Atom bombs were simple.
The press of a button. The tick-tick BOOM of explosion; harsh and altering, rendering worlds to ruin. Emotions were harder. Human actions. Reason. Good intentions. Each one much more unpredictable and capable of inflicting greater torment than even the largest nuclear bomb.
What would drive a person to harm others? To persecute and victimize them? To round them up and torture them? To desecrate their race? Bombs couldn’t be argued with- they were single-minded and resilient, but people?
Erik had considered whether people were susceptible to reason many times over the years- never more so than during the time he spent under the thrall of Herr Schmidt; held captive alongside thousands of other people in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the place that would become known as the world’s most notorious death-camp. At least, it was at that time…
Schmidt had said he wasn’t like the Nazis- that his intentions were more noble somehow; that the fact that he was a mutant meant that the way he had manipulated Erik was justified, because he was only helping Erik to live up to his full potential.
As it much as it pained him to admit it, Erik agreed with Schmidt, at least in some way. Maybe not at first- maybe not in the immediate moments after his mother and father had been killed, maybe not in the years after he left the camp- when he’d wandered, lost and afraid, in search of a place to call home. It took decades- time in which Erik had burned a mark across the world; a trail of bodies in his wake as he searched for Schmidt, or Shaw- as he was now calling himself, but eventually Erik had come to realise that what he was- everything that he’d become- was as a result of Shaw’s actions.
Shaw may have been Erik’s creator, but that didn’t mean that Erik would ever thank him for what he’d done. Instead, Erik wanted to kill him. He needed to. It was the only way he could ever allow the memory of his mother to be at peace.
He’d come close too, once or twice, but Shaw always evaded him, and Erik could only watch in dismay as Shaw destroyed more and more lives- until things had reached catastrophic levels of carnage.
It had started at the embargo line. Shaw’s plotting and scheming had come to a head, and he had tipped the world into a full-scale nuclear war- operating under the assumption that mutants would thrive under the resultant fallout. But he’d been wrong.
The world fell apart pretty quickly after that, but not in the way that Shaw had envisioned. Nuclear blasts destroyed civilisations, and at first Shaw had what he wanted- the explosions that so easily eradicated the humans seemed to have a diminished effect of the mutants- the so called ‘children of the atom’. But, like always, although humanity may have been self-destructive it wasn’t necessarily suicidal. Once the humans realised that they were only hurting themselves- and once they became aware of the existence of the mutants and the power they possessed- they changed tact.
The sentinel programme came into effect before the mutants could rally against it, and overnight hundreds of mutants were rounded-up and forced into holding facilities. That’s what they were at first- simply a place to keep mutants locked up until their human captors decided what to do with them- but it didn’t last.
Erik could only watch in horror as history repeated itself all over again, just like he knew it would. He evaded capture himself, and slowly began to build up forces to defend the mutant race- an organisation that became known as the Brotherhood of Mutants. When the time came they took out the mutant death camps- tearing buildings to the ground and crushing anyone who attempted to stop them.
The campaign won more mutants to Erik’s cause, those who had survived anyway, but only served to create further tension between them and the humans- as if things could get any worse. The world was in ruins, and humans and mutants alike scattered across the globe as they lay in wait and planned their next move, just waiting for an opportunity to take the other side out…
“Any suggestions?” Erik asked, leaning on the table in front of him and looking at his subjects sat either side of it. His cape fell over his shoulder slightly with a swish before he adjusted it, standing up once more and folding his arms across his chest.
Sometimes it was hard to believe it had come to this- that he was the leader of so many individuals who would do whatever he asked. It wasn’t really what he was made for. He was supposed to walk the world alone- to maim, not mentor.
A static silence continued to fill the room, and no one was answering him. Erik supposed he’d asked a bit of a redundant question- these mutants were used to following orders, not giving them. Well, maybe not all the mutants…
“I think we should attack”, Raven said, absently drumming her blue fingertips against the table in front of her. “We’ve given the humans enough chances- they’ve taken enough from us- so I think we need to take the fight to them, and bring them down”.
Erik tried to control the smile that threatened to corrupt his mouth. Sometimes it amazed him how much Raven sounded just like he did. He supposed it was inevitable that they would be alike, having known each other for so many years. Still, there was a reason Erik was in charge and Raven was only his second in command- she may have been ballsy but he was the strategist and, although his temper was often quick to rise, these days he rarely acted without fully considering the plan of attack.
“I value your enthusiasm as always, Mystique- but there are other things to consider here…”
“What’s to consider? We have the upper hand on the humans- this time- so why not use the opportunity to strike first? They’re hiding like rats and for once we know exactly where they are. You could use your powers to bring the building that they’re in down whilst they’re still inside. Or Havok could take them out with his blasts. Hell, get me in there and I’ll break their necks one by one”.
Erik shook his head, causing a flash of irritation to show on Raven’s face that she quickly corrected when Erik shot her a pointed look in return.
“Well, what do you think then, Magneto?” Raven grumbled. “You just want to let them get away?”
“No, I didn’t say that. I agree that we need to seize this moment to try and take out the human resistance once and for all, but some new information has recently come to light that you all need to be aware of first…”
Erik trailed off, jaw clenching slightly as he tried to consider the best way to relay the news. He still had a bad taste in his mouth when he thought about it- a palpable feeling of disgust that had been present ever since one of his followers had reported back with the surprising information…
“They have a telepath”, Erik said- the words coming out calmer than he felt.
“What do you mean? You sayin’ they’re holding some poor mutant hostage?”
Erik turned to regard the person who’d spoken, finding Rogue looking back at him with an expression of mild horror on her pretty face. Of course she would assume the mutant in question had been kidnapped- the reality was far too ridiculous to be believed.
“He’s not a hostage…” Erik replied carefully. “He’s their leader”.
There was a collective murmur from around the room as they all responded to the unlikely news. The idea that a mutant would be actually helping the human resistance was so abhorrent, it was clear that many people were having a hard time believing it. Raven, in particular, looked sick at the thought- Erik could practically see her face turning pale, though he hadn’t thought such a thing would be possible with her blue skin.
“You say ‘he’…” Azazel said. “So it is not…”
Erik shook his head, knowing even before the man said the words what Azazel was referring to. They’d both met a telepath before- Emma. Like Azazel, she had worked for Shaw at one time- before Erik had drawn them to his side instead- but Emma hadn’t been seen for years now, and there was a question over whether she was even alive anymore.
“It’s not Emma”, Erik clarified. “It’s…”
He could barely bring himself to say the words. He still remembered the first time he’d seen the man- back when the TV networks were still running before the world had completely fallen to pieces- the pretentious little professor speaking on the news about how mutants and humans could just coexist peacefully together.
“Dummkopf…” Erik thought, remembering how disappointed he’d been when he realised the man he’d once looked up to- the man who’d written such intelligent things about evolution and the superiority of mutants- was nothing more than a gutless pacifist. Of course mutants and humans couldn’t live together- the past several years had proven that.
“Who is it?” Rogue asked, drawing Erik back from bitter thoughts.
“He’s a professor”, Erik replied. “Charles Xavier. You may have seen him on the news a few years ago, spouting nonsense about mutant and human coexistence. Back then he was just content with speaking for the humans, now I guess he’s acting for them as well…”
“This professor guy…” one of the other recruits known as Havok said, looking as appalled as Erik felt. “You’re sure he leads them?”
Erik gave a grim nod. “Unfortunately so. Naturally this complicates our plan of attack…”
“No!” Raven interrupted, causing all eyes in the room to turn and stare at her in surprise. “Sorry… but, erm, I’ve changed my mind about the attack. I’ve… heard a little about this telepath- by all accounts he’s pretty dangerous. I don’t think we should ambush after all; we need to be more careful”.
“Really…” Erik said, raising his eyebrows slightly in surprise. It was unlike Raven to be so cautious, and it made Erik suspicious that there could be something she wasn’t telling him. Still, now wasn’t really the time to call her on it.
“I think we have a lot to consider…” Erik started. “It’s getting late, so I suggest we bring this meeting to a close for now. We’ll reconvene in the morning to discuss things further- I advise you all to get a good night’s sleep in the meantime. Gute Nacht”.
At that, the followers all began to rise from the table and move towards the doorway, heading to their own rooms for the night. They wouldn’t be going far; all of the Brotherhood were holed up in the same place- a hotel, long since abandoned before the war. It had been rundown and desolate when Erik had commandeered it- it still was, to some extent. But over time the Brotherhood had worked to adapt the space to their own needs, making it a safe haven from the world outside. Erik, in particular, had made great efforts to ensure his own security- taking over the penthouse suite at the top of the hotel that was only accessible by elevator which Erik controlled, having entrusted a key to Raven only.
As the room emptied Erik turned away from the door, beginning to gather up the files he’d brought with him. He was hindered, however, by the distracting sound of shuffling behind him- a noise he had come to recognise as Raven expending nervous energy.
“Something wrong?” Erik asked without turning around.
“I think we should capture the telepath”.
Erik balked at that, dropping the paperwork he was holding back onto the table and whirling to face Raven.
“Are you mad?”
“It’s not such a crazy idea”, Raven protested. “We can’t allow him to continue to help the humans, but I know you won’t want to kill him either- not one of our own kind. Instead, if we brought him back here we could convince him to join us”.
“What makes you think it would be that easy? If this telepath is as powerful as you say he is then what’s to prevent him from stopping us, or killing us?” Even as Erik said the words he knew it completely ridiculous- the idea of that meek looking professor hurting them- but it was worth talking through all the possibilities nonetheless.
“It won’t come to that”, Raven countered, shaking her head emphatically. “I know he-- I mean, I’m sure he won’t hurt us, and besides- you know we have ways of subduing him should we need to…”
Erik scowled slightly, realising what Raven was suggesting in an instant. It had been one of the humans’ first forms of defence, or perhaps attack… They had developed a serum to suppress mutant abilities, and had used it to control their captives whilst they were in the holding camp. Naturally Erik had been appalled by the invention, and he had made sure to destroy almost all traces of the drug when the Brotherhood rose to power, but they had retained a few doses of the suppressant- just in case.
“This could be a very bad idea, Raven. If that telepath takes control of one of us…”
“It won’t come to that”, Raven interrupted. “Please, Erik- I really think this is the way to win the war”.
Erik was still scowling, but his expression softened slightly when Raven called him by his real name. He had long since ceased correcting her when they were in private company, and he couldn’t deny that he felt a certain degree of affection towards her for being the only one undaunted by being so personal with him.
“If this goes wrong you will only have yourself to bl--” Erik started, but he was interrupted by Raven slamming into him, wrapping him in a hug which he only mildly resisted. He frowned for a moment, wondering why this was suddenly so important to Raven, before he relaxed and slid his arms around her in return.
“Nothing will go wrong. Trust me”, Raven said.
When the time came to retrieve the telepath they decided on a covert mission, rather than a combative one. Only Erik, Raven, and Azazel participated- Azazel was there to teleport them in, Raven and Erik would capture the professor, and then Azazel would get them out again, hopefully without incident. Erik decided not to tell the rest of the Brotherhood that they were planning to capture the telepath rather than kill him- not until they decided what they were going to do with him.
To Erik’s surprise, everything went pretty much to plan. The humans were holed up in an abandoned hospital on the outskirts of New York- a location that would have taken days to reach from where the Brotherhood were located, had it not been for Azazel’s ability.
They arrived at the hospital in the dead of night, materialising on the rooftop of the building, illuminated by bright moonlight. Leaving Raven and Erik on the roof, Azazel used his powers to quickly move through the hospital- searching for the psychic’s location. In time he returned, and both Raven and Erik stepped forward to touch Azazel on the arm as he transported them to the relevant room.
The telepath was sleeping. Just when Erik was sure he couldn’t have found the man any more ridiculous, there he was- wearing pyjamas as he lay curled up on a hospital bed, chest rising and falling with each gentle breath. What was even more infuriating was the fact that the man appeared to be smiling in his sleep. Did this Naivling not know there was a war going on? Erik couldn’t remember the last time he had slept soundly- when he hadn’t just shrugged off his shirt and trousers before collapsing into bed, exhausted by the day’s events. He didn’t even own pyjamas anymore…
Erik couldn’t help letting out a noise of irritation- a harsh guttural sound that came from the back of his throat. Raven immediately turned to look at him questioningly, before grasping Erik lightly on the arm as across the room the telepath began to rise.
He looked… surprised. Erik supposed that was to be expected- he doubted even with telepathy on his side the man had seen this coming- but what was most confusing to Erik was the fact that, although the telepath was clearly shocked by their presence, he didn’t look afraid. In fact, if Erik hadn’t known any better he would have been tempted to say that the man almost looked… happy.
Still, there was no time to dwell on what emotion could be read in the man’s large blue eyes now.
Erik used his powers to retrieve the hypodermic needle he had hidden in his pocket- levitating it into the air and firing it at the telepath in an instant.
The man wasn’t looking at him. His eyes were focused on Raven in their entirety- expression soft and stunned as he completely neglected to notice the needle whizzing through the air towards him.
“Raven, I--” the telepath started, before the needle pierced his skin and he was plunged into unwanted unconsciousness.
“He knew your name”, Erik stated, looking down at Raven expectantly as he stood watching her with his arms folded.
“Mmm…” Raven replied. Mmm? What did ‘mmm’ mean? Erik scowled slightly in annoyance, adjusting the helmet on his head as he glared at her for a moment before turning his attention back to his new prisoner.
The telepath was still sleeping- slumped somewhat comfortably in a chair with his wrists bound to the arms by metal wires, hair falling in his face slightly. He looked peaceful. Erik hated that.
“Are you sure you want to be in here for this?” Erik asked. “You know that you’re vulnerable right now”. Erik tapped the helmet on his head pointedly- a message to Raven that, whilst he was protected from the telepath’s reach, she was not. It was a trick he had learnt from Shaw- using a helmet to keep any psychic from prying into his head and trying to control him, only back then it had been Emma he’d hoped to keep out.
“I’m fine”, Raven replied coolly. “I don’t think he’ll hurt me, and even if he does try anything you can soon stop him”.
After some debate they had decided in the end not to dose the telepath with a suppressant to stunt his abilities- a gesture of goodwill, or a pretence of it. Still, Erik wasn’t foolhardy, and he’d made sure to keep some of the drug close at hand should its need become apparent. Right now it was placed on a table to the side of them- the only piece of furniture in the room other than the chair in which the telepath had been placed.
The professor had been unconscious for a while now, and Erik was beginning to get rather annoyed... Didn’t this man know what a bad idea it was to keep the infamous Magneto waiting?
One raise of Erik’s hand and the chair under the telepath began to shake, and soon he wasn’t looking quite so peaceful anymore…
“What the--” The man awoke with a jolt, eyes darting around the room uncertainly until they locked on the presumably alarming sight of Erik and Raven stood in front of him. Still, despite everything, the telepath didn’t look scared, and Erik could only conclude that it was because he was planning a very abrupt escape.
“I don’t want to hurt you, but you should know that if you try anything- if you try to escape in any way- you will live to regret it”, Erik explained, staring at his captive intently.
Intimidating others with nothing more than a commanding look was one of Erik’s specialities, but he was annoyed to realise that the psychic wasn’t heeding his warning at all- his attention was focused solely on Raven.
“I knew you were pissed at me, but I never imagined you’d do anything this crazy…” Charles said, continuing to stare at Raven as Erik immediately turned to do the same, frowning at his cohort in confusion.
Erik’s eyes darted between the two other people in the room, sensing from the way they were looking at each other that there was a connection between them, which Erik hadn’t foreseen in the least.
“Mystique, what’s going on here…?” Erik asked quietly, and immediately the telepath let out an incredulous laugh.
“She didn’t tell you?” Charles smirked, shaking his head in disbelief as Erik considered using his ability to push the chair over with Charles still in it.
“Tell me what?” Erik growled, glaring at Charles and clenching his jaw in frustration. The professor only continued to smile smugly in return, and Erik turned to seek answers from Raven instead.
“Erik…” she said eventually. “This is my brother, Charles…”
Those familiar with Erik had been known to describe his temperament as deathly calm. On the surface Erik was composed- steadfast and impassive, and rarely prone to displays of emotion. But of course like anyone else Erik was capable of allowing his veneer to slip, and when his anger rose it did so quickly and ferociously.
Erik regarded Raven for long moment as he allowed the realisation to sink in- the disturbing knowledge that his closest friend and confidant had deceived and manipulated him. It was clear that Raven was feeling guilty over her actions by the way she was shifting uncomfortably, but this didn’t make Erik feel any better. In fact, the way Raven had so quickly changed from a competent and composed soldier to a somewhat shy and nervous individual made Erik feel distinctly aggrieved- like the presence of the telepath had corrupted her in an instant.
Fortunately for all concerned there wasn’t much metal nearby, but Erik still made a good show of affecting whatever was in the immediate vicinity. A very evident tremor rose up in the room as the floorboards began to shake, propelled by Erik’s hold on the screws that held them in place. Charles looked immediately alarmed by the development, glancing up as the light fixtures above him began to sway, but Raven was unmoved- accustomed as she was to Erik’s occasional outbursts.
“Erik, calm down…” Raven urged, reaching to hold Erik carefully on the arm in an attempt to soothe him. Erik still remained tense with quiet rage, but as Raven continued to stare up at him- her yellow eyes appearing softer than usual- he found himself mellowing in her gaze, as he always did.
“You owe me an explanation…” Erik muttered eventually, slowly releasing his hold on the metal in the room as Raven gave his arm a grateful squeeze.
“Oh, please- allow me”, Charles interrupted, causing Raven and Erik to both turn their attention towards him. “You see, ‘Magneto’- your second-in-command ‘Mystique’ was at one time simply ‘Raven’, my dear sister. She was taken in by my family when we were both very young, and although I did everything I could to provide her with a loving home it soon became clear that whatever I could offer was apparently not enough for her. I think I lost her even before she left you know- on the day she first saw you on television, spouting off about so-called mutant supremacy”.
Erik scowled. “You say that like it’s some sort of terrible thing- like you’re not aware of the superiority of your own genes. It’s a little surprising to me, professor, considering that you’ve published papers that speak very clearly about how mutants are more evolved than their human counterparts”.
“You’ve read my thesis? How adorable…” Charles replied as Erik’s scowl grew deeper. “I’m flattered that you’ve read my work, but I don’t think you’ve quite grasped its message. I suppose it’s understandable- comprehending scientific theory is hard for some people…”
“Careful, professor…” Erik started, focusing his frustration on the wires holding Charles’ wrists and beginning to press them further into Charles’ skin. Charles squirmed uncomfortably in his seat, glaring at Erik for a moment before he turned his attention back to Raven.
“So what’s your plan, hmm?” Charles asked, looking at his sister expectantly. “You’ve basically kidnapped me in the middle of the night- in my fucking pyjamas, no less- so what now? Did you even think this far ahead, or did you just act rashly like you always do?”
“I needed to do something, Charles. You joined the fucking resistance! You were working with the humans against us. Did you really think that I wouldn’t try to stop you?”
Charles sighed in exasperation. “I’m not working against you, love. All I’ve ever wanted is to find a way to end this war, and I thought that by working with the humans I could show them a better path”.
“Jesus, Charles- you never change”, Raven replied, crossing her arms angrily. “Those humans have persecuted us, hunted us, killed us- and yet you’re still trying to see the good in them. You still believe that we can all coexist peacefully”.
“But they’re not all the same, Raven. Just like not every mutant is the same as each other- you and I are evidence enough of that. We’re all flawed- humans and mutants alike, and each side has done things to wrong the other- to desecrate and maim the opposing side. I just don’t understand why you’d want to go on fighting when there’s so few of us left now…”
“Well whose fault is that?” Erik interrupted. “Who started this by rounding us up and forcing us into camps? Who used drugs to stunt our abilities? Who used their fear as an excuse to slaughter us? Your precious humans, professor. This whole mess is their fault, so don’t you dare try and act like we’re the uncivilised ones for simply trying to defend ourselves”.
“Defence? Really?” Charles replied coldly. “I’ve seen what you’ve done, Magneto- you and your Brotherhood. I’ve heard stories of what happened when you arrived to liberate the camps- how you murdered every human you could find, regardless of what responsibility they held there”.
“You think their type of employment should have any measure on their guilt? Everyone in that camp was responsible- I don’t care if they were personally killing the mutants or just filling in fucking paperwork. All were guilty. All deserved to be punished”.
“So what does that mean for me, then? I haven’t killed any mutants- I’ve never killed anyone- but in your eyes I’m surely not innocent either because I helped the humans and kept them safe. Does that mean I deserve to be punished too?”
Erik drew in a breath, staring hard at Charles as he considered the man’s words. Although he regarded Charles’ views with a certain vehement opposition, hurting his own kind went against everything Erik believed in. Still, that left him with the question of just what he was going to do with his captive.
“Mystique, a word…” Erik commanded, moving abruptly to walk from the room without even acknowledging Charles’ question. Raven continued to stare over at her brother for a moment before she turned and followed Erik out the door.
Once they were out of the room Erik used his ability to close the door behind them both before walking off a few paces down the corridor. They were located in the lower levels of the hotel- a disused space that afforded them the privacy they needed to conduct their business. Other than themselves and Azazel no one knew about the mission to extract Charles, and Erik was determined to keep it that way- appointing Azazel to stand guard at the end of the corridor should any of the other members of the Brotherhood happen to stop by.
“You have a lot to answer for…” Erik started, coming to a stop and turning to look down at Raven as Azazel watched them curiously from the other end of the room.
“Well, what did you expect me to do, Erik? Just let you kill him? Or leave him to die at someone else’s hand?”
“You could have been honest with me, Raven. I’ve trusted you, you should show the same faith in me”.
“I know, I’m sorry… I trust you, Erik- of course I do, but I had no way of knowing how you’d react if I had come to you with this information. I just thought that if we could get him away from the humans then I’d at least know he was safe, and we could think about what to do with him afterwards”.
“Well, we’re here now, Raven- this is afterwards. So what are we going to do?”
Raven paused, looking over at Azazel for a moment before turning her attention back to Erik.
“We could… keep him here with us”.
“What?” Erik spat out incredulously. “How on earth would we do that? There are mutants all over this building- any one of them could find out about the telepath and try to take him out”.
“Well, you could explain the situation to them…”
“No, Raven- they need to respect us otherwise they won’t follow us. How do you think they would react if they discovered that you lied to them? That you’re helping a man- your own brother- who represents everything that they hate?”
Immediately Erik realised his indiscretion, and turned to shoot a pointed glance at Azazel which the red-skinned mutant clearly understood as he made a sealed-lips gesture before turning away once more.
“Alright, so we don’t tell them...” Raven replied. “In that case we need to keep Charles somewhere safe, somewhere no one will find him…”
Erik shook his head. “Well then I suggest we ask Azazel to teleport him to the moon, because there is nowhere in this building where he wouldn’t be found”.
“Well, that’s not entirely true…”
Erik stared at Raven for moment, trying to read the meaning behind the slightly contrite expression on her face. When he got it he immediately balked, stepping back a couple of paces from Raven and shaking his head.
“No, Raven- not a fucking chance”.
“Come on, Erik- you said it yourself, there’s mutants everywhere in the building, all except on the very top floor- in your penthouse”.
“I am not having that… peace-loving weakling stay with me”, Erik uttered through gritted teeth.
“Please, Erik…” Raven begged. “He’s really not that bad to live with…”
“Well you couldn’t stick it with him, what makes you think I can?”
Raven smiled. “Well, for one I don’t imagine he would make you listen to his theorems on genetics like he did with me, or if he did I’m pretty sure that one withering look from you would stop him in his tracks”.
Erik sighed. “Raven, you do realise that you’re basically putting a mouse in a cage with a snake and trusting the snake not to eat it…”
Raven broke into an even bigger grin. “I’ve always thought of you as more like a shark myself”, she replied, and Erik scowled in protest even though he knew she had already won.
It had been two months of this.
After Erik had agreed to keep Charles hidden from the rest of the Brotherhood they had used Azazel to teleport him upstairs away from sight, but only after Erik had once more threatened Charles with swift and severe punishment should he attempt to escape. The telepath had agreed, but Erik barely trusted it- in truth he expected Charles to fight back at any moment; to take hold of Azazel’s or maybe even Raven’s mind and use them to get away, but he never did. Still, Erik wasn’t about to take any chances, so he used his ability to fashion a metal bracelet for Charles that had a dose of the suppressant attached to it, meaning that Erik could stop Charles’ telepathy in an instant should he wish to.
Erik only began to feel marginally better when Charles was safely stashed in the penthouse suite with only him for company. Thanks to the helmet Erik continued to wear he was safe from Charles’ telepathic influence, though the idea of having to wear the helmet 24/7 was somewhat of an inconvenience for Erik, but he supposed it was preferable to having that man mess with his mind.
And so, Erik and Charles had settled into their new domestic situation, but despite Raven’s assurances that living with Charles would be easy, Erik soon found the whole situation entirely grating…
Two fucking months of this. Two months of seeing Charles every morning- far too bright and cheery before Erik had even had his morning coffee. Two months of Charles leaving books scattered haphazardly around the living room- his only source of entertainment, supplied to him by Raven. Two months of Charles trying to talk to Erik, in spite of Erik’s desire to just be left alone- constantly going on about trying to find common ground between the mutants and the humans. Erik would have thought that Charles would have been inclined to be more careful- that he would understand how precarious his position was and be suitably cautious about provoking Erik, but that was never the case. Erik supposed he had to admire Charles’ bravery in that respect, if he didn’t pass it off as mere stupidity.
Raven had always been a common visitor to Erik’s quarters, so no one really noticed when the frequency of her visits increased. Erik originally thought he would have been grateful for her presence as it would provide Charles with someone else to focus his attention on, but it was clear that the Xavier siblings had a lot of history between them- many slights both spoken and left unsaid- and to begin with it was distinctly awkward being in their presence. In time though the tension between them abated, and Erik found himself spending countless evenings just sitting across from the two of them and quietly listening to them talk.
It was easier really having Raven there, because when she wasn’t Erik was forced to spend time with a man whose very ideals represented everything Erik was opposed to. For the most part Erik just tried to avoid Charles altogether- spending long hours out strategizing with the rest of the Brotherhood- and when he returned to the penthouse he often went straight into his bedroom; a safe space that Erik had fortified with metal so that he could keep Charles at bay without having to wear his helmet whilst inside.
Still, every time Erik woke up in the morning the helmet would go on before he opened his door, as it was the only way Erik could be sure that the telepath couldn’t encroach on his thoughts or try to control him. It wasn’t particularly comfortable but it was a necessity, though apparently Charles wasn’t a fan of the headgear either…
“You look ridiculous”, Charles said one morning, a few days after he’d arrived at the hotel. He was sitting on a sofa in the living room with a book open in his lap, watching as Erik made himself a drink in the suite’s modest kitchenette.
Erik turned to scowl at Charles, before quickly accepting that maybe without the rest of his usual grandiose outfit the helmet did look a little bit stupid, particularly when paired with sweatpants and a t-shirt…
“This helmet isn’t some sort of fashion statement, professor- it’s to keep you from prying into my mind”.
“I’ve already told you I’m not going to escape, so you can stop worrying that I might take you over and force you to eat your own face or something. If I wanted to kill you I could have done it a million different ways by now- I could have gotten Raven to bash your brains in the second I saw you, heck I could have even given it a go myself”.
“You don’t strike me as the violent type…”
“Then why are you so afraid of me?”
Erik let out a disgusted sound, turning away from Charles and reaching to select a cup before slamming it on the counter in annoyance. “I’m not afraid of you”, he said eventually. “I just don’t like the idea of you getting in my head”.
“What makes you think that I would want to? Are you implying that there’s something worth seeing under that surly disposition?”
Erik made another noise of irritation, shoulders tense as he gripped the edge of the counter, words coming out slow and forced as he tried to control his temper:
“You know, I realise this situation is difficult for you- being held captive like this, but it’s not much fun for me either, so perhaps you could make it a bit easier on both of us and stop trying to be so annoying…”
“Who says I’m trying? Maybe I’m just naturally a pain in the arse”.
Erik gave out a harsh sigh, turning to face Charles and preparing to scold him but finding his fuse disarmed by the telepath’s amiable smile.
“You’re far too serious, Erik. Have you ever considered taking up meditation or something? I think it would help you relax a little…”
“I don’t need to relax”.
Charles laughed. “Right, of course not. Okay, no meditation then- maybe a nice cup of tea? I always find it very soothing…”
“I prefer coffee…”
“Because it’s bitter, like you?” Charles asked, and immediately he gave out a quick burst of laughter in response to the expression on Erik’s face. Erik wasn’t used to people reacting to his fury with such good humour, and he didn’t know whether it was going to end up making him more angry or somehow temper him altogether.
“Alright, alright- that was uncalled for, I’m sorry”, Charles said eventually, and Erik deemed to accept the apology, turning away from Charles once more as he resumed making his drink.
“Um, could I have a cup?” Charles asked cautiously.
Erik looked back over his shoulder. “Coffee?”
Charles pulled a face. “Ugh, heavens no. Tea, please- if you have it”.
Erik grumbled slightly but reached down to search in the cupboards. Eventually he found some teabags and began to make Charles a drink, deciding to make the effort to appease Charles just this once.
When the drinks were made Erik carried the cups over to the sofa- passing one down to Charles before immediately moving to head back into his bedroom.
“Wait, you don’t have to hide in there”, Charles said, looking up at Erik imploringly. “This is your living room, after all- just sit down and drink your coffee”.
Erik looked down at Charles without speaking, trying to figure out his man who so far hadn’t acted at all like Erik had expected him too.
“Come on, Erik- I promise not to take the piss anymore…”
Eventually Erik relented, sitting down in an armchair across from Charles and beginning to sip quietly at his coffee, continuing to watch Charles carefully whilst Charles only smiled politely in return. The quiet was palpable, and something that Erik live with indefinitely, but apparently Charles wasn’t such a fan of thoughtful silences.
“Are you going to keep me here forever?” Charles asked eventually, before lifting his cup to his mouth and raising his eyebrows.
“I don’t know…” Erik replied honestly, and Charles frowned slightly in return.
“What do you mean you don’t know? You really don’t strike me as the sort of man who does anything without carefully considering all the options, so you can’t seriously tell me that you don’t have plans for me…”
“This wasn’t my idea, professor- you have your sister to thank for this”.
“Ah, yes- of course… Raven always was one to rush into situations without fully thinking about the potential consequences. But still, you must have had some time to consider what you’re going to do now, unless you really are content with just having me live with you forever?”
Erik huffed out an unimpressed noise. “No. This is only temporary”.
Erik frowned, watching Charles who was staring down at his cup of tea solemnly.
“If I didn’t know any better, professor, I would say that you don’t even want to leave…”
Charles still didn’t look back up- he appeared to be deep in thought, chewing on his lip and tapping his fingers absently against the cup in his hands. Erik gave him time, and eventually he was rewarded by Charles looking back up at him and speaking once more.
“It’s been years since I’ve seen my sister”, Charles said quietly. “After she left to join the Brotherhood she dropped out of my life completely, and I had to watch on the news as she travelled the world with you, committing unspeakable acts in your name. Do you have any idea how painful that is? To have your best friend abandon you like that? To spend each day wondering who she was hurting, or even worse thinking that someone might have hurt her instead? I thought about going after her so many times but I could never get to her, and pretty soon the world started falling apart and keeping an eye on Raven became impossible to say the least. Now, for the first time in years, I have my sister in my life again, and I’m not going to leave her just because she did it to me before. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not particularly happy with you or pleased with being held captive, but if living with you is what I have to do to stay close to Raven, then I’m willing to do it”.
Erik listened to Charles speak in silence, outwardly calm but inwardly feeling like he’d just had the wind knocked out of him. He’d never considered things in those terms- never thought about what Raven had left behind in order to join the Brotherhood- and he was surprised to realise that he felt a small twinge of guilt as he regarded Charles’ forlorn expression.
Of course, Erik didn’t express any of this, and when he didn’t reply Charles cleared his throat and turned away, abruptly changing the subject as if the conversation had never happened.
In the weeks that followed Erik found himself being considerably less wary of Charles, no longer concerned that the telepath would make a move to strike against him or to escape. Still, that feeling of guilt and responsibility when he thought about Raven’s fractured relationship with her brother remained, and Erik decided the best way to deal with it was to continue to try and avoid Charles altogether, as much as he could.
The bedroom was still the only place inside the penthouse where Erik could hide- there wasn’t a separate room for Charles so they had hastily shoved a bed against one far wall of the living room for him, with a screen in front of it to offer some semblance of privacy. This meant that every morning Erik would open his bedroom door to find Charles there, sprawled out across his bed and usually sleeping soundly, often smiling though Erik wasn’t sure what the professor could possibly have to smile about. Charles would usually wake when Erik entered, blearily wiping sleep from his eyes and offering Erik a polite “Good morning” that was only met with a scowl as Erik moved over to the kitchenette to make himself a coffee.
He always made Charles a cup of tea in the mornings without being asked, and he tried very hard not to notice the way his skin prickled when Charles’ fingers would brush against his hand for a second as he passed him the cup.
Whilst Erik was out dealing with the Brotherhood’s business Charles usually preoccupied himself with reading books, but in time Erik could tell what Charles wanted most of all was to write rather than read- to note down all his scientific theories and musings like Raven said he always had done before. Erik considered himself a fair man, and in hopes of a quiet life he decided to provide Charles with empty workbooks for him to write down his thoughts. That, at least, gave Erik some semblance of peace, and he was able to sit quietly in an armchair, watching as Charles worked himself up into a frenzy with whatever observations were running through his mind.
