[Cherik] After the Nightfall (Part 2)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms:  X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), The Shrine (2010)

Rating: M

Pairing(s):  Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier

Genres: Fanfiction, slash, crossover, AU, slight horror

Characters: Erik Lehnsherr, Charles Xavier, Lucifer, Martin Vosper and other Eden residents

Warning: a little gore, maybe

Summary:

Part 9 of Eden series. Related to Fair Trade and Eden.

Two travelers, lost in a faraway land of central Europe, came across a village. They asked to stay for the night and ended up getting more than they bargained for.

Part 2.     Erik Lehnsherr

He was light, so light, a weight amounted to a wisp of smoke when Lucifer laid him in Erik’s arms. His beautiful eyes restored, the blood washed clean off his face, he looked so young, so innocent in his spell-induced sleep. He needed rest – all of them lost souls did – to make up for his long years as a lingering apparition. Lucifer’s blood rejuvenated him and enhanced him but a sufficient amount of rest was still in demand. And time was never scarce in Eden.

Erik wasn’t a stranger to this young man’s face – had been accustomed to seeing it every waking moment of his eternal afterlife; still, at this moment, he felt as if he had laid eyes on it for the very first time. So familiar was he with its features that he could paint it blindfolded yet also new, full of mysteries he was elated to unravel. He would save them for later – he, no, they would have plenty of time; for now, he was satisfied with drinking in its beauty, damaged yet unblemished.

Out of the corner of his eyes, Lucifer smiled, a faint smile like a specter clinging at the contours of his perfect-shaped lips. None of his ‘sons’, though sharing his image down to the tiny freckles on the bridge of his nose, had this peculiar smile that contained in its delicate curve of the lips eons of knowledge and understanding of human nature, whose glorious flaws and sins (his words) he fed on and reveled in.

“For decades, Erik,” he said, “I have silently wept in my belief that yours were a heart of metal.”

Erik did not so much raise an eyebrow at Lucifer’s penchant for dramatic exaggeration.

“But yours is only made of ice and one of my sons has managed to thaw it.” He clasped his hands, gloved in snow-white. “A match made in Eden.”

He smirked. “I suppose you play the role of Eros.”

“I’m flattered, Erik, but no, it is fate that pulls the two of you together, regardless of my presence.” He paused for a small chuckle. “I find it astonishing that of all Eden’s children, it is you, ‘stone-faced party-pooper’ – to quote Martin, to taste the sweetness of love at first sight.”

“I miss the short time you were banned from using your powers,” Erik replied, annoyance absent from his tone. Well, once you learn that you are the Devil’s spawn, or his millennia-old crush’s for that matter, you might as well learn to adapt to his general lack of respect to private thoughts and feelings. Don’t try to lecture him on the subject of common sense; he just won’t get it, he who had been born to a race of angels who preferred to open their minds rather than their mouths.

“Believe me, I do too.” He sighed softly. “Walking the earth as an actual mortal instead of just masquerading as one has been a rapturous experience. I’m in love with the pains and the feeling of utter helplessness as much as the joys we had.”

“Seems to me you rather enjoyed being tied up on the altar like a sacrificial lamb.” Erik nodded, stroking his chin. “Why ruined it? I did intend to carry your ‘dead’ body back to Eden as proof of your winning the bet.”

“That was very kind of you, Erik, to not think of disposing me in the middle of nowhere.”

Erik shrugged.

“I lost anyway,” Lucifer said, briefly looking at his immaculate Victorian outfit and visualizing the crimson blood – his mortal blood – only minutes ago. He shook his head ruefully. “The moment I saw what my child had gone through I knew I couldn’t possibly win this bet. Besides, much as I love it, being mortal isn’t my strong point.”

“You did well enough. I might just forget the little incident after the man swung the sledgehammer.”

Lucifer broke into a litany of delightful chuckles. “It seems I have bribed the referee handsomely enough for him to side with me.”

“I do love the look on Martin’s face in defeat.” Erik shrugged.

“We both have that in common,” Lucifer said. “But I do believe rules are made to be obeyed. And by the rules I have lost, regardless of the reason and circumstance.”

“Suit yourself. No matter who wins this bet, the rest of us will be guaranteed some fun.”

“I’m pleased to provide my dear children some entertainment.”

Martin Vosper, the youngest and most pampered amongst his brothers, was the major source of mischief in Eden. It was he who gathered them one day and announced that he had just made a bet with the All-Father.

“What is it?” Harry asked. He seemed interested and so did his beloved Winnie.

