Author: Kat Lee
Dedicated To: Cheyenne, another bright light lost too soon, and dancingdragon3 (This, my dear, is how we pull through: with those we love, with our family, even if many of those family we have yet to see. I think every day of my friends in Florida, Oregon, England, Virginia, and many other places. I think of my second family at home and of you all who are so dear to me when I'm having my dark moments. I have several times broken through the darkness not because of anyone presently with me -- not that I don't love Drew and our darling babies immensely -- but because of those at work and those on here who mean so much to me. We pull through together; we survive together. Our hands may not be holding to each other yet, but our hearts are!! <3)
Character/Pairing: Professor X/Magneto
Challenge/Prompt: fffc r17.21: Unsettling
Warning(s): Mentions Suicide
Word Count: 1,850
Date Written: 7 November 2017
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
He sits in his office, surrounded by solitude. The quiet has never sounded so heavy even with the voices of hundreds of others’ thoughts inside his mind. He rubs his temples without lifting his head. It’s become increasingly difficult lately to keep his students’ thoughts out of his -- well, perhaps not his students (he teaches very little these days), but the young ones, the scared children.
They’ve gathered so many lives to them, and yet, still, it’s not enough. He’s been accused of wanting to keep all the young mutants to himself and build an army from them. He can scarcely blame those who think such of him after the whole Onslaught debacle, but it still hurts. He never meant to lose control. He never meant to hurt so many, to kill so many. He’d only ever wanted to help.
And all he still does to this day is want to help. There are so many who need him, who need them, so many lives they still haven’t reached. He raises his eyes only and glances at the paper still sitting by itself on his desk and its garish headlines. Another young life has been lost. Another child ended her pain through the only means she could find, through death. Another child felled, because he didn’t reach her in time.
He hadn’t known of this one and her pain. Perhaps she had not been a mutant, but did that really matter? She was a lost and troubled soul, someone who needed help, someone who needed his help, and he’d let her down. He’d let someone down yet again.
He knows what his children would say. Logan would try to shrug away the death and make a remark to the effect of they couldn’t reach them all. Kitty would share in his sorrow. Rogue would reflect again how lucky she was, despite all the trouble they’ve brought her, that they welcomed her into the X-Men when they did. Hank would turn to science for an answer, Kurt to religion, and Illyana to magic. Scott would train harder, as though if perhaps he trains his students hard enough, they will not fall to the same nemesis, the same old devil.
Charles understands that reasoning. He’s been there himself too many times to count. He’s so often thought that if he trained his X-Men hard enough, well enough, they could save the world, but what of all the lives that are lost every second of every day while they’re training? What of the lives lost when they’re fighting to save one part of the world while yet another area suffers?
His keen, blue eyes move from one headline to another. Twenty six more innocent and bright souls slaughtered by a wicked gunman, this time, yet again, in a house of the Lord. So many have fallen. So many die every second of every day. How many of those take their own lives? The government believes there are one hundred and twenty one suicides every single day. Charles fears the number is even higher. Suicides made to look like accidents or murder are certainly nothing new, not in this day, not, as Hank would gently seek to remind him, in any day.
Charles closes his eyes again. He can practically feel Jean crying in his heart again, and yet she, too, has been gone from this harsh world for so long. Alone in his study, tears streak down Charles’ somber face. He wipes at them with his fingers and hides his face from the world with the palm of his hand. No one can see him, and yet he feels as though everyone sees him. Everyone sees him, everyone knows him, as the failure he is.
You are not a failure, the thought comes quickly into his mind.
Erik? Charles asks, only slightly surprised. He wishes his old friend were here with him now. How much more must they suffer before all their people can come together? How much more must everyone suffer before people finally learn to look past the X-gene, to look pass color and religion and sexual orientation? How much more must they endure before peace is finally theirs?
He feels a soft, dry chuckle within his mind and knows instantly that it is Erik, Erik who believes there is only one way to peace and that is through eradicating those who would stand in his way, Erik who also fears they will never have peace within their lifetime, Erik whose tears he felt before instead of Jean’s, Erik who he still loves. Did you hear the unsettling news? he asks, even though he already knows the answer.
The girl was not a mutant, Charles.
No, but she was still a lost soul, Erik, an innocent soul, a troubled soul who needed us, who needed me.
