When Everything's Made to be Broken
“And I'd give up forever to touch you
Cuz I know that you feel me somehow
You're the closest to heaven that I'll ever be
And I don't want to go home right now
And all I can taste is this moment
And all I can breathe is your life
Cuz sooner or later it's over
I just don't want to miss you tonight.”
~ “Iris”, Goo Goo Dolls
“…The advent of the nuclear age may have accelerated the mutation process. Individuals with extraordinary abilities may already be among us,” she concluded. “Thank you very much.”
A moment of terse silence ensued as she sat, but her audience wasn’t looking at her now.
“MacTaggert, you really think that some crackpot scientist is going to make me believe in sparkly dames and vanishing men?” one of the CIA men snort derisively. “You just bought yourself a one-way ticket back to the typing pool. This meeting is over.”
Charlotte spoke up quickly. “Ah, please, sit down, Agent MacTaggert,” she asked politely. She was dressed professionally in a dove grey skirt suit, sitting straight with her legs crossed at the knee, but the men before her are sexist ignoramuses and they still considered her no more than a foolish teenaged girl. Time to get down to business, then.
“I didn’t really expect you to believe me, as all you’d think about during my presentation is what sort of pie they’d be serving in the commissary,” she spoke haughtily but paused. “It’s apple pecan,” she added with a sharp look but looks to MacTaggert. “I’m terribly sorry, but I haven’t been entirely honest with you. You see,” she returned her attention back to the men before her. “One of the spectacular things my mutation allows me to do is that I can read your mind.”
She relished the skeptical looks on their faces, preparing for the following expressions of incredulity.
“I’ve seen this trick before at the magic show,” the one on the right said scathingly. “Are you gonna ask us to think of a number between one and ten?”
Charlotte laughed politely, still smiling sweetly. “No, Agent Stryker, although—I could ask you about your son, William, you were thinking about, which is very nice—but,” she leaned forward eagerly, “I think I’d rather ask you about the Jupiter missiles America are currently placing in Turkey.”
The panic is well worth her wait. They both straightened in alarm and shared an urgent look.
“She’s a goddamn spy!” the other agent spat. “You brought a goddamn spy!”
Chaos ensued momentarily.
Raven, if you would?
My pleasure, Char.
Her sister stood instantly, taking Stryker’s appearance (though with a smirk). The room froze instantly. After a moment, she reverted to her natural azure form.
Charlotte smirked. “How’s that for a magic trick?”
The man in the back finally spoke up. “Best I’ve ever seen.”
A cursory perusal of his mind made her smile. An ally, especially one of his position, was a valuable thing.
Good. They wouldn’t be thrown into a cell. Though she’d only have manipulated other agents minds into releasing them, this was far more preferable.
She didn’t expect their next ally.
“There’s someone else out there!”
She pushed past them, back out to the deck, and located the other in an instant.
“There!” she exclaimed, pointing to the speck in the water…just as the Caspartina’s anchor rose into the air and began destroying the ship. Charlotte’s mouth fell open as she watched the display.
Information came pouring in from the mutant’s mind. Shaw—in a submarine escaping—the mutant trying to pull it back—
“Let go!” she screamed, leaning on the rail. “Let go!” Charlotte turned to the others. “You’ve got to help him—get someone in the water to help him—” The other had not heard her. “Let it go! You have to let it go!”
But he only began sinking under the water…
They were not listening. There wasn’t time—
“Sod this,” she muttered, flinging off her jacket and shoes before taking a running start and diving off the ship. “Charlotte—” Moira exclaimed, but the telepath hit the water before she heard more.
She latched on to him, wrapped her arms around his chest, and tried to pull him up. You can’t. You’ll drown, she told his mind kindly but firmly.
The professor delved into his mind and knew him.
Blinding, consuming rage—heartbreaking grief from years past—desperation, I can’t let him get away, not again—and a fierce determination, willing to die if it meant taking Shaw-Schmidt with him.
I know what this means to you but you are going to die, she told him urgently, tugging at him again. Please, Erik. She plucked his name from his mind. Calm your mind.
Finally, he listened and almost went limp for a moment, watching Shaw escape again, as Charlotte pulled him to the surface. Even without trying to read his mind, she could feel the mixture of desperation / disappointment / fury.
When they surfaced, he shoved her away. “Get off me, get off me!” She allowed him to distance himself while she gasped for air.
“Calm down, just breathe!” she told him calmly, trying to sooth the boil vat of anger she could feel within him. He was pouring out his anger and confusion like a leaky faucet; much more of it and she’d get a headache. “We’re here!” the telepath screamed to the people on the ship.
The mutant, Erik, looked at her—she tried to ignore his thought of A girl?—and asked sharply, “Who are you?”
“My name is Charlotte Xavier,” she replied, spitting out water.
“You were in my head!” he exclaimed. “How did you do that?”
She smiled a bit. “You have your tricks, Erik, and I have mine. I’m like you—just calm your mind!”
The wide-eyed look of shock and confusion he gave her softened her heart. “I—I thought I was alone.” Her heart clenched at the sudden sense of loneliness but rising hope.
“You’re not alone,” she told him with a smile. “Erik, you’re not alone.”
They said no more as they were fished out of the sea and onto the ship.
As they stood, huddling and shivering from the cold, on the deck, several crewmembers went in search of blankets and fresh clothes.
The CIA people and Raven eyed the newcomer curiously.
“H-He’s w-w-with us-s,” Charlotte stammered. “A-an ally.”
God, it was freezing. She shivered and her legs were kind of numb—but at least she was wearing trousers instead of a skirt. That could have ended badly. But her sweater was soaked and clinging. A couple nearby crewmen leered; Charlotte ignored their filthy minds and turned to chastise them, but didn’t have the chance. Before she could say a word, they scurried off.
Turning back to face the others, the telepath was surprised to find Erik glaring after them, thinking loud curses in—German? Yes, that was German. Charlotte held back the amused smile that threatened to give her away. Instead, she looked at him curiously.
