last01standing: ([BtVS] Hush)
[personal profile] last01standing
Title: Souls
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I don't know nearly enough X-Men canon to own this.
Summary: Erik steals souls for a living. Then he meets Charles.
Warning: ...it's basically a really demented fairy tale. Yes. With actual fairies.
Words: 6,400
Author's note: De-anoning for a fill on [livejournal.com profile] 1stclass_kink. Because I am one of those people who write gen on kink memes. Original prompt/fill can be found here


Souls


The soul in front of him used to belong to a girl. It belongs to Erik now. He pulls at its edges, stretching out the thin fibers until they sing to him, a memory. Her first change, just shy of four years old, her brother's nose nudging her side as she collapsed onto all fours. Her senses sharpen, the tail wags and is this what things are really like for them? The girl hadn't even been a wolf, just a shifter with a dog form and it's still the purest moment of happiness Erik's ever felt.

He pulls himself out of the soul, tucking it safely back in its satchel alongside the others, the foreign moment of joy slipping away to leave him empty again. The rest of the souls buzz around him, clamoring for attention, but Erik closes the bag. He lies down on his cot, the muted warmth of souls next to him and closes his eyes.

It is as close to peace as one of the Empty Ones can hope to achieve; wrapped tightly around the stolen souls because he has no warmth of his own.

***


Shaw gives him the reason when he is just a boy. His mother is gone and he feels so empty it hurts. You feel empty because you don't have a soul, boy. You spent so long close to your mother's you didn't notice, but you can feel it now. You're hollow inside. An Empty One. But if you come with me, I can help you.

Erik, sobbing at his mother's grave, looks at the man's outstretched hand.

Then he takes it.

You might be hollow but you can feel souls, can't you boy. You can take them. From any of the paranormals. They're abomination. You're setting them free.

Show me how.


***


"I've got a surprise for you," Shaw says the next morning over breakfast.

Erik has the soul of a pyrokinetic between his fingers. This one is filled with the sharp tang of rage. He'd fought Erik when he came to set him free. Launched a fountain of fire that had nearly singed his satchel. It took Erik nearly an hour to subdue him and work the knife into his chest to cut out his soul. The owner's name had been named John. Rolling his soul between his fingers, Erik can feel the rage building like its his own.

The picture his foster father slides across the table is of a man Erik's age with pale skin, startlingly blue eyes and too-red lips. "Vampire?" Erik guesses.

"No," Shaw says and Erik draws the picture closer, looking for signs.

The man has dark circles under his eyes, and a faintly downcast shape to his lips. His shoulders are slumped. Erik considers and dismisses fairy, shifter and magi in quick succession.

"He's like you," Shaw says, delight on his features. "Think of all the souls he has collected through the years!"

Erik lowers John's soul and the anger going with it. He puts it back in his satchel for safekeeping. "How many will I get to keep?"

"Half of them," Shaw says.

That's more than usual. Erik touches the warm weight of the satchel at his hip. "And what will you do with the other half?"

"I brought you the boy." Shaw's smile is all teeth, just a little too sharp to seem safe. "I'll even tell you where he is, but you don't ask questions. Just bring me the souls."

Erik has three dozen souls in his possession at the moment. Through the years he's given almost two hundred to Shaw. He takes a deep breath. "Where does he live?"

"Westchester, New York."

***


There is something wrong in Westchester. The target, Charles Xavier is like him, Erik can feel it but when he stretches out his senses farther, he can see a soul nestled around his heart. His hands stop before they reach the knife.

It's not a soul out of place. It's a tiny tattered thing, brittle and close to breaking but so clearly property of Charles Xavier that Erik can scarcely believe his eyes. Charles looks at him, wild-eyed. "How many souls do you have?"

Erik wants one more but he can't take it. Not until he gets an answer. "You're like me," he says. "You're like me, but you've got your own."

"My own what?" Charles asks but gets it when Erik's hands got to the satchel at his side. "My own soul? Why would I not have my own soul?"

"Because we're empty," Erik says and something blue and fast hits him out of the corner of his eyes.

When he wakes up he's in chains.