Martin cleared his throat, clearly in love with his brothers’ unadulterated attention on him. Even the aloof Charles twins looked intrigued. “In his next trip to Earth, Daddy will go as a mortal. Yes, you heard me. He will be absolutely mortal, no powers, no money out of thin air, no whatsoever. If he uses even a sliver of his powers, he’ll lose.”

“What’s the penalty?” Nicholas asked.

Martin cast a brief glance at Richard Wirth, who was the only one to not give a damn about this bet. Hell, he didn’t give a damn about anything or anyone here except Lucifer. Most of them wouldn’t want to come near him either, finding him too creepy. A bit wrong in the head, Nicholas tried for euphemism. To be fair, a number of them wouldn’t be considered right in the head but Richard effortlessly topped them all. Hence when Martin tilted his head slightly to Richard’s direction, that was enough an answer.

Whatever the penalty, they would sure have some fun, they tacitly reached a conclusion.

“The question is,” Martin said, crossing his arms, “which of us could watch Daddy being tortured and possibly torn to pieces without batting an eye?”

Some regarded him with strange look that said “Where the hell did you get that idea?!”

“It happens every day on earth, you know, just watch Hostel or Saw or Grotesque,” he explained defensively. When some raised an eyebrow at him, Martin was quick to hold out a handful of torture movie DVD boxes for demonstration, earning a few winces. “What, never watched a torture movie before? Anyway, we should decide which of us will be his companion and our referee. I suggest we have a vote.”

The Charles twins were the first to be cast out. True to their unofficial nickname given by the others, “Daddy’s Pets” (the official one being “Lucifer’s Hounds” by the way), they would not spare a second to tear apart anyone or anything that gave off the faintest malice toward their beloved Father and Master. Heck, Lucifer had armed them more than just fangs and claws to do so.

Quintus and Stelios were the second to be cast out. Their warrior instinct would urge them to brandish their weapons the moment they sensed malice. Big dammed heroes. The longevity of their time in Eden had neither dulled their spirit nor skills; they still kept to their old ways of mortal men in their era: eat, fight, fuck – now that eating was not a necessity, there was plenty of time for the other two, the portion of which depended on their mood. It helped that Leto joined them often with his centuries of fighting techniques and battle strategies.

Yes, that left Leto out of the picture too.

The peacekeeper Carl Jung was another to be cast out. Much as he was willing to help, his aid involved sitting down in a nice, clean office with a cup of steaming hot tea served in bone china cup and saucer, and having a nice, civil talk with Bach or Mozart in the background. None would ask the gentleman to engage in the brutal and barbarian act of fighting. Similarly, none could count on him to behave as they expected of him: to sit tight and observe while the Father was tortured by mortal hands.

Like Carl Jung, there were others who were so abhorred by violence that they would neither carry out the act themselves nor witness it being done in front of their eyes.

Just leave Harry and his beloved Winnie in peace, OK?

On the contrary, there were those so keen on violence and mayhem that even a mere suggestion could arouse their blood lust and send them into a killing frenzy. To wreak havoc on earth? There was no better choice. To accompany Lucifer and act as a referee? No way! Better keep them in Eden, where their source of entertainment never ran dry. What source you ask, well, don’t bother.

And there were those unfortunate souls so broken by their mortal lives that it was a crime against all crimes to take them back to the world that had so tremendously traumatized them. Let them stay in the tranquilizing embrace of Eden as long as they needed to recover and be ready to venture out again, which could very well be forever but that didn’t pose a matter.

After careful analysis, they were left with not so many options. Erik stood out as an exceptionally good one. In terms of calmness and patience, this was the man who had spent fifteen years of his life tracking down and planning revenge on his family’s murderer. In terms of fierceness, this was the man who had charged into his enemy’s lair alone to exact some sort of a kamikaze attempt, which, in Martin’s words, was “plain nuts”. Had it worked? Of course it’d worked: his vengeance delivered, his enemy packed and sent straight to Hell, and Erik was here.

Now just how all those qualified for Lucifer’s companion and referee none raised a question; instead they all raised their thumbs. As for Erik, he only went along because he was awfully bored and in dire need of a change of air. Life in Eden was decent and his cohabitants tolerable, Erik concluded, but any man would definitely want a break from the constant sight of men who bore his face openly displaying their affection to men who bore the alter kocker’s face, not just because he himself was indescribably lonely and envious of his brothers’ love. All Eden and not a single soulmate…

Besides, who would say no to a chance to walk the human world again, even for a short while? Certainly not Erik.

So far, so boring.

