25 April 2012 @ 06:04 pm
XMFC: Burn the World and Build on the Ashes (R), Charles/Erik.  
Erik was far more dangerous than Shaw, Charles realized suddenly, his heart stuttering in his chest. He would take the authorities out one by one, systematically, like a game of chess.

And Erik almost always won when they played chess.




back to part one

III: Check


He didn't tell Hank where he was going, which was probably the first clue that he was doing something he shouldn't. Hank was always trying to talk him out of doing stupid things, and to bypass this, Charles had gotten into the bad habit of not telling him about them.

But when he had received the call at 2:00 AM, he could tell she had been crying. Charles had never been all that great at telling Raven no unless it was for her own good, so when she asked to meet him, he'd gotten dressed and went.

He had made sure everyone in the mansion was sound asleep before he left. Ororo was still settling in, and he didn't like to leave her, but Sean would look after her. Sean was surprisingly good with kids, perhaps a result of still being one himself.

The address he'd been given was some kind of warehouse district, and that was the second clue that this might have been a mistake. It used to be Raven would call him up wanting to meet, and they'd go together to a café. Clandestine meetings in the middle of the night were a new development and not one Charles was sure he should embrace.

However, he didn't see the sense in turning around now that he had gotten this far. He carefully approached the building, noticing the door was wide open. "Raven?" he called quietly, as he went inside.

He wasn't sure what sort of warehouse it was, but it was empty. The moonlight was falling in streams through the numerous long slanted windows along the side, and it was more than a little unsettling. Charles reached out with his mind, and then he found her. He turned around right before she spoke.

"I wasn't sure you'd come," she said.

Raven walked towards him hesitantly, pulling the door shut behind her. She was wearing her oldest disguise; all blonde hair curled at the ends, tan boots and a blue striped dress. He knew that she was only doing it to disarm him, but it disarmed him all the same.

"Of course I would come," Charles told her. "You sounded upset. Raven, I want you to know, you can always come home—"

"I know," Raven said. "But that's not why I called you here."

Charles brought his hands up to blow on his cold fingers, glancing to the side as something started to tickle the back of his mind. "Why don't you tell me why you did, then?" he asked.

"Charles, you know I love you, right?" Raven asked. "You drive me crazy, but you're family, and I love you."

"You're starting to scare me," Charles said, resisting the urge to sink into her mind. "Tell me what's happened. Has Erik—he hasn't—"

"Erik is fine," Raven said, though that wasn't really what Charles was asking at all. Raven came to a stop right in front of him, and her eyes were strangely blue, more so than they usually were in this form. They looked more like his than hers. "Do you trust me?"

At their closer proximity, Charles could feel the anxiety and guilt and fear shining out of her like a neon sign, and he started to stagger back a step. She reached out and grabbed his wrist before he could, spinning him around almost effortlessly to wrench it half up his back and drive him to his knees.

"Charles," Raven said, and it was half a sob. "Do you trust me?"

Charles mind was spinning at the unexpected violence, and then it was slipping almost without conscious thought into hers, searching for the reasons for this. He was barely at the edge of her thoughts when he saw that all she was thinking of was him dead—dead, or dying, and he gasped and fell forward at the stream of pictures, causing his arm to get gripped even further up.

It would have been terrifying except for one thing; Raven was terrified enough for the both of them. These were no fantasies, these were nightmares, and whatever it was Raven thought she was doing, she was doing it to keep them from coming true.

"Raven, let me go," Charles said, trying to turn to see her. "I need you to tell me what's happened."

She didn't answer, grabbing his other wrist to drag it beside the other instead. She pulled a pair of handcuffs out of her pocket and put them on him. Charles tried to turn his head to see her, but he couldn't. "Stop this now," he said.

Raven knew that he could stop her easily, and it was her fault that he'd gotten it so ingrained in his head that his power shouldn't be used that way. The worst part was that she was relying on this last promise of Charles' to stay out of her head, in order to keep him safe—when if she'd never made him make it in the first place, he could undoubtedly protect himself.

Once she had latched the handcuffs she crouched down in front of him. "I need you to listen to me, because I don't have long," she said. "There are things that are happening, and they can't be stopped. You would try and stop them and I can't let…you'd get hurt, I know you would."

"Raven," Charles said, trying to gain his balance. "I need you to unlock these cuffs. This is the one and only time I'm going to ask. If you don't do it, and tell me what's going on, I'm going to have to make you."

"You won't. I trust you," Raven whispered. "Really, I think I always have. You won't hurt me."

"It doesn't have to hurt," Charles told her.

"But you wouldn't, not to me," Raven said.

"You would do this to me, and I never would have guessed that," Charles said, trying to stay calm. "So perhaps you shouldn't be so certain of that."

