December 14, 1963.
Erik Lehnsherr sits alone now, his feet wearing rubber soles and a shadowed heaviness incomparable to the weight of anything he had ever worn prior. His hands rest, palms down against the leather wrap that lines Charles' desk; solid brass pins – polished, shiny – are pushed down into the plush foam, keeping it secured against its mahogany base, careful not to slip beneath the use of its owner.
"Charles," he whispers aloud, voice cracked and thin. It was all Erik could give in that moment, realizing anything more would cripple him.
He stares at the lined paper laying in between his separated arms, a single pen waiting to be held – waiting to tell a story it had never been intended to write. Erik's bottom lip shakes, his chin dimpled with a hurt too deep to name.
"Charles," Erik repeats. He doesn't want to do this. Doesn't even know if he can, but Charles deserves as much; if Erik has nothing more to give at this point – nothing more to say and nothing left to do – possessing only the remains of his silent pain, he will give it away. It's a macabre sense of hope Erik now holds, praying these memories are proof that nothing was in vain. That it wasn't a total loss. Right.
If Erik can remember – and Erik does remember – then perhaps Charles Xavier can somehow continue on. If not in physical form, if not in a telepathic connection, if not here beside Erik, at least in words may he still exist. That is all Erik seeks, all he wishes back.
"I'll write for you. I'll give you whatever I can in hopes that you may hear me, Charles." Erik knows that unsent letters and unkempt journals are nothing more than emotional pleads for a warm body beside your own. But he knows that's precisely what is needed in this moment. And this is as close as one could hope to get – as close as he is able to be to a man who's no longer walking amongst the living.
A single tear slips down the roughened edges of Erik's face, his hands neither caring nor moving quickly enough to wipe it clean. It's time to let it out, and he knows of this now. It's time to embrace a loss he has fought so hard to deny. It's time to acknowledge a devastating truth he had hoped would never come to visit him.
"For you, Charles."
Letter #1 – December 14, 1963.
I won't talk about how white that hospital room was, or how the bedsheets felt as though they were constructed of rotted paper. I won't talk about those black rubber cords or the spikes of glimmering steel that punctured holes all over your body; it was a maze of disarray, all connected to the machines that kept you with me. Kept your body mechanically sound and your heart beating its struggling beats. I won't mention the reverberating sounds of those beep-beep-beeps that didn't stop – they never stopped and I could do nothing but listen to them thrum on. That metronome of sustainability damn near caused me to inflict an irreversible action against myself right then and there. But I had to be strong for you.
I won't speak of the doctors and nurses and assistants that came in, went out, came back in, went back out again. Over and over again I watched as they "made their rounds" and treated you as though you were just another patient. You weren't, Charles. You couldn't possibly have ever been just another patient. I...absolutely won't talk of those orders I had been made to discover in respects to your last wishes, should anything of this nature ever – God forbid – happen to you. I...I can't tell you how that day would come to be the worst day of an entire lifetime. Of my entire lifetime.
I won't talk about these things because I can't, Charles, because...because it only serves to bring your death back into me. It brings only your pain and your end and your struggles and your inner confusion and your helplessness back. And I don't want that anymore. I don't want that goddamn hurt.
I don't want to and I can't talk and I won't mention, but that doesn't assume I'm to be relieved of these things. Quite the opposite when it comes down to it.
I don't want to feel what those six, unending days have done to me; irreparable damage, of that much I'm certain.
I can't talk about how you looked after the accident, unmoving and broken. Bruised and different.
I won't forget the details of your brief stay there or the colors and scents of that room. Of you.
But if I do all of these things, if I remain emotionless, I'm afraid of death finding me readied. I'm afraid of losing your memory, of losing our memories, if I choose this refusal of heartache rather than a confrontation with my great loss.
Goddammit Charles Xavier. Please come back.
Come back. Come back. Come back.
Just...come ba-why aren't you here with me now?
Letter #2 – December 16, 1963.
It was "just another day," as they say. They, they-who are they? And how does one group know if the span of a section of hours spent in the sun is unremarkably similar to another?
Yes. Yes, I am.
I am avoiding all these things that need telling. Those details that need to be shared before I lose myself. I've taken to the written word and all of its therapeutic qualities as well as one could expect. Or so I've been told, nonetheless by they.
I don't...how do you pen the loss of a piece of yourself? How can a few words strung together accurately convey the suffering one-I feel? How? Is this even knowingly possible? If you were here you would tell me to simply be one with my feelings – let them guide me just enough, but never far from morality or righteousness. Or some arrogance that your mind would filter down onto a man like me.
I miss that.
I...I-I can't do this.
December 4, 1963.
"Mr. Lehnsherr? Phone call for you in the office." Erik slid out and looked upwards from underneath the body of his borrowed – but loved – 1961 Lincoln Continental. "Thanks Alex." The children had taken to addressing both he and Professor Xavier with proper titles, as the school had been running for the better part of a year now. It was still strange for Erik to have found such normalcy, but never once had it been perceived as a problem in comparison to his former nomadic ways.
