It’s a good thing Peter gets there when he does.
He looks at the scene in front of him contemplatively:
an arrow, hanging in the air (who still uses bows and arrows these days, really? though not everyone can have glass guns, he supposes), aimed at the back of —
a little girl, with bangs and long dark hair, crying in her mother’s arms —
a flock of birds, large and small, frozen in mid-flight around and among —
a group of policemen, rather less nattily dressed than the guards at the Pentagon, standing around —
Erik Lehnsherr, aka Henryk Gurzsky, aka JFK’s assassin, aka Nixon’s would-be assassin, Magneto himself.
He looks nothing like he did when Peter broke him out of the Pentagon, and even less like he did the last time Peter saw him on TV in front of the White House. It’s hard to believe that this is the same man: he’s sporting really terrible facial hair (which reminds Peter of the time he tried growing a mustache back in high school, actually – terrible facial hair must run in the family) and wearing flannel.
It isn’t even magenta.
No one would ever associate this lumberjack with Magneto the mutant terrorist, bugbear of presidents and blue mutants the world over. The less said about his duds at the White House, the better (there are multiple reasons Mom almost fainted when she saw him on TV, okay), but he’d been pretty nattily dressed during his brief appearance in Paris. Even the prisoner’s uniform looked sort of sharp, in a “they put me in prison for a reason” way. Real street cred.
Not to mention that Magneto somehow came out of the metal-less prison under the Pentagon perfectly clean-shaven, an achievement which Peter has spent too much time wondering about the logistics of. Magneto’s new look, stubble and mustache and flannel and all, in combination with his relocation to a city in Poland with too many consonants in a row, must have been intended as a disguise of some sort. This is the last place Peter expected him to be.
No wonder he’d never found him in all his time searching. Why isn’t Magneto out agitating for mutant rights, or trying to kill Reagan on live television, or living it up at a Renaissance Faire with his cape and armor and helmet, or shacking up with women under a false name and having children —
First things first. Peter shunts the arrow (really? what is this, William Tell?) away from the girl and her mother, aiming it for the trunk of the tree standing behind them. A moment (for a certain definition of “moment”) later, he reconsiders. Given Magneto’s luck, it’ll end up ricocheting off the wood and hitting them from behind. Best to avoid that entirely by just sending the arrow in a different direction. He didn’t see anyone else in the area outside of this clearing when he ran in, so that should be fine.
The Prof hadn’t been very specific when he called up Peter back in Virginia and sent him to Poland. He’d said that Erik needed him, which is certainly true enough, and to follow the screaming, which the Prof probably intended as a joke, but also turned out to be true, and also quite useful when trying to find people in the middle of a forest. He hadn’t expected there would be this many trees out here.
The Prof had, however, made absolutely no mention of the fact that Magneto had gotten married and had a kid. This is the sort of thing that Peter could have used some advance notice on, just a friendly warning that by the way, you have a stepmother and a half-sister now.
In the ten years since Mom recognized Magneto on TV, Peter has entertained some vague fantasies of finding his father, persuading him to stop going after the President, getting him and Mom to reconcile, and then doing all the sorts of things that fathers and sons do. They could go rob a bank together – Peter’s always wanted to rob a bank, just to say he’s done it, but Mom never let him. He’s fairly sure his father would approve, though, and he’d be a great bank-robbing partner. His father can manipulate metal. How cool is that?
The problem is, these fantasies all skipped the tricky conversations and went straight to the good bits. Peter has never been good with words. He had some ideas for how The Talk would go, but the apparent family expansion pack has thrown all his half-sketched plans for this conversation out the window. Briefly he considers turning around and running back to the airport, but he’s not waiting another ten years for this. He can only imagine how many presidents Magneto will have killed by then.
Only one of the policemen is carrying a bow and arrows; a few of the others carry nightsticks. All of them are flailing at the birds attacking them. Peter grabs the bow and arrows first, and then works around the birds to strip the policemen of anything that looks like it might contain metal: hats, jackets, belts, and so on. He uses their rope to bundle it up, and then and scatters it all in the forest several hundred meters away from that clearing, just in case Magneto decides to pull a Magneto again.
Peter does leave their pants, though. There’s clearly metal in the buttons and zippers, but they’re on their own there.
The policemen, lacking most of the outer layers of their uniforms, look rather worse for wear by the time Peter’s done with them, but he can’t help messing with them a little more. He reserves special attention to the wannabe Robin Hood, who isn’t even looking at the girl he would have shot. Peter takes the policeman’s outstretched arm, the one that held the bow, and turns it into a fist aimed at the policeman’s own face.
The guy clearly hasn’t thought things through. They’ve just confirmed that this is in fact Magneto, not just someone with the same power and a suspiciously specifically opposite aesthetic sense. If offered a choice between a vicious flock of birds and Magneto enraged over his daughter getting shot with an arrow, the sensible choice is clearly the birds, angry or not.
The idiot isn’t even looking at the girl he would have shot. He basically punched himself in the face (well, somewhere lower, really, but there are children present) already; Peter is just making it literal.
Peter keeps one of the policemen’s nightsticks just in case, throws the rest of them away, looks over the whole scene, and lets time resume its usual speed —
The arrow ends up in a pile of leaves on the ground, a few feet away from the girl and her mother. The group of policemen look very confused as to how they’re all collapsed in a pile and missing a lot of their outerwear. They haven’t noticed him, but Magneto has, staring grimly alternately at the arrow, at his wife and daughter, and then back at Peter himself.
“Hi,” he says brightly, and waves. Though, right, they’re in Poland, so. He desperately tries to remember any of the Polish in the phrasebook he’d flipped through on the plane ride here, but it hadn’t included anything that would be really relevant in this particular situation. Hello. My name is Peter. I’m twenty-seven years old. I like to run. I broke you out of the Pentagon ten years back. You knew my mother. I’m your son. Long time no see.
The policemen have managed to separate themselves and stand up. They’re muttering to each other and casting ominous looks at him, Magneto, and the girl. It’s just as well Peter took away all the easily accessible metal bits; he just hopes he took it far enough away as Magneto looks increasingly thunderous —
and then all the policemen close their eyes and collapse, right where they’re standing.
