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Hell or High Water

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If Charles Xavier is perfectly honest, he never planned to be a criminal.

 He had struck out into the world as a young heir with plans of becoming a college professor; one who flirted in evolution and dabbled in pretty women far out of his reach.  Marriage and a quiet life looked set for him; nothing more, and nothing less. Charles was going to study the X Gene, traverse it’s mysteries, and through that understanding live his picket-fence life in harmony with mutants and non-mutants alike.

But when does life ever go to plan? Things go wrong all the time, and sometimes- just sometimes- those missteps can become something right. When he flew back from an Oxford education, seventeen years old and already pushed further up the education system on account of his impeccable memory and fantastic work ethic, drawn back to Westchester by Raven’s distressed call, he never envisioned himself falling off the beaten track entirely. He expected trouble, at the least, and lots of lawyers, and possibly a delay in gaining his masters. He never expected to become a wanted man; a man who loved the danger, no less.

But here Charles is: twenty-six years old, his gaze locked with Erik’s across a thronging dance floor as some alpha stranger sucks little bruises into his willingly exposed throat, a small plastic bag of white powder in his pocket, and a poisoned drink clasped in one hand. He tilts his head to one side and groans, encouraging this nameless man to wrap thickset arms around his waist, bringing their bodies closer together. The dark, dangerous pulse of Erik’s jealousy runs through Charles’ mind, spurring him on; he knows he is playing with fire. Making Erik jealous is like adding kerosene to an inferno. Charles cannot wait to be burned.

You know what to do?

Fuck you. Erik means it to be insulting, but Charles finds it something else; leverage. There is a gleam in his eyes.

Please do. Charles smirks, and feels his arousal grow. The stranger obviously takes credit for that, because he laughs against Charles’ neck. Charles is watching Erik’s backside as he retreats across the dance floor and through a side door.

“You want to get out of here, baby?” he asks, slow and sleazy, his hands trailing down to the small dip at the base of Charles’ spine. Charles can hear all of his erotic, drink-hazed, lustful thoughts; they sicken him, but they also encourage him. He smirks at the man, polite and graceful just like his mother impressed on him. What would she think, seeing her son use that high-society etiquette in this rowdy club? The stranger is leaning in for a kiss.

“Have another drink.” Charles purrs, lifting the glass as a barrier between them. “You’ll like it. There’s something extra- strictly for a little recreational fun.” He feels the other’s approval and desire, a heady mix which almost gets to him; but only almost. Charles has perfected this. He is too composed to be brought down so easily. His expression remains calm enough as the man takes a deep sip, smirking all the while.

In the brief interlude, Charles’ mind seeks Erik out. He gets a glimpse of blood, knuckles hitting flesh, and a dagger zipping cleanly through the air- and he pulls himself out, looking up into the stranger’s eyes. They are clouding over, and it is no longer from the carnal need which had brought him over to Charles in the first place; it is from pain.

“Oh, I do apologise. I should have mentioned it is only recreational for me.” Charles gladly slips himself off the bar stool, pressing his fingers to the man’s temple and watching his body drop. He nudges his head, before looking up at the crush of bodies still rubbing and seething, packed onto the dance floor and around the edges. Some people are slumped against the bar, cocktail glasses in front of them; the bartender looks thoroughly confused, a bottle of absinthe in her hand. Charles looks at her pointedly, leaning over and handing her the packet. “Here you go love; the punters will love this in their drinks. The absinthe will help it go down.” He smiles warmly, pressing a little harder with his mental suggestion and the confusion recedes, until only blank-faced obedience remains.

Some of the dancers are stumbling off the floor.

Charles grins. Oh, the chaos; the beautiful, giddy confusion. One slip of his hand, one nudge of a lesser mind, and suddenly dozens of people are falling at his mercy- but Charles is no longer merciful. He met Erik, and all those pretty women were forgotten. He met this life, this unbeaten territory, and the picket-fence fantasy of his childhood no longer seemed quite so perfect.

Erik re-emerges, blood spattered and wild eyed. He sweeps across the room, past dazed people, fallen bodies, and Charles steps towards him. They kiss, hungrily, riding out the thrill of the moment together: Charles needs Erik now, and he knows Erik needs him. Erik spins him around, slams him against the wall, hoists him up. Still kissing, still feeling the buzz and the pulse and- oh, Erik's jealousy; his anger. Charles feels it sweep through him when Erik growls, low in his throat, nipping over the small bruises on his neck. He hears every possessive thought, every adrenaline-rush wave of emotion.

"Erik-"

"Charles."

Mine. Mine. Mine.

"Erik, we have to go. The police will be here soon, darling."

Yours.

