Charles straightened quickly, the new thought hitting him with the force of a baseball bat. Raven. He had to find Raven, and they had to get out of here. They had to get these other mutants out of here. And they had to do it now, before anyone realized they knew anything.
And Moira. She wasn't on base today. He had to find her; warn her not to come back. She might be in danger as well. Everyone here knew she was sympathetic to them, at the very least, even if they didn't suspect the rest of what was almost going on between Charles and Moira. Not that there was so much of the rest, and now there would be no time for that, but...
But now he had to move. He was still hiding himself from the guards, but he wasn't yet used to the minds of these new mutants, and he hadn't been prepared for their number. They could see him, and many were starting to stare. Soon enough the guards would notice something.
Charles twisted and hurried back out into the corridor, past the guard and the door...but halted just short of the end of the hallway when the director of the CIA rounded the corner in front of him, gun in hand.
"Going somewhere, Xavier?"
Charles reacted the only way he knew how-by reaching for his temple to focus more easily, so he could force the man to lower the gun.
His fingers never made it his head. Several more men had rounded the corner behind the director, and two of them grabbed Charles by the arms and held him tightly, preventing him from raising them.
The director nodded. "Keep his hands down-away from his head. That's how he focuses."
Charles glared. That hardly means I am powerless otherwise, he projected to all of them. He didn't give them time to be surprised before he telepathically forced the soldiers to release him. He went to move-to duck the gun or stop the director from using it, and get to finding Raven. But he was stopped in his tracks again by new arrivals. Three more men rounded the corner, two of them dragging a struggling Raven between them.
The third was holding a gun to her head.
When Raven saw him her eyebrows went up. I TOLD you something was wrong here, she thought angrily. The anger wasn't directed at him, but Charles felt it strongly enough anyway. He wanted to tell her he was sorry, but there was no time for that now.
As soon as Raven and the other soldiers were in sight, the director turned his firearm on Raven as well. She now had two guns aimed straight at her head, and Charles knew he couldn't move.
"You're good, so I hear, but can you stop both of us before she's dead?" the director questioned.
Maybe. But he wouldn't take that chance. He couldn't.
Charles, do something! I know you can! Raven shouted in his mind.
He shook his head minutely. I won't risk your life. I'm sorry...
But his arm that had been halfway up he lowered to his side again, and he took a small step back, to show that he understood he was had. The director nodded, and the men behind Charles grabbed him again. The guns trained at Raven lowered.
"Good," the director nodded. "Good. Now here's how this is going to work: You try anything funny, ever, and she dies. You refuse to cooperate with us, and she dies."
"You can't do this. You cannot hold us here against our will, and you cannot threaten our lives; we have done nothing wrong."
"No, but you're also not human, which means I don't have worry about those pesky things called laws."
"We are people just as much as anyone else!"
The director shrugged. "Maybe, but genetically you're a different species. Being a professor of genetics, you should know that. And the Constitution doesn't quite allow for that. I believe it mentions something about men? You aren't men. You're mutants."
Charles swallowed hard. It wasn't right, but the man had a point. If the government wanted to look at it that way, then nothing could stop them from treating mutants in whatever manner they wished. "This is wrong."
"I happen to think it's only right."
"Why? What is the point of all of this? To simply imprison us? Or to study us?"
"All of the above, and then some. Keep you off the streets, protect the population...maybe gain something useful from studying your powers in the process. But anything else is icing on the cake after eliminating the danger you pose."
"We mean no one any harm!" Charles insisted. Not that he really thought he could change the man's mind. And more likely than not it wasn't even this man's mind he needed to change. This had to go much higher up, and there was nothing he could do about that.
"Maybe you don't, but there are plenty of mutants who do. And you are going to help us find them all."
The director brought his gun up at Raven again. "Oh, so I should pull the trigger?"
"Then you'll cooperate." He lowered the gun again.
Damnit, Charles, stop playing games! Raven thought loudly.
He couldn't. He couldn't let anything happen to her.
Fine. If you won't do something, I will.
His head snapped up in alarm. Raven, don't!
But she was already moving, and it was too late to stop her. In one smooth motion she yanked away from the guards holding her, and shifted forms at the same time from the blond form she usually held to the version of it she had used as a child. The sudden shrinking in size made jumping away from the men holding her easily successful.
But the guns were still there. Before Raven could lash out or run and before Charles could stop any of it, the director swung his gun up again and fired.
The bullet caught her in the left shoulder and sent her crashing to the ground against the wall of the corridor, and her scream was the most terrifying sound Charles had heard in his life.