Peter thinks they’re dead for a moment (what did Magneto even do, give them all aneurysms?) before he notices they’re still breathing. A few start snoring. It must be the Professor’s work: he’d said something about riding along in Cerebrum or Cerebellum or something like that. Not that Peter couldn’t have handled it, but the “what if we tried not inflicting grievous bodily harm?” lecture would probably come across better from the Prof.
Magneto comes to the same conclusion about the Sleeping Beauties a moment later, as his confused expression transforms into the faraway expression people tend to get when the Prof is talking to them.
Still getting fussed over by her mother, the girl stares at Peter, her eyes huge. Too late, Peter realizes what his sudden appearance on the scene might look like to someone less familiar with his powers and with less experience getting rescued by him – for all she knows, the policemen are dead, and he did it. So Peter drops the nightstick hastily and raises his hands, smiling. He can make Lorna smile even when she’s in the middle of a tantrum; he should be able to win over his other younger sister.
The girl blinks, and he thinks it’s working, but she scrunches up her face and, fuck, the birds that had been circling over the policemen are now flying at him —
Peter absolutely does not scream. If the high-pitched sound that comes out of his mouth sounds like a scream, it’s only because of the Doppler Effect kicking in as he blurs out of visible motion. It’s a yelp, at most. Anyone would have yelped at the sight of that many birds all going for their head.
That’s his story, anyway, and he’s sticking to it.
Next chapter: Peter gets unenthusiastically recruited by En Sabah Nur. Things do not go as anyone expects.
Chapter 2: livin' la vida lumberjack
Peter doesn't think things through properly.
This chapter is only half of what I had originally outlined, but it was getting too long, so I decided to split it off. The next chapter (in which Peter gets recruited by En Sabah Nur, as promised) will hopefully take less time than this one.
Extended author's notes will be up on my Tumblr soon.Cumulative author's notes for chapters 2-3 (including spoilers for ch3!) posted here.
Thanks for reading!
Magneto pauses his telepathic phone conversation with the Professor long enough to explain the situation to his wife and daughter, and incidentally, prevent Peter from getting killed by a mob of angry birds, which is really the least he could do, considering.
Peter stands awkwardly to the side as Magneto speaks quietly with his family. His wife (Peter's stepmother) looks almost pathetically grateful as she clings to his arm. The little girl, whose name is apparently Nina, keeps staring suspiciously at Peter. At least she's let the birds go. She's a tough cookie, that one. Speaking of which…
Peter digs in his jacket pocket and finds his last Twinkie, which he offers to her. She takes it, after looking doubtfully at her father for permission, unwraps it. "Dziękuję," she says.
He's fairly sure that means thank you. "Nie ma za co," he says, which according to the phrasebook should be you're welcome. Hopefully he hasn't mispronounced it too badly.
Magneto's head whips around. "Potrafisz mówić po polsku? Where did Charles dig you up?"
His wife starts speaking in rapid Polish, but the only thing Peter can catch is dziękuję again. She trails off as she notices Peter's blank expression.
"I just got that out of a phrasebook," he says apologetically, and in English. "I know my mom speaks some Polish, but I don't, sorry."
"No matter," says Magneto. "I can hardly begin to thank you — we owe you a great debt — this is twice you've saved me and mine, now."
The prisoner that Peter broke out of the Pentagon ten years ago had been disoriented and confused (Peter told him to mind the glass, but did he listen? No). This man in front of him now, though — this is Magneto, who would have killed the President on national TV just to watch the world burn. Peter is suddenly very glad he got here in time to prevent things from getting worse.
Honestly, he kind of regrets breaking Magneto out of the Pentagon the first time. The Prof had never really explained what was going on there. It was an emergency, sure, but as far as Peter can tell, they caused the emergency by letting Magneto out. He doesn't regret what he's done here, though. The policemen had their reasons for wanting to arrest Magneto, but there's no excuse for threatening a little girl to do so.
Peter clears his throat. "No problem, dude. Glad I could help. Are you going to Westchester now?"
"Yes, I think that would be best," says Magneto. "Charles has offered us sanctuary. He says he'll handle the travel arrangements."
"Great. I'll see you back there, then."
Magneto blinks. "You're not coming with us?"
To be honest, that just came out of Peter's mouth, but the more he thinks about it, the better an idea it sounds. Peter flew commercial to Berlin, transferred to a flight to Warsaw, and ran the rest of the way here. The stewardesses on both flights had been happy to keep the aisles clear so he could take a run every once in a while (ie, every five minutes), but it was still nine hours too many of being stuck up in a metal tube. The thought of doing all that again in the company of his father (who doesn't know he's his father), stepmother (ditto), and half-sister (she sicced a flock of birds on him!), minus all the snacks he already ate, does not appeal.
He shrugs. "I feel like I just got off the plane to get here. I think I'll hang around for a while, keep an eye on what's going on here, and the Prof can send someone to get me when he's got time. Did you know he has a supersonic jet?
Magneto buys that excuse, thankfully, because he isn't sure what else he could say to justify his decision. A sudden fit of claustrophobia, maybe? Or agoraphobia. Or both. Even though he managed to fly here without any problems. Well, maybe not that, then.
Peter follows Magneto, Ms. Magneto, and Mini-Magneto (Magneta? Mag-Nina?) back to the house. Once inside, he stands aside awkwardly as they pack quickly and efficiently, throwing money, passports, photos, and a few changes of clothing into suitcases. Nina watches them silently. She doesn't look too happy, and no wonder, not after that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day she's had.
He catches her eye and starts making silly faces at her. It takes him longer than he'd like, but she finally cracks a smile, and then giggles quietly. Peter Maximoff, big brother extraordinaire, strikes again.
They finish packing, more quickly than Peter expected, and prepare to leave. Magneto pauses at the door, his wife and daughter already in the car. "Are you sure you're not coming?"
