They land amid chaos, Riptide barely able to get the helicopter safely to the ground. The second they appear on the scene, the army--or whoever the hell they are--turn their guns on the Brotherhood, trying to shoot them down just like they were trying to break open Charles' family home.
"Take the controls," Magneto tells Mystique. She is prompt to obey.
It allows Riptide to move to the open gunner doors, pausing only to secure himself to a bungee cord before he sends funnels of wind howling towards a line of tanks. The tanks lift into the air, thrown back dozens of feet before they crash back to the ground--the same ground Charles once referred to as a lawn, its pristine grass now torn and tattered, turned to mud.
Mystique lands them smoothly. Magneto--and he is always Magneto these days, Erik having died on a beach a long time ago--steps off the bird, the wind from its still moving rotor blades billowing his cape.
"Take them out," he tells Riptide, Azazel and Angel. He gestures Mystique to his side. Together they will breach the house. Emma he has left behind. Her skills are too valuable to waste on a battlefield.
Mystique radiates fierce determination, but Magneto can tell she is worried for Charles' safety. No more than him, who has thought of little else since Charles sent Emma his telepathic message. Four words: We are under attack. Magneto wasted little time in coming.
The house is mostly intact, though they have destroyed a good number of windows, and smoke billows from the west wing. He has no idea where Charles is, or even his charges, though knowing Charles as he does, Magneto suspects Charles has hidden them, refusing to allow them into the line of fire; refusing to allow them to crush the humans who would dare invade their sanctuary.
Charles is a ridiculous, naive fool, but Magneto cannot leave him to this fate. A treacherous part of his brain reminds him that there are other reasons; reasons he avoids examining too closely.
Riptide, Azazel and Angel easily shift the battle to their favour. Magneto has no doubt the mutants under Charles' care could have done the same. He should have pressed harder to take them with him--to take them all with him, Charles included. Magneto ignores the destruction behind him and enters through one of the broken windows, scanning the familiar sight of Charles' study. Its contents are in disarray now, but Magneto catches sight of Charles' chess board, surprised to find it set, as though Charles has been expecting him. Unbidden, a smile comes to Magneto's face.
"He would have taken them below, into the bomb shelter," Mystique says. She has come quite a long way in the years she has been with him. She moves swiftly through the house, on high alert as she scans once familiar hallways and corridors.
She knows the house as well as him--more so, he imagines. She does not hesitate in leading them into the basement, to the bomb shelter that Charles used to discuss permanently turning into a training room. We can call it the Danger Room, he said, grinning at Alex.
Magneto exhales against a sudden weight on his chest.
Downstairs, the bomb shelter is sealed, locked from the outside. Mystique immediately begins spinning the combination--an archaic thing that Magneto had hoped Hank might have replaced by now. The door swings in with a soft hiss. Charles hasn't even bothered to change the code.
Immediately Hank--Beast, Magneto corrects--stands before them, fierce and growling, as terrifying as anything Magneto has seen. He cannot help the grin that comes to his face.
"Erik?" Hank says when he registers who they are. He immediately stands down, his eyes widening as he takes in Mystique.
"Thought we'd stage a rescue," Magneto says, glancing over Hank's shoulder for Charles, but there is only Sean and Alex, alongside three children--they are barely into their teens--Magneto does not recognize.
"Where is Charles?"
"I don't know," Hank says. "He brought us down here and then locked us in." There is anger in Hank's tone, but more than that, there is worry.
The weight on Magneto's chest grows infinitely heavy. He is suddenly overwhelmed by terror.
"Hank, Alex, take the East Wing. Sean, stay here with the children until I give the all clear. Mystique, I need you to take the Centre-Block. I'll take the West Wing." There are no arguments; no one questions his authority. They simply spring into action, finding Charles their most pressing concern.
Magneto--or rather, Erik--is intimately familiar with the West Wing. It is where both his old bedroom and Charles' bedroom are located. Erik takes the west stairs, a sweeping winding set, not as grand as the eastern stairs, but then Charles had intentionally set himself up in what was once the servant's wing. It is from this wing the smoke was billowing.
