Author: Kat Lee
Character/Pairing: Erik/Charles, teen!Jean
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Say What Friday: "Originality is the art of concealing your sources."; fffc 17.11: Salvation; and gameofcards Commitments (If you join, tell them Kat Lee of Team Clubs sent YOU!)
Warning(s): Cannon Character Death, Spoilers
Word Count: 2,929
Date Written: 4 and 6 June 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
"A great man once said that originality is the art of concealing your sources -- "
"That sounds familiar," Jean comments, screwing up her face in thought as she tries to remember where the quote comes from. "I think I heard Hank say it once."
"I would not be surprised. The Hank McCoy I know has always been a fan of the esteemed Mister Franklin."
The girl, whose age he's constantly having to remind himself of as she looks so much like her counterpart who he knew and battled against for years on so many levels, looks at him in surprise. "You like Benjamin Franklin too?"
Erik lifts his shoulders in a careless shrug. "What's not to like?" he counters. "The man was a great intellect -- some say of even homo superior standards."
"He was a mutant?"
Again, the great Master of Magnetism simply shrugs. "I doubt we'll ever know for certain, but there are many who believe he was. The point, however, I am trying to make, Miss Grey, is that whereas there can be many benefits of hiding one's sources, there can also be downfalls. For instance, I know you still do not trust me, and whereas I can scarcely blame you for the distrust, I recognize it is also in part due to my reluctance to share everything."
"You opened your mind to me."
"I still kept some secrets hidden." Erik gives a deep sigh, gathers his breath, and tries to gather his courage. It's funny how he can face an entire world full of hatred with bravado, but when it comes to earning one person's trust, a part of him still wants to run away. "I would like to grant you access again, just for a little while, to explain myself and my true desires a little better."
"I saw into your mind before," Jean argues, "and there's nothing I can find there that's going to make me trust you."
"I understand that. I do not expect you to ever trust me, Miss Grey. Far too much has passed between us for you to ever be able to grant me your full trust. What I wish, however, is for you to trust my purpose. It is going to become increasingly difficult for us to work together as long as you entirely distrust me."
Jean's green eyes widen slightly. "I never said I distrust you completely. I know you want what's best for our people."
"My desires run deeper than that, Miss Grey." He stops and turns to face her. "Please see for yourself."
Jean reaches out tentatively, slowly. She feels his sorrow that brought a tear to her eye the last time they did this, but this time, his feelings are more intense. His grief runs deeper than her previous headmaster. She looks into his aged, blue eyes and suddenly realizes that they look like they've seen the whole world a thousand times over and always found it lacking.
"Go ahead, Miss Grey. Plunge deeper," he urges softly. "I promise to keep nothing hidden this time."
True to Magneto's word, Jean quickly finds herself watching the reasons why he hates humanity so strongly. She sees a man much older than she often thinks she'll ever become as a young boy, far younger than she was even when her best friend died in her arms. She sees his parents ripped away from him and killed, rounded up with a huge group of people chosen for simply being born what they are and slaughtered like they're nothing more than cattle. She gasps herself, a scream surging in her throat that she just barely manages to swallow. She feels his sorrow, hears his scream, and a tight lump stays formed in her throat.
She sees that same, young boy suffer for years until he's finally able to break out of the prison into which he and his family were thrown for being Jews. Time moves. Boy becomes man, and though he does exact vengeance for his parents' murders, something she can scarcely blame him for, he strives to put his past behind him. She sees him succeed when he falls in love. He's a different man, a better man; he even conceals his powers once again, this time of his own choosing. She sees him build a life with the woman he loves and have a child together with her, -- and she witnesses that life fall apart again.
Once more, simply because of hatred over the traits Magneto was born with, his life is torn asunder again, his family, including his newborn baby, mercilessly killed. She watches, through tears, as he tracks down their killers and feels his hatred as strongly as if it were own when he kills those who slaughtered his second family. But after the hatred is gone, after the burning anguish is abated, the grief, sorrow, and hollow, aching emptiness inside of him remains.
It stays with him for several years until he meets one Charles Xavier . . . and falls in love again. This time, his love is not returned. Charles insists on loving a woman and insists later in pursuing his dream of a peaceful coexistence between their people and the very species who killed Erik's family -- not once, but twice. Erik does his best for a long time to stand beside Charles, but through it all, he continues to see people, both mutant and human, both Jew and Christian, both black and white killed mercilessly by those very people Charles is so bent on protecting.
