Erik gaped. Charles was breathing heavily, and there was a fiery rage in his beautiful eyes. They were dancing with rage that Erik could barely comprehend. Erik’s serenity had become pure rage. The man holding the gun looked like Charles.
“You know, you should really take more care in where you put your cameras,” he said.
That was not Charles. It couldn’t be. It didn’t sound remotely like him. But still… who else could it be?
“Especially,” Charles went on, “when the person you’re trapping is an assassin.” He held up his free hand, and Erik saw an awful cut along his palm that was still bleeding heavily. “Some of us are smarter than you think.”
“Wesley Gibson,” Moira breathed. Charles inclined his head towards her, not taking his eyes of off Shaw. “You’re- you’re a wanted criminal!”
“I asked you all not to think any less of me,” Charles says. “I’m sorry for that. That was an unfair thing to ask of you.”
“Now they know what you are,” Shaw taunted him. Charles moved forward, pressing the barrel of the gun against Shaw’s forehead. Shaw fell silent, but still grinned maliciously.
“Charles, please,” Raven begged him. “Please don’t do this! This isn’t you!”
“You’re right,” Charles replied. “I guess you could call this a relapse.” He took a deep breath, but he still seemed eerily calm. Erik was almost scared. “And I think that this time, there’s very little chance of me ever returning to the Charles you knew.”
“Charles,” Raven tried, but her brother just shook his head.
“I didn’t want it to go this way, Raven, I swear to you I didn’t,” Charles said. “But now I don’t have a choice.”
“But you do,” Erik blurted out. He was desperate. “You do have a choice. Let me kill Shaw.”
Still not taking his eyes off of Shaw, Charles acknowledged him. “I’m sorry Erik, I can’t let you do that.”
“Why not?” Erik demanded.
“I told you,” Charles replied. “Killing Shaw may lead you down a path that even I can’t follow.”
“It will do the same thing to you,” Erik tried to convince him, and he strained against his chains. He felt a wave of relief as he started feeling the metal on the edges of his senses, like pins and needles. It wasn’t enough for him to control it, but it was there.
“Erik,” Charles said firmly, and Erik fell silent. Erik, he said again, and Erik felt the comforting warmth of Charles’s mind in his, where he felt like Charles, sounded like Charles. Erik, you have a chance here, a good chance, with the children. You have a chance to start something amazing, and lead mutants to an age where they are respected, and equal to humans. There’s no chance for me, my friend. I have to kill Shaw, and then I am going to leave and kill myself. Permanently, like I should have done a long time ago.
“No,” Erik said, and he fought to not let his voice crack. “No, Charles, don’t. Let me, please! Please Charles, don’t do this!”
“I have to. I have to do this, or you all die,” Charles said, and his voice sounded strained.
“I wonder who would be more proud of you,” Shaw said, as if he was thinking out loud. “Your dead girlfriend or your dead father?”
“Shut up, shut up!” Charles roared. “Just shut the fuck up! You have no right to talk about them!”
Shaw grinned insanely. “They’re both burning in hell.”
Charles took over a calm stature. It was eerie and unnatural, like all emotion had been wiped clean. “And so will you,” Charles said shortly, and squeezed the trigger.
The sound that followed made Erik feel like his head was splitting open, and the metal around him was no longer humming – it was screaming. The chains and the cuffs around his wrists exploded, sending shards of metal everywhere. Gasping, he fell forwards, bracing himself on his hands.
This wasn’t right. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
He was supposed to kill Shaw, not Charles! Charles was never supposed to be like this, none of this was meant to happen, none of it-
“Are you okay, Erik?” Charles asked softly, placing his warm hand on Erik’s shoulder.
Erik looked up at him, pulling himself up. “Charles?” he tried to say, but all that came out was a mangled whisper.
Charles briefly squeezed his shoulder, before standing up and moving around to free the others. Erik watched him move behind a sobbing Raven and somehow break the chains. Erik couldn’t focus – he was still so confused.
“I’m so sorry, everyone,” Charles was apologising. “I truly am. Please forgive me. I never intended for any of you to find any of this out.”
Once everyone was free, Raven launched herself at Charles, and Charles hugged her tightly back. “I’m sorry, Raven,” Charles mumbled. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you everything.”
“Shut up,” Raven sobbed. “Shut up, you son of a bitch. Oh my god, I was so scared I lost you. Oh my god, Charles…”
Charles rubbed her back soothingly, and Erik locked eyes with him over her shoulder. She had no idea what Charles was planning to do to himself.
