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The Prodigal Father

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Xavier steepled his fingers on the table in front of him. “The biggest problem, it seems to me, is that we don’t know where David is. The first step should be to station watchers at places he’s likely to return to - the Hallers’ house, perhaps Clockworks and the old Summerland location. I can help to coordinate the efforts by keeping a telepathic link open between the disparate locations. We’ll want to lure him away from populated areas - obviously, he’s not himself, and I know he’d never forget himself if he hurt anyone while he was in this - state.”

“And once we’ve caught him?” Clark asked, leaning in to rest his chin on his hand.

Xavier frowned. “It’s not a question of catching him. David is a very sick young man. He needs help. I’m a psychiatrist. I can get through to him. Once he’s back, I’ll be able to help him learn to control his powers.”

“Remind me,” Syd said, her tone flat as always. She supposed it didn’t matter if she bothered to emote or not - after all, Xavier could read her mind. “Who are you, again?”

Xavier raised his formidable eyebrows in surprise and confusion. “I’m Charles Xavier, young lady. I think we had this conversation already? I’m David’s father.”

Syd tilted her head to think about it. “No,” she said, finally. “I don’t think you are.”

Xavier looked around at the others sitting around the table for support. The Vermillions stared blankly in front of them. Clark sipped his coffee quietly.

“I assure you,” he said to Syd, in his most authoritative voice, “I am David’s father. If you think I’m lying, I can - ”

“No,” Syd pronounced. “You don’t get how this works, do you?”

Xavier frowned at her. “If you think there’s something I’m missing - please, enlighten me.” He tried to keep the hard edge out of his voice, and didn’t quite succeed.

“You’ve been here - what, three days?” Syd asked. “And before that, you were off - saving the world, or whatever. For thirty years. David’s entire life. And now you think you can waltz back in here and take over and fix everything. You’re not David’s father. You’re just some - guy.” Xavier opened his mouth to object, and she cut him off. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’s got, what, your genes or whatever - but that doesn’t make you his father. Where were you when he was suffering? Where were you when the guy that you killed was fucking up his life?”

“I thought I was protecting him,” Xavier snapped. “I had no way of knowing that the Shadow King was going to follow him.”

“Yeah, but you could’ve at least checked in,” Syd said. “He was just a kid. And you’re - some kind of superhero. What, was it too hard to send him a letter saying, ‘Hey, by the way, you’re probably a mutant - oh yeah, and also, there’s this demon-thing that probably hates you, maybe keep an eye out for him?’”

Xavier was silent for a moment, watching her with one eyebrow up. Then he said, “I understand where you’re coming from, Miss Barrett. You feel abandoned - by him, and by your own parents, and you’re taking it out on me. But I did what I had to do, under the circumstances. I wish I could have been here for David - but I couldn’t.”

Syd took in a deep breath. He wasn’t wrong - not exactly - but he wasn’t right, either. She leaned forward and looked Xavier in the eyes. “I know him. And you don’t. So you’re not going to be taking charge here. I am.”

Xavier frowned. “You aren’t a telepath, Miss Barrett. And I know Farouk. With all due respect, I understand what he’s been through.”

Syd cocked her head. “Do you want to know what he said about David while we had him locked up? Farouk?”

“Something vile, no doubt,” Xavier said. His eyes met hers. “I could read your mind to find out. But I won’t.”

“He said that the reason David is the way he is is because he’s a telepath,” Syd said. “Not because he’s mentally ill or because Farouk tortured him. Because he has power. Because he’s a God, Farouk said. And you know what?” Syd sat back. “I believe him. Not - not the bullshit about being a god. But I’ve been thinking - since he - since David ran away, I’ve been thinking about what he did, and what Farouk did, and what Melanie said. It’s all about power. That’s the - that’s the throughline, right? He doesn’t - ” Syd’s voice broke. “He doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong anymore. Because he’s always been able to control people, even before he knew what he was doing. He’s always been about to tell people what they want to hear, and take away their memories, and he never learned any other way to be. And Farouk too, and Walter. They - they’re used to being in control. It’s natural.”

Xavier’s knuckles were white on the wheels of his chair. “We’re not all Farouk. I - I am not like Farouk.”

“Isn’t that what you’ve been doing?” Syd challenged. “Ever since you got here, you’ve been giving orders, telling people what to do and wear to go. Like you’re the expert. What gives you the right?”

“He’s my son,” Xavier insisted, his eyes hard.

“And he’s my man,” Syd snapped.

“Ladies, please,” Clark said, tiredly. “You’re both pretty. Can we table this conversation for the moment?”

“No,” Syd said, flatly. “Because when we find David - and we will - we’re gonna have to decide what to do with him. And I don’t trust this guy.”

“You don’t have to trust me,” Xavier said, quietly. “You just have to work with me.”

“Fine,” Syd snapped. “But when we find him - I take point. Okay?”

Xavier watched her through narrowed eyes for a moment. “You asked me what gives me the right,” he said. “I could ask the same of you. What gives you the right?”

Syd took a deep breath. “Because,” she said, “I’m the hero of this story. And I’m going to save my man.”