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Change

by Te

Change
by Te
May 25, 2003

Disclaimers: Not mine.

Spoilers: X2, various comics.

Summary: Mystique has to see.

Ratings Note: PG-13.

Author's Note: I was talking about this relationship with the Spike, but I don't think this went the way she thought it would.

Acknowledgments: To Spike, for listening to me blither, and to Jenn for audiencing.

Feedback: Yes, please. teland@teland.com

*

Mystique remembers her life by the people in it. It's easier that way than to remember the years, and all the scars she doesn't have. Irene and the way she loved to wear strange and binding underwear beneath her prim, old lady clothes... she remembers the way the corset cupped and held soft, sagging breasts, the way her veins traced blue and final beneath soft, pale, and papery skin.

She remembers Erik before she was entirely herself, or comfortable with that. His soft brown hair falling in waves, his eyes blue and acid sharp.

Victor, and the way he'd growl and threaten against her neck, the neck and body she'd made for him, all long soft lines and human perfection. Victor, and the way he'd sniff at her scales and make them curl and settle and curl, and the way he'd look at her with a sort of curious dread.

The ferals, they never remember. It's all one to them, time and food and fuck and kill, their healing factors always wiping things clean. They don't understand themselves, and Mystique doesn't care to teach. But if one would ask nicely, she would say: "you're older than you think. Remember the people, because everything else is gone."

And she thinks maybe most of them would consider it a cruel factor of their mutation, but Mystique thinks less of them for that.

Mutation is adaptation written upon the body, and if the mind can't accept that, then the mind is weak.

Unworthy.

Because even with all the time lost in a life lived as long as her own, some things return. Some people return, and if you aren't strong enough to remember them, if you haven't held them within you against all matter of circumstance and possibility...

Well, then, you might find yourself surprised.

There are few things deadlier than surprise in the world Mystique lives in.

And so she had carefully modulated her voice when Kurt -- and oh, that wasn't what she was going to name him, he was going to be strong, kingly, her beautiful blue -- had walked up to her.

She had answered his questions, and if she hadn't quite been able to look at the boy... well, he hadn't expected it. No doubt the boy had spent much of his life talking to the sides of people's faces, the backs of their ignorant little heads.

People come back, and that's the harsh and wonderful fact of it. She'd spent her life prepared for the possibility with any number of humans and mutants, but somehow...

She remembers pressing herself hard against rock and looking down and down over a cliff and into churning waters. She remembers that even then she hadn't allowed herself to think of the Gypsies who sometimes took up residence in the caves, of the possibility that the act she'd been about to commit could end in any way but one.

And yet...

She remembers the way his tail had curled around her finger, and the way his eyes had caught the light, so wide and trusting and so very guaranteed to give them both away.

She remembers pressing her lips to his forehead, not furry so much as strange and warmly velvet, and whispering "live." She thought... she'd thought it was supposed to be an apology and an explanation.

She would live, and her baby boy would provide the impetus. The necessary sacrifice.

But now...

Now she is lurking outside the gates of Xavier's blasted school. Senator Kelly is on vacation, and Erik's dear is away, away, away. Waiting.

She has to see.

Lights flare and die inside, and occasionally the ground shakes with some ill-contained explosion, and yet she is the only one who stops to stare through the gates. People walk by, blithely walking their spoiled little pets and spoiled little children (curled around her finger) and never once stop to see...

If she was more... if she was more herself, she would be able to hear Erik's voice in her mind, something about the way humans live almost entirely in happy ignorance of the world around them. Animals with their illusions. But she knows the way they react to mutants, knows the smell of fear and hate.

The only illusion here is the one Xavier has placed over the minds of the locals. Protection for his children.

Hers.

It wouldn't be very difficult to slip inside, to make herself tall enough and thin enough to slide through the bars, to be the green of the grass she runs across, to slide rough and still against a tree.

She curls her hands around the bars and forces herself to stillness. She can wait.

After a while, her feet begin to ache, so she curls and bends herself into a dog, large and quiet. Gives herself a collar and noses at the sticky faces of the children who pass by, runs into the shadows when others do.

Cars come out, filled with laughing children, mutations tucked and hidden behind clothes.

Another, and there is Cyclops, either talking to himself or singing. She doesn't get close enough to hear the music, and wonders what it would be like to have power like Wolverine's, something that would make the world open up around her.

She could, perhaps, smell Kurt's adult scent, and if the clothes he was wearing were of good quality.

If he were hers...

It gets darker, and she makes herself black, tries to figure out the proper combination of will and luck to make her eyes reflective, and turns her vision monochrome for a fascinating, heart-stopping moment.

She will have to work harder on non-human forms.

Small, flickering light close to the house -- Wolverine, smoking. She wonders how close he'd have to get for him to smell her. She wonders if studying biology would make it any easier to alter her scent.

Too many ferals in the world.

She ducks behind a tree and pisses, enjoying the feel of it through her short doggy prick, and sits on the curb beyond the puddle. If it were Sabretooth, he would probably investigate the stink immediately. Wolverine... Wolverine prides himself on not being that much of an animal.

And what if he doesn't come out? What if he's eating dinner with the rest of them, or sleeping on some rich, soft bed?

Xavier wouldn't give him anything but the best... wouldn't he?

She closes her eyes and shifts.

Waits for Wolverine to go back inside.

Squeezes through the bars.

On the grass, she feels more exposed than she'd anticipated, and shifts into cat form. She feels... overfull, as though everything important within her is squeezed and threatening to break through. She doesn't make a particularly small cat, but she knows she's still too small to stay in this form for very long.

