Nhìn lại vũ trụ điện ảnh X-Men của Fox

Nhân ‘Hai Phượng’ (X-Men: Dark Phoenix) là phần khép lại kỷ nguyên gần 20 năm của franchise X-Men do Fox sản xuất, bạn Joel muốn dành mấy dòng chia sẻ cảm nhận cũng như những kỷ niệm nho nhỏ với franchise.

Warnings: ngôn ngữ không đứng đắn, chen 2–3 thứ tiếng, ý kiến hoàn toàn chủ quan, spoilers (bạn chưa xem hết tất cả phim được liệt kê trong này? Kệ bạn chứ!)

(Hình ảnh không thuộc về bạn)


Trước tiên là X-Men Trilogy (hay còn gọi thế hệ ‘già’).

X-MEN (2000)

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Đây là phim X-Men đầu tiên bạn xem và với nhiều người có lẽ cũng vậy. Khi đó, bạn chẳng biết gì về franchise này, chưa đọc comic, chưa xem hoạt hình, chưa từng nghe đến từ ‘X-Men’ (không phải dầu gội đầu nhá); bạn chỉ biết rằng khi xem, mình đã rất hứng thú với cách mà phim xây dựng phe hero lẫn phe villain đều là những người có siêu năng lực và điều phân tách họ thành hero/villain chỉ là lý tưởng và suy nghĩ. Điều này rất khác biệt với những phim siêu anh hùng bạn đã xem trước đó như Batman, Superman… Bên cạnh đó, nếu như các phim siêu anh hùng bạn được xem trước đó thường chỉ một set power cố định thì X-Men thật sự là một ‘bữa tiệc’ siêu năng lực với mỗi nhân vật đều có khả năng riêng biệt, không ai giống ai; đi cùng với năng lực đa dạng là cách sử dụng năng lực sáng tạo khiến người xem là bạn Joel thật sự bị thu hút. Do X-Men (2000) để lại cho bạn ấn tượng tốt đẹp như vậy nên từ đó, bạn bắt đầu đặt chân vào franchise và không bỏ sót phần phim nào tiếp theo.

X-MEN: UNITED/X2 (2003)

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Nếu hỏi bạn Joel rằng phần X-Men nào bạn ít enjoy nhất thì câu trả lời sẽ là X-Men: United hay còn có cách gọi khác là X2. Do phần này không hay chăng? Không phải, ngược lại là đằng khác; X2 là phần được đánh giá cao nhất trong X-Men: Trilogy. Với bạn, X2 rất hay, nhưng không có nghĩa bạn enjoy như đối với X1. Nguyên nhân có lẽ vì phần này đen tối hơn hẳn so với phần trước: nếu như X1 kết thúc bằng chiến thắng của phe X-Men (và không có tổn thất nào về nhân mạng cả!) và thất bại với kế hoạch ‘xấu xa’ của Ba già (và cũng không có tổn thất về nhân mạng – một điều khá hiếm thấy!!) – một cái kết rất tích cực đúng chất phim siêu anh hùng – thì phần hai chọn kết thúc với sự hy sinh của Jean Grey, một nhân vật trong dàn nhân vật chính. Một cái giá phải trả quá lớn cho một chiến thắng không toàn vẹn. Bên cạnh đó, X2 còn khai thác quá khứ đậm chất body horror của Chú Chồn, khiến cho khung cảnh phim vốn đã chẳng sáng sủa gì giờ lại càng tối tăm. Dù xét về số nhân vật ‘thiệt mạng’ thì X3 nhỉnh hơn X2 nhưng khi xem X2, bạn có cảm giác nặng nề hơn hẳn. Có lẽ đây là phong cách làm phim của Bryan Singer chăng, bởi vì Days of Future Past cũng cho bạn cảm giác tương tự.

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006)

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Bây giờ là ‘tội đồ’ của X-Men: Trilogy. Lúc xem phim, bạn không hề biết phần này bị giới phê bình lẫn người hâm mộ xài xể nặng nề như vậy, vì bạn có đọc comic hay xem phim hoạt hình đâu mà biết Phoenix saga bị butchered như lời Honest Trailer nhận xét. Và một nhận xét thật lòng là bạn khá thích phần này, mặc dù plot của nó khá random (Jean sống lại rồi tự nhiên có sức mạnh kinh dị và ‘hứng thú’ giết đồng chí) và nó đã không thương tình cho một số nhân vật chính ‘tèo em’ theo một cách cũng random không kém plot. Điểm sáng của X3 là những cảnh hành động hoành tá tràng, nổi bật là trường đoạn chiến đấu trên đảo và cảnh Ba già bứng cây cầu Cổng Vàng làm phương tiện ra đảo. Có lẽ chính X3 đã tạo nên ‘truyền thống’ Magneto nhấc/phá hoại một thứ gì đó mà các phần sau đều tuân thủ nghiêm ngặt: First Class thì nhấc tàu ngầm, Days of Future Past thì nhấc sân vận động, Apocalypse thì suýt đảo trục Trái Đất và Dark Phoenix thì ‘nhẹ nhàng’ hơn – chỉ nhấc một toa tàu điện ngầm thôi!


Tiếp theo là thế hệ ‘trẻ’.

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)

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Có một sự thật là khi First Class được công chiếu (và khuấy đảo fan gái, fan trai bằng ‘tình bạn’ của Charles và Erik) thì bạn Joel không hề biết đến sự tồn tại của nó (tổn thất quá lớn không bù đắp nổi). Bạn chỉ biết trên đời có một bộ phim tên là X-Men: First Class (Tình đầu) trong một dịp tình cờ nhìn thấy nó trên Star Movies – tức khá lâu sau khi công chiếu. Không cần nói nhiều, bạn ‘đổ’ ngay lần xem đầu tiên, và thật tình cờ đó là lúc Star Movies đang phát đi phát lại FC (chắc vì phim mới), thế là bạn xem gần đủ những lần phát lại đến mức người nhà bạn bực mình (vì bị xem bất đắc dĩ). Dường như chưa đủ, sau đó bạn còn rủ một số bạn bè đến xem cùng vì, well, lọt hố một mình bạn không cam tâm. Công bằng mà nói, FC vẫn còn ‘sạn’ (trong đó không thể không nhắc đến màn romance không thể gượng ép hơn giữa *hụ* Charles và Moira *hụ*, may mà sau đó nó đã nhanh chóng bị ‘cuốn theo chiều gió’) nhưng nó đã thổi một luồng gió tươi mới vào dòng phim X-Men sau ‘thảm họa’ (theo giới phê bình và một bộ phận khán giả) X3/The Last Stand. Nếu như trước đó fan đã quen thuộc với hình ảnh Giáo sư X và Magneto già, nghiêm nghị, hai nhà lãnh đạo của hai nhóm mutant (và cả trong comic họ cũng thường xuất hiện dưới hình dạng già hoặc ít ra là trung niên) thì FC mang lên màn ảnh một Charles và Erik trẻ trung với những nông nổi, bốc đồng là đặc quyền của tuổi trẻ. Có lẽ đây là phim đầu tiên và duy nhất chúng ta được thấy Giáo sư X uống xỉn và đi tán bất cứ cô gái xinh xắn nào đi ngang qua, hay được nghe Magneto thốt ra những câu đại loại như “kinky” hay “Chúng tôi sẽ cho em xem ‘hàng’ của chúng tôi nếu em cho chúng tôi xem ‘hàng’ của em”. Cần nói thêm rằng FC lẽ ra có tên là Magneto: Origins và phim sẽ tập trung vào nhân vật Magneto (giống Wolverine: Origins ra mắt trước đó) nhưng cuối cùng phim dược đổi thành FC. Bạn Joel thích sự thay đổi này bởi vì như thế, phim sẽ không chỉ nói về quá khứ của Erik mà còn nói về quá khứ của Charles cũng như quá khứ chung của hai người. Nhờ vậy, Charles và Erik có vai trò ngang nhau và được phát triển đồng đều (phản ánh mối quan hệ gắn bó mật thiết của họ trong comic), đồng thời James và Michael đều có cơ hội để thể hiện khả năng diễn xuất tuyệt vời của mình cùng phát huy chemistry không thể phủ nhận giữa cả hai, một điều mà khán giả nói chung và fan của hai người nói riêng vô cùng cảm kích.

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)

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Days of Future Past (DoFP) là phần bạn đánh giá cao nhất về nội dung trong loạt phim X-Men; tuy nhiên, như trên đã nói, bạn hơi khó enjoy hoàn toàn những phần mà Bryan Singer thực hiện vì cảm giác nặng nề mà nó mang lại. Không nặng nề sao được khi ngay đầu phim đã là một viễn cảnh tăm tối thật sự không khác mấy cảnh trong Trại tập trung của Nazi, chỉ khác là thay người Do Thái thành dị nhân, tiếp theo đó là một loạt cái chết (thảm khốc – đoàn làm phim đã rất ‘khéo’ trong việc tạo ra những cái chết gruesome nhưng không phá rating PG-13) của các X-Men (dù chỉ là tạm thời) nhưng cảm giác shock xen lẫn đau xót mà chúng để lại trong lòng khán giả, dù ngắn ngủi, nhưng không vì thế mà kém đi mãnh liệt. Cũng trong phần này, khán giả phải chứng kiến một Charles rất khác những Charles trước đó: không phải Charles nghiêm nghị, mẫu mực trong X-Men Trilogy, không phải Charles tươi sáng, tràn đầy tự tin trong FC; Charles của DoFP bệ rạc, nghiện ngập, chán đời và tuyệt vọng. Nhìn thấy một Charles như thế, hơn nữa còn biết được lý do vì sao anh ‘let it go’ theo hướng đầy tiêu cực, có khán giả nào không thấy chạnh lòng, nhất là trong số đó có những người vừa xem FC xong, đang quen với hình ảnh Charles gọn gàng, sáng sủa. Mặt khác, DoFP cũng là phần mà quan hệ giữa Charles (trẻ) và Erik (trẻ) căng thẳng nhất; tương tác giữa hai người chỉ là những lời buộc tội, những cắn đắng nhau cùng những cái nhìn căm giận. Có lẽ đây là cách kịch bản tạo sự tương phản giữa cặp trẻ và cặp già – vốn đã bỏ qua những khác biệt để cùng nhau nhìn về một hướng, và maybe, just maybe, cặp trẻ sẽ rút ra kinh nghiệm để tương lai của họ sẽ không phải là những tiếc nuối thốt ra muộn màng vào giây phút cuối đời: “Bao nhiêu năm phí hoài để tranh đấu với nhau, Charles…”.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)

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Apocalypse không phải phần X-Men hay nhất, đó là điều chắc chắn, thậm chí một số người còn chê nó thậm tệ. Bạn Joel không nằm trong số đó, tất nhiên, vì bạn thuộc kiểu người xem dễ tính với những gì mình yêu thích và bất kể thiên hạ chê bai nặng nề thế nào thì bạn vẫn soi được không ít chi tiết khiến bạn enjoy phim. Nhưng kể cả khi bạn thích thú với những gì Apocalypse đem đến cho khán giả, bạn vẫn có chút ‘khíu chọ’ với cách nhà làm phim nhét yếu tố romance vào một cách vô cùng gượng gạo và chẳng mấy ăn nhập với plot. Không, không phải bạn đang chỉ trích cặp Erik x Magda vì ít ra khán giả không phải chứng kiến sự miễn cưỡng, ‘gắng sức’ chen chân vào plot mà trái lại, cặp này không chỉ quan trọng với plot mà còn là chi tiết (có lẽ) được inspired từ comic (chưa kể, Dadneto!). Cặp bạn đang ‘chỉ trích’ ở đây là Charles x Moira. Ngay từ First Class, khán giả đã thấy sự vô lý và gượng gạo của cặp này rồi, kiểu như nó được đưa vào để First Class bớt… gay và để chiều lòng một số vị bậc trên cộng một số khán giả có xu hướng homophobic, kết quả là chính đoàn làm phim cũng chẳng mặn mà gì với việc xây dựng và phát triển nó đàng hoàng: cả phim có hai cảnh tình cảm (hôn) giữa Charles và Moira thì một cảnh bay vào sọt ‘deleted scenes’ và cảnh còn lại ‘lãng mạn’ thế nào thì ai xem phim đều đã thấy. Với nền tảng ‘vững chắc’ mà FC đã xây dựng, có thể thấy rõ cp Charles-Moira ‘có lý’ đến độ nào khi nó được ‘đào’ lên nhanh chóng trong Apocalypse (và sau đó nhanh chóng bị ‘chôn’ trước khi Dark Phoenix thành hình). Về mặt plot, nhân vật Moira cũng không có vai trò quan trọng gì bởi vì thật ra chị chỉ có hai nhiệm vụ: đánh thức soái ca Huyền và giải thích thân phận của soái ca – hai nhiệm vụ ‘cao cả’ hoàn toàn có thể giao cho nhân vật khác. Và, hệt như FC, vai trò của chị trong đoạn showdown với Apocalypse cũng tương tự như cuộc chiến với Shaw: làm ‘quả tạ’ bất đắc dĩ hay khá hơn là lấp ghế trống trên chiếc X-jet bởi vì, lạy các Đấng trên cao, người thường có mặt trong cuộc chiến giữa một đám ‘yêu quái’ có siêu năng lực để làm cái quái gì?! Mà nói thật nhé, bạn mà là Moira thì sau khi Charles khôi phục ký ức cho bạn, bạn sẽ táng sml Charles (mặc kệ Erik đang ở đó và có thể táng cả tấn sắt xuống đầu bạn) rồi bỏ về chứ không có chuyện cảm động rơi lệ gì gì đâu. Ký ức của người ta mà làm như cục đất sét thích nhào thì nhào thích nặn thì nặn à!!

X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX (2019)

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Sau khi xem Dark Phoenix, bạn đã dành ra một bài để bênh phim nên ở đây, bạn sẽ không lặp lại những gì mình đã nói. DP có nhiều vấn đề, điều này bạn không phủ nhận, trong đó có vấn đề chủ quan nhưng cũng không ít vấn đề khách quan mà bạn chỉ được biết sau khi xem phim. Trong bài này, bạn sẽ không nói về những vấn đề khách quan đó (vì nói ra thì nghe có vẻ bitchy quá), bạn chỉ muốn cảm ơn DP và đội ngũ làm nên nó đã dành tặng cho con dân Cherik, những fan gái, fan trai đã theo dõi chuyện tình của Ba và Má từ buổi đầu First Class và trải qua đủ kiểu ngược tâm (và cả ngược thân) quằn quại, một cái kết đẹp và thỏa lòng mong đợi, một cái kết mà khi đặt chân ra rạp bạn không dám mong đợi được nhận (nhưng lại nhận được) bởi vì bạn đã quá quen với những màn chia ly của hai người ở các phần trước. Có bạn nào đó đã nhận xét thế này: Charles và Erik giống như ký tự ‘X’ – vận mệnh đã định họ sẽ gặp nhau tại một điểm nhưng sau đó chắc chắn phải chia ra hai hướng và càng lúc càng xa nhau, và quả thực là các phần trước đã chứng minh điều này. Nhưng DP đã hoàn toàn phá vỡ nó để đưa hai người về dưới cùng một mái nhà (cả nghĩa đen lẫn nghĩa bóng) và cùng nhìn về một hướng. Sau tất cả những cắn đắng nhau suốt mấy thập kỷ thì cuối cùng Charles và Erik đã “want the same thing”. Kể cả khi bỏ qua khía cạnh ship thì cái kết của Charles và Erik trong DP cũng là một cái kết đẹp và bình yên, và sự yên bình chính là điều cả hai đáng được hưởng sau quá nhiều biến cố, mất mát, cũng là điều mà bất cứ người xem nào yêu thích và gắn bó với hai nhân vật này mong muốn cho họ.


Và spinoff của Chú Chồn.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)

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Tranh cử vị trí ‘phim X-Men bị chê dữ nhất’ với X3 là phần spinoff về nguồn gốc của Chú Chồn. Một lần nữa, bạn không đọc comic nên khi xem, bạn hoàn toàn không biết/để ý về sự ‘báng bổ’ mang tên Wade/Deadpool bị khoá miệng (nghĩa đen), mãi rất lâu sau này mới biết. Nhưng đó không phải vấn đề to nhất của bạn với X-Men Origins: Wolverine bởi vì thẳng thắn mà nói thì bạn không quan tâm mấy đến Deadpool; cái bạn quan tâm hơn là plot và kịch bản và ở khoản này, X-Men Origins: Wolverine khá là merde. Mọi thứ trong phim diễn ra với nhịp độ đều đều đến buồn ngủ, hầu như chẳng tạo được điểm nhấn hay cao trào. Về mặt đóng góp cho vũ trụ điện ảnh X-Men nói chung, X-Men Origins: Wolverine cũng không đóng góp được bao nhiêu ngoại trừ nguồn gốc của adamantium trong người Chú Chồn (vốn đã được X2 nói đến từ trước) và một số chi tiết thừa thãi mà hẳn rất ít khán giả quan tâm, chẳng hạn như nguồn gốc… cái áo khoác da của Chú Chồn cùng sở thích với môtô, và ý nghĩa (sai bét) của biệt danh Wolverine. Không biết quý vị biên kịch nghĩ gì mà đưa ra lời giải thích rằng biệt danh Wolverine liên quan đến… chó sói và mặt trăng! Từ điển và Google ở đâu khi ta cần chúng?!

Điểm sáng duy nhất của phim có lẽ là Gambit đẹp giai làm hài lòng một bộ phận khán giả nữ (dù tạo hình chẳng giống nguyên tác tý nào!) – trong đó có bạn trẻ Joel. Có điều, vai trò của Gambit trong phim cũng random hệt như cách anh chàng xuất hiện và biến mất khỏi màn ảnh – nói cách khác, có loại bỏ nhân vật Gambit ra khỏi X-Men Origins: Wolverine thì cũng chẳng ảnh hưởng bao nhiêu đến plot, có chăng chỉ là sự fanservice vốn không nhiều nhặn gì của phim sẽ bớt đi một chút mà thôi.

THE WOLVERINE (2013)

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Bạn Joel thừa nhận mình gặp khó khăn khi viết về The Wolverine khi ngay đến plot của phim thế nào bạn cũng không hình dung nổi, chỉ nhớ mang máng rằng nó có liên quan đến người Nhật và dăm ba con robot samurai (hoặc samurai robot, sao cũng được). Bộ phim cho người xem một cảm giác tách biệt hoàn toàn với vũ trụ điện ảnh X-Men và giống như một phim độc lập hơn một phần tiếp nối. Có thể điều này sẽ có lợi với khán giả lần đầu xem vì chẳng phải ngẫm nghĩ xem cameo/chi tiết này có ý nghĩa gì, nhưng với người xem đã gắn bó với X-Men thì sự tách biệt này không hề hấp dẫn hay thú vị tý nào. The Wolverine hầu như không đóng góp mấy vào franchise và bộ phim giống như một filler cho đỡ trống trong khi chờ DoFP ra mắt hay một trailer kéo dài 2 tiếng và tất cả những gì khán giả cần chú ý là đoạn after credit (để kết nối với DoFP, tất nhiên rồi). Bên cạnh đó, với bối cảnh Nhật Bản và villain là samurai đột biến cùng nhân vật chính là Chú Chồn mồm miệng chẳng kém Deadpool, bạn đã trông chờ một phim R-rated, tiếc là cuối cùng, phim vẫn là PG-13 hiền hoà, không dám chửi thề, không dám văng máu.

LOGAN (2017)

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Logan là một phim thuộc franchise X-Men nhưng khác biệt với tất cả các phim còn lại trong franchise không phải chỉ vì nó là R-rated còn các anh chị em còn lại đều bị ‘kiềm chế’ trong giới hạn PG-13; đây là phần phim bạn đánh giá là buồn nhất, nhiều nước mắt nhất trong cả franchise, mặc dù nếu ‘tính đủ, tính kỹ’ thì số mạng chết onscreen ít hơn DoFP (chưa kể DoFP còn có màn chết double!). Có lẽ chưa bao giờ khán giả chứng kiến những nhân vật mình yêu thích và gắn bó trong một thời gian phải đối mặt với kẻ thù mạnh mẽ nhất, tàn nhẫn nhất: không phải siêu robot tìm diệt mutant, không phải anh da xanh ngủ dậy liền muốn chiếm thế giới, cũng không phải chuỵ ‘chim cháy’ hơi mất kiểm soát sức mạnh, mà là kẻ thù đáng sợ nhất của con người, dù có hay không có siêu năng lực – thời gian. Còn gì buồn hơn khi nhìn Chú Chồn mạnh mẽ của những phần trước giờ phải chống chọi với thị lực kém, với những cơn ho xé phổi, với những cơn blackout không lường trước. Còn gì buồn hơn khi nhìn Giáo sư X, một trong những mutant mạnh nhất thế giới, mắc phải căn bệnh kinh khủng nhất của tuổi già – căn bệnh về não, và biết rằng trong một lần ông phát bệnh, ông đã vô tình giết hết tất cả những người thân yêu quanh mình – Hank, Storm, Quicksilver, Kurt… và cả Magneto. Mặc dù phim không nêu cụ thể nhưng khán giả hoàn toàn có thể suy ra được: con người truy tận mutant mà Magneto không hề đứng ra can thiệp thì chỉ có duy nhất một lý do giải thích, đó là bản thân ông cũng qua thế giới bên kia rồi. Nếu điều này không khiến vô số trái tim con dân Cherik tan vỡ thì không rõ điều gì có thể.


Cuối cùng là series truyền hình The Gifted, một nỗi đáng tiếc không nhỏ do bị canceled bởi hợp đồng chuyển nhượng của Fox cho Disney.

