Chapter 1: Wesley
Wesley didn’t want much out of life.
He didn’t want money. He was born into money, and had then inherited even more after he shot—after his father died. He didn’t need more money.
Getting laid would be nice, but after Fox and his ex, he figured he’d lay off anything even close to a relationship for a while.
He wanted the Fraternity—the new, re-vamped Fraternity with a current membership of himself, plus Pekwarksy as an outside agent—to run smoothly. He wanted to slowly, but surely, rebuild the Fraternity into the great organization free of corruption it had once been. He wanted his assignments from the older Loom of Fate, the one pulled out of retirement in Moravia, to go without fuss or loose ends. He wanted the best guns, bullets, supplies he could get his hands on.
But what he wanted the most was for Charles and Raven to be safe and happy—especially Charles, because while Raven was their little sister, but Charles was his twin. Charles was his other, much better half.
So when he returned to his room in the monastery, planning on slumping into bed for the night and catching the next flight to Oxford in the morning, he was rightfully displeased when he heard the message left on his emergency line, and by someone distinctly not Charles or Raven.
“Hello? I’m Agent Moira MacTaggert from the CIA. This number was given to me as Charles’ emergency contact. There’s been an accident. Charles has been checked in at the Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. I’m calling back again in twenty four hours to try to reach you again.”
Wesley put off wondering how the fuck Charles got involved with the CIA and worrying about where the hell Raven was for later. Rushing to the nearest airport, he boarded the next flight out to Miami with nothing but the clothes on his back and his wallet and passport. In less than fifteen hours, he was on US soil and hailing a taxi for the hospital.
There was no one he recognized when he stepped into the hospital waiting room, not that he had expected to. There was, however, a pair of boys, a redhead and a blond, sprawled out in their plastic hospital chairs, dressed in rumpled clothes that didn’t properly fit them. A brunette stood nearby, dressed in a black suit and skirt and standing in a way that just screamed Fed. Agent Moira MacTaggert, no doubt about it.
He wondered again what the fuck Charles had gotten himself into, because he knew very well that Wesley didn’t want his family to have anything to do with any kind of government authority, not with his profession.
Regardless, all three of them looked up when he entered the room.
“Holy shit,” said the redhead. The blond said pretty much the same thing.
The agent’s mouth fell open in surprise. Then she closed it, steeled herself and approached him.
“You Agent MacTaggert?” Wesley said in lieu of a greeting.
“Yes. You…Charles never mentioned he had a twin,” the woman said.
“Yeah, well, I’m not around as much as we’d like. Wesley Xavier. Where's Charles?”
“The doctors have just moved him to a private room. We—” She looked back over at the two boys, who were still staring at him intently. “—haven’t been allowed to see him yet, being not next of kin.”
“Then it won’t be a problem for me.” He brushed past the agent, heading for the nurse sitting behind the reception desk.
In a few minutes, Wesley was heading for Charles’ hospital room, MacTaggert and the two boys trailing hesitantly after him. He didn’t care about any of them. The doctors suspected Charles was paralyzed.
“What happened to him?” he demanded.
“I think it’d be best if Charles explained everything for you,” the agent said. “This is classified, but he’ll tell you this anyway. We were in Cuba.”
Cuba. The showdown between America and Russia Pekwarsky brought up briefly before Wesley had run off to the airport. Jesus Christ, Charles.
“Where’s Raven?” None of them answered him. “Is Raven alive?” he snarled, spinning around to stare the agent down.
“Yes, she is. She left us of her own volition,” MacTaggert said stiffly. All three of them avoided his glare.
Left us. Meaning Raven left Charles in his condition without even bothering to call him. He was going to have to have words with her later.
There was a doctor waiting outside of Charles’ room. Wesley barely paid attention to the words the man was saying, sneaking glances over his shoulder through the little window on the door. Eventually, the doctor let him pass, and the CIA agent pulled the doctor aside for more extensive questioning Wesley didn’t care for.
He shut the door closed right after slipping in. Charles rested in the room’s only bed, chest rising up and down slowly in sleep. But it wasn’t any kind of sleep Wesley was used to seeing Charles in. Even when sleeping restfully, the moment Wesley was in his brother’s radius of telepathic awareness, Charles’ mind will curl around his own like an embrace.
At the present, there was…nothing. Not even a slight indication of Charles’ mind exerting his presence on the world.
Charles looked so small and pale among the crisp tucked-in hospital sheets, and Wesley hated it, because he was reminded of their childhood, before they’d met Raven, when Charles hadn’t gotten the hang of shielding and the sheer volume of noise cutting into Charles’ head left him a sick wreck for days at a time.
“Can’t keep out of trouble, can you, Charles?” Wesley sighed, looking down fondly at his twin.
Then he yanked down the irritatingly white sheets, kicked off his boots and eased himself onto the bed. Even if he had to threaten the doctor or nurses, he wasn’t leaving Charles’ side any time soon.
Chapter 2: Charles
Oh wow, I did not expect that kind of reception. Thanks so much to everyone who left a kudos or comment, and I'm sorry I didn't get around to replying to all of them. I hope you'll like what I have planned!
When he woke for the first time since being rushed to Miami, the most familiar mind in the world was next to him.
He turned his head to look.
His other half, his twin, had squeezed himself onto the narrow hospital bed and was staring passively up at the ceiling with arms folded on his chest and one ankle crossed over the other. There was a shallow cut on his face, just below his left cheekbone, and dark smudges under his eyes, but otherwise he looked well. A little worn on the edges, but Charles was used to seeing him so whenever his twin returned to him from wherever he needed to scamper off to for weeks or months at a time. Anger, worry and guilt tumbled over each other in his brother’s mind, but most important was the protective, boundless love they shared for each other, overpowering and soothing the physical and psychic ache in Charles’ own head.
“What the fuck did you get yourself into, Charlie? And who do I need to shoot?”
As crude as ever, but his voice was the most wonderful sound to Charles’ ears at the moment. Charles didn’t even have the will to chide him as he usually did.
“Wes,” he gasped instead.
His memories of the last few days crashed down on him, painful and oppressive like they’d crush his lungs. He inhaled, then exhaled sharply, tried to breathe steadily.
Wesley pressed himself to his side as carefully as possible, wrapped his arms tightly around him, and tucked Charles’ head under his chin. Charles pressed his face against his brother’s neck, breathed in the familiar smell of leather, gunpowder, and wax.
“Wes,” he said again, because his brother was here, right when he needed him the most, like always, and he could feel the sobs threatening to start, the tightness in his throat.
He hated that he couldn’t feel Wesley’s legs pressed against his own.
“I’m here, Charles.”
Wesley didn’t promise to stay, didn’t promise to look after him.
He didn’t need to.
Charles fell asleep again a little later, the skin where his brother’s neck joined shoulder wet with his tears.
Unsurprisingly, Wesley was still there when Charles woke again, though seated properly in a chair this time. Charles stifled the childish impulse to ask Wesley to climb back onto the bed with him.
Wesley looked up from the beat-up paperback in his hands the moment Charles' eyes opened.
“Hey, Charlie,” he said with a half-smile, tossing the book aside. He scooted the chair as close to the bed as possible and took Charles' hand.
“Wes,” Charles said, voice no more than a sigh. He felt exhausted, a deep ache in his bones. His head didn’t feel much better.
He hated hospitals; there were too many minds around lost in grief and agony. He focused his mind on Wesley's, who welcomed him in immediately. He didn't search Wesley's memories, simply sank into his familiar mind.
Wesley didn’t press him to talk, and Charles didn’t feel like speaking. They didn’t need words, not right now. He allowed himself to wallow in Wesley’s head for a while.
Eventually, Charles asked, "Where are Moira and the boys?”
“Outside the room, or in the waiting room. They wouldn’t leave without seeing you’re okay.”
“Yes, wonderful people, the lot of them,” Charles remarked with a small smile. He then sighed. “I’m all right, in the relative sense, I suppose.” If having his legs paralyzed could be called being “all right.”
Wesley, sensing his melancholy, gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.
“I’m going to get you out of here as soon as possible, Charlie,” Wesley said, voice almost a whisper. “You won’t be paralyzed if I can help it, I promise you.”
Charles then remembered the times Wesley would stumble back home with cuts and broken ribs, and the next day, all that would be left, if anything, were bruises. Wax, he also remembered, the same wax he smelled on Wesley too often for his liking. A spark of hope ignited inside him, slightly easing the tightness inside him he’d felt ever since…Cuba.
“Your miracle wax,” he said, as Wesley had sometimes wryly called it. He leaned closer to his brother. “Do you think it will help me?”
“If it can heal bones in six hours, it can heal your spine. If not, I’m not going to give up until I get you walking again,” Wesley said, looking him dead in the eye.
He realized that he had Wesley’s hand in a near death grip, but Wesley was gripping his hand back just as tightly.
“God I hope so,” Charles gasped, blinking back tears. One breakdown was enough. But now that he was no longer completely devastated by his unfeeling legs, he was with everything else—the world’s response to mutants, Raven, Erik.
Wesley needed to know what happened. He sighed and reached out with his free hand to touch his twin’s temple.
Here. Brace yourself, Charles projected to him.
Bring it was Wesley’s reply.
Charles refrained from rolling his eyes, instead taking his own advice and bracing himself for the memories he was going to have to recall.
Despite his better judgment, he showed Wesley absolutely everything that’d happened in the past few months, because there was rarely anything they kept from each other.
How it all began, meeting Moira at the pub the night after Wesley had attended his commencement and congratulated him on his degree before rushing back to Moravia.
What he’d seen in Moira’s head, disbelief-tinged images of Miss Frost and the teleporter Azazel, and his excitement at the knowledge of more of their kind out there in the world.
How he and Raven followed Moira across the Atlantic to Langley, where he revealed the irrevocable existence of mutants to the CIA and persuaded them to allow him and Raven to travel with them down to Florida, in pursuit of the elusive Sebastian Shaw.
He showed him Erik, who had consumed so much of his thoughts since their first meeting: feeling Erik’s tortured, but beautiful mind; impulsively jumping into the ocean to stop the man from drowning; trying to stop the man from leaving out of the greedy desire to feel his presence; traveling across the country with him to collect Angel, and Darwin, and Alex, and Sean; chasing after Erik in Russia when he broke from the CIA to pursue Miss Frost; taking him and the others to Westchester after losing Darwin and Angel; training the children together; helping Erik find that point between rage and serenity and actually crying at the beauty Erik’s mind held deep within.
And Raven, their strong, beautiful, little sister: how he and Raven had seemed to be constantly at odds with each other recently; how she harbored great insecurities about her look; how he didn’t, couldn’t, comprehend why because he’d been too scared, too focused on keeping her safe, protecting her, until he’d stopped seeing her.
Finally, he showed Wesley what happened in Cuba, from Erik lifting the submarine out of the water to crashing on the beach, to Erik fighting Shaw and putting on that terrible helmet, to the feeling of a coin cutting through his head and struggling to keep Shaw’s mind from dragging him into the grips of death as well, to Russia and the U.S. launching missiles at them out of blind terror, to the stupid words he’d said to a man who’d suffered through the Holocaust, to the bullet deflected carelessly into his back.
Wesley took it all in quietly, not letting his reactions take control of him until Charles came to the end, where he was now, lying in a hospital bed in Miami without feeling in his legs, without Raven or Erik.
“I’m going to fucking kill that bastard,” Wesley growled after a moment’s silence.
Charles was not a bit surprised by his brother’s reaction.
“Please don’t. What has happened is as much my fault as it is his.”
“That doesn’t excuse him, not from everything he’s done,” his twin hissed, squeezing his hand tightly before pulling away and getting to his feet, as if he’d go after Erik right that instant. Charles opened his mouth to protest, to maybe call him back to his side, but then Wesley cut in, “Don’t defend him, Charles. I understand what he was going through with Shaw. Hurting the people who hurt you? That was me with Sloan and the shit he shoved me into with our dad, you know that. But you’re my brother, Charles, and he hurt you. He hurt you, and then just fucking left you, all of you, like sitting ducks on Cuba. There is no excuse.”
“Oh, Wes,” he sighed.
The weariness and pain that still weighed him down had to be taking a greater toll on him than he’d thought because Charles once again found his eyes stinging.
Wesley looked at him for a moment, and then Charles could feel the rage dissipating from him in seconds, leaving behind concern and weariness. Wesley sighed and returned to his bedside.
“Come on, shove over a bit,” he said, before stepping out of his boots and climbing onto the bed He helped Charles shift carefully over to give him room.
Charles wished he could turn himself onto his side, so that they could curl into each other like they used to do, like a pair of parentheses, shutting out the rest of the world. Instead, he contented himself with Wesley curling around him protectively, one hand held tight in his.
“Get some rest,” Wesley murmured into his ear. “Then you can get the doctor to let in MacTaggert and the boys. After that, we’ll send them back up to Westchester, and I’ll get you out of here and into the wax. Sound like a plan?”
“All right,” Charles agreed.
It’d been a long time since he’d had to rely on another, even Wesley, but right now, he was relieved to have someone to lean on, for someone else to be the responsible one while he tried to put himself back together.
He fell asleep again to the murmur of Wesley’s thoughts wrapped around his own.
Chapter 3: Wesley
Again thank you so much for all the kudos and comments! I read all of them and appreciate them even if I don't get around to answering some of them. They totally make my day. :)
And a special thank you to Cantella, who was inspired by my fic to draw some adorable Charles&Wesley doodles here.
Agh this chapter gave me so much grief. And it seems each chapter gets longer and longer on me...not that I think people are complaining? :] Enjoy!
Charles woke a few hours later, around the time actual visiting hours started. While the doctor and nurses stopped by to talk with Charles and do whatever they needed to do to check on him, Wesley slipped out to get the both of them food that didn’t taste like cardboard.
He returned with a bag of Chinese takeout to find his brother in the middle of discussion with Agent MacTaggert and the two boys—Alex and Sean, he recalled from Charles’ memories.
The doctor had allowed for the bed to be raised, so Charles could finally sit up properly to talk to his visitors. Charles looked significantly brighter, breaking off from his conversation with the others to beam at Wesley. The smile wasn’t entirely forced, and the brush of Charles’ mind against his was definitely happier than before. The small ball of anxiety in Wesley’s gut unraveled a bit.
“Wesley, come meet Moira and the boys properly this time,” Charles greeted him. “And you brought food! Thank you for that. I can’t remember the last time I ate.”
It was actually right before Cuba, which Wesley knew because Charles knew, but he wasn’t intent on bringing that up. Instead, he shot Charles a return smile and crossed the room, stepping around the others so that he could set the bag of food on the nightstand. He perched himself on the bed, right next to Charles, who automatically shifted himself closer.
“Wesley, this is Moira, Alex and Sean. Hank, unfortunately, can’t join us, as you know. He’s at the hotel just down the street from here, I’m told. And everyone, this is Wesley, my dearest twin brother,” Charles introduced.
“Yeah, I’d say nice to meet ya, but not the best circumstances here,” Wesley said, giving them a nod in greeting anyway.
The other three mumbled their greetings before the redhead Sean said, “So how come you didn’t tell us about him, Professor? I mean, he’s your brother.”
“You weren’t mentioned in any files I have either,” MacTaggert added, looking directly at Wesley.
Wesley snorted. “My life is easier if the CIA doesn’t know I exist,” he remarked. He paused, and then leaned forward and added with just a hint of menace, “So if I find out word about me gets back to the CIA, I know who to find, don’t I?”
MacTaggert stiffened, eyes narrowing and her hand twitching for her gun. She had good instincts; he’d give her that—at least when she wasn’t trying to shoot bullets at a man who controlled metal.
“Wesley, please, Moira is a friend. There’s no need to be hostile.”
“You know why I’m being hostile, Charles,” Wesley snapped.
Charles flinched and Wesley instantly regretted his words. He squeezed Charles’ hand, projecting his apology to him.
“Why weren’t you around to help us?” Alex demanded.
Wesley huffed, but Charles answered for him, “I didn’t think I’d have to trouble him. Wesley was in Europe, and he has his own troubles to deal with.”
“If I had known who you were up against, I would have been there in a heartbeat.” Wesley shot his brother a glare; Charles just blithely shrugged. “But like Charles said, Shaw wasn’t the only bad guy out there.”
MacTaggert seemed to pick up on the hint, but then Sean asked, “So, what’s your superpowers then? If Professor is a mutant, you’re one too, right?”
Wesley couldn’t help be amused at Charles’ new nickname, and Charles poked at him inside his head. Wesley just mentally prodded him back.
“Enhanced speed, strength, endurance, and…” He eyed the CIA agent for a moment before adding, “I’m good with guns.”
“Oh, honestly, Wesley, Moira isn’t going to turn you in. Are you, Moira?” Charles asked, turning those big blue eyes of his at the woman, and it didn’t surprise Wesley one bit to see the agent, a moment tense, simply melt into compliance. He’d been subjected to those eyes many times before, and they were deadly.
