He is a ten (Magneto.) out of ten.
But you only ever think you deserve all the negatives in the world.
Sometimes he wakes up with Charles' voice in his head.
And it doesn't matter whether he is a few states over or halfway around the world. He hears his voice and it sounds very much like the man himself is, standing on his toes, whispering directly into his ear.
(But it can't be this way, not when Charles is earth-bound for the rest of his life.)
Sometimes it is urgent, sometimes it is gentle. Sometimes he even feels fingers ghosting over his skin, like he doesn't dare to touch.
His voice. It can be meaningless at times, or heated, like when he mentions co-existence. Other times, Charles is murmuring bits and pieces of a larger conversation, like he is filling in Erik on what he has missed. Besides the one thing from the first time Charles entered his mind, it is never something they have discussed before, or something they should have talked about. Instead, it is always the things they are never brave enough to bring up.
At the start, he has considered it as Charles' telepathy reaching out for him. A yearning stretch to pull him back a little closer because that voice is as real as anything he can touch. But then, he will fall asleep with his helmet on when a mission stretches him too thin. Collapsing on a chair, and ultimately passing out has seemed a good idea. His eyes are shut and that last slippery hold he has on hope is gone when the voice returns and it is still whispering things in his head.
He still can't really be sure.
Sometimes he will interact with the voice.
And sometimes, the voice can't seem to hear him at all.
And then it is nearly six months after Cuba before he finally comes to terms with himself, that his mind has been filling the voids in his head with Charles' voice. He doesn't know what he is supposed to do, still he isn't blind enough to ignore the blatant implications his brain has been viciously trying to get him to notice.
"This," sometimes he can even see actions in his head: Charles will make a wild gesture with his hands like he is having difficulties articulating what he wants to say. "This makes you tired and it gives me hives."
And from the sound of his voice, Charles is exasperated. (But these aren't things Charles will ever say.)
But the voice keeps going and this feels like something that should have happened anyway.
"This," he says, "is wrong."
Only, it never has.
Erik is disgusted with the world, nearly enough to make him want to scrub at his skin until it is bright red and he no longer wants to kill something with his bare hands, but he doesn't know why, even though he feels like he should.
He wants to push blunt fingernails against the skin until everything is washed out by the rushing of blood in his ears and the bones beneath his grasp have snapped.
Erik drinks the remaining alcohol in his glass and Charles is biting at his lips like he has something he needs but doesn't really want to say.
"Just spit it out."
He ends the needless torture for two and waits patiently for Charles to organize his thoughts into words normal people can understand. Charles' eyes aren't the right shade of blue when he finally does speak his mind.
"I feel the same way."
And then Charles fades out into white, just as the sun catches his eyes from behind the blinds.
"You should rest some more."
But that isn't Charles.
He sits up in alarm and Mystique is sitting at the end of the bed with her hands in her lap, eyes bright with an emotion he doesn't quite catch.
"…How long?" He wants to ask whether he has muttered anything in his sleep even if the gold in her eyes don't hold a hint of implication. But they've all learned to act.
"Barely three hours since we've been back." She says with a shake of her head and her gaze softens with exasperation. "We'll settle the remaining details. You took the majority of the hits, you need to rest."
She doesn't wait for him to reply, she catches his dry swallow, the lump at his throat, (the strangled hold Charles still has on him) and gestures to the cup of water at the head of the bed. She also doesn't ask to see his injuries or the impact of the last lashes of the explosion. Mystique stands up, the bed no longer dips and he drains the water in the glass.
"I'll wake you up if anything urgent comes up."
He trusts her to understand the level of urgency that he will wake up for.
"You're not alone."
He disagrees when the bed is empty and the sheets are cold.
"But we are the same, Erik, you and I."
He wants to say no.
When the nights get cold and mornings doesn't come fast enough, his bones ache, like he is an old man and there is still a yearning he can't quite forget. Erik stretches out his limbs and the dull throbbing reaches a peak of relief before it dissolves back into that steady drum of not-quite-pain tapping at his joints.
Maybe he is older than he feels. Or maybe this is the effect of pushing a little too hard, a little too fast, an over-estimation of his limits. But he knows it isn't any of these things.
It's Charles. (It's always been him.)
And these are just the good nights when Charles isn't urgent and desperate or near tears in his head.
But when it gets bad, everything reminds him of bullets that has murdered his mother and needles that has pierced black ink into the skin of his forearm. It is violent and he is taut with anticipation for when the world collapses over him.
