The Doors They Opened

Chapter 16

Erik turned at the voice, carefully schooling his features to something resembling neutral—letting a bit of annoyance through, if anything. Shaw was used to that from him.

He didn't say anything, and after a moment Shaw held out a hand and motioned him forward. "Come, Erik. Let's get you out of there and away from these mutants. We'll have this all straightened out shortly." Playing his part perfectly, of course.

Erik frowned and emerged slowly from the cell, resisting the urge to look back. If he were still the indifferent man Shaw thought him to be he wouldn't look back. Not that he had truly been indifferent, even before he regained his memory, but he'd never let Shaw believe anything else. Though now that he thought about it, the man may have known anyway, if Emma was a telepath.

At least that explained how she could be so damned creepy along with being such a bitch.

But she wasn't with Shaw now, and he was grateful for that. According to Charles she was on base somewhere, though. She was probably with Stryker, wherever that bastard was.

The door closed behind him, and Shaw smiled and motioned for him to follow. The man's smile had bothered Erik before, but now it disgusted him outright. It was all he could do not to make a face as he followed.

"I hope they haven't treated you too awfully," Shaw was saying.

Erik's jaw clenched, and it wasn't out of character with what Shaw would expect so he let it happen. "If you call being kept in a cell with mutants and being fed barely enough to keep a cat alive 'not awful' then no, they haven't treated me too awfully."

"Ah…I'm sorry to hear that. But as I said, we'll have this straightened out immediately. I'm sure that this has all been simply a horrible misunderstanding."

Emma Frost was indeed waiting with Stryker in his office, and because he'd been known to do it often enough before Erik was able to glare at her.

It helped a little.

"Now, Erik, I know Agent Stryker didn't give you much of a chance to explain before—and in matters of national security I can understand that—but if you would explain yourself now…"

Erik raised his eyebrows and glanced from Shaw to Stryker. Stryker was at his desk attempting to look as authoritative as possible, and it was more comical than anything. But he couldn't dwell on that now. How was he supposed to explain what he'd done in a way that would satisfy Shaw?

He had to remember not to look at Emma. Ignore her. If Charles had succeeded in what he'd tried to do she wouldn't see anything of his mind other than what she was looking for anyhow…

"I did my job too well, apparently," Erik complained, finally, nodding to Stryker and explaining more to Shaw than to the bureaucrat. "He knew I had to keep up appearances in front of the telepath, but he believed what I said in that hallway, anyway. Didn't give me a chance to explain later." He assumed that by now Shaw had heard the whole story, and no one asked questions.

Stryker only glowered. "It wasn't just what you said, Lehnsherr. It's what you did, and the way you acted about it. Either you're too damn good of an actor, or you care about those mutants. And personally I don't think you're smart enough to be that good of an actor."

Erik glared at him now, and took a threatening step forward, but Shaw stopped him with a hand and cut in quickly.

"Agent Stryker, I'm afraid that was rather uncalled-for."

"I really don't give a damn."

Now Shaw's expression grew more stern—still steady, but just as menacing anyway. "Need I remind you that your government has give me the power to take control of this facility if I find the current leadership unfit?"

Erik blinked. Was that true? If that was true they were all screwed if Shaw did take over. If he stayed here.

Damnit…

Stryker stared him down for a while, but finally broke off, and Shaw smiled smugly. "Thank you, Erik. That's all I need from you. You're free to go; from what I understand your things are still in the room you were assigned before. The room is still yours."

"I'm staying here?" Erik demanded, feigning anger.

"For a while, at least. I may need to you to keep an eye on Agent Stryker here for a bit, if nothing else."

Stryker opened his mouth to protest, but quickly snapped it shut and simply glowered again. It was the quietest Erik had ever seen him, and he had to admit he was liking it.

