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Title: The Bell's Toll (2/?)
Author: monstrousreg
Word count:  
Warnings:  Violence, fast pacing, eventual NC-17. So, uh, the usual for me, I suppose. 
Pairing: Erik/Charles.
Summary: Nikkita AU inspired by this prompt. A sort of fusion between the two series, with a healthy (or not) dose of my own imagination. Charles Xavier goes to prison, and is recruited by a spy/assassin division of the government. Dismal a beginning as this might look, it unbelievably goes downhill. Erik, the necessary stoic ex-military man, gets sidled with him. Not a single person is amused.      
Notes: Unbetaed, and stuff. Remember last time I said, "In which I try to write a mild-mannered, naive, innocent, fragile Charles my brain BETRAYS ME. Sorry OP, it's just, this Charles, he won't cooperate." So... yeah. Ye be warned. 

Prologue

Charles woke up as lucid as he’d ever been; a long stretch from his normal awakening process in the last several weeks.

It took him a fraction of a second to recognize his mind, expanded and limitless, free of drugs and restrictions. He stretched out his awareness, the fine thin threads of silver that form his spider-web spreading out subtle, silent, exploring.

He was in a large compound—a great building, similar in layout and construction to the prison, only the intent is different. Buildings have awareness; years and years of human consciousness seeping through the walls and soaking into the core of the structure. If those who walk daily through its corridors know the purpose of the building, then the building knows as well.

Share your secrets, he suggested, skating tendrils of sharp awareness over the smooth painted walls of corridors and hallways, up staircases and down elevator shafts into—ah.

Awake, professor? The voice was female and teasing, amused.

Charles was startled. Hyper-aware after weeks of leashes, his telepathy folded inwards for protection, throwing up impenetrable walls topped with steel knife-points. Wincing in the aftermath, Charles tempered down the protection, settling down to a simple brick wall crowned with broken glass. A somewhat inelegant but solid defense.

You have me at a disadvantage, he sent, unerringly polite. Charles had spent sufficient time in England to learn how to wield politeness as a weapon. To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking?

You’ll meet me soon enough, sugar.

It was unlike Charles to be so easily irritated, and he thought perhaps a residue of the drugs could be making him grumpy. He catalogued the reaction and let it go, like a hot-air balloon set free. No point in lingering in distasteful inclinations.

He was not fond of pet-names, and he was even less partial to condescension. It would not do, however, to let her know what irritated him. Those who knew how to hurt you tended to use that knowledge, and Charles had learned at an early age that providing anyone with that power was far from wise.

He felt the woman’s curiosity, tinged with amusement.

Very nice. I didn’t know you were quite this well trained. Who was your teacher?

Life, the universe, and everything, he answered vaguely, withdrawing half-way from the mindspace to pay attention instead to the room he was in. White walls, white ceiling and tiled black floor. No windows. A desk and a chair, a Spartan bed with white covers and light blue sheets. A white metal cabinet to do, Charles imagined, as a wardrobe.

It looked like the room one might expect to find in an asylum.

Yet if he had been deemed feeble-minded and moved to an asylum, surely he would have been more heavily drugged, not the other way around.

He could feel the woman’s mind, scratching carefully at his walls, prodding, pinching. She wanted to know how good he was at defending himself.

Good enough, I assure you, he sent out, ill-pleased, barring her access. Kindly refrain from doing that.

Her laughter was like the sound of diamonds grinding together. Her power seemed to slither against the walls of his mind, but she didn’t manage—or perhaps didn’t even really try—to break in. After another moment of forcing her presence on him, she simply slid away.

Charles turned his attention back to the building, to its bricks and columns and linoleum-covered floors.

Classrooms, gymnasiums, locker rooms adjoined to communal bathrooms, a great Olympic pool, a wide sports lawn, training areas, conference rooms. A shooting range. Charles dug a layer deeper. A training facility for operatives.