Amusement trickled into his head from Charles, who’d clearly heard his thoughts.
Really now, Wes, I hardly think ‘deadly’ is an apt description.
Yes, it is, you manipulative little—
Charles’ laughter echoed in his head, and Wesley was so relieved to hear the sound of it that he didn’t bother finished the thought. It’d been too long since he’d heard Charles laugh, even if it was only in his head.
MacTaggert eyed Wesley warily before wording carefully, “I have been given no clear evidence that you plan on being a danger to the American public or the CIA. Besides, I don’t think I would get very far if I tried.”
Wesley inclined his head in acceptance. “Trust me, lady—or not—I’m one of the good guys here,” he said wryly.
“So what do you exactly mean by ‘good with guns’?” Alex asked. He’d crossed his arms during the course of the conversation and was now eyeing Wesley with part-caution and part-interest. The redhead next to him didn’t even bother hiding his curiosity.
“Let’s not talk about firearms now, shall we? We’re in a hospital, after all,” Charles interjected, voice markedly cheerful.
Wesley didn’t need to be a telepath to sense the sudden guilt in the two boys, their thoughts headed for Charles’ unfeeling legs, no doubt.
“Moira, have you received any word from your superiors?” Charles said hurriedly, diverting their attentions away from his legs.
MacTaggert shook her head and said, “No, they’re all still dealing with what Cuba means for international relations. I haven’t reported anything to them just yet.”
“All right. Then we should be in the clear for now,” Charles said.
“I’ll talk to the director, Charles. He needs to know that the government made a mistake,” the agent said.
“Good luck with that,” Wesley scoffed. “They were shoot missiles at you too, you know? One agent doesn’t mean a thing to the government when it thinks it’s being threatened by mutants.”
“Yes, I recall that.” MacTaggert glared at him. “That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.”
“Of course not. Like I said, good luck with that.”
Charles prodded him in the side.
Please stop antagonizing her. Charles gave him a stern look. Wesley shrugged, and Charles sighed before looking back at MacTaggert and said, “For now, it might be best not to report in just yet. They might recall you to the agency, and I still rather need your help, after all.”
After scarfing down his half of the food, Wesley left Charles to entertain Moira and the two boys, satisfied that Charles would be all right on his own for a while. Instead, he found a payphone outside the hospital and called Pekwarsky.
“Wesley, is your brother well?” the old man asked shortly after the call connected.
Wesley wasn’t surprised. He’d introduced Pekwarsky to Charles before, and like everyone who met Charles, the man had gotten along well with him.
“Not good. The doctor says his spinal cord is damaged. Can the wax fix it?”
There was a pause that had Wesley clenching his fists.
Pekwarsky then said, “It would have been best if he’d been placed in the wax immediately after the injury. Spinal injuries are not…easily treatable, but we can try. There exists a special formula of wax. I’ve only seen it used twice in my lifetime. I suspect it will help, though I cannot predict the extent.”
“Hey, I’ll take whatever I can get. As long as Charles can walk again,” Wesley replied.
“Then, I will head over on the soonest flight to Miami.”
Wesley sighed in relief and smiled to himself. “Thanks, old man.”
“Goodbye, Wesley. I‘ll see you and your brother tomorrow.”
After the call ended, Wesley stuck a few more coins into the payphone and debated who would be the best to call for information.
The Fraternity had operated with an enormous network of sources to gather information on Fate’s assignments—even if Sloan had abused it by fabricating targets and turning the Fraternity into a petty hit squad. Word had eventually gotten around that Wesley had cleaned out the Fraternity and taken control, but the network had stayed intact, since Wesley continuing working under Fate’s orders.
He eventually dialed the number for the Broker, the source he usually contacted for information in the States. He trusted the Broker enough to not ask questions or pass on anything to others. He always tried to keep Raven and Charles out of his occupation, even working under an alias to keep the Xavier name clean, like their father had.
“Mr. Gibson, what can I do for you?”
“I need you to track some people down, as soon as possible. They might change locations soon.”
“And have I ever failed you before? Give me the details, and I’ll find them.”
Wesley stopped by the apartment he had in the city, one of the many safehouses his father had left for him scattered across the States, to change and pick up a set of clothes for Charles, before returning to the hospital. MacTaggert and the two boys were gone, and Charles had somehow gotten a hold of the paperback Wesley had snatched up from somewhere to pass the time waiting for Charles to wake.
“I haven’t read a good fiction novel in years,” Charles remarked in lieu of a greeting, setting the book aside. “Though I’m rather surprised you’d read Bond. You have a similar work environment after all—outside of the class and the intrigue and whatnot.”
“Yeah, I wish. I have to make my job interesting. I just kill people; I can do from two miles away. It’s boring.”
“Yes, of course. Boring,” Charles said, sounding like he was rolling his eyes but was too dignified to actually do so.
Wesley ignored him, setting the clothes he’d brought for him at the foot of the bed.
“Oh, and I finally convinced Moira and the others to go on up to Westchester. Moira doesn’t seem to find you reliable.” Charles sounded so put out about it that Wesley couldn’t help but reach out and ruffle his brother’s hair. Charles batted his hand away with a brief glare.
“As long as she doesn’t report me to the CIA, I really don’t care about her opinion of me.”
Charles sighed as Wesley sat down next to him.
“You might not care, but I do.”
Wesley just shrugged before asking, “The doctor letting you leave, or will we have to convince him?”
“He tried to have me stay for rehabilitation, but I told him I’d go to a hospital closer to home. We have to sign some forms, but I can leave tomorrow morning.”
Charles’ hands were twisting the sheets in his lap. Wesley stilled them before taking hold of one of them in his.
“I can’t promise everything will be okay, Charlie.” Wesley said. “But I’ll do everything I can to make things better. Pekwarsky has a special wax that he thinks might help. He’ll be here tomorrow, and we’ll get you into it straight away.”
Charles ducked his head and bit his bottom lip, but nodded. Wesley slung an arm around his shoulders, and Charles melted instantly against him, closed his eyes and rested his head on Wesley’s shoulder like he used to do when they were kids.
Wesley knew Charles’ legs weren’t the only things bothering his brother. It wasn’t even Raven leaving. It was fucking Lehnsherr.
Wesley had seen Charles’ memories, experienced what his brother had felt. He knew exactly how Charles felt about Lehnsherr, and he hated it.
He used to wonder if, because of Charles’ telepathy, Charles would never find someone who would…match him, if Charles would be stuck forever without someone else to connect with. As much as Wesley loved having his brother beside him, he had wanted Charles to have a happy life—a lifelong companion, kids, a dog, that whole lot—even if Charles’ ambitions for mutantkind made the thought near impossible.
But now, there was Erik fucking Lehnsherr, and of course Charles had to choose the most difficult person in the world to fall for. And even if it hurt Charles now, there was no fucking way Wesley was going to let Lehnsherr near Charles again, not when Charles could be hurt again, and Lehnsherr would hurt Charles again, no doubt about it.
You’re thinking too loudly. It’s giving me a headache, Charles’ voice slipped into his head.
Wesley calmed himself down, pushing all thoughts of the present away. He instead thought about the places he’d traveled to in the years since being pulled from college by the Fraternity, focusing on the aspects he knew Charles liked—the rolling plains in the Midwest, the sweeping architecture in Rome, the majestic mountains in Switzerland. Charles didn’t fall asleep, but seemed content to rest against him silently and take in the scenery in Wesley’s mind.
Getting Charles out of the hospital the next morning went smoother than Wesley would have expected. Soon, they were taking a taxi across the city to Wesley’s apartment.
Once they had arrived, Charles paused in his wheelchair just outside the building.
It seems Mr. Pekwarsky is already here.
Good. The sooner we can get you into the wax, the better.
There wasn’t a lift in the apartment building, and he and Charles eyed the stairs for a moment before Wesley scooped Charles up without warning, one arm around his shoulders and the other under his knees. Charles, he noted absently, was a bit too light for his liking.
“Wesley!” Charles yelped, wrapping his arms around Wesley’s neck.
“Not like I can get you upstairs any other way. Relax, the apartment’s on the second floor.”
Wesley began the trek up the stairs.
“You could have at least asked or warned me beforehand. Honestly, that was offensive!” Charles chided him.
Wesley paused, before continued up the stairs again and said carefully, “I’m sorry. I just want to hurry and get you better.”
Charles deflated with a sigh, indignation gone in a second.
“I know. Thank you, Wesley.”
“Nothing to thank, Charles. You’re my brother,” Wesley easily answered.
They had reached the second floor landing, and Wesley wondered for a moment how he’d open the door without have to set Charles down. Then, Pekwarsky opened the door to the apartment, no doubt having been alerted by Charles.
After a quick exchange in greetings, the old man stepped back to let them in. Wesley wasted no time, making a beeline for the bathroom. Charles eyed their surroundings warily, and Wesley could admit that the apartment was not the most pleasant of places, claustrophobic and dusty since he hadn’t been in Miami in a while. He rarely used this safehouse for anything more than sleeping. Charles refrained from making any comments though; Wesley had already shared many of his trips to him, and this apartment wasn’t even close to being the worst of the places he’d ever stayed in.
Pekwarsky followed right behind them. Wesley set Charles down on the lowered toilet lid, and within minutes, the tub was filled with water and the wax added in, Charles watching on with quiet interest.
Wesley wasn’t surprised; he rarely let Charles see him use the wax because it would bother Charles that Wesley was injured in the first place.
After Wesley had first stumbled home after killing Sloan—home at that time a family townhouse near Harvard instead of Charles’ flat in Oxford—and after the fuss and mild hysteria had been over and done with, Charles had boggled at what the wax could do, had expounded on what wonders it could bring to the medical field, but Wesley had rejected the idea. The wax was a Fraternity trade secret, and questions would be asked if the wax was introduced to the public. The resulting fight had lasted for about an hour, until Charles conceded that he’d rather not have Wesley arrested for murder—even if he didn’t necessarily like what Wesley did for a living.
“During immersion, it’s best if you are asleep the whole time. Would you like something to help you sleep?” Pekwarsky asked. Seeing Charles’ hesitance, he then added, “It will only make you drowsy, nothing more.”
“Yes, all right, please.”
With a nod, Pekwasky left the bathroom.
After shrugging off his jacket, Wesley helped Charles out of his clothes and into the wax without any protests for propriety from his brother. Charles was silent as he adjusted his legs in the tub, sitting back so the water went up to nearly his jaw and silent when the old man returned with a cup of whatever medicine would help him sleep.
Wesley sat himself down on the floor by the tub as Charles downed the medicine. The effects were almost immediate, Charles blinking to keep awake a little longer and unconsciously projecting his sleepiness into the room.
I hope this works, Wesley thought to Charles.
If he believed in a God, he would have prayed, but he believed in Fate, and a higher power that talked to him through a loom and only about who to kill was hardly something to pray to for Charles.
Charles reached out and held Wesley’s hand.
I hope so too. Don’t do anything stupid while I’m out, Charles sent to Wesley, his voice soft and drowsy.
Charles’ eyes slid shut and his grip on Wesley’s hand slackened before Wesley could reply. Wesley moved Charles’ hand back into the water.
Wesley didn’t leave Charles’ side for an hour, watching his brother sleep as the wax hardened on the water’s surface. The wax smelled different from what he was used to, something strongly herbal instead of just plain watery wax. Part of the special formula, he figured.
When he finally got up from the floor and left the room, he found Pekwarsky sitting on the old futon in the living room. From the old man, he learned that the Broker had called the apartment in the early morning, and Pekwarsky passed along the Broker’s information.
Ironically, Lehnsherr and his followers were apparently hiding out in Chicago. Wesley had only gone back to Chicago once since destroying the textile factory, but Chicago was a good place as any to confront the man—and shout at Raven.
Wesley changed clothes, gathered what he might need, and, after making sure Pekwarsky would keep an eye on Charles, was soon off to catch a plane.
Chapter 4: Erik
So this chapter makes me want to beat my head against the wall. I've reworked it more times than I can count and I'm still not quite sure if I like it, but I said Saturday, so here it is.
Again, thanks so much for all the kudos and comments! Hope this doesn't disappoint!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Erik woke to the sound of his locked door unlatching and a blade without a trace of metal pressed against his throat. His hand automatically reached up to grab the hand holding the knife, and he kicked out at his attacker. He was met with only air, his attacker a shadowy figure now across the room. He was out of bed in a second, all
the accessible metal in the room gathered around him—it’s admittedly a disappointing amount. With a flick of a finger, the lights turned on.
All the metal went crashing down to the floor.
“I’m not Charles if that’s what you’re thinking,” said the man with Charles’ face.
After the initial look, Erik registered the differences. His hair was shorter, and his eyes were cold where Charles’ were warm—though just as piercing blue. There was a sharp harshness to his face, as if the world had beaten him down until he’d fought back. He had none of Charles’ bright demeanor and an almost grating American accent. Instead of a cardigan and slacks, he wore a t-shirt and dark sweatpants—nothing with metal, not even his shoes. The two knives in his hands weren’t made of metal either. The man had been prepared for him.
“Then kindly tell me who you are,” Erik growled, reaching out for all the metal in the room once again.
“Wesley Xavier, Wes to friends and loved ones. You’re definitely not either of those. And obviously, I’m Charles’ twin,” the man said.
“Charles never said he had a twin,” Erik replied, crushing down the ridiculous hurt he felt at that, even as he wondered why hadn’t he? Mystique hadn’t said a word either. But the man could be lying, could be a shape shifter like Mystique. He had a gut feeling that the man was exactly who he said he was though.
“For his safety as well as mine. Though now I wish I’d been around when you first showed up. I wouldn’t have let you anywhere near him,” the man said. “And your thing with metal? Pain in the ass. I had to buy ceramic knives because of you.” He gestured with the knives in his hands.
“I’m sorry my mutation inconveniences you,” Erik remarked drily, right before he had to scramble to defend himself, hurling a lamp to deter the man.
Wesley was fast, not as fast as McCoy, but still inhumanly so. Whatever metal Erik hurled at the man, Wesley would dodge or strike away with a knife. A heavy paperweight aimed at the man’s head was blocked by a raised arm; Wesley didn’t even flinch. A high pain tolerance? Erik wondered briefly what precisely the man’s powers were.
The knife Erik had picked up since Cuba mere days before leaped to his hand, and abandoning his initial instinct to throw things at the man, he met him head on—unfortunately, one knife against two.
And Erik struggled. It was hard, he was willing to admit, to attack a man with Charles’ face, even with all the visible differences the brothers had and without considering whatever Wesley’s powers were.
Wesley knew how to fight well, the knives mere extensions of his arms. Every attack Erik attempted, even while aiming projectiles at the man at the same time, was blocked or dodged. Wesley was turning him in circles around the room, mocking him if the smirk on his face was any indication.
Erik’s instincts screamed at him. This man had killed before, had blood on his hands. And wasn’t that a surprise for Charles’ very own twin?
Then, it dawned on him, small details that he hadn’t thought significant until it all coalesced into a complete picture now: the locked room next to Charles’; the beat-up leather jacket in Charles’ study that he’d found incongruous with the telepath’s usual wardrobe; the half-empty can of instant coffee in the kitchen that neither Charles nor Mystique drank; the large amount of metal he sensed behind a locked door under the stairs closest to the kitchen that he’d attributed to the same paranoia that explained the bunker in the basement; the ease in which Charles and Mystique wordlessly accepted the fact that Erik was a Nazi hunter, a killer; the practiced way Charles held the gun even though he’d refused to shot it at Erik; killing Shaw will not bring you peace, words he’d thought of as Charles’ naivety and pacifism, but now, knowing that he had a brother who definitely had blood on his hands, perhaps not.
Erik’s blood boiled. Charles’ own brother was a killer—a damn good one, too. So what made him and Erik so different that Charles would push Erik away?
Suddenly, Wesley was past his defenses in a blink of an eye. He didn’t even see the punch coming until Wesley’s fist connected with the side of his face. He was sent reeling into the wall behind him. It felt a bit like getting hit by a sledgehammer. His vision swam with black spots.
Another punch, to the gut this time, forced all the air from his lungs, and his knife was knocked out of his hand. He followed its progress with his senses through the throbbing of his head as it was thrown out of the room. Not out of his reach, but enough that it would take too long for him to call it back to him.
Wesley tossed his own knives aside as Erik’s vision slowly cleared. He then grabbed Erik by the collar of his shirt and slammed him up against the wall again. Erik sent the crushed lamp from before crashing into the wall across the room, hoping the noise will bring at least someone to his aid—unless Wesley had taken care of the others already. Over the years, Erik had relied too much on the metal around him when fighting; he needed to step up his training.
Wesley had one arm pressed up against Erik’s throat, cutting off his air supply, while his other hand pushed flat against Erik’s chest, pinning him to the wall with more strength than Erik would have expected before he’d been punched. His vision was going spotty again.
The metal in the room rattled, the window frame groaning though he strained to keep the window intact. No one had gotten this close to hurting, killing, him in years—outside of what happened in Cuba. Erik gathered what metal he could and sent it all flying at the man, forcing him to jump away and let Erik go.
