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"Tales of the Twilight Menshevik"

Stories in this series:

Sisters under Their Skins
Midnight Sun
A Year in the Life
October 6: A Night 2 Remember
A Day's Work
Late Summer Interlude
The Time the Twain Shall Meet
Message to a Grandchild
Ergo Bibamus 1: Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Lights in the Dark
Between the Woods and Frozen Lake
Ergo Bibamus 2: There's a Tavern Near the Town
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Someone Blue
Valentine Allsorts
The Ballad of Trish and Henry
Rogue's Fairy Tale
Magneto, My First Love
To My Dark-Haired Lady
The Raven and the Oriole
Trish -- A Rapture

Val and Ray at the Movies
March 2002
July 2002

Tales of Future Twilight
Ergo Bibamus 3: Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes
They Will Always Be Penny and Max to Me
Getting to Know You
Fourth Thursday in November
The Iceman's Tale
Pictures at an Exhibition
The Survivor Has a Different Kind of Scar

Twilight Yet to Come
Hang on to Your Ego
Strange Headfellows
Sonnet for Magnus
Between the Winds

DISCLAIMER: This is an unauthorized work of fiction using characters that are (c) & TM by Marvel Comics Group. No profit is being made on this story, so I'll invoke The Marvel Readers' Bill of Rights (for the full text see Stan's Soapbox in some of the May 1998 comics, e.g. Generation X #38):
"8. The right to practice scripting and drawing our Marvel characters for your own pleasure and amusement."
The story and the original characters in it (see note at the end) are (c) Tilman Stieve ( You can download this and copy it for your entertainment, but don't sell it for profit, or Marvel will set their lawyers on you. Please do not archive this on your website without informing me first.
Message to a Grandchild belongs to the continuing series, the Tales of the Twilight Menshevik, but it should be possible to understand it on its own. If you have never read any of them, all you need to know is that in this timeline Mystique and Valerie Cooper became a couple about two years after Destiny's death and started raising a family of their own. For those who know the series: Mystique wrote this letter before Lights in the Dark, in the late summer or autumn of 1997. Kurt and Amanda's son, Errol Wagner, was born in March 1998.
You can find the other Tales archived on "Fonts of Wisdom,", "Down-Home Charm" and "MissyRedX: The Average Website."

Message to a Grandchild


as I write these lines, I do not know your name -- you have not yet been born. But now that your father told me that Amanda is carrying my first grandchild, I think it is appropriate that I write down something so that you'll know who you are. Valerie does not like to think about it, but we lead the kind of life where we seriously have to consider the possibility that I won't live long enough to tell you this in person when you're old enough to understand. And there are things I want you to know that may not make their way into Valerie's diaries or which don't come up in the conversation when Kurt and Amanda visit us (you won't believe how long it took your father to get around to finding out who his parents are!) or which they'll find too embarrassing to tell you. I trust writing things down by hand is safer than typing the information into a computer). I may wander off on tangents from time to time because I won't have the time to put it into any great structure, but it'll be better than nothing.

Where to begin? Well, I'm confident that by the time you'll have learned to read, your parents will have told you about their parents, so you'll know that by a quirk of human evolution, I, your grandmother, became Kurt Wagner's biological father. So it is perhaps best to start with the time I first met your father's mother, Irene Adler, especially as her birthday is coming up. I might as well write it down anyway, because this is something I won't be telling Val unless she asks me point-blank. (It is never too good to wax misty-eyed about your old love in the presence of your new love, even if she's dead and even if your new love is not afraid of comparisons). If Rogue is around when you read this, maybe you could ask her about Irene and what kind of a person she was, she raised her. And she and your parents will be able to tell you why Irene and I could not raise Kurt should I not be there to do it.

It was in Manchester, of all places, back in the times when it still belonged to Lancashire. I was then in the part of my career when I freelanced, selling my services to various secret services under a score of aliases, playing both ends against the middle and always trying to keep a step ahead of the KGB (they had been after me ever since I defected in 1950 because I knew too many secrets that seemed important at the time). Sometimes I worked as a double agent, sometimes as a triple. I was living on the brink of oblivion, and I was having a great time at it. Among other things, I became very good at faking deaths (usually mine) , developing an expertise I put to good use for a friend in Paris in 1971 -- but that is another story.

