A/N: This is nonstop angst. No fluff, period.
Warnings: language, some imagery that may be disturbing, serious angst, Charles/Erik, mentions of very slight Charles/Moira, mentions of Alex/Charles friendship. Set five years after First Class, in late 1967. Charles and Erik were lovers in First Class but they have not had any contact in those five years. Also, this totally ignores the other X-Men movies and comics.
Disclaimer: If I owned X-Men and put this in a movie, I'd have fangirls outside my house with torches.
There were some things in life, Erik Lehnsherr found, that still blew his mind, even months or years after the fact; simple occurrences that had always been difficult to wrap his head around, no matter in what situation or under what circumstances he recalled them. Why he could not move a coin as a child, when not even twenty years later he was able to turn a giant satellite around from many miles away. How Sebastian Shaw could look into the eyes of a frightened child and murder his innocent mother. Why a stray bullet had to connect with one of the few spots where it could cause life-altering damage. And perhaps the most confusing of all – why Charles Xavier looked even more handsome in his coffin than he ever had in his life.
Really, Erik thought to himself numbly, he looks no different. Just colder and paler. Then again, Charles had always had fair skin, and when paired with his light blue eyes it looked even paler. But now, there was something oddly more beautiful about him – his dark hair had been combed perfectly, the light gray suit he was wearing was the perfect color on him, and there was a small, benign smile on his face. (Erik wondered musingly if they could have arranged his features that way, or if Charles had really died with such a passive look on his face. He wouldn't be at all surprised if that was the case.)
He only looks more attractive to you because you can't have him now, Erik told himself dully, but with insight that was almost frightening (it was a startlingly Charles-y thing to think). Because now he is dead and you will never see him or touch him or listen to him speak ever again. You will never hear him telling you to calm your mind, or kiss his lips. Because soon enough they will close this box and put him in the ground, and he will be gone forever.
Erik felt strangely off-kilter, not as if he were going to spontaneously burst into tears or start screaming and breaking everything made of metal he was within range of, but rather as if he would faint, like he would just collapse here by Charles's body and slip into a coma. He supposed it was just shock talking, but he kind of liked the idea – to fall here to the ground and die on the floor next to Charles, who was already gone and smiling with such enlightenment that Erik felt as though he was standing beside the body of a fallen angel, lowered from Heaven and now lifted back up to his rightful place. But Erik did not believe in Heaven (although the idea of Hell often lingered in his mind), and he did not think Charles did, either. But if there was a Heaven, then that was where Charles would be, looking down from his perch with quiet, saintly despair as Erik suffered and toiled in Hell as his people had suffered and toiled in camps almost thirty years before.
Surprising himself, Erik reached out and lightly ran his fingers over the shiny, wooden coffin. His people had not been given coffins; they had been thrown into holes and ovens, nothing but useless, wasted bodies then. And here was Charles, handsome, healthy, beautiful, in his box of dark mahogany wood and satin pillows. But the thought of Charles just being thrown into a trench made his heart feel cold and icy, as though plunged, still beating, into an arctic river, and Erik was glad for the box – it was something to protect Charles from the dirt and the cold.
He was sure there was something he was supposed to do or say – a prayer? A motion? – but he had long forgotten the habits of the Jewish people (he only recalled that he was one of them, and when he forgot that he simply looked at the numbers on his arm and he remembered), and he had no idea what the Christians did – should he cross himself? No, Charles wasn't a Catholic, Charles wasn't even religious. Perhaps he should throw some sort of pagan ritual the way the ancient Greeks would have done (Charles had always been fascinated with mythology), but he was not quite that crazy yet.
Just then, someone spoke behind him. "Don't you dare touch him. I'll kill you, I swear."
Erik tensed, his breath hitching in his chest, and then turned, raising his hand from where it rested on Charles's coffin. He had thought himself to be perfectly alone in Charles's study, where they had lain out the body, and he had not seen the dark figure in the corner – indeed, he had not noticed anything upon his entry except for Charles's face, just visible over the rim of the box.
Erik didn't recognize the man at first, but then he stepped into the light drifting in through the window.
"Alex," he said, more than a little stunned, but only showing slight surprise on his face. The mutant's face was a ravaged mess – there was a big gash over most of it, and along his neck were little cuts, as though someone had taken a shard of glass and just toyed with it over his flesh before slitting across his face viciously. The pretty-boy seemed to have died in whatever accident caused the injuries, leaving behind a scarred young man with gray eyes that burned with a fiery intensity.
"What the fuck are you doing here," Alex said, voice rough. "You son of a –,"
"Calm down," Erik said evenly, unfazed (people had done much more than threaten him and swear at him before, so that was really nothing). "The doors to this house are all latched with metal locks, a very recent addition, I would guess. It was easy to get in." Almost as if Charles would have wanted me to be able to enter.
