“Charles? Charles can you hear me? Charles? Charles? Please wake up Charles! Please! Don’t do this! Please don’t be dead! Oh, god...dead! Please don’t be! I need you! The school needs you! Please don’t leave us hanging! God damnit Charles, we need you!”
They hadn’t been able to stay in any one place for too long. They couldn’t afford being caught and sent back to Go. And that’s what they’d do. Send them back to Go. There were so many who wanted to do so too.
The last one on his mental list hurt the most, but Erik knew it to be true. No. Magneto. Magneto knew it to be true. He was Magneto now. The same name Ra- Mystique had chosen for him all those years ago. What was it? Coming up on six now?
Whatever it was, that’s who he was now.Magneto, Bender of Metal. World-known terrorist. Helmet-and-cape-wearing menace. Leader of the Brotherhood. Feared by all. X-Men included.
Not Erik Lehnsherr. The Jewish boy. The boy who had witnessed his mother shot in front of him. The innocent boy who knew nothing better than pain and anger. The foolish boy who brought Sebastian Shaw to his death.The arrogant boy who let himself fall in love. And not just anybody, either, but Charles Xavier. Leader of the X-Men.
He went through his phases. One day he’d be hu-rah-rah! Kill the humans! The next day he’d be moping in his room, wondering why Charles hadn’t come with him. Why he hadn’t stayed.
The Brotherhood had come to accept this. It was no use trying to argue with a downfallen leader. Not with Erik’s temper. After a few weeks of protesting, they all let him sob himself through his own miseries.
Mystique was the only one whoever confronted him. Though confronting probably wasn’t the right term. If Erik hadn’t wanted to be bothered, he could have made sure of it. He may have allowed her comfort. Not that he’d ever admit to it.
Apparently she was his alarm clock too.
He grumbled in-audible noises as he turned over in his too big, too empty bed, burying his face deeper into his pillow.
With his eyes closed, his ears heard the door open, footsteps ‘cross the room, and the curtains be pulled back. The small cracks brought the bright light of the outside world crashing into his irises.
“Emma’s bitching again. I’d bring the helmet if I were you.”
“Time to get up. You’ve moped the past two days. I’m not standing for another day of it. We do have things to accomplish, you know.”
“...right.” He pulled himself up into a sitting position on the bed.
“I want you dressed and out there eating something of the little food we have available in this god-forsaken place in five minutes. I’ll send Emma in if you don’t.” And with that, she walked out the door.
Years ago, back when they were only starting out, her behavior would have been beyond acceptable. However, now, it was nearly routine. Not to mention the heartstrings it pulled within him simply because it reminded him of you-know-who.
After allowing himself a minute of reminiscing, he peeled the back of his head off of the headboard. Erik opened his door to his closet, consisting of a vibrant shade of red. And little else. A few select turtlenecks sat in a neat, undisturbed stack. Sitting there as a reminder. A painful one that stabbed him in the back with every glance.
There was also a stray cardigan buried deep in the back, but only one other knew of its existence.
Quickly stripping off his pajamas, he threw on a red shirt with matching red pants. Foregoing the cape for the time being, he grabbed the helmet off the bedside table and headed out to the kitchen area.
Out the windows of the hallway was the wide, spacious views of Argentinian mountains. He couldn’t help but find himself with a sad chuckle on his lips. Only a few years ago, he’d been out here, only that time on his own. Things have changed since those days.
Their current hideout was a vacation home. Not that they were actually paying rent. Because that would involve human contact. Which would involve compromising their location. Which would lead to further complications.
In the kitchen, the main hierarchies were all having what seemed to be the National Stare-Down Competition. Angle glared at Emma, who was sitting next to Azazel, who had Mystique sitting nearly on top of him. Mystique seemed to be the only one not participating, and immediately noticed the metalbender’s presence.
“It’s the sleepy-head!”
Had it been anyone besides Mystique, he’d have responded with something metal to their face. Instead, he made an undignified humph.
As he began rummaging through the cupboards and fridge, he shouted out to the others, “What do we even have to eat in this place?”
Frost’s cold, sarcastic tone replied with, “I don’t know. I’d say, ask our leader, but he’s too busy moping over his boyfriend he hasn’t seen in years.”