True, there were moments I was beginning to feel that something was missing, but there were enough distractions and enough sex on the side so that did not happen too often. After some messy breakups in my youth, I was now sticking to primarily sexual relationships, preferably with men and women who were low on brains and high on sexual prowess or at least stamina. Cyril fforbes-Millar, the last man I slept with before I met Irene was as good as they came. He was a fairly typical MI6 agent of his day, related to many of the 'leading lights' (someone told me he was C's third cousin) and had read far too many John Buchan novels in his teens. He came from a 'good family', so good in fact that inbreeding had already set in, and so he may have the distinction of being the most stupid person with whom I ever got involved, with the possible exception of Victor Creed. But unlike Sabretooth he did not have instincts or a healing factor to compensate for this.

It was a relationship to my liking--I deceived him, and he thought he deceived me. He never knew that a few of the times when he was unfaithful with other women (and one time with another man) he was actually having sex with me. A harmless man. I was almost sorry when I heard Smersh got him. But that was in the future, back then I had only just tired of him and left him in his Kensington flat.

That reminds me: There's nothing wrong with having a strong libido. Kurt inherited from me, you'll probably get it from him. I expect he'll be too embarrassed to talk about them, but the list of his dalliances before he married your mother is long and impressive. So go wild, child, but be careful. And if you don't feel that big an urge to sow your wild oats (although that would come as a huge surprise to me), you can still have a more innocent fun from asking him about his 'exploits'!

I was between jobs and wanted to lie low for a time. My next assignment was going to be in Ireland, so I decided to spend a few days in Manchester, which was near enough to the Irish Sea ports, and where I was unlikely to run into old 'friends'. I had only been to Manchester once before, and without making contact with any other secret agent, so it seemed as safe a place for me as any. They had a song about that city then, "Dirty Old Town" (it's about Salford actually, but that's now part of Manchester), and a saying, "It always rains in Manchester". It lived up to both during my stay.

Which was not to say I got bored. This was the Sixties, and English rock bands were conquering the world, including some local lads, even if they were generally overshadowed by their neighbors from Merseyside (Liverpool had the Beatles, Manchester had Herman's Hermits). And it was the tail end of the heroic age of Mancunian football; Manchester United and Manchester City were legends across Europe (thanks to the Munich air disaster and to Bernd Trautmann finishing a Cup Final with a broken vertebra). To keep my hand in it, I once locked up the scheduled FA official in the wardrobe of his hotel room and spent a glorious Saturday afternoon (my last before leaving) at Old Trafford refereeing the Man U v. Man City local derby. I managed to incense the supporters of both teams and was rather pleased with myself. After the game and eluding some irate fans, I was happily making my way onto the inbound platform of the nearby railway station, when I saw her.

She looked curiously out of place, a fragile, elegantly dressed woman at the fringe of a milling crowd of burly, almost all-male football supporters. I remember she stood with her back to a placard wall, in front of a poster advertising a folk concert (From the Gander-Bag of Rambling Sid Rumpough). She was wearing a well-tailored blue coat, its front opened (it was not raining that afternoon, for a change) to reveal a form-hugging black dress with a matching bolero jacket and pillbox hat; her clothes had seen some use, but were maintained in excellent condition. Her slenderness made her look a little taller than she was, she had the hands of an artist and though her eyes were hidden by dark glasses, her face ...

Like me, she had passed her thirtieth birthday. Actually, she was close to her fortieth, but I don't think any woman ever struck me with such an overpowering beauty as Irene Adler did then. Looking back at that meeting made me believe in love at first sight -- but back then I did not know, for I had never truly been in love before, and I was preoccupied by my own confusion. Anyroad, I was gawping at her like a girl in the throes of her first crush. Or rather like a boy, because for my trip back to the city center I had assumed the outer form of a young United supporter. (Somehow the red devil seemed more appropriate to my self-image).

Belatedly, I noticed the white cane and I thought that maybe she had got off at the wrong station because she was blind. So I ambled up to her and asked: "Sure you wanted to gerroff reet 'ere, ducks?"

