Chapter 1: Chapter 1
Once again, I sadly do not own X-men, but I have come to terms with this fact.
If you haven't read Part 1 of this series (i.e.: What Was Forgotten), you might want to do that before you continue reading, otherwise you may be confused and encounter some spoilers…but you do you. I'm not going to try to tell you how to live your life. Either way, please enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Erik slammed into the ground face first, a good deal of water hitting the earth with him. Erik felt as if the wind had been knocked out of him and as if he had run a marathon at the same time, all while being pulled in every direction. It was a feeling he had experienced only one other time: when his daughter had torn them from their own universe into another.
Gasping—not so much from having pushed his lungs to their limit underwater, but from the aftereffects of multi-dimensional travel—Erik quickly pushed himself off the ground, the scent of fresh cut grass hitting him as he did so.
"Wanda! Pietro!" Erik's voice came out as an indistinguishable desperate croak. His fear that Wanda had not saved them, but instead that their transportation had been but an after effect of her death, manifested in his voice. The world seemed to be spinning around him, and he didn't know if it was his fear or disorientation, but then he heard pained coughing beside him, followed by a groan that brought him to his senses.
Erik turned in time to see Pietro coughing up some water while a terribly exhausted and concerned looking Wanda patted his back.
"Ohhh, that sucked."* Said Pietro, his coughs finally ending, as he rolled over onto his back. His limbs sprawled out all around him and he closed his eyes as he lay back.
Pietro and Wanda were a few yards away from Erik, too far for him to reach out to see if they were truly real. Truly alive.
Erik continued to stare at them for several seconds before finding his voice again.
"Are you alright?" Erik asked directing his question at both of his children as he stumbled over to them and kneeled down beside his son.
At the sound of Erik's voice, Pietro's eyes shot open and he sat bolt upright, and when his eyes met Erik's, the boy broke into a grin and threw his arms around his father's neck.
"Dad!" said Pietro, his voice full of relief.
Erik pulled his son close, having to remind himself to be gentle even though all he wanted to do was hold onto the boy and never let go for fear of losing him. Then Pietro's thin arms suddenly withdrew from around his neck and a moment later Erik felt slight hands pushing against his chest.
Confused, Erik released his hold on Pietro, and when he did, Pietro stopped pushing against him and instead punched Erik in the shoulder with a surprising amount of force. Erik gazed at his son's pale face and wet mop of silver hair nearly covering his dark brown eyes, shocked to see anger in those eyes that were normally so filled with kindness.
"You jerk! I'mmadatyou!Youfuckin'leftus!" Pietro's voice was loud and angry, but then he quieted and what next emanated from his mouth was a choked whisper. "You left us."
"Pietro, I—" started Erik reaching out to his son again, but the boy just scooted away toward Wanda.
"Stop it." Said Pietro. "I don't want to hear your excuses or an apology. I'm not going to be mad at you forever because your family and family forgives each other, but I am mad at you now, so just leave me alone, Erik."
Erik flinched when his son said his name. He'd grown accustomed to Pietro calling him dad, and the sudden return to being addressed by his name sent knives jabbing at his heart. But he deserved it. Whether he had left his children behind again for the right reasons or not, that didn't change the fact that he had left them. Pietro and Wanda had every right to be angry at him, so Erik didn't even bother to attempt any contact with Wanda, since even if she wasn't angry at him, she probably wouldn't have wanted him to hug her.
Ignoring Erik, Pietro turned to his sister who was sitting beside him with her arms wrapped around her legs and her face pressed into her knees. "Wands? Are you okay?"
Wanda raised her head to look at her brother. "I'm fine, Pete." Wanda responded, looking anything but. "I should be asking you that. I'm not the one who just coughed up a lung. How's your head?"
"I'm good! Just wet. My head's fine! I've got a thick skull." Said Pietro turning his back to Erik completely and knocking on his skull as if to demonstrate said thickness. "And my lungs are all good too. I can still talk fasterthanyouwouldlikemetoo. See?"
Wanda just looked at him skeptically.
"Really! I'm fine! Stop looking at me like that! Where are we anyway? Not that I care too much. As long as you didn't take us to the secret lair of some whack jobs, I'm not too picky. Dry land is a lot better than drowning that's for sure!"
At the inception of Pietro's question, Erik stood up and turned away from his children for the first time to look around. It was night-time, but with one cursory glance around, it was obvious to Erik where they were, and the knowledge was enough to push some of the sadness at his son's rejection away, if only momentarily.
Lips curving into a small smile, Erik turned back to where his children still sat on the grass. "I know where we are." Then breaking into a full grin he added, "You did it Wanda. you brought us back home."
At this Pietro shot to his feet, stumbling a bit as he did so. Erik reached out instinctively and steadied the boy as his sister stood up, albeit much more slowly. After regaining his balance, Pietro shoved his father's hands away once more.
"Pietro, I think it might be best if you let me help y—" Erik began, concerned that Pietro had further aggravated his head injury and possibly his leg. He would feel much better if the boy just let Erik carry him.
"No. I'm good. I don't need your help." Pietro shot back, but he didn't push his sister away when she slid an arm around his waist to steady him.
"Are we really home?" Pietro asked Wanda, while he looked around into the night. "I'm pretty sure I've never been here before because I think I would remember if I had."
"You haven't been here before, Pietro. But this is our universe. Your sister brought us back." Said Erik looking at Wanda now, trying to meet her gaze, but she was avoiding eye contact. "Thank you, Wanda, for saving us all."
Wanda looked at her father, meeting his gaze with worried eyes but then quickly looking away. "No I—I didn't—We're not—I think I messed up."
Erik was confused. What did she mean she messed up? She had clearly brought them back to their own universe, and not only that, but she had saved herself, her brother, and him from drowning. He was so proud of her.
"Nonsense. What do you mean? We're home. You did it."
Wanda just shook her head, and tightened her grip on her brother, her knuckles turning white where she gripped his jacket.
"No I didn't." Wanda said finally, but she didn't elaborate and Erik thought it useless to argue with her any further, not while she and Pietro were both shivering due to their wet clothes and the cool night air.
"Well we will have to agree to disagree then. For now, I think it's time we wake up the owner of the premises. I don't think he'll be too perturbed by us arriving announced in the middle of the night." Said Erik.
"You know who lives here?" asked Pietro without a hint of malice in his voice, forgetting to be angry amidst his growing curiosity.
"I do. As does Wanda. And you've meant him before too." Said Erik turning to look at the grand mansion whose lights cut through the blackness of the night.
It was too late for Charles to be up. He knew that. He had an 8am class in the morning, but he couldn't sleep. So why should he stay in bed when he could get some work done?
But he wasn't getting any work done either. He had been staring at the same paper trying to grade it for the past hour. But he couldn't focus. His mind kept wandering…wandering to the past.
He shouldn't be surprised that he was unable to focus. No matter how much time passed, the overwhelming feeling of sadness and loss always remained within him, overtaking his mind, though it was particularly bad this time of year.
Charles set the paper he was attempting to grade back down on his desk and sighed, closing his eyes in defeat. He was on the edge of falling asleep at his desk, when he was forced back awake by the presence of two waking minds, one quite unlike anything he had ever encountered that was already giving him a headache, and another impossibly familiar but nearly just as difficult to read.
Charles sat up, and started wheeling himself toward his office door, but before he reached it, it swung open on its own accord, revealing someone he'd never thought he'd see again.
Charles gaped at Erik, who stood in the doorway, sopping wet and dripping water onto the mahogany floor from his cape. He was wearing his full battle gear, including his helmet, as if it had been but a day since he had disappeared.
Behind him stood the source of the unreadable minds that were scratching at Charles' consciousness: Wanda and Peter. Wanda looked just about the same as the last time he'd seen her, except where she had appeared strong and determined as she set out to rescue her brother, now she looked almost…guilty.
Peter, on the other hand, looked quite a bit different. His hair was shorter and styled differently—though that might just be due to the fact that they were all three soaked—and he looked too thin and a little wobbly on his feet, but apparently he still held the same happy disposition, as he grinned and entered the room behind his father.
"Cool place you got here, man. You look better now too, except now you sorta look like a librarian, but I guess that's better than a junkie. What's with the wheelchair? Sorry. That's impolite. Sometimes I don't think before I speak. I probably shouldn't just ask people why they're in a wheelchair." Said Peter as he gazed around the room, before letting go of his sister and going over to the globe Charles kept in the corner of his office, giving it a spin.
Charles couldn't think, let alone answer the boy's questions. He had to be dreaming. This wasn't real. They were dead. They were all dead. But as the seconds passed, Charles knew it couldn't be a dream. Everything was too real, and he would never be able to dream up the feeling of the minds of Erik's children. They were too extraordinary.
Charles stared at his old friend then enemy then friend once more. Now convinced that he was real, but he was still struggling to form a coherent thought.
"Really Charles? Don't look so shocked. I know it's been a few weeks, but you didn't really think I could be killed that easily, did you?" asked Erik raising an eyebrow and one side of his mouth to form a half smile.
"Oh my old friend." Said Charles finally as a tear trailed down the side of his face. "It hasn't been a few weeks. It's been ten years."
So there you have it. That's the bombshell I've been waiting to throw at you all for quite some time. Maybe you saw it coming. I don't know, but I hope you enjoy Part II of this series nonetheless. Thanks for reading. As always, reviews are welcomed and appreciated, but not mandatory.
*A reference to The Amazing Spider-Man from the sewer fight scene against the Lizard. People hate on those movies, but I liked them for the most part. But I also just really really like Spider-Man and Andrew Garfield isn't half bad, so…I may not have the most unbiased opinion. I'm still really excited for Spider-Man: Homecoming though!
I may update the description of this story before the next chapter, but I didn't want to give too much away in the summary before people who read What Was Forgotten regularly had a chance to read this.
It was Erik's turn to gape at him.
"What?!" said Pietro. At the same moment the boy spoke, there was a small pop from across the room. Everyone flinched except for Erik, who was presumably the source of the incident. Charles glanced over to the source of the noise to see that the bulb in one of his lamps had exploded.
"You've been gone for ten years." Charles said again untroubled by the loss of one lightbulb. He kept voice gentle, in part in an effort to soothe his old friend and his children but also because he didn't quite trust his own voice yet. "I thought that you were dead. We all did. We believed that whatever had happened down in that facility where Peter was imprisoned had killed you all. Obviously—and I'm so glad to say—we were wrong."
Charles gazed at his old friend who was still silent. As he did so, it hit him that if only a few weeks had passed for Erik and his children, then Charles was now the elder of the two. Despite the fact that the hardships Erik had endured in his life had always made him seem much older than his true age, the sudden realization that Charles had now lived quite a few more years than his friend, made Erik suddenly seem very young.
"Erik…" Charles started, not sure what to say to comfort his friend, who seemed to be in shock. It was shocking after all, and he knew it would be difficult for them to accept that ten years had passed them by, probably more difficult than essentially finding out a friend had come back from the dead. But for Charles, it was also a happy moment. His friend was alive. Wanda and Peter were alive. Whatever trials they had faced at least he had that much to cling to.
"But that's not—how? That's impossible." Said Erik finally. "We have not even been gone for a month."
Charles gave his friend a sad small, "I don't doubt that for you wherever you have been it has only been that long, but for the rest of us…I'm sorry, but it has been ten years. It's 1983."
Erik just blinked at him in disbelief.
"I told you." a small voice said from behind Erik, and Charles looked past his friend to see that it was Wanda who had spoken. She had one arm around her brother who had gone back to stand beside her. It wasn't clear to Charles who was supporting who, as they both looked even more exhausted then they had a moment before. Wanda's other arm was wrapped around her stomach as if she was going to be sick. "I messed up. I didn't bring us back…not really."
Before Charles or Erik, who looked like he was going to say something, had a chance to respond, Peter broke the silence. "Wh—what about Mila? Where's Mila? Is she alright? If we've been gone for ten years, then she's been all alone. Where is she right now? Weneedtoseeher." Peter gazed at him with large imploring eyes.
Charles felt a pang of guilt. Since his three unexpected visitors had arrived, Mila hadn't even crossed his mind. He should have thought of her…and the others, immediately. Of course, Peter and Wanda would want to see their pseudo sister. Would need to see her as Peter put it, but it also looked like they needed a good night's rest, a change of clothes, and some food, though not necessarily in that order. He should make sure that happened first.
Hank. Wake up. Charles telepathically reached out to his friend and colleague.
What?! Where? Who? Hank thought back at Charles confused, as he was still caught in the throes of sleep.
Relax Hank. We're not under attack, but we have guests.
Guests? Responded Hank, more awake now. Who? New students?
Not exactly. It'd be best if you'd just come here. I'd rather not try to explain.
Alright. Hank responded again a little distractedly, as Charles could tell he was searching for his glasses. Good old Hank, so accepting of the unusual.
Thank you, Hank. Charles cut off his connection with Hank to get back to the conversation at hand. He could tell Peter was getting very impatient as it looked like the boy was starting to vibrate.
"Mila is perfectly fine. She's currently asleep in her room here at the mansion." answered Charles.
Peter's eyes widened. Apparently, he had not expected that answer. It looked like the boy was about to tear off in search every nook and cranny in the house for his sister, so Charles quickly continued. "She's been living here as a student ever since you die—disappeared. She refused to go anywhere else for that matter. She wanted to be—as she put it—around people like her siblings, and I was happy to let her stay here. Mila was technically my first student, since I started the school back up."
Wanda—and Erik actually—still looked ill, but Peter grinned as if he could just imagine her stubbornly refusing to leave.
"So she's not a mutant, and you still let her stay?" asked Peter almost in awe. Charles thought it was likely that he was amazed at the thought of someone willing opening his or her home to a stranger, without so much as the shared commonality of being part of the same species.
Charles pressed on, "Of course. If she wanted to stay, who was I to turn her away? But I think perhaps it would best if a reunion were postponed until morning. You all look like you're in dire need of a good night's sleep, and your return will be a lot to throw at Mila, at any time, let alone in the middle of the night."
Peter rocked back on his heels a bit. "I guess…yea…it is gonna be a surprise…ten years. Jeez, Man. So she's like—like almost 18…." Peter shook his head in disbelief. "Okay. But I want to see her right away in the morning!"
"That can be arranged." Said Charles, though he planned on warning the poor girl before her older—younger?—siblings could knock down her door in the morning.
As if on cue, Hank came waltzing into Charles' office. His glasses were askew and his hair was mussed up, but he was awake. "Charles, you wanted to see…"
Hank's eyes widened in shock as he looked around the room taking in just who the surprise guests were. "Oh my God, Erik. You're alive. Y—you're all alive. How?"
"Hank." Said Charles stepping in—figuratively of course—before anyone else could, "I'm not quite sure the answer to that myself, and I'm sure we'll get an explanation with time, but right now, Wanda and Peter could use a change of clothes, some food, and place to lie down for the night. I think Erik's old room will do nicely, if you could escort them there."
Hank opened his mouth as if he wanted to argue, but one look at the exhausted teenagers and he complied. "Of—of course. No problem. Wanda. Peter. If you would just follow me…"
Wanda didn't react at all, and Peter just glanced at his father before quickly looking away, putting on what looked like a forced smile and addressing Hank. "Can do! Hank, right? Or is it Spock? I remember you from—I guess ten years ago now."
Hank stared at the boy perplexed. "Spock? As in the Star Trek character?"
"Righto science dude!" said Peter making the Vulcan salute with the hand that wasn't wrapped around his sister. "Don't try to tell me you're not a Trekkie. When we first met, and you saw my powers, you were all like 'fascinating.' Totally a Spock move dude."
"Point taken." Said Hank good humoredly as he led the teens from the room.
Erik made to follow his children, but Charles called out to him before he exited. "Erik if you don't mind…there's more we should discuss."
It looked like Erik was going to ignore him and hurry after his children. Charles could tell he did not want to be separated from them, even for a moment, and though he did not yet know where they had been or what had happened to them and also considering that for them Peter's imprisonment had been but a short time ago, Charles could understand that, but he really needed to speak with his friend. And he expressed as much.
"It's important, Erik. I'll keep an eye on them." He added lifting two fingers to his temple. Though he couldn't read their minds, and wouldn't do so without their permission in any case, he could sense Peter and Wanda's presence in the mansion. It might even take time for Charles to block out a mind that was as…energetic as Peter's.
Erik gave one last look in the direction Peter and Wanda had headed off to, before closing the study door and turning around.
"Alright. What more do you wish to speak to me about Charles that cannot wait until morning?"
"I think you should sit down." Said Charles as he looked at his friend. Now that Wanda and Peter had exited the room, Erik looked even more exhausted than before. Charles wondered how much of an effort he had been making to appear strong for their sake. Charles hated to drop more onto Erik's already full plate, but there was no doubt in Charles' mind that Erik would want to know what he was about to tell him immediately.
Erik complied with Charles request, taking a seat in one of the two vacant arm chairs in his office whilst Charles maneuvered himself behind his desk. As he sat down, Erik reached up as if to remove his helmet, but paused and looked at Charles before he did.
"The fact that I'm taking off my helmet is not an invitation for you to go perusing around in my head, Charles." Said Erik rather defensively, before continuing with a little less aggression. "But I've had this bloody helmet on for too long."
"You know I would never do that, Erik." Replied Charles.
"You've done it before." Said Erik as he nevertheless removed the helmet and placed it on the floor.
"Only because you've left me no choice." Charles fired back, then took a deep breath to calm himself. This was a happy night. He was glad his friend had returned. He did not want to argue with him, no matter how belligerently Erik might behave. Erik had a right to be short-tempered at the moment. It was an exhausting night for him—for them both—and it was going to get worse before it got better.
Taking one more deep breath, Charles raised his eyes to meet that of his friend's. He wasn't sure how to begin, or where to begin. In the end, Charles decided to go with the more recent set of events. "Erik, do you remember ten years ago—for you, what must feel like just a few short months ago—after we…ah broke you out of the Pentagon—"
"Yes, Charles. It's not something I'm likely to forget. Nor your involvement, especially with the punch to the face." Said Erik interrupting Charles.
"Indeed. But what I was getting at comes after that. After the incident in Paris, perhaps even after the events at the White House, I'm not sure. I never got all of the details."
Erik opened his mouth to respond, but Charles held up his hand. "Please let me finish. I haven't quite gotten to the point yet." Said Charles as Erik gave him a look of indignance but allowed him to continue. "Do you remember meeting a woman by the name of Magda Gurzsky."
Erik looked unwilling to answer, so Charles added "she was a native of Poland, visiting America for a few weeks with her father. You met her in a bar when she snuck out one night during her stay in the D.C. area, and were ah—" Charles cleared his throat "—intimate."
"I—how do you know that?" Erik asked his face a tad pink.
"I know because there are always consequences to our actions, Erik. And that is particularly true for your escapades it seems. Fortunately, some consequences can be a happy surprise."
"Wh—what are you saying Charles?" asked Erik though it looked like he had already begun to guess.
"I'm trying to tell you, Erik, that you have another daughter. A beautiful and talented little girl named Nina."
Obviously I took a little bit of creative liberty with Nina's introduction, so I hope you're okay with it.
Please check out the artwork available at this link (http://shoyzz-art.deviantart.com/art/Peter-Wanda-682260909). It's an amazing piece created by the very talented Shoyzz! I've uploaded the actual image on chapter 34 of What Was Forgotten as well, as that is the chapter it pertains to, so feel free to check it out there too. Thanks to Shoyzz for allowing me to share it and thanks everyone for reading! Reviews are always welcome!
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Sorry if there are typos. I feel like I might've rushed my editing on this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Erik put his face in his hands, as Charles guided his wheelchair over to friend's side.
"Erik…" Charles said gently putting his hand on one arm in an effort to comfort his friend and prompt him to look at him.
There was a shaky intake of breath, before Erik abruptly lowered both hands. His face was composed, but it looked as though it was taking all of his effort to keep it that way. Nevertheless, when he spoke, Erik's voice was calm.
"So I've missed seeing another one of my children grow up." said Erik with barely contained self-loathing.
"Nina's hardly done growing up, Erik, and neither are Wanda and Pietro." Charles replied gently as he could, though he was quick to add. "But even if they were grown, you would still have time to be a part of their lives. When do children ever truly stop needing their parents?"
Erik essentially ignored Charles' response, getting straight to the point, "Where is she now? My daughter…Nina?"
Charles hesitated only a moment before responding, "She's here actually."
Charles noted the surprise and almost…fear on Erik's face. "Sh—she's a student? Already? Is she a mutant then?" asked Erik. Despite the fear and uncertainty, Charles could detect a hint of pride in his voice.
"She is." Charles refrained from adding that he hoped it wouldn't matter to Erik if she wasn't a mutant. He'd like to think that he knew Erik well enough to know that despite all of his pro-mutant ideals, if he had a human child, Erik would love him or her all the same. After all, the little girl his friend had lost long ago, had been much too young to show any abilities and he knew his friend had loved her to the ends of the earth, even though he had not yet known what she would or would not become.
Pulling himself from his thoughts, Charles continued "She's been a student here for a little over a year now. She lived in Poland up until then, so her English isn't perfect, but children absorb so much and she's a quick learner, so she's done wonderfully adapting in that regard. As for her mutation, it manifested after a rather…traumatic event, though I believe there were signs of what her mutation would be even before then."
"What happened?" asked Erik matter-of-factly but with a clear twinge of dejection in his voice. Charles was sad to see that he didn't even seemed surprised that something unfortunate had happened to his daughter. It seemed as though Erik had come to expect that all of his children would face horrors in their lives.
"Nina, her grandfather—Magda's father that is—and Nina's mother all lived together near the woods outside of a little Polish community. Nina loves animals, and well, she can communicate with them. That's her mutation. I'm not sure to what extent, but she does. Even before her mutation fully manifested, they'd come right up to her and she would approach them with absolutely zero fear." Charles cleared his throat knowing he needed to continue, "As I understand it, one day Nina and her family were all out for a walk in the woods by their home when a deer approached Nina, or she it. Tragically, there was a hunting party out in the same area, and one man, intending to hit the deer, instead shot Nina's mother…an arrow went right through her heart….it was a terrible accident—"
"It doesn't sound like an accident." Said Erik angrily. He had gotten up from his chair and was pacing about the room. "It sounds to me like they were aiming for a mutant child and they missed."
"Erik…" said Charles cautiously. "You shouldn't assume the worst in people."
"And you shouldn't assume the best!" Erik snapped back.
"Some terrible things do happen completely by accident, Erik. Everyone is not motivated by malice."
"Nor is everyone driven by the goodness of their heart!" Erik replied, his voice barely below a shout. Charles hoped he wouldn't wake any of the students, but he didn't blame Erik for his anger. His friend may have been right that it was no accident; Charles had no way of knowing, but either way, it didn't change the fact that the mother of his child was dead, and his little girl had witnessed something horrible.
Charles sighed "Would you like me to continue?"
Erik was still seething, but he nodded and Charles pressed on. "Nina was overwhelmed with fear and confusion by what had happened, so she directed birds, perhaps unconsciously, to attack the hunters. None of them were killed, but after that, her grandfather decided it would be better and safer for Nina to be here."
"Better and safer for who? Him or her? His granddaughter just lost her mother and he sends her away from the only home she's ever known?!" asked Erik outraged.
"It wasn't like that Erik. He was a good man, but an old man. His daughter was taking care of him as much as she was Nina, and even if Nina were entirely human, he wouldn't have been able to care for her. But he did what he could. He found this place because ever since she was born, he'd been looking out for her, searching for a place that his granddaughter could belong if it turned out she was different. He knew you were her father. His daughter hadn't kept that from him. He knew what his granddaughter might be from the moment of her birth, and he loved her no less for it."
Erik stopped pacing and sat back down as Charles finished, somewhat placated for the moment, but he still looked like he wanted to break something before a hint of fear crossed his face again. "Does she…does Nina know about me then? Who I am to her, I mean?"
"Generally, yes." Replied Charles.
"What does that mean?" asked Erik, throwing his hands up in frustration.
"I didn't think it prudent to give a child a complete history lesson of your antics, Erik. But she knows you are her father, and she has a general idea of what you've done in the public eye, as much as a child can anyway…but she also has the added benefit of having Mila around to tell her what you were willing to do for her siblings, and having myself around to tell her of all the good inside of you."
Erik scoffed, as if he didn't believe there was any good inside him, and rose abruptly to his feet again, moving to stare out the office's window into the night, so Charles couldn't see his face. But Charles didn't need to see his friend's face to know that he was in pain. He longed to reach into Erik's mind to make that pain disappear, but Charles knew he wouldn't be welcome, so he refrained from doing so, but offered what he could.
"She will love you, Erik. And you her. There is no doubt in my mind of that."
Erik didn't turn around, nor did he say anything in response to Charles' final declaration, instead he let silence hang in the air before finally asking "So does she know of Wanda and Pietro then? That they are her siblings?"
"Yes." Said Charles carefully, realizing he would have to make his other revelation soon, "I wasn't going to keep that from her. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to tell her much about them, because I have not had the pleasure of getting to know them all that well, especially Peter, but she's had Mila to tell her a bit about them.…though, I think Mila finds it difficult to be around Nina sometimes because she reminds her of what she loss, but if Mila's found it too hard to answer her questions, she's at least told her that. She never shut her out, or made her feel like she wasn't welcome to ask."
With his back to him, Charles watched Erik raise a hand to his face then lower it before nodding and turning around to face him once more. When he did, Charles saw that his eyes were glistening, and he realized that Erik had probably just wiped away tears. The thought sent a renewed sense of pain through Charles' heart as it ached with sympathy for his friend. But it also ached with guilt for being the one to bring about Erik's pain and for having to add to it in a moment.
"Erik, I—" Charles cleared his throat. "I know you must be tired, and that this has to be very difficult for you to process, but…I'm afraid there's more. More I need to tell you now that cannot wait."
"And what might that be?" asked Erik bluntly. "You're not going to tell me Nina has a twin brother too, are you?" asked Erik only half joking.
"No. No, you don't have any more twins. But…I think you should sit down again, Erik." Charles said gently.
"I'd rather stand." Said Erik, squaring back his shoulders. Usually the gesture made Erik look intimidating and unstoppable, but right then, it just made him look like a young man who was afraid he wouldn't be able to handle any more of what Charles had to tell him.
"There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just start with a question again…Do you remember a Suzanna Dane? You would have met in 1962. Shortly before you and I met actually…"
"I don't…" Erik trailed off. "That was so long ago. I don't remember anyone by that name."
It was a long time ago, even if it hadn't been quite as long for Erik as it had been for Charles. Much had happened for both of them since then. But Charles wondered if it wasn't so much a matter of Erik not remembering, as it was of him not wanting to remember.
There was hardly a period of Erik's life that wasn't…difficult, but after he lost his first daughter and before he met Charles, Raven, and the others, Charles was fairly certain that many of Erik's days, weeks, months, and maybe even years had blurred together. Back then, Erik's pursuit of Shaw had been all consuming. The people he met and places he went, must have been rendered insignificant compared to his ever present need for revenge. But what could Charles do but continue and hopefully spark his friend's memory.
"She was a waitress at a rundown bar in Florida." Charles cleared his throat. "You spent at least one night together…"
Charles thought he saw a flicker of recognition pass over Erik's face. It occurred to Charles then that maybe Erik's romantic escapades hadn't been as numerous as he had once supposed, considering the number of children he'd fathered. It was no secret that Erik was a solitary creature, whether by nature or unfortunate circumstances, his friend was so often alone. But there evidently had been nights when Erik just didn't want to be alone or couldn't bear to be alone. Nights when he needed the comfort of another, if only for a moment. Some nights that were just too painful to handle alone, even for a man as strong as Erik.
Charles could see the gears turning in Erik's head. The despair just beneath the surface as his friend entertained the possibility of what Charles was most likely proposing. Charles didn't need to read his mind to see that he was thinking that fate wouldn't be so cruel as to bless him with another child, only to take that child's childhood away from him too.
But it seemed fate would be that cruel to Erik, at least one more time.
"I have another child." Erik made the pronouncement this time. It wasn't a question, but Charles answered it anyway.
"Yes. Another daughter. Lorna Dane."
Erik was expressionless. Charles wished he wouldn't repress his feelings, but Erik had learned one had to be hard to face the world and that wasn't about to change now. His emotions weren't completely hidden, however. Erik's knuckles were white, as he clutched the arms of his chair so tightly that Charles wouldn't have been surprised if there were finger indentations left when he finally let go.
"Another daughter." Erik said breathlessly. "I have another daughter…And she would—she is grown. If she was born in '62 or '63 then I have missed out on her childhood completely." Erik finished in a monotone but his hold on the arm-chair, if possible, tightened even more.
"Even if she's not technically a child anymore, Erik. She's still very young. Remember how young we were back then? But regardless, you're here now, Erik." Said Charles softly. "And that will make all the difference."
"No it won't." said Erik dismissively, before taking a deep breath and continuing. "Where is she now? She—Lorna? I assume she's not here, as she'd be older than any of your students."
"No. Lorna is not here. She's not one to be tied down." Much like her father. "but she was one of my students…but even then she was distant. She stops by every once and a while to visit though, especially since Nina arrived." Charles replied.
"How did you know that she's my daughter? I wasn't exactly in the public eye back then. And I—I may have against my better judgment told Nina's mother who I was, but I know I didn't tell anyone about what I could do back then. Lorna's mother would have had no reason to remember me. I didn't exactly go around showing my powers off to everyone." Said Erik.
"Well she didn't know that you were her father when she came here. In fact, until she was thirteen, she didn't even have reason to question who her father was because her mother was married to the man she believed to be her father at the time you—well you know—but when her hair started to turn green I guess her 'father' confronted Lorna's mother on a flight back from their family vacation demanding a paternity test right in front of Lorna because he couldn't believe that he'd fathered a mutant…the encounter caused Lorna's powers to manifest…rather violently. The plane went down and her 'parents' were killed, but she survived…After that she found this place on her own and when she showed me that her powers were over magnetism…well that was enough of a clue for me to have Hank run a paternity test to confirm my suspicions."
But there really hadn't been any doubt in Charles' mind as to who Lorna's father was. Of all Erik's children, Lorna, in Charles' opinion, was the most like her father, at least in the most obvious manner. They were both quick to anger and stubborn, but also resilient and fiercely protective.
"It sounds like she's had a wonderful childhood as well then." Said Erik sarcastically. "I suppose she would have no desire to meet me, being as I'm essentially the reason her parents are dead, assuming that is, that you told her I'm her father, since you said she visits Nina."
"Erik you cannot blame yourself for everything." Said Charles in frustration, though he knew Erik would continue to do so. "And yes, she knows you're her father, and whether you want to believe it or not, she's very proud of that fact. Not that she wanted them dead, but I do not think she and her parents got on very well, especially once it was evident that she was a mutant…"
Erik raised an eyebrow skeptically in response, clearly not believing Charles.
"It's true Erik. She rather idolizes you…she—she's actually very much like you." Charles added.
Perhaps too much.
There was hardly a day that went by when Charles wasn't worrying about the girl. Lorna hadn't gone as far as organizing any events of her own yet, but she was a frequent attender of mutant-rights rallies. And those rallies tended to grow dangerous. Charles kept waiting for the day when he would get a call that Lorna was in jail…or worse. Not that a traditional prison could hold her if she wanted to escape, nor did Charles know if he would actually be the one Lorna would call if she were in trouble.
It was more likely she'd contact Alex. But with their on-again off-again, love-hate relationship over the past two years, perhaps not. But that particular aspect of Lorna's life was one thing he didn't feel the need to mention to Erik. Charles wasn't even supposed to know of it. He hadn't personally seen Alex for years. He'd only seen flashes of their relationship when Lorna was thinking about Alex, so there was no need to give Erik one more thing to stress about, as he didn't think his friend would take too kindly to his daughter dating someone more than a decade older than her, especially when that someone was Alex.
Erik ran one hand through his hair, apparently as deep in thought as Charles was.
"There's always something isn't there?" Erik asked not really expecting an answer.
"It seems so, but this time there are two somethings that have come into your life for the better, Erik."
"But will it be better for them?" asked Erik putting his head in his hands again. "I don't know what I'm doing Charles." Erik confessed in a rare moment of transparency. "I have two children upstairs who have barely managed to stay alive over the past few months since I entered their lives, and they're certainly not alive thanks to me. And now I have to throw their mother's death in their face and tell them they have two half-siblings. One of whom was born after of them, but is somehow also older than them." Erik pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes for a moment as if in defeat.
"I'm sure that's not true, Erik. Whatever happened to you, since we found Peter, I'm sure you've always put your children first. And I know I don't know them well, but I think Wanda and Peter will be happy to know they have more family."
Erik remained impassive, staring off into space. "You don't know Charles."
"No, but perhaps one day you will allow me to see what you went through." Said Charles raising a finger to his temple. "You don't have to carry your pain alone."
"It doesn't matter, if I tell you now or not anyway. Once she's rested, Wanda can take us back ten years, then at least part of my transgressions can be rectified." Said Erik.
Charles cringed a little. "I don't think that would be wise Erik. I do not believe time is something we should mess with, at least not more than once." Said Charles thinking of Logan and the events of ten years ago. "And at any rate, you could end up worse off if Wanda tried to take you back. As powerful as she is, you and I both know she does not have extensive control over her abilities. You could end up going back to wherever you've been these past ten years or you could find yourself too far in the past. Either way the consequences could be catastrophic."
Charles could see that Erik knew he was right, but that didn't make it any easier to accept. With a sigh Charles maneuvered his chair over to his friend once more.
"I think it's high time you went to bed, my friend." Said Charles giving Erik's shoulder a squeeze. Charles was sad to see that Erik tensed at the physical contact. "You have a lot to think about, but I promise you, another ten years will not go by if you go to sleep." Charles gave his friend a sad smile as he finished speaking.
Erik didn't return it, but he nodded in acceptance, which was best response that Charles could have hoped for under the circumstances.
Rising to his feet, Erik summoned his helmet to his hands, clenching it tightly as he had the chair. "Thank you for looking out for them, Charles." Said Erik as he opened the study door.
Charles didn't have to ask to know who Erik was referring to. "No need to thank me, Erik. You and your children will always be welcome here. You know that."
Erik didn't answer, but Charles thought he gave an almost imperceptible nod as he exited the room and closed the door behind him with the wave of a hand, leaving Charles alone once more, and if it wasn't for the broken remains of the light bulb under his corner lamp, it would almost be as if no one had arrived in the middle of the night and it had all been but a dream. But as difficult as it was to see Erik again, Charles was extremely grateful that the events of the night were very real, because as selfish as it may be to admit, Charles had missed his friend.
I forgot to mention it when I posted the last chapter, but I realize that I made Nina's mother have the same first name as Wanda and Pietro's mother. This was intentional, and this coincidence will be briefly addressed on a later date, probably in the next chapter.
Any random thoughts you want to share? Please don't be afraid to do so. Thanks for reading! Stay golden!
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
I feel like I haven’t updated in forever, and I am really sorry about that. I have a bunch of excuses, but I won’t bore you with them. Thank you kindly to everyone who has left kudos and comments. I greatly appreciate them!
Also, I added to the summary of this story, if you want to check it out. (:
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The moment Erik closed the door behind him, he almost fell over. He had been trying to keep himself together in front of Charles, unwilling to let his old friend see how much the news he shared had shaken him, but he knew that Charles had probably seen right through him. Besides, it was foolish to think that the mere presence of a closed door could keep anything from a telepath. But at least now Charles couldn't see his face, or the way his hands were shaking.
Erik forced himself to move away from Charles' office and head upstairs toward his old room. As Charles could very well choose to leave his office and head back to bed at any moment, Erik preferred to be out of sight before that happened. Erik suspected sleep would come much easier to Charles than to himself, now that he had told Erik everything. Well not everything. One couldn't cram ten years' worth of information into a single night, especially not when that information was as monumental as what Erik had been told.
Erik stumbled as he made his way up the staircase, gripping the banister to keep himself from falling, but even when it had steadied him, he still felt as if he were falling, or perhaps he was standing still and everything was crashing down around him.
Erik somehow made it to the top of the stairs, but once there he had to sit down. Back pressed against the hallway wall, Erik felt as though he could feel the world spinning and he was having a heart attack all at once. But he knew better, Erik hadn't suddenly gained the ability to feel the earth move beneath his feet, and he wasn't having a heart attack. He was in shock.
But Erik didn't go into shock. Erik was a man who either kept his cool or allowed his emotions to power a purpose. He was not a man who collapsed in a hallway. But that was before he had known that ten years had passed him by, and he had two more children who had grown up without him. So that's why Erik found himself sitting in a hallway in the middle of the night with a feeling that this was all his fault pressing down on him.
This wasn't how it was supposed to be. He had just started to set things right with Wanda and Pietro, and now he found out that he had, once again, failed twice-over.
Lorna and Nina.
Erik felt as if all he had were their names. He knew next to nothing about his two new-found daughters. Nothing except a quick summary of their unsurprisingly tragic upbringings. He tried not to focus on that now though. He knew if he did, it would just make him angry, which yes, would likely bring him out of the state of shock he was in, but it also might very well tear down Charles' home or at least wake who knows how many children that were asleep within the school.
Speaking of children, gathering what wherewithal he had left, Erik glanced down the hall at the doors that lined the corridor, wondering if his youngest daughter was asleep behind one of them, and if she was, was she sleeping peacefully? Or was she caught in the midst of a nightmare? Was she plagued by dreams of her mother dying, as Erik often was? Or despite her past, were her dreams filled with the wonders of childhood, perhaps tailored to her mutation, featuring various woodland creatures.
Erik had a sudden urge to throw open every door in the mansion, just to see if she was alright. But what good would that do? He didn't even know what she looked like, and beyond green hair—undoubtedly a striking feature—neither did he know what Lorna looked like. He could have asked Charles to put a picture of them in his mind, but he wasn't ready for that. Erik didn't need Charles to know everything he was feeling, even if his old friend probably already had a good idea. He didn't want to look into Charles eyes and see even more sympathy there. Maybe Charles had a real photograph of them lying around though that he could look at, or at least one of Lorna as he didn't know when or if he would meet her.
But even if he were able to recognize his youngest child, it would still be a pointless endeavor to try to calm her dreams. Who he was he to her but a stranger? And despite what Charles said, Erik couldn't believe that either Nina or Lorna would want anything to do with him. How could they? He wasn't the sort of man one would want as a father. Even Wanda and Pietro were angry at him, as they had every right to be, but now it seemed that the family they'd slowly been building was crumbling apart. Or at least Pietro was angry at him. From what he'd gathered, Wanda didn't seem to feel anything but misplaced guilt at the moment.
How had his life come to this? Not that he wasn't grateful that he had more family, and that his children were alive and somewhat healthy, because he was. My God, he was so grateful to have children again. To be a proper father. To not be alone. It was just…this wasn't the life he wanted for any of them. He was supposed to be there to raise them. To watch them grow. To be a family. They weren't supposed to all have grown up separately, more or less alone, as the world took away the ones they loved. That wasn't what they deserved. They deserved so much more.
Of course, in reality, he knew how this had happened. It was once again his fault because he'd put his own immediate pleasure before any long-term consequences, and as a result, now he had two more daughters whose lives had been wrought with misfortune.
Erik didn't really remember Suzanna Dane; wouldn't have even remembered her name if Charles hadn't reminded him of it, which brought to mind a young woman in a grubby waitress uniform. She was just another faceless stranger to pass the time with on the nights he was forced to rest while on his mission to kill Shaw. Just another person who would never understand. Who could never understand the depth of his rage or his sadness…or even his loneliness.
But he wasn't alone now. Now he had four living breathing children, who may or may not look to him for…what? Guidance? Protection? Just for someone that would be there when they looked up if they fell. He wanted to be that someone. A person that his mother had been for him, before the evil in this world had wrenched her away from him. But how could he be that someone when everything he did seemed to be the wrong decision? He wasn't good enough for them. He wasn't good, period. And he never would be…
What he did he remember of Suzanna Dane, he didn't like very much. He remembered her being more than willing to spend a night with him with very little prompting, not that he could judge her for that, as he was just as willing. But he had not liked her, though that hadn't stopped him from sleeping with her. From what he recalled, she had been extremely self-absorbed, vane, and far too chatty for Erik's tastes.
But Magda Gurzsky. Magda Gurzsky had been different, or at least, she could have been different. He'd met her in the days after his attempt to kill President Nixon, but before he'd confirmed the existence of his son. He had been lying low during that period, unable to face his failure or the fact that he may have a teenage son running about in the world. But as much as he should have stayed hidden, he'd also been in need of an escape, and one night that had overpowered what he knew would have been a smarter strategy. That and how he had failed to accomplish his goal of asserting mutants as superior for all the world to see, had left Erik with nothing left to distract him from the probability that Peter might be his son.
So Erik had headed to a bar in search of copious amounts of alcohol. But he had found something else entirely. Charles had been wrong, he hadn't exactly meant Magda in a bar, but outside of one. She'd been rushing one way, and he had been headed in the other direction with his head down, hoping to avoid attention, when they'd unceremoniously ran into each other.
Erik had reached out and caught her, purely out of instinct, and she, it seemed, had also responded instinctively, blurting out an apology. But it wasn't the fact of the apology but the language it was in that stopped Erik from immediately walking away. She had spoken in Polish.
So surprised to find someone speak another language of his childhood in the middle of the United States' capital city, Erik had responded in the foreign tongue as well quickly assuring her that the incident had been his fault.
But despite the nostalgia for his childhood home that the language ignited inside of him, Erik steeled himself and prepared to extricate himself from her, but as he was about to move away, Erik noticed a simple silver bracelet on her wrist with the name Magda neatly engraved in it. The name of his late wife. The name of the woman he should have spent the last decade and a half with if fate had been kinder, or maybe just if Erik had been a better man.
If he were being honest with himself, the moment he saw that bracelet, Erik knew he was not going to leave the young woman straightaway. Clearing the emotion from his voice with a cough, Erik had asked her about the bracelet, and more specifically the name on it, and found out that the young woman with beautiful brown that he imagined would tend toward auburn in the sunlight Erik had plowed into, shared the name of the mother of his children and the woman he once loved.
If Erik believed in such things, he would have thought it were as though they were meant to meet. But Erik didn't believe in such fairy tales or predestined events, so they'd just walked and talked. As they strolled along, he discovered that the bracelet was a gift from her late mother, so even though this Magda thought it was a little tacky to wear a piece of jewelry with one's own name on it, she couldn't bear to part with it. When she wore it, she felt as though her mother was always with her.
Compelled by her words or the beginnings of something he hadn't felt in a long while, Erik told her of the locket he had with his parents' photographs tucked inside. The locket he had only recently retrieved when he'd fetched his helmet. And the main reason, more than the possibility of Charles controlling him, that he'd found it necessary to break into the same government facility, he'd only just been freed from.
As they conversed with ease in Polish, they somehow found themselves in Erik's shabby hotel room, though Magda hadn't complained or seemed to notice. At that point, Erik knew if he didn't stop, he wouldn't be able to. It had after all been ten years since he'd been with a woman. And she wasn't just any woman. He'd liked to think he wasn't the sort of man to put his own needs before others, but he was a man. There was no denying that.
So—though he couldn't explain why beyond the feeling that if things were going to go further, he wanted to be completely honest with her—he told her who he was. Rationally everything in his mind told him not to, to keep his identity a secret. If she hadn't already recognized him, she wasn't going to, but to his surprise when he'd shared his connection to the recent events, she hadn't run away in terror. Instead she'd put a hand on the side of his face, pulled him close and…it'd been one of the best nights of his life.
But all the same, he knew it couldn't last. Perhaps if they had meant at a different time, he could have made a life with her, surely what he felt were the first blossomings of love. But instead, once she'd fallen asleep and he'd admired her in the moonlight for far longer than he should have dared, he'd left her in that hotel, abandoning it for a new one. Little did he know that he'd left his necklace there as well, not until she was gone, and he had no way to find her. Though he hadn't thought about it—the necklace—hardly at all once he realized it was gone. He forced himself not to think about it. Because he didn't know if he could handle one more loss, and that was even before Pietro went missing. And once Pietro was taken, well what was a necklace but a mere trifle compared to the life of his child.
And so he had left her, before it could become something more. Before he had someone new to love and to lose. But apparently he had left more than just Magda and more than just his mother's locket behind. He had left a little piece of himself, and abandoned his own child once again.
Erik didn't know how long he sat there in the hallway, but fortunately, no one crossed his path. Eventually Erik found the strength to stand and he made his way to his old room, which had been his destination to begin with.
When he entered the room, it took his eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness of the room, lit only by the moonlight streaming through the window, rather than the soft artificial lighting in the hallway, but when they did, he couldn't help how—despite his still overwhelming guilt and sadness—his lips curved up into a small smile.
Wanda and Pietro were curled up, asleep on top of the room's still made bed. They both had on too large grey sweatshirts and sweatpants, which Erik recognized as the ones he and the original 'x-men' had donned, back when they'd been little more than kids themselves. They were probably the most accessible clothing Hank could find that would be remotely comfortable.
Erik's old shirts and slacks he left behind, if they were still here, would not have been very conducive to sleeping, though Erik had slept in far worse many a time. Hopefully, they would probably be able to find more suitable clothing for the twins in the morning, being that this was a school now, there doubtlessly had to be children who could spare an outfit or two that were closer to Wanda and Pietro's size.
Erik entered the room, closing the door softly behind him so as not to wake either of his children. They were facing each other, as if they had fallen asleep talking, which was likely what had happened. Erik pulled his gaze from them for a moment to look around at his old room. Someone, probably Hank, had put some sheets, a pillow, and an old quilt on the couch that was across the room facing the bed.
Erik walked over to it, picked up the quilt and headed back to the bed, before draping it over his children. Wanda didn't move much, but Pietro's fingers curled into the blanket seeking comfort, and Erik noticed that as he did so, his brow furrowed, he started to breathe rapidly, and he let out a soft whimper. Having no doubt that his son was caught in the beginnings of a nightmare, Erik carded his hand through the boy's hair in what he hoped was a comforting and reassuring gesture that would somehow calm his mind.
It remarkably seemed to have the desired effect, as Pietro quieted, his brow unfurrowed, and his breathing returned to normal. Though he didn't release his hold on the blanket, the grasp of his slender fingers relaxed slightly.
Erik sighed sadly, and pulled the blanket up farther to cover the boy's shoulders better, and perhaps give him a sense of safety and security. Erik hoped his son's nightmare had dispersed for the night, but he knew it was more than likely that they would return. At least he would be there if they did. He could do that much for one of his children.
Erik gave one final look at the sleeping twins before going over to the couch and lying down so that he could keep his children in his sight. He didn't know how he was going to tell them they had more siblings, and he could only imagine how they would react or what they would think of him when he did.
He was afraid that when all was said and done, despite having four living children, he would once again be all alone.
So yea…I made Erik have a meet cute because I torture him enough, I can give him that much at least.}
Erik woke before either of the twins. It took him a moment to remember where he was. When he did, he wondered if there ever would come a time in his life when he would sleep in the same place night after night that wasn't a prison cell, instead of just for more than a couple of weeks if he was lucky. As it was, his time in Charles' home so many years ago was probably the closest he had to something like that since he was a child. But now, the room somehow felt both foreign and familiar at the same time.
Erik rose to his feet, trying not to think about the events of last night before his mind was fully awake. Once Erik had checked on Wanda and Pietro and taken care of his morning business, Charles spoke to him in his head.
Good morning, Erik. Did you sleep well?
