Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Professor X/Magneto, Cyclops/Jean
Challenge/Prompt: tv_universe Inspiration Falls Part Two: severina2001's post (or rather the third image on it -- If you join, be sure to tell them Kat Lee of Team Bunny Ears sent you!)
Warning(s): Character Deaths
Word Count: 2,047
Date Written: 17 September 2016
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
He still sees his lover's eyes as bright as they ever were before he first donned the helmet of the man he became and who ultimately left Charles to pursue his own and much darker dream, the same man who gave up on ever peacefully coexisting with the species who killed his family not once but twice. Even in the greatest battles, there are moments when Charles can look across the space of chaotic, painful warfare between them and see those bright, blue eyes shining from the depths of Erik's helmet.
He pleaded with him to return to the brightness. He used every reason he could think of but never himself. He couldn't ask another man to give up on his own dream simply because he loved him, especially when he knew that love could never be enough. He tried time and again to show him that there was still good in this world, but wherever he saw love overcoming the odds, Erik could only see the hate that had given the survivors the obstacle to overcome. For every good human, he had argued, there were a hundred who would kill one of their own kind just for the sick sense of power they thought it gave them or, perhaps worse still, simply because they feared what they did not understand.
Today isn't the first day that Charles has wondered if perhaps his old friend was right. There does seem to be far more hatred in this world than love, far more fear than understanding, far more pain than the few, good moments they are given. Perhaps the world does need a new order, but he is not a god. It is not his place to force it upon it. He's almost given up his own dream now. He has for a while been content to simply carve out a place for his people to exist safely within it; the dreams that he held to so exuberantly when they first met in their youth seem so long ago now.
The sky is pouring torrents of rain now, and Charles knows that one of his oldest students, and one of his most cherished favorites, is crying. She hasn't shed a tear for the man for whom tears still roll down his own face. She's crying for him instead. She senses his broken heart and spirit. Her tears are all for him, and Charles fears she might even suspect what is to come next. But he's so weary of fighting.
The others have all left now but his two oldest. Scott and Jean still remain ever faithful behind him as he rolls further along his former lover's casket. His hand glides over the railing as he thinks how sadly fitting it is that the Master of Magnetism be given his rest inside the metal he once so gleefully controlled. He thought that power would give him the life he wanted; instead, it's given him the peace of death at last.
The peace of death. That notion resonates within Charles' mind as the fatigue of years of struggling for a future which no longer seems possible rests heavily on his heart and soul. He peers into the casket and sees his lover looking like he's simply sleeping peacefully while awaiting his companionship. He stares at his handsome face, and as he does so, the years fall away not from inside of Charles but rather from the man upon whom he's gazing.
The wrinkles seem to smooth away, and he can almost see Erik's bright, blue eyes again. He can almost hear him in his mind, almost see his hand reaching out for his. "Come join me, Charles," he would say if he could speak now. He finally has the peace he deserves, the peace for which Charles knows he's secretly yearned ever since he was but a small slip of a boy, the peace this world would never give him.
He feels Jean tense in Scott's hands. She breaks away from her husband and rushes to his side. "Charles, please," she cries, holding out her hands as tears flow down her beautiful face, "don't -- "
"Professor," Scott says simply as he follows his loving wife. Charles hears the tears in his oldest student's voice. No one could be more like a son to him than Scott Summers, including his own, actual sons, but he knows his tears are not for Erik. Nor is Jean's. He is the only one who has come to his lover's funeral and actually shed tears for the man he was. He fears he may well be the only one left in this world who has actually cried for Erik at all, and that is not how it should be.
Erik was a good man. He had his flaws, but all people do. No one can cast the first stone, because no one is without sin. As much as he loves the children behind him -- and they are and will always be children to him, despite having been grown for many years now --, they, too, have committed wrongs. They, too, have killed, but they can not see the goodness he still sees in Erik. They can not see his troubled soul or the beautiful brightness of his blue eyes when they used to light up with joy. He's the only one, Charles realizes with surmounting sorrow, who has ever seen him that way.
Charles holds up a hand but does not look at his kids as his own tears first doubled and then triple in speed. "I would like," he says, his voice sounding hollow to his own ears, "to be alone."
"We would like to be with you." Jean is the first to argue.
"We would like to go with you," Scott adds, and Charles wonders if he has any idea where he is going. He's always been so loyal. Perhaps he does, but this is one thing Charles can not grant him.
Jean grasps his hand in hers and kneels beside his wheelchair. "Please," she whispers, bringing his fingers to touch the tears on her face, "don't do this, Professor. Don't leave us, Charles. We need you."