***


"Erik," the voice is soft and sounds like it cares in a way no one has since his mother was alive. "Erik, this is Charles, do you know where you are?"

"You knocked me out."

"No, actually that was Raven. My sister. She's really quite marvelous. She can mimic nearly anyone on the planet."

"She's a paranormal."

Charles steepled his finger under his chin, his voice guarded. "You do realize you're also a paranormal."

"I'm empty."

"You can touch souls," Charles says, reaching for the satchel on the chair next to the bed. "Same as me. It appears you can also steal them."

There are so many things that Erik wants to ask but he settles for the most pressing. "Why do you have a soul? I didn't think people like us had souls."

"Everyone has a soul, Erik." Charles looks worried now. "Is that why you've been going around the country murdering paranormals? For their souls? Because you think you don't have one?"

"I was born without one," Erik says. "I can't feel proper emotions. I'm not doing anything wrong. Paranormals aren't humans. I don't even kill most of them. It's not like they need souls to exist."

"Oh, Erik," Charles says. "Oh, my friend, you're wrong. Things can exist without a soul but that's not a real existence. Not at all."

Erik reaches out to snatch the satchel from him, to hug his collection of souls to his chest but his arm is chained to the bedpost. Charles's soul constricts at the sight and Erik, for the life of him can't understand why.

"I can touch people's souls, just like you," Charles says. "I'm willing to bet you do have one. You've just spent so long burying it under all the others that you can't feel it anymore." He reaches out tentatively. "May I try something?"

Tugging again on the chains, Erik decides he probably doesn't have any choice. So he leans forward, a clear invitation.

To his surprise, Charles doesn't move to his chest where most people store their souls, but rather touches a hand to his temple. Charles's hands are soft and cold and Erik closes his eyes. He's not quite hoping for something, but he wants to be.

Charles's battered soul flutters in his chest and Erik thinks, He's close enough. I could reach out and take it. I could feel. We're the same after all. Maybe I could use his soul. Maybe it will fit in the empty place.

Pulling back, Charles wears a frown. "You have a soul," he says. "You must. You never would have survived without it."

"But…"

"But it's not where it should be. There's nothing there but an echo. You're soul's out there, Erik. I promise it is. You wouldn't have survived if it had been destroyed."

"I've always been empty," Erik says. "Can I have the satchel back? Please. I don't like feeling like this."

Charles holds the satchel out to him. "I'll make you a deal."

"I fail to see how you could possibly have anything I want."

(Charles has a soul and Erik wants it more than anything in the world.)

"I'll help you get your soul back," Charles says. "But you have to let them go."

The answer takes a while to set in. He reaches compulsively for the satchel, tugging a girl's—Marie's—soul to the surface where the melancholy washes through him.

"You won't need the other souls to feel, Erik." As he watches, the shriveled lump of Charles's soul starts to expand with hope. "You'll do it yourself."

"All right," he says. "Let me out then. We can do it together."

The soul in Charles's chest shrivels up again, back to its dusty, unused mask. Erik can't help but think he just saw something beautiful, infinitely precious. There is more to Charles than meets the eye.

Erik will play by his rules for the chance to see it.

***


Charles makes him release the souls before he unchains him. It takes a moment for Erik to figure out how. He's bound all the souls to his body in some way and undoing it feels like losing pieces of himself. He hasn't felt this way since his mother died and Shaw first took him in.

But every time he lets one go, he can see Charles's bright soul peaking out from behind its tattered mask and he feels something he can't explain.

***


The next day he's unchained and invited down for breakfast. The blue shifter--no, Charles's sister--stops dead in the doorway when she sees him. "Charles, you realize that's the same man who's been stealing souls from paranormals all across the country."

Erik bares his teeth and she shrinks back. She has a lovely soul, as adaptable as they come, which fits her gift as much as anything. Charles puts a hand on his shoulder his tiny soul projecting comfort. Erik drinks it in.

"Erik here has lost something very important. I've promised to help him get it back."

"You're going to tell me he's lost his soul, aren't you?"

Charles nods sheepishly. Erik takes another pancake and douses it in maple syrup as he watches the exchange.

