It was a hard thing for Erik to admit, as independent as he was, that Sebastian Shaw truly had made him the man he was today. All of the rage and all of the hate that he'd cultivated in his years under government 'monitoring' programs had suddenly taken on a shape and a purpose. He'd always known he was not alone - ever since his youth he'd had Emma in the back of his mind, the two of them forge hot and ice cold even as they could do nothing to get away - but it was Sebastian who had made him part of something. Sebastian's focus was incredible, precise, and exacting, and Erik had thrived on it.
There was always a bit of trouble when so many strong, independent, and Dominant voices clashing together, but Erik - and Emma - had always found it easy enough to go along with Sebastian; their ideals complimented each other, fed off each other, and Sebastian was brilliant and had vision. That was before everything started to change. Erik was hardly an idealist. He believed, just like Sebastian, that humans would never accept mutants. The best solution would be to carve out a home for them in blood and steel, but it was meant to be a home, somewhere for all mutants.
Erik had thought Sebastian believed that, too.
Emma had told him as much on more than one occasion.
There he was, with Sebastian standing out at the rail of his yacht, parked a few miles off the coast of Genosha, laughing as dozens of warheads came hurdling towards them, screaming at Erik to let one hit so he could bask in that energy - bask in it and flatten Genosha into rubble. Emma was standing behind Erik, hand on his back to keep him from breaking under the strain of controlling all of the missiles.
"We'll burn them all to the ground, Erik!"
"Sebastian," Emma's voice was cool despite the effort she needed to keep Erik completely focused. "There are tens of thousands of mutants on that island."
There were slaves, mutant and mutate, on that island; that was why they stood there, Sebastian, Emma, Azazel, Janos, and himself, staring out over the beautiful cityscape of Hammer Bay. Sebastian's plan had been to liberate them to join in the uprising against the humans.
Erik gritted his teeth, thought of all of the mutants he had never been able to save. He thought of the young mutants in the testing facility where he and Emma had been held, some older than them, some younger, sub and Dom alike, all a mix of weak and strong, all tortured slowly. He hadn't joined with Sebastian all those years ago to kill weak mutants, he joined with him to protect them.
"Sebastian..." Emma's voice was a flash-frozen warning, all ice and hard.
He wouldn't do that. He wouldn't.
"Turn the missiles back on them!"
Sebastian made him want to, Sebastian made him want to agree, made him want to stand by his side, but... "No."
Rather than punish Erik, Sebastian backhanded Emma, sent her flying across the yacht; only a second before she hit the far wall, her body changed to diamond. The loss of the telepathic push in his mind and his concern for Emma made half of the missiles explode in the air, raining hot debris on them and stoking the flames in Erik's chest.
"No, Sebastian," Erik growled.
It took every ounce of will to say that, and Emma finally picked herself up from the rails, sloughed off the diamond outer body, and then she cracked her knuckles, unladylike, but so very her. Azazel drew his sword, Janos tensed, and Erik - his mind still half on keeping their boat unscathed - turned to Emma. Sebastian reached out, his hand lightly touching Erik's shoulder - and then he was on the ground, collarbone and shoulder snapped, stifling his scream. A few more missiles exploded. He fumbled with his left hand, scrambling to keep himself from collapsing on the deck of the yacht and to keep the missiles from killing them all.
"Oh, Erik... I don't care that you're a Dom, I cannot accept anything but your complete submission."
Sebastian leaned down, a finger gently caressing Erik's spine - the way one might caress a rabbit before snapping its neck. One touch, one touch was all it would take to snap him in half... but the touch never came.
After a few moments of attempting to accept his own death, Erik glanced up. Sebastian's was frozen in place, and it took him only a moment to realize that Emma had done it. Sebastian had been going to kill him; Erik had almost been ready for it, but Emma had given him a chance, and had put her survival in his hands now. If he didn't kill Sebastian, Emma's life was forfeit as well. Erik grabbed Azazel's sword with his mind and jammed it - ever so slowly - through Sebastian's jaw and up through his brain.
He felt ill, watching as his friend and mentor's eyes go glassy and dead. Sebastian collapsed onto Erik's back, pressing down on his shattered collar. He screamed, then, screamed from the pain in a way he'd never allowed himself to do before. Azazel grabbed Sebastian's corpse by his neck, pulled him off of Erik and drew his sword out of the man's skull.
"Get us out of here, damn it!" Erik yelled at the man, and Azazel tensed, but obeyed.
They retreated to the submarine below, beat a hasty retreat with Erik holding back his whimpers as he was jostled by the two men.
"You are an idiot, Erik... but you know I would follow you anywhere, don't worry about the rest."
The rest, the dozens of mutants waiting for Sebastian's command to overtake the slaver island of Genosha. They were his to command. He would make the humans on that island wish they had never been born, he would make them submit.
Erik pressed his head to the side of the window, looking out over the ocean from his Genoshan penthouse. He wondered if he could have picked the exact location where his mentor's body had sunk to the ocean floor, just at the horizon, wrapped around the metal coffin of his beloved yacht. It had been six months to the day, and it seemed like a lifetime and a blink of an eye to Erik. He'd once looked up at the skyscraper where he now stood and considered the best way to crush the support struts and bring it down, now he stood inside, gazing out over his territory.
He snorted, leaving a puff of fog against the glass where he'd exhaled.