Finally, Erik can stand it no longer. He leaves Charles' side but not without a flood of tears and another of sorrow. This time, the sorrow chases him his entire life, always nipping at his proverbial heels, until finally, he comes back to Charles . . . almost too late. Charles still denies his feelings for him though both Erik and Jean can sense it in his every word, his every look, his every touch. They can sense it. They know he loves him, but he denies it time and again, too afraid that Erik will revert back to his old ways and chasing after his own dream of defeating the human species once and for all to ever be able to build a future with him and also too afraid of what his students will think of him should he pursue a relationship with one of their greatest enemies.
And then again, Jean sees the older Scott kill their beloved Professor. Once more, she senses Erik's rage, sorrow, and grief as though it were her own, but this time, instead of a single tear tracing down her face, her tears pour down like rain. "So you see, Miss Grey, why it was so difficult for me to stand with Charles," Erik says softly, his voice cracking with his barely held back emotions, "and yet so important that I stand for him now."
"Y-You loved him!" she gasps, still crying.
"I did." Erik nods solemnly. "I do. I was willing to do anything for Charles except what I should have done all those years ago. I should have never left him. I should have spent my life trying to make him happy, trying to make his dream a reality -- "
"But you couldn't let go of your own," she whispers breathlessly, "because of all the horrible things they did to you!" She reaches out, blinded by her tears, and grasps his arm. He seems so old and fragile now, not at all the man she and her team mates have feared for so long. "They killed your family -- your whole family -- not once but twice!"
"Yes. And then it was Charles' family who took him from me not once but twice."
"They intervened more than they should have, even before . . . even before Scott killed him! It's like I told Bo -- a friend the other day: Love is love! They have no right to condemn you!"
"But condemn they do. Humans are especially adept at that crime, but our own people are far too skilled at it as well."
"Yes," Jean cries. "Yes, they are. We are," she amends for she knows she, too, has condemned him many a time without ever truly understanding him, but now she understands him. Now, for the first time, she sees him as the struggling, hurting man he truly is. He has the power to wipe out millions of humans. It's a wonder he hasn't already, even with them fighting him, after everything they've taken from him. There are so many more he could have killed that he hasn't. It wasn't the X-Men who stopped him; it was his own love for Charles that got in his way of realizing his dream.
"Will you help me?" Erik asks softly. "I'm not asking for you to trust me. I know you never will, but I also know that you and the others consider leaving me every time you go away, every day you're here. I know you're training to be able to stop me should you need to, and I do not blame you for that either. By all means, continue your private training sessions. But please help me. Help me honor my beloved. Help me make his dream a reality. This, after all, is our last chance." She looks up and sees tears glittering in his blue eyes that suddenly seem so ancient. "I suppose one might even consider it to be my salvation."
She nods. "Yes, I'll help you, and I will not leave you." Her hands ball into fists. There's a part of her that wants to hug him, but instead she withdraws her hand from his arm. She's not sure how he would react if she hugged him -- he's never been shown that kind of simple kindness, after all, and he is still the Master of Magnetism. She's not sure she's any more ready for that gesture than he is to receive it. But she levels her chin and keeps his gaze, letting him see the tears that are only now beginning to slow their track down her face. "We'll make this happen together," she vows. "For the Professor. And for you. Just because the world is full of hate doesn't mean that it has to stay that way, or that some people aren't capable of overlooking past deeds and differences and learning to love, to trust, one another."
Erik's sad, tired lips twist into a smirk, surprising her. "You speak too highly, Miss Grey. You'll never learn to love me, but if you can stay working with me or perhaps even, by some miracle if such does still exist -- Charles always believed in them --, one day come to trust me, that is all I ask." He bows his head in respect to her. "Thank you for letting me show you the truth behind my reasons."
Jean's humbled not just by his words but by the true emotions she still feels radiating off of him. He hadn't thought she would believe him even though her telepathy would have told her if he had been fabricating a story. None of what he has shared with her this night is a lie; it's all the bitter, sorrowful truth. She inclines her own head in a nod. "Thank you," she whispers, her own words surprising her, "for trusting me."