Erik should have been angry at the mental intrusion, and he did give out an exasperated sigh at Charles unfaltering optimism, but despite his desire to keep his old friend out of his head, he couldn't pretend that Charles' voice wasn't comforting to hear. As long as Charles refrained from entering his mind any further than a telepathic conversation, Erik could handle it, perhaps even welcome it, though he wouldn't admit that, not even to himself.
I slept, which was more than I could have hoped for. Erik replied deadpanned.
At his words, Erik could practically feel the frown form on Charles' face, but his friend didn't comment on Erik's cynical reply.
Are Wanda and Pietro awake yet? Charles asked.
Can't you tell? Answered Erik throwing a bit of sarcasm into his reply.
Well yes…but I didn't want you to think I was invading their privacy or yours.
Erik just about snorted at that response. Charles, you're already talking to me telepathically. I'm not going to destroy your home just because you can't help but sense their unconscious minds. Despite what you might think, I'm not completely unreasonable…But if you do more than communicate with either them or me, we will be having a much different conversation.
Even though Erik's words were meant to be harsh, Charles tone remained lighthearted. I do not doubt it, my friend.
Erik only just refrained from rolling his eyes, but he decided to let the matter drop, and instead he asked about something else of import that was on his mind. Is..is Nina awake?
Charles didn't answer right away, and Erik wondered if he was checking to see if she was awake, or if he was keeping Erik in suspense intentionally. But Erik quickly dismissed the latter theory. Even with their complicated history, Charles wouldn't do anything to hurt Erik where his children were involved.
Yes…she is. Charles finally replied. I was going to go speak with her now about…everything, and then I was going to pay Mila a visit after. She's still sleeping at the moment though. I thought it would be good to prepare them both for…everything. But if you'd rather I didn't…
No. I—That's for the best I think. Erik managed. He was certainly shocked enough when he found about his daughters, he didn't want his daughters or Mila to have even more of a shock by physically running into him or the twins unprepared.
You're welcome to come out of your room whenever you'd like by the way. No one here is going to expect the infamous Magneto to come back from the dead or from wherever they believe you to be hiding, and I especially don't think they would expect you to turn up at a school if you did, even if it is one for mutants. But all the same…if you wouldn't mind taking on an alias that may help throw off some of the older or more observant students who might find your face slightly recognizable from their history lessons.
I've made history have I? asked Erik unable to hide his amusement.
I think you were born to make history Erik, but yes, your actions in D.C. certainly haven't been forgotten…
It was odd for Erik. Of course it made sense that something as big as the unveiling of mutants to the world and an attempted presidential assassination would be permanently enshrined in history, but for Erik even though the events were much more recent for him, that incident felt like it was lifetime ago. Liberating Mutant-kind would always be important to him, but now that he had four children alive to protect, they were the priority. If he had to try to kill another president again to keep them safe he would, but if it would endanger them in any way, rather than make their lives better, he wouldn't do anything so bold.
Charles voice pulled him from his thoughts. So, do you have a name in mind?
Erik thought about it for moment. He wouldn't use the name Maximoff. He wouldn't dishonor his wife or his children by taking their name. Besides, Wanda and Pietro probably wouldn't want to share their name with him in any case, and especially not in light of recent events. Nor would he take on the name Gurzsky or Dane. As different as he felt about the women, he wouldn't feel right about using either of their names, and he wouldn't do that to Lorna or Nina either. But there was a name he could use. A name that he'd used before long, long ago. He wouldn't use the entire name—he was nowhere near the same person as he had been the last time he'd been called by it—but he could use a piece of it.
After a moment, Charles replied.
It suits you. And Henryk is close enough to Erik hat it will help your children remember it. Is there a reason you chose it?
Erik paused considering how much he wanted to tell his old friend.
The first name, no. As for the last…it doesn't mean anything either. It hasn't for a long time.
Before Charles could respond, a voice in the room startled Erik.
"Whaaaat areyoudoing?" asked Pietro stretching out the first word before finish in a flurry.
Erik turned to the sound of his son's voice. The boy was sitting up, his hair a mild disaster. Next to him Wanda was awake and gazing at him expectantly as well, a lingering presence of guilt still clear on her face. Her hair was in a much better state than Pietro's however, which should have been surprising considering how much more hair she had than her brother, but if you knew Pietro, it really wasn't a surprise at all.
"I'm speaking with Charles." Answered Erik. Happy at least that Pietro wasn't too angry to talk to him.
"Um…I'm pretty sure you're just staring intently at nothing. Did you hit your head too?" Pietro asked. "I would've thought your helmet would protect your brain from concussions, but I guess it's not really practical in that sense. I mean, does it even have padding on the inside? Or is it just—"
"Pietro, he's speaking with me telepathically. That's his mutation. He was temporarily without it for…health reasons when you meant him." Erik answered hoping his son wouldn't make the connection about Charles' lack of powers and his obvious drug usage ten years ago. It wasn't something Erik wanted to discuss at the moment.
"Far out! I'm glad he got it back because that's so cool! Can he talk to me?! Iwannatry!" Pietro said excitedly, on his feet beside Erik in a second, as if he had to take a certain stance in order to communicate telepathically. Apparently telepathy was exciting enough to dispel Pietro's anger for the moment.
Pietro scrunched up his face in concentration fiercely directing his thoughts at Charles as Wanda and Erik looked on. Mere seconds later Pietro spoke again. "Dude, that is so awesome! But wait—can he read my thoughts?" Pietro asked turning to his father, before scrunching up his face again probably to ask Charles that exact question. Erik assumed Charles had already said hello to Pietro or something similar telepathically based on the boy's earlier reaction.
"Oops." Pietro said a moment later, as a sheepish grin spread across his face.
"What did he tell you?" asked Erik curiously.
"He said he can read people's thoughts, but he tries his best not to without permission because he doesn't have a right to invade their privacy like that, but he said my thoughts are so fast and Wanda's are all confuddled or something by her own powers that he can't really perceive them…" Pietro paused and blushed a bit. "He also said that in the future if I'm going to be speaking to him telepathically, I don't need to shout."
Despite his despondent mood, Erik let out a slight chuckle at his son's words and forced himself to keep it from turning into a wholehearted laugh. He could only imagine the whirlwind of thoughts that Pietro had projected at Charles.
Was that amusing to you Erik? Your son has an extraordinary mind, but the shouting in addition to the speed of his thoughts has given me a headache. Charles said in a faux-irritated tone.
Erik just grinned more widely.
Yes, actually it was.
When Charles answered, his tone was softer and more serious. I'm glad, Erik. It's nice to hear you laugh.
"Hey!" said Pietro waving his hand in front of Erik's face before Erik could respond to Charles. "Are you talking to him right now? You're doing the starey-thing again. Ask him where Mila's room is. And also ask him about breakfast? ButMilafirst. Butdon'tforgetbreakfast."
"Just a minute, Pietro. I need to—" Erik tried to reply.
"No! I'm not going to wait a minute. We've waited all night. What you decide isn't always right you know! We—"
"Just let him speak for a second, Pete." Said Wanda unexpectedly coming to Erik's aid.
"Thank you, Wanda." Said Erik surprised. Wanda just stared at him unemotionally. Erik wondered if she was maybe not as eager to see Mila as Pietro was because she wrongly blamed herself for their situation. Erik decided he would need to speak to her about that later, but for now he had to talk to her and Pietro about something else. "Charles has already said that you can reunite with Mila this morning. He's letting her know you're alive and here now, but first I need to tell you both something…"
Erik told them everything. Well not everything. But the necessary details. He told them of Lorna, and of Nina. They took it better than he expected, remaining surprisingly quiet throughout his tale. But that still didn't mean that they took it very well.
"So…" said Pietro finally when Erik had finished. "Did you not care about mom at all? I thought you said she was at least your friend, but did she actually not mean anything to you?" he asked quietly, while trying to appear like Erik's answer didn't matter to him one way or the other.
"What?!" Erik blurted out louder than he intended unable to contain his shock. "How could you think that? Of course I cared about your mother! She meant everything to me. She and Anya, and you two had I known you existed."
Pietro nodded, but wouldn't make eye contact with Erik. Wanda seemed wholly unsurprised by Erik's revelations for some reason. "That was unfair. I'm sorry. I haven't forgotten the story of how you met and everything…and you married her, so obviously you cared about mom…and I am really glad we have more siblings. I'm sure they're awesome. I mean, how could they not be, when they're related to us, right Wands?" he asked giving his sister a nudge before continuing. "It's just…a lot okay. And it's weird. And the fact that you weren't there when mom was sick…and—and you could move on when mom couldn't…" Pietro shrugged sadly still not meeting his father's eyes. "I don't know. It just hurts."
"Pietro…" Erik started, not sure what to say, wishing his son would meet his gaze.
"Can we just go see Mila now please?" asked Pietro finally looking up after changing the subject. "And then Nina too, I guess." He added.
Erik nodded knowing that Pietro wasn't truly over the whole situation, but figuring it was best to move on for the moment. "Charles is explaining the situation to both of them first, but how about we go find some breakfast downstairs."
"But—" Pietro started to say before Wanda interrupted him.
"They need time to take this in Pete. It will be just as big of a shock for them as it was for us." Wanda said holding her brother's arm as if she expected him to take off, which he very well might if he knew where to find Mila.
"Yea, I guess you're right. I didn't really think about that…I suppose it wouldn't hurt to have breakfast first then." said Pietro as his stomach rumbled as if on cue.
Just then there was a knock at the door, so Erik went to answer it. He opened it expecting Charles, only to find Hank with a pile of clothes folded under one arm and a silver jacket on a hanger held in the other.
"Hank." Said Erik surprised.
"Erik." Hank answered with a mild glare. But then he seemed to remember that Erik wasn't alone and two of his children were staring at him from over Erik's shoulder. He cleared his throat and continued with less animosity in his voice. "I cleaned the kids' clothes, and I have Peter's jacket too. It's still a little damp, but if you leave it to hang and dry naturally it should be fine. We can get them new clothes at some point and borrow some from the other kids until then…anyway, here." Said hank shoving the clothes into Erik's arms as if he wasn't sure how to talk to him and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. "Oh and Wanda's old jacket is in the bottom drawer of the dresser if she wants it. Mila didn't want to get rid of it, but she always didn't want it." With that Hank turned and left, closing the door behind him.
Thanks for reading, and thanks for all of the kudos! Feel free to leave a comment if you'd like. I'm probably going to do a bit of Pietro's POV for next chapter to switch things up.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
I was told that my google translation of English to German in part 1 of this series was atrocious, so I decided that from now on I will put other languages in bold, so that's what I did for the 'Polish' in this chapter. However, if anyone speaks Polish and wants to translate it, so that the story might be more authentic, feel free to let me know.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A few minutes later, after taking turns in the bathroom, Wanda had changed into her old clothes, including her favored jacket, and Erik had put on an old pair of khakis and a black polo, making him look pretty different from the fearsome Magneto, which Pietro guessed had probably been his goal because he didn't look that comfortable in them. It looked like Erik was missing the flannels he had worn at Al's.
Pietro, for one was missing his leather jacket, but he wasn't about to ruin his favorite piece of clothing by putting it on too soon before it was dry. Pietro sighed wishing he had long sleeves instead of a t-shirt, but all of Erik's old clothes that had long sleeves would look ridiculous on him. He had been nearly drowning in the old grey sweatshirt. He'd just have to hope that no one would notice the tattoo or brand on his arms, or pay any attention to the bandaged cut on his arm.
Wanda had made Pietro let Hank take a thorough look at that particular injury last night since it was the most recent and do some cognitive tests to make sure he hadn't exasperated his previous head injury. Fortunately, it didn't seem like he had done any lasting damage because he'd passed Hank's cursory examination without being forced inside in machines, but he knew Wanda and Erik would undoubtedly still coddle him for a while…or a lifetime.
Pietro looked away from his arms and up into the bathroom mirror before him. Yep, it was definitely a good choice not to wear Erik's clothes. He looked skinny enough in the ones that fit him. Add the fact that it looked like he had a bruise forming on the side of his face, probably from the plane crash, and he was the picture of health. Not.
With the cut above his eye, the emaciated look he had going, and his pale skin, he looked only slightly better than a corpse.
Pietro sighed again. Ten years had passed for the rest of the world but he was still the same. Skinny, pale, and pathetic.
He splashed some water on his face to try to wake himself up enough to at least get rid of the bags under his eyes, but when he was done, the same pitiful reflection stared back at him.
"Pietro, are you alright in there?" Erik's worried voice echoed through the bathroom door.
"I'm fine!" Pietro called back with more venom than necessary. He didn't like being mad at Erik. He wanted to have a good relationship with his father. But Erik had left them, and he was tired of people leaving him. Even Wanda had left him, and though he tried not to think about it, he was pretty sure if he hadn't been kidnapped, she might never have come back. And even though they had no choice in the matter, his mom and his aunt had left him too.
In a flash, Pietro had gathered up and folded the old sweats he had been wearing before throwing open the bathroom door, tearing past Erik toward the bedroom door.
"Pietro, slow down." Erik said imploringly.
Pietro promptly ignored him. "Breakfast waits for no one Erik!"
When they reached the kitchen, Pietro was overwhelmed by all of the people. There were a lot of kids up and about for how early it was, but Pietro figured they must have to get to class. He had no idea what day of the week it was, but apparently it wasn't a Saturday or Sunday, unless along with freaky powers these kids had freaky sleep schedules as well.
Most of the kids were about his and Wanda's age, but some looked a little older and a few were quite a bit younger. But the one thing they had in common was that they were all staring.
Pietro tried to ignore the stares. He hadn't been around this many people for a long time, and hadn't been around this many people his age since the end of the school year, which actually felt like it had been about ten years ago.
No one made a move to say anything to them though. He didn't know if that was because it was the morning. He didn't blame them if that was the reason. He wasn't too chatty in the morning either. Okay that was a lie. He was still pretty chatty, even in the morning, or he used to be, but he could empathize with them about not getting enough sleep. That he understood.
Or maybe they were just not approaching them because with so many mutants, weird things happened all the time around here, so three unexpected faces wasn't really all that surprising. Or maybe they were even trying to be nice by giving them space. He hoped that was the reason.
God he wished everyone would quit staring at them. It felt just like high school all over again. But maybe in this case they were staring because they were curious as to who the new people were and not because they could tell he was a freak. Hank had explained that this was a school for mutants now, so they wouldn't care how freakish he looked right? But from what he could see, none of them had any blatantly obvious physical mutations like he did.
So he was a freak even among freaks. Awesome.
Just when Pietro felt like he might start hyperventilating, or run back to their room upstairs, Wanda—seemingly reading his mind—squeezed his arm comfortingly, giving him enough confidence to enter the room.
Pietro grabbed a plate from a large stack and then followed Wanda over toward where there was a giant box of donuts, some pancakes, cereal, fruit, and a boatload of toppings. Forgoing the food, Erik went straight for the coffee.
Pietro loaded his plate generously. He was hungry, like always. Engrossed by the amount of food around him, Pietro didn't even hear one of the students come up beside him.
"Hi!" said a perky voice next to him.
Pietro jumped about a mile. Thankfully, he managed not to drop his plate or any food thanks to his fast reflexes.
"Oh I'm sorry! I didn't mean to startle you! You must be new students! I'm Jubilation Lee, but you can call me Jubilee." Said the voice again.
Pietro finally looked up from his food to the source of the friendly voice next to him. The voice belonged to a girl—a very pretty girl—with jet black hair that was pulled up into a ponytail kept in place by a bright pink scrunchie. She had on a bright yellow jacket, a low-toned black and white striped skirt, and bright pink boots. Pietro could only stare at her.
"I'm Wanda. And this is my brother Pietro." Said Wanda giving Pietro a gentle nudge.
"H—hi." Said Pietro finally finding his voice though it cracked much to his embarrassment. "and uh, you can call me Peter. Pretty much everybody does, except for my dad and Wanda depending on the day."
"Cool." Said Jubilee smiling at him. She had a really pretty smile too. "I love your hair! Is it natural or do you dye it?"
She liked his hair? Not just liked, loved. Nobody liked his hair, let alone loved it. He didn't even like his hair.
"I—um it's natural." Pietro answered stumbling over his words a bit.
"Darn." Said Jubilee "I was hoping you could tell me where you got the hair dye. I was thinking I might try to do a streak of color in my hair and I am just totally digging that color."
"Th—thanks. I think a you would look good streaking." Then realizing what he had said Pietro quickly tried to correct himself. "I mean your hair would look good! With a streak!" said Pietro.
Shut up! Shut up! Just stop talking.
Pietro finally managed "Yourhairwouldlookgoodwithastreakofcolor!"
He could feel a blush rising on his cheeks, which was probably blatantly obvious on his pale skin.
His embarrassing rant didn't seem to bother Jubilee though. "Thanks!" said Jubilee her smile never faltering and still appearing completely sincere.
"So are you starting classes today? I wonder if you'll be in any of mine. It looks like we have new teacher too." Said Jubilee nodding over at Erik. "I wonder what he'll be teaching."
"Oh that's not—he's not—that's our dad. Er—Henryk." Said Pietro remembering his father's pseudonym just in time. He'd explained that he would be using an alias right before he'd dropped the bombshell that he and Wanda had two more siblings. "And I'm not sure about classes, we just got here last night so…"
But maybe Erik would teach eventually. It wasn't like he could go out and get a regular job. 'Yes here's my resume. I've had some experience in demolition and construction. I enjoy motivational speaking on occasion, and I design my own outfits from time to time.' Then again, Pietro was pretty sure his dad was good at staying under the radar when he wanted to, so working under a different name even when he looked pretty much the same, probably wouldn't be too hard for him. He would have to get some kind of job if they stayed here anyway because he was pretty sure Erik wasn't the kind of person that liked to take charity.
"Oh. I just assumed he was a new faculty member. It seems like some of them are always coming and going with all the accidents our mutations cause. That's nice of him to be here while you get settled in. It's always good to see supportive parents. A lot of kids here don't have that. My parents are really accepting about me being a mutant, but they live back home in California, so I don't see them much during the school year." Jubilee said surprisingly morose compared to her previously cheerful demeanor.
Pietro frowned in sympathy. He didn't like that she was sad. And he wanted to make her feel better, but he wasn't sure how to respond to that, but before he could, Wanda spoke up. "Yea Henryk is very accepting of the whole mutant thing." Said Wanda, causing Pietro's face to twitch into a smile. He was glad his sister was able to joke a bit, since she had been so gloomy since last night's incident. And yea, Erik was extremely accepting of mutants, just not the humans.
"That's nice!" said Jubilee, not picking up on Wanda's underlying meaning, but then she added. "He looks familiar. Has he visited here without you guys before?"
Fortunately, Pietro and Wanda were saved from responding because Jubilee suddenly looked up as if she were thinking. Then she addressed them again.
"Sorry! The professor wants to talk to me." She said tapping the side of her head to indicate that he was communicating with her telepathically. Jubilee quickly grabbed a paper towel and two donuts and turned to go. "Nice to meet you both!" She called as she left.
Pietro let out a breath when she was gone. He didn't know if it was in relief or disappointment at her absence.
Wanda let out a little chuckle next to him before steering him toward a couple of empty seats at the counter rather than the busy dining room. "That was smooth. Come on Romeo."
"Shut up." Pietro mumbled growing red again, but there was no real malice in his words. He was definitely embarrassed, but he was glad his sister was keeping up her good humor, though he suspected it was more for his benefit than because she was actually feeling happier this morning.
Once they were seated Pietro took a bite of pancake and followed it up with a glazed donut. They were both delicious. "So…do you think Mila will look like Aunt Marya?" he asked.
"I don't know…" said Wanda quietly. "You'll have to tell me. I'm not going to see her."
"What!?" asked Pietro. "What do you mean you're not going to see her?"
"I c—can't" said Wanda. "After what I've done. How can I face her?"
"What are you talking about?" Pietro asked trying to keep his voice down. "You haven't done anything wrong, and you can't just avoid her. This place is big, but I don't think it's that big."
"This is all my fault Pete. I messed everything up." Said Wanda looking down at her plate, which was substantially less full than Pietro's.
"You messed everything up? Hello, I'm the one that got myself kidnapped. If I wasn't such a liability none of this would have happened." Answered Pietro.
"Pietro, you're not a liability, and that wasn't your faul—"
"Okay yea." Said Pietro cutting off his twin. "maybe that wasn't my fault, but I did break Erik out of prison,and I always draw attention to myself by stealing stuff, and if I hadn't done either of those things then you wouldn't have had to get me out of there. And even though I'm kinda pissed at him right now, I'm glad we found out who our dad is and that we get to know him because of it, but still. That could've happened a different way. I could've just pestered Marya about who our dad was, like seriously asked her over and over again until she told me and then we could've figured it out from there. Then maybe she'd still be alive, Mila would still be an innocent little kid, and you could be off doing whatever you were doing instead of having to look out for your idiot twin brother."
"Pete—" Wanda tried again
"Nuh uh, let me finish. What I said last night is just as true today, and it will be just as true tomorrow and the next day. It's not your fault. You got us back here. And yea it sucks that ten years have passed and Mila is basically a grown up, but we both know she didn't need us here to grow up. She was always tough. We're the ones that probably need her more than she needs us."
Erik hid his smile behind his coffee cup, amused by his son's encounter with the young female student. It looked like Pietro was struggling, but only in a normal boy-girl interaction way, not in any PTSD flashback sort of way. He wondered if he needed to have 'The Talk' with Pietro or if someone had already covered that along with the 'your body is changing speech.' Obviously, he wouldn't know if Pietro had heard it all before because he wasn't around, but that was one thing he was okay with someone having taken over for him. That's not a conversation any kid wants to have with their parent, nor probably vice versa.
Erik was debating whether he should go over and save his son some embarrassment by interrupting the conversation, or if that would be more embarrassing to have your father come over while you were talking to a girl. He'd never had teenagers before. He didn't really know the protocol. They looked over at him once during their conversation, and Erik quickly pretended to look in the other direction, not wanting them to know he was watching them.
In the end, he didn't need to decide whether to interrupt because the girl left after a few minutes. She still seemed cheerful though, so he hoped for Pietro's sake that the interaction hadn't gone too terribly.
Erik took a sip of his coffee and turned to go look out the French doors off the kitchen. His eyes scanned over the familiar lake and woods off in the distance, but neither of those views were what caught Erik's attention. Instead, his gaze fell on the sole person standing outside. It was a little girl, her back was to Erik, but from his view, he could see that she had dark brown hair and like something out of a movie, she was feeding a deer from the palm of her hand. From what Charles had told him last night, there was only one person she could be.
For some unknown reason, the little girl chose that moment to turn and look over her shoulder, giving Erik the first glimpse of her face. She had the same dark brown eyes that Wanda and Pietro shared, dispelling any lingering doubt as to her identity. Just a moment later, she caught sight of Erik. Instead of showing fear at being watched by some mysterious stranger, she gave him a shy smile, and Erik couldn't help but think of Anya.
Erik didn't know what to do. He hoped he was returning her smile, but he wasn't sure if he had even moved a muscle. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest.
Go meet your daughter Erik. I've already spoken with her. She's eager to meet you. She just wanted to finish saying good morning to her friend.
Charles' voice was gentle but firm in its prompting. But Erik was still frozen where he stood, watching as the little girl turned her back on him again, giving the deer a gentle hug and a wave goodbye as it sprinted off toward the woods.
You can do this, my friend. Charles encouraged Erik again. Erik wanted to reply. He wanted to tell him to mind his own business, but he couldn't. Because without Charles' encouragement, he wouldn't have found the will to do what he did next. Opening the French doors and heading outside, Erik walked slowly toward his daughter who had turned to watch him with reserved curiosity when he'd opened the door.
When he was but a few feet away from her, Erik lowered himself down to one knee, so that he would be closer to her height. She looked small for her age, her slightness emphasized by a worn brown jacket that was a touch too big for her.
"Hi." said Nina quietly fidgeting with the edge of her sleeve.
"Hello." Erik answered switching easily into Polish. "D—do you know who I am?" Asked Erik tentatively. Charles had said he'd already spoken with her, but that didn't mean she would necessarily know who he was by sight. Though it didn't seem like she was, it could be that she was scared of the strange man who had approached her, and the last thing he wanted was to cause her fear.
Nina studied him intently for a moment, as if she was searching for what to say. "You're my Papa?" She said finally. Her voice rising on the last word, phrasing it as a question. A question that Erik thought might have held a tinge of hopefulness in it.
"I am. And you're Nina?" said Erik, he could feel the sting of tears threating to come, but he pushed them away.
Nina nodded at his words, and then looked away as if she were considering them. "And you're different like me, and like Lorna?"
Different. He was different, as were all his living children it seemed, but Erik felt anger rising in his chest at the word because Nina said it as if it were a bad thing. He wasn't angry at her though, just at those who had made her come to that conclusion. He forced his anger deep down inside of him. It wouldn't do to make his daughter believe he was angry at her. "I am. My abilities are similar to Lorna's, or so I'm told…you know, it's not a bad thing…to be different."
Nina tugged at her sleeve again before meeting Erik's gaze once more. "That's what my Mama used to tell me. She said if no one were different, we'd all be the same, and that would be boring." Nina dropped her head toward the ground, her voice sounding tearful as she finished.
"I'm sorry she was taken from you. You didn't deserve that, and neither did your mother."
Nina wiped at her eyes, then looked up at Erik. "If you're my Papa, then…that means you knew my Mama?" Nina asked hopefully.
Erik cringed internally. "I'm afraid I didn't know her very well. But I would have liked to..." He paused before continuing. "And I would like to get to know you too, if you'd let me."
"I'd like that." Nina answered. Then after a moment's pause. "I've never had a Papa before." Nina kicked the ground with one small foot, and Erik's heart nearly broke. He was trying to think of what to say next when she spoke again. "Could…could I give you a hug Papa?" Nina asked tentatively.
Erik smiled brightly, tears prickling at his eyes again. "I'd like that very much."
Then Nina took a few hesitant steps forward before wrapping Erik in her small arms as best she could. Erik in turn put his arms around her, enveloping her in a warm hug. It felt as if another whole in his heart had been repaired and he hadn't even known it was broken.
Erik wished he could just hold her forever and protect her from the world, but he didn't want to scare her away by being more overbearing than she was prepared for, so reluctantly after a few seconds Erik let her go and Nina stepped back again. When she did, a few of the tears that he had until then held at bay, spilled over. Erik didn't bother to wipe them away. He barely even noticed their presence.
"Nina, would you like to meet your other sister and your brother?" Erik asked rising to his feet. "They're a bit older than you, but they're different like us too."
Nina nodded, more eagerly this time, and Erik smiled down at her again. He looked back up and went to take a step back toward the house, when he felt a small hand curl around his own.
Thank you to everyone who has left kudos and comments on this story. I really appreciate it, and feel free to continue to share your thoughts. I love hearing what people have to say. (:
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
I'm really sorry that this chapter is so short, but I wanted to post an update for all of you. I wish I could devote more time to writing this story. Thank you all so much for being patient with me, and thank you to all of those who have left a comment and kudos. I'm glad people are enjoying it enough to take the time to do so. Please excuse any grammatical errors. I edited this in the wee hours of the morning...because what is sleep? Once again, conversations in Polish are in bold.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Erik paused as he reached the doors to the kitchen, Nina obediently coming to a stop beside him. He really didn't want an audience for the first meeting between Nina and the twins, but he wasn't sure what he was going to say to Nina to delay the encounter if there were in fact other students still mingling around. Fortunately, however, the first class of the morning must have been about to begin, because when he glanced in through the doors' glass panels, no one but Wanda and Pietro were left in the kitchen.
The two teens looked rather glum, but Erik was happy to see that they both had a plate of food in front of them. It was a little sad that that fact alone made him happy. And he was even happier to see that despite his sullen appearance, Pietro was munching heartedly into a pile of food that would probably raise anyone else's cholesterol level by about a hundred, though Wanda looked only to be picking at the food on her own plate. But at least one skipped meal wouldn't affect Wanda the way it would Pietro.
Erik tore his gaze away from the twins to look down at his youngest daughter.
"Are you ready?" Erik asked gently.
Nina nodded again. Erik wondered if the sudden quietness was due to nerves, or if Nina was just naturally shy. He thought it might be the former, since she had been vocal enough when they'd first meant moments ago, and she had every right to be nervous. Erik was nervous too.
He wasn't worried about his children being cruel to one another, they were all too good of people for that. He was just worried that their relationships wouldn't move beyond niceties, and they would forever be nothing more than polite acquaintances. He didn't want that. He wanted them to be able to rely on one another and to trust each other instinctively long after he was gone, which he supposed was what every parent hoped for, though he doubted it happened too often.
Erik inhaled deeply and then pulled the door open. At the sound of the nose, Wanda and Pietro's eyes rose in unison to look at him, making them look much more like twins then they usually did as their gazes were ones of high alert. The intensity in their eyes lessened when they saw it was only Erik, well Erik and another little someone who had opted to let go of his hand in favor of halfway hiding behind his back.
"It's alright, my darling. These are your siblings." Erik said softly to the little girl. "I'm going to switch to English though so they can understand us. They know a lot of languages, but I do not believe Polish is one of them."
"Okay." Said Nina in a whisper barely loud enough for him to hear as she pressed her face into Erik's back. Erik glanced down at Nina and put one arm around her and what he hoped was a comforting gesture. When he looked back up, Wanda and Pietro had risen from their seats and come around the counter, so that they were standing closer to Erik and his youngest charge.
"Wanda. Pietro." Said Erik switching to English and trying not to let show how self-conscious he was of this whole situation. "This is your sister Nina. Nina, this is your older sister and brother."
Wanda smiled down gently at her little sister, any hint of guilt, sadness, or even the anger that Erik had seen on her face last night and earlier this morning was carefully hidden away. That talent made Erik both proud of his elder daughter's ability to put her younger siblings at ease, but he was also saddened by the fact that it was even necessary for her to do so.
"Hello, Nina." Said Wanda keeping her voice as gentle as possible. "It's very nice to meet you."
Nina remained still mostly behind Erik, but she poked one eye out at Wanda's words, observing her timidly.
Pietro also put an easy grin on his face that Erik knew, despite the horrors the boy had suffered recently, was completely genuine, though Erik also worried that with Pietro's tendency to be self-deprecating that one of the feelings he was having was that of a fear of being replaced. For the time being though, that particular worry seemed to be for naught.
"Hi Nina! I'm Pietro, in case you thought I might be Wanda, or you can call me Peter, or Pete, or Pie, or 'Tro, or Bro, or whatever fits your fancy really. I'm not too picky. Oooo! Or in recognition of my maturity, you could even call me Sir Maximoff, if you're feeling particularly formal, my lady, Nina." Said Pietro making an exaggerated bow.
Erik glanced down at Nina again after Pietro finished his monologue, glad to see that Pietro's easygoing antics had the beginnings of a smile making its way onto Nina's face as she poked her head further out from behind Erik, though she kept a hand clenched in the fabric of his shirt.
"Oh yes, Pete, you're so very mature." Said Wanda sarcastically but good-humoredly as she rolled your eyes. "You're probably the most adult person I know."
"Hmm, I'm picking up on a hint of sarcasm there, twinster. I think a second opinion is in order. Nina, don't you think—in all of the time you have known me—that I'm probably the most adult-like and possibly the most mature person you've ever met?" asked Pietro as he put his fisted hands on his hips, tilting his chin up regally, in what might have been an attempt at a warrior pose, but with Pietro's impish grin and boyish looks, it came off looking more like a stance Peter Pan might take.
Nina—now almost completely out from behind Erik—shook her head with a full smile this time.
"What?! NO!" said Pietro in obvious mock betrayal, as he put one hand over his heart and dropped to his knees before falling onto his back on the kitchen floor as he gazed up at all of them in fake despair, causing Erik to raise an eyebrow and wonder if his son had been into theater before he had come around and ruined his life.
"A'las! My sisters have turned against me! Dear father, these are the end of days!" Pietro closed his eyes and put the back of his other hand to his forehead. As he made this performance, Nina let out a giggle, which had Erik's heart swelling in happiness and in response to a sound so pure.
Wanda and Pietro both grinned at the sound, and Pietro opened one eye to take a quick look up at Nina to confirm that she was indeed smiling. Then he opened both eyes and was back on his feet in a flash. Erik winced at his son's quick movement, but didn't dare reprimand him for it, as he didn't want the moment of happiness to end.
"Don't worry my lady!" said Pietro addressing Nina once more with a grin. "Despite this betrayal, I will still be your knight in silver armor; ready to come to your aid at a moment's notice!"
"I believe the phrase is knight in shining armor, Pietro." Said Erik in faux seriousness.
"Oh he knows that." Said Wanda chiming in. "He's just always insisted on saying silver armor to make it clear that he's not showing up to save you in any other color."
"Exactly! Dear sister! There's no way my armor is going to be pink or green or blue or any other color. Oh for sure it will be shining, or shiny, or whatever too, but more importantly it'll be silver." Said Pietro as he reached almost reflexively to tug at the sleeve of one familiar silver jacket as if to straighten it, only to realize of course that it wasn't there. His grin faltered for a second when his hand fell instead on his bandaged arm. But he recovered quickly, plastering the grin back on his face.
But the slip up gave Erik a painful reminder of what Pietro had been through in such a short amount of time, and it also reminded him of a conversation that needed to be had with his son sooner rather than later. For now though, he just shook his head at Pietro's sense of humor.
"I like silver. It's pretty." Said Nina, speaking for the first time in front of the twins.
"Pretty?! Okay maybe it's a little bit pretty, like very very little, but it's also pretty intimidating, don't you think?" asked Pietro. "That's probably what you meant to say, right?"
Nina just shrugged and giggled again.
"I'll take that as a yes!" said Pietro raising his fist in victory. "Oh! You can also call me Quicksilver if you want too. It's my superhero name. Wanda and I came up with it when we were little. Wanda's name is the Scarlet Witch. And our Dad, Henryk…already has a superhero name as you probably know, but we'll have to think of one for you too, Nina! Said Pietro glancing at Erik before quickly looking back at his younger sister. "Or if you think of something let us know too. Dad told us about your awesome woodland powers."
Erik was glad to hear Pietro refer to him as Dad, though he thought it might only be because Nina was present. But whatever the reason, he cherished the feeling it gave him.
"Alright, alright." Said Erik hoping to shut down anymore conversations of superhero names, not that he minded the kids having their fun, but he was afraid that conversation was dipping dangerously close to his past as Magneto, and having just met Nina, that was the last thing he wanted. At least Pietro had said he had a superhero name and not a supervillain one. "You two need to finish eating. Nina, would you like something?"
"Yes please. Pancakes…if that's okay? I can get them." Said Nina, impossibly polite.
"Pancakes sound perfect, and I will get them for you. Go join Pietro and Wanda at the counter." Said Erik as he headed over to fill his daughter's request. But he only half paid attention to the task as he watched his children interacting. The twins were asking Nina how to say certain words in Polish.
He watched them fondly for a little while after fixing Nina's plate, not honing in too closely on their conversation, just content to watch them smile and laugh together as if they had known each other much longer than just a few minutes. When he did join them, Pietro immediately addressed him.
"Er—uh—Henryk!" Pietro said looking at Erik earnestly. "Tell Nina it's true that I broke you out of prison the first time we met and Charles—Sorry, the Professor—punched you in the face. She doesn't believe me!"
Erik sighed and just barely managed to resist the urge to slap his hand over his face. So much for avoiding the Magneto topic.
I hope you enjoyed this fun little introduction. If you have any thoughts to share or lingering questions please let me know. Eventually there will be an actual conflict in this story (beyond there already is). There's just a lot of little interactions I want to have happen before we get into the heavier stuff, if that makes sense. Anyway, thanks for reading!
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Mila has a rude awakening.
New POV, brought to you by Mila Maximoff.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Had she overslept? Mila definitely wasn't a morning person, but she wasn't one to blow off class either. She was old enough and smart enough now to know that the professor would never kick her out, but she still thought it better to be a model student, since she had been imposing on his hospitality for more than half her life.
Mila opened her eyes to see Jubilee's face peering down at her. She already had makeup on, her hair done up in a high ponytail, and was donning her signature yellow jacket. When Mila's eye's connected with hers, Jubilee smiled brightly.
"It's too early for it to be good." Mumbled Mila into her pillow after having glanced at her alarm clock to check the time. "Why'd you wake me up, Jubilee? You know I don't have class until later."
Jubilee was a great friend and roommate, but she didn't seem to understand that not everyone wanted to be up at the crack of dawn, or at least if they did, they weren't as thrilled about it as she always seemed to be.
"I know. I'm sorry." Answered Jubilee, her smile fading a little bit in sympathy "but the Professor said he needed to speak with you before his class this morning."
"About what?" asked Mila sitting up. She was still not ready to get up, but she knew she wouldn't be able to fall asleep again now that she was awake and if the Professor wanted to talk to her without waiting for her to wake up on her own accord, then it was probably about something important. She just couldn't think of what it might be. Maybe about possibly scheduling college visits, but that wasn't exactly a topic that couldn't wait until later in the day.
"I don't know. He didn't say, but it seemed like it was pretty important. He had his serious face on and I think he might've been communicating with someone telepathically at the same time because he was a little distracted." Replied Jubilee as she offered Mila a donut that she must've already snagged from the kitchen.
Mila gladly accepted the treat, taking a bite and savoring its deliciousness before swallowing to respond to Jubilee. "Alright, well I guess I'll find out. Tell him I'll be out in five." Of course, if the Professor was paying attention to their conversation, he'd already know that Mila was up, but since he hadn't simply contacted Mila telepathically, she figured it was better to assume he wasn't listening. Overall, the Professor was pretty good about respecting people's privacy, or at least keeping up the pretense of privacy. But maybe he really didn't listen in on their thoughts all that much. Mila doubted that what went through the heads of teenagers, especially girls, was of much interest to him, though he did have an annoying habit of catching them whenever they were doing something they probably shouldn't be doing, like springing someone from detention for an impromptu trip to the mall.
Mila was much like Jubilee in that she liked clothes and to look nice. Though she didn't have quite the knack for it as the other girl. It wasn't something she obsessed over, but Mila did enjoy shopping on occasion, though she always felt guilty because pretty much her only source of income came from the Professor.
"He said he'd come to you." Said Jubilee breaking Mila out of her thoughts.
The professor almost never came to their rooms. He said it was good for them to have their own space and that he may own the house/school but they should think of the rooms as their own. Mila appreciated that, though in hindsight, it was hardly possible that the many teenagers who occupied the school could get away with anything too terrible when the headmaster was a mind reader.
"Huh, guess maybe it is something serious."
"Maybe." Said Jubilee shrugging. "Or maybe he just wants you to show the new students around."
"New students?" asked Mila. It wasn't that uncommon for students to show up out of the blue. Mutant powers didn't really come with a warning most of the time, and unfortunately, when they did, too often human parents looked for the quickest opportunity to get their freaky kid out from underneath their roof.
"Yea, two of them!" said Jubilee cheerfully. "They seem nice, and the boy is super cute too."
"Oh yea?" asked Mila with a chuckle.
"Yep!" said Jubilee smiling brightly, but then her smile dropped into a hint of a frown. "He seemed a little skittish though, but maybe he's just shy."
Or maybe he was just intimidated by you, Jubilee. Not everyone can handle your spunk all at once.
But Mila doubted that was the reason. A lot to handle, yes, but Jubilee was too nice to be that intimidating. It was more likely that the kid had a difficult experience coming into his powers or his family hadn't taken the change well. Most mutant kids weren't blessed with an apple-pie life. Mila didn't want to say that to Jubilee though. Jubilee was lucky in that her family was really supportive of her, but she knew that wasn't the norm. She didn't need Mila to remind her of that.
"Just give him a little bit of time to settle in. Change isn't easy, but I'm sure you'll be best buds eventually. No one can resist your charm for long." Said Mila winking at her friend.
Jubilee smiled back at Mila, but her smile wasn't quite as bright as before. "I'm not trying to charm him. I just want him and his sister to know that there are people who want to be their friends here...anyway, I should get to class." Said Jubilee as she rose to her feet from where she had been perched on the edge of Mila's bed.
"Okay, well I guess I'll see you in chem." Said Mila.
"Sounds good. I hope you're not in trouble. Because if you're in trouble, then I'm probably in trouble." Replied Jubilee though she didn't seem that concerned.
"If I am, I'll be sure to let you know." Answered Mila.
"Okaydokay. Works for me. See you later!" said Jubilee as she exited the room, closing the door behind her, leaving Mila alone once more.
Mila quickly brushed her teeth and changed her clothes after Jubilee left, then exactly five minutes later, there was a soft knock on her door.
"Mila? May I come in?" The Professor asked from the hallway.
"Just a sec!" replied Mila throwing her hair into a pony tail before going to open the door for the Professor. "Good morning, Professor."
"Good morning, Mila." The Professor answered with a small smile as he entered the room and closed the door behind him, though it looked to Mila like his smile was a little forced.
"So, what's up? Jubilee said you needed to speak with me right away." Said Mila as she hopped back on her bed, arranging herself so that she was sitting cross-legged with her back against the wall between her Dazzler and Han Solo poster.
"Yes." Said the Professor rather gravely as he directed his chair to face Mila. "I do."
"Okay…should I be worried?" asked Mila only half-joking. The Professor was kind of freaking her out now with his serious demeanor. "Is it Lorna?" She and Lorna weren't particularly close, but that didn't mean she didn't care about her. She and Nina were her only living connections to Pietro and Wanda after all. Mila wasn't worried about Nina though. She'd seen the girl head off to bed the night before, so she knew she was within the safety of the school.
Mila really hated herself for how distant she was with Nina. But she just couldn't do more. When she looked in Nina's eyes, all she saw was Wanda and Pietro looking back at her. It was so difficult to be around the little girl, especially when she laughed. She had Pietro's laugh. And Nina had always been eager to ask Mila questions about her siblings. Questions that Mila just couldn't answer, because whenever she opened her mouth to try, nothing would come out.
It hadn't been like that with Lorna. Lorna didn't remind her of her siblings, or at least not as much. For one thing her piercing green eyes were very different from the twins and Nina's dark brown, but Lorna also didn't hang around too much. At first, Mila thought Lorna didn't like her because she was human, and that she only tolerated her because she was technically her siblings'' 'sibling.' But Mila eventually realized that Lorna was just fiercely independent and really didn't like anyone's company.
So no, they would never be friends like Mila had first hoped when the other girl came to the mansion, and she had been naive to think that. But in the first few years Mila had been here, there was really no one near her age, even when the Professor started finding more students, the great majority had been teenagers, and Mila hadn't even been a pre-teen yet. But when Lorna came, and she had only been a couple of years older than Mila, she thought she'd finally have a friend, but she'd had to wait longer.
Lorna kept to herself. The only time she'd actively seek Mila out was when she wanted to ask questions—not about Wanda and Pietro—but about Wanda and Pietro's father, questions about Erik. But during the summer when Mila had first come to the Professor's home and stayed here with Wanda, Erik hadn't actually been around all that much. He'd been out nearly killing himself looking for Pietro. She remembered Erik coming back after being gone for days, red eyes filled with exhaustion and anger. Looking back Mila wondered if Erik had gone without food and/or sleep the entire time he was gone. Like he wouldn't take care of himself until Pietro was found. But he never took his anger out on Wanda or even on Mila. But as soon as Lorna realized that Mila didn't know very much about Erik, their interactions significantly decreased.
"No. I haven't heard from Lorna in a while, but you and I both know that's normal. This isn't about her, though it will affect her as well." Replied Charles rather cryptically.
"Okay…but was your 'no' an answer to my first question too?" Mila asked again. She had no clue what the Professor was on about now. What or who, besides Nina, could affect her and Lorna? Now she was starting to freak out a bit.
Nothing could have happened to Nina overnight, right?
"Yes, it was. You have nothing to be worried about. What I have to tell you is—it's really…it's actually good news…it's…Mila, you know I would never lie to you, yes?" asked Charles solemnly.
Okay what the hell was going on? The Professor was practically flustered. That like never happened. "Of course I know that professor. What's going on? To be honest, you're starting to freak me out a bit, even though you said I shouldn't be worried." Said Mila twisting a strand of her hair around one finger in a nervous habit.
"I apologize." Replied the Professor as he gave her a sad smile. "I wish there was a better way to tell you this, but I cannot fathom one…Mila, your siblings, Wanda and Peter…"
"Yea?" Mila asked almost annoyed with the Professor now. He knew she didn't like to talk about them. Why would he bring them up?
Whatever she might have guessed the Professor had come to tell her, she had definitely not expected that. She gripped the comforter on her bed with one hand as the other froze in its mid-hair twirl. She felt her heartrate pick up and her breathing increase, but she forced herself to stay calm. She needed more information. She understood now why he would ask that she knew he would never lie to her because what the professor had told her was unbelievable, but she had to believe it because she did know the professor would never lie to her.
He would never tell her that Wanda and Pietro were alive if that truly were not the case. Not when she had spent ten years getting over their deaths, all while trying to hold on to their memory and that of her mother. But she couldn't accept that fact without more.
"Wh—what do you mean they're alive? How can they be alive? If they're alive, where are they? Where have they been for ten years!?" What have they been through? Who kept them from her? Were they okay?
Pietro and Wanda would never have left her for ten years with no contact…at least Pietro wouldn't have because she hadn't forgotten that Wanda had left them once before, even if she thought it was for their own good. So that meant wherever they'd been for the past ten years—if she was truly accepting that they were alive—they were being kept there against their will. And anyone who would do that would not have kept them for any reason less than an ominous one.
She remembered what it had been like when Wanda had searched for Pietro on Cerebo. Even though she was too young at the time to truly understand the gravity of the situation. She knew enough then—and she knew for certain now—that the people who had taken her brother, who had killed her mother, did unspeakable things to him.
"WHAT?! What do you mean they're here?!" asked Mila jumping to her feet. It wasn't that she intended to go anywhere in that instant. She was still trying to wrap her mind around what the Professor was telling her, but this wasn't a conversation she could take sitting down any longer. She should calm down before she saw her siblings. She should, for their sake, not be overly emotional, but she still needed to see them, no matter how long it had been…no matter how much they had all changed.
"Please, please don't run off just yet, Mila. I need to prepare you—"
"Prepare me for what Professor? No matter what's happened to them, I need to see them. If they can survive whatever it is they've been through, then I can handle seeing them no matter what shape they are in." replied Mila.
"Please Mila." Said Charles keeping his wheelchair in front of the door to block her exit. Mila knew she could probably get around him if she really wanted to, but the thought of shoving the Professor out of the way was so unimaginably rude that she would give him a moment to explain. Even though she knew he could keep her here by sheer mental force if he really wanted to. "Mila, I promise you, they are fine. They are both in need of some rest and Peter looks like he could use a few good meals, but by and large they are physically well, and they will continue to be so for the few minutes more I speak with you." Said Charles in his most professory voice that left no room for argument.
Mila hesitated for a few more seconds, still contemplated maneuvering around the Professor even if it would be disrespectful, before sitting back down on her bed, clutching the comforter once more. It hadn't escaped her notice that he'd said they were physically fine for the most part, that didn't mean that psychologically they were not a mess.
The Professor gave her a small relieved smile once she was settled, and maneuvered closer to her once more.
"Before you see them, you need to know a few things." The Professor paused as if he expected to be interrupted, but when Mila held her tongue he continued. "As you are well aware, we've believed them dead for ten years, but for them…it hasn't been ten years."
"What—what do you mean?" asked Mila barely above a whisper. She was thoroughly confused now and if possible even more worried for her siblings than she had been a second ago.
"For them, it has been less than a month." Answered Charles.
"wh—how? A month? I don't—I don't understand."
"I'm not exactly sure on the details, but I believe it has something to do with Wanda's powers and interdimensional travel." Replied the Professor matter-of-factly, because none of that was weird or anything.