Out of the water, she could see him better. And, wow, he was a tall one; he practically loomed over her five-four frame. His dark hair was plastered to his head and he, too, was shivering.
Finally, spare clothing was found and they changed. As the ship returned to land, they all gathered and introductions were made. Charlotte let Moira explain while the telepath focused on pinning her wet hair out of her face. Finally, he explained, though briefly. “He killed my mother trying to get me to use my abilities,” he said tersely. “I’ve been after him for years now.” A pang of sympathy resounded in her. There was the explanation for the well of sorrow and hatred in him that had tugged at her painfully earlier.
When they adjourned, Erik paused beside her before they parted. “You said you were in my mind earlier, Miss Xavier.”
“Please,” she told him, “It’s Professor Xavier if you want to be formal, but I’d much prefer Charlotte.”
His mouth hardened for a moment. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“Technically, you didn’t ask one. You rephrased an earlier statement, but yes you were correct.”
Erik’s eyes narrowed. “I asked in my mind, I thought you were listening.”
Charlotte shook her head. “No. I try to stay out of others’ minds if possible,” she told him. Now that he had calmed, she could block his thoughts from her.
“Good,” he told her. “Stay out.” He left before she could say more.
The mutants are gathered while Charlotte finds a friend in Erik and maybe something more.
The next night she found him trying to sneak out of the CIA facility with Shaw's file.
"From what I know about you," she told him, "I'm surprised you managed to stay this long."
He stopped and stared at her tensely. "What d'you know about me?"
She gave a regretful smile. "Everything."
"Then you know to out of my head."
"I'm sorry, Erik," she said after him when the other began to walk away, "but I've seen what Shaw did to you." He stopped, but didn't turn. "I've felt your agony. I can help you."
Erik looked back to her. "I don't need your help."
"Don't kid yourself," she told him walking forward, hands in her pockets. "You needed me last night; you would have drowned. It's not just me you're walking away from. Here you have a chance to be a part of something much bigger than yourself…I won't stop you from leaving," she told him. Though I want to, she thought to herself.
"I could," Charlotte admitted quietly, "but I won't."
She turned to go back inside. "Shaw's got friends," she said over her shoulder. "You could do with some."
The next morning, when they all had breakfast together, she didn't say a word to him, but Charlotte smiled when she saw him.
I'm glad you stayed, my friend, she thought but did not share. Her smile probably said it for her.
The next day brought the experience of the Cerebro.
After Hank's explanation, she eagerly put on the helmet with a wide smile, though she had to adjust it lower to properly rest on her head at her small height.
"What an adorable lab rat you make, Charlotte," Erik commented with an amused smirk.
"Don't spoil this for me, Erik," she replied, though she still grinned (which had nothing to do with the compliment).
He chuckled. "I've been a lab rat. I know one when I see one."
Hank began checking the circuits on the helmet. "Okay, great," he murmured, then asked her, "Are you sure we can't shave your head?"
"Don't touch my hair," she replied seriously.
Hank nodded. "Okay," he relented at her stern tone. Joke as he might, her hair was a small vanity she allowed herself. (She didn't have much in the beauty department, but her long dark hair were one of her few attributes she liked. No one would be touching it, that was sure.)
As Hank went to the monitors and set about beginning the machine, Erik met Charlotte's eyes while he leaned on the rail beside her.
I will rip that off your head if it malfunctions, he thought very loudly to her, despite his instruction the night before not to touch his mind. It's made of metal, after all.
The short woman gave him a small grin, nodding as if to convey that she believed him. As she should, too; he didn't trust this contraption. He watched vigilantly as Cerebro started; Raven stepped closer beside him, just as cautious.
Suddenly, Charlotte gave a loud gasp and her hands shot out to grasp the rail before her. Erik straightened, tense, but did not move. It was a gasp of amazement, he realized—not pain.
"Oh. Oh," she whispered with a bright smile.
"It's working!" Hank exclaimed as he read the print out of coordinates. The telepath gave a breathy laugh of astonishment as it continued; to her left, her sister smiled too.
Erik still watched, reluctant to trust the machine, but was looking more at the growing wonder and joy upon the professor's face rather than Cerebro.
And so their journey began as they trekked about the country to recruit.
It was rather fun, if Charlotte was honest. She was enjoying the opportunity to get to know Erik Lehnsherr better and he seemed to now somewhat trust her, after she had sided with him against the director back at the CIA division.
After only really having Raven as a friend for most of her life, it was wonderful to have the chance to befriend someone new.
For Charlotte, it was vaguely uncomfortable to be in a club with Erik, even if it was to find a mutant, but at the same time she was glad he was with her as well.
When another patron of the club eyed her lewdly, Erik saw it as well as she and merely offered her his arm. Glad for the offer, she stepped closer and tucked her hand into his elbow. This did the trick and seemed to ward off any men looking for any other such trouble.
Once in the private booth, their mutant leveled them with a look. "Look, you know it's double for both right?"
"That won't be necessary," Charlotte said after a sip of wine.
"No," Erik agreed, "We were thinking more…we'll show you ours if you show us yours."
"Baby, that is not how it works around here," she replied impatiently. "And I'm surprised your girlfriend would agree to that."
She chuckled. "More wine, if you please, Erik?" she asked.
"Of course," he replied and snapped his fingers, levitating the ice bucket into the air to reach the bottle.
The mutant grinned at them as he refilled her glass. "My turn," she said, and then grew wings.
"How would you like a job where you get to keep your clothes on?"
Seating themselves in the back of the taxi, the driver asked, "Where to, lovebirds?"
"Richmond, Virginia," Erik said.
"Right, so, you want the airport? The station? What?" the driver asked in confusion
"No," Charlotte replied with a smile, "We were rather hoping you'd take us all the way." To prove her point, Erik turned the meter and replied, "That will give us plenty of time to talk."
He grinned at them in the mirror and turned to introduce himself.
"Erik Lehnsherr and Professor Charlotte Xavier," she replied, "But not lovebirds."
