WARNINGS: Rape, torture, recovery from both, etc
Charles, NO! I love you…!
Erik jerks awake violently, calling Charles's name. He doesn't quite realize it was only a dream until Charles is awake too, pushing into his mind to calm him and there are cool fingers gripping at his arms.
"Erik, it's all right! I'm here! You were dreaming…"
Erik rolls to pull the smaller man against his chest in the bed, and he isn't able to calm, really, until he feels Charles's breath on his neck and hair against his cheek. "But it wasn't a dream…it happened. I thought—" He's gasping. I thought you were dead. It wasn't long but it was forever. I thought I'd lost you.
"I know, I'm sorry, I know," Charles is whispering, over and over. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
"Never do anything like that again," he chokes out. It isn't Charles's fault. He did what he had to do, to fool Shaw into releasing both of them. Erik knows that. But he can't bear the thought of ever going through that again. Of Charles being gone.
"I won't…I won't. Never. I'm sorry. Erik…"
There are tears in Charles's voice, and it dissolves into a quiet cry of pain and Erik realizes he's been holding too tightly. Charles is crushed against him, in his arms and half of him almost not resting on the mattress anymore. As Erik's breathing evens out and his heart stops pounding so loudly in his ears he can hear Charles gasping for an entirely different reason than he was.
"God," Erik hisses in dismay. He lets Charles go carefully, letting him rest on his back on the mattress again, and his face is damp and Erik wants nothing more than for the earth to open up and swallow him. "Charles, I—"
"It's all right." It comes out quiet and strangled as Charles tries to catch his breath. "I'm—it's all right." No, don't back away. Come here. Come back here. Please.
Erik stops his retreat backward across the bed and slides closer again, up on an elbow and leaning tentatively over Charles to dry the tears away with his other thumb. One of Charles's hands comes up to hold his arm.
Erik lets out an uneven breath. "The dream, I just—"
The hand on his arm beckons him down, and Erik bends to kiss Charles gently. "I'm sorry…I didn't mean to hurt you."
Charles huffs out a breath. "Nothing compared to the last ten months, really. Don't worry so. The months that follow are not going to be easy, I would wager, and such a small mishap is hardly worth being upset over." He sounds so tired, but Erik knows he means it.
Erik shakes his head at him, and then realizes that the chair by the bed is empty. "What happened to Raven?"
"She woke up…I convinced her to go back to her own bed. You're here with me now, after all."
"Have you gotten any more sleep?" Erik asks skeptically.
"Some. Off and on." There's something he isn't saying.
"Dreams?" Erik says gently.
Charles makes a face and won't quite look at him. "Not uhm…not the ones I was most afraid of, strangely enough. But others…yes."
He doesn't have to explain what he means by that. At least not the first part. Erik kisses his forehead and settles at his side again, to find another position in which he can hold Charles without hurting him. Charles may insist it doesn't matter so much, but it certainly does to him.
"I never want anyone to hurt you again, either," Charles whispers.
Raven brings them toast in the morning, to start out with, and it's a good choice. To Charles the thought of anything more is still nauseating, after eating little else but meager amounts of bread for ten months. But Erik and Raven help him shift to a sitting position against the headboard and pillows, and the toast works just fine for getting something, at least, into their stomachs.
He feels a bit better after that, and Erik seems to as well. Though for Erik, of course, the improvement is more noticeable. He isn't as deteriorated and the sustenance helps more, and Charles is glad for that, at least.
Then Hank mentions a hospital again, and Erik's mood takes a turn for the worse. He does not want either of them anywhere near a hospital.
Erik, what is it?
Hospitals are run by humans. It was humans who did this to us. To you.
At Shaw's command. And they were influenced by Miss Frost. I doubt all of them would have done those things without her virtual insistence.
But some of them would have.
That…that isn't the point. The point is that not all humans are like that.
How can you say that now? How can you even consider trusting humans, ever?
Because I refuse to fall into the trap Shaw set for us, Charles responds quickly. Distrust and discord between humans and mutants is what he wants. It is WHY he used them to hurt us; do you not understand that?
Erik doesn't answer that. He continues to scowl at Hank, but the boy means well. Hank points out that Charles seems much worse off than Erik is, and that he could need serious medical attention. In the end, it's not wanting to put Charles in any further danger that softens Erik's attitude.