"So what you're saying is…that…they're still the same age they were before?…they're still…fifteen?"
Mila's mind was spinning. It didn't make sense. She knew Wanda's powers were crazy and unpredictable, that's why she had left, but this was just…unimaginable. This was insanity. Not only was she being blindsided with the fact that her brother and sister were alive, but she also somehow had to accept that they were now younger than her.
It just…it couldn't be possible. None of this made any sense. Even though in a way, her siblings would always—had always until this point—been frozen in her mind as they were when she last saw them, she had also still imagined them growing up in her mind too, right along with her. Each year as she had grown older, she had imagined what they would've done together, had their lives not ended.
When she'd turned ten, maybe Pietro would've finally thought she was old enough to let her stay up late with him and watch scary movies. When she was 13, maybe Wanda would have been there to comfort her when her first crush failed to realize she even existed, instead of having to cry silently into her pillow, so very much alone. Maybe when she was 16 Pietro would've taught her how to drive, instead of a terrified Hank who only let her get behind the wheel after reading about ten different books on driver's education.
And they were supposed to have done things for themselves too. Wanda and Pietro would've gotten their own driver's license, graduated high school, maybe even started college. She should've cried alongside her mother when they'd turned eighteen and moved out on their own, instead of having cried every year on their birthday for all the things they'd never experience.
Mila felt her eyes begin to water, but she blinked the tears away.
"Yes…but, Mila, just because you've perhaps changed more than they have, doesn't mean they care about you any less. You were the first person Peter asked about. They want to see you. I promised they could see you right away this morning…but if you're not ready for that…"
Mila hugged her knees to her chest. She had been ready to run to see her siblings she believed to be dead, but now…despite his words, would they really want to see her? She wasn't the little sister they left behind. She was basically an adult, and they were the same age as Jubilee! Who, yes she was friends with, but now that age difference seemed impossibly large. How would they see her now that she was older? Would they still see their little sister and try to treat her as such, or would they see stranger? Would they look at her as they always had? Or would they not look to her at all?
But one way or another, she had to know. She had to see them again.
"No. I—I have to—I want to see them."
The Professor study her for a long moment, and Mila forced herself to hold his gaze. She had to make him believe that this was truly what she wanted because that was the right thing to do, even though she wasn't sure herself if it was what she really wanted.
"Alright. Erik is awake, as are Wanda and Pietro, but whatever they've been through, I'm sure it was at the very least exhausting, so I imagine they'll need a bit of time to recuperate, but—"
Mila interrupted Charles before he could finish "Wait. Erik? As in their father? He's alive too?" It hadn't crossed her mind that if Wanda and Pietro were alive than Erik might be too. Magneto. Or Mr. Erik as she had called him in the brief amount of time they had interacted when she was a little girl. It had been odd growing up and learning more about the man who shared half of her siblings' DNA. Of course in 1973 she had understood that he had done something that had made many people angry and had worried her mother (and frightened her brother), but she hadn't understood just how—to put it mildly—threatening his actions had been to humans, but as she began to understand that her siblings' father may not have been the most ideal man to have as a parent, she also remembered how he had been with Wanda and how he desperately he had searched for Pietro that summer so many years ago.
She also remembered being the most frightened she had ever been, alone in a dark toy chest, until Erik had found her. How even when she was still afraid and beyond worried knowing Pietro had been taken and her mother was dead, how she had found comfort in the man's arms.
She couldn't reconcile the image of that man with the terrorist that was enshrined in the history books.
But she could also now definitively confirm that she was human, and that might not put her on his good side. Not to mention that she had trusted him too, and he had lied to her. He had promised that she would see her brother again. But that hadn't happened. At least not yet, but ten years was a long time to wait for a promise to be fulfilled, and even if it wasn't his fault, she didn't know if she could forgive him for that.
"Y—yes" Charles cleared his throat. "Yes, Erik is with them, and as far as I know, he has been with them since they disappeared from the facility. I've told him about Nina and Lorna, and I suspect he has told Wanda and Peter of their relation by now as well…"
"Okay…that's…good, I guess." Although she wasn't sure how she felt about Erik, she had no problem letting him be the one to tell Wanda and Pietro about their other siblings, especially since they might expect her to know a lot about them being that she had spent time under the same roof as both of them, but honestly, she didn't know either of them all that well.
Charles must have gathered that she was still hesitant about meeting Wanda and Pietro again because he tried to reassure her. "Mila, I know you said you want to see them, but you don't have to see them today, if you're not ready. We all need time to adjust."
"It's alright Professor. I—I'm alright. Go teach your class. I'll—I'll go find them in a bit." Said Mila, doing her best to sound convincing. Plus, the Professor's sentiment, though thoughtful, wasn't very realistic. She couldn't very well avoid her siblings for that long.
"As you wish, Mila. But remember you can always talk to me."
"I know Professor. Thank you." Said Mila with a small smile.
The professor returned her smile and turned his chair to leave but he paused with the door half way open, "And Mila."
"I know you're anxious about seeing them again. But take it from someone who understands what it feels like to be without a sibling, no matter how uncertain you might be, being without them is so much worse."
And with that Charles left the room, and Mila was alone once again.
Mila took a deep breath and laid back on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. It was going to be a long day.
So here's yet another chapter, and I still haven't managed to move the story beyond a day. I promise it will happen, but there will probably be at least one more chapter before things get going and I start working toward actual plot. Getting everyone to meet is taking longer than I thought! Thanks for sticking with me. (:
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
Wow. I really am terrible at updating regularly…
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It took all of Mila's courage to leave her room knowing that her siblings she thought were dead for 10 years were somewhere in the school, but somehow by sheer force of will, she did eventually manage it.
She waited until after the first bell had rung, hoping that by then most kids—besides the seniors like her who had an open block this morning—would be in class, and she wouldn't run into anyone. She didn't want to even have to begin to explain what was happening because anyone could probably look at her face at this point and see that something was happening.
Mila headed downstairs. She should have asked the Professor what room Erik and her siblings were staying in, but it didn't really matter. She'd figure it out later. For now, she could just wait in the kitchen for them to come down because of all the places in the school, she knew they'd have to go there to eat eventually. At the very least, Pietro would find his way there. He had never been one to stray too far from food.
In hindsight, Mila really should have stayed in her room longer to think about what she was going to say to Wanda and Pietro when she saw them, but from the way Charles had talked about them, Mila thought they would be awhile before they ventured out of their room. It turned out, that was the wrong assumption to make.
As Mila stepped off the last step of the staircase, she found herself frozen. There at the edge of the doorway that led toward the kitchen, someone with a mop of silver hair stood with his back to her. She knew who it was without him even having to turn around. No one had hair like that. No one, except Pietro.
It was right about then that Mila realized the new students Jubilee had mentioned were probably Wanda and Pietro, but that meant that Jubilee thought her brother was cute, which was weird to think about. Of all to the things to think about upon first seeing her brother again, that's not what she thought would come to mind, but her brain worked in ways that were a mystery even to her sometimes.
Her thoughts quickly changed, however, when after a moment, Pietro turned so that Mila could see his face. He looked to be talking to people inside the kitchen because he still hadn't noticed her.
Mila felt her pulse quicken, seeing her brother right in front of her was almost like taking a trip back in time, but not quite, because despite apparently not having aged, he didn't look like she remembered. The color of his hair was still the same, obviously, but it was styled differently, and his skin was as pale as ever, but the smiling face she remembered was marred by the beginning of a bruise and what looked like a new scar above one of his eyes. One of his arms was bandaged too, and it looked like there was something on his other arm; but she couldn't see it clearly.
None of those changes were what threw her though. She might not have been old enough to understand at the time, but as she grew up and thought back, she knew Pietro had been abused by her…father, and he had had to put up with a fair amount of bullies at school, so it wasn't like she had never seen Pietro with injuries, but it wasn't the injuries that made her pulse race, it was that, Pietro, her cousin, her brother, her hero, looked so young.
She knew he had been fifteen when he and Wanda 'died,' but to an eight-year-old Mila, that had seemed so old, not parent old, but big-kid old. Even though he had never seemed grown up—though Wanda had—Pietro had still been big enough to carry her around, to protect her from the monsters under her bed, and to stay at home alone with her when her Mom was at work.
But now…he didn't seem old enough to do any of those things. He looked like a strong wind would blow him away. He'd always been thin, but he looked much thinner than she remembered, almost dangerously so. A grin played across Pietro's face as he laughed at something someone said out of her view. She should've been close enough to hear their words, but it was like all of her senses were focused on the fact that her brother was standing right in front of her, when for so long she had thought she would never see him again.
Perhaps she let out a breath or made some other noise because all of a sudden the smile dropped from Pietro's face.
He had noticed her.
His body tensed, caught by surprise, and his eyes finally met hers.
Then, a moment later after given her an appraising look, some of the tension left his body and he let out a hopeful quiet question, "Mila?"
Mila knew she needed to respond, but she was having trouble finding words. But she was the older sibling now and he was waiting for an answer. As unimaginable as this situation was for her, she had at least had ten years to adjust to her siblings' absence and more importantly, ten years to grow up. She had to remember that Pietro and Wanda hadn't had that, so she forced herself to respond.
"Hi Pie." Said Mila using the old nickname she had for her brother, and attempting a small smile, but which probably looked more like a cringe. It must have seemed genuine enough to Pietro though, because the next moment her hair blew back and bony arms were wrapped around her neck.
Before she could reciprocate the gesture, Pietro let go. He didn't stray but a step away, but it made her wonder if the hug had been more for her benefit than his because it had been so quick and after he had pulled away, he shifted uneasily from foot to foot. She knew it had to be difficult for him to connect the little girl she once was with the young woman that now stood before him.
"Man, you got big Mila. I don't know if I can call you munchkin anymore." Said Pietro as he looked her over.
He was right. She had gotten big, at least in terms of height. If she thought Pietro looked young from a distance, up close it was even more apparent. She had a couple of inches on him, which made sense because he was fifteen, and therefore, probably still growing. But it was still jarring.
When Mila failed to respond to his comment, Pietro gave a nervous laugh, smiling timidly, and maybe Mila imagined it, but he seemed to shuffle a step further away. "You look like Aunt Marya."
Did she? She supposed it was possible, but since she didn't look at old photographs from her life before Pietro's kidnapping and apparent death, she didn't really have anything to go off of other than her memory. The Professor had kindly and covertly retrieved some old photo albums and some of her more treasured possessions from her home that a neighbor had managed to save before the house had been put up for sale at auction when it was apparent that the family that had lived there was no more. But she kept those firmly tucked away in a chest in her room. They were too painful of a reminder of what she had lost.
Mila looked past Pietro, her eyes falling on Nina, then Erik, and then Wanda. She thought she saw a red flash of anger in her sister's eyes, that made her wonder if perhaps Pietro was wrong, and she didn't look so much like her mom, but someone else…someone who would definitely not bring back good memories for any of them. But then the flash was gone and replaced by what seemed to be a mixture of guilt and sadness.
"Hello Mila." Said Wanda cautiously. Unlike Pietro, she kept her distance, which gave Mila a chance to take in Wanda's appearance. Physically, she looked better than Pietro, and maybe not quite as young for one reason or another, despite them being twins. But there were bags under her eyes, as if she hadn't gotten enough sleep.
"H—hi Wanda." Mila replied just as tentatively.
"This is so weird." Said Pietro his voice cracking slightly as he finally voiced what they were probably all thinking. "Like seriously Twilight Zone level shit here, or maybe Doctor Who. That'd be more convenient, then we could just hop in the Tardis and you know…"
Pietro trailed off as he gave a little flutter with one hand. When no one commented, he gave another nervous laugh. God, this was not going great. She was supposed to be the comforting adult in this situation. She wasn't the one who had been kidnapped and tortured a few months ago, or did the Professor say it had only been a few weeks for them? Either way, Pietro shouldn't be the one trying to make conversation, though he was clearly just rambling like he always did when he was nervous. That thought brought a smile to her face and she felt the threat of tears sting her eyes.
Her brother and sister were alive. So what if she was a stranger to them? At least they were alive, and now she could look out for them in the way that they had when she was little.
"So…" said Pietro bringing her out of her thoughts. "You remember—" Pietro paused looking around, then lowering his voice to a whisper as he gestured in his father's direction, "Erik, He's going by Henryk for the time being though."
"Y—yea. I remember him." Said Mila. How could she forget. He and the aunt she would never know were responsible for the existence of her siblings, which eww. She didn't need her mind going there. Nevertheless, he was also the man who had let Wanda and Pietro grow up without a father and with powers that no one understood. He was the man who had tried to assassinate the president on live television, and had left her brother vibrating with mix of fear and wonder as they sat watching it all play out in their family room so many years ago. He was mainly the reason Pietro landed on the government's radar in the first place.
But he was also partly the reason why Wanda and Pietro were now still alive. He had done everything to get her brother back, and he had even been the first kind face who had comforted Mila the day her mother was murdered and Pietro was taken.
Mila wondered if Erik thought about the fact that the people who took Pietro were still out there. Because Mila did. She thought about it a lot, but she'd long ago accepted that there was nothing she could do about it (even if Lorna hadn't) but perhaps with her powers so very much like her father's, Lorna actually could do something about it one day. She was certainly headed in that direction with all the mutant activist organizations she fell in with.
"Mila." Erik nodded in her direction, but didn't say anything else. She wondered if he wondered if she was a human or a mutant, or if the Professor had even discussed that with him. If they ever got past this awkward reunion, would Erik care that a human spent time with his kids?
Mila looked over at Nina who was just sort of watching the interaction with wide eyes, but her eyes seemed to be wide with curiosity and wonder rather than fear, and she was holding Erik's hand casually like it was the most natural thing in the world, so at least that first meeting had gone well. Nina deserved some more happiness and family in her life. Lorna was hardly ever around for the girl, and though Mila was almost always around the mansion, she was never really there for Nina. Nina reminded Mila too much of Pietro and Wanda for her to have any extended interactions with the girl.
Mila's gaze went back to Wanda and Pietro. "I missed you…so much." Said Mila, her voice cracking as she spoke the final word.
"We missed you too." Said Wanda and Pietro together in that twin way that Mila had missed. She didn't doubt their words, but she didn't think they could truly understand the depth of just how much she had missed them, because missing someone for a few months and missing someone for ten years were two very different things. But as much as it pained her to realize, she knew they would soon find out what it felt like, because the little girl they'd left behind was gone, and she didn't know if they'd care to know the woman she grew up to be.
"I'm so sorry." Said Wanda her voice wavering.
"Me too. If I hadn't been so reckless—" Pietro started to say at the same time Wanda said, "This is all my fault—"
"Don't. Please don't." said Mila, cutting them off. "This isn't either of your fault. If anyone is to blame, it's the people that took Pietro. But blaming someone isn't going to change anything. And this isn't something I want to be sad about. You guys are alive." Mila said with a smile. "My brother and sister are alive, and knowing that makes me the happiest I've been for a long time."
As Mila finished speaking, they all smiled warily at one another. Being older than Wanda and Pietro was going to take some getting used to for all of them, and it was going to be weird getting to know one another again. But she had lived in a house full of mutants for the past ten years and before that, she'd lived in a house with two mutants who had no idea how to control their powers, so when wasn't her life weird? Weird didn't have to be a bad thing. It could be the best thing in the world.
Thanks to those who have commented on this story, despite my terrible lags in updating. Your comments make me so happy. I appreciate those who have left kudos too. (:
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
Charles reflects. Wanda isn't as sneaky as she thinks she is.
Look, I still know how to update! Happy almost new year everyone! Warning, there are vague mentions of self-harm in this chapter.
Side note, I randomly included a short chapter summary for this chapter, but I don't know if I'll keep doing that or not. It just felt right this time.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Days turned to weeks and the Maximoff children settled into a routine. Attending classes (well, mostly), perhaps even making friends. Jubilee, and of course Mila as well, could frequently be found around the twins, or at least Pietro, which Charles thought was good for all of them. Jubilee had always been a good friend to Mila, but Mila also often isolated herself even from her. Charles suspected that had a lot to do with feeling out of place as the only human in a house full of mutants. Thus, with her siblings back, he was happy to see Mila was being more receptive to spending time with her peers or at least those who were fairly close to her own age.
Jean likewise appeared to be spending a fair amount of time with Erik's children. Though she had confided in him that Peter's mind had given her a terrible headache the first day or two he'd been around. But after a time, she had grown used to his mind and was appreciative of the fact that she didn't have to work too hard to block him or Wanda out because she couldn't read their thoughts in the first place.
Charles could certainly understand that appreciation. Even if he wasn't actively trying to enter Peter's thoughts, there was a certain buzz to his brain which was…disorienting to say the least. But Wanda's mind at the mansion was somewhat of a breath of fresh air for a telepath, being that the other girl's mind—like her brother's—was impossible to read, but in a much less headache inducing manner. If one tried to read Wanda's mind, he would encounter only 'chaos' for lack of a better term. That wasn't the best word for it seemed to imply that Wanda's mind was impenetrable because she was mad, as in insane. But that wasn't it at all. Wanda's mind was just…well there was really nothing to compare Wanda's mind to, so Charles wasn't even going to bother to try.
At any rate, Charles was pleased to see Jean falling in with the group. She, like Mila, didn't have too many friends at the mansion. Excluding Jubilee, most of the students were afraid of Jean's powers, even though none of their fears surpassed Jean's own.
Charles didn't know how much had been shared among the teens, and he wouldn't invade their privacy to find out. But Charles did know that at the very least, it had become common knowledge that Wanda and Pietro were Mila's siblings/cousins depending on how you viewed their relationship, and Erik or Henryk as he had become known was Nina and the twins' father.
So far Erik's true identity had stayed a secret to the best of his knowledge. He guessed it was fortunate that Erik had chosen to wear his ridiculous cape and helmet before speaking to the world when he revealed the existence of mutants ten years ago. That and the fact that Erik had begun to grow a beard and taken to wearing flannels—who knew Erik would ever choose to wear such ordinary attire—after his arrival had obscured his identifying features enough that unobservant teenagers and children who weren't expecting a dead man from a time that probably seemed like ages ago to them to turn up at their school, didn't connect the stoic man who was a father to three students to the man known as Magneto.
Well, one student had discerned Erik's true identity, but even without her abilities, Charles would bet that Jean would have figured it out anyway. She was very perceptive. But she'd barely batted an eye at the revelation. Their conversation on the topic the day after Erik and the twins arrived had been short and straight to the point.
"Do you trust him?" Jean asked at the end of class after the rest of the students had vacated the classroom.
"I'm sorry? Do I trust whom, Jean?" Charles asked though he didn'tknow why he bothered to pretend he didn't know to whom she was referring. He was surprised she had waited until after class to confront him to be honest.
"Erik.Magneto.Henryk. Wanda,Peter, and Nina's father. Whatever you want to call him."
Charles sighed as he added Jean ' s assignment to the pile with the rest of the students ' " I trust that he cares about the students in this school just as much as I do and that he would never do anything to jeopardize their safety. "
"But you don't trust him." Said Jean, emphasizing the final word.
"Would I trust Erik to negotiate peace between humans and mutants? No. Would I trust him with my life and those of my students? Yes. Trust is a very complicated thing Jean."
Jean looked at him skeptically but answered diplomatically enough. "All right. You don't have to worry about me spilling the beans on his secret. Though you know it will probably come out on its own one way or another. If he uses his powers in front of people, someone other than me is bound to put two and two together."
"I wasn'tworried aboutyou telling the world, or even the other students, Jean. But I appreciate the affirmation all the same. And perhaps you are right that his identity will not remain a secret forever, but if and when that happens, I will handle it. It won't be the biggest crisis I've ever had to deal with where Erik's involved…I just hope that whatever Erik has done in the past and whatever he does in the future, you won't judge his children by his actions."
"I would never do that Professor." Answered Jean with a slight frown.
"I didn't suspect that you would, Jean but I felt it needed to be said all the same."
Jean nodded, and with that the conversation had ended.
It sometimes astounded him just how well-adjusted Jean was; despite everything she has had to deal with in regard to her powers. It was a scary thought to imagine what destruction would be wrought on the world if someone with a weaker moral compass possessed the powers that Jean was gifted with.
Charles banished those dark thoughts as a problem that he fortunately would never have to handle and looked out his office window, much like Erik had the night he had arrived, but unlike Erik, who Charles doubted could see very much in the dark that night, what Charles saw brought a smile to his face.
Students were spread out across the grounds, a few played Frisbee, enjoying the freedom of the Sunday afternoon, and unconcerned for the moment with the homework that awaited them that evening before they retired for the night. But although Charles was glad to see students having fun, what had made him smile was the sight of Erik kneeling in a flowerbed with Nina by his side holding a bunny in her arms.
Charles had casually thrown out the idea to Erik of him taking on a teaching post here under his pseudonym, but Erik had quickly shut that proposition down. Charles wasn't sure if the refusal was because he didn't want to think about what his long term plans would be, if he didn't want to draw any attention to himself, or if he just abhorred the idea of being a teacher, but for one reason or another Erik had adamantly refused to even consider the possibility.
But Erik had nonetheless become a familiar sight around the campus, fulfilling the role of handyman and groundskeeper, a role Erik actually seemed to enjoy, much more than Hank—who had held the role until Erik arrived—had anyway. Despite Hank's genius status, Erik seemed to be much more adept at the work as well. Part of that might have been due to his mutation. Though he kept his ability well under wraps so as not to raise suspicion, Charles surmised that Erik had used his abilities to fix more than one electrical and plumbing problem throughout the school.
But the work Erik seemed to enjoy the most was when he was outside because then if classes weren't in session Nina and sometimes Peter—he rarely saw Wanda join their excursions—would tag along with their father. Right now was one of those times.
It looked like Nina was introducing Erik to her rabbit friend, while Erik took a break from touching up some mulch in the flowerbeds. The joy practically radiating off of his friend made Charles' own heart swell with happiness. Whatever Erik had done in the past; it was clear that being a father was the most important role he would ever hold.
Wanda was alone in the library when she heard a whoosh and a familiar figure landed in the chair across from her.
"Watcha working on?" asked Pietro as he finished off a sucker and expertly tossed the stick in the trash bin across the room.
"Hey, Pete. Just school stuff." answered Wanda looking up at her brother while quickly leaning over her notes and the old newspapers she had been reading in what she hoped was a discrete manner, and praying that her brother hadn't already looked at them using his super speed.
Pietro was looking much better as of late. Eating regularly and having Erik, Wanda, Mila, and even Nina around to make sure he hadn't used his powers and aggravated his ankle or head injury before Hank had given him the all clear, seemed to have done wonders for her brother. Though he still looked too thin and a little burnt out, he didn't look like he was constantly in threat of dying anymore. So that was an improvement at least.
"Riiiiiiight. You're doing homework for classes that you barely attend." Said Pietro as he rolled his eyes at her.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
She thought she had been careful. They didn't have the same class schedules because the Professor (or X as she still sometimes called him behind his back) had encouraged them to pursue their own interests, though Wanda suspected he thought that she and her brother were too co-dependent…which whatever. He was entitled to his opinion, but Wanda's world was always going to revolve around her brother, and a little separation wasn't going to change that. If people thought their relationship was unhealthy, well screw them. Erik didn't seem to be bothered by the fact that there was another person just as invested as him in Pietro's well-being, so as good natured as the Professor's intentions were, it was really none of his business.
But not wanting to turn something into a bigger deal then it needed to be, since it wasn't like Pietro was going to be far away, she had agreed to choose some classes that her brother wasn't taking and he had done the same. On the upside, their different schedules had enabled her to do some 'extracurricular research' that she knew her brother wouldn't approve of without him knowing about it. Or at least, she had thought that until a moment ago.
She had been so careful to go to every class they shared. But she would admit that she wasn't being very diligent about going to her other classes. She had more important matters to attend to.
"Okay, so I may not be attending all of my classes as much as I could be…I've just been trying to catch up on the last ten years. Sometimes, I find that's easier to do on my own then in a classroom. It's been awhile since I've done this whole 'school' thing." Replied Wanda desperately hoping that was enough to convince her brother that that was all she had been doing.
"Bull shit. I know what you've been doing. I'm not stupid. At least, I'm not that stupid. I know you're trying to find any hint of whether or not that government operation that took me and killed Aunt Marya is still out there and if you can go wipe them all out." Answered Pietro staring her down.
"You're not stupid Peter, and I'm not—" Wanda started to say.
"Really? Really, Wanda? That's not what you're doing?" asked Pietro sarcastically, leaning forward in his chair to look at her even more intensely. "Let's look at the facts. You're never around, besides meals, attending my classes, and making sure to hang out with me whenever I ask you to, but once I'm busy with something else…" Pietro snapped two of his fingers together. "you're off doing this." He finished gesturing to the table with all of her documents.
"Peter…" Wanda started then trailed off because she wasn't sure what to say, but Pietro started talking again before she could say anything anyway.
"Don't try to deny it, Wanda. Look, I get it. You're angry about it. Trust me, I am too. But mostly, I just want to move on and not freakin' think about it anymore. I'm tired of being sad and tired. And yea, I don't want what happened to me—what happened to us—to happen to anyone else, but can't we just enjoy this for a little bit. Please?"
Pietro was looking at her with his brown eyes wide and imploring and she so wanted to do that. She wanted to let it all go, at least for a little while…But she couldn't. She couldn't live even a day longer without trying to do something, knowing that the people that had killed her aunt and done horrible things to her brother, might one day come back for him again. And they had already been roaming free for ten years without any repercussions. No longer.
She had honestly thought about telling Erik what she was doing because if anyone would want to get rid of the people who had hurt Pietro, it would be him. She had at first been surprised that Erik hadn't immediately stormed off to hunt down Pietro's attackers himself, but she had eventually realized that it probably took a lot of energy for Erik to deal with the fact that he had two more children—one of whom he had still not met and one who was still a little girl and needed and deserved a father—in addition to a child who, as much as he tried to hide it, suffered from—among other things—severe PTSD, and another who was apparently capable of tearing open a hole in the universe. So, she had ultimately decided not to tell him.
If Wanda ever found something conclusive. She'd tell Erik, but for now, frustratingly enough, she hadn't really made any progress. She longed for the research tools the alternate universe she had taken them to had at its disposal, like Google. That would make finding the monsters who hurt her brother so much easier. Instead, she was stuck in 1983, forced to read between the lines in old newspaper articles and try to find any hint of how anything or anyone might be connected to such illicit dealings.
She might have more to go on if Pietro was willing to talk about what he remembered, but she wasn't about to press him for details about his imprisonment because he definitely did not want to talk about it, as much as she thought it might actually help him to share at least a little bit of what happened to him.
Of course, she wasn't about to tell Pietro any of that.
"I'm sorry, Pete. I'll—I'll try. But this isn't something I'll ever be able to let go…but I can take a break. What do you want to do?" she asked, hoping that would be enough for him.
Pietro gave a frustrated sigh "I don't know. I just want you to be here. Even Dad is relaxing more than you are!"
So he ' s back to calling Erik ' D ad. '
She wasn't going to comment on the title. She wanted him to have a dad. She just couldn't see him that way, not completely anyway. And now that he had two more daughters, one being a little girl who actually needed him, she felt like she didn't have any place in his lifeanymore. She knew that wasn't true or fair to Erik because he obviously loved all of his family, but she couldn't help how she felt, and she knew Pietro couldn't hold a grudge for long, so the fact that he was calling Erik 'Dad' again really shouldn't have been much of a surprise. But it was still odd to think about sometimes: the fact that they had a father.
"I am here Pete. Whenever you need me, I'm here."
"No you're not. Not really. You just want to get those people. And you still will barely even look at Mila. You're constantly avoiding her. I told you it's not your fault. She doesn't blame you. I don't blame you. You saved our lives. Nobody blames you."
Wanda closed her eyes for a moment. Of course that's why Pietro thought she was avoiding Mila. And that was still admittedly a big part of it. But that wasn't the only reason. It wasn't just that rather accidently or not, she'd left her baby sister to grow up alone, without her, without Pietro, without a mother…but it was also for a more selfish reason that Wanda had taken to avoiding Mila. Her baby sister was gone and there was a stranger in her place. A stranger who in her face she couldn't help but see, now that she had matured, a bit of the man who had made Pietro's life a living hell for so long.
Once again, she knew that wasn't a fair feeling to have. Mila—grown up or a little girl—was nothing like her father, and maybe if they'd been around for the past 10 years she wouldn't even have noticed the resemblance because it would've been a gradual transition. But she didn't get that luxury, and Mila didn't deserve to be on the receiving side of Wanda's anger, which she was afraid was what would happen whenever she looked at the other girl.
Instead of trying to defend her actions or deny that she was doing as Pietro suggested, she decided to turn the conversation back on her brother, "I'm not the only one who has been avoiding someone. You've been avoiding Erik."
"No." Pietro answered with a smirk. "I've been avoiding being alone with him, which is completely different."
"I see." Said Wanda her lip twitching into a smile of her own, despite the earlier tension in the air. "Care to explain why you've been avoiding being alone with him?"
"No not really."
"Pietro…" said Wanda warningly, clearly indicating she wasn't going to let her question go unanswered.
"Fine. Because…" In a blur, Pietro was on his feet perusing through books on the library shelves, or pretending to. "Would you believe me, if I said it's because he's been forcing me to eat vegetables? Which he has been doing, by the way."
"Pietro." Said Wanda again coming to stand by her brother and crossing her arms as she leaned against the shelf and looked at him until he met her eye.
"Ugh. Okay. It's because, I'mprettysurehewantstotalkaboutthis." Said Pietro gesturing to his left arm, which was currently covered by the silver sleeve of his jacket, but there was no mistaking as to what he was referring.
Wanda's gaze softened. "Is that such a bad thing? I know you already talked to me about it a little bit, but maybe it will help—"
"Exactly. I already talked about it. I don't want to talk about it again. I don't need to talk about it again. I said I'll try not to do it again. Can't you just tell him that?" asked Pietro widening his eyes at her again. She wondered if he even realized he did that whenever he wanted something.
Wanda sighed and pulled her brother into a hug, before talking over his shoulder "I don't think I could ever say anything to Erik that would make him change his mind about this or anything else, Pietro. He just wants to know that you're all right."
"Yea well, haven't we already established that I'm not alright? No point dwelling on something you can't change." Said Pietro his voice quivering a bit, despite what Wanda could tell was an effort at nonchalance.
Wanda just hugged her brother tighter, wishing that she could take the weight he carried off of his shoulders and carry it for him.
At first I wasn't going to jump weeks ahead in this chapter, but then I figured they all deserved a bit of a break before…well before I add more misery to all of their lives. Thanks for reading! I devour comments as if they are cookies, so if a thought strikes you, please feel free to leave a comment.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
Erik and Pietro have a conversation. It doesn't quite go as Erik hoped.
This chapter got a lot darker than I had originally planned. I really debated about whether or not to include this scene, but I feel like Erik wouldn't let this topic drop, so here it is. Clearly I am not good at sticking with a story outline. Warning for mentions of self-harm again.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There were many a day that Erik woke in the mansion confused as to where he was, and sometimes, even after he had shaken sleep from his mind, he couldn't help but feeling as though he was still dreaming. Life wasn't perfect. He was still figuring out how to be a father to children he really barely knew, not to mention the fact that he hadn't yet met his (eldest?) daughter. And he couldn't undo the tragedies that had happened in any of their lives, but life…well it was certainly better than anything he could've imagined less than a year ago. That being said, could you really blame him for thinking if he did much more than blink, it would all disappear and he would wake up in his cell beneath the earth once more?
But that hadn't happened. This was real. And he would hold onto it, hold onto his family for as long as they would have him.
Charles, of course, had been his usual benevolent self, not requiring anything from him in order to allow them all to stay, though he had asked Erik to teach. God only knows why he would even suggest such a thing. Ten years must have dulled Charles' memory if he wasn't at all worried about Erik poisoning young minds with his dark ideas. Erik had, however, taken to doing odd jobs around the estate, which he actually found rather enjoyable, and it felt good to not be completely mooching off of his old friend.
But it didn't matter if Charles remembered Erik's old ways or not, because Erik would never be a teacher. He might be competent to teach children history—minus the past ten years—or a foreign language, but he wouldn't put himself in a situation where Charles would expect him to lie to the young mutants under his direction. He wasn't going to stand up in front of them and tell them that if they worked hard, the world would accept them. Because that wasn't the truth. It was an idealistic dream that would never come to pass.
Erik walked purposefully down the hall of the student wing. It wasn't too late, but the hall was beginning to quiet down as the children readied themselves for bed. He knew one child in particular who would not be asleep yet, which was why he had set off down the hall this early in the evening because he had tried and failed numerous times to talk to Pietro privately in the past couple of weeks.
It seemed as though his son had been cunningly avoiding being alone with him or conveniently been already asleep when he'd tried to come talk to him on other nights. But not this time. Erik had put off this discussion for long enough, and he had only done so because he hoped Pietro would come talk to him about it when he was ready. But he hadn't, and Erik wasn't willing to wait any longer for fear that if he did so, one day he might wake up and find he would never be able to talk to his son again.
He paused outside the room Pietro was currently occupying. The night after they arrived, Charles had assured Erik that he was welcome to stay in his old room, and he had generously offered Wanda and Pietro the chance to move to the student wing where they could have their own space.
When he had made that offer, Erik had had to bite his tongue to keep from protesting that they shouldn't be separated. That he wanted to be able to wake up and know that they were there, even if that meant they had to move in another bed and he had to sleep on the floor. He had slept on worst places in his lifetime and would do so again in a heartbeat if it meant knowing his children were safe. But he knew that he was being irrational. Wanda and Pietro would be just as safe in the student wing as they would be if they were all in one room together. And Erik was adept enough to know that no teenager wanted to share a room with sibling, let alone their parent.
Though surprisingly—are perhaps not that much so—Wanda had tried to suggest that she and Pietro share a room, so as not to be a burden and take up too much space. But Erik knew the real reason she wanted to share a room was so that if Pietro had a nightmare—as he so often did lately—he would not have to handle them alone. But Charles, perhaps unaware of her worries or more aware of Pietro's wishes, assured them there was plenty of space in the school for them to each have their own room, and if more students did come along and it reached the point that they needed more space, then they could adjust sleeping arrangements, but not to worry about it for now.
Pietro had jumped—almost too quickly in Erik's opinion—at the opportunity to have his own room, as if he knew exactly why Wanda wanted to share, and it was for that same reason that he wanted a room of his own. So Wanda had to settle for the room next to Pietro's, while Erik had to restrain himself from pacing the corridor of the student wing at a random hour every night just on the off chance any of his children needed him.
When he reached Pietro's designated room, the door was already partially open, but Erik gave it a knock nonetheless. When there was no response, he pushed it the rest of the way open and poked his head in. "Pietro?"
The silver-haired speedster in question was lying on his back on the bed with his feet on a pillow and his head near the footboard where his feet should have been, if he were using the bed properly. At least he wasn't wearing his sneakers and getting who knows what on his pillow.
His eyes were closed but one of his hands was tapping lightly against his chest and his opposite foot did the same against the headboard, so the boy was clearly awake. Erik wondered for a moment why he hadn't heard him knock and what exactly he was doing, but then he saw that he had headphones on and a Walkman in his other hand.
Erik hesitated at the door. The last thing he wanted to do was startle Pietro. He knew enough about PTSD that that would be a terrible idea. But he had to get his attention somehow. Fortunately, Pietro must have seen him out of the corner of his eye or sensed his presence somehow because a moment later he took his headphones off, sat up, and swung his legs over the edge of the bed so that he was facing Erik.
"What's up, Dadneto?" said Pietro grinning before losing the grin and quickly adding, "Whatever it is, Ididn'tdoit."
Erik chuckled. "I wasn't about to accuse you of anything, Pietro. But should I?"
"Oh. Nope." Answered Pietro popping the 'p' on nope. "Definitely not."
"Alright then." Said Erik, though now he wondered if he would have to ask Charles later whether Pietro had gotten into trouble. If he had, Erik figured it couldn't be anything more than disrupting class with some prank, otherwise someone would have told him. "Where did you get the Walkman?" It looked to be an improvement on the version Pietro used to own. Erik already had an idea of where it had come from even before he asked and the blush that rose on Pietro's face all but confirmed his suspicions.
"I-err Jubilee gave it to me." Said Pietro, trying and failing to make it seem like that fact was no big deal, when the darkening blush on his cheeks told Erik that it was very much a big deal.
"That was nice of her." Erik replied casually but just barely keeping the smile off his face as Pietro twiddled with the zipper on his jacket that he wore despite otherwise looking like he was ready for bed in a pair of flannels and a t-shirt.
"Y-yea she's nice like that." Pietro said as he jumped off the bed after finally deciding to zip his jacket up, and Erik had to remind himself that he didn't have to reprimand him for doing so, as his ankle and other physical scars were pretty much healed at this point. It was the emotional scars that lingered…which reminded Erik again why he had come to speak to his son in the first place.
But Pietro had seemed to realize that Erik hadn't come to see him just to ask about his Walkman at the same time that Erik had remembered his own intentions. "Well…I better go brush my teeth, sooooo goodnight." Said Pietro as he moved as if to make his way around Erik who was blocking the door.
"Wait, Pietro. We need to talk."
"Okay. How about we talk tomorrow, then? If I wait any longer to brush my teeth, the sinks are all going to be occupied for the next 10 minutes probably, which is a super long time, and dental hygiene is really important ya know, so I think—"
Luckily, Erik had spent enough time around Pietro to have a sense that he was going to zip away as soon as he finished his sentence, so Erik, latched onto the metal in Pietro's jacket, holding him in place just as he felt the boy strain to move, while swiftly closing the door with his powers at the same time.
A moment later, Erik knew he had made a mistake.
Pietro's breathing increased to the point just short of hyperventilating. Erik quickly let go of his mental hold on the metal in his son's jacket but the damage was already done.
Pietro's fists were clenched at his sides and his face had gone even paler than normal.
"Pietro, I—" Erik started to reach out to his son, but the boy flinched away from his touch. Erik cringed and let his hand drop.
"Don't. I'm. fine." Said Pietro very much not fine. He had closed his eyes and was still just as pale, but his breathing was slowly going back to normal; Though Erik could tell it was taking a lot of effort to keep it that way. "I. Just. Need. A. Moment."
Erik was at a loss of what to do. He wanted to take his son in his arms but that was clearly not what the boy needed or wanted at the moment. Not to mention that Erik was the one who had caused his near panic attack.
So Erik stood silently and as close as he dared to his son, watching him with growing concern until Pietro finally opened his eyes again. Their eyes met and Pietro scowled. Then a moment later he was sitting cross legged on the bed glowering at Erik with his arms crossed.
The fact that Pietro hadn't chosen to leave the room after realizing Erik had released him, only increased Erik's concern because it most likely meant that Pietro didn't feel he had calmed down enough not to draw the attention of the other students if he left.
Erik slowly crossed the room and sat down at the end of the bed, careful to leave quite a bit of space between him and Pietro.
"Are you alright?" asked Erik.
Of course he's not alright. What a stupid thing to ask.
"I'mfine." The 'no thanks to you.' Left off of his sentence.
"Pietro, I'm sorry. I only meant to—"
"It'sfine.I' 'tThatAgain." Pietro grumbled as he glared at Erik. Then he looked down at his hands and mumbled much more quietly in a tone that only served to increase Erik's guilt, which he knew he completely deserved. "You made it so I couldn't move…I was…it made me feel trapped, ok? Justforgetithappened."
"Pietro—" Erik opened his mouth to say…he didn't know what. Another meaningless apology? But before he could say anything Pietro cut him off again.
"I said forget it!" said Pietro much more loudly and then with a huff. "I guess we might as well talk about whatever it is you wanted to talk about now."
This was going worse than he had imagined, and now he felt as though they had at least two things to talk about with Pietro after the obvious flashback he had caused his son to have.
"I'm sorry, Pietro. I—" Erik started again.
"Dude, I said, forget means we move this conversation on or I'm going to move on and run laps around the mansion until you've moved." Said Pietro even more forcefully then before. Then he added quietly, "Please."
Erik took a deep breath.
One problem at a time.
"All right." Erik held up his arms in surrender then he lowered them, but as he did, he extended one hand out, palm-up, to his son. "May I see your arm?"
Pietro looked at him suspiciously, then, after a moment, he thrust out his right arm.
"Your other arm, Pietro. Please."
Pietro sighed dramatically, then held out his left arm.
Erik held it in his own and gently pushed back the silver sleeve to reveal a thin now-healed scar across his wrist. "Did you do this to yourself?"
"Pietro. Please don't lie to me."
"Says the guy that is currently using a fake name, and probably has a bajillion other aliases ready to go."
"Pietro, I'm being serious. Did you do this to yourself?"
"What if I did?" asked Pietro defiantly. "Are you going to send me to a place for crazy people? Because, look around, I'm pretty sure we're already living in a place for crazy people, or at least a place for people who can do crazy things, which, according to society, what's the difference, right?"
Pietro pulled his hand away abruptly. Erik let him without resisting. He had learned from his actions minutes ago after all.
Pietro wouldn't look at him, but after a moment he did answer Erik's question.
It most certainly was not what he wanted to hear, but it was what he the truth, even anticipated, still felt worse than a punch to the gut.
"Pietro, why?" Erik asked, his voice full of concern.
"Why? Why does it matter? I did it. It's done. I've already talked to Wanda and—" he paused as if he was going to choke up but then continued "and the other Wanda. I don't want to talk about it again. I don't want to explain myself again. If you want to worry about it, fine. I can't stop you. But go talk to Wanda about it. Not me."
Erik couldn't stop the feeling of jealously that rose in his chest at the revelation that Pietro had talked to both Wandas about the fact that he had…had hurt himself, before talking to Erik. But those feelings were fleeting and Erik felt ashamed of them immediately. He wasn't going to make this about himself. Pietro's feelings were the only ones that mattered at the moment. And as long as he had someone to talk to about all of this, it didn't have to be Erik. Pietro was all that mattered. But he still had to clear up a few things.
"It does matter, Pietro. Because you matter. And I just want—I want to protect you from everything and everyone, even if that includes yourself…" Erik wiped one hand across his face in distress and then continued. "You don't have to talk to me about this, but you need to talk to someone. You can't keep all of your emotions inside—"
"Hello. Were you not listening? I did talk to someone. Two someones, and also why not?" asked Pietro abruptly. "If I want to keep stuff to myself, why can't I? Isn't that what you do? Have you ever talked about…I don't know, everything that happened to you and—and mom? Or like any of the other scary shit you've probably been through since then?"
Pietro's question brought memories of pain and sorrow to the forefront of his mind, but he quickly pushed them back, essentially proving Pietro's point. "Not really, no. But don't follow my example. If you do that…you may very well turn out like me. And trust me, no one wants that, least of all me."
"Idon'tknow. Now that I know you…I don't think turning out like you would be so bad." Said Pietro quietly looking away once more.
Erik hesitated again, but eventually reached out and drew his chin up to look at him. Fortunately, Pietro didn't flinch this time. "Trust me. You do not want to be like me."
Erik let his hand drop and they sat silently for a moment before Erik questioned Pietro again. "Have you done this before?"
"No." Pietro was looking at Erik again, which Erik was glad to see, even if he was back to glaring. Pietro must've seen that Erik wasn't quite sure whether or not to believe him because he quickly added. "I swear. I haven't. It was a one-time thing. And I already swore to Wanda that I'd tr—that I wouldn't do it again."
Erik studied his son's face, even though he wasn't sure what he was looking for. "Okay, Pietro. I believe you. Just please, please if you feel like doing this again, talk to someone. It doesn't have to be me. But promise me, you will talk to someone." Erik said with great intensity, unaware how closely his words echoed that of Wanda Maximoff's from the other universe.
"I promise." But it didn't escape Erik's notice that Pietro's hands were clenched into fists once more, and he made no move to close the distance between them in seek comfort in Erik's arms.
I am not qualified to give advice about the stuff Erik and Pietro discuss, so please don't view Erik's approach to handling the situation as the best possible way to go about it. There are probably better ways. I really have no idea what the best method would be.
On an unrelated note, let me know if you see any blatant typos. I'll try to fix them, if they are pointed out to me. Other comments are welcome as well.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Erik takes a walk...and somehow manages to restrain himself from making it a walk on the wild side.
It's short, and I update far too infrequently. I'm sorry. *hangs head in shame*
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It is an odd feeling, leaving a place and knowing that you will return. It is an even stranger feeling to know that those left behind will notice your absence and even welcome your return. These were feelings that Erik had not experienced in a long time, and now that he was able to experience them again—as much as he didn't want to admit it—he realized how much he had missed them.
Erik had chosen to go into town an hour or so before dusk. Many would likely think that it would be wiser to venture out under the cover of absolute darkness in the middle of the night if they sought to go unnoticed. But over the years Erik had learned—even if he didn't always abide by his own knowledge—that a lone figure in the night was often more noticeable than a stranger in a crowd.
And besides, Erik did not want to be the only figure about. He wanted to observe how (if at all) society had changed in the past 10 years. Mostly, he wanted to be sure that if his children ventured out into the cruel world, they would return. Not that he planned to let them leave the school grounds alone any time soon, but he knew that they wouldn't be content to live out their lives hiding away from the rest of the world.
It was clear they were already going stir crazy, or at least Pietro was. Wanda seemed content to be wherever her brother happened to be, but he suspected eventually she too would want to venture out.
Erik was already all too aware of the fact that Pietro had turned down at least one invitation to go to the movies with Jubilee, Mila, and that telepathic girl Erik did his best to avoid. At first he had thought that Pietro had turned down the invitation out of fear—fear of leaving the safety of the school grounds where anyone might be lurking in the shadows.
And maybe there was a bit of fear in his refusal, but he later realized that his son had not refused completely out of fear of what may be waiting out in the world, but rather out of fear of upsetting his father. He had only come to this realization when he'd overheard Jubilee asking a second time, just to make absolute sure, if he wanted to go to see a movie right before she and the rest of her friends were about to leave. Pietro's reply was what had given it away. He hadn't just said 'no,' or 'I don't want to;' he had hesitated and then said 'No. That's okay. I better not.'
But even then, Erik had not intervened. He had not said, 'go ahead and go Pietro.' Because he couldn't. Not yet. And if Pietro had asked him if he could go, he did not know what his response would've been. Not that he really expected Pietro to ask for his permission. He might be his father, but he'd never been a father to Pietro in a sense that they had years of experience developing a repertoire where Pietro and Wanda had asked to go out with friends and Erik had been there to permit or deny that request. Maybe they were headed in that direction, but he didn't know for certain.
But Erik couldn't continue to deny his son a life outside of the safety of the mansion. Besides, Pietro was in dire need of some new clothes. Well perhaps not in dire need. Charles or someone had rounded up clothes for him and Wanda, some were even new, but few fit him well and none of them were exactly what Erik would call Pietro's preferred style. Presently, Erik was pretty sure the only clothes Pietro felt comfortable in were his silver jacket and converse tennis shoes.
So here was Erik, wandering around town. A silent observer in a hat and sunglasses.
It didn't seem that much had changed in ten years. People's clothes were a bit brighter, hair a bit bigger, but everything else was more or less the same it seemed, which was…vaguely disappointing.
Charles had of course tried to assure him that since his announcement of the existence of mutants to the world, mutants and humans for the most part, have lived together peacefully. But Erik knew that wasn't completely true. He had read the newspaper and seen the news. He knew that there was discord. Many politicians pushed for human rights before mutant rights. There was very much an 'us and them' mentality that Erik knew would always exist, despite Charles' unwavering optimism.
But today at least, there was no evidence of any of that. That is until Erik walked by an alley and heard a commotion.