He just grinned and laughed as he started the car.
"Crazy, huh?" came a voice behind her. "You like fish, I like fish too. Maybe we should get a bite sometime, talk about it."
Charlotte glanced at the redhead beside her. "Actually, I'd much rather talk about mutation and, more specifically what it allows you to do."
He stared for a long moment. "Um—"
"We can still grab a bite, if you want," she said. "But I'm afraid my friend Erik, here, will be coming along too." Erik gave him a look over her shoulder that clearly said, don't even try to flirt anymore.
"Excuse me, I'm Erik Lehnsherr."
"And I'm Charlotte Xavier," she continued, standing behind a gruff-looking man smoking a cigar in a seedy bar.
"Go fuck yourself," he said bluntly, but then glanced at them, eyes lingering on her. "Although, sweetheart, if you wanted to ditch your boyfriend here, I'd be happy to have you for company tonight."
She rolled her eyes. No thank you, Mr Logan, she told him mentally with a sarcastic tone, I've already got wonderful company tonight. She turned on her heel with Erik only a step behind.
Once in their rental car, he commented, "You know, I'm noticing a pattern."
She chuckled under her breath. "As am I. But we're a man and a woman traveling together. People naturally assume things."
That still wasn't an excuse, but, she supposed, there were far more things to enjoy about traveling with Erik than the disadvantages.
One evening during their travels, she knocked on his room door and poked her head in. "Do you play chess?" she asked without preamble. "There was a set in the hotel lobby that the manager said I could use…"
He nodded. "I do. White or black?"
She grinned and came in. "I have no preference," she replied, settling into a chair at the table.
The metallokinetic went to a cupboard and withdrew a bottle of scotch and two tumblers. "A drink?"
She grinned. "Chess, clever conversation, and scotch?" Charlotte laughed. "A man after my own heart."
Erik rolled his eyes and poured the scotch, but his eyes glinted with amusement. "You can be white," he decided. "You might need the advantage." He opened the box and set out the board. The pieces, made of pewter, he arranged with a wave of his hand. She grinned at that, always pleased to see another's abilities.
"You wish," she replied with a smirk as she knocked back the tumbler.
So they began their game.
"Besides eavesdropping on people's thoughts, what exactly can you do?" he asked curiously, moving a pawn.
Charlotte tensed momentarily but reluctantly, slowly, replied, "Other things along those lines. It depends on the mind, really. I can pick up on emotions as well. In times of distress or passion, emotions are more…real to me, as if my own. Memories are easy enough to get into," she paused, before moving a knight.
He gave her a curious glance. "I assume that is what you did when we first met? Saw all my memories."
"Oh." She flushed slightly. "Well, I didn't exactly—er. I didn't see all your memories, though I suppose I implied I had. You were…very upset and broadcasting your distress. I could feel it all," the telepath said quietly. "I could feel all the rage and grief and determination. I understood how much getting Shaw meant to you, but not your motivation why. And I knew that you were willing to drown out there if it meant Shaw died too."
Erik gave her a long, piercing look before he said, "Oh, you're not listening then."
"What?" she asked as she moved a bishop to intercept a rook.
"You're not reading my mind now," he clarified.
She shook her head. "No. As I said, I try not to. Rude, you know. I can't tune it all out. It's still there in the back of my head like white noise unless I focus." Charlotte closed her eyes; her hand went to her temple by habit. "The couple two doors down are arguing; he found out about her affair. At the end of the hall, there is a writer working on a manuscript. Across the hall are a couple coeds. Hm. They're drinking far too much; the hangover will be painful tomorrow. And you…you're staring at me." She blinked. "In…awe?"
He chuckled. "Yes, that is all rather amazing, you know, Liebling."
"Oh," she said, surprised, and took a long sip of scotch to excuse herself from replying for a moment. "Most people are unnerved when I discuss it. Get twitchy and nervous about what I will overhear when they aren't paying attention…I'm sorry," she said, withdrawing. "I didn't mean to cause discomfort."
"It's not uncomfortable, just…different," he commented as he moved a rook and refilled their glasses of scotch.
She gave a little "hm" of thought and fell silent, before grinning widely. "And that, my friend, is check, I believe."
The telepath just grinned. "Another game then?"
Charlotte, in Oxford, had been fairly well known.
After all, there were not that many women in Oxford and certainly very few with her intellect and dedication. She was known for her brilliance in genetics and many predicted a bright future for her in that field.
Academics aside, Charlotte was also a bit famous as a flirt in pubs. She had most certainly dated before, though never for more than several months. The telepath was recognized for her enjoyment of a pint at the pub, her love for flirting, and sometimes even a bit more than just that in a night.
Despite how often she and Raven went out for a drink, Charlotte was not known for her tolerance for alcohol.
That tolerance (or, rather, her lack thereof) came back to bite her several times in her years at Oxford, usually in the form of finding she had spent the night with someone. It also came back to bite her that evening on their cross-country scavenger hunt for mutant recruits.
She woke around three in the morning to find herself sprawled on a hotel bed, half-dressed, beside a familiar person.
Erik was still asleep, snoring softly into her hair, in a similar state as she. He was on his stomach, shirtless, and smelled of the scotch they had shared.
Her fuzzy recollections of that night ended somewhere around the time of opening a second bottle of scotch.
Careful not to wake her friend (paramour?), Charlotte slipped from the bed and took in the room around her. Their second chess match had not finished, though it looked as if Erik would have checkmate in five moves, and the second scotch bottle was empty.
She paused to fix her hitched-up skirt and to button her shirt.
With hands she did not allow to tremble, the telepath collected the chess set and slipped out of Erik's room to return to her own.
Charlotte was unsure if anything had actually happened, but she did not want to stick around to see Erik's reaction if he woke to find her there.
Loyalty & Loss
"The plane for Russia leaves in an hour," Moira told them.
"I'm telling you, these kids are not ready for Shaw," Erik said, mostly to Charlotte, who frowned.
