A/N: Holy crap, this is DEPRESSING. And quite dark. Melancholy, sad, very dramatic . . . gah. Angst. I keep figuring out new ways to axe Charles and torture Erik.

Warnings: blood, the slightest possible implications of sex, talk of religion, slight language, dude/dude kissing, disturbing imagery, talk of suicide, consumption of alcohol, various tenses, Erik acting more than slightly looney-tunes, sad freaking ending. ANGST. Set both during and after First Class.

Disclaimer: . . . I wish!

The inspiration for this is credited to The Thief King . . . although I kinda took this shit and ran with it.

"No . . . no, no . . ." Another cut, a sharp pain – please, no more, not any more – but the cold hands holding the scalpel did not even shake, for he did not care – "No . . ."

"Erik. Erik!"

Hands shaking him, jerking, pain, the pain, stop, please, Mama, I want my mama, my mama is dead – cut, blood, stop, metal – Herr Doctor –

"Erik, wake up –,"

And then his eyes were open, and there was a pale face hovering over him – and a pair of light blue eyes glinting above his face. He moved instinctively, flying upwards forcefully, easily overpowering the other man and shoving him backwards, up against a hard wall – gripping his neck, squeezing – a choked half-breath, oh, yes, Shaw was in his grasp – Erik flung out a hand and the knife that was always sheathed in the pocket of his pants flew into his outstretched hand with a flash of steel –

"How do you like being cut up?" Erik asked hoarsely, as the knife replaced his hand on Shaw's neck. He'd always planned on drawing it out, making it so very painful, but he couldn't stop the quick flick of his hand as he cut the veins he imagined pulsing under that pale, creamy skin.

But no – Shaw had a thin, rather long neck. The man slumped in his arms with blood gushing from his throat was too short and stocky – Erik towered over him by several inches.

Oh, no. Oh, no.

The man pinned to the wall lifted his head, and his eyes were not gray-blue ice at all, they were deep circles of sky, staring with fear into Erik's own green-silver eyes. And when he spoke, it was not in German – it was lightly accented English.

"Erik," Charles rasped, blood soaking into his shirt as it steadily flowed from his slit throat. How could he speak, when the cut was gaping open so wide – oh, God –

"Charles," Erik said helplessly. "Charles – not you, not you! Him. I meant to kill him."

Charles went completely limp, and Erik's hands were warm with scarlet liquid – it was everywhere, all over Charles's clothes and now Erik's, and Erik felt sure that if he turned to look at the rest of the room, it would be covered with spatters of Charles's ruby red blood. He was drowning in the tide, and everywhere around him were shining silver knives and bullets and coins.

"Charles, no," Erik cried. "Charles –,"

And then, inside his head, were those three words. You did this.

"No!" He could taste it all in the back of his throat – copper, blood, vomit.

You did this to me, Erik. I loved you and you did this.

No, no, no, no – and then everything was spinning, twirling out of focus like a kaleidoscope of red, silver, and baby-blue. And Erik could hear himself screaming, calling for Charles and for Mama, but Charles and Mama were both dead now, Shaw had killed them, not Erik, Shaw would kill everyone – but he would not kill Erik, because Sebastian Shaw was not a merciful man – no, not Charles, I meant to kill him all along – I meant to kill you, Herr Doctor –

And then he really did wake up.

Gasping with mingled terror and anger, he sat bolt upright, and that damned knife came hurtling at him as though he'd called it, and surely he hadn't, not while he was asleep – he caught it and threw it, and instead of flying back at him like a boomerang as he'd feared it would, it hit the wall and stayed, the blade buried deep in the wood.

Erik reached up and tried to wipe the sweat from his forehead, but couldn't – not with the blasted helmet on. But he knew much better than to take it off. Then his mind would be wide open, and Charles could slip in with ease and see exactly what Erik had dreamed – but at least if Charles could do that, Charles was still alive.

He shook his head slowly to clear it, but that only made the room spin, so he stopped. He hadn't had that particular nightmare in almost two weeks – in fact, he hadn't dreamed of anything for several days. It was like his subconscious was toying with him, making him think yes, maybe the dreams are finally gone for good – and then unleashing the horrors again in full force. My mind is just like Shaw, Erik mused. Letting me be for a few days, only to return with something even worse than before up his sleeve.

His dreams usually came in turns – an endless cycle of Shaw, Mama, and Charles, over and over almost every evening. But usually they weren't this bad – he could sort of tell he was dreaming most of the time. This time it had felt like he was actually putting a knife to his best friend's throat. But I ought to know the feeling, Erik reminded himself with a twinge of unintentional masochism. Considering I've done it once before.

