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[personal profile] monstrousregiment
Title: Brief Lives (15/?)
Author: monstrousreg
Word count:  3189
Warnings:  Mentions of torture, lots of blood, gore, Shaw (he's a warning all on his own). 
Pairing: Erik/Charles.
Summary: Erik thinks he's going to seduce, interrogate and murder some nondescript CIA intelligence agent, and winds up biting more than he can chew. Charles is not keen on being murdered, he doesn't favor interrogations, and he's certainly not willing to be seduced. That he's not cooperating is midly put.   
Notes:  Unbetaed, and stuff. Guys I know the abrupt cliffhangers are getting old real fucking fast, but LJ has these goddamn space limitations and I can't cover as much ground in a chapter as I would normally like. I promsie we'll get around the bend in the road in a couple more chapters and we'll be done!

He awakens and smells the scent and recognizes the feel of grass beneath the fabric of his shirt. A dream, then.

Not exactly, Francis’s voice says.

Erik opens his eyes. Charles is sitting at his side, legs folded close, playing with a strip of grass. Francis stands a few feet away, hands on his pockets, tall and imposing against the sun.

“This is unsettling,” Erik says honestly.

“Tell me about it,” Charles grumbles. “I’ve been trying to get rid of him for hours. He’s a persistent spook.”

You wound me, Charles. Francis says, smiling.

Erik sits up with some effort, muscles stiff and sore. “Where are we?”

“I don’t know. This place is yours.”

“We’re in my mind, then?”

“No—somewhere in between. A shared space. But the atmosphere is certainly yours.”

Looking around, Erik recognizes the swelling and gentle sloping of hills covered in emerald-green grass.

“Ireland, I think.”

“Hm.”

Erik pauses, feeling the slight breeze in his face and enjoying the calm.

“Did I lose consciousness?” he asks.

Charles shakes his head, “I brought you under. You have a disturbingly high pain threshold, but you turned to the bond for shelter, so I instinctively dragged you down.”

“So I’m—what, in a coma, what is this?”

Charles shrugged, “Just unconscious. But you will be until I let you wake.”

“Why isn’t the pain waking me up?” Erik frowns.

Severed the links to your physical body for a little while, Francis answers coolly. Not for long, or we risk paralysis, but enough to give you a respite from the agony.

“I didn’t know you could do that,” Erik turns to Charles, shocked.

“I couldn’t,” Charles replies, tossing his father a pointed look. “He could.”

“But he’s you,” Erik thinks if he were awake he’d be feeling the beginnings of a headache.

Charles pushes back his hair, “Turns out my father had taught me a lot of things that I lost when I repressed him. They’re coming back to me now, slowly. Like Shaw said, Francis wasn’t anything spectacular—but he was a genius, and he explored himself very thoroughly.”

I’m standing right here.

“No, you’re not,” Charles snaps, and turns back to Erik. “You think this is unsettling to you? My dead father’s haunting my brain.”

Despite everything, Erik laughs out loud at that. He rubs the heels of his hands against his eyes, tired.

“Charles, please tell me you have a strategy on how to defeat Frost that doesn’t heavily rely on luck.”

Charles smiles, “No concept of luck in one’s mind-space, love.”

Then his smile fades, “I’ve no doubt I can handle Frost. I helped train her. We have other concerns, Erik. I told you we could use each other’s gifts. I wouldn’t dare do that without a lot more training, but we lack the time to train now, and—“

“Hold it. You mentioned you made a mistake. What you thought you could do before won’t work—why? What’s happened?”

Charles dropped his head to his hand, “You happened. I thought I’d have more time to figure out another plan while getting used to your mind, but Shaw proved to be smarter than us in this, and I didn’t come up with another one.”

Charles is stalling. Evidently, Erik isn’t going to like where this is going. He braces himself, wary and suspicious.

Charles opens his mouth, attempts to search for words and huffs in irritation. The next time he opens his mouth Francis scoffs in his sake, and when Erik turns to him the projection says, with an even and flat tone:

“He’d counted in dragging Shaw down to his own mindscape, locking his consciousness there and then destroying everything.”

There’s a long moment of silence as Erik struggles to grasp the meaning of this. The moment it clicks, wind picks up on the hill and the sky turns from limpid blue to grey. Charles flinches back, but Erik is faster, gripping the collar of his shirt and dragging him close.

