The Doors They Opened

Chapter 14

"I guess I'm your new roommate."

The words hung in the air, making it that much more obvious how much everything had changed so quickly. Erik was their hero, their link to the outside who could do something, the way Moira couldn't. Now he was just as trapped as they were.

Charles's powers, slowly fighting out from beneath the influence of the drugs, still sensed guilt and remorse from Erik despite the silent words they'd exchanged in the corridors mere moments ago. With them were determination and anger and a part of him that was not sorry at all for what he'd done. Raven, for her part, was confused and worried and just a little shell-shocked at the sudden shift in the status-quo.

Charles didn't know what he was.

He was here. He knew that much. He was alive.

They were looking at him now, Raven and her confusion and Erik and his understanding concern, and he hadn't felt strong enough to muster the energy to speak aloud since…or maybe he just hadn't wanted to. But if he didn't now Raven would know that something was wrong.

More wrong than that he'd been hurt again. More wrong than cuts and bruises and splinters and exhaustion.

So he forced one corner of his mouth up, felt Erik's skepticism at that. "This was certainly not part of the plan," he said quietly. They didn't seem to have anything to say in response. What was there to say, really? It wasn't part of the plan and now they were here. That was the end of it.

He'd tried to fake amusement and all it did was make the roughness of his voice worse. His throat hurt…still hurt. It was one reason, really, he supposed, why he didn't feel much like talking.

It only reminded him of why. Why he'd screamed so much last night.

But though the forced ghost of a smile fell flat Erik's concern became intense relief when he spoke, and Raven relaxed a bit as well, and the effort was worth it.

Effort. Why was it so much effort? He had always been able to do this before—for Raven, at least, for Erik—shove anything away long enough, at least, to pretend he was all right even if he wasn't. Sometimes they believed it and often they didn't because they knew him too well, but it made things easier. It made life here a little more bearable.

But though Charles still wanted to do it, for them, it seemed so much harder now. It felt almost as if there were a stone in his chest, weighing his heart down. A stone of pain and guilt and fear and shame, and it had only been hours, really, since…but it was already there, hard inside of him—

But he shied quickly from that wording, too—no preparation, not really, not much, nothing that would have helped him, anyway, and nothing that wasn't that godawful machine had ever hurt so much and he screamed and it hurt EVERY TIME but it didn't stop and the rough wood's splinters dug into his stomach and he tried to focus on that because at least that hurt less but it didn't work and oh god that was blood on his legs now, wasn't it?—and Charles grimaced outwardly and they looked at him strangely but he could do nothing about it.

He flinched, too, but he was sore everywhere and it hurt and he bit back the urge to moan. All that came out was a small grunt, and he scowled and pushed against the floor. He didn't want to be on the cold, hard ground anymore. He'd had quite enough of that.

He tried to get up on his own and he made it farther up this time, but his legs gave out under him yet again. At this point Charles didn't know if he were really that sore or that weak or if it were psychological, but whatever it was he couldn't stand.

Erik caught him, and he meant well, Charles could sense that, but Erik caught him around his chest and—rough hands, fingers digging into his sides, his chest, holding him against the wood post, arms around him too tight, not letting go no matter how he shouted—and he panicked. He gasped and his heart leapt into his throat and he grabbed at Erik's arms and hands and he knew his fingernails were digging into skin but he couldn't stop. He felt Erik's sudden realization of what was happing along with the knowledge that Charles was going to need help getting to the bed either way, and Erik quickly dragged him the two or three steps to the bunks without rearranging his grip and without waiting for help from Raven and dropped him onto it as gently as he could while still doing it in haste.

Charles released a heavy breath, made himself release the vice-grip on Erik's hands and steadied himself on the edge of the bunk, gripping the metal lip under him instead.

I'm sorry, I'm sorry…Erik was repeating, easing down onto the bunk beside him but still a good foot or two away. Part of him didn't want his friend so far away but the rest of him was grateful for the space.

Not your fault…thank you.

"Charles?" Raven was asking. She sounded worried again, more worried even than before, and she left no space when she hurried to his other side and pressed a hand to his face to turn it her, and it was not helping him get his breathing under control. "Are you all right? What—?"

