The sleek black sports car pulled up the driveway of one of the most prominent buildings in Bayville. Strange, the Institute hadn't changed that much at all, the driver mused, as he steered the vehicle towards the parking space. However, perhaps sadly, the same couldn't be said about its inhabitants. Not if however much information he had was accurate.
He remained in his seat, sighing quietly, then finding himself unable to stop the chuckle that escaped his lips. One of the most feared 'villains' in recent history, later weirdly enough hailed as a hero, was now scared of facing the same people he had worked with, in defeating Apocalypse five years ago. No, he wasn't afraid, just apprehensive. After all, even though they had been on the same side, it didn't make them allies automatically. Nor did it mean he could trust them all.
He exited swiftly, resolutely heading towards the main entrance, his sunglasses glinting in the light of the afternoon. Several kids around fifteen ran past him without ever so much as a second look at the stranger. Well, he was one to them, he supposed, wondering exactly how many new students had Charles amassed for these five years. He himself had given up trying to gather associates, instead preferring to do all his tasks alone. There was so much truth indeed in that old saying that if one wanted their job done, they better do it themselves. Still, the loneliness got the better of him sometimes, as much as he didn't want to admit it…
He pressed the bell and waited for a while – probably there wasn't anyone close to answer. Finally, the door slowly opened and he came face to face with one of the people he had least expected to see first. A certain Jean Grey.
Or was it Summers now, he wondered, as he couldn't help drinking in the sight in front of him. She had sure been very pretty as a girl, he had noticed during their few encounters, mostly in battle, but now she was truly gorgeous. The years had made her practically blossom and facing him this time was a woman. Long scarlet waves framing her slightly flushed porcelain face, maturity swimming in her emerald gaze, her perfect figure bearing all the signs of an adult.
What was he thinking, for goodness sake! She was young enough to be his daughter, yet he had never considered himself an old man. Especially given that he didn't look like it – only if one regarded his eyes, could his true age be seen. For, they carried so much bitter experience. Too much for him to ever find peace.
When she had heard the doorbell, Jean's first reaction had been to call "Logan! Get your lazy bum down there and answer it!" as they and the Professor were the only ones from the adults left in the mansion right now. However, all she got as response was grunting and she assumed he must be otherwise occupied.
Rolling her eyes, she hurried to see who it was at the door; for, she had to go to a Danger Room session with some of the students in ten minutes. 'I'll kill Hank and 'Ro for deserting!' Jean thought, cursing under her breath, as she had almost fallen in her haste. Her face glowing from the rush, she pulled aside the door, only to find herself facing the last person on Earth she had expected to see – Magneto.
He hadn't changed one bit, she mused, taking in the black, tailored, business suit, polished shoes and dark glasses he wore. God, he looked…good, not even a day over thirty, the clothes emphasising his tall, solidly-built frame. He sure didn't need his armour to appear imposing, but she felt no intimidation whatsoever – just like before.
"Are you here for the Professor?" she asked and he nodded absently, as if his mind was somewhere else entirely. Jean frowned slightly, was he checking her out? "He's in his office - I can tell he already knows you're here and is waiting for you. Take the stairs…" He brought a large, leather-gloved hand up, silencing her with his imperious gesture "I know my way around, Miss Grey, but thank you nonetheless. Will you be joining us?" his tone that of a master, not a guest.
Jean smirked inwardly, some things definitely hadn't been altered and it was bizarrely reassuring to her, even though it concerned the X-men's old adversary. She gave him an impassive look, her voice even "I believe, probably not." But then she heard Xavier's call in her mind 'I'd rather you did Jean – Magnus is here for a matter that concerns the school, so, as a deputy head, you should be there too. Logan will take the Danger Room practice.' She could almost see the smile in his voice. Still sensing Magneto's gaze on her, she felt a bit awkward, yet kept her composure and addressed him once more "Looks like we are both wanted, Mr Lensherr."
