This story was based on this prompt from the 1stclass_kink meme over on LJ:
"Shaw captures and uses Charles to lure Erik to him. At first, he makes Erik watch helplessly as he sexually abuses/tortures Charles. But it doesn't take long before Erik is pushed to the limit when he hears Charles broadcasting his pain."
I started this intending for it to be a 2-3 page, rather porny fanfiction, but it ended up being more of a 29-page roller coaster of suspense, dread, and touching moments. There's some sexual content, yeah, and torture, but it's not really about that so much as about the interactions between the characters themselves.
That said, some important warnings:
There is noncon in here, although it's not explicit.
There is also torture, although it's very polite torture.
I hope you choose to continue reading, and enjoy the ride.
They never saw it coming; sure, Charles and Erik knew they were playing a dangerous game, knew that everything could go horribly wrong, but they'd thought themselves prepared. Hidden. But for all that they boasted mutant pride, the truth was that those who now made their home in Charles' manor still viewed the world in human terms. They didn't account for all the possibilities.
And so it was that Charles had been gone for several hours before anyone really began to get worried. Erik would have liked to believe that he'd been the first to suspect, but the truth was that Sean—Banshee—had to ask him where Charles was before Erik noticed that no, in fact, he hadn't seen him around and didn't know why he had missed the opportunity to push Sean out of a third-story window.
So Erik went to the next person who knew where Charles might be, and asked Raven. She asked Hank and soon enough all of them were in the sitting room, looking around at each other with unsmiling faces.
Charles had vanished.
"Your name is Charles, correct?" The voice was smooth and masculine; eager and, given the circumstances, unnervingly friendly. Shaw went on to remark, "Another telepath. Wow. 'My cup runneth over,' as they say."
Charles watched as the doctor—mad scientist, he thought, although a mad scientist was a silly thing, a grad-school joke, doomsday devices that never got used—paced around him, hands folded at the small of his back, suit immaculate, helmet rather ridiculous. Charles was unbound, standing freely, but he kept still; the only movement he made was to clench and unclench his hands and turn his head. He tried, not for the first time, to access Shaw's mind, but nothing had changed. His thoughts rolled off like water.
"Nothing to say?" Shaw asked. He sounded genuinely curious. "I've heard you were quite the witty one."
Charles lifted his chin a fraction of a centimeter. "I'm just waiting for you to do something other than state the obvious." He was, in fact, terrified; he was not so proud that he couldn't admit it to himself.
Shaw scared him, of course, but the room—which Charles was taking great pains not to examine too closely—frightened him more. It was, as far as he would let himself observe, a dark parody of a doctor's office, or possibly a morgue. There was a slick steel table, gleaming metal knives, sterile white cabinets, and even, he saw with a flash of panicked amusement, a bright orange sharps disposal box. All that metal; for the first time, Charles wished he had Erik's power. Better yet, he wished he had Erik.
The worst part, however, was the walls. They were flawless, seamless mirrors, and he couldn't sense anything through them. That, combined with Shaw's absurd but effective helmet, left Charles' mind silent. It was like being dead.
Shaw circled closer, the dark of his suit making him the natural focal point of the room. Blades reflected his shadow as he passed, and in the mirrored floor his reflection's shoes held the doctor from falling into the endless abyss. "Very well then," Shaw granted. "What would you like me to say that wouldn't be obvious? I could start with where you are, or why you're here." He smiled brightly. "Ask."
Charles exhaled very slowly, considering. Then, refusing to be baited, he inquired, "How did you find me?"
"Oh," Shaw breathed. "I can't take the credit for that. Still, poor question. You're a telepath. You know I have another telepath with me. You can locate people, so it stands to reason that Ms. Frost can do the same. Once we knew where you were, it was a simple matter for someone who can teleport to bring you here. Now ask me why."
Charles remained resolutely silent. He remembered the shock of red hands seizing him from behind; the darkening of his vision as they dissolved into nothingness; the vertigo as they reappeared here, in this room, and then the panic as he found himself totally alone for the first time since he had been a young child.