"R-Raven, I'm—" I'm not all right. I'm not fine. I'm not all right at all. He let no one hear those thoughts, but they were there.

"What happened?" Raven was demanding. She let her hand fall from his face but she was still so close and he had to tell himself it was Raven, it was his sister, it was all right, but he still had to find her hand on the bed in the nonexistent space between them and squeeze it to keep himself steady. Her gaze was shifting across him to Erik. "What happened? How did he get hurt? Why the hell did Stryker throw you in here?" Her gaze shifted back to Charles when she felt the hand in hers, and she squeezed back and it helped. "Charles?"

He didn't try to answer again. He knew it wouldn't come out. But he tried the small smile again, just in reassurance, and it worked a bit better this time.

Her demanding expression softened, was less fierce when she looked back to Erik again. "Erik…?"

Erik wouldn't quite look at her. "He uhm…someone attacked him, in the yard. He was hurt, and I wasn't going to leave him out there. Stryker wasn't happy, obviously." Charles knew Erik hated to lie in any form, at least to Raven, but he was grateful for it. Raven did not need to know anything more than that.

"There wasn't quite a way to hide his sympathies this time," Charles filled in.

Raven's jaw clenched, and he felt her anger at Stryker, at whoever had hurt him, but she quickly schooled it and nodded to Erik while she squeezed Charles's hand all the tighter. "Thank you," she said quietly.

"I only did what I had to—"

"You didn't have to do anything," Charles interrupted softly. "You gave up your freedom to help me. Raven is right; you deserve our thanks."

Erik swallowed and looked away, not used to such attention. "We're in this together, Charles. All of us. I'm one of you. And I know you've been convinced that it would be easier to pull this off with me still on the outside, but I wasn't going to do nothing. I only did what was right." He snorted miserably. "God knows I haven't done it often enough in the past."

And Erik had no image of the man in the yard, but he was thinking of it anyway, and the fact that the man was dead and he'd done it without a second thought even though it hadn't really been the intention of the action that had done it.

Erik…I've told you. That was not your fault.

I know…but…don't you think less of me? Even a little? You should. You're…you're better than me.

And that thought hit him like a needle, digging into the memory of last night and nearly making Charles choke aloud. Pain and horror and should-have-been-able-to-stop-it and—

No I'm not, was all he thought so that Erik could hear it. And he didn't mean for any of the feelings to slip through but they did and his friend looked at him sharply.

Don't. Don't do that. Do go there. I don't…I don't know anything about…this, but…I know you may blame yourself somehow but you shouldn't. That's bullshit, Charles. Everything is on the bastard who did this. Me too, maybe, for not having the sense to stay with you last night.

Not your fault, Charles told him again, staring at the floor now. I told you why you couldn't stay; it was perfectly valid…

Fine…but it's not your fault either.

Raven was studying them curiously. "Erik? Charles?"

They looked at her, and Charles swallowed back the lump that had begun in his throat and cleared it. "Nothing, uhm…it's nothing."

She nodded, and then Raven's hands were on him again, looking for the injuries, just as she did every time and it had never bothered him before. She was his sister; she wanted to help. She wanted to be sure he was all right. But this time he felt himself tense in response to the touch, and he had to consciously force himself to relax.

It didn't work as well as he'd wanted it to, but it did work enough that Raven didn't notice through her focus on her motherly concern.

"How bad is it?" she asked. She started to push his shirt up in back, probably remembering the relatively fresh whip marks that would be there, but the hands on his skin there even through the bandages, where they were, was too much.

Charles flinched and pushed back with his legs until he was against the wall. "I-I'm all right. Erik cleaned the wounds. They're fine for now." And he'd let Erik touch him to do it then, but he'd been too exhausted to care so much then. Hurting too much.

He knew he would have to let one of them change the dressings at some point, but hopefully in anther day or so it would be at least a small bit easier.

And it was Raven and Erik. His sister. His closest friend. His sister and his friend, his sister and his best friend. He was fine here, he was fine…

More confusion from Raven, and she was looking at him skeptically now. "Charles…?" Wondering if there was something she should know.