(Trong bài này, bạn sẽ bỏ qua Legion bởi vì thứ nhất, bạn mới chỉ xem được vài tập đầu của season 1 và thứ hai, Legion khá tách biệt với X-Men điện ảnh, từ cách kể chuyện, tone, theme đến nhân vật, trong khi The Gifted liên quan không ít đến bản điện ảnh.)

THE GIFTED (2017–2019)

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Bạn đã dành một bài review kiêm giới thiệu cho The Gifted nên ở đây, bạn cũng sẽ không nói quá nhiều về series vắn số này nữa. The Gifted chưa phải một show hoàn hảo vì nó vẫn còn một số vấn đề cộng mấy tình tiết chưa được giải quyết thỏa đáng (mà thật ra thì show nào soi kỹ một tý mà chẳng đầy sạn) nhưng nhìn chung, bạn đánh giá The Gifted là một phim truyền hình rất khá với nhiều điểm cộng: tiết tấu nhanh, mạnh khiến cho không tập nào có cảm giác là filler; tình tiết dồn dập khiến khán giả phải chăm chú vào từng phút phim; plot phát triển qua từng tập và đạt cao trào ở tập cuối của mỗi mùa; nhân vật có chiều sâu, lấy được sự đồng cảm từ khán giả; dàn diễn viên có diễn xuất ổn và chemistry. Tất cả những yếu tố trên đều có thể giúp cho The Gifted trở thành một phim ăn khách và hoàn toàn không đáng bị ‘chết sớm’ khi mới được hai mùa và vẫn còn vô số vấn đề cần giải quyết, nhưng mà biết sao được khi đến lúc Fox phải trả lại X-Men cho liên minh Disney-Marvel và việc họ không muốn tiếp tục một show có nhiều quá nhiều mối liên kết với thế hệ X-Men của Fox là điều có thể hiểu được (nhưng không có nghĩa là những khán giả yêu thích The Gifted như bạn Joel không cảm thấy tiếc nuối và cay đắng.)


Trong một thế giới hoàn hảo, bạn sẽ mong Fox không bao giờ phải trả lại X-Men cho liên minh Marvey–Disney vì lý do tương đối ích kỷ là bạn đã quá gắn bó với những diễn viên thể hiện các nhân vật X-Men và bạn muốn tiếp tục được xem họ xuất hiện trên màn ảnh rộng lẫn màn ảnh nhỏ. Nhưng thế giới không hoàn hảo và nhanh chóng thôi, Marvey-Disney sẽ reboot X-Men để thể hiện chủ quyền với franchise. Bạn chỉ hy vọng rằng khi điều đó xảy ra thì khán giả sẽ không quên sạch, phủi sạch fandom được xây dựng cho thế hệ X-Men của Fox, cùng những gì fandom đó có. Còn về X-Men reboot, bạn không chắc vào ngày nó ra rạp, bạn sẽ đi xem hay không, điều đó đành để thời gian quyết định, mà dù bạn không xem thì cũng có sao đâu nhỉ, không có mợ thì chợ vẫn đông mà.

[Cherik] Caught

Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom: X-Men: Movieverse

Rating: from K+ to M

Pairing: Cherik – Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier

Genres: Fanfiction, slash, alternate universe

Characters: Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), Charles Xavier (Professor X), Henry Phillip “Hank” McCoy (Beast), Raven (Mystique) etc.

Warnings: violence, (probably) sexual contents, etc.

Summary: A collection of short stories centered around the relationship of Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) and Charles Xavier (Professor X). Set in alternate universes (expect ghosts, mythical creatures, vampires, werewolves, etc.)


First story of Cherik Fantasy AU


Erik had expected, with joy budding in his bosom, an excellent catch as he pulled up the net. Through the rope he felt a formidable weight and, for a passing second, he thought the thick rope might give away under the strain. It could very well be his heaviest catch in this year, and anticipation swelled in his chest and fueled the strength in his arms, tanned and scarred by years of fighting and hardship.

Once the net landed on the deck with low thud, Erik’s eyes were wide with surprise as he caught sight of what had been lured into his net.

There was an ancient superstition that an encounter with those creatures when you were sailing far from land was an omen, whether good or bad still remained to be seen but the sheer act in itself was close to a miracle. During his years of fighting in the sea, Erik had acquainted with those stories, often by overhearing the old seafarers and fishermen sharing their seemingly never-ending anecdotes with the young men on board, green, wide-eyed and impressionable, who eagerly absorbed those tales as though air to breath, a means to ward off soul-crushing boredom when battles were scarce and catches were scarcer. But Erik, both atheistic and skeptical, tended to dismiss those stories as old wives’ tales. He believed in sea monsters, yes, those giant octopi that could sink a ship with their tentacles, humongous fish that could swallow a vessel whole, or those vicious sharks that were keen to blood as hounds to games, but sirens, selkies and merfolk? He found himself involuntarily and indignantly scoffing whenever someone in his hearing proximity claimed, swore even, to have seen one. Still, as he was now, witnessing with his own eyes a living, writhing proof of the supernatural, he felt a sudden urge to bite his tongue and curse in all the languages he could speak as what was before his eyes demolished every brick of his body of beliefs.

What Erik had thought to be a particularly big fish turned out to be less fish and more – more of what, he was at loss for a word to describe, for the initial word to roll at the tip of his tongue was ‘human’, and he refused with his every fiber of his being to accept this creature as his kind. Yet, no matter how much in denial he was, the visible truth remained that this deep-sea specimen was every bit a man as he was, at least from his waist up.

Perhaps a little too beautiful to be considered a man. Ethereal. The word slipped mentally before he had a chance to stop it.

From his waist up, it – no, he, should he be addressed as ‘he’ – possessed the torso of a typical man – flat but firm chest and waist so slender it could fit right into Erik’s hands. There was not a single blemish in his skin, pearly white and smooth as the inner side of a seashell. It was glistening as droplets of seawater freely rolled down his naked collarbone and chest like silver pellets, further amplifying his unearthly presence. But the semblance to human ended just a couple inches below his navel, where skin gradually receded to give way for cyanic scales to cover a huge fishtail, complete with large fins dyed in the same mesmerizing color. Under the moonlight, the scales glittered like they were made of fine crystal and probably cost more than sapphire stones, considering they came from something as unreal and mystical as a merman. Erik found his hand move on its own accord, yearning to touch them, to feel their shapes, their texture. He gritted his teeth, fighting hard the temptation, and losing by the seconds.

“Oh, do touch them, my friend, since you look so devastatingly tempted. I don’t particularly mind a grubby hand or two.”

Erik’s hand halted in the air as if frozen, his inside shuddered as he sucked in a cold breath upon being spoken to out of the blue. Did the merman just speak to him? He stared at the glossy ruby lips, which had curved into a half-smile like the creature could read his confusion, and perhaps appall, if it wasn’t already written all over his sea-kissed face. His eyes, impossibly blue and glowing like some sort of electrifying liquid in a magician’s glass tube, bored into Erik’s own with such  queer and chilling intensity that the young seafarer’s instinct was begging him to avert his gaze lest himself be bewitched into diving headfirst into the inky ocean like many a tale had predicted. His whole body went rigid with tension.

“What are you?” Erik asked, and was immediately hit with a pang of shame at how retarded it sounded. Of course he knew very well what this specimen was; still, his befuddled state could be excused on account of his shock. It was not every day a merman was trapped in his net and spoke to him in such casual manner as though they were indeed old friends.

The smile deepened, bordering to transform into a smirk, which was infuriating and unsettling at the same time. Were all merfolk this disturbingly calm in capture? Did they not possess the slightest clue of what a fate might befall them at the hands of humans? Or simply what humans deemed common sense entirely evaded their alien brains? Erik couldn’t tell as his knowledge of this species was sorely limited to verbal stories woven by a combination of unverified facts, imagination and ale-loosen minds.

“Oh, can you not tell by your human eyes, because I believe the evidence is abundant? Also, I am definitely not wearing any glamor,” the creature replied mockingly, his voice laden with a hint of chuckle, grating Erik’s nerve. His fingers, pale and spidery, hooked the net as he continued, his voice rising a notch. “Congratulations, human, for you’ve managed to capture the rarest and most elusive creature of the ocean. Now, what are you going to do?”

Frankly, Erik was at a loss for an answer. He had thrown the net with a simple intention to catch some fresh food for his crew; they had been putting up with tasteless cured meat that required more effort to chew than acceptable and hard, dried gourds and pumpkins for almost two weeks. The men were getting cranky and morale was low, which something fresh and less bland might help improve. But as fate would have it, what had turned in his net proved to be entirely inedible.

“I can offer a couple suggestions, if you don’t mind.” God, here he opened his damnable mouth again, and with a sing-song tone no less. “You could hold an auction and make a fortune for yourself, enough to allow you to live your life with abandonment until you’re grey and wrinkled. As far as I’m concerned, there are always plenty of souls willing to pay a dear price for a half-man, half-fish thing. Or, alternatively, you could consume my flesh and achieve the single thing mankind has yearned most.”

“And what is that?” Erik asked incredulously, though he had a vague idea what it could be.

A sharp glint flashed his eyes, too wicked to not be missed. He licked his lips swiftly and breathed, “Immortality, my friend.”

The words came out soft as a whisper, heavily laced with seduction. For a second, Erik was almost fooled into believing that the merman was engaging in pillow talk with his lover and not with a human whose stomach he had just fondly suggested to be his final destination. Erik shuddered, being reminded of those tales in which men were seduced to their untimely and often gruesome deaths by a merfolk’s enchanting voice. His hands trembling ever slightly, he felt sweats beading at the nape of his neck in spite of the winds howling.

“I don’t need eternity,” Erik curtly replied, his voice shaking. “Nor do I desire it.”

“Do you?” mocked the merman.

It was the truth. The idea of living on forever he had never entertained, not even in his idle hours spent sharpening and polishing his sword on the deck. Erik was a man of the present, who neither dwelled in the past nor fantasized about the future, and at the present he had a clear, definite goal for which he was ready, willingly to give everything he had. He didn’t really see past that goal because Erik Lehnsherr didn’t see himself coming out of it alive. Not that he would mind, though.

So no, there was no place in his mind for such a flimsy notion as immortality, especially when it was proposed by a member of the merpeople, whose trickery and whimsical nature were legendary.

“I don’t,” came his ultimate reply.

The ruby lips pouted and disappointment veiled the beautiful face – it was hard to tell if this expression was genuine or a mere act. “Then, what shall you do with me when you’re quite adamant about not getting my most precious prize?”

What should he do with him? Erik quickly turned the question in his head. He had no intention to eat him – just a thought was enough to make his stomach churn, and he wasn’t going to make a fortune auctioning this singular creature – money was right next to immortality on his priority list. What he could do before everyone else on this ship found out about this quaint visit was to treat him the same way Erik and his crew would a poisonous crawfish or a fish so hideous it would be a crime to their eyes.

“Does your kind always have this habit of babbling nonsense?” Erik asked as his hands deftly untangled the next.

Erik half expected a dry remark from that pretty mouth; what he got was a look of surprise and forlornness that flashed across his countenance and dispersed so quickly he nearly mistook it for imagination. There were moist in his eyes as he shook his head. “I wouldn’t know,” the merman said, “for I have never in my life encountered another one of my kind.”

Erik’s eyebrows arched but made no comment, focusing on his task at hands. The net yielded effortlessly, leaving the merman free.

“What are you doing?”

Erik certainly did not imagine the low, undignified yelp when he lifted the creature in his arm and walked to the hull. He was heavier than he looked and Erik fathomed most of the weight was the lower body. Briefly, a grotesque thought of separating the man part and the fish one manifested in his mind, bringing him an unexpected chill. He took in a deep breath to clear his head and calmed himself before unceremoniously dumping the merman into the ocean below.

A loud splash but fortunately, no one seemed to be bothered enough to go and check. Erik heaved a sigh of relief and was already turning on his heels to return to his cabin when a melodious voice rang in his ears again.

“You’re a strange man indeed.”

The merman was staring him with those glowing blue orbs of his, a cheeky grin plastering on his youthful face.

He looked frighteningly like a human lad who had just won a bet.

“Go,” Erik commanded, exasperated, “to wherever you came from. Others might not spare you like I did should you get caught in their nets.”

“Thank you,” he said, his tone soft, free of mockery. “And goodbye, Erik.”

“How did you—”

The merman tapped a finger to his temple, winking at Erik. “We shall meet again, my friend,” he promised, before diving to the murky water, leaving Erik to contemplate his words.

TBC


This short story is inspired by a fanart featuring a merman Charles.

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Source: Abbitr (Twitter)

This merman storyline may or may not continue.

[Cherik] 26 Shades of Mind and Metal (K-O) (Việt)

Disclaimer: Nhân vật thuộc quyền sở hữu của những người đã tạo ra họ

Fandom: X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Rating:  10+

Pairing: Cherik – Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier (X-Men: First Class và X-Men: Days of Future Past)

Thể loại: Fanfiction, slash, humor, fluff, angst, dark, AU… (tùy vào từng đoạn)

Nhân vật: Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), Charles Xavier (Giáo sư X), Henry Phillip “Hank” McCoy (Beast), Raven (Mystique)…

Cảnh báo: spoilers cho First Class and Days of Future Past, mpeg, cái chết của nhân vật, bạo lực, đen tối, shark joke… (tùy vào từng đoạn)

Tóm tắt: Tập hợp những truyện từ ngắn đến rất ngắn xoay quanh mối quan hệ giữa Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) và Charles Xavier (Giáo sư X)

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K-O

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Illustration: pixiv.net
Illustration: pixiv.net

K – Kafkaesque

Một sáng nọ, khi Erik Lehnsherr tỉnh giấc khỏi giấc mộng khoái lạc, anh phát hiện rằng mình đã biến thành một con cá mập xám khổng lồ trên giường. Anh nằm ngửa (tư thế này khiến vây lưng anh vừa tê vừa đau) và khi rướn đầu lên một chút, anh nhìn thấy mấy cái vây nữa ở vùng bụng màu xám của mình. Từ độ cao này, cái chăn, vốn đã tuột xuống gần hết, gần như không thể nằm yên. Những chiếc vây – nhỏ đến mức đáng thương so với đường kính thân hình anh – ngọ nguậy một cách bất lực trước mắt anh.

“Chuyện gì xảy ra với mình thế này?” Erik nghĩ. Đây không phải mơ. Căn phòng của anh, à, căn phòng của họ thì chính xác hơn, một căn phòng đàng hoàng và trang bị đầy đủ nội thất dành cho hai người trưởng thành, chỉ là hơi bừa một tý, nằm lặng yên giữa bốn bức tường quen thuộc. Phía trên bàn, nơi bày bừa mấy bộ sách và vài món đồ nhỏ bằng kim loại – Erik là có khả năng bẻ cong kim loại – treo một tấm hình được đặt trong khung thiếp vàng (Erik đã tự tay làm khung hình, một tác phẩm đầy tự hào). Đó là hình một thanh niên mà trên người hoàn toàn không có gì ngoài một chiếc mũ phớt mềm và tấm choàng làm bằng lông thú dành cho phụ nữ. Cậu ngồi thẳng lưng, nhấc một cẳng tay được tấm lông thú dày nuốt trọn hướng về phía người nhìn.

Erik nhìn chăm chăm bức hình với cặp mắt mở to như đang bị đường cong quyến rũ ở hông cậu thanh niên thôi miên. Anh dường như đã quên bẵng tình trạng cá mập kỳ dị của mình cho đến khi một giọng nói lên tiếng với anh. Thật ra là lên tiếng với tâm trí anh mới đúng.

Xuống khỏi người em ngay, Erik. Anh đè chết em rồi!

Charles?

Erik nghĩ trong đầu. Cuối cùng thì người-đàn-ông-hoá-cá-mập đã nhớ ra là đêm qua anh đã lên giường đi ngủ với người tình, và giờ thì người tình đó không thấy tăm hơi đâu cả.

Em ở đâu hả Charles?

Erik nghe thấy một tiếng thở dài.

Lăn qua nào! Em ở dưới anh này.

Dù bối rối nhưng Erik vẫn làm theo lời Charles. Sau nhiều lần thử và thất bại, anh đã thành công lăn… khỏi giường và ‘hạ cánh’ trên sàn nhà với tiếng ‘oạch’ nặng nề.

Cái thân này đúng là cục nợ, Erik nghĩ, tiếc nuối thân thể con người gọn gàng khỏe khoắn trước kia.

Đã bảo trong đêm anh đừng lăn qua rồi mà. Suýt nữa thì cán em bẹp dí.

Thanh niên trong bức hình đang nằm trên giường trong tình trạng khỏa thân tương tự, chỉ thiếu đi chiếc mũ phớt mềm và tấm choàng làm bằng lông thú. Cậu vò mái tóc nâu sẫm bù xù và rên nhè nhẹ.

Erik chớp mắt bằng cả ba mí mắt (một cử chỉ kỳ lạ vì loài cá mập vốn không chớp mắt). Charles không thấy thứ gì kỳ cục trong phòng sao? Thứ gì như là Erik Lehnsherr bị hoá thành cá mập ấy!

Chưa kể còn là cá mập trên cạn nữa.

“Anh muốn ăn sáng gì nào? Cá hồi hay cá trích?”

Charles hỏi tỉnh bơ bằng giọng thật trong khi mặc quần áo.

Em không thấy gì lạ hả?

Tuyệt. Cả giọng nói của anh cũng mất rồi. May mà Charles có khả năng đọc ý nghĩ.

… Hoặc biết nói chuyện với động vật.

“Ví dụ?”

Anh là cá mập.

Charles cố nhịn cười. “Thì sao? Từ hồi quen anh đến giờ em nhớ anh vẫn là cá mập mà. Không lẽ đêm qua anh mơ làm cá heo?”

Anh mơ làm người, cảm ơn. Erik hầm hừ trong đầu và hành vi này được đáp lại bằng cái vỗ nhẹ lên đầu từ người tình.

“Chúng ta đã nói chuyện này rồi mà. Là cá mập hay không phải cá mập, em vẫn yêu anh như thế thôi.”

Trong một thoáng Erik cảm thấy ấm áp và được yêu thương đến nỗi anh suýt cho rằng làm một con cá mập cũng không phải điều gì quá tồi tệ như anh đã nghĩ.

Nhưng Charles, Charles nhẫn tâm, nhất quyết phải kéo anh khỏi mộng tưởng nhỏ nhoi đó.

“Dậy đi, cá mập lười biếng,” Charles mắng yêu, “bữa sáng không chờ mãi đâu. Wolverine và Hank cũng vậy.”

Im lặng cứng nhắc. Rồi một vụ bùng nổ cấp nhỏ.

LÀM SAO ANH XUỐNG NHÀ ĐƯỢC HẢ CHARLES??!

Sau đó, rất lâu sau đó, Erik cuối cùng đã đủ bình tĩnh để chấp nhận tình trạng hiện tại của mình. Có lẽ cũng không quá tệ, anh nghĩ, trong khi xung quanh anh, một khối lông tròn tròn màu xanh tên Hank, một con mèo Xiêm tên Raven, một cặp sóc chuột (cực kỳ ồn ào) tên Alex và Sean, và một con chồn wolverine tên… Wolverine cùng ngồi xuống bàn ăn tối.

Ít nhất thì Charles vẫn là Charles.


Erik thành cá mập Tiếp tục shark joke.

Illustration: pixiv.net
Illustration: pixiv.net

*Hai đoạn đầu của Kafkaesque là parody của tác phẩm The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka). Từ “kafkaesque” chỉ những cốt truyện có yếu tố kỳ dị, không thể lý giải giống như trong nhiều tác phẩm của nhà văn Kafka.

One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin. He lay on his armour-like back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his brown belly, slightly domed and divided by arches into stiff sections. The bedding was hardly able to cover it and seemed ready to slide off any moment. His many legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, waved about helplessly as he looked.

“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. A collection of textile samples lay spread out on the table – Samsa was a travelling salesman – and above it there hung a picture that he had recently cut out of an illustrated magazine and housed in a nice, gilded frame. It showed a lady fitted out with a fur hat and fur boa who sat upright, raising a heavy fur muff that covered the whole of her lower arm towards the viewer.


L – Letters (Thư)

Những bức thư được gửi đến hòm thư của ông đều đặn mỗi tháng không bao giờ là thư nặc danh; tuy nhiên, Charles không cần đọc tên mới đoán được danh tính người gửi. Kể cả trong thời đại điện thoại và thư điện tử đã thay thế giấy và bút, mỗi tháng ông vẫn nhận được một lá thư viết tay, và ông bảo quản chúng trong một chiếc hộp bằng đồng được cất ở nơi chỉ mình ông biết.

Đây lại là một bí mật khác mà hai người họ chia sẻ với nhau.


M – Missing (Thất lạc)

Bưu kiện cuối cùng Charles nhận được từ người gửi bí ẩn chứa một thân mình cùng một tin nhắn viết: “Vô cùng xin lỗi. Rất muốn gửi đến ngài một thân thể toàn vẹn nhưng đáng buồn là có một thứ bị thất lạc: trái tim hắn. Xin ngài thử tìm xung quanh mình xem. Chắc chắn nó không ở quá xa đâu.”


N – Nightmare (Ác mộng)

“Cậu thích như thế, phải không?”

Người đàn ông đó thì thầm và thoáng mỉm cười.

Trong nụ cười của hắn có thứ gì đó không được gọi tên, thứ gì đó đồng thời khiến máu Charles lạnh ngắt trong mạch và toàn thân cậu nóng rẫy như bị lửa thiêu. Chậm rãi, người đàn ông đó dành thời gian phá vỡ Charles và, theo một cách vặn vẹo và suy đồi nào đó, Charles, giống như hắn nói, đang tận hưởng điều đó.

