Disclaimers: No one and nothing is mine.
Summary: Past, present, and future.
Ratings Note: R.
Author's Note: Part of my continuing quest to get
these guys *laid*, dammit. Title from a Florence
Acknowledgments: To Jenn, for audiencing and telling
me what I wanted to write, and to Livia, for audiencing
and helpful suggestions.
Feedback: Always. email@example.com
There has always been something waiting behind Charles'
It was the first thing Erik noticed about the man, all those
years ago in the middle of huge and strange and strangely
*whole* city, and it was the first thing he looked for even
And it wasn't as though the man was ever particularly
duplicitous. Clever, yes. Secretive, at times. But he wasn't
the sort of man whose eyes you *had* to search for any
degree of truth.
A wonderful chess player, and the few times they'd found
themselves at cards... well.
Erik could recognize in himself the flaws of a lifetime, the
need to believe that everyone, everywhere was hiding
something. When they played together, Charles could bluff
without bluffing at all.
"You beat *yourself*, Erik."
And what that led to... mm. The years have brought
something like nostalgia, or at least a desire for it. It would
be disturbing, and even upsetting, if he wasn't so sure of
himself and his path. As it was...
It was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon when there
was nothing else to be done, or nothing especially urgent,
in any event. The information Mystique had provided could
wait, for a moment or two. Right now, there were no
mutants to be trained, or, in the case of Sabretooth, brought
The man had not appreciated being called back from
whatever godforsaken corner of Saskatchewan he'd wound
up in. Erik had already forgotten the names of the nearest
"towns," places small enough that mutation was still a
myth of the cities.
Doubtless, the women exposed their stranger children at
They'd found Sabretooth in a cabin (much closer to a shack)
far beyond anything that could even be called an outskirt.
The snow had been trampled to a muddy slush in a rough
circle around the place, and the air had stank with old
blood, smoke, and Sabretooth himself. The locals had been
more than willing to fill young Pyro's head with stories
about the rabid 'bear' that had been terrorizing and
denuding their livestock.
About the hunters who had disappeared.
It made him smile, if quietly. He rather thought the whole
reason the livestock disappeared in the first place was so
Sabretooth could lure hunters to him. Such a *predictable*
As for Pyro... the boy had done well enough, he supposed.
Certainly had been smart enough to listen to what the
townspeople had said, and perhaps everything Erik hadn't,
and bring his lighter with him.
Of course, the first few tries at lighting it had been stolen
by the wind, but... the boy would heal.
If not quite as fast as Sabretooth.
Somewhere in the new compound, Pyro was working on
using his power one-handed, or perhaps whining about
the need to do the same. It hadn't taken long to get to
understand the child. People like him always whined and
made as much trouble as they possibly could.
It wouldn't stop him from being useful when he was
needed, but they always needed to be assured that they
Erik spared a glance for his rumpled sheets. One way or
Really, it was something of a surprise that he'd wound up
here, with them, even though it hadn't been at the time.
People like Pyro needed people to surround them, if only
to have foils for their jokes and games and endless ability
to get underfoot.
Sabretooth had neither the time nor the patience for that
sort of thing, and Mystique had games of her own Erik
was quite sure Pyro wouldn't care for. And it wasn't that
Erik thought his cause was too abstract to be attractive
to thoughtful mutants; it was just that he didn't expect
that level of thought from people, from *boys* like Pyro.
"I want all this training... this *power* to mean
something," he'd said.
Which was nothing but understandable. And yet, hadn't
Charles offered meaning?
It was easy to question these things. Erik was accustomed
to the old, the scarred, and, yes, the embittered. His best
soldiers were the ones who would never fit within the
singularly dull mold of humanity, even had they wished to
Xavier's best soldiers would fit in any magazine, an
advertisement for *safe* mutants in the way that it wasn't
that long ago when the only African-American people on
television were light-skinned, thin-nosed, and long-haired.
Or the villains of the moment.
And that was something worth arguing with the man,
perhaps... Perhaps at another time.
He wanted to know what *Charles* thought of it all, of
being so media-palatable. Why, the man was even in a
*wheelchair*. Crippled for most of his life, and so very
calm-voiced and gentle.
