write this story for
for ion_bond. Her request: Mystique – As a teenager,
Raven is recruited by Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr or both and is brought to
the school. Xavier or Lehnsherr gives her a lesson in using her powers.
It would be cool if you could make this fit into canon.
Erik listened to the speaker as he pulled his coat closed, managing to
button it without removing his gloves. A cool breath of air skittered
down the nape of his neck and he pressed his fedora down a little more
while tightening his scarf. It had turned out to be unseasonably cool –
even as midday approached - but at least part of the chill came from
the callous points being made in the keynoter's speech.
People among them, he spat, people not like everyone else. Different
people. Non-people. The speaker's fear and ignorance hung in the air
just above their heads like smog, and Erik had the momentary urge to
send the man's microphone flying away from him. Charles would have
scolded him for something so childish, which instinctively brought a
smug grin to his chiseled face. He still considered it; but if
something like that showed up on the news, the most innocent expression
in the world wouldn't work.
It must have been a poltergeist, Charles, he could imagine
swearing, complete with a finger drawn over his chest in the shape of
an X. He chuckled at the notion.
A girl brushed by him then and he took notice of her, not just because
of her red spiked hair or the way she jiggled her head in time with a
tune he couldn't hear, but her daring. The whole package. Lots of kids
dressed that way these days, it seemed. Punked, he thought might be
what it was called. He couldn't quite explain it, but the way this girl
weaved through the crowd impressed him. He admired her confident
indifference to the world around her. He always liked people who
weren't afraid to be what they were, especially when what they were was
Erik looked back at the ignorant mouthpiece standing so poised and
purposeful on the platform and wondered if there were anything he could
do that Charles wouldn't immediately blame on him. God forbid a
critical nail come unscrewed or supporting beam collapse on its own
when he was trying to behave.
He looked for the girl again, but she was long gone. Erik felt a pang
of disappointment. She was wearing headphones so she obviously wasn't
there to hear about the threat mutants posed to the very foundation of
human values and existence, and he found himself wishing she had been.
Maybe they could have had an interesting conversation. A teenage girl
striving so hard to be who she was, something different, could
surely understand his point of view more than the idiot on stage.
A loud pop followed by the screech of feedback came from the platform
and while covering his ears, the speaker looked at the microphone then
to his staff with a pointed glare, ordering them to fix the problem
stat. He attempted to talk over the static only to discover he couldn't
be heard. He tried talking louder, but then a plume of black smoke rose
from behind him. Erik sighed. Maybe he could pretend he hadn't come,
A flash of red caught his eye, nearly blending into the yellow flames
being swiftly put out by the keynoter's crew, and he realized it was
the girl that had brushed by him earlier. She was coming from the
direction of the platform – from behind it – but no sooner did Erik
catch sight of her than he lost her again amongst the frantic crowd.
Frustrated that he'd lost her twice now, Erik fled the masses to seek
quieter surroundings. Surely without so many people around, he would
not be so inept as to lose her in broad daylight. Then, he spotted the
bright red hair again and briskly walked in her direction. No, it
wasn't her. Damn, he thought, seeing that who he had been
chasing was a teenage boy, dressed in similar, punky clothes…but then
he saw the boy blink.
The kid didn't blink his eyes, but rather his whole body blinked off,
almost like a different frame had been inserted in a long, still shot
of something on film. Erik looked back at the stage one last time and
smiled at the speaker's frustration and subsequent renouncement, before
following the boy to a nearby bus stop.
The further they got from the crowd, the faster the boy walked. By the
time Erik was sure he'd caught up, when trying to catch up without
looking like a predator wasn't easy these days, he rounded a corner and
rediscovered the girl again. She slid her headphones off one ear and
abruptly stopped walking. Erik couldn't hear any music.
"Ain't got money and you're a little too old. No offense," she said, in
a way clearly intended to offend.
Erik regarded her, a smile forming. "Nice work back there."
"Not sure what you're talking about, but if you follow me for even one
more step, I'll –"
"You sympathize with mutants?" Erik asked, taking a step back.
"Mutants?" She smacked her gum, and Erik had to force the smile to
remain on his face. "Can't say I know any, but even if I did, I don't
figure I'd help one."
"Really? Do you happen to know a boy, looks amazingly like you…? A
twin, perhaps? I followed him here and found you instead. But, you
don't know any mutants?"
"Look, buddy, I don't know–"
Erik halted her with a raised hand and a smile that turned much more
genuine. As a shadow fell over them, he pointed his index finger up at
the dumpster that now hovered over their heads.
The girl looked up and instinctively lurched backward out of its
shadow. She looked at Erik, smiled, and her whole body blinked again.
No, now that he was up close, he realized it wasn't really a blink. She
shimmered, and it was stunning.
Charles didn't initially believe Erik about the technical difficulties
at the rally. At least not until he'd introduced Raven and she'd
claimed the act of defiance, quite proudly.
"Show him, dear," Erik encouraged, offering her a gentle hand upon her
Raven turned to Professor Xavier and shimmered out of the red hair and
Doc Martens. She wore plain clothing now – jeans, a torn Patti Smith
tee shirt, black Converse – and her hair changed from shocking red
spikes to a brick red ponytail that Erik thought contrasted nicely with
her smooth, royal blue skin and bright, yellow eyes.
"Shapeshifter…fascinating," Charles said.
Erik managed to maintain a neutral expression as Charles explained to
Raven how he could certainly understand the sentiment behind what she'd
done, but that in the long run, acts that could provoke violence never
achieved anything progressive. When Charles and then the girl looked to
him for confirmation, he stared blankly for a moment, and then raised
his eyebrows. "Mmm? Oh, yes," he said, feigning sincerity.