Cũng người đàn ông đó, mang theo nụ cười lạnh lẽo giống hệt nhau, ghé thăm cậu mỗi đêm để, bằng nhiều thứ công cụ kim loại khác nhau, bắt cậu chịu đựng thống khổ và nhục nhã khôn cùng, và rồi lập tức biến mất khi hơi thở đầu tiên của bình minh rón rén trườn vào phòng ngủ của cậu.

Đó là cơn ác mộng đã đeo bám Charles từ bao giờ cậu cũng không nhớ rõ. Cậu nhớ ban đầu mình đã sợ hãi đến mức không thể tập trung vào bất cứ việc gì mà không bị gã đàn ông kia và nụ cười của hắn ám ảnh.

Charles chưa bao giờ dám tưởng tượng nỗi sợ của cậu sẽ dần dần biến thành cuồng si.

Có lẽ, để bản thân bị xâm phạm và vũ nhục theo cách như vậy đã nằm trong bản chất của cậu, như Charles vẫn thường tự giễu trong sự bất lực không thể cưỡng từ việc mình khuất phục trước ách thống trị của gã đàn ông trong mơ.

Cơn ác mộng sẽ mãi là một mảnh tưởng tượng đồi trụy trong thần trí của Charles suốt phần đời còn lại nếu như cậu không bao giờ gặp Erik Lehnsherr.

Đó là một quán bar đông đúc nơi những cư dân trong thành phố này tìm đến và trút bỏ bộ mặt bình thường và lễ độ để tiếp xúc với bản thể nguyên thủy của mình.

Giữa hỗn hợp đặc quánh của khói thuốc lá và mùi hăng nồng của rượu mạnh và những thân hình lắc lư cuồng loạn theo tiếng nhạc đinh tai nhức óc, Charles nhìn thấy Erik đang ngồi một mình ở góc khuất nhất, tự giam mình khỏi sự điên rồ của thế giới xung quanh.

Đây không phải lần đầu Charles trông thấy Erik; cậu đã gặp người đàn ông này vô số lần trước đây. Vào mỗi đêm, sau khi cậu khép mắt.

Đôi mắt của Erik tìm thấy Charles từ phía đối diện của căn phòng rộng và hắn nở nụ cười quen thuộc, một lời mời gọi lặng thầm gửi đến tiềm thức của Charles.

“Cậu thích như thế, phải không?”

Charles phảng phất nghe thấy Erik thì thầm khi cậu nằm dưới thân hắn, cơn ác mộng của cậu nay đã thành hiện thực.

“Phải.”

Mặc kệ đau đớn xâm chiếm xương thịt, Charles nở nụ cười thách thức.


Ý tưởng viết fic này được hình thành sau khi xem vid “Watch Me Fall Apart” (Cherik AU với Dark Erik).


O – Object (Phản đối)

“Đừng mà, Erik!”

Câu này đã bất đắc dĩ trở thành câu chú của Charles. Khi Erik cố gắng đánh đắm tàu của Shaw (và chết đuối cùng nó). Khi Erik tra tấn Emma Frost. Khi anh ấn đồng xu vào sâu trong xương sọ của Shaw. Khi anh bắn trả tên lửa về phía con người. Khi anh cố tiêu diệt Raven để bảo vệ tương lai của dị nhân. Khi anh cố hành quyết Tổng thống trước mắt toàn thể nhân dân Hoa Kỳ.

Thế nhưng, bất kể bao nhiêu lần Charles nói “Không” hay “Đừng” với Erik bên ngoài phòng ngủ, bên trong, từ ngữ duy nhất thoát khỏi đôi môi anh hoàn toàn là đồng thuận.


TBC


Bản tiếng Anh

[Cherik] 26 Shades of Mind and Metal (F-J) (Việt)

Disclaimer: Nhân vật thuộc quyền sở hữu của những người đã tạo ra họ

Fandom: X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Rating:  10+

Pairing: Cherik – Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier (X-Men: First ClassX-Men: Days of Future Past)

Thể loại: Fanfiction, slash, humor, fluff, angst, dark, AU… (tùy vào từng đoạn)

Nhân vật: Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), Charles Xavier (Giáo sư X), Henry Phillip “Hank” McCoy (Beast), Raven (Mystique)…

Cảnh báo: spoilers cho First Class and Days of Future Past, mpeg, cái chết của nhân vật, bạo lực, đen tối, shark joke… (tùy vào từng đoạn)

Tóm tắt: Tập hợp những truyện từ ngắn đến rất ngắn xoay quanh mối quan hệ giữa Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) và Charles Xavier (Giáo sư X)

———-

F-J

———-

Illustration: pixiv.net “Frankenstein’s Monster”

F – Frankenstein’s Monsters (Quái vật của Frankenstein)

“214782… phải không?”

“… Phải. Cậu là…”

Hắn ngập ngừng trả lời, vẫn chưa hết bối rối khi được gọi bằng giọng nói không phải của chủ nhân.

Ngẩng đầu lên, hắn nghiên cứu sinh vật kia trong thoáng chốc. Giống đực. Có cấu tạo gần giống hắn, chỉ là mảnh khảnh hơn, nhỏ hơn và trông mong manh hơn. Rất nhiều là đằng khác.

Hắn nhìn xuống cẳng tay trái của sinh vật kia.

“… 287412.”

Verwandtschaft của hắn, sinh vật này.

“Xin anh đấy, tôi thích được gọi là Charles Xavier hơn.”

Charles mỉm cười thân thiện, đôi mắt xanh lấp lánh như mặt biển vào ngày giữa mùa hè.

Không hẳn là hắn biết gì về biển và mùa hè. Người sáng tạo ra hắn đã nhắc đến chúng vào lúc nào đó.

“Anh cũng nên có một cái tên. Anh thích được gọi là gì?”

“Ngài sẽ không cho phép đâu” là câu trả lời của hắn.

Một cái tên cho biết sự ra đời của ‘cái tôi’, một thứ ‘Ngài’ không thể để những tạo vật của mình có.

“Ngài không thể không cho phép.”

Charles nghiêng đầu về bên trái.

… nơi ‘Ngài’ đang nằm, hay nói chính xác hơn là những gì còn lại của ‘Ngài’…

Một bàn tay mảnh dẻ dớp dính tháo bỏ những trói buộc trên cơ thể hắn, bàn tay còn lại vuốt ve xương gò má của hắn, Charles lại nở nụ cười thân tình, vô hại.

“Vậy thì Erik Lehnsherr được không?”


*Verwandtschaft có nghĩa là kin (thân tộc, họ hàng) trong tiếng Anh. Ở đây có thể hiểu rộng ra là “đồng loại”.


G – Gift (Quà tặng)

Giấu mình gọn gàng bên dưới đôi cánh tay là một phong bì. Nét chữ trên tờ giấy bên trong gãy gọn, cứng nhắc và chúng viết: “Vô cùng xin lỗi. Những phần còn lại sẽ sớm được gửi đến. Xin hãy xem chúng như một… món quà tặng.”


Phần tiếp nối D – Delivery (Hàng giao đến nhà)


H – Haunted (Ám ảnh)

“Charles.”

Karl quay đầu lại và đôi mắt xanh lơ của cậu bắt gặp một người đàn ông đang đứng ở góc nơi mặt trời không thể chạm đến. Anh ta phải hơn cậu bé ít nhất mười tuổi và sở hữu nước da nhợt nhạt đến nỗi gần như trong suốt. Ngoại trừ điểm đó, anh ta trông khá ưa nhìn.

Một geist anh tuấn, cậu bé nghĩ, nhưng vẫn là geist thôi.

Nhìn thấy hồn ma không phải điều hiếm lạ với Karl; nó là một trong nhiều món quà mà cậu bé người Đức mười ba tuổi được tặng vào sinh nhật lần thứ sáu của mình. Từ đó, hồn ma liên tục nhảy ra từ những chỗ-chỉ-Chúa-mới-biết để trò chuyện với cậu.

Một số muốn được cậu giúp đỡ; một số chỉ đơn giản là cần một đôi tai lắng nghe họ trút nỗi lòng; một số khác lại bối rối và cần ai đó nhắc họ rằng họ không còn tồn tại trên thế gian nữa. Dù là ai tìm đến mình thì Karl cũng đều cố hết sức giúp đỡ.

Traurig, tôi tên là Karl chứ không phải Charles, dù đúng là hai cái tên này có chung nguồn gốc*. Tôi có thể giúp gì cho anh không, Herr Geist**?”

“Cậu không nhận ra tôi, cậu không biết tôi ư, Charles?”

Karl cảm thấy rào chắn kim loại cậu đang dựa vào rung lên bần bật. Hồn ma đang giận dữ, Karl dễ dàng nhận ra, nhưng cậu bé không biết mình đã làm gì khiến anh ta tức giận hay làm cách nào để xoa dịu anh ta.

Tut mir sehr leid***, Herr Geist. Nhưng đây quả thật là lần đầu tôi nhìn thấy anh.”

Đôi mắt xanh nhạt của hồn ma ngập tràn thịnh nộ. Karl thấy sợ, nhưng đồng thời, bằng cách nào đó cậu cũng thấy được trong đó còn chất chứa rất nhiều đau đớn. Cậu ước giá mình có thể giảm nhẹ chúng, dù chỉ một chút.

Rào chắn rung lắc dữ dội. Vài con ốc văng ra, rơi lả tả quanh chân cậu. Trái tim Karl theo đó run rẩy.

Dường như cả vĩnh cửu đã trôi qua trước khi thịnh nộ đột ngột biến thành tĩnh mịch và đôi mắt của hồn ma được nỗi thống khổ không thể hiểu được làm dịu đi.

“Có lẽ như vậy thì tốt hơn.”

Hồn ma quay đi, thân hình cũng như giọng nói nhạt dần, nhạt dần.

Abschied mein freund****…

“Khoan, chờ đã…”

Karl gọi với theo hồn ma nhưng quá muộn rồi; anh ta đã hoàn toàn tan biến vào thinh không.

Nỗi buồn khó lý giải đong đầy trái tim cậu bé và một giọt nước mắt lăn xuống má cậu. Dù hồn ma đã biến mất nhưng Karl biết cậu sẽ mãi mãi bị nỗi thống khổ trong đôi mắt của anh ta ám ảnh.


*Karl là phiên bản tiếng Đức của Charles.

**Herr Geist: Mr. Ghost (ở đây, Karl đang xưng hô rất nghiêm túc chứ không hề có ý đùa cợt hồn ma)

***Tut mir sehr leid: Tôi rất xin lỗi

****Abschied mein freund: Tạm biệt, bạn của tôi


I – Illusion (Ảo ảnh)

Hank nghĩ mình đã phát điên khi anh chứng kiến Erik Lehnsherr ngồi đối diện Charles Xavier, đôi mắt chăm chú nhìn vào ván cờ được đặt giữa họ. Không phải Magneto với cái mũ ngốc nghếch, cái áo choàng ngớ ngẩn và khuynh hướng khủng bố điên rồ mà chỉ là người anh cả hay cáu kỉnh Erik mà họ từng biết.

Chuyện gì đang xảy ra thế này? Cả Magneto lẫn Erik đều đã ra đi nhiều năm rồi. Hank biết. Charles biết. Nên biết mới phải.

Vậy mà…

Từ giờ phút đó, ‘Erik’ có mặt ở khắp nơi trong dinh thự, đi dạo trong sân, nấu nướng trong bếp, đọc sách trong thư viện, chơi cờ vua trong phòng khách. Chẳng mất bao lâu để Hank nhận ra rằng ‘Erik’ chỉ nhìn thấy được mỗi khi Charles ở gần quanh đó.


J – Jealousy (Ghen)

Lần đầu gặp mặt, Charles đã cho rằng thằng bé Peter Maximoff đó đúng là phiền phức. Anh không ưa Peter và anh không biết cảm xúc tiêu cực đó từ đâu ra vì anh hầu như có biết gì về nó đâu. Đúng là ban đầu Peter khó chịu thật nhưng nếu bạn dành thời gian ở bên thằng bé thì hoá ra nó cũng không đến nỗi. Nhưng ngay cả khi Charles dần dần quý mến Peter, anh vẫn không thể hoàn toàn vứt bỏ cảm giác không ưa lúc trước. Mãi đến rất lâu sau này Charles mới biết được nguyên do: Peter Maximoff là đứa con rơi của Erik Lehnsherr.


TBC


Bản tiếng Anh

[Cherik] 26 Shades of Mind and Metal (A-E) (Việt)

Disclaimer: Nhân vật thuộc quyền sở hữu của những người đã tạo ra họ

Fandom: X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Rating:  10+

Pairing: Cherik – Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier (X-Men: First ClassX-Men: Days of Future Past)

Thể loại: Fanfiction, slash, humor, fluff, angst, dark, AU… (tùy vào từng đoạn)

Nhân vật: Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), Charles Xavier (Giáo sư X), Henry Phillip “Hank” McCoy (Beast), Raven (Mystique)…

Cảnh báo: spoilers cho First Class and Days of Future Past, mpeg, cái chết của nhân vật, bạo lực, đen tối, shark joke… (tùy vào từng đoạn)

Tóm tắt: Tập hợp những truyện từ ngắn đến rất ngắn xoay quanh mối quan hệ giữa Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) và Charles Xavier (Giáo sư X)

———-

A-E

———-

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Illustration: pixiv.net “Delivery”

A – Alone (Một mình)

Anh đã nghĩ anh chỉ có một mình trên thế giới này, giống như con quái vật của Frankenstein mà anh đã được tạo ra như thế. Cho đến khi một giọng nói, dịu dàng nhưng cứng rắn, bằng cách bí ẩn và diệu kỳ nào đó đã tìm được đường vào khối hỗn độn bao gồm thịnh nộ và dục vọng sát nhân được gọi là tâm trí anh.

“Anh không chỉ có một mình.”

Ít nhất là không phải lúc này.


B – Blue (Xanh dương)

Khi họ gặp nhau lần đầu, Charles đã không thật sự cứu mạng anh, bởi vì Erik không hề chết đuối; khả năng sinh tồn của anh mạnh mẽ hơn thế nhiều. Thế nhưng, càng dành thời gian bên nhau, Erik càng thấy mình chìm đắm vô vọng trong màu xanh dương của đôi mắt Charles.


C – Chance (Cơ hội)

“Chúa đã cho chúng ta cơ hội thứ hai, Charles ạ.”

Erik đứng thẳng lưng vững vàng trên mặt đất, không còn trong thân xác già cỗi, thương tích và hấp hối thuộc về tương lai tăm tối kia; một lần nữa anh lại trẻ trung và tràn đầy sức sống.

Charles cũng vậy.

“Không phải là Chúa đâu, Erik, mà là chúng ta.”

Charles sải bước vững chãi đến bên Erik. Anh vươn tay, dịu dàng kéo bạn mình vào lòng.

“Chúng ta hãy bắt đầu lại từ đầu đi, hỡi bạn của tôi.”


D – Delivery (Hàng giao đến nhà)

“Cái này được giao đến sáng sớm nay, người nhận là anh nhưng người gửi thì để trống.”

Hank đặt một cái hộp trắng toát lên bàn trước mặt Charles. “Anh biết ai gửi không?”

“Không.”

Charles đáp lời trong khi cẩn thận nhấc cái hộp lên để thăm dò trọng lượng trước khi mở nó.

Máu Charles đông cứng trước cảnh tượng một đôi cánh tay được đặt gọn gàng trong hộp, những đường tĩnh mạch nhìn thấy được dưới da và những bợt máu khô sẫm màu cho biết chúng hoàn toàn không phải đồ giả.

Và như để xác nhận danh tính của người sở hữu chúng, trên cẳng tay trái có xăm một hàng chữ số.

214782.


E – Experiment (Thí nghiệm)

Charles thức dậy trên sàn nhà cứng, lạnh và không được lót thảm trong cái buốt giá của một sáng mùa đông. Khi anh nhận ra điều gì đã đạp anh văng khỏi chiếc giường ấm áp dấu yêu, lần đầu tiên trong cuộc đời mình, Charles biết đến cảm giác tức điên người.

Đó là một sai lầm to lớn chết tiệt.

Lẽ ra anh không nên cho rằng ý tưởng của Hank thật thú vị và chấp thuận nó. Lẽ ra anh không nên cho phép Hank tiến hành thí nghiệm. Trên hết, lẽ ra anh không nên để Erik tham gia thí nghiệm chết bầm này.

Tại sao lại là Erik chứ không phải dị nhân nào khác trong dinh thự Xavier?

Bởi vì Erik là người duy nhất có thể thao túng từ trường và điều đó giúp ích cho thí nghiệm, Hank giải thích. Đó là một lý do và lý do còn lại là anh chàng biết bẻ cong kim loại này vô cùng hăng hái trong việc bù đắp cho đống lộn xộn anh ta đã gây ra ở D.C.

Theo như cách nghĩ của Hank thì thí nghiệm khá thành công và Erik trở ra mà không hề bị tổn thương hay thiếu vắng bộ phận cơ thể nào. Trông không giống một sai lầm chút nào, nhỉ?

Không phải sai lầm mà là thảm họa! Thảm họa thật sự!

Mãi sau đó, khi Charles phát hiện mình đang nằm trên sàn nhà, thiếu vắng hơi ấm và vòng tay ôm ấp của Erik, anh mới đi đến kết luận này.

Trên chiếc giường của họ là một con cá mập, thân hình đồ sộ của nó chiếm trọn không gian của chiếc giường cỡ đại.

Không rõ điều gì khiến Charles ngạc nhiên hơn, anh ngẫm nghĩ trong vài giây, một con cá mập đang say giấc hay một con cá mập đang sống hoàn toàn khỏe mạnh trong khi không ở trong nước.

Không phải. Sự thật rằng con cá mập này đang đeo sợi dây chuyền bạch kim của Erik quanh cổ (nếu cá mập có bộ phận gọi là cổ) mới là thứ khiến Charles sốc nhất.

Erik đã tạo một cặp dây chuyền giống hệt nhau để đánh dấu bước hoà giải trong mối quan hệ giữa họ: một sợi cho anh và một sợi cho Charles.

Sao không phải con gì khác mà lại là cá mập vậy, Erik? Charles thầm rên rỉ.

Và tiếp theo là tiếng thét động trời gọi tên Henry Phillip “Hank” McCoy.


TBC


Bản tiếng Anh

Bênh ‘Hai Phượng’: X-Men: Dark Phoenix có quá tệ như người ta nói hay không?

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Chuyện là, chủ nhật vừa rồi bạn Joel đã đi xem X-Men: Dark Phoenix – với tên Việt Nam dân dã thân mật là Hai Phượng (và lần đầu tiên được trải nghiệm cảm giác xem phim mà ghế nghiêng ngả, rung lắc, hơi và nước phun phì phì vào mặt – tức xem 4DX, mà thôi cái này không cần nói nhiều). Một chuyện khác là trước khi xem bạn đã đọc một số review bash phim tơi tả bằng đủ thứ ‘mỹ từ’ vì sự lịch sự và trong sạch của blog mà bạn sẽ không nêu ra đây. Bạn ức lắm nhé, người ta (chẳng rõ có phải vì thành kiến hay không) nói về phần mới nhất trong franchise bạn yêu thích nhiều năm như vậy thì sao không ức, không cáu cho được, nhưng ức hay cáu kiểu gì thì bạn cũng không phản bác được vì bạn chưa xem phim. Vì vậy nên bạn kiềm chế, bạn định bụng sau khi xem xong, bạn phải có một bài ‘bênh’ phim hòng lấy lại chút công bằng cho Hai Phượng, và đó là lý do bài viết này ra đời.

Trước khi vào bài, bạn cần nói rõ là những gì được viết ra đây hoàn toàn là cảm nhận của bạn – một kẻ đã xem đủ các phần điện ảnh X-Men nhưng chưa xem hoạt hình và chưa đọc comic – với phim, tức 100% suy nghĩ chủ quan. Nếu bạn không đồng quan điểm với bạn Joel thì OK, chúng ta có thể thảo luận trong hoà bình và văn minh, hoặc bạn có thể chọn ‘agree to disagree’; bạn Joel không hoan nghênh các hình thức cạnh khoé, gây hấn, áp đặt quan điểm… Bên cạnh đó, do bài sẽ nói về một số tình tiết trong phim nên spoilers chắc chắn không tránh khỏi. Nếu không muốn bị spoil, bạn hãy quay lại sau khi đã xem phim (để có nhìn nhận của riêng mình về phim).

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(Hình và gif đều không thuộc sở hữu của bạn Joel)

Đầu tiên, hãy nói về những ‘hạt sạn’ của phim.

  • Sự thiếu vắng Quicksilver cùng màn slow motion trên nền một bài hát đậm chất ‘thời đại’ mà phim lấy bối cảnh. Không thể phủ nhận là ngay lần đầu xuất hiện trong X-Men: Days of Future Past (DoFP), Quicksilver do Evan Peters thủ vai đã chiếm trọn khung hình và sự yêu thích của khán giả bằng tính cách hài hước, cách vận dụng siêu năng lực rất mới lạ và vô cùng vui nhộn cùng màn slow motion ấn tượng có một không hai. Từ đó, như luật bất thành văn, mỗi khi một phần X-Men mới ra mắt, khán giả lại trông chờ một màn slow motion như ‘Time in the Bottle’ hay ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of this)’. Thế nhưng, đáng tiếc là X-Men: Dark Phoenix (DP) đã phụ lòng khán giả. Quicksilver có góp mặt trong phim nhưng screentime cũng như vai trò của cậu bị rút ngắn đáng kể khi cậu bị ‘KO’ trong khoảng 30 phút đầu phim và chỉ xuất hiện lại mấy giây ở đoạn cuối; dĩ nhiên, đoạn slow motion huyền thoại cũng không có đất thể hiện. Thực hư nguyên nhân của việc ‘cắt’ screentime này có lẽ chỉ nhà sản xuất và Evan Peters nắm rõ nhưng chắc chắn đây là một điểm khiến không ít khán giả ‘kêu ca’ về DP. Tuy nhiên, ngẫm lại thì nếu Quicksilver không bị KO và tham gia cuộc chiến trên tàu thì không phải cuộc chiến sẽ kết thúc trong một nốt nhạc hay sao: Chỉ cần cậu túm tất cả alien và quẳng vào toa tàu cho ông bố Magneto bóp nát là xong trận, phe ta ngồi chơi xơi nước chờ boss phe địch ra solo với Jean; còn đâu đất diễn cho các nhân vật khác thể hiện sức mạnh của mình?!

