I will fix things
Author's note: I wrote this late last winter, when I was suddenly enthralled with X-Men First Class. At the time, I was much more pleased with it than I am now. I feel like I added too much OOC-ness. Oh well. Please review if you spot anything egregious.
Erik didn't know what made him visit Xavier Mansion that night.
He supposed it was something to do with homesickness, a feeling he had never felt until he left that day. Perhaps it was because many memories of his childhood, when he had had a real home, had faded. Perhaps it was because he traveled so often as an adult and rarely remained in one place long enough to call it home. Whatever it was, this was the first time he wished he were back someplace tangible, some place he could put a finger on.
And now, there he was.
Maybe he was still a few hundred yards away, but Erik already felt as though he had returned home. At the same time, though, he instantly went on the alert. Somehow, he didn't want to be seen by anyone. He simply wanted to be here without anyone's knowledge. Not even Raven knew. She probably didn't even know he'd left her and the others to visit unless she'd woken up. He had almost felt bad leaving her behind. She obviously missed Charles, the only family she'd ever had. No matter how many times Erik reminded her that she was finally where she wanted to be and doing what she had wanted to be doing, he could tell that she was not at all where she wanted to be. She obviously regretted her decision to leave the others.
To be honest, he did too. He sincerely missed his new friends, Charles in particular. The telepath had snuck into Erik's good graces, become Erik's best friend even, without Erik ever realizing it. Until it happened, at least. And when it did, Erik had been really, truly happy. He had a real friend for the first time.
A real friend he had caused to get shot in the lower torso just because he happened to get hit by a deflected bullet.
Who was Erik kidding? Charles probably hated him now. Erik knew he'd hate someone who would severely injure him and/or abandon him. Even someone as naive, as gentle, as GOOD as Charles would feel like that.
After a few minutes of dark thought concerning Charles and betrayal, Erik realized that he couldn't see anyone outside. Odd. The instant he found a temporary home for himself and his new team, they would draw straws and pick the one to be the guard for the night. Either Charles was an idiot, the mansion had better defenses than Erik believed, or no one was there.
But then he looked at the windows. Several had lights in them, so Erik knew that there were still people in the mansion. He could even tell who was currently occupying what room. Alex's room was occasionally illuminated by a bright red flash indicating the use of his powers. Sean had several lights blinking in his room, none of them self-generated (he had a minor fear of the dark, Charles had explained to Erik once). And Charles' room had a single lamp steadily glowing. Erik wasn't sure how he could tell that, but he could.
Somehow, his feet started moving without his bidding them to. Instinct carried him towards the mansion (always remaining in the darkness in case someone happened to be looking out) and through the door (silently; he knew how to open doors without so much as a squeak). Instinct carried him through the halls and up some stairs. And instinct finally shut off when he was right in front of Charles' door. As soon as he stopped moving seemingly of his own accord, Erik strained to listen to the voices coming from inside the room.
"…almost finished," the unmistakable growl of Hank's comparatively newer voice could be heard.
"Good. What a step that will be," came the gentle response. Charles. What a joy it was to hear his voice again. The light English accent was still there, as was the lilt peculiar to the younger man's voice. However, there was also a sadness there, a weariness as though Charles held the weight of the world on his thin shoulders. Erik had never heard this before, or not to this magnitude at least. By now curious, the metal manipulator ducked into the shadows outside the room and continued to listen.
"We'll be able to start recruiting new mutants in droves," Charles continued. "Or at least, Sean and Alex can while I seek them out."
"Mm. Any sense from Magne-Erik?" Beast began a new thread in the conversation. Charles' responding sigh was audible even to Erik.
"Unfortunately not. He doesn't even take the helmet off when he sleeps," Charles sounded bitter as he said this. "I suppose it's his way of saying 'stay out, I don't trust you to go rummaging through my mind at your own leisure.'"
Charles always sounded so gentle, so composed… and now this? Erik had never heard his friend like this. Somehow, it didn't fit. HE was the the bitter one, not Charles. And Erik knew it was his fault that his typically serene friend was this bitter. He felt a stab of pain slice through his normally cold heart.
Charles was right. Erik did sleep with the helmet on. But not to keep Charles out, never to keep Charles out. It was more to keep Emma out than Charles. He didn't trust her. He didn't like her. He didn't even need her. He simply needed the presence of a telepath beside him to remind him of Charles, of his first and only friend in a long time.
"Keep looking for Erik in the morning," Beast growled, voice pulling Erik out of his thoughts.
"You're not my mother," Charles replied to Hank's, sounding both annoyed and amused at the same time. "Stop acting like it."
"You haven't slept for two days. Surely you're tired."
Another sigh. "Fine."
"Do you need help at all getting into bed?"
Why would Charles need help? Erik was confused.
"I'll be fine. I'll need to learn how to myself sometime anyway. Goodnight, Hank."
"Goodnight, Professor," Beast said as he opened the door. Erik hid even deeper into the shadows, willing the scientist not to see him. Thankfully, his willpower seemed to work. The mutant walked right past Erik without even knowing he was there. Or perhaps he did know and said nothing. Erik wouldn't put it past Hank. Now that he was a beast, his senses were probably enhanced a bit.
