Pentacle Road
by Te
January 2002

Disclaimers: No one here you even *think* you recognize is mine.

Spoilers: Um... wow. Some really, *really* old comic books, for the
most part (and in an AU way) but I take Mystique's baseline look
from the movie. Sort of.

Ratings Note: R. Contains content some readers may find disturbing.

Summary: Five things that probably aren't true about Raven
Darkholme, aka Mystique. Five points in time.

Author's Note/Archival: Yet another entry for Kita's challenge, and, well,
color me inspired-like. Kita's archive gets this, of course. Anywhere else,
please ask. I'll most probably say yes.

Acknowledgments: To the Spike for audiencing even though she had no
idea what I was talking about. To Livbun for audiencing even though she
barely knew more.

Feedback keeps me flexible.


I. I and I

When she was a boy, she was reckless. That was why she made a
point of dating (or marrying) extremely cautious women, or men
who bore a stronger resemblance to mother hens than anything

But that was now, after the hard lessons were already learned. As
a child... ai.

As a child, Raven would run for the edges of cliffs both literal and
not and fling herself out into space, seeing how much and how
deeply she could change before hitting the water.

It was almost a surprise to come up sputtering and male that first
time, her prematurely husky alto (oh, but the sailors brought back
such sweet tobacco in the spring) suddenly a brassy, belling tenor
sending birds into flight and frogs into silence.

Was it any surprise that she'd spent the day running through the
beaten-back remnants of the jungle, edging closer than she'd (he'd!
He'd!) ever dared to the native encampments?

By the end of the day, his feet had been bloody and blistering,
ankles swollen and bitten by a thousand insects.

His cock had been sore from the endless masturbation, his wrist
both limp and stiff.

She hadn't been able to shift until the next morning, hidden behind
yards of mosquito netting and the sort of servants only truly
impressive amounts of money could buy.

Her father had been ailing then, but still alive. Still protecting his
only, terrible and terrifying child here at this last outpost of empire.

She had been much too young to appreciate the fin de siecle glory
of it all, but certain amounts of poetry still managed to seep through,
if only in the extremes:

The green of the world right up to the edges of things. The blatant,
dare-you savagery of chin tattoos. The scales she leaves behind on
the hottest, wettest days, peeling down to something raw and tender
and so very, very rare.

She lost her virginity to the half-Maori maid. New, mostly confined to
the kitchens, her hands were wrinkled and hard. Callused from the
sorts of things Raven never did. Raven never showed the maid her
true face, but a week after crying out to the heavens with the
maid's dark, sleek head buried between her girlish thighs, she'd
returned the favor:

And oh, the feel of a woman around her cock was the closest she
ever came to madness; suddenly she *understood* men. How could
they ever be expected to be as reasonable, as peaceful as a woman
with such pleasure waiting for them between the thighs of every
scullery wench and highborn priss ever to be born?

Until the day she made her desiccated father fire the girl, she'd
thought Raven had an elusive, quicksilver brother.

Raven dreamed of this brother long after she'd left her childhood
and recklessness behind, of brown skin and seal-slick hair, and a
careless smile for her, only for her --

For wasn't she behind the eyes of every woman he bedded?

Something like that.


II. The naming of names.

The woman was staring at her so hard Raven feared she was
showing more than she ought.

Years of practice and practiced prejudice aside, it was unnerving
to be singled out so extremely when you knew there was no
reason for it. Or, well... she was wearing a face she knew to be
made up of features deemed beautiful by these faux-European and
ever so class-conscious rich Americans.

Her skin was as smooth as she could make it, and white as milk.
White enough to make the cynical elderly whisper of disease, truly,
but combined with the red of her carefully plush mouth...

She was used to the attentions of men.

The woman...

Raven chanced a glare, tilting up the chin she'd spent an hour this
morning perfecting and looking down her nose.

The woman blushed in a gratifying (if vague) manner, and Raven
was about to go back to her tea and her determined passive
beauty -- husband hunting was a queer sort of effort -- when she
noticed that the strange woman never actually looked down.

A twist of the lips that felt false -- she already knew her mouth
made the gesture far more pretty than intimidating -- and she raised
her eyebrow. Let the woman explain herself.

The look -- and she had practiced it, along with every other Look
she could think of, she knew of its effectiveness -- seemed to fall
on blind eyes, as the woman simply continued to stare.

And this was becoming *farce*, and there was only a certain degree
of *that* a new addition to the community could handle without
losing the cachet of marriageability, no matter *how* lovely.

She resolved to focus on her tea, and turn her beauty away from
the well-bred (probable) imbecile at the next table. It would work
out for the best, even if she *was* surrendering the best light.

And yet, that was not to be.

An awkward thump, the jerk of the small, fragile tea table -- Raven
hastily and messily caught her own small cup -- and she was no
longer alone. Up close, she could see her impressions had more
due to the literal than metaphorical -- the paleness of the stranger's
blue eyes was that of infirmity, not breeding.

Something uncomfortable and inconvenient twisted inside of her, but
she schooled her voice to pleasantness as best she could. "May I help
you, miss? Are you... lost?"