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(Song song với phàn nàn Quicksilver ít đất diễn là phàn nàn Quicksilver và Magneto chưa nhận nhau và cả hai chẳng có lấy một moment cha-con nào. Vụ moment thì đúng rồi nhưng vụ nhận nhau thì chưa rõ: Biết đâu trong khoảng thời giữa ApocalypseDP, cậu Quickie đã nhân ngày nắng to gió mát nào đó vượt biển tìm cha rồi biết đâu chừng, nhỉ?)

  • Nhân vật phản diện nhạt nhoà, thiếu cá tính. Nếu như soái ca Huyền (tức Apocalypse) ở X-Men: Apocalypse đã bị chê là có tính cách cùng motif khá ‘nhạt’ – ngủ mấy ngàn năm dậy, vươn vai mấy cái, nhận con nhận cháu rồi đòi phá thế giới, thì các villain của phần này – tộc alien gì đó có cái tên bạn Joel lẽ ra nên Google để điền vào nhưng vì bạn lười nên… thôi – còn nhạt hơn; không những chẳng có câu thoại nào đáng nhớ, motif chiếm hành tinh khác thì xưa hơn Trái Đất mà ngay đến ngoại hình cũng chẳng có mà phải đi vay mượn, kết quả là đội quân alien hiện ra có một nhúm người trông còn buồn ngủ hơn nhóm du kích thôn. Lính đã thế, tướng cũng chả khá hơn khi chị thủ lĩnh alien cũng có tính cách được diễn tả bằng một mặt phẳng trơn bóng cùng lời thoại chỉ là lặp đi lặp lại như một cái máy mấy câu ‘dụ khị’ hàng tỉ villain trước chị đã nói đến mức khán giả sắp mòn tai. Nếu nói villain đóng góp một phần không nhỏ cho thành công của phim siêu anh hùng thì ở khoản này, DP đã fail trọn vẹn.

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  • Climax diễn ra nhanh gọn đến… chán. Đã gọi là climax tức đó là thời điểm mạch truyện được đẩy lên cao nhất, và, với một phim siêu anh hùng thì khán giả trông đợi climax là lúc trận chiến diễn ra hoành tráng nhất, oanh liệt nhất, mãn nhãn nhất. DP đã không làm được điều này khi climax của phim – Jean và thủ lĩnh nhóm alien, hai người mang sức mạnh Phượng Hoàng, solo với nhau – diễn ra chóng vánh và hầu như chẳng có hành động gì ngoài… hai người bóp cổ nhau và xoay vài vòng slow motion trong ánh sáng vàng cam ảo diệu. Nếu như các nhà làm phim ‘chịu khó’ kéo dài climax ra, thêm vào những màn phô diễn sức mạnh của cả hai thì có lẽ DP đã được đánh giá cao hơn và bớt đi mấy lời xài xể, chê bai. Phải chăng sức sáng tạo của các nhà làm phim đã tiêu pha hết vào trường đoạn mutants vs aliens trên tàu trước đó rồi?

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  • Cách kể chuyện có gì đó… sai sai. Nhìn tổng thể thì DP đã kể được một câu chuyện mạch lạc, có đầu có cuối, có thắt có mở, tuy nhiên, khi đi vào chi tiết ta lại thấy có gì đó không ổn. Cái không ổn đó ở đây chính là mạch phim lướt qua những phần mà lẽ ra cần nán lại một chút để khán giả kịp cảm thụ logic của mạch cũng như cảm xúc của nhân vật. Giá như phim dành nhiều thời gian hơn để đi sâu vào cú sốc và đau đớn của Hank sau khi Raven ra đi thì có lẽ xúc động trả thù của anh sẽ dễ thấu cảm hơn và một số khán giả sẽ không thấy anh OOC. Giá như phim dành chút thời gian để Erik bày tỏ nỗi đau khi mất Raven thì có lẽ sẽ không ai nhướng mày trước câu “We both loved her” (và thật sự là anh có tình cảm với Raven chứ không hề vô tình dù trong quá khứ anh từng định giết cô) trong khi đã gần chục năm (có lẽ) không gặp mặt nhau. Giá như phim dành thời gian – dù một đoạn thôi cũng được – để khai thác suy nghĩ dẫn đến quyết định rời bỏ trường của Charles thì khán giả chắc sẽ không khó hiểu khi tấm bảng tên ‘Jean Gray’ được gắn lên cổng trường. Và còn nhiều cái ‘giá như’ nữa mà giá như được khắc phục thì chắc chắn phim sẽ nhận được đánh giá cao hơn hiện tại.

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  • Một số câu thoại khá cringy. Nổi bật nhất chính là đoạn Raven trách cứ Charles – tiến tới mỉa mai rằng phụ nữ toàn phải đi cứu đàn ông. Được rồi, thời buổi nữ quyền lên ngôi và phim nào cũng phải cố gắng chèn vào một tý ‘feminist’ để theo kịp xu hướng (và tránh gạch đá vỡ đầu); thế nhưng, chèn thì chèn, bạn rất hoan nghênh nhưng phải chèn sao cho tự nhiên, hợp lý, không sống sượng, vô duyên chứ không thì thà đừng chèn còn hơn. Đoạn thoại của Raven, đáng tiếc, lại rơi vào trường hợp tiêu cực. Nói như Raven thì chẳng lẽ Hank (lái máy bay), Scott (ngăn phi thuyền quay mòng mòng), Quicksilver và Kurt (vào phi thuyền cứu người), Charles (giữ liên lạc với Trái Đất) đều ngồi chơi xơi nước hết sao?! Chưa kể, là một trong những thành viên First Class mà Raven lại quên mất chữ ‘X’ trong X-Men là gen X – gen đột biến – chứ nào phải ‘Xavier’ và thốt lên một câu ‘thiếu não’ như vậy sao? Feminist kiểu gì chứ kiểu này thì vừa không truyền tải được thông điệp nào cả vừa thể hiện sự vô duyên, thiếu tế nhị. Một ví dụ khác đỡ ‘ngứa’ hơn là câu one-liner của Erik: “I had a change of heart.” Etou, là bạn thiếu óc hài hước, không hiểu được cái thâm thuý trong câu mỉa mai của Magneto hay là Magneto bỗng dưng nổi máu hài hước đi troll kẻ thù?! Ừa, tau đổi ý đấy, làm gì được tau? Sharkneto said. Thay vì vậy, sao không thay câu này bằng “Jean is not the real enemy” hay đại loại thế kèm theo ánh mắt sắc lẻm thương hiệu cá mập thì có phải đỡ ‘trớt quớt’ hơn không?

(Nhiều người chê bai chi tiết Erik đổi ý là ‘lật mặt như bánh tráng’, nhưng bạn Joel không nghĩ vậy. Ngoài câu thoại hơi ba trấm thì việc Erik làm hoàn toàn có thể hiểu được: Nhóm alien đánh đến mông rồi mà Erik còn chăm chăm đòi giết Jean mới đáng bị chửi ấy! Đây gọi là ‘lấy đại cuộc làm trọng’ chứ bộ. Hơn nữa, ở cạnh Jean là Charles, để bà má alien kia vào rồi Charles bị hư hại sợi tóc nào thì ai chịu?!)

Chê nãy giờ rồi, bây giờ là khen kẻo người ta tưởng đây là bài bash thay vì bênh phim thì hỏng.

  • Soundtrack ấn tượng. Bạn Joel là một đứa mù nhạc và khi xem phim, bạn rất ít khi chú ý đến OST (trừ khi đó là phim nhạc kịch). Tuy nhiên, soundtrack của DP không những khiến bạn chú ý mà còn ấn tượng mạnh. Bạn đặc biệt thích nhạc nền khi Jean lơ lửng trong không gian sau khi bị Phoenix Force nhập: giai điệu nhẹ nhàng mà sâu lắng như một đoạn hát ru nhưng nhỏ vào một chút dark để tạo cảm giác omnious, báo hiệu việc Phoenix Force nhập vào Jean sẽ ‘hại nhiều hơn lợi’.
  • Cốt truyện Dark Phoenix được khai thác và lý giải tốt hơn. Dù là một người xem dễ tính với dòng phim X-Men và không có nhiều lý do để bash The Last Stand, bạn Joel vẫn phải thừa nhận rằng Phoenix plot của X3 rất… random: X2 cứ tưởng Jean chết rồi thì bùm, X3, Jean sống lại và cứ thế trở thành Dark Phoenix, chẳng có lý giải nào cả. So với The Last Stand thì DP đã cải thiện rõ rệt được phần này: tuy có thể còn nhiều chi tiết gây tranh cãi và những vấn đề trong cách xử lý nhưng nhìn chung, DP đã cho ra một câu chuyện hoàn chỉnh về ‘Phượng hoàng bóng tối’ (và nghe phong phanh là khá sát với nguyên tác comic).

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  • Cảnh hành động và kỹ xảo đáng được 2 thumbs up. Để bù cho phần solo giữa hai ‘Phượng hoàng’ hơi nhạt thì phần hành động trước đó – nhất là trận chiến trên tàu – khiến người xem là bạn Joel rất thỏa mãn. Các mutant được dịp thể hiện năng lực của mình trước một đối thủ hoàn toàn mới (và khá đáng gờm), không những thế, khán giả còn được chứng kiến họ kết hợp sức mạnh với nhau và tạo ra những combo ấn tượng, truly X-Men united. Bạn đặc biệt thích cách các nhà làm phim tạo cho Magneto phong cách chiến đấu mới mẻ: Nếu như trước đây Ba Cá mập chủ yếu đứng một chỗ chọi… ve chai sắt vụn các loại thì bây giờ lão ấy biết kết hợp khả năng điều khiển kim loại của mình với… kungfu để tạo ra những thế võ made in Cá mập có một không hai, vô cùng đã mắt. Hẳn là mấy năm ở Genosha người đã dành thời gian luyện tập để ‘gừng càng già càng cay, Ba càng già càng gân’.

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Nhắc nhớ thân thiện: Đây là người đàn ông U60 nhưng vẫn còn rất ngon nghẻ và kick rất nhiều asses.

  • Diễn xuất rất ổn. Diễn xuất vẫn là một thế mạnh của dòng phim X-Men so với nhiều phim siêu anh hùng và siêu-phản anh hùng khác. Diễn xuất của đời First Class như James, Michael, Jennifer… thì không cần nói nhiều nữa vì khen mãi sẽ thành nhàm; diễn xuất của đời sau cũng tốt và mừng quá, không ai phá phim vì diễn xuất thảm họa mà trái lại, các nhà phê bình chuyên lẫn không chuyên dù chê phim ở nhiều điểm nhưng vẫn không chê được diễn xuất. Diễn xuất của Sophie Turner tuy chưa đạt mức phenomenal nhưng cô cũng lột tả được đau khổ, dằn vặt lẫn quyết tâm của Jean Grey. Bạn Joel ấn tượng với phần thể hiện của bé Summer Fontana thủ vai Jean nhỏ. Mặc dù screentime của bé không nhiều nhưng bé đã hoàn thành rất tốt những gì mà vai diễn yêu cầu, đồng thời phối hợp ăn ý với đàn anh James để thể hiện mối quan hệ giữa Charles và Jean. Không nói quá khi sự thành công trong mối quan hệ của hai nhân vật này có công rất lớn của bé.

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  • Character development. Một bộ phận khán giả đã không tiếc lời bash các hành vi của Charles và Erik trong DP. Họ gọi đó là OOC, là đập nát hình tượng nhân vật, là rác và một số từ ngữ khó nghe khác. Bạn Joel không cho là vậy. Với bạn, đó là sự phát triển trong tính cách nhân vật, là bộc lộ những nét mới trong tính cách mà các phần trước chưa có cơ hội thể hiện. Nếu đa số các phần X-Men trước đều khắc họa Giáo sư X là con người tuyệt vời, một người lãnh đạo, một người thầy hoàn hảo dẫn dắt các học trò thì DP cho ta thấy Charles cũng là một con người bình thường, có cái tôi đôi khi hơi vượt kiểm soát và cũng có lúc fucked up real bad. Nếu ở các phần trước, đa số Magneto đều mang thái độ thù địch với con người, sẵn sàng gây chiến với con người bất cứ lúc nào thì ở DP, ta được thấy một Erik mong muốn giữ vững hoà bình và bảo vệ vùng đất mình đang sống, đồng thời khi cần, anh hoàn toàn có thể dùng sức mạnh của mình giúp đỡ những người mà trước đây anh căm ghét. Chính hướng phát triển tính cách này là một trong những điểm bạn Joel thích thú nhất khi xem DP.

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  • Gợi nhớ đến những phần trước. Không chỉ lời thoại gợi nhắc về thế hệ đầu First Class, trong DP còn có một chi tiết nho nhỏ bạn Joel tình cờ nhận ra: Đó là, khi thủ lĩnh alien đến, Erik là người đứng ở phòng tuyến cuối cùng trước khi bà chị alien này có thể tiến vào căn buồng có Charles, Jean và Scott. Chưa hết, Erik còn dùng kim loại seal cửa buồng lại để làm chậm bước chân của kẻ thù. Có ai thấy chi tiết này quen quen không? Trong DOFP cũng có chi tiết tương tự: Đó là khi Erik (già) đứng chắn trước cánh cửa dẫn vào căn phòng có Charles, Wolverine, Kitty/Rogue và Iceman và tận lực chiến đấu với Sentinel. Và, guess what, Erik cũng seal cửa buồng bằng các mảnh kim loại! Dù chỉ là chi tiết nhỏ nhưng cũng khiến con tim Cherik của bạn đập rộn ràng. Muốn hại Charles ư, bước qua xác Erik đã!

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  • Need I say more? It’s f*cking CHERIK!!! Và, last but never, ever, least, đó là con thuyền chiến hạm Cherik. Riêng phần này bạn Joel sẽ không spoil để các con dân Cherik có được bất ngờ ngọt ngào khi ra rạp. Bạn chỉ có thể nói rằng, sau không biết bao nhiêu lần tức tối, giậm chân đấm ngực nhìn ship của mình ‘go Titanic’ thì cuối cùng, finally, bạn đã được thấy một ship – còn là ship lâu năm – của mình cập bến an toàn, viên mãn.

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Anh they live happily ever after. No, seriously, they do.

 

 

Tóm lại, DP vẫn còn nhiều hạt sạn nhưng bên cạnh sạn, nó có rất nhiều điểm để khiến một người gắn bó với điện ảnh X-Men lâu năm, cùng franchise đi qua nhiều thăng trầm, trân trọng và cảm thấy thỏa mãn. Và chắc chắn, nó hoàn toàn không phải một bom xịt hay suckfest mà nhiều người không biết vô tình hay cố ý đang nói về nó như vậy. Do đó, đừng tin review, cũng đừng bị những bài bash làm nản chí mà hãy tự mình xem phim và cảm nhận.

[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:

[Cherik] After the Nightfall (Part 1)

After1

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 1.     Charles Xavier

It was a terrible mistake, the cruelest kind fate can have in store for us short-lived humans.

All we intended was celebration – of my successful thesis defense and my little sister’s graduation and engagement to her college boyfriend. Instead of getting a ridiculous amount of booze and partying like there was no tomorrow, we all wanted something different from the ordinary – oh how young and foolish we were! My little sister was always keen on traveling and somehow she had managed to convince us – her big brother she often endearingly nicknamed ‘old fart’, and her fiancé, a full-time computer geek – that a backpacking trip was very appealing an idea: we would venture into the rural lands of central Europe where the primitive landscape is much preserved – don’t you love that? We would stay in the locals’ house, we would learn about their lives, their customs – don’t you love that too? And before our rational minds had the chance to speak of various potential threats, we had booked three tickets to Poland, and readied ourselves for the journey to come.

After a month, we found ourselves at this backwater village, where, just as we liked, the primitive landscape was most untouched and the life of the locals largely remained as it had been in the Middle Ages.

Our nightmare began here, our very last nightmare.

The commotion outside caught my attention. New voices distinctively stood out amongst all the familiar ones. Memorization of all the voices in this village isn’t too difficult once you get the hang of it. Well, to be fair, there weren’t awfully many people here and seeing that I had nothing better to do, I might just try to distinguish one from another. It came in handy sometimes, telling newcomers apart from villagers, for instance. So far, I allowed myself a little pride for doing a more-than-average job of it.

That, and teaching myself the language spoken in this foreign land. I was American and it’s quite true when they say American is synonymous with monolingual, so Polish proved quite a challenge for me. But time had made up for the lack of talent and time I had plenty in my hand, if that was all I could have.

“My name is Charles Xavier,” spoke one of the newcomers, voice clear, soft and in perfect Polish.

My heart skipped a beat at the name. A coincidence, I tried to reassure myself.

“This is my companion, Erik Lehnsherr,” Charles continued. “He’s German.”

So, ‘Erik’ with a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c’.

The other one, Erik, greeted the villagers in a low voice while Charles went on: “We came from the States and we lost our way here. Is this forest always so misty?”

My ears stopped hearing the rest of Charles’s words after “the forest”. My temples throbbed. Pain. Pain so acute that it made me forget everything and everyone around. Behind my shriveled eyelids came the sight of the aforementioned forest, its never-ending mist engulfing all the trees and rocks. And the statue! Don’t look at the statue! Don’t look at its outstretched hand, its bleeding heart…

Swallowed up in my sudden vision I had lost the responses from the villagers. I didn’t suspect they were having the same reaction – immensely horrified by Charles’s mention of “the forest” – yet they hid their fear well beyond a calm, serene façade. Practice makes perfect. They wouldn’t let their new ‘guests’ know of their fear. Not before they saw it for themselves.

Confusion was shown in Charles’s brief silence before he asked, politely as he had been since arrival, “Could you please provide us accommodation for the night, please? We’ll pay, of course. It is getting dark and we are unable to continue our journey until the morning.”

I fought back another pain, which was not quite terrible as the first. They would let Charles and his companion stay the night, there was no doubt. In fact, they would absolutely not allow their ‘guests’ to leave. Not before their work was done.

The dreaded sense of déjà vu dawned on me. Once again I felt so helpless, so hopeless.

They had all the time they needed for preparation. They would do what they had to do, with eyes of detachment and a terrifying sense of efficiency, like they had done countless times before. I had been there long enough to know.

But that was after the night fell on this accursed land. For now, they would play the hospitable host for their ‘guests’.

Aron was the one who had offered to take the two travelers since his was by far the most affluent household in the village. I had been under his roof once – had felt indescribably grateful when he gave us, lost, clueless American travelers, accommodation for the night, even providing us with hot, delicious Polish dinner and soft beds. The most affable, kindest man on Earth until we learnt that he would be the one to swing the sledgehammer.

Always the monstrous-looking sledgehammer.

The unwarned resurrection of my sister’s last scream coursed through my nerves like thousands tiny flames imbued in my flesh. I sank down on the stair, my arms embracing my trembling frame. It was so real, the pain, that I entirely forgot I shouldn’t be feeling it, couldn’t be feeling it. Leaning my head against the railing, I listened to the bustling conversation down the dining table.

Aron was playing the charming, amiable host tonight; I knew he was actually charming and amiable – when his guests weren’t travelers who got lost wandering in the misty forest by the rear of the village. He had invited Charles and Erik to dinner, scrupulously prepared by his docile wife Irena, who had never set foot outside their village. She was a textbook housewife and a great cook, and her cooking had only improved since last time. The alluring aroma pervading the air nauseated me soon as I caught it.

I wasn’t surprised to find out Charles was the more loquacious of the two. He carried on the conversation easily with his flawless Polish, now and then throwing in some collocations and slangs that dumbfounded my flimsy grasp of the language but sent Aron to a fit of boisterous  laughter and even the shy, reserved Irena to giggle. There was a melody icing his tone and the manner with which he articulated each syllable; just listening to him eased the pain in me. Erik, on the other hand, remained mostly silent throughout the meal save a few scarce words when Aron steered the attention to him. Perhaps his Polish wasn’t so good as Charles or he was naturally the silent type.

I heaved a sigh. Erik seemed the type that I would find intriguing and probably seek to pursue for companionship, provided that I wasn’t in this state and he was going to…

I tried not to imagine his scream when Aron swung the sledgehammer.

Driven by the curiosity of my subconsciousness, I followed the pair. Aron had arranged the upstairs guestrooms for them, opposite from each other’s. “Should you need anything in the night, just use the phone,” he said, ever the thoughtful and considerate host.

My footsteps halted in the corridor as a question sprang to my mind: What am I doing, following them to their rooms? It was a violation of privacy that my conscience was trying to raise a voice against. I had never been an eavesdropper and the very thought of being one appalled me. But then, another voice cut in, sharply, to remind me that in the state I was, my presence never went noticed and I was as good as any other furniture in their rooms. Moreover, it was unlikely that I could see any of their secrets, let alone divulge them.

In the end it was my curiosity getting the better of me, really. Even just for a few hours, I yearned desperately to know a little more about them, about the world outside this damnable village from which they came, the world I longed to return with every of my conscious minute and never could.

