“Logan and Charles Xavier,” she said, answering Jean-Paul’s question.
“What’s up?” Adam weighed in.
“I don’t know, exactly. They’re visiting Magneto, trying to get some information from him, I think. Then later in the week Charles is meeting with the President again. Trading telepathically acquired intelligence for concessions on mutant rights? I don’t know precisely what’s going on. I’ll draw some blood from Logan while they’re here, anyway.”
Jean-Paul rolled his eyes. “He’ll love that.”
Anjuli shrugged. “He puts up with it, which is all I ask.”
“How long will they be around?” Adam asked, handing pieces of green beans to the babies as he did.
“About a week, I think. Oh, and Charles said he wanted to talk to all of us together while he’s here. Something about Hank.”
“Hank?” Adam looked at the baby in question, who was smearing cheese on Ezra’s nose, much to the latter’s delight.
“Not this guy. Hank, Senior. Something about his work as a trustee of the Xavier Foundation.” She paused to take a drink of her wine. “I don’t know why he’d be talking to the three of us about that. Hank and I used to talk about the Foundation, of course, but... Well, no point speculating. I’ll find out when he’s here what he wants to talk about.”
“Charles isn’t staying here, is he?” Jean-Paul asked.
“No, he’ll be at the Willard, as usual. But Logan will stay with us, so we need to clear all that stuff out of the third bedroom again. If past is prologue, there will be meetings here, too. And maybe more X-Men coming down, particularly if it ends up going longer than a week. Which it usually does. Maybe Scott coming down to see Logan on the weekend.”
“We wouldn’t want Logan to have to go without,” Adam replied with a smile. “He’s not fun to be around when he’s sexually frustrated.” He shrugged. “So, we need to get ready for crowded quarters again.”
“I think we should get a larger place.”
“What?” Anjuli and Adam said it simultaneously, both looking at Jean-Paul in surprise.
“There’s barely room for the five of us here, particularly since both of you are often working at home, or at least trying to. And it’s almost never just the five of us. Really, think about it. You say Charles and Logan are arriving on Friday, n’est-ce pas?” Anjuli nodded. “So, two weeks since Storm left. And before that it was your mother,” he said, looking at Adam. “I’m always happy to have her,” he added hastily, seeing Adam’s expression.
“Happier than I am, a lot of the time.” Anjuli and Jean-Paul both laughed.
“My point is that there are extras here more often than not. I think that these two weeks are the longest stretch we’ve had where we haven’t had visiting relatives, friends, or X-Men.”
“It has been busy,” Anjuli concurred. “I’m glad to help the X-Men out, but I’m surprised they always stay here. It is crowded, as you say, and there’s all the noise and chaos from the babies. Adorable as they are, I’m not sure a three-bedroom apartment with two toddlers is the ideal spot to hang out in when you’re in DC for a business trip. They’ve still got the lease on Hank’s old place, don’t they?”
“Oui, but they don’t want to use it like that. It’s for emergencies, and that means keeping it quiet. Not having a bunch of mutants rotating in and out. Things are much better, with Professor X and the President practically friends, but the Professor thinks they still might need a place around here that isn’t known to be a mutant outpost. And hotel rooms aren’t secure. The Professor stays at the Willard because it’s more comfortable, but he doesn’t have his meetings there, you’ll notice. Too much chance of listening devices. So the X-Men flock to Toddler Heaven.” Anjuli smiled at that. “But they’d rather have more room, too,” he continued. “And they are willing to help with that. I spoke to Cyclops. He said the Xavier Foundation would be willing to pay part of the rent if we get a bigger place, in recognition of how much they’re using our – your - apartment, anyway. He also said it might be worthwhile for them to buy a townhouse. Then we’d rent from the Foundation at a well below market rate, in exchange for taking care of the place and making the guest room available. It could be fortified more than this place, too, if it’s a place they own.”
Adam put down his fork and stared at Jean-Paul. “You’re really serious about this? You’ve already talked to Scott about buying a place for all of us?”
“I didn’t commit to anything. I wouldn’t do that without talking to you two.”
“That’s not what I meant. I’m just... surprised.” Adam wasn’t sure how much to say, not wanting to hurt Anjuli’s feelings by saying that he had thought Jean-Paul wouldn’t want to live with her any longer.
He needn’t have worried. She weighed in similarly. “Yeah, me too. I figured you guys would want to get your own place.”
