"Enjoy your little outing?" Emma queried, clearly knowing more than she was saying.

Eyes narrowed in response. With almost startling swiftness, the fair redhead who had entered melted into blue. "Stay out of my head," Mystique snapped.

Emma laughed goldenly. "You can't be serious."

Mystique raised an eyebrow. She had done battle with Charles before. She had taught him how to uncover the labyrinthine mind, only ceasing because she occasionally just wanted to rest.

Trust did not come easy to a cast-off from the streets. The one thing Charles never fully realized or understood was that trust had never come to her at all.

Mystique practically purred. "If that's the way you play..."

Emma frowned, then was slammed hard with the genuine pains of real hunger, with the twisting nightmares of an impressionable young mind, and with the absurd wonder of a little blonde girl down a rabbit hole. Reality twisted with fantasia and imagination, inseparable and inescapable.

Emma shuddered and regrouped. But when she looked up to glare at Mystique, Mystique was gone.


Mystique hated the university. To gain her political science degree, she had to shift to a man or claim she wanted to become a campaign manager for a man—instead of having a successful political career of her own. (She had the same complaint with Erik.)

With a quick shift into Trish's foreign-feeling skin, she set out onto the campus. She had a few errands she needed to run. Namely, there was groundwork to be laid for a future that Erik would never set into motion and Charles would never realize could be necessary. (Being a mutant in politics would be as difficult as being a woman.) But Mystique thought ahead—a skill trained into her from being abandoned by her parents, not from the two men in her life that both felt they were the ones who made her who she was.

She liked Hank for one reason in particular. He only tried once to change her.

He failed.


Hank didn't know where the letter came from, offering him correspondence courses in the political sciences. He had talked about such things with Rav—no, Trish—but...

He tried to shrug it off, but he didn't talk to Charles or Alex or Sean about it (and looking at why was not an option). He did catch a sad, wistful expression pass through Xavier's eyes just once, and he wondered if their mentor knew he was being shut out. (Turning a blind eye was becoming more and more natural; he could curse what Raven was making of him.)

He accepted.