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Sharp Truths

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Charles' POV:

 

Charles had sensed Erik’s concern about tomorrow’s events after he heard what you said in the assembly. So, after spending the whole afternoon setting things up with the CIA ─which meant discussing everything with Moira in his study before she contacted her superiors and co-workers─ to the point to skip dinner, the telepath invited his friend to the living room to distract him with a chess game. Charles deliberately choose the same room where the meeting was held since he intends to convince Erik that not everything has to be the way his friend fears they will be.

The match is interesting to the point of demanding Charles’ full concentration to successfully anticipate Erik’s moves without using his powers. He knows how much Erik hates it when he reads his mind; besides, it wouldn't be fun if he did so. However, he is not paying much attention since the telepath's mind is still occupied with tomorrow’s possible events:

“Cuba; Russia; America…” He distractedly moves his queen while thinking about some of his concerns that hadn’t been mentioned earlier. “It makes no difference. Shaw has declared war on mankind, on all of us. He has to be stopped.” He ends up expressing his apprehensions aloud.

Once Charles speaks his mind, Erik places his glass on the side table and looks up; for once, paying more attention to him than the game.

“Stopped?”  Erik wonders if he heard Charles right. “I’m not going to stop Shaw.” He corrects him. The way he says it makes Charles have a bad feeling about his friend’s next words: “I’m going to kill him.” Erik finally states. It’s not a confession, but something closer to a proclamation.

Is he serious?

Erik is serious. As serious as a man can be when talking about taking reprisals for being tortured ─both mentally and physically─ by the bastard who forced him to witness his mother’s death when cold-bloodedly shooting at her.

His friend makes his move ─and captures his queen!─ as if his purpose was evident. Apparently, Erik thinks he has already made his intentions clear to Charles; and so, Erik speaks up:

“Do you have it in you to allow that?”

Charles exhales, and smiles amused. This is a side of Erik's he knew existed but, even if his friend is constantly challenging him, Charles wasn’t expecting to see right now. And, as if the chess match wasn’t enough, Erik is defying Charles to stop him.

Sure. As if he wasn’t going to stop him... Right?

They both know what a delicate subject this is. First of all, the fantasy of assassinating Shaw has been hunting Erik’s mind since before the two of them met to the point to be a necessary fuel in his life. It’s been what has kept his friend alive and moving all this time. Secondly, getting in between Erik and his revenge is not something Charles would love to do; but given the fact it’s a deed Erik has to accomplish for his own mental stability, the telepath can’t either tolerate or deny his friend’s demand if he wants to live with his conscience clear. He understands he must intervene; however, there is more than his fear and Erik’s stubbornness impeding him to do so. Even if he used his powers ─as that would finally make Erik understand─, this is a dead-end situation. Charles knows that whatever he does or says about Erik’s revenge it will affect their friendship drastically.

Then again…, of course he cannot allow it! How is he even supposed to let someone ─anyone─ die? Even if this is Sebastian Shaw who they’re talking about, he is a person. Charles has never been fine with murder and executions. He has always believed there are more humane and civilized ways to stop criminals than just… killing them.

And his sudden silence does nothing but inciting Erik to continue speaking:

“You’ve known all along why I was here, Charles.”

He can tell Erik cares about him when letting Charles know that having opposite opinions about Shaw’s destiny is nothing personal. The tender way Erik just expressed himself makes it seems as if his good friend understood his own struggle. Charles couldn’t be more grateful for his friend’s consideration.

Sometimes it feels as if Erik was the mind-reader…

Some other times, however, Charles just feels like choking his friend:

“But things have changed. What started as a covert mission, tomorrow, mankind will know that mutants exist.” Erik soon clarifies in a stern voice, making clear ─by thinking this while speaking─ how foolish Charles must be if he keeps seeing life through rose-coloured glasses.

That bastard…

“Shaw, us, they won’t differentiate. They’ll fear us…” Erik keeps talking.

“No, my friend. That’s where you’re wrong.” Charles feels like telling Erik, but he lets him speak instead.

“…And that fear will turn to hatred.” Erik continues, unaware of Charles’ thoughts.

“Not if we stop the war.” He cannot help but to pronounce, almost begging his friend to come to his senses. “Not if we can prevent Shaw. Not if we risk our lives doing so.” He knows. He’s seen it. You’ve seen it. When Charles has read your mind and experienced your premonitions, he has understood this truth. He knows there’s still something you all can do in order to make humankind understand that mutants are friends, brothers and sisters, since they can be as benevolent and cruel as any other human on the planet.

