AUTHOR'S NOTE: In the Elseworld spirit, I give you another suddenly inspired three-hour tomato, thanks to "Tombstone." Marvel's people belong to Marvel. There's no real language and very little violence. I'd rate this PG-13 for slightly disturbing material. Feedback to email@example.com or however you like, so long as it's non-combustible, and not warm to the touch, glowing, a cinderblock, or a bunny slipper. (shudder.) Unless I deserve it. (If I screwed up Hanukah, or any Jewish custom, feel free to point that out to me any way you wish.)
Second Disclaimer -- This was started at 10:27 p.m. and spellchecked at 1:42 a.m., and I'm depressed. 'Nough said.
Magda smiled warmly at the Inghilleris. Giovanni grinned and took her hand, kissing the back while casting a glance at her husband.
"Congratulations, my dear. Ho, ho, Eric, look! What a scoundrel I am, stealing your woman away in her moment of weakness!"
Eric immediately wrapped protective arms around his wife while Giovanni fought a small battle with his own wife, Tori, who was threatening him with her knit hat. Tori caught Magda's eyes and smiled. As midwife, she had been present for the birthing, and heard everything the woman had screamed at her husband during those six hours. Magda had bounced from "Don't let go! Please stay, I need you," to "You will never live beneath a roof I keep!", "I shouldn't allow you to live in the barn!", "You are unfit for my meals and my attentions!", and her personal favorite, "I'd rather sleep with a Frenchman!"
"I'm so sorry, my dear, but you were so utterly amusing! Of course I didn't tell Giovanni everything." She turned sparkling eyes on Eric, taking Magda's hand. "I'm amazed he still lets you sleep in the same bed with him!"
Eric kissed his wife's cheek as they welcomed the Inghilleris into their home.
"She meant none of those things. I think she was very brave, and I choose not to remember, oh, what was it? 'You'll never see my weinerschnitzel again, you swine!'?'"
There were laughs all around from the guests, while Magda looked away, her ears tinged with rose. Eric swept her up in his embrace, and then the couple took the Inghilleris' coats. Matthew and Gregor appeared as if by magic, taking the coats from their parents and putting them in the hall closet with the others.
The Inghilleris were then shown to the large common room, the menorah burning brightly in the front window. There were others in other windows, and tinsel as well, simple decorations. The house itself was magnificent, built by hand by Eric himself. He had an almost uncanny ability to design and build things. The house was made of oak, thick, heavy, cool in the summer and cozy in the harsh German winters, though this night the breeze was gentle and the sky was clear.
The windows of the house were magnificent, the only in the small town with rounded tops, sort of a rectangle with a half-circle on top, and colored. The Lensherrs weren't overly proud of the house, but they'd poured lots of money and time into it, hoping to get one 'that would last.' Tori was especially fond of Magda's landscaping.
Giovanni and Tori mingled with the other guests, more than Eric could have wished for. He kissed his wife on the forehead.
"A year tonight, my love. A year."
She turned her back to him, watching Tori telling tidbits of her birth, and leaned into his chest. "You see? I told you things would work."
He chuckled, and put his arms around her dramatically shrunken waist.
"And how is our little Michel?"
She laid her head on his shoulder a moment, then leaned forward and tapped his clasped hands. He didn't release her, and she laughed as she wrestled him.
"How do you expect me to check--"
She brought a booted foot down on his, making him stifle a yelp, and pulled free. She smiled triumphantly at his feigned hurt look.
"I'll be right back."
He nodded, watching her climb the stairs nimbly. Only three days since she'd had the baby, and already-
There was another knock on the door. He acknowledged a comment thrown his way and headed to the door. Already a third of the small German town was here, celebrating the birth of his son as well as the son of God. A birth in any small town was a reason for celebration, and with the cider as good as it had been this fall, any excuse to celebrate would do, and this one would do doubly. He pulled out his pocketwatch and glanced at the time -- nine o'clock. Surely Magda hadn't invited anyone else, they'd run out of -
He opened the door, and merely stood there a moment, staring. Then his face slowly split into a genuine smile.
The balding man in the wheelchair smiled just as warmly.
"Surprise, and happy Hanukah. Your wife, of course."
"Of course." The two normally reserved men clasped hands and shook, both grasps just as strong as they had been so long ago.