Only there are no rubbles falling over his head, nothing like steel cables snapping from above. There is only Charles' voice echoing from a void of blue and a light touch that lands on his arm. But it is still alarming and his heart feels like it wants to claw its way out from his throat.
And it's desperate, near frantic. The touch is lined with an edge that presses into the skin with a force that hasn't drawn blood yet. Charles' voice hitches and Erik might just end up crying if Charles doesn't.
"I—" There is blood, he thinks finally. "I can't feel my legs."
(There is a sob. It might be his.)
Erik wakes up with a horrible grasp on what his head has been stuffing his dreams with and it is a mangled mess made of Charles' voice, the color blue and a single sentence he keeps murmuring over and over again, like a mantra, or a warning of a night that he should never forget.
He reaches a hand to run his fingers through his hair and feels a wetness on his cheeks instead.
"You're not alone."
The dread leaves him impossibly strung out but he can't possibly sleep again.
"…No, you're wrong, Charles."
And his voice sounds horribly hoarse to his ears.
It is another two months and he is living on four hours of sleep a day at best. It keeps him standing and walking but nothing all that functional is really going on up in his head.
Erik doesn't know what it is exactly. It may be the sugar sweet burn that he is beginning to acknowledge but it still doesn't change the fact that it is getting harder to fall asleep to Charles' voice and then wake up just to realize that he has been dreaming of Charles too.
It makes him obsessed.
And paranoid. His fingers twist and itch and he is dying to get his hands on something solid.
Something that isn't just a whisper in his head. Something that isn't a wavering image of a man he never had the time to memorize every detail to.
And then he will lie in bed for the next 30 minutes, regretting with a blank stare at the ceiling of his room as the sun breaks out bright lines across the floors. Even when he finally gets up and out of the tangle of sheets, he will only feel all the more pathetic about himself.
This is all wrong, he tells the Charles he has selfishly conjured up.
Yes, it is… isn't it, Erik?
Erik runs a hand across his face, exhaustion teeters on an apex he can't reach. There is a curve of a hot red mouth that descends to his ears. Charles is waiting on that collapse, Erik knows.
This is so very wrong.
It is September of 1963.
Erik doesn't know and Charles hasn't reached out.
And it is in the silence that something tightens.
Erik has always had a deep-set fear.
One that has taken root the moment he felt Charles' presence in his head.
But only does it come to him, with a swift stab that doesn't quite reach the heart, when Charles admits, out loud and to the world, that he knows everything about him.
And his fear goes a little like this:
"You look like someone I should know."
He doesn't know how it has happened or what has happened. But Charles is looking at him and there is real confusion (not the kind where he is still figuring things out with a bleary blink of his half-lidded eyes.) There is something in the way his voice crooks out at him, like a wiry finger that beckons until the fire is consuming them both.
"But I don't know you." There is a certain stress that tangles his thoughts and clenches his mind. Who are you? And why are you—
It's short-lived when he finally wakes up.
But the realization never really leaves him. (You're alone, my friend.)
I am in love with him.
He wants to say.
"Your brother." Emma repeats.
"He is here." Her lips are blue, her cheeks are blue, and blue is the only thing she should ever be in. (Erik knows he is horribly biased but he knows he needs this, maybe even more than her.)
"Isn't that what I just said, Mystique?" Her blue eyes narrow even when she crosses her legs at the table and readjusts the miniskirt in her seat. "Xavier is in town."
"What is he doing here?"
Magneto finally finds his voice.
"The same reason we are here, sweetheart. Aren't you the mastermind?"
She tries hard to be unlike herself but she opens her mouth and everything falls apart around her. It may have something to do with being a telepath.
But it isn't him or Emma that speaks up next in a mixture of horror and faint despair.
It is Mystique.
He doesn't think this will end well, not one bit.
Not when he is still sorry for everything that he has and hasn't done. Not when he has grown obsessed with him. Not when it hasn't even been a year since they've last deserted the other on a beach far from home.
Erik waits for the blueprints to arrive, spreads it out on the tables and devises a strategy on two hours of sleep.
He catches the flashes of stress and worry in Mystique's eyes, he also sees Emma's intentions glinting just below the first frost in her eyes. She is keeping tabs and damn, if he knows what she has hidden beneath the diamond shell.
"Nothing has changed?" Mystique sounds grave, but she hasn't been any different, not since she heard news of Charles' arrival.
"We are going ahead with our plan."
"Is that really the best choice, Magneto?" Emma smiles, almost sweetly, as she leans back from the table. Her hips don't press into the edge but her arms are still securely crossed over her chest.
"You have something better?"
Her eyes wane when her smile widens. Erik notices, even when her eyes are cast down to her immaculate nails.
