The world has taught him strength -- strength of rage, of violence, of pain, of hatred; the blinding whirlwind of fury that powers his talent, the cold simmering need for revenge that aims it.
The world has taught him that he is alone. That he should be alone. No one is like him, no one will like him, no one should like him. People will use him, unless he uses them first.
It is all very cynical, and harsh, and real, and Erik hasn't found anything to counter it.
Charles fucking Xavier, the sort of bright-eyed optimist that Erik can't stand, has brought him weakness. Friendship is weakness; trusting another is weakness, though at least he's another mutant; the silkysoft presence in his head, when Erik lets him, is a weakness.
And somehow, it hasn't so much softened Erik as brought him control, and calm, and maybe even a bit of hope.
His power is a destructive one. He sometimes wonders what things would have been like if he'd had something else, something that builds instead of tearing apart.
He usually comes to the primary conclusion that he would have died, and (now that he's met others like him) there is no such thing as a non-destructive mutation. They are designed for war, not peace; for conquering, not living in harmony.
Charles has been training him for control, for finesse. For the ability to control small things as well as large, something that he didn't think was possible.
Something that would have kept his mother alive, if he'd known; but he's no longer doing it just for her.
He'll never admit this, but a part of him is desperate for Charles' approval, for the bright endless joy that he shows when Erik does something right.
So it is that he stands in the middle of a room made of metal, hands out, fingers splayed, but not doing anything yet. The ever-present anger within him is itching to pull down, to destroy, to crumple the walls as though they were tissue paper. But the memory of blue eyes and a sassy see-I-was-right smirk keeps the anger under control.
The point between rage and serenity.
He concentrates, and unleashes just a bit of the dragon within his mind. It is a delicate maneuver, what he's trying: using the push of his magnetic powers to counteract gravity -- to fly, in his own limited way -- without pushing so hard that he punches through.
The first time, his heels leave the floor, but his toes drag, and the walls are making ominous creaking noises. He stops what he's doing, and doesn't have far to fall.
The second time is very similar. And the third. He can't push hard enough without pushing too hard.
Newton's third law, Erik thinks, can go fuck itself.
But maybe-- if he's already up--
Erik takes a moment to make sure that Charles isn't lurking somewhere in his head, and then conjures up a mental image of him, smiling and nodding and offering quiet encouragement. He breathes in, closes his eyes, and leaps upward; when he's as high as he will go on his own non-mutant power, he breathes out, and tries to hold himself in place.
He fully expects to feel the ground slam against his feet, or, if he's gotten himself twisted, some other body part that will bruise and ache as a reminder of his failure.
It doesn't happen.
He can feel the metal around him, suspending him in mid-air, a gentle buoyancy that is more reassuring than anything else he's ever experienced. It's like the distant memories he has of being cradled in his mother's arms--
--and that thought sends him spinning and crashing down hard, because his mother's dead, and the impact is hard enough to stun him for just a second. But even so, he is almost smiling, and he gets up not by clambering to his feet but by curling his hands and his power and letting himself float.
Laughter bubbles up, and a warmth that he's not used to. The warmth spreads as he lets himself hover; he can identify pleasure, and the anticipation of Charles' reaction when he tells him -- no, shows him, taking him bodily and lifting him up so that they can share the sensation; and Charles will laugh, and revel in it.
The world has taught him to hate.
Charles has taught him joy.
He will never forget that.