Author: Skull Bearer
Warnings: Dark, pretty explicity sex, violence in later chapters
Word Count: 3,347
Summary: Sequel to Past Tense, which was my take on 'what if Charles Xavier was in Auschwitz'.
Rebuilding in Palestine, Erik and Charles begin to learn how to live, together, in the outside world. Coming to terms with their past, their powers, and the changing and sometimes treacherous world around them. A mix of comic and movieverses.
The library is old and far too small for the number of books crammed into it, a mixture of ancient books from the previous century, and several collections previously belonging to local people who fled the war. It's not the library at Havard, with its stacks and reading rooms, nor is it like his grandmother's house in Westchester; with entire rooms dedicated to books. But those places are so far away the books might be so much fog and smoke, and the books in this library are here and now.
Erik is hunched over one of the mismatched tables and chairs, reading one of the few pieces of recent literature in this place: One of a handful of science journals that a regular gets sent in from America and donates to the library when she's finished with them. Charles picks one from the stack, the January 1946 edition of Science magazine.
Charles holds it, more for the experience of holding it in his hands that any intention to read it. He holds it and steps back twelve years to his father, to his office in New York, to the huge; rambling family mansion they visited every holiday. Charles would leaf through the pages before he could even read the words, for the privilege of seeing his father laugh and ruffle his hair and Well there's no doubt you're my son now, is there?
Through Erik's eyes, he can feel Erik pick over the words, struggling to understand the jargon. He has the excuse of English being his third language – Fourth if you count Yiddish, Erik points out – and a patchwork education. Charles can barely understand it either, and Charles is one who went to Harvard.
Charles looks down at the science journal, confronted with the simple fact that he no longer understands what is written there. He's gone from writing studies that might have been accept in this damn magazine if it hadn't been for his age, and now he barely understands what they're writing. Everything he had, which had come so easily with his money and connections, and now he's back to square minus one.
Erik looks up, eyes warm under shading lashes. Not lost. Buried maybe. We'll find it again. Together.
Charles smiles, and settles down next to Erik. Erik is back to staring at the journal, but his hand drifts down to rest on Charles' knee. Thus fortified, Charles looks down at the journal as though going into battle and opens randomly.
The Berlin incident, and the account of the Soviet Commissar of the 'being of light' that survived firepower enough to decimate half the city, and proceeded to destroy the Commissar's division of the 1st Ukrainian, can be easily dismissed as an underling attempting to concoct a story to cover his own failings."
What? Charles flicks back to the beginning; The Myth of Human Mutation.
"Accounts of individuals with so called superhuman abilities have been listed both here and in other publications as more than simple urban legend or war stories,"
Something clenched in Charles' stomach, a sort of shock that has his fear of disappointment scrabbling to push away the hope rising in him.
" but it is the intention here to shed light on these records and reveal these stories for the fiction that they are. The chief uniting nature of these claims of human mutants is the outlandishness of the powers they attach to the individuals cited. These include claims of individuals capable of flight, of instantly regenerating the most grievous wounds, of controlling and hurling bolts of energy (see the Berlin incident, p34).
Charles doesn't say anything, or send anything to Erik; he doesn't want to share the disappointment if he is wrong. But Erik can feel the sharp scratchiness of his mind, and pushes back curiously. Are you all right?
I... just, look...
Erik wonders what the author of this article would make of them. He wonders if they would try and find the wires Erik was using to lift things without touching them, or would pretend they were imagining Charles' voice in their head.
Whoever wrote the article didn't believe it. But then, who would? The fishermen called on god. Allens fooled himself into believing it was all trickery. They looked for every reason but the one staring them in the face; that Erik and Charles were something else, something more. Something glorious.
The spectre of Mengele and his superior rises, but they can fight now. Erik can turn their guns and scalpels and knives against them, and Charles could make them shoot themselves. There isn't even the reason to fear, and this far away, it's easy to feel invincible.
He wonders if this is what the prophets of old felt, when they heard people worshipping false gods. The urge to laugh, the feeling of being right, and stronger than they could ever imagine.
