Body and Soul I: The Body Snatcher

Chapter 3: With Friends Like These...

Part B

Erik opened his eyes, trembling violently.

Not real. It was a dream. Not real.

He stared at the ceiling for several long minutes, willing his pounding heart to slow, his ragged breathing to even out. He was ice cold, the sweat of the dream evaporating in the coolness of the room without so much as a blanket to block it. The need to get up, to verify for himself that the X-Men were in fact quite well and it had been only a dream, warred with the equally irrational terror that they weren't, in fact, all right, and that getting up and leaving his room might expose him to whatever was out there. She had attacked Westchester. She'd been inside Charles Xavier's body. She knew where the mansion was. He tried to convince himself that his fears were ridiculous-- the X-Men had shown themselves more than capable of defeating him, and he had far more experience in combat and skill with the powers than the body snatcher had-- but that was a rational, daylight belief, and this was a dark bedroom after a nightmare.

There was a knock at the door. Simultaneously, before he had a chance to feel more than the first twinge of startled terror, Charles' mind helloed him, a touch so quick and light it could serve only to alert him to Charles' presence, not carry any information back to Charles.

Erik swung off the bed and stumbled to the door, opening it to face Charles. "What is it?"

"I couldn't sleep," Charles said. "Probably due to the rest Hank enforced on me earlier today-- there's only so much sleeping I can do, and I seem to have run out. And I'd gotten the impression you suffered the same affliction, so I wondered if you might like to join me downstairs for a drink."

"Please do not patronize me, Charles," Erik said stiffly. "You didn't get the impression I wasn't sleeping; you overheard me having a nightmare."

"Well, yes. You were broadcasting."

Erik felt even colder than the room and the sweat warranted. "Broadcasting? Did Jean and Elizabeth--"

"They're asleep." At Erik's look, Charles smiled wryly. "Yes, I did have something to do with that. I suspect you would have woken them if I hadn't been already awake and able to compensate-- I blocked you from them, though that ruined any hope I might have had of blocking you out myself. I've rarely seen you broadcast with such power, Erik; you should learn to harness that in your waking life."

He was never that frightened in his waking life. Erik didn't point that out. "It doesn't do much good to salvage my dignity if you must brag about doing it, Charles."

"You did ask."

"I did not."

"You most certainly did. I don't need to read beneath your shields to interpret that particular facial expression."

Erik sighed. He was irritated, but at the same time, it was pleasant to see Charles behave like his usual, irritating, entirely-too-willing-to-argue self rather than the Charles of before, who had walked on eggshells around him. "I need to change clothes."

"Go ahead, and meet me downstairs in the kitchen. I'm planning to try hot chocolate with rum. Henry swears by it, though I suspect if he knew I was awake and drinking he'd swear rather more profanely."

"I'll refrain from telling him."

It took Erik a good ten minutes to find something to wear. Rogue had brought up a box of clothing that included women's and girls' things previous female X'ers and New Mutants had left behind. Unfortunately, not one of them had anything remotely approximating his body type. Women of the X were generally slender and busty, and the New Mutants had been children, so even though several had actually been taller than he was now the hips and breasts of their clothing didn't accommodate this form. Besides, he was fat. Well, all right, by the standards of his childhood he'd merely have been seen as healthy and well-fed, let alone the standards of Auschwitz, but he had acquired different standards in the forty-odd years intervening, and measuring by the average superheroine he was short and plump. Besides, the women of the X liked to wear skintight clothing that showed off their magnificent, well-toned physiques... since, to be honest, most male superhumans and mutants he knew liked to do the same thing if they had the bodies for it, including himself, he could hardly condemn them, but it made it much harder to fulfill his desire to look completely asexual. Eventually he put on a pair of jeans that were hippy enough but far too long, rolled up the pant legs just barely enough to not step on them, put on a turtleneck of Kitty Pryde's and a large sweater, found a pair of gloves Rogue must have discarded, and brushed his hair down to cover his ears and neck as thoroughly as he could. What he really wanted was a helmet and a cloak, but that was likely overkill.

Charles was waiting for him in the kitchen with an extra cup. "Try this. It's delicious."

"I don't like chocolate."

"I can't very well make you coffee at this hour."

"Just pour me a vodka."

"Women have a lower alcohol tolerance than men, and you've got much less mass now into the bargain. I'd stay with the weak drinks if I were you."

"You're not me. Where do you keep the liquor?"

"You have a briefing tomorrow."

"So do you."