Pausing, Erik saw that there were some teenage boys in the midst of a tussle. At first Erik was going to continue on his way and pay them no mind. If living at a school filled with teenagers had taught him anything, it was that at least two of them they were always fighting about something at any point in time. So Erik's first thought was to let them work it out themselves. They would get bored eventually and go their separate ways or perhaps even forgive each other for whatever slight—imagined or otherwise—one had against the other and disembark as friends.
But then one of the boys had said something that Erik couldn't walk away from.
"Mutie freak. I told you to stay away from my girlfriend, but you just wouldn't listen."
Erik felt the skin on the back of his neck bristle as another slightly muffled voice replied, "She's not your girlfriend, idiot. I'm pretty she's not even your friend. And we have a group project together. I'm not propositioning her for marriage."
Erik, forcing calm, reminded himself that he could probably deal with this without using his powers. The mere presence of an adult would generally be enough to break up a fight between teenagers. Fortunately—for them—in this instance he was correct.
Erik stepped back toward the entrance to the alley where he could now see that one of the boys was on the ground against the alley wall with a split lip, and three other boys were standing over him. Erik let some of his very real anger bleed into his voice as he called out sternly, "What exactly is going on here, boys?"
In unison all of the teenagers turned their heads to look over at Erik.
"Well?" Erik said again as he started to approach the group.
The boy closest to the fallen teenager was the first to react. He looked to consider for a moment whether he could talk his way out of the situation and get Erik to leave, but he must've realized the scene looked pretty bad because ultimately he turned back to the boy on the ground and muttered what was clearly 'This isn't over, freak.' Then he and his two minions took off down opposite entrance to the alley, away from Erik.
Part of Erik was glad it had been so easy to scare them off, but another petty part of him wished they had stayed so he could teach them what happened when they challenged a mutant. But as prejudiced and asinine as they were, they were still children, so he would not have done much more than scare them anyway. Probably. But unfortunately, the last thing he needed were rumors about a metal wielding mutant flying around. Not when the world most likely believed the man known as Magneto to be dead.
In the end, it was better this way, though perhaps not for Erik's anger management issues.
Erik reached the remaining boy just as he finished gathering up his belongs: a backpack with half its contents spilled onto the ground and a worn gym-bag.
Erik offered the boy his hand to help him up off the ground, which the kid took after a moment's hesitation.
"Thanks. 'preciate it. I can take them when it's just one on one, but when they get in a pack, it's a little more than I can handle..." the boy finished with a shrug of his shoulders.
"You shouldn't have to handle it at all." Said Erik with a frown as he examined the boy. He didn't have any physical mutations that Erik could see anyway, but that wasn't too uncommon. After all, his own mutation was completely undetectable to the naked eye. Suddenly curious, he wondered if Charles would know whether mutants with physical mutations, like Pietro, Raven, and Hank, were the norm or actually made up the minority of the mutant race.
The kid was tall but sturdily built, giving weight to his statement that he would have been able to take any one of them if they hadn't ganged up on him.
"Yea well…" another shrug. "They're just jerks being jerks. One more year and I won't have to deal with them anymore. Sure I'll probably always have to deal with mutant-phobes, but once I'm out of high school, I like to think it'll be easier to avoid them."
Erik had to bite his tongue to keep himself from contradicting the boy, crushing his hope for a better future wouldn't help him get through the next year with those insignificant humans, but maybe something else could. He was actually a little surprised that the boy didn't go to Xavier's already with it being so close, but perhaps whatever mutation the boy had was a recent development and he hadn't popped up on Charles' radar yet.
"You know, there is a school that is exclusively for gifted individuals like yourself that's not too far from here. You don't have to wait until you graduate to get away from those…" Erik paused "miscreants." He finished, feeling unsatisfied with the strength of the word, but a little proud of his restraint.
"Xavier's right? Thanks, but I'm good with the school I'm at. Somebody from that school approached me about enrolling a couple of years ago when I first realized I was mutant, but I turned them down." Answered the boy.
"Why?" Erik asked genuinely curiously. Then added as an afterthought "If you don't mind me asking."
Now that Erik had witnessed first-hand the positive environment that Charles' school provided for mutants, he couldn't imagine a young mutant turning down the opportunity to have the support of others like himself.
Erik must have really sounded surprised because the kid laughed a little. "Not many mutants turn that place down, huh?" Then he continued with a smile, "Don't get me wrong, it seems like a great school, and it would be pretty awesome to hang out with other mutants every day, but I have a life here man. Not everybody is a jerk. Really, those guys are the outliers. At least at my school, most kids don't even care, or if they do, they aren't outright assholes about it. If anyone is prejudice, it's the parents. Kids are pretty accepting in my experience actually. That might just be because I've helped set our school up with a pretty nice winning record in football this season, but really, my friends are great. My family is supportive, and not to brag, but I'm pretty great at football, which—full disclosure—may or may not be because of my mutation. But anyway, Xavier's doesn't even have a football team."
"Nonetheless, you still shouldn't have to put up with that." Erik hadn't really thought about Xavier's lacking in extracurricular activities. They did have some, but he was probably right that football wasn't one of them. Erik hadn't paid that much attention to be honest. And Erik didn't even know if they actually competed against other schools or how that worked. That was something else that Erik had failed to notice, but what Pietro probably missed from his old school. His old life. Erik remembered him saying he was on the track team when they first met. And the fact that Pietro might be missing out on competing in something he was born to do hadn't even crossed Erik's mind. The evidence that Erik was failing as a parent just kept adding up.
The boy shrugged again. Erik thought that seemed to be his go-to response. "Yea well, lots of people have it worse. How can I complain when mutants in some countries are basically still viewed as the devil-incarnate? A couple of us were thinking of organizing a peaceful mutant-rights rally in the area, but I don't know…it seems like it might just cause more troubles than it's worth, ya know?"
Erik narrowed his eyes. "Equality is always worth the discord it fosters. And mutants deserve nothing less. Do you think the civil rights movement would have gained any traction if the people leading it had been afraid of conflict? Mankind has always feared what it doesn't understand,** and humans' response to mutants is no exception to that."
The boy was silent at that, presumably considering. Then after another moment's pause, he asked "Are you a mutant?"
Erik hesitated. He could say no, and just pretend to be a human that was pro-mutant, but denying he was a mutant felt inherently wrong. Besides, he didn't have to reveal his powers. He could still keep his identity a secret.
"Yes." Said Erik finally.
The kid nodded again. "I thought as much. I guess you would know then. Like I said, my friends—the non-mutant ones—are great, but they don't always get it…It's easy for them to talk about mutant rights because they…well they've never been beaten up in alley just for being born a certain way. Sure, they might get some back-lash for sympathizing with mutants, but it's just not the same."
"No. It is not." replied Erik in agreement. "And do not try to fool yourself into thinking that they will ever understand, but you should never stop fighting for a better future. Because we are the future.* If you want to hold a rally, hold a rally. Do not let those boys and their counterparts stop you."
"I'll think about it I guess…thanks for sticking up for me anyway." The boy tugged at the strap of his backpack, tightening it while he looked like he was considering whether or not to offer Erik a departing handshake.
Figuring that his short impassioned speech had made the kid slightly uncomfortable and a handshake was probably the last thing he wanted, not to mention that a handshake would probably lead to actual introductions and Erik didn't feel like lying to the boy about his identity, so Erik made the decision for him and took a step back toward which he had come. "You should probably get going. I'm sure someone is expecting you somewhere."
"Yea," said the boy giving the strap of his bag another tug, looking a little relieved. "Thanks again."
Erik just gave the boy a nod as he retreated in the opposite direction. The encounter wouldn't hold much significance in Erik's life—except as a reminder of human cruelty and mutant resilience—that is, not until he walked near this path again, after what was left of his heart had shattered once more.
* The "Mankind has always feared what it doesn't understand," is from the original X-Men movie.
** The "We are the future" phrase is from Erik's speech in X-Men DOFP.
Dun dun duuuun! Sorry if this chapter seems a bit out of left field. It will have relevance later. *waggles eyebrows mysteriously.*
Also, if you're curious. I didn't really have a particular comic book character in mind as to who the young mutant individual is. If you want to imagine that he is someone in particular, great! Otherwise, my short little imagined background for him was that he had a mutation rather like a Spidey sense that helped him avoid being tackled during football games.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Some surprises are better than others.
Sorry folks. Summer was being evasive, and it still kind of is.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The moment his dad called him, Alex knew something was wrong. Because his dad didn't call him, not unless it was his birthday or it happened to be a Christmas where he hadn't stopped by for an hour or so to give his brother a present and then split before any of his mutant-phobic extended family arrived.
That's how he knew that his dad wasn't just calling him to say hello, but not in a million years would Alex have been able to predict the exact reason for his father's call. Alex still had never forgiven his dad for walking out on Scotty so many years ago. If he'd just been walking out on Alex, that would've been one thing, but he'd walked out on his little brother, which was not okay.
Though, to his credit, his dad hadn't been gone that long. And he had come back and he had stayed—which was more than could be said for Alex. Not only that, but his dad had come back with a new wife in tow. And even Alex had to admit that the woman—Susan—had been good for his dad. She'd somehow managed to get him to be an actual parent to Scott in a way that he certainly had never been for Alex. And she'd been a good mom to Scotty too, even if she could never compare to his own mom. But to Scott, she was the only mom he'd ever known, and at any rate, even if his dad and step-mom had no patience for Alex, they'd always loved Scott…at least he'd thought they had.
But that was before. That was when Scott was still normal.
Scott was the kid that stayed on the straight and narrow. He was not supposed to be blowing up school restrooms because he was shooting lasers out his eyes. That was more Alex's territory.
So when his dad told him what happened—told him that his brother was also a mutant like his big bro—Alex knew there was no way Scott could stay at their house anymore.
His dad and step-mom weren't the worst people in the world. He honestly believed they tried their best. Alex had just been more than his dad could handle. A lot more. And he didn't expect his dad—let alone his step-mother—to try to parent another mutant child. They just wouldn't be able to do it. Mutant kids did not fit into the American Pie life they had created, which meant Scott no longer did either.
Poor Scott. Alex had been shocked to hear that his brother was also a mutant, and, on top of that, he possessed a power similar—though a lot more inconvenient—to his own.
After his brother had passed the age of 16 without developing any mutant abilities, Alex had almost heard his dad and Susan's collective sigh of relief, even though he wasn't actually home the day his little brother turned sixteen. Thus, he almost felt sorry for his dad and step-mom now.
But his dad had called him. That counted for something at least. They hadn't just called the cops and let Scott get locked up in Juvie. No, they had been good to Scotty, much better than his dad had ever been with him. That counted for more.
Anyway, well-intentioned or not, when Alex had said he would come home and handle it, this time he really could hear the relief in his dad's voice. The relief was even more apparent on his dad and Susan's faces when he did finally make it home, where he found his brother lying despondently on his bed with a bandage around his eyes.
Alex wasn't going to bother lying to his brother, pretending that everything was going to be alright, but at least he could promise that Scott wasn't alone. Not like Alex was. Alex didn't know exactly how his brother felt about all of this, but he did have a pretty damn good idea. And when Scott was ready to talk about it, he'd be ready to listen.
So he observed in silence as he watched their dad and Susan give Scott awkward stiff hugs that he didn't return, and he didn't say anything when they said goodbye to them both—mostly to Scott—and Susan wiped at her tear-filled eyes, all the while making no promises of future contact. Maybe they would continue to have a better relationship with Scott than they had with him, or maybe they wouldn't.
But it was clear that when they said goodbye to Scott, they weren't just saying goodbye to the son they loved (and would always love?), they were saying goodbye to the normal kid they thought they had. Alex couldn't tell which part of that fact was what brought them the most pain, but he could fathom a guess.
The ride to Charles' home also began in silence. Alex glanced over at his little brother after they had been driving a while to see that Scott was just staring impassively out the window. Well, he would've been staring if he could see. Instead, he just had his head turned toward the window, but the only thing he was seeing was most certainly the back of his own eyelids.
Still 'staring' out the window, Scott finally broke the silence "I can practically hear you thinking over there you know, trying to think of something to say to me. Something like, 'everything is going to be okay. You'll get used to it. This is a blessing in disguise! A gift!' Well just save it because this not even close to any gift I'd want to receive and everything is not going to be okay. So don't fucking bother telling me that it will be."
For a moment, Alex was glad that Scott couldn't see his face because he knew his brother wouldn't like the look of pity, or at the very least, understanding that was on it. But then he remembered that if his brother were able to see, they wouldn't be in this situation in the first place.
"I wasn't going to say that. It's not a gift. Trust me, I know. But if it's any consolation, you do get used to it. And you get better at controlling it. That's something at least." Alex replied, trying to be a little optimistic on his brother's behalf.
"Oh yea? Do you get used to it? Do you really think I'll get used to being blind!?" Scott shot back.
Alex cringed. He didn't have an answer to that, but he was going to try to give a positive response anyway because that's what his brother needed right now, but Scott went on before he could.
"Where the fuck are we going anyway?"
"To see an old friend of mine. Charles Xavier. He runs a school now for people like me—I mean, like us." It was still weird to think of his kid brother as a mutant. Scotty had always been so normal. "He might be able to help, and if my other friend, Hank, still works there, he might even be able to fix up something so that you can be see without blasting everything in sight."
When Scott's only response was a grunt, Alex continued. "Look, I know it doesn't seem like it now, but it's going to get better. Even if it's exactly a gift, you still basically have a superpower now. And you always wanted to be like me when you were little too. Now you kind of are. That's cool, right?"
Scott turned his head in Alex's general direction, "Yea, I also wanted to eat chocolate chip pancakes for every meal, but then I grew up. So yea it's really cool." Scott replied sarcastically turning his head back toward the window, but it didn't escape Alex's gaze that a tear had found its way onto Scotts face, trickling out from beneath his bandaged eyes. "Go ahead and stand me in front of an evil villain and tell me when to open my eyes. Then I'll blast him to smithereens. That will be lots of fun."
Alex forced himself to look at the road again. "I'm sorry, Scotty. I really am."
Scott did not reply.
Charles' home looked just how he remembered it, well how he remembered it in its prime. The place was not in the midst of falling into severe neglect as it had been when Alex had left for what he thought was the last time, back when people were being dragged into a war, the school was on the verge of shutting down, and Charles was on the edge of heading down a dark path. Alex hadn't wanted to deal with any of that, so he'd left.
But it seemed that Charles really had gotten his act together. The place was thriving.
As Alex and Scott entered the school grounds, he wondered if he would find Lorna here. He knew she sometimes stopped by, but her visits were never long and according to her, she felt the desire to return less and less with each passing year.
Alex wasn't sure if he wanted to find her at the mansion or not. They weren't currently together, and their last break up had been rather nasty. They had argued about the usual stuff. She wanted to step up her work in empowering mutants and he—who as she pointed out numerous times should be more motivated than most mutants to want things to change given his past experience with the government—just wanted to move on with his life. But if history was anything to go by, if he saw her again, they would inevitably end up back together. It was an endless pattern of heartbreak and joy, followed by more heartbreak, which he wasn't sure was entirely healthy for either of them.
But that didn't mean he didn't care for Lorna. That he would never stop caring for her.
Alright, if he was being completely honest with himself, Alex did hope that Lorna would be here. Maybe she'd always break his heart, but she also seemed to be the only who could put it back together again.
Alex led Scott by the shoulder through the mansion looking for the Professor (and Lorna).
After Scott had a painfully awkward (and possibly flirtatious?) encounter with an apparently telekinetic and telepathic girl, Alex heard a familiar voice call his name.
Alex turned and saw Hank approaching with a look of surprise on his face.
"Hank McCoy!" Alex said grinning and giving Hank's offered hand a shake. "Whoa. What happened to the big blue….furry you?"
"I, uh, keep it under control now." Hank replied awkwardly.
Recognizing that it wasn't something Hank wanted to talk about, Alex quickly changed the subject to the reason he was here. "This is my brother, Scott." Said Alex giving his brother a gentle pat on the shoulder.
"Hey Scott. I'm Hank McCoy. I'm one of the teachers here." Said Hank imbuing friendliness.
Scott gave a little nod, but otherwise did not reply.
"Where's the Professor?" Alex asked glancing around, thinking he might be close by. Hank replied, but his words were lost to Alex because as he was looking around, his gaze fell on a face that he'd never thought he'd see again.
"Hey Jubilee, do you have any more of those cosmic brownies on you? Those things are freakin' delicious!" said Peter enthusiastically to the dark-haired girl walking next to him.
The girl laughed before answering. "No, you ate the entire box yesterday, remember?! I still can't believe you'd never had them before. And we just had lunch."
Peter smirked and replied "Well, when it comes to those kinds of snacks, I pretty much stick to Twinkies and Ding Dongs. But now I think I'm going to have to re-evaluate all of my life choices. Plus, the fact that we just had lunch is totally irrelevant to whether or not there are more cosmic brownies to be had."
"Okay, Peter." Said the girl rolling her eyes at him, but it was clear that she wasn't actually annoyed in any way.
At that point in their conversation, they were mere feet from Alex but Peter still had not noticed him to engrossed in his conversation with the girl, an apparently carefree smile on his face. Fortunately, Alex found his voice before they passed him by completely.
"Peter?" His name came out as not much more than a whisper, but it was loud enough for Peter to hear.
The kid came to an abrupt halt at the sound of his name. And then his eyes locked with Alex's. He squinted at him for a second like he wasn't sure if he could trust what he was seeing, and then his eyes finally widened. "H-o-l-y shit."
Suddenly Peter was standing right in front of Alex, having cleared the distance that separated them with his super speed. "It is you! Alex! Man is it good to see you!...andseeyou,like,outand about." The kid was so excited, his words were blurring together. "Should we hug? I kinda feel like we should hug, but maybe we should go for amanlyhandshakewithabro-hugattheendor—oomf"
Peter was silenced as Alex pulled him into a crushing hug. After a moment the kid awkwardly patted him on the back before Alex quickly released him, suddenly realizing that he'd really only known the kid for three months and that maybe hugging someone who he'd only come to know through a shared horrifying experience maybe wasn't the best idea.
The kid looked a lot better than the last time he'd seen him. Still skinny but not starving. His hair was different, but otherwise he looked pretty much the same. How was that even possible? Shouldn't he be in his mid-twenties by now? Even looking past that, how was he even alive? He'd blinked out of existence ten years ago…right before Alex's eyes.
"You're—How—How are you alive? And other than your hair, you look…almost exactly the same." he finally managed.
"Um…well it's kinda a long story, maybe we could talk about it later…someplace else…" answered Peter tugging at the edge of his sleeve and glancing uncertainly at the girl who had been walking with him who was now looking between them curiously, Scott who had turned to face their general direction, and Hank who looked like he wanted to add something to the conversation but wasn't really sure what to say.
Peter gave the girl a strained smile before turning back to Alex "Well, to be fair, you don't really look any different either. Other than your hair. Seriously, what's with the new do? I'm pretty sure your hair is longer than mine used to be!"
Alex was still so confused by this entire situation that before he could form a coherent thought, another familiar—though not so welcome voice—spoke from behind him.
Alex turned, and yep, there was Erik looking far too mundane in a casual flannel shirt and much less desperate than the last time he'd seen him.
"Erik?" It took a second for Alex to fathom why, even if he were also unexpectedly alive, Erik would come back here of all places. But then he remembered that Erik was apparently Peter's father. Because that wasn't mindboggling at all.
Alex never liked to dwell on his time at the facility for too long, but when he did, he almost never associated Peter with Erik despite their familial ties. Even after all this time, it was hard for Alex to come to terms with the fact that they were related. It had been like finding out a shark and a puppy were father and son.
"No. His name is Henryk." The girl next to Peter said before Erik could reply, looking between the three of them again, a little more suspiciously than before. "That's Peter's father."
"What?" Alex blurted out before he could think about the fact that Erik was probably just going by a different name to hide his identity (if that was even possible with the kind of drama Erik always seemed to inspire).
"What are you doing here?" Erik asked.
It was Scott who answered for him. "Well he's supposed to be acting as my guide and finding someone named Charles Xavier to fix this." Said Scott gesturing to his blindfolded eyes.
What the hell was going on? Being blind—for all intents and purposes—sucked. He had to rely on his brother to make sure that he didn't walk into a wall or trip down stairs and now Alex had apparently forgotten all about him and was having a really weird conversation with a bunch of people that Scott couldn't see. All while Scott was probably 'staring' in the completely wrong direction, looking like an idiot while whatever the heck was going on transpired around him.
Scott's comment seemed to remind his brother that he existed because he finally acknowledged his presence.
"Right, this is my little brother. He—uh—just developed powers."
Little brother. He couldn't just say brother? "I have a name." said Scott.
"Sorry this is my little brother, Scott." Alex said, overemphasizing his name. At least he hadn't introduced him as Scotty.
"This is little Scotty."
Scott frowned. So much for that.
The voice sounded like it came from the guy his brother had addressed as Peter.
"Yea." His brother laughed. "I guess he's not so little anymore.
"Well, I'm glad he's okay! I'm Peter by the way, if you didn't get that. Nice to meet you!" There was a pause before Peter continued. "Sorry, I waved. I'm still waving. 'ello!I'mgoingtostopnow. Sowhatareyourpowers?Canyoushootcoolplasmablastslikeyourbrother?"
"What?" said Scott. He'd followed less than half of that.
"Sorrymybad. What are your powers? Can you shoot cool plasma blasts like your brother?" Peter asked again with no less enthusiasm but quite a bit slower.
So that's what he had said. "Yea. I can." Answered Scott bitterly. "Except they shoot out of my eyes, and they don't stop until I close them or cover them up, so apparently this is my life now." Scott gestured to his bandaged eyes again.
There was a moment's pause before Peter answered. "Well that sucks! You sure got the short end of the stick on that one dude. I guess I'll try to remember never ask you to beam me up, Scotty."
Even though it sounded like this 'Peter' guy, was trying to make him feel better by making light of the situation, Scott really did not appreciate the joke at all, so he glared at Peter's general direction. But he doubted his glare made much of an impact because, for one, his eyes were covered and another he was probably a little off in the direction he was looking. Either way, he was coming to the conclusion that he didn't like this Peter very much.
Scott was just going to ask Peter what his powers were, but his brother started to speak again before he could.
"Pietro." Said another voice that had a bit of an accent and Scott thought belonged to the guy (potentially with multiple names?) that was introduced as Peter's father.
"What?" said Peter.
"Your name is Pietro, not Peter. You should use your given name. It is part of your heritage and you should be proud of it." said Erik with an air of finality.
Based on his tone of voice Scott could practically see Peter/Pietro rolling his eyes. "Can we not have this argument right now…again." he mumbled the last word under his breath but Scott still caught it. " .Somypreviousintroductionstill ,mydaddoesn' . Anyway, your big bro and I go way back, right Alex? We were practically roomies for a while…" Then he gave a laugh that became a little strained before he eventually stopped.
"O-K." said Scott tired of standing blindly in a school he didn't even want to be at. And still utterly confused. How the heck was this guy—who sounded like he was Scott's own age or younger—ever possibly be roommates with his brother?
There was awkward silence after Peter's rambling, or maybe everyone was communicating silently while Scott stood there still looking like an idiot. Fortunately, someone (Hank?) broke the silence. "Maybe we should go find the Professor now, Alex, and let him know that you're here. He should be about done with his current class."
"Um, yea I suppose we should…It's—it was really great to see you Pete. I'll come find you later and we can talk more…if…that's okay?" his brother asked in a gentle voice that Scott hadn't heard him use since Scott was himself a little kid and had nearly broken his arm trying to do a wheelie on his bike. It was…odd. Who was this kid?
"That'd be okay, I guess…" said Peter.
"Peter, you don't need to—" Peter's dad started to say but Peter just plowed right over him.
"Dad, it's fine. I want to talk to Alex, alright?"
There must have actually been some silent communication at that point because Peter's dad never answered, but neither did Peter add an additional retort. There were a few more quick goodbyes and then Scott felt his brother's hand land back on his shoulder to lead him away.
A little bit of Alex and Hank's conversation was directly from X-men Apocalypse, which I (along with all of X-men) still do not own. Hit me with a comment if you feel like it. :)
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Just another restless night at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters.
Sorry this chapter is super short chapter, but it was clear to me after I wrote it that it wasn't going to fit well into the next chapter, which by the way, will be much longer than this one. Also, I've almost got the next chapter ready to go, so—no promises—but it should be up within a week. That's my goal anyway. I've heard if you write down your goals, you are more likely to complete them. I hope that's true.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Wanda awoke in the middle of the night, her first thought was that Pietro was having a nightmare, but Pietro's nightmare's didn't cause the walls to shake. That was more likely to be something she would cause, but once she woke up a little more, and the walls were still shaking, it was clear that she wasn't the cause either. This was something else (someone else?).
Jumping out of bed, Wanda crossed the room and opened the bedroom door to find other sleepy-eyed kids looking out of their own rooms. She heard someone whisper "She's doing it again" just as the Professor rolled pass her room, calmly telling everyone to go back to bed.
Most of the kids complied right away, but Wanda wasn't about to blindly obey the command without first finding out what was going on, especially when Pietro emerged from his own room and zipped over to her side only stumbling slightly with sleepiness, but looking significantly groggy with his hair in disarray as he rubbed a hand across one eye.
"Wands, what's going on?" Pietro asked while trying and failing to stifle a yawn.
"I'm not sure." Wanda replied, her eyes tracked the Professor's progress down the hall, noting that he met a waiting Hank and conversed briefly with him, before entering Jean's room.
"It's Jean." Said Mila who had come up to stand beside the twins, along with Jubilee. "She gets nightmares and with her powers…I don't know; I guess they amplify them or something like that sometimes."
"Oh, that's…not fun." Replied Wanda unsure what an appropriate response might be. "Will she be okay?"
"Yea, it doesn't happen too often, but it happens enough to be…not unusual." Added Jubilee with a shrug. "I'd be more worried about the school than Jean. That girl is one tough cookie."
Before Wanda could ask either Mila or Jubilee anything else, Hank—who was still standing guard outside of Jean's room—sternly repeated while looking directly at their small group that they needed to go back to bed. So Jubilee and Mila retreated back to their own room, leaving Wanda and Pietro alone—save Hank—in the hallway.
"Well, good thing my nightmare's don't come to life like Jean's or nobody would ever get any sleep." Said Pietro grinning, clearly trying to make a joke but Wanda didn't find it very funny.
She just turned to face him with a look of concern "Are you okay, Pete? No nightmares tonight?"
"Yea, I'm good." Pietro answered immediately, before continuing when Wanda gave him a skeptical look. "Really I am! I was actually having a good dream about…Mom. I always seem to remember her better in my dreams, you know? But then I wake up and…" he shrugged frowning while made a 'poof' sign with both hands.
"But the night's still young, plenty of time left for nightmares!" Pietro added smiling again.
Wanda sighed. "We don't have to go back to bed, if you don't want to. I mean, we probably have to at least go back in one of our rooms or Hank might lose a gasket"—he was still eyeing them sternly from across the hall—"but we could just talk for a while or something if you want."
"That's okay. We should go back to sleep. We both have classes in the morning, and…maybe I'll dream about Mom again, or Aunt Marya." Said Pietro. This time his smile was smaller, but it was also more genuine.
"You sure?" asked Wanda.
"Yea, it's fine. And if I have a nightmare, I'm sure you'll know. You always do, even if I rather you didn't." Said Pietro again with a sad smile. "Good night—or morning—Wands."
Wanda smiled back at her brother. "Night, Pete. Love you."
"Love ya too, sis." Said Pietro before he went back into his room, closing the door behind him.
Wanda returned to her own room and crawled back into bed, but she didn't expect to get any more sleep the rest of the night. She couldn't help feeling that something was wrong. But everything was fine. More than fine.
Peter had introduced her to Alex, who seemed nice enough. And his younger brother wasn't terrible—despite attempting to be standoffish, Wanda could tell that Jean thought he was quite a bit better than 'not terrible'—once Hank had fixed him up some glasses that allowed him to see without blasting everyone in sight.
After Peter explained who Alex was (Wanda had hardly remembered him from their raid on the facility, she had had other things—more like just one person—on her mind that day, so he didn't really make much of an impression), Wanda had worried that his presence would only serve to exacerbate Peter's…issues.
After their initial reunion that Wanda hadn't witnessed, but before Peter had gone to see Alex again, Peter had paced—more like flitted from one side of the room to the other—the length of Wanda's bedroom. He was worried that even though Alex seemed happy to see him that once he'd had a chance to think about it, he'd be mad that Peter hadn't tried to contact him right away, hadn't even asked about him since they'd been back.
But—as Peter explained—that wasn't because he hadn't wanted to. He was just scared. Scared that if he asked the Professor about Alex (Wanda forgot that Peter still didn't know about Cerebro; it hadn't really come up in their day-to-day conversation) or asked him to look for him, there would be no one to find…because Alex was dead. So he had been working up to asking, he just hadn't yet.
But fortunately, Peter was worrying over nothing. After hanging out with Alex for hours, Peter had come back with a grin on his face. As much as Peter hadn't missed the facility, he had clearly missed his friend.
So Wanda didn't know why there was a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She didn't know why it felt like they were about to plummet over the edge of a cliff.
Nothing was wrong. Everything was fine. Her brother was as fine as he could be, and she had more family members than she'd ever thought she would, so she was going to keep reminding her self of that. Although they still had problems, for the most part, things were good.
Everything was fine. Everything was fine. Everything was fine.
Wanda repeated that sentence over and over in her head until she did eventually fall asleep, but in the morning that sinking feeling was still there.
Everything was not fine. Someone…or something was coming…Something might already be here.
Oh, is that a plot I see on the horizon? I'm not cool enough to have tumblr, but drop me a comment if you feel so inclined.
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
Shouting...plus some other stuff.
So I met my one week goal. That's pretty crazy.
If you haven't figured it out yet, some stuff that happens in X-Men Apocalypse also happens in this fic, but I'm not going to rehash everything, so it might be helpful to have seen that movie. With that said, there's quite a bit of dialogue in this chapter from that movie, which obviously—along with X-Men in general—does not belong to me. Anyway, read on! :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Erik was already in his study waiting for him when Charles rolled in. Despite the fact that Charles knew Erik was angry at him, for now the man had a look of serenity on his face as he stared out the room's window, no doubt watching his children and some other young mutants play a very odd game of basketball, as from what Charles could see, at least some of them were incorporating their powers into the game.
Charles couldn't help but to smile at the sight of his old friend's fond expression, so when Erik turned at the sound of Charles' entry and saw the grin on his face, Erik's look of tranquility immediately soured.
"What could you possibly be grinning about Charles?" growled Erik.
"Oh nothing." Quickly trying to dispel the grin from his face because he knew it would only serve to further enrage Erik. It was more difficult than one might expect.
"What is it? You're smiling like a banshee." Said Erik, scowl still on his face.
"I'm sorry. I can't help it. It's just…it makes me so happy to see you happy. Fatherhood suits you, Erik."
At Charles' words, some of the anger actually faded from Erik's face, if only for a moment. "I suppose it does." Than he added with more sadness in his voice than bitterness, "Though I'm not sure I'm suited for it."
"What are you talking about? You're a wonderful father, Erik. Your children love you." Charles reassured his friend. Anyone could see that Erik's two youngest children thought the world of him, his 'eldest?'—though they still had not met—idolized him, and Wanda…well, it was difficult, even for Charles, to try to guess how Wanda felt about her father.
"Even if that's true, that doesn't mean I'm a good father, Charles. Let alone a wonderful one." Said Erik turning away from him again. "They've all been through so much because of me. Every time I look at them, all I can think about is how much I have failed them and how much I don't deserve them."
Charles maneuvered his chair over to Erik's side so that the man was forced to—if not look at him—at least acknowledge his presence. "I know I'm not a father, Erik, so I cannot completely understand, and I won't pretend to understand, what you are feeling, but I don't think it's about what you deserve. I think it's about becoming the father they deserve. No one's perfect, Erik. You're doing your best…which is splendidly in my opinion."
Erik didn't respond, but tore his gaze from the window and made his way over to sit in one of the vacant chairs by Charles' desk. Knowing Erik had said all he wanted to on the subject, Charles more or less followed suit, situating his wheelchair behind his desk.
"You know very well that I didn't come here to talk about fatherhood with you, Charles, so quit trying to distract me." Said Erik, the scowl now back on his face in full force.
"Yes, I'm well aware of the reason you wanted to have a private conversation with me." Replied Charles with a sigh.
"Well then, what were you thinking? Erased memories or not, how could you possibly think it was a good idea to bring Moira back here, while you are harboring one of the most wanted men in the world?! Namely, me! Even if no one else here has made the connection as to my identity, she undoubtedly will. It's her job to be observant. If it were just me, I would not even care if she found out my identity, but you have put my children at risk, Charles. You've put all of the children here at risk! Or have you forgotten what the government did to Pietro?! To Alex?! To so many others!" Erik finished enraged.
Charles tried not to flinch at Erik's words. It was like they were right back in that plane ten years ago after just having broken Erik out of prison, when Erik had berated—and rightfully so—Charles' cowardice. "No, I have not forgotten, Erik. But she had information we needed. You wanted me to look into Jean's…vision. This was the most logical course of action." Replied Charles relieved when his voice remained calm.
"I didn't ask you to bring a CIA agent back here, Charles! You did not even need to bring her here! You have already gotten all of the information you possibly can from her!" Erik had risen to his feet now and was practically yelling in Charles' face. "You just want to relive the past! To go back to the point when we were all young and naïve! But you can't Charles! There's no going back! trust me, I know!"
"Erik…" Charles tried to begin. But blunt as he was, Erik was right. He and Alex had gotten valuable information from Moira, but they could have just as easily not involved her any further. Or as Erik pointed out, he could have even wiped her memories again. But after seeing Moira again after all of these years, Charles just did not possess the strength to let her go once more.
"I'm not going to listen to you try to rationalize this, Charles." Said Erik much more calmly than he had been speaking a moment before, while he walked to the study door. "This time, I am right, and we both know it. No good can come of involving her."
It was at that point that Erik opened the door to exit Charles' study only to have a familiar silver-haired speedster fall backward through the doorway at his feet, where he ended up lying on his back and staring up at his father.
"Uh, hey Dad. This isn't what it looks like."
She should have put on a disguise—other than the blonde one that was nearly as recognizable as her blue skin, at least to those who knew her. She should have just dropped the kid off and told him good luck.
But she couldn't do it…because he was…
No. She wouldn't go there. She wasn't a mother. She didn't deserve to be anything to him, so she would continue to be nothing to him, or at least nothing more than one mutant looking out for another.
He already expected too much of her. For some reason, he—like other young mutants she'd liberated over the years—idolized her for her actions in D.C. ten years ago. She'd already attempted to distance herself from him, giving blunt one word responses to his conversational inquires. But it had done little to discourage his chatter. Even in the face of her sour responses, he was impossibly chipper, nothing like her.
Nothing at all like her. Nothing like his father either.
Raven heard Kurt's breathless gasp of amazement at the mansion's size and decor. Raven remembered that feeling when she had first snuck into the place so many years ago. She didn't have that feeling anymore. Now when she looked around, she just felt…empty.
"Raven—wow—um…I…you're…" a flustered and surprisingly normal looking Hank emerged from an adjacent hallway barely a moment after she and Kurt walked in.
So he'd somehow managed to reverse the effects of his failed attempt at being normal. How convenient for him.
"Not blue? Looks like you and I have that in common now." Raven replied deadpanned.
"No, I meant…you're…you're back. I never thought I would see you here again." Said Hank with a little bit of awe and pain in his voice.
"Yea, me neither." Said Raven with a resigned sigh. Returning here had never been part of the plan. But that was before someone had kidnapped her…before someone had kidnapped Kurt from—his perhaps not perfect life, but a life with some comfort and happiness—certainly a life that was better than one she would have given him. And before she had heard the rumors running through the mutant community that something big was coming. Not that she had any idea what that meant.
"I'm blue!" said Kurt jumping in from behind her right before Hank could reply. "I'm Kurt." He then added sheepishly when they both just stared at him.
"Right. This is Kurt Wagner. He needs a place to stay. And what better place than this, right?" said Raven, hoping she had managed to keep any sarcasm out of her voice. Despite her feelings about the place, it would be a good place for Kurt. A safe place. A place where people would respect him. Two things that she would never have been able to give him.
"Welcome." Said Hank, a smile on his face, but it looked rather forced. Raven wondered how obvious it was that Kurt looked like Azazel and had coloring close to that of her own true form. Probably pretty obvious. "I'm Hank McCoy. I can find someone to show you around, Kurt, and then I guess you can get going Raven…I assume you plan to leave anyway." Hank finished, unable to completely keep the bitterness from his voice.
"Actually, I need to talk to Charles." Said Raven already headed toward his study, where she planned to wait for him if he wasn't there already.
"Wait!" said Hank nearly running after her as she continued walking, vaguely aware that Kurt was trailing behind both of them, unsure if he was supposed to follow. "Charles—he's in a meeting. I think it'd be better if I let him know you're here, and then he can meet with you when he's—"
But he was cut off by a silver blur that suddenly appeared in front of her, leaning against the door to Charles study, in the space which a moment before had been empty. It was only her years of living her life more or less as a spy that stopped her from jumping back in surprise. But with no such training, behind her, she heard Kurt give a frightened yelp.
"Yea, Spock is right. I don't think you want to go in there right now." Said the stranger, who Raven could now see was a young skinny teenaged boy, with brilliant silver hair and deathly pale skin. Obviously a mutant. Undoubtedly one of Charles' students.
"Actually I do." Said Raven stepping forward hoping that he'd move before she had to move him. She was still in shock from his abrupt appearance, but not enough to keep her from her current goal. But even when she stepped forward the kid didn't move.
"Kid, I need to see my brother. So. Vacate. The. Door." Said Raven in what was clearly not meant to be a request.
"Your brother?! Oh shit, I didn't know the Prof. had a sister! Are you younger or older? You look younger. But people always think I look younger than I am so maybe you're older? Can you read minds too? Do you guys have any more siblings? Ihavelotsofsistersbutnobrothers—"
Raven, who's mind was failing to follow most of what the kid was saying, interjected before he could continue. "I'm going to stop you right there because you're giving me a headache, but yes, he's my brother, so step aside kid. I need to talk to him." Once again the kid didn't move. He just followed his arms and leaned back even more.
"Cool. Coolcoolcool. I'm sure he'll want to talk to you, but you really don't want to go in there right now. Charles and my dad are having a 'discussion'" said Pietro, making air quotes with his fingers on the last word. "It's really better not to interrupt them, otherwise they'll just go at it again later. Don't know why they call it a 'discussion' though, it's more like a shouting match. Though I've only heard my dad shouting today, so that's a bit of an improvement compared to normal."
As if to prove the kid's point a voice echoed through the door, though Raven couldn't tell what was being said or who was shouting other than that the voice was that of a man's.
"Look, I don't care if he's arguing with the Queen of England in there. I need to talk to him, which means, I need you to move." Said Raven just about ready to forcibly move him out of the way. He didn't look like he weighed very much. If he held still, it would probably be pretty easy to do. But right as she was about to, the study door opened, causing Pietro to fall backward abruptly onto the floor, halfway in the study and halfway out of it. But Raven hardly noticed that at all, too focused on the fact that an angry looking Erik was now standing in the open doorway to her brother's study.
Erik didn't notice her, however, only having eyes for the boy at his feet.
Just when she thought that nothing could be more shocking than the fact that Erik was here too, she got an even bigger shocker.
"Uh, hey Dad. This isn't what it looks like." Said the kid, still lying on the floor and looking a little nervous.
Erik's face immediately softened as he looked down at the kid. "Pietro, what have I said about eavesdropping?"
"If I'm gonna do it, don't get caught." Said the kid confidently.
Erik sighed, but he looked like he was trying not to laugh. "Alright, yes I did say that, but you know I did not mean it in regard to eavesdropping on Charles and me. I believe in that regard, I told you not to partake in the endeavor at all, did I not? And weren't you just playing basketball or some variation of it a moment ago? What happened with that?"
"Yeaaaah…I was, but I got hungry, so I came inside to get a snack—"
"And you thought you might find food in Charles' study, is that it?" Erik asked skeptically but with a hint of humor in his voice.
"No! Then I saw Hank talking to some people I didn't recognize, so I was curious and followed them here. I really wasn't eavesdropping this time! I was actually trying to stop her because she wanted to barge in on you guys!" the kid blurted out pointing up at Raven.
Erik followed the kid's finger with a frown on his face until his eyes landed on Raven. "Raven?"
And that's when she lost it.
Raven punched Erik in the face so hard that he staggered backward into the doorway. She wasn't sure why she did it. Her mistakes were her own, not Erik's, but Raven couldn't help it. She honestly wasn't even that mad at him anymore for trying to kill her back in Paris. It was just that Erik brought all of her anger to the surface, and he was a convenient outlet.
"Whoa!" the kid said, on his feet once more in a blink. "Is it customary in your family to punch people in the face upon greeting them, or just my Dad? Because the Professor did exactly the same thing. By the way Dad, sorry I didn't stop her. You didn't seem to mind all that much when the Prof. punched you, and other than your shouting matches, you seem to be on fairly good terms, so I thought maybe it'd be best to just let her swing away, you know?"
"It's fine, Pietro." Said Erik, waving him off to address Raven as he held a hand up to his face to make sure his nose wasn't bleeding. It wasn't. (Much to Raven's disappointment.) "Raven, this is a surprise."
"You're telling me. So what, you've got a kid now?" asked Raven in astonishment, she was still angry, but she wasn't sure if it was because of anything Erik had done or just the fact that the kid—Pietro—seemed pleased to have Erik as a father, when she would never get to be…when her son would never even know that…
"Raven?" This time it was her brother's turn to say her name in surprise before Erik could give a response, if he was going to at all.
"Hello, Charles." Said Raven momentarily tearing her gaze from Erik and his apparent son. She'd unpack that revelation later.
"Well, these past couple of days keep getting more and more extraordinary." Said Charles smiling kindly at her, but when his gaze landed on Kurt, his smile faltered.
"This is Kurt." Said Hank jumping in, as if that explained everything. "Raven, hoped you would have a place for him here? I thought I might have Jubilee show him around and get him set up with a room."
"Hello!" said Kurt, apparently oblivious to the tension in the air or just trying to be kind despite its presence.
"Wonderful to meet you Kurt." Said Charles recovering more quickly than Raven thought he would, but he couldn't hide the way he looked from Kurt to Raven and then back again. "I'm Charles Xavier, the headmaster here. We'd be glad to have you enroll, and Hank, I think that's a splendid idea. Erik, why don't you…"
"Don't worry Charles, I'll make myself scarce." Said Erik wrapping his arm around his son and tugging him along. "Come, Pietro."
"Nice to meet you, Ms. Raven! and Kurt! Even though we didn't really meet. I'm Peter. We'll talk later. Your tail is awesome!" Pietro called over his shoulder as Erik guided him away. Hank and Kurt followed thereafter leaving Charles and Raven alone.
"I suppose you have a reason for returning, other than just stopping by to see me?" said Charles once they had entered his study.
"Yes." Said Raven, unsure of what else to say. She ended up just saying what was on the forefront of her mind because she wasn't going to be able to focus on anything else until someone told her at least a little bit about it. "What the actual fuck Charles?! Erik's a father now!? How does that even happen?! That kid is like 13 years old. Last time I checked that many years ago he was in solitary confinement a hundred floors beneath the earth. So what? Did the government allow conjugal visits even for prisoner numero uno?"
"He's 15 actually, and no Raven. I expect they did not." Said Charles with a sigh as Raven sat down. "It's a long story, and not mine to tell, but I'd rather hear yours first."
Raven tensed in her chair. Her brother wasn't stupid. In fact, he was probably the smartest person she knew. It wouldn't be hard for him to make the connection between her and Kurt. Who was she kidding? He already had made the connection. But she wasn't about to admit to anything, so she quickly shot back, "I'm sorry, I'm having trouble focusing, knowing that you're once again friends with the man who tried to kill me the last time we saw each other. But you're what? Just letting him live here now?"
Charles sighed again. Raven wished he would stop doing that. "You've been gone a long time, Raven. Things have changed, and what would you have me do? Throw him out on the streets? Bar him from seeing his children? Throw his children out with him?"
"That…I…ugh, I don't know, Charles, but I'm not about to be friends with him again just like that….wait. Did you say children? As in the plural of child? You're telling me Erik has more than one kid?! Who the hell keeps shacking up with Erik!?" Raven asked in exasperation.
"Again, it's not my place to say, but if you ask him, please don't use that language. I'd really rather like to keep our home in one piece."
"Your home." Raven corrected. "This isn't my house."
"It once was."
"No, it was your home. I just lived here. I barely even recognize it now." said Raven, though that wasn't completely true. Raven was the one who had changed.
"Yeah, I have plans for this place. I mean to turn it into a real campus. A university. Not just for mutants, even, but for humans too. Living and working…growing together." Raven just barely refrained from rolling her eyes.
"You know, I really believed that once. I really believed we could change them after DC." But she realized now that that was an impossible dream of a young girl who just wanted to belong.
"We did." Said Charles ever the optimist.
"No Charles. They still hate and fear us. It's just harder to see because they're more polite about it. I got sick of living that lie." She just got sick of everything. Even herself.
"That's why you're not in your natural blue form." It wasn't a question.
"I'm not going to be the face of a world that doesn't exist." Raven replied. She hadn't asked to have young mutants everywhere looking up to her, expecting her to be a hero, when that couldn't be further from the truth.
"Things are better. The world is better." Charles pressed on earnestly.
"Maybe in Westchester. Out there, mutants are still running, hiding, living in fear. Just because there's not a war doesn't mean there's peace. And despite what I think of him, I think Erik would agree with me. If you want to teach your kids something, teach them that. Teach them to fight. Otherwise, they might as well live in this house for the rest of their lives." Perhaps if she told Charles that she found Kurt in a cage being forced to fight another mutant to the death he would finally see things from her perspective. But telling him would only draw further attention to Kurt and further judgment from Charles. Neither of which she needed.
"You sound just like him, just like Erik…Or how he used to be. For the most part, he has different priorities now. Better priorities." Charles smiled a little at this and Raven just raised an eyebrow at her brother. Even if Erik was a father, there was no way he had put his desire to bring mutants to the forefront of society on the backburner.
"Like I believe that for a second. Erik might have been flying under the radar for the past ten years, but he had to be doing the same things he's always been doing. He probably just realized he couldn't convince enough mutants to join his cause, so he decided to breed his own army of soldiers." Said Raven, though there was truly no part of her that believed that last bit, not with the way Erik had looked at the boy who was his son. "Besides, people don't change Charles. Not really."
"Erik hasn't changed, Raven. He's always been a good man. He's made mistakes, yes, but mostly, it has been the work of other people who have tried to snuff out that goodness that has caused Erik to go down the wrong path, but those individuals have never completely succeeded. Besides, do they look like soldiers to you?" asked Charles nodding his head toward the window.
Though she wanted to remain stubbornly seated in her chair, Raven nevertheless made her way over to stand by Charles and looked out across the school's grounds as he did. What she saw made her clench her fists to keep them from shaking, maybe partly to prevent them from shaking in anger, but mostly to prevent them from shaking in pain.
Erik was walking with the boy named Pietro or Peter, (whatever his name was, most importantly he was Erik's son, her mind supplied), an arm still around his shoulder and a smile on both of their faces. They both turned as if they heard something and Raven watched as a girl about eight or nine came running toward them, with another female teenager trailing behind her.