Once Raven agreed to mull over his advice, Charles welcomed her to the
school and did everything possible to make her feel at home. She was
introduced to her new roommates; Jean – a brownnoser that spooked at
the sight of Raven – and Laura – a girl with jet-black hair and lilac
colored eyes. She was dressed almost identically to Raven and her eyes
lit up when Charles told her that Raven was to be her new roommate. She
excitedly introduced herself before going on and on about Patti Smith
and how she'd seen her perform in New York once, and that Joey Ramone
got up on stage with her!
"Do you think he's a mutant?" she asked, and when Raven said he
probably wasn't, Laura pointed out his abnormal height and theorized
that he had to be one because, "Well…have you ever actually seen
him? Oh, he's a mutant all right. Total freak on stage."
While leaving Raven with Laura and Jean, who could not be more
uncomfortable amongst the two of them, Erik and Charles left to discuss
Raven's ability and the different ways it could benefit them all. Just
as Erik had expected, Charles had fewer uses in mind for that ability
Erik mingled far more than Charles did, and he'd heard about a mutant
who could get information on the CIA that should have been impossible
to get. For months this mutant had subverted every confidential plan
the CIA devised against them. Could it be this girl, Erik wondered? He
suspected her, and insisted that they find out, and even if it wasn't
her, she could be their ear on the inside once she learned to control
her gift. The possibilities were astounding.
"She needs to be a teenager, Erik, not a spy or anyone's ear inside
anything. Let's take this one step at a time, and just let her learn to
integrate – "
"Oh, Charles, we're not going to take that away from her, but don't you
see the opportunity here? With training and practice, she could be anyone.
know what that could mean for us, for all mutants? She's clearly
not afraid to use her gifts. Why shouldn't we help her develop them?"
"Use her, you mean."
"No, I don't mean use her. I mean make her part of our team. Does a car
use its tires or are the tires an essential and valuable part of the
whole? Charles, she can change form and mimic another person. Think of
the possibilities, for just a moment. Put aside your protests – "
"Something's not right." Charles looked at him.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know. She's not being completely honest."
"You could find out whatever truth you wanted – "
"Erik, we've been through this before, and you know I won't do that."
"She's frightened, despite her tough exterior. She's been on her own
for some time. Maybe you're just sensing hesitation and suspicion on
her part. She'll be fine, you'll see. She's a survivor, with a
wonderful gift. I think once she develops it fully, we'll count
ourselves lucky she's on our side," he said, laughing a little.
Charles walked away from him. He sat at his large desk – mahogany that
shined beautifully in the light, a long-ago gift from Erik – and
started writing in a notepad. He didn't look up or make small talk, as
was their usual routine. In fact, he acted as if they hadn't just been
in the middle of a heated conversation.
And then the problem dawned on Erik. "You're jealous."
Charles looked up, his pen poised in mid-air. For a moment, he thought
to protest, but then he stopped himself. "Perhaps I am," he said, "and
don't pretend you don't love every minute of it."
"I might if it weren't quite so creepy. She's a child, Charles."
Charles rose, sighed, and headed for the door with purpose, as if
someone had just called for him. But before he left, he turned back to
Erik. "Yes, she is a child, but it's all right. We both know it's not
her body that you want."
Not that she was surprised, but Mystique's plans while at Xavier's were
moving steadily along. For all its intents and purposes, it was almost
embarrassing how easy it was for her to infiltrate, but now that she
was here, it was time for her to acquire what she came for and get the
hell out of Dodge before Charles, Erik, or one of the students got too
suspicious about "the new girl."
For the most part, Mystique kept to herself, as usual. She attended
classes just like any other student, although it was much more
difficult to stay awake or alternatively, not talk back when the
history that was being taught was completely inaccurate when compared
to what she'd seen or read in newspapers at the exact time of
certain events. She almost enjoyed her science class, but that was only
because she could personally witness Laura honing her skills little by
little. Most of the time, something ended up on fire or decayed until
it was nothing but dust in her hands, which infuriated Laura, but it
pleased Mystique. One day she'd get it right, but at present Laura's
focus was always on Scott Summers, the guy everyone seemed to like but
She couldn't remember what it was like to fawn over someone like that;
she wondered if she'd ever done it at all, but every time she watched
Laura attempt to say hello or smile at Scott only for him to ignore her
because he was clearly only interested in Jean, a sharp flame singed up
her spine and later, Mystique had to bite her tongue while Laura went
on and on about what a great guy he was. She was not cut out for this
high school shit and as every day passed, Mystique was losing her
The following day, Raven watched Erik speak to her roommate Laura, from
her bedroom window. Laura wore tall black boots, skinny dark jeans, a
deep purple knit sweater, and a black scarf wrapped around her neck
that trailed down her back. Glancing down at herself, Mystique focused,
shifted her look to include similar apparel, and looked out the window
After a short while, Laura shyly waved goodbye to Erik and walked to a
bench in the courtyard with a book in hand to read before lunch. Raven
was already on her way outside.
As Erik walked up the stairs to return indoors, Raven popped up onto
the railing of the fence, stalling Erik's progress. "Good morning," she
chirped, crossing her legs.
Erik chuckled, "Morning? It's almost noon. You missed all of your
morning classes. Charles won't be pleased," he reprimanded, wagging his
finger at her.
"I overslept." Raven shrugged.
"You don't say," Erik said, tapping his index finger against his cheek,
assuming she hadn't, but appeasing his young recruit anyway. "I thought
that you'd high tail it out of here after a day or so."
"Trying to get rid of me already?" she teased.
"No," he laughed, "you just don't seem the type to stay in one place
for long." He thought aloud, fishing for a little history. Coming up
empty, he continued, "I'm pleased that you've elected to stay with us,
"Yeah, well…we'll see," Raven said. Turning her attention, Raven
watched Laura read beneath a vibrantly colored red maple tree. "Sorry I
was so defensive when we met. It's just who I am; hope you didn't take
"My dear, I expected it." He looked down the bridge of his nose
Raven glanced over to her friend again, squinting her yellow eyes and
watching her intently.
