25 April 2012 @ 05:59 pm
XMFC: Burn the World and Build on the Ashes (R), Charles/Erik.  
Erik was far more dangerous than Shaw, Charles realized suddenly, his heart stuttering in his chest. He would take the authorities out one by one, systematically, like a game of chess.

And Erik almost always won when they played chess.






I. The Break

Charles was never quite certain how it had happened, once it was over. He would remember it better except he'd still had Shaw screaming in his head—Shaw, who fought down to that last second, who feed all that rage and madness back into his mind because Charles had not left any other place for it to go.

Charles liked to think he would have been able to stop it, if it hadn't been for that. He liked to think he might have saved them all, somehow. He liked to think he might have even saved Erik from himself.

Moira was their first casualty that day, but nowhere near the last. Charles was on his back in the sand with Erik straddling him, and he was trying to reason with him, trying to distract him long enough for those missiles to crash into the water—and then brilliant, clever Moira panicked, and did the worst possible thing she could have done.

She fired a gun.

Charles remembered Erik trying to get him to aim a gun at him, maybe that very same one, for practice. For sport. But Erik had never needed the practice. He turned and sent that bullet spinning backwards without even bothering to raise a hand, and it burrowed itself right through the middle of Moira's pretty eyes.

Charles screamed as he felt the bullet go in, felt it just as though it was going into him. The last word to pass through her mind wasn't Erik's name, but his. He gasped and leaned forward, catching himself with the palms of his hands on the sand. Erik glanced at him once in concern, but then looked away again, rising to his feet as he caught those missiles and put them all back on track.

"Erik, please," Charles pleaded, pushing himself up to his hands and knees. He almost couldn't think for the pain, so much fear and death, caught like fireflies inside his brain.

"I'm sorry, Charles," Erik said, but still wouldn't look at him. "But it was always going to end this way."

"It doesn't have to," Charles told him. He pushed himself back to sit there in the sand, too exhausted even to stand. "You don't have to do this."

"I've never fired first," Erik said. "Not once today. Do you understand, Charles? We are already the better men."

Charles knew without looking the moment those missiles started to hit their targets. He could not even hear the explosions that the others must have heard, because the screaming in his mind drowned out anything else—he could hear thousands of last words, pleas to families and gods and country. Fear and disbelief and something like awe in one powerful mix that built and built and then abruptly disappeared.

It ripped through him just as surely as that coin had torn through his mind, and he didn't even realize at first that he was screaming along with them. Erik dropped back down beside him, reaching out and pulling Charles close. Charles could not stop him and could not pull away.

He could hear Erik screaming at the others to stay back and saw him reach out to hold them back by the metal in their clothes, as though they're somehow now all on different sides, when just a moment ago they had been a team.

Charles didn't know how that had happened, and he couldn't see how it could ever be fixed.

It did not matter that Charles could feel the arm holding him around his waist, or that he could hear that voice washing him over like the coming tide. It didn't matter because he couldn't hear Erik's thoughts, he couldn't feel his mind, and despite all evidence to the contrary it was as though he couldn't believe that Erik was there at all.

"Charles, look at me," Erik demanded. "I need you to look at me. What's wrong, what's happened?"

"He's a telepath," Hank snarled from somewhere behind them. "You just killed thousands of people, right in front of him, what do you think is the matter with him?"

"Enough!" Erik yelled, before pulling Charles around and into his lap. "Charles? Charles, please—"

Charles opened his eyes. Erik looked down at him, wearing that helmet still. He was searching out all the minds he could find—Raven, Hank, Alex, Sean, even Angel, Riptide and Azazel. He desperately needed to know there were others still alive, because Moira and those countless others had nearly torn him apart as they died, and while wearing that helmet Erik was as good as dead to him too.

"You killed them," Charles said, and he was surprised that Erik seemed to hear him and could respond to the words. Perhaps Erik wasn't dead after all.

"They were trying to kill us," Erik told him, as though he were speaking to a child, as though that was logic—the worst part was, Charles knew that he wasn't entirely wrong. It was self-defense on a massive scale, with staggering collateral damage, but it was a form of self-defense all the same. If those missiles hadn't been fired at them first, Erik would not have had reason to turn them around.

It didn't mean that Charles could ever accept it had been necessary. He dragged himself away from Erik, pulling out of his grip and pushing himself to sit back on the sand a few feet away. He knew he was looking at Erik like he was some kind of ghost, but he still could not entirely convince himself that he was real.

