Author: PragmaticHominid PM
DEVIL explores life in the Brotherhood of Mutants during the first year following the events in Cuba. It deals with Raven's difficulties in adapting to life in the Brotherhood, with a focus on her relationship with Azazel and the eventual birth of Kurt.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Magneto & Mystique - Chapters: 52 - Words: 146,717 - Reviews: 238 - Favs: 131 - Follows: 159 - Updated: 03-10-13 - Published: 06-27-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7123510
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"The consequence of this racial purity, universally valid in Nature, is not only the sharp outward delimitation of the various races, but their uniform character in themselves. The fox is always a fox, the goose a goose, the tiger a tiger, etc... You will never find a fox who in his inner attitude might, for example, show humanitarian tendencies toward geese, as similarly there is no cat with a friendly inclination toward mice." – Adolf Hitler
"Every word that comes from Hitler's mouth is a lie." – The White Rose, Fourth Leaflet
"Okay, Mystique said, in response to the news of the arrest. "Then we'll just get Azazel to break your uncle out." She said this matter-of-factly, with a calmness that she was surprised to find that she actually felt.
I'm learning how to do this work, she thought. They'd already done two prison breaks, after all, and if neither had gone off painlessly they had at least managed to rescue their targets in both cases. This was starting to feel like old hat.
"No need," Erik responded. "He's already been let out, and he's back home – I've just been on the phone with him." He explained that both he and Kurt had known that the apartment was being watched, though not by who, and that he'd tried to talk the old man into coming to Chicago to join them – to talk him into going anywhere else – but that Kurt had refused.
Mystique wondered what the others would have thought of that plan – especially Emma. She was not sure, really, that she herself would have been willing to have a human under their roof, Erik's blood or not. Could we have been anything like ourselves around this man? Could we have trusted him?
"I need to go to Ireland," Erik finished. "You'll come with me? I need someone who won't..." He didn't seem sure how to finish, but Mystique thought she understood what was meant. Erik wanted someone who would not hold the old man against him, who would stand with him against Emma.
Emma was going to be trouble. Mystique understood at once why Erik needed to take her along, but she could already see that Emma would be trouble.
"Okay," she told him, transforming. Not into the Raven skin – she tried to avoid using that one, and not just for security reasons – but into a new form, a brunette with a heart-shaped face who she'd seen on the train a few days previous. It was an anonymous form, one which she did not expect to have need of in any future situation. The baby bulge, predictably, stayed where it was when she manifested a sweater to cover it.
"Thank you for the thought, my dear," Erik said in a voice which she couldn't quite read, "but I don't think that will be necessary."
"It's okay – I don't mind," Mystique said, and it wasn't exactly a lie. She'd found that hiding didn't bother her nearly as much as it had used to, now that they were working toward a world were none of them would have to hide anymore. And anyway, it just seemed easier.
Emma and Azazel returned then, appearing in the hall with a crack, and Azazel stepped to Mystique's side without commenting on her appearance.
When Erik turned to address them, Mystique saw that both the panic and vulnerability of earlier was gone from him. In its place there was a black rage.
"The government – it doesn't really matter which one, though I mean to find that out – is onto us," he began. "They've snatched my only living relative off the streets, held him against his will, terrorizing a crippled old man, and all of this was an attack on Mutant by proxy. They went after him to get at me – they mean to frighten me, to turn me ineffectual, to make me hesitate before taking action against them, but it isn't going to work. I am going to find out who did this – you all are going to help me to find out – and then the people responsible are going to bleed."
Azazel nodded his approval slowly, an eager and vicious grin tugging on the left-side of his face. He was ready and waiting for a fight, Mystique saw; that was a fact about him that still frightened her sometimes. Emma, on the other hand, looked supremely unimpressed by Erik's speech.
Erik explained to Azazel where Kurt's apartment was, and they joined hands, a moment later they were there, inside an empty bedroom.
"I will go now," Azazel said, dropped Mystique's and Erik's hands. "Emma will whistle when you are finished here, yes?"
"No – please stay," Erik said, and Mystique understood something suddenly. He wants Azazel – and he wanted me, blue – as a way of testing the old man. He needs to know how his uncle Kurt will react to us. It made her uneasy.
