Body and Soul I: The Body Snatcher
Chapter 3: With Friends Like These...
Storm drove the car. It was Charles' Rolls-- why the school had only one car, when Charles could certainly afford more, Erik had never figured out-- but she had all the windows down, blowing fresh air all throughout the car. His hair was wrecked by the wind and it was whipping into his face, but he didn't care. Like Ororo herself, he was used to the freedom of the open air; he was not as claustrophobic as she was, but after a month locked in a basement cell, the sweet fresh wind was worth the inconvenience it caused.
"I am truly sorry about what happened last night," Ororo said as they pulled out onto I-684. "Warren's behavior was inexcusable; if I could have imagined he would do such a thing, I would have ordered him to stay away from you already, but I have always known him to be an honorable man. Apocalypse must have changed him more truly than I realized."
"It's all right," Erik said tiredly. "His hatred is... not without cause. In my days of madness I did indeed single him out for greater torments than I inflicted on the others; it's hardly strange that he should bear such a grudge now."
"No, it is strange. Warren has always been dedicated to doing what's right, moreso than many of us; when we all first joined the team, he felt so strongly that Charles' Dream would be sullied by including a killer like Wolverine that he left us to form his own superhero team. I can understand why he bears a grudge against you, but for him to attack you when you're helpless is inexcusable, and I can only imagine it is part of what Apocalypse did to his mind. I don't expect you to forgive him, but please, understand. It does not seem that he is the man he once was."
"As long as he stays away from me, I hardly care. I am not in the business of forgiving my enemies, but what he's done is extremely minor, in the scale of recent events."
"That is helpful to know." They drove for a bit in silence, filled with only the sound of the wind roaring through the car and the sound of the engine and the tires on the concrete. Then Ororo said, "Magnus... if you ever want to talk about what has happened... I can promise you a sympathetic ear, at least."
At least she hadn't said she understood how he felt. "I don't need to talk about it, I need to get my body back and put it behind me. I have survived worse, Ororo."
"Worse, perhaps, but not of the same nature." She glanced over at him. "I know what you experienced in the death camps was a horror beyond imagining, but that does not immunize you against all pain. And while I have been fortunate in my own life, I have seen what rape does to women... I have myself felt terror so great at that threat, it drove me to kill." Her voice was very quiet, but she was modulating the wind now, reducing what passed through the car so it was not so loud or distracting. "And women at least are prepared for the possibility. As a man... you could not have had any expectation of such a thing. That must be painful to deal with, regardless of what else you've endured in your life."
The fact that she was spouting the same inanities as the body snatcher had about his own expectations and what he had dealt with in his life infuriated him. He tried to take a deep breath as Ororo spoke, tried to force down the rage, but it didn't work-- she was prying, pitying him, and it was far too much. "What in the name of the Eternal makes you think I couldn't have expected such a thing? Or, for that matter, that this was the first time?"
As soon as the words were out of his mouth he regretted them. He had never told anyone but Magda that particular shame from the camps. It was not the greatest shame he was burdened with-- his work as a Sonderkommando, the things he had done to collaborate with the machines of death and their hated creators, was a shame he had never even shared with her, not after he'd stood by and let all her countrymen and women die, not after he'd done nothing except get her smuggled to a place where she'd be abused, as all the Jews were abused, but alive when all the other gypsies were dead. But it was a shame he never thought anyone else would understand. A woman could be raped and still return to power, to triumph, still be seen as a survivor who had overcome-- at least in America, at least after the reforms of the last 20 years. A man could not. And Ororo came from a place where to be raped was literally worse than death, where it tainted women's lives forever in the eyes of all that knew them.
She looked at him in sudden shock. He did not look at her. "Watch the road!" he barked, as she came too close to a car ahead of them.
"I see him," she said, and slowed down. Another moment of silence. "I... I am so sorry for my insensitivity. I didn't know."
"You didn't know because I didn't tell you. I didn't tell anyone."
"I see," she said, sounding stricken.
