A/N: This is a bit darker, but not in a violent warning-requiring way. It's about how they finally started getting Erik's powers under conscious control.
Takes place some time after the last one.
Shaw had been gone for a week, and in his absence Erik had been underfed and badly beaten at least once a day. He assumed the point was to make him grateful for the doctor's attention, and – though he hated to admit it – given the severity of what he was subjected to it had sort of succeeded. He was profoundly relieved when at last they collected him up off the floor of the basement and told him Shaw had returned.
He got a shower, clean clothes, gauze for the cuts that still oozed. Then they brought him to the office. He fidgeted in the hallway while he was announced, planning out the best way to assure that he understood the lesson and had taken it to heart and wouldn't need a repetition.
But then he was called in and he discovered that, once again, Shaw was a step ahead of him.
The doctor was sitting behind his desk, hands folded. The desk's usual clutter was all gone. It was empty, completely empty, except for…
"Good choice, Erik," Shaw said, and Erik tore his eyes from it to look his tormentor in the face.
"Please don't," he said, realizing now how he'd been set up. He was an idiot. He hated himself for that, so powerfully that when Shaw stood and picked the whip up off the desk he almost felt he deserved it.
"They tell me," Shaw said, conversational, "That out of everything that was done to you, this was what you feared the most. Is that right? Tell me the truth."
Erik swallowed hard and looked down. "Yes." He would not start begging. It was beneath him – and it never helped anyway.
"Well, good choice." Shaw was smiling as he ran it through his fingers. "As far as a pain-to-damage ratio goes, very little around here will compete with a light leather bullwhip. Boots and clubs and all concern me. Somebody could crack your skull by accident, God forbid, and then-" He popped the whip for a sound effect. "-That's it for you. Right?"
Erik didn't answer.
"But with this, I can beat you til you go crazy, and still you'll be up and about in a couple of days. Which makes it," he popped it again, with just a flick of his wrist, "A very good motivational tool."
When he paused Erik seized his chance – this might be the only opportunity he got to talk the man out of whatever brutality he had planned. "Sir, I've told you it's not about motivation," he explained, fast but calmly. "You know I'm trying as hard as I can, you know that. Scaring me doesn't help. It doesn't."
Shaw's eyebrows arched at the interruption but he let Erik finish. Then he smiled. "I know that, son. I've learned. I won't tell you do that or I'll punish you anymore; I know that isn't going to get us what we want."
What we want. The phrasing made Erik's skin crawl, but on some level it was accurate. He did want to use his powers. He did want to bend the world to his will.
Shaw was letting him speak freely today, it seemed, and that companionable we was the last confirmation he needed that it would be all right to push. "Then will you please put that away?" he said, as confidently as he could. "I'm behaving and I'm trying my best, so there's no reason to punish me. Or threaten to."
"Well, I won't punish you and I won't threaten." Shaw's smile was kind – too kind – and he didn't put down the whip.
So after a moment Erik guessed: "But…?"
"But, I want you to do more than try to use your powers; I want you to succeed. And since it seems you can only succeed when you're hurt and angry..."
Erik backed away, shaking his head. "No."
"... I'm going to give you a terrible beating that you've done nothing to deserve."
"Don't," he managed. "Doctor, please."
"It's not up for discussion, Erik. Sorry. Take your shirt off so that I don't ruin it." When Erik just hugged himself he sighed. "Annoying me isn't going to make this go any easier."
"Please – there has to be another way."
Shaw gave him a nod that seemed meant to be encouraging. "There will be. I promise. Eventually you'll be able to call up rage in yourself at will. But until then, I'll help out, by giving you a little extra when you need it."
Until then. Suddenly he couldn't feel the fear any more – only a strange coldness in his stomach. It almost reminded him of what happened when the power rose up. "You're going to torture me until I become permanently angry," he said, flat.
"Permanently powerful," Shaw corrected, but didn't contest the basic point.
Erik absorbed it slowly, the idea that he was about to be changed – maybe ruined – for life. It didn't upset him nearly as much as he thought it ought to; the memory of crushing soldiers' skulls with their helmets was a great comfort. He found that the frames of Shaw's glasses were starting to call to him.
Shaw laughed softly and took them off his head. "I think you're closer than you know, son. My prediction is that in a couple of weeks we won't even need this thing." The whip twitched. "Go on and take your shirt off."
Erik did it without any more protesting, and as he did he became aware that there were coins in Shaw's pockets. He felt them. He wasn't able to take hold and deliberately move them, though.
There we go – found what I was looking for. After I posted that first chapter I kept feeling like there was more creepery I was missing somehow, and… this was it.
Let me know what you think!