He can smell it now, the air hazy with it, the stink of it catching in Magneto's nose, sticking to the back of his throat. He coughs, just once, and heads towards its source. The route takes him past an open window, Magneto pausing long enough to catch sight of what's happening on the lawns. There is still fighting, but it is drawing to an end. Magneto gives their side another ten minutes before the threat is completely neutralized. Already enemy helicopters are lifting into the sky, retreating.
It figures the smoke is coming from Charles' room. It is fairly obvious the room has been shelled. Half the far wall is missing, the smoke so thick--the drapes are still smoldering--Magneto can barely see for it. He does not need to see to feel the metal in Charles' chair.
"Charles!" he shouts, letting the chair guide him. There is rubble strewn across the floor, the furniture upset from the force of the explosion. He finds Charles sprawled beside his chair, leg pinned beneath a dresser. Magneto lifts it and throws it aside.
Charles does not move.
Magneto kneels at Charles' head, cradling it in his hands, running a palm along Charles' cheek. Charles turns into the warmth, eyelashes fluttering as he comes awake.
"Hello, Erik," he says, so utterly calm, like he is not lying in the middle of a war zone.
"Oh, you foolish man," is as far as Erik gets--and he will never be Magneto, not with Charles--before he senses metal moving towards them. He has half a second to marvel at it--marvel at the humans' stupidity--before he is gathering Charles in his arms, extending a magnetic field around them as a mortar shell hits the house, stone and plaster and wood cascading around them.
Someone has obviously done their research. They know exactly where to find Charles Xavier.
Erik's magnetic field is not enough to keep them from harm, the force of the explosion sending them flying through the air. He has no idea where they land--the world has gone grey around the edges, Erik's head ringing inside his helmet. He wants desperately to tear it off, to allow Charles to seek his mind so that he can flood Erik with warmth and light and love and things only Charles gives him. He suspects, however, that his helmet is the only reason he still has a head.
Charles is beneath him. He seems so utterly fragile, curled within Erik's arms, completely limp and Erik has half a second to panic before Charles coughs, Erik flooded with relief at the sound.
"Are you all right?" he still asks, because the thought of Charles not being all right is... Not worth considering.
At first glance, Charles is no more injured than he was when Erik first arrived. Erik still scans him to be certain, fingers moving over Charles' form, tracing lines he has only ever traced in fantasy. He finds nothing external, though he knows the potential for internal injury is still there. One of Charles' hands is curled into a tight fist, and when Erik opens it, he finds Charles is holding a twisted metal rose-petal--or what Erik meant as a rose petal, mostly it just looks like a curved piece of abstract art.
"This is what you came back for?" he asks, because it is ludicrous that Charles would value such a thing. It was only an exercise, Charles having asked Erik to focus his powers into creating something delicate. The petal seemed fitting.
Charles does not answer, but he tucks the petal into his pocket. Doing so draws attention to his lower half. It is easy to see that his leg is likely broken, though with his paralysis he will not feel the pain--Erik had not thought it possible to feel gratitude for the worst thing he has ever done. The only other injury Erik can identify is a scrape along his temple, where he has undoubtedly hit his head. Given his state when Erik first found him, there is undoubtedly a concussion, but Erik finds nothing that immediately concerns him.
He still shifts so that he can run a hand through Charles' hair, checking his scalp for injuries.
"Oh, my God," Charles says, and in an instantly Erik's panic is back, except when he tries to push himself up, Charles reaches towards him, fingers fluttering over Erik's midsection with barely suppressed alarm.
Erik glances between them and finds that he is bleeding. He did not register the injury.
"Erik, you need to sit back and let me look at this," Charles says. He has pushed himself up onto one elbow and is trying to maneuver around to sit at Erik's side. His legs drag uselessly across the ground. His hands, where they touch Erik, are feather-light, like the soft kiss of a butterfly's wings.
"I may have hit my head," Erik says, because he does not usually compare Charles to butterflies. He does not usually think of butterflies at all.
"Yes, but let's stop the bleeding before we worry about that," Charles says, but he still meets Erik's eyes, gaze searching, worried.