"And, you see me sedately drinking a mixture of rum and chocolate. Besides, I think you could use a warm drink."

"You're quite right. Do you have any rice wine?"

"I didn't know you drank sake."

"I don't as a general rule, but unlike vodka, it's not disgusting when heated."

"Have the chocolate, Magnus. I really shouldn't be drinking two of them, and I know you wouldn't want it to go to waste."

"You're blackmailing me with my neuroses again. Give me the damned hot chocolate so you will shut up and give me some peace."


"Now, where's the vodka?"

Charles sighed. "In the liquor cabinet, where else?"

"Which you have moved where? It used to be in your office."

"There still is one in my office, but now it has a Shi'ar telepathic lock on it. After I came home to find that someone had drunk everything I had, I took some precautions. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

"There were still a few bottles left when the New Mutants and I parted company. Is there another cabinet, which would be implied by your statement that there is 'one' in your office?"

"If I didn't know better, old friend, I'd swear you have a drinking problem."

"I have a very dire drinking problem, Charles. I am trapped in a woman's body, while a madwoman roams free murdering innocents with my own, and my old friend is serving me little boy's drinks."

"Very funny. I'm glad to see your ordeal hasn't impaired your sense of humor." Charles' garish yellow chair floated over to the cabinet next to the refrigerator, which he pulled open and extracted a bottle of vodka from within. "Here. Happier?"

"Much." He poured a shot of the vodka into the hot chocolate and sipped at the warm liquid, frowning slightly at the overly sweet taste. The trouble was, as Charles knew, he couldn't bear wasting food, and his recent capture had only exacerbated it.

"So, tell me, Charles. What did happen today with the body snatcher? She told me she couldn't take anyone's body if she wasn't in her own."

"Yes, that's consistent with her beliefs. Lee Davies has never had any formal training in the use of her powers, though, so it's not surprising that she doesn't know the full extent of them herself." Charles sipped his own hot chocolate. "After I talked to you on the phone, I immediately started searching for Davies, and made contact almost immediately-- she's a powerful mutant, both in her own right and most especially with your powers-- and I attempted to immobilize her telepathically. This turned out to be a mistake."

"If she is such a powerful mutant as you say, why did you never notice her before?"

"There are getting to be more and more mutants, Magnus. Davies is of an age with my first X-Men; Cerebro wasn't as sophisticated then, and I had many responsibilities, so I would easily have missed her first manifestation, and if you don't get a mutant at first manifestation then you have to depend on their power levels to spike sometime in their post-manifestation lives. Davies used her power relatively rarely, I think; like Rogue's, it's simply not the sort of power you can use often. I could find her if I knew specifically to look for, but without that information, it's simply random chance as to whether I can get a reading for any given mutant or not. Did you think I had a map of all of them?"

"I know you have an extensive database of mutants who've refused your offer to come to the school, or who you deemed unsuitable for the X-Men to begin with."

"Yes. But it doesn't begin to cover them all. I didn't even know about the Morlocks until the X-Men's first encounter with them, and they had been living for at least twenty years practically under our feet. Cerebro's a useful tool, but it's not omniscient."

"Very well then. You say attacking her telepathically was a mistake. What happened?"

"To be honest, I've tried to reconstruct it and I'm still not sure. She switched bodies with me, but I am not sure how-- it happened with such unbelievable speed I had no chance to resist. I suspect her power works like Rogue's-- Rogue is an entity of negative psionic force, with such phenomenal power that very, very few have the ability to resist her pull. Such a mind would instantly implode on itself, absorbing its surroundings and collapsing under the weight, if it were telepathically open-- that is, if like myself and other telepaths it had the ability to forge telepathic links of its own. For survival, Rogue can only use her psionic powers when touching a person-- that forges the link. I think Davies' power is fundamentally very similar. Her psionic ability, like Rogue's, depends on touch for the most part because it lacks the ability to forge a link without touch. But if a foreign telepath forges the link, her power can work unfettered. With Rogue, there's always been the difficulty in trying to work with her powers that, even without the mental static from Carol Danvers, any attempt to directly enter her mind runs the risk of triggering her power and being sucked in. Davies, I think, can do it deliberately. She somehow knew-- perhaps she has a sense of minds when they are vulnerable to her-- that she could swap with me, and she did it."

"And so you were left powerless? In my body, or where?"