Charles looks up, and his eyes blaze "This is us." He whispers. It's a pointless thing to say, but he can feel Charles needs to say it, to hear it, to accept it to be true.
It's pure blind relief. Charles leans forward, hunched over and lets it wash over him. This is them. This is them as they are born, not made. Not monsters or mistakes or experiments. Not human, which would be worst of all. No blood on their new-born hands.
We are gods. Erik puts in.
Charles smiles. We are mutants. He tries out the word in his mind, bends it to suit them. It's not a bad fit.
We can be both.
But this way there may be others. Really others. Ones the Nazis didn't find. Like us.
Hiding, like us.
But there all the same. Our people.
Erik can barely fit his mind around it. He had a people. There's not much left of them. The Jewish people of Palestine are so far from the village of his childhood and the ghetto of his adolescence that they might be a different faith altogether. They are not like him or Charles. The idea that there might be people out there who were, that he could meet them, and they would know what it was like to see without eyes or touch without skin... it's almost as frightening as it is joyful. All wonderful things are.
Erik lowers his head, and smiles. Lets the joy wash over him as well. They need not be alone. There are others like them. A nation of gods.
Sleep is hard to come by that night. Charles is still so excited he feels as though something inside him is trembling. They eat silently, without even sharing thoughts beyond the blood-deep thrill of it. They finish their rounds for the evening. Charles hesitates, one hand above a sleeping woman. He could. Today, for the first time it feels like it's under his control. His ability, his... power. Mutant power. Human mutant.
Somehow, just knowing what it is makes it better than any amount of control.
They collapse into bed late that night, and Charles is still too excited to stay still. Erik pulls him down and forces him to sit. Charles does for a few moments, before starting to rise to pace the room again. Erik yanks him back down and sits behind him, arms across his shoulders and legs around his waist to keep him in place.
Charles exhales, forces himself to relax. Erik kisses the side of his neck. He's happy. It's not the blinding, riveting joy that fills Charles' bones, but it's there. A quiet ocean deep sense of satisfaction, in having confirmed something he'd known from the beginning. That this was something they were, not a result of some Nazi experiment. Them from beginning to end, them as they had been born, not maddened humans, but their own kind.
Charles sighs, and relaxs into Erik's embrace, feeling his friend's thoughts calm his. Erik's thoughts flash pleasure that Charles is finally relaxing and they might go the bed at some point.
"But, Erik." Charles feels the hot thrill rising inside him again. "Think about it. If there are more of us, we can't stay hidden forever. They'll have to find out about us, sooner or later-"
Shh. "Later." Erik's voice is a sleepy purr in his ear. "Later then. Charles, we have to sleep." He wants to sleep before he can think of anything that can ruin this feeling. He wants to curl up around it, between it and Charles, and sleep. He leans back and pulls Charles with him.
Charles lets him. Closes his eyes and tries to bury himself in that warm place in Erik's mind. Vague thoughts drift through the contentment like deep-sea fish. Erik wonders what his family would have thought, had he shown what he could do while they were still alive.
They would have loved him all the same. That knowledge is bedrock. As certain and Erik's conviction that they would have loved Charles had they had the chance to meet him. His family would have loved him no matter who he fell in love with. Even as a god, his family would have loved him.
If he were a god, his family wouldn't have died.
The contentment turns to ice, and Erik shudders. Charles feels the tremble under him and turns over to look him in the face.
They wouldn't have died. He could have saved them. He'd saved himself, and he'd had no idea what he was doing. He could have saved them, he could have killed the soldiers and freed the ghetto and broken the camps open. He could-
"You were a child." Charles whispers.
Erik blinks, his losing their lost look and focusing on Charles.
"You were a child." Charles insisted. "I was a child. Do you think I should have stopped them?"
"No, you know I-"
"I could have." Charles insisted. "Like you could. But you were a child. Like I was. It wasn't your fault."
Erik looks away, staring at the ceiling. Charles' words sink into his mind like stones in a pond and breaks the ice. Calm returns, although the joy is faded.
