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How to Train Your Magneto

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How to Train Your Magneto: story by unforgotten, art by amindaya

Professor Erik Lehnsherr moves in across the street from Professor Charles Xavier a week before Charles has his annual 'Your Pokemon And You' lecture scheduled down at the university. In the spirit of neighborliness, Charles bakes him a casserole and breaks the ice by telling him about the skit (complete with hand puppets) he plans to put on this year. He's quite proud of it really, and suspects it will draw his largest audience yet.

Erik smiles and nods the entire time; for his part, Charles mistakes the mischief in Erik's expression for actual interest, and goes on for half an hour longer than he generally would, based partially on Erik's perceived absorption but mostly on the fact that it's not every day handsome men join the neighborhood.

On the day Charles gives his lecture, Erik puts on a lecture of his own at the exact same time, in the auditorium across the hall. His is entitled 'Eeveelution: Up Close And Personal.' The highlight involves an Eevee evolving into a Jolteon on-stage. There doesn't appear to be any educational value involved, but flash trumps actual content every time; and so it is that Charles' skit pulls in an audience of five in a hall that sits three hundred.

Later, Charles calls up Armando Munoz, who he thought was his friend, but all he has to say for himself is, "First of all, Lehnsherr was paying well. And secondly, Eevees from that line won't evolve without an audience. I'm being serious here; her mother wouldn't, and her grandmother wouldn't either. They're amazing battlers, but just so vain. I'm working on breeding that quality out, but it's going to take a few more generations at least." He goes on for a while about the difficulties inherent in breeding out undesirable traits while holding onto the desired ones, and ends the conversation by offering Charles a front row seat for the next time and a discount on an Eevee egg should Charles ever like to have one. It's that latter that makes Charles forgive him; he knows how picky Armando is in evaluating homes for the Eevees he doesn't keep as breeding stock.

After that initial incident, Charles does his best to ignore Erik, neighborliness be damned; but considering that Erik is, well, Erik, he makes it pretty difficult for anyone in town to ignore him at times. But as the next couple years pass, Charles manages it fairly well, overall.

Charles' Rodex radiates a sense of amused knowing at him all that morning. By the afternoon, he's working on a headache from the bright yellow glow she's projecting to the inside of his head.

Though he's curious, he doesn't bother to ask her what she's on about. Since she hasn't come out with it on her own yet, she'd likely refuse to tell him anything were he to ask; and the more irritated he would get, the more smug she would get, until his irritation and her smugness reach critical mass and she returns to her Poke Ball for a nap (or a sulk, if he were to win the argument for once. How he can so often lose the argument when the only word she knows is her own name, he doesn't know or care to dwell on).

As he's locking up his lab for the day with Ro sitting on his shoulder, her ear-wheels softly whirring as they spin to either side of her head, she finally gets tired of the secrecy. Her ear-wheels click as they change direction, and the color of what she's sending him becomes darker, the lines of it sharper.

Charles recognizes it at once as her way of indicating Erik Lehnsherr. There are only a few human beings for which Ro has a specific mental signature, and Erik is one of them.

"What about him?" Charles takes his key from the lock and turns around to see that Erik is in fact at the other end of the hall and approaching briskly. "Well, thank you ever so much for warning me in time for me to avoid him. How thoughtful of you."

The inside of his head goes yellow again as Ro's whiskers tickle his ear. Charles sighs. He considers heading the other direction, even glances toward the opposite exit to gauge the distance - but Erik's legs are quite a bit longer than his own, so if he's intent on catching Charles then he will either way.

Charles glances back to Erik, then does a double-take. "What happened to you?"

Erik has a split lip, not one but two black eyes, and a bruise on his cheek. Additionally, he's carrying a wooden baseball bat and grinning like a loon, showing all his teeth.

"I finally did it," he answers.

"...Did what?" Charles asks, so unbearably curious he can't resist asking, even though showing disinterest has long been the most effective method of ridding himself of Erik's presence.

Erik actually manages to grin even wider, causing him to resemble nothing so much as a Gengar (especially considering the current purplish shades of his face). He pulls a Poke Ball out of his pocket and waves it at Charles. "I got my Magnus to evolve into a Magneto."

Charles just stares at him. "You didn't."

Ever since Erik moved here, he's been telling anyone and everyone who will listen (as well as Charles, who won't) that he intends to evolve his Magnus into a Magneto. Charles has never paid much attention to this assertion; while Magnetos have been proven to exist, they are exceedingly rare, to the point that no one even knows what conditions cause Magnuses to evolve. Charles has never seen a Magneto and doesn't know anyone who has.

"I did," Erik says.

"And how did you manage that?" Charles manages himself, after a moment, still not really believing it. "Were you being mugged? Was it forced to evolve in order to rescue you?"

The barb strikes home. Erik's smile fades and he says, "No. Don't be stupid. Now do you want to see it or not?"

Charles may not care much for Erik, but he can't turn down an opportunity like this (assuming, of course, that it isn't some trick). A Magneto. He may never have the opportunity to observe another one.