He stared out the windshield, straight ahead. What sordid images was her mind conjuring? She had to know, it hadn't been nothing but weakness and helplessness. He hadn't been helpless. Well, all right, he had been, but no, he hadn't been. He'd had only the power to choose between evils. "When I came to Auschwitz, I'd been advised already, never tell them my true age. I was 13, but big for my age, if thin. I told them I was 16. They didn't believe me, obviously, but after tormenting me for a bit for amusement they let me pass on into the camp instead of sending me to the gas chambers right away. They knew, as I didn't, that what awaited me in Auschwitz, what I was struggling so hard to achieve, would be far harder and more painful than a quick death by gas.
"I was put on a team whose job it was to move bags of concrete mix. Over and over again, hundreds of kilos of concrete mix from one spot to another fifty meters away, and then once we had moved them all, to move them back again. It was busywork of a kind designed to torture and kill. Grown men dropped dead of exhaustion. I was a 13-year-old boy. The others tried to help me somewhat, but they were pushed to their limits. I knew by the second day that I would not live.
"But the kapo-- the overseer, a common Polish criminal given power over the Jewish slaves in the camp-- saw me, and took an interest in me. He pulled me out of the work team and offered me a different job-- a position in Canada. Our name for the place where the goods brought in from the new prisoners were sorted. One who was quick and clever could organize much from a position in Canada-- trade goods on the black market, and survive. I would live, perhaps even do well. All I had to do was to do him favors, from time to time.
"I had been told of the ways of men and women, but I had no idea it could apply to men and boys. I had no idea what he was asking of me... the first night. But even after that, even after I knew, I didn't refuse him. I wanted to live. Given the choice between... between whoring myself, and dying, I chose to live."
"That wasn't your fault," Ororo said.
"My fault? It's what I chose. If it's a fault, then it's certainly mine. I could have chosen death. In the end he cast me aside, and I survived anyway, so who's to say the threat I faced was even death?" Of course, after he'd been cast aside and moved to a much harsher work team, he'd contracted meningitis and nearly died, and had been nursed to health by a doctor who'd taken him under his wing-- Peter Jansen, who'd died in a burst of gunfire one cold day for smuggling food and without his protection, without being one of the medical assistants, Erik had ended up being sent to the Sonderkommando and losing his soul. Perhaps he'd had the right idea, hanging on to his protector as long as he had.
"But you cannot blame yourself. If you acquiesce under the threat of death, it's still rape. You should not despise yourself for such a choice."
"I didn't say I despised myself, Ororo. I know well whose feet to lay the blame at."
"But I can hear it in your tone. You did not 'whore' yourself. That word is a horrible word in any case; most prostitutes, in my experience, have as little choice as you had." Ororo shook her head, still steadily watching the traffic as she drove. "Had I not been such a clever thief, that would likely have been my fate. Most girls who lived on the street in Cairo turned to prostitution. They could be executed for it if they were caught, while the men who bought their services lived in safety and comfort. If a woman-- or a boy-- is a whore, that does not reflect on them. That reflects on the people who made them such, the people who gave them no other option, the people who used them."
"Perhaps. But it was still a choice I made. I was not entirely helpless."
"People are very rarely entirely helpless, Magnus. We always make choices. I chose, one day, to end a life instead of endure rape, and I to this day am not entirely sure I made the right decision. I tell myself, it was my life or his, and it's quite possible he'd have killed me when he was done... but it's also possible he would not have. It's possible I could have walked away that day and two lives would have continued to walk the Earth. Instead I made the decision that only one would. It haunts me, and it led me to swear my life to the service of the Goddess, to refuse to take life except when there is no other choice. And the truth is, there is always another choice. But sometimes it is a worse choice.
"You chose to be raped rather than die. I chose to kill rather than be raped. Both of us regret our decisions, and yet, I suspect both of us would make the same decision again. It is in our nature to make those decisions, regardless of what we tell ourselves we are."
"Yes," he said softly, staring out the window to his side rather than looking anywhere near her. "I have learned... I will choose humiliation over death. I am not proud of that, but it seems to be what I am, however I might wish otherwise.”
“Why would you wish otherwise? Life is hope, Magnus; as long as you live you have hope to change things. If you are so proud you would die rather than suffer humiliation, then what chance would you ever have to rise above the circumstances pulling you down?”