Erik caught the little girl easily in his arms, and the smile on his face grew as he lifted her off the ground and spun her around before settling her on his hip.
Raven couldn't hear of word of what they were saying but she watched—unable to tear her gaze away—as the little girl giggled and Erik swung her around once more, making her laugh again before he set her down and took her small hand in his.
Raven watched the group until they turned a corner out of sight.
She couldn't breathe. She couldn't…she needed to get out of this place.
"Raven…" Charles said her name in concern. Clearly this was not the reaction he had been expecting.
"I'm fine." She replied automatically, but in that moment Raven realized that she was jealous of Erik. She didn't know how, but somehow he had managed to have a family that loved him, while her own son didn't even know she was his mother.
Raven took a deep breath desperately fighting back tears, but she managed to get her emotions under control again. Charles touched her arm in an effort to comfort her. "Raven." He said gently once again.
"Don't, Charles. Don't you dare get inside my head." Said Raven with a growl shrugging his hand off rather forcefully.
She did not need her brother rummaging around in her brain. She didn't even want to be in her head right now, not when her thoughts were so petty. What really hurt was that at one time, she had wanted to be the one to have Erik's children. That time, of course, had long since passed. But the fact remained, that despite all he had done (including trying to kill her) part of her would always love Erik. After all, he was the one who had taught her to love herself—even if the feeling hadn't managed to stick—not even Charles had been able to do that.
"I wasn't going to look in your head Raven. I would never do that without your permission. And besides, I don't need to. Despite how good you've become at hiding them, right now, your thoughts are all over your face…It's not too late to be a part of Kurt's life, Raven."
Raven shut her eyes tightly, refusing to look at her brother. She was pleased when only one tear escaped and she managed to conjure neutral façade once more. "I'm not here to talk about me, or even Kurt, Charles. I can't thank you enough for taking him in so willingly, but we have bigger problems. Something is happening in the world. I don't know what, but it's something big."
Charles sighed again (would he never stop doing that?) "I know. Let me bring you up to speed."
I think my favorite thing is writing people's reactions to discovering Erik has children. It is just so entertaining (at least to me), even though it got pretty depressing toward the end.
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
Telepathic conversations, the CIA, and...baseball?
Even before Erik was once again greeted by a fist to the face from someone he used to consider a friend, he had been unable to keep his anger and frustration completely at bay.
He was frustrated at Charles for bringing Moira back to the mansion. Not that Erik felt he had a say on who was or was not allowed to reside there—since he too was invading Charles' hospitality—but he had thought that his friend was smarter than that. It seemed Erik had underestimated the effect a woman could have on a man…even on a man as intelligent as Charles.
And then Raven had appeared with a boy who was clearly the product of relations between her and Azazel, and that had just brought more trouble to his day. Her mere appearance had unfurled a mixture of emotions within him, none of which he wanted to touch with a ten-foot pole, and—though he had certainly dealt with a much higher threshold of pain in his life—the punch to his face had nonetheless left his head throbbing, which he could have done without. Although, he supposed he deserved that particular act of violence because he had tried to kill Raven back during their brief interaction in Paris…but it wasn't like she hadn't also threatened his life before, so really they should be even at this point.
Oh, and then there was the little ordeal regarding Jean's nightmare and the apparent possibility of an impending apocalypse.
Why did the world (worlds?) have to be in a constant state of crises? At the rate it was going, there would be nothing left of the world for his children to grow up in.
Erik ran one hand through his hair in frustration. He hoped he had kept his emotions hidden well enough after his confrontation with Charles, and then Raven, that his children hadn't noticed anything other than his normal anger issues, but he noted that even little Nina could tell he was more tense than usual.
But now his children had gone off to interact with their peers, no doubt to get to know Raven's boy. Erik was curious about him as well and the relationship—if any—he had with Raven.
Seeing that Raven had a child had certainly been unexpected, though she probably had the same response to the revelation of Erik's fatherhood, but for the time-being, there were more important matters to discuss than Raven's love-life, which is what brought him back to Charles' study.
"Henryk." Said Charles pointedly cutting Erik off in what was an attempt to warn Erik away from entering, but it was to no avail, as he had already barged into the room to find that in addition to Raven, Charles was now accompanied by Hank and Alex. Fortunately, Moira was nowhere in sight.
Look at that. Charles should be happy. Everyone was back together again. Erik thought bitterly, except for Banshee, Darwin, and Angel of course. They were long dead, along with Emma and Azazel. Any nostalgia Erik had felt was dispelled by that train of thought and Erik's anger was suddenly back with a vengeance.
"Magneto!" a near-panicked voice exclaimed behind Erik as he turned to see that the woman he originally thought to be absent from the room had in fact been standing in the corner next to the door Erik had entered and was pointing a gun at him. In hindsight, it had probably not been the best idea to re-enter the mansion without first ascertaining the location of the CIA agent who would no doubt love to lock him back up beneath a government building for another decade. Live and learn.
But really? A gun? Did humans never learn? He knew Charles had wiped her memories, but based on her reaction she still obviously knew generally who he was and therefore, what he could do. Her reaction was rather disappointing. He had thought she was smarter than the average human.
Erik quickly flicked the gun out of her hands, dismantling it in the process. No need for another repeat of the last time she had pointed a gun at him.
Although she looked shaken, Erik was admittedly impressed when even after he had removed her weapon she steeled her stance as if preparing for a fight and boldly stated. "Erik Lensherr, you are under arrest for your attack on the president, terrorism, and countless other crimes."
Erik raised an eyebrow at Moira before looking over at Charles, "Charles are you going to take care of this or shall I?"
Charles sent Erik a look of exasperation before addressing Moira in a soft reassuring voice, "Moira, please calm down."
"Calm down! An international fugitive is standing in your office, and I'm supposed to calm down?! Professor Xavier what is going on?!" exclaimed Moira again as she looked around the room. (Erik wasn't sure if she was looking for support from the other occupants of the room or just another weapon, but she probably wasn't going to have much luck either way.)
"Please Agent MacTaggert, I know this is a surprise, but we are all here with a common goal: to get to the bottom of the incident in Egypt last night, so can we move past this for the time being? I assure you, Erik is not a threat to your safety, nor the U.S. government, and as long as he is here he is under my protection." Charles replied calmly, if not a little pleadingly.
Moira looked at Charles in disbelief, as the rest of those in the room watched the exchange with a bit of amusement. "You just expect me to ignore the fact that you're harboring a fugitive, Professor? A fugitive that is one of the most wanted people in the world, even though most everyone assumed he was dead due to his inactivity in recent years."
"For the moment…yes." Said Charles simply. "If you would, think of these grounds as an asylum. As you said, Erik has not caused any issues in the past decade. And again, I assure you, he's just as concerned about this 'apocalypse' situation as we are."
'There's an easy way to take care of this, Charles.' Erik projected to his friend. 'Wipe her memories again and send her on her way.'
'I'm not going to do that, Erik. I swore to myself that I wouldn't do that again.'
Erik only glared at him in response.
"Are you…are you having a telepathic conversation right now?" Moira asked as she looked between Erik and Charles in disbelief (not about the telepathic conversation but more about who was partaking in it). Her voice was a little calmer, but she was still clearly on high alert.
Charles opened his mouth to respond, but Hank beat him to it. "Yes, they do that quite a lot."
"You get used to it." Alex offered as Raven just nodded her agreement.
"This is insane." Said Moira in clear exasperation. "I am so getting fired… but…fine! I won't arrest him…now, but I expect an explanation sooner rather than later and when this is all over, I make no promises that I won't attempt to do everything in my power to bring him to justice."
"You can try." Said Erik through gritted teeth. He had always blamed himself for Charles' paralysis, but an irrational part of him continued to be angry at Moira for Charles predicament. If only she had not attempted to intervene with his plan to annihilate the men who sought to destroy them back on the beach that day in '63, Charles might still be able to walk.
'Erik. Be. Nice.' Charles voice rang out in his mind again.
She started it. Erik shot back, well aware that he sounded like a petulant child.
Charles just shook his head in disappointment.
"See." Said Alex gesturing between the two. "They're doing it again."
Erik crossed his arms daring anyone else to comment further, while Charles coughed in embarrassment. "Alright, if that's settled…as I was saying, I think it best if I use Cerebro continue to look for any anomalies that might be related to Jean's nightmare and this 'En sub Nur' individual."
"What's Cerebro?" Moira asked Charles, but she kept her eyes on Erik. Erik glared back in response.
"It's…difficult to explain. It'd be easier just to show you…if you're up for keeping one more secret, that is." Replied Charles.
Moira just sighed. "Why not? If anyone ever finds out I just carried on as if everything were normal while Magneto was in the same room as me, I would most certainly lose my job, so what's one more secret?"
Charles flashed her a grateful smiled, whilst Erik tried not to vomit at how clearly love-struck his friend was by the woman who, if she had her way, would either have Erik arrested and in handcuffs or with a bullet through his brain.
"What are you waiting for then?" asked Erik. "Let's go fire-up Cerebro."
"Erik, we don't need to do that right this very moment." Said Charles calmly. "I think everyone could do with a moment of respite."
'And didn't you have plans with Peter shortly?' Charles added silently.
With everything going on, Erik had completely forgotten that he had promised to take Pietro beyond the school's ground and spend the day just the two of them, while Mila, Wanda, and Nina had a girls' day.
Erik had thought it would be a good way to keep Pietro from going completely stir-crazy, while also allowing Erik to let go of some of the worry he had regarding allowing Pietro to go off campus whenever his new friends extended an invitation. So Erik had promised to take Pietro wherever—within reason—he wanted to go. And Pietro being Pietro, had come up with a baseball game because what was more American—Erik refrained from reminding him that although Pietro had citizenship, he himself was not really an American, nor clearly did he have the best relationship with the American government at the moment—than going to a baseball game with your dad? Plus, Pietro also thought it would be extremely hilarious and sort of poetic that they go to the stadium he had destroyed/relocated.
Of course, Pietro hadn't yet reminded him about their plans yet that day, as if he had not truly believed that Erik would actually follow through with the promise. And now it seemed his son was correct.
'I…we can do that I different day. Pietro will understand.'
'Yes…you could, and I'm sure he would. But is that really what you want to do?'
No. It wasn't. Disappointing Pietro was about the last thing that he wanted to do.
"Speaking for those of us who aren't having telepathic conversations, I'm with Charles. It'd be nice to at least take a couple of hours to get some food and put our feet up. And I want to check-in and see how my brother is settling in. I'm sure Raven might want to check on her…" Alex trailed off noticing Raven's glare. "um, on Kurt too."
"I'll show Moira to the kitchen" said Hank opening the study door because apparently Erik was outvoted.
Everyone dispersed until it was just Erik and Charles outside his office. Erik was going to use their solitariness to try to further persuade Charles of the urgency of using Cerebro, but before he could, he was confronted by a cross-armed glaring Wanda.
'Do not wait for me to use Cerebro, Charles. You know that this threat to mutant-kind should not be left unchecked.' Erik quickly shot at Charles.
'The threat to all of humanity you mean Erik? Relax Erik. I promise I'll engage Cerebro shortly. But go spend time with Peter. The world won't stop while you take a moment to enjoy some time with your son…and assure your daughter that you're not about to cancel your plans with him because even if I can't read her mind, I'm fairly certain that's what she's going to confront you about.'
Charles rolled away, and Erik didn't give him another response verbal or otherwise, but he was pretty sure that Charles was correct about the reason Wanda had come to see him.
"Where are you going?" Wanda asked eyeing him suspiciously, her hands now on her hips. "You have plans with your son. Remember him? Skinny, pale, waaaay too much energy? As much as I want to tie a leach around him and keep him safely within reach at all times, you are not about to cancel on him. I swear, if you make an excuses right now, I'm going to hurtle you through a wall."
"I'm not canceling, Wanda. I—is Pietro ready?"
Wanda glared at him, suspicion still present on her face. Which, in all fairness, he had just contemplated postponing—not canceling—their plans, but only because of a potential world crisis that could affect Pietro and all of his children. It was not that he wanted to cancel their plans (though baseball would not have been his first choice of activities), finding out he had children—let alone being able to spend time with them—was something that would never cease to amaze him.
"Good. Yes, of course he's ready. He's been ready to go to a baseball game with his dad since he was five. You are about to make that dream a reality, so—Don't. Mess. It. Up." Said Wanda sharply, emphasizing each word with a forceful tap to Erik's chest, then more gently "Really, I don't even think Pietro likes baseball that much—it's too slow—but he's had this notion in his head for forever that if we had a dad, a real dad, he would do father and son things like that…so…thank you."
"I…" Erik didn't know what to say, and he found his throat tightening. He was suddenly very glad he had not postponed their outing.
"I'll go get him." Said Wanda probably noticing that Erik was floundering and deciding to save him from a response.
Shortly thereafter, Pietro abruptly appeared in front of Erik wearing dark jeans and his silver sneakers, but instead of his signature silver jacket, he had on a matching baseball jersey and cap bearing the logo of what Erik assumed must belong to D.C.'s baseball team.
Erik had never followed sports—he always had much more important matters on his mind (hunting Nazis, etc.)—and even if he had, missing the last ten years would have kept him a bit behind on what teams were still around.
Pietro grinned up at his father. "Like it? It's obviously not what I would normally pick out, but I've never been to a professional baseball game before! I wanted to show my support."
"Well you certainly managed it. You look great." Said Erik smiling back at his son.
"Coolcoolcool. I was hoping you'd say that becaaaaause…." Pietro paused dramatically and his grinned turned into a mischievous smirk. "I have a hat for you too!" said Pietro flitting away from a second only to return with another baseball cap that did indeed match Pietro's own.
The next thing Erik knew, the hat was on his head. Erik raised an eyebrow at his son. "Is this completely necessary?"
"Absolutely." Said Pietro without a hint of sarcasm. "As hilarious as it would be for you to show up in full gladiator mode—which it would be for like two seconds before everyone flipped their shit—I figured you would be trying to go a little incognito anyway, since you did destroy the place the last time you were there. And what better way to blend in then to show some team spirit! Add some sunglasses and there won't be a snowball's chance in hell of someone recognizing you. Plus, it helps that people probably think you're dead, but better safe than sorry, amIright?"
Erik let some air out of his nose, silently praying to a nonexistent deity for patience. "If you insist."
"I do insist!" exclaimed Pietro.
It hit Erik then that as much as Pietro hid behind his lighthearted jesting, Wanda was right; this was a big deal for him. He wasn't pretending; Pietro was genuinely elated to be going to a baseball game with his father.
Erik felt the smile on his face growing. Fuck it, he'd wear the baseball cap every damn day if it would make Pietro that happy.
"Where did you even get all of this attire?" asked Erik pointing at his own hat and Pietro's ensemble.
"Weeeeeell…Mila and Jubilee went to the mall the other day, and they always ask if I want anything, sooooo this time I asked them to get the baseball caps. I felt bad making them pay for it, but Mila said they weren't very expensive and she just used Charles' money, which she hardly ever does despite him always insisting that she can. So yep."
"I see. And the jersey?" asked Erik.
Pietro gave a sly grin. "Oh, I'm borrowing this from Scott…well, to be honest, he doesn't know that, butAlexsaidIcouldandhe'stheadult."
Erik just shook his head at his son's antics. "Okay, just make sure to return it. I don't want him to literally go blasting into your room in a rage."
"No worries. I will. This is totally not my style, but it works for the occasion." Pietro replied brightly.
Wanda came down the stairs as Pietro finished replying. "Have fun, Pete. Be safe." Said Wanda pulling Pietro into a hug. Over Pietro's shoulder, she mouthed to Erik 'Watch him like a hawk.'
Erik nodded and mouthed back silently 'I will.'
"Don't worry. No one's going to be relocating stadiums. The most dangerous thing we might encounter is a foul ball. Nowcomeon!Orwe'llbelate! Bye Wands!" said Pietro pulling on Erik's sleeve like an over-eager toddler.
Erik quickly let himself be dragged away before Pietro decided to move them with his super speed. He did not need to experience that again. Fortunately, Charles had an abundance of vehicles at his disposal that he was more than willing to let Erik borrow.
"Hey, dad?" asked Pietro as they exited the mansion.
"Can I drive?"
"No. Not today." Erik was stressed enough about their little adventure without putting a hyperactive super-powered unlicensed teenager behind the wheel of a vehicle probably worth more than the total amount of money he had seen in his lifetime.
"Okay…but you know the only way I'll get better is if I practice. Plus, I feel like there was some undertones of judgment in your response, which is uncalled for because you haven't actually ever experienced my driving. I really am an excellent driver. Fast-reflexes, ya' know? Soooo, can I drive on the way back?"
"We'll see." Said Erik. There was no way that was happening.
"I'll take those odds." Said Pietro grinning as he zoomed into the passenger seat and Erik turned over the ignition.
Even though it was completely unnecessary, I rewatched Erik’s stadium scene from DOFP like three times before writing this chapter because it is just so Epic.
Have a thought? I’d love to hear it. Thanks for reading!
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
Alex tries to fix some things that are broken. One of them is probably easier to fix than the other.
After things in Charles' study got a little too heated—not literally, Alex wasn't the one freaking out after all—for Alex's taste, he decided to escape the confines of the mansion in favor of doing one of his favorite things: fixing up a car. Well…to be specific: fixing up a motorcycle. But he wouldn't be too hard to find if/when people smarter than him—mainly Charles, Hank, and Moira, heck even Raven—decided it was time to act.
But as Alex saw a flash of green out of his peripheral vision, he realized that his day was about to become even more eventful. Because that flash could only belong to one person.
Alex didn't look up immediately, but he set down the wrench he was using to work on the Professor's motorcycle in the school's driveway. Why did Charles have a motorcycle? He couldn't say. It's not like Charles could drive one, nor—to Alex's knowledge—did the professor have any desire to ride one even before he'd lost the use of his legs. Maybe he just kept one around, solely on the off-chance that someone like Alex would want to tinker with it. It was the sort of thoughtful thing that the Professor might do.
Wiping his hands on his now grease-stained jeans in an effort to have more time to collect his emotions, Alex turned his head to make eye-contact with the woman he could not seem to forget.
"Hey, yourself Polaris."
Lorna narrowed her eyes in his direction. She and Raven must share fashion tips because they had on very similar outfits today: black boots, black jeans, and a black leather jacket. The only difference was that Lorna's bright green shirt perfectly matched her hair, eyes, and the color of her fingernail polish. But her look was not unexpected. It was a variation of what she always wore—something practical and badass and guaranteed to get Alex's heart pumping too quickly.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she smiled and rolled her eyes at him. "Fine, Alex. If you're not going to respect the name, then call me Lorna if you must. I still don't get what you have against code-names. Lorna and Alex are so…mundane."
Alex smiled back, standing up as Lorna approached. "I've told you…they just…bring back too many memories. And you're still the same person even if you change your name, you know. You're still the girl that grew up here." Said Alex gesturing around them. "Changing your name, doesn't' change that…Plus, I don't think Lorna is all that ordinary."
Green electric-like light appeared around her hands as the wrench Alex had set down a moment before flew into her hand. The action didn't even surprise Alex anymore. He knew she wasn't going to hit him with it or anything like that. She just always liked to have something to fiddle with when she was uncomfortable, and despite his best effort, Alex tended to make her uncomfortable. Well that wasn't exactly true. It was that he said things that made her uncomfortable.
Sure-enough, Lorna flipped the tool in her hand a couple of times before replying, no longer smiling. "I didn't grow up here, Alex. And I stopped being a child long before I ever stepped through those doors."
Alex didn't bother arguing with her. Besides, she was mostly right. Not that he knew everything about Lorna's child, but he knew enough. "I'm sorry."
"Not your fault, so don't apologize, Alex." Said Lorna pointedly, dropping the wrench to the ground, where it landed with a clatter on the cement drive. "Besides, you know I'm not about dwelling on the past. The future is my focus." Lorna finished with steel (more like a flash of green) in her eyes.
Alex again resisted the urge to say something he would probably regret. Yes, he did know that was Lorna's focus. A better future for mutants. That was always Lorna's main focus. And that—along with a number of other factors—was why their relationship always seemed to fall apart.
But for some reason he still wanted to put it back together again.
And okay, Alex recognized he was part of the problem too, but he wasn't the entire problem.
"Lorna, I—" missed you. Alex had been going to say, but he didn't get the chance because a little girl's voice chose that moment to shout "Lorna!"
Alex turned around at the call and the sound of small footsteps hitting the cobbled path up toward the drive, to see Nina running toward Lorna with Wanda and Mila trailing behind her in a casual stroll.
Alex watched puzzled as Nina paused a few steps from Lorna before wrapping her arms around the older girl in what was—despite the hesitation—an exuberant hug, while Lorna awkwardly patted the young girl on the back.
Alex smiled at the exchange. He hadn't realized that Lorna and Nina knew each other. From what Peter had told him, it had seemed as though Nina hadn't been at the school for very long, and Alex knew that Lorna didn't stop by very often, so it seemed odd that the little girl had taken to her so quickly, especially because Lorna wasn't what he would call the nurturing type.
Alex had to hold in a laugh as Lorna strategically detached the girl's limbs from around her hip.
In all the time he had known her, Lorna never knew how to handle children, so she tended to give them a wide berth. Still, on the better days of their on-again off-again relationship, Alex had allowed himself to fantasize about how wonderful of a mother Lorna would be to their children if they ever had them, even if she couldn't picture it herself. But he had never voiced those thoughts. He and Lorna were never together long enough to discuss marriage, let alone kids. Plus—although their age difference seemed immaterial most of the time—Alex reminded himself on occasion that Lorna was still very young, and even though he certainly wasn't ready for marriage or kids, it would be even longer before the prospect crossed her mind, if it ever did.
"Hello, Nina." Said Lorna sounding a little exasperated.
"Hi." Said Nina timidly now that she seemed to realize Lorna didn't quite share her enthusiasm upon see each other and that she was in the company of Alex. But her shyness was forgotten a moment later as she exclaimed. "Lorna! So much has happened! Wanda, Pietro, Papa! They're here! Well Papa and Pie went to American sports game but they'll be back!"
"Nina slow down; you're not making any sense." Said Lorna eyeing Alex over the girl's head. Alex just shrugged. He knew who Nina was talking about of course, but even if Nina and Lorna had interactions beyond mere acquaintances, he wouldn't have expected Lorna to share how much she idolized Erik (or as she always referred to him: Magneto) so he didn't know why Nina thought it was a good idea to tell Lorna all about her father and siblings who had come back from the dead. Then again, the Professor had probably warned her not to go blabbing to the world about the identity of her father. And she seemed smart enough—even for a little kid—to follow that advice, so maybe Nina just wanted to share that she had a family again without going into all the details.
Alex hadn't really thought about it since Lorna's presence had been a surprise, but if he had, he probably wouldn't have mentioned that Magneto was back from the dead. Lorna had an unhealthy amount of respect for Erik, which Alex understood to a point. Despite being a murderous asshole at times, Erik could also be extremely charismatic, and he did sometimes make valid points about the state of the world. Plus, Alex had seen the way Erik acted around his kids; there was clearly another side to Erik that was capable of normal human emotions. But still, if Lorna got a chance to meet her favorite martyr and pick his brain, it wouldn't end well for anyone.
Lorna's plea didn't do much to calm Nina down, however. On the contrary, the little girl started rattling off in what Alex assumed was Polish as she ran back toward Wanda and Mila who were still making their way toward Alex and Lorna. When Nina reached Wanda, she grabbed her arm and tugged her forward clearly wanting her to move faster. Wanda—for the most part—complied, but for some reason her expression held a trace of hesitancy as they approached. Mila followed looking a little nervous herself but more like she understood better than the rest of them what was going on.
When they were close enough to please Nina, she let go of Wanda's arm, but for some reason still looked like she wanted to pull everyone together.
"Lorna, this is Wanda. Our sister Wanda! Remember, Mila told us about her?" said Nina earnestly.
"I'm—our—what?" replied Lorna her words laced with a mix of shock and skepticism looking at Mila as if waiting for her to step in and say that the little girl was simply being overly imaginative.
Beside Lorna, Alex own thoughts began to spin wildly. Because all he could focus on during Nina's rambling was one very significant pronoun: Our. Our Sister. Not my sister. But that meant . . .
Lorna was Erik's daughter.
And just like that, everything about Lorna made a little more sense.
Alex felt like an idiot. Lorna's close-to obsession with Magneto, their similar powers, even something in the way Lorna glared at him when he made her angry, there were numerous details that should have made Alex realize she was Erik's daughter. She was so clearly Erik's daughter, that Alex wondered if he'd deliberately kept himself from acknowledging that fact because what did that say about Alex if he was in love with Erik's daughter?
Erik was going to murder him.
Sure, he'd thought that before and it had never happened, but this time the older man was certainly going to at attempt to crush the very air from Alex's lungs, once Erik found out that Alex had dated his daughter, that is. Had kissed his daughter. Had…
Yep, he was definitely dead. He hoped someone would plan a nice funeral for him.
When Alex pulled himself out of his own turmoil, he found that the conversation had progressed.
"It's true, Lorna." Mila was saying. "You know how I told you how Wanda and Erik, died along with Pietro when they tried to rescue him from his captors? Well, it turns out, they didn't die. Wanda's powers just somehow transplanted them into a different universe. Yea, I know, crazy. Anyway, she was able to bring them all back after just a few weeks, I guess, but she also accidentally jumped them forward in time by ten years. Sorry Wanda, I don't mean to make it sound like your fault. It's not, and I'm glad you're all back. I'm just trying to summarize the events as succinctly as possible." Said Mila giving Wanda an apologetic look.
"It's fine." Said Wanda with a shrug though she looked even more uncomfortable than she had at the beginning of the whole interaction. "It's true after all."
"You're serious?" said Lorna looking back and forth between the three girls. She seemed to have forgotten Alex was there. They all had really, and Alex wondered if he should try to sneak away quietly, but stealth had never really been Alex's strong point, and he would probably just draw attention to himself by leaving, so he stayed put.
"Yep." Said Mila, while Nina shouted a reply in Polish that Alex presumed was a similar response.
Wanda nodded curtly in agreement before stepping forward to offer Lorna her hand. "You've probably got it by now, but I'm Wanda. Good to meet you, I suppose."
Lorna hesitated only a moment before she took Wanda's offered hand and gave it a cordial shake. "You as well." Despite how big of a shock this must all be to Lorna—it certainly was to Alex and he actually already knew Erik, Peter, and Wanda were alive—her demeanor toward Wanda seemed sincere enough, but her attention on Wanda didn't last long. Letting their hands drop Lorna immediately pressed "Where is Magneto now?" And then as if an afterthought—which it clearly was—"and Pie-tro?" Lorna said Peter's name as if she wasn't quite sure how to pronounce it. Not that he blamed her, Alex didn't really know how to pronounce it either, but the kid preferred Peter anyway, so he didn't worry too much about it.
There was an eagerness and fire in Lorna's eyes as she asked after her father. A bearing that Alex had witnessed many times before when Lorna would go on a particular intense rant about mutant rights, but he had never seen it quiet to this extent before. And that scared him a bit. He wasn't scared of Lorna (per se), but for her, scared of where that fire might lead her.
"They went to a baseball game." Mila supplied.
"What?" Lorna asked clearly taken aback again. Guess she wasn't expecting Erik to just be chilling at a ball game, when he typically liked to go around casually committing terrorism or murder or both. Regaining her composure Lorna asked a little forcefully, "Where?"
"Oh, just at the site of the stadium that Erik destroyed ten years ago and they rebuilt because apparently Pete thought it would be hilarious to tempt fate again." Answered Wanda with a dry smile.
Alex could see Lorna already mapping out in her head exactly how far away that was and the route to get there. Apparently Mila noticed it too because she quickly added "Why don't we all go get lunch near the stadium, you and Wanda can get to know each other, and meet Erik and Pie afterward? Wanda hasn't been off-campus since they got back, and I know Erik and Peter will both want to meet you right away, but I really don't want to interrupt their entire father-son day out. You should have seen Peter this morning. He was so excited." Mila smiled a little as she finished, clearly thinking back to earlier that morning, and Alex couldn't help but smile a little too.
The kid had been running around like the Tasmanian Devil that morning. He'd even asked Alex to join them, but Alex wasn't about to intrude on their father-son day as weird as that was to think about—nor did he think it was a good idea to spend multiple hours sitting beside Erik—so he said he'd take a rain check.
Lorna almost looked like she wanted to reject Mila's proposal in favor of just driving to Erik's location immediately, but after a moment's pause she smiled and said "I'd like that. I can drive. My car is nowhere near as fancy as any of the Professor's, but it hasn't failed me yet."
"O-okay. That sounds like a good plan to me." Said Wanda a little hesitantly.
"Yeah!" exclaimed Nina in excitement before calmly down just a little. "We have to tell the Professor we're going though. I don't think he would want us to leave without letting him know, even if it is to see Pietro and Papa."
"I can tell him." Alex answered without really thinking about it. Immediately the girls all turned to look at him, it seemed his presence was no longer forgotten. Alex felt a hint of red creep up onto his cheeks in response to all of their stares. He cleared his throat and repeated. "I'll let him know your plans. He'll be happy to know you're back, Lorna."
Lorna gave Alex an appraising look, as if he expected him to voice all his thoughts and feelings about Lorna being Erik's daughter right then and there, which he was not about to do. He had come a long way in mastering his self-control compared to when he was Lorna's age thank you very much.
"Thanks. We shouldn't be that late." Said Mila.
Lorna held Alex's gaze for a moment, before turning back toward her sisters. "My car is just outside the gates, if you're ready?"
The other girls nodded and began to walk toward the school's entrance. Lorna made to follow, but Alex caught her arm. "Lorna wait."
She looked down at where his hand had caught her wrist before meeting his eyes with a fierce sense of pride behind her own. "Yes, Alex?"
"Lorna. . . this . . . it doesn't change how I feel about you. I'm not mad that you didn't tell me. I—I wish you would have felt that you could tell me, but I get why you didn't. I don't care that you're Erik's daughter. You're your own person . . . just remember that for me, okay?" Alex let his hand drop. But after a moment Lorna reached for his hand again and her gaze softened as she did so.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you. You and I have different opinions about so many things, Alex, and I just didn't think it would do any good to bring it to light. And I do know I'm not my father, but . . . I am his daughter . . . and I'm not ashamed of that. I just think that time and time again, you expect me to be someone that I'm not." said Lorna gripping his hand a little more tightly.
"I don't want you to be anyone but you, Lorna. I just . . . whatever you do, whatever you think Erik—Magneto—is going to help you do. Please be careful. No matter where we stand as a couple, I don't want to lose you…not completely." Said Alex trying to convey with those words what he couldn't quite seem to articulate. "And maybe…we can see some more of each other when you get back?"
Lorna let out a small sigh before answering, "I think you're trying to say I love you." Said Lorna with an eye roll "so love you too, Alex. I really do . . . even on the days I hate you…And l'd like that, seeing you some more that is." Lorna gave Alex's hand one more gentle squeeze before letting go and heading off toward the edge of the school grounds, leaving him alone once more.
Sorry that Pietro and Erik don't make an appearance in this chapter. I'm debating what order to place the next couple of chapters (not that I've written them yet), but I think they'll be in the next one. Also, I'm just assuming that Nina has a pretty good grasp on English at this point because I didn't really know how exactly to portray that she might not speak it perfectly, since it's not her native language.
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
"Take me out to the ball game; take me out to the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks; I don't care if I never get back…"
Every once in a blue moon I resurface to write a new chapter. Sorry about the (longer than usual) wait. I had writer's block for a while there (a long while). Then I had to send my laptop in for repairs, not once but twice, which was inconvenient to say the least. I also had difficulties deciding on how I was going to order the different POVs for this chapter and the next ones, but I think I've got it figured out now, so the wait for the next chapter shouldn't be as long as the wait for this one. Alright, I'm done with the excuses. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
If there was one thing Erik would take away from his trip out with Pietro, it was that he now understood why parents sometimes chose to put those absurd leashes on their children.
Once Erik and Pietro had arrived at the stadium, Erik had to constantly resist the urge to grab the back of Pietro's shirt just to keep him anchored to his person. Part of Erik's desire to do so stemmed from the fact that Pietro (who seemed barely able to contain his excitement) looked like he might take off running and leave Erik without warning, but the main reason Erik wished he could physically tether the boy to himself was because he couldn't help but fear that if he let Pietro out of his sight, his son would disappear—or be made to disappear—and this time he wouldn't be able to get him back.
Erik compromised by keeping a secure grip on his son's shoulder for a good portion of their walk into the stadium, so by some miracle (or more likely Erik's constant reminder to Pietro not to stray from his side) Pietro remained just a step ahead of his father.
"Holy cow! These seats must have cost a fortune! Man, the Prof. sure is rich. Must be nice. I'm probably going to have to write him a thank you note after this." Said Pietro jumping over a railing and then nearly catapulting into his designated seat at a speed only a little faster than should be possible for teenager.
Erik descended the stairs in a much more dignified manner before taking the seat beside his son. Pietro was right. Erik—like Pietro—had never been to a professional baseball game (or any baseball game for that matter) but even he knew the seats had to be expensive. They weren't the best seats in the stadium—though Erik had no doubt that Charles would have gladly purchased tickets for the very best seats, no matter the price, if he wasn't all too aware that Erik already felt uncomfortable about accepting Charles' generous handouts and would not be doing so if it were not for the benefit of his children—but the seats were nonetheless excellent. They were situated along the third baseline, below the bleacher section, and their individual seats even had cushions on them.
It was still the first inning, so they hadn't missed much, but Erik felt rather guilty because they'd arrived after the first pitch had been thrown, which was Erik's fault for forgetting about their plans, but Pietro didn't seem to mind in the slightest.
Erik took his eyes off the field to glance over at his son. Pietro was chanting some nonsense along with the rest of the spectators to cheer on the home team who was up to bat. Pietro jumped up out of his seat yelling in excitement as the batter hit a hard grounder between the third baseman and the short-stop and just barely made it to first ahead of the thrown ball. Erik didn't see any of that though. He was too busy taking in the joy on his son's face and hoping that he would remember the day forever.
And he would remember it…just not for the reason he had imagined.
The game progressed until it was tied up at the top of the fifth inning. It still wasn't very exciting in Erik's opinion. Occasionally something noteworthy would happen, but mostly it just seemed as though the spectators were enjoying the game because they were increasingly indulging in alcohol. Honestly, Erik would have expected Pietro to have grown bored of the sport by now too, since more than half the game seemed to consist of most of the men simply standing around waiting for something to happen, but that didn't seem to be the case. Pietro was just as enthused now as he had been when they first arrived. So Erik allowed himself to hope that maybe the reason Pietro was enjoying the game so much was because Erik was there with him. Having his son by his side and seeing him so enthralled was certainly the only reason Erik was happy to be there. So no, Pietro did not grow bored. He did, however, grow hungry.
"Hey! Hey, Dad! Are you hungry? I'm kinda hungry. Actually, I'm really hungry. Oh!" said Pietro noticing something behind Erik. "There's a hot-dog vender over there! Do you want any? Can I go get some hot dogs? Also, do you have money? Because I sure don't." said Pietro actually making a show of turning out his pant pockets and then lowering his voice. "But if you don't either, I could swipe some…or am I not supposed to do that anymore? Because I know stealing is wrong, but like, it's also pretty fun. Right? You know what I mean. And I haven't stolen anything in practically forever, not that I've really had the opportunity lately but…"
Erik glanced over his shoulder to see that there was a man carrying around a big box of hot dogs (and probably peanuts and Cracker Jacks if that baseball song the crowd had sung earlier was accurate) a section or so over.
"That won't be necessary Pietro. Charles was quite generous in funding our day out, so there is no need for you to turn into a hamburgler. And I think we're going to need to have a discussion about your kleptomania tendencies later."
Erik paused considering. He knew Pietro needed to eat. Erik knew all too well that the consequences of him not doing so would be dire, but he didn't really want to encourage his son to eat something as god-awful as hot dogs, nor did he want to leave Pietro's side, even if he would just be going a couple of sections over.
"You know hot dogs hardly pass as meat, Pietro. Why don't we go see if there's something more substantial at one of the stands inside?"
"Okay. First off. Did you just make a McDonald's reference? Hamburgler? Wow. I think the fact that you've seen that commercial proves that McDonald's is far closer to world domination than you have ever been. Also, the Hamburgler steals hamburgers not hot dogs, so I reject that would-be-title. And of course I know hot dogs barely pass as meat, but we have to get hot dogs at a baseball game!...And probably peanuts and those cracker things too because that's what do, man. That's whatyoudoooooooo! And I think the way we make up for their lack of substance is to just get a lot of them.'" said Pietro with a hopeful grin. "Plus, I don't want wait in a long line and miss the game. Sooooooo can I get some? Pleeeeeaasse!"
Erik sighed. "I suppose our options are limited and you need to eat. And to answer your question, no you may not go get hot dogs." Said Erik pointedly, causing Pietro to frown before Erik continued. "I will go get you hot dogs. You will stay. Right. Here."
"Oh, cool." Said Pietro grinning once more. "But I can get them, I mean, you're like not even gonna eat any are you? You just dissed them so much."
Pietro was completely oblivious to the fact that Erik wanted to be the one to get the food, so that he would know exactly where Pietro was the entire time. He'd really rather they both went but maneuvering through the stands with even one person was difficult, and more importantly, Erik didn't want Pietro to think he was smothering him and thereby cause the boy to push Erik away, when Pietro was already reluctant to talk to him about the inner-workings of his thoughts and feelings.
But Erik, of course, didn't say that. "No. That's alright. I can probably carry more than you. Just…do not move from this spot. Understood?"
"Aye, aye Captain!" said Pietro tilting his hat at his father.
Erik suppressed a chuckle but forced himself to remain somber. "I'm serious Pietro, do not run off anywhere."
"That was a serious answer! Jeez, relax man. I'm not going to go anywhere." Replied Pietro a little annoyed now. "Have a little faith in me."
So much for not appearing as though he were smothering the boy.
"Alright. I'll be back in a few minutes." Said Erik hesitating one more moment before turning to go, vowing to look back at Pietro every thirty seconds or so.
"Kay, thanks. Don't forget the ketchup!" Pietro called out to Erik as he headed away.
It took a bit after the girls left before Alex headed back inside the mansion itself. In his defense, he hadn't actually gotten distracted, it was just that he couldn't justify leaving the Professor's motorcycle out in the open with a good portion of its exterior unattached…
Okay, so he may have gotten a little bit distracted and worked on the bike for a while longer after the girls departed. Plus, he had a lot to think about. It wasn't every day you found out your girlfriend (ex-girlfriend? Friend? Sometime companion whose company Alex very much enjoyed?) was the daughter of a part-time super villain. Or mutant activist or whatever he wanted to call himself.
But in addition to that, Alex did still have to take the time to make sure the essential parts of the bike were reattached and it was safely tucked away back with the rest of Charles' vehicles before he went to find him, so it wasn't entirely his fault that he didn't immediately notify the Professor that the girls had left.
It wasn't that he thought the motorcycle would explode and injure a student if he left it unattended for too long, but both for the sake of the motorcycle and the kids, he didn't want to take the chance that a kid would come along and try to mess with it or take it for a joy ride, not that they would get very far with it in its current state. But on second thought, maybe an unattended motorcycle bursting into flames wasn't too farfetched at a school like Xavier's. After all, He literally just saw some kid light a feather on fire the other day, when Alex was pretty sure the kid's goal had been to make it levitate.
But eventually he meandered into the mansion to find the Professor and let him know where the girls (Erik's girls? Nope. He wasn't going to think about them that way) had gone. Fortunately, Alex didn't have to look too far to find Charles. Once in the mansion, Alex simply followed the sound of voices into the main common room, where he found Charles engaged in what appeared to be a mediation of some sort between a couple of the younger students.
"I understand that it was an accident, Lucas. I know you didn't mean to fry Michael's Atari, but you can't yet manipulate electricity and handle electronics at the same time, especially when those electronics do not belong to you." Charles scolded one of the boys in front of him who looked as if he had been in a fight with a pine tree and had lost spectacularly.
"But he—" the kid tried to interject, gesturing to the boy beside him, but Charles quickly silenced him.
"Yes, I know." Said Charles turning to the other boy that, like the first kid, seemed to be around 12 or 13 and looked thoroughly chastised. "Michael, it was wrong for Lucas to play your game without asking, but we do not use our powers against other people. When we have a disagreement, we use or words, not our fists, and certainly not our powers. Do I make myself clear?"
"Yes, Professor." Both boys replied at the same time, looking down at the floor rather than meeting Charles' eyes.
Charles sighed. "Michael, I will replace your gaming system." At that, the boy named Michael perked up. "But first, I trust you both to be mature enough to make amends. If I find you fighting anytime soon, there will be no Atari, and there will be more than just a day of detention for both of you."
"I understand, Professor." Replied Micheal, while Lucas nodded his agreement.
"Good. Off you go then boys. Try not to cause any more trouble…And Michael please instruct the pine tree to return to its original plot, I rather like it there, and I'd prefer not lose another tree this week."
"Will do, Professor!" the youngster called over his shoulder as he and the other boy took off together, their dispute apparently already forgotten.
Alex chuckled as the boys ran past him, drawing Charles' attention. "Don't use our powers on other people, huh? It seems like someone I know recently used his powers to infiltrate the CIA headquarters to obtain highly classified information, not to mention the whole memory wiping—"
Alex. Not while there are children present. And those were extraordinary circumstances.
"So it's a do as I say, not as I do sort of thing? I get that, because there were all those other times back in the day too when you—"
"Alex!" the Professor cut him off before he could continue, his face a bit panicked, while Alex grinned thoroughly amused.
"When you what, Professor Xavier?" a voice behind Alex asked and he turned to see Moira entering the room.
He had sort of forgotten about her being at the school.
"Oh nothing, Alex and I were just reminiscing about years past. Nothing of consequence." Replied Charles a little too quickly with a hand wave. "And please, call me Charles."
Moira looked as though she didn't really buy his response, but she didn't question it.
"Did you find the telephone alright, Moira?" Charles asked, noticeably changing the subject.
"Oh. Yes. I was able to check in with headquarters to let them know I was looking into a lead, but nothing too promising yet. Not like there's a wanted criminal casually residing here or anything like that." Moira finished her voice dripping with sarcasm at that last statement.
"Right. Well…" said Charles looking rather guilty, but still clearly smitten with Moira even if the woman was none too happy with the Professor at the moment for making her lie to her colleagues.
Unable to take the awkwardness of it all, Alex spoke up. "Uh anyway, Charles…Charles? Professor?"
But the Professor wasn't looking at him, rather his eyes were on the television across the room. Alex and Moira followed his gaze. None of the kids milling around were really watching it, so the volume wasn't up very loud, but it remained on nonetheless.
"Torie, dear, turn that up would you?" asked Charles.
Alex didn't know which girl was Torie, but he assumed it was the lanky teenager who was reading with her legs dangling off the side of an arm chair because at Charles' request, she raised one hand straight up into the air, giving a thumbs up sign, and then she blinked forcefully a few times all the while never looking up from her book, but the TV volume went up all the same.
Thanks to Michelle's assistance, Alex could now hear what the reporter on the news was saying.
"…pre-planned pro-mutant rally. But as you can see, along with the mutant-rights protesters behind me, a substantial crowd of counter protesters has also formed. Both groups are very impassioned," the camera panned away from the news anchor to the action behind him, where, indeed, two crowds faced off with police officers attempting to keep them separated. One group held signs that said things like "Mutants Are People Too," "A New Tomorrow, Starts Today," and "We Are the Future!" The other side's signs were much more vulgar and advancing messages quite the opposite of what the 'pro-mutant' attendees were attempting to convey. In short, it was clear from their actions and shouted replies that the counter protesters—literally and figuratively—stood in direct opposition to the pro-mutant protestors.
"Always so divided" said Charles sadly beside, Alex. "Can't they see there is so much more that connects us than there is that separates us?"
Apparently not. Alex thought as he watched the mobs face-off. Wait. That looked like…
"Professor?" asked Alex.
"Hmm?" replied Charles, still looking sadly at the television screen.
"Are they—is that by the baseball stadium?" asked Alex, his voice laced with anxiety.
At Alex's question, Charles looked over at the younger man then back to the screen. "It appears to be in that general area, yes." Said Charles tightly. "But I wouldn't worry too much, Alex. I don't believe it's that close, and the baseball game likely won't be over for a good while yet. And no matter his beliefs, Eri—er—Henryk…" Charles quickly corrected himself glancing around at the children in the room, who had become more interested in their conversation now that they realized what was happening on the news. He lowered his voice accordingly. "wouldn't let Peter near anything that could possibly be dangerous. He'll make sure to get him back here safely." Charles finished confidently.
"I—I'm not worried about Peter, well, I mean I am, but you're right. His dad will keep him safe…It's the girls I'm worried about. That's what I came here to tell you. They went to go have lunch and meet up with Er—Henryk and Peter afterward."
"The girls?" Charles asked.
"Wanda, Mila, Nina, and—" Alex started.
"But why?!" Charles asked alarmed, cutting Alex off before he could finish. "Mila isn't one to just take off, and I assured Erik that Wanda and Nina would remain safely here!...No matter, Mila will know not to get involved in what may well develop into a full-on mob. She'll get them all back here. I have no doubt."
"They didn't go alone." Said Alex. His own anxiety rising.
Charles looked at Alex puzzled.
"Lorna's back." Replied Alex simply.
The color drained from the Professor's face as he replied. "Oh dear."
Anyone catch my slight nod to Seamus Finnigan from Harry Potter with the note about the exploding feather? Also, all of the references to the kid mutants (i.e., Lucas, Michael, and Torie) are just made up for this story, so if they seem like actual mutants from the comics that was completely unintentionally, but feel free to imagine them as whoever you would like. I was going to try use "real" mutants, but I'm super indecisive, so I didn't know who to choose.
Things are going to get a little more exciting in the coming chapters. Get ready for some eventual angst.
Chapter 19: Chapter 19
Erik and Pietro's father-son bonding time is rudely interrupted, and Raven tries really hard not to be a mother hen.
Here's a new chapter to ring in the new year. Too bad it's not very uplifting.
The bolded text in this chapter is meant to represent German.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
This day was amazing.
Sure, baseball was kind of boring, and Erik was totally helicopter parenting, but neither of those things spoiled the day because he was at a baseball game with his Dad!
Ever since he had come to America, he had had to listen to other kids talk about going to baseball games with their fathers or playing catch with them, or at least that image was presented everywhere on American television shows and in advertisements, if not in Pietro's day-to-day interactions with his peers. Either way, he had always been sooo jealous and sad (mostly just sad) that he would never get to experience that. But as impossible as it had seemed at one time, it was finally truly happening, and Pietro could barely keep the grin off his face throughout the first five innings. Even when he got a little annoyed at Erik for not trusting that he wouldn't run off—like, give him some credit, he wasn't a complete idiot—it was still okay because it was his Dad that was annoying him. His Dad!
Unfortunately, as soon as Erik left to get food, things went downhill from there.
The group of guys sitting behind them had been kinda…rambunctious the entire game, shouting loudly and yelling when things didn't go as they hoped, and they seemed to become increasingly obnoxious as the game went on. But that was okay too. That was part of the baseball outing experience. They were just being enthusiastic fans.
Until they weren't.
"Hey, kid." A gruff voice said from behind him, and Pietro turned in his seat to see if 'kid' was directed at him. It was.
It was one of the three men in the row behind Pietro. The speaker looked to be about a decade older than his dad. He had a slight beard like Erik, but that was where the similarities ended. He was clearly intoxicated; the beer in his hand only adding to his protruding gut. To his left was a man who looked pretty similar and probably just as drunk, but he was in better shape. Finally, the man to his right was a young guy who looked like he was probably in his early twenties.
