Actions

Work Header

What You Need

Chapter Text

            He looked peaceful. But small.

 

            Charles was lying in a hospital bed, the crisp white sheets only emphasizing how pale his face was.

 

            Erik sat in a stiff, plastic chair beside Charles’ bed. They were all taking shifts watching the telepath. It had been two days since Charles’s surgery, and with the combination of a swollen spinal cord and intense painkillers, he hadn’t been lucid in three days.

 

            Not that Erik minded.

 

            He didn’t know what to say. No one did. Charles had spoken about not being able to feel his legs, but by the time he had been rushed to the hospital, he was already suffering from shock.

 

            “I can’t feel my legs,” Charles sputtered as he was carted into the E.R., slowly but with urgency. Any jostling from the cart could cause further damage.

 

            “Sir, you’re going into shock and your spinal cord has been damaged. This is normal. We need you to just remain calm,” the EMT recited as if it was second nature.

 

            The telepath had tears streaming down his face, and Erik feared that soon he would look the same.

 

            “Erik, please, please, I can’t feel my legs,” Charles groaned. There was a hysteric trace in his voice that Erik had never heard before.  “Where is Raven?! I need Raven. Erik, please get her! Please, where is she?”

 

            “I’m here, Charles,” Raven said, grabbing his hand. Her voice was raspy from screaming on the beach. “Charles, it’s gonna be okay. They’re gonna take you back and fix you. I’ll be here when you get back. I promise. No more running.”

 

            His face went pale, and his breathing shallowed as the EMT injected him with a clear liquid that looked like liquescent bliss. He was rushed away, which was the last Erik saw of the telepath.

 

            Now Charles was lying in front of him, no better off than he had been on the beach three days ago.

 

            Erik didn’t know what to say when he woke up. The doctor had said that recovery was unlikely. Erik didn’t know how to tell Charles. No one did. Maybe Hank, because he understood the full extent of Charles’s injuries, but Erik was afraid that Hank’s knowledge of the dire situation might only make it worse.

 

            Mysti…Raven had taken it upon herself to go back to Xavier Manor. Maybe it was her way of dealing, or avoiding Erik, or both. Either way, she hadn’t come back to the hospital for 2 days, and her version of silent treatment was working.

 

            The rest of the children were back at the mansion too, with the exception of Hank, who had been translating the doctor for Erik and Raven. He had ordered that the rest of the children start to make the home more accessible—the mansion was ancient with wooden beams and high arches, not made for a wheelchair. And the doctor had made it clear that there likely would be no Charles without a wheelchair.

 

            Erik shifted in his chair, listening to the plastic squeak. Just as he got settled, a nurse came in. Her name tag said “Carla” with a smiley face. She was pretty—probably had kids and was exhausted, but she still managed to smile. She was carrying a cup of coffee, and Erik couldn’t help but notice her hands were red and there was a hint of bruising on her forearm.

 

            “You haven’t left, figured you could use some. I stole it from the nurses’ lounge, so don’t tell.”

 

            “Thank you,” Erik said, grasping the cup as if it were a life line. “Do you have any idea of when he’ll be up?”

 

            “Unfortunately not, dear. These things take time. Sleep is some of the best medicine.” She pressed the nurse call button, then took to Charles’s IV bag, which was near empty. “He goes through this stuff pretty quickly.”

 

            Another nurse walked in. “Needs to be flipped?”

 

            Erik stood up, causing the two nurses to look at him. “Do—ah, do you need help?”

 

            “We’re alright,” Carla said. “He doesn’t weigh much. We have to do this every few hours to prevent bedsores. Before he’s discharged we’ll teach you how.” Erik nodded, sitting back down.

 

            The two women grasped the bedsheet underneath Charles with surprising strength, and slowly turned him onto his side. He looked even tinier on his side. Without warning Carla gasped in a sharp inhale, causing Erik to shoot from his seat again. The other nurse looked at her questioningly.  

 

            “I’m alright Maggie, just a little sore. The kids are driving me crazy; they’re in their wrestling phase. Thanks dear.” The other nurse left the room, leaving just Erik and Carla, with a limp Charles who was breathing softly.

 

            “Your husband?” Erik asked, anger lancing his voice. He was too tired to remain kind.

 

            “No, not at all,” Carla reassured, but she didn’t seem certain. She hesitated. “This may be overstepping, but can I ask you a question?”

 

            Erik nodded.

 

            “Is your friend, uh, special?”

 

            Erik froze. There was only one thing she could be referring to, and her insinuation made his skin crawl and his teeth grit. He raised his shirt sleeve slightly, revealing his Auschwitz tattoo. “I don’t see how that matters. I have no idea, but I’ve learned not to discriminate on who someone loves, as clearly you haven’t either,” his eyes flitting to her own bruised arm.

 

            Carla took a step back, her eyebrows raised in shock. “No, no, that’s not what I meant at all! I just mean…when I lifted him, I heard him. In my head. He was in pain. It was nothing like I’ve felt before.”

 

            Erik remained quiet for a moment. “What do you know of it?”

 

            Clara looked at the door, then back at Erik. “My son. He’s also…special. He’s twelve. And his strength is unbelievable. He didn’t mean to hurt me. He was excited about doing well on a  test and grabbed me. We have a friend who is also special. I don’t know, I’m probably just sleep deprived….”

 

            “No,” Erik muttered. “We are. He has a habit of peeking in people’s heads. But not a word.”

 

            “Of course,” Clara said. A long silence filled the air as Carla continued around the room, fiddling with this and that. After the awkward misinterpretation and even worse confession, Erik decided to break the silence.

 

            “Can you give him more pain medicine?” Erik asked. “If you heard him, he might be coming out soon. I don’t want…”

           

            “Him to be in pain?” Carla finished with a knowing smile, which caused Erik to nod. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that he didn’t want Charles to wake up for a while, because he didn’t know what he was going to say. He didn’t even know if he would still be welcome. “Don’t worry, we’re taking good care of him. I’ll be back in a few hours if you need anything. Try to grab some sleep.”

 

            Erik sat down, finishing his coffee. He needed the caffeine. His phone dinged.

 

            Be there in an hour. Bringing clothes for you, Hank, and Charles. –R

 

            Erik looked at Charles, then back at his phone. He had been up for over 45 hours.  Maybe a good nap would help, and Raven would be back in an hour anyways…just close his eyes for a second…

 

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

 

            He woke up to Raven throwing a bag of clothes down. Hank was in the room, reviewing the chart stuck to Charles’s bed. He had reverted to his human form, his glasses slipping down his nose. Raven, who had assumed her typical blonde facade, walked over to him holding a fresh shirt, a stick of deodorant, and a cup of burnt coffee from the cafeteria. Erik sat up, not eager to be seen sleeping. The others imagined him with a steely, robotic exterior, no weaknesses, and he would like to keep it that way.

 

            Hank set the chart down, and plopped into one of the two extra chairs Carla had brought, Raven in the other. In a moment of fallen defenses, she placed her head on Hank’s shoulder. Despite her abilities, her eyes remained red and swollen. But above all, they were cold. She hadn’t made eye contact with Erik since she returned, and he couldn’t blame her. Charles’s words were still swirling around in his head.

 

            Moira didn’t do this Erik. You did.

 

            The bullet he had pulled from Charles’s lower back still remained in his pocket—a heap  of crushed metal, coated in blood and sand. Like Charles’s limp body…

 

            He was shaken from his reverie by a piercing pain in his head. Between squinted eyes and gritted teeth, he looked at Hank and Raven, who were apparently experiencing the same thing.

 

            Then he looked at Charles.

 

            Charles’s face was contorted into a pained grimace. His hands rushed up to his head, and it looked like he was attempting to curl up, but his legs remained motionless.

 

            Help help help pain pain sO MANY VOICES MAKE IT STOP

 

            Erik rushed to his side, trying to gently jostle the man awake. He couldn’t get very far before Raven was there also.

 

            “Get your fucking hands off of him!” She snarled. She slapped his hands away, and grabbed both of his shoulders gently. “Charles, wake up! It’s okay, I’m here. Charles?”

 

            Hank, who for a moment looked like a deer in headlights, pressed the nurse call button with incredible urgency.

 

            Charles was contorting more, and the pain in Erik’s head only increased to a shriek. Raven was beginning to panic, and it was clear that she had forgotten the state Charles was in as she began to shake him harder. His IV was roughly dislodged from his arm, and was hanging off the bed.

 

            Carla ran into the room. With surprising strength, she pinned Charles’s top half down with one arm, and grabbed the IV. Raven stepped out of the way as Carla re-inserted the IV, taking good care to add extra tape.

 

            However, it seemed that she wasn’t immune to Charles’s mental attack.

 

            She lurched forward, gripping the edges of the bed.

 

            “Make it stop!” she cried, trying desperately to stand up. “There’s….sedative…” Her hand rose to gesture to a drawer near the IV stand.

