leandraholmes: (Charles Eric Kiss)
[personal profile] leandraholmes
Title: A Christmas Carol (1/4)
Fandom/Pairing: X-Men: First Class, Charles/Erik
Genre: Drama/Romance
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 4,864
Summary: Around Christmas 1962, Erik gets a nightly visit by a strange woman with extraordinary abilities who claims to be the Ghost of Christmas – Past, Present and Future. Despite his objections – after all, such things only exist in stories – she takes him on a journey to re-discover himself.
A/N: I will be posting one chapter every day, ending on Christmas Eve.
Many thanks to my two beta readers yourareunearthlything and sonicshotguns, and also merci beaucoup to gabrielmanga who helped me with some French lines in the first chapter (translations at the bottom).

Budapest, December 21st 1962

Golden lights illuminated the streets and houses, a warm glow against the darkness of the evening sky. Yet, there were stars visible on the midnight blue canopy if one were to look past the lanterns and fairy lights. A crystal clear, starry night that promised crispy cold to chase away the humid warmth so unusual for this time of year. Maybe it would even snow, come tomorrow. The prospect certainly delighted the children most of all. Their laughter and cheerful calls would fill the snowy streets, sleighs and snowball fights, while the adults busied themselves with the last required errands, three days before Christmas Eve.

He should have gone somewhere else, somewhere more secluded and less… happy, Erik thought as he pulled the curtains of his hotel room shut. The lights were gone, but the noises coming from the streets that night could not be drowned out. Song and chatter and the faint sound of an accordion swept in through the leaky windows, and a minute later something shattered and laughter filled the air. Hungarians certainly knew how to celebrate – a little too well.

Erik slumped down onto the bed, leaning against the headboard. He was too indifferent to bother switching on the lights, though the darkness and quiet inside the room allowed his thoughts to wander. He would not have needed to be alone – not on Christmas per se since he did not care for the holiday, probably wouldn't have even if he weren't Jewish – but in general.

He had kidded himself. He had been under the illusion that he could start something new with Shaw's mutants, with Raven and Emma Frost. An entourage of people valuing and following his views and approaches, at least. A family at best. But that had been foolish to hope for. Foolish to even consider in the first place when he had left them behind that day on the Cuban beach.

Like a stubborn child: one that couldn't bear criticism or difference in opinion and simply ran away, a voice somewhere in the back of his mind wanted to tell him. He pushed the thought away. There was no use to dwell on these thoughts, and much less in pondering on who was to blame. What was done was done, and there was no turning back. At least not to them, to him; and the others simply were not replacement enough. He was better off alone.

He must have fallen asleep sometime after that, because when his mind slowly drifted back to consciousness the first thing he was aware of was the lack of any covers above him, his body still fully clad in his day clothes but chilly nonetheless. The second thing he noticed was a rhythmical, soft tapping sound. Maybe something rapping against the window, he thought while his body was still too lazy to move to get out of his clothes and under the covers as he probably should. But then, when he noticed that the noise seemed too close to be coming from the window, another one joined it: the clear and distinguishable sound of someone clearing their throat.

Erik sat bolt upright. The metal switch of the bedside lamp obeyed his mental command as the knife which he kept in the half-open top drawer at all times came hurtling into his hand simultaneously.

"Pah-pah-pah, now put that away, will you?" Even before his eyes, squinting against the sudden brightness, could fully make out the figure standing mere steps away from his bed, the blade flew back out of his hand and landed on the wooden floor with a clang. "That's not very polite of you to threaten me with a weapon," the intruder spoke with a slightly higher-pitched woman's voice, docile in sound but nonetheless mocking. "I mean you no harm."

His eyes had adjusted to the light now, and Erik had mentally reached out for the nearest metal object – the lamp – to defend himself if necessary. "Neither is it polite to break into someone's room while he's sleeping," Erik replied finally, his tone distrustful and low as he took in the woman in front of him – a young looking, rather petite blonde with shoulder-length curls around her heart-shaped face. One hand was on her hip, the other slightly raised and pointing towards him, and she was wearing a long, very soft gown of a creamy, golden and shimmering color. "Who are you? And what the hell do you want?"

