December 1962 (2)

When Platt comes to the house to visit for the first time - bringing the blueprints for Cerebro and his daughter along with him - Charles does his absolute best to keep 'it's so adorable that you have a human friend, Erik' from showing on his face. Erik makes Charles' effort rather difficult, by speaking animatedly to the man one minute, cooling off and eying him as though he expects to be bitten the next; rinse and repeat.

Charles observes the proceedings from across the room, pretending to be enthralled by some of Hank's work lined up on the shelf (it really is brilliant, as ever, but Charles has seen it all before).

Hank himself is nowhere to be found. It's hardly surprising, considering everything; and not for the first time Charles wonders if he shouldn't have chosen differently, in this one thing. Hank has no conception of the relief his other self would have felt, at the reality of Platt's survival; this Hank knows only that he is blue, and that he is ashamed.

Charles is sufficiently distracted that it takes him by surprise when he hears a small voice say, "Hi."

Startled, he glances down to see a young girl standing in front of him. He is shocked to realize, that he knows her. Minds are more unique than even fingerprints, easily identified at any age, so that even though he first met her much later in that other life when she was in her forties at least, he knows her now in an instant.

Charles has come across any number of people he knows, these past several months, but never anyone who is younger now than they were when he first encountered them. She's the first, no doubt to be followed by others.

"...Hallo, Theresa," Charles says, in that particular voice he reserves for puppies and small children.

"Why do you have a cast?" she asks him then, cutting right to the chase as children do.

"I'm afraid I fell off a ladder," Charles says with the strangest feeling of deja vu; after all, how many times has he fielded similar questions about the chair? (As a matter of fact, 'falling off a ladder' had been one of his most often-used fibs about how he came about his injury, after he discovered that telling the truth made some of his students become much more agitated than necessary whenever Erik came to whisk him off.)

"Why were you on a ladder?"

"Because I'm a very silly old man who doesn't know what's good for me," Charles says - euphemistically, Erik's explanation being hardly suited for small pitchers.

Apparently this answer satisfactorily closes that line of questioning, because then Theresa says, "How did you know my name, anyway?"

Charles beams at her, leans down as far as he reasonably feels he can without toppling right over, and says in his most conspiratorial tone that is not the least bit condescending no matter what certain people might think, "I was so hoping you'd ask. I know your name without your saying it because I am a telepath, which means I can read your mind." When she looks skeptical on this matter, he adds, "Now, before you say 'there's no such thing as mind reading,' I can prove it. Think of a number and I'll tell you what it is. Alright?"

"...Okay, I thought of one."

Charles looks, then chuckles. "That's really quite clever of you, Theresa, but I'm afraid that 'apple' isn't a number."

Theresa's eyes go very wide, and she runs across the room back toward Platt and Erik, exclaiming, "Daddy, daddy! Guess what!"

The Theresa that Charles once knew neither like nor trusted mutants, which was more the usual than not when it came to his students' parents. Charles never looked to see what, exactly, the reason was in her case, because by that point in his life he thought he'd heard it all, every potential reasoning behind that sort of thing. To him it never really mattered why. The parents of his students might distrust mutants, but those with eyes opened enough to enroll their child in his school at least cared about their mutant, and in the end that was what mattered to him.

It occurs to him now, watching a little girl chatter away at her father with frequent pointing toward Charles, that if he'd looked into her mind at any length when he first met her, he would have found that her reasons came down to the story that broke in the eighties about a covered-up attack on a CIA base in 1962. She'd have been somewhere in her late twenties, early thirties when that was all over the news.

Platt laughs at something Theresa says to him; and Charles, overcome then to the point that swallowing has become laborious, swings himself out into the hallway on his crutches. He only intends to be gone a few moments, but ends up taking several minutes, long enough so that Erik ends up following to check on him.

"I know that girl," Charles says, before Erik can say 'What's wrong?' He's wearying of that, and even moreso of the way Erik looks when he says it, like he more than half expects Charles to strike him, or recoil. "That's Kitty Pryde's mother."

"...That's the one that walks through walls," Erik says.

Charles hesitates, for only a moment. He sees Erik see it, and there's that damned look he was so trying to avoid, though he knows better than to remark upon it; knows that all Erik would say is, 'Don't,' that he'd be an impossible safe to crack for the entire rest of the day.

"Yes," Charles says instead, because trusting Erik means trusting Erik all the time, and that's the only way this thing is going to work, long-term. "That's the one. Now let's go back in before they start wondering where we've gone."

Over the new few decades, Charles will find that some students he expects to enroll to his school don't, and that he rarely learns for certain whether they were even born this time around, or what circumstances were altered to affect the change. There are others - a surprising number - who enroll that he never knew the first time around, who may or may not have existed formerly.

Kitty Pryde, though, is one of the more confusing ones. She looks the same as he recalls, she's the same age, has the same name and the same parents and the same gift; but yet, though he can never quite put his finger on why, he's never entirely certain that she's the same girl.