"I'll have you when we get home. I'll teach you not to play with others; not to play with me." Erik smirks widely, and the zip of Charles' trousers slips down. They don't have long. Charles pulls him back into a kiss, open mouthed, his eyes sliding shut.

"You can have me now." He tangles his hands in Erik's hair, panting as he tries to draw in air.

"I think I will." Erik grips Charles' hips with a bruising force, and carries him through into a back room behind the bar. Up against the wall, brutal, desperate; there is a fire burning between them, brighter and brighter. Charles shuts his eyes. He wants to be burned, consumed in Erik's inferno, in this blaze he stoked with his actions. Just the two of them: powerful, unstoppable; a force to be reckoned with.

So no, Charles Xavier never planned to be a criminal, and he most certainly did not plan to become a killer. But once he got a taste for it, he gained an appetite that had to be sated. Subtle, clever, quick; he has become an enigma in the violent world of gangs and mobs. He is something exotic, and he knows it- knows it, loves it, and will never let that status go. While he has Erik, while he has this power, while he has blood in his veins, Charles Xavier will keep living this unplanned life.  

And when the police arrive, barely an hour later, they find nothing but the bodies. They stand amongst the chaos, the aftermath, and they shake their heads. Someone is sick outside and nobody laughs at him; not one person has the heart for it, or the stomach. Three corpses are found, mutilated almost beyond recognition, and the rest have fallen in quiet disarray. They know who it is.  Another officer pulls out her mobile, pressing it to her ear with one shaking hand.

"They've struck again. Get onto the Feds.  Our boys are in too deep this time."



Chapter Text

Erik sidesteps into the alleyway, looking around. He is wearing so-called 'civvies', a ratty hoodie and jeans, and a shirt from some band or other he probably used to hear every day on the radio, pumping from the cars of people who still had money enough. A child scrambles across his path, stuffing mud in her mouth a shreiking in delight; Erik rolls his eyes. Hardly nutritional. The mother is chasing after, and Erik allows her to pass, a casual pause in which his eyes scan the surrounding area, this sea of decayed humanity.

Narrow housing and washing lines, suspicious faces peering out of grimed windows, glimpses of unnatural hair and luminous eyes; this place is a backwater of society. This is where those mutants too weak or too shunned to make their way in the world slink off to hide, to lick their wounds, to cultivate resentment into plans which lead nowhere. They can fester here. His concern is only with the strong: many of them are hardly worth Erik's time. To him, these people are the mud on his boots, the almost-Morlocks who play at having dignity. Nothing like his Charles, his quick, clever mouse who survived so much and rose to become better. In short, Erik despises all these creatures- all but one, who has been known to him for a while. He is hunting down Gambit, otherwise known as Remy LeBeau to a very small circle of friends- and Charles Xavier.

That morning, Charles had strolled down to the front desk and leaned over it, a gleam in his eyes that always means trouble; and it is always the sort of trouble Erik loves. When Erik raised an eyebrow, Charles had simply handed over the employee list with a coy smile and announced that Remy LeBeau needed his pay-packet delivered, and Would you please give him a message, Erik? He needs to answer a few work questions. Naturally, Erik had been more than happy to comply. He had been itching for an excuse to visit the Cajun ever since he first came to Erik's attention- as a poker maniac with the ability to turn any inanimate object into a bomb, simply a rumour drifting around the mutant gangs. Charles had asked him to be gentle. Erik thinks he has ventured too far into New Orleans underworld territory for that. He comes to a stop in front of a small street stall, a young man sitting behind it and shuffling cards on a tattered velvet cloth. There is nobody else in this darkening alleyway. Nobody worth worrying about, that is.

"Gambit." He doesn't phrase it as a question, but as an announcement, a declaration of his presence to a man who values anonymity over all. Erik knows the boy well from his file. He derives joy from watching him start. "You have been on the Professor and Magneto's list of subservients for the past six months."

"Oui." Those red-on-black eyes stare up at him, wide and startled, but the starved face holds a wariness Erik understands. In the hollows of his cheeks is unspeakable pain; in the shadows of his sunken eyes, there is a story of betrayal. Erik feels no sympathy, no empathy, but a vague admiration and a ghost of something without name. He has seen this on the face's of Shaw's test subjects and, for a while, in the mirror. "Don't know no faces or not'in'. Gambit ain't really on dere radar."

"Now he is." Erik studies his fingernails, and then starts to feel for any metal around himself. There is something long and thin, up the boy's sleeve, and he summons it to his hand with a simple clenching of his fist. Gambit jumps. "The Professor wants you to gather information. That is what you are employed for, correct?" He bends the metal staff, smiling thinly. Erik needs no ferality to know the boy is afraid; he can imagine how his fear smells: sweat, salt, kerosine. A flammable mixture.

"Depends what y' need, homme."