The stranger shrugged and took another step closer, her hand now trailing over the foot of the bed. "Let's just say I have special abilities too," she replied with a smile and let her gaze briefly drift to the knife on the floor.

"You're like me," Erik concluded, somewhat surprised as on how the other mutant could have found him, and still clueless as to what she may want.

"I'm nothing like you," the woman chuckled. "I have a rather functioning social life and none of those repressed, built-up dark emotions."

No matter who she was, Erik felt less threatened by her and her obvious telekinetic powers – maybe telepathic as well – as simply annoyed, and he did not suppress the sneer that crossed his lips. "Well, thank you, Dr. Freud. Let me rephrase the question then: why are you here?"

"I'm here because you need me," she replied simple as that, and the lack of any sarcasm or mockery in both her tone and expression baffled him slightly.

"Need you for what? I was not aware that I needed anyone at present."

"Ah, you see, that's the point," she said and rounded the foot end of the bed. Erik immediately tightened his mental grip on the lamp and felt for the knife as well, just in case. But the other mutant sat down on the edge of his bed rather casually, her hands in her lap as she turned her upper body to face him. "Because, if you knew that you needed me you wouldn't need me at all."

"I think you lost me."

"I think you know what I'm talking about," she said, her voice now a lot gentler as she looked at him, and he noticed then that she had the palest gray eyes he had ever seen. "If you knew you needed someone to help you, you would turn to those that could. All that emptiness and darkness inside you, Erik, that's what I'm talking about. And I want to show you how you can get rid of it."

"What are you? A traveling psychotherapist for mutants?" Erik asked with cool sarcasm, eyebrows raised, but inside he could not suppress the vague sense of feeling… caught.

"No," she replied. "I'm the ghost of Christmas Past."

This time, Erik couldn't help but laugh out. "Of course you are."

She smiled, and Erik rolled his eyes, losing his patience with her and her cryptic nonsense.

"I'm sorry to disappoint, but I'm Jewish, I don't even celebrate Christmas," he tried, not sorry at all.

"Ah, well, then let's say I'm the ghost of the Holiday Season. Hanukkah, right?"

"Was over last night," Erik informed her, mildly enjoying the fact that her strategy didn't play out.

"Well, never you mind," she replied, now somewhat disgruntled and impatient herself. "That doesn't change the fact that I'm here to help. The time of year is just convenient for it."

She was a stubborn one, indeed. "Look, I don't know what you think you want to do to help me so kindly, but I didn't ask nor do I care for your help. Now, we can finish this in a civil manner and I will simply ask you to leave, or we could –"

But Erik was never able to finish his sentence. Quicker than he could have reacted, she raised her hand again, two fingers pointing up towards his forehead, and suddenly everything around him, the room, the bed and even her shape in front of him vanished in a whirl of shimmering fog, making him feel weightless and dizzy.

He almost stumbled and fell when he suddenly felt ground beneath his feet and realized he was standing up, though it took another few seconds until the fog lifted and he could make out his surroundings. Baffled, not to say shocked, he looked around and couldn't believe his eyes.

"Do you recognize the place?" The stranger stood right beside him; he could see the outline of her from the corner of his eye, but his gaze was fixed on the opposite wall of the room he found himself in. Erik's heart hammered in his chest with terrible amazement, and for a second he really considered that her words must be true somehow, because he was looking at the interior of no other place than the small apartment in Düsseldorf he had grown up in before he and his family had been cast out to one of the ghettos. Everything was as he had remembered it – or rather as he had desperately tried to forget over the years. There was a tapestry on the wall and a small cupboard beneath, the menorah from that year's Hanukkah still standing on it with some more decorative items. Beside it was a bookshelf with all the literature, foreign and native, that his father had collected. And as he let his gaze drift further through what once had been their combined living room and kitchen he almost toppled backwards in sheer shock.