There was a soft tap on the door, really just a familiar touch on the metal of the door to his apartments. He twisted his hand and let the door open up behind him, his mind still out on the waves. A few moments later, Emma stood beside him. She was regal like that, his Prime Minster, her body wrapped in sinfully tight white silk and lace in contrast to his own billowing red-brown robes. It was impossible not to contrast the beautiful and confident woman - nearing thirty, just like him - to the scared eleven year old he'd met years ago. The changes - to both of them - were striking.
"Stop thinking about my ass, Erik."
He smiled, accepted it for what it was, and headed over to the bar he kept near the window, pouring them both a scotch. She knew where his mind had actually been - as a telepath it would be impossible for her not to - and she also knew he needed to be drawn away from that dark place. Wordless, the two of them turned and settled into the chairs that Erik always left facing the window, sat and exhaled as the weight of the day slowly fell off of Erik's shoulders.
"How is the reconstruction?" Emma asked, her fingers lightly clinging to the top of her glass, tilting it from side to side to leave the cubes sloshing against the sides rather than take a drink.
Erik flexed his fingers on his right hand, feeling the slight stiffness there and trying to ignore it. He'd worked most of the day clearing away rubble and destruction from the bay coast, picking up and discarding the memories of a battle so recently fought. "Well enough, Janos and I have the south side of the bay nearly cleared. I've heard there's already been land grant requests."
"Only a few, mostly mutants who want or need contact with the ocean, fish callers... Janos of course." Emma finally took a sip of the scotch.
Erik nodded, Emma would make certain it was taken care of. There were so many government functions and so few people to care for them. His purpose before they had liberated Genosha had been conquest and destruction. Rebuilding took a skill-set that he wasn't entirely familiar with. He had a lot of people who were fantastic at smashing things but really only a handful when it came to building things. Emma was one of the best.
"What would I do without you?" He asked, half-sarcastic and half-serious.
"Probably kill the entire Parliament."
That sounded about accurate. The makeshift Parliament was made up almost entirely of mutants who had come out of the woodwork after the worst of the fighting had passed. Erik felt strongly about mutant solidarity, but that could only extended so far when it came to the men and women who had decided that now that it was finally safe to oppose the enslavement of mutants they could do so. Now that it held no risk, they had decided to take the opportunity to cement their position in power as the founding fathers (and mothers) of their new country.
"How is the constitution progressing?" He asked. One of his assistants - Angel - kept him well stocked in reports from the assembly, but he didn't give them as much attention as perhaps he should.
"You really should read them." Emma answered his thoughts rather than his words. "We've started in on sub registration, again."
He didn't care. Mutant registration he was - of course - opposed to, but sub registration wasn't something he concerned himself with. He'd read some of the literature, from time to time, and it was hard not to read about pro or anti mutant registration without many of the authors discussing sub registration in the same breath, but it wasn't important to him. The knew the stereotypes; subs were weak and aimless, they spent their lives constantly dressing to attract a Dom, they weren't suited to the work of running anything. Mostly he agreed, he had never met a sub that was much more than a beautiful distraction from real work.
"We've had the Crown take up a position of anti-registration," Emma told him.
The Crown. Him. There was probably some sort of conflict of interest in having the Prime Minster put out his press releases, but in general Emma and Erik knew each other's minds better than anyone else, and if she wanted them to take the anti-registration position, that was what they would do. He knew she wasn't a sub, so he found her position on the matter a bit surprising. "What has gotten you on the anti-registration parade, Ems?"
She sniffed at the name, but didn't protest it. Anyone else would probably have had their balls cut off with diamond bladed fingers. "Us," she reminded him. "Perhaps you could say the renowned Professor X has rubbed off on me just a touch."
Erik winced. Charles Xavier - hippy pacifist. Erik's only consolation was the fact that The Professor had absented himself from the Genoshan reconstruction entirely, choosing instead to stay in England. He had certainly had his representatives, Angel - his assistant, Scott - complete asshole, but very competent, and a handful of others. Graduates from his Institute had represented nearly a quarter of Erik's martial strength in the final days, and almost every mutant under his command who could take orders, give orders, could think on their feet, and kick ass had been care of Xavier's Institute. Not that he gave Xavier much credit for that.
"He does have a point." Emma could obviously sense his discomfort. "Sebastian tried to recruit him to our war effort at least a dozen times over the previous five years, and he has plenty of articles rebutting some of the worst evolutionary psychology papers on the topic of the natural order of Doms and subs."
"That still doesn't explain why we're trying to cater to some Oxford Don who spent the last ten years acquiring diplomas and teaching mutants not to fight for their independence and freedom." His anger bubbled dangerously to the surface of his mind, but Emma ignored that. The rest of Genosha might fear his ire, but never Emma.
She answered by pressing her fingers into his arm, just a slight touch, but backed with ice. "Erik, it's politics."
He hated politics almost as much as he hated mutant toadies who bowed and scraped and stooped instead of fought.
"Did you read your briefing materials for the day?" He shook his head in answer. Angel had gotten it to him while he had been concentrating on a particularly difficult set of debris and he hadn't bothered since. "Britain has just passed a rather harsh set of sub registration laws."
Erik imagined that hadn't particularly pleased one Charles Francis Xavier - Lord of the Institute.
"No, it did not." But while Erik was amused and pleased, Emma was obviously not. "It was quite impressive, required declaration of orientation upon voter registration, voter restrictions on subs, no switch orientation allowed, and a few other nasty restrictions on intraorientation relationships to discourage incorrect registration. Xavier's already announced his intention to leave his position at Oxford, remove his endowment of several health initiatives, and relocate his Institute somewhere a bit more suited to the needs of his students. He did it once before - the rumor is that the CIA calls him regularly to apologize for the American sub registration act."