Raven shakes her head. "I'm going to move the others to a safe house. You're not going to come to see us until your side adventure has either ended or blown up in your face. We clear?"

"Of course, the children come first."

Curious, Erik tilts his head and reaches out with a clumsy touch, feeling the host of paranormal creatures around this house. Their souls are bright, their hopes alive. He wants to reach out, follow them.

Raven cuffs him on the back of his head. "I will knock you out again, I swear to god. I don't care what kind of charity case Charles is running here. If you make a move after a single soul, I will cheerful slit your throat."

"Charming, isn't she?" Erik comments. He gets the feeling that he would be amused if he could.

"She's got a kind soul," Charles says. "I know you could feel it."

But Erik doesn't feel things like that. He gets the highs and lows of emotion, the animal instinct. The lust, rage and pain. "You've never done it the right way, haven't you?"
"What?"

"Most people who can touch souls wind up in professions in medicine. They can calm people down. Take away pain. It's meant to help people, not hurt them."

"Shaw's had me looking for souls for as long as I can remember. He always took most of them."

"Then he probably has yours as well." Charles says. "I except we'll have to steal it back."

***


"Why are you helping me? You do understand I came here to kill you."

"Yes," Charles says. "But I also know you haven't tried yet."

They're sitting on a bench in the garden, watching the sunset. The sight causes an almost imperceptible change in Charles's features. Almost like he's at peace. Erik reaches for the feeling, but he can't touch it without the soul in his hand.

"Then it's me who's wrong," Erik says. "I'm supposed to have a soul and I don't. I always thought I needed others to survive."

"Oh, my friend, you shouldn't just want to survive. You should want to live. There's a very important difference."

"You still haven't answered my question."

"Why am I helping you?" Charles watches as the last glimmer of light disappears over the horizon. "Because if I had been just a bit less lucky, I would have been just like you."

Erik tugs at the thread of memory bubbling up in the soul and pulls loose the story.

***


The story is this:

When Charles had been just nine years old, his mother remarried. His stepfather, a greedy man, had seen there was profit in souls and begun looking for a way to harness them for himself. Charles walked into him attempting to extract Raven's soul. And Charles reacted as any brother would.

***


"Is he still alive?"

There's a long stretch of silence. Not even the chirp of a bird.

"No," Charles says. "I'm afraid I made quite sure of that."

"You took his soul."

"Yes, and I still regret it to this day."

"How long did he last?"

"Six long months."

"What happened to the soul?"

Charles leans back against the bench. The sky's at that awkward place between dark and light. The sun's gone but its warmth still lingers in the air. "I let it go when we were safe. I didn't want it."

"You did nothing wrong."

"Some souls are rotten. Some of them have been twisted so far from where they started, I'm loathe to call them souls at all. But all souls are precious, even those that are corrupt. Taking a man's soul is taking a man's future."

Erik reaches for his satchel, but it's empty now, the souls released into the world. He supposes they've returned to their owners. He wonders what that would feel like. "And what of the people who have no soul? Are we simply monsters in the dark?"

"Even monsters have souls, Erik. I'm not sure how you've continued to function."

"I'm a freak," he replies with a shrug.

"But you're not," Charles squeezes his shoulder. "I promise you, you're not a freak. Something was done to you. We're going to fix it."

***


"I need you to make me angry." Charles demands the next morning.

"What?"

"You've spent so long doing what Shaw asked of you, ripping souls out, you don't know what else you can do. I'm not an angry man. It's not in my nature. This is not an easy challenge I pose you."

"I don't-" Erik screws up his face, looking for the right words. "I don't want to make you angry."

"It's all right," Charles says. "If you can make me angry, I know you can calm me back down."

"Charles…"

"Try."

***


It takes weeks to work but Charles goes from calm to irate and then back to calm and when Erik lets go, there is nothing but pride.

His satchel is still very empty, but he finds himself reaching for Bobby's soul. It's the one best suited for accomplishment.

He would very much like to feel accomplishment again.

***


At night, Erik goes to sleep in one of Charles's empty bedrooms wrapped around the still-warm leather of his empty satchel. He can hear voices coming from down the hall. He can feel the soul of the blue shifter. Charles's sister.

