Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men. Marvel does.
A/N: Writer's Block buster for the "post anything you write" challenge. This story is set in no solid time frame – you're welcome to pick whichever war you like, or make one up yourself.
"I'll make you a deal. You let me swim in this world of words where I can heal and pretend Hell is not out there. Care for me, understand me, shelter me, and for you in return I will never stop."
The tears that slip down his cheeks are burning brittle ash, flaky and shallow and all too eager to easily fall apart beneath pressure. Real or the rage that falls lifelessly from the incinerated sky, he does not know. It's irrelevant.
Everything is nothing but ash now.
The body of their two youngest soldiers lay on the ground like the government's abandoned rag dolls, limp and unmoving and tarnished and silently crying out to just FUCKING HELP ME PLEASE ERIK PLEASE I'M BURNING!
A six month tour turned into a personal retribution from Hell.
Erik Lehnsherr cannot move.
Because beyond those bodies, kneeling and shaking but with no tears of his own, is Charles Xavier, their team leader, his best friend, pale hands shaking and reaching but not touching because the skin of the children (and that's all they are, damnit, all they areWERE was children).
By Erik's orders the rest of the team has scattered, silent and easily guided in their horror, but Charles stays by the children and Erik weeps the ashy tears his leader can't and will not leave him.
Above, the blades of a helicopter moan the tunes of funeral grief and stirs the ashes into a shower of dead.
They are Sean Cassidy and Scott Summers. No, were. Were, not are. Are belongs to the living and Sean Cassidy and Scott Summers are surely dead. Very dead. Both, only eighteen. Had been only eighteen - Sean just a few months away from nineteen, but Scott only having celebrated legality sixteen weeks prior.
Eighteen. They are children. No, were damnit, they were children.
And now they are nothing but fucking burned up corpses laid gently on the hard floor of the 'copter.
"Man, Lehnsherr." Scott's phantom voice teases him like a curious fly. "Stop acting all badass. We both know X'll kick your ass if you do anything to us." And Sean's bubbling fit of dead hysterical laughter to accompany the words.
"Not to mention what Alex will do."
"Man, I hate this heat. Hey! Can we get some Rootbeer when we're done, maybe? Because I really really-."
"Don't fucking step there!"
Erik looks up, torn from memories turned penance, more startled than frightened by the sharp noise.
The helicopter whines through the haze of the gray blood and skin of burning fires.
And Xavier has slammed his fist into the metal of its side.
Crimson blood of long bleeding wounds trickling down to the floor where the children lay.
He wonders if Charles sees now everything Erik had tried to tell him of this war before.
For many, it started as a Draft. There had been no choice for them with this war. And weakness wasn't in the contract.
Erik has to remind himself of this when Alex, twenty and tall and ready for anything, takes off running at the sight of his baby brother's charred body, only to stumble into a collapse on the dirt-formed ground, heaving up his lunch and his agony as Darwin struggles to keep him from choking in his grief as he tries to bury himself in the ground he beats on.
Janos carries Sean's body, wrapped and heavy, from the helicopter with the care of an indulgent older friend - follows Azazel and Scott inside the hospital tent to Hank who is waiting to be of no help at all.
He watches as Charles follows, as he jerks to the right suddenly, avoiding the tent for the sturdy walls of the main base. Leaving blood in his wake.
For three months, those boys had been his.
"Sean Collin Cassidy, 18, and Scott William Summers, 18, both outstanding young men with limitless potential-."
The words are as dead as the bodies the fly over. Erik sneers at the uptight man who reads his words from a paper in his hands, flinches as his voice reverberates throughout the hanger.
Sean will laugh at the properness of it all. Scott will be offended and rag on Alex for not being present at his pre-flight funeral.
No, not will. Would have. Would have done. They're dead. Sean and Scott are dead.
Erik joined this war to spare himself the claim the government would have, if his name had been drawn in the draft. He had not joined to watch children burn in pits of Hell not made for them.
