Ten Months Ago
It happens too quickly. One moment he and Erik are in the library debating whether or not to play another game of chess before retiring for the night, what is left of their drinks watery in their glasses, and the next there is a puff of sulfur. Shaw's teleporter is beside them and he latches a hand onto Charles's arm and the library is gone, replaced by a dim stone corridor.
He thinks he hears Erik's voice echoing in his ears—a cry of alarm, or surprise, maybe. Then he remembers that he should be trying to find out just what the hell is going on…trying to stop it if he can. But before he can reach out with his mind the teleporter lets go of him and several men—humans, just humans; he gets that much—seize him and there is a sharp pain in his upper right arm. Charles cries out himself, and when he looks he sees the needle one of them had jabbed there.
Another puff of red and sulfur and, "Charles!"
Erik is here now, too. They're grabbing him too, holding him immobile, and Charles wants to answer but the wielder of the needle is not kind and it jerks in his flesh and it hurts and he grunts loudly. The contents are emptied quickly, the needle pulled out, but it still hurts and…
And he can't feel anything now. Not with his powers. He reaches out and fails, fumbling as if he isn't strong enough. Whatever they've injected, it affects nothing else, but his telepathy is suddenly useless.
Charles panics. He can see Erik doing the same, reaching out blindly for any metal, anything to stop their attackers, but nothing comes to him. Not even the needle. There is no metal anywhere. Everything that would be is a substitute, Charles realizes. They are both helpless.
Charles, do something!
Erik. Oh thank god, he can still hear Erik. He tries to answer and that much, at least, works too. I can't…and rather than words he gives his friend the impression of what he's experiencing, because that is easier than trying to explain how the blocking of much of his powers leaves him feeling blind and deaf and disoriented. He can always feel the minds of those around him, even if he doesn't intrude. That has been there as long as he can remember, and not being able to feel their attackers make them seem almost a dream.
But they're real. Their fingers dinging into his arms prove that. There are six of them, three of them apiece attempting to subdue himself and Erik and Erik, of course, is fighting harder. He knows how. There is nothing here of use to his powers but he wrenches away from them and fights back with fists, coming for Charles.
Hang on! Erik tells him.
But the three that have him are dragging him back, away from the fight, away from Erik—toward a heavy door. He struggles, and he is no weakling but he doesn't have the brute force that his friend has at his disposal. "Erik!"
What is this? What do they want? What's happening?
He regrets calling out. Erik snaps around to find him, and one of the men gets a blow in across Erik's jaw. It doesn't drop him, but it's enough to begin turning the tables. "Erik!" Charles doesn't see the rest because he's dragged from the corridor and into the small room on the other side of the heavy door—and there are two, he sees now. Doors. Rooms. Cells. The other must be meant for Erik, but he doesn't see anything else when the heavy door closes behind himself and his captors.
"Let go of me!" he shouts uselessly. He tries again, desperately, to reach their minds, but to no avail.
They force him to his knees in the center of the room, and he sees the chains that aren't metal bolted into the floor. They tug at him, pulling his sweater off his arms, and they don't stop there. One of them goes for his shirts and when Charles resists one of them decks him. His head spinning, seeing stars, he isn't able to protest again until his upper body is bare and he is face-down on the floor.
One of them is sitting on him, and other two are trying to force his wrists into the chains. Charles attempts to twist over, to throw off the one on top of him, and receives a kick to the face a split bottom lip for his trouble.
They clamp the chains around his wrists, and the man sitting on him gets off of his own accord. Charles tries to sit up, but the chains are not long and he can barely bring his hands together—nor can he quite make it all the way up to his knees. Or he can, but he has to remain hunched over with his wrists trapped near the floor. They're watching him now, smirking, as he assesses this.
"Who are you?" Charles demands. "What do you want? Are you associated with Sebastian Shaw? That teleporter works with him, so you must. What does he want? What is this?"
Erik? Erik, are you all right?
He can feel his friend's groggy consciousness close, and when Erik doesn't keep him out he uses his friend's eyes and senses for a moment to understand where he is—if he's all right. It's difficult, with the drug they injected in his system, but it's Erik. For some reason keeping contact with Erik is easy, even if he can sense no one else.
There is a room identical to this one, as he suspected. Erik is a mere few feet away. That much is somewhat comforting, but that fact that he is chained sitting against a wall with the same sort of non-metal restraints that hold Charles is not. What is more upsetting is the fact that all of Erik's clothes are gone and the ache Charles senses from him—the blows that were needed to keep him down long enough to strip and chain him.
At least Erik is alone now. There is no one in the room. No one is hurting him any longer. Charles wonders where the other three have gone until the door behind him opens just long enough for them to enter. As short as the chains are it's difficult to turn his head enough to see the door, but he manages enough to know it's them.
None of them answer his questions, of course.
And why are all of them here?
Charles shudders inwardly.
Charles? Erik is more awake now, pulling at the chains and taking in the room he's in.
I'm here. But I still can't sense anything else. It's only you. I…god, I don't know what they want. I don't know anything. I can't DO anything—
Charles, calm down. If we're going to get out of this—whatever the hell this is—you can't lose your head.
