They say that time changes things, but actually you have to change them yourself.
Dave strolled in to the conference room at one-thirty, sipping his coffee, still pleasantly full from lunch. He'd only had time to check his e-mail and open up a report he was finishing before Hotch had stuck his head in the door to tell him there was a briefing. But Hotch's face had been its normal businesslike demeanor, and his words hadn't been rushed. Whatever it was, it wasn't urgent. Probably something bureaucratic, or perhaps a consult—though those usually didn't involve the whole team.
JJ was already sitting at the table, chatting with Morgan, when Dave took his usual spot. It was still strange to see her sitting with them instead of running the briefing. It was a good change—he'd helped her swing it—but he still wasn't used to it.
"Hey, Dave," Morgan said. "How's it going?"
"Not bad," Dave said. "Congratulations, I hear the Wildcats won another game."
"Yeah, they've really turned it around since the beginning of the season," Morgan said. "If they keep it up, they may be going to a bowl this year."
"Hey, you're still only 6-5," JJ said. "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched."
"Just because the Redskins are in a slump, doesn't mean my team has to lose," Morgan said with a smirk.
"It's a rebuilding year," JJ said, shooting him a dirty look.
"It never ceases to amaze me how football can turn otherwise intelligent and sane people into chest-thumping Neanderthals," Reid said as he entered and took his seat.
JJ and Morgan looked at one another and shook their heads pityingly. Dave hid a smile and finished the last of his coffee as Emily sat down across the table from him. Hotch walked in, Garcia not far behind. It was good to have the team back together.
"This one's a consult for the whole team," Hotch said. "Counter-Terrorism would like their profiles of the Brotherhood of Mutants updated."
Garcia turned on the screen and up popped mug shots of Magneto and Mystique, larger than life.
Dave leaned back in his chair, trying to act casual, to avoid drawing attention to himself as the food in his stomach turned to lead. From the look Emily was giving him, he wasn't entirely successful. He set his mug carefully down on the table.
"Brotherhood of Mutants?" Morgan said. "Weren't they pretty much wiped out after the Battle of Alcatraz? I mean, most of their people from Magneto on down were either de-powered with the cure, killed, or captured. Or some combination of those three."
"Yes, but it turns out the cure isn't permanent," Garcia said. "At least, not for everybody. And a lot of the Brotherhood mutants that got hit with the "cure" darts"—she made air quotes—"got away, Magneto among them. But the Brotherhood always went for direct use of powers instead of guns and bombs and other weapons, so the Bureau hasn't been looking too hard for them. They figured they weren't much of a threat."
Dave concentrated on keeping his breathing even. He'd known the so-called "cure" was wearing off, knew that the FBI and the CIA and the DoD and all the other three-letter-agencies had to be taking an interest. He just hadn't thought it would be his team working on it. He hadn't thought he would have to choose.
"But if the cure is wearing off, then all of a sudden the Brotherhood Mutants who got away become a much bigger threat," Emily said.
"Exactly," Hotch said.
"So, why are we only just hearing that it's not permanent now?" Morgan said. "And how long do we have before it wears off completely?"
"They had a pretty good guess it would need to be renewed when it was first developed," Reid said. "But they didn't publicize it because that would make it less dramatic. They were planning on being able to refine it. Then Alcatraz happened, and they didn't have the resources to produce it any more, much less refine it."
"Yeah, the kid they were experimenting on escaped," Dave growled. "How sad for them."
"I think we can all agree that no matter what you think of their motives and goals, their methods were beyond the pale," Hotch said.
"No kidding," Reid said. "Actually, their claims were pretty deceptive across the board. They advertized 100%, permanent suppression or removal of mutant genes, but it only worked in about 92% of those who took it, and for most of them it was either partial, temporary, or both. The so-called "cure" worked by using a retrovirus to edit a person's genetic structure with a code that suppressed the activation of the x-genes. But it didn't affect all cells equally, and it hasn't proved permanent. Most cells in the body die and are replaced regularly. As that happens, the genetically modified cells are gradually replaced by ones with the original DNA. At least, that's the way it's happening in most people, and they're not exactly sure why. Scientists and science fiction writers have speculated about using retroviruses to modify DNA for some time, but this is the first time it was used on humans. And it was rushed through testing. It was almost criminally negligent to use it on humans this soon."
"Yeah, but the problem is not everybody agrees that mutants are 'human,'" Garcia pointed out. "That's the only reason it was approved."
"So, it's disappearing as cells are replaced," Morgan said. "So it should wear off, what, about seven years after it was first distributed? That gives us two years."
"Actually, the idea that all the cells in your body replace themselves once every seven years is a myth," Reid said. "Different types of cells and tissues replace themselves at different rates. The lining of the small intestine is replaced every four to six days, while the outer layer of the epidermis is replaced every four to six weeks. Red blood cells are replaced every four months or so. Livers generally only replace cells if they're damaged. Bones replace themselves at a rate of approximately ten percent per year. And you keep the same neurons for most of your life. What that means for mutants who took or were given the so-called "cure" is that how long it lasts depends largely on what their powers are. For example, if their mutation is a physical one and they have scales instead of skin, the cure wore off in a month or two. On the other hand, for telepaths it will probably be permanent."
"And that's where the really sad part comes in," Garcia said. "A lot of mutants, their powers affect more than one type of cell. So, for example, if it's partly physical and partly mental—that is, they have a physical ability that they control with their mind—the physical changes are mostly back by now but they may never be able to control it ever again. I mean, people have died because of it. But the news media doesn't care about mutants dying, so it's not being reported on in the mainstream press." She was bristling with indignation. Dave had never liked her more.
"Is there any way to figure out which of the mutants we're supposed to profile have had their powers return?" JJ asked.
Reid shrugged. "If we know what their powers were—and if their anatomy and biochemistry were pretty much baseline human normal, which you can't necessarily assume with mutants—we can make educated guesses."
"It's a safe bet it hasn't made them any happier with humans than they were already," Morgan said.
"Actually, I'm not very sure it's possible to do meaningful work on this," Reid said. "The cure inflicted radical physical, mental, and emotional changes on them, for which we have no baseline studies—no custodial interviews, no statistics, nothing. And if their mutation required mental control the cure altered their brain structure and neurochemistry in ways we don't understand. Mutants can be hard to predict with standard profiling techniques at the best of times."
"We need interviews with these people," Emily said. "So we can judge how they've been affected and start a baseline. But if we had them to interview, we wouldn't need the profile."
"Welcome to the beginning," Dave said. He had to say something—at least pretend to participate. "That's pretty much what it was like when the BSU was starting out."
"Because this is such a difficult assignment, we'll be working together," Hotch said. "We'll look at the major players who are unaccounted for first. Once we're done with them, we'll probably do the smaller players individually or in pairs. Let's start with Erik Lensherr, aka 'Magneto'."
Garcia tapped a key and Mystique disappeared from the screen, replaced by several shots of Magneto—as a young man, in normal clothes, with the helmet and cape. "Erik Lensherr was born on May 25, 1927, in Germany, in a middle-class Jewish family. His father was a World War I veteran and owned a small shop. His mother was a homemaker."
"How current are those photographs?" Emily asked.
Garcia pointed at the picture of Magneto in full regalia, floating through the air, arms outstretched. "This one was taken just before Alcatraz. So, five years ago?"
"He looks awfully well-preserved for an eighty-year-old," Emily said. "Particularly one who's led as hard a life as he has. He could pass for sixty, easily. Maybe even fifty."
"Mutation often affects aging," Spencer said. "There's a lot of speculation as to why, but those mutants who don't die from accident or illness, or as a result of a harmful mutation, tend to age either much quicker than normal or much more slowly."
There was a pause, as people around the table digested that. "Germany in the 1930's," JJ said thoughtfully. "Not a good place and time to be Jewish."
"And an even worse time to be a Jewish mutant," Garcia said. "The Lensherrs were rounded up and taken to Auschwitz. When they separated young Erik from his mother, he panicked and lashed out with his powers, ripping apart the metal gate and barbed wire between them. This may have been the first time he used his powers; at any rate, he was inexperienced and the guards were able to subdue him quickly. By the time he woke up, he was in the hands of a man named Sebastian Shaw, who was at that time working for the Nazis under the pseudonym Doctor Klaus Schmidt. Shaw was experimenting on mutant prisoners in the concentration camps, and he was apparently delighted to get his hands on a mutant as strong as young Erik. Various medical tortures ensued, starting with the murder of Erik's mother before his eyes for not being able to use his abilities on cue. It was really, really nasty and the details are in your folders because frankly I do not want to think about them."
Dave listened with fascination. He knew the outlines of the story of course—how could he not?—but many of the details were new to him. His thirteen-year-old self would have been thrilled to hear the story.
"I heard that he was a CIA spy!" John said, glancing around at the other kids, the flashlight shining eerily in his eyes.
"He couldn't be CIA, John," Davy said scornfully. "He's not American." He wrapped the blanket tighter around his shoulders. They weren't supposed to be out of their rooms after lights out, and they weren't supposed to be on the roof at any time, but he wasn't going to let an Indian, a Japanese boy, and a Chinese girl think he was a sissy.
"Thunderbird," John said, scowling. "My name is Thunderbird. And who says he's not American? You white boys don't count me as American, either, but my dad fought in the war. If he can do that, why can't Magneto be a CIA spy?"
"I heard that he got rich pulling metal out of the ground," Davy said. "And that the mansion is the Professor's but the money to run it is his and that's why the Professor lets him help make decisions." He wasn't too sure about that, though, given that it had been Petra who told him. Petra was nice, but she was kind of obsessed with rocks.
"Kevin said that he was a Gypsy who had a curse put on his family," Sunfire said. Davy couldn't quite pronounce his real name (well, the name the teachers called him), but part of that was because he'd never really tried. The other boy preferred to be called Sunfire. "But Kevin also said he was abducted by aliens."
"Aliens!" Suzanne giggled. "There's no such thing. I heard that he was German." It was weird; she didn't sound like the Orientals on TV. She sounded normal, like an American. More normal than Davy did when he was using his powers. "I heard he was Jewish and they put him in a concentration camp and killed his family, and then he used his powers to kill all the Nazis and escape."
