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[personal profile] monstrousregiment
Title: The Bell's Toll (3/?)
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. So, this Charles just went from mildly dark and mostly annoyed to um. Something else. I don't even know. I'm sorry it took this long to update this, you know I usually try to update once a week, but RL is been... hell. 

Prologue

“Did you, then?” Lehnsherr asked the next morning over breakfast. Breakfast, actually, was rather a kind term for it. It involved awful tea and toasts that swung between burnt and not ready, but they didn’t meet at the middle. Just the extremes.

Lehnsherr seemed to survive on coffee and ibuprofen which was, to put it mildly, worrisome.

“Did I what?”

“Kill Marko.”

“Haven’t we agreed it doesn’t matter?”

“No, I didn’t agree to that.”

Charles glanced up at him, mentally smoothing down the ruffled hairs along Baskervilles’ spine. The guardian seemed alarmingly eager to tear Lehnsherr to shreds. Charles was unsure as to whether this was his subconscious being overly-protective, or his perfectly conscious dislike of the man.

“I don’t understand why you give a damn. Or,” he paused. “actually, I suppose I do. You think if I were a murderer, it would be easier to understand me, don’t you? Similar minds and suchlike.”

“I think that saying goes ‘great minds’.”

“I’ve no proof your mind is great,” Charles replied, casually impolite because he felt he could be excused from manners, given the circumstances. Then he felt terrible about it, damn his upbringing, and backpedalled. “My apologies, Lehnsherr. There’s no reason not to be civil.”

Lehnsherr looked like he could crop up a list of those, but he titled his head instead, dismissing the concern.

“In any case,” Charles took a sip of the horrible, horrible tea. “You’re not wrong by principle. You are wrong because I am the exception and not the rule. Even if I were a murderer, we would not think alike. The minds of telepath are rather far removed from the norm.”

“You know a lot of telepaths?”

“A few.”

“But none as powerful as you,” Lehnsherr guessed. But his eyes were narrowed and Charles could tell he was fishing.

“And how powerful is that, Lehnsherr?” he asked, arching his eyebrows.

“You tell me.”

“You’re the ones that recruited me,” Charles replied. “Surely you saw something of interest in me.”

Lehnsherr sat back on his chair and studied Charles, face unreadable, mind a maze of cold metal. But there was something else; something like a light, almost-there layer of half-melted ice. It didn’t belong in Lehnsherr’s mind. It sat wrong in corners and the edges of walls. Artificial.

“We need a spy, and telepaths make great spies. You’ve got talent, potential. If you let us train you—“

“Like a lapdog?” Charles interrupted, almost deafened by the volume of Baskerville’s snarl.

Lehnsherr sneered, “You have a problem with authority, Xavier.”

“Not with the ones I recognize.”

“Am I going to have to hurt you to get you to respect me?” It’s a serious question, in a matter-of-fact, straightforward tone. Not a threat. A distinct possibility that Lehnsherr with embrace, if pushed.

Baskerville was very nearly out of control with aggression, radiating just try it, go on, see what it gets you.

“I can tell you from experience that won’t work.”

There was a moment of silence. Lehnsherr, quite unfortunately, was not a stupid man.

“So you did kill him, then. Marko.”

“It sounds like you don’t need an answer; you’ve figured it out yourself.”

Perhaps wisely, Lehnsherr decided it was time to let that subject rest. He would return to it, Charles knew; Lehnsherr was surprisingly single-minded, and he felt like this was information he most certainly needed to have. It was as those he could catalogue the world in halves by whether people had or had not committed murder. It felt, also, like he was more comfortable with the latter half.

Charles was marginally grateful for Lehnsherr’s ability to shield himself. His own hostility towards the man, embraced entirely too easily by nearly constantly-growling Baskerville, was not permeating into the man’s psyche and damaging it.

There were several dangers to being a powerful telepath. Bleed-over of feelings was merely one of the least hard to spot. It would not be the first time someone developed deep self-esteem issues out of living too close and too long with a Charles that intensely disliked them.

There would have been many ways to atone for this grievous mistake, but Charles had seriously hated that man and he was a geneticist, not a saint. At least Gerald would do the world some good by contributing to the ongoing studies of the psychological field. Also, by not having children, probably.

Lehnsherr put his mug down on the table and straightened in his chair.

“You’re meant to be a spy,” he said. “Telepaths of any worth are hard to come by, and they make the best spies. My mission is to teach you to protect yourself until your partner can get you out of danger and bring you back to base.”

“Why not teach me to protect myself and bring myself back to base? I didn’t like babysitters when I was a boy, I certainly don’t appreciate them now.”

“Because you don’t need to. We work in pairs, with partners. No one’s ever completely alone.”

“I disagree philosophically,” Charles said idly, simply because being idle seemed the best way to irritate Lehnsherr quickly. “Although, to be fair, I’ve never been quite alone in my head until they started giving me suppression drugs. So perhaps I have it all wrong.”

Lehnsherr studied him quietly for a moment.

