Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men. Marvel does.
A/N: Writer's Block buster for the "post anything you write" challenge. Can be considered a prequel to "Emotive" or a standalone. It works either way.
There is no light in the sky right now - night had fallen hours ago. There are no stars twinkling against the black, and there is no wind blowing to push away the clouds that are covering them. And somewhere, some shadowed soul must have gone and slaughtered every cricket, one at a time, because there was only a single one chirping at first, and now they are all silent in the eerie way only discontent can bring.
There is no light in the room either, but somehow, as he slowly treads across the carpet, the sound of his shoes mercifully muted by the plush carpet, Erik can see exactly where he is going. Can perfectly make out the still figure underneath the sheets, the barely visible rise and fall of a chest that has gone too thin, the paleness of the face that is troubled even in sleep. He can see Charles. See him perfectly. Perhaps the quiet outside is intentional, to offer the other man some warning of Erik's out-of-place noise. An attempt by fate to intervene ...
But Charles does not stir at the intrusion, even as the older mutant kneels at the bedside, large fingers brushing against his slimmer one. And Erik counts it as a miracle, one of the very few that has ever blessed him in his life, that he has this small moment of chance that he prayed for but did not expect.
"Charles?" he whispers, and the only response is a twitch of the frown that was already there. It pains him that his friend - first, best, only friend - cannot find his sought after peace in sleep. "Charles," he says again, gentler and without expectation of answer. The frown does not fade.
He can see the wheelchair out of the corner of his eye - it feels dead to him, as lifeless as the legs it supports, not a trace of metal across its plastic structure. Not a creation of mistrust, but of fear - fear of Erik, fear of what Erik has become.
"I have spent my life doing horrible things, my friend," he admits under the cover of darkness, eyes drifting from the chair and across the room. "I have sold people out to death to save myself. I have killed men with families because of the choices they had made. I have maimed dozens, all for some greater good I never remember afterwards." He can see, barely, a myriad of framed pictures on top of every flat surface - pictures that had not been there the last time he had been in this room. And though he cannot see their contents, he knows that each one holds images of the children, images of Raven, images of a group that no longer exist. The only people in the world that mean a damn to Charles anymore, he knows. It makes his fists clench so tightly that his nails draw blood. An attempt to overwhelm the pain he feels.
His gaze slowly falls back to Charles, to the frown the dips between his closed eyes - his mind wanders to the images behind that frown, the troubled thoughts that cause it - wonders if the nightmares he has are the same ones that haunt his friend. Of sand and bombs and betrayal and blood.
"I have hurt so many, Charles, and yet," he swallows down the sudden, foreign lump the forms in his throat. "And yet you are the only victim I regret."
His hand drifts forward of its own accord, grazing across the expensive, soft sheets and the fine fabric of a well-worn night shirt. His thumb smoothes, almost absently, over the frown that mars the innocent, cheerful, inspiringly strong face. It disappears almost as soon as his touch is registered, and a light sigh releases from between chapped lips.
"You've not been taking care of yourself, Labrat," Erik accuses though he isn't heard. It brings a small smile to his face, bitter and painful in its rare existence, and for some reason he wants to chuckle. Even though he feels heartache instead of joy, even though the lump is still in his throat, low and waiting to jump up. Because the scene is oddly in place, oddly intimate and familiar and he feels like someone has died and he is kneeling in front of a casket.
And then there is movement. So subtle, so unconscious - Charles leans into the touch of Erik's hand against his face, still sleeping and unknowing, lips barely moving, forming words that cannot be read or spoken aloud. And just like that Erik jerks his hand away, not as though he were burned, but as if he had been caught touching something he was forbidden to. Watches with wide eyes, body still and breathing shallow, as the telepath shifts his neck to press further into his pillows, seeking the heat he took away.
The frown returns, but now...
"I am so sorry, Charles." For only a moment he bows his head, allows his shoulders to quiver but not shake, tears to form but not fall. And then he is standing, brisk and hurried, the metal of the helmet on his head wobbling only slightly in ill-fitting circumstance.
There is no light outside, no light inside. Charles' eyes are closed, and though his are open, together they see the same thing. Haunting images of a past born from and best left to nightmares that will never cease to plague them both, no matter any attempt made to rectify the situation. And in those nightmares, and in reality before him now, there is the dead wheelchair sitting innocently on the other side of the bed. He approaches its taunting call as though hypnotized.
"Forgive me." He places a small, silver metal coin atop one of the plastic arms, and then, in a rush of a breath brought on by the night's deafening silence and the cruel solitude he has even in company, adds words he has never spoken aloud even in moments that called for it. "Iloveyou."
And abruptly, without providing the opportunity for another regret, Erik turns, slipping from the warm darkness of the room to the cold darkness of the night, swallowed into the oblivion he now so willingly seeks out.
Not noticing the vivid blue eyes that had opened in a sea of anguish of his departure into the waves.
"And sometimes, the only way to express and overcome your pain, is to spill it out onto paper - blood for ink, turmoil for dialogue. No other excuse, no other means. No judgment, no victory. Just release."
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