Being mortal had its charms: they could walk into any place, day or night, without rousing a single person’s attention. Just two normal young men, perhaps a little good-looking, enjoying themselves like any other young men on earth. Before, it was either sneaking in invisibly or drawing everyone’s eyes to them, especially when Lucifer was “in the mood” to “grace the mortals” with his presence. If his vampire-like pulchritude didn’t startle them (which was rare, really), there was always his Victorian garment, complete with snow-white gloves, a hat and a silver walking stick. To Lucifer, Victorian outfits were most elegant; to Erik, they were just plain ridiculous – nice on Halloween but other nights, nein! In this mortal guise, Lucifer had to kiss his beloved clothes goodbye. No Victorian garb, Martin insisted and sought to dress Lucifer in the most elderly clothes he could imagine: baggy pants, a plain shirt and the most dull-colored sweater Erik had ever seen. He even managed to put a pair of rounded eyeglasses on Lucifer while the others stood close by, laughing quietly amongst themselves. Lucifer’s vanity was legendary in the seven rings of Hell and having to dress like a seventy-year-old was a serious blow to his ego.

…which was why the first mortal place he rushed into was a shopping mall. There he spent a few good hours seeking a “moderate” outfit while Erik consumed pack after pack of the sweet-killing nicotine in the smoking area and trying to fend off the receptionist’s blatant flirts. Erik was particularly glad that he had never married: this kind of waiting could send him to an early grave faster than the cigarette if he were a mortal man still.

They spent the next few days in Downtown Grand Las Vegas indulging in the mortal decadence like a number of mortals here. As the saying goes, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and so had a considerable portion of their traveling money. Though he could draw gold out of thin air, Lucifer decided to abide the rules – he too wanted to win this bet – and once they made it to New York, Erik found himself beside a minstrel Lucifer, holding out the hat as the All-Father sang and played the violin for passers-by in random subway stations. The violin had been purchased from a regular shop with the remaining of their money and in the Devil’s hands, it could sing with a similar voice to the famed Stradivarius’s. Erik wasn’t surprised that they had managed to earn enough money for two economy tickets to central Europe, which had translated into hours on a crammed airplane and a Lucifer sleeping on his shoulder the entire length, using him as a sort of human pillow. Had Erik enjoyed the flight? Very much.

Lucifer always had fondness for the remote land in central Europe, where the wave of urbanization was feeble and the people still largely believed in the existence of the Devil, namely himself. Venturing into such areas led them sorely away from the comfort of modern life Erik had so gotten used to in Eden – they had everything there, including the most advanced gadgets. Though some of them found it more comfortable sticking to the old ways, Erik himself had no trouble adapting to technology, having lived twenty-six years of his mortal life in the industrial age. Perhaps that was the reason why he didn’t appreciate the primitive landscape like Lucifer had been trying to convince him.

“Why, Erik, open your heart,” Lucifer said, swinging his arms around Erik’s lithe form. “Embrace the infinite beauty of nature, for the Father fashioned Earth in the image of Eden.”

Then kindly let me pass, Erik thought. Wasn’t he seeing Eden every day? None could deny Lucifer had created a perfect replica of God’s Garden; even Azazeal had been impressed by his craft.

Still, the beauty of Mother Nature wasn’t very appealing as they had been lost for hours in a misty forest. Somewhere in Poland, he guessed. The coach had dropped them in the nearest town and they should have stayed the night there – it was only a few hours till dark. But Lucifer, hearing about a backwater village beyond the forest, had insisted that they should try to reach it by sunset. Now they were wandering in the thick mist, unable to find their way out. Erik had tried to use his power for direction and it had been of little avail. Something was clearly messing with the magnetic field, the source of which might be preternatural. Great. Whatever it was, Erik hoped it would show itself soon and they could be done with it before sunset. He didn’t mind spending a night under the sky but Lucifer was another matter. Signs of exhaustion were already on his face since Lucifer hadn’t touched a speck of his vast powers, which Erik was certain if he had, Erik wouldn’t have been able to tell.

Erik merely grunted at the sight presented in front of them. The fool finally had the gall to cut the chase and make himself known in the form of an extremely grotesque statue. Remember the time Martin had sneaked in Esmé’s studio to mess with his unfinished sculpture? The mild-mannered Esmé had merely smiled at Martin’s childish prank but this statue could undoubtedly send him to a roaring rampage with its sheer ugliness. Erik didn’t know the name of this dumbass yet judging by his presence, he must have been nestling in this forest for some time, haunting any ill-fated mortals that crossed his territory. The lowliest kind of vermin Lucifer never acknowledged as his brethren.