“Spies and assassins,” he mused, folding back the covers to get out of bed. He found he was dressed in a loose white shirt and grey pants, secured with a drawstring low on his hips. He tightened the string and cast his mind back to remember.

The transfer from the prison, unannounced and unexplained. The lack of answers. The crash. He’d been hurt, surely—he reached up to his head, but there was no blood, no pain. No bandages either.

Curiouser and curiouser, he told himself with a slight smile. Putting his hands in the pockets of his pants, he examined the room a bit more closely. When he peeked inside the wardrobe he found more clothes, neatly folded; all the same. White t-shirts and grey pants; two grey hooded sweatshirts. Appropriate sportswear of good quality and perfect size. There was even underwear in a drawer, standard-issue black boxers.

He found socks and tennis shoes, which he put on because being barefoot made him feel vulnerable. After a moment he also put on a sweatshirt and zipped it up, rolling the sleeves up to his elbows.

At a lack for anything else to do, he sat on the bed and started setting up an intricate web of silver chains, a system of complex awareness that would serve as a proximity alarm. Any person who knew little of Charles’ childhood would think such precautions bordering on paranoia, but Charles had shared lodgings with the Markos.

Paranoia was only so until someone was actually after you.

So Charles had learned to keep himself safe, and the first rule of defense is to be prepared.

As a child, whimsical in his vast imagination, he had fashioned himself a familiar. Perhaps unfortunately, at the time he had been quite taken with Sherlock Holmes, and The Hound of The Baskervilles had made rather an impression. As a result, whenever he imagined a way to defend himself, in his mind he formed large nets of silver spider-webs, and set a guard behind them—a large black wolf, eyes red as fresh blood, prowling eager for violence.

The thing about the wolf—which he childishly called Baskerville, because well—was that it was more aggressive than Charles thought he might ever feel inclined to be. It had been Baskerville, after all, who had nearly torn apart Cain’s mind. Once upon a time, in another life, in another country, Charles had been horrified at what his own mind was capable of.

But he hadn’t seen Baskerville since he had been injected with the drugs after his arrest, and to have the wolf at his side once again was akin to taking a breath after being submerged in murky water. Baskerville was his guardian and his weapon; with him at his side, his time in prison would have been quite different indeed.

The wolf was nosing the door, restless. Charles wondered over to it, because there was really nothing else to do but indulge in idle activity, and tested the doorknob.

It gave and the door opened. The hairs along Baskervilles’ spine stood erect, and then the wolf was outside, in the corridor, sniffing, hunting. Charles followed, amazed and surprised, looking around. Thanks to what he had done earlier he had a rather blurry, but accurate enough map of the facility. Certainly enough to get him to the front door, where, unrestrained, he could let himself out without trouble.

“Hm,” he hummed, suspicious, and his telepathy sent out a wide pulse of reconnaissance—locating guards and sentinels, possible pockets of hostile activity, and turning them away. He pulled the silver nets from their perches on the hallways and turned them into snakes, fine little slithering things that he sent away like look-outs. They would find the guards and control them.

Baskerville approved, loping exuberantly down the corridor, following Charles’ mental map and guiding him without effort.

Charles was mystified.

He didn’t understand how this was so easy. Quite clearly he was in a training facility, a compound, spies and assassins, walls impregnated with secrets and violence. How come his door was unlocked, his corridor unguarded, his telepathy unrestrained?
Ah. Baskerville was at his side immediately, hackles rising.

“Yes, a trap, surely,” Charles said absently. Best be careful, then.

He found the snakes and made them burrow deeper inside the minds of their hosts, careful to do no harm, and extract only relevant information. They told him to turn away from the front door and find instead the small, unguarded one in the basement where the training equipments was kept. From there, a hidden exit, a tunnel into an abandoned house, and freedom.

Too easy, isn’t it? He mused, frowning.