"Come in, come in," Eric said, remembering himself, and beckoning. The wheelchair moved five centimeters straight into the air, then floated forward and settled just as gently on the carpeting. Charles hid a smile.
"I could have done that just as easily." He lowered his voice as he removed the heavy jacket. "I would have thought you'd be using more discretion."
Eric took the coat from him and led him toward the common room. "This is a small town, with people unpoisoned by prejudice. They see me as talented, not as a monster." He hung the coat up.
"I was very careful, at first. Magda was terrified, but of course she realized that eventually someone would notice. They saw it as a gift from God, not Satan. It helped that I showed them while keeping a derailed train from tumbling down into the ravine." He turned back to Charles. "The people here have actually accepted me. Have you come to rub that in my face?"
Charles shook his head, then nodded as Eric's little girl, Gianna, offered him some cider.
"Careful," Eric murmured as Charles took a sip. After much spluttering, Xavier managed to chuckle.
"It's been a long time since we've gone drinking."
Eric laughed, and turned as Magda came down the stairs bearing the newest addition to the Lensherr family. Everyone hushed; it was the first public appearance of the child that night, and the first glimpse anyone had gotten of him, save Tori. His eyes weren't quite open, and his tiny fist waved once, in greeting. His entire attitude was one of aloofness; his very countenance indicated he'd much rather be sleeping then having attention lavished upon him, which was exactly what every woman in the room rushed to do.
Eric felt a warmth in his stomach that had nothing to do with the cider and everything to do with Magda's glowing face. This is why they'd come here, a year ago today. To raise a family without the constant prejudice. To find a town that would accept him and his children, a place for them to grow up without the hate and the fear. And to his utter surprise, they'd found it.
"I would have invited you, but getting an overseas ticket in this season--"
Charles smiled, eyeing the punch with new respect. "The perfect time to visit you, actually. Celebrating two births at once. I haven't seen you in a long time, my old friend. Besides, seeing your expression made the trip worthwhile."
Eric nodded slowly. "As you, Charles. How goes your school?"
Charles smiled the indulgent smile of a father. Eric would recognize it anywhere; he saw it every day in the mirror. "It goes well. My pupils are showing amazing talent." He lowered his voice again, his tone less jovial. "In America you've nearly been forgotten. You could come back--"
Eric shook his head. "Never. I couldn't do that to Magda--"
"Eric, please, hear me out. I have high hopes for this school, and it's growth. I . . . remember the way we parted company."
Eric said nothing, eyes still fixed on his glowing wife and arrogant son.
"I still don't agree that peace will never be achieved, but--" and he waved Eric's raised hand, "I know that you also have lost some faith in your stance. You never would have left America and your actions there if you hadn't re-considered. I'm offering you a place at my school. You may teach the pupils your beliefs, and I mine. Between us, perhaps they can discover the happy medium, and bring it to be."
He watched Eric with eagle eyes, but did not attempt to pry into his thoughts. The man still studied his wife and child.
"Come now, Eric! Surely a peace can be achieved! You've proven that here. And if here, why not everywhere? Why must it be either the humans or the mutants? Why must there be sides?" Charles leaned back and warily tried the cider again.
"Charles," Eric finally spoke. "Do you remember that discussion we had in the biology lab that one day?" He projected some of it to the telepath, who cocked his head a moment, then nodded.
"And do you remember how Terry looked at us and said, the two of you are going to die old men, still arguing over something that will happen without your action?"
Again, Charles nodded.
"I have a wife, Charles, and children. Flesh and blood children. Responsibilities. A woman who knows what I am, saw what I was capable of, and didn't run away." Bless my bright angel, she didn't run away. "She stayed by my side through everything, through my struggles, through my battles. She stayed with me when I became Magneto, when my dreams possessed me. And she took me back, Charles. She took me back, and she--" He cleared his throat rather suddenly, though his expression never changed. "She found me one day, and she took off the helmet I wore, and she kissed me." He paused. "And she said, 'Come home, Eric. I think Gregor's got the chicken pox.'"
Charles chuckled quietly, imagining the scene, but Eric didn't even hear him.