Erik is right. He can't. But their captors are circling him now, and he doesn't need telepathy to see that they cannot be up to any good. He doesn't understand—or he doesn't want to—and in a desperate bid for clarity part of him hopes, maybe, that Erik will know more than he does and just for a moment he's letting Erik see what he sees. It happens before he's realized it and when he does he stops.
But Erik saw enough, and a stab of panic sharper than what Charles had felt himself before hits him, secondhand from his friend.
Damnit, no! Charles, you have to stop them. You have to try. They—
He doesn't continue, as if unable, and Charles's chest clenches. What? But he can see their sneers as well as Erik did for the moment he could.
Charles, just do something, Erik answers unevenly.
He's trying. He can't. He tries harder and finally he can feel their minds, but not enough to see anything of use. Not enough to control them if he needed to. Not enough to help.
He isn't entirely naïve. Charles knows what Erik is afraid of, but he tells himself his friend is over-reacting. He pretends he doesn't know. When they grab him again, one of them fisting a hand in his hair and forcing him the rest of the way to the floor, he tells himself they're only trying to intimidate him.
Two more of them pull his legs roughly out from under him, unfolding them and leaving him on his stomach on the cold floor as they divest him of his shoes and the rest of his clothing. With his wrists restrained and his hands useless to help, struggling does almost no good. He makes it a bit harder for them, kicks one of them in the face—payback—but that is all he can manage in the position he's in, and he gains a blow or two to his middle that leave his ribs bruised.
Charles tells himself it doesn't matter that he's naked now. So is Erik. It doesn't mean anything; they merely mean to humiliate their prisoners. Nothing else is going to happen. He tells himself he believes that.
Then why is he shivering?
The cold. It's just the cold.
"Who are you? What do you want?" he tries again. He tries to make it sound as strong and demanding as it did the first time, and he isn't sure he succeeds.
One of them steps forward and crouches in front of him—one with particularly cold eyes and a calculating sneer—and the others look to him and Charles thinks he must be their leader. He takes Charles's chin roughly and forces it up, and spits in his face.
"Damn mutants. Disgusting."
Charles grunts and yanks his chin away, wiping his face on his arm. What…? The presence of the teleporter seemed to indicate these men work for Shaw, but…what then? Do they not know he's a mutant? And why would Shaw have humans in his employ anyhow? Is he merely using their prejudices, or is Miss Frost controlling them, or perhaps some of both…?
No matter what the whole truth is, these people know that he and Erik are mutants. When he looks up again Charles glowers. "We may be different, but we are no less men than you are, and we mean no one any harm. What do you want with us?"
The man shrugs. "I'd really like to wipe all of you out, but I'm not that ambitious. This job only calls for putting the two of you in your place. That I can do. Especially since we're getting paid."
Charles listens to this, eyes wide, trying to process, but he doesn't want to—not even when the others close in to hold him and their leader circles around behind him. Charles twists, trying to follow with his eyes, not trusting the man, but they hold him still and pull him over on his side, almost onto his back, his arms crossing above his head and the chains all but straining.
He's exposed this way. He struggles, trying to turn back over, to cover himself, but they hold him in place. The way he's restrained it doesn't take all of them to hold him mostly still. Two or three of them are just watching.
"Stop," Charles gasps. "What are you doing? Stop!"
The leader's hands are on him, tracing his bare hips and sliding forward and Charles trembles. No…no…
He strains again, trying to touch their minds or trying to wrench away from their hands but they only hold him tighter, short fingernails biting, and they're forcing his legs apart. "No! Stop this!" He can't pretend he doesn't know what they want now. He's panicking again.
Charles! Erik heard him, through the walls.
He can't answer. The leader's fingers wrap around his cock and begin to stroke, and Charles gasps in horror and sensation and wants to struggle away from the violation but he can't move. There are hands on his shoulders, on his legs, keeping his thighs spread…keeping him still and where they want him.
"NO! Stop! Stop!"
They don't, of course. They don't let him go, and the hand violating him does not stop. The man doesn't seem to care that his hands are dry and it hurts. He lets Charles squirm, listens to him gasping and doesn't care about that, either. He doesn't spit into his hand until Charles is burning, aching from too much friction and it hurts, but then the leader is at it again, and maybe it doesn't hurt so much now but it begins to feel good and that is infinitely worse.
"STOP! Stop, please! Ah! God…!"
The man stops, eventually, stops before Charles has come and he's grateful for that—that particular humiliation would kill him, he thinks—but he's left hard and aching and he's ashamed enough of that. His chest hurts sharply, and his throat—tears that wish violently to be released but he can't let them go. He can't let these men see him cry.
The leader lets him go, but the others don't, and he doesn't understand but they let him turn over. He tries to curl in on himself, shivering harder than before now, but that they won't allow, and he tries to shake them off. Aren't they done? Haven't they humiliated him enough?
"Let go of me," he growls angrily. "Let go—!"
One of them slaps him, and then they're pushing his knees under him, forcing him up on them. Hands grope his ass and he gasps again and tries to pull away but he's held in place too tightly.
"No…!" He can hear something—some sort of container opening, and a slick sound—and again he doesn't want to understand, but he does, and struggles. "NO! What are you—you can't! You can't…!"