"No, I wasn't powerless. I was extremely ill-- for quite some time, I was so badly disoriented with nausea and migraine that it was all I could do to muster the strength to strike back. But I never lost my powers. Apparently in Davies' specific type of body snatching, telepathic powers remain with the mind-- which makes sense, because otherwise she'd lose her own psionic powers when she switches, and her victim would gain them. You don't have her powers, I presume."

"If I do, I haven't found the way to activate them. Believe me, I have tried."

"It makes sense. Her body has the ability to forge the channel-- that's a more or less physical power, not psionic. But without the psionic ability that goes with it, the forging of the channel means nothing. If you weren't so blocked, you might be able to use your own psionic abilities in that body, but they wouldn't be Davies'-- you'd be a touch-telepath, not a body thief."

"I am still utterly unconvinced that I am a telepath of any stripe, Charles. Everything I've done can be explained by my control of electromagnetism in the brain."

"Except for your mindshields, because you have them still at full strength."

"You've mentioned that the occasional human has such shields."

"I mentioned that of Madelyne Pryor, who turned out to be a clone of Jean."

Erik blinked. "So that's why there was such a strong resemblance. Whatever happened to her?"

"She went mad, tried to enable demons to conquer New York--"

"She was behind that? I thought that was Illyana's fault."

"No, it was Madelyne. Which you might have known if you had been in the slightest involved in the lives of the students I entrusted to you, at that point--"

"A bit difficult, when they spent all their time running off and trying to get themselves killed!"

"And your ambitions in the Hellfire Club had nothing to do with it?"

"I was trying to safeguard their future. Illyana refused to have dealings with me; she started routinely teleporting away rather than talk to me. I thought it was merely her grief over her brother-- who, at the time, we all thought dead along with the rest of the X-Men; then when the demons attacked New York I thought she was the reason, since they were techno-organic, like the demons of her Limbo. Why are you bringing this up now anyway?"

"Perhaps I shouldn't." Charles stared down at his drink. "But... I feel I have the right to an explanation, and I don't think I've ever gotten one from you. I left you with healthy, obedient students. I left you as a practicing member of the X-Men, who had actually agreed to stand trial for his crimes. And when I came back... my students were scattered to the winds, three of them were dead, several had turned terrorist, and you were not only known for a villain again, but when we first encountered each other, you brutally attacked me and Moira on the word of a man you'd only just met, and behaved for all the world as if you were the one betrayed by me, not the other way around."

"And what would you call it but betrayal, to have your mind and soul toyed with when you were helpless by one you trusted?"

"I'd call it old history, among other things. Whatever Moira did or didn't do to you, it obviously didn't take."

"How am I to know that? How can I know that I am myself, that I have had any free will since the moment I awakened in her laboratories?"

"Oh, for God's sake, Magnus. If Moira had taken away your free will, I'm sure she would not have allowed you to attack my students, let Proteus run loose, then attack my students again, kidnap and torture them because you were humiliated by Mutant Alpha, leave them in a volcano to die, and then later come back and try to conquer the world... given your actions after you were re-aged, how can you possibly believe Moira had a damned thing to do with any of your decisions? And why on Earth did you assume I had anything to do with it?"

"Moira is human. You're a telepath. I find it hard to believe that Moira could keep secrets from you."

"Moira is my ex-girlfriend. I avoid reading her mind as much as possible. Besides, she was a continent away from me for the most part, and besides that, whenever I would come to check on your progress you would wail hysterically. You were terrified of me, and I didn't want to inflict that on you, so I stayed away." His eyes bored into Erik's. "Besides. Do you seriously think that if I had decided to modify your mind, I would work on you at the genetic level? The genetic level isn't where your problems are, whatever Moira thinks. If I had decided to modify your mind, you would currently be a happy American Jew who believes the Holocaust is a horrifying historical event that matters to him culturally but not personally. I would not have attempted to alter your physical body, Magnus. That's not what I do. I'd have erased your memories and implanted consistent false ones-- or, given that you were an infant and would be raised with new memories, more realistically I'd simply have completely erased you, and there'd have been no Magneto for Davan Shakari to resurrect."

"You are no God, Charles. You would have had no right."

