Aug. 4th, 2011 04:51 am
[personal profile] alchemyalice
Title: Bifurcation
Genre/Pairing: XMFC/Wanted fusion, Charles/Erik
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~9,500 (WHAT.)
Warnings: Spoilers for both movies.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, as usual.
Summary: The first thing Erik notices about Charles, after he’s gotten over the shock of there being someone, anyone who is in any way like Erik himself, is that metal hums around him.

A/N: FUCK YOU, X-MEN. FUCK YOU. I HAVE OTHER, WAY MORE IMPORTANT SHIT TO DO THAN THIS NONSENSE. How is it that I can churn out almost 10k in less than a week on this, and yet cannot get any of the work that I owe people done on time. I hate myself.

Anyway, this is is my contribution to the Wanted crossover subgenre, and is drawn from a couple of prompts, primarily this one from [ profile] 1stclass_kink : "Charles has a killer in his head and he's not afraid to use him. Wesley doesn't mind letting Charles take the reigns in between the fun parts as long as he gets some action so it all works out. Cue BAMF!Charles/Wesley action!" and also this one from [ profile] xmen_firstkink : "Charles has terrible insomnia. When he's "asleep"? He's Wesley Gibson (McAvoy from Wanted). Basically, we're talking Charles with Fight Club-style fugue states, and when he's not Charles, he's Wesley, complete with bullet bending, time slowing and rapid healing. And assassinating!"

The first thing Erik notices about Charles, after he’s gotten over the shock of there being someone, anyone who is in any way like Erik himself, is that metal hums around him. Not in the way it sings to Erik, but in a respectful undertone, like there is recognition there, if nothing else.

“So, mind reading,” he says slowly, as they climb out of the dingy and onto the coast guard’s boat. “Can you do anything else?”

Charles's eyes are wide and guileless. “Isn’t that enough?”

Erik blinks, and then shrugs. “I suppose it is.”

One can see how the confusion starts there.


Raven knows basically everything about Charles. She knows how much milk he likes in his tea, what shops in Oxford he buys his clothes from, and which possessions he would run back into his house to save if it were burning down. She knows about his fear of spiders, and his guilty impatience with uncouth behavior. She knows that he can be unbearably pompous, and unbearably kind.

She also, for better or worse, knows about Wesley.


“That was a very impressive thing you did, with that chain.”

Erik turns sharply in the bunk the coast guard has put him in. Charles stands in the hatch, leaning against the frame of it and looking like a very professorly drowned rat.

He grunts in reply. Didn’t get the job done, did it, he thinks bitterly, looking back down and lacing up a pair of borrowed shoes.

“Damn good start, though.”

“That,” Erik says, after a pause, “Is very unsettling.”

Charles dips his head. “I apologize. I’m a bit knackered, and that means I can’t always tell whether you’re speaking aloud or not.”

Erik honestly can’t tell whether he’s lying, so he settles on saying, “That must be inconvenient.”

“That’s the problem with my gift, you see. Yours, you ask it to come alive, and it does. Mine just never turns off.”

Erik snorts softly, and Charles's gaze softens. “Ah. Not always for you, I see. I bet with some practice it could, though.”

“What do you mean?” Erik asks sharply, not bothering to again point out that Charles has apparently been in his head.

Charles puts up his hands. “I merely think that you are capable of a lot more than you think you are. I can see the potential.”

“You think I haven’t tried?”

“I think,” Charles says, leaning forward, “That you’ve only been trying in one direction. If you’re interested, I could probably point you towards a few more.”

His incredible presumption is both irritating and intriguing. And so despite his misgivings, Erik stays.


The thing is, Charles doesn’t know about Wesley.

That makes it hard for Raven, a great deal of the time.

On the other hand, though, the fact that Charles continues not to know? Is the best proof she has that Charles is keeping his promise to never read her. And that, honestly, is enough for her to go on with.


“Did you stay out here all night?”

“I don’t sleep much,” Charles says as the coast guard boat docks, smiling crookedly, drying hair curling on his collar. Erik found him out on deck after napping fitfully for the remainder of the night. “I’m afraid of what my brain might get up to without my permission.”

