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Don't Let Me Fall Again

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Janos played the adagio again, determined to perfect it. It was a good piece, meant as a solo, one of the many Azazel had found for him. Janos was honestly shocked at that, that Azazel had known what to procure for him at all. He wasn't classically educated, as far as Janos knew, unable to even read sheet music.

“That's pretty.”

He glanced up without stopping, to see Angel standing in the doorway to the big room, looking unsure. He jerked his head to the side, letting her know she wasn't intruding, and she walked in, albeit cautiously, like he might change his mind.

She listened while doing a slow walk around the room, looking at the faded engravings on the baseboards, the old silk wallpaper, and the great glass side. It curved outwards in a semi-circle, so that when you were within it, you had glass on three sides. Janos liked it.

Her heels were quiet on the old hardwood, and he watched as she pressed her palm to the glass, despite how cold it had to be.

He finished and set it aside, figuring she had come in for a reason.

“Why are you and Emma fighting?” He asked, in Spanish. Angel spoke it with an odd mix of an American accent and a Salvadorian one, but he understood her well enough. “I thought you were getting along.”

“We were. Until the Raven thing.”

“Raven?” He asked, confused.

“Mystique.” She said, coming out of the glass and into the warmer part of the room. “Her real name is Raven.” Janos shrugged, not much caring one way or the other. “I was thinking about something the other day. I didn't even realize I was thinking about it. And Emma picked up on it. Now she's mad at me.”

“What were you thinking about?” Angel shifted uncomfortably, chewing on a piece of her hair. “That bad?” She shrugged, and nodded. “With Emma, best thing you can do is just wait for it to blow over. She doesn't hold a grudge long, most of the time. Somebody else will make her angry soon, and she'll need someone to rant to.” He reassured. “Likely it will be Azazel. He makes her angry all the time.”


Janos shrugged. “They've never gotten along. Azazel refuses to be obedient, and she refuses to admit he won't listen to her.”

“Hm. Sounds like her.” Angel walked over to one of the paintings resting against the wall, and lifted the sheet covering it. It was a good piece, an oil painting. Some woman, standing by a garden wall. “Who painted this?”

“It's probably a commissioned piece.” She frowned at him, so he elaborated. “The subject, she was probably the lady of this house, or maybe a daughter. The family probably hired someone to take her portrait. Or it was done by a member of the family. A lady, likely. Sons don't learn to paint.”

“Can you paint?” She asked, tipping her head to the side as she studied it. He shook his head.

“Watercolors, a little. But that is oil. I never learned that.”

“I wish someone had taught me that stuff when I was little. Maybe I could have been a painter instead of a stripper.”

“There's not much money in it anymore.” Janos told her. “Sorry to disappoint you.” Angel nodded, and dropped the sheet before turning back to him.

“You and Azazel,” She started, and bit her lip. “You share a bedroom now, don't you?”


“I kind of thought you might be, you know, like that. But I didn't know he was too.” Janos wasn't sure how to answer her, because he wasn't even sure Azazel was like that at all. He didn't like anybody very much, in Janos' experience. He liked Janos, and Emma on some days, and a few friends that Janos had met once or twice. That was about it. “At least, I didn't until he got you that.” She nodded at the cello. “He thought he was being sneaky. Didn't notice me.” Janos didn't point out how unlikely that was out of respect for her feelings. She probably wouldn't like knowing that it wasn't that Azazel didn't know she was there, it was more likely he just didn't care. “And I remembered you saying you played.”

“He was being kind.” Janos said, with a shrug. “Does it bother you?”

“A little. It's not about you being like that, it's just, him, you know? He scares me pretty badly.” Angel was looking at the far wall now, where there was a water-damaged landscape hanging still, the left upper corner a bloom of mold over a blue sky. It was less well-done than the portrait, and Janos figured that was why it had been left unprotected. “He just seems like a really violent man.”

“He's not like that with me.” Janos defended, feeling his hackles rise. “He would never hurt me.”

Angel just smiled, in a sad sort of way. “Yeah, they always say that.”

“Angel,” His voice was sharp now, and it made her look at him. “Azazel was my friend, for years. And he has never hurt me. He never will. Don't project your problems onto me.” It was nastier than he intended, and it made her recoil. He felt guilty at the sight of her scrunching into herself, as he reminded himself of how short Emma, her only real friend here, had been with her lately. It would do no one any good to keep lashing out at her for being mistaken.