“So I believed. But what have I accomplished? I did survive, I did triumph over the circumstances that dragged me down, and what good has it done? What have I accomplished with my life?”
“You saved Rogue’s life in the Savage Land. When the Purifiers thought they had killed Scott and myself, you saved our lives. I cannot see either of these actions as ‘nothing.’”
“Three lives. Say ten, twenty lives. How many have I taken, and for what? If I had accomplished my goal it would be one thing, but with you X-Men opposing me at every turn--”
“Magnus. This is not a productive topic for discussion.” Ororo’s voice had turned hard. “Perhaps during your stay with us we may be able to come to some sort of agreement, but as long as you are doing things like stealing nuclear missiles and brainwashing former friends, the X-Men will oppose you. If you dislike it, change your tactics. You could, for instance, have likely created a sanctuary for mutants if you hadn’t stolen nuclear missles, sponsored an attack on Genosha, tortured Charles and Moira, and brainwashed half the X-Men.”
“And if I did not do these things you would not oppose me? Not simply on the grounds that I am Magneto, and if I will not join you and follow Xavier’s way then I must be evil, no matter what I do?”
“If you didn’t threaten to make war with the entire planet, then yes, I suspect the X-Men would be more forbearing. Failing to attack us might also be helpful.”
“I did not strike that first blow, the last time. Wolverine did.”
“I wasn’t there. If Logan had been under my command, it would not have happened. But that doesn’t absolve you of what you did to Charles and Moira.”
“And what absolves Moira of what she did to me when I was a helpless child?”
“The fact that she acted in your best interest? That you had no known kin at the time, no one to authorize or deny treatment? You did not have the X-Men’s welfare at heart when you brainwashed them--”
“Don’t be naïve, do you think McTaggert acted in my best interests and not Xavier’s?”
“I will not discuss this with you, Magnus. I am no scientist, and I do not understand the nature of what Moira actually did, so I cannot defend her. But I have always known Dr. McTaggert to be a woman of absolute integrity, and yes, if she performed a procedure on you then I am certain it was in what she saw to be your best interests. Aside from that I will not discuss this further. Take it up with Hank or Charles; they understand what was done better than I do.”
The rest of the trip passed in silence. Erik stared out the window and brooded, regretting that he’d brought the subject up at all. He had, for a short while, forgotten the enmity that had stood between them since, and had reacted to Storm as a confidante, as she had been when he was headmaster of the New Mutants and she had led the X-Men.
Dr. Wilder saw him before the nurse did, in her office, which was unusual for doctors in his experience. She was a heavyset, middle-aged woman with thin grey hair pinned back with a large foofy barrette. She was not attractive, but her smile was extremely warm and friendly. "Hello there. You must be Ororo's friend Michael."
So they were using the Michael Xavier identity again. "Ororo told you of my situation?"
"She explained that a mutant who specializes in stealing bodies has taken yours, yes, and that in your own body you're a male mutant. Have you observed any powers or anything else unusual with this body?"
"No-- as nearly as I can tell her power went with her mind."
"All right. I'm assuming you've never had a gynecological exam, then. Is this right?"
"One. After I escaped. It was largely for the benefit of the police, so I never got back any results."
"So you have some familiarity, then. Well, let me go over what we'll be doing, first. The nurse will take your weight, height, blood pressure and heart rate, and then have you pee in a cup. For a woman you might find that a little more challenging than as a man. We'll run a pregnancy check while you're getting the rest of your exam."
"Did Ororo tell you... the circumstances?"
"The circumstances?" She shook her head. "A pregnancy test is standard for a gynecological exam. Is there something about... well, about the circumstances, I suppose, that you need care for?"
He hesitated. But this was, after all, the reason for coming here. "The person who took my body... raped me with it. I need to know if this body is pregnant, if it is diseased since that might indicate that my own body is now infected, and anything else I might need to know."
"I understand. After the pregnancy test, we'll take cultures of the vulva and vaginal walls, which we'll send out to the lab to test for STD's. Those will be back in a few days. Then we'll do an examination with a speculum to check for any physical damage, do a Pap smear to test for cervical cancer, and that ought to be that."
