“Professor, the mayor would like a word with you,” his assistant warned him. It was enough to make Charles’ eyebrow quirk up and bring a curl to his lips.
“Yes, of course. The mayor. Send him in.” Charles put down his pen and sat back in his chair as though a wonderful show was about to begin. He should have been wearing 3-D glasses and holding a tub of popcorn.
The heavy wooden door to Charles’ office swung wide to allow portly Mayor Lanscroft to amble in. “Quite a lot of books you’ve got here, Professor!” he said, gazing around the room. “Don’t read much myself.” At that, Charles let out a bark of a laugh and signaled his assistant, Penny, to let herself out.
The doorknob clicked and they were alone.
“I’ll have you know that Mayor Lanscroft is surprisingly well read and a very bright man,” Charles said, and with a push of a button, closed the blinds. “Go on, Raven. My office is perfectly secure.”
With a ripple of blue, Mystique shed the mayor’s skin and returned to her natural form. “Not secure enough, apparently. I just walked in here, didn’t I?”
“Did you think I didn’t know it was you?”
She frowned and studied him, both impressed that Charles recognized her and disconcerted to learn of a crack in her armor. Charles could feel the conflict in her mind, but waited for her to speak first: “How did you know it was me?”
“I always know it’s you, whether you’re the mayor or a flight attendant or a hot dog vendor.” He looked away before adding, “Or a reporter at the White House during a Presidential speech on mutant control legislation.” She scoffed, but before she could open the argument, Charles interjected, “It’s good to see you again, Raven.”
He smiled warmly, and she grudgingly smiled back. “Nice to see you, too. You look good. Healthy.” She was only being polite, but it was just the right thing to say. He was nearing forty and looked it: his hair was receding slightly, and sure there were grays in there and wrinkles near his eyes, but his eyes shined bright and blue and clear. He was stronger than he’d ever been and content with his life. He felt great, but all anyone ever seemed to see was his wheelchair. The compliment made him beam.
“Thank you, Raven. I’m doing very well. And you? You’re as beautiful as ever. That tropical climate must suit you.” A nod to Genosha, and another nudge towards a subject Mystique did not want to discuss.
“Then what would you like to discuss?” he said.
Mystique fumed purple at the intrusion into her thoughts while Charles awaited her answer. He was smug and suspicious; sibling niceties would have to wait.
“I’m here to see Magneto,” she told him firmly. “And please understand that I came to you as a courtesy. I will find him here with or without your permission.”
The expression on Charles’ face shifted from gobsmacked to amused. “And what makes you think I have him? Do you think I have him tied up somewhere?” At that, Mystique smirked at him. Charles rolled his eyes. “Oh, grow up.”
“My best intelligence would lead me to believe that he spends his time in the lower, protected levels, perhaps in the labs with Beast. I would prefer it if you’d grant me the security clearance yourself, although I will find other ways if need be.”
Charles was truly perplexed. “He’s really not here and I can’t understand why you would think he would be. I haven’t seen Erik in years. In fact, the last time I saw him three people ended up dead. I’m not all that interested in running into your fearless leader any time soon.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Why in God’s name would you think he was here of all places? Why isn’t he with you? Have you misplaced your commander?”
“Charles, I’m not kidding around.”
“Neither am I! I’m sorry I can’t help you, but I truly have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Mystique let out a deep breath and her shoulders relaxed. “To begin with, he’s not our commander anymore. He’s resigned, I thought because he…” and she drifted off, but Charles caught her meaning. She thought that he and Erik had reconciled and that Erik had come to live with him in Westchester. For a beautiful moment, the images Mystique had concocted of their relationship flickered into his mind: Erik working in the lab, the pair of them training mutants together like they’d done years ago, tender moments passed in private. Mystique had spent a lot of time thinking about the possibility.
“But I haven’t,” Charles spoke. “I’m not going to pretend that those feelings weren’t there at one time, but no, Raven, I haven’t seen him in several years. And from what I can tell, neither have you.”
“It’s been about five years, almost. He left no word as to where he was going, in fact he forbid us from trying to find him or contact him at all outside the channels he set up in order to lead us. No one knew why. His leadership since that time has been… unusual. Unlike him. And that's on the rare occasions we did hear from him, which were few and far between. It sounded like your influence, to be honest, the way he was putting down some of our more… high impact ideas. And then, a few days ago, this came.” She handed him a letter.
As of this letter, I resign the duties required to lead the Brotherhood of Mutants. I trust you will find a suitable replacement.
And beneath that, his signature.
Charles’ face came back around to gobsmacked. “My next question, then, is why search for a man who does not want to be found? Is he not allowed to resign if he chooses?”
“Don’t be so dense, Charles. You know it’s more complicated than that. Do you think it would just be a simple changing of the guard if the Brotherhood knew?” Charles needed only brush the surface of her mind to see that several mutants, each more vile and dangerous than the last, were already vying for control, and that Erik’s abdication would likely lead to bloodshed. “Besides,” she went on, softening a little, “he is also my friend and I would like to know where he’s disappeared to for the last five years. Wouldn’t you?”
Charles conceded that he would. “Well,” he sighed, and pushed his chair away from his desk, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to look.”
“Where are you going?” Mystique asked, watching Charles push himself towards the door.
“To Cerebro, of course. And, if you don’t mind, I do believe they will be expecting me to exit with the mayor.”
Once again, her skin rippled and stretched and Mayor Lanscroft followed Professor Xavier out of the office and along the corridors. They were surrounded by students of all stripes (in some cases literally), and Mystique the Mayor didn’t know where to look first. The expression of awe and amusement suited her current form; Mayor Lanscroft most often looked like he was sucking a lemon.
They made their way to Charles’s private elevators and down to Cerebro, housed in the lowest levels of the Westchester mansion, now the Xavier Institute for Higher Learning. Again Charles assured her that they had complete privacy and Mystique shed the mayor’s unflattering skin so that they could get down to business.
“So now that we've established that he's not in my bed, do you have any other leads as to where he might be?”
Mystique glared at him. It was so like Charles to make light of their situation and he was plainly pleased that she'd thought they were together.
“I have reason to believe that he's in the United States,” she said.
“Based on what?”
Charles considered poking around in her mind a bit to find the answer, but brushed the impulse aside. It was borne more of a desire to tease his sister than anything else; she'd asked him not to touch her toy and from the bottom of his heart he wanted to hold his finger an inch away from it and taunt, “Not touching! Not touching!” Five minutes in her company and already he was regressing. It made him chuckle.
“I don't see what's so funny,” she grumbled, so Charles raised his fingers to his temple and showed her. She flashed him a sad smile as he set himself up in Cerebro.
“I'll do a scan of the New York area for you, how is that? If you have no more specific ideas, I'm afraid I don't have time to spend the next few weeks probing every mind in the country.”
Before she could protest, Cerebro was activated and Charles was lost to it. All the minds in Manhattan flushed through him. He floated through every thought in the Hudson Valley and swam the imaginations of the boroughs. There were brilliant minds and fascinating mutations pulsing through him, but none was Erik.
“Well, look again. Try Washington. Or California. He always liked San Diego.” There was a panic in her eyes that Charles was not expecting and it softened him. He took her hand in his.
“I'm sorry, Raven, but Erik will not be found if he does not want to be. And anyway, for all I know he's still wearing that damned helmet. Is there any reason to think he's in danger?” Mystique brushed away a tear and shook her head. “Then perhaps the best thing to do is just let him go.”