title: The Business End
word count: 2453
fandoms: X-Men: First Class [movieverse], Wanted
pairings: Charles Xavier/Wesley Gibson, Charles Xavier/Erik Lehnsherr
notes: AU for both Wanted and X-Men: First Class. Sequel to Mirror Image and Reflection. Please read those first. Erik learns about Charles and about Wesley.
Bile rising in Erik's throat. Failure, not again not again so close I have to stop him I have to kill him, his breath is leaving him in clouds of bubbles and he can barely see the outline of the Caspartina.
He tries to gather the shreds of his focus, the tatters of his control. Nothing. He can't even breathe. The submarine is slipping away – and inside, Schmidt and the diamond woman. The blow from her fists is as nothing.
The strike from her mind is what's pulling him, down, down, into the depths, into death.
Calm your mind, please. Don't fight me.
Strong arms bear Erik back up to the surface, a hand on his jaw, tilting his head back.
He gulps in the salty-metallic-acrid air as though it was sweet wine.
And as he relearns how to breathe, as he swipes the water out of his eyes, he looks at his rescuer.
In the quarter-light, the man's eyes are blue, bluer than summer's sky, bluer than winter's heart. A pale face, dark hair in commas clinging to his cheeks. A mouth, dark-red lips, fixed in an ironic little grin.
There's another image, and Erik blinks, confused. It's the same face – but it's not the same man. Half-healed wounds and fading bruises superimposed over his rescuer's smooth face. A jagged tracery of hurt and bone-deep pain. Erik has seen the light in the image's eyes before, the fire he's seen in his own face in the moments before and after a kill, and it is no light that should belong on the face of the man who's just plunged into the water for him.
“Who are you.” Erik all but growls at him.
“Charles Xavier. That was me in your mind – apologies for barging in,” and Charles waves the fingers of one hand in the general vicinity of his temple. He doesn't act apologetic; there's steel in his voice as there was in his thoughts.
“So that's your ability. So you have an ability. I thought I was alone,” Erik says, suddenly, and he's surprised to hear the words come out of his mouth. “Erik Lehnsherr.”
Charles smiles, and as bedraggled as he looks now – the farthest thing from a rescuer, the faintest reassurance of safety – he still looks like he knows what he's saying. “I am a mutant, yes, just like you – and you're not alone, Erik. I promise you you're not alone.”
Erik spends the first few hours after the Caspartina consumed with rage and fear. Shaking until he thinks his very teeth must be falling out, the cold of the sea and the lack of food and warmth. He glares at everyone who dares to approach, from the harried Agent MacTaggert to the obnoxiously curious Mr. Levine, and he sees nothing but an answering distrust in the eyes of the soldiers on the boat, in the eyes of the agents at the CIA.
That all changes the moment MacTaggert leaves them alone, locking the door of a hastily cleared conference room behind her. As soon as the lock clicks, the girl who never strays far from Charles's side laughs and puts her booted feet up on the table – and suddenly her skin and her hair and her face are rippling, she's changing, and a girl with blue skin and red hair and yellow eyes is grinning happily.
Charles, for his part, snorts out a laugh and pretends to cover his eyes and she sticks her tongue out at him, shifts back partway so she's “wearing” her black shirt and miniskirt again. Only then does she wave at Erik. “Hello.”
Affection and pride in Charles's voice when he looks at her. “I introduced you earlier to my sister, Raven – well, what I introduced you to was the form she prefers to wear when out in public. This is Raven in real life. My sister the shapeshifter.” Charles ducks his head a little and smiles some more. “I really was telling the truth, out there.”
Erik blinks, once, and the silence is broken by Raven and Charles murmuring to each other, foreheads touching, and then she's shifting back to the blonde form and she's gone.
Leaving him alone with Charles, who is hooking another chair with his ankle, who sits so close to Erik their knees are now touching. “I know everything about you, Erik Lehnsherr. I know what was done to you. Now I want you to tell me what you're doing next.”