"Charles," Raven told him, leaning down, her eyes turning gold with concern. "We're doing this to protect you. We have things we need to do, but first we have to make sure that you're safe."

"We," Charles echoed, and then he felt it, a sparking magnetic field that lifted the hairs on the back of his neck.

Charles spun around, dropping back to catch his balance on the ground with his bound hands, his legs splayed out in front of him. Erik stood over him, almost unreal in his helmet and cape, poised as though for a portrait.

Charles caught his breath, and then looked up to meet his eyes with defiance. "That helmet is bad enough, but the cape never stops being ridiculous," he told him.

Erik gave a wry grin. "That's all you have to say to me, Charles?" he asked. "After all we've been through these last months?"

"Why have you brought me here?" Charles demanded, moving his gaze from Erik to Raven and back again. "What do you want? I thought we agreed to go our separate ways."

"Yes, we did," Erik says. "Except, as you well know, you haven't exactly been staying out of my way. Don't say I didn't warn you, Charles."

"I'm starting a school," Charles said slowly. "I have to recruit. It's harmless, and it's nothing to do with you."

"You diverted me and my men to Alaska on our first mission, in under twenty seconds," Erik said coolly. "We were in the middle of nowhere for over a day because Azazel wouldn't wake up."

"That's unfortunate, but I don't see what it has to do with me," Charles said.

"Charles," Erik admonished.

"Okay, fine, it was me," Charles said, trying to hold Erik's eyes. It was so easy to forget that he was talking to an enemy when he was looking at him, because strangely Erik's eyes looked the same. There was so much in poetry about them being windows, but with that helmet cutting Erik off from him, he could not see any change. He felt he was looking at a photo of an old friend. He swallowed hard and then glanced towards the ground. "You deserved it, and if I'd known what you were planning to do I would have done far worse."

"Which is why we're here," Erik said, almost fondly. "I cannot allow it to continue. You are in far too much danger, and far too dangerous, to be running around trying to fix things at the moment."

"So you're what, going to hold me hostage?" Charles demanded. "Or just do away with me?"

"Charles," Raven snapped. "You know better than that."

Charles turned to glare at her. "I would have thought so," he said. "And what exactly is supposed to happen to the others, while you lock me up in some tower?"

"Don’t worry about the others," Raven told him in his voice, and suddenly Charles was looking at himself. Raven kneeled in front of him, a perfect mirror image, down to the scuffs in his shoes. "I'm sending them away."

"They won't believe you're me," Charles protested weakly, but even as he said it, he doubted it was true. The little smirk that Raven gave him was one of his, kind but just a little bit condescending. She'd fooled people before.

"Of course they will," she said. "No one knows you like I do. The only thing I can't mimic is your telepathy, but you're so scrupulous about not using it on them they won't even notice that it isn't there."

"They won't go, they wouldn't leave me," Charles said. "I don't care what you tell them. You have to know this will never work—"

"It will work," Erik snapped. "You will be telling them that the CIA has found about your estate, and that you need them to get out of the country while you sort it out. They'll go."

"It's going to be okay, I promise," Raven told him, still wearing his skin, and Charles tried not to shudder as she reached out to touch him. He'd never had a problem with her impersonating him before. She'd done it for fun, once upon a time.

"Mystique, leave us," Erik said.

Raven rose far more gracefully than Charles could have managed, and turned on her heel.

"Raven," Charles called desperately. She turned to look at him, and he could hear her faint apology in the back of his mind as she turned away again, walking towards the door without a word.

Charles turned to look back to Erik, trying not to wince as he heard the door slam behind Raven and then she was gone in a flash—taken by Azazel. Too late he realized he should have stopped her, no matter if she never forgave him. He should have slipped into her mind and stopped this while he still could, instructed her to give some message to Hank, to release him, to take Erik's helmet, something, because there would be no stopping Erik now.

Erik reached down and gently dragged him to his feet by a grip on his arm, before pulling Charles back against him with a hand across his chest. He used his other hand pull his jacket half off and roll up one of Charles' sleeves. "What are you doing?" Charles asked, though he was fairly certain he knew.

He could feel Erik's breath ghosting against his ear. "I would never hurt you, Charles, I want you to know that," he said, so matter-of-fact that despite everything Charles thought Erik might actually be so far gone that he truly believed it. "And if I let you go, I'll have to fight you. You'd try to stop me, and knowing you, you might even succeed."

"You'll have to fight me anyway," Charles promised. "I won't stand by while you're massacring people. I can't."

"I know you won't, you've proven that you will put them before yourself. This is something I cannot allow," Erik said, and while Charles' couldn't see it, he heard the slight burst of compressed air that could only belong to a syringe being prepared.

"You can't help yourself," Erik continued, that same strange kindness in his voice; it was somehow far more terrifying than his anger. "That is why I'm taking away your choice. When this has all been taken care of, you'll be blameless, and you'll be safe."