"I suppose I would like to see it," he admits. "But let's take it outside."

As they walk down the hall, footsteps echoing, he wonders what the bat is for.

"Rodex," Ro says, projecting yellow laughter at him once again, so bright.

They head out the rear door to the large yard at the back of the facility.

When they come to a halt in the center of the lawn, Erik takes the Poke Ball back out of his pocket and says, "Are you ready?"

"I suppose," Charles says, affecting disinterest to the best of his ability, though he suspects some of his undeniable eagerness still comes through around the edges. At any rate, the words seem to provoke Ro to chuckle yet again at the back of his mind. For some reason, she's tickled to death by any situation relating to Erik; Charles isn't entirely sure why, but suspects she's a sadist who enjoys his misery.

Erik grins and offers him the Poke Ball. "You can do the honors," he says. And, so saying, he goes into a batting stance, feet apart, both hands gripping the handle of the bat as he raises it.

Charles presses the button on the Poke Ball to release Magneto.

A red and magenta blur emerges, spinning around at such a speed that Charles can make out no details. It rises fifty feet into the air at an incredible clip -

And immediately plummets back down, straight toward them.

The bat connects with a resounding crack!, and Magneto arcs away like a well-hit baseball - but unlike a baseball, it doesn't descend, but slows, stops, hovers in the air for just a moment, long enough for Charles to get a better look at it - it resembles nothing so much as a fishing float in red and purple - before plunging back down.

"As you can see -" Erik begins.

The bat connects again.

"- I'm going to need your help -"

Magneto recovers more quickly this time, its eyes flashing under the shadow of its helmet; and this time when it dives, it curves toward Charles at the very last second, and it's only the warning from Ro flashing red into his skull, Ro's claws digging into his shoulder, that lets him duck in time.

And it's a doubly good thing that he does duck, because although Erik's wild swing misses the Magneto this time, it would not have missed Charles otherwise.

"- to train this thing," Erik finishes, as Charles straightens back up.

"Rodex!" Ro calls up to Magneto, waving a tiny fist.

Charles turns, apprehensive and poised to run for his life should Magneto attack again.

But Magneto only hangs in the air, seeming to think for a few moments. Then it blinks. "Magneto," it says, and instead of targeting them again, it turns and darts above the roof of the facility, toward the center of town.

"Why do you want my help?" Charles asks Erik. "You can't possibly think that my 'touchy-feely' training methods would improve this situation. Not when you so clearly have your new Magneto under complete control."

Erik gives him a flat look. Charles feels no small sense of satisfaction at the thought that he may have gotten his own back, for once. Just last week, Erik got wind of Charles' tutoring sessions with stutterer Sean Cassidy and his grounded Zubat with performance anxiety, and took it upon himself to intervene; his solution for both problems involved flinging the Zubat off the roof (and it worked, which was both fortunate, for the Zubat, and unfortunate, for Charles). Charles has been grouchy over that ever since it happened, the latest in a long line of slights for him to brood over.

Charles would be perfectly happy - even thrilled - to go home now, patting himself on the back for that zinger, and spend the rest of the evening chuckling over Erik's predicament. Except that, after approximately one second of triumph, the guilt starts rolling in. It's clear that Erik really does need help with his Magneto; and while Charles could easily walk away from Erik, he cannot so easily walk away from a Pokemon in need. Not if he wants to live with himself afterward.

"Oh, all right," Charles says. "All right, I'll help. I don't promise to be nice about it, but I'll help. Now, let's go catch up with your Magneto before it does anything -"

It's at this point that he realizes that Officer MacTaggert's squad car is floating in the air, approximately three streets over.

"- problematic. Oh god, we're going to get arrested."

"We're not going to get arrested," Erik says dismissively.

"We might get arrested," Erik amends when they round the final corner just in time to see the squad car drop like a rock. The crash when it meets the concrete is unbelievably loud. Charles can't hear anything but crackling in his ears for several minutes afterward as Erik grabs the Poke Ball back out of his hand and points it at his Magneto to retrieve it, and as he follows Erik at a trot back the way they came before anyone comes to investigate.

"Let's try walking out of town a ways before you release it again," Charles says once he can hear his own voice. "Get away from all this metal."

There's some concern, of course, that the Magneto will concentrate its ire further on Erik and Charles if it has nothing else to occupy it; but it's not like allowing it free reign of public property is a reasonable option.

They take one of the less-traveled paths out into the hills, and see no one and nothing other than several Rattatas and an Oddish in the grass. Charles is actually surprised that they see those; the area has been largely tapped out of wild Pokemon due to university students coming out here and catching everything they see move. The remaining Pokemon out here are generally the shy ones, the ones that avoid people.

"Right," Charles says when they're a mile or so out of town, and a few hundred feet from the river. "We may as well do it here."

"What's the plan?" Erik asks.

"Well, theoretically speaking, it ought to get bored of launching itself at your face after a few tries, and thereafter become more willing to listen. You've had it for years, after all; there should be some manner of bond there to work off of."

