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I'm blind every mile that your burn

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He'd been to prison before. For killing a man that he didn't even know the name of. He can't remember how it happened, or rather, he's rather glad he doesn't remember, because he doesn't need additional guilt. He already knows he's an abomination of nature, a sick freak, who doesn't deserve to live with the rest of the society.

So on his very first trial – he remembers it clearly, as if it was yesterday – he confessed to a violent murder, lied about how he started the fire, going into excruciating details of how he laughed in the face of the unknown man, cutting and burning him with a knife.

He did all this, looking straight over the arm of his attorney, at the young widow. He still sees her weeping face and hears the muttered why, why, why?

Because, he sometimes thinks, imagining having a real conversation with her. I had been aiming for a death penalty. Because I'm not normal, because I deserve to die.

Sentenced for life, decided the jury.

Sentenced for life, because he was still a minor when it happened.

Freak of nature rather, he snorts and stares down the guy, who is twice his size. It's his first day of prison and the last day of his life as Alex Summers. His mother doesn't want to know him. His brother – Scott, Scottie – doesn't understand what's going on and for that Alex is glad. He's not much of a cool younger brother at the moment, not anymore.

Minutes melt into hours, hours into days, days into months, then years.

He'd stopped counting. He's still alive.

One day they come for him. They smile and motion for him to get out of the solitary cell.

Don't be afraid, he hears in his mind and doesn't recognize the voice.

“This is Erik Lensherr,” the one with the British accent says, nodding at the taller man. “And my name is Charles Xavier. It's nice to meet you Alexander.”

“Alex,” he says, before he can stop himself and the name sounds weird, alien in his ears.

But Charles' smile widens, when Erik snorts, before grinning. “Alex then, nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” he says, a bit gruffly, too used to the tough act, needed for survival in a facility like this one. The two man exchange subtle glances, and there is something there that
he can't place a finger on. Yet.

+

He is not used to people being so touchy feely with him. He does remember his mother's hugs and brotherly fights, not always so innocent as they'd later claim them to be, but it was a long time ago. He does cherish those few moments, carefully keeping them in a box, sealed deep in his mind with a 'my past life' sticker on it.

You don't do hugs and touching in prison, unless you are a queer and it's not something you should be telling everyone around you, if you want to feel safe enough to sleep at night.

Homosexuality is a mutation, not as dangerous as Alex's cursed ability is, but in this world and time, it's all the same. Better kept to yourself. And Alex? Alex, has been very busy, hiding from the world and prying eyes, so when he meets Darwin, who is all smiles and touches, brushing against him and generally having a total disregard for personal space whatsoever, he is confused.

He is not exactly angry, or irritated and finds himself relaxing a bit, deciding that the physical contact is rather nice. After all this time, with just air and clothes brushing his skin, the warmth of the other human being is more than welcome. Darwin's palm warm on his lower back.

Alex is still anxious though, so, just in case, he plays the rough guy card, wary of his surroundings and new people, but they pay him no heed, quick to categorize him as the asshole one with the groovy power.

He likes it that way. Darwin might be the one with the adaptability ability, but Alex's got a few aces in his sleeves as well.

+

To say that the attack had surprised them, would be the understatement of the year, but after giving it some thought, it wasn't exactly that surprising. Not as much as Angel suddenly changing sides, even when Darwin died.

When Darwin, Alex chokes on a bitter feeling in his mouth, fighting the dizziness and the weakness in his knees. When Darwin was killed and Angel – Angel that fucking skank, betrayed them as if it didn't matter. All because, she didn't like the way some of the CIA guys were looking at her, poor, poor little Angel.

He spits on the ground, hands closed into fists, nails biting into the skin of his palms. A few hours - just a few hours before - he'd been under the illusion that maybe there is more to life than cold walls of his prison cell. That maybe, being a mutant, didn't have to be the equivalent of socially unacceptable.

Maybe, maybe, maybe. Echoing in his mind, made Alex only angrier, because maybe doesn't mean anything at all. Maybe won't bring Darwin back nor kill the weird guy, who practically wiped the whole base from existence with just two of his henchmen.

“What are we going to do now?” Banshee's voice brought Alex back to the present. “Where are we going to go now?”

“Charles and Erik are going to be here,” Raven says softly, sitting heavily on the remains of,what would once be, a stone bench. “They're going to be here and they will know.”

