Summary of events leading up to the flashback: Erik, Logan, and Charles have just returned from a mission to rescue several mutants being held at a secret government facility. They manage to save a few, but arrive too late for the others, and see that those murdered have been inhumanely experimented on, maimed, dissected, or worse. So no one's in a good mood. Meanwhile, back at the mansion, the Phoenix has emerged and left a considerable part of mansion destroyed in her wake. The flashback is the aftermath.

/

She had compared herself to a pet owned by Charles, and now she recognized that even to be such, not to speak of being a sister, commands more tenderness and affection than to be a former comrade-in-arms of Erik.

Soon, Jubilee starts to nod off and curls further into Charles' arms. Charles' eventually trails off and for some time merely sits in the armchair by the fire, holding the child close, expression momentarily unguarded and strangely wistful.

Charles is lonely, Raven realizes. She continues her musings as Charles takes Jubilee upstairs to her bed. Charles himself had been a child at the time they met; he had shown no disgust at her appearance and instead reveled in her difference, taken her in, sheltered and loved her.

He returns and taking a seat, looks at her expectantly.

She says hesitantly. "You know what happened."

Charles nods. "I do. But I hope you'll indulge me regardless."

"Magneto threw me aside as though we'd never known each other," Raven whispered. "I thought we were so close ... I still can't believe it."

"I do," Charles says flatly. "That man has no conscience when his 'dream' comes within reach. In that case, he will discard whatever and whoever is of no use to him. Those who get in his way-well, they're less fortunate."

Raven looks away, ashamed at her own complaints when she recalls Erik's leaving the mansion-and Charles-for the last time.

Erik begins to turn away, and then pauses. Any last words, Charles? You are rather fond of those, I believe.

An intense combination of disappointment, sadness, and scorn crosses the telepath's strained face. Get out.

"In the nightmare vision," she says quietly. "-um, before Jubilee came in ..."

"Yes." Charles looks at her closely. "What happened?"

She tells him, and when she is finished he simply sits quietly, staring at his clasped hands.

"You don't remember doing it?" Raven ventures.

His eyes flick up to hers, as though gauging her. After a few searching moments, Charles exhales heavily. "No. No, I don't. I let you in the house and brought you upstairs. I stood by the window, thinking about-thinking, and then-blank."

"Charles-" and then Raven pauses, unsure of whether she should even voice her opinion. "Was that Onslaught?"

Sighing, he leans back. "I suppose so." Suddenly he laughs. "Are you going to draw some sage comparison between the Phoenix and Onslaught?"

Raven can't help scowling. "Well, they both sound like crazy megalomaniacal aliens, sometimes it's hard to tell them apart. Insane, power-hungry, abilities out of control-"

"Don't worry about me," Charles says confidently. "I can control it."

Raven twists her fingers together, apprehensive about continuing.

Charles grimaces. "You're afraid. Well," he shrugs. "Maybe you should be."

Raven calls to mind the scene that had taken place so many months ago.

Charles stares at him in horror. ''You don't understand-there is a child inside screaming for help-!"

"You go on about freedom of will, but you've been suppressing the Phoenix all along."

Charles starts, involuntarily, at this revelation of Erik's shrewd perceptiveness. ''I-''

"Do you think I'm blind to your machinations? Clearly you believe I'm much stupider than I am. At least an hour of 'practicing meditation' every day with you, personal studies on 'achieving tranquility of the mind,' decreasing her one-on-one training with me-did you think you were being stealthy?"

"Not stealthy enough to escape your omniscient notice, obviously," Charles says tightly.

Erik snorts. "Really, Charles. A 16-year-old who's unhappily forced to do breathing exercises in front of the school headmaster when she'd rather be shopping at the mall or giggling on the phone with her friends-"

"I wanted to help her-teach her to-"

"To what? control it? why on Earth would you want to control something so powerful, that can turn the tide of this war of attrition to our favor?"

"Something," Charles repeats flatly. "Something. Jean is being consumed by flames, and all you can see is your insane ambition fulfilled."

"I see opportunity! This is our chance, don't you see! You don't seem to realize-in war there are casualties, sacrifices that must be made."

Charles is so angry, at first he chokes on his words. So long as you aren't the one making them?" he spits. "You're a monster-"

Erik's lips thin in exasperation. "You're a naive fool, Charles. You always have been. That's what makes you weak. Do you really cling to the idea that everyone will come out of this conflict alive? That we'll all shake hands afterward and let bygones be bygones? No. You saw what they do to our kind just hours ago! We must strike, and eradicate the humans before they do the same to us."

"You've lost yourself, Erik. You may have killed Shaw, but he's won." Charles is beginning to shake with fury, then suddenly goes very still, eyes narrowed and grown cold. Logan sees the change and edges forward. The other two present, Mystique and a timidly quiet Banshee, freeze. The very air is sharp and cutting.

Charles flicks a finger and Erik is sent flying back. Surprised, Erik throws out a hand and metal shards from the charred rubble of the mansion's right wing remains careens unevenly at Charles.

"You prattle on so easily about mutant supremacy, and yes, we are the superior species. But, you pathetic creature, you dare to lecture Me, when in comparison to Me you are nothing." Charles' lip curls as he catches a tiny metal shard mid-air and slowly, purely for show, twists them around in a parody of Erik's actions with the missiles on the Cuban beach. He closes his fist, and the pieces smoothly coalesce together into the shape of a bullet and head toward the prostrate man, though Erik is clearly straining to stop it.

Charles' smile is frighteningly calm."If I recall correctly, some time ago you wanted me to use a gun on you because you knew you could deflect the bullet. At the time, naive fool that I was, I couldn't pull the trigger." He shrugs, then continues casually, "Now I'm a wiser man. Or," he considers, "maybe I'll just tear off your legs to see how you'd lead an army into battle without them- or would you rather take a backseat in a wheelchair as the pawns go first?" As Charles advances on Erik, Logan quickly situates himself in front of the enraged telepath, though he's seen for himself that Charles does not need to move in order to kill anyone.

"Move aside, Logan. I don't need to be protected."

"With all respect, Chuck, you do." Charles' eyes are glowing white-hot, and he is about to hiss a warning denial, when the other man adds with uncharacteristic kindness, "From yourself." Logan pauses to allow the words to penetrate. "Don't do anything you'll regret."

Charles snarls, fists clenching hard. His eyes flick from Logan's determined defensive posture to Erik lying on his back on the ground. Recovering herself, Mystique runs forward as the bullet draws up to Erik's forehead. "Stop it!" she screams at Charles.

The telepath turns to her at the strident sound, brow furrowing in confusion. With tortuous slowness the metal loses shape and sags to the ground.

/

As they sit in silence beside the warmly flickering fire, Charles' reminiscing thoughts are so strong they unconsciously flash across Raven's mind.

/

Long minutes after Erik and Mystique have gone, Charles is still standing in the same spot. Then he blinks, then brushes trembling fingers against his face. He seems surprised when they come away wet, and turns to Logan, bewildered and lost. "I wanted to kill-I almost-Am I-?"

Am I crying? Am I human?

"You're the better man," the other mutant says firmly, laying a hand on Charles' arm and guiding him back into the mansion.