If he sounds skeptical, well, most people who have formed a lasting bond with their Pokemon don't need to carry around a baseball bat.

"Alright," Erik says, and re-releases Magneto.

When Magneto wearies of being hit with a bat, it bobs off toward the river. Charles exchanges a glance with Erik, and then they follow along behind it. Charles lets Erik go first, on the theory that he can use him as a human shield should Magneto do an abrupt about-face. Erik is, after all, both taller and carrying the bat. Considering this is also his fault, it seems only fair that if anyone is in the line of fire, it should be him.

By the time they reach the riverbank, Magneto has bobbed its way halfway across the suspension bridge spanning the water.

"Rodex," Ro warns, with a flash of red into Charles' mind.

The bridge looks sturdy enough, so Charles mutters, "Worrywart" at her, and they proceed to cross.

As they advance, Magneto retreats, until it's on the other side with them smack in the middle.

It's at this point that the bridge begins to shake and shudder beneath their feet, which is when it occurs to Charles -

This bridge is made out of metal.

"Is your Magneto doing that," Charles says. "Make it stop."

Erik glances back at Charles, then back toward Magneto. "Stop!" he calls out.

"Magneto," Magneto taunts.

The bridge continues to shudder and shake, and even bucks once.

"That was effective," Erik shouts over the din.

Despite their predicament, Charles still feels his face go hot. "...Point taken," he yells back.

The bridge lurches to the side, and Charles lunges with it for the railing, hangs onto it for dear life, and out of the corner of his eyes sees Erik doing much the same.

"Why don't you get it back into its Poke Ball now -" the bridge begins to tilt to the side "- and we'll figure the rest out -" Charles' knuckles go white on the rail, and he lets out a yelp "- later."

Suddenly, he remembers Ro, and looks around wildly for her, terrified that she may be about to fall off the edge - or worse, that she may already be in the water below.

It takes him a few sweeping, panicked glances, but finally he sees her, and she's almost fully across the bridge now, which would be nice if it weren't for Magneto hovering in the air waiting for her, eyes gleaming.

"Ro, you come back here." Charles tries not to look down at the water as he begins edging his way along the railing toward Ro and Magneto. "It isn't safe."

Ro neither looks at him nor sends him anything mentally. Charles has no idea what she thinks she's up to; she has never, in all her time with him, bestirred herself to enter a battle, or even to perform any of the moves Charles knows she ought to be able to do, no matter how he tries to persuade her. As far as he can tell, she's either a pacifist or exceedingly lazy. He can't imagine what she's trying to accomplish here.

She continues on to the end of the bridge, and when she's on solid ground she looks up at Magneto and says, firmly, "Rodex."

Magneto goes very still, then blinks and cants to the side.

"...Magneto," it says after a few moments, sounding bemused.

The bridge goes still, and as Magneto continues to stare at Rodex, Erik makes his move, striding quickly toward Magneto with the Poke Ball raised in his hand, until the red beam touches Magneto and it dissolves back into the Poke Ball.

Charles lets go of the railing, then, and as he stretches his cramped, sweaty hands, he wonders whether tilting bridges is better or worse than smashing police cars in the greater scheme of things.

"So, what do you want to try next?" Erik asks when they're halfway back to town.

It's a sign of just how deep Charles is in this that he doesn't tell Erik to go to hell right here and now. "For myself, I'm going to go home, take a shower and relax for what remains of my evening. If you'll come by my lab tomorrow morning, we can recommence then." He hopes it's not too terribly obvious that this is code for 'I have no idea what we could possibly try next, since your Magneto is clearly insane and my prior experience has all involved shy, sensitive or snarky Pokemon. I can only hope the answer will come to me in my sleep, and plan to keep a notepad on my bedside table on the off chance that it does.'

"Alright," Erik says.

And that would be that; except that, several minutes later, a sizzling sound comes from Erik's pocket.

"Shit," Erik hisses, and digs the Poke Ball out, dropping it to the ground like a hot potato.

It bursts into flames.

"Rodex," Ro squeaks. She ducks behind Charles, and peeks around his legs at the Poke Ball while clutching his trousers.

"Oh dear god," Charles says, then asides downward, "Really?"

"Rodex," Ro answers stuffily.

"Shut up, both of you." Erik kicks some dirt over the Poke Ball, then nudges it with the tip of his bat.

The Poke Ball, now charred black, remains still for a few seconds, then begins to wobble.

"Rodex," Ro says in the same tone that most people would use to say 'uh-oh.'

And then the Poke Ball explodes open, the top half flying off into the grass, and Magneto materializes.

It says, "Magneto." And it slowly, oh-so slowly floats upward until it's eye-to-eye with Erik. Then it says, "Neat-o. Magneto."

Charles gulps and braces himself for the sight of blood, as he fully expects Magneto will begin by breaking Erik's nose.

