This is it! The end! I haven't ruled out a sequel, but have no ideas for one just yet. A brief warning - there's explicit sex in this part.

Also, I know a lot of people are following the story and lurking. Now that it's complete, please do let me know what you think!

They're sitting with Hank in the room just outside of Cerebro itself. Hank has finally calmed down a bit, in the quiet of the last hour or so, busying himself by checking data from Charles' use of Cerebro, muttering about electromagnetic signals and energy usage. (Charles has only been able to gather that when he used Cerebro, the machine drew more energy from its generator than when Frost uses it. Which suggests a greater strength in ability also equals a greater capability of converting the energy of Cerebro into telepathic hearing/projection, Charles supposes.) Erik is sitting besides Charles, close enough to touch, but they've hardly spoken since Charles left Cerebro. Charles has allowed the silence, mind still echoing with the touch of billions.

Still, he can sense Erik's mind very clearly. It's a whirl of ideas about the consequences of their actions, but there's no regret there, just an attempt to plan for the future. The steadiest constant to Erik's thoughts is the two of them, together, no matter what flashes of events Erik imagines.

Charles sends him bits of what he gathers from the people in the building - the attack was stopped successfully, and no human counterattack has occurred as a result of Charles' intervention. There's a lot of erratic thoughts, however, like everyone at once trying not to think about the elephant in the room. For the most part, Charles skims those and doesn't go further; what's done is done. He does feel minds leaving, and knows that the heads of the departments have left the building entirely, presumably trying to get out of Charles' reach. Genosha's government is reacting to Charles by centralizing its efforts elsewhere. It's possible they can tell he's not using Cerebro any longer, otherwise that kind of effort would be pointless.

In the end, it takes almost an hour of mental chaos before Charles feels a mind reach out to his not telepathic, just focused on sending a single thought: Charles Xavier. Charles Xavier, are you listening? Charles Xavier -

I'm here.

I'm part of internal security. We require that you and Erik Lehnsherr drop your protections so we may take you into custody.

Charles hesitates, eyes opening. "Erik. They want us to surrender."

Erik looks up, gaze sharp and aware, mind sparking like a live wire, almost too fast for Charles to catch. "Then we will. We'll cooperate. It's our only way out of this."

"They won't hurt us?" Charles whispers. The fear has been gnawing away at him, Erik's steady presence aside.

Erik's expression breaks open, suddenly soft. "No. No - they're not the humans, Charles. We'll be kicked out of Intel, I don't doubt that, but I expect we'll avoid any further punishment. No one was hurt, and everyone knows what you did - everyone felt what you did." He holds out his hand, palm outward, raising an eyebrow. "Shall I?" he asks, referring to their metal shield.

Charles nods, then refocuses. All right, Charles sends.

Understand that you will be sedated until we are sure you have implanted no mental suggestions within our government. Frost was sedated as well when her part in this was discovered.

If they intended on hurting him, they wouldn't warn him, but he still dips into the man's mind briefly, finding mostly thoughts in Russian. But there's no hostile intent. I understand.

He breaks the connection to find Erik's mind feeling the ribbons of steel, not moving anything yet, just assessing. Hank has settled next to Charles, waiting, still projecting distress and worry. Charles wishes he had enough calm himself to give to Hank.

Charles begins scanning the area around them for the presence of people, but there's almost no one anywhere near Erik's creation. They're already prepared for the fact that Erik undoing it will have to be a hell of a task, and not safe to be around. "It's all right, the nearest person is hundreds of feet away," Charles tells Erik.

Erik nods briefly. The electromagnetic field is like a living thing to Erik; Charles can feel the echo of it, from his presence in Erik's mind. Erik leaves most of his work alone, the weaving of an orb of metal around Cerebro intended not just to prevent people from walking in, but to be a wall against weapons, including bombs. In contrast, all he needs to get out is to create a tunnel, and so that is what he's doing. It's not effortless, but close, well within Erik's capabilities, even without Charles boosting him. Erik is thinking that Charles must need to rest, even the hour of it he's had already.

Charles deliberately waits until Erik is done to speak, Erik lowering his hand and returning his attention to Charles. "They said they'll sedate me for a while, Erik."

"What?" Erik stands up, and Charles rises after him.

