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This far but no further

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By the time they get off the beach and to a hospital, Charles has been unconscious for over three hours and bleeding out into the sand for closer to six and there's just so much blood. Hank doesn't think he's ever seen someone bleed that much and somehow still be alive.

But Charles is alive. He's never going to walk again, but he's alive. Erik and Raven are gone but no one is dead and everything else they can deal with, surely.

Moira, who's been at the hospital dealing with all the paperwork, comes back to the house to tell them that the doctor thinks Charles had a miscarriage in addition to the incomplete spinal injury.

She doesn't look like she believes the words coming out of her own mouth.

Alex is the first one to speak, summing up the general sentiment with, "The fuck?"

Which makes Hank think, well if there was a miscarriage then there was a fetus, or possibly still a zygote but would a miscarriage at that stage even be called such? Perhaps it's a secondary mutation, similar to Raven's appearance being independent of her ability to transform her body--though that hypothesis really must be reconsidered based on the evidence from my own failed attempt to separate the appearance of my feet from my enhanced strength, speed, and intelligence--and anyway if there was a fetus to miscarry then there must have been fucking at some point, presumably with a man if Charles is the one who became pregnant--best not to think of that too closely, really--but who would Charles--

"Oh," Hank says. Erik, he thinks, but carefully doesn't say aloud.

---

Hank sneaks into the hospital after hours to see Charles. "They told you?" he asks, after Charles stops him from stammering trying to think of how to say it.

The sound Charles makes is close to a scoff. "They don't talk to me," he says. "Losing my legs apparently means I’ve lost my brain as well.” After a moment of tense silence, he sighs. “They don't really have to talk, I suppose." He waves a hand vaguely in the direction of his head. His lower arms are the only part of his body not held in traction after the last surgery. Hank is starting to feel claustrophobic just being in the same room, and wonders if Charles is projecting his feelings.

"Oh, well. We can of course find out more once you're home, about the cause of, um..." Hank can't bring himself to say miscarriage or pregnancy or fetus to Charles' face. "But it might be best if--"

"I need to wipe their memories," Charles finishes.

Hank nods.

"I can't do it like this. The narcotics... It's not working right now."

"When they send you home, then," Hank says.

Charles states at the ceiling. "Sure. When."

When is two months and three surgeries later. Charles is still on painkillers, even if they're not as strong, and he accidentally wipes any memory of his existence from the minds of the doctors and staff, instead of just the part about his impossible male pregnancy.

"Oops," he says, when he admits this to the others. He waits until he's off the medication before suppressing Moira's memories.

After she's gone, Hank tries to reiterate his offer to help find out exactly what the nature of this secondary mutation is. Charles tells him that he has no secondary mutation and the whole thing was probably just a doctor with an overactive imagination. There's nothing to study. Hank should really just forget about it.

Hank doesn’t forget, of course. He’s got an eidetic memory and he’s already seen the lab reports and medical charts. But they never talk about it again.

---

Charles decides he wants to turn the mansion into a school for mutants. A safe place for kids with nowhere to go. No one says Raven's name, but her influence hangs over the idea like a ghost.

"You want us to teach?" Sean asks. "You and Hank, maybe, you've got degrees and shit, but I didn't even finish my freshman year of college."

"I've only got a GED," Alex adds. "Because they make you finish it in prison."

"Well," Charles bites his lip. "Maybe nothing quite so formal as teaching school subjects. At least not at first. But you are both well versed in learning to control your mutations and that experience would be invaluable to helping others do the same."

"We'll need Cerebro," Hank says. The plans are already swirling in his mind. There's all that space in the basement, old bomb shelters and labs. He could build it there. The first design he'd built at the CIA had been constrained by the size of the dome he'd had available, but if he converted the largest of the bomb shelters he could potentially increase the range across the entire planet.

They throw themselves into the planning and recruitment. They mostly find older teenagers who've manifested during puberty and can't control their powers. Most of the kids have been thrown out of their homes and it's more of a youth halfway house than a school, but it's a start.

Then the draft lottery starts, and Alex is one of the first called. "Fucking December birthday," he says, when he gets the letter.