"I'll be all right," Charles said quickly. "It isn't awful. Just bruises…well…cuts and bruises, but…but I'll be all right. I'll heal." He drudged up that small smile once more. "I always do, don't I?" But a small voice in the back of his mind said what about this time? You know this isn't the same, and the smile faltered, but he forced it up again, made it bigger, more reassuring than before, he hoped.

He exchanged a glance with Erik, saw the pained expression there that his friend was trying to hide, felt the same misgivings and fears in Erik's mind that were in his that Erik was pushing back even more fiercely than he was.

You WILL be all right, Erik promised him silently. I don't care how long it takes. I'll be here.

Charles swallowed, blinked back the dampness that worked its way into his eyes.

And Raven swallowed too, but she didn't press any farther. She didn't try to examine him any longer, but she did move to sit against the wall too, beside him, pressing into him from the side the way she always did, and it was warm, but the good kind of warmth, and this, Charles supposed, he could handle.

More than handle it, soon he was able to relax enough to let his head fall to rest on his sister's shoulder, and she found his hand again and held it and Erik was there too, just there, and for just a moment it made everything all right.

These two, he knew at least, would always be here, no matter anything.

This was his family.

Even if somehow, god forbid, Raven discovered the truth…it wouldn't change anything. He knew that for certain. That wasn't why he didn't want her to know. It was only to protect her.

But…he thought in despair, and choked back a sob...but…but…

How would Moira ever want him now?

When their door didn't open at the bell for morning meal for their group, Raven was a little concerned. When it didn't open to let them out for their time in the yard, either, she started to worry.

"What are they doing? Why won't they let us out?"

Charles was curled in the upper corner of his bunk, against the wall. He'd drifted in and out of sleep all day, which was understandable enough. He looked awful.

"I don't know…the guards in the immediate vicinity haven't any idea, and I'm not quite recovered enough to reach anyone I'm not very familiar with farther than…well, I'm not certain how far. But I can't reach Stryker. I don't know what his plan is."

Erik paced at the end of the beds. "He'll contact Shaw. You know that. We went over that. And if he brings Emma…"

Charles grimaced. "I know…and I'm sorry, my friend, but I'm afraid I won't be able to do much for another couple of days, at the least. Then I suppose you're right; we'll need to begin fashioning some sort of barrier to keep Frost from discovering the truth about your memories." From the face he was making, Raven could tell that he wasn't completely confident that it would work.

She could tell that he was worried.

And god, he really did look horrible. She wished he would talk to her, but he wouldn't. He wasn't talking much at all. The day had been spent watching him sleep, or watching him sit silently where he was now, worrying about him. Or that was how she'd spent her day. Of course she didn't know, specifically, what was going on in Erik's head, but she suspected it wasn't much different.

It was nearly time for the second meal of the day, and when the bell sounded they waited, wondering if anything were going to happen.

Then the door unlocked remotely, like it always did, and Raven let out a breath. "Thank god. I'm starving. I guess they just wanted to give us time to cool off…"

Erik grunted quietly in something like agreement or a shrug, and helped Charles up.

"I can stay here; I'm not hungry…" he protested.

"You haven't eaten in days. You're coming, and you're going to eat."

Raven did her best to smile, and caught her brother's eyes. "I've told you I like him, right?"

Another day Charles would have laughed, but today she was more than happy for the ghost of a smile that she got for it.

Now, at least, several hours later, Charles was able to get his feet under him even if he still needed help, and Erik didn't need Raven's help to keep him up. They went for the door, to join the stream of other mutants headed into the heavily guarded route to the prisoner cafeteria, but they were stopped there, at their door, by several men with weapons that were not usually there.

Raven glared. "What? You opened the door this time, so what the hell is your problem?"

One of them motioned to Erik. "Not him. He stays here."

"He has to eat, too," she retorted.

"Those are our orders," the guard growled, and he motioned to Charles and Raven now. "You two get moving."

"This is ridiculous—"

Charles was glancing up at his friend. "Erik…?"