"Erik—" Charles said his name in a broken plea, all of his eloquent arguments tied up inside that single word.

"I'll wake you when it's over," Erik promised, and Charles felt the needle go in. The tip sinking into his skin didn't hurt nearly so much as the fact that Erik was the one pushing it in, and Charles fell back against him as the drug took hold.

His telepathy reached out for help, a distress signal sent out on automatic. But no one was there but Erik, and he couldn't reach him through that helmet.

The only answer he received was a shiver of his own distress as it circled back.


-


Sedation, on a telepath, was a tricky thing. It lowered their defenses, but it did nothing to dampen their power. Charles avoided it whenever possible, because sedation was just asking for other people's demons to stop by and say hi.

He was not awake, but he wasn't unconscious either. It was a state of being that Charles had often associated with limbo. There were flashes of the real world around him. He thought he heard Raven once, speaking from somewhere, shouting or crying or both.

Erik had said nothing, but Charles had felt him there, hovering over him like some avenging angel.

Then there were the nightmares. Nightmares were very powerful things, Charles had learned this early on. He had shared Raven's for years. They were too heightened emotionally; it was like a siren call, sucking him in. He had become better at blocking them out as he got older, but drugged, he could not stop them playing out behind his eyes like film reels.

There were a number of different people dreaming around him. Charles did not recognize most of them, but he recognized at least seventeen distinct mental signatures. The trouble was, it didn't matter who the dreamer was, the nightmares were always the same.

It was the world, on fire, burning to dust. Buildings gone up in smoke, buildings pulled down by their own foundations, people screaming and running. He saw Raven in one once, fierce and beautiful and covered in blood.

Even half conscious Charles was sorting through them all, tracking the similarities, putting together the pieces. Trying to stop it even though he knew there was nothing he could do—because he knew what it meant.

Erik had finally gotten his war.


-



He didn't know how long it had been, when he started to surface. The world came back into focus slowly, and the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was himself. There were mirrors on every surface, dividing and replicating his image like a kaleidoscope. He could see he was lying in low bunk, redressed in a white t-shirt and grey sweatpants. His arm was hooked up to a nearly empty IV.

Charles pulled his eyes away from the mirrors to focus on the IV in his arm. He reached to rip it out, but the needle gently tugged itself out from beneath his skin before he could. It spun for a moment in the air, like a compass with no casing, before Charles' gaze followed the angle of the point and saw Erik sitting in the corner of the room.

Erik held out a hand and needle reformed into a small grey marble and fell to the floor. Now that he knew he was there, Charles could see Erik in every corner of the mirrored room. He was wearing a black turtleneck and jeans in some semblance of normalcy, but it was marred by the helmet, still firmly on his head.

"You've been talking in your sleep," Erik told him casually. "Quite remarkable actually. You once recited an entire conversation, one I had with Azazel nearly twenty miles away. I had them bring in the mirrors then, but I suppose the damage was done. Your reach really is astounding."

Charles did not remember being in Azazel's head. He backtracked but found he could not bring himself to sort through any of those images again. He would rather continue to believe everything he had seen had been dreamed. "Erik, what have you done?" he whispered, instead.

"You were right, you know, about men following orders," Erik told him. "It's rather amazing how completely harmless they are when they have no orders left to follow."

I'll wake you when it's over, Erik had said. He wondered suddenly if he should be grateful that Erik had trapped his mind in this room. He may not want to know what lay beyond it.

"The U.S. government has been decimated," Erik told him. "The key was striking everywhere at once. One of us, we're as good as an army of humans. And my forces number in the hundreds now. You should have seen them, Charles, you should have seen our brothers rise up out of rubble to join us. They were beautiful. Every last one of them."

"You've gone mad," Charles told him, and his head was swimming, bouncing off these walls.

"The world belongs to us now," Erik told him firmly. "Well, America, at least. For now."

Charles struggled to sit up, pushing his legs to the ground. His feet were bare and he shivered as they connected with the cool mirror that had been laid along the floor. Erik was at his side in a moment, kneeling in front of him in concern. "Are you cold?" he asked.

"Am I—?" Charles broke off, staring at Erik in disbelief. He couldn't reconcile this man, the Erik he knew, with the man that had just soundly staged a coup on the United States of America.

Erik reached out to touch him and Charles scrambled back along the bed, bracing one hand against the mirror at his back. He could see himself in the mirror behind Erik and he closed his eyes so he wouldn't have to see his own horror reflecting back.

"How long has it been?" Charles asked. He lowered his hand to run the palm against the needle wound in his arm, and he could feel dried blood clogging up his nose. He supposed it didn't really matter how long it had been. But it was somewhere to start.

"Less than two weeks," Erik assured him, though he did not try to touch him again. "It was very quick."