Charles offers to call in favors, go into the offices and wipe any mention of Alex's name from collective memory, but Alex shakes his head. "You've got to keep the school going. I'm not really good at the planning and teacher stuff anyway, but I might be good at being at being in the army." He grins, trying to reassure them. "I'll be fine. I'll just burn the whole jungle down or something if I need to."

Alex writes occasionally and tells them about other mutants he's met in the army. After the first year the letters stop.

One of the students is called next. Then another. Then Sean gets a call that his younger brother has been drafted, and he takes one of the cars and the money Charles gives him and heads home. He promises to call once he and his brother get to Canada, but they never hear from him.

Charles tries to check on them all with Cerebro, which turns out to be a mistake because diving into the minds of men in a war leaves him shaking with nightmares. "They won't stop," he tells Hank, tears in his eyes and his fingers gripping his hair so hard he's drawing blood. "I can't... It hasn't been like this since I was a child."

Charles self-medicates with alcohol. Hank sends the remaining students home, then throws himself back into the serum he was working on in 1962. He knows what went wrong with it that time, and maybe if he can fix it then he'll be able to help both himself and Charles.

Hank fixes the serum, but once again it only makes things worse.

---

About three months after they watch Raven and Erik walk--or fly, in Erik’s case--away, Charles comes down with some sort of flu that lingers, but thankfully doesn’t turn into pneumonia. It reminds Hank of when Charles had first come home from the hospital and been almost completely reliant on others for help. It had been rough then, and Charles is no better now about accepting help when he hasn’t made it out of bed and to the toilet in time to puke.

Hank convinces him to come down to Cerebro and look for students. Charles eyes the machine warily, holding the helmet on his lap. “I’m not sure this is the best idea,” he says.

“It’ll be fine,” Hank reassures him. “You’ve just been sick, it doesn’t mean we can’t get started.” He’s rather desperate to get the school back up and running before whatever mood had convinced Charles to stop taking the serum wears off. He seems fine aside from the flu he can’t seem to shake off, but Hank remembers that he’d seemed fine for a long time after Cuba as well. “You promised Logan, remember?”

“I did,” Charles says softly. He frowns, but puts the helmet on and waves to Hank to start it up.

---

Between cleaning the mansion out, tracking down potential students, and getting the paperwork filed to make the school at least look legitimate, the next couple of months pass quickly.

Hank’s been holed up in his lab for the past week, working on some plans for turning one of the bunkers into a training room for more volatile mutations. Usually Charles leaves him to it, but today he turns up around noon balancing a lunch tray on his lap.

“I brought sandwiches,” Charles says. He’s brought beer as well. Hank hasn’t eaten since dinner last night so he scarfs down one sandwich quickly then downs half the beer before looking up at Charles’ amused expression. Charles pushed the other sandwich towards him as well. “I’m really not very hungry,” he says.

Hank starts on the second one more slowly. “Not that I don’t appreciate the food, but what brings you down here?” he asks.

Charles is studying the clutter on one of the lab tables. “How are the plans for the training room coming along?” he asks.

It’s an obvious stalling tactic, but Hank goes along with it. “Pretty well,” he says. He grabs the blueprints and spreads them out in front of Charles. “I’ve tried to account for several scenarios that would cause enough distress to lose control.”

Charles looks over the plans, nodding along as Hank explains them in more detail. “These look excellent, Hank. A very nice job,” he says.

Hank smiles, but Charles’ attention has drifted back to the other detritus on the table. He picks up a stoppered volumetric flask, tilting it back and forth. Hank reaches forward to snatch it out of his hands. “Don’t shake that,” he tells him. “It might explode.”

“Oh,” Charles says, eyes a bit wider. He smooths his hand down the front of his shirt before reaching for his beer and downing the last of it in one gulp.

Hank waits.

Finally Charles sets the bottle down and says, “Something’s wrong with me.” He looks rueful. “Something more than usual, at any rate.”

“What’s is it?” Hank asks.

It takes a bit before Charles says, “I never actually stopped throwing up after that flu, if it even was the flu. And despite throwing up every other day I’ve somehow gained 20 pounds.” Charles looks resigned as he pulls his shirt up, revealing his clearly distended stomach.

