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Chapter 1: Point of No Return
The man at the corner booth worried her; he hadn't stopped staring at her since he came in through the pub's door.
She knew he was trouble.
After he had first walked in, she'd lifted her hand to brush her dirty blonde hair away from her face and the metal pour spout from the bottle of tequila nearby flew out and hit her neck. She had quickly – and oddly – caught it and put it back on. She'd ignored what had happened, and got back to work at pouring the shots.
She grabbed a few shot glasses from under the counter and started pouring the vodka shots a few college guys had ordered a minute ago.
"Zoey!" her coworker John said to her a couple feet away; she looked up and he tapped his wrist. She looked at her watch, and smiled.
"Last Call, everybody!" she yelled out to the half empty bar. She lifted the tray of shots, came around the bar, and swerved around the rest of the customers coming up to get their last drinks.
She set the shots on the table, and one of the cuter guys slipped her a few dollars in her apron. She gave a playful wink that she knew would add a few more dollars to her final tip - it was too easy - and turned around to find the man from the corner walking straight towards her.
In a panic she awkwardly put the tray to cover her body and pretended she didn't notice him as she walked briskly back to the bar. She reached the other side and put the tray away.
He came over, still silent, and sat down on a stool closest to her, and away from the others.
"A last drink, sir? I believe it was Whiskey neat?"
"Erik. Make it a double," he said, his gaze triggering an inescapable twinge in her stomach.
She turned away and reached at eye level to get the Jack Daniels from the wall, but yet another bottle pour spout came flying from the bottle and she caught it again; she had only moved her hand...
Her heartbeat rapid, she just decided to put it into her pocket, and grabbed the whiskey.
She took a deep breath, and turned around to get the glass, not looking at the staring customer, all dressed in black. She poured the glass, grabbed a nearby coaster, and set it down.
A fifty dollar bill was put on the tabletop in front of her.
"Keep the change."
"Sir... Erik, I cannot accept that. That's more than a thirty dollar tip!" she said, opening the cash register and giving him all of his change.
He shook his head, and slid it back towards her.
"Well, someone as gifted as you needs a jump start to get out of this job."
"Trust me sir," Zoey said, bothered on how he hovered on the word 'gifted', "I am very content to work this job. And even so, I had to take a year of school for this job, so it would be a waste to quit now."
"Why should someone like you be serving to such lowlifes as these?" he said, lowering his voice, his blue eyes angry.
"You mean yourself too, then. You have a drink right now," she said, pointing to his still full glass.
The man lifted his hand, and the pour spout in her apron shot out from its pocket and shot towards him as he caught it.
Her heart stopped, and she took a step back.
It all happened after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Unauthorized reports of a submarine emerging from the ocean and floating in the air before crashing onto the Cuban shore circulated the news networks, but soon it was all discredited by the CIA. But that didn't stop the other reports: Mutants Among Us. People with scientifically impossible abilities living in the world, unheard of and undiscovered. She was worried yet intrigued by the stories, all until a year or so ago when...
"Get away from me. Get out," she whispered, not wanting to raise unwanted attention.
"You have no reason to fear me."
"No reason to fear the man in all black who's been staring at me for the past two hours?" she asked, coming back to the counter, anger and fear rising.
He leaned in, and she held her breath but didn't back away.
"Why do you ignore your ability?"
"Because I don't have one, sir," she said right away, now getting annoyed.
She stood up straight, and glanced at her watch. She was about to make the Last Last Call when she felt an invisible tug at her wrist and her mother's watch unbuckled itself and floated into the man's outreached palm.
She looked at him, his action confirming her thoughts. He was one of them.
But how did he know?
"Did that one finally get your attention?"
"What do you want?" she asked.
That threw her off, and she couldn't help but blush.
"Sir, you are… well I wouldn't say charming right off the bat - but you are definitely a looker. However I must decline."
At that he smirked, and reached over and took her hand.
She felt a quick and shivering shock through her body, and knew he was the reason.
It was scary, something she had never felt before. She closed her eyes at the feeling, but then quickly opened them and brushed it off, acting like nothing happened.
"However beautiful you and your green eyes are," he said, "you do know I don't mean that. I can help you, and you can help me."
"Help?" she repeated, now self conscious as she took her hand away.
"You need to learn who you really are. I help you with that, and you join me and a few others as we try to bring our race to the public eye, let them know the humans are not like us."
Zoey opened her mouth to give a reply - basically to tell him to shove it where the sun doesn't shine- when another voice interrupted her thoughts.
"Erik. I would have to say… it's a surprise meeting you here."