Charles forced himself to open his eyes and turned to look back at Erik. He watched him speculatively for a moment. Kneeling where he was, he was at the perfect height for Charles to make a grab for the helmet. He felt like he should try even though he was fairly certain he would not succeed.

"Charles," Erik said, sounding almost amused, and bringing Charles' attention back to him. Charles could tell that Erik knew exactly what he was thinking. "It's too late. It's done."

Charles steeled his resolve. He could never beat Erik in a fight, though he had given it his best shot in Cuba. All that was left to him was to reason with him, though he feared Erik was right, and it was much too late. But if nothing else, Charles wanted to make sure Erik realized what he done.

"Are you going to build camps for them?" Charles asked quietly, scooting closer on the bed, even as his skin itched to get away. He forced himself to reach out and grab Erik's wrist, pushing back the sleeve of his shirt to run his fingers over the numbers on his arm. "You could even number them, if you'd like. It would make them so much easier to keep track of."

"Don't," Erik says, choking on the word. "It isn't the same."

"No, it's not," Charles agreed, dropping his hands back into his lap. "Because this time you're on the other side of it, and that makes all the difference in the world."

"I will make this world a better place," Erik told him fiercely, reaching out to grab Charles' chin and force him to face him. "One where it doesn't matter what you look like." Erik dragged Charles closer against him, "or who you love."

"One where all that matters is what you can do?" Charles asked carefully. "There's always going to be a hierarchy, Erik, don't fool yourself. Your only interest is in creating one in which you're at the top."

Erik made a sound of frustration low in his throat, and wrapped his fist in Charles' shirt, before forcing him back up on the bed, and crawling up after him. "You're supposed to be there with me," he said.

Charles opened his mouth to protest and Erik was kissing him before he could. Charles knew he should have seen this coming, had known it long before Erik ever lifted that helmet on his head. That spark of attraction when Erik looked at him, wrapping itself around his mind, as desperate and single-minded as Erik was about anything he put his focus on.

It had been comforting at the time. Charles had not wanted to confront it and risk it turning into something else. So he had known and pretended not to know, and he had lied to himself so well that the sudden force of Erik against him took him completely by surprise. He pushed back on instinct, forcing him away, but Erik just grabbed his wrists to pin them above his head and then leaned in to nuzzle his neck. The helmet bit into his skin, crushing against his temple while the jagged edge dug into his collarbone.

"Stop," Charles gasped, trying to bring up his legs to force him back, but Erik kept them trapped between the bed and his own. "Erik, please, stop. This isn't what you want."

"No, this is what I want," Erik growled, dragging one leg between Charles' thighs to force them apart. "It just isn't how I wanted it."

"Please, don't do this," Charles whispered, hating the way his breath hitched, "Erik."

Erik went still, as sure as if Charles had frozen him, and then pushed himself away to the other side of the bed. Charles couldn't tell if he was horrified or furious, but those eyes stared back at him accusingly from every wall in the room.

Charles tried to still his heavy breathing, and he wasn't sure what he had said to finally break through. He pushed himself as far along the bed as he could go, but he didn't dare try to stand. His legs were shaky from not being used so he pulled them up against his chest instead. He wasn't sure how long they sat there, not speaking, before their breathing finally evened out.

"You haven't asked what I plan to do with you," Erik said eventually.

"There can't be anything worse than what you've already done," Charles told him.

Erik pushed angrily out of the room, and Charles felt it for a brief moment as the connection of the mirrors was broken, a rush of thoughts and life and—and then it was gone, the door slamming shut, leaving him completely and utterly alone inside his own head.


IV. Samson

The silence was driving him mad.

Charles chewed absently on one of his fingernails as he paced across the mirror. His head was pounding from trying to get past these walls, and the knuckles of his right hand were torn and slightly bloodied from where he'd smashed his fist into the one beside the door. The mirror had tiny inconsequential spider web cracks spreading out in all directions from the contact point, but they were obviously made of sturdier stuff than the average vanity mirror.

He wondered if Erik had taken them straight from one of Sebastian Shaw's other hideouts. He'd inherited his kingdom, after all.

He had to focus. He had to get out. Two weeks. How much could really have happened in two weeks? Wars lasted years.

Except it hadn't really been a war. It was more of an invasion—a pre-emptive attack. Most people did not even know these powers could exist. They would not have known how to fight back.

He paused in his internal monologue as he noticed something sitting in the middle of the floor. It was the small metal bead that had once been a needle. He bent to pick it up and rolled it in the palm of his hand, turning to gaze with interest at the bed.

Charles dropped down beside the corner of the bed. He lifted the bedpost and placed the ball beneath it, before slamming it down. He caught his breath and paused, listening for any indication the noise had been heard. When no one came running, he did it again.