“There is not much to do now,” Alex snorts angrily and rubs at his face, rubbing the dirt more into his skin. “Angel is a traitor,” he grits. “We're lucky to be alive, Darwin wasn't,” he snarls and looks at the rest of their faces. Sees the exact moment, when the fact, of just how hopeless they are in the face of danger, sinks in.

+

Alex burns hot. The heat crawls under his skin, wanting to get out. Wanting to shoot, to blast off something, preferably big enough to earn him his back ticket to his quiet, cold prison cell. Where is no space for idealistic bullshit and hope.

He's barely containing himself, and the only way of knowing this is because the others look at him more carefully now, afraid. He's too far gone when an orange-red spirals start circling his body and the others start moving away, not bothering to be subtle about it. Raven is saying something, perhaps to calm him down, but all he can feel is the wild roar in his ears and the hot feeling in his guts.

That's it, he thinks as he realizes it's too late for him to regain any kind of control. He only hopes that the three others have enough brain left to getthefuckaway and duck, before he fires.

He closes his eyes and waits for the inevitable, when a hand closes around one of his wrists and someone is standing behind him.

“Calm down, man,” says Darwin's voice straight into his ear and Alex's eyes snap open. The vicious rings are still circling, though with less force, and when he looks down he sees slim, brown fingers around his wrist. Instinctively he tries to turn, to move, but at the moment even breathing seems awfully hard to do and -

Christ, I can smell the skin burning, Alex thinks and tries to move away from whoever this person is, because Darwin is dead and Alex does not appreciate the confusion, not again. But the hold on his wrist doesn't budge and the fingers around it are morphing into claws, skin getting colder and tougher than before, just like Darwin's...

“That's it,” murmurs the voice and Alex draws a sudden breath, his temperature returning to normal, just humming in his veins, not on the verge of explosion.

“Darwin,” it's Hank's voice that cuts through the stunned silence and Alex can both hear and feel, the person behind him chuckle. “But, how?”

“It's not that easy to kill me,” Darwin, because now he's sure it's his voice, says. “It's just a bit difficult to adapt sometimes,” and Alex won't believe it until he sees him, until he looks into the other's eyes. He needs a confirmation that this is not some kind of sick illusion, caused by a violent blow to the head from the earlier fight. So he tries to turn, but the hand – human again, still holding him loosely – stops him.

“Darwin,” he says, turning his head, catching a glimpse of dark face and bright smile.

“So sorry man, but my clothes aren't as adaptable as I am, so I'm kind of -” he clears his throat and chuckles. “Naked. Hope you don't mind, but I really have no choice. I'd rather not be arrested for public indecency,” he says, his voice light, but there is a certain edge to it. Alex doesn't say anything, stunned, but he can hear a quiet giggle from where Raven stands. Hank visibly blushing at the admission.

“That's gotta be cold,” Banshee scrunches his eyebrows and starts looking around. “We need to get you into some clothes,” he starts saying, but Alex is not listening.

Alex is not listening, because there is a naked male, literally, plastered to his back and it's certainly not the same thing as a simple hand touching. It's a full body contact, with a few, sparse layers of clothing and Alex probably needs to seriously rethink some of the things in his life.

Including homosexuality, because he might not be entirely comfortable with so much touching, nakedness and being looked at – all at the same time, no less – but he doesn't exactly feel disgusted by it, and that's not really much of a comfort.

“Dear Lord,” exclaims Charles, suddenly there with Erik by his side. Their expressions so different and so similar at the same time, angry and pained. “What happened in here?” He asks, his accent thickening, probably due to the shock of the destruction and death around him, with them in the middle of it.

“This guy came,” starts Raven, walking fast towards him, hugging desperately and Charles fights with himself to not read her mind without her consent. She is trembling in his arms, fear and distress coming in waves from her, even with him blocking his mind on purpose. It hurts, but he's had worse.

Alex observes the scene with a faint interest, Darwin's body still very much present and solid behind him. He considers shouting, demanding to know what they should do now, but finds it in him – or is it Charles, calming them? He doesn't know – to keep quiet for those few more moments, until the moment is broken by Erik, putting his palm on Charles' arm, squeezing.

Just before turning to Alex and Darwin, with an amused frown.

Why, or rather how come you're naked?” He asks, and there is a clear attention shift in the air.

Shit, Alex thinks. So much for not being the centre of attention. Thankfully, it's Darwin who saves him from saying anything.