"Magneto's a kike?" Davy said in surprise. His eyes widened as Magneto rose into view, floating in mid-air up to the roof they sat on. It was always groovy to see Magneto fly, but they were going to be in so much trouble for being out after curfew …
"Yes, Mister Rossi, I am Jewish," Magneto said, and Davy had never seen him so angry. His lips were tight and his eyes were flat and hard, and Davy could imagine him killing a camp full of Nazis. "And you are a wop." He ignored Davy's protest. "You are also a mutant, and before you go spewing the hatred and bigotry you have been taught, remember this: some day, that same hatred and bigotry will come for you. What will you do then, if you have ignored and insulted all the others of your kind over human-made pettiness?"
"I'm sorry, sir," Davy said, feeling very small under Magneto's glare. He didn't quite understand what was so bad about 'kike,' Dad said it all the time. It wasn't like 'wop,' which was really nasty. But he didn't want to be on Magneto's bad side.
"No, but you will be," Magneto said. He widened his glare to include all of them. "As will the rest of you, for being out of bed after curfew, and up on the roof at that. Perhaps Charles will allow me to set your punishment, as I am the one who found you. I assure you, that if you are not back in bed in ten minutes, it will be much worse for you."
Garcia went on. "After the war was over, Erik started calling himself Max Eisenhardt, got married to a woman named Magda, and tried to settle down and start over. Nobody's quite sure what happened, but their daughter died, their house was burned down, and Erik and Magda split up. Magda was pregnant at the time, later giving birth to and abandoning twins—Pietro and Wanda Maximoff, mutants known as Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, respectively." Pictures of Pietro and Wanda appeared on the screen, along with a black-and-white photograph of a woman Dave assumed must be Magda.
"Wait," Morgan said. "Two of the Avengers are Magneto's children?" He shook his head. "That's gotta be interesting. I wonder how much contact they keep in."
"It's another part of his family that he's lost," Emily said. "First his parents to the Nazis, then his child died and his wife left him, then his younger children publically reject his beliefs … do we know how close they were? Was it a major break, or a gradual drifting apart?"
"Lensherr didn't find out about them until they were almost grown." Garcia shrugged. "How that affects things is your department, not mine. Anyway, with his life completely destroyed for the second time, and no idea he was still a father, Erik went back to his original name, moved to the newly-formed Israel and got himself a job hunting Nazis. He was pretty good, too—but somehow none of his targets managed to survive to be brought back for trial. He specialized in the doctors, orderlies, and guards who participated in the so-called 'experiments.'"
Hotch nodded. "He went through Hell, and tried to start over again with a new life. When that didn't work, he tried to exorcise his demons through violence, but in a way that was probably at least tacitly approved by a government, if not actively supported by them. How did he get from there to terrorism?"
"That's the interesting part!" Garcia beamed. "Some of it is classified, but even what's publically known would make a great movie. For obvious reasons, Lensherr was focusing on Shaw, right? Well, Shaw was a mutant himself. He'd gone back to using his original name and was running a group of mutants called the Hellfire Club. This was in the early 1960's at the height of the Cold War, and Shaw was working with the Russians, though I'm not sure what exactly he and his group were doing. Anyway, the CIA was keeping tabs on him, and this was just at the time that mutants were first becoming known. The CIA found a man who'd just finished a doctorate on genetics, specializing in mutation." She clicked a button, and a picture of a very young Professor Xavier appeared on the screen. He was smiling, and he had a full head of hair, and he was standing.
Dave almost smiled. God, that had been a long time ago.
"This is Charles Xavier, and the reason he did his doctorate on the then-theoretical idea of mutants was because he was one. He was a telepath, a very, very powerful telepath. He and Lensherr hit it off—it seems to have been the first time Lensherr had met another mutant."
"Surely, he would have seen others in the camps, unless he was Shaw's only test subject," Emily said, frowning.
"Shaw kept his victims isolated," Garcia said. "So Lensherr and Xavier and a group of mutants they gathered took out Shaw, and then vanished. Apparently Xavier wiped all knowledge of his home and origin from the few CIA agents who knew it. By the time the CIA managed to catch up with them, years later, they'd turned Xavier's home into a school for mutants." A photograph of the mansion appeared on the screen. "We don't know exactly what happened there, but by the early 1970's Erik Lensherr was calling himself Magneto and dressing up in a purple suit, a red cape, and a helmet to launch terrorist attacks on various government buildings and military compounds. He'd forgotten about his anti-Nazi crusade … or maybe we should say he just broadened it to include all non-mutant humans."
"Magneto was a teacher? He went from hunting Nazis to teaching to terrorism?" Morgan shook his head. "I'm having a hard time picturing that, unless he was using it as a recruiting ground, like one of those radical madrasas in Pakistan designed to indoctrinate children in fundamentalist militancy."
"It wasn't like that," Dave said, stung. "The Professor would never have allowed it." He took a deep breath, feeling a bit limp. Well, now he had made his choice.
"Wait, what?" Reid frowned at him, with a look of utter befuddlement that was rarely seen on the young man's face. Dave would have found it amusing, if he weren't hovering close to panic. "How do you know Dr. Xavier?"
Dave swallowed, keeping his voice as even as he could. "Because I spent my freshman and sophomore years at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. And Professor Xavier would never allow his school to be a recruiting ground for terrorism, not then and not now."
"You're a mutant?" Morgan said, incredulous. "Why are we only finding out about this now?" He stared at Dave as if he were expecting him to suddenly turn blue or read his mind or something. Or telekinetically throw someone against a wall.
Around the table, the other members of the team reacted with varying degrees of shock. Garcia looked like the cat who'd got the cream—she'd probably hacked into records and found out some time ago. Reid was still frowning as if trying to make sense of it, glancing around the team as if to see if anyone else had known. Hotch's arms were crossed, his lips tight. Emily was leaning forward, and he could see the wheels turning inside her head. JJ was sitting up straight, mouth open as if she was looking for words. This was a terrible time for this to come out. They were only just starting to gel again as a team after Emily and JJ came back.
"It never mattered before," Dave said with a shrug, holding on to his composure by the skin of his teeth. He turned to Hotch. "I'd prefer to keep it quiet, if possible. The Bureau doesn't exactly have the best track record for treating mutant agents fairly."
Hotch looked at him through narrow eyes. "Whether it needs to go in a report or not is something we'll have to discuss."
Dave swallowed. Well. He'd retired once, he could do it again if he had to. Write more books.
"Never mattered?" Morgan stared at him.
"So, what did Lensherr teach at Xaviers?" Emily pulled them back on topic, and Dave was so grateful he could have kissed her.
"Foreign languages, mostly," Dave said.
JJ blinked and leaned forward. "Magneto taught foreign languages? Are we talking about the same guy? Terrorist? He took a few years off from murdering Nazis to teach languages in a high school?"
"Yeah," Dave said. "He speaks all the major European languages—German, English, French, Italian, with enough Russian and Spanish to get by if he has to. Well, at least, that's what he spoke then." His teammates were all staring at him in varying degrees of incredulity. "You have to understand, Xavier's is a fully accredited elementary, middle, and high school. Most of what they teach has nothing to do with mutation at all, it's just regular school subjects. But they started small, and they needed teachers who wouldn't freak out at teaching mutants—so the first adult mutants the Professor found became the first teachers for the children he found. The Professor taught ethics and literature and history. Magneto taught foreign languages and PE. Dr. McCoy taught the sciences and math. Ms. Darkholme and Mr. Summers taught the little kids. Then you had whatever special lessons you needed to help deal with your mutation and learn to use it, but those were separate from the academic side of things, and were taught by whatever one of the adults had a mutation closest to yours."
"Doctor McCoy," Reid said slowly. He frowned at Dave. "That wouldn't be Doctor Hank McCoy, the brilliant scientist who used to be a US senator and is now the President's advisor on mutant affairs and the US ambassador to the UN, would it?"
"Yeah, actually, it would," Dave said.
"You were a student of Doctor McCoy's, and you never mentioned it?" Reid said. "He's one of the greatest scientific minds of our day!"
"Look, it was just basic high school science," Dave said, embarrassed. "And I wasn't much good at it, anyway. But I might be able to introduce you some time, if you're interested." He thought Doctor McCoy would like Reid—both brilliant men, both determined to help people. Yeah, he could see them getting along.
"That would be awesome," Reid said with a smile.
"Getting back on-topic," Hotch said, his voice cool. He didn't like to get blindsided by things, but Dave couldn't find any sympathy for him. Hotch wouldn't have been blindsided by this if Dave hadn't been blindsided first, and would Hotch rather he had kept quiet? "Agent Rossi, since you have personal contact with Lensherr, would you care to share your experience?"
Dave nodded, gathering his thoughts. This was his team. They were good people. They wouldn't use the information he gave them against anyone but Magneto and the Brotherhood. "Professor Xavier set up his school as a safe haven for mutants," he said. "This was just as mutants were first becoming public knowledge, and there was a lot of scare stories about them. Horror movies, sensationalist journalism, you name it. Kids were being kicked out of school and abandoned by their parents, people were losing their jobs. That still happens today, but … there's not the kind of hysteria about it that there was then. Now, it's more organized and institutional and routine. Even those kids whose parents accepted them, like mine, needed a safe place to go to learn how to use and control their powers, and just because your parents still loved you didn't mean your school would allow you to attend. The professor had money, he had that huge mansion all to himself and his sister, he wanted to help. So he started a school."
He tilted his head, remembering. "The Professor and Magneto were very close, but everyone knew it was the Professor's school. His baby, his money. Both wanted to make the world safe for mutants, but they had different ideas on how to do it. The Professor believed that through time and advocacy and careful work, mutants would be recognized as full members of society and integrated into the mainstream. He believed that violence should always be the absolute last resort, and only used in self-defense or the defense of others. Magneto believes that peaceful coexistence is impossible, that sooner or later humans will try to exterminate all mutants like the Nazis tried to do to the Jews, and when that conflict comes, he wants mutants to win. Both are interested in the future of mutants, they just have radically different ideas of how to get there. They didn't argue much in front of us kids, but we all knew where they stood. It was kind of like sitting at a dinner table every night with Dr. King and Malcolm X sitting across from one another."
