It was unexpected. Later he'd call it exciting and terribly interesting, but mostly it was unexpected.
One moment, Charles was walking out of the plane, watching as Erik levitated a dead Shaw out of the submarine. The next, a police box appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the beach. But it didn't just pop into existence, this was nothing like Azazel teleporting; it appeared gradually, like it was taking its time, making a peculiar sound that even then Charles knew would stay with him forever.
"Since when have those been able to do that?" Raven's voice came accompanied by a string of images-concepts-memories of all the times she'd passed by one while they'd been in Britain, and Charles realized that after focusing so much power on keeping hold of Shaw's mind with his own, his head now felt like it was wide open, telepathy gone rampant and gathering thoughts from everyone around.
Everyone except Erik.
He couldn't feel Erik at all. He had got so used to having Erik around, used to his mental ubiquity even when he wasn't actively trying to use his telepathy, that suddenly not having it had felt like a kick to the gut. There was a void where Erik's mind used to be, had been ever since he put on that wretched helmet, and scratch kick to the gut; a kick to the gut was swift and precise and over in a blink. This was more like a vice grabbing hold of his insides and twisting, a tight grip around his lungs that squeezed until he could no longer breathe properly.
It was not nice, that void.
He was pulled out of his musings, gaze and thoughts back on the police box though his chest was no less constricted, when two new presences made themselves known at the edge of his awareness. He saw a door open on the side of the box, saw-heard-felt a vocally-loud woman and mentally-loud man come out.
The newcomers didn't seem to notice them there. Funny, that, considering one of them was red, two were blue, and one was levitating a corpse in front of him. Or rather, had been levitating a corpse in front of him, because Shaw's body was quickly making its way back into the crashed submarine, and why Erik wanted to hide the body all of a sudden he had no idea (not with the damned helmet on, not a clue), but Charles wasn't about to complain.
"What I know is that you promised me a spa in a world made of crystals, not a random beach with a hunk of metal taking up most of it during the Cuban Missile Crisis!" The woman (MC1R protein mutation) was saying, sounding angrier with every word.
"Again, I don't know what made us land here, but I want to find out. And considering it's the same sort of accident that made me meet you for the first time-- well, maybe not huon particles, actually, it's nothing like when we first met at all, besides the being-pulled-into-a-random-spot bit, but it's weird. We love weird! And you sowant to find out, too, you know you do." The man (completely unexceptional looking except for the spiky hair, though looks could be deceiving, Charles was quite aware) sounded quite excited.
Charles caught a whiff of eager-annoyed-curious from the woman but wasn't getting much from the distracted man besides loud, so he took the chance to reach out and--
Whoa, that was way more intense than he'd ever experienced from one single mind; he swayed on his feet at the onslaught of too much, too much, too much and pulled away as fast as he could.
"That tickled, what-- Hey, look at you all!" The man said once he'd turned around, huge grin stretching his lips as he caught sight of them.
"All right, then maybe this isn't completely pointless, even though it's still not a spa in a crystalline world," said MC1R protein mutation, tilting her head at the lot of them. "Are you sure this is 1962? On Earth?"
That was intriguing, and Charles wanted to see the mental pictures that went with a comment like that, but he was still a bit unbalanced, thought it prudent not to reach out to either of them right then.
"You must be some of the very first!" The man said, still sporting that wide smile full of teeth and wonder, apparently content to ignore the woman's question. He pulled a flashlight out of his pocket and shined it at each of them in turn as they just stood there, shell-shocked. "I didn't think humans had evolved this far until a few million years from the relative now, yet here you are. This is brilliant!"
He looked at the device and his grin got even bigger, if that was possible. Then he frowned, and Charles wished like anything that he could read this stranger's mind, but he didn't feel like risking it again just yet.
Except then he was pointing the whirring light at Erik, straight at his head, and Erik's eyes were widening in surprise, and Charles wished he had risked it because if this man caused Erik even the tiniest bit of harm-- But no, Erik wasn't hurt, he looked almost relieved, or at least not as tense as before, and his eyes were clearer.
"What's with sonicking the helmet?" The woman asked, and Charles was glad she did (even if he didn't know how whatever he did with the softly-humming flashlight could be considered 'sonicking') because it was the foremost thing on his and the children's minds, other than who these people were and how they had made a police box appear out of thin air, but none of them seemed willing to be the first to address these odd (and rather crazy, considering their reactions so far) people. They all appeared frozen in place.
"It's Sontaran," the man said, and Charles watched as the woman's eyes widened.
"What, the potato heads?" She asked, and the man nodded.
"Soldier clones, face battle head-on, war-is-our-raison-d'être Sontaran. I'm guessing they make the helmets for slave soldiers when they don't have enough clones, because this thing, it's like them only worse. It prompts you to go to battle regardless of the odds, without consideration for safety; you'd probably dive right in against a thousand opponents without backup if you were wearing it. It would make you kill even defenseless children if you saw them as part of the enemy side. Well, it used to. Now it only blocks telepathy. Or, wait," he paused then and turned to Erik. "Did you want the mind-altering feature? Because I didn't disable that part so much as broke it and I'm not sure I could fix it. Well, I probably could. Well, I definitely could but I don't think I will. You could have a warped set of principles for all I know, but I'm not about to let your moral code be determined by a helmet."
The man stopped then, rolling back and forth on his feet as he faced Erik expectantly, and Charles realized he'd asked a question in the middle of that monologue.
"Who are you?" Erik said in lieu of an answer, and the man smiled again.
"I'm the Doctor. The cranky lady who keeps on about a spa is Donna Noble."
"Oi! I stopped going on about it, didn't I? Though I still expect you to take me there, don't think I don't."
