Crossposted from the Archive.
The title and quote are from Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.
I've taken several liberties with the Star Wars universe. The multiple Sith was an issue since the movies very specifically say that there are only two Sith at one time, but then I remembered the excellent Knights of the Old Republic series, which even had a Sith academy. For any other little differences, I probably changed it to fit the story better.
This is not set with any time period in mind.
Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.
Charles is packing for the trip when Raven bursts into his room.
"I'm coming with you," she says without preamble.
"No you're not," Charles says wearily, looking for that clean pair of socks he had found earlier. "It's too—"
"Too dangerous?" Raven finishes for him, eyes flinty. "You said it was just a routine patrol!"
"It is," Charles insists, and then relents. He lowers his voice despite their being in the privacy of his own chambers. "There's been talk of a star destroyer. The underground is rife with reports and rumors on its movements. As well as who is commanding it."
"A star destroyer?" Raven hisses. "Why didn't I hear about this sooner?"
"Keep your voice down," Charles implores. "And you didn't hear about it because it's on a need to know basis." He rubs his eyes tiredly and tries for a smile. "Just please, stay here. I'll be back before you know it."
Raven glares at him. "I'm not a child anymore, you know," she says. "You can't protect me forever."
Charles watches her stomp out the door. No, but I wish I could.
Fall back!" Charles shouts. He deflects a burst of blaster bolts with a quick swing of his lightsaber, frowning when the Force whispers something.
Alex. Darwin. Be careful. There's something else—
Oh bugger, Charles thinks. A huge, roiling force of hate and rage has entered his range. There's only one person it can be in the known universe. The emperor's apprentice.
Charles feels the new foe pique with interest at the touch of his mind on his. Oh this is very, very bad.
He says so aloud.
And then he adds a few choice words to emphasize.
Alex and Darwin are fighting back to back, purple and blue lightsabers a whirling blur of colors, but they move toward him at his mental call. "What'd you sense?" Darwin asks.
"Sith lord," Charles says grimly.
Alex closes his eyes for a moment. "Okay, I think it's time to get out of here then."
Charles reaches out with the Force but recoils almost immediately. It feels...dark. Tainted with hate and anger and pain.
And getting closer.
Half a helicopter lands with a crash of rocks and debris in front of the little rocky outcrop they're taking shelter behind.
"Aw, shit," Alex mutters before scrambling away after Charles and Darwin.
"This doesn't make any sense," Charles mumbles to himself as they strap themselves into their ship. "Why is he here of all places? Surely this planet isn't so important to the emperor to warrant protection by his own apprentice?"
"We'd better hope he's here for something else," Darwin says. "Or we're screwed."
Alex frowns. "Wha—?" They follow Darwin's gaze to the scene outside, where clouds of metal and shattered pieces of skyscrapers are flying around madly around a single, black-cloaked figure.
"Force," Charles breathes. He knew the Force manifested itself in different ways in every Force-sensitive person, giving people unique ways of wielding it, but he had never seen so much raw power in one person before.
"Um," Darwin says. "Metal plane."
Right. Charles claps his hands together briskly. "I think it's time we took our leave. And let us hope he doesn't notice a little bit of metal making its escape."
Unfortunately, the Sith lord has more control than the wildly flying metal would suggest. This becomes apparent when the plane comes to a screeching halt before they've even gotten close to leaving the atmosphere.
Their plane is dragged backwards to land with an unceremonious crash.
"Open the door."
Alex and Darwin turn to Charles. "Open it. Stall him if possible. I'm going to try and find out what his intentions are."
Darwin presses a button, the door opens and Darth Magnetus walks in. His face is covered with a mask with only his eyes visible, with the rest of his body is equally covered. When he moves Charles can see the silvery glints of metal hidden in the folds of cloth.
He breathes out, feeling the Force shift around him as he tries to make his way through the barrier of howling emotion the Sith has built around his mind. There's so much pain here, Charles thinks. So much anguish. It's impossible to get through without time, and time is a luxury Charles doesn't have. Dimly, he hears Darwin say "Me. I'm the telepath," and he knows he has to resurface.
Suddenly he's half toppled out of his chair with a memory of screeching, splintering agony in his head. He looks up into icy blue eyes.
"That one," the newcomer says, boredly examining her nails and nodding towards Charles shuddering in his chair. "He's the telepath."
Two Sith lords. And they had come for him?
Three stormtroopers file in and Alex and Darwin slowly raise their hands, sending worried looks at Charles. The two Sith are already turning to leave.