"Except that Dr. King advocated nonviolence even above self-defense," Morgan pointed out.
"Yeah, well Dr. King never had to worry about the US Army assaulting his home in the middle of the night to abduct children for the purposes of medical research and genocide," Dave shot back.
"Neither does Professor Xavier," replied Morgan. "Come on, this is America, not Nazi Germany."
"It's already happened once," Garcia said.
"What?" said Emily.
"May 4, 2003," Garcia said. "A US Army general named Stryker had diverted resources to build himself a private base for dealing with what he called the mutant threat. His superiors knew some of what he was doing but not all of it, and he managed to convince the President to agree to an assault on Xavier's School as a terrorist haven. He didn't mention the medical experimentation part, or his plans for genocide, or the fact that most of the residents of the school were children. He incapacitated the Professor, lured most of the teachers out of the school, and attacked at night. The remaining teachers and a few of the older students teamed up temporarily with Magneto to take out Stryker's base and rescue the children. After they were done, they went their separate ways."
There was an appalled silence for a few minutes as the team digested that. Yeah, thought Dave tiredly, the US government that we serve is not as clean as you'd like it to be. Welcome to my world.
"I thought we'd left that kind of shit behind," Morgan said at last. "After the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, they made experiments on humans illegal without informed consent."
"Yeah, but Federal agencies can still run experiments without consent if they get a Presidential order," Dave said. "As far as I know, Stryker didn't have it, but he wasn't too concerned with legalities anyway."
"Is that connected to the migraines everyone had on May 5?" JJ asked.
"Yup," Dave said. "Stryker had been experimenting on mutants for years. He had a device that would kill all the mutants in the world telepathically, but he needed a powerful telepath to power it. That's why he needed the Professor. The device was already switched on and attacking mutants when Magneto found it—his helmet protects him from telepathic contact. Instead of turning it off, he switched it so that it was going after humans, instead of mutants, and then left. Fortunately, the X-Men—that is, the teachers and students who were participating in the rescue mission—were able to find the Professor and rescue him from the machine and get it switched off before anyone died."
"That affected the entire world," Emily said. "It's not that I doubt you, but how could it have been kept a secret?"
Dave shrugged. "Same way these things are always covered up. The government didn't want to admit one of its top men tried to commit genocide, even without authorization. Mutants are afraid that the media would spin it as 'mutants have the power to kill all humans' and give more fodder to anti-mutant groups, despite the fact that the device was built by humans to kill mutants and is now destroyed. Xavier's School would rather stay semi-anonymous than chance anti-mutant groups showing up outside their door. And the mainstream media doesn't care enough about crimes against mutants to do any digging in the right places. So people with mutant connections know, but most people don't." He paused, carefully not asking how Garcia knew. She wasn't a mutant, as far as he knew, but it wasn't the kind of question you asked in public.
"That's—I don't even know what to say," Emily said. "I am so sorry, and ashamed of the US."
Dave shrugged. "Thanks," he said. He appreciated the sympathy, but it didn't change anything.
Emily closed her eyes and shook her head. "So. Given his experiences, Lensherr isn't just being paranoid. He has legitimate reasons to believe that humans will try to commit genocide against mutants, because it's happened."
"Pessimistic, but not paranoid," Dave said with a nod. "Things have gotten much better for mutants than they were when I was a kid, but Magneto would probably point out that things were better for German Jews in the teens and twenties than they'd ever been, and then the Nazis came."
"I'm curious about names," Reid said. "You refer to Lensherr as 'Magneto'. Many mutants who are publically known use nicknames. What is the significance of them?"
"Most mutants at the school, when I was there, had nowhere else to go," Dave said. He shook his head. "They'd been thrown out when their parents discovered they were mutants, their friends had turned against them—everything from their old life was gone. So we gave each other new names. It was kind of a rite of passage, of acceptance into the group. Shared communal bonds to replace the ones that had been severed. Some people took them more seriously than others."
Morgan frowned. "My impression was that the Brotherhood used their mutant names like call signs—to make it harder to figure out who was who."
Dave shrugged. "That's certainly possible. I wouldn't know, I was never on a combat team or even in training for one. All I can tell you is what it was like at the school when I was a student there. The Professor used whatever name you asked him to use, but he and most of the teachers would use your legal name as a default unless you asked them not to, particularly in the classroom. Magneto called everybody by their mutant name except the Professor, and everybody except the Professor called him Magneto. Well, if Magneto was really angry, he'd use your legal name, as if you weren't worth a mutant name."
"And what did Magneto and the Professor call each other?" JJ asked.
"Erik and Charles," Dave replied. "But I think that was because they'd been close friends before the whole idea of mutant names came about, and they just never got out of the habit. Also, I'm fairly sure that the Professor was the only person in the entire world that Magneto saw as an equal. Magneto is courteous and a gentleman to everyone unless he has reason not to be, but he respects the Professor. Or, at least, he did when they were teachers together."
"So, is 'Professor' Dr. Xavier's mutant name?" Reid asked.
Dave hesitated. "Sort of. I mean, he really is a professor—he taught at Oxford before he started the school, and nobody ever called him Dr. Xavier, just 'Professor.' His mutant name is 'Professor X.' I don't think he chose it himself—it doesn't really sound like something he'd choose—but he answered to it."
"Hence the name 'X-Men,'" Garcia said. "Sexist though it is."
"It goes back to the 1960's," Dave said.
Emily cocked her head. "So the Brotherhood of Mutants—also a sexist name, although one of their highest-ranking operatives after Magneto is a woman—attack humans in both justified and unjustified attacks. The X-Men defend mutants from humans and humans from mutants. Is that about right?"
"Then Xavier's school may not be a training ground for the Brotherhood, but it is a training ground for the X-Men who defend against the Brotherhood," Morgan said.
Dave shook his head. "Not all the X-Men went to school or taught there, and most of the school—past and present—never has been and never will be X-Men, barring an emergency like Stryker's attack. There's a lot more going on there than just the school—or than just the school and the X-Men, even. It's a hub for a lot of mutant activity, as long as it's either non-violent or purely aimed at self-defense." Mostly. Everyone was taught to use their powers, and not all those powers were non-violent, or particularly well-suited for defense except in the sense of the best defense being a good offense. But that was what the ethics classes were for.
"The school is a hub of mutant community, then," Hotch said.
"It was the first real community," Dave said. "I mean, other than the Hellfire Club and one or two other criminal gangs, if you count those, which I don't. Mutants hadn't really known about one another before. It was a place where you could go and be among people who understood what you're going through. Still is. Even for people who never went there, it has a reputation. There are other communities—other schools—now, but Xavier's has a lot of prestige. Xavier and Magneto were both very influential men. People respected both of them, whether or not they agreed with either. And their disagreement shaped the mutant community."
"Magneto's been depowered, but why do you speak of Xavier in the past tense?" JJ asked. "Is he dead? Retired?"
Dave sighed. "He was killed just before Alcatraz. I don't know the details." It still didn't seem quite real, that Magneto and the Professor were both … gone.
"Has anyone filled the power vacuum they left?" Hotch asked.
"Not really," Dave said. "As you know, the Brotherhood kind of fell apart. Xavier's School is still going strong, and they still have a lot of respect, but nothing like the Professor did. I'm not actually all that up on current mutant gossip, you know. If there have been any major new players on the scene, I don't know about them."
Hotch nodded. "All right. You've given us a lot of background, that's very helpful. How would you describe Magneto himself?"
"I haven't seen him in fifty years, okay?" Dave said. "I was a teenager, then, not a trained investigator. And he was a teacher, not a terrorist. He wasn't doing anything that would make the Professor throw him out."
"Your caveats are duly noted," Emily said. "You're still way up on the rest of us."
Dave closed his eyes, and thought back to his days at Xavier's. He'd been young, cocky, full of false bravado, sure that his powers were the best ever. Magneto had listened to him brag with a knowing look on his face, then asked for a demonstration.
"Where has the tabby cat been all morning? What has she done?"
Davy stared up at Mr. Lensherr, heart sinking. That was … that was difficult. Animals like to talk about where they were more than where they had been. And he'd never talked with this particular cat before. Cats didn't like people interrupting them, very much. Dogs were a lot easier. He turned to the cat that had wandered in while they'd been talking. "Where have you been?" he asked. Or, well, something close to that. He thought. Maybe. Animal languages didn't really have words, like human languages did. And cats' meows and snarls were hard.
The cat didn't even look up from washing himself. He wasn't impressed by Davy. That feeling at the back of his head, that Professor Xavier said was 'selective empathic awareness' that meant he could feel the emotions and sensations of the animals he spoke with, didn't change at all.
"Answer me!" he demanded. "Where?"
The cat stopped washing to hiss up at him and stalk out.
"Well? What did it say?"
"I don't know, sir," Davy said. "I don't think it wanted to talk."
Magneto stared down at him. "Obviously not. But it did say something to you, before it left."
"Uh, I don't know what that meant," Davy said. "But I don't think it was nice."
"I highly doubt it," Magneto said. "But I have no skills with animals, and even I could see that. You can hear and understand animals, and you do no better than that?"
Dave brought himself back to the present. "He was charismatic, very smart, courteous, but he could strip you to bone with just a few words if he thought you deserved it. He liked fencing with words. He liked irony—he smirked a lot, but I don't think he found things terribly funny. Magneto didn't have much patience for racism. Either you were a mutant or you weren't, and if you were, that was more important than anything else. He was a demanding teacher; he wouldn't accept any less than your best, and sometimes even your best wasn't quite good enough. He'd push you beyond what you thought you could do. He and the Professor played chess together very frequently. Some of the girls had crushes on him—tall, dark, brooding, foreign, tragic past. We all knew he'd been in the concentration camps, though to my knowledge he never spoke of it. He always knew where everyone and anything was around him. We all knew that he and the Professor argued, but they mostly kept it between themselves. I was surprised when I heard that he left and became a terrorist, and yet … looking back on it, it seems inevitable that the rift between the two of them would widen until it couldn't be bridged anymore."
