The Institute has grown steadily since its foundation, new student after new student bringing with them their powers and their mutations, and their fears. Charles Xavier has had his hands full, trying to help and guide these troubled young people, to bring them to realise their full potential.
Not to mention preparing them for battle. He and his students have been kept busy, both by the government's rising tide of anti-mutant action, and by the ever-present threat to the humans posed by Magneto and his band of mutant supremacists. Charles has found his faith sorely tested on many occasions, but he has not allowed himself to waver. He cannot, for there is far too much at stake.
He sits in his wheelchair on the terrace outside the mansion, looking out across the grounds towards the satellite dish. Music floats from an upstairs window, open to allow the summer breeze to drift in, and he can't help smiling. Jean loves to listen to music, and she loves to dance. Ever since she arrived, a little over three years ago, the mansion has been filled with music, from classics to jazz to the latest pop songs. Charles has been happy to have someone with whom to share his passion for classical music, and he enjoys the pop songs to a certain extent, but he has to admit that a lot of it passes him by. Somewhere over the last four years he has become an old man, and he isn't even thirty yet.
He has to laugh to himself at that, although it's laced through with pain. Raven always called him an old fart, and to a certain extent she was right, but he'd always liked to think he was still young, really. He can't claim that any more, not when he's responsible for so many people.
He misses his adopted sister. She was there for more than half his life, and the suddenness of their parting has been a wound he has returned to time and again, turning it over in his mind, prodding at it and reopening it and making sure it never quite heals. She made her own decision, and he hopes that she's happy, but it still hurts to think of her, so far away from him both in body and in ideals.
The pain is sharp, but it serves as a distraction from the other loss he suffered on that day, the disappointment and the shattering realisation that despite all he had achieved, with the most important person of all he had failed so abjectly. It's still as bright and sharp and immediate as that day nearly four years ago. He tries not to think about it, and he is always careful to keep himself shielded; he is no longer the only telepath in the mansion, and he doesn't want any of the children overhearing his thoughts. Least of all Jean. She is a powerful telepath, and a telekinetic too, possibly even more powerful than Charles himself, but she has more than enough on her plate dealing with her powers. Besides, he is in effect her headmaster. It is not his place to confide in her - or in anyone. It is for him to set an example to all the children, and to hear their confidences if they need to share them, but that is a one-way street.
It is enough, he finds, or as close to it as makes no odds, to spend time with his students, getting to know them. Talking science with Hank, whose intellect remains as keen as ever; perhaps discussing sport with Alex and his brother Scott, a new arrival at the Institute last year, although their knowledge is vastly superior to his in that area. Philosophising with Warren, the son of a wealthy businessman who enjoyed a privileged upbringing not unlike Charles's own and has a similarly philanthropic outlook; laughing at Bobby's ridiculous jokes, some of which are even funny; watching as Jean puts a new record on the gramophone and dances to her favourite songs.
She is listening to her favourite LP of the moment, up in her room, with the window thrown wide open. The music comes to an end and there is a pause as she turns the record over, and then the second side begins. Charles does not need to look up to see her leaning on the windowsill, a dreamy smile on her face as she looks out over the gardens to where Scott and Alex are throwing a ball around. The music drifts down to Charles, and he closes his eyes as he hears the lyrics and registers their meaning, feeling the sharp pain of identification.
I may not always love you, but long as there are stars above you, you never need to doubt it, I'll make you so sure about it, God only knows what I'd be without you…
Something about the song is speaking directly to Charles, all of a sudden. It seems so sharply, acutely accurate, so painfully apt. Without Erik, what would he have become? And what of Erik, without Charles? Their brief acquaintance shaped them, formed them, made them into the men they are. Locked together and yet always apart, polar opposites kept from each other by the opposing force of their convictions. Old friends, bitter adversaries, and the unrealised potential of what could have been always there between them.
If you should ever leave me, though life would still go on, believe me, the world could show nothing to me, so what good would living do me? God only knows what I'd be without you.
Charles is, he decides, becoming a silly, sentimental old man. He wheels himself away, putting the song from his mind as the music drifts out of earshot. But try as he might, the ideas it left him will not be so easily shifted, and it is something he will return to many times over the years that follow. They have brought out the best in each other, and also the worst, but what would they have become, what would have happened to them, to Charles and Erik or to any of them, if they had never met each other? Would Alex have ended up in the electric chair, would Hank still have been the CIA's most brilliant research scientist, would Erik have drowned trying to raise Shaw's submarine? Would Charles himself have disappeared into a life of academia, never to realise the true potential he is only just beginning to discover he possesses? Charles is not a religious man, for science has always been the uppermost force in his life, and his faith is in humankind, but even so he can only echo the words of the song. God only knows, indeed, what any of them would have been.
No use speculating, Charles tells himself as he rounds the corner, pretending he's not heading for his study and the decanter of whisky on the sideboard. No use thinking about what might have been if they'd never met, what might have been if they'd stayed together. They can only work with what they have, live the life that they've ended up with, and if Charles has regrets, he will share them with nobody but himself.