“Bien sur, that’s what I thought at first, but this is working out. We can help each other with the babies. We’re all pretty compatible. And the two of them,” gesturing at Hank and Ezra, who were feeding each other bits of ravioli now, “are just too cute together. Hard to think of splitting them up, hein?” He smiled. “So I’m getting to like a ménage à trois.”
“Yeah, well should be quatre,” Adam interjected. “We need to find you a fella.”
Anjuli rolled her eyes. “I don’t think so,” she said, shaking her head.
“Oh come on. You afraid to introduce some guy you’re dating to us?” Adam asked, eyes twinkling. “You don’t know what to say? It’s easy. ‘These are the men I live with, Adam Greenfield and Jean-Paul Beaubier. And these are our children – Hank and Ezra.’ You don’t think that would go over well? You think that might scare some guy off?”
Jean-Paul picked it up. “I think it’s a fine start. You’ll just have to explain a little more. ‘You see, Bill...’ Bill’s a good name. I think you should date a Bill. ‘You see Bill, it’s not what you think. Yes, we call it a ménage à trois, but it’s okay. Really. They’re gay. Oh, and Jean-Paul’s a mutant. And the babies aren’t really ours. Not exactly. Ezra’s theirs and Hank’s mine. I had him with my late mutant lover. Hank might be a mutant, too. We don’t know yet, but we have hopes.’ There. That will reassure him, bien sur. But we do need a bigger place. You don’t want Adam and me having to rap on the wall because you and Bill are going at it so loudly we can’t sleep, do you?”
When she’d managed to stop laughing, Anjuli said, “Okay, I trust you’ll leave all that speculation out when you explain the kind of place we need to Charles Xavier.”
“You want to go ahead with Jean-Paul’s idea?”
She nodded. “Let’s look into it, at least. Room for our growing family. All for one and one for all.”
“That’s us – the Three Musketeers,” Adam said happily.
“Only if I get to be D’Artagnan,” his lover replied.
“Well, then we need a fourth,” Adam said, reasonably. “Athos,” he added, pointing to himself with a fork, “Porthos,” pointing to Anjuli.
“That’s okay,” she added. “Bill will be Aramis. Now you guys just have to find him for me.” The three of them smiled at each other. “Oh, shoot. I forgot – Adam, somebody called for you before, while you were out. It was while I was making dinner. I wrote down his name and number. Somewhere. What did I do with that piece of paper?” She stood up and rifled through a pile of papers on the kitchen counter.
“Was it someone you knew?” Adam asked.
“No.” Still looking for the scrap she’d written it on, she answered with her back to him. “Never heard of him. He was a professional contact, a reporter. He said he’d been trying to reach you at work.”
“That’s strange,” Jean-Paul said. “Why didn’t he just leave you a voice mail?” Adam didn’t return his gaze.
“Damn! I can’t find it.” She stopped looking for the scrap of paper and stood there, staring off into the distance, trying to remember. “He was from a paper in San Francisco. The Chronicle, I think. Name starting with a J. Jack, Jonah...”
“Jake?” Jean-Paul asked. “Jake Patterson?”
“Yeah, that’s it. Do you have his number, Adam? I don’t know what I did with that paper.”
“I’m quite sure Adam knows how to get in touch with him.” Jean-Paul’s tone was strange, Anjuli thought, as if there were more meaning than just what he said. And Adam looked peculiarly uncomfortable. She wondered what was going on.
Charles Xavier looked up from the paper he was grading to the clock on his desk when he heard the knock on his office door. Seeing the time, he called, “Come in RoseAnn” and wheeled out from behind the desk, moving towards the seating area at the other side of the office. A couch, coffee table, and one armchair were situated near the fireplace. Charles wheeled over to his accustomed place at the end of the coffee table nearest his desk, across from the armchair. The door opened and Scott Summers, not RoseAnn Mendez, entered. “Oh hello, Scott,” he said, looking behind his Field Leader to see if the girl he was expecting was waiting outside the office. “Can we talk later? I’ve got a meeting with RoseAnn scheduled. She should be here any minute. I thought you were her.”
Scott strode in and sat down on the couch, near Charles. “She’s not coming,” he said. “I told her not to,” he added.