Now there were two options: Erik could either fling him to the moon or let him see for himself who he was messing with. He opted for the easier, dropping the veil that concealed his unearthly aura. The result was marvelous: the fool scurried away as fast as he could, with his tail and the funny mist between his lanky legs. Good riddance. Should have done it in the beginning to save the trouble, Erik thought. Lucifer might have locked himself in a mortal vessel as part of the bet but he had no reason to not show off his own powers. He had been powerful as a mortal; as an immortal, his powers were on par with the Charles twins and it took an ancient fallen angel like Azazeal to completely beat him. In the brief moment they had made eye contact, Erik hadn’t hesitated to tell the fool that he could crush him to ash and dump the ash to oblivion. Well, at least he still had enough sense to not try the authenticity of the threat; slaying vermin was one hell of a dirty business. Besides, that was the twins’ job – no fair in stealing your brothers’ fun. Lucifer preached about that all the time.

Now that the mist had dissipated, the magnetic field should lead them out of the forest in no time. Erik wasn’t helping Lucifer really; he was just fed up with wandering aimlessly, which, in Lucifer’s flowery words, was “appreciating the timeless magnificence of the ancient trees and rocks”. Bullshit.

There was something off about this village. The people seemingly dropped whatever they had been doing just to stare at them when the pair emerged from the misty forest. An awkward silence passed between the villagers and the strangers in which Erik could catch from them suspicion, fear and… menace. Suspicion he could comprehend; this was a rural area where few travelers set foot on, hence it was not unusual for them to have some doubts about the new comers. But fear, Erik couldn’t comprehend fear. Lucifer had made sure that his appearance had none of his original features – no snow-white skin or glittering eyes. There was nothing inhuman or threatening in their look, just two normal young men on a backpacking trip, young men whom they could see anywhere on earth, and could easily outnumber should any unsightly event turn up. And menace was not something Erik expected to find in this backwater village. Menace was faint – well concealed, perhaps – but palpable in their quickened pulses, the sweats gathering on their backs, in their palms or the rush of adrenaline in their bloodstreams. It nearly overwhelmed him when he unlocked his preternatural sense. Why was that, he wondered. He didn’t remember doing anything that might have offended them; for Hell’s sake they had barely stepped on their land.

The persistent stench of putrefaction coming from the earth was no positive sight.

Lucifer was conversing with the tall man who appeared to be in charge here, his sweet smile on full display. Leave the talking and charming to Lucifer’s silver tongue. Erik stood silently beside him, examining the village. It was a small, closed community of a few dozen houses huddled together, with their own crops to cultivate. There was a church at its center, where priests in lavish robes were coming out for the villagers to pay homage to. Erik frowned; everything about that church rubbed Erik the wrong way, from the way the priest were treated as if they were royalties, the strange religious symbol on the rooftop to the odor of death coming the strongest from the soil underneath it. When he was studying the structure of the church, something caught his eyes. He blinked twice to make sure it wasn’t a trick of light. It wasn’t. There was a ghost behind the oak tree, a young man with chestnut hair roughly about his mortal age. Note that seeing ghosts was not something new to Erik, who was one himself, the only difference being he was given preternatural flesh by Lucifer. But seeing a ghost that happened to be a son of Lucifer in such a state really had him flabbergasted.

Erik heard none of Lucifer’s words to the villagers; his attention was entirely drawn to the silent, suffering ghost. He gave off sorrow, confusion a profound agony. He had been tormented, physically and mentally, Erik could see, and even now the pains hadn’t left him alone. Just looking at him was enough to provoke the long-slumbering rage inside Erik. Who could have committed such bestial crime of ruining his eyes, two blessed gems like all Lucifer’s sons possessed?

After some negotiations, the villagers agreed to let them stay, albeit reluctantly. Aron, a muscular man in mid-forties with ashen blond hair, offered to take them under his roof. He appeared an amiable and hospitable host, a façade which might fool a normal human who couldn’t hear the rushing of blood in his veins of the tensing of his muscles. Besides, this man reeked of killing. Erik had been a killer, a sufficient killer, and he knew when he encountered one.

“I sense fear and malice in this village,” he said, his gaze lingering at the door where Aron had stood minutes ago. “From that man, from his folks, even from the children.”

Aron had led the pair to their room, opposite from each other, and invited them to dinner in one hour’s time before leaving them to their own devices.

Lucifer sprawled gracefully on Erik’s bed. Clutching a pillow as white and soft as cloud, he let out a pleasured moan.

“Their malice towards us perfect strangers is unusual.” Erik picked up where they had left soon as he sat down the bed. “They’re probably hiding something. Harry can read minds but I can’t.”

“The only mind Harry reads is his Winnie’s,” Lucifer corrected.

“The Charles twins, then. There’s one thing: I can smell decayed flesh all around, especially in the church’s vicinity.”