“Is it so unruly?” Erik says, with a raised eyebrow. He’s dressed in a borrowed uniform, ill-fitting, layered over with a heavy sweater that makes him feel like a child again, borrowing his father’s winter clothes.

“I dare say it is,” Charles replies lightly. “Raven’s had her complaints in the past, certainly.”

Erik wonders even then what it is, precisely, that Raven complains about.


Wesley appeared during Charles's first year at Oxford. At least, that was the first time Raven met him.

She went to meet Charles at his flat, and when he answered the door he looked at her in a way that she had never seen before. “Raven. We were going out tonight, weren’t we?”

She stepped back. “Charles?”

“Yeah, no.” He tapped his head, the gesture nervous and birdlike. “Not right now.” He looked at his watch. “Look, I’m sorry, but I’ve gotta go. If he asks, you guys got shitfaced and had fun, that’s what you usually do, isn’t it? But I’ve got to take care of something, so I’ll catch you later. Or not, as the case may be.”

“Who are you?” she hissed furiously, starting forward to push the door back. “What have you done with Charles?”

And then she froze as a gun suddenly was leveled at her face.

“I haven’t done anything to him, okay?” this person who wasn’t Charles said. “Fuck, he’s the one who—never mind. I don’t have time for this. Charles will be back when I’m finished with this job. In the meantime, get out of my way.”

And then he was shoving the gun into a holster at his back and striding out the door, pulling on a jacket Raven had never seen before to hide it.

Raven stumbled into the flat, and looked around. Everything looked exactly as it always did.

So she made herself tea, spiked heavily with whiskey, and sat down to wait.

The next morning, when Charles asked with some confusion why he had bruises all up and down his left flank, she bit her lip, and told him he’d fallen over onto some cobblestones coming home.

“Good lord,” he said, laughing and embarrassed, “I probably ought to stop drinking.”

“That’s what you always say,” she replied, and smiled back at him.


The CIA facility feels a bit like a dorm, and a bit like a prison. Having only the latter for comparison, Erik makes his best attempt to leave with extreme prejudice.

Charles heads him off. “Where do you think you’re going?”

Erik stops, less because he’d been caught, more because Charles sounds rather different. Curious, he turns.

Charles stands at the entrance with his hands in his pockets, a strange, aggressive set to his shoulders. “This place holds no interest for me,” Erik says. “I’m going to find Shaw.”

“We can help with that. With more of us on your side, we can take him out.”

Charles sounds…American. Assured, not in the precocious way that he’d been on the boat, but like he had fought tooth and nail to earn his confidence.

“The CIA isn’t under your command, Charles,” Erik points out.

Charles smiles, a little crooked, a little manic. “Yet.”

And so Erik stays at the CIA because Charles had, in the middle of the night, promised him retribution.

It takes a while for Erik to realize that Charles only remembers that promise some of the time.


The second time a stranger answered Charles's door in Oxford, Raven asked, “Where are you going?”

He laughed and scratched the back of his neck. “I’d tell you but, etcetera, etcetera.”

Raven shivered, and tried not to show it. “If you killed me, Charles would be very upset,” she said, forcing her voice steady.

Not-Charles paused. “So would I, honestly,” he said. “You’re…I remember you, too.”

She frowned. “Who are you?” she asked again.

He regarded her, and said, “I’m Wesley Gibson. I’m what happened when your dear Charles went to Chicago for the summer.”


Charles had gone to Chicago to escape.

It was the summer after Kurt had died and Cain had been sent away, and there was nothing Charles had wanted more than to run and never come back.

“I can come with you,” Raven had said, watching him pack. “I don’t like the idea of you being alone out there.”

“I won’t be,” Charles replied, throwing socks into his suitcase. “From what I understand, my father had contacts out there. I’ve been in touch with a few of them, and they said they’d be happy to put me up.” He straightened, and looked at her. “Raven. You can stay at school for the holidays, hang out with your friends.”

“Only three of them are even staying—”

“Then go home with one of the others—”

“What if I shift?”