“It's a bit complicated,” he says and Alex can feel his warm breath hitting the back of his uncovered neck. He can't stop a small shiver that goes through his spine at this. “I died for a moment there.”

“What do you mean, died for a moment,” Charles scrunches his brows and touches the finger to his temple. “Do you mind if I?” He asks.

“It's not the best idea,” Darwin says and smiles bashfully. “Dying was rather painful,” he finishes, tone softer as if he didn't really want to say it and Alex feels the sick feeling in his stomach, because it was his fault. It was his power that ripped the other from the inside.

Darwin's hand flexes a bit, it's subtle and almost there, but it doesn't ease Alex's guilt.

“I understand,” Charles nods and his eyes move to Alex, but the younger man avoids looking at him. He doesn't want anybody in his head, not at the moment, when he's barely holding himself together.

“Charles,” Raven says, sensitive enough to feel the tension and Alex might not exactly like her, but for the moment he is grateful or at least tries to be. “I've seen the whole thing.”

She opens up and he slips into her mind, gently. Careful, to get only into the details of what happened, leaving other fragments of her consciousness untouched. But when he sees what she had seen, sees Shaw, the bastard, he pulls out a bit more roughly that he'd like to. Raven flinches and he can't be sure if it's because of him, or because of the still fresh memory of the tragedy, forcefully pulled forward.

“Charles?” Erik asks him, worry lacing his voice as the hand on his arm is back, firm and warm.

“Sebastian Shaw,” Charles answers.


Alex doesn't listen to Charles and Erik's conversation, as they move aside, deciding to go with whatever they come up with. He thinks about going back to prison, it wouldn't be that awful, but for some reason he thinks, not hopes, that the others would try to be all heroic and break him out of it.

As if I couldn't do it myself if I really wanted to
, he thinks and sighs.

“Not that I am complaining,” Darwin's says behind him, leaning more against his back, warm. “But I could use some clothes.”

“There is not much to wear around here,” Sean says, taking off his sunglasses and wiping them on the hem of the shirt. “A shirt or a jacket is no problem, I can lend you mine,” he offers with a shrug. “But we need to get you some pants.”

“I'd greatly appreciate it, man,” the black man chuckles. “Because the company is getting bigger and I'd rather not flash any pretty bird.”

Raven snorts at that, but Alex feels yet another wave of dislike when Angel's face flashes in front of his eyes, slowly turning to Moira walking over to them with a determined look on her face. He blinks, unconsciously bracing himself. The words of one of the now dead guards, echoing in his head. Let us normal people live.

“Why are you-?” Moira stops suddenly, eyes going wide at the sight of Darwin's uncovered body, but Charles interrupts her before she can start interrogating them, “We need a set of clothing for Darwin.”

“I can see that,” she stutters, finding it hard to turn her eyes away from the young man, but Charles doesn't pay her any more attention, turning fully to Alex and the rest.

“We'll make sure to arrange a safe trip back home for all of you,” he says and his voice is stern, older.

“We can't just go home,” Sean bristles and points at Alex. ”He can't go back to prison,” and for some reason, the thought of having been right makes Alex smirk.

“We can fight them back,” Erik says suddenly and Charles turns his stormy look his way, before pulling him aside once again.

This is going to be a long day, decides Alex.

+
When Alex sees Charles' house for the first time – their house, he feels Charles correcting him in his mind – he's utterly dumbstruck. He can tell that he's not the only one, but only Erik dares to speak his mind, of course, not letting the opportunity for a snarky comment to pass, but he's smiling and Charles mirrors it with his own. It feels like a sudden stop in time, but Raven is quick to get between the two of them, and the moment is gone.

Later, when he's alone in his room - so different from what he's used to – Alex lets his mind wander, eyes not really looking at the elegant ceiling. The past twenty-four hours have been crazy, a sudden attack of other mutants, betrayal, death of a new friend – he still can't get over the fact, even with Darwin thankfully alive, breathing and wearing clothes again – and the sudden turn in his life that will probably affect pretty much every decision he makes from now on.

He's scared and feels more like a weak fifteen year old than he's been in years, but for some reason his thoughts circle around Charles and Erik and their weird coexistence that in turn makes him question his own reactions whenever Darwin is near and the weird sensations that come with it. He will not ever think about those as feelings, because feelings are for girls and he's a man, damn it!