"Uh, yea?" asked Pietro hesitantly.
"Are 'ou one of 'em?" The man slurred leaning closer to Pietro's level.
Pietro stiffened. He was pretty sure he knew what the guy meant, but he hoped he was mistaken. "I—I'm not sure what you mean…"
"Are you one of 'em? The muties. The freaks." Repeated the man, managing to punctuate his words a little more clearly, which put his disgust on full display.
"Dad." Hissed the young man to his right, looking uncomfortable. The man to his left just sipped his beer contently continuing to watch the game.
"I—" Pietro tried to reply, but he didn't know what to say. How do you reply to that blatant bigotry? More than anything he just wanted to run off, and find his dad. But he'd promised Erik that he would stay in his seat. And—and he could handle this. He'd dealt with people like this (and much worse) even before society knew about mutants. He didn't need to go running to his father like some scared little kid.
Deciding his best option was to ignore the group, Pietro turned around to face the ball diamond, leaving his reply unfinished. But then he felt a slight nudge to the back of his head and watched strangely intrigued as his hat fell into his lap. Chancing a look behind him at a speed that was imperceptible to humans, he saw the man who had originally spoken had a disturbing grin on his face,—he had clearly been the one to knock Pietro's hat off his head—the kid looked even more uncomfortable, and the other man seemed like he didn't care what was going on at all.
Pietro turned back to face the field and gripped the armrests of his chair tightly. The guy was just a racist (mutantist?) drunk. That was all. He hadn't said anything to Pietro before now, so it wasn't a big deal. So he had flicked his hat off. So what? Boohoo. Pietro could ignore him until Erik got back. The man would probably stop when Erik returned because even if you didn't know he was Magneto, his Dad still cut an intimidating figure. And lucky for Erik, he looked like a normal human, unlike Pietro.
"Ha!" said the man, and Pietro heard him clap his hands together. "That's what I thought. His hair is silver right to the roots. Don't get much weirder than that. Definitely a mutie."
Despite his resolve, Pietro felt his throat tighten. He wouldn't cry. Even if Pietro had always been self-conscious about his hair, Wanda had always liked it. Erik liked his hair too. Even Jubilee liked his hair. But none of that seemed to matter in the moment as his eyes began to sting with unshed tears.
Suddenly, Pietro felt a drop of liquid hit the top of his head. He quickly looked up to see the contents of the man's beer descending down toward him. The man once again had a perverse grin on his face, while his son appeared to be grimacing. The other man remained impassive but for once was looking Pietro's way.
Reacting on instinct, Pietro jumped up out of his seat to avoid being drenched in beer, moving far faster than a normal human being. For a moment, all three just stared at Pietro, mouths agape. The man's (now empty) beer can fell from his grasp to land on Pietro's chair.
It was Pietro's tormentor who broke the silence. "Fuckin' disgusting. Un—unnatural—" he spluttered out.
"Dad." Said the young guy, still staring at Pietro, but looking more wary now than ashamed of his father's behavior. "Let's just move. There are empty seats over—"
"Is there a problem here?" Erik's harsh voice cut over the young man's as he came to stand by Pietro, putting one hand on his shoulder. Pietro noticed that he didn't have any hot dogs with him. Not that it mattered that Erik hadn't gotten any food. Pietro, for some reason, wasn't really hungry anymore.
Pietro guessed that Erik must have seen at least some of what had happened and abandoned his quest for food to come to his son's aid. But Pietro figured he hadn't seen much of what had occurred because otherwise Pietro would bet that—at the very least—the man in the center seat wouldn't be fairing too well.
Before any of the three men could respond—and boy did it seem like beer guy had some stuff to say—Pietro spoke up while he looked down at his feet. "No. nothing. They just spilled a drink, but I don't feel good. I'd like to go now."
"Pietro, if any of them did something to you, you need to tell me." Said Erik much more gently, but Pietro could feel his father's intense gaze boring into the top of his head.
"They're not even American." One of the men said. Pietro didn't even have to look to know which one.
Erik scowled and made to say something but Pietro tugged at his arm and cut him off again. "Leave it. Nothing happened. Please let's just go." Said Pietro earnestly.
"Dad! I'm leaving now, so you can either come with me or not." Said Pietro turning on his heel and marching away over his now beer-sodden baseball cap that lay forgotten on the ground. He didn't wait to see if Erik would follow him—he knew he would—and Pietro was too lost in his own head to note the indignant cries of alarm as the rest of the men's beer cans exploded all over them in Erik's wake.
Raven had been wandering aimlessly through the mansion, mostly trying to avoid Charles…and Hank…and…Kurt…and, yea she was pretty much trying to avoid everyone, but when she saw Moira head into main common room, Raven decided to follow since she'd seen her on the phone earlier—presumably with her boss or other higher-ups in the CIA—and thought maybe she'd have new information about this Apocalypse guy.
But when she reached the doorway and was about to enter, she noticed that Kurt was one of the kids lounging in the room, and she stopped dead in her tracks. If she was being totally honest, of all the people she was trying to avoid, he—Kurt, not Charles—was at the top of the list. She'd already spent too much time with him. She shouldn't get to know him. She had no right to get to know him. But when she was with him, she wanted to be with him. And that was selfish of her, because she wasn't there for him when it counted, so she shouldn't get to be in his life now.
Nevertheless, now that he was in her line of sight, she couldn't force herself to leave, but neither could she make herself enter the room. So she listened silently from the doorway as the conversation in the room continued.
"I'm sorry, but who are all these kids you're talking about?" Moira asked, interrupting Alex and Charles' exchange. Raven still couldn't believe that Charles had taken Moira's memories of…well everything that had happened with all of them. But that was what her brother did she supposed. He tried to fix things and keep people safe, even if it meant they didn't have a choice in the matter.
"And when you say Erik and Henryk" Moira continued. "Are you talking about who I think you're talking about? And if so, why the hell is he at a baseball game?! I swear, if he's about to pull another White House stunt, I'm going to—"
"He's not." Replied Charles quickly. "It's—I'll—that is. . .I'll explain later, Moira."
Yea right. Raven could imagine that conversation. 'Moira, Erik has kids now, so you can see he's completely reformed from his old ways. No need to lock him up under the Pentagon again.'
"I'm going down there." Alex's voice pulled Raven from her thoughts. "Lorna, wouldn't put any of them in danger intentionally either, but I don't think we can count on the other girls staying away from" Alex gestured at the television "all of that. I don't know Mila that well and Wanda and Nina hardly at all, but I don't think they're just going to let Lorna walk into that without either joining or trying to stop her, which will likely involve following her."
"No, you're right, Alex." Charles took a deep breath. "Please go make sure they get back here safely . . . if you can, try to keep Lorna out of trouble. I know you have—er—a complicated relationship. . . "
"Uh yea, we don't need to get into that." Alex replied awkwardly. Raven didn't know who Lorna was but she could tell from Alex's tone of voice that she was obviously someone who had been 'involved' with.
"You're going d'ere?" Raven eyes snapped to her son, who had voiced the question. He was sitting on the floor playing cards with a girl who Raven hadn't learned the name of. But the game had been abandoned as the kids were staring at the adults in the room. "I vill take you d'ere."
Oh no. Had she said that aloud? Apparently yes.
Everyone in the room turned their eyes on Raven then because shouting usually draws attention in case you didn't know. Charles' gaze, in particular, was a little too understanding for her liking.
Raven cleared her throat. "I just mean—that is—you can't even travel that far, can you? Not to some place you've never been?"
There. That was a perfectly rational argument. She was pretty confident that she understood Kurt's powers from having traveled with him, and he'd told her himself that he could only travel as far as he could see or if he'd been to the place before. And she was positive that he had not been anywhere near D.C. because the extent of his travels in the states thus far has been with her.
Not that she didn't care if Alex went into that mess. She did. Alex might have been a bit of a jerk at one point, but he had matured a great deal in the time she had known him. They all had. And even if he was a jerk as a young man. He was their jerk. But he was also an adult who was more than capable of protecting himself. And someone should go. She didn't want any kids to get hurt, even Erik's kids. But that someone definitely did not need to be her s—to be Kurt.
"Oh, right." Said Kurt, looking rather dejected.
"But you can teleport?" asked Alex, looking Kurt up and down. Raven could guess what he was thinking. No doubt, Alex was noticing the same things that Hank and Charles noticed about Kurt: his similarities to Azazel and to herself. Sure enough, he glanced over at Raven for a second, but unlike Hank and even Charles—as much as they both tried to hide it—she didn't see any judgment in Alex's eyes.
"Yes, but I can v'only travel farther than I can see ven I've been d'ere before." Kurt replied.
Exactly. So Kurt could stay right where he was safe in the mansion, while Alex went off on his rescue mission.
"Okay…" Alex stated rubbing one hand against his forehead, clearly thinking hard, and Raven felt bad for him for a moment. Alex clearly wanted to get going, and he knew that every minute he spent here would be one more minute on the road, if they could not find a quicker alternative to driving (or even flying if Hank had managed to get that warplane up and running in the short-while since he showed it to her, which seemed unlikely).
But Raven's relief and sympathy was short-lived when Alex managed to come up with a workaround.
"What if…I've been there before." Alex said pointing at the television screen. "I know exactly where that is. Professor, could you somehow link my mind to Kurt's temporarily, just long enough that he could teleport us based on my memories?"
"Perhaps…" Charles replied slowly, contemplating. "I could try—"
"No." Yep. She said that out loud again. "I don't think that experimenting with Kurt's powers like this, when he just got here, is a great idea. Alex, you're just going to have to speed down there if you're worried, and that's all there is to—"
"No!" This time it was Kurt who interjected, and when the four adults turned their attention on him, a little shocked, Raven thought that for a moment that he would be too afraid to continue, but despite his obvious nerves at interrupting Raven, he pressed on. "I—I vant to help. It—it's vorth I try at least."
"Kurt…" Raven began trying to think of what she could say to placate him. "I know you want to help but—"
"I do vant to help!" repeated Kurt. "I've only met Peter very recently and briefly but he seemed very nice, and I don't vant anything to happen to his siblings. I vant to try this. You can't change my mind."
Raven pursed her lips, suppressing the urge to yell that he wasn't doing this and that was final! But then he might start to wonder why she cared so much and why she thought she could make such a decision for him. No, it was better to back off, but no way in hell was she letting him take off into a potential mob with only Alex for back-up.
"Fine." Said Raven. "But if you're going to try this, I'm coming with. If this works, you're going to be exhausted afterward, and you'll need someone to watch your back, which Alex can't do if he has to go off to find Erik's kids."
If Alex's idea worked, Raven knew that going along would only tire Kurt out more because he would have an extra person to transport, but Raven counted this a plus because if Kurt was too exhausted to do anything after he teleported them, then he wouldn't be able to try to do anything stupid like follow Alex into a mob, if it came to that, which based on the news coverage, it looked close to happening.
"That's fine by me." Said Alex in approval, though Raven wasn't sure if he was really glad to have her as back-up or if he just agreed to get them moving sooner.
"Raven…" Charles started warily.
"Charles." She replied tersely. Raven didn't have to be a mind reader to know what he was thinking. He was no doubt worried that based on her reaction to finding out Erik had children—not to mention their last substantial confrontation ten years ago—that she would react poorly to what was looking to be a heated situation.
Well Charles could get off his high horse because she wasn't an impulsive teenager anymore, and more importantly, she wasn't a monster (at least not all the time). She wouldn't let her feelings toward Erik affect her judgment in regard to a bunch—because apparently Erik had fathered a whole brood of them—of kids that through no fault of their own were unfortunate enough to share Erik's DNA. Yea yea, Raven knew it was not too long ago that she had been pining over the fact that she used to want to have Erik's children, but she was totally past that now. Really she was, or at least any of her jealousy was now over what Erik had that she didn't. None of her jealousy was over not having him.
"Let's do this." Said Raven. Settling the matter for good.
And on the story goes. I hope Kurt's accent wasn't too horrible. I did my best. Feedback is appreciated!
Chapter 20: Chapter 20
Conversation, contemplation, and confrontation...
Lorna was a terrifying driver. She wasn't a bad driver…She was a good driver, an excellent driver even, but she was good in a way that you might say a NASCAR driver is a good driver. Lorna drove how she suspected Pietro would like to drive if anyone ever let him get behind the wheel of a car for any extended period of time.
When Wanda had still lived at home, Aunt Marya had never let them try driving yet, since even now they weren't old enough to have a license (if you went by actual age, rather than the year of their birth). She imagined that Marya had maybe let Peter drive a little bit after she had left, so he could get some practice in before he enrolled in drivers ed., but she doubted Marya ever let him go more than a mile or two over the speed limit, even though going so slow had to have been seriously painful for her brother, especially since even Marya used to challenge the speed limit quite a bit.
But Lorna's driving aptitude was about the only thing Wanda learned about her older (younger?) sister during the drive into town.
That was in part because Nina monopolized the conversation the entire drive, not that Wanda was complaining. It was nice to have someone virtually unaffected by the strangeness of it all, and just happy to be with her siblings. Without Nina, the whole situation would've been too awkward to bear because there was no handbook for meeting your half-sister who was older than you, yet born after you, and when she started thinking about that, she started wondering if she had other siblings out there too, which inevitably made her start thinking about Erik's relationship escapades, which she did not need to think about thank you very much.
But Nina—thank God for Nina—just chattered away about everything under the sun: meeting her, Pietro, . . . and 'Papa.'
Wanda really hoped Nina outgrew the whole 'Papa' thing. It was weird enough that Peter liked to call Erik 'Dad' (even though he tried not to let her know how much he enjoyed being able to do that), but connecting the dots from Magneto to Papa was way too bizarre, even if she'd noticed that Erik had started tucking Nina into bed and making sure he said goodnight to both Wanda and Peter every evening, even if she barely talked to him during the day.
At some point during Nina's chattering, Lorna seemed to realize that she, Peter, and Erik hadn't just popped up out of nowhere a day or two ago, but that they'd been back at the mansion for close to a month.
"You've been here how long?" Lorna asked incredulously. "And it never crossed the Professor's mind to contact me? To let me know that, oh hey, your father is alive in case you want to meet him! And you have two more siblings besides."
"Well, you never really say where you're going when you leave, Lorna." Replied Mila timidly.
"And you don't visit very often…" Nina added quietly, clearly saddened by this fact.
Wanda eyed Lorna's face in the rearview mirror, and noticed a flash of guilt pass over her visage, but it was gone by the time she replied. But her hands clenched the steering wheel more tightly. "Trust me. Charles could've contacted me, if he had really wanted to."
Wanda knew that Lorna was right, assuming the Professor still had that brain machine—what was it called again? Right, Cerebro—beneath the school then he could probably find her. Even if her mind was more guarded like hers and Peter's, there was no shortage of relatives available at the school for the Professor to at least try to pinpoint her location, like he had attempted back when Peter was MIA.
Wanda shivered, she didn't like to think about that.
Or she supposed, she could have asked to be allowed to search for Lorna with the Professor's mind machine, but as much as she was growing attached to Nina, developing a relationship with one new sibling, plus Erik, and constantly being worried about Pietro…well, Wanda has had a lot on her mind without adding another sibling to the mix. And if someone was going to be the one to decide to contact Lorna, shouldn't it be Erik? And she was pretty sure that he hadn't tried to do so, probably for reasons very similar to her own and she couldn't exactly blame him for that. She could blame him for a lot of things, but not for that. So, if he didn't feel guilty about it, she shouldn't either.
"He probably would've contacted you soon enough." Said Mila. "It's just…we've all been adjusting."
"Right. Sure." Said Lorna with a scoff sounding entirely unconvinced as she ran one hand through her hair in frustration. Wanda couldn't help but notice that she had seen Erik do that on more than one occasion.
Lorna continued in what sounded like an attempt to take a more understanding tone, "Okay, I get that you were adjusting to…everything, and he had to make sure you were all settled at the school and all that, but now, what's his plan?"
"What's whose plan? Charles'?" asked Mila a little confused, but Wanda didn't have to know Lorna well to know that that's not who she meant.
"No! Not Charles. What's Magneto's plan?!" asked Lorna earnestly, and then more quietly, her voice laced with pride "what's my father's plan?"
"Oh." Said Mila uncertainly.
Wanda glanced to her side to see Nina's reaction. The little girl looked confused. She clearly had no idea what Lorna was getting at. Nina hadn't known their father for long yet either, but since she's known him, he'd been there for her every morning when she woke up and every night when she went to bed. To her, it probably seemed unthinkable that the man had plans to be anywhere else. Wanda was not so naïve to think that Erik might never leave them, but for the time being, she could honestly say that if Erik had such plans, he kept them well under wraps.
But honestly, Wanda didn't think Erik had those kind of plans at the moment. Erik wasn't as subtle as he probably thought he was. She knew he checked in on her, Peter, and Nina every night when he thought they were asleep. As odd as it was to recognize, Erik undeniably cared about them all, and that the best way to keep them safe was to helicopter parent. So unless something changed that made Erik think it was better for him to stay away, she really didn't think he was going anywhere any time soon, at least not without all of them.
Wanda didn't exactly think it was the best idea to share all of that though, so she was a little more succinct in her response. "Honestly? I don't think he has a plan. He's more of a 'figure it out as I go along kind of guy,' in regard to both parenting and his past…endeavors."
Lorna seemed a little unbalanced by that response (really in general too, and that was saying something coming from Wanda. I mean, she did vaporize her step-father not so long ago).
Lorna scoffed. "Of course, he has a plan. He has to have a plan. He's Magneto! And I know he missed the last ten years, but he was in prison for ten years before that too. I think that probably gave him more than enough time to think. Enough time to plan the stadium drop on the White House, and fifty back-up plans to earn mutants the respect they deserve." Finished Lorna defiantly.
Lorna made a valid point. Erik had had a lot of time to think while he was chilling under the pentagon. So maybe he had thought about all sorts of schemes to demonstrate the true might of mutants, but…maybe he'd thought about other things too. He certainly hadn't thought about her or Peter or Nina or Lorna because he either didn't know they existed yet, or they hadn't even existed yet, but maybe…just maybe, he had thought about their mother (hers and Peters that is) and their sister, Anya.
Oh, and he probably thought about Charles a little bit too.
Wanda doubted she'd ever understand their odd—friends one day, enemies the next—relationship, but it was clear they cared about each other, no matter their varying views on the world.
But what was the point in speculating as to what Erik might have thought about during all that time? There was too much to think about now to spend wondering about past thoughts.
"Maybe you're right." Said Wanda with a shrug. "But you'll have to ask him. I wouldn't know."
"Yea, I will. I will ask him." Replied Lorna, excited now, sounding more her age for the first time, rather than that of a cynical world-weary adult. "God, there's so much I want to ask him…so much he can teach me…" That last bit was said in a mere whisper, so that Wanda was not even sure Lorna knew she said it out loud. It was weird, seeing how Lorna's reaction to knowing Erik was her father was so different than Wanda's initial response. It seemed that Lorna had known that Erik was her father for quite some time, so maybe her initial reaction was different, but in Wanda's opinion, it was kind of bizarre to be this excited to meet your father when your only knowledge of the man was limited to his aggressive public displays of mutant power/terrorism.
Of course, Wanda now knew that there was more to Erik than his extreme views, and maybe Lorna was getting a sense of that based on Nina's description of the man, but she couldn't help but feel that Lorna was going to be disappointed to find that her perception of Magneto didn't quite line up with the man Wanda had come to know, who Peter called 'dad' and Nina
"So what time do you think Magneto and your brother will be done at the baseball game again?" asked Lorna. Wanda didn't think Lorna realized that she had referred to Peter as 'your' brother, rather than 'our' brother. But she supposed it would take time for all of them to get used to being siblings. "Maybe we should just—" Lorna started to say but she didn't finish that particular thought because at that, they turned a corner and came face to face with chaos.
It was difficult to see exactly what was going on, but there were temporary barricades a ways down the street, cars were backed up, and there were multiple police cars up ahead, along with a large horde of people. From what Wanda could make out, the police themselves were trying and failing to keep two groups separated but it didn't look to be going very well.
It looked like things were being thrown and people were close to breaking out into brawls. But one thing was clear, surveying the scene, including the signs and the diverse range of people in attendance, it didn't take long to figure out that they had stumbled onto some pro-mutant rally that had gone amuck. It didn't look like mutant powers were being used yet . . . probably because of the police's presence and well…because—unless you happened to have rapid healing powers—bullets could kill mutants and humans alike.
Wanda was still taking in the unexpected scene, wondering if they should try backing up or hope there was a place to turn around up ahead, when Lorna decided to abruptly exit the vehicle.
"Stay here." Lorna commanded as she threw the car into park and exited the vehicle, slamming the driver's door shut behind her (without even touching it, Wanda noticed), locks clicking into effect.
But Lorna's command didn't do much good because Mila, after struggling to find the unlock button for a second, exited the car mere moments after Lorna. "Lorna! Lorna! Come back! Don't go down there!" Mila shouted chasing after the older girl, who was striding purposefully forward past the other cars and the barricades.
"Shit." Said Wanda from the back seat of the car. She looked over at her one remaining sibling. Nina was staring back at her with wide terrified eyes.
Wanda took a deep breath—in through her noise and out through her mouth: decision made.
"Come on, Nina." Said Wanda, quickly leaning forward to grab the keys from the ignition that Lorna hadn't bothered to take with her before grabbing her little sister's hand and tugging her gently from the vehicle, locking the car, and jamming the keys into her jacket pocket.
Wanda didn't know if she was making the right choice. It clearly wasn't safe to exit the vehicle but it also didn't seem wise to stay put like sitting ducks and wait for the mob (because that's what it really seemed to be) to expand to the surrounding area. People were already starting to crowd the car making driving out of there an impossibility. A lot of people looked like they wanted to get away from the fray—likely not wanting to go to jail (or worse if things got much further out of control)—and others running toward it, to do what, she didn't know, but unfortunately, they were going to have to join the latter group.
What other option did she have?
She had to protect Nina. That should have meant taking her and getting as far away from the mob as possible…but Nina wasn't her only sister in danger. She wasn't really too concerned about Lorna. She hardly knew the girl for one, and she also seemed perfectly capable of taking care of herself. But Mila was out there somewhere too. Her little sister, who used to bug her incessantly, wanting to play tea party and dress up all the time, but who she also loved to death. Even if Mila was closer to adulthood than Wanda now, she was still human, with no powers to protect herself, and regardless of any of that, it was still Wanda's job to protect her, even if she had neglected her duties for the past ten years (or more than that if you factored in the fact that she had left her and Peter of her own volition even before then).
"It's going to be okay, Nina." Said Wanda letting go of her little sister's hand, so that she could pick her up. She wouldn't be able to carry her for long. Nina wasn't that big yet, but Wanda wasn't exactly Erik. She couldn't hold her indefinitely. But if Wanda had to take her into the mob, she wasn't going risk getting separated from her, and if that meant carrying Nina until she absolutely couldn't any more than that was what she was going to do.
"Wanda, I'm scared." Said Nina into Wanda's ear.
Wanda adjusted her hold on her little sister so that she could look her in the eyes for a moment, "I know. I know you are. I am too. But I'm not going to let anything happen to you. I promise. And I'm going to find Mila and Lorna, and then where going to go meet up with Pietro and Er—Papa, just like we talked about." Replied Wanda adjusting her hold once more, so that she was gripping Nina to herself more tightly. Wanda really hoped she sounded more confident than she felt, and more importantly, she hoped that what she said would turn out to be the truth.
And with that said and one last deep breath, Wanda began to push her way through people toward the crowd ahead.
And with that folks, to quote the legendary folks behind BingeMode: Harry Potter, "It's time to climb aboard this scarlet steam engine of plot, the Hogwarts Express, choo choooooo!"
Chapter 21: Chapter 21
"I think we're alone now. . . . The beating of our hearts is the only sound."
Short chapter…because…life and stuff. :/
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Much to Raven's chagrin, their little science experiment worked. They ended up on the streets of D.C. exactly as planned. Alex must've decided not to drop them right into the horde of people, however, because there wasn't really anyone around, just a few passersby who fortunately didn't seem to have noticed how the odd trio had appeared out of thin air. But Raven didn't have to strain her ears very hard to hear the sounds of shouting and sirens in the not so far-off distance.
After making sure there was no immediate threat, Raven looked over at Kurt, who was stumbling around a bit and looked like he was on the verge of collapsing.
"Are you okay?" asked Raven, trying to keep the emotion in her voice limited. She was just as concerned as a teacher would be for any student. Nothing more than that.
"Oh, ves. I…I think I just better…" Kurt replied before promptly falling back on his rear-end onto the pavement.
Raven winced, and bent down to help the boy lean back against the side of a brick building they had landed in front of.
"Are you still okay?" Raven repeated, she was all too aware of the fact that too much concern had slipped into her voice this time.
Kurt was still conscious and the abrupt fall didn't seem to have hurt him that much, but his blue skin looked a tinge lighter than normal.
"I'll ve fine…But that was…rather exhausting."
"I bet." Said Raven because yea she had expected as much. At least he hadn't passed out. "I don't think you'll be teleporting us back."
Raven gave him one of her signature sharp looks.
"I 'spose not…" Kurt admitted in defeat.
"Just rest." Said Raven placing a hand on the boy's shoulder. "You did good."
At that, Kurt brightened significantly, and Raven tried not to think about how much his smile pulled at her heart strings. Instead she stood back up and turned her attention to Alex, who seemed to be getting his bearings, trying to orient himself to their surroundings.
Raven opened her mouth to speak but her words were cut off by what sounded like a car back firing multiple times, but she knew—and she knew that Alex knew—that no car had made that sound.
A moment later, the screaming started.
Raven and Alex locked eyes, communicating all they needed to without saying anything at all—he had to go, while she stayed behind with Kurt. But even though words weren't needed, Raven urged Alex on anyway.
"Go. Find them."
Alex didn't need to be told twice, taking off in a sprint toward the source of the screaming.
"Don't be stupid!" She shouted after him.
Don't die. She thought to herself.
Erik didn't know what had transpired between Pietro and the three spectators that were sitting behind them, when he had gone for concessions, but Erik knew that it couldn't have been anything good.
Erik had been glancing back at Pietro periodically in the few minutes he was away just to reassure himself that his son was still there. In his glances, he hadn't noticed anything nefarious happening. He had seen that at one point Pietro's hat had fallen from his head to his lap, but he hadn't thought anything of it other than that Pietro had gotten tired of wearing it. It was only when he glanced over to see Pietro standing up looking at the three men behind him with a pained expression on his face that Erik became concerned—and perhaps slightly murderous— abandoning the queue for hotdogs to quickly return to his son's side.
Upon returning, Erik had no doubt that one or all of the men had done something to upset Pietro, and he longed to make the responsible party pay, but he didn't want to upset Pietro further and as evident by his pleas, murdering them (or even something a little less extreme)—Erik did have some self-control—would undoubtedly do just that. And he couldn't very well let Pietro go off on his own because clearly leaving him for just a few minutes had been a mistake. So Erik had followed his son right at his heels, but not before he had made the presumed perpetrators' conveniently metal beverage choices erupt all over the three men. He wasn't about to let them go completely unscathed. They should count themselves luck that his son was so forgiving…and good…because Erik certainly wasn't either of those things.
But making sure his son was okay was more important than exacting revenge, so if Pietro wanted to leave, that was what they would do.
Erik didn't bother to pick up his son's hat. It was soaked in beer, and Erik doubted washing it would do much good. Pietro could have his hat. At least that once one thing Erik could fix.
Fortunately, Pietro was walking at a relatively normal pace, so Erik was able to keep up with him without too much difficulty, but it was only once they were in the parking lot that the noise emanating from the stadium died away enough to allow them to have a decent conversation.
"Pietro, do you want to tell me what really happened back there now? I promise I won't…" Erik thought for a moment "do anything that would draw attention." There. That seemed like a fair promise. "We can even sit somewhere else. I don't want you to miss out on the rest of the game. You were so excited for today."
"I already told you." Said Pietro coolly. "I wasn't lying. Compared to what I've already been through, it was nothing. Just jerks being jerks. It happens."
Erik put a hand on Pietro's shoulder forcing him to stop and look at his father. "Pietro. Just because you've been through worse, doesn't mean whatever they did was nothing. If they did something to hurt you—physically or otherwise—that's not okay."
"Whatever." Said Pietro.
"It's PETER! How many times do I have to tell you that ERIK! Can you let nothing go?! If I say it was nothing. Than it was nothing! I'm fine! So just forget it and let's—"
Pietro stopped mid-rant with a gasp, clutching his stomach with both arms and staggering backward. That was all the notice Erik had before Pietro fell. Erik barely managed to keep him from smacking his head against the concrete.
"Piet—Peter! What is it!? What's wrong!? Are you hurt!? Talk to me!" Erik nearly shouted. Desperately clutching his son in his arms. It was so reminiscent of the day of Pietro's rescue from the facility that Erik was close to losing it.
"I—I—" Pietro tried to say something but no words were coming out. His eyes were glazed over, not meeting Erik's own, and his face was paler than Erik had ever seen it.
"Peter! What is it!?"
Oh god. Was he even breathing? Any sense of calm Erik had managed to retain up to that point was gone. What was happening?! There was no blood; there was no one around. What the hell was happening to his son! "PIETRO!"
Just then, Pietro took a resounding gasp of air and his eyes widened to an impossible size before he whispered a single word:
Then Pietro was gone in a rush of wind, and Erik was left alone with tears trailing down his face, kneeling in the stadium parking lot, grasping at the space where his son had been a moment before, panic now rising in his heart for not one, but two, of his children.
Cliffhangers—hate to read them, love to write them.
Also, has anyone seen the new Dark Phoenix trailer? I swear, if there's zero Erik and Peter interaction, I'm going to be soooo disappointed.
Chapter 22: Chapter 22
"He runs, wishing he could fly
Only to trip at the sound of good-bye"
Warning! There's some graphic-ish violence in this chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Wanda struggled through the crowd, her arms growing tired the longer she held onto Nina. No matter how much Wanda wanted to avoid it, she would have to put her down soon.
Wanda scanned the increasingly unsettled crowd, looking for a glimpse of Mila and Lorna. But the fact that there were so many people all around was starting to make Wanda feel hopeless. Someone elbowed her in the back, and Wanda stumbled forward just managing to stay on her feet and keep a hold of Nina. Wanda glanced up to see who she assumed was her offender surge past her, not even aware that he had almost caused Wanda, with Nina in her arms, to face plant onto the pavement. He—like everyone around her—was too focused on shouting deplorables at the opposing crowd than to notice his inadvertent contact with one individual amongst many.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Wanda thought to herself, but she didn't dare speak out loud and risk further destressing Nina, who was trembling in her arms. Speaking of arms, hers were going to give out any second if she didn't set Nina down.
"I'm sorry, Nina, but I'm going to have to put you down. I'm afraid I'm not as strong as Papa. Don't be scared. But don't let go of my hand. Okay?"
"O-okay." Nina said so quietly that Wanda wouldn't have been able to hear her over the crowd had she not spoken directly into her ear.
Wanda gently lowered the little girl to the ground, never losing contact with her, and making sure to grasp her small hand in her own as soon as her arms were free.
Amidst the chaos, Wanda gave her sister what she hoped was a reassuring smile. Then—Nina's hand clasped tightly in her own—Wanda pressed forward once more, resuming her search. Just when Wanda was beginning to think her search would be in vain, she spotted a glimpse of a bright-green—Lorna.
Lorna was toward the front of the crowd of mutant activists, fearlessly facing down police officers and the raging counter protesters. Mila was there too, but unlike Lorna, she wasn't engaged in the same way. Instead, the other girl was pulling on the elder's arm, clearly terrified and wanting to get out of there.
Determined now, Wanda pushed her way closer, pulling Nina along with her. Wanda didn't really have a plan for what to do when she reached the other girls, but she knew she had to get to them. Lorna could stay and shout profanities if she wanted to, but Wanda wasn't letting her "little sister" remain in a situation that was quickly become more and more heated.
"Mila! Lorna!" Wanda shouted to the other girls.
But it was no use. They couldn't hear her over all of the additional shouting, sirens, and other background noise; she would have to get closer.
Wanda elbowed her way ahead again, Nina's hand still firmly grasped in her own.
"MILA! LORNA!" Wanda tried again but to no avail.
Wanda was starting to panic. They were so close to the metal barricade at the front of the crowd that Wanda could have reached out and touched it, if not for the people in front of her. But they had been pushed farther down from Mila and Lorna, and there was too much noise and too many people.
Nina gave a small cry as someone knocked into her, and Wanda pulled her closer to herself. But the people around her were pressing closer too, and Wanda—though she had never been claustrophobic—felt herself begin to panic, and she knew, a moment before it happened, that her powers were going to respond to that panic. So Wanda did the only thing she could think to do. She let go of Nina's hand, crossed her arms tightly against her chest, clinched her hands into fists, and hoped that she could keep the power that she had always feared safely within.
But of course, that was not to be.
Despite her hands being closed, red energy exploded from within them, radiating outward ahead of her in a semi-circle. The people in front of her, along with the metal barricade were launched forward into the closest police officers, knocking them down. Even Nina, who was closer to being behind her than to her side, toppled over in the blast, though thankfully not as roughly.
But as much chaos as Wanda had caused, the aftermath was so much worse.
There was a second after Wanda had lost control of her powers that she swore the world went silent, but the next moment the shouting returned with an increased intensity, along with a slew of repercussions.
The police line had broken, more barricades were being pushed over, and the crowds collided in a wave of fists and fury. And it was her fault.
Amid the pandemonium, Wanda felt small hands grab onto her leg, and she went to bend down to pull Nina back into her arms—no matter how much they still ached from overuse—but then across the crowd, Wanda's eyes somehow locked onto Mila and Lorna's. Before any of them could move, however, a loud crack—like that of a firework—reverberated across the air waves multiple times, one right after the other, overshadowing even the loudest scream.
Her mind had just barely registered gunshots, when the pain hit.
Not yet fully comprehending what had happened, Wanda looked down at her stomach to see red beginning to bleed through her white t-shirt. She managed to raise her head again to see (rather than hear) Mila mouth Wanda fear written all over her face, while beside Mila, Lorna's face went from horror to rage in an instant.
Then Wanda felt the world pitch sideways and her back hit the ground hard, but that pain was nothing compared to the agony in her gut.
When it happened. Surprisingly, Lorna didn't scream. But anger flared in her like she had never known.
Wanda had been shot. Her sister was bleeding out on the ground. Who she had only just met and now may never know. But she wasn't the only one. Other mutants had been hit too. Maybe that fact alone would have been enough to rouse the rage within her. Maybe Wanda alone being hit would have been enough to fuel her anger too, maybe not. But the fact was, that Lorna had never felt such rage.
If she also felt grief in that moment, it was but a flicker in the fiery storm of fury that fueled her. That wrath wasn't about to let her collapse besides her siblings. No, it pushed her forward. It pushed her to respond.
She let loose her power, impaling a man with a gun pointed in her direction and another who she recognized as an anti-mutant protester from her position just moments ago at the front of the barrier. Hardly aware of what she was doing, but oddly calm, she felled more that dared stand against mutants and cause them harm. She would have continued on that way, had her rampage not been ended by the appearance of one who could only be a mutant, an almost otherworldly being, who ended the lives of those who opposed her—who opposed them—in an instant. With a piercing gaze and only a few words, he seemed to see her, what she was, and what she could be in a way no one had before.
He spoke to her of a reckoning and of a better world that they would create together.
Then, he beckoned for her to join him and his companions and she took a step forward.
And then another.
And then one more . . .
As Alex sprinted toward the screaming, he knew to expect the worse, but he didn't know what the worse would be. All he knew was that whatever he found, it wouldn't be good.
And it wasn't.
Alex rounded a corner entered what must have been the center of the protest based on the debris that spanned the street. Pushing past panic-stricken people fleeing the area in flocks, Alex nearly tripped over—an…an arm.
It couldn't be an arm. But that's what it was because there were other body parts on the ground too. Well not on the ground, but rather fused to the pavement, as if the owners of said body parts had simply melted where they stood. Some were still twitching.
Alex wrenched his eyes away in horror but the scene did not get much better. A number of full bodies littered the street. Some moaned, indicating to Alex that not all of them were just bodies. Some were still people injured and in pain. But others—some policemen, some civilians—were clearly dead, stabbed through with or crushed by what looked like pieces of a metal barricade.
He didn't want to believe that the people with metal through or around their bodies had been killed by Lorna, but…he only knew one other mutant that could control metal…and if Erik wasn't here then…what other conclusion could he reach?
Alex looked up from the carnage just in time to see the back of a familiar head of hair walking slowly toward a strange group of people—or more specifically, probably mutants—surrounded by a partially formed orb of what almost appeared to be water, except it had a purple-ish hue to it, which was fitting because inside the sphere-like canopy stood a man with indigo or maybe blue skin, along with a woman wearing an outfit that looked completely impractical and way too revealing to be comfortable, a young man with metal wings of all things, and a teenage girl with a pure white mohawk.
"Lorna!" Alex shouted. Although he had no idea who the people in the orb were, something in Alex's gut told him that he shouldn't let her go with them.
Lorna turned and for a moment green eyes met blue. So many emotions passed over Lorna's face that it would be impossible for Alex to name them all. He thought he could make out sadness and definitely anger, but in the end all he saw was determination as she turned away from Alex to look back to the quartet and the blue mutant beckoned her.
"Lorna! Don't!" Alex shouted again and forced himself to move from where he had been frozen. He started to run toward her. Lorna took a step backward into the orb and shook her head at him as if to say stop. When he didn't, Lorna raise her arm and flicked her wrist like she was swatting away a gnat, then Alex felt a tug near his navel and he was sent flying backward as if an invisible rope had been tied to his belt buckle.
Alex hit the ground in a roll. When he came to a stop he was bruised but otherwise physically uninjured. He looked up once more, just in time to see Lorna and her new-found companions disappear into thin air.
Wanda pressed her hands to stomach, trying to stem blood but she knew on some level that she was losing too much too quickly. Nina's small form appeared in front of her, looking down on Wanda in absolute terror.
"Wanda! Wanda! Help! Help!" Nina cried switching back to her native tongue in her panic.
Even in her pain, Wanda wanted to comfort her little sister, but she could only grimace.
A few seconds later, Mila's face appeared above her own, joining in Nina's distress, and crouching down to be by her side. "Oh god. Oh my god. It—it's okay, Wanda. It—It's not that bad." Said Mila clearly lying. "We're going to get help. Just, hang on. Help he-help! Somebody…help" Mila's voice shook as she called out, her voice growing quieter toward the end of the call, like what happens in a nightmare when you want to shout for help, but can't seem to speak the words loud enough to be heard.
No one responded to the call for help. No one was going to help them. They were lucky that no one was trampling them. People were too busy running or fighting. Or, at least Wanda assumed they were. It was hard to focus on anything but the pain and the view of her siblings panicked faces immediately above her.
Wanda thought she heard more shots ring out, but she couldn't be sure.
But then another face—so very familiar to her—appeared above her. Despite her pain, which, curiously, she was feeling less and less of, she felt herself smile and manage a single word: "Peter."
"Shhh! Wanda! Nonononono! Thisisn'thappening. Don't worry, Wanda. I'm going to get you to a hospital. It'll be alright. You'llbealright." Pietro stuttered out. He looked paler than normal, as if he were the one losing more and more blood by the second, and not her.
In a flash, Pietro was kneeling by her side, and then slowly—or at least at normal speed—he tried to pick her up, but when she cried out in pain at the movement, he stopped for a moment.
"I'msorry!SorrysorrysorryWanda!" Tears were beginning to trickle down his face. "But I've got to move you. I need to get you someplace where people can help you. It'llberealrealquick.I'msorry."
Pietro reached out to try to move her again, but Wanda grabbed his arm with her hand, painfully aware of how bloodied it was. Nevertheless, her grip was strong.
"But, Wanda. You'rehurt.I'vegotto—"
"Pietro…just stay with me here. P-please. I-I'm beyond helping." Said Wanda accepting her fate. Wanda didn't want to die. But now that her brother was here, the thought didn't seem so scary.
"No! No you're not! I'mgoingtomakesureyou'refine!" Replied Pietro, his words more of a sob than a statement.
"Pietro, I'm n-n-not f-fine." Said Wanda as she relinquished her grip on her brother's arm and instead took his hand. Wanda removed her other hand from her stomach. No longer bothering to try to stop the blood from flowing, but she noticed Pietro had replaced her hand with his own, refusing to give up and accept the inevitable. Funny, she couldn't feel it there, but she could feel his other hand clasped in her own.
Wanda glanced at her other siblings. Nina was pressed into Mila's side sniffling loudly, while Mila had the hand that wasn't wrapped around Nina pressed to her own face, shaking in a silent sob. Lorna…was nowhere to be found.
Wanda drew her gaze away from them. As much as she loved Mila and Nina, and as much as she should love all her siblings equally, Wanda had always known that it was Pietro who she had loved most. How could she not? He was her twin. Her other half. The one person who had been at her side from the very beginning, only Wanda's actions had caused them to part. And she knew that he would take her death the hardest, so she had to do for him what she could in the time she had left.
Although she could feel herself fading, she focused on Pietro's tear-stained face and made her voice sound as strong as possible. "Pietro, y-you're going to be okay."
"Nonono. NotwithoutyouIwon't. Please Wanda. Please. Don't leave me. Not again. I-I just got you back." The emotion in Pietro's voice sent a sting through Wanda's heart, much more powerful than the pain from the bullet.
"No. You will be, Pietro. Y-you will. You have Erik, now. And N-nina, Mila, the Professor, Hank…" Wanda hesitated for a moment, thinking of Lorna, but Pietro hadn't met her and if she wasn't here for Wanda now, then she probably wouldn't be there for Pietro in the future. "You have so m-many people that love you and c-care about you. You're. Going. To. Be. F-fine."
Pietro shook his head fiercely, his tears running unashamedly now.
"You are. They're going to be there for you, and you're g-going to be there for them because you've always been t-there for me."
"Please Wands. Pleasepleasestay." Pietro choked out.
And Wanda wanted to. She wanted to stay for Pietro and for the rest of her family. But she knew she couldn't.
Wanda felt herself drifting. She was slipping away. She let her gaze wander from her brother's face for a moment to the sky overhead. There were birds circling above them.
It should have sent an ominous feeling through Wanda, seeing them circling like vultures, but it didn't because she knew they were drawn, not by her impending death, but by Nina's fear. They were beautiful really.
What a beautiful thing to be able to fly.
Wanda looked over to her brother once more. Studying his face, trying to remember every single feature. She wished she could stay with him, but it seemed the universe—or perhaps universes— had other plans. Maybe if there really was an afterlife, she wouldn't just meet her mom, aunt, and sister Anya. Maybe she would meet another silver-haired speedster there, who too had been separated from his twin by death. And maybe, together, they could watch over their siblings from above or however that worked.
With her last remaining strength, Wanda addressed her twin. "I-I love y-you, Pietro."
Pietro was squeezing her hand tightly, but she couldn't feel it anymore. She couldn't really feel anything, but she did hear his reply.
"l-love you too, sis."
And with that, Wanda's focus finally failed her. Pietro's face began to fade, blurring together with the blue sky above. But that was okay. Because even if she couldn't see him, she knew he was still there. And even though she knew he had to be scared. Wanda wasn't. Because Pietro was there, by her side, until the very end.
Symmetry folks. Sorry, not sorry…but actually sorry. This chapter was a doozy.
I know the song I quote in this chapter's summary ("Helplessly Hoping" by Crosby, Stills & Nash) is almost certainly a love song, but it felt too perfect not to use! The feelings between Wanda and Pietro are completely platonic. Also, I drew some inspiration from that scene in the movie Four Brothers, if you know what I'm talking about. And lastly, the bit about "until the very end" was a Harry Potter reference in case you didn't catch it.
Chapter 23: Chapter 23
Alex wasn't qualified for this. When God, the universe, random chance, or whatever put Alex together, they forgot to add 'handling emotional trauma' to his DNA. Yet, here he was.
My computer crashed right after I finished writing this chapter. Fortunately, it restarted, and it seems like everything was saved, but I was too lazy and frustrated to reread this chapter before posting, so if there are any weird typos that's probably why. Also, I don't know if anyone in this fandom cares (but I suspect there are at least some who do), but I'm still emotionally drained from Endgame, so if anyone wants to rant about it in the comments with me, feel free! Just label stuff with spoiler warnings for people who haven't seen it yet. I really want to write an Endgame fic as a coping mechanism, but I already wrote an AU post-Civil War fic right before Endgame, and I should really focus on this story…so…yea…but maybe I'll get to one eventually!}
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Alex stared for a moment at the place where Lorna had disappeared, partly in disbelief, partly wondering what more he could have done to get her to stay.
But what did that matter now? Lorna was gone.
Alex pushed himself up into a sitting position, his head throbbing a bit, undoubtedly from his impact with the pavement. But then, an ear-piercing wail cut through the pain. Alex looked around for the source of the cry, and he found it, merely a stone's throw away.
And if possible, Alex's heart broke a bit more.
Alex blinked forcefully and for longer than necessary, hoping the sight would be gone when he opened his eyes again, but it wasn't. It was still there, painfully real—Peter with recent tear streak marks on his face and red, puffy eyes, but apart from the single cry, he made no further noise. Across from him was Nina, tucked tightly into Mila's side, crying her little heart out, and Mila herself cried right along with her.
The source of all that horrible pain lay between them: Wanda's unmoving and bloody body.
Alex stumbled over to them, half walking, half crawling. No one spoke when he reached them. No one questioned why or how he was there, and when he reached out, pressing two fingers to Wanda's neck to check for a pulse, no one stopped him. But Alex knew, he knew, even before he went over to them that he wouldn't find one. He knew Wanda was already dead, that there was no hope for her and no help he could give her. All he could do now was help those who were left behind, one of whom included a kid he cared about just as much as his little brother.
He didn't need to ask what had happened, and Alex wouldn't have asked anyway, not right now. Not when their sister had just died in their arms. And besides, Alex recognized a bullet wound when he saw one.
They couldn't leave Wanda's body here. That wouldn't be right. Even if only temporarily, Alex knew there would be no way to convince her siblings to leave her behind. And Alex didn't want to do that either, but he had no idea how he was supposed to get them all back to the mansion. There was no way Kurt could manage teleporting them all at once. Maybe he'd recovered enough that he could take a couple of them back or at least himself and then he could tell someone to come and get them. . . . but they couldn't just sit here. Waiting for a miracle that wasn't come.
Okay, so first step—get all the kids, including Wanda back to Kurt and Raven. He could do that. He just had to take everything one step at a time.
Alex looked from one kid to the next. Nina's cries had been reduced to silent tears, Mila was looking at Alex like she wanted him to throw her a lifeline and save her from drowning, and Peter…Peter had fallen back onto his behind, his arms—which were covered in blood—were wrapped around his legs and he was staring straight ahead unseeing, eyes glazed over; his face conveyed a look Alex had seen on too many faces of soldiers during his time in Vietnam—shock.
Maybe getting back to Raven and Kurt wasn't going to be so simple.
Forcing down his own worry, Alex finally made himself take charge. He would get them through this, as best as he could, one step at a time.
"Mila. Raven and Kurt are a few blocks over. I'm—I'm sorry, but I need you to help me get Nina and Peter to them. I'm going to have to carry Wanda. Okay?" said Alex. He hated to ask Mila for help. He'd carry them all back to the school if he could, or let them stay here as long as they needed, but once the city had rounded up its remaining police force, this was soon going to become a crime scene, and Alex could say from personal experience that being a mutant and hanging around a scene like this one would really not be a good idea. And of the three, Mila was the oldest (at least biologically), and he hoped she would be able to pull herself together enough to help her pseudo-siblings.