“Sorry,” She apologized, in a small voice. “I was only...sorry.”

“No, I shouldn't have put it like that. It's fine.” She didn't look like she believed him, but she nodded all the same, and didn't leave. He really did want to be friends with her, and he realized he needed to reassure her. She was frightened, badly so, and not just of Azazel. Something was bothering her. “Angel, no one here is going to hurt you.”

“Yeah, you keep telling me that.” She walked over to the old, damaged painting, studying it. “I've been with men like Azazel, Janos. I just think you're asking for it, is all.”

“You don't know him like I do.” Janos refuted, but something in her words sank down and took hold. He could say he knew Azazel until he was blue in the face, because it was true, but that didn't mean he liked everything he knew. And Angel wasn't wrong. Azazel had a side of him that Janos didn't much like, an angry, violent one.

But he was never like that with Janos. And he'd promised. He had.

“Right.” Angel replied, her eyes on the painting, but far away. “What does Emma like?”

Janos shrugged, putting his music things away for the day. He wanted to go watch Azazel train for a bit, and maybe steal some of his attention.

“Attention, mostly. Emma likes to be treated like a queen.” Angel nodded, and when he walked out, she walked with him, following on his heels. “Something else?”

“Did Emma...did she love Shaw?” That stopped him in his tracks, and he turned to face her, frowning in confusion.

“I think you should ask her that. I don't know.” That was a lie, he did know, but it was complicated, and far too personal for Emma for Janos to be sharing with Angel, without Emma's permission. “Why are you asking?”

“I just...” She trailed off, and didn't finish, just rubbed her arm a little, looking away from him. “I need to know, is all.”

“Ask Emma.” Janos told her, with a shrug.

“Janos?” Impatient to be gone, he turned with a bit of a huff, and she noticed, biting her lip. “Never mind, sorry.”

Frustrated, he shrugged and walked away from her, leaving her alone in the hallway, staring off into space. She was lonely, he knew that, and maybe some of that was his fault. He had tried to be welcoming with her, tried to be friends, but he had been caught up in Azazel too. It had been too often he had ignored her and Mystique in favor of spending more hours hiding in his room, wrapped in Azazel's arms. It was selfish, and if he didn't try to make them feel like they belonged, they were going to have problems with their loyalties. He couldn't even remember having a conversation with Mystique. Had he really been that self-involved?

And Emma, Emma had probably needed him these past weeks, while he had been off ignoring her. He hadn't felt her familiar presence since Russia, which meant she'd deliberately been staying out. She had to have felt what was going on in her peripheral, and given them privacy.

Emma was his truest friend, besides Azazel, and though he loved Azazel with everything he was, he had a connection with her that he lacked with Azazel. It wasn't a bad thing, really, because he and Azazel would tire of each other quickly if they were exactly alike, but his conversations with her were entirely different in tone and subject. Emma liked many of the same things he did, and could speak on the subjects knowledgeably.

And she had to have been in pain these past few weeks, mourning Shaw, and whatever scraps of a relationship they'd had left. Despite their careful plans, Emma had still cared for Shaw on some level. She would have missed him greatly after they'd enacted what they had to do. Erik had only sped things up a bit, beating them to the punch.

He wondered if Emma still wanted what they had planned, in the early morning hours while Shaw slept.

He was ashamed he hadn't thought to ask.

He needed to go to her, tonight, and apologize for being a bad friend to her. He would listen to whatever she had to say, and if she was angry with him for his selfishness, he would take it. She deserved anger.

In his room, he grabbed a blanket, a large thick one for outside use, another to wrap around himself, and the basket with his art supplies. Then he ventured outside, far out into the trees where Azazel trained, away from the eyes of the house. He had never minded when Janos observed, and indeed, in retrospect Azazel had likely been showing off for him, but other people, like Emma and Shaw, only annoyed him.

He set up, feeling Azazel's eyes on him, and opened his sketchpad to the first blank page. It had been a present from Azazel, this one left on the dresser one morning with a new box of pencils. Janos had been pleased at the thoughtfulness, that Azazel had noticed him running out of paper, and his pencils getting small. That he thought of Janos like that made his heart warm, and the smile on his face now was impossible to fight.