"Wait," Charles says and wonders of wonders they actually do. They look at him, one darkly impassive, the other coldly amused. "You're not taking them."
"You're hardly in a position to make demands, sugar," the woman sneers.
Charles takes a step forward, ignoring the stormtroopers raising their blaster rifles warningly and Alex's hissed, "What're you doing!"
"You're not taking them," he repeats.
"No?" Darth Magnetus says.
"No," Charles says firmly, meeting his frankly terrifying gaze unflinchingly and they stare at each other while everyone except the other Sith shifts nervously.
"Very well," Darth Magnetus finally says. "Release them."
"What do you think you're doing?" the woman snaps. "Shaw said—"
The small cockpit practically darkens at the name. "Shaw said to bring him the telepath," Darth Magnetus says levelly, menace in every syllable. "He didn't say anything about his companions."
The woman seems to decide that the fight isn't worth it. "I don't know why I'm even bothering. On your own head be it. I'm out." she stalks off before she finishes speaking.
Darth Magnetus growls under his breath.
Charles hands over his lightsaber to a stormtrooper and allows him to lock restraints onto his wrists. Get back to base but take a detour. You know the drill. Do not mount a rescue mission. I sense the Force is changing and I mean to investigate. That's an order, he adds as soon as they think to protest.
May the Force be with you," Alex and Darwin think, for lack of anything better, fear and worry clouding their minds.
And with you.
The stormtroopers lead Charles away, but they stop just outside the plane. The Sith lords are nowhere to be found. Charles wonders if he should make his escape right now. But somehow he doesn't think Darth Magnetus would be quite so amiable again when he has to bring down the plane a second time.
As if thinking his name had called him over, the Sith lord approaches holding something. A Force suppression collar.
A Force suppression collar is a terrible thing to put on a Force-wielder; Charles has heard of them, but never seen one. The Force is everywhere and it affects all living beings, but the Force sensitive have a truly strong connection. To be suddenly cut off from it after having it accessible since birth is like losing the ability to see.
For a telepath, it's even worse.
He places it around Charles's neck without ceremony, ignoring his gasp and stumble when it's clicked shut.
Behind them, Alex and Darwin's plane takes off. Be safe, Charles thinks, and he wishes he could still speak to the Force to make it a prayer.
The Sith's star destroyer is a massive, unwieldy beast of metal. Charles wonders if Darth Magnetus understands it, can talk to it and listen to its replies.
How many people are on this ship? Charles wonders. Forgetting himself, he tries stretching his mind to find out.
It's a bit like a sighted man going to sleep and waking up the next morning with only darkness where there should be sunlight—only, a whole lot worse.
Charles cries out in terror, staggering into the wall. The stormtroopers drag him back into place, but he's shaking so hard he can barely stand.
"What's wrong with him?" Charles hears Darth Magnetus ask.
"The collar," replies the other Sith. "For a telepath, the cutoff can be...jarring."
There's a pause where the soldiers on either side of him attempt to force Charles upright.
"What are you doing?" the woman says sharply.
The man might have answered, but Charles doesn't hear it because two cool fingers are placed on his cheek, just barely touching, but it's enough, it's enough, and he can see again, can skim the darkness in the man, the anger and hate like barbed wire, and just underneath, a helpless, wary, confused concern.
The world stops spinning and Charles recovers his bearings, panting harshly.
When he looks up again Darth Magnetus is pulling his black glove back on, glaring at the woman.
"Ah, so you like this one, do you?" the woman says with obvious amusement.
Charles resists the urge to flinch.
The man looks at her witheringly and stalks off. "Maybe he'll be uncooperative," the woman calls after his stiff back. "I'm sure Shaw'll let you keep him afterwards if you're good."
Darth Magnetus whirls with a fury, hand on the hilt of his lightsaber.
"Just try it," the woman says coldly.
The two Sith face off, one with icy composure and the other not so much. The woman's cool demeanor cracks a little though, when the hallway's metal plating starts to writhe. A bolt pops out of the wall, and Charles can hear the distant groaning of metal, of the entire ship. The woman takes a step back.
"Calm your mind," she says sharply.
The ship stops creaking. Darth Magnetus walks away, and this time, she makes no comment. Mechanics hurry out into the hallway to stare helplessly at the pieces of what had been paneling.
She ignores them and Charles both, disappearing down another side hallway.
"Come," the stormtrooper on Charles's right commands, and they move on.
Charles turns his head to glance once more at the metal twisted beyond shape and shivers.