Yes, but I didn't murder him.

But I could have. I very nearly did.

That particular event had begun much the same as his dream had – he'd been rolling about on the bed, groaning (as he had been earlier that same evening, only for a very different reason), and Charles had been over him, shaking him awake and murmuring softly that it was only a dream, Erik, only a dream. Weren't those the same words his mother would say to him when he was a small child, when he would cry out in a nightmare? It was interesting how Charles and his mother paralleled each other; both cared deeply for him and had done nothing but try to take care of him, and both had ended up shot because of him.

Erik had only reacted, he hadn't thought – he'd seen pale skin and glinting blue eyes (a familiar sight from his childhood, one that was usually accompanied by the glint of teeth and the flash of some torture device or another) and had leapt up, grabbing Charles and ramming him up against the wall. And the knife had come flying, and he'd pressed it to Charles's throat –

"Erik, stop. Erik, it's Charles, please calm down – oh –,"

But Erik hadn't heard him, he had only stared, the faces of Sebastian Shaw and Charles Xavier suddenly one and the same. And then, there had been a voice inside his head, sudden and almost booming, making his head throb with pain even at the mere memory of it.

Drop the knife and release me. Now.

His hand had jerked up and away from Charles quite without him telling it to, and the knife had fallen to the floor – and then he'd realized that no, that was not Shaw, that was Charles, Charles who had given an instinctive reaction of his own – and that reaction had been to control Erik's mind so quickly and sharply that it had almost given him a sort of mental whiplash.

Erik had stared at the shorter man, having let him go as ordered – he'd continued to crowd Charles up against the wall, and he seemed unable to move away. Charles had looked back at him with fear and worry alight in his eyes, and there had been a dark trickle of blood slowly trailing downwards towards his bare chest. Erik had suddenly been very aware that he was naked, and that Charles was clad only in his undershorts.

He could tell the exact moment Charles had let him go, because he let out an involuntary gasp for air and stumbled backwards. "Charles," he'd rasped. "Oh my God –,"

Charles stepped forward and put his hands on Erik's shoulders. "It's alright," he'd soothed. "You were frightened, I understand. I shouldn't have woken you so suddenly."

"I thought you were Shaw," Erik had explained desperately, still feeling horror coursing through his veins with every thump of his heartbeat. "Charles, you're bleeding – I cut you . . . Fuck, I could have killed you."

"You could have," Charles had agreed honestly. "But I stopped you. You only nicked me, it's alright."

Erik vaguely remembered reaching up and touching the dark blood with one finger – it had made it down to the space just above and between Charles's collarbones by then. "You'll need a bandage . . ."

Charles had taken Erik's hand and led him to the bathroom, pausing to let Erik slide on his underwear and pants first. By then the blood had made it almost to the center of his chest, and he'd made quite a sight, half-naked, still rumpled from sleep, with blood running from his throat.

They'd gone into the bathroom, and Erik had wiped Charles off with shaking hands and a handful of tissue. Charles had then bared his throat to Erik so that Erik could hold a towel to his snow-white skin. The look in Charles's eyes had said everything – you tried to kill me only ten minutes ago, but I trust you completely.

You're a fool, Erik recalled thinking as he had caressed Charles's hair with the hand that wasn't clutching the towel to the other mutant's neck. I almost cut your throat, Charles.

But I'm fine, Charles responded. My throat will heal – I've done worse to myself shaving before.

Then you shouldn't be allowed anywhere near a razor. Ever. I'm so sorry, Charles.

Don't worry about it, Charles had told him, his mental tone gentle and calm. He had kissed Erik then, his mouth tasting of sleep and faintly of toothpaste from a few hours before. To die at your hands would be preferable to me than any other death.

Erik had shuddered, and not out of disgust for the not-so-veiled romance in that statement. Talk of Charles's death was more than vaguely frightening to him, and the idea of him dying in Erik's arms, his precious blood spilling everywhere because of something Erik had done – it was almost nauseating to think about. No, Erik preferred to think of Charles as some sort of heavenly creature, a saint, perhaps, or a cherub – something innocent and pure, and something that was invulnerable to injury and human death.

But now I know, he thought to himself as he stood and walked to the wall, yanking the knife out with a jerk of his fingers. He almost caught it by the blade before he yanked his hand away and let it clatter to the floor. He is mortal, just like I am. And I have proven myself that he is quite susceptible to injury.

He shook his head again, sitting down heavily at the table in the corner of the room. The table was small and square, the perfect size to put a chessboard on. But Erik did not play chess any more – Charles was the only person he knew who was actually any good at the game (well, Charles was more than good – even without the use of his mutation, he could thrash Erik nearly every time – those skills were the result of a lonely early childhood spent playing both sides by himself and perfecting strategies, Charles had once said). So on the table rested an almost empty bottle of gin – not scotch, scotch was Charles's drink, and too expensive besides – and a pen, and absolutely nothing else.