She sighed. "I think they're going to surprise you. They're an exceptional bun—" she cut off mid sentence as her telepathy picked up on the activity ahead.
"Oh, bloody hell, never mind," she hissed and hurried forward, the other two following curiously.
The window was shattered, the statue was cut in half, the rec room was trashed. Hank was hanging from the ceiling, Angel was flying, Raven was dancing (and possibly drunk), and the other two boys were testing out the strength of the chairs by hitting Darwin with them.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" Moira shouted, killing the party mood instantly. Charlotte put her hands in her trouser pockets and gave them all the most disappointed look she could muster.
"Who destroyed the statue?" the agent demanded, looking for all the world like a school teacher reprimanding a class.
"It was Alex," Hank reported.
"No, Havok," Raven interrupted with a grin. "We have to call him Havok, that's his name now. And we were thinking," she said, coming up to Charlotte and Erik, "You should be Professor X and you should be Magneto."
Erik was unimpressed. "Exceptional."
With a final severe look, Moira stalked off, with a vague motion to Charlotte and a loud thought, They're all yours.
Erik followed. Charlotte lingered and merely said, "I expected more of you."
Later, on their plane, Charlotte glanced to Erik beside her, staring out the window. She shared the visualization of the kids, looking chastised by Moira.
Why do I feel like that was akin to the school headmaster handing off scolded students to their parents? She thought to him.
He chuckled. Oh, gott. I never really wanted kids and now here we are with six.
She chuckled at the thought. They may as well be the children's parents; they were a family now and Charlotte and Erik were definitely the heads of the family. Mummy Charlotte and Daddy Erik. She chuckled at the private thought. The professor raised her glass of wine in a toast. To parenthood, then, and the joy it brings with it.
In the truck, on the way to the Russian military retreat, they were surprised by the roadblock. Charlotte took care of it effortlessly, so it looked to Erik as he watched nervously.
Once the truck was closed again and they remain undiscovered, he let out a nervous breath and patted Charlotte on the leg in relief. They shared nervous but relieved grins.
When they arrived at the military retreat, Charlotte was on edge, watching Erik cautiously.
They watched as Emma Frost arrived—alone.
The professor shook her head. "He's not coming. Now what, boss?" she asked Moira.
"Now nothing, we're here for Shaw. Mission aborted."
Erik threw down his binoculars. "The hell it is—"
"Erik!" Moria snapped.
"She's his right hand woman," he snapped. "That's good enough for me."
"The CIA invading the home of a senior Soviet official?" the agent replied. "Are you crazy?"
"I'm not CIA," he replied and ran.
"Erik—" Charlotte snapped a moment too late.
She watched as the barbed wire came alive and coiled around the guards as Erik shot toward the grounds.
"He's going to start World War Three single-handedly!" Moira's partner, Levine, snapped.
"We have to do something."
"Like what?" he replied shortly before turning to the other agents. "We're moving out."
Charlotte looked desperately to Moira. "I'm sorry, I can't leave him!" And she took off after Erik and watched as he took down the guards with their own guns.
Erik! She screamed mentally. ERIK! Damn you, wait for me! Don't go in alone, you idiot!
The telepath paused only to put the guards to sleep. She hurtled into the house and nearly ran into him. Thank you, she thought his way. He nodded wordlessly and they burst into the main room together.
The general was in some sort of illusion, but Frost was sitting patiently on the couch.
After exchanging a surprised glance with him, she told Frost, "Nice trick."
When the general snapped out of the delusion and drew his gun, Charlotte snapped, "Go to sleep." He fell over, unconscious, immediately.
"Nice trick," Frost said before turning into her diamond form. "You can stop trying to read my mind, sugar." Damn, that hurt her head to try. "You're never going to get anything out of me like this."
She made a run for it, but they caught her and pinned her to the foot of the bed. Erik held her there tightly with the metal bed frame.
"So then you can just tell us," he told her. "Where's Shaw?"
The metal tightened. "Erik?" she asked.
Again, it tightened and Charlotte could see her struggling to breathe... "Erik, that's enough."
Still nothing. Erik, that's enough, she thought forcefully to him. Reluctantly now, he finally acquiesced and released her. She quickly returned to her human form.
"She's all yours," he said, sitting down. "She won't be shifting into diamond form again. If she does, just give her a gentle tap."
Charlotte knelt and scanned through the blond's mind.
Oh my God...
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Frost asked. Charlotte just gave her a look of disgust. "Erik, this is worse than we previously imagined," she looked to her fellow telepath. "We're taking you with us. The CIA will want to question you themselves."
"I doubt it," she replied. "I have bigger things to worry about now."
Charlotte frowned and felt her niggling at the back of her mind, trying to get in. The professor smiled sweetly. Pressing her fore and middle fingers to Frost's forehead, she told her "Sleep."
Erik watched curiously. "I thought that would've been harder because she's like you."
Charlotte grinned at him. "What? You're not doubting me are you, Erik?"
"Nope," he replied, taking a gulp of the general's liquor. "Never."
Four hours later, she was asleep (and she would deny that her head was resting on Erik's shoulder) until a piercing thought shot through her mind.
The telepath jolted awake with a gasp, startling the other mutant beside her. "Charlotte?"
She didn't reply, focusing instead on the thoughts she was being sent. Raven?
Yes! We're being attacked. Shaw's two mutants are here, they're—they're— Words ended but a stream of images poured in.
"Charlotte, what's wrong?" Erik said, gripping her wrist.
She took a shaky breath. "Shaw—he—he's attacking the CIA base now. Oh God, he's after the children— Here, let me, let me show you—"
Focusing, she shared the input from Raven—the guards all dying. Finally, Shaw, in a strange helmet, and the two others arriving in the room.
"Where's the telepath?" Shaw asked the red teleporter.
"Not here," he replied in an accented voice.
Shaw grinned slightly. "Well, at least I can take this silly thing off," he said, removing the helmet.
Erik's grip on her wrist tightened. Mein gott, she heard him think softly in realization.