"Running away." Sometimes he doubted that Xavier was even the switch he played in front of Parliament and the Congress. He was probably a sub.
"See it how you will, Erik. Do you know how many industrialized nations with a centralized and relatively stable government have neither a sub registration law nor a mutant registration law?"
He shrugged. He didn't keep track of that sort of thing.
"Two. Luxembourg and Genosha - and technically Sealand."
"That's it?" He sat up, suddenly very interested. If what Emma said was accurate - and it always was - then Xavier was running out of countries to run to. The chances that Genosha would ever have a mutant registration law were zero, and if... the Prime Minster and the King were vocally against sub registration... "Oh, you are brilliant, Emma." He grinned at her, all teeth and aggression. "Xavier's Institute on Genoshan soil, that would be a coup."
Just because he didn't care for the man didn't mean the man wasn't ridiculously well respected. Erik could be even more aggressive in his recruitment from Institute ranks, and that would swell the army - and the competent state-staff - quite nicely. Erik rarely had use for a sub, but Emma had suggested he would need a partnership eventually and the Institute would have quite a few mutant subs to consider. He'd also heard several of the subs there were quite brilliant - and many of them were paired with powerful mutant Doms who had likely not considered joining the war effort because of their subs, not just because of ideology.
"Stop being sharky," Emma said, some snap, but mostly amusement in her voice. "You look like you're circling his Institute hunting for fish to snap up. It won't be that easy. Your politics are barely compatible and you don't exactly have a history of subs' rights stances. Even if he relocates here, that's a far cry from getting him to your side, and don't forget, if he's here, he will become involved in Genoshan politics. You can think he's a sub all you like, but he could have collared Sebastian and made him like it."
The mention of Sebastian, and the cool reality of Emma's assessment, brought him somewhat back to Earth. He needed a better plan than just standing around and hoping that Xavier would agree.
"There's another matter as well, Erik." Emma paused, waited until he was out of his own head again. "His sister, Raven; she's a sub, one of the most powerful mutant subs on our radar. If she falls in with one of your political rivals - including ones who feel quite a bit closer to Xavier's position, it could destabilized our claim, Hero of Genosha or not."
So he would have to seduce a sub - usually Emma's area of specialization - and win over a Dom - also usually Emma's area of specialization - and continue with the reconstruction efforts because if he took Emma way from the constitution efforts there would be even more to contend with whenever the document was finalized.
"Don't worry, I'll be on my best behavior."
Emma gave him a dubious look, and he couldn't help but think she was completely right to give him one.
The airport in Genosha was - like everything else - absolutely brilliant, and Charles thought it was some of the nicest architecture that he'd ever seen. Raven was behind him giving off similar thoughts, while Amy also smiled, taking it all in. The small charter jet they'd taken from Cairo had just been unloaded, and Charles moved the girls' bags so they all fit on the bag cart and checked the weight. He imagined that the 'completely unofficial' welcome committee would arrive any minute - if they weren't already there just beyond the tarmac.
"Professor Xavier!" He looked over in the direction of the yell and saw Angel giving him a wave and a flutter of wings. He returned the wave and then grabbed the bag cart to head over in her direction. Emma Frost - the Prime Minister - stood at her side, and the man between them could only be Magneto.
"Angel, lovely to see you again." When he arrived he wrapped her into a tight hug and kissed her cheek, the feelings between them were mixed, but he never begrudged his students a decision to move on. "And Prime Minster Frost." The two exchanged a firm handshake that lingered too long, trading a few bits and pieces of emotion and expectation. Clearly this was important to her, which was good to see. She'd been too much a pawn of Sebastian Shaw the last time they had met, and even if her stance hadn't changed much, their direction had, at least a few degrees. Emma was the first to blink, releasing his hand. "And... Your Majesty."
He gave his best bow and the ladies curtsied, apparently this amused 'His Majesty' just enough for the wisp of emotion to pass through whatever shields Emma had forged for him or he was holding under his own power. "A pleasure to finally meet you, Professor."
"Please, call me Charles."
"Charles, then." And of course he didn't offer the same courtesy in return, not that this surprised Charles. "Welcome to Genosha. I will be taking care of your accommodations and providing you with anything you might need."
Apparently Magneto was prepared to go all out for his comfort and to get his Institute relocated exactly where he wanted it. Charles nodded something that probably passed for a pleasantry while he scanned around for any stray thoughts that he might be able to catch.
"And, your travel companions?"
Charles gave Raven the slight mental prodding she would need to get over the worst of her nerves. "Raven Xavier, Your Majesty, Charles' sister."
Amy followed without needing any prompting. "Amy Pollard, Professor of Literature and Biology."
"An interesting combination," Magneto noted. Charles had to admit he could be at least a bit charming - which was honestly a surprise to him. Charles had always imagined Magneto as hard steel and no give, but he was actually already a good deal more charming than Sebastian Shaw, even if it was partially an act for Charles' benefit.
"There's nothing wrong with slightly eclectic schooling," Amy answered, all polite smiles.
The small talk continued while Magneto lead them out of the small airport and into Hammer Bay proper. The city itself was similarly gorgeous, crafted as it was by the thousands of mutants who had previously been enslaved to the human government. To the best of Charles' knowledge, the old regime was locked away somewhere dank and disgusting, awaiting a proper judiciary development in order to be put on trail for some sort of 'crimes against mutants' prosecution, which Charles couldn't help but agree with.