She smiled mysteriously and answered in a well-modulated contralto voice with a slight Austrian accent that she managed to make charming: "I'm exactly where I want to be; I was just waiting for you, my dear."

That set off all alarm bells ringing inside me. For a moment I thought she was KGB, part of a team out to capture or kill me and I felt like kicking myself for indulging in my risky pastime that afternoon. I furtively looked around, worried if my precautions and instincts had let me down. I probably would have freaked out if I had known that she had followed me all the way from London, but she did not tell me that until later. But her smile unaccountably reassured me. She said: "Don't worry, do I look as if I could harm you? Now, what is your name?"

I was puzzled. She behaved as if she could read my mind, yet she didn't know my name? I quickly made one up and said 'Eric Wainwright.' Intrigued but still wary I went with her. We walked into a side-street and sat down together in a nook in a pub, the Dog and Feathers in West Wallaby street. What I needed was at least a pint of bitter, which I supped while Irene daintily sipped from a little glass of Babycham. She radiated class in a way that shone through the prosaic (to say the least) surroundings and the disappointing choice of beverages, from every movement she made and every sentence she spoke you could see that she came from what they then would have called a 'good family'.

She told me about her precognitive powers, of how she had lost her eyesight at the age of 14, but gained the ability to see into the future at the same time. How she now could see more with her mind's eye than she ever could with her body's. She was in Manchester for a recital and to visit the grave of her father who had been a bassoonist with the Hallé Orchestra (her family had emigrated to Britain, years before the Anschluss, when Dollfuss ruled in Austria) who had been killed in an air raid. His death had been the first important event she foresaw, and as you can well imagine that was a very traumatic way to learn about her power. Her story touched me, not just because I could empathize with her for her loss, but also because it was the first time another person had told me that she had gone through something like my own experience, of inexplicably gaining wonderful powers during puberty, but at a price -- she lost her sight when she gained her precognition, I became a blue-skinned freak when I discovered I could change the way I looked. (Not that she was the first person I knew who was a mutant. For instance I had encountered Wolverine and Sabretooth before her (the latter encounter lasted several months and resulted in your uncle Graydon), but neither of them volunteered that kind of information). Irene also was the first person I had ever met who claimed to be able to look into the future without having to know the positions of the stars at a person's birth or relying on the help of a spirit guide or some other item of mumbo-jumbo. But it had not been easy to learn how to use and to refine her powers -- it had been a long process of trial and error, entirely self-taught, and for the most part rather lonely.

She said that when she first became aware of me, a glimpse into the future had told her that there was a possible future for us together. But, she warned me, there were rough times ahead for people like us, which surprised me. You have to remember that this was when so few 'mystery men and women' had made an appearance that in the public mind there was no difference between those with superpowers and those without. Only a handful of people even knew about the x-factor and 'mutant' was a word that put people in mind of 'This Island Earth' and science-fiction novels, not of real life. Magneto and Charly Xavier were talking about it over drinks in Israel, but I wonder how real a threat they actually thought anti-mutant paranoia would turn out at that point, nearly two decades before their teams first clashed. The thought had not yet really occurred to me. I was so tied up in the world of Cold War covert operations that I confidently expected it would always be a case of 'our' mutants being a good thing and 'theirs' a bad one.

What Irene Adler told me seemed too fantastic to be true. "Pull t'other one, it's got bells on," I said. But at the same time, I was bewildered. I had been the recipient of more than a few odd romantic or sexual proposals, but this took the prize, I thought. I had yet to learn how well Irene's precognitive powers worked and what their sometimes erratic limits were. (And she had yet to learn how much I could resist believing her predictions if they disagreed with my wishes). In a way, I felt sorry. I was attracted to her in a way that I had never experienced before, even if she was talking nonsense, but she gave me the creepy feeling that she knew or guessed too much about me for comfort. So after the second or third pint of beer I made my excuses to go to the loo, but ran off onto the street instead.