He would like to think they do, but he knows it's only words and the fear of a daughter not yet ready to lose her father. He turns her hand in his and presses her palm to his lips, kissing her softly. "I need to be alone," he then insists, letting her go with a gentle push, "at least for a little while."
"You will come back to us, Professor?"
Charles hasn't heard Scott sound so terrified since the first time he failed their first team as field leader. "I will try," he answers truthfully although he knows already he doesn't want to and nothing will change that fact, "but for now, we need to be alone."
Scott nods and draws his wife gently but forcibly back to him. The boy turned man is no stranger to death. He understands it perhaps better than everybody else who has been here today. "Please," he says as he all but drags Jean away, "do not forget your promise."
"I won't," Charles remembers and watches, without turning to them, as they leave. His heart aches for them as well this day, but the time has come for fighting to be over for two old souls. He doesn't have any more fight left in him. He looks back to Erik and cups his cold, still cheek in his hand. He remembers his promise to Scott and Jean. He won't forget it, but they don't really need him half as much as they like to think they do. As for he himself, he grew tired of fighting so long ago, and now the battle has cost him the dearest thing it could take from him. It's taken from him the second half of his soul, perhaps not the better part but the other half nonetheless.
Gazing at his lover's still face, Charles once again sees the young man he met so long ago. He draws his thumb gently over his flesh, first tracing the contours of his cheek and then drifting slightly over his lips. He sees his bright, blue eyes once more looking at him from his helmet, and with only one more thought to the living, Charles casts his mind to where it wants to be.
"Charles?" Erik's voice has always been rich and deep, but now it sounds young again.
Charles look up into those same bright, blue eyes he's seen every time he's chosen to close his eyes, the same incredibly beautiful pair he'd feared he might never see again. "Erik."
Erik reaches a hand out toward him. "Dance with me?" he asks softly.
Charles looks down at his chair. "You know I can not," he replies sadly, but when he looks back up into those wonderful eyes again, he can't seem to help smiling once more.
"No," Erik denies quietly, "you can. Here we can do whatever we choose.
His fingers stretch further toward him. "Try it," he urges, and so Charles does. He pushes up and out of his chair and finds his legs can once again carry his weight.
He seems to glide on the air to the arms that await him, and as Erik wraps his arms around him, Charles knows there is no place else he'd rather be now or ever. He is at last where he's wanted to be for the last fifty years. "The outside world no longer has any hold on us," Erik whispers as he twirls him around and bring him close again. "I can hold you. You can walk. We no longer have to be enemies. We no longer have to fight. I can love you again."
"I never stopped."
Erik's fingers feel like Heaven on Charles' old cheek. His tears are gone, he suddenly realizes, replaced by a bigger and brighter smile than he's worn in years. And gone too are his wrinkles and the heavy burdens of age and fighting a never-ending war he felt so wearily just a few breaths before. Erik sways with him, and Charles realizes he doesn't just feel like Heaven. He is in Heaven.
"I never stopped either," Erik is whispering truths against Charles' beaming face. "I tried time and again as hard as I could, but you are, my dearest, are a man who is impossible to get over."
"Then don't get over me," Charles whispers what he's wanted to tell him all along and once did, back when they were still young. "Stay with me."
"Gladly, my love," Erik says, ceasing their dance and placing a kiss to Charles' forehead. "Forever," he promises and finally kisses the lips for whose touch he's been aching all these fifty years.
And outside in the real world, the rain becomes a full blown storm. Charles and Jean race back to their Professor's side. "He's gone," Jean sobs as lightning cracks.
"HE PROMISED!" Scott screams over the roaring wind.
Jean shakes her head, tears racing down her cheeks. "The temptation was too great," she tells her husband, knowing where she would follow if their paths ever echoed the Professor's and his lover's. She, too, wouldn't have the strength that Charles failed to possess in this last moment of time for him. She wouldn't have the strength -- But as she looks at him, she realizes he's smiling. She looks back to Erik, upon whom he was last gazing when he passed, and gasps. The man's dead. He's been dead for hours, but now he's smiling bigger and brighter than she ever saw him smile in life.
Scott is sobbing, his arms thrown around the Professor's still body, but even through her tears, Jean starts to smile for she knows. She knows both the man she's always loved as a father and the X-Men's greatest enemy are happy at last. They're happy and still in love, and now nothing will stand in their way again.
She shuts Erik's casket and moves to wrap her arms around both Scott and Charles. She kisses Charles' cold forehead in the rain, but even as she weeps, she smiles. "We'll see you again," she whispers, heart-broken, "one day."