Here is the obligatory: I don't own any of the X-Men, anything of Marvel Comics, and if anyone says I do, they're lying. I'm making no money off this, either.
Magneto woke from a sound sleep with the name of a woman on his lips; not the name of his late wife, not of his dead daughter or his living one, not the name of a foe such as Storm or Jean Grey, or an ally, like Mystique. It was the name of a woman who had been his lover so briefly he did not even know her true name. To him, she was 'Lucy Jordan', and the effort of saying 'Lucy', of forming it with lips, tongue, and larynx was what woke him.
He sat up in bed, blinking in the dim glow of pre-dawn, and rubbed a hand over his face. He had dreamt of her, and the dream was so vivid that the scent of her perfume lingered in his nostrils, his body retained the phantom feeling of her form curled against him. Her lips might only just have left his.
Nearly three months had passed, but she refused to melt comfortably into a mere memory…
Even the Master of Magnetism sometimes had to take a hotel room for the night while traveling, had to sleep in a bed and eat among the mere humans which still constituted the dominant species of Earth, and when he did, he sometimes stopped in the bar for a scotch before retiring.
That was where he met her, in the most prosaic way possible. She occupied the bar stool beside his. She was humming a tune just above her breath. On impulse, he turned to her, and said, "You have a pretty voice, but I can't place the tune."
She had a wonderful profile, and she held the stem of a champagne glass gracefully in her finely-boned hand. "Thank you," she replied. "It's 'The Ballad of Lucy Jordan'. I hope my humming didn't bother you. I was just having a moment of melancholy, and that song fit it very well." Her accent was American—she was far from home. Well, so was he.
"A moment of melancholy? Whatever for?" She wasn't young. Young faces were blank pages; time, personality and experience filled their pages sooner or later, and the resulting story was often pointless and dull. Not hers; the character lines on her face spoke of intelligence and a lively sense of humor. He put her age somewhere between thirty-five and fifty-five.
"I just turned forty-seven. Today. If that weren't enough, I had to travel on business, so I'm here, alone, in a strange city." She sipped her champagne, sending him a look over the top of the glass. Her eyes were a deep grey, and a dimple showed in her cheek when she smiled.
"What was on your first lunchbox?" he challenged her.
"What?" She had a marvelous laugh, too, full and rich. He looked her over—medium-tall, slim, wearing a classic 'little black dress' of such simple cut it had to be very expensive. Her red hair was gloriously, artfully messy, obviously cut and dyed by an expert, and she had shapely legs. Such a shame she wasn't a mutant…
"I have a daughter who's thirty-five, and you don't look any older than she does. If you're forty-seven, you're going to have to prove it. What was on your first lunchbox?"
She grinned, showing pretty teeth. "The Man from Uncle." A television show from the sixties. "I still have it in a closet somewhere. It's probably worth a few dollars to a collector, but it's part of my history."
"Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated?"
"In the grocery story with my mother and my brother Danny. I was four. We were doing our Thanksgiving shopping."
"And where were you for the Apollo moon landing?"
"In Vacation Bible School, in the First Presbyterian Church in Lansing, Michigan. Next question?"
"May I buy you another glass of champagne?" It suddenly occurred to him that he—Magneto!— was flirting. At his age! And she was flirting back.
"Yes. Do I pass the test, then?"
"A person who uses the word 'melancholy' in everyday conversation is certainly clever enough to come up with answers straight off the cuff."
The bartender poured her champagne. She picked it up, but before putting it to her lips, she asked, "Do you want to see my ID, officer?"
"And clever enough to fake an ID with a corroborating birthdate."
"What woman in the world—over the age of twenty-one or so— would claim to be older than she really is?"
He smiled at her, enjoying their exchange. "One who adores being told how very good looking she is—and you know it, don't you?"
She was too sophisticated to demur. Instead, she agreed, "Yes, I do."
He glanced at her hands. The left had no rings, so she probably wasn't engaged or married. The right had an impressive ring, a black opal cabochon in a setting encrusted with every color of sapphire—orange, yellow, pink, green, violet and blue. She caught him looking, and held her hand up. "My birthday present to myself. I bought it this morning, in downtown Sydney."