The man moved like his thoughts were faster than he was- each one taking over and pulling him in a direction he would follow blindly. Charles barely registered Erik’s presence in those moments- often sat on the living room floor surrounded by papers with a pen clenched between his teeth. Charles chewed through every pen Erik owned, and Erik swore he would throw them all out but he never did.
After a while Erik assumed that Charles would eventually tire of their living situation and would demand his freedom, but in reality Charles’ good humour continued to be relentless, which wore on Erik. It was hard being at war- Erik carried a huge weight on his shoulders; a massive responsibility to protect not only himself and his closest companions but the entire mutant race. He wanted to just come home at night and unwind but instead Charles would be there- looking over at him with wide blue eyes and asking him how his day was. There were many occasions when Erik didn’t want to talk and he didn’t want to listen either, but fortunately he soon found an activity he and Charles could partake in which would keep Charles somewhat quiet.
Playing chess soon became part of their nightly routine, and they would spend countless hours sat together planning out their moves on the board much like they were doing in life. Charles was always quietest when he played, deep in thought that he rarely shared, and Erik would watch him- eyes focused on the freckle just to the side of Charles’ mouth that had become his favourite. Eventually Charles would always glance back up from the board, looking over at Erik questioningly, and Erik would adjust the helmet on his head and reassure himself that there was no way his mutinous thoughts could have betrayed him.
It’s fair to say Erik found his defences lowering around Charles, and in time he had even begun to find common ground between the two of them. But occasionally something would happen to remind Erik of just how different he and Charles were, and how their histories were essentially incomparable.
Erik had stopped locking the door to his bedroom- he hadn’t even thought of it on the day he’d slipped into his en-suite bathroom to take a quick shower before bed. Last time he’d seen Charles the telepath had been sat on the floor in front of the fire, papers scattered around him like pieces of his mind laid bare. When Erik stepped out of the bathroom he was only wearing a towel wrapped loosely around his waist- a fact he was reminded of when he heard an audible gasp and looked up to find Charles standing in front of him.
It would perhaps be pleasant to assume the noise Charles had made was one of appreciation at Erik’s toned physique, but Erik knew that was unlikely to be the case. Charles’ eyes roved over Erik’s chest, trailing over a multitude of scars from years of torture and struggle and fighting- knife marks, cigarette burns, puncture wounds- like stains on a canvas. Erik felt his anger rise as much as embarrassment in that moment, and then he was stepping forward- grasping Charles firmly on both arms and forcefully shoving him out of the door, watching as the telepath fell onto his ass with a loud thump and just having time to take in his shocked expression before Erik slammed the door shut.
Erik sat on his bed afterwards, shaking. He found himself plainly ridiculous to be so affected by what had happened and to place any worth in what Charles thought of him, but he knew that he cared, he just didn’t know why.
The following morning Charles made no mention of the incident, and Erik considered that a courtesy. The last thing he wanted from Charles was his sympathy, and he was content to resign the event to memory- just another bitter moment to file away in a life of the same.
Still, he felt Charles look at him differently afterwards, even though he continued to be as pleasant as ever. His eyes were kinder, but sadder, and Erik tried to ignore the way Charles’ gaze would sometimes drop down as they talked, as if tracing the scars he could no longer see but had committed to memory.
Yes, it had been two months of living with Charles- time in which Erik had grown accustomed to the professor’s presence, even if he told himself that it wasn’t entirely welcome. Still, Erik supposed it could have been worse, and in a way he was grateful that Charles hadn’t tried to make this situation any harder than it needed to be by fighting him. He passed off Charles’ lack of resistance as just part of his passive nature, but perhaps he should have considered another possibility- that Charles was planning to use something other than violence to fight against Erik…
It had been a long, long day. Erik had been out since the early hours of the morning, travelling around various locations with Raven, Azazel, and a few of the other recruits- acting on information that they’d received about a potential human holdout which was rumoured to be rich in supplies.
When they found it the humans had no time at all to react, being completely taken aback by the sight of the Brotherhood materialising in the middle of the warehouse where they were hiding and abruptly scattering when they realised they were outnumbered. The Brotherhood subdued the humans easily, though at Erik’s instruction they stopped short of actually killing their captives. Erik told himself that it wasn’t that unusual of a tactic, and that maybe he was being considerably more cruel by letting the humans go and forcing them to seek refuge in the wasteland that was the world. The decision was definitely nothing at all to do with the sound of Charles’ voice resounding in his head…
The day’s mission was an overwhelming success. The humans had amassed a considerable amount of supplies and had even begun to cultivate fruits and vegetables, and it took several trips to bring all of the items back to the hotel. Once everything had been put into storage Erik had selected a single handful of strawberries- two for himself and three for Charles- and had wrapped them carefully in a cloth before carrying them with him as he made his way back up to the penthouse.
It was quiet when Erik entered, which usually meant that Charles was busy reading or scribbling notes somewhere, and Erik smiled to himself- preparing himself for the giddy sight of Charles engrossed in one of his hobbies. He was surprised, however, to find that Charles was nowhere in view- not in the expansive living room, not even in bed- hidden behind the screen in front of it. Erik frowned, looking around the room in confusion, when suddenly he noticed something- a dim light coming from his bedroom where the door was slightly ajar. Erik had stopped locking the door when he left days ago, defences clearly lowered as he assumed Charles would never dare enter such a private space without being invited, not after last time, but he was wrong…
Erik walked over to the bedroom in a few long strides, dropping the bundle of strawberries to the floor and stepping on them as he yanked the door open abruptly with his powers and watched as Charles visibly jumped from his position crouched down at one side of the room in front of a bookshelf. Charles was surrounded by bundles of paperwork- some sheets still held captive in his hands- and his eyes grew wide as Erik stepped into the room with his fists balled at his sides.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Erik demanded, jaw set tight with fury as he glared at Charles.
“Oh, erm- sorry, Erik, I was just looking for…”
“I can see what you were fucking looking for”, Erik spat out. “I guess you decided the books Raven brought you weren’t entertaining enough so you decided to amuse yourself by reading all about my sordid past”.
Erik felt a lump rise up in his throat- a swell of emotion that threatened to make his voice waver, though he tried very hard to stop that from happening. It was just so humiliating though, to think that he had extended Charles a certain level of trust and the professor had betrayed him by snooping through his possessions- reading through all of the paperwork Erik had liberated from Shaw years previously that detailed exactly what had been done to Erik and the other captives in Auschwitz.
“Erik, no- I didn’t…” Charles started, but Erik cut off the words before Charles could finish the sentence. The nearest metal at Erik’s disposal was a lamp on the bedside table, and Erik corrupted it- moulding the metal and reforming it into a long chain that he directed at Charles. Charles let out a startled cry in response as the chain wrapped securely around his throat, the metal squeezing tight as Erik used it to pull Charles across the room by his neck.
It all happened very quickly, but Erik still had time to see the horrified expression on Charles’ face as he was dragged out of the bedroom, and it was an image Erik didn’t think he would forget any time soon. As soon as Charles was on the other side of the door Erik slammed it shut, using his powers to securely lock it before he released his hold on the chain and allowed it to fall from Charles’ throat. He could hear Charles even from inside his bedroom- choking and coughing where he lay on the floor outside- and Erik told himself that Charles had deserved it, unquestionably.
Erik kept his helmet on when he slept that night, more concerned than ever that Charles would somehow find a way to enter his mind, like he had his heart.
After that particular incident Erik didn’t talk to Charles for two whole days. He rose early each morning and, although Charles always woke up when Erik left his room, Erik no longer made them both a drink and sat with Charles- he exited the penthouse before Charles could barely speak, trying not to notice the red marks that tarnished Charles’ neck and hating that a large part of himself felt remorseful about the whole thing.
Erik stayed away from the penthouse for long hours, finding excuses to keep himself busy with the Brotherhood like he’d done when Charles had first come to stay with him. He remembered what life had been like back then- how going back to Charles had started as a chore and had ended up feeling more like coming home. It was gone now, of course- the illusion shattered. Erik didn’t have a home, he hadn’t for a long time, and he never would again.
Two days after the incident Erik was starting to become accustomed to his new ‘routine’ of sorts. He would essentially spend every waking moment out with the Brotherhood, only returning to lock himself inside his bedroom each night as he attempted to sleep. A few words had been offered by Charles over the previous couple of days but all had fallen on wilfully ignorant ears, and Erik was beginning to think very seriously about relocating Charles to another location- somewhere Erik wouldn’t have to see his face anymore, or think about how it made him feel.
Still, perhaps Erik should have considered the fact that Charles might not be so willing to just go quietly.
It happened when Erik returned to the penthouse that night. Normally when Erik would get back he would quickly walk over to his room and lock himself inside before Charles could get up from wherever he was sitting, but not on this occasion. Erik exited the elevator to find Charles stood in front of the bedroom door, his arms folded and his expression determined as he stared over at Erik.
“Erik, we need to talk…” Charles started.
“Nein, Charles- get out of the way”, Erik muttered, moving over towards Charles and waiting for him to heed instruction. He didn’t though- Charles remained fixed in place, looking more defiant than ever even as Erik stepped considerably closer, facing Charles down until they were inches apart.
“Move, Charles”, Erik commanded through gritted teeth. “I have nothing to say to you”.
“Yeah? Well maybe I have something to say to you- like thanks for the impressive bruising you gave me, though I’m not entirely sure that red is my colour”.
Erik faltered at that, expression softening as a sense of shame crept over him.
“I didn’t want that to happen, Charles, but you betrayed my trust”.
“Trust?” Charles replied incredulously. “I wasn’t aware that we shared trust, Erik- considering that you’re keeping me captive”.
“Don’t simplify this, Charles- over the last two months you’ve trusted me to treat you well, and I’ve trusted you to respect my privacy”.
“Well I guess we both broke our part of the agreement then, didn’t we?”
Erik and Charles continued to stare at each other for a long moment, both tense with quiet anger and equally headstrong, before Erik quickly realised that Charles was not the type of man to just give up when he really believed in something.
Eventually Erik sighed loudly. “Do you want some tea?” he asked.
A short while later Charles and Erik were sat together on the sofa, both sipping quietly at cups of tea- a drink Erik had grown to enjoy after Charles’ persistence. A stubborn silence was maintained as they sat together and it seemed like neither of them wanted to offer the first word, but eventually it was Charles that spoke:
“I’m sorry…” Charles said at last, giving Erik a sincere and contrite look. “I never should have gone into your room. I was genuinely just looking for something new to read, and then I stumbled across those papers and...” Charles trailed off, biting his lower lip as he regarded the despondent look on Erik’s face.
“How much did you read?” Erik asked, staring down at his hands in his lap, tensely clutching the cup of tea. “Did you find…”
Charles gave an apologetic nod. “Some of those papers are about you, aren’t they? About what happened to you in Auschwitz, when you were young?”
“Yes…” Erik replied quietly.
“Why would you keep them? Why would you want to be reminded of something so horrible?”
Erik looked back up to meet Charles’ eyes. “You think just because I’m no longer living in that moment that I’m not reminded of it every day? That it’s not the first thing I think of when I wake up each morning and the last thing I think of when I go to sleep at night? I can never forget what was done to me- it’s always here”, Erik pointed to the numbers tattooed on his arm, “And here”, he finished, pointing to his head.
After Erik stopped speaking he slumped back in his chair, placing his cup on the table to the side of him and looking away from Charles. It wasn’t in his nature to share such personal things with people he barely knew- particularly sworn enemies- and the disclosure had left him feeling vulnerable and imbalanced.
“I can understand it now…” Charles said at last. “Why you reacted so strongly to what the humans did- rounding the mutants up and forcing them into camps. It must have seemed so painfully familiar to you…”
Erik turned back to face Charles, offering him a wry smile. “So you don’t think I’m a monster for tearing down the camps and killing the humans indiscriminately after all?” he asked, and Charles’ expression grew pained in an instant.
“I know, Charles- I’m aware that there are some things that you and I will just never agree on. Even if you understand my motivations you can never condone my behaviour, and that’s okay. I’m not asking for your understanding, or your permission…”
“I never expected you to”, Charles replied. “But I just thought that we would at least be able to talk about things…”
“Why? What would be the point in that? Do you honestly think that you can convince me of the error of my ways? Are you really so arrogant that you would assume that, after years of fighting for mutant causes, one word from you would persuade me to give that all up?”
“It’s not arrogance, Erik- it’s hope. Everyone is capable of change… I believe that you can be the better man…”
“I am the better man”, Erik snarled, leaning forward in his chair. “All I’m trying to do is protect my fellow mutants- to help them like no one helped me in the past. Can’t you see that?”
Charles sighed in exasperation, shaking his head at Erik. “Why are you being so difficult?” he asked. “Do you actually want us to fight or something?”
Erik stared at back at Charles as he considered the question, toying with the idea for a moment- thinking about how such a disagreement might enable him to put his hands on Charles; a thought he had grown to find very appealing. He didn’t want to hurt Charles, but the idea of holding him down instead, leaning over that slender form...
Erik didn’t say anything for a long while, and eventually Charles leaned forward to match Erik’s stance, staring back at him equally impassively.
“Erik, listen to me very carefully- you are heading down a dangerous path, one that I fear you might never come back from. The time for violence is over- there have been enough casualties on both sides. It’s time for peace…”
“Peace was never an option”, Erik responded coldly. “This is the way things have to be- myself and the Brotherhood will continue to work to prolong the advancement of our species, and if that means eradicating the humans, so be it”.
“You can’t be serious!” Charles exclaimed, watching in disbelief as Erik abruptly rose from his seat and moved over towards his bedroom, having decided the conversation was concluded to his satisfaction.
“Erik, this isn’t the way”, Charles called after him. “This isn’t advancement, this is fascism. You’re talking about wiping out an entire race just because you consider them inferior to you. God, Erik- you sound like a bloody Nazi…”
Erik froze where he stood facing away from Charles, but even so Charles could clearly read Erik’s body language- or at least he recognised the gravity of his words- because he immediately attempted to retract his statement.
“Erik, oh shit I didn’t mean that, I’m sorry I--”
Reprisal was swift, and perhaps Charles should have known better than to start a fight with a man who could control metal in a room surrounded by it. In an instant the whole penthouse began to shake; overcome with tremors that caused objects to fall off of every conceivable surface.
Charles cowered in his chair, eyes wide with horrow as he watched Erik turn back to face him- pure incandescent rage evident in his entire being. There was so much Erik wanted to say to Charles- so much hurt and despair and anger and frustration- but it was more than words could express, and Erik realised that he was done sharing any part of himself with Charles indefinitely.
The tremors ceased as quickly as they started, only coming to a complete halt when Erik turned away and entered his bedroom- slamming the door firmly shut behind him.
Erik was accustomed to dealing with loss- it was something he had experienced more than once in his lifetime, but he was surprised to realise that it never stopped hurting. In a way Erik hated himself for thinking that he’d lost something with Charles- that he’d had something to begin with- but he couldn’t help the ache that he felt in his chest every time he so much as looked in Charles’ direction.
The atmosphere had been considerably frosty in the week that followed- both metaphorically speaking and literally due to the increasingly bad weather outside. Charles spent most days huddled up in front of the fire, wrapped up in multiple layers and always with a cup of tea present, but Erik on the other hand was relegated to the bedroom at his own volition, and he could only try to fight the cold by covering himself in numerous blankets, though it didn’t stop the shaking.
When he eventually ventured outside- waiting until hunger and the chill had threatened to consume him- he was immediately greeted by a bowl of soup that Charles had left for him in front of his door. He retrieved the bowl eagerly, only looking up to meet Charles’ eyes for a second before he turned back into his room and closed the door behind him. The gesture was appreciated, but it didn’t change Erik’s mind about what he knew had to happen.
After his confrontation with Charles, Erik had decided with more certainty than ever that this situation just wasn’t working. The telepath needed to go- Raven’s feelings about the development be damned.
But of course, like many things in Erik’s life not everything was destined to go according to plan, and Erik soon found his intentions spectacularly derailed by some unexpected news. Erik had already decided that he was letting Charles go and he had even talked Azazel into helping him, but then Raven had asked to see Erik and everything had changed.
“Shaw’s resurfaced”, Raven said, watching Erik carefully from across the room. She was sat at the table where they had their usual meetings, looking up at Erik and waiting for his reaction.
“Entshuldigung, I mean, excuse me?” Erik replied, staring down at Raven in disbelief from where he stood leaning against the wall with his arms folded. “Where did you hear this?”
“Havok and Azazel were out on a mission and they came across some mutants who said they’d had recent dealings with Shaw. Apparently he’s still keeping pretty low-key, but he’s trying to recruit people to his cause- asking them to come to the place he’s currently holed up in- he’s in British Columbia, in a warehouse just off the coast of the Pacific”.
“Shaw’s in Canada? Why? There’s nothing left of the country”.
“I know that, so what better place for him to hide?”
Erik grit his teeth, every part of him tensing in response to the news. It had been years since he’d last seen Shaw, since the last time he’d let the man slip through his fingers. If Shaw really had crawled back out into the light then Erik knew he had to stop him, once and for all. In a way it was probably somewhat redundant- Shaw had done so much damage that could never be put right- but Erik had known a long time ago that his obsession with Shaw was only partially about stopping him from hurting anyone else, and everything to do with revenge.
“We need to take him out”, Erik said eventually, and Raven smiled slightly in response.
“I agree, but I think it will take more than just you and me”.
Erik nodded. “I don’t really want to expose anyone else to Shaw’s poison, but we’ll need Azazel to transport us up there”.
“Yes, but not just him. Erik… I think we should bring Charles with us”.
Erik pulled a face, which was a distinctly unusual expression for him. “What the fuck are you talking about, Raven? What would that achieve?”
“Erik, Charles is a telepath- he can help us control Shaw. You know how powerful that man is- his mutation isn’t something we can combat with pure force alone”.
“Yes, I know that, but what makes you think your brother would want to help us? Charles doesn’t look like he’s ever seen a real fight in his life…”
“Okay, so I know Charles isn’t necessarily the guy you’d want in your corner when it comes to physical confrontations, but he’s smart and determined, and I know he cares about both of us and will want to help us…”
Erik immediately flinched, mouthing the word ‘us’ to himself which Raven must have noticed.
“Yes- both of us…” Raven continued. “Look, I know you and Charles have had a bit of a falling-out…”
“What makes you think that?” Erik frowned, and Raven rolled her eyes at him.
“Erik, I’m not an idiot. You and Charles are both pretty good at keeping things to yourself, but I can tell that there’s been tension between you over the past couple of weeks. Just, whatever it is, do you think you can put it aside in order to deal with Shaw?”
Erik paused for a moment, before quickly nodding. There was nothing he wouldn’t be willing to do if it meant getting revenge on Shaw at last. Charles would still need to relocated- almost certainly- but in the meantime it just made sense to use him to help with taking Shaw down.
“Okay”, Erik said eventually. “You tell him the news, and make sure he’s ready to leave in a few hours”.
Raven flashed Erik a quick satisfied smile, before rising from her seat and leaving the room.
Over the past few years Erik had had a lot of time to think about his previous mistakes, and almost every one of them came back to Shaw. He’d come close to stopping Shaw numerous times, but on each occasion the man had evaded him and Erik had been forced to watch as the world had paid the price for his failings. Now though, there was a chance to make things right. After years of nothing but static, there was news that Shaw had resurfaced.
Erik paced restlessly in the meeting room, cape billowing out behind him as he crossed and re-crossed the space. He cracked his knuckles anxiously, listening to the sound of them popping muffled by his gloves as he waited impatiently for the others to arrive.
Raven was more than ready to take on Shaw and Erik knew he could rely on Azazel too, the only question was Charles. In truth Erik had no reason to expect anything from the professor and he was trying to prepare himself for the rebuttal, but in the next second there was a burst of displaced air as Azazel materialised inside the room- with Raven on one side of him and Charles on the other.
Erik immediately locked eyes with Charles, mouth parting slightly as he yearned to say something but not quite knowing what, absently adjusting his helmet as he always did when he feared Charles hearing what he was thinking about. Eventually he gave up on addressing Charles altogether and transferred his gaze to Raven.
“Ready?” Erik asked.
Raven flashed him a somewhat zealous smile in response, and Erik stepped forward- moving to stand next to her and reaching to place a hand on her arm before giving Azazel a quick nod that signified that it was time to go.
When the group materialised they were immediately hit by an icy blast of cold air. Erik quickly surveyed the scene- seeing nothing but white as far as he could view; a heavy blanket of snow covering every conceivable surface. They were stood in a small alcove at the side of a mountain; the rocks and trees either side of them providing them with some shelter, but barely enough.
Erik drew in a ragged breath, feeling the oxygen travel down his throat painfully like shards of ice scaping along his oesophagus and causing him to cough.
“Bloody hell!” Charles exclaimed, wrapping his coat around himself more tightly and pulling the hood over his head. The coat dwarfed him even with all the layers Charles was wearing underneath, and Erik recognised that was because it was actually his coat, though he found he didn’t mind at all that Charles had evidently claimed it.
With the hood drawn close around his head Erik could barely see Charles’ face, but the skin he could see was tinged with pink and Erik found himself wishing that he’d brought a flask of tea with him so he could thaw Charles out.
“I’ve never known cold like this”, Charles uttered, teeth chattering incessantly.
“You have Shaw to thank for this nuclear winter”, Erik replied- the first words he’d spoken to Charles in over a week. “I hope you’re ready to show him just what we think of what he’s done to the world”.
Charles offered no response, he only regarded Erik quietly for a moment before turning away and shuffling over to Raven, linking his arm through hers and looking at her in concern.
“Are you warm enough?” he asked, and Raven nodded- apparently unmoved by the freezing temperatures like the rest of them were.
“It’s down there”, Raven said, turning to address Erik. “You see the warehouse, just on the coastline?”
Erik peered into the distance, trying to look through the flurry of snow in the air to see what Raven was referring to. Eventually he saw it- the outline of a building located down by the frozen sea.
“So what now, do you want Azazel to just pop us in there?” Raven asked, and Erik shook his head.
“No, there’s little point materialising in the building until we know exactly what’s inside. We need to approach this situation cautiously…” he added, and Charles gave out a short laugh that Erik couldn’t perceive the meaning of.
“Come on…” Erik instructed, staring hard at Charles for a moment before turning away as he began to lead the group down towards the coastline.
It was a difficult task getting over to the warehouse. The journey was treacherous thanks to the snow and ice that covered the ground, and with each step they were hampered by the biting chill in the air. Regardless, they made it in time- approaching the area carefully as Erik used his ability to bend back the metal fence that surrounded the site. Once the fence had been successfully set aside Erik led the others past its perimeter, nearing the warehouse with trepidation as he tried to prepare himself for what could be inside.
Erik didn’t know what to expect. Shaw was rumoured to be using this building as his base of operations as he worked to recruit mutants to his cause, so there could be any number of people lying in wait. The only thing that Erik knew was, no matter how many foes were inside, nothing was going to stop him from taking Shaw out.
As they approached the door at the front of the building Erik turned behind him, reaching for Charles and beckoning the telepath forward.
“Charles, come here”, Erik requested, and Charles stepped closer without question- looking up as Erik grasped his arm firmly. “Stay close to me”, Erik added, feeling a surge of protectiveness he couldn’t explain, and Charles nodded in response.
When they arrived at the door Erik pushed it open slowly with his powers, peering inside and searching for any signs of movement, but it was deathly quiet inside the room.
“Come on”, Erik said quietly, gesturing for Raven and Azazel to follow. He opened the door slightly wider so they could all enter the warehouse, stepping into the long rectangle of light that spilled in from outside.
The rest of the room was dimly illuminated- all windows in the building grimy with dirt and dust, barely allowing any light to enter. Erik surveyed the room quickly as he stepped further inside, continuing to hold Charles securely on the arm- feeling the telepath tremble in his grasp, though whether it was from nerves or the cold Erik couldn’t be sure.
“Alright?” Erik asked, looking down at Charles briefly, and Charles gave a quick nod before reaching up to withdraw his hood, mussed-up locks of brown hair falling in his face before he quickly pushed them back.
For all intents and purposes the warehouse seemed to be completely empty, and Erik couldn’t help but feeling bitterly disappointed at the realisation. It didn’t look like the space had been used in a long, long time- all across the room were disused pieces of machinery and discarded materials, and it was abruptly very clear that Erik’s group were the first people to have entered the warehouse in years.
“Verdammt!” Erik cursed, letting go of Charles’ arm and stomping further into the room. He moved over to a small office at the back of the warehouse, pushing open the door with a bang and looking inside before turning around to face the others.
“Shaw’s not here”, Erik concluded, scowling bitterly as he walked back over to stand next to Charles. “He was supposed to be here”, he added, looking at Raven accusingly, who in turn flashed Erik an apologetic expression.
“I’m sorry, Erik, I was told--” Raven started, but Erik wasn’t listening anymore. He was frozen in place, head tilted slightly to the side as he reached out with his powers, feeling the worryingly familiar presence of something very large and very dangerous approaching them…
“What is it?” Charles asked, but his words were soon drowned out by the sound of the side of the building caving in- bricks and wood and metal crashing down as a sentinel smashed through the wall of the warehouse.
Immediately Erik grasped hold of Charles, pushing the telepath behind him as he reached forward with his ability- using it to grab hold of the metal that had been displaced and preventing it from falling on Raven and Azazel where they stood on the other side of the room, but he could do nothing to save them from the rest of the debris that crashed down on top of them- obscuring them both from view in an instant.
“Raven!” Charles screamed, surging forward but finding himself prevented by Erik holding him in place. Erik remained completely still as he focused his attention on the sentinel peering in through the gap in the side of the warehouse- using his powers to seize hold of the massive robot and tearing the metal monster apart before it could strike.
It was something, Erik supposed, that the humans hadn’t specifically had him in mind when they’d built the sentinels, as each one was composed almost entirely of metal- which fortunately Erik could stop in an instant. Still, Erik’s advantage when it came to the sentinels didn’t mean that he was guaranteed to get out of every encounter with them unharmed, and he’d had more than a few close calls with the robots in the past. However, none as close as this…
Erik pulled apart the sentinel like it was nothing- using his ability to mould and compress the metal until it no longer represented a threat. As soon as the robot had been subdued Erik released his hold on Charles’ arm, and Charles ran forward in a panic- falling to his knees next to the rubble that covered the floor on the other side of the room and beginning to frantically sort through the scattered material.
Charles was calling Raven’s name as he pawed at the debris like a madman, each shout coming out pained and panicked as he searched desperately for signs that his sister was still alive. Erik stepped up behind Charles, assisting the situation by first moving any metal that he’d first missed before kneeling down next to Charles and helping to move the rubble. It didn’t look good, and Erik was unsurprised to realise that what he felt most of all was numb- like this was just one more chapter in the endless story of misery that was his life- not even a plot twist by now, but another day of darkness he had come to believe he deserved.
But then, there was a flash of blue. Erik’s eyes locked on it instantly- leaning forward and beginning to carefully but quickly move the large planks of wood and pieces of brick that were in the way.
“Raven!” Charles cried out again with a sob, brushing dust and debris away from Raven’s face as he edged closer to her, wincing in discomfort as his eyes raked over the slowly-spreading pool of blood she was lying in. “She’s alive”, he added, before reaching his fingers to his temple and closing his eyes for a second, eventually opening them again and pointing over to another large pile of rubble. “Azazel is there”, Charles explained, and Erik immediately rose to go assist.
When Erik found Azazel he was relieved to find that the man didn’t appear to have fared too badly. He was certainly dazed and there was a large gash across his forehead that was leaking a fair amount of blood, but at least Azazel’s breathing was steady- much stronger than Raven’s had appeared to be.
Erik helped Azazel out of the rubble and supported him as they walked back over to where Raven was laying, finding that Charles had removed his coat and was pressing it against Raven’s stomach, though the garment was already soaked with blood. Azazel shrugged out of Erik’s grasp, falling down on his knees beside Raven and reaching to hold her on the arm, looking almost as distraught as Charles did.
“Can you take her back to the hotel?” Charles asked, looking at Azazel desperately.
“I will try, but I doubt I can take us all”, Azazel replied, adding a curse in Russian as he wobbled uneasily and pressed down on the cut on his own head.
“I don’t care about the rest of us, just please take Raven to safety- make sure she gets help. We’ll be okay- you can come back for us later”. Charles turned to look at Erik for support and Erik found himself nodding in agreement, wanting to do anything he could to alleviate the aggrieved expression on Charles’ face.
“Okay. I will return when possible”, Azazel replied, and Charles nodded gratefully before moving back from Raven- watching as Azazel used his ability to teleport himself and Raven away.
When Raven was gone Charles let out a sob that made Erik’s heart ache almost viscerally in reponse. He watched forlornly as Charles crumpled over on his knees, body shaking with exertion and grief as he knelt over the rubble, snow falling down on him from the gaping hole in the roof of the warehouse. It was a heartbreaking sight but one that Erik couldn’t allow himself to be moved by- above all else Erik remained practical and he knew that he needed to get himself and Charles to safety.
“Come on, Charles- we can’t stay here”, Erik said softly, realising that it might take a while for Azazel to return and that he and Charles were at risk if they remained at the warehouse.
There was no response, so after a moment Erik stepped forward- reaching down to rest his hand on the top of Charles head in what he hoped was a supportive gesture. There were a few more frantic sobs from Charles before he appeared to gather himself together, wiping his face with the sleeve of his jumper and starting to rise up from the floor with Erik’s assistance.
Heading back out into the cold seemed to be worse the second time around, like the temperature had dropped another several degrees during the time they were inside the warehouse. Erik walked briskly though the snow, turning around occasionally to make sure Charles was still behind him and despairing as he watched Charles shiver. It was worse than before for Charles in particular given he no longer had his coat for warmth, and Erik was sure he wasn’t imagining the way Charles’ lips became tinged with blue after a short duration.
Although they were in a desolate place Erik was hopeful that they would find a dwelling to shelter in- the warehouse couldn’t possibly be the only building in the area, after all. Charles and Erik walked along the road that ran parallel to the coastline, passing abandoned cars mostly buried by snow drifts and the occasional frozen animal carcass, and Erik began to wonder if the whole country was completely dead and buried.
Erik continued to look back at Charles as he walked, and every time he asked Charles if he was alright the telepath would nod and tell Erik to just keep walking, but Erik knew that Charles was really suffering. It came as an immense relief when Erik noticed the outline of a building some distance off the side of the road- the tall structure barely distinguishable at first through the rapidly worsening blizzard.
After allowing himself a brief smile Erik had just opened his mouth to tell Charles about the building when there was a small groan behind him followed by a thump, and Erik turned around to find Charles slumped into the snow.
“Charles!” Erik called out, dropping to his knees beside Charles and scooping the telepath into his arms. Charles was so, so cold and his eyes were closed, but he was at least breathing even if it was extremely laboured.
Sliding his arms underneath Charles’ body, Erik lifted the unconscious man into his arms and rose to his feet, holding Charles close as he carried him over in the direction of the building. As they approached Erik realised the structure was a lighthouse, and he only hoped that they might find something of use inside.
The door opened easily thanks to Erik’s powers, and immediately Erik was relieved to spot a small stove in the corner of the room with a pile of wood next to it, alongside which was a table and a couple of chairs. Erik laid Charles out on the rug in front of the stove, checking Charles’ condition for a moment before turning his focus towards getting the fire going.
In a few minutes Erik had the beginnings of an impressive fire, and he warmed himself for only a short while before turning back towards Charles- removing his cape and laying it down over the telepath’s unconscious form. The heat from the fire was starting to restore some feeling to Erik’s body but he knew that the helmet on his head was only making him colder so, after a brief moment of debate, he removed it- setting it down on the table before moving over to the spiral staircase in the corner of the room and starting to head upstairs to check that he and Charles were definitely alone.
When he returned Charles was just waking up, looking considerably better with some colour appearing in his face once again.
“Where are we?” Charles mumbled, shivering and drawing the cape up to his chin.
“Lighthouse”, Erik replied succinctly, which made Charles frown slightly before his gaze dropped down to focus on Erik’s hand.
“You’re hurt”, Charles said, dropping the cape and scooting forward on the floor towards Erik. Erik followed Charles’ gaze, lifting his hand to his face and noticing a rip along the palm of his glove with blood seeping out from underneath.
Charles looked around for a moment before rising to his knees and starting to look through one of the drawers below the table, retrieving a handful of cloth before sitting back once more and beckoning Erik forward.
“Come here”, Charles requested, but Erik didn’t move- not until Charles pulled an unimpressed face before adding: “Please, Erik- I’m not going to hurt you”.
Stepping forward at last, Erik dropped himself onto the rug next to Charles- offering his hand to Charles reluctantly and wincing slightly as Charles began to gingerly remove his glove. His skin tingled where Charles ran his fingers across it, and Erik told himself that it was due to the change in temperature and nothing else.
“Sorry…” Charles murmured when Erik winced again, flashing Erik an apologetic glance before he looked down at Erik’s hand once more- selecting a piece of cloth and beginning to use it to wipe some of the blood off of Erik’s palm.
“There’s glass in the cut…” Charles murmured. He turned away again, looking through the drawer once more and rifling through its contents until he located a piece of metal that looked like a nail file. “I don’t suppose you can make this into tweezers?” Charles asked, and Erik nodded before extending his other hand- watching Charles who gazed in fascination as Erik reformed the metal in front of him.
“Thank you”, Charles said when Erik was done, smiling at him briefly before turning his attention back to the cut on the palm of Erik’s hand and preparing to pull out the glass.
Charles held Erik’s hand and carefully removed the shard, and in that moment Erik was reminded of a fable his mother had told him about a mouse removing a thorn from a lion’s paw, only Erik was sure that in the original story the lion wasn’t supposed to fall in love with the mouse.