"They were close?" Emily asked. "Close friends, or lovers?"
Dave frowned. "That's actually a question I've never thought to ask. I don't know. They might have been—they spent a lot of time together—but if there was anything more between them than friendship I never saw it. Of course, I was a sheltered Italian Catholic boy growing up in the 1960's. They'd have had to be really blatant for me to notice, and they both liked to keep their private lives private. Like I said, it was a long time ago. I really don't know how much more I can tell you." He glanced at the clock. Only two-thirty; another two and a half hours at least until the end of the day. Did Hotch plan for them to keep going without a break?
"Did you know any of the other future members of the Brotherhood of Mutants during your time at Xaviers?"
"Not really," Dave said. "I mean, I know that Mystique wasn't very good with little kids, but that's about it. None of the other teachers left with Magneto, and if any of my fellow students ended up joining the Brotherhood, I never heard."
"Mystique was there?" JJ asked. "I'm sorry, I'm just having trouble imagining a notorious assassin taking care of children."
"She wasn't an assassin, then," Dave said. "She was the Professor's younger sister, although that confused me because they had different last names. Her legal name was Raven Darkholme, which was almost a mutant name by itself. She didn't have any special qualifications or anything—wasn't particularly academically inclined—so she taught elementary school along with Mr. Summers and looked after the little kids. Not that there were very many—mutant powers usually manifest in puberty. But I never really had much contact with her. I'd see her around with the little ones, occasionally. I don't think I said more than ten words to her the entire time I was there. If she hadn't been blue and curvy, I don't think I would have noticed her at all. Sometimes she'd change into a normal-looking cute blonde to go into town."
"Did she wear clothing?" Morgan asked.
"Yes," Dave said. "I would have paid more attention to her if she didn't! That was right about the time I started noticing girls."
"Do you remember anything else about her?" Reid asked.
Dave shook his head. "Look it was fifty years ago," he said. "The only reason I remember even that much is because she went out and became an assassin, and it surprised me because she'd been so boring and relatively normal at the school. Well, at least I assumed she was normal. I didn't pay enough attention to her to know one way or the other."
"All right," Hotch said. "We've been at this an hour and I think we're starting to spin in circles. We've got a lot to process. Let's take a break. I'll divide up the files we have on Brotherhood members, and we'll get started on those individually. Tomorrow we'll meet in a round table, go over what we've got, and start putting things together."
Hotch stood, and Dave did too, out the door as quick as he could. He strode down the hall overlooking the bullpen as fast as he could without running, heading for the safety of his office. Once inside he locked the door and closed the blinds. He didn't want to have to deal with people staring, right now. God. What a day. He flopped into his chair and sighed.
It wasn't the longest afternoon he'd spent in his time at the Bureau, but it sure felt close. It was hell to keep his mind on his work. He'd finished up his report from their last case, then turned to the files Hotch had given him. He didn't know any of them, either personally or by reputation. They were a grab bag of backgrounds and abilities. It was easier that way. He could almost pretend this was any other consult. Almost.
At quarter to five he figured he was done for the day, and headed out. Hotch would be by that evening to talk about the afternoon's revelations. Neither of them had wanted to discuss it on official turf. Rossi hoped that some time playing with Mudgie would help him calm down.
He swung by Garcia's den on his way out. Her door was ajar.
" … and you didn't say anything?" Morgan sounded irate. Dave wasn't surprised; this wouldn't help his trust issues, any.
"No, I didn't," Garcia replied. "Just like I wouldn't tell anyone if you were gay and in the closet. Morgan, my darling thundercloud, cheer up. I know a lot of things about a lot of people, and a lot of it is private. I don't share the important stuff unless I have to."
"Hey," Dave said, pushing open the door. "Can we please not talk about this where anyone wandering by in the hall can hear? At least close the door next time."
"I'm so sorry, Agent Rossi," Garcia said. She glared at Morgan.
"I just wanted to say thanks," Dave said. "For caring."
Garcia beamed at him. "It is what I do, sir. It's not anything special."
Dave shook his head. "I think we both know how rare it is. Have a good night."
"You too," she replied.
Dave nodded to Morgan and headed out. He should have been expecting Morgan to follow, he realized, as the other agent fell into step with him. Thankfully, Morgan didn't say anything until they were in the elevator.
"So, you being a mutant doesn't matter?" Morgan said. "That seems like a pretty big omission to me."
"It's never affected the job," Rossi said. "Doesn't help, doesn't hinder. And it's not like I'm very involved in mutant culture. So no, from the Bureau's perspective, it's irrelevant." Well. It should be irrelevant.
"We work with you every day, Rossi, and we put our lives on the line together. It may be irrelevant to the bureau, but not to us."
"Like you've told us everything about your private life," Rossi said, wishing the elevator would move faster. "It doesn't affect anything here at the BAU."
"If it's so irrelevant, why didn't you take the cure?" Morgan asked belligerently.
Rossi gritted his teeth. So many normals thought the "cure" was a cure, that there was something wrong with being a mutant, that of course everyone would (or at least should) jump on the opportunity to give up their identity. "If there was a vaccine that could make you white, would you take it?"
"Hell, no," Morgan said. "But that's different."
"Oh, yeah? If I were out as a mutant, I'd be several times more likely to be the victim of a hate crime than you, Agent Morgan. I'd be discriminated against here at the Bureau. And it would be changing my physical body to suit the mainstream prejudices. How would it be different? Mutants aren't the first to pass."
"Way to play the Oppression Olympics, there," Morgan said. "Hypotheticals don't count. You haven't suffered any of those things because you chose to pass. I couldn't pass for white even if I wanted to. But you can, and you have. You don't get to just pretend that it's nothing." Morgan changed tactics. "We're your team, Rossi. We should have known!"
"When I was in Viet Nam, I knew a guy named Ricky," Dave said. "He was a great guy. Always had a joke, always had a bit of good advice. Real good at his job too, and everybody liked him. He was a month and a half shy of the end of his tour, when he was outed as a mutant. Two weeks later, he was dead. His team didn't frag him. They just … got real slow in responding when he called for help. It's not that I don't trust you, Derek. It's just that some lessons get written deep." The elevator came to a stop, and the doors opened. "I'll see you tomorrow," Dave said, heading out.
Dave threw the stick and Mudgie chased after it. "High! High! Far! Far!" he barked, grabbing it to bring back. A quick tug of war and Dave had the stick ready to throw again. He basked in the simple openness of the dog's excitement. This was the best way Dave knew to unwind: to share in Mudgie's simple pleasures. How the others managed the stress and heartache of their jobs, he didn't know.
The doorbell interrupted the game. Mudgie whined when he didn't throw the stick. "Later," Dave told him. "Inside."
They went in and Mudgie flopped on his dog bed. "Stay," Dave told him. Mudgie pouted but obeyed.
Dave opened the front door. As expected, it was Aaron. "Come on in," he said. "Can I get you a drink?" He led his boss into the living room and they sat down.
"No, thank you," Aaron said. He paused. "I really wish I'd found out about this differently, Dave."
"So do I," Dave said. "I'm sorry for blindsiding you."
Aaron nodded, accepting the apology but not offering forgiveness. "What is your power?"
"I can talk with animals," Dave said. "It's a combination of vocal mimicry and selective empathy. It only works with animals, I can't read human minds or emotions any better than you can. And not all animals, just ones with a relatively complex brain. Well, and sometimes I can get something vague out of a hive of insects."
"I'd think that would be useful for investigations," Aaron said.
"You'd think," Dave said. "But no. Animals don't think like humans do, and they don't perceive time like humans do, and they don't perceive the same things humans do. If you want to talk to animals, you have to talk on their level. Say we find a body in the forest. Chances are, any animals that were around when the body was killed are long gone by the time we get there, and even if they weren't the investigators scare them off. And even if by some miracle they're still there, chances are they didn't care enough about what happened to remember it. Animals live in the now, not the past or the future. And even if they're still around and remember, chances are their perceptions of the event will be different enough from what I perceive that it won't be helpful. I mean, it doesn't help me find a killer if I know what a dog smelled, because I can't smell most things a dog can. Unless I want to bring the dog in to smell a lineup. Besides, if I use animal witnesses, what would I say when I get called to testify? A little bird told me?"
Aaron snorted. "I see your point."
"Even if my mutation were publically known, it still wouldn't be useful because I'm the only one who can understand them. So I would be testifying on their behalf. At best, it would be hearsay."
"I've got it," Aaron said. "How did you keep it secret all these years? You spent two years at a school for mutants. You're one of the Bureau's top field agents."
Dave shrugged. "Everything in my file is accurate, it's just not complete. When I joined the military, they didn't screen for the X-gene, or ask any questions about it. Same with the Bureau. They were still in denial that mutants existed and might want to serve their country. It was before the paranoia about mutants set in. And I've never applied for a position in the Bureau that would require an in-depth background check."
"So you slipped through the cracks." Aaron crossed his legs, leaning back. "I've seen enough prejudice and discrimination in the Bureau to understand why you kept it quiet. But I'm your team leader, and your friend. You should have told me."
Dave gave a brief nod, accepting the reprimand without comment. It was easy enough for Aaron, a normal, to think that. Whether he would still think that if he were a mutant himself, Dave wasn't so sure. Either way, now was not the time to challenge him on it.
"I know you want to keep this quiet, but your perspective on Magneto is probably going to be a large part of our analysis," Aaron said. "I can't just pretend we're pulling it out of thin air."
"I know," Dave said. "And I've been thinking. There are probably still some staff at Xavier's School who worked with Magneto while he was there. Dr. McCoy isn't, but he's at the UN in New York, and it's only about an hour from the school in good traffic. If I can arrange a meeting, we can get more current information than my fifty-year-old school memories. I doubt they'd accept the whole team—too much like an invasion—but I could probably talk them into letting Reid and I visit."
"And then Reid would get to meet Ambassador McCoy," Aaron said with a nod. "That kills two birds with one stone. All right. If you can arrange it, you can do it."
