Somewhere, far away across the world, a frightened and bitter and intensely angry boy screams so loudly that Charles Xavier cannot help overhearing. He would have said the boy screamed in a foreign tongue but for the fact that screams were always in a common and universal language. Somewhere, deep in his dream, Charles sends out a thought he hopes will be heard, even though the words illustrate a complex concept he doesn't fully understand, not at his young age. Find the point between rage and serenity. It's there. That's where we do our best work, my friend.
The finer points of self-control are lost on the boy far away across the world. In the moment, all he knows is rage. A rage so strong that he fears he will never, ever be able to control it, or his strange metal-manipulating powers, or himself. The only thing he knows for sure is that this man with the chocolate and half-glasses and dubiously benign smile has just killed his mother and for that, there will be retribution. No matter how long it takes, he will avenge his mother's death.
In a far more privileged setting, Charles wakes up and moves into the kitchen where his mother waits, smiling and clad in her red dress, hair done perfectly, and offers him a cup of hot chocolate. "Who are you?" he asks, and as the answer is revealed all thoughts of the screaming boy from his dream dissolve. Really, it's all for the best: he's just found another like himself.
A memory stirs, something from a long time ago, but Charles's thoughts are crowded by the triumph of accomplishment and the proximity of pretty women. It seems he's always surrounded by them, toast of the town that he is, even though he's far more interested in their mutations (or in outlining their mutations) than he is in seducing or being seduced. It's science that turns him on, the science of genetics and the science of difference. He drains the glass, sets it down, listens with interest as the woman with the auburn hair talks to him. Half-drunk ("I think we should just talk when you're sober," she tells him, "do you have any time tomorrow?") he tries to protest her leaving, but somewhere, from thousands and thousands of miles away, the words blood and honor, which would you prefer to lose first? float into his thoughts. Maybe the pretty woman — Moira, that's her name — is right. Maybe they should just talk when he's sober, when he regains the ability to focus. The words in his thoughts stir a long-forgotten memory. Something from childhood, something about a scream, but the memory is as vague as a dream upon waking. Clouded by alcohol or not, Charles shakes his head.
"Something tells me you already know the answer to your question." Which question he means and who he's directing it to is entirely up for grabs, but as far as he knows he's the only telepath in the room, the only one who's hearing more than one conversation in this moment. "This is very important to me, and if I can help you, I will do my utmost."
Moira MacTaggert nods and takes her leave — he will see her again, he knows it — but silently, he puts out the thought again. This is very important to me. If I can help you, I will do my utmost. Can you hear me, whoever you are, wherever you are?
The only answer is an encompassing wash of emotion. The emotion of gratification, and he wonders if blood was shed before honor or if it happened the other way around. Likely, he will never know.
They meet underwater. Technically they meet in Charles's mind first, where he almost doesn't recognize the boy who screamed or the man who asked for the choice between blood and honor. The situation is insanity; he's being tested; so much rides on the outcome. But that moment of recognition, of aha, of I know you and have known you most of my life is too strong to be overlooked. Erik, that's his name, he gleans it effortlessly in the midst of trying to save the man from drowning. You have to let go. I know what this means to you, but you're going to die. Please! Erik, calm your mind.
Erik's mind calms fractionally but that's all he needs, and the both of them are saved from the water. Death by drowning is not his preferred method — nothing is his preferred method, he'd rather stay alive as long as possible, thank you — and by the time they're safe again, safe and being squirreled away by the CIA, introductions (the proper kind) have been made and an almost overwhelming relief floods Charles's whole being. This, he knows, is the screaming boy from so long ago. This is the man concerned with blood and honor. For whatever reason, whether Erik knows it or not, the two of them have been bound to one another since childhood. A lifetime as a self-proclaimed mutant ("mutant and proud!") has taught him to take no reaction for granted and to expect little or nothing, but it's clear now that he and Erik are entwined and have been for years.
The twin concepts of fate and destiny are not particularly scientific. Accepting them requires a leap of faith, one that causes men of science to become irrational skeptics. But all scientific discovery requires that same leap of faith they like to scoff at. In turn, they are able to make huge advances. Come with me, come with us, he offers Erik silently. Take a leap of faith and trust us.
"I thought I was alone," Erik confesses.
"You're not alone, Erik. You're not alone." That's enough said aloud; the rest of the conversation continues privately. When you were a child, something traumatic happened. Something that made you scream from the depths of your soul. Tell me, what was it? A series of images flash through Erik's thoughts and in turn through Charles's: the prison camp, the Nazis, the emaciated mother, a bullet flying, Erik's adult and present-day thought that he should have been able to stop that bullet, to change its arc, to make it less deadly. No, my friend, there was nothing you could have done.
"You know, Charles." Erik's voice verges on the casual, but falls just short. "You know this sort of thing is an unforgivable invasion?" GET OUT. The words are unmistakable.