There at the wooden kitchen table sat his mother with what looked like a shirt or blouse in her lap, sewing on a button, and beside her his father, a book in front of him on the table and his reading spectacles low on his nose. But what startled him almost more than the sight of them was the young boy, eight years of age, sitting on the ground next to them and playing with a wooden horse and sheep – the favorite and pretty much only toys Erik had owned then.

"Mama? Papa?" He could not help the words slipping out from his lips, though they were choked in the back of his throat with the constricting feeling that had spread through his chest. Nobody looked up at him.

"They can neither see nor hear you," the woman beside him said gently. "You're only here to observe."

Erik could not draw his gaze from his family even if he had wanted to, and he had to fight the desperate feeling clinging onto his insides that made him want to rush toward them, try to touch them, hug them and forget the past twenty-five years had happened.

"Mama, I'm bored," his younger self said with a slightly pouting tone and got up from the floor, setting both horse and sheep carefully onto the table. His mother looked at him with a smile.

"But you've been playing with your toys."

"Yes, but I don't want to play with them anymore. I want to go out, it's snowing."

A glance to the window told Erik that, indeed, thick white snowflakes were falling onto the window sill and melting on the glass.

"It's too late, Erik," his father interjected, "but we'll go out again tomorrow morning. Then there'll be even more snow and we can build a snowman."

"And I'll have the place to myself and get some work done," his mother said with a chuckle, sighing faintly as she put the item of clothing away. There was only candle light illuminating the room; they did not have much money to use electricity ever since his father had lost his trading business when the premises had been given to a German shop owner.

"Mama, you can come with us. We'll help you with your work," eight-year-old Erik said and reached for his mother's hand, letting her hug him close as he stood next to her chair.

"Really? Well, let's see. I need to let out your fine trousers, fix the shirt you tore last week and sew all those buttons back on your Papa always manages to lose. Honestly, Jakob, how do you do that?"

His father chuckled and shrugged apologetically, and something impish flashed up in his gray-green eyes. "Maybe you don't sew them on tightly enough?"

“I don't think... I can help you with that,” little Erik said somewhat apologetically.

His mother just rolled her eyes at his father but laughed at the teasing comment and shook her head when Jakob reached out and affectionately grasped her other hand on the table surface.

Suddenly, the sound of quickly scurrying footsteps could be heard on the hallway of the four-story house and rapid, excited knocking against the door a moment later.

"Erik? Erik!"

Erik recognized the voice immediately and his heart gave another painful thud as he watched his younger self run towards the front door and tearing it open. A smaller boy, almost two years younger and with bright blond hair rushed in even before the door was fully opened. "Look what I got for Christmas! A train!!" And indeed, the boy was carrying a brand new, shiny hand-painted toy train into the living room, sitting down square on the only rug on the floor and letting it roll back and forth.

"Oh, it's great, Anton," the younger Erik said and beamed at his friend as he knelt down on the floor as well.

"Isn't it? So much better than the old one, and bigger too. And look how fast it can go." While the two children already started playing, Anton's parents walked in, closing the front door behind them and greeting the Lehnsherrs.

"I'm so sorry," Frau Beckmeyer said as she walked towards Erik's parents. Her hair was as blonde as her son's, a tall and beautiful woman that always wore the finest clothes, while her husband was rather skinny and slightly shorter than her with mousy hair that started to thin out already. He always smiled though, like he did now when he addressed his neighbors.

"You know how the boys are. Inseparable."

"Yes, I know," Erik's mother chuckled and watched them with an affectionate smile on her lips from the distance.

"Oh, we have a little something for you," Frau Beckmeyer said. "I know you don't celebrate Christmas, but we wanted to get you something anyway. I hope you'll accept."

"Oh, I don't know. Really, Hildegard, you shouldn't have."

"Nonsense, Esther. It's not much anyway. Just something to drink for you and Jakob to enjoy, and a few of the cookies I baked for Erik."