"Emma Frost. Sebastian Shaw's favoured associate." Erik carefully notes how Gambit's handsome face twists, tightens, darkens; he watches it shut down, and releases a mournful sigh. "Oh dear. I hoped you wouldn't need this incentive. Gambit, if you don't do this, I will be forced to call in an old friend with whom we share an acquaintance."

"Non. Y' don't get it. White Queen ain't jus' wit' Shaw. Gambit ain't goin' near de Inner Circle. 'E ain't--"

"Sabretooth!" Erik's demand silences Gambit. Sick horror fills his features, to such a degree that a warmer man than Erik would have wavered in his resolve. Erik knows exactly what history the kid has with Sabretooth; he also knows the feral's twisted appetites. They sicken him, but at times like these, they are the perfect means to an end. "I brought you a work partner." Erik nods his head at Gambit, who makes a stiff nod in return, and then he is turning and stalking his way out of the alleyway.

Even so, something plays on his mind, refusing to settle in with the rest of his satisfied adrenaline high.

The white queen isn't just with Shaw.

The inner circle

Oh, the rubbish which slews from the mouths of the scared-shitless. Erik rolls his eyes as he gets into his battered rental. The sooner he can leave this place behind, the better. 

***

"You didn't shake him up too much, did you? We do want to keep him at our disposal, and loyalty is so... fragile." Charles smiles at Erik from over his takeaway coffee cup, eyes shining in the rearview mirror. He could look right in and watch how the events really transpired, but he trusts Erik. It is a trust which no man should have, but Erik is hardly about to complain. He has given Charles his trust freely, when so many had tried to buy, bribe and weedle it from him before.

"No." Erik responds with a shrug, risking a glance back at Charles. The telepath is gazing out of the window, those beautiful lips curved in a private smile. Regretfully, Erik has to look away lest he crash the company's car, but the imprint of his serene omega is left comfortably behind his eyes. That is how Erik would like Charles to remain for now, until the time when they strike again. His hands tighten on the wheel at the thought, and he clears his throat, "I just delivered the message and left him with some light encouragement."

"Your version of encouragement, dear?" Charles laughs, and for a moment Erik almost swerves the car into the wrong lane. One year, two months and a day. And his clever little mouse still manages to surprise him. "How did you know?"

"I know you." Comes the coy, sweet reply. "Oh don't fret, Erik. I was impressed by your methods, so I just allowed it. Besides... it brings us closer to Shaw." His eyes harden fleetingly, and Erik gets a glimpse in the rearview mirror of another Charles. The darker one, the one created by his past; the one who delights in designing death and perfecting poisons. The one who comes out in seedy nightclubs and plays with the fire of Erik's possessive nature. That is the Charles Erik loves.

"Yes." Erik smirks and allows his mental gaurds to slip down. For a few moments he and Charles sit in perfect silence, sharing Erik's bloody fantasy. It buzzes between them, an incentive that neither man needs but both enjoy. The final end to a story which began the day Erik first laid eyes on Charles, a heavily pregnant Omega under Shaw's thumb. Erik likes the idea of snapping his neck and Charles always adds in a slow-acting, lethal poison.

Then they arrive outside the business dinner. Charles sneaks Erik a fleeting kiss, gets out of the car, straightens Erik's tie, dusts off his suit- and steels himself to face the music. Music which will no doubt be distasteful, thanks to Tony Stark, but Warren Worthington II always provides good champagne. One does minimally make up for the other, Erik finds, with enough glasses.

For this evening, they are a business CEO and his Secretary, two men in smart suits sipping champagne. No more than that. Honest men, one would think, here to discuss the rise in white collar crime over soufflés; omega equality discussed amongst the alphas behind French menues. This is a world away from the life that Erik and Charles truly lead. The recent nightclub slaughters are a topic mentioned in between opinions on wine, and Charles will smile discreetly at Erik, let slip an errant, filthy thought. For a delicious moment, Erik finds his bow tie a little too tight and his suit constricting. Charles' red lips curve, blue eyes sparkling with polite mirth at someone else's joke. As the evening wears on, Erik circles more and more often back towards the door; he allows Charles to freely rub shoulders. Every moment, his senses are trained on the other alphas, on Charles, on the other omegas, Charles again. His ears sing with the effort of listening, his heart swelling every time someone mentions Club Risqué, the three bodies. 

It is crystal-glass talk, tinkling from inside a snowglobe, but it is gratification nonetheless. Erik checks his watch. Soon, soon, he will return home and lie with Charles in the night with naught but pillowtalk of murder between them. 

Chapter Text

Raven loves the quiet, the calmness. Light filters down to play over her blue skin, red hair swirling in her eyes as she gazes up at the rippling world above her. Her lungs have not started to ache yet, and she is in no rush to re-surface; no rush to face the morning.

