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A sense of belonging

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In the span of the past three months Erik feels like he's had his life run through a wringer. He'd thought his existence might end with Shaw's death, but the government department for Sentinel Affairs had of course had other ideas.

Erik stares out at the enormous garden surrounding the Xavier Institute for the gifted - so pretentious, Erik thinks to himself. If pressed, though, Erik might admit that he's grown quite fond of this place and of most of its inhabitants.

He keeps waiting for the other shoe to drop. Constantly. Everyone is treating him like he's their equal. It's a foreign concept to Erik. He was under Shaw's ownership for nearly ten years. Equality was something for other people. For not-guides. Shaw had made that clear on any and every occasion.

Erik wants nothing more than to add, that the one person he doesn't like, is Charles Xavier himself. But deepest down, Erik knows it. He knows why, every time he hurts Charles, he feels like he's punching himself in the gut.

The problem is, he can't help himself. And what it all boils down to is Sebastian fucking Shaw.

Raven has told him that Guides aren't supposed to be second-grade citizens. Alex has told him as well - and Erik still finds it weird that Alex, one of the Sentinels at the school, is waiting for his Guide to reappear… because he's apparently, currently, not corporeal.

Erik hadn't asked for details. He's got enough on his plate as it is.

His plate is currently running over with the opportunity that Xavier has presented him. The choice, as he'd put it.

Erik wonders why then, it feels like an ultimatum. Take this offer, it's your only way out, forward, away…

Closing his eyes, Erik leans against the windowsill. He is so fucking damaged that even Charles Xavier, with all the patience in the world, doesn't want him around.

(liar liar, pants on fire)

Erik bites his lower lip. It's his own fault. He's been keeping Xavier at an arm's length since he got here and there is no way that Xavier would think he'd want to be the man's Guide. Not with how Erik's been acting. Not when Erik is defective. Full of anger, full of distrust that he can't find anywhere else to aim at.

Raven's called him out on it. And Erik might have been able to ignore it, brush it off, if she hadn't let slip that Xavier has been having trouble lately controlling the Sentinel side of his abilities. And that it's slowly influencing his telepathy.

Erik hasn't noticed the latter, but then again, he's rarely met anyone who is so tightly in control as Xavier. The former… the senses… that he has noticed, if he is honest with himself. Because the few times he's met with Xavier, he can tell how much the man is fighting imprinting on Erik. And as much as Erik wishes it differently, he is a Guide.

A compatible Guide.

Erik turns from the window and goes to his room. His room. A private room that no one can enter unless he invites them. Such a novel idea. Privacy.

He smiles at the students he meets on his way. He does like it here but the offer Xavier has given him will allow him to continue to work with students, it'll just also allow him to get away from Xavier himself.

Erik has no chores this Saturday morning. The school is mostly empty with the majority of the students out and about. He pulls out his running gear and heads off into the woods around the institute. This is a new experience as well and one that he hopes he can continue, even after taking Xavier's offer. Running. In the open, outside. Shaw would allow him the gym - would encourage it, but letting Erik out on his own for a run… that had never been a thing that he'd been allowed to do. And now that he can, and is encouraged to pursue whatever exercise he wants, he quite enjoys the solitude and freedom of running.

It helps him clear his mind, helps him go over his options once again. The Xavier Institute is expanding, building a new school in Massachusetts. And Xavier has offered Erik a position there, if he wants it.

It will allow him to put more than a hundred miles between Xavier and himself and it will be the best thing to do. For Xavier's sake as well, Erik is sure.

(liar, liar, pants on fire)

If he isn't constantly risking running into Xavier, it will be better for the both of them and Xavier can look for another Guide.

Erik pushes away the unease of this thought.

At the end of his run, he's sweating and tired, but he's made up his mind. There's really nothing else he can do.

The school is even more quiet when he returns and when he runs into Raven, she puts a hand out to stop him.

"Can I have a word with you?" she asks - only half a question, really. It's closer to a demand.

Erik sighs and nods, heading for the kitchen to get something to drink, Raven trailing after him. "Where is everyone?" he asks - he can't feel any of the metal of zippers and the like of the kids and the presence of Xavier's watch is halfway on the other side of the building.

"Hank took the rest of them into the city for a field trip to the Natural History museum," she replies, making a face and making it obvious that she has opted out of going.

Erik spares the furred mutant an empathic thought while gulping down a glass of water. Hank is good with the kids and they do mostly listen to him, but taking them into the city on a Saturday to go to the museum...

"I'm going to take the offer of going to the Massachusetts school when it's done," Erik tells her, filling his second glass of water.

This seems to break Raven's momentum. She closes her bright yellow eyes for a moment, then opens them again, watching Erik in silence.

"I'm going to take him up on the new academy," Erik continues. "It's what I want." It's not quite true, but Erik doesn't know what he wants.

(liar, liar, pants on fire)

"When are you going to tell him?" Raven isn't going to try to talk him out of it, it seems. And Erik is glad that she doesn't attempt to. He isn't sure if his flimsy reasons will hold water if she decides to poke at them.

"Today," he says, surprising himself a little. It had seemed like a nebulous intention, but he can't keep dragging it out, can he? "I'll take a shower and go find him."

Raven makes a face, then nods. "I'm going to head into the city, try not to blow up the whole school while I'm gone?" With this, she turns and takes her leave.

Erik stares after her for a while, his thoughts going in circles. He vaguely acknowledges Raven heading off in one of the cars - vintage, his sense for metal tells him. The Aston Martin, if he's not mistaken.

The house is beyond quiet and Erik feels weirdly jittery. Shower, then find Xavier. His watch is still occasionally moving in his office. Probably whenever he turns a page in a book.