Then there are fingers, probing at the edged of his hole, one pushing in, a second forcing its way in after it. "NO—!" Charles chokes, a dry sob ripping from his chest, and it hurts. The fingers plunge in and out, giving no illusion of mercy or gentleness, and this isn't right and it shouldn't be happening, and what happened to this morning? Today? It was a good day. Training went well. The younger mutants were making progress, and he and Erik enjoyed all of it—training, lunch, chess and drinks and laughing and—
Erik. Erik is screaming through the walls and he's at the edge of Charles's mind, begging to be let in, begging to help, but…
A third finger now, all three sliding, shoving deep and hitting something and Charles screams. Tears leak from the corners of his eyes with it, and he can't stop any of them after that.
"STOP IT!" Erik is screaming from the next room. "DAMNIT, LEAVE HIM ALONE! DAMNIT!"
Charles, I'm right here. I'm right here. Erik doesn't seem to know what good that will do, but it's true.
But if he attaches himself to his friend, if he takes strength from Erik, then Erik will know more than just what he hears. And that is more than enough.
He shuts Erik out. He builds a wall that will keep Erik from feeling anything, even if Charles loses control of what little of his abilities remain, and he knows he likely will. The fingers pull out, away, but Charles is trembling and hurting and sweating, and he still can't move. They won't let him. He cries, because he knows what comes next.
"Stop," he sobs. "Please stop….oh god, please stop…just stop…!"
They're laughing at him, but he doesn't have the will to care. He wants the pain, the violation, to stop, and he'll beg if he has to. If it will do any good.
It won't, but he has to try.
"Never been fucked before, have you?" the leader laughs harshly.
"Please, don't, please…!" But he feels the hand on his ass, guiding the leader's wet hard cock to his hole—the hole that is already slick and aching and loosened, and it isn't a feeling he likes at all. He likes it less when the head of the man's manhood presses at the hole. "No…" He's still sobbing, and it's horrifying enough to know what it is that's happening but he realizes, too, that what the leader has done, opening him up, is only going to help some. It's still going to hurt, and it's going to hurt a lot.
And then the man pushes in, bit by bit at first just to be certain he's lined up and that hurts enough, Charles crying uncontrollably, and from the next room Erik is still shouting. Then the leader shoves himself the rest of the way in, quickly, just like that, and Charles has never heard himself scream like that. At first he isn't sure it was him. But his throat is sore. It must have been.
The man thrusts, in and out and Charles's hole stretches and burns and oh god, why does it have to hurt this much?
He gets a word in sometimes, he begs. But his desperate pleas fall on deaf ears and all Charles can do is scream. It's worse when the hard member inside him finds a spot that makes his vision go white—when the leader pounds it over and over, and it's pleasure, it's intense, but it only makes the shame worse and Charles cries harder when he comes, spilling himself over the stone floor under him.
More laughter, and then the leader is coming too, inside him, filling him and it spills down over his legs and it doesn't seem real. The cock inside him goes limp and pulls out, and they let go of him and Charles drops bonelessly to the ground.
It isn't real. That didn't just happen. No one touched him. No one fucked him.
They leave. One of them kicks him in the kidneys on the way out, and he arches in pain but he doesn't have the energy to cry out very loudly anymore. It would hurt anyway; his throat is a wreck.
Everything hurts. He curls on his side as best he can with his wrists chained where they are, and he shaking so violently now, but he can't stop. He's lying in come and blood and lubricant, his thighs are still wet, coated with it all, but he doesn't have the strength to move.
It isn't real, it isn't real…
He was teasing Raven at the breakfast table this morning. He can't be here now. It's not possible.
Erik hasn't stopped shouting, but the calls are becoming less frequent. Weaker. He is either realizing that Charles isn't going to answer him, or he's losing the energy to do it.
Charles turns his face into his arm and doesn't bother to stop sobbing.
It was Shaw. Of course it was. His own horrible attempt to force them to join him—join him or be tortured, be violated. Or die.
Ten months. For ten months there was no avenue of escape. For ten months they were both beaten, humiliated, worn down…
They didn't take Erik. It was different for him. They beat him, but they didn't take him. The humans were afraid of him; Charles gathered that easily enough. Even though Frost was controlling them—giving them the freedom to be crueler than they otherwise would be—they didn't take Erik. Only Charles.
But they escaped. Ten months of abuse, but now they've escaped, and Charles knows his plan was dangerous, but it worked. Neither of them had to die.
And…now they know, that neither of them ever wanted to be only friends. For ten months that wall was between them and maybe it was the separation and pain and helplessness that made them admit it, but Charles like to think it would have happened anyway. That they would have been together even if they had never been captured.
But it doesn't matter now. They know now, and now they're free, and that's what matters.
They wait at the bottom of the hill, at the end of the long drive that leads to the Xavier mansion, because it's where Azazel left them. Rather, it's where Azazel left Erik and what they both thought was Charles's body.
Because that had been the catch—they could end it, but only if one of them died. If one of them died the other could go free. It had been just like Shaw; he was always looking for a new way to be sadistic.
