On the Beach
But the children of Israel will not listen to you. - The Book of Ezekiel, 3:7
"Erik, take my hand!"
Charles doesn't leave his spot beside the hatch in the bottom of the jet, even when Riptide's winds begin to blow it about like a balloon in a hurricane. His heart pounds and leaps up into his throat, practically choking him, because he's sure that their jet will be blown off course and smash into fiery smithereens on the beach. But Charles swallows hard, forcing down the fear, and leans further out into the winds. Erik is still out there, clinging to the wheel.
"Erik!" he screams again. "Erik! Take my hand!"
So much of it is the same, just like it was when they met, just like it still is in Charles's nightmares. He remembers it like it was yesterday - having to shout to make himself heard over the fierce wind, the ominously dark water beneath them, the cold fear in his heart that if Erik doesn't step back from the edge, he'll die, and he won't even care. Maybe this time, Charles won't be able to save him. Maybe this time, it will happen like it always does in his nightmares. Erik's fingers will slip through his, and Charles will watch him die...
He wants to weep with relief when Erik finally, finally grabs his outstretched hand and lets Charles pull him back inside the safety of the jet. Erik's grip is warm and strong in his, and soon, his heartbeat goes back to normal. He's okay. He'll be okay.
"I'm sorry, Erik. But... I've seen what Shaw did to you. I've felt your agony."
Even as the old Germain coin splits his head in two like a slow-motion bullet, and he screams himself hoarse with the pain - even then, he tries to make excuses for Erik. Perhaps Erik didn't know what he really meant when said those words, didn't understand that whenever Charles read a person's mind, he literally felt their pain.
As soon as Shaw dies and Charles can take leave of his mind, the pain is suddenly gone - thank God - leaving him with only a dull, aching throb, like a headache. But it isn't gone before he collapses on the beach, sobbing and shaking uncontrollably, his hands gripping his head tightly, as if to keep it from being torn in two. Tears fall like raindrops on the sand.
Those were some of the first words he ever said to Erik, and now he wonders why he even bothered. Erik wasn't listening to him. When he snatched the helmet off Shaw's head and put it on his own, Charles wondered if Erik had ever listened to him at all. Perhaps all that Erik ever heard was the anger burning inside him, urging him on, telling him to nearly kill the guards at the Russian compound, to turn innocent mutant kids into warriors, to slowly drill a coin through Shaw's skull.
Hands grip his shaking shoulders as someone kneels down beside him, and for a split-second, Charles's heart leaps up, sure that Erik has found him, that's he's come to apologize, to say that he's sorry, that he didn't know what he was doing.
But no... it isn't Erik who's found him. It's Moira. Erik is still inside Shaw's beached submarine, probably savoring the taste of revenge, and either doesn't know or doesn't care what he's just put Charles through. Charles can't be sure, since Erik is still wearing Shaw's helmet, to block his friend from reading his thoughts.
Moira tries to help him and asks him what's wrong, but he just shakes his head. He can't answer her because his voice would shake too much, like his hands and his shoulders and the rest of his body. He can't tell her, because he can barely understand it himself, that he isn't crying from the pain.
Just a few minutes later, Erik sends another tiny piece of metal flying into his body. The single bullet to his spine doesn't hurt nearly as much, physically, as the coin drilled slowly through his head, but in every other way, it's a thousand times worse. Because even when Erik runs to him and draws the metal out with his hand, the pain doesn't disappear, and Charles knows that this time, the damage can't be undone. There's no coming back from this.
Erik snarls, "You... you did this" at Moira and begins to choke her with her own dog-tags, fulling intending to really kill her, right there in front of Charles and everyone else. Charles is so close to him, lying with head in Erik's lap, and it would be so easy for him to just reach up, push that helmet off Erik's head, and take over his mind - paralyze him, like he just did with Shaw. For a second, he almost does it. He's certainly angry enough.
But he doesn't. It's Erik, not Charles, who lets himself be controlled by his anger. And besides, his anger disappears as soon as Erik turns his head and looks down at him with more sadness in his eyes than Charles has ever seen.
His head still hurts, and the sunlight is so bright on the beach, reflecting off the water and the sand and the metal of their jet and Shaw's submarine. Charles is in the worst possible position for it, lying on his back, looking up at the sky. But even with the sunlight blinding him, he can see Erik's eyes as clearly as anything. His eyes are gray, like metal, like strong, unyielding steel that bends so easily to Erik's hand.
"I want you on my side. We're brothers, you and I. We want the same thing," he pleads, and Charles's anger disappears, leaving him with only a sad regret. Thankfully no one can read his mind, or they would know that deep down, Charles wishes that they could be on the same side, too. But that's the only thing they both want, and it's not enough to save them.
"I'm sorry," he whispers back, never taking his blue eyes from Erik's gray ones. He genuinely is sorry. He knows that Erik knows that. "But we do not."
Charles is sure that because of the angle he's lying in, with his head in Erik's lap like this, he's the only one who can see the tears in his friend's eyes.
He stretches out his arm to Emma in the CIA holding cell, and when she puts her hand in his, he's startled by how cold her skin is. He understands that it's part of her mutation. Her skin is always cold to the touch. But when she puts his hand in hers, for the smallest moment, he feels the phantom touch of Charles's warm arms around him, trying to pull him up out of the dark water, trying to pull back from the edge.
He realizes then that it will always be that way between him and Charles. No matter what might happen, Charles is never going to give up on him. He'll never stop trying to save him.
Well, I really hope you all enjoyed it. Thank you all for reading, reviewing, favorting, or story-alerting my fic - it means so much to me!