"Like what you see, Professor?" He heard Emma's voice in his thoughts just as clearly as though she's spoken in his ear.
"Well, it's hardly an accomplishment, just setting up in the emptied out homes of those who came before?" He prodded around the edges, looking for cracks. Emma's resolve had always been pure ice when she was with Shaw. Their visits had begun infrequently, but towards the end of the war he saw the two of them on four occasions in a single year. Emma had never shown signs of cracking, then.
"I think you underestimate us, and baiting me will work no better than it did last year."
He would just need to try Magneto, then, he supposed. Emma's resolve was quite strong, he knew she felt very strongly about the destruction of humans in order to pave the way for a mutant utopia. The acquisition of Genosha seemed to have halted the worst of the aggressions, at least.
"Professor Xavier! Professor Xavier!" He turned towards the noise, getting his picture snapped several times for the trouble. There was a small rabble of reporters lined up at the edge of the small airfield. "Are you allying yourself with Magneto?" "What is happening to the Institute?" "Do you have anything to say concerning Parliament's passing of the registration law?"
Charles sighed, waved his hand and sent a doppelganger off to the reporters - which would likely lead to great consternation when they realized that their photographs of the - somewhat - elusive professor would do them no good, but at least they would have a few sound bites. He could feel the quirk of Emma's eyebrow, impressed.
"Allied with Magneto?" Emma's voice baited him, her own lip quirking, slyly.
"Mmm," Charles answered, as though he wasn't paying much attention. "I really couldn't say. I understand there is something of a divide at present."
Charles actually knew very little about the system as it was currently coming into being in Genosha. The position of King was apparently a foregone conclusion, and Charles understood Magneto was still nominally - and likely in practice - also the head of the military if it came to that. The current population of Genosha barely numbered fifty thousand, but Charles knew that the total global mutant population was probably in the millions. The incorporation of non-territorial mutants was apparently a topic of some debate during the constitutional convention.
"Where do you stand on the topic of the Parliament, then, Charles?" Magneto asked him, his voice smooth and with just enough bite that he thought the king might be teasing, just a bit.
"Oh, well, as you can imagine, I do not have anything particularly nice to say about any legislative system at the moment." He gave Magneto a bright smile. "I suppose the most pressing issue at the moment is not the system itself, but the franchise."
He could tell he'd struck a nerve from Magneto's closed off response and Frost's decided chilling of her own mind. The right of any human citizens of Genosha - or even allowing humans citizenship at all - was obviously still an open question of some debate.
Charles continued to babble as though he couldn't hear the overwhelming tension in the air. "Personally, I favor the right to vote being extended to all citizens, and citizenship extended to all residents."
The air continued to be quite tense, and Charles continued to ignore it, but he could feel a pleasant sort of feeling bubbling up from behind him - Amy. She was one of those pesky corner cases that would so infuriate any attempt at proper enfranchisement. As a sub, she often found her voting rights curtailed or handed over to her (currently nonexistent) Dom, as a human her rights would be in question in a mutant run country like Genosha, and Charles would certainly never support a constitutional platform that didn't have a place for Amy in it. Charles knew the position he was in, Raven had termed it 'Genosha or bust', but Moira had certainly made an appealing case for Sealand - of only metaphorically. On general principle he was opposed to wasting millions of dollars building a tiny island to hold his mutants on, it was more likely he'd be able to finance a challenge to the registration law in America the next time the court appointments swung in their favor. Still, as much as he needed real estate on Genosha, he would not consent to take it without some concessions and he didn't hurt to feel out the waters.
"How... progressive." Emma's voice conveyed her obvious displeasure.
It seemed he would have quite the mission on his hands, then. Not all X-Men missions could be flashy and explosive, however, and Charles found that easy enough to accept. "Quite."
The group made their way slowly through the city streets, finally ending up somewhere that looked rather important.
"This is the seat of the government," Emma explained. "For the moment it is the royal residence, Parliament, and our Embassy."
Charles imagined that the original Genoshan Parliament was one of the buildings that had been destroyed during the war - so this was likely a converted residence or some other sort of building, but it was - like everything else - quite lovely, with long lines and a sort of neo-deco style that he couldn't help but appreciate for its retro appeal. "Groovy."
Behind him, Raven snorted, and he grinned.
Erik's annoyance with Charles Xavier only grew as the man continued to babble on the way up to the temporary residences that had been picked for their honored guests. He seemed able to talk about absolutely everything, and he was also obviously testing the waters for a few of his more ridiculous and radical ideals. Human citizenship on Genosha was completely unacceptable, it was bad enough that they were going to have to cave to the minority opinion on sub registration just to get the man's foot in the door, but after that he had no idea how he was going to keep Xavier without having him go over and put his full support behind the integrationist factions.
He could calm his mind at least slightly from that. Emma had this well under control. His job was to look intimidating, command the armies, and hold some sort of ceremonial position of ... something. He wasn't entirely certain what the point of a monarch was, but Emma had convinced him that the idea of vesting the authority of Genosha in a terrifying mutant general was likely good for business.
At least Xavier mostly shut up once they got to the rooms that Erik and Emma had selected for the Institute delegation. "How lovely!"
And they were lovely, done up in bright golds with plenty of very metal and very little by way of wood, the walls practically hummed to Erik, and it seemed that Xavier was at least slightly smitten, running his hands over the walls and much of the furniture.
