Gwen Raiden sat in the backseat of her parents' white car, on her way to a new school like so many times before. She was sixteen now, almost an adult. Two more years of schooling, two more years of stares and she would be on her own. You'll still get stared at, Gwen told herself bitterly. Just because you'd be grown up, doesn't mean people would suddenly accept you.
No one will ever accept you.
Gwen sighed and looked out the window as the scenery passed by. This school was in New York. Apparently her parents had run out of schools in Wisconsin willing to be bribed. It was okay though. They normally just put her in a comfy version of solitary confinment and sent a paranoid teacher to her room to tutor her. She'd lived through it before.
Westchester or something, was the city she would now call home. A school called Professor Xavier's . . . the schools always had names like that. Miss so and so, Professor this or that. She gave it a month tops. She always got kicked out before a month was up.
The car pulled up outside the airport. A representative from the school had been sent to escorte her on the plane. Gwen was really excited to meet this representative. Well, she's sure she would be in any reality not her own.
Her parents led her inside, and they searched around for the school representative. Finally, they located her. Gwen was surprised not to find a stuffy old person. Instead, in front of her stood a tall black woman with the blondest hair she had ever seen, and one of the most beautiful faces.
Gwen stared at her for a moment, while the woman offered her hand, which was covered in thick leather gloves. Gwen parents eyed the woman's extended hand, but Gwen cautiously drew her own gloved hand towards the womans. Her blue winter gloves met the black leather ones, and it was the first contact Gwen had ever made with a stranger. Her family sometimes wore gloves if they had to touch her, but no stranger had ever dared to extend their hand to her.
The woman spoke in a light accent that Gwen couldn't quite place, but found oddly comforting. "I'm Ororo Munroe, but you can call me Storm," she said with a smile and Gwen had to smile back.
"Gwen Raiden," Gwen said softly.
"Miss . . . Munroe . . . " her father said, not sure what to think of this woman. "I trust that you've taken the proper precautions for any . . . mishaps that may come of her travelling on an airplane?"
"Of course, Mr. Raiden," Storm assured him. "It's all taken care of. No need to worry. But out flight does leave very soon, and I'd like to get acquainted with Gwen before our departure - "
"Of course," Gwen's mother said with a plastic smile (always plastic, never real, Gwen thought). "Come on, Roger. It was nice meeting you, Miss Munroe."
Gwen's parents left quickly. Always in a hurry to leave her. To go back and have lunch with their friends and pretend their freak daughter never existed. Gwen didn't hate them, not really. She understood where they were coming from. Didn't make it hurt any less, though.
Gwen sighed and plopped herself down in a chair. "So what's this school like?"
"It's a school for the . . . gifted. Those with unsual powers and abilities - mutations. A place for them to learn to control and utilize their powers for good." Storm sat down next to Gwen, her voice hushed to avoid being overheard. "There are many young people like you. I was like you when Professor Xavier first found me. We all come from different places, different backgrounds - we all are different from each other, but we are bonded in the knowledge that we are alike. We've all been alone and scared; persecuted and . . . bullied by those who do not understand us."
"Wow," Gwen said, a little stunned. A school . . . made for kids like her. "What are the kids like?"
"They're wonderful," Storm said without a moment's hesitation. "I think, in particular, you might find some common ground with a student name Rogue."
"Rogue," Gwen repeated softly. "Is she nice?"
Gwen smiled. Maybe this new school wasn't going to be so bad.
When they arrived onto the school grounds Gwen just stared in wonder. All around her there were other kids, and Miss Munroe didn't tell her once that she couldn't touch them. It was assumed, of course, but . . . she wasn't afraid of her. And none of the other kids were, either. They whispered, kids always whispered, but instead of whispering about the freak their parents told them was coming to the school (because the school board always told the parents beforehand), they whispered about the new girl, wondering what her name was, what her mutation was, if she was nice.
A few kids waved at her with eager grins.
Gwen wanted to cry.
"Oh my God, Storm this is . . ."
Storm smiled knowingly and led her inside the school, and into Professor Xavier's office. Professor Xavier was an older man, balder than a cueball, and the sort of man that's mere presence demanded respect. Yet, Gwen wasn't intimidated by him. She could also tell he wasn't afraid of her. That lack of fear she saw everywhere here amazed her.
