Charles blinked and found himself staring up at a ceiling that was not familiar. He automatically searched around with his mind and found familiar mental signatures; he was at the CIA facility. Only that shouldn't exist anymore; Shaw had destroyed it, hadn't he?
Charles was confused.
Then the most amazing thing happened, his foot itched and he wiggled his toes. He sat up so fast his head span and then he laughed.
They were all there, including Darwin and they were all alive and well. Reading one of the guard's minds, he realised it was September and then he remembered using Cerebro to touch a mutant's mind. She had only been fifteen and he had barely skimmed her thoughts, but she had dragged him in somehow. She had told him her power was the ability to show those who needed it their probable future and Charles came to the inescapable conclusion that he had just seen his.
He could not and would not let it happen.
Climbing out of bed, he untangled himself from the monitoring devices, recognising Hank's handy work, and then he focused on Erik.
[Erik, it's time to pack, we're leaving.]
[Why? What about Shaw?]
[I know how to find Shaw,] he responded, [I'll explain later. Just make sure everyone is ready to leave.]
[Where are we going?]
[I'll explain on the way.]
"Charles, you're okay."
He met Moira in the hallway.
"I'm fine," he replied as he headed away from the medical facility towards what was his room at the complex.
"Shouldn't you wait for Hank to make sure?" Moira asked, following him. "He said something about psychic shock."
"I wasn't in shock," he said, walking into his room, "I was mentally living over two months in time I don't intend to allow to happen. Trust me when I say, it's better for you and for us if we leave now."
He pulled clothes out of his cupboard and began putting them on, regardless of what Moira might or might not see.
"You can't just go," she protested, "what about Shaw?"
"Erik said the same thing about Shaw," he said and pulled off the pair of pyjama pants to switch them for something more outdoors, "and don't worry, we'll deal with him."
"If you do that you'll be vigilantes," Moira told him, "the government won't stand for that."
"The government won't stand for us anyway, Moira," he replied, placing a hand on her arm. "I'm sorry, but I saw them try to destroy us just for existing even after we prevented a nuclear war. We are leaving."
Then he lifted his fingers to his temple and stepped inside her head and carefully removed most of the information about himself and all the other mutants.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly, "but I can't take the risk."
Then he packed, leaving her sitting on his bed with a dazed expression on her face and went to find the others.
"What's going on, Charles?" Raven asked as they met in the rec room.
"I'm an idiot," he said simply, "and we're going somewhere safe."
"What happened to you?" Erik asked, catching him by the arm before he could lead them out.
He looked his friend in the eye and remembered the beach; it tore at him even in the memory. There was no way he could let those events play out.
"I saw our future," he said, being perfectly open and honest, "and I didn't like it."
"Where are we going?" Raven asked.
"Home," he said simply and headed for the door. "Hank, how long will it take you to get rid of all the records of us here?"
"All of them?" Hank asked, shocked.
"Um, a few minutes."
"I'll keep everyone away, take Alex and do it."
The whole group were looking at him wide eyed.
"Let's get outside," he said, turning towards the main entrance, "we can meet Hank and Alex there. We'll need to pick up Sean on the way."
"Who's Sean?" Raven asked.
"The next mutant we were going to pick up," Charles replied. "The CIA know of him, so we can't risk leaving him where he is just in case someone goes to look."
No one argued with him.
As he walked he created a field around them that totally hid them from all personnel in the complex as well as keeping everyone well away from Hank and Alex. His mind was working on so many levels he had never felt quite like it before, but he led the others right out the front door. As they exited an army truck pulled up and the driver stepped out and handed him the keys before walking blankly back into the building.
"How are you doing all of that?" Darwin asked, clearly astonished.
"I learned a few things," he said, climbing into the driver's seat.
Everyone else piled in and as soon as Hank and Alex appeared and joined them, Charles drove away, towards what he hoped was an entirely new future.
"This is yours?" Sean asked in a rather startled voice as they stood in front of the mansion where Charles had grown up.
"No," he said; "It's ours," and he meant every word of it.
Finally he had a use for the cavernous house that had stood empty apart from the caretakers since the death of his mother.
"Honestly, Charles, I don't know how you survived. Living in such hardship," Erik said and Charles just grinned, because he'd known that was coming.
Of course it wasn't quite the same, Darwin and Angel were with them and Moira wasn't, but it was better.
"Well, it was a hardship softened by me," Raven said and hugged him and then led everyone off for the tour.
Charles placed his hand on Erik's arm, holding his friend back and allowing the kids to go off and explore.
"Are you going to explain?" Erik asked once the youngsters were out of earshot.
