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Deliberate Choices

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"M-Mr. Lehnsherr?"

"What can I do for you, Ms. Pryde?" Erik asked.

"I... um, are-you-going-to-High-Holiday-services-this-year? Can-you-get-me-in?"

Erik tried to contain his sigh. He'd been relieved that Bobby Drake had managed to ask him for a ride to High Holiday services this year without any hesitation or fear.

He hoped this didn't mean going through this for another two years with Kitty Pryde. Unlike Bobby, Kitty had at least remembered to ask far enough in advance that he could still have asked for a ticket for her, if they'd needed them.

"My shul doesn't require tickets, and I'd be happy to give you a ride," he offered. The last thing he wanted to do was wait for Kitty to stammer out the request.

Seriously, what was it with students these days? It wasn't like he would bite them.

He wondered, absently, if the story about him pushing Sean Cassidy off the satellite dish was being circulated out of context again. Kitty didn't need him to push her off of anything--a fact that she'd proven by nervously walking through the wall to her next class rather than going through the door.

It was a habit Charles was trying to break her of, and of course this was leading to discussions. It always did.

Really, though, when it came to mutants, the cat was out of the bag, so what was the point of making Kitty hide who she really was?

Then again, he, Raven, and Charles had been going around and around for years--since before Cuba even--about her appearance.

Whether or not Raven was blue in public these days often depended on her mood, but at the school, at least, she was always herself.

* * *

Erik was walking through the living area several weeks later drinking coffee, stopping when he saw that the kids were tuned to a show involving talking heads. It wasn't typical for their high school students to take an interest in political punditry--at least not unless John Stewart or Stephen Colbert were involved.

"Are you saying, Ms. Byrne, that mutants are somehow less than the rest of us and therefore aren't entitled to the same rights..."

"I'm surprised, Ms. MacTaggert, given that your career in the CIA was sidelined by a mutant that..."

[CHARLES!] Erik called, hoping that Charles would "hear" him.

He was rewarded with the pounding of anxious footsteps.

[Erik, what...] Charles paused, noticing the TV.

"Is that Moira?" he asked aloud.

There was an anxious "Shh" from the students, who were apparently too involved in the program to realize that they were shushing the headmaster.

"Ms. Byrne, the actions of one man can hardly be used to judge the actions of an entire race of people."

"If the entire race has so little to hide, then why are they so reluctant to tell us who they are?" Ms. Byrne snapped.

"Maybe she has a point," Kitty said.

Erik frowned, and turned off the TV.

There were several protests of "Mr. Lehnsherr!" before he placed his coffee on the table and rolled up his sleeve, exposing the number tattooed on his arm. "Is this what you want? Really, Kitty. You of all people should know better."

"Asking us to put our names in a register is a far cry from gassing us all to death in ovens," Kitty said.

Erik couldn't help but wonder where the shy girl who had barely been able to ask him for a favor had gone.

"Is it?" Erik asked. "Before the camps, we all had to wear stars of David on the outside of our clothing, and carry ID cards with us to be produced to the police at any time."

"They make sex offenders register," John added.

"They also make voters register," Kitty said.

"That's quite different, Kitty, it's for all citizens," Charles said. "This is something much more sinister. I doubt it will pass, and I'm sure that we'll be able to..."

"You have far too much faith in them, Charles," Erik interrupted. "This isn't just a teachable moment..." Erik was far too interested in giving Charles a piece of his mind to notice the students slink away one by one.

Until Scott walked in twenty minutes later.

"Um, Professor X, Erik, you two really have to stop having verbal sparring matches in front of the students."

"Scott," Charles said, patiently.

"Also, it's time for dinner, and you know arguing isn't good for your digestion," Scott said, turning and leaving the room.

Charles sighed. "I think Alex is being a bad influence on him again."

"Was Alex here?" Erik asked. "He was telling the story about Sean and the satellite dish again, wasn't he?"

* * *

Ororo had started her unit on World War II. Erik could always tell because the wary looks he got from the newer students--and some of the old timers-- were often tinged with sympathy.

Many of their students had run away from their parents, their homes, because of powers they couldn't control. Some had been sent away by their parents, something that Erik would never, ever be able to comprehend. He hadn't even known most of the "kids" that had been through the school for very long--heck Alex and Sean had been in their late teens and the thought of casting them out of his life for any reason was abhorrent.

