A/N: I have no idea where this came from. XD

Warnings: angst, bittersweetness. Could easily be construed as Erik/Charles . . . or not.

Disclaimer: I am the happy owner of a DVD, nothing more. :D Title slightly inspired by 'Desperado' by the Eagles.

Erik returns to Cuba, because he strongly suspects that he's become the world's worst masochist. He doesn't enjoy the pain, after all. He feels nothing but the pain. The pain and the anger. Always the anger.

(He labors under the assumption, of course, that it is possible to be a sadist and a masochist at the same time – because killing Sebastian Shaw just felt too good. He was at once both saved and damned as he watched the light go out of those ice-blue eyes, but apparently damnation is the only thing that is truly eternal. Salvation was like a wisp of air, faint and tasteless. Or was that sensation merely the elusive peace that Charles spoke of? Oh, Charles, have you found your peace? Or did I take it from you? Well, my friend, if you haven't lost it yet, I'm afraid the humans will steal it eventually. You cannot win, Charles. I'm sorry – so sorry.)

He stands on the beach and squints out at the miles and miles of sand and ocean; was the sun so yellow, the sand so brilliantly white? Was it this bright the last time?

Yes, yes it was.

Was it this hot? This unimaginably, unendurably hot?

Yes, of course – he could feel the flames of hell at his heels. He could feel the oven door sliding shut.

Erik will burn – but unfortunately for him, he will not die. He will turn to ash, but his agony will never end. And his anger; his anger will not die.

He stands on the beach, and he burns with brokenhearted, endless rage.

Charles daydreams of Cuba in his hospital bed (that's not entirely true; first he daydreams of walking, then of running, and then of breathing. He imagines a time where he can finally breathe easily again. This time, of course, is only in his imagination.)

For whole minutes at a time, he forgets that there was a time before that day on the beach. He forgets that he has legs; he forgets that he had Erik; he forgets that he has to save the world.

(And then he remembers: Erik was supposed to save the world with me.)

(He wonders: Can I do it without him? Yes, perhaps. Can I do it against him?)

Charles doesn't want to answer this question, and as a result he is plagued by images. Sand, pure white sand, (my) blood in the sand. Water, ships in the water. Sky, missiles in the sky. Erik – and goodbye in Erik's eyes.

"We want the same things." Oh, and Charles was the naïve one?

"I want you by my side." How could Charles be Erik's ally, when Charles simply couldn't understand? How could Charles be Erik's ally, when Charles had no legs on which to stand?

But Charles still has legs. They just don't work.

Charles pinches his thigh; it doesn't hurt. It doesn't do anything but leave a faint purple bruise that he can't feel.

Then Charles imagines the beach – he is not so naïve as to pretend that it doesn't hurt. And it leaves a mark, too, but this bruise, he fears, may fade, but it won't heal.

Erik returns to the beach once more, and he really isn't expecting to find Charles there. He doesn't, of course. Charles finds him.

Charles closes his eyes and listens to Cerebro's hum; he is not expecting to hear the crashing of waves and the whispers of an old friend's mind.



This is certainly a surprise, isn't it.

Erik stands on the beach and gawks at Charles – how in God's name can it be that Charles is standing here before him?

You've removed your helmet, my friend. Have you forgotten the reach that Cerebro gives me?

"No," Erik whispers honestly. He hasn't forgotten anything, really. He still remembers the movement of the waves, the color of the sand, the sight of the missiles overhead, the sound of Charles's pained scream as the bullet hit his spine. He still remembers the chess games, the recruitment trips, the laughter, the scotch, the tears.

Charles suddenly appears closer. His projected self seems not to have to walk, which is (just a tad) ironic. His hand is suddenly warm against Erik's hand. Erik opens his clenched fist and allows Charles's fake hand to grasp his own.

Erik looks up at the sky because he can't bear to look at Charles's face, even if it isn't really there. "I'm sorry."

Are you? Charles asks.

Yes. But that doesn't change anything, does it.

I'm afraid not.

Erik frowns up at the clouds above. "It's going to rain," he comments. "Isn't it, Charles."

Charles sees through Erik what he cannot physically see. It appears so.

The sky was blue last time. Perfect and blue. Pure.

I know. I remember.

Thunder booms; the Cuban sky is gray. Charles and Erik do not move, even when the rain begins to fall. A poet would call the storm a catharsis, a cleansing of sins and mistakes – but the rain cannot douse Erik's fire, and a lightning bolt cannot make Charles feel.

In Cuba, Erik's clothing is drenched and his hair soaked; in New York, Charles's cheeks are damp with a different sort of salt water. Still Charles does not break the mental connection. He waits. He waits, and when Erik bends to pick up the helmet, he knows. They both know, and Erik whispers a goodbye just as Charles suddenly disappears from his view.

They have to leave the beach behind; they are enemies now. The storm is only beginning.

A/N: Reviews make me smile. Thanks for reading.