A week after Janos reports that Charles has returned to Westchester with Sean, Alex, Hank, and Moira in tow, Erik realizes that he's left certain items and documents he'll need sooner rather than later in his room at the mansion. It's the stupidest mistake he's made since before leaving the camps, and in his sudden, blinding anger at having made it he crushes the radiator next to him. He curses himself for being so careless, for sending Azazel to scout out the government facility where Frost is being held, for being foolish enough to think that confronting Shaw could have ended in any other way - he stops there. Somewhere down the hall, Angel tells Raven - Mystique - she's going to bed, and then there's quiet. He closes his eyes, inhales deeply, holds the breath, releases it slow and steady.
Very well, he thinks.
He grabs his coat and wallet and the helmet and wanders out to the living room. Raven - Mystique, he will call her that and only that, he will - is sitting at the kitchen table with a newspaper spread out in front of her. The radio on the counter is on, volume low, and a male voice on the frequency is crooning away: So if I broke your heart last night, it's because I love you most of all. She looks up when he clears his throat. Her eyes dart down to the helmet for just a moment, but she waits for him to explain.
"I left some things there," he says. He doesn't clarify where. Her fingers twitch against the table.
He's certain Angel at least will guess where he's gone, if he's not back by the time she wakes. Raven hesitates when he asks her if there's anything she needs or wants from her old room - he hopes she says no, nothing, doesn't even know why he asked in the first place when she'd sworn to him just a few days ago that she had no regrets about leaving Charles behind, and pride wells up in him when she finally shakes her head and waves him out the door. He turns to leave the apartment they're currently staying in, but an aborted sound from Raven stops him. Erik swings back around to see her pulling her arm back from where she'd reached out in his direction, possibly to grab his shoulder.
"Sorry," she says, looking him square in the eye. "No, there's nothing."
Erik holds her gaze for a beat, then says, skeptical, "You're sure."
"I won't think less of you if -"
Raven puts a finger up to his lips. "There isn't anything I want from that place," she says.
"Alright. I believe you." He nods and walks out the door before she can change her mind again. She will, Eriks realizes as he climbs into their stolen car. He glances back at the apartment building. She'll leave me eventually. Maybe she won't go back to Charles, but - someone, sometime, it's going to happen. She'll leave, and I'll be alone again.
He turns the ignition and makes for the interstate.
It's a long drive to New York from Delaware. The walk from where he parks down the street to the house seems to stretch on even longer than that.
In the dark, the mansion seems more imposing, more frightening and awful than it does in daylight. It's a solid mass against the night sky, and as he picks his way across the grounds, Erik is struck by how perfectly it would serve as a fortress. The bunkers far underneath his feet, the remote location, the sheer size and scope of the mansion itself - and Charles intends to turn it into a school for children. He's probably the only person alive who would look at this and think 'school' instead of 'training facility.'
The door into the kitchen from the herb garden is unlocked, but Erik knows it squeaks something terrible, so he handles it with his power and not his hand anyway. Faint light from the hallway comes in underneath the door, making the floor glow just enough for him to see that there's a chair in his path. Footsteps upstairs make him pause at the door. He waits, and they move away, but he still counts to twenty, then forty, before slipping out of the kitchen. From there it's the stairs (the seventh and eleventh have loose boards) and a quick march down the hall (a spot just outside the bathroom groans under his weight - that one must be new, didn't do that two months ago), and then he's standing outside the room he'd called his own for months and months. He shakes his head and walks inside.
Nothing's been moved. Erik doubts Sean or Alex or Hank would even think to rifle through his things, and they probably have more pressing matters to worry about at the moment. He wonders, though, why Moira hasn't, experienced CIA agent that she is. Surely she would have searched for some indication of his possible whereabouts by now. He summons the briefcase with his most important documents and passports from under the bed, and then the safe deposit box keys from under the rug in the closet. In a moment of weakness, he steals over to the other side of the house to Raven's old room. A ratty cloth bear sits atop her bed, and he feels instinctively that this is the one thing, save Charles, that Raven misses the most. Erik places it in his case with no small amount of care, then, berating himself for sentimentality, rushes back into the hall and down the stairs again.
He hesitates outside the kitchen. He sets the case down against the wall and wanders around the first floor. There's a sound coming from one of the dens, a melody that sounds oddly familiar to Erik. As he draws nearer to the source, the words become more distinct, and Erik realizes it's the same song Raven had been listening to earlier in the evening: You always break the kindest heart with a hasty word you can't recall. So if I broke your heart last night...
Charles is fast asleep in his wheelchair, head drooped forward so far that his chin touches his chest, and a soft snore rumbling out through his nose. A wave of fond exasperation crashes unbidden over Erik, and before he knows what his body is doing, he's crouching down in front of Charles and gently brushing his hair out of his face. The record player skips a note, then two, before smoothing back out.
The bullet in Erik's pocket burns through his pants and against his thigh. He takes it out and floats it between his and Charles' faces for a moment, then sighs and begins reshaping the metal.
As he works, Erik takes in Charles' form. The muscles in his arms are more defined than they were before, but there's a thinness in his face that worries Erik despite himself. He's pale, and the freckles that had emerged in the bright sunlight of the beach have disappeared completely. Charles looks terrible and beautiful all at the same time. Erik risks running a finger down his jaw before sitting back on his heels. The reshaped metal drops into his hand, and he looks down at it. He's refashioned it into a thin, round locket, and he traces the same finger around its circumference before opening it. Erik glances back up into Charles' face, eyes trailing from his nose to his cheeks to his ears and then -
He looks around the room, spots a pair of scissors on the desk, and summons them to him. Carefully, he stands and reaches around to the back of Charles' head and snips a tiny lock of hair, which he then lays out into the center of the locket. The top half closes over it, and the edges bleed into each other until the seam disappears completely. Erik sets the scissors down on the coffee table and looks down at Charles, clutching the locket tightly in his fist. He bends over and kisses Charles' forehead.
"Goodbye, Charles," he says.
It's a long drive to Delaware from New York.