Unexpectedly, one of the snakes told Charles that someone was approaching his door. He took a quick, cursory look—tall, lean, long-limbed, movements economical and efficient in the ways only the men of the military can confidently manage. Sharp features, bone close beneath the skin, but handsomely arranged, and a mind like a maze of metal walls. Well-shielded; clearly trained in rejecting telepathy.

“Running late, my lad,” Charles said, and rolled his shoulders to relax the muscles there. Baskerville’s eyes glittered.

“Well, if there’s only one front door and only one back door, and both the front and back door are traps,” Charles told the wolf, grinning. “We shall have to exit through a window.”

The metal-minded man was intrigued, but not alarmed. Another clue, then, that they had expected him to leave. There was something of a hint of pleasure there, and Charles thought Oh how lovely, he’s proud of me.

Charles ducked into a side corridor and picked up his pace to a trot, aware now that while curious and far from angered, the metal-minded man was clearly in pursuit. It was impossible to tell what his gift was, his mind was so well shielded, but it was evident he was a mutant.

Charles did not feel threatened and was uncertain as to what was happening exactly. Running seemed like the way to go, but he didn’t know what he was attempting to escape, or where he would go should he manage to succeed. Most unpleasantly, he had the sensation that everything was scripted and predictable, and he was being tested. Why else allow him to run free in such a gross way?

They expected him to try and run away. Through this exercise undoubtedly they hoped to glean inkling on the way Charles thought and processed situations, and how he reacted to hostile environments.

Charles had never had much patience for theatrics.

He recalled the snakes, re-shaped the nets and took the long way back to his room, avoiding the metal-minded man quite pointedly.

Baskerville was out for blood, but Charles knew better; he knew that the less information you gave someone about yourself, the safer you were.

Why play their game? Charles was no one’s pawn. He wouldn’t become a willing player in their chess-board.

So it was that, an hour and a half later, the metal-minded man found him in his room, quietly stretched out on his bed with his fingers laced on his stomach. Charles let Baskerville linger, because the wolf scented hostility better than he did consciously. Hostility could be hidden from telepathy; it was not a conscious decision, but rather a visceral inclination. Baskerville was a creature of instinct.

“You made me waste rather a good part of my afternoon, Xavier.”

“I apologize,” Charles said, getting to his feet. The man was quite a bit taller than him, broad-shouldered and hard. He was used to looming and being intimidating. “I imagined since you were trying to make a point, I might as well deliver one of my own.”

The man gave him a grin like a scalpel. “That you won’t play by our rules, I gather.”

“That I won’t play at all,” Charles corrected.

“So,” the man said conversationally, pulling the chair and sitting on it, crossing his long legs with unexpected elegance. “I take it you know where you are, then.”

“A lot of assuming has been done thus far,” Charles said mildly. “Perhaps you ought to simply tell me.”

“You can’t learn it on your own?” the man asked, tapping his finger on his temple.

“I could,” Charles conceded. “But I might as well pin you down and rape you.”

The man stilled, and there was a pause.

“You’re not like your file suggests,” the man said at length.

“I’m rather sorry you’ve studied it so carefully, then,” Charles smiled, sitting on the edge of the bed and leaning forward. “You’ve not introduced yourself.”

“Erik Lehnsherr,” the man said. “I’m your handler.”

“Handler,” Charles repeated, and Baskerville nearly tore a hole through Lehnsherr’s psyche.

Lehnsherr nodded. “I know you know what this is, Xavier, so don’t make me waste my time explaining it. You’ve been recruited to Section Eight, and I’m your handler, and eventually I expect you’ll be a moderately useful spy for us. If I can get you in shape.”

“Recruiting would imply the ability to decline,” Charles pointed out. “Removing me from the legal system, faking my death and forcing a car crash are not acceptable methods of recruiting.”

Lehnsherr grimaced, “The car crash was a consequence of a slight miscalculation. It wasn’t supposed to happen.”