Azazel nodded, but with much less certainty than he'd shown when the topic had been blood; the killing of enemies was a simple matter for him, but meeting a comrade's relative was an entirely different question.
"Just wait here a minute," Erik continued, stepping toward the door. "I'm going to tell my uncle that we're here, I don't want to surprise him too badly, just showing up here like this –" but while he was still looking over his shoulder at the others the bedroom door opened.
The family resemblance was obvious at first glance; the old man was a smaller, wizened version of Erik. Kurt was much shorter, and he was boney where the other was muscular, and his hair was mostly gray and receding, but they had clearly been cut from the same mold. He has Erik's eyes, Mystique realized, the same gold-flecked green that sometimes looked blue and sometimes gray, so difficult to mimic.
Kurt gripped a cane in his left hand, but did not lean on it – there was something about the way that he held it that made Mystique think that it was meant more as a weapon than as a means of getting around. His right arm was gone above the elbow, the sleeve of his housecoat cut short and pinned up.
She watched those eyes, so like Erik's, as they stopped short on Azazel, but his gaze lingered there only for an instant. Then the old man leaned the cane against the door frame and came forward, catching Erik up in a one-armed embrace. Erik curled his own arms around Kurt's bent back, as awkward as a teenager under the eyes of the others.
"I've missed you," Erik told him.
"It's because you never visit," the old man said back.
"It seemed safer not to. I didn't want to chance attracting attention to you."
"Ach, too late for that now, eh?" Kurt responded, with a light bravado that seemed as fragile and worn down as he looked.
"I'm sorry that this happened."
"Couldn't be avoided," Kurt said, stepping back. "And in any case, it's hardly your fault."
"No, but I'm going to see that those who are responsible pay for it."
Kurt waved his hand carelessly. "Maybe you'll introduce me to your friends first?"
Azazel came forward first, cupping Kurt's arthritic hand between his own two strong hands. "I know that Erik cares for you, and so it does not bother me that you are human," he said earnestly. The old man looked at him flatly, unblinking, and Azazel added, unnerved by the look, wondering if he'd made some misstep, "I am not demon."
"I never said that I thought you were," Kurt said back to him.
Erik hesitated over Mystique's name, seemingly uncertain as to what to call her – more often than not they used their old names between themselves, but was this something different? "This is... Mystique," he said finally.
When Mystique moved to shake his hand, Kurt drew her into a one-armed hug. She felt compelled to reciprocate, returning the embrace carefully; the old man seemed very frail, and she was afraid she might break him if she squeezed too tightly.
When they drew apart, Kurt stooped, hand on one knee, bringing himself eye-level to Mystique's belly. She had a sense that he had once been a large man – though perhaps not as big as Erik – but he was so shrunken with age that he did not need to lean over very far to do this. "I see you've got a little one coming."
"I do," Mystique said, smiling despite herself.
He turned his eyes, so like his nephew's, up at her. "Erik's?" he said, hopefully.
Azazel moved closer to Mystique and put a hand on her shoulder. "No," she said, absurdly sorry to disappoint him.
"Ah well," the old man said, straightening laboriously. "Maybe you'll name him after me anyway."
"Uncle," Erik said, horrified.
"Max," Kurt replied, in the same tone. He turned toward the door, picking up his cane as he went. "Let's have some tea, shall we?"
"I'll help you," Erik said, following after quickly.
Mystique caught him gently by the arm before he could disappear into the hallway after Kurt. "'Max?'" she repeated, confused.
"Max is my given name," he told her. "I'll explain later." And he slipped away.
Mystique and Azazel followed after them more slowly, Emma taking up their rear. Erik had not introduced her to the old man, Mystique noted.
The three of them came to a stop in the sitting room. On the other side of what Mystique assumed was the kitchen door, she could hear Erik and Kurt moving about and speaking to each other, their voices muffled by the door.
"We should wait here," Mystique decided, and Azazel sank down onto the couch, grateful that the decision had been made. Mystique sat down beside him, while Emma took a chair.