"Thanks," Dave said.
"It was a hell of a time to come out," Aaron said. "Things were dicey enough. The last thing we need is something playing with Reid and Morgan's trust issues."
"I'm hoping that a drive up to New York, and a meeting with Dr. McCoy, will help with Reid, at least," Dave said. "Morgan … I'll have to think about it." There might be more than just trust issues, there, if his attitude in the elevator was any indication. Or maybe Dave was just being too sensitive. He sighed.
Aaron nodded, looking into the kitchen at Mudgie on his dog bed. They sat in an uncomfortable silence for a while.
"You know, I was thinking about the timing of your retirement," Aaron said at last. "You left just as Senator Kelly was starting to make real progress on his anti-mutant agenda, when it looked like he might actually be able to get his mutant registration law passed. You didn't come back until after his defection dismantled his coalition and the Supreme Court declared the use of the so-called cure in weaponized form to be a violation of fourth amendment protections against unlawful seizure without a specific court order."
Dave nodded. "I always tried to be the voice of reason, whenever I came up with a case with a mutant involved. Tried to help people see past their knee-jerk bigotry, make sure mutants got a fair investigation like anyone else. But when you get laws that unjust, well, there's not a lot you can do from the inside. As for the weaponized mutation suppressor … God, what a nightmare. Can't you just see it? It'd be the first line of attack in any case where there was any reason to suspect a mutant of anything. And most of the police who would use it would think they were doing their target a favor. To casually reach out and alter the very core of someone's being, and believe they had a right to do it. When it first came out, I didn't watch the news for a month. I couldn't stand to hear such bigoted airheads spouting off about it."
"What would you have done if the Supreme Court had ruled the other way?" Aaron asked.
"I don't know," Dave admitted. "In the short term, probably kept writing books. In the long term … it depends on whether or not Magneto had turned out to be right. If he was, well, I've never been one for sitting on the sidelines. If he wasn't, I'd probably have had to find another job, eventually. There's only so long you can write books on criminal psychology without regularly practicing in the field, and I have no idea how long I'll live."
"What kinds of jobs would you look at, if you had to leave the Bureau?" Aaron asked.
"I dunno," Dave said. "My Mama used to say that God had given me my gifts for a reason, and that I should have been a vet or a zookeeper or something."
Aaron smiled. "I can't see you as a vet, somehow, too tame."
"Yeah, that's about what I thought when I was a young man," Dave said. "I told Mama that talking with animals wasn't the only gift God had given me. Now, I don't know. I like dealing with animals. It's peaceful."
"I suppose," Aaron said, in the doubtful tones of someone who'd never had to seriously considered leaving his chosen field. Law, SWAT, BAU—Aaron's career choices fit together into one continuous whole. And the only thing that could change that was Aaron's own actions. No bigotry would ever force him out into the cold.
"Hey," Dave said, "If we're done talking business, you want that drink now?"
Aaron shook his head. "No. I need to get home to Jack. I'll see you tomorrow at work."
The next day Dave made a point of not hiding in his office. He'd managed to arrange a meeting with Dr. McCoy at Xavier's School, so there was no round table meeting to discuss Magneto's profile. Instead, they spent their day working individually on lower-ranking mutants. No one could have called him on it if he'd spent the day alone working through the files. Instead, he made a point of stopping in the bullpen on every pretext he could find, chatting, bouncing ideas off the other profilers. He even went so far as to corner Morgan in his office, asking for a second opinion on a Brotherhood mutant whose pattern of attack showed the possibility of a fixation on parental figures. That didn't quite go over like a lead balloon, but it was close.
He was glad when it was over. The day after, a Friday, he was in front of Reid's apartment building in a Bureau SUV at 8AM sharp. Reid was waiting for him, and was pulling open the passenger door almost as soon as he'd pulled to a stop, a large travel mug of coffee in one hand and his go-bag in the other.
"You know, it's a good thing I didn't have plans for tonight or tomorrow," Reid bitched as he buckled himself in. "Driving up to New York and back isn't exactly how I planned to spend my weekend."
"Hey, it wasn't my idea," Dave said, checking traffic before pulling back out on the road. "Ambassador McCoy is a busy man, particularly during the week. We're lucky he could see us at all on such short notice, even late on a Friday afternoon. He could have said Saturday. And we'll get a day off next week to compensate."
"As long as we don’t get called off on a case," Reid pointed out.
"That's not likely, given that both the other teams are in the field and they don't like leaving the office empty," Dave said. "Besides, would you rather I left you behind and took Emily or JJ to meet Dr. McCoy, instead? Because I think I could still call them up and change plans. We haven't left the city yet."
"No, this is fine," Reid said. He dug in his bag and pulled out an iPod and a car adapter, plugging it in. At least there was no need to fight over a radio dial; he and Reid had long since reached a compromise both could live with. Unlike, say, Morgan, whose tastes in music were about diametrically opposite to Dave's.
They drove in silence for the first hour, Dave concentrating on navigating the snarl that was the Beltway at rush hour, Reid staring out the window at passing cars.
"Want some more coffee?" Dave asked, once they were through the worst of it. At Reid's affirmative, he took the next exit and found a drive-through coffee place, paying for both their orders. He didn't need the coffee himself, but it was something to break the ice.
"You've been awful quiet," Dave said as they got back on the road.
"Sorry," Reid said. "I read as many of Dr. McCoy's works as I could get my hands on last night, and I've been thinking about what questions to ask, if we get a chance to talk about science instead of profiling."
"If you're interested, I think he'll make sure you get the chance, unless he's completely changed since I knew him. I still can't quite see him as a politician—he loved science and experimenting with a passion. He taught science by having us help with his experiments, when we could."
"Lucky you," Reid said enviously.
Dave laughed. "I wouldn't have said so at the time. He really didn't have that good a grasp on what the normal intellectual and educational level of a teenager was. He tended to assume that what was obvious to him would be obvious to everyone else, too. It came naturally to him. He wasn't quite sure what to do with people it didn't come naturally to. Still, his enthusiasm was catching."
"That's a common problem among people with special talents in particular areas," Reid said. "People use their own abilities as a baseline for normal, which causes problems when it's not."
"Speaking from experience, there, Doctor Reid?" Dave asked.
"It did cause some problems when I was a kid," Reid said. "Eighteen year olds don't like thirteen year olds that make them feel stupid."
"I can imagine," Dave said. "It can also cause problems with mutant-human relations. The differences in perception can be huge, without anyone realizing it."
"Do you consider yourself not 'human,' then?" Reid asked.
Dave sighed. "It depends on how you mean. In some ways, yeah. If I had to choose between baseline human and mutant, I'd probably go with mutant. Day to day … well. The problem is, 'human' is the only really polite and concise way of saying 'someone who is not a mutant.' I mean, I wouldn't call a friend a flattie, or even a flatscan, you know?"
"So it's a problem of terminology," Reid said. "I'm curious about etiquette. Is it polite to ask what someone's mutation is if it's not obvious?"
"That a subtle way of asking what mine is?" Dave asked. "It's a touchy subject for a human to ask about. There are too many people who ask that because they want to see a freak show, you know? Basically, if you're respectful and don't push if they don't want to talk, you're a lot less likely to cause offense." He paused. "My mutation is an ability to both mimic and understand animal cries, and a selective empathy that allows me to sense what an animal is feeling. It doesn't work on humans, and it doesn't work on animals who don't have brains complex enough to support an emotional response. Mammals are easier than reptiles or fish."
"Interesting," Reid said. "I wonder why it works on complex animals but not humans? After all, the closer the brain is to yours the easier it would be to interpret the sensations, I would think."
"Doctor McCoy and the Professor thought humans might be too complex," Dave said. "Animals are a lot simpler, more straightforward in their thought and emotional patterns. And I've never tried to read a monkey or ape or any of the animals closest to human in mental capacity."
"Maybe we should go to the zoo some time," Reid said thoughtfully. "It would be interesting to test out. Any other points of etiquette I should remember?"
"Well, how about not implying that you want a mutant to be your lab rat?" Dave said, shaking his head. "I mean, I get it, I know you don't mean anything by it. But when you're going to be in a place where some people have been lab rats, well, be careful. A mutant like Doctor McCoy or the Professor doing research with full consent and cooperation is one thing. A human—particularly a federal agent—is something completely different. You're going to meet a lot of people who are used to being treated like crap by bigoted jerks. Don't be surprised if they're wary or defensive."
"Right," Reid said. "Speaking of experimentation, did you ever think of going into zoology? I could name several researchers who would love to be able to work with someone who could give them more direct feedback on why their animals do what they do."
"I'm not really an academic kind of guy," Dave said. "Aren't you going to ask me why I don't use my ability with the BAU?"
"Why would you?" Reid asked, frowning. "Given the differences between animal and human attention spans and perception, I'd think the possibility of getting anything usable would be really, really small."
"That's true, but Aaron still asked the question," Dave said. "And I'm probably gonna have to explain it to the rest of the team, too. Starting with Morgan, probably."
"I'm surprised you haven't done so already," Reid said. "You planning on talking with him when we get back? Both he and I have trust issues, but his tend to be focused on male authority figures while mine are more general. I understand why you didn't say anything, and while I'm hurt that you didn't trust us, it's not my place to judge something I have no experience with. And you're introducing me to Doctor McCoy, so I'm pretty happy with that."
"Never let it be said that you're not easy," Dave said with some amusement.
Reid shrugged. "Well, I might hold out for taking you to the zoo to see you in action, if we could figure out how to do it so that we wouldn't out you."
"We'll see," Dave said.
"Are you planning on throwing another team dinner?" Reid asked. "It was surprisingly effective to get over the worst of the friction about Emily's faked death."
Dave raised his eyebrows to hear the resentment that had almost torn the team apart—the worst of it coming from Reid—reduced to mere 'friction.' "I may," he said. "But you'll note that it wasn't Emily or Aaron or JJ who threw the party. Would you have shown up if they did?"
"Good point," Reid said. "Well, I don't have a big enough place and neither does Garcia. Emily is still settling in, and Morgan's out for obvious reasons. Maybe I should talk to Hotch or JJ about it."