Erik couldn't have done this, and if Erik were here, he would feel him. Erik was impossible to miss.

"Charles, we need to go," Erik said gently, but firmly. "We can't stay here."

Charles turned to look at the water. The ships were burning like bonfires—but not everyone out there was dead. The survivors were flickering like candles amidst the flames, clinging onto pieces of the ships and the pieces of their minds.

"I'm not going with you," Charles told him. He looked back at Erik, and for the first time, he was glad he was wearing that helmet. Charles wasn't certain he would have the strength to refuse him if he wasn't.

"Yes, you are," Erik snapped. He turned around to look at Shaw's people. "You, teleporter. Will you take us away from here? Can you take us all at once?"

Azazel stepped forward. "We would be honored to join you," he said, giving a shallow bow. Angel and Riptide walking up to join him. "I can take us all wherever you wish to go."

"The King is dead, long live the King," Charles whispered, biting his lip to hold off the hysterical urge to laugh. He turned and saw Raven and the other kids getting to their feet. Hank and Sean looked terrified at what had happened, but Alex was used to violence and Raven looked almost pleased.

It was Raven's expression that sent him over the edge. Charles leaned down and threw up, coughing dryly when there was nothing left. He remembered what he had learned of mummification in school, those needles slipping up the nose to pull a person's mind straight out of them.

That's what it felt like—it was as though his mind was leaking out of him. Spread too thin and in too many places, caught up in the dark corners of dead minds as though he expected them to spark back to life. Moira was the most chilling. He could not see her from this angle, where she laid in the sand, but touching her mind and finding nothing there was worse.

He could feel Erik's hands on him too, like dead things, supporting him, soothingly rubbing at his back. Those hands he had held up so easily, those hands that had committed mass murder with all the effort it would take anyone else to wave goodbye.

"I will not go with you," Charles said again, more firmly this time. He pulled away, shoving Erik back. Charles knew Erik was only humoring him when he let his weak push drive him away, but he was quick to take advantage of the distance. "I can't."

"Neither will I," Hank said, stepping forward. Alex trailed behind him, and Sean followed on his heels.

"That goes for us too," Alex said.

Raven didn't step forward. "Charles," she started.

"You should go with him, Raven," he told her, though it broke his heart. He wouldn't look at her as he spoke. "If that's what you want."

"You're being ridiculous," Erik snapped. "I'm not leaving you here."

"You have little choice in the matter, I'm afraid," Charles said.

"You forget that I'm wearing this helmet," Erik said, though he tried to say it gently, in a strange cajoling tone that one might use on a wounded animal.

"And you forget that you're the only one that is," Charles told him, his eyes flickering to Azazel, Riptide and Angel. He reached out and froze them in place, all three of them together put up only a fraction of the resistance he faced with Shaw. He could keep them there for as long as he needed to.

"Charles," Raven said warily. "Stop this."

"I won't stop anyone that wants to leave," Charles said, trying to look more confident than he really was. "But I am not leaving with you."

Erik looked unbelievably as though he was the one being betrayed. He reached and placed one hand on the side of Charles' face, running his fingers through his hair to rest on his neck. He gave him a gentle shake. "Don't you see that I've done this all for you?" he whispered.

"Don't say that," Charles said. "Erik, don't say that—"

"You can't just expect me to leave you here?" Erik shouted. "You're not well."

"As you can see, my powers are still in working order," Charles said, nodding towards where the former Hellfire club members still stood frozen. "And what happens to me is no longer your concern."

"Charles, I want you by my side," Erik said, even as he pulled his hand away. "We want the same things."

"Oh, my friend. I'm sorry, but we do not," Charles told him.

Erik pulled his eyes away and pushed himself to his feet, before heading towards Azazel. "Will you let them go?" he asked.

Charles let them go. They looked startled that Erik was not where they had last seen him, but were completely unharmed. Raven started to follow Erik, before turning and dropping to her knees in front of Charles.

"Charles—" she started.

"Go, Raven," he told her tiredly. "I won't stop you."

"You could," Raven said, and she looked for a moment almost as though she wanted him to. "I don't mean use your powers. If you just asked me to stay, Charles, I would. All you have to do is ask."

Charles pulled her close, hugging her tightly, trying to remember the feel of her beneath his hands and at the corners of his mind. "Oh, Raven," he whispered. "If you really wanted to stay, you wouldn't need me to ask."

