Chapter 1: Charles' Choice
Apocalypse – Charles’ Choice, by glacis. Rated PG for violence. Spoilers for X-men: First Class. Pairing: preslash, Erik/Charles.
At the end, it came down to an impossible choice.
He made it.
The war had been raging for decades. He’d lost – they’d lost – so many. His lifelong search for peace had lead to nothing but death, his attempts at neutrality driven into dust by the sheer determination of the humans to destroy everything they feared, everyone who was not themselves, and the fiercer determination of Erik’s children to live freely.
His own children were caught in the middle, and they were decimated.
A jolt nearly unseated his efforts at assisting the mutants – all of them, his, Erik’s, any mutants – to survive. The last thread holding him to Raven snapped. A voice in the back of his mind screamed.
It shouldn’t have been this way.
The hatred flourished, despite the efforts of a few on both sides of the divide to come to some sort, any sort, of an understanding. In the end, it was, as it always had been, always would be, a race to genocide. His own thesis had laid it out, all those years ago.
Homo sapiens sapiens ruthlessly destroyed Homo sapiens neanderthalensis to assure their place at the top of the food chain. They would do the same to Homo sapiens mutensis, and they could, by sheer force of numbers and weaponry.
Unfortunately, he hadn’t listened to his own wisdom, blinded by his optimism. Perhaps some inherent stupidity. Certainly his arrogance.
He had learned a great deal from Jean as she underwent her struggles with her powers. His own had continued to mutate, but would never reach her level of power. Tragically, she was dead now, too, and this time the Phoenix wouldn’t rise. Radiation poisoning, modified to attack mutated DNA, had hampered her last resurrection, much as it had Logan’s, and two of his brightest, fiercest friends were never coming back.
Across the surreal scene, landscape devastated by fires flashing orange, blue, yellow, red, streaks of blue, bodies and body parts scattered in piles, carelessly trampled by the few remaining mutants fighting the overwhelming number of World Unified soldiers, he caught a glimpse of Erik, going down slowly under the sheer weight of the modified polymer hunter drones bearing down on him.
It was over.
It was time.
Years ago, before he was the Beast, long before he was torn to pieces by experiments in an underground bunker at an Army base somewhere in West Virginia, Hank had created a serum. He’d intended it for Raven, but she’d taken what Charles now knew was the better path, and remained who she was. The second syringe had never been used. Charles had found it in Hank’s things, after they’d gotten word of his death, after the memorial for which they’d had no body. It was a symbol to Hank, of his failings, of his fate.
Charles wasn’t the scientist Hank was, but he was brilliant, and he had Hank’s notes. In the dark hours before dawn after too many sleepless nights, reaching out for presences he could no longer feel, he’d realized the underlying truth of Hank’s supposed failure.
The serum overwrote the genetic code and removed from it all that was human, leaving behind all that was the mutation. Charles had wondered, and feared, what would happen if he should ever give in to his gnawing curiosity, and inject the serum into himself. He had been unable to make that choice, still hoping, even as the world shattered, that there was a chance at peace. But he’d taken to carrying the case with him, secured upon his person, in the vague notion – perhaps premonition – that one day it might come to that.
Staring blindly at the death before him, screams echoing through the agony in his mind as life after life was taken, harkening back to the first death he experienced, holding the victim captive so that Erik would survive his revenge, Charles knew it was time.
His dreams were gone. They never would have come true, as the nature of the beast that was humanity would never allow them.
The efforts of the enemy bore fruit, and in front of him, Erik went down and stayed down. His helmet torn from his head, Charles caught the flash of pain, the blinding fury, then emptiness. Another voice screamed in the back of his mind.
He wasn’t fool enough to believe there was a way out of this destruction. People, both those of his kind he loved, and those of the Other he had tried to protect, had gone too far. There was no redemption for his mistakes.
There was, in the end, no peace.
He could not predict what he would become, but it didn’t matter any more. It was all over. Whatever he was, whatever he would be, it wouldn’t be worse than this. If nothing else, he would bear the full power of his mutation.
And with that power would come justice, or perhaps revenge.
He didn’t care which.
One hand remained at his temple, his protection drawn down to a bubble around him, maintaining his invisibility. The other extracted the syringe from the pouch, raised it to his chest over his heart, and calmly pushed it in. A steady squeeze, and ice raced through his veins. When the plunger bottomed out, he equally calmly pulled the needle out.
The explosion began at his center, rippling through him so fast, so agonizingly, that it was over between one breath and the next.
He was standing… no, floating… in a stream of images. Voices. Impressions. Emotions. He looked down. His body was there, on his own two feet as it hadn’t been in over sixty years. But it was different.
He was different.
His form was translucent, not ghostly, but iridescent, like the surface of a soap bubble blown from a child’s toy. For all its seeming fragility, it was strong, unbreakable, in fact. The images flowed around him, flowed through him, and for once, it was no strain to hear them, to understand them, to direct them. Not only their thoughts, but their emotions, their motivations, their very souls, if he waxed metaphysical about it.
The fleeting thought struck him that this was what he had feared, this power. His fear had barely reined in his arrogance, even before, as a hybrid, as a human mutant. Another thought hit, that he, and Hank, and Raven, those who could not pass, were the only true mutants, or perhaps the first true mutants. Images hit him again, tiny pebbles in the river, and he knew there were more. He could find them. He could teach them. He could protect them.
He would kill them, as he had killed all those he had found, and taught, and protected, the first time.
He stilled, the images flowing around him, not in a straight path, but in a circle, a whirlpool, with himself at the center. And he knew.
Not this time.
Moments flew past, swirled around, and he noticed a face, looking at him with bright yellow eyes shadowed by pain they should never feel. He reached out to it, brushed his finger against it, was drawn in closer.
In the kitchen, in the dim light of the refrigerator, where most of the small, important conversations happened. She looked to him for truth, and also for reassurance. In his prudishness, in his unwillingness to admit, he gave her neither.
He should have told her she was beautiful. She was.
The moment slipped away, and another slowed. The look in Alex’s eyes, how had he not recognized it? He’d seen it often enough, if never quite as nakedly, in his own. Self-disgust, because no matter how he appeared, he would never be normal, no matter how he’d wished it, he would never be one of the Others.
He watched as Alex tore Hank’s burgeoning self-confidence in his difference to shreds before it could gain any purchase. As Charles had done with Raven… with Mystique, never stopping to notice, never stopping to think, for God’s sake. His gentle rebuke to Alex, seen now, with the blinders off, was blatant permission to continue, to nourish the bigotry based on appearance rather than cutting it off at the root, as he should.
The swirl continued, and another image came to him. Water, and pressure, and such iron determination even as Erik’s life was leaving him, to end it, to stop the murderer, to lay the ghosts to rest, to stop fighting, to never stop fighting. Charles had known then, as other moments clustered, encircling him, crystalizing the self-knowledge.
Hands clasping, muscles straining, as he pulled Erik back on the Blackbird, saving him from Riptide’s wrath. A niggling shock and impatience, a thread of worry, as he called Hank off, as the man nearly choked Erik to death. The fleeting worry, and bone-deep relief, confusing him at the time, when Erik nearly left the first time, but was still there the next morning. So many times he could have made the choice to tell him, but hadn’t.
For such a brilliant man, Charles mused, he was such a fool.
Another image streamed past, close to him, caressing him as it slipped by. He reached out, absorbed it, and time … stopped.
He couldn’t feel Erik, but by God, he could feel Shaw. The pain was horrific, a thin blade of metal tearing through his brain, made all the more awful by the full realization in Shaw’s panic-stricken mind of everything that was happening. Charles wanted to let go, needed to let go, couldn’t let go, or Shaw would expel the coin, heal himself, and destroy Erik. He couldn’t let that happen, but holy Mother of God, it hurt.
This was so wrong! This wouldn’t help! This would never bring Erik peace!
Yes, a quiet voice answered in his ear. This is necessary. This must happen. Shaw must die, and Erik must kill him, and you must not stand in the way. The end shall not come.
In the shimmering of the pain tears Charles thought he saw an outline, moving next to him. Over him. Within him.
The agony of having his brain sawn in half, the strain of holding the victim still, the heartache of watching his closest friend lose himself in fury, somehow lessened, as Charles felt his mind expand so abruptly he could swear he heard the universe convulse.
Scenes played out, drowned him, choices made, the right choices at the time that had terribly wrong consequences. The big picture was as wide as time itself, a perspective Charles had never imagined.
Across from him, Moira was screaming something, he couldn’t tell and didn’t care. She was the first mistake, another well-meaning human who’d nearly killed him, nearly gotten herself killed, over something she never should have seen. He’d save her, not because she was an innocent – he’d seen too many innocents die to believe that innocence was any kind of armor – but because without her he never would have met Erik.
Never would have understood.
Never would have become, at the end, at this new beginning.
Never would have made this choice, a right one, finally, he could understand.
Her eyes glazed over and she fell asleep. Her memories shifted, then disappeared. When she awoke, she’d wonder how she came to be in a bathroom at headquarters, when the last she remembered she’d been in a car on a stakeout in Vegas.
Raven was next, or Mystique, he supposed, as that was her choice. He smiled gently at her through the tears of pain running down his face, and said quietly, “It will be all right,” in a voice hoarse from screaming.
He turned back to Erik. He couldn’t hear Erik, but he could feel him. Such fury. Such pain.
The coin continued its work. When Shaw was dead, the puncture nearly all the way through his brain before his advanced healing factor could no longer keep up with the damage, Charles released him. Stepping down from the wreckage of the Blackbird, Charles watched Erik levitate the crucified corpse down to the beach.
Two groups of children, standing apart, staring at one another with hostility. Erik’s words about unification against the common enemy, the common human, resonated with some, shook others, and Charles could hear their fears, their reluctant agreement, their firm disavowal. Erik spoke of the guns slowly turning their way.
“That’s not a problem,” Charles told him calmly.
Erik looked at him as if he were insane. Charles smirked. Locked eyes with Erik, and threw the might of his mind against the enemy.
The guns stopped.
The ships slowly, ponderously, turned away.
Every mutant on the beach turned to look at him. Charles’ smirk widened into a brief smile before dropping away.
“Azazel, if you would please return Moira to the CIA headquarters,” he said, implanting the orders to keep her alive, unharmed, and leave her in the ladies’ washroom on the first floor by the lifts. Someone would find her there.
Azazel shook his head, blinked at Charles once, then nodded. With a whiff of sulfur he disappeared. A second puff of smoke came from the wreckage of the plane, then a moment later he returned, looking a little confused. Angel glanced at him, but he shook his head, and they turned back to the argument going on before them.
Sean was glaring at Angel and muttering under his breath. Hank was growling.
“They’ll come after us,” Alex warned.
“She doesn’t remember a thing,” Charles assured him. “Neither do they,” he added, gesturing toward the combined might of the United States and Soviet Navies currently puffing away from one another off the coast of Cuba.
Every living mutant on the beach gaped at him. Erik dropped Shaw.
“We can’t be divided,” Charles continued. “We are outnumbered, surrounded, and embedded in a hostile environment. In addition, our brethren are adrift amongst the normals, and need to be rescued.” He turned toward Erik. “The children must be protected.”
“We can’t give in, damnit,” Erik growled at him, still looking somewhat shocked, still not noticing Shaw’s body had crumpled to the sand, all his attention riveted to Charles. “And we shouldn’t have to. We’re better than they are, and we have to protect ourselves against them!” Unspoken was his cry, it will not happen again!
