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Survivor

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"Good grief, are you testing your powers against the low temperature?"

Darwin started and nearly slipped, instinctively grabbing at the tiles. He'd survive the fall, of course, but that didn't mean it would be fun.

"Were you looking for me?" he asked, pulling the blanket closer around him.

"Yes, but not in the sense you mean."

Xavier always knew what he meant, which Darwin knew freaked Cassidy out, but Darwin found oddly comforting. He didn't have to explain himself, didn't have to worry about being judged or having assumptions made about him because of what he looked like or what he could do. It was almost relaxing.

"Just needed some peace and quiet, you know?" Darwin said, glancing over to check Xavier had enough space. "It's been kind of intense."

"For everyone." Xavier stuck his hands into his coat pockets. "And it's a beautiful night even if it is rather chilly."

If he sat out here long enough, Darwin's body would adapt, he knew. He couldn't freeze to death, any more than he could drown, suffocate or-

He shivered.

"It's okay." Xavier was sitting close enough that just by leaning a little, he could bump his shoulder against Darwin's. "And it's not too late to change your mind. I won't force anyone to go up against Shaw again."

"No, it's fine." Which was a lie, although he doubted Xavier would call him on it. "I mean, he scares me, but it's fine."

"You were unconscious for three days. Anyone would be frightened by someone who can do that, especially someone who's used to being invulnerable."

Darwin refused to let the memory fill his head again, refused to remember the look on Shaw's face, refused to let his vision be swamped by that blinding light. He'd survive. It was what he did.

Shifting a little, he pushed his hands under the blanket so Xavier wouldn't see them shake.

"It's not that. It's just-" The words wouldn't come, and he made himself look at Xavier, trying to get it across without needing them.

The other man blinked, his eyes unfocussing a little, then he nodded. "Of course. But that's not going to happen. You're not going to let anyone down."

His powers were essentially defensive, so quite what use he was going to be in a fight, Darwin had no idea. And apparently he'd managed to hide his real fear deep enough that even Xavier hadn't picked it up.

He swallowed, shaking his head. "That's not it," he said, voice rasping in his throat. "I just- I don't want to be the only one to survive."

Xavier sucked in a long breath, and for a time, Darwin thought he wasn't going to get an answer. He stared out into the darkness, at the moonlit gardens, and tried not to imagine them always being as empty and quiet as they were now.

"I won't make you promises I can't keep, Armando." Xavier was the only one to use his real name, and it brought Darwin's attention sharply back to him. To the tension in his shoulders and the fear under his firm tone. "And I won't tell you that it's not dangerous. But I will tell you that we will be doing everything we can not to leave you alone. I promise."

The honesty was appreciated; Darwin wasn't interested in false comfort. He nodded. "I know. And I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we all come home again."

There was a longer silence this time, which Darwin didn't think was entirely down to him. Xavier's expression was distant, as though carrying a weight that Darwin couldn't see, and he wondered just what was going on behind the scenes with their two self-appointed 'teachers', and what it was going to mean for all of them.

"At least we're all on the same page," Xavier said at last, with something close to his usual brisk tone. When he looked back at Darwin, he was just himself again, ready to go out and face down the world. He smiled, and clapped Darwin on the shoulder. "Try not to stay out here all night, there's a good chap. The others will wonder what happened to you."

There was still no way of knowing what would happen when they faced Shaw again, but as Darwin listened to the others gather in one of the rooms below, to their shouts and their laughter, he just knew that this was not something he was going to run away from. Some things were just too important.

Folding up the blanket, he got carefully to his feet, and made his way back into the house.