Summary: Three weeks after the beach scene in "First Class," Erik and Charles meet again.
I can't feel my legs. Charles' plaintive words cut like a razor through the small group of mutants gathered around their injured young leader.
Alex clenched his hands into fists. "He needs to be in a hospital, now, but how are we going to get him to one? An overground trek to the nearest Cuban hospital would be pretty rough on him, never mind what would happen to him when we got there."
"And to us," Sean started.
"With your red hair, you'd never pass for a local," Alex retorted.
"Like you would," Sean replied.
Hank cut them off, "I could take him. In this body, I'm strong enough and fast enough."
"Talking about me like I'm not here is not making me feel better," Charles said with weak smile. Slowly, he brought his hand up to his head, closing his eyes in concentration. He shoved his fear for himself into the background, reaching for the serenity that would help him focus his mind. He reached out as far as his abilities allowed, but only faint echoes of distant minds came back to him.
"Too far," he sighed, his hand dropping back to the ground. He felt too weak to open his eyes again.
Moira spoke from her position on the ground, cradling Charles' head. "Then we have only have once choice." She nodded in the direction of the warships off the beach. "We have to ask them for help."
"But they're the ones caused this," Hank protested. "This wouldn't have happened if they hadn't tried to kill all of us."
"I know," Moira responded. "But they're his only chance." She was no nurse, but she had enough field medical training to know that Charles was fading: his breathing getting slower and shallower; his blood disappearing into the sand from the wound in his back. She put her face close to his. "Charles, are you strong enough to persuade them?"
After a long moment, his eyes blinked open to meet hers. "I can do it," he replied, in his earnest way that had so endeared him to her.
Moira nodded briskly, easing his head off of her lap and into a pillow of sand. Then she sprinted to the wreckage of their jet.
Thank God the radio survived, she thought, grabbing the handset. "U.S. command ship, please come in," she called. "This is Agent Moira McTaggert of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. I have wounded and friendlies in need of immediate evacuation. Over."
Clinging to consciousness, Charles frowned, reaching out with his thoughts to the commander of the US ships offshore. "Answer her," he implored. "Say yes." His concern was not for himself, but for the stranded mutants with him. As Americans, they could not expect kind treatment from the Cuban authorities should they be captured.
Moira's radio crackled. "Agent McTaggert, we hear you." She sagged in relief. "What is your situation?"
"One wounded friendly needing medivac with possible," she paused and grimaced, "uh probable spinal injury. Myself and three other friendlies needing evacuation."
"Say yes. Help her," Charles willed in the direction of the ships. He was so very, very tired, and and it would have been easy to sink into the quiet darkness floating beneath him. But he held on, sending his urgent message to the ships beyond. "Help her," over and over like a mantra.
"Agent McTaggert, we have two landing boats on their way to you now, one equipped for medivac. Have your friendlies move into plain sight and lay down any weapons. Any movement perceived to be a threat will be met with lethal force. Is that understood? Over."
"Repeat that all here are friendlies, don't shoot, over," Moira pleaded, hoping that Charles could make the commander believe even if her words did not.
Hank watched with apprehension as the landing boats approached. "Caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea," he muttered to himself.
The two small boats pulled onto shore. A contingent of Marines spilled out, moving quickly to surround the mutants. "Down!" shouted the lead Marine, a sergeant. "Hands on your head!"
"We're friendlies," Moira shouted in response, but obeyed, dropping to her knees and putting her hands on her head. The mutants, however, were not so willing.
"Thought we were being evacuated," Alex retorted. "Not captured."
"You will get down or we will open fire."
"Quit wasting time. Our friend needs help," Hank objected.
The Marine sergeant held his ground. "This is the only way he's getting help."
Grudgingly, the three mutants joined Moira on her knees, putting their hands on their hands. Once they were down, the soldiers relaxed a bit, turning their weapons down and assuming a less threatening posture. Only then did the medical crew move to help Charles.
"Careful," Moira called out, trying to catch a glimpse of Charles between the legs of the surrounding soldiers. "He's been shot in the spine." To her relief, the medivac team was both efficient and gentle. A pressure bandage was applied, then they deftly slid a backboard under Charles and strapped him to it with a minimum of motion. One tried to pull Charles' hand away from his forehead, but was surprised to find resistance from the seemingly sensless man.
"Must be a terrible headache," the medic thought to himself. Hoping not to cause the man additional pain, the medic settled for strapping his arm in place, fingertips still touching his temple.
Hovering on the edge of consciousness, Charles was struggling to broadcast his calming message. "They are friendly; help them, don't be afraid." But as he was lifted from the sand, he lost the battle. With a soft sigh, his hand dropped from his temple and he slid into oblivion.
The effect on the soldiers on the beach was instantaneous. Their weapons, which had been pointed down, suddenly snapped up and trained on the mutants. "Secure them," the Marine leader ordered.
"Hey!" Sean started to stand, but only got halfway up before he was clubbed on the shoulder.
"Stay down!" another Marine yelled.
"Stop!" Moira called, "they're on our side. Why are you doing this?"
"They are dangerous, miss. We've seen what they can do, and we only have your word that they're not going to tear us all to pieces."
Hank exploded in a ferocious growl and the Marine that had been attempting to handcuff him jumped back. "Dangerous! You are the ones who tried to bomb the beach AFTER we prevented a nuclear war and saved every one of your sorry lives!" Next to him, Alex and Sean took their hands from their heads and prepared to to spring into action.
The Marine sergeant lifted his arm and aimed his weapon at Charles. The medics carrying Charles froze in place, staring at the sergeant in shock. "You will surrender and be taken into custody now or I will finish what someone else started with your friend."
Moira was indignant. "That man is a friendly, but even if he was a hostile prisoner of war, you still couldn't shoot him, unarmed and unconscious."
The sergeant's eyes narrowed. "That man is a mutant and I will shoot him if I feel the need to protect my men."
After a tense moment, Hank dropped his head in surrender and put his hands back on his head, allowing himself to be handcuffed. "You win, for now. But you had better take damn good care of him. If he doesn't survive, if he is harmed in any way, I will tear your ship into tiny pieces and you along with it."
"You won't have to," Alex corrected. "Because I will have blown it to hell before then."