There’s a chill wind lifting the last of the shriveled, bedraggled leaves off the fading trees. The tall, stone mansion has never looked imposing before, Erik thinks. Mysterious and slightly ridiculously opulent, but never forbidding. It had been, for the first time in a long time, home.
It’s not forbidding to all though, and is home to new people now. Through the window, Erik can see the heads of students sitting in class. They’re mutant children, learning in the school Erik had always thought he and Charles would build together. Not all of them are listening though. He can see a few heads here and there nodding in sleep, not understanding. He wonders why Charles doesn’t chide them for dozing off in class.
Charles looks up then, happens to glance out the window, and Erik curses himself when he freezes. For a second he thinks Charles had frozen him with that trick of his, but no, there’s a familiar weight of the helmet on his head. Through the window, heads are turning to follow Charles’s gaze and still his feet would not obey him.
“Erik?” he can see Charles’s mouth shape the word, his name, and the light of hope and friendship in his eyes sends him reeling. Charles’s hands move and Erik realizes that he’s in a wheelchair. His chest feels tight and he turns away, turns his back on that those blue eyes that alone in all the world, can see straight into him, even as his helmet protects him from unwanted telepathic spying.
He refuses to turn back around and instead begins to walk.
Charles has never cursed his paralysis more as he wheels as quickly as he can out of the classroom full of still gaping students. He thinks wryly for a second that it would be worth getting Erik back if only because he could command the attention of twenty-something bored young mutants with only his presence. His heart aches for a moment when he remembers how he had thought it was going to be him and Erik running the school together, changing the world together.
For a moment he imagines he can feel the pain of the bullet slicing through his back again. The phantom pain fades and it’s numb again. Cold and unfeeling, like metal before Erik breathes life into it, molds them to his will.
By the time he wheels out of the maze of hallways and rooms, Erik’s figure is a dim speck on the horizon. He sits and watches at the railing where not so long ago, the world had been completely different, when he and Erik had stood side by side. The satellite that Erik had moved then is still facing towards the mansion.
A wind picks up, ruffling his hair, and Charles shivers slightly. He sits and watches until Erik is gone from sight.
“I won’t give up hope, old friend,” he whispers to the wind, wondering if his words will carry to Erik in a way that his thoughts no longer can. “I’ll be waiting for you to come home.”