"And you, look at you, the first humans to take a giant leap in the evolutionary road. Such an extraordinary thing, mutation." That huge, ecstatic grin was back on the man's face.
"Doctor," Donna said, and Charles was about to turn to her, but then the man-- the Doctor was approaching him, talking again.
"Telepathy, fantastic," he said, beaming at Charles. "Whirlwinds and flight, magnificent flight. And manipulating metal, energy, sonic waves, brilliant. And an old-fashioned human! Never met one of those who wasn't important," he said to Moira.
"Teleportation!" He turned to Azazel, who looked a second away from (was thinking about) actually teleporting the hell away from that (crazy) smile.
"Doctor," Donna repeated, sounding more urgent, but then the Doctor was moving towards Raven and Hank, and Charles felt his muscles tense, ready to jump to his sister's side, ready to jump into this stranger's head even if it left him flat on the ground.
"Metamorphosis and physical prowess, a blindingly bright mind. And blue skin! Wonderful colour, blue. The colour of the Earth sky, the colour of the TARDIS and Jack's eyes and Rose's jacket. Beautiful, beautiful blue." His grin was softer now, and Charles felt he could relax slightly.
"Doctor!" Donna yelled this time, and this time the Doctor responded.
"Donna!" Well, he sort of responded, and Charles felt a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"Remember the bit where we dropped into the middle of the Missile Crisis?" Donna said calmly, but as he tuned into her again, Charles felt her mind racing and he no longer felt like smiling. "There's a billion boats getting closer to this island, and while I doubt they're all full of nuclear weaponry, I don't doubt they could still do a hell of a lot of harm to everyone on this beach. Do you think maybe you could pay attention to that? And do not tell me this is a fixed point in time because I will not let you make me witness a catastrophic tragedy twice!"
Like she did when she first got out of the police box, she was yelling by the end of the sentence. Only this time, Charles could understand, it was a wonder she'd managed to stay calm for the first part as it was.
He saw the Doctor take out his flashlight again, saw him point it out towards the ships and activate it.
"Oh, no," he said, his face falling, and Charles didn't have to ask what was happening, couldn't have spoken if he'd tried because he'd already reached out over the ocean, touched the minds of a thousand shipmen, and they all told him the same thing, and the reality of all of them, American and Russian alike, getting ready to fire on an island full of innocent people when they knew, they knew the enemy had been taken care of was so crushing, so devastating it almost brought him to his knees.
"Everyone, get into the TARDIS, now!" The Doctor yelled, breaking him out of his stupor.
"You mean the box? But it's made of wood!" Hank said, waves of shocked-afraid-incredulous surrounding his words.
"It's a freaking spaceship, it can get us out of here," Donna yelled back as she ran towards the police box.
Charles looked around, saw Donna circling the box to enter and the Doctor stopping at its side, turning to face them again, but nobody else moved. The kids were looking from him to Erik and back, thoughts of scared-confused-whatdoIdo fuelling his own despair.
He wanted to trust this man, this stranger whose picture was so bright and strong and good inside Donna's mind, but he'd just had his beliefs shattered by the turn of a number of war ships, and he wasn't sure what he could trust.
Well, he knew one thing, one thing he wanted to trust with all his being, but there was a helmet in the way and he couldn't reach it.
"I can get us away," said Azazel, grabbing the hands of the two closest to him, and yes, that was an option, wasn't it? Except Erik wasn't paying attention, he was looking out at the ships, and Charles did not know what he was thinking.
He didn't know what Erik was thinking, and the pain from that severed connection flared bright and hot like the moment it was first cut off.
Charles looked away, stared at the Doctor again, and the man must have seen his uncertainty-distress-anguish written all over his face, because suddenly there was a rush of images-memories-knowledge-truth slamming into his mind, and he knew who the Doctor was, he knew about time and fixed points and instants of change, he knew what could happen and what would happen and what he'd never allow to happen, and he decided.
"Go!" He instructed, facing the children and giving a mental shove. "Go into the TARDIS, get inside the box, go!"
Charles watched them long enough to make sure they were moving and then turned back to Erik, walked up to him.
"Erik," he called when he was a hair's breadth away, and Erik's gaze tore away from the ships to fix on his. Meeting those eyes while being unable to feel the connection to his dear friend made his breath catch in his throat, and he had to concentrate to get air into his lungs, still constricted, still clenched in a vice grip.
"I can take them," Erik said, and Charles knew Erik could, and he knew he couldn't let that happen. "I can take anything they throw at us."
Charles shook his head. "Erik, please."
"There's no time," Erik said, sounding angry but looking sad, so sad.
"Yes, there is. There's enough time for this. Please, my friend, let me show you."
Erik didn't move, but he didn't look away, either. Charles raised a hand to Erik's chest and said, "Trust me."
Erik didn't even hesitate after that, he reached up and took off the helmet in one swift motion, and Charles didn't waste a second. As he took his first deep breath since the helmet had wrapped an iron fist against his lungs, he showed Erik everything he'd seen, every possible outcome if they stayed in this beach, from all of them dead to them blowing up the ships and starting a neverending war with the humans that would bring pain and destruction to all, to them spending their lives apart, to Erik turning into the monster he'd spent his life hunting, to a million-billion-trillion other results, all of them unacceptable. And then he showed him what would happen if they left, he showed him time and an unwritten future full of possibilities, he showed him the option of together-learning -open-happy, showed him love and connection and a chance at achieving freedom side by side, if they only tried.
He showed him that and more, he showed him everything in an instant, and he hadn't even exhaled yet when Erik's fingers wrapped around his and pulled him towards the TARDIS, towards possibility and together and yes.
- End -