"No, just making sure." That's all.
Her lashes flutter, and the smile on her perfect face only ever deepen into something that almost resembles a scowl. And then she takes her leave.
Erik likes the blue of her skin but he is in love with the blue of his eyes.
The rippling of blue across her pink fleshy tones. The blue in his irises when he catches his gaze from across the room.
He likes the color blue the same way he is in love with her brother. (In an entirely different way he loves her too.)
"This isn't what Charles would want."
Mystique stands straight as the Brotherhood filters out, mission briefs stuffing their heads full with uncertainties. Her voice is quiet, determined, and she is awfully still.
"This isn't about what he wants." Magneto splays a broad palm against the papers, their plans.
"Then what is this about?" She looks like she wants to say more, she looks like she will. Erik waits for her. And in the end she realizes they are all still stuck in the nuclear threat that went out with a silent boom in a too blue sky. "You can't be trying to get back at him."
Her fingers absentmindedly trace the edge of the papers.
"No," Magneto shakes his head because keeping her out is the one thing he can't do, not after everything he has taken from Charles, "this is about what I want."
And you want him, don't you see?
Just like 1962, nothing goes according to plan.
His feet touch bare earth when he steps off the plane. Something has shifted in the air and Magneto feels overwhelmed for that fraction of a second when the metal are all pulling him in.
There is another plane, parts of it, lying in ruins. There are rapid firings of guns and knifes sliding against their sheaths as a last resort, metal whipping out against leather and the edge is warm.
He sucks in a breath, tries to remind himself that this is bound to happen.
A futuristic one day, so why not today?
Magneto feels metal frames within the base. And the world around him is finally on full-alert, blaring red with blood that hasn't been shed, not just yet.
"Ch—The X-Men are already here."
The Florida sun feels different, even though it is very much the same.
It is 1963.
In an effort to decrease another nuclear threat since the Cuban Missile Crisis, someone by the name of Professor X has a plan to shut down Cape Citadel, a missile base for the United States of America. The same one Magneto plans to takeover as the Brotherhood's first show of hand for mutant supremacy.
The world is quiet and no one knows, not just yet.
But some things go wrong (and one thing goes right) along the way.
This isn't whispered in the girl's bathroom, there isn't such thing at the Brotherhood anyway. This is said out loud, and into the vast open grounds of foreign soil where they can both see the bellowing of that one man's cape.
"He isn't coming back you know."
"Erik, he was never here in the first place." Because it goes without saying, he has always been with my brother.
"Even after everything that happened in Cuba." She reassures her.
"…I never thought Magneto as a sentimental man."
"Then you still got a long way to go as a telepath."
"Don't compare me to him. I'm not Xavier." He's got tricks I never want to learn.
They follow after him.
It takes all of ten minutes to get in.
If he squints pass the early morning sun, he can see blue waves and golden sand all over again.
But right now, all he is looking at is grey concrete and metal infrastructure. And a man that is Charles Xavier. Except there is blood and that tangy cooper sting that hits his nose can't be anyone else's.
Charles is hurt.
He asks and he doesn't even care when it comes out sounding grave and dangerous.
"…Erik?" Charles is fighting back against the pain that flares in places he can feel when he thinks he is seeing a ghost. Because this is just a concussion and Erik shouldn't be here. "What are y—" Except he is always willing to believe he is wrong.
Even when he is right.
"Who hurt you?"
And that isn't a fragment of his imagination.
"No, wait." Charles has a hand to his temple and he is concentrating on clearing a space in his head for both everything that is happening in the missile base and the current man that is walking closer and closer to him. And yes, he is as real as they come. "What?"
Even if he can't feel a thing, he knows Erik can see that his legs are bent at an awkward angle beneath him.
"I asked," Erik bends down, tucks a hand beneath his knees (Charles doesn't feel any of this, not how gentle or how harsh Erik is being with him) and picks him up from the ground, "who hurt you?"
Charles has a hard time swallowing some of the feelings that surged beyond the pain. Shaking his head, he only says, "my chair please."
Erik's eyes are very much like steel.
"Was it the humans?"
Charles grits his teeth and remains very still. "It doesn't matter."
Erik stops, Charles feels the hand on his back tighten, like an actually physical hold can protect him from anything these days.
"My chair, Erik."
He knows it sounds like a plea. But if it gets him what he wants (to get as far away as Erik as he possibly can) then he doesn't mind it. He doesn't mind a lot of things these days.
They try not to make this into a power struggle.
Charles eventually nods when Erik beckons the metal of his wheelchair, through the debris, and puts him back into it.