"And I remember how it didn't make sense to me. I remember being so angry, that she would interrupt me, that she would dare, so very angry that she didn't understand that what I did had to be done. I remember being so very senselessly angry. And she stared into my eyes, and she didn't flinch, and she didn't judge. And I realized then, there was more to life than my dream. The war will happen without my action, and there is no guarantee that my action will either help or hinder. But here was someone that I could definitely help.
"I was ashamed. How could I grow so angry at this woman that was my love, my wife? What right had I to be so angry? I flew off, and returned home a few days later to a house full of my chicken poxed family." A slow smile spread across his face. "Magda had never contracted it as a child, you see, and she came down with it too. I stayed there a week, just trying to get them all to get used to Campbell's chicken soup instead of their mother's."
"When's the bris?" Giovanni came over, cider and cake in hand, looking very amused. He nodded at Charles, who nodded back.
Eric looked down, studying his suddenly empty glass, almost glad of the interruption. "Well, you see, actually there's a rather amusing story behind that--"
"That has to do with the town priest and the baptismal pool being full of straight Russian vodka," Friedrich crowed. "You should have seen the poor man--"
The room exploded into laughter, and Eric took the opportunity to rescue a piece of the cake for Charles.
He returned to the man, who murmured thanks. Then Eric went to stand beside his wife as she was about to take the child back from Tori.
"This one is too adorable to pass up. I think I'll keep him."
Magda glared with all the strength she could muster, took her son, and went to hide behind her husband, who found himself the target of a laughing midwife. He smiled.
"I think that it is time that we put Michel to bed."
Most of the men in the room agreed, though they would never admit to being jealous over another man so young. Magda smiled as all the women came up for one more session with the drowsing infant. At length, Eric took his son from her and carried him up the stairs. The baby's room was in actuality Eric and Magda's bedroom, allowing them quicker access to the squalling infant.
The room was rather large, and filled with the presents of those of the town. He laid his slumbering son in the crib, watching the sleeping infant in the moonlight streaming through the window above. He picked up the chord to the menorah on the windowsill, turning the small wheel so that it turned on, clicking it over and over again as one by one the candles lit. When he'd gotten to the appropriate number, he dropped the cord, making sure it was well away from the infant and the crib, then looked down again at his son.
He touched the boy's cheek, marveling at the softness of the skin, amazed that this was his, and on Christmas Day, by now. What a strange turn of events was his life. He wouldn't have this child had he remained Magneto, yet he couldn't help but wonder if that was selfish. He had given up his children, his Acolytes, for flesh and blood children of his own. What kind of world would this little boy grow up in? It wouldn't be as forgiving as this town. Or would it?
He couldn't soon forget the things that he'd seen happen to mutants, done in retaliation, and couldn't help but wonder, every night, if he'd made the right decision. In America, things were still bad. Exodus carried out his dream, leading the Acolytes as well as he could, which was some consolation. Or was it?
Here, his gift had saved lives, where in America he had taken them to protect more. He had been fighting for this boy, before he'd even been born. Or had he been striking out at someone else?
And what of Charles' dream of peace? Was it achievable? Was he merely too stubborn to even consider it? A year ago he would have scoffed, but living here, in Germany, where persecution had taken new meaning all those years ago, even here, he was not hated. The people in his home testified that he was far from hated, or feared. Perhaps Charles was right. If he could live here peacefully, perhaps it was possible in other places, as well. Perhaps it was possible, after all. The idea was so clean, so very tempting, that it was obvious where Charles got his inexorable strength, and why the opposite had proved true for him, once. Again, he wondered. Perhaps he should at least go to America, if only for a few days, and meet these pupils, talk to them. Maybe Charles did have something, there. Maybe it wasn't too late.
"Thank you, my son," he whispered to the sleeping infant, and bent to kiss the child's head. Then, he quietly shut the door three-quarters and went back down the stairs.
Magda was the center of attention yet again, but this time the giver was Charles, who was giving her a soliloquy, from some Shakespeare play . . . A Midsummer's Night Dream. He listened with a small grin, watching Magda blushing deeper and deeper as Charles described her beauty, Giovanni whooping quietly from the general vicinity of the cider. When he was finished, there was thunderous applause, and Magda cast a worried glance up the stairs. Eric shook his head; Michel was sleeping soundly. It would take a small war to wake the child now. At least until three or four o'clock, when it would take the child or a small war to wake the parents.