"Yes," Charles replied and indicated the garden.
It was coming on for evening this time, but the sun wasn't quite down. He led Erik to a quiet spot next to a walled garden and sat himself on the low wall and waited until Erik leant next to him.
"I do not want to lose you," he said plainly and Erik frowned at him.
He meant it in more ways than he was sure Erik was thinking, but he waited for his friend to respond.
"What did you see?"
"Pain," he replied, "for me very literal, for you figurative, but equally as destructive. I was an optimistic fool and you gave in to your anger. I refuse to believe we cannot find a middle ground."
"You said you know how to find Shaw," Erik said, going to stand up.
"I do and he is far too dangerous to allow free; he wants to destroy the world," he explained as directly as he knew how. "His way helps neither us nor the normal humans; he's insane. The mutants with him are our kind, brainwashed by Shaw's ideology maybe, but still our kind, we should all be on the same side."
Erik blinked at him, clearly surprised by the vehemence of his words.
"Since when do you advocate us and them?"
"Since I saw their fear first hand," he replied. "We are the future, solidarity will be our strength and secrecy our weapon. Humanity is not ready for us yet, but we are ready for them."
"You want us to hide?" Erik sounded completely averse to that.
"I want us to prepare," was his firm answer. "Humanity is evolving, but they cannot evolve if they are extinct. Open war will hurt both us and them."
"We should not be ashamed of what we are," Erik said and went to walk away again.
"I'm not, are you?" Charles challenged.
"We look normal," Erik pointed out.
"Which is why we must protect those who do not," he insisted. "I have been wrong, I know that. Encouraging Raven to look normal all the time was wrong. I understand that now, I can see that, but exposure to the general public can only hurt her. We can build something where those who cannot hide their mutation, may find a haven. We can train mutants to take advantage of their difference and keep us all safe. Then, when there are too many of us to ignore, when we are strong, we can show the world where evolution is taking us all."
Erik said nothing, but did not walk away. This was the tipping point, Charles could feel it and he waited.
"I am here for Shaw," Erik said stubbornly.
Charles stood up, relishing the ability to do so. He stepped right up to Erik so they were as close to eye to eye as they could be. There were so many things he could say, so much he could tell Erik, but when it came down to it, it was just a debate about methodology. It didn't actually cut to the heart of what he was thinking.
"I am here for you," he said and then threw caution to the wind.
He took hold of Erik's jacket, stood on tiptoe and kissed the other man square on the lips. His usually ordered brain caught up with what he had done several seconds later. Erik just froze and Charles drew back, for the first time in his life, terrified to read another person's mind. He did not even know how to read the confusion in Erik's eyes and he waited.
"I ..." Erik said and clearly didn't know what he was trying to say.
"I watched you walk away from me, hide from me," Charles said, baring his soul because it was the only thing he could think to do, "and that hurt more than a bullet in the back. You told me we wanted the same thing and I told you we didn't, but I think we can."
"Are you in my mind?"
Charles shook his head.
"You have to tell me."
Erik looked into his eyes as if testing his resolve and Charles held himself firmly in check. Then he felt himself being pulled forward by the metal on his clothes and he went with it. When Erik kissed him, he felt he world narrow down to just the two of them and the need to open his mind almost overwhelmed him. He wanted to know and to feel, but he just about managed to stop himself following his instincts.
"May I?" he asked breathlessly breaking the kiss momentarily and holding onto Erik's face with his hands. "Please?"
"Yes," Erik whispered back and then kissed him again.
Charles touched his temple and let his barriers fall and he was engulfed by everything that was Erik. At this range and with his sudden lack of control it was quite directly mindblowing and he gasped, clinging to Erik as if his life depended on it. He had never opened himself quite that much to another person and he felt himself go weak.
"Woah," Erik said, catching him as his legs threatened to give out. "Charles, are you alright?"
[I've never,] he tried to explain as Erik helped him sit on the wall, [you ... wow.]
It was his turn to be lost for words.
"What did you do?" Erik asked him.
[I let go,] he replied, unwilling to release the mental contact completely for reasons he could not fathom, even as he pulled his mind back under control. "I'm sorry if ..." he began to say aloud.
"You do not need to apologise," Erik said, still holding him by the shoulders even though Charles knew he could have coped quite well on his own now.
Erik was looking at him very seriously and it was more than a little unsettling. He knew Erik was not angry, he could feel that, but something was going on inside Erik's head, something he did not dare dip into.
"You love me," Erik said eventually and Charles felt his heart leap into his throat.