+

Alex gets lost first thing in the morning, for once he wishes he'd have an ability allowing him to track certain scents, because he is hungry, and the whole house is build like a labyrinth and he just can't find the kitchen. He seriously starts to consider either screaming for help or trying to eat, the rather cruel looking, plant in the corner of the stairway, but it's more of the latter if he's being honest with himself.

“Man, this house is huge,” mutters someone behind the corner and when he turns, he sees Sean looking as lost and confused as Alex is. “Oh, hey, you lost too, huh?” Sean grins, coming to stand in front of him, he looks half-asleep, smiling lazily at him.

“No,” answers Alex a bit gruffly, because he is not lost, but when Sean's lazy smile widens, he sighs and rubs at his neck, grinning as well. “Yeah, can't find the kitchen.”

“Shway, let's try and look for it together then, maybe we should start a fire to give them a sign to find us,” he chuckles and yawns widely, not bothering to cover his mouth and Alex smiles, an answer already on his lips when there is a weird noise and one of the doors on the lower floor opens.

“- I really don't think this is such a good idea,” Charles laughs freely, looking behind him and there is no guessing about, who he is talking to.

“I can do it, if we're supposed to train isn't it all about it?” Erik asks, coming out of the room, his eyes boring into Charles face.

“Erik,” Charles' sighs and puts a palm on the other's chest. “Perhaps, but I still don't like it.”

“And there we go again, you saying something so innocent that makes me wonder how old you really are,” Erik huffs, but then smiles and pushes past Charles with a husky laugh. “Prove it to me then,” he just says and glances upwards, only now noticing Alex and Sean. “You lost, lads?” He asks with a wicked gleam in his eyes and Alex thinks that perhaps he knew they were there from the very beginning.

By the look on Charles face, he's thinking the same thing.

+

“Morning!” Smiles Darwin when they find their way to the kitchen with Erik and Charles in tow. Raven is already there as well, but Hank is nowhere to be seen. He's probably in the freshly created lab, making yet another weird and completely incomprehensible to Alex thing. He's such a typical lab rat that the blonde man can't help, but to tease him mercilessly. “Coffee?”

“No, thank you,” Alex shakes his head and sits down next to Darwin, before he realizes that if he really wants to eat anything, he ought to get it first, but somehow the empty chair next to Darwin's seemed so inviting that he couldn't help himself. “Right, food,” he says with a subtle cough, standing up again and moving towards the fridge.

“Take whatever you want to,” Charles says as he takes out two cups and pours fresh coffee into them, handing one of them to Erik. “There is enough food for everybody and you need your strength for later,” he smirks.

“I don't see how exactly you want to do it,” Darwin says, taking a sip of his coffee and Alex wonders if the bitter beverage tastes better on Darwin's tongue, and if maybe he should try and taste it, but then he flushes, realizing what he'd just thought, banishing the thought, before Charles gets a whiff of it. But it's too late.

“What?” Charles says confused, before shaking his head and throwing a quick glance at Alex, before turning back to Darwin. “I've been thinking about some individual training for all of you, to help you embrace your powers,” he starts and goes on, mentioning a few ideas he's had in his head and answering the few questions he gets from the other mutants.

Alex is the only quiet one, sipping his juice and looking at the floor.

+

The first day of training goes horrible in Alex's opinion. Not only he was unable to get a proper hit once, but also almost burned the mansion down – he doesn't quite believe that the bunker is that tough, no matter what Charles says – and himself in the process, because there is only much fire one can put down at one moment. He's tired, sore and hungry and smells like a burning meat and sweat. Basically, he is not in the mood and there is a weird twitch in his right leg, muscles contracting painfully making walking awkward.

Charles visited him a few times during the day, to talk about the process he was making, none, and how to properly concentrate. It wasn't much of a help. Alex really appreciates the pure belief, that the older man seems to have, that he can control this thing without killing innocent lives in the process, but at the end of the day, the only thing Alex wants is to sulk and bitch in the corner.

He plans to do just that, but first he needs to stop by the kitchen and hunt for something to eat. Sulking on an empty stomach doesn't sound much better than playing with fire hula hoops all day.

It's already dark outside and the kitchen is only partially lit when he gets there, but Alex's mind is already fully focused on getting some fuel and the fridge is the only thing he really sees. He opens it and grabs the first thing that looks fairly edible – a big, juicy tomato – and bits into it with a sinful moan, not caring to straighten out or even get his head out of the fridge, tomato juices dripping down his chin.

