Summary: Magneto reflects on the arrival of Charles Xavier to Genosha, and how his life has played out so far, and in the other man's wake. Implied Magneto/Charles. Takes place after episode 1x03 of "Wolverine & the X-Men." Title is from, of all places, the song "Out There" from Disney's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (it seemed to fit the mood of the piece, I suppose).
Safe Behind These Windows and These Parapets of Stone
His plans for Genosha as an all-mutant safe-haven go off better than he could ever have dreamed. That the rest of the world still shudders under the oppression of a society that he is fairly certain will never accept mutantkind completely, Genosha thrives. The billboards are a touch silly, he feels, but they get the job done.
Occasionally, of course, running an empire gets lonely. It doesn't help that the persons he'd choose to surround himself with do not all share his choice to, as his son puts it bluntly at one point, "hide away on some dingy little island while there's still work to be done." Magneto, nee Erik Magnus Lehnsherr, is weary of fighting, of scraping by for mere survival, however, and now all he wants to do is live in relative peace.
So it goes for some time. Magneto's followers are loyal, and the population of Genosha begins to swell. The continent is largely self-sustained, and grows even more so as the years pass, thanks to its citizens' hard work; this is out of necessity, particularly in the wake of things like the Mutant Registration Act making headlines. The simple fact is, it's more dangerous than ever to be a mutant on Earth these days, and Magneto does not have to be in the thick of it to know this. He has, in fact, long since paid his dues.
It's the young daughter of one of his inner circle who finds the man, washed up along the beach. He's not moving when Magneto's men carry him in, though Magneto's heart lodges in his throat when he realizes who it is. "Charles," he whispers, and of course, the other man does not respond; his eyelashes do not even flutter, and Magneto has to search even for a faint heartbeat. Once it's determined by one of Genosha's doctors that Charles is stable, yet essentially brain-dead per the coma he seems to have lapsed into, Magneto orders him to be placed in a private room and hooked up to an IV so that he stays hydrated, at the very least.
He visits the other man several times a day after that. It's been ages since they've last spoken, though Charles always made overtures about how wonderful he thought Erik's aspirations for Genosha were, and how happy he was that Erik was happy, and so on. "Perhaps this is just nature deciding it's high time you paid me a visit, Charles," he notes, perched on the end of Charles' makeshift hospital bed. Machines whirring, and the soft rise and fall of Charles' chest are his only response, but he can almost picture Charles smiling.
He leaves music on when he goes, soft, classical tunes that he knows Charles likes. Sometimes, he brings reading material along with him: Newspapers, so Charles can keep up with what's going on in the world that Magneto has all but abandoned; and sometimes, when he's feeling particularly adventurous, a fraying copy of 'The Once and Future King', which he knows nearly by heart. On the evening before remnants of the X-Men come to claim the body, and whatever is left of the mind, of their mentor - Wolverine's claws are sharp as ever and he brandishes them furiously, but he backs down once he realizes that, in fact, Charles is probably safer here than anywhere - Magneto finishes detailing aloud the final battle between King Arthur and Mordred, sets the book on an end table, brushes a brief kiss to Charles' smooth forehead ("sleep well, Charles"), and goes to bed.
He gives Charles up without a fight; the X-Men are his children, of course, and Magneto assumes from the look of the rag-tag crew that breaks into the metal fortress he calls home, now, that they need him significantly more than Magneto does. Still, he means what he says when he extends a hand in friendship ("come and make this your home, too"), in spite of Wolverine's grousing that "we've already seen the billboards." (At least, Magneto thinks to himself once they leave, Charles in tow, the adamantium-infused man tactfully avoided calling him "bub.") Still, something twinges in his chest as he watches Charles disappear. The room he occupied, albeit as an extremely silent, still house guest, seems emptier without him there, and Magneto realizes that his loneliness after their schism never completely went away - he merely substituted it for trying to take some portion of the world's power for himself. Now that he has that, he thinks, he still misses the simple hallmarks of normalcy - friendship, family, love - that Charles' presence seemed to provide effortlessly, even in his unconscious state.