Charles wheeled himself over to Eric as Magda's friend Irene pulled yet another surprise from the oven, and the guests set about polishing it off as quickly as possible. Irene had been helping since Magda had been getting a little too round to do the cooking, and she was absolutely amazing. Eric and Magda were certainly grateful now. They'd had quite a turn-out, and had been ill-prepared without Irene's constant baking.
"Charles," he began, watching all these people that weren't afraid of him, his neighbors, his friends, these humans, "Perhaps--"
There was a surprisingly loud crash from the kitchen.
"Irene?" Giovanni headed to the back, just as the window in the common room exploded, and glass showered the guests. Eric turned his face to avoid being cut, and when he turned back, the common room floor was aflame.
"Filthy Jews!" More glass broke; the downstairs bathroom. "Hitler should have killed you all when he had the chance! Jewish pigs! Merry Christmas!" Tires squealed and drunk voices crowed as the attackers vanished.
Shocked yet not rendered immobile, Eric turned towards the flaming carpet. Friedrich was in the act of throwing the cider onto it.
"NO!" Eric reached out from thirteen feet away, catching the cast iron punch bowl, manipulating it so that it caught the liquid that had spilled.
"Alcohol would have fueled the flames," he called out to the startled man as he reached forward and folded the rug over itself, ignoring the singed hands he got for his efforts. The punchbowl floated smoothly back to the table even with his attention elsewhere. It was something to know that he hadn't lost his skill with disuse. He stamped down on the carpeting even as Giovanni came from the kitchen, holding a cinderblock.
"No fire there," he called.
"None in the bathroom, either. Just a big rock," came a voice. It sounded like Tori.
He nodded, taking a deep breath, surprised at the controlled fury within him. They weren't far, and they were in an automobile. He could feel them from here, without trying. It would be child's play to punish the- Magda came over to him, searching his face with her eyes, plainly reading the fury there, the old fire. She touched his cheek and shook her head, tears gathering in her eyes as she looked past him to the hallway beyond. He grabbed her and pulled her close, stroking her hair, and she buried her face into his chest. He let her sob, held her, whispered apologies to her. He wouldn't break his promise to her, he wouldn't become something that would frighten his own children. He wouldn't be a killer again.
Gregor, Gianna, and Matthew stumbled in from the back hallway, wearing footed pajamas, rubbing their eyes but unhurt. Magda grabbed them, hugging the children to her and her husband, making sure they were alright.
The stunned guests were in the process of trying to find things to board up the windows, trying to keep the bitter cold at bay. So far they'd found a rather large piece of cardboard from beside the refrigerator.
"At least they didn't wake the baby," one voice said cheerfully. Against him, he felt Magda stiffen.
"I'll go get Michel," he murmured to her, looking for someone to keep her downstairs, just in case--
Xavier wheeled up, and took her hand. "Ms. Lensherr, could you help me please? I seem to have dropped--"
Eric gave him the barest glance of thanks as he took the stairs three at a time, stilling the urge to fly. Jews. He couldn't believe it. So long in this town, a mutant terrorist, and they attack him and his own this day for being a Jew. That someone would do such a thing on Christmas Day. He cursed his earlier thoughts. How foolish and naive Charles was, he had been. Of course. The Hanukah decorations at Christmastime, and a mutant besides, he was asking for trouble. To think that human nature would change so swiftly.
No, Charles, there is no happy ending. Human nature is such that genocide will occur. Words spoken by a twenty-year-old that hardly knew the truth in them. Peace was a pretty dream, but with no substance. To give students that dream was to condemn them to a life of fighting, and eventually, a violent death, a senseless death, and he would have no part of it.
As he reached the top of the stairs he saw the cheerful glow coming from their bedroom, not a flickering one of fire but that of the electric menorah. He relaxed, releasing the breath that he hadn't been aware he was holding, and thanking a God that he hadn't spoken to in years. If Michel had been hurt . . . he didn't want to contemplate his actions. The tension slid from his shoulders as he walked toward the bedroom.
Eric walked over to the crib, unmindful of the cold, and reached in. He removed the brick and held the child to his chest. He held his son, in the cold, and stared out the windowless frame at the moon.
HTML done by Kielle, reworked for this site by Alara Rogers.