"Oh, Charles," Shaw chided, pouting mockingly. "So stubborn. Fine. I'll ask." Composing himself so that he appeared to loom proudly, pressing his lips into a fine, disapproving line, he asked in a flawless imitation of Charles' accent: "Why, Dr. Shaw, for what purpose have you brought me here?" Then he broke character and grinned. "There, was that so hard?"
Shaw turned and stared into the mirrored wall, his eyes glinting back at Charles. He picked up a sterile scalpel blade, still wrapped in its packaging, and turned it over in his fingers without opening it. "The truth is, Charles, I didn't bring you here for your sake, precisely. I'll admit: I only want you because of who you know. Still, that doesn't mean we can't enjoy each others' company until then, does it?"
The moment Shaw set down the scalpel, Charles struck; he knew he would likely only have the one chance, so as he lunged forward he directed all of his strength into the fist he threw at Shaw's left kidney, channeling all of his fear and anger.
His fist struck home, but rather than the satisfying crunch of a monster's vital organs beneath a shock of force and a struggle for Shaw's helmet, Charles felt his arm slow inches from contact with the doctor's suit, then finally halt with his knuckles barely brushing fabric. His arm felt weak and numb.
Shaw turned to Charles and grasped his wrist with gentle hands. "My power is to absorb and re-emit energy, Charles. Including kinetic energy." His smile turned brittle and unpleasant. "I'm sure you know that the human body draws power from combustion reactions. Well, so do I."
Shaw squeezed his hands over Charles' wrist and then let go as the telepath gasped, his face turning an ashen gray and his legs collapsing under him. He sagged to the ground, vision narrowing to small window of light, struggling to remain conscious.
"I don't care what happens to you," Shaw continued without pausing to admire his handiwork. "I have no strong desire to hurt you, but I won't care if I have to, either. I only want Erik."
He stepped over to Charles and lifted him up by the front of his shirt with preternatural strength, holding the telepath face-to-face so that Charles could satisfy himself that Shaw was being entirely, dangerously serious. "How you handle yourself will be up to you," the doctor advised. "If, when he comes for you, you look worse than you feel, you will have won. On the other hand, if you insist on showing strength, I'll have to ensure that you look just as bad regardless of your heroics. It's your choice."
With that, he tossed Charles onto the steel table with the ease of someone throwing a discarded jacket over the back of a chair, and by the time Charles' head had stopped spinning, the room was empty. He was alone with his thoughts.
Erik knew firsthand how hard it was to find Shaw when the doctor didn't want to be found. He looked to the task before him and thought of all those years spent following rumor to rumor, threatening, cajoling, killing; those things took work, but not only work. They required him to know every duplicitous strand of Shaw's great web of business partners, former employees, and drinking buddies.
He found himself going over that web in his mind and realizing that, in the weeks since he'd last taken it out and groomed over it, the strands had grown dusty and disused. Many were missing entirely, torn with neglect. The spider at the center was nowhere to be seen.
So it was with dismay that Erik set to retrieving atlases from Charles' library, recalling coordinates of past sightings, and making soft-voiced phone calls he wouldn't allow the others to overhear.
He was surprised when, as he reached yet again for the telephone, it rang of its own volition. Erik paused as it lapsed into silence, and then snatched it as the phone began its second ring. Perhaps one of his informants had remembered something useful.
"Hello?" he inquired, preparing to be deluged with quivering pleas for mercy and assurances of the caller's usefulness.
"Erik," the voice at the other end breathed. Erik froze, his knuckles white against the phone, eyes distant as if he could see, somewhere in the distance, where Shaw spoke into his own telephone "By now you know that I have Charles. I know you're looking for me, and I'm prepared to tell you where I am."
"Where," Erik growled, not feeling disposed toward pleasantries.
"Your anger is as refreshingly honest as ever, Erik," Shaw told him, "but I'm afraid it's a little more complicated than that. You're going to come alone, you won't be able to use your powers against me, and you're going to make a choice."