The woman tilted her head, the smile of a far older woman touching
her soft mouth for a moment. "You are Raven Darkholme," she said, as
if confirming something sweet to herself.

"I'm sorry, have we been introduced?"

Another smile, this one that of a child with a delicious secret. "No, but...
I am Irenie Adler. And I... I have been waiting for you."

Raven began to revisit the impression of imbecility and swallowed a sigh.
If you wanted to marry high, you had to become accustomed to the
occasional sports that showed up along the way. She smiled to herself,
not bothering to hide the nastiness from the blind eyes looking
somewhere over her shoulder. Sports like her. "Is that so?"

Adler's laugh was derisive, but more amused than not. "I know what's
under that milk-pretty skin, little blue girl," she whispered. "But that's
not nearly as important as the other things I know."

Raven's heart hammered in her chest. Calm. "What things?"

"What the future, our future will bring." She leaned back, smiling so
broadly her blind eyes were nearly hidden. "Raven. Mm. What
mystique you'll bring to my life."


III. State of Grace

"I'm looking for... my friend," he said, and that accent told Raven
nearly as much as the hesitation.

The post-war refugees made it almost too easy, with their shabby
suits and aerated shoes and halting, diffident English. Screaming to
the world: I am poor, and I have been a victim, and I am merely
waiting for the merciful end. Raven lit a cigarette and spun the chair
with a trifle more insouciance than she would've used for a client
who smelled more like money. "Yeah?"

"His name..." The man swallowed, and Raven focused on him
through the haze of smoke. There was a brief moment of genuine
fear in his eyes, making them wide and wet, giving the faded blue
a rheumy look that aged the man before his time.

Raven would put him at twenty-five, tops. Right now he looked
forty. "Siddown before you fall down, tough guy. Why don't you
start from the beginning?"

She girded herself for what would undoubtedly be a sickeningly
grateful look behind the square-jawed and stubbled mask she
wore for this job, this life, gritting carefully yellowed teeth and...
pausing because the look never came. Instead, there was a flare
of anger.

Pride. Well. That would make things a trifle less irritating, certainly.
She sat up a little straighter.

"His name is Xavier. Charles Xavier. He is..." The words were
hesitant. The look was nothing but. If Raven was in any other
business she'd think the man was searching for the proper English
words for whatever concept was coming next.

Raven wasn't in any other business, though, and she'd been alive a
lot longer than it looked, besides. Not for the first time, she found
herself envying the more... feral among her unofficial brethren. She
wanted to get a better idea of what was under this man's skin than
what her own instincts could tell her. Still... she leaned back again,
letting her eyes flash as she went. Most people would consider it a
trick of the light.

Sometimes Raven wondered how long that particular grace would be
given her. There were more and more babies floating up the L.A.
'river' that looked... well. Raven's smile was a private one, small
and humorless.

The man responded with a curtly Germanic nod and curled his
fingers over the arm of the guest chair -- no -- *into* the arm of
the chair. The metal arm, on the cheap but sturdy chair, chosen
because too many palookas had busted up too much nice wooden
furniture over the years. Raven blinked and watched the crumpled
metal straighten itself out with a gesture from the man, who had
a private, humorless smile of his own.

Raven nodded. "And this... friend of yours, Mr...?"

"Magnus. You may call me Magnus. My friend is a very... powerful
young man, but I fear his latest folly has gotten him in quite over
his head, as they say."

"'Young men' will do that every time, won't they?"

Magnus took the dig at his own youth with a slightly warmer than
frigid smile. "I think you will be interested in this bit of folly in
particular, Mr.... Holmgren, was it?" He was becoming more alert,
more *alive* with each passing moment, blue eyes flashing under
that head full of... white? Prematurely grey? hair. "Yes. Charles has
decided that the world is changing. He has the curious idea that the
more... powerful young men and women emerge from the shadows,
the more reasons the less powerful will find to hate and fear them."


Another wintry smile. "As you say."

Raven let her chair spin a bit more, putting her face into shadow. She
wanted to think, and sometimes the more egregiously male masks she
wore moved oddly when she was deep in thought. "You know exactly
where he is."

"Then why am I here?" Butter wouldn't melt.

Raven bit the tip of her tongue lightly, a habit she'd been cultivating
for this identity. Tilted her head and counted off, finger by finger: "You
want someone he wouldn't recognize on his tail while you come in
from the flank. You want him distracted. You want him... stopped."

"How very euphemistic."

Raven snorted. "So why I am helping you, Magnus? You don't have
that kind of cash."

"Because Xavier is building an army, Mr. Holmgren. And I'm quite
sure I'm not the only one who'd find that sort of proactivity...

"An... army."

"Mutants, he calls them. Trained to be 'peacekeepers.' The eldest
will turn nineteen in a month."

Raven worked hard to keep herself expressionless. It wasn't easy
to bring a child to term when your organs were as necessarily
flexible as her own. "Some would say it's only a matter of time before
everyone knows about... us, anyway."

"Some would say the inevitable lifting of the veil would best be done
without the fanfare of militarism."