“Do you enjoy alienating people in general, or just me in particular?”

Once upon a time, Charles had actually been extremely sociable and nice. Well, to everyone except Gerald, obviously. Those times, however, had been left behind.

“In general,” he admitted. “Although you’ll excuse me if I find some particular enjoyment in doing it to you. You are so very driven to get me to trust you and rely on you. It’s endearing. Like the Hamelin Flutist was endearing, right before he drove the children off the cliff.”

“It amazes me you’ve lived this long,” Lehnsherr commented, getting to his feet and gesturing for Charles to follow his lead. Charles did, mostly out of anything else to do, and they started walking down the hall towards what Charles knew was the training area. Baskerville wedged himself between the two of them though he lacked the physical space. The benefits of being a mental projection were many.

“We work in pairs, with partners, to make sure no one gets left without backup. I intend to help you defend yourself, but you’re a spy, not a warrior. You’ll have a partner that will do the fighting for you. A combat specialist.”

“Assuming I decide to stay,” Charles said, because he hadn’t decided yet. “How do you match partners?”

“There are a lot of considerations. But don’t concern yourself with that now; you’re far from being ready to be assigned one.”

“So the first step in my militarization process,” Charles shrugged. “Is to teach me how to fight, I presume?”

He presumed right. It wasn’t pleasant.

It wasn’t that Lehnsherr was a sadist, though it was clear he was not above causing pain and injury. It was that he had the training and discipline of a military man, and Charles had led the life of a professor of genetics until such a time he was thrown in prison, where his exercising regime had been, to put it mildly, laughable.

Lehnsherr was all lines of skin against hard flat muscle stretched taught over long elegant bones. In a perfectly objective point of view, he was a remarkably beautiful human being. Charles liked beauty and knew how to appreciate it; he could spot beauty in men even if he was not attracted to them. He understood Lehnsherr considered his body a tool and a weapon, and not something to feel vain over.

Charles’ body was different. He’d always thought of it as a jar, a vessel for his telepathy, which was his main avenue of communication and defense. He kept fit because he was vain, which he was not above admitting, and he kept only as fit as necessary to look good. He’d never needed to defend himself—not since he was a child, and most of that was done with his mind and clever hiding spots.

And Lehnsherr was brutal.

He shoved, tackled, pulled, pushed, tripped. He made Charles fall to his knees though attacking his hands, his feet, his stomach, his shoulders and, one memorable time unlikely to repeat itself, his temples.

He had it right in the sense that they were a telepath’s most sensitive spot. He had it wrong in the sense that they were not the most vulnerable one.

Charles had a split second of white noise and red-hot pain, agony, absolute void of feeling or perception but that of pain, in the sense that pain was everything—and snapped back to himself just in time to keep Baskerville from slicing Lehnsherr’s consciousness to bits.

It took a long time for Lehnsherr’s nose to stop hemorrhaging.

“My apologies,” Charles said eventually, vague, half focusing on keeping Baskerville’s increasingly disturbing hostility under check. “I had no idea that could happen.”

“No one’s ever hurt you bad, have they?” Lehnsherr asked, genuinely curious, as he lit a cigarette and put it between his blood-stained lips. The metal zippo lighter sparked and floated on its own.

“They have,” Charles corrected, eyes vacant. “But I never…” he trailed off, frowning slightly.

“You never thought you could get away with hurting them,” Lehnsherr finished for him, undisturbed. “Whereas me you can hurt as bad as you like. You won’t kill me, because I can shield that much, and because our telepath protects me. But you can hurt me. And you think I deserve it, don’t you.”

“I don’t… I don’t know who you are, or what you’ve done, or how you’ve come to be this way,” Charles said, looking blankly to the front. “But your mind is very disagreeable. Oddly malformed. You are angry nearly all the time, did you know?”

Lehnsherr snorted through nostrils caked with dried blood, blowing smoke through his lips.

Charles blinked, “There is a division, in the human mind, between reason and instinct. In a telepath, where the brain functions to levels much higher than the average individual, this division can either be extremely marked, or completely dissolved.”

“And in yours, it’s the first case, huh?”

“On the contrary, Lehnsherr,” Charles replied, glancing at Baskerville as the hound sniffed interestedly at the cloth soaked in Lehnsherr’s blood. “My rational and instinctual sides are in complete harmony. So much so, in fact, that I can think very clearly, simultaneously, in their parallel parameters.”

Charles shifted his hand and snapped his fingers. Baskerville rose his immense head, slackened his jaw to let his tongue loll out like a puppy.

“So what does your mind tell you about me?” Lehnsherr asked, trying to make sense of all of this. He sounded calm, but Charles could feel his disquiet, his uneasiness. The man was unused to dealing with someone like Charles. Lehnsherr was, after all, a military man; and military men dislike wild cards by principle.

There was also Charles’ straightforward, nearly brutal honesty. Lehnsherr liked that about him, Charles could tell, because he felt he could allow to show himself precisely as he was. No sugar-coating, no tip-toeing around Charles’ sensibilities.