"Neat-o," Erik agrees, dryly, and hits the Magneto squarely with the fresh new Poke Ball that he's produced from somewhere.

Magneto doesn't even have time to react before it's pulled back in.

After several moments' stunned silence, Charles says, "Perhaps we'd be better off doing something about this tonight after all. I can't imagine it will stay still and allow you to re-capture it so easily if it escapes again."

"No," Erik agrees. "Aren't you going to compliment me on my quick thinking, Charles?"

Charles ignores this.

On their way in to see Hank, Charles stops to greet Hank's Mystique, who is currently blowing bubbles in her fish tank. "Did you get tired of flying?" he asks her.

She rolls her eyes (she's very expressive) and dives downward in order to recline in her fish castle (it's quite the nice castle, featuring a Charizard on the lawn and a knight on the roof).

"Have you had any luck getting her to return to her normal form?" he asks Hank.

"Not yet," Hank responds glumly.

Hank listens attentively to their story, nodding frequently and taking notes as they detail the situation (with the occasional "Rodex" inserted at the more action-packed parts of the tale). When they're done, he says, "So Magnetos are Steel-type, right? Like Magnuses?"

"Some of the texts I've found say they're part Dark-type," Erik says.

"I'd say that's likely." Charles tries to cover up his snigger by coughing into his sleeve, but judging by the impatient look Erik shoots him, it's not terribly convincing.

Hank makes several more notations on his clipboard. "Alright, I should have a prototype for a stronger Poke Ball ready for you within the next couple of days." He adjusts his glasses on the bridge of his nose, then leans forward and asks, "So how did you get it to evolve, anyway?"

"Yes, how did you, Erik?"

Erik grins, leans his baseball bat up against the wall, and pulls a handful of pennies out of his pocket. He chooses one and flicks it at Charles.

It bounces off Charles' forehead and onto the floor. "...Ow. What was that for?"

Erik's grin widens, and he flicks another penny Charles' way. This one hits the same place as the last one, but this time it sticks.

Charles picks the penny off his forehead and frowns at it. "Are you saying that you - just how many pennies did you throw at it before it evolved?"

"I didn't count. It took about four hours."

"...For god's sake, Erik. Torture is not a viable training method," Charles says. "Honestly, I would have beaten you around your face too, if it had been me. In fact, I still might."

"I thought it was mortal terror that's not a viable training method," Erik says, proving he has listened at least once out of the many times Charles has made this point to him. "Or was it abject fear?"

"It's both," Charles says. "I mean it's all three. Obviously it's all three."

"I wasn't trying to torment it," Erik says a moment later, slipping the pennies back into his pocket. "I was showing it how to do a Coin Toss."

Charles would be willing to bet that Erik knows as well as he does that only a very small percentage of Magnuses ever manage to learn that particular move. For one to do so would be the equivalent of a Rodex learning the Pilot move. "Well, congratulations. You taught it so well that it now knows how to do a Car Toss."

Erik rolls his eyes. "No, that was more of a Car Drop."

"That is utterly absurd. There's no such move."

Hank, intelligent man that he is, does not attempt to have an opinion at any point, though he does jot down some more notes.

As they're on their way out, that sizzling sound starts up again. Erik, who's halfway out into the hall, steps back inside quickly and closes the door before dropping the Poke Ball to the floor.

When Magneto emerges this time, it immediately darts out of the front room toward Hank's lab.

After a moment, Mystique launches herself out of the aquarium, splashing water all over everything as she does, and skims after Magneto on newly-formed wings.

Ro begins to follow, but Charles reaches down to scoop her up before she can go far.

"It may not be safe," he says, setting her on his shoulder and giving her a gentle pat on the head.

"Rodex," she gripes.

They proceed into the lab after the other two Pokemon, who are bobbing up and down in the center of the room, conversing in low murmurs that Charles can't make out (though, given that their vocabularies are limited to the syllables in their names, he doesn't really need to).

"It's not breaking any of my stuff," Hank remarks. "Maybe it's calmed down?"

Charles exchanges a look with Erik. "I doubt that," he says when he looks back to Hank. "I doubt that very much."

Magneto and Mystique plot together for a few seconds more, then rise up in the air in concert until they're nearly touching the ceiling. Then they turn to face Charles and Erik.

"Magneto," Magneto announces.

Then, without warning, it divebombs Ro, Mystique following closely behind.

Ro ducks flat onto Charles' shoulder, and both Magneto and Mystique miss her, coming so close to the side of Charles' head that the rush of air ruffles his hair.

"Rodex!" Ro jumps up to right herself, whirls around and shakes her fist at Magneto and Mystique, who are again conferring in low tones. "Rodex."

Magneto and Mystique again turn to look in Charles' and Ro's direction.

Erik steps between them, bat raised.

"Oh, will you put that down," Charles says. "If you hit it in here it'll ricochet all over the place. I can't see that helping one bit."

Magneto and Mystique exchange a glance, then dart off into the front room.

"Do you have a spare Poke Ball you could loan me?" Erik asks Hank. "Unless you really want to hurry with the fancy one."