The hoax was risky—Charles slowing his heart and brain functions to levels undetectable even by Miss Frost, and not warning Erik—but he had to do it. He would not let Erik die.
Erik says he isn't angry. Maybe he isn't, but he's still hurting, after being left even for a short time to think that Charles had died and left him alone.
But he isn't alone. They're both here, and they're both alive, and Raven and the boys are coming from the house to help them because they can't go anywhere n their own. Charles can't walk at all—he's too weak, his legs too atrophied from being chained to the floor for ten months—and Erik was chained to a wall instead and is stronger…he could walk…but he won't leave Charles.
Charles isn't going to argue with that.
He rests against Erik's shoulder, both of them still nearly breathless in relief and disbelief that they're really here, really free, really both alive. Erik kisses him again and again and Charles has no protest against that, either.
I love you, Erik thinks, over and over. I love you, I love you; no one will ever hurt you again…
And there is nothing Charles could say that would be more appropriate, because he feels the same, so he lets Erik say it and lets him know he returns all of it, and just rests. For the first time in so long it isn't a hard floor he's trying to rest on, and his clothes may be much too large for him now but at least he's wearing them, and no one is trying to hurt him or touch him or take him.
There are only Erik's arms around him, gentle and loving, and maybe everything still hurts but that isn't Erik's fault. Of course everything hurts. He was being beaten and fucked nearly every day for ten months until as soon as yesterday, and Erik was being beaten…they both hurt.
He knows it will be a good while before they don't.
There's a shout then, up the drive, and when they look Raven has crested the rise and the boys are not far behind her—lanky Hank and then Alex and finally Sean with his shaggy mane of red hair. Raven is blue, no longer bothering with her human disguise, and her head and arms that show stick out against the gray sky as she shouts again and breaks into a sprint down the shallow incline.
The drugs they kept in his system have not worn off yet, of course—that, too, will take time—but Raven is his sister and he can feel her easily. It was how he was able to contact her from here on the grass at the end of the drive, to tell her they were here. That they needed help.
Charles! Thank god, oh god, we never gave up. We didn't I knew you were alive, somewhere…
She reaches them first and drop to her knees, bending to pull Charles into her arms and he clings to her. He doesn't really want her to pull back—doesn't want her to really look at them, at him, and see how badly he's deteriorated. How awful he looks. He knows he looks like hell. Erik isn't much better.
But she does. She sits back on her heels, clutching his hands in one of hers and the finger of her other are brushing his cheek as she studies him. She's crying, and it only grows worse when she really sees him.
"We're alive," he says quietly. "That's what's important." Raven nods weakly, and kisses his forehead. The boys catch up then, swearing at different levels when they see what Charles and Erik look like.
But they don't waste time. Hank moves in tentatively, probably seeing how possessively Erik seems to be holding onto Charles, but Charles nudges Erik's mind gently and he reluctantly lets Hank take Charles from him, picking up gently so Sean and Alex can help Erik to his feet.
Being moved hurts. He doesn't want Raven any more upset than she already is, but when Hank hefts him up into his arms easily it hurts even though he's careful and Charles can't help but strangle a groan.
"God, Charles, you're barely there," the lanky scientist breathes unhappily.
He knows that. He swallows as Raven takes him hand again and walks beside Hank, never letting it go. Sean and Alex are still at Erik's sides, helping him up the hill and into the house.
It seems so strange to be here, after being locked in that dark, damp room for so long. The way Erik looks around as if it's new, it seems he feels the same.
"Your rooms are ready for you," Raven says quietly. "We made sure they stayed that way."
Charles blinks back tears at that. He never should have wondered if they were still looking.
"Shouldn't we be getting them to a hospital? Look at them," Hank says, hesitating at the foot of the stairs. He's leaning toward the garage, instead.
"If there was anything life-threateningly wrong, they would have said something," Raven whispers. "Let's just let them rest first; we don't even know what happened yet."
"It's not like we don't know who took them," Hank frowns.
"We are right here," Charles says, smiling a little.
Raven shrugs. "Sorry…"
The stairs are worse. He squeezes his sister's hand, but still makes sounds that worry her. He knows Erik isn't happy, either.
At the top of the stairs are his room and the one Erik had been using. Hank carries him toward the first door and Raven follows, while Alex and Sean help Erik past them and to the next door. Charles panics, remembering what happened the last time they were dragged to separate rooms—the last time he saw Erik at all, before today—and his throat clogs and he doesn't have time to protest before Erik is out of sight.
Charles, it's all right. I'm right here. Just get some rest.
And the bed does feel good, when Hank lowers him onto it. So much different from a stone floor that he's asleep almost immediately. Raven tugs his shoes off and he has just enough presence of mind to tell her that she needn't bother with the rest of it. She looks at him for a moment, uncertainly, but then she pulls the blankets up over him, clothes and all, and tucks them around his shoulders. She sits on the edge of the bed and kisses his forehead again, and his cheek, and she stays with him until he really does drift off.
Charles wakes in the dark, and for long, agonizing moments he's afraid it was a dream. They didn't escape. But then he feels the mattress under him and realizes he's warm, covered by the blankets and underneath them he's clothed.