"As a precaution," Charles says. "I mean, you said -"

"And I meant it. Don't worry, Charles. I just didn't see that coming," Erik admits, staring at him, Charles returning the favor, reading the worry and concern in Erik's mind - but most of it is for the future, not their safety. Erik still trusts Genosha, Charles realizes, even after Shaw's infiltration of it.

"I wonder what they'll do to me," Hank interrupts.

"You're a genius," Erik says dryly. "Quite irreplaceable in comparison to us."

Hank smiles nervously.

"They're coming," Charles says, and they are.

Charles gets a glance at the tunnel Erik created when the security team - dressed in black, carrying weapons, except for one - opens the door to the room and comes in, securing the room and turning off all the machinery. The unarmed man comes to Charles and Erik, stopping in front of Charles.

Erik slips his hand into Charles', in that moment.

"Ready?" the man says, probably a medic. His thoughts are single-minded, on the task and not on the aftermath. He's not the one Charles spoke to - that person isn't here.

Charles nods.

The man even disinfects the skin before he gives Charles the injection. He feels Erik's arms wrap around him, and then nothing more.

Erik sits in the chair of the interrogation room and stares at the empty chair across from him. He pokes at the empty spot in his mind over and over, on the lookout for when Charles wakes and enters Erik's mind. Even more disturbing than when Charles went limp was the abrupt mental silence. Charles has consistently stayed in Erik's head since Erik found him asleep in his apartment, a warmth that occasionally strengthens into thoughts and impressions - gone.

Charles isn't, Erik reminds himself. He's not entirely certain how they intend to tell whether or not Charles has implanted suggestions within the minds of government authorities, though there was probably a plan in place for such an instance. Crime and anti-government sentiment is low in Genosha, but it does exist, and Intel likes to plan for all eventualities.

Being part of that, being part of Intel - that will no doubt change.

He folds his hands on the table, feels the metal of the chair and table quiver under his control, a vibration so subtle another sitting here wouldn't be aware of it. It's a small action, but it gives Erik the illusion of control. He's not unconscious in the medical center.

It's some time before Erik hears (and feels, the metal embedded into the wall retreating - as if those who put him here didn't think through his powers) the door unlock and a man walks through, casual but immediately focused on Erik.

He has one of the more striking visible mutations Erik has seen. He has red skin, dark hair, a tail, and he turns to look at Erik with startling light blue eyes. He's dressed in a black suit, eyeing Erik momentarily. He stops just inside the doorway, then disappears into a puff of red, reappearing right behind the chair.

Erik reacts by widening his eyes slightly. "That's a neat trick."

"As is yours. I appreciate that you haven't melted your holding room." He has an odd Russian accent, which suggests he's probably considerably older than he looks, one of the mutants with extended lifespans who live in Genosha, like Logan.

Erik smiles unexpectedly, surprising himself. "Who are you?"

"Azazel." He takes out the chair, sits down. "I'm internal security, and have taken control of this installation for the duration of my investigation."

"What do you need from me?"

"I want to know what happened. Every detail." He leans forward, and waits.

Erik had known this was coming, and he knows what he's going to say. He begins with Shaw. It seems like everything begins with Shaw, his childhood, his life, even provoking his relationship with Charles, in some strange way.

Erik doesn't tell Azazel any of that. He starts with Shaw revealing his plan to eradicate humanity and gain power in Genosha, tells Azazel of his immediate horror, and the mental steps he had to take before he could go to Charles and ask for help. He briefly discusses their logic in taking action on their own, the fact that he didn't believe the council or the Prime Minister would stop Project Knifepoint. He wants Azazel to understand that it wasn't about taking down Shaw so much as trying to prevent an unjust war; that it wasn't about taking control, just ending the immediate threat to both sides. Charles' power, Charles' ethics made that possible, awoke a doubt within Erik during that brief argument that led Erik to reject him.

He explains that he's still loyal to Genosha. He still believes in his country and wants to serve it, even if that's no longer possible the way it was before.

"And Charles - he wouldn't make people agree with him. He'd never do that, I don't think it even occurred to him. I think he believes it's pointless if you don't choose to do the right thing." Erik stops. "That's it."

"You forgot Logan," Azazel points out mildly.

Erik exhales slowly. "What happened to Raven and Hank, by the way?"