"It's lovely. So, tell me—what is there about this 'Ballad of Lucy Jordan' which so captures your mood?"
She sang a few lines. "At the age of thirty-seven/ She realized she'd never drive/ Through Paris in a sports car/ While the wind blew back her hair.' Of course, I'm forty-seven, so it doesn't fit perfectly. Nor do I have a family—the song goes on to mention her husband and children. I'm divorced—and childless." Her mouth did something tragic when she mentioned her lack of offspring. "But the song does end on a note of hope. She gets to Paris after all. 'She bowed and curtseyed to the man/ Who reached and offered her his hand/ And led her down to the long white car that waited past the crowd.'"
"Have you a unfulfilled longing to go to Paris?" he asked
"It's not Paris itself so much as what it symbolizes. As Rick says at the end of Casablanca—'We'll always have Paris.'"
There was live music coming from somewhere else in the hotel—a party or a reception. He heard the strains of a waltz, of all things, which gave him an idea. He swallowed the rest of his scotch and stood up. "Well, Miss Jordan—or may I call you Lucy?" He held out his hand.
"If I can call you—?"
"Erik." Why not? Erik was not his name any more; not really. He was Magneto. Erik Lensherr was the past. Erik Lensherr was effectively dead. "May I have this dance?"
"Erik." She curtseyed and took it. "Do you think they'll let us in?"
"Why bother going in? There'll be no privacy. I have another idea."
They found a terrace opposite from the party, and they danced. She was a good dancer—she neither hung on him nor tried to lead. The street lights and hotel lights cast shadows across her face, striping it, an illusion of mutanthood. After the waltz was over, he looked down at the sultry, seductive creature in his arms, and yielded to impulse once again.
"Might I suggest some more champagne?"
"That would be lovely." she replied.
"We could drink it upstairs." he suggested.
She was much too sophisticated not to know what he meant—would she spend the night with him? The dance had made them preternaturally aware of one another. There was not a flicker of surprise in her eyes, and her smile was wide and warm.
Once there, she was—they were—It was as if the only two people who spoke a particular language found each other in a foreign land.
The next morning, her hair was spread out over the next pillow, all the shades of autumn transformed into silk. She looked good even in the unforgiving light of day, without makeup, her eyes still puffy with sleep. She breakfasted with him in his room, as much at ease as if they had spent every morning together for years, both of them in fresh white hotel robes, bare feet, messy hair.
As the breakfast tray emptied, he grew edgy. What would she expect of him now? What should he say? There was no place in his life, his destiny for a lover. Particularly not an ordinary human woman. Not even if she made him laugh. Not even if she satisfied something in him which was more complicated than mere physical desire.
She looked up at him from the newspaper, and smiled. "Yes?"
"Last night was wonderful, but—."
"This can't go any further." She finished the sentence for him. "We're neither of us children, Erik. I know how these things are done, even if I've nev—. Sudden passion with a total stranger isn't sustainable. We have lives we have to get back to." Her serious expression gave way to one of her impish, wicked grins. "I have to say 'Thank you for my birthday present!' I thoroughly enjoyed it." She snorted with a laugh she did her best to suppress.
"My pleasure." He gasped out between laughs of his own. "I like your laugh.
They kissed goodbye at his door.
He did not ask her name.
He did not ask for it at the desk, nor for her room number.
A few hours later, he caught a glimpse of her as she got into a cab. She was wearing sunglasses which hid most of her face.
Yet nearly three months later, he was still dreaming about her.
He got out of his empty bed and went into the bathroom to splash his face with cold water. If she had known who I am—and more importantly, what I am, she would have been horrified, he told himself. If I got to know her better, she would very likely have turned out to be self-obsessed, vain and shallow. A fine thing it would have been, if she had started talking about her anti-mutant beliefs last night! It is better this way. It would never have worked. Never.
A/N: Next chapter: Where 'Lucy Jordan' is, who she is, and what's happening to her. I know this is a departure from the usual kind of fic. I hope somebody likes it.