Erik was frowning, but he handed Charles off to Raven. "It's all right. Go on."


Raven settled her brother's arm over her shoulders and made sure she had what weight he couldn't put on the ground himself. They still think he's human, Charles. I don't think they can starve him. Laws and all that.

I still wouldn't put it past them…

She let out a breath. Yeah, well…we'll bring something back with us if we can, all right? If he can do it for us we can find a way to do it for him.

"Hey," the guard was saying. "Let's go or you can all stay here."

Raven tugged Charles forward. Come on. You're about to collapse; you need food. As if in response his stomach complained loudly, and Charles grimaced at the betrayal. They both looked at Erik once more, but he nodded and Raven helped her brother out into the corridor and the door was closed behind them.

When they made it to the cafeteria Hank was pacing by their usual table worriedly, while Sean and Darwin watched on helplessly.

Raven and Charles made their way to the table first, so that Charles could sit down, and Hank's eyes went wide when he saw them and as soon as she had Charles settled on the bench he crushed her to him.

"Thank god; we didn't know where you were…"

"I know, I know, I'm sorry…"

Charles gave her permission, silently, to tell them what had happened—what little she knew of it—to explain their absence this morning and in the yard, so the others wouldn't worry so much.

Though they still worried, of course. They reacted immediately to the word "attacked" and it didn't help that Charles still looked like hell—the covered cut on his cheek and the visible scrapes and bruises on his face, the bandages around his arms peeking out from under his short sleeves, and the circles under his eyes much darker than usual.

"I'll be all right…" he told them quietly. It didn't help much, but it kept them mildly at bay.

It was the only thing Charles said the entire time they were out of the cell. It seemed as if he didn't want to be here, as if being around so many people made him uncomfortable. It had never bothered him before—Charles loved people, especially other mutants, as fascinating as he found other mutations—but today the usual bumps and jostling of the cafeteria seemed to set him on edge.

They didn't even have to touch him. If anyone he didn't know well so much as walked past the table too closely, he flinched. Raven was lucky to get him to eat anything at all, and when he did he did it mechanically, out of obedience and knowing his body needed it and nothing more. He did not want to eat.

She spent dinner leaning into Hank's side quite a bit more than usual, and by the end of it Raven felt physically sick, not wanting to know just what would make Charles act the way he was acting. All of it.

God, she only thought she'd been worried about him in the past…

When they made it back to the cell and Raven helped him back to his bunk he curled up on it almost immediately, after thanking her for the help in getting back and forth to the cafeteria.

"Yeah…" she answered uncertainly.

And then he was asleep, and Erik was beside her looking down at him.

"Did he eat?"

"Yeah…enough, I guess. For now." She glanced at him and grimaced. "Sorry…there was nothing solid enough to smuggle."

"It's fine. They fed me here, actually—not much, but it was food. I think. So apparently they're not out to starve me. Stryker probably just wants to keep me on lockdown until he can get Shaw here to deal with me." Erik scowled deeply at the last part, and then shook it off.

Raven sighed and leaned into the wall. "I'm surprised Charles didn't ask you about it before he went back to sleep. I'm really starting to worry about him, I—"

"I told him, when you came in. He was about to ask me."

"Okay, sometimes the telepathy thing is annoying…."

Erik smirked weakly, and it didn't quite make its way to his eyes. Then they were both quiet, and eventually they realized that it was getting late.

"Maybe we should just get some rest," Raven said quietly, and then glanced around the cell guiltily. "Not that I'm sure how that's going to work."

"I'll be fine on the floor," Erik said quickly. "I'm the one who got myself into this; I'm not taking anyone's bed."

"No, you got into it helping my brother; you'll take mine."

"I'm not making you sleep on the floor."

"I don't have to sleep on the floor; I can climb in with Charles. After being here this long it doesn't really matter anymore." And Erik hesitated, and Raven didn't like the look on his face. "What?" He opened his mouth, but nothing came out at first, as if he were debating what to say or not. "Erik, what?" Raven demanded, careful to keep her voice down.

