Charles didn't know where he was when he woke, but he knew that Erik was with him. His friend's mind was the first thing he sensed. It was just as groggy and confused as his, but it was there.
He remembered Russia-remembered that Shaw hadn't been there and the mission would have been aborted if Erik hadn't burst in after Emma Frost. Charles remembered following him in, taking her down...finding out what Shaw was up to and leaving the general's house with her, everyone loaded into the back of the truck once again.
And...oh god. Wait. They'd left in a hurry. Emma had kindly informed them that Shaw was in the process of attacking the CIA base back home where Raven and others were staying. It was happening as they spoke. But then the truck had hit something and soldiers were disappearing, there was fighting...
He and his other lackeys had already finished what they went to the CIA base to do. They had come to Russia with the teleporter; they must have.
But only Erik was here. Where were the others? Moira and her partner and the other men?
Charles blinked to clear his eyes, and cleared his throat. "Erik?"
Charles glanced to his right and saw his friend strapped to what appeared to be a plastic or fiberglass table, wrists and ankles tied to rings in the corners. It took a moment, but Charles realized he was in the same position. Their coats and sweaters and gloves and socks and shoes were gone, and they were strapped to tables that sat at an angle to the floor-tables Erik couldn't move.
"Are you all right?" Charles asked.
"I'm not hurt. But I feel naked; there isn't any metal close enough for me to sense it. Shaw planned this."
He realized that the entire room was lined with plastic-and the walls outside it must have been concrete or something else, because they looked sturdy enough, but they couldn't be metal or Erik would know it. Everything in the room was plastic. The cabinets, the tables...everything.
"Can you sense anything?" Erik was asking.
Charles focused, but he couldn't touch a single mind beyond Erik's. "No one. He's sent everyone away; I can't sense anyone at all. He really did plan this..." The thought made him sick to his stomach. "But what does he want?"
The door at the far side of the room opened, which scared the hell out of Charles considering he hadn't sensed anyone coming. He jerked-though he couldn't go far-and Erik simply glared at the figure who came in.
It was Shaw, wearing some sort of helmet. Try as he might, Charles could not touch the man's mind, and he supposed the helmet shielded him. He told Erik as much, silently, and heard Erik think quite a few swear words.
Shaw was just as immaculately dressed as he was in every single one of Erik's memories, and the man smiled politely at them as he shut the door behind him. "Good morning, boys. So nice to have you with us. I trust you slept well?"
"Where are the others who were with us?" Charles demanded immediately.
"The humans? Dead. I don't need them."
Charles's breath caught in his throat. "All of them?"
Shaw shrugged, and then seemed to realize something. "I'm sorry; were you worried about the woman?"
"Her name is Moira," Charles grated out through clenched teeth.
"Ah. Then Moira is dead."
"Bastard," Erik snarled.
"Perhaps. But you, of all people, should already know that."
Charles still wasn't processing. He couldn't look through the man's memories for confirmation or negation, and it was maddening. "You're lying..." he choked, because he wanted it to be true.
Charles, calm down, Erik thought.
Shaw looked to Charles again, and a thoughtful look crossed his face. "That is a possibility from your perspective, isn't it? Since I'm wearing this." He tapped the helmet. When he spoke again, he sounded almost apologetic. He was also coldly matter-of-fact. "I'm sorry, Charles, but I'm afraid I'm not lying. Moira is dead. Azazel slit her throat."
Charles let out a strangled sound as he bit back a sob, because he would not cry in front of Shaw.
Charles? Erik asked.
I c...I cared about her, Erik, he answered miserably, and the past tense hurt almost too much to use.
There was a pause before Erik sent anything else his way. Charles, I'm so sorry. I didn't know.
"Everyone who happened to be on your little CIA base last night is also dead," Shaw was saying now. "Except for the children, of course. I wouldn't harm them; I went there for them. No, wait, one of them is dead. The tall one, the one who could adapt..."
"Darwin," Charles whispered, chest constricting even further.
"Darwin! Yes. I don't think I got his name, but that makes sense. But to move on, the other children are fine. Angel is with us now, but unfortunately the rest chose to stay behind. I was so hoping they would come with us, but I suppose one can't win them all."
Then Raven, Hank, Alex, and Sean were all right. Whoever came back to the base this morning, or whoever showed up in response to the attack would find them. They wouldn't be alone. And if all else failed, Raven would know that she could bring them to New York. Neither of them had set foot in that house in years-England had been home since he'd begun at Oxford-but it was there, and for the moment it was safe.
