The Doors They Opened

Chapter 17

Charles felt them coming before they made it to the cell, of course. He also knew that all of it was Shaw and Frost's doing. He could feel the suggestion planted in Stryker's mind, sticking out like a sore thumb.

It wasn't hidden at all—only to Stryker. Apparently Shaw didn't care if he knew that this was his doing.

Charles's blood ran cold when he felt them—when he picked up what they were coming for. When he knew what was going to happen. His thoughts ran rampant, trying to decipher a way to stop it, and he came up with nothing. He could erase the suggestion from Stryker's mind easily, but the guards with him already knew where they were going and why. He wasn't strong enough yet to alter all of their memories at once—not before one of them realized what he was doing and shot Raven or simply shot him, as they had been instructed to do if they suspected him of toying with their minds.

No no no, oh god…

"Charles, what's wrong?" Raven asked anxiously. Her hand on his shoulder was tight and Charles hadn't realized until now that he had not been controlling his face at all.

No matter. They would be here in a moment and she would know.

He lurched to his feet, resisting the urge to back into a corner. It wouldn't do any good.

"R-Raven, you can't…they really will kill you this time. Don't fight them. I'll be—I will live. God, I—"

"No. They can't put you in that machine again. Not so soon!"

"No! That isn't it. They—"

The door opened and Charles jumped, shoving his sister behind them. Don't fight them, don't fight them, don't fight them…

It was as much to remind himself as for Raven.

Why? What do they want!

Quite a few guards pushed their way into the cell, and when they grabbed him they pushed his arms behind his back and cuffed his wrists. Of course. That would make it easier.

Charles's heart was slamming in his chest, and his voice stuck in his throat for a moment at what Stryker said when he stepped in after the guards.

"Bring both of them."

The others were grabbing Raven now too, and Charles forced his voice out again. "NO! This doesn't concern her!"

Stryker smirked. "It does if you don't want it to."


"Do you want to tell me what you've been up to? I'm not playing games anymore."

Charles just seethed at him.

"Tell me now and you can both stay here."

He couldn't.

Stryker shrugged and ducked out the door again.

"You can't—!"

But Stryker was leaving, leading the way for the guards to drag Charles and Raven from the cell.

Charles, what the hell is going on!

How was he supposed to tell her that?

It was the middle of the day, after the morning meal but not yet time for their group to be the yard. The yard was empty now but they brought them there anyway, pulling them out onto the bare concrete surface.


Raven was still shouting in his head, begging to know what he knew, but he couldn't tell her. He was still desperately seeking a way stop this without putting her in danger.

There was no way. It was likely half the reason Stryker wanted her here.

His chest was heaving when they shoved him to the concrete, but he managed to stay balanced on his knees and twisted to glare at Stryker, hoping the fear didn't show as much as he felt as if it did.

"What are you doing! Leave him alone!" Raven shouted.

Stryker didn't look at her, smiling tauntingly at Charles instead when he answered. "I don't think so. We've already dragged him all the way out here, after all." He took a few steps forward suddenly, snagging Charles's chin with one hand in a nearly bruising grip, and Charles couldn't pull away because there were guards at his back again now, holding him in place even though he was on his knees. He could do nothing but glare.

"Last chance, Xavier. I'm damn tired of you and you're taking a beating either way, but you talk to me now and I'll let them bring her back first," he growled, nodding back to Raven and the men holding her.

She was already struggling, but she screamed at that. "NO! Damnit, no!"

I'm sorry, Charles sobbed inwardly. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…


But he didn't say anything, and when he didn't and Stryker let him go and backed away the men behind him dragged him up by his arms—which hurt enough with his wrists cuffed.

It hurt more, of course, when one of the others shifted in front of him and threw a fist in his gut.

Lunch with Shaw and Emma again, because he had no choice, and Erik was suspicious when Emma didn't throw anything else at him. He had an absolutely awful feeling about it, in fact, and when he followed them to the offices after they ate and the rooms and cubicles were empty he felt worse.

Most of the administrative staff was on the balcony, and what he could hear from outside before they even made it to the railing turned his stomach.

Even before he and Shaw and Emma were looking down into the yard he knew it was Charles and Raven.

Erik gripped the railing tightly, wishing he could simply pitch over it and be down there and stop this right now. "What the hell?" he breathed.

Shaw gave one of those smiles of his, the one that Erik recognized now as his oh-look-watch-the-humans-be-stupid look. Stryker and the other men down there, he would assume, as the stupid ones in this situation…even if he didn't seem to mind at all where the stupidity was leading.