Erik gasped for breath, slumping against the wall and pressing a hand to his bruised stomach as he eyed the other man warily. Wesley stood still, as if measuring his next course of action. Erik didn’t understand what the man was aiming for; Wesley could have easily stabbed him minutes ago.
“I should kill you. I want to kill you,” the man said. “But I’ve got morals to uphold.”
“Are you implying I don’t?” Erik asked, wiping away the blood from his split lip with the back of his hand. He was going to ache all over in the morning.
“No, you just don’t have a problem with throwing them away if they’re in the way—like you do with people.”
Erik flinched, understanding what he was implying. Then he raged at his vulnerability.
“You don’t know anything about me,” Erik snapped.
“I know everything,” Wesley replied, and Erik nearly choked at how familiar those words were, even when said with an American accent. “Everything that Charles knows, anyway.”
“He has no right—”
Wesley’s bark of laughter interrupted him.
“Anything Charles knows, I know. There’s no such thing as secrets between us; we’re twins. Think of us as a package deal, but not quite,” Wesley said. “And for the record? There’s also no such thing as privacy with a telepath. But Charles tries, and that leads to fucking problems, because he’s horrible with people.”
Erik wanted to laugh at this because Charles? The man who was willing to talk to anyone and everyone, wanted to befriend every person he met, horrible with people?
Then he remembered Mystique and maybe understood a little.
“What are you here for then, if you’re not here to kill me?” Erik asked.
“Just because I won’t kill you, doesn’t mean I won’t beat the shit out of you. You hurt my brother, you fucker. You shot and left my brother paralyzed on a beach in fucking Cuba.”
Erik barely noticed as the metal he’d just tossed around imploded on itself.
“Paralyzed?” he choked out.
Suddenly, there was a knife in Wesley’s hand, and Erik ducked as it was sent sinking into the wall where his head had been moments before.
“Yes, you asshole. It’s what happens when a bullet hits a person’s spine. You couldn’t have even bothered to maybe drop Charles off at a hospital before running off to plan world domination?” Wesley yelled.
“Magneto, what’s going on?” Mystique’s voice called from the hallway. Then she appeared in the doorway. “Wesley? What are you doing here?”
“Nice to see you, too, Raven,” Wesley said, eyes still fixed on Erik.
“Mystique,” she corrected him on reflex.
“I don’t give a fuck. If you still consider yourself our sister, then you’re still Raven. If you don’t, then I’ll just take off after dealing with Lehnsherr.”
Mystique sputtered, but Erik’s mind was stuck on only one thing.
He forced the words from his tightening throat, voice a rasp: “Charles is…paralyzed?”
Mystique choked on her words, hands covering her mouth and eyes wide, looking to her brother for denial or confirmation.
“He couldn’t feel his legs. And idiot that he is, he doesn’t blame you, but that doesn’t mean I don’t,” Wesley growled, crossing his arms.
Erik felt his knees give out on him, and he slid down to the floor. He had known he shouldn’t have left Charles there, shouldn’t have left Charles hurt right where the humans could get to him. But he’d been angry, angry that Charles had pushed him away, hadn’t understood, hadn’t agreed with him—no, he was still angry about it.
But now…now Charles was paralyzed. Oh Gott, what had he done?
Wesley appeared in his line of vision, crouching before him and grabbing him by the neck, tight enough to be uncomfortable but loose enough to breath. Erik tensed as the man jerked his head up and he found himself staring into cold blue eyes.
“Look, I get this need for revenge you had for Shaw. I’ll even thank you for getting rid of the bastard, along with however many Nazis you killed along the way,” Wesley bit out. “But you know what happens when you let your rage get the better of you? People. Get. Hurt. There’s collateral damage. Guess what the collateral damage for you was—Charles. He was your friend, he saved your life, and he trusted you. He cared about you. And you? You cut him off the moment you put on that helmet, practically made a coin go through his head, deflected a bullet into his spine, sweet-talked his sister away, and left him near defenseless on a beach.”
Every word Wesley said was like another punch in the gut.
The coin. Charles felt it?
“I didn’t mea—”
“You cut him off, Lehnsherr. You hurt him the moment you chose to put that stupid helmet on. Did you put it on so you wouldn’t hear Charles scream? Hm?”
The hand on his throat tightened even as Erik grabbed onto Wesley’s wrist and Mystique shouted at her brother to stop. Erik gasped in what air he could.
“Because he screamed all right,” Wesley growled. “He almost died for you because he decided to let you kill Shaw, because he didn’t want you hurting anymore.”
Wesley paused, loosening his grip on Erik’s throat. Erik breathed easier, but just barely. He felt nauseous, not from the air loss, but from Wesley’s words, each one still like daggers to his gut, because oh Gott, Charles.
“Did you even think it all out properly afterwards?” Wesley asked, sounding almost thoughtful if not for the hard menace still in his voice. “Because I doubt it. After I took out my personal Shaw—he wasn’t nearly as bad as him, but twisted enough—it took me three whole months to figure out what to do with myself. You? You kill Shaw, and then turn missiles on the two most powerful countries in the world, and then just because Charles doesn’t see eye-to-eye with you, instead of—oh I don’t know—talking it out, you run off to let Charles and MacTaggert to deal with—”
Wesley suddenly flinched and pulled away from him, letting go of Erik’s throat. Erik collapsed back against the wall, sucking in large gulps of air. He pressed a hand to the tender skin at his throat, knowing it’d be angry red and bruised for the next day at least. Wesley had said he wouldn’t kill him, but that had felt damn near close.
"Jesus, Charles, calm down. I wasn't going to actually kill him," he heard Wesley say before falling silent, though the man’s face ran through a bunch of emotions, mostly contriteness.
Erik glanced over at Mystique, who had moved closer to the two of them, but her full attention was on Wesley, as if staring at the man's body language could tell her what he and Charles were discussing.
Dazedly, Erik wondered at Charles’ reach; he had though Chicago would have been far enough away. Or was it because of his brother that he could stretch his mind this far? Erik’s helmet rested on the nightstand, but he wouldn’t be able to reach it even if he wanted to. He chose to just savor the fact that he could breathe.
When the conversation seemed to have ended, Wesley's glare fixed on Erik again. He leaned in close, almost looming if not for his shorter stature, but his violent rage from before was gone, a calmer, colder anger in its place.
"Now listen here, the way you’re headed, this mutants-versus-humans thing? I see civil war coming. Because someone is going to stand in your way, even if it isn’t Charles, and civil wars have a fucking high body count. I made it a rule for me to kill only on assignment, so if your name comes up, which it very well might, you're dead."
"You threaten me, and you really think I'll just let you off just like that?" Erik demanded, though he really had nothing to stand on at the moment. Even his voice sounded pathetic and raw; he cursed at his weakness.
Wesley eyed him for a moment before smirking and remarking, "Yeah, because of Charles."
Erik glared. There was no way for Erik to deny it. He couldn’t lay a finger on Wesley even if he somehow got around the man’s powers. The man’s current expression reminded him too much of Charles’ own cheeky smile, and right now, it almost physically hurt to look at him.
Wesley nodded, so annoyingly smug the remaining metal in the room was being crushed to pieces by the force of Erik’s ire.
“I’m leaving, before Charles does something stupid because he thinks he needs to stop me. You stay the fuck away from him, Lehnsherr, because I won’t kill you, but that doesn’t mean I won’t mess you up.
Wesley turned to Mystique and told her, “Charles said you’re welcome to come home whenever you want to, even for a visit. But me and you—” he pointed at Mystique in emphasis, “—we need to have a good ol’ brother-sister talk before I let you set foot in that house—if you still think of us as family in the first place, Mystique.”
With that parting shot, he collected his knives and swept right past Mystique out the door.
And yes, Wesley is a nasty, misleading little bastard.
Chapter 5: Wesley
For some reason I found myself working on chapter 7 instead of chapter 5 like I was supposed to, and now the story is getting a lot more complicated than I first planned...
Anyway, here's the new chapter!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Wesley!” he heard Raven shout after him. He ignored her, leaving the apartment and heading for the stairwell.
When he had first arrived at the apartment, following the directions from the Broker, he had made sure he wouldn’t be bothered by Shaw’s former underlings. The deserter Angel, he’d simply checked to make sure she was asleep, and then propped a chair under the door knob, keeping the door from opening. As for Azazel and the Spaniard, Wesley had been slightly startled to find the two in bed together, but knocked them both out with swift hits on the head before they could fight back.
But after all the racket he’d made with Lehnsherr, he wasn’t sure how long they’d be out, and he’d rather not be around to find out. If Raven wanted to talk to him, then she’d have to catch up with him outside.
Entering the stairwell, he bounded down the stairs several steps at a time.
“Wesley, get back here!” he heard Raven call after him still, heard her footsteps on the stairs above. He continued down to ground level.
Exiting the stairwell onto the sidewalk, Wesley planted himself under a streetlamp, leaning back against the pole to wait for Raven. Standing outside in the open set his teeth on edge, but he was fairly sure he wouldn’t get into any sort of trouble in the next ten minutes at least. His talk with Raven would have to be shorter than he wanted it, but Charles was upset at him enough as it was.
Soon, the door to the apartment stairwell slammed open, and Raven came charging out the moment she spotted him.
“What the fuck, Wesley?” She practically stomped up to him, blue…and still fucking naked.
If Lehnsherr had any role in getting Raven to walk around as naked as the day she was born, then Wesley would have to go back and knock the man around some more, but he also remembered the very first time he and Charles had seen her, blue and naked before they’d found some clothes for her to wear.
“How did you even find us?”
“You know I have my ways,” Wesley replied, scowling.
Raven glared at him, and Wesley simply glared back, waiting. Gradually, her anger and irritation slipped again, leaving behind uncertainty.
“Like I said, his legs are paralyzed,” he said.
“But can’t you…can’t you do something?”
Wesley had forgotten the last time she’d looked at him like that, trying so hard not to look a little lost and a little frightened. It just made him more irritated at the moment.
“I’m trying. I don’t know if he’ll get better,” he hissed. Because the whole point of him being here was to be vicious, he then said, “And what do you care? I still can’t fucking believe you left him on Cuba without a second thought. You chose that asshole—” he gestured back at the apartment complex, “—over family.”
“He broke his promise, and he told me to go!”
"Please, from just his memories, even I could tell you wanted to leave. He didn't need to read your mind. He told you to go because you obviously wanted to, and because he didn't want to guilt you into staying. Charles was paralyzed, Raven. Think. Has he ever asked you for help? He rarely even asks me for help."
“It’d not like he needs to ask you for help. You’re his twin,” she said.
“Yeah? And you’re our sister. He shouldn’t have to ask you either. Family is there for one another, no matter what, and you weren’t there. You heard what I said to Lehnsherr; the same goes for you. You left him. You left him defenseless against two fucking superpowers. For all you know, he could have died on that beach. If it wasn’t for MacTaggert and McCoy, he might have.”
Raven was pale under the street light, yellow eyes wide. Her body flickered for a moment, flashing almost imperceptively to the blond form he was used to seeing and then back. It was something Wesley had seen before, a defensive mechanism, though before now, it would have been Raven losing control of her blond form and reverting to blue.
“I just—I had to leave. I couldn’t stand it anymore. I just wanted to be me,” Raven said.
Wesley looked at her silently for a moment before sighing. He pushed aside all of his residual anger.
“Look, I can’t apologize for him, but I can at least explain what was going on in his head. I knew you made Charles promise not to read you, but I figured you two would work things out.” He shifted his position against the streetlamp, crossing his arms and settling in a bit more comfortably. “You'd think that after all these years with the two of us, you'd learn that Charles needs his telepathy.”
Raven frowned, looking about to open her mouth and comment, but Wesley continued on.
“I get that he has really sketchy lines on what he will and won’t do with his powers, which is frustrating, but he doesn’t actively read minds unless he feels he needs to—for serious matters, at the very least. He gets the surface thoughts and what people think really loudly about because he can’t exactly shut off his powers. He messes up sometimes, but he tries not to read someone deeply unless it’s serious or he has permission, especially you and everyone he considers a friend.
You told him not to read your mind at all. Since you’re our sister, he already had a bond connecting your mind with his, and he had to cut that link—which got him sick as fuck for days, just so you know—and then put a wall around you strong enough to keep everything from you out. And he doesn’t realize it sometimes, but I’ve noticed that if he can’t feel your mind, he doesn’t think of you as a real person. It’s fucked up, but it is what it is. I've been in his head. He gets better readings off of animals, for fuck’s sake. It's like you're this blank wall—or one of those sci-fi robots. He relies on what he knows about you from before, but he doesn’t know how to deal with you right now, especially when you two can’t seem to even talk on the same level.”
Raven’s brow furrowed, as if unsure what to say in reply.
“I just wanted my privacy,” she finally said. “And he doesn’t understand. I don’t want to hide anymore.”
Wesley huffed. “Have you ever heard of talking? I haven’t really been a good example, but sometimes with Charles, you have to tell him these things, because knowing doesn’t always means understanding. And I don’t count the time you ambushed him in the kitchen before Cuba, because no, it doesn’t work like that. Honestly, have you met Charles? Did you think for one moment that the reason he didn't like you running around blue was because you ran around fucking naked?”
He gave her a pointed once over—a very quick one because yeah, he appreciated a woman’s body as much as the next guy, but she was his sister and just, no.
“You're beautiful, Raven, even if Charles and I didn't seem to tell you that enough recently, and I’m sorry about that, but even I don't like seeing you run around without any clothes on. If you want to be blue, that’s fine with me. Charles is fine with it too, just with actual clothes. He wanted you to hide in public because he was afraid you’d get hurt, and then he let that fear get ahead of him.”
“I can take care of myself. I’m not a little girl anymore,” Raven replied, trying to sound snappish, but he had enough practice to read the narrowing of her eyes and contradictory release of tension in her crossed arms and figure that she was preoccupied, re-evaluating her actions and reorganizing her thoughts.
Regardless, he said, “So it was about time that you wanted to leave the nest and strike out on your own. I’m not too surprised; it’s been eighteen years after all. But your best idea was to run off with Lehnsherr instead? He’s fucking messed up in the head right now.”
“At least he accepted me!”
Wesley briefly wondered how everything went wrong, wondered if it had started when he got pulled into the Fraternity, or after Charles came back from service. Maybe he should have been around more. They should have spent more time together, all three of them, like they used to do as kids.
As if he’d beckoned for him, Wesley felt Charles creep into the back of his mind.
Wesley? Is everything all right?
Jesus, Charles, what a family we make, he sent to his brother, giving him implicit permission to read from him the last several minutes of conversation.
He then said to Raven, “You’re our sister. Charles and I will always accept you, no matter what kind of shit happens. That’s what family does. Stay with Lehnsherr if you want. You’ve already heard what problems I have with what he’s going to do, but if it’s what you want, then I won’t stop you. Just don’t let others tell you who to be, what you should do. Got it?”
Raven’s lips pressed tightly together, but she nodded.
“Good,” Wesley said with a nod of his own.
Oh Wesley. Charles’ mind wrapped around Wesley’s thoughts, a little sad but warm as always. Will you please tell her I’m sorry?
Yeah, I will.
Please come back soon?
I’m heading for the airport after this.
All right. I suppose I’ll nap a little more until you get here.
With that, Wesley felt Charles ease out of his mind. He blinked, waiting for his mind to stretch and fill the spaces Charles had left behind.
He then said, “Charles just now also wanted to say he’s sorry. I need to get going. If you’re going to visit the house, then as soon as you’re there, you and Charles need to have a real, one-on-one conversation. I’ll even lock you two up in a room together if I have to.” He pushed off the lamppost, standing up properly. “Once I get Charles back to Westchester, I’ll be beefing up security, so just call ahead. I’ve got a plane to catch.”
He left Raven under the street light and wound his way through the parking lot, heading for the rental car he’d picked up to get to the apartment. He’d stop back at his father’s old apartment, change into better clothes and maybe collect a few things, before heading back to the airport—and to Charles.
(If people are interested, I have a special tag on my tumblr where I ramble about this fic or reblog anything related to help me plan and brainstorm over here.
Chapter 6: Erik
Once again, thank you for all the comments and kudos!
Sorry it's a bit late. I wanted to update this earlier, but RL got in the way.
(This chapter also frustrated me a lot. I will be revising it sometime in the future, and I'll be sure to put up a notice for those who would want to read it.)
Anyway, I hope you'll enjoy it!
*Edit (2010.02.12): This chapter is now the revised version. For those who've read the previous version, I've added more lines, a few extra details, and one small scene in the middle that I hadn't included before.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When he finally found the will to do so, Erik pushed himself to his feet. Absently, he pulled the ceramic knife Wesley had left behind from the wall, walked the few steps to the bed, and sat down.
He turned the knife over in his hands. It was strange to hold it, sharp and cool like any other knife in his hands; he expected to feel the hum of metal and instead felt nothing.