Summer burst over Westchester in a sweltering, fuggy haze, dark rooms suddenly awash with sunlight and guests turning up as college ended and the break began. The relative quiet and solitude of her life was broken, quite rudely, by Alex Summers and his very proud declaration of becoming a big brother over the phone. After that, Moira McTaggert obviously decided to start checking up on Raven more frequently- something to do with Raven now having an unofficial job and wanting to make sure she was coping alright after breaking up with Hank. Then the ninth anniversary of Charles leaving came around, and for some reason Darwin and Sean saw that as an invitation to turn up at the Xavier Estate, with Alex, their bags already packed and their attitudes making it clear that they expected to stay. If Raven didn't love them all to bits, she would have murdered them. She might still murder Moira, but the older woman has been good to her; she might feel a little guilty about that.

And, of course, she is an FBI agent on some unofficial basis. That would make a bad example.

Drifting up through the water she resurfaces, floating on her back. Her ears are still submerged in water, giving everything a pleasant echo. She shuts her eyes against the sun. Everything is quite alright, really. Her and Hank haven't properly broken up- they just went back to being friends with benefits on the side, the dating scene not to their tastes. Besides, with their work relationship, being a couple felt strangely unprofessional. Moira is fine. She doesn't mind having more people in the house anyway; 500 rooms is a lot of space for one person to fill. Her life is all focused around the first floor: kitchen, dining room, studies, three lounges, the strange quiet room and, off limits by some odd agreement with herself, Charles' library. As for the ninth anniversary thing- well, it's nine years she learned to live with; just one more year without Charles. It doesn't even have a special place on her calendar, no red circle or star by the date.

"...en? Raven?" She cracks open her eyes.

A face drifts into focus: peach fuzz on the top lip, nervous dark eyes, ridiculous glasses. Hank McCoy, her favourite nerd and, at this moment in time, her least favourite person. As soon as she sees him, things stop being so fine.

"Really, now?" Is all she says, her own voice sounding muffled. The water in her ears is no longer pleasant, but irritating. Hank's arrival has broken the peace around her, shattering the calm cocoon of the summer day and letting the outside world in. She comes up, treading water and staring up at Hank where he is crouching at the edge; his shabby attempt at neatness and gangly limbs and pretentious ID badge are the epitome of elsewhere. He comes from the real world beyond the Xavier Estate's wrought iron gates and tall hedges.

"I'm afraid so." Hank nods. There is a duffel bag behind him, his passport tucked in his breast pocket. Raven sighs deeply.

"What do they need?" She glides to the edge of the pool, and pulls herself up. Hank turning up out of the blue never means well; he always tries to play it down, but his actions betray the severity of the situation. His duffel bag means an overnight stay, his passport travelling, and both... well, both mean that Raven could be away from home for quite a while. What a shame. Missing out on another one of Alex's proud "I'm a big brother so I now know all about children" speeches is such a travesty.

"It's the Professor. And Magneto." He murmurs and Raven feels the world lurch sideways. Two criminals who ruined her life, and now hold the key to piecing it back together. They are no doubt part of the circle of people who took her brother, and if she can get to them...

A street myth. Until now, until this beautiful morning, with her wonderful work partner- those two had been nothing more. Now that they have stepped out into the light, Raven feels fresh determination filling her heart. Hank is talking still, filling her in as he passes her a towel.

But Raven has stopped listening. She is already trying to decide which shoes to take and, more importantly, whether she should bring one gun, or two.

***

The crime scene reeks. That is the only way to describe it; filth and stench and horror. Raven is gagging before she is out of the car, and wishing she had taken her supressants. The skin of her hand is overturned by a flicker of blue, the scales shimmering through. A glance in the rearview mirror confirms that her eyes are shining out yellow in the city's pollution clouded night.

"Sure you're alright?" Hank aks, maybe for the millionth time since leaving Westchester. Moira had asked the same thing before she left, hovering at her door. People seem to think that Raven is made of glass; that every case will break her. Raven likes to think she is made of diamond, but... well, Raven knows by looking at Emma how cold that makes someone. She wouldn't make the analogy out loud, and certainly not to Hank who just doesn't understand.

"I'm fine to go." Raven smiles at him, flexes her hands. "Maybe I should do this one natural, saves the stress of controlling myself." She watches as the blue runs across her skin, her arms, dissapearing under her sleeves. Hank shifts in his seat and pushes his glasses back up his nose.

"Is that a good idea?" Hank stutters. She does not reply, but steps out of the car and leaves him gawping. Like a delayed action scene, he follows after in the sweep of her footsteps, hurrying into the nightclub. Eyes swivel their way: Raven's blue skin beneath her blouse and smart black trousers gives them away in a heartbeat. The mutant division. Unofficial, but with more power in office than this room of policemen and women.