He hadn't had to show her. He hadn't had to reveal what he considers to be his weaknesses to her. He had trusted her with his greatest secrets in hope that she would not turn against him. Just as Bobby had freaked out when she had learned the truth about him and spoken it so carelessly. She understands now why her friend was so afraid.
Erik turns and walks away, his head still bowed. As he moves away from her, Jean thinks he might be crying again. She reaches out a hand for him, but her fingers curl against her palms. There are no words she can speak that will reassure him. There are no words, at this point, that will help. All that will is to show him that she will stand with him. She turns and walks away, going back into the school and almost colliding with Scott.
"What was that all about?" he demands. She pulls back, looking at him in surprise. She must still be crying for the look of concern that clouds his face. "Jeannie, what did he say?! What did he do?! I'll -- "
"You'll do nothing," she tells him strongly, grabbing his arm as he starts to rush pass her. "And as of now, those private training sessions we've been having are canceled or, at least, I won't be attending them. I can't keep you from having them, but I no longer want any part of them."
Scott stares at her. "What did you do?" he asks again. "What did he tell you?"
"Nothing," she whispers, the sound of a breaking heart clear in her voice, "but the truth."
Scott's eyes widen behind his glasses, but she shakes her head. Magneto's story is his own to tell and to share with those he chooses to trust. She's still honored to be probably the only one he's ever been so completely honest with other than the Professor. She looks at Scott, her eyes haunted and still full of tears, for a long moment before releasing his arm and walking pass him. This is one secret she can not share with him. She feels him watching her long after she's left the room.
She goes from him straight to Bobby's room. He doesn't answer at first, but when her knock grows more insistent, he finally opens the door. She almost throws herself in his arms, hugging him tightly. "I'm so sorry," she whispers, "I was so blunt about your feelings. I never understood why you were so determined to keep them hidden before."
He pulls back, his hands cupping her elbows, and peers up at her. "What happened?"
She shakes her head, her tears flowing once again. "I can't tell you," she answers. "I can't tell anybody." Her hands move to his face, and she holds him still and gazes directly into his eyes. "Just know I love you, Bobby, just the way you are, and I'll never let anybody hurt you because of the way you are."
He stares at her in shock and slowly nods. "O-Okay." She hugs him again, then walks away, knowing she can't say more and yet still feeling her heart breaking for both him and for Erik.
She goes to the room to think and shuts the night and Scott's and Bobby's puzzled thoughts behind her. She walks to her window, sinks down onto its seat, and pulls the curtains aside. Gazing into the night, she sees Erik still walking, his head still bent. He's still alone. Her fingers curl against the curtain. No, she thinks, biting her bottom lip and trying to will herself to stop crying though her green eyes are still full of tears. No, you're not. He's not alone any more. She won't let him be persecuted again, or Bobby, because of their differences.
She pulls her knees up to her chest, wraps her arms around her chest, and thinks of the Professor. If only she'd known, back when he was still alive, what she knows now, maybe she could have made a difference. Maybe she could have helped both her cherished Professor and Erik, who it now seems so difficult to think of simply as Magneto, to finally find happiness together. The Professor had to have had his reasons for steering clear of pursuing any deeper relationship with Erik. She knows he had loved him too -- she had felt it in the memories Erik had shared with her tonight --, but he'd been afraid of allowing himself to do so openly. Maybe she could have showed him the love he needed to be brave enough to love Erik.
But he's dead now. There's no going back, only going forward, and Erik has every right to be an important part of their future. He will be, Jeannie vows. She won't let the others turn against him, now that she knows and understands the man he really is. She won't just protect the Professor's dream; she'll protect the man he loved too. She lets out a slow breath, steadying her nerves. Her mission here just got a lot deeper, but she's also more committed now than ever before not just to the Professor's dream but to his love's secret desires as well.
It's not going to be enough to forge peace between mutants and humans. What they need isn't simply a world where both species can get along together; it's a world where everybody can exist peacefully with one another and overlook each other's differences, rather those differences are between their species, their races, their religions, or their sexual orientations. Dear Lord, help us, Jean thinks. It seems almost impossible, but this is the mission she's really meant to spend her life fighting for. It may never happen in her lifetime -- it never happened in the Professor's, or in her life the first time around --, but Jean knows she'll never stop fighting for a world where all can live together peacefully. For friends like Bobby, for tortured souls like Erik, it's the least she can do. She bows her head, still feeling his pain, and finally lets her tears flow again.