"Good evening, my name's Sebastian Shaw and I am not here to hurt you."
Together, they watched it all: Shaw's offer, Angel's betrayal, Darwin and Alex's trick—
Darwin, don't! she thought to him urgently. He didn't even seem surprised. I have to, Professor. I'm sorry. And then he was gone; the pain of his mind suddenly being extinguished burned her and she felt the pain of it.
Erik's prodding made her focus. She returned to Raven's mind as Shaw vanished. We're on our way back, little sister. We're already four hours out from Russia. Hold on and be safe, please. Keep each other safe.
Charlotte broke the connection and slumped into her seat. She hadn't even realized she was crying.
Beside her, Erik finally released his grip on her wrist and pulled out a handkerchief to offer her. Thank you, she thought to him as she dried her tears.
We have to send them home, she decided. It isn't safe for them any longer. I won't allow any more of our...of our family to be hurt.
He glanced at her curiously. You are very maternal already, Charlotte, he noticed.
She shook her head with a bitter smile. I wouldn't be a good mother; this proves it. A mother should be able to protect her children. But I didn't.
Erik was silent and gave her a long, contemplative look. Not all mothers are able to protect their children. Mine wasn't able to protect me. But that does not make her any less of a mother because of circumstances beyond her control, he told her quietly. She could feel the grief lurking behind his words at the memory of his mother. You are a good mother to the children in this peculiar family we have gathered, Liebling.
His words—and the gentle honesty she felt from him—smoothed the sharp edges of the raw pain of loss and failure inside her.
Thank you, Erik, she thought to him quietly, but asked, Are you ever going to tell me what that nickname means?
He chuckled. Probably not.
She shook her head fondly before curling comfortably in her seat, resting her head again on his shoulder, and returned to sleep.
As soon as the car parked, she flew from it and rushed to the children. Her sister saw them first and stood from the bench to hug her.
Charlotte turned to the others. “We’ve made arrangements for you to be taken home immediately,” she told them, grim-faced.
“We’re not going home,” Alex replied immediately.
“What?” slipped from her lips too fast.
“He’s not going back to prison,” Sean clarified. Alex nodded. “He killed Darwin.”
The professor pursed her lips. “All the more reason for you to leave. This is over.”
Beside her, Raven spoke. “Darwin’s dead, Charlotte. And we can’t even bury him.”
Across from Charlotte, Erik spoke up after a moment of aggrieved silence. “We can avenge him.” Everyone looked to him in surprise.
Charlotte cleared her throat. “Erik, a word please?” she asked, pulling him aside from the children. “They’re just kids,” she said softly.
“No,” he disagreed quickly, stubbornly. “They were just kids. Shaw has his army. We need ours.”
She shook her head. “Erik, I’ll not make these children into soldiers to fight in a war that they cannot properly fight.”
“Train them then,” he replied. You know I’m right, he thought to her. We can’t fight Shaw alone.
She turned back to the children and Moira, all looking to her hopefully. Charlotte sighed. “We’ll have to train,” she decided. “All of us, yes?”
“Yeah!” Alex agreed immediately. The others nodded too.
“But we can’t stay here,” Hank said. “Even if they reopen the department, it’s not safe. We’ve got nowhere to go.”
A smile curled Charlotte’s lip. “Yes we do. Tell me: how do you feel about New York?”
“Honestly, Charlotte,” Erik said wryly. “I don’t know how you survived, living in such hardship.”
The Xavier house in Westchester loomed before them impressively and Charlotte was pleased to find they all seemed to like it.
“Well, it was a hardship softened by me,” Raven said and came to stand between them. “C’mon, time for the tour!”
Charlotte separated from the group then. While Raven showed them around, she set about assigning bedrooms and making sure everything was suitable. The house had been empty for some time, as they had been in England, so she knew she should ensure there were fresh linens in all the rooms. Once the chore was done, she went to meet them in the sitting room.
The children were chattering away excitedly, eager about their new home. Charlotte settled beside Erik on a couch to begin planning their training.
She knew Erik had spoken with Raven, but otherwise he had not said much in regards to training to the other children. He watched and discussed ideas with Charlotte but left the training to her.
Never let it be said he did nothing though.
“And you truly believe I’ll fly this time?” Sean asked apprehensively from their spot atop the satellite dish.
“Unreservedly,” she replied honestly.
He glanced at her. “I trust you—”
“I’m touched.” And she was.
“—but I don’t trust him.”
“Say nothing,” she advised Hank, who remained wisely quiet. Erik, on Sean’s other side, grinned.
The boy glanced down. “I’m going to die!” he exclaimed, panic setting in as he stared at the ground.
“Alright, look,” she told him, laying a hand on his shoulder and subtly calming the rising fear she could sense in his mind. “We’re not going to make you do anything you feel comfortable—”
Erik spoke up. “Here, let me help you,” he offered and shoved the boy off the platform.
“Erik!” she exclaimed in shock as the boy screamed in fear.
But then he screamed at the proper pitch and took off in flight, spreading the ‘wings’ of his suit. A wide grin crossed her face but she glanced at Erik with an exasperated look.
“What?” he said, torn between being defensive and amused. “You know you were thinking the same.”
Charlotte laughed despite herself.
There’s enough metal in his suit that I could have caught him, he admitted to her silently.
I know, my friend. I guessed as much.
“Are you sure?”
Erik nodded. “I’m sure,” he replied, grinning as Charlotte pointed the gun inches from his forehead. Reluctance danced across her face and the gun trembled slightly in the air as she steeled herself.
“No, no I can’t,” she said lowering the gun. “I’m sorry but I can’t shoot anyone point blank—especially not you.”
“Oh, come on,” he said, pulling her hand back up to point the gun at his head. “You know I can deflect it. You’re always telling me to challenge myself.”
She lowered the gun again. “If you know you can deflect it, you’re not challenging yourself.”
Charlotte sighed at the disappointment on his face. “Fine, fine,” she relented. “If you are certain…”
He grinned for a moment before she raised the gun.