Just long enough to get up into the trees, up and up until all the windows lead into bedrooms and living quarters. It all looks as soft as she imagined, which makes her twist inside a little. How will Erik make them understand the danger if they live like this?

Why can't they all?

She hears German and moves closer to a darkened window. It's been years, more than she particularly wants to count, but she's almost sure it's a prayer. Something the village priest would have refused to say over her boy's cradle.

She crawls as close to the end of the branch as she can, trying to move with its sway. Pads at the window.

Nothing.

Swipes at it with her claws and winces internally at the small shriek of glass.

The German pauses, and she freezes a little at the sight of eyes flaring golden at the window. And then a smile, wide and white and sharp. "Kaetzchen!" The window flies open and the branch she's on sways a little. "Are you cold? You're a big little kitten, ja? Want to come inside?"

He reaches out a hand, and she sees the rosary wrapped around the palm. There's some sort of pale tattoo on the man's wrist, peeking out from under the fabric. She could leave now. He is happy, comfortable...

She leaps in and lands on his lap.

"Friendly kitten!"

Shifts, and has to grab the back of the chair and brace her feet to keep them both from toppling over when he jumps. And then she hits the floor anyway when he teleports across the room. Nightcrawler. Her boy.

"You! I do not think you are supposed to be here." He crosses his arms, and she can see his tail moving restlessly.

She revels a little in the sound of his voice. It's... he hadn't even said 'mama' before she'd had to... she shakes her head, and puts her finger to her lips.

"Why are you here?" Curious, open. Who'd raised him? Who...

"I needed to talk to you, Nightcrawler."

He shakes his head. "Please, I am Kurt. Kurt Wagner. Nightcrawler is only..." He waves his hand, claws moving harmlessly through the air. "Stage name, ja?"

She closes her eyes. "That isn't your real name."

He smiles again. "My mother, I think she would have something to say about that, Mystique."

For a moment, she has to close her eyes again. Had she really come this far without a plan? She has no idea what she wants to say, and even less about what she should say. "When you were little, you would curl your tail -- it was little then, but still just a little sharp at the end. Very strong. You would curl your tail around... around your mother's finger."

"Ach, sometimes I think it has a mind of its own, ja?" He blinks. "Wait... you knew... you knew my mother? My... birth mother?" He clutches at the rosary.

And maybe there's a chance she could have done this differently, been someone or something other than this, but in the end, all she can do is reach out her hand. "When you were born, we were the same. Only... you were soft. Do you still have that fur? Are you..." She feels her face start to crumple and shifts herself into something harder.

And his face, this Kurt, this stranger. "You are making a joke? It is not..."

Mystique shakes her head and gets up off the floor. Reaches out and curls her fingers around the one big one at the center of his hand. It's smooth, and the beads of the rosary are cool beneath her palm. "I thought you were dead," she says.

He stares at their hands for a long moment before looking up at her again. His mouth hangs open, and she can see that all of his teeth are sharp. Had they hurt, coming in? Had he cried? "You... The Gypsies, they said they found me in... in a bush, by the river. They said I was cold, and that I cried like. A demon. Bad luck to leave a demon to die, ja?"

"You're not --"

"Why did you leave me? I thought... I thought you were maybe dead, or maybe the other children were right and I was a demon and had no mother." It comes out muz-zare, his accent getting thicker, but it wasn't so long ago when her own accent was similar.

She wishes she had a pretty lie to tell him. But more than that... she doesn't really know what she wants. "I had to. They were... they were going to kill both of us, and I couldn't... I couldn't make you change into anything they wanted to see."

His hand flexes in her own and he nods, mouth going tight and hard. "You left me to die."

Mystique nods. "I just wanted. Are you...?"

A knock on the door and Nightcrawler -- Kurt -- rips his hand away from her own. "Kurt? It's me, Ororo. I brought you some dessert...?"

She reaches for him again, but he jerks away. "Leave."

"I." But there's really nothing to be said to that, is there? And the doorknob is turning. She shifts back into cat form and runs for the window, leaping out and reaching blind for a tree branch.

She hits one more by luck than anything else and scrambles down. There's a boy and a girl kissing in the shadows, and she barely manages to avoid bumping against them. Another shift and she's tall and narrow and unnatural and running, running.

Her car is parked not too many streets away, but she still nearly just runs past. Impractical, unnatural...

She slides behind the wheel and bangs open the recessed compartment. Keys, ignition, drive, unnatural, not right, not real --

No.

She shifts and shifts again until she's in skin that feels vaguely right and checks the mirror to find herself old, male. A few more touches and she's Erik, which is... foolish to an extreme, but she can see a smile in his eyes in the rearview mirror, and it makes something settle inside.

She will stay this way for a while, at least until she gets closer to Washington. (Leave.)

She puts both hands on the wheel and focuses herself on driving, being safe, getting away (Leave.), and so it takes a while for her to notice. There's a rosary on the seat beside her, beads smooth and worn from use.

Mystique makes a noise she doesn't have a name for and drives faster.

She can have... other children. She is strong, and healthy, and her body is young even if the rest of her isn't. Adaptation...

Adaptation is the heart and soul of her mutation, and she has never been so weak as to not accept that. It keeps her alive, and it keeps her safe.

This was just... a necessary reminder. People could find their way back into your lives no matter what you did to keep it from happening... but there's no reason to help them.

Her son is dead, and that's all she needs to know.

She throws the rosary out the window when she hits the highway, and keeps driving.

End.


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