The mirror started to crack, bit by bit.

Charles pressed the tips of his fingers against the jagged rip and closed his eyes, reaching out. It was like diving into a tunnel, dark and cold and resistant, but he could feel the light on the other side. The buzz of others' thoughts was a sort of comfort; he forced himself towards them, and tried to gather them up.

Open the door, he thought at them. But he could not grab on well enough to make the command stick.

Charles turned to lean back against the wall in frustration. He might be able throw himself or the bed against the mirrors enough to crack them further, but it would be his one and only shot, and if Erik caught him in the act—he doubted he'd be allowed a second attempt.

He was fairly certain Erik wouldn't kill him, but there were, of course, worse things. The thought of going back under sedation sent a rush of unease through him. He'd been helpless. He had tried so hard to stop them, to save those he could, but they were only dreams, slipping through his fingers like sand.

He heard footsteps at the door and struggled to his feet, dragging the bed a foot over to hide the cracks and then standing in front of them to wait. The door pushed open and Charles stared at Erik's figure for a moment in disbelief as the door locked them in, his heart stuttering in his chest.

"Raven," he breathed.

Erik's skin folded in on itself like falling dominos, leaving his sister standing in his place. "Hello, Charles," she said quietly. She looked uncertain and desperate, not at all as she had in those brief glimpses he'd seen during his sedation.

His first response was to want to comfort her, but he clenched his hands into fists at sides to keep from reaching out. He couldn't count the number of skinned knees he'd tended when she ignored his advice to be careful, all the times he'd read to her so she could sleep. He could tell by the swirling maelstrom of her thoughts that she was in way over her head, some part of her desperately wishing for him to make it better the way he always had before.

But this wasn't his Raven. This was Magneto's Mystique.

And there was no fixing this.

"Say something," Raven said. "Just…just go ahead. Say it. I deserve it."

"I'm glad you're not dead," Charles told her quietly. "The others?"

"I—I don't know for certain," she said. "They were okay the last I heard. I told them to get out of the country, but they either didn't believe me or they came right back. They've been around, causing trouble in your name."

"Good for them," Charles said.

"Charles—" Raven broke off, looking away like she couldn't meet his eyes. The trouble was there was no place to hide in a room full of mirrors.

"He's not going to let me go, is he?" Charles asked after a moment.

"No," Raven said.

"Are you?" Charles asked, watching her reflection in the mirror.

"Charles, he doesn't listen to me," Raven said. "Please, you have to understand. It was risky enough coming here, he said I couldn't, I had to pretend I was him to even get past the guards—"

"And why would you go to all that trouble?" Charles asked sharply. "To say goodbye?"

"I had to see you," Raven said. "I know you must hate me, but I had to know you were alright at least."

Charles laughed. "You sound like Erik," he said. "I'm not alright, Raven. None of us are. If you wanted to pretend that I was you shouldn't have come."

He moved towards the opposite wall, watching her carefully as he circled around her mind, coming closer and closer as he did. It would be so easy, and all it would take was three words. Open the door.

She had to know he wouldn't be able to keep his promise if she came to him like this. She wouldn't keep hers in his place. He couldn't let her leave here without him.

"I know what you're thinking," Raven said quietly. "I can feel you, Charles. You've been with me all this time, and when you first disappeared—I'd thought, I thought you had died."

Charles frowned, glancing at up to find she was finally meeting his eyes. "What are you talking about?" he asked.

"When he brought in the mirrors, he didn't tell me," Raven said.

"But what was that about before?" Charles asked.

"You don't remember," Raven whispered.

"I don't remember what?" Charles demanded, and Raven's mind was calling to him, so familiar and yet so changed. He could find out anything he wanted to know. He held himself back because he'd rather hear it from her.

"Charles, you were there," she said, finding the courage to step closer. "You were in all our minds. Not everyone could recognize what you were, but I knew. You—you would warn the humans, get them to evacuate entire buildings before we could…don't you remember this at all?"

Charles thought back to the nightmares. He remembered cataloguing their plans, he remembered his mind reaching out to the sites before they were burned—so many people there, so many, and he had told them all:

Run. You need to run. He's coming.

Oh, but then he had known, really, all along. They hadn't been nightmares at all.

"They're looking for you, you know," Raven continued. "Beast, the others, there's a resistance. They're calling themselves the X-Men and the humans all know they're looking for the one that tried to save them, so they're calling you X. They're rallying in your name. Magneto didn't expect that to happen, he was furious. I don't think he wanted to acknowledge that you wouldn't agree with what he had done. So he brought in the mirrors then and—"

"His name is Erik," Charles said quietly.

"It doesn't matter what we call him," Raven said softly. "It's not that simple."

"Says the girl who gave us all new names," Charles said.

"It was something else to hide behind," Raven said. "I'm good at that."