That, at least, was not new.
Erik remembered a time when it would drive him to
distraction, Charles and his endless desire to *soothe*,
as though there was any reason in this world to be
anything *but* full of rage. A controlled rage, to be sure,
Control used to be a difficult thing, when it came to
Charles. Something about those eyes, with nothing
behind them but care and... ah, everything he'd never
wanted to admit to.
He had lost count of the number of Charles' chairs he'd
destroyed, and of the times it would be...
Just the two of them, Charles pressed beneath him, legs
awkward and still and mouth parted on a hundred
endearments and Erik had *hated* his bald head. Nothing
there to clutch without causing true damage.
He would catch Charles' wrists and push them down,
squeeze them and marvel, a little, at the muscle. Charles
had never been a delicate man, though he moved like
one. And there'd been something there, something about
a brother, or perhaps a large and overbearing father?
Charles and his secrets.
Charles and his soft mouth and hard kisses, kisses that
made Erik wonder (as always, as ever) how much of
that gentleness was a pose. But it would be just *like*
Charles to simply be *passionate*, as opposed to
Erik thought his time in prison was a rather unfair measure
of Charles'... feelings. Because Charles had always been
cautious, and had always been temperate, but he'd *never*
been unwilling to engage in debate. Religion, politics, the
very question of their *existence*. It didn't matter.
If the two of them were together, argument would occur.
It was simply the way they worked, whether or not they
Something in Erik still wanted people like that in his world,
some measure of friction to make the rest of the
relationship -- lover, friend, lieutenant, or otherwise -- that
much sweeter and impossible to deny. And there had been
no one like Charles for that friction. ("Kiss me again."
And yet in prison, in that damnable plastic *box*, Charles
had been all smiles and requests after his well-being. Gifts
of books and gifts of companionship, distraction from the
crushing *lack* of the place.
And really, if Erik didn't *know* Charles, didn't hold him
in a higher esteem than he'd ever be willing to say aloud
(except, perhaps, at his funeral), it would be rather easy
to see all that *softness* as Charles' subtle little way of
Here, my friend, is a playing field as level as I can make
it. Because, of course, you have nothing left to give, and
no capacity to fight. Not anymore.
It would be *easy* to take the amusement in those lovely
wide eyes and make it a joke on himself. The defeated
warrior, waiting to die.
And Erik didn't see himself as anything remotely close to
that petty, or even that paranoid, but sometimes he
thought if he'd been in there for just one moment longer,
if he'd had nothing left to look forward to but Sunday
afternoons with Charles, weak tea, and a *chessboard*...
People on the other side of madness had little good to say
of the experience, but Erik thought even that would have
He would've come to hate Charles, and while that had
always been *close* -- a hint of spice to the sex and finality
to the paradoxically never-ending arguments -- it had never
truly been an option.
Charles was... Charles.
The young man with eyes so glitteringly intelligent Erik had
to give up on looking for work, had to enter a coffee shop
far too enclosed and smokeless to be anything but
Had to sit *down*, a compulsion beyond any tricks Charles
could do with that fabulously powerful mind.
"Who are you," Erik had said in English still halt and heavily
"A friend, I hope," Charles had answered, and bought him
too-sweet coffee and touched his hand when he moved to
Dragged him, dazed and never *quite* unwilling enough
into a world of wealth and leisure and, yes, pleasure.
And oh, he had been young enough to wonder a little at
that, to allow himself to be distracted from the anger,
from the growing cause for long enough to taste inferior
chocolate and superior brandy on Charles' tongue.
"I want to know you," Charles had said, and Erik, thought,
perhaps, that this want of Charles was, if not the defining
characteristic of their long, long friendship, than at least
the most constant.
"Then if I don't understand, you must *tell* me," and for
Erik, there had always been something unspoken there.
Because Charles didn't want to simply understand, he had
wanted to understand Erik's arguments and rage enough
to find a way *in*. A way to talk him around to *his*
point of view.
As if talk had ever solved anything of use.
