A/N: Since quite a few people requested a sequel, I decided to finish writing the original ending to it.
So here's a short-ish conclusion for the story. Hopefully it meets your expectations :)
Erik woke up slowly, unwilling to leave his dreams, which for once were light and soft and beautiful. He didn't want to open his eyes to see metal-less walls and red stains on the floor. When he finally did though, he found that he was back in the one place he didn't think he'd ever step foot in again.
His old room, not that he'd spent much time in it. Everything was how he remembered it, except…
The helmet was on the nightstand next to him.
The present came crashing back onto him. He had to leave.
Making that decision though, was much simpler than going about executing it. As moving his arms or legs, or anything at all, if he was being honest, caused sharp bursts of pain, it was a trial to even get out of the bed.
Not that he was going to let a little pain stop him. Erik clenched his teeth and got to his feet, eyes fixed on the long driveway leading away from the house that was visible outside his window. Time to leave, he knew, trying hard to quell that insistent voice in his heart that wondered whether it would be better to stay.
"My apologies, Hank," Charles said, touching a finger to his temple and closing his eyes. Hank waited patiently for him to finish doing whatever he was doing. "It's Erik," Charles finally said. "He's awake.
Hank growled softly at the name, unable to help himself. He was torn, he had to admit. But he was sure that he didn't want this dangerous, new Erik in the house, not with all the young children here.
"Hank," Charles chided. "Erik would not harm young mutants. His heart has not become that dark."
Yet, Hank thought, too loudly. Something in Charles's expression tightened.
When he spoke though, his voice was light. "Anyways, in the state he's in, Erik's no danger to anyone."
"Could be a danger to himself though," Hank said, because, despite everything, he still couldn't really grasp the idea that Erik was now their enemy. And he still cared about the strange, coldly angry man if only because Charles obviously still did too.
Charles's expression clouded for a second. "He's trying to get up," he said worriedly. Hank nodded and hurried off.
As he leaves though, he heard Charles say to himself quietly in wonderment, "He hasn't put on the helmet."
When Charles finally wheeled his way into the room, he was greeted by the sight of Hank and Erik grappling with each other.
"I'm just trying to leave," Erik growled. "Isn't that what you all want anyways?"
Hank growled back, and Beast's growl was much more impressive. "No!"
Erik stopped struggling in his surprise.
Charles coughed in the moment of stalemate and they whirled—well, Hank whirled while Erik stumbled around—to look at him, with identical guilty waves rolling off of them.
"I'll just, leave you two to it then," Hank said after a long pause, inching toward the door.
"Yes, thank you, Hank," Charles said, and a relieved-looking Hank quickly left with nary a suspicious glance at Erik. No doubt though, he and the rest of the students would be taking it upon themselves to watch him. Charles wished he could tell them that it wasn't necessary.
"He's grown stronger," Erik finally said, eyes fixed on the doorway Hank had disappeared through as if he were contemplating escape as well.
"They all have," Charles replied, and can't quite quell the rush of pride that fills him at how far they all have come.
"I can tell," Erik said and his eyes are soft for a moment.
"Raven was very worried about you," Charles offered into the ensuing silence. We never used to have silences like this, he thought carefully.
Erik looked at him. The time for silence is past. "I'll bet she was the only one," he said aloud with a sharp bark of a laugh.
I will take that bet, old friend, for you would lose most surely. "No," Charles said firmly, "She wasn't."
Erik held his gaze, though Charles could tell he wanted to look away. "They miss you, you know," he added.
"Charles," Erik began, taking a step forward. He winced as the movement jarred his injuries.
"You should sit down," Charles said. "Look, you've gone and torn your stitches." Bright red was seeping through the starch white bandages. "Sit," Charles repeated. "Besides, I'm getting a crick in my neck from having to look up at you."
Erik froze for a moment, his eyes sliding to the chair, mouth twisted in an unhappy line.
"Why aren't you angry?" Erik asked, and it was meant to be a snarl, Charles thought, except it only sounded sad.
"I was" Charles said sharply. "Of course I was. I was bitter and angry and irrational. I was just good at hiding it." Erik looked down at his small smile. "I am a telepath, you know."
Charles watched his friend itch to pace restlessly around the room. The calm that Erik had found in the hospital had faded and been replaced by fear and panic, as well as guilt.
Charles left shortly after, after Erik had said he was feeling tired and wanted to lie down again.
"I promise I won't try to escape again," Erik said with a touch of mockery. He lay back down on the bed gingerly. "Actually I don't think I'll be able to get back up." The words have left his mouth before he realized he was falling back to their old routine, their old banter, admitting weakness as if it didn't matter.
Charles put a warm hand on his shoulder. It's not weakness, he said into Erik's mind, and Erik forced himself not to react. He hoped Charles didn't realize how right it had felt for them to speaking mind to mind again.
How thoughts were meant to be shared, and it felt like a promise.