Child, emotions like what I then felt for Irene Adler are beyond my powers of description, especially when I'm talking to one such as you who has not yet experienced real love yourself. Maybe one of your parents can do better, but for the moment all I can say is, you'll know for yourself when it happens to you. At the time it was scary, She had enthralled me, and that went against all the instincts I had developed in my chosen profession, the healthy paranoia that had kept me alive for at least two decades. I had seen colleagues getting killed when they became incautious after falling in love (in some cases I had done more than just watch) and the part of me that always likes to assume the worst about anybody was screaming at me: "Get out while you can!"

Playing it safe, in case she was in the pay of a dissatisfied former employer, I used every trick I knew to shake off potential pursuers. Switched buses and taxis a few times, changed my shape twice, and also back to a woman. Just to be on the safe side I did not go back to where I stayed to pick up my things. I waited in a cinema for a few performances until it got dark. I then headed for Victoria Station and got on the first train that left. But as it pulled into the dark cavern of Oldham Mumps station, there she was on the platform, and I finally believed that she really had told me the truth about her power, for I myself hadn't known which train I was going to use.

When I saw her standing there, all forlorn but putting on a brave face, I knew I could not leave without finishing talking to her first. I sensed her disappointment over my flight, and in an instant it hit me that her unhappiness made me unhappy. I had not felt about anyone like that since my parents died.

I was so shaken from seeing her that I got off and walked up to her without changing back to a man. "Eigh up, Miss," I said, feigning nonchalance, "waiting for someone?"

She was not in the least surprised, she simply said: "You know I was waiting for you, 'Erica'. I'm happy you're here."

She smiled, and the way she smiled made me feel better. "Call me Raven," I said. I couldn't help asking: "What would you have done if I hadn't got off? Or did your powers of divination tell you I would?"

"No, Raven, in this case what I saw happening in the future switched from moment to moment. It could easily have turned out either way. Had you stayed on the train, I think I would have given it another try. One last try. If our paths had ever crossed again."

"And now we'll live happily ever after?"

She laughed quietly at that remark. "Nein, meine Liebe, so einfach geht das nicht." Suddenly she was continuing in German, but I was beyond marveling that she knew I would understand her. She used the familiar 'Du', because that sounds more natural in German than its equivalent does in English: "I knew thou'rt really a woman when first we met, but as far as the future is concerned, I deal with probabilities, not immutable fate. I can 'see' the different possible chains of events that proceed from a given point in time, but the further I look into the future, the more fuzzy it becomes. The future is malleable, and it can be shaped by the likes of thee and me. I think it is time for thee to start working on thy own agenda instead of following that of your 'clients'. And there I can help you."

I was thunderstruck. I knew I was dissatisfied with my work of late, but I had never thought of doing what she now suggested, of defining goals that had nothing to do with those of the secret services and to make things happen. Irene's words made me feel I had the potential to be a lot more important than I had dared think so far. It was a heady feeling, but I had a more immediate concern.

"Aber was ist denn nun mit uns?" I asked, switching to Irene's native tongue. "What about the future you say we are going to have together? Is that just a 'probability'?"

She gave me that patient smile that would become so familiar to me in years to come. "Human nature is too unpredictable in the long run. I can't guarantee that we'll live happily together until the end of our days, but I can tell thee this: Without our efforts to make it work, it won't last three years. But I promise, I'll be thine as long as there is still a spark of feeling for me in thee. Until death us do part." She took my hand and gently squeezed it. "As for the immediate future, I foresee us having a meal."

We went to the first eatery we found, a nearby chippy, and bought us some cod, steak pudding and chips to sustain us while we waited for the next train bound for Manchester. And then, sitting on a bench on the platform, she told me how she had first become aware of me a few days earlier, in Euston station, when I rushed past her compartment to get to my seat in another part of the train. She claimed it had been unplanned that we would be using the same train, that really must have been destiny at work.

"I would have had to sit down if I hadn't already been sitting," she said, "the flash I got from our future was so intense. Of course I took care not to lose sight of your immediate future after we arrived."