“You’re pushing her too hard. It’s too much, too fast. She’s not ready to use her powers. She needs time to feel comfortable with not using them, with her ability to suppress her gift.”
“She’s made enormous progress. Really, Scott,” he added, as Scott opened his mouth to respond. “She’s a wonderful student. Talented, hardworking, and an excellent subject for telepathy. She is ready to go to the next stage. She’s suppressing it all the time now. RoseAnn hasn’t made a mistake in weeks. She is able to eat with regular silverware – no more plastic. She’s even wearing jewelry again. It’s time to move on to the next step, to go from suppressing it to using the gift responsibly.”
Scott shook his head. “Not yet. You’re scaring her. She’s not ready. She doesn’t want to use it. She came to talk to me because she was frightened to come for this appointment and didn’t know how to get out of it.”
Charles sighed. “It is frightening. I don’t doubt that. They all go through that. We all go through that, I should say. I remember being frightened of my gift when I first came into my powers. I remember you being frightened of yours, for that matter.”
“Hey, I’m still scared of mine.” Ironic smile on his lips. Perhaps pain in his eyes, though. Charles couldn’t see that, but he could feel it.
“Understandable. For what it’s worth, me too, sometimes. They’re all scared. Some of the kids need a little push. RoseAnn is one of those. It’s like... oh, I don’t know. Like being scared of the water.”
Scott laughed. “Always looking for an analogy the person you’re talking to can relate to, Charles? Well, I’ve taught a lot of these kids to swim, but I don’t throw them in the pool.”
“No, but you push them some, don’t you? When they need it. If I don’t urge her to use her powers, to learn to use her gift responsibly, she may never get to that point. What a waste that would be! She’s a most powerful mutant, you know.”
“I know. You showed me on Cerebro, before we went to get her.”
“She needs to learn to use that power. I can teach her. And, Scott, we need her. There won’t be a Cerebro to find others with if I don’t get her help.”
“It’s working, isn’t it?” Scott sounded anxious.
“Yes, still working.” Charles nodded his head, reassuringly. “You and Logan did an excellent job of reconstructing it, with limited tools and without the skill – or the mutant power – that Erik used to help me build the original. It’s been an invaluable tool and we wouldn’t have had it if not for the two of you. But it’s not going to last. Cerebro – the reconstructed Cerebro – is pretty much held together with paperclips and mind control at this point. I need RoseAnn Mendez. I need her gift to rebuild it properly.”
“Not yet. Give her time.”
“I don’t think we have time. Other than Erik Lehnsherr, she is the only one with this gift we’ve ever found. If she can’t help us, well he’s the only one to turn to. And it’s not very practical to look to Erik to rebuild Cerebro while he’s in prison.”
“And he’s not coming out any time soon. Right? Not even on furlough to work on Cerebro? Now that your influence in Washington is growing.”
“Of course not. Please don’t think that I would do that. Scott, I regret more than I can express the times I trusted him, and the misfortunes that befell you because of that. I would never trust him again. I’m just telling you that we don’t have other options. RoseAnn is our only hope. We need her.”
“Not yet, Charles. Please. Trust me on this. I’m her advisor. I’m the one she’s closest to. You need to let me make these decisions.” Scott leaned forward.
Charles sighed. “I know you mean well.”
“I don’t just mean well. I know what I’m doing, in a way that you don’t. In a way that you can’t. Look, I defer to your greater knowledge and expertise in so many areas. This time I’m the one who knows more.”
“I don’t know what you’re getting at.”
“We never talk about it, you and I. And, truth be told, that’s fine with me most of the time.” Scott smiled ruefully. “In general, I prefer not to think about it much. But it is relevant.”
“Oh come on. You know what I mean. I haven’t gotten around to making the movie yet, but I was a teenage mutant prostitute.”
Charles laughed, in spite of himself. Then, turning serious, he said, “We don’t need to talk about that time. It’s not necessary, if you’d rather not.”
“I don’t mind, really. And I do think it’s relevant. I can understand what she’s going through in a way that you can’t. I know you mean well, Charles. I know you’re thinking of what’s best for all of us. I understand your sense of urgency, but you can’t push her like this. You do and she’ll bolt. We’ll lose her altogether.”
“RoseAnn’s circumstances are quite different from what yours were.”