"Erik." it slipped before he had any time to think, but he meant it nonetheless "Call me Erik, Miss Grey; I deem we have known each other for far too long to follow the formalities." He felt his lips form a small half-smile – most of the acquaintance had consisted of them being on the opposing sides of a battle front, yet, oddly, it didn't matter now.
And she seemed to have accepted that too, for, just a moment later, she gave him a tentative smile herself "Then you should call me just Jean, Erik." His name – he couldn't help but notice the unusually pleasant sound it had, coming from her lips…He kicked himself mentally, thanking providence for his defences against telepathic intrusion. If the redhead had so much as caught on this thought…
They walked in silence towards their destination, Magneto trying to start a conversation every now and then, as the stillness felt too much for him to bear. Jean put in a word occasionally, out of politeness he supposed, but didn't reveal a lot of what had actually transpired in the Mansion or Bayville, in the past five years. He wondered what had befallen his old friend Xavier and his students – weird, there seemed to be almost none of the X-men from years before, only new faces meeting them in the hallways.
"Welcome back, my friend." Charles Xavier's greeting took the magnetism master a bit by surprise, given they hadn't parted in the best of terms. Still, he returned "It's good to occasionally see something familiar, Charles. Even if it means travelling all the way down here."
"You have moved to Canada, I hear." Magneto lifted a brow, as he sat in one of the armchairs facing the other man, Jean taking the other next to him "You seem well informed."
"I have my sources, old friend." Xavier smirked, a gesture so uncharacteristic of him and Erik couldn't help but retort "One Wolverine has been tracking me, has he not?" and the Professor nodded "Him and others too – just keeping tabs, Magnus, not spying on you. You haven't done anything to cause uproar for quite a long time."
Said man chuckled mirthlessly "Shame on me for staying put, then. But I didn't feel like embarking on anything major lately – guess I must be getting old. Yet, the truth is, perhaps, more that there has been relative calmness in mutant-human relations as of the last years – however bizarre it may be. At the smallest sign of trouble, I would have been there first."
"Maybe things are finally settling down for good." was the male telepath's wistful reply, to which his companion felt his brow crease as he put in "As much as I want to believe this, I am no fool – nor am I delusional. Like you seem to be from time to time. There can never be real peace – we're too different to ever find common language. It's just a ticking time-bomb – the question is, when will it go off?"
Xavier eyed him seriously "Then, ultimately, this is why you are here – if anything happens, whatever its source, we would need all the help we can get." What he got from the silver-haired mutant, however, was a frown "I do not believe in your dream, Charles, I doubt I ever will. Surely, you have enough of your protégés to give you a hand, if you call for it." That one, though, caused the other man to sigh sadly, and Magneto felt Jean reach out with her telepathy to comfort him.
"I think; it's time someone told me precisely what has gone on here." yet, to the metal-manipulator's surprise, rather than his oldest friend, it was the scarlet-haired woman who replied "We better leave this for tomorrow. There's way too much to be said and the time hasn't come yet."
Magneto's gaze met hers and he thought that for a split second he saw something broken in her eyes, but he shrugged it off. She had proven herself to be too strong to ever be shattered, hadn't she? Still, he kept their eye contact for what seemed like forever; until he felt the slight touch she gave his forearm, her soft voice caressing his ears "Come – I'll show you your room."
He was taken aback - he was staying? Surely, he himself hadn't planned on it, but of course Charles loved surprising him, although unpleasantly most of the time, and wasn't going to miss the opportunity. However, he followed the young woman out, catching the silent apology of his friend 'I'll explain everything, Magnus, I promise. Tomorrow.' Not that he had any choice in the matter; well, of course, he could leave but then, he would have come all the way here for nothing. One night wasn't going to hurt, he decided finally.
"Where is everyone?" he, at last, posed the main question burning him, which earned him a confused look from his guide "Don't tell me you didn't see all the students. Sure, some of them are on field trips or projects, but all others are here."