"Where are you?" Erik repeated, freely allowing his scorn to seep through the mouthpiece.
"All in good time," Shaw promised. "As you know, I have Charles, and I suspect he may be in a bad way soon. How bad, exactly, depends on how quickly you arrive, but once you're here, you can choose to send him on his way if you like. I'll never trouble him again, and you'll stay by my side, helping me with my goals. I don't believe they're so different from yours, after all."
Fury burst like lightning behind Erik's eyes. "I'll never work with you," he hissed.
"Fair enough," Shaw remarked, his voice light and careless. "Then when you come to visit you may watch what I do to your friend before he dies. He is your friend, isn't he? I understand you've had very little time for that sort of thing in the years since you abandoned me."
Erik held in his breath, silent; every part of him wanted to lash out, to tell Shaw to go fuck himself, to find Shaw and make a crater in the ground a mile across, to rip him apart with the powers he had awaked. Every part of him, except for one traitorous little corner of his mind that pointed out that he could never live with himself if he left Charles to Shaw's mercy, or allowed him to be killed in the course of his retribution.
He exhaled, forcing the rage back, into the deep pit where he kept it when he had no use for its claws. "Where should I go?" he asked.
"Ah, good, you do still have manners. Not far, to answer your question; there is an abandoned salt mine in the upper peninsula of Michigan…" Shaw explained how Erik should come to him as he listened mutely, eyes narrowed. Erik didn't need to write down the directions for how to reach Shaw, because he always had room in his memory when it came to revenge. What he needed, but couldn't ask for, was a path for getting out again, Charles at his side.
Every movement Charles made caused his head to swim dangerously, but he slid himself off of the table as soon as he was able, cringing at his bruises. He guessed that this was a preview of how he'd feel when he was eighty, tottering around sore and weary, but the humor vanished as the tip of one shoe caught on the other and nearly sent him sprawling.
Charles grasped for the edge of the table and hung for a moment, panting, before he could lever himself up again. He strained to hear if anyone was coming, strained to feel if anyone was coming, but there was nothing but the anticipatory silence of a room with intent, and the harsh noises of his own breathing as Charles' body fought to fuel its cells. He felt cold and sick, but he forced himself to ignore it because he was sure, despite his current inability to read any mind that mattered, that he'd feel more than just ill if he did nothing.
Finally he was close enough to the counter to throw himself at it, and once there Charles propped himself up and snatched at the packaged scalpel Shaw had set down on a little metal tray. He felt for the sharp end and tore at the paper with fussy fingers and short nails, until he could peel back the wrapping just enough to expose the blade.
Then, with a last glance around the room, Charles stepped back to the table and sank to the floor, leaning back against the solid pedestal beneath the narrow sheet of steel. Setting the partially opened scalpel on his knee, Charles folded up the hem of his sweater vest all the way around his torso, forming a sort of narrow pocket. He tucked the knife in over his belly, which was just flat enough to hide the stiff outline of his weapon.
These actions nearly drew out the last of his energy, and the telepath let his head drop back against the table with a thump. Charles' eyes fluttered closed, but just for a few seconds, because he couldn't afford to rest.
There was a bright light in the center of the ceiling, its light reflected over and over in the mirrored walls and various instruments of what would, in a kinder world, be medicine. Its brilliance was offensive in its intensity, and it bleached out any errant color, but Charles turned his attention to it for a different reason.
In order to work, the light needed electricity, and in order to transmit electricity, there needed to be wires. Wires required holes; only small holes, true, but if there was a chance—
Charles pushed his awareness at a gap in the room's defenses that he only hoped was real, and was rewarded with a flicker of mental sound so faint as to be despairing in its uselessness. Still, it was something, and Charles intended to use it to his advantage if he could. So, frowning with concentration, he focused on refining his reed straw, on making a message narrow enough to pass through the tiny gap and reach its recipient.
The sound of thoughts and feelings rose to a sudden crescendo, and Charles had a moment of fleeting, irrational certainty that somehow he was able to overcome the limitations of his narrow capacity to influence the outside world, that against all odds he could reach his powers through an electrical socket and still be a force to be reckoned with, but reality slid into his awareness with the hushed whisper of an opening door and the sharp noise of dress shoes on glass.