It's tempting to go along and play happy families. Magneto's wife would be happy enough to see him again, Nina's warming up to him — but Peter already has a mother and a younger sister, not to mention a twin. Magneto has a family, and so does he, and they don't overlap.
"Nah," Peter says instead. "Don't worry about me. I'll be fine, man."
"Very well," says Magneto, but he stays lingering in the doorframe. "… I don't even know your name."
"My name's Peter," he says.
Magneto quirks an eyebrow, expectant.
Peter's father met his mother while she was still married. He never knew her under her maiden name, which she returned to after her husband died: he never met Marya Maximoff. The name Peter Maximoff would mean nothing to him.
"My sister calls me Quicksilver," Peter says anyway, just in case. This really isn't the time to bring up his father's activities two aliases ago, and it involves more than just him.
Magneto (Henryk Gurzsky, Erik Lehnsherr, Max Eisenhardt, Peter's father—) nods and extends a hand. Peter gapes for a moment before realizing what he's supposed to do with it. His father has a firm grip, the kind Ms. Pendleton back in homeroom kept talking about, and calluses on his palm.
They shake hands, man to man, mutant to mutant, father to son. It's a real bonding moment.
And then he's gone. Peter steps outside long enough to watch the car lights disappear down the lane (did his mother watch his father drive away like this, too?) before heading back inside.
Erik's house is predictably, but disappointingly, lacking in the sugary, high-calorie snacks that Peter prefers for keeping his energy up. There are lots of vegetables, eggs, bread, and that sort of thing, but not much meat, oddly enough, and certainly no Twinkies. He fries himself some eggs and starts working through the bread, for starters.
All the books and newspapers in the house are in Polish, which Peter can't read, despite all his efforts with the phrasebook. He manages to find a small black-and-white TV tucked in a corner, but there isn't anything on at this time of night. By the time Peter's taken the edge off his appetite, he's also undeniably bored, and starting to regret his impulsive decision to stay in Poland. Being cooped up on a plane with his unknowing father and stepfamily would have been terrible, but at least he'd be back home at the end of it, instead of stuck by himself in a country where he doesn't speak the language.
It's not that he's worried, since the Professor gave him an envelope stuffed with enough US currency to get even Magneto out of trouble, a truly prodigious amount of money. If worst comes to worst he can run back to Berlin — the exercise will do him good — and catch a flight home from there. It's what he's going to do between now and then that's the problem.
This is going to be a long night.
Chapter 3: zig-a-zig-ah
Peter gets a job.
Here we go! "Recruited" may have been an overly strong word to describe what actually happens with En Sabah Nur this chapter, whoops...
Extended author's notes and credits will be forthcoming on my Tumblr, as usual, but stay tuned after the chapter for a few comments.EDIT Nov 26 2016 -- author's notes for chapters 2 and 3 FINALLY up on my Tumblr here, more comments after the chapter.
Thanks for reading!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
In the glaring absence of literally anything else more interesting to do, Peter heads out of the house to deal with the policemen. It’s not that he enjoys this sort of thing, despite Mom’s best efforts, but he’s tried everything else. At this point, after several unsuccessful attempts at naps and watching the clock tick (that had been promising until he realized he was watching minutes go by, not hours), even picking up after himself is looking interesting.
The policemen are still conked out cold where they dropped earlier. It’s possible he did too good a job disarming them, thinks Peter, as he stuffs them back into their hats, jackets, and belts, and then zips around to pick up their gear from where he scattered it around the forest. The end result isn’t entirely successful, since he wasn’t keeping track of what belonged to who earlier, and the policemen all still look like they got dressed in the dark (which they did, in a sense).
Even so, it’ll be easier for the Prof to erase the policemen’s memories, or however he’s planning to deal with them, if he doesn’t also have to explain why it looks like a small, localized hurricane hit the area and only carried off all their metal-containing equipment. Though the mental image of a bunch of telepathically influenced policemen wandering around like zombies looking for their stuff, instead of brains, is pretty damn entertaining.
Peter takes a brief detour through the town just to check if there’s a mob of angry townspeople with pitchforks forming up there. It’s unlikely, but then who would have thought the policemen here would try playing Robin Hood? (In fact, who would have thought they’d have heard of Robin Hood in Poland at all?) The town is quiet, though, and almost entirely deserted. He slips into a few houses, but everyone is tucked up in bed sleeping like they’re waiting for Santa Claus. The Professor has clearly been at work here, which makes Peter’s self-assigned job of keeping an eye on things here much easier. The Prof’s methods of knocking people out involve much fewer concussions (for them) and less knuckle bruising and wrist sprain (for Peter).
After that, he heads back to the house and, after some more food, tidies up the house a bit. He’s not sure what the Professor might be planning, or if Erik and his family are planning on coming back later, but in either case it’s probably preferable if the house doesn’t obviously look like its residents just up and left. If in the process of cleaning up he takes the opportunity to snoop around and investigate Erik’s second life as a Polish lumberjack, well, there’s nobody there to stop him, and everything to learn.
The house and its contents are disgustingly normal; there are no signs that Magneto the mutant terrorist, 3-time prison escapee and all-around fashion disaster lives there (well, fashion disaster is still apparent). There are no displays of ugly helmets or spare sets of armor lying around. Magneto, it seems, has genuinely hung up his cape.
…and exchanged it for flannel, but what can you do?
The only remotely suspicious thing Peter finds is an impressive stash of passports, identity papers, and money from various countries, hidden under the false bottom of a drawer -- it would be wildly suspicious anywhere else. Here, though, chez Magneto, it’s practically a relief to find proof that this is Magneto, not an escapee from some mirror universe where Old MacNeto Had a Farm (and a mustache) and raised chickens, E-I-E-I-O. At least it’s not a goatee.
There’s even a set of three American passports. Peter wonders why Erik didn’t take them when they left, before he realizes: going from that scene earlier, neither Erik’s wife nor daughter speak English. They’d reveal themselves the moment they opened their mouths. No one would ever believe they’re American.
