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[personal profile] rosiedoes posting in [community profile] damagereport
Author: [profile] alfirin_kirinki
Betas: [profile] ashe_frost & [profile] littledarkvoice
Title: Missing the War
Rating: PG-ish
Disclaimer: Characters property of Marvel; title property of Ben Fold's Five; quote property of Embrace.
Summary: "There are times when our worst enemies are within us."
Written for: [personal profile] vagabondsal
Also archived at: [profile] the_aa
Pairing/scenario requested: Charles/Erik. No conditions, s'hard enough to get them to be civil with one another nowadays as it is.?

But with a little John/Bobby thrown in. Because how could I not?

Also - backstory loosely based on Ultimate!canon.

Warnings: This is not my main ship and these bastards are not exactly willing to comply to teenage angst. Thus: old man story, with teenagers in.

Also: this story was originally written around the time of X2 - in June 2004 - but I've never posted it here and having just seen X-Men: First Class, it felt relevant. Other fics from this era may be migrated over in future.

Missing the War
"I don't need convincing, I've seen enough to want to try and change things
You fell in love, I fell in line.
I thought I'd found my place, before I knew how much it costs to play it safe."

Embrace – 'Fireworks'.

Charles spent the entire journey in silence, contemplating the stakes he was laying upon this meeting. His chauffeur for the day was just a boy, youthful and inexperienced, but Charles had batted away the concerns of Scott, Ororo and even Logan and insisted that they make the journey alone. The boy had his own reasons for the eagerness he openly displayed when Charles invited him to make the trip with him, and now he stared over the steering wheel, his nerves and hopes spilling out of his mind like a mug that he'd been left running under a tap. Charles silently sustained the boy's concentration on the road and regulated his mutation as he had developed a habit, in the last few kilometres, to forget all about it and begin to frost up the vehicle's windows. It took as much effort for Charles to do this as it did to drum his fingers against his knee as he stared out of the passenger window and waited to arrive.

Listening to the young man's thoughts was faintly endearing, even for one so used to infiltrating the emotions of others. It was many years since he had shown the blind faith and adulation this boy felt. He was a strong man – recovered from many great losses, and yet it saddened him, for once he too had been that young man, discovering the person he believed to be his soulmate; convinced that he had found a life-long companion, with which he could share the utopian dreams they had begun to create so soon after their meeting. The one person he had believed would always understand him.

He hoped that what he had planned for the trip may salvage the relationships for both of them.

Charles tried not to allow a pang of jealousy as the door was opened by the scantily clad blue form of Raven Darkholme. He respected her intelligence, her adaptability and her skills, but he could not always keep bitter envy as far below the surface as he would have liked, in her company. He continued to wonder if her presence and encouragement of Erik's cause had been a factor in the division that had grown between them, despite appreciating her steadying influence on Erik's more irrational imaginings.

He was standing silhouetted in the window when they entered. The wheels of Charles' chair made no sound on the carpeted floor, but he knew he need not be announced. It was a relief to see him there, standing so straight and tall; a far cry from the beaten inmate of a prison specifically designed to neutralise the very thing that, to the casual observer, made him stand out from the masses. Inwardly, Charles smiled.

"Bobby," he said, softly, "our friend is outside. I suggest you take this opportunity to locate him."

The boy nodded, "Yes, sir," and slipped from the room, barely shutting the door before he launched into a run, anticipation thrumming like a symphony orchestra in his aura.

"Good morning, Charles," Erik said, offering him a glance. "Would it be clichéd of me to say 'I have been expecting you', or should I put that down to your wilful intent?"

Charles gave a faint smile and replied, "No, old friend, I should attribute that to knowing me so well."

Erik gave a short laugh and Charles wheeled his chair forward, hands folded in his lap.

"I am yet to thank you, Erik; you saved the life of one of my more… complicated students. He is well, I gather?"

He watched as Erik laughed again, and beckoned him nearer. "Why don't you see for yourself; with your first two eyes for a change?"

Casting him a tolerant look, Charles moved until he sat by the window, Erik beside him, a familiar hand resting upon his shoulder. Beneath the window a seventeen year old boy sculpted a dragon the size of a small dog from flickering gold flames. He had his back to them, but the concentration that radiated from him was palpable – even, presumably, to those without highly refined Extra Sensory Perception.