“You’re quite right,” Charles agreed, sending a ripple of disbelief through his students, and pure shock through Shaw’s followers. “But if we attack, we shall be overcome. We are scattered, unprotected, untrained, and there are few of us compared to them. We must make our place in this world, and we must stay safe whilst we’re doing it.”
“What happened to fighting for the humans?” growled Hank, confused.
“It won’t work,” Charles admitted, tossing a quick smile Erik’s way at his snort. “but Shaw’s plan wouldn’t have worked either – it wouldn’t do to destroy the planet just to get rid of the humans. We have to live here, too, and too many mutants would die in a nuclear war. Erik,” he turned to face his best friend, “we don’t have to collaborate, but we do have to mutually exist. We can’t start a war that we can’t win.”
The force behind his words took Erik aback. Something about Charles had changed. He looked closer, and could swear he saw an opalescent shimmer around Charles’ body, barely visible in the sunlight. He blinked, and moved closer, carelessly trampling on Shaw’s body.
His torturer, his mother’s murderer, was dead. Vengeance was given. The past was with him, but the present was, for the first time since he was child, more important.
He stopped a short distance from Charles, and stared into his face. His eyes widened and he swallowed with a suddenly-dry throat.
Charles had indeed changed. His features were sharper, somehow, brow and cheekbones edged like knives beneath his skin, and his eyes… his eyes glowed… and the pupils… were shaped like stars.
“What happened to you?” he breathed.
“I made a choice,” Charles whispered back, and smiled again.
Erik licked his lips. Charles’ teeth were a lot sharper than they used to be.
“But now’s not the time for that discussion,” Charles continued, raising his voice as he continued. “The humans have forgotten we’re here. Not just the military,” he waved negligently again at the steaming warships, “but the CIA as well.”
The other mutants looked relieved, confused, and some, unconvinced. Charles smiled a little more widely, showing those unnerving teeth. “So, Erik, if you’d clean up the debris, cover our tracks? Azazel, if you’d give us a lift back to my place? We can all clean up, get some dinner, and talk.”
Erik tore his gaze away from Charles long enough to nod at his followers. Then he glanced around the wreckage on the beach.
“Someone will notice if I start slinging this around,” he told Charles, who shook his head, giving Erik a serene look that frankly disturbed him.
“No, they won’t,” Charles said, and his eyes glowed a little more brightly.
Erik shivered, then took him at his word. It was the work of a moment for Erik to send the wreckage deeply into the ocean, settling among the detritus, hopefully not to be found.
“It won’t be,” Charles said softly.
Erik turned sharply, staring at him. “I thought you couldn’t read my mind through the helmet.”
Charles flashed him a sharp look, then shook his head. “Didn’t need to. It was written all over your… body.”
Erik’s eyes widened at the look Charles raked him with. Where had this come from? Well, perhaps it wasn’t completely unexpected, as they had become quite close during their road trip, and his attraction to Charles wasn’t entirely hidden – nothing could be, from a telepath. But the other man had given no indication that the attraction was mutual. Of course, he’d also given no indication that it was even noticed. Charles, as usual, was as complex and confusing as he’d ever been. Erik glared at him.
Only now, he shimmered. And his eyes glowed. And those sharp teeth, for some reason, were a real turn-on. Trying to shake those thoughts off before Charles read them, too, in his body, he turned to Azazel.
The demon stepped forward with Angel, as did the other mutants after Charles’ reassuring nod, and Erik took Azazel’s hand. His other hand was wrapped in Charles’ strong grip, and there was something oddly warm about it. Erik refused to look at either their clasped hands, or Charles’ face. He had to get a handle on this.
A puff of sulfur and a dizzying moment later, they were on the front lawn of Charles’ mansion. Azazel dropped his hand, and the group moved forward, some eagerly, some warily.
Charles didn’t let go of his hand.
This time, it would be different.
End of the beginning
Chapter 2: Erik's Choice
Erik has questions, which Charles doesn’t answer, and the family eats together (after Erik takes a shower).
Apocalypse, part 2: Erik’s Choice, by glacis. Rated R.
Of course, it wasn’t as easy as one might assume. Charles, or whomever Charles had become, wasn’t God. Although the leap in his abilities was uncanny. No, his strength extended to the minds of the people he could directly influence, those in his line of sight or those whose minds he had touched in the past. The sailors manning the ships that had launched the missiles. The surviving agents in the CIA who’d been involved with ‘the Project’. But the ruling bodies, the Congressional committees and the Soviet, he couldn’t reach all of them.
The problem remained, and would grow. Mutants were targets. Erik had worn a star on his shirt for too long. He still bore the number on his arm.
He, and his people, Charles included, would never be targeted again – persecuted, tortured, murdered. Used against one another. That his people were now mutants, not Jews, made no difference.
The first time, he’d been a child, powerless to affect the hell in which he’d found himself.
This time, he was a man, and the power he’d cried blood and sacrificed his humanity to gain, he would use.
Against the humans.
Before it all turned to hell again.
He didn’t completely trust Charles’ turnaround. His friend had been so adamant, so stubborn, in his eternal optimism. He’d believed with all his being that someday humans and mutants could coexist without the inevitable by-products of fear and violence.
Something radical had changed on that beach.
Charles had changed. But why? And how much?
Erik’s mind was in a turmoil, exhaustion from finally triumphing over the devil from his childhood and putting Shaw down like the rabid animal he was tumbling with questions about the only man he considered his friend, and the warm hand still holding his.
At that thought, he abruptly tried to pull his hand away.
Attempt being the operative verb. When had Charles’ grip gotten so firm? It wasn’t hurting him, but it wasn’t releasing him, either.
“Peace, my friend,” Charles murmured for his ears only.
Erik glanced sideways at him. Charles was looking straight ahead at the mansion, a strange smile on his lips. His expression was oddly wistful, as if it had been years since he’d seen the place, not merely hours.
“Are you all right, Charles?” Erik blurted, then wondered where his control had gone, before silently laughing at himself. His control was shot to hell where Charles was concerned, and had been since the man somehow stopped him from leaving the CIA headquarters months ago.
Glimmering blue eyes shot him an unreadable glance. Those star-shaped pupils were freaking him out, Erik thought, but were not unattractive.
Not unattractive, at all.
Feeling his body respond, as much as it was capable in its state of exhaustion, he huffed in exasperation and forced his impulses down.
From the wicked light now shining in those strange eyes, his reaction hadn’t gone unnoticed.
“Later, my friend,” Charles purred. “First we’ve business to attend to.”
Erik was still mulling that, trying to pry out the multitude of possible meanings, when Hank opened the door and they all trooped into the mansion.
Raven was showing Azazel, Riptide and Angel to rooms as Charles led Erik to his. Turning to address the motley group, Charles announced, “Dinner in an hour. Refresh yourselves and we’ll meet in the dining room. Raven, Hank, if you would be so kind as to show our guests the way when they’re ready.”
Hank looked like he’d rather rip their throats out than be nice to them, but Raven looked resigned. Apparently she had experience in Charles bringing erstwhile enemies into the fold and feeding them, or perhaps she was simply used to Charles impeccable manners under any circumstances. She nodded, poked Hank in the side, and he grudgingly agreed.
Charles turned back to him as the others moved to their own rooms. Shielding them from view with his body, Charles raised Erik’s hand, still clasped in his own, and pressed a kiss at the base of his palm.
“I would consider it a favor if you would not wear the helmet, Erik,” Charles said softly. “When I can’t feel your mind, it is as if someone has cut out my eyes.”
Erik gave an involuntary gasp, then raised his free hand to remove the helmet. Instantly, warmth filled him, chasing away the remnants of a chill he’d had since he’d killed Shaw, but hadn’t truly noticed until that moment.
Once mental contact was made, Charles finally released his hand. Smiling, he stepped back, eyes still locked to Erik’s.
“I’ll see you at dinner, then.”
His throat closed up. Unable to force a word out, Erik thought his acceptance, and was rewarded with a glow of happiness from Charles. Erik swallowed drily and retreated with all due haste into his room.
He’d never been scared of Charles before, and he wasn’t, precisely, now. But he’d always felt like he could read Charles, to the extent anyone could, and he could predict Charles’ actions. He trusted Charles more than he’d trusted anyone since before the camps – he still did, regardless of the shocks of this day – but he couldn’t predict Charles anymore. Had a hard time reading him. Was blazingly aware of him. Did his utmost to block him out, and hoped Charles wasn’t paying attention, because with everything, despite everything, he was achingly turned-on.
His shower served for more than washing away the sweat and blood and grime of the day. As the water poured over him, it felt as if a weight was sloughing off down the drain. Shaw was dead. Charles was on his side. They had a future, and eventually they would win.
It all came back to the man.
Closing his eyes as his hands ran through the soap traces on his body, Erik allowed himself the luxury of responding. Hands touching himself became Charles’ hands, strong fingers combing through the hair on his chest, down his stomach to cup his balls, fingertips tracing the veins along his penis. A thumb, brushing lightly, then pressing harder, across the tip, and heat along his back, absorbing his shudders. An open mouth against his shoulder, hot, wet, the tiny sting of sharp teeth against his skin. Pressure against his buttocks, the back of his thighs, and a shoulder supporting his head as it fell back against it. Strong arms wrapped around him, an equally strong thigh parting his own from behind, and Erik gave himself up to the fantasy.
As he came, his eyes still closed, he never saw the translucent sheen of the soap bubbles sliding from his skin. If he had, he would have recognized it.
He still might not have believed it.
The bite on his shoulder healed before he noticed it.
Stepping from his own shower, Charles took a single gasp and calmed his heart rate. Erik was astonishing. He’d known, always known, that he was beautiful. But in extremis, he was frankly astonishing.
“Groovy,” he murmured as he pulled on fresh clothes, drawing the word out. He couldn’t wait for seconds.
Nearly bouncing with barely restrained glee, he bounded down the stairs and set about getting dinner ready.
Erik was more relaxed than he could ever remember being… well, perhaps that one memory Charles had pulled from the depths of his mind, his Mother, the menorah, before Hell. But this went much deeper, a bone-deep relaxation that gave him a sense of peace he’d never expected to feel. Coming into the dining room he smirked at the sight of the children and Shaw’s minions facing off across the dining table.
“Sit,” he commanded abruptly, hiding his amusement.
“Please do,” Charles added as he came in from the kitchen, trailing platters of food after him.
The sight was so unexpected, no one thought to question, and they found themselves sitting as Charles floated the plates and bowls in front of them.
“Um, Charles?” Raven asked, head cocked to one side as she stared at her brother.
“Ah, yes, telekinesis. Who knew, eh?” Charles grinned at her then took his place at the head of the table.
“Since when?” Hank asked, stunned.
Charles appeared to think on that for a moment, and Erik wondered at the traces of amusement he could feel from his friend at the question.
“A little while now, Hank,” Charles finally responded. “Surely you don’t think you were the only ones working on your gifts? It did, however, come to full flower during today’s mission. Please, dig in.” He gestured at the cold cuts, salad and bread in front of them. “It’s not fancy, but it’s filling.”