He finds a map tucked away under the rest of the paperwork, which he unfolds to examine carefully. Peter had borrowed the captain’s maps on the flight to Berlin, but those had focused on air currents, and there hadn’t been much of anything past the German border, for obvious political reasons. This map covers all of eastern Europe from Germany all the way to the Soviet Union, with countries, cities, and geographic features named in Polish and Russian. Trying to read the names is more trouble than it’s worth, but he can recognize the countries’ basic shapes. That’s the GDR to the east and Czechoslovakia to the south, so the one labeled POLSKA RZECZPOSPOLITA LUDOWA must be Poland. Warsaw (Warszawa, of course) is marked with a star; he looks around it until he finds Pruszków, and retraces the route he took when running here from the airport. Presumably Erik and his family traveled the same path, but in reverse, and slower.
When Peter looks up again, he’s surprised to notice just how bright it is outside: the sun came up while he was distracted with the map. They should have reached the airport and gotten safely out of the country by now, or so he hopes. If they’re gone, then there’s nothing else keeping him here in Pruszków. Peter has never been in this part of the world before, and unlikely to come back again, so he might as well take advantage and go exploring while he’s here. Mom’s from around here, too — well, from Russia, originally. She doesn’t like talking about it, but he knows she misses the old country sometimes.
If Peter had known where he was going to end up today, he would have asked her if she wanted anything from here when he saw her this morning. As it is, he mulls over the idea of running over to Russia and stealing her a street sign or something, as a memento of home to make her feel better about the fact that she and Magneto will once again definitely be on the same continent. It looks like a distance of several hundred miles through Belarus, but what else is Peter going to do over here, feed the chickens? (And he already did that earlier.) A bit of exercise is just what he needs. It’s too bad there aren’t any Twinkies around, though.
Further investigation of the map reveals that the bit of the USSR directly to the north of Poland labeled Obwód kaliningradzki is actually part of the Russian part of the USSR, making it a much closer source of street signs in Russian. The rubles in the drawer look real enough, to Peter’s admittedly untrained eye, and should be enough to cover anything he decides to pick up. Maybe Mom will like a nice postcard too. He tucks the money and the map in a pocket and starts doing some laps outside to warm up for his cross-country jaunt.
He’s slipped out of normal time already when he first notices the purple haze forming across the yard. At first Peter thinks he’s seeing things — it wouldn’t be Magneto’s house if there weren’t some sort of gratuitous purple decorative feature, after all — but the darkening purple blob is still there even after he blinks, rubs his eyes, and does another lap just to be sure. Nope, definitely something there.
Back in normal time, he watches as the purple fog slowly, slowly swirls and coalesces into a globe, with four people standing in formation inside. Peter’s first thought is that they look like ABBA, if ABBA had gotten back together and then gotten hair cuts, dye jobs, and mismatched costume changes.
Okay, they don't really look like ABBA.
The guy in front is blue — Peter fully expects Magneto will end up trying to beat him up, like he did the other blue mutants in Paris and DC — and wearing some fancy armor. Of course he’s blue. It’s like the color is trying to give Magneto a hint that he should maybe try changing his color scheme or something.
The woman next to him is carrying a sword over her back, and wearing a black leather leotard, and boots and gloves made of the same material, with lots of oddly placed and impractical straps. It looks very impressive, but she's going to have some interesting tan lines if she spends any time in the sun, for sure.
The chick on the other side of Grover the Smurf is rocking an intense white mohawk. Peter is fond of his own gray hair, but he can’t help being a little jealous. She's wearing armor too, though she looks much better than Magneto ever did in his armor. The mohawk probably helps: Magneto could never pull that off. Though now Peter is imagining Magneto with a mohawk instead of his usual helmet. Possibly still with that mustache —
Anyhow. Moving on.
The last guy has metal wings, which might be the most simultaneously badass and useless thing Peter has ever seen. Lorna went through a phase when she wanted to be a vet, and she spent two weeks telling Peter all the facts in her encyclopedia. Birds have hollow bones. Can this guy even fly on those things?
His leather jacket is pretty cool, though, Peter will give him that. It's almost as cool as his own.
The purple stuff dissipates, and the new arrivals stare at him. He stares back, because seriously, who the fuck are they and what are they doing here?
"Where's Magneto?" says Terrible Tan Lines.
Of course they're looking for Magneto. What else could they be doing, with that much armor between them? They looked like they escaped from the set of some B-movie. Multiple B-movies, even, since they don’t match.
"He's not here," says Peter. "Did you want to leave a message?"
"Is this he whom we seek?" says Grover the Smurf, sort of mumbling. Peter has to resist the urge to tell him to enunciate.
Terrible Tan Lines steps forward, looks around, and shakes her head. "Where's Magneto now?"
"I don't know, bro," Peter says. He can’t shake the feeling that it would be a Bad Idea if he told them where Magneto went. And it's not strictly a lie, either: he doesn't actually know where Erik and his family are at this precise moment.
Grover the Smurf stares at him. "You are a mutant. What is your gift, my son?"
Peter is starting to have déjà vu back to the last time someone who was clearly on something showed up and started talking to him about his powers. (He’s not sure what this guy might be on, since Peter’s own teenage experiments ended right after he realized that he couldn’t even drink coffee, never mind extralegal pharmaceuticals, but he’s definitely on something). Look how that turned out. For that matter, look how the father figure he picked up that time turned out. This one doesn’t seem any more promising. If it turns out Birdbrain can shoot metal spikes out of his knuckles or whatever, then that’s it, Peter is getting out of here.
"It was one time, okay?"
That seems to ring a bell for Terrible Tan Lines. “I know who this is. His power is speed. He broke Magneto out of the Pentagon ten years ago.”
"I don't do that sort of thing any more," Peter says loudly. "Not after what happened last time. I want a background check before I let anyone else out of anything now."
Terrible Tan Lines ignores him. “Where is he now? Xavier’s?”
“…Maybe?” There doesn’t seem to be any point in denying it. If she knows who broke out Magneto ten years ago, and why, then the Professor’s involvement now is fairly obvious.