Azazel's supplies for his swords were resting on a tree stump, the swords themselves in Azazel's practiced hands. The supplies made for an interesting composition though, so Janos drew them, the sunlight reflecting off the oil he used on them in a pretty way.

“Bottles are more interesting than me, my darling?” Oh, he was never going to get used to Azazel's use of those words, the way his tongue rolled over the 'r', the way he looked at Janos when he said it.

He looked up at Azazel, shirtless, chest shining with sweat, and smirked.

“Maybe they are.”

Azazel crouched down beside him, grinning enough to stretch the scar through his eye, and plucked the sketchpad from Janos' hands. He looked at the work with great solemnity, before putting it down beside them and stealing a kiss.

“The use of color contrast doesn't interest you?” Janos asked airily, and let Azazel push him down on the blanket.

“This color contrast interests me more,” He said, intertwining their fingers against the blanket.

It did look nice, Janos thought, their skin together. His fingers were cold, but Azazel's were warm, as was the rest of him.

“Let me take you back to our bed,” He purred, into Janos' jawline, and Janos stretched under him.

“No,” Janos protested.

“Janos, either I take you back to our bed, or I have you right here, outside, and I don't-”

“Yes,” Janos agreed, happy Azazel had come to the idea on his own. “Outside, yes.”

“Really?” Azazel drew back, raising his eyebrows. Janos secured his grip on Azazel and tugged him back down.

“Yes, really. I like sex outside.” That was the wrong thing to say, he realized a half-second too late, as Azazel really pulled back now. He had a jealous streak a mile wide, and mention of past lovers had not gone over well. Janos sat up on his elbows, sighing. “Azazel, don't be like that. You know you're not my first. I'm not yours either.”

“I know. I just hate the thought of another man touching you,” His tail crept around and slide up Janos' arm, over his shoulder, and to his face. Janos turned and kissed the blade of it, the feel like leather under his lips.

Azazel's face was some mix of pain and longing that Janos wasn't sure how to react to. He was cold after having Azazel's furnace of a body pressed to him, and he wanted him back, wanted them to be curled in the blanket he'd brought specifically in hopes of this, half-undressed and wrapped up in each other.

“You are the only one, you know. Who doesn't cringe at it.”

“Why would I cringe at you?” He emphasized the last word, curious as to how Azazel still did not understand that Janos was not merely tolerating his face, that he liked how Azazel looked, that he loved every part of Azazel, not just the parts that were convenient. “Azazel, I love you. All of you.”

The blade of the tail left his face, brushing down his neck and down his chest, down over his belt buckle, until it pressed against the front of his jeans.

“Azazel,” He gasped, as Azazel came back to him, his tail sliding away to be replaced with Azazel's hand getting the buckle open, the button and fly to follow, so he could get his hand down past Janos' underwear and over his cock. His tail curled over to the tree stump, grabbing something, and Janos saw it was the bottle of oil. Azazel poured some into his hand, then slicked Janos' cock with it, easing the slide.

“I like you like this.” Azazel mused, running his palm down Janos' denim-clad thigh. “When you're not trying to impress anyone.”

“It's cold, and I'm sitting on the ground.” Janos managed, his breath coming in short pants now as his cock hardened under Azazel's fingers. “I am not ruining my trousers, not even for you,” Azazel laughed at that, and pushed Janos down, covering him with his body. He smelled of sweat and cigarettes, but Janos didn't mind at all, as he managed to get Azazel's loose pants down enough to return the favor.

He rolled his head to the side against the rough blanket, Azazel's mouth descending on his neck, to press kisses that scratched from his beard. Janos hummed with pleasure, as their cocks rubbed together, and he got his hand around the both of them. Azazel let go, so he could brace himself better on his elbows, moving his hips to meet Janos', his tail wrapping around them to help.

Around him, the air was wet with coming rain, or possibly snow. It was always wet here, he thought. He liked it, liked feeling the water in the air, and Azazel liked the chill. Janos could admit a growing fondness for this cold, so different from the kind he'd grown up with, on mornings when the bedroom was cold, but they were warm, under a mountain of blankets and Azazel's body heat.

Maybe he and Emma could build snowmen again, and Angel could come help. That had been fun, that time in Austria. Azazel had watched with undisguised amusement, and there had been a moment, just a second, when Azazel had looked like he was going to kiss Janos.