"Ought to be?"
"If any of the tests turn up anything unexpected, we might want to schedule additional tests. Since you don't know this body's medical history, I suggest you get a complete physical from a regular physician as well."
He wasn't going to have this body long enough to worry about that. "How quickly can the pregnancy test be done?"
"We usually have results in a few minutes."
"I would like to get that out of the way as quickly as possible."
"Of course. Go on back out; the bathroom is down the hall, third door on the right. After you've left your urine sample, you should wait in room 4 – that's right across from the bathroom – until the nurse comes in to see you. She may have your results by then, or if they aren't ready yet I'll make sure the lab tech lets her know while she's in with you so she can tell you right away."
Urinating in a cup did turn out to be a slightly greater challenge as a woman than as a man, but it was easy enough in absolute terms. Afterward, he waited impatiently in room 4, which had nothing in it but women's magazines to read – a variety of women's magazines, surely, from Ladies Home Journal to Working Mother with some Seventeen thrown in, but no news, no science, no economics, not even something as generic as a Reader's Digest. Not that he'd read Reader's Digest if he had any other choice, but it would be an improvement on Seventeen.
Finally the nurse knocked at the door, and entered before he had a chance to say "Come in." "Mr. Xavier? I have your test results."
He was both pleased and disturbed that even the nurses in this place knew his bizarre situation. But that wasn't important right now. "What do they say?"
"You aren't pregnant."
Erik wasn't entirely conscious of having held his breath until he heard that answer. He exhaled slowly, some of the horrible tension in him easing. "Thank God."
"I'm glad you got the results you wanted," the nurse said in a friendly voice. "That must be a big relief for you."
He really thought that ought to go without saying, and therefore was slightly irritated that she'd bothered to say it. But the woman was just trying to make conversation. The fact that her conversation was inane, like most humans' conversation, was not entirely her fault. "Yes," he said, and didn't elaborate.
"Let's get you up on this scale and get your height and weight. Can you take off your shoes for me?"
What, is taking off shoes beyond anyone's capabilities, assuming they can stand on their feet? He slid the shoes off and got on the scale. The nurse adjusted the weights, which ended up settling at 136. Erik winced. In his own body he was 180, or had been before the body snatcher got hold of him, but his own body was about a foot taller than this one and far more muscular. "Obviously I need to lose some weight," he said lightly.
The nurse looked at him. "Not necessarily. Let's see your height." She pulled out the measuring rod inside the shaft of the scale and had him stand back against the shaft. "5 foot 3. 136 pounds is perfectly healthy at your size."
"What are you talking about? I can see that this body is overweight."
"Are you very thin in your own body, Mr. Xavier?"
"Not at all. My own body is considerably taller and more muscular."
"You work out a great deal?"
"Yes, for my health. My blood pressure responds badly when I lose muscle tone."
"Well, then you may have a somewhat skewed idea of what's healthy for most people. Especially if you spend most of your time around superheroes. You came in with Storm, didn't you?"
He blinked. "You know her?"
"Our practice specializes in mutants. Mutant superheroes usually give us their code names. As long as they pay in full, so we don't need real names for the insurance paperwork, we have no problem with that. Are you one of the X-Men when you have your own body?"
"I have been an ally to them on occasion, but I go my own way."
"Well, that explains it. Superheroes are all abnormally fit, and some of the women are actually under a healthy ideal weight. Your weight in this body is perfectly normal for an ordinary human, or an ordinary mutant leading a normal lifestyle. You're not fat. There'd be nothing wrong with working out to tone up your muscles some, if it would make you more comfortable, and you are on the high end of normal, but please, do not try to diet to lose weight. You're not overweight."
"Then what of this?" He pinched this body's puffy cheek. "Or this?" He rolled up his sleeve and pinched his arm to display how loose the flesh was.
The nurse took on a patronizing, overly patient tone. "Women have more body fat than men. Particularly young women. What you're seeing is quite normal for a woman of your apparent age."
"I find that hard to believe."
