I won't even start apologizing about the time it took me to continue with this story and write this chapter, and it isn't nearly as perfect as I would've hoped, but still I hope you'll enjoy it nonetheless. All I can say is, inspiration and motivation are precious and strange things you can't control..
The Long Wait
Anyone who didn't know any better would say the X-Mansion looked like every other house they would come across. From the outside, the enormous house stood as a stately and beautiful home, proud keeper of several ordinary people. Even from the inside it almost looked normal. Everything appeared quiet and calm, like a normal day on the countryside. The only difference with a couple of months ago seemed the amount of people living in the house which had multiplied by a couple of times with mostly young people knocking on the door to gain a place in the safe harbor that was the Mansion. Of course, much more was going on at the Mansion than anyone could ever guess..
At first, the habitants of the house were reluctant to take in the first unknown mutant that stepped into it. The boy hadn't found the house on his own, but had been attracted by the quite striking appearance of the transformed Hank when the Beast had finally found the courage to take a walk outside the safe property of his new home. The boy, called Steven, had followed him, finding in Hank the rescue he had been waiting for, for such a long time. When he stepped into the living room just minutes after the Beast had, he suddenly stood face to face with a group of extraordinary people. Alex immediately wanted to jump at him but Raven stopped him. Steven, looking not much older than 12 years, then told his story, not so much with words as with his ability. He pointed his finger towards an old arm chair and before anyone could guess what could come, the chair went flying through the air and through the window. After a minute, the noise brought forth another sound from upstairs and for a moment, everyone in the living room held his or her breath for the person who was the cause of the noise. Raven and Hank quickly shared a look, and although Hank sincerely looked frightened Raven knew better than to be just that. She knew the person would never hurt anyone of them, even though his gesture and words would sometimes hint otherwise. She was certain he would actually do everything in his power to prevent them from getting hurt, but that notion was easily forgotten by the rest of them whenever he showed himself.
As skinny as he had been just 3 months ago, as strong and powerful he looked right now. It was clear that in his spare time, meaning whenever the Professor was asleep or resting, he worked out as much as possible, improved his nutritional state and took as much rest as needed to compensate for the weight and muscle loss in the past time to increase his strength again. Soon, his body turned from a mere skeleton to a well-trained athlete, the bags under his eyes vanished while his skin even held a slight tan from the glimpses of sunlight he tried to get from time to time. In Raven's opinion, he looked even more handsome than the first time she laid eyes on him.
Now he stood before them, his body covered with a dark green turtleneck and fitted jeans. He didn't say anything at first, just looked around to look at each and every one of them before finally laying eyes on Steven. They expected an outrage, a speech or at least an angry stare, something he did normally when he'd come downstairs, but he did none of that. Instead, Erik Lensherr mentioned towards another an arm chair and smiled a genuine smile.
"Please, sit down." Alex, Sean, Hank and Raven simply kept staring while Steven did what he was told, unknowing about the strange situation he had found himself in. Erik slowly walked towards him while inspecting the damage of the window and the missing arm chair. He rested himself against the edge of the table that stood right in front of the chair Steven was now sitting in. He crossed his arms and smiled another time while curiosity got the better of the rest of the group and they slowly stepped closer to the rare sight that was about to unfold.
"So, could you tell me again how you did that?" Erik eyed towards the broken window. Little Steven already started to raise his finger in the air, pointing towards one of the Professor's favorite antiques when Erik stopped him midair.
"Okay, okay, you can stop there, we don't want to refurnish the whole living room at once, do we?" Steven chuckled nervously and lowered his finger again.
Erik crouched down till he was at eye level with Steven. "Why did you come here? What made you run away from the place you came from?" Three mutants's mouths fell open by surprise of the sweet and careful words of the normally harsh man, while one female mutant only smiled. Steven looked down, too scared to look into Erik's eyes, and began to whisper.
"My brothers have bullied me from the moment I can remember. They hit me, threw me into walls, broke things.. My parents were never there, father also working, mother too busy raising the two sons whom seem most important to her. She didn't care what they did to me, and I never knew why. That until a month ago, when my brothers were hitting me again, trying to get me angry or crying. When they started cutting my hair with some scissors, I saw my mother looking at us and I saw her actually smiling. And then I just snapped. Threw my oldest brother flying to the room with help of only one finger, while the scissors came flying after him and landed in his leg. My other brother was too scared and shocked to do anything, so I escaped his grip and their stares and just ran. I didn't stop running until I was too hungry and too tired, and sick from the water I drank of the pools on the streets. Then I saw the blue man and thought that maybe he was a bit like me. Thought he could help me.." Steven now clearly trembled, sobbing silently while he kept staring to his hands.