Child, it took time to convince me that Irene's prediction were correct, that we did become happy together. Her precognition took some getting used to, because contrary to what you might expect, it did not lead to fatalism. We still had to work on our fates, and sometimes it was as hard as if we had had no idea of the shape of things to come. In a way, it is a bit like particle physics -- observing the future already can effect a minor change. You can give it a shove in a certain direction, but if you give it too hard a push it can rebound in unexpected ways.

On the private side, our relationship took a while to evolve from its strange beginnings. In effect, we still had to become acquainted and go through courtship after we moved together. But more quickly than I dared hope our love deepened, and I realized that although we kept moving around, I had found a home. I knew now that I belonged where Irene Adler was. It would take me a long while for me to trust her precog powers to the extent of surrendering our son, your father, to another family's care, but most of her important predictions came true, including the one that we would only be parted by death. But those are stories for another day. On the front of our covert actions, which finally led us to start our own clandestine group of mutant operatives, I have to admit that I made mistakes, but at least they were my own and no longer those of my former employers.

Decades later, when Irene allowed herself to be killed to save me, and without giving me a chance to say farewell to her (which she had to do, for she knew how I would react in a situation that threatened her life), it took months for the memory of our love overcame my petty bitterness. After her death I sometimes wondered what would have happened if I had not returned to Irene Adler that night. She never told me what she had seen in the future had I decided to slip into the other leg of the trousers of time (to borrow a phrase from one of Rogue's favorite writers), but I can't help thinking... When I asked Valerie why she insisted we named our daughter after Irene, she said: "Because if you two had not loved each other, you, would not have been able to fall in love with me, Raven, and I might not have fallen in love with you. I have to be grateful to Irene Adler for that." And there may be even more to this than Val meant to say.

I think I was well on my way to becoming a embittered nihilist at the time I met Irene, one who only had the vaguest idea of what she wanted to achieve by her actions and who would never really open up to anyone. It took her limitless patience to teach me that our devotion for each other was not stupidity, but that it helped to give my life meaning. People think her code-name just referred to the fact that she could see into the future, but in a very real way she was Destiny for those whose lives she touched -- for me, for our son Kurt (even if the destiny she foresaw for him would only be safe in separation from us), for Rogue, and even for Valerie. For if Irene had not overcome my defensive barriers, guided me into a loving relationship and later into our family life with our adopted daughter, I would not have had the patience or the ability to revise my preconceived notions to realize Val's less obtrusive inner and outer beauty through her bossy attitude and nondescript dress. Some people say that Valerie is a lot like me, so perhaps I could not have fallen in love with her if Irene had not taught me to love myself.

A Note On Chronology
As should be obvious after reading this story (I hope you aren't one of those people who skip to the end first ;-), the underlying chronology is rather different from what you read in the comics. In particular, I've put the first meeting of Mystique and Destiny a couple of decades after World War 2, while Chris Claremont showed them together as early as 1936 in X-Men: True Friends (this story was plotted out before that limited series appeared, but that is another matter). The main reason is that in the Tales of the Twilight Menshevik there is a fixed chronology that is not readjusted every few years and where events take place in 'real time'. In any case, you have to take into account that Irene and Raven's son Kurt Wagner should not become too old and you have to decide whether or not you want to have Irene Adler aging normally. If you have her in her twenties by 1936, as she seems to have been portrayed in XM:TF, then she would have been in her early 50s by the time she gave birth to Kurt, which seems an extraordinarily, maybe even impossibly high age for a birth, especially if it's a first birth and in the 1960s. Then you have to fit in several years during which Mystique raised Graydon Creed, seemingly by herself (if you believe the Sabretooth) limited series), and whether you would see it as plausible that Mystique would have shacked up with Sabretooth if by that time she had already known and been together with Irene Adler.

Copyright note:
Only a few original characters are mentioned in this story: Errol Wagner (the unborn addressee), Cyril fforbes-Millar, Mr. Adler (Destiny's father) and Irene Cooper. They are mine, the other fictional characters are Marvel's, except for Rambling Sid, he was one of Kenneth Williams' characters from Round the Horne, a vintage BBC radio comedy show.

German phrases:
"Nein, meine Liebe, so einfach geht das nicht." = "No, my dear, it is not that simple."
"Aber was ist denn nun mit uns?" = "But what about us?"


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