"I think your expectations are based on being a muscular, highly active male superhero, not an ordinary woman. Most mutants aren't superheroes, you know. They don't have the perfect bodies and overdeveloped musculature women who fight crime for a living seem to end up with. Your weight is perfectly healthy. Now let's check your blood pressure."
That too turned out to be normal, as was his heart rate. "Well, there's no reason you can't get a little more physical activity if you like. You're healthy enough for any reasonable workout routine. And if you're eating a balanced diet with good nutrition, you should continue to do that. But don't cut calories or try to lose weight. Just eat healthily and do the exercise you want to do, and you'll be fine."
She drew blood for testing for HIV and other STDs, and then left him with a short hospital gown and a disposable blanket to cover his lower body. Irritated and impatient, Erik seriously considered simply leaving, now that he knew he was not pregnant. But he did need the information about any possible diseases, if only to know what he would have to get cured when he had his own body back. According to both the nurse and the doctor, the blood work wasn't the only test they needed to do for that. So he changed into the wholly inadequate examination clothes and sat, eyes roaming all over the examination room and reading the assorted colorful diagrams on the walls because he'd already determined there was nothing worth reading in the magazine rack.
The doctor actually waited for him to say "Come" at her knock before entering. "So I hear you've gotten some good news."
"It is less good news than a lack of bad news," he pointed out. "My situation is materially no different; it simply hasn't proven to be worse than I thought."
"That's a pessimistic way to look at it, isn't it?"
"I consider myself a realist. Others consider that pessimism."
"Well, I suppose it all depends on your point of view. Can you get up on the table for me?"
He did so. She had him lay down and put his feet in the stirrups. It was somewhat easier to handle this time, perhaps because he was actually in less physical pain this time, or perhaps because he knew what to expect.
She brushed long-handled cotton swabs across his labia and vulva to take samples of any possible diseased tissue, and palpated his abdomen, and checked his breasts for lumps – manually, which was unnerving, given who the only person to touch his breasts had been thus far, but the motions were so clinical it didn't trigger nearly as much fear as it might have.
He was not generally one for small talk, but he tried to make conversation to distract himself from any potential panic attacks. "This is an extremely undignified position. Women have to do this every year?"
"Oh, I don't know about that," she said cheerfully. "I'd think a prostate exam would be much more undignified."
"Having had both, I can clearly state that that is not the case."
"Really? I don't know, I'd be a lot more embarrassed with the other. I suppose it mostly has to do with what you're used to."
"It's hardly that. I haven't had a prostate exam in fifteen years, and I still think it is less undignified than this."
Her eyes widened, and her hands stopped moving for a moment. "Fifteen years? Michael, that's terrible! You've got to take better care of your health than that!"
"I didn't consider it a priority."
"If you died of prostate cancer that would certainly rearrange your priorities. You have to get regular checkups. Cancer is a terrible way to die, and honestly, living with advanced cancer is an even worse way to live. My father died of lung cancer. Please tell me you'll get a checkup as soon as you get your body back."
He thought of pointing out that mutants involved in the world of superheroics had access to highly advanced medical technology that the rest of Earth, including mutants who lived among humans, didn't share, but decided not to. For the first time it occurred to him to wonder why the rest of Earth didn't have access to that technology. Why was he able to do a self-examination with a biometric scanner while other mutants, with powers too insignificant to enter the world he lived in, had to have prostate exams, or for that matter breast exams? For that matter why didn't humans have such things? Non-mutant superheroes such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four certainly had access to such technology; why hadn't Reed Richards or someone publicly marketed advanced medical equipment? How many mutants died of diseases that super-technology could have prevented? Or for that matter that regular medical technology could have prevented, except that the mutants were too afraid of exposure to go to the doctor? Why didn't they have access to self-diagnostic equipment? Xavier had given his first set of medical equipment to Columbia, so some advanced medical technology was getting out to the larger community, but why was no one making that a priority?
"I will attend to my health carefully when I retrieve my body, believe me," he said. "One does not, necessarily, appreciate what one has quite so much as it deserves until one loses it."
"That's true. I'm glad you're going to take care of that." She stepped away from him. "Have you had an examination with a speculum before?"
He tensed. "In the hospital where they attended me after I escaped. I made the mistake of admitting I had been raped. It was… unpleasant."
