Author's note: I may be a total nerd (geek? *insert correct terminology*) but I thought this movie was fantastic. Everything Magneto resonated so much with me, and Charles Xavier was done masterfully - I never even liked that character before (though Patrick Stewart was pretty good), but James McAvoy did an amazing job. Of course the end just about broke my heart and I'm imagining five different AUs as we speak, but what can you do. Actually, if anyone knows of any particularly good story with these two (preferably epic and preferably not slash, but I'll take what I can get), can you please let me know? I'll be forever grateful!
As for this, I am planning on making it a two-shot, depending on how long it'll take for the next chapter to be written. In the meantime, please read. I hope you'll approve.
I hurt myself today, to see if I still feel
An exercise in tragedy:
Imagine, for a moment, your parents disappearing in front of your eyes. It is, if unfair and cruel, a somewhat natural progression. You are hardly alone in your pain.
But add to that a sister, a brother. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins. Add to that your friends, your neighbors, their neighbors, the tailor and the blacksmith and the butcher and the rabbi. Add to that your teacher, your principal, the beggar who always smiled with crooked teeth and the girl who always gave him money. Remember that each of them has family and acquaintances, and recall them in their entirety, just as they were when you saw them - the husband, the wife, the elderly aunt, the doddering infant. Leave no one behind.
Now march them in a line, all of them, everyone you ever knew, and shave their heads bald. Turn their faces drawn and pale, see their arms and legs become nothing more than bone wrapped in skin. Take off their clothes, the opulent and tattered alike. Grant each one a number in their arm, a tally like cattle because they are not like the others, they are no longer people, and instead of millions suffering they are as one animal in pain.
Mark them in your mind, and let them perish, whether by fire or starvation, disease or poisonous smoke. Be creative. Let them each see the worthless death of another, the young before the old, the loud before the weak, the cheerful before the desperate. Turn them against each other, against themselves. Against their God. And be generous. Give one a bullet hole, another a broken neck. Bury each one in an unmarked grave, or in a mass grave - let them dig it first, of course - or save the effort, and leave them where they fall. Set them on fire too, if you'd like. It hardly matters once they're dead.
Then stand there over the nameless ash, the abused wreckage of human bodies. Listen closely to the silent prayers, the deadened screams. Watch the smoke curl and dance into the air.
And ask yourself -
Why are you still here?
"Drei," Schmidt says, and his mother drops. She's a short woman, it barely takes an instant - Erik doesn't have even have a chance to turn around in time, doesn't get to see the light flicker off in her eyes quickly, decidedly, like the trigger of a gun. There's never enough time to say goodbye to a parent, but Erik Lehnsherr and his mother don't have enough time to even say the words, useless as they'd be. She falls so fast.
She falls so damn fast.
Everything's all right. Everything's all right -
In Erik's dreams, she falls forever.
When the war is over, Erik finds himself in northern France. He lives his life from forest to forest, gutter to gutter; stealing an apple here, a loaf of bread there, even once (by happy, happy accident) an entire pot of soup. The pot is heavy - Erik hobbles with it, his arms straining from the weight, and the soup sloshes between his legs as he sprints, spilling bits of carrot and potatoes over the sides.
He doesn't care.
Food has never been so plentiful.
He steals aboard a cargo ship headed for England. It isn't difficult, really, he's become accustomed to being invisible, to exist only in shadows. Perhaps too accustomed - he wakes up in a crate to the sound of a horn blowing, a feeling of dread crawling up his stomach as he realizes they'd already docked and left port. But his feet don't make a sound as he runs along the deck, he doesn't cry out when his bare feet stumble over a jutting nail, and he holds his breath and dives just before the light-studded coast again disappears. The fall feels like eternity; someone shouts behind him as he hits water, but whether it is in anger or concern there's no way to tell. A heavy, muffled silence surrounds him now, the yell is cut off and lost.
Anger, he thinks vaguely hours later, and coughs up dirty water onto the wooden floorboards.