“I was not,” he paused as he slammed the cupboard door, “moping.”
“But you admit it’s about Xavier,” Angel piped in.
“I said nothing of the sort.”
“Right. You’ve been in there the whole time, crying over the rat that got caught in the mouse trap.”
Now that was not even funny.
And this whole time he thought Azazel was on his side. The traitor.
“Alright now, let him be. Er-Magneto, there’s some cereal of some sort on the cabinet closes to the sink.”
Ah, Mystique. At least one of them was still sane.
With a stiff nod, he went to the cabinet and poured himself some dry flakes. He then joined the group at the table.
The first few minutes were spent in silence before the day’s plans began to be discussed. “Worthing’s are officially here on vacation, they checked into their hotel last night,” Emma explained.
“Poor Warren was fighting with daddy already,” Angel sarcastically pouted.
“So he’ll be without his parents for sure today?” Azazel asked.
When the three women of the group simultaneously nodded, Erik spoke up. “Then we make our move today.” There’s a moment of agreement silence before he continues. “It’s best if we all come today, what with this being such a large area.”
Another group nod.
“Emma, you’ll locate the boy. Mystique and I will approach him. Angel and Azazel? You’ll be on back up.”
“Um, Mags?” Only Emma would dare shorten his name to something ridiculous like that. “I don’t think you’ll need my help to locate him.”
“What do you mean?” he asked with an eyebrow to his hairline, and a gruff in his voice.
“Well his mutation is wings. Quite big beautiful white ones too.”
* Buenos Aires, Argentina - 1:14 PM *
“I thought you said he was here, Emma,” Erik nearly growled.
“He was! I felt him not a minute ago!”
“Well where the hell’d he go then!?”
“I don’t know-just...hang on.” Emma silences. To any other onlooker, she’d appear to be in complete and utter frustration. Only the mutants around her recognized that she was scanning the nearby minds. “I still can’t...wait! O-oh! I think I...oh.” The last ‘oh’ was said with a much more shocked tone.
“What?” Mystique asked.
Emma looked directly at Erik. “You’re not going to like this.”
She then walked straight into the crowd.
Erik and Mystique followed closely at her tail. They pushed their way through the mass until they breached it and emerged into an area of openness.
The park was like most parks one would expect to see. Open space; trees; walkways; benches. The whole nine yards. Only one aspect made this park unique.
On the nearest bench sat a young boy - not over the age of 17. He had bleach-blonde hair with a strong build. Erik then realized the small - or, well, not so small - bump on the boys back. Almost as if he had something tucked into his shirt. Or more like a pair of something tucked into his shirt.
Erik then found himself grinning. “What exactly am I not going to like about this?” he asked in a voice of total disbelief. Finding new mutants to rally for their cause always touched a certain part of him.
Emma remained straight faced. “You’re going to find out real soon, sugar. I’d hurry up and give your speech if I were you.”
He merely raised his eyebrow and began to approach the boy; Mystique at his side.
“Yes?” The boy’s gaze lifted from the ground up to the two of them. “Whoa...who are you?” he asked, taking in their attire. His face grew even more solemn. “And why do you know my name?”
“If you’ll give me a few minutes of explanation, I’m sure you will understand.” Erik had given this spiel to hundreds of recruits over the years. He’d learned to ignore all their questions and just get his bit our first. “So if you’ll allow me...?”
Good, he wasn’t going to cause a commotion. Because Erik had been there. Erik liked him even more.
“Now please, no interruptions. Throughout history, we’ve seen many stages in evolution. Different steps that bring us into a more advanced being. As you may have predicted, we are once again on this step forward. Homosapiens are evolving into Homosuperior. Each with their own unique capabilities. I am Homosuperior. Mystique, here, is Homosuperior. You are Homosuperior. And you are not alone, Warren Worthing the Third.”
Erik had given his talk one too many times, and it had lost most of its meaning.
Erik couldn't stand using Charles’ words that had saved himself for a purpose that he knew the telepath would strongly disapprove of.
Erik knew it needed to be done regardlessly.
“There are hundreds - thousands - of us out there, Warren. Us whose power is unmatchable next to the humans. And as the humans begin to realize our superiority, nothing good will become of it. There are ones out there who would go for coexistence. Mutual agreements between two parties. These people are the naive ones of our race.