Raven held him tightly, squeezing him fiercely for a moment before pulling away all at once and stumbling back. She turned and walked towards Erik, taking his hand before gathering the courage to look back.

Then with a sound like a thunder, Erik and Raven and others with them were gone. Hank, Alex, and Sean ran to his side, but Charles could only stare straight ahead.

When the others had disappeared Moira had become visible where she lay behind them. Her eyes were open and staring straight back at him in accusation.

"Let's go home, Professor," Hank said quietly, moving to block his view and pull him to his feet.

"There's going to be a war," Charles said.

"Yes," Alex agreed.

Charles remembered then one of the things he had pushed out of his mind. He remembered Shaw laughing at the end, in that moment before the coin sunk in. He remembered him thinking, I've still won.

He hadn't understood the significance of the statement at the time.


II. Parley


Charles and Hank walked straight through the front doors. The people around them hung suspended, eerily held in place like wax figurines. Behind them, Alex and Sean split off in opposite directions without needing verbal command. Four months since the beach, and they had begun working together rather seamlessly.

There was none of Erik's anger to be dealt with, none of Raven's ever changing moods and questions. It was better this way, Charles often told himself. Easier, at least.

Charles led the way and Hank followed him. He had located a rather spectacular mutant with the newly rebuilt Cerebro, only to realize she was being held prisoner. She was only ten years old.

He followed the sound of her mind, young and terrified and alone, down the stark white corridors. No one stopped them, because no one could. The guards stood as still and silent as those at Buckingham Palace.

Charles took them into a laboratory room, and there was a stainless steel table in the center with straps hanging off the sides that made Charles feel ill.

He remembered all too well the things he had seen in Sebastian Shaw's mind. In Erik's mind.

"Professor?" Hank asked.

"She's through there," Charles said, nodding towards a steel door on the far side of the room. He started to step towards it and then froze in place, goose bumps crawling up along his skin like a warning of a coming storm. Charles turned his head as his breath caught in his throat, and he grabbed Hank's arm before he could walk past him.

"Erik's here," Charles said, voice taking on a breathless quality that gave his unease away.

Charles could not keep tabs on Erik's mind so long as he wore that helmet, and since he had helped Emma Frost escape from the CIA she had been blocking the rest of the newly minted Brotherhood members. Charles had needed to adapt to be able to sense Erik's presence, so while he still couldn't feel his mind, he could always feel his power.

There was always a slight vibration in the walls, like an aftershock. He could feel it moving past those minds he held in his grasp.

"Where?" Hank demanded, eyes shining fiercely as he moved in front of Charles.

They had crossed paths with the Brotherhood three times since they had gone their separate ways. The first time was before they had Frost, and Charles had simply slipped into Azazel's mind the moment they arrived and had him teleport them all to Alaska, instructing Azazel to take a thirty-hour nap immediately upon arrival.

The second time Emma had been with him, smirking sweetly as she blocked him out. She wasn't nearly as strong as he was, but there was no way to get through her defenses when she was in diamond form. Charles had needed to improvise. He had slipped into the minds of a handful of humans in the nearby buildings, having them pull the fire alarms and trip the silent alarms.

It was a risk, because Erik might well have chosen to stay and fight the police. He had stayed standing in the center of the street for a moment, staring Charles down, and he had feared for a moment that maybe he would. Once the sirens had gotten closer, he had spun around, cape flying out behind him, to disappear with Azazel once more.

The third time hadn't gone nearly so well. They had long since removed all the metal from their uniforms, but Erik had thrown a chain towards him like a lasso, to drag him into his arms. Hank and Azazel were standing off while Sean shrieked through the sky after Angel, Alex grinning widely as he took both Emma and Riptide on. Raven hadn't been there, at least not in a form he knew.

They had all come to a standstill when Erik had dragged Charles up against him with one arm like a steel band around his shoulders, trapping his arms at his sides. "Call them off," Erik had whispered, his tone almost pleasant.

His team had become more than a little protective since the beach, and he could see them all getting ready to charge straight through the others to get to him, so Charles held up a hand and did as he was told. "It's okay, stay back."

"You're becoming troublesome, Charles," Erik had told him, with a strange edge to his voice. "Go back to your mansion where it's safe. This is the last warning you get."

Erik had pushed him away and then disappeared with his team.

Charles had not listened to Erik's warning, and he while he did not truly expect Erik to hurt him, he knew that he wasn't the type to make idle threats. Part of him wanted to put this conversation off, but someone was going to have to confront him or he'd kill every human here. Charles knew he was the only one that could even hope to try.