"They're in custody as well, their situations will be individually evaluated. For the record," Azazel says, "we don't believe Xavier unduly influenced anyone in power. He certainly didn't in the human world, so it would be odd to expect him to do it among his own kind."

"Why - what's happening in the human world?"

"Fear," Azazel says, "but no action. Leaders are acting logically and in line with past behavior. I answered your question, stop dodging the topic. Logan."

He wishes he had Charles' telepathy. He doesn't know if Azazel really knows about Logan or not - it could be a logical assumption he's trying to get Erik to confirm. Logan's on Erik's team, after all, it would be odd for him to be the only person not included. "Is Logan in trouble?" Erik asks.

"Nyet. He was the one who informed us of Shaw's betrayal, however, so his inclusion in your little group was a logical leap."

"Logan was never directly involved," Erik points out at last.

"And what about Xavier? Does he intend any further action? Interceding in Genosha's affairs with the human world?"

Erik blinks. "Shouldn't you ask him that?"

"I think your answer would be far more revealing. Xavier would not have acted without your support."

"He couldn't have, he didn't know Genosha or Intel well enough," Erik says.

"Will he act against orders?"

Erik considers that. "You know, besides the lying in order to get into Cerebro, Charles is the one person who hasn't done anything besides what he said he would. He wouldn't hurt others, refused to be involved in something that would, and he made that clear from the beginning. All his actions after that are in line with what he said he would do, what is in his contract with Intel."

"And you?"

"My career is over. I know that," Erik says bluntly.

"The world is going to change, Lehnsherr, with that act of imprinting that Xavier did. Our next move is no longer clear; your position hasn't been decided, yet. You never endangered Genosha, you or Xavier - we know the anti-mutant facilities were destroyed without a single person hurt. But if you follow Xavier, then your allegiance is clear - to him, not to Intel, not to orders."

Erik is silent.

"Tell me, then. What do you choose? Intel, or Xavier?"

The world begins in a fog, Charles' body feeling inexplicably heavy and slow, along with his mind. He wakes in stages, becoming aware of murmuring thoughts, then the clear light of Erik's mind. He opens his eyes to a white ceiling and then manages to turn his head.

Erik is sitting beside him. "I choose you," Erik whispers.

Erik is thinking about the news. It's coming across rather loudly, and Charles realizes only then that he'd settled back into Erik's mind again, as soon as he'd woken - that's why Erik's presence is so immediate. He did it without even thinking about it, and Erik has accepted his presence there as due course. Charles breathes slowly, thinking about that, and thinking about Erik's first words to him. Erik chose him? Over what?

Charles rubs his face and forces his eyes open, catching sight of a familiar ceiling; not the one from the medical center in Intel. The sedative has finally completely worn off, and he suspects whatever they gave him put him under so completely that even his unconscious mind was at rest.

The bed smells like Erik. Charles presses his face into the pillow for a second, inhaling. Now that he thinks about it, he dimly remembers Erik dragging him out of Intel, escorted by Intel security, and being brought somewhere - Erik's apartment. They must be under house arrest.

He gets up, notices he's barefoot, and then heads for the living room. Sunlight is pouring in from the windows, shadows sharp and long, so it must be morning. Erik's on the couch, watching the television screen, which shows a reporter speaking, the same woman from before with the visible mutation; Erik must have a favorite channel.

" - the status of Charles Xavier is currently unknown, and the government has only released a report to the media stating that Xavier is in protective custody, since he is now a prime target for human counter-attack due to the power of the Genosha demonstration. The human world has responded with inaction and discussion thus far. We expect a news conference held by Prime Minister Selven by the end of the day. We will update -"

Erik mutes it and turns his head to smile at Charles. "Hey. How are you feeling?"

"Tired. What's happening?" He got glimpses from Erik's mind, but it's worth asking.

"Well, so far I've watched three different shows host panels on what you did and the possible implications," Erik says dryly. "Intel's playing it like you were under orders to do what you did, but hasn't released any details otherwise. Though I think it became clearer what happened when the news broke in the human world that anti-mutant facility members destroyed their own work, and then lost all memory of the event."

Charles sits next to him on the couch, and Erik shifts close enough to put an arm around him. Charles melts into his grip, putting his head on Erik's shoulder.