He nodded, not actually able to say the words. The time he had spent with Erik seemed like years not the weeks it had been. Erik was the most compelling person he had ever met and he never wanted to let go.
"I am broken, Charles," Erik said, "I can never be what you want me to be."
"What I wanted you to be," he replied. "The man I was yesterday is not the same man I am now. I'm sure you will still think me an idealistic fool, but I understand much more now. I've seen their fear on a grand scale, I've felt it. I know we cannot be what I wanted us to be, what I dreamed, but I want you, Erik, just as you are. I will take the broken you over anything else."
Erik frowned, still confused.
"What did you see?"
"They turned us against each other, Erik. They pushed us so hard and so far that we became our extremes. We cannot let them do that. Shaw's death will not bring you peace ..."
He placed a finger on Erik's lips.
"I know peace was never an option, you told me that the night before we went after Shaw," he said. "You didn't let me finish."
He waited for Erik to nod for him to go on.
"Shaw's death will not bring you peace, but it might bring you security," he started again. "If that's what you really want, what you need, I will help you. I will hold him motionless while you put that damn coin through his brain if you want me to, just please, please promise me one thing; never shut me out. I don't think I could bear it, not again."
The thought of losing Erik filled him with more horror than losing the use of his legs and he would never be able to explain why. He and Erik had connected on a level he had never experienced before and not just because of his powers either. Society said it was wrong, but society could be damned as far as Charles was concerned.
"How did you know that's how I wanted to kill Shaw?"
"Because I held him while you did it last time, only you couldn't hear me begging you to stop. You shut me out and it was worse than feeling that coin go right through my skull because I was in his mind. I'd never been shut away from a mind I cared about before then, I never want to be again."
It honestly shocked him, how much it had affected him. He had been completely off his game on that beach, stunned almost and not because of everything else that had happened. Losing Erik, being cut off was what had sent him reeling; he could see that now. He could have stopped Moira firing, distracted Erik in a different way, chosen his words so much better, but he had been so shaken and confused he had failed. He had failed Erik, himself, everyone and he was not going to do it again.
When he had woken up, all he had thought about was getting them all somewhere safe, but now he had a chance to think about everything. He realised belatedly that he might actually be having a mini-breakdown, which was so not what he had planned.
"I think perhaps we should take you inside," Erik said, looking at him critically.
"Tea's supposed to be good for occasions like this," he replied absently.
"I was thinking more of scotch," Erik told him and gently urged him to stand up.
"That could work."
He was halfway through a large tumbler of single malt when Raven walked into the study. Erik had suggested a game of chess to help him settle his thoughts, but when he'd lost in four moves they had both realised he was definitely not in the right frame of mind. He'd been lost in thought since, mostly just staring at his drink and mentally assimilating himself back into real life while Erik had sat there like a comforting statue just letting him. He had no idea how long it had been.
"Right," Raven said, making him snap out of his thoughts, "I want to know exactly what is going on with you two and why it means we are suddenly no longer working for the CIA."
The way she glared at him was so normal that it actually made him smile.
"I touched a mutant's mind with Cerebro," he said, "she showed me the future, the next two months or so to be more accurate. Bad things were going to happen. What have you done with the others?"
"I allocated them rooms and left them to settle in. Erik, yours it up the main stairs and fourth on the right," Raven said without so much as stumbling over the change of subject. "Everyone is getting an early night after all the travelling, but don't think that explanation is going to be enough, Charles."
He indicated one of the spare chairs.
"Why don't you sit down," he said, feeling much calmer than he had done.
"So tell me," Raven said as she sat down.
"I am not going to tell you exactly what happened," he replied, "you honestly don't want to know, but suffice to say, Darwin died and I lost you, Erik and Angel. I am not allowing that to happen again."
That shook Raven to the core and she did not look as if she believed it.
"Lost me?" she asked in a small voice.
Charles gave her a sad little smile.
"I've been blind, haven't I?" he said and reached out a hand towards her. "I've never understood what it's like for you. To take us back a while, if you weren't my little sister would I date you if you were blue? Back then, no, because I was a fool, right now ... in a heartbeat."
Before his eyes Raven went from blonde to her natural form and then his smile wasn't so sad.
"You never have to be anyone but you for me," he told her and then his eyes flicked over the Erik, "but, please," he added, remembering Raven coming to talk to him in the kitchen, another conversation he had messed up, "no matter what Erik says, please would you not walk around naked. My delicate sensibilities are just not ready for that yet."
Raven appeared shocked again and looked over to Erik, who also seemed a little surprised.
"Naked?" she asked looking back at him.
