Pause

When the missiles began to fly toward the beach, Azazel wasted no time in gathering his people.

Three quick strides and he was beside Janos. He caught the other Mutant by the hand, and Janos jerked backward against his grasp in surprise – he had always been odd about being touched, Janos – before lowering his eyes from the sky to meet Azazel's own.

He watched the panic on Janos's face transform into relief. Azazel smiled back at Janos with one side of his face, but only briefly – then he turned his head to look for Angel.

Angel was sharper than Janos. She was moving toward them already, without any prompting, and Janos reached out with his free hand and pulled her in close.

Azazel paused then, taking in the scene on the beach in front of him. The missiles were closing in quickly, and the other Mutants were watching their approach, all eyes turned upwards, transfixed on the sky. They seemed to have forgotten entirely the enemies at their backs, and Azazel was not accustomed to being disregarded in such a way.

A few minutes earlier, the German – his name was Erik Lehnsherr, Azazel knew, because Emma had told him – had emerged from the crippled submarine, Shaw's body floating ahead of him, crucified on a twist of metal.

Emma had also told him that he ought to expect that. "He won't take Lehnsherr seriously," she'd said, when Azazel had come to collect her from her CIA cell. "Shaw thinks that he can be reasoned with, that he'll come over to our side if the right stimulus is applied. He's wrong. I've seen the inside of Lehnsherr's mind, there's absolutely no scenario where he doesn't kill Shaw or die trying. And if Shaw doesn't wake the fuck up, he'll pull it off too. Lehnsherr's determination is... inhuman." And then she'd pulled a face at the expression.

Emma had refused to leave the cell with him; of course, she might have broken herself out at any time, but she was angry with Shaw for disregarding her warnings. Fed up, she said, with his egotism. Azazel thought also that she had taken the helmet as a personal insult. There were some grounds for that; Shaw had commissioned the helmet, after all, long before they'd known of Charles Xavier's existence.

Lehnsherr was wearing that helmet now, had been wearing it when he exited the sub. He'd allowed Shaw's body fall to the sand in a heap, and Azazel and Janos both had moved in closer to make certain it was true. Azazel had met Janos's eyes, trying to ascertain what Shaw's death meant to him, what he thought they should do next, but his feelings were as carefully masked as Azazel's own.

Lehnsherr had begun to speak then. Azazel's English was too poor to follow most of what was said, but there was power in the man's voice, and the words had flowed like an appealing sort of poetry, despite – or maybe because of – Lehnsherr's obviously shaken nerves.

He'd had the sense that Lehnsherr was offering them something – comradeship, perhaps – but before Azazel had been able to formulate a question, Lehnsherr had past them by, focusing his appeal on the group of Mutants with which he had arrived. And then the missiles had come, and everything had begun to happen at once very slowly and at a great speed.

He considered briefly the possibility... but no, there wasn't any time – the missiles were very close now – and anyway, Xavier's band had only made this trouble for themselves. They'd sided with humans against their own kind, and that this – betrayal and death – were the wages of such decisions ought to be of no surprise.

"Apurate!" Janos said from beside him, and that spurred Azazel into action. He started across the sand, pulling Janos and Angel – not resistive but confused – along behind him like a line of ducklings.

The blue girl was not the closest, but he moved toward her first for reasons that he would only admit to himself much later. There were only a matter of seconds left now, and as he reached out for her arm the shadows of the first line of missiles fell over them.

And then those shadows simply stopped moving, and Azazel did the same, only his eyes turning upward to look at the ranks of missiles suspended overhead.

Some sound of astonishment must have escaped his throat, because the blue girl whirled toward him suddenly. She moved back a step, drawing her arms in toward her body as though she'd sensed his intent. Lips half parted, the girl – the woman – watched him warily, and Azazel saw that her eyes were a bright golden color, astonishing in their directness.

Something in his chest flipped alarmingly under her gaze – an entirely foreign sensation – and he wanted to say something to her very badly, but what English he had seemed to have fled his mouth entirely.

She spoke instead. "Don't leave," she said. "Everything's going to be alright," and Azazel found himself nodding along firmly, though it became clear that this wasn't completely true almost as soon as she spoke.

The missiles overhead were moving again now, headed back to where they had come from under the control of Lehnsherr, and that seemed fair and right to Azazel, but Xavier was shouting at him. Then Xavier threw himself at Lehnsherr, lunging wildly for the helmet, and the two of them were rolling in the sand.

It was obvious from the first instant that Xavier had acted out of desperation. The smaller man was no fighter – he in fact, had no idea what he was doing – and that the reason the matter wasn't settled within a few seconds was simply because Lehnsherr was reluctant to strike him.

It was embarrassing to see, but everyone else was watching intently – even the blue woman had turned to watch, a horrified expression on her face – and Azazel took the opportunity to move away from her before the rest of her group could note that he'd been so close. He felt awkward moving across the sand, bizarrely self-conscious. Angel and Janos followed him, putting space between themselves and Xavier's group.

Which was why his back was turned when the gun shots began.

He spun toward the sound to see that Xavier was down, apparently wounded. Azazel watched the commotion which followed intently, but he comprehended very little of what he saw. It was a dance of guilt and hurt, a complex web of relationships and feelings that he didn't understand, and in the end he focused exclusively on the blue girl.

When he saw that she'd reached her decision, taking Lehnsherr's hand and moving to his side, Azazel made up his own mind as well.

Lehnsherr looked to him, and it was not even necessary that they should exchange words. Azazel did not look toward the woman – he somehow did not dare to – but it felt entirely natural that he should go to the man as the woman had, and that Janos and Angel should follow him as well, almost as though it was all fated.

Lehnsherr nodded at Azazel and they had gone, moving toward whatever was next.