“You won’t,” he held her shoulders. “You’ve got splendid control now, I know you can keep safe. I just. I have to get out of this house or I’ll go entirely mad.”

She cupped his cheek in her hand. “I know, I know you will. But why won’t you let me come with you?”

Charles looked at her, an uncomfortable mixture of regret and guilt and anxiety tightening around his mouth and eyes, and he just said, “Please, Raven.”

He hadn’t wanted to say it, she knows now. That he wanted to be on his own, didn’t want any reminder of this wasted old mansion and all of its memories, and that included her, if only for a short while. She hadn’t understood that at the time, and she’s rather glad of it now. She would have hated him for it.

In that moment, though, she’d simply quelled her confusion, and nodded.

Her friend Nancy had wanted her to come to Nantucket with her anyway.


After the near-disaster of Russia, and the very real disaster of the CIA facility, Charles looks tentatively between Erik and the children, and says, “I think I know a place we can go.”

Erik watches Raven’s face shift in recognition and trepidation. “Charles,” she says, “Are you sure you want to go back there?”

“Whyever not?” he asks, apparently with genuine confusion. Erik narrows his eyes.

“Bad memories, maybe?” Raven suggests tightly.

Charles seems unbothered. “Those memories are long buried,” he says. “Better that we make some new ones, yes?”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” Erik hears her murmur.

He begins, very quietly, to have doubts.


When Charles returned from Chicago, he seemed lighter than he had in years.

Raven was there to meet him at the airport, and he came up and hugged her tightly before she even got a word out. “Raven,” he said into her hair, “It is wonderful to see you. I missed you terribly.”

“You too,” she said. He smelled like ink and old books, and also slightly of other things that she didn’t recognize.

Later, she’d learn that they were things like gun oil, lye, and medicinal wax.


The Westchester mansion is vast and strangely rambling, considering it’s quadrilateral outer foundations. Charles looks up at it along with the rest of the group with a sense of unfamiliarity.

“It seems smaller than I remember,” he comments.

Erik makes a guttural noise of disbelief. Raven punches him in the shoulder. “How about I give the grand tour?” she suggests.

“Please do,” Charles says, and gets the strange feeling that he’s uncertain whether he’d actually be able to give it himself anyway.

The building looks stranger and stranger as the others file inside.


“What happened in Chicago?” Raven asked quietly.

Wesley had returned seven hours after he’d given her his name, sporting bruised knuckles and a neutral expression. Raven insisted on seeing to his hands, but he shrugged her off and grabbed a tin from the back of a cabinet under the sink, emptying water from the kettle into it before bringing it into the living room. “Fifteen minute soak and they’ll be brand new, promise,” he said, sticking his hands in the tin and hissing slightly.

Raven waited. Wesley glanced up at her, snorted, and looked away.

“Don’t know, exactly,” he said, after a pause. “Charles went looking for his Dad’s friends, and they weren’t what he expected. He needed me to sort it all out. So I did. And now I’m here.”

“What, forever?” Raven objected. And then she faltered, and clarified, “He still needs you?”

“I think he prefers it to remembering a lot of the shit we went through,” Wesley replied, lip curling slightly. “So I get to carry that around. I don’t really mind anymore, though. Helps with my work.”

“Your work?” Raven echoed, even though she suspected with dread that she already knew.

He smiled. “Just cleaning up other people’s messes now. Nothing they don’t deserve.”


One week in, Charles excuses himself from the dinner table citing exhaustion and then emerges from his bedroom fifteen minutes later wearing different clothes.

“Charles? Where are you going?” Raven asks pointedly, as he passes through the kitchen.

He pauses. “Training,” he says briefly. “Don’t wait up.”

Alex frowns. “Didn’t he just—”

“Sometimes he can’t sleep, so he needs to blow off steam,” Raven cuts in smoothly, though her hands twitch. “Don’t worry about it.”

Erik watches Charles as he walked away. Raven notices, and says again, more sharply, “Don’t worry about it.”

He glares at her. She doesn’t budge.