After Charles had removed the glass he continued to wipe more blood away before using a separate piece of cloth to bandage up Erik’s hand, by which point Erik was shaking so considerably that he was sure Charles would notice, but if he did he didn’t say anything.
When Erik’s wound was covered and both Charles and Erik were suitably warmed up they turned their attention towards searching for something to eat and drink. At Erik’s insistence Charles remained sat on the floor in front of the fire whilst Erik looked through the lighthouse, using his powers to open up drawers and cupboards so he could search inside. After a short while he found a few cans of soup and some dry crackers, and Charles heated up the soup in the stove whilst Erik used a metal container he’d fashioned to gather snow for them to melt and boil later so they had drinkable water.
Before long Charles and Erik were sat in front of the fire together, both warm and somewhat sated by the food they’d consumed. Charles was quiet- something which Erik had come to regard with concern- and he found himself longing for the days when Charles had chattered aimlessly about anything that flitted through his mind.
“She’ll be okay”, Erik said eventually, watching Charles who had been nibbling on the same cracker for several minutes.
“You don’t know that”, Charles replied solemnly. “Raven could be dead for all we know”.
“No!” Erik replied, the sound coming out like a bark and visibly startling Charles who jerked his head up to look at Erik.
“No…” Erik said again, more softly. “She’ll be fine- she’s strong, she can get through this”.
“You don’t know that…” Charles responded, his voice cracking with emotion. He turned away for a moment, looking like he was trying to steady himself, before he took a deep breath and turned to face Erik once more.
“We should go back”, Charles said, and Erik immediately shook his head.
“No, Charles- the weather out there is relentless. We need to stay here until the blizzard clears, and until you’re back to full strength”.
“But Azazel might not be able to find us here!” Charles shrilled. “He could be looking for us right now; Raven might need our help”.
Erik shook his head, edging forward on the rug towards Charles and, after a moment, reaching to hold Charles’ face- thumbs rubbing against the skin below Charles’ ears gently.
“I know you’re not happy about it, but we have to stay here tonight, Charles. There’s nothing we can do for Raven now- we have to look after ourselves, and I don’t think you can survive taking another trip outside”.
“Well you can go then”, Charles pleaded. “You go back to the warehouse and wait for Azazel; I’ll stay here”.
“No, I’m not leaving you, Charles”.
Charles let out a distressed noise- expression crumpling in dismay as he looked down at the ground, and Erik had never wanted to kiss him more.
“Okay…” Charles said eventually, and Erik felt his heart skip a beat as he wondered for a moment if Charles had read his thoughts, before Charles continued: “Okay, we’ll stay here tonight”.
Erik let go of Charles after that, moving a safe distance away and trying to push down his feelings. He eyed the helmet sitting on the table across the room and considered putting it on in an attempt to hide the truth, but he knew that- whilst it’s possible he could deceive Charles- he was past the point of being able to lie to himself.
The weather only worsened as the night drew in. Charles and Erik remained sat in front of the fire for perhaps another hour, not talking but each heavy in thought, simply listening to the sound of the wind howling outside. Erik looked over at Charles often, realising in time that Charles looked completely exhausted and considering how to broach the subject of their sleeping arrangements.
“There’s a bed”, Erik said eventually after Charles’ eyelids drooped for the second time.
“Huh?” Charles replied, blinking groggily as he looked at Erik.
“Upstairs, on the second floor- there’s a bed”.
“You don’t want to stay down here by the fire?”
“I don’t think there would be much point. The fire will burn out eventually, so if we sleep here we’re only going to end up waking up bitterly cold. At least if we sleep in the bed we’ll be somewhat warm under the covers”.
“We…?” Charles asked, and Erik felt like blushing for perhaps the first time in his life.
“It’s cold, Charles- you know as well as I do that we’ll need to… share body heat if we want to stay warm”.
God, it was embarrassing how exciting the idea of cuddling up next to Charles was. Erik had to look away in that moment as he tried to use his mind to resist everything his body told him he wanted.
“You don’t have to be so precious about it”, Erik huffed out eventually, deciding to mask his longing with indignation as he looked back at Charles. “This is purely for survival purposes- I’m not trying to fuck you or anything”.
“I never said you were…” Charles said softly, continuing to stare at Erik with wide blue eyes, and Erik practically bit his tongue in an attempt to stop himself from saying anything else stupid.
Eventually Erik scowled, standing up from the floor and moving over towards the stairs, only pausing briefly to look back over his shoulder at where Charles was still sitting on the floor, watching him.
“Are you coming?” Erik muttered.
Charles continued to watch Erik for a long moment, chewing slightly on his lower lip before he finally responded with a brief nod.
On the second floor of the lighthouse there was just one room, composed of a single bed against one wall and a chest of drawers opposite it just in front of the window.
Erik walked over and sat on the edge of the bed as he removed his shoes, feeling the mattress sag underneath him and thinking about how it would most likely cause Charles to end up pressed against him when they lay together. It was a delightful notion that Erik tried not to focus on, being only too aware of the fact that his cock had been stirring ever since he’d first thought about sharing a bed with Charles and also being determined to keep Charles from noticing.
After Erik was ready he lay on his side on the bed, watching as Charles toed off his shoes and stepped over towards him. Charles crawled onto the mattress next to Erik, turning to face away from him as Erik reached behind himself for the blanket before draping it over the both of them.
Erik rested his head against the pillow, fighting off a very strong urge to press his face into Charles’ hair and wrap his arms around the smaller man’s body and pull him close. It wasn’t an impulse Erik acted on, at least not at that point. Instead Erik remained prone lying next to Charles, listening to the telepath’s steady breathing as it lulled him into a sound sleep.
A few hours later Erik awoke, opening his eyes briefly to realise that it was still dark outside. He had been dreaming of Charles- imagining that they were back at the hotel, safe and warm and wrapped up together in Erik’s bed. It was a dream Erik had had more than once though he’d never really acknowledged it before, and he’d certainly never had the object of his affections quite so close to him- making the dream almost a reality.
Erik returned to full consciousness, feeling desperately overcome with a desire that went beyond just his thoughts, as evidenced by his now-achingly hard cock. Erik leaned slightly closer to Charles, inhaling the scent of his hair and thinking again about pulling him into his body. It made sense in a way, survival-wise… The fire had clearly burnt out and consequently the temperature in the lighthouse had dropped by a few degrees, so it would actually be somewhat sensible for Erik to get closer to Charles.
Okay, so it was perhaps a very bad idea, but Erik reasoned that if Charles was asleep then he would never even know that anything had happened anyway.
Erik remained still for a while, listening carefully to the sound of Charles’ steady breathing as he tried to establish whether he was fully conscious or not, before eventually deciding that he was satisfied Charles was still sleeping soundly.
Edging closer to Charles, Erik’s slid his arm around the telepath’s waist and shifted his hips forward- pressing his hard cock against the line of Charles’ ass. There was a very audible gasp from Charles in response and Erik mentally cursed himself as he realised that his secret plan had ended up being not quite so secret after all, but he told himself it wasn’t the end of the world. Erik maintained his position, deciding that if Charles questioned him in the morning he would just deny all knowledge and pretend that he had slept through the night.
Content with his decision, Erik edged his face marginally closer on the pillow- moving so that the tip of his nose just brushed against Charles’ hair, but stopping short of pressing a kiss to the back of Charles’ neck like he yearned to do.
When Erik awoke the next morning he instantly realised he was alone. The realisation was like having a glass of cold water thrown in his face, and Erik jumped out of bed rapidly- using his ability to scan the immediate area for signs of Charles, or specifically for the metal bracelet he knew Charles was still wearing.
He found the telepath before long, realising that Charles was above him somewhere- at the top of the building. Climbing the stairs two at a time, Erik bounded up to the top level of the lighthouse- pushing open the hatch in the roof and climbing up the steps; immediately shivering at the cold outside. The area was at least sheltered from the wind by the windows that ran around the sides of the lantern room, or at least it would have been- were the door not wide open.
“Charles, what the fuck are you doing?” Erik asked, stepping through the door to join Charles who was leaning against the railing outside. “It’s freezing out here…” he added, wrapping his arms around himself in defence against the bitter cold.
“I can’t see him…” Charles said quietly, and Erik turned to look in the direction Charles was staring- seeing the warehouse in the distance, much more visible than previously given that the blizzard had passed and it was an extremely clear day.
“See who? Azazel?” Erik asked, and Charles nodded.
“I’ve been standing here since the sun came up, just waiting for a sign that he’d come back for us, but there’s been nothing”.
Erik frowned softly, looking down at Charles and feeling forlorn. “Maybe he’s still taking care of Raven”, Erik offered. “Or maybe he’s still weak from the trip and he needs time to recover from his injury before coming back for us”.
“Or maybe he’s dead”, Charles said bluntly, turning to face Erik at last. “Maybe they both are”.
Charles’ lower lip was trembling and Erik had to fight the urge to run his thumb across it, or to cover the quiver with his own mouth.
“Charles, I’m sure Raven is fine…” Erik started, but Charles looked away in disgust, like he was trying to shake off Erik’s words.
“I can’t stay here”, Charles said. “I need to know if Raven’s okay, so if Azazel isn’t coming back for us then we need to get to the hotel ourselves”.
“Charles, that’s thousands of miles away... It would involve traveling for weeks if not months over extremely hostile terrain, and don’t forget- it’s not just the cold we would have to go up against, there are sentinels out there, humans who want us dead, wild animals--”
“I’m perfectly aware of what’s out there, Erik, but if that’s what I need to face in order to get back to my sister then I’m prepared to do it”.
“Well I’m not, and I’m not prepared for you to either. When Raven gave you to me it was so I could protect you, and I’m not going to fail her now. I’m not letting you go out there alone”.
“I don’t fucking belong to you, Erik!” Charles spat out, glaring hard at Erik. “You don’t get to decide what I do or where I go!”
“Really?” Erik replied, stepping closer to Charles and staring him down. “You’ve been my prisoner for months now. I may have been lenient with you in the past- content to give you what you wanted to keep you happy- but you should know that’s capable of changing at any time should you decide to disobey me”.
“Oh, what are you going to do- choke me out again? Fucking try it, Erik- I could make your mind explode without even straining a muscle”.
Erik scowled. “Don’t forget what’s wrapped around your wrist, Charles. One wrong move and I can flip the switch and dose you with that suppressant, rendering your telepathy useless. Who do you think is quicker on the draw- you or me? Do you want to find out?”
Charles didn’t respond, but his eyes were hot with fury as he glared up at Erik- all recognition of the cold weather burned away by pure rage. Erik only stared back in return, finding himself locked in a battle of wills with Charles and not for the first time.
Eventually Charles relented, turning away from Erik and stomping back inside the lantern room.
“Where are you going?” Erik called as Charles opened the hatch and began to climb back into the lighthouse.
“To heat some fucking soup!” Charles shouted out, dropping down into the room below and slamming the hatch behind him.
Erik followed Charles’ movements with his powers in an attempt to reassure himself that Charles wasn’t about to make a break for it. He registered Charles picking up one of the tin cans and decided he was satisfied the telepath wasn’t going anywhere; letting out a long sigh and looking out at the scene in front of him.
Visibility was clear, but there was still little to be seen. A mountain ran parallel to the coastline with a single road in front of it, leading Erik could only imagine where. The road curved behind the mountain at both ends, meaning Erik had no way of knowing what lay in either direction.
It was ridiculous what Charles had suggested, of course- there was no way they would be able to make it back to the hotel, and Erik reassured himself that he had made the right decision, and that it would be worth Charles’ ire if it meant keeping him safe.
He only hoped that one day Charles would be able to forgive him.
After the incident at the warehouse Erik refused to give up hope that Azazel would come back. He couldn’t really- Erik needed to continue to believe that they would be rescued, because otherwise it would mean that he had led his friends on a mission that had potentially killed both Raven and Azazel outright, and had doomed himself and Charles to live or die in the wilderness.
Above all, though- Erik needed to keep hope alive for Charles’ sake. Ever since his sister had been gravely wounded, Charles had been subdued and despondent- clearly distraught with concerns that Raven might have died from her injuries. Erik wanted to try and help Charles- to reassure him that everything would be okay- but he knew that Charles wasn’t interested in hearing anything he had to say.
Erik couldn’t help but see the bitter irony in the situation- how it was a reversal of what it had often been like living with Charles at the hotel, when Erik had been the one wanting solace when Charles tried to talk to him. He wished desperately that he could have that Charles back- the one who had been relaxed and carefree, who would have happily spent hours with Erik talking and playing chess.
During the day, whenever the weather permitted it, Erik and Charles would venture out into the surrounding area to look for supplies. Erik never allowed Charles to go anywhere on his own, so whilst he didn’t particularly want to endanger Charles’ life by bringing him on those missions, he couldn’t risk leaving Charles at the lighthouse alone when he might run away.
They travelled back to the warehouse each day and soon stripped it of any useful items, though often Erik would catch Charles just stood in the middle of the room- staring at the dried blood that was the only part of Raven he had left. Each time Erik would carefully approach Charles and grasp him gently on the shoulder, trying to pull him from maudlin thoughts and hopefully into his arms, but Charles always shrugged out of Erik’s grasp and moved away.
The sun set early each evening, forcing Charles and Erik back to the lighthouse with the fading light. It was a long time to spend together with absolutely nothing to do to entertain themselves, particularly as Charles seemed determined not to say more than two words to Erik, and most evenings were spent sitting in complete silence- something Erik had once revered but had now grown to abhor.
Erik felt a real physical ache whenever he looked at Charles, and more than anything he just wanted Charles to speak to him again- to look at him again, like he used to before.
“I’m sorry…” Erik said quietly one day, staring over at Charles. They were both sitting in armchairs near to the lit stove- Charles reading a book he had found earlier that day whilst Erik watched him.
Charles didn’t respond, and Erik was left feeling completely wrecked as Charles continued to stare down at his book in avoidance, but finally there was a reaction as he turned a page and replied to Erik’s statement:
“I don’t know what you’re apologising for, but if I said I’d forgiven you would it make you stop staring at me?”
It wasn’t quite the reaction Erik had wanted, but it was at least a start.
“I’m sorry for what happened to Raven”, Erik elaborated. “It’s all my fault…”
Charles finally looked back up from his book, glancing over at Erik and frowning slightly.
“Erik… Have you ever known Raven to do anything that she didn’t want to do? You and I both know that her decision to join you in going after Shaw was exactly that- her decision. You don’t have to apologise for what happened because it wasn’t your fault”.
Erik shook his head. “But I could have stopped her--” he started, and Charles laughed, the noise sounding very much like salvation to Erik.
“You couldn’t have stopped her, Erik. Raven can’t be controlled- I learnt that a long time ago”.
Erik looked at Charles for a moment, before smiling and feeling himself light up inside when the corners of Charles’ mouth lifted in a ghost of the expression, even if it was only for the shortest time.
The conversation had been brief, but it represented a very real thawing in Charles and Erik’s frosty relationship. Over the next couple of days Charles continued to open up more and more, until Erik began to feel like there was hope that he and Charles could get back to whatever it was that they had before.
They stopped going back to the warehouse every day, mainly because there were no more supplies to gather and also because both Charles and Erik had each decided that Azazel wasn’t coming back, though neither of them vocalised this opinion. Instead, they started to explore other parts of the area, eventually coming across an abandoned church that appeared to be one of the few other buildings in the immediate vicinity. There were a few useful items to be gleaned from the church, most interesting of which was several bottles of wine that Charles eagerly collected, and Erik felt satisfied that the discovery had been able to grant Charles a small amount of happiness, though it was certainly less than he deserved.
Although they were essentially fighting for survival in the Canadian wilderness, life for Charles and Erik wasn’t too uncomfortable. They had liberated a number of provisions from the buildings they’d visited, meaning that most days they were well-fed, even if their diet mainly consisted of tinned food and the occasional stale chocolate bar. Erik used his ability to create an axe, and he chopped up wood whilst Charles gathered kindling, ensuring that they had enough firewood to keep them warm at night. Of course, most nights they continued to rely on each other for warmth, rather than the fire…
Every night Erik would look forward to what had rapidly become his favourite part of the day- when he would climb into bed and wait for Charles to join him. It was never quite as close an experience as Erik would have liked- particularly as he was very careful not to encroach on Charles’ personal space anymore- but still, lying next to Charles like that was more than Erik could have hoped for, even if he knew that Charles’ interest in the arrangement was born out of necessity rather than desire.
But although Erik enjoyed sleeping next to Charles immeasurably, that’s not to say their nights spent together were entirely relaxing… Charles was a restless sleeper, and Erik would often find himself pulled from semi-consciousness by the feeling of the bed shaking as Charles thrashed about, apparently unable to get comfortable.
“Are you alright?” Erik asked one night, eyes blearily cracking open to view the room bathed in moonlight as Charles wriggled on the mattress in front of him.
“I’m fine. Sorry, did I wake you?” Charles asked, ceasing to move and turning his face further into the pillow. Erik stared over at the back of Charles head, wanting to reach up and run his fingers through Charles’ hair in an attempt to soothe him.
“Perhaps. It’s alright though, Charles- I think I’m still getting more rest than you anyway. Have you always had such trouble sleeping?”
Charles’ upper body moved in what Erik presumed was a shrug. “I guess. I think it’s just sleeping in such a small bed that’s the problem- I tend to like to move around a bit before I can drift off. Raven always said I was like a chicken rotating in a rotisserie oven”.
Erik laughed, the low sound vibrating through the mattress. “That’s a lovely image”, he replied. “Well, I know you haven’t exactly got much room sharing a single bed with me, but if you want to turn over so you can cook on both sides then please do”.
Charles didn’t reply, which Erik had come to realise meant he was thinking about something.
“Charles… Do you want to face me?”
“Do you want me to turn away?”
More silence, and Charles still wasn’t moving.
“Charles… Are you going to turn over then?”
There was a further pause, and Charles finally moved- shifting about on the mattress as he rolled over to face Erik. He glanced up at Erik for a moment before dropping his gaze and biting his lip, appearing to be very stiff and uncomfortable as he lay there.
“Charles, you’re not going to get any sleep if you don’t relax a little”.
“Are you going to tell me I should unwind with some meditation like I said to you?” Charles asked, and Erik laughed.
“No, I wouldn’t recommend that right now”, Erik smiled. “Just… try not to be so tense. I’d like to think that after all these months you’re capable of feeling comfortable with me…”
“I am…” Charles replied, glancing up to meet Erik’s eyes briefly.
The situation was like pleasurable torture for Erik- being so close to Charles but being unable to hold him, touch him, or kiss him in the way he wanted, and it came as somewhat of a relief when Charles finally looked away- closing his eyes and snuggling down under the covers as he attempted to get to sleep.
Erik still didn’t look away. His view was dim, particularly with Charles facing away from the light of the window, but even being able to see the outline of Charles’ face was enough. Charles’ expression was captivating and Erik drank it in, feeling content for the first time in as long as he could remember. He worked to commit the moment to memory- hoping to hold onto the image for as long as he could, before it was taken away from him like everything else he cared about always had been.
“Goodnight, Erik”, Charles murmured eventually.
“Ich liebe dich”, Erik thought in response, but he didn’t say anything.
Over the next week Erik and Charles continued to settle into what had essentially become their new life. Nights were even more enjoyable for Erik now that Charles had relaxed around him, and although Charles did continue to fidget before he fell asleep, most nights he unwound in time- often drifting off with his face just inches away from Erik’s.
With each night they spent together Erik found himself getting closer to Charles- not just emotionally but physically too- until one occasion when he woke in the early hours of the morning to find Charles pressed up against him- head tucked under Erik’s chin and body bracketed in by Erik’s arm around his waist.
Erik could barely move once he realised what had happened. He lay completely still, trying not to even breathe too loud for fear of breaking whatever spell had brought Charles into his arms; listening to Charles’ breathing too and trying to decide if the telepath was awake. Charles was almost completely quiet- his breathing soft and scarcely audible- making it difficult for Erik to assess his current mental state, but suddenly he became aware of a certain attribute of Charles’ physical state and all other thoughts abruptly fell away.
Charles was hard, and the realisation quickly pitched Erik into a state of delirium. Erik shifted his hips to press slightly closer to in an attempt to confirm his discovery, trying very hard to contain a slight groan once he was met with firm certainty, and it was only a matter of time before his own cock reacted to the news- quickly stiffening between his legs and pressing against Charles’ member in return.
Still no movement from Charles, and Erik came to conclusion that he was enjoying this moment alone. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not, but all he knew was that he didn’t want to do anything to spoil it.
As it turned out, Erik never got to find out exactly what Charles thought of their new sleeping position. When Erik awoke the next morning Charles had already vacated the bed, and Erik wondered if that could be considered an answer in itself.
The cuddling was never mentioned by either party, even though it wasn’t the only time it happened. Erik didn’t want to bring it up for fear that Charles would withdraw, and he could only speculate as to what Charles’ reasons might be for not saying anything.
Part of Erik wondered if maybe he should actually just speak up and get things out in the open once and for all, but he knew that if such disclosure was met with rebuttal it would be a rejection he would likely never recover from. It was getting harder every day though, to be close to Charles but not quite close enough. Erik wanted him so badly, and no amount of late-night embraces were capable of sating him. It didn’t help that there was nothing Erik could do to provide himself with any form of release, given that himself and Charles were living in very close quarters and there was nowhere Erik could go to help dispel the tension, not without Charles being able to hear just how badly Erik ached for him.
Of course, although his domestic situation with Charles was almost everything Erik wanted, a very real part of him knew it couldn’t last. Charles’ resolve may have appeared to have softened, but Erik knew that deep down Charles was still determined to get back to his sister, no matter how impossible a mission that may have seemed, and naturally that meant fighting against Erik for his freedom…
“I just don’t understand”, Charles protested. “We’ve been here for almost two weeks now and there’s been no sign of Azazel. He’s clearly not coming back, which means that we’re going to have to get home ourselves”.
It was a cruel word to use in front of Erik: ‘home’. Erik considered it remarkable that Charles was already able to consider the hotel- the place where he’d essentially been held hostage- as his home, and Erik tried to convince himself that he was a part of the reason for that, even though he knew it was unlikely to be the case.
Erik looked back over to Charles from where he was kneeling in front of the stove heating up their dinner, seeing the tension evident in Charles’ body as he sat in an armchair, fingers digging into the armrests.
“I’ve already told you, Charles- it’s too dangerous out there”, Erik replied calmly.
“So what are we going to do then, just stay here forever? We can’t do that Erik- the supplies that we have can only last so long”.
“We can get more”, Erik countered. “Or we could hunt for food- I’ve seen some deer--” he started, but his words were quickly halted by the sound of Charles laughing- the sound harsh and unkind, and very unlike Charles.
“Have you gone completely insane, Erik? Do you really think that’s what I want- to spend the rest of my life stuck in this lighthouse with you?”
Erik’s expression faltered; Charles’ words feeling like a dagger to his heart. He turned away so that Charles wouldn’t be able to see the look on his face and began to focus his attention on dinner more earnestly- using his powers to remove two tins from the stove before opening them and pouring them into two waiting bowls. He levitated one of the servings of food over to Charles, still unable to look over in his direction, before moving to sit in the armchair opposite Charles- focusing down on the warmth of the bowl of food he was holding and ignoring the chill he felt in his soul.
“I’m not trying to be cruel…” Charles said eventually, causing Erik to let out an involuntary huff in response. “But Erik, be realistic- we can’t stay here. Please just… just think about what you’re asking of me. I can’t spend the rest of my life not knowing if my sister is alive or dead…”
“Charles, have you even seen what it’s like out there, other than over the past couple of weeks you’ve spent with me?” Erik asked, voice low and deliberate as he continued to stare down at his lap. “From what Raven told me it appears you spent the majority of the war holed up is some opulent mansion, protected from the chaos outside. The world is cruel, Charles. There are so many things out there that could hurt you or kill you, and I can’t--” Erik trailed off, voice threatening to break with emotion as his mind ran away with worry- thinking of what might happen to Charles, and what it would feel like to see Charles get hurt.
“Erik…” Charles replied softly, and there was a question hidden in that word but whatever it was Charles never said it.
Both parties lapsed back into silence after that, each eating their dinner without saying anything further. Erik was trying very hard not to tremble, feeling like the tenuous hold he had on Charles was waning, and it would be safer not to move for fear of losing his grip entirely.
Once dinner was finished Charles stood up and walked over to Erik, taking the bowl from his hands without word and turning to head into the small bathroom to clean up whilst Erik continued to stare down at the ground. Erik watched Charles’ feet cross the room after he came back from the bathroom, coming to stop in front of Erik and causing Erik to hesitate for a moment before he looked up to see what Charles was doing.
Charles was looking down at him, holding two cups in his hands one of which he offered to Erik.
“I’m having a drink”, Charles explained. “Do you want one?”
Erik stared up at Charles for a moment before nodding briefly and taking the cup from Charles’ hand. Afterwards Charles walked over to a cupboard at the side of the room, opening it and removing a bottle of wine before moving over to his armchair. Erik expected that Charles would just sit down where he was, but instead he placed the bottle of wine and his cup down on the seat cushions before grasping the back of it and dragging the chair across the room towards Erik, positioning it next to Erik’s seat at a right-angle.
“We don’t have a corkscrew”, Charles said as he sat down, passing the bottle of wine over to Erik before lifting his legs up and tucking them under his body on the chair. Of course, Erik’s mutation meant that there wasn’t a utensil he couldn’t fashion, so he flexed his powers to mould a corkscrew that he used to open the bottle- passing it back to Charles once he was done and watching as the telepath poured himself a drink before doing the same for Erik.
“At least wine is the one thing that gets better with age”, Charles said, though he sniffed the wine suspiciously before taking his first sip. “Ohmygod, that’s good…” he concluded, before taking a rather large gulp and sinking down in his chair with a satisfied sigh.
When Charles looked back up again Erik was of course staring over at him, completely captivated by Charles’ contented expression.
“Aren’t you going to try it?” Charles asked, looking down at the untouched cup of wine in Erik’s hand pointedly, and Erik finally looked away as he brought the cup to his lips. Charles was right- the wine was amazing; rich and flavoursome, with just the right amount of sharpness, and Erik couldn’t help himself from downing half his serving in one go. Erik hadn’t had a drink in a long while, so he was unsurprised to find himself somewhat rocked by the alcohol- his head feeling fuzzy and warm as he slipped into an uncontrolled grin.
Charles smiled back at him. “Nice, isn’t it?” he asked, laughing slightly as Erik gave him a nod and another wide grin in return.
For the rest of the evening Charles and Erik sat together drinking wine and talking; sharing stories from their lives before the war- though Erik found he was only willing to offer memories up until the point he’d gone to Auschwitz, as anything after would have been too bleak, too sad, and he didn’t want to spoil the evening. Charles’ stories had a stopping point too- he talked enthusiastically about his experiences growing up with Raven, but offered nothing after the day when Raven had left him to join the Brotherhood, for understandable reasons.
Charles kept Erik’s cup topped up as they talked, going so far as to open a second bottle even though Erik protested lightly. Erik relented in the end though, continuing to drink and always watching Charles; enjoying the way the redness of the wine made Charles’ lips appear even more pink than usual.
When the second bottle was finished Charles took away the cups and the empty bottles, tidying up the room whilst Erik rose from his armchair and began to walk over towards the spiral staircase. The alcohol meant he was unsteady on his feet, and he swayed slightly and gripped the handrail for support as he travelled up the stairs- stumbling out onto the second floor eventually and taking a few steps across the room before collapsing onto the bed on his back.
Erik found his eyelids drooping heavily as he lay in bed and waited for Charles, staring up at the moonlight reflected on the ceiling and thinking about how this had been one of the best evenings he’d ever experienced in his life. He must have closed his eyes for a few moments, because when he opened them again Charles was sitting on the bed to the side of him- looking down at Erik and resting one hand on Erik’s stomach.
“Hi…” Erik smiled. “Are you coming to bed?”
“That was the intention, but you’re kind of hogging the space…”
Erik glanced down, realising that he was completely stretched over the mattress leaving Charles no room to lie down.
“Oh, right…” Erik mumbled, starting to shift over before Charles pressed his hand down on Erik’s stomach to stop him moving.
“Wait…” Charles said. “It’s really cold tonight, and that wine has made me a bit shaky, so, if it’s alright with you… could we sleep a little differently?”
Erik looked up at Charles questioningly. “What did you have in mind?” he asked softly.
Charles bit his lip for a moment before crawling onto the bed and climbing on top of Erik.
Immediately Erik tensed, letting out a small noise of surprise as Charles hovered over him- legs and arms sliding either side of Erik’s body and bracketing Erik in. Charles moved carefully, like he was testing for a reaction, and he came to a stop leaning over Erik but not actually lowering down.
“Is this okay?” Charles asked, looking at Erik with impossibly wide blue eyes, and Erik nodded- afraid to move as Charles gave him a quick smile before wriggling down a little and finally lying down with his head resting against Erik’s chest.
Okay? This was fucking perfect. Erik lay completely still with his arms at his side, feeling the warmth of Charles’ body pressed up against him, feeling like this had to be some sort of wonderful dream. It was real though- Erik could tell by the way his heart was beating impossibly fast and his skin was tingling with anticipation and his… oh God.
It was perhaps inevitable. For a long time now being around Charles had meant that Erik would usually end up feeling incredibly aroused, and never more so than when he’d been lying in bed next to the object of his affections. Most nights Erik couldn’t be sure Charles knew about those physical signs of attraction, given Charles appeared to be sleeping each time, but on this occasion there was absolutely no way Charles would be able to ignore Erik’s excitement- not when it was about to press very firmly against Charles’ stomach.
Erik closed his eyes, mentally counting “Eins… zwei… drei…” as he waited for signs that Charles had noticed his rapidly hardening cock; waiting for Charles to express his objection and move away. Erik was already preparing excuses- planning to blame his erection on the alcohol or the fact that he hadn’t had sex in a while or, well, anything that might be feasible- anything that would stop Charles from refusing to ever sleep next to him again.
There was a long pause, time in which Erik practically held his breath in anticipation, and then he heard it. Charles made a soft noise that could have been a moan, Erik wasn’t sure, and then he nuzzled his face further into Erik’s chest. Erik stared down at the top of Charles’ head- at the part of Charles’ face he could see- just trying to read Charles’ expression, but whatever meaning there was behind the sound Charles had made, Erik couldn’t read it.
Erik breathed again, relieved that Charles didn’t appear to be going anywhere, and he decided to solidify the situation further. Reaching to the side of him, Erik gathered up the blankets and draped them over himself and Charles, ensuring Charles was as cosy as possible. Once the blankets were placed Erik wavered for a few seconds before tentatively wrapping his arms across Charles’ back; placing one hand against Charles’ spine and using the other to carefully stroke his fingers through Charles’ hair. There was another soft sound from Charles, and Erik didn’t try to comprehend the meaning of this one. He simply continued to hold Charles, tracing fingers through the telepath’s hair gently, before eventually closing his eyes and slipping into a restful sleep.
When Erik awoke the next morning he was alone. It wasn’t an unusual way to wake up- most mornings Erik opened his eyes to find Charles had already left the bed- but on this occasion the realisation was particularly painful.
Erik clambered out of bed in a hurry, immediately having to grasp hold of the wall to steady himself as his vision began to spin courtesy of last night’s drinking.
This was… wrong. Erik could feel it. Normally when Erik woke later than Charles he would use his power to reach out through the lighthouse until he located the metal bracelet Charles was wearing- usually finding Charles already downstairs preparing breakfast- but although Erik felt his ability somewhat hampered by his fuzzy head, he knew in an instant Charles wasn’t there.
Erik stumbled across the room and down the stairs to make sure- peering into the space below and just hoping that he was wrong somehow- that he would find the telepath just sitting in one of the armchairs- but Charles was nowhere to be seen.
After he had confirmed his fears Erik scrambled back up the stairs- travelling all the way up to the top floor and pushing open the hatch in the ceiling. Immediately the biting cold hit him, but Erik ignored it as he climbed out into the lantern room- pushing open the glass door and getting blasted by another bout of icy air as he stumbled forward and braced himself against the railing.
Erik travelled the circular area around the lantern room, looking out across the scene below for any signs of Charles in the immediate vicinity. He could see nothing though- nothing but an endless canvas of white snow that covered the landscape like a blanket; dense and suffocating.
When it was clear that Charles wasn’t in view Erik returned quickly to the lowest floor of the lighthouse, briskly pulling his shoes on, thinking about Charles and feeling worried and angry and most of all just really fucking stupid. It was obvious now what Charles had done- how he’d planned from the beginning to get Erik drunk; to lower Erik’s defences and use the opportunity to escape. How could Erik have been so foolish to have thought that Charles just genuinely wanted to spend the evening getting to know him? That Charles would want to sleep that close to him out of any sort of affection? It was all a game of course; the cruellest Erik had ever experienced.
When Erik was ready he stepped into the cold outside, pulling his cape tightly around himself as he hurried towards the road. He was relieved to realise that no new snow had fallen in the past several hours, meaning the outline of Charles’ footprints were still visible. Erik didn’t need to question where Charles was going- he’d already noticed the open cabinets and missing backpack when he was putting on his shoes, and had realised that Charles had taken with him enough supplies to last him for a few days as he began his journey home.
Erik was angry. Vehemently, blisteringly angry- like he hadn’t been in years, but it wasn’t Charles he was furious with- it was himself. Trust was not something Erik gave easily but he had offered it to Charles more than once, and each time he had ended up feeling hurt and betrayed. Erik knew he should have learnt his lesson after the first time, but he’d found himself so disarmed by Charles that he had been willing to lower his defences once more, and now he paying the price for it.