"Well, it is something we need to do. We need to take a Pap smear to check for possible cervical cancer and I need to take a look at any potential internal damage; you don't know how long you're going to be stuck in this body, after all. But I can promise you that I will be very careful. We have a few techniques here most gynecologists don't practice."
"Such as?" His breathing had turned strained, slightly ragged. It angered him that he had so little control. How could he be so afraid of a little pain as to show a stranger his fear?
"Among other things, the speculum I use has a protective rubber exterior, so the hard parts of the device never come in contact with you, and we keep it warmed to near-body temperature." She removed the device from a box, and put latex gloves on. "What I'm going to do, to do the visual examination, is insert a microcamera just inside. It takes multiple pictures very rapidly at very high resolution, so I can do the detailed examination based on the photography, and you don't have to spend a lot of time with the speculum. First, though, we do a manual examination. Are you in any pain right now, internally?"
He liked the idea of a manual examination even less than the speculum. "Not at the moment."
"I'm going to be very careful. There will be some physical discomfort; that's normal and unavoidable. But if you feel any pain, let me know right away."
In fact she was right – the manual examination was uncomfortable, but there wasn't any pain, and he was finally able to relax somewhat. Perhaps his conditioned reaction to the thought of anyone touching him there had more to do with how much he had hurt for so long than the sexual abuse aspects. Perhaps now that he'd used the regenerator to heal himself his mental state would recover quickly.
"Hmm." Dr. Wilder removed her fingers and stripped off the gloves. She touched him lightly on the low abdomen, just above the pubic bone. "Do you know what these scars are?"
"Scars?" He hadn't particularly noticed any scars.
"They're faint, but distinct. These look like possible scarring from a tubal ligation. I'm not sure what else would cause scars that look quite like this; if you're not familiar with anything that happened that could account for them, I think you should have a hysterosalpingogram."
"It's a radiological fertility test. We inject dye into the uterus through the vagina and cervix, and monitor what happens to it. If the Fallopian tubes are open, the dye will spill out into the abdominal cavity, but if they're blocked – for instance, if she had her tubes tied – we'd be able to see that."
"Why should it matter? I have no intention of engaging in intercourse voluntarily while in this body, and once I am free I hardly care if she can become pregnant or not."
Dr. Wilder looked at him for a long moment. "I realize you likely haven't much experience with being effectively without powers, and I know you're not experienced with being a woman. The world is not very safe for women who don't have superpowers. The one who attacked you isn't the only rapist out there. If your tubes aren't tied – if you can become pregnant—I would strongly recommend that you take birth control as a precaution, because no matter what you intend, things happen to people that they didn't intend on happening. If the tubes are tied, on the other hand, there'd be no need."
"I know how to fight. My assailant had my own powers; a person without powers isn't much of a match for a powerful mutant under any circumstances. But against an ordinary human, I am quite capable of taking care of myself."
"In this body? Michael, I don't care if you have half a dozen black belts in the martial arts, you can't possibly be as experienced at fighting in a body that's smaller, weaker, and simply balanced completely differently than the one you spent your life in. It's not wise to assume that because someone is an ordinary human, you can defeat them just because you're a mutant and you're experienced at fighting… they're probably experienced too, they're not used to having powers to fall back on, and they don't have the disadvantage of being in the wrong body."
He shrugged. "I will consider having the test done. What would it entail?"
"Our radiologist can do it here, although she's only in on Wednesdays and Fridays so you'd need to schedule a new appointment. The test itself takes about five minutes; there's some cramping, usually, which subsides a few minutes after the test is done, and the results are available right away."
"I thought this clinic primarily attended to the needs of mutants."
"We don't turn away human patients, but yes, we do specialize in mutants. Why?"
"I merely wonder… why do you have the facilities to do fertility tests at a clinic for mutants? It does not seem something that would be a common priority."