 

            Hank rushed over, throwing the drawer open. He was more immune to Charles’s telepathy than the others—being with him during Cerebro sessions had made him rather used to being an accidental target. He still felt it, just not to the extent that the others did. He rustled around the drawer, rapidly reading each syringe until he came across a chemical he was semi familiar with. He quickly removed the needle cap, and plunged the needle into Charles’s numb thigh.

 

            The mental attack ceased, and Carla straightened back up, panting.

 

            But she wasn’t the only one sitting up.

 

            Charles grasped her hand.

 

            “Your son….incredible. I mean simply brute power. I would love to work with him.”

 

            Erik, who was still slightly out of breath, shook his head. Charles, ever the optimist, only wanting to help…

 

            Charles, who was smiling in amazement, slowly felt his face fall.

 

            His legs.

 

            “Wait, where…Raven?”

 

            Raven all but ran towards his bed, squeezing his shoulders painfully tight. “Oh Charles, I’m so glad…” Her voice constricted as she began to tear up.

 

            Charles pushed her away. “Raven, why are we here?” His throat tightened, and he tried to blink away the tears as memories came flooding in.

           

The beach. Shaw’s memories suddenly becoming his own as a coin sliced through his head, covered in blood and regret.

 

            Missiles in the air.  

 

            Indescribable pain as a bullet ripped through his spine, falling as fiery hot grains of sand hit his face.

 

            Erik.

 

            Charles turned towards Erik, who was looking at the ground with a steely, unflinching gaze. He then turned his glance towards Raven, whose red-rimmed eyes were beginning to brim with tears.

 

            “Charles, they…we got you here as fast as we could. They did everything they could, I swear to you. It may not be permanent, there’s tons of new experimental treatment with stem cells and bone marrow, electric therapy...I’m just so glad you’re okay.”

 

            Charles remained silent, but his heart felt like it was beating out of his chest. There were so many things running through his head, and he could feel pity radiating off of everyone in the room. It was unbearable.

 

            But amongst all the feelings circulating the room, the worst was the lack of feeling in his legs. He grasped his thigh. Nothing. He slowly moved his hand up his body, waiting for a tingle of any sort. Nothing. His hand reached his navel, and he held his breath waiting for any sensation.

 

            He didn’t get anything until his hand reached his mid-stomach. And he felt his heart sink, but the rapid beating hadn’t stopped. He could feel blood rushing in his ears, and his vision began to tunnel. He tried steadying his breathing, which did little.

 

            He cleared his throat, and spoke in a surprisingly calm voice. “Nurse, I seem to be experiencing heart palpitations.”

           

            “You’re gonna be feeling sleepy pretty soon, Charles. It’s just anxiety…this is all a lot to take in, but the sedative should be kicking in any second now. ”

 

            “Thank god,” he murmured, refusing to look anywhere but the ceiling. He shut his eyes as his muscles seemed to relax. “Carla, if you could please show them out?”

 

            “Charl-“

 

            “Raven, please, just let me have this,” Charles said, barely keeping the desperate tinge from his voice. His words were beginning to slur.

 

            “Come on, you won’t be any help to him like this,” Carla said gently. “Let’s let him sleep.”

 

            Erik begrudgingly left his chair, with Raven and Hank following. He threw one last glance at Charles, who was still staring at the ceiling as he nodded off.  Hank had an arm around Raven, who had let tears freely flow now that Charles was out of sight.

 

            They sat down in the lounge, along with expecting fathers, worried children, and weeping families.

 

            Once they were settled, Raven turned her attention to Erik. “This is your fault,” she snapped. “If you hadn’t been so goddamned focused on your revenge, none of his would have happened!”

 

            “You seemed eager enough to join me,” Erik replied sternly. “If he hadn’t gotten hurt, you would have come with me; don’t lie to yourself. We want the same thing. People die fighting for what they believe in, Charles hardly paid the ultimate price.” The words weren’t entirely true. Erik knew that Charles would never be the same, and that he had paid more than any of them for a cause he didn’t even believe in. But he wasn’t wrong about Raven.

 

            “Don’t you dare,” Raven sneered. “Don’t you dare talk about sacrifice. Charles and I have hardly lived this glamorous life you imagine, and just because he isn’t a bitter, unruly sceptic like you doesn’t mean he doesn’t care.”

 

            “Well he certainly cares about you. But if you really loved him, you wouldn’t have been so keen to join me. You would abandon him just for a taste of freedom, to be free of his ridiculous principled standards.”

 

            Raven’s face was enraged, and Erik noticed her fist was beginning to shimmer blue. He was so focused on the flash of blue scales that he didn’t notice the metallic magazine stand headed straight for his face. Erik dodged just in time as the stand clattered harshly against the tile.

 

            “Fuck off, Erik. If you’re so concerned about this damned mission then why doN’T YOU JUST LEAVE?!” Raven screamed, ignoring the people that were beginning to stare.

 

            “Raven, please,” Hank begged, trying to bring her down to her seat. “This isn’t the time.”

 

            “Then when is the time?” She asked angrily, whipping her head towards Hank. “This is the only time that Erik might feel bad enough to take a hint and fucking leave! He’s been destroying Charles since day one, and that is the last straw. I won’t let him ruin Charles!”

 

            “Ruin Charles?” Erik scoffed. “Please.”

 

            “He felt everything Shaw felt,” Raven cracked, as vicious tears began to stream down her cheek. “Every second, he was screaming, begging you to stop. That took everything from him. But you had to keep on that damn helmet, pushing him out like you always do! You disgust me. Just. Fucking Leave. ”

 

            “Fine then,” Erik bit back. He stormed out, looking for the nearest exit. He knew that Raven got emotional when it came to Charles, but her words still stung. But even worse, they had some truth to them. Erik had dragged Charles into his rage-fueled murder mission, and now he had paid the price.

 

            He strode through the automatic doors, sitting on the bench outside. The cool metal was soothing, but he could feel it rumble from his rage. A man standing a little further away was smoking. Erik approached him.

 

            “Mind if I have one?” Erik asked. The man fulfilled his request, lighting the cigarette. Erik took a deep inhale, which caused him to spurt out a cough.

 

            “Been a while?” The man asked humorously.

 

            “Longer than you can image,” Erik replied. He had smoked the occasional banned cigarette during his childhood with his friends. Of course, he hadn’t enjoyed it, but Igor and the other boys had made it seem to cool that he was foolish not to try. Back then the smoke burned his eyes, but he felt triumphant and rebellious.

 

            Now the smoke and ash simply reminded him of corpses in the oven, and he felt empty. 

 

            Erik gave the man a curt nod of thanks, and sat back down, nursing the cigarette.

 

            He could take Raven’s outbursts and cold stare. He could take Hank avoiding his glance.

 

            The worst part of the encounter had been Charles. Similar to Raven, Charles had the tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve. Erik figured that with all the chaos going on in his head, Charles’s couldn’t help but let his emotions spill over onto his exterior. Today seemed to be the exception. He had expected anger, disbelief, grief, rage, panic, tears even. He had expected the telepath to lash out at Charles or to share his pain like Raven.

 

            He hadn’t expected Charles to remain silent and stoic, to completely shut down. That stung more than anything.

 

            Erik took another drag of the cigarette, resisting the urge to cough. He held it in his lungs, allowing the nicotine to absorb into his raging bloodstream.

 

            The road ahead was going to a long, arduous one. But unless Charles asked, he wasn’t going to leave. Raven had gotten one thing right.

 

            No more running.

Chapter Text

         The next two days had been a blur for Charles. After his last psychic outburst, Carla had made sure to keep him very sedated, which to be honest was exactly what he wanted. The few moments he had felt lucid, he was overwhelmed with not only his own feelings of grief, but also those in the hospital.

 

            He could feel it all. Birth, death, limbo, waiting for a surgeon to come back with an answer, indescribable loss, and everything in between.  The medication was making it hard to block out all the voices and emotions, and for once he wished he had Erik’s ridiculous helmet.

 

            He was an elderly man and he could feel his last breath and his whole family was there and the hospital was too white or maybe that was the light and suddenly he was born and everything was blurry but there was crying and he was covered in blood and a doctor was slapping his back trying to get him to breathe but the outside world was harsh and oh god he couldn’t breathe

 

            Charles took a steadying breath, shutting his eyes. He had to start fortifying his mental defenses. The medicine was making it hard to focus his eyes on a single point, let alone control his powers.

 

             Hank and Raven had taken a brief reprieve to the cafeteria for food, and he had no idea where Erik was. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

 

            Charles didn’t know what he was going to say to Erik. He was furious, hurt, and more than anything disappointed.