“I am comforted,” Charles said flatly. “What about the marshals?”

“Alive and well,” Lehnsherr shrugged. “Not that anybody cares.”

“I happen to care,” Charles protested. “This is me caring. I ask because I care. You can tell the difference between what I care and what I don’t by my not asking questions about who you are and what you think you can accomplish with me. Irrelevant, as I won’t do as you tell me.”

Lehnsherr’s slate-blue eyes narrowed.

“You think you’re going to be a handful,” he said idly. “But your telepathy doesn’t work on me, and I’m stronger than you physically, so.”
“So, what precisely? You’ll force me to do as you want?” Charles shook his head. “I know this is foolish before I ask it, but do you really think you can get away with this? What’s keeping me from destroying your mind, controlling all the others in this compound and escaping into the shadows?”

“Our in-house telepath, for one,” Lehnsherr replied. “Much more powerful than you. Then there’s the fact that you’re a good man, Xavier. You won’t hurt me unless I absolutely force your hand, and I’m not stupid enough to do that. Men like you need to be shoved to violence.”

“As opposed to men like you, to whom violence is the first response?” Charles tilted his head. “I’m not afraid of you, Lehnsherr. You’re painting yourself like an average bully, and I’m not a helpless child any longer.”

The man smiled, but there was no humor in it. His eyes gleamed. “I like you, Xavier.”

A single, slithering though escaped the metal fortress of his mind: You’ll be fun to break. This thought did not amuse Charles, and it certainly didn’t endear Lehnsherr to Baskerville.

“Anyway, you’d escape and go where?” Lehnsherr gestured with a hand. “You’re a convict, Xavier.”

Charles grinned, “Wrong, Lehnsherr. I’m a dead man. I don’t exist. I’m as free as a newborn. I have you to thank for that.”

Lensherr shrugged, though his mind was whirring, like cogs and pulleys, a perfect machine. Clearly he hadn’t expected Charles to be this difficult. Charles understood suddenly that it took most people a while to arrive at this conclusion and fight the situation. He was throwing the man for a loop. Just as well.

“Then why not do as we suggest?” Lehnsherr asked. “You’ve got no better offers, and no worse. Clean slate. I know you think lowly of what we do, but we do good here. We protect the country. We stop terrorists. We save people.”

“I’m not a teenager to be sold a brochure, my friend,” Charles sighed. “You’ll not convince me with pretty words and eloquent phrases. What’s beneath your sweet words is that you own me because you took me out of prison and gave me the freedom of death. What you offer me, the indebted servitude you sell, is really not better than my cell—although I suppose the change of outfit is an upgrade.”

“You don’t lose anything, and at least here you’re a part of something bigger. You can do something worthwhile.”

It seemed odd to Charles that someone with cynic and lack of faith painted in wide stripes across his mind, as was Lehnsherr’s case, would go for this sort of argument. Clearly, this was as rehearsed a speech as everything else. Do something. Be great. Become someone. If only Charles was the little boy he had once been. If only he believed all he needed to survive was faith.

“This country’s not done much for me, I’m afraid.”

Lehnsherr stood, “Just think about it. You’re free to come and go on the compound, do as you please, so long as you don’t leave. I will stop you from leaving.”

He went to the door, but paused with his hand on the doorknob, turning to look at Charles speculatively.

“Did you do it?”

Charles arched his brows.

“Marko. Did you kill him?”

The telepath laced his fingers, smiling. “The natural thing would be to tell you I didn’t. But the truth of it is you won’t believe me, no matter what evidence I offer. I don’t think you believing I lie to you and me believing you don’t trust me is a promising start to this partnership.”

Lehnsherr nodded.

“Like I said, think about it. We can use someone like you, Xavier. After all,” he smiled wryly. “You’re free to become anything right now. Tyler Durden might be proud of you yet.”

On that note, Lehnsherr left, leaving the door wide open. 

Chapter 3
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December 2011

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