"I think you were making a point," he replied and smiled a little more. "A point well made, actually, but one I fear I cannot handle just yet. Erik, while far wiser than me about such things, does not have to deal with being your brother."
He was pretty sure he was blushing, which made Raven smile in a not altogether settling way.
"Naked," she said again and he groaned, because he was positive he had just put ideas in her head.
"Please," he all but begged.
"Don't worry, darling Charles," Raven said and patted him on the hand, "I won't ... as long as you tell me what you saw in the future."
He went to protest.
"Not the details," she said before he could, "just the general idea. I need to know, you're so different."
It was not an idle request, that much he realised and he sighed and nodded. He had never really been able to deny Raven things she really wanted and so he formulated a very edited version of the future he was working so hard to avoid. Some of the information Erik needed to know anyway and he sat back and began talking.
Frankly, after talking to Raven, Charles was exhausted, at least mentally. He was well aware that the mind had great control of the body, so he wasn't overly sure if his limbs felt heavy because he just wanted to be able to shut off his brain, or if he really was that tired. They had been travelling for a long time, but he was usually a good traveller.
"You look like you could do with some sleep," Erik said and made him remember that he was not, in fact, alone in the room.
He'd drifted into his thoughts again it seemed and he looked up and smiled at his friend.
"I do feel a little thin," he admitted, rubbing the bridge of his nose and his forehead.
The scotch was a nice warm buzz in his bloodstream by then, but it wasn't overly helping his ability to stay awake. Standing up seemed like such an effort, which is why he didn't move until Erik stood and offered him a hand. Yet again he couldn't help the little thrill he felt when he was able to climb to his feet and he wondered how long that was going to last.
He still felt as if he had lived over two months no one else had and it wasn't fading away at all. If he wasn't careful he might start believing it was a vision that was not going away until he had completely thwarted it.
They slowly made their way out of the room and Erik shadowed him all the way up the stairs to his door, at which point he woke up enough to make another decision.
"Would you like to come in?" he asked very seriously.
"You are about to fall over," Erik pointed out, not actually answering the question.
"The mind is an amazing thing, my friend," he said with a small smile, "it can override just about anything the body is telling it."
He didn't ask again, he just looked and waited. When Erik didn't move, he opened the door to his room and stepped inside, leaving the door open behind him. He did not need to turn to know that when the door clicked shut again, Erik was on the inside.
"What do you want from me?" It was a typically Erik type question.
He touched his temple.
[I want you to stay,] he said and projected as much of what he was feeling as he could without overwhelming his friend.
Erik gasped just a little, mouth opening in shock for a moment.
"What was that?"
"That was me, the real me," he replied. "You're always saying we should not hide, well I'm not hiding anymore. When we first met what you did to me fascinated me and scared me; I refuse to be scared anymore."
"Because I touched your mind and you dragged me in. The first moment I sensed you I felt a connection I have never experienced, not even with Raven. Your rage was so complete it should have been a wall, but I was sucked right through. I still can't explain it. I mean, bloody hell, I jumped into a completely black sea for you and I'm not prone to such heroics."
Erik was back to staring at him again and giving him a look that was probably disagreeing with the heroics statement.
"I want you with every fibre of my being," he said, stating it as plainly in words as he could, "and this time I'm not going to deny it."
The lock clicked in the door and then before he could think, Erik was descending on him. He found himself grabbed and kissed, hard and demanding, and his mind just kind of filled with white noise. For a few seconds he couldn't think, all he could do was feel.
"Is this what you want, Charles?" Erik asked, breaking away and holding his chin in a vice like grip.
It should have made him nervous, the intensity in Erik's eyes should have been positively terrifying.
"Is this what you want?" he shot the question back at the other man.
Neither of them answered, at least not in words, but Charles couldn't help himself, he began to pull desperately at Erik's clothes. Erik was not far behind and he felt his fly begin to open by itself and his belt to release, while Erik's hands wormed under his shirt. All his fatigue was forgotten and all he wanted to do was get at Erik's skin.
Clothes went everywhere and Charles was no surer how he got out of his shirt than he was about how he managed to pull Erik's turtleneck off without accidentally strangling the man at the same time. It was like a fever burning through his mind as he desperately sought physical contact. He found himself naked and being pushed back onto the bed without actually being certain of how it had all happened. However, all he really cared about was the fact that Erik climbed on after him.
When Erik kissed down his neck and then bit him, honest to god bit him, he wanted to make some quip about vampires, but his ability to form coherent sentences was long gone, so he just gave as good as he got. He noted absently in that part of his mind that he never could get to shut up that this was more than a bit like puberty all over again, what with the complete hormonal freefall, but this time he was loving every second.