Erik stood up and wiped his grease-slicked hands against the thick blue fabric of his mechanics attire – it was a Wednesday and having taught shop class earlier on, he decided to put some hours in while Charles was out. It was this type of work he devoted more than a little of himself too, as the peace of mind and tranquility it offered was no less important than the meandering voices Xavier heard all day, everyday. Charles. Erik really, well, Erik loved that man and what they had built together here – a school for young and desolate mutants seeking sanctuary and safety. He hadn't ever looked into his past once upon making his decisions to remain beside Charles and the telepaths strict ideals. Besides, what was done, was done with.
Yet, because the world had learned of their existence – of mutants – things had only proven to become worse in the days following the events on that Cuban beach. It was only by sheer luck they all made it home unscathed, unharmed and together, or so Charles would often say. Erik was still weary of humans and the deep chips on their bitter shoulders, carried around like a badge of pretentiousness.
Erik trotted out from the garage and into the mansion, all the way down through the first floor corridor, past several classrooms that were currently in use, and into the shared office he held with the Professor.
"Erik Lehnsherr speaking." He gripped the handle of Charles' antique telephone with a clean washcloth wrapped around his dirtied hand, knowing of the objects importance to its rightful owner.
"Mr. Lehnsherr? This is Dr. Jason Fenning from Grasslands Hospital. You're listed as the next of kin for a Charles F. Xavier. Is this correct?"
Erik's heart stopped. His throat damn near exhaled the contents of stomach in one fell swoop as his mouth opened to reply. "Ye-yes. What is this about?" Panic was settling in faster than Erik thought mutant-ly possible – even for a man with a history like his own.
"I...I'm sorry to call under such distressful circumstances, but there seems to have been an accident. Mr. Xavier was involved in an automobile crash that, I'm afraid has..." The Dr. was thinking of the best way to break the worst type of news.
"Has what? Has WHAT?" Erik asked, his voice rushed and frantic.
"Sir-Mr. Lehnsherr, if you could come to the hospital as soon as possible, we believe it would be in the best interests." Dr. Fenning paused, whispered a barely audible "yes" before hanging up. Crude and heartless, as were all men in the medicinal field Erik had come to find, were the only two things he had gathered from their brief conversation. That and Charles was in some sort of traffic incident. And couldn't call himself.
Spinning around wildly, Erik soared through the hallways he had only just pleasantly strolled through and went back out into the manor's vast car space. He caught Alex mid-way and told as much as he was able through all of the commotion of his rushed endeavors to get to Charles in record time.
"Grasslands. Charles was in accident. Call you soon as I know anything!" Erik's voice was an octave higher than a yell, his hands waving around for the keys he knew were laying atop one surface or the other. His magnetism called forth the Lincoln's ignition key set and as he slammed it from Park to Drive, he hadn't ever remembered a time when he had been more frightened. Or focused.
"I'm coming, Charles." His hands strangled the steering wheel.
Letter #3 – December 16, 1963. (attempt #2)
I...can't let my missing you deter me from the writing of what needs be written. I know this now. I know the tears will come, I know the pain will take me, and I know none of this will inevitably serve in bringing you home – not really anyway. But...but maybe if I...even if I don't want to do something as badly as I want you back, maybe the opposite will happen?
Then again, maybe I'm a blind fool who lost his only...
But maybe you can hear me. And let's say you can, shouldn't the words I write be meaningful – have purpose?
I am fucking out of my head.
Who am I fooling?
You're gone, Charles. And wh-what happens now? And because you've gone, I have nothing but this.
"Mr. Lehnsherr?" A tall gentleman-like Doctor with light brown hair, hazel eyes and a sad smile, as fate would have it, was waiting at the reception desk on the second floor of Grasslands. For all this one's appearances, he seemed to be a man much warmer – and younger – than the one with whom Erik had spoken to on the phone. Neither of these characteristics were concerns of the worried mutant. "Yes, I'm he. Dr. Fenning? Where's Charles? What ha-happened?" Erik's voice was wavering upon a frantic heartache that was steadily building; lazy hands of wasted time were baring more and more pressure with each passing moment of ignorance.
He just needed to know. Erik needed to see Charles.
Actually...he didn't know anything at this point. Erik hadn't even known if Xavier was still alive.
"Follow me, sir." Dr. Fenning said nothing more in front of the nurses station, but Erik could sense how dire the straights of things were from hushed, muted eyes of those few women standing about. They swallowed nervously in front of him as he stood there – mind in the dark, damn near begging for information that the Dr. was hellbent on refusing to leverage out – and their eyes couldn't pity him enough. There was a sorrow there Erik hadn't been familiar with in the manner with which they stood; their pale, framed faces were ice-like, rigid, cold...void. Sympathy was missing, and their empathy was false.
It was all so sickening to Erik. To him, hospitals were downright chilling but high above all else, hospitals were death. There was no life to walk from the ashes and no peace that ever came from those hallowed walls for him. This scenario had all the symptoms of following a similar pattern.
