The Maximoff family has been moved into the Xavier Institute for only a few hours, not yet dinner time, but the children are already fast asleep in their beds. Magda can’t blame them. The travel over the last few days has exhausted all of them, and the excitement of moving must have drained the last of their energy. While Magda and the children had moved in normally, through the front entrance, Erik had come in through all the back hallways, to avoid being seen, and he hasn’t left the bedroom since. They’d sold it to the children as though they were playing a game. That had made them more excited, which in turn had tired them out faster. Magda can’t say she’s not grateful.
The children being asleep means Magda has time to explore these strange new grounds she’ll have to call home. Erik’s encouraged her to explore even if he, for the moment, is confined to their bedroom. Lorna wakes up hungry just before she leaves, but that’s no problem. Magda just picks her up and walks with Lorna nursing at her breast. She gets a few scandalized looks from the American teenagers roaming the halls, and many more looks that are simply embarrassed. It doesn’t bother her. Few things do these days.
Magda walks through this house - she’s almost hesitant to call it that, it’s so big - aimlessly for a few minutes, just feeling out of place among the carpeted floors and high ceilings. Eventually, she turns up at Charles’ office, the first room he’d shown them on their brief tour. She knocks, and opens the door once she’s beckoned inside.
Charles is busy grading papers at his desk. He looks up when Magda comes in and does a double take when he sees Lorna nursing. He’s obviously embarrassed, but trying to hide it. In Magda’s opinion, he’s not doing a very good job. “Magda! And, um, Lorna. Come in, take a seat. I can’t imagine that’s comfortable to do standing up. I mean - not that I’d know, of course I wouldn’t know. I don’t mean to offend. I just-” Wisely, Charles cuts himself off before he can be embarrassed further. “How can I help you, Magda?”
Why is Magda there? She’s not entirely sure, if she’s being truthful. Charles is still, in many ways, a mystery to her. This is the man her husband trusted enough to move his whole family across an ocean. The man who had shown this trust was not misplaced by welcoming them with open arms. The man her husband has maintained such an odd friendship with for decades, despite rarely actually seeing each other.
This is the man her husband has loved since they met, though Magda is not sure if either of them knows it. It wouldn’t be the first time she knows her husband better than he knows himself. Yet for all those things, Magda knows very little about him personally. She would like to see that change. To better understand this strange bond between her husband and Charles.
“Erik and I met as children in the camps,” Magda starts. Lorna has stopped nursing, so as she continues her story, Magda moves her onto her shoulder and fixes her shirt. “He was twelve, I was thirteen. He’d go to see Schmidt more often than not and he always came out looking a little more broken, but that never stopped him from smuggling food out of Schmidt’s desk and bringing it back to me. And when he overheard that the Romani camps were to be cleared, he arranged God knows what bargain to have me moved and my records changed to identify me as a Jew instead of Romani. He was like my knight in shining armor, a hero to me when I was little more than a girl and him, little more than a boy. That’s why I stay by his side. Because when I recall the news of awful things he’s done under that name of ‘Magneto’, I also recall those days of our youth and I know my Erik was always there under that ‘Magneto’, only broken and lost his way. That’s why I stay with him, Charles, and why I always will. What you can help me with, I suppose, is helping me understand why you have remained at my husband’s side as well.”
Charles is quiet for several long moments, while Magda just sits and watches him. She knows Erik rarely speaks of his boyhood and Charles is likely caught off guard by that. He sighs after a moment and pushes aside the papers he’d been marking. Charles wheels himself away from his desk and towards Magda, eliminating the barriers between them. “Erik took away my sister and my legs within minutes of each other. He abandoned me on a beach in Cuba, to die for all he knew. On almost every approach to humanity and mutant rights, we disagree fundamentally. I’m sure the acts of terrorism he’s committed have set human-mutant relations back significantly. The last time we saw each other, he dropped a bloody stadium on me. I have no reason to stick by him, yet every reason to despise him.”
“And still, you don’t,” Magda points out.
“No, I don’t,” Charles agrees, sighing in defeat. No point denying that. It’s obvious.
“I know. And what I’d like to know is the why. I'm sure you can understand my curiosity.”
“When I met Erik, he was just in the midst of his hunt for Sebastian Shaw - Schmidt, that is. He was full of anger and pain. It was the rage that drove him forward, nothing more. Yet I saw more to him. I saw past that. There was good in him as well. So much good and nobility and bravery. If only he would let himself find peace, I know he could be a good man, because I’ve seen it for myself. And just like you, when I see the atrocities Erik has done, I don’t lose faith in the good I’ve seen. Just like you, I’m going to stand by him until the end, for I firmly believe Erik can be reformed. Erik isn’t a bad man, he’s a great man whom life has simply tested one too many times.”