They are here for briefing purposes, Raven knows this. The crime scene has been swept, bodies bagged, photographs taken- but the smell... it seeps into wood panelling and leather sofas: pheremones, testosterone. Strong, almost acrid. No amount of sterilisation will rid the club of it; not this two decades worth of build up, all brought to a bloody halt.

"I think we could do the briefing at the police station." Hank says nervously, feeling the pressure of all those eyes on them. Well, on her, on Raven. What would Hank know?

Raven looks at him sidelong and feels spite flare in her stomach.

"No, we can do it here." She corrects, in a tone the leaves no maneuvering room. A young man steps forwards, almost handsome, but for the thunderclouds in his eyes which are almost hidden by his cap. He wears the gun at his hip with arrogance, a dangerous thing to put behind a trigger, especially when prejudice sparks the gunpowder.

"You have a fascinating mutation." Is his opening line, in a voice that makes Raven see sterile white. She can almost smell the laboratory he no doubt wants to see her in.

"This is a fascinating case. I know which one I would rather focus on." Raven responds icily. The thunderclouds crackle, roiling the otherwise polite mask of his face. Masks, Raven thinks as her scales ripple over into the likeness of the young man, are a fools game. "But by all means, study me." She speaks with his voice, and watches as his own words fail him in white-lipped anger.

"You should not be on this case." He tells her firmly, nostrils flaring as if that will somehow make him seem bigger, more of a threat. Leave it alone, Styker. Someone calls. Mocking. His entire demeanour has come apart in a few easy minutes; minutes Raven used to scope out how everyone else feels. So far, only Stryker is the issue. Raven smiles.

"Well, as the federal agents on this case, we ought to reach middle ground. How else are we going to collaborate?" She raises one eyebrow at him, delicate as you like, a fang winking from the grin that gashes her face. Stryker takes the smallest of steps backwards.

"Your kind made this case happen. Your kind are the murderers. The fact that you are allowed positions with humans seeking justice is injustice in itself." Stryker presses on, but behind him his colleagues have milled out and lost interest. They know that nothing will come of the confrontation, and even if they are uncomfortable with having two mutants on the case... well, they are either smarter or less blinded by their own bitterness. Raven sweeps past him and walks the length of the nightclub, to the bar and then back to the door, measuring her steps into an even pace.

In the centre again, she pivots slowly on her heel. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches sight of Hank's tiny, wry smile where he has bent to retake a few measurments for himself. She can see it all now: the chaos which must have been caused, the faceless perpatrator standing at the bar. At her fingertips, the music of that night pulses as a memory. This how she works best, with the building blocks of a case, the rough-hewn rock and bare foundations. Stryker, an infuriated figure striding out into the evening, fades away; Hank becomes background. The people become central, flooding on from the wings in her mind. The Professor, and Magneto. What do they know? One is subtle and one is violent, but neither can be played off against the other. They have a solid bond too strong for that.

What would I do if I wanted to take out a nightclub this size?

She sticks that question firmly in her head and signals to Hank. Raven Darkholme has seen enough, and she has the seedling of an idea now.

"Can I see the victim? The mutant?" She asks the nearest police officer, and the older woman hands it to her with the file. Red skin. For a moment, Raven is battling with deep-seated empathy as she holds up the image, his face familiar.

"You have an idea." Hank says quietly, and he is so certain that he does not even bother mincing it into a question.

"Azazel. Part of Shaw's Hellfire club, that little gang we broke up last year." Her eyes gleam at him, fierce lights of determination, and she shoves the file into Hank's chest. "They're cleaning house. The Professor and Magneto, wiping Shaw's arse to clean up any shit he's left behind- something's gone wrong for him. Maybe he knows we're closing in, maybe some of his surface-legal activities have been discovered. Whatever it is, he'll slip up." Raven punctuates her crude analogy with a damning stab of her finger, just wishing it were Sebastian Shaw himself there and not a very nonplussed Hank.

"You think so?"

"I know so." Raven nods. And oh damn her, if only she had stopped and thought how dangerous that sentence could be for an agent. But the words are out of her mouth, and for now she does not care. She does not think, save for revenge.

She and Charles may lack blood between them, but their sheer singlemindedness bridges the genetic gap. Two hounds on Shaw's bushy tail, unknowingly ready to rip out each other's throats.

Chapter Text

Raven takes a pause to watch the sunlight dappling the carpet, sweeping her fringe back and securing it with the enamel skull clasp at her forehead. She longs for the pool. Only mid morning, and the heat in this office is swelling to stifle her; there are a few lines of a song chasing circles in her head, and three sets of eyes boring into her back.