"Well, Raven, if you would?" He indicated the cart and the girl went to work first inspecting all of the available rooms and then slowly divvying out luggage based on some sort of silent selection.
He noted that the other girl, Amy, had her baggage settled into a third room rather than sharing it with Charles - not his sub, then. Erik mentally worked his way through the list of subs he knew, trying to think if there were any that seemed like they might meet the Professor's tastes. He wasn't certain they made subs in tweed.
"Amy, please be a dear and find us some refreshments. Angel, I would appreciate a thorough report on any constitutional proceedings, the blog-o-sphere is quite silent on the current matters, dreadful." He spoke to Angel, kindly, but obviously expecting his request would be obeyed, and he watched, stunned, as the girl nodded, barely holding herself back from doing as Charles asked long enough to wait for Erik's nod of approval. "And, of course, Prime Minster, perhaps tea or cocktails sometime later?"
Emma paused for a moment, and he could see - could hear - his oldest friend trying to decide the correct tactic to take with Xavier's casual dominance of the room. "I'm afraid I'll be indisposed today."
Emma could only hold off so long, if she waited more than a few days it was very likely that the opposition would begin to court Xavier's support - and possibly his sister - and that would leave Erik and Emma's power base with a very obvious and gaping hole in it. Xavier was in no position to play kingmaker, but he held several cards, and it seemed he had a determination to play against Erik if Erik and Emma didn't fall far enough in line. "Perhaps I will find myself available today."
Xavier didn't even seem annoyed by the slight power-play. "I look forward to it. I'm very partial to scotch."
Emma gave a curt nod, and headed out of the apartments and back to the constitutional convention - she'd probably only missed a bit - and Charles gave her a very friendly wave.
"Whatever you do, Erik, do not underestimate him."
Erik would do his best. Still, he watched Xavier as he continued to circle around the room, hands touching the metal on the wall and the furniture, finally working his way over to the well stocked bar by the window - a mirror of the one in Erik's room, three floors above.
"Would you like something, Your Majesty?" He tilted his head towards the bar, already scrounging up a shaker and a few bottles. Charles' actions confused him slightly. With Emma and the others he'd expressed a certain level of casual dominance, but now he was offering to get Erik a drink - it was a weird mishmash of signals that Erik didn't know how to interpret.
"A martini." Erik pulled off the heavy fabric that made up his cloak, folding it neatly over one of the chairs, before he sat. "And I see no reason you can't call me Erik."
Charles turned towards him for a moment, the shaker in his hand pausing for only a moment. "Erik." His name sounded good on Charles' lips. "I'm surprised - the children tell me that in general your army prefers their mutant names."
The children? His mind puzzled on the phrase for a moment and then he realized... the children, his students. "I suppose I always imagined that your students who left to join our cause didn't leave under the best of terms."
He watched the telepath pour out the martini, set it down, and then went back to mixing something for himself. It was hard to judge - but Charles seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. "No, even if we do not always agree, my students rarely leave on bad terms. Many of them are still in contact with me from time to time."
Charles wound his way back to the seating area, handing Erik his drink before he poured himself into a chair and closed his eyes. Erik was surprised to see him look lightly frayed around the edges. It was odd to see; most Doms had very strict and rigid self-control when it came to showing any weakness, but Charles was there metaphorically showing his belly. Erik wondered if it was deliberate.
Of course it was deliberate. Everything about Charles was designed to elicit some sort of reaction. He probably had picked that second sub to do just that, if she wasn't there for sex.
Erik couldn't help but admire the man, at least in an intellectual sense. He was casual and self-assured. As much as he had told Emma the man acted like a sub, he'd never met a sub with such poise. He knew he was in command, infuriatingly so, and he held himself as though there was never any doubt that people would be following his will. He also looked infuriatingly like the sort of sub you'd see in some magazine, all pouting cherry lips and smooth edges, tantalizing softness that hid a will of steel. That had to be intentional, the wide eyes, the too-long hair, and the soft, neat clothes. It made him look like a sub.
He realized he'd been staring, stopped, and then searched for a topic they might be able to work from. "Your students are always among my best warriors."
Charles nodded, not acknowledging how much that had cost Erik to say, and how much he admired the students that had come from the Institute. Mutants who came from backgrounds without the training Charles had provided were not nearly as poised or as strong; they had a casual confidence that made them perfect warriors.
"They also have a strong understanding of organization, even running a country." A few of them were erratic, or difficult to handle, but most of them had the practicalities well in hand.
"That I can believe. Running the Institute can be a bit like running a small country, foreign policy, international trade..." He smiled, a private joke, maybe. "And we all do our chores. They take instruction and orders well, don't they?"
Erik had to admit they did, very well. It was unusual to get Doms who were sufficiently self-assured to accept and follow orders while still retaining the individuality of Doms that tended to be lost with military subs. "They do."
A few moments later, they were interrupted by Charles' sister, Raven, returning from wherever she'd been working on the clothing and other belongings, clearly actually unpacking rather than living out of the suitcase. She entered, looking just a touch lost, and he felt... a pang of sympathy. He hated to think what it might be like to rely constantly on reassurance that he was doing the right thing.
"Oh, just wash up and change, love. Your sundress is lovely with your eyes. I'll send you and Amy off when she returns." The girl leaned forward and Charles gave her a peck on the forehead. It reminded him of him and Emma, but with less physical affection between himself and the telepath. The similarity made it easy to notice the cock of Charles' head and Erik thought they might also be communicating telepathically.