Erik speaks into Charles' hair. "Human threat assessors are going nuts over that feeling you projected and what that means as far as telepathic assaults go, but others, average people are just kind of stunned, apparently. And amazed."

"So we stopped it." He remembers that beautiful feeling of so many minds, so many thoughts - how alive and connected he had felt, in Cerebro. He'll probably never feel that again.

"Yeah," Erik says softly. "I think it would have kept going if you hadn't shown us that - hadn't shown us how similar we all really are." He pauses. "Plus, the human world is pissing their pants in terror of us. The implications have not passed them by."

"I wouldn't hurt them."

"They don't know that," Erik says dryly. "They still think New York was a deliberate attack on your part that went wrong somehow."

Charles sighs. "So many problems could be solved if we just communicated with them." The screen has shifted from the reporter to a crowd of humans that have gone to Times Square, staging a protest asking for peace with mutants. Text scrolls along the bottom of the screen about secret UN sessions.

"Maybe," Erik says, shrugging lightly enough not to dislodge Charles.

"What about Hank? Raven and Logan?"

"Logan's taken some sort of position in the government," Erik says. "He's resistant to telepathic control, did you know that?"

Charles blinks, shifts so he can look at Erik's face, who focuses on him calmly. "No, I didn't."

"So when you did your stunt -"

"Our stunt," Charles points out mildly.

" - Our stunt, it seemed logical to the council to temporarily hand control over to mutants like Logan. I don't think that lasted long, though, or they wouldn't have trusted us enough to release us into house arrest. I don't know about the others."

"I wonder if Frost -" Charles stops, and then reaches out, searching for her mind.

She's awake. Busy, she sends, and breaks contact.

"What?" Erik is staring at him.

"She's busy, apparently," Charles says.

"Good to hear she's awake," Erik says, and he means it. He frowns, thoughts turning to darkness - grief and anger, mostly. "Wasn't she restraining Shaw?"

"You don't know what happened to Shaw?"

"I didn't think to ask." Charles feels a roll of nausea come from Erik. "What we did pales in comparison to the extent of his treason."

Charles finds Erik's hand and holds on tight. "I'm sorry. For - I'm sorry you have to go through this, I know he's important to you."

Erik looks down at their joined hands. "I don't want to think about it."

Charles hesitates. "I think you need to."

Erik looks up and sighs. His mind has returned to that confused whirl from when to the apartment and told Charles what happened. Very little complete thought accompanies the emotions - flickers of damn it, Shaw, damn you and a sharp sense of betrayal, given and received.

"You did the right thing," Charles says gently. "If nothing else, the government needed to know the entire truth behind their own actions."

"It wasn't just about - saving Genosha," and Erik says that with a bit of disbelieving bitterness, "it was about Shaw regaining the power he'd lost. I've thought a lot of things over the years about my father, Charles, but I never thought he'd betray Genosha like that. That he would do something so selfish. I always thought ... that whatever his flaws as a person, he was a patriot."

"And you modeled yourself after that aspect of him," Charles says, understanding.

"So what does that make me?" Erik whispers.

"Yourself," Charles says simply. He knows the feeling of being isolated well, of every foundation being torn away. His parents' death had been that for him, casting him adrift in a world that didn't know him and couldn't, wouldn't want to. "Even from the glimpse I got of him, you are a very different person from him, Erik. And I think Frost could tell you the same thing."

Erik's mind quiets a bit. "Perhaps." The whirl has eased, even if the confusion remains. He feels Erik repress it and turn his mind to something else. "You must be hungry."

Charles decides not to push. Erik will come to him again when he's ready. From his place in Erik's mind, he tries to project acceptance and calm. "Can I have chicken?"

"Chicken's still damn expensive, I'll have you know," Erik says, smiling. He gives Charles a mental nudge back, like acknowledgement. "But yes, I think I've got some in the freezer."

Erik turns out to be a good cook, and Charles gleans from his mind that it is something he learned as an adult, after leaving home. They keep the television on, but muted, and they eat in the little kitchen nook. Erik's apartment struck him as austere at first, all clean lines and metal, but settled within Erik's mind and Erik's sense of magnetic fields, all the furniture and fixtures sing with a unique tone. It's beautiful in an entirely different way than telepathy.

