A/N: Hello everyone!
About a year ago, I published the fan fiction The Road to Salvation, picturing the events of X-Men: First Class from Erik's point-of-view. I received some amazing reviews and feedback on the story, and with Days of Future Past coming up, it felt only natural to do a follow-up. As it happened, it took a bit longer than I'd originally thought, but here it is at long last: The Road to Redemption.
Thank you all for waiting so patiently, and I really, really hope you enjoy it. Also feel free to leave a review, as those tend to make my day awesome!
Out of all the minds he can no longer shut out, there is one which shines brighter than any other. A mind impossible to ignore, simply because it is not there.
Erik is not there.
Where his mind should be, a clear, shimmering gem among dull pebbles, there is only a void, and while there is nothing Charles wants less than to ever enter Erik's mind again, still there is no mind he would rather feel, touch and know once again.
They did know each other, once. For a short while, ridiculously short, in fact, compared to the impact that time has had on both of their lives, they knew each other more fully, more intimately, than Charles has ever known anyone.
To Erik, Charles was not a threat or an enemy, and to Charles, Erik was not someone who needed protection. They were equals, each capable of standing on his own two feet and yet in appreciation of each other's abilities, and they became friends, brothers: an experience both novel and intoxicating to them both.
When he first picked up on Erik's feelings toward him, Charles had decidedly turned his head to other matters. There were thoughts you could listen in on, mundane everyday-thoughts that everyone had, but then there were thoughts that should always be absolutely private. Erik's feelings constituted such a forbidden territory, and Charles tried to stay out of there.
Not that he was always successful.
For one thing, Charles was becoming increasingly accustomed to Erik's mind. With every thought or memory shared between them, it became easier for Charles to pick up even on those thoughts he was not consciously looking for. The other thing was that he had trouble shutting Erik out in the first place.
Erik was a very, very honest man. His mind was never undecided, always clear and focused, and when he spoke, those words matched his thoughts to a fault. That fault was Charles. Erik kept those thoughts under a tight lid, never voiced them or acted on them, and the difference was so stark that Charles noticed them even more because of it.
At first, Charles had not thought himself to return those feelings – had not, in fact – but found, even so, that he did.
It was on their flying back from Russia, when Erik had given him a refuge from his churning thoughts by offering him to step into Erik's mind instead. It was not the first time Charles had been invited to do so, but this time was different – no memories of war, pain or loss, but instead a soothing lull of vibrating, humming machinery, a sensation of metal as Charles had never experienced it before. As he fell asleep, Charles had also, inadvertently, fallen in love.
There had been no time though.
No time to confront Erik or even to speak his own mind on the matter, not until it was too late to act on it. Even then, he had not managed to say very much at all: all his usual eloquence lost in anger, frustration and fear.
Sometimes, when he was deep in sleep, Charles could still feel the ghost of Erik's mouth on his, the insatiable hunger ravaging his lips and Erik's body pressing down on him, pushing him down into the mattress as their desires melded. He had wanted to surrender then, to give himself up to Erik's mouth and hands and need, but some scholarly part of his mind had made him sit up and walk away. Tomorrow, he had thought, tomorrow, when this is all over, we will have time.
Only when tomorrow came, Erik had betrayed him in more ways than one, and then vanished into thin air, while Charles lay on the ground feeling nothing below his waist and everything above it.
And then he had lost his mind.
Looking back, Charles could see how anyone would have reacted in the same way. To say that he had been caught between a rock and a hard place was a gross understatement: he had been caught between excruciating physical pain and paradoxically the numbness of being unable to feel or move the lower half of his body, waking every night from dreams of walking, running, moving and still being unable to even leave the bed to rinse his face from the cold sweat. No less crippling was the pain of loss, the knowledge that Raven and Erik were gone, gone together, and that there would be no late night talks with them, no watching TV with her or chess games with him. And then there was the doubt, ever gnawing at his mind – maybe Erik had been right. Maybe, if only Charles had stopped to consider all things thoroughly, things would never have turned out the way they did. Maybe he could have prevented it, stopped the whole mess before it ever began. Maybe then, if only he had done those things, he would not be where he is now, trapped in his broken body and erratic mind, bitter and alone.
They are gone now, all but Hank. Fighting someone else's war or searching for their place in the world, but gone all the same. He had thought the school would occupy him, take his mind off the things he had lost. Had thought it would save him as he worked to save others from experiencing the hurt and pain that he himself had never known growing up, but that he had seen and felt through Erik's mind. Now here he is, wounded in more ways than one by pains both real and imagined.
Hank's modified serum is a relief, in every sense of the word. With it, his mind no longer reaches out to the pain of others and when there is no mind besides his own, he is not reminded of those that should be there but are not. When everything is void, their absence is less noticeable, but no easier to endure.
There is no one for him to save, and no one to save him either – and what is there to save anyway?
He roams the halls of the house like a restless ghost, but is unable to enjoy the use of his legs. The world is at his feet, but he needs to stay here, where Hank can supply him with daily injections concocted in the newly erected state of the art laboratory, and besides, there is nowhere he would like to go. Sometimes he dares to go upstairs, to Raven's room, where he looks at her photo albums (silly, because while it shows her as he always knew her, it is not who she is), her trinkets and memorabilia, and wonders where she is and what she is doing and whether he will ever see her again. Once, twice, he enters the room Erik used during that short week so very long ago, sits down on the bed and cries.
Most of the time, he is in his study. Not reading, writing, studying or even really thinking, just sitting, being. Enduring, as hours, days, months and eventually years, pass.