He took a few moments to appreciate the girl, she was beautiful, nicely shaped, if still a bit girlish, beautiful cheekbones and nice eyes. Erik knew she could change her shape to look like anyone, mimic anyone, and her power was truly incredible, but for beauty he couldn't imagine wanting her to wear anything but her own skin.
Charles tilted his head towards Erik, enough that he wondered if his shields might be slipping. He didn't need the other man reading him. The last thing he needed was state secrets and his own desires laid bare.
Charles, in general, tried not to peek into other people's minds. He'd spent many years spent around hormonal children and boys and girls wondering if when they grew up if they'd be a Dom or a sub or if one of the other children (or sometimes Charles) would boss them around into bed. Erik's mind was, on the whole, blissfully shrouded behind an iron curtain, but bits seemed to show themselves at the most inopportune moments. Apparently Erik thought both he and his sister were quite aesthetically pleasing. He was used to that, but it was still surprising to feel the open admiration from King Magneto. Charles found him attractive enough in return, but he wasn't fool enough to court that level of political complication when all he needed was a safe haven for his mutants.
He had met Emma several times, and perhaps he'd thought that Magneto would be similarly cold, but Erik was obviously passionate, warm, and driven. The focus on the martial was always annoying, the drive to win and conquer and succeed overwhelming good sense, but he was hardly an uncivilized brute. Sebastian Shaw - for all his pretensions of being a man of wealth and taste - had always been something of a vicious brute under his silk and bespoke suits.
Erik, however, was brutal, but there was something raw and innocent there too. He didn't have the same cruel and calculating brutality, and it was tantalizing. He was the sort of man that some Doms would have appreciated breaking over their knee until he knelt down and begged to get fucked.
Charles shook his head, trying to clear the image. That was... not his usual style, and he was surprised to even feel the whiff of that sort of fantasy teasing at his mind.
At least he didn't have his arms wrapped around his sister while he was thinking that sort of thought, and he returned to his seat and watched Erik turn his assessment back towards Charles once more.
"You don't think much of me, do you, Erik?"
The twisted curiosity, where Erik wondered how much Charles had read and how much he had merely guessed, played over Erik's face. "I suppose I know we are very different, and I have a hard time believing we will end up on the same page in just a few short days."
"No, I imagine we could argue until we were old men and wouldn't change each others minds much at all." Erik was raw stubbornness, but so was Charles. He'd come by that stubborn and unyielding perspective very honestly, however, and was at peace with it.
"At least we could agree on that," Erik answered, humorous.
Even if they would be at each other's throats by the end of Charles' time there, he would certainly enjoy that humor.
"So, which of the many topics we'll disagree on would you like to tackle first?" Charles asked. He took another sip of his drink, enjoying the sweet burn as he drank. "We do have so many things to argue about, and so little time."
Charles could feel Erik teasing the question around, trying to decide what might be the best course of attack; they could go for the little things first, a few possible small agreements paving the way for larger potential agreements, or they could attack the big things first, the differences between their politics that might not be bridgeable. Charles was content to follow Erik's lead on selecting the topic.
"Let's talk, then." Erik finished the last of his drink and then carefully rolled the olive between his teeth. "What are your requirements for your Institute?"
Apparently they would start somewhere in the middle. "Several acres at least, for the grounds; lake, ocean, or other body of water on the premises; dormitory housing for at least one hundred, some doubles, some singles, some for couples with en suite; fourteen classrooms, two gyms, and a lab of at least 1,400 square feet... and a satellite dish." Charles stood, taking Erik's glass and heading back over to the bar. "That's the absolute minimum to accommodate our current needs, more would be preferable, so we don't have to limit enrollment."
Erik was clearly surprised, and Charles enjoyed the moment of oneupsmanship, even if it was slightly unbecoming. "You have one hundred students?"
"Yes, and that would merely accommodate the move from Britain, if we wanted to completely consolidate we would need larger grounds." He decided to get himself a martini this time, mixing them both one while he considered. "I prefer to integrate education of the Doms and subs whenever possible. Further time and resources might require more age stratification of the students, several more schools..." He sighed, actually thinking about it. He touched almost every mutant mind in the United States and Europe during his time with Cerebro, and given more time, more calibrations, and more work by Hank, he would no-doubt be able to touch the entire globe. "Depending on the vector that is taken with immigration we may have further need. I have no wish to set up a private, exclusive education only for the mutants that are most martially desirable, but as it stands now my recruitment has focused mostly on those with the most dangerous or visible mutations out of necessity."
Charles had to admit his own head was spinning from the prospect. Based on his numbers there were at least a million mutants in the world, possibly several million, and many of them were children. If all, or even many, of them choose to come to Genosha, Charles would hardly be able to educated them all.
"It sounds like you have quite a few ideas concerning educational reform, Charles." Erik looked up from his chair, and Charles caught his eyes, seeing something... surprised, and maybe a bit warm.
"Minister of Education, perhaps?" Charles teased, pouring out the drinks and bringing them back to where they sat. "I'm afraid you can't push me off to the side so easily."
"I wouldn't dream of it."
The shocking thing was realizing that Erik meant it. He'd expected and anticipated that Erik would try to find somewhere largely ceremonial to put him, get him 'in' the government while leaving him away from any areas he could potentially be damaging or too revolutionary. "Well, it is an issue that needs some consideration."
Amy finally returned after that, carrying a tray of all sorts of food that had come from somewhere in the building. She set the food down between him and Erik, and Charles gave her a nod. She was tense, and Charles didn't have to pry to see that someone had been a bit domineering with her.