 

            For the first time since they had met, Charles was actually afraid of Erik. He knew that Erik had enough rage to fuel armies, but he had been willing to try Charles’s method of serenity. Charles had felt such warmth and beauty within him when he was moving the satellite- memories of his gentle mother celebrating Hanukkah with him, feeding him warm, golden brown challah bread. The memory itself had brought tears to Charles’s eyes. He knew it was a private memory, but hoped it would be enough for him to transform his rage into beauty.

 

            But the Erik on the beach scared Charles more than he would care to admit. Erik had been so willing to turn the missiles to all those innocent soldiers, so willing to shut Charles out, focusing all his rage on the coin slicing through Shaw’s skull. It was terrifying.

           

          Charles stifled a moan as he tried to shift, reaching for the morphine pump. Despite the pills they fed him constantly, the nurse had also left a morphine pump, the liquid bliss that brought moments of silence. Charles fumbled with the pump, slipping his thumb over the button. He instantly let out a sigh of relief as his eyelids became heavy and his muscles relaxed. He could get used to his.

 

            Carla walked in. “How are we doing Charles?”

 

            “ ‘M good,” he slurred. “Medicine helps.”

 

            Carla chuckled. “Yeah, we get that quite a bit. I’m gonna move your legs now—it’ll help prevent blood clots. Is that alright?”

 

            Charles nodded, barely able to lift his head off of the pillow. He heard rustling of the sheets, but it sounded far off and distant. He opened his eyes.

 

            Carla had one hand on his foot, another on his calf, and was slowly bending his leg at the knee. Charles froze, as the realization fell over him like a bucket of ice water.

 

            He couldn’t feel it. Oh God, he couldn’t feel it.

 

            He already knew this, but seeing someone move his leg, and being unable to feel it was unbearable. His vision began to tunnel as his pulse raced in his ears. This couldn’t be real. He begged himself to relax, but oh God he couldn’t feel it it was moving and there was nothing there and he had to be imagining things maybe he had pushed the pump too many times oh God when would he wake up

 

            “Charles?” Carla called, setting his leg down gently (not that he would be able to tell, goddamnit), and placing a hand on his shoulder. “I can feel you. It’s okay, let’s just calm down.”

 

            Charles squeezed his eyes shut, but the panic was still overwhelming him and the drugs were making it hard to control himself. He couldn’t get his heart to stop racing, but he could see Carla flinching, so he took a deep breath, attempting to steady himself. He couldn’t keep projecting like this.

 

            “I’m so sorry,” Charles said, trying not to gasp. His lungs just couldn’t seem to consume the oxygen in the room.

 

            “It’s perfectly alright dear,” Carla responded. She ran a comforting arm down his shoulder. “You certainly have an amazing ability, just from what your friend has told me. I would love for you to help my son, if you ever get the chance.”

 

            Charles nodded, trying to swallow past the lump in his throat as his breathing eventually slowed. At any other time, he would have been enthralled to talk about mutations, but he didn’t have the will in him right now. The pain was overwhelming, and he was holding back tears. It wasn’t the time.

 

            “I’ll be back soon if you need anything,” she said quietly. As quite a role reversal, she seemed to read his mind, and pressed the morphine pump on the way back.

 

            He felt a brief wave of relaxation wash over him, and sunk back into the sheets.

 

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

 

            When he opened his eyes again, it was dark. He could faintly hear something beeping in the distance, but his mind was still clouded with the fog of sleep. Someone was whispering.

 

            “Now, when you flip him, make sure to grab part of the sheet closest to his body.”

 

            It didn’t sound like Carla, perhaps another nurse. He couldn’t tell. He closed his eyes. Had pillows always been this comfortable? He really must get more for the house.

           

            He heard a deep grunt of agreement, too quiet to make out. He felt the sheet being grasped underneath him. He wasn’t lucid enough to help. Maybe he didn’t care to help. For once in his life, Charles couldn’t bother himself to help. The pillows were soft and his head was fuzzy and he was so goddamned tired. Maybe just this once, it was okay.

 

            He felt himself being turned, and couldn’t prevent a groan escaping his lips.

 

            “Now we make sure the catheter isn’t bent or wrapped around his legs.”

 

            Catheter? Unbelievable. Charles felt himself laugh, but he wasn’t sure how much made it out. He had to have a tube up his dick just to use the bathroom. He wasn’t sure whether to interpret the situation as funny or pathetic. Probably pathetic. So goddamned pathetic. Hs legs had been taken from him, and this was the last shred of dignity he had stripped from him.

 

            He resettled himself. He wanted to open his eyes, wanted to thank the nurse that was there, but he couldn’t. His eyelids wouldn’t work. He suddenly felt nauseous. But more than anything, he felt the sweet siren song of sleep calling him back.

 

            “Thank you,” a deep, male voice muttered. Charles heard shuffling, the distinctive sound of scrubs rustling and tennis shoes squeaking on tile.

 

            Someone was still in the room, but Charles couldn’t find the energy to care. He was so comfortable, wrapped in a blanket of serenity. And drugs. Lots of drugs. The nurse must have given him more drugs, because suddenly everything felt very far away, and he felt as if the bed was enveloping him. He was sinking into the mattress. It was nice.

 

            He vaguely felt a hand brush against his own, and was slammed with a myriad of sensation.

 

            Anger. Grief. Regret. Screaming and ash. Metal.

 

            Charles reached out with all the energy he had, a pang of horror stabbing him, before darkness enveloped him.

 

            ERIK!

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0

 

            Charles glanced down at the chair, taking a deep breath. It was rough edges of metal and plastic. It was a disgusting contraption-- one that Charles was not ready to get acquainted with.

 

            This was going to be a lot more difficult than it looked.

 

            “Charles, we’re gonna work on sitting up, and then I’m going to show Hank how to help transfer you to the chair. I’ve already talked to him, and they’re lowering your bed back home so the transition will be easier,” Carla said.

 

            Charles took a deep breath. He was afraid. The fear and embarrassment was a deep pit in his stomach that he wasn’t ready to address. He licked his lips apprehensively.

 

            “Dear, I really don’t…I’m not feeling ready for this,” Charles stumbled. “Maybe we can try again tomorrow? I really don’t feel well.”

 

            “Charles,” Hank protested, “we really need to get you moving. The sooner, the easier it will be.”

 

            He couldn’t tell them—the second that he sat in the chair his fate was sealed. He couldn’t do it. Sitting down would be accepting defeat. He wasn’t lying when he said he didn’t feel well. His head was swimming from all the drugs, his upper back ached, and he could feel sores developing on his shoulders. The physical pain wasn’t the primary reason, but it was better than the emotional one.

 

            Charles gripped the bed sheets, begging himself to remain calm. It was a stupid chair. He nodded silently. Carla crossed the bed, placing a gentle hand behind his shoulder and one much lower, where he ceased to feel it. She carefully began to sit him up from the bed that was already slightly raised, and Charles let out a whimper. She shifted his upper-half to face the edge of the bed. Then she carefully picked up his useless legs, and draped them over the corner of the bed.

 

            Charles was now sitting up, his legs dangling over the bed. He wanted to hop down, and begged his legs to inch off the mattress as he felt his heart sink. It was just like getting out of bed every morning, except it wasn’t.

 

 He couldn’t just stand up. His head was swimming and his face felt hot, but his hands remained cold. He felt bile rise up in his throat as his blood rushed in his ears. Saliva was pooling in the sides of his mouth, much against his wishes.  Luckily Hank must have read his face, and grabbed a trash can.

 

            Charles promptly threw up.

 

            Carla grabbed him water, while Hank set down the wastebasket. “I’m so sorry,” Charles stuttered. “I’m rather nauseous.”

 

            “It’s alright, Charles,” Carla replied. “Take a few deep breaths and then we’ll continue. You’re doing great. Sitting up is half the battle.”

 

            Charles gulped down the water, trying to wash the bitter taste and shame from his mouth. He was having a hard time remaining upright, but Hank was holding his shoulder. The slender man held a surprising amount of hidden strength.

 

            “Okay, I’m ready,” Charles said, while every nerve in his body screamed otherwise.

 

            Carla steadied his upper half. “Hank, you’re going to wrap one arm around his midsection, the other underneath his legs. Yes, just like that!”

 

            Charles couldn’t help but feel like a helpless babe in Hank’s arms. He pushed a thought towards Hank, hoping his powers would obey him.

 

            I’m sorry. Thank you.

 

            Hank looked at Charles, his eyes widening in understanding, but with something deeper. Empathy perhaps?

 

            “I’ve got you, Prof,” Hank said confidently, lifting the telepath from the mattress he hadn’t left in days, and gently placing him in the rigid chair.

 

            Charles held back a groan. He didn’t want Hank to feel bad—the scientist had been incredibly careful, and it wasn’t his fault Charles felt so much pain. Charles let his head fall back, biting back the nausea that wouldn’t abide.

 

            “That’s excellent!” Carla said, a smile dressing her face. Charles bit back his cynicism, but honestly, how could she be smiling? “Charles, how are you feeling?”