"It seems Agent Stryker is no longer willing to deal with your telepath friend's stubborn will," he said matter-of-factly.

Part to play. Part to play. Erik was having trouble processing that at the moment. "He's not my friend."

"Of course not. Merely a figure of speech." Shaw brushed it off easily.

A sudden scream from below made him wince before he could stop himself, and Erik quickly looked away and down to cover it, but that, of course, didn't help. Oh god oh god oh GOD he had to stop this damn the part…

They were beating him. Charles was on the ground and they were beating him and he couldn't defend himself with his wrists cuffed behind his back and damnit Raven was down there too seeing this and screaming at them but she was helpless too because they'd chained her to one of the posts and Stryker was SMIRKING and—

Charles! CHARLES!

Even from here he knew Charles's eyes were clenched shut, but he saw them blink open now. He saw them find him and focus on his from the briefest fraction of a second before another boot connected with his stomach and he shouted and coughed and spit blood and tried to double over on the concrete but he didn't make it far enough before it happened again, and then someone kicked him in the back and he arched the other way anyhow and his face twisted in pain. His eyes were shut again now.

Erik…don't…just go…! It came through patchy and strained and panicked, between the shouting and the blows and pained grunts, but that was no wonder.

I'm not leaving you! I have to stop this! They'll kill you!

They won't…you can't…ruin everything…and this time at the end of the segmented transmission a burst of pain slipped through and Erik had to screw his jaw shut and grip the railing tighter to keep from crying out. He felt Charles's horrified apology rather than hearing it in words.

Damnit don't apologize! He started to move, to…he didn't know. But he couldn't let this continue.


It drove him to a halt almost before he'd moved at all, and for a moment he couldn't breathe. Charles, I can't let them hurt y—!

NO! You can't stop this!

But there were no more clear thoughts from Charles after that. He was too far gone and oh god Raven was sobbing…

"Something wrong, Erik?" Shaw asked nonchalantly.

He couldn't look up. He was still trying to blink his eyes dry again. "What's the point?" he questioned, barely managing to keep the desperation out of his voice.

"Nothing else has led to him talking. He's still refused to reveal what they're planning, even to you, apparently. So you say. Agent Stryker seems to think the old fashioned way might have some greater effect."

But the way he said it—the smugness hiding under the surface—told Erik that this had not been Stryker's doing at all.

Charles. He looked again and Charles was nearly unconscious now, face-down on the concrete, and the guards around him were backing away. Erik let out a breath, thinking it was over after all until one of them began to fumble with the coiled whip at his belt.

No, damnit…!

Erik backed away from the railing, and this time there was no desperate, scolding voice in his mind—only his own desperation telling him to move, and move now, and put a stop to this before they really did kill Charles, even if they didn't necessarily mean to.

Stryker would be furious, but that didn't mean the possibility wasn't there.

He left as if he were in no great hurry, only breaking into a run once he was out of the offices.

Shaw paid no attention as Erik pulled away from the small crowd on the balcony, only turning to watch mildly just before he disappeared. Then he glanced to Emma at his side.

"Follow him," he told her. "I'll be right behind you."

Everything hurt. Everything was bruised or sore or cut or cracked. Probably. Charles wasn't entirely sure. He couldn't exactly think anymore. He did know there was blood on his face and in his eyes and mouth and in his throat. The last thing he remembered was yelling at Erik…telling him not to ruin everything…

There was concrete under his face. Under him in general, and someone was pulling handcuffs from his wrists. His arms flopped to the ground and they hurt too, were bruised everywhere, it felt like, and he couldn't move those either. He couldn't move anything. He didn't think anything was broken, outright, but it hurt too much to think about moving.


A pleading sob in his mind, Raven, and he barely had the strength to hear it, much less to respond. Still here…

He was relatively sure that got through, anyway.

No one had hit him in a moment or two. A long moment or two. He was relatively sure of that as well, and Charles shuddered a bit, hoping more than anything that it was over.

It wasn't over. Another moment later and a shadow bent over him and there was a knife at his collar and suddenly he wasn't on the ground in the middle of the day anymore. He was chained to post and it was the middle of the night and it was dark and Charles found one more scream, somewhere, inarticulate and pure panic.