“Not your average backwater village, eh?”

“I wager it has something to do with the imbecile we saw in the forest.”

Lucifer stretched out like a huge cat on the mattress. “Let those vermin roam as they like, I honestly cannot care less. The villagers intrigue me and I really want to see what they have up their sleeve. If we’re lucky enough, we may get a scenario like one of Martin’s favorite movies.”

Erik rested his back against the headboard and looked at Lucifer with a glint in his grey-blue eyes. “You do remember that whatever happens, I will only stand by and watch?”

For a moment Lucifer looked hurt, betrayed. Erik snickered.

“Yes,” he sighed lengthily, “I believe the exact words are you will watch me being tortured and possibly torn to pieces without batting an eye. It brings me to tears to see my children all plotting against me.”

“So you were forced to accept this bet?”

“Right. My fault.” Lucifer held up his arms in defeat.

“One more thing,” said Erik in serious tone, “there’s one of your sons here. His spirit, to be exact.”

Lucifer’s half-lidded eyes shot open.

“Any hints of his death?”

The image of the sad young man staring at their direction with bleeding sockets flashed his mind. Erik didn’t realize he had sighed.

“His eyes were destroyed and there is blood all over him…”

“My poor child,” said Lucifer. “We’ll take him home right when we leave.”

…which meant cutting short their journey. Erik couldn’t possibly complain.

Erik saw the ghost on the staircase, leaning his head against the railing and looking at them with his sockets.

Talks were lively around the table – trust in Lucifer to keep the conversation flowing and their gracious hosts entertained. Erik paid little mind to them, only now and then giving curt answers to questions regarding himself. His attention was latched on the ghost, who looked both scared and drawn to the tantalizing liveliness of the table. His passiveness was proof that he wasn’t recently deceased. A new ghost would be very confused by their state of death and would try to influence the livings, only to realize that they no longer could and thus, fell into a pit of rage and despair before they finally came to accept their fate. This ghost was aware that he wasn’t alive and he was content to ‘watch’ instead of going around the table, trying in vain to touch the objects and people. Say, if Lucifer and Erik hadn’t come across this village, this young man could be trapped here for eternity. Transcendence would come with a normal ghost’s acceptance of their death and severance of all mortal cords; such was unlikely to a Devil’s son who was denied Heaven from the moment of his birth. And pains, let’s not forget the pains inflicted by their death. Who was Erik to not know them?

Erik wanted to reach out to the specter, embracing him and whispering to him that soon his suffering would end. He restrained himself; his still had his mortal guise to maintain.

He wasn’t surprised, only amused to see the ghost slipping through the door of his room. How typical it was for inexperienced ghosts to assume that mortal eyes couldn’t see them and mortal ears couldn’t hear them.

Well, to be fair, there was no mortals here, only two convincing imitators.

Kicking off his shoes, Lucifer fell to soft mattress of Erik’s bed. He had ignored that he too was provided with a comfortable room and conveniently shared Erik’s. Erik, on the other hand, was kind of used to having Lucifer’s form pressed against him in the night so it wouldn’t be too much an inconvenience.

“Erik,” he called, using his seductive tone which he knew Erik was immune to. “A foot rub, maybe?”

Erik snorted derisively. “Not your pet.”

“So cold!” Lucifer groaned, rolling along the length of the bed as if trying to rub his body against the bed sheet. “But some comfort for my sore feet is not asking too much, no? You know I’m not accustomed to this hardship of traveling.”

Stuffing a pillow beneath his head, he raised a leg suggestively, which Erik caught and began messaging from calf to ankle.

“Serve you right for accepting this stupid bet.”

“I know, you’ve said that a hundred times already! But Erik, you can’t chide me for a little fun!” Charles rebuked and pouted. His other leg nudged teasingly at Erik’s thigh.

Typical signal for sex. Erik just snorted.

“Why, Erik, loosen yourself,” Lucifer told him all the time. “Keeping your passion pent-up is never healthy for body and soul.”

And he took upon himself the responsibility of Erik’s well-being since the man himself had yet to show any interest in other Eden inhabitants. The All-Father was a generous provider of carnal pleasure; in fact, it wasn’t far from Azazeal’s quip about Eden being his harem.

No one seemed to mind, though, including Erik.

He glanced at the ghost in the corner and considered turning down Lucifer’s offer.

“Anyway, it’s been forever since we got to be alone, just the two of us…”

Erik shook his head and pointed to the empty corner of the room. Lucifer ignored the hint.

“It’s like our… honeymoon.”

“And what now?” Erik asked sarcastically. “Honeymoon sex?”