Shaw had returned.
The things that Erik took with him were few in number. He wore casual clothing: just his black pants, black turtleneck, and leather jacket. The pants and jacket pockets he stocked with screws and nails, but only because it would look suspicious if he arrived without a weapon. He carried cash for food and for buying a flight to Madison, because he knew without checking that no one in New York flew to the upper peninsula of Michigan. From there, an airfield Shaw had specified, where a pilot waited to fly him into the deep woods of the Canadian Shield.
Erik also brought with him a single silver coin, not for spending.
He considering bringing help, and if he had been planning to raid the place, he would have; Erik was, however, walking in openly, commanded to come alone, and he trusted Shaw's depravity enough to know that there would be consequences for Charles if he didn't. The kids were loud and unsubtle, with the possible exception of Raven, but even if she hid herself well he would still give her away with his mind.
Still, Erik paused for long enough to scribe a note and close it gently between the pages of the atlas he'd been consulting. If Raven found it and followed, it would be a welcome surprise.
He looked one last time around the library, and breathed in the scent of books and wood as if gathering it to his chest for protection. Then Erik left.
Charles rose to his feet with a resolve he didn't feel, determined not to greet his captor from the floor. He cast his mind back through the entryway, found someone nearby, and took over their consciousness—but even as he did Charles felt his control slipping away, his mark growing confused and rebellious, and then the door was closed and there was silence.
Except for Shaw.
"Ah, Charles, you seem to have recovered quickly," the doctor remarked brightly. "You look a little gray, though. You'll be glad to know that Erik seemed very happy to hear you were alive, and between you and me, I think he'll choose to let you live when he gets here. At the expense of staying himself, of course."
"You don't think he'll kill you?" Charles asked, voice flat and incredulous.
A flicker of doubt seemed to flash across Shaw's obscured face before his confidence re-established itself. "Now, Charles, no need to be a—" His eyes darted down to the tray on the counter and he frowned. "Give me the knife, Charles."
Normally, the telepath would have reached out, touched Shaw's mind to decide his course of action; faced with a blind choice, Charles paused, unsure whether to lie or hand over the scalpel. For a moment he nearly panicked, every muscle screaming to lash out and attack, but he stilled his hands before he could make that mistake. Shaw would know that he was lying; Charles rankled at falling for the trap, realizing in hindsight that the scalpel had clearly been a test.
Slowly, deliberately, Charles drew the blade out of his vest and held it out, keeping his face carefully blank.
"Thank you," Shaw said, retrieving it. He examined the scalpel for a moment, his lips thinning in faint disapproval. "This isn't sterile anymore," he commented, and tucked it into his pocket.
Charles felt a moment of relief, assured by that familiar sentiment, but his throat caught as Shaw held out his hand once more. "That's all I had," he protested, mouth drying as if it knew something he didn't.
"Your hand, Charles," Shaw clarified, beckoning impatiently with his fingers.
The telepath stared at Shaw's hand for a second and then reached out his own hesitantly, as if he were placing it into a bear trap. But the doctor's grasp was gentle, almost reverent, and Charles shivered.
"You've never been hurt by anyone, have you?" Shaw asked, a faint note of amazement in his words. "At least, not badly."
Charles didn't reply, but his confusion must have been evident, because Shaw gave his fingers a little squeeze to illustrate his point. "You gave me your dominant hand, Charles. Either you knew I wouldn't take the other, or you're so trusting that it didn't even cross your mind."
Clearing his throat, Charles tugged at his hand, carefully so as not to provoke Shaw. "Could I have it back, please?"
Shaw peered into Charles' eyes and shook his head, smiling as if he'd seen some exotic African bird on his back porch. "Marvelous," he whispered. "I almost hope I get to keep you. But to answer your question, no, I'm afraid not, and perhaps you will learn a lesson from this."