"Cookies?" Anton piped up and briefly abandoned his efforts to run the train against young Erik's shoe.

"You already had enough tonight, young man," his father said. "And we still got plenty downstairs. These are for Erik and his parents."

"Oh, alright. Oh, and can I give Erik my old toy train? Erik, do you want it? You can come play with this one anytime, if you like, though."

As the two families chattered on, opening presents and watching their boys play, Erik finally closed his eyes for a moment, blinking against the moisture he had not even noticed forming in them. "Why are you showing me this?" he asked his strange companion and felt a hand on his upper arm then.

"Because you need to see that you were once happy, Erik," she replied. "And that there's a lot of good in the world, even in times when it becomes difficult to see."

He glanced over to the Beckmeyers again who had sat down at the kitchen table with the Lehnsherrs to be served a cup of tea, and Erik remembered. They had been one of the privileged German families, not immensely rich but well-off enough with Peter being a popular pianist and private teacher. They had always opposed the Nazi regime, Social Democrats to the core that had risked their necks to help the Lehnsherrs not being deported to the ghetto in 1939 – in vain.

"That is all good and well," Erik replied, not allowing the sadness and heartache at the sight get the better of him. It soon evolved into anger that he directed towards the other mutant, his voice and stare cold, as he turned to face her. "But it lies in the past, and I don't quite see where you're heading with this anyway. Are you suggesting I should try to find Anton?"

The other mutant's gaze turned sad as she shook her head. "No, that would be redundant. You see, he died during one of the bombings in the war. Hildegard had died two years previously during childbirth because there weren't enough doctors, and Peter in the war. He was drafted during the final phase despite his age."

A whole family extinguished by the horrors of warfare. "You're doing a poor job at proving your point that there's so much good in this world," Erik said bitterly. A few steps away, Anton was hugging his older friend for no particular reason other than being happy and untroubled, oblivious to what would follow and what was already happening around them.

"Am I?" she asked, and somehow Erik got the impression she didn't really need to hear an answer.

"Time to go. There are still a few things you need to see," she said and grasped Erik's wrist. Before he could protest, could plead with her to let him stay just a little longer, let him look at his parents again, that fog engulfed them and he was being sucked into a whirl of dust.

When it settled this time, he found himself standing on muddy ground.

"Why the hell did you…" But Erik stopped himself there, feeling pathetic and weak for wanting to beg. He just shook himself free of her grasp and let his eyes scan the surroundings. It was drizzling slightly, ice-cold drops turning the sandy soil into mud and not much to be seen beyond that due to the pitch-black night. Just the shape of a wooden barn house with a run-down fence to their right. Erik recognized it immediately.

Behind him, he once again heard the sounds of footsteps, this time smacking in the muddy ground as the figure hurried past them and into the barn, her long black hair clinging in moist waves to her thin coat. Erik and his companion followed her inside, though Erik wasn't exactly sure why he even did. A part of him didn't want to play this game any longer, to relive moments that now caused him nothing but pain, but it was as if he had lost the ability to control his own body, as if something was pulling him inevitably inside and towards the soft glow of the gas lamp inside the barn. Another figure sat there in the hay, a threadbare blanket wrapped around the shivering form. The girl knelt down beside him.

"Voilá. Seulement du pain, mais je vais t'apporté quelques pommes demain. D'accord?"

The other Erik, sixteen years of age now, looked up with tired eyes, his cheeks sunken and pale and his whole frame so thin that it startled the older Erik to see himself like that. He had completely forgotten how sick he had been that winter around Christmas, shortly after he had escaped from Schmidt.

The teenage Erik nodded and took the bread from her, hastily tearing a piece off and stuffing it in his mouth. The girl smiled contently.

"Tu m'as compris? Désolé mais je ne parles pas Allemand."

The younger Erik swallowed down the lump of bread and nodded at the girl, giving her a very faint smile which he found so much harder to muster then as he had done a few years previously. "Oui," he replied hesitantly. "Merci."