No one spoke, but instead they took the haunted boy in while they all thought about their own troubled past. They all had a story like the boy's, some worse, some better than him, but they all had ended up hated and abandoned by the people they cared about the most. And they all knew how it felt to be scared and lonely. Steven had been hurt his whole life since the moment he could remember and when he ran away, he had suffered from hunger, loneliness and illness. Hurt, just like them, either one way or the other. So when Erik spoke his next words, their relief was enormous.
"You are a brave boy, Steven, a very brave boy. You were right to follow the 'blue man', because you are safe here. No one can hurt you anymore." He carefully took the tiny trembling hands into his own, trying his best not to scare the boy any further. At first, the touch made Steven jump up his chair a little, but when nothing happened, just the soft touch on his hands, he finally dared to look the man in front of him in his eyes. The green eyes looking back at him were filled with warmth and empathy and Steven knew the man was telling the truth. At last, he showed a little smile.
"There you go, don't be afraid. You can stay here, we'll take care of you. We've actually been expecting you." Erik gave the boy a quick wink.
"We.. we.. we were?" Alex could only stammer out the words, too shocked at what he just heard and say. Erik turned around to address the adolescent while never letting go of Steven's hands. He gave a mysterious smile before answering.
"Yes, we were, Alex, yes we were." He turned around again.
"Well then, what's your name?" Steven muttered his name.
"Hello Steven, welcome to the X-Mansion. My name is Erik, and here you see Raven, Alex and Sean." Erik pointed at the mutants one by one and they all said their hellos. He lingered a moment before he came to Hank.
"And this blue man is actually called Hank. I guess he saved your life, or you your own. You were right, we're all a little different just like you. We can't all push heavy furniture through windows with our finger, but we can all do something special. And we have to respect each other for that and find a way to live with it. Be welcome and feel at home. We'll find you a nice cozy room for you to sleep in while we'll make you some food. Tomorrow we'll think about what to do with you, but right now you need to eat and rest." At the mention of food, Steven's eyes grew wide while he unconsciously started licking his lips.
"Hank, could you take Steven to the kitchen to find something to eat." The Beast nodded and reached out a hand to the little boy. He gladly took it, his fear completely forgotten with only the idea of food and water filling his troubled mind. Erik stood up, watching the two leave with his hands in his pockets. When both were out of sight, three pair of eyes turned towards him.
"So, what did you mean by 'we've actually been expecting you'? How could you've known?" Magneto stared back at him, his expression now far less amiable than before.
"You do know you always ask too many questions, don't you?" Alex just crossed his arms, looking fierce while in fact he was trying hard to fight the fear that was again creeping up when he remembered whom he was talking to.
"And how'd you know? You're never here, are you? You're only upstairs, locked up in the Professor's room. You know nothing of me, nothing of all of us."
"Alex!" Sean hissed at his friend, not yet ready to start fighting with the heated Magneto once again. Truthfully, he had lost count of the amount of times one of them had fought with their 'leader', as Raven always like to call him. Somehow, the moments he was not sitting next to the Professor's bed and came downstairs to check up on them, he always managed to scold at one of them at the least. It was either the mess they had presumably made, the noise that had caused the Professor to wake up in pain, or just probably because he could. Why he had changed for the worse when their actual leader had woken up which sounded like a good thing to them, no one knew. But he had, and even Mystique or Hank hadn't been able to talk him out of it. So why Alex was now trying so hard to start a fight again, Sean wasn't sure but he wasn't planning on getting it that far.
However, before Sean wanted to assure Alex wasn't pushing it any further, he was taken aback by the surprised answer of the cause of their fear itself.
"You're right, Alex. I haven't been there for you when you needed somebody and whenever I was, I was a monster to you. I know that now, and I'm sorry for that. I truly am." Alex thought of a witty comment, but instead his mouth just fell open.
"I've been a mess, too absorbed by my own problems. While in fact, my problems are your problems as well. I forbid you to come to his room while you care for him just as much as I do, I know that. I just couldn't think straight anymore because of.. of the pain and guilt I felt. It was wrong of me."
"It was. You've made our lives a living hell since the Professor woke up. It wasn't fair to take it out on us."
"God, Alex, can't you stop pushing it?! He said he's sorry, isn't that enough?" Raven couldn't help but feel annoyed by Alex's comments. Of course, Erik had been very unkind and angry with them for a long time without any good reason, but still, she understood why and felt sorry for him. She knew he loved her brother as a brother too, so automatically Erik became her brother as well. Or maybe even more, she didn't know, but she couldn't stop feeling the hurt that radiating off the metal bender. She wasn't planning on letting Alex hurt him anymore than he already had.
"How can you stick up for this guy, Raven? How can you? Can't you see he doesn't care about us, doesn't care if we live or die?"
"Stop it, Alex!"