He pulled Charles a little closer, still clasping his hand firmly, his expression mentorly. "Do you know how much energy the earth receives from the sun, Charles?"
"Not precisely, no," the telepath replied, keeping his voice steady, beginning to suspect where this was going.
"It's the equivalent of more than six and a half million Hiroshima bombs per hour," Shaw explained, his smile turning worshipful. "All that energy, raining down on us all day, most of it unused. You can imagine that for me, it is a veritable feast."
Charles' hand began to feel very warm where Shaw's fingers touched him, and there was sweat there; his own, he thought. "I'd like my hand back, please," he repeated, more insistently.
Shaw's eyes had no warmth at all in them any more. "Let me show you the sun, Charles," he urged, leaning forward; and then Charles' hand was burning and he made no attempt to be polite, just pulled and pulled at his hand, grabbing his own wrist for better leverage; but Shaw didn't move an inch and he just stood there watching Charles, a small joyless smile on his face, and good god, was that the feel of his skin peeling off?
Finally the doctor let him go, and Charles, suddenly freed, stumbled back into the table, catching himself before he could fall, cradling his hand near his chest but unable to touch it. His skin, he saw with relief, was still there, but it was an angry red and already starting to blister.
Sneering a little, Shaw backed away and adjusted his sleeves. "They're only second-degree burns, Charles," he chided. "Have a little composure. In about two weeks you'll hardly be able to see them any more."
Charles gritted his teeth and forced himself to let go of his wrist and stand up straight. "I'm beginning to understand how Erik came to be as he is," he remarked, and it wasn't a compliment.
Shaw's smile was fond. "Now, that was a much more elaborate project than this."
"Is that how you view this?" Charles asked, accusatory. "As work?"
The smile faded. "Of course," Shaw replied. "It's the most difficult work; that of molding a human being to your desires. You fail to appreciate the control I have here, Charles; for instance, that burn on your hand is even, superficial, and in the long run, harmless. That's because I have control; a control Erik has barely mastered. Just imagine how bad it might have been for you if you'd succeeded at striking me with that scalpel—why, if I were like Erik, you'd have no hand left at all."
Shaw began to unbutton his coat, and caught Charles' suspicious scrutiny. "This is hot work," he explained with a grin. "I don't want to stain my jacket."
The last of the moisture in Charles' mouth seemed to evaporate. "You can't burn my entire body," he pointed out.
"No?" the doctor asked, looking curious. "And why not?"
His breath caught before Charles realized that Shaw was only fishing for an answer. "Because you don't want to cause permanent damage," he replied. "Burned skin is vulnerable to infection, which could disfigure or kill me."
"Good point," Shaw conceded, folding his jacket over the arm of a mobile operating tray, his voice perfectly neutral. "But why wouldn't I want to you to be disfigured?"
Charles paused, and watched the doctor's hands as they ghosted over several sharp instruments, touching none of them. "I don't know. Why?"
"Taking the easy way out, are you?" Shaw remarked, but continued patiently, "When Erik comes, he'll know that your injuries are superficial. He'll also know that they're causing you great pain, and the poor man with his poor, atrophied heart will think that he's being heroic when he gives himself over to me to set you free. Then, after a few weeks go by, I'll show him a photo of you, all healed up and healthy, and Erik will be satisfied that he made the right decision."
The doctor disclosed all of this with an attitude of supreme genius, and Charles couldn't help but gape a little in disbelief, understanding fully, for the first time, that Shaw truly believed that his plan was infallible, and that Erik was only a lost little boy throwing a temper tantrum. This was not, however, the sort of madness that could be reasoned with, so Charles held his tongue.
Shaw walked over to the edge of the steel table and pulled out a shelf, exactly the same as a real doctor's office table, and Charles had to stop himself from giving into high, strained peals of laughter at Shaw's very professional gesture instructing him to sit.
The doctor must have seen some of this untimely mirth on Charles' face, because he frowned. "Do take a seat, Charles," he insisted. "I assure you, this part will hurt very little."