Charles's eyes widened for a second before it disappeared, quickly enough for Erik to pretend to not have seen it. "Get some rest, Erik," Charles said. "I'll send someone to check your stitches."
Thank you, Charles, Erik sends to him, as warm and sincere as he can make it, as Charles wheeled out of the room.
There's no need to thank me, Charles thought back to him. This is and will always be your home.
In the quiet after he had gone—that was to say, the quiet of a school, which always had the background buzz of laughing children—Erik realized he had not thought to use the helmet once. Had not thought about it at all, in fact.
He laid there in the bed, staring into the ceiling, listening to the chatter of friendly voices, and knew that if he stayed, this kind of peace would be his forever, no matter what atrocities the humans committed.
His instincts screamed for him to leave, but his heart, oh his heart begged him to stay. He wanted to be the one to light up Charles's eyes after a long day. He wanted to be a mentor to these children, these young mutants. He wanted to have a home to call his own. He wanted all these things he knew he could not have.
You would corrupt them, a voice whispered to him, cold and emotionless yet simmering with feeling underneath. A laughing shout outside his window. Who are you to bring your hate and rage here to do this place? He shut his eyes against the bright sunlight streaming through the window that seemed suddenly like a mockery. This is a school, a place of learning. What do you have to offer them? What did you learn as a child that would allow you to teach these children? Erik shuddered, wishing to escape that voice, but knowing that it was impossible; the voice was himself.
What do you have to offer Charles?
"Nothing," he murmured. A chill settled over the room that the sunlight could no longer warm.
"I will not make you stay," Charles said. But you could, Erik filled in for him, and was gratified to see him flinch.
"But I will not."
"You could make me stay, change my ideals and make me happy to do so, make me believe it was my own choice," Erik shot back, wishing Charles's proximity didn't drive him to say such things.
"You have to trust me," Charles said. He held up a hand when Erik opened his mouth to interrupt. "Just let me say my piece."
Erik shut his mouth. "Fine." he crossed his arms, noticing how Charles's eyes flicked to his chest and to his mouth before going back up to meet his eyes.
Charles took a breath and exhaled softly. "Please stay," he said, in a rush. A blush deepened his cheeks as he held Erik's gaze.
"Are we done?" Erik said, realizing after several minutes of polite waiting that that was the extent of Charles's speech.
Charles slumped slightly in his chair. "Yes," he said quietly.
It was awkward trying to get out. Charles was still blocking the door and Erik had enough of his moral compass intact that he didn't want to simply bulldoze his way over a guy in a wheelchair, let alone a guy in a wheelchair who was also a friend and lover.
In the end he gave a gentle shove and the chair obediently moved to the side. Charles was looking out the window, gaze distant and sad.
Erik felt his heart squeeze as he stepped out the door. The students trying to eavesdrop quickly vanished when he stalked out, emotions in a jumble of regret, guilt, and simmering anger. Anger at himself.
Outside, he turned to look up once again at Charles, who stared back at him steadily. It would never have worked, he thought and Charles blinked in honest to god surprise, damn the man.
I love you, and you love—loved—me. Why on earth shouldn't it have? his gentle voice touched Erik's mind in reply.
Erik turned his back on him stiffly to look out over the grounds and felt Charles retreat from his mind. His eyes fell on the satellite dish that he had turned a lifetime ago, and what Charles had given him that day. There would be no peace for him if he left this place, he knew.
Up in the room was a man who loved him, loved all the broken, angry, paranoid, bitter pieces of him.
It would be better for everyone, except perhaps himself, if he left and truly embraced Magneto.
It just showed how right he was, how selfish, when he let out a soft sigh and let his shoulders fall. He could feel Charles's mind hovering at the edge of his consciousness. Taking a deep breath, he invited him in.
"I also love the humorous, caring, kind, loving pieces of you, Erik, old friend," Charles said, his presence filling the dark corners of his mind and leaving him bare. Erik trembled under that presence, the joy and unquenchable enthusiasm for life, the love that gripped him tight and refused to let him go.
What do you have to offer me? Charles murmured.
Only me, Erik thought fervently. Everything I am, and it's not just a fact, it's also a warning.
Then that's enough for me. It's always been enough for me.
The helmet tucked under an arm dropped onto the gravel with a thud. Then we will face the world together. We will build a better world together.
His newly healed injuries tugged at his skin uncomfortably as he walked slowly back up the stairs, holding Charles's gaze until he simply couldn't see him anymore. The children running through the halls ducked into other rooms, laughing, when he passed them. A young girl with a shock of silver hair waved at him shyly before vanishing with the others.
He entered Charles's study, eyes locked onto Charles's. In a few quick strides, he was at his side. Where he was always meant to be, and he couldn't tell which one of them thought it.
And if the sunlight trickling through the windows still felt cold and strange, like the foreboding that still weighed heavily on his mind, it didn't matter a bit, because Charles's gaze, Charles's love, was warmer than any beam of light.
Together, he said to Charles, and this time, he made sure that it was a promise.