"No, Mystique, let him talk. I deserve it. He's maybe even right." At that, Raven turned to look at him with wide eyes.
"What do you mean, he's right? You think you don't care about us?" Erik quickly bowed his head.
"What I mean is.."
"What you mean is that we can drop dead here in front of you without you even feeling a thing? You honestly can't mean that, because I know it isn't true. I just know.." With one quick stride, Erik was in front of Raven, grabbing her arms tight but caring.
"That is not what I mean, Raven. What I mean by saying he's right is that I have been treating you like I don't care about you, but I do. I do care. I was just too busy with Charles and.." Raven's watery eyes shot him a wary look.
"And myself, yes. I was too busy with myself, trying to keep you from talking to him, to see him like that, to…" Raven didn't miss the glistering in Erik's eyes as well while he slowly let go of her arms.
"You also had the right to be with him, to help him recover and accompany him. I didn't have the right to withhold you from that right. I sincerely apologize." This time, no one answered but just stared at him, taking in the true meaning of his words.
"If he doesn't stop eating soon, the boy will explode. I don't want to clean up that mess.. wow, what's with the tense here?" Hank stepped into the living room, seeing the defeated posture of Magneto while his three friends just stared at the man dumbfounded. When no one answered, Hank walked towards them and tried again.
"What did I miss, guys? Something the matter? Something with the Professor?"
"Charles is.. just the same, Hank. He's drifting in and out of consciousness, running a fever half the day while only half of the food we're giving him seems to stay inside him. Even though, he does seem to improve. That's what I actually came down for to talk to you about. Could you all please sit down?"
They hesitantly did as they were told while Sean quickly brought Hank up to speed.
"He apologized for being such a prick of late." Hank almost fell off the couch again when Sean whispered into his ear. He mouthed to him 'he did what?!', but before Sean could answer, Erik spoke up.
"Like I said to that little boy that just entered our lives, we've been expecting him."
"Yeah, how did you know that?" Alex seemed to momentarily have forgotten about their fight and was all ears for the solution of that mystery.
"I should better say, Charles has been expecting him. Although he's not completely in the here and now most of the time, whenever he is he talks about stuff."
"Well, it's mostly incomprehensible, but more and more his mind is really clear and he asks about you, and what day and time it is, and what we have been doing with our time in between."
They all thought the same thing at once. What have they've been doing with their time the last months?
"Anyway, this morning he was lucid again and instead of talking small talk, he suddenly said 'someone's coming, I can hear it'." Magneto didn't mention the part about him breaking down in tears of happiness because it could only mean his ability wasn't completely lost, a small detail he forgot to mention to the four mutants in front of him. He quickly swallowed away the lump that was forming in his throat.
"I asked him what he meant and he said that someone was coming and that he was in need of help. That he was like us and that he needed to be safe, safe with us."
A 'wow' came in unison.
"Then I heard the noise downstairs, and it could've only meant one thing."
"So Charles can hear minds again?! That means he's really getting better, isn't he?" Erik only smiled at the tear stained eyes of Raven, the Professor's little sister.
"I sincerely hope so, Raven, I sincerely hope so. But it wasn't the only thing he had said." Magneto deliberately took a small pause before continuing, to prepare them of what's to come.
"He also said, that the boy isn't going to be the only one coming here to find a safe place to stay. More will follow, first one by one, then more and more when the tale spreads."
"But.. how does he know?"
"He hears them, feels them being close. I don't know actually, nor will we ever know, probably. The thing is, we need to do something about it." Alex was beginning to become defiant once more.
"You mean, you don't want them to come here?"
"Oh, it really doesn't matter much what I want now, it matters what Charles wants. It's his house, his mansion, I have no say in what he wants with it. But he does, and he knows exactly what he wants."
"Well.. what is it?" Hank could barely handle the tension of all the revelations and their consequences for them as a group.
"He wants to teach them. Teach them how to control their powers, how to put it to their advantage, how to start living with it. When they're young like Steven, they need education. When they're older like you, they need to be trained to stand up for themselves so they can defend their selves in times of danger."
"He wants to change the X-Mansion into a school, and you are the ones going to do that."
They all stared at him in disbelief.
"Yes, you. You are more than capable of it."
"What about you?" Raven almost didn't dare ask the question.
"Until Charles is fully recovered, I'll stay and help you. Guide you. We'll try to turn this oversized house into a school and refuge of mutants all over the world. Although I'm not yet believing in his plan, I owe Charles at least this much. We'll start making a plan tomorrow."
With that, Magneto slowly got up and started walking towards the door, ready to take in his place next to Charles' bed again. Just before he disappeared out of their sight, Mystique called after him.
"And what will you do when Charles is fully recovered?"
Although they couldn't see his face anymore, they heard Magneto's voice loud and clear.
"We'll see, we'll see."