Likewise, his mind felt empty—had felt so since learning about Charles. He assumed it meant he was in shock.
And then of course, his thoughts surged forward, all concerning Charles. Not a day had gone by that he didn’t think about Charles since the first time they met.
The only thing Erik didn’t think about, because he didn’t know how to handle it at the moment, was how Charles was paralyzed, Because of him.
Instead, he searched his memories, looking for every hint he’d missed regarding such an important aspect of Charles, his assassin twin brother.
During the recruitment trip, they’d stopped for the night once in Chicago, and although Charles had claimed never to have spent time in the city, he had known how to navigate the city, where the best places to eat were, what the places to avoid were. Erik had attributed it to Charles’ telepathy, but it hadn’t been exactly the same way in the other cities they’d visited. Now, it seemed likely that Wesley, as an undoubtedly skilled assassin, had visited the city before for jobs, and Charles had learned about it as a result.
And then there were the hints he’d remembered during his fight with Wesley. The locked room was Wesley’s, no doubt, as was the beat-up leather jacket and the can of instant coffee. The metal under the stairs he hadn’t looked too hard at could very well be where Wesley stored his weapons.
Erik hadn’t thought much about it before, but the gun he’d picked up during the time they’d spent at the mansion training couldn’t have been Moira’s. Erik himself had never felt the need to carry around a gun, and as much as he hated the woman, as a trained agent, Moira wouldn’t have been so careless as to leave her gun where others, like the children, could get a hold of it.
He remembered the wrinkle in Charles’ brow and his small, tight-lipped frown when Erik had first pulled out the gun and pressed it into Charles’ hands. Erik had understandably attributed it to Charles’ pacificism and dislike of firearms. In hindsight, he should have noticed the spark of annoyance in Charles’ eyes.
So it wasn’t only that Charles had known how to handle a gun, but that Charles owned one—or Wesley did and had left it lying around the house. And unlike the boys, Mystique hadn’t looked the slightest bit alarmed at the sight of the gun when Erik had waved it around after the President’s speech. She had probably recognized the gun as well.
I know what this means to you, Charles had pressed into Erik’s mind when he’d jumped into the ocean to save him.
Later, almost in contradiction, Charles had said to him from across the chessboard: Killing Shaw will not bring you peace.
Peace was never an option, Erik had replied.
Wesley had said he’d had his own “personal Shaw,” had spent months finding his way after the kill. And he’d said that Charles had let Erik kill Shaw.
Perhaps Charles had really known what it meant, even if peace really hadn’t been an option for Erik. It still wasn’t.
He didn’t know how much time passed before he heard Mystique’s footsteps outside his door. She didn’t speak, but didn’t move from the doorway.
“Why haven’t I heard anything about Wesley, from either you or Charles?” he asked eventually.
Mystique stood in the doorway for several more moments before crossing the room, sitting down next to Erik. Erik didn’t look at her, his gaze fixed on the white wall across from him. She remained silent for a while.
“You’ve probably figured this out already, but Wesley’s an assassin,” she finally said. “It’s safer for us if no one knew about him or what he did. It’s safer for him too, considering some of the people he needs to kill. He made us swear not to tell anyone; it was Wesley’s choice if he wanted anyone to know about it.”
Erik huffed and remarked, “Then Charles is more of a hypocrite than I thought.”
“Because Wesley kills, and Charles is a pacifist?”
Erik lifted a shoulder in an almost shrug.
After a pause, Mystique said shortly, “Charles was sent to Korea, during the war.”
It took him a while to make the connection. He’d spent so much focus on hunting down Shaw that he’d paid only minimal attention to the cold war and the machinations of the Americans and the Russians.
But when he did, it was as if a weight dropped into his stomach, because the thought of Charles as a soldier was distressing. And perhaps worse, he hadn’t seen any indications of it at all.
It made him wonder, yet again, just exactly how much he really knew about Charles.
The injustice of it angered him. He didn’t know exactly how much Charles knew about his past—“everything” was hardly a clear answer when it came to Charles—but it was definitely a great deal more than Erik knew about Charles. The thought rankled.
“Why didn’t he say anything? He’s told me nothing,” Erik growled, finally turning to look at her.
She shook her head.
“He doesn’t talk about it. Ever. It really messed up his head, and after he came back, he spent over a year getting through it. Wesley never left his side the whole time. They tried not to talk about it around me, so they just holed themselves up in their room at night. Then Charles started school again and tried to forget all about it.”
Erik hadn’t considered that, still fixated on the knowledge that Charles, pacifist Charles who didn’t even want someone like Shaw to die, was—had been—a soldier. But now that Mystique had brought it up, he wondered what it must have been like, for a telepath to be trapped in a war, to be entrenched in the battlefield, shoot others and getting shot at.
Again, Erik was reminded that Charles was stronger than he looked, stronger than he let people realize.
Mystique began speaking again, pulling Erik from his thoughts: “But my point in bringing this up is, Charles can be stupid about some things, but he’s not naïve and innocent. He can explain himself better, but he doesn’t kill because he’s done it before and he hates it. It’s not just because of some naïve, privileged belief, or whatever you might think.”
“And he has no problem with his brother killing?”
Mystique frowned, brow wrinkled in thought. After a few moments, she said, “Wesley’s going to hate me for saying too much, but—”
Just then, Azazel and Janos walked—nearly stumbled—into the room. The two looked around the room with identical raised eyebrows. Their surprise was understandable, Erik admitted to himself as he followed their gaze around the room. The room was trashed, mostly from Erik’s attempts at hurling things at Wesley. The light fixtures were crumbled and shattered, and the window frames slightly warped. Azazel and Janos finally returned their gaze to Erik, eyes on the knife in his hands.
“I vaguely remember Xavier knocking us out, but did not think him capable of this damage,” Azazel remarked.
Erik’s grip tightened on the knife, and he looked at Mystique, signaling for her to explain. She scowled at him, but said to the other two, “That wasn’t Charles; it was Wesley, his twin.”
Azazel’s eyebrow rose higher. He took another significant look around the room.
“I assume from the state of the room, this Wesley is still alive and quite dangerous?” he remarked.
“Very,” Erik said shortly. Wanting to return to his conversation, he then ordered,” Go check on Angel. We need to changed locations earlier than planned.”
Yet another thing that irritated him about Wesley. Erik hadn’t the slightest idea how Wesley had found them, since Charles clearly hadn’t told him. They hadn’t rented the apartment or signed any forms; the apartment building was fully furnished but vacant, about to be put on market. And they had a teleporter; their means of travel was supposed to be untraceable.
Azazel and Janos inclined their heads and left the room as instructed.
Erik focused his attention on Mystique again. “Continue.”
Mystique glared at him, but huffed and said, “The year before Charles got sent to Korea, Wesley dropped off the face of the Earth for six months, just disappeared. Charles had had an idea where he was, or Wesley had maybe told him not to worry, so I didn’t worry about it that much either. Then he came back…different, a bit beat up and angry. He spent three months thinking about things and discussing them with Charles. Eventually they told me a condensed version of what happened; apparently he pretty much got kidnapped and manipulated into becoming an assassin—”
“And how precisely does one get manipulated into assassination?” Erik interjected.
“Charles and Wesley’s dad was one. They told Wesley his dad got killed by someone who went rogue, and they had him trained for revenge. It was just a whole lot of mindfuckery, okay?”
Charles’ father, an assassin as well. Erik had had more surprises in the past two hours than he thought he could take.
“So Wesley didn’t start killing completely by choice. He found out the truth and had his revenge, but he kept the job. He sometimes calls himself a ‘Weapon of Fate.’ Basically, he takes care of bad people, and Charles accepts it. And after the war…” She trailed off and shrugged.
The similarities Erik could find between Wesley and himself, even from what little he knew, were upsetting, and he demanded, “Then why won’t Charles accept me?”
“...you heard what Wesley said, right? I think Charles is too optimistic, and humans aren’t ever going to accept us, but if civil war is where you’re taking us, then I don’t want it. We’re not supposed to fight each other; you said it yourself. I’m not going to fight Wesley or Charles. What I say probably won’t mean much to you, but you need to talk to Charles and figure this out. Properly. Preferably when no one is hurt or about to get killed.”
“And yet you were so eager to leave. You resented him,” Erik bristled. It wasn’t as if he had seen her speak with Charles “properly.” Many times, he’d watched as the two siblings had butted heads, Mystique practically shouting for attention and Charles simply not picking it up, which was a ridiculous circumstance for a telepath.
“Siblings fight. They fight, make up, and put up with each other even if they’re annoyed at each other. Even Charles and Wesley fight, and most of the time, they’re so creepily connected,” Mystique said, crossing her arms. “Charles patronized me, and I got fed up with it. But I’m his little sister, and apparently, I never grew up in his mind, partially because of some things I did. I made mistakes; Charles made mistakes. That doesn’t mean I’m going to let those mistakes break us apart. He and Wesley practically raised me. Charles is family…do you still consider him your friend?”
The only one I have, the only one worth having, Erik remembered thinking what felt like years ago but was really only mere months ago, sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
“I don’t think he still considers me his,” he said.
“You’d be surprised. Knowing Charles, he probably does,” Mystique said. “…Wesley reminded me of something I forget sometimes. Charles doesn’t really talk about himself, to anyone except Wesley. Maybe it’s a side effect of his mutation, but he’s always about other people. He has a stupid martyr tendency, like his own problems don’t matter,” she huffed, voice dripping with irritation. “He told me to leave because he was stupid and trying to be selfless. I shouldn’t have left him. We shouldn’t have left him on the beach.”
Tell me something I don’t know, Erik wanted to growl. Instead, he asked, “Are you going back to him?”
“I need to think about it,” Mystique said, getting to her feet. “I don't want to just leave you alone.”
“I have the others. And I don't have a problem being alone. I don’t need anyone,” Erik growled, because he didn’t. He’d been alone for half his life. Even if the rest of his followers chose to leave him, he saw nothing wrong with being alone.
“Do you?” she countered before leaving him alone in his room.
I'm sorry to say that updates might start slowing down. I'll still try and aim for a new chapter every weekend, but I can't guarantee it. School and martial arts have started kicking in and taking up a whole lot of my time. In addition, I'm signed up for three big bangs, and things are going to get busier really fast. (I don't know why I do this to myself. I have no restraint. -headdesk-)
Chapter 7: Charles
I'm so sorry for the wait! RL has definitely started taking up a lot of my time. Thank you all so much for the kudos and comments. They certainly brighten up the long days of work I have!
For those of you who haven't seen my note already, I've revised chapter 6, so the version now on AO3 is slightly different from the one I originally posted. You won't miss too much if you don't go back and re-read it, but I've added several lines and a small scene that might give a little more background/interest to this verse.
Also, I want to dedicate this chapter to Nie, because she is a wonderful person who drew even more stuff inspired by this fic recently, and seeing her excitement over Charles & Wesley in this fic makes me very very happy. :]
And without much further ado, enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Charles woke in the wax bath with the unpleasant realization that his brother was not in Miami, but in fact, a thousand miles away in Chicago. His usual reach tended to be around three hundred miles, but with Wesley, sending his mind to his twin’s had become as simple as breathing, and he did so now.
He discovered Wesley in the process of choking Erik, and quite panicked, began shouting at him to stop.
Was it too much to ask for you to be present when I woke up? Charles asked once Wesley had let Erik go.
He was answered immediately by the wave of contriteness.
You couldn’t have expected me not to go after him, Wesley grouched.
Charles sighed inwardly. I was hoping you wouldn’t. You’re better than that, Wesley.
Doesn’t mean I want to be. Besides, it’s not like I was going to kill him.
Are you sure about that? It certainly seemed like you were.
I wasn’t. You know I don’t kill unless the Loom tells me to.
Charles winced at Wesley’s sharp indignation and immediately sent a wave of calm and apology to his brother.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. Just…please come back? And don’t hurt anyone?
Charles frowned at the guilty flashes of memory that rose in Wesley’s mind—the two mutants he’d knocked out before finding Erik. Charles sighed and told himself to be glad that at least, no one was bleeding—or dying.
Through Wesley, he could see Erik in the apartment room. He was right in the periphery of Wesley’s vision, slumped against the wall and gasping for air. Charles pulled his attention away from him, trying to focus solely on Wesley’s mind.
He was torn as to how to feel towards Erik now. The bullet had been an accident, despite Wesley’s hostility towards him and Moira. But the helmet, and the missiles, and what Erik wanted to do…Charles couldn’t be a part of that, not even for Erik.
It wasn’t wholly anger he felt at Erik, but betrayal and frustration was definitely there, souring in the pit of his stomach, though time, distance, and rationality were easing them.
However he felt though, at that moment, stuck in a bath of wax, he simply wanted everyone unharmed and his brother back with him, to be there in case something—everything—does go awry.
I’m getting back soon, Wesley told him. You should be sleeping, Charlie. It’ll make the time pass faster; you’re going to be in there for a while.
I will. Charles hesitated before adding, Will you tell Raven she’ll always be welcome at home? Even just to visit.
…yeah, okay. Go to sleep, Charles.
Yes, yes, I will.
And Charles had fully intended to do so, if not for the rush of melancholy he sensed from Wesley ten, fifteen minutes later.
Oh Wesley, Charles said, once he’d read the conversation his brother was having with Raven.
The events leading up to Cuba, and Raven’s departure, had driven the point home; he had failed at being a brother, a family member, for Raven. He had been so focused on so many other—things, that he hadn’t paid attention to what was in front of him, hadn’t given his sister the attention she’d deserved.
He thought that Wesley could be right, that perhaps something went wrong after Wesley returned from Chicago twelve years ago, or after Korea—those several, awful years blended together so much, cornerstones in their lives that shaped them indelibly. Those years after Wesley returned and the war, they had been so wrapped around each other, and then in how to handle the world around them. They hadn’t talked to Raven nearly enough.
…and Wesley had had a point, about the effects of cutting Raven from his perception, shameful as it was for Charles.
He asked of Wesley, Will you please tell her I’m sorry?
He lingered on the periphery of Wesley’s mind until Wesley left Raven, plans for the trip back to Miami forming.
When Charles finally sensed Wesley back in Miami, some of the tension he’d felt after finding Wesley gone left his body. He blinked the sleep from his eyes and stared up at the paint-chipped ceiling. He let his mind wander out to those surrounding him nearby—Mr. Pekwarsky reading a novel in the living room, the woman next door wondering writing up a list of groceries to buy, the group of students a floor above them furiously cramming for an exam, the man loitering on the roof to smoke a cigarette. He used to do this often, to put himself outside of his mind, to pretend to be another person for a short while; it was almost like meditation, but rather than emptying his mind, he filled it with the thoughts of others.
No more than an hour passed before Wesley was climbing the stairs up to the apartment.
“Wesley, was that really necessary?” Charles said the moment Wesley appeared in the doorway. He couldn’t help but scold his brother again.
“I always do what’s necessary, Charles,” Wesley said. Charles gave him a Look. “Most of the time.”
Charles sighed and said, “I don’t need you to—to defend my honor or whatever you were trying to accomplish.”
It could very well be true. Wesley certainly knew from his memories how Charles felt about Erik. It was probably partially why Erik was still alive and less injured that he might’ve been—other than Wesley’s code of morality.
Wesley scoffed. “You know why I did what I did. Besides, I like telling people when they’re being stupid.”
“Wesley,” Charles chided him.
His brother blithely shrugged before plunking down on the tile floor, right by the tub.
Wesley eyed him speculatively before saying, “Do I need to tell you what you did that was stupid or are you already digging yourself into a hole?”
Charles groaned, thumping the back of his head against the end of the tub.
“Hey! Don’t do that,” scolded Wesley, reaching out and pressing his hand to the back of Charles’ head. “We don’t need you getting brain damage as well.”
Charles breathed in and out slowly, pressing back against Wesley’s touch. Wesley’s fingers threaded through his hair, cradling the back of his head and offering him steadiness and reassurance.
“I made an ass of myself,” Charles said, closing his eyes. “Especially towards Raven.”
“A bit,” Wesley said wryly.
“I can’t function without my telepathy. It’s terrible.”
Without his telepathy, he was like a blind man; he hadn’t realized how much of a handicap it was until now, how he would always, always, say the wrong things when unable to read off another person’s mind.
“It’s part of who you are, Charlie. It’s not like you can shut it off,” Wesley said. “But yeah, you might want to work on your people skills.”
“…it’s horrifying, not being able to sense a person’s mind. Raven, I still could sense her mind there, existing. But that helmet….it’s just a hole in my perception.”
Even recalling it, Charles would have shuddered if he could have so without disturbing the wax. He’d been left reeling from fighting off Shaw’s mind, keeping himself from following Shaw over the ledge to death. And then, to continue to feel the hole in his perception that had been Erik’s strong, structured mind, all while his mental shields were torn down, was devastating.
“Want me to get rid of it?” Wesley asked.
Charles frowned, eyeing his brother from the corner of his eyes.