There's Erik's mind itself, of course. Charles never told anyone he was a telepath, but he knows that when people think of such a possibility, fear is the first reaction, then a rush of whatever secrets they don't want others to know. Some of his experiences in Genosha also support that. But Charles knows that, for the most part, thoughts are entirely ordinary and secrets that shame some hold none of that for others. Erik is different - he welcomes Charles' presence, and he doesn't check his own thinking. He doesn't edit himself in the slightest. He lets Charles see everything and has no sense of invaded privacy.

It's wonderful.

"You're warm, you know," Erik says suddenly.


"Your presence in my mind," Erik says, rising to his feet and collecting Charles' plate before bringing it to the kitchen sink. "I can feel you thinking when you're in my head, even if I don't always get specific thoughts."

"Oh." Charles flushes, inexplicably. He thought he was controlling that. It's one thing to be in Erik's mind, but he doesn't want to be distracting him. He doesn't think he's projected so much in his whole life as he has in Genosha. "Sorry."

Erik flashes him a bright, toothy grin. "Don't be. I quite like the sensation."

Charles smiles, relaxing. "I've been wanting to ask something."


"What did you mean when you said you chose me? In the med center?"

Erik starts washing the dishes without answering, delaying. "I was debriefed pretty thoroughly," Erik says at last. "I thought my time in Intel would be essentially over, but I got the impression that wasn't necessarily the case, with a catch - ending my attachment to you." Erik smiles wryly at nothing, staring at the dishes. Charles stands and comes to his side. "Not in so many words, but that was the idea."

"Erik ... Intel is your life."

"There are things more important than orders, Charles," Erik says, glancing over at him. "I've learned that."

Then Erik returns to the dishes, cleaning and then rinsing them. Charles takes those rinsed off silently and grabs a towel to dry them, stacking them neatly on the counter. There's not much there to wash, just plates from their lunch, a mug Charles used, so they finish quickly.

Charles lays his hand flat on the counter. "Thank you," he whispers.

A hand touches Charles' cheek, makes him turn his head. Erik stares at Charles intently for a moment. "You stopped me from going along with something horrific."

"No, I didn't," Charles says immediately and earnestly - surprised by Erik's words. "Making that decision was always in you."

A surge of skepticism and amusement works through Erik. "If you say so," Erik says. He leans and kisses Charles, quick and gentle.

Charles doesn't want it to end, though. He had a taste of Erik, and then he lost it, and now he has him again and it's not enough. There's a hint of desperation to his want, Charles knows, for all the commitment Erik's given him, it's all so fast and so soon. When Erik breaks the kiss, he reaches out and pulls Erik back to him, opening his mouth and inviting Erik in, projecting his desire. Erik moans in answer, his own arousal rising swiftly. He runs his hands up Charles' back, up his shirt, then back down and into Charles' jeans, cupping his ass.

Charles breaks the kiss, gasping and arches into Erik's touch with so much force he almost unbalances them. "Sorry."

I like the enthusiasm, Erik thinks. The barely there laugh-lines around his eyes deepen as he smiles, and Charles leans in, not kissing him, just breathing. Why don't we take this to the bedroom?

"Why not here?" Charles mutters into Erik's neck.

Erik's chest vibrates with laughter. "We can get experimental later. And we shouldn't scar the neighbors." Without waiting for a reply, he searches around for Charles' hand. When he finds it he leads them down the hallway into Erik's room, undressing Charles along the way, a messy and uncoordinated attack that almost results in both of them tripping. Still in the hallway Charles lets loose a small giggle and stops moving when Erik's nails rake down his sides while reaching for his pants, tickling him.

Erik smiles at him in reply, face too close so his features are out of proportion, blue-green eyes bright. He disappears from Charles' vision for a second, and then Charles looks down and realizes he's trying to yank off Charles' trousers. "You know, I can -"

"Lift your leg."

Charles obeys. In seconds Charles is entirely naked, and he flushes, resisting the urge to cover himself when Erik rises, gives him a thorough once over, and then takes his hand, leading him to the bedroom. He pushes Charles onto the bed, until he's lying flat. It suddenly occurs to Charles that while they've had sex, he's never seen Erik naked. The thought of that, the thought of what they're about to do, fills him with a degree of giddiness and nervousness, but when he's seated within Erik's mind he knows how much he's wanted, how much Erik loves him.