Shaw continued. "But as I said, that is all we needed from you. I'm sure you're hungry; you should get yourself something to eat." As if he really cared at all. But either way, it was clear that he wanted Erik to vacate the office. Erik went, only because he would have before, and when he glanced back and through the windows saw Shaw backing away from Stryker's desk to let Emma in closer he had a feeling he knew what was about to happen.

More than likely Emma was going to do something to the man's memories—tinker with them, rid him of his suspicions…something. That had to be it. A moment later Stryker's expression was blank and Erik knew he was right. He kept going before Shaw or Frost could catch him watching.

He didn't go to the personnel dining hall, as Shaw had suggested. He was hungry, but he was used to that—used to it from his childhood, used to it from the last week or more of it—and knowing his friends back in the cells were just as hungry left him really not in the mood to eat. He went to his room instead, and found everything just as it had been left.

The table was still not quite as it had been. The bed was unmade, the chair was still beside it, and the remains of the shattered flashlight still littered the floor by the wall. Because he didn't know what else to do Erik moved the chair back to its place and made the bed, cleaned up the flashlight remnants, and spent more than an hour fine-tuning the fixing of the metal table. Eventually it looked better, but not as good as he'd wanted it to.

He only hoped they could make it through Shaw's intrusion without disaster, get everyone out of here, and have the chance to put Charles back together more successfully than that.


Charles opened his eyes to blackness again—much deeper than the dull gray his vision had been before he'd lost consciousness—and it was the frustrated groan that signaled he was awake. He sensed Raven stirring near him, and the movement told him she was on the floor by the head of his bunk.

"Hmm? Charles…? What is it?" He pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes, and then there was a hand on his cheek. "Damn. Did that set you back?"

He nodded, let his arms drop and let out an unsteady breath—unsteady from the nausea and headache just as much as from being upset.

"Erik…?" he managed then. His voice came out quiet and cracking from the developing dryness in his throat.

The hand at his cheek brushed up and through his hair. "He went with Shaw…he didn't really have a choice if he was going to keep up appearances. He said you managed to finish the shields…"

"The best I could," he sighed. "God, I hope it's enough." Charles tried to move, to sit up, but even though he did it slowly and Raven's hands went to his shoulders to steady him it was hard. Still, maybe he could have made it up, but the nausea was a bit too much just now. He had no choice but to lie back again, groaning quietly.

"Are you all right?"

He grimaced. "I will be. It's only that I didn't precisely have what I really needed to do that."

"I could have told you that," Raven said. But she wasn't scolding him. She knew what he'd done had been needed. "Will he be all right?" she asked.

Charles swallowed. "I think so. I hope so. It's only that…even if the shields work as well as I hope they do, they can't hide current emotions, active thoughts...there would be no way to do that without alerting Frost immediately. Erik knows this, we spoke about it, and I know he can control himself outwardly—he is more than adept at that—but…"

"He can't stop himself from feeling things. No one can."

Charles nodded. "Exactly...I…it' s the only thing that worries me. Erik is…I know his control makes it seem quite the opposite, but really he is such an emotional person…passionate. He cares so much…feels injustice so deeply…feels compelled to do something about it. It's only Shaw and Frost that have suppressed him for so long."

"I know…I've noticed some of it. What I can notice not being a telepath, anyway. It's why I like him."

Charles nodded, but he frowned. "Still…I'm not entirely certain I want to know where his life would have led him by now if he had escaped Shaw earlier."

"Why do you say that?"

The anger that had been more prevalent in the beginning, for one thing. The part of him that was not sorry he'd killed the man in the yard. But part of Charles felt that way too and he couldn't really blame Erik for it…

Still, the anger had been so overwhelming in the beginning. It was still there, under the surface, even though part of Erik, to his credit, wished it wasn't.

"It's difficult to explain…" he trailed quietly. She wouldn't quite understand—not unless she could feel Erik's mind the way he could.

All Charles could do was continue to be there for him…continue to give him alternatives to taking out his anger in violence.