"The Hellfire Club." She begins abrubtly, turning to face them. Stryker, Hank, and a young female policewoman named Rogue. Or so she introduced herself in a Southern trawl, and Raven quite likes her. Her wild hair is white and red flame, kept back by a green bandanna, fingers resting on the tabletop. She seems confident, but if Raven Darkholme is anything, she is excellent at reading people. The woman is hiding something. Raven is the sort of woman who can appreciate a secretive person; even sofar as admiration.

Stryker is leaning on his elbows, nothing but prickled agression as he stares flint at her. Hank has his fingers laced neatly on the table. Raven focusses on that. "We believed them to be a gang, one we at the Mutant Division broke up last year. However..." the file she picks up from her satchel weighs heavy in her hands. "...a contact at the CIA has given me-"

"A mutant contact?" Stryker cuts in. Raven fixes him with the ochre stare that never fails, and he reddens as if his words are stuck in his throat.

"Yes." She clips back, "Hank, clap Stryker on the back if he chokes. He looks like he's in difficulty." Raven looks down at the file, running her finger down the list of names, but not without seeing Rogue hide her burghundy smile behind the dark leather of a glove.

Raven wonders what Sean Cassidy would make of him, her contact. The red-headed Scotsman who will forever be emblazoned in her mind with Damn, I wanna be Mystique. No doubt he deals with people like Stryker every day, young men and women who are the epitome of entitlement and bigotry. He would know how to handle the officer. But Sean is probably at Westchester by now, making himself at home in the high rooms he and Angel like. Raven steels herself and decides to handle him her own way. Stryker can take his entitled ass and walk right into traffic, she decides. Allowing a smirk to cross her lips, Raven resumes

"Anyway. He gave me a list of names, and this came to my attention." She slaps the paper down, and Stryker seizes it like a starving man. To hell with his animosity towards mutants, Raven knows she has him pinned to a science; he is just ambitious and hungering for knowledge, anything to put him above his peers.

"Magneto." Rogue looks up at Raven, "Y'all think he was part of this Hellfire club?"

"Yes." Hank pipes up, "Azazel was a part of that, as well as someone called the White Queen... whom we believe to be Emma Frost. Magneto's involvement is unclear, at best, but there is no doubt that he has split off, either willingly for- or under the influence of... The Professor."

They share a silence, the only thing Stryker would share willingly with the likes of she and Hank. Rogue is looking up at Raven with prettily narrowed hazel eyes.

"A bonded alpha and omega?" Rogue puts in. That gives Raven pause. "It would tie them together. Assuming Magneto is the Omega, and the Professor is the Alpha..." Rogue trails off into a silence weighted with the obvious: an omega would have a very hard time being made a Professor. Hank clears his throat.

"Or the other way around?" He suggests, almost wilting under the three pairs of eyes which turn on him. Raven thinks on that and the thoughts are black. Brooding.

"There are thousands of bonded Alphas and Omegas in New York." She sighs. "No. This meeting is over." Shaking her head, Raven moves and holds the door for them.

"But-" Stryker bursts out.

"We wait for them to strike again, we collect evidence and then we see if we can push them to make a mistake. Rogue, compile a suspect pool if you wish." Raven delivers the last suggestion with acid, hoping the quell the idea which would lead to nowhere. Rogue just meets her eyes and curves a light smile, crafted from sass and a dash of insolence. So, that one must needs be watched as well...

As soon as they are gone, Raven sighs and presses her forehead to the sun-warmed glass. She imagines herself and Charles on a beach in some far away place, some place where he met her friends and where Shaw is rotting in a cell, in a grave, in a pit. Anywhere would do. Just so long as she knows where Charles is and does not have this damned job.


 

Charles finds himself back in the nesting room: dark, cloying with Shaw's scent. He curls up around himself and whispers sweet nothings to the swell of his stomach. Jane, David, whoever you will be... please. And he has no idea who he is pleading with, or what for. With Shaw? Shaw will hardly listen. With the child? The child is better off dead than to be raised as Shaw's pet.
The oak panelling muffles Raven's cries as he is walked away down the hall, and he never looks back. Take me instead. Foolish words, Azazel had whispered to him, one large red hand on Charles' slender shoulder.
Shaw's hands shoving him back and he is falling

Awake.

Charles is lying comfortably across Erik's firm chest. Slowly, he tilts his head to look up at the worried crack of blue above him, Erik's eyes sleepily peering at him in the middling light.

"Was I disturbing you?" Charles asks him, voice thick with sleep. Erik shakes his head a silent no, and draws Charles into a kiss. Firm, long, sweet. Charles melts against it.