Beautiful, Erik thinks, accompanying the thought with a vision of Charles with his skin flushed and cock half-hard lying hard against his stomach - that is far too flattering to be true.

Get naked, Charles replies.

Erik smirks and obeys. He doesn't bother with a striptease, not that Charles needs one, and when he's finished undressing he doesn't wait for Charles to get a good look, but crawls over Charles, knee settling between Charles' legs. Erik stares right at Charles when he lowers his own body to touch him, cock against Charles' hip, and Charles in turn starts rubbing off against Erik's leg. Their lips meet in an almost painful clash, before Erik regains control and gentles it, but Charles moans at the roughness anyway.

Erik. He slips into Erik's mind even further, able to feel the pleasure Erik feels, able to know the touch from the other side when Erik moves his entire body against Charles, this just like the first time, except the immediate sensation is entirely different skin to skin. Charles lets his hands roam over Erik's neck and shoulders and back, to the jutting bone of his hips, smooth skin marked by scars here and there. Keep in control, Charles reminds himself. Separate.

Then Erik reaches between them and strokes Charles' cock, a firm, long stroke that twists at the head, thumb briefly on the slit, before he begins again. Charles bucks into the touch helplessly, body sliding against Erik's, slick with sweat.

I can feel everything you do, Erik thinks at him. God, it's almost like having two bodies.

Sorry, sorry! Charles tries to regain control.

Don't stop, Erik demands. I want you. I want you to.

Charles can only send him a dizzying amount of gratitude, then pushes at Erik's shoulders, making him lie on his side, so Charles can reach Erik's cock. The skin is soft and warm; he's circumcised, Charles notes randomly, then loses the thought at another stroke to his own cock.

He feels it when Erik presses his forehead against Charles, steady strokes continuing, Charles returning the favor without much rhythm, easily getting distracted by Erik's touch. He doesn't realizes his eyes are closed until he opens them, Erik staring at him, no smile on his face now, just aching lust, mouth open and panting.

I don't even know why I love you so much yes I do - Charles - comes from Erik, a fast-paced jumble.

"I love you, too," Charles whispers. "Don't ever leave me."

Never again, Erik promises. Now let go.

Of what?

Yourself, Erik thinks. Don't be scared. I'm not.

Charles takes him at his word, and does.

He doesn't just feel what Erik is feeling - he turns it into a feedback loop until they're both a mess of sensations and thoughts. Charles feels it when they reach a point of unity. They're one but two, and he can sense their minds like intertwined webs, and then pluck a string and control that. He can put up a shield and know that everything in this room will not travel outside of it. He does have the control, he realizes. Erik is a maze of lust, and he's entirely his own while sliding into Charles' mind, and the reverse is true. It's no more unequal than Erik's experienced touch to his body, the automatic reaction of Charles' senses.

Are you getting philosophical in the middle of sex? Erik sends hazily.

He kisses Erik again, strokes his cock and reaches past that, to heft his balls, Erik's hips jerking forward and then Erik comes.

Charles follows helplessly and gladly.

Erik's mind is weirdly still in the aftermath, minutes passing unnoticed. He's got one leg hooked over Charles', chin tucked over Charles' shoulder, breath warm against Charles' skin, slowing. He's not thinking about much of anything, just random images of the two of them in the act, which fade into flashes of them doing other things, reading books and walking, doing the dishes. It's ... sweet.

I am not sweet, Erik says.

If you say so.

I do. Erik gets up, standing and stretching, and Charles can't draw his eyes away from the interplay of muscles under his skin. He goes into the bathroom and gets a warm washcloth, which he uses to clean Charles - odd but wonderfully intimate to have Erik handle Charles' genitals and wipe his skin clean - and then himself. Then he returns to bed, lying on his back and urging Charles to lean into him, curl into his side, which Charles does, resting his head on Erik's chest. Erik starts playing with the slightly curly hair at Charles' nape.

I don't want this to end, Erik thinks, undirected.

Charles rises slightly to prop himself up on his elbow and look Erik in the eye. "What are we doing to do now?"

Erik smiles and shrugs lightly. "I've actually gotten offers from various companies over the years - my ability to alter metal is useful in the commercial world, apparently, and the fact that I can do very fine work means I could do in minutes what would take a specialized factory days."