"You do that," Dave said. Something where he could leave if things went bad sounded much more attractive than hosting it in his house.
"So, how long has it been since you've been here?" Reid asked as they came to the gates and turned in the driveway.
"Decades," Dave said.
"Has it changed much?"
"Well, for one thing, there were a lot fewer people here." Dave looked around at the swarms of teenagers and children playing on the lawn, enjoying the last few warm days of fall. He'd have been thrilled to have more than four people his age as a student. "And the grounds have changed—it was all formal English gardens and stuff. The mansion itself doesn't look like it's changed much, at least from the outside."
He pulled into a parking spot by the front door and climbed out, waiting for Reid before heading up the steps. A white man in his late teens/early twenties was waiting for them, possibly a student. "Hi, you must be Agents Rossi and Reid," he said. "I'm Bobby. Ms. Munroe asked me to show you to her study."
"Thank you," Reid said as they followed him inside. "So, are you a teacher or a student?"
"Neither, any more," Bobby said. "I graduated a couple of years back. I'm working part time and going to school part time, getting my general courses out of the way at the community college."
"What are you planning to study?" Reid asked.
"Accounting," Bobby said. "It's not exciting, but it's a good job that pays well and is always in demand."
"That's a smart choice in an economy like this one," Dave said absently, noting the changes as they walked through the halls. Furnishings and art had been changed in favor of more durable, less fancy items. The sitting room was now a game room complete with a big-screen TV and four kids playing video games.
It didn't take long to reach the study. The door looked the same, but Bobby had to knock. Dave shook his head. It was funny, but that threw him more than any other change. Reid saw his reaction and raised an eyebrow.
"Nobody ever had to knock when I was a student here," Dave explained.
"Yeah," Bobby said. "We all miss the Professor. Ms. Munroe's doing a wonderful job, though."
A woman's voice invited them to enter. Bobby opened the door and ushered them in. "Agent Rossi, Agent Reid, this is Headmistress Ororo Munroe. Ma'am, these are agents Rossi and Reid."
Ororo Munroe was a beautiful black woman with striking white hair, despite her youthful appearance. She didn't seem to be older than her mid-thirties, but that didn't mean much for a mutant. She sat behind the Professor's desk, with the Professors books on the shelves that took up most of the walls, but the art was different, and the elegant wooden chairs had been replaced by slightly more modern (and comfortable-looking) furniture.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ma'am," Dave said, coming over to shake her hand.
She stood to greet him, smiling. "We are always happy to have our alumni visit, particularly ones as distinguished as you, Agent Rossi."
"Thank you," he said.
She released his hand and turned to Reid, who also shook hands. "Thank you for having us," he said.
Dave breathed a sigh of relief; Reid's general reluctance to shake hands could too easily be mistaken for a specific reluctance to shake hands with mutants.
"I hope your visit is fruitful," Ms. Munroe replied. "You are a little early; Doctor McCoy has not yet arrived."
"We allowed extra time in case of particularly bad traffic," Dave said. "I hope we're not keeping you from your work."
"Not at all," Ms. Munroe said with a smile. "We have one or two students considering careers in law enforcement or emergency services. I was wondering if you would care to speak to them while you are here, and give your perspective on those careers and any advice you might have, as a fellow mutant?"
"I'd be glad to," Dave said.
The door opened, and in strode a familiar blue figure. "David! I was so very glad to hear from you. It has been too long. How are you doing?"
"I'm doing well, Doctor McCoy," Dave said, sticking out his hand for an enthusiastic shaking. "I was surprised you turned to politics—you've done some great work, but it's hard to imagine anything dragging you out of your lab."
"Yes, well, science is important, but how it is applied is even more so," Doctor McCoy said. "Have you kept in contact with any of your classmates? I assume you heard about Suzanne's death."
"Yeah," Dave said with a sigh. It was a shock to realize Suzanne—Sway—had died almost twenty years earlier. Where had the time gone? She'd died saving others, but that wasn't any kind of consolation. "Sunfire's in Mumbai, India, working with X-Corporation for mutant rights," Dave said. "The Tokyo branch is going strong, and you know Sunfire, he always liked a challenge. Thunderbird's actually here in New York, he's a detective with the NYPD." John was Dave's main contact with the mutant world.
"Really?" Doctor McCoy said. "We shall have to get together sometime. Two out of four of that class in law enforcement."
"We both decided on our careers independently, if that's what you're wondering," Dave said. "I'd like you to meet a friend and colleague of mine, Doctor Spencer Reid. Reid's also a behavioral analyst, but he had three PhD's before he was twenty. He's a bit of a fan of yours. He goes to school for fun."
"Ah! A pleasure to meet a fellow scholar," Doctor McCoy said, turning to Reid to shake his hand. "Please, both of you, call me Hank."
"Thank you," Reid said, flushing slightly.
Hank turned to Ms. Monroe and greeted her as an old friend. Once the greetings were done, she invited them to sit on the sofa and chairs in the center of the office.
"Shall we get down to business?" Hank said as they sat down.
Dave took the lead. "As I explained in my phone call, the CIA has asked the Behavioral Analysis Unit to update its profiles of known members of the Brotherhood of Mutants. They're worried about what will happen if the so-called cure wears off for them, if it hasn't already. They're particularly interested in Magneto and Mystique for obvious reasons. They didn't know I was a mutant when they assigned the case to our team—the Bureau still doesn't—but I was wondering if you would be able to give us some perspective on Magneto and Mystique for our profile."
"Thus camouflaging your own personal knowledge of your subjects?" Hank said, raising an eyebrow.
"Exactly," Dave said.
"Also, you here at the school probably have a better handle on the long-term effects of the so-called cure than anyone," Reid said. "Both physiological and psychological."
"May I ask what these profiles will be used for?" Ms. Monroe asked. She wasn't cold, but there was a reserve to her manner that her courtesy couldn’t hide.
"To predict what they'll do if the Brotherhood becomes a threat again," Dave said.
"Ma'am, I understand that you have been the victims of some terrible things," Reid said. "I can't promise you that no one will ever misuse any information you choose to give us. But I give you my word that I will do everything in my power to keep that from happening."
She nodded. "Thank you, Doctor Reid. As to the so-called 'cure,'" she spoke the word as if it left a bad taste in her mouth, "it is widely divisive within the mutant community, and reactions to it do not conform to any set of ideals or allegiances. There are some who supported the Brotherhood who were nonetheless relieved by the possibility to remove harmful mutations, and there are those among the supporters of peaceful relations who view even the attempt to search for a 'cure' to be a direct attack. But as the 'cure' failed, and as so many have died when their mutations returned out of their control, hatred of it and those who developed and used it has only grown. As has discrimination against those who have taken it, whether voluntarily or not, and this sometimes continues after their powers return."
"Do those who took the cure voluntarily try to stay within the mutant community?" Dave asked.
Monroe shrugged. "It depends. Those who have strong ties of family or friendship with humans are more likely to separate from the mutant community. Those who took the cure because they were ashamed or afraid generally break contact. Those who took the cure because their mutation is a danger to themselves or others sometimes remain a part of the community, and sometimes do not. Those who were given the cure against their will generally try to remain within the community, but not always; if they have enemies, it is sometimes safer to move in strictly human circles. But whether they stay or go, their position is precarious. Humans often still discriminate against them as mutants, and mutants often act against them as traitors to their own kind. It is a situation in which there are few happy endings."
Reid turned to Hank. "Has any work been done on the neurochemical effects of the cure? I would think that in some cases the alteration in brain function would be quite large, which would then have effects on cognition and emotion."
Hank shook his head. "There are very few people whom mutants trust enough to do that kind of research, and most are already spread quite thin, as I am myself. Besides, for that sort of work you'd want a specialist, and if there are any working within the mutant community I don't know of them."
"I see," Reid said, looking disappointed.
"Is there anything else you can tell us, anything we should be on the lookout for?" Dave asked.
"I am afraid not," Monroe said. "There are so very many factors that may have an effect in this case. Each situation is unique."
"Thank you for speaking with us," Reid said. "Believe it or not, even what you've been able to tell us has been helpful." He glanced at Dave, letting him take the lead.
"So tell us about Magneto," Dave said. "What was he like to work with? What was the final straw that made him leave to start up the Brotherhood of Mutants? What things stick out in your mind about him?"
The discussion of Magneto and Mystique took quite some time; both Doctor McCoy and Ms. Monroe knew a surprising amount of what the Brotherhood had been up to over the last several decades, in addition to their experiences with the two mutants before the Brotherhood's formation. It was not an easy discussion; there were some subjects Ms. Monroe and Doctor McCoy were very careful to skirt around. One such question was whether or not they could tell them about any other member of the former Brotherhood. Dave figured there was at least one former student in the Brotherhood, someone young enough not to have burned all his bridges behind him yet. Reid probably picked up on it too, but didn't press the issue.
At last a student knocked on the door to let them know dinner was ready. Ms. Monroe stood with a gracious smile. "You are welcome to join us for dinner, if you so desire."
"Thank you," Dave said. "We'd like that."
"Excellent!" Doctor McCoy (Hank, Dave reminded himself) said. "That will give Doctor Reid and myself time to converse on more congenial subjects."
"Do you have accommodations for the night?" Ms Monroe asked.
"No, Rossi insisted on coming straight here," Reid said. "Why?"
"We have a small hostel here in the school," she replied. "Usually, our rooms are used by visiting mutants or the parents of students. If you wish, you may stay here overnight. This would give Hank and Doctor Reid more time to speak, and give Dave the opportunity to speak with our students."
"Tell you what," Dave said. "Charge the Bureau what they'd be paying if we stayed in a regular hotel. Then put the difference between that and what you'd normally charge in the scholarship fund." He glanced at Reid to make sure he didn't object to the sleight of hand with their finances.
"Very well," Ms. Monroe said. "This way."
Reid and Hank spent the entire dinner engrossed in a discussion of … something. Dave knew they were speaking English because he understood a few words here and there. Mostly things like "and," "the," "to," and other articles and prepositions. He was an intelligent and generally well-educated man, but nowhere in their league.