Then, of course, comes the inevitable question of how bad it is. Charles is still covered head to toe and the extent of the damage isn't visible to them. Erik insists that Hank at least look at Charles himself before they determine if a hospital is absolutely necessary. If it is, they'll go and Erik will deal with it for Charles's sake.
Thank you, Charles tells him silently.
I just want you to be safe.
Charles thought it would be more nerve-wracking, getting the clothes off again, and it's why he wouldn't do it last night. But Erik is beside him now, supporting him, and it's Erik and Raven that help him get down to his shorts, and it isn't awful.
Or it isn't awful in itself. He does feel awful when Raven cries again. She clings gently to him for long moments before she will let Hank anywhere near him. His bare shoulder is damp by the time she releases him and moves to the chair at the side of the bed, still holding his hand.
Erik has been in shorts and his t-shirt since last night. He has just as many bruises and scars, and he is thin too, and they've seen that, but Charles is worse, and he knows it. They all know it. Erik can move without making a face at every attempt. Erik can stand up and walk at least short distances.
Hank stretches his limbs out one at a time, moving them gently, and he may be no expert but he seems to have enough of an idea of what he's doing and what he's seeing to be worried. Especially when he can't do much of it without Charles's jaw clenching.
He tries not to cry out. He doesn't want to upset Raven more. But when Hank makes it to his legs he can't stop himself. They hurt too much, to move, and Erik's arm around his shoulders tightens protectively and Hank is frowning now, feeling the bones in his calves.
"Charles…these bones don't feel right." He indicates a different position on his each, his fingers running over bumps that Charles can feel now that they're being pointed out to him. "Were they broken at some point? That's all I can think of that would do this…it would explain a lot about the amount of pain in you're in, if they didn't heal correctly. It would explain why yours are more atrophied, too, if you weren't using them for a while because you couldn't."
Charles blinks. "I-I uhm…I…don't know. I…remember not…being able to use my legs much…it hurt, but I don't think—"
Erik cuts him off softly. "Yes."
Erik looks at him, grimaces. "You don't remember that?"
Charles shakes his head slowly in bewilderment. "No…" He has no recollection at all. Then again, ten months was a long time and a lot of pain, and much of it has blurred together—especially the months in the middle—but wouldn't he remember something like that?
Raven is squeezing his hand tighter, and Hank is looking at them for explanation. Erik swallows and gives it. "The first one was a month or two in, I think. The other one a few weeks later. I don't know which was which. I…we couldn't see each other. There was a wall between us." They haven't explained anything else that happened yet. The younger mutants understand already that it was Shaw who took them.
"I must have blocked it out," Charles murmurs. He can think of things he would rather have blocked out, but he supposes broken legs would have been significantly more physically painful than…than the other things they did to him. In that sense, at least, he can understand why his mind would hide it from him.
Erik kisses the side of his head, and no one looks at them strangely. In light of everything else, the others are taking this in stride. Charles is grateful for that. He doesn't feel like answering questions yet.
"It's probably better that you did," Erik tells him quietly.
Hank is the one making a face now. "Avoiding the hospital is definitely impossible now. We need to let a professional look at this. They'll probably have to go in surgically…re-break them and set them again, and…" He trails off, and now they're all looking at him rather than the other way around. He winces. "If they've been healed wrong for months, I don't know how well fixing them is going to work…I mean, I'm no doctor. But you need to be warned, Charles. I'm sorry.
Charles nods numbly, squeezing Raven's hand at his side in return, and in his mind Erik is trying to understand. What is he saying?
Charles lets his head rest back against Erik's shoulder, releasing a heavy breath. He's saying that this is going to be even harder than we had anticipated. He squeezes his eyes shut, trying not to think about it in any more detail than that. They're safe now. They're going to recover. They're going to have lives again. It was never going to be simple but he doesn't want to think about how this might complicate matters further.
What he doesn't tell Erik is that Hank is also saying that walking again might not be such an easy task for him. If he understands correctly, and he's relatively sure that he does.
One thing. One detail, and everything is changing again. If it's that important, why can't he remember?
Eight Months Ago
Every now and then, they're given a day to rest—to be fed a bit more than usual and given more vitamin injections and otherwise left alone, so they can regain just enough strength to last until the next time. It's been two months now. A little more. That's what Erik told him the last time Charles asked, anyhow. He doesn't ask often. It's too painful to ask.