"What about me?"

Erik shrugs. "Telepaths and empaths sometimes become medical doctors, able to feel the patient's symptoms. Or rescue personnel. Being able to find a mind, even if you can't read it, is a useful skill there. Or you could go into genetic research, your original field."

Charles nods. "I actually meant more what will happen to us."

"Nothing, I think," Erik says. "They can't, not when they won't admit what you did was unsanctioned."

Oh, Charles thinks.

"Whatever does happen, we'll handle it together, right?"

Charles kisses Erik's shoulder. "Always."

They spend two delightful days under house arrest, the news their only guide to the outside world. Charles' frantic act to prevent war turns into a thoughtful gamble the council and Selven took to counter anti-mutant sentiment, and Charles thinks ruefully that mutants have not yet managed to eradicate the need for politics. They limit themselves to a few hours a day of television, and spend the rest of their time talking and coming up with plans for the most absurd possibilities. Erik turns out to play chess, and lots of even more entertaining things. Erik's mind always shouts his amusement and fascination with Charles' slow examination of pleasure.

Two days into house arrest, they're both naked, Erik asleep and Charles nearly there, lying next to him in their bed.

Charles' eyes snap open and he sits up. "We need to get dressed."

"What? Why?" Erik's mind snaps into awareness.

"Logan's here," Charles says, turning to look at him.

Erik blinks. "They must have decided what to do with us."

They dress rapidly and they're ready when Logan reaches the door and knocks. Erik lets him in; Logan silently moves past him and sits on the armchair, and then stares evenly at Erik and Charles when they sit opposite him on the couch.

"First off," Logan says, glaring, "thanks to you I had to fucking join the politics side on an official basis."

Erik smiles. "Intel's sorry to lose your winning personality, I'm sure."

"Funny, Lehnsherr."

"What's happening?" Charles interrupts, wanting to get to the point. He scans Logan's mind lightly, finds more annoyance there than actual anger. And there is an odd tenor to his thoughts, a lack of reactivity; he doesn't know why he didn't notice it before.

"I think you can guess that there will be no official repercussions," Logan says.

Erik nods briefly.

"You're both out of Intel, of course, and your clearances have been stripped to almost nothing."

"What about Raven and Hank?" Erik asks. "Frost?"

"On suspension," Logan says. "Raven and Hank have been demoted, and they'll never have much upward mobility, but they'll have careers in Intel similar to what they have now - serviceable as agents, like we were as your team. Frost was reinstated; I don't know the details there."

Erik breathes out slowly. "Good."

"But that's not why I m here. It's not known publicly yet, but the Senate, the council and Selven have been meeting and discussing Genosha's next move, and a decision has been made. And there's a decision for you to make as well," Logan says.

Erik and Charles glance at each other, and Charles doesn't even know when they made the choice to take each other's hand. "What is it?" Erik asks.

Logan tells them.

This is the most secure prison in Genosha. It lies in the middle of nowhere, close to the center of the island, nothing but empty space for miles upon miles around. It's almost entirely underground, only three floors existing to the passerby, a concrete and steel monolith that mostly houses the administrative personnel. Erik's not entirely certain of the size of the place beyond that, though he can't imagine there's many people here. The prisoners below are in cells specifically designed for them. Erik supposes if he ever ended up here, he'd live in a prison of plastic.

Charles takes Erik's hand. "I can feel those inside," he says, expression distant. "They hate being caged."

"Most people do," Erik replies. "But they deserve to be here."

Charles nods, and lets Erik lead him inside.

The building opens up into a large hall, a few chairs and tables bolted to the floor, but it's empty otherwise. He stops at the first security checkpoint, pauses to have one eye and hand to be scanned in order to confirm his identity. Charles is hovering next to him, so close Erik can feel the warmth emanating from his body.

"You'll be fine," Charles murmurs into Erik's ear.

Erik glances over and kisses him briefly. "Stay here, okay? I need to do this alone."

Charles frowns, pokes lightly into Erik's mind, then withdraws, apparently finding whatever he was looking for. "Frost is here," he says. "I think she planned to be."