That was last year, he realized, and maybe Azazel had been about to kiss him, out in the snow, the stars overhead.

A raindrop hit his face, as the heat inside built to something unbearable, his hips moving faster. Azazel grabbed his hands and pinned them both beside his head, interlocking their fingers as his tail let go to twist in the air above them. Just moving against each other was enough at this point, and Janos threw his head back as he moaned, his release a relief. Azazel only took another moment, warm and wet on Janos' shirt.

They laid together on the blanket, Azazel's warm weight on Janos, but more drops fell, and they disappeared.

Azazel left Janos in the bed to discard his dirtied shirt, jeans, and shoes, disappearing, then reappearing with first the art supplies, then the blankets, and finally his things. He eyed Janos and strolled over, grabbing him by the hips to lay him flat so he could tug Janos' underwear off and drop it beside the bed, getting off his own trousers and shoes before crawling in with him.

They hadn't made the bed that morning, and the blankets were still a pile at the foot of the bed. Azazel pulled them up with his tail, as he pressed kisses to Janos' breastbone.

“I am still waiting to get used to this. But every time I look at you, I want to touch,” He demonstrated by running his hands down Janos' sides. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Janos replied, meaning it. “But not again, not yet. Just stay here with me.” Azazel nodded, and he was asleep before long, the training and the sex meaning he was ready for an afternoon nap. He normally slept in the afternoon, rising as early as he did, at dawn, to train and practice. He would spend hours outside, every morning, until the sun rose high in the sky. Then he always came in for lunch and a nap. The evening was devoted to work, whatever Lehnsherr wanted.

And the nights were Janos', when he and Azazel could just be with each other.

Right now, he could steal a few hours though, could lay some claim on him. It wasn't like he was needed for anything right this minute.

He slept maybe an hour before he felt Emma in his mind, calling him. Reluctantly, he crawled out of the covers and pulled his underwear and jeans back on, grabbing a shirt without looking, and brushing his fingers through his hair. He didn't bother with shoes, figuring Emma could deal with it. She'd seen him in worse.

He found her in what had probably been the house's library, to judge by the shelves, but was now sitting empty. It had a grand desk though, and that was where Lehnsherr stood, with Emma and Angel flanking him. Mystique was sitting off to the side, looking a bit lost, as she tended to in these situations.

“I did not realize this was group meeting. I could have gotten Azazel.”

“Well, I didn't want to put you out of your way,” Emma said, with a smirk. “Two inches is a long way to go.” He smiled at her, throwing a playful brush of wind across her dress, while Angel bit back an embarrassed giggle. Mystique had turned an odd purple color. She was blushing, he realized.

Lehnsherr only raised his eyebrows.

“Emma tells me this is when Azazel sleeps, and we don't need him right now.” Janos knew this technique, knew it well. Shaw had used it often, this pretense at consideration. Lehnsherr was more difficult to read than Shaw had ever been though. Janos knew how to handle Shaw, how to smile and simper so that Shaw was appeased, and Shaw's softer emotions had always felt like an act. He never cared enough to make it seem genuine.

Lehnsherr, on the other hand, in his cold, almost awkward way, had a sincerity to the things he said. It made Janos all the more wary of him, ready to fight at a moment's notice. Though he had to wonder just how well he could fight off Lehnsherr before Azazel could get them out. Emma would save him, if she could, but Janos suspected some things about Lehnsherr, and telepaths. All that time spent with one, he had to have learned a few defensive tricks.

“You are of course, welcome to fill him in later.” Lehnsherr continued, with a smile that showed his teeth. Janos wondered now if he actually meant to look intimidating, or if it was just instinct. “I've managed to make contact with Joseph Quested.”

Janos raked a hand through his hair, frustrated, and stepped forward to the desk. There was a map of Mexico on it, a pin pressed into a shore side city with a large circle drawn around it.

“We grew up here.” He said, pointing to a smaller town, twenty miles south. “But we went to that city often. After our father's death, Joseph would spend a week or so there at least once a month. If Joseph is anywhere, it's there.”

“And Joash?” Janos swallowed anxiously, but took a pencil off of the desk and drew a much smaller circle around the city.