God, how Erik has missed this man.
Charles' hand has settled on his cheek now, mimicking Erik's earlier gesture. His fingers dip beneath the helmet, and Erik automatically reaches for it, pain surging in his abdomen--now he can feel the injury. He still pulls the helmet from his head and tosses it onto the ground.
Charles is in his head in an instant, though only to block Erik from the pain.
"I'm fine," he says, but he allows Charles to lower him onto the ground, Charles wincing as he does, closing his eyes against what Erik can only guess is a wave of dizziness.
"How long were you unconscious?" Erik asks. It can't have been long. He set up the Brotherhood's headquarters in New York, mostly so that he could keep an eye on Charles. He came as soon as he got word.
"I'm not sure. A few minutes, maybe." He has moved Erik's shirt aside and is examining the wound. There is a piece of shrapnel poking out of the side of his waist, in the space between his ribcage and his hipbone. A steady stream of blood trickles from the wound.
They have landed near an overturned dresser--not the one Erik tossed aside. Charles digs through one of its fallen drawers and comes away with a clean undershirt. He folds it into a compress.
"I shouldn't remove this," he says, but Erik merely shakes his head, reaches for the shrapnel and pulls it free. Charles grits his teeth and then offers Erik a disapproving scowl. Erik finds he has missed the expression. The wound begins to bleed in earnest.
"Dress it," he says, because he has had worse and until the wound is dressed he cannot get Charles out of here. They are both rather in need of a doctor.
Charles tsks at him, but he applies the compress, pressing into the wound until Erik is forced to exhale against the pain, even with Charles' telepathy dulling it. Charles finds a tie inside the same drawer and uses it to secure the compress. Erik grunts, but otherwise says nothing.
When he has finished dressing Erik's wound, Charles glances across the room to his chair. It is visible from their place on the floor, the second blast having knocked another hole in the wall, the smoke clearing through it. Even without seeing it, Erik could have told him it was useless.
Erik pushes himself onto an elbow.
"What are you doing?" Charles says, but Erik ignores him, getting to his knees and then hooking an arm under Charles' armpits.
"You are in no shape to do this. Someone will find us."
Mindful of Charles' broken leg--he knows Charles won't feel it, but he hopes they can reset the bone, keep Charles from losing it all together--Erik slips his other hand beneath Charles' knees.
"Erik," Charles warns, but Erik is still ignoring him, so he stands, wobbling slightly under the weight, pain radiating through his abdomen. Charles clings to him.
Erik takes an unsteady step towards the door.
It is not easy going. The room is a disaster, the floor littered with debris, and Erik's legs keep threatening to give way. His wound means he can't tighten his abdomen muscles to take pressure off his back, so he is incredibly unstable. He will not be able to keep this up for long, but his only thought now is to get Charles as far from the room as possible. Until his mutants secure the lawns, there is the possibility of another attack.
Charles is doing his best to remain as stiff as possible, equally distributing his weight. He arms have come around Erik's shoulders, his head tucked into Erik's neck. His breath, warm and wet against Erik's skin, is a welcome distraction. Erik is flooded with longing he thought he'd long since overcome.
He should have known better; he really should have.
He gets them to the hall, and then halfway towards the stairs before he hears raised voices. Someone is calling his and Charles' names. Erik wants to respond, but he doesn't have enough oxygen left for words. Charles does not hesitate to turn his face from Erik's neck and shout.
In an instant Hank and Alex are ascending the stairs. Erik has half a minute to make eye contact with Hank, silently pleading, before his legs begin to shake, Hank jumping forward to take Charles from Erik's arms just as Erik's legs give way.
"Erik!" he hears Charles shout, but there is only darkness.
He does not recognize the room where he wakes, but it reeks of hospital. Erik blinks against the too-harsh white light and tries to process what he is seeing. He knows of no hospital with concrete walls and ceilings. The space looks very similar to Charles' bomb shelter. The man has clearly taken one of the storage rooms and turned it into..."
"It's a medical lab. I thought it might come in handy someday," Charles says, Erik only then registering Charles' presence.