"Ah, bon. Maman m'a dit que tu parles un petit peu français. Je m’appelle Claire. Et tu est Erik?"

"Oui, Erik," he replied.

"Comment ça ce fait? Est-ce-que tu as appris français à l'école?"

"Non," Erik replied, swallowing another bite and forcing down a cough. "Mon père ma appris."

"How long did you stay with them?" The other mutant asked, tearing Erik from listening in on the conversation going on between the two teenagers.

"Don't you know? You seem to know everything so well," he replied, again fighting with the sense of melancholy and longing that filled his heart at the sight of the scene.

"Two months, right?"

"Yes," Erik replied and kept watching. Claire chatted on about how well Erik's pronunciation was, and that she and her mother would let him stay in the main house but were afraid that her father would forbid it. Two months later, it had been him to cast Erik out even though Claire had tried to fight it vehemently. Two months that, while Erik had hid in the hayloft when Monsieur Funès had been home, had helped him regain his strength. And sometimes even forget some of the horrors he had lived through the past two years.

"What a sweet girl," his companion remarked, and it made Erik only angrier.

"Now you're going to tell me she died as well, I suppose?" he snapped, really not seeing the point of all of this.

"Oh, no, she didn't. She's still alive. Married with three kids and lives in Marseilles now."

The knowledge made him neither happy nor regretful, or even jealous as it could have. Her affections for him then – even if he had shared them in a way, drawn to her physically as the first person to show him such affections in his adolescence – had not touched him as much as they should have. He had been too broken to allow himself to love or trust, and even though he had feebly hoped for her to mend his heart and soul with the gentleness she showed him, a part of him had known then already that it was impossible.

"Oh I'm not so sure," the other mutant said, and for a moment Erik wondered whether she was referring to the information she had just disclosed or something else he had missed… until it sunk in that she must somehow have known what he had been thinking. "Hardly anything is ever completely beyond repair, least of all the human soul," she explained.

"You're forgetting that I'm not human," he said defensively.

"That is nonsense. You are human just like anybody else. Your abilities don't make you less human, just different in a certain field, but essentially you're still as human as you were as a child, as were your parents and this girl over there. You feel and think like them, you need to eat like them, and you long for the same things every person on this planet longs for, Erik."

"Right now I only long for you to bring me back to my time and leave me alone," he said dismissively, wanting to ignore the impact her words were having on him. As his gaze drifted to Claire and his younger self, he saw the girl brush his hand, saw the tiny smile that spread on teenage Erik's lips again. And he wondered…

"There's something else I want to show you. Let's go."

Again, the fog surrounded him and tore him away from the sight and from the bittersweet memories connected to it. When he became aware of his surroundings he was nearly blinded by a myriad of candles and fairy lights, bright red and golden orbs on a tall Christmas tree reflecting their light in the large, expensively decorated living room. Even if he hadn't remembered exactly where he was, Erik would have clearly recognized it as the house of someone of immense wealth. And it became clear on second glance why: there were vitrines full of antique platters and goblets, jewelry and books, and original paintings on the walls that would bring a fortune were they ever sold. He knew what these items were: the possessions of Jews and other regime opponents that had been stripped of all their property during the war, and when it had ended, many of the high officers had been able to escape and secure some of the treasure of his people for their own enrichment. The thought disgusted him as much as it had then.

"I know what is going to happen here, but I'm not exactly sure why you chose to show me this," he said impatiently, looking over at the blonde woman next to him.

She shrugged faintly and pointed towards the door where a short, round man in his late fifties stood, talking to someone else out of sight.

"But I'm sure we can talk about this. Please!" The man tried to uphold the illusion that he was calm, but Erik knew now as he had known then – clear to tell from the shivering and the way his eyes widened – that the man was very frightened.