Terrible Tan Lines turns to speak quietly to Grover the Smurf. Peter tries to eavesdrop, but all he can hear of their conversation is Grover the Smurf saying something like “he will do.”
Peter, by this point, is getting a little nervous, and starting to regret not leaving earlier, stepmother and half-sister and birds or not. Fine, he regretted it as soon as they left, but that was then. Boredom and repressed family secrets are one thing; what appears to be some sort of Magneto-obsessed cult is another thing entirely. Are they looking for him as some sort of
human mutant sacrifice? “He will do,” considered in that context, suddenly acquires a very ominous tone. Though, on the other hand, it’s just as well that Peter stayed after all: he has to suppress a shudder at the thought of these weirdos on the loose by themselves. And imagine if they’d come here looking for their idol Magneto and actually found him, lumberjack chicken farmer shtick and all. The plaid and flannel would have clashed terribly, and never mind the mustache.
“What do you hunger for, my child?” says Grover the Smurf suddenly. “Power? Revenge?”
A less problematic father figure, thinks Peter, but he manages to stop himself before he blurts that out. This is absolutely NOT the time or place to get into that now. If he couldn’t tell his father to his face, he’s certainly not going to get into it with these Magneto wannabes now. It’s bad enough that they seem to think of him now as some sort of Get Out of Jail Free card. He’s not entirely excited about being so well known for jailbreaking Magneto. It had been super cool, yeah, and the Prof had fixed things up with the law after, but he’s done other stuff too! He broke eight track and field records in '77 before they had to disqualify him for rampant use of mutant powers. Why can’t he be known for that, or for forcing the establishment of sporting organizations for mutants? No, it’s always “he broke Magneto out of the Pentagon.”
His stomach grumbles. Peter realizes everyone is staring at him, with varying degrees of interest: Mohawk and Birdbrain look entirely bored, Terrible Tan Lines looks impatient, and Grover the Smurf looks like… like the Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland (blue, thoroughly creepy, and not entirely unlike a cultist). When he notices Peter’s attention, he says, in a tone that’s probably supposed to be encouraging: “Tell me. What do you really want?”
Peter blurts out the first socially acceptable answer he can think of.
A pause. Grover the Smurf frowns.
“What is this ‘Twinkie?’”
Next chapter, Peter and the Apocaposse visit a Twinkie factory.
And, a question:
I'm thinking about having Lorna narrate an upcoming section. How much of her and/or Wanda do you want to see? The identity of Peter's little sister in DOFP has been subject to a lot of explanations, and I obviously have my own backstory thought up. Would you all would be interested in that? Or would you prefer I left things vague to maintain compatibility with as many other fanon backstories as possible? (Though I've already implied that Peter's sister is that Lorna, so it may be too late now...)
Also, I'm scheduled to take an overpriced standardized test next week, so any good wishes you feel like sending my way would be very appreciated!
And finally, if you're curious about the chapter title, take a careful look at the second-to-last thing En Sabah Nur says here :D
EDIT Nov 26 2016 -- Unfortunately, real life has picked up a bit (read: a lot). I am still around, and I am doing my best to get the next chapter out as soon as possible. That said, though, comments that read just "please update" don't actually make me write faster (trust me, I wish it were that easy!)
The overpriced standardized test did go well, though, and I really appreciate all the good wishes from earlier!
Chapter 4: under attack (baby one more time)
All roads lead to Westchester.
It took me a year and a half, but ... here it is!
More notes after the fic / pending on Tumblr, as usual. Sincerest thanks & apologies to E. & M., and in particular to dogsbody32, who has been listening to me complain about this daily for ... too long.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
LORNA has made a mistake.
When Professor Xavier calls the house looking for Peter, Lorna tries to be supportive. Peter won’t tell her what exactly the Professor wants, only that it’s urgent, vitally important, and Peter is the only one who can help. This all sounds very impressive, though it would be much more convincing if it weren’t coming from the same man who decided to let Magneto out, for reasons that have still never been made clear to Lorna. But this is one of those things: Peter’s been hung up on that whole business for the last ten years. If Peter doesn’t go now, he’ll definitely be stuck on this for the next ten years again.
So Peter takes some Twinkies and runs off to Poland, for some reason, and when Mom comes home and asks where Peter is, Lorna covers for him and says he ran off to visit Wendy. Mom accepts the lie and doesn’t ask any further questions; Peter’s done this sort of thing before, and he always returns once he gets bored at their sister's. Lorna doesn’t know how long he’ll be gone for Professor Xavier this time, but he was only gone for an afternoon last time. Peter will be back soon enough, and in the meantime Lorna means to take advantage of his absence to take a spin or two on his pinball machine. Peter does let her use it, but Lorna has a few tricks she wants to try, and it’s hard to concentrate with him making suggestions all the time.
Peter still isn’t back the next morning. By the time Lorna gets up, Mom has already finished breakfast and started washing up, though she’s left some toast. Lorna turns on the TV (another advantage of Peter not being here — Lorna can watch what she wants without his interference) and flicks through the channels as she munches on the toast. Cartoons, cartoons, news, cartoons — wait. She turns the channel back.
Without thinking, Lorna blurts out, "Mom, are you seeing this?"
Mom turns to look at the television, dropping her dishtowel and the plate she was washing once she sees what’s onscreen. She silently crosses the room to join Lorna in front of the TV.
AUTHORITIES LOOKING FOR INFORMATION IN MYSTERIOUS TWINKIE FACTORY ROBBERY, reads the ticker across the bottom of the screen. The broadcast shows the factory manager standing in front of rows of empty pallets, gesturing in agitation and looking violently distressed. Somebody has apparently broken in overnight, taken most of the packaged Twinkies ready to be shipped out, reduced half of the factory’s walls to dust, and stranded the night guard in a park two miles away.
Mom and Lorna turn to look at each other. "Peter," they say, simultaneously and in the same tone of voice.
It’s Peter — it has to be Peter. Who else could it be? Who else would possibly be interested in robbing a Twinkie factory, of all places?