“Would they do the same for us?” Erik questions Charles’s point of view.

“Dear Lord! We all have trust issues, Erik, but that’s not the point.”  He scoffs in his mind. Humans might not do the same for mutants. Not all of them, for sure; but Charles believes mutants have the responsibility to do so since there are more than a few humans who would sacrifice their lives for mutants. He wants to punch his friend in the face and make him understand this… However, Charles replies in a more tactful and diplomatic way: “We have it in us to be the better men.” He says.

“We already are.” Erik practically roars. “We’re the next stage of human evolution. You said it yourself--!”

“No, no…” That wasn’t what Charles meant at all. Being the next stage of human evolution does not mean being better than ‘not-mutant humans’… He didn’t think he would ever hear those words from him, Erik Lehnsherr, who endured and survived the Holocaust.

He forces himself to exhale instead of saying something he might have to apologise for later. “Breathe in, Charles. Count to ten and then speak out.” He talks to himself. He takes a sip of his drink before replaying; but Erik interrupts him.

“Are you really so naive as to think that they won’t battle their own extinction?”

For God’s sake! Who’s talking about extinction!

He’s gone through this before and he decided it was best for everyone if they saw it for themselves. “You are not getting inside his or anyone’s head. He will eventually understand.” Charles tries to convince himself.

Every now and then Charles thinks his powers are useless: What’s the point in having the power to change and control someone’s mind if he can’t really do it as his own ethical reasoning wouldn’t allow it? Right now Charles feels helpless. He has the power, but he lacks the strength of will to use it. He fears the consequences…

“Or is it arrogance?” Erik spits, forcing Charles to face him.

“I’m sorry?” Charles can’t believe his ears. “Arrogance?” Charles laughs inwardly as Erik suggests he’s the arrogant one when, in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“After tomorrow,” Erik explains “they’re going to turn on us. But you’re blind to it, because you believe they’re all like Moira.”

What on Earth does Moira have to do in all this?!

As he can’t come up with a sharper comeback, he immediately replays: “And you believe they’re all like Shaw.”

Uh! Too much? The awkward silence lets the telepath know he might have gone too far. Maybe he should explain what he really meant. So, Charles gets closer and adds:

“Listen to me very carefully, my friend. Killing Shaw will not bring you peace.”

But Erik looks at him as if he knew this already and takes his time to drastically state:

“Peace… was never an option.”

 

Silence.

Silence and astonishment is all he is aware of, until…

Charles blinks a few times and his heart cracks a little when he finally understands what your premonitions mean: Being friends with such a demanding man as Erik will certainly make this friendship complicated. ‘Complicated and distant’ are the precise word you’ve used to describe the nature of Charles and Erik’s future relationship since you’ve glimpsed it more than a few times.

Charles sighs before speaking again. Only now noticing he’s held his breath all this time.

What’s this bitter taste in his mouth, descending to his throat and spreading in his chest?

“Glad you made it clear, Erik.” Charles heartlessly utters as he stands, not letting his voice give his emotions away.

He can see Erik’s darting glare, and he makes sure to reciprocate. He feels nothing close to regret in the metal-bender’s mind. Neither can Charles find the motivation to apologise.

Charles lowers his gaze, unable to withstand either the way his friend looks at him or the things they both are thinking. And so, before he has the opportunity to do something he would eventually regret, he leaves the room.

Chapter Text



Erik's POV:

Erik is startled. He can’t believe what you said. You’ve made him promise quite a lot in the past few seconds, but he’s happy to indulge you. He’ll do anything for you. Only that, this time, what you ask is exactly what he’s always wanted to do:

“Take that-bastard-of-Shaw's life.” You said, inciting him to. A plea that almost sounds like a command. But then, you swore: “I'll make sure you’ll have your revenge."

He couldn’t be more amazed. If there was something Erik was expecting you to say, it was certainly not this.

Sometimes he wonders why he’s so attracted to you; but it’s in moments like these, when you speak out your mind so openly, that he knows the answer: you’re different. You know him, better than everybody else around him; and you’re not afraid to show Erik the things you know about him. It can’t just be a coincidence, or fate ─that’s not how Erik’s mind works; as he believes there’s always a reason and an explanation for everything─; but he likes to think maybe there’s something else that has inevitably made the two of you cross paths.