"You've become fond of her," Erik stated.
"Huh?" Raven asked, playing dumb.
"Laura. Your roommate. She's quite talented, you know. Very immature in
using her gifts, but in time…" he said, his voice trailing off. He
seemed as enamored in Laura as Mystique and this in turn piqued
Mystique's curiosity even more.
As she gazed at the young woman, Laura looked up from her book and
caught Raven's eyes. Raven smiled and waved at her, and Laura returned
the greeting, but shyly looked back down to her book, pretending to
read for a moment before glancing up at Raven once more. Raven
snickered to herself.
"…it's been a long journey for her, but I feel confident that’s she'll
excel here with us," Erik finished, which had Raven wondering how long
he'd been talking about Laura while she was zoned out, exchanging
glances with her.
"That's a shame," Raven said automatically, assuming the story was a
depressing one, but still only half-listening as Laura got up from the
bench and came walking towards her. "It's been real," Raven said
patting Erik's shoulder before using it to hop off the fence then
walking over to meet with Laura.
"Don't forget…later today," he called before turning away, making his
way up the stairs and into the mansion.
Behind his back, Mystique rolled her eyes at the reminder. At Erik's
insistence, she'd agreed to meet with Charles to discuss their
objectives while at the school, as well as her personal observations of
events and difficulties she experienced when changing form. The
Professor was pleased with everything she'd told him, but said he would
want to meet with her again, but this time with Erik so that he could
aid in her discoveries and education. Not at all wanting to please Erik
or the Professor, but needing a near constant diversion for the two of
them, she agreed to comply.
But later that afternoon, Raven did not show up for her session. She
was so close to leaving the mansion and didn't have time to play
teenage apprentice any longer. Instead, Mystique hid out as Jean in the
library doing research until dark. Then, she wandered from her room,
down the hall, through the library, and towards one of the school's
laboratories. Once she reached the door, however, she heard someone
Instinctively, Raven turned the corner, concealed herself in the
darkness, and closed her eyes, waiting for the intruder to pass. She
feared that it was Charles. She'd been at the school longer than she'd
expected so surely he would start to become suspicious of her and use
his telepathy to discover her true identity. When they walked on,
Mystique opened her eyes that lit up like smoldering embers in the
darkness, and walked away from the laboratory to go after them.
Following the girl down the metallic pathway, Mystique immediately
recognized the heavy black boots, dark purple sweater, and black scarf
belonging to none other than Laura.
Mystique silently trailed Laura's sluggish tiptoeing until she finally
decided to make her presence known. "Looking for trouble?" Raven asked,
rapidly shifting her form to the one Laura was familiar with.
Laura nearly jumped out of her skin and shrieked in surprise before
covering her mouth and turning to face Raven. "You scared me," she said
with her slight Northeastern accent. Removing her hand from over her
mouth, she smacked Raven's arm with it.
"Sorry," Raven said lightheartedly while taking a cautious step closer
to the pretty girl whom she'd been hopelessly curious about since her
"It's all right," Laura answered with a nervous smile. "I was looking
"You mean you were following me," Raven alleged with a smirk.
"What? No! Well, I mean, yeah, kinda, but only so I could–" Laura
paused. "Wait. You're one to talk," she accused, turning the tables on
Raven. "You seem to turn up everywhere I am nowadays. How long have you
been following me?"
"Just today? Or…" Raven joked, neither confirming nor denying the fact
that she'd been interested in Laura since she'd arrived at the mansion.
Laura laughed at Raven's comment.
The flash of gold in Raven's eyes as she spoke made Laura blush and her
stomach twinge in a way that she hadn't felt since she'd first seen
Scott roughhousing with a couple of the other guys a few months ago. It
made her nervous and she unconsciously covered her smile with her hand.
"So now that you've found me, what do you intend to do about it?" Raven
asked, slinking around Laura, sizing her up.
Laura's stomach flipped again in the silent hallway and she folded her
arms over her chest defensively. "I guess I didn't have much of a plan.
But you do," she indicated with a nod. "What are you doing down
"I couldn't sleep," Raven replied.
"Uh huh," Laura said, thinking for a moment. "You know they say you're
the one behind the fire at the rally last week. Is that true?"
"Maybe," Raven answered, looking Laura dead in the eye. "Why?"
"Because if it was, you might be my hero."
"That so?" Raven laughed while the Mystique underneath celebrated in
"Maybe," Laura quipped. "Come on, I want to show you something."
Moments later, Laura led Raven back to the laboratory that was commonly
used for the biology and chemistry classes. "Wow, a lab. Never seen one
of these before," Raven said.
"Not like this one you haven't," she declared, trying the door but
quickly finding it was locked. "Shoulda figured this place would be
locked up like a vault."
Spinning a ring of keys around her index finger then snatching them
back into her fist like a revolver, Raven snickered as she bumped Laura
aside with her hip.
"Where did you get those?"
"Can't tell you," she said, sliding one of the keys into the lock.
"Then it wouldn't be a secret." She winked, opening the door for them
and allowing Laura to enter first.
"It was you, wasn't it? I knew it," she said, taking a step into the
Laura certainly knew better than to break into a school laboratory
after hours, but she also couldn't argue when the possibility of
crossing boundaries came up. Everyone at school was so obsequious and
predictable, but Raven was anything but! And while Laura did her best
to please the Professor and her other mentors, she enjoyed bending an
occasional rule and Raven was the perfect friend to do it with.
"Okay, girl, what ya got?" Raven asked, leaning against one of the
blacktopped laboratory tables.
"Hmmm…" Laura considered, rubbing her hands together and looking around
the room. "Hand me that, yeah?" she asked, pointing behind Raven where
a small aloe plant rested on the shelf.
Taking the plant into her blue hands, Raven held it out for Laura, who
enclosed her hands over the thick, gooey leaves then closed her eyes.