Again he looked at the ghost, whose head hung low in a very human gesture to hide the pink on his cheeks. For all his knowledge of spirits, he knew that human ghosts experienced mostly the same as the living. Their faces colored when they came across something embarrassing. They withdrew their hands if they touched something hot and the pains they received upon their death continued to agonize them. It was instinctive for their souls to remember every living sensation and try to recreate them so that they wouldn’t feel out-of-life. Paradoxically, it confused them and thus hindered their moving on.

“Exactly my thought after the foot rub,” Lucifer cooed. He sat up, putting his arms around Erik’s shoulders. He turned Erik’s face and started nibbling his sharp jaw.

Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the ghost slip through the door.

Lucifer had moved to his clavicle.

“I have a feeling you’re doing it on purpose.”

“It?” Lucifer asked. He stopped his playful teases and lifted his head to meat Erik’s gaze.

“He was in here.”

“How could I? I can’t see him, remember?”

Erik scoffed, unconvinced.

“This might be the last time I’ve got to ‘tend’ to your needs, you know,” Lucifer whispered in a low voice. Before Erik had the time to register his meaning, Lucifer burst into a fit of, in Erik’s standard, girlish giggles.

“Anyway, it’s been some time since we last had…”

“How exactly is sixteen hours ‘some time’?”

“Blowing you off in a crammed WC stall doesn’t count, really.”

“Such vulgarity,” Erik said between laughter. “How the hell have you never spoken like that in front of the others?”

“I’m mortal now,” Lucifer rebuked. “That’s a mortal weakness. What I mean is you’re strongly advised to take this one-in-a-million chance to dominate me.”

“You’re that desperate to be dominated?”

He shrugged. “This mortal flesh has influenced me somehow. It’s not necessarily bad.”

Erik rolled over and settled on top of Lucifer. “Like this?”

Softly the Devil laughed and kissed Erik. “Yes, please.”

Erik had known they were coming before they stood in front of their door. The thundering of heartbeats. The heady scent of adrenaline-induced sweats. The whispers they passed between each other, “it’s time” and “he’s not in here”, “must be the other room”. Beside him, Lucifer stirred. Let’s see what they have up their sleeve, Lucifer’s earlier words echoed in his mind. He waited patiently.

The door was forced open and men crowded their room. Erik recognized his gracious host Aron, whose wife had served them steaming Polish dishes, and the towering twins who had stared coldly at them when they arrived at the village. Malice had come the strongest from them. It was the same now.

Silent as statues, the men tore them from their bed, turning a deaf ear to Lucifer’s queries. Down the stairs they dragged them, out of Aron’s house and into the church. The walls and steps were medieval and the odor of rotten flesh grew stronger with their descent, to the point it overwhelmed Erik’s senses for a good minute, allowing him to see nothing but the crude wooden boxes and smell nothing but the revolting stench coming from them once they reached the bottom. And then metal. Metal surrounding them. Manacles. Chains. Bolts. Knives. Hooks. What was the metal inside each box? And blood, dried and painted upon, layer after layer.

Erik saw the ghost again, crouching next to one of the many unadorned boxes. The dim candlelight was seeping through his nearly transparent skin and his sockets were bleeding crimson, his face ghastly pale. His lips were quivering while his form was flickering like a bad-signal image. He hadn’t looked half- ghostly like he was doing right now.

The sounds went deaf on Erik; in his ears was only the unsteady rhythm of a phantom heart beating against a phantom ribcage. Never had Erik so wished he possessed telepathy so that at the moment he was able to touch the ghost’s mind and witness what horror was reigning.

Besides him, Lucifer was trying to reason with their captors in no avail. He was playing so well that Erik could even hear the fear and panic in his tone. But Erik had no mind to play with him now. With a jerk of his shoulders he broke away from the steely grip on him, probably leaking a tiny speck of his preternatural powers, and reached out to the ghost. The priests in dark, ornate robes roared and the twins went after him, only to be pushed back with his fist. He saw them all as Shaw and would probably have killed them but for Lucifer’s voice sharply calling out to him, “Erik!”

Ah, the mortal guise. Erik was tempted to say “fuck that” but his emerging rationality raised his voice against it. Allowing the men to restrain him, Erik took another glance at the ghost, who had seemingly come out of his nightmare and was staring at their direction with his eyeless sockets. All right. They would take him home, end his suffering after it was over. Erik had a hunch it would be over very soon.

Erik didn’t protest when they ripped their clothes to shreds and clothed them in stark white ceremonial gowns. He suppressed a small laughter, knowing Lucifer must be cursing under his breath for the hideous fashion crime they committed. He wished he had had his phone so he could snap a picture of Lucifer.