Sean and Alex nearly hurt themselves lunging for the food, until Hank growled at them and they calmed down. Raven was glaring at Angel, who was glaring back, but Riptide was serving himself, then placing food on Angel’s plate, as it didn’t look like she was going to. Azazel was ignoring Hank’s subvocalized growling and filling his plate like he hadn’t a care in the world, a stance belied by his tense posture. Erik sighed even as he dished sliced melon onto his plate. This was a recipe for disaster.
“Enough,” Charles said gently, but with the force of a steel blade behind his words. Everyone at the table stopped what they were doing and looked at him. Sean had a sandwich halfway to his mouth, and a piece of ham fell out onto his plate. Riptide dropped his fork. No one said a word.
“As was made clear on the beach, we are all on the same side. We must stand together or we will all fall.” Charles’ tone didn’t change, but if anything, it intensified. Another shiver rippled down Erik’s spine. Charles shot him an unreadable glance, then returned to his lecture.
“You may feel as if you are sitting to table with enemies. We fought today, and tried our best to hurt one another. That is the past. We must put it behind us and look to the future.”
Raven made a sound that might have been protest if she’d actually opened her lips. It sounded like an indignant kitten. Charles’ gaze softened as he looked at her.
“We are together, even if we don’t like one another.” As he spoke, he glanced at Angel and Sean, then Alex, then Hank, before returning to Raven. “We are mutant, not Other, and we are proud, but we are also smart, and we will do what we must to ensure that we may all live in peace without being destroyed by the Others. That means getting along, working together for our common good, and remembering who we can rely upon… ourselves, and only ourselves.” He smiled sweetly at Raven. Shocking them all, he added, “Mystique, if you would be more comfortable, please return to your normal appearance. I’m sure I’ll eventually get used to the nudity, and I’ve always thought the blue was beautiful.” His sincerity rang in his voice.
Raven, now Mystique as she had chosen, beamed at him, her eyes melting to blazing, happy yellow as her body took its natural form. She bounced a little in her seat, and Hank made a noise a little like a gurgle. She immediately turned on him.
“This is who I am, Hank, and if you don’t like it…” She trailed off as she realized he was staring directly at her breasts, and he didn’t look like he didn’t like it. She gulped.
“Er?” Hank mumbled, pulling his eyes up to her face and flushing a deep purple beneath his fur.
Mystique’s eyes narrowed, and a smirk spread across her face. It took quite some self-control for Erik not to laugh out loud.
The children would muddle their way through.
He looked up from Hank and Mystique’s flirtation as Alex asked Charles, “Hey, professor. What’d you mean, ‘others’?”
Angel snorted, and Sean opened his mouth to say something, probably vicious, when Charles cut in. “Others. So-called normals. What Erik calls ‘humans.’ Those who are different from us, and who would turn on us if they knew of us.”
Such a complete change in Charles’ thinking made everyone who knew him stare at him in shock, while those who had been in Shaw’s group gave him measuring looks. Charles sighed, setting down his serviette and staring into the distance. Erik didn’t know precisely what he was looking at, but from his expression, it was the death of dreams.
When he finally spoke, it sounded as if he was reciting history, not speculating on the future. “The vast majority of the Others won’t bother us at first, because they won’t know or won’t care, or will find us fascinating or alien, or will otherwise be innocuous.”
Erik made as if to protest, but was stopped by a warning sound in his mind. Charles wasn’t finished making his point. Erik settled down, and Charles continued.
“However, there are too many Others, those in power, those who command armies, who will fear us, or hate us, or seek to use us for their own ends. The innocents will be used against us, will become our enemies from the actions of their leaders, and that fear will spread, until even the innocents will be against us. I will not have that happen.”
He looked up from the table and raked them with his glance. “Erik is right. Those who are different, us, cannot be a target for the fear and violence of the Others, not again. We have a chance to find our own way, gather our strength for the inevitable confrontation, and gather what allies we may for our eventual battle. It is toward this purpose that we must bend our attention, not waste it in squabbles amongst ourselves.”
The silence was stifling. After a moment, Erik leaned forward and raised his water glass. “To brotherhood,” he toasted, and Charles smiled, an expression behind it that Erik couldn’t decipher.
“Mutant and proud!” Mystique chimed in, raising her own glass, as others around the table gradually followed suite.
“To being who we are,” Sean said quietly, and Angel muttered, “yeah.”
“To family,” Charles said, and with that, they all drank, though Hank and Riptide looked a little unconvinced.
Erik turned from the children to see Charles speaking with Azazel.
“We need to get Frost out of CIA hands. Would you be able to get in and out undetected?”
Erik swiveled to look at Charles. Azazel snorted, amused, then finished chewing his roast beef and swallowed.
“When do you want her?”
“As soon as possible,” Charles answered. “The less time they have her in custody, the better.” Unspoken was the reality – if they kept her, they would follow her back to other mutants, or at the least, use her for experimentation on her mutation. A flash of the camps, of Shaw’s chamber of horrors, and Charles’ warm touch in his mind calmed him.
A flash of sulfur, and Azazel disappeared. A moment, and another flash of sulfur later, and Emma Frost sat in an empty chair next to Azazel. She looked shell-shocked.
“Salad?” Charles asked, holding up a bowl.
Alex and Sean snickered. Riptide did too, to Erik’s surprise.
What The Hell – echoed in everyone’s mind. Instantly, Charles voice overrode it. After dinner, Miss Frost, he said gently. It was a command, and to Frost’s evident surprise, she followed it. Sean passed her a platter of cold cuts, Angel passed down the salad, and Emma Frost settled down to eat. Her mind threw out questions, small compulsions to get information, but every one of them was stopped in its tracks.
Charles knew how to put up walls. Walls of diamond. Erik looked at Frost, then back to Charles. The woman looked like she was about to faint.
Charles was smiling.
Erik stared at him. Was that a wink? What the hell, indeed!
“As I was saying,” Charles continued smoothly, looking pointedly at their newest arrival, “we must stand together, as Erik’s brotherhood, or apart, we will fail.” His smile faded, and the look he gave Erik had as much understanding in it as it did compassion, with which it was brimming. “It won’t happen again, Erik,” he said quietly.
“How do you know that, Charles?” he shot back.
The steel appeared, and for an instant Erik could swear he saw that opalescent shimmer around Charles’ body before it disappeared.
“We won’t let it,” Charles assured him.
For reasons he could never explain, for the first time in his life that he could remember, Erik believed.
End part 2
Chapter 3: Emma's Choice
She felt like she was on a roller coaster, or back as a teenager, with Sebastian, before he was Sebastian to her, and was still Master. Her brain actually hurt, and that hadn’t happened in a very long time.
When had the little pacifist telepath grown balls? And claws?
Sparing Xavier a glance up the table under her lashes, she gulped.
And fangs, looked like.
She would have expected it from the Prodigal Son, as Sebastian liked to call him. Lehnsherr was a bastard, the bastard, admittedly, her darling had made him, just as she was the bitch Sebastian had made her. But she’d come out all the stronger for it, and whether Lehnsherr would admit it or not, so had he.
When they’d cornered her in Russia, him and his little pet telepath, she’d been sure she knew who the alpha dog was, and it wasn’t the cute Englishman with the big blue eyes and the soft mind-touch.
So much for soft.
One minute she was lying on a cold metal slab in a cold metal room, cut off from everything and everyone… maybe she’d been a little hasty, cutting the mirror in the first interrogation room – Sebastian had tried to teach her to play her cards close to her vest, but she’d been bored, and look where it left her… when Demonboy popped in and popped her out. Next thing she knows she’s sitting at a table with a bunch of mutants in some weird parody of Father Knows Best, only instead of Lehnsherr at the head of the table and Xavier wearing the pearls in the family, Xavier’s holding up a salad bowl, smiling at her like he actually means it, and stopping her powers dead in their tracks.
She was cut off in her own mind, but she could still feel them all around her. She just couldn’t read them, or reach them, or manipulate them, or… hell and damnation, where had he picked up that trick?! She shuddered into diamond form, and he breached her walls and STILL talked in her mind!
It took every shred of hard-won composure she had to not fall over in a dead faint.
He was yammering on about brotherhood, or something, but her thoughts were tangled into such a knot she couldn’t pay attention long enough to figure it out. Chewing absently on a rather delicious macaroni salad, she forced herself to calm down.
Much better, he said in her mind, and her form rippled, flesh to diamond and back to flesh again, not that it did any good. Beside her, a redheaded teenager drooled at her and mumbled something incoherent. The blond boy next to him smacked the back of his head. She ignored them both.
She had to do something.
She had no idea what.
So she did what she’d been trained to do. She waited, she watched, and when the time was right, she would strike.
Surely she was imagining the ghostly laughter whispering through her thoughts. Surely she must be.
The next few days had her re-evaluating her strategy.
Her first shock came that night.
For the first time since she gained control of her powers, she could look, but she couldn’t touch… and there were a lot of things she couldn’t see. Instead of a diamond-hard knife slicing through others’ thoughts with a blade so sharp they didn’t even feel it cut, she was looking through mirrors, and most of them were smoky. Oddly, she didn’t feel cut off – the buzz of thoughts surrounded her, gave her the comfort it always did. But she couldn’t get in, either, and that made her a little crazy.
Late that night, unable to settle, she trailed a mental fingertip through the dreams floating around her, hoping for some stress relief, or at least some entertainment. Most were the normal fragments one finds when one eavesdrops… Angel kicking a faceless man in the crotch when he reaches for her breast… Blueboy posing before a mirror, body by Atlas and not a shred of blue fur in sight… the redhead nuzzling Audrey Hepburn while rolling on a pile of diamond necklaces… the blond nuzzling the redhead in what looked like a bomb shelter… the blue girl decked out in a dress that looked like it was made of daisies… Riptide playing with water devils… Xavier playing with Lehnsherr…
That last one stopped her, in part because it looked like it went both ways, and in part because it was ridiculously sexy. They were in separate beds, but that was no biggie for a telepath. She was used to guys thinking they were having sex with her when she was nowhere near their bodies. No, what was freaky about this was, while they were in different beds, they weren’t projecting false fronts, and both of them were really into it. They were going at it, both of them, like it was real, even if it was all in their heads.
And they were really getting into it.
Lehnsherr was cradling Xavier’s head in his hands, kissing him gently, over and over, little kisses that looked soft, like raindrops. Xavier was kissing him back, a little harder, but still tenderly, in a way she didn’t think guys knew how to kiss.
She’d always been uncomfortable with intimacy. Touch hurt when you could read so much even without it. Fantasy was easy. There was a reason she was a virgin, yet knew more about sex than most career prostitutes. Give a guy an image of a panting blonde chick in leather, and she’d often been amazed – and disgusted – at the kinky stuff they could come up with.
This wasn’t like that.
They were naked now, clothes fading away like they do in dreams, or the better fantasies, where reality doesn’t count because it’s all a dream, so who cares about the small stuff? Like belt buckles and socks and, oooh, that looked like it felt good, as Lehnsherr had his hand between Xavier’s thighs and was doing something to him that made Xavier shake like a leaf in the wind.
They were making noises now, needy little moans from Xavier and earthier grunts from Lehnsherr, like he didn’t want to but couldn’t help it. Xavier’s hands were running up and down Lehnsherr’s back, kneading, down to his ass, holding on. Xavier hooked a leg around Lehnsherr’s waist, and gave a shimmy better than anything Emma had ever seen a girl do with a pole in a club, and considering how many marks she’d pinned in strip clubs in Vegas, that was quite an accomplishment. She wished she could get a better angle, because that looked interesting!