"Why do you think we're having this conversation? I seriously considered erasing you, you know, for your own good. You had the mind of a six-month-old and the memories of an adult man who'd been through unimaginable horror, and you had no defenses, no way to protect yourself from the trauma. Moira actually did ask me to erase you, because she was convinced you'd die. You weren't feeding properly, you were crying constantly, you wouldn't sleep, and your health suffered terribly. The other infants, the rest of the Brotherhood, seemed happy and content-- only you were tormented. And I rejected her request, in the end, because I'm not God, and I had no right. I put a state-dependent block on the memories so your infant mind couldn't access them any longer-- you'd have gotten your memories back as an adult, slowly, at a rate you could handle and with the feeling that they happened in a past life, because you'd have established so many more powerful childhood memories by that time, if Shakari hadn't re-aged you-- and I did that much only because it was endangering your health. And I truly resented that you immediately jumped to the conclusion that I would do such a thing to you, both that I would commit such a moral transgression-- when I was presented with the opportunity to and I rejected it, even though it would have been safer for the world if I had-- and that I would do so by playing with your genetic code. And that anyone would try to brainwash you, or change your outlook on life, by modifying your genetic code. Moira was trying to cure what she thought was a biologically based insanity-- to restore your free will, not to take it. And you tortured her for it, and you tortured me, and this after you betrayed me by abandoning my students and my dream. I think I have the right to be angry."

"Then why have you taken me in? If you are so enraged at my crimes, why play at being my friend?"

"I am your friend, you idiot. I saw your madness suck you in and there was nothing I could do about it-- I tried, and you attacked me, and I thought I'd lost one of my best friends forever. I had to demonize you, in my own mind and to my students, because I knew there was next to nothing of my friend Magnus left in mad Magneto. And then you recovered, years later. You became the man I remembered again, and I realized I'd do anything in my power to keep you from falling again."

"Then why did you swear me to a task you knew I'd fail?"

"I knew no such thing. When you weren't mad, you had some of the fiercest paternal instincts I'd ever seen-- I was sure you would protect the children, at any cost. There was no reason for me to believe you'd fail."

"Except that I have driven away my own children--"

"--when you were insane. I don't think that would have happened otherwise."

"And, Charles, what you fail to understand is that I take 'at any cost' seriously, and you don't. And you had already trained these children not to take it seriously. I wanted to protect them at any cost. But the cost ended up being your Dream-- which, by the way, still doesn't work, and I now have the absolute authority to say so, because I have tried it-- and they wouldn't accept that. They considered it more important to be heroes than to follow my directives, and live. And I couldn't convince them otherwise, no matter how I tried. In the end, the best I could do for them was to drive them away, so I could maneuver within the Hellfire Club to try to ensure the safety of all mutants without risking them specifically to Frost's machinations and so that they wouldn't be tainted by association with me. Two of them were already dead by that time, and I hadn't had the power to save either of them-- both chose heroic self-sacrifice over life, and I wasn't there to stop it, because the New Mutants never asked for my help, never involved me in their lives, never seemed to think I could be a source of valuable advice outside of combat training. Their lives revolved around sneaking out behind my back, even after one of their number was dead! There was nothing I could do, Charles, nothing. And in the end, I was right the first time. I should have refused you, I should have run away. The whole thing was absolute nonsense-- I have no aptitude for dealing with teenagers. Why you chose me and not Scott Summers, I'll never know."

"Scott had quit the X-Men."

"He came back, just long enough to challenge Storm for leadership, and lose. Which led to him somehow deciding to join the rest of his fellow original students in inflaming the public opinion against mutants to the point where a teenage boy killed himself, and he's only the one I knew about-- I don't doubt there were others."

"He and the others were led astray by Cameron Hodge. Their heart was in the right place; they were simply misguided. As for me choosing Scott as headmaster... Scott was going to be a father. He had told me he was permanently retired, that all he wanted was a quiet normal life with Madelyne. I couldn't, in the light of that, drag him back in." Charles shook his head. "It was all a mistake. A series of colossal mistakes on all of our parts. Storm should never have decided to let you and the New Mutants think the X-Men dead. I should have returned to Earth when I had the chance, and not trusted that you could safely handle matters. But I don't know how any of it could have been done differently. We all made the best choices we could, given the facts we had at the time."

"As did I, Charles. I never meant to fail your students-- I never meant to let any of them die. I tried my best-- God knows I tried-- but it wasn't enough." Good God, was he going to weep now? He took a deep drink of the vodka-laced hot chocolate, now cold chocolate, intending it to fortify his defenses against the encroaching tears.