"If he's really empty, of course he's going to respond to the last people he was around. He's a blank slate. Send him back to Shaw and he'll be a monster again."

"He wasn't a monster when he first got here," Charles says, insistent. "He didn't kill me."

"But he would have. Charles, I hope you know what you're doing."

"Do you have the information or not?"

A moment of silence eclipses the house and Erik can only assume she's handing over paper intelligence. He creeps out of bed, moving to the hallway so he can hear more clearly. "I know you're looking for something specific, Charles," Raven says gently. "I know you want Erik's soul, but look at this, you can't leave this guy out there."

"What do you know about Shaw, Raven?"

"He's the kind of thing monsters have nightmares about and you've got his attack dog sleeping on your spare bed."

"Erik is—"

"Erik is someone you're trying to save because of what you did to Kurt Marko. Don't pretend it's anything different. I don't know why you're still tied up with that. You did what you had to do."

"I stripped a man of his future. I'd very much like to make sure this Sebastian Shaw cannot do the same."

Erik is close enough to see through the crack in the door now. Raven's in her natural form, blue with violently ginger hair. Frustration sings out from her soul, tinged with worry for her brother. "He's one of the fae, Charles. They like souls more than they like gold. He's something that must be stopped and you're not willing to kill anyone."

"I would though," Erik says, pushing his way in through the door. "I would kill him."

Charles looks horrified. Raven looks guarded. "Erik, you grew up with the man. Surely you can't want to kill him."

"He took something from me. And it sounds like he more than deserves to die." He shrugs. "Beside. I have no soul. That means no remorse."

A green tinge sneaks into Charles's cheeks. Raven turns to him, golden eyes ablaze. "You might have one problem with this plan. Shaw's one of the fae which means you can't kill him. You need a soul to kill a fae and you don't have one."

"Raven," Charles pleads.

"I suppose I could do it," Raven says and in a flash of blue, an exact replica of Erik stands in front of him. "Looking like this, I could even get close to him."

"He'd know it wasn't me," Erik says. "Your soul feels like a shifter's."

"What about my soul?" Charles interjects. He still looks vaguely ill, but there's a kind of determination in his features. "Shaw would expect you to return with it, yes? And without a soul, you stand no chance."

Erik nods. "But unless you're hiding some ability like your sister's, you'll be discovered as well."

Charles looks up to meet his eyes. "Not if it's you who's carrying my soul."

***


Raven objects. Vehemently.

"The whole point of this exercise is getting a soul back. You're not fixing the problem if you do that. You're just transferring it."

Erik hasn't taken his eyes from Charles's face. He twitches his fingers and already he can see Charles's soul stretching out like it wants to meet him. Erik has never seen anything so wonderfully deceptive, so achingly beautiful. And if he has permission, it's not wrong.

Is it?

"And that's even if we can trust a word this guy says. He's been yanking souls out of people for years. Since he was a kid. How do we know, he won't just take your soul and run? Hell, how do we know he won't just take mine?"

He wishes he still had Scott's soul, so perfect for indignation and taking offense. The kind of soul that was proud and not a stranger to a fight. Charles's soul on the other hand is the only one he can feel now. It looks shriveled and used, but it's not. If Erik squints, he can see a bit of light escape.

"And who will you be without a soul, Charles? Did you ever thing of that? What will you do? Who will you be? You remember what happened to Marko—"

"Kurt was a monster when he had a soul and a monster without it. The soul leaves an impression. It won't rob me of who I am. I've still got a lifetime of being Charles Xavier to drawn on. That is not something that will be unlearned." He looks Erik up and down. "I expect our friend here has the echo of who he might have been."

"You'll stop caring," Erik says. "That's what happens. You lose focus. You're cold all the time. Every argument looks like the right one."

Raven looks on the verge of tear. Charles reaches out for Erik's hand. "Then I guess I'll have you to keep me in check."

***


They practice just once before they go. Raven observes and Charles's soul radiates so much nervousness, Erik's surprised Raven can't feel it too. "You don't have to do this," she says and Erik's not sure if this is addressed to him, Charles or the world at large.