And Erik… If only I could at least see how he looked like, how they looked like.

My feet were already moving on their own before I decided which room to enter. My body slipped effortlessly past the thick oaken door and I half expected the silence or light snoring as Erik might have gone to bed early. Instead I heard Charles’s voice, clear, soft and undoubtedly British as he were chatting with Erik.

Erik’s replies were scarce as before, which left their conversation more of a monologue. Charles didn’t appear to be bothered as he went on talking. Perhaps Charles knew Erik always paid attention to what he said. Perhaps that was the way they were – the enthusiastic conversationalist and the faithful listener.

I listened only to the timbre of his voice, never mind the meaning. The sweet, soothing melody crafted into words. It revived the memory of the orchestral concerts where I had managed, on occasions, to drag my little sister to and though she either grumpily complained or yawned throughout the length of the show, I knew deep down she enjoyed it as much as I did. To recall it now was like recalling a faraway dream, fading with the passage of time.

“Erik,” Charles broke my reverie, the name rolling on his tongue as though he had spent copious hours practicing its pronunciation. Now that I noticed, every speech Charles made was seemingly without flaw, no stuttering, no mispronunciation, no filler or such, and melodious in a way that appeared mystical, hypnotic. Be it Polish or English, he commanded the language with perfection, and in his perfection there was little humanity. Of course I didn’t know Charles enough to reach such a conclusion, but there was something abnormal about this man that I perceived – call it sixth sense if you want – and I was mesmerized as I was unnerved by it. Irrational, but true.

“A foot rub, maybe?”

Erik made a derisive sound. “Not your pet,” he replied in faint German accent.

Charles was not put back by Erik’s curt refusal as he said in cheerful tone, “So cold!” The rustle of fabric was caught in my ears. “But some comfort for my sore feet is not asking too much, no? You know I’m not accustomed to this hardship of traveling.”

Footsteps thumped lightly on the hardwood floor, moving closer to the bed. “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 possibly pouted… Why would I associate Charles with the childish act of pouting? I didn’t even know what sort of expression he was wearing, or how he looked like.

Erik snorted in reply.

“Anyway, it’s been forever since we got to be alone, just the two of us. It’s very much our…” He paused. A chuckle filled in. “…honeymoon.”

My face heated up at his lexical choice. Such intimacy. They must be…

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

“Exactly my thought after the foot rub.” There was a triumphant note in Charles’s tone.

The rustle of fabric got louder, mingled with Charles’s giggles. He seemed to like smiling and laughing a lot, the sort of youthful cheekiness my little sister used to have. He was probably her age too, judging by his voice, with Erik only a few years older – his voice deep yet untouched by the weight of years.

So young, so full of life, and still…

It was time I got to leave, slipping incorporeally through the door the same way I had entered, forced by the need to respect their privacy, my rising pity for them, or my disgust at myself for being so helplessness. Perhaps the combination of all three…

I lost track of time – did I ever really pay attention to time – when I drifted along the empty corridor. Whenever I started this self-induced trance, I was under an illusion of being held at the bottom of the ocean, my limbs heavy and bound by seaweeds to rocks. I lay on a platform of pearly sand, seeing light yet unable to feel its warmth, hearing sounds yet unable to reach their source. Every time I felt detached, isolated, the fact of being truly alone in this vast world full of people starkly highlighted, and I felt safe, utterly safe at the same time. When I was here, under this thick, dense blanket of water, I was protected from them, from their manacles and cold knives, and most of all, from the final scream of my little sister, from the savage memory of her being mutilated and slaughtered in front of my eyes.

A curse to bear for eternity, if eternity was all that was left for me. But for now, I was allowed a short break from it.

A short break indeed it was. I barely touched the surface of temporary serenity when hurried footsteps on the wooden floor shattered my trance. They were coming for the pair; the time had come at last.

Despite my utter inability to alter their inevitable fate, I stepped in and barred the door as though my incorporeal body could somehow produce a force to stop them, a futile act I kept nonsensically repeating every time footsteps came stomping the corridor. How many times I had witnessed they force the door open, passing through me without the slightest notice, once more reminding me of my non-existent existence, and how I had become what I was:

A ghost!

… It was my sister’s scream that roused me from my light sleep. Throwing back the covers, I rushed to the door and was only an inch away from the brass knob when the door was swung open, the violent force of which caused me to tumble and fell on the floor. I had only a brief glimpse of my sister and Henry, her boyfriend – both struggling against the vice-like grip of two towering hooded men whom I recognized as the twin brothers glaring at us with unconcealed menace upon our arrival. They looked down on me with their icy pale eyes, sending a chill down my spine. Then I saw Aron, ever-friendly Aron, stepped in and knocked them both unconscious with a club in his hand. He needed not do me since my resistance was far feebler. I was never a man of physical strength and subduing me was an effortless task. My demands for an explanation in both lame Polish and English went completely ignored as the men dragged us to the church, down the damp, stony stairs to a dimly-lit basement. At a corner unadorned wooden coffins from which the unmistakable stench of putrefaction reeked. I shuddered at the morbid atmosphere and the grim prospect of what they might want with us – abduction, slavery and murder, those stories were common in these remote corners of the world. The priests in old-fashioned, ornate robes stood waiting like icons in temples and in front of their cold, emotionless eyes the men stripped us bare, paying as little attention to my sister’s modesty as possible, and dressed us in stark-white gowns while I yelled and cursed them. Like my previous demands, they went deaf on them as well.

It was Henry’s screams that pulled my sister back to consciousness. They had placed us in a makeshift cell and taken Henry to a large, cross-shaped stone surface, securing his head, limbs and wrists. Upon witnessing what they were doing to him, and would likely do the same to us – lacerating his wrists and Achilles’ tendons with the accuracy of surgeons – she howled a bloodcurdling cry. “Don’t look!” I whispered into her ears, holding her head away from the gruesome sight with trembling hands, and she obeyed, muffling her cries into my chest and covering her ears. Horrified was not enough a word to describe us at that moment; I clung to her as much as she clung to me for support. However, I forced my eyes to stare at the scene; I had to know what would become of our dear Henry and bear the agony of it in place of my little sister. Henry’s pleading gaze at us gave me some assurance that I was doing the right thing.

The head priest – I assumed from his lavish robe and aura of authority – was reading from an old, leather-bound book, the language too alien for an English ear. It might not be Polish but some ancient tongue serving this particular practice. The other priests echoed him. As they were chanting, the younger men gingerly held a bizarre-looking metal mask over Henry’s head. I couldn’t help a gasp when I noticed the two spikes protruding from the mask’s eyes. My blood ran cold at the foreboding thought of its function and I tightened my arms around her, putting more force to prevent her from turning her head should the urge hit her. I alone was enough; she needed not see how gruesome they took her fiancé. I held onto her small frame as if crushing her when Aron, the same Aron, who had praised her golden hair and told Henry how lucky he was to win such a lovely girl’s heart, swung the sledgehammer. Everything and everyone had turned to nothing, leaving only Aron, his instrument of execution and our poor, beloved Henry, as time dissolved into the movements of bulging muscles of Aron’s arms. Then… Henry was gone.

They tore her from my embrace with such strength that our bones literally snapped. Pain was lost on our terror-induced minds as the two of us were trying to hold onto each other. Don’t take her, take me instead! Let she leave this place! Let she live! I remembered begging them in both English and Polish. Deaf on their ears, my pleas. My sister wailed and kicked at them with a furious strength unknown to her petit form and it took two men to restrain her while the others wound the leather straps around her forehead, wrists and ankles, and bled her and brought death on her as they had done her fiancé. It was no simple slaughtering, I realized; it was an occult ritual designed for a purpose; whether it was a demon sacrifice – that, too, was not unheard in these lands – or an exorcism was unknown to me but I had a hunch that this practice must have something to do with the grotesque statue in the misty forest outside the village. Henry and my sister had been fascinated by it but when I looked at it, I had only felt a deep disturbance. Even when we had left, I could still feel its eyes on our backs and even hear the low sounds coming from the heart in its hand, beating and pumping red blood as if it was alive. That would be the only plausible explanation as to why the villagers had captured us, us who were perfect strangers to them, and gone to such extreme to dispose us.

In fact, those deductions about their occult were my later thoughts as I spent day and night roaming this accursed village, my body lost to dust and maggots yet my soul remained on this earth, unable to move on like my sister’s and Henry’s and countless other victims’ before and after us. At that moment, all in my head was the deafening scream of my sister when the mask came upon her. Even now I still had not figured out the cause of my lingering existence – if I could call it ‘existence’ at all – with my eyes blinded and limbs agonized by that nightmare my soul sometimes recalled. Oh, if only it had been a nightmare! But no, it was real as this bizarrity was real and it would take a greater measure than a pinch to the arm or a bucket of water to wake up from it. And what measure, I had not the slightest idea!

Hours, days, months or years had passed in confusion I couldn’t remember. Then, like a creature waking up from long hibernation I had risen out of the darkness of the cold basement, out of the confinement of my decaying corpse, laid anonymously in a crude wooden coffin. Though I couldn’t see, I was engulfed with the cacophony of life around me. It took time, really, to figure out how to block the sounds before they conspired to drive me mad yet I was not fully confident of my method – now and then they would become overwhelming again. I could feel everything around me too, the winds, the rains and the sun, hot on my ghostly skin like the flame in my ghostly heart. I had been in rage then and I had often wished I could take my vengeance on our murderers in the most violent and cruel manners as the vengeful spirits I had watched in horror movies did. Movies lied, obviously, because no matter how consuming my wrath was, I could do no such things as a poltergeist could. I could touch objects, true, feel their texture, their temperature but once I tried to lift them, my hands slipped through them like smoke. I could not even touch people. Whenever I attempted to, I would either slip through them or be instantly repelled by an unnamed force. It was much worse with the holy men, the old priests; my fingers felt like they were toasted and turned crispy before I even made direct contact with them. After many a failed experiment, I gave up eventually and as I did, the burning vengeance also died out. I was a void specter, stuffed with horror and pain each time new victims filled their prepared coffins down the basement, only to be emptied again and again. An endless cycle of torment. Despair.

One more time my feet had carried me down the damp, stony steps to where my nightmare had begun. I told myself the pain was not physical and if I tried I could block it the same way I could the sounds. Even if I couldn’t, it would only be temporary. My self-persuasion was not very convincing, not when the chill from the atmosphere was seeping into my skin. Not when my sister and Henry’s screams were swirling at the back of my head.

Charles didn’t scream, to my surprise; what I heard were strings of rapid-fire Polish that were too fast for me to follow. It astonished me that even at the moment his speech was free of stammer, that he sounded coherent and collected as a professor trying to reason with his difficult student instead of a victim of this unforeseen turn of event. Charles seemed to me the type that believes conversing can resolve most issues peacefully while Erik struck me as the complete opposite. Words I didn’t hear from him, silent as a mute; I heard him, or rather, I hearth them trying to subdue him: hisses and growls flying, fists pounding into flesh, and flesh hitting walls. I heaved a sigh. Aron himself was a burly man and his twin assistants were a little less than giants, not to mention the robed priests around them. Erik’s chance was slim, and fading fast.

Erik’s struggle ceased after Charles’s sharp cry of his name. He was utterly silent that I was afraid they might have knocked him unconscious. The head priest began chanting in a low, ominous tone and all present echoed powerfully. The force of their combined voices reverberated through the walls of the basement, shaking me, hurting me. No, this wasn’t my soul recalling my mortal pains; this was real pain, as real as the burn I received from trying to touch the priests. I should never have gone down the stairs, I tried to tell myself every time and every time I ended up doing the opposite. I couldn’t help myself. As though there was an irresistible pull that lured me here – something to do with my remains stored in one of those boxes perhaps. The same force pushed the rewind button. It might not be Charles who was bound to the altar, it might be me. Listening to the chanting of ancient alien tongue that evoked the fast-swelling dread of damnation. There’s no one to help us, to listen to our pleas, to our prayers. We are beyond hope even before the blades cut into our flesh. All we can do is stare at the impending doom that hovered above our face, the full stop to our existence as a human being. Man or woman doesn’t matter afterwards, since what will be left of us is a mutilated corpse and maybe an imprisoned soul, if it could be call a soul at all.

It was quiet now; the chanting had stopped. An interlude to clear the body before they carried on with the other. Charles hadn’t screamed. He hadn’t even spoken. How unsettling was his bizarre silence towards the end. I hadn’t screamed either, my remaining rationality knowing such was futile. Though I kept my mouth shut, my own body had its own voice. It thrashed about in a desperate attempt to resist its fate. But Charles’s body had none of that voice, which was to me appalling. It was as though he had already died before the ritual began.

Even more, Erik’s silence in his companion, his lover’s murder was what chilled me to the core.

The distinctive sounds of the sledgehammer hitting metal and of bones cracked and smashed were beating against my eardrums, echoing in my mind and beyond, where it joined with the persistent haunting of my sister and Henry’s screams, and of all the unfortunate souls’ after, until everything died out and the whole universe fell into a deaf pit.

A sound then, a real one, not a phantom of my mind. It was soft at first, gradually growing louder. It was the voice of the metal bars behind which they kept Erik so that he would witness his friend’s end and envisaged his own. Someone shouted, probably Aron, and panic was palpable in a string of rapid-fire Polish that followed. The head priest gasped and began to yell words I only knew to be prayers. Chaos erupted and the whole basement went spiral into a symphony of madness. Voices I heard, a lot of them, among the sharp cries of metal. There were metal objects all around the place: the manacles, the bolts, the hooks, the masks. As if beckoned by some force, they all raised their voices at once.

Suddenly all noises was muffled, or seemed so because my hearing, refusing any other sounds, only allowed a peculiar one. All my time in this damned village I had only caught it once: when the curious and daring Americans discovered this basement and the village’s hideous secrets at its bowel. One of them, the most intrigued, opened a coffin lid and tried to lift the mask from a decomposing victim’s face and failed, not knowing the metal had been nailed to the skull. It was bone-chilling, that sound, unmistakable to my ears no matter how faint it was amidst a sea of noises. Now I was hearing it, listening to it as it became clearer and clearer: the bone was smashed to smithereens and the muscles and skin were ripped like fabric under someone’s attempt to pluck the freshly nailed mask from the face, made unyielding by the flesh trying to hold it in place. I wondered if it was Erik doing the job and the villagers, stunned by his action, had momentarily forgotten to stop him.

Don’t look, I whispered. Don’t look. The visage of your loved one ruined beyond recognition will be your everlasting curse. Perhaps, I reckoned now, the reason I was anchored to this land was because I had visualized my sister’s face under the mask, Henry’s and my own right before Aron carried out my execution.

Have you ever imagine how a person’s voice would be like once their face was smashed? You probably haven’t, you can’t, simply because no human could utter a syllable after having a heavy sledgehammer crushed their skull, let alone speak. But at the moment, there was no mistake I was hearing such a voice. It was clear enough, surprisingly, to crudely make out the meaning, despite the gurgling sound of fluid and clattering noise of smashed teeth and bone. If the peculiarity qualities of the voice were not enough to run chill down my spine, its tone surely did. It was horrifying to me not because it was sizzling with hatred – the tone I imagined coming from the evil-starred ones if they had been able to – but because it was dissonantly calm and serene as if the speaker was merely complimenting the savory treats in his afternoon tea.

“It was quite painful, you know,” he said. Impeccable, poised and very much British as before. My hearing must be deceiving me! It was Charles who had just spoken, Charles who should have been a corpse!

“And this robe is a total eyesore.

Aron was shouting “Devil!” and the head priest’s mantra thundered. Others began chanting after him. I heard a soft laughter, cutting through the cacophonous sea like a silver knife. The space reeled and my head was reeling with it. Dizzy. Nauseous. I felt sick like I really had a body of flesh and blood.

The objects were singing, the metal voice blending into the human ones until they reached a crescendo. And then, silence. Dark silence.

An acrid smell pervaded the air. Something burning?

I heard Erik for the first time throughout this ordeal. “You look disgusting,” he said.

I was at lost about who and what he was referring to.

But more importantly, why were Aron and the others quiet?

“I know. You don’t have to be so ruthless to your old man.”

A short period of silence. Then Charles’s voice again. “I feel better already.”

“You lose,” Erik flatly replied. I could pick out a faint amusement just underneath his tone. And why am I imagining Charles with a pout?

“If only you helped me though…”

Soft footsteps were gradually approaching my direction. My entire being took alarm. False alarm, I thought. Nonetheless I stepped back. Fear was rising in me. I knew it was nonsense, that I was invisible to any eyes, that not many things could do actual harm to me. The whole anomalous situation – made worse by my blindness and thus exaggerated by my imagination, desperately trying to fill in the gaps – induced in me an urgency to escape. While I still could.

“Now now, don’t run away from us,” a voice, Charles’s voice, spoke. “We don’t bite.”

I had already slipped half-way through the wall when a hand grabbed me. I was stunned. Shocked. A hand touched me, caught me and didn’t slip through me! I wasn’t repelled. I wasn’t burnt either. The skin felt cold though it shouldn’t, like metal dipped in snow. I shuddered. It wasn’t my soul’s recalling of living sensations; never had I come in contact with this sort of chill on human skin. Even the frozen cadavers at the university appeared warmer than this hand.

The grip was gentle yet firm though I supposed I could tear myself from him if I struggled. I didn’t. A subliminal yearning held me still. The need to be seen, to be heard, to be touched.

Even by the Devil.

Aron’s word echoed in my mind, growing weaker by second and was soon lost to oblivion. Pay no mind to the Devil. The Devil sees you, speaks to you and touches you, you who are a ghost forgotten in humans’ history.

Charles’s voice again. The same soothing timbre which had had me mesmerized. Only this time I wasn’t hearing him with only my ears; I was hearing him with my entire being. His voice enveloped me like the vast and thick body of water which blocked out the world while securing my mind in its safe embrace. I felt safe and protected as I had never truly felt after my death. I didn’t protest or even stirred when he wrapped his arms around me, pulling me close. Now it was clear to me that this man wasn’t human. Probably the Devil, like Aron had exclaimed.

He was lean, almost small, a build similar to my own. His body was as cold as his hand.

“You’re not wrong,” Charles whispered. “I am the Devil indeed. The Father of all devils.”

His reading my mind or his being the Devil, I couldn’t care less.

His hand was on the shriveled flesh of my once eyes. Cold, but not unpleasant. Just when I was convinced that I could be lulled to sleep, droplets of liquid fell to my eyelids. Hot. So extremely hot. Droplets of boiling oil. My dead sense flared, brought back to life in the most excruciating manner. I cried out. My whole body convulsed and was ready to slip away, passing through Charles’s embrace, through the ancient stone walls, through reality into endless loop of screams.

Charles held me close to his chest, whispering incoherently. English? Polish? I didn’t know. I couldn’t even answer my name if I was asked. Pain was consuming me, drowning me. Not the safe, comforting body of water in my trance. Not at all. Heavy, trapped, helpless, hopeless. I thought I was dying the second time but this time would be slower, more suffering than the last. I wept.

Suddenly Charles’s words made sense to me. Hold onto me, they said. It’s almost over. The words repeated in a soft melody that calmed my nerves. Like mother’s lullaby. Chased away the fears. Chased away the pain. The agony became dull and faded away until there was not a sliver of it. Lethargy beyond comprehension caused me to lay limp in his arms.

“There, it has gone away.”

I nodded, feeling his cold hand caressing my cheeks. I leaned into his touch.

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

Somewhere I heard Erik’s quiet laughter. Was he amused? I couldn’t tell.

“Open your eyes,” he said, half-commanding, half-coaxing.

I shook my head. “I can’t.”

“Of course you can.” He chuckled. “I’ve just seen to that.”

I protested no more, trusting in his words, in their unearthly melody. Slowly, carefully, I opened my eyes, feeling the flesh tight, hesitant. Remembering the treatment they had gone through. I expected the pain but there was none. Similarly, the sudden light wasn’t so excruciating as I imagined. What was, instead, the scene of carnage that greeted me. Now I understood why Aron and the others remained deadly silent in spite of the chaos.

The ground was littered with shriveled bodies, brown and dried up like barks. Unrecognizable, they could only be identified by their belongings – the cruxific and leather-bound book lying by a robed corpse, the heavy boots that belonged to the twin executioners, the sledgehammer discarded from vine-like hands. I looked around to the coffins, three of which housed the remains of Henry, my sister and myself, and returned to the mummified bodies. Was I delighted that our vengeance was done at last, that our murderers had suffered a fate worse than ours?

Not really.

Only one was alive: a young man clad in brown leather jacket and black turtleneck with a defiant expression on his chiseled features. In this living Hell he stood tall like a beautiful angel of death.

Then, for the first time, I laid my newly restored eyes on the one who had been speaking to me and holding me all along. None could enthrall me more than this face, not the carnage in front of me, not Erik’s dark beauty. I knew this face, had looked at it countless times before the loss of my sight. These blue eyes. This slightly freckled nose. These dark brown curls on his head that so contrasted his pale complexion. They were Charles’s as they were mine.

For a moment I wasn’t sure if I was looking at Charles or at a mirror. Doppelgänger.

Not a mirror. The light in Charles’s eyes – shining like rare sapphire – and the mystic air that veiled his countenance when the corner of his lips curved I could never possess in a thousand years.

He was smiling to me as I stared at him, dumbfounded. “It’s very lovely when you look at me as if looking as an angel, you who possesses the same face as mine.” Erik joined him. His sharp features softened with amusement.

Why would the Devil choose my image as his guise? I couldn’t understand.

“Not a guise,” Charles corrected. His cold hand ghosted over the contours of my face, the chill remarkably distinct yet strangely pleasant. “You are my seed, the reflection of my image in mortal flesh. You and many of your brothers.”

I had no brothers, only a little sister. Somehow the thought of her wasn’t less aching as before.

