Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men. Marvel does.

A/N: Sequel/side story to Muted.

Rating: Hard T


The apartment is quiet in the early hours of the afternoon, and Erik's red and black painting hangs on the wall as though it is a window from Hell for the Devil to see through.

Draped across and through and under the threadbare sheets of their bed, cigarette cradled between calloused and sore fingers, Charles hates the sight of it.

Erik favors darkness to his paintings. His work, he had told Charles when they first met, was not intended to be taken lightly, or so casually regarded. Erik wants the sight of every canvas he displays, the feel of their every subject, to punch the viewer in the face with the reality of this world decaying that they have created and continue to create for themselves. He never offers apologies, never tries to disguise his work as anything it isn't, and takes a great amount of morbid pleasure in the disgusted and grudgingly respectful reviews his Underground shows always walk away with. Pride in the truth of his art.

This painting is red and black and hangs on the wall as though it is a window from Hell for the Devil to see through. Charles would use his cigarette to give it the appropriate fire, if he could.

While Erik does not disguise the dark reality of his paintings, neither does he outright declare it. "Many visions of an early artist are destroyed by their own ungrateful impatience," he was fond of saying to his students. The message made too obvious - too blatantly excited and apparent and stabbingly accusing. One would need only a glimpse at the work to dismiss it for what it wasn't before hearing what it had to say.

No, Erik likes to lure his audience in - cajole them with whispered possibilities of happiness and praise for their existence within the contents of the oils. He never used dark colors in excessive prominence - nothing to so easily give it away.

This painting from Hell is overwhelmed with black that bleeds from and bleeds into red. There's nothing tempting in it, nothing spoken, nothing whispered or shared or told in secret. This painting is a gaping wound - if Erik had stood in the center of one of his shows, ripped open his chest with his own two hands, and let the world watch his heartbeat fade as the blood of his body seeped away, it would be the same.

It's raw, sobbing and raging and screaming, and Charles hates it. The faces that rise from its depths - two faces, two sides. Lies, lies, lies. Different faces, the same man. One face gentle, beckoning, kind. The other, a dark kind of horror that can only suck you in and slay you in pieces slowly, slowly, slowly.

Sebastian Shaw stares out of the canvas - a smirk, disapproval - that hangs on the wall from across the bed, pulled from the black by the red of Erik's blood the bastard spilt himself.

Reaching for the ashtray, Charles taps the burning embers of his ashes into the glass where he wants to coat them across the finely detailed red eyes. The gray tattoo of the peace symbol on his wrist shifts slightly at the flex of his muscles. His eyes never leave the painting.

"I want to kill you," he says softly, as he does to every image of the man he has ever come across, that Erik ever paints, to the unseen whispers of his existence that dance across the walls after nightmare upon nightmare. "I think I will, one day."

The painting doesn't blink - the Devil must not be looking now. It doesn't matter. He slips the cigarette back between his lips, untangles himself gently from the sheets, and stands. The pages on his desk call for him quietly, words left abandoned and yearning from his departure the night before.

Erik's class will be over in forty minutes. Barring questions and critiques proposed by his students, he will be home in fifty. In fifty-five, together, they'll toss out another painting, order take-out, and pretend, for a while, until the next one, that it never existed.

He picks up a pen and smirks around his smoking cigarette.

Time enough to write a eulogy to die with it.


There's probably going to be a few more of these.

Let me know what you thought? (: