1.In terms of magnets, opposites attract.
Maybe that was why Erik’s children died. Because they were the polar opposite of death.
Erik walked out of Stryker’s facility with Peter’s limp body hanging from his arms, with the teens’ horrified screams ringing by his ears and Hank yelling at Erik asking him to explain what happened and Raven screaming furiously as she stomped into the facility to kill every one of the humans involved and--
Charles reached over and covered Peter’s half open eyes. When the hand left, Peter’s eyes were fully closed and he looked as if he was just sleeping.
On the plane ride back home, Erik held onto Peter’s body as if Peter could wake up at any moment in time and run away. He could hear the quiet sniffles from Jean and Kurt, and some soothing whispers from Charles as he tried to calm everyone down. Erik clenched his fist around the soft fabric of Peter’s shirt, and it was Hank who took off the X-Men suit because Peter loathed it from the beginning to the end. Erik let go of the shirt and it was wrinkled in all the wrong places and the red fingerprints stained the grey shirt. He saw the dark crimson of Peter’s blood seeping into the shirt still. The heart stopped pumping it a while ago, but the blood was still finding its way out.
Erik looked down at his hands and saw it stained with his son’s blood. It was the most disgusting sight he has ever seen.
The last words still rang in Erik’s ears. Peter said “dad”. It wasn’t his first time hearing it. Nina called him a version of it many times. He could almost hear her say it still, but he was already losing how Peter said it. Maybe because it was so quiet, nothing but a whisper because Peter said it with his dying breath and the last word the boy ever spoke was “dad”.
God. Erik looked down at his son’s face and it was so pale. The usual dark eyes filled with mischief and amusement were no longer there. He carded his hair through the silver locks, wondering how he didn’t recognize the familiarity in the jaw. The nose. The always stubborn mouth that was now slack and slightly open. Erik didn’t even know how old Peter was.
The plane landed and the teens and Raven filed out to the field where most of the school came out to greet the successful rescue team. There were initially cheers and shouts, but they must have recognized that something was wrong and quieted down. Hank approached Erik, reaching for Peter’s face then dropping his hand before hastily walking out.
“I am so, so sorry, old friend,” Charles whispered. “I know it doesn’t mean anything, but I truly am. I can’t-- I can’t imagine how you feel right now.”
“Nobody can, Charles.”
Charles drew closer and put his hand on Peter’s cheek. He gently rubbed it with his thumb and slid it down and pressed it against Erik’s hand which was bloody and shaking. He squeezed Erik’s hand and left.
“I will talk to the students. Take your time, Erik,” Charles said.
After Charles left, the plane felt empty. Erik slowly bent over and put his arms around the body, hugging Peter. That is when it hit him--Peter would never know what it would feel like to be hugged by Erik. He would never hear the lullaby that Erik sang. He would never learn what Erik’s favorite color is, which was the beautiful color of the dark eyes that both Nina and Peter had. He would never learn to depend on Erik. He would never whine to Erik about having a headache after drinking an entire bottle of whiskey. He would never know how much Erik would grow to love him.
He would never grow old. Neither would Nina.
Erik sobbed. Wailed. Screamed into the nape of Peter’s neck. He gingerly lifted the boy up and hugged him tightly. He carefully leaned the boy’s head against his shoulder so it created the illusion of the boy hugging him. Peter’s body hung loosely and limp in Erik’s arms. Peter wasn’t young, so he did have substantial mass (even with his high metabolism) but he was dead now and lifeless Peter wasn’t heavy at all. There was no resistance, no movement. It was sickening how Peter was so still, when he never had a second of stillness in his life.
When Erik stepped out from the plane, face dirty with dried tear, Hank told that they should put Peter in the morgue. Charles had already contacted Peter’s mother. Erik wasn’t ready to part with Peter just yet, so he sat in the morgue, waiting while Hank washed Peter’s blood off of the body and dried him with a towel. Erik reached over and smoothed a piece of hair that was sticking out.
“Peter’s mother is going to be here in five hours,” said Charles. Erik just held Peter’s hand and nodded. He only let go of the hand once, when Hank had to slip a white sheet over the body.
2. The magnetic field is determined by two things: the direction and the magnitude.
When a person loses his child for the first time, his anger is projected outward. Almost like a bomb. Its trauma and sadness is too much to handle, so the brain copes by turning off most the inhibitions and it results in recklessness and rage. That was Erik when he lost Nina.
When a person loses his child the second time, his anger is projected inward--at himself. While this is much less destructive to other people compared to the first time, it slowly kills the person. He wonders why his children had to die. He wonders if all this time, it was his fault that both of his children died.
For someone as formidable as Erik Lehnsherr, he was too vulnerable and weak to himself.
The first time Charles noticed was when he saw that Erik has not eaten a thing since Peter’s burial. He drank water sometimes, but he did not eat anything. If he got close to food at all, it was when he would stare at the empty space in the pantry where Peter’s snacks used to be stocked up. Erik occasionally smiled. It was the weak smile, the one Charles hated the most, and the smiles were directed only to the young students who unknowingly comforted Erik by leaning against him or sitting on his lap. He was surprisingly good with children. Maybe they reminded him of Nina. It was perhaps because nobody was quite as young as Peter and nobody was quite as old as Peter at the mansion.