"Well, you learned from the best," Charles said ruefully.

"I really thought I'd done the right thing," Raven told him. "I thought we needed him. And maybe...maybe we did. But now we need you."

"He's never going to let me go, you said so yourself," Charles told her.

"But you could leave," Raven said. "All you have to do is make me open the door."

"Make you?" Charles shook his head sadly. "What would happen, Raven, if I simply asked?"

"I—" Raven broke off, her blue skin changing to look like a pale sky. She reached out a hand towards him and almost without thought he stumbled back. "Charles. Oh, god, Charles, what has—what has he done to you? Has he—?"

Charles followed her line of sight to the faint bruise at his neck, barely hidden by his shirt. There was no mistaking what it was from, honestly. Raven had seen him come home with similar marks often enough to know very well what it meant. "No," he said calmly. "Nothing happened and it's the least of our worries."

Raven's eyes looked like they were made of flecks of gold, flashing angrily as she took another step closer. "He's too far gone, isn't he?" she asked. "He doesn't even know what's right anymore."

"Do you?" Charles asked.

Raven looked about to answer, but spun around at the sound of the door crashing open behind her. Erik stalked into the room, closing the door behind him before Charles could reach anyone outside. He looked murderous.

"I told you not to come here," he growled. "He had a way out of here the moment you stepped inside. You realize that, don't you? Did you really think he would let you walk out of here without him?"

"I needed to make sure he was okay," Raven said, her tone like steel, entirely unafraid. Charles wondered what she had seen that Erik could not scare her anymore. "As it turns out I'm glad I did."

Raven stepped forward, morphing into Charles as she did, twisting his lips into a seductive grin. "You need to act out some sick fantasy? You can do that with me, I'll play along. I'll even act terrified if that's what you want. But you don't touch him."

"Raven," Charles snapped. "Stop it."

Raven reverted to her true form, still staring defiantly up at Erik. Erik's eyes were blazing in the shadows of his helmet. "This is none of your concern, Mystique," Erik said. "Get out before I have you put in a cell of your own."

Raven moved past him, wary as a tigress, before glancing back at Charles. I'm sorry, Charles heard her say, where only he could hear her, and then she was gone.

"That's what happens, you know," Charles said, turning his attention to Erik. "They'll all turn on you eventually. People talk about revolution, Erik, because it's lovely in the abstract. The reality is something rather different, and we only cope by finding someone to blame."

"I did not do this to be worshipped, I did it because it was necessary and there was no one else," Erik said, his narrowing as they looked Charles over. "What have you done to yourself?" he demanded, reaching out to grab Charles' bloodied hand.

Charles fought the urge to pull away. He saw Erik's eyes move to the cracks in the mirror where he had punched the wall—but those cracks were too shallow to be worrying. He frowned anyway. "I know it must be disorienting for you here," Erik told him. "But we will be leaving soon."

"Leaving," Charles repeated slowly.

"Yes, to my new headquarters," Erik said. "We can't stay here, obviously. I am too much of a target, and you are too likely to find a way out. I have found somewhere safe for us. Only Azazel will know the location. Only you will be there with me."

"And are you going to lock me up in another little mirrored room?" Charles asked, flinching as Erik ran his thumb across his bruised knuckles.

"I won't have to," Erik said. "There will be no one else alive for miles."

Not no one living nearby. No one alive.

Charles tugged his hand out of Erik's grasp, stumbling back at the force he used to do it. Erik smiled slightly, but let him go. He looked almost amused. "Don't worry, I promise it will be much nicer than here. I know the standard of living to which you are accustomed."

He took a deep breath, moving back. Erik looked like Shaw standing there, with that helmet on, his image repeating over and over at all angles. This was what Shaw had looked like to Erik, before he put that helmet on. Before he killed him.

Charles kept walking backwards until he hit the wall.

"May I ask you something?" Erik asked, and his tone was inquisitive, unfailingly polite. It was the tone he might have used while they were playing chess, for a question asked as he twirled a pawn in the palm of his hand. "Why didn't you have Mystique reopen the door, the very moment she walked in? You could have had control of my entire base quite easily."

"That was Plan B," Charles told him honestly.

"I see," Erik said. "And Plan A?"

"Getting her to open it on her own," Charles said. "She wouldn't, by the way. You've done a lovely job corrupting her."

"She didn't seem too thrilled with me a moment ago," Erik said.

"I'm still family, for all intents and purposes," Charles said. "Despite our differences, I imagine the thought of you raping me would still have some effect."

"I wouldn't do that," Erik protested angrily.

"What does it say about you, that she thinks you would?" Charles asked.

"And what do you think, Charles?" Erik demanded, stalking towards him.

"I think we are on very dangerous ground," Charles said. "You're not very good at denying yourself the things you want."