Raven was quiet then, the fingers of one hand still combing gently through his hair, and it really was helping to soothe the headache and nausea away. It was either that, or the undercurrents of concern and protectiveness and love from her mind. If Charles was honest with himself, it was soaking in those feelings from Raven and Erik alike that had kept him going since what had happened that night in the yard.

Charles didn't know what he would do without either of them.


"Well?" Shaw questioned.

Emma crossed her arms as they paced slowly through the corridors. "The walls I put up are still there. They're a little weaker than usual, but I suppose that's to be expected after spending so much time around other mutants. A little brushing up and they should be fine, but I wouldn't suggest doing that immediately."

"And why is that?"

She narrowed her eyes. "The walls are in place, but something still feels…off. I can't explain it."

"You think we should look into this more."

"Yes."

Shaw smiled. "We can do that. Did you get enough from Stryker to get started?"

"Of course I did. And I can always get more."


Two or three days, and nothing happened. Shaw and Frost were there, walking the facility, looking as if perhaps they were inspecting the premises, the conditions…but staying out of sight of the other prisoners, which he didn't quite understand. But anyhow, Erik had expected more. He'd expected trouble.

Trouble came the day he passed Emma in the corridor alone.

He'd passed her already, and he had hardly even acknowledged her. He was walking away when it happened. The sudden projected memory. Not his. Not Emma's. It was Stryker's. Somehow he simply knew, the instant it hit him.

Charles. Restrained in Cerebro. Charles shaking and sobbing and screaming, drenched in sweat. Charles in pain. And more than see the memory, he could feel it. He could feel how much the bastard had enjoyed it.

It all hit him so quickly Erik drew in a sharp breath before he could stop himself. His eyes were damp in fractions of a moment, and he stumbled into the wall when he couldn't see where he was going any longer. He could see only the projection.

Then it was gone, and he was able to process the fact that Frost was behind him. Frost had done that.

Frost had to have heard him.

He heard her stop walking, heard her turn around. "Something wrong, Erik?"

Bitch.

He blinked the dampness in his eyes away and turned around, forcing a nonchalant smile onto his face. "Nothing. I tripped."

She smirked at him. "Be more careful." And she turned on her carefully polished white heel and stalked away.

Erik retreated to his room as soon as she was out of sight, but before he had the door closed behind him it hit him again. The same memory. More of it. Other memories. Charles sobbing in dread before the machine was turned on again after he'd already had too much, the fear on his face before they'd even begun the second time, only a few days ago…all of it stolen, memories through Stryker's eyes and tinged with the enjoyment and smugness the man had felt at the time, and that only made it all the more horrifying.

What the hell was Frost doing?

But he couldn't wonder much about it now. He really couldn't. He'd already yanked his door closed the rest of the way, and he felt himself slipping to the ground by the wall but there was nothing he could do about it.

Oh god, it hurt too much. He didn't want to see this…

Erik's clenched his jaw and screwed his eyes shut, waiting for it to stop. Waiting for Frost to disconnect or be out of range…he couldn't react. Not now. Not while she was so close. She would know.

By the time it stopped Erik was nearly sweating with the effort, and he could almost feel her pulling away from the shroud around his mind.

Was it only his imagination that it felt weaker now?

He let out a heavy breath that was more a sob than anything when she was gone, and soon enough the tears were free. More than anything he wanted to call out to Charles, tell him he was sorry it had happened at all, sorry he hadn't been able to protect him…but it seemed cruel to remind him of it now. Wrong to drag him into this now.

Erik pulled himself to his feet, refusing to stay crumpled by the wall, but even though they were no longer being forced on him the images were there, part of his own memory now, memory of seeing them, and he couldn't force them away. Not when they were what they were.

God…oh god. He had heard the rest of Raven's side of the story. He knew what Charles had told him. He remembered the fear on Charles's face that he had seen himself the one time they'd spoken about it, though briefly. He'd been there when they brought him back the second time. But somehow he had never imagined it like that. Not quite like that. Not that horribly.