Raven nodded slowly. "Tell me everything, Magnus."

Sacrifices must always be made.

IV. Seven Deadly.

There had never been anyone who made her feel the way Victor
did, and she will never tell a soul.

Victor came into her life as nothing but what he was: a hulking,
blood-soaked monster simply waiting for psychiatry to catch up
with him, as nothing any sane woman could ever want, and by the
end of their first meeting Raven was on her knees.

By choice.

This was a surprise to both of them, as Raven had been living as
even more of a 'beauty' than usual, gracing the cover of dozens of
international magazines as the brainless, buxom, creamy-skinned
model of the moment, and Victor had been... looking for something
to desecrate.

Instead, she had him in a suit by the end of the week, colors chosen
to best display her on his arm as they made their way to film festivals
and parties thrown by the highest of the high, or the richest of those
on their way down.

Victor acculturated faster than anyone could have guessed, or perhaps
he just had hidden depths. In truth, Raven could care less. Victor, to
her, was the breadth of shoulders she could be thrown across.

The long and lightly furred -- yes, furred -- thighs that demanded to
be crawled over, slithered over like a snake, like something just as low
and desperate as she was.

The curly blond hair, thick and long as a hippy's, regal as a king's.
Perfect to drive her hands into as she clutched him with her thighs,
with her cunt, with everything she was.

He fucked her mercilessly every night and threw her back into the real
world covered in bruises and nearly bowlegged. Raven occasionally
wondered if she was rebelling against the burgeoning wash of
feminism out of some deep-seated fear of change.

Raven, for the most part, learned the best maquillage to cover hickeys
and to love the smell of smoke and blood. Other people's blood, her
blood. Victor's when she got him good and drunk, drunk enough that
she felt comfortable opening things up a little.

Showing him what she could *really* do.

But oh, it was intoxication to burrow her head against his chest and
breathe him deep, let his scent follow her all the way down into the
dreamless sleep of the truly exhausted.

Yank him back by the hair when he would try to get away, and spark
under the flare of his eyes. This man, this *thing* who had left so
many others... yes, yes. Hers.

Really, if she hadn't surprised them both and wound up pregnant --
she wasn't sure how old she was, but 'too' was what came to mind --
there's no telling how long the affair would've lasted. As it was, Raven
was never sure if his rages were more to do with her keeping the child
or the fact that it came out so obviously, horribly... human.

And it wasn't as though she thought Irenie would be jealous, per se...
Raven was quite sure her journals were just *full* of cryptic references
to the blue girl losing all trace of modesty and morality in the Age of

No, it didn't matter. She just didn't particularly like revisiting that part
of her past with anything remotely resembling the possibility of
*telling* anyone else about it.

She had her pride.


V. Chosen

In nineteen fifty-four, Irenie tilted her head in that way she had and
Raven immediately reached for the journal she kept stashed among the
more mundane literature and travel-guides.

There was a journal for every room, because Raven knew that look,
and that *sense* she gave off. Ozone before a storm.

Power from a poorly shielded wire.


But she waved the journal aside and took Raven's hand, instead.
"Raven," she said, "we're going to have a *daughter*."

More than twenty years have passed since then, and Raven has been
patient, so very patient. When Irenie told her to marry that small-
minded, inbred pissant of a baron, she had accepted it, knowing that
the child she bore wouldn't be the one.

Knowing that there would be pain, terrible pain long into the future,
and knowing that it couldn't be avoided, if all were to be well.

Knowing that there would be a daughter.

But now...

Ah, even Irenie is fading with this wild and improbable decade, blinking
at the music as if she sees something after all, and it's quite as strange
as it seems. Fussing at hair gone pure white with time, and time.

Raven always knew a day would come that she would bury her love,
her long ago destiny and always choice. It's just that they were
supposed to have a *family* first. Could anyone be a better mother
than Irenie? Always knowing what the road ahead would bring for
their little girl, ever careful?

Did any parent have as much love as Raven? So much love, frustrated
and banked and shoved aside all these many years, as first one son
and then another was lost to her?

No, there were things that must be, and must be *now*.

And so when Raven saw the ragged little urchin...

No. It was more than that. It was...

It was dirty hair in a roughly-hacked-off curtain over eyes huge in a
face gone thin and pale with malnutrition. It was a whip-thin body
under rags that might have simply been fashionable, given the month,
given the year -- were it not for the dirt. It was the move to protect
her from some well-meaning police officer, story about wayward
children already spinning up from her throat, all aborted as the
girl-child whipped off the curiosity of her glove and.


Such power.

She lured the deception in waif's clothing back to her home like a
cat, all soft words and the assumption of vulnerability. And food, of
course. It was all she could do not to touch her smudged and bony
cheek with her bare hand, to resist the urge to *know* her little
vampire, because...


When Raven finally got her home, Irenie was waiting with open --
and gloved -- arms.

"You found her," she said, and the smile lines at the corners of her
eyes were bright human radiants to be lost in, but no more than the
shock in the little vampire's.

It made her a truly a child.

"It's all right," Raven said to her. "We've been waiting for you."