The mutant is Cheyenne. They find her living in Colorado with her grandfather, Black Eagle. Neither the girl not Erik has any idea that her grandfather has connections to Charles. Emma does, however, though all she told Magneto was that they needed to move quickly. To ensure that the girl is vulnerable enough to be persuaded, Emma disposes of the grandfather in the only way she knows how, the way her Black King would have been proud of.
With the death of her grandfather and no knowledge of the X-Men, it isn’t hard to convince Danielle Moonstar to join them.
Late that night, there is a knock on Erik’s study. “Come in.” He knows who it is and is eager for the meeting. Danielle – no, Mirage , as they’ve named her – walks in tentatively, clearly intimated, and Mystique is following her. “Ahh, Mirage, how are you finding your new life?”
“I never knew there were so many others – like me.” She sits down when Erik gestures, and so does Mystique. She is playing with the hem of her shirt, trying to keep her eyes locked on Erik buy his effortless ability at eye contact makes it difficult.
“Yes, no one ever does. But you are where you belong now, with those who you should be with.” His voice is disarming and gentle but firm, causing Danielle (still unused to her mutant name) to settle deeper into her chair. “Emma told me a little about your power. She’s says you have something called empathic psi powers. It sounds fascinating; would you care to elaborate for me?”
The girl shifts in her seat. “I can… show people things, as well as communicate with animals.” She looks between the blue female mutant sitting beside her and the tall German sitting across the chess board. It’s clear that not even she knows fully what her power entails yet.
Erik sits forward, lacing his long fingers together. “You can show people things? What sort of things?” He ignores the warning look on Mystique’s face.
“I…anything. I think. Fears, desires. It’s hard to…control, I don’t really know what I can or cannot show.”
“Ah. Would you be willing to let me see what you can do, what you can offer? Because, of course, we like to know how exactly you’d be able to help us and what worth you have.”
“What would you like to see?”
Erik presses his lips together for a moment, considering Mirage’s face for several seconds. There’s purity in her eyes and an innocence that he knows will soon be gone. He finds it does not make him hesitate. “Another life, a life that could have been.”
“Erik, no – ” Mystique slips up, an urgent caution in her voice as she leans forward, but anything else she might have said have disappears when she sees Erik’s face. She seems to shrink when she gets the command to leave them. She wants to argue and make him realize what further pain he’s going to put himself in, but all she does is stands and leaves.
“Now that we are alone,” Erik begins, leaning back into his chair as the door is shut. “I would like you to show me what I asked for. I do believe you will prove to be a great asset.”
Danielle is much more nervous without Mystique in the room. She does not know what this man is asking for but she gets the feeling she should not refuse. She closes her eyes and time seems to bend, Erik is bracing himself and then – nothing. Her eyes open, brows furrowed. “I cannot…I cannot access your mind, your memories are all blocked off to me.”
Erik knows instantly, of course, what the problem is. He hesitates, knowing this could be a trap. But when he looks at the young girl, only a teenager, he senses no danger. Slowly he reaches up and removes his helmet. He nearly reels over from the sudden warmth in his mind, the presence that has finally been allowed in. He grips the arms of the chair tightly, repeating over and over in his mind for Charles not to say anything, not to pry into this moment, that he is not welcome.
When he nods to Mirage, she closes her eyes once more and Erik instantly feels her strength before everything in his mind goes white.
“Erik, you said yourself: we’re the better men. This is the time to prove it. There are thousands of men on those ships, they’re just following orders!”
“I’ve been at the mercy of men following orders. Never again.” Erik flicks his hand and suddenly the missiles are flying through the air, towards the many Russian and American ships in the Cuban Gulf. He watches them in anticipation, his fingertips tingling, waiting, until – he feels a sudden impact to his side and his concentration breaks. When he realizes what has happened - Charles tackling him - he’s almost amused. Charles knows he would not win in a battle of strength. Erik throws one clean punch and Charles is face down in the sand, allowing Erik to once more focus on the missiles, resuming their course.
“Erik, please .” The voice is pained and Erik knows he can’t look; he cannot bear to see that face with such disappointment etched into it. “You can be the better man. Please .” Erik continues to watch the missiles, ignoring the sound of tears coming from Charles. “I love you, don’t do this.” He stills, as do the missiles. Finally he looks down, sees his friend lying on the beach, his nose bloodied and cheeks tear stained. He looks into those blue eyes, deliberate and honest, and he fights back his own tears. The words repeat over and over again in his mind and he does not know what to think. “ Yes , Erik. I meant it.” He does not realize he does it but the next thing he hears is the sound of missiles crashing into the ocean and he’s on his knees before Charles, helping him sit up.