Let GO of me! Charles thought it with much more force this time, and the men holding him jumped away immediately. Raven was on the floor, in her natural blue form now, moaning, her disguise lost and forgotten thanks to the pain. "Raven!" Charles ran to her, ripping his gray cardigan off as he went. "God, Raven..." When the director and the soldiers realized he was only concerned for his sister they didn't stop him, and he thanked God for that as he dropped to his knees at her side and pulled her against his shoulder.
"Raven, can you hear me?" He held her to him with one arm and pressed the cardigan against the wound with his free hand. She cried and grunted loudly.
"Yes, I can hear you," she grated out. "Stupid question."
Charles brought his mind closer to hers-not invading or reading it, because he had promised her that he would never do that, but close enough that he could help her deal with the pain.That was exceedingly stupid, he told her silently.
You just standing there was stupider.
He huffed, grimacing when he felt that even that small movement had hurt her. I was afraid that something like THIS might happen. You could be dead. She could still die, if she didn't receive treatment or if there were complications. He was all too aware of that. And stupider is not a word.
I've been shot and you care about grammar?
Not really, but some semblance of pretending that he wasn't panicking was probably a good thing.
"Someone get her medical attention, NOW!" Charles shouted, and it came out more unsteady than he'd wanted it to. Not only was he worried, but he'd taken as much of the pain onto himself as he could. With his powers he could deal with it more easily, suppress it to some extent...but it was still there.
"Are you on board?" the director asked coldly.
Charles glared at him vehemently. "I will never be on board, you bloody bastard, but you know that I will not let her die."
The director looked at him for a moment, as if assessing that answer, and then nodded to one of the guards, who hurried off in search of a medic. With that taken care of, the remaining soldiers fanned out on either side if them, blocking off the section of the hallway-as if either of them were going to try to go anywhere just now.
Raven shivered a little against him. This doesn't hurt nearly as much as it probably should. Am I in shock?
The fact that you can ask that question would imply that you are not.
But...oh. You don't have to do that.
He grimaced, glad she couldn't see it. It's all right.
She responded by nestling her head further into the crook of his neck. You're way too gallant for your own good, you know that? This is stupid. You should be getting out of here right now. You could always come back for the rest of us. If you didn't have to worry about me you could just-
Charles's mouth pressed into a thin line. If I left, you would be dead by the time I made it back. I have no doubt that the director would keep his promise.
That man is McCone, the director of the CIA.
Well that's just great...
Charles winced in agreement. I believe I understand why Moira has said that she has never liked him.
There was silence in his mind for a long moment, before anything else came from Raven.
I'm so sorry...
He pressed his face into her orange hair and kissed the top of her head. Hush now. She needed to save her strength.
That, and it was much easier to deal with the pain he was taking from her if he didn't have to do much else. He was almost having trouble keeping the cardigan pressed hard enough to the wound.
Raven obliged, and her mind fell silent. She rested against him, and didn't seem to mind when he left his forehead against her hair. Charles could feel her weakening; even though he was keeping most of the pain away, she was still losing blood. Keeping the cardigan pressed against the wound was helping, but it was not a perfect solution.
If help was coming, it needed to come faster.
It took longer than it should have, and it took nearly every scrap of concentration Charles had to keep them both conscious until then. Otherwise Raven would have been out long before the medics arrived, and he likely would have gone with her. By the time they did arrive Charles's breaths were coming in short, quiet gasps, and Raven's mind was becoming less and less coherent. He could tell that even without reading it.
He was a bit out of it with her by then, and he didn't know the medical team had arrived until one of them said something.
"How am I supposed to treat that?" It could have been taken a number of ways, but Charles, of course, knew exactly what the man meant.
Raven didn't have enough energy to be angry, but Charles's head snapped up at the comment and he glowered at the young doctor. "Just because she looks different does not make her some sort of creature. Her physiology is just the same as yours."
Except my insides can move,she thought deliriously. She meant when she changed.
Then they were taking her from him, moving her to a stretcher, and Charles was pulled to his feet and held between two of the soldiers again. And then the men holding him were pulling him in one direction, and the medical team was taking the stretcher in another.
"No; I'm staying with her..."
"No you're not," the director corrected quickly. "I'm sure you'll know how she's doing from where you'll be."
He would know. But what if something went wrong? What if, god forbid, she didn't make it and he wasn't there? He didn't want her to be alone. He was distressed enough about the possibility that he didn't know he was projecting his worries until they brought Raven back to coherency.
I'm not alone...just stay with me your way.