It was easy to tell that the Westchester mansion was full of history and secrets. Erik began tentatively to include Charles as one of them.


She got used to it over the years, because she didn’t have any choice in the matter.

Wesley wasn’t actually horrible, which helped, and he could talk about their earlier lives, with Kurt and Sharon, which she couldn’t do with Charles anymore.

“This can’t be healthy,” she said at one point, watching him meticulously clean Brian Xavier’s sniper rifle until it was bright with linseed oil and the intricate carvings on its multi-layered ammunition stood out in polished relief.

“What? Killing bad guys or divvying up one guy’s memories and skills between two people?” Wesley said, not taking his eyes off the front sight.

“Both?” Raven offered.

“Raven,” he said, setting down his pipe cleaner, “Do you really want Charles to want to do the shit I do, remember the shit I remember?”

She opened her mouth. Closed it.

“Didn’t think so.” With deft hands, he packed the rifle into a dark duffle bag and stood. He brushed a kiss to her temple as he walked out the door.

“Get some sleep. He’ll be here in the morning.”


Erik finds, against his will, that he is enjoying himself. The mansion remains almost repellent in its conspicuous consumption, but the children that occupy it make it more accessible, and Charles himself is so simultaneously forgetful and apologetic for his affluence that comfort creeps in without Erik’s notice or permission.

He becomes accustomed to Sean’s supersonic outbursts and Hank’s nervous energy and fantastic technological genius. He manages to hold conversations with Alex and Raven that are, he supposes, friendly.

And then, of course, there’s Charles. Charles, who spent their drives across the country quizzing him on the exact proportions of iron and carbon in the steel components of their engine, who plays chess like a tethered demon, all tricks and counter-attacks and ruthlessness, who at the same time preaches tolerance with an impossible sort of conviction and fearlessness.

Who disappeared one night while they were in Chicago, and had shown up the next morning looking like death but smiling like he’d never slept better in his life.

Erik hadn’t pressed at the time—he has his own agenda, it’s hardly fair that he question whether Charles does as well—but now he wonders at that absent night, and at Raven’s strange anxiety, and the restlessness he now sees in a man he reluctantly considers a friend.

Charles is restless, he can tell. He keeps it well hidden, pouring his energy into helping his charges, his gestures sharp and expansive and just a touch too familiar, like there is something practiced in them that isn’t the product of natural repetition, but of training. And then he walks away every time, claiming that he’s going to take a nap, but he rarely stays in his room for longer than it takes to change clothes and retreat to another part of the house. Erik considers following him, but Raven seems to always be there with assurances and tense gestures, and so he stops himself.

“Have you met him yet?” she asks eventually, out of nowhere.

Erik barely keeps himself from startling. It's well past midnight, and she found him standing outside on the patio off the east wing, where he had gone to get away from the ridiculous opulence of the indoors. He holds a glass of scotch loosely in one hand, which he sets down on the stone wall before turning.

He frowns at her. “Who?”

“I knew it was going to get worse once we got here,” she says, nonsensically. “It’s this damned house.”

“I don’t understand,” he says slowly.

She nods, as if that was answer enough. “Well, if you do, don’t tell Charles,” she says. “It’s important that he doesn’t know.”

He begins to lose patience. “What are you talking about?”

“Charles is a good person,” she continues, ignoring him and looking steadily at her hands. “He might be frustrating and old-fashioned about some things, but he’s a good man, and if you want him to stay that way, you won’t tell him about Wesley.”

She turns abruptly and shuts the patio door behind her. Erik stares after her.

“Who is Wesley?” he demands.

The door offered no answers.

She’s right about one thing, he thinks. There is something about this house. Or something about Charles.

Or both.


Wesley saved her life, once.

They don’t talk about it.

Raven had seen a lot of amazing things in her life, not the least of which being her own ever-changing skin. But it would take her many years to shake the memory of Wesley firing his .45 into her face, and having the bullet strike the mugger behind her straight through the temple.

“Physics,” he’d said, watching her tremble and stumble away from the corpse that had, seconds ago, been holding a knife to her throat, “Is my bitch.”