Oh, he was tempted. That helmet was distressing, was Shaw’s. It shouldn’t be in Erik’s hands.
But it wasn’t for Charles to decide. Erik had made his choice, and the message had been painfully clear.
“No, please don’t antagonize him.”
Wesley made a derisive grunt, but continued to press his fingers against Charles’ scalp soothingly.
Despite himself, Charles’ mind wandered again back to Cuba, back to the soldiers on the ships and Erik.
Erik, who used his spectacular power to stop the hundreds of missiles fired in the air with but a hand…and then turned them back on the soldiers, leaving Charles to scramble through the ruins of his shields and the tatters of his mind for self-control, for words to say even as he had struggled to simply stay upright and walking. He had, of course, said the worst thing imaginable.
“They’re just following orders?” Wesley remarked, as if he was the one who could read minds.
“It was a stupid thing to say,” Charles said, avoiding his eyes.
“…you were thinking about Korea,” Wesley said, not even questioning it.
Charles squeezed his eyes shut, trying to push the memories away.
“I just—I couldn’t think,” he murmured, though Wesley knew fully what that day had been like for him. Charles had shown it to him after all. “The soldiers on the ships, I could hear every one of the, shouting, praying, and—it was like Korea all over again.”
He could recall it all in his mind so clearly, clearer than he had in years. The doors he’d locked on those memories had been blown off their hinges after Shaw. The stench of blood and dirt, gun smoke and fire, the mud squelching under his boots and smearing on his hands, the sweat dripping down his face and into his eyes, the scratch of his uniform against his irritated skin, the screams and cries that not only reached his ears, but filled his head, begging to be saved, to be found, to live, to die, to—
Charles gasped, sucking in as much air as possible, and reached out for Wesley’s mind. Using his brother as an anchor, he pulled himself back to reality, hurriedly throwing up a door on Korea.
When he was finally fully in the present, he realized that Wesley was leaning over the tub’s side. His forehead was pressed to Charles’ temple, and he held Charles’ head between his two hands.
“Shhh, easy, Charlie,” Wesley murmured. “I’m here. You’re here with me. You’re safe. No one’s in danger.”
Charles let Wesley’s voice wash over him as he slowed down his breathing and his racing heart.
“I’m sorry,” he said, when he could finally speak again.
Wesley huffed, lightly butting his head against Charles.
“Don’t apologize, Charles,” Wesley said. “…you’re going to have to fix those locks.”
“I know. I haven’t had the chance,” he replied.
He sighed and let himself sink into Wesley’s mind, simply sitting in its embrace. He tried not to feel bereft when Wesley drew away from his awkward kneeling position. At least, one of Wesley’s hands remained, threading through his hair again.
“Tell me about how you’ve been?” he asked of him, not wanting to think about his own troubles now.
Wesley nodded and obliged him, telling him very clearly both in his head and aloud what he’d seen and done since they’d seen each other last. Charles hated killing, but he had long since accepted Wesley’s job, the role whatever greater powers that existed had handed down to him. His brother’s job was important, and Charles was content to feel Wesley’s self-assurance and own satisfaction at helping others in his preemptive manner.
Wesley continued talking, Charles interjecting with comments, until their hunger couldn’t be ignored any longer and Wesley went to get them food.
Later that night, Charles woke up to, at that moment, the most wonderful feeling in the world—his foot itched. With a gasp, he jerked upright from his reclined position, breaking the thin layer of wax on the surface of the water to fragments.
He could feel his legs.
He felt the water against his skin, his hand shakily touching his right knee. He shifted his left leg, but he felt a strain in his thigh. Instead, he gingerly bent his right leg, pulling his knee up to the water’s surface. He looked at it, watched around the shards of wax as he straightened and bent his leg again.
Just to check, eyes still fixed on his legs, Charles more consciously reached for the minds around him, in particular, Wesley’s, his ever-reliable anchor to reality.
And yes, he wasn’t dreaming. This was real.
He could feel his legs.
He barely managed to choke back a sob.
Wesley, light sleeper as always, startled awake.
“Charles,” he said, before surging forward just as Charles reached for him. And then they were embracing, Charles pressing his cheek against his brother’s and his arms around his neck.
“Wes. Wes, I can feel my legs,” Charles gasped, and Wesley’s arms tightened around him.
The relief he sensed from Wesley intensified his own, crashing down on him and sucking all the strength from his body. He always tried to be an optimist, but that was partially because otherwise, the world was simply too depressing to live in, especially as a telepath. He was a biologist; he knew the chances for a spinal injury, and even taking the Fraternity’s miracle wax into consideration, he had tried not to hope for too much. But the wax had worked.
And so, all he could do was hold on tightly to his brother and breathe.
“Do you want to try and stand?” Wesley asked when Charles had calmed down.
Charles nodded, and Wesley pulled away to give him space. Charles moved his left leg carefully, and yes, there was something about it that didn’t feel right, that felt slightly painful, but he struggled through it, bending both legs to make standing easier. He made a quick note to put more of his weight on his right leg than his left, before he gripped the sides of the tub for leverage.
And he then was standing, on his two feet for the first time in days, mere inches from eye level with Wesley. He couldn’t help the bark of laughter that bubbled up inside him, and Wesley grinned back at him.
“Ready to get out of the bath, Charles?”
“Oh yes, definitely,” Charles said. He paused before adding hesitantly, “I’m afraid that my left leg doesn’t seem to be at its best.”
Wesley’s face darkened for a second, but only a second before smoothing over with a more restrained smile. He offered out an arm for Charles to take.
With Wesley to lean on, Charles was able to step out of the tub and onto the bathroom tiles. But when he attempted to take another step, he felt a twinge in his left leg, causing him to stagger. Wesley quickly wrapped an arm around his waist, keeping him from falling over.
“Easy there,” Wesley cautioned him. “…it looks like you’re going to need a walking stick.”
He couldn’t completely hide the anger from his face, and especially from his mind, and Charles touched his cheek with his free hand.
“Wesley, the important thing is that I’m not paralyzed. With that in mind, I’m perfectly fine with requiring a crutch to walk,” he pointed out.
The tightness around Wesley’s eyes eased away. “You’re right. I was just hoping…”
“I know, but this was more than what might be reasonably expected.” Charles pressed his forehead to Wesley’s temple, a mirror of what Wesley had done the day before. “I will have to thank Mr. Pekwarksy in the morning as well, but thank you, Wesley.”
“There’s nothing for you to thank me for, Charles.”
While Charles sat in the kitchen dressed in a bathrobe with a pot of hot tea at his elbow, Wesley went off to who knows where to get him a walking stick. He wondered what stores would possibly be open at this hour, but as long as Wesley wasn’t planning to steal a cane, Charles would leave his brother to his sources. Charles found himself dozing in that state between sleep and consciousness after a few minutes, despite the warm tea cupped in his hand.
Wesley came back thirty minutes later, the walking stick tucked under his arm.
“This is just a temporary one until you can get yourself a decent one, but it’ll do for now,” Wesley said, handing the stick over to Charles.
Charles ran a hand over the cane. It was made of plain, polished wood, the handle shaped simply with a thin layer of cloth wrapped around it. It was the right height for him, since Wesley had probably used his own height as comparison.
Charles got up from the chair, and with the walking stick, took a few careful steps, and then more confident steps. He was soon walking between the kitchen and living room with little difficult, and it was like a weight being lifted from his shoulders. He looked over at Wesley with a smile, sending his brother a wave of happiness as well.
“Let’s get you some clothes,” Wesley said, answering his smile with a crooked one of his own before disappearing into the main bedroom.
“It’s a good look for you, Charlie,” Wesley remarked later, looking him critically up and down. “Stop wearing your old-man sweaters, put on a nice suit, and you’ll look as dapper as hell.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my cardigans!” Charles huffed.
Wesley snorted. “Yeah, keep telling yourself that.”
Charles sniffed and eyed himself in the mirror. He tugged on the hem of his shirt
He caught the image Wesley pointedly sent him, but refused to admit that it would look rather nice if he were to wear a tuxedo to match the cane. At the very least, it would be better than the clothes he wore now—not that he had any problem with Wesley wearing them. He simply felt awkward wearing them himself; there were a few less layers than he was accustomed to.
But Wesley had not a single button-down in this apartment, and it’d been years since Charles had worn a simple long-sleeved shirt or jeans. It’d also been a while since he and Wesley last shared clothes. In fact, if he didn’t have the walking stick and cut his hair shorter, he and Wesley would look completely identical at that moment.
He turned away from the mirror and walked into the living room, Wesley close behind him. Charles eased himself down onto the futon.
“Going through the airport will be…interesting,” Charles remarked. “When was the last time we ever traveled together?”
“Getting you over to Oxford,” Wesley replied, sitting down next to him.
“Oh yes, I remember that.”
It had been eight years ago, when Charles started his post-graduate studies at Oxford, and they had moved across the Atlantic to England. What a motley crew the three of them had been—Charles and Wesley both worn and ragged from the aftermath of war and dealing with the Fraternity, respectively, Raven still so young and cautious, mindful of their weariness. They’d looked very much like the orphans they were, regardless of good condition of their clothes.
“Sometimes, I sit and wonder how we came to be here, how we went from three lonely children who raised each other, into… where we are now, what we are now,” Charles admitted. “It’s nothing like I had ever expected.”
He hadn’t expected to find himself walking about with a cane, his brother an assassin of Fate and his sister gone, and his hopes for mutantkind skewed.
He hadn’t expected Erik, especially not Erik.
“Yeah, well, we’ve have a pretty shit life,” Wesley remarked, cutting through Charles’ thoughts with his usual crudeness. “But we made the most of what we got, and we’re just going to have to keep on doing it.”
They leaned against each other, the side of their bodies touching from shoulder to ankle and their heads resting against the other, and after a quiet exchange of thoughts, they fell asleep that way, the lights in the living room still on.
The next morning, after Charles had thanked Mr. Pekwarsky profusely, they were on their way to the airport.
At the terminal, Charles turned a blind eye to the fact that Wesley had somehow acquired a fake ID. It wasn’t like Charles had his with him in the first place; he’d left it behind in Westchester, having foreseen no need for it when they’d had their own jet. Clearly this foresight had been incorrect, but Charles didn’t dwell on that, instead acquiring for them two first class tickets for the next flight out to New York.
Charles waited until the plane was in the air before asking, “Will you stay a while? After we get to Westchester?”
Wesley huffed, nudging his arm against Charles’.
“‘Stay a while?’ I feel like I shouldn’t leave you alone ever again. I might pop out once and a while to take care of business, but I’m sticking around for now, Charles.”
Charles couldn’t help but beam at him, reaching out to grip his brother’s hand.
Wesley shook his head ruefully and squeezed his hand tightly in return.
RL might get in the way, but I hope for the next chapter to be up 2 weeks from now!
Edit 12.03.08: I'm so sorry this hasn't been updated yet. I'm still working on the next chapter I promise. RL (and X-men Reverse Bang) has taken up a lot of my time, and I've also been having trouble with the next chapter. I hope I'll be able to update soon, but I just wanted people to know that this fic hasn't been abandoned or anything! Sorry again, and thank you all for the kudos and comments!
Edit 12.03.12:Update planned for the 18th (this coming Sunday)!
Chapter 8: Wesley - Pt. 1
I'm so sorry, it's been ages since the last update (almost a month *cough*). Real life got in the way and I've been busy with X-men Reverse Bang and Merlin Big Bang. However, I hope it's a consolation to let you guys know that this chatper is longer than usual. So long that the original chapter I planned got split into two. That means the next chapter will probably be out next week because most of it is already planned out and written! :]
Again this isn't beta'd yet. Also it's 4am right now; I wanted to get this done and up for everyone waiting, so there might be some typos I need to get rid up later. I hope there's nothing to glaring. Otherwise, no need to point them out; I'll be giving this over to my beta soon.
And without furthur ado, sorry for the wait and I hope you enjoy!
It’d been a half year or so since he had last visited Westchester, when he had stopped in New York for a hit. He hadn’t expected then to return with Charles so soon. Charles had been content in Oxford—Wesley certainly would have felt better about Charles being in Oxford neck deep in academics than running around the States supervised by the CIA with a Nazi-hunting nut-job.
As Wesley pulled up on the driveway before the house, he could practically feel the conflicting emotions coming from Charles in the passenger seat next to him. The house hadn’t been the happiest place for the two of them growing up, and Wesley knew very well that Chares had been hoping to change the place into an actual home when he chose to take his motley group of mutants here. Unfortunately, now there were memories of Lehnsherr here, and though he hid it, Charles was practically in mourning for the man.
“Do they know we’re here?” Wesley asked as he waited for Charles to get out of the car—he refrained from helping, having learned very quickly that his brother would balk at it.
Charles, at least, looked nice with the cane, the very image of a British gentleman if he were dressed in something other than Wesley’s spare jacket, shirt and jeans. Wesley was simply angry that Charles now needed a cane, but as he’d done countless times already, he pushed the anger down where Charles wouldn’t be bothered with it.
“Hank has just heard the car. They’ll know soon enough,” Charles replied, tugging his jacket closer around himself. He nodded towards the front door, and the two of them began the short walk to the front doors.
They had just reached the set of doors when it pulled open from inside, and they were greeted with the sight of all the house’s new occupants crowded by the entrance.
MacTaggert had been the one to open the doors, and close behind her were Sean, Alex and Hank. Hank, Wesley was seeing for the first time in person. He was as big, blue and feline-like as Wesley recalled from in Charles’ memories, and Wesley had to concede that it was a good look for him compared to the lanky, slip of a man-child Hank had been before.
MacTaggert and Charles’ group of strays gaped at them for several seconds. Judging by the amusement at the edge of his mind coming from Charles, the other four were wondering if they were seeing double.
“Hello, everyone. It’s good to see you,” Charles greeted them with a smile.
“Charles! You—you can walk!” MacTaggert exclaimed.
“Yes, I can, thanks to some great assistance from Wesley,” Charles replied, nudging a shoulder against Wesley’s.
“But Professor, the others said your paralysis was irreversible,” Hank said, adjusting his glasses—a nervous tick Wesley simply needed to get rid of if he was sticking around long.
Charles glanced over at Wesley, an unspoken question for permission.
Later, Wesley sent back to him, and Charles acquiesced with just a sense of acceptance.
“We have our ways.” Wesley then said, “But can we cut the reunion short and get inside first?”
They installed themselves in one of the house’s many sitting rooms. Alex, Sean and MacTaggert sat themselves down on the couch, Hank standing behind them almost as awkwardly as he would have before his transformation if it weren’t for how he now loomed over the others. Charles sat down in the armchair closest to them, and Wesley perched himself on one of the arms.
“First of all, I hope your stay here has been all right. I apologize for the worries I put you through, but I’m doing better now, as you can see,” Charles said with a smile. “And before we get any further, Wesley, this is Hank. Hank, this is my brother, Wesley. I’m sure the others have already told you a bit about him.”
“Nice to meet you,” Hank said to Wesley, and Wesley acknowledged the greeting with a nod.
“Charles, not that I’m not relieved, but I think this bears repeating, how on earth did you get….better?” MacTaggert said.
“Just a special medicine in my trade. I use it all the time, but there was a fifty-fifty chance of it actually working—and it’s a good thing it worked,” Wesley replied, the bite in his voice wholly intentional.
Charles shot him a reproachful look, but said, “I do need a cane now, but most importantly it worked, and I’ll forever be grateful for it.”
“But Professor, if such medicine could work so well as to heal your spine, at least partially, it can be incredibly valuable,” Hank remarked, “especially to the medical and scientific community. This could help hundreds, thousands of people.”
Charles frowned and shook his head, sparing a glance at Wesley. Wesley shrugged in reply, leaving it to Charles to answer the man. Charles huffed at him inside his head, but answered Hank:
“That is something I am very well aware of, Hank. I thought it myself when Wesley first told me about his…medicine, but I’m sorry, it mustn’t go public. There is more to this than what it seems to be, and repercussions of revealing the medicine, to Wesley and all whom he associates with is something I don’t wish to contemplate.”
“I’m sorry, Hank, but Wesley thinks it best kept a secret for now, and the safety of my brother—of my family and friends must come first on this matter.”
Wesley smiled and gave Charles’ shoulder a squeeze. He remembered how torn Charles had been when Wesley had first told him about the wax. Charles had spent an hour at least by himself considering the options, weighing the benefits of revealing the wax to the world against the consequences Wesley feared it would have. As fluid as Charles’ morals seemed at times, it was still a testament to their bond that he’d chosen Wesley over his desire to do the world good.
“Yeah, sorry, but I’m pretty sure it’s not a stretch for you guys to figure out what I do, and the fewer people who know about it and the medicine, the safer I am, the safer Charles is,” Wesley said.
Hank finally conceded with a nod, though MacTaggert was once again assessing him warily.
“So now that Professor’s better, we have other things to worry about. What are we going to do now?” Sean cut in.
“Yeah,” agreed Alex, crossing his arms. “Our country and the Soviets wanted to wipe us out, and Erik wants to start a war with humans.”