In her experience, such as it was, it had been all about the guy. The guy was using the image, she was just giving it form, and it was all about the guy feeling good, hell if she got any – and she couldn’t, of course, because she wasn’t really there. But this… she shuddered at the intensity.
This was Xavier being all about Lehnsherr, and Lehnsherr being all about Xavier, and it was so intense it felt like she was in a steam room heated by honest-to-God lava rocks.
Lehnsherr was pistoning his hips now, still kissing Xavier, and Xavier unwound one arm from Lehnsherr’s waist and wove his fingers through the short hair at the nape of Lehnsherr’s neck, pulling him down into a deep kiss, even as they kept moving together. It was oddly sweet, that kiss, in the middle of some pretty raunchy sex, both of them sweating, straining against each other, little red patches that would bloom into bruises starting to come up under the skin where they were holding on so tight.
They were just getting to the good part, well, the good part if the blissed-out looks on their faces were to be believed, when she distinctly heard Xavier’s voice chuckle, Naughty, naughty! at her. Then she felt a smack across the back of her head that literally knocked her off the pillow, and she heard, No peeking!
And all the mirrors went black.
With nothing else to look at, and no more fun to watch, she gave it up as a bad deal and sacked out for the rest of the night.
Waking up with a start, Erik stared wildly around the darkened room. His heart was racing in his chest, and his mouth felt raw. His hands were wound in the bed linens so tightly his fingers hurt. The sheets were clammy with sweat. He looked down.
Well, not just sweat.
Falling back against the pillow, crumpled and hot from the heat radiating from his skin, he swallowed drily. It had been very long time since he’d awakened like this from a wet dream.
Nightmares, yes, quite often, actually.
Not since meeting Charles.
Huffing out an impatient breath, he kicked the wet sheets away, threw an arm over his face and forced himself back to sleep through sheer willpower.
Charles laughed softly, running his hands down his torso, gently patting his quiescent cock. Seconds were lovely.
Maybe next time they’d actually be in the same room.
That would be nice.
Turning over, he made a mental note to teach Erik how to put up shields to keep out snoops, and allowed himself to sleep.
This time, he didn’t drop in on anyone’s dreams. Poor Erik needed his rest. They had a lot of work to do.
Besides, this was just an appetizer. The feast was yet to come.
Emma’s second shock came the next morning, as Lehnsherr was doing some metal-bending in the bunker while the kids did some kind of make-work, her erstwhile companions did their own thing, and Xavier sat in the courtyard staring at the mansion.
She sat in the front room staring out the French doors, staring at Xavier, trying to get a read on him that wouldn’t result in him knocking her out of his head.
Very little time passed before he got a wicked grin on his face. He sent Watch this! to her, then moved his hand in a twisting motion she had a feeling was just for show.
It was like she was suddenly in two worlds at once. In one, she was looking at Xavier, looking back at her. In another, she stood beside Xavier, and looked at the mansion.
Only, it wasn’t there.
The sprawling greens of Westchester roamed undisturbed by house, or drive, or parked cars, or kids running around, or any sign of life at all.
Invisibility, he spoke in her mind. Groovy, hm? Now those who search for us will literally overlook us, no matter how hard they try.
Groovy, she muttered back, in complete shock. What other weird, out-there superpowers was this freaky man hiding?
Wait and see, echoed back, though she hadn’t actually sent that thought. Wait and see.
She stared at him a little wildly.
Were his eyes… those pupils… it was like looking into the stars. She gasped, and his smile gentled.
“Stick around, Miss Stone. Who knows what you might learn.”
It felt more like a command than a question. For the first time since Sebastian initially locked her away, Emma Frost was completely out of her depth.
Xavier went back to staring, working some arcane telepathic magic she was dying to figure out and scared to ask. Emma eventually detached herself and wandered back to the mansion. There was an itch at her shoulder, like she was being followed but not intruded upon, and she knew she had a watcher.
She had a sneaking suspicion she would have that watcher for the rest of her life. Once Charles Xavier tagged you, you were tagged for good.
Oddly, that didn’t bother her as much as she expected it should.
By the end of the week, she’d seen enough to know she would stay. Lehnsherr was as hot-headed a nutjob as ever, but he was also fascinated by Xavier, and Xavier used that fascination wisely, guiding but never ordering, and distracting him most nights with sizzling hot sex dreams. If it wasn’t so funny, she’d almost feel sorry for Lehnsherr.
As it was, it was hilarious, so she did what she did best, and kept her eyes peeled.
The shocks kept coming. For people she’d done her best to help kill, the kids got over it pretty quickly – or if not, they tried, because if they didn’t, Xavier would give them his ‘disappointed look’ and from the way they all reacted, they’d rather be beaten with sticks. Emma had been a tool or a weapon or an image all her life. To be treated as a person, even, in an odd way, one of the family, was a whole new trip.
She kind of liked it. Not that she told them that.
One evening, as the boys were doing whatever boys do – she wasn’t looking – Mystique came over and they started talking about fashion, of all things. It was kind of cool to talk about feathers and lace with a girl who could model anything she thought up without so much as a twitch.
It was… fun.
She reached tentative peace with almost everyone, though Blueboy still looked at her like he expected her to attack, and the redhead kept drooling (so the blond kept hitting him). She expected those boys to start dating any time now. Riptide was courting Angel, who was oblivious, and Demonboy was doing something no doubt nefarious with Xavier, but Lehnsherr hadn’t killed him yet, so it probably wasn’t sex.
She might actually have a place here. She was getting used to looking through mirrors, if a little frustrated by her inability to reach through them. She also started hanging around Xavier those few times when Lehnsherr wasn’t prowling around him like a junkyard dog. He had tricks. She wanted to learn them!
On the ninth day, Emma decided to throw them a bone. She made her way into some kind of workshop Blueboy was toiling away in and waited until Lehnsherr was finished playing with some bits of metal. Eventually he turned and scowled at her. She took it for a conversational opening, as it was the best she was going to get.
We have to talk, Prodigal, she sent him, then ducked half a dozen sharp pointy metal pieces heading for her body.
They both froze, involuntarily, and the metal fell to the ground.
Please don’t kill one another in front of the children, Xavier’s voice said calmly in their minds. It’s traumatizing.
She looked over to see Blueboy staring at them, pretty blue eyes of his own wide enough to show the whites all round. Lehnsherr gave an irritated shrug and stalked out of the room. She gave Blueboy her most charming smile, smirked internally at the glazed look that came over his eyes, and sashayed out after Lehnsherr.
Looked like Xavier was the only telepath Lehnsherr wanted in his head. Too bad. It was an interesting maze in there, full of shadows and bear traps.
A sharp little rap on her thoughts made her pout, then she shook it off and turned to Lehnsherr.
“I didn’t just call you prodigal to pull your tail, big boy,” she purred.
Lehnsherr looked at her like he’d rather break her neck than listen to her talk. It was, unsurprisingly, sexy as hell. She sauntered a little closer, and all the metal in the room began to shift, making an irritating squeal, so with a sigh, she draped herself decoratively on a nearby lounge and cocked her head to look up at him.
“Sebastian considered you like his son,” she began, before her bracelets yanked her hands up to her throat and she tried to choke herself … she’d stopped wearing necklaces as soon as she arrived. She sent a mental blast at Lehnsherr to get him to back off, and they both froze again.
Do I have to come in there? Xavier asked, his mental voice a mix of plaintive and amused.
Lehnsherr actually blushed. It wasn’t much of a blush, she had to look pretty hard to see it, but there was a minute line of color along his cheekbones, and his mind was practically aglow.
Okay, so add adorable to sexy. She could see why Xavier was so tuned in to him. When he wasn’t being a murdering bastard he was a very attractive bastard.
This time the mental tap wasn’t quite so gentle.
“Sheez, sorry!” she whined, not admitting it was one. “I won’t poach.” Looking back at Lehnsherr, happy when her muscles unfroze and she could drop her hands, she sniped, “No need to be pissy, I’m not poaching your boyfriend.” She made sure to say it out loud, as apparently neither man liked it when she talked in Lehnsherr’s head, and Xavier was mean about it.
Lehnsherr looked at her like she’d lost her mind completely. That ghostly laughter was back in her mind. She gritted her teeth and continued before her train of thought derailed to the point of never getting back on track.
“You were his heir,” she forced herself to say calmly. Lehnsherr tilted his head, a mildly questioning look on his face, and she took that for a request to continue. “You were his first great success, he looked on you like a son, and figured eventually you’d come back to him.”
“I spent the last eighteen years trying to kill him,” Lehnsherr pointed out. Emma shrugged.
“So you had your differences. He knew in the end you’d agree with him, so he left you his fortune to – urk.” It was really difficult to speak with a metal lamp wrapped around your neck. What was it with this guy and necks? Come to remember it, he’d been paying a lot of attention to Xavier’s neck in their sexy little fantasy last night, too. She hardened her diamond exterior as much as she could and fought not to choke to death. Xavier? she knocked politely, since she couldn’t get past his shields. A little help?
“Oh, Erik,” she heard, and glanced over to the doorway. Xavier looked as disappointed as he had in Russia, but also like he was about to laugh his ass off. Bastard. “Can’t leave you alone for a moment, can I,” he mused, walking forward to run his hand up Lehnsherr’s arm and settle it around the back of his neck.
Huh. Maybe both of them had a thing for necks. Before she could follow this intriguing thought and take her mind off the fact that her esophagus was about to be crushed, diamond or no diamond, the pressure eased. Gasping for air, she ripped the mangled lamp away and threw it at Lehnsherr.
It missed, of course, veering away and landing harmlessly on the floor.
Lehnsherr was staring at Xavier, who was staring back, their faces only a couple inches away. The mirrors were blacked out again, and she couldn’t tell what they were saying telepathically, if they were speaking at all. She had the impulse to yell ‘kiss him already!’ but having only just escaped imminent death, wasn’t rushing to face it again. Maybe later, Xavier whispered, only to her, she thought, and in spite of it all, she laughed.
Whatever it was, the neck-hold, the silent conversation she couldn’t overhear, or even her laughter, Lehnsherr suddenly relaxed a fraction, as much as he ever did. He nodded at Charles, who looked at him fondly, leaving her torn between the urge to upchuck at how cute they were and kill them both just for existing. The sure knowledge that Lehnsherr would impale her and Xavier would let him was the only thing that stayed her power.
“As you say,” Lehnsherr responded to something Emma didn’t hear. They turned to look at her, and Charles nodded encouragingly, so she settled back against the soft leather and started spilling.
Lehnsherr wanted to kill her. She was insinuating filthy things about Charles, regardless of his own rather filthy dreams about his best friend, and she would be punished. She was bringing up Shaw, after he’d finally put the monster down, and insinuating that Shaw had somehow been proud of him, Erik, for his deeds. He was killing Nazis! How could Shaw be proud of him for that? He was killing Nazis in order to find and kill the monster! How could that bring forth pride? And now Shaw had left his plundered gold, stolen from the bodies of those he had murdered and tortured and sent to the gas chambers, and she expected Erik to take it? Blood money?
He had no need for blood money now. Shaw was dead. He wound a lamp around the bitch’s neck and squeezed. That diamond would eventually break. He’d done it before. This time he would finish the job.
