When Raven pulls Erik's helmet off, Charles makes another decision.
He launches himself into Erik's mind, snaps him back to consciousness, makes him stand and pull away the metal covering Charles and then intends to let him go…but he pauses. He pauses and then digs deeper into Erik's thoughts, into all Erik's plans.
Erik's mind has two parts. One part is a whirlwind of emotions, rage and despair and loss all mixed up together in a screaming chaos that Charles, even with his new knowledge of people and their pain, finds himself flinching at. Then there is the other part - the cold, calculating part that, even as the rest of his mind is shouting and screaming in grief, is making plans. He plans death for so many, and pain for so many more.
And then underneath it is something else…a longing. It is very faint, a flicker in the back of his head, but there is a want there, a need…a need for a home, for a better life. Something he has never had. Very simple and very sad.
He wants to hurt the world but he wants to be loved by it too. In the end, it is this that makes up Charles's mind.
He keeps Erik standing where he is and beckons to Hank. "Can you lift me over to Erik?"
Hank shoots the immobilised Erik a worried glance. "Are you sure he's safe?"
Charles can't help but smile. "He's safe, I promise."
Hank lugs Charles up and over to Erik where Erik, under Charles's command, drags a fallen piece of scaffolding in front of him and waits. Hank deposits Charles on it, and Charles shifts himself around so that he and Erik are eye to eye.
Erik blinks, then says in a slow drawl, as if he is speaking under water, "What are you going to do to me?"
Charles inspects him, digs through his mind. "What I should have done in the first place," he replies.
He leans forward, reaches out his hands to place them on either side of Erik's face and Erik, somehow reading a little of Charles's intentions, lets out a strangled gasp. "Don't," he says, and the plea in his voice is plain, even though he can barely talk. "Charles, don't. Please don't."
Erik's face is hard with strain under Charles's hands. He wants to soften it, to smooth it all down. "It's better this way," he says quietly. It is, he tells himself. He can do this. For the world and for Erik too.
"No." And now Erik really is struggling to say a word. "Charles, please. Please."
Charles lines his fingers up with Erik's temples. "I'm sorry, my friend," he says, and concentrates.
First he takes away Erik's past. That's the difficult bit, because Erik clings onto it so tightly. It is where all his rage comes from. Charles wipes out years and years of torture in a single sweep, unravels all Erik's confused and pained feelings towards Shaw, towards his dead mother, and smoothes them all out. Then he focuses on Erik's future, picking away at all his plans and plots and dissolving them into empty darkness. He reaches for the knowledge that Erik has about his power, all those years spent developing it, and destroys it, pushing down Erik's abilities to their lowest ebb with ruthless efficiency. Then he focuses on the specifics - places Erik has been, people he has met. He deletes Emma, and Angel, and Azazel, and all the others. He casts the Xavier Mansion and the time they spent there into blackness. He gets rid of Wolverine, of Hank, of Raven. And then, his heart hammering in pain, he reaches for memories of himself.
Up until now, Erik has been crying out or gasping for air. When Charles threw away his memories of his abilities, he actually screamed out loud. But now, when Charles is gathering the memories of himself, Erik moans like a wounded animal.
"Not you," he hisses, and he shouldn't be able to speak at this juncture, the shock should be too much, but he is. "Not you, please don't make me forget you, please don't make me forget you, Charles."
Charles can barely see through the tears misting up his vision, but the agony on Erik's face is clear. He struggles for breath. "Shh," he whispers, and then, fiercely, like ripping a plaster off a wound, he tears up everything Erik has ever known about Charles Francis Xavier in one fell swoop.
Erik collapses into Charles's shoulder, an unconscious, empty husk. Charles grasps his shoulders, places a hand around the back of Erik's head, and builds new memories through tears.
He lived a good life with his family, a long life. His mother and father died when they were very old. He had a sister and a dog, and they lived in America, far away from the war. He grew up happy, stayed happy, works and lives in happiness. He likes to live in faraway places, small places, where no one really reads much news. He does small, mindless jobs, he likes meeting new people, he plays chess in the park with old men every Sunday afternoon. He reads and he can dance and he can sing. He volunteers his help with everything. He smiles a lot.
His name is no longer Erik. It is Max.
It is the middle of a lazy day in the little Swiss bistro that Max works in when he sees them approach. Two people, a girl with long blonde hair and a man in a wheelchair. They take a table outside in the courtyard, and although it is sunny and there is not a cloud in the sky, their faces are grim.
Mostly out of curiosity - because Max has always been curious, his mother always used to tease him about it - he cleans a table near to where they are and does a little eavesdropping.
"…sure he won't remember a thing?" the blonde girl says in English, with an American accent.
"Well," says the man in the wheelchair, his accent purely English. "I suppose that's what we'll find out."
The blonde girl shifts in her seat uncomfortably. "I can't believe he's just…gone."
The man drops his head. He has long brown hair, untidy, and it flops over his eyes. "I know, Raven. I know."
"Do you ever - "
"I dream about it every night, okay? Please stop."
Max lets his curiosity get the better of him and moves around to their table, pen and paper at the ready. "Good afternoon," he says cheerfully. "English, huh? We don't get many of them here."
The man stares at him as if he has just dropped out of the sky. The girl does too, for a moment, then recovers herself. "Yes. I mean. We're on holiday."
"Oh, well you couldn't have picked better weather for it," Max replies automatically. "Apparently it's only going to get warmer as well." He realises he's being very chatty, and wonders if that is why the man is staring at him so much. "Sorry, I don't get to talk English very much here."
The girl smiles, a small smile, like she's fond of him. "You're American?"
"German originally," Max replies, "But we moved to America when I was very young, so I consider myself more American than German. You're American too?"
The girl nods slowly. "I am. He's not." She gestures to the man, who gives Max a very faint smile but says nothing. "We live in New York state."
"Oh right." Max smiles. "I think I visited there once. I don't really remember."
The girl and the man swap a glance that Max can't understand. He forces himself to return to the task at hand. "Anyway," he says, "What can I get you? Drinks?"
"Uh," the girl says, distracted by something. "Just a lemonade please."
Max writes it down, looks to the man. The man looks up at him. He has very blue eyes that remind Max of the sea, or of a dream he can't quite remember. "Tea, please," says the man.
Max nods. "Coming right up, Charles," he says.
The girl gasps. The man sits back like Max has just slapped him. Max blinks. The name tumbled out of him unbidden, dropped out of nowhere. "Sorry," he apologises instinctively. "I'm not - " He catches the look on the man's face, drawn in a sudden shock. "Did I," he ventures. "Did I get that right? Are you called Charles?"
The man's eyes are bright blue and they grasp Max like nothing else has. "I - yes," he says. His voice is weak. "Yes, I am."
"Huh." Max huffs in amazement. "Well, that's a bit spooky. I guess we met in a past life or something!"
The girl lets out a sort of shuddering sigh. The man, however, smiles, almost sadly. "I suppose so," he says.
The girl and the man glance at each other again, as if communicating without words, and Max suddenly feels out of place. "Right," he says. "Lemonade and tea. Coming right up."
And he turns and walks away, although suddenly, he doesn't want to at all. The man and girl immediately start whispering together, but he can't hear what they're saying.
It's when he gets to the kitchen, where Julien the kitchen porter is cleaning cutlery, that the headache hits. He puts his pen and paper down on the side and rubs his forehead, wincing.
"Are you all right?" Julien asks him, in French.
"Yes." Max blinks the pain away. It only lasts a moment. The clatter of metal around him is oddly comforting. "It's odd. I think these headaches are getting worse."