When she reopened both, the soil and aloe had morphed into a cluster of
Amazed, Mystique raised her brows and took the fruit into her hands.
"That doesn't even seem possible," she thought aloud, plucking one of
the fruits from the vine. "Is it real or is just a glamour?"
"It's real. Taste it," Laura invited her friend, her eyes positively
radiant with pride.
Though typically wary, Mystique ate the grape and was surprised by just
how perfectly ripe and flavorful it was. "That's…incredible!" she
exclaimed while doing her best to hide her utter enthusiasm. It was
such a simple little trick, but the ways it could be used were
tantalizing. With more exploration, she could shift and break building
foundations, create organic toxins, compromise establishments simply by
turning the flourishing into decay. "How did you learn to control it?"
she asked, setting the grapes aside, but continuing to eat them one at
"I owe everything to Charles," she explained. "He said if I steadied my
hands just so and closed my eyes so that my focus was more directed
towards my goal, that one day, I could create just about anything!
Isn't that amazing?"
"It's...spectacular," Raven said, her voice drifting into a softer and
seductive tone. She was hungry for the potential in this mutant. She'd
heard rumors about her, but doubted their truth. Now she'd just
witnessed the girl create something that she could just as easily
destroy. Her untapped talents were overwhelming and Mystique would stop
at nothing to recruit her into her underground movement against the
human-run government and their never-ending ploys to destroy the mutant
race. Having been abandoned at Xavier's the second her eyes changed
color by her ignorant parents, surely the girl held more than her fair
share of resentment. It would almost be too easy to manipulate that
energy and show Laura how her gifts could truly be used for the
betterment of mutants everywhere, not just in upstate New York.
Jumping up onto the lab table and leaning back onto her hands, Laura
hesitated for a moment, taken aback by the change in Raven's tone and
strange curiosity she saw in her eyes now.
She watched Raven as she ate the grapes, still wondering where she came
from. Xavier's was an open-door institute, and yet, Raven's door was
not only closed, but locked and bolted shut. As friendly and sometimes
flirtatious as Raven could be, she wasn't forthcoming about any
information about herself, which only made Laura all the more curious
about her. She wanted to get to know this amazing mutant, wanted to
know what it was like to be able to become anyone. Laura
thought the best way to try would be to turn the conversation onto
Raven, but she was never so great with broaching delicate subjects.
"All right, your turn," Laura said, shoving her friend's shoulder
"For what?" Raven asked, hopping up onto the table to sit beside her.
"Oh come on. Can you really look and sound like anyone?" Laura asked,
leaning forward expectantly.
"Yes," Raven replied.
"That's so rad," she sighed, in awe.
"It can be," Raven said, looking down at her smooth blue hands. "But
then I start to wonder things. Like who I really am and who my friends
really like…me or who they want me to be," she said with a shrug.
"What do you mean? I like you," Laura said, following Raven's eyes down
to her hands and taking one into her own, and smiling at the pretty
contrast they made intertwined.
Mystique pretended to be bashful and hid her smile from Laura.
"Thanks," she said quietly. "But I think you'd like me more if I were
someone else," she said, shifting her form into Scott Summers.
Laura gasped and let go of Raven's hand, unable to process how
effortlessly her friend could shimmer into a new figure. She couldn't
speak her wonderment and when Scott's hand reached over and took hers
into his, Laura felt the air in her lungs completely escape her. Just
like Raven had done in inspecting the grapes, Laura took in the
reflection of her purple eyes in his crimson glasses, the way his face
felt against the back of her fingers, and the rippling strength she
felt as she ran her hand down his arm.
"This is unreal. Say something," Laura asked, tentative.
"Anything?" Raven asked through Scott's voice and when Laura's eyes
widened even more, Raven shifted closer to her and gently reached her
hand around the back of Laura's neck. "Do you want to kiss me?" She
asked through Scott's voice again, knowing the answer before she'd even
Knowing it was fake, but still helpless from the illusion of Scott
showing interest in her, Laura cast all thought aside, closed her eyes,
and allowed herself to be drawn into a kiss. Laura reveled in the
moment of her dreams becoming a pseudo-reality and saved each and every
sensation to memory. She cupped Scott's face in both of her hands and
kissed him again.
When their kiss deepened even further and Laura couldn't stop herself
from pushing her tongue into Raven's mouth just to see how real this
could be, Raven abruptly pulled away and shifted back to "herself." "I
think you get the point," she said, pretending to be disappointed.
Embarrassed that she'd lost herself to a delusion so easily, Laura
couldn't bear to look Raven in the eyes now that she was a girl again.
What did this mean? She wasn't sure, but she did suddenly understand
what Raven had meant earlier by everyone preferring her as someone
else…but was that really true? Deep down, Laura knew she was kissing
Raven and not Scott, but she couldn't clear her mind enough to think
let alone speak.
"Maybe we should get back to the room," Laura suggested, glancing over
at Raven who hadn't budged from the table.
"Yeah. Maybe," Raven sulked, quietly enjoying the charade. She couldn't
wait to get out of this place, but Laura's prying and curiosity told
her Laura might not be there for too much longer, either.
Raven stopped at Charles' door, the sounds of a discussion coming from
the room. Since no one was around, she pressed her ear to the door,
only then realizing it wasn't latched. As she let the door crack open,
she saw the Professor sitting at the desk and Erik sitting on the desk
beside him. The Professor's hand was on Erik's thigh and they were
laughing about something. Erik leaned down.
She pushed the door open. "Erik, I – oh, excuse me!" They hadn't quite
kissed yet, but were close. She noticed that the Professor's hand
flinched, but it looked like Erik held it in place. Erik only looked
up, completely nonchalant, expecting to hear what she wanted.
"Please knock before you enter my office, Raven," the Professor said,
but with patience and a slight smile. She gave him points for that.
