Author: Kat Lee
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Say What Friday: "Half a truth is still a whole lie."; fffc: Wildcard (King of the Damned); and as agdhani's reward for completing a 1_million_words Weekend Challenge I hosted back in February
Warning(s): Spoilers, Cannon Character Death
Word Count: 1,766
Date Written: 26 March 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Marvel Comics and Disney, not the author, and are used without permission.
He tries not to think much these days. His thoughts have never led to much good, his plans having never held any legitimate success for long. He doesn’t have very many fond memories, and even those he does hold sadness for him as well, because everyone he’s ever loved has been taken from him. He can try to blame humanity. He can blame the X-Men, especially for keeping him away from their founder and Charles’ death. But in the end, it doesn’t do anything to place blame.
Blame doesn’t bring the dead back to life. It doesn’t make a sorrowful event any less painful. It distracts, true, but that, in the end, is about all it does. Sometimes, blame can even make things worse. If he hadn’t spent so many years blaming and fighting the X-Men, perhaps he could have found a way to be with Charles sooner. He had eventually come to them anyway. If he’d come earlier, the only real difference it would have made would have been more time spent besides Charles, which was the one place where Erik had never had to pretend to belong because it was the one place that was home to him.
He stares out the world, unseeing through a sea of tears that never seem to ebb when he’s alone for long these days, and he’s alone far too often. Even when people are all around him, he’s still alone. He’ll always be alone now. “Charles,” he whispers, shaking his white head. “My dear, dear Charles.”
How had they let things go so wrong? How had he let things go so wrong and for so long? He should have simply swallowed his pride and faced the truth rather than always trying to make the truth what he wanted it to be. Humans had killed his parents and later his wife and child, but how many mutants had killed humans? Who could really say what species had suffered the first death caused by hatred, and besides, were not his own parents humans as well?
Charles’ dream was fanciful, yes, but it was the only one that seemed capable of lasting. Even now, in the wake of Charles’ death, first Wolverine and then Kitty Pryde, a girl he still remembers as a child trying so hard to hang on in a world full of adults, Charles’ dream continues while he . . . He has no dreams left to speak of.
He tries not to sleep, because every dream he has is full of nightmares. Every dream echoes the same grief he faces in every moment in his life except that, in his dreams, the people he’s loved and lost are surrounding him, each wanting to know the same thing: Why? Why had he let them die? Why had he not spent more time with them, loving them openly, when he’d had the chance? Why? Why? Why? It was a word that never seemed to stop echoing in his mind, even now when he is painfully wide awake.
He should have stayed with Charles. He should have stayed with the X-Men when he’d had the chance. When Kitty had been a child, he’d actually been helping to teach them. He had been training the New Mutants. He had finally placed his own hatred and rage aside and had been fighting toward a better world, a world in which he and Charles had often stood side by side. Erik had blamed his departure from him then on his team, the X-Men who had never believed him, who had never trusted him. He should have stayed and fought harder to earn their trust. He should never have allowed them to send him away or to force a wedge between he and Charles.
If only he had stayed, Erik thought yet again, perhaps they could have found a better. Perhaps Charles’ dream would have already been realized by now, saving millions of mutant lives. Even more importantly, perhaps he himself would still be alive. Or, at the very least, perhaps he would have known how much Erik loved him, how much he had always loved him since they had first come to know each other in the war.
But he’d always allowed his path to be diverted from the one place where he had belonged. He had always let hatred and anger lead him, and had not Charles himself warned him that he would never be happy as long as he allowed those emotions to hold such sway over him? Had he not pleaded with him to stay with him? Had he not promised that they would work something out, that they would find a way?
He should have believed him. He should have stayed. He should have taken whatever he might have had to endure to stay with the man he loved, the one man other than his father who had ever truly loved him. But it’s all too late now. Charles is dead, and although in their crazy lives it seems rare that people actually die and stay dead, Erik knows he isn’t coming back this time.
Sometimes he likes to lie to himself. Sometimes he likes to pretend that Charles is still coming back, that his death was yet again only faked for some reason or another, that Scott had not truly killed the man Erik loved as a husband and Scott and the other X-Men loved as a father. The problem with lies, however, is that they are but empty promises, hollow words said and believed in to make pain go away, and Erik’s pain never goes away any more.
He should have stopped lying to himself years ago, and to Charles and his cherished X-Men. He should have taken a stand with them, not against them. A half truth is still a lie, and nothing good can come from lies, as Charles had so often told him. He should have told them all the truth. He should have declared his love for Charles Xavier in front of him, his X-Men, and the whole, damned world. Then, even if Charles had not lived, he would have at least known how much he loved him.
But now he’ll never know, Erik thinks, trembling as tears pour down his wrinkled face. He let anger and hatred lead his every moment and shape his every decision. His survival was never what was most important, as he had often lied and said it was, even when he’d come to rejoin the X-Men. Revenge should never have been the most important thing either, but he’d lied to himself so many times that it was that he had believed it until it was too late.
Charles was right. Revenge, hatred, survival . . . None of those were what was most important. Love shaped the world. Love was what had made him want revenge, and it was what had made him hate. Survival was but a facade all around, because what good did it possibly do to survive in body if one’s heart and soul was destroyed along the way? He’d be better off, Erik thinks, if his had been destroyed. He’d be in less pain at least; that’s for certain.
But instead, his heart feels dead and yet aches far too much to be dead. His soul has been emptied; if it had been carved away from his physical body with a knife, he could not possibly hurt more. And it’s all because Charles is gone and Erik has wasted not just an opportunity but his whole, damned life. He has been damned, he realizes, and even if he had managed to overthrow the human oppressors and had led the world, he might have saved the world but would still have been lost himself. He would have been the King of the Damned.
But now he’s only one man. He has no army, nor any family left to protect. He’s been left alone in this world he’s hated, it seems, almost since he was born. The one thing still tethering him to humanity, the one person worth more than anybody or thing else in all the worlds to him, is gone, and if he tells himself he’s coming back this time, he’s just lying to himself. He’s just trying to save himself from feeling this horrible pain, but he can’t save himself this time. Just like he couldn’t save Charles, he can’t save himself.
Erik drops to his knees, sobbing aloud, a picture of himself and Charles from so many years ago clutched in his hand. They’re smiling in the picture, and yet even then, they’d been troubled. They’d both been afraid of how the war was going to turn out and what was going to follow after. Even then, Charles had had dreams of a peaceful coexistence with humanity while Erik had wanted only to wipe the Earth clean of the human scum and spend every moment possible with Charles. He should have let the first go and clung to the latter. He should have kept to Charles.
But now it’s too late. Now it’s too late, his heart and soul are broken, and he will never, ever see Charles again. It’s too late, and all he can do is cry and grieve. This time, there’s no end to either. There’s no enemy left great enough that he can focus enough of his attention on them to deny his pain. He can lie no longer. He loved Charles with all his heart, and without him, he is but a broken shell of a man. Human or mutant, it no longer matters. All that matters is his love is gone, and this time, he’s not coming back to him. He’s not coming back to any of them.
But in a world between worlds, Charles sees. He hears. He weeps, and he tries to speak. He tries to call to Erik as he’s tried to so many times over the years they have known and loved each other. In life, Erik would never listen to him for long, but in death, he doesn’t hear him. Charles has to find a way back, and he will -- not for the world, for which he fought for so long; not for his X-Men, although he still, and will always, love them; but for Erik. One way or another, no matter what it takes, he has to find a way back to his love, and he will. “Hold on, Erik,” he pleads a prayer, knowing his love can not hear him. “Just hold on, and I’ll come back to you.”