I will. I'll be right here. Just hold on, Raven; you'll be all right.
She chuckled weakly in his mind. You always know what to say. Except when you don't. Then you crash an burn.
Then Charles couldn't see her anymore, but he could feel her, and it was better than nothing. He still struggled as they pulled him down the corridor, but he knew it was no use. They weren't going to bring him back to her, not now, and he couldn't force the issue. Not if he wanted Raven to live.
They dragged him up a level and through what seemed to be a lab, and into a chamber with four doors set around its perimeter-holding cells, but different than those downstairs. Designed for more difficult prisoners. From one door off to the left came a heavy banging, and the mind on the other side was angry and confused, and most definitely mutant. But he couldn't see inside, because there were no windows in these doors. When the director, who had followed them, opened the one off to the right, Charles saw that there was a camera in one upper corner to make up for the lack of bars or windows.
The cell was gray steel walls and nothing more, save the toilet and sink against one of the six walls of the small hexagon-shaped room. The director pulled Charles away from the soldiers and shoved him into the cell himself.
"We'll be back when we need you," he explained shortly.
"You're making a mistake," Charles tried once again. "Mutants are not simply a threat; we-"
But they slammed the door in his face.
Eventually Raven did lose consciousness, and she wasn't certain when. Much of what had happened since the bullet ripped into her shoulder was a blur. But she remembered Charles, and how he'd taken much of the pain away, and how he'd stayed with her even when they'd taken him from her. Now she was waking on her back, and all she could see were gray metal walls. Her shoulder ached, but it wasn't awful. It was bandaged, and her arm was in a sling, and as her head spun a bit she realized they'd at least had the decency to give her pain medication.
She sat up slowly from the pad she'd been laid on, and from the haphazard way it was laid across the floor she could tell that it wasn't usually in here. She could also tell that this was a holding cell.
He was already there, at the edge of her mind, waiting for her. She could feel his concern from here.
Raven! Are you all right? Where are you?
I'm okay. I uhm...She let him in enough to see what she saw, and he gave a mental sigh of relief.
You aren't far, unless there is another room with cells like that. Where I was brought there were only four, and I'm in one of them. There was a muffled pounding off to her left. Did you hear that?
I heard it. You're right here.
I told you I would be.
Raven smiled a little, and he let her know that he was smiling too. But it was gone just as quickly, and Charles moaned.
Oh Raven, I am so sorry. All of this is my fault.
Hey, I thought something was fishy. I thought we should get out of here. I should have insisted. I shouldn't have been such a pushover.
You are anything but a pushover.
Well I should have-
Raven, please. This is in no way your fault.
She fell silent for a moment, and replied gently. If it's not my fault, it's not your fault, either. She felt a flash of grudging assent, but she knew he didn't feel it. He was going to blame himself for this, and there was nothing she could do to change that. What do we now, Charles? she asked instead.
I...I don't know, he admitted. You thought we should do something, and perhaps we should, but I refuse to try anything at all until you're well again.
It's a shoulder wound; that doesn't affect my feet.
It will once you try to run; it will hurt. If we're going to attempt to escape from here we'll need to wait until that wound is not so fresh.
Raven hated it when he was right like that. Fine...and then we wait for the right moment and you mojo us out of here.
Charles sighed. The plan will need to be a bit more detailed than that, but I suppose that would be our only option just now.
What about Hank? she asked suddenly.
They know he's a mutant now!
I know that. I want to get everyone out of here, including Hank, but I'm afraid I've only been worried about you for a bit now.
I know, I know...sorry. She swallowed. And...thanks. You may have saved my life back there. She felt him shrug it off, and she knew there was no way he wouldn't have done what he did in the corridor.
You're my sister, Raven, Charles thought to her quietly. I love you. I will not let anything happen to you while I still have the power to prevent it.
Charles? Are you all right in there? Charles!
Charles had fallen asleep against the wall in his cell, and when something woke him he had no idea what time it was or if were even the same day. He hadn't a watch on when everything happened, and there was nothing in this room to mark the passage of time.
Charles! That voice again, the mind thinking at him. The one that had woken him. Charles, I understand if you don't want to talk to me, but please...
They won't let me in to see you...
He reached out to her with his mind and found that she was on the other side of the cell door. What are you doing here? You could be in danger, but you must know that by now. They-
I know. I found out what happened when I got here this morning.
It was the next morning then. That would explain the stiffness in his back and neck. He'd slept nearly a whole night slumped against the wall. If he was going to be in here for any length of time he was going to have to decipher a better way of sleeping. At least they'd given Raven a sleeping pad and she didn't have to worry about that part.