You’re unique in Erik’s eyes; and so, words are more meaningful when coming from your lips. Hence, whether your powers have something to do or not, the fact that you let him know your hopes are the same as his ─and, therefore, you support him in his quest for retaliation─ is more than what his heart can take. He feels relieved to have somebody by his side after hearing what his other best friend said when acknowledging Shaw’s fate. If only Charles had responded like you did…

Erik knows his friend has heard his thoughts; seen his memories and, most likely, also what Shaw has done to him. Then, how can Charles expect him to spare Shaw's life?! After all what he’s shared with Charles, Erik is a little disappointed of his friend’s reaction.


That evening Erik had been invited by Charles to play chess in the living room. He had mentioned something about relaxing in the company of a good friend and a drink while discussing their ambitions and plans for the future. And so, Erik accepted.

So far, the match has been so stimulating that Erik is completely focused on the game. He suspects he's got good chances to win if Charles doesn’t use his powers; given that in the last minutes his friend has made a few not-so-smart moves... Like this one:

“Cuba; Russia; America… It makes no difference.” Charles speaks his mind while moving his queen and exposing the chess piece.

“Oh! So, this is what Charles has been thinking all this time...” Erik thinks, placing his cocktail on the table by his side.

“Shaw has declared war on mankind, on all of us. He has to be stopped.” Charles continues.

Erik looks up at his friend and wonders if he heard right. “I’m not going to stop Shaw.” He states. He thinks Charles had already understood this fact: “I’m going to kill him.”

Apparently, this surprises his friend who remains silent at the other side of the chess board; which doesn’t amuse Erik one bit. Of course he’s going to kill Shaw! That’s been his intention from the start. Why would he have insisted on perfecting his powers if he didn't expect to confront the man-..., or better said, the monster who ruined his life?

It’s Erik’s turn, and he doesn’t hesitate to capture Charles' queen as if to remark his statement and prove his friend wrong. It seems that, until now, Charles didn’t think of Erik as somebody capable to kill. What a fool. He has read his mind and seen his memories. Why does it surprise Charles to find out about his murderous intentions, then? Unless…

“Do you have it in you to allow that?” Erik questions his friend; who exhales and smiles almost as if seeing his own mistake and finally understanding Erik. “You’ve known all along why I was here, Charles.” He kindly says, hoping these words are true. But, something in the way the mind-reader changes his position in the armchair he’s sat tells Erik that Charles doesn’t like what he’s heard so far.

Of course Erik cares about his friend, as he values and treasures Charles’ friendship. But he thought he had made it clear that his priority has always been killing Shaw. "It’s nothing personal." He mentally tells Charles, since Erik genuinely doesn't mean to offend his friend by confessing his intentions. There are things Erik has to take care of before even thinking of settling down, or making a life of his own with friends and other goals besides taking revenge. So, he feels the need to make Charles understand this:

“But things have changed. What started as a covert mission, tomorrow, mankind will know that mutants exist.” Erik explains with a voice and expression as serious as the matter itself. He’s surprised to see Charles hadn’t thought about this before. What kind of over-confident and credulous man his friend must be if he hadn’t considered the consequences of coming out to the world as mutants! Why does Charles insist on seeing life through rose-coloured glasses? “Shaw, us, they won’t differentiate. They’ll fear us.” Erik continues. “And that fear will turn to hatred.”

“Not if we stop the war. Not if we can prevent Shaw.” Charles asserts. At this point the mind-reader has been glaring at him with disbelief, as if he didn’t want to listen to Erik. The telepath parts his gaze from Erik for a second before saying: “Not if we risk our lives doing so.”

In the metalkinetic man’s eyes, however, it looks like a sign of weakness. Erik is firm, though. He’s resolute in making Charles acknowledge his mistakes:

“Would they do the same for us?” He inquires. Erik believes he’s got a point. His experience has proved there’s nothing to attain when making sacrifices for those who wouldn’t sacrifice for him.

Charles makes his defensive posture evident by raising his head and gaze to look at Erik in the eye as he says: “We have it in us to be the better men.” Which couldn’t annoy Erik more.

“We already are.” He replies in a stern tone, conviction radiating from both his statement and his face. He blinks a few times more than necessary at the frustration of having Charles right in front of him, being so stubborn as to believe humans will accept mutants just like that. And so, he persists. He even tries to use his friend’s words: “We’re the next stage of human evolution. You said it yourself--!”

“No, no…” Charles refuses to believe what he says, and he even refuses to look at him.

There’s an awkward silence that Charles uses to breathe in, calm himself, and take a sip of his drink. But this only encourages Erik to keep talking in order to convince his obstinate friend to change his mind:

“Are you really so naive as to think that they won’t battle their own extinction?” He asks, trying to catch Charles' attention. But his obtuse friend keeps looking down in silence. “Or is it arrogance?” Erik adds; which finally provokes a reaction in Charles.