"It's just…I know how close you are and I know he usually wouldn't mind at all, and that's fine, but I wouldn't do that right now. I really wouldn't."

"Why not?"

"It's just not a good idea. He's…I just wouldn't. At least not without asking him first. Give him some more time."

Raven's eyes narrowed almost of their own accord. "What aren't you telling me?" she questioned. "Both of you. You're not telling me everything." And the part of her that didn't want to know was back, but she fought it down.

"He'll be fine. Like I said, I would just wait before doing something like that…"

"I didn't ask if he would be fine. Why did you think you needed to tell me that? What's going on, Erik? Charles has been acting strange all day. What the hell happened out there?"

"I can't answer your questions, Raven. The answers aren't mine to give."

She stared at him, fear crawling into her throat and lodging there. She swallowed. "Erik…what happened?" she repeated.

Erik let out a breath. "Do you trust me?"

"It depends."

"I need you to trust me. Please stop asking questions, and just keep your own bed for tonight, all right? I'll be fine down here."

It took a long time for Raven to decide whether she wanted to agree to that. She really didn't, but she doubted that she had a choice. Finally she nodded, silently, and bent to kiss her brother's forehead before she climbed up into her bunk.

But this conversation was not over, she swore to herself.

And she doubted she would really sleep.

Raven finally went up to her bunk, and Erik settled on the floor against the wall, folding his arms under his head.

Then something hit him in the face in the dimness, and he shot up into a siting position ready to defend himself.

But it was only a pillow that was in his lap now, and he glanced up at Raven with raised eyebrows.

She only returned his gaze for a second before she let out a breath and rolled away out of view. "If you're going to insist on sleeping down there at least take the damn pillow. I have a mattress."

"A sad excuse for one," Erik shot back."And that pillow is just as sad. So we're even. Now if you're not going to tell me anything tonight go the hell to sleep."

She said nothing else, but with that exchange Erik knew that she wasn't too horribly angry with him. And weeks ago, months ago, he wouldn't have cared either way but somehow that meant a great deal to him now.

"Good night, Raven."

Erik settled down again, punching the pillow into a more useful shape between him arms. It did help, some, and he supposed the floor would be warm enough later once he'd been lying here for a while. And then again he was used to sleeping just about anywhere, and he knew he needed to keep rested—be ready to get out of here as soon as they were able—so he closed his eyes and tried to drift off.

She's going to figure it out, isn't she?

Erik's eyes opened, but he didn't move. Charles? I thought you were asleep.

I was…well, barely. Not for long. I don't know…it's quite easy to get to sleep but very difficult to stay that way. I suppose I need the rest, but if I…nevermind.

Nightmares, was what he didn't say. Erik could easily suppose that much.

I'm sorry…

A mental shrug. Thank you, but I doubt there is anything you can do about it.

Erik was quiet for a moment. How much did you hear?

Charles hesitated. I uhm…rather all of it, I believe.

Erik bit back a curse. I'm sorry, I—

Why are you apologizing? You did exactly as I asked. He paused. Though it doesn't seem to be doing much good.

She's not stupid, Charles, Erik sighed. I know you want to protect her, but yes, I do think she's going to figure it out eventually. If not much sooner. Really I think the only reason she hasn't figured it out already is because she doesn't want to.

Charles was quiet for a long time, and Erik was beginning to worry when he finally replied again, pain in his voice even telepathically.

Is it that obvious?

Erik blinked and sat up, and when he glanced in Charles's direction his friend was facing him, but not quite looking at him. Charles, that's not what I meant…

Charles's eyes closed again entirely. Stryker took one look at me and knew what had happened, he thought miserably.

It wasn't just you. It was the way I was reacting. It was everything. Not you.


Charles. Charles, look at me. Right now. It took a moment, but he did, and neither of them could see well in the dimness, but it was enough. You're going to be all right, you hear me? We're going to get through this, and then we're getting out of here. I know it's going to take time, but you're going to be fine, and we're all going to be free. He shifted close enough, and when he did he could see the tears on Charles's face.

This time when he reached out Charles didn't pull away. He let him take one of his hands and squeeze it. I promise.