Oh god...Charles, you have to believe I had no idea they what they were planning. I-
I know, he answered quickly. He got to his feet and went to the door. When he'd touched her mind he'd seen that her hands were against the door, and he put his against it now too. Are you sure you aren't in any danger?
Not now. The director briefed me on the new state of things when I got back and what our mission is, and they let me go. Apparently the same happened with everyone else here yesterday. I think, as federal agents, they just expect us to fall in line and do our job.
Even if it is a complete turn-around from what you thought you were attempting to do yesterday?
I never said I made the smartest choice in the world deciding work for the government...
Charles chuckled weakly, and made sure that Moira was aware of the good part of it.
I'm so sorry, Charles. If I'd known...but I won't let them keep doing this. We have to stop them, Charles. I-I'll...I'll get you out of here, somehow, and we'll fix this...
I don't know that you can fix a government that doesn't understand-a group of people who are acting out of fear. Of course, two days ago he wouldn't have given even that answer. He would have been convinced that anything could be solved with reasoning. But two days ago he hadn't yet been threatened and thrown into a holding cell by a government organization he thought he could trust. Two days ago the director of the CIA hadn't gunned down his adopted sister. I believe the best we can hope for at present is to find a way to get everyone out of here. That much I agree with. I can promise you that I will do everything in my power to change more than that later, but the safety of the mutants already trapped here should come first.
This isn't the only place they're being held.
I had gathered that.
They're building a larger facility somewhere, for holding the mutants. They're going to move you and Cerebro and everyone else there within two or three months.
Charles thought for a moment. What are you saying?
I don't know! I don't know if it would be smarter to wait until everyone is there and get them all out at once or if we should get you out now. The new facility won't be as easy to to get out OF.
He let his head drop forward against the cool metal. I don't know, Moira. I...I'm afraid I'm not thinking quite clearly just now. Everything has changed so quickly...
He didn't mean to let it, but some of the pain and distress he was feeling slipped through with the thought, and he heard Moira sob softly through the connection he had with her mind.
I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry. I can't believe this is happening either. I don't know what to do. I just know I can't stand the thought of you...of you two being locked up in here. I'll get you out-
I wouldn't go without Raven.
I know. Is she all right?
Charles winced. It was only a flesh wound, so I gather. She should make a full recovery.
He felt Moira startle. Wait...what? She's hurt?
He huffed to himself. Of course they wouldn't tell you that...
She tried to get away. Your director shot her in the shoulder, he answered angrily. He tried to make it clear that it wasn't anger at her, but he felt her cringe anyway, and she turned around and leaned back against his door for better support.
Oh my god...
She'll be all right.
It shouldn't have happened! You're people, too; they can't treat you like this!
I'm afraid your director and his superiors believe that they they can, Charles answered sadly. he turned around now too, and let his head knock softly back against the door. He scrubbed his hands over his face as the magnitude of all of this hit him all over again. Or maybe for the first time, really. God.
Finally he had to come to a decision that he didn't want to make. Moira...I don't want you to do anything.
Don't do anything. Don't help us escape. If we're going to do it, we'll figure it out on our own. If anything happens, I don't want you involved. He felt that she was hurt, and added quickly, for your own safety.
Do you think I care about my own safety at this point?
I do, he thought back firmly. After what happened yesterday I have no reason to believe that you won't be in serious danger if they know that you are against them. Don't do anything to make them suspect that you are.
No. You need to do this. He took a deep breath. And you shouldn't come to see me. Even from the other side of the door. You should stay away from here entirely. Don't give them ANY reason to suspect you.
Moira, please! He sank to the ground against the door, and brought his fingers to his temple as she continued to protest in her thoughts. Moira, listen to me...
He calmed her, and after giving her a gentle nudge mentally to ask for entrance she let him in-in farther than he'd needed to be just to communicate as they had been. At the front of her mind, behind the shock and the anger at her superiors and her worry for Charles and Raven, were memories from the past few weeks. They were the memories the two of them shared, and Charles found the one he was looking for-the same one he was thinking strongly of himself right now.
He pulled the memory out and drew her to it, and after more focus...
They were there. The blank cell was gone, and he was in the courtyard with Moira. It was three nights ago-the night before all of this ruined everything.
The moon was full, and the stars were out in full force, but they couldn't compete. The weather allowed for a perfect view, and it was an ideal night for a walk. Moira had obliged him without a second thought, and when they'd made it outside Charles had placed her hand in the crook of his arm and kept his own hand over it, in the traditional way. It was something he had only ever done with Raven, because he had always known that if he were to do it with any other woman that it would be deliberately romantic.