"Alright, love?" Her mouth quirked into a tense smile that confirmed his first impression - she wasn't feeling well.
"It's fine, Charles."
"Go get changed into something nice. I'll do up your hair."
He could feel Amy's sense of... disappointment. The young woman was far more independent than was usually found in subs, she had strong opinions and a great deal of drive, but she couldn't quite help a certain desire to be told what to do and be taken care of. Charles had wanted her along for dozens of reasons, her sub and human nature, her intelligence, her keen observations of people's thoughts and motivations, and the fact that she tended to need a soft touch that made most Doms uncomfortable to witness. Really, like everything else, she was meant to solicit a reaction, and she knew that. Just because she knew and had agreed to that didn't mean she was always happy to be a slave to her drives.
"None of that, love," he insisted.
The smile she gave him was brighter after that and she headed off to her room. He turned back to Erik. "I'm going to send the girls out shopping."
"Without you?" Erik asked, before he obviously thought better of the question and grimaced.
"Yes. They're more than capable of having their own sense of style and aesthetics. I'm rather rubbish with that sort of thing, truth be told." It wasn't that he was incapable, but he did enjoy the tweeded look for himself; it was unassuming, and he strived to project that aura whenever possible. "I thought we could look at potential sites for the Institute. That way you can try to convince me to fall in love with one so I will have to move."
"No fooling you."
The undercurrent of second guessing and hidden motivations drifted away, Erik knew Charles' score, Charles knew his, and they would simply have to fumble through everything else. Charles was a telepath, he more than understood subtext, but he had no need for it, usually. As a telepath, he strove to be as... textual as possible, most of the time he was very much what he seemed to be.
Amy returned, changed into a light skirt and blouse and then settling down at Charles' feet so he could brush her hair while he talked. Erik's discomfort was immediate, obvious, and palpable. Charles was disappointed.
"You don't actually want to move here, do you?" Erik finally asked.
Charles focused on untangling the waves in Amy's hair, letting them fall a little more neatly. "No, actually. I know certain mutants have decided to label themselves homo superior or other such nonsense-" Erik was one such mutant, actually, and Charles could feel him bristle - "but the truth is that by all conventional measures, humans and X-gene mutated humans are one species, capable of interbreeding and producing viable and non-sterile offspring. Outside of an exacting and rigorous genetic sequencing and differential analysis, I'm left with no other choice but to see the children I teach as a group of students with a unique abilities, but still human. I want desperately for them to grow up seeing themselves as exactly that: humans."
Erik's nostrils flared and his cheeks flexed from where he clamped his jaw down. Charles had obviously struck a nerve, a rather raw and exposed one if Erik's irritation was any indication. It took him a few moments, but he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and settled. "This is different."
"Different? From categorizing based on skin color, gender, or orientation?"
Charles silently braided two strands of hair just above each of Amy's ears, and then braided them together down the back of her head. It would keep most of the waves out of her eyes for the day, and Charles always thought it looked quite good on her. He could feel Amy's happiness with his choice, even as she tried to ignore Erik sitting across from her.
"What do you think?" Erik looked down at Amy. "Not whatever he thinks."
Amy smiled, brushed a hand down her skirt. "I think there are plenty of humans who would be more than happy to have mutants live and work among them. We have six human professors, two of which aren't attached to a mutant in a relationship, and most of the house staff is human."
Erik looked surprised by the answer. He obviously couldn't tell for certain how much of her opinion was influenced by Charles, but she'd answered him immediately and easily. "And segregated education?"
"Well..." Amy didn't tend to deal with the administration - that was his and Moira's area of expertise - but she did have her opinions. "We currently have the more difficult cases; when you can blow up someone's house because you are frustrated, that's far more dangerous than someone who can shift eye colors. The training for children with more innocuous mutations... not to devalue the work Charles does, but it could be done with a Powerpoint presentation."
Charles smiled, actually, leaned back and grinned. "Quite right."
Charles was infuriatingly academic. He had an answer to everything and it sounded so... academic. Erik knew, more than anything else, that ideas that sounded brilliantly academic were usually that - academic - and usually not practical, not something you could put in your hands and make work the way you hoped it would work. Erik ignored the treacherous part of his mind that told him that his best soldiers and diplomats had been churned out of that idealist's school.
Raven and Amy - both dressed up and ready for an outing, fists full of Genoshan dollars in their purses - headed out before Charles and Erik, and Erik decided to leave most of the trappings of his office at home, clad it just a neat grey suit.
Their argument continued, out into the street, matters of heritage ('what heritage? I'm english-american and my parents were both pure human'), D/s integration ('honestly, how do you expect them to be independent if you don't give a firm example?'), and student recruitment ('what good is a mutant education to a girl who can turn her index finger into a glow stick?') had managed to both rile him up and calm him down. Despite the fact that he knew, intellectually, that he should be frustrated with how little progress he seemed to be making, he was enjoying himself. A lot.
Erik commandeered them a car and a driver, and the two of them headed out just to the edge of Hammer Bay and off into the quieter suburbs.
"It's like a Genoshan Malibu!" Charles had laughed and looked out over the waves.
The city was near-empty, the suburb had been entirely human, the pleasant hide away for some of the elite politicians who had made their way on the backs of the enslaved mutants. Most of them had thought better of sticking around after the war had gone south for them.
"It would do until you acquire a substantial non-boarding student population." If they had an influx of young mutants there would need to be a school in the city. "Angel will need you to submit a budget if you want tax funding."