 

            “Tired,” Charles replied. And small. He kept that part to himself.

 

            Carla slowly wheeled him out of the door and down the hallway, while Hank followed carting the IV stand and catheter bag. The squeaking of the wheels against the linoleum was irritating, but Charles was glad to leave his room. The stench of sweat and stale tears was replaced by disinfectant, and while neither smell was comparable to that of the Xavier garden, he definitely had a preference.

 

            “Charles, are you ready to try wheeling on your own? I’ll still be pushing, but you should open up your shoulders a bit.”

 

            Charles rodded, slowly resting his palms on the metallic rod attached to the wheels.

 

            Metallic?

 

            Charles got glimpses of metallic anger, bitter in his mouth, and a phantom hand brushing against his own. Last night, he had thought…

 

            No, he had certainly imagined it. Right…? Charles hadn’t seen Erik since he had first woken up. It was difficult to tell the night from the day, especially when the nurses came in to flip him and feed him drugs every hour.

 

            Charles shook the thought from his head, pushing the wheels slowly. It was much harder than he imagined. After a few meters, his arms began to burn. It wasn’t until the end of the hall that he realized he had sweat beading on his upper lip, his breath stuttering.

           

            For the first time in a week, Charles realized he was smiling. He looked down the long hallway. He hadn’t moved in four days, and had just made it down a hallway by himself. His arms were shaking and muscle spasms were running down his shoulders, but he had done it. It felt…good.

 

            When Carla helped him turn the chair around at the end of the hall, he saw Raven standing on the opposite side, a tear-filled grin plastered on her face. She ran towards him and smothered him with her arms, burying her face in his heaving chest.

 

            “I’m so proud of you,” she said, her voice muffled by his hospital gown.

 

            “Easy now,” Charles chuckled, gently pushing her away.  He was still panting, and his arms were on fire, but he couldn’t wipe the smile from his face. He knew it would be short lived. The reality would come rushing back, but for now he would take the happiness he could get.  

 

            Carla wheeled Charles back as he bit back a wave of nausea. The exertion had certainly taken a toll on him, and he was eager to lie back down in bed and get some drugs running through his veins.

 

            And soon enough that was exactly what he got. Carla had given him more pills, and he felt a surge of calm wash over him. His head was light and heavy all at once.  Now it wasn’t just his legs that were numb…his head was fuzzy, and his arms and wrists that had once been burning were now joyfully devoid of feeling. He felt Raven press and gentle kiss to his forehead as his eyes slipped shut.

 

0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o

 

            Charles woke up with a spurt.

 

            “Bloody hell,” he groaned. His arms hurt like hell, and his shoulders were another story completely. His head was throbbing beyond belief.

 

            Charles fumbled for the morphine pump, but it was just out of his reach. “Damnit,” he muttered, trying to shift towards the stand. He attempted to move the upper half of his body, wishing he could move his hips more. He felt tears sting his eyes. Why was this so damn hard?!

 

            A large, dark figure left a chair in the corner, walking over to press the button and set the remote in Charles’s hand.

 

            “Erik,” Charles breathed.

 

            And the dam broke.   

Chapter Text

“Erik,” Charles repeated. His eyes tore into Erik’s, which caused Erik to turn his gaze towards the ground.

 

“How are you?” Erik asked, his voice quiet but piercing. It seemed like such a thoughtless question, but he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

 

Charles scoffed, nearly throwing himself back onto the pillow from where he had been sitting up. “How am I?! Are you fucking kidding me?”

 

Erik remained silent, and Charles’s bitter snickers slowly evaporated. “Why are you here, Erik?” The telepath was refusing to make eye contact and Erik didn’t want to either. Charles looked so unlike himself. His face was lank, pale, and new bags had sprouted under his eyes that now held dull pain instead of bright hope.

 

“Why, Erik?” Charles repeated.

 

“Did it hurt?”

 

Charles finally looked up, being taken off guard. “Are you serious?! You don’t even have that ridiculous helmet on and you’re still thick-skulled. Of course it fucking hurt. I can’t sit up on my own and Raven won’t stop crying and being a telepath in a hospital is like dying a million times and it hurts so. Fucking. Much. The drugs just make me foggy but it’s either my mind or my spine and goddamnit… I shouldn’t have to choose. Do you have any fucking…”

 

“I meant the mind meld,” Erik interrupted quietly. “With Shaw.”

 

“More than you can possibly imagine,” Charles said, his voice abrasive. He remained quiet for a moment before continuing. “So now what?”

           

Erik raised an eyebrow, shifting slightly in the plastic chair. “Regarding what?”

 

“You,” Charles answered. “You…you haven’t been here.” He tried blinking away the tears that were beginning to prickle his eyes. He hadn’t expected Erik to stay, but not having him present the past few days hurt more than he would care to admit.

 

Charles took a deep breath, blinking a final time. “I assumed you had left to kill of the rest of Shaw’s minions. Or innocent soldiers. I don’t think you know the difference at this point.  So what are you doing here?”

 

“I’ve been here,” Erik said, his voice quiet but defensive.

 

“Bullshit!” Charles exclaimed. “I may have been drugged but I remember Raven and Hank visiting. You were there once.”

 

“I’ve been coming at night,” Erik responded, slightly defensive. “Ask Carla. She’s been teaching me how to flip you, catheter work, different medications. It’s true I’ve been at the mansion during the day. But don’t accuse what you aren’t sure of.”

 

“Why?”

 

Erik froze, wondering what Charles meant. It only took one look at Charles to understand. At the beginning of the conversation Charles had looked betrayed, but now he simply looked curious. And tired.

 

“I...” Erik shifted again, starting at the ground. Charles had never seen the man look so small or uncomfortable. “I was planning on staying….to help. Being a metal bender, I’m wondering if I should have gone into construction. I’ve been making some small changes around the mansion, so that’s it’s easier for you. I want to stay, if you’ll have me.”

 

Charles shook his head, a small but hostile smile gracing his features. “I don’t need your pity, Erik. You have a mission, and I know it’s far from done.”

 

“Charles, that can wait.”

 

“Until when?” Charles asked, exasperated. Erik didn’t miss him pressing the morphine pump for the second time since their conversation had started. Charles took a deep breath and his head hit the pillow as the morphine flooded his system. His eyes were scrunched shut. Erik could feel a tinge of pain radiating from the man. The few seconds the medicine had hit had caused him to lower his mental defenses, certainly not of his own accord.

 

Charles opened his eyes, his cheeks slightly flushed from the influx of opioids. The tips of his ears were also spattered red under his hair, which had grown shaggy and greasy from the hospital. Erik knew that had Charles been feeling normal, he would have been throwing a proper fit over his hair. 

 

Charles looked back at Erik.  “Your mission is all you’ve cared about this entire time. Since we met it’s always been about taking down Shaw. If you really cared about anything else, I wouldn’t be lying here. If you cared, we wouldn’t have been on that beach on the first place. Moira wouldn’t be gone, the government wouldn’t hate us, and I wouldn’t have lost my goddamn legs!” His voice had escalated rapidly.

 

            “I’m sorry.”

 

            “Doesn’t do much good,” Charles snapped. He had never Erik apologize for anything, but this one opportunity hadn’t redeemed him. “You have no idea what I feel.”

 

            “Then show me.”

 

            “What?” Charles was completely taken aback.

 

            “You heard me,” Erik bit back. “Show me. Let me feel it. You damn well know you can do it. So let me see how it feels.”

 

            “What is this?” Charles scoffed. “You want to feel this so you can feel better? To eliminate some of your guilt? That’s a reward, not punishment. Just leave.”

 

            “No,” Erik responded. “Charles, you know I won’t beg. I’ve spent my life begging for mercy, so don’t make me beg to someone who has actually shown me just that. Let me feel it. I want to know…I want to understand. I want to understand what I’ve put you through. And I want to stay and help.”

 

            Charles took a deep breath, feeling the threat of tears beginning to resurface. For the first time this week, he felt deep sorrow and sincerity radiating from Erik.

 

            “Okay,” Charles whispered, after a long deliberation. Before Erik could say anything, Charles began to remove the IV taped to his arm. “I need to be clear-headed so I don’t turn your brain to mush.” He took a gulp of water from the bedside table. Erik had completely sat up, looking as if he was bracing himself. Charles smirked slightly.

 

            “I’m not strong enough to radiate my power yet,” Charles admitted. He motioned for Erik to come over, so Erik moved his chair over to the side of Charles’s bed. Charles sat up, and carefully placed his fingers on Erik’s temple. Erik resisted the urge to shudder; he wasn’t used to such close physical contact, especially somewhere so vulnerable. He felt Charles’s fingers tremble slightly but he pretended not to notice.

 

            Charles took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. Erik attempted to do the same but before he could inhale he was hit with a flash of narrative that wasn’t his own.  

