If Not For Your (X-Men FC)
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Warning:character death. Fandom: X-Men First Class (written way back in 2012). --- Aliens have invaded. Its all out war. What is it that we fight for?
Rating: T, for language
Standard Disclaimer: Not mine. Marvel's.
Title: If Not For Your
Despite the exoskeleton, Charles knew that he absolutely should not have been there. Hank had spent months perfecting the design; it was almost entirely made of plastic and ceramic, which came with the double benefit of being both light weight and less susceptible to their most well publicized adversary. But even with it, its delicate machinery feeding his thoughts directing into the robotic-cage wrapped around his otherwise immobile legs, he should not have been on the field of battle.
But, then again, no one had expected this to become an all out war.
Making his cautious way through what had once been a city block in downtown New York, Charles worked very hard to keep himself upright. With only half his mind paying attention to his body, maneuvering through the rubble, and past the occasional fire, was slow and arduous. He would have paid more attention to his surroundings, but the other half of his mind was needed elsewhere. Or rather, it was needed everywhere.
::There are more ships coming! We need air backup moving south toward the boarder!:: Irene’s mind shouted.
::There isn’t any backup to send,:: Hank replied, unintentionally sending along images of his blue fist slamming into a matte-black helmet. ::There are three army helicopters already in Portland; they’re going to have to hold the line until Magneto’s forces can regroup.::
::Brotherhood to the rescue!:: a burst of male thought suddenly chimed in, delivered on what felt like a wave of ice.
Charles had to stop walking a moment so that he could concentrate on catching the new person’s mind-voice. The man’s uniqueness was surprisingly easy to integrate into the conference of thought, and it took Charles only a moment more to realize who it was.
::Ah, Dominikos,:: Charles greeted the newcomer. Then, after a second, added, :: And Emma… welcome to the fray.::
::Now, now, Dr X…:: the male thought-voice chided. ::It’s Avalanche. You know the rules; only your own side gets to use your first name.::
::Considering that aliens seem to be invading, I imagine that puts us all on the same side.:: Charles replied before any of the others in the thought-conference could argue.
::Such an optimist,:: Avalanche responded, the sarcasm obvious. ::So, I hear some people need rescuing in Portland? Something about more of those bug ships coming down?::
Instead of replying with words, Irene sent images. Charles admired how quickly the woman in Oregon had picked up the little tricks of telepathy – after all, though she was a natural psychic, her power lay in clairvoyance. On occasion, however, she did tend to try a little too hard. So much so that the push of her projections nearly knocked Charles off his feet. Charles managed to catch them though, and after filtering off some of the excess force, passed them along.
As the eight strategists absorbed the information – nine, really, if he included the usually passive Emma – Charles turned his mind to one of the other million tasks he’d set himself to. Stopping again, and bracing himself against the wall of what used to be a Starbucks, Charles sent a thread of power out amongst the buildings around him. His mind bounced off of four-hundred or so others, twenty of whom he identified as children, and seven of whom needed medical attention. He gathered that information into a tight little ball of thought, and sent it to the head of the nearest medical unit.
Next he threw his attention to the supply trains, making sure the food and weapons going in and out of the city were moving as coordinated. The Navy around New York in particular seemed to have trouble working with the mutants stationed among them, and Charles had to use a little bit of extra energy to remind the Vice Admiral quite forcefully who his actual enemies were.
As he’d done with the children and the injured, Charles left a little bit of his attention behind with the Vice Admiral and the supply captains, keeping track of everything as best he could.
Then he turned his main focus back to the strategists.
::…should be under the small one in a second,:: Avalanche’s mind voice was just finishing.
Charles let himself slip into the images that came with the words. Avalanche was, indeed, just below one of the smaller ships. The invaders had arrived only a week ago, and it had been a mad scramble to unite the world’s military in the face of a shared enemy. In spacecraft larger than any warship, the invaders had come out of the sky and started attacking. Mobilizing his team alongside the US military had been Charles’s first priority, and had pushed the limits of his capacity to convince people. When Erik’s brotherhood had arrived, Charles had scattered the mutants among the military forces, using them as best he could to coordinate. It had been a minor miracle when Hank had produced the first Headset – a device capable of augmenting even a miniscule telepathy into something strong enough to communicate with Charles. Being able to create a network of even weak telepaths was likely the only reason they weren’t yet under the heel of the alien forces.
As Avalanche continued to make his slow way through a ravaged corner of Portland, lining himself up for a clear shot at the smaller, tank-sized craft the invaders seemed to use only for grounding troops, Charles allowed himself a private moment of exhaustion. Because even with the network of newly-minted telepaths, he was still the switchboard for them all.