It felt odd to say, tax funding for a school for mutants, the idea itself made Erik's chest expand with something like pride.
"R&D funding would not go amiss," Charles hopped out of the cart and started to walk around, obviously trying to get a feel for the place. "Hank just invented a breathable ceramic mesh of some sort, bulletproof, kinetic dampening properties, flame retardant... very groovy."
"Dr. Henry McCoy, the children call him Beast. Lovely young man, PhD from Harvard at the age of 16."
Erik wanted him working for him.
"I actually poached him from the CIA, back when I was consulting with them before the registration act." Charles continued to babble as though it was absolutely nothing that he had a man who'd just invented an incredible battle armor. It wasn't as though all of his soldiers could use their powers to deflect bullets the way Erik could. "More, I should say, I poached him because of the registration act. It seems that unbonded subs don't actually appreciate being tracked and monitored."
Charles had made his point, really. He must have known that Erik wasn't completely sold on subs rights and anti-sub registration, and he had to admit that the point was a solid one. Most countries would have made certain that Hank was paired with someone suitable and taken out of the workforce, but his contribution to research and development would have been lost.
"I do feel bad thinking of knocking over a house or two, but the area is very lovely and suited. I wouldn't want to train someone like Cyclops in the center of the city." Scott, his power was incredible, and no, Erik wouldn't have wanted to be around for the first tentative steps the boy must have made to harness his power.
"We could probably grant a good portion of the town - at least a few bars or stores will want to spring up around the school."
"Our very own little Oxfordshire. You do know how to treat a professor right, Erik." Charles scanned the horizon one more time, hands in his pocket. "Well, I see your offer, it's very lovely. I hear Luxembourg has fantastic pastries, however."
Erik snorted, actually snorted. Charles was completely intolerable. "Do you want a pastry, Charles? We can get pastries."
"Better beer as well, you know, being so close to Germany..."
That, Erik was in complete agreement on. "Unfortunately, we're fixed to the US Dollar, currently, so it leaves us in a bit of a bind when it comes to running foreign trade deficits; at least that's what my Prime Minster tells me."
"Pity." The two of them slid into the car and Charles looked back out over the abandoned town. "Sounds like you need some foreign investment."
Foreign investment... that sounded like Charles was driving at something specific. "You mean not scaring the humans away?"
"That was the implication I was aiming for, Your Majesty."
Of course. Everything came back to that, politics, humans, mutants, immigration, education, taxes, and almost everything else they managed to talk about. It was going to become annoying. He was beginning to feel frayed. It wasn't even the conversation with Charles, it was just the feeling he had that he should be doing something, should be out working to clear rubble, or something else that might build his country. He was all thumbs at the conference table - at least without Emma's careful instruction beforehand - and he knew his place was mostly in the army.
Erik was slowly discovering the irritation of the position of being a general-turned-politician. Without something to crush mercilessly he was a bit lost on how to crush someone politically.
They drew stares when the two of them got out of the car and a few photographs followed. Erik did his best to look happy, and possibly a bit possessive. He needed to strengthen his position, not weaken it, and it needed to look like Erik had Charles right where he wanted the man. Charles seemed oblivious to the subtext of the moment, which probably meant he was acutely aware of it, still, Charles stopped and smiled and even cooed over a small child who was already showing signs of telekinesis.
Erik's mind drew a strange contrast to his former mentor. Shaw was brilliant at dominating others, and he'd done it seamlessly with the threat of violence. Charles was no less capable - he was stronger than Emma, and Emma could scramble your brains for the rest of your life - but there was no threat of force, just honest smiling and a 'oh, please be a dear' and somehow Erik felt like Charles was pushing him - more than was inherent in their little political theater.
He had a few moments to think about it, however, because Charles was leaning over the bakery case and picking out little cakes like a kid in a candy store.
A light sensation of knocking hit the side of his head, and he realized it was Charles, still leaning against the case and pointing at things. He sent back a questioning quasi-formed thought.
"What sort of cake do you like?"
He glowered at the back of Charles' sweater vest. "Chocolate is fine."
"There are five chocolate cakes, though. I may need to reevaluate my impressions of your baked goods selection..."
Even though he was certain he wasn't actually competing with Luxembourg on their baked goods selection, he still felt unaccountably smug. The baker here was one of the mutates that had been engineered by the previous regime and he'd been one of the first to apply for a post-revolution license to change jobs, private domestic servant turned baking entrepreneur. "Just pick one!"
Instead of one, he ended up sitting at a corner table having a little 'sample size' of all five cakes - sharing with Charles - and trying not to think it was incredibly awkward that he was having a cake tasting with a professor of genetics and mutant school headmaster all while trying to orchestrate a political something that left the man willing to work with his and Emma's government rather that join the opposition coalition.
He decided he liked the red velvet chocolate cake the best, but it needed different icing, and the fact that he was concentrated on cake - and absolutely no other reason - was why he was surprised when Charles leaped across the table, dragged him down to the ground and screamed 'get down!' in a voice that hammered into his ears and his mind.
The rest of the patrons pushed themselves to the ground and then the world above him exploded in glass and steel. Warm metal hurdling towards the patrons and Erik grabbed it with his mind, twisted it up so tiny beams and huge slabs imbedded in the ceiling; the glass, however, rained down hard, and he felt Charles wince above him and saw a trickle of blood down the professor's cheek while his arm gave out under him and Charles landed hard against his chest.
Emma would kill him if he got the professor killed. He shouted for a medic.