GOOD INTENTIONS AND SHORTCUTS
He was in town anyway, so it would be the polite thing to do; visit and give some well-wishes. His sister often took responsibility for reminding him to be more polite. 'You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. They say that here.' Oh, how she loves parroting little phrases from this country, adopting its sociological idiosyncrasies like unruly orphans shunned by their own kind. Since coming to America he hardly recognizes her anymore through the Western clothes with its loose morals and diluted culture and makeup and perms and manicures and androids. Sometimes he does not even recognize himself. Not anymore.
Charles Xavier was a friend to all mutants, and he had been through hard times recently. He had, in fact, only returned to this Earth recently, and Pietro could at least stop by to say hello. Even if Magneto, self-proclaimed Master of Magnetism, allegedly reformed super-villain extraordinaire, now lived under the same roof as headmaster of the New Mutants. Cruel Magneto, mad Magneto, formerly callous leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, who long years ago had manipulated Pietro and his sister into his vile service, of whom they had never felt freer to be free of at last. Evil Magneto, megalomaniac Magneto, who Pietro had recently learned to be his own damned father, whose blood he shares, whose name he rejects, whose ideals he represses, who Pietro could never be free of ever again. But this was not about Magneto; it was about being polite to Charles Xavier, who deserved it.
A young girl cracked open the mansion door, maybe even younger than Pietro was when Magneto first 'acquired' him. Too young for the inevitable hardship that gravitates to anyone with an X-gene associated with the School for Gifted Youngsters, but at least she would not have anything to atone for in the years ahead, thanks to Xavier finding her first.
"Hi!" she said, widening the door along with her rich brown eyes. "Wow, you look just like on TV, you know, like for that special when you were all interviewed incognito?" She rose to tiptoes peering eagerly behind him, and her disappointed pout broke into a wide smile. "Well I guess if the rest of the Avengers aren't with you, at least that means we're not in any big trouble."
"None that I brought with me." Her smile fell lopsided. Pietro did not have the sense of humor for teenagers, he must have been an odd one himself, besides being employed as a terrorist at the time. "I am here to see Xavier. He is not expecting me."
"Well, he is psychic, so." Her smile returned in full. "I'm Kitty Pryde, nice to meet you. That's my real name, actually my real name is Katherine, Shadowcat is my code name, but you can call me Kitty. Come on in!"
She led him inside, where by then a few other youngsters had strategically positioned themselves in the foyer and beyond, attempting to seem inconspicuous and not at all spy-like or star-struck. Pietro had not felt like much of a celebrity lately, and he would not trust offspring of Magneto either if he were them.
"I said can I get you a soda or something?"
"No. Thank you."
"Uhm, all right…" she had come to stop in front of swinging doors that probably led to a kitchen. "How about a tour of the mansion then?"
"I suppose that depends on how much longer you need to stall." It did not take being familiar with the place to realize they had taken the long way to their current destination, which was decidedly not Xavier's study.
Already looking away, she ducked her head, cheeks flushed. "Sorry. Hey, you really are quick! Ha ha. Uhm, sorry."
"If Xavier is unavailable, I can come back another time."
"No no, he wants to see you, he told me at the door, he's just…oh okay, we can come in now. Let's go this way!"
Grasping his wrist firm in her hand, she bounded straight through two solid walls and four unsuspecting people, phasing Pietro along with her. They solidified in another hallway, and turned to find themselves standing directly in front of none other than Magneto himself, looking uncharacteristically bemused.
"Oops." Kitty belatedly covered her own mouth.
To date, Pietro had seen far more of Magneto through that cursed helmet than without it. Now with no distractions, no surrounding riots or super-powered feuds, just the two of them plain-clothed in a sunny hallway on a Saturday afternoon, Pietro found he recognized his natural father just as he did his own face these days: vaguely, and begrudgingly. The older man's defined brows arched high over rapidly blinking pale eyes, until of a sudden he nodded and sighed the sigh of revelation as his features relaxed into comprehension. Charles' intention had doubtlessly been to coax his old friend into leaving his study in order to receive this new guest while Kitty delayed him elsewhere, thus avoiding the two of them meeting midway - and now they all knew it. So much for good intentions and short cuts.
"Pietro – surely you knew I would be here?"
Swallowing a snide remark about Avengers making a habit to know the whereabouts of walking threats to world peace, Pietro said, "It crossed my mind. I came to see Xavier."
"Ah, of course. Well I just left him in his study. I trust nothing is wrong?"
"You tell me, Magneto."
"Pietro, please…you can call me Magnus, or Erik if you prefer."
"And you can call me as you named me."
Quicksilver passed him by, leaving Kitty behind also where she stood staring mouth agape at the exchange. Without turning back, he saw in the window reflection Magneto's form watching after him, before turning the corner and passing through the open double doors of Xavier's study. He shut the doors as soon as he entered.
"You should have taken the tour." The Professor gestured from the mahogany server with a bottle as he opened it. "Brandy?"
"Well, we cannot all be psychic – put you out of a job." Pietro approached to take the glass offered to him. "Thank you, Professor."
"Charles, please. And I should say first congratulations, young man! Shall we toast to your firstborn?"
A swell of joy at the mention of his daughter prickled immediately with a sense of dread. Daddy's little girl would also be Magneto's grandchild, forevermore. Still he forced a smile as they raised their glasses to drink. "To Luna."