It didn't help. The blade sliced through his clothing easily, through the jumpsuit and his t-shirt both, this time, and Charles sobbed as rough hands quickly pushed the fabric away from his back. "No, no, no…" he babbled weakly. His chest was shaking; he was crying. He wasn't in control anymore.

But the hands did nothing else. Not what he was sure they would do. They disappeared once his back was bare, but Charles was still trembling.

Shaking hurt. It only made everything worse.

And he was lost now. He felt himself slowly return to the present, unsure of what was happening until he felt the first sting across his skin.

He jerked a bit, a loud grunt escaping his lips when that hurt worse than the shivering, and then the familiar, sharp stinging came again, and again after that…

In the background Raven was screaming again, but he couldn't really hear her anymore.

Erik made it as far as the doors before Emma stopped him—pain and memories and anything else she could throw at him in his head to bring him to a stop, to double him over, and he was on his knees there in front of the door when a hand wrapped around him arm and pulled him up effortlessly.

Shaw. Of course it was Shaw.

Emma released him and Erik gulped in a breath and tried to pull away from Shaw all at once. But it didn't work. He should have known that. Shaw absorbed the energy and Erik went nowhere.

"I think we need to have a little talk, Erik," Shaw said calmly. "I think more has happened here than you've told us.

They knew. Maybe not the details but they knew he was hiding something. No reason anymore to act as if they didn't.

"They'll kill him!"

"It's of no particular concern to me if they do," Shaw deadpanned.

Erik pulled again, futilely, desperately, and it was more than a little embarrassing to be held completely immobile by a single grip on his arm. He couldn't hear Charles anymore but he could hear Raven screaming through the doors. He reached with his powers, starting to pull them open from where he was—trying to do something, anything, because they knew now and there was no reason not—but Emma made short work of crippling him again and there was only the pain on his skull and the memories he didn't want to see and he could do nothing.

And Shaw was pulling him down the corridor, away from the yard away from Charles, and Frost would not allow him a moment of peace.

"No!" he grated out.

But they didn't listen.

They stopped. Eventually, they stopped. They left Charles alone, bleeding on the ground, unconscious, and most of them left. One or two them came to the post Raven was chained to and released her, and when they did she lashed out. She threw punches, she shouted, and she hit one or two of them rather soundly before someone decked her and the lights went out for a few seconds.

By the time she made it back to her feet, still seeing stars, Stryker was gone too and the only guards left in the yard were near the door, guarding them.

It was nearly time for their group to be here anyway, she supposed. It must have been. Maybe they were being left here until then. It was the only thing that made sense—why they'd just left both of them where they were.

Raven choked back a sob when she swept her gaze across the concrete and found Charles again. She warred with herself, over whether to go to him now or get to the medical supplies first—the ones near the bathrooms at the edge of the yard—but her heart won out over her head and she hurried to her brother's side.


He wasn't conscious to hear it but she sobbed it anyway as she knelt beside him. He was a wreck. She didn't know what to do first to help him. Instead she pulled him more onto his side to keep him from waking on his stomach—which would hurt as much as it had to be bruised—and pulled his head onto her knees. Soon enough she was crying. All she could think enough to do was be there, holding him and waiting for him to wake up.

The boys would be here soon. Charles needed help; they could help…

Hank. She wanted Hank to be here now. She wanted him to hold her.

They were still there on the ground when the yard's doors opened and the rest of their group trickled in. Most of them gave the upsetting scene on the ground a wide berth, but Hank and Sean and Darwin found her—found Charles. They didn't know what to make of it.


"Oh god, what…?"


Raven tried to stop crying. She tried. But her brother was unconscious and beaten and bleeding in her arms, and she couldn't take all of this anymore. "Help…" she managed. "Please, h-help…"

They were frozen, staring. Hank was starting to move but then someone pushed through them, only pausing for a moment to take everything in before hurrying to action. "You heard her!" a gruff voice barked. "Get supplies! Now!"

They turned and ran for the restrooms, and it took Raven a moment to realize that the man who had spoken was the mutant Charles had broken off from the rest of them to speak to yesterday. The one who had been in high security until now.

The man was crouched beside Charles now, fingers that were deft despite their size hovering over the whip lashes and cuts and bruises, touching only when needed and checking for broken bones.

"What happened?" he demanded.

Logan. Charles had said his name was Logan.

Raven opened her mouth, but the answer was trapped in her throat. "They—"

She didn't get any farther than that but Logan nodded anyway; he wasn't going to force her to say any more if she couldn't. He was scowling now. "Let me guess: the old bastard who thinks he owns the place?"