"What the hell do you want, Shaw?" Erik demanded.
The man's eyebrows went up-or they disappeared into the helmet, anyhow. "Yes, well, Charles was quite right-I've planned this for some time. Originally it was only meant to be you that I brought here, but plans change. When we finished in Virginia we popped over to see how Emma was doing with the general, but we found her being carted off by you. And you and Charles were both there, and it seemed the perfect opportunity. I took it, of course."
He looked at them, but neither of them said anything. "Ah. I suppose you're waiting for the point." He paced in front of them casually, hands behind his back. "The truth is, boys, that you only have two choices here. You can join us, or you can die. Things are going to get interesting before we make it to one choice or the other, but you will make the choice, somehow."
Charles didn't know what he meant by interesting-which, again, was incredibly frustrating-but it didn't sound good at all.
Erik was the one to ask. Or demand, rather. "Define interesting," he growled.
Shaw smiled, almost happily. "I'm so glad you asked, Erik. You see, I didn't mind leaving the others behind for now-either they'll come around, or they won't-but you two...you two are so much more powerful. You two I can use."
Charles glared at him. "We know what you're planning, Shaw. I saw all of it in Emma's mind. We will not help you destroy the world as we know it."
"Of course not. Not now. Erik hates me, and you, well...you think you're so noble. I knew that you would both need a bit of convincing. Everyone can be convinced, in one way or another."
"Don't be so sure."
He'd killed Moira. He'd killed Darwin. He'd killed a base full of CIA operatives and a truck full of soldiers. He'd killed so many others, more than likely, and wanted to kill countless more. Charles would die before he had anything to do with the man, and he sensed similar feelings from Erik. Erik's feelings were from different reasons, but...
Shaw looked at him patiently. "Perhaps you should be the one who isn't so sure, Charles." He reached out and touched Charles's cheek lightly, but his head snapped to the side and it felt as if he'd been punched full in the face.
Charles's head was spinning, and he heard Erik bark in anger. When he oriented himself again Shaw was smiling once more, and then he shifted his gaze so it encompassed both of them. "This is how this is going to work: Being only one person I can only work toward...well, convincing...one of you at a time. If it isn't your turn you'll just have to wait. If it is your turn...that's the fun part." Shaw touched Charles's chin this time, and his head slammed back into the table.
Shaw continued coolly. "I'm not going to go easy on you, but the good news is that all you have to do is ask me to stop, tell me you've had enough...anything of the sort. I'll stop."
Charles, trying to clear the stars from his vision again, saw that Erik was glaring at Shaw once he could see clearly enough.
"I would assume there's a catch," Erik deadpanned. "Saying there's always a catch with you involved is no understatement."
"Very good, Erik. Yes, there's a catch. It's my favorite part. You see, if you want me to leave you alone all you have to do is ask, however...I'll still need something to do, so the other of you will take your place-until they've had enough, that is, and then it will all come back to you. It'll turn into a cycle, you see, and a cycle that's always the same can be quite boring. We'll have to keep things interesting, so in addition to moving on to the other of you I'll have switch a few other things up as well. So it seems we're getting somewhere, that means whatever is done will grow progressively worse at each change-up. It will up the stakes, if you will, and that's much more fascinating an idea than other things I could do here.
Charles couldn't help the horror on his face as he translated all of that: Shaw was going to hurt them-just one of them at a time-and if they admitted to having enough he would switch to the other, and whatever Shaw did to the other would be worse. He didn't know he was projecting his worries and his understanding of what was going to happen until Erik grunted quietly in his mind.
That sounds like him...it's actually one of his tamer plans.
And then, before Charles could protest or stop him, Erik spoke.
"Start with me."
Erik, what are you doing!
I'm used to this, Charles. If he starts with me he may never get to you. I hope.
That isn't the point...
No, the POINT is that Shaw is insane. Erik didn't actively think the rest, but Charles picked up on it anyway. If Erik could protect Charles from Shaw he was going to do it.
No, Erik. You don't have to-
But Shaw was smiling now. Again. The man's smile was unnerving. "You'd like that, wouldn't you Erik? But I'm afraid if we started with you it might be quite a while before poor Charles here got a turn at all...though you know that. That's why you want it." He glanced at Charles now, still smiling, and something about it made Charles's heart skip a beat...admittedly in fear. "So we'll start with him."