“Joash will never be out of a three mile range of Joseph. That's his absolute limit. You'll start to feel him, when you get within that range. He can only repress ah, Emma, what is the word?”

“Akinetic.” Emma supplied, studying the map.

“Yes. He cannot repress physical abilities, like Angel's, or Mystique's, or Emma, when you switch. As long as it is a part of your physical body, it will stay. But me, Lehnsherr, your telepathy, Azazel's disappearing, those things we would not have.”

“Unless Joash is dead.” Lehnsherr theorized, tracing his fingers around the city. He likely wasn't even thinking of what he'd said, of how it made a terrible thrill in Janos' heart. For Joash to be dead, forever gone from his life. To have them all dead, dead and gone. Lehnsherr kept talking, oblivious to Janos' frantic thoughts. “What about Josiah and Jesimiel?”

“Josiah and Jesimiel will be guarding wherever they are living, unless Joseph needs Jesimiel to show off for someone.” Jesimiel's ability, so much like Janos', had never failed to convince people unmoved by Joseph's own. Joseph had never minded, not when he had a more impressive brother that obeyed his every command.

“How much trouble will they be?” Lehnsherr asked, standing up straight, his arms crossed.

“Josiah is brutal, but arrogant. He's not indestructible. Emma, in her other form, could beat him.” Emma raised her eyebrows at him, sending a quick burst of -You cannot be serious. Do I look like some brawler?- Even her thoughts managed to sound appalled.

-Trust me, you'll want to get your hands dirty for him.-

She sneered, clearly disbelieving, and Janos rolled his eyes.

Lehnsherr's hand slamming down on the desk snapped them out of their conversation. The predator's smile was back, his eyes hard and glittering, as he stared them both down.

“What did I tell you about having private conversations around me?”

Emma swallowed and looked away, her shoulders drooping a little. Janos frowned at the sight and returned Lehnsherr's hard look with one of his own.

“Not everything is about you, Lehnsherr. Emma and I have always spoken like that. I didn't speak English when Shaw recruited me.” Lehnsherr appeared unmoved, holding Janos' gaze, a hard feat. “Do not think you can just come in here and start ordering us around like this. We chose to stay, Lehnsherr, and we can choose to leave. And then what would your Brotherhood be? You, and her.” He jerked his head towards Mystique. “You would never find another mutant without Emma to help, and you need Azazel to take you to them.”

“And what do I need you for, Riptide? I speak Spanish, and my ability is enough for my purposes.” He clearly thought he had Janos there, but Emma told him the answer before Janos could.

“We're a package deal, Lehnsherr. If Janos leaves, I'm going with him.” Her eyes darted over to Angel. “And Angel goes with me. As for Azazel, well, I can tell you for a fact that if Janos leaves, it will be with Azazel. You don't get one without the other.”

“Is that so?” Lehnsherr asked, and Emma leaned over the desk, pressing her palms down on it, a stance more intimidating than sexy.

“Yes. That's so.”

“Angel?” Lehnsherr said, turning to the woman. “Is that true? Would you choose Emma over me?” For a minute, Janos thought Angel was going to say nothing, the way her shoulders curved inward, clearly uncomfortable. But then she straightened, lifting her chin, and looking more like the woman they'd recruited that day in the CIA than the scared little thing she'd been since the beach, she nodded.

“I'm with them. We're not your toy soldiers. We won't do what you say, just because you say so. Not how it works.”

Lehnsherr looked around them, then at Mystique, who stood, fists clenched at her side. Janos wanted to roll his eyes at the way she trembled, this silly little girl who thought she wanted to be one of them, wanted to be a revolutionary. She couldn't even stand up for herself, much less their people.

“I think,” Even her voice shook. “They were just talking.” Emma's eyebrows shot into her hairline, and Angel looked over her shoulder, clear surprise on her face. Janos was actually a little impressed at the show of some kind of spine underneath all of that fear. “And you need to stop treating them like they don't have legitimate concerns, or ideas. This isn't like when you and Charles recruited the others. When we didn't know anything about fighting, or using our abilities. They're not like that. So stop acting like they are.”

Lehnsherr held her golden gaze, as Mystique stood her ground.

“I'm sorry.” Lehnsherr said, after a moment, in a reluctant sort of way. “I've been...disrespectful, maybe.” He frowned, the words sounding like they physically hurt to say. “You four, Azazel included, you do understand what it is we are doing? What I want to build?”