She nodded. "Stryker…"

The other mutant only shrugged. "Whoever the hell. He's bad news. Gathered that much even from isolation."

"You're Logan, right?"

"Yeah. Guess he told you." He paused in his checking over of Charles. "I don't think anything's broken."

Raven swallowed. "How do you know…?"

Logan shrugged again. "Been in a few wars. Patched up plenty of guys."

"A few wars?"

"I've been around a while…"

He didn't look it but now that she thought about it she remembered Charles mentioning something like that, when he'd told her last night about the encounter and what he'd gathered from the brief contact with the man's mind. Logan could heal quickly, so he wasn't aging.

The boys returned, arms loaded, and Hank set down what he had and lowered himself to the ground beside her, wrapping his arms around her from behind as Logan riffled through the supplies and Sean and Darwin offered help.

"It'll be all right. He'll be all right…" Hank told her. She kept one hand clutched to her brother's shoulder, but the other she brought up to squeeze Hank's hand. He squeezed back.

Logan seemed to know what he was doing, cleaning the wounds and bandaging them, and Raven swallowed hard.

"Thank you…"

The man who was, for all practical purposes, a stranger, glanced up only briefly before looking down at Charles again. "He's the only one here who bothered to say a word to me. Least I can do."

Shaw dragged him to an empty lounge that was off the beaten path at this time of day—back near the residential wing. Emma was close behind as Erik was shoved inside and pressed into a wall. Shaw's hands were around his upper arms now, pinning him to the wall and he couldn't move. Any energy of movement was absorbed and he wasn't going anywhere.

It didn't help that his head was still ringing from Emma's attacks.

"Any time now, Emma. I could easily hold him here all day, but I would much rather have this done."

She glowered for a moment. "Give me a minute. This is going to be complicated. I'm not even sure what the telepath did to keep me from seeing Erik's sympathies earlier."

What was going to be complicated? "What are you—?"

"Be quiet, Erik," Shaw snapped. And when Erik tried to protest he couldn't. Nothing came out of his mouth and when he looked at Frost she was smirking.

She was keeping him from speaking.

"And you're sure the telepath won't be able to stop you now?" Shaw was asking.

"He's still unconscious now. Even when he wakes up he won't be able to do much of anything for a few days."

"Good, good..."

Erik struggled futilely, panic building in his chest.

His memory. They were going to find out he had it and take it away from him again. They were going to take Charles and Raven and his powers—

A panicked noise escaped his throat, but no words, and he glared at Shaw venomously, trying to tell him that way just what he thought of him.

And then Emma was in his mind again, ripping at the shroud over the truth, finding the shields and tearing them apart, and it hurt and his eyes snapped shut.

"He has his memory. All of it. His powers…he knows everything," Frost said abruptly, almost impressed. "The telepath managed to hide it."

Shaw snorted quietly. "He's powerful. Or he could be if he weren't here. Anyhow, we'll have all of that fixed soon enough."

Erik wanted to scream, both because there was pain and he because he didn't want them to do this, but he couldn't scream and fighting was growing harder. In a moment Frost had put a stop to that too and he hung against the wall, immobile and helpless.

It wasn't a feeling he liked at all.


But she was digging deeper, shattering what remained of the shields, the shards digging into his mind from the inside and hurting and—and then she had access to everything.

Charles woke with a start, the panicked cry in his mind not so much a cry as a feeling—a sudden intense sense of the need for help.

It was Erik, but for a long moment he couldn't focus on it. When he'd woken he'd moved, and it hurt. It hurt rather horribly. Everything ached or stung or burned, and his breath hitched from the pain. His head was propped on someone's knees…Raven; he felt her. The hand on his shoulder was hers.

"Charles! Hey, take it easy. Be careful."

It hurt…he could hear himself gasping but he couldn't control it.


Erik. In his mind. Erik panicked, which didn't happen often. He didn't let himself feel that way without good reason.

Shaw and Frost had him. They knew everything now. Frost was trying to take it all away. Trying to turn Erik into something he wasn't.

Charles! Help me!

It was hard enough not focusing on the pain. He didn't know if he could help. Erik knew that. But Erik trusted him. Trusted him implicitly. He could feel it. Erik trusted him at least to try. Did he deserve so much trust?

Charles's eyes clenched shut and the hand on his shoulder squeezed and Raven's other hand found one of his and squeezed it too. He was curling in on himself more, still gasping, and she whispered to him. She didn't know what was happening; she didn't know Erik was in danger.