"I'm sorry," Charles said. "I shouldn't have brought up all these old resentments at a time like this. I-- I should know you tried--"

"But you don't," Erik said harshly, " because it wasn't good enough. The world does not care about tried, Charles; it cares about what was actually done. And what I actually did was worse than useless. If I had run off to my tropical island to eat grapes and dally with Lee, I would have done less damage to those children than what I did by caring and trying." He was tottering on the edge, exhausted and probably a little too drunk. "And I blamed you for pushing me into a position where I had to try to be you, because I am not you, I could never be you, and I hated you for every failure I made, because you'd been dying and you put me in a box and I couldn't escape your dying wishes, and the truth is it should have been myself I hated all along. My failure. My stupidity, in following the wishes of a man I thought dead rather than doing what I knew to be right. My insecurity, after having my sense of what was right for me to do totally upended. I was in pieces, a lost man desperately trying to pretend he still had some bearings, some dignity, and if anyone had known how totally incompetent I felt, perhaps they could have given me the help I needed to succeed. But Magneto cannot be incompetent, Magneto cannot be undignified. I couldn't beg. And so I failed the greatest trust I'd ever been given, because my pride-- my pride--"

He threw himself against the refrigerator, pressing against comforting cold metal rather than let Charles see his face crumpling, the tears welling in his eyes. Goddamn Charles. Of course he didn't have the emotional wherewithal to handle accusations over his greatest failure at 4 in the morning the night after he'd been rescued from a month of rape and torture. Damn himself, too, for drinking so much. He'd wanted the vodka to help him sleep, but he hadn't expected Charles to start attacking him.

"I'm sorry," Charles said. "I'm so sorry, my friend. For bringing this up, for putting you in that position, for everything." He could hear Charles' voice suspiciously close to breaking as well. That was all he needed. "We had no chance to talk, when you attacked, when you thought I betrayed you-- I was so angry at you, over everything, and then I thought-- I thought you were dead. I thought we'd never have a chance to try to resolve anything ever again, and then you turned out to be alive--"

His Acolytes. In the horror of the past month, he had almost managed to put them out of his head, the mangled bloody corpse of Chrome pulped to bits by the crash-landing, the others frozen forever as statues with Chrome lost to restore them, dead, all of those who'd trusted him, dead--

"Don't," Erik strangled out, "don't," and then he was on the floor, doubled over with agony. Alive, when those who'd trusted him were dead. Doug, Illyana, Warlock. Anne-Marie, Delgado, Velasquez, Chrome. Anya. Peter. Mother, Father, Marya. The victims of the body snatcher. The ones he'd taken the bags from, he'd guided to the showers, he'd carried dead to the furnaces. Alive, surrounded by death, and even more powerless to stop it than usual.

He sobbed hysterically on the floor of Charles' kitchen, trying and utterly failing to get control of himself, the blackness sweeping over him in waves. Distantly he was aware of Charles' hand on his back, stroking it, of Charles' voice in the distance saying he was sorry. Under other circumstances the touch might have made him go rigid with fear; now he simply didn't care. The blackness was too huge, too overwhelming, to feel anything else.

The truth was, his problems had started long before Lisa Davies had stolen his body. It felt like he'd been on a downward spiral since Douglas' death, at least. But then, could you even call it a downward spiral when it was simply your life resetting to normal, free of the aberration of happiness and a feeling of accomplishment? His life consisted of a series of spectacular failures, punctuated by occasional brief moments that lulled him into thinking he might succeed, might do something with his life that didn't make matters worse, might stave off the inevitable darkness. And then the smashing of the hope produced far more pain than if he had never hoped in the first place. He had been completely focused, for the past month, on getting free and getting his body back, and now Charles' words reminded him that even when he got his body back, there was still no escaping the fact that his life was spiraling down into the darkness again, and had been for some time, and there was no way out.

No. No, he rejected that. He had had a plan, before Davies had taken him down. He had a specific goal that he was working toward, an iteration of what he'd tried before with the bugs worked out this time. All he had to do was get his body back and put his plan back into motion. He had failed before, again and again, and some of those failures had left innocents dead, and some of those innocents had been the children he'd sworn to protect. No matter. If he let his failures destroy him, however grievous they were, he would never be able to atone for them by succeeding, never be able to make them worth the sacrifice.

His Acolytes had died for a cause. He had to make their deaths mean something by continuing to fight for that cause. And as soon as he had his body back, he would continue the fight. No matter how many died. It had to be worth something, in the end, or it never would have meant anything.

There was a glass of water by his head. "Here," Charles said. "It'll help."

He took the water and drank it, gulping rapidly at first, then slowing as he got control. Slowly he got to his feet. "I... apologize for that," he said, getting himself under control. "I fear you were right; this body's alcohol tolerance is simply not what my own's would be, and I am quite tired."

