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i.
Charles is dying, and he is doing so alone. The room should be stifling, but instead Charles feels a sense of freedom he has not felt since he was a child. In this little place, barely big enough to fit his bed and a single side table, Charles can stretch his mind, and he can think anything he wants to think. There are no shields to put up, no impulses to suppress – because in here, there are no minds he could accidentally cripple. Charles can think back to the strong, overwhelming pain of his father's  passing, the smell of his mother drinking, the fire and the beatings of his childhood, the loneliness of being doubted and abandoned.

He can cry out in pain, in anything, and no one will have to endure it with him. But most of all, in this place, he can let his imagination run free.

He can dwell on futures he’s dreamed of but has hidden carefully in the darkest corners of his mind. Where his father never died and his mother never drove herself to death. Of a stepfather who never became a stepfather, and a stepbrother who never had reason to be envious. Most of all, he can think of times when he was happy, when his love for his sister and his friend could stay at the forefront of his mind. In this room, Charles can imagine that they never left him, that he isn't alone, and no one would hear him, and no one would judge or pity him for it.

It is ironic that it is only when he is completely alone, cut off from the rest of humanity, that he can feel less lonely.


ii.
Hank has a choice to make. Alex and Sean left it to him. “You're the doctor,” they said, “and you've been with them longest. You know what will help. You'll know what's best.”

And he does know how to help, for the most part - knows how to shut people out so they don't hurt Professor Xavier, knows how to keep the professor in so he doesn't hurt others and then hurt himself right back. But the problem with being the expert is that you are the first to know when there is no more hope.

And there is no hope any more. Hank has nothing left to think about except whether or not to contact the rest Charles' self-made family - Raven, Erik. He dwells on this for days, asks Alex and Sean and wishes he could ask Moira. Most of all, he wishes those two would just come home, so he wouldn’t need to think about it anymore, wouldn’t need to decide.

And then one time, a thought slips through a crack as Hank delivers the professor's food. It is a jumble of images and feelings where Charles Xavier leads a happy life. There is no hiding. There is no fighting. He can feel himself, Sean, Alex, Darwin and Angel; laughing, learning. He can see Shaw, dead, but not through Erik's hand. He can see the three others with Shaw imprisoned, but with the possibility of turning. He can see acceptance in the world, of not hiding and no killing. But the most vivid image of all is Raven, curled up on a chair beside Charles, and Erik, leaning over Charles' shoulder, the two reading a book together.

Hank makes a decision. Erik and Raven have chosen their paths. They are not entitled to anything. The professor, however... Hank cannot bear to break his heart - and that is exactly what the truth will cause him.


iii.
Raven sees white roses, and remembers Charles. She remembers a time when they were young, and Charles had cut out the biggest bloom in the bush to give to her, ignoring the scrapes in his hands that came along with it.

Erik looks at her questioningly.

"It's nothing," Raven says, "I just remembered Charles. How do you think he's doing, running around ‘maximizing everyone’s potential’ and everything?"

Erik’s mouth twitches.

“It’s Charles. He’ll be alright.”