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The worst part is that they don't bother to hide it.

They don't flaunt it, exactly; but they live together, two unmarried women, in that ridiculous house in the woods- and there are few reasonable explanations for that blue devil-child of Irene's that don't make something in Erik's- Magneto, always Magneto, but in this he is Erik- stomach twist uncomfortably.

(The war is over, they are free, for a measure of the word, when the police begin to arrive. The man they drag away is not much older than Erik himself, but he is tired, his eyes resigned, and he does not resist as they cuff him and lead him, and Erik wants to shout, but-

-but no, he can't. He's not even sure he wants to. It's not the same, because there is a hierarchy to these things, and just as Erik knows that he, what he is, is superior to all of these pettily human individuals, he knows that this man is- wrong.

He is surprised, in a way, that he survived. You couldn't survive in the camps if you didn't have someone watching your back. No one was interested in watching a- someone like- that sort of person.
After awhile, the screams become background noise, blending into the grey and mud and dirt and despair that permeates the camp, melody and harmony and dissonance because it's not an abberation but it should be.)

He wonders what Irene knows. What she doesn't know. She is blind, after all, but-

(there are futures where he is dead, he knows. There are futures where she kills him, where he dies in battle, where he lives but loses- Mystique once said that Destiny tries to see the best of the possible worlds. It's rather more philosophical than he is comfortable with, wondering how, precisely, she decides what that is.)

Mystique had slapped him, once. “How is it any different?” she had snapped. “'Mutant and proud', but not if that mutant is a-”

Erik had cut her off. (Magneto does not show weakness.) “Don't be a child, you stupid girl- how dare you conflate your- regrettable choices- with our struggle? How dare you compare your- dalliances- with something for which children are killed and- do you read the newspapers, Mystique? I know you know about the lynchings of mutants in Georgia, we discussed it this morning. How can you-”

Mystique laughed. “God, you really are an arrogant bastard, aren't you?”

“I never said I wasn't.”

“Right,” Mystique said.

There was a pause.

“Charles had a theory,” Raven begins slowly, the words collecting behind her lips until they force their way out against her will, “That it's genetic. A defect. A hormonal- thing. Maybe a mutation. He wanted to do research on it, but-”

Erik's face remains impassive. “Charles knew?”

Mystique smirked, and the little-girl look was gone, replaced by the hardness that she had cultivated over the last years by his side. “Charles is a telepath.”

“He never said anything. I-” She had made a fool of him, then, with her pretence of a puppy-crush.

Erik,” she says, and it's important, somehow, the harsh 'k' surprising against the lips so accustomed to the smooth consonants of 'Magneto'. “It wasn't like that. Do you never think about your ability?”

It startles Erik, to hear those words out of this girl's mouth. She sounds so like- it doesn't matter. Destiny has changed her, apparently, and- she's not a girl anymore.

“I know you do. I heard you, back-” she pauses, and a bit of Raven flits by her eyes, before it is gone. “I can be whatever I want to, Erik. I am everything and anything and nothing, Erik and it's not a lie or a pretence or someone else- it's me. I am all of them. Either and neither and both- it doesn't change, do you see?”

 

She squints at him. “It was real. As real as anything was, back there.”

And that's close, so close to the topic that Raven and Erik do not discuss, that it causes an involuntary shiver to go down his spine.

Erik shakes his head. “It- Mystique, Raven, you can not- I will not-”

Raven silences him with a look, which he answers with a glare.

Mystique shakes her head.“Erik, I was young. God, was I young- not in years, but I was stupid. I left my brother on a beach for you. For you and your silver tongue, your promises of glory. I was in love with you, and I chose you. Remember that. Everyone here- we chose you.”

“You were a child.”

“I wasn't young.”

No, but she had been sheltered, naïve, privilege and a determined brother having shielded her from the worst of society's punches. It had arrested her development, somehow- left her permanently 15, angry and confused.

Magneto had appreciated that. He could work with that. He could work with that, and with the woman she would become, strong and confident and dangerous.

Erik couldn't work with this.

“Do you know how this ends?” Mystique asks after a moment.

Erik shakes his head.

“Irene- she doesn't tell me much. It would fracture my mind, she said, would fracture anyone's, even Emma- but she dreams, sometimes. And when she dreams, she sees- they're going to take it all awway from you, Erik. Not the humans. Other mutants. They're going to tkae it all away and we will die and it will just be you, alone.”

(You're not alone, he says, I'm like you.)

“But there are other worlds, too. Ones where we survive. Ones where you simply disappear. And Irene says- it's her job to find the best one. I've told you that before.”

She leans in, close enough to kiss him.

“Sometimes,” she whispers, “We stay with Charles. And you tell him the truth.”

“I don't know what you're talking about.”

“You loved him,” Mystique said simply. “There was no hiding it. Charles loved you, too.”

Erik glares at her. “That's nonsense.”

Mystique stretches out her arms, glancing at her short, impeccably trimmed fingernails. “When I was 18, Charles had been back from the war for just over a month. We were in a bar in New York, and we got picked up in a raid. And Charles- Charles got them to let us go. All of us.”

“I don't want to hear about this.”

“That's too bad,” Mystique said, inching closer to him. “Or- Charles had lovers, do you want to hear about them? There was Tony, of course, when we were young- but then there was Joseph, and Marie, and Stacey-Ann- oh, in England there was Rupert, can't forget Rupert, he had the most ridiculous hair- and Peter and-”

“Stop.” Erik orders harshly. “I don't- Charles isn't a queer. He and Moira were-”

Mystique smiles again. “Charles is a telepath.”

As though that answered all of his questions.

She stands. “You could have had him. I could have had him. But we both chose you, and now you're threatening me. What does that say about us, I wonder?”

“I'm not a-” He couldn't make himself say it. The word caught in his throat. “I'm not like that.”

“Of course you're not like that. No one is.” She stretches out her arms. “I have to go, I promised Irene that I would look after Kurt this afternoon.”

She strolls out of the room, leaving Erik to gape. Charles had- but that was stupid, because even if he was- which he wasn't- Charles hated him. He wanted him dead, or in prison, or-

(Professor X wanted Magneto dead. Charles Xavier tried his best to pretend that Erik Lehnsherr already was. It made things simpler, in the end.)

He doesn't have the helmet on, and for a moment he thinks of projecting to Charles, but- I'm not like you.

He is fairly certain he imagines the light, musical I know he hears immediately after.

Erik sighs. He has work to do. This- behaviour- will not be tolerated, but right now he can't-

he crosses the room to the desk, and opens a folder.

Magneto has a world to build.