“I know that. She’s younger than I was. She ran away from home before she came into her powers, and that’s a significant difference. And she’s got a pimp, which I never did. But you know, I really can relate to a lot of what she’s going through. And those differences? Well they’re the kind that just make it more likely that she’d run away from here, which is something I never would have done when I was a kid. I didn’t have anyone out there to run to. You were all I had, Charles.” Scott sat back, closed his eyes in memory. “There was one guy – not a pimp – a man who kept me for a while. Protected me. It didn’t last. After that, I was just on my own, until you came to get me.”
“I know, Scott. I wish it had never happened to you. I sincerely wish I’d found you earlier.”
Scott shrugged. “I’m not asking for pity. Or regret. I’m just saying that I know what it’s like to be a kid on your own and defenseless, to feel like you’d do anything for someone who will take care of you.” He opened his eyes and Xavier saw the red glow behind the glasses once more. “That how I felt about you, Charles. I was willing to do anything for you.”
“Well, that’s how she felt about this Nick. And if you push her too hard, she’ll go back to him. She sees him as her protector.”
“Protector?” Xavier scoffed. “He’s a criminal and a coward, living off drugs and theft and teenage girls selling their bodies and giving him the proceeds.”
“I know that. Do you think I’m defending him? I think he’s scum. A parasite destroying the lives of kids like RoseAnn and making money off of that. I know the type all too well. But she’s convinced he cared about her. And he kept the johns from beating her and worse. Or at least made sure the ones who did hurt her got some of what they dished out in return. So she feels like he was taking care of her when nobody else would.” Scott shook his head. “And he probably only did that because she was less marketable with bruises and a black eye. But she thinks he loved her. And now that she can suppress her gift, she’s no longer worried he’ll find out she’s a mutant. That’s the main reason she was willing to stay here at the start – she thought he’d kick her out anyway if he knew.”
“Do you really think she’d go back to him?”
Scott nodded. “You need to give her more time, Charles, if you don’t want her running back to Nick. I don’t want her leaving. We can help her; we don’t want to lose her. If we’re not going to lose her, she needs to feel like she’s safe here, protected.”
“And you are her protector?” Scott nodded again. “I think you should be careful. Her feelings for you are perhaps stronger than you realize.”
“Kids have had crushes on me before. All teachers deal with that. I can handle it.”
“You’ve always handled that very well.”
“I had a good teacher.” They smiled at each other.
“This might be a little more problematic than your standard schoolgirl crush, I’m afraid.” Scott didn’t answer. Charles thought for a minute. “Okay, I concede you understand her more than I do. You’re right – we don’t ever talk about that time in your life. I’ve always felt awkward about bringing it up. But there’s something I want to say about it, something I’ve wanted to say for a long time, but haven’t known how to.”
“I feel like I failed you, Scott.”
“No, Charles, not at all. You’ve taught me everything in my life that’s worth knowing. You haven’t failed me.”
Xavier held up his hand. “No, hear me out. I didn’t know how to deal with that... element of your past when you first came here. It was uncomfortable for me, and embarrassing. It was easier just to ignore it, never mention it. I told myself at the time that I was doing that for you, showing you I didn’t think of you as a prostitute, that I thought better of you.” Scott started to speak again but Charles stopped him. “But you’ve shown me how much better it can be handled. You take these kids – the ones who were involved in all manner of illegal and degrading activities before they came here – and you convince them that their past doesn’t define them. And you do it without sweeping anything under the rug, without pretending it didn’t happen. You affirm who they are and acknowledge what they did, both at the same time. I felt like I could only do one or the other, but you’ve shown me I was wrong. You’ve taught me, too. You taught me a better way. But I learned too late, too late to treat you as I ought to have done.”
Scott didn’t say anything for a long time. “Thank you,” was all he finally said.
“You’re still teaching me. We’ll do it your way. How long do you think we need to wait before RoseAnn will be ready to use her gift?”
“I don’t know. I don’t think we can put a time limit on it. Let’s play it by ear. You’re in Washington all next week, right? You and Logan?” Charles nodded. “Okay, so let’s wait until you get back at least. I’ll talk to RoseAnn more while you’re gone. I’ll try to get a handle on how she’s feeling, how much time she needs. We can’t rush this.” Charles’s furrowed brow led Scott to ask. “Are you okay with that? You can wait?”
“I’ll wait. I trust that you know what you’re doing. But, Scott, don’t make me wait too long. I’m afraid I’m running out of time.”