He glances to his left and spots an IV drip bag, no doubt flooding his system with drugs. It is no wonder he didn't at first notice the hand slid neatly into his own. As if to acknowledge Erik's realization, Charles runs his thumb across the back of Erik's knuckles.
"How long?" Erik asks.
"A couple of hours--long enough for Hank to stitch you up and set my leg. You're lucky you didn't puncture any vital organs."
Charles is sitting in a new chair, or perhaps it is his old chair repaired, leg elevated in front of him, metallic bracket an external skeleton around it. There is a second bed in the room, unmade. Erik has no doubt Charles is disobeying Hank's orders by not being in it. It has also undoubtedly been more than a couple of hours.
Charles answers Erik's next question before Erik asks it, "They've gone. Retreated, though I was unable to remove this place from their minds before they left. Raven--I'm sorry, Mystique--took your crew back to New York. She's returning tonight to collect you."
There is something in Charles' voice, some hint of overwhelming sadness that Erik instantly catches. It is the same sadness that has burrowed next to his heart; that has been living there since the day they parted ways. He can scarcely breath for it.
"You're not safe here," Erik tries, because surely now that they know where Charles is they will come again--and again, and again--and one day Erik won't be able to get here on time and Charles will..."
"No, we're not," Charles says, and Erik is so shocked he is rendered, temporarily, speechless.
"I didn't know it was so easy to get the better of you, my friend," Charles says, smiling. He is still holding Erik's hand, still caressing the back of Erik's knuckles with his thumb.
"Come with me," Erik says. There is so much more that he could say. I want you by my side. We belong together. Please, I love you. But he doesn't need to. Charles' expression softens. It is obvious he has heard.
"All right, yes," he says, eyes growing wide like he intended to give another answer.
Erik struggles to sit, pain tearing across his middle, despite the drugs, despite Charles' warm weight in his head. Charles leans forward in his chair and presses his hands firmly against Erik's shoulders, easing Erik back onto the mattress.
"Come with me," Erik says again. Charles looks marginally terrified.
"Yes," he still says, a leap of faith.
Erik grins, a little manic around the edges. He probably looks like an idiot, but he doesn't particularly care. Charles will come with him. Charles will stand at his side. It is all he has wanted from the moment Charles pulled him from the water, oh so many years ago now.
"But we are finding a way to compromise," Charles says, cutting off the vast majority of Erik's plans, but even that cannot temper Erik's joy.
For Charles, he is willing to do anything.
"I still say this is dangerous," Erik says. He is standing in the central foyer of what is to become Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters--a pretentious name, Erik called it, but Charles smiled at him and Erik caved. The house has been repaired, all signs of the damage done that night obliterated, the incident wiped from history--in more ways than one.
"Anyone who has known our location has been dealt with," Charles says. It has taken the better part of a year, but he is right. "And besides," Charles adds, "I'll have you here to look after us."
Compromise, Erik thinks, and they have done a good job of it, finding middle ground where he would have thought none existed. He couldn't have done it in the years following Schmidt's death, but now; now he can see a future where mutants are safe, where war can be avoided so long as they are vigilant. And Charles, who saw the world through rose-coloured glasses, now knows the threat humanity presents; can now see the necessity of that vigilance.
Erik smiles at the man who will one day change the world. Charles returns that smile, light and happy and hopeful, always so hopeful.
"Do you want to see our new room?" Charles asks, turning his chair towards the eastern stairs. Erik raises an eyebrow.
"I thought you hated that wing," he says.
"I did, but I've had some remodelling done, and besides, it is rather expected." He means, Erik realizes, that he doesn't care where he sleeps so long as Erik is with him.
Erik grins. "Lead the way."
He falls into step at Charles' side, Charles leading him to the newly installed East Wing lift. As they walk, he cannot help but let his hand drift to Charles' shoulder, curling his fingers around it, a wordless promise. At the contact, Charles lets his thoughts turn suggestive, Erik barking out a laugh, though he is more than willing to agree. They are about to open a school for teenage mutants. He suspects, in the future, these moments will be few and far between.