Hank does, but by the time he's located it deep within his desk drawer, Magneto has already rearranged most of his lab, for a value of 'rearrange' that indicates quite a bit of twisted metal that will never be put right again. Charles offers Hank the use of his own lab for his work on the new Poke Ball prototype, and the use of Erik's lab (over Erik's glare) afterward until Hank's lab has been repaired.

"So, what now?" Erik asks when they've finally gotten Magneto contained once more - this time in a Poke Ball Hank has made some minor adjustments to for the short term, which may or may not actually help.

"Now? Now I'm going home, and I'm going to bed. I will see you in a day or two when Hank has the prototype ready."

"But can't we -"

But Charles really has had quite enough at this point. "I'm going home."

So Charles goes home, and he makes up a nice dinner and takes a long shower and spends half an hour reading a Pokemon biology text aloud before bed.

He sleeps very well that night, right up until he starts awake at three a.m., freezing because he kicked his covers off the bed at some point and now there's the most horrid draft in the room. There should be no draft, there never has been one before, and so he gets up out of bed and heads down the hall in his bathrobe and slippers until he comes to the source. He switches the light on to find that there's a fire hydrant in the middle of his living room, glass all over the carpet around it; his front window has been smashed in.

"Ro?" he says, suddenly realizing she's not with him.

She's not in the hall, nor in his room, and though he calls out her name repeatedly, she fails to answer.

Charles dresses as quickly as he ever has in his life, throwing on yesterday's cardigan and slacks because the hamper is closer than the closet, and stepping into his shoes where normally he would sit and put them on properly. On his way back to the living room, he peeks into the guest bedroom, the kitchen, the hall closet and the bathroom, and does not find Ro anywhere.

There is only one conclusion he can reach here.

The doorbell rings right as Charles approaches his front door.

Charles flicks the outside light on, and opens the door to find Erik standing on his stoop, wearing a blue turtleneck of a slightly darker shade than the one he had on yesterday.

Ordinarily, Charles would continue this train of thought by mentally noting that Erik's turtleneck is very form-fitting indeed - an observation he would only make because there's a certain small subset of the population that's capable of pulling off a turtleneck, and Erik is absolutely not in it - and possibly even say something cutting about it, but since this is an emergency he'll bypass all of that.

"Have you seen my Magneto?" Erik asks, peering over Charles' shoulder to the mess of his living room.

"What do you mean, have I seen your Magneto? Your bloody Magneto has abducted my Rodex!"

Erik stares at him a moment, then laughs. Actually laughs. Charles is tempted to slam the door in his face, but considering he'd just have to open it again in a minute, he glowers instead, the doorknob gripped tightly in his hand.

"It's not funny," he says. "This is serious, Erik. We need to locate them before your Magneto does something -" and here he draws a blank, because he has no idea whatsoever what use a Magneto could have for a Rodex. "Before it does something bad."

Erik's mouth twitches. "I'm sorry."

He doesn't look sorry, but he hands Charles a flashlight and Charles decides not to nitpick about it.

As they follow the metal debris that marks Magneto's passing, they come to a street corner with a huge great geyser of water shooting straight up into the air, surrounded by police officers and fire fighters, including Officer MacTaggert. Someone has brought out a Blastoise to assist.

Erik actually changes direction to try to get a closer look; Charles grabs him by the elbow and hustles him the other way, wondering just how in the world he's going to explain away the hydrant in his living room.

"Where do you think it would have taken her?" Charles asks when they're standing in the dark together, just outside of town and away from the streetlamps. He turns his flashlight on and skims the beam of light over the grass, but the trail of metal debris has ended and no clues wink back at him.

"If I knew that, I wouldn't have asked you."

Charles sighs.

They search, search and search some more, heading down one trail and then another, Charles' flashlight slowly sweeping back and forth through the grass to the right as Erik's does the same to the left. They look for hours, seeing nothing except for the occasional wild Pokemon, stumbling upon no clues, until the sky begins to lighten.

Where are you? Charles thinks as loudly as he can every minute or so. Thinking things loudly has occasionally resulted in a response from Ro in the past; her psychic abilities do tend to be better suited to projecting her own emotions rather than picking up on others', so Charles usually doesn't bother trying to communicate with her mentally, but there's just a chance it could help and so he keeps it up now.

Once the sun is up, it begins to drizzle, then to rain outright.

"Let's go see if Hank can come up with something to track them," Erik suggests.

"You do what you want," Charles answers, miserable and wet and determined. "I'm not going anywhere until we find Ro."

Erik sighs.

"This is all your fault," Charles informs him, and that's when he gets a familiar flash of yellow inside his head, along with the distinct impression that she's somewhere very close now. This is followed up immediately with a flash of brown and blue, which seems self-explanatory considering that they're close enough to the river right now to hear the running water.

Charles veers off into the tall grass toward the river. When he reaches the riverbank, Erik on his heels, it takes a moment to process the sight before him.