Though of course, he hadn't wanted to.

What was the point? Why show him that? If they still thought that he didn't know Shaw and Emma were mutants, how did they expect to explain it away? Of course, Emma had acted innocently enough in the corridor and they would assume that she could always erase it later…but what was the point anyhow?

A test. It had to be a test. Maybe the shields were working well enough, but they weren't satisfied, were they? Somehow they weren't satisfied.

And Erik knew he had no choice but to let Charles know what had happened.

Charles…he thought with a heavy heart, I think we have a problem.


He was still squinting at everything, but Charles could see now—to a certain extent anyway, so he said—and it was the only thing that was making Raven feel any better just now. It had been nearly three days since Shaw showed, and all of them were nervously waiting to see what would happen.

When Charles got that distant look on his face she knew he was communicating with Erik, and she also knew it couldn't be good.

"What is it?" she asked anxiously.

Charles finally blinked and glanced up at her. She'd been on her feet, walking because there was nothing else to do.

He made a face. "Frost. Erik is afraid that she and Shaw may suspect something. They're…playing games."

"Meaning what?"

"Trying to upset him—get some sort of reaction from him that may reveal his loyalties."

"But what about the shields? Should she be able to just read his mind, see what she wants, and be happy about it?"

"That was the idea, but even those shields can't keep them from being suspicious." The more he said, the more worried he looked. "And the shields aren't as strong as I wanted them to be. They may not feel as natural as they should—as they would have if I'd been able to finish them properly. I'm afraid that may have something to do with it…"

Raven swallowed, wishing she didn't understand how seriously this was all in danger of going bad. "What do we do now?" she asked eventually.

"Pray, I suppose."


"He reacted. He definitely reacted, and it was more than surprise or confusion. He was upset. There's something going on here."

"I expected something," Shaw agreed. "I never quite thought we would get out of this without a mess to clean up, but if Erik really has fallen in with the telepath and his friends at least he's likely to have the information we need."

Emma raised eyebrow. "You mean whether or not they're planning something."

"That, among other things. Part of this has been that I need to know how deeply involved the telepath really is—how much he cares in general, really, and how far he's willing to go. Presenting him with a case like our Erik was the perfect way to do it. And I need to know if he can be broken. There was never going to be a way to fool him, of course, so it's a shame, but if he can't be broken he'll have to die."

"Do you want me to continue for now?"

"For now. I suspect we'll need to take further action to tell us for sure if Erik's mind needs to be re-tasked again, but give it another day or two."


Frost didn't stop. Erik stayed away from her as much as he could without it seeming strange, but he couldn't avoid her completely. Or Shaw. More than once Frost hit him again when they were both nearby, and it wasn't just Cerebro anymore. It was other things, too. Things he hadn't know about at all. Things from before he'd come here.

Charles and Raven, nearly two years ago before so much time here had made them both thinner. When Charles hadn't been so pale. When the labs had been a place Charles was familiar with and Stryker had spent more time there, when the tests they'd been running hadn't required the scientists to vacate the premises.

Charles had never talked much about the labs. Now Erik understood more why that was, because Frost only shoved the worst of it on him.

There was one memory, in particular…one that caught him off guard more than the rest. One that angered him so thoroughly that when Emma needled it into his mind he had to leave. They were in the dining hall and he feigned being sick and quickly left before it could overwhelm him—before he reacted any more violently in front of Shaw and Frost than the barely contained gasp when it began.

Erik couldn't keep the dampness from his eyes long enough to get out of the room. He had to duck his head, and he knew it didn't seem quite normal, but if he'd stayed he would have given himself away even more obviously than that.

Charles, what the HELL? he managed to think, looking for an abandoned stretch of corridor to stop in. But it was too late in the morning. He didn't find one. He kept going, jaw clenched and teeth grating together painfully.