The head priest beckoned the men to put Erik behind their makeshift cell while Lucifer was tied to a crucifix-shaped stone altar. Chanting voices echoed and ancient words flowed out from wrinkled lips. Erik frowned; he was certain Lucifer had caught it too. It was a ritual all right, one served to “banish the Devil of the mist” which devoured the feeble hearts of mortals and replaced them with his own sinister black one. So the grotesque, cowardly vermin that had dared show up in front of them was the problem here. It took all Erik’s will to suppress the fit of laughter at the irony: they had the Prince of Darkness himself tied up on their altar and yet they spoke about a trivial demon that wasn’t worth mentioning in the Seven Hells. However, he wasn’t above chuckling at Lucifer, who was having his wrists and Achilles’ tendons lacerated as part of the exorcism, when his gaze fell on Erik. The All-Father mouthed at him to “kindly shut up” so that he could concentrate on fulfilling his role as a hapless sacrificial lamb.

The ghost had retreated to a corner, his arms clutching his lean frame. A metal mask was brought out with two spikes protruding from its sockets. So that explained the metal in each coffin, “blind thy sight shouldst thou seek to lay eyes on evil.” Once again the urge to tear down the iron bars hit Erik, Lucifer’s little game be damned.

His eyes blurred, went dark in milliseconds and vision came into focus. Not from Lucifer, Erik was certain. Suddenly it wasn’t Lucifer he saw on the altar but a young man with chestnut hair and sky-colored eyes wide open in terror. One of his sons – the ghost. He had fought till the final moment, thrashing his body about with such strength Erik had to admire. The shadow loomed over his face, gradually coming closer and closer. A noise. An acute pain that caused Erik to wince. The vision vanished.

Erik looked around. None of the men appeared to have the vision. So, a telepath then, not a powerful one, perhaps not even aware of his own ability; such cases weren’t rare. But why Erik of all people? A mere coincidence?

With a mask nailed to his face and his gown soaked in blood, Lucifer was laying lifelessly on the altar. The ritual was complete, the demon-possessed exorcised and the unfortunate soul released, the head priest announced. God bless his soul. The executioners turned to Erik.

Playtime was over. Such good metal to waste, thought Erik as the iron bars broke in half and fell to the floor, allowing him to walk out of his cell. Other metal objects responded vigorously to his beckon. How he missed his power – there were few opportunities to use it Eden. Aron shouted and other men joined him; their hearts were thumping frantically and their hulking bodies were soaked in sweats. The head priest gasped and began chanting while holding to the symbol wearing on his neck with both hands. It tore itself free of his palms to join its siblings, floating in the air.

What to do now, Erik wondered. Give them the fright of their life and retrieve Lucifer, who was determined to play dead till the end? Erik was excelled in killing, not terrifying people (Martin and a few others would say otherwise). Should he demolish this accursed place? He looked to the ghost, standing with his mouth slightly agape and obviously confused about what was happening around him. How could he approach him and win his trust without scaring the poor man away? Erik honestly had no experience in this field. He almost regretted never asking the Charles twins how they explained the situation to the new ghosts and convinced them. Judging by their personality, they might just put the spirits under a sleeping spell and ship them to Lucifer. Perhaps he should do the same, except he had neither the knowledge nor the skills required. Perfect.

Lucifer solved the problem for him by simply sitting up and ripping the mask off his face, which was a little better than a pulp of minced flesh and excessive blood. A sight that rendered the calloused humans speechless, trembling in fear. For once Erik was actually glad that the ghost was blind.

“It was quite painful, you know. And this robe is a total eyesore,” Lucifer said. Screwed his mortal disguise, basically, but not his prissy British accent and his default civil manner. Always the gentleman Devil, as he claimed. There was a chilling edge in his tone. Last time Erik had heard Lucifer speaking in such tone, all mortals around him had been decimated.

The basement descended into chaos. The head priest held out a large crucifix and began chanting. Others echoed him and formed a circle around their target, holding out their crucifixes and sprinkling holy water at him. Power radiated so intensely from the circle that Erik felt every fiber of his body vibrating with scorching pain. The highest form of purification. Were this a normal demon, he would be eradicated at once. Unfortunately, it was the Father of all devils they were dealing with, who gave them a soft laughter before he condemned them to death. Sapphire-blue flame rose around his body, incinerated his mortal flesh to reveal his true form: a creature beyond all nightmares. His third eye stared at them as the flame consumed them faster than they could scream. Their holy symbols burnt and turned to dust in their hands, their chanting halted and their bodies collapsed on the ground, shriveled and brown like mummies. Gruesome as it looked, there was nothing personal in the way he dispatched them. Lucifer was a voracious eater nourished by the sweet delicacy of human souls – the more sinned the better. And sustaining fatal injuries in his mortal flesh had starved him to the point of forgoing the bet, the result of which was this hellish scene.