Dear friend, Charles’ voice called in his mind. She’s the messenger. And she has a point.
Erik stopped squeezing and turned to look as Charles walked into the room. Absently he noted the bent lamp flying his way as the harpy got free from it, but he deflected it and kept his attention on Charles.
Yes, it’s blood money. Do the opposite of what he would want. Use it to build, to rescue, to train, to protect. Use every last penny of it on things that he would have hated, to build a world in which he would never have belonged, to benefit our brotherhood. To find, and bring forward, and succor our kind, and lead to a world where we can live in peace.
I don’t think that can happen, Erik sent back, and Charles smiled at him.
Our peace, that quiet voice continued. One we control, to ensure that it will never happen again. Our peace is led by our power, without the need for direct confrontation, for wasted lives. We shall work behind the scenes, we shall pull the strings and give the orders, and the normals will go along, and they will like it. Our peace.
Erik allowed himself to believe.
“As you say,” he agreed aloud, then turned to interrogate Shaw’s woman.
Theirs, now, he supposed, but he didn’t trust her. The only person he trusted was himself… and Charles, perhaps Charles more than himself. He would watch her.
If she stepped a foot out of line, he would kill her.
Sebastian had wanted the world for Mutants. This wasn’t the way he’d have gone, but with his money, Lehnsherr’s fury, Xavier’s control, and her smoothing out the edges, they’d find a way.
She’d stick around for it. It could be fun.
End part 3.
Chapter 4: Interlude and Hank's Choice
Apocalypse, part 3.5: Interlude, by glacis. Rated NC17.
He’d known it wouldn’t take long. Erik had a brilliant mind, and his life had taught him to search for the truth no matter how bizarre, usually so he could kill it.
Vengeance was an all-encompassing thing for a man who had lived through Hell, after all.
But he also used his razor-honed observational skills in other parts of his life, so after the fourth night of intensely sexual dreams, he was unsurprised to find Erik standing beside his bed.
“What are you doing to me?” he asked tightly.
Charles took a deep breath, and asked in return, “Do you not like it?”
“That’s not the point,” Erik ground out, hands fisted at his side as if at any moment he might swing one.
“Is there any other?”
Before Erik’s frustration could get the better of him, Charles smiled, reached out with his mind, and showed Erik how he felt.
Erik rocked back on his heels. His expression melted to one of pure bewilderment, as if he couldn’t believe anyone would love him as much as Charles had just shown him he did.
Oh, my darling friend, Charles mindspoke, and rose from the bed to stand beside a shell-shocked Erik. He reached up with one hand and kissed him, gently, barely parting his lips. He kissed him with his body, with his mind, and with his heart.
Erik cracked, so abruptly Charles almost heard him shatter, and reached out to pull Charles tightly to him.
It got a little heated, then. Like molten gold pouring down, like a torrent washing him away. His thoughts, his control, so easy to maintain since his merging, as he now thought of it, swirled away.
There was only heat.
Hands stroking and touching, as they had in dreams, now in reality. Erik was shaking, and it was a testament to how entrenched he was in the moment that he didn’t give a damn. Charles held him, and guided him to the bed, and moved against him, and over him, and inside him.
Their minds were as entwined as their bodies, neither knowing nor caring where one began and the other ended. It was only the nearness, the he – I – us of it, the incredible rush and the slow, sweet slide building up to the breaking point.
Then there was peace, amid the panting breath and the sweaty bodies and the swollen mouths and the tired limbs, the soft slipping apart, mind and body, as they gradually transitioned from us back to he – and – I.
They left a little of each within the other.
Neither would ever be alone again.
Apocalypse 4: Hank’s Choice, by glacis. Rated R.
Things were moving too fast for Hank’s peace of mind.
He’d always been methodical. It made him a good scientist, if too much of a nerd to be very popular. He didn’t go with the flow. He usually didn’t recognize the flow until it swamped him.
He was feeling swamped.
One minute, he’s himself, then an agonizingly eternal moment later he’s some kind of feral blue gorilla lion. With glasses. And temper issues.
Weirdly, thinking back on it, he had the impression Erik was actually telling him the truth when he’d said it suited him. Erik seemed to have a thing for Mystique, too, and she was blue, too. Damn him.
Like Hank would have had any chance with her, when Erik was interested, even before Hank sprouted fur and fangs and claws.
Claws made it a bitch to use a keyboard, by the way. It hadn’t just been fury that made him trash his lab when this first happened. It was frustration, too. He’d poked his claws through the keyboard just trying to move the damned thing, then spent forever trying to scrap the stupid piece of plastic off his hand. Paw. Whatever. Everything he picked up, he crushed.
Like Erik’s throat, if the Professor hadn’t called him off.
Guess he should start calling Erik Magneto. It fit him, better, really, than a normal name, because Erik was not normal.
None of them were, and that hurt Hank more than he could explain, even to himself.
Still, they were working things out. Nuclear war was averted, his Blackbird was trashed, the Professor mind-whammied two entire navies, and the crazy guy was killed. Not Magneto. The other crazy guy. Then they all went home with the mutants who’d tried to kill them, and acted like life was normal.
Hank hid in his lab.
The Professor came by often, and Hank was glad for it. Seemed like it was the only intelligent conversation he got. Mystique was doing girly things with Angel and the telepath lady who scared him, while the asshole – Alex – and Sean, along with the broody Latin lover who was chasing after Angel, did whatever jocks did when they weren’t tormenting nerds. The worst part was that Hank had to upgrade Cerebro – which was fun – with Magneto’s help – which was not.
Well, really, the worst part was that Mystique was running around naked all the time, and he couldn’t keep his eyes off her breasts. So far she hadn’t killed or castrated him, but he didn’t know how long that would last.
So he hid in his lab, and tried not to quiver whenever Magneto bent things, and tried to avoid the scary telepath lady and the jocks and Mystique’s breasts and the odd feeling that the Professor gave him.
That odd feeling.
Ever since the beach.
Something changed. Something major. Something that calmed the Beast’s temper completely, made him want to bow his head down, show his throat, whimper, to the Alpha.
Hank had spent many years being bullied. His internal strength got him through it, even if he’d never been very good at physically standing up for himself, and now he was scary himself, and the bullying pretty much stopped, even as the stupid comments found a new form. Alex really was an asshole. But Hank had never been one to bow – cower, yeah, sometimes – run, when he had to – but bow, no.
The Professor had impressed the life out of him from the beginning, even when he’d accidentally blown his cover at the CIA. He’d just been so darned happy that Hank was ‘one of them’ – that they were alike – that Hank couldn’t bring himself to be angry at the Professor’s enthusiasm. Then the Professor had done everything he could to make Hank feel, well, normal, that his strange feet and, later, his furriness, were just fine, were part of him, and that was okay. Hank had felt a level of comfort with and respect toward the Professor that he’d never felt with anyone.
After what happened on the beach, the comfort was mitigated with an instinctual awe, and the respect was tempered by, not fear, but something like it. If it hadn’t been impossible, Hank would be tempted to think the Professor had somehow evolved to a more intense state of mutation, in the middle of a firefight, under the imminent threat of death-by-missile-strikes, while simultaneously talking Magneto down from his killing high and changing a couple thousand sailors’ minds.
Hank’s scientific brain wanted to pin the Professor down and study him intensely. His beastly instincts wanted to worship him.
It was all highly confusing.
It didn’t help that there was something going on with the Professor and Magneto. Magneto was always around, a presence looming over him as Hank tried to work. The Beast wanted to challenge Magneto, a suicidal impulse if ever there was one, while Hank wanted to hide from him.
If he didn’t know better, he’d think he was starring in an episode of that new show Wild Kingdom… the Beast liked that show… so did Hank, really, Marlin Perkins reminded him a little of the Professor, or maybe how the Professor might be in forty years… anyway, like he was on a savannah somewhere, needing to beat up the head of the pride so he could snuggle up to the lioness, or something. With the Professor as the lioness.
Which was also confusing, because based on his hormonal reaction to Mystique’s breasts, he was into girls, not guys, and he didn’t think he wanted to sleep with the Professor, nor did he think Magneto already was, though there was something there that tickled at the back of his mind, and it wasn’t the Professor…
Flashes of light as scrap metal flew all around him to careen toward the scary telepath lady standing in the doorway yanked Hank out of his increasingly confused thoughts.
He stared with wide eyes as Magneto and the scary telepath lady faced off, then they both froze. The Professor’s doing, no doubt. Magneto gave a subvocalized growl that made the fur on the back of Hank’s neck stand up, then stalked out. Scary telepath lady gave Hank a sultry look that made other parts of him stand up, and that was enough to make him whimper, but he held it in. Thankfully, she turned and sashayed out after Magneto.
Better she deal with him than Hank, though, man, she liked to wear her skirt short, and wow, but she had a great… he swallowed drily and went back to work. Eventually he calmed down enough that his fur, and other things, were no longer… ruffled.
The next few weeks were weird. Hank kept his head down and worked on his projects, but he noticed changes.
Kids showing up.
The Professor, Magneto, and the guy who looked like Satan… Azazel? Yeah, him – popping in and out of the house. Strange noises coming from the basement. Not his strange noises, and not his part of the basement. More like screams, coming from the part of the basement nobody but the Professor and Magneto went in. Funny thing was, shortly after there was a screaming session, more kids would show up.
As much as his curiosity ate at him, his sense of self-preservation was stronger. He worked, he tried to hide, he tried to be invisible when he couldn’t hide any more, and he thought. About all of it. Until his brain hurt, then he went back to working.
The first time he came across the new kids, and they really were kids, they were clustered around Mystique in the kitchen. There were half a dozen or so, ranging in age from about ten to fifteen or sixteen. They were an underfed, tense, jumpy group. Mystique was shapeshifting into various people to entertain them. She’d just finished turning into Barney Fife, complete with deputy’s uniform and bug-eyed look, then morphing down into little Opie, when Hank came in the room.
No one ran away screaming in terror. Probably because they were all frozen stiff in terror. Hank sighed.
“Hi,” he offered as quietly as he could.
“Cooool,” one boy breathed, fluffy white angel wings twitching behind him. Ah, another poor soul who couldn’t hide what he was, and from the expression on his face, just as impressed with fur as he was by scales.
Hank rather preferred scales. Especially when covering breasts as magnificent as Mystique’s.
Looking at his audience, he quickly strangled that inappropriate thought, and hoped none of them were budding telepaths.
“You’re Beast!” a girl cried, pointing at him like they were at a zoo and he was the prime exhibit. He growled, but all terror seemed to have flown, and the kids clustered around him like he was an overgrown teddy bear.
He’d thought his growl was rather fierce. Hadn’t realized it worked as a kid-magnet. He looked helplessly at Mystique, who was smirking at him.
No help from that quarter. He sighed.
“I prefer Hank,” he protested mildly. One of the older girls was petting him. “I’m not a cat,” he pointed out. Great, now they were all trying to pet him. It kind of felt… good. “Mystique?” he tried to say, but it came out more like a strange hybrid of a rumble and a purr.
The girls squealed. A couple of the boys may have, as well. Hank sighed again and pushed his glasses up his nose.
It was a long afternoon.
It became a habit.
More kids were rescued. Some were more traumatized than others. All of them seemed to like petting him. The smaller ones kept curling up in his lap. It was weird.
Kind of sweet, really.