His eyes sparkled. "Gwen Raiden, so good to have you here at the school. Sit down," he said. But then Gwen realized his mouth hadn't moved.
"Wow, you got some kind of - telepathic - thing going there, or what?" she asked as she took a seat.
"You are very perceptive, Gwen," he said, this time in the ordinary way. "Most students are a little - what do you children say now? 'Freaked out' when they first experience other mutants' gifts."
Gwen's hands gripped the arms of her chair at the word 'freak.' He hadn't meant it in anyway remotely offensive, of course, but she couldn't help the automatic tightening of her muscles at the slight mention of that term.
"I am very sorry, Gwen. I hadn't realized what effect that statement would have on you," he said apologetically. "I understand Miss Munroe has explained our school to you?"
Gwen relaxed, sucking in a deep breath. "Yeah, she told me there were other kids like me. And you'd help me control the electricity and stuff?"
The professor nodded. "Ororo Munroe was one of my very first students. She is now an integral part of my X-Men."
Before Gwen could ask what an X-Man was, he provided her with an answer.
"The school is simply the public face. On the lower levels, there are more advanced training facilities and labrotories. My X-Men are, in addition to being teachers at the school, a group of mutants who have banded together for good. We're dedicated to, ultimately, the idea that humans and mutants can live together in peace, without even the slightest hostility towards each other. This may seem impossible now, but . . . " Professor Xavier's voice dropped slightly, " . . . I have hope."
Gwen's first class was with Miss Munroe, Storm. It was actually Gwen's first time learning in an actual class room. Like the kind on TV, Gwen thought. It had always seemed like a fantasy to her. As much a fantasy as she and her mutant powers seemed to most other people.
She sat next to a girl wearing long black opera-style gloves. Gwen watched her out of the corner of her eye, really only half paying attention to Storm's lecture. Could this be Rogue? The girl she would find 'common ground' with? She wondered why the girl wore gloves - if it was simply a fashion statement, or because of her mutation. If, maybe, she was electric like Gwen.
When the bell rang, Gwen didn't have to approach the girl. The girl turned to her, a wide smile on her face. When she spoke it was in a calm Southern drawl.
"Hi, I'm Rogue. The Professor wanted me to show you around and help you get accustomed."
It was Rogue. Gwen smiled back. "I'm Gwen Raiden. Those gloves . . . you?" She didn't waste time getting to the point.
"Oh," Rogue said, fidgeting slightly. "They're . . . I can't touch people. They - get hurt. Sometimes I absorb their powers or personalites and stuff, but mostly, they get hurt." She looked at Gwen's gloves. "What about yours?"
Gwen looked down at her lame winter gloves, and longed for gloves like those Rogue wore. "I can't touch people either. But when I touch them, they get electrocuted. I don't absorb anything, but they sure absorb a lot," she said with a wry grin. "It sucks, but I've been like this since I was seven. Except, now I'm more powerful. I can feel the current inside of me getting stronger everyday."
"Whoa," Rogue said softly.
Gwen looked down. It was so weird to be talking to a girl her own age. So . . . strange. It felt almost unnatural, yet she knew it was how normal people interacted. Of course, interaction of any sort was kind of a shiny and new concept to her. "Have you, uh . . . have you killed anyone?"
Rogue looked taken aback. "No." Her words were stiff, but then she relaxed. "No, but the first boy I kissed ended up in a coma for three weeks."
Gwen nodded. "Two gardeners, four nannys, a teacher, and a little boy. I didn't mean to, but . . . things happen and . . . " Gwen trailed off, lost in her own thought for a moment.
"Hey," Rogue interrupted. "I'm supposed to meet Bobby and John for lunch. You want to eat with us?"
"Sure!" Gwen said a little too eagerly. "I mean, yeah. Sure."
Gwen and Rogue, along with Bobby (who had offered her some hand-made ice cubes for her drink), and John (who offered to warm her sandwich up when it got a little cold), sat outside at a picnic table for lunch. It was beautiful day. Gwen had never before, in her life, noticed a beautiful day.
The four of them joked back and forth, and Gwen actually felt as if she belonged, as if she was just one of them. That's because you are, Gwen thought to herself.
Rogue sat across from her, and John next to her. Gwen noticed, just as she was gathering her trash up, that Rogue wore a shiny silver dogtag around her neck, like the kind you would get in the army.