“As soon as humans figure out they have no power over us, they will enslave us. It is for this precise reason that we must take the first pawn. We must make the first arrack. We must prove to them that we are the more powerful.”
Raven tapped Erik on the shoulder, but he ignored it.
“Mystique and I represent the Brotherhood of...”
“...our cause is to ensure that the humans...”
“So, Warren, what do you...”
Well that certainly wasn’t Mystique’s voice.
Erik spun with a twirl to his cape.
Behind him stood two figures, both easily recognizable. Both two that he had hoped never to run into. Especially not mid-recruit.
The two only glared.
“Well that’s no way to achieve anything, boys. Surely Charles has taught you that.”
“He’s Professor X to you,” Alex spat. “Any right to call him anything else was taken from you the moment you left him bleeding in the sand.”
Erik physically flinched at the verbal jab, but quickly pulled his hard demeanor back over. He turned to Warren, “These people before you are the ones who will try to convince coexistence is possible. Surely you see their blindness.”
The boy was silent for a moment. When he began to open his mouth, Beast quickly cut in. “You mustn’t fall for his smooth talk, Waren. surely you realize that people like that - like him - will never see their own. We come from Xaviers -”
“Warren, I mu-”
Beast held up one hand to silence the older man. “Hold it MAgneto. You’ve had your chance, it’s our turn now.” He paused for a moment, then continued on. “As I was saying, I’m Hank McCoy, and this person here is Alex Summers. We’re some of the teachers at Xavier’s -”
“Oh, so you’ve moved up to teachers now?”
Beast didn’t even flinch. “- School for Gifted Youngsters. We provide a place for mutants to feel safe and learn. Beyond this, we can also provide humans with proof of how truly harmless we are.”
When he was done speaking, Magneto chose a new tactic. “If you’re recruiting for Charles’ school, then why isn’t Charles here himself?”
“THe Professor’s personal life is none of your business,” Alex reminded him. He began rambling to Warren once more. Glancing over towards Hank, he recognized a face of pity overcome the boy. Following his eyes, Magneto saw the same face of sorrow upon his own Mystique’s face.
“Alright. Tell me what’s going on right now.
“I don’t know what you’r-” Mystique started, but immediately stopped when Magneto sharpened his glare.
“There’s something else going on here, and you two know what it is,” he said, pointing a finger from each hand in opposite directions. One to Hank, and one to Raven.
The awkward silence was inevitable as he watched Hank trade glances with Alex. After many eyebrow raises and pleading looks, Havok eventually gave him the go-ahead with a nod.
“The Professor, is - well - let’s just say...not at his best.”
Magneto suddenly became aware of every scrap chunk of metal in the area. The legs of the park bench. The car on the road. The boat in the harbor. The zipper on Alex’s pants. THe frame of Beast’s glasses. THe warped bullet in the pocket closes to his chest. His cheeks grew warm, and his vision narrowed. He felt an unconscious growl brew at the bottom of his throat as the rage began to take over.
When he was almost too far gone, he felt a soft hand on his shoulder. A touch so light that could only be associated with one of the two people he’d ever allowed himself to love. He pulled back his grip on his metal surroundings. Opening up his fists, he felt the tingle of new blood returning to his circulation. As his vision returned, he converted from Magneto into Erik for the moment. Glancing over, he recognized a blue scaled hand on his shoulder.
At Raven’s nod, Hank carried on. “As I was saying, Charles really isn’t capable of helping us recruit for the moment. However, more details, are...nothing to be shared now. I think it’s best if everyone was to come back to Westchester with us.”
“And by everyone we mean you and Raven. The rest of your team is not welcomed,” Alex enforced, a glare still plastered on his face.
“And what makes you think that we want to come, let alone agree?” Erik poorly questioned, calling his own bluff.
“The Blackbird’s a mile north of here. We should be able to make it back in a few hours. Warren, you may choose to stay or follow.”
Hank and Alex set off first, with Raven quickly jogging up next to them. Erik stayed a few paces behind the three with his cape flowing cautiously in the wind. Warren eventually caught up with the set too.
*Somewhere over the Continental US - 4:36 PM*
Erik didn't like his current situation. He felt vulnerable. Like an open wound with no band aid. The people around him knew more about whatever this was than he did. They had the one-up. And by people around him, he meant everyone, including Raven. With maybe the exception for Warren.
