He'd been expecting it of course, but when you've been expecting something for a decade you tend to get used to it not happening. Perhaps that was why he found himself rendered speechless when a cool, English voice with just a hint of American said, "Hello old friend." Ethan nearly choked on his sharp intake of breath as if the air had suddenly turned liquid and he was drowning. Amazing how three words from that voice could leave his knees feeling like jelly and his heart attempting to break his ribs. "Well this is going to be a very one-sided conversation if you don't start speaking Ethan, my boy." The voice continued and Ethan could hear the laughter in it.
"Hello Erik." He rasped, causing him to gulp and imagine black waters rushing over him and sucking him down into their depths.
"I need a holiday Ethan. Somewhere I can lie low, work on a few things, you understand I'm sure."
Ethan nodded and then remembered himself. "Yes, certainly. I know somewhere...the old place. In London."
"You still live there?"
"No, no, I live..."
"Then why should I want to go to some cold, godforsaken hovel when I have a friend who would willingly welcome me into his home. Hmmm?"
"It's just that, well I, it's been a long time Erik."
"And things could be just like old times Ethan, you'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Old times had not, as far as Ethan remembered, included a little collection of followers but, true to the word he had given Magneto, he welcomed them all into his home and relinquished his bed to the one lady amongst them. If lady she could be called.
Ethan watched her move and she didn't look very lady-like to him. It wasn't just the predatory step and stance, it couldn't have been, because the female of the species was renowned for being the better predator. She lacked nothing in grace or agility and her curves fell in all the right places and yet there was something about her, something anti-sex, that said she could be anything you wanted her to be, whatever your tastes which was, of course, the case.
Then there was the boy. Eyes of fire and a soul that burned just as brightly, never seeming to run out of fuel. Ethan had watched in rapt fascination as the boy had toyed with the many candles and lanterns that burned in the sorcerer's den and had good-humouredly forgiven him for causing the coffee table to combust.
Ethan remembered youth and how his had been spent and he felt a tinge of jealousy at how close the boy sat to his master, their master, at every opportunity.
Magneto was unchanged. Admittedly his face was far more lined and his voice had deepened. He was not as quick as he once was, at least his body was not as fast, his mind had lost nothing of its rapid ferocity.
The first night, he had surprised Ethan with a kiss on the collarbone as they parted to go to bed. Ethan had watched him walk away then, his loins burning. When the boy followed Erik, it was more than just his loins that burned.
The second night, a cool hand had brushed down Ethan's back, pausing at the bottom of his spine, tantalisingly, before it was gone. That night Ethan had turned away first, not wanting to see where the boy slept.
The third night, that had been a whisper in his ear but he could not for the life of him understand the words. They were in a language he did not know. There were not many beyond his understanding.
The fourth night, Ethan had sat up long after Erik had bid him good night. He had watched the boy follow him and heard their muffled moans.
The door open and someone stepped out.
Mystique was good, but Ethan had seen the flicker of her eyes as she startled at his presence. Then she smiled the predator's smile and stalked towards him, still wearing John's body.
He blinked, and it was Erik before him.
His...Her hands were quick as they found their way into his trousers, to his arousal. She stroked him, softly, gently, at first but she became rougher, more tugging than caressing and he felt his legs stiffen his body tense. His head lolled onto the back of the chair, "Erik." He whispered and glimpsed her smiling with Erik's mouth as she closed Erik's lips around Ethan's cock.
In the morning, he could not remember the truth of it. He couldn't understand why Mystique should disguise herself to gain Erik's attentions. Could not understand how Erik didn't know. More, he could not remember what he had dreamt and what he had not.
At breakfast, Mystique was smug. Her blue brow low over her eyes and her lips tilted in a smirk.
Erik did not look at John, nor at Mystique. He had eyes only for Ethan and Ethan felt the Chaos stirring.
"The boy does not know, Ethan." Erik said quietly, "But you must allow an old man his...indiscretions." He looked at Mystique then.
John looked from one to the other, an expression of puzzlement on his face, but he did not ask.
He had accepted his ruler, even if he kept his bed to himself. But Ethan could see what it cost him; the fire wanted to burn.
"I need a favour from you Ethan." And there it was, Ethan knew, this was what the visit was all about; he said nothing in response. "You know my aim, Ethan, you know they cannot survive. In the evolutionary race, they are already behind simply by thinking that they are ahead. They destroy this world, day by day, will you stand by and watch it happen?"
"I am human too, Erik."
"But you have power Ethan, you are almost one of us."
"Almost?" Ethan raised an eyebrow and smiled, it seemed to rattle Erik and upset his line of suggestion.
"Charles tries, time and again, to make peace with the humans and yet where are we? No further forward than we have ever been. There will be a war Ethan. Which side are you on?"
"Chaos takes no sides." Ethan was back. Erik was not so sharp, not so focused as he once was, Ethan had been wrong before. There was desperation in his beliefs, like his every failure made them that little less firm, like the gradual removal of a crutch. Erik was growing old and his visions were fading. Ethan felt sorry for him, but he quite liked humanity, their ignorance of the greater things made them all the more fun for him. Chaos was everywhere, but the fight between the mutants and their lesser ancestors gave it an edge so sharp it could practically cut the world in half as if it were a silk scarf, dropped across it's blade.
Magneto and his coven were gone within the hour. Ethan felt no remorse at their leaving but wondered, had it not been for the boy, if the meeting might not have gone differently.
Ethan could still remember the fire, that beautiful, uncontrollable flame of youth that Mystique could never hope to capture. Disgust at his old mentor crept up on him; reduced to trickery to fulfil his desires. In the old days, Magneto would simply have taken what he wanted. That was what Ethan had loved.
He spent the rest of the day tidying the remnants of their stay. He found the Zippo underneath his bed.
The lighter, its teeth tarnished and stained, lay before him on the kitchen table. He made no sound, no movement as the light faded to night. After that, it was not long before the rap on the door. Still, he did not move.
He heard the latch, heard the footsteps in the corridor and smiled as John's silhouette became visible in the doorframe.
"I came for my Zippo." He explained and walked forward to the table, the moonlight illuminating his face.
As his hand touched the metal, Ethan reached out his own and placed it on the boy's.
They looked into each other's eyes.
"He told me about you." John spoke first. "About you and...Ripper? He said in the old days, you were all on the same side."
"And which side, pray tell, was that."
"His side. My side. Ours."
"Yes." John kept his hand where it was, though Ethan had since removed his. "I know what she does. As me." He said, boldly, as if he dared Ethan to suggest otherwise but Ethan simply nodded. "I don't do that stuff. There's just the fire." The boy edged around the table, he crouched down, his hand still on the lighter, and looked at Ethan with eyes aflame.
"Nothing compares to the beauty of fire." Ethan whispered and leant forward, his lips pressing against Pyro's and his hand finding the Zippo.
A flame flickered in the darkness and two embers danced in it's glow.