“Alex?” An amused voice says, from somewhere behind him and he almost chokes, turning its way. Darwin grins at him, an empty yoghurt cup on the table in front of him, forgotten.

“Darwin,” he mumbles, quickly chewing the rest of the tomato and only now realizing that he's still bent over, giving the other a perfect view of his ass. “Didn't see you here,” he grins, straightening up and fighting the urge to squeak and flee the scene, preferably pretending later on that nothing of that sort happened.

“I don't really blame you,” Darwin chuckles and smiles at him, but there is something oddly reserved in the way he's looking at Alex. “I've been underwater for the most of the day,” he says, rubbing at this neck. “No swimming pools for me for at least a year,” he says and smiles, eyes crinkling in the corners and Alex realizes that he doesn't know how old, Darwin really is. His hands felt so big around his wrist and on Alex's back.

“How old are you?” The blond asks, sitting in front of him, grinning cheekily to cover his embarrassment and queer thoughts, he knows, wouldn't be appreciated.

“I'm twenty-four,” Darwin says and raises both his eyebrows. “Why?”

“Just asking,” shrugs Alex. “I'm twenty myself,” he says quickly.

“That explains why you wiped the floor with me in the gaming department,” Darwin chuckles and Alex smirks at him, forgetting about his weird reactions and enjoying the moment they're sharing.

“Told you. I had lots of free time to spare,” and there is not much to do when you're in prison, he adds to himself.

Darwin leans closer then, his palms on the table, body open towards Alex.

“Tell me about it,” he says it more like a statement than an actual question, and that's probably the only reason Alex does.

“I've killed a man,” Alex says and watches the other's reaction, preparing himself for a snarl of disgust or maybe even angry dismissal, but there is none. Darwin just nods, and waits for him to continue. So Alex swallows his uneasiness and continues. “I've been fifteen and...”

+

Alex doesn't know how long they've been sitting in the kitchen, but he can't find it in himself to bother about such details. He just told someone his life story.

It's his first time. Never before he did such thing. He is aware that Charles probably knows all of it, having read it in his mind on their first meeting. But this. This, he thinks. Is different. Actual telling someone – speaking those words, hearing them not only in his mind. And that someone is Darwin, who Alex believes, is capable of understanding at least part of it.

Alex doesn't ask to be forgiven. Killing a man is not an act, one can or should be able to dismiss easily.

“All I want,” he sighs and stops, gritting his teeth and breathing through his nose, unable to finish the thought. His eyes are boring into the table, unseeing. Alex hears a creak of a chair, telling him that Darwin stood up, and fights the sudden flash of disappointment that blooms in his guts.

Was he wrong? Was he to quick to think that he could confess to that man? Races through his mind, but it all becomes blank when a warm hand finds its way to his back, moving in small circles and soothing him like one would a wild animal.

“Thank you,” says Darwin and Alex can feel the warmth of his breath on the side of his cheek. He closes his eyes and leans a bit into the caress.

+

The next few days are awkward for Alex. Truth to be told, Darwin seems completely disconcerted by their late-night conversation, acting as if it never happened. He's still his usual touchy-feely self, throwing grins and encouraging comments around, as if life was all sunshine and rainbows and there wasn't World War III on the horizon. Alex is jealous.

Jealous, and a bit flabbergasted by it all, actually avoiding the black man whenever he can. He feels a bit chicken shit about it, but he's got a perfectly good explanation in his head, telling himself that there is no time to have personal issues and he'd better concentrate on his training. If he wants to be of any use next time when a fight happens.

He hopes it won't end like the last time. Watching Darwin die once is enough for him. He's not sure he can take it again, so soon too. He knows he's not weak, but he's not a soldier either. He has the right to be afraid.

With that in mind, he enters the main hall, just in time to see Darwin being pushed from the stairs by Charles. His heart stops for a moment and the world around him slows as he watches Darwin falling down, before he remembers about the other mutant's ability.

He stays still, eyes following Darwin's body. The transformation is certainly nothing new, but it's a thrilling experience to witness the other's soft – smooth, Alex thinks – skin transform into a hard rock layer with spikes, preventing any kind of injury that would doubtlessly be fatal when going down the stairs head first. He knows that. Of course, he knows that.