Travelling in the wilderness had always been difficult, but it was harder than ever for Erik on that particular day. Normally Erik could use the magnetic fields of the earth to propel himself through the air quickly, but he’d always found his ability hampered by the freezing conditions and there was no way he could even attempt such a feat now with his mind so inhibited by his earlier drinking. Instead, he was forced to trudge along through the snow- following Charles’ footsteps devotedly, each one giving Erik assurance that Charles was at least still alive.
In time Erik reached a point where the road appeared to end, and immediately he was seized by panic as he wondered where Charles could have gone, but then he saw the answer. Charles’ footprints led to what appeared to be a sheer rock face- the line of the mountain that ran parallel to the road seeming to stretch across it at one point and lead down to the sea, but as Erik approached he saw the small gap in the rocks that the road lead into. It looked like there had at one time been a tunnel here, but at some point parts of the mountain had clearly given way- closing up the majority of the tunnel and leaving a severely reduced gap.
Erik slid in through the gap in the rocks, finding the tunnel relatively intact on the other side, enabling him to briskly head towards the light ahead of him. He had just made it approximately half-way through the tunnel when he heard it.
Unfortunately Erik had heard Charles scream before, so he was regrettably familiar with the sound. The scream travelled through the tunnel towards Erik, echoing along the walls- each reverberation cutting into Erik like a knife. He ran forward in an instant, heart pounding as he closed the distance between himself and Charles- registering with some relief the presence of Charles’ metal bracelet, but finding the feeling quickly dissipated by dread as he recognised something else too.
When Erik reached the other end of the tunnel the resultant light nearly blinded him, and he held one arm up to his face as he tried to adjust to the brightness- eyes focusing in time and immediately locking on the sight of Charles standing several metres ahead of him. Charles was stood still, staring up towards the sky with a look of fear on his face- an understandable reaction, given the sentinel looming over him.
Erik marched across the snow towards Charles, expression set and determined as he stretched his arms out and used his ability to pull the sentinel apart. At least, that was the plan…
It was normally so simple for Erik- years of practise had enabled him to become essentially a master of magnetism, and there were few metal objects that he couldn’t control. Sentinels in particular had always been easy prey for Erik given they were made almost entirely of metal, and Erik had expected this one to be no different. He had however underestimated the effects of the alcohol still swimming through his brain, and was dismayed to find that his powers were significantly hindered.
The first flex of Erik’s abilities stripped an outer layer of metal from the sentinel’s structure, rather than pulling the robot apart entirely like Erik had intended. This, of course, alerted the sentinel to Erik’s presence, and Erik watched in apprehension as the massive metal monster turned around and altered its target.
The destruction of the sentinel was slower than Erik would of liked, but it was at least still possible. The robot began to move towards Erik- lifting its arm and pointing a weapon before Erik quickly wrenched the gun off the sentinel’s arm. The same thing happened when the weapon on the other side was pointed, then it was the sentinel’s chest plate, then part of its leg, then its head- and soon there were a hundred different metal pieces flying through the air as the robot was brought to a very certain end.
Erik was shaking when he finished, the efforts of the destruction causing more exertion to him than normal, but he supposed it was a reasonable expenditure in order to keep Charles safe.
And then Erik saw him.
It was hard to spot him at first- there were pieces of metal scattered all over the ground and initially Erik wondered if Charles had run away in the disorder, but then he saw something besides metal on the ground- the blue of Charles’ jacket, tinged with red.
Erik had always found that there was a price to pay for his actions, he only hoped that Charles’ life wouldn’t be what it cost this time.
Death was a strange thing.
In Erik’s experience it wasn’t like what it seemed like in fiction. Such mediums portrayed the event as immediately catastrophic- a real visceral loss that caused outbursts of screaming and crying that would last for hours, if not days. The pain would continue in the weeks that followed, and the person left behind would withdraw into themselves- every second of their life consumed by what had been taken from them. But it wasn’t really like that.
Death hurt, but life just went on. It was actually all painfully matter-of-fact; after death the world would keep turning, and there was just… absence. A life, lost forever. The people taken by death were missed, often immensely, but those left behind would just continue with their lives, and each day they would think about what they had lost a little bit less; an absence of conscious realisation that made it easier somehow.
Erik had unfortunately had a lot of experience with death and by now he knew what to expect, but it wasn’t something he was ever prepared for. Indeed, there was no amount of preparation that could make Erik ready to deal with losing someone he loved- something that hadn’t happened since his mother and father had died- and he only hoped that the experience wasn’t about to repeat itself.
Charles’ body was laying on the snow-covered ground as Erik ran forward, using his powers to clear a path through the metal that lead him to Charles. He slumped to his knees beside Charles, cupping the telepath’s face in his hands and looking down at him desperately.
Erik barely registered himself shouting Charles’ name over and over- the sound was harsh and jarring in the stark environment- but then there was another noise that caused a small flame of hope to reignite in Erik’s chest.
“I’m sorry…” Charles murmured, and then he opened his eyes- a flash of impossibly bright blue against the white backdrop.
“Charles, Charles are you alright?” Erik asked in a panic, dropping his gaze down to Charles’ chest where there was a large tear along the front of his jacket. Erik reached down to touch the area, causing Charles to let out a groan of pain.
“Ah, careful!” Charles protested. “I think a bit of shrapnel caught me”.
Erik ignored Charles’ objections as he carefully lifted his jacket up- immediately cursing when he saw the gash across Charles ribs but feeling a slight sense of relief as he realised that the injury wasn’t as serious as it could have been.
“Ohmygod don’t do that it’s fucking freezing”, Charles hissed, and Erik relaxed slightly- reasoning that if Charles was strong enough to complain he probably wasn’t hurt too badly.
It took longer than Erik would have liked to return to the lighthouse, mainly because they were hampered by Charles’ injury. Charles insisted that he was fine and he could walk on his own, but as soon as he stood up he began to sway and Erik made the decision to carry him- Charles’ protestations be damned.
When they were back inside the lighthouse Erik lay Charles down on the rug in the main room, immediately trying to take another look at Charles’ injury before Charles weakly shoved him away- insisting that Erik should focus on starting the fire first. Erik obeyed begrudgingly, moving away to light the fire whilst Charles gingerly unzipped his ruined jacket and removed it.
“Alright then, let me see”, Erik said once he was done, crawling back over to kneel next to Charles and reaching for the hem of Charles’ jumper.
Erik had fantasized about taking Charles’ clothes off on numerous occasions but he’d never imagined it would be like this, and he found little enjoyment in the sight of Charles’ bare chest as he lifted the jumper, given that Charles’ skin was marked with a five-inch gash across his ribs that was seeping blood.
Fortunately during their scavenger missions Charles and Erik had found more than a few medical supplies, and Erik rose from his knees to step over the bathroom- returning in time with a first aid kit in his hand. He resumed his position next to Charles, opening the kit and selecting a few items which he used to clean the blood off Charles’ skin. It could have been a lot worse, Erik realised in an instant, but he knew that they hadn’t exactly come out of the situation entirely unscathed, and he just wondered if Charles knew the true extent of his injury…
Erik stopped cleaning Charles up, resting one hand against Charles’ stomach and causing Charles to jump slightly in response.
“Your hands are cold”, Charles murmured, chewing on his lower lip as he looked at Erik.
“Apologies… but I think that my cold hands are the least of our worries…”
“What do you mean?” Charles frowned.
“There’s a piece of metal in your wound- I can feel it”.
Charles’ eyes grew slightly wider before he looked down at his torso like he was trying to see what Erik was talking about.
“Are you sure?” Charles asked. “I can’t feel anything”.
Erik nodded. “It’s there. I need to take it out”.
“Woah woah, wait a minute- you’re not a doctor, Erik- you can’t just go yanking metal out of me”.
“I need to, Charles- if we leave that shrapnel in your cut you’ll be liable to infection”.
“Well don’t you think poking around at my wound might also cause infection?”
Erik shook his head. “I’m not going to do that, Charles- I can use my ability to extract it carefully”.
Charles looked decidedly uncomfortable, shifting backwards slightly as if in a subconscious effort to get away from Erik. It didn’t work though- Erik rose up on his knees and leaned over Charles- placing his hands on the floor either side of Charles’ waist.
“Just hold still, Charles- it will be over before you know it”. Erik intended his words to be calming but they had pretty much the opposite effect on Charles- instantly causing Charles to edge away more rapidly until Erik moved to stop him.
“Charles, stop crawling away from me- I’m only trying to help you”. At that, Erik climbed on top of Charles- using his weight to press Charles’ lower body down as he held Charles carefully on the waist- focusing earnestly on the job at hand. Evidently Charles still hadn’t accepted what was happening, as he slid his hands to press against Erik’s forearms- pushing weakly as he continued to protest.
“Please, Erik- this is stupid…” Charles whined, but Erik only shushed him- taking hold of Charles’ hands and pressing them down on the floor either side of Charles’ head.
It was so, so difficult to ignore Charles’ pleas- to look down into those beautiful blue eyes and to know that he would soon be causing Charles discomfort- but Erik knew that he was right, and that this really was in Charles’ best interests.
“I’m sorry, Liebling…” Erik murmured, indulging himself in one last look at Charles’ despondent face before he refocused his attention.
Erik was torn between using force to pull the metal out- meaning only a short, sharp shock of pain for Charles, or taking his time and extracting the metal carefully- which would undoubtedly be more agonising. In the end he decided precision was the best bet, and he held Charles down firmly as he slowly began to work the shard of metal free. Charles immediately let out a cry of distress when Erik started, writhing underneath Erik with his eyes shut tight, but Erik barely noticed- he was focusing on the metal in Charles with complete meticulousness, using his ability to slide the shard out along the same path it had entered, until it was finally free.
There was a final cry of pain from Charles as the metal was removed and then Charles stopped squirming- lying prone on the floor underneath Erik and breathing heavily with his eyes still closed. Erik looked down at Charles, feeling an extraordinary sense of relief that the task was over and an even stronger sense of need- like he wanted to pull Charles close and keep him safe forever. Instead, Erik settled for a kiss. He leaned forward without thinking, drawing close to Charles and pressing his lips to Charles’ forehead, but the small noise of surprise Charles made soon brought Erik back to reality.
What was he doing? Less than an hour ago Erik had been furious with Charles- feeling betrayed and hurt and above all completely humiliated by the way Charles had manipulated him, and now without even a second thought he was back to being completely besotted with the man. Erik knew how he felt about Charles, but he also knew that he couldn’t keep putting himself in a position to get hurt over and over again- particularly when Charles had shown little sign that he was interested in anything more than using Erik for warmth.
Erik withdrew from Charles to find the telepath staring up him- his mouth slightly parted in a question Erik didn’t want to hear.
“Sorry…” Erik murmured, climbing off of Charles and reaching once more for the first aid kit. He finished cleaning Charles’ wound expeditiously, applying bandages quickly and clinically and not even faltering when Charles flinched in discomfort.
For the rest of the day Erik continued to be lost in sombre thought. Charles was somewhat incapacitated by his wound, even after Erik had moulded a needle and used dental floss to stitch him up, so Erik left him at the lighthouse as he went out to collect the backpack of supplies that had been left behind during the conflict with the sentinel. It was the first time Erik had felt comfortable leaving Charles alone as he knew that Charles was incapable of escaping, and Erik couldn’t help but feel bitter about the fact that apparently the only way he was able to keep Charles at his side was through serious injury.
Erik didn’t return to the lighthouse straight away once he’d collected the backpack. For the next several hours he searched the area near where he’d found Charles, looking for anything that might prove useful to their continued survival. There were a few abandoned cars dotted along the road as well as some rundown shacks near the coastline, and Erik took his time searching though each of them for supplies- not thinking about any potential danger that might be nearby, not thinking about thirst or hunger, not thinking about Charles…
It was just getting dark when Erik returned to the lighthouse- the temperature falling around him with the fading light.
Charles was waiting as Erik entered, and he whirled to face the door from where he was sat in an armchair in front of fire, a book laid open in his lap.
“Erik, you’ve been gone hours”, Charles frowned, placing the book on the table to the side of him and looking like he was about to stand up, before he winced and placed a hand over his stomach.
“Supply run”, Erik responded curtly, unbuttoning his cape and turning away to hang it on the back of the door handle. He remained facing away from Charles whilst he removed his shoes- kicking them off across the floor in the general direction of where Charles’ shoes also lay and immediately shivering slightly at the increased cold. Erik knew he needed to move over to the fire to warm up properly, but that would mean approaching Charles and he wasn’t quite sure he was ready for that yet.
“I was worried about you…” Charles said, or at least Erik thought that’s what he said- the sound was low, and far too much like music to Erik’s ears to be real.
Erik took a deep breath and turned around to face Charles, stepping over to the backpack he had placed on the floor and reaching inside it. He removed a small foil package and brought it with him as he approached the fire, chucking it unceremoniously in Charles’ lap as he passed by and took the seat opposite him.
“What’s this…?” Charles asked quietly, turning the package over in his hands. He peeled open the top of the item and peered inside, immediately widening his eyes in surprise and looking over at Erik in disbelief.
“Tea? You found tea for me??”
Erik tried to suppress the smile that threatened to betray his affections, simply giving Charles a brief nod and telling himself that he would not allow himself to be disarmed by the way Charles looked at him- not anymore.
“Erik, thank you so much…” Charles said softly, which resulted in a shrug from Erik- another attempt to mask his true feeling.
Charles edged forward on his seat, starting to lean over to reach the cups that were resting on the nearby table but immediately letting out a muffled shout and clutching his stomach in pain.
“Don’t…” Erik protested, standing up from his chair and gently pushing Charles back into his seat. He took the tea from Charles’ hand before picking up the cups and starting to make the drinks. It had been a long time since Erik had made tea for Charles, and Erik couldn’t help but think back to all those mornings they’d spent together; how much simpler Erik’s life had been before he’d realised what he saw in Charles.
Making the tea gave Erik something to focus his attention on and a reason not to look at Charles, but as soon as the drinks were made and Erik was back in his seat opposite he found himself feeling distinctly uneasy. Charles filled the silence- chattering about the book he was reading and the deer he’d seen out of the window earlier and other such nonsense, but Erik was mostly mute in return- even when Charles asked him direct questions. Erik’s responses were short and impersonal- like he could barely spare the words to speak to Charles, not when his mind was so completely preoccupied with painful realisation.
Last night had been perhaps one of the best nights of Erik’s life, but it had all been a lie. Charles had used his charm to lower Erik’s defences- getting him drunk before using the opportunity to run away, and Erik couldn’t help but wonder just how Charles knew exactly what to do to lull him into a false sense of security…
On the table across from Erik was his helmet- cold and unused since the first day they’d come to the lighthouse. Without its bulk to protect him Erik’s mind was wide open, meaning that Charles could have read his thoughts at any time; realising in an instant how Erik felt and using the information to formulate a plan of escape.
Charles was still talking, but by this point Erik had given up all pretence at listening- not taking in anything at all until suddenly the nature of Charles’ words changed.
“I’m sorry”, Charles said quietly, and finally Erik’s attention came back into focus as he glanced up to find Charles staring over at him.
“For what?” Erik huffed.
“For… lying to you. For spending the night plying you with alcohol and then running away in the morning. I’m not sorry that I tried to escape, you understand- just sorry that I, um, hurt your feelings…”
Interesting. Charles had made no mention of the other part of the evening- when he’d climbed on top of Erik and allowed Erik to hold him as they slept. Did that mean it wasn’t part of the deception after all?
Erik had learned a long time ago that Charles didn’t like static silences, so if he kept quiet often Charles would make efforts to fill in the gaps. It was something Erik hoped for on this occasion- he had so many questions that he couldn’t bear to ask, it would be helpful if Charles decided to answer some of them without being prompted.
It was quiet in the room as Charles and Erik stared at each other, nothing but the crackling of the fire next to them contrasted by the sound of wind whistling outside. It seemed like another blizzard might be setting in given the intensity of the weather and the abrupt drop in temperature, and Erik was prepared for an uncomfortable and cold evening, given both the physical and emotion distance between himself and Charles.
Eventually Charles sighed, looking away from Erik and shifting awkwardly in his seat.
“Look, Erik- I know what I did was kind of callous, but I told you from the day we got here that I needed to get back to Raven, so you can’t have been that surprised when I finally acted on my intentions?”
“I wasn’t surprised by what you did, just how you did it”.
“What do you mean?”, Charles frowned.
Erik shook his head in disbelief. “You’re a telepath, Charles- you can make me do anything you want me to do. You could have used your ability to put me into a coma, you could have corrupted my memories so that I forgot you ever existed, or you even could have forced me come with you and escort you back to your sister. I just don’t understand why you would instead do something so… personal”.
Charles looked embarrassed- a tinge of pink appearing in his cheeks that Erik normally would have found delightful. It seemed like Erik had shamed Charles into silence, as for once the telepath wasn’t saying anything and he wasn’t even meeting Erik’s eyes.
“Why did you do it?” Erik asked quietly.
“Erik… You told me when we first met that you didn’t want me using my telepathy to poke around inside your mind, so I haven’t”.
“Right…” Erik scoffed. “So you’ve never read my thoughts?”
“I don’t believe you”.
Charles glanced up to meet Erik’s eyes at last, chewing slightly on his lower lip. “You think I’m lying?” he asked.
“I think you must have had a reason to go and drape yourself over me like a slutty blanket, and if it wasn’t because you read my mind then what the hell was it?”
Charles’ mouth gaped slightly as he stared at Erik, looking completely taken aback by Erik’s words. After a few moments though he seemed to pull himself together, whilst meanwhile Erik was inwardly cursing himself for potentially revealing too much.
“Why would me reading your mind mean that I’d, um, choose to get close to you?” Charles asked quietly, and now it was Erik’s turn to feel embarrassed.
“Forget it”, Erik huffed, scowling and looking away from Charles. Charles didn’t say anything further but Erik could still feel his eyes searching for answers that Erik tried to hold close, even though he felt his defences crumbling more and more each day.
For the rest of the evening Erik decided to stop blanking Charles, mainly because he feared the silence would speak for itself and reveal things Erik wanted to keep hidden. Conversation was awkward and stilted, certainly, but passable- and soon enough hours had gone by that it was time for bed.
Erik decided to broach the subject before Charles could get to it, instructing Charles to take the bed and saying that he’d sleep on the floor instead. Charles protested, mildly, but Erik insisted that Charles needed an uninterrupted sleep so that he could allow his injury time to heal, and that it would be more comfortable for him in the bed alone.
In the end Charles relented, and Erik settled down for a decidedly uncomfortable night sleeping on the floor next to the bed. During their search for supplies Charles and Erik had collected more than a few blankets, but Erik ensured that Charles kept the majority of them- meaning that the telepath was essentially buried by about five blankets whilst Erik curled up on the floor with a mere two covering him, plus his cape draped over the top.
Sleeping on the floor was understandably unpleasant. The temperature had continued to drop throughout the evening, and lying on the hard wooden floor seemed to make the cold seep into Erik’s bones. He lay on his side, knees tucked up to his chest and shivering, just trying to drop off to sleep but failing miserably- until he finally opened his eyes to find Charles looking down at him.
The telepath’s face was mostly obscured by the blankets piled up around him, but Erik could see Charles’ eyes- bright and inquisitive and illuminated by the moonlight coming in through the window.
“Why did you save me?” Charles asked quietly, and Erik frowned- resting his head on his folded arm as he looked up at Charles.
“What do you mean- ‘why’?”
“Exactly that- why did you save me? Why did you come after me? Why didn’t you just let me die out there?”
“Charles, for an intelligent man you ask some very stupid questions sometimes…”
“Erik…” Charles sighed. “You’ve made it very clear from the second I met you that you fundamentally disagree with everything I stand for. The whole reason you kidnapped me in the first place was because you thought I was a threat to the Brotherhood and you needed to silence me, and I know you’re not opposed to using violence to get what you want... I realised a long time ago that you were unlikely to execute me outright, but to let me die out there when no one would know what had really happened? Why didn’t you take that opportunity?”
Erik paused, gazing over at Charles in abject disbelief and astonishment. Did Charles really think that? Did he really have no comprehension whatsoever of the way Erik felt about him?
“You really think I’d let you die?” Erik replied softly. “Do you honestly think I would be so callous?”
“I don’t know…” Charles replied in a slight whine. “You’re very hard to read”.
Erik couldn’t help but laugh- the sound loud and booming in the quiet room. “Coming from a telepath, that’s hilarious”, he replied, and Charles smiled before rolling over onto his back on the bed and gazing up at the ceiling.
“You forget, Erik- I spent over two months living with you but having you either block me with your helmet or avoid me altogether. It’s the first occasion where I’ve ever spent time with someone without being able to get an overview of what their mental state is, and I feel like I’m only just getting to know you now. Even so, I’ve become so used to not having access to your mind that I feel like I barely understand it. I’m not prying, you realise- I meant it when I said I wasn’t- but even without looking I can usually get a general sense of someone’s mood at any time, but yours is… very complex. Your projections are muddled, and it’s like you don’t even know what you want yourself…”
When Charles finished speaking he rolled back onto his side once more, returning to stare at Erik and raising his eyebrows like he was waiting for a response, but Erik had none.
“Are you comfortable down there?” Charles asked eventually, apparently giving up on their earlier topic of conversation.
“What do you think?” Erik grumbled, rolling his eyes slightly and shifting to lie on his back.
“Come join me, then”.
“Huh?” Erik replied, tilting his head to look at Charles.
“You can’t sleep on the floor, Erik- I don’t want to be responsible for you putting your back out at your old age”, Charles replied with a slight grin.
“Very funny…” Erik began, trying to repress his own smile. “But I don’t think that’s a good idea- you’re very fragile right now, and I wouldn’t want to risk making your injury worse by accidentally poking you in your sleep”.
“Really? Because you’ve never seemed concerned about poking me in my sleep before…”
Erik closed his eyes involuntarily, feeling hot and somewhat abashed as he realised that maybe Charles hadn’t been quite so oblivious to his night-time arousals after all. When he opened his eyes again Charles was still lying on his side in the bed, but he had withdrawn the blankets down to his waist and Erik tried to ignore how incredibly seductive the pose was, whether Charles meant it to be or not.
“Come to bed, Erik…” Charles instructed, and Erik had to take a moment to calm himself before he managed to get up from the floor.
Charles shifted over on the bed as Erik approached, moving back against the wall whilst pulling a slight face as he evidently felt a surge of pain from his injury. Initially Erik laid the additional blankets over Charles before leaning down and climbing into the bed- lying down facing Charles as the telepath moved to pull the blankets over both of them. Having Charles’ arm draped over him for even a few seconds was extremely gratifying for Erik, and it was all he could do not to lean into the warmth of Charles’ body to enhance the experience.
“Are you alright?” Erik asked, propping himself up on one bended elbow and watching in concern as Charles withdrew his arm and wrapped it around his stomach defensively, looking over at Erik as he shifted to rest his head against the pillow.
“Yeah... The painkillers are starting to help, and there’s no sign of me growing an extra arm or anything yet”.
Erik smiled, remembering their earlier conversation about whether Charles should take the expired medicine they’d found or not. Charles had insisted it was perfectly safe, and that the only thing they would need to worry about was the drugs having lost potency over the years.
“Good to hear. You’re difficult enough to manage with the limbs you’ve got already”.
Charles pulled a light-hearted face at Erik, before snuggling down further into the pillow. Erik continued to watch Charles, as was his habit, but apparently this time Charles had other ideas.
“You’re never going to get to sleep if you don’t close your eyes, Erik”.
“Your eyes are open…”
“I know, and every night I close them before you and I spend the first few minutes wondering if you’re actually attempting to sleep or if you’re still watching me. So humour me, just this once. Close your eyes”.
Erik continued to watch Charles for a further few moments, finding himself met with an equally impassive gaze, before he emitted a quiet sigh and finally laid his head down against the pillow. The action brought his face inches away from Charles and Erik found it to be a glorious sight, given for the first time Charles was facing towards the window and Erik could see his face properly courtesy of the moonlight. Erik really didn’t want to look away, but he decided to obey Charles’ request- just this once.
Letting out a further soft sigh, Erik closed his eyes and tried to focus on sleep.
There were no further comments from Charles and Erik concluded that he must be attempting to sleep too, but then Erik felt a slight movement against the pillow, and his skin tingled with anticipation as he felt Charles’ face shift marginally closer.
Erik kept his eyes tightly shut but he could feel Charles’ presence and he knew that the telepath’s face was now centimetres away. A hundred different questions ran through Erik’s mind in that moment, but then Charles did something unexpected and the whole world fell away.
The pillow shifted once more as Charles lifted his head, and part of Erik wondered if Charles was just moving around before sleep as he had a tendency to do, but then he felt Charles move closer- felt a lock of Charles’ hair brush against his cheek, felt Charles’ warm breath against his mouth- and then he felt Charles, close like Erik had wanted for so long, kissing him.
Erik couldn’t move; wouldn’t move. Charles’ lips were pressed against his own- a chaste, gentle kiss that took Erik’s breath away and made his heart race. He kept his eyes closed out of more fear than anything else, but his mouth wasn’t susceptible to such control and soon Erik parted his lips in a heated attempt for deeper contact- leaning into Charles and trying to intensify the kiss.
In response Charles made a startled sound and withdrew- leaning back against the pillow once more as Erik opened his eyes to seek explanation.
Erik was breathing hard, not exactly overexerted by the kiss but completely bowled over by it nonetheless, and Charles seemed to be having a similar experience as gazed back at Erik with lips moist and flushed.
“What was that for?” Erik asked eventually when it became clear that Charles wasn’t going to say anything.
“It was… a thank you. For saving my life”, Charles whispered. He didn’t have any further information to offer- simply mumbling “Goodnight, Erik” and snuggling down into the blankets- bringing them up so they covered the majority of his face like he was trying to hide.
Erik watched Charles for a few moments before he rolled over onto his back and closed his eyes, wondering how the same kiss could mean ‘thank you’ to one person and ‘I love you’ to another.
The weather the next morning was bitter, like Erik’s mood.
For the first time since they’d arrived at the lighthouse Erik awoke to find Charles still lying in bed next to him- his face soft and relaxed and his breathing steady as he slept; a sight once soothing now rendered cold because it came with so many questions.
Erik remembered the previous night- remembered Charles’ lips brushing against his own, remembered the look in Charles’ eyes after the kiss- but there was no conclusion to the recollection, only confusion. For weeks now Erik had struggled with acceptance of his growing feelings for Charles, but it was an abject misery he was prepared to accept given he knew there would never be an end to it- that he would always be in love, alone. Now though Erik found his neat and organised inner psyche through into chaos, all because of a kiss.
Charles had said that the kiss was merely a mark of gratitude, but that one little gesture had given Erik something very dangerous- it had given him hope.
Hope didn’t wear well on Erik. For most people it was a gift; an encouragement not to give up, but to Erik hope was dangerous. At one time it had been all that had kept him going- back when he’d been held captive in the camps of Auschwitz. Shaw had allowed Erik to hope- dangling the word like salvation just within reach before snatching it away over and over, and in time Erik had grown to hate the very idea, and had begun to regard all optimism as weakness.
Erik stared over at Charles that morning, watching the man sleep and trying to decide if he wanted to kiss him or kill him. He wanted to put his hands on Charles- to use them to hold Charles down and break him- a violence Erik knew he was made for. Equally he wanted to use his hands for gentler means- to keep Charles safe and soothe him. Most of all Erik wanted the telepath under his control, and just under him- a body weak and wanting, and willing to give Erik everything he had. It was fantasy though, and Erik knew no matter what he desired, it would never be his. Nothing ever had been for long.
Charles stirred in his sleep- screwing up his face and just beginning to open his eyes, but by the time he fully awakened Erik had already left the bed.
When Erik reached the lower level of the lighthouse he was dismayed to realise that the weather was poor- immense flurries of snow falling down outside the window and obscuring visibility. Erik sighed, turning away from the view as he began to get the fire started and trying to maintain disinterest as Charles came down the stairs.
“Good morning”, Charles chirped, his eyes far too bright for Erik’s sensibilities. Erik huffed out a noise in response, realising very quickly that he needed to get out in spite of the inclement conditions- because if he didn’t he would most likely snap at Charles and that wouldn’t be entirely fair.
“I’m going out”, Erik said abruptly, chucking the last of the firewood he was holding into the stove before turning to head towards the door. Immediately Charles stepped forward to grab Erik’s arm- holding firm and looking up at Erik questioningly.
“Wait, Erik- you can’t be serious? It looks horrendous out there”.
“We need supplies”.
“Yes, we do. We only have one packet of painkillers, remember? You popped your way through three pills already yesterday, so you’re going to need more soon. I can head back over to the warehouse to get some”.
Charles shook his head. “Erik, no- you don’t need to go out today, I’ll be alright without the drugs”.
“Really?” Erik replied dryly. He reached over to Charles without really considering his actions, giving Charles’ ribs a quick poke and immediately wincing as Charles let out a cry of pain.
Charles let go of Erik’s arm as he doubled-over, stepping back a couple of places before starting to glare up at Erik, and his hurt expression only made Erik feel more like the monster he knew he was.
“Es tut mir leid…” Erik murmured, deciding to offer Charles an apology concealed in his own language, as if that would make any difference. Erik wasn’t in the habit of making amends, but it occurred to him that he’d probably said sorry to Charles more over the past few weeks than he had to anyone else at any point since his childhood.
“How are you feeling?” Erik asked, and Charles gave out a bitter laugh.
“I feel like I’ve been cut up yesterday and poked today, Erik”, he replied scathingly, pulling a face as another surge of pain rocked him before he stood up straight and squared his shoulders, like he was determined not to let Erik know he’d hurt him.
“Alright, alright… I should take a look at your wound- the dressing probably needs changing…” Erik offered, but Charles immediately backed away.
“Um, bugger off, Erik- you’re not getting anywhere near me”.
“Charles…” Erik sighed, “I said I’m sorry- just let me help you”.
“Maybe I don’t want your help”.
“Well I’m all you’ve got”, Erik said, but what he really meant was: ‘I’m yours’.
Several minutes later Charles was sat on the floor in front of the lit fire, leaning back against an armchair as Erik checked over his injured stomach. The first set of bandages that had been applied yesterday had been soaked somewhat with blood, so Erik removed them and cleaned Charles off before applying fresh ones. Erik was gentle this time- careful and considerate as he dressed Charles’ wound, and pausing every time Charles made a noise of discomfort. In time Erik was satisfied with his efforts, and he pulled Charles’ shirt back down to cover him before leaning away.
“Thank you”, Charles said quietly, and Erik hated him in that moment.
“Stop thanking me…” Erik scowled- feeling like the words were made to mock rather than praise him, but he knew from looking into Charles’ innocent blue eyes that the telepath was being nothing but sincere, as always.
“Um, sorry…” Charles replied, looking over at Erik questioningly, and Erik had to turn away before he confessed everything out of pure guilt.
For the next couple of hours Erik spent the morning with Charles as the two of them ‘enjoyed’ a breakfast of tinned beans, crackers, and tea. Erik watched the window constantly, just waiting for a sign that that weather had abated so he could leave, and eventually he was rewarded with a brightening in the sky.
Charles protested once more when Erik said he was leaving, but Erik’s will was relentless and clearly Charles knew that there was little point reasoning with him. And so, Erik spent the following few hours travelling to the warehouse to collect the medicine before expending additional time gathering twigs and branches to use for kindling.
When he returned Charles was waiting, and Erik despaired at how much it felt like coming home.
The rest of the day passed in moderate silence. Erik left the lighthouse a few other times in order to chop up wood and carry it back for the fire that Charles was keeping going- never exchanging more than brief pleasantries with the telepath each time he returned. When he could no longer excuse himself under the pretence of performing menial tasks Erik returned for the night, relaxing in armchair as Charles prepared food for the two of them. It was oddly domestic, and Erik probably would have enjoyed it were he not so obviously brooding over the past two days’ events.
After they’d eaten Erik remained sat in the armchair in front of the fire, feeling slightly exerted from chopping up firewood and lulled by the warmth of the stove and the food he’d just eaten. He was leaning back comfortably and gazing over at the window when he felt his eyelids begin to lower, slipping closed until Charles brought his attention back into focus.
“Can we please talk about this?”
Erik’s eyes snapped open as he turned his head to find Charles staring over at him from where he was sat in the other armchair.
“Talk about what?” he asked.
“About why you’re so pissed at me”.
“I’m not pissed, Charles- I’m tired…”
“Erik… When you’re angry you’re about as subtle as a brick, even without me using my telepathy on you”.
“Alright, if you’re so good at reading my mood- tell me what I’m mad about”.
Charles paused, looking over at Erik and chewing on his lower lip, before eventually he replied: “You’re either mad because I kissed you or because I stopped you from kissing me back”.
Well. Apparently Charles really could read Erik after all.
Of course, Erik couldn’t just come out and tell Charles that he’d guessed correctly, but the corners of his mouth drew up in a slight smirk and that was an answer in itself.
“Well, which is it then?” Charles asked.
Erik only raised his eyebrows in return, and Charles rolled his eyes and sighed.
“Alright fine, don’t help me… Given you seemed pretty into it I don’t think you’re mad about the kiss itself, more likely you’re pissed about what happened afterwards- though I’m not sure why…” Erik frowned and Charles continued: “Since the day I met you you’ve shown little interest in me- in fact to begin with you did everything you could to avoid me altogether. I know as time went on something changed and things kind of… thawed between us, but I never presumed that it went as far as genuine affection. But then you tried to protect me when that first sentinel attacked. You carried me here and made sure I was safe. You pressed yourself against me every night to keep me warm. You risked your life to save me and bring me back. It doesn’t make any sense to me, Erik, but I think you’re angry at me because I gave you something you’d wanted for a while and then took it away”.