They stare at each other for what seems like ages, everyone else on the beach and out on the ships disappearing, tears welling up in their eyes before they embrace, holding on to one another as if they are each other’s lifelines which, in many ways, they are.
When they return to the mansion that night, Erik feels as if he’s in a daze. Shaw is finally dead and he had nearly started WWIII between mutants and humans. He’s wide awake and when he looks at the clock beside him, he realizes it’s 3:17 in the morning and after the day he’s had, he really should be asleep. But he finds there are too many thoughts in his mind and he enjoys listening to the sound of Charles’ steady breath as he sleeps beside him.
Rolling over, he watches the rise and fall of the telepath’s chest beneath his ridiculous pinstripe pajamas and he’s startled when he doesn’t question whether or not he made the right choice. He hasn’t had some epiphany where he’s let go of all the emotions he once carried, and he still finds himself resentful and wary of humans, but when he sees Charles sleeping, so content and so close, he feels more at peace than he has been since his childhood. He will not change for Charles and he knows the Englishman would not want him to, nor would he change for the German, but he’s beginning to understand that they don’t need to in order to be together, to face the world together.
They find a telepath with long red hair and Scott is immediately smitten. So is Charles. Erik would perhaps feel a twinge of jealousy had he not come to know Charles so completely inside and out over the past several months. Instead they are both awed by her. Erik may not have been telepath but he knew a powerful mutant when he saw one.
As soon as she arrives at the institute and becomes part of the X-Men, Charles takes a particular interest in her, taking her under his wing, excited to have another telepath in his life whose main motivation isn’t manipulation.
“She is incredible, Erik!” he’s gushing one night over a game of a chess. “Not even I have telekinetic powers and she…she is going to prove to be one of the strongest telepaths this world has ever seen.”
Erik smiles to himself before moving his rook into a checkmate position. Charles must certainly be excited to let his guard down in chess so easily, he thinks. Unsurprisingly, there was distrust amongst the children when he returned with them from the Cuban Missile Crisis, particularly from Scott. He was not the natural teacher that Charles was, he preferred intimidation to thoughtful teaching, and he felt more comfortable in his capability of it. But the students were starting to refer to him as Professor Lensherr and he was beginning to understand this sentimentality in Charles for them.
The more he saw and taught, the more confident that he was in mutants evolving into the superior race. In fact, he already knew they were but there was less violence in his heart regarding this matter. All he wanted was for everyone to understand and concede it.
Erik’s panting and gasping, hands flat against the shower wall, face red as one hand flies out to take a fistful of Charles’ hair. He grunts and it’s all he can do to keep himself up, knees wobbling as a shudders runs over the entire length of his body. As Charles stands, he has a lazy smile on his face before he leans forward, kissing Erik sloppily, his tongue moving in ways Erik was sure normal tongues couldn’t move.
He was cautious over how simple but pleasant this all was. Life seemed too good, too easy, and he wasn’t used to this kind of attention or happiness. He was more than happy to accept it, however.
“My turn,” Erik growls but when he reaches a hand down to grab Charles, the lights suddenly go out. They later learn Storm accidentally caused a thunder storm directly above the mansion.
“Scott, we found your younger brother. We found Alex.” Charles’ voice is warm and hopeful, with a hint of caution around the edges. He and Erik are sitting in the study across from Scott and there’s a myriad of emotions crossing the boy’s face.
Erik knew he and Scott still stood on shaky ground. He suspected Scott never trusted him completely from the start and he knew it had to do with how protective Scott was of Charles. He was, after all, Charles’ first student; in many ways Charles was the father Scott never had after the plane crash, after running away from the orphanage when he didn’t know how to control his powers. Scott felt safe with Charles, much like Erik did, and the one thing they could agree on was how the Professor had saved each of their lives.
He could imagine a power you couldn’t turn off, how terrifying it must have been as a child, no idea what was happening to him. Erik still struggled controlling his own from time to time but just like Scott, was learning how to control it more and more every day from Charles. One day, Erik though, one day.
“…you did? Where is he? Is he all right? Is he coming to the school?” Scott spoke fast, could picture his brother’s face in his mind, wondered what he looked like all these years later, if he was still with his foster family, the family that took Alex but not himself.
“Calm yourself,” Charles said soothingly. “We hope he will come join us here. Erik and I think we should go alone, that you should stay here.”