And Charles nodded just a little, gratefully, and dried the tears away with his free hand, finally seeming to begin to believe it again.

"Are you sure you're ready for this?"

"It's necessary, so it doesn't particularly matter, does it?" Charles sighed.

Erik looked at him warily. "It doesn't if you're not strong enough yet. Yes, this is important, but we don't need you wearing yourself out any further."

Three days later, and from what Charles could tell his powers had returned as much as they were going to at this point. He'd said that he was up for attempting to form protection for Erik's mind—protection that would be needed if Emma Frost were to arrive with Shaw before they could get out of here—but Erik was skeptical. Charles had been prepared for that, and that was they'd wait until Raven was asleep to have this discussion.

"I'm afraid there is not going to be any avoiding of the fact that this will not be easy for me." He let out a breath and made a face. "I imagine I would need months, at the least, outside of this place, to get back to where I was before—however long it would take to get the strength back physically that I had before all of this began."

"Is it really that closely connected?"

Charles shrugged from where he sat against the metal headboard of his bunk. "Unfortunately, yes. But it seems that way with the non-physical aspects of most mutations." Erik only grunted quietly in understanding, and Charles shifted forward. "Now do you want to try this, or do you not?"

"Only if you're sure…"

"I'm as sure as I can be, but…well, I'm sorry that I can't promise anything. I wish I could. I want you to be safe…"

"Just do what you can."

Charles nodded, still wishing he could be more sure, but he brought his fingers to his temple and delved into his friend's mind.

He went in as far as he'd been before, and he didn't necessarily need to be that deep but he was looking for something.

He found it. Free-floating scattered remains of the shattered barriers that Frost had put around Erik's old memories before Charles had freed them. He could use them for building blocks, for a starting point. Hopefully that would make this a bit easier. He gathered them and dragged them up to the surface, rewriting their orders as he went.

Your maker? She is the enemy now. Do not let her in. Show her what she wants to see…tell her that you are where she placed you. Tell her that this mind is the same as she last left it.

The hard part came when he began to arrange the pieces of the re-tasked barriers around the edges of Erik's mind—and even more so when he began replicating he pieces to fill in the gaps. It took so much more from his reserves than dealing with the pieces that he had not created, and even while he was still in Erik's mind he felt his body swaying, felt the nausea building.

But after a moment he felt strong hands on his shoulders, too.

Charles smiled to himself and kept working as long as he could, but he couldn't finish. Not all at once. But they had expected that. He came back to the world with a small moan, opening his eyes and letting his fingers fall from his head, and when he tipped forward the hands on his shoulders steadied him and kept him upright.


He grimaced and pressed the heels of his hands to the sides of his head. His temples were pounding. "I'm all right. However, as expected, I'm afraid we'll have to finish this later."

He managed to fight back the nausea before he actually had to vomit this time, but that was only because he'd stopped. When he was helping Erik uncover his memories, when they'd first broken those barriers he was reusing now…it would not have been a good idea to stop in the middle. He'd had to keep going.

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"I…mmm…." Charles made another face and leaned back into the headboard, pressing the back of a hand to his mouth to fight off one of the last heavy waves of nausea before it finally receded. He huffed a bit. "At least I managed to get quite a bit done, I think. Once or twice more and you should be all right."

Erik still looked concerned. "Let's just hope it takes a while for them to show. I don't want you working on this again until you're sure you're strong enough."

"Really, Erik, I'm all right."

"You're as white as a sheet." Erik glanced down at the sheets beneath them that were decidedly not white—more off-white or brown than anything. "A sheet from elsewhere."

Charles chuckled quietly, and the sound almost startled him. It was the first such sound that had come out of his mouth since…well, anyway. He shied away from that thought.

But Erik was smiling now, apparently thinking the same thing—the good side of the same thing—and as bright as it was Charles couldn't help but smile back.

That night Erik dreamed things he hadn't dreamed so violently since just after his memories had been recovered. Shaw and his mother's death and he didn't know what had brought it on but then the nightmares were different, and they weren't his.