"O-okay." Replied Mila quietly rising to her feet and softly tugging an inconsolable Nina with her.
"Alright, Pete. We're…we're going to go home now bud." Said Alex softly as he guided Peter to his feet. Alex almost hoped Peter would resist or display some emotion, but he didn't. He just let Alex stand him up and Mila take his hand in her own so that she had Nina on one side of her and Peter on the other.
"Okay." Alex said quietly more to himself than the other three. He lowered himself back to his knees, hesitating a moment before he put his hands on Wanda. Even if he didn't really know Wanda personally, he knew her twin. He had listened to Peter talk about Wanda for months back when they were imprisoned, and he could see Peter in her features, which was what scared him most of all—the fact that as terrible as it was to see a young girl dead on the street for no reason at all, who he knew if only by association, a very small part of him couldn't help but be relieved that Peter wasn't the one lying there dead. Although Alex knew that the kid—being who he was—if he could, would give anything to take Wanda's place.
Hesitating no longer Alex gently closed Wanda's eyes, so that she was no longer gazing emptily into the sky, and went to gather Wanda in his arms, but just as he was about to, he noticed car keys sticking out of her jacket pocket. As respectfully as he could, Alex nabbed the keys from her pocket and placed them in his own, glad at least that he would be able to drive the kids back the mansion, while Kurt and Raven waited for a different ride back, if necessary.
Of course that meant he'd have to make decision as to whether to put Wanda in the passenger seat or…in the trunk. Both options seemed horrible. One meant treating Wanda little better than luggage and the other option meant Mila, Peter, and Nina would have to ride back to the school in plain view of their dead sister. Either way, he'd need to wrap Wanda in something, just to mask the horror of it all.
Swallowing, Alex slid his arms under Wanda and picked her up bridal style.
Mila and Nina stared at him, both in tears again. And Peter, well he just stared past him; his dark eyes almost reflecting the image of Alex and Peter's now lost twin in his arms.
In the end, Alex had driven Mila, Nina, and Peter back to the mansion, while Raven hot-wired a car that had been abandoned in the chaos and taken Kurt with Wanda's body gently laid in the back seat back to the mansion. He'd almost hoped that Peter would cry or yell or say something because he couldn't stand to be separated from Wanda, even in death, but he still hadn't said anything at all. None them had really, unless you counted Alex's very short and methodical conversation with Raven about the logistics of getting back, and Kurt's incoherent rambling at realizing Wanda was dead, including remnants of what Alex suspected were prayers.
But Peter, well, he'd merely let himself be guided to the car's passenger seat, where he'd sat silently and so, so still the entire ride back, while Mila and Nina sniffled in the back seat, bonded by their shared grief.
When they'd gotten back to the mansion, it had been eerily empty. Alex could only assume that Charles had read at least one of their minds as they approached, at least enough to have realized that Wanda was no longer among the living. And as a result, he had ordered the students to their rooms to avoid them having to witness Alex carrying Wanda's lifeless body into the school, though if any of them had been paying attention they would've noticed a few children's heads looking down at them through the mansion's upper windows.
For once, Alex was grateful for Charles' mind-reading ability, so that none of them had to relive the horror of what had happened to Wanda out loud, at least not right away. Alex could fill him in on the exact details later, but for now, he undoubtedly knew the important information: Lorna was gone with the being they called Apocalypse, Wanda was dead, and three kids were traumatized by the loss of their sister.
Once inside, Alex was pretty sure that Raven had sent Kurt away to rest and taken the girls off somewhere—to do what, he didn't know. He hadn't spoken with her much recently, but the Raven he knew wasn't exactly an expert on helping others through emotional trauma. But he knew that despite her usual cold exterior and the fact that the kids in distress were Erik's or a cousin/sister to Erik's kids, Raven cared. And that would have to be enough.
Alex, on the other hand, was entirely focused on the kid he knew. The kid that had been the only good thing in his life for an extremely long three-month period. The kid that he had witnessed become more and more withdrawn during that time, until the day he thought that kid had been lost forever, only to find out he was still alive. And just when that kid seemed to have been finally getting a chance to be a kid again, life had thrown another tragedy at him.
Charles and Hank were waiting for them when they arrived, but if pressed, Alex wouldn't have remembered much of what was said. And sometime over the stretch of what could have been minutes or hours, eventually, everyone had dispersed from the main common room, until only Alex and Peter were left.
After taking Wanda's body away—presumably to the hidden lower level of the school—Hank had come back and tried to insist on examining Peter for injuries because, for one, he was covered in blood, and for another, he 'seemed to be in a state of shock.'
Well no duh, Hank. That's what happens when your twin is killed right in front of you.
But when Hank had reached out to Peter, the kid had flinched back into Alex's side. It was the first outward reaction Peter had given since Alex had approached them right after Wanda's death, so it would have been reassuring if it wasn't so heartbreaking. And Alex was pretty sure there was no conscious thought to Peter's reaction. He was merely reacting on fear and instinct to get away from what he perceived as a threat—Hank in his lab coat—and seek comfort and safety in the familiar, which at the moment happened to be Alex.
"It's alright, Hank." Said Alex putting his arm around Peter, who fortunately or unfortunately didn't flinch away from him. "I'll stay with him, and you can come check on him in a little while maybe?"
Hank looked between Peter and Alex for a moment, the doctor in him clearly wanting to protest, but even though his emotional intelligence was far below his IQ, he was still smart enough to know that what Peter needed just then wasn't to be poked and prodded. Hank nodded his assent and left the room once more.
Alex looked down at Peter, who was staring unseeing at the hard-wood floor. Alex took a deep breath and then exhaled.
Just like when he had come upon them in the streets of D.C., Alex would take this one step at a time because . . . what more could he do?
"Come on, kid. Let's get you cleaned up."
Alex guided Peter upstairs to the room he was staying in. It wasn't his old room. That had been taken by a teacher. But that was fine with Alex. This place brought back too many memories as it was without him being back in completely familiar surroundings.
Though it wasn't as large as his old room, it did still have a private bathroom, which was fortunate because Alex didn't really want to risk a run-in with a student who needed to break Charles' room sequester due to the call of nature, and if he was in his right mind, Alex doubted that Peter would have wanted that either.
Peter continued to allow Alex to guide him until they reached said private bathroom. Figuring it would be easier to get most of the blood off of Peter having him close to the sink, Alex asked gently, "Want to take a seat on the counter for me Pete?"
The kid didn't reply, he just stared blankly at Alex, or perhaps past him.
"That's cool. How 'bout I help you?" Again nothing. But since he didn't flinch away when Alex approached him, Alex nearly effortlessly lifted Peter up onto the counter, so that his back was to the mirror and his feet were dangling over the edge. It was easy really. The kid weighed next to nothing.
After that, Alex got to work. Grabbing a towel—for some reason Charles only had the most pristine white towels you could imagine stocked in the bathroom—Alex started with Peter's hands. He guided the kid's hands under warm water that flowed from the sink and washed them up to the elbow using soap that smelled too clinical for Alex's liking, until the water ran clear and the towel had begun to loose it's white gleam.
"Okay, let's get your face now kid." Peter, understandably, must have buried his face in his hands in despair at some point because it too had streaks of blood on it. Even his silver hair had some specs of blood, but there wasn't enough to bother with now. He'd let Peter wash it out when he was feeling up to it. Hopefully soon.
Alex gently wiped Peter's face with the towel until it was clear of blood, then he tossed the towel—which was now more rust colored than white—onto the floor. He'd take care of it later. Maybe he'd burn it. He didn't think all of the blood would ever come out, and to be honest, he never wanted to see the towel again.
Now the kid just needed a new shirt and he would at least be looking a little better. And maybe, if they were lucky (which they never seemed to be), that would make him feel a little better too.
"Stay right here, Peter." Not that Alex thought he would go anywhere. The kid hardly seemed to realize where he was. But he thought it important to say out loud anyway. "I'll be right back. I'm just going to grab you a different shirt."
Nonetheless, Alex still didn't want to leave Peter alone for too long, so he left the bathroom door open while he quickly grabbed the first t-shirt that he could find from the adjacent bedroom. Alex wasn't that big of a guy, but the t-shirt was still going to swamp Peter. At this point though, that was the least of Alex's worries.
" 'K kid, I found a shirt for you." Alex said as he re-entered the bathroom. He held out the t-shirt to Peter, but the boy didn't make any move to take it. "C'mon Pete." Alex encouraged, but Peter was still very-much withdrawn from what was happening around him.
Alex lowered the hand holding the shirt out to Peter. He really didn't think it was a good idea to leave the kid in a shirt that was soaked in Wanda's blood. When Peter finally did come back to face reality from whatever corner of his mind he had retreated to, Alex was pretty sure that realizing his clothing was covered in his sister's blood was only going to make everything that much more traumatizing. Plus, Hank was right, Peter really should be checked over at some point to make sure he wasn't actually physically injured. Alex didn't think Peter was, but he wouldn't put it past the kid to be nursing a knife wound without so much as a peep, given all that had happened.
Alex wasn't qualified for this. When God, the universe, random chance, or whatever put Alex together, they forgot to add 'handling emotional trauma' to his DNA. Yet, here he was.
Erik should be the one here helping Peter. He was his dad. Alex was just . . . some guy. He wondered if Charles had tried to contact Erik with Cerebro, or if he was just . . . waiting. Delaying the inevitable. But even if Erik were here, given that Wanda was his child too, he might not exactly be in the best state of mind to help Peter at the moment anyway. Either way, Erik wasn't here. So that left Alex.
Okay. Don't make this weird.
"Alright kiddo, I'm just going to help you out of that shirt and into this one real quick and then you can eat or sleep or …." Alex trailed off. What did one do when their twin died? He imagined Peter would be asking himself that question soon enough. "Just—uh…punch me or something if you want to take over, cool?"
As quick as he could without alarming or hurting Peter, Alex maneuvered the kid's arms out of the bloodied shirt and pulled it over the kid's head tossing it on the floor with the battered towel. Then, Alex picked up his old t-shirt from where he'd set it on the counter and made to pull it over Peter's head just as swiftly, but when he turned back to Peter, he got full look at kid's torso for the first time, and what he saw made him stop mid-motion.
Peter's torso was spattered with an array of scars, but that was not what had given Alex pause. It took a moment for him to comprehend what he was seeing, not only because it was written backward, but also because of the shockingly vileness of it. Scrawled across Peter's chest in a jagged line, was a backward rendering of the words: I AM NOTHING. It was like someone had used Peter as their own personal chalkboard. No, Not like, presumably that was exactly what someone had done. Only, instead of chalk, they'd used a knife. And judging by the look of it, Alex was almost positive that that particular arrangement of scars had not happened during their captivity. It was too old. Too permanent. Too personal.
Alex suddenly felt very sick. And at the same time, he wanted to punch something, or more specifically someone. Whoever was the someone who had mutilated the boy in front of him. But neither of those things would help Peter. The first would only make Peter feel as though he should be ashamed, which was not the reason he felt sick at all. He was disgusted by whoever had hurt Peter in such a horrific way, not by Peter. Never by Peter. And the second, well maybe one day if the kid pointed him in the right direction, Alex would find the person he wanted to punch.
"Shit, kid. Life's never been easy on you, huh?" Alex said finally, as he tugged the t-shirt over Peter's head, his scars disappearing once more beneath the fabric.
Finished, Alex rested one hand on Peter's shoulder. "I know it's not going to make anything better, but . . . I'm sorry, Peter. I'm so sorry."
Since Peter had been unresponsive as of yet, Alex didn't expect a reaction this time either, but when Alex eyes met Peter's, to his surprise, the blank stare was gone, replaced with recognition. And with that recognition came a flood of despair . . . and, understandably, tears.
Without really knowing how it happened, Alex suddenly found himself with Peter sobbing into the crook of his neck. His big brother instincts taking over, Alex rubbed small soothing circles on the boy's back. Alex still felt entirely unqualified to be consoling Peter, but the situation wasn't so different from how he had comforted Scottie after he'd injured himself one way or another when they were both much younger.
So Alex just let the kid cry, long laborious sobs into his shoulder. He'd let the kid cry until he grew hoarse if it would make him feel better.
At first, Peter had tried to hold back his sobs, but Alex quickly tried to dispel his embarrassment saying that 'it was okay to cry.' Never that 'it was okay' because for Peter, nothing was 'okay' at the moment. His world had just been shattered. But yea, it was okay to cry.
Eventually the sobs tapered off, and Peter pulled away rubbing at his eyes with the heels of his hands.
He still didn't say anything, but somehow Alex managed to coax Peter to lie down on the bed, while Alex took a seat in the adjacent chair. As soon he laid down, Peter turned his back to Alex and curled his knees up toward his chest, not-quite laying in the fetal position, but close to it.
Alex didn't take offense to the fact that Peter had turned away from him. It was fine for now if he wanted to have some semblance of space, but no way was Alex leaving the kid completely alone right now. Alex didn't even like to entertain the thoughts of what Peter might do if left alone in his current state.
So, Alex settled back into the chair, grabbing a book off the bedside table, even though he'd probably absorb less than 10% of it at the moment. And then . . . he just waited. He knew eventually someone else would come.
Eventually, Erik would check on his son.
So this was probably depressing, and Erik should make an appearance next chapter, which will probably also be depressing. So go read something happier in the meantime!
Chapter 24: Chapter 24
Everything came crashing down, both literally and figuratively. The metal in the room slammed back to the floor, and Erik felt as if the world had fallen with it.
Time to see what Erik's been up too.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Erik was terrified.
It had taken less than a minute to remove himself from the ground of the parking lot, but to Erik it felt like a lifetime. And after that, he had wasted valuable time trying to wrap his mind around what to do, where to go, and what had just happened.
Why had Pietro taken off? What had happened with Wanda? These questions flashed through his mind as Erik drove toward the only place it made sense to go—back to Charles' home. Something must have happened there because that's where Wanda was when Erik and Pietro had left. And whatever had happened to Wanda must be something terrible for Pietro to react as he did. So if he went back—whatever had happened—he was sure he would find Wanda and Pietro together.
He knew that Wanda and Pietro had a connection beyond that of normal siblings, but it wasn't as if Pietro felt Wanda's pain if she simply stubbed a toe. It had to be . . . significant. And if something had happened to Wanda, then Nina, Raven, Charles, and everyone else at the mansion must be in danger too.
Erik's grip on the steering wheel tightened to the point that his knuckles turned white. And for the entire drive back to the mansion, they remained that way. Erik broke about a hundred traffic laws to get back to the school in record time, but as Erik pulled onto the grounds, even though nothing was immediately amiss, he still feared that he was too late . . . and something awful had happened.
After barely managing to put the vehicle in park, Erik practically flew out of the automobile. He rushed across the driveway, his worry and fear only increasing as he ran past two vehicles that he didn't recognize as belonging Charles. The cars were haphazardly parked on the lawn with multiple doors still open, and to Erik's horror, there was blood on some of the seats and some drops heading to the entrance of the school.
Erik tore his eyes from the cars and threw open the front door of the school, expecting a scene of injured children and panic within but the place was unnervingly empty and silent, which did nothing to settle Erik's alarm. It wasn't too late in the evening yet, kids should still be milling around.
The place shouldn't have been empty.
Erik crept quietly down the hall toward the main common room, deeply aware of all the metal around him that he could potentially use as a weapon. With the wave of his hand, he ripped a metal hook off the entryway's wall, ready to drive it through any threat. If whoever had caused the scene outside was still around, they wouldn't be leaving here alive. Erik would make sure of that.
In one swift motion, Erik rounded the corner leading into the main common room, ready for battle but the sight that greeted him instead caused him to drop his homemade weapon from where it floated beside him. It fell to the ground with a thud. At the noise, all the silent occupants of the room, except Charles, jumped. Then everyone turned to look at him.
Raven and Hank were huddled together in a corner, having clearly been engaged in a whispered conversation until Erik had shown up. More importantly, Nina sat in Charles lap clinging to him, her eyes were red and puffy and tears coated her face. When Nina's eyes found Erik, she jumped off Charles' lap and ran to Erik.
"Papa!" Nina yelled slamming her small body into his legs, but it wasn't a shout of joy. It was instead a painful sob. Erik swiftly lifted Nina into his arms and hugged her to his chest, but for some reason that only caused her sobs to increase.
"Nina, what is wrong? Charles, what's happening? Where's Pietro? Where's Wanda? Whose blood is that!?" He hadn't meant for that last question to slip out. Not in front of Nina, but her behavior had only increased Erik's certainty that something terrible had happened.
Raven face looked pained, and she opened her mouth as if to speak but then closed it again as though she couldn't find the words. Hank looked at him with so much pity that Erik wanted to slap him. And Charles, he looked as though . . . someone had died. Erik clutched Nina tighter, fear growing, especially when no one immediately answered his questions.
"Pietro! Wanda!" Erik called out when no one in the room bothered to answer him. He was so desperate to have his children right in front of them and know that they were safe. In response to his shouts, Charles, looking even more somber as he slowly approached Erik.
"Hank, Raven, I think it would be best if I speak to Erik privately. Nina, sweetheart, why don't you let Raven take you back to Mila please?" prompted Charles.
At Charles' words, Hank and Raven got up to leave. Neither would meet Erik's eye, not even when Raven took Nina from Erik's arms into her own.
Erik didn't want to give up his hold on his youngest child. But he relented when Nina didn't resist because he had a feeling that he would be shouting at Charles shortly if he didn't give him the answers he so desperately sought. He wondered for a moment if Charles had used his powers to make Nina a little more willing to go with Hank and Raven, but he had bigger concerns to worry about than that.
Erik didn't wait for them to completely exit the room before he turned to Charles again. "Charles, what's going on? Where is everyone? Where are the twins!? Pietro just said Wanda's name and took off! God dammit tell me what's happened!"
"I've sent the students to their rooms . . ." said Charles coming closer, and Erik noticed his eyes were glistening "Peter, is . . . he's okay. He's with Alex, but . . . Wanda . . . I—" Charles paused and cleared his throat. "I think you better sit down my friend."
Pietro was okay. The tension in Erik's shoulders lessened ever so slightly. But he didn't miss Charles' hesitation when he started to speak about Wanda.
"Charles. Where. Is. My. Daughter?! YOU TELL ME RIGHT NOW!" Erik shouted, his words ricocheting off the walls like bullets.
"Erik, please. Please sit—"
"I'M NOT SITTING THE FUCK DOWN UNTIL YOU TELL ME WHERE MY DAUGHTER IS AND WHAT'S HAPPENED!"
Charles refused to flinch even under Erik's increased rage, but he seemed to finally accept that Erik wasn't about to follow his request. He took a deep breath, tears escaping from his eyes, and then replied as gently as he could, but the softness of his voice did not settle the blow.
"I'm so sorry, Erik, but she's dead. Wanda's dead."
All Erik could do was stand there in shock. He understood now, why Charles had asked him to sit down first, but his first response to Charles' announcement was still denial.
"No she's not."
"Erik . . . She . . . she is though. I'm sorry. I am so so very sorry." There was so much sympathy in his voice that Erik could hardly stand it. Charles reached out a hand toward him, but Erik took a step back. It couldn't be true.
"No. No, she's not." Erik repeated shaking his head. "How could she be? Pietro and I just talked to her before we left. She's not dead! That's impossible. Why would she be dead? Wanda!" Erik called for his daughter again, more desperate than ever as he headed toward the door.
But Charles—always a step ahead—didn't let him leave. He kept him rooted to the spot, frozen thanks to his telepathy, as he began to explain.
The compassion never left Charles voice as he spoke, telling Erik how Lorna had come back. How the girls had headed out for lunch and then to meet up with Erik and Pietro later, but their plans had been tragically derailed by a rally. How Charles still wasn't exactly sure what had happened. It had been difficult to get the story out Mila and Nina, and Pietro wasn't talking at all. But Alex filled in some of the gaps, explaining that shots were fired, Lorna had disappeared with peculiar strangers, and Wanda had been caught in the cross fire. And, at the end of it all, she was dead.
Erik listened in a state of detachment. At some point Charles had released his hold on him, but he remained motionless nonetheless. The words washed over him and most got through, but he could still hardly make sense of them.
It couldn't be true. None of it could be true. It was all just a nightmare that Erik would wake from any second now. But the problem with that fantasy was that Wanda dying fit too well with the tragedies that had befallen Erik and everyone that he cared about to be just a bad dream.
When Charles finished, someone (Hank, Erik realized later) guided him to the elevator down to Charles' secret underground lab, with Charles following along beside them. Then somehow Erik came to be standing in front of a metal table, staring down at his daughter's still body. And suddenly, any remaining doubt that Erik had clung to, any hope that this was all just a dream or a mistake, evaporated.
This was real.
Wanda was dead.
He had failed another one of his children.
Someone had already cleaned her up and a white sheet covered her up to the shoulders, so Erik couldn't see the damage done to his little girl, but Erik had seen enough dead bodies in his life to know that she definitely wasn't sleeping. She wasn't resting. She wouldn't spring up any second and yell at him for losing track of Pietro. No, she was gone, and when Erik reached out to touch the side of her face, she was already cold.
It was then that the damn inside Erik broke.
All the metal in the room began to shake and/or contort. Even the table on which Wanda lay rattled. Erik wanted to stop, he didn't want the shell that had once been his daughter to fall off its perch, but he couldn't help it. The loss was crushing him from the inside out. He was vaguely aware of voices calling his name, but he could not answer them.
Then, suddenly everything stopped. Metal that had been flying through the air froze, suspended by nothing but Erik's will, which—even though he hadn't really been controlling it in the first place, rather his emotions had been the driving force—was obviously no longer under his control. A force, kind but firm, had seized control of him for a second time that day.
That force being Charles of course.
I'm sorry Erik. I am so so sorry. I can't begin to imagine the depth of your pain . . . but if I let you continue, you are likely to destroy the school, and I wish . . . I wish I could just let you do that, if only so that it would ease your pain even slightly. But I know it would not. And you know it too. It would not even begin to scratch the surface . . . . And you must please try to remember that there are other people here to think about. There are children here, including Nina and Peter, and we have to keep this place intact for them. So please, Erik. Please calm your mind. Deep breaths. In. Out. In. Out. In. Out. In . . .
Erik hadn't even realized that he was hyperventilating before Charles began speaking to him directly through his mind. He didn't know how long Charles repeated that mantra of in and out, but eventually his breathes came evenly.
I'm going to release you now, Erik. Okay?
Even though Erik didn't give a verbal or mental reply, Charles must have been confident that the worse was over because Erik felt his control come back, and along with it, everything came crashing down, both literally and figuratively. The metal in the room slammed back to the floor, and Erik felt as if the world had fallen with it. It hadn't, but Erik had. Because there he was, without even realizing it, lying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. He only noticed that he was no longer standing when Charles came to hover over him, worry etched on every line of his face.
"Erik . . ." Charles said tentatively, but he didn't say anything else. It was clear to Erik that Charles didn't know what to say, which Erik could hardly blame him for because he himself didn't know what to do. He wanted to pick up his daughter and hold her. Beg her to come back to him. He barely had any time with her, barely any at all. She was on this planet longer than Anya but still for far too short of a time. And yet, for some reason, Erik was still here.
But he didn't do any of that. Because Wanda wasn't there anymore. Wherever she was now, Erik couldn't reach her. Just as he couldn't reach Anya, or his mother, or Magda, the list just went on and on and continued to grow.
Hank must have moved Erik a bit because although he was still on the floor, he was now in a sitting position. But that was all Erik registered before the sobs came, not caring what Hank or Charles thought of him in that moment because, without intervention, Erik was no more able to stop the sobs than he had been able to stop his involuntary assault on the metal in the room a moment before.
Erik didn't know how long he sat there crying, but eventually the tears stopped and Erik finally noticed a reassuring hold on his arm, which had been there since the tears began to fall—Charles' arm around his shoulder. Erik knew his friend must have started sending soothing thoughts, feelings, and memories his way again, like he did so long ago that day Erik moved the satellite for the first time, in order to comfort Erik and quell his tears, but Erik couldn't find the strength to protest and he wasn't sure that he wanted to anyway. When Erik's sobs finally subsided completely, he rose shakily to his feet, facing Charles the now only other living occupant in the room; Hank obviously having quickly vacated when the tears erupted.
Erik felt awful. The pain was so deep that he was certain he would never be truly happy again for he now had another loss to carry with him forever. Or at least for the rest of his life, which this day, like the other dark days of Erik's life, felt much too long. But for all of the pain he felt, he had no doubt that it must pale to that of another's, so, just managing to find his voice, he asked Charles something he should have demanded an answer to much earlier instead of taking the time to work through his own denial and grief: "Where's Pietro?"
As always, I'm happy to hear from you, but if you leave a comment, please no Dark Phoenix spoilers! I don't know when I'll get a chance to see it, and I don't want it to be spoiled for anyone else either.
Chapter 25: Chapter 25
So . . . I saw Dark Phoenix, . . . and I was pretty disappointed. But the fact that we got James Corden's Star Tour of London with some of the cast members out of it, might have made the whole movie worth it. If you care to know my thoughts on the movie, read the end note. But DON'T read it if you want to avoid spoilers. I stay pretty vague, but still. Also, I'll just say, if you haven't seen the movie yet, considering certain choices Charles and Jean make in it, this chapter is kind of ironic (and obviously not canon), but I had it planned for quite some time, so I wasn't about to change it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Erik found Pietro in Alex's old room, just as Charles said he would. He lay on the bed with his back to the door and to where Alex sat with a book in hand, raised as if he were reading it, but there was a glazed look in his eyes that made Erik pretty sure that if he asked him what had happened in the last few pages, Alex would have had no clue.
Alex didn't notice him right away, but when Erik shifted his weight from one foot to the other, the younger man looked up to meet Erik's gaze.
Erik imagined that he looked pretty pathetic—tearstained and disheveled—but not an ounce of him cared.
Without a word, Alex set the book down, rose to his feet, and came over to Erik. Together, they stepped into the hallway, leaving the door cracked, so that Pietro's motionless form could still be seen.
"I don't think he's asleep." Alex said quietly to the other man. "But he won't talk to me. He hasn't said a word since . . . it happened. I think I got most of the blood off of him . . . And I tried to get him to eat, but he won't even take water. He's . . . pretty traumatized."
Teeth clenched together, Erik nodded, taking this all in, while still processing everything else too . . . another one of his daughters was dead, another daughter was gone somewhere with someone likely even more dangerous than himself, his last daughter was heartbroken, and his son . . . his son would probably never be the same.
"Thank you, Alex. For" Erik's voice caught, "looking after him."
Alex raised his hand as if to pat Erik on the shoulder but he seemed unsure if it would be welcome—to be honest, Erik was so numb to the world that he probably wouldn't have even felt it—so, in the end after it hovered awkwardly for a moment he lowered it back to his side.
"Any time, Erik. Any time. He's like, another little brother to me." Alex said and Erik could tell he meant it. He'd spent three months in captivity with the boy after all, which was more time than even Erik had spent with Pietro now that he thought about it. And wasn't that pathetic on Erik's part?
Erik nodded again, or at least he attempted to jerk his head in the customary motion, but everything, even that simple movement, felt so difficult that he wasn't sure he really moved at all.
"Don't go far, please. I'm going to try to talk to him, but I have to—there's some things I'm going to have to take care of, and I don't want to leave him alone. I need to talk to Charles again and—and"
Erik wasn't sure what more to say, but apparently Alex didn't need to hear anything more.
"Don't worry. I'll just run to the kitchen and grab some food again to see if he'll eat something now that some time has passed. I'll be back in five."
And with that, Alex strode past Erik leaving him hovering alone in the doorway.
After a few more seconds of hesitation, Erik entered the room, making his way around to the other side of the bed. Once there, he kneeled down in front of his son. The hard wood floor sent a shot of pain up his knee, but it was nothing, nothing, compared to the other kind of pain he felt, and less than nothing to what he imagined Pietro had been feeling since the moment the bullet pierced Wanda's skin.
As he expected, when Erik looked down at Pietro's face, he found his son awake. Pietro's eyes met Erik's own, reflecting a world of pain so great that it seemed unfathomable on a face so young. Erik had never seen Pietro look so shattered. Even in the aftermath of the facility, there was more life in his eyes then than Erik saw there now.
They stared at each for probably a solid minute, Erik kneeling next to the bed, and Pietro, knees pulled up nearly to his chest, arms across his stomach as if clutching a non-existent wound.
Surprisingly, it was Pietro who broke the silence, his voice a mere whisper. "It hurts. It hurts so much. I—I can't breathe. I can't feel her."
Erik reached out and took one of Pietro's hands, holding it between his own larger ones. It was another small reminder of how young his son still was. How young Wanda was.
"I know. . . It's not fair. Wanda should still be here. She didn't deserve to die, and you don't deserve this pain. . . . It shouldn't have happened at all, but it did. I'm sorry."
"I can't live like this, Dad. I can't live without her. I—I can't. I can't do it. Ican'tIcan'tIcan't."
"You have to, Pietro." Said Erik, squeezing his son's hand a little more tightly, a little more desperately. "It's . . . it's going to be difficult. You're going to be in a lot of pain for a very long time, and that pain will never completely go away. I wish I could take it from you. I wish I could bring her back. I wish I could make everything better, but I can't. But you can't follow her. One day you will, when I'm long-gone and you've lived a full-life. Wanda would want that for you, Pietro. She would want you to keep going on. Not moving on. You can't move on from something like this. It'll be—she'll be with you forever, but you have to keep living. Please Pietro. Peter. I need you to understand that."
"I—I can't." Pietro answered through a sob as he pulled his hand from his father's grasp to cover his face. "It's too hard."
"Pietro . . ." Erik reached out to his son again, whether to hug him or just place a comforting hand on his shoulder, Erik wasn't sure, he just wanted to ground him. To help him stay in this world and not retreat into the dark chasms lurking within his mind.
But before he could make contact, Pietro pulled away rolling onto his other side, so that his back was to Erik again.
"Please just go."
It was Erik's turn to put his face in his hands. Erik couldn't handle this. How was he supposed to protect his remaining children if he couldn't even help Pietro through his grief, if he couldn't keep his son from possibly hurting himself or worse. He didn't know how to do this—how to be there for Pietro and for Nina, and look for his oldest daughter and a seemingly all-powerful mutant, and deal with his own grief.
He couldn't do it. He wasn't strong enough.
Erik took a shaky breath and lowered his hands. "Alex is bringing up some food. Please try to eat something, Pietro." Erik reached out and ran a hand through his son's hair. The boy didn't react, but at least he didn't pull away. "I'll be back."
Pietro didn't respond, not even when Erik grabbed a quilt from the end of the bed and laid it gently over the boy, but he did grab the fabric, clutching it tightly until his knuckles turned white.
With one last glance at his son, who looked so small curled up on the large bed under the quilt, Erik left the room. He found Alex just outside, sitting on the floor with his back against the wall, a box of Twinkies, a small carton of milk, and a random assortment of items from a bowl of soup to a cup of pudding on a tray next to him. He looked up at the sound of Erik's footsteps, and then rose to his feet grabbing the tray as he did so.
"I thought I'd try a little of everything this time. Before, Hank had brought up what they had for dinner, but the kid wasn't exactly in a grilled branzino mood."
"No. I would think not. Thank you again, Alex."
"It's like I said, Erik. He's family." And this time, balancing the tray in one arm, he did clap Erik's shoulder for just a moment before he headed back into the dark room . . . that Erik knew was full of even darker thoughts.
Charles was waiting for him in his office this time. There was a sympathetic look on his face that, while Erik knew was genuine, he could barely stand to look at.
"I know what you are going to ask, Erik. You're projecting . . . quite a lot. But you know I can't do what you would ask of me."
"And why not?! You took away Moira's memories! You can take Pietro's too! Not-not all of them. Not forever. Just for a-a little while."
"Erik, I know you have the best intentions . . . but you wouldn't ask this if you were thinking clearly, and even if I attempted to do what you are asking, there's no guarantee that the effects would not be permanent. I've never attempted to restore Moira's memories. It's possible that I wouldn't even be able to if I tried. I know you are worried about your son, but—"
Erik slammed both fists down on Charles' desk, and to his credit, Charles managed not to flinch. "Yes I'm worried about him! You know I would never ask this of you, would never want you to do this, if it weren't absolutely imperative. You're a telepath, Charles. You of all people know what he is thinking. Tell me I'm wrong, and I'll drop it."
"I've told you before, Erik, Peter's mind is whirlwind. It's . . . it's impossible to pick up distinct thoughts." Charles replied uneasily.
"But you know enough! I know you do. He does not want to go on. Once the initial shock of Wanda's death fades . . . He'll—he will . . ." Erik trailed off, not quite managing to voice his fear. "He doesn't want to live in a world without Wanda. He said as much to me out loud. You know what he'll try to do. Do. Not. Pretend. Otherwise."
Deflecting Charles replied, "We will all keep an eye on him, Erik. No one is going to let that happen."
"There is no keeping an eye on him, Charles! Not truly. If he wants to end it, he could do so in a flash without us being able to do anything to stop him! And right now, I can't make him see beyond his grief. Please, Charles. Please. I am begging you.I can't be there for him and Nina and look for my—for Lorna and deal with a potential apocalypse and—and" bury another daughter. I can't. I can't do it again.
Erik, my friend. You don't have to do all that alone. I know I do not know what it is to lose a child, but I'm here for you. And Alex, Hank . . . I believe even Raven will be too.
"Then do this for me." Erik growled out. "Suppress his knowledge of her death until I can help him without distraction."
"I'm sorry, Erik. But I won't do it. You know it wouldn't be right."
At his words, Erik realized there would be no persuading Charles. So he turned on his heel, wrenching the study door open and slamming it behind him with his powers, so forcefully that it broke one of the hinges. He heard Charles call after him, but Erik didn't turn back. Instead, he marched to his room, walking as if on autopilot. He wasn't ready to face Pietro so soon again. Or speak with Nina. And he couldn't stand the thought of looking at Wanda's dead body anymore. But he needed to do something.
He didn't know what made him think of it. But the moment he did, he grabbed his helmet from where it had been hidden in the bottom drawer of the dresser, and immediately placed it on his head. He wasn't going to risk Charles finding out about what he was planning to do, if he happened to be paying attention.
Because Erik had just made a stunning realization. Charles wasn't the only telepath in the world. He wasn't even the only telepath in the building. There was another, just down the hall, in the form of a fiery-haired teenager.
She shouldn't do it. It was wrong. It was wrong for Erik—for Magneto—to even ask it of her. . . .
But it felt like he was dying. It felt like she was dying. Jean just wanted the thoughts to stop, or the feelings really, since grasping at any single thought of his was like trying to save a kite from a tornado.
And yet . . . the thoughts (or feelings) were all consuming. Suffocating.
If Jean could barely carry on like this, then how could Peter?
And it wasn't just his thoughts and feelings, it was everyone's. The anguish of everyone who cared about Wanda—Peter, Mila, Nina, Charles, Hank, Jubilee, Erik (and those were just the main ones)—was crushing. And then there was her own grief too. Because even though they hadn't known each other for very long, they were—they had been—friends, hadn't they? And she didn't have many of those, so to lose one . . .
It was all too much. The emotions threatened to pull her under into a dark abyss. To a place she hadn't been since her parents' death (murder). And if she fell into that place, her powers would be the only thing to pull her out of it, but in doing so, who knew how many others she'd throw into the dark on her way out?
This was the lesser risk; the only way forward.
Compared to what she was about to do, it was easy to get in Peter's room and get Alex to leave them alone together. She'd just told him that Erik had asked her to give him a break. She'd watch over Peter for a bit. It had taken a bit of coaxing, but in the end, Alex was exhausted and she'd convinced him that she was just as capable—if not more so given her powers—of looking after Peter.
But when Alex had left, Jean still stood there frozen, staring at Peter's sleeping form.
She was scared. Scared of herself. Scared for Peter. But she had to do this, and she had to act now because Peter's thoughts—even in sleep—were just as dark, if not darker, than the most terrifying corners of her own mind, and they were growing darker.
Jean could do this. She had to do this. If she was being honest with herself, maybe she would have done it even if Erik hadn't asked her too. But, maybe not, because the thought had not crossed her mind.
She had thought to leave. To run from this place and its desolation. To just escape it all. But where would she go? This place had been her home for too long now. There was no place to run. Her parents were long dead. Now, so was Wanda, and she didn't want Peter to join them.
Besides, even if she left, the grief—at least her own—and her propensity to self-destruct would only follow her.
And Peter's . . . well, it felt like there was no escaping his grief either.
No. This was better for both of them, for Erik too. As he had said, it wasn't for forever. Just for a little while. . . . She could do that, she . . . she had to believe that she could do that because—because . . . she'd already lost too many people, and it seemed, that so had Peter.
Jean refused to lose one more person, be it because of her action or inaction. She wasn't about to let the darkness take over her, and . . . she wouldn't let Peter's darkness take him either. Because life had taught Jean an important lesson long ago—even she wasn't powerful enough to bring back the dead.
Right, so as I said in the beginning note. I was disappointed with Dark Phoenix. Clearly, I was not consulted on the movie because there was zero dadneto content, and Quicksilver barely got any screen time, so that was a major missed opportunity in my opinion. Also, the trailer gave a lot away as far as a certain person's fate, which I knew going in, but still thought it was kind of an odd choice to put in the trailer. Also, It seemed like they put all of their money into the space/alien effects, so they didn't have the budget to do a big Quicksilver scene, but that's just my speculation. I will say that I didn't mind the action scenes, I guess. I kept thinking of the movie Train to Busan during the train scene, so that was unexpected. Anyway, I'll stop rambling now because, will I still go see the next X-Men movie that is inevitably made? Yes, I will. But maybe the next one will be better with the rights changing hands.
Chapter 26: Chapter 26
Full disclosure: some of the dialogue for this chapter comes from X-Men Apocalypse. Also, I'm sorry for the POV whiplash. I never really know whose POV I'm going to use until I start writing, and sometimes my muse makes me flip-flop a lot. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After asking what he did of her, Erik really should have gone with Jean to see Pietro or went and checked on Nina since he hadn't seen her since she ran to him in tears upon his return to the school, back in what he now knew was a blissful moment of ignorance before the reality of Wanda's death was revealed.
But he did neither of those things.
He could not stay here in this place where his children lay in despair or death . . . or somewhere in between the two. He needed to clear his head—clear it of the sadness and hopelessness that resided there like a guest who had long over stayed his welcome. Once he did that, then he could be strong for his children. Then he could figure out what do next; how to handle what life had thrown at them. But he couldn't do that here. Not when everything that had happened was so horrifyingly clear, yet had his mind in a fog.
So, Erik did what he does best.
He didn't have a plan as to where he was going. He just grabbed a motorcycle—that he presumed belonged to Alex—out of the garage and took off, barely remembering to open the gate at the edge of the grounds with his powers before he crashed into it.
When he eventually brought the motorcycle to a halt who knows how long later, he had little recollection of how he came to be where he was. And likewise, no recollection of coming to the decision to go there in the first place. And yet, there he was, on what had to be the same stretch of street where his daughter had lived out the last moments of her life.
Erik didn't bother to remove his helmet. There did not appear to be anyone around anyway. Maybe there were police watching the scene farther done the street, maybe not. Erik didn't particularly care either way. A large section of the block was roped off with police caution tape, and debris of all sorts cascaded across the street.
Erik stood there frozen for a few minutes. He wished he had the power to turn back the clock. Although the ability to control metal had served him well many times over the years, too many times he'd still been essentially powerless because he failed to save the ones he loved. Staring down the street, not really focusing on anything in particular, Erik felt as helpless as he had when he'd been just a boy—younger than his own son is now—trying and failing to move a coin with his mind to save his mother life.
Taking a deep breath in and holding it, Erik dropped his gaze to the ground and then closed his eyes. He could feel the tingle of metal all around, vibrating in contact with his will.
Metal. It was a constant presence in this manmade world. If he wanted to, he could reach out and lift a car, crumple a lamp post, topple a building . . . but none of it would bring Wanda back.
Erik exhaled, releasing his hold on his favored material as he did so. Still looking down, he opened his eyes and saw that a piece of paper had been blown up to his foot by the wind. A short distance away, there appeared to be a whole stack of the papers, as if some had been in the middle of dispersing them before being abruptly interrupted.
Without much thought, Erik bent down and picked up the paper, and then, his blood ran cold.
A double helix ran across one corner of the paper. And an image of a large faded X made up the background. But, it was not the images, but the text, of the flyer that sent Erik's hands shaking. The message was brief, just four simple words: "We Are The Future."
It was his message. His message from the speech he gave what felt like a lifetime ago on the White House lawn as he had shocked the world by unveiling the existence of mutants. And, more recently, it was what he had told the young mutant he met in an alley not too far from where he stood now. A mutant he had encouraged to hold a pro-mutant rally. . . . a rally at which Wanda had died.
And so, it all came back to Erik. At the very heart of it, he was the cause of Wanda's death. Even if the boy he'd talked to hadn't been the one to organize the rally, obviously some who had heard Erik's speech and been inspired by it had done so. Either way, it didn't really matter, Erik was still the source of Wanda's death, just as much as the bullet or the one who had fired the gun was.
He shouldn't be so shocked really. If you went back far enough, he was always the cause. The cause of the pain, suffering, and death of the ones he loved. He was the reason Wanda was dead. He was the reason Pietro had been kidnapped and tortured. He was the reason for the fire that had ultimately taken little Anya's life. He was the reason his mother had been murdered.
It all came back to him.
Erik tightened his hand into a fist, crumpling the paper as he did so, and then dropped it to the ground.
He had seen enough.
When this was all over, he knew what he would need to do.
Hank wasn't great with kids. And with grieving kids, he was about one-thousand times worse, so when Charles said—with or without Erik—it was time to look for Lorna, and in turn, find En Sabah Nur and stop him from enacting whatever world domination plan he most likely had in his back pocket, Hank was beyond grateful.
It wasn't that Hank wasn't affected by the kids' grief or wasn't grieving for Wanda himself. He was. Hank liked Wanda, as much as he could like any child/teenager. She was quick-witted. Sharp. Far more pleasant than Erik, and much less-headache inducing than Peter (or Erik for that matter). And far far too young to die. But Hank didn't know how to handle tears in any shape or form. He could deal with scraps, bruises, and broken bones. But he didn't know how to handle the deeper wounds—the ones that cut at the soul rather than the body.
Thus, Hank was . . . well not happy, but content to lead the adults to and explain his pride and joy—Cerebro.
"Moira, I'm going to have to ask you to keep this a secret." Said Charles, as Hank led the small group into Cerebro's inner sanctum and Moira looked around in awe.
Yea, or Charles could just wipe her memory like the last time.
Whoops, Hank silently hoped that Charles didn't catch that particular thought. But Hank thought he was safe. Anytime Charles was in the same room as Moira, his focus was fairly singular. But this time, Hank didn't actually think Moira was the reason Charles probably hadn't caught his stray thought. With Wanda's death so fresh in all their minds, it was more likely that everyone's grieving thoughts were bleeding into one another, bleeding into his mind. After all, Hank had seen what Charles was like a decade ago, at the height of the Vietnam War, when he took Hank's serum not simply to be able to walk again, but to be able to sleep. To quiet the voices, if only for a little while.
"I don't even know what this . . . is." Moira breathed out in shock, wrenching Hank back to the present.
"It's Cerebro. The new model." Said Raven pointedly as if that explained it all. It had probably slipped her mind that Charles had erased or at least suppressed Moira's memories, or maybe she was just tired too, not precisely in the same way Charles was, but in the way they all were tired. Tired of losing more friends. . .
Alex looked exhausted too. Hank knew he had been trying to catch a few minutes of rest before Hank had dragged him off the common room couch to join their foray at Charles' request. So much so, that Hank felt pretty bad about waking him up, especially because he was pretty sure that Alex had only just left Peter alone, probably—he assumed—after the boy had finally fallen asleep than facing any more of this day.
But no matter their individual reasons for exhaustion, further explanation would definitely be required in regard to Cerebro if they wanted to keep Moira in the loop.
To be honest though, Hank wasn't entirely sure they should do that. It had been ten years since they had seen her after all, and without her memories of their time together, could she truly be trusted?
Hank shut those thoughts down quickly, however, because he knew that when it came to Moira, Charles would only see good in her. He was annoying like that sometimes.
Kind of like in his dominating view of Erik.
But Hank wasn't about to launch into a lengthy explanation so instead, he simply agreed with Raven. "Yeah. I based the color on . . ."
"It doesn't matter." Hank finished quickly, hoping he wasn't blushing. God, ten years without seeing her, and it was like he was a love-sick teenager again. And he wouldn't even mind so much—or at all really—if Raven felt the same way, but clearly she did not. There was basically twenty years of mostly silence as evidence of that, plus the fact that she had a kid with Azazael, but that was a whole bag of cats Hank had no desire to unpack, and with the way she was tiptoeing around the boy, it seemed like Raven didn't want to either.
"What are those?" Moira asked, taking the attention off of Hank to his relief as he was sure he was about as red as a tomato at this point.
"Those are all the humans of the world. And these . . . are all the mutants." Said Charles as the vague shapes of people surrounding them switched from white to red. "I'm connected to all of their minds."
"The CIA would kill for this." Said Moira, and Hank could hear the slight desire in her voice. Perhaps Charles wasn't completely wrong to wipe her memory.
"I know they would. That's exactly why it's so important to keep it out of their hands, because the killing wouldn't stop once they secured it. . . . It would only get worse. Now. Where are you Lorna?"
Charles closed his eyes as he began searching through countless minds across the globe. It was incredible really, what Cerebro could do. Its power still awed him every time Charles used it, and Hank was the one who had created it.
"Lorna?" Charles asked after thirty seconds or so. For a moment, he thought that maybe he was mistaken and it wasn't her mind he felt. He couldn't detect anyone else, so maybe it wasn't her because as far as they knew, she was with En Sabah Nur, but then—
The question was almost timid (which was not something Charles ever really associated with Lorna), like she didn't think he cared enough to look for her. And not for the first time, Charles felt guilty for failing her. He had never truly been able to connect with Lorna. It hadn't taken him long to figure out that that was in part because she hadn't wanted a father figure, she'd just wanted her father.
But he had to try to connect with her now, for everyone's sake.
"Lorna, you need to come home."
Home? To Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters? That hasn't been my home for a long time, if it ever was. Let's not pretend otherwise.
And there was the Lorna he knew—the one who put up barriers just as strong as her father.
"Lorna, I'm sorry. I feel your pain—your hopelessness over losing a family member before you even got a chance to know her. But you still have family here. A family that wants to know you. Who wants you to come back, just as much as I do." Charles implored persistently.
You don't get it, do you? It—it doesn't matter that she was my sister. It matters that she was a mutant. She died—They—they killed her because when they look at us, all they see is someone—some thing that's different from them. That's abnormal. That needs to be extinguished. Well it's time we showed them that we're so much more than that. We're more than a threat even. We are the future. The only future. And you've never understood that.
"Lorna, please. You know that's not the way forward—"
No. That's not your way forward, Professor. I'm tired of tiptoeing on the edge of peaceful resistance and actual change. It's time to step over the line and show the world our power."
"Lorna, I know you think this is right. You think this is what your father wants. But he's not the same man that made that speech ten years ago. And he is so much more than what you've read about him in the history books. He doesn't want that anymore. He just wants his family to be safe. To be together."
There was a pause, and Charles allowed himself to hope that he was getting through to her.
Is . . . is he there with you?
