A sorry probably won't help… but I do apologize for the lateness of this update.
"Hello Erik," Charles replied. Erik's response was written across his face - his name was Magneto now - but Charles arranged his face into polite stubbornness. He would never call Erik by that silly nickname, never.
Erik let the subject drop before it was even vocalized and said, "I believe we need to talk."
There were a hundred responses that Charles could have chosen. You gave up that right when you left me on that beach, to be dragged miles and miles to the nearest hospital to repair the damage that you caused. We have nothing to talk about. It's none of your business. I'm fine. Go away. Leave me alone. Please, just let me live in peace.
All of these were on the tip of his tongue, but the words that rolled out of his mouth instead were, "How is Raven doing?"
"Mystique is doing well," he replied. "A little sad, but better than expected."
"Good," Charles nodded. He scanned the forest surrounding them. Azazel stood nearby, politely not listening. Other than that, Erik had brought no backup except for the helmet resting atop his head.
Hank got out of the car and bustled around a bit, opening up the back of the car and bringing out the portable wheelchair. He set it up quickly, his hands moving quickly and deftly despite their size and bulk. Before long, he had the chair set up and placed next to the passenger's side door.
Unfortunately, this presented somewhat of a problem to Charles. He had no desire to let Erik see him so vulnerable. Truthfully, he had no desire to let anyone see him so vulnerable. So naturally, Charles didn't want Hank to help him into the chair. But if Hank didn't help him into the chair, he would make a fool of himself struggling to transfer himself.
So he allowed Hank to scoop him up and deposit him in the portable wheelchair. Charles made sure that he didn't seem too weak by doing this, staring Erik challengingly in the eye, daring him to make a comment.
Erik didn't say anything. Charles detected a hint of sadness in his face. He probably imagined it.
Hank stepped back nervously. "I'm sorry for the deception, Professor."
"It's okay, Hank," said Charles. "This was inevitable one way or the other. Thank you for the help."
Hank nodded doggedly and shuffled back to the car, throwing uneasy looks back at the ragtag group of people on the roadside. Charles's last view of Hank was of him sitting in the car, watching as Azazel grasped his shoulder and teleported them away.
They arrived in what was clearly an abandoned warehouse. Charles could hear the blaring horns of boats indicating that they were on the coast as well as the clamoring of bells and the chattering of people. It created a cacophony of noise that was almost deafening, especially considering the windows were all broken open, exposing them to more sounds.
Erik made no apology for the makeshift headquarters, instead wheeling him over to a worn-looking table. Nodding at Azazel, who promptly poofed away, Erik took a seat himself.
"So," said Erik conversationally, "how have you been?"
This felt surreal, but Charles simply smiled and said, "I've been well, my friend. How have you been holding up?"
Erik smiled a predatory smile. He opened his mouth but was interrupted by Azazel teleporting back into the room with two steaming mugs of hot chocolate. When Azazel left again, Erik grabbed his mug, stirring the scalding liquid inside mindlessly.
"You're not well."
"Pardon me?" started Charles, not expecting the blunt honesty of his friend.
"I can tell, Charles. Even if Hank hadn't approached me, the very look of you is off," said Erik firmly.
"I think I look fine," said Charles, affronted.
"Please, Charles. I know sick when I see it." Erik leaned forward, earnestness in his eyes. Charles remembered memories of concentration camps… people starving to death, desperate for even a scrap of life-giving sustenance… the stench of death when the person in the bed next to you contracts dysentery or pneumonia or any disease… the look in a child's eye when they realized that they would never see their parents again…
Charles brushes away the memories that aren't his and stares into Erik's eyes, glad for the moment that Erik has on that helmet and that he didn't have to relive those snippets of time through his eyes.
Charles thoughtfully sips at the hot chocolate, wrapping his hands around the cup to warm them. "I suppose you know better than most, yes. But even the best of us can be fallible."
Erik shook his head. "I know what that statement implies, even if you don't. You're beginning to think that you're worthless, that you're fundamentally flawed."
"I don't think you exactly know matters of the mind, Erik," said Charles, amusement coloring his tone. "I believe that is more my field."
"Yet you can be so blind, so naive. Have you looked in a mirror lately? This, all of this," Erik waved a hand at Charles, "is an act. You've got your perfect British smile pasted to your face. Your suit is neatly pressed, your tie perfectly aligned and matched to your outfit. And yet your mask is cracked."
Charles no longer felt amused. "Mask? Cracked? My friend, I believe that I'm not the one cracked."
Erik ignored him. "Little cracks all over the place. Nothing big, nothing substantial in itself. But added together, they paint the bigger picture."
Charles opened his mouth to deny it, but Erik was already continuing. "You're thinner."
"I haven't had much time to eat lately," Charles said quickly.
"You have bags underneath your eyes."
"It's hard to sleep when you've got a mansion full of nightmare-ridden children. They're mutants, they require special care."
"Your accent is thicker."
"My accent is always like this."
"Your statements indicated self-deprecation."
"No they don't, you're just looking for that. If you look that closely, you're bound to find something that you can twist into fitting it."
It was as if nothing he was saying was making an impact on Erik. He began ticking the reasons off on his fingers. "So, let's add it together. We have a man who, in the space of twenty minutes, managed to lose his little sister, his best friend, and his ability to walk. Weeks later, he looks thinner, has bags underneath his eyes, and says things that sound self-pitying. I think we can assume that you're going through a rough time and aren't taking it well."
Charles had had enough. "This is ridiculous," he said coldly. "Absolutely ridiculous. I appreciate what you're trying to do here, Erik, but you're trying to fix a problem that isn't there. I'm perfectly fine. And if you don't mind, I have a lot to get done today. I have a mansion full of children in need of guidance, and I plan on being there to be the parent they never had."
Charles didn't hesitate in wheeling himself over to the door, despite having no idea what lay on the other side. Reaching up to the handle, he discovered it was locked.
"Erik, let me out," said Charles, his patience rapidly depleting.
"No." Erik leaned back in his chair, his dark eyes surveying Charles. "I don't think I will."
For a moment, Charles was at a loss. There was nothing he could really do in this situation. Scream? No, he would never do something like that, especially considering no one here was likely to help him. Maybe, if Erik didn't have the helmet on, he could have controlled him into letting him out. But Erik did have the helmet on, so that option was out the window.
So there was no other way to do this, then. Charles wheeled back to the table, trying in every way to look like he hadn't just been beaten. He stared Erik in the eye. Anger prickled at the back of his mind when he saw the laughter dancing in Erik's expression, but he tamped down on it.
"Do you plan on letting me go anytime soon?" asked Charles.
"As soon as we work some things out," said Erik. "I have all the time in the world."
"Then I suppose we better get started."