Sighing with relief that he hadn't been noticed (or acknowledged), Erik waited until he was sure the other was gone and Charles was more likely to be asleep before walking in, closing the door behind him silently as he viewed the room.
Of course the thing that drew his attention was Charles, slumped over his desk and breathing quietly. Erik walked quietly over to the telepath, careful not to disturb his rest while at the same time marveling at how easily Charles had fallen asleep in his uncomfortable-looking chair. Yet he was quite clearly asleep, arms serving as a makeshift pillow for the head which was softly resting with a cheek parallel to the desk surface.
When Erik got close enough, he realized Charles' eyes were closed. However, unlike the serenity Charles' sleeping face had usually held, the younger man's features were contorted into a soft grimace as he slept. Erik almost wanted to wake him up, fearing the telepath was suffering a nightmare of something of the kind, but decided against it. He'd had nightmares himself for most of his life. Charles would be able to deal with only one.
Wait a sec. Why was Charles in a wheelchair?
The realization of exactly what chair he was in hit Erik like a ton of bricks. Charles had been hurt? How? By who? Whoever would strike out at Charles, who only attacked others physically or mentally when absolutely necessary?
Erik would. Erik had.
Suddenly, it all made sense. The bullet Erik had deflected must have been the culprit of this heinous crime. He was the one who had caused his former best friend all of this: confinement to a wheelchair, bitterness and anger he never would have felt on his own, and a whole lot of pain. Erik didn't know which was the worst. He felt more repentant about this than he'd ever felt about an action he'd done.
Erik knew that the situation he'd created would have to be fixed. The mutants weren't meant to be at odds (The Brotherhood, as Erik had taken to calling his new team, were somewhat mistrustful of Charles' mutants even now). Charles wasn't meant to be hurt. Seeing how he'd created both these problems, he'd be the one to mend them as well. He didn't know how he'd do it, just that he had to.
He also knew that tonight wasn't the night to return in triumph to the Xavier Mansion. Perhaps it would be a comfort to Charles, but Erik realized he couldn't face him or the others yet. Rather, Erik would have to slip out as inconspicuously as he had come. He would be back, though. As soon as he fixed things, he would be back.
Speaking of fixing things, he realized he might as well start right there in that room. Clasping the helmet in both hands, he lifted it off his head, opening his mind to the rest of the world (or more specifically to Charles). Quietly, he set it down on the desk, right next to where Charles' head now lay. Even though he was without it for the first time since Cuba, he felt nothing from Charles, the once-familiar feeling of his presence in Erik's mind gone. Erik sincerely hoped it wasn't gone forever, that it was only absent because Charles couldn't project in his sleep.
Even more quietly, so he wouldn't wake him, Erik lifted the slightly younger mutant out of his wheelchair, gathering Charles in his arms more gently than he even thought possible for himself. One night, Charles would have to get himself into bed himself, but tonight was not that night. Still cradling the telepath, Erik walked over to the large bed in the room, manipulating the metal in the the wheelchair to follow him so that it would be within reach for Charles or Hank in the morning, as Erik was pretty sure the blue mutant would help his leader in this slightly longer.
As soon as he got to the bed, Erik set Charles down in a comfortable position and set about removing his shoes (and only his shoes. Erik had never really put much importance on whether one slept in one's clothes or not, and figured Charles would be fine). He then softly tucked the sheets around the young professor, remembering their cross country trip and how Charles had always snuggled into the blankets when they had made pitstops at motels.
Even now, as Erik sat back to admire his handiwork, Charles instinctively curled up (or rather, curled up as best he could with his whole lower body paralyzed) and pulled a sheet more closely around himself. His former grimace slackened, and all the tautness in his body relaxed. He always looked younger when he slept. Even Raven said so.
Erik smiled sadly. He couldn't stay in the mansion tonight, no matter how much he wanted to remain. But one day, he knew he WOULD stay at the only place he'd ever truly seen as home, with the man he'd come to see as a brother in spite of everything. He would fix everything. He HAD to fix everything, lest they turn him away on that day. Besides, it was only right.
With one last look at the sleeping Charles, Erik padded out of the room and slipped back into the hallway. From there, he snuck out of the mansion and back into the cold, lonely night.
Goodbye, he thought as he walked resolutely away, even though no one would hear him.
When Charles woke up the next morning, he immediately realized two things.
One, he was in his bed. He distinctly remembered turning down Hank's offer for assistance in reaching it, and also distinctly remembered falling asleep at his desk. Yet here he was, comfortably situated in his own bed with his shoes removed. Had Hank returned after he'd gotten to sleep?
Secondly, he realized he felt calmer and more complete than he'd felt since the day on the beach. Since the day his sister and his brother had left him, he'd felt empty and horribly lonely. Yes, he understood that they were following their paths as best as they could, but he didn't understand why that had to divide them. But would he be a responsible brother if he held them back? He hadn't thought so at the time.
For some reason, though, he felt the hope that they would meet and rejoin rekindled. It had weakened over the past few weeks, but now he felt as though he WOULD see them again. As his eyes wandered around the room, checking for any physical anomalies to match the mental ones, he wondered why.
And then he saw the helmet on his desk.
"Erik," he murmured as he realized that that was the answer to all his questions.
I might write a sequel someday…
What did you think? Review and tell me, and Happy New Year!