Before Zoey could see who the new voice belonged to, her mind burned for a split second as white light filled her head.
She could see Erik.
He was on a beach, in a weird yellow and blue get-up with a funky helmet. He had a flat hand raised, and higher above him were at least thirty missiles hanging in the air, all at his control, pointed towards at least two dozen war ships far out on the water. There was another man next to him, in the same kind of suit.
He was begging.
"Erik, you said so yourself, we're the better men. This is the time to prove it."
When Erik didn't say anything, the other man continued.
"There are thousands of men on those ships – good, honest, innocent men that are just following orders."
That's when Erik spoke.
"I've been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again."
And then he threw his arm forward and the missiles all propelled back into the sky, towards the ships.
The other man yelled, asking him to stop, but then just yelled out 'No!' and ran towards Erik.
When they hit, Zoey was able to pull the white light back, and she blinked her eyes and looked around; she was back at the bar, and now there were two pairs of eyes watching her intensely. However one pair of the eyes was barely peeking over the bar counter.
Not only did she just see that… but she felt it too. She felt Erik's ire and need for revenge, and the other man's fear and desperation to save Erik. It was weird, feeling those two emotions at the same time.
She took a shuddering breath, and closed her eyes for a second.
"Get away from me. I'm not okay with-"
"Zoey, who are these guys?" John interrupted as he came over, "Are they bothering you? Everybody else is gone..."
Zoey smiled back at her coworker and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"John, these are just two friends of the family, Erik and… Jay," she said, thinking of a name. She thought she heard one of them stifling a laugh, but ignored it and kept her attention on John.
"Is it ok if I close a little later? I'll cover a shift for you! Just go home, I can close up and I'll lock the door so no more customers come in. We… have some catching up to do."
She could almost feel his hesitation. She thought she heard him ask: "Why is she lying?" but pegged it as her imagination.
She decided she had to go further.
He needed to leave; she had to figure out what was going on.
She brought her body closer to his.
"Johnny, when have I ever asked for a favor?" she asked.
When he smiled, she knew he was going to leave.
"Fine, Zoey, don't forget to fill the icemaker and turn off all the lights, okay? Howard doesn't need to know about this, right?"
"Why should he? Nothing is going to happen," she said, knowing Howard, the owner, would definitely flip out if he knew that she had people in after closing time.
She walked with John as he grabbed his jacket and keys from the tiny break room.
"Thanks so much, John. I haven't seen these guys in such a long time, it's been forever!"
"Well Erik is a step-uncle, and Jay is a childhood friend of his," she said, trying to make a valid story.
John just smiled as they walked towards the entrance, and he handed her the keys.
"Don't forget to lock it after I leave. And now I've got a favor on you, I'll have to think what it will be," John said, looking over her shoulder at Erik and the stranger.
She wanted to frown, but kept her smile.
"Well…" she thought of something to say, but didn't want to make him think that she was actually interested in him.
"Well thanks again, John, see you tomorrow," she said quickly and closed the door, locking it with a small fumble.
She turned and walked back to the end of the bar where her two 'family friends' were waiting.
When Zoey reached them, they stopped whispering and turned their attention towards her. She realized the other man was the one who was with Erik on the beach in her vision… or whatever.
"I'm giving you both five minutes to say whatever the hell you're trying to get at," she said, looking at Erik, and then the other man, "and then I'll be happy to use the shotgun-" she stopped, knowing that Erik would be able to turn that situation around, "well, not that, but we do have a nice wooden bat I've used once or twice."
She looked at the stranger, who was now sitting on the bar-stool next to Erik, both his elbows on the counter. That's when she noticed a small travel wheelchair behind the bar-stool he was on.
She looked up and when his blue eyes met hers, she felt a warm feeling start up from her neck and creep up into her head, and she felt her mind being touched in a sense.
She closed her eyes and shook her head, pushing the feeling away. It felt foreign to her and she didn't like it.
"That's amazing," the new stranger said.
She noted a British accent.
She opened her eyes and looked at him again. He was staring back.
Erik spoke, and she blinked out of her trance from the strangers eyes.
"I've seen denial of powers, but refusal to accept them completely, ignore them like she does, I haven't seen that."
"I'm right here, you know. And who the hell are you?" she asked, glancing at Erik before looking back at the other man in a crisp brown blazer with a blue shirt underneath that made his eyes even more noticeable.
"Charles Xavier. It is a true pleasure to meet you, Zoey," he said holding out a hand.
She looked at it, reluctant to touch him. She took two steps back and leaned on the back counter, her arms crossed.
Charles and Erik looked at each other, and then back at her. Erik looked annoyed, but Charles just gave another one of his smiles.