 

            Hot sand was grating against his skin under his uniform, but it would have to wait.

 

            Suddenly he was no longer Charles; he was Shaw.  The mind was filled with rage, tenacity, and unbelievable strength. Shaw’s mind was like hot barbed wire. It was powerful and burnt and the more he tried to escape the more he became trapped. It was rapidly draining his energy, but he knew he had to hold on.

 

            His hand was reaching out to grasp the side of the plane as he stumbled, trying to remain latched onto Shaw’s mind. Erik needed to hurry or Shaw was going to slip away. He could hear Erik talking to Shaw, but the words were garbled as if being said underwater. The only thing Charles could make out were something about Erik’s mother, and the distinctive articulation of numbers being counted.

 

            In the background, Charles could feel Shaw’s mind struggling against his own, banging against the walls of his awareness relentlessly and with incredible anger. There was something else too…betrayal?

 

            The internal fight ended in an excruciating gleam of a weathered coin.

 

            First came the frontal bone, right where the coin entered. Charles was suddenly seeing from Shaw’s point of view, and a stream of blood rapidly spilled into his left eye. The pain of the bone being split was a rush of gold sparks that caused Charles to let out a scream. He couldn’t tell if it was coming from his own mouth or Shaw’s but he knew he couldn’t hold on oh god…

 

            Next came the frontal lobe. Charles felt the once shrieking Shaw in the background go eerily quiet. Shaw was no longer there.

 

            Charles remained yelling, but the pain was slightly numbed. He was more focused on the terrifying lack of Shaw. His mind was completely quiet, and that scared Charles more than anything.

 

            The pain resumed as the coin continued further into the motor cortex. Charles knew he was still shouting, his voice becoming hoarse, but as soon as the coin sliced through the movement center, Charles wasn’t sure if he had to keep holding Shaw still. He wouldn’t be able to move. The man was completely gone, left only with an empty shell oozing indescribable pain. Charles tried with his little remaining strength to release himself from Shaw’s mind, but he couldn’t. He was too far gone. He was too weak and the agony was too much.

 

            He was screaming between grinding teeth and everything was screaming screaming screaming so loud and the parietal lobe was tearing and suddenly the flaming coin hit the occipital lobe and everything disappeared.

 

            He couldn’t breathe. There…there was nothing there. Shaw was gone. His essence, his feelings, his simple involuntary sensations like breathing and heartrate had vanished.

 

            Charles opened his eyes, only to find himself back in the jet. He let out a final groan, feeling himself sink to his knees. The blood that had been blocking Shaw’s vision suddenly became tears obstructing his own, and everything in his field of vision went dark.

 

            Erik opened his eyes, and it wasn’t a surprise than both he and Charles had tears streaming down their faces. Charles had shared his experience in every corner of Erik’s mind, and the pain had caused adverse tears. He felt it all—the description, the sounds, the smells, the pain. But now he had been thrown back into a reality where Charles was wheezing.  It didn’t take very long for Erik to realize that Charles’s pain wasn’t just from reliving the memory, but from the exertion of projecting. His eyes were squeezed shut and his breathing was labored.

 

            Erik rapidly wiped his eyes. Charles was beginning to let his pain leak through, and he knew the telepath would be terrified if he projected throughout the hospital again. Erik looked around rapidly, wondering what to do. He spotted the IV limply hanging from the machine. Erik knew he should really call the nurse, but that might take too long. Erik raised his hand slightly, feeling for the metal running through Charles’s veins. Blood had a distinct metallic current that Erik could identify anywhere, even rushing through someone’s body.

 

            “Erik, call…” Charles’s voice was weak, and he could barely lift himself from the pillow.

 

            “No time,” Erik said gruffly. “Charles, give me your arm.”

 

            Charles attempted to steady himself, hesitantly giving his arm to Erik. The man’s hands were more callused than he had imagined. Erik’s fingers ran over Charles’s arm which was bruised from the extensive IV work, and the muscles strained from his encounter with the wheelchair.

 

            “Tell me if it hurts,” Erik said with a tenderness Charles had never heard before. “I think I can gauge where the vein is. It is going to hurt a little, regardless.”

 

            Charles watched as Erik levitated the needle slowly into his arm. He inhaled slightly as the sharp metal slid into his vein, a delicate drop of blood creeping from the entry point. Erik got up and nearly slammed the morphine button, trying to keep his hands from shaking. He gave Charles a moment to recover. He desperately wanted to address what he had just seen, but he knew that Charles needed a moment to collect himself.

 

            The two men sat in silence. Erik wished for a good scotch and a chess board to fill the stillness. He would give anything to distract himself from the frightening images he had just seen…no, felt. As Charles’s breathing began to slow, Erik felt he needed to break the quiet.

 

            “Charles, I am so sorry.”

 

            The telepath remained silent for a moment, but Erik continued.

 

            “I had no idea…We may have our differences, but I never meant to but you through that.”

 

            “I know,” Charles said, his voice barely above a strained whisper. “But you did. And maybe someday I’ll forgive you. But right now, I still have the right to be mad. I hope you understand that.”

 

            Erik stiffly nodded. “Of course,” he responded. Charles had more than the right to be mad—he had every right to be furious, seething, bitter. The metal bender would understand if Charles never spoke to him again, even if it broke him. He hoped it would never come to that, but was prepared if it did.

 

            Charles cleared his throat before he spoke. “I…I’ve never felt someone die before. At my father’s funeral, I remember reaching for his mind, only to find nothing. I had expected that. But to feel someone die one neuron at a time…I could feel each part of his mind shutting down. It was horrifying.”

 

            “I can’t imagine,” Erik said quietly. He had expected the conversation to end there, but Charles continued.

 

            “It started when I was 9,” Charles muttered, running a shaky hand through his greasy hair. “The telepathy, I mean. I heard the housekeeper first. My mother thought I was schizophrenic. But then my emotions started affecting the people around me, so I knew she was wrong. But Mrs. Xavier couldn’t have her perfect son mentally ill so I played along. I saw doctor after doctor, took pill after pill…I just convinced her it was working once I could reel it in. I got lithium shoved down my throat until I was smart enough to hold it under my tongue until I could wash it down the sink.”

 

            Erik wasn’t sure where this monologue was going; however, he was legitimately interested. Charles made plenty of jokes about his telepathy, despite never divulging much actual detail. He remained quiet, allowing Charles to continue.

 

            “It’s difficult for me to explain my power to other people. I know you and Raven ask me to turn it off, but I can’t. Everywhere I go I hear voices, feel emotions, and get glimpses into other people’s thoughts, whether I want to or not. Just to shield myself from others takes energy—all the time, every second. It’s exhausting. It’s more exhausting than you could possibly imagine. And now…I can feel Raven’s sorrow and your anger and Hank’s confusion and it’s difficult enough normally but now I can’t fucking walk! Fuck Raven’s glimpses of hope and Hank telling me about experimental treatments; I just want to sleep.

 

            “I don’t know if I can do this Erik,” Charles mumbled, his voice strained with the hint of unshed tears that were pooling in his eyes. His voice had taken on a scratchy quality. He ran a hand over his face, causing a trail of tears to spill over onto his face. “I’m having a hard enough time dealing with my own emotions with all these drugs, but Raven’s…”

 

            Charles caved, hunching over and hiding his face. His shoulders were shaking and Erik pretended not to hear the quiet sobs coming from the other man’s mouth. Charles was often overdramatic, but this was something else entirely. This was genuine pain.

 

            Erik, in a stroke of spontaneity, sat on the corner of Charles’s bed and wrapped a hesitant arm around him.

 

            The telepath had lost in inordinate amount of weight since being in the hospital. He hadn’t eaten solid food yet. The medicine made him nauseous, so all of his nutrients were being supplied through a port connected to his shoulder.  Erik could practically wrap his arm around Charles’s entire body.  

           

            Charles quickly recovered, or at least pretended to. As he raised his head up, Erik quickly removed his arm, afraid of overstepping boundaries. Despite their conversation, he still wasn’t sure where he and Charles stood. However, he didn’t remove himself from sitting on the edge of the bed.  

 

            “I’ve lived my whole life with everyone thinking I was crazy,” Charles said, finally making eye contact with Erik. “Now I’m afraid it might be true.”

 

            “That’s hardly true, Charles,” Erik responded. “They’re afraid of your power. Use it to your advantage. You are much stronger than they think.”

 

            Charles smiled, for the first time in what felt like years. “Thank you, my friend.”

 

            The simple endearment had slipped from Charles’s lips, and while he was shocked, Erik had looked even more stunned. Charles sheepishly returned his gaze to his lap. He was still furious with Erik, but right now wasn’t the time. He was too tired to release any more anger. Right now they could sit in silence—two old friends on the brink of a precipice, unsure of whether to retreat or jump.

 

            For now, this might be enough.