Almost made up for the times he could hear them crying, at night, from their nightmares.
He let them pet him. It made them all feel better.
Of course, life wasn’t all petting and purring and cuddles and working on Cerebro and daydreaming about Mystique and avoiding the scary telepath lady or the idiot jocks and trying to overcome his crush on the Professor and hoping Magneto didn’t snap and kill him with his own laboratory equipment. Those were just the down times.
There were also the missions.
Time was as absolute as anything, Charles thought, but that wasn’t saying much. Physicality and thought, events and motivation, were malleable. He raised a hand to push back the drapes, and paused as his forearm went translucent.
That had been happening more often, lately. Sometimes he had to concentrate to maintain a form that appeared human. At times, when Erik touched him, or Emma studied him, or Mystique looked at him a moment too long, he was certain he’d failed. Dropped the mask.
For the first time in his life, he had complete empathy for what Mystique had gone through all her life. Pretending to look normal was tiring.
Still, it had its benefits. While he could pass, he would, and it would be one more arrow in their quiver.
Warmth came to him from the hall, then at the door, and he smiled, meeting Erik’s eyes reflected in the glass.
Time to go.
The raid went as well as could be expected. Since his original mindwipe had reached no further than the eyes that were on the beach, and the minds that were in contact with them, there were still forces within the United States government, allied Argentine and Venezuelan navies, the Cuban and the Soviet governments that were both aware of, and hostile to, mutants.
They had their work cut out for them. Charles had implanted a command to forget, so those military minds he’d touched would literally be unable to remember orders to fire on mutants, or round them up, or even acknowledge their existence.
The politicians and the bureaucrats were another matter altogether.
They targeted the major powers first.
That afternoon they’d visited the Верховный Совет СССР, and had a little chat. Well, Charles had a little chat. After Azazel caught their attention by dropping a few of the obstinate bigots from high places and Erik tied them to their chairs by their own pens and microphones, bent into thin braided wire that nearly literally disarmed them.
It went as smoothly as the visit to the Pentagon the previous morning, when Erik had tied the idiots down with their own medals – and firearms – whilst Charles convinced them that mutants were clearly not a threat.
By the time they left, everyone from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff down to the stenographer was completely convinced that there were no more mutants than there were aliens, and if there were aliens, they were friendly.
Charles had fun with that one.
Premier Khrushchev was easy enough to convince – he’d been aware of Soviet experimentation with the supernatural for years, and was frankly afraid of the whole subject, so Charles used that fear, twisted it into something approaching awe, and channeled it into a desire to actively ignore anything having to do with mutants. Given that he was First Secretary of the Communist Party and Chairman of the Council of Ministers, this gave them some breathing room.
The experiments would end. Those leading the experiments would find themselves in the gulags that persisted, for those marked enemies of the state. The mutants would be free… Charles had plans for them.
Their visit to the White House went even more smoothly than the others. It was evening, and President Kennedy was working late. After the blonde left, Charles stepped from the shadows.
No one had seen him walk across the lush green lawn, because he hadn’t wanted anyone to see him. This extended through the cameras to the security guards. As he was speaking to the President, Erik quickly turned the wires to mulch, and no record remained of his visit.
Except, of course, in the President’s mind. Such a lovely mind it was, too. Grand ideals, black humor, paternal love, determination against chronic pain and pesky rivals, a bedrock belief in equality and service, a bit of a problem with prescription painkillers and busty blondes… it was the work of a moment for Charles to lift the buried admiration for mutants to the surface, and twist it ever-so-slightly. Now that fierce protectiveness would come forth, and bury any mention of mutants so far down not even future administrations would ever hear of it.
Charles left as the children came to find their father, secure in the knowledge that with the Commander in Chief and the Chiefs of all branches of the military following his lead, the threat to mutants in the United States was radically diminished.
Sadly, not extinguished, but they would work with what they had.
Now it was just clean-up, and maintenance. Rather like weeding a garden, really.
The first time Hank saw the Professor nod as Azazel drop a CIA bureau chief from fifty feet in the air then reappear and stab him with that tail, Hank had a flashback.
Surely Charles wouldn’t be, couldn’t be, another Shaw.
Then he started to speak, and Hank couldn’t breathe.
It was enlightening. The Professor read them, so easily, drawing out some emotions, blotting out others, turning motivations until the men and women they targeted came away completely convinced that mutants were not, could never be, any kind of threat. He wound it into the very depths of their beings, until the ones who an hour before would have happily signed death warrants for mutants would now just as happily give their lives to protect those same mutants.
It was humbling.
It was also frankly terrifying, but the more Hank saw, the more he came to believe it was the only change they had.
They didn’t need war. They just needed the Professor.
As he watched, as he listened, Hank noticed that the Professor shimmered sometimes, like a heat mirage. At times, he almost seemed to go transparent, like a glass figurine filled with soap bubbles. The image disappeared as soon as it struck him, and he shook it off.
Too many late nights in the lab.
Or maybe, perhaps, the Professor was evolving. As they all were, under the Professor’s tutelage, growing and becoming something more, something greater.
Back home, curled on the couch watching Red Skelton and trying not to wake up the kid sleeping in his lap with his laughter, Hank allowed himself to hope.
The flash of… whatever it was… from the Professor wouldn’t leave his mind, though. Much later that night, sometime after midnight, Hank decided he might as well see if Charles was still awake. He’d told them they could come to him if they had questions, after all.
Hank wasn’t quite sure how to ask if the Professor was turning into Soap Bubble Man, but maybe he could phrase it some way that wasn’t completely stupid. If not, he’d ask if the Professor could just take a look and see for himself.
Sometimes telepathy was a great shortcut, and not just when trying to convince hostile politicians to leave them alone.
The Professor wasn’t in his study, nor the library, but this was starting to really bug Hank, so he figured he might as well swing by and see if the man was up. Maybe this was the kind of conversation that should take place in intimate surroundings, anyway.
Or maybe the Beast was getting the Professor confused with a lioness, again.
Hank was still mulling that over when he found himself at the Professor’s bedroom door. There was light under the door, and he could hear the sounds of movement, so he raised his hand to knock.
Then he froze. Was that a muffled cry of pain?
Was someone attacking the Professor? It sounded like a struggle!
Instincts leapt to the fore, and he wrenched the door open.
Magneto was spread on the bed, stark naked, which was appropriate given what they were doing. The Professor was straddling him, well, riding him, really, holding Magneto’s arms down and lowering himself over him and holy moley they were both looking at him and… what was with the Professor’s eyes? It’s like they were ALL pupil, and they were made out of stars, and that was all he had the time to think before he was picked up by his belt buckle and his wristwatch and thrown back out into the hallway. The door shut on its own and the lock clicked so hard it was a wonder it didn’t shatter.
He kind of felt like he’d just walked in on his parents.
Wandering dazedly back to his room, Hank realized that, yes, the Professor was kind of translucent. And Magneto was build a whole lot bigger than Hank had thought. And they’d really been enjoying themselves. And maybe he wasn’t quite as straight as he thought he was.
Fixing his mind determinedly on Mystique’s breasts, Hank did his damnedest not to remember anything he saw on that bed all the way back to his own.
Darling, next time, we should remember the lock before the clothes come off, Charles thought to Erik.
Erik didn’t bother responding. He was too busy with other things.
The next morning could have been awkward, but Hank hid in his lab. Around lunch, the Professor showed up with a tray and grinned at him.
Suddenly, it didn’t seem so bad. So, he’d never be the alpha of this pride, but then, in this case, that was the lioness anyway, so it wasn’t much of a problem. And if he never tried for the Professor, Magneto wouldn’t kill him.
Munching on his sandwich, pointing out the newest calibrations for Cerebro to the man who would be wearing it, Hank finally calmed down and put it from his mind. He could trust the Professor. And as long as the Professor was around, he could trust Magneto.
They were, after all, a package deal.
He could live with that.
End part 4
Chapter 5: The Only Choice
Charles unveils himself to Erik. Hank makes breakthroughs.
Apocalypse, part 5: The Only Choice, by glacis. Rated NC17.
In two years of being Charles Xavier’s friend, then lover, Erik had discovered one thing.
The man was a terrible liar. It was as if he wanted to be caught.
It was odd that this hadn't changed, because over the last year, ever since the final confrontation with Shaw, Charles had been different. Erik had noticed, because he studied Charles compulsively, and had since he first recognized his own fascination with the telepath. There was a cosmic shift in the man, and it happened sometime while Erik was distracted putting down Shaw like a rabid animal.
He knew Charles was hiding things from him, but over the last several months, he’d started to share those things with Erik. The way Charles could read emotions now, not just thoughts. The ability to move, or immobilize, objects, and people, with no discernible effort. The mirror-like shields he’d taught Erik to make to secure his thoughts from being read by anyone but Charles.
The little fact that he no longer put his hand to his head to use his powers.
Charles thought differently now, too. He was much more strategic, and unexpectedly ruthless. He was as protective over their rapidly growing brotherhood of mutants as a mother bear. His sense of humor was blacker, and his eternal optimism had tempered instantaneously on that beach into rock-hard pragmatism.
It suited him.
Naïve, innocent Charles had been adorable, but too fragile to survive. Charles, as he was now, was a true partner, as strong as if not stronger than Erik, which was an ongoing shock.
It wasn’t just his demeanor and talents that had changed, however. His appearance had continued to refine as well. He was sharper, somehow, the bones closer under the skin, the angles clean enough to cut. His movement flowed more, bonelessly, as if he constantly moved under water. His senses seemed sharper, and sometimes when he spoke, he sounded like a seer. So certain where decisions would lead, so determined to take a particular path. As if he knew some disaster would occur if their course veered.
The eyes were obvious, and it surprised Erik slightly that no one else had mentioned them. When he looked into them it was like staring into the night sky from the top of a mountain – inky black pupils surrounded by sky blue irises, and deep within that inky black, a swirl of points of light, like a galaxy in motion. It was dizzying. Intoxicating.
Especially when they were alone together.
They’d been lovers for months, and every time he discovered something new. Looking up into those otherwordly eyes, fighting for breath, to get closer, clamping his legs about Charles’ waist and shoving against him, he nearly missed it.
Charles’ body flickered.
The hands pinning Erik’s shoulders went translucent for a bare moment before solidifying to flushed flesh again. The hips slamming between his thighs shimmered like sunlight through lead crystal, and the shimmer moved, patches of red/pink giving way to clear with swirls of light green and blue and gold, up Charles’ torso, to the firm chest heaving under Erik’s hands, to the strained face, eyes locked on his own, staring down at him as they moved together.
He was drowning in Charles, in his body and his mind, wrapped in their shared pleasure, but Charles saw what Erik saw, and he froze, thrust to the hilt in Erik’s body, quivering under Erik’s hands. His mind went blank, and Erik was surrounded in crystal stillness.
“Don’t hide from me,” Erik demanded, though it sounded like a plea.
Charles paled, swallowed dryly, and whispered in his mind, I don’t want to lose you. I have lost you too many times, too many ways, and I cannot lose you again. Not over this. Please.
Erik had the strange sense that Charles was considering something stupid and unforgiveable, like changing his memory, and he snarled, something he’d never done in bed – at least not with Charles.
“You will never lose me,” he growled, reinforcing the words with all his will, wanting Charles to see it in his mind as well as hear his words. “You are mine, and I do not lose what is mine.”