"I understand, Zoey, why you don't want to shake my hand. But you do need to understand who you are."
"Who I am? I'm Zoey Atkin, a simple bartender at Big Foot Pub. I live alone in a condo and illegally am keeping my dog there. I usually bike to work but these days I've been taking the bus so I can catch up on reading. I'm a sucker for scented candles, a nice rum and coke with a lemon wedge, and I'm a Taurus. Nice and simple," she concluded with a smile.
At that, both Erik and Charles burst out laughing.
"Zoey," Erik said, the first to calm down, "you are anything but simple."
Zoey looked down to see her watch on the counter. She reached out and grabbed it and didn't even glance at it as she fumbled to put it back on.
"Oh, look at that, five minutes is up," she said.
She purposefully dropped her watch, letting it fall to the floor. She bent down and reached for the bat under the counter.
That's when she heard Charles's voice.
In. Her. Head.
'Zoey, please, give us- well maybe just give me- a chance to explain. We both have answers.'
Zoey closed her eyes, and tried to talk back through her mind.
'I don't have any questions.'
'Are you sure about that? You aren't wondering what you saw at the beach just now? Or if Erik is really dangerous or not- something I think you already know… What about you thinking of visiting Rebecca soon?'
Zoey's mind faltered, but then filled with rage.
He was looking too deep for her comfort, to bring up her mom like that.
She stood up straight, pushing him out like she had done before. The fury in her eyes made Charles frown, and he brought his hand away from his head.
"I went too far... sorry," he said.
"You have the tendency to do that," Eric muttered.
She watched them both. She could feel the connection between them during that flash of memory she saw, but now she could feel tension as well.
Charles turned his head and met her eyes again.
"Erik and I used to be very good friends, but we headed down different paths."
Erik's face turned stony.
She leaned against the counter.
"Charles, you probably already know some of my questions. Start answering," she said sternly, matching his gaze. He smiled, and nodded.
"Well, to answer your first question, yes, we are both mutants, and you are one too," he said.
Her heart stopped, but then quickly restarted again.
"Holy shit," she muttered, and turned around to get the rum.
She... she'd had... instances where she thought there was something more to her; but she didn't believe it - she couldn't - and would brush it off as happenstance.
She grabbed the nearest glass and downed more than just one shot. She let out a big breath through her mouth to ease the sting.
She turned back around, saw the two of them watching her intently, and took another big swig of the strong drink.
"I thought something was… happening to me... but I don't even know what it is," she said.
"Why do you deny it still?" Erik asked.
"I already have enough problems with exes and family and debts and bills and drama and bad luck; I just ignored it."
"You ignored it?" Erik snarled.
"Okay, enough about that, now I ask and you answer. Who are you two really?"
"We are who we say we are, however Erik goes by Magneto, I recently heard."
"You heard right," Erik said, lifting a hand.
Her watch lifted off the ground and slipped itself onto her wrist, the clicking sound of the buckle breaking the silence.
"I think it suits me well."
Zoey looked up dazed.
"It's not just latches and pour spouts, Zoey. There is so much more," Erik said, keeping her attention. "And you can have that too."
She felt her breathing stop at his intensity, but she blinked and looked down.
"I don't… I can't…" she stuttered. She took a few more sips of the drink.
"Why are you two the first to come to me about this?" she asked.
She still felt that certain nagging in her mind, and she turned back to the piercing blue eyes.
He had two fingers resting on his temple.
"Stay out of my head," she said simply.
He looked surprised, but lowered his hand, and she felt the feeling disappear.
"I'm sorry," he replied softly.
"Don't bother with the charm, Charles, I already tried that," Erik said, giving Zoey another of his piercing glances.
"Oh, god," Zoey breathed, and she poured another half glass but this time chased it down with some coca-cola.
"Answer my question."
"For the longest time I thought I was alone," Erik spoke first.
She looked over at him but when she met his eyes she her head stung again and she saw the white light...
It was raining, and she heard shouting. She looked over to a boy, trying to fight off soldiers. When she saw a gold star stitched to a jacket of a nearby man, she felt a tug of dread.
The shouting turned her back to the commotion. The young boy reached out his hand at the fence now separating him from his mom, and the fence moved with a loud creak. Then it moved more, bending and breaking as the boy continued to yell.
She watched a soldier came up from behind and she yelled out a warning, but it was lost as the soldier raised his gun and struck the boy on the side of his face.
At that point the white light came back and Zoey found her vision blurred as a tear built up in her eye and fell down her cheek.
Erik and Charles came back into focus, and she turned away. She hated to show such vulnerability, but they both had already stripped her bare by knowing who – what, she really was.