Now that he is awake, Charles can feel the sweet ache in his hips and lower back, the dull tingling of the bite on his collar bone. These are Erik feelings, grounding him, taking him away from Shaw; the Shaw feelings are cobwebs of sleep. The curve of Erik's shoulder and neck welcome him where he searches out comfort.

"It was a dream." He whispers, stroking Charles' hair. "It was a dream, leibling." And those calloused hands bring Charles back. Back, back, down to earth, into Erik's arms and the musk of their own bedroom and the hum of New York traffic which rumbles outside.

"I know." Charles groans lowly, sitting up. He rubs his eyes, hears Erik's question before it reaches his mouth. "I... would rather not talk about it." He quirks a small smile and slides himself out of bed with a yawn.

"Stay here. I'll make us breakfast." Erik gets up, gently pushing Charles back down. Then he pauses at the door and looks back over his shoulder- "Get us breakfast. There's no food here." He reiterates, which makes Charles laugh as he curls up around his pillow.

When he next wakes, it is to Erik nudging him, white-lipped and tight-eyed, his teeth a sharkish gleam. He is clasping a newspaper and looking positively murderous; not the sort of murderous Charles likes, either. This is where Erik's black, splintered anger spills out and Charles is caught up in the fallout. He can actually taste it on his tongue, feel it projected into his mind; but there is no blood or adrenaline-fuel to curb the thick reek of it.

"Have. You. Seen. This?" Erik bites around every word, shoving a newspaper in Charles' face. Taking it gingerly, the telepath has to smile. He has to, or he might cry.

"Bonnie and Clyde..." Charles reads aloud slowly, arching an eyebrow up at Erik. "Bonnie and Clyde hit New York's nightclubs... Erik, I don't see the problem." Charles laughs, and Erik seethes. Actually seethes.

"They were pathetic." Erik spits, shaking his head. "These people should be scared of us. Not comparing us to those bank robbers. They died miserably." He jabs an angry finger at the rain-speckled print. His eyes have become darker than pitch and bright, jaggedly so: the neon lights of that first club had been bright, too. Charles can feel the hissing upheaval in Erik's thoughts, so close to boiling over into a terrible, noxious pall. It is a boiling calmed only when Charles reaches up, pulling his lover down into a kiss, a kiss tasting of coffee and New York air; something dangerous and so, so sweet. Oh, the strength and softness of this. The wonderful sensation of quelling a storm. He draws Erik nearer; damp coat, broad hat and all. One hand immediately slides to cup Charles' hip, a thumb rubbing circles there until the begging starts.

Afterwards, he and Erik prop themselves up with breakfast spread across the covers. Charles is so glad it is Sunday. He picks through doughnuts and drinks a delightfully brewed Lady Grey. Erik is meticulously eating a fruit salad and drinking his decaf coffee. They are so different and yet they work so well together. It never ceases to amaze the younger of the two, he who seems trapped at extremes. Serenity and anger. War and peace. Although murder, Charles thinks with a smirk into his tea, is hardly peace. And thinking of which...

"What is our next move?" He looks lazily over to the chess board in the corner, obsidian and white crystal pieces glinting dully on a mahogany board. The money spent on that should have been horrendous, but Charles hadn't asked Azazel how much it cost. Azazel had been a little too busy being dead, and consequently wouldn't have minded something so trivial as Charles lifting the beautiful set for a trophy. He had had 'to Charlie Smith' engraved down the side. There would be no doubt it belonged to him, that faceless CEO of Smiths, such as he has become.

"Bathroom." Erik nuzzles the top of Charles' head, inhaling his satiated omega scent.

"No, the next move in terms of Shaw?" Charles presses. Erik falls into an edged silence which extends out to Charles; he doesn't want to think about it, not now. He doesn't think Charles is ready; his telepathy is incredible, but that party bent it right around to the breaking point of exhaustion. At least nobody will be able to fully remember my face, Charles thinks a little savagely. He keeps that thought to himself.

Erik is his secretary, his lover, and the face he shows the world. Another reason they are so good for one another: Erik is his security blanket. His protection. The tall figure of iron in his long coat and ridiculous broad-rimmed hat, standing between Charles and that whole world who would want to get him. For so long, nobody has been able to remember whether Mr Smith has blue eyes, or brown- ("or were they hazel?")- or whether his skin was pale or tanned. They could not say what shape his nose was, what his jawline was like; would find sudden difficulty deciding a hair colour. But they all remember Erik, and Erik is exempt from Charles' telepathic shielding.

"Charles..." Erik begins slowly. "...You are so powerful, so wonderful- incredible, really." Each compliment comes with a kiss and Charles has to laugh, the heat and strength of Erik over him, "But we can't afford to be caught. Not tonight, although... what do we have on next week?"

"You tell me, Mr Secretary." Charles laughs and wraps his arms loosely around Erik's waist, the German rolling off him to check the fat planning diary on the bedside table. A groan rumbles from Erik.

