Title: Evolution

Rating: G

Word Count: 1041

Warnings: None

Summary: AU Beach Scene. Charles finds the right words to make Erik change his mind.

Author's Note: Ah, wish fulfilment.

Evolution

That day on the beach, all his plans shatter. His head is burning with the echo of death, as though split in two by the so slow passage of the coin – too slow, too lasting, too much, except that he had needed to hold it, hold him there. He can't think straight. The sand slides under his feet, and the sun in too bright in his eyes. From his friends comes fear, the press of familiar minds projecting now with desperation as their death comes arcing towards them. All except Erik. He can't feel him at all, and that might hurt even worse. He is powerless, and he doesn't know what to do.

Erik holds up his hand and everything stops. Metal hangs above them, sleek and deadly, like sharks that moved through air instead of water. Sharks die if they stop moving, Charles recalls through the feeling like an ice-pick stabbed into his brain. Still why worry? Look, they're turning around again. Movement has been restored.

It takes him a too-long moment to understand what Erik means to do. It hits in a tangle of emotions, betrayal, horror, disbelief, and he throws out a thought instinctively, only to have it turned away against the cold, smooth, impenetrable metal of the helmet. It is too much for him, and he thinks he might collapse with the pain of it. But he can't. He can't let all those people die because of his weakness.

"Erik, you said it yourself, we're the better men." It is so hard to find the words without the brush of mind to mind to guide him. "This is the time to prove it."

The missiles remain afloat, ready to fly, but Erik turns his head to look at him. Charles never realised before how hard his face is to read. He had never needed to rely on that alone. This is the tipping point. He will not allow his friend to do this. There are innocent men on those ships, and he will not let Erik become the monster Shaw tried to make him.

The words are on his lips, balancing on the edge of becoming real. They're only following orders. But something stops him. That... that isn't right. He shouldn't say that. But nothing else comes to mind. If only he could show him what he means. That this is something that will haunt him, if he goes through with it.

"You saw what they tried to do Charles," Erik says, cold and hard. Implacable. "Everyone on this beach would have died. Hank, Sean, Alex, Raven, even your pet human. They started this war, and if we don't defend ourselves... I've seen what humanity is capable of. I will not let it happen again."

The worst part of it is that he knows Erik is right. He only has to look up to see it. If he were strong enough to reach out to touch the minds of the captains of those ships, he would feel their fear. But it is fear of the unknown, of what they don't understand. They just have to make them see.

"If you do this, if you escalate... don't you think that will just make things worse?" He is pleading, why can't Erik just take that damn helmet off and let him in? "Erik, look at us!" Their students, still so young and nearly trembling with all that has happened, Shaw's mutants standing apart, waiting for a decision that will change everything. "We won't win."

The words hang in the air between them, harsh and desperate from a throat that aches with recent screaming. Has it worked? How can he know? He feels blind. Erik is so still he might be carved from stone.

Erik moves. Death in the air twists away, upwards. "Then we shall send them a warning," he says, "they may fear us, but we shall show them we do not fear them." Shining metal leaps, arcs high above them, so high they can barely be seen. And then like fireworks explosions bloom across the sky, a message writ large to the watching world, tearing the clouds to shreds. Erik's hands drop. He lifts the helmet from his head.

Charles can feel him again. Sharp-edged with passion, a tempest storm that curls around a still eye, that point of serenity. Touching it is instinctive. He can't be without it again. Concentrating on that, he forgets that it is taking all his strength to remain standing. He falls, stumbles, landing on soft hot sand rough against his palms. Worry spikes fierce in Erik's mind.

"Charles!" He is by his side, supporting him. Hands cradle his face.

"It is nothing, my friend." And truly it is not, not now that Erik is back, now that he can feel him once more. The pain will fade, become memory, something locked in the back of his mind. "I'll be fine."

"Charles, this is not fine." He is calling for one of Shaw's mutants, the teleporter, but the words fade into a dull buzz at the back of his head. This is over now, and he can rest. Twine himself over the surface of Erik's mind, take comfort in it. He lets his awareness narrow down until it is just the two of them.

Beneath the concern, memories of the past are still strong, things of nightmares that Erik has never admitted to. Brought back by the ships out there, the fear of history repeating itself, of the potential for evil in humans and mutants alike.

Charles knows his plans are gone, burned to ash in the betrayal of those they were trying to save. It does not matter. Erik is at his side and Shaw is dead. Plans can always be rewritten. He will not give up hope that mankind can learn, can get over its hate and fear, but he will not pretend that Erik is not right. Diplomacy is the ideal, pacifism the utopia, self-defence the reality.

They have children to protect, after all. This will be a hard-fought fight, but he can see the possibilities stretching out before them. The future is theirs for the taking, and together they will do what is necessary.

Together they are unstoppable.