Even if they did delight in scaring the younger students with the story of him pushing Sean off of the satellite dish. (Erik would never have done it if he hadn't been 100% confident that Sean would be able to fly with the push.)

As such, he was relieved when Rosh Hashanah rolled around, if only to keep the looks at bay.

Kitty and Bobby were waiting for him at the car, Bobby clutching his talit bag (one of the crushed velvet ones that seemed to be standard issue in the States), and Kitty shifting nervously in her dress flats. She had a small purse, that couldn't possibly contain a talit--maybe she'd left it at home.

"There's extra talyot and keepot at the synagogue," he told Kitty gently. "You can borrow some if you like."

Kitty raised an eyebrow, and it was only then that Erik realized she might have been raised in a more conservative synagogue.

"This place is kinda like a Jewish Hippie commune," Bobby said, as if also recognizing her discomfort. "Rabbi's a woman and everything."

"Let's get going, shall we?" Erik said, opening the doors to his car.

* * *

"Thanks, Mr. Lehnsherr," Bobby said as he hopped out of the car when they returned to the garage. He bounded into the house.

Kitty, however, was lingering.

A push in the right direction perhaps. "If you want to go to tashlich this afternoon..."

Kitty shifted uncomfortably.

"What is it, Kitty?" he asked, gently.

"I... I'm-sorry-for-thinking-you-were-being-paranoid-about-the-Mutant-Registration-Act-and-in-the-spirit-of-the-season-I-hope-you-can-forgive-my-disrespect."

"Breathe, Kitty," Erik said. "I forgive you the disrespect, but please never apologize for disagreeing with me. Diversity of opinion is important."

"Like you and Professor Xavier."


Kitty glanced at his arm, shifting uncomfortably.

It taken Bobby ages to think to ask, Erik ought to have been impressed. Instead, he was just resigned. "Go ahead and ask," he said, gently. "You'll neither be the first nor the last."

"Why do you keep it?" Kitty asked. "I mean, you could have had it covered up or lasered it off or something."

Erik raised an eyebrow.

"Not what you were expecting?"

"Usually the question is 'why don't you get rid of it?'" Erik said. "And my usual glib answer is 'because you're still asking me that question.' However, since you seem to understand it was a deliberate choice, I'll give you the real answer: because it's too much like forgetting."

"Never again?" Kitty asked.

"Not to anyone," Erik agreed.

"Not even the humans?" Kitty asked.

"That question, my dear Ms. Pryde, is why despite our disagreements I've stayed with Professor Xavier all these years. Well, that and someone needs keep his boundless optimism in check."

Kitty smirked. "I imagine he says the same about your boundless pessimism."

Erik laughed. "I imagine he does."

At that moment, Bobby came racing from the house, now in casual clothes. Slightly junky clothes.

"Come on, Kitty, we're in time to help with the signs for the anti-Mutant Registration Act rally tomorrow."

"Off you go," Erik said.

Kitty nodded. "You know, Bobby, I think I have a really good idea."

* * *

Erik let Ororo, Jean, and Scott handle the supervision of the posters, but after dinner he couldn't help but follow Charles into the art room where they lay drying.

He gaped at one, unsure of his eyes.

"I'm told that one was Ms. Pryde's idea," Charles said. "I don't suppose you put her up to it?"

"No, not directly," Erik said.

On the left half of the poster, were printed images from the internet, both black and white. One was of a boy wearing 1930s dress, a Star of David (that stood out as it had been colored in yellow) sewn to the outside of his clothes. Below it was a replica of the identity card he had needed to carry as a boy. It was a blank, but otherwise identical to the one he had to carry, even when he was in Shaw's "care."

On the right half, a black and white photo of a boy of the same age in modern dress. A red "M" on his chest. Above it was the proposed Mutant ID card image that Erik knew had been printed from the web site of the bill's advocates.

Between the two were an equal sign. Underneath the words "Never Again."

"Erik?" Charles asked, softly.

"Well, Charles, it would seem we're teaching these kids something after all."

"Yes, old friend," Charles said, patting Erik's arm. "I believe we are."

The End