Erik growls and looks away. “And then what? You'll turn me in to the authorities? You're wasting your time. I've hunted Schmidt for years. This is merely a setback. You'd do better to get out of my way.”
Charles shrugs, sits back and folds his arms. “On the contrary, you'd do better if you let me help you. I'll not be able to find Schmidt or Shaw or whatever he's calling himself, but I can definitely help you find the people he's dealing with, the people he's working with. Every person in the file that the CIA has already gathered on him – a file that is already in here, I might add.” He taps his fingers against his own forehead.
Erik looks at Charles with a grudging respect – but he has to ask, first. “So who are you working with?”
“Better to ask who I'm working against,” Charles says. “Better to ask why Raven and I are doing this. Some of it has to do with her philosophy on life, which states that it is, and I quote, pointless to hide who and what we are. Some of it has to do with my opinions, which run toward protecting ourselves and those who work with us. And we have agreed, after a fashion, that certain things must never be allowed to take place.”
Erik raises an eyebrow.
Charles's eyes grow distant. “It's hopeless, I know, what we're fighting against is older than sin and he may well be right, that he was supposed to join them after all – but perhaps we can help him, so when he actually does get in, he'll be better prepared. Perhaps he'll be ready to attack, with the group already falling apart from the inside.”
“You are making no sense.”
“It'd be better if I just showed you. This really is very difficult to explain.” Charles looks haunted, but his hands are steady, reaching out for Erik. “May I?”
Erik frowns and nods and Charles's hand, surprisingly rough, lands on his shoulder.
“Close your eyes,” Charles says.
a boy with a gun, superhuman reflexes, battle strategy, tactics, peanut butter and rats, guns and knives and brass knuckles, shooting the wings off a fly, a loom, Sloan, Fraternity, Father
oxford 1962, chicago 2008, Charles Xavier, Wesley Gibson, mirror images, hands around a gun, target practice, mental defenses, trigger discipline, Fox
Erik jerks away, breaking the physical and mental connection, and now he understands the ghostly images from earlier. “You met someone who looked like you. Another mutant who looked exactly like you.”
“Yes. He stayed with us for a short time. Apparently there are people out there, or who will be out there, who can bend time, just as easily as Wesley could bend the path of a bullet.”
Erik turns resolutely away from the images and forces his mind back onto his mission. “So you're saying you'll help me. Am I one of yours, then? Some kind of project?”
“Hardly,” and Erik wonders at the emotion that flares, briefly, in Charles's eyes. “Because I also know that the man you're hunting will have something to do with the group I'm hunting. You want revenge, I want to protect someone, and neither of us will stop at nothing to accomplish our objectives. You and I want the same thing, right now. So what's wrong with working together?”
“And what am I supposed to say?” Erik says, and he laughs, bitterly. “You expect me to fall in with you – and then what?”
“I expect nothing,” is the exasperated reply. “It's an offer. Take it or leave it.”
“And if I leave it?”
“I'm sure you can find your way out on your own. But do be careful in case we run into each other again.” The polite words clash with the strain in Charles's eyes. “Of course there is always the possibility of simply making you follow us.”
Erik growls, and his knife is in his hand suddenly.
“Put that away,” Charles growls back. “I would never do that to you, in much the same way that I would never pry into my sister's mind. In much the same way that I never did it to Wesley. Believe me or not, as you wish. Only know I'm telling the truth.”
The door closes and Charles is on the other side of it, leaving Erik alone.
There's a knock on his door in the middle of the night.
When Erik looks out, knife in hand, the file on Schmidt is waiting for him – as well as his own clothes, taken from the hotel where he had been staying.
As he reads the cover pages on the file, there's a brush of amusement in his mind.
“Go away,” he says, into the quiet of the night.
Agent MacTaggert is waiting for him when he walks out after a short nap. She squints up at him; she's still got that harried expression – but she looks him over and nods. “Well, you clean up nicely,” is all she says, before she's turning on her heel. “Follow me.”