Erik moves forward when he gets that strange feeling of something about to go wrong. Taken apart, it's probably that he can tell something's heading towards the mansion and a moment later, that something breaks a window, loudly and then nothing until the whole world flips.

Erik blinks and wonders why the world is on its side. Then he realizes that he's the one on the floor, the metallic tang of blood in his mouth.

He feels vaguely nauseous as he tries to stand, only managing on the third try. Leaning against the nearest wall, he staggers along it until he finds one of the terminals. The school is on lockdown and somewhere outside the grounds he realizes he can feel people - or rather metal on people. Not moving. Unconscious? He can feel weapons - they're not moving either.

Wiping blood from his nose, Erik sends out a warning to both Hank and Raven, hoping they'll get back as soon as possible. He's not sure for how long he's been unconscious, and in that case, how far Raven's gotten.

It's possible whatever hit him hit her as well and that she's out there, unconscious somewhere. But he can't worry about that now, because he isn't alone in the house, is he?

"Charles," he mutters, feeling his guts twist at the thought. He reaches out and can feel the watch still, but it isn't moving.

Erik staggers through the house, gets into the elevator because he can't navigate the stairs as unsteady he is on his feet at the moment.

He finds Xavier on the floor of his study. Unconscious. The great window facing the grounds has a jagged hole in it and there's some metal thing on the floor, the carpet under it slightly singed.

Erik barely takes this in, unerringly heading for Xavier's still body. Relief stutters through him when he realizes that he's still breathing. Erik still feels like his brain has been boiled in scalding water, but it doesn't matter.

All the instincts, that Erik has always claimed to not possess, wash over him and maybe it's because his mind feels scrambled that they do, that they come to the fore, that they take over his body and he knows what to do.

Because Charles is zoned out. His eyes are open, unseeing. A state that Erik has seen him in twice before, in both cases capable of bringing himself back to reality. Not this time, though. There's no flicker of Charles' mind either.

And the worst thing is that Erik doesn't know what he's zoned on, which sense is overwhelming the others, including his telepathy. All he can do is try to get a reaction.

Touch. Erik rubs Charles' hands, feeling the cool skin. He touches Charles' cheek, hoping it will help bring him back, runs his fingers through the soft hair. If he had been tracking completely, he'd be admitting that he's wondered if it's as soft as it looks. It isn't. It's softer.

There's nothing in Charles that says he's noticing, though.

Scent. Erik holds Charles' head close to his own neck. He's been out running, he must be rank to a Sentinel's nose, but he also knows that Charles has partly imprinted on his scent and if he truly wants Erik as his Guide, sweat works more like an aphrodisiac than a repellant. In any case, it's a scent strong enough that it should get through to Charles.

Nothing happens.

Hearing. Erik realizes that he's muttering close to Charles' ear. Keeps telling him that he has to come back, that Erik wants to stay. And Erik feels like he's breaking apart and won't ever mend. It doesn't matter, he doesn't care, as long as Charles will follow his voice back, Erik will spend the rest of his life at his side, at his feet, wherever Charles will want him.

If he still wants him.

There is no reaction at all, and somewhere deep inside, Erik despairs.

Taste… Erik runs a finger along Charles' lips. Nothing. Recklessly, he bends his head and kisses him. Presses his lips to Charles', silently pushing thoughts at Charles, asking him to come back.

And he does. Charles slowly resurfaces and Erik knows they're bonding, mutually imprinting, he just can't find it in him to regret it.

"I'm so sorry," Charles finally says, pulling back a little, eyes wide, unshed tears making them even more blue, and no less attractive to Erik.

Erik doesn't answer, just holds onto Charles as the man mumbles apology after apology into Erik's shoulder. Babbles about the attack making his senses spike, triggering his telepathy to lash out. Then goes back to apologizing for bonding with Erik. Binding him.

At first, Erik can't figure out what to do. He knows he's at a crossroad. If he lets Charles take the blame as is his knee-jerk reaction, he knows it will shut and lock doors. Point of no return.

Everything boils down to that assole Shaw. For the first time, Erik realizes, or rather, acknowledges, what Charles has been been trying to teach him, what Raven has said, that a Guide has as much power in a relationship as a Sentinel does.

Erik literally has the power to break Charles Xavier.

For good, forever.

Erik has always thought, that if he could get away from Shaw, he would want ultimate power over his life, would fight for it. Would never allow anyone else to exercise any kind of control over him.

He's just never thought it could mean this. The ultimate power and control could mean the choice of staying with someone. Someone who could have control over him.

Someone over whom he would have similar control.

No, control is the wrong word. Influence, affect, impact.

Mutual.

Erik knows he's made up his mind as he gently cradles Charles' head and coaxes him to lift it, enough that Erik can see the sorrow in his eyes.

"Don't be sad, Charles" Erik mumbles. He almost wants Charles to intrude, to read his mind so he won't have to put it into words, but Erik knows it'd be the coward's way out. "If you want me, I'll stay. Because I want to." He presses his lips to Charles' again, this time feeling a rush of want as they part and Charles whimpers while finally giving in and curling his thoughts warmly around Erik's.There's an echo there of Charles' wonder at Erik using his first name rather than his surname. As he has since day one.

They should probably deal with the attackers outside the grounds, but Erik knows the others will take care of it. When they return, the school has enough Sentinel and Guide pairs, that everyone will recognize the need for Charles and himself finishing their bonding. They can't be parted for another few hours. All they can focus on is the imprinting and Erik can't find it in his heart to fight it.

The instinct to run is still there, but Erik refuses to listen to it. Fuck Sebastian Shaw and his 'legacy'.

This is the choice of Erik Lehnsherr, Guide to Charles Xavier, not by biological imperative, but by choice.