Charles smiles. "Of course I don't. That's not going to stop me though. Erik, my good man, will you do the honors."

It's odd to do this sort of thing without a knife, but it's also inexplicably easier. Maybe it's because it's a soul offered to him willingly, but it slides out of the other man. "This is a loan, you understand," Charles says. "I'm going to want it back intact."

The soul slides into Eric's hand and he rolls it compulsively between his fingers. It feels like Charles somehow, optimistic, bright and tinged with sorrow. Charles places a hand on top of his own and for a second, they're connected by this fragile soul, two sides of the same thing. "You can't play with it like that," Charles says. "You've got to put it where it should be."

Slotting the soul into place, Erik feels like the world's suddenly in color again. He's never done this before, always content to hold souls between his hands. It's always felt like more would be perversion. He doesn't know how he could have lived without this. He laughs, delighted by the new sensation but is cut short when Raven glares at him and rushes to her brother's side.

Every sense of elation flushes out of him as he catches sight of his friends face. Charles looks like a corpse, his skin gray, his eyes empty as he struggles to regain his breath. Guilt slams into him in waves and he rushes to his friend's (how on Earth did someone like him manage to make a friend?) side.

"That is not what I was expecting," Charles says. His voice is measured. He looks at Erik and Erik has to wonder if this is how he looked when he first came to Westchester. "I think I much prefer the other way."

"Take it back then," Erik says, alien feeling of worry eating at his consciousness. "We don't have to do this yet. I'm used to it."

Raven looks sharply to him and Erik gets the feeling he's just passed some sort of test. Charles reaches for his chest, fingers splayed and Erik tries to open up like Charles had. He feels the warmth seeping out through the other man's fingers and it's a conscious effort not to fight against it. The lights flood out of the world, but it seems to go straight into Charles so Erik can't begrudge that.

When it’s over, Charles sits up, adjusts his cardigan and says, "Oh, Erik. I'm so sorry. I had no idea it was like that."

Erik blinks, trying to readjust to the world he knows. The faint impressions of the soul seem to linger on the edges of his consciousness and they only get stronger when Charles pulls him into a hug. "We’ll fix this. I promise."

"And if we don't?"

It feels strange to have that soul pressed up against him so closely. It's almost like having one himself. Charles is betting his soul on this, Erik realizes. He doesn't know if he can find another one like it. He doesn't know if he would be able to survive that kind of loss.

***


Raven finds them the intelligence they need. Erik is not the only one of Shaw's poachers, not the only one tricked into believing themselves Empty and he can feel the echo of Charles's rage even though they're not touching.

They've been connected somehow, Erik knows. They've shared the same soul and that is not something that goes away. Shaw is hiding in a warehouse outside of Oxford. Raven found him by impersonating one of the guards.

"I think they have souls there," Raven says. "I followed Azazel for almost three days and that gave me Shaw. Shaw moves around, collecting for about a week at a time and then he comes back there."

"Then we move in while he's collecting," Erik says. "Wait for him. Catch him off guard."

"Or we could just sneak in," Charles says. "Steal your soul and leave."

"He has to be stopped, Charles," Raven says. "We can't let this kind operation continue. How would you feel if this happened to Alex, or Sean, or Hank?"

Charles closes his eyes, resignation strumming through him.

"We move tomorrow then?"

"Of course," Charles says. "Tomorrow."

***


The second time, Erik hesitates before he touches Charles. "I don't want to hurt you."

"I expect it won't hurt half so much this time," Charles replies. There's a bare hint of a smile on his features. "We won't have to do this again."

It doesn't hurt so much this time. Charles loses less color and Erik's world doesn't seem so crushingly real. It's because he's more focused, Erik tells himself. It will all be over soon.

***


There are thousands of souls in Shaw's warehouse. Raven is the only one who seems unaffected by them. Charles wears the same look he recognizes from his own face near a glut of souls. The smaller man's hands don't leave Erik's chest, craving the touch of his own soul. "There are so many of them, Erik," he says, features glazed. "I can feel them all."