“I’m sorry?” His friend raises his head and eyebrows. It’s evident he’s not amused at all after hearing Erik’s words.

“After tomorrow, they’re going to turn on us.” Erik starts explaining. “But you’re blind to it, because you believe they’re all like Moira.”

“And you believe they’re all like Shaw.” Charles says back; and Erik can see loathing in his friend’s eyes.

Erik knows he shouldn’t have brought up Moira, but he didn’t expect his friend to mention Shaw. That was low…, of them both. But, in spite of the voice in his head asking him whether he should apologise for saying all this in the way he said it, Erik remains quiet. He subtly raises his left eyebrow while considering his next words; but Charles leans closer to him and states:

“Listen to me very carefully, my friend.”

Erik looks at him. Charles’ posture; his eyes; his frowned brows and lines on the forehead; as well as his pursed lips and pleading voice; they all ask for acceptance. But there’s nothing to accept; neither there is anything to discuss here. To Erik, the only way Charles can accomplish his goal is by using his powers on him. Yet, Erik has noted that the telepath hasn’t even used them to speak in his mind. Why would Charles ─the man who could make the word kneel before him with a simple command─ limit himself to words and reason when attempting to persuade him to change his mind?

Before he can come up with an answer, Charles utters: “Killing Shaw will not bring you peace.”

What Charles says makes no sense to Erik as his motivation itself has no logic: Erik is not going to kill Shaw to save the world from bastards like him or because he thinks that’s the punishment Shaw deserves. The assassination of Sebastian Shaw will take place only because that is what Erik wants. There’s no other reason but the satisfaction his murder will bring Erik after more than a decade planning this moment.

Hence, Erik can’t help to smirk at the innocent concern of his friend when he declares: “Peace was never an option.”

There is a terrible, excruciating, long silence after this.

It allows Erik to study the man before him who, by the way, hasn't moved any chess piece. It is Charles' turn, and Erik has at least three possible moves in mind. What is he waiting for? Was his statement too sharp for Charles to reply? Did he say something he should have kept to himself?

But Charles can read minds! What would’ve been the point in not saying what he’s thinking, anyways? Besides, he’s also his friend. If there’s something bothering him, he would immediately tell Charles. What he just said to the speechless man in front of him was just what he was thinking. What wrong could a little of ─brutal─ honesty do? Charles knows him, and he’ll understand after a while. After his fuming, boiling, stubbornly naive mind calms itself.

In his defence, Erik has never been a good speaker. He’s no orator or a wordsmith; but he’s straightforward and he’s never been afraid to speak his mind. This, however, might be the cause of some misunderstandings; as he’s too blunt, serious, analytical, and contemplative to be constantly aware of how people around him takes the things he does or says. This has made him look as an arrogant, coldblooded man before; one who shows himself as somebody oblivious to the needs and suffering of others; which is usually not the case.

Charles, on the other hand, has this ability to easily connect with people. After all the time Erik has known his friend, he believes this is more a gift of itself rather than part of Charles’ powers; as people seems to be attracted to Charles before he’s got time to place his fingertips on his template. Nonetheless, Erik is immune to this magnetism of his. He can be near Charles without feeling the need to look at him and smile, or without even speaking a word. Usually, Charles’ mere presence is soothing; a company. And there’s no need to say much to understand each other. Erik knows half of it can be explained by his friend’s telepathic powers; but the other half, he thinks, is due to their friendship.

It is in a time like this, unfortunately, that the harmony flowing between the two of them is easily disrupted by their ambitions and determinations. Charles and he are driven by different spirits, and as soon as they let them take control of their minds and words, they oppose each other and they end up arguing. If Charles’ world revolves around his own altruistic dreams; Erik’s ideas are always grounded, and they mean everything to him. Charles and Erik may have similar goals, but Erik won’t abandon his own plans to reach their shared objectives if it means doing it his friend's way. They have a lot in common; but there is also a great deal of incompatibilities between the two of them.

“Glad you made it clear, Erik.” Charles heartlessly utters as he grabs his glass; stands; and passes by the small table before him and Erik's seat to leave the room.

Erik glares at Charles, wondering what’s in his friend mind. Is he really walking away from both the unfished game and a conversation the two of them eventually had to have?

Erik doesn’t need to turn around to see if his friend is already gone, as the ear-splitting noise of the door slamming behind him lets him know he’s alone.

But he's not alone. Not if you're there for him. Right?