A brush of cool air, like a draft against the back of his mind, made him not only rethink his moment of pessimism – it also reminded him to better watch his own thoughts while connected like this. Emma, quiet though she was during the conversations, was still present. And unlike almost everyone else in the network, she was a natural telepath. If he was honest, it was her help shoring up the West Coast connections that had kept the whole thing from turning his brain inside out.
There was an answering blush of smug arrogance from Emma before the both of them reinforced their personal shields.
::So, it’s definitely a grounding ship. Opinions?:: Avalanche’s mind-voice interrupted his moment of musings.
::Kill it,:: Jane, a low-powered telepath currently working with the Air Force in Texas, answered instantly.
Charles wanted to work up the compassion to disagree, but he just couldn’t. Not with the better part of Manhattan a ghost town around him, it’s injured and frightened like flickering fairly lights throughout his consciousness. And not with the hum of agreement that came from everyone else in the thought-conference.
Charles allowed Avalanche’s answering excitement, a warm and almost plush thing that rolled out of the other man’s mind, to snuff out the last of his dissent.
With practiced movements, Avalanche brought up a modified shotgun from where it was slung across his back. The motions telescoped out from his thoughts, and as the trigger pulled, each of them held an unintended breath until the barbed shot connected with the ship. Avalanche pulled the connected tether tight, and Charles could just feel the edge as the man began to flex his powers.
::Any of you seen something actually come apart at the seems?:: Avalanche asked, his mind-voice colored with sadistic glee.
Then the man’s power rolled out from his hands and up through the tether. Within second, the whole ship began to vibrate, loosing altitude and blurring like reality had lost focus on just that one patch of sky. The man's power was like a directed earthquake, starting at the macro and working its way down to the molecular, until even the atomic bonds struggled to maintain. And Avalanche loved it.
Then everything went to hell.
Charles felt a ping of anxiety suddenly flare from a corner of his mind, from the pieces of himself he’d left with the medical crews. He tried to direct his main attention there, but the feel of Avalanche’s power, the man’s utter joy in its use, was too distracting. He was torn between the urgency of a burn victim going into shock and the smoldering glee of destruction.
And then there was Hank. Like a thunderclap of rage, Hank’s awareness came flooding over the thought-conference. The accompanying image of one of the invaders, its matte-black helmet being peeled away like the lid of a jar, echoed through all of them. For a brief second, they each shared in the visceral urge to use teeth instead of hands, to rip the slick skin of the alien, to open up its body and pull at the soft, warm, wet things inside.
And of course, he couldn’t forget the rest of the strategists. Irene’s mind was currently screaming, the sudden physical attack at Hank’s base triggering a moment of clairvoyance; fire and thunder, and the crunch of broken glass. The other strategists, scattered across the country but connected more intimately then they could have guessed, were each screaming their own panic. Shouts of ::They’re here!:: and ::Oh God, what now?:: and ::Fuck. There aren’t enough guns on the fucking planet for this!:: ricocheted through the thought-conference like stray bullets.
Through bits and pieces, scattered images, words, and sensations, Charles understood; the invaders had launched a coordinated ground attack.
And beneath it all, was Charles.
He felt like a radio receiving too many signals at once, each overwhelming the others with noise and static.
When the silence came, it was almost welcome. Of course, the reason for the silence kept him from being too appreciative.
He didn’t even hear the gunshot before he felt it. The bullet hit him so hard in the left side of his chest, it sent him into a pirouette before throwing him to the ground face first. The pain was instant, ringing through him as if what he could feel of his body was a hammer-stuck bell. It was a song he’d learned the words to long ago. He’d had near-fatal bullet wounds before – he recognized the sensation.
He felt his heart stutter as he gasped against the pain, and felt something thick and salty well up in his throat.
Ah, he thought as the part of him that should have been panicking went suddenly numb. A punctured lung.
He spat out a mouth-full of blood and forced his arms to work just enough that he wouldn't bleed to death face down in the dirt. He landed heavily on his back, and nearly passed out from the pain that lanced through him, burring from both sides of his chest. The wound was apparently a through and through – so at least whomever did his autopsy wouldn’t have to go digging for a bullet somewhere in his chest wall. The exoskeleton still wrapped around his legs gave an occasional kick as his subconscious mind railed against what he already understood was inevitable.
Somewhere outside the pain, there was a brief brush of ice against his mind, then nothing. He spared a thought to hope that the sensation had been Emma taking over the thought-conference, perhaps keeping the connected minds safe from sharing his injury. The thought passed quickly though, and he laid there for what felt like forever, examining the silence in his mind even as the city around him erupted into acoustical bedlam.
He stared blankly at the sky, and found himself strangely grateful that the combination of clouds and smoke made it seem overcast; at least he wouldn’t have to lose the other half of his life under a spitefully cheerful sun and with a tropical breeze on his face.