He reaches his free hand toward the wall and Erik can feel rows of souls bending toward them, some of the jars scraping against wooden shelving.

Charles is stronger than him. Even with Erik carrying the borrowed soul, Charles is stronger.

Raven whacks her brother soundly on the back. "Charles, cut it out. If you break something, they're going to figure out we're here."

The hands slowly drops to his side but the other one, tightens its grip on Erik. "Of course," he says, "Terribly sorry."

But he can't be sorry, Erik didn't know the feeling when he was empty and Charles can't know it now. All the same, the emotion bubbles up in Erik's chest like it belongs to him.

Raven watches the two of them out of the corner of her yellow eyes. "Is everything all right over there?"

"I don't know how this is supposed to feel," Erik says, pulling Charles's hand from his.

"I'd expect Erik has never remained in contact with the owner of a soul he's taken before," Charles says. "I don’t feel quite so empty when I'm close. Can't I just take one? We can let the rest go, but I can't, I feel--"

"We're looking for my soul, remember, Charles?" Erik looks down at Charles's soul, nestled snug against his heart. "I don't even know what it would feel like."

"You already have a soul," Charles says, hand moving once again to Erik's chest. "It's right there."

"That one's yours." Erik pries him off. "It's a loan."

"Is it?" Charles pokes at the soul. "It seems very attached to you."

That's probably because Erik is very attached to Charles. In fact, he just might give this soul up willingly even if he had no one to replace it with. The thought sobers him. "We're looking for my soul. Can you help me?"

Raven snorts. "Right. What does it look like? Another empty jar?"

The jars aren't empty. They dance with trapped souls, bottled life. Charles looks over to them. He seems to have lost focus without a soul to guide him. Oddly, Erik finds his situation to be the opposite. "They aren't empty," Charles says. "They're so warm."

To the left of them are rows of jars. Erik knows their owners in an abstract way, shapeshifters. A boy with angel wings. A girl who could walk through walls. There are so many of them.

"Well," Raven says. "Souls in a jar. Any of them feel like they belong to you?"

It's been so long, Erik doesn't know what his own soul might feel like. Hadn't been aware that he'd ever owned one until Charles set him straight. Rage bubbles up in his veins and for once, it doesn't feel borrowed.

"Calm your mind," Charles demands, putting to fingers to his temple and closing his eyes. "I think I can find it, but I can't when you're bleeding emotion everywhere."

Erik reigns in the hate as best as he can. Charles opens his eyes. "This way. Quickly. I think I can feel the right soul."

"How can you tell?" Erik asks, trying to find the same tiny whisper among the shouts of other souls. "How do you know it's mine?"

The smile Charles gives him seemed almost genuine, like he's tapping into Erik's well of hope. "Because it feels like mine."

***


Erik's ashamed to say he can't feel his soul from the masses. There are thirteen of them in Shaw's inner office, the Empty Ones' souls, but he can't for the life of him tell the difference. Charles, on the other hand moves to it immediately. "Here you are!" It is a smaller soul than the others, shriveled like it had been starving for years. Its light brightened as Charles picks up the container and pries it open, rolling the soul around through his fingers. "Erik," he says, almost reverently. "Look!"

"Yes," Shaw says from behind them. "Look at this."

***

Fear creeps into Erik's bones. It's quite, debilitating and utterly insidious. It's first emotion he's hated. Then he remembers hate. Not the white-hot anger, but hate that takes root deep in his stomach and poisons everything he touches. Yes, if Erik hates anyone, he hates Shaw. The hate overpowers the fear and Erik steps forward, putting himself between Shaw and Charles. Behind him, Charles puts Erik's soul back on the shelf.

"I was starting to expect you'd never return." Shaw says, gaze drifting from Erik to Charles. "And look! You brought me a present. Another one of the Empty Ones. We'll have trained as a collector in no time."

Shaw takes a step forward, but Erik moves to block his path. "No," he says.

"No?" Something cold flickers in his eye and Erik sees the barest impression of his true face. Shaw sniffs at the musty air. "Oh, you're different, aren’t you, Erik? You've acquired something of your own." Another quick sniff for confirmation. "Or at very least borrowed it. A soul. I didn't expect this. You always seemed unwilling to keep just one."