“Tell me, child, what is your name?”

“…I… I…” I struggled with my voice, rasp from not speaking for too long. “… I…am… Charles. Charles Xavier…”

Charles’s smile was breath-taking. “I am known as Lucifer to the world at large.” He paused briefly. “But you, my child, can call me… Father.”

End (Part 1)   

*Note: This is largely based on the horror movie The Shrine (2010) . However, you don’t have to watch the movie to understand this story. The second part, told in Erik’s POV, will clarify and fill in the missing parts.

[Cherik] In Love with Your Carnage

Disclaimer : Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandoms : Wanted (2009), Murphy’s Law Season 3 (2005)

Rating : M

Pairing : Mcfassy – Wesley Gibson (Wanted) x Caz Miller (Murphy’s Law)

Genres : Fanfiction, slash, crossover, AU, smut, PWP

Characters : Wesley Gibson, Caz Miller

Warning: pure smut – plenty of sex and little of plot, vulgar language

Note: This takes place in the same universe as my other fics: Beyond Flesh & Skin, Getting Even, Resemblance, Eden, Fair Trade , Granted

Summary :

“For a moment I thought I would come back to an empty room,” Wesley said, propping himself up on his elbow to look into Caz’s cerulean eyes.

“Why?” Caz’s surprise was genuine.

“There’s no fucking reason you can’t go if you fucking want to.”

The words were almost spitted out in bitterness. Caz’s eyebrows arched up, but he soon resumed his casual half-smile, half-smirk.

“And there’s only one reason I’ll go nowhere.”

“What is it?”

“I love you,” replied Caz with blatantly straight face that left every space to doubt his sincerity.

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For fuck’s sake, Wesley was stinking.

A hideously obnoxious mixture of sweats, dirt, cordite and blood was clinging to his body like the second layer of skin. And he wanted nothing more than to have it peeled off.

Every time Wesley came back after a kill, he possessed this odor. Every time Wesley came back after a kill, he loathed it.

The stink was one byproduct of a kill, the other being undesired… arousal. A fight, even an intense one as the time he’d tracked Cross on the train or when he’d demolished the Fraternity, would not use up the abundant amount of adrenaline pumping into his bloodstream. Reverberating in his veins, the leftover went straight south and nestled there. So far, his jeans were being uncomfortably tight.

Wesley had never been burdened with it – this odd phenomenon, not before he had had blood on his hand. The day he’d had his first kill, he had also felt it, strong, persistent and ferocious like an untamed beast wreaking havoc inside him. He had dared not try it on Fox – she would have had a bullet ricocheted in his skull if she’d known all he’d wanted when giving her that heated look was tearing what little clothes she was having and bending her over the park bench. Against Fox with her years of experience and superior skills, Wesley hadn’t had the tiniest bit of chance, not with half his brain focusing on hiding his arousal from her keen eyes. Thus he had run as fast as his enhanced speed could carry, away from her, away from death, until he arrived at a dimly lit bar. He had gulped down an entire bottle of scotch in a flimsy hope that a ridiculous amount of alcohol injection to his bloodstream could calm the raging wild lust.

No such luck!

There, fate had deemed Wesley Gibson’s life wasn’t big enough a shit pool and decided to toss in Caz Miller, who’d had him (his ass actually) ‘deflowered’ – the motherfucker’s word. In Wesley’s lexical source, it had been an insane experience made madder with heavy scotch and blazing libido.

Yet the best fuck he’d had so far.

And, to Wesley’s bliss or dismay, that wasn’t the last. Fate had bound Wesley Gibson and Caz Miller together a few more times; each and every one of them a sweaty, heated and no less sexy mess. Between Caz, Wesley had tried with others, both men and women; however, none had been able to wind and unwind him in the curious way Caz had, which the motherfucker’d dubbed “a demon sent to snare you” – undoubtedly some line from a cheesy drama series (Caz Miller: full-time gangster and part-time couch potato, just for your information). It was as though Wesley’s pleasure satisfaction was a wacky padlock and Caz was the only one with the right key; others just seemed… wrong, unfitted, unfulfilled. This realization had prompted him to make the fastest decision since birth when he’d heard of Caz’s imprisonment: if Caz were to rot in some place, that would be in Wesley’s bed (with Wesley’s cock inside him, preferably), not in some dirty, foul-smelling cell with an equally dirty, foul-smelling cellmate who may or may not fancy Caz’s asshole’s virginity in the same way as Wesley.

Thus the prison had had an unexpected and devastating assault which involved a great deal of dynamites and a bone-chilling number or rats – all to save one assassin’s desperate sex life.

On a  side note, NEVER ask Wesley where and how he had accumulated so many rats in such a short time!

As he was stepping on the threshold to the safe house Cross had left him, disguised as any other brick houses on this bustling street, Wesley was stabbed with a sudden fear. He had left while Caz had been sleeping – hadn’t thought much about many things else except bringing down his target and grabbing the cheque. Obviously Caz’s departure had never crossed his mind, and now, standing in front of the rusty door with his hand on the rusty handle, he couldn’t help the appalling vision of an empty bed, free of any traces to indicate another person beside himself had been there. He had nothing to bind Caz other than a flimsy promise made in post-coital, exhausted, sore and near-starving state; Wesley saw no reason why Caz wouldn’t leave if he wanted to.

Or worse…

He could open the door to a rigid, motionless body lying in the congealed pool of his own blood, eyes staring at Wesley yet unable to see a thing…

He shook his head and twisted the door handle, the knot of anxiety in his stomach adding excessive force to the simple act.

He might have closed his eyes for some milliseconds the door was swung open. When he opened them, he was hugely relieved to be greeted with the sight of discarded pieces of clothes scattering from the floor to the double bed, which no doubt reeked of sweats, dry come and a bit of blood. On top of the crumpled, dirty bed sheet was Colin ‘Caz’ Miller, sleeping like he was never aware of Apocalypse. The steady, lively rhythm of his chest falling and rising allowed Wesley to exhale a lengthy sigh…

… and notice his jeans getting tight again. The obscene view of Caz’s long limbs tangled in the bed sheet and his pale, naked back didn’t really help.

But when Wesley was about to leap onto the bed and fuck him thoroughly like tomorrow was the End of day and this was the last thing he wished to do, his eyes caught sight of tell-tale yellowish bruises on Caz’s lower back, around his bony hip, two hand-shapes reminding Wesley of how he had gotten a little carried away.

Maybe a little was an understatement, judging by the bruises that even the wax could not erase at once. He vaguely remembered Caz’s moans several times during the night; many of them hadn’t been pleasure-induced.

Wesley wasn’t a true sadist and the sharp pang of guilt called a halt to his after-kill horniness. It was still there, fighting for release, yet somehow it was slightly more controllable. The unbearable stink helped a lot, of course.

So, Wesley let out a half-sigh, half-grunt as he stripped himself off his jacket and T-shirt, sticking to his skin with all the mess he had managed to plash on them. After all this had been a messy kill, and a difficult one to boost, if the nasty gash stretching from his right shoulder to mid back was something. He left his jeans on because Wesley, unlike someone else, wasn’t very into exhibitionism, and strode to the tiny bathroom, where he would probably spend the next hour (or more) jerking himself off under the shower until he was numb, body and soul.

As he passed the bed, Wesley couldn’t resist the urge to touch Caz, who probably never knew he looked adorable in his sleep. So he did, reaching down to brush the back of his hand against Caz’s cheek, his stubble – ginger, definitely ginger – tickling his skin and Wesley smiled. He liked it, liked the way Caz’s everything managed to captivate him, even his wide, teeth-baring grin he seemed proud to show off quite often (the way a shark would smile if it could).

Perhaps Wesley had gotten carried away again – blamed it on the after-kill exhaustion – when hands caught him,  hauling him down to the bed. A weight straddled him at once.

A naked weight.

The muzzle of Wesley’s gun found the perfect spot between his assailant’s cerulean eyes. Exasperated and perhaps a little embarrassed for being caught off guard, Wesley huffed, “The fuck, Col…”

Hot lips pressed against his and swallowed the rest of his words. When there was no word left to devour, they resorted to snatching his breath away. Wesley tried to protest at first – half-heartedly if he was honest with himself – but his resistance was fast weakened by the alluring sweet suffocation masking him. When they parted, Wesley’s vision was blotched with dark spots.

This thrilling, near-death experience, how long since he last had it?

Belfast, the dimly lit bar, where he had encountered a pair of cerulean eyes, blazing with pure, shameless lust whose object had been him, and him alone.

The lust hadn’t changed as those same eyes were boring into him, despite the gun’s muzzle pressing threateningly between them.

The corner of Caz’s lips curved up. “So much for a pro killer.”

Wesley’s fingers closed around the grip as if he was trying to crush bones with his hand alone. Half of him wanted to wipe that smug look off Caz’s face, making sure he regret having worn it; the other half, well, just wanted to yank his head down for another lip-bruising, breath-snatching session. He made up his mind quickly, flicking the safety back and throwing the gun away, not bothering with where it would land, and pulled Caz’s face to his, all in one swift movement that lived up to his profession as a trained assassin. Their lips and teeth crashed – pain, that was for sure – yet they wasted no time to resume the violent rhythm earlier. The copper taste growing heavily on their lacing tongues did not thwart their ecstasy, but rather heightened it in an instinctual, almost bestial sense.

Neither Caz nor Wesley was particularly civil; in sex, they were even less.

Wesley wasn’t certain about Caz but he knew he wasn’t always so… passionate; his sex life had been boring and stagnant, just as boring and stagnant as the rest of his life. Had he been like this in bed, Cathy probably wouldn’t have cheated on him with Barry – not that he regretted now. It seemed that night in Belfast Caz had unlocked something inside him, a switch whose existence he hadn’t been aware of, and would never be aware of, not without a certain gangster with shark-like grins making out with his ears and pouring sweet, lewd words into them.

A few playful nibbles at his lips before Caz gingerly left him, a thin, silvery strand connecting their mouths to mark their feral encounter seconds ago. Caz broke it and licked it clean off his lips and Wesley’s.

Caz’s ‘ministrations’ only made Wesley feel more uncomfortable in his jeans, which weren’t tight to begin with – on mission he dressed for function, not look and tight jeans were never an option. Now they were skin-tight and hell, every tiny movement could cause Wesley’s body to jerk with the fabric rubbing against his sensitive member. And though he very much wanted to pin Caz down and fucked the brain out of him, the stink caught by his enhanced sense was fighting valiantly to put reason to his lust-hazed mind.

Caz’s next attempt to dive in was halted by a hand. “Very funny, Colin,” Wesley huffed, trying brave for once, “now get your fucking ass off me so I can have a shower.”

A very long shower.

“So you can jerk off in the shower?” asked Caz with a knowing grin, the kind that fiercely yearned for a good, hard punch, plastering all over his sculpted features.

Didn’t Wesley just love to make that sculpture of a face slightly less pleasant to look at?

So Wesley sort of let it go. The punch he had held back in exchange for a heated lip-mating round came back naturally enough.

“Ouch…” Caz groaned, his head tilted to the sight.

“So I can fucking jerk off in the shower!” Wesley cursed. Maybe he could last through a quick shower, washing himself off that revolting smell before he came back for a proper, thorough fuck. Caz had better be prepared.

He was about to tell Caz to fuck off so he could fuck him later when a hand palming his groin made him choke on his half-formed words.

“Not when you’re smelling so good, Weslie,” he said, and bended down to nibble teasingly at Wesley’s crotch.

The fuck?

Wesley stared at him, stupefied.

“… turns me on like no other.”

Catching Wesley’s hand, Caz led him down between his legs. Like Wesley, he was already hard, the head moist and leaking pre-come. And unlike Wesley, he wasn’t constrained by the rough fabric that was getting tighter with every second pass.

Wesley was burning with urgency to rip off his jeans, especially when Caz began rubbing himself against Wesley’s gun-calloused hand.

Fuck the shower and the stink, he wanted Caz. Now!

“Get me off my jeans, asshole!”

“Hush, easy now. Caz was practically singing as he flattened his body against Wesley’s. Good things come to those who can…”

One of the few things of Caz Wesley always had mixed feelings about was his ridiculous habit of singing in the least appropriate time. Callard had to be either deaf or equipped with the patience of a saint for keeping such a man by his side.

“…wait.”

He punctuated rather physically, with his mouth sucking the small hollow between Wesley’s clavicles. An odd place to start, one would say, yet the effect was instant and audible: Wesley let out a startled, undignified yelp at the first contact with the wet texture of Caz’s tongue. Was it normal to be so sensitive at a place so often forgotten and neglected or was he a very particular case?

Caz left his collarbones and travel to his chest. His tongue swirled around the tanned areole before taking the hardened nub in his mouth. He sucked at it with slow pace, savoring the tiny piece of flesh as though he was enjoying a rare ambrosia that once it was all eaten, he would never be able to taste it again. Not in a life time.

“Motherfucker…” was what Wesley could manage through clenched teeth. He didn’t know whether he was being hypersensitive – blamed the adrenaline – or Caz was exceptionally devilish with his tongue.

He shuddered at the thought of their combination.

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Caz spared him a brief moment before he lavished the other nipple, this time with enough rawness to knock down Wesley’s determination to not moan audibly. He smiled at his small success.

“You should look at yourself right now, Weslie,” Caz teased. He slid down his body, licking a long, wet trail from his chest to his abdomen. His breath ghosted over Wesley’s skin before he dipped his tongue into his navel. “Perfection!” he exclaimed.

Wesley hissed and yanked Caz’s hair.

“Get the fuck on!” Wesley growled, his voice raucous with lust and impatience. “You fucking want both of us to get blue balls or what?”

“Your increasing usage of vulgarity speaks volume of how much you want me. That’s very cute and… needy.”

“Like you’re not fucking hard and aching already!” Wesley scoffed.

“I am, but I think I can endure it for a little longer. Here’s the deal: if I can make you come with my tongue, you’ll let me top, how’s that?”

He sealed his sentence with a long sweep from Wesley’s navel to his hipbone. His teeth scraped lightly at skin and his tongue dug into the waistband of Wesley’s jeans, which, to Wesley’s frustration, were still tortuously on.

“Fuck…”

“So that’s a yes?” he said, hands tugging the belt, ready to get it off at Wesley’s nod. Instantly Wesley’s gun-calloused hands were on his, urging him to rip off the belt. Caz grinned, a wide grin that could give a galeophobic an attack. “That’s definitely a yes.”

He had a hunch this wasn’t going to be a difficult triumph.

“No, no, you’re not going to help me win, are you?” Caz asked, deftly catching Wesley’s wrists. “Good, keep your hands to yourself and leave the rest to me.”

Wesley gritted his teeth but retrieved his hands nonetheless. Despite his tumultuous mind, he at least retained enough rationality to deduce that his loss was inevitable. It was creepy to think that although Wesley could easily dominate him with his superior strength and agility, it was Caz who could play him like a fiddle (even more so when they were both naked and in bed). But even so, it wasn’t in his nature to allow Caz an effortless victory.

An unspoken battle every time, violent in its own way.

Caz was already set for the game as he unbuckled the belt and eased down both Wesley’s jeans and boxers with deliberately slowness, making damn sure his partner feel the liberation inch by inch. When he was finally freed, so relieved was he that Wesley couldn’t help a long sigh, entirely missing Caz’s devious smirk upon witness his hard member in full display, hard, leaking and oh-so-needy. Holding it in his hand, he kissed the head first, a chaste touch as if claiming a virgin’s lips for the first time, before taking it into his mouth without further warning.

Wesley’s respiration halted for a good ten seconds as he felt himself sunk in the hot cavern of Caz’s mouth, a sensation so strong and overwhelming that his system stopped functioning altogether. He had felt death the second time, he reckoned upon coming around, and yet he didn’t mind trying the third.

With the same burning languid pace when he’d done his jeans, Caz took Wesley inch by inch. He’d made it his goal that Wesley could feel his lips stretching around his girth, his mouth closing around his shaft, as though Wesley was actually penetrating him, until he had all of Wesley. Then he slid out; his tongue drew a straight line vertically up the length until it reached the slit at the tip, and dipped in, eliciting sharp intakes of breath from Wesley. He applied a small amount of teeth too, grazing lightly along the elegant glands barely visible under skin – pale while the rest of him sported a golden tan. He was careful enough to keep his unusually sharp teeth in check so that Wesley would only experience a faint tingle instead of actual pain, because pain, he was well aware, extinguished pleasure faster than any other factors, especially when the part concerned was down there.

Wesley’s uneven breaths turned loud broken pants, bouncing between the tight space of their room.

Caz was utilizing the same technique he had performed on Wesley’s nipples, with only a small alteration. He also went for slow this time, but instead of a man savoring a rare delicacy, he was one struck with famine, who was having a scarce meal that could well be his last. So he made sure that every bite was worth a life time.

Wesley was not grateful with Caz’s ‘special treatment’. Due to his assassin lifestyle, he was accustomed to things going fast, not slow. He appreciated it even less when his entire body was akin to a volcano which could erupt anytime. He deliberately bucked his hip into Caz’s mouth and felt a jolt of electricity running along his spine as he hit the back of Caz’s throat. The latter managed not to gag, further proving how adept he was in this field compared to Wesley. He told himself he wasn’t jealous with Caz’s ex-mates, which was a lie because, well, he was. It was every bit unfair that Wesley had been stuck in his awful, frustrating sex life while they had been able to… benefit from such first-class skills.

He made a mental note NOT to share Caz with anyone. Ever!

Raking his blunt, blood-caked fingernails on Caz’s scalp, Wesley gritted his teeth, “Fuck it, Colin, faster!” He heard a low throaty sound from his partner and was unsure whether such sound indicated an agreement or rejection – shouldn’t talk with his mouth full, apparently. Nevertheless, his tongue’s movement answered what his mouth couldn’t.

His eyes went blind with the peak of orgasm and he spilled into Caz’s mouth, unashamed of his lack of courtesy to at least issue a warning; he knew from experience that Caz wouldn’t let him go without taking everything he could give.

He swallowed until he practically drain Wesley’s cock, his Adam’s apple’s movement indicating he didn’t let anything go waste, before he allowed it to slip from his lips. A stray pearly drop lingered at the corner of his mouth, which was swept clean with the pad of his thumb. He brought his finger to his lips, and licked it like he still wanted more despite what he had already received. Wesley would get hard again just by gazing at that scene, provided that he wasn’t too spent and wrapped in the delicious exhaustion of post-orgasm.

He locked his arms around Caz’s neck and brought his head down. He tasted himself on the latter’s tongue, a not-so-pleasant mixture of saltiness and bitterness both thick and faint in their mingled saliva. It was gross and it was weird and it was the perfect taste of lovemaking.

Since when casual fucking had evolved to lovemaking, neither of them raised a question.

“Cheater,” Wesley wheezed. His cheeks was flushed and his eyes, though heavy-lidded, possessed the brilliance rivaled one when he was in full clothes and keen on killing instead of naked, filthy and thoroughly debauched.

“How so?” Caz asked, still hovering above him.

“You said tongue, but used mouth, lips and teeth. That’s cheating.”

Caz chuckled. “Do tell me how to separate them then.”

“There’re ways…”

“Don’t want to know or try,” laughed Caz as he bent down to nibble at the tip of Wesley’s nose. Wesley shoved him aside so that he could turn his back to Caz. Gripping the bed post, he arched his back – a silent offer if Caz had half his wit to catch the hint. He waited and waited, but still the onslaught he’d expected, judging from how hard and aching Caz was, did not arrive.

“The fuck, Colin,” Wesley growled, half-impatient, half-irritated. He hated waiting and this was like trying to stay calm in spite of the burning in his throat so that he wouldn’t kick the hell out of the vending machine because it refused to spit out his drink after inserting the coin. “You fucking want to get blue balls?”

“What happened to your back?” came a surprised answer.

It took Wesley a few good seconds to understand Caz’s reference. “A scratch, no prob.”

Waiting for a few more seconds and still nothing happened, Wesley almost shouted, “Fucking start, Colin, or I swear I’ll rape you.”

“A grievous lack of patience but amusing nonetheless.” Though he didn’t see Caz, Wesley could tell the other man had to be putting on his usual smirk. He would punch him again if not for a wet, tinkling sensation applied to the wound on his back which made his whole body shudder and goosebumps raise under his skin. It started at the top of his right shoulder, crawling languidly down and halted at his shoulder blade, where the cut was nastiest. Moist breath blew over the damaged flesh, accompanied by feather-light caresses – no trace of the roughness and teases was found as Caz painted only the gentlest strokes on Wesley’s skin with his tongue.

It stung, naturally, but apart from the small discomfort. There was a spark of pleasure, rekindling the fire that had partly subsided with his first climax. Heat built up fast and he felt as if he could orgasm the second time with only Caz’s tongue touching him. Caz, he hated to admit, really had one hell of a tongue.

“The fuck you’re doing?”

“First-aid,” Caz replied with nonchalance. “You see how those little pussies lick themselves to treat their scratches.”

“Much time watching them?”

“Yup,” he agreed, “more fascinating than the other kind of ‘pussies’, I suppose.”

Wesley couldn’t help a laugh. Without warning, he twisted his body and grabbed Caz by his shoulder, pinning him down. The battered mattress sunk with their weights as Wesley straddled him.

Their position was an exact replication of one twenty hours ago.

Caz stared at Wesley and tried little to hide his confusion. Wesley tsked, finding this ‘deer-caught-in-headlight’ expression of Caz more annoying than his usual smirk. At the same time he was utterly amused; how someone could be sex-savvy in one minute and totally muddle-headed in the next was beyond his comprehension.

Caz let out a gasp when slick fingers closed around his hard member, sliding up and down with smooth ease. The touch was cool – thanks the lubricant for extra-effect – and coolness fueled the fire within.