“We heard the spiel.” Emma said, crossing her arms. “A Brotherhood,”

“More than that. We, mutants, we are family. Brothers,” He nodded at Janos, “Sisters,” This was directed at the unmoved Emma. “And we are the superior species. We are the next stage of evolution, and this world, this is ours, whether the humans know it or not. Shaw,” He couldn't even say Shaw's name without a twitch in the corner of his mouth. His hatred still ran deep, even with his revenge. “Shaw's plan was idiotic. As I think all three of you know.” Emma shifted uneasily, and Janos, despite his best efforts, must have given something away. “Knew and planned for, maybe?”

Angel was the weak link, and despite the glare from Janos, she gave them away.

“There was a plan then. How? You never even met Emma before Shaw's death.” Angel looked at her feet, and Emma rolled her eyes.

“I'm a telepath, Lehnsherr. And I have a lot more practice at reaching out than Xavier currently does. I was in touch with Angel the day Shaw brought her back. She our plan.”

“Your plan being?”

“We had to factor in you and Xavier, and the plan changed. Shaw was never supposed to live past Cuba, whether you killed him, or Azazel did.” Emma explained, studying her nails. It was a front, but it was a good one, and though Janos could see it for what it was, he didn't think Lehnsherr could. “Did you really think we were going to keep following him? Shaw was a hypocrite, and a psychopath. He tortured and killed our own kind more than once. Did you think you were the only one who ever came after him?” Emma sneered, and Janos had too look away, remembering how Emma came to them. “The war though, that wasn't stupid. If they kill each other-”

“And how many of our kind were on those ships Emma? How many will die in the initial blasts? And how will we feed ourselves with irradiated soil? Without workers to farm? How will we power our homes in a destroyed land? How will our children be educated? You and Shaw suffered from the same problem: short-sightedness. We must keep the humans alive, until we can support ourselves as a species. Don't get me wrong, we will be the masters of the land, but what Shaw planned required numbers I don't think we possess yet. Many of the mutants Charles sensed were only children still. Why do you think we only recruited four people? They were the only four adults we found who would come with us. The others were broken, beaten, and scared. Or they just wanted to hide. We need to build slowly, and steadily, recruiting from this new generation, raising them with the belief that they are not freaks, they are superior, and that they belong somewhere, and that's with us, their family.”

Lehnsherr's words, his first true speech to them, filled Janos' chest with a kind of hope. Every word Lehnsherr said, he believed, wanted to believe. He wanted to see children grow up with other mutants, and older mutants who would teach them, teach them properly. He didn't ever want to have to see another mutant come to them believing they were wrong, misshapen, when all they were was the next step. They were superior, just like Lehnsherr said.

“How,” Emma started, before taking in a deep breath and trying again. “How do you propose we enact this plan?” Emma's unhappy childhood flitted through his thoughts, his own memories of long nights between the two of them, over coffee, waiting for Azazel to return before they went to bed, sharing stories of their lives. Emma had been alone, for a long time, before they found her. A lonely princess in a tower, Azazel had described her, with a touch of a sneer. But even Azazel had pitied her, because while Azazel was an outcast from the world at large, he had been raised with a loving parent, and a family of brothers-in-arms.

Janos had empathized with her, more than anything. Being lonely was a terrible feeling.

He never wanted any more of their children to grow up that way.

The little girls, their faces, raced through his mind. They were alone, at the mercy of his brothers, just like he had been. And in his childish cowardice, he had been willing to leave them there. He was a man now, and his power now dwarfed what he had then. He had control now, perfect and precise. Before, the water had only been in the back of his mind. Now he could combine his abilities, throw typhoons and hurricanes at his enemies. He could decimate buildings with just his twisters, could suck the air from a room with just a tug of his fingers.

And he had let himself be afraid.

“When do you want me to go?” Janos asked, his pride and confidence, lacking for the past few weeks, came back to him as easily as sliding into a suit.

Lehnsherr met his eyes, and a real smile curved on his face, nothing at all like the one that he'd worn before.