Ever since Charles had figured out that there was a difference between what people wanted and the fantasies they might broadcast during sex, he had counted himself as an exceptional lover. He was sensitive to other people, it was in his nature and he had always used that to his advantage, and theirs if his little black book was anything to go by, but all that subtly was out the window as he rutted against Erik. Primal need was the only thing worrying him.
Erik forced a knee between his legs and pushed him down onto the bed, lining up their cocks side by side as they pushed desperately against each other. This was them at their most fundamental and Charles was utterly intoxicated by it. His carefully practiced focus, his trained-in, physical cues to control his mutation were all worth so much squat as his mind flared open without him being able to do anything about it. He didn't have to worry about prying though, because Erik was working on just the same primitive level he was, so all he was flooded by was more need.
That's all there was and he desperately shoved his arm between their writhing bodies, wrapping his fingers around both their cocks. Erik growled and still didn't stop moving as Charles held them in a firm hand.
It was electrifying and totally without finesse. The combination of pure desperation and physical sensation also didn't take long to throw Erik over the edge and Charles followed about a microsecond later, because, even if he hadn't been right there anyway, that much input blew just about every brain cell he had.
For what seemed like an age he had no idea where thought and reality joined and there seemed no divide between what was happening in his mind and his body. Only slowly did he return to himself and realise that he was lying next to Erik on the bed in a sated, sticky mess.
"Are you back?" Erik asked as he blinked at his lover.
That made him wonder how long he had been out of it.
[Yes,] he replied, because, quite frankly he couldn't be bothered to move.
It was only after he did it that he realised it had taken absolutely no effort and he had not used a single one of his focusing techniques. He had slipped into Erik's mind as easily as his own.
"I think maybe we needed that," he said with a small laugh, more to distract himself than anything else.
Erik just snorted and flopped onto his back on the bed.
"You have a talent for understatement," was the dry response.
Charles let his eyes wander over Erik's lean and chiselled body. There were scars over Erik's skin, memories of things Charles had seen in Erik's mind on that first night. Fear pushed Erik on as much as fear would push humanity if allowed, and Charles made a vow to himself to let neither need to act on either fear.
"You look like you are thinking serious thoughts," Erik said and made him look up.
"I was," he replied, but then smiled, "but that's for later. I find I am not tired at all anymore, how about you?"
Then he pushed himself up and over Erik and kissed his new lover soundly; everything else could wait until morning.
Charles was on cloud nine as he bounced down to the dining room to find some breakfast. He knew Raven had decided to be domestic, because she had woken him half an hour earlier with a mental prod to tell him what she was doing and to get his arse out of bed.
The fact that he had woken up in Erik's arms had started his day brilliantly, even if it had been a little early for his taste after the long day before. Who could have guessed that Erik Lehnsherr, bad arse Nazi hunter, was a cuddler? Apparently not even Erik if the man's blush had been anything to go by.
What he found in the dining room caused him to pause and tone down his own enthusiasm just a little, because everyone apart from Erik and Raven were there, but they all looked somewhat subdued.
"Good morning," he said, trying not to sound too much like he had just had the night of his life, "how is everyone this morning? Settling in okay?"
Angel managed a smile, but the boys just kind of grunted at him. He had no idea if that was normal or not; he wasn't used to young people quite like them. University students yes, but then there were usually hangovers involved and he was pretty sure no one had raided the cellar yet.
As he walked over to retrieve some food, he surreptitiously did a quick scan to make sure there were no problems.
[Hell, what do they put in the water around here?] came from Angel.
[I haven't had dreams like that since I was twelve and had just discovered what my penis was for,] was what Alex was thinking.
[Must be the country air,] came from Sean's mind, at which point Charles clamped all his mental controls firmly in place and desperately tried not to blush.
It occurred to him he might have been projecting his desire the previous night and that was just awkward. He only prayed he had not managed to relay any details.
Raven stepped into the room and smiled at him; at least she seemed bright and breezy. Of course Raven had figured out how to shield her mind from accidental intrusion a long time ago. It was definitely something for the curriculum, if he could just figure out how to explain why without bringing up his sex life.
"Good morning," she said and placed a plate of semi-cremated toast on the sideboard, "you're looking more with it today."
"Oh I am," he said, hoping she didn't notice his embarrassment, "I definitely am. Ready and willing as they say."
Of course that was the moment Erik chose to arrive. Charles grabbed some random food items and fled towards the table, praying that nobody asked awkward questions. He and Erik had just agreed to keep their new relationship private for now and the last thing he wanted to do was out them on the first morning.