For all its poverty - the dirty alleys, the begging veterans, the distinct and all-too-common stench of something rotting - London gives Erik his first glimpse of extravagance. He's never seen so many shops and people and bars, so many (useless) things to buy and refuse, and the first time he sees a car on the road, Erik stops mid-stride and simply stares.
He's seen cars before, of course. Back in the ghetto you could always see the Nazis make their rounds in armored jeeps, and every so often Erik and his friends would sneak away to the roofs in order to catch a glimpse of tanks in the distance. Shaw had one too - a car, not a tank - but it was nothing like Erik's ever seen, white and sleek and curvy instead of khaki with sharp edges. Erik used to dream of crumpling that hated thing with Shaw inside it, but when Shaw disappeared so did the car.
But London is different. Here there's no quiet rumble of wheels and scattering of stones on pavement, framed by scared murmurs and sharp rapports and the screams of the dead; the silence is instead filled with loud curses and insistent honking and the frivolous revving of engines. Here there's always more than one car on the road, and when they're not sitting in traffic, the drivers barely seem to look where they're going, let alone mark whether people (Juds) are where they're supposed to be. It's different here - no one's supposed to be anywhere, as long wherever they turn out to be is legal, of course, and not someone else's property.
At first Erik is sure that whoever owns a car must be royalty, or at the very least involved in the military. That makes sense to him - after all, that is what he knows. But one day, several weeks after he almost drowns swimming the English Channel at night, he is walking up the street, and hears laughter.
It hasn't been quite that long since the war; sounds of mirth and joy sound strange when not following a gunshot. He turns.
The make of the car, Erik will never discover - in his memory it will simply remain as a blurry streak of pale blue, gleaming in the light even though really the day was cloudy (it always is in London) and there was no sun in sight. The driver is a young man driving haphazardly, his clothes starched and ironed by a caring hand, his one arm out the window while he has barely a finger on the wheel. Erik can't help thinking that he's just the right build for factory work. Crammed into the car with him are five others, three girls and two boys, all somewhat younger with careless white faces, and despite the years and the miles he thinks to himself with the judging eye of a Jew from Auschwitz, they'd never last.
He hates himself instantly for the thought.
The boys whoop as they stand precariously on the backseat of the car, the girls shriek with giddy fright and attempt to pull them back down, and Erik doesn't understand why they look so foreign, so wrong, until he suddenly realizes that this is what it is to not be afraid.
It is such a different world than the one he knows. For these... these children - for they are just that, children - there is no fear but the one before exhilaration, and tempting fate is an adventure, not a daily routine.
Somehow, despite the shadows he follows (that follow him) Erik catches the eye of one of the girls. Her face will forever stay clear in his memory - the merry freckles, the too-wide smile, the twinkle of mischief in brown (or are they hazel?) eyes... and the way it all seemed to vanish, the girl's grin slowly disappearing into a pale and silent frown. She stares at him as if she can see where he came from, who he is, as if she sees his mother dying before him and the ghetto gates crumple under a power he didn't even know he had.
It's only a moment, brief and transitory, and soon enough one girl elbows her side and one boy tousles her hair - she yelps and swats at him fiercely with a dainty, milky white hand that has never dug a grave.
Erik stares, chest aching empty, and for the first time in forever, he feels unforgivably sixteen. He looks at everything he doesn't have, will never have, and becomes horribly aware of his tattered rags, his overgrown feet; the thick layers of dirt and grime that envelops every inch of his skin, the pronounced dark circles under his eyes from too many nightmares and too little sleep (he has little enough to steal, but then he'd hardly be the first one to have his throat slit for sleeping in the wrong place at the wrong time). He looks at her and can't remember the last time he laughed, the last time he took a risk because it was fun and not because he had nothing to lose.
His mind takes him back to before the war, to his friends in the ghetto (their names already escape him), the cramped little room his family shared with two other families (who?). The little moments, the ones that are the most important, have already begun to leave him. He can't remember what it was like before, what he was like before.
The car sputters out of sight all too soon. He stands there, frozen, Schmidt's coin burning in his pocket.
The anger is always, always there, but it's only in England that Erik begins to grasp what it costs him.
