SPIFFY DISCLAIMER THINGIE!!!

I don't own them (mores the pity!); they're Marvel's and Ah'm usin'em without permission:):) Ah ain't makin' a plug nickel! If ya'll sue me Magnus is gonna be right peeved ...

Rated PG-17 for m/m sexual content. So if that sort of thing bothers ya'll, skedaddle:):)

Thanks again to my faithful Australian Companion Sigil for beta reading and advice:):) And all my other betas where ever ya'll may be! Aspects of Magnus' character as revealed in this story are based on the work of Alara Rogers and gratefully acknowledged. Bless ya'll Alara, Sugah:):)

Nightmares

A Tale Of Madness by Dannell Lites

Magnus thrashed in his sleep and cried out. Instictively, I reached out and drew him closer within the circle of my embrace and he quieted a bit. His breathing was harsh and swift, like a wounded animal. I stroked his hair and held him as best he would let me. Which was not nearly enough, of course.

"Cha- Charles ...?" I kissed his wide, haunted eyes to close them.

"Shhhhhh ..." I whispered and felt him relax against my body, muscle by muscle. "I'm right here," I assure him. "I'm not going anywhere. I won't leave you." His breathing quieted a bit but still his body tossed and turned, leaving him no peace.

Sometimes he doesn't believe me when I tell him this, but soon his painful grip on my shoulder lessens considerably. True to my word, I do not abandon him and for a moment he clutches me tightly. My heart gladdens. Magnus is not given to open displays of affection or need and that makes them all the more pleasing to me when they happen. But he is vulnerable when he dreams; when the nightmares come. I smile. If he were my patient I might prescribe a strong sedative to help him sleep. He would not take them, of course. Magnus will not even take an asperin. He loathes anything that dulls his mind or makes him dependent. But he is not my patient. Magnus is ... I take a deep shuddering breath and listen to the steady reassuring beat of his heart against my damp skin. No, he's not my patient.

Magnus is my lover.

I hear my step-bother Cain's mocking voice as I often do when I am unhappy or unsure of myself.

[Faggot!] he cries and I cringe.

[Wimp!] he spits venom at me like a great cobra. I was a shy, bookish young boy given to introspection and loneliness. Since the death of my mother I have always been alone, it seems. Until now ...

As God is my witness I cannot tell you how it happened. I lie here in Magnus' bed in his tiny, stiflingly hot apartment in Haifa, cradling his trembling body and I have no clue how I got here. Was Cain righter than he knew? Has it really always been obvious to everyone but me? I don't like to think so. But then, I have been wrong about a great many things and this may well be one of them. I don't think it's that simple, but in my less arrogant or cocksure moments ... when the shadows of Kurt and Cain Marko chill me in the wee small hours of the night ...

Magnus isn't the only one who is vulnerable when he dreams.

At first it was simple curiosity, I know that.

He didn't fit. He stood there in the dingy gray corridor of the Bet Shalom Psychiatric Hospital in his immaculate white orderly's scrubs and he didn't blend in at all. He was as out of place in this simple job as a hawk amongst sparrows. I wondered why he had it. How had he come to this place, emptying the bedpans and wiping up the vomit of those driven to madness by the Holocaust? I saw him do it. Without complaint or question. I did not understand it and I'm still not sure I do entirely. But I have clues now. It's a kind of penance, I think. He intrigued me so I found out what I could about him. He is a Holocaust survivor. He was a Sonderkommando; one of the despised 'crematorium ravens'. In his mind I have seen him strip the bodies of the dead. I have seen him cut their hair and pull the golden teeth from their mouths. Did you know even after the camps were liberated there was a terrible toll in human lives? Many survivors were simply too far gone, of course; too sick. But an apalling number of them committed suicide. *After* they were liberated. Here at Bet Shalom we are beginning to coin a phrase for what drove them to the sanctuary of the knife or the gun or the rope after all that the Nazis had done to them failed to kill them.

We call it "survivor's guilt". Why me, they ask themselves. Why did I survive when so many others did not? And they find no satisfactory answers.

Magnus hates to be touched without his express permission. He is quite reserved. And yet yesterday I saw him pick up little Hannika. She was banging her head againsst the wall again. Pounding and pounding as if there were something inside her mind she wished to drive out. Most often she is quiet, humming tunelessly to herself and rocking, she is forever rocking. But sometimes she is violent. Hannika is ... difficult. No one know where she comes from. As far as we know she has no surviving relatives. Hannika lives in her own little world that no one else has yet been able to fathom or penetrate.

No one but Magnus. He is the only thing she ever smiles at. It's the chldren he responds to the most easily. He is gentle and kind with them, not brusque as he is with so many of his own contemporaries. He has infinte patience and compassion with the children, but almost none for himself.