"You don't seem the army type," Gwen said, pointing to the necklace.
"Oh, this? It's, uh . . .it's Logan's. He gave it to me before he left." Rogue seemed lost in her own thoughts for a moment, before finally coming back to reality. "I hope you get a chance to meet him. He's . . . great."
Bobby snorted, but Rogue didn't seem to notice.
Gwen caught John giving Bobby a slightly pissed look before rolling his eyes.
Whoa. Everyone loves Rogue, Gwen thought. Lucky Rogue.
Bobby must have kicked John under the table, because John yelped and jumped up.
"Sorry," John said grudgingly. Gwen didn't quite understand why he was the one apologizing.
Bobby nodded. "Me too."
They shared a short but significant smile before they both looked back over to the girls.
"Ladies, we'll see you later."
"Yeah, we got some things to . . . do."
And both guys were gone, leaving Gwen and Rogue alone at their table. That was when Gwen realized she had completely read the situation wrong.
"Oh my God, they're like - "
"Yeah," Rogue said with a smile. "Aren't they cute together?"
Gwen stared after the guys and couldn't help but grin. "Yeah. They are."
That night, Gwen and Rogue sat on Rogue's bed together. Gwen had - for once in her life - a friend. And it no longer felt odd to her.
"Tomorrow, you'll meet Kitty and Jubilee," Rogue promised Gwen. "They were in school, but you came kinda late and didn't get a chance to meet them."
"Are they cool?" Gwen asked.
"Oh yeah. They're the best." Rogue hopped up, and went over to a drawer. Gwen wondered what she was doing, but she returned with a pair of red opera-style gloves. "Here. I thought you might like these. I have tons."
Gwen's eyes lit up. "Thank you!" She took the gloves and put them on, holding her hand up to model them to Rogue. "Are they me?"
Rogue grinned. "They're you."
The two sat in silence for a moment, before Gwen thought outloud. "What would happen if we touched?"
"Huh?" Rogue asked her, taken aback. "No. No, we can't. We could kill each other . . . no."
"No, I just mean hypothetically speaking. If we touched, what would happen? Would you absorb my electricity and not like . . . " Gwen trailed off. "I mean, if you absorbed the electric ability, in theory it wouldn't hurt you. Because you'd be electric too. You wouldn't just absorb the electricity, you'd absorb the ability too, so . . . I don't know what I'm saying. Just ignore me." Gwen looked down at the quilt covering Rogue's bed, embarrassed.
"Oh. I don't know," Rogue said cautiously. "It might not hurt me, but . . . it might hurt you. I don't know."
More silence before Rogue slowly peeled off her glove. She held one finger up, and Gwen eyed it carefully. She swallowed hard before pulling off her own glove, and held her own finger up. Ever so slowly, so cautiously, the girls brought their fingers to meet each other.
Instead of shocking Rogue, a visible electrical current began to buzz around her whole body. Rogue began to breath hard, he eyes wide. On Gwen's side, she was beginning to feel a little tired, but other than that, she felt fine.
The girls finally separated, Gwen's tiredness and Rogue's current fading as soon as the contact was severed.
"That was amazing," Rogue said softly.
Gwen couldn't say anything. She was just in complete awe.
"Hey, can I, uh, can I try something?" Rogue asked, her voice low.
Rogue slowly brought her lips to meet Gwen's, and the two girls closed thier eyes as they shared what was more than just a kiss for them. It wasn't really a kiss - no, not really - it was something else. Gwen instinctively brought her one still-gloved hand up to Rogue's shoulder, as Rogue's tongue gently entered her mouth. Gwen was really getting tired now, but she didn't want to stop for anything.
When the girls finally separated, both girls collapsed on the bed, their breath coming out labored, but nothing serious wrong with either.
After a moment, Gwen sat up, picking up the glove she had taken off, and the gloves she had worn before Rogue gave her the new ones. "I'm really tired, I should get to my room."
Rogue sat up too. "Okay. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
Gwen smiled. "Yeah." Then she left Rogue's room and headed towards her own. So many thoughts swirled in her head, but she was too tired to make sense of any of it.
Besides, there was always tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that. Those days were for thinking. Right now, though, all she wanted to do was curl up in a ball and dream of Rogue.