But when there is a loud crack that sounds like shattering bones, he can't help but take an instinctive step forward, before Charles' voice in his head tells him to stop.

Don't worry, he's alright.

“Aw man! Sorry professor,” Darwin says, his eyes moving to one of the steps with a large chunk of wood, ripen out of it.

“Don't worry about it,” Charles says gleefully and completely unconcerned. “It's nothing that can't be fixed.”

Darwin shrugs good naturedly and spots Alex, his grin widening. “Alex! Having a break?”

“Yeah,” Alex answers. “It's a bit stuffy downstairs and I needed some fresh air. I'm not like big foot. Can't sit coped in a room for a whole day,” he grins cheekily. Using Hank as his scape goat, is a fool proof technique that comes handy when he doesn't know what to say.

“Alex,” Charles huffs, hands propped on his hips, expression amused, not angry.

“Professor?” Alex grins and barely stops himself from saying something along the lines of don't you have something else to do, like pushing Sean out of the window for example? Because he might be cheeky, but he is not suicidal. Charles may let this kind of comment slip with a wordy warning, but surely Erik is somewhere close – he always is - and Alex does not want to get on the bad side of that man.

“You may take a break,” Charles says and looks at Alex in a way that makes a nasty shiver travel down his spine. Alex doesn't dare to check if he'd read that.

+

Due to Darwin mentioning the need to straighten his bones, the boys end up outside, inspecting the grounds around the mansion. It proves to be no problem at all to quickly find a rhythm comfortable for both of them, and Alex finds it easy to enjoy walking side by side, without speaking. He almost forgets the problems nagging at the back of his mind, basking in the falsely secure feeling.

“You've been avoiding me,” Darwin speaks suddenly, his voice tearing through the comfortable silence. “Why?” He asks, but Alex doesn't say anything back. “Did I do or say something offensive in any manner?”

“No,” Alex answers harshly and turns to him, but Darwin is not looking at him, at all. His face turned forward, lips in a line. He looks tense, maybe even a bit angry. “No, you didn't,” Alex repeats, keeping his voice levelled and sees Darwin's nod at this.

“Then why? If you find my company... redundant,” he hisses the word, clearly disgusted by it. “I will understand. It wouldn't be the first time,” he says and laughs bitterly. “I'm a black man, surely us both being mutants does not mean we must interact in any way.”

Alex is stunned at the admission and comes to a sharp stop, looking, at the still walking man in front of him, in a completely new light. He had no idea that his actions would be, could be, read in such way. Sure, he is aware of not being exactly the easiest person to be around, but he'd never push someone away just because their skin colour was different. He'd been dealing with all kinds of people in his life, took a beating or two – he was too afraid at first that his powers would come to the surface if he tried to fight back. - but Darwin.

Darwin is different. Darwin is, Alex thinks and realizes that he does know nearly nothing about him. Nor about his past nor about his likes or dislikes, other than the fact that he enjoys games and drink his coffee with milk and no sugar in the mornings. I'm so fucking selfish, he beats himself mentally and snaps out of the trance.

“That's not it!” He says, hoping it's loud enough for the other to hear. It is. Darwin stops and turns to look at him, face carefully blank and the words he'd once said echo in Alex's head. My ability helps me to survive, so I can accommodate pretty easily. Suddenly the true meaning of them comes forward.

“Then what is it?”

“I'm not used to people touching me,” Alex quickly says and cringes at how lame it sounds, but at least Darwin is listening. So he decides to bite the bullet and jogs over to him. “I, the prison-”

“Yes, you've told me,” Darwin interrupts him, putting his hands in pockets, but Alex can see the muscles in his forearms moving and it makes his throat feel a bit too dry, and he has to swallow, before he dares to look Darwin in the eye.

“I don't mind you being close,” he huffs, deciding that getting it out of the way is, at the moment, the most logical option.

“What?” Darwin asks, and looks more confused than anything. “You've been acting exactly the opposite for the past few days, so excuse me if I ask you to elaborate,” he says and moves his hand a bit as if reaching for Alex, but aborts the motion. Alex doesn't want him to.

“I don't mind you being close,” Alex repeats exasperated, crossing his arms on his chest. “And it makes me feel, for the lack of a better word,” he snorts, glancing somewhere above Darwin's arm. “Confused.”

“Confused.”