Mystique looked around to the cozy little room, waiting for Erik and Kurt to come back. There were pictures on the wall, and her eyes were draw to one in particular; Erik, ten years younger at least, his expression nowhere near as wolfish and hard as it was today, together with a brown-haired little girl and a woman with the largest eyes Mystique had ever seen. She wet her lips, wondering.
Azazel touched her elbow to draw her attention, pointing to a cabinet with his chin. There was a menorah on top of it. "See?" he said softly, sounding both pleased with himself and relieved. "I got right thing."
Erik and Kurt returned from the kitchen, the old man skillfully balancing a large tea tray on his hip while Erik held the door. He sat the tray down on the coffee table then lowered himself slowly down on the couch across from Mystique. Erik sat down next to him.
There was a large, white earthenware pot on the tray, and five teacups with saucers, none of which matched one another. The tray also held blueberry scones, a tiny jug of cream and another of milk, and four little bowls filled with sugar cubes, ground nuts, cinnamon, and powdered chocolate.
"So," Kurt began, pouring, "I always told Max that there had to be others like him, but he never believed me. But here you are." He looked up. "You are all... whatever it is you are, yes?"
"Mutants, yes," Mystique answered, taking a cup and saucer from Kurt. The missing arm did not seem to slow him down noticeably.
"And there you have it," Kurt said, turning his to Erik. "That's the same word the people who grabbed me were using for you, by the by," he added as an aside.
"Well, I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of being part of a whole new species overnight," Erik said. Mystique noted that the cadence of his speech had begun to match Kurt's. The brogue, which had disappeared completely from Erik's speech by the second week after Cuba, was thick now, though there was no sign of the faint German accent that underlied Kurt's words.
"When did I ever say anything about a new species?" Kurt demanded. "Of course Mutants aren't a new species – you can still have children with us, can't you?" Erik put his teacup down with a sharp clink and pushed it away, but Kurt kept on. The old man was angry, Mystique realized suddenly, and it was the same subtly venous anger that Erik could apply with such precision to neutralize dissent. "That's sloppy thinking, Max. It's not a difference between foxes and geese but of a white goose and a brown goose."
"I am more than just red goose," Azazel interjected, affronted.
Mystique cut in. "Janos said something like that to me," she said, looking from Kurt to Erik. "That Shaw used to talk about geese and foxes... or was it dogs and foxes?"
Erik snorted disgustedly. "Leave it to Shaw to misquote Mein Kampf," he said.
Kurt's eyes watched Mystique intently. "Shaw?"
"Schmidt," Erik clarified, flatly.
"I see," Kurt said, and Mystique could not have believed that there would be so much danger lurking in an old man's voice. "Are these Schmidt's old followers, then?"
It was Azazel who answered. "Emma and myself – yes," he admitted. "But no longer. All of that is over with."
"Is it?" Kurt asked, his eyes on Emma. She stared back at him, something below dismissive in her gaze, as though she barely deigned to see him there.
"Shaw is dead," Azazel said. "Erik killed him."
"I know it," the old man said. "I was happy to hear about it. He killed my sister, and god alone knows how many others."
Emma set her teacup down loudly, and some of the tea sloshed over the edge of the cup. "Can we get on with this?" she demanded.
"You haven't touched your tea," Kurt noted.
"I can't say that I'm thirsty, Emma replied, with icy courtesy.
"I know exactly what you're thinking," he told her, flatly.
"I doubt that," Emma answered.
"Don't think I haven't seen that look – that I haven't seen your type – a thousand times before." He turned to look at Erik. "This one imagines herself to be a fox." Erik didn't answer; his eyes were fixed on Emma, blazing with rage. "Let's get on with it then," Kurt said.
There wasn't that much to the story, at least not as Kurt told it. He'd been snatched while walking home from the green grocer's, politely invited by a man with a black suit and an inconspicuous gun to climb into an unmarked van. Two other men in black suits had waited inside.
They'd driven for quite a while – Kurt was not sure for just how long, as his watch had been taken away from him, along with his wallet and house keys – and when they'd finally stopped he'd been taken into a small and secluded country house.
"They were full of questions," Kurt continued, "and all of them about you and your friends, Max. Well, I couldn't have helped them if I'd wanted to – what do I know about your business, after all? It was smart that you were careful about that. I knew that you were in America, and that you'd found some more of your own kind, but they knew that much and more themselves. I'm afraid that they didn't find me to be very helpful."