Raven is asleep in a chair by the bed, but in the bed he's alone, and that doesn't seem right after what he and Erik admitted to each other.
Despite the warmth he shivers, bad memories too easy to see alone in dark.
He isn't asleep—hasn't slept much, really. On and off, restlessly, despite the comfort of the mattress. Charles shifts a bit and winces, any movement at all painful, and he knows it must not be much better for Erik. I…I need you.
The answer isn't too quick or too slow. It just is. And takes a few minutes, but then Erik is there, opening the door and clinging to it and eyeing the empty space between the wall and the bed that he'll have to make it across. Finally he gives up that idea, following two walls around and using them for support until he makes it to the bed. The bed isn't low and at first Charles is worried to will be too difficult for him to get into it, but he manages. He slips under the blankets and pushes himself to Charles's side, and wraps his arms gently around the smaller man's shoulders without a word.
Erik holds him as close as he can without squeezing, without hurting him, and breathes in the scent of Charles's hair.
Charles lets himself rest in the warmth of Erik's embrace—physical and mental—and when he brushes against a thought he chuckles quietly.
"You didn't want to be in separate rooms any more than I did. Why didn't you say something?"
"Why didn't you?"
"I wanted to…Erik?"
Erik brushes his hair back from his face and sighs. "No one's respected your privacy or your person for months Charles. I thought you needed that."
Charles swallows and shakes his head slowly, thankful for the consideration, but, "No...I need you."
Erik kisses him briefly, and just holds him after that. Charles returns the embrace as best he can, when he can, but his limbs are sluggish—aching and not as responsive as they should be, after being chained for so long. His shoulders finally have full range of motion and his legs can really be used now, after they weren't, really, because he was mostly on the floor.
But it hurts to try. He can't swing his arms wide or do more with his legs than stretch them a little or it hurts too much, joints cracking and unused and abused muscles screaming. All the bed helps are the bruises and sores—the worn and colored flesh over the ends and edges of jutting bones that are so visible now, because they're both so malnourished. Erik seems to have retained some muscle tone, at least, being chained to a wall instead, where he could stand at times…but Charles is relatively sure he has something on the order of none.
He's had trouble even turning over in bed with the weight of the blankets over him. Or maybe it only seems that bad from the exhaustion of stretching his weak powers to perform the hoax that freed them.
Charles tries to shift, to fit more comfortably in Erik's arms, and he moans quietly before he can stop himself.
"You should have had Raven bring you something for the pain," Erik says tightly.
"Fell asleep too quickly…didn't think about it." That's right. This is real world. Painkillers exist here.
Not that anything over the counter would do much for him just now.
"How bad is it? Really?" Erik asks anxiously.
"It's…it doesn't matter. We can begin to sort things out in the morning…"
Erik lets out a breath and adjusts him hold, trying to make Charles more comfortable. "You didn't change?" Erik hasn't, exactly, but he's down to his short and t-shirt, which Charles admits would be more comfortable to sleep in, but, well…
"I couldn't let them take off anything more than my shoes," he admits softly. He tries to laugh about it, but Erik is scowling because he knows what he means.
"No one is going to hurt you anymore. No one is going to do anything to you you don't want. Never again," Erik whispers.
Charles pulls in an uneven breath. "I know…" But his eyes fill, and he clings to Erik with what strength he has, and these arms are the first place he's felt safe in ten months. Just don't let go of me.
Charles, NO! I love you…!
Erik jerks awake violently, calling Charles's name. He doesn't quite realize it was only a dream until Charles is awake too, pushing into his mind to calm him and there are cool fingers gripping at his arms.
"Erik, it's all right! I'm here! You were dreaming…"
Erik rolls to pull the smaller man against his chest in the bed, and he isn't able to calm, really, until he feels Charles's breath on his neck and hair against his cheek. "But it wasn't a dream…it happened. I thought—" He's gasping. I thought you were dead. It wasn't long but it was forever. I thought I'd lost you.
"I know, I'm sorry, I know," Charles is whispering, over and over. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Never do anything like that again," he chokes out. It isn't Charles's fault. He did what he had to do, to fool Shaw into releasing both of them. Erik knows that. But he can't bear the thought of ever going through that again. Of Charles being gone.
"I won't…I won't. Never. I'm sorry. Erik…"
There are tears in Charles's voice, and it dissolves into a quiet cry of pain and Erik realizes he's been holding too tightly. Charles is crushed against him, in his arms and half of him almost not resting on the mattress anymore. As Erik's breathing evens out and his heart stops pounding so loudly in his ears he can hear Charles gasping for an entirely different reason than he was.
"God," Erik hisses in dismay. He lets Charles go carefully, letting him rest on his back on the mattress again, and his face is damp and Erik wants nothing more than for the earth to open up and swallow him. "Charles, I—"
"It's all right." It comes out quiet and strangled as Charles tries to catch his breath. "I'm—it's all right." No, don't back away. Come here. Come back here. Please.
Erik stops his retreat backward across the bed and slides closer again, up on an elbow and leaning tentatively over Charles to dry the tears away with his other thumb. One of Charles's hands comes up to hold his arm.
