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That night the chessboard seemed to mock him at every turn. Every ploy he tried seemed to end in disaster.

“You seem distracted my friend.”


“Erik, your head is not in the game tonight. Is everything alright?”

Erik looked carefully at Charles judging the words he was going to speak next.

“Charles…” he started but couldn’t quite find the right words to say. He looked at the stones on the patio and the wheels of Charles’ chair and Charles’ very polished and unworn shoes. Then his attention was drawn to something that looked out of place. There were drops of something falling from the footrest of the wheelchair. He could sense the iron in the drops. ‘Blood’ he thought ‘That is blood.’

“Charles, you’re bleeding”

Erik could see Charles face go from passive to terrified and ashamed in seconds. He didn’t need to be a telepath to know that something was seriously wrong.

Charles fixed his face into a neutral visage. Erik recognized that face as not a good thing in his books.

Charles said very quietly in a rather dead tone “I think you should go now Erik.”

Erik took a hold of the metal in the chair and stopped Charles from leaving. “Charles, what is wrong?”

The look of rage on his friend’s face sent a chill down his spine. And he knew that Emma had done well to warn him. He was very glad that he had the helmet on because he knew in the core of his soul that Charles was not right. This was not the Charles he knew but some savage animal that had come out to play and it was not friendly at all.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” came the dead tone from his friend’s lips. “Do you really want to know? Or is this just some polite conversation to be had?”

“Charles” he had to tread carefully or someone was going to get hurt. “Charles that day on the beach in Cuba, what happened to you was unforgivable. Moria and I were not thinking just reacting. I didn’t want to see you in pain so I removed the bullet and that probably is why you can’t…”

Charles started to laugh hysterically. It was a cruel sound coming from his throat. “You think it was you that put me in the chair? No my friend it wasn’t Moria’s shooting or your gallant gesture to remove the metal from my spine although they did set up the circumstances of my crippling. No, it was my own damn pride that put me here. After you left, I tried to get up and in that action I damaged myself and made me the freak I am today. If I had just stayed there and not moved, then the damage would have been minimal but no I had to try to get back to my feet and in doing so will never feel my feet again.” He started pounding on his legs. “It’s my own fucking fault that I will never dance again or be able to climb a mountain or even just walk to the bathroom. My pride Erik, my pride is what took all this away from me.”

Erik grabbed Charles’ hands preventing him from hurting himself more. “Charles” he said in a loving tone as he tried to keep his friend in check. He grabbed him and held him close. Charles started to sob and put his arms around Erik. They stayed that way while Charles cried through his rage and anger. Erik just held him without comment. Eventually Charles, like a little child with a serious temper tantrum, got himself to the point that he passed out.

Erik wheeled him to his bedroom and picked him up and put him on the bed. He debated about his next move for a little while. Should he call Alex who was the designated Professor helper that night? Or should he just help Charles on his own? He decided to try to give Charles some dignity in all this. He removed Charles’ socks and shoes and then unbuckled the belt and started to get the pants off. He gasped at what he saw.

Charles had been punishing himself and it was not pretty. Erik was concerned that some of the scratches looked like they might possibly be infected from the coloration. The bruising and contusions were ghastly to look at. And then there were the scars which was evidence to Erik that this had been going on for a while. He got the pants off and carefully examined the extent of the damage. He was amazed that Charles hadn’t killed himself by this point.

“Oh Charles, I am so sorry. I am so so sorry. I didn’t know. How could I know? How could you hide this from me?”

He finished undressing Charles and went to the bathroom to get a damp washcloth so he could wipe away the blood before it soaked any further into the covers. He carefully washed his friend noting every wound and scar. He then dressed his friend in a good pair of pajamas and covered him with a quilt. He then grabbed a chair and sat next to Charles watching him trying to figure out how he could help his suffering friend.


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January 2017

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