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.


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

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.


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.


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

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

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.


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,

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

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?

"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

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 --


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.