"I'm sorry." The tips of his fingers drop away from his temple. They don't really serve to amplify his thoughts, but they work as some sort of bookmark for him, some tool of focus. "It's old habit."
The smile on Erik's face is nothing if not grim; it doesn't last. "You ought to try to learn to control your powers. Like I have mine."
No one's ever said that to him before, not point-blank, not so openly. It's like a gunshot, an electric shock, humbling and accurate. "You're right. I should. And you may have learned to control your mutation, but you should also learn to temper the rage, my friend."
One brow on Erik's face rises heatedly and the set of his jaw tightens, but he simply nods. "Point taken. Perhaps we can learn to work on these things together."
Charles likes the sound of that. He likes it very much.
It's an implicit understanding they come to quickly: Charles will only access Erik's thoughts with permission. In turn, Erik grudgingly allows himself to become a tool of the CIA, although he balks at calling himself any kind of experiment. He had enough of that in his youth, thank you very much, and has yet to meet the bonds that can hold him. The realization hits, though, that for the first time in his life he's actually allowing himself to have fun. His path is still a singular one; his goal remains to decimate Sebastian Shaw. He knows how he'll do it and when it happens he'll savor the moment and make it work to his advantage: there will only be one chance for his moment of retribution and it needs to be sweet. They say revenge is a dish best served cold. He'll find out, or die trying.
Charles, on the other hand, knows there are many more like them. If finding Erik was accidental — he's not so convinced of that, they seem to be cut from such compatible molds — then finding other mutants will have to be very intentional. With the help of Hank's machine Cerebro, his innate ability to locate others with special gifts is amplified beyond his wildest dreams. Unlike Erik, he's a willing experiment. Unlike Erik, he fills with glee at the possibility of being used, at least as a force for good. Locating others like themselves is certainly something he could do on his own, but isn't everything in life better when shared with friends and family, with loved ones? There is no doubt in his mind, and his mind encompasses so very much space and distance.
"What an adorable lab rat you make, Charles."
You decided to stay! He can't help it: the sight of Erik here at his side makes him smile, but he manages to turn it into a grimace as Hank — not the most deft of people — fixes Cerebro to his head. Calm, he can portray calm. He can portray anything.
"Don't spoil this for me, Erik."
You didn't think I was going to just walk away, did you? And after all we've been through.
Stop it, you're trying to make me laugh. A world of laughter, all in his head, all at this very serious moment. Stifling it takes most of his concentration.
All right, then. I'll be serious. Erik shakes his head, shutting out any inadvertent conversation. "No. I've been a lab rat. I know one when I see one."
Hank, oblivious, proceeds with the experiment. The look on Charles's face! If Erik was the envious sort he might actually be jealous of this opportunity, but he's no telepath. He doesn't have the gift of reading other peoples' minds. All he can do is manipulate metal, which is both every bit as useful and nowhere near as useful as the gift Charles has. But together... together they can be unstoppable. They can move mountains, literally, to find their mutant brethren, and the whoops of joy he hears show that this Cerebro thing is working. It's working, and Charles is so occupied with and by it that Erik's thoughts are almost blessedly his own for the duration.
In his life he's known a great many things, but one thing that's been lacking for him is the ability to take pride in another. Since the war, he's been a self-professed solo operative. Living his life alone, moving through his days alone, planning his revenge alone. Solitude is a difficult thing to give up after all these years. But for the first time, the first time in his whole life, he's part of a team.
For the first time, he's proud of someone else. Proud enough to smile a genuine smile. Proud enough to want to invite Charles in, but his friend — his friend — is too busy trying to pave the road that will save the world. That thought might be a little generous, but it's his to do with as he pleases.
And oh, does he please.
"Just don't embarrass me, Charles." The two of them are all gruff familiarity as they set off to build a team, a team of mutants just like them, of people just like them, and they get to do it on the CIA's dime but at their own pace.
"Just let me do the talking," Charles advises, but there's a smile on his face.
"Don't worry. I'm perfectly capable of being persuasive all on my own."
"Oh, I know. It doesn't take a mind-reader to figure that much out."
With the list of targets (all fellow mutants) in hand they set off together. Charles flashes an almost-impish smile. For a minute, he's an excited little boy all over again. "You know what they say, Erik: it's not the destination but the journey that counts."
That's one of those phrases Erik has never been so sure he agrees with, but he nods his assent anyway. "I do know it's what they say." Ensconced safely in the back of the CIA's jet, he raises his glass to his travel companion. "So, my friend, here's to the journey. May it be a memorable one."
The ghost of that smile still tugs at Charles's lips. "I don't imagine it could possibly be otherwise. I'll drink to that." He does, and Erik does, and for the time being there's no need for further words. There is only the moment, this moment, and the two of them and the journey ahead, and it is going to be wonderful.
The future is destined to be absolutely brilliant. Charles knows that together, the two of them will change the world.