That was the idea now. Moira had laughed a little, but she hadn't resisted, and she seemed to enjoy the simple intimacy. For a while they didn't speak; they didn't need to.
"This is nice," Moira said finally.
"It is, isn't it? I thought a bit of distraction would do us good; it's been frustrating enough recently, waiting."
"I'm sorry about that."
"No, no; it isn't your fault." Charles smiled a bit and looked up at the night sky. "I should be happy enough that this is going to happen at all. And god, I can't wait. All of those minds that I touched..." When he glanced back down Moira was smiling over at him. "What?"
"I just love it that you're so excited about this. Your enthusiasm is contagious. I was interested enough in the idea of meeting more mutants, of seeing what we can do for them, but then I met you, and...I don't know. It all seems even more worth-it now."
"Well none of this would be possible at all if you hadn't found me. And thank you for giving me a chance anyway; I know I didn't make the most brilliant first impression."
"It wasn't so bad. Besides, I saw your presentation first, remember? But anyway...I didn't find you; they sent me to where you were. I was just the messenger."
Charles smiled. "A very beautiful messenger."
She laughed. "Charles Xavier, you are hopeless."
"Am I?" he asked in amusement. They had stopped now, facing each other rather than side-by-side.
"I think you are," Moira smiled. "The good kind."
"Well that is certainly more encouraging. I hope that means that you won't mind if I do this..."
With that Charles brought a hand to her cheek, and he kissed her. She responded easily, and when he pulled back she smiled at him in satisfaction. "That was even nicer than the walk."
Then the memory was over. Not much had happened after that. They had been out there for few more minutes, but then he had walked her back inside. He hadn't wanted to rush things. Not with Moira.
And now even though that was all of the memory they had to relive, they were still there, standing in the courtyard. Moira blinked suddenly and looked around in shock.
"How did you do that? How are you doing this?"
"Long years of practice."
She looked back to him in confusion. "If you could do this, why didn't you do it before now? So we could talk more easily?"
"It takes a great deal of concentration, and I'd hoped it wouldn't be necessarily. I had hoped you would see reason more quickly."
Moira swallowed and looked away. "How was reliving that supposed to make me want to abandon you?"
"I'm not asking you to abandon me; I am asking you to stay safe."
Charles took her face in his hands and made her look at him. "Moira, please. I need you to be safe. There is no sense in giving up your livelihood, your life as you know it, just to assist in a plot of escape that may or may not succeed. If you play their game you can stay where you are. We may need someone on the inside at some point-or the outside, as the case may be just now."
"Well, I guess that makes sense, but..."
"Nothing, I just..." She didn't seem to know what to say. Instead, without warning because even she hadn't thought it out first, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him fiercely. "I don't want to not be able to see you..."
Charles's arms went around her waist when she leaned into him, and even when she broke off the kiss he held onto her, his forehead pressed into hers. "I know. I don't want it, either."
"Then why are you asking me to do it?"
"Because it's better for you. It may be better for everyone, in the long run."
"And what about you?"
He squeezed her closer. "That isn't important."
"It's important to me."
"I know...but I started this, whether I wanted to or not, and I have to see it through to the end."
"I helped you start it," Moira said quietly.
He finally let her go just enough to pull back and look her in the eyes. "Please just do this. For me. Please promise me that you will do this. When we leave here, you'll go, and you won't come back to where they're holding us again unless you're required to. You will not try to contact me unless they allow you to have contact with me."
She nodded wordlessly, unhappily, but she was nodding. Then, "But what if they want me to join one of the teams tracking down the mutants, Charles? How can I do that?"
"If they want you to do that, try to help the mutants if you can, if you must do something. Again, nothing that would make your superiors suspect you, but if you can speak with them...tell them that all hope is not lost. Tell them what you will, as long as you aren't caught. Do what you can, but do not put yourself in danger."
"All right, all right, all right..." she relented. "I'll do it. But if this lasts, don't expect me to lay low forever."
Charles let out a breath. "No. I don't suppose I could expect that." Then he kissed her one more time.
I think I could have loved you. I think I do love you.
But those thoughts he kept to himself.
Then Charles broke away gently, and he smiled because he didn't want tears to be the last thing she saw of him. He broke the connection and he was back in the dim cell, with nothing but the gray walls to keep him company.
Moira was still on the other side of the door, and she could have said goodbye before she left, but she didn't. He knew she wasn't any more eager to use those words that he was.
Charles didn't cry until she was long gone.