Man! challenge in a can Man!





Red Nail Polish
Mara Greengrass

The nail polish was red. Fire engine red. It matched the dress she had chosen for the evening, the dress she'd chosen because Scott loved how it looked on her.

The damn nail polish was so red. So bright and cheerful. It was sickening.

Bright and cheerful. It matched the two chairs outside the combined lab/hospital room under the mansion. Why had she never noticed how incongruous those chairs were? Too bright against cool blue/silver walls. Too much like flames licking up against the walls.

She sat in one of the chairs, with a silent Ororo next to her, and waited for Hank to bring her news about Scott.

She sat and stared at her nail polish. It wasn't even chipped. It looked as fresh as it had when she'd put it on this afternoon.

That was unfair. It should be chipped, shredded like the dress it matched. How could she get through a fight without even chipping the goddamn polish?

How could her lover be lying in that room dying and she and her nail polish were unscathed?

It shouldn't be so bright. How could anything be bright when Scott was hurt?

She wanted to just dip her hands in acetone to get rid of it. Acetone or battery acid, because who cared what happened to her hands if Scott died? Nothing mattered if he died.

The red of her nails didn't look bright and cheerful anymore. It looked like blood, like Scott's blood as he lay on the ground in front of her. His blood pouring out because he'd refrained from using his powers for fear of hitting the other people in the restaurant.

She didn't usually wear nail polish, but it went so well with the dress, she'd gone to the trouble.

Scott came by the bedroom while she was putting it on, wrinkled his nose at the smell and then tried to tickle her. She'd kicked him out of the room so she could finish the nail polish.

Kicked him out of the room. Sent him away. Voluntarily given up time they could have spent together.

She begrudged every single second she'd spent putting the polish on and waiting for it to dry. Wasted time. Just like Scott's life would be wasted if he died.

She swallowed convulsively, almost choking at the thought. She tasted bitter bile, bitter to match her thoughts. Distantly, she felt Ororo's arm around her shoulder and the concern in her mind, but she kept staring at the nail polish.

The Professor came and tried to talk to her, but she just divided her time between looking at her hands and staring at the door. Waiting for Hank to come out. Resisting the urge to burst through the door and demand to help treat Scott.

She wanted to scratch herself with her nails, scratch until she broke through the numbness, scratch until she bled so she could be with Scott.

But she sat in the chair and waited. She waited with her bitter thoughts and her red nail polish.

Jean Grey. Nail Polish. Bitter.

Man! challenge in a can Man!