The last time he had been in the Blackbird, the situation had been something entirely different. Deep down he couldn’t secretly help but think that this could have been something very similar. That the X-Men -- himself included -- were just on their way back from a recruit. They’d landed back at the Westchester mansion, get out, and show the newbie the official tour. That night they’d all sit around the same table for dinner. Sean would attempt his sonic spitballs, and Erik would attempt to deflect them from Charles’ dinner plate with a metal spoon or knife. The kids would play their games of charades, which Raven would almost always end up winning.
It was hard to believe that that was what life used to be.
And it could have still been if Charles wasn’t so stubborn.
The thought of Charles brought Erik to worrying again. What’s wrong with him? Does he refuse to see Erik? (Not that Erik blames him for that one). Most importantly, why won’t anyone tell him what’s going on?
Pulling himself out of his trance, and taking in his surroundings, he saw Raven and Warren talking over in the corner. Erik figured that Alex and Hank must be in the cockpit flying the actual thing.
“Oh, Erik! You’re awake!” Raven stated at the sudden consciousness of the metalbender.
He immediately found himself grumbling something along the lines of “wa’ ne’er a’leep,” but he’s not quite sure that Raven believed him.
“I was just filling Warren in on how awesome of a school he’s chosen. If anyone can help outcasted mutants, it’s Charles.”
“I didn’t realize he had already made his choice.”
Warren seemed to cower even further into his seat.
“In fact,” Erik continued, “the way I remember it, he had the option to come aboard the plane, or go back to his parents. The conversation involving whether he chose the Brotherhood or the X-Men never took place. Isn’t that right Warren?”
The boy now had his entire back flat on the seat of his chair.
“Well you know what Erik?” Raven shouted. “Just because you were an idiot and blew your chances of being with Charles, does not mean that you have to go and ruin everyone else’s opportunities!”
“Oh, yeah? Well, if we let everyone flock over into Charles care, who are we going to have on our side? It’s pretty hard to fight a war when you have nobody on your side.”
Raven narrowed her eyes. “Letting people choose our cause is one thing, but forcing them upon it? That’s not going to get you anywhere. An army fighting for a cause that they don’t believe in is not going to make its mark in the history books!”
“An army is better than no army!” Erik hollered as he stood up out of his seat.
Raven sighed a sarcastic sigh, and lowered her voice into a calm, harsh tone. “I don’t know what Charles ever saw in you. You don’t even understand the need of support for your own cause. Even then, you have to enforce people who don’t want to be there. And to think you try that method on Charles. Sweet, innocent, Charles.” She paused for a moment, adding emphasis on what she was about to say. “If Charles was awake right now, and still calling out for you to come back like he was the past five years, I’d put a stop to it all. Tell him how much on an idiot you are, and how he can do so much better. You aren’t worth ten of Charles, yet you think you’re some sort of god. When Charles wakes - because trust me, he will - I won’t allow you to see him. Or maybe I will, so then you can see all that you gave up on. What you could have had, so then it can come back and haunt you. So that you never forget the pain you caused the greatest man to ever walk this earth.”
Hank’s voice then came through an overhead speaker and filled the cabin. “However much I hate to interupt this healthy argument, we are 25 miles from...”
Erik didn’t hear what the boy said next as he slowly fell back into his own seat. He pulled his seatbelt on, and slouched down as far as his restraints would allow him to. He replayed every one of Raven’s lines over and over through his head. Regardless of how many harsh things she said, he could only find himself with two questions.
Why was Charles not awake?
What was this about Charles calling out for him to come back?
Within only a few minutes, he felt the aircraft lose serious elevation and come to a definite stop. Unconsciously, he found himself unbuckling, following the group back into the mansion, and standing inside the kitchen he’d thought he’d never see again. Things were obviously different. Many of the cupboards and counters were lowered. Probably to be wheelchair accessible, Erik thought with a painful sting.
“Right, so Raven your same room is still done up. Actually Charles refused to let any new students reside in either of your rooms,” Hank explained. “Raven, I’m sure you know you way. And, um, Erik? Your room is currently...” but the boy stopped when he realized Erik was already half way up the stairs next to Raven. “No! Wait! Erik! Come back!”
