Title: A Game of Shadows 1/1

Rating: 14

Genre: drama

Pairings: implied Erik/Charles

Wordcount: 1.5k

Warnings: mentions ugly deaths

Summary: Past a certain line there is no such thing as heroism or villainy, there is only a cosmic game of chess that ends with a handshake over the board of slaughtered pawns.

Author's Note: written for the lj user=1stclass-kink meme prompt "the unwritten rules of the extensive super villain and mutant community regarding the unofficial, extremely volatile relationship between Magneto and Professor X." It got a little twisted and a lot less cracky than I anticipated. C:

Cookies if you spot the guest star!

Betaed by yami_tai.

They meet in expensive hotels, because what use is it being a super villain if you cannot afford luxury? Poverty is for heroes, and even then only dumb heroes, the idealistic schmucks who end up being martyrs for the cause. Smart heroes hoard wealth and use it wisely (often, it has to be said, to recruit the dumb heroes).

Smart heroes, really, like smart villains, know that past a certain line (loosely defined as taking part in every brawl in the street) there is no such thing as heroism or villainy, there is only a cosmic game of chess that ends with a handshake over the board of slaughtered pawns.

"Item number one," says Emma Frost standing up from her seat and lifting an exquisite hand to brush the coifed hair behind her ear. "Since last week's unpleasantness, the cut-off net worth for a super villain is now a hundred million dollars American."

All around the room men and women nod. A hundred million, to most of them, is a moderate sum, the possession of which makes a man worthy of joining their ranks.

"Item number two, and I can't believe we even need to discuss it, but some things bear repeating." Emma leans forward, giving everyone present a spectacular view of her cleavage. They are men and women of wealth and taste. The view in no way impedes their mental process, even if it is appreciated. "Carnage is never a good plan."

This is met with a round of snorts. Who doesn't know that? There's something deeply unsettling about mass-murdered dead bodies, unhygienic and distasteful. A truly brilliant villain achieves his goals without the loss of life, though naturally, it is often a necessity.

A hand rises in the cluster of the newly initiated. "Excuse me," says the man, a clear indication of how young, status wise, he still is. A true villain never apologizes. "Are we not waiting for Magneto?"

There is a murmur in the room and Emma smiles. "No. We are not waiting for Magneto."

"Isn't he a super villain?"

"His net worth is approaching nil," Emma says, dismissing the speaker with a wave of her hand. "He has the unfortunate tendency to tithe surplus cash and as a result he doesn't have a suitable portfolio. I deal with his finances, so I know, believe me."

There are nods and discreet coughs around the table. Magneto made them all a little wary, with his helmet and his glowers and charisma, and the overt tendency towards world domination, and, as it turns out, a completely unreasonable approach to personal finances. Tithing is required - it is a sorry super villain who doesn't have the general populace cheering for his victory - but it is only a fool who goes through life relying on crime spree when the need for cash presents itself.

"He has been getting rather… loud," says the same person. "Just last Tuesday there was an article on a rather unfortunate incident involving the X-men and a few tanks. I believe there were explosions."

"Magneto and the X-men have a long and complicated history," says a man on Emma's right. His features remain clouded in shadow - they all know who the other is, naturally, but the clandestine nature of their meetings ensures that it is Emma Frost who stands in the effulgent light, while the rest of them enjoy their very expensive illusion of anonymity. It is a show only, of course - the entire hotel has been booked for the weekend and when they exit the room they will chat and drink like the old friends they are. The meeting, however, is special.

"Professor X is getting troublesome, though," says yet another person from their corner. Another newcomer, evidently. "Wouldn't it be easier to dispose of him? I mean, Magneto is obviously unhinged and he gets worse every time someone brings up the Professor in a conversation. We can afford to redecorate after each meeting, but not keeping one's temper to such an extent is simply bad manners."

There are a few nods of agreement and the voice continues, gaining in confidence. "He spent the last meeting explaining in great detail why the Professor must be torn limb from limb and hanged on his own wheelchair. Placating the madman might be worth the trouble, if he is to be the poster child of mutant revolution and the Professor is well on his way to becoming a martyr, anyway."

There is a heavy silence and the voice trails off. "I'm missing something, aren't I?" he says tentatively.

"Honey," says Emma with the loveliest smile. "You are not the first to make such a suggestion."

"I'm not?"

"I do believe the issue has come up in the past, three times," says the shadow on Emma's right. "The first two are largely unremarkable, even if unpleasant to recall, but perhaps the name Exodus rings a bell?"

A horrified fascination spreads throughout the room.

"I heard he hung him on a rope made of his own intestines!"

"I heard he drowned him in liquid metal!"

"I heard Magneto crucified him," whispers a shimmering shadow opposite the table.

"Yes. Eventually." The shadow on Emma's right changes shape enough to suggest the steeping of fingers. "I think it is important to point out this happened prior to Professor's death, or even an overt attempt on his life. In fact, one could even risk the suggestion that this happened because of the explicit threat to Professor X." There is a hint of menace in his voice, one that carries well even into the hearts of the super villains present, who are, after all, upstanding citizens, who only want what is best for the world. No, there will be no more threats made to the Professor, because a raging psychopath on one's side is vastly preferable to a raging psychopath who has declared himself one's enemy.

Except, it seems, when it comes to Professor X and Magneto.

Emma smiles. Her teeth gleam like the finest diamonds Africa has to offer, shining in a face that makes the angels throw themselves on their swords in despair.

"Magneto is giving us bad press, isn't he," grouses someone very rich and very anonymous, who sits three seats down from Emma.

"Perhaps." The shadow leans back in his chair.

"Shouldn't something be done about this? I'm sick to death of hearing about Magneto and his super villain league." It is the same voice. As newcomer to the group, he hasn't yet had time to learn that patience is the greatest virtue of them all.

"Patience, my dear," the shadow next to Emma reminds them all. He seems to catch her eye. "Magneto is a means to an end. His crusade will turn out for the best, eventually."

"I do hope you're right. I have a meeting with Professor X next Monday, which will turn sour, and I would much rather return to the office with my digestive system in place, because in the evening I have a dinner date that I would hate to miss."

"Keep your hands in plain sight, then," says the shadow with a very nasty, yet invisible grin. "And make no sudden movements."

He falls silent after that and the meeting is concluded not long after, when a tall man with head gear peculiar even in this company stands. "I must excuse myself," he rasps as the cape falls around his shoulders. "I left a riot festering on the streets."

"This meeting is adjourned," says Emma, clicking her fingernails against the table. "The rooms should be ready by now, don't forget the banquet starts at eight."

The shadows file out of the room in silence, until Emma is alone with the man on her right.

"That went well," she says, crossing her legs as she leans back. A single bright lamp overhead illuminates her glorious hair and the sheer white of her brassiere.

"It has." There is a squeak of wheels and Charles rolls into the light beside her. "Are you well? You look tired."

"Oh, sugar. Your Erik is a handful at the very best of times. He gets downright unpleasant when he is in a bad mood and he's been in a very bad mood lately."

"I'm sorry, Emma."

"Not to worry, I have it under control. At least for now."

"I am making good progress on the plan."

"I do hope so. He has us on a murderous schedule, himself most of all. He will run us all into the ground, but not before he explodes from exhaustion. His dreams already disrupt my beauty sleep."

"It doesn't show."

"You are very kind." She stands and turns his wheelchair around, towards the door. "I trust you will stay for the weekend?"

"Absolutely." Charles looks back at her with a smile. "Are the hot tubs here as grand as the concierge promises?"