"Ah, I'm sorry, but I didn't come here to talk," the other Erik said coldly, and a second later his hand had wrapped around the man's throat and pushed him into the living room and against the wall next to the door. "I came to take back what you stole from my people, and what you and your kind stole from me," he growled as the man whimpered and choked. One of the metal electric candle lamps on the wall transformed gruesomely and wrapped around the man's wrist, holding him firmly in place.

"Please, please, I beg you, just take whatever you want. Take it," the man now cried, clearly unable to process how the strange intruder could do something as odd as bending metal without touching it, sheer horror on his features.

"I plan to do just that," the other Erik, who was only a few years younger than the observer, said as he approached the vitrines. He had a black linen bag in his hand, black as the clothing he wore that night when he had broken into the villa in the South of Italy. He had no use for the trinkets even though they did belong to his people, or what once had been it. Somehow, ever since the war, Erik had been unable to connect himself to anything or anyone. He was neither German, nor Jewish, nor even human, but a freak of nature, and his only purpose was to seek revenge. Nevertheless, a few of the most valuable items ended up in his bag – he would sell them to Museums and private families in Israel to cover his expenses. Another item was in his hand, its fine metal surface soft and warm on his skin as Erik inspected the letter opener more closely.

"Please, just let me go. I have family," the old Nazi begged as the letter opener began to hover above Erik's hand. "I never killed anyone. I was just an administrator. Please, don't kill me, please! I have a wife and a daughter. She's getting married next week. Please, don't…"

But before the man could say more, could reveal further details that might turn him from monster back to a human being in Erik's eyes, the blade hurtled through the air and landed straight in the man's chest. He screamed out in pain and terror before blood started to ooze from his mouth, and he slid down the wall, choking and gargling. The other Erik did not even turn to look but only went out of the room with swift steps, his work done.

The older Erik, however, could not draw his eyes from the photograph of a smiling and beautiful young woman standing between an elderly woman and the same man that now hung lifeless from the metal restraints around his arm.

Fog surrounded Erik and everything turned back to gray.

Erik sat bolt upright in his bed again, his heart hammering in his chest as his clouded mind and sight found its way back into the here and now. But... it was dark again in his hotel room, and no sound was to be heard except for the distant howling of the wind outside.

“Hello?” He called softly, switching on the bedside lamp, but there was no reply. Nothing to be seen in the entire room or the adjacent bathroom – he could look inside the tiny cabin through the open sliding doors. He stood up nonetheless, peeking first inside the bath and then into every corner of the room until he walked to the door, finding it locked from the inside as he had left it long before he had gone to sleep.

He cursed himself for the panic he had allowed to rise, feeling utterly ridiculous. No matter how real it all had felt, it had been nothing but a dream. There were no ghosts of Christmas Past, and the likelihood of a mutant with not only telekinetic and telepathic abilities but also that to teleport all together was beyond low. A dream. Nothing more. A shockingly and unusually vivid dream, but its contents explicable.

Erik pushed it and every emotion it had stirred into the back of his mind as he finally undressed and got underneath the covers of his bed.

Strangely, he did not find sleep again that night.

~ TBC ~

Chapter 2


Translations :

I suppose "oui" and "merci" are understood ^^
- Here. Just some bread, but I'll bring you a few apples tomorrow. Alright?
- Did you understand me? I'm sorry, but I don't speak German.
- Ah, good. Mom has told me you speak a little French. My name is Claire. And you are Erik?
- How come? Have you learned French at school?
- No. My father taught me.

I was pondering whether I should also make the German parts German, but that was a whole lot of dialogue, and the entire conversations, inner thoughts etc. are probably happening in German anyway – in fact, I would have had to write almost the entire story in German ^^ So I just included some French.

I also tried to find out a bit more about Erik's family. In the end, I went with the infos I could find on Wikipedia and what we knew from the movie, as this is movie-verse. And I made a name up for Erik's mother because I couldn't find it anywhere.

I hope you enjoyed the first chapter. Like I said, the next one will be posted tomorrow as it's already finished and beta-read.
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