Charles’s grip on the pole of the plane tightened, his knuckles whitening under the pressure. He brought the walkie-talkie up to his mouth and spoke into it, his voice low and dangerous.
“Now you listen to me. You have nothing to do with this. I left that life behind, now turn around and leave.”
The woman on the other side gave a short laugh. “No, Mr Gibson- sorry, Mr Xavier. The Fraternity follows their missions through – now it’s your turn. You’ve done it before.”
“I told you, I left that life in Chicago.”
“I know.” There was a pause. “Let’s make a deal. You finish this mission, and we won’t bother you again. You can erase everything from your mind, forget it all. All you have to do is finish the job. You once believed in Fate, in the Fraternity. Once you’re in, you’re in for life. There is no leaving the Fraternity. Now, I won’t repeat it again. Finish the job, or we finish you and your little clique. I will give you two and a half minutes to decide your fate, Mr Xavier.”
“I-” Charles tried, but the soft click made it clear that whoever was on the other end wouldn’t hear him. His hand fell to his side, and long-forgotten rage began to boil inside of him. He was gripping the walkie-talkie so tightly that he wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up shattering in his hands.
His head was full of the loud thoughts projecting from everyone. Confusionfearconfusionfearconfusionfear-
“Charles,” Raven said softly. “Are you alright?”
Charles turned to face her, and saw that her gaze was steady. She was the only one that knew about him, about what he’d done. The first nightmare he’d had about it had projected, and she’d been subjected to everything. But she, bless her soul, hadn’t held it against him. She still treated him the same as always.
“No,” Charles replied shortly. “I fear that nothing is going to go well for us today.”
“Who was that?” Moira asked, her voice shaking slightly.
“I have no idea,” Charles replied honestly.
“Charles, what is going on?” Erik demanded. “What aren’t you telling us?”
Charles turned to him, struggling to keep himself composed. He was torn between wanting to burst from rage or break down in tears. Choosing his words carefully, he replied, “There are a lot of things that you don’t know about me. That nobody knows. I once lead a life that I now regret, and now the past is coming back to haunt me.”
“Why won’t you tell us?” Erik asked, and Charles could sense a small feeling of betrayal rolling off of him. It hurt.
Charles bit his lip. “I don’t want to tell you what I did, because if I do,” he looked around at everyone, “I fear that you will lose what little faith you may have left in me.”
“Charles,” Raven whispered.
Charles walked over to her and laid a hand on her cheek. “I am so very sorry, Raven,” he said. “I know I promised that I would never do this again, but they are forcing my hand. I fear that soon I may have no choice.”
Raven pressed her lips together, but nodded. “I understand,” she said quietly. “Just… stay alive. Promise me.”
Charles smiled weakly. “I promise that I will try my best to come back to you. I managed it once, didn’t I?” Raven let out a weak laugh at that.
Charles pulled his hand away and looked around at all of them, who were staring at him with that mixture of confusion and fear. “All of you need to stay together and work together,” he said loudly, sounding more confident than he felt. “None of you can do this without the others. You are mutants, and you are the strongest group of people I have ever met, and I am so proud of each and every one of you. You’ve all come so far since I’ve met you, and I am truly happy about that.”
“Professor, why does it sound like you’re saying goodbye?” Sean asked.
“Because I might well be,” Charles said.
“No.” Everyone looked at Erik, who was staring at Charles with a frightening intensity. “If this is another group out to persecute mutants, I will not let you-“
“No, Erik,” Charles interrupted him. “This is not a mutant problem.” He quickly looked around at all of them, before once again focussing on Erik. “This is my problem. This is about me and my past. None of you are involved, and it’s going to stay this way.”
The walkie-talkie crackled again. “So, Mr Xavier,” the woman said, her voice cold and calculating. “What’ll it be?”
Charles spoke into it after a second, “What are you threatening, exactly?”
“We have arms pointed at the plane you fly in as we speak. You know our accuracy. Either you complete the mission, or we shoot that plane out of the sky. Not even your metal man will be able to save you.”
Charles looked at Erik, and Erik looked at him. Slowly, Charles spoke, “I’ll do it.”
“Excellent choice, Mr Xavier. You have one hour.” The device clicked off again, and Charles threw it onto his empty seat.
“What’s the mission?” Erik asked, and Charles hesitated. Licking his lips, he walked up to Erik. They looked at each other silently for a moment, before Erik asked again, “What’s the mission, Charles?”
“Whatever you see, whatever you hear, whatever you feel,” Charles warned in a low tone, “don’t follow me. This is the only way I can keep you safe. The rest of this group needs you, Erik.” He slipped a piece of paper into Erik’s hand, and closed his fist over it. He had to resist the urge to kiss Erik then and there. Scratch that, he had to physically restrain himself.
Then he turned and went over to Raven. He said quietly to her, “Thank you for everything. Remember that I love you, and you are stunning in every way.” He kissed her softly on the temple, pretending not to hear her quiet sniffle.
Finally, he went over to Moira. He leaned in and murmured in her ear. “Thank you for all of your help. We couldn’t have done this without you.” He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek before striding up to Hank.
“Fly over the middle battleship,” he ordered. “That’s where I need to go.” He felt Hank’s hesitation both mentally and physically, but the doctor did as he said. “Open the hatch. Don’t stop or slow down. Go as fast as you can.”
“Are you crazy?” Hank nearly shouted. “You won’t survive a fall like that!”
“Yes I will.” The certainty in Charles’s voice seemed to convince Hank, so Charles clapped him on the shoulder and turned and walked towards the slowly-opening hatch. As wind rushed through the plane, he turned to Moira again. “Oh, and Moira?” he shouted over the wind. He couldn’t help but smirk in a way that was so Wesley Gibson, and lifted up Moira’s glock. “Keep a better eye on your guns!”
He allowed himself one more fleeting glance around the plane – his eyes lingering a little longer on Erik – before he took those final few steps and launched himself out of the plane, ignoring everyone’s screams and shouts.
He was in the air for a few seconds, though it somehow seemed like an eternity. He landed on his feet on the metal roof of the ship and crouched. That was only a little higher than the jump from the roof to the train in Chicago.
He reached out to touch Erik’s mind and watched him unfold the piece of paper that Charles had given him. Erik was trying to block everyone’s panicking as the hatch of the plane closed again. The breath flew out of Erik as he read the sheet, and the name.
Sebastian Hiram Shaw.