She slapped him hard across the face and walked away.

Weeks later she said, “You could have told me.”

And he replied, “You didn’t want to know.”


(Unbeknownst to Raven, Charles sometimes has his suspicions.

He knows that he’d never been a clumsy drunk until he got to Oxford. He also knew that he’s never, paradoxically, been as coordinated while sober since. A waitress at a pub near Balliol had stumbled once in his second year, nearly spilling glassware everywhere, and he caught three of the five glasses before they hit the floor.

She’d looked at him like he was some sort of freak.

He’d itched for a pill bottle he didn’t have.

There are further clues in the way he wakes up sometimes with wax under his fingernails, and the way his muscles ache in ways he knows are impossible to acquire from the simple laps around the grounds that he takes in the mornings. There are rooms in the house that he never enters, and yet have greased knobs and locks, and even more recently, there are the times that Hank and Alex had mentioned his insomnia in passing when he had been certain that he had slept soundly the night before.

So yes, he suspects that there is something amiss. But an instinctual part of him, the same part that keeps him from wandering in past those locked doors, holds him back from questioning.

He has always possessed a strong memory, and an almost frightening degree of self-awareness. When his instincts tell him to turn away, he knows that it’s because there are things there that he had hidden for a reason.)


Erik notices the locked rooms. “Do you know what’s behind them?” he asks Raven, after a week of Charles's concentrated restiveness.

He had come out of the library just in time to see Charles pause at one beneath the stairs, fingers almost brushing the latch, before turning away. He spotted Erik a half-second later, and had smiled crookedly before offering, “Chess later?”

Erik had nodded, but saw no sense in trying to hide his doubts. Charles faltered for a moment, no doubt reading his suspicion, but did nothing to assuage it, just turned away to escape down the hall.

Raven shakes her head at him. “No.”

“And you’re not curious?”

“No,” she says, more firmly.

It only makes Erik more certain.


Getting used to it didn't make it easier.

“Hold this,” Wesley hissed on the morning of Charles's graduation, shoving academic dress on carelessly with one hand while he held out a nine millimeter in the other.

“Jesus, Wesley, it couldn’t have waited?” Raven said, snatching it out of his grip and stowing it in her purse.

“You know me. Not one for waiting.” He winked, and suddenly his whole demeanor changed.

“Raven, you look nervous. I’m the one who has to get up in front of all these people,” Charles said. He looked around bemusedly, smoothing his robe down in distraction. “And to think that I nearly slept through my own damned ceremony.”

She exhaled. “I always tell you to set two alarms, but you never listen.”

“I always listen,” he protested, “I just don’t always choose to take your advice.”

She swatted him across the shoulder, and he dodged, laughing, and kissed her cheek before running to catch up with the assembled graduates. She watched him go with a sour feeling in her stomach.

The gun felt like a two-ton weight against her shoulder. She dragged it with her to her seat.


On the day that Erik hands Charles a gun and says, “Shoot me,” Charles falters.

Erik feels more than sees the way the gun wavers in his hand. “Come on,” he says, “I can deflect it, you know I can.”

If anything, the gun wavers more. “Charles,” he starts.

The gun goes still. For a moment, Erik is absolutely certain that Charles is going to fire.

But then he’s flicking the safety back on.

“I’ve got a better idea,” he says.

And then, just like that, Erik is moving satellites.

Through vision blurred with tears, he has the stray thought that maybe he doesn’t care about what secrets Charles keeps, because this—this—is worth any sins or omissions between them. To remember a time when he wasn’t angry is worth it.

But then Moira is shouting out the window about Kennedy and the Russians, and Charles turns away from him to head inside. His hand falls briefly on Erik’s shoulder, and then—

Erik freezes. Charles's hand slides off his shoulder, a casual touch, but one Charles has only given to him once before.

It’s as if Charles has accidentally knocked loose some other, extra memories in his search for that single pure one.

They ring clear in Erik’s mind, and he cannot breathe.

”Hey, let’s go. Frost is through there, and as far as I can tell all of the guards are down for the fucking count.”


“Huh? Oh, yeah. Come on, what’re you looking at?”