What…? Oh. Oh…Erik, I'm sorry. I…you didn't need to know that.

I don't understand. What were they doing to you? What was the point? Why the hell did you never SAY ANYTHING?

It was more than a year ago, Erik…near the beginning. It seems so long ago now, and it's hardly important…

Erik had reached his own hallway now, and thank god everyone was up now and out of their rooms and this corridor, at least, was empty, because there wasn't far to go but the memory hit him again—Frost attacked him with it again. He wondered why she did it when she couldn't see him, but she was probably picking up some of his feelings, at least. She had to be getting something out of it.

Which meant they were screwed.

The sudden image dropped him to his knees this time. It was all from Stryker's point of view, still, but he could almost feel the pain himself anyway.

Charles, on the same table in the same lab where Erik had met him the first time. But strapped down much more firmly, immobile, half of his fingers broken and electrodes connecting wires to his arms and legs rather than his head and neck.

The wires weren't trailing to a monitoring device this time. Charles's body spasmed and twitched, his face twisted in a frozen cry of pain, and when his hands twitched it was only worse. And he couldn't breathe. Not until it stopped. But it never stopped for long. When it did his breaths were short and shallow and ragged, paired with choked sobs that he seemed to try to keep quiet.

Then it was gone again, and Erik was leaning into the wall and his face was pressed into a hand against the cool metal and his skin was wet there—the moisture from his eyes.

Charles, he moaned inwardly. That's…god, that's not unimportant. Erik pulled himself to him feet and all but staggered the rest of the way to his room. What happened? Why…?

It was a long time before Charles answered.

Just another of their experiments, really. For a while they were convinced that if I needed to badly enough I could keep myself from feeling pain. Unfortunately, that's not quite true. I can make it easier to deal with…I can help others; take it from them to a certain extent…but I can't cut myself off from it. Or at least I can't now. If I have the ability I haven't developed it yet. I never had a need for it before this place…

Erik swallowed hard. But they thought you could. They wanted to know.

They tried to make it necessary…yes. They tried for quite a while. It was one of their first obsessions, before they settled on trying to decipher a way to control me.

They'll get back to that, eventually, if we don't get out of here.

I know…

Erik shut his door behind him and leaned back into it, jaw clenching again. Charles, you didn't have to hide this. You know everything about me. You know I've been through things just as…you knew I would understand.

The answer was quiet and weary. You knew about the labs, Erik. You've been a subject of one yourself before. I didn't think the details were necessary. We don't discuss what Shaw did to you, either, my friend. There isn't any need to. Not now. It's in the past.

He had a point, damn him, but still…

No. No still. It was his own fault, for never allowing himself to realize just what he had already known really meant. He'd never wanted to admit to himself that, though for Charles it was all more recent, his friend had a past just as checkered in pain and trauma as his own. Erik had never wanted to think of it that way, because it was painful to do.

Charles had tried to tell him before, that they weren't so different, but Erik hadn't really listened. He hadn't believed it. But it was true, wasn't it? The difference between them was that Erik had let his past change him more than he would have liked.

You can still be the man you want to be, Erik.

Erik raised an eyebrow. Listening in, are you?

I'm sorry…it's just that I worry for you.

You worry for ME? I'm not the one Stryker's all but trying to kill.

You know what I mean.

He let out a breath. I know what you mean. Then, What are we supposed to do now? Emma isn't letting up. If they didn't suspect something before I'm sure they do now; god, why can't I just…ignore it? I'm ruining everything.

There was a soft feeling in his mind, as if to tell him that Charles was smiling gently. It isn't your fault, Erik. If you could ignore it you would no longer be you. You would be someone else…someone who didn't care. And I couldn't bear that.

Erik swallowed, and a ghost of a smile tugged at his own lips before he was all seriousness again.