But, of course, Erik had an agenda of his own. The first step of that would be getting to his room. Then change out of the cape, and into a turtleneck that would hopefully still be there. He’d then find Charles.
Though first he’d need to get to his room.
Raven, Charles, and himself had always been the only ones on the highest floor. Their childhood rooms were there, and Erik was immediately given the empty room across from Charles’. It of course came as a shocker to find a child, not much older than ten, wandering the halls up there.
“Are you supposed to be up here?” Erik asked the little boy with sunglasses on.
“My room is just there, sir...” he said pointing down the hallway. The boy then looked up and immediately seemed to take in Erik’s outfit. “Oh...you’re...you’re...I’m sorry!” he stuttered and immediately took off down the hallway. As the boy was fleeing down the stairs, Erik couldn’t help but hear the loud, “SEAN! I THINK MAGNETO BROKE IN!”
Well, that would definitely give everyone a startle.
Raven had already went into her room, when Erik noticed a new door. When he took a closer look, he felt another shiver through his back when realizing it was for an elevator.
Trying to forget all the remodels, Erik stopped when noticing a sign around the doorknob.
Please do not enter.
Surely it was meant for the kids, but Erik couldn’t help but feel suspicious.
Right as Erik reached for the doorknob, Hank’s voice came shouting down the hallway. “Wait! No Erik! Don’t go in there.” However, before the boy finished, the knob as already twisted, and the door already open.
There was no way of Erik taking back what he saw in the room.
Most of it was the same as he remembered. The wardrobe was in the same place. The adjoined bathroom was still there. The same two chairs were pulled up around the same table in front of the same fireplace. In fact, Erik was pretty sure that the chess pieces on the table were in a familiar place.
There was only one noticeable difference. The bed. Or more so, the occupant of the bed.
Sticking out from out of the covers was a floppy mess of brown hair. The man was laying on his back, and seemed to be out cold. Which was strange. Erik was pretty sure Charles had always been a side sleeper... And now that he thought about it, he couldn’t feel Charles’ hum in the back of his mind.
One helmetless Erik later, and he was kneeling at the side of his used-to-be bed. “Charles...Oh god Charles, I’m so sorry...” he whimpered. “I was an idiot. Who was I to think that we could do this separately? I said I wanted you by my side, but what if I were to...”
“You know he’s not going to respond. It’ll actually be quite the miracle if he does.”
Erik quickly spun around to see Hank leaning against the door frame. Ignoring him, he turned back to Charles. “Charles? What does he mean?” Erik mumbled quietly, searching for his friend’s hand. Grabbing it, he continued, “Please wake up Charles. Charles, why won’t you...oh.”
As he pulled the hand out from under the blanket, he noticed the IV chord sticking out of the wrist. Following it, he saw it lead back to a small computer standing next to the bed that he hadn’t previously noticed. The beeping was staying steady, but Erik couldn’t help but feel his heart rate increase.
He turned to Hank with a face mixed between showing pain, confusion, hate, and sadness. “What’s happened?”
The blue mutant sighed as he moved his gaze towards the ground. “We’re not completely sure. We were...out. Somewhere. He was trying to contact us, and, well, next thing you know, and he was...unconscious. Slipped into a coma of sorts. Though, it doesn’t necessarily seem to be your typical coma.” He paused and began to walk over to the computer. Pulling up a map of brain activity, he began to explain. “Normally, we wouldn’t see this amount of activity in this part of the brain. The normality of it, leads me to believe that, well...this coma of sorts, was self inflicted.”
A moment of silence was taken before Erik spoke. “So, Charles, did this to himself?” he asked trying to keep his voice from wavering.
Hank solemnly nodded his head before responding, “It appears to be that way.”
“We don’t know.”
“Well, where were you when it happened?”
“It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got time.”
“Excuse me, I misspoke. (Misspoke) It’s not my story to tell.”
For some unknown reason, Erik found himself accepting the poor excuse.
“There is more though,” Hank said after a few moments of awkward silence. When Erik raised his eyebrow, the boy elaborate. “Well, after we had the Professor secure, we started to try and find answers. We were trying to figure out why he would do something like this to himself. Eventually, we searched his room.”