Dave himself spent dinner between Ms. Monroe and a guy named Scott Summers, who it turned out was the younger brother of the Mr. Summers who'd been a teacher when Dave was a student. Scott had started the year after Dave left to go back to his hometown high school, but he sure didn't look it. Dave had thought he was well-preserved for his age, but Scott was five years younger and could have passed for thirty years younger.
It was good that Reid was having a good time, Dave reflected, because neither Scott nor Ms. Monroe were very talkative. He hadn't really expected to see anyone he knew after all this time, but it still felt weird to see all knew faces. It sort of felt like his first night in the school.
Davy poked at his food, not quite sure what to make of it. There was a lot of sticky rice, and that was about all he recognized. Well, there was grilled fish, but it wasn't like the fish his family had every Friday. And some soup, but it looked kind of weird, with green stuff floating in it—he hadn't tasted it yet, and wasn't sure if he was going to. The kid next to him had whispered that it was seaweed. There were also pickles, but they were kind of weird, too. Professor Xavier had explained that the school served many different kinds of food because they had students from all over, and they wanted all of them to be able to eat familiar food. Davy scowled. Why would anyone want to eat this weird stuff? His Mama's lasagna was a lot tastier. He stole a glance down at the kiddie table, at the blue woman (Blue! With scales!) who was making sure all the kids ate their vegetables. Then at the big furry blue monster who sat with the rest of the teachers.
"If you keep scowling, your face will freeze like that."
Davy looked up to see the girl across the table from him smiling. She was pretty enough, for a chink, he supposed. She was the first Oriental person he'd ever met. She seemed nice. Still, he wished there were more kids like him. How was he supposed to learn to be normal here?
"I'm Suzanne Chan," she said. "Sway. I can control time. Well, some of the time. That's John Proudstar," she said, nodding to the guy next to Davy. He was kinda dark-skinned, with straight black hair. Was he an Indian? He didn't look like the Indians in the movies—where were the feathers and buckskin? "John's mutant name is Thunderbird. He's really strong and really fast. And this is Shiro Yoshida," she said, indicating the other chink at the table. Unlike Suzanne, Sh-whatever was using chopsticks. "Sunfire. He's from Japan. He can make nuclear fire. Do you have a mutant name, yet, Davy?"
"What's a mutant name?" Davy asked.
"A mutant name is a name for your true self," the Indian said. "It reflects your powers, and your personality. Your parents called you Davy. What do you call yourself?"
"I call myself Davy," he said, confused.
The guy with the chopsticks snickered. "What are your powers?" He had an accent, though it wasn't as bad as Davy expected from TV.
"I can talk with animals," Davy said. It wasn't a lie! Not really. He'd be able to … eventually. He hoped. Right now, all he wanted to do was be able to choose whether to speak or bark when there was a dog in the room.
"What do you want to be called?" Suzanne asked. "What do you think of when you use your powers?"
"I dunno," Davy said. Nobody told him he'd have to make up a name for himself. It was only his first night! He wasn't even sure he could find his way from the dining hall to the room they'd assigned him. And he hadn't met his roommate yet, though he thought maybe it would be one of the two other guys at the table, since the four of them seemed to be the closest in age and he obviously couldn't room with the girl.
"That's okay," John said confidently. "We'll help you think of something."
After dinner (Davy ate the fish, and most of the rice, and some of the soup even though it tasted funny) the other kids went off to play games while Davy sat pushing weird pickles around his plate and feeling sorry for himself.
He looked up, to see Professor Xavier standing over him. "Hello, Professor," he said, straightening up.
"How are you feeling?"
Davy frowned. The Professor could read peoples' minds, right? Why was he asking what he already knew?
The Professor smiled. "You do think very loudly, Davy, so that it is hard for me not to hear you. Part of that has to do with your powers, and I shall be teaching you how to shield—that is, how to think more quietly. But it is rude of me to read peoples' thoughts without their permission, and so I try not to listen too closely. Also, sometimes it helps more to talk something out than to merely think it."
"Oh," Davy said. "Well, I'm doing fine," he said.
Professor Xavier didn't respond to the lie, just watched him for a while until Davy was fidgeting. Mama had told him to behave, and she would skin him if she heard him talking back to the principal. Wait, there was a weird name for it—headmaster. "Why can't we have normal food?" he asked.
"I'm sorry that it was not to your liking," Professor Xavier said. "But for Shiro, this is normal food. In fact, it was made according to his mother's recipe. If you were in Japan, and surrounded by people who didn't speak your language or pray to the same God or eat the same food, wouldn't you be happy to have lasagna?" The Professor waited until Davy had imagined what that would be like, to be in such a strange place—a little bit like he felt right now, only probably worse. Yeah, he'd want that lasagna—he'd wanted it tonight! "That is how Shiro felt tonight. Don't worry, we'll have food you recognize more often than not."
"Good," Davy said. "Are there any other boys my age here?" White boys, he meant, boys who played baseball and listened to the Beatles, not … whatever it was they did in Japan.
"I'm afraid the school is still fairly small," the Professor said. "You were seated with Suzanne, John, and Shiro because you will be taking classes with them. By the way, you were thinking quite loudly, earlier, and I could not help overhearing."
Davy stiffened and opened his mouth to protest—Professor Xavier had just said he didn't read minds without permission!
Professor Xavier sighed. "Normally I would try to ignore it, but there is something you should know that will make your stay here much more pleasant for all concerned, including yourself. Suzanne is Chinese, not a 'chink,' and she is in fact a natural-born United States citizen just as you are. And Shiro is Japanese, not a 'jap.' Those terms are very hurtful, so we do not use them here. But I'm sure that if you get to know them, you'll become friends. I believe they're playing Sorry, if you'd like to join them."
Davy frowned, thinking. It wasn't as if there was anyone else here his age. "Where are they?"
Instead of telling him, the Professor smiled. All of a sudden, Davy had a map of the school in his head, and he knew how to get to the sitting room, and also to his bedroom. Well. Dave would rather play Clue or Monopoly, but he sure didn't want to sit in his room alone until lights out. He went off to find his classmates.
Davy turned back to the Professor. "Yes, sir?"
"Please put your dishes in the sink for the students on KP duty to clean."
Dave shook his head. He'd been such a bigoted little jerk without even realizing it. The room might not have changed that much, but boy his attitudes sure had, and a lot of that was due to his experiences here and the friendships he'd made. He'd had to step outside his comfort zone and make friends with kids from different backgrounds, kids who didn't look or talk like him, and it had changed the way he looked at the world. It had made more of a difference to his daily life than the development of his powers had, actually.
Dave looked around the room and wondered what his younger self would have thought of it. Back then, Doctor McCoy and Mystique had been the only two who couldn’t pass for human if they wanted. Well, Mystique could, but not in her natural state. Now there were so many more—rainbow hues, scales, fur, you name it, some kid or teacher had it. They came from all over the world. They had nothing in common—even their powers were diverse enough not to count as things in common. And yet, here they were, eating and talking and laughing together.
"A penny for your thoughts, Agent Rossi," Ms. Monroe said.
"If the rest of the world were more like this school, I think we'd all be better off," Dave said. "Mutant and human."
She smiled, but her eyes were sad. "Yes. I know what you mean. Still, perhaps we can lead by example, and by teaching our children how to live in harmony rather than hatred."
"One can only hope." Dave glanced past her to Hank and Reid as they stood and gathered their plates, still talking animatedly about God only knew what. "Looks like Reid and Hank are having a grand time. I thought they might hit it off."
"Yes," Ms. Monroe said. "If there were more people like your partner, the world would also be a better place. I hope the rest of your colleagues are as accepting of your heritage."
"Hey, they broke the mold when they made him," Dave said. "But my team is great. We're having a little bit of a rough patch right now—I hadn't told them I was a mutant before this, and we were only just getting through some tough things when this assignment started—but we'll be okay." He hoped.
"I am glad," Ms. Monroe said. "Would you care to walk with me, Agent Rossi? Perhaps I might show you how the school has changed since you were a student." She said it with a smile that was charming but not flirtatious.
"I would like that," Rossi said. "Lead on." They bussed their dishes and headed off. As Dave expected, the tour ended in Ms. Monroe's office, with the door closed.
After offering him tea and cookies, Ms. Monroe got down to business. "The last time Magneto was in government custody, they experimented on him and used mind control to extract the information that Stryker used both to assault this school and build his mutant-killing device."
"Damn," Dave said, shaking his head. "Every time I think it can't get worse, it does."
She pursed her lips. "While we do of course want Magneto and his followers contained and prevented from creating more violence, I am sure you understand why the idea of them in prison makes us … wary."
Dave stared at her. "You know where he is," he said.
Ms. Monroe was good, she didn't even blink. "If you were to see Magneto, assuming he was still de-powered and no threat to anyone, what would you do?"
"I have no idea," Dave said. Magneto deserved to be punished and he sure as hell should be locked up for everyone's safety, but did Dave want to take the chance that another like Stryker would come along? Did he want to take the chance that having Magneto in custody would tempt his jailers to break the very laws they were called to uphold? Magneto was so high-profile he might entice those who wouldn’t take the risk for smaller fish. And yet, as an FBI agent he had a duty to apprehend any criminal he found, particularly a terrorist. Could he trust that the X-Men could keep Magneto contained even if his powers came back? Could he trust that Magneto wouldn't start causing purely human violence?
"I believe that Hank and Doctor Reid will wish to spend the morning in the lab," Ms. Monroe said. "If you have an answer by then, please let me know."
So Magneto was somewhere he could visit in a morning while Reid was off with Hank. Probably New York—a big enough city for one man to disappear into obscurity. "I'll let you know," Dave said.
The next morning Dave was in Central Park by a quarter to ten. If there was a chance Magneto would become a threat again, he needed to be locked up. And the only way for Dave to make that judgment was to see for himself. What Dave would do if he found Magneto wasn't a threat … he still wasn't sure. Ms. Monroe had insisted he take one of the school's car's in to the city, so the FBI wouldn't know where he went from the GPS. Reid and Hank were buried in the labs, and probably wouldn't surface until they were dragged out.