Maybe…but that doesn't tell me what we're supposed to if Shaw tries…I don't even know what he might try. I don't know why he's here. I know that in some way he's behind all of this, this place, everything, but I don't know why. I don't understand how he can do this. He's ONE OF US for god's sakes, and he isn't just allowing this to happen—he's MAKING it happen.

I don't know what to tell you, my friend. I wish I did.

But he's here now; can't you read his mind?

Frost would know. She is protecting him too closely. I tried, once or twice. I had to pull away before she noticed me.

Erik made a frustrated sound aloud. Then we should just get out of here. You can see all right, can't you? Your powers have recovered enough to be used, at least? Enough to make it go more smoothly? I'm fine. We should go. Now.

Under any other circumstance I would agree with you, but I can't help feeling that we shouldn't make this move with Shaw and Frost here.

We need to take them out anyway.

He felt Charles shudder a bit at the way he'd said that.

Erik…this is not about personal vendettas.

It isn't only personal. You know they're a threat.

I know that, but our primary goal is to free these people, Erik. If we try to do it with Shaw and Frost here, we risk not being able to accomplish our goal.

Erik scowled to himself. Do you really think they could stop us?

They might, Charles answered sharply. We are not invincible, Erik. None of us are. We are not unstoppable. There is always risk. Granted, there will be risks even when Shaw is not here, but attempting to get everyone out of here would be FAR too dangerous now, while he is. It isn't a risk we can take; he is too powerful, and even more so with his own telepath at his side.

Erik was quiet for a long time, wishing he didn't have to admit that Charles was right. Shaw was powerful. Erik could manipulate metal to a frightening degree, but Shaw could draw the energy from anything and turn it around on them. One couldn't fight him; not in the traditional way.

Wait. Couldn't you…?

Charles knew what he meant. I could. If I had more time recover. But I doubt Stryker will ever give me that, he answered softly. Altering Shaw's mind would be the only acceptable way to stop him permanently, but I…I'm not strong enough. Not now.

He should have known that. He did know that. God…

Erik grimaced when he felt the waves of shame and guilt and helpless uselessness seeping through from his friend's end, and he quickly put a stop to it.

I know. It's all right. What are you suggesting, then? We wait until Shaw and Frost are gone before we do this?

Yes. Shaw can be taken care of later. When I CAN.

The part of him that wanted to kill Shaw (and Stryker) outright warred with the part of him that had been shaped by knowing Charles—the part that knew it would be wrong. Right…later, I suppose.

I know it's difficult for you not to take action against him now, Erik, and I'm sorry, but—

But you're right. We'll wait. But only as long as we have to. The second Shaw and his sidekick are gone we're getting out of here. We can't give Stryker the chance to put you in that machine again. He felt Charles's mental recoil at the mention of Cerebro and immediately felt awful for mentioning it at all, but the point had to be made.

Charles steadied himself mentally, and Erik felt something that seemed to substitute for a resolute nod. Agreed.

And Erik swore to himself that once they were free Shaw's days—at least as the self he was now—were numbered.

And what if Shaw doesn't leave? Erik thought then.

We will have to cross that bridge when and if we come to it.


"You've been pretty quiet…and I'm not liking the look on your face either. Again," Raven was saying.

Charles blinked a bit, focusing on the others once more and really seeing the concrete of the yard again.

"I'm sorry. Something rather…urgent, I suppose, came up."

"How's Erik doing?" Sean asked. Sean being the only one of them that had met Erik at all, really, besides Charles and Raven.

"I'm not entirely certain how to answer that. He's all right at the moment, but the situation is growing worse, I'm afraid. None of us will be safe until Shaw and Frost have gone and it is looking less and less like they will go—at least not before making some sort of further trouble."

Darwin huffed. "And we're really just gonna sit around here and wait for something bad to happen?"

"Where would we go?" Hank snorted. "I don't like it any more than you do, but we don't have a lot of options. In case you've forgotten, we're prisoners."