Chapter Text

            Erik walked through the hospital doors, weary at how familiar they had become. In one hand he held a small duffel filled with various items and clothing for Charles and Raven, and in the other he held a large thermos full of coffee he had brewed at the mansion. He would be damned if he had another cup of the bitter, burnt coffee the hospital tortured its visitors with.

 

            He had spent the past three days at the mansion, working on renovations. While the house was beautiful, it had not been built with the intention of a paralyzed inhabitant. Erik enjoyed the work—things had been tense between he and Charles after the mind-meld, and working with his hands gave Erik an outlet for the pent-up words his mouth couldn’t seem to find. Some of the construction had been done with his powers such as simple bending, but he saved the melding and lifting for his physical body. He needed the distraction; the ache in his muscles wasn’t close to being penance, but was the only thing he could cling to. A body he still had control over.

 

            He made his way to the front desk, where the hospital receptionist recognized him. “Good morning, Mr. Lehnsherr!”

 

            Erik was too tired to respond with her enthusiasm, but he cracked a stiff smile and nodded in acknowledgement. “Mary.”

 

            “Here to see Charles I assume?” After receiving a curt nod, the receptionist peeled off a paper “visitor” tag from her large stack. She handed it to him with a smile. “His sister is with him now, so you are welcome to head on up. I’ll go ahead and sign you in.”

 

            Erik placed the sticker on his shirt, feeling childish. He gave a halfhearted wave to Mary, and continued down the hallway until he was at the elevator. He wrinkled his nose, once again being overwhelmed by the scent of disinfectant and stagnant air that seemed to seep into the hospital walls. No amount of disinfectant could mask the stench of death.

 

            Hospitals had always put Erik on edge for two reasons. First, there was a deep-seated resentment that this technology hadn’t been available to save thousands of his brethren when it really mattered. Humans were burned in grotesque piles in the streets of Germany rather than the neat little furnaces each morgue had. That dignity was missed, even by the dead. This hurried effort to save lives every day seemed ironic when other countries had failed to even step in when genocide was little more than a game of exterminating a nagging pest. Hospitals seemed to hold an urgency that every second mattered, when Erik had been up for years wondering when his time would finally come. It only took a few seconds for a life to end, yet his had been elongated for far too many.

 

            The second reason Erik hated hospitals was more intimate, yet something he couldn’t shake no matter how hard he had tried. Yes, medicine had advanced. But surgical rooms still held saws and clamps and scalpels that seemed to throw Erik back into Herr Doktor’s laboratory. Tools that had been forged to help and heal had only hurt him. They had created incisions when their true purpose was to close them; they were supposed to stop the bleeding, not cause it.

 

            Erik let out a repressed shudder, realizing that stepping into an entire box of metal when angry would neither be good for himself nor the hospital. He pressed a button to the 8th floor. He took a deep breath, feeling his exhales align with the metal pulleys hidden behind the elevator’s doors.

 

            When he reached his stop, Erik stepped off the elevator, steeling his shoulders. The past two weeks had been…difficult, so say the least. Charles had been going through mood swings, but not in the way any of them had expected. There was content Charles, falsely smiling with his ever-infuriating optimism. There was silent Charles, refusing to speak under false pretenses that he was too tired. Perhaps that was true. But sorrow was much more exhausting than any physical therapy could be. Out of all the emotions, rage had not yet reared its ugly head. Erik knew what unresolved rage could do to the psyche. Rage was more dangerous than despair. Despair could be solved, and perhaps even buried. But rage was acidic.

 

            Rage would burn and burn like a sun, like a red giant that would simply explode and disintegrate everything in its path.

 

            But Charles had shown Erik that even after such an explosion, a pure star could be found, a remnant of hatred leaving a beautiful, untouchable power. That was if it burned correctly. And Erik was afraid that Charles’s rage would simply consume him whole.

 

            Apparently today was something new.

 

            As he approached the nurses’ station, Carla immediately sought him out. Erik wouldn’t lie—he had become quite fond of Carla over the past few weeks. She had the perfect balance of motherly yet professional, seeming to offer Charles (as well as Raven and Erik) gentle support when needed with superior medical attention. Despite long shifts and grueling battles with the frail human body, Carla remained buoyant. That took special skill, one that Erik had secretly been envious of. At times she seemed more observant than the telepath himself.

 

            “Erik?” Carla called, comfortable enough to use his first name. He didn’t mind.

 

            “Hello, Carla,” Erik responded. He looked down to where she had immediately grabbed his arm, all but dragging him aside from the bustling nurses’ station. Her urgency sent a shiver of panic throughout him. “Carla, what…?”

 

            “He’s fine,” Carla assured, looking around. “Relatively.”

 

            “What’s going on?”

 

            Carla swept the common area once more before leading him further down the hallway, away from where Charles’s room was. They continued down a few more corridors before Erik had no idea where they were. It seemed quieter, and there were less nurses present.

 

            “I had to move Charles this morning,” Carla said, her voice low.

 

            “Why?” Erik demanded. He wasn’t one for broken routines, certainly, but he was more concerned about his…

 

            His friend. Charles was still his friend. He hoped.

 

            “He was having some issues with the…noise,” Carla elaborated, wiggling her fingers in a way that Charles often did. If he hadn’t been so alarmed, Erik would have smiled.

 

            Carla continued speaking, as if she wasn’t sure of her next words, something that seemed rare for the nurse. “I had him moved here, with the coma patients. I don’t know if his…mental situation is affected by proximity, but he seemed to be in so much pain, and I figured it was worth a shot. He seems a little better, but we have to keep him sedated at most times. Raven understands most of his ramblings. But when he is awake for physical therapy and such, his mind…it just lashes out. He said something about the morphine making it difficult. At one point he was refusing pain medication, but he isn’t ready for that. His body will go into shock, and severe withdrawals, if we don’t slowly wean him off. And that process could take months, at minimum.”

 

            Erik nodded, struggling to take in everything she was saying. He was relieved that she had been so quick on her feet. It was true—while Charles’s telepathy was easily able to overcome mere distance, it could certainly help, especially in his weakened state. Carla had done the best with what little she knew, and he thanked her for that. But he sensed he needed to talk to Raven, to see for himself…

 

            He ran a hand over his face, struggling to understand how this had all escalated in the measly three days he had been gone. “Can I see him?”

 

            “I think that would be a good idea,” Carla responded. “Both of them seem very strong, but it’s clear that Ms. Xavier needs real sleep in a real bed, not a stiff chair.”

 

            Erik nodded, slightly apprehensive of seeing Raven, let alone a frazzled and fatigued Raven. She had certainly not been kind to him the past few days—she had barely acknowledged his presence. 

 

            They approached the door, Erik taking note of the number. Carla gently knocked, and when met with no resistance, opened it.

 

            Erik’s eyes immediately flew to Charles.

 

            He was passed out in a drugged stupor, but one could have easily mistaken it for death. The telepath looked impossibly frail against the seemingly large bed, but that hadn’t been new. Erik was used to the new Charles—ragged long locks that fell down to his scruffy, gaunt face. His patchy beard hid a near-skeletal facial structure, although certainly not elegantly.

 

            What shocked Erik were his eyes. He had never seen such dark circles encompass Charles’s eyes. This was not mere exhaustion, but also bruising. He had also never seen the scratches that seemed to frame them. Jagged red lines, some more recent than others, littered his temples and forehead. If Erik had been able to see his ears beyond the mop of unruly hair, he was certain they would be there too.

 

            Erik knew where the bruising and scratches had come from without looking at the blood caked under the telepath’s fingernails.

 

            Mein Gott, Charles. What have you done?

 

            Erik tore his eyes away from Charles, finally addressing Raven. She clearly was too exhausted to maintain her appearance. She still donned her “typical” blonde façade, but her hair was nearly as unkept at Charles’s. There were two minor scratches running down her clavicle, and a few on her hands. Refusing to look at Erik, she slowly stood up, her chair creaking underneath her. She began grabbing her few belongings that were scattered around the room—a magazine, empty cups, and her purse. She finally looked up at Erik, her gaze tired yet piercing. Carla glanced at the two before quietly slipping out of the room. Apparently he wasn’t the only one who felt the tension in the air, like daggers poised to strike at any moment.

 

            Erik took a deep breath, setting his bag down. He decided to throw all caution to the wind, desperate to get a response out of Raven, who had remained silent.

 

            “You look like shit,” he said. He carefully watched Raven, unsure of how she would react.

 

            He had not expected her to laugh. Well, it was more of a repressed snort, but was a reaction nonetheless. She ran a shaky hand through her hair, and finally looked up.

 

            “It’s been…well. You have no idea how it’s been.”

 

            “Then tell me.” Silence. “I want to help.”

 

            Now Raven was actually laughing, but it was acidic, and sent a chill down Erik’s spine. She continued for much longer than he had expected, but the longer she laughed, the more heated it became.