Later, he thinks that if only he'd been angry enough, he could have forced that car still, could have talked to the girl and tried to find out why she could see right through him even though she knows how to laugh like he never did.
There was anger even so, of course - anger at the unfairness of it all, everything that he will never have and everything only other people can afford to be. But the emotion that accompanies that memory is not anger.
It is nostalgia, it is regret.
It is shame.
He came to England to escape the war, what remnants of it are left. He doesn't remember the name of the small town in Germany he and his parents had called home, and wouldn't have come back even if he did. He doesn't keep the Sabbath or the three high holidays, and doesn't enter a single synagogue. He doesn't want to see other survivors, afraid that the horrors haunting their eyes will reflect the horrors haunting his.
He hides the numbers on his arm, and never, ever takes a train.
The first car Erik steals is blue. It doesn't mean anything.
It crashes very well.
Again, Schmidt says, matter-of-fact, and even though Erik's lifted a bike, once, even though he can do much more than this, really, he feels his eyes water as the coin stays exactly where it is.
The man sighs - I don't have another mother for you to kill, Erik, so your cooperation will be appreciated very much, in fact - and he makes a gesture to the side, and suddenly she's there, smiling as she's crying and lighting Shabbas candles and getting shot with a gun and disappearing because she was never there, she was never there, she's dead and Schmidt killed her.
How about someone else then, Schmidt says, and there are lines of people he doesn't know, lines that stretch out to eternity.
He turns to Schmidt, horrified, but Schmidt isn't really there, either, because Schmidt is gone and Erik hasn't even tried to find him, and instead the man with the coin and the glasses and the well-made suit is wearing Erik's face, just like all those people are wearing his mother's.
Again, that Erik says expressionlessly, and there's a shot.
Years pass. He keeps to himself, and speaks only enough to get by at the odd job he has here and there. His English is good; his French, better. He has few acquaintances, and learns to pave his way through the masses by sheer form and bluster - he is invisible, not inconsequential.
He leaves England - it is far too easy there. He has gotten fat and soft, eating every day, and too many people look at him with pity, as though he is a poor orphan in need of help when he is a grown man in need of a murder. That help is becoming harder and harder to turn down, however, and he must turn it down. He has to get stronger.
It is past time to start hunting down his mother's killer, his creator.
His Dr. Frankenstein.
Erik hates Russia, but it does have excellent weapons.
It's been long enough since the war, he decides, and on a whim, he finds himself in Israel. It is a struggling but flourishing country, full of his people, and despite the constant danger they continue to laugh and shout and curse as if they can never be silenced, when the past has proven otherwise far too many times. Some distant part of Erik's mind finds it fascinating, glorious that despite everything, some embers still burn brightly. (Another one wonders, how can they forget?)
The rest of him focuses on learning what he can from Mossad.
Sometimes Erik thinks that Israel is a land of journalists; there are so many newspapers, in so many languages, and it would be tedious except it really is an excellent method of practicing his Russian, his English, his French. He only reads the first page, usually - he has better things to do, and it is enough for him to know whether there is or isn't another war.
But one Saturday - Shabbas, his mother had called it, but here it is Shabbat - Erik sits at a cafe by the beach in Tel Aviv, unfolds a French newspaper, and allows himself for once to relax.
Soon enough, his fingers clench onto the paper as if of their own volition. He sits up rigidly, feels his face numb and stiffen.
Because there are... there are pages. Pages upon pages upon pages of have you seen Isak Mendlesohn? and Looking for Anne Gershkoff from Debika who was in Treblinka and I am the mother of Breta and Shmuel Frenkel, please tell me about my children - and it goes on and on, survivors reaching out to survivors, family to family, lover to lover. Each one hoping against hope, against desperation, trying their hardest to fight the horrible reality that they are all that remain.
That they are alone.
He stares at the ads blindly, throat tightening. The sound of the Mediterranean breaking onto the shore drowns out all other noise.
...Erik has watched everyone he loved die in front of his eyes.
There is no one to hope for.
In Spain, Erik kills a man.
It is the first time it is intentional.