"Not forever," Charles said quietly. "It won't be forever."

"You keep saying that," Darwin said. "I trust you and all, professor, but—"

"The less you know the safer it is for you. I've told all of you this. I know it is frustrating not to know, but I can promise you that if we can get through this incursion by Shaw it will not be long before we take action."

Sean blinked. "If?" he asked uncertainly.

Charles winced, knowing how awful it sounded. "I wish that I could promise more." There was really nothing else he could say.

He was rescued by a commotion near the yard's double metal doors. They were opening, though it wasn't time yet. But they only opened part of the way, and another prisoner was shoved through. It actually wasn't uncommon, for someone to be brought back from the labs or somewhere during mealtimes or while the group was in the yard, but Charles had never seen this man before.

He knew every face in their group, as large as it was. This mutant was not in their group, and the next group of new prisoners was not due to arrive yet. The field teams only returned periodically, the mutants they captured being held off site until then, and it was not time for them return yet. It was why Jean was not here yet.

Not that he wanted her to be.

"Who's that?"

"What…?"

"There aren't any other new ones; he can't be new. Maybe they're switching him over from a different group…" Hank supplied.

The newcomer was tall and well-built, with brown hair and a scowl and a presence that was scaring away those in the vicinity of the door. Charles brushed his mind briefly and was able to confirm that he was not really, in fact, new.

"No, he was in high security. Isolation. He's been here."

"Got off for good behavior?" Darwin questioned in amusement.

Charles shrugged. "Well…better behavior than before," he answered distractedly. Distracted, because he realized now that he had felt this mind before. For a long moment he couldn't remember exactly where…oh. Of course. "All of you stay here."

Raven caught his arm. "Where are you going?"

"I need to speak with him."

"With him? He looks dangerous."

"So does Erik, at times. Never judge a book by its cover, Raven; as old and tired as the saying is, it is often handy."

She raised an eyebrow, but she let him go. He knew she also wasn't happy letting him go when he was still a bit unsteady on his feet, but she didn't protest any further. She knew by now that it was pointless.

Charles's vision was still somewhat blurry but he made it across the yard well enough and to the open space that had formed around the door, where the newcomer still hovered for lack of anything else definite to do.

"Hello."

The man was still taking in his surroundings, and at the greeting he turned, blinking a few times before he raised an eyebrow at Charles. Charles didn't have to speak again for it to be apparent he was the one who had spoken. He was the only one close, and the only one willingly paying the large stranger any attention at all.

"You're different," the man said finally.

"How so?"

The newcomer glanced pointedly about at the rest of the mutants in the yard, who were quite pointedly far away now and just as pointedly ignoring them.

Charles smiled a bit. "Yes, well…most of them really are decent people."

"I just scare them."

"I think they simply don't know what to make of you. What with the schedule things run on here they know you aren't new. Likely they assume a small part of what I know for certain."

"What do you know?" the man retorted.

"That you've been a prisoner as long as I have—since the beginning of all of this. That you've been here all along, just not in the common cells. That before that we were held in cells in the same room at the same facility for nearly three months and I never bothered to learn your name. I'm sorry for that. I'm afraid I was…too caught up with my own problems, at the time."

He knew where he had felt this mind, now. In the beginning, on the other base. This mutant had been the occupant of the fourth cell—the angry individual he'd felt that first day when they'd taken him and his sister into custody.

All of that time, stuck in that cell alone with only Raven and Hank to speak to telepathically before they'd been moved here, and he had been too wrapped up in his own depression to find out who it was they shared the room with. And he had to admit that the angry, violent mind had frightened him. He hadn't taken the time to go deeper—to find what was beneath the surface and see the man that was there.

A good man. One who reminded him a bit of Erik, really.

Both of the other mutant's eyebrows went up now. "You're the telepath."

