Because I can't write anything else right now (the reason I haven't updated anything) because I'm too depressed right now and it's hard to explain why and ya'll aren't interested in that anyway so here, have a post-Cuba rehash one-of-my-best-friends-hates-me-now-and-its-not-my-fault-but-I-feel-guilty-anyway-and-I-wrote-this-because-there-are-a-lot-of-depressing-parallels scene. :P
Westchester, New York – 1963 – The Xavier Estate – 2 a.m.
The night didn't start out badly. In fact, the day itself had been a rather decent one. Hank and Sean and Alex trained, Charles coached them—as well as he could these days, from the sidelines—and there was more than one lively discussion among the four of them over their plans for the school. It was Charles to have the idea, but the others had climbed on board quickly.
Really, it had been a good day. It was still hard to say that—that a day had been good—but it had been. There had been that moment when he nearly picked up the phone to call Moira and the fact that thinking about it hurt later, but other than that it really had been good. Cuba always seemed like yesterday, but at the same time…less and less, maybe, every day.
That was why it surprised him when things took a sharp turn downhill when night fell. Usually it didn't surprise him, but maybe because things were getting better it did. It was getting late, but he couldn't stop jotting down notes on their ideas for the school that they would start here. Charles made it to the bedroom, eventually, and by then he was nearly asleep anyway, and he wasn't sure how he ended up on the floor until he was on his back staring at the ceiling.
He wasn't sure that he could get up. It had only been a few short months since Cuba, and he'd only recent recovered enough from the bullet wound and subsequent surgeries to start really regaining his strength. He didn't know if he had enough to pull himself back up into the chair. Of course, first he would have to get it upright again…
It should have been simple. He could easily call to any of the others and they would have come to help him. That much was even easier for him than it would have been for anyone else in his situation. His telepathy would have made that no more difficult than talking to someone right beside him.
He didn't call to any of them. He wasn't really sure why. Maybe it was just easier to lie there. He'd just come from the bathroom, he was about to fall asleep anyway, and it didn't seem to matter where he did that. There wasn't any reason to bother anyone; he could ask one of them for assistance once they were up anyway.
Some small part of his mind, pushed away in the back, told him he was being ridiculous. He didn't have to stay down here. It wouldn't really be a bother to anyone. But he stayed there anyway.
Maybe he actually drifted off, and maybe he didn't, or—no, he must have. One moment he wasn't sure whether he really would and then he was waking at movement. He was being picked up, and he supposed one of the boys had found him anyway. Then again, only Hank had the strength to pick him up on his own…and it didn't feel like Hank. But he was probably just still too asleep to make sense of everything. He wasn't even picking up on whose thoughts it was, whoever was here.
Charles didn't open his eyes—the lids felt like lead anyway—and whoever it was settled him into his bed and pulled the blankets up to his chest. If he were more awake he might have realized that none of this seemed remotely like Sean, Hank, or Alex.
Then he realized that he wasn't picking up on any thoughts because there weren't any thoughts to be picked up on.
He realized it at about the same moment that a weight settled on the edge of the bed beside him, and he realized that whoever was here wasn't planning on leaving soon.
Charles's eyes opened immediately, and he couldn't say whether or not he was surprised at what he saw.
It was Erik, sitting beside him, in full Magneto regalia.
They knew about his new identity, of course. None of them had confronted him face to face yet. Not since Cuba. But he and his little brotherhood of mutants had caused enough trouble in recent months to gain media coverage. Charles had seen the ridiculous outfit before. He'd seen the cold eyes and the superior expression.
It was worse in person. The helmet didn't help, either. It made everything worse. Maybe Erik was here, but he was still shutting Charles out deliberately, and—
"What are you doing here?" he managed to get out after a moment. Charles had never seen his friend—former friend? enemy?—hesitate like that before.
"I don't know," Erik admitted finally.
Charles wanted to be glad to see him. He really wanted to be, but any feelings like that quickly evaporated. They were at least shoved away into the obscure reaches of his mind, anyhow.
"You can't just be here. You can't come here." It came out before he really knew what he was saying, and the sudden flash of anger surprised him.
Erik blinked at him, impassive, and something in his eyes said he understood but he asked the question anyway. "Why?" Maybe he knew that there were things Charles needed to say.
"Because you left." He pushed down at the mattress, trying to haul himself up into more of a sitting position against the pillows and only marginally succeeding. Erik reached out as if to help him, but Charles sharply batted him away. "You left, Erik. You had a family here. We wanted to be your family, but instead you betrayed us." He paused. "You betrayed me. I trusted you and you betrayed me."
"I know. I'm sorry—"
"No you're not." The fact that he'd said it without emotion made it pretty clear. It was difficult to look at him, but Erik didn't say anything else until he did. When he did, there finally seemed to be something behind the frozen façade.