Erik lets out an uneven breath. "The dream, I just—"
The hand on his arm beckons him down, and Erik bends to kiss Charles gently. "I'm sorry…I didn't mean to hurt you."
Charles huffs out a breath. "Nothing compared to the last ten months, really. Don't worry so. The months that follow are not going to be easy, I would wager, and such a small mishap is hardly worth being upset over." He sounds so tired, but Erik knows he means it.
Erik shakes his head at him, and then realizes that the chair by the bed is empty. "What happened to Raven?"
"She woke up…I convinced her to go back to her own bed. You're here with me now, after all."
"Have you gotten any more sleep?" Erik asks skeptically.
"Some. Off and on." There's something he isn't saying.
"Dreams?" Erik says gently.
Charles makes a face and won't quite look at him. "Not uhm…not the ones I was most afraid of, strangely enough. But others…yes."
He doesn't have to explain what he means by that. At least not the first part. Erik kisses his forehead and settles at his side again, to find another position in which he can hold Charles without hurting him. Charles may insist it doesn't matter so much, but it certainly does to him.
"I never want anyone to hurt you again, either," Charles whispers.
Raven brings them toast in the morning, to start out with, and it's a good choice. To Charles the thought of anything more is still nauseating, after eating little else but meager amounts of bread for ten months. But Erik and Raven help him shift to a sitting position against the headboard and pillows, and the toast works just fine for getting something, at least, into their stomachs.
He feels a bit better after that, and Erik seems to as well. Though for Erik, of course, the improvement is more noticeable. He isn't as deteriorated and the sustenance helps more, and Charles is glad for that, at least.
Then Hank mentions a hospital again, and Erik's mood takes a turn for the worse. He does not want either of them anywhere near a hospital.
Erik, what is it?
Hospitals are run by humans. It was humans who did this to us. To you.
At Shaw's command. And they were influenced by Miss Frost. I doubt all of them would have done those things without her virtual insistence.
But some of them would have.
That…that isn't the point. The point is that not all humans are like that.
How can you say that now? How can you even consider trusting humans, ever?
Because I refuse to fall into the trap Shaw set for us, Charles responds quickly. Distrust and discord between humans and mutants is what he wants. It is WHY he used them to hurt us; do you not understand that?
Erik doesn't answer that. He continues to scowl at Hank, but the boy means well. Hank points out that Charles seems much worse off than Erik is, and that he could need serious medical attention. In the end, it's not wanting to put Charles in any further danger that softens Erik's attitude.
Then, of course, comes the inevitable question of how bad it is. Charles is still covered head to toe and the extent of the damage isn't visible to them. Erik insists that Hank at least look at Charles himself before they determine if a hospital is absolutely necessary. If it is, they'll go and Erik will deal with it for Charles's sake.
Thank you, Charles tells him silently.
I just want you to be safe.
Charles thought it would be more nerve-wracking, getting the clothes off again, and it's why he wouldn't do it last night. But Erik is beside him now, supporting him, and it's Erik and Raven that help him get down to his shorts, and it isn't awful.
Or it isn't awful in itself. He does feel awful when Raven cries again. She clings gently to him for long moments before she will let Hank anywhere near him. His bare shoulder is damp by the time she releases him and moves to the chair at the side of the bed, still holding his hand.
Erik has been in shorts and his t-shirt since last night. He has just as many bruises and scars, and he is thin too, and they've seen that, but Charles is worse, and he knows it. They all know it. Erik can move without making a face at every attempt. Erik can stand up and walk at least short distances.
Hank stretches his limbs out one at a time, moving them gently, and he may be no expert but he seems to have enough of an idea of what he's doing and what he's seeing to be worried. Especially when he can't do much of it without Charles's jaw clenching.
He tries not to cry out. He doesn't want to upset Raven more. But when Hank makes it to his legs he can't stop himself. They hurt too much, to move, and Erik's arm around his shoulders tightens protectively and Hank is frowning now, feeling the bones in his calves.
"Charles…these bones don't feel right." He indicates a different position on his each, his fingers running over bumps that Charles can feel now that they're being pointed out to him. "Were they broken at some point? That's all I can think of that would do this…it would explain a lot about the amount of pain in you're in, if they didn't heal correctly. It would explain why yours are more atrophied, too, if you weren't using them for a while because you couldn't."
Charles blinks. "I-I uhm…I…don't know. I…remember not…being able to use my legs much…it hurt, but I don't think—"
Erik cuts him off softly. "Yes."
Erik looks at him, grimaces. "You don't remember that?"
Charles shakes his head slowly in bewilderment. "No…" He has no recollection at all. Then again, ten months was a long time and a lot of pain, and much of it has blurred together—especially the months in the middle—but wouldn't he remember something like that?
Raven is squeezing his hand tighter, and Hank is looking at them for explanation. Erik swallows and gives it. "The first one was a month or two in, I think. The other one a few weeks later. I don't know which was which. I…we couldn't see each other. There was a wall between us." They haven't explained anything else that happened yet. The younger mutants understand already that it was Shaw who took them.
"I must have blocked it out," Charles murmurs. He can think of things he would rather have blocked out, but he supposes broken legs would have been significantly more physically painful than…than the other things they did to him. In that sense, at least, he can understand why his mind would hide it from him.