Erik was quietly stunned- mind reeling and mouth opening in preparation for words that were faltering, but eventually he composed himself enough to speak.
“Why doesn’t that make any sense to you?”
Charles smiled sadly. “Because we’re two very different people, Erik, and there’s not much we agree on”.
“Not everyone can agree on everything all the time…”
“Yes, and usually people who disagree with each other don’t spend much time together, and they certainly don’t kiss”.
“I don’t know, Charles- some of my finest kisses have been with people I’ve been arguing with…” Erik replied with a smirk, and Charles looked like he was trying to fight his own smile in response.
“Well that’s very you, but not very me. I’m not sure our differences can be resolved with angry sex…” Immediately Charles’ eyes grew wide in realisation of what he’d said, and he blushed fiercely before adding: “Not that I’m suggesting anything like that”.
It was too late though- the idea was dancing through Erik’s mind, making his heart race and his cock twitch with anticipation, and the feeling of pleasurable tension was only exacerbated by the nervous look on Charles’ face as he avoided Erik’s eyes.
“That’s an interesting proposition, Charles…” Erik replied slowly, and Charles shook his head frantically before replying:
“I’m not proposing that… Bloody hell, I don’t even know why I said it”.
“Well, you must have been thinking about it…”
“No…” Charles replied, rather unconvincingly, and Erik smiled in response.
“Charles, please do me a favour- be honest with me. When you kissed me you said it was just a thank you- is that true?”
Charles shrugged. “It has to be…”
“Because I can’t stay with you”, Charles replied, finally meeting Erik’s eyes once more. “Don’t you understand, Erik? I need to get back to my sister, so I can’t allow anything to… complicate that, or make it harder for me to leave”.
“You’re worried you might want to stay with me?” Erik asked softly, and Charles shifted awkwardly in his seat in return.
“I don’t know, Erik… I can’t even entertain the idea of that. Raven is the most important person in my life and I can’t give up on her- which means I can’t allow you to keep me prisoner anymore”.
“Charles… You do realise I’m doing this for Raven, to keep you safe. I’m pretty sure if she were in my position she would do the exact same thing”.
Charles smiled fondly. “You’re probably right- you and Raven are oddly similar… But if that were the case I’d disobey her just the same as I did you”.
“You’re never going to give up, are you?” Erik said quietly as he experienced a moment of realisation. “You might be stuck here for now thanks to your injury, but the second you’re better you’re going to try again…”
Charles at least had the decency to look somewhat guilty. “Yes… I’m sorry, Erik- but it’s what I have to do. I can’t stay with you, so whatever interest I have in you is irrelevant in this instance”.
“So you are interested in me…?” Erik asked hopefully, and Charles smirked slightly in response.
“It came as a surprise to me too”.
Charles smile was infectious, and Erik felt his expression brighten in response- feeling light for the first time in years, like Charles’ revelation had lifted years of weight from his soul.
“So what does this mean for us?” Erik asked breathlessly, before feeling growing despair as Charles’ expression softened into one of sadness.
“Erik… It doesn’t mean anything. I meant what I said- I need to get back to Raven, so there’s little point in us… exploring whatever there is between us, right?”
“Not even a quick exploration…?”
Charles laughed, shaking his head at Erik. “No, darling”, he said, and even though the words were a refusal the endearment still made Erik’s heart swell.
The weather worsened as the day wore on, but being trapped inside the lighthouse was no longer unpleasant. In Charles’ presence Erik felt giddy, and consequently ridiculous... He’d never really allowed himself to engage in romance before, and although he’d had a few fleeting relationships in the past, he knew whatever he had with Charles was something else entirely. Never had Erik found merely sitting close to someone and talking to them so exciting, and every time Charles smiled at him or leaned over and touched his arm Erik felt his whole body tingle with anticipation. It probably didn’t help that Charles was being even more tactile than usual- Erik was sure of it.
There was still so much left unsaid, but Erik found that he no longer needed clarification- just the hint of the potential for something more was enough.
Considering Erik found himself in such good humour, he decided it was time to give Charles something he’d been keeping to himself for several days- something Charles would hopefully appreciate more than the tea Erik had found.
Since Charles and Erik had become stranded passing the time had been a bit of a challenge, and soon Erik had found himself trying to think of ways to keep them both amused. In the end he had decided to return to a fond pastime, and had used his mutation to create a chessboard and pieces- collecting scraps of metal each day and moulding them into shape whenever he could find a moment alone. Now the gift was complete, and Erik only hoped Charles would appreciate the gesture.
As it turned out, Charles was speechless when Erik presented the chess set- which was a rare occurrence for him. He’d been sat in front of the fire at the time, pouring hot water into cups as he prepared tea, but when he turned back around Erik was sat in front of him, using his powers to place the board on the ground.
“What’s this…?” Charles murmured eventually, glancing up at Erik.
“I was wondering if you fancied a game of strip-chess?” Erik replied, and immediately Charles started laughing- the reaction a hilarity mixed with pain as he held his injured stomach.
“Oh God, please don’t make me laugh…” Charles groaned. “Seriously, Erik- when did you do this?”
Erik shrugged, looking down and adjusting the chess pieces. “I started putting it together over the past week. I figured we could use something to do to keep ourselves amused besides bickering…”
“Very wise”, Charles smiled. “I don’t know how to thank you for this, Erik…”
Erik glanced back up to meet Charles’ eyes, and clearly Charles caught the thought that surged to the forefront of Erik’s mind.
“Erik, no… Remember what I said?”
“Yes…” Erik replied sullenly. “Alright fine, don’t worry about thanking me- let’s just play”.
For the rest of the evening it was just like old times. Charles and Erik sat on the floor either side of the chessboard exchanging moves, often with Charles staring hard at the board as Erik observed the artistry of Charles’ face- the way his brow would tense when he was thinking, the way he would chew on his lower lip…
“You’re supposed to be concentrating on the game, Erik…” Charles protested more than once, but each time Erik would turn his attention back to the board for perhaps a moment before getting hopelessly distracted once again.
Erik wanted his life to be this- the same thing every night for as long as possible, but a very real part of him knew it wasn’t a likely scenario. Charles would never stop wanting to return to his sister, and that meant that Erik’s only real hope of keeping Charles by his side might actually involve letting him go.
“If we did this, it would have to be on my terms…” Erik said sometime later.
Charles looked up from the chessboard, raising his eyebrows at Erik quizzically and waiting for further explanation that didn’t come.
“What are you talking about, Erik?”
“It’s very dangerous out there- probably more than you realise- so if we’re really going to try and travel to the hotel you would need to follow my instructions exactly”.
Charles leaned back where he sat, looking over at Erik with disbelief and a hint of excitement.
“Erik, are you saying what I think you are? Are you offering to take me back home?”
“Not yet, Charles- you’re not strong enough. But once your stomach has had time to heal then yes, I’ll help you get back to Raven”.
Charles looked somewhat overwhelmed as he stared back at Erik- a slight tremble just showing in his lower lip that broadcast his inner emotion, and Erik could tell he was trying to hold back.
“Thank you…” Charles replied softly, and Erik pulled a face at his choice of words.
“I don’t think I like that phrase anymore”.
“You liked it last night…”
“No, I just liked the kiss, and I wanted it to mean something more than ‘thank you’”.
“It did…” Charles whispered. Erik’s heart responded with a jubilant flip, and instantly he found hope to be less pointless than before.
Suddenly chess was the last thing Erik wanted to do. He used his powers to push the chessboard aside as he leaned towards Charles- placing both hands on Charles’ thighs to steady himself whilst he brought his face closer, mouth reaching for a kiss that sadly never came. Charles leaned back as Erik drew nearer, reaching a hand to gently grasp Erik’s wrist as he gazed over at him.
“Erik… We can’t”.
Erik dropped back to rest on his bended legs- hands still resting on Charles’ thighs to give himself support that he desperately needed considering he felt like he was falling.
“But… you said nothing could happen between us because I wouldn’t let you go, but now I am, so doesn’t that change things?”
“Only if I believe you…”
Erik frowned, withdrawing his hands from Charles at last and moving back to sit cross-legged once more. It was remarkable how hurt he felt by Charles’ implication, even though he knew Charles’ lack of faith could probably be understood.
“You think I’m lying to you?” Erik murmured.
“No… not necessarily. I think your intentions are good but that doesn’t mean you won’t change your mind as soon as I’m better and the idea becomes a reality”.
“You really think I would do that?”
“I don’t know, Erik…” Charles replied, shifting nervously and looking somewhat guilty.
“But you could”.
“You could know- for certain. You could read my mind”.
Charles pulled a face, looking over at Erik in disbelief.
“Erik, come on- you said you never wanted me to do that…”
“I know I did, but this is different. I want you to know that I’m serious about this”.
Clearly Charles understood the implications of what Erik was offering, as he drew in a ragged breath before whispering heatedly: “Are you sure?”
In response, Erik edged forward on the rug once more- fixing Charles with a certain gaze and trying to make sure his body language was relaxed and open. Erik hadn’t had much experience with telepaths before- at least not friendly ones- and he wasn’t sure of exactly what he supposed to do. All he knew was he’d spent months trying to keep Charles out, and now it was time to do the exact opposite.
Charles moved forward in return, hesitating for a moment before sliding one hand to hold Erik’s and using the other to touch his fingers to his own temple.
It was almost an involuntary response for Erik to close his eyes- to focus all of his attention on his inner mentality rather than the rest of the scene around him. At first he couldn’t feel anything- it was just him alone with his thoughts- but then there was a feeling of warmth and comfort, like a favourite cosy cardigan.
Erik smiled, registering Charles’ presence- the sensation something like spectral hands holding him steady. He felt rather than heard Charles ask “Is this okay?” and he sent back a clear “Yes”, giving Charles the permission he needed to explore further.
But unfortunately for Erik he quickly found himself rather more rocked by the experience than he had anticipated, and as soon as Charles began to look through his memories Erik reeled- mind leaping back to the first time he’d seen Charles when he’d been speaking on the news about the mutant/human conflict. The thoughts that had ran through Erik’s mind in that moment hadn’t been complimentary- a dozen different curses and insults in numerous languages, all of which expressed his extreme disappointment that the man whose work he’d admired had actually turned out to be a weak and soft-hearted pacifist.
Erik immediately sucked in a breath when the memory presented itself, berating himself for his earlier callousness, but then he had heard Charles chuckle- the laughter lighting up his mind from within.
“I’ve been called worse”, Charles projected, and Erik gave Charles’ hand an apologetic squeeze before drawing the telepath further in.
The experience was shaky, but profound. Charles coaxed Erik gently- using his skill to carefully support Erik as he navigated his own memories, until Erik began to gain control and he found himself able to lead Charles through his mind with ease.
Erik showed Charles the development of their involvement with each other- how admittedly he’d been irritated by Charles’ presence to begin with; constantly beleaguered by Charles’ incessant good humour and optimism, and hesitant to respond to Charles’ attempts to discuss their differences. He’d kept Charles safe because Raven required it- because she was important to Erik so by extension Charles was too- and he never imagined that anything more would come of the arrangement. But then Charles had worn on Erik- weeks of kindness and compassion pushing through Erik’s defences, breaking down years of necessary exclusion as Charles edged his way unknowingly into Erik’s heart. Then one day the reasoning for keeping Charles with him had changed, moving from a promise to Raven to an intense desire to protect Charles that went beyond obligation and became devotion.
The feeling was why Erik believed with absolute certainty that he would stay true to his word- that he would help Charles get back home to his sister. He only hoped Charles was able to read his intention clearly.
When Charles withdrew from the experience Erik was shaking- an intense trembling consuming his body as a result of being so close to Charles; a mental melding more thrilling than any physical encounter in Erik’s life so far. Erik opened his eyes to find Charles smiling at him, and he knew that Charles believed him.
“You never told me…” Charles murmured. “All those months and you never said how you felt- why not?”
“Because I wasn’t sure at first. Because I was in denial. Because every time I thought I might like you, you would usually do something annoying to change my mind”. Charles pulled an offended face, and Erik smiled in response. “Unfortunately for me you happen to be adorable even when you’re annoying…” he added.
“I’m not sure that’s entirely complimentary…” Charles replied, but he was smiling too.
“So…” Erik started, “Now that we have everything out in the open…” he trailed off, thumb rubbing gently across the back of Charles hand as he looked over at him, eyebrows raising in clear suggestion.
“Erik, you really think I’m that easy?” Charles responded with a slight pout.
“No… I think you’re really fucking difficult- but so worth it”.
“I’m not quite sure how to take that…”
“Take it however you’d like, just take me too”.
Charles didn’t though. After a bit of gentle persuasion Charles managed to steer Erik back to chess, and the remainder of the evening was spent engaged in the game, with a side of intense flirting…
When the time came to retire to bed Erik felt himself ready to burst with fevered excitement and anticipation. He’d slept next to Charles so many times now, but it seemed like for the first time there was promise, and Erik could only imagine where the night might lead.
Charles climbed into bed first- reclining back against the pillow and looking up at Erik for a moment before gesturing one hand forward. He was beautiful in that moment- soft and welcoming as he invited Erik into bed, and it was all Erik could do not to just throw himself on top of Charles and succumb to abject desire. He had to be gentle though- Charles was still injured after all- so Erik climbed onto the mattress carefully, lying down next to Charles and resting one hand tenderly on Charles’ stomach over his jumper.
“How are you feeling?” Erik asked softly.
“Fine. It mainly hurts when I move around, so as long as I stay still I should be alright”.
“Good”. Erik smiled and adjusted his hand- using it to reach up and gently push a lock of hair back from Charles’ forehead before tracing careful fingertips along the side of Charles’ face, until he used his thumb to brush across Charles’ lower lip. Charles turned into the touch, placing a chaste kiss to Erik’s thumbprint that Erik suspected was encouragement.
It was like the previous night, except this time it was Erik who advanced and his eyes were wide open. He moved closer on the pillow, focusing on Charles’ face and waiting for any sign of refusal as he approached, but there was none. Erik lifted his head from the pillow in the end, removing his thumb from Charles’ lips and replacing it with his mouth instead.
Even though all the signs were saying ‘yes’ Erik still feared rebuttal- he had become used to it by now. He pressed his lips against Charles’- firm but not moving, afraid of doing anything that might taint the moment, until he felt Charles soften- his lips parting in an invitation. Erik followed instruction willingly- sliding his tongue inside Charles’ mouth and leaning closer, until he heard Charles let out a contented sigh and Erik fell into him completely.
It was a similar experience to having Charles enter his mind- Erik was mesmerised and bewitched, held captive by a spell Charles cast with every part of himself. Erik held Charles close to deepen the kiss, before eventually succumbing to the moment altogether- rolling on top of Charles and taking him over. Charles moaned into Erik’s mouth- a sound that thrilled Erik entirely until he realised that it was a noise of pain rather than pleasure.
“Oh shit, your ribs…” Erik murmured, lifting off of Charles and looking down at him in concern.
“It’s alright...” Charles replied, though his face was tensed in discomfort. He exhaled as if breathing through a surge of pain, before steadying himself and looking up at Erik.
“Sorry, Liebling…” Erik said softly, leaning down to press a sincere kiss to Charles’ forehead. “Did I hurt you?” he asked.
Charles shrugged. “It was kind of worth it…” he replied with an eyebrow raise, before he reaching up to wrap his arms around Erik’s neck. “Perhaps we could take it slow?” he requested.
Erik almost laughed. Progress with Charles had been so slow sometimes he felt it like it could kill him, but in that moment- looking down into Charles’ beautiful blue eyes- he knew he would be willing to wait a lifetime.
Charles’ kisses were an art form.
Erik felt himself made real with every one- each kiss like a brushstroke against his lips, painting a picture of the two of them together that was now a reality. They came in different forms- soft kisses against Erik’s closed eyelids to wake him up each morning, grateful kisses against Erik’s cheek every time Erik brought home food and supplies, fevered kisses against Erik’s mouth as they held each other in bed at night. Erik loved each one equally, and only hoped his eager mouth was able to convey his appreciation in return.
They remained at the lighthouse for another week and a half whilst Charles’ injured stomach healed. Erik was still apprehensive about the idea of attempting to travel back to the hotel, but he’d made a promise to Charles that he was determined to keep so he knew that leaving was inevitable. Still, being at the lighthouse for that length of time provided Erik with some of the finest moments of his life, and he savoured each one completely.
The nights were a particular highlight. Charles would sleep with his back against the wall, facing Erik who would slide his arms around Charles’ body to keep him safe and warm. There would be goodnight kisses- always soft and chaste at first before turning frantic with increased heat and desire, until Erik would press himself against Charles completely- surrounding Charles with his intent and ardour. They still had to be careful of course- Erik didn’t want to do anything to exacerbate Charles’ injury further- so at first Erik tried to hold back, even though desire surged through his bloodstream like fire. The first couple of nights Erik managed to control his lust- holding Charles strictly above the waist as they kissed- but eventually his need for Charles took over, and his hands began to wander…
Charles was wearing more layers that Erik would have liked- a necessity, given the cold weather- though the increased closeness between them had meant that they’d each begun to wear less to bed than usual, and on this occasion Charles was covered by his underwear, two pairs of sweatpants, a t-shirt, a jumper, and three pairs of socks. Fashion and style weren’t really possible during a war, though Erik had tried to begin with, but in the end he and Charles had both resorted to gathering up whatever clothing they could find and piling it on in an attempt to keep warm.
Erik’s arms were wrapped around Charles as they kissed- one hand holding Charles on the waist as his thumb traced across Charles’ skin; Erik smiling into the kiss as he heard Charles moan softly in response. The sound was intoxicating, and Erik wondered just what other noises he might be able to elicit from Charles should he put his mind to it…
The approach was tentative. Erik slid his hand down to Charles’ crotch- palm ghosting over the outline of Charles’ hard cock and eventually grasping firmly, causing Charles to hitch his breath and Erik to withdraw slightly to check his advances were acceptable.
“Alright?” Erik murmured, continuing to slide his hand in controlled motions along Charles’ covered shaft as he watched Charles’ face. Charles opened his eyes in response- his expression soft and oddly shy- but he smiled at Erik and nodded once. Erik was happy enough with that, and he leaned close to kiss Charles as he continued with his motions, but then he felt Charles’ hand move to grasp his wrist- directing Erik’s hand beneath his clothing and into the warmth underneath.
Erik was drawn to Charles’ cock instantly- sliding his hand around the length and beginning to stroke firmly- hot with desire as he heard Charles groan in response. It wasn’t exactly the most efficient handjob Erik had given in his life- his movements were restricted by Charles’ clothing and the closeness of their bodies pressed together- but regardless it seemed to be working, given the way Charles was moaning and grasping Erik’s arm in return.
“Um, Erik… I… Ah! I haven’t done this in a while so-- Oh fuck… I’m probably not going to last much--” Charles trailed off, vocalisations becoming nothing more than frantic moans as he turned his face further into the pillow- eyes shut tight and mouth falling open; a sight that Erik found completely exhilarating.
“It’s alright, Liebling…” Erik murmured, placing kisses against Charles’ forehead as Charles trembled beside him. “Just relax, and let me make you feel good…”
Charles gave out a slight whimper in response, turning his face towards Erik until they met in a kiss. There was further moaning from Charles against Erik’s mouth, until Erik gave Charles’ shaft a final few strokes and he felt Charles’ hot come spill over his hand, and the moans became gasps of relief.
Although Charles had experienced release Erik was still tightly coiled with arousal- more so than ever after seeing Charles so gloriously undone- but he made no move to expend his own desire. Just knowing that he’d satisfied Charles was enough, and Erik was content to just sleep with Charles in his arms that night and ignore his aching cock.
Fortunately for Erik though, he didn’t have to wait long before Charles returned the favour… The following day Erik spent the morning gathering provisions and chopping firewood, before returning to spend the rest of the evening with Charles as they ate before settling down for a game of chess. Well, that was the intention, but as it happened Erik ended up reclined in an armchair with Charles in his lap, using his powers to move the chess pieces across the board for each of their turns. It was hard to concentrate though when Charles was so close, and Erik was sure Charles was trying to distract him from the game by the way Charles kept kissing his neck each time it was his turn.
Erik was just setting himself up for victory- moving a chess piece to a prime position when suddenly he felt Charles’ hand slide over his crotch, causing him to completely blow his move and push his piece to the wrong square.
He glanced over at Charles in annoyance when it happened, at least the expression was intended as that but it was quickly softened by rising desire.
“Really, Charles? You just can’t stand losing, can you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about…” Charles murmured, turning his face into the line of Erik’s collarbone and beginning to nuzzle the area. Erik was about to respond, but then Charles began to drawn his hand more firmly over the outline of Erik’s cock and all objections were shelved.
“Is this okay?” Charles whispered, just beginning to fiddle with the buttons of Erik’s jeans, and in response Erik used his powers to pop his trousers open in one quick burst.
“My God, Erik…” Charles laughed. “I knew you were hot for me, but I didn’t expect you to break through your trousers”. He smiled at Erik widely, before leaning close for a kiss and sliding his hand inside the jeans to withdraw Erik’s cock.
Charles tilted his head down, resting his forehead against Erik’s and letting out a quiet gasp.
“What is it, Charles?”
Erik looked down to follow Charles’ gaze, seeing Charles’ delicate hand wrapped around his cock somewhat dwarfed by its stature, and it was all Erik could do not to thrust up into Charles’ grip just to gain friction.
“Charles, if you’re uncomfortable with this we don’t have to…” Erik started, but then Charles covered Erik’s words with a kiss and began to stroke Erik’s shaft.
Much like Charles the night before, Erik quickly realised that he was unlikely to last given he hadn’t experienced climax in weeks- particularly as Charles began to kiss along Erik’s neck as he moved his wrist, causing Erik to unravel quickly. Erik’s arm was wrapped around Charles’ waist, fingers pressing into Charles’ hip as waves of pleasure rocked through him- making him dazed and breathless and unable to do little more than moan deeply; until the sensation reached fever-pitch and he came at last; a release long awaited.
There were more moments of closeness in the days that followed. It was understandable really- there was very little to do in the wilderness, particularly as Charles was unable to leave the lighthouse, and the need for shared body-heat was ever present. Erik had never been so keen to finish his ‘chores’- rising with the dawn to venture out in search of supplies and to collect firewood, before rushing home to reunite with Charles.
Charles needed lots of rest in order for his injury to heal, at least that was Erik’s favourite excuse for insisting Charles retire to bed early each night… He would always join him of course- pulling Charles into his arms and burying his face in Charles’ neck- placing sincere kisses to Charles’ skin whilst trailing fingers up and down his back. Erik often kept his eyes tightly shut in those moments- trying desperately to commit to memory every aspect of the embrace; a recollection to sustain him should he ever lose the man he loved. It wasn’t that he was questioning Charles’ loyalty at that particular moment, rather that he feared what would happen to them both when they began the perilous journey back home.
And so, Erik would hold Charles- arms wrapped tight around his beloved and mind wandering, thinking often of his parents- particularly his mother- and how the last time he’d felt this content had been with her, before she’d been killed with a count of Eins… Zwei… Drei…
“Um, Erik… Are you alright?” Charles murmured.
Erik opened his eyes, returning to the reality of the room- dim though it was in the fading light of day. He withdrew his face from Charles’ neck and softened his grip where he had been holding Charles painfully close, withdrawing to rest his head against the pillow and looking over at Charles who was regarding him curiously.
“You were counting…” Charles continued, reaching up to gently push Erik’s hair back from his forehead as Erik turned into the touch. “You’ve done that before- what are you counting down to?”
Annihilation. Rejection. Isolation. Devastation. Erik dropped his gaze, thinking of all the possibilities that might befall him; all of the ways his life could be twisted and broken and shattered into a million pieces- like the fragments of a bullet, tearing through everything he cared about. His eyes focused on Charles’ lips- a mouth warm and welcoming, currently formed in an expression of concern.
“Erik…” Charles whispered, tracing his fingers through Erik’s hair like he was trying to soothe him. “Talk to me…”
“What happened to your parents?” Erik asked softly. He continued to focus on Charles’ mouth, watching it open slightly in surprise, before he began to speak:
“Well... My father died when I was very young- an accident in his lab. My mother died when I was in my teens- that one was rather less accidental…”
“Do you miss them?”
“Would you think me a terrible person if I said no?”
Erik tilted his gaze to look up at Charles, finding him wearing a sad and slightly guilty expression. “Were they not very nice people?” Erik asked softly.
Charles shrugged. “My father was, but I don’t remember him that well. My mother was distant- rather more interested in her second husband and her alcoholism than me, and happy to assume that drowning me in wealth was a worthy substitute for her misplaced affections. It’s a mercy I had Raven with me for the later part of my childhood, otherwise I could have grown up to be a terribly entitled little shit…”
Charles flashed Erik a quick grin, and Erik found himself smiling a little in response before the expression faded.
“You loved your parents”, Charles said, continuing to stoke Erik’s hair. It wasn’t really phrased as a question, but Erik answered anyway.
“Ja… Yes. They were very important to me”.
“Did they die in the camps?”
Erik nodded. “My mother was shot and killed in front of me- murdered by Shaw in just the first of his attempts to twist and corrupt me into his very own Frankenstein’s monster. My father died much later- just another victim of the Nazi regime. They made me pull the gold fillings from his teeth after he died; one of my many responsibilities as part of the Sonderkommando. I added them to the Nazi’s collection- a room stacked high with suitcases, personal effects, clothing, and human hair…”
Erik spoke like he was simply reading items from a list, with no perceivable emotion attached. He knew he sounded just like the others who’d escaped from the camps- impassive and unmoved, because every insanity was merely part of their reality- a daily horror, made tame by repetition.
Charles was rather more moved in return. Erik’s vision came back into focus at the sound of a whimper- looking over to find Charles wiping a single tear from his face.
“Don’t cry, Liebling…” Erik murmured, leaning close to press a kiss to Charles’ cheek, finding the skin damp against his lips. Charles wrapped his arm around Erik’s neck, pulling Erik into his body and, Erik could tell, into his mind too. It was a curious sensation- a feeling of warmth and protection dropping over Erik’s senses, blocking out everything else until there was just himself and Charles alone in the universe.
“I love you…”
Erik wasn’t sure if he'd said the words out loud or just thought them, all he knew was that immediately after the declaration he was terrified. Erik didn’t succumb to fear often- fear meant you had something to lose- but on that occasion he found himself overcome by the emotion; body wrecked and mind reeling as he tried to come to terms with what he’d disclosed.
Erik was sure he was shaking, but then he realised it wasn’t just him physically it was the bed they were lying in too- the metal frame rattling underneath them as Erik lost control in a way he hadn’t since the immediate moments after his mother had died. Exhaustion had tempered him then, and grief, but this time it was a touch- the feeling of Charles’ fingers in his hair and Charles’ lips against his ear.
“Sssshhh, darling- it’s okay…” Charles whispered, and slowly, slowly, Erik felt his control come back into focus.
When he opened his eyes, Charles was there. Charles held Erik like he was a weapon made of glass- rigid and dangerous and beautiful, and capable of fracturing into a million pieces if handled incorrectly.
“I’m sorry…” Erik murmured, unsure if he was apologising for the lack of discipline shown by his mutation or his heart. Regardless, Charles’ response was the same- he continued to hold Erik in place, until the tremors running through him began to abate. When the bed had ceased shaking Charles withdrew, lifting his hand up to his face and rotating his wrist uncomfortably.
“I think you warped the metal…” Charles frowned, looking at the bracelet that encircled his wrist- a symbol of Erik’s earlier mistrust held up like an accusation, whether Charles meant it that way or not. Erik slid his hand to hold Charles’ arm, thumb tracing over the area of the cuff that contained a dose of suppressant that could stunt Charles’ telepathy in an instant, and suddenly hating himself for holding such a threat over Charles for all these months.
Erik didn’t say anything, he simply gestured with his fingers and the bracelet came away from Charles’ wrist- leaving Charles softly stunned in response.
“Why did yo--” Charles started, but his words were halted by Erik pressing his lips to Charles’ mouth in earnest. Erik didn’t think it was possible to be more frightened than he’d been moments earlier, but the decision to relinquish the control he had over Charles made him more scared than he’d ever been.
When Erik awoke the next morning, his panic increased. He was so used to reaching out with his ability even before he’d opened his eyes- searching for Charles from a place of barely-sentient thought, and always finding himself soothed once he’d located the metal bracelet Charles was wearing. This time, however, he found the bracelet in the form of two discarded pieces on the floor- broken, like Erik felt.
All frantic realisations ran through Erik’s mind in merely a few seconds as he kept his eyes tightly shut, afraid to open them to face his new reality, but then he sensed movement next to him, and the familiar press of warm lips to his closed eyelids.
Erik opened his eyes, the sense of dread fading as Charles’ face came into focus.
“Good morning, Erik”, Charles smiled softly.
“You’re still here…”
Charles pulled a confused face. “Why wouldn’t I be here? I haven’t left the lighthouse in over a week now”. Charles’ gaze dropped down, glancing at his wrist which Erik was holding- fingers tracing the area where the cuff had been placed in absent thought- and suddenly Charles seemed to understand.
“Erik… You really thought I was just staying with you because I was afraid you might drug me?” Erik didn’t respond, but he stopped holding Charles’ wrist- instead drawing his arms close to his chest defensively. Charles watched Erik for a moment, before shaking his head and leaning close- beginning to place tender kisses to the side of Erik’s face.
“You’re an idiot…” Charles whispered, a somewhat stinging remark softened by the kisses from Charles’ lips. “If you really thought that then why would you choose to take the bracelet off now?”
“Because I want you to be happy…”
Charles withdrew, smiling down at Erik fondly.
“I am”, he replied.
Although initially reassured by Charles’ words, Erik still found himself teetering on the edge of uncertainty for the rest of the day. He left early to conduct his usual duties, only for once he didn’t rush back. A very real part of him worried that he would return home to find the illusion shattered and Charles gone; just another cruel trick at Erik’s expense. Nothing good ever lasted, after all.
But, when Erik returned to the lighthouse and stepped through the front door he was immediately reassured by the sight of Charles coming down the spiral staircase into the main room. Erik placed the provisions he’d gathered on the ground as Charles crossed the floor and immediately reached up to press a quick kiss to Erik’s cheek.
“Hi”, Charles smiled, leaning against Erik’s chest. “My hands are cold; can I warm them in your pants?”
Immediately Erik laughed, wrapping his arms around Charles and giving him a quick squeeze.
“Charles, that’s terrible…” he grinned. Erik reached his hands to cup Charles’ face, before flinching slightly as he registered the coldness of Charles’ skin.
“Why are you so cold?” Erik frowned, pressing the palms of his hands to Charles’ pink cheeks.
“I was up in the lantern room, watching out for you. You’re normally back a bit earlier in the day, so I was worried that something might have happened to you…”
Erik’s mouth parted in recognition of Charles’ words, before he pulled Charles closer and leaned down to kiss him.
“Sorry…” Erik murmured against Charles’ lips. There were a few more sincere kisses before Erik withdrew, gazing down at Charles fondly.
“What’s for dinner?”
Erik smiled. “Sounds perfect”, he replied.
As had quickly become routine, Charles and Erik retired to bed early that night.
Prior to heading upstairs Erik took the time to check over and redress Charles’ injury- having Charles lie down on the rug in front of the fire whilst he tended to the wound. It appeared to be healing fine, with no signs of infection, and Erik was both relieved and troubled by the realisation. He wanted Charles to be well, but he knew that Charles healing might ultimately lead him towards further danger.
“It will be okay, Erik…” Charles murmured, stroking his fingers through Erik’s hair. Erik looked up from where he sat kneeling over Charles, realising that he’d completely lost himself in thought after he’d finished dressing Charles’ wound- staring into space with his hands resting on Charles’ stomach.
“Were you reading my mind?” Erik asked warily, curious but knowing that he wouldn’t mind whatever answer Charles’ gave.
Charles smiled. “The longer I spend with you the easier it is to perceive your mood- even without specifically listening to your thoughts. I know you’re worried about me- about us- but I just want you to know how much I appreciate you offering to take me home. I know we can make it back safely”.
There were so many things Erik could have said in that moment to counteract Charles’ words- so many worries and fears and concerns he could have shared, but he knew it wouldn’t be fair. Charles had hope- despite everything, despite the state of the world around them both. It was one of the things Erik loved most about him.
Erik leaned over Charles, pressing their mouths together in a kiss that started off tender and quickly became impassioned. Despite his ardour Erik was trying to practice restraint, leaning against Charles as they kissed but stopping short of fully pressing himself into Charles’ body- at least that was the intention, held firm until Charles began to nibble on Erik’s earlobe and Erik found himself overcome with enjoyment. He lowered himself onto Charles’ body with a groan, consumed by a need to press his crotch against Charles’, causing Charles to let out a small squeak of surprise and discomfort in response.
“Sorry…” Erik murmured seconds afterwards, lifting himself up and looking down at Charles in concern, seeing Charles’ face tensed with pain as he placed one hand over his injured ribs.
“It’s okay. I should have known by now that doing that would render you incapacitated”, Charles replied with a slight smile. Erik leaned close once more, mumbling more apologies against Charles’ lips as he recommenced their embrace- being careful this time not to lose control.
It was difficult though. For over a week now Erik had been able to get close to Charles, like he wanted, but not entirely in the way he desired. Most nights had ended with mutual handjobs which were nice, undoubtedly, but Erik still wanted more. He’d tried on a couple of occasions to take things further- desperate to convey his appreciation of Charles with his mouth as well as his hands- but Charles always refused, saying he didn’t feel comfortable with that given their current situation. Erik understood his reasoning- since they’d found themselves stranded neither Erik nor Charles had been able to wash to an acceptable standard, considering things like survival were rather more paramount, so such acts probably wouldn’t be the best idea.