Charles pushes himself up and strokes hair out of Erik's face. Erik looks at him, and gives a tiny smile. "We don't have that excuse now."
Erik nods, closing his eyes. He's tired. Charles nuzzles under his chin and he exhales gently. Not your fault. I will not let you blame yourself when the blame belongs to them.
For all his exhaustion, Erik's sleep is agitated and confused. His dreams keep trying to return to the camps, and strike against the nets Charles had woven in his mind to keep him away. Erik dreams of webs and confusion, struggling to get free from the shadows and the tangles.
All he wants is true sleep, to pull himself free and sink into a place where there are no dreams. He pulls and pulls and finally feels something inside his head come loose and the effort of it is enough that he slips finally off to real sleep.
Erik jerks awake at the shout in his head and in his ears. He's cold for some reason, he shakes his head, his head is aching. The ground is cold under him; he must have fallen out of bed. Opening his eyes, the world is blurred and the perspective wrong. Charles is hanging above him, face a mask of fear.
Erik shakes his head, he just fell out of bed, what is Charles-
Erik looks down, the ground is not the usual bare scrubbed boards, but whitewashed pebbled. And above him- Charles isn't just above him, as he would be, but a long, long way up. And there is the bed. Erik can see him on the bed. And the spare bed beside him, and the pile of their clothes on-
On the floor.
For a moment, Erik thinks he is about to scream. It feels as though some other, terrified person is taking control of his mouth. His grits his teeth and tries to find something to hang on to on the ceiling.
Charles staggers up, standing on the bed, reaching up to grab Erik's arm. Erik is too terrified to move in case he somehow comes unstuck and falls.
"I- how-" Charles stammers. "I think there's stepladder-" His mind flies to whether he should get anyone. It would reveal the truth but Erik can't stay stuck the ceiling forever, maybe he could make them forget afterwards-
"Stop." Erik grits out. His mind is spinning enough without Charles adding to it. He looks down. It's a long way down but at least he'd land on the bed. With a terrific effort he pulls his arm from the ceiling and reaches down to catch Charles'. Oddly, it feels completely normal. As though gravity had been reversed, just for him.
Charles pulls, but Erik doesn't move. His arms might be free, but his back feels as though it's part of the ceiling.
"Erik." Charles gapes. At least he's calmer. Whatever is happening, at least Erik is fine. "I – wait here." There is a stepladder on the landing. Charles scrambles out without even putting any clothes on.
Erik blinks, then collapses with a groan and closes his eyes. He doesn't feel any different. He feels fine. He's just upside down.
Charles comes back in, carrying the stepladder in both hands. He sets it up and climbs up. Erik reaches down with both hands, and Charles tries to pull him down. It doesn't work now either.
Erik tries to think what he did. He must have done it while asleep, which just makes it harder. Charles touches his mind and sifts through his thoughts, trying to find where Erik might have done it.
There was that moment, that unknotting inside him when something had come free. The moment his mind touches it, Erik feels it again, and falls.
He lands half on the stepladder and half on Charles, and the ladder tips and pitches them both on the bed in a tangle of limbs.
Erik draws in a breath, the world suddenly the right way up again and a stabbing pain in his leg where he will probably have quite a bruise. Charles is struggling for breath where he's had the breath knocked out of him. Erik sits up and rubs his back, soothing.
Charles pushes himself up, finally dragging in a full breath. "What did you do?"
Erik sits, hugging his sore leg. "I don't know."
Charles nudges the place in his head that had reversed gravity. Here?
"Yes." Erik rubs the side of his head, as though to touch that strange place. What is it like?
Charles shakes his head and rolls over to lie of his side, looking up at Erik. "I'm not sure how to describe it. Like part of your head."
Erik nudges the place, pulls and shoves, and feels... lift. As thought something tying him to the ground, the force of gravity, isn't there so much anymore. A hot flash of excitement.
Charles sits up, "What?"
"Come on." Erik gets up.