But what’s Peter even doing in — Lorna looks at the screen again — Schiller Park, Illinois? How had he gotten there? The last she heard, Peter had been in Poland on that urgent mission for Professor Xavier. Or had that just been a diversion for Professor Xavier’s real mission? But what would Professor Xavier want with a Twinkie factory?
Mom clears her throat. With a frisson of horror, Lorna realizes she was thinking out loud. The expression on her mother’s face could send all thousand of Helen’s ships skidding back into port.
"The last time that man asked Peter to do something, Magneto escaped and tried to assassinate the President!"
Lorna is quite interested to see that her mother has actually deigned to refer to Magneto by name, or at least by nom de guerre, since the "that man" epithet that Mom usually uses has already been applied to Professor Xavier.
"— Actually," says Lorna. "About that, Mom—"
Mom’s head whips around so quickly Lorna can hear the crick in her neck. "I don’t know what you’re talking about."
(Mom is still in denial that any child of hers would be idiotic enough to actually release Magneto from single confinement under the Pentagon without at least thinking it through. Her position, adamantly defended, is that Magneto just happened to escape that January day ten years ago. If Peter was in the area, well, that’s just a coincidence.)
Lorna sighs. "Look, Mom, I’m sure there’s some sort of reasonable explanation for all this."
"Right," Mom says through gritted teeth. "That’s it. We’re going to Westchester, and heaven help Peter if he had anything to do with those Twinkies."
Lorna wishes she’d kept her mouth shut.
ALEX has made a mistake.
Going along with Charles to pick up — to meet Moira — seems like a good idea at the time. Charles can drive himself perfectly well, but Alex is hardly going to turn down a chance to drive one of Charles’s luxury cars, and the trip down to Langley will give them plenty of time to catch up. That all goes fine; it’s what happens after that’s the problem.
Charles’ pickup lines have not improved over the last twenty years.
He manages to stay on topic (mostly) during their conversation in Moira’s office, which impresses her enough that she agrees to come back to Westchester with them. She spends the flight up to White Plains Airport going through some paperwork, which conveniently prevents Charles from trying to start a conversation. Once they’re in the car driving back to the school, though, there’s nothing keeping Charles from increasingly awkward attempts at small talk about what (not to mention who. Charles’s questions mostly roll back around to the who) they’ve been doing over the last twenty years. He flirts like it’s 1963 (ie poorly), Moira either doesn’t notice or pretends she doesn’t, and then Charles backpedals once he remembers that Moira has forgotten everything and he’s the one responsible.
The 17-year-old that Alex had been in 1963 would have found this hilarious. His 37-year-old self just finds it tragic. Even Scott has better lines than this.
"Mutation took us from single-celled organisms to the dominant form of reproductive life on this planet," Charles is now saying. "Infinite forms of variation within each generation, and all through mutation. It’s very groovy."
A ladies’ man Charles is not, though he’s clearly done an excellent job on Moira’s memories. Alex is having flashbacks now, but Moira is still nodding along politely, as if this really is the first time she’d heard any of this.
Dude, you can’t keep doing this, Alex thinks to Charles.
The thought Yes I can comes back, along with the idea that Charles memorized multiple books of pickup lines along with his genetics textbooks back at Oxford, and that he’s perfectly willing to go through all of them until they get back to the school.
This is actually really creepy, Alex thinks emphatically. What would Moira say if she really knew what’s going on? Look, just do your thing, and then you can go back to flirting, except both of you will know what’s going on and it’ll be that much less terrible.
It’ll still be terrible flirting, but well, there’s no helping that.
I can’t, thinks Charles.
What do you mean you can’t?
It’s kind of a Sleeping Beauty thing —
Alex almost crashes the car into the median. You can’t be serious!
It was Moira’s idea, thinks Charles defensively. She thought it would be safer if I removed her memories, but I persuaded her to have me suppress them with a release trigger instead.
It kind of makes sense, in a typically ridiculous Charles way. If Moira was determined to keep those memories hidden, keying them to Charles’s nonexistent flirting skills was a pretty sure bet. How likely was she to let Charles get that close to her again?
Why didn’t you pretend you were European when we came into her office? You’ve got the hair and the accent. You could have kissed her then.
What do you mean, I am European, Charles thinks, and then: …I have to kiss her on the mouth. Sleeping Beauty, you know.
On second thought, maybe we should just let Moira’s memories be.
There’s no psychic response. "Has anyone ever told you about your mutated MCR1 gene?" says Charles to Moira loudly.
Maybe Hank is having a better time of it back at the mansion. Alex certainly wishes he’d stayed there.
HANK has made a mistake.
Staying at the school seems like a good idea at the time. Charles invites him to come with them to Langley, but he knows how this goes. Hank has already spent ten years in a confined space with an increasingly maudlin Charles constantly reminiscing about the past; he doesn’t need to do it again. Besides, he’s been doing some work on Scott’s problem, and he thinks that he’s close enough to a breakthrough that with just a little more time in the lab —
That works out nicely, anyway. The quartz really is a simple enough solution, and Scott’s gratitude and relief is its own reward, and a good reminder as to why Hank has passed up countless other job offers, not to mention full professorships, to stay at the school. Helping the next generation of mutant youth is all well and good, but Hank also has a front-row seat to the teenaged members of said youth constantly putting their feet in their mouths as they try putting other body parts in other orifices with each other.
Hank really isn’t paid enough for that.
But for now, he has a nice bottle of wine he’s been saving for an occasion like this (i.e. Charles not being around to give him disapproving looks). Hank is going back to his office to get it when he sees, of all people, Raven standing in the foyer, blonde and almost exactly the way she’d looked in ’73.
Well. Today is picking up.
That delusion lasts until they foist Kurt on Jean and Jubilee and retreat to Charles’ office. Hank is trying to decide where to start — where has she been all the years, how has she been, would she like some of that wine — when Raven clears her throat.
"Where’s Charles?" she says.
"He went to pick up Moira from Langley."
"Moira? MacTaggert? Charles, is this really the time?" Raven asks incredulously.
"Charles said she’s investigating some related mutant activity."