For a moment they watched him in silence. He had been creative for as long as Charles had known him, but mainly with abominations in language; it was pleasing to see him now turning his gift into a form of art. He had known the talent was there, but the boy had perpetually refused to show it, preferring to be wholly destructive with his mutation. And yet, there had been no mistaking the closeness that had evolved between St. John and one of the school's most promising students. Bobby Drake was a natural counsellor, a born optimist who would draw even the most disturbed children out of themselves once bridges had been built by the staff. He was a decent student, worked well and wanted to succeed and attain the next level – join the X-Men and defend their people. He was a very popular boy, and yet he chose to spend his time with one of the most difficult and temperamental students the school had ever seen. It should have perplexed Charles less than most, but it did not. Not at first. Like many, all he had seen was the near-perfect suburban boy and the former-street-urchin of a trouble maker. He would have kicked himself, had it been possible, for not noticing the delicate balance their friendship achieved. He should have seen it from the start; it was not difficult to draw the parallels.

Below, the boy suddenly hesitated, the small dragon extinguished as easily as a candle, leaving scorched grass in its wake. He continued to stare towards the ground for a few moments longer, before slowly raising his head and gazing to his left. A few metres away stood Charles' young companion, hovering uncomfortably as his hands noticeably shook. Words were exchanged, but there was no need to delve into the conversation to establish what they were. Greetings; tentative and nervous. Filled with the discomfort of a strong friendship tested by circumstances neither should have to deal with. Particularly not so young.

Minutes more they watched, as cautious steps were made; as Bobby approached the other boy, and St. John allowed him to, a single shuffle at a time. It was no real surprise when the blond boy's resolve broke and he lunged forward to embrace his friend; Charles had anticipated as much and more from the thoughts that had seeped from the boy's mind en route to the meeting.

Erik broke the silence with a small snap as he sucked at his teeth and gave a knowing murmur of, "How very interesting."

"Interesting, Erik, or merely touching?"

"Interesting," Erik assured him with a small, amused snort. "I had not prepared myself for quite this tack."

Charles did not look up at him, instead continuing to study the boys as Bobby awkwardly withdrew, his embrace unreturned. "I don't know what you mean, Erik," Charles told him levelly. "I merely brought young Bobby here in the hope that his friendship with St. John may be salvaged." He paused and lowered his voice, "They are just children, Erik – the firmest of friends - they should not be expected to also be the opposition."

"No one is forcing the boy, Charles. He made his choice – to work with those who appreciate his talents and do not try to suppress them as-"

"You know quite as well as I do that whom he is 'working' with is not the issue. What he needs, indeed what he deserves, is a family. He will not find that here."

Charles looked away momentarily as his companion feigned hurt, "Oh, but my dear Charles, do you suggest that what we have in this humble home could not be considered familial? It is at the very heart of our ethos here; alongside the loyalty we hold to our species."

"Your ethos, Erik, your so-called 'vision' will tear apart families. Don't you see this, after all this time? So many of my students – many of your followers – have family out there. Perhaps one day this shall be Our world, but not yet. Not if it means destroying an entire species, taking away the lives of those so many of our own hold dear."

Erik sighed as if alluding to the pain such conversation inflicted and continued to stare down at the boys in the grounds below; "I could repeat this speech back to you in your own words, Charles. I could tell you your own tales in five different languages if you so desired. You never changed, even after all you have seen and all that has been done to you. You still rally on the side of our persecutors – the people who consider you a cult-leader, a threat, and would have you exterminated as though you were nothing more than a rat in their sewers if it were not for loud-mouthed rights activists with no notion of what they are truly fighting to protect.

"You have the power and the strength to be a god, and yet you walk among the proletariat like a humbled king." Erik paused for a moment, before adding, "I thought we might reach an understanding, one day. That a time would come when the way things used to be – the way you and I both wanted them to be – could become a reality." He paused again, and held his head a little higher, "I do so miss our…"

"Conversations?" Charles offered after a moment, knowing without searching, that the other man could mean little further from the concept.

"No, Charles. I am never certain if the conversations we had were truly us, or simply yourself and an incredibly life-like marionette."

"That's not true."

"However would I know?"

"I never tampered with your mind, Erik," Charles replied, as close to snapping the words as he had done for such a very long time, because he was surprised to find the accusation still hurt. "You, like many others, seem to assume that I could be content knowing your only reactions were in fact my own. You are gravely mistaken."



"Strong words from you, Charles."

"This is not a time for mockery, Erik. Too much is at stake."

"Such as?"

"Such as a life left behind for you."