“You were going to kill yourself?” Erik is somewhat satisfied by the evenness of his tone.

Rain starts pelting down on them, icy and sharp like ice-blade razors.

“Kill us both,” Charles corrects calmly, though his eyes are very definitely avoiding Erik’s.

“You—“ Erik’s anger is like a ball of lava on his throat. With a sound of disgust, he shoves Charles away from himself and gets unsteadily to his feet, pacing away.

What else was there to do? Francis asks jadedly, as if this is a thought Charles’ mind has gone over many times, and while he seems to have decided it is the only choice it’s still deeply distasteful. Before you came along, we couldn’t touch anyone but our sister. The mere idea of physical intimacy with another person was stomach-turning. Evidently, even if we were to survive Shaw’s last showdown, we didn’t have a very functional future ahead of us. We are more monstrous than you will ever be, Erik. A monster ought to die with its maker.

“Nonsense,” Erik says harshly, rounding on Charles, who’s gotten to his feet and looks distinctly miserable in the rain. Dark hair is sticking like algae to his boyish face, but his eyes are as old as the world.“You’d let him win?

“Hardly win,” Charles says evenly. “He’d be dead, too. I know you want to disembowel me right now, and I’m sure we’ll have this conversation eventually, but there’s no time now, Erik,” he moves only a step forward and stop when Erik stiffens, face grim and mannerisms curt and forbidding.

“Fine,” he snaps. “Tell me what to do.”

You’ll get nowhere if you don’t calm your mind, Francis says. We understand your anger. But the past is the past. You have the present to concern yourself with, Erik.

Erik closes his eyes and takes several slow, deep breaths. Once he’s sure he’s composed and can handle both himself and Charles without murdering anyone, ne nods and opens his eyes.

“I know you don’t understand how the mirrored rooms work,” Charles starts. “They’re designed to protect those inside form the powers on the outside, but they can’t contain the powers held within. The room I am in was specially plated with telepathy-blocking metal, so that I couldn’t reach outside, and yours is in an isolated building well away from any metal.”

“How come we can communicate?” Erik asks at once.

“Neither Shaw nor Frost know of our bond or how it works. We’d have to test the reach eventually, but right now it’s working like a communication line, unimpeded and impossible to break.”

“Alright,” Erik rubs his right temple, beginning slowly to throb. “So you’re surrounded by metal, and I’m not encased in telepathy-impairing junk. I imagine you’re about to explain to me how to access your telepathy.”

“There’s little explanation to be given,” Charles says wryly. “We’re going to open the doorway, and hope to God we’re close enough to each other to instinctively know how to use both gifts.”

“No concept of luck in one’s mind-space, Charles,” Erik arches a brow.

“Then I hope we’re both fast learners, Erik.”

“How are we—“

A gust of furious wind makes Erik stumble on his feet, and just as he struggles to stay upright a lightning splits the sky literally open—a spider-web of fractures like a windshield hit by a rock. In the following thunder there is a strange cadence, like an attempt at persuasion.
Shaw’s growing bored, Francis says, blue eyes cold as ice. We best be on our way, then.

“But you haven’t taught me anything,” Erik stares at Charles, apprehensive.

“You’re me, Erik,” Charles says quickly. “My mind is yours. You know what to do already, I need not teach you anything.”

“You said it yourself, telepathy’s different than metallokinesis, I’m not prepared to—“

Charles was gone, and the world was falling apart around Erik and Francis. The taller man strode forward and took Erik by the elbow, turning him easily away from the cracks in the sky.

You need not fear Frost’s attack, Francis says as they walk briskly away. Charles will be shielding you from that. The easiest way to control telepathy is to think of it as a radio transmitter that you may or may not turn down, riddled with frequencies you may or may not tune into. Charles won’t open the doorway until he has eliminated Frost, so you have some time to brace yourself. If you could glean from Shaw the location of your room by then, all the better, but do not concern yourself with that. Charles will find you.

“Why did you stay with me?” Erik asks.