The cell they put him in isn't so much a cell as one of those good old fashioned torture chambers, the kind people only see in holovids. Except instead of knives and screws there's a single machine creatively named the agonizer that inflicts the same amount of pain and more, with a whole lot less messy fluids and chance of dying, unfortunately.
Charles drowns in pain and doesn't bother trying to hold back his screams.
Charles thinks that perhaps he should be flattered that the emperor thinks he's important enough to warrant a personal visit.
"Another telepath, hmm?" Shaw says, sounding unconcerned. His eyes though, are avid with interest. "I'll make you an offer. Join me." He laughs at Charles's incredulous expression.
"I'll never join you," Charles manages before the agonizer's turned back on.
"Just think about it," Shaw calls out as he leaves.
The next time he's able to stop screaming, Darth Magnetus is standing there studying him. Charles doesn't like that look; he feels like a lab rat.
The Sith flicks his eyes over Charles, gaze strangely clinical as if he's checking for damage.
"Why are you here?" Charles finally asks.
"It's my ship," the Sith answers. Which isn't an answer, really. Charles can see the corner of his mouth quirk up for a moment under the cloth.
Charles is about to speak again when the Sith says, "Your Jedi got off the planet safely."
Safely. Of course, there's a high chance he's being lied to, but hearing it makes his spirits lift. "Thank you," he says sincerely.
The Sith's gaze is curious. "Why are you so courteous to the one holding you prisoner?"
"Why are you talking to me?" Charles shoots back.
Darth Magnetus seems to consider that for a moment. "I don't know," he answers finally.
Charles shrugs. "So your Force powers," he says, casting about for another topic, "You control…metal?"
"Yes. I think it has more to do with magnetism though," the Sith replies, seeming to, for some reason, give him an honest answer.
Charles can't quite tamp down on the giddy feeling of scientific excitement, for all that it's certainly not the time or place. "That's marvelous," he says and the Sith looks amused. "Is that why you're called Magnetus?" and he receives a nod of confirmation.
"Tell me about your Jedi," he says abruptly. "No, not their powers," he says, waving a hand, when Charles hesitates. "What are they like?"
Charles is torn; he doesn't know the man's motives and this seems a more dangerous topic than the earlier ones. He looks up and catches a hint of what could only be described as wistfulness in the Sith's eyes. He decides to take a chance.
"They're…nice," he says, hurriedly organizing his thoughts. "I found them, other Force-sensitive people. They were frightened and alone, afraid of their powers because they didn't know how to control them. But now they've had practice and training. As well as each other for support." He chances another look at the Sith's face. He's looking interested.
"I was delighted the first time I met another person who could use the Force," Charles continues. "In the end, I think, it's good not to be alone."
Something unreadable flickers in the Sith's eyes.
"What about you?" Charles asks, a tad awkwardly. "Do you have a family?" He winces internally as soon as he says it.
"No," comes the curt response, and then a hesitation. "Lehnsherr. Erik Lehnsherr."
Charles beams at him. "Charles Xavier."
"Why do you stand against the empire?" Darth Magnetus—Erik—asks with honest curiosity.
"He's a bully and an oppressor," Charles says instantly, even if that might not be the best answer under the circumstances.
"The empire puts the Force-sensitive above all though," Erik says. "Isn't that a good thing? So no one has to be alone and afraid of his powers like your Jedi were?"
"You sound like you are trying to convince yourself, my friend."
"The emperor says that it is right and natural that the superior man rule over lesser men."
"And you believe you are the better man?" Charles asks. "Is that why you support the emperor?"
"Support him?" Erik barks out a bitter laugh. The mirthless sound vanishes as quickly as it had come and Erik leans forward, deathly serious. "Let me tell you now, there is no man I hate more."
"Then why are you working for him?" Charles asks, frustrated, feeling something shifting in the Force as he does so. This is a Moment; one that if followed through to the end, has the potential to bring down an empire. This man, whom he had once thought of as a monster, is the key.
"It's not that simple," Erik replies.
"Yes," Charles says firmly, "It is."
Erik meets his gaze and then looks away.
"Erik," Charles says quietly, and Erik looks back at him, unwilling but pulled as if by an invisible force. "You're either with Shaw, or you're against him. On a matter so close to your heart, there can be no in between."
Erik grits his teeth and Charles can see his fear even despite the power dampener.
"Erik, you're not alone," Charles says. "No matter what you decide, you're not alone anymore."
Erik stands abruptly, hand flying out to turn the agonizer back on, eyes intent on the door.
"My dear apprentice," Shaw says, striding into the room.
Erik hesitates before he replies. "Master."
"Master Jedi," he nods politely at Charles.