 

            “That’s rich. You destroyed him, and now you want to help. Where’s Hank? I thought he was coming in?”

 

            “Hank is occupied with a wheelchair design,” Erik quickly answered. “I understand I may be the last person you want her--”

 

            “Last person?” Raven interjected harshly. “You’re damn right, you are the absolute last person I want with him right now. You have no idea what you did to him. No. Idea. You have turned my brother from the most foolish optimist in the world into a man that can’t stay lucid because he is in too much pain!” Her voice had raised into a shout.

 

            “Raven, the nurses are going to come in if you don’t calm down,” Erik said slowly.

 

            “Don’t you fucking tell me to calm down!” Raven snarled. She took a stuttered breath, the acidic smile returning to her features. “It doesn’t matter how loud I am, because we are in a ward full of vegetables. No one will hear us! I have the right to shout. And you are going to listen, because you are the reason he’s in this hellhole. Even when he’s drugged out of his goddamn mind, Charles has been trying to claw his eyes out just to make his head a little quieter! You have no idea. So you’re right, you are the last person I want here. I would rather Shaw himself be here, but he can’t be, because you turned Charles into a pawn in your murder spree to rip his brains out!”

 

            Erik froze, clenching his fists. He could feel a slow rage burning up from his chest, heating up his face.

 

            “How. Dare. You.” Erik spat, teeth bared. “You would rather--”

           

            “Yes!” Raven interrupted. It seemed to be a habit in this fight. But despite her aggressive disruption, Raven stopped. Her breath was coming out in pants; much to Erik’s surprise, she took a few moments to calm herself. He waited for her thoughts to come together.

 

            “I would rather that none of this happened in the first place,” Raven muttered, her voice beginning to take on a hoarse quality. “I wish you had taken the high road, like Charles has always done. But he can’t now, because he can’t fucking use his legs. I wish, I wish to God, it had been you. But it wasn’t. So now you need to take the high road for Charles. You owe him that much.”

 

            “At the least,” Erik added, eyes fixed on Raven’s, whose own seemed to be focused on a particular tile on the floor. She finally looked up.

 

            “I’m too tired to fight with you anymore, Erik. I’m only letting you here because I am too tired to truly help him. If I stayed, he would only feel worse. I can’t have that. So I am going home for one day, and then I’ll be back. I gave Carla the landline number. And I’m going to tell her that if you so much as look at him wrong, I’ll come back. You’ve lost my trust, Erik.”

 

            “I know,” Erik stated.

 

            “You really don’t. For once, I thought you understood. You really made me believe that you wanted what was best for us, that we could get a future of acceptance. Not anymore. I realized the reason you hate humans so much is because you barely are one. But maybe seeing him like this will spark whatever human decency you have left, not that I think here is any. Charles thought so. He doesn’t think much anymore. Seeing him…I hope you feel his pain, see the suffering you’ve caused. I hope you feel it so deeply you don’t sleep, that it eats away at you. For now, that’s punishment enough,” Raven said. Her gaze was relentless, and Erik could have sworn he saw a glimmer of yellow in her eyes.

 

            It was Erik’s turn to look at the floor, effectively signaling the end of the conversation.

 

            “Good luck, Erik,” Raven spoke gently. “I’ll be back soon.” She hesitated for a moment, chewing certain words over. “If it gets too much for him, and he starts…well, just grab his arms. Last time he ripped out an IV.”

 

            And with that, she disappeared.

 

            Erik took a deep breath, looked around, and sat down.

 

            It was going to be a long day.

 

            A few minutes after he had settled in, Carla hesitantly walked in, offering a gentle smile. “Everything okay?”

 

            “No,” Erik curtly responded. Carla sat in a chair.

 

            “I got moved to the coma unit…well, I put in a transfer. Just for a little bit. I didn’t want to seem presumptuous, but I think it might be easier if he has a nurse that knows what’s going on. Plus, now I don’t have that much to do. It’s a nice reprieve from the ICU.”

 

            “That was kind of you,” Erik said. He turned to her, a questioning look in his eyes. “Why are you going all this? For him? He’s a complete stranger to you.”

 

            Carla seemed to hesitate. “He said I could help my son. And I believe him. I’m sure he’s helped others, and lord knows we need more of that. I can’t be the only one out there, scared to wave goodbye to my son on his way to school because I think he might accidentally kill someone just trying to give them a hug. I do all the mom things—I host a bookclub, pack lunches, and put up with some real bitches in the PTA. But there’s no wine club for mothers that are scared for their children. I don’t know where else to go.”

 

            Erik nodded, wishing he knew what to say. Instead the two sat in a comfortable silence. He finally decided to speak up.

 

            “He can. Help your son, that is. If anyone can, it’s Charles. He certainly helped me.”

 

            “And that’s why you’re here?” Cara asked.

 

            “Partially. I’m here because in helping me, I’d like to think we became friends. But I’m also here because I’m the person who landed him in that bed.”

 

            Carla didn’t seem surprised, which took Erik off guard. “Ms. Xavier said something about friendly fire.”

 

            Erik nodded. “Yeah, something like that.” He remained silent, hoping that the nurse wouldn’t prod anymore. Luckily, she didn’t.

 

            Carla checked her watch. “Well, it’s about time for his physical therapy. If we don’t keep his legs moving every day, he could develop a blood clot. He normally is quite good at the beginning, he just seems to lose control towards the end when he’s tired. Do you want to…”

 

            “I’d like to stay, if that’s alright,” Erik responded. Carla nodded. She removed one of Charles’s multiple IVs.

 

            “This is his diazepam; we’ve got him on a pretty high dose. It’s for muscle spasms, which he’s had quite a lot of. But the side effect is being incredibly tired. We have to stop it during his session so he stays awake.”

 

            Erik waited, expecting Charles to immediately shoot up from the bed. Instead, after a few minutes, Charles blearily opened his eyes. His voice was rather slurred, and sounded almost drunk.

 

            “Oh, so you’re back. Took you long en-enough. Do you like the new décor? It’s so much quieter here,” Charles garbled, his eyes slowly creeping in Carla’s direction. “Is it that time already?”

 

            Carla nodded sympathetically. “Charles, how do you feel?”

 

            “Definitely a 1,” Charles said, smiling. “Aren’t drugs incredible? I feeeeeeeel great, darling.”

 

            “Can you try to sit up, Charles?” Carla asked. This caused Charles to groan.

 

            “Come on,” Charles whined, sounding more like a toddler than Erik had ever heard. “We just did this.”

 

            “It’s been 6 hours, Charles,” Carla chuckled.

 

            “Ah, well. Guess I better then,” Charles said, shakily placing his hands on either side of him. Erik watched as he tried to sit up, only hoisting himself up a few mere inches before flopping back down onto the mattress.

 

            “Charles, remember the way we talked about? You won’t get anywhere like that.”

 

            Charles let out a bitter laugh. “My dear, I don’t think I’ll be getting anywhere any time soon. If you don’t seem to remember, I can’t walk.”

 

            Erik inhaled sharply. Neither of the other two inhabitants seemed to notice.

 

            “Remember,” Carla mentioned gently, “roll onto your side first, then push up with the opposite arm.”

 

            Charles squeezed his eyes tightly, and attempted to roll over with a huff. It wasn’t successful. “Damnit,” he whispered under his breath. Carla moved over, and gently led one of his shoulders so that he was on his side.

 

            “You got it from here?” Carla asked, stepping back. Charles nodded, his eyes filled with a determination that Erik recognized. His arm shook as he attempted to hoist himself up, but after two attempts, he was sitting upright. After a few seconds, his face went deathly pale. Beads of sweat began to drip from his forehead, and Erik immediately noticed his arms shaking at his sides.

 

            “Charles?” Carla asked, also picking up the rapid change in his demeanor. “What’s your scale?”

 

            “Fi-ive,” Charles stuttered. “Sorry, I, uh…my head feels like cotton and I can’t hear?”

 

            “It’s okay, Charles,” Carla replied. She knelt at his feet. Grabbing one of his legs, she began to lift it at the knee, moving back and forth. “All your blood just rushed to your legs. Give it a moment.”

 

            Charles began panting, and his voice came out much louder than anticipated. “I still…I can’t hear and everything is caving. Please, p—please I need to lie down.”

 

            “Charles, give it a few moments,” Carla urged, continuing to move Charles’s leg.

 

            It wasn’t clear that the telepath heard her, as his head slumped forward towards his chest, his damp hair obscuring his face.

 

            Erik was getting restless--he couldn’t just stand there. In a swift motion, he rushed behind Charles and grabbed the man’s shaking biceps. He pushed forward one thought with everything he had. He didn’t know if the man would receive it, but he urged his mind to send one clear message.

 

            Breathe, Charles. Breathe. You are in control. Breathe.

 

            Charles immediately gasped for breath, his shoulders heaving with effort. It took a few moments for his head to raise from his chest. Erik saw Carla flash him a smile, before redirecting her attention to Charles.