In a quick, fluid movement, she clicked off the safety, raised the gun to her temple, and fired.
“No!” Erik shouted, hand raised, eyes wide.
And Charlotte laughed, lowering the gun. The bullet remained frozen beside her head before she plucked it from the air and held it in her palm before pocketing it.
“How’s that for pushing you?” she asked with a wide grin.
He was not as amused. “Don’t do that!” he exclaimed. “What if I hadn’t stopped it in time? What if I didn’t see you raise the gun until it was too late?”
The telepath smiled at his concern and patted his shoulder. “Oh, I have faith in you, love. I knew you wouldn’t let that happen.”
He gave her an unamused glance.
“Whatever happened to the man who tried to raise a submarine?” she asked, offering him the firearm.
“Oh, I can’t,” he replied tiredly, taking the gun. “Something that big, I need the situation, the anger.”
“No,” she disagreed. “The anger is not in there.”
“Well, it’s gotten the job done,” Erik replied. “All this time.”
“You can do it this time,” Charlotte told him and glanced away. “No, come here. Let’s try something a little more challenging.” She led him off the path and pointed toward the satellite dish in the distance. “See that? Try turning it to face us.”
Erik took a deep breath and tried. Charlotte could sense the determination pouring from his mind without even trying. He continued until he was red in the face and slumped against the stone wall.
“You know, I believe that true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity,” she remarked to him. He looked at her. “Do you mind if I…?” she motioned to her temple.
He shook his head slightly, curious.
Closing her eyes, she delved into his mind, sifting through memories, deep into his past until…
There Erik was as a little boy, in the dark a room, with his parents as his mother lit the menorah candles, smiling lovingly to him…caressing his cheek gently.
Charlotte wiped a tear from her cheek before opening her eyes to look at him.
“How did you just do that?” he asked calmly, though she could see him holding back tears.
“I accessed the brightest corner of your memory system,” she explained and came to stand beside him. “It’s a very beautiful memory, Erik. Thank you.”
“I didn’t know I still had that, Liebling” he admitted. The warmth in the memory, the love for his mother, the aching longing for his family…
Her heart clenched and she grasped his hand. “There is so much more to you than you know,” she told him sincerely. “Not just pain and anger. There’s good too—I felt it. If you can access all of that, you’ll possess a power no one can match. Not even me. So come on,” she said with an encouraging smile. “Try again!”
He turned back to the satellite and stretched out a shaking hand, with tears still in his eyes. The satellite creaked loudly…and turned.
A wide smile split his face and he leaned on the stone wall again as he laughed. Charlotte felt a matching, proud smile upon her own face as she chuckled with him.
Thank you, Char-lot-te, he thought to her. His exhaustion caused his German accent slip in as he said her name, making it into three syllables.
“Knew you could do it,” she said proudly and pressed a small, chaste kiss to his cheek.
The bond between them is strengthened and weakened as war brews
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Cuba, Russia, America—it makes no difference,” she said over chess. “Shaw’s declared war on mankind, on all of us. He has to be stopped.”
“I’m not going to stop Shaw,” Erik replied. “I’m going to kill him.” He met her eyes. “Do you have it in you to allow me to do that?”
She said nothing and leaned forward in her chair.
“You’ve known all along why I was here, Charlotte,” he told her. “But things have changed. What started as a covert mission...tomorrow, mankind will know that mutants exist. Shaw, us—they won’t differentiate. They’ll fear us and that fear will turn to hatred.”
“Not if we stop a war,” she disagreed. “Not if we can prevent Shaw, not if we risk our lives doing so.”
He asked, “Would they do the same for us?”
“We have it in us to be the better men,” she replied.
“We already are,” Erik replied stubbornly. “We’re the next stage of human evolution—you said it yourself! Are you really so naïve as to think they won’t battle their own extinction? Or is it arrogance?”
“After tomorrow, they’re going to turn on us,” he told her grimly. “And you’re blind to it because you think they’re all like Moira.”
She pursed her lips. “And you believe they’re all like Shaw.” He said nothing to disagree or defend himself. The telepath sat forward. “Listen to me very carefully my friend: killing Shaw will not bring you peace.”
“Peace was never an option.”
They sat in silence for several minutes, only moving to make their chess moves.
Erik sighed and muttered under his breath, “Verdammt. Dies ist nicht was ich wollte.”  He looked up to Charlotte sadly. As she reached for her glass of scotch, he laid a hand over hers. “I don’t want us to end up as enemies, Charlotte,” he told her sincerely.
She smiled cheerlessly. “It will never end as anything but,” she remarked, gazing at him sadly. “We are both too proud, too stubborn, to give up our beliefs, no matter what they cost us."
“What if we did?” he asked. “What if I did and we killed Shaw tomorrow? What then?”
Charlotte paused and queried, “May I show you?”
Erik nodded. She took his hand and placed it on her temple as she closed her eyes. Images flew through his mind.
It was her home, the Xavier family house...but it wasn’t a house anymore. It was a school. Children—mutant children—ran through the grounds, playing, laughing, freely using their powers. Cerebro was rebuilt in a new wing for the mansion. There was a basketball court and the pool was open. Hank had his lab still but now had another as a classroom. The library was a study room too. The spare bedrooms were now dorms.
A plaque at the front of the building proclaimed it as the “Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters”.
The children were there too. Raven, Hank, Sean, Alex.
He was there too with her, sitting outside as they watched the younger mutants play—at peace and content and safe. They laughed as Sean tripped and fell. Charlotte said something with a grin and they both laughed before she leaned over and kissed him—
She jerked and ended it. Erik startled because of the image’s abrupt end but did not move his hand from her temple.
“I’m sorry—I didn’t mean for you to see...” Her face was aflame but she didn’t open her eyes, afraid to see his reaction.
Gently, his hand moved to her cheek.
She didn’t expect him to gently press his lips to hers in a chaste but tender kiss. Charlotte pulled back after a moment and gazed at him sadly.
