Helpless – Part One
"Erik, you said yourself - we're the better men! This is the time to prove it. There are thousands of men on those ships; good, honest, innocent men! They're just following orders!"
Panic grips him like a vice; he can't breathe, can barely think. He knows that look in Erik's eyes - he's seen it dozens of times in the course of their short friendship, and it frightens him more now than ever. Bile rises in his throat, burning and acrid as he struggles to find a solution. He is forever the one finding the solution to all the world's problems, but this, this is something he cannot fix. Even though he cannot tap into Erik's mind, he can feel the rage radiating off of him like a wave of heat. This needs to stop, but he knows that there is no way of doing so - it is already far too late, they are barreling down a path of destruction that even he cannot change.
"I've been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again."
His desperate scream of 'no' falls on deaf ears, for Erik has already released his hold on the weapons and it's all Charles can do not to lose any semblance of control he may still possess. He feels the bile rise again, because he is more terrified than he has ever been in his entire life. He's lost Erik, he knows it, and that realization is enough to nearly break him. The next few moments occur in slow motion and as a blur all at once; he is throwing himself across the sand at Erik in a desperate attempt to stop him and they collide heavily, dropping onto the earth together. Before he can even regain his composure from the force of the fall, a fist strikes his face and his vision swims again as stars burst behind his eyes. He tries to retaliate, but he is no fighter; a comfortable life has robbed him of any need to train himself in such defensive strategy. Instead, he finds himself merely bracing himself against the blows as Erik loses himself to blind fury, for he knows that such rage is the only reason the other would do something like this to him.
Moments later, Erik leaves him gasping for breath in the sand as he rises to his feet, rolling his shoulders and turning a steely gaze back to the water. The missiles continue their trajectory toward the war ships waiting there, and Charles finds himself utterly helpless against the attack.
Shots ring out, just a few quick bursts of sound, and he barely has time to turn his head in Moira's direction - for he knows the gun is in her hand; she was the only one armed with such a weapon - before something bites into the small of his back. The pain is immediate; he is vaguely aware of the fact that he is screaming, and though he wishes to, he cannot stop. A hand flies to the source of the pain and comes back bloody, causing his vision to swim. Before he even knows what is happening, he is in the sand, shaking with the pain and reaching out a hand to someone, anyone.
"I've been at the mercy of men just following orders. Never again."
'Magnetos' words are laced with venom, tone reflecting the sheer bitterness he felt at that very moment. With a slow twist of his wrist, the currently suspended missiles gradually turned in the opposite direction, now faced towards the Naval ships scattered about the ocean. Erik then relinquished all of his concentration and the projectiles re-launched back towards their original source.
Not even a few seconds later, Erik felt Charles arms around his waist, pulling him roughly to the ground, causing the missiles to now plummet towards the ocean. A loud grunt escaped his lips, the wet sand mimicking concrete. Erik's strength in a physical sense greatly exceeded that of Charles, so Charles attacking him was rather foolish. As much as he did not want to be brought to the point where he would turn on his friend, his only friend, it seemed now he had no choice. Flipping their positions, Erik brought a fist down on Charles' face, hitting him square in the jaw, eliciting a groan of pain from the telepaths throat.
As soon as Charles released his hold on him, Erik stood and allowed himself to regain a hold on the missiles, redirecting them back to their correct path. Some had already exploded in mid-air, or dove into the ocean, but a vast majority of them still remained. A slight smirk crossed his lips. As the seconds continued to tick by, the missiles rapidly approached their destination, much to his satisfaction.
Erik visibly flinched when a deafening clang met his ears. He turned in the direction of the offending noise, snarling when he saw Moira. She had a gun in her hand, but he knew that was merely an empty threat. Such a device was absolutely harmless against him.
She fired again. The bullet whizzed past his shoulder. Just as quickly, the trigger was pulled once more, the bullet headed straight for him. He raised a hand, stopping the oncoming bullet from getting any closer to him, instead deflecting it in another direction.
The next thing he heard was Charles screaming.
Erik whirled around, seeing Charles with his hands on his lower back, only to collapse to the ground seconds later.
Moira's eyes widened in horror, her hold on the gun loosening considerably as she watched the tragic scene unfold right before their very eyes. "C…Charles!" She exclaimed as he crumpled to the sand like a ton of bricks.
In a couple quick strides, Erik was on his knees at Charles' side. Immediately, he propped Charles head up with one of his hands, the other laying on the flat plane of his stomach. "I'm so sorry!" His voice was filled with panic. He was scared.
Truly and honestly scared.