His voice was light and flippant, but Mystique noticed that his hand shook when he lifted his teacup to his lips. A palsy brought on by old age, frayed nerves, bottled rage? Mystique couldn't say.
The men had held him for three days, whiling the time away by plying him with questions and promises and threats, and then it was back to the van. Then they had returned his property and let him go near the edge of the city, more or less no worse for wear.
"Did you see anything else – any clue as to who they might have been?" Erik pressed.
"They were Americans," Kurt told him with certainty, "but that's all that I could say."
"CIA?" Erik suggested, but the old man just shrugged.
Erik leaned across the table, bringing himself closer to Kurt. He motioned a hand toward Emma. "We each have our own abilities. Emma's gift is to read minds. If you'll allow it, I'd like for her to take a look at your memories of the last few days. There may be some clue as to who it was that kidnapped you there – something important that you saw but have since forgotten. It's not painful."
"Alright," Kurt agreed, nodding slowly. "Have her do what she needs to do."
"I finished with that half an hour ago," Emma said, speaking to Erik rather than Kurt. "He isn't hiding anything from us. He really doesn't know who kidnapped him."
"Emma," Erik said, his voice as light as the blade of Mystique's stiletto, "why don't you go wait in the guest room?"
"Gladly," Emma said, coming to her feet with all her customary poise and grace.
"She's a piece of work, isn't she?" Kurt said dryly, when the bedroom door had clicked shut.
"I can't afford to get rid of her, much as I'd like to," Erik said, by way of explanation. There was shame and frustration in his voice. "I'm afraid we can't make do without a telepath."
"Must be handy to have a mind-reader around," the old man allowed.
"If Emma had been around those government men wouldn't have gotten within five hundred yards of you."
"Does your little blue-eyed fox make a habit of coming to the rescue of geese?"
"I wish you'd stop," Erik said, his voice low and hoarse, and Mystique saw with astonishment that there were tears in his eyes.
"You're in trouble, Max," the old man said, shaking his head. "I can't tell you how sorry I am for that."
Erik knuckled angrily at his eyes. "Come back with us," he said. "I can protect you."
"I'm not the one who's in danger," Kurt told him, as gently as he could.
Erik let out a bark of outraged laughter. "How can you say that, when you were just kidnapped in front of your own –"
"I'm not the one in danger," Kurt repeated. "The fact that they let me go is evidence enough of that they can't do much to me. They couldn't hold me and they couldn't make me disappear –"
"They can do whatever they want," Erik said dismissive and angry all at once.
"Not to me," Kurt said, his voice still even. Erik was arguing but Kurt was only explaining the way things were, Mystique saw, and that was why Kurt was going to win. "I have my rights, and they're – more or less – protected under the law. And I'm useless to them, which I'll grant is probably the more important point.
"It's an entirely different matter for you lot," Kurt went on, flicking his hand to encircle Azazel and Erik and Mystique and Emma on the other side of the guest room door. "They've been thinking sloppy, too, those men who grabbed me, with the matter of foxes and geese, and they're horribly frightened that they're the geese. I think maybe they could do absolutely anything to a Mutant they had in their custody, and they want to have you and your friends here very badly, Max."
The old man's words chilled Mystique. One of her hands went to her belly, moving almost as though it had a mind of its own, and the other groped for Azazel's hand. He took her hand and squeezed it, so fiercely that it hurt, but it was a comforting sort of pain, and she squeezed back.
But strangely, Erik seemed heartened by what Kurt had said. It was only later that she realized that Erik might have found it reassuring to learn that the old man's assessment of situation was the same as his own, as pessimistic as it was. "I understand that," he said, and Mystique could see the steel come back into him.
Kurt turned to look at Azazel and Mystique, and she saw that there were tears threatening in his eyes as well, though they didn't fall. "Look at Edie's boy," he said fondly, his voice soft. "He's always been such a brave boy, such a smart boy, such a good boy.
"Look after each other, won't you?" Kurt said.
Mystique nodded, her voice caught in her throat.
They left shortly after that.