At the mention of Erik, Charles shifted, sitting up a little straighter and squaring his shoulders.
“We won’t have to worry about Erik yet,” he said.
“Yeah, he’s still getting his shit together. Besides, I’ll deal with him if we need to,” Wesley agreed, to which Charles shot him a look.
Wesley, he chided him.
What? I didn’t say I was going to kill him, but he’s planning something stupid, Charles. Something that could get tons of us, mutants and humans killed.
Charles sighed and said, Yes, I am aware of that. We will still have to see what he plans now. I do wonder if anything you said to him had any influence.
If it did, the world will be better for it.
Charles inclined his head towards Wesley before saying to the others, “What we need to worry about now, is how the government—the world—plans to react to the existence of mutants. The CIA, the FBI, MI6, the KGB, every intelligence agency in the world will know of us soon. “
“The big question is, will they let the public know or will they keep quiet about it?” Wesley added.
“Then what we need is information; I can get that,” MacTaggert said.
“What makes you so sure your agency will let you? Isn’t there something called clearance?” Wesley remarked, earning a stern look from Charles.
“I’m the CIA’s only female field agent, and I’m a good one. If you think I got that position looking pretty, then you’re very mistaken. Don’t underestimate me, Mr. Xavier,” MacTaggert snapped.
Wesley cracked a smile. “Trust me, I’m not underestimating you. A woman’s whooped my ass before, many times.” He spared himself a fond thought for Fox. It had taken him months to wrap his head around her betrayal and then her suicide, but he had and had moved on. Years had passed since then, but this didn’t change the fact that occasionally he missed her and wished she was still around to run the Fraternity with him. He pulled himself out of those thoughts before Charles might notice them, and continued, “I’m sure you’re a more than competent agent; I’m just not sure the men at your agency know that.”
“I’ll figure something out,” she replied.
“Yes, I’m positive you will,” Charles said. “Wesley and I will also try to find out what the situation for us is like. The three of us should discuss this more later, after Wesley and I have settled in.”
“So what do we do? We can’t just sit around waiting for news,” Alex said.
“There isn’t much else we can do,” Charles replied, “except—”
“—except more training,” Wesley continued his thought for him. “We might not be trying to fight a war, but we have to be prepared for anything. The amount of time you guys had to train wasn’t nearly enough. You need improvement, controlling your powers and working as a team. I won’t be much help on the team aspect, but training your powers, I can do.”
“Yes,” Charles agreed, “Wesley and I will continue helping you train. But Alex’s chest plate and Sean’s wings are damaged; Hank, will you be able to replace them?”
Hank nodded and replied, “Certainly. There are some improvements I can make to them as well.”
“Sweet!” Sean explained. “You guys have no idea how much I miss flying.”
“Trust me, we do,” Alex grumbled. “You’ve only complained it about it every morning and night.”
Wesley and Charles exchanged amused looks before Charles said, “That would be wonderful, Hank. Thank you.”
“It’s not a problem, Professor,” Hank replied with a nod.
“Well then, I suggest that we wait until tomorrow to start training. Today, take the time to rest up. Wesley and I haven’t had lunch yet, so if you need either one of us, we’ll be in the kitchen,” Charles said, pushing himself up to his feet.
The others voiced their consent and Charles asked him, The usual?
Wesley inclined his head towards his brother in consent before hopping off the arm. They didn’t wait for the others to disperse, instead heading out of the room to the kitchen together.
Their ‘usual’ consisted of tea and sandwiches made of whatever ingredients they could get their hands on in the kitchen. As children, they had been often limited to peanut butter and jam, and sometimes, ham, lettuce, and tomatoes. It’d been years since he and Charles had been in this kitchen together, but after the weeks of training Charles had spent with the others, the kitchen’s stock was much improved from what it had been the years after they let go all the mansion’s servants. Wordlessly, Wesley gathered the ingredients both he and Charles preferred as Charles put a kettle on for their tea.
The tea was soon ready, and they had just sat down and assembled their sandwiches when Hank appeared in the doorway. Charles gave him a smile before turning to Wesley and saying, “I believe Hank has a question for you.” He turned back to Hank, and Wesley could feel Charles’ amusement when he said, “Wesley isn’t as mean and angry as he acts. Don’t be afraid to approach him.” As if answering Hank’s unvoiced doubt, Charles added after a short pause, “Really.”
Wesley raised an eyebrow at his brother, but then turned his attention back to Hank, who was nervously adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his feline-like nose.
“Yeah?” Wesley prompted him.
“Excuse me for asking, but the others said you could bend the projectile motion of bullets,” Hank said.
Wesley grinned. “You want a demonstration? Because I was thinking of giving one later,” Wesley said. Charles shot him a look over his cup of tea, but Wesley simply grinned at him even wider in return, raising his eyebrows in challenge.
This will be a safe demonstration, I hope? Charles’ voice slipped into his head.
Of course it will.
“That would be…interesting to see, but I was wondering what power would lend you this ability,” Hank replied. “Do you have metallokinetic abilities, like Er—” Hank cut himself short, not so subtly glancing at Charles, before barreling on, “Or could it be some other explanation such as telekinesis?”
Charles pretended not to be bothered, taking a bite out of his sandwich, but Wesley would see the way his hands trembled slightly at Hank’s mere thought of Lehnsherr. He pressed a foot lightly against the side of Charles’ right calf, simply an offering of support, before answering the scientist:
“Well Hank, you’re a smart guy. How about I do a demonstration later today, and then you figure it out? Think of it as a challenge.”
Wesley, Charles chided him even as he kept eating.
What? Wesley replied innocently.
Oh, don’t use that tone with me. I can see what you’re planning; you’re going to send poor Hank around in circles.
Let me have my fun, Charles. Hank’s smart; he’ll figure it out. A challenge will be good for him.
All right, but I’m stepping in if it gives him too much trouble.
Of course, Wesley agreed just as Hank consented as well:
“I look forward to this afternoon then.”
Charles set down his sandwich before asking, “This is merely out of curiosity, but what have you been up to, Hank?”
“Mostly cleaning up the mess I made in the lab,” Hank admitted, looking down at his clawed hands with a frown that looked more like a snarl. “I will need to find out what precisely went wrong with the serum.”
The melancholy Charles was feeling from Hank was echoing itself in Wesley’s own head, and the feeling made Wesley bristle. Personally, Wesley thought Hank’s new form was an improvement, as much as the dramatic transformation pained the man. There was no more being on the fence for him, whether he accepted himself now would define him. Hank was insanely intelligent, but he would be an even more formidable individual if he accepted all of himself and embraced his physicality—the joining of man and beast, as Charles had called it.
Charles got to his feet and crossed the kitchen, placing a hand on Hank’s forearm. “If you wish to talk about it, you know I’ll always be willing to listen, Hank. And I believe Wesley will, too.” Charles looked over his shoulder at Wesley, and once again, Wesley found he could refuse his brother.
He shrugged and said, “Don’t get your hopes up because I doubt I’ll be much help, but yeah, I’m going to be around to listen.”
“Thank you for the offer. I think for now, I’ll be fine,” Hank replied. “I’ll be in the lab until the demonstration then.”
Hank left shortly afterwards, and Charles returned to the kitchen table.
“I’m not sure what to do…” he said as Wesley drank the rest of his tea.
“About Hank?” Wesley asked, and Charles nodded in confirmation.
Charles poured him more tea as he explained, “The self-loathing, the conflict, I sense in him even when I try not to look is worrisome. During training, every time it seemed like he’d gained some confidence in himself, in his mutation, it’s torn down far too easily. I do think he’s improved since then though; he’s had some time to think about his transformation.”
“I don’t think Alex helped much,” Wesley remarked, recalling from Charles’ memories the names Alex would call Hank. Charles’ scolding hadn’t been enough to change Alex’s behavior; Wesley would probably have to do something about it.
“Yes, he hadn’t. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to impress upon him not to treat Hank the way he did.”
“I’ll figure something out,” Wesley said. “That’s what I’m around for. I do what you can’t; you do what I can’t.”
Charles smiled, reaching across the table to hold Wesley’s hand.
“Yes, that’s true, isn’t it? Thank you, Wesley.”
Wesley smiled back, knocking a knee lightly against Charles’ under the table. They spent the rest of their meal in comfortable silence, undisturbed by the others.
Right after their lunch, both he and Charles went up to shower and freshen up. Charles, for one, seemed intent on changing into more layers. Wesley barely managed to refrain from rolling his eyes when Charles appeared from his room with his frumpiest old-man cardigan on.
“Really, Charles?” He briefly wondered why he or Raven hadn’t managed to burn or throw that cardigan out yet.
“I like this cardigan, thank you very much. It’s very comfortable,” Charles replied, pouting at him.
Wesley simply huffed a laugh and reached out to ruffle his brother’s hair.
They spent an hour or so in Charles’ study, Wesley lounging on the couch while Charles puttered around, putting things into some semblance of order.
Charles was pointedly not looking at the chessboard in the middle of the room, its pieces frozen mid-game. Wesley was tempted to move it, hide it away where Charles wouldn’t be forced to look at it, but its absence would only bother him more. He settled with distracting Charles with remarks on anything he could think of.
But at four o’ clock on the dot, Wesley left it to Charles to gather the others and headed for his main armory in the house, the room right below the kitchen stairs. The family hunting rifles had been kept there after being moved out of their father’s study. What he and Charles hadn’t realized until later, after Wesley had found the key to the room, was that their father had stored other guns in there as well.
The smell of gun oil and wax that met Wesley’s nose when he opened to armory door was as familiar as the feeling of Charles in his head. He flipped the light switch nearby, illuminating the rows and rows of guns propped up on the walls and the counters cluttered with files and knickknacks Wesley had accumulated over the years.
The guns were not all his father’s; Wesley had acquired most of them himself in the past decade. Charles hadn’t approved of having the guns in the house, but he hadn’t voiced any protests towards the armory as long as Wesley kept his guns locked up or in his own room and study. The gun Lehnsherr had picked up, Wesley had been careless with; he’d left the gun out because he hadn’t expected Charles to return to the house this year.
Since he was only give a demonstration, Wesley selected the first gun within reach, a generic 9x19 pistol. He spared barely a glance at anything else in the room, seeing nothing out of place in it. He pocketed a 9mm magazine and left, taking care to lock the door behind him.
Their step-father, the paranoid bastard, had built more than one bunker under the house. Down a set of stairs hidden and separate from the main ones, there was another, smaller bunker. Wesley had converted it into a shooting range a little over ten years ago, right before Charles had left for Korea and he had to deal with the other Fraternity factions. It was there, outside the reinforced doors, that Charles and the others were gathered, waiting for him. Charles had a key to the room, but rarely ever carried it around; Wesley wasn’t surprised he didn’t have it now.
“As he promised Hank earlier, Wesley is going to be giving you a demonstration of his powers,” Charles was saying. “There are other applications, but he uses his power most often to ‘bend’ bullets, as he calls it.”
“What else could I do with it? It’s not a useful power otherwise,” Wesley remarked. He gave Charles a grin before joining them in front of the doors.
Charles sighed but conceded the point. Wesley unlocked the doors and pushed them open. Automatically, the lights in the room turned on. Three targets were on the opposite end of the bunker. Half the length of the bunker in front of the one on the left, a mannequin stood blocking the target from sight. There was clear line of fire to the middle target which Wesley used mainly to loosen up and empty a clip. On the right though, a sand bag hung from the ceiling, once again half the bunker in front of the target. The boys and MacTaggert file in behind him as Charles moved to stand next to him.
“Since you technically don’t exist in the eyes of the government, I don’t want to ask where you got your gun, do I?” MacTaggert remarked.
“Nope,” Wesley replied blithely, loading the magazine into the gun. “Now, stand back and watch the show.”
He moved until he was in line with the target on the left. He took the gun off its safety and barely waiting a moment before swinging his arm up and firing a bullet.
Wesley still remembered clearly when he’d first successfully bent a bullet, the ‘oh fuck no—’ moment when Fox had stepped in front of Wilber the pig carcass and trusted him to not shoot her. He’d scrambled for all his power to curve the bullet’s path, guiding it right by Fox’s face and Wilber and into the very center of the target. But after that time, altering a bullet’s path became easy, as if the gate to his power, limited though it was, had opened. Now, it was second nature; he barely had to exercise a thought to send a simple handgun’s bullet into a target.
He sent the bullet to the mannequin’s right and tilted his head to the side to watch the bullet land in the center. He then shot again, curving the bullet around the mannequin’s left side instead and again hitting the center of the target.
“Holy shit,” he heard both Sean and Alex exclaim.
Flipping the safety back on and unloading the gun, he turned to give Charles a smug smile.
Oh honestly, Wesley, of course they’re excited, Charles remarked. A bullet curving from its path is hardly normal. Don’t look so smug; you barely even tapped into your power.
It’s not like I’m going to show them long-range sniping.
And I would very much prefer if you didn’t consider it.
Yeah, yeah, of course not, Wesley replied, though he was tempted. The estate was certainly big enough to make it possible outside the house.
Wesley turned to Hank and said, “So there you have it. Anything else you want to see to, I don’t know, gather data?”
He then spent the rest of the afternoon shooting more bullets and even throwing knives into the targets under different situations. In between, he answered Hank’s questions—sometimes in vague ways that left Charles occasionally glancing at him in exasperation. Sean and Alex stayed in the shoot range as well, watching him shoot and throw and occasionally asking questions of their own. MacTaggert, he knew, watched him out of the corner of her eye as she and Charles discussed what she would need to report to the CIA whenever she did choose to report back.
His lingering anger towards MacTaggert aside, Wesley thought that he would enjoy staying in the mansion with Charles’ ragtag group of mutants, at least for while.
Chapter 9: Wesley - Pt. 2
Many, many apologies for the wait! I got bogged down with school work, finals and other real life things and this fic had to be set aside for a while. BUT now it's summer break, so I finally can present to you, chapter 9! It still needs a bit of polish, but I figured I've made you guys wait long enough. (I will be sending the last nine chapters to my beta tonight!)
A big thank you to Zim for helping me out with a section of this chapter, and a HUGE thank you to ALL of you who've left comments and kudos and encouragements over on tumblr. <3
I hope you enjoy!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After the demonstration, Wesley took it upon himself to find out where MacTaggert kept her weapons—and exactly how many she had brought with her. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t trust her with guns as it was that he didn’t like the notion of there being weapons he didn’t know of in his own house.
MacTaggert was a competent government agent, and hence organized and practical. There would be only a few places she would place her guns, somewhere easy to get to and thus easy to find, erasing what little qualms Wesley might have had towards invading her privacy. She wouldn’t have told him if he asked, anyway.
The room she had claimed was directly across the hall from Raven’s, and Wesley paused outside the door for a moment, sparing a glance at Raven’s door. Raven hadn’t taken anything with her when she left; at the very least, she’d be back for some of her things—well, that was what he and Charles hoped. With a short shake of his head, Wesley turned back to MacTaggert’s door and entered the room.
After a quick glance around the room, a normal-sized bedroom for this house furnished exactly like all the other guest bedrooms, he made a beeline for the nightstand. Sure enough, the drawer held a government standard issue pistol and a full magazine. He picked it up, noting immediately that the gun was being properly cleaned—and was loaded.
He wasn’t surprised; he kept several guns around his room loaded, even when taking a vacation. It didn’t, however, mean he approved of MacTaggert doing so, at least not until he was sure she wouldn’t pull a stunt like the one in Cuba. He removed the magazine from the gun, setting it down next to the one already in the drawer. He returned the gun to the drawer as well, before moving on to the next place he suspected the agent had placed a firearm, one of the drawers in the desk.
The second gun was in the top right drawer of the desk, unloaded and set next to two full magazines. It was also properly cleaned and maintained. Satisfied, Wesley left the room. If MacTaggert was as attentive with her weapons as he observed, she would set out to confront him eventually. Until then, he would see how far along the boys were in their training.
MacTaggert came to find him sooner than he’d expected. He was in the kitchen, helping Charles prepare a decent meal for the others when MacTaggert came storming into the room.
“All right, I’ve had enough of this. Wesley, we’re going to talk this out like two mature adults,” she said.
“Whatever for?” Wesley remarked dryly, just to infuriate her more.
Charles drew his attention from the pot he was stirring to give him an exasperated look.
“Don’t play clueless. Someone unloaded my service pistol today, and you’re the only one who would dare do that,” Mactaggert said. “So we are going to have this talk, whether you want to or not—without Charles to check you.” She turned to Charles, “I’m sorry, Charles, but I really think we need to talk this out unrestrained.”
Charles sighed and said, “Yes, it seems that way.” He frowned at Wesley, but Wesley shrugged. Charles didn’t roll his eyes at him, though Wesley felt the sensation of it in his head. “Go ahead and talk it out. I’ll be all right.”
Please work things out, Wesley. I really don’t want to sound like a broken record, Charles also told Wesley.