Francis winces, and the world comes to a sudden, screeching halt. Erik watches as the hills and broken sky dissolve around them like a droplet of colored ink in a gallon of water. Then everything re-forms, only the landscape is drastically different. They’re in a desert, surrounded on all sides by miles upon miles of gently swelling golden dunes. In front of them now stands a broken-down temple, beautiful even in its disrepair. As they stand in front of it pieces of the wall crumble and fall noiseless to the ground.

Erik feels the water in his hair and in his skin warm in the sun.

“What is this?” Erik takes a step closer, and as he does part of the uppermost dome breaks down and falls.

This is what you destroyed, Francis answers. This is where Charles put me, many years ago. As it falls to ruin I am freed.

Erik closes his eyes against the glare of the sunlight on the sand, watches as the west wing of the temple disintegrates to dust.

“What’ll happen when you’re completely free?”

Many things, Francis replies. The space shifts again, and they’re back in the hills in maybe-Ireland, although it’s stopped raining. The sky looks like a shattered window into darkness. Shards of sky-colored glass have stabbed the hills beneath the break.

“Wait. Why is he gone and you remain? I don’t understand.”

You’re not the only one being tortured, Erik. Charles’ conscious attention is required elsewhere. But I am always with you.

Francis takes a few steps back, raking long fingers through his ink-colored hair to get it away from his eyes. His face is so distinctly Charles’ features so familiar, but he’s sweet and gentle in way Charles has lost the ability to be.

Word of advice, Erik, Francis says, even as he begins to fade. Charles can shield you, but you cannot shield Charles. If he dies, you’ll be none the wiser. If you die, he’ll die along with you.

Erik takes breath to ask something, but in the next second he jolts awake strapped to a ceramic table in a mirrored room.

His vision swims. He has no idea how long he’s been unconscious—for that matter he has no idea how long it’s been since Shaw started in on him. He’s lost a lot of blood, that much he can tell, because the table’s smeared with read and there are splatters on the floor. His right arm is open to the bone—he can see the white gleam nestled in the raw flesh.

On the good side, Erik’s learned such control over his gift that most of Shaw’s favorite tools—scalpels, white-hot poking irons, spike-tipped cat-o’-nine-tails—are out of the question. Shaw’s been forced to adapt, and while certainly creative, Erik can somewhat tell he’s feeling constricted.
He tries to swallow and finds that, since he’s had nothing to drink in a while, he can’t muster the saliva. More’s the pity—he’d like to spit in Shaw’s face again.

Dimly he’s aware his left shoulder is dislocated. He’s unaware of how that came to be. He must have struggled enough to wrench it from its socket, but he fails to remember at what point that was. He guesses he could be grateful; the joint has swollen to such state that his whole arm is numb, so now he can’t feel his broken fingers.

He struggles to focus his gaze on Shaw, leaning down over him. He realizes the man is stroking back his hair with a gentle hand. The tips of his fingers are smeared red, and Erik can feel his own blood clinging to the skin of his forehead.

“Erik, you’ve gotten much less resilient,” Shaw smiles. “You used to never lose consciousness in our sessions.”

Erik stares at him, consciously stilling the turmoil in his head. He pushes through the disorientation until he can feel the fine agony of his open arm, the myriad other cuts and wounds scattered along his naked body.

“You’ll never get at it,” he rasps, letting his eyelids fall as if heavy, making himself deliberately look like he’s out of his mind when he’s sharply aware of everything instead.

“Get at what?” Shaw leans even closer, almost intimately so, voice dropping down to a murmur.

“Francis,” Erik whispers, thinking he might as well stick close to the truth. “Hidden in Charles. Something—secret. You’ll never get at it.”
Hook, line and sinker.

Shaw grins, pats Erik in the head one more time like a master rewarding a puppy, and straightens.

“We’ll see about that,” he muses.

A second later he turns on his heel and Erik watches as one of the mirrored panels slides noiselessly into the floor. Shaw steps through it and its slides back up, to fit snugly against the ceiling.

Erik drops his had back and breaths harshly for a moment as the agony overwhelms him. He feels a bubble of panic and horror growing inside his chest. He’s just given Shaw a very solid reason to have Frost rip through Charles’ mind.

What if she wins? He wonders, wincing when, in the swell of an quick breath, the wound in his chest stings.

She won’t, Francis answers quietly, and then says, one.