Charles steeled his resolve and turned to look back at Hank. "I'll deal with him," he said. "You go find the girl. Her name is Ororo. I've told her to expect you."

"Professor," Hank protested.

"He won't hurt me," Charles said, frowning a little as he admitted, "but he might hurt you."

"Maybe he won't kill you, but he hurts you all the time. Why aren't you scared of him?" Hank demanded suddenly, moving to block Charles' path. "If any of us have reason to be scared, it should be you. You've been inside his head. How did it not terrify you?"

Charles tried to pretend he didn't notice the tone of disappointment. That day at the beach had changed them somewhat from Professor and students to equals, and while Charles wouldn't have it any other way, he knew they needed a leader for this to work. He just wasn't sure how to be a leader by himself. He'd always had Raven in the past.

And then Erik.

"You really want to talk about this now?" Charles asked.

"Yes," Hank said. "Or else I'm not letting you go after him by yourself."

Charles did not point out that Hank could not stop him, he just sighed and looked away. "You're right, I've been in his mind, and maybe I don't know everything about him, but I know enough," he said. "I've seen what he could be. He could be amazing…unstoppable."

"You only see the good in him," Hank said, his voice cracking. "But, Professor, think of all that potential you saw in him, turned the opposite direction. Remember the beach."

"I have no illusions about what Erik has become," Charles said tightly. "And make no mistake, I plan to stop him if I can."

"But you still—" Hank broke off, not sure how to put into words what he was trying to say, what he knew to be true. Charles had said that Erik wouldn't willingly hurt him, and Hank knew that was possibly the one line that Erik wouldn't ever cross. But it obviously went both ways.

"There are a number of ways to stop someone," Charles told him gently. "Not all of them require violence."

"He won't listen to you," Hank insisted.

"No, probably not," Charles agreed. "But that's no reason not to try. Go find Ororo, then get Alex and Sean and go back to the jet."

"If you're not there in twenty minutes, we're coming back for you," Hank told him.

Charles nodded once before heading back into the hall. He went to stand in the center of the hallway, flexing his hands into fists as he waited for Erik to appear. He could sense Emma somewhere around the perimeter, in diamond form, so untouchable. She was blocking the others, but there was nothing she could do to disguise that magnetic field that Erik dragged with him wherever he went.

And it was coming closer.

Charles was nearly driven to his knees as he felt one of the humans he was holding frozen fall, the sound of the gunshot echoed from down the hall straight through his mind. Charles gasped, reaching out to grab the wall. "Erik!" he shouted, pushing himself off the wall to face him. "Stop!"

Erik turned the corner and appeared in front of him, what was probably the dead guard's weapon disassembling itself behind his head, its pieces rotating like a child's mobile.

"Charles," Erik said.

"That man was defenseless," Charles shouted. "I'd taken care of him."

"Yours was a…temporary solution," Erik said, his smooth voice not faltering with any of the emotion Charles thought ought to be there. They might as well have been discussing the weather. Charles could still feel that man die, could still sort through his memories if he wished—it was always like that the first minutes, like being haunted by a ghost.

"Why are you here?" Charles asked.

Erik's eyes narrowed, and he stomped towards him. Charles wondered what impression he was trying to give with that uniform. Those boots and cape and helmet, as though he designed a uniform expressly with the intent that it did not bring to mind any other.

"These people have been experimenting on us," Erik growled. "I suppose you would have me do nothing?"

"There's nothing you need to do," Charles said. "I've taken care of it. It's done. They won't remember their work here."

"But you'd let them live," Erik accused.

Charles pressed his eyes closed for a moment, fighting the urge to step away. He did not need to be able to read Erik to feel the anger and disapproval coming at him in waves. "Please, just go," he said. "I promise they won't hurt anyone again."

"But you can't promise that," Erik said, "and in any case you've never been known for keeping the ones you've made. I warned you to stay out of my way."

"I was here first," Charles said, meeting his eyes defiantly. "I can't predict where you're going to show up. Not while you're wearing that helmet, at least, but if you'd like to take it off—"

"You're the one that didn't want to fight, Charles," Erik said. "You made your decision, you can't have it both ways."

"The decision I made was not that I wouldn't fight," Charles yelled. "It was not to be part of a massacre!"