"That's how you got in," Alex spat. "Why."
Erik was calm and coolly confident, although deep down, in a part only Charles could have seen, he was shaking. "I came to see his body."
"And what makes you think you have that right?" Alex asked sharply.
"I have arguably more right than you do," Erik said coolly (unless you've slept with him, unless you've heard him laugh and seen him cry and played chess with him –). "What happened to your face?"
"The same thing that happened to his," Alex replied flatly. Erik turned his head slowly, looking over Charles's face, which appeared unblemished except for a cut over the bridge of his nose (it had been covered so thoroughly with powder that he hadn't even noticed) – but no. There it was; a dent in his skull, artfully hidden by graying brown hair.
"What happened to him?" Erik asked, his voice barely more than a whisper.
"Car crash," Alex said, his voice empty. "I was driving."
Then it should be you in this box, not him, Erik longed to roar. He wanted to pull out the knife that was sheathed in his pocket and fling it like a dart into this boy's chest, throw it straight through his heart and hold it there and twist it, but he knew that would not bring Charles back, so he only waited, deeply and uncontrollably full of rage. (But he killed Charles, he killed Charles . . .)
Alex continued without any prompting. "We were in the convertible. I remember I was so damn happy because he finally let me drive it, and I was in a good mood because he was in a good mood. Professor X is like that – was, I mean. Was. When he seemed kind of happy, you were kind of happy."
The boy was right – but no, he was not a boy anymore – it had been five years since they'd seen each other, and the child who he'd seen sitting in solitary confinement was now a young and broken man. "Tell me everything," Erik said, still looking at Charles's face, his mind still struggling to process the fact that there was a dent there, just above his forehead, where his hair was thinning a tiny bit.
"It was freezing, so we had the top up – I would have put it down anyway, but Professor X asked me not to. I had the radio going loud – it was a throwback station, and they were playing Elvis. Fucking 'Jailhouse Rock'."
Erik hadn't heard Elvis before in his life, but he knew instantly that if he was ever introduced to the music, he would hate it.
Alex's voice still had a dull, tired quality to it, but he kept talking. "I was driving fast, but not too fast because the professor always got antsy if I went over fifty. And there was this rickety old truck in the other lane, coming towards us. The guy driving it didn't see the ice on the road."
Erik's heart gave a strange, funny skip, and he looked up from Charles's face and back to Alex, waiting silently.
"He hit it going even faster than I was, and skidded. I didn't think, I just moved – I jerked the steering wheel hard just as the wheels hit the ice, too, and I lost control."
Erik resisted the urge to shudder. Oh, Christ, Charles.
"We spun off the road and rolled," Alex said, his voice suddenly growing fainter. "And while we were rolling – it was only for a few seconds, but oh, fuck – I heard Professor X in my head, saying, it will be alright, Alex – and we hit this big tree by the road."
"And I remember," Alex continued, sounding close to tears, his eyes shining with ragged pain, "hearing the grille of that gorgeous car being crunched, the tree cracking, and I heard this thud next to me. It was his head, hitting the dashboard."
Erik gritted his teeth, and the metal paperweight on Charles's desk spun like a top and flew off, hitting the bookcase like a whirling dervish, but Alex did not seem to notice it. "I was sitting there bleeding – the windshield shattered and there was ice from the branches everywhere, that's how my face got cut up like this – and I was thanking God that Charles made me wear my seatbelt, but I didn't even realize he wasn't alright, I didn't notice that he wasn't in my head telling me that it would all be okay," Alex said, a tear dropping down his ruined face.
"But Charles always wears his seatbelt," Erik said hoarsely. (Wore, he always wore his seatbelt, because he's dead now, a voice hissed in the back of his brain.)
Alex wiped at his face gingerly. "The people at the hospital told me the buckle was defective. It popped loose as we rolled, and when we hit the tree, he obviously couldn't plant his feet on the floorboard to slow himself down, and he'd thrown his arm out to hold me back, and the other hand was gripping the door handle – he hit the dashboard with enough force to crack his skull open."
Charles, Charles, Charles, Charles, was all Erik could think. An image sprang unbidden into his mind, and he could see it perfectly – Charles flying through the air in a gleaming red convertible, his arm flung across Alex's chest to prevent the boy from lurching forward into the steering wheel. His last act had been to save another, and Erik couldn't be more furious at him for it. Why didn't you throw your hand out and catch yourself, Erik thought, agonized. Why were you so good that you had to sacrifice yourself for this child?
"I sort of remember seeing him hunched over with his head up against the dash and his arm in my lap, but then someone tugged me out of the car and I fainted," Alex informed him, his voice slowly regaining its shaky strength. "They took us to the hospital, and when I woke up, they told me I would have severe scarring on my face. And all I could think was, oh my God, no, and then they told me Charles hadn't made it."