Erik was there. Erik was there, kneeling next to him in the sand, cradling his head in his shaking hands. Erik was there, panic filling his suddenly too-wide eyes, and he was able to see his lips moving but he couldn't process the words. The pain consumed him; it was dragging him down, down, down, making his mind scream and his body tremble. He was seeing everything as though he were standing at the opposite end of a long tunnel - Erik's face was close and far away all at once, blurred around the edges. His vision swam uncomfortably, and a wave of nausea hit him just as another spasm of pain elicited a sharp gasp from his throat.
One hand clutched blindly at the sand next to him, though his grasp came up empty. His other searched for something to anchor him here, to spare him from the pain that threatened to pull him under. When his fingers found Erik's, he sucked in a breath, still unable to speak.
Even through the onslaught of pain, Charles could feel the children approaching slowly, warily - Raven was in the lead, panicked and sick and horrified all at once, and he could almost see her, yellow eyes wide and standing out too brightly against the blue of her skin. For a moment, he utterly hated the fact that she had to see him like this, that he was unable to spare her from it. He wanted to provide some sort of comfort, a reassuring smile or brief piece of idiotic wisdom that would make the situation seem less dire than it probably was, but the words bubbled on the tip of his tongue and then tumbled away.
"I said back off!"
It was Erik's cry and not his own that greeted them instead; loud and angry and more than anything, he realized, frightened.
Erik clutched Charles hand tightly in his own. He was desperately trying to convince himself that he would be okay. He glared daggers at the other mutants before turning his attention back to Moira. She had the gun. She fired it. "You! You did this!"
Moira scrambled for something to say in retaliation, but she could find nothing. Erik released Charles hand, raising his palm out in front of him. His eyes narrowed angrily as he clenched his fist. At that very instant, Moira's dogtags tightened around her throat. She cried out, lifting her hands to try and desperately pry it away from her neck.
The furrow in Erik's brow deepened as he concentrated all his anger on the current task. Moira collapsed to her knees, now reduced to nothing but short gasps and pain-filled moans. 'Your fault. This is all your fault!'
It was with horrid fascination that Charles watched the dog tags tighten around Moira's throat; never before had he considered such a thing to be a means for harm, but he supposed anything was possible. The small piece of metal was quickly cutting off the oxygen her lungs so desperately screamed for - he could feel her mind darkening, slipping away as he feared his own was. This had to, needed to, stop.
"Erik!" The words finally burst forth, as steady as they could be but not quite as powerful. His grip on the other's hand tightened; he was desperate to pull Erik's attention away from Moira and instead train it on himself. "Please! She didn't do this, Erik. You...you did."
And though it broke his heart to say, they were words Erik needed to hear. He'd never directly faulted Erik for his actions before this moment - he was blinded instead by the potential goodness he saw in his heart and unable to face the truth that was right before his eyes. Erik was and always would be a man desperate for revenge, lost to his desire to cause the same sense of pain he'd experienced as a child to the rest of the world. Charles felt the sharp sting of tears in his eyes and fought against them, blinking rapidly as he continued to clutch tightly at Erik's hand.
Charles words pierced through Erik's heart like a knife. Tears immediately sprang to his eyes, but they did not fall. He did this. As much as he didn't want to believe it…he did do this. His hand fell limply back down to Charles stomach, only to lace their fingers together. His anger was no longer focused on Moira, but on himself. He hung his head in defeat, the dog-tags loosening and going back to hang around her neck. Moira erupted into a coughing fit, still clutching the gun in her hand.
Erik looked down at Charles, who was on the verge of tears. His lower lip was quivering, face pale and flushed, a thin sheen of sweat on his forehead, and a sad look in his pained eyes. Erik could not take this. Seeing Charles like this was killing him. "Charles…" He said, voice wavering some as he attempted to form a sentence. "Charles, you're going to be alright. You're going to be okay, Charles."
Erik cradled Charles head in one hand, fingers tangled in his damp, mused hair. He could feel the blood from Charles wound seeping through the pants of his uniform. "Come on now, get up. You're alright."
Erik may have done this, but it was Charles who had done nothing to prevent it. He'd provided the other with the catalyst for his revenge, and he felt sick with the ugly truth of it. This all could have been stopped, but it hadn't been. And here they were.
The panic in Erik's eyes spurred some sort of reaction in him - he couldn't bear to see the other like this, not because of him. He reached up half blindly, trying to place a reassuring hand on Erik's cheek. His fingers brushed against the cool metal of the helmet - the helmet that was currently blocking him out, which was terrifying all in itself - before falling back to his side. Shaking and struggling to catch his breath, Charles' gaze searched Erik's face wildly; he needed to stay grounded here, lest the pain and panic overtake him.
Charles, Charles, Charles.