"No, I meant…I meant all the X-men, the New Recruits, the ones I know, in a way I guess." He saw recognition dawn on her, together with something else he couldn't place – was it…pain?
"The New Recruits…they…will be discussed too tomorrow so, please don't make me talk now." There was an almost pleading look in her brilliant green eyes, mixed with a well-masked hurt. He decided not to press further, obviously the subject wasn't pleasant. However, it was her who went on, the sadness from moments ago replaced with nostalgia "As for the X-men – well, we sort of scattered around. Mystique went to work for the government. The former Brotherhood, Pyro included, is currently in the employment of S.H.I.E.L.D. But I guess you already knew that."
"Actually, I didn't for sure." he admitted and she smirked, it was unusual on her, but not in a bad way "Now you do, then."
"I bet Trask was livid when they were hired." he put in, inadvertantly making Jean smile, before she remarked "Last thing I heard, they were annoying the hell out of Fury."
"Serves him right." Magneto added, already caught in the vibe of their conversation "What about the others?"
"Piotr and Kitty tied the knot six months ago, and went to live in Russia." the redhead seemingly couldn't stop herself from letting laughter bleed in her eyes "I could never imagine our Shadowcat married to a farm owner, even less living on said farm - though in all honesty, she's doing great there. And Remy took Rogue to New Orleans, two years prior. They have a son, and another child on the way."
Erik couldn't stiffen his mirth at that last revelation, having been amongst the few to have discerned the tension between said pair long before even they themselves had "They had eyes only for each other those two - and I wondered when they'd finally come to their senses. How did they solve the touching problem?"
Jean mirrored his smile, recollections from not so long ago flitting through her mind only to chase away its troubles, if only for a while "It turned out to be quite simple, actually. All she had to do was admit her feelings – to him. But, as you know, they're both as stubborn as mules when it comes to these things. Especially Rogue - we had to nearly beat sense into them at one point, and that's aside from all the other prodding."
The magnetism-controller had to call on all of his infamous restraint to not collapse in full-fledged laughter at that, aware that - with their history, both Rogue and Gambit had very probably indeed driven their team-mates to such drastic measures. "I don't need to ask about McCoy." he went on instead, still shaking slightly from the effort to withhold his rather unabashed reaction to the previous topic's humour "Mr Secretary was all over TV, anyway. Still, what about Storm and Cyclops? They were rather conspicuously absent."
"That they are..." was the young woman's somewhat sad and distant reply, before she sobered up "'Ro returned to Tanzania for a while, and has no intention of coming back, yet – no idea why. As for Scott, well, he's a finished story." The tone of her voice for that last implied she didn't want to discuss it, but Magneto felt the sudden need to know with certainty "So, you aren't married then?"
She shook her head "Not even engaged, and definitely not dating, for quite the time already. We decided to give it a go after Apocalypse, but that was it and it failed. He wasn't prepared, as he put it 'to endure the strain a relationship with me caused' by my 'way too high expectations'." her voice dripping with sarcasm. "I was more than glad to see him go. Currently, he's an instructor at Emma Frost's school. And the Headmistress' fiancé."
Erik felt his insides clench in a bout of disgust – men would move worlds for the breathtaking woman she had grown into (by far not only in regard to her looks), yet that stuck-up boy had deemed her no more than a hassle! Good riddance, then - she definitely deserved better...
Her voice took him out of his reverie "I'll leave you then – feel yourself at home. If you need anything, look for me or Logan." One hand at the doorknob, he gently caught her retreating one "Jean…" she turned to look at him, eyes questioning "Don't trouble yourself over him, he's not worth it."
She only gave him a half-smile, but there was no mirth in it "If this was the reason, it would have been way simpler. It's just that, for a long time now, I've stopped seeing the world in black and white. It changes a person – leaves its traces on their soul. And it's not always for the better…" with that she was gone in a heartbeat, leaving a pensive Magneto behind.
She was right, he thought, she had changed; and he felt an inexplicable urge to help ease the turmoil she was going through…