 

            “Nicely done, keep breathing,” Carla advised. She began stretching his other leg, watching color slowly return to his face. Erik walked over to the sink, filling a cup with water. He brought it over to Charles, and when the man grabbed the cup, Erik felt their fingers brush. He was overcome with emotions that he knew weren’t his own.

 

            Yellow. Inhale. Quiet. Gratitude. Smile. Thanks.

 

            Erik glanced at the man, noticing the appreciativeness in his eyes. He hoped his own depicted a similar feeling. But in a flash it was gone, pain flooding thorough his irises as he clenched his eyes shut.

 

            “Can we…uh…get the next part done, Carla? It’s the bloody worst part,” Charles muttered. His hands were gripping the bed sheets so firmly that his knuckles were turning white.

 

            Carla nodded, walking over to where his wheelchair sat in the corner. She unfolded it and rolled it over. Placing one arm under Charles’s legs and one around his shoulders, she transferred him to the chair as if we weighed nothing. And that was practically true. Charles’s arms were wrapped around her neck, and for a moment, Erik felt a pang of sadness.

 

            He looked so much like a child.

 

            As soon as he was settled, Carla began removing the rest of his IVs, with the exception of one stand that held his liquids, and ironically enough, his urine from the catheter.

 

            “How’s the pain?”

 

            “A four. I’m okay, let’s keep going.”

 

            Carla smiled, about to speak before she was interrupted. Her pager at her waist began beeping. She reached down, quickly reading the code.

 

            “Crap,” she muttered, standing up. “I have to go. Erik, have him go down to the nurses’ station and back. Press his button if you need anything, I should be back in a few.” And without another word, she rushed out of the room.

 

            Silence enveloped the room, as it had many times throughout the weeks, and especially today. Charles was the first to speak.

 

            “Open the door, please?”

 

            Erik nodded, striding towards the door. He opened it, turning his gaze back towards Charles. The man’s hands were on the wheels, but no motion came.

 

            “Charles,” Erik prodded. “Do you need…”

 

            “I can do this!” Charles cut off harshly. Erik would normally be hurt by the tone, but he knew Charles was in pain. And furious at him, for more than enough reasons.

 

            Erik nodded silently, diverting his gaze away from Charles. After a few seconds he heard a slight squeak as Charles’s wheels moved half a rotation. Erik suppressed a surge of pride. It was immediately drowned out by the fact that Charles was only in this position because of him. The squeaking continued as Charles inched his way across the floor.

 

            When he reached the door, Erik stepped backwards, allowing him through first. He watched Charles turn, and took a break as he glanced down the long hallway in front of him.

 

            Charles looked back at Erik, hopeful yet exhausted. “Well, shall we?”

 

            Erik walked along side Charles, afraid of the connotations of him standing either behind or in front of the man. He rolled the IV stand alongside Charles, ensuring the tubes didn’t get stuck in the wheel axle. It was a grueling battle. Every few feet, Charles had to stop to shake out his arms. Erik couldn’t help but notice the wiry veins that stood out against Charles’s pale hands. The tendons contrasted harshly against his skin, skin that was stretched taught over bones that at one point were never visible. His body was emaciated, seemingly giving up the fight before Charles’s mind. But Charles’s mind, in any fight, had never given up before the rest of his body.

 

            “Please, you sound like Raven,” Charles muttered, angrily pushing himself forward one more stroke. For a second fear struck his face, and he turned to Erik.

 

            “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to peek. It just…”

 

            “It’s alright,” Erik interrupted strongly, putting an end to what he was sure to be a lengthy apology and explanation. The two continued on their slow pace down the hallway.

 

            “I almost had Raven call the house and tell you to bring the helmet,” Charles blurted. “These past few days I’ve lost control. I almost gave Raven a stroke.”

 

            “I would never imagine…Charles, I’m done with the helmet.”

 

            “I don’t want you to get rid of it,” Charles said. Seeing the shock on Erik’s face, he elaborated. “The mansion needs it. All of you need it, just in case I lose control. I’m not asking you to wear it, because I don’t want that. Bu—” Charles was cut off by a gasp as he threw a hand towards his lower back.

 

            “Fu…Gah!” Charles exclaimed. His hand was clawing at his back. Erik stood motionless, unsure of what to do. After a few seconds, Charles’s body slumped.

 

            “The spasms only last a minute,” Charles said, his voice low. “But god, they’re miserable. I don’t think I truly understood drug addicts until now. It’s ironic—I can’t remain sane without drugs to keep the pain low, but my sanity causes others insanity. I never thought I would have to choose.”

 

            “You don’t,” Erik said quietly. “Charles, I can handle it. I know you don’t want to burden Raven. So burden me. I deserve it, and if it helps you it’s more than worth it.

 

            “Yes, well, we’ll see how you feel about that in about an hour,” Charles said, a glimmer of humor in his voice. “Only a few more yards to the station and then we’ll head back.”

 

            The last few yards were certainly the hardest. Erik pretended not to notice the shaking, panting, and general enervation radiating off Charles in waves. He wanted to spare the man what little dignity he had left. He said nothing.

 

            There were only three nurses at the station, all busy with different tasks. Erik could hear two more busting in different rooms. However, the change in Charles was immediate. His face went pallid and one hand shot up towards his hairline.

 

            “Hello Mr. Xavier,” one of the nurses said. Charles shot back a grimace. He turned towards Erik.

 

            “I need to go back, now,” Charles whispered urgently. “It’s g—getting loud.”

 

            Erik nodded back to the nurses, and turned the IV cart around. Charles rapidly began wheeling, but a few yards in his arms appeared to give out. Or rather, they were more preoccupied with clutching his head. He was muttering something unintelligible to himself. Erik wrapped his arm around the stand, and used both hands to grab Charles’s wheelchair. The maneuver was awkward, but manageable. It would be easier if he could just use his powers, but he couldn’t risk the nurses seeing. Charles’s muttering might draw their attention first.

 

            “Charles,” Erik said quietly, “Charles, keep them out. You’re strong enough to.”

 

            The telepath’s head had gone from being clutched in his hands to falling backwards. It hit the headrest, half laying on Erik’s stomach where he was pushing the wheelchair. His hands were still clutched in his hair, the tendons in his neck popping out violently. A small stream of blood was trickling down his nostril. His teeth were in a pained grimace, and his eyes shut tightly enough to draw tears.

 

            Fuck.

 

            Erik shifted one hand to grip the junction between Charles’s neck and shoulder, trying not to let his panic seep through. He leaned down to speak in Charles’s ear, simultaneously pushing the wheelchair faster.

 

            “Charles. Please, shut them out. We’re almost there.”

 

            Rage and serenity, Charles. Come on. Bitte mein Freund. Please, my friend.

 

            When they were finally back to the room, Erik slammed the door, his mind filled with panic. He didn’t know what to do; his mind was racing, his hands shaking nearly as bad as his friend’s. He pressed the nurse call button, praying it was Carla that would respond. While he was up, he grabbed a paper towel and knelt in front of Charles.

 

            “Here Charles, pressure.” The paper towel was rapidly turning red, and Erik wasn’t sure if the man had heard him. He was beginning to draw blood from his forehead again, scratching open old cuts and adding new ones.

 

            “Get them out, Erik! Stop it!! They’re so loud and ahhh I can’t do this I can’t get them OUT!” What had first been unintelligible moaning had devolved into shouting between tears and wheezing.

 

            Without thinking, Erik made a decision.

 

            He embraced Charles.

 

            The man was trembling and was much smaller than Erik had remembered. Wetness was beginning to cover his shirt; whether it was blood or tears he couldn’t tell. But there wasn’t time to judge the physical state of Charles when his mental one was what was tearing him apart.

 

            Charles, focus on me. Only me. Focus on my mind. It’s yours. Rage and serenity. Rage and serenity. Rage and serenity.

 

            TOO LOUD MAKE IT STOP GOD PLEASE THEY ALL HURT SO MUCH PAIN I JUST WANT IT TO STOP KILL ME DO SOMETHING I DON’T CARE

 

            Rage and serenity. Rage and serenity, Charles. Rage and serenity. Rage and serenity and rage and serenity and rage and ….

 

 

            Erik wasn’t sure how long they had remained like that before Carla came in, gently pushing Erik off of Charles. Erik hadn’t realized until now that his head was throbbing, and fell back wordlessly when Carla ushered him gently to a chair. Erik watched silently as Carla placed Charles in bed, reattaching IVs. After one of the needles hit a vain, Erik watched as Charles’s body went completely limp. Probably Valium. Maybe something stronger.

 

            Erik looked at Carla. There was a trail of blood covering his shirt, as well as tears, but no one else needed to know that. He took a deep breath before speaking.

 

            “We have to get him out of here. As soon as possible. He won’t last in here.”