Hank’s first thought is, he looks pregnant, and following quickly on it’s heels is the memory from ten years ago, of Moira telling them Charles had miscarried after being shot on the beach. But aside from the medical reports they'd stolen from the hospital, this is the first time Hank's been confronted with physical proof that Charles has the ability to become pregnant.

Hank’s still staring in disbelief when Charles tugs shirt back down. “So, um…” Charles says. “I don’t know what…” he trails off again. After a long silence he demands, “Say something, would you?”

“Um,” Hank says. He swallows hard and reaches for what’s left of his beer, downing it in one gulp. Charles really should have brought something stronger.

“Oh don’t worry, I’m saving the good stuff for after this conversation,” Charles says.

Hank reaches for the only thing that makes sense in this situation, science. “Actually there have been studies recently on the negative effect of alcohol on a fetus…” The look on Charles’ face stops him from continuing. “But we can, um, run some tests. Make sure it’s… uh…”

Charles leans forward, resting his elbows on his thighs and burying his face behind his hands. His hair swings forward, blocking his expression entirely from Hank. Hank reaches over to pat him on the back then leaves his hand there. “We’ll figure it out,” he promises. “It could be something else. It could be a tumor.”

Charles looks up at him incredulously. “Really?”

“It could. It's scientifically possible,” Hank insists. Unlike male pregnancy, he doesn't say.

---

Hank takes samples and runs tests and when he’s done, he’s 100 percent sure that Charles is pregnant. He finds Charles sitting in the living room on the first floor, watching television. The fact that Charles has the tv on is odd enough, since he usually reads instead, but then Hank sees the bottle of whiskey. Charles has skipped using a glass and is drinking straight from the bottle.

Hank sits down next to him on the couch.

“Well?” Charles asks.

“You’re definitely pregnant,” Hank says. Charles nods and takes a swig from the bottle. “We’ll have to get an ultrasound machine to find out how far along.”

Charles starts counting on his fingers, then says, “Five months, thereabouts." He takes another drink before offering the bottle to Hank. “I told you I was saving the good stuff. My stepfather had this one hidden in his study and I’ve been waiting for the right occasion. I think being pregnant qualifies.”

Hank reaches over and takes the bottle of whiskey, setting it on the end table. Then he reconsiders and takes a drink himself. It’s smooth, obviously expensive, and it warms it’s way through his body. He pretends it gives him strength as he asks, “So, who was it?”

Charles shakes his head and starts laughing, a bit hysterically. “You’re really asking?”

“Well, you don’t have to tell me,” Hank says, striving for calm. He already knows it had to have been a man, logically.

“I just thought it was obvious,” Charles says, taking a deep breath to calm himself.

Hank thinks back to what they were doing five months ago, because if Charles had been seeing anyone then he hadn’t know about it and-- “Oh,” Hank says. Erik, he thinks. Then, “Wait, really? Again?

Charles doesn’t answer, and Hank’s mind is reeling now. “When did you even… Logan and I were with you both the whole time.” They’d gotten to Paris the night before the Accords and Hank had shared a hotel room with Charles. He literally can’t think of a single moment that Erik and Charles had been alone.

Charles still doesn’t say anything, leaving Hank to realize, “On the plane? I was five feet away!”

“I do realize that it was mistake, Hank,” Charles says, voice tight.

“Obviously,” Hank says.

Charles looks away, staring back at the television.

Hank swallows hard and forces himself to calm down. Getting angry doesn’t do any good, although the knowledge that Charles had fucked Erik not even six hours after breaking him out of prison makes Hank want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him. It’s Erik. Nothing good has ever come from situations involving Erik and the fiascos in Paris and Washington were just further proof of that.

“What do you want to do?” Hank finally asks.

“Do?” Charles turns to look at him again.

“About the… fetus.”

“I don’t know.” Charles buries his face in his hands again. “Am I supposed to know?”

“I’ll get an ultrasound machine tomorrow. It might not be too late to get rid of it, and it is legal now.”

Charles rests one hand against his stomach for a moment, then says, “I’m going to bed.” He transfers himself to the chair and grabs the bottle of whiskey off the table as he goes.