Erik closes his eyes. The only sound in the mirrored room is the drip of blood from the table to the ground, and Erik’s increasingly sharp breaths. His throat is sizing up.

Zwei, he thinks, and his heartbeat picks up, throbbing in his many wounds. His arm is an incandescent source of white-hot agony.

Drei, his father’s voice says in his mind. He remembers his mother saying, allest ist gut, and then her voice murmurs, vier.

Erik thinks of the coin, sitting still on the table in an underground bunker in Auschwitz, and the cry of a gunshot. Thinks of the coin, on top of the bedside table in his room in Xavier Hall next to his gun which he never carried around the house and the copy of Jane Eyre Ororo had insisted he read. He feels the thought break apart in a thousand shards and splinters, his mind fragmenting in chaotic noise, senseless and helpless and—

Fünf, he thinks in many voices, and when he opens his eyes his breathing begins to calm. He swallows drily, reaches down deep into himself and thinks, He’s on his way.

 Yes, Charles answers, voice firm and strong, and Erik can almost see the crumbling of a temple in a desert, and Francis’ dark smile. It starts now, Erik. I’ll be gone for a while, but don’t be alarmed. I’ll block our connection so Frost can’t find it.

What if she does?

She won’t, Charles replies, cool and confident. Before she has a chance to get at you, I’ll burn everything.

The viciousness with which he says the last part is extremely disturbing. Erik is left alone in his mind, with the faint echo of promised violence and the taste of ash and blood in his mouth. The pain is excruciating and he thinks he’d like to be unconscious, but the same fiery pain that makes him want to sleep keeps him awake.

He’s not sure how much time goes past, but it feels like hours on his tired, restless mind. Or at least that’s how it is until Shaw comes back; then it feels like seconds have gone by and Erik wishes he’d have more time to gather his wits, which goes to show that time is, indeed, subjective.

“Well,” Shaw says, grinning genially. “Now that that’s settled, we can move onto other things. For example, that business about you and Charles together. Really, son, if you wanted my attention, you could just have—“

Erik arches up and away from the table, electricity running through his nerves and setting them alight and Shaw’s mind is thinking—so lovely still magnificent he’s grown up to be such a wonder and, he’ll always be mine, and 240006, and smart Francis to hide something deep inside the boy’s mind, and Raven will break soon enough, and so much potential in that school of his, and—

There, Erik finds a way to push through the tide and part ways with the most irrelevant, petty little thoughts in Shaw’s mind and thinks, give me the map. A fraction of a second later, he has it. He gropes for the open connection to Charles’ mind and sends the knowledge sailing through, even as the image superimposes in his mind to Shaw, staggering back in disorientation. Erik has after all little finesse in mind-bending, and he’s making no effort to spare Shaw any sort of discomfort.

In his mind, muted by layers upon layers of shields and protections, he can hear Charles’ mind wail out like a siren’s call, a powerful psychic cry probably potent enough to reach out across the distance to anyone vaguely paying attention, and possibly those minding their own business. Miles and kilometers mean nothing to Charles’ gift.

Now Erik truly does depend completely on Charles. Judging by the way Shaw’s looking at him, it’s evident he’s figured out what just happened, and Erik is still wounded and weakened and strapped to a table without any chance of freeing himself. He’s restrained, vulnerable and at the mercy of a madman that thinks he has every right to do what he likes with his body and his life.

Not precisely, Francis says in his mind, voice layered faintly with Charles’ voice. You’ve got the weapon you need, Erik. You’ve got me.
Erik wields telepathy with the ability of a toddler swinging a broadsword, but wield it he does.

The result is somewhat less satisfying than he would hope for—Shaw falls noiselessly to the floor, deeply sleep, or maybe in a coma, or possible brain-dead, who knows at this point—and Erik feels the edges of his awareness begin to flake and darken.

Overextended myself, he feels vaguely, dizzy and lost.

Just hold on, Charles says firmly, mind commanding and comforting. I’m coming, Erik.

Erik wants to stay awake and help, but it feels like a pleasant hum is making its way into his head, filling it, making him drowsy. He can hear, distantly, Charles’ voice, and as Charles opens all channels in a distress call he can also hear someone else’s voice, frantic but familiar and comforting.

Perhaps rest is in order, Francis says, and Erik falls asleep.

Chapter 16

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December 2011

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