As he grew older Charles increasingly favored the role of wise but fantastically vague elder. "Go down to Washington, Mystique, there's something you need to do there," she mimicked to herself. She half-suspected he'd have withheld even her contact's address if she hadn't pushed him for details.
At least he was speaking to her again. Budapest had rather strained their ever rocky relationship.
The address was actually in a Virginia suburb rather than the District itself. Mystique parked her rental car (or rather Richard Javier's, 34, from New Jersey, here on work, and damn it these trips were always when she missed Azazel the most) a block away and circled past the split level on foot, first as a teenage jogger and finally approaching the door in what she privately called Professor Charlotte mode: middle aged, tweedy, and female. Not someone anyone other than a student with a late paper would find threatening.
She rang the bell and the door was opened seconds later by a thin little woman with fierce dark eyes and jet black hair tied up in a tight bun.
They shook hands, and Robin gestured to her to enter. She removed her shoes in the foyer at the woman's request before continuing to the living room. It was the sort of room a certain type of elderly lady favors, stuffed with cabbage rose wallpaper, kitschy knickknacks, and endless lace doilies. Mystique chose the armchair with the fewest frills; all were equally bad from a tactical point of view. Robin perched uneasily at the edge of her own seat. In jeans and a faded T-shirt, she looked more out of place in her own home than Mystique did.
"My mother--" That explained it. "--is sleeping upstairs, so I will ask that you not speak too loudly," said Robin. Her voice was precise, education hiding some slurred accent or other, and any emotion measured out sparingly.
Mystique shrugged, indifferent. "If you could tell me what this is all about, Ms. Blackowl, please do. My brother didn't tell me much."
"Your brother...ah, the Professor. Yes. I suppose I should start at the beginning. I'm an archivist with the Department of Defense. Last week I was helping to catalog the contents of a file storage room for our new system when I stumbled upon something unexpected."
Its dimensions were different from the other containers, and she wondered why no one else had spotted it. Some trophy of an old campaign, some ancient equipment, misfiled among personnel reports and budget requests. She brushed off dust that glowed under the harsh fluorescent light and cut the seal. It was good luck, very good luck indeed, that she was the only one (dedicated, lonely) enough to stay late the Friday before a three day weekend.
"I knew immediately that they weren't from an animal because they were far too large."
Iridescent shimmer on gossamer chitin. She reached out to caress instinctively, reverently, gloved fingers skating over glass. When she could breath again she saw the crumpled papers nesting at the bottom of the box.
"The documents confirmed that the remains were from a mutant girl. They didn't give her name, just a brief physical description and a case number. I was able to cross reference that number and found a few files tying it to DoD collaborative projects with Trask Industries back in the 60s, but if there's anything else it's above my security clearance level. From the physical description and the remains themselves though I have a fairly good idea who she might be."
She said all of this with absolute composure, and if Mystique hadn't seen her knuckles go white as she gripped the armrests of her chair she might've been tempted to snap her skinny human neck.
She was authorized to remove items from storage. She was not authorized to smuggle them out of the building and take them home, but that didn't stop her. Not with this. That poor girl deserved better.
"If she is that person, then the only family she has left is other mutants. I know if I took the remains to my boss he'd only see government property, stuff to put back where I found it or else stick in a museum between the Indian skulls and the dinosaur fossils."
She took a breath, grimacing at some thought before continuing.
"Under the circumstances I thought it best to contact Professor Xavier. He said he would send someone who would know what to do. I can show you them now, if that is acceptable."
Mystique nodded. The smaller woman studied her, eyes narrowed, and then gave a decisive nod in return. She stood and walked over to the couch, reaching behind it to tug out a folded quilt. Unwrapped, it revealed a long, narrow case.
Inside were Angel's wings.
Or what was left of them. Neither plasma blasts nor bullets had been able to mangle them for long (Angel had preened over that fact, taking off with Janos in careless flight after each recovery and trusting Emma to deal with any witnesses), but over a decade in a dingy storage room had left them brittle and flaking. Pitiful. Mystique lowered her head suddenly, overcome. She let herself shift to blue.
"Oh my God." Mystique expected her to back away, but instead Robin came closer, put a tentative hand on her shoulder. "I was right, wasn't I. You knew her. I'm so sorry."
"We weren't friends. Even before Dallas I usually worked alone or at least ahead of the others, and when I wasn't on a mission there was Erik. But I trusted her to have my back when we fought, and she trusted me to do the same."
There was a hitch in her voice at the end. Well-worn anger, not tears. No more tears.
"She trusted me, and I failed her," Mystique said quietly.
They had moved to the backyard, sitting on the grass facing the woods with the case between them. The sun was sinking and fireflies beginning to glow amidst the kudzu covered trees.
"I won't try to convince you that you didn't," said Robin, "But you've done a lot to make sure that what happened to her doesn't happen to anyone else. Every mutant alive remembers when they first saw you on TV or in the papers."
Mystique snorted. "Last month I went with a team to a lab in Tennessee where they were dosing mutant mothers with radioactive pills. They told the women it was special prenatal care. We stopped them, but we couldn't stop it from happening in the first place."
She stood up abruptly. "Look, it doesn't matter what you do with the wings. Angel's been dead for too long to care and there's no grave to put them in anyway. All the bodies were burned."
Robin grabbed her wrist before she could walk away, and she had to stop herself from breaking the woman's arm in response.
"Please, Mystique. Let me use my gift. I'm not very strong, but if you stay I can show you."
A fellow mutant then. Nice of Charles to fill her in.
Seeing that Mystique remained in place, Robin released her grip and opened the case, carefully unpinned each wing, then closed her eyes and smoothed her hands down each one. For a moment they were whole again, each scale clear as glass.
"Useful trick, with your job," Mystique choked out.
Robin spread her hands once more and the wings collapsed into dust.
Mystique could feel Charles lurking at the edges of her mind as she left Robin's house. She nudged him away: no. He respected that, which meant he'd probably try to contact her (by phone this time) later. She'd call Erik first though; she owed him that. Perhaps they'd reminisce about the time Angel spit on Emma's mink.
And perhaps she would remind him that Bolivar Trask's sentence was almost at an end.