Ro's sitting on a picnic blanket, both of her ear-wheels shuttered closed. One of them is acting as an umbrella for both herself and Magneto, who's hovering an inch above the ground across from her. Her other ear-wheel is acting as a tray for the tea party they're having; it's holding a tea kettle, cups and saucers, all with Bulbasaurs on them (indicating that they've all been swiped from Charles' kitchen).

"You go around and scare it towards me," Erik hisses. "I'll wait here."

But it's too late for that, because Magneto turns their way and says, "Magneto." Its eyes glowing, it darts out into the rain, on a straight path to Erik's head.

Erik drops his flashlight in the mud, brings his bat up in both hands. Magneto dodges as Erik swings, and it continues to head away from them, back toward town. As it goes, it says, "Neat-o. Neat-o. Mag. Neat-o," in a sing-song voice.

Erik watches it go for several stunned moments, then pulls yet another new Poke Ball out of his pocket and jogs off after it.

Charles looks back at Ro. She's holding the comparatively enormous teacup in her hands, her mouth gaping open as she watches Magneto go. Then she notices Charles watching her and her cheeks turn pink. She closes her mouth, raises the cup, takes a dainty sip out of it and says, "Rodex."

Charles reaches down, pours out the remaining tea from the kettle and Magneto's cup onto the ground. He picks the teaware off Ro's ear-wheel piece by piece and places it down on the blanket, then shoos Ro off the blanket entirely so he can bring the corners together and heft it all up into his arms.

Ro finishes off her tea, then offers Charles her empty teacup.

"Don't think it hasn't occurred to me that there's only one way I could have slept through a fire hydrant coming through the window," Charles says, Ro very quiet on his shoulder on their way back. "So I must ask: were you kidnapped, or did you elope?"

"...Rodex," Ro says vaguely, and angles her ear-wheel so that while she's still shielded from the rain, Charles is getting it right in the face.

Clearly he's struck a nerve. "I'll take that as an admission," he says.

Charles' actual plan is to let Erik and Magneto fend for themselves while he goes back to bed; but when he gets to his street, there's a squad car parked right in front of his house.

Lovely. Just lovely.

He does an abrupt about-face. "Let's go see Hank."

"So, had any luck yet?" Charles asks, trying not to wince too visibly at the horrible unorganized mess Hank has already made of his lab.

Mystique glides down from a high bookshelf to land on Charles' left shoulder, where she proceeds to preen her feathers. Ro stamps down hard on Charles' right collarbone and firmly says, "Rodex." Then she sends an ear-wheel around Charles' head to try to nudge Mystique off.

"Actually, I did," Hank says. He brings out a yellow-and-blue Poke Ball, not only differently colored than the norm, but also slightly larger. Instead of the standard plain button, it has one with an X on it. "I had a breakthrough right after you left last night, so I came over here and stayed up to work on it. I started by trying to think of a way to keep a Poke Ball closed without using magnetism - that's the problem, you know - but then I thought, what if I used stronger magnets instead?"

"Wouldn't that just make Magneto that much more irritated when it did finally manage to escape?" Charles asks, as Ro mountain climbs her way over the front of his shirt and sets herself up between Mystique and his neck. He can't help but comment, "Oh, for god's sake, will the two of you please not do that?"

"Mystique, will you please come over here?" Hank says. Mystique fidgets her weight from one talon to the other, then jumps off Charles' shoulder and wings her way over to land on the top of Hank's head, where she squishes herself down into a sullen little blue ball, red wings tucked underneath her body. Hank reaches up to give her a pat, then says, "My theory is that if the magnets used to close the Poke Ball are strong enough, the Magneto will actually stay in it of its own accord - it'll enjoy being in there."

Charles has no idea how likely this is to work. "Have you tested it yet?"

Hank shakes his head, causing Mystique to grumble. "I don't have any steel-type Pokemon to test it on. I tried to get Mystique to try it to make sure it's basically functional, but she won't have anything to do with it."

Charles looks at Mystique, who still can't return to her normal form without wings, fins, gills or scales - who may never be able to return to that form. "Considering what happened the last time, I really can't say that I blame her."

"Hey, I'm still working on that," Hank says, somewhat lamely.

Mystique rolls her eyes, then nestles further down into Hank's hair and closes her eyes for a nap.

"Let's see it then," Charles says. Hank hands him the Poke Ball, which is quite a bit heavier than Charles expects it to be. "What does the X stand for?"

"Oh, nothing in particular. I just thought it looked neat."

Charles sincerely hopes that Hank put more thought into the underlying science than he did in what to call the results. He considers the Poke Ball briefly, hefting it in his hand. "I suppose we could call it the Extreme Ball. That seems fitting."

"...Rodex," Ro says, and taps her foot on Charles' shoulder.

"Yes, quite right. We'd better head out to find them," Charles says. "Thanks ever so for your help, Hank."

Finding Erik and Magneto is both quicker and easier than Charles expected.