Well, who said gluttony wasn’t a Devil’s trait?

“You look disgusting,” Erik remarked, looking up and down Lucifer’s demonic form with a small frown. No matter how many times he looked at this form, he could never find it charming. The only ones who did were, unsurprisingly, the Charles twins and probably Richard Wirth. Good thing the ghost was spared this sight.

“I know. You don’t have to be so ruthless to your old man.” Lucifer licked his lips, satiated. Blue flame danced on his skin until the demon was gone and Lucifer appeared human again, immaculate and posh in his black Victorian frock coat, silk cravat adorned with a sapphire teardrop and snow-white gloves. Well, at least he had the sense to dismiss his hat and walking stick.

“You lose,” Erik replied while absent-mindedly checking the cuffs of his leather jacket, restored to him together with his form-fitting black turtleneck and grey jeans.

“If only you helped me though…”

Erik’s eyebrow arched comically as if to remind Lucifer why he had been chosen as his companion in the first place.

He tilted his head to the ghost – surely Lucifer could see him now. It was most appropriate for the Father to approach his son.

The ghost tried to slip through the walls, confused and scared, but Lucifer caught him in his embrace. Sweet words poured – the Devil’s whisper that could tempt even the most virtuous soul into the whirlwind of sins, waves of serenity enveloping the ghost’s tumultuous mind and finally the blood, the precious blood that congealed in itself eons of ancient magic and powers, the blood that contained all the evils in the world and at the same time could heal any damages. Slicing his palm, Lucifer let his blood filled the ghost’s empty sockets. He writhed in Lucifer’s embrace, painful moans escalating to deafening screams. Though Lucifer tried to comfort him, he had to go through this ordeal on his own. To wash away pain required greater pain. Erik himself had tasted it when Lucifer put him back together, piece by piece.

The pain wouldn’t last forever. After a while, the ghost laid limp in Lucifer’s arms, breathing heavily. There were sweats on his flushed skin and he was no longer a ghost but an entirely different existence, one that could endure eternity.

“Never fear me, child. For we are one family.”

Erik laughed softly. Lucifer’s cliché welcome to every new member. “Can’t find something new, old man?” he said.

Lucifer ignored his telepathically tease and commanded the ghost to open his newly restored eyes. Gingerly he did, revealing to Erik the most exquisite blue eyes he had ever known. With them, he looked at Lucifer as though he was a hatchling looking at its mother for the first time. The thought brought a tingling warmth to Erik’s heart.

His name was Charles, Charles Xavier, the same as the mortal name Lucifer chose for himself. A fascinating coincidence.

The whole journey was a marvelous coincidence, it had turned out. Erik was truly grateful that he was the one to accompany Lucifer.

“We’ll get to know each other soon, Charles,” he whispered to the slumbering youth in his arms, and gently kissed the rich chestnut curls.

At dawn they left the village, still in deep sleep and unaware of the incident at the church. The sky was a violet-pink with little cloud, making the huge column of mist more prominent. Gazing at the sky, Lucifer said, “Heaven knows how long that vermin has been tormenting those pitiable mortals.”

“You ate a handful of those ‘pitiable mortals’ yourself,” Erik kindly reminded him.

“I can’t undo it, can I? God bless his pious servants.”

Erik snorted.

Stroking his smooth chin, Lucifer smiled. “Yet I can get rid of that vermin, as a token of my sincere apology.”

End

Note: In case I’ve failed to make everything clear, here’s a brief explanation: This village is cursed with having a demon lurking in the forest (in the form of a statue). Those who look at the statue get possessed and the villagers must kill them before they transform into demons (and kill everyone else).

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender’s fictional characters – in order of appearance or reference (except Erik, Charles and my OC – Lucifer):

  • JM: Martin – Martin Vosper (Murder in Mind)
  • MF: Harry Colebourn (A Bear Named Winnie)
  • MF: Charles twins – Charles Allen and unnamed twin brother (Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Silk Stocking)
  • JM: Nicholas – Nicholas Garrigan (The Last King of Scotland)
  • MF: Richard – Richard Wirth (Blood Creek)
  • MF: Stelios (300)
  • MF: Quintus – Quintus Dias (Centurion)
  • JM: Leto – Leto Atreides II (Children of Dune)
  • MF: Carl Jung (Dangerous Method)
  • MF: Azazeal (Hex)

Check out these links for more information on their roles:

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