Yesterday was one of those days. After food and injections and being washed they were left alone. And all it does is make the day after worse, when their jailers return to hurt them again. On the positive side, on these days Charles has more energy to fight them.
He hasn't stopped fighting. Not yet. When they take him they still have to have at least three or four of them in here to do it—to keep him still enough. Charles knows if this continues long enough that will change, but it hasn't yet. He doesn't want it to. He doesn't want to give in to them. That's what they want.
So he struggles, and he knows that only makes it more painful but if he doesn't struggle he's beaten. He refuses to be beaten, even if his body is.
He's struggling now. He's already been fucked twice today and his thighs are trembling and bloody, but the guards haven't gone yet. The leader's fingers are inside him, rough and painful and Charles is sure by now that the man prefers to hurt him, rather than anything else.
Charles can't move, but he's trying to. He's trapped on his side with one of the others sitting on one of his legs and another of them holding the other out of the leader's way. He's pulled that leg free once, kicked that guard in the chest, but the leader only shouted and made him take hold again. Then retaliation. The leader was rougher after that, taking no care at all—not that he ever does, really.
It doesn't help either that a fourth of them has iron fingers around his cock. Charles gasps in frustration, trying to twist away and failing as always. The leader's thrusts are painful shockwaves through his body, much too hard now even with just the use of fingers to do anything but hurt, but he's hard, his body confused by the hand stroking him mercilessly. He is aware of the pleasure, but he doesn't want it and everything hurts. Everything. His head hurts. He can't quite hear anything from the next room over his own gasps and groans, but in his mind he can hear the faint crack of a whip.
The other two are hurting Erik.
"No," he gasps aloud. Usually he doesn't bother with words anymore. He only struggles, just to show them they haven't bested him. They didn't listen to him before and they don't listen to him now. But he's had enough. He can't listen to them hurting Erik anymore and he doesn't see how he can bear to be beaten and violated any longer. "No…"
Charles finds a burst of unexpected energy somewhere—adrenaline perhaps. But he pulls violently, twists. At first they only tighten their holds and that stops him. The leader is laughing harshly in his ear, free hand moving from biting into Charles's shoulder to twist in his hair and pull.
"You're not going anywhere."
The fingers in him slam deeper and Charles shouts, and several more firm strokes of his cock from the other guard and he's coming and his sob catches in his throat as he shudders. "No!"
Charles claims what is left of the burst of energy he found. He pulls and twists and jerks and shouts—
And a crack. There is the sound of something cracking and Charles goes limp like puppet whose strings have been cut because his right leg—the one that someone is sitting on—is on fire and all he can do is scream.
Any sense of what is happening in the next room stops. They've stopped. They've all stopped. The fingers are pulled out of him and the others let him go and his screams punctuate when the one sitting on his leg moves off because the pain from the movement blinds him. Charles's eyes are clenched shut but through the slits he's barely aware of all of them staring at him as he writhes on the ground.
"What the hell…?"
"His leg's broken, you idiots! What did I say about keeping him still?"
Charles is crying now, loud choked sobs and he can't stop. The door bursts open the other two are there and there is more shouting above him, about what to do. One voice sticks out, one of the two that have just come in, younger and a bit less harsh than the others.
"Shouldn't we do something? You know…maybe set it?"
Any other time Charles might have the presence of mind to appreciate that he's the only one who sounds at all the concerned. The others are only worried about whether Shaw and Frost will be upset.
Charles! What happened!
Erik, in his mind, exhausted and hurting from the beating he's gotten this morning but worried just the same.
He still can't stop sobbing, but Charles gathers just enough of his wits to respond. My leg…broken…god it hurts…
The room, his cell, clears, and it seems they've decided to do nothing but leave him alone for now, or seek instruction. That doesn't help Charles. It doesn't help ease the fire in his leg that spikes at every movement. He lets himself roll back down onto his stomach and pulls his arms under his head to bury his face in and stays that way, afraid to move again. But not moving doesn't help, either. His body is shaking from pain and sobs and uneven gasps, and it jostles the damaged limb.
Beyond the name he calls out wordlessly, because he can't explain what he needs. He needs help. He needs Erik. It hurts too much and he can't deal with it on his own.
Just hang on…breathe…god…
The world is getting fuzzy around the edges. Erik tries to hold onto him but he slips away.