“We can leave the day after tomorrow. I was hoping Azazel could take us. I did have the idea of him going to Ireland for a recruiting mission, but Emma convinced me a quick escape route would be a better idea. And that Azazel as back-up in case Joash does repress our abilities would be a good precaution. I agree. I admit, my hand-to-hand abilities are only average, and I don't know enough about yours. But Emma assures me Azazel's are beyond compare, and after seeing him train, well,” He shrugged his shoulders. “It's enough to make a man feel like a bit of a slouch, isn't it?”

“Azazel's trained with swords since he was a boy.” Janos supplied, a rush of possessive pride taking over. “He's without equal.”

“Is he now?” Lehnsherr asked, and Angel snickered. A bit embarrassed by his own candidness in strange company, he brushed his hair behind his ears, wondering at how Lehnsherr would take it. Emma would just remove the moment if Lehnsherr decided to have a problem with it, but he wanted to see of Lehnsherr meant it, about them being like brothers. “And does that apply in every situation?”

Even with Angel's dark skin, her blush burned clear enough to see, and Emma snickered.

“Yes.” Janos answered, with a smirk, and Lehnsherr chuckled, before bending back over the maps.

“So, where in this city would your brothers set up headquarters?”

They spent hours in the library, Azazel joining them as the afternoon faded into evening, pointing out strategic places in the city he could take them. As his eyes went over the paper, Janos could see him memorizing it completely. He would always remember how to teleport there after this, Janos knew, and the skill amazed Janos, even after all these years.

They ended it for dinner after the sun had set, an ordered affair that was delivered by a well-tipped waiter, sent by a restaurant that had needed an exorbitant fee to even consider delivery. With Emma's assistance, the poor boy didn't even remember the drive.

“You three did this often then?” Lehnsherr asked, as they ate in the kitchen. The house had a dining room, Angel had discovered, but it was dark, and required a lit fire to be comfortable. So the kitchen table it was.

“All the time. Janos here is the only one who ever learned to cook, and nothing short of highway robbery will get him to do it.” Emma gave him a sneer while she informed Lehnsherr, one which Janos returned gladly.

“I can cook, a little.” Angel offered. “I had a roommate before you and Charles recruited me, and she did most of the cooking. I kind of, uh, left her hanging. She's probably pretty mad at me, actually.”

“Charles and I ate out constantly.” Mystique sounded almost wistful. “Wonders of a trust fund. I ate so much pub food in his first year at Oxford, and it drove me crazy, because Charles would get trashed, and I couldn't drink. It wasn't fair at all.”

“Why couldn't you?” Angel asked, twisting some noodles around her fork.

“The drunker I am, the harder it is to hold a form. Even the one I normally used, and I'd been wearing that face for years. Charles was terrified of me slipping. When he was a kid, he used to have nightmares of some Them coming to take me away. He'd project them on the whole household, and then there was one more memory he'd have to modify.”

“Xavier modified memories?” Emma was curious now, Janos could feel. She couldn't modify memories, could only remove, or blur them.

“Charles made Mother and Father think I was their child. When he was only ten.” That made Emma sit up straight, putting her wine glass down.

“You and Xavier aren't blood related?”

Mystique shook her head.

“I was on my own for only a few days, after this happened.” She indicated her skin. “I wasn't born like this, you know. I started changing around, I think, seven. And then one day, I woke up like this. I think. I barely remember. I ran away with nothing, and one night, I snuck into this great big house, because I thought for sure they'd have food. That's how Charles found me.” Her face was definitely fond as she spoke these memories aloud, despite Janos seeing her leave the man on the beach. “He was so happy to realize he wasn't alone. Just like I was.”

“And Xavier managed to convince a woman you were her flesh and blood? That she had carried you, delivered you?” Emma demanded disbelievingly. “Did it work?”

“Well, no, not exactly.” Mystique said, shaking her head. “He was just a kid then, and he didn't do it quite right. He's much better at it now, of course. But she used to get kind of foggy sometimes. And Charles would have to bring her back. It wasn't like it mattered. Mother was never much of a mother. She wasn't cruel or anything, I just don't think she knew what to actually do with children. We hardly saw our step-father, after Charles became stronger, and our step-brother not at all. Neither of them are mutants.”

“He's better at it now?” Emma was obviously concerned over this, and Janos knew why. A telepath who could modify memories so completely, make you believe something as big as having another child, was unheard of. Xavier may not have yet honed his abilities like Emma had, but he obviously had a depth of power that Emma lacked. It was frightening.