"Not for superheroes, I'm sure," Dr. Wilder said. "But… I don't know if you realize this, Michael, but the average mutant woman is very interested in knowing if she's fertile. A lot of these people have been rejected by their families; they feel a strong need to belong, to have a family, to be surrounded by people who are like them and understand them, and for the ones who can't become superheroes, or don't want to, the best way to do that is to have children of their own. Even the human children of mutants are obviously much more mutant-friendly than most humans are." She smiled slightly. "That's me, actually. My father could glow in the dark. Never very useful except when there was a blackout, and none of us ended up inheriting the x-factor, but I could never buy into the propaganda about how mutants are out to conquer the world and destroy ordinary humans, because if anyone had asked my dad to join any pro-mutant crusade his response would have been, 'Yeah, maybe, can you call me back after the football game?'" Her smile turned into a grin. "Mutants are just like anyone else. My dad was crushed the year the snowstorm knocked the power out right before the Super Bowl and it turned out that no, he didn't generate electricity, his power was based on bioluminescence, so he couldn't get the television back on."
He had never thought about human children of mutants – except in the context of his granddaughter Luna, who appeared to be biologically human rather than either mutant or Inhuman, but was growing up as a member of the Inhuman Royal Family anyway and hardly counted as an "ordinary" human. He had never thought about mutant women wanting children, either. It was a subject he shied away from, both because his experiences with his own children had caused him so much pain, and because the idea that mutant women should reproduce to increase the population of the mutant race was too similar to Nazi logic and he tried not to go there. But of course, he remembered how desperately Magda had wanted children, how many miscarriages there had been and how she had tried so hard, because she had no biological family anymore. And it hadn't been just Magda; in Israel women had been having babies all over the place. When he'd learned that Charles, too, had a long-lost child, he'd wondered quite uncharitably if Gabrielle's pregnancy had been an accident after all or had been an entirely intentional act on Gaby's part. In the last month before he'd parted company with her and Charles, she had talked quite a bit about starting a family, and Charles had talked quite a bit about how she needed more experience of the world before taking on the challenge of motherhood. Charles, obviously, had not wanted to be a father… perhaps why Gaby had never told him.
Mutant women hadn't been through a holocaust – yet. But it was true that many had been thrown out of their homes, rejected by parents and siblings. He supposed it shouldn't be a surprise that many wanted children, but he wondered why none of the mutant women he knew – with the exception of his own daughter, and it had almost driven her insane—seemed to feel the same way. Oh, if Charles was right about Madelyne Pryor being Jean's clone then technically Madelyne had been a mutant, but everyone had thought her human at the time, and Susan Richards was powered but human. Superhero women in general seemed to avoid having children, the Invisible Woman notwithstanding, for obvious reasons—it was far too dangerous and demanding a lifestyle to support children, particularly if one was the mother. Not that he'd had a lot of respect for Cyclops' decision to try to return to the X-Men as its leader after his son was born, and then to abandon the child and mother both to go pursue extremely ill-advised avenues of fighting for mutantkind by pretending to despise mutants, but at least for a man staying involved in superheroics was a reasonable option. His daughter had done the right thing with her poor ill-fated sons by quitting the Avengers to birth and raise them, but it didn't seem to be important enough to most superhero women to bother, and he hadn't realized that of course it would be an issue to the average mutant woman.
He was beginning to realize how little he actually knew about his own people and how they lived outside the rarified circle of high-powered warriors he belonged to.
The examination with the speculum was indeed much less painful and invasive than the one in the hospital had been. He was almost able to distract himself from it entirely with his thoughts on mutant reproduction. Afterward, the doctor put the pictures her microcamera had taken up on a computer screen, and perused them as he got dressed. "It looks as if you have internal scarring, but are otherwise reasonably healthy. I don't see any evidence of a fistula or any other serious structural damage. I would try to avoid constipation at all costs if I were you, though; eat a diet high in fiber and fruit, because it is possible that the vaginal walls have suffered enough damage to risk a rupture if you were to strain too hard to make a bowel movement. You may want to see a proctologist to ensure that there's no serious damage to your colon -- I didn't observe anything on manually palpating the vaginal wall, but it might be a good precaution to take."
"Thank you." He had no intention of doing any such thing. The medical equipment the X-Men had would undoubtedly be brought back online within a few days.
"Do you want to schedule a hysterosalpingogram?"