If Charles had his way, the entire mutant 'problem' would
be wrapped up neatly in a series of speeches and
conferences and carefully -- humanly -- guided politics.
In Charles' world, blood need never be shed.
Years ago, he would have -- and probably had -- accused
the man of just not wanting to get his hands dirty, but it
was hard to remember a time when that was remotely
believable. Charles was an intellectual, and something of
an aesthete, but never a dilettante.
So *many* things would have been easier if he had been,
not least the question of to which of them today's young
and powerful mutants would rally.
No, Charles was something of an impure idealist. Optimistic
enough to hope and dream and preach for a better, more
tolerant world, to *believe* in the possibility of one even
while he lived wholly in this one.
More than once, Erik had stared at the man from across
some richly appointed room and felt the ground try to shift
beneath his feet. Surely, between the two of them, so alike
in so many ways, so careful and smart and so, yes, in
*love* damn the very concept straight to Hell, they could
find a way to stand on common ground?
Erik would step here, and Charles would roll himself *there*,
and the gulf between them would close and the two of
them would... what?
Build an army of terribly cheerful killers?
The idea had its attraction, to be sure, but Erik had never
Trust was something to be earned, and it had been a very,
very long time since Erik has known anyone who measured
Not even Charles.
And it was nothing to do with the man himself... or perhaps
it was everything. All of that sickening optimism, that
*faith* that no amount of the world's brittle ugliness or
Erik's own rhetoric could shake.
That courage, underlying everything else, that could be
denied or forgotten only at one's peril.
They had worked together on Cerebro, perhaps the
greatest thing they would ever create in their lives. Erik
had seen it as a chance to find their brothers and gather
them, train them, *teach* them to use their powers
against a world which would have none of them.
Charles... had not.
By then, many years had passed between them, many
feuds and patchy attempts to make up, find peace, if
not common ground. He had been younger then, but
not so young as to not have complete and perfect
control over his own power. Cerebro could have been
built with any number of fail-safes.
Erik had been careful to include none, and had told
And now that power had been used against *them*,
and could possibly be used again, but Erik wouldn't do
There would come a time when a telepath would see
the world for all of itself, and not pause for ideals or
optimism. He knew it would not be Charles, could
never *be* Charles. He'd believed -- *known* that
even with Stryker's oh-so-clever little plan in place,
with everything arranged to create a world wiped clean
of humanity, it could never be Charles to bring it
But it had been... a lovely fantasy, and an opportunity
too sweet not to take, consequences be damned.
There was room in his life for memory, and even for
nostalgia, but when the world handed you the tools to
remake it in your own image, you did not halt for
sentiment. However deeply seated, however dearly...
And that, he thought, was something Charles could
understand, back at his school and free of Stryker's
toys and surrounded by the living embodiment of this
world's future. Charles would be angry, and perhaps
even find a way to hate him, but no amount of rage
would keep that wonderful mind from
And that... would have to be enough.
Pyro announced his presence with a hand on the back
of Erik's neck, warm and moving to soothe away
tension he had not been aware he had. He blinked, and
stared at the papers in front of him on the desk, plans
for defending the compound, information on all the
mutants Stryker had listed on his system.
There was a young scientist in the Midwest with an
uncontrollable mutation and an intellect too high to be
measured by normal means.
A thief in New Orleans with a fascinating degree of
A young woman in California with the power of flight,
impossible strength, and indestructible flesh.
The work would continue. The army... would grow.
"I thought you'd come down," the boy said, without
even a trace of the whine the words implied.
He would be quite formidable one day. "I've been...
thinking about our next move, my boy."
A snort, and Pyro leaned in close, ostensibly to look
over his shoulder. "Tracking down more pissed-off
mutants? Can I bring a flamethrower next time?"
Erik smiled, and allowed himself to lean back into the
boy's touch. He could feel Pyro's cast bumping lightly
against his back. "You can bring anything you wish."
"God, you're like an evil Santa Claus. It really works
on you, you know?"
There was a time, and even a space for nostalgia, and
wistful dreams of what could have been.
And then there was a time to put such things aside
and focus on one's next move.
"Yes," Erik said. "I do."