“Erik? Are you coming? The president is about to speak.”

He blinks, and focuses on Charles, who looks the same; still flushed with victory and waiting impatiently for Erik to catch up.

“I’ll be right there,” he says.

Charles nods, bemused, and goes ahead.

Erik leans back against the wall, unsure of whether his legs will otherwise hold him.


The night before flying out to Washington from Florida, there was a knock on Raven’s door at the hotel where the CIA was putting them up.

It only took one glance for Raven to identify who she opened the door to nowadays. “Wesley? What do you want?”

“Can I come in?” he asked.

She nodded and stepped back.

He was armed, as usual, though not as heavily as when he went out. Just a Browning Hi-Power at his belt, and a backup at his ankle. He surveyed the room like he was familiarizing himself with its weak points. Raven supposed he probably was. “I wanted to talk to you,” he said, “About what you and Charles are getting yourselves into.”

“Believe me, I have my doubts about it,” Raven replied. “But what does it matter to you?”

He looked at her impatiently. “Look, I don’t do my job for shits and giggles. I do it to help people. And I respect that about Charles too, okay? Like I get that that’s what he’s trying to do with all this. But you and Erik both know that this is a really fucking dangerous gamble we’re all taking. And just wanted to tell you that I’m not going to sit back and let any of you get hurt, not at any cost, even the ones Charles isn’t willing to pay.”

Raven bit her lip. “I don’t know whether that makes me feel better or worse.”

“Either way,” Wesley shrugged, “I’ll do what’s necessary. I know Charles is precious to you, but if he doesn’t step up, then don’t be surprised if I do.”


Chess is a tense affair, and not just because they are going into battle tomorrow.

“What is so interesting about me that your eyes aren’t on the board, my friend?” Charles says eventually.

Erik sips his martini. “Surely you’re capable of answering that question yourself.”

“Knowing the answer and knowing the why’s and how’s of it are very different.” He looks up finally and smiles. “What’s on your mind, Erik?”

Erik watches him. “Russia.”

Charles's expression falters. “What about Russia?” he says.

“How did you get past the guards?”

“The usual.” Charles flutters his fingers next to his head. “Jiggery-pokery.”

Erik says lightly, “You’re lying. You don’t even know which guards I’m talking about.”

Charles raises an eyebrow. “Reading minds is my trick, not yours, you know.”

“I do know,” Erik agrees. “But you see, I don’t have to mind-read to remember very clearly what I saw when we came back out of the compound.”

Charles is very still.

“Between your ‘jiggery-pokery’ and my blunt force, there shouldn’t have been too many shots fired. And yet I saw quite a few men down with bullets in their chests.” He moves a rook forward. “Last time I checked, you were barely comfortable holding a gun, let alone firing one.

“So tell me, Charles. How did you get past those guards?”


Wesley keeps a whole mess of keys to the Westchester mansion that neither Kurt nor Cain had ever managed to find. Mostly because before they were in Wesley’s possession, they were in a seedy apartment in Chicago that once belonged to Brian Xavier.

He keeps a set of keys to Charles's mind, as well.

Those he sometimes gets careless with.

After all, it isn’t his problem that Charles decided to pussy out on his family history.


Russia had been a very, very near disaster. Charles remembers that.

He remembers hiding Erik and the CIA task force in plain sight, and he remembers borrowing a guard’s sight and knowledge for the sake of intel.

He remembers Erik breaking cover, and he remembers going after him.

And then there was a…gap.

He tries working backwards. The encounter with Emma Frost, who they’d gotten to when Charles had caught up to Erik in the compound, which he’d been able to do by…

Panic flares in his chest. He looks at Erik. “I didn’t—”

And then, abruptly, everything smoothes into blank, calm unawareness.


Wesley drops one of the keys in his haste.


“Charles didn’t. I did.”

Erik stills. Charles's frame, locked in fear moments ago, has relaxed into an insolent sprawl on the couch. He looks very much the same, but also entirely different, like a puzzle assembled wrongly. And for all that Charles frustrates him with his evasiveness and intrusive privilege, this new creature instills in Erik a sudden and unexpected flare of distaste, and a longing for Charles to come back, and fill his skin as he ought.

