at a table by the railing with cheesesteak sandwiches and fries, Rogue takes off her gloves to eat, and we talk about nothing special. Her classes, her plot with Storm for Jeanís surprise birthday party, meeting the newest kid at the school. Itís all so very normal that, for a little while, I almost forget that sheís not.
And I almost forget that Iím not.
Then the meal is doneóand the gloves come on again, killing off those nice illusions of normality. I feel a twinge of frustration as I head off to the nearest trash can with our trays. It isnít fair.
On my way back to the table where Rogue is sitting with the bags, I see her looking away with an expression I donít like. I follow her gaze to a corner table, where two junior lovebirds sit cuddling. Itís not like theyíre making a spectacle of themselvesónothing I wouldnít do in public, anyway. Itís just the fact that theyíre touching each other. Freely. Unafraid.
For a moment, Iím not sure how to handle this. Rogue needs distracting now, but something tells me Iíll only make things worse if I do anything obvious. So I do the best I can. As I move around the table to pick up the bags, I plant myself squarely between her line of sight and that dreamy-eyed pair, pretending not to have noticed a thing. I ask if sheís ready to move on.
She shakes herself slightly. Her smile is gone, but she tries to come up with a new one that looks as empty as I know it is. Grabbing her purse, she turns and starts for the escalator at a tellingly quick pace. I hurry to keep up.
Downstairs, we go on moseying down the length of the mall, but Rogueís interest isnít nearly as keen as it was before. Bitter truths have invaded the perfect day I tried to give her. Walking beside her, I try to think of what I can do or say to make it better.
Donít think I donít understandóbecause I do. As a general rule, I donít care to be touched; it has a way of being tangled up with a whole lot of sticky issues about feelings and relationships that I could do without. But sometimesÖ
Sometimes, itís important.
When I was healing after that little blowout on top of the Statue of Liberty, Jean sat beside me through the night with her hand on mineóand I knew. I knew there was someone out there, waiting to see me open my eyes again. Without that simple sense of a presence to tell me I wasnít alone in the dark, Iím not entirely sure I would have made it back to the land of the living that time.
Iím not even sure I would have wanted to.
Professor Xavier and the others do what they can to help Rogue feel that kind of connection, too. Even the other kids, understanding more than they should have to about the problems that can come with their so-called gifts, have been pretty ingenious about finding ways to let Rogue be close and involved. But it isnít the same; it isnít enough.
Walking beside Rogue and half a step behind, I consider two inches of exposed skin between the bottom of a short sleeve and the top of a long glove.
Iíve never seen what Rogueís power could do to a normal person, but I know twice over what it does to me. With my durability, Iím sure the effect isnít so sudden that just one instant of contact would drop me. It could hit me, alright, but Iím willing to bet thereís a margin. Maybe just enough to let her feel the briefest touch of another living personóenough to let her know she isnít alone, either.
I can touch her. Just for a moment. It wonít hurt me.
My fingers tremble a little as I reach for her arm; maybe not visibly, but I know. Sheís staring down at the floor tiles now, unaware of the act Iím about to commit. Sheíd refuse it if she knew.
She wonít know until itís done, the risk explored.
Nearly close enough to feel the warmth of her skin, my fingers stop. I stop, frozen solid where I stand by a sudden realization. It isnít the effect on me I should worry aboutóitís the effect it would have on her.
Sheís been subjected to more than enough of my screwed-up psyche already.
Noticing Iíve fallen out of step with her, Rogue stops walking and turns around. Now sheís worried about me instead of herself, and while Iím standing there like an idiot, I see her give me that look I really hate to seeóthe one that makes me think she knows exactly what Iím feeling. Especially disturbing in this moment, when I donít even know what it is I feel.
She steps back to me and asks whatís wrong. I tell her thereís nothingóeven though itís everything. The whole world is wrong, when it can refuse to let a simple touch be received, or even freely given.
My touch would hurt her more than hers could ever hurt me.
I told you I gave up pretenses with Rogue, and this is exactly why. She doesnít believe me for a second.
Sheís also seen enough inside me to know when I wonít let her see further.
A tilt of the head, a doubting frownÖ and Rogue lets the matter go. Shrugging, she gives me a smile thatís so sympathetic, itís almost funny. In a bitterly ironic way, at least.
All I have left, then, are small gestures with big meanings, the little things between what Iíve done and what I wanted to do. Forcing a cocky smile in return, I reach outóand for the first time I can remember in public, I openly take her gloved hand in my bare one.
Her eyes go wide, but her fingers tighten around mine, accepting without question the best I can do to bridge the gap. No sentiment offered, and none required. Just the comfort of a solid presence, a squeeze of the hand through a layer of white satin. Less than I wanted to give, but still more than I ever really have before now.
She turns my hand over in hers, studying it; her thumb brushes against the hollows between the knuckles, where the claws come. Simple and trusting, this veiled touch suddenly means as much to me as the touch of my bare hand ever could have to her.
When we first met, I thought she was afraid of my hands. I learned better.
Iím still learning.
With a smile, she nods her head toward the far end of the mall. The day is perfect again, and we walk on, her gloved hand in mine reminding me that there are other ways to touchóand to be touched.
© 2003 Jordanna Morgan - send feedback