A mental image of steel cables winding around them, binding them together until they were so close they couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended, blazed through his mind, and he knew it was coming from himself, and knew Charles could see it. There was another moment of hesitation and a stain of fear, not his, but Charles’, then a fortifying breath he could feel in his mind, even as their bodies remained still.
Then, in an instant, the world shifted.
The change sheared instantaneously over Charles’ entire body. His form was translucent, still recognizable with the faintest flush to signify the surface, but Erik could see light through him, caught and carried in the swirls of pearl and ivy green and shimmering gold, the softest peach and iridescent blue scudding across the surface of his skin like clouds scudding across the sky on a summer morning. His eyes were the same brilliant blue, with the same starry pupils, and his mouth was smiling, a touch tremulously, as if in the expectation of a flinch.
As Frost was diamond, so Charles was crystal. It suited him.
Erik breathed, “You are magnificent,” and kissed him.
It was like making love to sunlight.
Charles was still in his mind, blazing brighter than before, in fact. They were together, as if they had merged, were one, love and pleasure and intensity and home, all tied and moving and entwined and mixed until there was no Erik nor Charles, only the confluence of their beings.
It was the most amazing orgasm Erik had ever experienced. It felt like his entire world was exploding, then falling back together as softly as snow, melting and heating back up, flowing together like water. It felt holy, and earthy, and complete.
Slowly, his senses drifted back to him, and he looked over to find Charles beside him, arms wrapped around him as his own were wrapped around Charles. They were separate, but the merging lingered.
Erik had the suspicion that anyone normal would be terrified by this. But he had never been normal.
He was ecstatic.
Beside him, Charles laughed in pure joy.
Erik smothered that with a kiss. Never hide from me again, he asked – begged – demanded, and Charles sent back, Never.
It was several hours later when they finally made it out of bed.
Charles’ appearance changed as he dressed, and Erik frowned at him. Charles sighed.
“I’m just getting used to Mystique running around naked,” he chuckled. “Give me time.”
Erik gave in. Charles would show the world who he was when he was ready. Erik would settle for that, as long as Charles never hid from him again.
It took several years, but eventually, Charles showed his true colors, first to his ‘children’, then to everyone. By then, he could do it without causing panic. It took time, and work, but eventually conditions were right. When Charles was finally revealed in all his glory, Erik thought the same as he had the first moment he’d seen Charles’ changed eyes at the beach, the same reaction he’d had to a sopping Charles dragging him out of the ocean, the same feeling that jolted him every time he touched the man…
He was magnificent.
Charles smiled, dropping a kiss against Erik’s temple, taking care not to disturb his rest. This was as it should be. For all that Erik saw when he looked at Charles, Charles had recognized and appreciated in Erik first. He had never met, and never would, a stronger, more incredible, and indeed, magnificent man, than Erik Lehnsherr.
Hank stared down at the test results for the forty-seventh time and would have whooped and done a victory dance if it wouldn’t have destroyed the lab (and incidentally, his research).
He’d done it. He’d finally done it. The proof was staring him right in the blue furry face.
He’d gotten the idea initially from the Professor, the first time he’d realized that Soap Bubble Man wasn’t just a weird hallucination from too little sleep and walking in on his parents having sex. Er, walking in on Magneto and the Professor. Anyway, he’d noticed one morning at breakfast that the Professor actually looked younger than he had the night before. Small lines in his forehead had disappeared, and a few grey hairs at his temple and widow’s peak had turned back to brown, and a small scar on his left hand, courtesy of a sharp point on a panel, had completely disappeared.
When he confronted him about it, Hank got the shock of his life. And considering his life had included the shock of turning himself into a furry blue gorilla lion, not to mention falling in love with a blue woman with scales and yellow eyes who constantly ran around naked, that was saying something.
The Professor peered at him a moment, eyes staring at him as if they could see through him (and hey, the Professor was a telepath, so he probably could), then sighed. “Please don’t be afraid,” he said, then turned into a living crystal statue.
Hank managed not to shriek like a little girl or pee himself. He couldn’t run, because he was frozen in place, and after his initial – oh god the professor’s a glass ghost – reaction passed, his internal nerd geeked out and the only thing he could think was – that’s SO cool – and – I HAVE to study this - !
The professor snorted, then laughed at him. It was okay. If Hank wasn’t so busy falling in love with the scientific puzzle that was Soap Bubble Man, he’d have laughed at himself.
“Never call me that out loud, please,” the Professor told him.
Hank nodded dumbly, then asked, “Is that how you regenerate?”
The Professor gave him a strange look, then answered, “I don’t regenerate.”
Hank considered one of their strays, a feral super-soldier called Wolverine they’d liberated from an experimental facility who came by once in awhile to say hi to the Professor and challenge Magneto to brawls, er, spars, and reconsidered his wording.
“Heal, perhaps? How you physically regress? The scars and white hairs disappear, for example.”
This time the look the Professor gave him was both patient and sympathetic. “This is my natural form, Hank,” he said gently. “When I show a human form, I project it into your mind, and I don’t always remember the small details correctly.”
It hit Hank like a brick. The Professor was like Mystique. They were both shapeshifters. They could pass for human, either by mentally projecting an image, like a mask, or physically changing. They could pass.
He swallowed, pounded the bitterness of that thought into oblivion, tried to ignore the small wave of sympathy from the Professor, and got to work.
“Mind if I take a blood sample?” I’m dying to figure out what makes you tick. “For baseline numbers, in case you get sick or something.”
The Professor raised an eyebrow, funny how he could do that even when he looked like a soap bubble, and Hank just knew every stupid thought he’d been thinking had come across loud and clear. He blushed a light purple. The Professor grinned at him.
“I don’t actually have blood anymore,” he apologized, “but you could try for a tissue sample?”
Thus began eleven days of frustration before, on the twelfth day, Hank figured out how to scrape cells from an indestructible soap bubble. He might have managed it on the ninth day, but Magneto turned his acetylene torch into scrap metal.
He’d promised after that to only use tools that would absolutely not in any way possibly harm the Professor. Magneto still didn’t leave them alone together in the lab. The Professor rolled his eyes a lot. Hank just gulped and got on with it until he finally got a laser cutter to make a small enough swath that Magneto would let him near his lab rat… er, the Professor, without killing him.
It was a tense twelve days.
It turned out that the Professor wasn’t a normal mutant, nor even human really, any more than Hank was. In his true form, his Soap Bubble body, he was a type of time-energy, a correlate to coordinate and momentum given form, a fixed point forever moving. Not being a theoretical physicist, nor a philosopher, Hank left the ramifications of that up to others, and got to work with the cells he’d managed to pry off.
Almost ten years later, using that core sample and with supporting samples from other regenerating and form-shifting mutants, he’d isolated it. Then he’d done hundreds of computer simulations, and a few mutant and human test trials. It didn’t work on everyone, it only worked on mutants, and only those whose mutations were blood based.
Erik was one it worked for… who knew mutated magnetism was so tied up with the iron concentration in blood? Well, probably biologists, and maybe geneticists, and the Professor, and Hank, but that was a rhetorical question. Anyway, he’d figured it out, and at Magneto’s insistence, with the Professor’s reluctant agreement, Hank had given him the treatment.
Magneto was now, effectively, as immortal as Wolverine. Without the claws, nasty temper, memory issues, or smoking habit. Well, he did have the nasty temper, on further consideration.
The Professor was very, very happy. Magneto actually smiled.
They didn’t see much of Magneto and the Professor for a few days after that, and when they did, both men looked really relaxed. The Professor showed off his Soap Bubble form, and the complete lack of a mass freak-out reassured him. The fact that Mystique squealed and hugged him was a good sign. When Sean did, too, it was a little weird, but hey, it was Sean.
Hank hid in his lab.
It had been a lot of work, but it was worth it. A few years later, accepting the Nobel Prize for medicine for his breakthrough in the study of marrow and platelet cell formation, standing proud if slightly purple in his blue fur and black tuxedo, Hank couldn’t have been prouder.
The fact that his cellular modifications also led to a cure for myeloid leukemia, which would be a major milestone in acceptance of mutants in the years to come, was a really auspicious accident.
Hank was more than a little purple – he didn’t think he could blush more without spontaneously combusting – when Mystique finally said yes. The wedding was amazing, the honeymoon even moreso.
She didn’t even complain, much, when they ended up in Geneva. Yes, Switzerland was romantic. Plus, he had to take up his appointment as Director General of the World Health Organization. And they had some great shopping, not to mention incredible chocolate.
Hank couldn’t be happier.
~end part 5~
Chapter 6: The Only Choice part 2
Power is consolidated, positions are validated, and the story ends.
Apocalypse, part 6: The Only Choice, by glacis. Rated NC17.
Charles smiled as Hank engulfed him in a bear hug then released him abruptly. One would think after over two decades he'd know that Charles was unbreakable, but the warmth and happiness beaming from him was so strong Charles just let it go. Hank was a researcher at heart, not an administrator, but he had served well, not only in his role as head of the World Health Organization, a vividly-recognizable mutant who had saved countless lives... he also worked perfectly as the way in for Charles to take his place.
After shadowing the immensely popular Doctor McCoy, with Hank's sincere endorsement and Charles' own distinguished accomplishments, there wasn't a hint of opposition to Charles taking over the position of Director-General. With past precedent of DGs maintaining their position for up to twenty years, no one would look askance as Charles did that, and more. Given the purview of the World Health Organization itself, it was the perfect platform for Charles to monitor and gently guide both the international health research agenda and policy on a global scale.
His public persona was perfect, calm and caring and empathetic and astonishingly brilliant, as always.
This public presentation was also the perfect cover for his and Erik's covert operations. The research followed the money, the money responded to the most highly-prioritized crises, and Charles helmed it all... in addition, the WHO was the perfect cover to hide his Cerebro trips, gave him access to information on experiments worldwide that should be encouraged or destroyed, and allowed him to funnel information to the people who he trusted to further his people's interests.
The fact that his priorities helped millions of Others triumph over disease and deprivation simply made him, and through him the mutant cause, all the more beloved.
Staring up at the fireworks exploding in the night sky above Lake Léman as the old year passed into the new, Charles leaned back against Erik and turned his head to nuzzle him. Erik smiled against his forehead and gently took their champagne flutes away, setting them on the balustrade of the balcony, out of harm's way.
The flare of the fireworks was all the light they needed as they moved together. After so many years it was a well-practiced dance. Charles gently, efficiently stripped Erik’s clothes from him, Erik letting Charles have his way while caressing the warm body trapping him against the carved stone behind him. As always, Charles felt Erik’s wonder at how soft Charles felt, when he appeared to be crystal-hard, at how warm he was, how strong, when he seemed so fragile. Charles laughed, sharing his enjoyment as he always did.
Appearances were always deceiving, none moreso than in fully-evolved mutants, none so intriguing to a lover, none so accepted, finally, as the new normal… or well on its way to being so.
Then there was no room for extraneous thoughts, nor for any thought at all, as they gave way to sensation. The slight chill in the breeze, tempered by the heat they generated between them. The hard support of the stone balustrade as Charles bent Erik over it and Erik’s strong fingers dug small pits along the edge, sparing a tiny thankful thought that it wasn’t metal, as it would not do to melt their sole support when they weren’t paying attention and dump them several stories below… Charles would make sure they survived, but it would certainly break the mood.