The thought was timid again. The fear of rejection she had carried with her since childhood manifesting in full force. And Charles wished he could say yes, but Charles didn't know where Erik was right now. He knew he hadn't left the mansion because he didn't care about his children. His friend had just lost so much in his life that Charles couldn't blame him for taking a moment to try to gather himself before facing the children he still had again.
"No. Not at the moment, but—"
Then you don't know what he wants, do you?
Her abrasiveness was back.
I'm tired of talking. That's all you ever want to do. But wars aren't won with words.
As she finished her thought, Charles realized Lorna wasn't quite as alone as he had thought. And it was right about that same moment that everything went to shit.
It all happened so fast.
Charles was basically Jedi Mind Tricked, the world nearly went nuclear, Charles was kidnapped, Alex went full Havok, and for one second Hank was staring down death's door . . . and then suddenly . . . he wasn't.
Instead of being engulfed in a fireball, he stood on the front lawn feeling worse than that time he'd made the regrettable decision to eat gas station sushi, with the mansion exploding behind him.
And he wasn't alone.
The whole school seemed to be there with him, and everyone looked about how he felt. He didn't understand what had happened. How did they get outside? How were they alive? But then—
"Wow. That was crazy, man. Somebody didn't listen to their mom when she said not to play with fire."
And there stood his answer—in silver shoes, leather pants (leather? where did he even get those?), a too large Rush t-shirt, headphones, and sunglasses with a silver jacket tossed haphazardly on the ground beside him. As impossible as it seemed, Peter had saved them all.
"How . . . how did you? What—" Hank sputtered out.
"Get everyone out? It's kinda my thing man. Remember? I'mfast. That's literally the only reason I got to be a part of your whole boy band wannabe James Bond mission." Said Peter grinning nonchalantly.
And that grin was how Hank knew something was really wrong. How was Peter so cheerful? As if his sister hadn't just been killed. What happened to the inconsolable traumatized kid from earlier? The way Peter was acting reminded him of when they had first met, when the kid had seemed carefree and concerningly eager to break into a highly secure government facility. It was as if all of his grief was simply gone.
Hank didn't get a chance to reply or delve into Peter's sudden emotional transformation, however, because of two disruptions. First, Raven got her bearings about her and realized she was now sans clothes—which Hank would never get used to—and in her true form, which started a chain of chatter from the students who (despite being disoriented from what he was sure they didn't understand) were still excited at being in the presence of a mutant who most of them idolized or at least respected. But their excitement, and Hank's hope that maybe things weren't quite as bad as he had thought they were a few moments ago when staring at blaze of fire died quickly as Alex's little brother came running from across the grounds with Jubilee and Kurt not far behind and Jean rushed over from where she'd been with another group of kids.
"What happened? Where's Alex? Where's my brother?!"
Peter turned to Hank with a look that said, 'who the hell is he talking about?'—again very concerning—before shrugging, "I'm pretty sure I got everybody. Checked the loo and everything. And still had time for pizza. There were like two doors in that secret lair that I couldn't get into but it being a secret lair and all, I kinda figured not too many people hang around. Plus I looked in through the windows and didn't see anyone so . . . sure he isn't out here, man?"
Scott calmed a little at Peter's response, glancing around hopefully, and for a second Hank was hopeful too, but as he looked around, it became clear that Peter hadn't gotten everybody.
"Alex. He—he was closest to the blast . . ." Hank said when the realization could no longer be ignored.
For the first time in the short while they'd been outside, a flicker of emotion along the lines of what Hank expected Peter to be feeling appeared on the kid's face as it paled (further).
"I . . . I thought you were the closest . . ." Peter said softly to Hank, guilt clearly lacing his voice.
"No! No. No. No." Scott said a look of pure devastation on his face as he turned away from them both and began running forward toward the blast site. Jean followed him, and after a moment's hesitation, so did Kurt, though he chose not to use his powers to do so.
Hank wanted to stop them. Running into rubble of the school couldn't be safe. Or maybe he just wanted follow them. Alex might've been Scott's brother, but he was also Hank's friend. But honestly, what he really wanted was to collapse on the ground, close his eyes, and open them to find that this day hadn't happened. He'd just fallen asleep working late in the lab. That's all. With Wanda's death, Charles' kidnapping, now Alex's death, and still the problem of Apocalypse, well it was more than Hank wanted to deal with. But someone had to be the adult and take charge, and with Moira out of her element, Raven looking like she wished all the kids would stop staring at her, and another teacher looking like she was about to be sick, well that pretty much left him.
"Okay. Kids, let's everyone move—" but once again, Hank didn't get to finish his thought as the grounds were suddenly disrupted with helicopters blasting an announcement that "Medical assistance is on its way." and "Please remain calm." Which to be perfectly honest, did not make Hank feel calm at all because no way an emergency medical crew had responded to the blast that quickly. And these helicopters didn't look like they belonged to the Red Cross or some organization like that. They looked military.
As they landed and men in what looked like combat suits exited, Hank felt his blood pressure rise. But as Moira stepped forward to greet them, Hank cooled a little. She didn't have her memories, sure, but Moira was still on their side for now. Maybe she could talk some sense into whoever these people were and keep things from escalating.
"Hey! Moira MacTaggert, CIA! Thank God you're here."
Okay maybe she wouldn't be that helpful, because Hank didn't see how at best soldiers, or at worst potentially trigger happy highly trained civilians, were needed at the moment.
Hank squinted at the last figure emerging from the helicopter, wishing he had his glasses so he could see better, when he heard Raven shout from behind him, and then everything went black.
As the helicopters landed, Jean, Scott, and Kurt hurried to hide behind the remains of a wall. There were too many people and too many anxious thoughts whirling around for Jean to pick up anything specific from the new arrivals, but something in her gut told her they should be cautious.
When moments later, a man shouted 'fire' and everyone in the open dropped to the ground, Jean knew they had made the right choice.
Next to her, Kurt and Scott's frightened thoughts bled into her mind, amplifying her own fear. She should do something. Try to stop them. She was powerful enough. She could do it.
But what if she couldn't?
Or what if she used too much power and damaged someone's mind beyond repair. These men were clearly not good people, but even so, she didn't want to accidentally kill someone. And after her voyage into Peter's mind, she felt drained and weak. And she didn't even know how that had gone exactly. Apparently not too terribly since Peter must've been the one to rescue them all from the explosion, but it was still too soon to know for sure.
Her self-doubt left her paralyzed, as did Scott's tight grip on her arm.
Using what control she could muster, Jean focused in on the voice of the man who looked to be in charge.
"I want her." He said pointing to the woman Jean knew worked for the CIA due to her (inadvertent) eavesdropping. "Him." A nod at Professor McCoy. "And her." He finished standing over Mystique.
At the man's command, everyone else jumped to attention, strapping the trio onto stretchers and preparing to load them into a helicopter. As they finished the man sauntered casually back toward the chopper, stepping over kids like they were cracks in a sidewalk.
"Leave the kids. Can't be too bold. Some of them might actually be missed if they were to disappear." He said as he reached the outer edge of the collapsed students, but then, just before reaching the spot where Professor McCoy had fallen he paused as something caught his eye.
"Impossible." He breathed out looking down, and as Jean followed his gaze, she realized he was staring at Peter who had fallen onto his stomach with his face turned toward Jean.
The man lowered himself into a crouch, and then—none too gently—rolled Peter over onto his back. "It is him." The man said in such a way that sent a shiver up Jean's spine.
"Boys." He said clapping his hands together. "Take this one too." And as the men quickly obliged, the man's face broke out into a grin, and he announced to no one in particular, "It might be a good day after all, men."
So basically my theory for why Jean didn't attempt to stop Stryker and his cronies in Apocalypse was because she didn't feel like she had adequate control over her powers yet or just wasn't confident enough in herself to use them, so that's pretty much what I'm going with here. Also, since it might not be obvious, Jean, Kurt, Scott, and Jubilee didn't go to the mall in this story because with Wanda dying that wouldn't make sense. So we'll just pretend they were all chilling outside (minus Jean who was with Peter for the most part), and Kurt borrowed his clothes from someone at the school. Am I oversharing my thought process? Probably.
Chapter 27: Chapter 27
"Ow. That was unpleasant." - a summary of this chapter or Peter's life? . . . maybe both?
I don't strictly follow it because that would be boring, but just FYI there is dialogue from the Apocalypse movie used in this chapter again. Also, some of Stryker's dialogue is inspired from X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Raven woke up, she had a splitting headache. It felt like someone had whacked her in the head with a shovel. Either that, or she had one hell of a killer hang over.
Both scenarios were equally likely.
Raven rolled over, opening her eyes as she did so, and then . . . it all came rushing back. With hardly a thought, Raven reverted to her blond haired, blue-eyed counterpart, as if dawning armor. Carefully, without sitting up, Raven took in her surroundings. She was in a small octangular room, lit up with green tinted lights.
And she wasn't alone.
Moira was curled up off to her right, Hank was across from her on the other side of the room, and between them all—Erik's kid—Peter, lay sprawled out on his back like he was about to make a snow angel.
Raven would have liked a little more time to assess their predicament incognito, but moments later the others began to stir, and when Peter jumped to his feet, letting out a yelp as he did so, she knew the time for undetected surveillance had passed. But there wasn't much to see in their small room anyway, and at least their reactions solidified the fact that no one here was dead, so that was a plus. Because, knowing who their captor was, well, it was surprisingly good fortune for them to all be alive. She just hoped they would stay that way.
"What!?" Moira responded to Peter's shout with equal alarm, rising quickly to her feet.
"What's wrong with you?! Is that going to happen to all of us?!" asked Peter, his voice squeaking on the last word in the way typical of teenage boys as he jumped back away from Hank while gawking at the man who simply looked at his hands with undisguised disinterest.
Hank—rather good humouredly Raven thought given the circumstances and his previous insecurities about his appearance—just rolled his eyes and waved a dismissive hand at the kid as he rose to his feet as well, struggling a little (or more like a lot) more than Peter had.
"No. I just don't have my meds on me." Said Hank unconcerned.
"You can take medication to look normal?" asked Peter, sounding rather awed and a little too curious, and stepping cautiously back toward Hank again.
Hank was saved from responding, however, when a cold voice from above interrupted them.
"Stryker." Raven replied, not hiding her disgust as she stepped closer to where he was observing them from above.
"You'll address me as Colonel Stryker, Mystique." Answered Stryker smugly.
"Oh boy, did you get a promotion for experimenting on mutants, Colonel?" Raven sneered back.
"Call it what you will. I call it protecting my country. If you're curious as to what that entails, why don't you ask the little mutant spawn over there. I'm sure he can attest to some of the hard work that led to my promotion." Stryker finished, his gaze leaving Raven to stare at Peter rather greedily.
When Stryker's gaze shifted, Peter glanced behind him, eyebrows drawn together in confusion, as if he expected someone else to be behind him. "Wait. Me?" he asked pointing at his chest with one finger. "Uh, I'd just like to go on record that I do not know this man. We are not friends nor associates. I'll admit to stealing food, a few electronics, maybe the occasional street sign, but kidnapping people is where I draw the line . . . just so we're all clear on that."
Raven glanced around the room. Peter seemed legitimately worried that they would think he had any connection to Stryker or be responsible for their predicament in some way. Moira just looked like she was appalled that they were being treated this way. Hank looked more than mildly concerned by Peter's response, and honestly, Stryker looked confused as well.
"Huh, it seems as though I haven't been the only one experimenting on the boy. But that's fine. We can make new memories together, seven-one-three, ones I'll be sure to share with your father if the opportunity presents itself."
Peter shifted closer to Raven and whispered, "Dude, I think this guy's on crack." Then loudly to Stryker, "Jokes on you, man. I don't have a father. Well, okay I do, in the sense that obviously someone did the" Peter paused to make a crude motion with his hands "with my mom or I wouldn't be here, but the guy split not long after that, so . . ."
"Look—" Raven started deciding it was time to jump in and that she would have to sift through that entire exchange later, but Moira beat her to the punch when it came to firing back at Stryker.
"Colonel, I am Moira MacTaggert. I'm a senior officer at the CIA. You cannot keep us—"
"I know who you are, agent MacTaggert." Stryker said cutting her off. "And I'll think you'll find that, actually, I can and will keep you here for the foreseeable future. A psychic event just destroyed every nuke from here to Moscow. That event emanated from exactly where we found you. At the home of the world's most powerful psychic. So, one of you, and I don't particularly care which one, is going to tell me—where is Charles Xavier?"
"We don't know!" answered Moira. "And it's not him that you should be worried about! You need to be worried about the person that took him, someone even more powerful than him, whose intentions are a far cry from those of the benevolent Professor Xavier's."
"Do you really expect me to believe any of that? Charles Xavier has been involved in major near-catastrophes in the past. This is no different. And we know all about your previous association with the man. Of course you would try to make excuses for him." Stryker nearly spat out the words, so much so that Raven wouldn't have been surprised if they had to clean the glass in front of him when he was done with his little rant.
"What are you talking about?!" Moira practically yelled, clearly frustrated and not used to things being so far from professional, or more likely, she wasn't used to being treated like she was lesser—like she was a mutant. "Let us out so we can help you!"
"That's not going to happen." Said Raven steadily.
"Wow. Finally, we can agree on something." Replied Stryker with a grin. "Now, I'll give you all a little time to turn over your friend's location, while I attend to some other matters, but if you are still uncooperative when I return, I think you'll find me a lot less civil."
Suddenly, there was a high-pitched shout behind her, and Raven turned just in time to see sparks and Peter fly backward away from the wall, landing hard on his back. Moira and Hank rushed to his side to make sure he was okay, but mercifully, he sat up on his own, though his hair was sticking up a little straighter than it had been a minute ago.
"Ow. That was unpleasant." Said Peter sucking on two of his fingers, presumably the ones that he had used to touch the evidently electrified wall.
"Oh yes. I forgot to mention. I wouldn't get too close to the wall if I were you. It may create some . . . discomfort." Said Stryker, once again watching Peter with a predatory gaze.
"Yea, no shit Sherlock." Said Peter, but the retort didn't have much bite, considering it came from a boy who was still sitting on the ground, looking like a little kid who had just taken a tumble off a bicycle after removing the training wheels too soon.
"Oh, Peter." Said Stryker, smiling in a very disconcerting way, "I don't know where your father— or whoever else—has been hiding you, or how you seemed not to have aged a day, but I am very interested in finding out. I've missed our time together . . . but not your chatter. But no matter. That can be corrected . . . again. After all, you weren't too talkative when we parted ways the last time, were you?"
Peter just looked from Raven to Hank to Moira and then to the entire room, rather than just Raven this time, he said, "Crack, right? I'm really starting to get why they say don't do drugs. If schools just dragged this guy around and let him give his crazy spiel, I bet kids would be flushing their drugs down the toilet faster than even I can blink."
Surprisingly Stryker chuckled. "Peter, Peter, Peter. I'm going to give you a pass this time, since you seem to really not remember how things work around here, but if you keep running your mouth—as you're prone to do—you will not like the consequences . . . and I expect all of you to keep that in mind and decide who wants to have a nice calm chat with me and answer all my questions when I return. Otherwise . . . I think Peter and I will spend some time alone catching up, and when I return him to you, perhaps you will all be more willing to disclose Charles Xavier's secrets."
And with that and another evil grin, Stryker stepped away from the window and out of sight.
When it was clear that he wasn't immediately returning, Raven turned back to her companions, or . . . fellow prisoners.
"Are you okay, hon?" Moira asked Peter. He was still sitting on the ground between her and Hank, looking a little disoriented and shaking out his hand a bit.
"What? Oh yea, I'm fine." He said plastering a grin on his face before zooming away from them and back on his feet on the other side of the room. "I'm just . . . a little toasty now. It's all good. . . . I mean, other than the fact that we've been kidnapped by an evil G.I. Joe, who knows my name, and thinks we have some extensive relationship. But yea, other than that, couldn't be better!"
Raven was confused, and that was not a feeling she liked to have. Clearly Stryker had encountered Erik's kid before, and it had not been a pleasant experience, but why didn't Peter remember? And why was he acting like he had no recollection of the fact that his sister had just died?
With no plan of how they were going to get out of here, and with nothing else to do, Raven turned to Hank and asked him the question on her mind, gesturing to Peter as she did so. "Okay, what's wrong with him?"
"Um rude. I'm standing right here." Said Peter actually looking a little hurt. "You can't just ask what's wrong with people, at least not while you're in the same room—or cage—as them. Unless you're referring to the electrical display I was involved in a second ago? If so, you missed out because, yea it hurt like a motherfu—trucker, but I bet it looked pretty dope. Sparks flew and everything."
"Just . . . give us a moment, Peter." Said Hank, pulling Raven across the room by her elbow until they were as far away from the boy as possible given the small space.
"Okay, spaceman." Peter replied seemingly unconcerned. "I'm just going to look for weak spots in the wiring. Don't worry. I won't touch anything this time."
Hank gave Peter a strained smile before turning his attention on Raven.
"Okay. Really, what is up with him?!" Raven whisper-yelled. "His sister just died, and he seems entirely unconcerned, which is in stark contrast to his reaction earlier today. And Stryker apparently knows him, but the kid, has no recollection of them ever meeting? Did . . . did Charles do something to him?"
Hank wiped a hand across his brow. "I don't know, Raven. I don't know when Charles would've had time to wipe his memory. His time has been entirely occupied since Wanda's death, but clearly something has happened to his memory."
"So . . . does—has he actually met Stryker before?" Raven asked a bit afraid of the answer, but already pretty sure what it would be.
Hank looked pained, "Yes. Stryker held him captive and essentially tortured him for over three months." Then as if in an afterthought. "Alex too."
Raven, taking in Peter with new eyes, looked over at the boy. Moira was currently fussing over him, trying to look at the hand he had burnt. He looked uncomfortable with the attention and kept squirming away. In contrast, Moira looked entirely at ease, like a natural caretaker, which was surprising until she remembered that Alex had mentioned that Moira had a kid now too. A son. She wondered how Charles had taken that. Maybe slightly better than she had taken the news that Erik had kids. Speaking of Erik, Raven wondered how Stryker was still breathing, if he had imprisoned and experimented on the kid, given that Erik was his father. Maybe Erik didn't know.
"It was a long time ago." Hank continued. "Well, a long time ago for most of us, not so long ago for Peter."
"What does that mean?" asked Raven more confused than ever.
"It's . . . a long story, but Wanda's powers were unpredictable at best, and well, I still don't understand it, but essentially, she, Erik, and Peter universe-hopped when we finally found Peter and were trying to rescue him. And I guess they managed to get back to our universe after a month or so, but here ten years had passed." Hank said matter-of-factly, as if traveling across universes or time-traveling were to be expected in their line of work, and well, maybe they should be but Raven was not equipped to handle that flood of information at the moment.
Raven gaped at Hank unable to form a response to that revelation. She needn't have though because Hank offered no further comment and the conversation ended with a defiant statement from Peter across the room.
"Look lady, I'm fine. I appreciate the concern, but please stop with the mothering. Let's put our brain power to better use than my scrapes and bruises, like finding a way out of here before that psycho comes back."
"If you would just let me take a look at it—" Moira started.
"He's fine, Moira." Said Hank coming over.
"But—He won't let me look at it properly, and children sometimes try to minimize the extent of their injuries." said Moira in concern, as Peter frowned, apparently annoyed at being lumped under the 'children' classification.
"I took a look at it right after." Said Hank "Really, he's fine. It'll be a little sensitive for a while, but it's not too bad. And he heals fast."
"Yea! See. I'm fit as a fiddle. Thanks doc!" said Peter, quickly—or quickly for a normal person—backing away from Moira like she might try to kiss his injury or something similarly mortifying.
Moira looked unconvinced but didn't push it.
"Kid's right though. We should try to get out of here." Said Raven.
"Hmm, what? Yea, I'm right. Of course I'm right." Said Peter proudly with his hands on his hips, mimicking a heroic pose.
And so, they set to work.
Some thirty minutes later, they still hadn't made any progress. No one had found any weaknesses in the electrical field, despite throwing whatever random objects they had in their pockets at it, which wasn't much more than a coin or two, and no amount of force was able to break the floor beneath them, even under Hank's superior strength.
They were all sitting on the ground, a little out of breath after their last attempt to get through the flooring, which had involved Hank smashing his fists against the ground at the same time Peter landed on the floor after trying to jump against it from as much super speed as he could build up in a small space. But like their other attempts, that had also been unsuccessful.
Now, they all sat in a circle, looking defeated, as they took a moment to try to think of another way out.
Since she was fresh out of ideas, Raven took the time to study Peter again. He was holding his arms out in front of him, palms up, studying his forearms intently. Curious, Raven slid a little closer to the boy to see what he was so focused on. She didn't have to get very close to see what had the boy looking so puzzled.
On one arm in black ink was the number 713 with the word 'mutant' above it, and on the other, there was a raised scar in the form of an X that looked like it had at one time been burned into the boy.
Peter ran one thumb over it, and though it looked old enough that Raven didn't think it would hurt him anymore, he still winced, and involuntarily, Raven felt herself do the same.
Regretting what she was about to do, even before she spoke because Raven was not one for heart-to-hearts, she cleared her throat and said quietly to the boy, "Hey, you still okay?"
Peter looked up at her, still looking shaken, but he quickly smiled and gave her a thumbs up. "Yea—yea. I'm good. Still good."
"You know, it's okay if you're not." Raven paused, considering. "I'm definitely not okay. I tend to take offense to people locking me up."
Peter sniggered. "Ha, yea this isn't exactly how I would choose to spend my time. Granted, I probably should be locked up for some of the things I've done, but I've seen enough cop shows to know that they're supposed to give you a phone call, and well, I don't think that's happening any time soon."
"No, I don't think so either." Raven agreed, intently watching the boy who had gone back to staring at his forearms again.
"Do they hurt?" Raven asked finally after a few more seconds of silence.
"What?" asked Peter sounding a little baffled. It seemed to Raven that he wasn't really aware how intensely he was examining the marks.
Raven nodded at the tattoos and the brand, "Do those hurt? If they're bothering you, maybe you should let Hank look at them. I don't know how much he can do here, but . . ." Raven shrugged.
"Oh. No, they—they don't hurt, I just . . ." Peter ran one hand over the brand again and for one terrifying moment, Raven thought he might cry, but thankfully, he didn't. "Ijustdon'trememberhowIgotthemandI'mstartingtofreakoutaboutitabit."
It took a second for Raven to comprehend what he had said, but when she did, she didn't know what to say in response. But Peter went on before she could say anything.
"And—and that Stryker guy, he called me seven-one-three. That's what this says" said Peter holding up the arm with 'mutant' and 713 written on it. "So like, did he do this to me? Did I hit my head or something so that's why I don't remember? And like, how long ago did this happen, because it's not exactly super fresh? And—and come to think of it, I don't remember how I got to that school we were at. I just remember going to bed after watching that crazy showdown at the Whitehouse with you and Magnets and getting the scariest lecture I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing from my aunt about the danger of helping strangers with a prison break and then being grounded indefinitely. So, yea, I think—maybeIbitoffmorethanIcouldchew, andI'mjustkindaregrettingmylifechoicesrightnow."
Peter hugged himself and looked away from her embarrassed by his outburst, although Raven thought it was pretty well justified.
Should she tell him what Hank had told her? Or should she keep it somewhat simpler and say that someone had probably tampered with his memory? But, Raven was again saved from replying when Charles' voice suddenly echoed in all of their heads. Immediately, they all jumped to their feet, listening intently to Charles talk about creating a new era, and sounding very un-Charles like until the last line about protecting those without power.
Almost as soon as Charles' message to the world ended, Stryker's face appeared at the window above them again, his expression more sour than before.
"I know that was Xavier's voice!" Stryker yelled down at them. "What's going on? Tell me!"
"We don't know!" Raven yelled back at the same time Peter retorted "We don't know, bro!"
Raven was starting to think that the kid might have a similar defense mechanism as her—that is, using sarcasm to shield his fear.
"I don't believe that for a second." Said Stryker, before he turned to address a soldier next to him, "Private, knock them out, and bring me the boy."
"What?!" Peter squeaked out beside Raven. "How 'bout we don't do that! The boy's good right here, man!"
They looked at each other helplessly, waiting for an inevitable cloud of gas to filter into the room or another force like what had emanated from the soldiers' guns back at the school to appear. But before the soldier took any action in response to Stryker's command, the sound of gunfire could be heard off in the distance, and everyone, including Stryker jumped.
Stryker cut the intercom to them, so Raven and the others could no longer hear what was being said above, but they all watched on high-alert as the soldiers and Stryker scrambled out of sight.
The four prisoners stood tensely as the sound of gunfire grew closer until it sounded
as though it were just outside of their holding cell.
With little else she could do, Raven forced Peter against the wall under the window thinking that would be the safest place, if bullets started spilling into the room. Surprisingly, Peter didn't resist as Raven put an arm out in front of him to keep him back, as she hoped with all her might that the gun shots meant someone was coming to get them out of here . . . and not to kill them along with everyone else in this place.
We should see what Erik's up to in the next chapter, so you can look forward to that. Also, Peter purposely called Erik 'Magnets.' That wasn't a typo.
Chapter 28: Chapter 28
Erik asks a lot of questions and doesn't much like the answers.
Hello world! Me again. This turned out to be a pretty long chapter . . . for me at least. Some of the dialogue is directly from the movie again, so reminder that like the rest of X-men that doesn't belong to me.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Erik wasn't ready to face reality or his children yet, but he accepted that it was time to do so anyway. Now that Pietro wouldn't be an immediate threat to himself, he could compartmentalize his grief by concentrating on other tasks.
First, he had to enlist Charles' help to find out where Lorna was, remove her from harm's way by any means necessary—even if that meant somehow stopping a 5000-year-old being—gather his remaining children, and . . . say goodbye to Wanda for the last time.
Erik once again drove the motorcycle essentially on autopilot back to the mansion, but this time he actually focused on his thoughts, not on Wanda—he couldn't do that yet—but rather, on Lorna. What would he say to his daughter when they finally met? How could he look another one of his children in the eyes and face all the pain that had been placed there solely because they had the unfortunate luck of having him as a father?
What was there to say, when all that being Erik's child brought anyone was an early demise.
Erik drove back through the front gates of the school grounds. They flew open with a stray thought and closed again just as quickly behind him.
For a moment, as he looked across the yard, Erik couldn't comprehend what he was seeing, but it didn't take long for it to become clear.
The mansion was obliterated, and there were kids lying, unmoving on the ground all around, for all intents and purposes—dead to the world.
"No." Erik breathed out, literally flying off of the motorcycle, landing ungracefully on his knees in the grass before scrambling back to his feet, the motorcycle tipping over behind him, forgotten.
He rushed forward, scanning the faces of the still forms as he did so. Not quite yet sure—with their fate unclear—whether he wanted his children to be among them or not.
He recognized most of the fallen, if not by name, then by face. There was the girl that Pietro definitely had a crush on (Julie? No, Jubilee), a teacher that Erik actively avoided because he was almost certain that she had a crush on him, but where . . .
There—Nina lay on her side on the ground and, like all the others, she was motionless.
"Nina." Erik stumbled forward, jumping over another kid to get to her and landing in a heap beside her. "Nina? Nina!"
Erik gathered Nina in his arms, her small form easily fitting between his arms, but even when he lifted her, she remained lifeless.
"No. Please, please, please! Not my baby!"
Erik pressed his forehead to his daughter's as he rocked her back and forth. "Please not my baby . . . " Tears began to prickle in his eyes, but then . . . he felt it—her warm breath on his skin.
"N—Nina?" Erik lowered his little girl gently away from his face, so that her head rested in the crook of one arm, and, with his other shaking hand, he reached out and placed his palm mere centimeters from her face and . . . and he felt it again. She was breathing. Just to be sure, Erik quickly rested two fingers against the side of her small neck, and yes, there! A pulse! Strong and steady.
Wiping his eyes with his sleeve, Erik hugged Nina to his chest once more, this time in relief. She wasn't dead. He didn't know what had happened here, but she was still alive.
But that did little to quell his fear, because as he took his eyes off Nina to look around once more, it became clear that his other 'baby'—his Pietro—was not among the sleeping forms. And though he spotted Mila amidst the crowd, it didn't escape his notice that neither were Raven and her son, Hank, Alex, Moira, Jean, or Charles present—nearly all of the other people Erik cared about in this world were missing.
Rising to his feet, still holding Nina is his arms close to his chest, Erik took one more desperate look around. "Pietro! Charles!" Erik called out for his child and his friend, even though he knew in his gut that they weren't about to appear out of thin air.
Erik stepped over another teenager and nearly slipped back to his knees. When he realized what it was that had caused him to stumble, his panic only rose.
It was a silver leather jacket. Pietro's jacket.
Careful not to jostle his daughter, Erik dropped to his knees again and grabbed the article of clothing rather desperately. He knew his son hadn't been wearing it when he'd left, but there had to be a reason it was out here. At the very least, it had to mean his son wasn't among the wreckage that once was Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, because that was something Erik could not face.
"PIETRO!" Erik called again, clutching his daughter in one arm and the jacket in the other, but of course, once again, no one answered.
That is, until someone did.
Erik thought he had imagined it at first, in his frantic state, with everything that had already happened, it was not inconceivable for his mind to be playing tricks on him.
But then, it came again.
" — 'elp!"
And this time, now that Erik was truly paying attention, it was a little more obvious where it was coming from—the rubble.
Erik stood once more, this time with both Nina and the jacket in his arms, unwilling to leave either behind, and he headed toward what was left of the school.
He approached the wreckage wordlessly, partly because he preferred that whoever the voice belonged to would not be aware of Erik's approach until he decided to make his presence known and partly because he was having a difficult time reconciling the fact that wherever Pietro was, Wanda's body—or whatever remained of it—was likely among the remnants of the school, forever lost.
Erik swallowed a lump in his throat and forced himself forward, honing in on the fact that although she was unconscious, his youngest was still securely in his arms.
He stopped just past what was once the front wall of the school, unsure if the remaining foundation would hold him, and with Nina in his arms, he wasn't about to take the risk that it would fail.
So he simply listened, and lo and behold, the voice came again from somewhere ahead and beneath the rubble.
" —ello?!" It was louder this time due to Erik's proximity to the destruction, and this time, he was almost certain he recognized who it belonged to. He was sure enough that he stepped back before the front wall of the school and, with the utmost care, laid Nina down gently beside it, and—because he knew he wouldn't mind—Erik placed Pietro's treasured jacket beneath her head as a pillow.
Then, as swiftly as ever, Erik used the power of Earth's magnetic field to propel himself forward where he landed on the remnants of what might have been a support beam. As he did so, the voice—which emanated from just in front of him beneath the ground—spoke once more, clearer than it had yet been, but more desperate than before.
" 'nyone there! Can you 'ear me?! Oh god. I killed them! I killed all of them! I—I—"
The voice trailed off into a fit of what might have been coughs or maybe sobs. But now, Erik was fairly sure he knew to whom the voice belonged.
"Alex?" Erik called out hesitantly.
Immediately, the coughing (crying?) ceased.
"Erik? Is that you?" the voice questioned equally hesitant, but Erik no longer was.
Honing in on the metal scraps scattered about, Erik swiftly removed layers of debris. He was able to move the majority of the materials with his powers, mostly thanks to nails and other metal remnants within wooden structure, but he moved the final board with his bare hands, relishing the feel of manual labor to distract him from his unseen pain.
And when he tossed the board aside, there—in a small crater within the earth—sat Alex, disheveled, red-eyed, covered in grime, and . . . nearly naked. It would be funny, really, if it were any other time.
Alex brightened immediately upon seeing who his rescuer was, which really spoke to the severity of the situation.
"Erik!" said Alex as he scrambled out from beneath the rubble with a helping hand from Erik, looking even more relieved to see him once he was out of the pit.
"You're alive! I didn't kill you!" Alex added as he struggled to his feet, reaching out to Erik in relief.
"Don't you dare try to hug me right now." Erik said pointedly taking a step back.
Alex looked down at himself, seeming to realize for the first time that his clothes were in tatters. His shirt and what might've once been a jacket was pretty much nonexistent. Fortunately his boxers were hanging on by a thread.
"Right, sorry." Said Alex lowering his hands to his side. "Fuck that hurt. I feel like I stared into the sun for too long except my whole body is my eyes." Then, he seemed to notice Nina and all of the other kids farther off laying on the grass. "Oh thank god. I thought I killed everyone—wait. Are they okay?"
"I think so, but I'm not sure. They won't wake up." Erik replied. "And, I—I can't find Pietro."
Alex face darkened at that, and Erik had to look away to keep his composure. He knew Alex cared about Pietro too, so it was difficult to see his own worry mirrored on Alex's face. And then it struck him—he'd forgotten because they hadn't really interacted, but he didn't recall seeing Alex's younger brother among the sleeping crowd either.
"Raven, Hank, Charles, Jean, Kurt, and Moira are missing too. And . . . I didn't see your brother either." He paused again as Alex absorbed his words.
"Okay. Okay. At least some of those kids had to have been inside the school." Said Alex gesturing at the 'sleeping' students. "So, so Peter, Scott, and—and the others are fine. They have to be fine. I can't have—I can't—"
The younger man looked like he was on the verge of a panic attack, but fortunately, he seemed to realize that wouldn't be helpful and managed to get his emotions under control, which was good because Erik couldn't wait long for Alex to process everything. Erik needed his own answers, and he needed them now. "Alex, what the hell happened here?"
Alex looked at the wreckage around them, and then with some difficulty he returned his gaze to Erik grim-faced. "I did."
"Care to elaborate?"
"I—there was—I fucked up. That's what happened." Alex rubbed one dirty hand over his face before he took a breath and explained, as quickly as possible, everything that had happened from when Charles had contacted Lorna to when he had fired at En Sabah Nur and ended up hitting Hank's engine.
"But—how are you alive? What happened to everyone? Where's my son?!" Erik's frustration bubbled over. Unsure what to do, he was taking his fear out on the closest outlet, which happened to be Alex.
"I don't know, Erik, alright! I mean, I think I know how I survived. My powers obviously had to have something to do it. Maybe they created a forcefield around me, or maybe I'm just heat resistant, I don't know! I've never willingly thrown myself into an explosion before! And in case you've forgotten, I've been buried under the ground for the past 'who knows how long,' so I don't know what happened to everyone?! What I do know, is that I want to find Pete, my little brother, and everybody just as much as you do! And what about you, Erik, huh?! Where've you been that you missed everything that happened here?"
"I—I went for a drive." Erik replied ashamed. "I just—I needed—I couldn't . . . " He couldn't continue, for out loud, any reason he had before sounded ridiculously selfish now. The metal around them rumbled for a moment in response to Erik's despair before he was able to get it under control.
Surprisingly, Alex's face actually softened at Erik's reply. "Hey, it's . . . it's okay, man. I didn't mean to accuse you of anything, Erik. You just . . . you lost your daughter. I don't get how that feels, obviously, but you needed a moment to get your own shit together before you could help Peter and Nina. I do get that. And, as much as you try to convince everyone otherwise, no one actually thinks you are immune to normal human emotions, Erik. So let's stop arguing and work to figure this all out together, but first, if it's all the same to you, I could use some pants. Luckily, I keep a spare pair of clothes in my truck. Could you . . . ?" Alex asked pointing to where the vehicle was parked. It was far enough away that the explosion hadn't bothered it, so having Erik retrieve it would save them a bit of time, not that they knew what to do next anyway.
Erik obliged, grateful to have something to direct his energy to again. As the truck landed in front of the explosion site—perhaps a little more roughly than necessary—Alex went to retrieve his clothing, while Erik tended to Nina.
He checked her pulse and breathing again. And when he was satisfied that it remained unchanged, Erik picked up his daughter once more, and headed over to Alex who was just throwing a shirt over his head.
"She still . . . the same?" asked Alex warily heading back over, now fully clothed.
Erik nodded and looked down at his daughter's currently impassive face, but then—Erik's heart leapt as her face scrunched up and her eyelids began to flutter.
Almost instantaneously, Erik dropped to his knees for what felt like the hundredth time that day. "Nina! Nina my darling. Wake up." Erik pleaded with his little girl again as he brushed her hair out of her face with one hand.
"What!? What is it?" asked Alex rushing over. "Is she okay?"
"I—I think so. Nina?" Erik prodded his daughter more gently, squeezing her hand. "Nina . . ."
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, Nina's eyelids fluttered open to reveal her beautiful brown eyes.
"Papa?" Nina asked, her voice quiet and uncertain.
"Yes, baby. I'm here. Papa's here." Replied Erik brushing her hair back again.
Then, as some of the weariness left her eyes, Nina exclaimed, "Papa!"
And, despite everything, though tears prickled at the corner of his eyes, Erik smiled down at his daughter, before hugging her to his chest and rocking her in his arms. "You're okay, Nina. You're safe." Erik said, both to reassure himself and Nina, who had started to cry into his shirt.
"Uh, Erik." Alex said tapping him on the shoulder with the back of one hand.
"What?" said Erik annoyed, could he not have one moment just to revel in the fact that one of his children was okay? Alive and whole in his arms. But, despite his annoyance Erik looked up at Alex and then over to where he was pointing—across the yard, the other kids were also beginning to stir.
Standing up, while hiking Nina on his hip, the two men headed over to the crowd, making a beeline to Mila, since he knew her best given their history and the fact that the people they cared about the most in the world happened to be the same.
"Erik!?" the girl answered back as she sat up. Erik wasn't even the least bit worried about the fact that she had called him Erik rather than Henryk. Everyone that had been unconscious was still groggily adjusting to the waking world anyway, and honestly, they had much bigger things to worry about than keeping his identity a secret.
"Mila, what happened?" and boy, wasn't Erik tired of asking that question already, but he was at least glad that he could question Mila rather than resorting to interrogating his distraught little girl.
"Th—there was this explosion—I don't know what from—but all of a sudden we were all out on the lawn and the school was destroyed. I think Pietro must have saved us all—oh my god, where's Pietro? Peter?!" Called Mila looking around in a panic.
"Jeez, thank god for him. That kid continues to be impressive." Said Alex as he once again surveyed the scene.
Erik had to agree. He already knew his son's powers—and just Pietro in general—were remarkable but Pietro having the ability to rescue dozens of people from an explosion in what had to be a matter of a second or less was beyond even Erik's wildest imaginings. But the fact was that that didn't explain where he and the others were now or what had happened to knock all of the other kids unconscious.
"I can't find him. Charles, Jean, and a few others are missing too. You—you don't know where he is either?" asked Erik trying desperately to remain calm, if only for Nina's sake who had her arms wrapped tightly around his neck, as if she were afraid that he too would disappear.
"They took him." A voice said behind them, and they all turned to find Jubilee standing there. "Or they must have. Him and the others."
"Who? Who took him?!" asked Erik so intensely that Jubilee took a step back.
"I—I don't know exactly." Jubilee stuttered out, clearly intimated by the ferocity of Erik's desperation. "They looked like they were with the military. They just showed up in a helicopter with odd looking guns, kept playing an announcement that medical assistance was coming, and then barely seconds after they arrived, someone shouted 'fire' and well, that's the last thing I remember . . . "
"Just like the scuba men . . . " said Mila barely above a whisper, and more to herself than anyone else.
Erik whirled back around to face her. "What?"
"They—that's who they reminded me of. The men who took Pietro in '73. Remember, I called them scuba men back then? That's—I think that's who it was." Said Mila shakily.
"Stryker." Growled Erik, clenching the hand that wasn't supporting Nina into a fist. Even though there was no way to be certain if it was Stryker who had taken the others, the mere possibility had his blood boiling. But even if it wasn't him, it was no doubt people just like him. People who would have mutants be their insects to dissect or a tool for them to use. "Son of—I'm going to ki—"
But Erik never finished his sentence because Charles voice invaded, not just his, but everyone's mind.
Hear me, inhabitants of the world . . . This is a message. A message to every man, woman, and mutant. You have lost your way. But I have returned. The day of reckoning, it is here. All your buildings and temples . . . will fall. The dawn of a new era will emerge. For there is nothing you can do to stop what is coming.
There was a pause, and Erik thought that was the end of it but then he heard Charles' voice again, almost clearer than before. This time though, Erik knew the message wasn't to the whole world . . . just . . . to two people.
Erik, Jean, if you can hear me, we're in Cairo. Find us. Stop him.
Then the personal connection faded and Charles spoke to the world one final time, except this time, Erik was certain that he'd altered En Sabah Nur's final message.
Those with great power, protect those without. That's my message to the world.
When the words faded, all of the kids looked even more unsettled than they had before.
"Erik, what are we going to do . . . ?" asked Mila, hugging her arms around herself, clearly distraught.
Everyone was looking at him—Mila, Jubilee, Nina, some of the other kids who were in the vicinity, even Alex. They were all looking at him—looking to him for answers. For what to do next. But Erik didn't know what to do any more than they did. Scratch that. He knew what to do. They had to find Pietro and the others first because as much as he cared about Charles and wanted to care about Lorna, Pietro was the priority right now. Knowing what his son suffered before at Stryker's hands, Erik couldn't let him go through that again, even if it meant letting a psychotic—the original psychotic mutant—get a head start at reshaping the planet, and using his daughter to do so. What would any of that matter if Pietro wasn't around? Of course, he wanted the world to be a safe place for Nina too, but despite the evidence that En Sabah Nur had the power to reach across the globe, right now, that threat seemed far away, especially with Nina wrapped securely in his arms.
And besides, Nina, Lorna, Charles . . . they were all mutants. As world-dominating as the man's (being's?) vison was, whatever his plans might be, it seemed mutants were a vital part of this new world he envisioned, whereas Stryker only sought to pick apart mutants like his son piece by piece just to see how they worked, or simply because they went against the natural order of things.
But Erik didn't know how to get to them. He didn't know where Pietro was. Even now that he had discovered what had happened here, he didn't know enough to make a difference.
"We—I—Charles is in Cairo. He just spoke to me."
"He just spoke to everyone, Erik, and he didn't mention anything about Cairo." Said Alex, looking like he thought the stress of the day had finally made him crack.
"Yes I know that he did, Alex, but he addressed Jean and me privately as well. And that's where he said they were." Erik shot back, as he placed Nina on the ground beside him, keeping her hand in his own.
Alex stared back and then after scrutinizing him for a moment said, "Alright, Erik. I believe you. I'm not about to doubt the weird connection you and Charles have. If you say he told you they were in Cairo, then that's definitely where they are."
"That's—we don't have a weird connection—we've just known each other for a long time—and—it doesn't matter! I'm not going to Charles right now, I need to find my son first!"
"Look, I want to find Peter, my brother, and the others too, but do you have any idea where they are? Did Charles happen to mention that? Because they're not at the facility Pete and I were at ten years ago. I know that much. After you guys . . . left, we destroyed the place. But if you have an idea of where they are, great. Let's go save them first. I'm all for that. Even if she's maybe keeping questionable company right now, Lorna can handle herself, and if Charles knew that his kids, friends, and sister were missing, he'd want us to help them too. But the fact is, we don't know where they are."
"Dammit!" Erik pinched the bridge of his noise in frustration, hating it, but Alex was right.
"I don't like it either, Erik. I want to get Peter, Scott, and the rest of them back too, but what other choice do we have? And if we do find Charles and stop the end of the world, Charles is going to be the fastest way—if not the only way—of locating the others. And you said he spoke to Jean too, right? So maybe Jean's with Peter, Scott, and all them. If so, then there's a chance they could be headed to Cairo too. Plus, it's definitely got its problems, but I kind of like the world I'm living in and don't really want to see it see a day of reckoning for a long time yet." Said Alex.
"Okay—fine. You're right. We're going to Cairo." Erik said, admitting defeat.
"I'm coming too." Said Mila. "I want to help."
"Me too." added Jubilee.
"I want to come too, Papa." Said Nina tugging at his sleeve. "I'll help find Pietro and save Lorna."
"No, darling. You need to stay here." Said Erik bending down next to her for a moment. "All of you need to stay here." Erik added firmly.
"Nina and Jubilee need to stay here." Said Mila, "But I'm coming."
"No! No children are coming!" Erik practically yelled this time.
"In case you've forgotten, Erik, you've been gone for ten years. I'm not a child anymore. I'm an adult, and if I want to go with you that's my decision." Replied Mila.
"Being 18 doesn't automatically make you an adult." said Erik.
"You've met the government right? Obviously, you have. That's actually exactly how it works." Mila retorted.
"You're smart enough to know that's not what I mean, Mila. You're still too young, and—I'm honestly not trying to hold this against you, but you're not a mutant. You don't have powers. You'd just be in the way, and in danger. If you want to help, then stay here. I need someone I trust to stay with Nina. And I trust you. Please, Mila. Do not make us waste time fighting about this."
Mila glared at Erik, reminding him painfully of Wanda. Then she glanced down at Nina. Her gaze softened and she sighed in defeat.
Jubilee still looked like she wanted to protest, but one look at Erik's face made her seem to think better of it.
"Thank you." Said Erik
"But Papa—" Said Nina looking up at Erik imploringly.
"No Nina, I know you want to come with, but I need you to stay Mila, okay?"
"But I can help!" Nina protested, and Erik noticed that some birds had started to fly a little closer than normal, responding to her frustration and fear.
"I'm sure you could, darling, but Pietro, and Lorna I imagine too, wouldn't want you to get hurt because of them."
Nina pouted, but she nodded her little head, and the birds dispersed. "Okay, Papa."
Erik squeezed her hand a little more tightly for a moment, and then addressed Mila again, "Is there—do you know someplace safe you can go? You can't exactly stay here."
"I have family and friends not too far away." Said the only teacher that seemed to have been holding class that day. And Erik noticed for the first time that they had drawn a bit of a crowd. The woman stepped forward to join their little congregation, blushing as Erik turned his gaze on her, but managed to continue. "I'll—I'll send some of the older students in one of the cars that are left to contact them and anyone else they trust to come get us. Then we can work from there to get in contact with the children's parents and guardians if that's an option for any of them. The rest can stay with me."
"Okay, good. That's—good." Said Erik nodding, grateful that he wouldn't have to worry about Nina and Mila being out here alone—be it with a bunch of other kids and one adult—for long.
"Great, but do you two" said Mila with a little bit of sarcasm as she pointed at Alex and Erik, "have any idea how you're going to get to Cairo because I know the Professor had a jet, but that
definitely got blown up, so . . ."
"I—" Erik started, but Alex cut him off.
"Actually, I think I know a way, as long as Erik's still not opposed to breaking into government facilities?"
"Never." Said Erik with zero hesitation.
Mila raised her eyebrows at him. "I know you don't think so, but you and Pietro are a lot alike."
Erik couldn't help the fact that even as much as that comment hurt because he didn't want his son to be anything like him, a traitorous feeling within him had it warming his heart at the same time.
"Great." Said Alex. "Then I think it's time to go."
After embracing Nina once more, Erik and Alex departed without much fanfare. But the last thing Erik heard as they headed toward the truck was Jubilee saying to Mila "can we talk about the fact that your siblings' dad's real name is definitely not Henryk?"
Surprise! Alex isn't dead! (Is this proof I have a heart? Jury's out.). Obviously, some of the stuff with Nina and Erik is supposed to remind you of her unfortunate ending in X-Men Apocalypse because I couldn't help myself. Also, I feel like this chapter was very dialogue and exposition heavy so sorry about that. I felt like there were so many characters to deal with at once toward the end, that my brain is just done. Final thing, did En Sabah Nur's telepathic convo. with the world vaguely remind anyone else of that scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2 where Voldemort is talking to everyone, or just me? But Voldemort >>>> Apocalypse. As far as villains go anyway.