"What can I do for you, my dear?" Erik released the Professor's hand
She realized that Xavier would even hide this from the students, but
clearly Erik had no such compunction. What an interesting pair they
were; how very different they were.
"Umm, you'd talked about helping me, teaching me better control…like
you did with Laura?" She indicated. "And I…"
"Yes, of course," Erik said. "If you're feeling better today, that is,"
he said with a knowing smile. He was no fool and neither was Charles,
but there was no sense in reprimanding Raven for missing her session.
She was here now and that was good enough. "Shall we have a lesson now?"
She nodded, satisfied that he seemed eager enough, as he'd expected.
This would give her the opportunity to really get a bead on Erik, and
figure out what made him tick.
Professor Xavier said nothing, but instead went back to the papers
fanned out in front of him. As Erik put his hand on her upper back and
led her through an adjoining door into what was clearly his private
office space, she could have sworn she felt Xavier's gaze. For a moment
she was surprised Erik and Xavier didn't have their desks butted up
against each other. Or at least in the same room.
Once in Erik's office, though, she understood. It was pretty clear Erik
enjoyed his own space. Or perhaps Xavier didn't want all this metal
interfering with his very Ivy League décor.
Unlike the rich wood of Xavier's desk, Erik's appeared to be polished
steel. He didn't walk around it to sit in the chair, but instead
perched on the front edge and crossed his arms casually. She looked
around a bit in awe of all the metal surfaces in the room. Cabinets had
steel frames and doors, the few things sitting on metal shelves
appeared to be various types of copper or nickel knick-knacks and there
were even some metal discs on the walls outlined in wrought iron, like
framed collector plates for someone with a serious penchant for chrome.
She found herself grateful he didn't turn on the desk lamp, because
surely the glare off the desk would be irritating. The desk lamp was
metal as well, but painted a deep bronze-brown color. Maybe that was
Xavier's touch, to break the never-ending theme of shiny.
She found herself wondering if people who could control fire might be
right at home in hell, or if people with the ability to freeze things
craved life on an iceberg. She laughed softly at the thought and found
Erik looking at her, eyebrows raised, clearly curious.
"Fetish much?" she asked. "Freaky."
He shrugged, and she got the sense that he was used to that kind of
reaction. "I feel at home here," he said simply.
"King of your domain, right?" She made an exaggerated move and flexed a
bicep for emphasis.
Erik's head tilted and the corner of his mouth went up in a half-smile.
"Something like that. Shall we? Would you like to stand or sit? What's
easier for you?"
At least there was a nice place to sit, she realized. A short couch
upholstered in a brown and gray swirled pattern looked comfy enough.
"I'm surprised you don't have metal furniture, too."
"I like to feel at home and be comfortable whenever possible.
Would – "
"So do you think you can help me learn not to phase out when I don't
wanna?" She sounded uncertain and nervous, and inwardly smiled at how
well she'd managed it. She sat on the surprisingly comfortable couch
and leaned back as if relaxing.
"Well, Raven, I don't know, but I'll try. Clearly I can't control
anything for you, but I can help you learn to concentrate and focus.
That focus is something from which every mutant can benefit," he said,
putting two fingertips on his temple and his thumb under his chin. Why
don't you close your eyes and take a few deep breaths first. Will it
help if I dim the room lights or block the windows?"
She looked toward the windows, and of course there were no curtains.
Blinds, gunmetal blinds. "No, it won't matter," she said. "You mean
this, the ability to concentrate, can help all people, right?" She
didn't close her eyes, because she wanted to watch his face. "You just
said mutants, but isn't concentration something everybody could use?"
Erik inhaled deeply through his nose, and acted as if the breath might
topple him backwards for a moment. "I suppose everyone could benefit
from concentration, yes."
The way he'd acted before answering, she'd expected some sort of long
explanation and was disappointed that she didn't get it. "But you don't
care about everyone, do you? Just mutants."
"I think...it's important that we look out for our own. Someone else
can worry about everyone. Now, why don't you try to change
shape and hold it, and we'll see what happens when you start to have
"What shape?" she asked, though she already knew whose shape she'd
"Choose one that you might find challenging." He rubbed his chin with
his thumb, a very casual gesture, but Mystique could tell he was
fascinated and scrutinizing her as he waited.
"All right." She put on a good show of working very hard to change, and
made a point of going slowly, letting some features start to take
shape, then letting them melt back into place before she finally looked
back at Erik through his own eyes. Mystique knew they weren't perfect
doppelgangers. She had him in the clothes he'd had on yesterday instead
of today, just a gray sweater and khakis instead of today's blue, and
his features were less sharp. Erik should easily see the flaws in her
reproduction. At the moment, though, he appeared too impressed and
stunned to mention them.
"That's amazing, Raven." Erik spoke slowly, clearly taken with this
ability of hers. "Someone who didn't know me well would probably not be
able to tell the difference, as long as they didn't see us side by
side, of course."
As Erik talked, Mystique let the mask slip from her face a few times,
and knew it was probably disconcerting to see your own face morph and
stretch, and then pop back into the right form.
"You're having trouble holding it?" He stood and approached the couch,
his voice soft. "Try to clear your mind of everything but whatever it
is you need to achieve this. Just focus your thoughts on this one thing
and let everything else fall away, believe that nothing else matters."
He had a soothing voice, and Mystique realized that if she did need a
lesson, Erik would probably be a good teacher. "It's easier to keep
changing than to hold one form," she explained in a close approximation
of Erik's voice, before she slowly morphed into Charles Xavier.
"We do have to take care of our own, Erik," she said, in Xavier's
voice, "make sure they realize the marvels they can accomplish..." She
morphed into a poorly defined, unflattering double of Jean Grey, and in
the teen's voice, explained, "Kids at this school have no idea what's
really out there. They have no idea how much they're reviled." Then she
morphed back into Erik, and pretended to struggle to hold it.