That’s an answer Magda is very happy with. She too has faith in the goodness of Erik. She still knows very little about Charles, but at least now she feels a little more confident that Erik hasn’t misplaced his trust in this man. Not only that, now Magda has a growing suspicion that Erik isn’t the only one who’d been smitten in love for decades. Someday soon, they’ll all have to face up and acknowledge that. However, Magda will stay quiet on her part and trust that her husband will remain oblivious. Things are rocky enough right now with adjusting to the move, they don’t need this on top of it. Surely, if they’ve waited since 1962 to confront those feelings and have a proper conversation over them, they can wait another short while.
Magda doesn’t worry for her marriage. She trusts Erik wholeheartedly. Always has and she likely always will. It’s her who calls him husband. Her who has made a home with him. Her who has four children with him. She certainly doesn’t fear losing him to Charles and the impending conversation in their future doesn’t intimidate her. Besides, she likes Charles now. She likes the answer he’d given her in regards to her husband.
“I suppose you and I have a lot in common there. We both have gotten to know the Erik that he hides away from the world. It’s a shame the rest of the world can’t see the Erik we know, isn’t it?” Magda says. When she thinks of this Erik the world doesn’t know, she thinks of Erik the husband, Erik the father. Two things he excels at because of how much he loves them.
Charles nods sympathetically and leans back in his wheelchair slightly, settling more comfortably for conversation. “It is, but Erik is a stubborn man. I know that everything he does, he thinks is the best option for mutantkind. I disagree, I think it only worsens things, but he does what his life has led him to believe is best and for that, I can’t entirely fault him. Perhaps in not faulting him, I inadvertently condone his actions, but then so be it. Erik is my best friend and casting him aside in shame will never help him see the world in a better light.”
“Best friend,” Magda repeats. She smiles. “You are Erik’s best friend, as well. One of his only friends, truly. I’m glad my husband has you. Just as glad as I am that you so persistently stand by his side. Erik will need someone like that these days. He can’t just stay locked up in that room forever.”
“I know. And I don’t intend to let that happen. Just for the night. Through tomorrow morning, at most. I need to speak to the faculty, help them understand the situation. My right hand man, Hank McCoy, knew Erik personally and is a bit more adept at holding grudges than I am. But once I’ve spoken to them, I shall speak to the students as well, so it doesn’t come as a shock when they see a wanted man roaming our halls. And once that’s done, Erik is free to settle in as freely as he wants.” This is a promise Charles makes. Magda can hear the surety in his voice, and she’s confident he’ll make it happen one way or another. This will just be something else for Magda to add onto her list of reasons why she’s thankful for who her husband has chosen as a best friend.
Still, Magda has to approach the situation cautiously. One cannot be too cautious when Erik is among America’s most wanted terrorists. He’d tried to kill the president his last time here, after all. “And if one of your students calls home? Tells their parents that Erik Lehnsherr is being housed here and that parent calls the authorities and suddenly, your school is being raided and my husband taken away.”
“I won’t let that happen. I know my students. For all I try to instill trust in them, most are as wary of the authorities as Erik is. Besides…” Charles pauses and the determination she sees on his face is like a shadow of the same look she’s seen on her husband so many times. “I truly pity anyone who comes to my school looking for any trouble.”
“I can see why my husband likes you, Charles. There’s a fire in you underneath the surface,” Magda says, smirking up at him.
Charles laughs. “I’m not sure Erik would agree with you, but I’d like to think so, yes. I like to avoid fights when possible, but I don’t live in a fantasy world either, regardless of what Erik may say. I understand that there may come a day I have to go against my morals if it means keeping my students safe.”
“Keeping your students safe. Or your best friend, it seems,” Magda notes.
“Students,” Charles says once more. This time, he smiles fondly and points down at baby Lorna on her lap. “Students, see. And, of course, if I’m keeping those students safe, how am I not to do the same for those students’ families?”
“Of course.” Magda runs a gentle hand through the tiny green hairs on Lorna’s head. Her children are students here now, aren’t they? Charles had been quick to accept them, and seemed pleased even. Magda can see that being a teacher comes as naturally to Charles as being a warrior and leader does to her husband. Once again, Magda is thankful. This time, for the fact that her children are safely tucked away in the dormitories of a sanctuary where they can grow up free of the harsh realities of the world. She tucks Lorna more snugly into her arms and stands. “I’ll see you, Charles.”
“You as well, Magda. It was lovely to chat with you.” Charles nods politely towards her and wheels himself back behind his desk.
Magda walks with Lorna back towards the door, pausing with her hand over the doorknob. With a sly smile, she turns back to Charles. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think you’re right. I don’t think he’s right, either, though. I think the both of you are just stubborn men who refuse to see any different than old opinions formed a lifetime ago in the 1960s.”
Charles answer comes between laughter. “Perhaps you’re right, Magda. Perhaps you’re right.”