He heard his name over and over again, and he clung to the familiarity of it. He was going to be all right. He was going to be all right. Erik's voice was wavering though, as if even he didn't believe it to be true, and that caused another wave of terror to grip him. As the other urged him to get up, to move, Charles realized with a sickening jolt that he couldn't - not because every movement caused his body to scream in agony, but because he simply couldn't feel.
"Erik," His already trembling voice rose in terror, and he felt his eyes widen even more. "Erik, I can't. I...I can't feel my legs."
Erik's face fell. Any small ray of hope he had diminished at that very instant. He wanted desperately to think that Charles could get up and be helped to safety. But Charles couldn't feel. He couldn't feel his legs.
No. No. No. No.
Charles needed help. That was all that was important. That was all that mattered. "No, Charles…" Erik leaned down, whispering against his temple. "You can. You can get up." His grip on the others hand tightened briefly, showing him some semblance of reassurance. He would not leave.
The tears finally fell, creating twin tracks down his cheeks. He bit his lip hard, trying to keep his temper in check for the moment. He couldn't afford to lose it. Not now. Not in front of Charles.
Moira covered her mouth in disbelief, slowly rising to her feet. She was tempted to go forward and help her friend, but she knew very much that Erik would lash out and prevent her from getting any closer, as he had done before.
He couldn't move. Any feeling below his waist was completely lost, and no matter how hard he tried, his legs would not cooperate. He could have screamed in frustration, and perhaps he did at one point, he couldn't be sure.
Charles saw the tears well in Erik's eyes and felt a sob of his own build in his throat; the pain was too great, he couldn't bear it. When the other leant down to whisper against his temple, he tangled his hands in dark hair, pressing their faces together for the briefest of moments.
"No, no, my friend." His voice was trembling so badly he had to pause to draw in a breath. "I...I can't. I can't move, Erik, I can't." It was then that the sob he'd been holding in finally escaped and he shook with the force of it. He was lying here in the sand, bleeding from a wound in his back - how fitting, he thought bitterly - and clinging to the man who was responsible as though they were the last two people on the earth. "I can't, I can't, I can't..."
Erik shook his head in disbelief. He could only whisper his counterparts name, pressing his lips to Charles sweat slick forehead. His eyes twisted shut, pulling the other man close to him, without causing him any sort of further agony. The hands in his hair cupped the back of his head, pulling their faces closer. Why? Why did Charles want to be close to him when he was responsible for this? No matter what way anyone decided to look at it, this was not going to end well.
Erik could encourage Charles a million times to get up, but that did not mean he was going to be able to. He couldn't now…could he not ever? Erik hated to believe that could potentially be the final diagnosis.
He cautiously removed the helmet, knowing Charles was far too weak to try anything now, not that he would. He turned his head to Moira, his piercing blue eyes narrowed into angry slits. Cheek pressed against Charles' forehead, he spoke. "You! Go get help! He needs medical attention immediately!"
Moira nodded quickly, gun still in hand, and darted off in the opposite direction towards the mainland. There had to be someone, anyone, around.
Charles watched Moira leave, running as quickly as she could on shaky legs through the sand. There had to be someone, hadn't there? Half the U.S. Navy was floating there in the ocean; surely there was someone who could provide some sort of assistance. Everything would be fine. He would be fine.
He could feel the hot splash of tears on his face, though he wasn't sure if they were his or Erik's. Desperately, it seemed, he continued to cling to the other, yearning for the simple comfort that touch provided in that instant. Though he knew, in the back of his mind, that it was Erik's mistake that brought them here, he couldn't be angry. More than anything, he was frightened - frightened for what this had done to him, to Erik, to them all.
The helmet fell to the sand noiselessly, and though he was not reaching out toward him, Charles was able to hear the chaos that was Erik's mind. He gripped him more tightly for the briefest of moments before he pulled away, cupping the other's face in his quivering hands. "Erik, my friend," he said quietly, locking his watery blue eyes on the pair swimming before him, "Please don't cry. She's going to get help." He swiped his fingers gently across his companion's face, attempting what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "She's going to get help."
Erik's face noticeably softened when he looked back at Charles. He didn't know for sure if she would succeed at getting help, but he was hoping for anything at this point. Anything to help Charles. He forced himself to nod at his statement, swallowing thickly as Charles weakly wiped away the tears on his own face.
He would never understand how Charles could be so concerned about him, when he was the one currently in the most trouble. He supposed that was just the kind of person Charles was, and he had to admire that about him.
Erik leaned down, lips pressing to Charles forehead, while his arms remained wrapped around the injured man.
Never before had Erik felt so damn helpless.
-End of Part One-