"You're bleeding." Erik says.
Charles looks down at himself and there is a mess of blood on the front of his shirt. He leans heavily back and waves him off. "I'll live."
Erik has felt Charles' throat beneath his fingers.
Still, it takes almost a year after Cuba before it becomes clear.
Charles is his to hurt.
In the same way his powers has led that stray bullet to his spine, Erik can only ever hurt Charles physically. Because his mind is his own and Erik can never get to him.
He sees the blood and every attempt at control comes snapping away and there is only rage burning and licking at him from the inside out. Magneto is left out to guard the remains of what his eyes perceives because his strange mindset goes something along the lines of this: I can hit you, I have hit you, and you can most definitely take it and still hate me all the same. But what you can't ever do is stop this.
Because I love you too.
(He has made his peace.)
Charles' blood stains his hands and while the gaping wound is not his to own, he will claim and this will be his peace.
Havok is bleeding. Banshee has bruised if not broken ribs. And Beast has blood on his hands, blood that could belong to anyone, just not him.
Sean gasps with a hand on the walls. There are papers scattered everywhere and he is scrambling to make sense of the twisted hallways in the base. He hears silence when Beast should have been following him and turns.
He sees blue. But it is all wrong.
Raven stands, bare feet nudging at the bodies collapsed over the ground. Her greeting is enough to startle him into sucking in a sharp breath of air. Only a sharp sting of sulphur engulfs him in a burst of red smoke and he feels metal pressing right up against the skin of his throat, a hand clasps over his mouth.
Sean breathes out through his nose and surrenders easily.
That Russian brawl rumbles from the throat and no one misses the curl of amusement in his voice. He lifts the blade away from the tender flesh but keeps a hand over Banshee's mouth.
Alex bursts in with an energy that speaks volumes even when his voice is low and light. "Let him go."
"We aren't here to hurt anyone." Angel steps out from a hole torn through the walls with a stack of papers in her arms. Her bronze skin glows beneath the flickering white bulbs when she hands the documents over to Mystique.
"Says the traitors." Alex spits out as he eyes the situation, he doesn't miss the turn of Angel's lips, neither does he miss Azazel's hand falling from Sean's mouth.
Everything goes into several black briefcases before Mystique presses two fingers to her ear, voice dominating in a room full of mutants.
Only she hears the static before his voice on the other end.
"We've destroyed all the equipments and taken all the documents."
And that's when Hank walks into the room, claws still lined with red.
"The black bird is done for."
It isn't a claim as much as it is a sharp slap to the face.
"I guess it's been decided then."
Mystique shrugs and the scales on her shoulders seem to flutter with the motion but no one in the room misses that sudden clench around their chests that echoes in all of their heads.
Alex wants a democracy he won't get. Sean just wants it to stop hurting so much. And Hank, he reluctantly agrees.
"Why didn't you wait? There was no way you could've got out of there unscathed."
There are armed soldiers and scientists and nuclear weapons in the making.
"I know. But, there was no time."
Guns and knives and information that can, once, bring you to your knees.
"You could've—" asked.
"No, Erik. I wouldn't have."
But this all comes after. (After Erik stops the hurting, after Charles can begin to think through the pain, after they have both settled.) For now, they make do with what they have.
It isn't self-preservation. It is moments before.
It is that four lettered word he blames everything on. (And his head is silent when he pretends its hate.)
"Come back with us, just stay with the Brotherhood until you are healed and the blackbird is fixed."
"It won't be longer than a week." Charles warns but it isn't really the warning he is going for, not when the pain is blending his words together, bringing the trains of thoughts to come crashing at each other.
"Any longer and we might get sick of each other anyway."
Charles huffs out a laugh and barely manages to say. "Yes… maybe."
But that impossible booms loudly in their heads. And it is the kind of loud that even Charles' telepath can't match.
(No one mentions that bringing the X-Men back to their mansion is a choice as well.)
Erik doesn't think he can go when he is standing right where he has always wanted to be (even though there is no recollection.)
He runs a hand down Charles' cheek, feels the pressure of skin and then dripping blood.
Charles finally looks up at him with those eyes.
(Has it really only been a year?)
Breathless and hoarse. Like there is an itch in his throat and only the sound of his name can make it go away, for however short the time is.
Erik pushes back memories and presses his fingers against the gaping wound. His hand is red with blood and rage.
"Just… try to stay awake for me, won't you?"
He is trying to keep the pleading from his voice but that smile on those lips only ever brought out the worst in him.
"I… you only ever have to ask, my friend."
It can't ever be enough, not with the way he still looks at him.