"So I figure there are others out there?" she asked with a shaky voice.
She took a big gulp of her drink, set it back down, and looked to them both for her answer, daring them to ask about the tears.
"Hundreds, probably thousands worldwide," Charles answered.
"You," she said and she looked at Erik. "Why do you want to bring mutants out in the open, officially? I think I am probably a perfect example of why that's a very bad idea."
"Actually meeting you makes me that more eager to finish my goal. If we make ourselves public, we won't be so afraid, and then the others can realize who we all really are."
"The superior race."
He was serious; she could feel it more than she could see it. She took a deep breath, the tears now gone.
"Considering what you have been through… talking about superior races seems taboo," she said slowly.
Maybe it was too far, but she felt the need to say it.
He stood up and leaned over the counter, getting close. She stood her ground, and looked him straight in the eye.
She tried what she did with John and Charles, feeling that little pull from the back of her mind; she used it to push it to him.
'I'm sorry. I want to help you, and I know you can help me, but I-'
Erik stepped back from the bar-stool quickly.
"Having one of you in my head is enough. I should have brought my helmet. And I don't need help, Zoey. I could have helped you, but obviously you don't feel the need to even accept your real self. I hope to see you soon, Zoey, I know you will be able to do great things," he said, and Zoey knew he meant it.
She wanted him to stay, to learn more about him, but he briskly walked to the door, waving his hand to open it without using her keys. He turned around, and gave a nod.
"Charles, hope to see you later rather than sooner."
With that he walked out, the door shut closed and she heard the click of the lock behind him.
Zoey sighed and looked down at her watch. She concentrated and tried to move it, to take it off, but nothing happened. Seeing something move like that was remarkable to her.
"You will soon learn to control it, Zoey," Charles said, interrupting her thoughts.
"Control what, exactly? I don't even know what I can do!" she cried out, rubbing her temple.
"You... you are a mimicker. Erik has the power to control metal. I suspect you discovered that when he first came in? And among other powers, I also have the ability of telekenesis and mind control, hence your visions and being able to reply to my voice in your mind, as well as visions of our memories. Other mutants you encounter... you will have their power as well."
Zoey took in a deep breath.
"And if I don't have control... I could be dangerous," she said more to herself than Charles.
"Well, you've already got the hang of my use of influence, first with John and then talking to Erik inside his head," Charles said, and she blushed.
"I'm sorry; I just wanted to tell him-"
"Stop that! Can we at least have a normal conversation? And don't go all cheesy with the whole 'we aren't normal'. I get it, okay?" she said angrily as she turned on the nearby sink and moved the long faucet to pour into the fill tank of the ice maker.
She knew Charles was still inside her head, but she was so tired she didn't even bother pushing him out.
So she started to clean up without saying anything else. She grabbed a rag and cleaner next and moved to wipe down the tables.
"Actually you don't, Zoey. You say you understand, but you're still confused. I'm only here to help you realize your potential... and to propose an idea."
She stopped, and turned towards him, waiting.
"Give me one week, back at my house. I can help you reach your potential."
She sighed as she started to rest the chairs on top of each table.
Propositions never ended well.
"Seven days, six nights."
"And how is that simple? Am I supposed to quit my job? Just pack up and leave? What about Simon?" she asked.
She would rather commit murder than let him go.
"You can bring Simon, and your job will be waiting here for you, I can assure you that."
"He's a Dalmatian."
"Of course you do."
She sighed as she finished her last swipe on the bar counter and tossed the rag back into the mop bucket to be cleaned.
"Now, I have a stipulation for your proposition. Stay. Out. Of. My. Head. Or I could just go into yours and have some of my own fun…" she said, thinking of the endless possibilities: musical numbers, whiny Janis Joplin songs, dirty jokes, bad knock-knock jokes, bad scary movies, they were never-ending.
Charles winced yet again when he reached the visions of those possibilities. After that, she felt his presence leave her mind, and she took a relaxing breath.
"I expect the same from you then," he said.
"Oh, of course! My god that is so much better!" she said.
"Glad to help…" Charles muttered as she turned away to turn off most of the lights, leaving one or two on so they could see.
"Well, with that weight off my head... I can accept your proposition, Charles."
She didn't find much fault in it. She could take care of herself... but she wanted to know who - what, she was.
"Will you shake on that?" he asked, looking hopeful, his hand twitching.
"Care to explain why?"
"Well, figuring how much you pried into my mind, I think I'll keep this mysteriousness," she said as she turned off the rest of the lights and they left the bar.
"I can accept that… for now."