"Right." The tone of Raven’s voice indicates she doesn’t quite believe him. Hank doesn’t blame her. "Well, anyway, I came here because I got a tip about Erik. Something bad is going to happen to him if we don’t intervene."
Hank suppresses a sigh. Of course she’s here because of Erik. Why had he ever expected anything else? "It’s already been handled. Charles made arrangements to bring Erik and his family over to the States before he left for Langley. In fact," he checks his watch, "their flight should have landed, and they should be arriving soon."
"Oh," says Raven. "Well, then."
An awkward silence falls. There’s the sound of a car door slamming outside. Hank hopes it’s Charles. It’s just too bad he didn’t get started on the wine earlier.
"… So," he says eventually. "Do you want to look at my hypersonic stealth jet?"
An even awkwarder silence. Raven stares at him. "I honestly can’t tell if you were trying to flirt with me and that was supposed to be a euphemism, because if it was, that was terrible."
"No! I mean," Hank hadn’t been trying to flirt with her but he wouldn’t say no — "I really am building a hypersonic stealth jet underground."
Hank hears footsteps and voices approaching through the foyer. Please let it be Charles. It’s a bit early for him and Alex and Moira to be back, but hope springs eternal. There’s a little girl speaking too, but maybe they went recruiting along the way…?
Raven sighs. "Why — you know what, I’m just not going to ask. Fine. All right. You can show me your hypersonic stealth jet."
The door opens. "Ooh, kinky," says a voice quite literally out of Hank’s nightmares. He knows who it is without turning to look.
Needless to say, it is not Charles.
"Erik! You made it!" says Raven brightly.
Hank wishes he’d gone with Charles and Alex. No matter how bad things are on their end, it can’t be as bad as this.
MOIRA has made a mistake.
Going with Professor Xavier and his associate seems like a good idea at the time. The mutant cult activity from Egypt is looking increasingly worrisome, and who better to handle it than Charles Xavier? She wouldn’t have thought to contact him, but it’s a relief knowing he’s on the case now.
Moira has always wanted to meet Professor Xavier. It’s somewhat surprising that she hasn’t met him before in the fifteen years that she’s been the CIA’s lead agent handling mutant affairs, but for one reason or another, she’d never had the opportunity. Despite the circumstances, she’s glad to finally meet him.
… Though he’s hardly what she had expected. His behavior is odd enough that if it were coming from anyone else, under any other circumstances, Moira would say he’s trying to flirt. But this is Charles Xavier, a pillar of the mutant community, and they’ve just met, not to mention that they’re dealing with a budding apocalypse. Surely he isn’t flirting.
He spends the drive back to the school conducting what might broadly be considered a defense of his dissertation, if that defense were being held in a bar after a few rounds. It would probably be more interesting and/or somewhat entertaining if Moira hadn’t heard it all before; his dissertation is practically required reading for everyone in the CIA’s mutant division, and she wasn’t lying when she said she’s read everything Xavier has published.
Anyway, she’s familiar enough with his work that she can recognize what part of his dissertation he’s talking about, though she’s never heard it presented quite like this. Mutation may be "groovy", Moira thinks, but if he starts extolling the practical benefits of sexual reproduction, that’s it, she’s leaving.
As if in response, Professor Xavier abruptly starts coughing, interrupting his current topic of conversation (something about her hair?). Wait —
Charles Xavier is well-known to be a telepath. How could she have forgotten? Has he been listening to her thoughts this whole time? Rationally, Moira knows it’s unlikely — he would hardly have been granted a security clearance if the government had concerns about mental privacy, and he hasn’t responded to any of her other unflattering thoughts until now — but the timing of his coughing fit is rather suspicious.
To test her theory, she starts humming mentally: I think we’re alone now / there doesn’t seem to be anyone around….
Is Xavier wincing? Moira silently sings louder, and deliberately off-key — the beating of our hearts is the only sound —
"You know, enough of me talking," Xavier says, perhaps too cheerfully. "Why don’t we listen to some music?" He turns the radio on.
The experiment hasn’t produced a conclusive result, but it’s difficult to sing one song, if only mentally, while listening to another song. In any case, at least Xavier has stopped talking, so Moira will count it as a success. She, Xavier, and Summers sit in silence as "One Night in Bangkok" finishes playing.
The next song comes on — The Police’s "Every Breath You Take." Xavier lasts through two choruses (... I'll be watching you ...) before he hastily turns the radio off again.
"You doing all right?" says Summers, amused. Xavier ignores the question, instead turning back to Moira.
"We should be coming up on the school any moment now," he says loudly. "If you’ll just look out the window—"
They are almost there, thank goodness — they’re pulling through a metal gate and driving up a paved path. As they get closer to the house, Moira sees another car parked near the ornamental fountain, as well as a small crowd of people standing around in the driveway arguing. Is the school having an open house of some sort today?
Summers parks and opens the door for Moira before helping Xavier transfer his wheelchair out of the car. Some of the members in the other group turn to look at them — Moira recognizes Dr. Hank McCoy, a staff member at the school, of course; and there’s another blonde woman who looks vaguely familiar; but she doesn’t recognize any of the rest.
They seem to know each other, though. "YOU!" shrieks one of the two women present, before she turns and sees Professor Xavier — "Where is my son?!"
He grimaces. "Excuse me, please," he says, and wheels on ahead.
It really is a bizarre scene. The yelling woman (brown hair, wearing a green cardigan) is flanked by a teenager with vivid green hair, who seems to be trying to calm her down. There’s also a man with a large pair of glasses and wearing a rather unattractive plaid shirt, apparently the target of the yelling woman’s ire before she saw Xavier. He’s standing with a woman with dark hair and a little girl who looks like them — his family? Are these prospective students?
Moira turns to look at Summers. "Does this happen often?" she says brightly. "Life here seems very … exciting."
His laugh is rather strained. Xavier’s attempts at intervening are about as successful as his attempts at flirting earlier; the yelling woman is still yelling, increasingly incoherently (Moira can hear something about "what happened last time" and "that man"), the green-haired teenager (greenhead? greenette?) looks increasingly embarrassed, and everyone else looks increasingly confused.