Peter’s mother left Erik with Peter’s goggles and his walkman. The rest of his things--records, posters, old worn-out t-shirts--she took home.
“I knew you would do this,” She said with spite. “I told him that you were dangerous, but he never listened.”
Maybe Erik did have a thing for attracting death. Maybe it was too strong with his children around. Maybe death that he attracted never affected him because others died for him. Maybe his attraction to death somehow knew that Peter was his son before Erik did.
The first time Hank noticed was when he found shrapnels of old metal that used to be buried beneath the layer of pebbles and sand Charles laid out years ago for the children’s safety. The metal shavings were scattered along the pathway wherever the layer of protective material was thin enough. This was like Hank when he couldn’t control sprouting blue hair. This was like Jean when she couldn’t keep her power under control and heard every mind in the school and the neighboring cities. This was like Scott before he had the glasses made for him. Erik was losing control of his power.
Erik ate, as per Charles’s orders. The food tasted like sand in his mouth, but he ate nonetheless. Sometimes he sat in the dining hall alone with the half-eaten plate of food in front of him.
He remembered how he felt when Raven told him, that day at the door of the facility. He remembered how his heart sank. He remembered every little detail, down to the feeling of ripping the generator apart and impaling every man that attempted to stop him from going to Peter. He remembered how he despaired and worried that he might be too late. He remembered being too late. That smug grin on Peter’s face that wasn’t smug at all because he was dying . The feeling of Peter struggling to keep his head from flopping over. He remembered, even through the maroon colored armor that he wore, how Peter nuzzled into his chest, whispering “good night”. Erik remembered everything, and that was what hurt the most. Charles refused to take the memories away.
Oh, Erik remembered, Peter said that he fought for his family. Did it include Erik? Did Peter endure the pain of his legs being broken, his power forcefully restrained in for Erik too?
The first time Raven noticed was when Erik sat for hours on the bank of the pond, staring at the trees and the sky every time there was an overcast. He talked out loud, as if there was someone who was sitting next to him. Jean said that he was talking about Nina. The color of her hair, the airy voice she had, the shyness that kept her from making many friends. Jean said that it sounded like Erik was talking to peter. Raven quietly sat behind Erik and watched as he gestured to his side, and acted as though someone could hear him. Not Raven. Not Jean.
Peter was buried behind the mansion, where the sun shone brightly most days and flowers grew beautifully in the spring and summer. Erik did not dare go near the grave.
3. The magnetic compass is known to help lost people find their ways, but what do you do if you are the magnet?
The children at the school were fond of Erik. He spoke to them softly and gently, never reprimanded them for falling down and staining their knees with grass, always smiled and pat them on the head. Sometimes he would hug them, one at a time, squeezing just the right amount for them to feel secure. Then, the children would tell Charles, Erik cried. Not the sobbing or wailing type. The quiet sniffles and wet with tears type.
Erik sometimes stared at Peter’s old walkman. He fiddle with it, and held it in his palms as if he was trying to memorize every crevice, crack, broken pieces. He memorized all of the small bits and pieces of machinery inside, and imagined how it would have worked in Peter’s hands.
It was so odd. Up until Peter’s last minutes, Erik did not know that Peter was his son yet Erik could remember every detail of Peter’s face. His hands. His voice.
Peter’s empty room did not stay empty for too long. Xavier’s school was always receiving students and the empty spots filled up quickly because Charles would turn anyone away. Ororo handed Erik a box. It was small, just the size of Erik’s palm. She told him that Peter used to stuff all of his things in the box.
“It’s mostly just bits and pieces of paper that he liked,” Ororo started. “But it’s, you know, his.”
Erik thanked her and kept it in his drawer, never opening it.
He read stories to children before bedtime. When some of the young ones woke up crying, Erik told Charles to go back to sleep and put the children back to bed, sitting by their bed until they were sound asleep. One day, one of the children told Erik that he was like Peter. Peter used to help them back to bed.
“I miss him,” The child whispered and sniffled a bit before she closed her eyes and quickly fell asleep.
“I miss him too,” Erik said, almost inaudibly and carded his hand through the child’s hair like he used to do with Nina.
Erik slept for only a few hours a day. Maybe he would sleep three hours if he felt some sort of fleeting peace in his heart. With all the time on his hands, however, he never picked up a new hobby. He sat by the pond. He smiled at children. He spoke to Charles. He mostly spent his day on the edge of the forest, looking at his hands, wondering what they were for.
Did his hands kill? Or could they save? The only thing he ever saved was himself.
4. Magnets are complicated things, and it is hard for non-professionals to grasp all of the properties.
Erik was gone two months after Peter’s burial. Some weeks later, Kurt and Scott went to Peter’s grave to weed it, and found a beautifully carved pendant on the gravestone. It was discolored and scratched up, but both Kurt and Scott could tell it was beautiful once and it is beautiful now. Inside were faces of an unknown couple that looked strangely familiar.