“I'm sorry, is that odd?” Mystique finally seemed to realize what she had said, but neither Emma or Janos knew how to explain it

“If what you say is true,” Azazel seemed to have realized it would have to be him. “Then your brother could be the most powerful telepath on the whole planet. And that is not exaggeration. I am speaking truth. I have met many mutants, many, over the course of my life, and a dozen telepaths. None could do anything like that.”

“There are more mutants like Charles?” She asked, and Azazel chuckled.

“Telepathy, is not uncommon.” His accent was thick, likely from the vodka he'd been drinking with dinner. “I have even known others who can do what I do. And shapeshifters, like you. I've only met one man who could do what you could do, Lehnsherr.”

Lehnsherr, who had appeared to stop listening when Xavier and telepaths became the subject, suddenly took interest again.

“What man? When was this?” Azazel raised an eyebrow.

“It was in Poland. The camp.” Janos hated stories that involved the camps. They frightened him, reminded him what future they might face if they didn't win their war. “I was a soldier for Russia, a member of a, uh, special unit. We were sent to find a few certain men in that camp, and kill them. Things got out of hand though, when we saw what they had been doing. My comrades, they decided that it would be a most amusing game if they tied up the soldiers, and gave the prisoners guns. Very funny game, that ended up being.” Lehnsherr was almost on the edge of his seat, piquing all of their curiosity. “Most of the people, they were not afraid of me. They were not afraid of much of anything, at that point. But there was a mutant there, who could bend metal. He bent my gun in two. I was very annoyed with him. When he realized I was Russian though, and that I had been sent to execute his tormenters, he was much more helpful.”

“What was his name?”

Azazel shrugged, taking out a cigarette.

“We are talking nearly twenty years ago, comrade. I do not remember if he even told me.”

“Did he live? Do you remember that?” Janos' gaze flickered down to Lehnsherr's exposed forearm, and the blue ink marking him there. Janos knew what it meant. Lehnsherr had been in a camp, maybe even the one in Poland Azazel was referring to. Maybe the man was his father, or a brother.

“I do not know. I am sorry, but the camp burned to the ground that night, almost. Many of the prisoners escaped, and some died. They were all very sickly, by then.” Azazel lit his cigarette, and inhaled. “Was he family of yours?”

“Maybe.” Lehnsherr took his plate and cleared it, cleaning it quickly and leaving it in the drying rack. He said nothing else, only left them on that sad note.

“Perhaps I should have said nothing, yes?” Azazel asked, the words mumbled around his cigarette before he took it out, releasing a stream of smoke.

Emma shrugged, while Mystique looked like she wanted to go after him. She didn't though, and the conversation picked back up, into an argument about some book both Azazel and Emma had read, and of course taken completely different perspectives from. Janos and the other two listened in content amusement as they cleared the table and threw the containers in the bin.

It was only after Emma went to bed that Janos attempted to go speak with her. He hadn't counted on her already having company.

Company being Angel, though they weren't having much of a conversation, from what he could see through the crack in the door.

He hurried away, fighting back a fit of laughter, until he was safe in his own room, where he could do it until he gasped for breath.

Azazel, fresh from the shower, toweling his hair off, watched him, waiting patiently for the joke to be shared. After Janos managed to control himself, he told Azazel, who only snorted as he went to the dresser.

“That's it? You don't see how funny this is?”

“So Emma actually has something between her legs besides ice. At least it explains why she was being such a cunt to Mystique.”

“It does?” Janos let the slur slide, on account of the fact that Azazel often called her worse, and to her face, a gesture Emma was only too happy to return. “How?”

“Emma was jealous, because Angel wanted to spend time with someone else. You know how she is. Like a child. She can't stand to share her toys for even a moment.” Janos smirked and crept up behind Azazel, wrapping his arms around Azazel's shoulders, pressing his cheek to Azazel's back.

“Why does that sound familiar?”

“I never pretend to be above it.” Azazel countered, tugging Janos' arms off so he could turn and pull him tightly against his chest. “That I let you out of this bedroom should amaze you.”

“You don't believe in sharing then?” Janos teased. Azazel scowled at him, pulling him in close and teleporting them across the room, to the bed, their bodies landing together in a muffled thump, the sheets and pillows smelling like them still.

“Not a chance.” He growled.