As if sensing the plight -as if he could not- Charles refilled their glasses generously. "Ah – excellent blend. Now come sit down, and let's see those baby pictures."
They settled in front of the fireplace and made small talk as not quite strangers on friendly terms tend to do, and before either of them marked the hour it had approached supper time.
"Won't you join us for dinner?"
"Thank you, I really must be going. Perhaps another time." Pietro rose and offered a hand that the other man shook at length. "It is good to see you well, Charles. Take care."
"And you, son. Safe travels."
He made it only so far as the door, pausing even with his hand on the knob. Somehow he knew there would not be 'another time', not before long and hard years had passed. Darkness ahead and behind: the children of Magneto stood in the eye of the storm, Pietro sensed it like rain. "Did you know?"
"I beg your pardon?"
Pietro turned. "With all due respect, Professor, you had to know." At Charles' frown and tilted head, he continued, "I never saw his face, not in all our time with the Brotherhood, he wore that blasted helmet day and night. I hear sound on a wholly different level than others, I would not recognize my own words at the speed of speech. But you knew him well, you knew his voice, his face. When you met me, the resemblance would have been unmistakable, you must have suspected we had to be closest of kin."
Charles seemed to ponder, and as he did, a certain sympathy bordering sorrow overcame his face. Finally he said, "You have my word, I did not know." He continued gravely, "But truth be told….I did marvel at your likeness to him, and I considered the possibility." He raised a hand to halt the retort that visibly swelled within the young man before him. "Peace, son, let me explain. Magnus is not a careless man, nor is he liberal with his affections or trust. He would no sooner have fathered a child unknowingly than he would have willingly surrendered one from his personal care. Since he himself was oblivious to your very existence, then you would have had to be born of his lost wife – but as such, you would also have had to be more than a decade older than you are. You were a generation too young to be his son by all reason, so I dismissed the thought."
"The High Evolutionary." Pietro nodded and sighed as the facts aligned in his mind and his feature fell into resolved acceptance, a mirror image of his father's youth. "I admit it remains dubious what his true motivations must have been to hold my sister and I in suspended animation all those years, just swaddled babes newly born, before entrusting us to the Maximoffs' fosterage…it seems very strange to me." In that moment, it occurred to him that if the High Evolutionary had not gone to such extreme measures harboring them, even halting the progression of their very lives, likely Magneto would have discovered his children while searching for their mother. This eventuality, convoluted and confused mess as it may be, for better or worse, was the apparent destiny of Magneto's children: to be of his blood, but not of his heart – to be part of his family, but not of his life.
"Strange indeed," said Charles, and he smiled as Pietro next met his eyes.
The speedster found himself not a little embarrassed – and Charles' chronic compassion, his ceaseless understanding, that overwhelmingly warm nature, only exasperated his condition. "Prof- Charles…I hope none of this came across harshly, if so that was not my intent and I apologize. I just…well, there has been such a great deal on my mind lately, I suppose I just had to ask."
"I understand completely," he said, and Pietro believed it. "If you need to talk, if you need anything at all, please remember that my doors are always open to you, and to your sister."
Pietro was afraid, afraid for them both. He had tried to warn Wanda of her impending relationship with the android Vision, of the inevitable despair and heartache he foresaw from their union, yet she ignored him, defied him, and now they were wed. He had sensed so much amiss between him and Crystal, between him and her family, between Luna and her innocent humanity, between himself and the newfound son of Magneto, and he feared the worst was yet to come. He feared for the whole world as they knew it, and he did not know why. And he spoke of it to no one.
"Thank you, Professor. We will not forget." Knowing full well they would never take advantage of the opportunity, no matter how desperately they should. In the back of his mind, he wondered how much simpler their lives would have been, how much better, how different, if they had taken Xavier up on his offer to join the ranks of his X-men the first time he extended it. But that, neither, was to be the destiny of Magneto's children. Charles had found them first, in his gentle way, but Magneto soon after had burrowed deep underskin, leaving scars to bear and hide and shun for the rest of their lives.
At last Pietro took his leave with fond farewells, feeling somewhat better, relieved that Magneto had not marred this one relationship, at least – this relationship of all others, but it was something.
His feet hit the ground running, just as it started to rain.
*According to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, after Bova's failed attempt to pass off the newborn twins Pietro and Wanda as the natural children of the Whizzer and recently deceased Miss America, the High Evolutionary kept the babies in stasis for decades before entrusting them to the Maximoffs' fosterage, thus explaining their young age by the time of their canonical debut in the MU, despite being born in the '50s.
*Interestingly, Pietro really did try to warn his sister that she was 'heading toward more sorrow than she could bear' (Avengers #99 – #101) with her love for the android Vision, which turned out to be basically true. Go figure.
*This story would take place canonically after the first Vision and Scarlet Witch series and Avengers #234 when the twins learned of Magneto as their biological father, but before Pietro began that particular imminent episode of loony tunes thanks to Maximus' mental interventions.
*I am admittedly not thoroughly familiar with the whereabouts and goings-on of the New Mutants / X-Men around that time, so I am estimating the state of affairs in the X-mansion. To my knowledge Xavier had been experiencing adventures in outer space recently, and may or may not have been telepathic and/or crippled at this juncture. Fortunately, no one who knows any better is likely to be reading this. Ah, sweet obscurity.