You can not save them all, especially when they cannot be bothered to save themselves.
But what pain did she suffer, Erik? Who was there for her? Who was there when she cried out in her final hour of need? Not I. I should have been there. Perhaps then I could have . . .
Perhaps you could have saved her, he says knowingly. Perhaps she would still be alive. And perhaps she would have grown into one of the Friends of Humanity or so many other human dictators and worked to eradicate our own race, Charles. You must have goals. You must choose.
NO! he cries out. I will never place another’s life before that of a child in need.
Of course you will. He can feel Erik’s sneer through their telepathic bond, and a shiver runs down his back. You do it every day. You place your precious X-Men before the world.
Before, not above. They risk their lives every day saving the world.
And stopping me. Stopping our people from reaching the place in this world that is rightfully ours. Where will it end, Charles? You want to know where it will end, when? When our people have finally stomped out the last crumbs of humanity.
You do not mean that, my friend, not truly, not any more. Your parents were humans.
There is no proof of that.
No, but nonetheless, I know you, Erik. I know you wish there was another way. I know you would have saved that child if you could.
Charles sits back in his old chair, his fingers steepling together before his face. I know you, Erik. I know the great Master of Magnetism has saved many a life before. You would have helped the child if you could have, if you had been there --
“But I was not.”
Erik’s audible voice startles Charles. His blue eyes pop open, and he looks across his room to see his most cherished friend floating just outside his open window. He inclines his head in a simple nod, understanding, never condemning, not anymore. The world has grown too small and their lives too short to continue condemning each other, especially when, in the end, they desire the same thing. “Nor was I,” he answers aloud, wheeling towards him.
“May I come in?” Charles’ curtain and Erik’s cape ruffle in the slight breeze.
Erik swoops in and lands before him, his head inclining somewhat humbly. “Charles, I -- I do not know what to say, old friend, other than the fact that we can not be everywhere at once. This girl’s death made the paper. But how many more are never reported? How many of our kind are found, killed either by hatred or through their own doing, their own submission, and are covered up by the human authorities?”
“I know exactly what you mean, dearest, but I fear this time, I no longer have any answers.” He gazes intently up at Erik, wanting nothing more than to be able to spread peace for all across their land and, if he can not do that, then to at least be held once more by the only person he’s ever truly loved in that special way, the only person who he’s ever completely, if mistakenly, fought had his side completely and would stand with him against anything and everything the horrors of this world could throw at them. “I wish I did.”
A somewhat sorrowful smile chases across Erik’s face. With a wave of his hand, he reaches out to Charles, using his belt buckle, his ring, the metals in his own body, and even the very chair in which he sits to propel him upwards. He catches him once he’s in the air, wrapping his strong arms tightly but reassuringly around him. Leaning his head against his shoulder so that the world can not see his own tears, Erik whispers sorrowfully, “That makes two of us.”
Charles holds to him, letting his own tears run freely at last. They have no answers, but they have this . . . this bond between them that, after all these years, all the things they’ve done to one another, and all the failures and atrocities they have each committed, still exists. He thinks back to the days when they taught side by side and wonders, not for the first time, if his own X-Men had not condemned Erik, if perhaps things would not have been much better, and much happier, for them both. But they had always been so quick to condemn their greatest foe and Charles’ greatest love.
“I have one,” he attempts, whispering through their tears. “Do not leave me again. I need you, Erik. This world is too maddening to face alone!”
“Your students . . . “
“If they run you away this time,” Charles pauses, threading his right fingers with Erik’s as he makes perhaps the boldest move of his life, “I will leave too.”
“No! We have suffered too much too long to deny ourselves this simple pleasure, this thing that brings us consolement when nothing else can!”
Erik pulls back just enough that he can face him and, for once, no longer tries to hide his tears. “This love?” he asks, whispering while searching Charles’ teary eyes through the own in his eyes.
Charles nods without hesitation. “Yes, Erik! This love, that we have always felt and always hidden.”
Erik kisses him, quickly, passionately, and for the first time in days, despite the fear and sorrow clinging to his heart, Charles smiles. This is how they face the world, he thinks, kissing Erik back in full while threading together the fingers of their other hands as well. This is how they face the world and win, the only way they can: together!