"You're right; I'm not sorry for what I'm doing, or what I believe. I want to create a better future for all mutants, Charles, and I still believe my way is the only way it's going to get done. I still think you're naïve. But I am sorry that I hurt you."
Charles swallowed hard, and his fingers dug into one of his dead legs through the covers and the anger was still there. "You don't know the half of—"
"Yes, I do."
"I've kept an eye on you. Did you think I didn't care? If there was anything I could have done to give you your legs back I wouldn't have stayed away. I would have gotten you the help you needed. You know that."
"Do I?" Charles snapped back. This man left him bleeding on a beach in Cuba with no immediate help and a bullet in his back. Not to mention the internal scars from being trapped in Shaw's head when Erik killed him.
Erik let out a short breath. "Charles…we may not be on the same side anymore, but I will always care, and if you need anything—"
"How can you say that? Why should I ever talk to you again? Much less ever ask anything of you. Why should I even be having this conversation now? You tried to kill thousands of men, and when you left us on that beach I could have died. As it is I'll never walk again, and not only did you take yourself out of the picture; you took my sister. Why should I listen to you? Why should I believe you care?"
Again, the vehemence of Charles's answer surprised even himself. It wasn't as if he wasn't a normal person. It wasn't as if he'd never thought such angry things in the past—about his mother, Kurt, others…but he wasn't the type to say those things.
Erik, though, didn't seem surprised. He blinked again, startled maybe, but he wasn't surprised. "I don't know," he said for the second time that night. "All I know is that I do. You're my friend, Charles—or you were."
Were. Months of trying to bring Erik out of his shell, getting to know him, coming to care about him, trying to help him…all of it for nothing. And it wasn't even that he cared so much about the waste; it hadn't been waste. But he missed Erik and Raven horribly and he didn't know how to fill the hole in his chest. Somehow Erik being here right now—even Erik saying he still cared in some way—just hurt more. Because he knew it didn't change anything.
They still couldn't go back.
Now his chest hurt. Or was it his throat? Or both? Sometimes he wished, especially in recent months, that emotions were something he could just turn off.
Erik was still looking at him, as if expecting him to say something. Maybe something like no, we're still friends, it's okay. But Charles couldn't say that, even though he opened his mouth to.
"It should be me saying things like that," he said instead. "I should be the one telling you that I'll always be here if you need me, and I've wanted to for moths, and I would have if you'd let me—if you hadn't left that beach like you were running from the plague. If you hadn't stayed away for so long." The anger was coming back. "Why did you stay away?"
"You're contradicting yourself, Charles. You asked me when I got here what I thought I was doing here."
"Just answer the question!"
He didn't, or he couldn't, but it didn't really matter anymore.
Charles let out a heavy breath. "The ridiculous thing is, if you were all of a sudden in dire trouble tomorrow, I would do anything I could to help you. It makes no sense, does it?"
"Of course it does. You're you. You would do that for anyone." Erik pauses. "You're a better man than I'll ever be."
"I'm not," Charles whispered. "I'm really not."
Erik shrugged, minutely, and he opened his mouth as if he had something else to say, but then he closed it again without a word.
"Nothing…I'm sorry. I don't know why I came."
"To let me yell at you?" Charles tried to smile, and Erik only succeeded a bit better than he did.
"Maybe." It wasn't quite an admission of guilt, but it was close enough.
He stood abruptly, and Charles felt the sudden absence as the bed leveled itself out. He was going to leave, and Charles desperately tried to think of something else to say. He wanted to say he was glad Erik did come, but he wasn't sure he could say even that truthfully.
"Wait." He said it as Erik was turning, and his voice caught and he hated himself for it. But Erik stopped. "Do you have to keep that ridiculous helmet on?" It was all he came up with, but really it did need to be said. The helmet was the barrier, keeping Charles away from Erik's mind and keeping them from discussing anything on any deeper level. People could connect without telepathy, certainly, but it was wasn't that. It was the deliberate choice to keep him out. That choice came between them.
"If you're leaving anyhow, can't it come off? Just for a moment?"
He was looking away as he asked. Erik knew what he was asking, and most of him wasn't sure why he was asking it. If their friendship was over the lack of connection didn't matter. Maybe that was why he asked it so quietly, why he looked away, because it was so absurd. Maybe he just wanted one more glimpse before he had to let Erik go.
Erik hesitated. He glanced back over his shoulder, not quite all the way, and for a moment it looked like he might oblige. It looked like he wanted to. Half turned away Charles could still make out that there was a real expression on his face now. The frozen mask was gone, and there was pain in its place.
"I'm sorry, Charles."
This time his voice broke, and Charles didn't feel so self-conscious about his own lapse anymore. That hardly mattered, though, because then Erik was gone. A soft click told him the window was closed, and Charles was alone.
He was alone, and Erik hadn't trusted him enough to take the helmet off even for a moment, and…and he knew what that meant.
He tried to tell himself it wasn't over, but right now he didn't believe it.