MacTaggert nodded, and after waiting for Wesley to set down the cooking knife on the cutting board, led the way out of the kitchen to one of the house’s many drawing rooms down the hall. She pulled the door shut after Wesley entered, and then turned to him and said:
“All right, look, I get that you don’t like me, but—”
“Don’t like you?” Wesley interrupted. “You pulled a damn gun on a man who controls metal! Your bullet went into my brother’s spine!”
“And you don’t think I don’t feel guilty for that? Charles is my friend. Even if he can walk now, I will still carry that guilt with me forever,” MacTaggert said, moving so that they were squared off against each other across the room. “But I made a choice on that beach. Charles couldn’t talk Erik out of it, and the others couldn’t do anything. I wasn’t going to just stand there and let him kill thousands of men.”
“And it was the stupidest, fucking idea in history,” Wesley snapped. “If you haven’t noticed, Lehnsherr’s a loose cannon.”
“What was I supposed to do? I’m just one single person, and I don’t have superpowers like the rest of you, but I couldn’t just stand there and let him shoot those missiles,” MacTaggert said. “I was ready to give up my life, if that was what it took to stop him. I’m sorry I didn’t consider that he would somehow flick the bullet at Charles.”
Wesley bit back a growl, hands clenching into fists at his side.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated. “I’m sorry the bullet I shot hit Charles. If I could give Charles a thousand apologies, I would, but Charles brushes it aside every damn time I try. I know you’re angry, but getting angry at me won’t accomplish anything. I care about Charles too, and I won’t—” She paused, taking a deep breath and letting it out shakily. “I’ll never forget what happened on that beach, and I’ll live with the guilt for as long as I live and will do whatever I can to make up for it. That’s all I can really do, and it’s just going to have to be enough for you.”
Wesley took in a deep breath. Rationally, he knew that Charles getting shot wasn’t entirely MacTaggert’s fault. It wasn’t entirely even Lehnsherr’s fault, just like Charles kept on insisting. But that didn’t mean he liked it. It also didn’t mean he was going to stop hating him. Wesley’s anger needed a direction, and that direction was Lehnsherr. MacTaggert though…Continuing to antagonize her would be unproductive in the long run, all things considered. They actually might need her.
Wesley huffed and scowled at her.
“You need to earn my approval then. But I won’t actively bother you,” he conceded.
“Great. I suppose it’s the best I can expect,” MacTaggert replied.
She then stepped forward and extended a hand to him. Wesley gave her a skeptical look but she still held her hand out. With a sigh, he took her hand and shook it. Her hand was slightly rough and calloused from hard work and handling guns, the way he’d expect all experienced field agents’ to be.
After they let go, MacTaggert said, “I’ll let you get back to cooking and go check on the boys.”
When Wesley got back to the kitchen, Charles was quietly radiating satisfaction. Wesley rolled his eyes and bumped his shoulder against his brother’s, before returning to the cutting board he’d left.
After an uneventful enough dinner, he and Charles retreated to Charles’ study, settling down to decide how to conduct training the next day. Since Alex’s chest plate and Sean’s wings were gone, they would have to think up of alternate routines until Hank finished constructing them.
However, after the sixth time Wesley caught Charles yawning, Wesley hopped to his feet and batted Charles on the shoulder.
“Come on, time to get some sleep,” he said. They had fallen asleep sitting on the futon the night before—not the most comfortable way to sleep at all. And Wesley could tell Charles needed rest, but his brother had always been horrible at making himself go to bed, especially when others were still up.
As Wesley would have predicted, Charles immediately protested, “But we haven’t decided—”
“We’ll figure it out tomorrow morning. We can ask the boys what they want to do. Worst come to worst, I’ll throw something together for them,” he said with a smirk.
Charles gave him a look. “Yes, I’m sure they’ll enjoy that.
“Like I said, we’ll figure it out tomorrow. Come on, up.”
Wesley pulled Charles to his feet, and though Charles sighed, he collected his cane and followed Wesley out of the room and upstairs. They didn’t speak as they made their way to their bedrooms, and Charles indicated that he was checking on the boys and Moira, telling them that he and Wesley would be going to bed early.
“Night, Charlie,” Wesley said, reaching up to ruffle Charles’ hair. Charles batted his hand away with a pout. Wesley gave him a grin and started to continue on to his own door when Charles grabbed the hem of his shirt.
“What?” Wesley turned back around to face his brother.
Charles bit his lower lip and smiled sheepishly. He looked into this room at the large bed inside and then back at Wesley with questioning blue eyes.
Stay? I don’t want to sleep alone tonight.
Wesley huffed and shook his head. “Spoiled,” he teased with a smirk.
“You love me though,” Charles replied confidently, tugging on Wesley’s shirt hem again.
Wesley rolled his eyes and grumbled, “No point saying that. There’s no doubt, and you know it.”
Charles beamed, and his mind curled around Wesley’s like a cat begging for a stroke of its back. Wesley knew that, even if he’d wanted to resist, it would have been futile.
“Let me get ready for bed and then I’ll join you.”
“All right.” Charles’ smile didn’t lessen one bit. He let go of Wesley’s hem and headed into his room.
Wesley watched him cross the room and enter the attached bathroom, where Charles’ cane went tap-tap on the tiles. Wesley still wasn’t used to the cane. It bothered him, but it was at least better than Charles being confined to a wheelchair.
They would have to go into town soon to get a proper cane made for Charles. And whatever protests Charles might have, Wesley would have to make Charles learn to fight with the cane, considering his restricted motility. Before leaving for the airport in Miami, they had checked the limitations of Charles’ left leg and found that while Charles could put some weight on the leg when standing straight, and could sit down without pain when doing so carefully, squatting or walking on it caused him pain.
But they’d think about that tomorrow. Wesley shook himself and heading for his room again.
When he returned to Charles’ room, Charles was already curled up under the covers, dressed in those ridiculous blue pajamas that made him look like a child. Wesley himself was much more practical, stripped down to just an undershirt and boxers.
He joined Charles under the covers, and Charles immediately curled up against him. Wesley automatically wrapped an arm around his waist and pulled him closer. It’d only been a few days since seeing Charles in the hospital, and feeling his brother’s warm solid weight against him was reassuring—a fact Wesley knew Charles had definitely known.
They shared a pillow, facing each other, and Charles blinked at him sleepily through the dark as he said:
The next morning, before the others were up, they decided to let the boys have their morning free. After lunch, they would focus on the boys’ powers individually, he and Charles rotating between the three of them to see what improvements needed to be made. Afterwards, they would start the boys on the basic physical training Wesley had suggested.
Hank approached Wesley after breakfast, and with nothing better to do, Wesley decided to give the lab a look for the first time.
The lab was significantly improved from the trashed room Charles had last seen and shown Wesley. What could have been righted had been, and new glassware had replaced broken ones. The tabletops were somewhat empty though, missing the equipment that needed to be replaced.
Hank sat down on one of the lab stools, and Wesley noticed on the table before him was a pile of fabric that looked vaguely like the wings Sean had had. Beside it was a fully completed vest, a circular chest piece inserted into the front.
“You stayed up all night getting those made, didn’t you?” Wesley asked him, nodding at the vest and fabric.
Hank ducked his head before answering, “Yeah. I figured Alex and Sean would be needing them today.”
“There wasn’t a rush. Charles and I would have thought of something for them to do. We weren’t expecting you to lose sleep over it,” Wesley remarked, settling against the edge of the table closest to him.
Hank shrugged, reaching out to fiddle with the pile of fabric.
“My sleeping patterns have changed. I’ve found that in this form, I function better with two to three three-hour cat naps a day. I haven’t determined the reason for that yet.”
Wesley raised an eyebrow and remarked, “Interesting. Talk to Charles about it; he’ll definitely want to know about it.”
“I was planning to,” Hank replied. “I was just hoping I’d be able to get more conclusive evidence first. It’s been barely a week since…the change.” He looked as if he was trying to hide a grimace, but couldn’t, unused to his form still. Wesley caught the wrinkling of his feline nose and the tightening around his mouth that bared his teeth.
“Just let him know. I’m sure he can wait patiently enough for your evidence; we’ve got lots of stuff to figure out in the meantime.”
Hank acquiesced with a nod. For a minute or so, Wesley watched as Hank began working on Sean’s wings, his paw-like hands more dexterous than one might expect when working with needle and thread.
Wesley then began, “About Alex.”
Hank stiffened, hands stilling over the fabric before replying too casually, “What about him?” He kept his eyes on his work, clearly avoiding Wesley’s eyes.
“The names he calls you. You can’t just keep letting him get away with it,” Wesley said. “You’re bigger, stronger, and definitely smarter. You’re a genius, from what I hear. Don’t try to be less than what you can be; it gets you fucking nothing.” Hank looked up at him, as if about to argue, but Wesley continued, “I’m not saying you have to go all macho and fight back or that kind of shit, but you need to tell him enough is enough. I know you can; you even tried to choke Lehnsherr in the hanger.”
“I just lost my temper that time. It was unreasonable of me. I—I’m not—Alex isn’t going to listen to me,” Hank said, his grip on Sean’s wings tightening.
“How would you know? You haven’t tried yet.”
“Because I—he won’t—” Hank stuttered to silence.
Wesley let him squirm for a bit before taking pity on him. He asked, “So, have you figured out my mutation yet?”
At that, Hank visibly perked up and reached for the pen and notepad across the table.
“I have a few ideas,” he said, looking down at the notepad and then over at Wesley.
“Um, so one of the possibilities was metallokinesis. I wasn’t sure how likely that was, because I debated whether the professor would be so enthusiastic about…about Erik’s powers if you actually had the power too,” Hank remarked with a sheepish quirk of his lips.
Wesley snorted. “It’s Charles; he would’ve still been enthusiastic. It’s not like mine is as showy as Lehnsherr’s. But no, it’s not that. Don’t need metal to bend anything.”
“Then you can even use wood? Just any sort of projectile works?” Hank questioned, to which Wesley nodded. Hank scribbled something onto his notepad, and Wesley bit back a smile. Hank reminded him of Charles and his enthusiasm for everything science. It really wasn’t a surprise the two got along well—better than with Alex or Sean at least. Hank then guessed, “Telekinesis?”
“Then, I believe it would take too much effort to be as precise as you are, but manipulation of electric fields?”
“Nope.” Wesley actually grinned this time, noting the frustration forming on Hank’s face.
Hank frowned and ventured, “Gravity manipulation?”
Wesley shook his head, still grinning. “Close, but no cigar.”
“…then I’ll have to keep thinking about it,” Hank muttered, almost to himself. “But what you said. It’s similar to gravity manipulation?”
“Yeah, you could say that,” Wesley replied with a shrug.
Hank sighed and set the notepad aside. “Would you be willing to give me another demonstration? I need more observations.”
“Sure, I’ll give you one after training today,” Wesley said, straightening from the table edge.
“Thank you.” Hank blinked at him for a few moments, as if unsure what else to say, “…I should get on Sean’s wings then.”
He then turned back to the pile of fabric, and Wesley wanted to laugh at his awkwardness, the resemblance to Charles when they’d been younger.
“Yeah, think you’ll get them done in time?” he asked instead.
Hank nodded, though Wesley could tell his attention was already focused on somehow transforming the fabric into wings.
“I should have them done by the afternoon…if you see Alex, will you let him know that his chest plate is ready to test out?”
“Yeah, I will. See you at lunch.” With that, Wesley left the lab, setting off in search of Alex next.
Wesley found Alex downstairs in the bunker, instead of lounging around in his room, or whatever kids his age did in their free time.
Alex gave him a glance before lugging a mannequin to the far side of the bunker. “You need something?” he called over his shoulder. Wesley kicked the bunker door shut with his heel before leaning back against it and crossing his arms.
“That thing you do, where you call Hank ‘Bozo,’ is there a reason for that? Do you actually hate him or are you just pulling his pigtails?”
The mannequin thumped to the floor, and Alex spun around to face him, hands clenched into fists.
“What the fuck are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying that you need to stop the name-calling,” Wesley said.
“Why? It’s just a nickname. It shouldn’t bother him, and if it does, he should grow a pair,” Alex retorted.
He widened his stance and crossed his arms, as if he was actually challenging him, and in another situation, Wesley would have laughed at the thought. Instead, he scowled.
“Hank might not do something about it, but that doesn’t mean I won’t,” Wesley stated. “I’ve met plenty of bullies and assholes, and I’m not going to let you act like one here.”
“I wasn’t trying to be a bully!” Alex exclaimed, fists back at his sides again.
“So? That doesn’t mean you haven’t been one. And I don’t give a fuck if Hank rubs you the wrong way, or if you’re acting like a dumbass grade schooler with a crush. You need to cut it.”
Alex scowled, teeth clenching and his body rigid as if he wanted to move but kept himself still.
He exhaled sharply, before saying, “Well, it’s not like I’m doing it to try and hurt him.”
“It doesn’t fucking matter if you meant it or not. What matters is, you still hurt him every time you say shit about him, and you need to fucking stop,” Wesley snapped.
“Why do you care?” Alex growled. “You weren’t even here when we needed you. And you don’t get to tell me what the fuck to do. You guys need me here.”
“As long as you’re here, I do get a damn say in what you can or can’t do. Because we might need you, but you need us even more. It’s here or back to the fucking prison cell for you, isn’t it?” Wesley countered.
Alex gritted his teeth, but didn’t argue with him there, settling with just glaring at Wesley.
Wesley nodded. “You need our help, but you’ve got to work to earn it. We don’t need you picking on someone just because his mutation makes him different, because I’ve got news for you—we’re mutants. We’re all different. Do you think, with all the shit Hank probably went through growing up, he’d want to get the same fucking thing from mutants too? How would you feel if someone kept calling you Time Bomb? If everyone walked on eggshells around you all day?”
Alex finally flinched, just enough to Wesley to notice.
“Exactly. I’m not going to ask you to go up to him and apologize, my standards aren’t that high for you, but you’re going to cut this shit out and call Hank by his name.”
Alex didn’t say a word, simply scowling at him.
“That’s all I had to say. Think on it. And don’t be a little shit and make me have to repeat it.” Wesley got off the door and tugged it open. He paused right before leaving and added, “By the way, Hank finished your new vest. Go get it for training this afternoon and thank him properly for it.”
After lunch, Wesley and Charles spent the afternoon training the boys. Alex was testy around him still, and Sean awkward, so Wesley let Charles direct them as he took mental note of each of their powers. He knew what they could do, knew what Charles had thought about their powers, but it was always better to form his own view as well. And once the three were rounded up outside, he had them working out and running around the estate, paying attention to the physical shape they were in. He and Charles would create a proper training routine for each of them later.
Wesley took the chance after training the boys and humoring Hank to work out on his own. Even though he was taking an extended break from working, it didn’t mean he could get out of shape. But when he finished his cool-down shower, Charles wasn’t anywhere in sight and wasn’t answering his mental call. Wesley went off searching through the mansion.
He eventually found Charles holed up in his favorite little attic room, the place his brother would always go to when he wanted to be alone. The stairs to the room was hidden in Charles’ study, and Wesley knew for sure that none of the boys or MacTaggert knew about it. The room was isolated enough to provide Charles more freedom for his telepathy, and in their childhood, the two of them would spend hours in there, avoiding their stepfather.
There was very little in the room—an old futon mattress shoved into a corner, a lamp on the floor by the mattress, and a small shelf with books that he and Charles both enjoyed.
Charles was sprawled on his back on the mattress, his cardigan a lump on the floor next to his cane and his shirt collar unbutton. When Wesley stepped into the room, Charles turned his head to look at him before wordlessly shifting over to give him room. Wesley crossed the room and joined his brother on the mattress.
He gave Charles a few moments before asking, “What’s got you thinking so hard?”
Charles sighed before turning onto his side to look at Wesley properly. Wesley mirrored him, rolled over so they were curled up with their knees touching each other’s. They used to do this often, focusing entirely on each other and shutting the world out of their awareness. Wesley studied Charles’ features, so like his own and yet so different—softer, kinder. Charles looked tired, a furrow in his brow and light shadows under his eyes. It was a look Wesley hated on him and would give anything to ease away.
“I don’t know what to do about Moira,” Charles finally said.
“It’s not safe to have her here. You said it yourself; she will have to eventually go back to the CIA. We don’t know where we stand with the government, but I’m not optimistic enough to think it has a positive view on us after…after Cuba. They’ll ask her where she’s been, and the CIA mustn’t know about this place.”
“And here I thought you trusted her,” Wesley remarked lightly, though he understood quite clearly. After Wesley had taken over the Fraternity, he and Charles had made sure Westchester was a secure enough location for them to live without fear of any threats Wesley might face, hiring lawyers to hide the Xaviers’ ownership of the mansion as well as erasing any connections they had to the place. Even though it wasn’t filled with the nicest memories, Westchester was, in a way, their fortress. The CIA couldn’t know about it—ever.