Charles pulled away from the hug and took her hand, pulling her towards the exit. Erik scrambled to his feet and everyone followed after them.
Once out on the beach, Charles turned and stood facing all of the battleships. Erik pushed his powers out on instinct, and he panicked.
“Charles,” he said quickly. “They have missiles. A lot of them.”
“I know,” Charles replied softly. “They won’t fire them.”
“How do you know?” Erik demanded.
Charles looked at him, and Erik looked back. There was something swimming in those eyes – something like regret, but much deeper than that.
“Charles, did you…?” Erik couldn’t finish his question, he didn’t need to. Charles nodded, raising his hand and touching two fingers to his temple.
Erik felt Charles push out with his mind, and it was incredible. It was like they were all under an umbrella, and Erik could hear the thoughts of every man on every ship. Some were confused, some were panicking, and some were praying. Some were even saying their goodbyes to their crew. He heard, and he felt the thoughts of everybody. It was almost overwhelming.
And as he heard the thoughts, he heard them change. He heard Charles’s voice in every one of their minds. It was warm and gentle, like it was telling a story to a child at night.
It’s alright, Charles was saying. There’s no need for a war. Nothing is wrong. Turn around and go back to your countries with words of peace on your lips.
Charles amplified his thoughts and said, And if your child comes to you saying they can do extraordinary things, be proud of them. Love them. They are just as human as the rest of you.
“Charles,” Raven whispered.
My head it hurts pain determination fear pain paIN PAIN
Charles gasped, ripping his hand away from his head, and Erik felt the umbrella snap closed. Charles collapsed to his knees, and used one hand to hold his head and the other to brace himself on the ground.
“Charles!” Raven exclaimed, trying to help him up.
Erik looked around at the ships that were, a moment ago stationary, now slowly turning around and heading back out to sea, away from Cuba.
“You did it,” he breathed, turning back to Charles. He walked over to him and knelt down in front of him, cupping Charles’s face with his hands. He looked into Charles’s beautiful blue eyes – he would never get enough of those eyes – and saw so many emotions swirling in them that Erik wanted to wipe away like tears. “You did it, Charles,” he said again, smiling a little, stroking his cheek with one thumb.
Charles didn’t return his smile. In fact, he looked worse.
“Charles?” Raven said gently, rubbing his back.
“I’m sorry,” Charles said, his voice breaking at the end of the word. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.” He kept apologising, and Raven pulled him into a hug. Erik took his hand, lacing their fingers together, and ran his thumbs over Charles’s bloodied knuckles.
“It’s alright, Charles,” he said, and impulsively kissed Charles’s knuckles. “It’s alright. It’s over.”
Charles shook his head, and gently pushed them both away. “No,” he said. “No, it’s not over, it can never be over, it will never be over! There is no way it will ever be over again, there is no over for me anymore!” He was beginning to sound hysterical, and he pushed himself to his feet, backing away from them. Moira and the others were watching them carefully, looking worried.
Erik slowly stood. “Charles,” he started, but Charles cut him off by raising his hand.
Charles took a moment to collect himself, and in that moment Erik felt so many emotions at once: confusion, fear, hurt, anger, love.
“I’m sorry,” Charles said again. “I have to go. I have to fix this.”
“What is there to fix, Charles?” Raven asked him, sounding on the brink of tears.
Charles looked at her, and Erik thought he looked on the edge of tears himself. “Everything,” he said. Then he locked eyes with Erik, and Erik licked his lips nervously. When Charles had said the same word to him back at the CIA base, Erik wasn’t sure what the future would hold – he felt exactly the same now.
“Charles,” Erik said again. “Please. Come home with us.”
Charles shook his head without taking his eyes off of Erik, and said, “I can’t.” There was a resigned certainty in his voice that Erik didn’t like.
There was a stinging pain at Erik’s temple, and a hand went up to it instinctively. It was so painful for such a brief moment that he had to shut his eyes through the pain. When he opened his eyes again, Charles was gone.
Erik looked around him and saw everyone else looking just as confused as he was.
It was Raven that figured it out first, dropping to her knees again and sobbing, holding her chest.
“Where did he go?” Moira demanded.
Erik watched Raven, who was shaking her head as she cried. He slumped his shoulders as he realised.
“Charles is gone,” he said, and felt the gaze of everyone turn to him again. “Charles is on one of those ships, going to America.” He ran a hand down his face. “Charles never came off the ship with us.”
Only Raven’s sobs broke the silence that followed.