"Erik?" Charles' voice is soft and empty in his ear, drowning out anything the man in the suit is trying to say about the children they knew nothing about. Erik's children. "Do you have a moment? Come with me."
Erik stands and pretends the eyes that are suddenly on them are on the coffins where they belong.
Charles' grip is fierce on his bare shoulders. No time.
"Don't make this slow."
His hands are bruising Charles' hips. No kissing.
"Don't make it matter."
They have never done this before. It's done, of course - he knows where Alex and Hank and Darwin are - but they haven't ... not them.
"Make it hurt me, Erik."
They're naked and touching and Charles turns away from him, embraces the wall, and he could not give a damn of policies now. Because what was alive is now dead and somewhere ashes are falling from the sky in place of the rain that should rightfully be there, spreading death instead life and the voices of his children are echoes in the back of his mind.
He slams into Charles and they both cry out, but he doesn't stop because this isn't about love or sex or comfort. He surges forward with the violent rage of the mine that destroyed Scott's life and pulled Sean with it. He sees the flash of the explosion with every thrust, hears Sean screaming every time Charles keens a whine, sees Scott twitching his life away every time Charles arches back against him.
The other feels this too, he knows - makes them same connections. A three-month family blown away.
"Erik. Erik. Fuck. Erik. Erik. Fuck." Not a chant, but a plea.
FUCKING HELP ME PLEASE ERIK PLEASE I'M BURNING!
He pulls his superior officer towards him, back to chest - fucks him brutally as the blood that slips between them falls like the blood from before, like the ashes of the sky, like the bodies of their children and the boys they still have left and they both cry out again from the burning hot sensation of too much pain.
"They're dead, Charles," he growls without mercy, right into the younger man's ear. "They're dead. We killed them. They killed them. They're dead. Take it. Accept it."
Grabs him, pulls him, hurts him, and they're both gone in the same flash that took the lives they grieve.
Sean had been drafted. His name was pulled up on some random screen by some man who had never faced down the barrel of a gun with a burning bullet ready to fire. Printed out on a sheet of paper with fancy, firm, punishing words of finality, and served with order.
Scott had joined with the voluntarity of any other fresh out-of-highschool teenager. Alex had been drafted from prison, and Scott would not let his brother fight alone. He had been all too greedily taken in. Accepted.
Both are dead and they hadn't really had a fucking choice in the matter.
Azazel, too, had been drafted from prison. Janos was an immigrant with an option - sign up to serve or be sent back to South America to die in the life he had tried to escape from. Darwin wanted to get through college. Hank ... Hank had been the only one of the boys to willingly sign up to serve. If one counted "looking for a place to belong" as willing.
Erik had signed up the moment rumor of a draft had come forward - better that he own his own fate than the government dogs who would be all to happy to take it for him.
Charles ... Charles had stepped into the role of soldier before any of the others, Erik included, had met him. He didn't know why - the man had everything, and a sister waiting for his return - but he did know Charles' eyes had been vacant and tired when they had first met. A life lived hard.
Slowly climbing his way up from the pits of Hell.
He bites Charles neck and lets his fingers slip through the drying, dying blood. They breathe like they're sucking in napalm and twitch like it, too. He wants to burn - burn like Scott, burn like Sean - feel that pain and that agony and greet the sweetness of Death and its Reaper and be done with this game of countries warring over a cause he does not care about.
He knows - knows - that Charles does, too.
So when he bites again, drawing a shudder and gratitude for the sensation, and says, "We're not fighting for them anymore. No more of this, Charles. No more."
Charles simply says, "Okay."
They return to the two coffins.
Three months, two children, freedom to be buried and unearthed and justice to be gained.
Above, outside, the blades of a helicopter moan the tunes of funeral grief.
Don't ask. But feel free to question. Was going to be longer, but the words died in the red water, suffocating in the rage of me.
…I'm going to go write more things now.
Your thoughts are welcome, your silence is uneasy, but your cruelty is ignorance in the most horrific way. What is a review but one small kindness to pay?