"They said his skull was fractured very badly, and his brain was bleeding too much for them to stop it. But he was unconscious until he died, so they said he didn't feel any pain. But how can they know that?" Alex asked helplessly, his strength suddenly gone again. He was crying, silvery tears sliding over the stitched up cuts across his cheeks. "How can they know he didn't feel anything, with his mutation like it was?"
Erik did not reply – he did not have an answer for this boy, this not-quite-a-man who was probably just as broken on the inside as he was.
Alex cried quietly for a moment, then carefully wiped his face, which Erik had already realized would never be conventionally – or even remotely – handsome ever again. "The funeral is tomorrow. We're having it here," Alex said, his voice shaking but his tears gone.
"I know," Erik said, his voice a lilting-but-calm whisper.
Alex looked confused. "Who?"
"The diamond woman," he said, not waiting for recognition to dawn over the other mutant's face. "She wasn't listening in on him when he – when it happened, but she found she couldn't sense him anymore and she read the mind of someone she knew would be near him – I believe it may have been Hank's, actually. And she told us Charles was dead."
Erik mentally flinched at the memory – Emma, her voice so calm and so deceptively sweet – "I'm sorry to tell you this, Magneto, but your friend has unfortunately . . . died." – Raven's scream of agonized disbelief – and Riptide's smirk, before Erik flung a metal table at him, killing him instantly. He did not regret killing the man – anyone who dared find amusement in the death of Charles Xavier deserved a violent, painful end – but he did hate the way Emma had looked at him afterwards, her face full of cool knowledge, her eyes dangerous and sparkling as she shifted into diamond form to protect herself (in case Erik decided to kill the messenger). But Raven had flung herself at him then, crying, and he had held her, dazed and confused, shocked at the fact that it was possible for Charles to be dead, wondering how such a mind could possibly be shut off by a mortal end. But Charles himself had once told him over a game of chess, "All it would take to kill me is a bullet to the head, Erik. I may be powerful, but I am not nearly infallible." (However, he'd taken a bullet to the spine and a car crash had crushed his skull. The tragic irony abounded.)
Except for his slightly reddened eyes, Alex looked as though he'd never shed a single tear. "He never got over you, you know."
"What?" Erik said, pulled from his thoughts.
"He was still hung up on you," Alex said. "Until the day he died, he was hung up on you."
"You're –," Erik began instinctively, rushing to deny the boy.
"I'm not anything but right. He never said anything unkind about you – actually, he never spoke of you at all, except to defend you – even though you're pretty much the reason he was in a wheelchair for the last five years of his life. And even when Moira was gonna stick around and help him – which in girl-speak is basically saying she wanted to be his girlfriend, in case you didn't know – he wiped her memory and had me and Sean take her home in the middle of the night. I don't think he would have done that if it hadn't been for you, because he did like her."
A sick jealousy spiked through Erik at the thought of Charles and Moira together, living in Charles's fancy mansion with their brood of mutant children, growing old and gray-haired together, a mutant and his human wife (for despite Moira's seemingly good intentions, she was a human, nothing more). "He never really cared for Moira. Not in that way."
"But he did care for you," Alex said. "See, you can't even deny it. We all knew, and Charles knew that we knew, Erik. We knew from the very beginning but he let us all play pretend like he wasn't in love with you. And I don't know if you're capable of loving anyone, but if you are, it's Charles. I can see it in your eyes."
Damn this boy. "Will you leave me now?" Erik asked shortly. "I'd like a moment of privacy with him."
Alex's look was both knowing and wary. "Alright, but I'm coming back in here in an hour. And I'll be outside the door the whole time."
What am I going to do, steal his body? He's dead, after all. I can't hurt him – I can never hurt him again. And I'm not even sure that's a good thing, because at least if he could hurt he would be alive.
Erik merely nodded, and the blond turned and left, looking over his shoulder as he went, his gray eyes a single remaining point of beauty on his face as they flickered in the moonlight. He closed the door behind him with a soft click, and Erik resisted the urge to slide the lock into place.
He spun slowly to face Charles, who was of course still laying there, eyes closed, his eyelashes resting lightly on his cheeks in a way Erik hadn't noticed before. Indeed, there were a lot of things Erik hadn't seen earlier – things such as Charles's wheelchair, which was sitting behind the desk as though its occupant had just left it. Erik lifted it with his power and levitated it to the corner of the room, where he sat it down neatly. It was just too strange, seeing the chair there behind the table without Charles sitting in it.
There were pictures sitting in a row along the edge of Charles's desk, and he stepped forward to look at them. They must have planned to have the funeral here, in the study, because he knew for a fact Charles did not keep any of these photos in this room. There was one expensive, old-looking black and white picture on a stand by the desk – Charles as an extremely small boy with a beautiful blonde woman and a smiling man who strongly favored the little boy in the photograph. His parents, obviously.