Still, Erik couldn’t stop thinking about it- about all the different things they could be doing- and never more so than in a situation like this, when he was lucky enough to have Charles under him; soft and warm and just basically everything Erik wanted and more.
“I really want to fuck you…”
Immediately after he’d spoken Erik caught himself, realising too late that he’d said the words out loud rather than just in his head, though it was probable Charles would have picked them up regardless. Erik paused where he lay leaning over Charles, face pressed into the crook of Charles’ neck and eyes closed as he just waited tentatively for a response. Charles had never expressed any interest in them sleeping together and Erik wondered if it was because Charles didn’t want to, so he was preparing himself for rebuttal, but what he actually received was laughter.
Erik withdrew as he felt the growing vibrations of Charles’ body rock through him- looking down at Charles in bewilderment.
“Oh darling, I think our chances of finding lube in a post-apocalyptic world are relatively slim…” Charles smiled, reaching one hand up to gently cup Erik’s face. “And given what you’re packing I’m thinking the alternative would undoubtedly make my eyes water”.
“So… You would want to then, if we could?”
“I can think of nothing else I’d like more… Other than perhaps a hot shower”.
Erik smiled. “You know, when we get back to the hotel you can have both…”
“All the more reason to return, then. However, in the meantime there may be something else we can do…”
“What’s that?” Erik replied quizzically.
Charles flashed Erik a slightly mischievous grin, running his hands up and down Erik’s arms as he looked up at him.
“I have an idea…”
Thirty minutes later they were in bed, though in a manner Erik was unaccustomed to.
They had both stripped under the covers- hands sliding over each other’s bodies eagerly as they discarded clothing, until they lay side by side with their naked forms pressed together. Erik tried not to tense as Charles ran his fingers over the scars amassed on Erik’s chest, but he couldn’t deny that the situation made him a little uncomfortable, even if it was getting easier all the time.
Fortunately though, the fact that Charles was naked too provided a welcome distraction. Erik was delirious, holding onto Charles as they kissed- torn between wanting to stay as close to Charles as possible and wanting to withdraw from him so he could cast his eyes over Charles’ body- deciding in the end to just let Charles take the lead. It was cold in the room so they were both snuggled under several blankets, but Erik felt hotter than ever- completely besotted by the man in his arms and desperate to express his love physically, though at the same time patient and willing to wait.
When it seemed like things were nearing fever-pitch Charles pulled back, sitting upright and directing Erik to do the same- moving Erik until he was sat with his back leaning against the wall and his legs resting over the side of the bed. Erik initially flinched when his skin first touched the cold brick wall, until Charles wrapped some of the blankets around Erik’s back as he climbed onto his lap- settling down over Erik’s thighs as Erik wrapped his arms around Charles’ waist in return.
“Comfy?” Charles asked, smiling fondly. Erik didn’t know how Charles could be so calm when he found himself practically breathless in return, but then again Charles had always had a tendency to knock the wind out of Erik- seemingly completely unaware of the power he possessed. It was a naivety that Erik had once regarded with irritation but had now come to revere, which was perhaps an indication of how much Erik knew he had been changed by Charles’ presence in his life.
When Erik didn’t respond Charles laughed softly, sliding his arms around Erik’s neck as he edged slightly closer. An impish grin played across Charles’ face as he positioned himself so that his cock was resting against Erik’s; a deliberate advancement that caused Erik to grasp Charles’ waist firmly and let out a shaky breath of anticipation. Like always, Charles used his kisses to dictate the mood- leaning forward to brush his lips against Erik’s in soft motions, gradually causing Erik to untense his grip.
The kissing continued until Erik finally began to relax, holding onto Charles sincerely and just beginning to moan quietly as Charles rocked forward in tentative motions.
Erik was humming contentedly against Charles’ lips, but the noise made Charles stop rather than move faster as Erik had anticipated.
“What…?” Erik started, looking at Charles, pupils blown wide with naked need.
Charles pressed a finger to Erik’s lips to quieten him. “We’re going to do something a little different, darling…” Charles said. “I’ve not done this before, so it’s important that you tell me if I do anything to make you uncomfortable, okay?”
“Alright…” Erik replied cautiously, watching as Charles shifted slightly closer once more- stroking both hands through Erik’s hair in soothing motions until eventually he rested two fingers from each hand against Erik’s temple and closed his eyes.
Erik watched Charles’ face curiously, captivated by the beauty of Charles’ expression and excited at the thought of what was going to happen, even though he had no idea what Charles was doing of course, at least not to begin with.
One second Erik was in the lighthouse with Charles, the next he was back in the hotel. It was a strange feeling- Erik’s vision swam and blurred as the room slowly slipped out of focus, feeling dizzy and uncertain until his perception refocused and became the familiar sight of his bedroom. Erik startled as he looked around him before holding an arm up to his face for inspection, gripping it with his other hand and feeling his skin respond to the pressure. It was like being in a dream- a very vivid and tangible dream which Erik could control at will.
“It’s good, isn’t it?”
Erik turned in his dream state, spinning around to find Charles standing in front of him- looking clean and gorgeous in his customary stuffy attire that Erik had grown to adore.
“Where are we?” Erik asked.
“In your mind. I used your memories of the hotel to recreate this space- how you look, how I look- it’s all from your thoughts, though I think you may have been a bit generous in your assessment of me- I’m not sure my eyes are quite this blue…”
“They are…” Erik replied fondly. “So… what do we do now?”
“Whatever you’d like, Erik”.
Erik fixed Charles with a wicked grin.
It was simple to move in the mental space Charles had created- Erik simply had to think something, and Charles made it so. He wanted Charles near to him and Charles was there- lying under Erik on the bed as Erik kissed him passionately, mouth trailing down the side of Charles’ neck as he pulled at Charles’ cardigan in an attempt to expose more flesh. He wanted Charles’ clothing removed and it was- and Erik opened his eyes to regard the captivating sight of Charles completely naked laid out beneath him.
“Too much?” Charles asked as Erik’s eyes trailed fastidiously over Charles’ exposed form.
Erik shook his head.
“May I?” Charles requested, using one finger to pull gently at the collar of Erik’s shirt. Erik nodded, and then in a second he was naked too.
Charles chuckled softly. “You’re being far too modest you know…” he said, one eyebrow raised as his eyes trailed down to Erik’s member. Erik grinned widely in response, before leaning close to capture Charles’ mouth in a kiss.
Erik had spent so long imagining exactly this, it was almost like watching an old favourite movie- with the added enhancement that Erik could sense and feel absolutely everything with crystal clarity. He held Charles close- no longer concerned with exacerbating Charles’ injury given it didn’t exist in this space- bathed in the feeling of the man he loved; the presence comforting rather than suffocating. Erik could feel his own arousal like a force- intense and desperate and all around them both rather than just centralised to his hard cock, and he was sure he could feel Charles’ desire too- mingling with his own and making the tension between them hungry and palpable.
“I really want to fuck you…” Erik murmured for the second time that night, but this time his request wasn’t refused.
“Come on then, I’m ready”, Charles replied, nipping at Erik’s bottom lip before leaning back against the pillows and looking up at him in expectation. Erik glanced down as Charles spread his legs wider, angling himself into position as Erik gripped the base of his cock and guided it towards Charles’ entrance.
Even though everything between them had already been a far greater experience than Erik could have imagined, he still didn’t think that the actual act would come even close to the real thing, but it was a very, very good imitation. Erik trembled at the feeling of his cock sliding inside Charles’ body; breathless with what the sensation did to his mind. Charles was beautiful underneath him- everything Erik had fantasied about and more, his presence keeping Erik grounded even as Erik lost focus- his vision becoming little more than just shapes and colours mixed with the occasional image- lips, eyes, skin, hands… Erik groaned loudly- the sound running though him and vibrating across their private space, until his pleasure reached culmination and Erik felt himself experience the heady release of climax.
Erik gradually came back to his senses in the lighthouse- feeling Charles’ hold on his mind abate as they both returned to full consciousness. They were both breathing hard- Charles resting against Erik’s chest, limp and pliable in Erik’s arms- clearly exerted by his efforts.
“You’re amazing…” Erik murmured, just beginning to register the influence Charles’ ability had actually had on them both- feeling hot come cooling on his stomach, expended by the both of them.
There was an unintelligible noise from Charles in response and Erik smiled, wrapping his arms around Charles more firmly and pressing a fond kiss to Charles’ forehead.
“I love you…” Erik sent at Charles with his mind, but there was no indication that the message was received.
On the day that Charles and Erik were due to leave the lighthouse, Erik was worried.
Charles’ injury had healed considerably, that was for sure, but that didn’t make Erik feel any better about the hardships that lay ahead of them. But it wasn’t just the danger they were due to face- Erik knew that now- it was also the uncertainty of what life would be like when they returned to the hotel.
Other than Raven and Azazel, no one knew of Charles’ existence and the fact that he’d been living with Erik for months, and when the rest of the Brotherhood did find out Erik knew it was unlikely that they would react favourably. The professor was bitterly regarded amongst the Brotherhood, often considered even worse than the humans themselves due to his tendency to sympathise and assist them even though he was a mutant, and such animosity could ultimately place Charles’ life at risk. Not only that, but Erik’s deception was unlikely to be well-received, and Erik knew that there was a very real chance that when he returned home he would have to make a choice between leadership of the Brotherhood and his love for Charles.
“It will be fine, Erik…” Charles said for perhaps the tenth time that morning. Erik only scowled slightly in response, sliding the zipper of Charles’ jacket up so that the collar was formed securely around his chin. Charles was actually wearing about five layers at Erik’s insistence, resulting in him resembling an overstuffed doll- with just his face visible peeking out from underneath his hood.
“Erik, I’m not going to be able to walk wearing all this…” Charles protested, but Erik merely shushed him before grasping the front of Charles’ coat and pulling him nearer.
“Stay close to me, okay?” Erik requested, and Charles nodded in return.
“Erik, it will be fi--” Charles started, but his words were muffled by Erik pressing their mouths firmly together. Erik held onto Charles ardently, and tried not to worry that this kiss might be one of their last.
Over the next few weeks, Charles and Erik embarked on their perilous journey back home. The landscape around them was harsh and unforgiving, but both of them were determined- Charles to return to his sister and Erik to keep Charles safe.
Days were spent wandering across the frozen wilderness- Charles usually leading the way whilst Erik followed close behind, using his powers to propel a metal cart he’d fashioned across the snow beside him, inside of which were numerous supplies and blankets and items of clothing that they’d gathered. It was freezing even on the warmest days, and both men could only rely on the heat created by their bodies as they walked for warmth, along with their layers of clothing.
They explored the terrain as they travelled- looking for useful items in the sparse surroundings, searching through abandoned buildings and vehicles; the remnants of a world laid to waste by years of war. Every suitable artefact was added to the cart as they travelled, but what Charles and Erik needed most of all was somewhere to keep warm at night.
It was the thing that concerned Erik most when they’d set out on their journey- what if they couldn’t find shelter each night as the temperature plummeted around them? Without somewhere to rest and stay warm they risked exhaustion, illness, and even death.
Fortunately, most nights were met with success, and Charles and Erik bedded down for the night in one empty building or another- lighting a fire to warm up the space and huddling together under blankets in order to share body heat. But there was one particularly bad day when there appeared to be no buildings around for miles, and Charles and Erik were forced to spend the night in an abandoned car instead. At first things didn’t seem too bad- Charles’ remarkable ability enabled him to influence Erik’s mind, making Erik believe that he was somewhere safe and warm. It really worked- something Erik would have thought impossible, and Charles simply smiled and insisted it was evidence that the mind was the most powerful muscle in the body. Erik didn’t know then of course that Charles’ smile was essentially a front for his own suffering- not until Erik awoke to find that he could feel the cold again, and to the sight of Charles shivering next to him- his skin pale and his lips practically blue.
Erik immediately pulled Charles closer, rubbing his hands frantically along Charles’ arms in an attempt to warm him up and despairing slightly when he realised that how shallow Charles’ breathing was. It was just like Charles to do this- to put himself at risk to help someone else and to try to hide his own hardship in return, and Erik made a mental note to give Charles a very severe telling-off, just as soon as Charles was better.
It alarmed Erik how much he feared for Charles’ health that night, but fortunately he pulled through, and Erik decided to shelve his criticisms of Charles for another day.
After that particular incident Erik made sure that he and Charles never had to essentially sleep rough again, even if some times that meant they had to keep walking deep into the night. It wasn’t always easy, but with every day that passed Erik knew that they were at least getting closer to home, and he knew how much that meant to Charles. He tried to ignore the steadily rising apprehension he felt- a complete contrast to Charles’ excitement about getting back- and he wondered if Charles even knew what they were both risking to return.
Ultimately, Erik hoped that returning to the hotel wouldn’t change or diminish whatever had developed between them, even if Erik wasn’t quite sure what that was.
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest…” Charles muttered. “Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye…”
The words were in the wind, leaving Charles’ mouth and finding their way to Erik’s ears on gusts of cold air. Erik smiled as he heard them. Only Charles would be thinking about all the books he was going to read when he got home, rather than what food to eat or what alcohol to drink.
“The Karma Sutra!” Erik shouted, before immediately letting out a large laugh as Charles gave him the finger without turning around.
There was another sound from nearby, but Erik didn’t find it comforting like he did Charles’ voice. It sounded like a wild animal of some sort, something that usually concerned Erik but never Charles. Thanks to his telepathic ability Charles could subdue any animal that might want to harm them, and of course Erik could take care of the sentinels. Between them they essentially had all dangers covered, except for the cold…
A small structure caught Erik’s eye off to the side of him, and he hurried forward a few steps to grasp Charles firmly on the arm so he could steer him in the direction of the building. Charles followed willingly, sliding his arm through Erik’s as they began to walk over to what appeared to be a cabin- small but mercifully intact. When they arrived Erik gave a quick flick of his wrist to unlock the front door- urging Charles to enter with a gentle shove whilst he moved to walk the perimeter of the building to check it was secure. When he reached the rear of the property Erik noticed something very interesting- kneeling down to inspect the item and abruptly breaking into a wide grin, before practically running back round to follow Charles into the cabin.
He found Charles in the bathroom, holding what appeared to be a can of shaving cream in his hand with a forlorn expression on his face… Immediately Erik’s smile faded as he watched Charles, wondering what could be bothering him.
“Liebling, what’s wrong?” Erik asked softly, stepping into the room to join Charles.
Charles glanced at Erik for a moment before shaking his head and placing the can back in the cabinet over the sink.
“Oh, nothing…” Charles mumbled, letting out a low sigh. Erik continued to watch Charles carefully, before moving closer and reaching to grasp Charles gently on the shoulder.
“Charles…” Erik murmured, trying to coax him into speaking.
“It’s stupid…” Charles started. “But I’d hoped we’d find a razor in one of these cabins. I know this isn’t exactly the most important thing right now, but I just thought that being clean-shaven might enable me to feel a bit more civilised once again. I saw the shaving foam and I just thought…” Charles trailed off, and Erik leaned closer- resting his chin on Charles’ shoulder and watching his face in the mirror of the cabinet.
“I could make you a razor, if you want…” Erik offered.
Charles smiled. “Yes, I thought you might be able to- but I didn’t want to bother you with such a ridiculous request, plus I’m not sure how good I’d be at shaving without a proper razor. I’d probably end up slicing my nose off”.
“Well… I could do it for you, if you like. I’m very well-rehearsed at shaving using, shall we say, custom razors”.
“Really?” Charles asked brightly.
Erik nodded. “Yes, if you want”.
“Alright… Although we’ll have to boil a pot or something first- I don’t fancy you using freezing cold water on me”.
Erik withdrew from Charles, grinning widely as Charles turned to face him with a bewildered expression on his face.
“I have some good news on that front… This cabin is hooked up to a generator. I’m pretty sure I can get it working, which means hot running water for the first time in, God I hate to think how long…”
“Seriously??” Charles asked, his smile widening in an expression of pure joy. Erik continued to grin back in response, stepping forward and sliding his arms around Charles’ waist.
“Oh God, Erik- I could have a bath. I could be clean again!”
Erik laughed. “Yes, you could. And the generator’s power should also make cooking a bit easier. We might actually be able to have a decent meal for once”.
“Amazing”, Charles grinned. “And it gets better…” He turned around at that, reaching behind him into the bathroom cabinet and retrieving a small tube that he waved in Erik’s face.
“Toothpaste!” Charles exclaimed. “I can clean my teeth too. I’m sure it’ll make kissing me more enjoyable”.
“I don’t think kissing you could be any more enjoyable…” Erik murmured, leaning close to press his lips to Charles’ mouth to confirm the fact.
They debated for a while which need to prioritise, before eventually deciding on getting clean first and eating second. Erik set up the generator and ran the bath whilst Charles lit the fires in both the living room and bedroom, returning in time just as Erik was turning off the taps.
“Your bath is ready…” Erik started, standing up from where he was kneeling over the tub and watching Charles carefully. “You can go first and then I’ll--”
“No”, Charles interrupted, shaking his head. “Come on, Erik- it would be, um, bad for the environment for us to waste water by running two baths”.
Erik smiled wryly. “Charles, I think the environment was pretty much obliterated when nuclear war happened”, he replied, and Charles smirked in return.
“Okay, you’re probably right… But still- take a bath with me?”
Erik drew in a shaky breath, amazed at how exciting the prospect of being close to Charles still made him feel. “Alright”, he replied simply, watching as Charles smiled shyly before stepping further into the room. He came to a stop a couple of metres in front of Erik, looking like he was waiting for something.
“You want me to get in first?” Erik asked, and Charles gave a slight nod.
It was reassuring to Erik that Charles seemed to be as nervous as he felt- like they were somehow equal partners now, rather than their previous one-sided ‘relationship’ that essentially involved Erik just lusting after Charles.
Erik removed his clothing whilst watching Charles- stripping off layer after layer until he was completely bare- trying to resist an urge to cover up as Charles’ eyes drew slowly over his naked body. Erik was only too aware of the scars that marked his form and how unappealing they probably looked in the harsh light of day- particularly as this was the first time Charles had been able to look at them probably. However, it seemed like the blemishes on Erik’s form were not what had captured Charles’ attention at that particular moment.
Charles’ eyes kept dropping down and moving away, like he was worried about staring at the sun too long and getting burnt. Just the way Charles was looking at Erik was making him excited, but he turned to climb into the bath before things got too obvious- not wanting to make Charles any more apprehensive about the encounter.
The water was hot and satisfying as Erik lowered himself into the bath, creeping over his skin and enveloping him in a welcome warmth. Erik groaned slightly as he sank down and rested his back against the rear of the tub whilst stretching his long legs out in front of him. When he looked back over Charles still hadn’t moved, and Erik’s expression shifted into one of concern.
“Charles… Come on- get in”.
Charles still remained static, so Erik let out a shallow breath before reaching to his side to grasp a flannel- dunking it in the water to dampen it before tilting his head back against the rear of the bath and draping the cloth over his face so he couldn’t see anything. There were still no words from Charles, but eventually Erik heard the sound of Charles shedding his clothes- garment after garment falling to the floor, the realisation making Erik even harder than he was before.
Erik heard Charles’ bare feet padding across the floor as he approached but he still didn’t remove the flannel, even though it was extremely tempting. He continued to remain still even as he felt Charles begin to climb into the tub, expecting that Charles would settle on the opposite side of the bath and sucking in an unsteady breath when he actually felt Charles move closer- sliding his knees either side of Erik’s thighs as he settled down in Erik’s lap.
Charles reached up and removed the cloth from Erik’s face, and immediately Erik had to fight a tremendous desire to draw his eyes down Charles’ naked form. He had seen Charles with his clothes off before but only in poor lighting- he’d certainly never seen Charles like this- naked and warm and wet and so close that Erik could barely resist the urge to press his lips to Charles’ body and trail his tongue down the freckles on Charles’ chest and slide his hand along Charles’ thigh to grasp his--
“You’re filthy…” Charles murmured.
Erik blinked, pulling himself back from lustful thoughts as Charles flashed him a mischievous grin.
“Look at you, all covered in dirt…” Charles continued, beginning to use the flannel to wipe at Erik’s face. Erik smiled fondly in response, allowing Charles to clean him up and feeling himself melt into the touch. He slid his arms around Charles in response, hands holding onto Charles’ waist affectionately.
“Can I ask you something?” Erik asked quietly, watching Charles’ face as he concentrated on the job at hand- sliding the cloth over Erik’s collarbone now in circular motions.
“Mmm…?” Charles replied.
“Charles, you’ve never struck me as the shy type, so I’m curious as to why you appear to be so nervous around me tonight?”
Charles licked his lips and Erik watched the motion- waiting as Charles appeared to think for a moment before responding: “You have an intensity about you that makes me nervous sometimes”.
Charles glanced back up- his eyes two beautiful blue spheres that took Erik’s breath away, as always. “It’s fine- I don’t mind”, he replied earnestly. “In fact, your intensity is one of the things I like most about you… The thing is- normally I’m quite confident, but I’m very aware of the fact that we’ve been living rough for weeks now so I probably don’t look particularly great in the harsh light of day”.
Erik shook his head. “You’re beautiful…” he replied, and he meant it.
Charles’ lips curved in a soft smile. “Even with this scar?” he asked, gesturing down. Erik followed his gaze, observing the long scar along Charles’ ribs, just the top of which was visible above the line of water. He reached a careful hand to the area, tracing his thumb over the broken flesh as gently as possible.
“Does it hurt?” Erik asked quietly, and Charles shrugged in return.
“A bit, but it’s getting better all the time. You did a good job looking after me- hopefully you won’t have to much longer”.
“I don’t mind”, Erik replied, transferring his grip to hold Charles’ face, thumb tracing the coarse hair along his jawline. “I like taking care of you”.
Charles smiled, and Erik felt his heart surge with feeling at the expression.
“Do you want me to shave you now?” Erik asked, and Charles nodded in response.
Before Erik shaved Charles’ face he washed his hair, although due to their lack of supplies he had to use washing-up liquid rather than shampoo. Nevertheless, Charles seemed to appreciate the effort as he rested his forehead against Erik’s shoulder, humming contentedly as Erik ran his fingers across Charles’ scalp.
“Are you falling asleep, Charles?” Erik asked.
“No…” Charles murmured, before suppressing a yawn. “Just really relaxed right now”. He leaned back once more, watching as Erik used his powers to beckon over the can of shaving cream- placing it on the side of the bath before he also brought over a small metal doorstop; moulding and reforming it in the air until it resembled a razor.
“Ready?” Erik asked. Charles nodded, and Erik reached for the shaving foam- squirting some of it into his palm before starting to apply it to Charles’ face.
Charles closed his eyes as Erik began to shave his face, sitting quietly in Erik’s lap and keeping perfectly still. Erik couldn’t help the feelings of love and gratitude that consumed him in that moment, brought about by the realisation of just how much trust Charles was able to place in him. This was a man who Erik had essentially kidnapped and held against his will, more than once, but now Charles was willing to let Erik hold a blade to his neck, basically trusting Erik with his life.
Erik’s eyes roved over Charles’ face as he moved the razor with his powers- gaze flicking over the dark eyelashes against his cheek, the sparse freckles covering his nose and cheeks, the flushed red colour of his lips. Erik had never seen anything so beautiful, much less held it in his arms. It was like a gift he didn’t feel he deserved but one that he was desperate to keep.
When they were finished Erik used the cloth to gently wipe the remaining cream from Charles’ face, exposing more of his pale jawline. It was enticing, and Erik couldn’t resist leaning closer and starting to place fevered kisses against Charles’ skin.
“You’re so smooth…” Erik murmured, trailing his mouth along Charles’ jaw.
Charles laughed in response, squirming in Erik’s lap and pushing gently against his chest.
“You’re not”, he protested. “Ah, careful, Erik- my skin’s sensitive now and your beard is all scratchy”.
“Sorry”, Erik replied, before grinning wickedly and grabbing the back of Charles’ neck with his hands to hold him in place as he rubbed his beard against Charles’ jaw more briskly.
“Erikkkkkkkk!” Charles whined, wriggling more frantically which only seemed to spur Erik on. Eventually though Erik stopped and leaned back against the rear of the bath, transferring his grasp to hold Charles on the waist and still grinning even as Charles pulled a face at him.
“That was mean…” Charles pouted, running a thumb along his jawline. “I think we should do away with your beard too- you can’t be trusted with it”.
“Do you want to shave me?”
Charles chewed on his lower lip slightly. “You would let me do that?”
Erik nodded. “Of course, Liebling”, he replied. In truth, Erik could think of nothing he’d like more.
Shaving Charles’ face had been a wonderful experience, but in some way having Charles return the favour was better. Charles’ touch was tentative and uncertain, and Erik kept his eyes wide open- watching Charles’ face tensed with concentration as he carefully moved the blade across Erik’s skin. Unfortunately Charles wasn’t as confident with his hands as Erik was with his powers, and on a couple of occasions the blade slipped- causing little nicks in Erik’s skin that Charles apologised profusely for. Erik didn’t mind though- he considered any marks Charles wanted to leave on him an improvement.
When Charles was done he cleaned off Erik’s face before leaning close and mimicking the action Erik had performed earlier, rubbing his face against Erik’s jawline and smiling happily.
“Much better…” Charles murmured, starting to place kisses all over Erik’s face.
Erik turned into Charles’ kiss, capturing his mouth and at the same time wrapping his arms around Charles’ waist to pull him closer. Charles slid forward on Erik’s lap, letting out a small moan into Erik’s mouth as their cocks brushed together which only intensified as Erik reached down to grasp both their members in one large hand and began stroking firmly.
“Ah, ah- wait…” Charles requested, using his hands to gently push against Erik’s chest as he leaned back. Erik withdrew his hand, resting it against Charles’ thigh and looking at him questioningly.
“Everything alright?” Erik asked.
Charles nodded. “Yes, I just need to tell you something…”
A small smile flitted across Charles’ expression before he leaned forward and began to whisper in Erik’s ear:
“I found something in the bedroom…”
“What is it?”
Another smile that Erik felt rather than saw, then more whispered words:
Erik gripped Charles’ thigh so hard in that moment he was sure the skin would bruise, particularly given the way Charles squeaked in response.
“Owww…” Charles protested, leaning back and chuckling softly.
“Sorry… It was a reflex”.
“Well if you always react like that I’m a little bit apprehensive about what you’re going to do to me in the bedroom…”
Immediately Charles’ words conjured up a visual in Erik’s mind- the idea hot and enticing and all-consuming, though he tried very hard to maintain composure- not wanting to do anything to hurt Charles or make him uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry, I’ll be gentle with you- I promise”.
Charles smiled. “I believe you”.
Charles and Erik remained in the bathtub for several more minutes- enjoying the water whilst it was still hot and making sure they were both completely clean before withdrawing. Erik climbed out of the tub first, crossing the room to wrap himself in a towel and ensuring he remained facing the wall so that Charles was afforded privacy. He heard Charles step out of the bath and walk across the room, but when he eventually turned back around Erik was surprised to discover that Charles was gone.
There were wet footprints on the floor that Erik followed like a trail, leading Erik to the bedroom where the sight before him was beautiful beyond measure.
Charles was sitting on the edge of the bed facing Erik, completely naked and still damp from the bath. Erik’s eyes drew fastidiously over Charles’ form- focusing first on Charles’ face, bright and flushed with excitement, before moving down and honing in on Charles’ hard cock resting against his thigh. The spectacle was such that it was all Erik could do not to immediately fall to his knees in worship.
Stepping closer, Erik shed his towel and placed his hands on the bed either side of Charles as he leaned down to claim a kiss. Charles responded with a quiet moan against Erik’s mouth, sliding his hands around Erik’s neck as they kissed and keeping them in place as Erik’s mouth left Charles’ lips- trailing down Charles’ neck, along his collarbone, down his chest and stomach. Erik sank to his knees as his mouth reached the scar along Charles’ ribs- placing a careful kiss to the mark and looking back up afterwards to check that Charles was okay. Charles was smiling softly, fingertips running through the hair at the nape of Erik’s neck, and Erik took that as encouragement to proceed.
Over the past several weeks Erik had certainly felt Charles’ naked form on more than a few occasions, but to actually see it in front of him was another matter entirely. Erik’s own member was hard and heavy between his legs but he wasn’t concerned with it, all he wanted was to focus on Charles and his pleasure- to make Charles feel as good as Charles had made Erik feel since the day they’d met.
Continuing to watch Charles’ face carefully, Erik grasped Charles’ cock in one hand and began to stroke the shaft firmly, feeling a thrill run through him as Charles groaned quietly in response. The expression on Charles’ face was captivating and Erik didn’t want to tear his eyes away, but he was willing to if it meant Charles would allow him to do something he’d been thinking about for a long time. Still holding Charles’ member, Erik glanced down once before resuming his gaze, raising his eyebrows at Charles in what he hoped was the expression of a question, and smiling when Charles nodded in response.
Without preamble, Erik leaned down and slid his lips around Charles’ cock, feeling the hard length fill his mouth as he pushed down until the head bumped against the back of his throat. There was a sudden hitched moan from Charles which Erik found delightful, and he made sure to maintain the same sublime pressure as he began to suck Charles’ shaft. Charles’ fingers were still entwined in the hair at the nape of Erik’s neck as he bobbed up and down, his other hand resting against Erik’s chest with his thumb tracing the line of Erik’s collarbone. With each moan Erik drew Charles in deeper- sliding his arms around Charles’ waist and keeping his palms flat against Charles’ lower back to keep him in place.
As the act continued Charles’ breathing grew more frantic, until he was groaning desperately and squirming in place on the bed. Erik tilted his gaze up but Charles’ head was tipped back so he couldn’t see his expression, but he could tell Charles was close from the way he was trembling.
“Ah, Erik, I’m-- ah!”
Erik got the message, but he didn’t take Charles’ warning as incentive to withdraw- he remained sucking Charles’ cock until he felt Charles tremble more certainly as he came in Erik’s mouth, and Erik continued his actions until Charles was finished and he pushed lightly against Erik’s chest as he became too sensitive.
Moving back where he knelt, Erik smiled as he watched Charles flop back against the mattress with his arms resting beside his head and his eyes closed. Erik stood up from the floor, leaning on the bed over Charles and smiling down at him contentedly. He looked amazing- happy and radiant and just completely fuckable- but although Erik’s erection was still ever present, he didn’t want to push Charles too far by trying to do that to him straight away.
When Charles opened his eyes he smiled widely, using one hand to gently brush his fingertips through Erik’s hair as he looked up at him.
“Are you hungry?” Erik asked.
“Yes… But don’t you want to--” Charles trailed off, glancing down to Erik’s crotch.
Erik shook his head. “It’s fine, I can wait. Besides, I know you’re looking forward to a proper meal, right?”
“Yeah… Is that okay?”
Erik leaned close, brushing his lips against Charles’ in a tender kiss.
“It’s perfect…” Erik murmured.
A short while later Charles and Erik were sat together at the kitchen table, dressed once more and enjoying the food Erik had just prepared. It was definitely not the best dinner Erik had ever had in his life, but it was certainly the finest one he’d had in the past couple of months- mainly because his favourite part of the meal was the fact that he was sitting across from Charles, admiring his face illuminated by soft candlelight. Charles rubbed his foot against Erik’s leg under the table as they ate and said it was like they were on their first date, and the idea made Erik exorbitantly happy.
Once they’d finished eating they retired to the bedroom, and Erik added some more logs to the fire as Charles slid beneath the sheets. When the fire was suitably stacked Erik crossed the room towards the bed, coming to stand just in front of it and looking down with a smile.
Charles’ face was just visible beneath the blankets, and he was already fast asleep. Although it wasn’t exactly how Erik had hoped the evening would end he couldn’t complain- the whole night had been better than he could have possibly imagined, and he was more than happy to just slide into bed next to Charles and sleep.
Charles stirred as Erik slipped beneath the covers, opening his eyes and looking at Erik blearily as he started to speak, but Erik only shushed him and pulled Charles into his arms.
“It’s alright, Charles- go to sleep”, Erik murmured.
Charles gave out a contented hum as he snuggled his face into Erik’s chest, sliding one hand across Erik’s waist and under his shirt.
Erik traced his fingers up and down Charles’ spine as he held him. It felt like home- not just the cabin itself but having Charles in his arms; a domestic bliss Erik had never thought he’d achieve in his life. He pressed a kiss to Charles’ forehead- a brief and simple manifestation of the love he felt- and tried not to think about what it would be like to leave such a perfect space.
“Can we stay here?” Erik whispered, but there was no response and Erik could only conclude that Charles had already gone back to sleep.
It was the first time in a long time that Erik awoke without fear, without dread. Even before he opened his eyes he knew he was safe, that Charles was nearby, and that was all he really needed.
Erik cracked his eyes open to regard bright daylight reflecting across the ceiling of the room. He reached a hand out to touch the mattress to the side of him, finding it warm but lacking, and concluded that Charles had probably only just vacated the space. There was the noise of water running coming from down the hallway and there- amidst the constant stream- the sound of singing. Erik had heard it before, back when he’d lived at the hotel with Charles- the absent happy hum Charles would often emit when he was in the shower.
Rolling over onto his stomach, Erik stretched out across the mattress and closed his eyes with a contented smile on his face.
He awoke a short while later to the feeling of someone sitting over him.
“Good morning, Erik…” Charles murmured, leaning down to press a kiss to the side of Erik’s face.
Erik turned immediately, holding onto Charles as he shifted onto his back before Charles settled back down in place. Charles looked exquisite- damp from his shower, clean and bright and beautiful, dressed in sweatpants and a white t-shirt.