"Not at the moment." The body snatcher's fertility was utterly irrelevant; he wouldn't be having sex again in this body, and when he had his own back, he would kill this one.
"In that case, do you want a prescription for birth control pills?"
He shook his head. "I am staying with the X-Men. I am fairly sure that should I fail to protect myself, I can rely on them to defend me from common criminals. And I have difficulty enough with the natural hormones of this body."
"All right. We'll have the lab results of your STD tests back in a couple of days, and I'll call to let you know what they are."
"I would appreciate it if you made sure you talked to me specifically. Don't leave messages."
"What about a message saying I have your lab results and you should call me back?"
"Well, yes, I suppose that would be fine." He had been imagining a voice on the X-Men's answering message declaring that he had AIDS or gonorrhea.
"Take care, then. And good luck."
Storm was in the waiting room. "I've paid the bill for both of us. We can return home now."
Erik shook his head. "I have things to do here. I'll return on the train later tonight."
"What sort of 'things?'"
He wanted to say they were none of her business, but he was sure she'd conjure up something nefarious and then refuse to let him do it. "I have neither funds of my own nor identification. Although I appreciate Charles' generosity, I refuse to be without any resources of my own."
"Ah." Storm nodded. "And if I were to say that I think I should go with you?"
He smiled pleasantly. "I am living in your house right now, Ororo. Trust goes both ways."
"We did not give you permission to take copies of the Shi'ar technology and use them for your own purposes, you do realize this."
"You do not own any sort of patent on technology that Charles' lover sold you from another civilization. You do realize that. And if you consider it such a terrible ethical breach that I took technology you left in my hands and copied it, you may wish to consider whose decision it was to leave me alone with it."
"I did think I could trust you."
"I did think that if you were not dead, you might in fact trust me with that knowledge. Obviously your trust did not extend as far as you claim."
Storm sighed. "I did what I thought needed to be done, Magnus."
"As I have done." In his opinion, Storm's mistake was far, far worse than any breach of ethics he might have committed. He had never promised Charles he wouldn't copy the Shi'ar technology, and in fact Charles had to have known that leaving technology around the Master of Magnetism and then being angry he'd copied it was rather like leaving books around Kitty Pryde or Hank McCoy and then being upset that they had read them. Storm had not only promised him that she would help him overcome the temptations of power the Hellfire Club presented, but her decision to withhold the knowledge that the X-Men lived had killed Illyana. Perhaps Charles was telling the truth that the takeover of New York City by demons from Limbo had been Madelyne Pryor's doing, but if Illyana hadn't been in such profound despair over her brother's death, if she hadn't turned uncaring and unreachable, the demons could never have gone around her to corrupt Madelyne. Which, in fact, meant two lives lost to Storm's mistake, and if Erik had been unable to reach Illyana to help her… well, he knew something of despair and grief, and he knew that there were times people simply could not help others escape that particular pit. Had Illyana not had literal demons waiting for her to weaken and fall, she might have gotten over her grief in time, but Colossus' apparent death on top of Doug's had driven her over the edge and then the denizens of Limbo hadn't given her time to recover. He didn't blame Peter; the boy had always been naïve and entirely too pliable to authority he trusted. He would have believed Storm that staying in hiding was the right thing to do. Storm, however, should have known better.
"Well. Then I will see you back at the mansion tonight?"
"I'll try to be done with my business before rush hour." He couldn't take Storm with him on his quest for money and ID papers; the X-Men couldn't be permitted to know who his accountant was, or who he turned to for his false papers. Their alliance was only temporary, after all. But he didn't relish the thought of traveling on Metro-North, New York's commuter rail, at the best of times, let alone at rush hour. Once he had his money he could avoid subways by taking taxis, and before he had his money he could walk to Aaron's office, only 12 city blocks away from Dr. Wilder's clinic. But there was no way to avoid the train if you didn't have a car, and after he'd ditched Storm on the grounds that he didn't trust her, he very much doubted the X-Men would be amenable to sending someone to pick him up.
CHAPTER THREE TO BE CONTINUED
Body Snatcher: Chapter Three Part E(Doesn't exist yet!)
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