Erik kisses the side of his head, and no one looks at them strangely. In light of everything else, the others are taking this in stride. Charles is grateful for that. He doesn't feel like answering questions yet.
"It's probably better that you did," Erik tells him quietly.
Hank is the one making a face now. "Avoiding the hospital is definitely impossible now. We need to let a professional look at this. They'll probably have to go in surgically…re-break them and set them again, and…" He trails off, and now they're all looking at him rather than the other way around. He winces. "If they've been healed wrong for months, I don't know how well fixing them is going to work…I mean, I'm no doctor. But you need to be warned, Charles. I'm sorry.
Charles nods numbly, squeezing Raven's hand at his side in return, and in his mind Erik is trying to understand. What is he saying?
Charles lets his head rest back against Erik's shoulder, releasing a heavy breath. He's saying that this is going to be even harder than we had anticipated. He squeezes his eyes shut, trying not to think about it in any more detail than that. They're safe now. They're going to recover. They're going to have lives again. It was never going to be simple but he doesn't want to think about how this might complicate matters further.
What he doesn't tell Erik is that Hank is also saying that walking again might not be such an easy task for him. If he understands correctly, and he's relatively sure that he does.
One thing. One detail, and everything is changing again. If it's that important, why can't he remember?
Eight Months Ago
Every now and then, they're given a day to rest—to be fed a bit more than usual and given more vitamin injections and otherwise left alone, so they can regain just enough strength to last until the next time. It's been two months now. A little more. That's what Erik told him the last time Charles asked, anyhow. He doesn't ask often. It's too painful to ask.
Yesterday was one of those days. After food and injections and being washed they were left alone. And all it does is make the day after worse, when their jailers return to hurt them again. On the positive side, on these days Charles has more energy to fight them.
He hasn't stopped fighting. Not yet. When they take him they still have to have at least three or four of them in here to do it—to keep him still enough. Charles knows if this continues long enough that will change, but it hasn't yet. He doesn't want it to. He doesn't want to give in to them. That's what they want.
So he struggles, and he knows that only makes it more painful but if he doesn't struggle he's beaten. He refuses to be beaten, even if his body is.
He's struggling now. He's already been fucked twice today and his thighs are trembling and bloody, but the guards haven't gone yet. The leader's fingers are inside him, rough and painful and Charles is sure by now that the man prefers to hurt him, rather than anything else.
Charles can't move, but he's trying to. He's trapped on his side with one of the others sitting on one of his legs and another of them holding the other out of the leader's way. He's pulled that leg free once, kicked that guard in the chest, but the leader only shouted and made him take hold again. Then retaliation. The leader was rougher after that, taking no care at all—not that he ever does, really.
It doesn't help either that a fourth of them has iron fingers around his cock. Charles gasps in frustration, trying to twist away and failing as always. The leader's thrusts are painful shockwaves through his body, much too hard now even with just the use of fingers to do anything but hurt, but he's hard, his body confused by the hand stroking him mercilessly. He is aware of the pleasure, but he doesn't want it and everything hurts. Everything. His head hurts. He can't quite hear anything from the next room over his own gasps and groans, but in his mind he can hear the faint crack of a whip.
The other two are hurting Erik.
"No," he gasps aloud. Usually he doesn't bother with words anymore. He only struggles, just to show them they haven't bested him. They didn't listen to him before and they don't listen to him now. But he's had enough. He can't listen to them hurting Erik anymore and he doesn't see how he can bear to be beaten and violated any longer. "No…"
Charles finds a burst of unexpected energy somewhere—adrenaline perhaps. But he pulls violently, twists. At first they only tighten their holds and that stops him. The leader is laughing harshly in his ear, free hand moving from biting into Charles's shoulder to twist in his hair and pull.
"You're not going anywhere."
The fingers in him slam deeper and Charles shouts, and several more firm strokes of his cock from the other guard and he's coming and his sob catches in his throat as he shudders. "No!"
Charles claims what is left of the burst of energy he found. He pulls and twists and jerks and shouts—
And a crack. There is the sound of something cracking and Charles goes limp like puppet whose strings have been cut because his right leg—the one that someone is sitting on—is on fire and all he can do is scream.
Any sense of what is happening in the next room stops. They've stopped. They've all stopped. The fingers are pulled out of him and the others let him go and his screams punctuate when the one sitting on his leg moves off because the pain from the movement blinds him. Charles's eyes are clenched shut but through the slits he's barely aware of all of them staring at him as he writhes on the ground.
"What the hell…?"
"His leg's broken, you idiots! What did I say about keeping him still?"
Charles is crying now, loud choked sobs and he can't stop. The door bursts open the other two are there and there is more shouting above him, about what to do. One voice sticks out, one of the two that have just come in, younger and a bit less harsh than the others.
"Shouldn't we do something? You know…maybe set it?"
Any other time Charles might have the presence of mind to appreciate that he's the only one who sounds at all the concerned. The others are only worried about whether Shaw and Frost will be upset.
Charles! What happened!
Erik, in his mind, exhausted and hurting from the beating he's gotten this morning but worried just the same.