“The shower works”, Charles said, smiling happily.
“I can see that”, Erik replied, mirroring Charles’ joyous expression. He slid one hand up to cup Charles’ face, thumb tracing the line of his jaw earnestly. “Is there any hot water left for me?”
“Possibly… Go find out, and I’ll make breakfast”.
Erik slipped into an amused grin. “We’re so domestic…”
Charles laughed in return. “I suppose we are. God, Raven would never believe this…”
“Because she always said I was going to die alone”.
“What??” Erik let out, appalled.
Charles shrugged. “She didn’t really mean it, she only said it when she was angry with me. Apparently telepathy isn’t a particularly desirable trait, and in her darker moments Raven would tell me it was the reason why I had no friends. On most occasions I didn’t let her words bother me, but of course when she left me they became hard to ignore…”
“Charles…” Erik murmured softly, feeling impossibly guilty and responsible as he beheld the despondent look on Charles’ face. It was difficult for Erik to consider how much his actions had impacted on Charles’ life, even for years before they’d met. But perhaps that was Erik’s most glaring fault- he rarely considered the wider implications of his behaviour; his single-minded determination never allowed him to.
“Charles, I’m sorry”, Erik said eventually.
Charles gave another shrug. “I’ve told you before, Raven’s actions are not your responsibility. She’s always been fiercely independent, and whether it was you or some other cause for her to lend her name to, Raven would have left me eventually. I know this”.
Erik opened his mouth to speak further but Charles leaned forward to kiss him, stealing his words, his heart- everything.
Eventually Charles leaned back, any hint of sadness that had been shown moments earlier wilfully erased.
“Shower, then breakfast”, Charles instructed. When he climbed off the bed and reached his hand out Erik grasped it immediately, and allowed Charles to lead him.
Erik stayed in the shower slightly longer than necessary, enjoying the warm water cascading over his body and feeling more comfortable than he’d been in a long time. He only wished he’d woken earlier so he could have enjoyed the shower with Charles, and he sincerely hoped there would be time for that later.
When Erik finally pulled himself from under the hot stream he stood in the bathroom for a while, gazing out of the window at the frozen landscape outside. The view was obscured by a later of condensation on the glass but Erik made no move to clear it, not wanting to let even light infringe upon his new life in the cabin with Charles. Part of him knew it was pointless though, and that eventually he would have to come to terms with the idea of leaving.
But fortunately for Erik, the idea wasn’t discussed immediately that morning. When he arrived in the kitchen Charles had finished cooking and had laid the table out with food, and Erik sat down eagerly to enjoy the meal. After they’d finished eating Charles cleared the dishes away whilst Erik tended to the fires in the living room and bedroom- realising quickly that their supplies of firewood were close to running out and wondering how to ask Charles whether they needed to get more or if they were going to be departing soon.
Charles pre-empted the discussion though when Erik found him starting to pull on his shoes and coat as he prepared to head outside, before Erik stopped him.
“Where are you going?” Erik asked, holding Charles gently on one arm.
“I was just going to do a quick sweep of the area- gather some wood, see if there’s anything useful nearby”.
Erik shook his head. “No, Charles- just stay here. I’ll go and get the firewood- you can’t swing an axe anyway with your injury”.
“I know that… But I was only planning on collecting a few twigs and branches just to keep us going until we leave…”
Erik’s face faltered; disappointment evident in his expression. It must have become a look that Charles was familiar with, as immediately he reached out a hand to gently touch Erik’s face.
“Darling, you know we have to keep going…”
“I know that…” Erik muttered, sulking slightly. “But what are the chances we’ll ever find a place like this again? We’ve been traveling for weeks now, so why not take just a couple of days to recuperate?”
“Please, Charles…” Erik urged, stepping forward and wrapping his arms around Charles’ waist. “I’m just asking for a day or two”. But even as Erik said the words he knew that it was a lie, he only hoped that Charles wasn’t able to read the truth in his thoughts at that particular moment.
To Erik’s slight surprise and obvious delight, Charles agreed to his request. For the next couple of hours Erik spent his time outside the cabin, chopping up wood and piling it up just outside the cabin door. The day was bright and clear and colder than usual, and although Erik expended energy whilst breaking logs, he yearned to return to the warmth of the cabin, and of Charles.
When Erik re-entered the cabin Charles was nowhere to be seen which instantly made Erik feel on edge, as it always did. But then there was a shuffling sound coming from the bedroom, and Erik’s demeanour immediately brightened at the sight of Charles stepping out of the room, wrapped up tight in a large duvet.
“Charles, what are you doing...?” Erik murmured in obvious amusement.
“Trying to keep warm”, Charles replied. The blanket was wrapped snugly around him, meaning just his face was visible, and Erik found the look adorable.
“It’s not that cold in here…” Erik said, glancing behind Charles to where he could see the lit fire inside the bedroom.
“It is if you’re dressed like this…” At that Charles opened up the duvet, and Erik found himself stunned into silence.
Charles was completely naked underneath the blanket- a sight Erik hadn’t expected but one that he was unbelievably happy to be faced with nonetheless. But it wasn’t necessarily just the nakedness of Charles that had Erik feeling so overwhelmed, it was the fact that Charles was so comfortable baring himself, when he’d been shy and nervous in a similar situation just a day before.
Erik was staring open-mouthed, whilst Charles merely smiled and raised his eyebrows.
“Well, come on, Erik- I’ve been waiting for you for a while now and consequently I’m fucking freezing- aren’t you going to come and warm me up?”
Erik dropped the axe he’d been holding and crossed the room in a few steps, sliding his arms around Charles to lift him up before carrying him into the bedroom. Charles enveloped Erik in the blanket as he wrapped his legs around Erik’s waist, holding on tight as they moved over towards the bed- mouths locked tightly together until they both dropped down onto the mattress.
Immediately Erik wanted to get his hands on Charles properly- to touch him and caress his skin- but he was hampered by the gloves he was wearing and he could only swear in frustration as he tried frantically to get them off, whilst Charles lay under him laughing at the struggle.
“You could at least help me…” Erik muttered, his frustration reaching fever pitch as his eyes trailed along the line of freckles down Charles’ chest and stomach. He looked beautiful, as always, and Erik could feel his cock straining against the confines of his jeans- desperate to find another kind of constraint deep within Charles’ body.
Charles leaned back against the pillow, still smiling as he reached to take one of Erik’s hands between both of his own. He slid Erik’s glove off with minimal difficulty, before drawing Erik’s hand close to his face and starting to place careful kisses to each of Erik’s fingertips. Erik was spellbound- held captive by Charles’ touch and edging even closer into desperate arousal as Charles began to run his tongue against Erik’s thumb- tracing the digit slowly before eventually taking it in his mouth. There was a low groan emitted from Erik as Charles sucked on his thumb, until he abruptly found his focus- using his teeth to quickly pull his other glove off before reaching down to place his hand on Charles’ stomach.
The touch didn’t have the desired effect Erik had wanted… Immediately Charles let out an uneven shriek- yanking Erik’s thumb from out of his mouth and edging frantically up the bed.
“Oh my fucking God your hands are freezing!” Charles shrilled, attempting to squirm away from Erik’s touch but not getting very far considering Erik was sitting over him, keeping him in place with his weight.
A slightly devious smirk crept over Erik’s face before he leaned forward- keeping his hand pressed against Charles’ stomach and drawing his palm along the surface slowly.
“I thought we were going to warm each other up?” Erik murmured, watching Charles’ face and smiling.
“Noooooo…” Charles whined. “You were supposed to warm me up, but you’re not helping at all”. He looked adorable writhing on the bed, and Erik’s mind began to wander excitedly as he imagined what else he could do to make Charles squirm underneath him.
When Erik had suitably amused himself he removed his hand- leaning close to replace it with the warmth of his mouth instead as he pulled the blankets up to keep the both of them warm. Charles seemed a bit happier with that arrangement, and his murmurs of protest turned into moans of enjoyment as Erik began to trail his tongue over Charles’ ribs. Before long Charles was pawing at Erik’s clothing as he attempted to remove it, but there were so many layers and Erik was distracted by kissing Charles and the blankets were getting in the way, and the result was a lot of fumbling and giggling until eventually Erik had at least managed to remove everything above his waist.
There was a slight push from Charles and Erik was directed to sit back on his knees, where he remained watching in interest as Charles began to kiss along his chest- mouth trailing the marks on Erik’s skin as his hands fumbled with Erik’s belt buckle. It was tempting for Erik to just use his powers to undo his belt and trousers quickly, but he wanted to savour the feeling of Charles’ dedication so he was happy to stay still- eyes focused on the parts of Charles’ face he could see as Charles continued to kiss and touch and eventually slide his hands down to withdraw Erik’s cock.
Charles looked back up in that moment, eyes large and impossibly blue as he slowly began to draw his hand along Erik’s shaft.
“Lay back on the bed?” Charles requested.
Erik obeyed without question, kicking off the rest of his clothing before lying down with his back propped up by several pillows, watching as Charles reached over into the bedside table to retrieve a small pot. Erik opened his legs to allow Charles to settle in-between them on his knees, waiting patiently but at the same time feeling desperate with desire as Charles unscrewed the pot and dipped his fingers inside. The Vaseline was cool and Erik flinched marginally as Charles wrapped one hand around Erik’s cock, sliding his palm along the shaft and gradually coating Erik’s member with the lubricant. It was a glorious sensation, and Erik found himself clenching his fists in the bedsheets and trying desperately not to lose control and thrust up in Charles’ grasp.
“Are you okay, darling?” Charles asked quietly, watching Erik’s face tensed with feeling.
Erik managed a nod in response, but he couldn’t help but let out a breathy sigh as Charles released his grip- smiling slightly at Erik as he refocused his attention on getting himself ready instead. Charles dipped his fingers in the Vaseline once more and reached behind to slide them inside himself, and Erik was completely captivated by Charles’ expression as Charles closed his eyes in concentration. Charles’ cock was hard between his legs and Erik wanted fiercely to lean forward and wrap his hand or his mouth around it, but Charles’ face looked so beautiful and everything was so perfect and Erik didn’t want to change anything, not ever- not one moment.
“I love you”.
Charles’ eyes opened as the words left Erik’s mouth- a soft shift visible in his expression as his eyebrows raised and his lips parted slightly in surprise, but other than that there was little indication of how Charles was feeling. Erik began to ache in that moment- a pained and longing feeling that made it hard for him to breathe; like he was suddenly lacking something very necessary and he didn’t know how to pull that missing part of himself back to him.
There were no words, no sound but the frantic beating of Erik’s heart, no feeling but the dull ache in his chest. Erik reached forward abruptly, seizing Charles under the arms and pulling the telepath on top of him- ensuring their mouths were pressed together so Erik could allow himself to believe that he was halting Charles’ response, rather than accepting that he was waiting for words that would never come. Charles let out a muffled noise of surprise but he didn’t withdraw, not even when Erik’s kisses became harsh and desperate, not even when Erik reached down to grasp his cock- moving it into position and beginning to push up into Charles’ ass. There was another noise from Charles- somewhere between a gasp and a groan as Erik penetrated him completely, but although Charles didn’t complain Erik could tell from the way he dug his fingernails into Erik’s arms that the intrusion was too swift and probably somewhat painful.
Erik broke away from the kiss, opening his eyes and gazing at Charles with an expression that was both apologetic and wistful- breathing hard as he adjusted to the overwhelming feeling of Charles clenching tight around his cock. He wanted to pull Charles closer and cover him with kisses. He wanted to push Charles away and cover up his heart.
Although Erik never said anything, during the few seconds where they stared at each other he got the distinct impression that Charles knew what he was thinking and feeling- like he always did. With a soft sigh Charles reached one hand up, gently pushing Erik’s hair back from his forehead, tracing his thumb in circular motions against Erik’s temple- the sensation curious and soothing. It wasn’t just physical though, Erik soon realised- Charles was using his telepathy to slowly encroach on Erik’s mind too, gradually nudging Erik towards a place of serenity, as he always did. It was a kindness Erik wasn’t entirely sure he deserved, but he was grateful for it nonetheless.
Erik felt his gaze slip into a soft focus for a moment as Charles’ eyes closed too- Erik’s concentration only restored by the sensation of Charles’ lips just beginning to brush against his mouth moments later. He leaned into the kiss eagerly, feeling like nothing could be better until Charles abruptly shifted forward- sliding up the length of Erik’s cock before settling back down and causing Erik to let out a deep groan in response as he gripped Charles’ waist.
There was a gentle push from Charles against Erik’s shoulders and Erik heeded instruction- leaning back against the headboard as Charles started to rock forward, watching Charles’ face in complete admiration and infatuation. It felt better than Erik could have imagined to have Charles in his lap- naked and beautiful and completely Erik’s, at least for now. Erik reached a hand forward to gently trace the scar on Charles’ stomach before venturing further down- grasping hold of Charles’ cock and holding it against his stomach as Charles rolled his hips. There was a breathy moan of appreciation from Charles as he thrust into Erik’s grip before he opened his eyes- bathing Erik in a bewitching bolt of blue that Erik couldn’t tear himself away from.
Their eyes remained locked as Charles picked up speed, sliding up and down the length of Erik’s member with increased vigour, whilst Erik could do little more than hold onto Charles and allow the sensations of pleasure to overcome him.
When Erik could feel himself nearing completion he amplified the dedication he gave to Charles’ cock- stroking the shaft firmly and paying careful attention to the moans Charles gave out in response. After having shared intimacy with Charles for weeks Erik knew Charles’ body and its signals well, and he used this knowledge to work Charles to the edge at the same time as himself- causing the room to become heady with frantic moans as Erik came inside Charles and Charles came over Erik’s stomach.
In the moments afterwards Charles leaned forward with a sigh, resting his forehead against Erik’s as he tried to restore his breathing to a steady level. Erik was rather less concerned with returning to normality- he wrapped his arms around Charles and pulled him close, until they both reclined back against the pillows and Erik closed his eyes in satisfaction and sincere, unparalleled love.
When Erik realised Charles was gone sometime later it was jarring, and the absence made Erik stir immediately- jolting upright in bed as he returned to full consciousness.
Erik didn’t even bother to get dressed, he just launched himself from the bed and strode quickly over to the bedroom door- yanking it open and stepping through into the main room. Immediately Erik’s eyes began to dart frantically around the space- looking for confirmation of the betrayal he feared, but instead finding himself reassured by the sight of Charles’ shoes lined up neatly next to Erik’s by the front door. That’s when Erik heard it- the sound of water running coming from the nearby bathroom- and instantly he realised how foolish he’d been.
“Erik, what are you doing?”
Erik turned to face the bathroom, feeling guilty and shameful as he took in the sight of Charles standing in the doorway, a towel wrapped around his waist and his arms crossed over his chest. He looked distinctly unimpressed, and Erik got the impression that Charles knew exactly what he had been thinking.
“Really?” Charles huffed. “You thought I’d left you?”
“Well you did it before”.
As soon as Erik said the words he regretted them, and he stepped forward in the next moment- opening his mouth to offer up words of apology but finding himself silenced by the door slamming shut in his face.
Erik spent the next fifteen minutes or so sat in the main room at the table, waiting for Charles to come out of the bathroom. He’d briefly cleaned himself at the kitchen sink before dressing in a robe he’d found in the bedroom and taking up his place watching the bathroom door. Part of Erik feared that Charles had just climbed out of the bathroom window and run off, but he reasoned that such a venture wouldn’t be wise when wearing only a towel, and he knew that accusing Charles of such a thing would only create further upset.
When the sound of running water ceased Erik lifted his head from where it had been resting in his folded arms, watching the bathroom door as it opened and Charles became visible.
“Come here”, Charles instructed, not meeting Erik’s eyes.
Erik rose from the table without question, stepping over towards the bathroom and following Charles inside. As soon as the door was closed Erik attempted to hold Charles- reaching for him but finding his hands swatted away in annoyance.
“Charles…” Erik started.
“You need to take a bath- you smell like sex”.
At that Charles harshly yanked Erik’s robe open and, though Charles’ expression was still one of annoyance, Erik couldn’t help but notice the way Charles’ eyes widened and his lower lip trembled slightly when Erik had been bared before him. The shift gave Erik the courage to slide a hand around the back of Charles’ neck- entwining his fingers in Charles’ hair and edging slightly closer.
“Charles, I’m sorry”.
“I don’t care”, Charles replied, still avoiding Erik’s gaze. “Just get in the bath”.
Charles shrugged out of Erik’s grasp, moving a few paces across the room and coming to a stop with his arms folded across his chest defiantly, and Erik found himself at a loss. He’d never been very good at mediating arguments, especially when it came to relationships given that his longest one had been with revenge rather than an actual person. He had no idea how to comfort Charles, how to make him understand, so instead Erik decided to just comply to Charles’ command, rather than continuing to debate with him.
Emitting a low sigh, Erik removed his robe and moved over to the bath- stepping into the warm water and settling down. Erik continued to watch Charles once he was situated in the tub, expecting that Charles might leave the room, but instead Charles unwrapped his towel and hung it up, before crossing the floor and climbing into the bath as well.
Erik was transfixed- eyes drawn to Charles’ naked form, feeling arousal beginning to pool in the pit of his stomach as he watched Charles lower himself into the tub. Sadly though Charles didn’t choose to sit in Erik’s lap like he had the previous night, instead he settled down at the opposite end of the bath, knees drawn up to his chest and eyes still avoidant.
It was tangible the way Erik felt for Charles- a deep longing tantamount to a real physical ache. But it wasn’t just sexual though- most of all Erik longed for Charles on an emotional level, wanting desperately to make amends for his actions and alleviate some of the hurt he’d caused. It wasn’t normally like Erik to concern himself with anyone else’s sense of wellbeing, and Erik supposed this new emotional depth was just one of the many things Charles had changed about him.
“Get on with your bath, Erik”.
Charles was staring hotly across the room, sulking and chewing on his bottom lip. Erik remembered a time when he’d found such behaviour irritating, but now it was completely disarming.
Erik leaned forward in the bath- rising to his knees and starting to slide across the tub towards Charles. Charles didn’t respond, and he kept his knees up like a barrier that Erik wanted to break through, not even lowering them when Erik placed the palms of his hands on Charles’ kneecaps.
“Why don’t you trust me?” Charles blurted out, finally looking back at Erik. His forlorn expression made Erik’s heart hurt, and Erik wished he could just kiss Charles to make the situation better rather than having to talk it through, but knew that would be oversimplifying matters.
“I wouldn’t take it personally, Charles- I don’t trust anyone”.
Charles pulled a face. “That’s not true- Raven was by your side for years, you must have trusted her?”
“That’s different, Charles- I never took Raven into my bed”.
“What, so because you’re fucking me you can’t trust me?”
“No, because I love you I can’t trust you”.
Charles’ expression faltered at that, a slight flush appearing in his cheeks as he dropped his gaze.
“That doesn’t sound like love to me…” Charles murmured.
“How would you know?”
Charles only glanced back to meet Erik’s eyes for a second before looking away again, and Erik would have given anything to know what Charles was thinking in that moment.
“I loved my parents very much”, Erik said eventually. “I trusted that they would be there for me, and when they died I never wanted to allow myself to feel that vulnerable ever again. It was easy at first to keep people away- I spent so much time moving across the world looking for Shaw that I never had time to form relationships- and even when I settled down with the Brotherhood I still managed to maintain an emotional distance from most of them, except Raven. But then I met you…”
Erik stopped speaking, waiting for Charles to catch onto the end of the words and follow them. He did eventually- looking back up to Erik and waiting expectantly.
“You’re not what I expected to love, Charles. Everything about you shouldn’t be what I crave, but there’s something about you that draws me in- no matter how much I try to fight it. You mean more to me than anyone ever has, but I’ve felt my heart break under your influence before and it only grows more painful the longer I’m with you. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you now”.
“But what makes you think you’re going to lose me?” Charles asked softly.
Erik smiled, but the expression was sad. “It’s been easy to pretend that we belong together during the past several weeks, when there’s been nothing but the two of us lost in the wilderness. But do you really think we can make things work when we’re back at the hotel, surrounded by the Brotherhood? Would you even want to?”
“Is that why you keep trying to make me stay?” Charles asked, and Erik couldn’t help but notice how Charles had avoided his question. He decided to ignore Charles’ question in return, though he was sure Charles already knew the answer.
Erik glanced down, tracing his thumbs against Charles’ kneecaps in organised circles- the motion the only controlled movement Erik felt able to offer.
“Erik…” Charles started, but Erik shook his head abruptly.
“Forget it, I don’t want to talk about this anymore”, Erik muttered.
“Okay… Can you just kiss me instead?”
Erik looked back up, finding Charles watching him- his face bearing a similar pained and longing expression that mirrored the way Erik felt. Perhaps this would be easier- to kiss Charles and hold him and get lost in him, rather than for Erik to talk about what he wanted but could never have. Sometimes it was easier not to feel anything at all- Erik knew this.
Pushing gently at Charles’ knees, Erik parted Charles’ legs and moved into the space in-between, capturing Charles’ mouth with a heartfelt kiss. Charles let out a soft sigh in response as he slid his hands into Erik’s hair, thumbs just starting to trace Erik’s temples in soft circles. Erik knew by now what the gesture meant, but for once he found he didn’t want it.
“Don’t”, Erik said sharply, withdrawing from the kiss. Suddenly the touch felt manipulative rather than comforting- like Charles was trying to use the calming nature of his telepathy as a measure of control. It was obvious though from Charles’ surprised and disappointed expression that he wasn’t intending to be hurtful, though the realisation didn’t make Erik feel any better.
Erik moved back to sit against the rear of the bathtub, concentrating on getting himself clean and not thinking about how much he wanted the man sitting opposite him.
For the rest of the day conversation was awkward and stilted, at least to begin with. Erik knew he shouldn’t really be taking his frustrations out on Charles- that it wasn’t really fair to blame him- but it was hard to snap himself out of self-destructive behaviour. Eventually though Erik managed to reign in his emotions, and he engaged with Charles over a few games of chess and some polite conversation.
When the night drew in Charles and Erik retired to bed. Charles lay down first- resting his back against the pillows and starting to read a book as Erik added a final few logs to the fire. As Erik turned back around he cast his eyes over Charles- cosy and content and illuminated by the glow of the fire- and in an instant Erik found himself feeling very stupid. The current situation was the closest thing to happiness that Erik had ever experienced, so why was he questioning it and wanting more?
Erik stepped over to the bed and climbed onto the mattress- crawling over Charles and lying on top of him with his head resting against Charles’ chest. There was a small noise of surprise from Charles but he accepted the embrace; lowering his book to the side and choosing instead to run his fingers through Erik’s hair. Erik remained where he was for a short while before he turned his face into Charles’ chest- edging Charles’ shirt down with his fingertips so he could press his mouth to Charles’ skin.
It started with Charles’ collarbone- Erik placing gentle kisses to the surface- then it was Charles’ neck, his jawline, his ear, his forehead, his nose, and then eventually Charles’ mouth- soft and warm and everything Erik wanted. Erik kissed Charles like he was gasping for breath and Charles was oxygen; the need for him desperate and all-consuming as he began to frantically edge Charles’ clothes off.
When they made love for the second time Charles was underneath- held in place by Erik’s body and the weight of his feelings. It was slower than their initial encounter- passionate and drawn-out and intense; the pace dictated by the languid thrusts of Erik’s hips.
Erik watched Charles’ face as he came- the visage like stars bursting into creation reflected in Charles’ eyes. He tried to be grateful that he was granted access to such a spectacle, but it was hard not to think about how all stars were already little more than dust- burnt out long before their light reached the earth.
There was fresh snowfall the next morning- a blanket of white that covered the landscape and obscured all sins.
Erik watched the snowflakes falling down outside, standing in front of the bedroom window whilst wrapped in a blanket. He knew he was selfish to hope for a blizzard in that moment- an aggressive bout of weather that would trap them in the cabin for a longer period- but part of Erik felt like that would be the only way to keep Charles by his side.
“What are you doing?” Charles murmured.
Erik turned to regard Charles sitting upright in the bed, covered by several blankets and watching Erik carefully.
“It’s snowing”, Erik replied.
“It’s always snowing, silly. Come back to bed”.
Erik crossed the room without question, crawling under the covers and pressing himself against the warmth of Charles’ body. Charles hummed happily in response, wrapping his arms around Erik and snuggling into his chest, and Erik closed his eyes and allowed himself to believe for a moment that this was their life- that it could continue to be nothing but this for years to come.
When Erik awoke sometime later he was alone, and he yearned for the days when Charles would wake him with soft kisses against his closed eyelids.
Erik rose from bed and immediately started to pull on some clothes- shivering slightly in the cold room and wondering why Charles hadn’t restarted the fire. The doubt that came in the next few seconds was desperate and rising, but Erik tried to ignore it- knowing that his lack of faith in Charles had caused problems for them before, and not wanting to do anything to further strain their relationship. The fear only continued to increase though as he stepped outside the bedroom and found an empty space where Charles’ shoes should have been.
There was a low ringing in Erik’s ears as he strode across the room and pulled on his boots- like an alarm that Erik tried to ignore. He opened the door with his powers, stepping outside to find that the snow had stopped falling and following fresh footprints that lead away from the cabin and towards…
Erik came to a stop, staring over at the scene in front of him and feeling a growing warmth dispel some of the uneasiness in his chest.
Charles was stood with his back to Erik, and he wasn’t alone. Dotted around him were birds and squirrels and even deer- all congregating together in distinctly unusual behaviour that apparently Charles found unremarkable. He was standing in front of a mound of snow, reaching up on his tiptoes as he fiddled with something on the front of it. When he stepped back Erik realised that the shape was a snowman, and that Charles had been placing small stones to represent eyes.
“You look like Snow White”, Erik said.
Charles turned back to face Erik, smiling fondly. “Does that make you Prince Charming?”
“If you’ll have me...” Erik replied sincerely. “How are you doing this?” he added, looking pointedly at the animals that were lingering around the area.
“Telepathy is a remarkable thing…” Charles explained, tapping a finger to his forehead. “I was a bit lonely, so I used my mutation to encourage these animals to trust me. I’m not controlling them, you understand, just ensuring that they don’t fear me, or each other”.
“That’s amazing… But you could have just woken me up and asked me to help if you wanted company”.
Charles shook his head. “I wanted to surprise you... Can you see the resemblance?” he asked, gesturing to the snowman.
It looked like any other snowman that Erik had ever seen, except for perhaps the fact that the stones placed to represent the mouth were in a straight line rather than curved in a smile.
“Wait, how about now?” Charles added, placing two twigs on the snowman’s face that made its expression resemble a frown.
“This is supposed to be me?” Erik replied, trying not to show his amusement.
Charles nodded happily. “Uncanny, isn’t it?”
Erik’s face shifted into a sincere smile, and he knew he had never loved Charles more than in that moment.
“It needs one final touch…” Erik started, turning away from Charles. He wandered back into the cabin and over to the metal cart he’d used to transport the supplies they’d scavenged, recovering a couple of items long since resigned to memory and bringing them back outside to Charles.
Charles’ eyes widened as Erik approached, watching in interest as Erik affixed a cape around the snowman’s neck before placing a helmet on top of its head.
Erik knew he hadn’t thought about his helmet for a long time- not since the first day he’d arrived at the lighthouse with Charles all those weeks ago. There was a time when Erik had regarded the helmet as a necessary measure of security- a way to keep Charles out of his mind at all costs- but it wasn’t how he felt anymore. It was remarkable to consider just how much knowing Charles had changed him, essentially transforming him from Magneto: Leader of the Brotherhood of Mutants, to just simply: Erik, for the first time in years.
“What do you think?” Erik asked, glancing over to Charles.
“It’s perfect…” Charles replied. He reached to grasp Erik’s hand, gloved fingers tracing across Erik’s palm as he gazed up at him.
“Should we make one for you too?”
Charles shook his head. “Maybe later. It’s cold out here, and I don’t know about you but I could do with some breakfast and a cup of tea”.
Erik reached his hands up, pressing his palms to Charles’ cheeks which were cold and tinged with pink. He wanted to ask if that meant that they were staying for a while, but instead he just kissed Charles and allowed the warmth of his mouth to be all he could think about.
After breakfast Erik ventured outside once more, chopping and gathering wood whilst Charles remained indoors. When Erik returned Charles was curled up in front of the fire in the living room reading a book, and Erik was only slightly discouraged not to be greeted by the sight of Charles completely naked like he had been the day before.
Erik masked his disappointment though and joined Charles sitting on the sofa. He lay down and rested his head in Charles’ lap, gazing up at Charles in adoration.
“What are you reading?” Erik asked.
Charles smiled, resting the open book on Erik’s chest.
“’Charlotte’s Web’. It was always Raven’s favourite book- I used to read it to her when she was younger. She would always complain of course that she was too old and too grown-up to be read to, but eventually she’d give in and listen to me nonetheless”.
“Sounds nice”, Erik replied with a smile. “She told me once that you used to read to her, only she said it was scientific papers rather than children’s books…”
“Ah, yes- well those came later. To begin with it was ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Oliver Twist’, among others. My parents were never around that much so I took it upon myself to ensure that Raven was imbued with the language of the literary greats, even if she didn’t always appreciate it”.
Charles reached a hand up to gently touch Erik’s hair, brushing it back from his forehead.
“Did your parents ever used to read to you?” Charles asked quietly.
“My father did. Every night before bed he would read me a story from a copy of ‘Grimm’s Fairy Tales’ that been handed down to him from my grandfather. I always thought I would one day read that same book to my own children, but when were forced to flee Germany we had to leave our possessions behind so I couldn’t take it with us. I returned to my former home after the war but another family had moved in and everything we owned had been cleared out, so the book was long gone”.
“I’m sorry…” Charles murmured, stroking reassuring fingers through Erik’s hair.
Erik gave a slight shrug. “I bet every time you ask me about my parents you immediately wish you hadn’t. I know me talking about them always serves to sadden the mood”.
“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t want to know. I’m just happy you’re comfortable sharing such things with me”.
“Charles, I’d share anything with you…”
It was remarkable, but Erik knew it was true. After decades of keeping everyone he met at a safe distance, Erik had allowed Charles into his life and had consequently granted Charles access to every aspect of his entire being. He only wondered whether he might one day regret exposing the vulnerability of his heart.
“Read to me”, Erik requested, tapping his fingers against the book Charles was holding.
Charles pulled a slight face in response. “Come on, Erik- you don’t really want me to do that. Raven always used to say she only liked me reading to her because my voice was so boring it could send her off to sleep”.
“That’s not true, Charles- you have a lovely voice. I could listen to you forever”.
Charles still didn’t relent, and Erik reached up rub his thumb against Charles’ jawline.
After a shallow exhale of breath, Charles lifted the book once more and began to read.
Erik’s eyes remained fixed on Charles as he spoke, watching Charles’ face shift into various expressions as he began to recite the words. Like Erik had claimed Charles’ voice wasn’t boring, but it was undeniably soothing and Erik soon found himself drifting into a calm and tranquil sleep- only stirring slightly when he felt Charles’ lips brush against his forehead.
Later in the day Charles and Erik sat at the kitchen table eating lunch; Erik holding a fork in one hand and using the other to rub Charles’ foot where it rested in his lap.
“The snow’s melting”, Charles said, staring out of the window at the scene outside.
Erik finished his last bite of his food before placing his fork back on the plate and using both hands to massage Charles’ ankle- fingertips tracing along the edge of his sock.
“It won’t last”, Erik replied. “It’ll snow again”.
“I know that, I was just thinking that you might want to go get your helmet before it starts to rust”.
“It doesn’t matter…” Erik responded, and Charles turned to look at him questioningly.
“I don’t need it anymore”, Erik clarified.
“But… I thought it was part of your whole image- won’t you need it for when you get back to the Brotherhood?”
Erik didn’t respond, and Charles’ gaze dropped sadly to the table in front of him.
“You still don’t want to go back, do you?” Charles murmured. “You’re still trying to keep me here…”
“Charles…” Erik started, but Charles pulled his foot out of Erik’s lap, sitting up straight at the table and resting his hands against the surface with his fingers folded together.
“I thought it was just because you were worried I might get hurt at first, like I was when I first tried to leave, but it’s more than that now isn’t it? There’s some other reason why you don’t want us to return to the hotel”.
Charles was right, but Erik didn’t want to confirm it. He knew he was incredibly selfish for wanting to make Charles stay at the cabin with him; for allowing his concerns about what returning to the hotel might do to their relationship to keep Charles away from his sister as a consequence. But it was more than that now- there was a fear that consumed Erik more and more each day; the fear that Charles didn’t love him, and that he would simply leave when they returned.
“You know I can’t go without you…” Charles stated, still staring down at the table. “So if you refuse to take me back you’re essentially kidnapping me, again. I thought we were past this?”
They had never been past it, Erik had just allowed himself to believe that his burgeoning relationship with Charles would ultimately mean that Charles might want to stay with him regardless. But if Charles wanted to return to the hotel then Erik thought the necessary trade was quite simple- if Charles would just open up his heart and declare his love, then Erik would be willing to take him home.
But in the moment when Erik experienced that thought there was a clarity that instantly made him feel a bit sick- the knowledge that his desperation for Charles was such that he would be willing to manipulate the man into being with him. All of a sudden Erik was reminded of Shaw- of the way he would try to exploit and influence others in order to achieve his goals- and the recognition made Erik’s skin crawl.
“No, please don’t think that, Charles- I’m not going to keep you here against your will. I’m not like--” Erik trailed off, unable to even bring himself to say the words.
Charles glanced up from the table. “Like… who?”
Erik looked away, pained, and Charles seemed to understand like he always did.