"Ah," Erik said, leaning in, and placing his hands on the mirror on either side of Charles' head. "But as you said, that was not what I wanted. You were right. It's not."

"You think you could ever have me any other way? After this?" Charles asked breathlessly. He held himself still, his eyes following the contours of Erik's helmet, instead of looking directly at him.

"We'll see," Erik said. He raised Charles' bruised hand, and placed a kiss across his fingers. "I'll check on you after I take care of a few things, and we'll leave in the morning. Don't get into trouble in the meantime."

Erik pushed away from him and out the doors. Charles' head flared in pain at the intermittent thoughts every time that door opened, but he didn't let it stop him. He moved to the bed and dropped to his knees beside it, breathing carefully for a moment, listening for any movement on the other side of the door.

He no longer had time for subtleties. He grabbed the bedpost and slammed it down hard, creating a sharp-edged crevice in the surface of the mirror. Charles laid his hand across it, curling his fingers inside, and closed his eyes.

His mind fled the room like an arrow, and he passed from one mind to another until he found the one that he wanted—she wasn't hard to find. She was burning bright and angry, pulsing like a star. Charles caught hold of her mind and pulled it towards his own.

Raven.

His fingers drew along the edges of the mirror like he was reading Braille, and he held his breath as he waited to see if she would answer.

Charles? Did you escape?

No, I've just cracked the mirror. I need to speak with you.

I swear I didn't know, Charles. If he's been hurting you, I'll—

That's not important, there are far greater things at stake. I need to know if you're going to help me, because I'm not going to make you. If you're going to do this it has to be up to you.

Charles—

Please, Raven. I don't want to do this without you. But I will.

Okay. I'm coming, okay? I can get you out. We can get out of here together.

No, we can't. We have to stop him. We have to. He can't—he can't be allowed to continue.


When there was no response he skimmed the surface of her mind. She was terrified and angry and her heart was all but already broken. Charles thought his own mind must sound much the same.

Raven?

What do you need me to do?

I need a sedative. I have to incapacitate him to get his helmet off.

He'll sense the needle. You would never be able to use it before he noticed.

Is there something else we could use?

No. Yes. I think.

We don't have much time. He's moving me, and by morning it will be too late.

There used to be a lab here. Hank's lab.

We're at the CIA base?

Yes, it was abandoned after Shaw's attack. We thought we might as well put it to good use, since everyone else that knew about it was dead. I think Hank had some glass needles down there somewhere. But this is risky, Charles. We could just—

Please bring it to me as soon as you can.

Charles, if you're going to do this, you have to do it. You can't show him mercy. You can't. He'll use it against you.

I don't intend to show him mercy.

What—what are you going to do to him?

I'm finally going to give him reason for his fear of me. The sedative, Raven. Quick as you can.


Charles pulled his hand away from the mirror, dragging himself out of Raven's mind with a gasping breath. He turned to press his head against the cool surface of the mirror and choked back a sob.

He was plotting with his sister to destroy his best friend.

Breathe, he told himself, focus. He could feel the other minds around him begin to coalesce as the passage out of this room became more familiar, easier to access. He let himself roam through their thoughts, like flipping through a deck of cards, fast enough all he could distinguish was the suit.

A handful of them were full of blood lust and vicious. A few of them were angry and trapped. Almost all of them were terrified.

He could work with that.


-


He wasn't sure how long he had been lying there before the door opened again. Time passed slowly in this room, and though Charles' mind could have escaped out the cracks he'd kept it here, to save his strength for something else.

He sat up to see Erik enter with a woman in a lab coat at his side. She pushed glasses nervously up her nose, and shuffled away from Erik when he moved further in the room.

"Charles, this is Amelia," Erik said. "She's going to patch up your hand."

The introduction had been unnecessary. Charles knew exactly who she was.

"Pleased to meet you," Charles told her, all the same.

"Mr. Xavier," she said, kneeling beside the bed to examine his hand.

Erik loomed at the door as she cleaned the wound and wrapped the bandage around it. After she had finished, she fumbled with her kit and spilled her supplies on the bed.

"Oh, I'm sorry about that, dear, I'm so clumsy," she apologized. As she struggled to gather them up, he felt her slip a syringe in the waistband of his sweatpants. He held himself still and very carefully did not look at Erik to see if he'd noticed.

The woman looked up at him as she pulled off her disposable gloves. She threw him a wink, her open eye flashing gold, before getting to her feet and heading towards the door. "I put on some antiseptic," she assured Erik, looking back at Charles with studied professional concern. "The cuts are all superficial. No lasting damage done."

"Thank you," Erik said, closing the door behind her. He glanced around the room, possibly searching for more cracks, before he turned his attention to Charles. "How are you holding up?"