But he knew whose they were, and he knew he didn't want to be seeing them. The yard and the post and the chains and the guard—his sneering face from earlier in the day and what had happened then and Erik knew now, why he'd wanted to hurt Charles.

He was sick, and Erik didn't mind at all anymore that he was dead and suddenly there were so many more details that he didn't want to know and he tried to fight out of it, he knew he was dreaming now but he couldn't. Charles was projecting too strongly even though he certainly couldn't mean to, and even when was Erik was relatively sure he was actually awake he still saw it.

He still saw it, felt it, heard Charles screaming in his memories.

Oh god oh god oh god…every bit as awful as he'd been afraid of.

Erik heard a heavy thump, struggled to lift his eyes and see through the haze of the nightmare over his vision, and realized it was Raven, dropping down out of her bunk. She was crying, stumbling, obviously unable to see clearly for the same reason that he couldn't.

Then she knew now. Damnit.

Raven dropped to her knees by the bed, and Charles was curled on the edge whimpering loudly in his sleep, and she clutched a hand and a shoulder and shook him. "Charles, wake up! You have to wake up! It's a dream! Oh god, please wake up…" She said it through sobs, desperate to wake him and stop what they were seeing—stop him from reliving it. "Charles!"

Erik was pushing himself up against the wall, trying to get to his feet, but the images imposed over his vision and the way he could almost feel it, too, threw off his equilibrium and his head ached and it was slow going.


She didn't acknowledge that she'd heard him at all. She was too focused on Charles, but Charles wasn't hearing her. She pushed herself up using the edge of the bed as if she wanted to climb into it, but with Charles on the edge the only space on it was behind him.

Not a good idea.

"Raven, wait—!"

Erik lurched forward, but he lost his balance and landed into a heap against the wall again—closer, but still tangled on the ground, and that was no help.

Raven crawled clumsily over her brother and rolled onto the mattress behind him, wrapping her arms around him and trying to talk to him. "Charles, it's me, it's okay, please wake up, god, please…!"

But when she pressed into his back he reacted violently, jerking back quickly and screaming now. "NO! Noooo—!" And after that it was more a keening wail than anything, but after jerking back to keep from being head-butted initially all Raven did was hold onto him tighter.

"Charles, it's okay! It's ME! It's Raven! WAKE UP!"

But he was awake now, to a certain point, and the nightmares were fading and Erik could see again.

"Charles, PLEASE! It's me! It's okay! Calm down!" Raven begged desperately. He was struggling against her, yanking his arms free and someone was about to get hurt. Erik knew Raven meant well, but she was too shocked and upset to realize that she was doing exactly the wrong thing.

"Damnit, Raven, did you not see the same dreams I saw? Get the hell out from behind him!" Erik shouted.

He moved at the same time, surging forward to reach over the bed and pull her away, but once he'd grabbed her arm and before he could forcibly pull her off Charles's elbow hit her full in the face. She shouted, and her grip released automatically, and Erik grabbed her under the arms and dragged her back to the foot of the bed. He did it so quickly he lost his footing and they landed hard on the end of the mattress, against the footboard.

At the same time, as soon as he was free Charles scrambled up against the headboard, where he seemed to feel safer with his back pressed to the metal. His screaming fading away, became quiet moans, and as he caught his breath his eyes opened blearily, not really seeing much yet, and he started to truly wake rather than being reactive.

Both brother and sister were sobbing.

"Damnit," Erik breathed aloud. Just in general. He had an armful of crying shapeshifter, she knew now what had happened to her brother, and Charles was going to be more than a little upset about it when he came to his senses.

Though that might take a bit, thanks to this fiasco. One step forward, half a dozen steps back seemed to be the rule here.

"I told you not to do that…" he said helplessly.

"Maybe if…you had told me why…!" Raven choked out angrily, between sobs. But the anger was gone quickly and it was only the tears. "I'm sorry, I'm…I'm sorry. Oh god that's—that's what really happened, isn't it? Oh my god, oh god, Charles...!"

And she was crying, and Charles couldn't seem to stop either, shuddering against the headboard, and Erik didn't know what to do.

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