He still can't stop sobbing, but Charles gathers just enough of his wits to respond. My leg…broken…god it hurts…
The room, his cell, clears, and it seems they've decided to do nothing but leave him alone for now, or seek instruction. That doesn't help Charles. It doesn't help ease the fire in his leg that spikes at every movement. He lets himself roll back down onto his stomach and pulls his arms under his head to bury his face in and stays that way, afraid to move again. But not moving doesn't help, either. His body is shaking from pain and sobs and uneven gasps, and it jostles the damaged limb.
Beyond the name he calls out wordlessly, because he can't explain what he needs. He needs help. He needs Erik. It hurts too much and he can't deal with it on his own.
Just hang on…breathe…god…
The world is getting fuzzy around the edges. Erik tries to hold onto him but he slips away.
Erik begins to lose Charles after that. He calls to his friend through the wall, aloud and otherwise, and the responses are few and far between. From what he can gather from what he hears from the next room and out in the corridor, Charles doesn't fight anymore, either. The few things Charles tells him are enough that he understands why.
They set his leg once, and fashioned a meager split of rags and pieces of wood, but they've almost ignored the injury otherwise. Beyond being a bit more careful they do everything to him that they always have. Only now it hurts more. He can't fight or it's too much. And if he loses consciousness they're only more ruthless when he wakes.
But they like it, that he's helpless now. They make jokes about it. They taunt Erik when they come to hurt him. They try to upset him—tell him how defenseless and broken his friend is now—and it works. Erik is upset. Erik is irate, but there is nothing he can do but call to Charles and tell him he's here.
I know…Charles answers. It's usually the only answer Erik gets, and often when he gets it they are both alone, and in the quiet he can hear the soft crying from the next room. It's weeks before Charles says much else.
I'm sorry…I'm not as strong as you are. I didn't mean to shut you out…it wasn't only you I shut out, I…I'm sorry. I couldn't…
It's okay. Just come back. I'm here.
Charles is healing, coming out of it, and soon enough he's fighting again—a little, as much as he can. Erik can hear the difference from the other side of the wall. Charles is resisting again.
But the leader and the others must have decided they liked him better helpless. Shaw and Frost much not have cared the first time. Another few days later Erik wakes to panicked screaming, and he doesn't have time to figure out what it means before an abrupt screech and then the screams are anguished sobs of agony. Erik never gets an answer out of Charles; he can't calm him down. This time he has to hear it from the laughing guards the next time they taunt him.
They broke Charles's other leg, on purpose this time.
Charles doesn't answer him at all for two months.
Charles wakes in something near panic, but he can't remember the dream. He shifts and the sharp twinge in his legs is enough to make his eyes open, to pull a grunt out of him. He realizes then that his head is on Erik's lap.
"Charles? Are you all right?"
He blinks, trying to remember where he is. "Mmm…dream…I don't know…" A vehicle. He's lying in the back seat of a car, a t-shirt and pajama pants on now rather than shorts, and he's wrapped in a blanket. His head is on Erik's lap and his legs are in Raven's. The car is moving. Hank is driving and Sean and Alex are squeezed into the other front seat.
Erik strokes his hair back gently. "Don't worry about it." You don't need to remember anything you don't already anyway.
They must be on the way to the hospital. Charles vaguely remembers something about Erik not being thrilled with the idea of an ambulance. He's relatively certain he wasn't himself, either. So here they are. At some point he fell asleep again. The rest is still foggy, but it doesn't surprise him. After the last ten months he's used to waking up and not remembering exactly what happened yesterday.
It may have been morning but they're both exhausted enough. He's surprised that Erik is awake enough to sit up in the car.
They go over a bump and Charles lets out a startled cry. Erik makes a face and one of his arms shoots to the side to steady himself. Raven reaches across the space between them to grip his arm and help him stay up, but she's looking at Charles.
"Are you okay?"
"Sorry…" Hank says from the front.
"You can hardly apologize for the construction of the road," Charles mutters. He sighs. "I'm fine." He still can't remember the dream, but after the revelation that sent them to the hospital so immediately he has an idea of what it might have entailed. Erik, he thinks, is likely right—if he can't remember he doesn't need to.
Pajamas and a blanket and Erik and Raven's legs, and he still is barely warm enough. Then again, along with the muscle tone he's lost any fat. There were more blankets on the bed, and Erik was wrapped more around him then. It was warmer. Now he pushes closer into Erik's body, and it helps. Erik tucks the blanket more tightly around him and leaves his arm draped over Charles shoulder, his fingers combing soothingly through Charles's hair. He doesn't bend over for a kiss, but from sitting up that would likely hurt him and Charles can't fault him for that.
Raven is watching them, and he can't quite make out the meaning of the expression on her face.
What happened with you two? she asks finally. I mean it's not like it wasn't there before—we all saw it—now it's just…
We needed each other, Charles tells her. It's the closest he can come to the truth in a brief answer, and he's too tired to think any farther right now.
He still doesn't want to think about what else will happen, once they make it to the hospital—reality and things he may not want to face—but his answer to Raven, though simple, answers that too.
He has Erik now. He'll be all right. Whatever happens, they have each other.