It was late in the evening, and Charles sat shirtless at his newly-lowered sink, studying himself in the mirror. The daily trips around the grounds with Moira had done him quite a bit of good. He'd gotten a touch of color in his face, and his upper body had tone and definition that he'd never imagined for himself. And he still had great hair. He tossed the washcloth over the faucet and reached back for his robe.
He sensed Moira entering the room. Curious about what she wanted at such a late hour, and without really thinking about what he was doing, he reached out to her mind. For a moment, he saw himself as she saw him; attractive, young, and bare-chested. He flushed in a combination of embarrassment and another feeling that was . . . something other than embarrassment. She doesn't seem to see the chair at all, he thought.
"Charles," was all that she said, and then she was behind him, and her hand was on his bare shoulder, a question in her touch.
Moira, he thought. We can't do this.
She hesitated, and then stroked her hand down his arm. Yes, we can.
He reached up and caught her hand in his. "Tomorrow you must return to your position at the CIA. If you stay with me tonight, I couldn't bear to let you go."
"After what happened in Cuba, I don't want to go back to the CIA. They betrayed me as well as you." She knelt beside his chair. "And these weeks, here with you . . . Please let me stay."
He interrupted, taking her other hand and squeezing them gently. "But we need you there: me, Hank, the boys, all of our kind. We need every friend we can get in the government. You can be a voice for reason and understanding. We have no one else."
She knelt next to his chair, so that she could look into his eyes. "As if they'd listen to a woman agent, a potentially compromised one at that. I can do more good here. I can help with the school . . . I can help care for you."
"The boys and I will manage."
"Yes, right, you'll manage," Moira replied, a slight tremble in her voice. "I'll bet there are dishes in the sink right now. And while Hank is mature enough to be on his own, Alex and Sean still need . . . "
Charles' eyebrows shot up. "A mother?" He laughed gently, "Will you give up your career at the CIA to play Wendy for a group of Lost Boys?" He glanced at his legs. "I don't think I make a very good Peter Pan."
He instantly realized he'd said the wrong thing. Offended, she stalked to a nearby chair and sat down. "No, you're much too mature to be the boy who never grows up. Sometimes I wonder if you weren't born an old man." She hid her face in her hands.
"Moira, I am so, so, sorry," he replied, wheeling himself over to her. He put a hand under her chin, lifting it gently to look in her eyes. "I didn't mean to hurt you. But I know you. You've worked too hard to earn your position. And you have a family that love you, and friends who will miss you. You can't hide here with us for the rest of your life. If things were different, if we didn't have to hide…" his voice trailed off. "And we need you at the CIA."
She shook her head. "They won't trust me, after I've been out of touch for four weeks. And…you know that I took an oath of secrecy. Even if they do take me back, I won't consciously betray that trust."
"If all I needed was information, I could take that from anyone there," he pointed out. "But you can trust me, Moira. I will never do anything to compromise you."
"Charles," she said, and now her voice did break. "Are you sure this is what you want?"
I want a great many things, he thought, including many things I cannot have. In that moment, he was glad that he was the telepath and not her: for if she could have read his thoughts, she might never have left. But instead, he nodded silently, afraid his voice would betray him.
A single tear escaped to roll down her cheek. "Then I'll leave tomorrow," she said. "Good night, Charles."
The next day, they took their last walk together.
Erik sat on the back porch of the cabin in Santa Fe, watching the sunset paint the desert landscape in shades of purple, orange and magenta. While the sky darkened, he floated a crumpled bullet over and around his fingers. It was more than a just a souvenir to him: now that Shaw was gone, it was a constant reminder of his new purpose in life. Even if Charles couldn't see it, the events in Cuba were undeniable proof: humans would wipe out his kind, given the power and opportunity. It was up to him to gather and prepare them for the inevitable conflict. And, too, the bullet reminded him of the terrible cost of their betrayal.
With that thought, he realized how much harm he had done to the female telepath. Moreover, his cause needed her particular talents. He slipped the bullet into his pocket. It was time to right the wrong he'd done in delivering one of his own kind into the hands of the enemy.
It was time to rescue Emma Frost.
Thank you so much for all of the reviews, alerts and favorites! The support for this story has been amazing! It's been a blast to write; but now that I've filled in some of the most glaring potholes, it's time to bring it to a conclusion. I hope you like the ending.
A word on the timeline: originally I was going to have the whole story fit into four weeks, based on the comment in the final scene with Moira that she'd been missing that long. Then I realized that in my story, the four-week clock actually would have started from when they returned to New York, since the authorities knew where they were while Charles was in the hospital. So, Charles and Moira actually got over seven weeks together - plenty of time to start falling in love.
Oh, and if you haven't read it and need a bit more Charles/Moira, check out "Keep the Kiss" by Louise Hardagan. It's an insightful look into Charles' reasoning in wiping Moira's mind - which memories he took, and which ones he left.
Finally - the movie reference in the previous chapter was to "Gone With the Wind," where newly-poor Scarlett O'Hara is reduced to making a dress out of her drapes.