"As well as can be expected, I imagine," Charles told him. "And how is dictatorship treating you?"

"Charles, I don't want to fight with you," Erik said.

It was an utterly ridiculous statement, but Charles let it go. He had a confession to make—one that he hoped would take the attention off his true intent. He didn't know exactly where to start, but he supposed there was no place better than the end. "Do you remember Moira?" he asked.

It had the desired effect. Erik froze, his eyes shooting to latch on the telepath's with anger and defiance, though he held his temper better than Charles had come to expect.

"Do you really want to start this again?" Erik asked tightly. "You don't look up for an argument."

"Moira had such a beautiful mind," Charles continued. "Not many people do, you know. We tend to be messy, disorganized creatures, and often we make sense to no one but ourselves."

"She was trying to kill me, Charles," Erik said. "Mein Gott, you were right beside me. She could have just as easily killed you."

"As much as I wish you would feel remorse, that was not my intention in bringing it up," Charles said, glancing up at him. "I'm trying to explain—what it's like when I enter another's mind. Moira let me do it. Not many people do, not with permission."

"You entered mine," Erik said grudgingly. "Though I don't recall you asking."

"And thus we reach my point," Charles said. "If I was drawn to Moira's mind, Erik, it was nothing compared to yours. I was absolutely lost to yours. I think maybe I've loved you since that moment I met you, I just couldn't admit it to myself. But if I owe you anything at all, I suppose it's admitting to that."

Erik dropped down on the bed beside him, pulling Charles around to face him. "Then be with me," he said, his voice almost shaking, as he tilted Charles' chin up with one hand. "What we could do together, Charles, nothing could stop us."

Charles let himself be maneuvered, sliding closer, though he kept his hands on the surface of the bed. If he raised them too high Erik would capture them to keep them from grabbing for his helmet. And he needed them free.

"That was then," Charles said, leaning closer. "That was when I thought I knew everything about you there was."

"That's not how it works," Erik said, and he sounded almost desperate. "Not even for you. You can never know everything—because if I didn't know what I was capable of, how could you?"

"I understand that now," Charles agreed. "But do you?"

"Charles," Erik said in frustration. "Stop talking in circles."

Charles placed one hand at Erik's hip, and the other at his own to carefully draw out the syringe. He leaned closer, making sure to keep Erik's eyes on his own, holding him captive in his gaze.

"What I mean to say is, it goes both ways," Charles told him. Then he jammed the needle into Erik's thigh with so much force it went straight through the fabric of his pants, and pushed the plunger down.

One of Erik's hands shot out instinctively to grab Charles' throat, while the other pulled the syringe from his leg. Charles gasped at the pressure, his hands clutching at the fingers cutting off his air, before giving in and closing his eyes against the betrayal in Erik's. He didn't open them again until Erik's grip went slack.

Charles pushed himself off the bed, landing gracelessly on the floor. Erik had fallen half across bed, his hands still flexing at his sides as he tried to move. It didn't look right, to see him like that, but Charles couldn't afford to think like that. He forced himself to remember that image he had been trying to forget. He had tried to forget so much of what he had seen through the eyes of others as he slept here.

He had watched once, as Erik stood regally in front of a ten story building, eyes blazing as he brought it all crumbling down by doing nothing more than closing his hand to a fist. Charles had written it off as a nightmare along with everything else, because that would mean the screams of the people inside had not been real.

But of course, they had been.

Charles pushed himself back to his feet, arranging Erik gently on the bed, before carefully moving to straddle him. He felt sick as he did, as though he'd been cast in the role of Delilah—seducing the great warrior, only to strip away his power while he slept. He lifted the helmet off Erik's head with shaking hands nevertheless, and the resulting rush of his mind nearly tore a scream from Charles' bruised throat.

Erik's eyes were still open, watching him, and he made a weak grab to get the helmet back. Be still, Charles told him, and Erik's hands dropped and froze in place. Charles framed Erik's face gently, but was careful not to lock eyes with his own reflection.

"I wanted so much to fix you," Charles whispered. "And instead you've broken me."

Please, Erik pleaded in his head, but whether he wanted mercy or absolution, Charles didn't ask. He could not give him either.

"You'd only destroy this world too," Charles said. "You're in too much pain. It's like you're walking around with an open wound. But I can take it all away."

Charles, Erik said, in his head again. Charles pressed his eyes shut and tried to block him out.

"I'm sorry," Charles whispered. "I know I am doing something far worse to you than you have ever done to me. But this has never been just about us, Erik. I should have stopped you long ago, for all our sakes."

He leaned forward to rest his forehead against Erik's, placing his fingers at each of his temples and then sucking in a deep breath.

When Charles dove inside his mind it reminded him of the day they met—of plunging into that dark water with no real certainty of what he would find beneath it, or if he would ever find his way out.

onto part three