Erik looked furious suddenly, and the door behind him flew almost off its hinges. Erik grabbed Charles by the arm and forced him inside, shoving him into the room so harshly that Charles fell against the desk.

Erik slammed the door shut behind them. There was a man sitting at the desk. Charles met his blank eyes for a moment before spinning around to face Erik. Charles considered instructing the man to stand and leave them alone, but he didn't think there was any way Erik would let him pass unharmed, so he kept him sitting frozen at his desk.

"This isn't solving anything," Charles said, forcing himself not to back away as Erik stepped closer. "I don't know what you want from me."

"Yes you do," Erik growled. "I want you with me, but that's never going to happen, is it? You'd rather be with them. But they won't always be between us."

Charles felt the fear grip him as Erik moved his attention to the man sitting at his desk. "Erik, don't. Whatever you're thinking, stop it right now."

Erik didn't even glance at him to acknowledge he'd heard. With a careless wave of his hand, he lifted a letter opener off the desk and sent it straight for the man's throat. Charles moved without thinking, having guessed Erik's next move without needing to hear his thoughts. He shoved the desk chair out of the way, and moved to stand in front of the human. The letter opener came to a sudden stop a centimeter from the material of his jumpsuit, suspended in the air right below his ribs.

Charles stared at it, afraid to even breathe, and then it was torn violently away, lodging itself half inside the nearest wall. Erik moved almost as quickly as the metal he wielded, suddenly right in front of him. He grabbed Charles by the collar of his jumpsuit and slammed him roughly against the wall.

"You little fool," Erik growled. "I could have killed you!"

Charles put his hands over Erik's wrist, trying to pull him away. His feet were barely touching the ground, and he tried to wedge his boots against the wall gain some leverage. "Or you could have killed him," Charles said.

"They need to be punished for what they've done," Erik said. "Don't you understand that? Haven't you taken a look inside his mind, don't you know what this man has done?"

"Yes," Charles said, reaching out with one hand to grab the edge of Erik's collar and the edges of his cape to try and get his balance. "I know everything he's done, and his reasons for doing it. I know that every night he goes home to his twin boys and his daughter and he loves them. I know he's tried to make life more bearable for the girl they were holding here. She reminds him of his daughter."

"But he didn't stop it, did he?" Erik demanded. "He didn't save her."

"He didn't know how," Charles said, desperate to explain, even as he knew he'd fail. "And if we don't give him a chance, he's never going to know any better."

"You're always giving so many chances," Erik said, leaning forward until their lips were only an inch apart, and when he spoke, it was as intimate as a kiss. "But you don't have another one for me, do you? Because all this time, you've never once asked me to come back."

"I haven't asked because I know you won't," Charles said, trying to put distance between them, though with that wall at his back the only direction he could move would bring him closer.

"Which means you're not here to reason with me," Erik said, sounding almost resigned. "You're here to distract me."

"I'll never stop trying to reason with you," Charles disagreed.

"You know there's no point, you just admitted it," Erik said. "The only way to stop me is to kill me."

"Your mind always goes there, doesn't it?" Charles asked sadly. "Killing solves nothing, it only creates more problems. Did killing Shaw help you at all?"

"I enjoyed it rather immensely, yes," Erik said.

"I enjoyed it rather less," Charles said. "You see, I was in his mind at the time. I felt every single second of that coin dragging across my—across his brain, and it solved nothing."

"We stopped a war," Erik protested, his grip on Charles tightening unconsciously.

"And you'll start another in its place," Charles said.

"And you think, if I had allowed Shaw to live, things would be better?" Erik asked curiously, still close enough that Charles could feel his breath ghosting across his cheek.

"I think," Charles said slowly, "if you were the sort of person to let Shaw live, then things would be very different, yes."

"You've always known what sort of person I am, Charles," Erik said. "No one knows me better than you. That moment you found me in the water, you should have known. You should have let me drown if this wasn't what you wanted."

Charles carefully tested Erik's grip, but there was still no give. "I didn't stop you from drowning," he said simply. "It would have been easy to force you to the surface, but that wasn't what I did. I asked you to let go, Erik, and you did. The only one responsible for your actions is you."

"Yes, I suppose you're right," Erik said, relaxing his grip enough that Charles' feet were back on the ground. "You're holding everyone here frozen, aren't you? You're in their minds?"

"Yes," Charles said. "They're no threat to you."

"They'd be no threat in any case. I need you to get out of them," Erik ordered. "Because in a moment they'll all be dead."

