Xavier's eyelids opened slowly, taking in the world around him. It took a moment for his head to stop spinning and his vision to clear. He was lying in some sort of hospital bed, hooked up to sundry faintly humming machines. Soft golden sunlight streamed in through the partially curtained window to his left. Without moving, he strained all of his senses, normal and mutant, trying desperately to determine his exact location, to understand something of his current predicament. A second passed, and then he suddenly heard a disappointed sigh to his right.
Cautiously turning his head, which felt as though it was made of weighty stone, he noticed a young, black haired woman perched in one of the standard, uncomfortable hospital chairs next to his bed.
Wanda. She hadn't noticed his eyes open, hadn't seen him move. Now, she was dejectedly flipping through an old and tattered book lying on her lap, without really paying attention to what she was reading. Xavier heard her murmuring faintly to herself under her breath, "Read the directions and directly . . ."
"You will be directed in the right direction," he murmured, finishing the quote from Lewis Carroll's famous children's novel.
Wanda smiled unconsciously to herself. "Yes, that's right. Oh how I loved this book when I was a child. I still do . . ." she trailed off, slowly raising her eyes to stare at him in shock. "Professor Xavier?" she whispered. "Professor Charles Xavier?"
Xavier nodded, speaking hesitantly, "Wanda, where am I? What's happened?"
The Scarlet Witch wasn't able to answer for a moment, still gazing at him, blue eyes filled with awe. It occurred briefly to Xavier that it had been awhile since he had seen her with long hair. He had never before noticed the natural red tints in her tangled locks. He had only ever seen the streaks with which she dyed her wild mane.
"Professor," she said, speaking as calmly as possible, "you've . . . been asleep for a very long time." She added, more to herself than to him, "I'm surprised you knew my name . . . you must have been thinking of Mother."
Xavier noted her strange words, asking with a frown, "What are you talking about? What do you mean, Wanda?"
The Scarlet Witch cast him a sympathetic look. "I know it must come as a shock," she started. "Oh . . . that's so cliché, I'm sorry, but it's true. You were . . . in an accident. You've been in a coma."
She abruptly ceased speaking as, with a gasp, the Professor struggled to rise. "What? How long?!"
"Nearly . . . nearly twenty years," the girl finished, biting her lip. Xavier stared at her in disbelief.
Wanda continued, "I . . . that's why I was surprised you knew me. Well, I mean, you went into a coma about two years before I was born, so we've never actually spoken. I guess you picked up my name over time from one of us visiting you here in the hospital. They say that people in a coma can sometimes hear others speaking to them . . . I suppose that's what happened. I'm sorry for having to cause you such a shock." Her words jumbled together in her hurry to speak. She finished by looking curiously at him, concerned, but almost triumphant for some reason.
Xavier swallowed, feeling his throat tighten with amazement. He managed to gasp weakly, "But . . . that's impossible!"
The girl shook her head. "No, it's the truth. You were badly injured in a fight with rogue mutants. The doctors were surprised that you actually survived, and . . . you saved my father's life. Thank you for that," she replied.
Xavier looked intently at her, attempting to scan her mind for information. To his surprise, he found nearly unbreakable mental barriers in place. "Wanda," he began cautiously, "how is it your mind is shielded? Forgive me, but I had to verify what you were saying. It's just so . . . unexpected."
Wanda shook her head, stating, "It's fine, Professor. Here, I'll lower the barriers."
Xavier studied her curiously. "But," he insisted, "You're not a telepath. I don't understand how you managed . . . ."
Wanda nodded, "Right, but I control probability. Miss Frost and I had a theory that I could "hypothetically" assume certain telepathic qualities by manipulating chance, enough to erect certain wards around my consciousness. The theory actually came about because she noted my ability to interfere with other mutants' powers. It's proved quite useful actually."
Xavier swiftly scanned her mind, detecting no surface lie, before asking, "Miss Frost? Do you mean Emma Frost?"
"Yes, that's the one," the girl replied. In answer to his confused look, "I attend her boarding academy. Also, she's something of a family associate."
Xavier pondered this information. "What about the X Men," he asked. "What's become of them?"
The girl's baffled stare sent chills through his body. Her next words confirmed his new and terrible fears, as, tilting her head to the side, she inquired, "What's an . . . X Man?"