Charles stood up from the table, crossing around to the side where Erik resided and taking a seat next to him. Erik was still avoiding Charles’ eyes, so Charles reached a hand to gently touch Erik’s arm.
“You’re not him…” Charles said quietly.
“Aren’t I? You said it yourself once- how similar my actions are to Nazi behaviour. Do you know that some of the things Shaw used to say to me I now say to others? How mutants are superior to the common man, how it’s only a matter of time before we rise up and destroy the human race…”
“You’re not him”, Charles said more firmly. “There’s more to you than you know, Erik- there’s good in you; I’ve felt it”.
Erik turned to regard Charles at last. “I think the only good you ever saw in me came from you”, he replied sadly. Erik felt it profoundly- how having Charles in his life had been like a light brightening his soul, and how he feared the dark depths to which he might sink once Charles was no longer around.
“That’s not true- you’re more than just pain and anger…”
“Am I? Revenge is I’ve known since I was a child- it’s what brought us to this place, after all, it’s what caused Raven and Azazel to get hurt…”
“But it doesn’t have to be your life anymore- you can change”.
Erik shook his head. “I can’t. Shaw has annihilated pretty much the entire world, and I could have prevented it. I came close before- I had a hold on him once, but I wasn’t strong enough and I almost drowned trying to stop him. I spent weeks in the hospital after that, and by the time I finally caught up to him again it was too late, and he had started nuclear war”.
“But that’s not your fault, Erik. You’re not responsible for Shaw or his actions”.
“Someone has to be. He destroyed my life. He destroyed millions of lives. Eventually he has to pay for that”.
“Sometimes bad things happen, Erik, and all we can do is just try to be a force for good in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us”.
It was so like Charles to say that- to brush aside the evil of the world and console himself with the idea that the actions of a few good men and women somehow balanced it out. It wasn’t the case- Erik knew that. The only way to combat people like Shaw and to stop them from destroying the world was to take them out of it.
“When we get back to the hotel, what are you going to do?” Charles murmured, tracing his fingertips against Erik’s arm in a circle and staring down. “What happens if you get another lead on Shaw?”
Erik reached for Charles’ hand, taking it in his own and rubbing his thumb over Charles’ knuckles.
“Nothing’s changed, Charles. If Shaw resurfaces then I’ll go after him again, I have to”.
“And what about me?”
It was hard for Erik to breathe in that moment as he considered what Charles could be implying. “Are you saying you won’t come with me?” Erik asked in a low voice.
Charles was chewing on his bottom lip, and Erik watched his face feeling desperately sad as he realised what Charles was trying to drum up the courage to say.
“I don’t even know if Raven is alive, Erik”, Charles said quietly. “If she is, then she’s had a very lucky escape. I won’t risk her life like that again, and I won’t let you do it either. I certainly won’t be accompanying you”.
“Charles, you always said that Raven couldn’t be controlled, so what’s to stop her from deciding to come with me anyway?”
Charles met Erik’s eyes again, and his gaze was disapproving. “I would like to think you’ve learnt your lesson, Erik, and that you wouldn’t allow her to join you”.
“You really think I could stop her?”
“I think you could try, if you wanted to”.
Perhaps that was the problem… Over the past few weeks Erik had been worrying about his connection with Charles and debating how that might change when they returned to the hotel, but he hadn’t considered that his relationship with Raven might be altered also, and that he wouldn’t be able to rely on her like he had in the past. But that wasn’t the worst thing... A bigger part of Erik was afraid that his relationship with Raven wouldn’t change at all, because she just wouldn’t be there when they returned. Because she’d died months ago as a result of the sentinel’s attack. He could never tell Charles that though- he needed Charles to hope, for both of them.
“Charles, I would never do anything to hurt Raven…”
“You already have”.
Erik flinched like he’d been struck. Charles had said all along that what had happened to Raven wasn’t Erik’s fault, but Erik suddenly realised that maybe that wasn’t exactly how Charles felt deep down.
Of course, Charles wasn’t the type to deliberately hurt someone, so as soon as the words were out there was a flicker of regret across his face and he immediately tried to take them back.
“Erik…” Charles started, leaning forward. He slid one hand around the back of Erik’s neck, fingers tracing through Erik’s hair as he moved to rest his head against Erik’s shoulder. “I’m sorry…” Charles murmured.
There was more to be said, Erik knew that, but he found himself exhausted at the prospect of saying it. Instead he turned his face towards Charles’, pressing his lips to Charles’ forehead.
“I’ll make sure you get home to Raven”, Erik said softly.
Charles lifted his head from Erik’s shoulder, leaning closer and finding Erik’s mouth. It was sweet, but the kiss felt like a conditioned response and Erik hated the way it tasted. He tried not to think about how Charles had often used intimacy as a reward- like he was trying to coax Erik into certain behaviours- but suddenly it was all he could think about.
“Thank you”, Charles murmured, looking up at Erik with wide blue eyes.
“Don’t thank me”, Erik replied bitterly, and although Charles raised his eyebrows in a question he didn’t say anything.
It was tempting for Erik to slip back into a sombre mood for the rest of the day, but he knew now that his time with Charles was limited, and so it seemed a bit of a waste to spend it sniping.
Still, the atmosphere in the cabin was quiet and stilted, even though Charles chattered aimlessly and made idle small talk- almost like he was trying to dispel some of the tension. It reminded Erik of their initial few weeks spent back at the hotel, and part of Erik was embarrassed for having regressed once more- trying to move forward but always ending up back in the same place with Charles.
Erik stepped outside during the afternoon to retrieve his helmet- finding it lying on the ground half-covered by snow. It was a pretty apt representation of how Erik felt about his alter-ego; like Magneto was buried, but capable of being restored in an instant. He wondered if Charles would ever love him, but knew that- whilst there was a possibility Charles might grow to love Erik, he would never love Magneto.
When Erik re-entered the cabin he placed the helmet and cape down on the kitchen table, wandering over to where Charles resided on a sofa in front of the fire. Charles was sat with his knees curled up his chest, reading a book and humming to himself.
“What song is that?” Erik asked, sliding his fingertips into Charles’ hair.
Charles tilted his head to look up at Erik. “It’s called ‘Cry to Me’, have you heard of it?”
Erik shook his head.
“It came out in 1962”.
“The year the world ended…” Erik commented glibly.
“Yes, I suppose it did... I was dancing to this song when the first bombs dropped. As you can imagine I never got to finish…”
Charles placed the book he was holding down on the sofa before standing up next to Erik. He reached for Erik’s hands, lifting them and beginning to position them so that their fingers were entwined on one hand and the other was placed on Charles’ hip.
“Charles, what are you--”
“Dance with me, Erik”.
Erik’s face softened as he looked down at Charles, finding his gaze met by impossibly wide blue eyes. It was a look that most people would find hard to resist, but Erik was trying…
“Charles, I can’t…”
“I don’t know how to dance”.
It was partially true- Erik remembered dancing only once before with his mother when he was very young; looking up to her and shuffling across the floor of their kitchen in an attempt to follow her steps. It had been mere months before they’d been taken to Auschwitz, and it was one of the last pleasant memories Erik had of his mother.
“That’s okay, Erik. You only have to hold me and move your feet”.
“There’s no music playing…”
“Well then I’ll sing to you”.
Erik was all out of protests, particularly as in the next second Charles began to sing quietly- his voice soft and sweet and soothing. Charles kept his gaze central- focusing mainly on their hands and their feet as they began to move around the room, but Erik’s eyes were focused on his face.
It was an uncoordinated affair at first- like they were both trying to lead- and Erik felt like perhaps that was what they’d both been doing the entire time in which they’d known each other. Eventually though Erik began to relax a little; focusing on nothing more than the sound of Charles’ voice and the closeness of his body and the scent of his hair. He watched Charles’ face faithfully, moving slowly around the room, spellbound by the melody of Charles’ singing and the protection of his hold.
“You’re not as bad as you think you are…” Charles murmured, and Erik didn’t know if Charles was referring to his dancing or something else.
Charles finished singing but they kept moving, holding onto each other as they shuffled across the floorboards. Erik pulled Charles closer against his body, pressing his face into Charles’ hair and hugging him tight as their movements slowed down, until they were simply just holding each other and rocking side to side.
“I love you…” Erik murmured against Charles’ hair.
Every time Erik said it he felt like he was holding a piece of his heart out to world; leaving it plain and open and vulnerable. He yearned for Charles to take it from his hands, and to warm it with his own.
There were no words from Charles in response, but there was a small sound like a muffled sob and Erik felt the front of his shirt growing damp where Charles’ face rested against it. When Erik withdrew and used his hands to tilt Charles’ face upwards he found that Charles was crying, and the sight was distressing beyond measure.
“Charles, what’s wrong?” Erik asked softly.
“I can’t do this…”
“What?” Erik whispered, feeling an icy sensation form around his heart.
“It’s been months since I’ve seen Raven. I’ve tried to hope that there was some reason why Azazel never came back for us, but I know now it’s because they’re both dead. It’s why you’re trying to keep me here- because you don’t want it to be confirmed”.
“Charles, no… No, Liebling- that’s not it at all”.
“Don’t lie to me!” Charles yelled, riling in Erik’s arms. Erik hadn’t often heard Charles raise his voice before, and the sound was sharp and jarring. Charles tried to move away but Erik held him- arms wrapped tight around Charles’ waist and keeping him close as he pressed his face into Charles’ hair once more.
“Charles, please- calm down. I know you’re worried about Raven and I know you’re scared, but I promise you I will take you home to her. I promise…”
“You can’t promise me that, you don’t know…” Charles sobbed.
“Yes, I do. She’s okay, Charles- you’ll see her again. I will make sure you get back to her”.
“You promise? You promise that you’ll take me home?”
Erik leaned back from Charles, looking down into pools of deep blue. It was staggering what those eyes did to Erik’s resolve, and how he would be willing to do almost anything to ensure Charles’ happiness.
“Yes. Yes, Charles- I’ll take you home to her”.
Erik knew what the response would be even before he felt it. Charles leaned up and their mouths met and it was the same as it always was- Erik responding to Charles’ kiss and not being able to decipher whether Charles was giving him something or taking something away.
“Thank you…” Charles murmured against Erik’s lips. Erik’s hands shook where he held Charles, but he allowed Charles to continue the kiss.
When the night drew in they retired to bed- wrapped up warm in several blankets and holding each other tight. Charles was restless as they lay there- running his hands across Erik’s body and pressing feverish kisses to Erik’s neck, but the touch felt different to Erik and didn’t imbue him with the same excitement as before.
Some time later Erik lay back against the pillows with Charles in-between his legs, looking down and watching as Charles sucked on his cock.
Erik had imagined this more than once- how it would feel to have Charles lavish such attention on him, and he found himself completely captivated every time Charles looked up at him with bright blue eyes. But regardless of how good it felt, there was a twinge of uncertainty just beginning to creep under Erik’s skin that he couldn’t ignore- something that told him that not all was as it seemed.
The act felt like gratitude, but what Erik wanted most of all was love.
The next morning, Charles and Erik left the cabin. It took a while to get ready- Erik wanted to take a shower in the morning and Charles was determined to join him, and it wasn’t long before they ended up engaged in other activities rather than getting clean. Erik pressed Charles up against the wall of the shower, biting and sucking at Charles neck as he thrust into him, and wondering if the marks he left on Charles’ body might last longer than their relationship.
After the shower Charles sat on the bathroom counter and Erik stood in between his legs as he shaved his face. There was a light dusting of stubble on Charles’ jawline that Erik quickly removed, until Charles’ skin was smooth and pink and he was glowing. Charles smiled at Erik gratefully and offered to shave Erik’s face in return, but Erik declined the offer.
That day, the weather was cold and biting, and both Erik and Charles put on multiple layers in order to combat the inclement conditions. When they were ready Charles reached to hold Erik’s hand, and maintained his grip as he led Erik away from the cabin- from the place that Erik had come to think of as home.
It took several more weeks to cross the wilderness, time in which Erik felt his heart grow cold like the scene around them. He lay with Charles in abandoned buildings each night, curled up together under various blankets, but it felt less intimate than before. Erik would hold Charles and kiss him and declare his love, but whilst the actions were reciprocated the words never were, and eventually Erik began to feel himself disengage- once more becoming the distant and impassive man he’d been before they’d met.
Like always, Charles remained good natured in return. He would make small talk and exchange pleasantries and would never acknowledge the way that Erik had steadily begun to withdraw into himself. Sometimes Charles would lie close to Erik and stroke his hair and try to use his telepathy to calm Erik’s mind, but Erik no longer found such intrusion comforting and he didn’t want to allow Charles to cloud his judgement.
As they drew closer to home travelling became easier, given the harsh Canadian weather was soon left behind them. The journey wasn’t entirely without difficulty though, and Erik wondered on a few occasions whether they’d ever make it back.
On the day that they neared the hotel Charles was excited, but Erik was apprehensive. After so many weeks of travelling across Canada and down through America, Charles was finally close to being reunited with his sister, but neither of them knew if that was what was actually going to happen. There were a million potential outcomes that Charles and Erik might be faced with when they entered the hotel. It was possible that both Raven and Azazel could be dead. It was possible that they wouldn’t have made it home at all. It was possible that the entire hotel might have been obliterated by an attack from the human resistance.
But, as Charles and Erik rounded a corner the hotel came into view, and immediately an expression of relief covered Charles’ face as he began to run forward eagerly. Erik reached a hand to slow him down but Charles slipped from his grasp, and so instead Erik used his power of controlling magnetic fields to propel him through the air after Charles so that he could keep up.
The front door of the hotel was secured by various locks and defences that forced Charles to a stop and made him look over to Erik desperately for assistance. Erik reached a hand forward and in an instant the locks were overcome and the door flew open, allowing Charles to run inside. His footsteps echoed across the lobby of the hotel as he ran forward, joined by frantic cries as Charles began to call his sister’s name- the sound shrill and panicked.
Erik felt sick- a creeping feeling of dread beginning to rise in him as he listened to Charles shout; despairing as his words were met by nothing more than stark silence. But then, suddenly, there was movement from the far corner of the room- the sound of frenzied footsteps coming down the stairs before Raven burst into the lobby.
It didn’t seem real. Erik watched the scene before him in disbelief as Charles and Raven ran forward and fell into each other’s arms, collapsing to the floor whilst continuing to hold each other. During all the months since Raven had been hurt Erik had considered a hundred different possibilities, but he’d never allowed himself to believe that it could be this- that Raven would just be fine and that Charles would once again hold his sister in his arms.
Moments after Raven’s arrival there was a burst of displaced air as Azazel teleported into the room. His eyes locked with Erik’s and his face betrayed more emotion than Erik had ever seen before as he walked briskly across the floor, before coming to an abrupt stop in front of Erik like he wasn’t sure what to do. The unprecedented reaction made Erik’s face crack with a smile, and Azazel matched the expression before stepping forward to wrap his arms around Erik in a sincere hug.
“Good to see you again, boss”, Azazel said, clapping Erik hard on the back.
“You too”, Erik replied, watching Charles and Raven who were still clutching each other on the ground.
Although Erik was undeniably happy at the way things had turned out, there was still a simmering tension present as he surveyed the scene. He pulled back from Azazel’s embrace, holding the man on both shoulders as he looked at him with urgency.
“We need to get Charles upstairs”, Erik insisted, thinking about the need to keep Charles hidden from the rest of the Brotherhood. But any caution that Erik attempted to exercise was quickly set aside by the noise of footsteps behind them and the sight of several people entering through the front door of the building.
Several members of the Brotherhood stood in the lobby, staring over at the scene in front of them in disbelief. Immediately Erik’s eyes darted over to Charles and Raven huddled on the floor as he felt a rising panic consume him, but before he could say anything Raven rose to her feet- seizing Charles under one arm and lifting him up before wiping her eyes and addressing the room.
“I’m so glad you’re here”, Raven said, smiling at the mutants stepping further into the room. “This is my brother: Charles”.
Erik wasn’t usually one for expressing emotion, but in that moment he felt his mouth drop open in complete surprise. Charles adjusted to the situation rather more easily- he quickly gathered his wits and stepped forward, offering his hand to the closest person which happened to be Havok and smiling warmly.
“Charles Xavier, nice to meet you”.
Havok looked a little dumbfounded in return, but eventually he composed himself and accepted Charles’ handshake.
“So you’re the brother Mystique’s told us so much about…” Havok said. “It’s nice to finally meet you”.
Erik continued to watch the scene in disbelief, only looking away when Raven approached and seized him on one arm.
“Raven… I think you have some explaining to do…” Erik said quietly.
Raven looked up at Erik and smiled. “Don’t I always?”
For the next hour or so Erik found himself feeling elated, but frustrated. He wanted answers- to find out what had happened in the months since the separation in Canada- but Raven insisted that ensuring both Erik and Charles were well-fed was rather more important. Charles didn’t protest, and he happily sat down and tucked into a hearty meal whilst Erik sulked and poked at his food, until Raven leaned over and nudged Erik and he begrudgingly began to eat. They were surrounded by the rest of the Brotherhood in one of the hotel’s main halls as they ate, and Erik found it remarkable how well Charles fit in with the rest of the crew.
After the food had been consumed Charles, Erik, Raven, and Azazel took up residence in the room where the Brotherhood usually conducted their meetings, all sitting around the table as they began to discuss what had happened.
Azazel started by making a short noise in Russian that Erik concluded must have been an apology, as immediately Raven reached over to grasp his hand on the table as she continued for him.
“We were going to come back for you”, Raven explained. “But things didn’t quite go to plan and we never even made it back to the hotel. We popped up in Virginia- Az was injured but he still had enough sense to drop us in a place where we knew we could get help. Do you remember that doctor we met a couple of years ago- Hank? We crashed down in his living room, much to his surprise…”
“Hank McCoy? The geneticist we tried to recruit?” Erik replied, raising his eyebrows in surprise.
Raven nodded. “Yes, that’s the one. Fortunately he was in a better position to assist us this time. I was in and out of consciousness on the journey, but when I came around fully Hank had patched up my wound. Unfortunately Az didn’t fare quite so well… His head injury turned out to be more severe than we’d first thought, either that or the stress of teleporting had tipped him over the edge, and by the time I was woke up he had slipped into a coma. I stayed with Hank for weeks just waiting for Az to get better, and worrying about you of course and whether you were still okay. By the time Az had recovered and we were able to go back for you we couldn’t find you anywhere”.
Raven turned to look at Charles, her expression drawn in a frown. “Where did you go?” she asked. “Why didn’t you wait for us?”
Charles glanced over at Erik, flashing him a guilty look that Erik only found partially satisfying.
“Um, well, we didn’t know what had happened to you…” Charles started, dropping his gaze to stare down at the table. “We weren’t sure if you were ever coming back, so we decided it would be better to try and get home ourselves”.
“We?” Erik huffed under his breath, and Charles met his eyes once more before looking away and shifting uncomfortably.
“It seemed like the best idea at the time…” Charles mumbled.
“Oh, Charles…” Raven said, leaning over to grasp Charles gently on one arm. “I should have known that you wouldn’t have just been able to wait patiently. We did look around the area for you when we didn’t find you in the warehouse, but by that point you must have been long gone. We found a lighthouse nearby that looked like it had been recently used- was that where you were to begin with?”
Charles nodded. “Yes, we lived there for a few weeks whilst we waited for you- searching for supplies, gathering food, sleeping together--”
Immediately Charles’ eyes grew wide, before a pink flush began to appear in his cheeks.
“I mean sleeping in the same bed together, you know, because there was just the one bed and it was cold and we needed to keep warm, you know, for survival and erm…” Charles trailed off, lifting one hand to his face and chewing on his fingernails.
Raven glanced over to Erik questioningly, finding him pressing his palm to his forehead and trying to keep his expression neutral.
“Um, okay…” Raven said, exchanging a confused glance with Azazel. “Well, I’m just glad you guys managed to survive out there, and that you made it home safely. Although, as it turns out, you almost didn’t have anything to come back to…”
“What are you talking about?” Charles murmured.
“Shaw. He was here at the hotel”.
“What??” Erik roared, leaning forward in his chair.
“It was part of his plan”, Raven explained, addressing Erik. “That’s why we ended up going to Canada- those rumours about him being set up there came from him. It was supposed to be an ambush- that’s why that sentinel was waiting for us. It was a way to distract us so that Shaw could come here”.
“Did he hurt anyone?” Charles asked.
Raven pulled a face. “Not initially. According to Havok he just made some big speech about wanting all the mutants to join him, but he didn’t force anyone to go”.
“Did it work?” Charles enquired, his brows drawn together in a frown. “Did anyone join him?”
Raven nodded sadly. “Yes. Angel, Riptide, Sunspot…”
“Verdammt!” Erik spat out, slamming one fist down on the table. The metal in the room began to quake, before Charles reached under the table with his foot- rubbing Erik’s ankle as he stared over at him imploringly.
Charles’ touch worked wonders, like it always did, and Erik began to calm down. Marginally. He looked up to find that Raven had stretched her hand across the table towards him, realising that normally she was the one to help temper him and wondering if she knew that someone else now held that special privilege.
“Didn’t anyone try to stop him?” Erik demanded. “Why didn’t anyone prevent this- I thought we’d trained them better than this?”
Azazel let out an irritated sound as he turned to glare at the wall, which normally Erik might have chastised him for, but given the circumstances he decided to allow it.
“Darwin…” Raven said softly, squeezing Azazel’s hand. “He tried to intervene, and Shaw killed him…”
Erik felt a harsh, tight sensation develop in the centre of his chest. Another life lost to Shaw… How many more people would suffer due to that man’s actions?
“Where is Shaw now?” Erik demanded. “Does anyone know?”
Raven pulled a considered face. “Not really...” she replied slowly. “There’s rumours- we’re pretty sure he’s still in the country somewhere relatively close by- but no one knows for sure”.
Erik lapsed into silence as he stared down at the table deep in thought, and Raven continued to watch him carefully.
“You want to go after him, don’t you?” Raven said softly.
Erik glanced back up, intending to look at Raven but finding himself hopelessly distracted by the look in Charles’ eyes instead. His expression was desperately sad, but unsurprised- like he knew that this had been coming for a while, but that he regretted it nonetheless.
Erik ran his fingers back through his hair, avoiding either of the Xavier siblings’ questioning gazes.
“Is the penthouse still intact?” Erik asked, changing the subject. “You haven’t allowed Rogue to move in, have you? I know she always had her eye on my curtains…”
Raven smiled. “No, it’s exactly as you left it- cobwebs and all”.
“Perfekt, danke”. At that, Erik rose from his seat, preparing to head upstairs to his apartment.
As soon as Erik was upright he paused, realising that he was the only one standing. He’d been so used to Charles following him faithfully over the past few months, he’d just assumed that Charles would stand too and that they would go upstairs together, but it seemed unlikely to be the case.
There was a question lingering in the air as Erik stood in front of the table- the uncertainty of the situation causing a tightness Erik felt in his throat. He wanted to know if Charles was coming too, if they would continue to be together, but he didn’t know how to ask without revealing just how desperately he wanted Charles to join him. It seemed like Charles’ actions in the moments to come would dictate the future of whatever relationship they had, but it was a clarity Erik wasn’t entirely sure he was ready for.
As it happened, Charles must have been thinking about the same subject, as he quickly turned to Raven to ask her a question.
“Is there somewhere I can stay, sis? I guess now I’m no longer a dirty little secret I’ll be able to have my own room, right?”
Raven nodded. “Of course, Charles. Come with me- I’ll get you set up”.
The four of them left the meeting room together, walking as one unit down the corridor. When they reached the end Erik turned briefly to face Charles, but the telepath turned away and followed Raven and Azazel without looking back.
It should have been a good thing- to be back in the comfort of the hotel, to be safe, to know that Raven and Azazel were alive and well. Instead, Erik felt empty.
Erik ran himself a bath and reclined in the tub, allowing the warmth of the water to wash over him, trying not to think about how much better it had been when he was with Charles. He closed his eyes and lay his head back against the rear of the tub, but in his mind he saw only Charles- how he’d looked on that day when he’d sat in Erik’s lap in the bathtub and had allowed Erik to shave him. He wondered what Charles was doing at that particular moment in time, and whether it was possible that Charles might be missing him too.
When Erik opened his eyes again there was a wetness on his cheeks that he tried to pretend was just water from the bath.
After his bath Erik shaved his face and cut his hair, until he began to look like a civilised member of society once more. It felt strange to have access to toiletries and clean clothes again but Erik made the most of it- fastidiously grooming before dressing in fresh sweatpants and a white t-shirt. He left the bathroom and crossed over towards his bedroom, intending to go straight to bed but instead finding himself hopelessly distracted.
Erik paused by the screen in front of what had been the area where Charles slept. The bed was still unmade, making it look rather cruelly like Charles had just left and that he would return soon, but Erik knew that was likely to be a foolish hope.
It made Erik’s heart ache to think that he finally had the answer to his long-debated question. In the end, it wasn’t the harsh nature of the wilderness that had torn Charles away, or a sentinel, or the Brotherhood. It was just… his own choice. Now that they were back at the hotel it was like Charles no longer needed Erik to help him and to keep him safe, and so Erik had simply been cast aside.
Erik crawled onto the bed, lying down against the mattress with his face pressed into one of the pillows. Erik could still faintly smell Charles’ scent on the fabric, and if he closed his eyes he could almost convince himself that Charles was right there next to him.
Wrapping an arm around the nearest pillow, Erik drew it close to his chest, pressing his face into the softness of the fabric as he closed his eyes.
Erik awoke when he felt the mattress dip. At first he didn’t quite recall where he was so he kept his eyes shut, assuming that he was back in the cabin and that the shift was just Charles moving next to him. But then he heard a soft sigh that he hadn’t expected, and Erik’s eyes flew open at last.
“Are you in love with my brother?”
It took a while for Erik’s vision to adjust to the dim room, but when they did he was greeted by the sight of Raven lying next to him, watching him with questioning yellow eyes.
“I knew something was going on when we left for Canada- the two of you were acting so shifty around each other… And now that you’re back it’s worse than ever. You both keep looking at each other when you think the other one isn’t watching, like you’re two doomed lovers in one of those corny romantic films Charles always used to make me watch. I wondered if it was just Charles at first- he’s always been quite sentimental- but now I come to your room and find you curled up in Charles’ bed, hugging one of his pillows…”
Erik glanced down at the pillow he held in his arms, feeling an embarrassment begin to creep across his skin.
“So, come on then, Erik”, Raven continued. “How long have you been in love with Charles?”
It would have been easy to lie- to tell Raven that she was imagining things, that there was nothing going on between himself and Charles, that he still thought of Charles as an annoyance and nothing else…
Erik opened his mouth to offer contradiction, but he’d never lied to Raven before and he didn’t find himself able to start now.
“Too long”, Erik murmured.
“Oh, Erik…” Raven replied softly. She moved closer on the bed, resting her head against the pillow Erik was holding and wrapping one arm around to briefly run fingers through Erik’s hair. The touch felt like Charles, and Erik closed his eyes for a moment as he absorbed the feeling.
“This started whilst you were in Canada?” Raven asked, and Erik opened his eyes again.
“I don’t know… For me I think it started sooner than that, but it wasn’t until we were forced to survive together in the wilderness that something happened”.
“When you say ‘something happened’, you are talking about the sweaty kind of ‘something happened’, right?” Raven withdrew her hand and held it up to Erik whilst pulling a face. “But please, spare me the details- I don’t want to know about the particulars of my brother’s sex life…”
Erik smiled thinly. “Yes, we were… intimate, eventually”.
“Intimate… Erik, I didn’t know you were capable of intimate”.
Erik huffed out a noise of derision, scowling slightly at Raven which prompted her to continue.
“Hang on, don’t get me wrong, Erik- I think it’s wonderful that you’ve fallen for Charles, I just didn’t see it coming. But I guess if anyone was going to crack through your veneer of course it would be Charles- there’s just something about him that wins people over. It’s always been that way”.
Erik frowned lightly, a thought occurring to him. “Raven, did you know this would happen when you suggested Charles should live with me?”
“Um… not exactly. I didn’t expect romance, but somehow I felt like you two needed each other. You’re like two sides of the same coin- you share a lot of the same ideas and values, but your personalities and subsequent behaviour can be very different. I just hoped that you might be able to work together, and that you could bring out the best in each other”.
Erik grew quiet, considering Raven’s words.
“Did it work?” Raven asked softly.
“It did for me…” Erik was already aware of how much knowing Charles had changed him, had softened him, had warmed him. He just wasn’t sure what affect he’d had on Charles in return.
“So why are you here, then?” Raven enquired. “Why is Charles downstairs in a dingy little room rather than with you? He’s been crap all afternoon you know- distant and distracted and quiet; very unlike Charles. It took him an hour to shave his face; he kept staring at himself in the mirror like he was completely lost in thought. I assume you’ve been having a similarly unproductive evening?”
Erik nodded, heart longing as he thought about what Raven was describing.
“Then what are you doing, Erik? Why aren’t you running after him right this second?”
“There’s no point…”
“Because he doesn’t love me”.
Raven withdrew slightly, mouth parting in surprise.
“What makes you think that?” Raven murmured.
“Because he’s never said it”.
Raven started to laugh and Erik glared at her, feeling distinctly like he was being mocked until Raven began to explain herself.
“Erik… Charles never says it. It’s like he’s emotionally constipated or something. He thinks that just because his telepathy enables him to know how everyone else feels then that means that he shouldn’t have to talk about his own feelings in return. It’s kind of an annoying trait, honestly… But it’s just part of the whole Charles package”.
Erik regarded Raven breathlessly, feeling comforted by her words but not really allowing himself to dare to dream that she might be right- that there might be a chance that Charles might feel something for him after all.
“What are you going to do, Erik?” Raven asked softly.
Erik was used to formulating plans. He was a leader, after all, and consequently the majority of his adult life had been spent strategizing and considering the best course of action. But, for the first time in years, Erik felt like he didn’t know what to do.
In response, Erik closed his eyes- only intending to hide from reality for a second but quickly finding himself overcome by an increasing tiredness. Raven leaned over and pressed a kiss to Erik’s cheek, before she snuggled back down into the pillow once more- gently rubbing Erik’s arm as she lulled him into a sound sleep.
When Erik awoke he felt warm; bathed in the glow of sunlight streaming in through the window at the side of the bed. It wasn’t the sun that had woken him though, it was the smell of fresh coffee, and the awareness of someone sitting next to him tapping their foot against the mattress.
“You talk in your sleep”.
Erik opened his eyes to find Raven staring down at him, sipping from a cup of coffee that she held in her hands.
“No I don’t…”
Raven scoffed. “You do. You’re lucky I don’t speak German, otherwise I’m sure I could have picked up on lots of scandalous things to use against you…”
She smiled widely, before leaning close to Erik. “Charles speaks German…”
Just hearing Charles’ name was tangible- the sound drawing Erik out of his sleep state with pressing urgency. He lay for a moment against the mattress, contemplating the day to come and what it might bring.
Raven continued to grin at Erik before she leaned over him, reaching for a cup of coffee that was resting on the windowsill beside the bed and holding it up for Erik. Erik sat up in the bed so that he lay with his back against the pillows, before accepting the cup from Raven and taking an eager sip.
“Are you going to talk to him today…?” Raven asked eventually, raising her eyebrows at Erik expectantly.
Erik gave a shrug in return, which caused Raven to sigh and roll her eyes.
“Come on, Erik- you can’t just avoid Charles forever. He lives here now, so you’re going to have to see him eventually”.
“I know that…” Erik grumbled. “I’m just wondering if it would be easier this way- to just go back to living our separate lives like nothing happened”.
“Is that really what you want?”
“Then don’t do it. Believe me, it’s not easier this way. Why do you think I’m here with you? It’s because Charles is so fucking miserable right now I can’t stand to be around him, though you’re not much better... You need to talk to him”.
Erik looked down at his cup of coffee, lapsing into thoughtful silence before Raven leaned closer, causing Erik to look over to her.
“Don’t make me push you, Erik”.
Raven stayed for another cup of coffee and some toast until eventually she left, but only after Erik promised that he would speak to Charles later that day.
It was a lie though. As soon as Raven left Erik showered and got dressed, before sitting down at the table in the living room with a book laid open on the surface. It was an old notebook- brown and leather-bound, inside of which were various details of Shaw’s movements over the time in which Erik had been tracking him.
Erik had followed Shaw across the world for years, noting down his movements and activities, trying to decipher some sort of pattern that might enable him to determine Shaw’s next move. It had worked in the past, and had brought Erik to within striking distance of the man who’d destroyed his life, but Shaw had always managed to shrink back into the darkness in the end.
Reaching for a pen, Erik wrote down the most recent information about Shaw, before pouring over the details as he attempted to formulate a plan. It was ridiculous, but Erik felt like he was cheating on Charles by fixating on Shaw like this, but he knew that his quest to seek revenge on Shaw was an obsession that would never end whilst Shaw lived.
Sometime later there was a creaking sound as the elevator began to rise into the penthouse, and Erik cursed under his breath as he realised that apparently Raven was more determined than he’d realised to make Erik face his responsibilities.
Erik turned towards the elevator as the doors opened, then quickly forgot how to breathe for a second as Charles stepped out into the room.
He looked achingly good- complexion clean and bright, clothes neat, hair newly trimmed. Erik’s heart yearned for him in an instant; a conditioned response that he wished he could fight but he knew he was helpless to resist. It was ironic really, for Erik to think about the unknowable power he possessed when it came to his mutation, when he couldn’t even control something as simple as the desperate beating of his own heart.
Charles moved further into the room, coming to stand just in front of Erik, staring down at him carefully.
“Raven said you wanted to talk…”
Erik made a mental note to address Raven’s insubordination later, and to either chastise or reward her based on how the encounter with Charles went.