The magnetic man was breaking down now, riding a slippery slope of disjointed hope and rising fear. His feet were moving him forward in tandem with the doctors steps, but he couldn't remember going up two flights of stairs or down a long hallway of polished marble and broken hearts. Autopilot had been engaged somewhere in their brief travels, but a single thought kept him sane. A name. His name.
"Charles. Charles..." Erik's mouth spewed the telepath's name just barely above a whisper, yet his mind was screaming out for that familiar connection. It...wasn't there.
It just...wasn't there.
They arrived and stood outside of door numbered: ICU 4. It was a depressing white, like everything else. And metal. Erik's fingers twitched and it was all he could do to to avoid ripping it from its hinges to get closer.
"Here we are, Mr. Lehnsherr. Now, before we go in, I should brief you on the situation from start to finish. First of all, this is an ICU room – as in, that it is an Intensive Care Unit. There are special precautions one must take to ensure the sterile nature of this room is kept intact. You'll be required to wear clean clothes to enter, provided by the hospital. It's not much or too varied from my own attire, but necessary. Visiting hours are from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm. You will be escorted out should you neglect those standing times. However, above all else, if you wish to visit your...friend on a daily basis, you mustn't come in contact with anyone who has recently taken ill with any form of sickness. Do you understand these rules?" Dr. Fenning's hands were cupped inside the walls of his oversized lab-coat's pockets, fingers twirling around his next cigarette.
This was just a job – just another day – and Erik's visible pain was nothing new to this young, up and coming doctor. Erik nodded, as his words were simply lost in translation.
"Mr. Lehnsherr, do you understand?" Fenning was one step away from touching the mans arm to stir him back to the present, but thought better and simply waited for the German to reply. "I...is he alive?" Erik's chest was imploding now.
"Yes, he is, Mr. Lehnsherr. But I'm afraid the accident has left him comatose. He sustained injuries to his spinal cord. His left leg is broken in three locations with fractures to his ankle and femur. His right hand was shattered, left wrist broken. However, our main concern is his..."
"Brain." Erik finished the word he knew was next on the doctors laundry list of Charles' issues. The one word Erik didn't want to hear in association with all of Xavier's broken bones and suffering. The most important and unique and amazing and perfect thing about Charles. Erik couldn't believe something so absolute could become victim of happenstance.
Dr. Fenning's eyebrows pinched upwards, unsure as to why that reveal was worse than the others. "...yes, his brain is of great concern at this time. The massive trauma sustained left him with a fair amount of damage. At this time, we are unsure if it is irreparable, due to the swelling that has accrued there."
Erik's eyes bounced around the hospitals narrow hallway, searching for a focus that wasn't to come. "Can I see him? Please Dr. Fenning, please...can I just see him now?" The doctor nodded, turned his back to Erik and opened the heavy door.
The smell and the sounds. The appearance and the details. All of this hit the magnetic-mans senses in a split seconds time. He could have fallen over from it all, had it not been for the man lying nearest the window, covered in white linens and wires.
"Charles." Erik's voice broke. He slid past the doctor in a silent rush but stopped abruptly as soon as his eyes had taken in the full sight.
Letter #4 – December 17, 1963.
I can't believe I have to write this. I can't believe you're gone and I have to write this. Raven won't stop crying, Hank can't seem to focus enough to turn on his microscopes, Alex and Sean are...quiet. Everyone is without you.
I care about them but I don't care about their grief. Only my own is what brings me closer to you.
When I first saw you, in that...in that room? I knew then. I didn't want to admit it, but I knew then how things were going to inevitably turn out. But you don't think such horrible things when you're literally dying inside from a last ditch effort to have God hear you in those a times of need.
I could barely see your skin, for all the bruising and the bandages and the white. The blinding, luminescent white that surrounded you. It was as if the milky white foam from atop the crests of waves were swallowing you whole...or at least holding you close so that you may never breath my air again. You were drowning and I was dying. I couldn't help you. I couldn't pull in to shore. I couldn't bring you home.
...That's the other thing, you couldn't even breathe on your own. Goddammit. For all those wondrous things you could do, you couldn't even control your body enough to take in a single breath of air without help.
I'll never forget that purple or the shade of red that painted your face. Your wrapped hands and fingers. Your casted leg or your damaged skull.
If only...I had been there to stop the metal that...that killed you.
"Mr. Lehnsherr, there's one final note I must extend before I leave you here with Mr. Xavier." Dr. Fenning reached for the folder hanging at the foot of Charles's bed and opened it slowly.
"Mr. Xavier, in the event of unforeseen brain death, has stated in the form of an official documented request, to not be held on life support. As per hospital operations, we have kept him on life support as there are signs of activity in his brain at current. However, should this change on account of any future events, we are to honor Mr. Xavier's requests and...will do so accordingly."
Dr. Fenning handed the notarized sheet of paper to Erik and nodded downwardly as he began to retreat from the ICU room.
Erik looked down from that slip of white paper then back up to the man laying motionless before him, and fell down into the nearest chair. Deflated, defeated.
The legal orders dropped from in between his shaking fingers and landed at his feet.
'No. That can't...that won't happen.'
"Charles? Charles can...you hear me?"