Dave almost walked right past Magneto. Despite what he'd been told, somehow the idea of Magneto as a tired old man in a nondescript coat and a tweed hat sitting in the park just didn't seem right. But there he was, sitting at a chess board and staring at the metal pieces as if willing them to move. Once, it would have been the most trivial of exercises to send them dancing through the air. Now, they were still.
"Mind if I join you?" Dave asked.
"As a matter of fact, I do," Magneto said.
Dave sat down anyway, studying the older man. It wasn't just the normal clothes—after all, he'd worn normal clothes when Dave had known him. The man Dave had known had seemed larger than life, with a presence that drew others to him. The man in front of him felt smaller than his physical frame, not hunched over but sunken in on himself with weariness.
"If you were going to sit anyway, why bother to ask?" Magneto said testily.
"To see what you'd say," Dave said.
Magneto narrowed his eyes, looking him up and down. "Ah. Yes. Minotaur. Or do you go by Davy?"
"It's Dave, actually," Dave said, willing to let him control the conversation for now, just to see where he'd take it. No one was within earshot, unless there was a parabolic mike or a mutant with exceptionally good hearing.
"I heard you were working for the FBI," Magneto said. "Come to take me back to my little plastic cage, complete with mind control drugs to ensure my docility? Though the taxpayers could house me far more cheaply in a standard cell, these days. Or were you planning a more direct solution?"
"So, your powers still haven't returned?" Dave asked. He hadn't seen Magneto in fifty years, and yet there was still a part of him that wanted to respond as a student. Better to go on the offensive. It's what Dave was best at, anyway. "Is that why you're sitting here alone at a chessboard? Hoping that'll change?"
"Actually, I have a standing appointment with other old men," Magneto said. "We play chess and complain about the state of the world these days. Isn't that what retirees do?" He raised an eyebrow, as if astonished anyone could ever think him out of the ordinary.
"And do you consider yourself retired?"
Magneto shrugged. "For now, at least. We shall see." But the tightening of the skin around his eyes and mouth gave the lie to his studied air of aloofness.
"And if I went to those other old men you play chess with, what would they tell me your name was?"
"Max," Magneto said. "Short for Maximoff."
The last name of his two surviving children, from whom he was estranged, Dave noted.
"We trade pictures of children and grandchildren, and complain that the kids these days show no respect for their elders. We play chess, and complain that the politicians are ruining the country. Isn't that the retirement that everyone dreams of?" Magneto said. "What retirement do you dream of, Davy?"
"One that I choose because I'm ready to retire, not because I don't want to enforce unjust laws," David said, ignoring the dig of his name. "I've already retired once, during Kelly's rise to prominence. Came back after Mallory vs. the State of California was decided. So far, it's looking good."
Magneto snorted. "And you think it will stay that way? Things are in a precarious balance, now. It will tip over soon enough and if you believe it will tip the way you want it to, you're a fool."
"If I don't do my part to help keep it balanced, and tip the right way, then I really would be a fool," Dave said. "What about you? Are you doing your part to keep it balanced, or are you trying to overturn the whole system?"
"And what could I do even if I wanted to?" Magneto replied. "I shall save you the trouble of probing further, for it seems I shall have no peace until you have what you came for. While I have regained a little bit of my power, it would be far better if I had not. I can feel the metal all around me again, you see—that returned within a few months of the battle, and I assumed that the rest would soon follow, as it did when I was a child. But though I can sense it, I cannot touch it. Each and every day, every hour, every second, I reach out as I have done my whole life. And nothing responds. Not even the merest twitch of a magnet.
"And my body ages, ages more quickly than it has in my memory. My physical strength is beginning to fail, my joints to stiffen, and mere exercise may delay these effects but it cannot reverse them. Even if my powers were to return in full this very instant, I would be less capable than I have ever been. The Brotherhood would need to be rebuilt almost from the ground up, and that is a young man's game.
"I have thought, sometimes, of buying a gun and attacking my enemies as a human would, if a human I must remain from now until the end of my days. And yet I would be easily subdued, and I would not give them the satisfaction of taking me down quickly and easily. If all that remains of Magneto is a legend, I will not destroy it.
"So I sit here with the other impotent fools and wait for the end. Is that what you wanted to know, Davy?" His voice was as elegant as ever. But where once it would have rung with passion and scorn, now there was merely weary resignation. He seemed brittle, and small. If he was lying, he was too good for Dave to spot it.
"That's about what I wanted to know," Dave said with a nod. "So, you've cut off all contact with anyone from your former life?"
"Magneto died at Alcatraz," the other man said, with a bitter twist to his mouth. "Who would I speak to? And why should they care for another mundane old man?"
Dave tilted his head in acknowledgment. Pietro and Wanda, the children who had rejected their father for his extremism, would probably prefer him this way, but he wasn't here to play relationship counselor.
"So, you spend your days here in the park," Dave said. "Is that all?"
"I have a job in a store, part-time. It pays for a room, and food. I go to Shabbat services every week. Would you care to join me?" he said with mock-courtesy. "This late in the year, Shabbat comes early. It's only a few hours away."
Dave didn't let his surprise show on his face. Everything he'd ever known of Magneto had shown him to be a secular Jew and an atheist—to the best of Dave's knowledge, he'd observed no Jewish customs or religious rites while teaching at Xavier's, or during his time as leader of the Brethren. But now with the identity of his adult years torn away, he was returning to the identity of his childhood. It made sense, though Dave wouldn't have predicted it. "Thank you for the offer," he said. "But I have to get back."
He stood and glanced around. "I'll let you get back to your chess game." Ms. Monroe was right. This man—Magneto, Maximoff, Erik Lensherr, whatever you wanted to call him—wasn't a threat unless his powers returned, and possibly not even then. The X-Men could handle him. It wasn't worth sending him to jail and taking the risk.
Back at the school he met with the students Ms. Monroe introduced him to. It was hard to believe he was ever that young, but he must have been. He tried to give them the unvarnished truth—the bigotry still found in many areas of law enforcement, the occasional conflict between justice and the law, the friction between what you might want as a mutant and what your duty was as an officer. But he was also honest about the satisfaction of catching the bad guys, of knowing you had made a difference, and of the opportunity to be a good example and work toward a peaceful, just society for all, human and mutant, whether or not you were out.
Their questions varied from insightful (what was his mutation and how did it fit into his career) to the sensational (had he ever killed anyone, or shot anyone). By the time they were done asking questions, they were late for lunch.
Saturday meals were less formal, and Dave found himself almost alone at the teachers' table. Reid and Hank straggled in even later than he did, still talking about whatever they'd been working on. Dave waited until they were done eating before finding a break in the conversation. "Ready to go, Reid?"
"What?" Reid said, as if he'd only just noticed him there. "I was hoping for a little more time."
Dave wasn't surprised. "Reid, we've got a six hour drive ahead of us," he said.
"And while I would love nothing more than to continue our discussion, I have things that must be done today if I am to be ready for my appointments next week," Hank said.
"Oh. Well, I need to pack," Reid said. "Give me half an hour?"
"Sure," Dave said. He needed to pack, too.
"And do send me that article, it sounds fascinating," Reid said as he gathered his dishes.
"I look forward to your reaction!" Hank said. He turned to Dave. "I am sorry we have not had time to catch up, David," he said.
Dave smiled. "That's okay, really, Hank," he said. "I knew that was going to happen when I brought Reid. It's not like you and I were ever particularly close, anyway. Good luck on your work with the UN, and getting the government to act rationally about mutants. I know that if anyone can do it, it would be you."
"Thank you," Hank said gravely. "I believe I shall need it. I always do."
Once on the road, Reid warbled on excitedly about all the things he and Hank had talked about. Dave mostly let it wash over him, saying 'uh-huh' at what seemed to be appropriate intervals.
"… and I'm glad I just finished up my philosophy degree," Reid said. "That leaves me free to pursue other fields. It was a nice change, but I think I'm ready to go back to hard science. There's some really interesting things going on in the field of bioengineering. It's such a new field, exciting things are happening every month. Did you know Hank was one of the pioneers? With the engineering and chemistry doctorates it should be fairly easy to get some of the required classes waved, so I can get to writing a thesis."
"A fourth doctorate?" Dave said, amused. "When are you going to find time to write a thesis while working for the BAU?"
Reid shrugged. "Same way I find time to do all my coursework. And it will be fun. Particularly now that I know Hank—I wonder if he would be willing to work together on some projects? Neither of us has the time to do them alone, nor the grad students to delegate things to, but together we might be able to work things out."
"Have fun," Dave said, shaking his head.
"Oh, I will," Reid said. "What about you? Did you enjoy visiting your old stomping grounds?"
"Yeah," Dave said. What could he say? Particularly since Reid didn't know (and hopefully never would) that he'd visited Magneto without calling it in to arrest him on outstanding warrants. "A lot of things have changed, though."
"That happens, in fifty years," Reid pointed out.
Reid hadn't forgotten his idea about team bonding through food and fellowship, and so a week later the team was gathered at JJ's house for a pre-holiday dinner. Rossi was relieved not to be the host and entertainer at this one.
"Things seem to have settled down," Aaron said to him as they sipped wine after dinner, watching the rest of the team talk and mingle with one another. Garcia and Morgan were cooing over Henry, with JJ watching like the proud mother she was. Kevin Lynch and Will LaMontagne were discussing movies in the corner. And miracle of miracles, Reid was talking with Emily. Things were settling down. If Morgan still looked at Dave funny sometimes, he wasn't letting it affect their working relationship.
"Yeah," Dave said. "I just hope we catch a break. We don't need any more shocks like this. The team needs some breathing space to get comfortable with one another again."
"I know," Aaron said. "I shudder to think what might happen next. Reid quitting the BAU to play pro football? Morgan, pregnant? JJ, an alien? Kevin, the bastard son of the President? Garcia, a time-traveler from the future sent to police the timeline? Strauss, a killer robot?"
Dave shuddered. "Don't even joke about it."
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial.
–PHILIP JAMES BAILEY