Around the corner of the building and down a flight of stairs.
Metal humming all around Erik. He already knows about the pistol riding Moira's hip, poorly hidden beneath her jacket. Other guns, other weapons, and the bunker itself, all calling to him.
What he isn't expecting is a gun humming at him – from Charles Xavier's hands.
Erik blinks back to the previous day: four hands wrapped around a gun. Two to hold the gun up, and two to guide it.
Charles fires, fires, fires, and laughing when he puts the gun down and disassembles it, and pulls the lever in his booth to bring the paper target back.
Every shot is in or near the bulls'-eye.
As good as Erik, and possibly even better.
When the facility almost gives them up to Schmidt and his allies, Erik doesn't hesitate – he protects the children he and Charles have gathered, building shields around them from the wreckage and from the bunker.
Charles and Raven exchange looks, clasp hands for a long instant, and then plunge into the fray. Raven keeps Schmidt occupied, dodging and using his own strength against him. Charles races around the courtyard and picks up the fallen agents' weapons, expends clip after clip into Schmidt, shooting for the helmet, avoiding his sister at all costs.
After Schmidt retreats, confused and angry, Charles says, “Thank you.”
Erik thinks that maybe Charles is right after all. They make a formidable team, all three of them.
When Erik asks Charles to help him train, and hands him his gun, Charles closes his eyes for a long moment, and Erik can sense him clenching his fists in his pockets.
And then Charles is taking the gun from him and he's clicking the safety off, and he's holding the gun right to Erik's forehead and he only looks determined.
Erik deflects all three shots, laughing all the while.
The laughter stops when Charles growls and grabs his own arm. Blood staining his fingers and the sleeve of his shirt. One of the bullets has clipped him.
A long heartbeat, and then Charles suddenly laughs. “Now I can tell Wesley exactly what it feels like to be shot.”
Erik looks at him, shocked and aroused and breathless – and when he pulls Charles in to kiss him, bloodied arm and all, Charles's only response is to kiss back, avid and hungry. The stray thought lapping around the edges of Erik's mind. That took you long enough.
You want me to do what?
You heard me, Charles.
Erik smiles and goes down on him again, listening carefully as Charles falls apart around him.
Show me what it was like, show me the two of you.
Onslaught of images, faithful down to Wesley's accent and to Charles's ticklish spots. Wesley's scars, Charles's freckles. Faces that were identical, faces that were polar opposites. Dilated pupils surrounded by thin rims of blue.
Erik kills Schmidt with the coin he's been carrying all this time.
And when it crashes to the floor of the reactor room, Erik whirls and runs back out to the downed Blackbird, to where Charles has collapsed, clutching his head.
“I'm sorry,” Erik says.
“Forgiven. It was what we planned. The helmet?”
“Here,” and Erik takes it off.
Charles smiles and gets to his feet, totters unsteadily onto the sand, walks to the edge of the water – and throws the helmet in.
When the American and Soviet ships fire on them, Erik holds his hand out to stop the missiles.
He lets Charles take his free hand, spares Charles a glance as he puts his fingers to his temple.
A multitude of splashes into the clear blue sea.
The face in the mirror has acquired many more lines, and his hair has turned almost completely white.
Erik allows himself a small smile, and goes back into the bedroom to tie Charles's tie for him.
“Really, Erik, there's nothing wrong with me.” Charles smiles up at him, and reaches up for a kiss. His hair is graying at the temples.
“It's only been a month since you took off that cast,” Erik says, reasonably, tightening the knot. “And last night you were complaining about your knee again.”
Charles snorts and smiles and slides his hands up Erik's arms. “Are you ready for this? To meet Wesley, I mean. I've only been telling you about him for the last forty-something years.”
Erik kisses him again and when they walk out of their room Raven is swaying impatiently at the head of the staircase.
He responds directly into Charles's mind. Let's find out.