"Just relax," Erik said, his voice sounding a little flat to her ears
now, "and whatever it is that you feel when you change, just be
that for a moment."
She became Erik with perfect clarity in the clothes he was wearing now.
"It's helping," she said, completely Erik, from her voice down to the
shape of her eyebrows and, she knew, even the tiny prominent capillary
in his right eye that stood out against the white. "Do you think these
students understand what their lives will be like when they leave
here?" she said in his smooth baritone. "Or does Charles plan to keep
them sequestered here for all time?" The words sounded so right in
Erik's voice, she felt. And she wondered if he recognized his own
thoughts spoken back to him, or if she'd somehow misjudged him.
Letting Erik's form blink several times, she sighed heavily and became
the red-haired Raven again, her shoulders slumped as if exhausted.
"How'd I do?"
Erik didn't speak for a moment, then he sat on the opposite end of the
couch, facing her. "Quite well. I'm impressed that you know the word
sequestered. No offense intended, of course," he said, holding a hand
up. "I don't suppose it's a word in too many songs on your Walkman.
Perhaps you're better read than I thought?"
She thought he looked suspicious, and she inwardly cursed. She'd wanted
to sound like Erik, and hadn't realized it was almost a slip. "I'm
surprised you know what a Walkman is," she snapped back, aiming for
just the right mix of indignant and smart-assed.
"The school so happens to be overrun with children, so I've seen many
of them. But touché." His smile led her to believe that he was
She shrugged, as if maybe she didn't know what he meant. "I heard it on
the news once. They sequestered a jury in a murder trial so that they'd
have no contact with outsiders. Isn't that what's goin' on here?" She
idly picked at a loose thread on her sleeve, and then pulled, appearing
delighted at the small hole it caused.
"Not exactly, Raven." He examined her for a moment, then took a deep
breath before exhaling slowly, as if in meditation. "You don't seem to
like it here, but I think you've made a snap judgment. Why don't you
give it some time before you decide all the students have been locked
away by an overprotective headmaster."
She looked up, and didn't even try to suppress the smirk. "Not two
overprotective headmasters?" No, not Erik, she knew, and the look in
his eyes confirmed it. "Just the one?"
Erik grunted and rose, locking his hands behind his back and walking in
a slow circle around his desk. Mystique could have sworn a low hum was
coming from the desk now – a strange, deep whine that seemed just
outside, but that felt like it was right in front of her.
"You're wrong about these students, Raven. A great many of them do know
exactly how it feels to be reviled. Many of us are unfortunately deeply
familiar with that feeling."
She knew he'd been in Auschwitz. Kids here talked, and she could blend
in. But even if she hadn't known, the look he gave her then would have
made her shudder, and that impressed her more than almost anything else
he'd done since she met him.
His look softened just a little. "Are you suggesting that it would
better for these children to be out among wolves while trying to learn
to use their gifts? Here they can focus, concentrate. Learn among those
who would care for them, instead of cast them out. Or destroy them."
She didn't answer, because she guessed – she hoped – he was presenting
the argument to himself, more than her.
He continued, coming around the front of the desk again. "This is where
mutants come when they have no place else to go. And some learn of us
and come by choice, as well. You think the school does them a
disservice, and perhaps shouldn't be here?"
She rose now and put her hand on the top of the desk, and she could
feel the light vibration, but only for a fraction of a second before it
and the almost otherworldly hum disappeared. She looked at Erik, and he
glanced away almost like he'd been caught doing something he shouldn't.
"No," she answered, "I think it should be here." She slid her hand over
the smooth steel, actually hoping he'd do whatever that was again. "I
just think you shouldn't teach everyone that it's all going to be all
right, and that life really can turn out fair. Maybe there should be
another place for mutants. A place that deals with reality, where we
still look out for our own?"
"Raven, I wish – "
"Thank you for the lesson, Erik. I'm really, really tired from
it. Can we try again later?" She feigned a yawn and wobbled a little on
He hurried to her side and took her elbow. "Of course, of course. I
know very little about your talent and the toll it might take on you –
if you're too exhausted you can rest on the couch here, and I'll come
back and check on you later, if you like."
She shook her head, yawning again, but lowered herself down to the
couch even as she protested. Once down, she tried to look sheepish.
"Well, maybe. But surely you don't let students just hang out in your
office, with all your things. Files, and stuff."
Erik smirked, but she could see the amusement in his eyes. "Oh,
everything's locked. I don't see the point in tempting honest people."
The smirk became a smile and he patted her shoulder. "You rest as long
as you need. We'll talk more later."
He opened a cabinet, without touching it, she realized, and produced a
blanket which he spread over her in a rather fatherly way that pulled a
genuine smile from her for a change. "Thank you, Erik."
He left through the adjoining door, and she waited only a few moments
before she hopped up. Something told her it wouldn't surprise him to
catch her snooping. He probably wouldn't even be angry. He'd just smirk
in that way he had that said he knew all along, and aren't you
But she also realized that he wouldn't be back, not until later, just
as he'd said. She could tell that he truly wasn't worried about leaving
her in here alone.
She laughed softly, as delighted as she was frustrated, as the reason
became obvious. All the drawers, cabinets, and containers were metal,
of course, and a custom design, probably built by Erik himself. There
were no handles, and not even any locks to pick. Erik, after all,
didn't need keys.
Mystique could no longer bide her time. She'd come for Laura, but had
other pending projects and deadlines to tend to and couldn't afford to
waste another day in the mansion convincing Laura that she was better
off with her than with Xavier and Erik. However, that didn't mean that
she'd leave Xavier's empty handed.