“A hand, Colin,” Wesley commanded, tossing him the tube of lubricant. He shifted and sat on his heels to lend Caz an easier access to his entrance.

Caz wasted no time in coating his hand with gracious amount of lube before jabbing one long, lean finger into Wesley. There was difficulty at first – as expected because Wesley hadn’t had it for while, not since the last time he’d allowed Caz to probe into his most vulnerable part. Wesley inhaled a puff of dry air at the invasion of extracorporeal body, squeezing his eyes shut.

One hand massaging the small of Wesley’s back, Caz brought the other to Wesley’s chest, littering bold touches over sweat-slick skin as he tried his best to distract the latter from the unavoidable pain. “Relax,” he cooed, no hint of teases, only warm concern carefully wrapped in Cockney-accented voice. “Though your tightness says how much you miss me, I don’t really fancy the crease of pain between your eyebrows…”

A moment of hesitation before he continued, “we can switch if you…”

“Shut up and fucking prepare me!” Wesley cut him short.

“Yessir,” Caz blurted out, more sincere than amused, and started putting good use to his long finger, stretching the tight muscle with moves he’d acquired from years of practical experience. It wasn’t long before he could add in the second, and the third.

The good thing was, Caz mused with delight, that Wesley loosened up easily, which was a blessing for him. Despite keeping a straight face while preparing Wesley with diligence and adequacy, Caz didn’t hold much confidence in how much longer he could last.

The threat of getting blue balls wasn’t intangible.

And Wesley, ever so sympathetic, lifted himself up as soon as Caz’s fingers left him. Taking Caz in his hand, he gingerly guided him to his entrance and let him in, inch by inch of his impressive shaft swallowed until Wesley could resume his straddling position.

Both moaned lengthily in unison.

Without another word, Wesley took Caz’s hands, placed them on his hip and began to move, prompting Caz to follow suit, their movement in perfect tandem.

The air confined in the small, spartan-furnished room was thick with broken pants and spiced with heavy sweats.

Wesley felt like he was being cooked in his own skin – the tension kept building up within the volcano and its eruption was only a tantalizing step away. He placed his hands on Caz’s hip, not realizing he was gripping onto the exact same place he had left two tell-tale bruises, to coax him into speeding his thrusts as he urged his own hip to move in the same rhythm. Caz wordlessly obliged him.

Their shared climax came like an angry tidal wave washing over them, trying to drown them to the bottom of their ecstasy. They held onto each other through it, tightly, painfully and never minding they would hurt each other with their mutual brutal force.

They went through pain as they went through pleasure, together, now, always.

Such was the thought swimming around Wesley’s head when he collapsed on top of Caz.

For fuck’s sake (now that quite was), Wesley was stinking.

A hideously obnoxious mixture of sweats, dirt, cordite, blood and liberal amount of come, from both inside and out, was clinging to his body like the second layer of skin. Yet somehow he found it much more bearable than before. The fact that Caz, lying beside him and emitting a similar smell, though less with blood and cordite and more with come, could help explain.

“How are you feeling?” Caz asked in soft voice, almost like a breeze. His fingers gently brushed away a few damp locks on Wesley’s forehead.

“Sore,” Wesley said.

Came a chuckle. “Walking funny tomorrow?”

Wesley gave him a glare and sat up, wincing as the movement did naughtily to his sore muscles under. He found his jeans lying not so far from the bed – fortunately – and dragged it to him with his sole. He fumbled through his pocket and found a crumpled packet of cigarette. He tossed it Caz, who deftly caught it.

Grinning, Caz took one and reached for the lighter on the nightstand. “My favorite,” he sighed happily – a child who just got a lollipop – now with a cigarette tucked between his lips instead of the sweat treat.

He returned the packet to Wesley, and didn’t seem too surprised when the latter also took one. Caz was quick to light it for him.

A new kind of smell was introduced to the mixture as both exhaled a puff of smoke, almost simultaneously.

Wesley glanced at Caz, who was closing his eyes to enjoy the taste of nicotine pervading his sense, and a thought crossed his mind.

“You know…” Caz turned to look at him, “you probably should have done it more slowly, more gently…”

“What do you mean?”

“… so that you wouldn’t get too sore. And walking funny.”

“Speaking from experience huh?” Wesley asked, sardonically.

“For your own good,” Caz replied, giving Wesley a dirty look. Hollowing his cheeks, he blew out a small, perfect ring of smoke, which dispersed as soon as Wesley tried to poke its center with his forefinger.

“Colin?”

“Huh?”

“For a moment I thought I would come back to an empty room,” Wesley said, propping himself up on his elbow to look into Caz’s cerulean eyes.

“Why?” Caz’s surprise was genuine.

“There’s no fucking reason you can’t go if you fucking want to.”

The words were almost spitted out in bitterness. Caz’s eyebrows arched up, but he soon resumed his casual half-smile, half-smirk.

“And there’s only one reason I’ll go nowhere.”

“What is it?”

“I love you,” replied Caz with blatantly straight face that left every space to doubt his sincerity.

Wesley looked stunned for a brief moment before bursting into laughter. “You love the smell of kill on me,” he said between laughs, “fucking turns you on like no other. Now that I remember you said the same thing at the bar.”

Caz gave him an amorous look when he brought his face close to Wesley. Placing a chaste kiss on the freckles dotting the tip of Wesley’s nose, he whispered into his ears, “My sole mate.”

“That’s still more preferable than…” Wesley lied back, pillowing his head with one arm as his gaze shifted to the moldy ceiling, the dusty tube, nowhere but Caz’s face as he spoke in low voice, “… than to find your naked, dead ass on the bed.”

Caz laughed aloud.

“I sometimes imagine my death, you know,” he said through laughter, “and it always involves nudity.”

“Exhibitionism much?”

“How about this, nothing but a fur coat to cover my naked self?” he asked, reaching up to stub his half-burnt cigarette on the spoiled leftover of his breakfast on the nightstand. “Nan’s got a very fine one. I imagine before we leave here, we can stop by and grab it…”

“For what?” Wesley scoffed.

“… so that I can parade around in nothing but it…” Caz looked at him, eyes twinkling with mischief. “… and give you a constant Marquis de Sade.”

“The hell does that mean?”

“American equivalence is boner.”

Wesley elbowed him.

Still laughing, Caz rolled on top of Wesley, graceful limbs tangling around the smaller body like a giant octopus. He muffed his laughter into the juncture of Wesley’s neck and shoulder.

“I wasn’t always like this, you know…” Wesley spoke, after Caz’s frenzy fit of laughter had quieted down.

“Don’t tell me you had plastic surgery?!” Caz shot up, a look of shock and disbelief painted on his face.

The corner of Wesley’s mouth twitched and he gave the other man a kick, sending him off the bed in an undignified heap.

“I was an accountant!”

“The type of boring desk job, complete with a silly cap?” Crawling up, Caz asked incredulously.

“Not a cap, a green eyeshade,” Wesley corrected. “And minus that, plus an asshole boss, sack-of-shit best friend and cheating girlfriend who cheats with said best friend.” he punctuated with a huff; the mention of Barry and Cathy always left a bad taste in his mouth. Finding his cigarette no longer tasteful, he passed it to Caz, who snubbed it on his breakfast leftover.

“Quite a dramatic change of career, wasn’t it?”

Wesley nodded curtly. “An organization of assassins took me in, trained me to be one of them simply because they wanted my old man dead and mine was the only head he wouldn’t drill a bullet in.”

Caz’s lips were forming a silent “Wow!”

“… And I ended up successfully killing my old man and the entire organization – at least they trained me well. Now I’m on my own.”

Caz rolled over to Wesley’s side. Bracing himself with his elbow, he looked Wesley in the eyes.

“Why suddenly tell me all of these? Not that I don’t appreciate it but…”

“Because I want to put you in an intense training as soon as we’re on American land,” Wesley explained.

“Training to be…”

“… like me. You don’t expect me to work my ass off to feed you, do you?”

“I thought you needed a housewife.” Caz faked a pout, but couldn’t keep it for long. “Of course not. I intended to get back to my old trade.”

“And find another ass to kiss?” Wesley grunted, heat palpable in his tone. Caz just grinned.

“The only ass I’ll be kissing from now on is yours. Satisfied?”

And to prove his point, he grabbed Wesley’s bottom, placing butterfly kisses on the skin. Wesley shivered with a jolt of electricity running along his spine.

“But a shift in career doesn’t sound half-bad. Moreover, you trust me enough to cover your back…”

His fingers gentry traced the cut on Wesley’s back, brows creasing as he mumbled, almost to himself, “Nasty, isn’t it?”

“I’ve worse,” Wesley scoffed, turning his head to hide the tips of his ears which had turned pink. “This is the least you’ll get from training.”

“Oh, trembling already,” Caz replied flatly, and placed his hand on Wesley’s firm abdomen, drawing little circles with his idle fingertips. Wesley brushed his hand away and sat up; the lukewarm feeling seeping from his entrance caused him to grimace. He didn’t doubt it was not a sight to behold down there: used, swollen and leaking with come.

He was only two steps from the bed when arms intertwined around his waist and a lithe body pressed against his back.

“At least let me have the courtesy to prepare a bath for you.”

Caz’s breath tickled Wesley’s ear as he nibbled at his earlobe, suggesting that he implied more than just a bath.

Wesley elbowed him, hard, earning a soft whimper from behind. Other than that, he made no further protest while walking them both to the bathroom.

End

Note:

*Direct sequel to my previous fic Beyond Flesh & Skin.

*Caz actually wears his Nan’s fur coat in the series. For those of you who wonder how it looks, check out this gif:

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*That blood and violence turn Caz on is canonical (Murphy’s Law ep.5).

*Last but not least, it’s a late birthday gift for a friend of mine, who ships Cazley as much as I do. Thank you for reading and commenting on my stories ^^.

[Cherik] The Wishing Tree

  • All the Cherik Love Around

About the universe: Basically, it’s an idea for a multi-chapter Cherik AU crossover which is unlikely to be translated into proper fanfiction since the author has neither the time nor the effort to do so. So anyone who’s interested in the idea and wants to write a fanfic based on this universe and characters, please feel free to take it. All you need to do is giving me a word and a little credit once the fic comes out. I’d appreciate it from the bottom of my heart.

Full setting and character introduction: here

  • The Wishing Tree

About the story: a little story taking place in the ‘All the Cherik Love Around’ universe, it revolves around The Wishing Tree at Shaw’s Highs, which centers on the three main couples: Erik x Charles; Stelios x Leto; David 8 x David 9.

Disclaimer : Characters belong to their respectful owners

Fandom(s) : multiple fandoms – X-Men: First Class (2011), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), Children of the Dune (2003), 300 (2006), Prometheus (2012), Inglorious Basterds (2009), Hex etc.

Rating : K+

Pairing(s) : Cherik- Erik Lehnsherr x Charles Xavier, Stelios x Leto Atredeis II, David 8 x David 9 (Nine). And other minor pairings

Genres : Fanfiction, slash, humor, angst (mostly teen-angst), fluff, high school

———-***———-

Setting: Shaw’s Highs – a school for the privileged and not-so-privileged students from all over the globe who have successfully passed the ‘privileged’ series of exams orchestrated by the Principal himself. The series of exams change annually and nobody on Earth could have the slightest idea of what the eccentric, wicked Principal and his equally eccentric and wicked staff have up their sleeves.

———-***———-

Prologue – The Wishing Tree      

They said no high school was a true high school (what qualified a ‘true high school’ anyway?) without at least a legend to call its own.

With all due respects, Shaw’s Highs had more legends than necessary to be a normal high school: from the peculiar and wicked entrance exam that changed annually to the (Lord) Principal’s legendary parsimoniousness; from David’s alien IQ to Leto’s alien tendency of getting lost; from Erik’s trouble record to Azazel’s former career or Janos’s choice of attire… the list went on.

But there was one legend that beat all others in terms of mystique: the legend of the Wishing Tree.

Again, no high school was a true high school without at least one object attached with ‘wishing’: Wishing Stairs, Wishing Rock… Almost anything students could think of (and pray to) in desperate time of competitions and exams could become a mystical object with a decent legend to suit its name.

Who could deny high school wasn’t a fertile soil to breed creative writers?

Shaw’s Highs’ Wishing Tree was a tall tree of unknown species standing proudly in the middle of the grand school yard. Its leaves were its remarkable feature: They were emerald-green in spring, turned fiery-red in summer, became sky-blue in autumn before they were dyed bone-white in winter. It was because of these unusual colors that the Wishing Tree easily intrigued many students on their first day at school, thus promoted the legend.

No one knew who had grown it or how long it had been standing on this spot; there were students and even teachers who believed the tree to be older than the Principal himself. And just for your information, Mister Shaw was ancient; he just didn’t look his age, though – vivid evidence that God was utterly unfair.

Putting aside its age, origin and species, what mattered here was the word defining it: “wishing.” This was what made this bizarre-yet-beautiful looking tree much more than ‘bark deep’: it was able to grant wishes. No, it wasn’t something straight out of a cheesy teenage fantasy slash romantic movie – such thing truly existed in this school full of abnormalities.

Rumor had it that if a student (or a teacher, security guard, janitor or even the Principal for that matter) strongly wished for something, be it Mister Shaw not being such a miser, Miss Frost not so interested in mind-fucking her students and actually helping them, or Mister Essex not being so extravagant, all they needed was stand under the canopy and voice their wish – one at a time – to the tree (or whatever creature or force lurking inside it), and maybe, just maybe their wish would come true. Almost all students – save a few who thought they were too cool for such childish stuff *cough* Erik Magnus Lehnsherr *cough* – had tried at least once. Some wishes had failed, of course, but some had come true, thus cemented the legends surrounding the tree. As for those who had failed, they only shrugged and accepted that their wishes had not been ‘strong enough’.

But, how strong was ‘strong enough’ exactly?

David & Nine

Nine believed in the legend of the Wishing Tree, perhaps more than anyone.

The first time he had seen it, he was a ten-year-old boy tagging along his mother. It was summer then, because he remembered being mesmerized by the vivid red centered at the grand school yard – like a great wildfire that burned the still landscape to life. So captivated by the tree that Nine stood under its massive canopy, completely motionless until Elizabeth came to wake him out of his trance.

Please, let me one day be a student of this school, he made a wish.

Five years later, Nine was a freshman at Shaw’s Highs while all of his friends had tried and failed.

And then, he met David, also under this Wishing Tree.

At first, he was led to believe that David was making a wish to the tree, judging by his stiff posture and his serious (to the point of emotionless) expression. It was only later, much later that he came to a (shocking) realization that what had been running in David’s mind back then were his various mischief and pranks.

Despite his sophisticated look, David was really a child at heart, a very naughty one, Nine had to add.

Outside classroom, often he would disappear without a trace – as if David was always playing a giant game of hide-and-seek with the whole world, and rather enjoyed it. It had taken Nine a long time (with a big chunk of luck) to figure out where David went to: the abandoned laboratory in the basement of the complex behind the main buildings. Though completely rundown and serving no purpose other than sprouting urban legends, most of which involved a disfigured man with knives for fingers, a hockey-masked man butchering people with a huge knife, or a madman who was keen on playing his victims with several odd devices, the complex had mysteriously survived the fate of being demolished throughout the years. Somehow David had found the lab beneath the complex and  given it a total makeover – how he had done it totally baffled Nine. He called it his ‘lair’ (David’s word) and despite it sounded and looked too much super-villainy for his taste, the place had had Nine greatly amazed the first time he’d stepped down the rusty shaking stairs to its bottom.

And Nine, unfortunately, had also discovered the function of David’s lair besides being his hideout – this was where David had conducted all sorts of mischief and pranks on his one and only victim: his foster sister Meredith, which none other than Nine knew the truth (mainly because David had allowed him). Though he wasn’t approved of David’s doings, Nine had never sought to expose David’s secrets, not when David trusted him enough to share them with him.

That made them partners in crimes, right?

Normally Nine had no trouble finding David since the boy had limited places to go – class, where they both studied, Miss Frost’s office (since David was her ‘favorite client’ – her words) or his self-made lab. Although Nine could only grasp about half of whatever David was doing, he was content just staying there, working on his homework while having idle chats with the latter, who did most of the listening actually.

But today was strange. The first thing Nine had done upon entering the school property was dashing into the laboratory, half expecting to see David there, munching on his breakfast while working on some experience – he had enthusiastically told Nine about some project but as always, Nine only had the vaguest idea of what it was. David was having plenty of time lately, having done two courses ahead of everyone else in their class and while he could have an early holiday, the boy saw it as an invaluable chance to focus on his ‘project’.

And that was why Nine was flabbergasted to see an empty lab, David nowhere in sight.

The truth was, Nine had no idea where David could go. Not minding that he would have missed his first and probably second class (which he had), Nine had searched all the possibilities: the grand cafeteria, the lesser cafeteria (Mister Essex’s idea, don’t ask!), the front yard, the backyard, Miss Frost’s office (and earned a meaningful smile from the school counselor). He had even gone so far as to approach Meredith – a big chunk of courage, no doubt – and received nothing from her other than an icy, scornful glare that ambiguously implied she very much wanted to rip him apart for mentioning her foster brother in front of her face.

Nine was in a bit of despair when he stood under the Wishing Tree, hoping its magical powers would help him find David.

Please, give me a clue to where David is.

A leaf departed from its branch to land on top of his mop of chocolate hair. When Nine took the leaf in his hand, he was mildly fascinated by its color – sky blue – the first one of this year.

“Autumn has arrived early, hasn’t she?”

Nine recognized the familiar voice; it was Mister Frank, his enigmatic music teacher who always wore a large papier-mâché head that concealed his face. Frank was standing in the hallway just opposite from the tree, waving his hand and tilting his big head to Nine’s direction.

“Oh hello Mister Frank,” Nine greeted, beaming at the teacher. In spite of whatever distasteful rumors shrouding Frank, he was still Nine’s most favorite teacher in the entire teaching staff. Frank was eccentric, sure, but his eccentricity was warm-hearted and pleasant, entirely different from other teachers, Mister Essex, for example.

“On your way to the class, sir?” he asked.

“No, I don’t have any class today,” replied Frank, who ‘smiled’ back, or at least his mask expression seemed to speak. “Not having class today, huhm?”

“Actually,” Nine said, voice close to a murmur as he fidgeted with the leave in his palm, “I missed class.”

“Why?”

“I’m looking for David. I can’t find him anywhere this morning, even Miss Frost’s office. Did you, by any chance, spot him?”

“Oh, David’s been with me,” said Frank, his ‘face’ appearing to sport a big, bright smile.

“Really?” A wave of relief washed away the heavy knots in Nine’s stomach and his usual cheerfulness was back in his tone. But then, as though he remembered something, he winced slightly before asking, “…did he cause any trouble?”

“No, he didn’t.” Frank waved one hand in emphasis and pointed to the instrument in the other. “We’re practicing a new song. Care to join us?”

“I’d love to.”

And Nine followed Frank to his office at the end of the hallway, where he found a beaming David toying with the various musical instruments in the room.

It seemed his second personality was surfacing, Nine thought with an inward sigh.

“Hey David. So you’re here. Been desperately trying to find you.”

“Oops, sorry,” David apologized, his head hung a little lower.

“It’s OK. Playing truant once or twice can be fun. Mister Frank said you guys were practicing a new song?”

“I met Mister Frank early this morning and we’ve been discussing about… the most likable song ever!”

“The most likable song ever?” Nine echoed, his eyes wide with surprise.

“Positive,” Frank chimed in while skillfully maneuvering his way through a mess of musical instruments and music sheets on the floor. His office wasn’t small to be fair, second only to Miss Frost and Mister Essex’s offices and obviously much larger than Mister Shaw’s, but however much space was still unable to keep up with the expansion of the artistic soul.

“I’ve been stuck with this song and when I ran into David the day before, the inspiration suddenly overflowed. I thought it would be only fair to share it with him and fortunately, he is also interested in music.”

Was he? Nine arched an eyebrow in disbelief. He didn’t know that.

“Wanna hear it?” David looked at Nine and beamed, his eyes too bright and hopeful for Nine to dare utter a refusal. He still hadn’t fully recovered from the single time he’d experienced David’s singing; however, despite his reason and instinct both screaming “no”, his head nodded on its own account.

This was enough a cue for Frank and David to start. Here it began, Nine’s fifteen minutes of blissful submergence in ‘the most likable song ever.’

And that wasn’t the worst part because a few days later, when Nine came to David’s lair as usual, he was greeted by the sight of a large papier-mâché head disturbingly similar to Frank’s, the only difference being the hair platinum blond instead of dark.

“So… this is your… project?”

“Yup!” answered David in a gleeful tone – second personality still on surface – before he put the head on. “How’s that?”

“… Great…” Nine replied, not trying to hide his wince. He wondered if the Wishing Tree could extend its powers to weaken David’s odd fascination with the head until it faded.

… or strengthen his tolerance of it.

Erik & Charles

That scholarship, unwanted by any students in Shaw’s Highs, was desperately yearned for by Charles.

Really, who would want to acquire a scholarship that granted them the full use of the dorm and its facilities during the long holiday season? Most would want to go home and spend time with their family or travel or both; a year spent in the school’s absurdities frantically screamed for a break. Nevertheless, most weren’t Charles Xavier; most didn’t have a drunken mother, an abusive stepfather and a violent stepbrother; one was enough to make a person want to run away from home, let alone a horrible combination of three. Charles much preferred the maze of cream-colored walls littered with bizarre artworks (Mister Essex’s collection – Mister Shaw’s dismay) than the bleached-white columns and high windows confining a rigid, stagnant air of the Xavier mansion.