There was a picture of Charles and Raven (the blonde, scale-less Raven) as teenagers, wearing dark graduation robes and posing with their arms around each other's waists. Another photograph was of Charles at Oxford, surrounded by young men wearing cardigans and slacks – classmates, obviously. Then there was one of Charles after he graduated from college, holding his diploma (this one was blurred slightly, but Erik could still almost make out the words on the paper he was clutching so proudly.)
Next to the one of him holding his Oxford diploma was one of him with a handful of young teenagers. He was seated in his wheelchair with them crowded around him, smiling pleasantly as the students around him grinned. Erik could literally feel the love emanating from the picture – it was like a photograph of a doting father with his children. He suddenly wished, with some degree of pain in his chest, that Charles had actually had children of his own – Erik was quite sure Charles would have been a wonderful father, willing to buy his children ice cream and toys and candy whenever they wanted yet keeping them disciplined and polite. But these students seemed to be a good substitution, and he suddenly pitied them, knowing far too well that the sudden loss of a parental figure was enough to traumatize anyone for life.
There was one picture that was laying face down on the desk – it had not been framed, but on the back in curving, elegant script (penmanship that could only have been Charles's handiwork) the words 'early October, 1962' had been written. Erik immediately felt a spike of interest – it was as if someone had pulled this picture from the desk drawer and left it face-down, unable to bear looking at it any longer. He reached out with nimble fingers and plucked it up, flipping it over to look at the front.
It was, unexpectedly, a photograph of Charles and Erik, quite possibly taken two or three days before that fateful morning on the beach. In fact, he remembered it quite clearly – Raven had found an old camera somewhere, and had insisted on using up all the film in one day. Charles and Erik had been playing chess in the study, and she had burst in on them (well, she burst in on Erik – Charles had sensed her coming from a floor away).
In the photograph, Charles had the white queen in his hand, held between his index finger and his thumb, and he was looking up and smiling, his expression so natural and relaxed that Erik knew he must have been laughing at something moments before it was taken. Erik himself had apparently just turned to face Raven, a smile playing around his eyes and mouth. He had one arm resting out on the table, as though he might have just been reaching for Charles's hand.
Erik gazed hard at the photograph, staring at Charles's face, those beautiful blue eyes (the color was only slightly dulled in the picture) seeming to smile right up at him, as though he had known five years ago that one day Erik would find this picture, like he had known all along that he would die at the ridiculous age of thirty-two, leaving behind a school, a cause, and a former lover who was still desperately in love with him, whether Erik could admit it or not.
I'm shaking, Erik realized. My fingers are shaking, Charles.
He turned to look at Charles again, at the same time both loving and hating that calm expression. How could Charles look so serene, even if he was dead, when Erik was standing here, breaking into a million pieces of shrapnel?
I need you, Charles, he thought desperately, taking a jerky step towards the coffin. I need you to be here, alive, so that I can fix this. So that I can apologize for forsaking you, hurting you, for putting you in a wheelchair. So I can tell you what you meant to me – what you mean to me. Charles, please, don't you understand?
He could actually feel pressure under his eyes, and the sensation was so foreign to him that for a moment he did not know what it was. Was this how Charles might have felt before he died, with brain fluid and blood filling up his head? But then he realized that the feeling was that of tears, readying to rise and spill. But he could not cry – because if he cried now, he didn't know how long it would be before he could stop.
He took another step, until he was right by the coffin, and he fell to his knees slowly, his head now perfectly level with Charles's, a warm face flushed with emotion next to a cool, damaged face under which was a cracked skull and a cold, broken brain (oh, God, that brain – it used to house so many thoughts, feelings, memories, and so much knowledge – and now it was empty and dead inside Charles's head.)
The tears were welling up then, blurring his vision, and he blinked them back, trying to drink in this last sight of Charles. His hands were indeed shaking, but his grip on the picture was firm – he would take it with him when he left there tonight, and he would never lose it – never, Charles, I'll never lose it, I'll never lose you – never –
And then, for the first time in nearly twenty-five years, Erik Lehnsherr broke down and cried.
He shed countless tears as he knelt by the corpse of his best friend, and he could feel it, he could feel that somewhere Charles was crying with him. And Erik was not ashamed; he wept and he wept, and he felt no shame. And he was still there when Alex returned to make him leave, still kneeling over the body of Charles Xavier and clutching a photograph to his chest, his cheeks sticky with tears and his throat raw with hundreds of things that had been left unsaid.
A/N: I was about to cry writing that. :l Whoever wasn't surprised by Charles being dead in the first paragraph gets bonus points. PS: Riptide, who I mentioned towards the end here, is the guy from First Class who can make the spinny whirlwinds. I had to Wikipedia him, lol. Thanks for reading, please review!