After a long moment, Erik inhales and says, “You’re Wesley, I take it?”

Wesley—wearing the same doe eyes and expressive mouth, but with an air that they’d been beaten down, along with the rest of him, into something dense and unyielding—says, “Yeah. That’s me.”

There’s a blur of movement, and in the next moment the sharpened point of an iron poker from the fireplace is inches from Wesley’s eye, and Wesley himself is gripping the handle of it.

Erik blinks slowly, and the iron poker quivers. “Good reflexes,” he says.

“You have no idea,” Wesley replies. “You want to get this thing out of my face?”

“Not particularly,” Erik says, eyes narrowed. “Who are you, and why are you in Charles's body?”

Wesley quirks his lips. “Didn’t you get the memo? I’m no one. I only exist because I have to.”

“I don’t understand.”

Wesley tests the poker’s strength. Erik doesn’t let it budge. “You don’t want Charles doing what I can do,” he says.

“And what do you do?” Erik asks, curling his lip. “More mind tricks?”

Wesley’s laugh is more like a bark. “I can outrun Hank,” he says, suddenly still and coiled. “I’m good with knives, and I’m an artist with guns. My father was the greatest assassin who ever lived, and I have it on good authority that I’m better.” He sits back. “Does that answer your question?”

“I’m good with guns too,” Erik said mildly.

Wesley cut him a sharp half-grin. “I know. I bought a set of ceramic knives just for you.”

Erik felt his demeanor cool. “You think I’m a threat to you?”

“I know you’re a threat to me. And you’re a threat to Charles,” Wesley retorts.

“I would never hurt Charles!” he snarls. The poker wavers.

“Then what the fuck is this?” Wesley yanks the poker out of the air and throws it to the side with a clatter. “You kill me, you kill him. Fucking deal with it.”

“We are on the eve of war,” Erik says icily. “And I want to know why my friend has been hiding you from me.”

“He’s not hiding jack shit. He doesn’t fucking know. And I’d appreciate it if that continued.” He stands up, and Erik matches him, towering over him, but for once Charles's smaller frame doesn’t look small at all.

“Oh, and before I go.” Wesley steps forward suddenly, and then his lips are on Erik’s.

Erik receives the kiss like a slap in the face—it’s savage and longing and unbearably thorough, for all that it’s brief.

Wesley pulls away with a scrape of teeth, and watches him with impatience and a maybe touch of Charles's admiration. “He’s afraid of ruining your friendship,” he says. “I think he doesn’t give you nearly enough credit. Mutant and proud, right? That counts for more than just special abilities.”

He turns away, but Erik recovers fast and seizes his wrist. “You do what’s necessary,” he says, studying him carefully. “Will you help me kill Shaw?”

Wesley looks back at him. “Pretty sure my abilities won’t help any. But I won’t stop you. Charles might try.”

“Shaw deserves to die.”

“Hey, no arguments here. I think Charles might even agree with you. But that isn’t the point. The point is where you stop after that.”

“I’ll stop when we’re safe.”

“And that’s what's fucking worrisome.” He twists his arm out of Erik’s grip. “You might think you’re a superior being, but you’re not god; you don’t get to choose who lives and dies. Believe me, I knew someone else who thought so.”

He kisses Erik again, this time just on the corner of his mouth. “So be good. I’m going to bed. Charles might come down later, or he might not. You both need the sleep after all. Big day, you know.”

He claps Erik on the shoulder, and leaves the room.

Erik pauses, and then sits back down on the sofa. With a thought, he directs the poker back to its stand next to the fireplace.

He regards the chess match that Charles had abandoned. He moves a knight.

“Check,” he murmurs.

His lips are still tingling when he goes finally to bed.


For the first time in nearly a decade, the door beneath the stairs (and in the attic, and in the tertiary guest bedroom) is left unlocked.

Wesley tries not to think of his life in metaphors, but really, the Westchester mansion is a damned good one.

Part Two.
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