"No apologies needed. You've been under tremendous stress lately. I'm sorry I pushed you; I meant for us simply to talk, tonight, and instead I seem to have created a problem for you."

"It's all right," he said tiredly, setting the glass down on the counter. "Certain things... needed to be said, between us." He looked at Charles. "And I am not sorry for what I did to Moira, because performing genetic manipulation on a child with no family to consent for him is an abomination, whatever her goals may have been. But I am sorry for bringing you into it."

Charles sighed. "I think you have a lot more than that to apologize for, but I'll take what you can give right now. But we are going to have to continue this discussion when you're stronger. I'm willing to forgive a great deal, but brutally attacking a friend of mine, a human with no powers to protect herself, for having the temerity to try to keep you from going insane is something I'll have to work very hard at forgiving, you understand. But we don't have to go into it now."

"Some other time, then." They had pushed a great deal under the rug when he and Charles had worked to rekindle their friendship, the first time. Erik had to admit that a lot of what had been pushed aside and never dealt with had been his own crimes and misdeeds; Charles simply didn't have as many things to atone for, and they both had recognized this, and Charles had granted him a pass on a lot of it because Charles thought it was more important to reconcile than to rehash old grievances. Perhaps Charles had changed, or, plausibly, simply wasn't willing to grant him blanket absolution for recent offenses. To be honest, he could never understand why Charles was as forgiving as he was; had someone done to Erik the things he as Magneto had done to Charles, he could never have forgiven. He did owe Charles an explanation, at least. But it would be impossible to make it clear to Charles how absolutely disgusting and horrifying what Moira had tried was while he was still so raw and emotionally uncontrolled. They would have this discussion when Erik was powerful again, and maybe his grim prediction that the next time they met it would be as earnest enemies would not have to come to pass. If he could make Charles see why his plans must be carried out for the sake of mutantkind... if he could earn Charles back as an ally, or even simply get Charles to agree not to get in his way... he couldn't have expected Charles to do such a thing when he wanted to take over the world, but that wasn't what he wanted anymore. All he wanted to create was a safe sanctuary for mutants. Surely Charles couldn't object to that, if he truly understood the need.

"If we have a briefing tomorrow, then I should go back to bed. I am very tired."

"Of course, Magnus. I should do the same myself, before Hank has my head."

The last and final time he returned to bed, his mood recovering from black despair only by sheer force of will, he was sufficiently tired and sufficiently affected by the vodka that he was finally able to stay asleep all the rest of the night.

He was facing all of the X-Men again today. Not in combat, but in some ways worse-- he would be talking to them of his experiences of the past month, speaking of his weaknesses. He needed armor.

Clean underwear. He wanted boxers, but apparently all they made for women was briefs-- he'd live. Clean socks, the thick athletic kind. Instead of the shapeless, overlarge boots he'd been issued at the police station, he had a pair of slightly-too-large purple short boots with floppy tops that folded down which had once belonged to Psylocke in her old body-- he'd have to hit the X-Men's costume machine to get footgear that actually fit, but for now these would do. A clean sports bra that belonged to someone bustier but thinner than he was, which pretty much covered every woman who'd ever been an X-Man. The jeans from last night, a clean white turtleneck, an overlarge black sweater he could wear as if it were almost a cloak. He brushed his hair-- fine mousy brown strands, they served only to soften and weaken him, not like his own rich thick mane-- and pulled it back into a severe ponytail. For a few moments he struggled with trying to make it into a bun, but he had no idea how to do such a thing, so he settled for the ponytail, and for folding the collar of the turtleneck up so it completely covered his neck, exposing none of his skin.

It wasn't steel mail, but it would do for now. He looked at himself in the mirror and still couldn't see himself. There was a frightened young woman with wide doe eyes and a soft, deceptively gentle face looking back at him. Erik hardened his expression, and still couldn't manage to look much more sophisticated or in control than Kitty Pryde, despite being physiologically about ten years older than she was. There was nothing he could do about it. For a fleeting moment, he wished he knew how to apply makeup-- women knew how to make themselves look older, stronger, tougher, a talent he'd never needed because his own body had always had plenty of those qualities. If he couldn't look like Magneto he'd at least like to look like a mature, powerful businesswoman. But he wouldn't have the body long enough to need to know such things. And the X-Men would look beyond appearances to see him as he truly was. He hoped.

Body Snatcher: Chapter Three Part C

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