a/n I am not using the X-Men movies as canon for my take on any mutant characters. The only things I'm keeping from the movies are the way Logan is protective of Marie, that Erik and Charles both like to play chess, and that Magneto's real name is Erik Lensherr. I enjoy the movies, but I also have so many issues with them that it just wasn't worth it to deal with them at this point.

1. Erik Lensherr

Darcy loved Central Park. (Despite the previous hostage-of-albino-lizard-people experience.) It was pretty amazing how many different people would travel through it. (And it was always fun to watch the roller skaters do tricks and go spinning and zipping in between pedestrians, causing all sorts of yelps and curses. Thanks to them, she'd learned how to swear in twelve different languages just by listening to the tourists chew out the skaters.)

Her new obsession, though, was the chess area. There were young kids just learning, and pre-teens who either knew they were geniuses or pompously thought they were, adults fitting all three descriptions, and the people over 50 whiling away hours on end playing.

Bruce had let it slip that he found chess a fun hobby, one that taught lateral thinking and patience. His birthday was coming up, and she wanted to play a game with him. But first, she kind of had to know the rules. And yes, there were five million versions of the game available online, and at least the same amount of courses to be found on the internet. Still, she preferred to learn in person, with someone who was intimately familiar with the game, and could explain what she did when she made a mistake.

So she had spent the past week observing, trying to decide on how to convince to be dual teacher and opponent.

On Saturday, around noon, she finally made her decision and as soon as his match finished and the other man moved away, she bounced up from her seat on top of a retaining wall. Walking purposefully forward, Darcy stood to the side and waited.

After a few moments, the man glanced up. He was probably around 60, but there was a pleasant vitality about him, the age not seeming to affect the man. The curiosity with which he looked her over was a good sign, and she politely held out a hand.

"Hi. I don't mean to bother you, but I've been watching everyone around here lately. I'm hoping you could teach me how to play chess, and play it well."

He took her hand and actually brushed a kiss against the back of it, and she almost swooned. His eyes were dancing in amusement, but there was nothing lecherous about it, simply welcoming and entertained. The refined British accent when he spoke made everything that much better. "And why did you choose me, my dear?"

When he released her hand, she slid into the seat opposite him and smiled. "I told you, I've been watching. I barely understand the basics of the game, but I recognize strategy when I see it. You've shown a remarkable amount of poise in your matches, and never seem to rush to the conclusion, suggesting you enjoy the game as must as you appreciate winning. And I've never seen you lose your temper when your competitor is unsure of their next move, and so they take an extended period of time and caution before shifting any of their pieces." She paused in her recital, and grinned widely to meet his approving smile.

"You have been watching." Then he reached out to set the different game pieces back on their starting squares. "And you say you are familiar with the basics?"

"Yes," she nodded.

"Very well, then. We'll begin. Would you like to play black or white, my dear?"

She couldn't help the little chuckle. "Black, please."

He leaned away slightly, showing mild surprise, before winking. "All right, white moves first." As his fingertips skimmed over a pawn, not yet taking hold, he paused. "May I ask your name, my dear?"

She jolted. "Oh, wow. Sorry. I'm Darcy. And you?"

"Erik. It is always a pleasure to make a new friend."


And then they began.

It was Day Eleven of lessons when everything went wrong. Of course it went wrong. Because this was Darcy's life.

The threat was really pretty minimal, for once. A bunch of guys in gang colors had run into each other about twenty feet away from the chess area, then started posturing and bad talking. So the players ended up in the line of fire when both groups pulled out guns and the sound of bullets rang out, loud and clear.

Training kicked in, as usual, and Darcy ducked and darted, doing her best to get everyone to huddle underneath their tables, or stay low to the ground while they ran out of the clearing. The metallic and smoky smell of the fired weapons was familiar, and she cursed the fact that there were too many men, and they were too far away for her beloved taser to be of any use whatsoever. Beyond insisting he hide beneath the table their game was set up on, Darcy didn't think twice about Erik, until she got too close to the idiots with guns.

People, normal people who didn't live with the Avengers, panicked. Objectively, the 21-year-old was aware of that. Still, she didn't expect one of the shaking businessmen crouching on the ground would see her approach and grab her, shoving her forward as he used the leverage to push himself farther away, before taking off in the opposite direction of the threat.

Except he totally did, the enormous jackass, and she stumbling toward the bad guys with an unconsciously loud curse, and every nearby barrel was swinging in her direction, and all she could do was duck and close her eyes, praying they were terrible shots and-

Then all the firing stopped.

She peeked out slowly, still expecting a bullet, and stared.

All the guns were floating, unsupported, and pointing straight at the face of their original wielders.

That was when Darcy felt someone clasp her shoulder, tutting civilly at the gang members. "If you feel strongly that you must kill one another, please endeavor to do so somewhere else."

It was Erik, standing at her side, one hand stretched forward in the air. As he twitched his fingers, all of the weapons chambered the next round. "Now, I think it best that you take your leave before I lose my temper."

There was a hesitant moment where it seemed to sink in that this amiable elder could and, if pushed, would kill them, before the whole lot turned tail and ran like scared little girls.

Sighing, Erik twisted his hand, and the clips clicked, falling out and to the ground, before he lowered his hand and the weapons drifted down to join them in the grass.

She couldn't help it. "You're Magneto, aren't you?" Darcy felt the man tense and begin to pull away from his grip on her shoulder.

Instead of letting him, she spun and hugged him tightly. "Thank you for saving my life."

He appeared legitimately shocked when he glanced up. Letting the corners of her mouth curl up, she shrugged. "One of my best friends is Loki. You know, the trickster god who tried to take over the world last year?"

His laugh seemed to surprise him.

Then the sounds of police sirens filled the air, and he frowned. "I'm afraid I must say goodbye, my dear. Too many people who play here know my face and are now aware of my mutation. I won't be able to return and continue our games."

Going up on her tiptoes, she pressed a gentle kiss to his cheek. "Thank you for teaching me, Erik."

He offered a bow, like a nobleman of ages past, and returned the sentiment. "It was a pleasure, Darcy."

With a final wink, the man strode farther into the park, and she smiled.

Sure, he was a supervillain with terrifying powers and plans to destroy all non-mutants. But he was also disarmingly charming, and he'd been a wonderful instructor, never let her win or gone easy on her. Not to mention the whole "protecting her from armed thugs" thing.

So, despite everything stacked against him, she couldn't help adding him just below Loki on her Supervillains Worth Loving list.

(A mental one, of course, because she wasn't suicidal and would really appreciate Cap'n Badass never finding out how many bad guys with whom she had an "in".)