Erik isn't expecting that, but that's all right. He hasn't spoken to her since Charles used Cerebro. Of course, he has no idea how much chaos there really is at the level Frost plays at. Her ability makes her powerful and gives her a voice even outside Intel, much like Logan's longevity has given him contacts over time.

"Stay here," he repeats to Charles, and leaves him behind, Charles' presence in his mind remaining steady, but distant enough not to be distracting. His last look at Charles shows him with his arms folded, a slight downturn to his mouth, but he gives Erik a brief smile.

He has to go through another half-dozen security checkpoints to reach the elevator, at which point he sees Frost standing there, waiting, dressed in her usual white.

She turns, a slight smile on her lips, and sends, Hello, Erik.

Frost. How is he being held?

"It was necessary for me to place a block in his mind," Frost says. "When they wanted to sedate me after your stunt, Shaw wanted to use it to break free, so I took away his mental ability to use his mutation. I was just here strengthening it."

Erik's taken aback. "I didn't even know that was possible."

"I didn't either," Frost says wryly. "I've never done it before." She pauses, looks him in the eye. "Do you really need to do this, Erik?"

Erik nods. "He's ... my father, Emma."

Frost leans forward and kisses Erik on the cheek. Charles is right, by the way. You're nothing like him. She turns away and leaves, her mental touch fading.

A guard leads Erik down the maze of a cellblock. There's no bars - instead, there's a kind of hardened, clear plastic, so the inside of the cell is easily visible. Erik doesn't recognize any of the people he passes.

The guard stops in front of a cell, nods curtly at Erik, and then walks away a few dozen feet and waits.

Shaw's sitting on the bunk, staring at his hands, curled almost like he's holding something, but there's nothing there. Erik remembers well Shaw gathering energy in his hands, delighting Erik with it as a child, the play of light and power. Perhaps a minute passes, Erik motionless and full of grief, and then Shaw raises his gaze.

He stands, moves over the barrier. "Erik. You betrayed me."

"What you did was wrong."

"No, it wasn t," Shaw snarls. "I did everything right, Erik. I sought to save our kind from the enemies who would destroy us. I sought to give us, you and me, the power we deserved, so we could lead mutantkind into the future. The human world will never accept us and will always seek to end our country."

"You helped them do that, Shaw!" He nearly shouts, unchecked anger rising. "How can you defend that? You gave them weapons to be used against us!"

Shaw presses a hand against the clear barrier. "Erik -"

"No." Erik just breathes for a second. "I came because you were like a father to me."

"You were always my son," Shaw says softly.

Words he'd always wanted to hear, but now is far too late. "This is it," Erik says. "This is goodbye. You - you gave me a lot, over the years, and I won't forget that."

Shaw is silent, staring at him.

"But the future isn't what you think it is." He speaks evenly and quietly. "Genosha is going to open up diplomatic relations with the human world; the UN's already been looking into doing the same, independent of us. An announcement will be made to the public and then we'll make diplomatic overtures. An ambassador will be sent to the UN. Embassies will be set up in countries around the world and travel will be allowed out of Genosha ... maybe into Genosha, someday, but not yet."

Shaw shakes his head slowly, eyes wide.

"And Charles and I?" Erik smiles sadly. "We'll be the first mutants sent to meet with the human world." Intel can't trust Charles to follow their orders - but they can trust him to follow his own ideals. He is perfect for it, really, being already so known and familiar, terrifying and comforting, the thread of Charles' touch in every mind in the world. An imprint, Azazel called it. Erik doesn't think Charles knows the depth of what he pushed into the minds of those in the world. It won't be perfect, but ... "We'll have peace between humans and mutants."

"Charles ... and you," Shaw says at last, something dark in his eyes.

"Yes," Erik whispers. "Thank you for that. You were right to push me towards him, you know. He was the one who convinced me to turn against you, that it was the right decision to make."

Shaw clenches his jaw and looks away. "We're more than them, Erik. All you've done is delayed the rightful place of mutants as the superior species. You're choosing humans over your own kind."

"I'm choosing to be the better man," Erik says and - that's the end of it. He exhales, and Shaw is speaking, still, shouting, but he ignores it. He turns and begins walking away, back to Charles. He feels the steady light of Charles brighten in his mind, and then Erik can hear him saying, Let's go home.

Erik closes his eyes briefly, a smile curling his lips, and then he walks into the future.