TANTALUS

S J Smith

Disclaimer: Still doing the fangirl thing; still not making any money.

Spoilers: Takes place sometime shortly after XM-2.

Rating: PG? I'm terrible at these things.

A.N.: This came about from reading Kristi's BtVS drabbles on hands. I figured if anyone was going to notice hands, it would probably be Rogue. So, this story is dedicated to Kristi. There ya go, babe.


Rogue wasn't sure when she'd started noticing hands.

All right, maybe that wasn't exactly true. She knew when, she just couldn't pinpoint the exact moment in time.

People, after all, did so much with their hands.

She'd seen a lot; noticed a lot; realized sometime after Dr. Grey died that she missed seeing those delicate hands with their nimble digits; the way that Dr. Grey always seemed to know exactly what her hands were doing. Her telekinesis was just an extension of her fingers; almost as adept at using one or the other. Dr. Grey's hands had the ability to calm people and Rogue envied her that. It wasn't the only thing she envied but it wasn't good to think ill of the dead.

Hands slapped or punched or tickled or caressed.

Bobby's hands were sweet and tender; his only callous was the one he got from writing. His hands were always clean, even after he'd pulled duty with Mr. Summers and got stuck taking apart something mechanical and messy. Bobby's nails reminded her of Dr. Grey's - they were both always so immaculate, like they'd never grubbed around in the dirt. Bobby's nails were never chewed or ragged and his hands were always incongruously hot through the fabric of her gloves, her sleeves; the silk of her scarf or the denim sheathing her legs.

Hands talked, drew, played the piano, directed traffic.

His hands weren't as hot as John's, though. She almost needed sweet iced tea thinking about John's hands. They were always moving, never idle. Never quite still. His nervous fingers toyed with that damned lighter or twisted around themselves in knots. In classes, he either drummed the tips of his fingers or tapped his pencil against the desk top. John's hands flexed like spiders, like tiny, skittish animals, never sure whether they'd be called upon to run or to fight. She'd only touched John once previously; caught his hand one day when he'd been about to pull Jubilee's hair. He'd stared down at the contact, lifted mocking eyes to meet hers. Rogue felt the heat banked within the boy and jerked free. John's hands were dangerous, his ability to control fire almost seductive. She'd felt it, rising up in her like a phoenix, when she stole his power from him to stop him from killing those police officers. Sometimes, it licked at her still.

Hands could soothe and hands could kill.

Magneto's hands were old and wiry. They'd felt worn when they pressed into her skin. She'd sucked him in and afterwards, she was almost surprised to see her own (gloved) hands at the ends of her wrists. Shouldn't they have been larger, shouldn't they feel different, shouldn't they do this or that? His hands, with their faint hint of arthritis in the knuckles that sometimes left phantom pain in her own fingers, making her rub at them absently.

Hands could touch. Hands could taunt. Hands could tease. Hands could hurt.

His hands. Oh, she could still see them in memory, the way his skin split open, the way the claws slid out. (A part of her still wondered why they weren't bloodied, erupting from his body that way.) How they moved, chopping a sawed-off shotgun in half, punching some idiot who entered the cage with him, guiding a truck down a road. She'd seen them lying still, she'd seen them busy with a cigar, she'd seen them clenched in rage.

Hands could kill.

She'd watched him kill people, those men who'd broke into the school. She'd felt a coldness run through her body that had nothing to do with Bobby; a flame that had nothing to do with John. She'd seen what Logan could do, to protect them.

She'd seen what he'd do, to protect her.

It seemed, after what happened at Liberty Island, the feel of his hands were imprinted into her skin. Every callous, every bit of roughness, gentled just for her. Rogue shivered sometimes, thinking about it, that touch; his hand, her face. Then, just a short time later, he'd cradled her hand in his, laid his dog tag in her palm, folded her fingers around it. She knew what it meant to him, that tag. What he was putting in her keeping. What he meant when he said he'd be back for it. His warmth soaked into her flesh, even through the layer of fabric. His eyes, god, his eyes almost made up for skin to skin touching.

After Alkali Lake, after she and Bobby had clung to each other's hands while pain ripped through them like lightning; after Dr. Grey sacrificed herself, holding their lives in her beautiful, delicate hands, after everyone pretended things were back to normal, even though there was no way things ever would be normal again, Rogue stood in front of a closed door, staring down at her hands. Even their sheath of fabric couldn't hide the fact they trembled. She wrapped them together, hesitated, gathered her courage. She raised her right hand, bit her lower lip, knocked. "Logan?"

No answer.

Rogue knocked again, a little louder. "I know you're in there."

The door swung open and he stared out at her, eyes worn and tired, one hand on the door, the other on the jamb. She swallowed her anxiety and took a step forward; hoping, expecting, daring to believe he'd let her pass. His arms tightened, barring her way.

"Logan," Rogue said, her voice low.

"Whaddaya want, kid?" His voice sounded as rough as he looked.

You, she thought, but didn't voice it. Instead, she reached out, slowly; as if he were a wild animal, hurt or trapped. His glazed eyes stared at her hand, at the way it shook ever so slightly. Eyelids squeezing shut, he flinched away from her touch and she adjusted her trajectory, letting her fingers curl around the back of his neck, his hair prickling her skin even through her gloves. He didn't move and she stepped closer, her other hand sliding around his waist, anchoring him to her. Rogue pressed her face against his chest, ignoring the sour scent of his unwashed flesh.

His body expanded with a breath and thinking he might try to shake her off, she tightened her grip on him. His head lowered down though, his nose in her hair and his arms came around her hesitantly. "Darlin', don't," he moaned against her scalp and Rogue realized she was crying, that she whispered and whimpered and clutched him that much tighter.

Her words fell free in an endless stream, a senseless barrage, white noise to accompany the tears that soaked into Logan's shirt. Still Rogue could feel his hands; tracing along her spine, stroking her hair and the traitorous, evil part of her whispered, "Mine," to the memory of Jean Grey.