The professor shook her head and silenced him. “Don’t,” she whispered hoarsely. “Don’t say it if you can’t promise you will still be here with me, with all of us, after tomorrow.”
Reluctantly, he pulled away from her. “I’m sorry,” he said and stood to leave.
“I know,” she whispered back.
 – German: “Damn it. This isn’t what I wanted.”
The Beginning of an Ending
"What was that?" Angel snapped.
Azazel teleported in abruptly. "The Russians. They have fired on their own ship." He slipped on the headset to listen to the radio. "They are saying the comrade lost his mind. The Americans are applauding."
"They're here," Shaw said. "Hm. That telepath is powerful… We're moving to a back-up plan," he decided as he put on the helmet.
"That was inspired, Charlotte," Moira praised.
"Thank you very much," she replied, hand at her temple. "But I still can't locate Shaw."
It wasn't good enough for Erik. "He's down there. We need to find him now."
The newly-furry mutant turned. "Is there anything unusual on the radar or scanners?"
Moira shook her head. "No, nothing."
"Then he must be underwater and we obviously don't have sonar," Hank said.
Sean grinned suddenly. "Yes we do." Charlotte knew his plan immediately and removed her headset.
After Sean located the submarine, Erik was the next step. Charlotte stood behind him. He struggled as he tried to focus and so Charlotte told him calmly, Remember: the point between rage and serenity. She recalled the memory she had unearthed: Hanukah with his mother.
It steeled him and the submarine rose completely out of the water.
But it did not work well for long. The mutant that she knew as Riptide emerged from the submarine and whipped up a vortex-like storm, headed right for the jet.
"Erik, take my hand!" she yelled.
He ignored her until he had beached the submarine—by which point, Riptide's storm hit the jet. Then, he took her proffered hand and she pulled him inside the jet, just as it hit the sand. As it began to roll, he jumped on her back, pinning them magnetically to one wall of the jet, likely preventing a head injury or two in the process. Finally, the jet stilled and Erik lowered them down.
They stood and set about assisting the others get out of their safety belts.
"I read the teleporter's mind," she reported. "Shaw's drawing all the power out of his sub—he's turning himself into some kind of nuclear bomb!"
Moira nodded. "We've got no time. The Geiger counter is going out of control!"
"Alright, Moira, this is what we're going to do. Get on the radio, tell them to clear both fleets out immediately."
"I'm going in!" Erik decided.
"Beast, Havok, back him up!" she ordered. "I can guide you through once you're in, but I need you to shut down whatever's blocking me—then we just hope to God it's not too late for me to stop him."
Erik nodded. "Got it!"
"Good luck!" she shouted to them all. Then—"Raven, stop!"
"I'm going to help them!" her sister yelled.
Charlotte shook her head. "We don't have time for this. If anything comes in that entrance, you're taking care of it, yes?"
The shapeshifter made a face. "Fine," she muttered.
She nodded and focused on the others ahead while Moira went to the radio.
"Erik, Shaw is in the middle of the vessel," she said aloud and mentally. "That's the point my mind can't penetrate. We have to assume that's where Shaw is."
She watched as he made his way into the sub. "That's the nuclear reactor," she recognized. "Disable it."
He did and entered…
"Erik, you're there—you've reached the void."
"Shaw's not here, Charlotte! He's not here—he's left the sub!"
"What? He's got to be there—it has to be, there's nowhere else he can be, keep looking!"
"And I'm telling you he's not! There's no one here, God damn it!"
She watched as Erik turned and caught a glimpse of Shaw but then—
"Erik? Erik are you there?"
"He's gone!" she told Moira. "He's gone into the void! I can't reach him there!"
He was gone, gone—oh, God. Erik had vanished. He hadn't been out of her mental reach for so long—his absence was like an ache. Then—
"He's back!" she shouted, joyous and relieved.
"Erik, whatever you're doing keep doing it!" she told him. "It's starting to work! It's working!"
The telepath told the CIA agent, "I'm starting to see him but I can't yet touch his mind."
Words came filtering in, splintered, from Shaw's mouth to Erik's mind as the window became clearer. "…for you…embrace it…gates…don't want to hurt you…our time…we are the future…could be ours…"
"Everything you did," Erik said to him, clear now, "made me stronger, made me the weapon I am today."
You're not a weapon, Erik, she told him, you're not! He didn't listen.
"It's the truth. I've known it all along." She could see Shaw's smile at the words. "You are my creator…" And then she could see Erik lift the helmet from Shaw's head then—"NOW, CHARLOTTE!"
Shaw’s thoughts came flooding in and she shoved her mind to his, freezing his muscles entirely with effort.
“Are you okay?” Moira asked, concerned, from beside her.
“Moira, be quiet,” she replied desperately. “I can only control this man for so long!” She watched as Erik came to stand before Shaw and took the helmet—
“Sorry Charlotte,” he said softly.
Erik, please! Be the better man, you don’t—
“But I don’t trust you,” Erik said.
And then he vanished as entirely as Shaw had. “No!” she gasped, feeling her friend slipping away from her, the divide beginning…
“Don’t do this, Erik!” she screamed, hitting the wall furiously, ignoring Moira beside her.
Still, she watched from Shaw’s eyes.
“If you’re in there,” Erik addressed Shaw, “I want you to know I agree with every word you said. We are the future. But… unfortunately, you killed my mother.”
He held up a coin.
“This is what we’re going to do…”
“No,” she whispered fiercely, pacing. “Please, Erik, no…”
“I’m going to count to three and I’m going to move the coin. One…”
“Please, Erik,” she whispered, fighting tears of betrayal.
“…Two…” She could see the coin coming closer, as easily as if it had been coming toward her head.
And the coin entered her forehead, pushing though her skull, into her brain… She knew she was screaming, but refused to release Shaw, this last connection to Erik now…she wouldn’t allow for the slightest chance and so remained latched to his mind…
Then the coin was gone, exited through the back of Shaw’s head…and she felt his mind vanish as he died. Charlotte slumped against the wall of the jet, gasping for air.