Charles says nothing, because if he opens his mouth he'll probably start screaming and never stop. So much for trying to turn the emperor's apprentice.
"So," Shaw says, clapping his hands together, "have you considered my offer? Will you be joining me?"
Charles lifts his head, slowly because the bastard hadn't turned the agonizer off, and says, "Never."
Shaw snorts. "Pity." He moves to leave. "Ah well, can't convince them all. I'll find another use for you later."
Charles tries to meet Erik's gaze, but the Sith refuses to look at him.
Erik has a change of heart sometime during the day—or night, Charles isn't really sure of the passage of time. This is made apparent when one of the walls of the cell Charles is held in simply peels backwards like a banana would be peeled. The agonizer is turned off with a flick of a black gloved hand.
"Erik?" Charles coughs blearily.
"Come on, Charles," Erik says, "We're leaving."
"Shouldn't we, ah, try to be more subtle?" Charles asks as he hurries after Erik's lean form, currently ripping a hole in another metal wall.
"The emperor's too far by now to get back in time to stop us," Erik replies casually flattening about a dozen stormtroopers with some doors. "And he's the kind of man you're either with or against. It won't matter to him whether we politely sneak out or break this star destroyer in the process."
Charles stops protesting. It's not like the empire losing one of its most destructive weapons is such a terrible thing, after all. There's just one more thing.
"What about all the people here?" Charles asks. The ship is tilting alarmingly by now, metal creaking and groaning around their feet.
"They don't matter," comes the curt reply, and Charles swallows back the horror at so many deaths, even if they are of soldiers of the empire, before Erik decides that Charles doesn't matter either.
When they're a safe distance away in Erik's personal starship—leaving a star destroyer in pieces in their wake—Erik sets the controls on autopilot and turns to Charles. "We need to ditch this ship as soon as possible," he says.
Charles agrees. "Where?"
"Any old spaceport will do," Erik says, waving a hand dismissively. "It's not like acquiring a new ship will be a problem anyways."
Charles hesitates; he doesn't want to steal someone else's ship. "We should head for my temple," he tries.
"We still need a different ship," Erik says firmly. "We can talk about safe places later."
"Fine," Charles says, word broken up by a yawn.
"Go get some sleep," Erik tells him.
Charles wants to argue but he feels utterly spent. There's one more thing on his mind though, but he isn't sure how to broach the subject. The collar. He doesn't know how much Erik trusts him, though admittedly it's probably not very much. In any case, he's found that very few people would willingly spend time around a telepath, for all that he's promised he wouldn't read their minds without permission.
But wearing it as long as he has has driven him to the end of his limits.
"Erik," he says.
"Tomorrow," Erik says, and Charles stops in surprise. "The collar right? I'll take it off after I get some sleep." He looks more closely at Charles's haggard face. "Or I could take it off now if you want. It's just that it might be dangerous when I'm tired."
"Take it off now please," Charles says in a rush, almost before Erik had finished speaking, and Erik agrees without further protest.
Erik sits in the pilot's chair and gestures for Charles to take the co-pilot's. He swivels the chairs so that they're facing each other and places his hands a few inches from either side of Charles's neck. After a couple of minutes that feels more like eternity, the collar drops onto Charles's lap. He sighs softly as the Force begins to murmur to him once again.
"Thank you," he says softly.
Erik looks at him. "I'm sorry I didn't take it off sooner."
Charles wonders if he's now going to demand promises from Charles to stay out of his mind, but Erik is silent. When he glances back before heading to the sleeping quarters, Erik's already turned his seat forward again, his dark form silhouetted against the bright light of the console and the stars wheeling around them in the infinite blackness of space.
No darkness haunts Charles's dreams that night.
These are just my rambly thoughts; there's nothing actually important to the story here.
This fic is definitely one of my more ambitious works since before I mostly dabbled in one-shots and the occasional short story series. I've never crafted a world like this before, for all that it's mostly been done already; the Star Wars universe is rather expansive after all. Anyways I just liked the idea of Charles and Erik wandering around in space together and rebelling against the empire and all that. I also liked how the Star Wars universe already had the powers system in place with the Force-I just had to tweak it a little bit to fit better. Most importantly, I liked the play on dark and light and how it's almost a tangible thing with the Force.
(I also liked the thought of Erik in full Sith regalia wielding a red lightsaber, but you can hardly blame me for that one! And of course Charles would have a blue lightsaber and oh dear they're going to end up in an Anakin-ObiWan style lava beach divorce aren't they. *scurries off to rewrite the ending*)