Minutes or hours passed as the battle raged around him. Feet went stomping by just inches from him at some point; a group of invaders, their matte-black helmets just reinforcing how very alien they were. He’d felt a frisson of fear at first seeing them. But he was already bleeding, already dying. They moved passed him without a second glance.
Then the fighting became quieter – not lessening, just more distant.
More hours crawled by in the shape of distorted minutes. He was well aware of how pain stretched the victim's perception of time, the mind readily screwing its own interpretation of reality. The compression of time perception, typically experienced when one was in the throws of joy, was a similar – if more pleasant – phenomena.
Charles knew that thinking such things was a weak attempt to distract himself from the inevitable, but he allowed the futile exercise anyway. If the static at the edge of his telepathy was any indication, he wouldn't be joining back into any conversations before the end found him.
A scuffling sound pulled his from his musings, but he dismissed it as a rodent. As the scuffling got closer, he found it in himself to be magnanimous, and silently welcomed the scavenger to whatever was left of him after – it wasn't as if there would be anything left to preserve, even if there was someone left to do the preserving.
There was someone at his side suddenly, and he wanted to flinch away, but his body refused. Even the exoskeleton failed to move, his mind no longer giving off enough power to keep it functioning. So, he just lay there as red hair spilled into his vision, and blue hands began touching his face.
“Oh,” he greeted casually. “Hello, Mystique.”
How are you? What brings you to New York? Lovely day, isn’t it? A shame that I went and got myself shot…
“Charles! Oh God; Charles!” she gasped at him, ignoring his tone. Her hands ran over his chest nervously, being careful of the quickly spreading blood. He could feel her fingers dance around the edges of the warm wetness, before gathering up his shirt and bunching it messily over the wound.
His spine arched at the pressure, his hands abruptly remembering how to move. He was also pretty sure he screamed.
“I’m sorry, Charles,” she stuttered, her face twisted around a grimace that he thought must be pain. He couldn’t imagine that it was for the blood; they’d both seem too much of that in the twelve years since she’d stopped being his little sister.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Just – just don’t move, okay? Just hold still. We’ll get a medic. Just don’t move…”
He wanted to laugh. So he did.
The salty gurgle that came out of his mouth was very much not a chuckle. With how much blood was pouring into his lungs, he wasn’t sure if he was going to drown or bleed to death first. He did his best to ignore the blood as it welled up from his lungs and into his mouth, but it felt heavy as he swallowed against it, feeling it move like warm sea-water in his stomach.
Up from his abdominal cavity, only to go back down again – too bad general vicinity wasn’t the problem.
He pushed the thought aside.
“Mystique,” he breathed. Or tried to. Mostly what passed out of his mouth was a rush of wetness and vowel sounds. So, he coughed, and he tried again.
She heard him that time, her bright, hawk-yellow eyes snapping to his face.
“I need to thank you…” he spoke, appalled at how thin his voice was.
But she wasn’t looking at him anymore, her attention already snared somewhere in the distance. She seemed to be scanning the area, looking at everything but him.
“You saved me, you know.”
Her eyes came back to his face abruptly, and he could read every nuance of guilt and disbelief that she normally was so good at hiding. It seemed they were both being laid bare today.
“It would have been so easy to be like them; like Mother, like Kurt, like Cain. You gave me a reason to be better. You gave me a reason t-to try. Thank you. Thank you for.. for finding me. For giving me someone to love. Thank you for letting me love you.”
And he knew it sounded melodramatic, but it was true. And it needed saying.
Even if she disagreed.
“Shut up, Charles!” she screamed at him, her eyes filled with something that look quite a bit like terror. “Just shut up! There’s… there’s a medic coming. Soon. Just, hold on. Someone will be here soon…”
“Thank you,” he gasped as she put even more pressure on his chest, so much so that his vision went black from the pain.
When the darkness never receded, he amended his thought - the loss of vision was probably from the loss of blood.
This was it then; the end. He’d never imagined that it would be so quiet.
“I love you. Thank you,” he said again, forcing himself to remember her face. Not the pale, round cheeked, girl-next-door face that he’d unintentionally taught her was better than her real self. He pictured her ocean blue, and candy-apple red, and golden-sun yellow. He pictured her fierce and beautiful. “Thank you, Raven, sister. If not for you, I wouldn't have understood... I wouldn't have...”
His voice trailed off, and the pain in his chest suddenly stopped. The blaring of the continued fighting dimmed, and he welcomed the coming silence even as Raven screamed his name.
As the last of his life bled out of his chest, he was grateful that he had the sound of his sister’s voice to accompany him into the nothingness.
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