"If I'm good, will you give me a sticker?" Charles retorted, nearly crossing his arms before his hand gave another sharp throb in warning.
Shaw did not appear to find this amusing. "No," he said. "But I might only break a few of your ribs."
Charles was beginning to see how this was, indeed, not very funny at all, so he stepped up onto the rubber grain of the shelf and perched at the edge of the table, which was very hard and uncomfortable against the bruises he had sustained from contact with that same surface earlier. He immediately missed being on his feet.
The doctor pulled over the operating tray and reached into his jacket pocket, retrieving the scalpel. He stripped off the paper wrapping and let it flutter down into the garbage bin.
The light caught at the blade from every angle. "I thought you'd decided that it wasn't sterile any more," Charles commented as casually as he was able, watching as Shaw adjusted his grip on it.
"It's not, really," Shaw acknowledged, and smiled, "but then, who's keeping track? Well, you are, of course, but don't worry. I'm sure you know of dozens of grad students who paw all over equipment that's meant to be sterile." Shaw reached his free hand out to Charles' head.
The telepath leaned back, otherwise keeping still. "Yes, and most of them ended up with contaminated samples in one way or another."
Shaw dropped his hand back to his leg and chuckled. "Oh, Charles; I respect that you don't attempt to scream and hit at me, but you must know that shying away isn't going to help you either." He stepped forward swiftly and caught the back of Charles' neck, his thumb pressing in below the telepath's ear and forcing his face up into the light.
The doctor's voice dropped to a murmur. "This is a very delicate business, you see," he said, looking over Charles' features with a critical eye, "and I would hate to cut anything vital. This," he waggled the blade close to Charles' face, "is very sharp, remember."
The scalpel blade flickered out, and Charles felt the impact more than anything, and then a wet trickle working its way down the side of his neck. A moment later, a dull ache set in. "There, you see," Shaw breathed, looking into Charles' wide blue eyes, "barely any pain at all."
It took an extraordinarily long time for Shaw to make what must have only been a half dozen small cuts to his face, each one apparently factoring into some grander composition that the doctor had in mind. He had, however, told the truth, and compared to the burning of Charles' hand it hardly hurt at all, except for a snag of pain as Shaw nicked his ear, and the stinging sensation of blood dripping into his left eye from a shallow cut over his eyebrow.
Then, with careful consideration, Shaw took his thumb and smeared it over Charles' skin, daubing some of it onto his pale blue shirt. He stepped back and observed his work. "Good," he commented. "Head wounds bleed a lot. We'll let those go for a while before I stitch them up. Especially the ear; that'll make a nice little notch unless we get it closed."
Charles rolled his neck hesitantly and brought his undamaged hand up to his face to wipe his eye. He stared at his fingers mutely, licking his dry lips as he tried to reconcile the brightness of the blood with Shaw's cavalier mood, able to conclude only that, truly, the doctor was mad.
"Now, you may want to get on the floor," Shaw advised, his manner all fatherly concern.
Charles gazed at him in shock. "Whatever for?" he asked, his bloodied fingers hanging guiltily before him, like those of a child who'd snuck his fingers into the frosting.
The doctor shrugged, scraping beneath his fingernails with a bit of his shirt. "You can start out there of your own will, or you'll end up there when I hit you. I thought it might be a bit less embarrassing if you just laid yourself down." He gave Charles a slightly awkward smile, as if he were terribly sorry for the inconvenience he was causing the telepath.
Charles just couldn't think of an answer to that, so he wasn't very surprised when the flat of Shaw's hand collided with his face, enough force behind it to send him crashing to the floor. Now the cuts on his face hurt, as they tore along the edges and sent fresh blood pattering onto the mirror below. Charles stared at the splatters dimly, his head reeling and his stomach roiling, his thoughts turning, unavoidably, to how unpredictable people were when he couldn't read their minds.
Then Shaw's perfectly shined shoe found his ribcage, and Charles didn't even think to throw in a plea for mercy among the litany of noises he made as Shaw fulfilled his earlier promise: he only broke a few of Charles' ribs.