Wed, 23 Aug 2000
"Guessing Games" [Movieverse, Mystique, Magneto, Xavier]

Disclaimer - These characters are the property of Fox and Marvel, who, given the massive losses they have apparently recorded this year, need to hang on to them a bit longer. Which is fine by me. I don't want any money, just a little feedback ;-).

Continuity is pre-movie. Geographical inaccuracies may well be present herein, since I am an Australian and have never been near New York. So it's an alternate universe, OK?

Rated PG-13 for m/m sex references and some swearing.

Guessing Games



I stand on the hot concrete in bare feet, enjoying the sun on my skin. No-one knows that I'm naked. No-one watches me. I do what I always do: keep my mouth shut and my eyes open. Five minutes ago, I was a young girl, just old enough to be out alone. All pink and white, all fresh and clean. Now I'm a middle aged man in a Hawaiian shirt and bad shorts, because people would notice if I was always gorgeous. We all have to make sacrifices for our art.

I look at the people going by, and out of habit I try to store them in my memory. The obvious things - like height and hair colour and identifying marks - and the tiny significant details. The way that mother clutches her son's hand like he might float away. The way that couple are walking close together, but with their heads down, not touching or talking. I try to guess other things about them. Which ones are mutants. Which ones are cheating on their wives. Which ones secretly wish they could walk around naked like I do. It's knowing those things that helps me to *be* another person.

I wonder what would happen if I turned into a gorilla. Weather the X-Men would reveal their powers in public to put me in a cage. Might be good for a laugh. We're here together at Central Park Zoo, like a big, happy mutant family. The kids are meant to be on a class trip, but the note books and question sheets haven't come out of their school bags. They're all taking a day off - the children, Cyclops, Storm, Dr. Jean Grey, even the head master. Watching the animals. Eating ice-cream. Acting like the ordinary people they almost are. I wonder if they'd notice if I shifted again, became one of them, rode back with them on the bus. But that's not what I'm here for.

It was hot on the island even before the air conditioner broke down, and unbearable afterwards. So Magneto and I left Sabretooth wilting on the couch and Toad trying to fix the damn thing, and took the day off too. Like he said, it's a good opportunity to study their group dynamics, to observe them live instead of on the endless loops of video tape. Plus, I get to see the monkeys. Who said this job didn't have fringe benefits?

Of course, he's not walking with me, we can't be seen together. I have to wonder why Magneto came at all, since I've been doing most of the surveillance alone for months, and he'll only draw attention to himself. Maybe he wanted to see them relaxed, to persuade himself they can be beaten. Maybe he likes the monkeys too. Maybe he wanted to show off that crisp, pale linen suit and the chic broad brimmed hat. I have to admit, he looks like a million dollars - which is probably close to what the outfit cost. I enjoy watching him preen; it makes me smile. My foible as well as his.

I look past his strength, and I see weakness.

He doesn't move like an old man yet, but I can see it coming. It's written in the slump of his shoulders at night. I see him rub his temples more often lately, so I think the headaches must be getting worse. He doesn't hide his little anxieties as well as he used to either - jumps when I touch him unexpectedly, then gets angry at himself for flinching. Then takes it out on us.

It's not those weaknesses that worry me. When he told me about his plan - sneaking into the mansion to sabotage Cerebro - I said there was a simpler way. I could poison the water. Kill all the pretty little birds with one stone. He recoiled, like most people do when they see my blue skin, my yellow eyes. Then I finally realised how soft he was, underneath. That even though he was down in the dark with the monsters, there was a part of him that still thought like a Homo sapien.

His weakness scares me, because we need a protector. Someone who will save us all, even the ones who can't pass for human and pretend to be normal. The ones the sainted Charles Francis Xavier doesn't give a shit about.

We need Magneto to be ruthless, but he doesn't understand that we're outcasts, with no law but the law of the jungle. With all his tough talk about a war, with all his posturing about Xavier's foolish dreams and his own bright visions, he doesn't realise how alike they still are. That they both lack the killer's instincts we need to survive.

I don't think that Xavier sees me today. He's too busy watching Magneto. His eyes never turn in that direction, but they stay empty above his smile his students move from cage to cage. I bet his mind is inside Magneto right now, stroking and probing, and I wonder if he knows about me. I don't know if he's already been through my thoughts, without the slightest tickle to give him away. I try to guess what he said to Magneto, why a fight hasn't broken out. Why the X-Men don't seem to have noticed that their greatest enemy is standing not 20 feet away. Is Xavier playing with their minds? Did he ask Magneto what he was doing here? Did he make threats? Maybe he just offered to get him an ice-cream.

I look past his weakness, and I see strength.

Now we're looking at the lions. Weird animals. Not like other cats, creeping through the dark alone. First, there's the cubs, right up close against the wire for once, with everyone cooing over them. Kitty sneaks a ghostly hand into the cage to stroke one, when she thinks no-one's watching. They're cute as hell. Except, one day, those sweet little claws and teeth will be able to tear the entrails out of an antelope. Then there's the mother lions, the ones that bring home dinner. The watch Xavier's students suspiciously, as if they can smell something wrong, but maybe they look at everyone who comes near their babies like that. Last of all, there's the big old man lion. All he ever does is lie on his back in the sun, lazing around, letting the girls do the work. But if another big old man lion came close . . . not a pretty sight.

I look at Xavier, surrounded by his adoring pride, and I wonder what it must be like. Not to have to watch, to add up, to guess. To know. To walk into someone's mind, to *really* see under their skin. To drag all their secrets out and turn them over, examining and probing and judging. I think that he must be as inhuman and twisted inside as my true shape is outside. As much of a monster as Toad and Sabretooth and me. And I wonder why no-one else seems to be as frightened of him as I am. If I had my way, I'd be putting cyanide in the Earl Grey right now. Bye bye Charlie.

Yet Magneto can't see the way things really are. He still thinks that Xavier's the kid he met decades ago, the kid that rolled over under him and sucked him off and told him what a great man he was. Magneto thinks that the power in any relationship is on top. He can't see how Xavier's gotten to him, how he still works with the idealist looking over his shoulder. An influence on the inside, that no fancy helmet is going to keep out. That's why he can't see that *all* our enemies have to die, even the ones he wants to fuck. Well, they do say that love is blind.

I watch him out of the corner of my eye as Xavier and his students move on to the giraffes and the elephants, and I think I know why he's here today, even if he doesn't. I see a hint of regret in his expression, in the way he holds his head. He must be wondering what would have happened if he could have kept pretending, the way they pretend. Playing at being normal, like I do every time I shift and walk through the world like this, and hiding the reality underneath.

I can't blame him for that. Sometimes I try to guess as well.