A ghost of a chuckle, then a gasp, from Erik, from himself, he couldn’t tell and didn’t care, as he entered Erik, then it was all fire, and movement, and sweet shared pleasure. Higher, and hotter, then slowing, drawing it out, as Erik barked commands at him to get it in gear, to fuck him harder, damnit, Charles, do it, until he couldn’t deny him, could no longer deny himself, and gave in.
Impossibly closer, drowning in heat and scent and touch, until Erik cried out, unheard by any but Charles, and Charles whispered back, yes, I have you, love, yes, in his mind.
Some time later, it blurred when they were together like this, Erik shivered. Charles slowly pulled out, prompting a harder shudder, and dropped a kiss between Erik’s shoulder blades. Smoothing down the trembling muscles in the long back before him, Charles trailed kisses in the wake of his caresses, then reluctantly drew his Erik back off the balcony into the room behind them.
The fire in the hearth felt good, chasing any lingering chill, as Erik grabbed the champagne bottle and Charles picked up the quilted coverlet, cuddling Erik beside him on the sofa as they sleepily passed the bottle between them, not bothering with glasses. The stillness was a blessing, and they relaxed into it.
An hour or so later, exchanging slow kisses, Charles drew back and grinned at Erik.
“So, my darling friend, when are you going to take over the UN.?”
Erik rolled his eyes and smirked back. "Tomorrow," Erik replied. "Tonight I have other priorities."
The next morning came all too soon. Azazel woke them with a puff of sulfur then laughingly averted his eyes at their nakedness.
Charles threw a pillow at him.
“Hey, don’t attack the messenger, or in this case, the ferryman. Get your penguin suits on, gentlemen, it’s time to go!”
Thirty eight minutes later they were in Manhattan.
~Jan 1, 1992~
It was a crisp, clear morning, that brought back dim memories of home before Hell, as Erik stood before the assembled body and accepted his appointment as Secretary-General of the United Nations. They had worked toward this for years, and all the hard work was paying off.
To the best of their formidable abilities, he, Charles, Mystique, Hank, and their brethren, had made the world their own, and would make sure it stayed that way.
Meetings were interminable, but he’d survived much worse torture, and the pay-off was exceptional. In the long-term, his work through the UN would cement mutants’ place with an international scope. With so many projects, a mixed Normal-Mutant fighting force, several of his and Charles’ protégés in place in high positions in member countries’ governments and businesses, and with mutants in positions of authority in the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and several other bodies, the UN had been slowly, inexorably sculpted into the tool that would maintain mutant position at the top of the food chain for the planet.
In the immediate-term, there was Charles, waiting with hot chocolate and warm blankets and not a stitch on his glorious body, back at the townhouse at Sutton Place. Erik could think of no greater reward for his work than to go home to that…
Late that night, and into the next day, Charles proved all his expectations correct, then surpassed every single one of them.
The world had changed in the over half a century since he’d been tortured in Auschwitz. Erik stared at the tzedakah box on the polished table before him.
It brought to mind the flickering candles of the menorah, his mother’s tired smile, the rumble of his father’s laugh, the smell of ratzelach and dill, the warmth of his home before he lost it.
There was something ironic and affirming at receiving something that reminded him so much of where he came from, to celebrate and reward the lengths he had gone.
While the Xavier Institute and related research facilities had quite an efficient public relations machine, the impetus for what would end in this box, this memory evoked, that represented a Humanitarian Award, had started with a series of newspaper articles in the New York Times.
Isabel Wilkenson was a Normal, who was accepting of the Mutant cause in ways few were. She was also a journalist who believed in bringing forth the truth, and in this case, the truth was ugly. The last vestiges of the Weapon X program had gone underground in Qatar – the last gasp of opposition to mutants. She’d gone in undercover, posing as a radical bigot, and she’d been caught.
Before they could kill her, Erik, Charles, and the X-Men had gotten her out.
The series of stories she published tore the secrecy off the program, the inhuman work done in the shadowed facilities, and extolled the heroism of the mutants who had rescued not just herself, but the survivors being experimented upon, left in the cages to die.
Her reports were a sensation, and she won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, for what she described as the ‘New Holocaust’.
For this, and for his public efforts at the UN, the Elie Weisel Foundation for Humanity awarded Erik the Humanitarian Award for his work in opposition to tyranny and dedication to human rights. In the citation, the award cited his fight against the intolerance and hatred toward mutants, such repression being analogous to the treatment of Jews in the Holocaust, an analogy Erik appreciated immensely.
That the award was for services to Humanity, while in defense of Mutants, actually made him laugh.
It brought tears to Charles’ eyes.
Erik kissed them away.
Then he took Charles to bed, and shut the box, and the memories, away.
That last enclave had been the final organized, funded gasp in opposition to mutants. That the normals had trumpeted its downfall, and rewarded him for his part in destroying it, showed more clearly than anything he could think of that the future was now, and the future was theirs
~ Jan. 20, 2001~
Emma pulled her full length wild Russian sable tighter around her body and ignored Mystique glaring at her – if Mystique wanted one, she could morph into one, this one was Emma’s and she wasn’t giving it up for love nor money.
As if I’d want the ratty thing – why would I want to kill an animal to wear the skin? It’s not like we’re still in caves and have to – Emma forcefully ejected Mystique’s bitching out of her mind with a pointed slap, telling her to stop projecting. Mystique gasped, then glared harder, but at least she stopped whining.
Ah, the mental headslap. Just one of the many wonderful things Charles had taught her over the years, whenever she could get through Magneto to find him. Mister I-Constantly-Fling-Metal-at-Your-Head was a jealous son of a bitch, and Charles thought the whole thing was funny.
Charles had a twisted sense of humor.
The music stopped, the poet went blah-de-blah, the guy in the dress played with the Bible, then Blondie stepped up to the podium. Emma grinned.
His mental monolog was a cross between WHOOPPEE! And Fuck I hate speeches, a weird thought given that Alex was taking the oath as the 43rd President of the United States.
He should be used to speech-making by now, though she had a strong suspicion that Jean wrote most of them.
It surprised nearly everybody when Alex’s son Scott and his bitch of a wife Jean Grey (not that Emma was bitter, just because the idiot chose that … bitch… over her own incredible self. It just showed how he wasn’t worth her time, no matter how delicious his ass looked in that leather X-Men uniform) came home from the honeymoon and Jean hooked up with Alex.
Not for sex, though that would have been entertaining, and maybe she’d have had a chance to fill the void for the cutie Cyclops, but for politics.
Politics! Alex the loudmouth, out of control ex-convict. Charles had truly worked wonders with the boy.
Emma was just surprised he ended up with Angel instead of Banshee.
Now, here he stood, poster boy for Mutant Pride and American Pie, speechifying about all the wonderful things they would all do together in the coming months and years.
Blah - de – blah – but at least he sold it well, and with Grey behind him, and Erik behind her, and Charles behind him… yeah, it was a lock.
The election had been a slaughter. Alex and the bitch won with an overwhelming majority, carrying 38 states plus Washington DC. It certainly hadn’t hurt his campaign when he got the enthusiastic endorsement of the immediate past-President Bill Clinton, and it hadn’t hurt the cause that one of the most popular presidents in history (Clinton, not Alex) was himself the father of a mutant.
Chelsea had a minor power to force-bloom plants. Brought the Rose Garden to whole new heights.
And was completely innocuous, girly and pretty and inconceivable as any kind of a threat to anybody.
She didn’t think Charles had planned that one, but little Chels gave mutants a hell of a PR shot in the arm, so who knew, maybe he did.
It also helped that Alex had his own fangirl (and fanboy) following as a first-generation member of the X-Men and the father of a current one – and that his running mate was also an X-Man (woman, whatever, not like Emma cared) who routinely rescued orphans from floods and kittens from trees. Or that he had ridiculously popular friends, like John Proudstar and Hisako Ichiki, and Warren Worthington III with his Angel wings.
She’d had the opportunity to play with those wings a few times. Angel liked diamonds. She liked feathers. He looked great in leather. She looked great in anything. Sadly, he was way too busy being a superhero to dance attendance on her, and she got bored easily. Still, the whole superhero gig helped with other things, like getting Alex elected president.
There were other factors, of course. Like the great PR from the medical miracles coming from mutant scientific research and the ruthless machinations of Erik and Charles that completely decimated anti-mutant forces.
George Bush Sr. coming out for Alex over George Jr. probably changed a few minds, too.
Emma might have had a small, tiny, invisible hand in that. Though from Barbara’s thoughts, she didn’t think her boy would do much good in office, anyway.
Ah, great, the gospel singers were swaying. Soon this would be over and she could flaunt her fur at the reception and eat very expensive caviar.
She loved DC. Great parties!
It took a little more than weeding the garden to keep mutant kind safe, Charles sighed, looking out through his office window down the Avenue Appia, wistfully wishing that Erik was with him rather than in more meetings. Sometimes a kilometer and a half felt like a thousand. In immediate response to his thought came a warm pulse from Erik.
Felt like he wasn't the only one who'd prefer to be together. Preferably naked.
The past several decades had been busy, but good. Out and Proud was a catchall phrase for everyone from the GLBT community (now legally able to marry in all fifty states and in 184 of 197 countries in the world... there were a few small theocracies still fighting the sad fight, but the future looked promising) to the ever-popular Mutant Superheroes - slash – Eye candy (Mystique had long been a favorite in that category).
Their early efforts had paid off. With no leaders to step into the vacuum created by the first few waves of culling, Weapon X was aborted early, and organized bigotry like the so-called Friends of Humanity never got off the ground. Carefully placing mutants with specific skills in the places, at the times, when they could best address specific crises, led to public relations coups that would have made Nick Fury green with envy, were they not already working hand-in-hand with S.H.I.E.L.D.
Now, in what had been the year of his greatest sorrow the first time around, Charles found a deep-seated peace. His work leading the World Health Organization allowed him the latitude to continue seeking out, helping, protecting, placing and guiding mutants among the Others. His school, now under the capable auspices of Ororo and Sean, was the safe haven it was always meant to be, nurturing young mutants and ensuring they were well-capable of facing the future.
Alex, with Jean backing him up, was the first leader of the free world to be openly Mutant, and had been so popular a President there'd been a serious movement to remove the two-term limit to keep him in the job... not that Jean wasn't every bit as wonderful when she stepped into the position. Erik, the most influential man behind the scenes at the United Nations for the past thirty years, was every bit the wolf he had always been, only this time his pack was secure, and he worked tirelessly to ensure that remained the case.
His dear Mystique, for many years now Mystique McCoy, made sure the books were covered, as the long-time chair of the World Bank. Her husband Hank had patented more advances in biochemistry and advanced physics than any other scientist in history. It was thanks to him that many of the more pernicious diseases had been conquered, yet another reason for everyone, Normal and Mutant, to appreciate the advantages of mutant genius.
All was as it should be.
Mutants were known, and anyone who would mount a true resistance disappeared before they could become a problem.
Charles lifted his face to the sunshine, and smiled. The light glanced over him, and through him, as he shimmered. He had worn his true form in public for over twenty years, and at home for over sixty. Thanks to Erik, and his persuasive tongue.
In the end, at the beginning, he'd made his choice, and the world followed. Mutants were where they should be, and acceptance with vigilance was sustainable for the foreseeable future.
It was good to be king.
~end, part 6 and story~