"Erik—" Charles started, feeling a cold dread crawling up his spin. "Erik, don't do this."

"I've given the orders," Erik said. "I couldn't stop it if I tried. You can't save them."

"No," Charles shouted, crying out as he felt three die almost at once, two by Azazel's tail, so sudden that even if Charles had not held them still they would not have seen it coming. And the third, the third. "Raven, she just—"

Charles had all but collapsed in Erik's arms. He wanted to push him away, but only a small part of his mind was still in that room with him.

"You can't save them," Erik growled. "Don't be stubborn, get out of their minds. If it makes you feel better, think of it as giving them a fighting chance."

Charles freed them all at once, all of them but the one sitting a foot away at his desk. He felt relief and guilt pressing in as he disconnected, and outside, the screams started up. Charles still felt them die, but distantly, like watching footage of a war on the news. The last instructions he'd given them had been to run, just run, but he didn't think it had done a bit of good.

"I can't allow survivors, you understand," Erik said. "Not even for you. They would start again, no matter what you've taken from their memory. It would all start again."

Charles' legs gave out and Erik lowered him to the floor. "Erik, what's happened to you?" he asked, and he forced himself to meet his friend's eyes. He was not certain any longer that he would recognize the mind that helmet held if he were to take it off.

"I warned you, I told you to stay away," Erik told him, gently brushing Charles hair back as he looked down at him. The affectionate actions were so at odds with what he'd just done that Charles was too startled to even pull away.

Erik finally moved away, turning his attention to the man who was still sitting in his desk chair, blissfully unaware of his situation. "Now get out of that man's mind."

"No," Charles said, bracing himself against the desk. "Whatever you're planning to do to him, you're going to have to do to me too."

"You owe him nothing," Erik snapped. "I can't let him live."

"I won't just turn my head and let this happen," Charles said. "He's a person, Erik. These were all people—they all, they're just like us!"

"They're nothing like us!" Erik said. He pulled the letter opener from the wall back to his hand and got to his feet. "Let him go."

Charles could still see Raven in his mind, from her victim's eyes, the way she'd grabbed that gun and fired it so easily. There was no way it was the first time. The Brotherhood had been on plenty missions Charles didn't know about, wouldn't know about, not while Erik had the helmet and Frost.

It would be easy to give up, or turn the other way. To say he'd tried. Charles forced himself to his feet, his head aching with so much death, and forced himself to walk across to Erik, standing between him and the man at the desk.

"I already told you," he said, raising his chin. "If you want to kill him, you're going to have to go through me."

Erik dropped the letter opener and it clattered to the floor. He looked torn between frustration and admiration, and he reached out and dragged Charles up against him. "Okay, I'll give you this," he said roughly, "but this is the last time I let you stop me."

"I've never been able to stop you," Charles said, and he fought the urge to pull away. Erik had always seemed to like his space, but since the beach things had shifted. Their ideologies had never been at a greater divide, and yet Erik couldn't seem to be near him without pulling him close. "Erik, what are you trying to accomplish?"

"You want peace, but there's no such thing," Erik said, "I just want us all to be safe. And we won't be. Until they're gone."

"It doesn't work that way," Charles said. "Shaw was your greatest enemy, and he wasn't human at all."

"Shaw is dead," Erik said, and he finally seemed to realize his hands were fisted in Charles jumpsuit. All at once he let him go, and Charles fell back against the desk.

"But only for revenge," Charles whispered sickly, as the realization comes to him. "That's the only reason, isn't it? You agreed with him, and you're letting him win. Erik, what he did to you—"

"He made me stronger," Erik snapped. "The one thing I never hated him for was that."

Charles reached out for Erik this time, but Erik sidestepped him and headed towards the door. "Make sure you wipe his mind thoroughly," he said, nodding towards the man. "Or I can always come back and kill him later."

Erik was far more dangerous than Shaw, Charles realized suddenly, his heart stuttering in his chest. Shaw was insane, charismatic but insane, and his plan would have destroyed the world, mutant and human alike. Erik was far too clever for that. He would take the authorities out one by one, systematically, like a game of chess.

Erik almost always won when they played chess.

"And Charles, you can have the girl," Erik said, looking back at him with a strange, sad expression. "You should have just started your school, and stayed there."

Charles slid to the floor after Erik had left. He clung onto the mind behind him like a lifeline—the only one he'd managed to save. He was still there when Hank came to find him.

onto part two