"Shh, I know, I know, I'm sorry. I know it hurts. We're working on it…" she said, voice tight with emotion.

We? Who else? He could feel other hands skimming over him, seeing to the wounds, but he had no time to look and no energy to waste reaching out to the mind or minds that might have been behind them. Part of him still shivered from the flashbacks of earlier, but Raven was here, so he was safe…


Erik's scream was louder but more distant this time, slipping away…

Charles reached out and snagged him, holding him from the edge that Frost was pushing him to—the edge of the abyss in which she planned to hide the Erik that was now, to leave room for what she and Shaw wanted.

Erik felt him, and Charles felt the relief tempering the alarm. Frost still pulled, but Charles held on as fast as he could.

Don't let go! Erik pleaded. He didn't want to be who he'd been. He didn't want to be something worse. He didn't want to lose anything he'd gained here.

Never. But it hurt. He was slipping. Charles was weak and he didn't know how long he could do this. He fought back, trying to push Frost away but it didn't work at all. He couldn't. Not now. Tears welled in his eyes and he sobbed because he knew he couldn't hold on no matter how much he wanted to. Oh god he couldn't lose this fight. They couldn't lose Erik. He couldn't…


I'm going to lose it! I can't keep this up! I don't have the strength anymore!

Don't let her do this!

I don't want to!

Erik was slipping away again.


Charles sobbed aloud again, nearly crushing Raven's fingers in his grip. "No! Erik no….no no no no nooo…" I'm trying!

Above him voices, worried and confused, but he didn't have the time to make them out right now.

Frost saw him.

Let him go!

Sorry, sugar. But we have plans for Erik here. And you're just in the way.

She pried free what was left of his grasp as if it were nothing, and Erik was gone.

Charles screamed, panicked and wordless and in pain, and it took her and Logan both to keep him still, and Sean and Darwin were helping too. Hank moved out from behind her to help. He jerked in their grasp, screaming and sobbing and they didn't know why.

"Charles! It's okay! Please!" Raven shouted, begged.

"Who the hell is Erik?" Logan questioned.

"Long story," she answered shortly.

"Raven, he's too badly injured already; he's going to hurt himself further," Hank put in worriedly.

Logan scowled deeply. "We can knock him out again if we have to."


She'd had enough of that. She didn't want that to happen again.

"I said nothing was broken, exactly, but he's probably got cracked ribs and if he keeps movin' like this he could make it worse or break 'em!"

But in a moment Charles went limp in her arms, inexplicably, still shuddering with quiet sobs but no longer screaming or twisting. Raven swiped gently at the tears on his face, swallowing hard. Somehow she knew that something else was wrong. He'd said Erik's name at one point, and that couldn't be good. Not after everything that had happened in the last few days. Not with Shaw and Frost here.

"What is it?" she asked anxiously. "Charles, what's wrong?"

She didn't know if he was really listening. His eyes were focused on nothing, in the distance, seeing but not registering, and her blood seemed to freeze in her veins when he spoke. "We've lost Erik," he cried quietly. "We've lost Erik, we've lost Erik…"

With Erik unconscious now, in a heap on a sorry excuse for a couch as the changes set in, Shaw nodded in satisfaction.

"Well. Perhaps that didn't go as smoothly as we'd hoped, but it's done. How is our telepath friend?"

Emma shrugged. "Upset. Devastated, really. No telepathic strength left to speak of at the moment, either. It won't take much more."

Shaw smiled. "If it's that close we might as well finish the job. Pay him a visit and see that it's done."


The bell rang sometime later, telling them it was time to leave the yard, and Logan and the boys were only just now really done with the dressings. There were so many whip marks this this time, so many other smaller cuts and abrasions…

When the bell went off Hank and Darwin moved as if to pull Charles up between them to help him back to the cells, but Logan stopped them.

"I've got it." And he motioned them all out of the way and picked Charles up, gently, out of Raven's lap. Hank helped her to her feet. She exchanged a glance of thanks with this man she had just met, and it was all he would accept.

"Let's go," Logan said quickly.

Charles was still awake, and he groaned at the movement, but Raven could tell that Logan was being as careful as he could. He brought him back to the cells, and the guards allowed him inside theirs long enough to put Charles down. Then he was ushered away, but he looked back.

"Take care of him," was all he said, before he was out of sight.

