title: Nociception, Two: Erik
word count: approx. 990
fandom: X-Men: First Class [movieverse]
characters: Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr. mention of Sebastian Shaw, Moira McTaggert, Hank McCoy, Sean Cassidy, Alex Summers, and Angel Salvadore [all not named]
notes: Part of the universe of Knife and Needle and Rope, in which matters begin to work up to the climax of the arc, and in which Erik's backstory catches up with him in a bad way. Counterpart and direct sequel to Nociception, One: Charles.
Warning for basically most serial killer / murder mystery tropes and everything else that might be associated with the idea of a dark version of Charles Xavier.
Erik waits for a full hour after the door closes on the man with the black phoenix. Perhaps two. It's not the first time he's lost track of the minutes and the seconds. It's the first reaction he's always had to a disappointment, to a blow, to just another one of the roadblocks that life always sees fit to throw into his broken path. Loss - a prison yard - memories he flinches away from.
He blinks, and looks down at the bundle of banknotes in his hand, and he knows even without counting them that - he shouldn't have accepted this. It doesn't feel right to accept money for...for that tattoo. He should have paid Charles instead. He should have given money for the privilege of creating something so darkly beautiful on such a willing - needing - canvas.
Instead he muttered an ineffectual protest, and let the man, let the masterwork, walk away.
If he closes his eyes, Erik can see the great stretches of ink and bruised skin and scarring. He can still feel the fatigue of the process, the cramps in his hand from where he'd fought to keep the needle steady. Deep blue imprint of surgical gloves over his hands even though he's not wearing them any more; he's already done with the biohazard/cross contamination procedures. He doesn't remember that, either - he blinks and looks around the room and it is spotless. It smells of alcohol and of his own sweat; it smells of leather. Charles's battered jacket, and the padded bench.
The memory of Charles's skin - pale and crisscrossed with scars, subsumed to ink and the phoenix on the glorious wing - hits Erik like a physical blow. He's used to those. He remembers being struck, and the additional jolt of collapsing to the floor to the ground to dank alleyway to laboratory tiles.
He falls to the floor, now, to his knees.
A clock strikes midnight.
When he comes to, again, he's managed to make it to his bed; he's naked, he's shivering, and he's entangled in his own sheets. Hypersensitive. Nerve endings screaming. His brain feels like it's been set on fire - and not in the good way. His skin is aflame, and it feels like he can feel every thread and every spring in the worn-out bedding and the old mattress.
He wants to cry, he wants to hide, and he knows he can't and there's nowhere to go.
The last time he was wound up like this - doesn't really bear thinking about. He's tried, gods know he's tried to forget it. But it's hard to get away from the memories when wiping down the work surfaces in his shop makes him see double, makes him see stainless steel and matte tiles. Makes him think of the sting of a needle, and not one loaded with ink. Thick-slurred-heavy metal on his tongue, the chill and the fear of being sedated and of being held down. Feeling and fleeing pain and gibbering hate.
He doesn't want to go down this path. Please no, he thinks. I can't. I can't remember.
I can't forget.
He bites back the name of the man who did this to him. He shakes his head, and hopes to banish the memories. He fights the shame of wanting to forget, of using others to forget. Of losing himself in black ink and the careful contour of feather and wing.
The torment eats at him. He wonders if he'll survive.
He thinks of putting his glasses back on and paging through his battered paperbacks, of looking for something else he can write into his own skin. Of sacrificing sleep and his body to the constructed peace and pain of creation, to the very real ache of ink in his skin. Victor Hugo? William Shakespeare? Martin Amis?
When he wakes up - the next morning? The mornings after? - he wakes up to screaming, and it's not him this time. That silence lasts only until he opens the door, until he sees the corpse on his doorstep and the words carved in blood and mutilated flesh on the man's naked back.
Erik slams the door and dials emergency services, calls in the details in a very calm voice - one just barely teetering on the jagged edge of panic. He gives a statement to the young woman with the inspector's badge and the haunted eyes, walks around the scene after the tall lanky coroner and his redheaded assistant. The inspector's blonde-haired subordinate asks to search his premises, politely, and Erik lets them in: the kid and another cop, a young Latina woman with piercing brown eyes and beautiful dragonfly wings tattooed onto her shoulders. He asks them to mind the items marked with biohazard signs, and they do.
There's a bag sitting packed under his worktable. The original sketch and partial stencils for the black phoenix and the money he'd been paid for it, still in the neat bundle that Charles had pressed into his hand. A change of clothes. Jane Eyre, The Count of Monte Cristo.
The gun he'd bought when he'd first come to his town. He remembers being afraid then, and that fear is as nothing compared to right here and now, because he tells the police all the truth - except for the part where he knows everything about the message on the dead body.
It begins to rain, and the cops leave in a hurry, and Erik is left frozen and fearful and he's rooted to the spot, too long, as he locks the doors to the shop and there is a voice calling his name. A well-known voice, and he hates the voice, and he hates that he knows it so well. The voice of the man who'd almost destroyed him, who has certainly found him, who now intends to finish the job.
When Erik blacks out, still clutching his meager possessions, there is a name on his lips, unspoken, unbidden. A silent plea. A wish for death to come swiftly.