Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men. Marvel does.
A/N: Writer's Block buster for the "post anything you write" challenge. Whether this is slash or not is up to you. Inspired by Eminem's "Toy Soldier". Reminiscent of 'Escene', but not connected in any way.
Rating: T for this chapter, M overall for violence, blood, and character death.
Before he had met Charles, he had been living to murder and die. It was his only goal in life, to fall into the blood he spilt of his enemy, and take his final breath only after they had gone first.
But then, in the water, so so close to that enemy, he had been surrounded by strong, thin arms and a vicious, pleading voice inside of his mind. Whispers of pleaseyouarenotalone pleasejustawhilelonger ErikpleaseErik had forced his feet to kick, forced his head to break above the water. The violent gasps of his lungs demanding oxygen quelled only by the harsher panting from the man beside him. Exhausted but bright eyes and Calm Your Mind! and choking laughter, and...
"Charles Xavier," whispered with a smile but no cheer, just contentment and promise and a firm shake of a hand gone cold.
For some reason, he responded "Erik Lehnsherr" in kind, clasping the hand a little tighter than necessary.
And just like that, like an unexpected slam of a fist to his jaw, there was another reason to live.
He had intended to leave.
Charles could have made him stay.
He didn't. Just offered and walked away with no expectations.
Erik had intended to leave.
"Damn it," he growled into the empty night.
But for some reason he stayed.
His nights were spent dreaming of the nightmare that was his life, his days spent flinching away from the judgmental stares of the human agents around him. Government. He hated any government.
But Charles was there, every day. Charles, who gave him Raven and Hank. Charles who had hooked himself up to a machine (spurring images of a similar incident in the past, of more than one, the brought on pain and tears and made him want to look away but kept his eyes locked firmly on this new person in his life, waiting for any sign of feeling Erik knew all too well), and found Erik even more people. Charles, who gave him a list - a list - of others just like him, just like them.
Charles, who gave him little lost Raven and terrified hiding Hank. Who gave him bitter broken Angel and wounded unwanted Alex and kicked wandering Sean and uncertain hopeful Darwin.
His nights were filled with nightmares and his days spent following orders, but Charles was there, every day, along with the children. A people for him to belong to.
"We're really not alone." The words had escaped without permission. And the telepath just smiled.
Charles, who had stubbornly held on and given him hope.
He wanted to kill her. Wanted her blood on his hands so that he could smear it on Shaw's floor. Wanted her body in his arms so he could splay it out for Shaw to find. Just like his mothers.
He was supposed to be alone.
But Charles followed. For him, not for her.
And because of that she lived.
And Erik stayed Erik just a little bit longer.
He returned to destruction and betrayal and death. To accusing eyes and barked orders he ignored as he chased after Charles to what was left of the gift that had been given to him.
Bitter broken Angel, beyond hope and gone. Uncertain hopeful Darwin, dust in the air that surrounded him.
His people were dying right before his eyes, killed by his enemy in merciless inevitability. Just like before. The children that were left before him were no longer children, their eyes aged overnight to expressions he recognized all too well from his nightmares. Charles, poor naive Charles, offered them a way out and they in turn demanded justice and Erik ...
He offered that to them.
"They're just kids, Erik."
"No. They were kids." But not anymore. The innocence in their eyes was gone and the innocence in Charles' eyes was dimmed and Erik could feel his anger raging in his gut as the wind blew around them.
He would not lose any more of them.
It was large, and "house" was as inappropriate of a title as "castle", and yet that was what it was.
Not his style. Not his choice. But-
We all have our secrets, my friend. Quiet and bruised and brilliant blue that shadowed dark.
- for that he could deal with it.
The mansion is large and intimidating, and even he can sense the secrets Charles spoke about. He doesn't ask, and is not directly told. But "stepfather" is said in past tense and unembellishment in unnerving constant passing. If there had been more time, it would be an injustice he would hunt down and eliminate in glee, but there wasn't.
There were children to train. Little inexperienced but ready soldiers filled with resignation. Resignation that he echoed with every test he put them through, with every lesson of Charles' that was covered on the surface with joy. But it was necessary. Always a necessary evil to ruin children in the face of War.
Because if they were unprepared, if they were weak, he would lose them. All of them. And that was not going to happen again. And he was ruthless.
"It will be different this time, Erik," Charles said, voice strong yet quiet as it drifted over the chessboard.
"Peace is an illusion of those who live in denial, Charles," he replied. "There will always be War, or there will always be roads leading up to War. Always." His fingers moved his wooden piece. "Checkmate."
Days were spent training. Nights were spent like this - there was no time for nightmares anymore. Somehow, in the middle of it, his children became fighters - became mutants - became who they were meant to be, with his hands-on approach.
And with Charles' careful guidance, Erik became more than Shaw could have ever achieved.
He killed Shaw with no hesitation and no remorse, blocked Charles out because damn it, he would protect him. Protect all of them. And he came out victorious.
Only to feel the weapons of the humans turn on them.
He fought back - these people were his - but he was misunderstood. He was angry.
And in the end, Charles lay on the ground, bleeding and shattered and he didn't know why, because everything was screaming to stay, Erik took Raven's hand, walked away from his friend's bleeding form-
"You did this."
His days were filled with planning, his nights with infiltration and attacks. Erik was dead and in his place was the Magneto that Charles had laughed over. He waited for nothing, left nothing to chance, striking first, killing instead of maiming, destroying any bridges the humans tried to make to fight back.
Raven became Mystique, became his mole, his spy. She was no longer the child he had met, the young woman he had taken away - she was a solider, always in a mask even though he form was completely natural.
Angel returned to him, still broken and still bitter, but filled now with a rage that was a small echo of what had been his own. With Riptide, she fought for him by vow with a ferocity that always slightly amazed him.
Every now and then, they would find opposition in the X-Men - in Alex, Hank, and Sean. Fighting against him, against his Brotherhood, in perfect synchronization, in perfect teamwork. Violent without being murderous, often ending in stalemate or a victory of his own that he never delivered a final blow on, but ...
It made him proud.
He never saw Charles, though. Not on the field and not in his mind, the few times he removed the helmet from his head.
"I miss him," Mystique admitted once, only once, in the cover of the solitude of his quarters.
"We do this for him," he told her. "So that he can continue to live his vision. We fight his enemies, so that he can make our world." And she had nodded. Because they did not need to see him to fight for him.
One year after the beach, however, he saw him anyway.
The chair was grey, extravagant, and plastic.
It left him numb and filled with guilt.
"It's war, Erik," his friend responded, with a small smile and dead legs. "Right? These things happen."
Part 2 shortly.
Let me know what you thought? :)