"Goodbye again, my old friend," Magneto murmurs, and he doesn't enter that specific guest room, or let anybody else use it again for a long time.
He's always been a light sleeper, so the fact that somebody appears to be whispering "Magnus ... Magnus ... Erik, it's me, wake up" manages quite easily to rouse him. "What ..." he begins, immediately on the defensive. His readiness to fight is quickly mollified, however, when he sees who - or what - is seeking his attention.
"Charles?" he chokes, and he decides he's been doing that a lot lately, but there's really no more appropriate way to respond when the seemingly disembodied head of his best friend appears to be floating above his bed, shimmering, more an apparition than anything. "What's going on?" he asks. "Did you wake from your coma?"
The head moves a miniscule amount back and forth, and Magneto decides that Charles is telling him that, no, this is not the case. "My present state in your world remains as such for some twenty years, I'm afraid," the head responds, and Magneto's brow furrows. "I realize this is a lot to process," Charles continues before the other man can start questioning him, "but I've only just woken up in the future. As I've told my X-Men, it is a nightmare here. That is why I've made contact with them in the past, in your time, so that they can change things before this becomes your reality, as well."
Magneto's stomach twists. "Charles, if this is about recruiting me, or Genosha's considerable man power ..." he begins, but Charles' head shakes again, fervently, but only a couple of times, its point made.
"That is not why I am here. I understand your aspirations, Magnus, and I respect your decision to remain apart, in your kingdom." Now that he's gotten over the initial shock of Charles' presence, Magneto can see that there are lines in the other man's face that were not there when the X-Men took him away scant days ago. "To be honest," Charles continues, and Magneto blinks, "I came here to thank you."
Charles smiles. "For taking me in. I must confess, once my services were no longer required by my initial captors" - at this, Magneto's fists clench at the bed sheets, but Charles tuts and he does not cut in - "when they dumped my body into the sea, it would have been quite simple for me to drown, as I'm sure they intended. However, knowing what I do now, I was able to keep my body and mind afloat, so to speak, until I washed up strategically on the shore here, where I knew I would be safe."
Magneto's mouth is slightly agape. "You can do that?" he asks incredulously, not because he doesn't believe it, but because he's impressed. In response, Charles simply inclines his head modestly forward.
"I knew you would help me," he continues softly, and Magneto's mouth thins into a small smile. "It was somewhat manipulative, to be sure, but ... well, thank you, Erik. Thank you for making yourself available to me in my time of need. I knew I could not rely on the tattered remains of my students at this point in time to have the resources or the tenacity to keep me safe, but you did not turn me away, and I will always be grateful for that."
"Any time," Magneto says sincerely, his heart warm and heavy in his chest. He cocks his head. "I was serious when I told Wolverine and the others that this could be their home, too; and yours, Charles." He looks down at the heavy duvet covering his legs and sighs a little. "It hurt a bit to see you leave."
"I know." The hologram of Charles flickers then, and Magneto realizes that they are nearing the end of his visit. "Take care, my friend," Charles tells him, and Magneto nods, but looks sad. "When I am able to contact you again, I will," he promises.
"Do that," Magneto admonishes. Then Charles is gone, and he watches the space his head occupied for several minutes before closing his eyes and drifting into yet another brief sleep. He's fairly certain he dreams, of mutants basking in the sunny fields of Genosha's mainland; of children playing, their laughter joyous and happy and safe; of his own children, grown and glorious in their own distinct ways. He dreams of Charles, sitting up in bed - this bed, this very bed - reading the paper and smiling at him, and when he reaches out to stroke the other man's cheek, he can very nearly feel the soft texture along his fingertips, can almost inhale Charles' unique, clean scent when he leans in to plant a quick kiss on his neck. He dreams of all of these things, he's pretty sure, but then he wakes up again, alone anew, and he doesn't really remember any of it, though the longing for that love and prosperity and hope remains, long after he's tugged himself from his bed - that bed, their bed, it could be theirs, some day - and starts his day.