“But I – he’s my brother, I can’t – ” The young student grew flustered and couldn’t understand exactly what was happening.
“Scott, we will bring Alex here. As long as you allow us to. We want to leave you in charge while we’re gone; you already have a natural leadership about you. We leave in the morning.” Erik kept his voice level and he saw Scott relax, an excitement bubbling up inside him at the thought of seeing his brother again.
When they finally leave the study after a game of chess, they hear Scott talking animatedly in Jean’s room. Erik and Charles smile at each other and this is one of those moments when Erik is grateful for the decision he made on the beach.
“They’re brothers , Erik.” He can hear the emotion in Charles’ voice as evident as the sun shining outside. Charles’ eyes are glossy as he watches Scott and Alex get to know each other again down on the grounds. “Who would have known? And there are so many more to be discovered.”
Erik glances out the window and sees Jean approach the two brothers, touching Scott’s arm delicately with an acute sense of intimacy, and Scott lights up. When he looks back at Charles, his face is just as bright. Reaching forward, he grabs Charles’ wrist at the pulse point and when Charles finally turns his head, Erik rests his hand lightly against Charles’ neck before kissing him. The kiss is tender and when they part, their breaths collide as Erik whispers, “Ich liebe dich.”
Erik notices a change in Raven as well. He observed her demeanor relax once they returned to the mansion, a relief wash over her at not having to choose between her brother and the mutant she would have followed. Both he and Charles know very well the path Raven would have taken but they don’t talk about it. She still goes to Erik for guidance but she lights up when she’s with her brother, when he pays her particular attention.
He starts to feel as if there’s a true semblance of a family within the mansion. Undoubtedly there’s a powerful loyalty amongst all the mutants and a willingness to die for one another. But Erik starts to feel a familiarity between everyone that he was sure he would never be able to find again. Charles, as always, was the one to create this. There’s no question of why the students feel as strongly for Charles as they do.
He doesn’t fully realize his place yet until he overhears some of the students talking in one of the parlors.
“Are the Professor and Magneto like our mutant adoptive fathers?” There’s no mistaking Sean’s voice nor the amusement laced in every word.
“Are you saying I have to call him Uncle Magneto now?” Everyone laughs at Raven’s question, including Raven herself.
Erik almost wants to burst into the room, catch them in the act and watch all of their faces blanch with embarrassment. Yet when he reaches for the door handle, he suddenly hesitates, bowled over by what he abruptly realized he felt for these young mutants and what they were saying, joking or otherwise. It’s powerful and terrifying and comforting and Erik wonders how he ever could have given this up.
When the illusion ends, Erik is left gasping, trying to breathe; his knuckles turning white as he grips the chair. Danielle is blurry before him and at first he just thinks it’s an after-effect until he tastes salt. The tears are messy on his flushed cheeks and his heart is pounding. He doesn’t realize where he is, he wants to reach out, he wants Charles to be there but it’s only Danielle.
She’s sitting frightened in her seat, unsure of what to do. She never realized what she could be showing him would be that powerful. She shifts uncomfortably and Erik doesn’t even seem realize she’s there at all. Quietly, she stands up from her seat. She expects him to react in some way and yet he does nothing, even when she opens the door and leaves.
Erik is staring at the chess board in front of him before muttering in a hushed voice, “Leave.” When he looks up, he’s startled to realize she’s already gone. He doesn’t notice he’s shaking until he reaches for his helmet but then he suddenly stops himself. ...Charles? He struggles to relax himself, to calm his mind as Charles would always say, and he wonders if his tension is keeping Charles away.
It seems like ages until – You’ve found a new mutant, my friend. The voice in Erik’s mind is gentle and reassuring. He pauses when he considers Charles’ words and realizes Charles may have just seen everything Erik did, or knew something more about Mirage than he was letting on. He decides not to say anything for now.
Yes. She is…powerful.
You know if you really wanted things that way, you would have stayed in the first place. I don’t blame you for anything.
Erik’s eyes widen and he clenches his jaw. Why are you fighting this? Things can change. He feels angry at the telepath, resentful that he ever let Mirage use her powers on him, and he knows there should be no regrets so he hates that he has them.
I may not have ever said it aloud, Erik, but you know how I really feel. But that does not mean we compromise who we are.
I… Erik fights back more tears and lets out a slow breath but he knows there is no more to be said. He reaches for his helmet and slips it back on with no hesitation. A familiar empty cold enters his mind again.
He’ll be haunted by those images for weeks to come until he makes his decision.