I think you can see why I was curious. Magnus is a mass of contridictions. In the heat of an Israeli summer he wore long sleeves at first because he does not wish others to see the numbers tattooed on his arm. It took him a good while before he was comfortable enough to let others see them. Short sleeves become him and they are a triumph of sorts. He loathes being a victim and anything that reminds him of it he rejects. He eats almost nothing, but when he does he eats quickly, furtively, like an alert animal sniffing the air for a rival. He doesn't enjoy food for itself; he eats because he must, like stoking an engine. And yet he hides bits of food in odd places about his appartment. The first time I found them I was puzzled. Bread beneath the mattress? Dried beef lurking in the darkness of his closet? Foolishly, I threw them away and thought no more about them. Magnus was enraged.

He pinned me against the wall with his arm like an insect onto a display board. His years of manual labor in the Ukraine have made him quite strong. Shocked, I did not struggle.

"If you ever steal from me again," he hissed, "I'll kill you." And he meant it. I saw the white fury in his eyes at my unintentional violation.

"I'm sorry," I said softly. "I didn't understand." And I hadn't. Not until I saw his eyes.

I have never been hungry. Not once in my privileged life have I felt that gnawing emptiness in my belly and been unable to quell it. Like most Americans I had no concept of what starvation is like. Until I met Magnus. I have learned a great many things form him, it seems. Not all of them pleasant.

So how did a good Catholic boy like Charles Francis Xavier end up here in a foreign nation, bedding another man and hiding from the world? It's a mystery to me. I must have asked myself that question a thousand times in the past year and I still have no answer. It simply happened. I had no control over it all.

[Liar!] I try my best to shut out the unwanted, intruding voice. But I do not succeed. It rakes me with its claws and leaves deep bleeding wounds.

[No clue?] There is the echo of deep mocking laughter that sounds a lot like Cain. Yes, this must be Cain; surely I am never so crude. [You persued the man, stalked him like a deer and then you seduced him. And all the time you made him think it was his idea.] The laughter deepened. [Just cuz you roll over on your belly for him, doesn't mean you ain't in control. Yer a fag, Charlie. Queer as a three and a half dollar bill!]

No, I cry in protest. I never meant for it to happen. I didn't! You're wrong! You're wrong!

[No, I ain't.] I can almost see that maddening smirk of Cain's; almost feel the flat of his hand across my face, the punch of his fist in my gut.

[The poor son of a bitch never had a chance. You took one look and decided you had to have a peice of that. Yer a wimp, Chuckie, but yer an arrogant bastard. No clue, huh? Tell me something then, faggot, just how long did it take you to get what you wanted? Quite a while wasn't it? You had to work real hard to land this one. Not as easy as talking Moira or Gabby outta their panties was it? Naw. He's damaged goods. Real damaged. It was hard work to get him to trust you. Had to break a sweat for about the first time in yer lazy life, didn't you? Yer lucky he didn't go nutso and kill you the first time you laid a hand on him. His memories of sproinging other guys ain't exactly nice ones, are they? Auschwitz wasn't what you'd call a real romantic place.]

It wasn't like that, I pleaded, desperate now. All right, it didn't ... just happen. It took a long time and I was patient because he was worth the wait. It was just talk, at first. That's all it was; just talk. He was someone I could talk to. You didn't leave me much there, Cain! I don't trust people either. Magnus and I have a lot in common there. And we're both ... different. Both mutants. He was alone. I was alone. We both love Robert Frost. For one of the first times in my life I'm happy. We're both happy. Leave me alone!

[Yer both fags.] Cain observed. It wasn't hard to imagine his malicious grin. I'd seen it often enough, after all.

No! [Yeah? Then why did you use Gabby to get next to him? Poor bitch. She thinks it was the other way around. Wasn't bad enough that you took advantage of your doctor-patient relationship to screw her. Naw. But you weren't even doing it cause you wanted *her* ... ]

There was absolutely nothing I could say to that, now was there? Nothing at all.

I love Gabrielle, I do. She's sweet and guileless and she needs me. Just as I need her. She has a mind almost as strong as Magnus. It's had to be strong to survive intact as it has. But I was finally able to break down those walls and help her. I'm very proud of that. I wish ... I wish I could have been gentler about it, but well, there you are. I wish I could be the man she wants me to be. The man she needs. But I cannot. My feelings for Gabrielle are impossibly obtuse and confusing. But I *do* love her. My feelings for Magnus are much more direct. Perhaps that was part of what happened between he and I. Magnus has no expectations. None. Gabby expects so many things. The future I see for she and I frightens me. Magnus and I have no future. How could we? Most of the time I do not let myself dwell on that. Yet when I do let myself imagine it, it frightens me even more than thoughts of Gabrielle.