By this point, they’re close enough that when the man in plaid turns to look at her, Moira can get a good look at his face for the first time — through the glasses —
MOIRA has made a mistake.
"You!" she shrieks, so loudly that Sean would have been proud.
(Right. Sean. Sean is dead. How could she have forgotten —)
Magneto — America’s next top most wanted, or at least he will be once Moira gets the FBI to update their list — looks like he hadn’t expected to be faced with another furious woman. Well, too bad for him. Moira hadn’t expected to see him, either.
"And this is Agent Moira MacTaggert, an old associate of ours," says Charles hastily, cutting off the tirade Moira’s preparing. "Moira, of course you already know Hank, Alex, and Raven" — right, no wonder the blonde woman looks familiar — "but this lovely young lady is Lorna" — the teenager — "here with her mother, Marya Maximoff. And this is Henryk Gurzsky, also known as Erik Lehnsherr" — Charles neglects to mention the really obvious alias — "here with his wife, Magda, and his daughter, Nina, who is a prospective student. Since Magda and Nina don’t speak English, and I doubt most of you speak Polish, I’ll be providing some help with translations. Now, where were we?"
Marya (Magda? the one who had been yelling at Magneto earlier, anyway, and Moira can certainly sympathize) looks her over curiously. "Hello," she says. "Do you have any children?"
"… yes?" says Moira. "I have a son, he’s named Kevin." Why is everyone asking her this today? First Charles, now this woman —
"I knew it!" says Marya triumphantly.
Moira blinks. "What? I’m sorry, I don’t understand."
"I’m Marya, you’re Moira, and that’s Magda," says Marya, repeating Charles’ introductions. "'Henryk' here has a type."
It takes Moira a moment to follow the trail of implications. "What?!" she splutters. "Why would you — what makes you think — no! He tried to strangle me the last time we saw each other!"
Magneto catches Hank’s eye and glares ferociously. "Don’t say it."
Charles and Raven inexplicably start coughing. Hank smirks.
Alex, still standing beside her, clears his throat. "Moira, you’ve got your memories back now? That’s great news! It was so weird talking to you all day without you remembering anything."
"Yes," says Moira. "It was very odd. I had Charles wipe my memory back in ‘63, of course, so I wasn’t expecting to remember anything at all" — never mind the Sleeping Beauty trigger, and of course Charles would have suggested that — "but it all came back as soon as I saw Erik again."
Charles says, "That was me, I’m afraid. I built in a failsafe so you would remember everything if you saw Erik in person. Considering the way we left things, I thought that Erik would likely try to kill you if you ever came across each other again. In that case, it seemed fair that you should know what was really going on."
Moira blinks. "I appreciate the thought, but… would this have stopped him from killing me?"
"Well, no," says Charles, "but at least you’d know why he was killing you."
"Does he do this often?" asks the girl with green hair, tentatively. "Try to kill people, I mean."
"Yes," say Raven, Hank, and Charles. Moira rubs her throat.
"It was just once!" says Magneto loudly. Everyone turns to glare at him. "And I’ve never tried to kill you, Charles."
"You redirected a bullet into my spine, stranded us in Cuba when you left with the teleporter, and then dropped a stadium on me ten years later," says Charles. "Erik, do you really want to argue this point?"
Magneto sighs. "I’ve only tried to kill you once. The rest of you, I mean."
Magda catches his eye, glaring, and raises an eyebrow. Magneto sighs again. "And of course I’m very sorry about it and I have no intention of doing it again," he says, as if by rote.
"I’ve heard that one before," says Marya. "Does he still leave all his beard clippings in the sink when he shaves?"
Magda nods emphatically. The two women exchange commiserating looks. Neither of them seem particularly fazed by the discussion of Magneto’s unsavory past. Magda had been introduced as Magneto’s wife, so of course she would know about his personal grooming habits. But how does Marya know him? The little girl standing by Magda is their daughter; by analogy, that makes Marya’s green-haired teenager —
By the look on her face, the young lady in question is coming to much the same conclusion. "Um," she says, clearly and deliberately trying to change the subject. "So, Professor Xavier, did you send Peter to the Twinkie factory that got robbed?"
Moira has made a mistake — no, Moira has made a whole series of mistakes. In hindsight, every single life decision that led to her standing here, listening to Charles Xavier explain why this alleged incident of grand theft Twinkie is actually a harbinger of the apocalypse and therefore within her job purview — they were all mistakes.
Why didn’t she call security on those two mulleted weirdoes who barged into her office this morning? Why did she agree to become head of the CIA’s mutant division in ’73? Why didn’t she quit the CIA the first time around in ’63? Honestly, why did she ever join the CIA in the first place? If Moira had gone to medical school and become a doctor like her mother wanted, she could have had a professional life blissfully free of body-hopping mutants and Charles’ terrible flirting and everything else she’s had to deal with today.
The end of the world has never looked so appealing.
HI GUYS I'M BACK!! I had a difficult time of it the last year and a half for various reasons, but things should hopefully be better from here on out.
Extended author's notes
to follow on Tumblr eventually, as usualhere on Tumblr. As you can probably tell, I have a lot of Opinions about Moira. If you think something is a reference to XMFC, it probably is, except for the Last Stand callout at the end.
Moira hums "I Think We're Alone Now," which was first released in '67 before Tiffany's famous '87 cover. "One Night in Bangkok," from Chess, came out in '84, but I fudged it bc I had to get a Chess reference in there somewhere, considering the year. Conversely, "Every Breath You Take," with its very on-the-nose lyrics, was actually released in May 1983, so I couldn't not use it :D
Let me know what your favorite joke was? I know what mine was, but I'm curious about what everyone else thinks.
Next time we will probably be back with Peter, unless I take a detour through Psylocke's POV first. I'm still trying to figure out how to defeat
Grover the SmurfApocalypse... do you think Jean's Phoenix was enough to defeat him in the movie, or were everyone else's contributions necessary to weaken him first?