“Rationally, I know you’ll keep me safe because you need me. Instinctually, however,” Charles watched as Baskerville touched his cold nose to the spot right under Lehnsherr’s nose. The man twitched, swiping at it absently. “Instinctually, my mind thinks I ought to get as far away from you as humanly possible, or at least hurt you enough that you’ll know better than to hurt me.”

“If we start off by hurting each other, this is going to be a long, tedious training stage.”

Charles closed his eyes and called Baskerville to his side. The hound curled protectively around him, tail deliberately tickling the small sliver of exposed skin between the hem of Lehnsherr’s shirt and his trousers. The man twitched again, and swiped at the skin distractedly.

Enough of that, Charles thought, sending a tendril of thought skimming the top of the hounds’ head in a gentle caress.

“The truth,” Charles said, looking up. “Is that I don’t know how to survive out there on my own right now. I am a dead man; I need a new name and new documentation to give me life. I don’t know where to get those, or how. And I don’t [precisely have extensive experience evading the law.”

“You don’t think telling me this is handing me over your weakness?”

“It’s pointless to hide from you something you already know perfectly well,” Charles replied. “I lived an easy life. I never had a need to learnt o be tough. I can keep myself safe,” he added, stroking Baskerville’s forehead. “But I don’t know how to keep myself hidden without my telepathy, and it can’t be my only tool.”

Lehnsherr studied him.

“So you’re considering your options.”

“I’d like to offer a compromise,” Charles said at length. “You need me for something. I can tell your goal is pin-pointed and that your time table is limited. You need my cooperation—and I need your expertise and your knowledge of how to live outside the scope of the law.”

He turned to the man, eyes calm and cold.

“I’ll do this one mission for you,” he offered. “I’ll stick to your time table, follow your directions, and be compliant with your demands. In return, you’ll teach me everything I need to survive out there on my own. And that will be it. After your mission is complete I am free to go. You will not seek me out, hunt me down, or attempt to kill me to preserve your secret. I can tell that’s a viable option for you. Please don’t think of killing me. It makes me irritable.”

“You’re not the average genetics professor,” Lehnsherr arched a brow. “You don’t behave a mildly as an academic. But you weren’t in prison long enough for it to change you to this extent. Have you always been this verbally violent?”

“Did you know I spent a year and a half in a mental ward, diagnosed with acute schizophrenia?”

Lehnsherr looked confused. “That wasn’t in your file.”

“No, of course it wasn’t, not with how much money I paid to make sure of that. Being a telepath has its risks; I have eidetic memory, for instance. Which means that I remember every memory, ever thought, every string of rationalization and mental pattern I have ever come in contact with.”

He tapped his temple and looked at Lehnsherr with ice-blue, half-lidded eyes.

“So to answer your question,” he murmured, and felt Baskerville’s breath hot and humid on his ear as he glared at Lehnsherr over his shoulder. “Sometimes I’m mild and polite. And sometimes I’ve led a life of murder and mayhem. I suppose it all depends on what mood I wake up in the morning.”

“You’re a psychopath,” Lehnsherr breathed, eyes going wide.

“No,” Charles smiled beautifully. “I’m technically mentally sane. I’m often a sociopath. But I do have the occasionally psychopathic outburst.”

“How are you not on medication for this?” the man asked incredulously.

“Psychoactive drugs on a telepath are not advisable.”

“Only of the telepath is a five out of ten in the psi scale,” Lehnsherr retorted. “You’re listed as a three.”

“Am I?” Charles blinked. “How curious.”

Lehnsherr was growing pale. “You’ve bribed and cheated your way out of a lot of things, haven’t you?”

“Well,” Charles shrugged. “Money can’t buy everything. That’s what telepathy is for. Now, do we have an accord?”

Lehnsherr was clearly considering his options. He hadn’t considered Charles to be a risk up to this point, but it seemed it was dawning on him that he could be seriously dangerous, if pushed, and he had no notion of how far he could push. Finding the limits would require much more care and precision than he had previously expected.

Baskerville enjoyed the way Lehnsherr’s mind whirred anxiously. Evidently the man had expected to have to tolerate a worthless, weak academic, and had instead found himself sidled with this.

“Very well,” Lehnsherr said slowly, narrowing his eyes as Charles. “We have an accord. You do precisely what I tell you, you finish this mission, and then you’re free. I’ll teach you everything you need to know while we train.”

There was a pause.

Charles observed with some measure of satisfaction that Lehnsherr hadn’t foolishly demanded he abstained from keeping secrets from him. Getting a telepath to be completely frank was next to impossible, and it didn’t even need to be one as contrary as Charles.

“You’re not who you’re supposed to be, you know.”

Charles smiled, remembered his father leaning over him with a needle in his hand and Just breathe through the pain, son, it’ll be over in a minute. What author am I thinking on now?

“No one is who they’re supposed to be, Lehnsherr. We’re all just lesser version of what we hope for.”

Chapter 4
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