“Erik,” she whispered. Moira helped her up and they ran out of the jet in time to see Erik exit the sub, bringing Shaw’s body with him.
“Today our fighting stops!” he yelled, levitating himself to the sand expertly. “Take off your blinders, brothers and sisters. The real enemy is out there! I feel their guns moving in the water, their metal targeting us. Americans, Soviets: humans, united in their fear of the unknown.”
Charlotte walked toward him as he spoke and silently told Moira to hang back, just in case.
“The Neanderthal is running scared, my fellow mutants!” he looked to her finally. “Go ahead, Charlotte. Tell me I’m wrong.”
She pursed her lips at what she heard and gave a nod to Moira, who ran back to the jet. But they ignored her plea over the radio. Charlotte closed her eyes sadly as they fired their missiles.
Erik stopped them and let them hang in the air because they only proved his point. He turned them.
Her throat tightened. “Erik, you said yourself that we are the better men!” she said urgently. “Now is the time to prove it. There are thousands of men on those ships—good, honest, innocent men! They’re just following orders.”
He shook his head. “I’ve been at the mercy of men following orders.” Finally, he looked to her. “Never again.” And he fired them.
“Erik, release them!”
“NO!” she screamed and tackled him to the sand, grabbing at his helmet.
Erik fought back. “I don’t want to hurt you, don’t make me!” he growled, elbowing her in her solar plexus, leaving her winded and gasping as he shoved her away.
The others, the children, moved to help—
“STAY BACK!” he yelled, sending them flying by the metal of their suits.
“No!” she said, jumping on him again, but he simply flipped them over and sat on her. “Don’t touch them! Erik, stop the missiles! Stop this now! ERIK, STOP!”
He punched her in the jaw, nearly cracking it, and silenced her. Some of the missiles dropped to the water, thankfully, but not all—
Leaving her still reeling from the punch, he pushed off her and stood, saving the rest of the missiles and continuing their flight…
The shot surprised them all. No one had seen Moira sneak back with the gun. Erik didn’t deflect the first, but it ricocheted off Shaw’s helmet.
“NO!” Charlotte screamed, pushing herself off the sand as more shots came. Erik deflected them—
She gasped, but made no sound as a fierce, splitting pain shot through her back. The telepath hit the sand heavily on her stomach, gasping for air, trying to breathe. Moira froze and Erik shot to her side, kneeling and pulling the bullet out from her flesh.
Over the water, she saw the missiles explode in the air—not hitting the ships, thank God.
“I’m so sorry, Charlotte, I’m so sorry!” Erik said, eyes frantic as he grabbed her, flipped her onto her back and held her torso in his lap, cradling her head in his arms. He saw Moira approaching—“I said back off!”
The others, the children, stopped too.
He glared at Moira. “You. You did this,” he said, raising a hand.
“No!” Charlotte gasped, reaching feebly to pull it back. “Erik, please! She didn’t do this, Erik.” She paused, knowing how much it would hurt him to hear it.
“You did,” the professor said softly, regretfully.
His arm fell back down, hand resting gently over her heart, sparing the agent, and looked down at her, tears in his eyes. “Us turning on each other,” he said thickly. “It’s what they want. I tried to warn you, Liebling. I want you by my side. We’re family, you and I. All of us, together, protecting each other. We want the same thing, Char-lot-te.”
Erik’s accent slipped—the first time she had heard him say her name with the German intonation aloud, outside of his mind. He searched her eyes, with regret, guilt, and something imploring in his gaze.
She laughed sadly, a tear slipping down her cheek. “Oh, my love. I’m sorry…but we do not.”
The pain, the regret in his eyes hurt her, even if she couldn’t sense it. Reluctantly, he motioned for Moira to come over.
“Charlotte—I’m so sorry,” she gasped.
Gently, they shifted holding her and Erik stood to address the others. She forced herself, through the pain, to listen. “Their society won’t accept us. We form our own. The humans have played their hand. Now we get ready to play ours. Who’s with me?”
Raven stared at him; he raised a hand to her. “No more hiding.” She came over, but instead knelt beside Charlotte.
“You…you should go with him,” she told her sister breathlessly. “It’s what you want.”
The shapeshifter had tears in her eyes too. “You promised me you would never read my mind.”
“I know,” Charlotte admitted softly. “I promised you a great many things, I’m afraid…I’m sorry.”
She grabbed her hand and pressed a kiss to it. Raven kissed her forehead and told Moira, “Take care of her.”
And Charlotte watched her sister stand and take Erik’s hand. Shaw’s followers came too. Raven said to Hank, “And Beast, never forget: mutant and proud.”
The telepath saw Erik glance once more at her over his shoulder. “I’m sorry,” he mouthed.
She smiled at him sadly. “I know. Goodbye, love,” she whispered.
And they were gone in a flash of sulfurous smoke.
If tears flowed fasted down her face, no one noticed.
The children rushed over. “Help her up,” Moira told Hank. “We need to get her to a hospital!”
She grasped his arm and tried to stand but screamed instead.
“Wait, Charlotte, don’t move—” he told her.
She shook her head, more tears rising as the pain increased. “I can’t, I actually can’t…I ca, I…I can’t feel my legs,” she gasped. “I can’t feel my legs…
“I can’t feel my legs.”
“And you can't fight the tears that ain't coming
Or the moment of truth in your lies.
When everything feels like the movies,
Yeah, you'd bleed just to know you're alive.
And I don't want the world to see me
Cuz I don't think that they'd understand.
When everything's made to be broken,
I just want you to know who I am.”
~ “Iris”, Goo Goo Dolls
END OF BOOK ONE
This is just a quick note to say that Chapters 2 and 3 have been altered slightly. You may want to go back and reread them, as understanding them will be imperative for my next update.
I should begin posting Book 2 by Wednesday.
Book 2 will be titled "Alone on the Water" and shall deal with the interlude between "First Class" and "X-Men".
Thank you all for your support and reviews so far.