“Well, it seems...in your absence, he hasn’t taken it as well as we all were led to believe.”
Erik felt a small bit of anger towards his former teammates. Surely they knew that Charles liked to bury all his problems deep within? That him being fine was code for I need to talk to somebody right now. However, he let the boy continue.
“He seemed to have written many letters to you. Which would explain what he was up to for those many hours he stayed locked in his room.”
“Did these letters say anything? About why he did this to himself?” Erik asked, trying to keep his cool.
“Well...uh...” Hank began to scratch the fur on the back of his neck.
“Well, uh, what?” Erik came close to sneering.
“It’s just, we...we only found one of his letters.”
“Then how do you know about the others?”
“He, er...made reference, to them. In the one we found.”
“Where is this letter?”
“In Charles’ room. Across the hall.”
“I know where Charles’ room is. Do you think I don’t?” Erik growled getting up. “Who else knows about this?” he asked, making his way for the door.
“Myself, Alex, Sean, and Raven. All the kids think the Professor is out preparing to work negotiations with the humans.”
Trying to ignore the boys horrid excuse, Erik entered Charles’ room. “Where in here?”
“Top left desk drawer,” Hank responded immediately knowing now was not time to mess with the metal bender. As Erik took out the small tan envelope, Hank cautioned him, “Are you sure you want to read that? You may not expect what it says inside...”
“Charles wrote this letter for me. Not any of you, yet somehow you all seem to be aware of its contents. Be glad I’m allowing this intrusion of personal property, and get the hell out of this room.”
Stumbling backwards, Hank met Erik’s demands and left the room with a quiet closing of the door.
In the silence of the room, and only then, did Erik allow himself to drop to the floor. Leaning his head of the nearest wall, and his legs thrown askew under himself, he finally allowed his eyes to swell.
After a few minutes of self loathing, he remember the letter in his hand. Looking at the outside, it was a simple tan square. In the perfect cursive he had come to know so well, were the two words Erik Lehnsherr scripted on the outside.
He pulled up the already opened tab and pulled out a single sheet of paper. Upon taking a deep breath, he began to read.
My dear Erik,
First I would like to say to the young adults who will probably read this before you, to not worry. I’m sure that if everything works out right, we will all be happy and stable. I hate that it has to be done in this manner, but I’m sure you will be fine. I love you all so very much, but if you would please be polite and stop reading now, as this letter was specifically written for Erik.
Erik, if you are reading this, I’m sure it is not under (extra space)the happiest of circumstances. And for that I give the most sincerest of apologies. Whatever, the reason may be, I am to understand that I am not in a state to be easily communicate with. For this exact reason, I would like to say a few last things I have not have the opportunity to say in person.
I would like to tell you how important it was for me to have someone like you in my life. You were someone I could always lean on and tell anything, and my first true friend outside of Raven. Sure there were people at Oxford, but I could never be my full self around them. Even around Raven I had to hold part of me back. Those too short months that we were able to spend together are some of the best of my life and thank-you for giving them to me.
I have tried my hardest to bear the passing time by writing to you. Now students, if you are still reading this, I would like you to realize that these are not anywhere in my room. For Erik, only true focus will allow you to find them. It is when this point is realized and remember that you will be truly worthy of them.
I know things didn’t work out as we had originally hoped, but I would like to offer you an olive branch. A sign of peace. I know we will never see eye to eye, but the least we could do is attempt to respect the other’s wishes. We both know the true reasoning between our own beliefs, but if we choose to go against someone on a more extreme belief, we can not only gain more for our own cause, but also save our strength for more important battles. We can not waste it on pointless bickers between ourselves.
Now I realize that I am in no position to be asking favors, and you have all the right to ignore my wishes. I was wrong and it is my fault for your actions, and you owe me no debt. However, if in my absence you were to take over Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, I would appreciate it to no end. Whether I’m just out for a few months, or gone for good, the children need someone to look over them, and while Hank and the others are strong, they are too young to have that amount of stress on their shoulders. If I could allow only one person to take over for me, you’d be my one and only choice.
I hate to leave you with what is probably so many questions, but there is only so much that can be said in such openness. If you would please consider my request, you may find out more than you would have ever anticipated. Please do not feel forced though. I want only the best for you, Erik. My best friend. My only love. The bookend to my same soul.