Erik rested his elbows on the tabletop – lovely manners, Charles would have commented – and knocked the pen off the table, opened the bottle of gin, and took a slow sip.

I've always been this way, he said to an imaginary Charles. Abysmal at following conversation guidelines, dreadful table manners, repulsive bedroom behavior . . .

Not at all repulsive, said the figment of his imagination. Quite the opposite, actually.

I'm glad you think so.

The memory of his best friend chuckled. You've forgotten me already, old friend.

Never. I could never forget you, he responded fervently, always far too honest for his own good, even if Charles wasn't really there.

Of course you couldn't. If you could forget me, I wouldn't be here right now.

But you're not here at all.

You have a point.

Erik smiled at his own insanity – he was drinking liquor in the dead of night and thinking up a conversation with a mind-reader who was neither actually there nor currently capable of reading his thoughts. The knife on the floor drifted upwards lazily, floated towards the metal-bender and the empty chair opposite him, and then dropped onto the table with a gentle clatter.

He looked at it thoughtfully. I wonder if I could slit my own throat, Charles.

Charles's brow furrowed underneath his dark hair. Knowing you, you'd likely miss your veins and just end up with a smile going right across your neck. Don't you think cutting your wrists would be an easier route?

Erik's smile faded. He'd taken to having conversations with a fake Charles sometimes, but Erik could always tell that it wasn't really him – Erik was much too broken to pull off anything remotely similar to Charles's wise good-heartedness. Charles would never think of discussing suicide plans with Erik.

The knife rose again slowly, spinning over and over at a leisurely pace and catching the moonlight that filtered in dimly from the window. I could do it, Charles.

But you wouldn't, whispered the vision. Because I am not dead, and therefore we would still be separated.

I'd probably go to Hell anyways, Erik admitted.

Do you really believe in Hell, Erik?

My friend, Erik reminded him. I was a lab rat in Hell.

And Heaven?

Heaven is for people like you, Erik breathed in his mind. Heaven is for people who God still cares about.

Fake-Charles smiled sadly. And what makes you think that God doesn't care for you?

But Erik did not get a chance to answer, because behind him, his bedroom door swung open, and Charles disappeared with a flash of wavy brown hair and sparkling blue eyes.

Erik jerked about angrily, only to find Raven standing in the doorway. The knife kept turning in midair (he barely even registered moving it anymore), and he set down the glass bottle on the table with a quiet thump.

"What are you doing?" she asked, confused and maybe a tad worried.

"Nothing," he said neutrally. "Go back to bed, Raven, it's late."

"Can I sleep in here with you?" she queried, but the look in her yellow eyes said she already knew the answer.

He did not respond, and she stepped back out of the doorway slowly, murmuring, "I love you."

He again said nothing, merely nodding his acknowledgement and closing the door with the twitch of one long finger.

He turned his head back to the vacant chair across from him, and Charles suddenly reappeared – no, he only halfway did. He was nothing but a faint shadow of a man, nothing but a fanciful daydream now.

I'm going to go mad, Erik thought with sudden desperation. Charles, I am going to lose my mind.

No, you're not, Charles said, and his voice was not soothing but instead perfectly honest. Perhaps your mind was always lost.

Perhaps, Erik agreed slowly. I'm not going to kill myself, Charles. I still have something to live for.

I know, Charles replied, fading slightly. Your cause.

And you, Erik said. You are mine.

I was, I suppose, Charles told him quietly. I think I was yours; but you were never mine, Erik.


No. You were always Sebastian Shaw's. You still are.

Erik wanted to scream at him, he wanted to rage and roar at this evil fake-Charles – that's not true, I am yours, yours only – but at the same time, he knew that Charles was right.

Charles was slipping away again. Drop the knife and release me now, Erik; do it or give up your sanity forever.

The knife hit the table quietly. The knife is down, my friend – but I'm not going to let you go.

Charles was nothing but a voice now, a whisper in Erik Lehnsherr's lost mind. I knew you wouldn't.

I can never be fully yours, Charles.

But I will always be partly yours, Erik.

Imaginary-Charles was fully gone, leaving behind only a knife, a bottle of gin, and a twisted ruined heart to show that he'd been there (but he never had been, not really).

Erik had lost both his mind and his heart in one go – the memory of Charles Xavier had taken them from him, and he would never find either one ever again.

A/N: That was so angsty. I'm a little ashamed of myself. Can you forgive me enough to review?