They put on trousers and shirts, but don't bother with shoes as Charles follows Erik down the stairs, their bare feet making no sound on the bare boards. The night staff are busy cleaning up for the morning, but they're not deaf. Charles reaches out, and pushes against their minds, keeping it away from them. Erik smiles.
Where are we going?
Outside, the sky is into the barely grey light of pre-dawn, Charles shivers. It's absurd, it's nowhere near the same cold, but Charles' bones remember the cold of Polish winter, and dread any reminder of it. Erik rolls out the Ariel and beckons. Inside of mounting up, they walk down the street away from the hospital, pushing the motorcycle, bare feet on the dusty stones.
Erik rests his free hand on Charles' shoulder. He squeezes. Charles glances around, reaches with his mind to make sure no one is watching, and leans over for a kiss. Erik's lips are warm and sweet. He stops, holds the Ariel upright in his mind, and pulls Charles in for a proper kiss. He's shockingly warm, giving off heat like a radiator, and his arms are strong around Charles. Charles leans in and kisses Erik again, driving the memory of cold out of his bones.
Erik tilts his head to the side, deepening the kiss, tongue hot and slippery in Charles' mouth. Charles breaks the kiss, catches his breath in the air that suddenly tastes like the arctic.
"Are you sure?" We could go back, go to bed. There are hours left-" He leaves the rest unsaid.
Erik hesitates, then nods. "I can't try this here. We need to go out." He looks at the motorcycles, puts a hand on the handlebars. "I want to try this."
Erik wants this so badly. Charles can feel his thoughts press against that place in his mind, a hand over a switch. Charles smiles. Alright.
Erik straddles the Ariel, and Charles gets on the back, the metal warm under them. Charles feels Erik smile, and his amusement at Charles' enthusiasm. Charles shifts, and kisses the side of Erik's neck. Come now, as though you're not interested.
"Shh, let's go."
They don't go anywhere. That's the point. They drive into the countryside outside the city, into the dusty fields and olive trees. But that's not right either. Charles shakes his head, he can sense people nearby, farmers starting work, grove owners making their first rounds. They keep driving.
Charles is worrying that they won't be able to get in time for their shift, and finally, they find the right place. It's rocky and sparse, boulders and tussocky grass. They are quite alone. Charles isn't sensing anyone for miles.
Erik pulls the Ariel over, and they dismount. Charles leans it flat on the ground, and Erik walks out a few steps. They sky is lighter, but the sun hasn't risen yet. Charles feel Erik press against that place in his mind, trying to make whatever it was happen again.
"Erik." Charles sits down by the Ariel. "Are you sure?" If he can't control it, he might not be able to stop.
"I can do this," Erik insists.
Charles nods. "Ready?" He touches Erik's mind, reassuring himself.
Nothing happens. He's thinking it wrong, he has to be. The world is still under his feet, and although he is feeling lighter, nothing. Erik presses against it again, but still nothing, he pushes harder. Nothing. Harder and finally something rips free and the world is catapulted away.
Charles' shout rings in his ears and his head, Erik throws his arms out to stop, the wind howling past him, buffeting his, wind cutting through his clothes-
STOP! Erik shouts, out loud or in his head, he doesn't know.
There's peace, silence but for his breathing. The faintly cloudy grey sky is still above him. Erik cranes his head back to look down.
He's not that high up. He's hanging half upside down, as though he'd been dragged up by one foot. Charles is about twenty feet down, looking up with his mouth open. Erik tries to smile reassuringly, opens his mouth to say something comforting and gets a mouthful of his own hair. He spits, and Charles smiles.
He pulls and twists, trying to get upright, finally there's a way to push in his mind and he turns the right way up, standing in midair. His lifts his arms, relaxes his hold and drifts down until he's hovering just above the ground.
Charles walks over. "You can fly."
Erik grins, then, before Charles has time to read it from his mind, drags Charles into his arm and pulls them up again.
Erik laughs, it is whipped away. He can feel Charles in the air, just as he can feel himself, keeping them both aloft. He slows their ascent, hugs Charles tighter and feels him laugh in his mind, against his chest.