While Laura and all the others were in class, Mystique made her way
back to the base floor of the mansion, passing one locked room after
another before finally arriving at the one laboratory she knew
contained the very latest in mutant research, DNA manipulation, and
various chemically based methods of defense. Picking the lock and
sweeping into the room, Mystique stabbed a syringe full of a mild
tranquilizer into the stunned lab tech's neck before she could even
attempt to cry out or defend herself. Letting the syringe drop over her
shoulder as the woman collapsed to the floor, Mystique shifted into her
natural form for the first time in quite a while and began going
through the cabinets.
In hacking certain intelligence records, she'd discovered an organic
formula that humans had created by accident while trying to devise a
liquid that once exposed to air would turn into a gas and tranquilize
mutants on the spot. Unfortunately, their research was flawed…at least
for humans. The toxin turned out to have a placebo effect for mutants
but was deadly to humans. The entire team of researchers that had
created the formula was killed in the process and any remaining sample
or attempt to recreate it was banned worldwide. But Mystique knew if
anyone had a sample of the PlaceboX formula, it would be Charles. He
would waste such an opportunity on research whereas Mystique could
replicate it tenfold and use it as an offensive strategy in dire
Hearing footsteps approach the lab, Mystique looked to the technician
on the floor behind one of the tables and rapidly changed her form and
clothing to match hers. Mystique turned around to face the doorway and
put her hands into the deep white lab coat pockets.
"Can I help you?" Mystique asked in a pleasant tone, only assuming what
the mutant sounded like based upon the dimensions of her frame.
"Uh, no. Sorry," Laura replied, backing out of the lab when she saw
that she was obviously in the wrong place and intruding on forbidden
territory. "I was just looking for someone. I thought I saw her come
down here somewhere," she replied.
"You did," Mystique replied, shifting back into Raven. There was still
time and if she could leave Xavier's with PlaceboX and Laura,
she'd really be pleased with herself.
"That's just messed up," Laura said, laughing lightly and surprised all
again by Raven's ability. "Where have you been?"
"I don't know…around?" Raven replied, turning away from Laura and
getting out her notes so she could identify the formula.
"Around? No you haven't because I've looked 'around,'" she
said, using air quotes even though Raven's back was turned. "You
disappear all the time – and on purpose, which is totally not even
fair, Raven." Raven offered her no response at all, only climbed up
onto the counter to search through the top shelves, so Laura walked
over to her by the cabinets and vials of mutant blood work.
"What are you looking for? Are you even listening to me?" She asked.
"Oh my God, what happened?" Laura exclaimed when she saw the real lab
tech on the floor beside Raven.
"Oh, her? She's just sleeping; she'll wake up with a mean headache, but
otherwise, she's fine."
On the counter in front of her, Laura noticed that Raven had an entire
list of chemicals on paper, most of which had been checked off, a
journal with all sorts of notes and scribbling of dates and locations
in it, and an unlocked box containing six or seven vials of different
"This isn't the real you, is it?" Laura asked, looking closely at her
friend now as though she may find some external flaw that gave away her
Raven shrugged with a smirk while she continued to rummage through the
top shelves for any information that would lead her to the storage
location for PlaceboX.
"Is your name even Raven?" Laura asked, her voice rising slightly,
concerned that she'd been lied to.
"Does it matter?" Raven played, hopping down from the counter.
"Of course it does! I commended you for what you did at the rally and I
could be suspended for something like that!"
Raven snickered. "That's not what you're worried about."
"No, it's not," Laura snapped. "I kissed you and I deserve to know who
I was really making out with the other night."
"Scott, as I understood it," Raven teased, closing another drawer and
walking to the back of the lab, thinking the formula was probably in
one of the frozen incubators.
"Don't walk away from me," Laura barked. "What are you looking for
that's so important right now?"
"Don't know if I can tell you."
"Why not? I've never betrayed your confidence before," she argued.
"I've never trusted you with anything substantial before," Raven
"Try me," Laura said, grabbing Raven's arm and pulling her to look at
and focus on her for once. And focus, she did. Raven remained silent,
lifted her chin as though testing Laura's daring, then looked her up
and down, waiting for Laura to prove her worthy somehow. Feeling a
sudden loss of breath combine with the fury she felt from the
realization she'd been successfully baited, Laura asked, "Who are you?"
Unable to stop the formation of a smile at the sight of those bright
lilac eyes watching her so critically and with such passion, Raven's
skin rippled and stretched until she became the taller more elegantly
framed and stunning Mystique.
"My name is Mystique. I operate an underground revolt against human
controlled governments and corporations that seek to harm or use
mutants against their will. It's been suspected for some time now that
Charles has been assisting the humans in researching mutant genetics
and in turn, humans are using that information to test on mutants
locked away from civilization. I intend to stop them."
"Charles wouldn't do that," Laura reasoned, lightening her grip on
Mystique's arm, but not letting go. She didn't even bother to
acknowledge the dramatic change she'd just witnessed; for all she knew
this was just another smokescreen.
"No, I don't believe he would, but he is too foolish to assume that
humans wouldn't use his research against his own people. I pity his
naivety…and yours," she said sharply.
"I'm not naïve," she countered, shoving Mystique's arm out of her
grasp and stepping away from her.
"No? Your petty hang up over one little kiss says otherwise."
"You're wrong. That's why I've been looking for you. I knew I wasn't
kissing Scott and that it was you I was kissing the other night. I
might not have known it was this version of you, but I still
knew it was the Raven I knew, and news flash! I liked
"So come with me," Mystique proposed with a softer tone.
"What?" Laura blurted out, shaking her head as though water had somehow
flooded her ears and she'd heard Mystique incorrectly.
"You heard me."
"I can't just leave with you. I don't even know who you really are,"
Laura deflected. She wanted nothing more than to leave this place she'd
never called home and be part of something important, something that
changed the way mutants lived in this country and around the world, but
she was extremely wary of doing so with a complete stranger – and a
dangerous one at that.
"I really don't see how that matters," Mystique said, stepping up to
Laura and hesitantly tucking a strand of her long dark hair behind an
ear. Shimmering her form back to that of Raven's, Mystique gently held
Laura's face in her hand. "But there's always time," she offered.
Laura lost sight of her doubts for an extended moment as she looked
into Raven's eyes. They were the same captivating color as when she was
Mystique, but the added darkness and wisdom she saw now made leaving
with her all the more alluring. Tearing herself away, Laura rubbed her
fingertips against her temples and hid her face from Raven, considering
Walking back to the counter in the other room with Raven following
close behind, Laura read over Mystique's list of samples she was
collecting from the lab. Noticing the one still unchecked, Laura picked
up one of the miscellaneous vials the lab tech had been working on,
wrapped her hand around it, reviewed the formula written out in
Mystique's journal once more, then closed her eyes. When she reopened
them, she held the vial out to Raven.
"What?" Raven asked, confused.
"PlaceboX," she answered, putting the vial into the box full of samples
beside the journal then locking it shut. Looking over her shoulder at
Raven, "How soon do we leave?"
"This really isn't the place for me," Raven announced to Erik after
breakfast when she ought to have been in her first class.
Erik pushed his lips out and shook his head as he set down his cup of
coffee. "Stay. You can help me change this, and you know it. You're
still young, but the more you–"
Raven laughed, and she could tell it confused and delighted him at the
same time. She stepped up to Erik, covered his hand with her own and
lifted it. She touched the tattoo that showed just beyond the edge of
his pushed-up sleeve. She knew he wanted to pull his hand away, but to
his credit, he didn't.
"That will never happen to you, Raven."
"I know," she replied flatly.
"That's what we're trying to prevent, don't you see? What we're trying
to do here. It doesn't have to end up as you might imagine."
"I remember when they started rounding you up like cattle," she said,
her voice lower than before, a deep satisfaction stemming from the look
on Erik's face. "At first it was criminals, political prisoners,
dissident Poles. And then the camps went from forced labor to
extermination. Meanwhile, this country's government did little but sit
by and watch. You were an entire people unable to imagine the
atrocities in store, offering little resistance because you saw no
immediate need to do so. That's what you're teaching them here. That
the differences don't matter. And they may not to Xavier or to these
children, but to the rest of the world – the world I know, that you
know – they matter a great deal."
Taking a step away, Raven watched the other students run out into the
courtyard between classes. "No, this is no place for me, Erik. It's no
place for you, either. But I think you already know that," she said,
looking back at him.
Erik's face…she'd never forget the expression he wore. It was like
surprise and realization dawning all at once. "You remember?"
She nodded, walking back to stand face to face with Erik, the man only
a head taller than she. "And before," she elaborated. "I remember when
Germany declared war against Russia just over two decades earlier. The
U-Boats and the grand liners sinking in the sea, Gallipoli, deaths from
influenza, Versailles," she paused, considering. "I wanted to celebrate
the turn of the century, but I was young then and it was
difficult. It was exhausting to hold a form for long. Just looking at
someone long enough would start a transformation. But I learned."
Erik stared at her a long time. "It's not exhausting to hold a form
"No. Just infuriating that I have to." She paused, looking up at him.
"And my name is Mystique," she said, her voice now laced with a hint of
"Mystique." He whispered the name as if he'd heard it before, and only
just been reminded of it, or as if it were a delicacy he'd just tasted
for the first time in years. "Show me," he asked, his eyes glinting
She changed then, the teenage clothing gone, the youthful face and
smooth blue skin, it rippled and shimmered, clicked and hissed into
place one inch at a time, until she stood several inches taller,
glimmering in the faint light, fully developed beneath the ridges and
satin plates of reflective blue. She saw Erik's hand lift and thought
he was going to touch her. He didn't.
"You're good," he whispered.
She rippled, smiled, and spoke over her shoulder as she walked away.
"You have no idea."
Charles had been disappointed, but not surprised. He'd suspected
something wasn’t quite right, after all. Erik knew Charles was
concerned about her out there, on her own, even though she was probably
far older than both of them put together. What she could do – the
damage – that was Charles' worry. He also wanted her to stay, not just
out of fear of what she might do, but fear for her. Erik knew that
Charles believed all mutants would be better off inside the school.
Charles stood at the window and from across the room Erik could see the
leaves blow across the yard and the students dashing from place to
place, hoping to beat the coming rain. One of them literally
disappeared from one place and appeared in another. Erik stepped up
behind him and put a hand on the back of his neck, let his fingers
ruffle through the thinning ring of brown that was getting lighter by
the month, it seemed.
He realized that Charles had never met the real Mystique. Erik thought
of how she'd so easily shed one mask and donned another. He thought of
the blue, ridged skin she'd so proudly revealed to him, with its
shimmer and serpentine roll as she changed. She was so beautiful
and able to be anyone. Anyone.
"Erik, is that…?"
Erik recognized the girl by her signature red hair, watched as she
approached one of the students. Laura Lewis, Erik realized. Laura's
parents left her at the school only for Charles and Erik to come to
realize that she could rearrange the cell structure in any type of
organic material. She had no idea how to apply her gift yet. She was
only 17 and had been abandoned, so her lack of control wasn't
surprising. She had great potential, though. Laura was thrilled to see
Raven – skipping over to her and giving her a quick kiss – clearly
they'd gotten close in a fairly short amount of time.
Clever girl, Erik mused to himself, watching the two girls
whispering to each other in the courtyard.
Laura handed Raven her backpack, a backpack that could have been full
of schoolbooks but Erik knew probably wasn't, over to her new friend
before she bent to tie her shoe.
Mystique's golden eyes flashed at the dark clouds drawing near as she
smiled over her shoulder at the two men watching her from the mansion.
Charles sighed. "Do you think she's going to pose a problem?" He caught
Erik's eyes in the glass.
For Charles' sake, Erik didn't smile. "Yes."