“I do, but Moira’s loyalties are not only to us, Wesley. She is a CIA agent and believes in her country; she has to and will report to them,” Charles said. “And if that’s the case….I’ll have to erase her memories, and you know—”
“—you hate doing that,” Wesley finished for him.
Erasing a person’s memories went against Charles’ morals, and even when left without a choice, Charles would be plagued with guilt after doing so. Charles would do it if he had to; Wesley knew that for certain, but…
“Well you’re forgetting something, Charles,” Wesley pointed out. He wasn’t surprised. It was why he was there to ground Charles, to remind him that the world didn’t exist only inside his head. He also thinks it was one of the reasons Charles never managed to acquire close friends during school. For not the first time, Wesley wanted to shake his head at Charles; only Charles would be capable of being unintentionally controlling.
“If you trust her, then you should ask her what she wants to do. She gets a choice, doesn’t she? Ask her how she wants to go with it, and if she does pose a danger for us, then we do something drastic about it.”
Charles paused, hearing what Wesley was implying in his mind and grimaced.
“I’m doing it again, aren’t I?” he said.
“Yeah. You just need a reminder something.”
Charles sighed. “I really need to stop doing that though.”
“You’ll get there.”
Charles shook his head, clearly chastising himself internally, but said, “Well, I’ll talk to Moira tonight and see what she wants to do, and then we can go from there.”
Wesley nodded and they laid in silence for a while.
After a while, he then asked, “So what do you want to do now?
Charles smiled then, a hopeful light in his eyes. Wesley could never decide if seeing that particular smile was a good thing, because as much as he liked seeing Charles happy, he always ended up being dragged into whatever mad plans his brother had in mind.
“I want to start a school,” Charles said. Wesley wasn’t surprised at all; there was a reason Charles was a professor after all. “When I used Cerebro, there were so many of our kind out there, and so many of them are children. All of them think they’re alone, but they’re not. They’re not alone and I can’t let them think they are. These children, they need guidance, our help.”
Wesley could sense the fears Charles hadn’t spoken aloud. Charles always looked toward the brighter side of things, but thinking that his brother didn’t know what people were capable of would have been ridiculous. Wesley was probably the one person who knew better than Charles what could happen if those children fell into the wrong hands, because Wesley had been the one to be picked up by the Fraternity.
Wesley had been only eighteen, but the Fraternity had placed no limits on age. Though he had never learned outright, he’d realized that Fox had been very young when she’d been taken in by Sloan. Who knew how many mutant children had been found and taken in by the Fraternity? In the past decade, Wesley had certainly met enough assassins in just the right age range for the estimated number to be too big for comfort.
And yes, there had also been Shaw. Much as he hated Lehnsherr, it was hard not to consider the twisted as fuck torture Shaw had put him through as a kid.
“Then we’ll find them. We can see if Hank can reconstruct the Cerebro, and then we go out and rescue some kinds,” Wesley said, to Charles’ bright smile.
“Our boy to girl ratio is quite horrible right now, isn’t it?” Charles mused. “It wasn’t like we specifically sought out men to recruit, but strange that it turned out that way.”
“Seems to me like the women you did find had their lives all planned out and had a good handle on their powers too.”
“Mm, yes, that’s true. They hardly need us now for help.”
Wesley patted his hand and said, “Don’t worry, Charles. We’ll satisfy your inner mother hen and find some kids for you to raise, especially some little daughters.”
“You twat!” Charles kicked at Wesley’s foot, making Wesley grin wider.
“Daddy hen, then.”
“…Wesley, that’s a bloody cock.”
“I know,” he said, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.
Charles kicked him again, even as Wesley felt Charles’ amusement and fondness in his head.
Slowly though, that amusement faded and Charles frowned, a furrow between his brows appearing. Before Wesley could ask what was wrong, Charles explained quietly:
“It was wishful thinking, but I had hoped that Erik…that’d we—you, Erik, and I—would create the school together, that we’d teach and guide the children together. But…I’ve always been too optimistic for my own good, haven’t I?”
The smile he gave Wesley was small and strained; it could hardly be called a smile. Wesley reached out and held Charles’ hand tightly in his own.
I’m here, though, Charles. Always. I’ll always be here for you.
Charles squeezed his hand just as tightly.
I know, and that will always be good enough for me.
I'm sure most of you have seen this already, but the wonderful Brilcrist has drawn AMAZING fanart for this fic--the hospital scene in chapter 2--and had me blubbering like a baby. Once again, THANK YOU BRIL!
And I can't forget bone-kun, was drawing this sweet little gem after the futon scene I posted as a little preview on tumblr! Thank you as well <333
Again, I'm sorry it took so long to get this chapter out to you guys. I'm going to be focusing a whole lot on X-men Reverse Bang for the next several weeks, so I can't say when I'll be able to update it, but hopefully it won't be a two month wait like before....
Chapter 10: Erik
*prostrates self before readers* I'm so so sorry this took forever to update. There was XMRB, and then RL stuff, and then I had trouble writing this chapter and just agh. But it's now done! (This chapter isn't that long, but I have a feeling the next one will be super-long. So er, trade-off?)
(You will also notice that I've changed the title! The notes at the beginning of the fic explain why~)
And with that, I hope you enjoy the new chapter! :)
Three days went by after the night of Wesley Xavier’s attack before Mystique finally approached him with a decision obviously in mind.
Erik had already had them move farther from the east coast, though he wasn’t sure if they were out of Charles’ telepathic range—or the reach of however Wesley had found them the first time.
He hadn’t made any plans since their move, his thoughts forever circling back to Wesley’s criticisms—and Charles. He wasn’t sure how to proceed now. The immediate urgency to act against humans was diminished, weakened by time since Cuba and by their inactivity. The danger was still there; Erik felt it deep in his bones, a steady warning that pushed at him, but it wasn’t foremost. It wasn’t all-consuming, the way his hunt for Shaw had been. Now, that Shaw was dead, he was…set adrift, his anger unfocused. And Charles. The thought of Charles, forever hurt, forever paralyzed, because of Erik. He didn’t know what to do. It rankled, that the others, the mutants he was now in charge of, knew it as well.
But they were as equally distracted; Wesley’s appearance had startled them all. Several times, Erik had caught them huddled around Mystique, trying to pry some information about Wesley—and no doubt, Charles—out of her. If Erik had wanted to be the leader he should have been, he probably should have told them to disperse, but often, he couldn’t resist lurking on the edges, listening in—not that Mystique divulged much. Despite her earlier decision to leave her brother behind, Mystique was as tight-lipped about Charles and Wesley, as Charles had been about his childhood the few times Erik had chosen to remark on it.
Erik had resigned himself to waiting for Mystique to approach him, much as he hated the waiting. He already had a suspicion what she would decide; it wasn’t like he didn’t notice her packing.
Eventually, Mystique showed up at the door of the room he’d claimed as his own since their arrival. Erik had been constructing lists: resources he had saved up all these years and needed to check, the information he still had to drag out of Azazel and Janos about Hellfire Club and Shaw’s operations, the human agencies he would have to go after once things were more settled. He pushed them aside now, catching Mystique’s eyes briefly before nodding to the armchair across from his.
Mystique took her time crossing the room, and then took her time, settling in the armchair, smoothing out the rumple in her skirt.
The morning after the ambush, Mystique had shown up in the kitchen for breakfast, still in her natural state of blue, but wearing a white sundress—a concession, he supposed, to whatever it was that she and Wesley had discussed the night before. She’d given him a look, as if daring him to remark on it. Erik had only shrugged and carried on eating his toast.
Mystique was in a similar dress now, though this one yellow enough to make Erik want to squint when he looked at her.
“Well?” he prompted her.
Mystique frowned at him but lifted her chin almost defiantly. She said, “I’m going back to Westchester.”
“For good, or…”
She shook her head before he could finish the question.
“No, just to visit; I won’t be staying,” she said. “But Charles and I…somewhere along the way, we stopped really talking to each other, and it’s about time we fixed that.”
Erik nodded. It was as he’d expected, though he was skeptical as to if they could talk it out properly.
Mystique bit her lower lip, a habit he’d seen from Charles, though not so much from her. Comparing the sight of her blue lips to that of Charles’ impossibly red ones was—not something Erik should be thinking about, and Mystique’s voice helped pulled him away from those thoughts.
“I said I didn’t want to leave you alone, but…I’m not joining you, Magneto.”
Erik frowned and asked, “Then what? You’re doing nothing about this—” He waved his hand ineffectually in the air. “I thought you wanted to do something for our cause.”
Mystique huffed and didn’t even seem to bother responding to him, “I’m going off on my own; not with you, not with Charles. Wes was right—I have to stop letting others tell me what to be. I haven’t been completely on my own in almost twenty years, and it’s about time I was.”
“And where will you go? Bumping shoulders with the humans? Back to hiding who you really are?” Erik demanded. “We don’t belong among humans, Mystique; you shouldn’t be forced to hide who you are.”
“You don’t get to make that call. Your mutation is invisible,” she hissed, crossing her arms. “It’s my choice if I want to hide this—” she points to her blue skin, “—or if I want to use it to go wherever I want.” Her appearance flickered before his eyes, changing into different people, in rapid succession before returning to her true form. “Wes reminded me that I don’t need to choose between you or Charles. I can make my own different choices, and I should start doing it.”
She was serious about this; Erik could see it in the set of her shoulders, the look in her eyes. He didn’t exactly approve—after all, he wanted mutants to be together, and Mystique was choosing the opposite, to go off on her own, but he wasn’t about to force her to stay with him, or her brother.
Erik nodded and got to his feet. “Then if you’re packed and ready, I can have Azazel drop you off in Westchester.”
Mystique blinked up at him in surprise, the tension melting from her shoulders.
“That’s it? You’re not going to try and make me stay?” she asked.
“Why? I’m not going to force you to stay.” He frowned down at her.
She shrugged, raising her hands defensively. “Hey, that’s fine with me. I just thought you’d be more riled up about it.”
“I’ve said it before. I’m fine on my own,” Erik said.
“Yeah, keep saying that,” she muttered. He pretended not to hear her, leading the way out of his room.
They found the others gathered in the living room, as if waiting for them. Erik raised an eyebrow at the lot, willing them to explain themselves.
Angel spoke first, “Mystique’s going back to visit her brothers, isn’t she?”
Erik nodded even as Mystique said, “Yeah. What of it?”
“We would like to come,” Azazel said. “See what makes this Charles so special.”
Erik barely restrained himself from gaping; Mystique didn’t bother, openly staring at the others in shock. Erik’s surprise was quickly displaced by a rush of protectiveness though—there was no way he trusted them near Charles, Azazel and Janos especially.
Then he remembered Wesley; considering the attack three nights ago, Erik doubted he’d let them near Charles.
Regardless, Erik prepared himself to object, when Mystique nodded and said, “Okay, then I’ll see Charles and ask if the rest of you can stop by.”
“You think he’ll let us?” Angel asked, the uncertainty Erik was becoming familiar with peeking through. She was just as insecure as Mystique at times, though for different reasons.
Mystique shrugged and said, “Probably. This is Charles, we’re talking about.”
“…all right, then I’m going to start packing,” Angel said, walking out of the room before Erik could say a word.
Erik wasn’t a leader; he preferred working alone, and it was times like these that revealed just how little control he seemed to have as leader. His ire at his inability, and at the people he was meant to command, caused the metal fixtures in the room to rattle.
Azazel eyed him warily before saying, “You do not have to come if you do not want to.”
Erik scowled at him.
Like hell he wasn’t. Even if he didn’t dare set foot in the mansion, he wasn’t going to be across the country while his not-quite-subordinates made friends with Charles.
“Get packing. We leave at four,” he growled, turning and stalking off without another word.
Due to time differences, it was nighttime when they teleported to Westchester. They acquired a set of hotel rooms to spend the night, Mystique planning to make the trip to the mansion the next morning. Once he was reassured the others had no intention of leaving the rooms for the night, Erik let them fend for themselves, retreating to his room.
He bypassed the room’s armchair, sitting down on the bed and steeling himself for what he needed to do next.
Erik was wearing the helmet, having donned it before they’d arrived, but he had no need for it now. He took a deep breath and lifted the helmet from his head, setting it down on the bedside table.
Tentatively, he sent out, Charles?
Long moments passed, and Erik wondered if he should try again, if Charles had simply not heard, or if Charles had heard and chose to ignore him.
Then he heard, Erik? You—you’re in Westchester.
The helpless disbelief in Charles’ voice made his heart clench, but at the same time, something inside him eased; he hadn’t known when he’d ever hear that voice again.
Mystique wants to visit you tomorrow, Erik explained, unable to think of anything else to say but the obvious.
Mysti— Charles interrupted himself, Oh, you mean, Raven. Yes, I thought so. I sensed her earlier, but I hadn’t—I hadn’t hoped you’d be coming too.
Erik grimaced, half-wishing Charles didn’t speak with his heart on his sleeve—but, he wouldn’t be Charles if he didn’t.
Only to Westchester, Charles. I’m not coming to the mansion with her.
Just that one word made Erik flinch, and he hurried to add, I didn’t think I would be…welcomed with open arms. He pushed out to Charles his memory of Wesley, of the rough hand and ceramic knife at his throat. Your brother is rather…terrifying, he managed to say dryly.
I’m so sorry about that. I should have realized he’d run off after you.
The guilt—and grief—Erik had been trying to so hard to avoid came rushing back, an ugly twisting in his gut.
Don’t apologize, don’t. I’m the one who should be apologizing, he forced out. I—Charles, I can’t even begin to say how sorry I am. Because of me—
It was an accident, Erik. I don’t blame you, so please don’t blame yourself.
Erik should have expected this, really. Because of course, Charles would have no limits in forgiveness. It made no difference if Charles didn’t blame him though—Erik had still been the one to send the bullet into his back. He could blame Moira and her stupid human instinct to fire a gun. He could even blame Charles for fighting him and not staying down when he should have. But ultimately, Erik was the one who could control metal, and he had let a bullet hit the first person to matter to him since his mother.
Erik, please, I can feel your self-censure all the way from here. It’s all right, truly. Wesley has been a great help.
And there’s the other thing that bothered Erik, had continued to bother him even after Raven’s explanations. It was a convenience, really; the anger and frustration made him forgot his guilt.
Wesley, Erik said. All this time you had a twin brother, and you never mentioned him. In fact, it’s like you hid anything about him.
He felt the mental equivalent of a sigh in his head, before Charles said, I’m sorry, Erik, but Wesley’s existence must be kept a secret. He insisted, and I cannot risk the safety of those I care about, including—especially, his.
And Korea ?
I—Raven told you then…yes, that’s also something I don’t talk about.
There was a strain in Charles’ voice he had rarely heard before, but it didn’t keep Erik from saying, You said you knew everything about me, Charles. Don’t you think it’s unfair that I seem to know nothing about you?
That always seems to be the case for a telepath, Charles remarked almost wistfully. But yes, I am aware of that, and I’m sorry, Erik. I just—There was a long pause, as if Charles had left, and then—Wesley is looking for me. I have to go, I’m sorry. I could…attempt to discuss it with you next time, Korea, I mean—that is, if you want to talk again, like this?
He sounded as unsure as Erik felt, nothing like the calm and confidence that Erik remembered spilling out of Charles before…before Cuba. And that, as much as everything else, made Erik agree.
Yes. Of course, Charles. Always.
All right. Then, do the same as you did tonight. Until tomorrow then? Charles said, his voice beginning to sound distant, as if he was pulling away.
Yes, tomorrow. It—it was good to talk to you, Charles.
Oh, likewise, my friend. Goodnight, Erik.
Then, there was silence in Erik’s head, and he exhaled slowly through his nose, falling back fully onto his bed. Erik spent a long time staring up at the ceiling before he felt the will to move again.
In the morning, there was a taxi waiting downstairs to take Mystique to the mansion, and they were gathered in the room she shared with Angel. Her suitcase sat by the door, and Mystique once again wore a white sundress, though also a wool coat for appearances’ sake—winter was approaching, after all. Erik wondered, not for the first time, how Charles would react to her compromise.
“So Charles probably knows I’m coming,” Mystique told them. “I’ll ask him if the rest of you can come visit, maybe have lunch or dinner, but convincing Wes might be tough.”
“Not a surprise, chica,” Angel remarked as Azazel and Janos nodded their consent.
“Just saying,” Mystique replied with a shrug before turning to Erik. “I won’t leave right away. I’ll come back with the others to say goodbye.”
“It’s fine,” Erik said; he wasn’t the type to say “goodbye.”
She scowled at him. “I mean it, Erik.”
“All right then,” he growled, scowling right back.
She scoffed, rolling her eyes.
“Seriously, you’re like Wes sometimes,” he caught her grumble as she turned away.
For the sake of a calm departure, he pretended he hadn’t heard her.
“Catch you later then.”
Mystique gave them one last look before picking up her suitcase. Her human mask, all pale skin and blond tresses, shifted into place just before she stepped out of the room.
Janos and Azazel returned to their room, and Erik left as well, resigned to wandering through Westchester to pass the time.