There was a pause, a lengthy halt in the conversation in which they stared down at the boys below; one sitting, the other standing, looking away. His body language alone was defensive; the look it drew from the other boy, as a fair, up-turned face gazed imploringly at his back, suggested an olive branch being snapped in two.

"The question I must ask myself, of course," Erik said stonily, his voice filmed in precise detachment, "Is whether you refer to the occasion on which you left your wife and child, or the occasion on which an under appreciated young man finally found himself amongst those who valued him."

"You decide, Erik. I would not like to influence your conclusion."

"It's interesting you should say that; I remember a time, it seems incredibly far off, now, of course, when we made decisions based on mutual understanding – "

"Yes, we did, once. We decided many things together, prior to your disquieting change of heart and forays into genocide."

Erik's voice was but a whisper as he replied, "My 'forays' into genocide began long before ever we met."

"Erik, those people are not the world. They are but a tiny minority…"

"And yet their work continues. There is a new focus now, and it is us; it is our people. They would eradicate us at the flick of a switch if it were possible. You have seen that yourself, surely it is time you learned to accept it?"

"I shall never accept it, because it is not the way things must be. I believe they can be changed, I believe we can be – "

"Oh, spare me, Charles! I have heard this far too many times to waste another ten minutes of my life on mere fantasy."

"Unfortunately, Erik, I do not see the time you are so eager to save being entirely lavished upon your own children. Have you even spoken to the twins, recently?"

"Have you?"

"They are not my children."

"David is. Moira was your wife. You did not seem quite so precious about family values when weighing the cost of your own."

"They did not need me. What use was I when unhappiness confined me to my office in order to spend my time conversing with the one person I had ever known with whom I felt equal?"

Erik gave a small, knowing laugh and observed, "You view me as your equal as though we are a combined elite, superior to all others in this society you treasure so. What difference is there between ridding the world of homo sapiens and ridding a neighbourhood of stray dogs? Of course, certain people may have developed fondnesses for the creatures, but they will move on. You could have your perfect, peaceful world, Charles, if only you would break the eggs for the omelette."

"And I suppose I can not have my cake and eat it, either."

"I'm sure you already know the answer to that."

"I suspect so."

They paused again, a tactical silence to reassemble their focus and return to the subject in hand. On the wall outside, Bobby Drake pleaded for understanding with an unwilling St. John, standing arms folded and sceptical, awaiting an explanation or excuse, as pained as he seemed about the notion.

"My dedication, Erik, was not always to the cause. Not even to the species or the quest for equality. It was to a man I believed I would share that dream with. A man I could begin a life with, and continue living that life until – "

"You always were an incurable romantic." The words were cool, almost cutting. Charles braced himself and looked away into the middle distance. "Why did you come here, Charles? The real reason. Why are you here?"

"Because it is not just a species that needs saving from you."

Charles could feel Erik's eyebrow raise the way Erik could feel the drag of metal objects pulling on his natural magnetic field.

"You think the boy requires saving from me, Charles?"

"No," Charles replied quietly, "I think there are times when our worst enemies are within us."

Erik laughed more loudly, then, and Charles realised that he did not sound the same as he remembered. He sounded older, which was barely surprising, but he also sounded worn out; weary. He sounded as though he really had little time to waste on such inconsequentiality.

"As I remember," Erik began, "that was always rather the case."

Despite himself, Charles hitched a slight smile. Erik had always been prone to trivialising emotions, almost as regularly as Charles had been prone to dismissing them; it was not that he had forgotten, merely that after so long he had assumed things would have changed, even a little.

He looked up as Erik leaned down upon the arms of his chair and for the first time aligned his eyes directly with Charles'.

"What would you have me do, Charles? I will not pretend for a moment that I don't miss what we had, but as you preach martyrship for your cause, I martyr myself for mine."

"But there need not be any martyr – "

"Yes," Erik told him firmly, "Yes, there must." He crouched before him, now, for a time, his standard expression of dry detachment faded to something close to regret. "I have never ceased to admire the steps you took for us; but I acknowledge that for too long our personal interests have clouded what is truest to our values. They are different, they cannot be aligned. They will never re-align, regardless of what circumstance demands. Even when we fight the same war, against the same enemy, we cannot be on the same side."

Charles took a slow breath and watched over his shoulder as some altercation below concluded with the dark-haired boy turning with a parting shot, and walking away. Behind him, Bobby stood and swallowed shakily, continuing to speak to his departing form. His eyes reddened before he raised a hand to them.


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