"I found the one that fit," Erik says. "Charles Xavier kept no souls at all."

"And souls are important," Charles says from behind him. "A man with enough souls could rule the world."

Shaw's eyes narrowed. "And that's what you two want, to rule the world?"

"That's what you want," Erik says. "Isn't it? And you've been using me to get there."

"Don't pretend you haven't enjoyed yourself," Shaw's face distorts. His nose elongates, his teeth sharpen, his face goes green. "We've all used each other and your use is over."

Shaw lunges up in the air first, wings ripping out of his back with a sickening crunch. Erik grabs his knife out from the satchel he still carries and lunges for Shaw. At the door to the office, Raven makes an appearance, grabbing for one of Shaw's legs. "Fools!" Shaw roars, "Do you understand what I am. What I can do?"

He bats Raven into one of the shelves of soul and glass shatters. Shaw raises his hands, drawing the souls toward him, drinking in their power as he flutters to the ground. "We could have gone so far together, Erik," he says. "You could have taken as many souls as you liked! You were happy."

Erik draws himself up tall, knife clenched at his side. If he waits, if he can draw Shaw close enough, he might just be able to strike a killing blow. He can see Charles out of the corner of his eyes, watching the scene with something nearly apathy. Erik knows he would have been entranced. Raven is only just shaking herself back into awareness. "Happy," Erik says. "I didn't know the meaning of the word."

Shaw laughs and puts out a hand. Erik can feel his borrowed soul straining toward his fingertips. Erik panics. He can't lose this. Losing this would mean losing Charles and losing Charles is… unacceptable. He puts a free hand to his chest and throws down an anchor, all the simple tricks he'd learned to keep the souls close to him. Shaw strains for him, snarling in frustration. "You've given me your soul once," he says. "Bound it to me because I took away your sorrows. You will give me this one as well. It was an arrangement."

"I was just a little boy," Erik says. "I've since learned my lesson. And I can't promise you a soul that is not my own. You can't have this."

Shaw howls in frustration, everything human gone from his face and suddenly, Erik understands. The fae can't take souls unless they are offered. Erik, foolishly, had offered his as a child, had offered hundreds of others since then, but Shaw needed someone to harvest them. He might have a claim on the soul that resides in Erik, but not a strong enough one to take it. He anchors the soul again, a chant of mine, mine, mine strong in his mind.

"Don't be too proud, boy," Shaw snarls. " I can still end your life."

And he will too. Raven has pulled herself to her knees, but she's too far away. Erik has an iron knife, but he finds he can barely move and Charles—

Charles is behind Shaw holding a knife of his own, cast in iron. Erik had insisted he bring it even though it would be useless to him. Fae can't be killed by the soulless and Charles is empty, his precious soul nestled in Erik's chest. It was impossible.

But Shaw, howls when the knife hit flesh. He spun around, clawing at Charles's face enough to drawn blood. The wound sizzles audibly. Shaw curses to the air, wings fluttering helplessly. Erik finds he can move again, the thrall broken and he plunges his own knife into Shaw's neck.

Shaw dies in agony. Charles watches the entire time. Erik watches Charles. He has no illusions about which one of them dealt the fatal blow. "How did you do it?" he asks. "I thought you were empty."

Tears in his eyes, Charles gestures behind him to jar that housed Erik's soul. It's empty. Fascinated, Erik reaches out and finds it tuck into Charles's chest, nestled around his heart.

A foreign emotion creeps into his chest. Erik thinks he might call it happiness.

***


Raven looks out at the warehouse as they leave. "There have to be a thousand souls left in there. We can't leave them."

Charles looks to Erik and without a word, they both raise their arms, calling the souls toward them. The warehouse fills with the sound of shattering glass. When the glasses have shattered, Erik hesitates for a moment. There are so many souls there. He remembers the warmth of them piled on top of each other. The familiarity of his leather satchel.

"Erik," Charles says. "You don't need them anymore."

He lets the souls go and for almost an hour, they stand there and watch the thin tendrils of gold drift into the sky.