Erik begins to lose Charles after that. He calls to his friend through the wall, aloud and otherwise, and the responses are few and far between. From what he can gather from what he hears from the next room and out in the corridor, Charles doesn't fight anymore, either. The few things Charles tells him are enough that he understands why.
They set his leg once, and fashioned a meager split of rags and pieces of wood, but they've almost ignored the injury otherwise. Beyond being a bit more careful they do everything to him that they always have. Only now it hurts more. He can't fight or it's too much. And if he loses consciousness they're only more ruthless when he wakes.
But they like it, that he's helpless now. They make jokes about it. They taunt Erik when they come to hurt him. They try to upset him—tell him how defenseless and broken his friend is now—and it works. Erik is upset. Erik is irate, but there is nothing he can do but call to Charles and tell him he's here.
I know…Charles answers. It's usually the only answer Erik gets, and often when he gets it they are both alone, and in the quiet he can hear the soft crying from the next room. It's weeks before Charles says much else.
I'm sorry…I'm not as strong as you are. I didn't mean to shut you out…it wasn't only you I shut out, I…I'm sorry. I couldn't…
It's okay. Just come back. I'm here.
Charles is healing, coming out of it, and soon enough he's fighting again—a little, as much as he can. Erik can hear the difference from the other side of the wall. Charles is resisting again.
But the leader and the others must have decided they liked him better helpless. Shaw and Frost much not have cared the first time. Another few days later Erik wakes to panicked screaming, and he doesn't have time to figure out what it means before an abrupt screech and then the screams are anguished sobs of agony. Erik never gets an answer out of Charles; he can't calm him down. This time he has to hear it from the laughing guards the next time they taunt him.
They broke Charles's other leg, on purpose this time.
Charles doesn't answer him at all for two months.
Charles wakes in something near panic, but he can't remember the dream. He shifts and the sharp twinge in his legs is enough to make his eyes open, to pull a grunt out of him. He realizes then that his head is on Erik's lap.
"Charles? Are you all right?"
He blinks, trying to remember where he is. "Mmm…dream…I don't know…" A vehicle. He's lying in the back seat of a car, a t-shirt and pajama pants on now rather than shorts, and he's wrapped in a blanket. His head is on Erik's lap and his legs are in Raven's. The car is moving. Hank is driving and Sean and Alex are squeezed into the other front seat.
Erik strokes his hair back gently. "Don't worry about it." You don't need to remember anything you don't already anyway.
They must be on the way to the hospital. Charles vaguely remembers something about Erik not being thrilled with the idea of an ambulance. He's relatively certain he wasn't himself, either. So here they are. At some point he fell asleep again. The rest is still foggy, but it doesn't surprise him. After the last ten months he's used to waking up and not remembering exactly what happened yesterday.
It may have been morning but they're both exhausted enough. He's surprised that Erik is awake enough to sit up in the car.
They go over a bump and Charles lets out a startled cry. Erik makes a face and one of his arms shoots to the side to steady himself. Raven reaches across the space between them to grip his arm and help him stay up, but she's looking at Charles.
"Are you okay?"
"Sorry…" Hank says from the front.
"You can hardly apologize for the construction of the road," Charles mutters. He sighs. "I'm fine." He still can't remember the dream, but after the revelation that sent them to the hospital so immediately he has an idea of what it might have entailed. Erik, he thinks, is likely right—if he can't remember he doesn't need to.
Pajamas and a blanket and Erik and Raven's legs, and he still is barely warm enough. Then again, along with the muscle tone he's lost any fat. There were more blankets on the bed, and Erik was wrapped more around him then. It was warmer. Now he pushes closer into Erik's body, and it helps. Erik tucks the blanket more tightly around him and leaves his arm draped over Charles shoulder, his fingers combing soothingly through Charles's hair. He doesn't bend over for a kiss, but from sitting up that would likely hurt him and Charles can't fault him for that.
Raven is watching them, and he can't quite make out the meaning of the expression on her face.
What happened with you two? she asks finally. I mean it's not like it wasn't there before—we all saw it—now it's just…
We needed each other, Charles tells her. It's the closest he can come to the truth in a brief answer, and he's too tired to think any farther right now.
He still doesn't want to think about what else will happen, once they make it to the hospital—reality and things he may not want to face—but his answer to Raven, though simple, answers that too.
He has Erik now. He'll be all right. Whatever happens, they have each other.