They simply follow the screaming, which begins approximately five seconds after they walk out of the facility.

Of course, if it weren't for the screaming, they'd still be just fine following the floating cars. Every vehicle in town is headed toward the center of town, with or without a driver.

"You have terrible taste in suitors," Charles informs Ro, then begins trotting in the direction the cars are headed.

They find Erik standing in the shadow of all the cars, the ruined remains of yet another Poke Ball lying at his feet, his baseball bat hanging from one hand.

Magneto bobs in the air some twenty or so feet away, eyes glowing at least twice as manically as they have up to this point.

Charles goes up to Erik, holds the Extreme Ball out to him. "Here, try this, Hank finished the prototype."

Erik takes the Extreme Ball, glances at it, shrugs; then he rears his arm back and heaves it at the Magneto.

At the same moment, the word STUPID erupts behind Charles' eyes, sharp and white and blinding; and Ro leaps from Charles' shoulder and slams into Erik's elbow right as the Extreme Ball leaves his hand.

The Magneto doesn't even have to dodge as the Extreme Ball goes into foul ball territory, then hits the ground and continues rolling away. There's no chance, none at all, of trying to retrieve it without Magneto noticing and taking action.

"Rodex!" Ro says before Charles or Erik can say anything; and she points up at all the cars levitating in the air, which is the moment it occurs to Charles what would have happened to the cars and people in them, and to the three of them below, if Magneto were suddenly contained within a Poke Ball.

"Magneto," Magneto crows, and it begins angling the cars downward so that their grills are aimed straight at Charles, Erik and Ro.

"We're going to die," Charles says.

"We're not going to die. Don't be stupid." Erik raises the bat again, likely more out of habit than anything else (surely he can't think it will help?).

Ro jumps to the ground in one smooth motion, placing herself between them and Magneto. "Rodex," she says.

"Neat-o. Magneto," Magneto boasts, and begins cackling evilly.

"ROdex!" Ro scolds.

"Neat-o," and so saying, Magneto backs the cars up in the air, clearly intending to propel them forward -

But then the most extraordinary thing happens.

"RoDEX," Ro says; and she begins to glow.

Her ear-wheels shutter again, but this time instead of acting as an umbrella or a tea tray or a Mystique-shover, they move out away from her body, one to the left and one to the right, parallel to one another. They grow larger and more solid until they're resting on the ground. Her rear legs then straighten out to the side, losing their joints as they elongate and attach to her wheels, while her forelegs and tail disappear, completely reabsorbed into her torso. Her head changes its shape too, her forehead tapering upward to be topped by a flat knob, a diagonal slash cutting down the middle of her face and ending right between her eyes.

Ro, once a Rodex, has evolved into a Profex.

Charles has never seen one, nor has he ever expected to; Profexes are at least as rare as Magnetos, if not moreso.

"Profex," Ro says.

"Magneto," Magneto answers, dismissively, as though it isn't the least bit impressed.

"PROFEX," Ro says, and ghostly cannons unfold out from her wheels. She points them straight at Magneto.

Charles is suddenly quite certain that she has just threatened to make Magneto think it's a Jigglypuff for the rest of its life if it does not immediately stand down.

Magneto stares at Ro for a long moment, then blinks. "Magneto?" it says, sounding plaintive.

Ro says nothing.

"Neat-o," Magneto whines. Its eyes dart from side to side. Then it sighs and seems to deflate as the cars slowly, oh-so slowly return to earth.

When the last car's tires gently touch asphalt, Ro says, "Profex," and gestures toward the fallen Extreme Ball with her left-side cannon, keeping the other trained on Magneto.

"Neat-o," Magneto complains; then, when Ro's left cannon swivels back around to join her right one in pointing at it, it begins slinking toward the Extreme Ball, all the while grumbling, "Neat-o neat-o Magneto."

"Well," Charles says as Erik leans down to pick up the Extreme Ball with Magneto now inside.

He's not sure what he would say then, because that's when Officer MacTaggert's voice rings out behind them, saying, "Just what the hell is going on here?"

Charles turns to see that she's looking at them with a very hard expression, her hands on her hips.

He does the only thing he can do; he takes a long step away from Erik, points a finger at him, and says, "Erik did it."

"Thanks, Charles," Erik says.

"Well, you did," Charles says. "As for Profex and I, we're heroes."

"...Mm-hmm." Officer MacTaggert looks even less impressed, if that's possible.

"Profex," Ro says.

Officer MacTaggert has two sets of handcuffs out, and Charles has just about resigned himself to spending the night in jail, when Officer Platt comes up and says, "Oh, wow; is that a Profex?"

"Yes, yes it is," Charles says.

Officer Platt walks up to Profex and bends down to look at her, hands on his knees. "Hello there."

"I have a Magneto," Erik says after a moment. "It's a lot more impressive. Here, I can show you."

"Don't you dare," Charles says, and neatly confiscates the Extreme Ball before Erik can press that button.