When the door closed Raven swallowed and went to her brother's side again, sitting on the edge of the bed and taking his hand. "Charles?" He was still awake, if barely, and his eyes blinked open and he looked at her blearily.

"They took him," he managed. "They th-they took Erik." He shuddered as he said it, and she could see the pain flickering across his face.

"Took him where? What happened?"

"No, they…they took…him. He…they hid everything again…took it…it isn't…isn't Erik anymore. Oh god, it isn't Erik…" He was babbling, looking at her and focusing a bit more than before but still not quite here.

But she knew what he meant.

"Oh god."

"I can't fix it," Charles sobbed quietly. "I can't do it…again. I'm too…too weak. I can't…he's gone…"

"Don't say that. You'll get stronger. This isn't the end. You—"

"Stryker won't let me…you know that. Shaw will make sure of it. Frost…they'll make sure I can never help him."

"Why would they do that now when they could have done it to begin with, but they didn't?"

His eyes closed again and he was already on his side but he curled in on himself now, pressing his forehead into his knees. "To break me. Us. No opposition. Felt it in Frost when she pushed me away. That's what they want…us out of the way. Me. Doesn't matter now. We can't get out."

It felt like a knife in her chest, hearing him talk that way. Hearing that Erik was gone. All of it. "No…w-we'll find a way to help Erik. Or we'll find another way out of here," she said desperately.

The door slammed open again. Raven jumped to her feet, not knowing what to expect but ready to protect her brother. But then she was frozen, and after that she was falling. She hit the ground with no free will to break the fall, and by the time the room stopped spinning a thin form in white was bent over Charles's bunk. Frost. It had to be. Raven wanted to move and she screamed inwardly but nothing happened.


But there was only a sense of fear and pain and regret, and then nothing. There was no answer.

He tried to fight her. He did. But he couldn't. Charles had nothing left physically, mentally…and when Frost bent over him, pushed him onto his back and pinned his forearms to the mattress he could hardly even cry out anymore. His back screamed, everything screamed, but nothing came out of his mouth. Frost was keeping him from making a sound, and still keeping Raven immobile, he assumed, or she would have been up by now. He heard his sister call his name once, in his mind, but he couldn't even answer.

Frost pushed into his mind, smirking, and he had no defenses.

You couldn't save your friend. Erik is ours now.

You can't do this. You can't take away WHO HE IS…

I already did, sweetheart. And not for the first time. It's over.

No…no, I won't let you—! He cut off,mouth open in a silent scream when she hurt him, raking at his mind with something akin to sharp fingernails. It was easy for her now. He couldn't stop it. Any last bit of energy he'd used trying to save Erik, and he hadn't been able to do even that.

By the time she stopped Charles was trembling and sweating, breath coming harshly and that hurt too because his stomach hurt, his ribs hurt…

You don't have to LET me do anything. We can do what we want. And you're not getting in the way when we do it.

He saw all of it. The plan. Why they'd stayed away from the other prisoners. No one else here knew who they were, really. No one would remember them if they'd caught a glimpse of them on the balcony. Shaw had arranged this to turn the mutants against the humans. Eventually he would free them all himself. They would follow him. They would rule.


She ripped into him again and this time when she stopped his face was wet and he couldn't see straight, much less think. It was nothing for her to push everything on him at once—the pain and the guilt and the anger and everything that had been done to him and everything he couldn't take back and everything he couldn't change. She shoved him back with it, shoved him into a cage she'd built of it in the back of his mind and she locked it.

Now be a good boy and stay there, Frost chuckled.

Charles beat on the bars that weren't really bars but when he pounded them he felt what they were, the memories and pain and they overwhelmed him, and he could do nothing but crumple back, curl up inside and away from them.

Raven couldn't move until Frost was long gone, and by then Charles was silent. Far too silent. As soon as she could move she shot to her feet, her first panicked thought being that Frost had killed him and she couldn't breathe.


She stood up too quickly. The dizziness dropped her and she was on the edge of the bed again, braced over he brother, and when she'd pushed past the dizziness and opened her eyes for one horrible moment she thought she'd been right.

Charles looked dead. He was still, silent, eyes open and really staring at nothing now. Blank. But his chest was moving, up and down in a slow rhythm that was only a bit unsteady, and there was a quiet rattle there.

"Charles?" she breathed. When there was no answer, even when she called out mentally, she shook him. It should have hurt but he didn't even wince. "Charles! Oh god…Charles? CHARLES!"

Still no answer.

He was alive, but he wasn't there.

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