***


Raven introduces him to a half dozen different paranormals. He touches each of their souls briefly while he shakes their hands. They are afraid of him.

***


Later, he learns they are afraid of Charles too.

***


Almost a fortnight after the warehouse, he finds Charles sitting on the bench that overlooks the garden. He sits down next to him. When he looks, he can see the soul nestled against Charles's chest. "I expect you'll want to trade back. I know the soul was only a loan."

"I expect we should."

Erik shrugs. "Would you like to do the honors?"

Charles grins over at him and then presses his palm against Erik's chest. He closes his eyes. Erik expects to feel the same pull. The extraction followed by the vacuum of emptiness.

But it never comes.

Charles pulls back, frowning. "I can't move it."

Erik thinks guiltily of Shaw's last moments. Of throwing down anchor after anchor to prevent Charles's soul from fleeing. "I had to make sure I didn't lose it. Shaw tried to take it and I could let him."

But then he senses something else coming from Charles. A reluctance he hadn't detected before. "Maybe you should keep it," Charles says. "I've stained yours anyway. Maybe it's better this way."

Reaching over to squeeze his hand, Erik does his best to project warmth. "Then you should keep mine as well. I can't think of anyone I'd rather have take care of it."

***


Raven still looks at him like he's the enemy sometimes, especially when souls are not swapped. But she's the trickle of paranormals filtering through the house has slowly turned into a flood so Erik guesses she's getting over.

***


Erik can feel Charles wherever he goes. It take him a while to figure it out, but if you carry someone else's soul with you for long enough a link forms. And if you do it long enough, there's a bridge. Erik's soul is tied to Charles and he might feel guilty about it except for the fact that it's everything he's ever wanted. They experiment like children, testing the limits, holding conversations from opposite ends of the house, throwing emotions at one another.

"You could go anywhere," Charles says. "I'm not keeping you here. If you want to go, you can leave."

"I'm not going to leave," Erik replies. "I'm told you should keep your soul close behind. You never know when someone might try to take it."

He doesn't check to see if Charles is smiling.

He doesn't need to.

(no subject)

30/8/11 02:25 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] toestastegood.livejournal.com
This is so intense and bittersweet. I love the concept of it all. Thinking of Erik's pre-Charles life here is incredibly sad.

(no subject)

15/9/11 21:21 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thanks. I'm glad you liked. Breaking into a new fandom's always a wee bit intimidating.

(no subject)

14/9/11 02:11 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] captanddeastar.livejournal.com
This is so, so beautiful and heartbreaking. You've done a wonderful job capturing a fairy-tale quality, but still keeping the characters spot-on. Thank you for sharing!

(no subject)

15/9/11 21:21 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
And thank you for reading! Demented fairy tales need to be told far more often.

(no subject)

4/10/11 04:14 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] crimsoncrow.livejournal.com
This was so beautiful. Erik being so empty and just doing as he's told and feeling nothing. But you knew something was up because he went by the names of each souls as if they were friends he kept close to his heart....as demented as the situation was. Still. I adored this.

(no subject)

13/10/11 03:38 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
I'm glad to hear it! Thanks for reading.

(no subject)

14/10/11 03:59 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] cellshader.livejournal.com
This was such a great read. Thoroughly enjoyable.

And I love your ending. Love it.

(no subject)

20/10/11 02:29 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you so much. This one was a bit of a departure for me, style-wise and I'm glad it worked for you.

(no subject)

12/11/11 12:57 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] aceofannwn.livejournal.com
Aaaaaawwwwwww I love this

(no subject)

9/12/11 13:50 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
Thank you so much!

(no subject)

20/11/11 12:31 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] princess-wentz.livejournal.com
Okay. This story is awesome. No, I'm really speechless - it's like you recreated X-Men into this AWESOME thing and kjdkjdkjd. I loved it.

(no subject)

9/12/11 13:50 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] trolllogicfics.livejournal.com
The Xmen were kind of already one of those awesome things. =) Thanks for reading!

(no subject)

5/1/12 05:49 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] whitemoondance.livejournal.com
This is so beautiful ;__;.

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