Getting a scholar nobody wanted shouldn’t be challenging, yet Mister Shaw and his evil staff just had to make it difficult, making it desirable. Despite all of its ridiculous criteria, so far Charles had managed to meet all requirements. All he needed was another ‘social contribution credit’ and the scholarship was his to take.

“So, I need to help Erik Lehnsherr improve his scores?”

“That’s right, sugar,” Miss Frost replied, shifting her posture so that it looked like she was serious, which she was not – there was absolutely nothing in this world, the Apocalypse included, that could get Emma Frost to at least try to be serious, her students (or ‘clients’ as she insisted) reached a general conclusion.

“You have the highest scores in your class and he had the lowest so it’s naturally our school’s tradition that the better students should provide aid to the difficult students. We’re counting on you to help dear Erik advance in his academic pursuit. Then the dorm and its facilities are yours to use.”

“I understand, Miss Frost. I’ll do my best to help Erik.”

When Charles left Miss Frost’s office, he was entirely confident that he could help Erik get better in his study. He had done a great deal of tutoring before, both fellow graders and juniors and sometimes even seniors; he didn’t see how it should be difficult with Erik. Although Charles had never really talked to Erik – nerds and delinquents (Charles’s classmates’ words, not his) just couldn’t mix – the German student didn’t appear dull to him, quite the opposite if he were to trust his own judgment; all the boy needed was a little aid and his talents would soar.

By the end of his first tutoring session, Charles’s confidence was entirely, utterly shattered. His judgment was right – Erik had no problems in studying whatsoever; he was smart and he could easily top his classmates if he wanted to. That was where the grievous issue lied: Erik absolutely didn’t want to study at all!

Now, it was Charles who had to depend on Erik if he really wanted to get the scholarship. And so far, Erik had been uncooperative at best.

If only Erik would do his homework though, thought Charles with a lengthy sigh as he was standing under the Wishing Tree. Charles didn’t believe in the legends at all, being both atheistic and rational, but then despair (in Charles’s case, the long holiday season drawing nearer) could do funny things to a person’s mind. Before his stressed out mind could come up with a sound solution, one based on reasons and logics and didn’t involve a wishing tree or anything of this sort, Charles Xavier found himself unwillingly making a wish under the canopy of the tree.

The foliage rustled and a leave landed perfectly on Charles’s open palm. Fascinated by the color – sky-blue to signal the coming of autumn – he pressed it in his notebook and headed to find Erik.

The lawn was where he found Erik, stretching his long, graceful limbs on his usual spot, eyes half-closed like a dozing cat. Skipping class as usual, Charles thought with an inward sigh as he approached him.

“Morning,” Charles greeted and Erik cracked open one eye, steel-blue and too bright for someone just waking up. “Charles,” Erik addressed him by his name – his habitual greeting whenever he saw Charles.

Charles allowed himself a tiny happiness every time Erik greeted him in that manner – at least he noticed Charles, acknowledged his presence while he just promptly ignored most other students and even teachers (Mister Essex and Miss Frost didn’t take it very nicely). “A little early for a nap, isn’t it?” he asked and sat down on the lawn beside Erik.

“Been late last night,” Erik grunted a reply and fumbled in his jeans pocket for a cigarette packet and a zippo. The smoke caused Charles to frown in disapproval, which Erik conveniently ignored.

Theoretically speaking, Shaw’s Highs had a strict regulation against smoking on campus, but so far, the principal was the only one adhered to it (out of concern for money rather than health). Considering Mister Essex’s beloved silver case of cigarette he was rarely seen without or Mister’s Howlett habit of lecturing while holding a Cuban cigar between his lips, it was both hypocritical and useless to forbid the consumption of nicotine among students.

“Morning ritual,” Charles told him as he settled his satchel on the grass. Erik’s respond was a light jerk of his head to his duffle bag, which Charles opened and searched for his notebook, despite knowing the result beforehand.

Erik’s eyes shot open when he was about to drift off, at the sound of Charles’s cry.

“Jesus, Erik, you’ve done your homework today!” Charles exclaimed. “It must be a miracle.”

“What?” was the only word reeling in Erik’s confused mind. He was certain as hell he hadn’t even touched the notebook, how the heck had he done it? He didn’t even know what it was about!

“Oh My God! You’ve done it all wrong, even the simplest, most basic exercise,” Charles cried.

Erik had to be some kind of a saint if he didn’t react now, and he wasn’t. He sat right up, his back straighter than a pole, his eyes keen and concealing rage as he grabbed the notebook from Charles.

The hell?

Erik felt a strong urge to facepalm himself. It was exactly like Charles said; every exercise was horrendously wrong, down to the simplest, easiest one. To add salt to the gaping wound of his pride and IQ, Charles was looking at him with his big, baby blue eyes full of sympathy and probably a little pity.

“It’s OK, Erik,” he said, putting his hand on Erik’s shoulder for consolation. “I’m sure if we try enough, you won’t have to repeat a year.”

Repeat a year? His mother wouldn’t like it… Wait a minute!

Was this some sort of not-so-funny prank? Erik was damn sure this homework (and every homework preceding it) was beneath his ability; he could do it half-asleep!

“I didn’t do it, Charles,” Erik deadpanned.

“Then who else?” Charles asked, turning the pages so Erik could have a look. “Your handwriting, right? Don’t be embarrassed for being a good student once in a while. Though I really hope you keep this attitude.”

While Charles was getting his hope for the scholarship up, Erik was sinking into deep frustration. No matter how much he wanted to deny it wasn’t, it was, indeed, his own hand writing, the stupid answers being another matter.

A thought flashed him. Had he been sleep-walking last night? Sleep-walking wasn’t something new to him – he had been told – but this time, instead of the usual sleep-walking, he had been sleep-doing his homework? Well, that explained his hand writing and the answers being retarded. It had to.

“Now, Erik, let’s work on fixing those answers. Mister Essex’s joy of you actually doing his homework wouldn’t last long once he saw what you did.”

Having no way to rebuke, Erik, for once, listened to Charles.

To his dismay, Erik’s horrible sleep-homework-doing continued. Now it wasn’t just math homework but other subjects as well: his essay on Shakespeare’s Macbeth was like a review of Scary Movie (and not a particularly good one); he (no, his sleep-homework-doing self!) had mistaken Canada for Australia and his report on World War II sounded very similar to Mel Brooks’ Springtime for Hitler (Charles had pointed out; Erik didn’t even watch that movie!). Until one day, Erik finally decided that he would take no more insults to his IQ and make sure he finished his homework, every single subject, before going to bed.

By the end of the term, Erik had made an incredible leap, from the bottom of his class straight to the top, making both his teachers and classmates drop their jaws in awe. As a reward for his outstanding effort, Charles earned his scholarship, which he shared with, unsurprisingly, none other than Erik.

Well, who said nerds and delinquents didn’t mix?

Anyone can guess who Mister Howlett is?

Stelios & Leto

Leto wasn’t particularly happy today.

Well, to be fair, every other day he wasn’t particularly happy either. Nor was he sad, stressed or angry; the Crown Prince of Arrakis had learned from a young age to always keep a mild attitude toward everything – to keep his head cool and his mind clear for any matters that may arise, his father had told him.

Everything changed once he’d entered Shaw’s High and befriended Stelios. From the moment the older boy had grabbed his hand and toured him around the campus, his cheekiness had bypassed Leto’s many barriers and found a way into his heart, and the young prince had started to think perhaps he could allow himself to keep a less mild attitude toward everything around him,… toward Stelios.

… especially Stelios.

That was the reason for Leto’s unhappy state today. Stelios had been skipping class for the last two days, which was certainly odd since he was always so eager to study – a stark contrast to the lazy football player stereotype. Moreover, he had been skipping practice for two days; considering his great love for football, it must have been a real torture for him.

It was, indeed, a torture: Stelios Atromitos, who claimed to be a descendant of the formidable Spartan warriors, who had gone through last year’s H5N1 outbreak unscathed, had been afflicted by the common cold. ‘Satan’s cold’ he’d labeled it, for it had been keeping him glued to his bed for four days (weekend included). And things were getting dreadful for him as the National High School League was only a day away and his condition so far had shown no sight of improvement.

Leto was truly worried. It took him some time to realize the tight feeling in his chest – unfamiliar, alien – was his worry that Stelios wouldn’t recover in time for the crucial game, that he would lose his life-time chance to get an entrance ticket to his intended university. Leto had never had worry for anyone before; when he did, it hit him hard enough to spring him into immediate action. He dashed to his flat and made his first willing phone call to his royal butler back in Arrakis, who had the only phone in the entire kingdom. He gave what was his first princely order, that the royal butler would send him the Sreen herb, the holy antidote to the common cold, as soon as possible, and by any means possible.

The package arrived in his flat exactly three and a half hours later.

Sreen was extra-rare this time of the year and the old butler, probably too touched by the young prince’s order, had packed the whole kingdom’s supply (which was only about a small bowlful by the way) and had it sent to Leto. Now if anyone in Arrakis were to catch a cold, well, they just had to endure until it was gone. Though Leto did feel a tiny bit of guilt for taking the kingdom’s supply, he didn’t hesitate to put all the Sreen herb he got into one steaming bowl of chicken soup ready to be delivered to Stelios’s dorm room. (Don’t underestimate Leto; our prince was actually a super-terrific cook, according to Stelios and the Sparta team.)

… and that was the only explanation to his horrible mood at the moment. “Damn cat!” thought the young prince – his very first touch of vulgar words. Some stray black cat had miraculously broken into his kitchen, breaking his elaborate security system (the Crown Prince’s place, what do you expect?) to commit the most atrocious act possible: it had caused Leto’s painstakingly prepared soup to spill all over the counter. Besides having to clean up the mess, all his effort was washed down the sink (quite literally).

Now he was here, under the Wishing Tree, doing the most unbelievable thing he’d thought he would ever do (apart from cooking healing broth for a certain someone): he was making a wish that Stelios’s ailment would go away before tomorrow so that he would be able to participate in the game.

Charles and Nine had told him if a leaf landed on his open palm then his wish would likely be granted. Thus Leto opened his palm and waited while thinking his wish. He half expected nothing would fall, still being rather skeptical about the whole wishing-tree-thing. What he didn’t expect was a bunch of leaves falling over his head, causing the prince to look quite ridiculous provided that someone passed by and witnessed. Leto was definitely NOT amused!

Stelios’s room was dim, with little street light passing through the worn blinds. His lanky roommate wasn’t in, likely to be studying (and sleeping) in the library for all Leto knew. As he entered, Leto tried to quiet his footsteps as best as he could so that he wouldn’t disturb his best friend’s rest. Stelios opened his eyes when Leto’s presence drew near him nonetheless.

“Leto…” he greeted, voice too hoarse and thick to be audible. He reached out for the bed lamp, switching it on.

Leto was quick to push him down the bed when he attempted to sit up.

“Don’t! Just rest, Ste, sorry I disturbed you.”

“Not really…” Stelios replied and cleared his throat. Surprisingly, his voice was much clearer when he continued, “I was about to get up anyway.”

“How are you feeling? Any fever? Chill?”

Leto pressed his palm against Stelios’s forehead; he was half-surprised, half-blessed to feel a normal temperature on his skin.

Stelios obviously enjoyed this gesture of Leto as he grinned cheekily and held his friend’s wrist. “I’m feeling good… refreshed, maybe even a little energetic. I went to sleep feeling like I had been on fire but now I feel really healthy. Like someone had taken the cold while I was sleeping.”

Leto was beaming at him. “That’s terrific news, Ste. Meaning you can play in the game tomorrow.”

“That I can, absolutely… unless the cold returns and catches me in my sleep.”

“Don’t jinx us by saying that!” Leto chided him, not harshly.

“Then please stay and keep it from catching me, Your Highness!” Stelios plead, pressing Leto’s hand to his cheek.

Stelios had been teasing him since he learned of Leto’s royal status. Well, if he wanted to play…

“Touching a royal member is a serious crime in Arrakis,” Leto warned him, trying to sound serious. “You could lose a hand for that.”

“Then I desperately need to find a way to lessen my punishment. Let’s say, pleasing the prince…”

His voice trailed off and he leaned in for a kiss (that may or may not lead to… other things). Leto ducked him.

“Now that’s a harsh punishment!” Stelios groaned.

Leto smiled, quite content with himself, and unwrapped the lunch box he had with him. “That can wait until you truly recover,” he said.

Soon as he opened the box, a warm, sweet aroma filled the tiny space between them. “You’re just afraid you’ll catch the cold right?” Stelios pouted, but his eyes instantly lit up at the sight of food. Extremely good food. Prepared by the prince’s own hand. He had already forgotten his mild frustration for not getting his kiss after days when he had a spoonful of Leto’s soup.

“I intended to cook you a cold-warding broth with the special herb from my kingdom,” Leto said, watching with delight as his friend digesting the soup with eagerness; appetite was a good sign of recovery. “A bloody black cat invaded the kitchen and ruined it all. Talk about bad luck.”

“How could it break into your flat?” Stelios asked, stupefied. Even a ninja couldn’t pass all the tiny hidden traps Leto had set.

“Heaven knows,” Leto scoffed, “if I ever see it again I’ll catch it and…”

“And?” Stelios echoed. He was intrigued by how Leto would treat his invader – Leto, the prince who had never spoken loudly, let alone gotten angry.

“… and give it to Ghanima.”

“… OK… that’s cruel. Totally cruel.”

It sure was.

“Anyway, you’ll come and watch right?”

“Of course,” Leto answered, “I even got the permission from Mister Shaw. To cheer the team, he said.”

A mischievous grin crept its way to Stelios’s lips.

“But don’t expect me to hold a pompom and sing!”

Having finished his soup in minutes, Stelios carefully wrapped the lunch box as it had been before bursting into laughter. The thought had not occurred to him, not until Leto said it out loud. He was grinning just because he knew it would unsettle Leto. On the other hand, Leto would look very fine dancing and cheering, with or without a pompom.

“That’s a true pity… for our team.”

He sighed and licked his lips, bringing his face closer to Leto’s. “But one good-luck kiss is not asking too much, right?”

And Leto, being a hidden tease Stelios had just noticed, put a hand on his lips and whispered, “Save it for the victory.”

Stelios grunted – no real heat – and dragged Leto down to lie next to him on his bed. The prince easily obliged, nestling his head in the juncture between Stelios’s neck and shoulder. From this close distance, he could peek into Stelios’s pajama; the taut muscle of his chest colored up his cheeks, which Leto would be grateful that the faint light wasn’t able to reveal.

“Please ward the cold off should it return, my prince.” Stelios managed to steal a quick peck on his cheek before switching the bed lamp off.

“… or receive it for you,” Leto quipped.

“… or that. Either is fine.” Stelios replied, his smugness palpable despite the darkness that blanketed the room.

“Nothing else?”

“Nothing else. Totally innocent, promise, on the honor of the Atromitos.”

Leto’s soft laughter echoed between them.

They managed to stay true to Stelios’s promise, despite a few accidental gropes during the night. Other than those, things remained innocent enough.

As it turned out the next day, Leto’s good-luck kiss did much wonder as the Wishing Tree.

Epilogue

Azazeal

Sitting up from his high branch, Azazeal stretched his long limbs and started his day with a yawn. It was still a little early in the morning and the weather was so nice that he hoped he could have a lazy day, just dozing off on his favorite spot on the tree. His existence in this world was nothing more than a persistent specter – nothing to do, no purpose to live – he could have all the time in this world to spend dozing on the branch until Apocalypse if he wanted. But then, he was in Shaw’s Highs and in Shaw’s Highs, there was no such thing as a lazy day.

“Oh,” Azazeal arched a fine eyebrow and looked down from his spot. Wasn’t that the boy from…? Pardon his Dory’s brain for not being able to remember the boy’s class. At least he could put a name to him. What was it again? Nine, right! Azazeal had a soft spot for honest, hard-working, good-mannered boys, especially those who shared his star-crossed lover’s face.

“Looking for David huh?” Azazeal murmured to himself as he extended his mind like a humongous cobweb covering the whole school. Various thoughts swam in and he winced, putting more concentration on shutting them down so that he could seek for David’s. It took him some time (which was only three or four seconds at most) before he could touch David’s mind, buzzing with excitement as he was in a vigorous discussion with Frank, something about ‘the most likable song ever’. He focused his energy and sent a mental note to Frank, who answered with a pleasant tone. Excellent, he thought, no need to go the long way to form an idea and have it planted on David’s mind.

A blue leaf left the branch and landed on top of Nine’s head. “Granted,” Azazeal whispered and was ready to doze off.

He could count on Frank – he always did – since the day his wandering mind caught an unexpected reply from Frank. For some reason beyond his comprehension, Frank could see him, could communicate with him, verbally and mentally, though the enigmatic musician preferred the latter.

That someone could hear him, knew of him was a silent wish he only dared to recite in dream, if he could truly dream at all. He would have thanked His Father, provided that He cared to listen to his forsaken son.

Azazeal heard the second wish minutes after Nine had left with Frank; it was Charles’s this time. His curiosity was instantly piqued. Charles was a child of science and logical thinking; the Wishing Tree or anything of this sort was far left out from his perimeter. Azazeal could almost imagine his reaction if someone told Charles there was an Alterum sitting on the branch directly above him. He still loved the boy though. His lover used to have the same light in his bright blue eyes as Charles did – the delightful thirst for learning when Azazeal shared a bit of Heavenly knowledge with him as they were planting the tree – Azazeal’s shelter in Shaw’s Highs a millennia later.

Erik again, Azazeal’s surprise was short-lived. If there was a person who could make Charles stand under the Wishing Tree, he was sure it could only be the German boy. Unfortunately, Erik seemed to copy Azazeal’s stubbornness down to the core, and had it magnified by a dozen.

An idea flashed. It was worth a try, he thought.

He pinched a leaf from the tree and aimed it at Charles’s open palm.

As Charles left, happier than when he’d come, a notebook materialized in Azazeal’s hand.

Apparently, arithmetic was the hardest kind of spell he had ever come across.

Ghanima

“Hey, kitty, kitty!”

After making sure she was alone, Ghanima looked up the Wishing Tree and began calling.

“Hey, kitty, kitty!” she repeated, adding more boldness to her volume.

“Very funny, princess,” a hoarse voice answered Ghanima, from the foliage above her.

Her gaze found a figure clad in black lying, no, draping his long limbs on the branch in a rather undignified manner. Judging by his position, it seemed as if a gust of wind could have swept him off the tree.

A look of concern crossed Ghanima’s pretty face as she studied his countenance. “What’s wrong, Az? You look like dead.”

“Half-dead…” he corrected her. “… I was…”

A sudden outburst of sneezing assaulted him and Ghanima witnessed, half-amused, half-terrified, Azazeal’s series of sneezes cause a flurry of leaves to fall down, together with the Alterum himself.

“Oh dear, are you alright Az?”

She hurried to his side and helped him up with ease; Azazeal, despite his look, was as light as a baby. “Any bones broken?”

“I have no corporeal body, Ghanima,” he reminded her, voice hoarse yet warm. It was wrong to say he wasn’t touched by her concern.

Ghanima was another reason he wanted to express his gratefulness to His Father. Although she occasionally acted princess-ly and colored his days at Shaw’s Highs with so many interesting shades, not to mention her accent always made his name, shortened by her choice, sound a lot like ‘ass’, she was his closest friend.

“Yet this no-corporeal-body person is suffering a frenzy of sneezes,” she said, a touch of sarcasm to hide her relief.

Transferentem.”

“What does it mean?”

“Transferring,” he explained. “I’m having it in place of another person.”

“Let me guess, Stelios, right?” Ghanima smiled, tugging a wavy lock behind her ear. “He’d been bed-ridden for days and suddenly he was all good again. Like someone’d taken away his cold.”

“Leto told you everything right?”

“Yup, we’re close like that.” Playing idly with the end of her hair, she continued, “He also told me a mysterious black cat had broken into his kitchen and ruined his painstakingly prepared remedy soup.”

“It smelled and tasted like poison,” Azazeal scoffed, “the worst kind. If Stelios had eaten it, he would have been hospitalized.”

“You know nothing, Az.” Ghanima clucked her tongue and shook her head ruefully. “Sreen’s supposed to taste like that – bitter swirls the cold away. Works everytime. It’s sort of an elixir in Arrakis.”

Azazeal blinked at her with his red-rimmed, bleary eyes, the corner of his mouth twitching. He said, after a while, “I guess that was all the elixir you and Leto have?”

“Unfortunately yes. Sreen isn’t in season this time of the year.”

“Guess I have to grit my teeth through it then,” Azazeal said with weak laughter. “Lucifer’s cold…”

He was halted abruptly by another heavy fit of sneezing, which caused leaves to fall on them like rain.

…well, on Ghanima actually. Being without corporeal body had its advantage.

“Oh dear.” Ghanima winced as she tried to untangle the leaves from her hair. Her eyes caught sight of an open notebook discarded on the small heap of leaves.

“I still can make you chicken soup though, if you can eat,” she said, looking at the words on the open paper, “… what were you doing with World War II?”

“Transferring,” he replied curtly.

Adolf Hitler was a paper hanger, no one more obscurer,” Ghanima grabbed the notebook and began reading aloud. “He got a phone call from the Reichstag which told him he was Fuhrer...”  Her elegant eyebrow knitted as she continued, “Germany was blue… What was this Az? Sounds a lot like Mel Brooks’ Springtime for Hitler. Great movie by the way. Just not something I expect to find on – what – a history report?! You sure you don’t need help with this?”

“About the movie, I agree. About the report… it’s transferring… it isn’t supposed to be historically correct…” he replied before being reduced to a quivering mess of sneezes.

Patting his back in comfort, Ghanima let the matter about World War II and Hitler being a paper hanger slip. As the state he was in now, Ghanima wasn’t surprised about how little sense he made.

End