"A meeting on Tuesday."

"Those go on for years." Charles complains, "Too bad you'll have to go in for me... it would be very useful for you to blow off steam on, say, Wednesday night?" He suggests and his telepathy ticks over, spills out, into just the slightest nudge. Not so much Erik will feel it, but enough to have some impact.

"Wednesday it is." Erik agrees mildly before his own light returns to his eyes. An evil light, and Charles loves it. He can almost taste the smoke and lights and the absolute, bowel-weakening terror in the back of his throat; not his terror, never his terror, and all the more delicious for it. Erik will bring the sweetness of victory and the thrill of togetherness.

"Where?" Charles inquires, sitting up and tugging Erik towards the bathroom when he follows. Exactly ten steps in a dance without music, and then this conversation will be turned off with the hot water turning on. He winds his arms around Erik's neck and looks mischeviously up at Erik.

"There is a no-mutant club, and it openly advocates the belief of absolute Omega submission. They are hosting an event on Wednesday. Could do with being taught a lesson."

"And the ownership?" Charles presses.

"Can be traced back to Sebastian Shaw." Erik answers quickly.

"Perfect." Charles grins and kisses Erik as the floor under his bare feet turns from carpet to cold tiles.

Chapter Text

Her eyes are cartoonish, bambi-esque and darkly made up. His hands are shaking but his eyes are fierce. A little girl wearing makeup like battlepaint; a little boy armoured in a band shirt. Hansel and Gretel walking amongst a throne room of human filth and bones. Around their feet, a sloom of black water sucks every step and the thick air turns their faces white, almost greenish. Light glitters across his jacket, fractured in her bright eyes. Raising his head, the boy swallows and the challenge he throws out falls flat amongst the sewage-reek.

"Show yourself."

self-self-self... the miles of pipes and metal walls casually toss his words back, and his sister wilts ever so slightly. A pretty little red flower, that one, unfurled now but drooping.

A dry laugh rattles in the web-spinner's throat. Slowly standing from his crouch, he smiles a smile designed to cut. It shines out brighter than the bare neon lights strung upon the walls.

"No need for that, I'm right here." Still smiling, he steps along the platform built for him. The ones who did it were bought men all, by either blood or coin. Their loyalty is such a fickle thing, but if he can have these two... well, he will be armoured against Professor and Magneto both. A hatred akin to the sewage all around them is congealing in his heart, pouring through his veins until every thought that prickles his brilliant mind is Charles Xavier and it is a rotten thought, a terrible thought. Revenge is the only balm that could soothe him.

Revenge is a slow thing, however, and these children are the catalyst.

"You found our dad?" the boy demands in a small voice. Is that the fragility of hope he can taste in the air? The web-spinner smiles and thinks. It would be such a shame to break so fragile a thing.

"No, son." he measures out the regret in his voice and watches how their hands find one another's, how it is his hand which scrambles for her's. The girl looks up with those bright, bright bambi eyes and shakes her head. Red swirls in her blue irises, brunette waves tumbling defiantly across her shoulders.

"You're lying." She tells him, voice like a blade. Oh, so she is the one more like their father. The web-spinner can see it now, and his smile cuts the gloom again.

"Oops. You've caught me out." He laughs a silken laugh and holds up both hands. "I know who he is, though. It pains me to tell you this, my dear, but your father is a killer."

And now the boy turns his blue eyes on the web-spinner, eyes just like his father's and set with the same brimming anger. Mercury, this one. Liquid at room temperature, but easily hardened.

"Yeah, and? People say I'm a common criminal too. Must've got it from somewhere." He shrugs his insolence in the older man's face, his courage suddenly found under the coollness in the web-spinner's tone.

"So, you still want to help me find him?" The web-spinner inquires mildly. They look at one another; his nod is the slightest thing, her agreement barely more than a slight shift in her gaze. Pietro Maximoff, known as Peter to everyone who means anything to him in this world, clears his throat and nods. This one will require a more delicate touch than his sister, but both are malleable. They are still so young. Magneto's children are crafted of metal like the man himself, but Magneto is not here to shape them.

Poor children. How unfortunate it is that Sebastian Shaw will have to shape them instead.

 

Chapter Text

So, I had to take a very extended hiatus from this fanfic in order to focus on my GCSEs and sort out college for next year. Because of the break, I've really lost my muse- however, once my Hamilton fic has been completed, I fully intend to start this fanfic all over again. It might be slightly different, but the basics will all be the same (I love lil criminal Charles being a mastermind far too much). I've just lot the plot (literally; pun intented) and need a clean break and fresh start.

I'll leave this fic up until then, and take it down once I start re-writing. See you then!