I shivered. I was covered in sweat from the heat of the summer night and a cool ocean breeze blew in from the Port through the open window. Why shouldn't I shiver? Surely it was just a chill. Magnus murmurred something in German in his sleep. For a moment I clung to him fiercely, holding him with all my strength as if he might fade away like a too pleasant dream. As if I might lose him.

"Magda, please," he'd said.

There are times when I wonder if Gabrielle suspects. We've been very discreet, Magnus and I, and so I think not. Innocent Gabrielle is no real threat to my designs on Magnus' heart, though, fond as he is of her. Magda, on the other hand ...

When I think of that simple, beautiful Sinte Gypsy girl I am consumed with an envy and jealousy that stagger me. He does not know that, of course. And I shall not be the one to tell him. He wouldn't understand. May I confess something to you Cain? I mean, we can be honest with one another, can we not? After all, there's only the two of us here. You see, I'm not jealous of Magnus' love for her. Not at all. I swear, I'm not. The fact that he is yet capable of love is wonderful. No, it's not Magnus love for her that I envy Magda. It's all the time she had with him that stabs me with such sharp talons. Magda suffered abuse at the hands of her captors, too. I've worked with many woman here who survived the camps. There are times when beauty can be a curse. Magda was 14 the first time she was raped. After that she was passed from soldier to soldier until she was finally given to the Kapos. Magnus was very gentle with her. They were married for more than two months before they consumated their union. Magda *wanted* to make love to her husband, don't misunderstand. But she ... couldn't. The first time they tried it ended in tears. She was too frightened. Magnus protected her, loved her and never touched her again until she was ready. *She* came to *him*. He doesn't have patience like that anymore and never will again. Not even with someone he loves.

How could she have abandoned him so? I will never understand that.

[Sure ya can.> whispers Cain. Again I shiver. No, that's untrue, I defend myself, quickly; too quickly. If you love someone you don't run away from them crying, "Monster!" You don't.

And yet, there are times, now, when I wish that I could flee ...

He is ... changing. The nightmares come more and more frequently now. Almost every night lately. His temper seems to grow shorter every day. Sometimes when I look into his eyes I do not like what I see refelected there. There are growing shadows in those sea-born depths. Shadows that ... frighten me. His natural psi-shields are hellish. Much stronger, even than Gabrielle's artificial ones. It's becoming harder and harder to read him as time goes by. If I were to force my way into his mind against his will as I did with Gabrielle, it would destroy him, I think. So I am as helpless as any other to know what goes on behind those eyes, that deepening sorrow; that fermenting anger. I fear I am losing him. Losing him to the demons of his fear and despair. He is retreating further and further from me, fading away bit by bit like an unremembered dream. When he is gone I wonder what dream I will use to replace him? I cannot follow him where he is going.

And everyday his power grows. He sees things now that most of us cannot imagine.

"Charles, you are beautiful," he said to me yesterday.

Believe me, I could not have been more astonished if he'd stripped himself naked in the street. Magnus giving such a compliment? To me? I was dumbfounded and my face must have clearly shown it. With a small rueful smile he touched my hand and opened his mind to me. For just a moment, I saw myself as he can now see me; shifting and colliding electromagnetic auras of bright gold and red, the hot white spark of bioelectricity against the solid blue chemical coldness of the magnetosphere. He's right. I *am* beautiful.

But, bit by precious bit, he is losing his humanity. Under the circumstances thats really rather ironic. I'm sure he'd claim that he never had it in the first place. I should do something. I know that as surely a I know that I breath. God help me if only I were more skilled with my telepathic gifts. I am powerful but not skilled enough for this. I need more training. But there must be some way to summon him back from the dark road he is beginning to tread; somehow that I can reach him. But how? The night wind touches me and I shiver one last time. He trusts me. I could ... I could force him to -

No, no! What am I thinking? How could I even consider it? My God! I love Magnus; I do! And if I did this terrible thing what was left when I was done would not be Magnus. And I love Magnus. I do. And yet ... and yet ...

I cannot help but wonder how many times in the future I may find myself looking back at this moment and cursing my own weakness.

But, no. I'm tired is all. It's just the heat. Soon it will be morning and Magnus will be awake and I'll forget the damnation that creeps in the night in the joy of his company. Everything will be alright in the morning.

In his sleep, Magnus stirs and turns his face from me, frowning, and I cling to him tightly.

In the morning. Everything will be alright in the morning.

The End