Guilt

One needed a map to find anything among the winding, sprawling hallways of Charles’ Xavier’s mansion, but Erik did not need any directions to find Charles, not that first night. Erik wondered if Charles knew how his mind called to him, when he was lonely or sad or frightened, a little dig at the back of Erik’s skull whispering an unending litany, “I need you I need you I need you.” Erik followed the incessant pull, until he came to Charles’ door, light spilling out from beneath it into the dark hallway. Erik slowly turned the knob, and opened the door with a gentle creak.

Charles, hunched over his desk, jumped at the sound of Erik’s entrance, and that in itself was reason enough to worry. “Erik, hello,” he said as he hastily fumbled the cap back on a bottle of whiskey. “I’m afraid I’m rather indisposed tonight, what with settling everyone in. We’ll have to cancel our chess game for tonight.”

Erik crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. “You know that’s not why I’m here, Charles.”

Charles smiled weakly. “No, I suspected not,” he said, and he turned away. “I thank you for your concern, Erik, but I’d rather be alone right now.”

Erik walked across the room, and he placed his hand on Charles’ shoulder. “No you don’t,” he said firmly, and he felt Charles hand reach up to cover his own.

“It’s my fault,” Charles said.

“It isn’t,” Erik replied almost immediately.

Charles shook his head. “I lost my temper,” he said. “I got cross with them for acting like teenagers, for trying to make the best of a difficult situation, and for bonding with what are probably the first fellow mutants they’ve ever met.” He tilted his head back and looked into Erik’s eyes. “If I had taken them with us like I wanted, they would have all been safe. Darwin would be alive. Maybe Shaw would have spared those soldiers, if he’d known the children weren’t there.”

Erik spun Charles chair around, and he gripped him tightly by both shoulders. “They went too far,” he said. “You were a parent disciplining misbehaving children, you had no way of knowing that they would be in danger at the base. You did nothing wrong.”

Charles tried to push Erik away. “If I’d been more compassionate, more understanding, if I hadn’t…” and he dropped his gaze to the floor, “If I hadn’t felt embarrassed by their behavior, after vouching for them in front of you.” Charles pressed his face into Erik’s chest, and Erik could feel wet tears soaking through his shirt. “It’s all my fault. I was responsible for them.”

Erik put his arms around Charles’ gently shaking shoulders. “We both were,” he said. “I don’t know what to tell you, Charles, but I have known evil men, and I have known guilty men, and you are neither, or I wouldn’t be here right now.”

Charles’ arms moved hesitating to Erik’s waist. “I need you,” he said, softly, muffled against Erik’s chest.

Erik waved his hand, and the door shut with a loud click.

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