Charles was a bit caught off guard by that, until he remembered that this man must have been able to hear things through the walls at the other facility, just as he had been able to hear through them to some extent, too. He supposed he would have gained some idea who he was imprisoned with, with all of the yelling Stryker and McCone had done in that room. Mostly Stryker.

"Yes," he said.

"You're the reason we're all here." And strangely enough it wasn't accusing, the way he said it.

Charles resisted the urge to grimace, and the pain that was always there flared brighter and sharper in his chest. "I wish I could deny that."

The other mutant shrugged a bit and made a face. "Don't get all wishy-washy over it, god. I don't know who knows and who doesn't, and maybe some of the ones who do blame you, but I don't. Got it?" His expression softened for a moment. "I was there the day they almost killed the girl, you know."

Charles pulled in a breath, not fond of the memory. "Raven."

"Yeah. I remember that too."

"She's my sister."

The man nodded once. "I get it. I got a brother; we watch out for each other. We got separated is the only reason I'm here. Otherwise he'd've had my back."

They were quiet for a moment, until Charles decided it was probably time that he introduced himself properly. "Charles Xavier." He nodded, but didn't hold out a hand. This man didn't seem the type.

The other mutant looked at him long enough before deciding to offer his own name. "James Logan. Logan is fine, thanks."

Charles smiled in amusement. "Charles."

"Nice to meet you, Charlie."

"I would appreciate it if you didn't call me that."

Logan smirked a bit. "Whatever you say, Chuck."

Charles gave up, rolling his eyes and catching something about long-held frustration over Logan's brother—Victor, he picked up now—calling him Jimmy. As fiercely as it seemed they protected each other there also seemed to be so many things that Logan did not like about his brother.

"Anyhow, I am sorry to be meeting you properly under such awful circumstances. It hardly makes it seems proper at all." The other mutant only shrugged, and he continued. "My sister and our friends are just back that way," he said, nodding in their general direction. "You are more than welcome to join us."

Logan looked at him warily for a moment. "I'm fine, thanks."

Charles nodded in understanding. "All right…but I'll let you know how to find us." In a moment he'd given the other mutant the faces of Raven and the others, and the places they usually were when in the cafeteria or out here. "We all need friends here," he added gently, after a moment, before he turned to go. "Think about it."


"I assume you saw that, at lunch," Emma commented later in the afternoon.

"I've seen all of it," Shaw agreed. "It isn't simple empathy he's reacting to those memories with. Erik must care for that telepath. The sister, too. Even if he remembers nothing he's grown to care for them, at least. I think it's time we remedied the problem, and perhaps you could do a better job this time?"

Emma glared. "You're the one who's always wanted him as much himself as possible."

"Erik is an exquisite creature, Emma. I never wanted to hurt him any more than was necessary, and I never wanted to stunt him any more than I had to, to keep him under control. Perhaps this time, however, it might be good to change a bit more—make sure he won't fall in with them again before we're ready to extract him and move on to the next phase."

"I'm going to need that telepath out of the way long enough to do this. I can't get inside his mind without him knowing, but I can tell he's at least strong enough at the moment to be a real nuisance if I try to do this here. If they really are friends Xavier is probably keeping tabs on Erik."

Shaw nodded quickly. "Of course, of course. I've planned for that."

Emma looked at him for a moment, and she didn't really have to read to see what he had in mind. In was right there, on the surface. "Really? Is that necessary?"

"I could have you convince Agent Stryker to have him drugged or subject him to Cerebro at its current malfunctioning level again, but that machine a third time so quickly might very well damage him. And simply having him drugged would certainly not get as much of a reaction from Erik. A final gauge of Erik's feelings and loyalties might be useful, and if we can kill the proverbial two birds with one stone and be one step closer to having the telepath subdued even while we're getting our dear Erik under control again, then so much the better."

"Hmm…all right. I can see it. Though Stryker is still doing our dirty work for us, yes?"

Shaw agreed eagerly. "Of course. We'll have a talk with him in the morning."

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