In the end, they don't actually get arrested. Since no one has been hurt, it's a matter of property damage via Pokemon, which, as Officer Platt reminds a fuming Officer MacTaggert, requires a citation for the repairs, not an arrest.

So it is that Erik gets cited for the damage to Officer MacTaggert's squad car, to all the other cars, the fire hydrant and related pipe damage and flooding, and (this at Charles' insistence) for Charles' shattered front window. Neither Charles nor Erik mentions what Magneto did to the bridge; it's still functional, after all, and Charles thinks putting it back the way it was will make for a good training exercise for Magneto later on.

Charles gets off scot-free when neither Officer MacTaggert nor Erik can think of a single destructive thing to pin on Ro.

Charles gloats all the way home. He's earned it.

"It won't come out," Erik says the next day, frowning at the Extreme Ball. They're well outside of town, away from the river too, with no large metal objects anywhere in the vicinity.

"Huh," Charles says. "Are you quite certain it's still inside?"

"Profex," Ro says, and translucent hands come out of her wheels, stubby little hands attached to long arms, and she gestures at Erik to give her the Extreme Ball.

Erik shrugs, and hands it to her.

She takes it, peers at it, shakes it like a magic 8 ball and peers at it again. "Profex."

Magneto emerges. "Magneto," it grumps. Its eyes dart from side to side, as if looking for an escape or an opening - but Ro's arms have transfigured into cannons over the last several seconds, and she now has them trained on Magneto.

It occurs to Charles a few times over the next several weeks that mortal terror and abject fear may occasionally be valid training methods, though only in certain very special cases.

One day, they teach the Magneto to do a Coin Toss. It takes some coaxing - Charles vetoes throwing currency at it; torture is still not a viable training method - but eventually the Magneto, looking put-upon as it usually does now, begins to spin in the air, faster and faster, all of Erik's collected pennies orbiting around it at incredible speeds -

And then Magneto comes to a sudden halt and every one of the pennies launches straight at Erik.

Hilariously and because Erik is a one-trick Ponyta, he actually swings at the pennies with his bat.

Just as hilariously, after the pennies knock Erik onto his back, Magneto bobs over and says, "Magneto," and though it's hard to say for sure, Charles thinks it looks somewhat concerned for Erik.

"Now we're even," Erik informs Magneto. "So no more bullshit."

"Magneto," Magneto says, and it bobs companionably after Erik for another hour, until Erik absentmindedly sets his bat down and it takes the opportunity to aim itself at his head.

A week or so after that, they return the bridge to its original location. Charles stays on solid ground and watches as Erik stands in the center of the bridge giving it directions. At some point, Erik has developed jazz hands as part of his repertoire for communicating with Magneto.

On their way back to town, it occurs to Charles that there's not much left for him to help with; Erik and Magneto are getting on so well now, even if Erik likely never will be able to leave his bat at home.

The thought makes him feel oddly left out.

The next day, Erik rings the doorbell while Charles is still in his pajamas, half an hour earlier than their training sessions usually start. He's wearing sunglasses, a T-shirt and hiking boots, and has a large pack on his back. His baseball bat is hanging from his belt like a sword, and Magneto is bobbing above his shoulder.

Other than the latter two things, it's a familiar getup, especially in this town with so many young students who end up taking semesters off to go traipsing off in search of adventure; and Charles has no illusions about what it means.

"You're leaving," he says dully - vaguely aware that he ought to be rejoicing, and yet something feels tight in his chest.

"Come with me," Erik says.


"Get dressed first," Erik adds, after looking him up and down.

"But, my classes," Charles says, trying to catch up to this development.

"That's what sabbaticals are for," Erik says, and grins.

"...Just where is it you're going?"

"I'm going to enter the tournament at the Hellfire Gym," Erik says. "I can beat them all with my Magneto."

Well, that's awfully ambitious. The best trainers in the world will be competing in that tournament; they'll have the most powerful teams, the cleverest strategies. Erik doesn't have a chance, but somehow it's not surprising that he has delusions of grandeur; they suit him, somehow.

"I really can't -" Charles begins, because obviously, obviously he's not about to go gallivanting off when there's so much work to do here, when he has responsibilities -

But then Ro sends him an image, crystal-clear behind his eyes.

Erik isn't the only one with delusions of grandeur here.

I thought you were a pacifist, Charles thinks toward her.

"Profex," Ro says, and bumps one of her wheels affectionately against Charles' heel.

Charles looks back at Erik, and thinks of how long it's been since he's had a vacation; and more, thinks of how good it would be to have and keep the upper hand over Erik for the duration. And then they could come back home and -

"Oh, my friend," Charles says, reaching up to pluck Erik's sunglasses right off his face, "you're going to have to beat us, first."

He slides the sunglasses onto his own face as Erik gapes at him.

"I've changed my mind," Erik says, after the wrestling match during which he fails to retrieve his sunglasses. "You can't come. I'm uninviting you."

Charles beams at him and adjusts the sunglasses on his nose. "Oh, Erik; I’m afraid it's much too late for that."