“Yeah and scared too, shit,” he curses, rubbing at his face in annoyance. “I can't talk about feelings, this shit is for girls - “ he mutters, when the air around him shifts and when he opens his eyes Darwin is much closer than he was before. Alex feels the heat inside him, getting a bit out of hand, but he hopes to keep it under control.

“Raven would have something to say about this,” Darwin says softly.

“I can take her on anytime,” Alex answers cheekily and Darwin smiles at this, bowing his head and kicking at one of the small rocks underneath their feet. He smells good, Alex thinks and scrunches his brows at his own ridiculousness. Darwin smells like sweat and soap. It's a male scent, Alex shouldn't be thinking about it as good, or interesting. “I'm sorry,” he says instead.

“Ok,” says Darwin simply, but he looks back at his face. Alex feels incredibly awkward, because they're standing so close that he has to look up to look at Darwin's face properly and yet he still wants to get closer, to erase any kind of personal space between them.

“I -” he starts and takes a hesitant step forward, plastering himself against the other's chest, blood rushing through his head making him dizzy. He can feel the tempo of Darwin's heartbeat along with his body heat. “I need to go, back to training,” he says, pushing himself away with a small whimper – Jesus, what is happening with him?! – and running back to the mansion, hoping to whatever gods there are, that Darwin will not follow him.

+

Alex's bed is too soft in his opinion. He doesn't want to offend Charles so he doesn't say anything. He can appreciate a nice gesture from time to time, but he's just too used to sleeping on a hard and lumpy prison mattress that he spends most of the nights on the floor near the window. He can see the sky out there, which he really enjoys, but would rather not share with anyone.

Nevertheless.

He finds himself, freshly out of shower, sitting on the aforementioned bed trying to act mature about the fact that he nearly kissed another man. Another man with richly coloured skin, bright eyes and long, strong fingers that feel so good on his skin.

“Shit,” he curses and breaths through his nose. “Focus, man!”

There is a knock on the door, before they open and Erik's head peeks inside.

“I need to speak with you,” he says, without even bothering to ask if he can come in, and steps into the room, closing the door behind him. Alex nods dumbly, not really knowing what the sudden visit is about, but he appreciates it anyway. Whatever helps him stop thinking about wanting to crawl a fellow mutant's lap like a sex kitten on hormones. Stop, he thinks and is momentarily glad that, out of the two, it's Charles, who is a mind reader, not Erik.

“I can see that what Charles told me is true,” Erik says, leaning against the door and observing him with a critic eye.

“What?” Alex's head snaps up at the admission, shocked and afraid.

“Don't worry,” Erik adds, raising one of his hands in a supposedly placating manner, but he's still watching Alex intently, and the blond thinks that Erik Lehnsherr probably looks intimidating even sitting on a toilet. “He just told me about your focusing problem and I see that there is something on your mind that bothers you.”

“So,” Alex blink and meets his eyes. “You came here, because you're worried?”

“No,” Erik answers quickly and averts his eyes for a few quick seconds. “Charles send me here to talk to talk to you.”

“Why?”

“To put it frankly, he feels that you will feel more comfortable talking to someone, who can't read your mind on a whim,” and he's right. The worst possible situation, would be having a discussion about his sexual issues with Charles Xavier, mind reader extraordinare.

“I'm alright,” he says, grinning to cover up his embarrassment, because he feels like he's going to be given the talk, and he so doesn't want that.

“I call bullshit,” Erik says easily, smirking. “And I think it would be easier for us both if you just get over with it and tell me what's going on,” and at Alex's incredulous face, he adds. “Charles does have certain overprotecting issues, but he means well and it's awfully endearing if I may say so,” he finishes and for the first time since he'd entered the room, Alex sees his eyes soften a bit.

“How do you do that?” He asks, wishing that he could ask for some pointers of how to deal with his unwanted homosexual urges.

“Do what?” Erik asks.

“How can you not care that someone might get the wrong idea about you and Professor X?” He asks, voice wavering to almost a whisper in the end, eyes downcast. He expects a yell, or a sudden attack of a door handle or any kind of metal in the vicinity, but nothing like that happens.

“Ah,” Erik says only and chuckles. “So that what it is about. What do you exactly mean, by a bad idea?” He asks, voice light and when Alex looks up at him, stunned once again, there is no anger in the older man's face.

“That you and Professor X are - ” he answers tentatively, stopping himself from blurting anything even more stupid that he already said, but Erik's arched eyebrow urges him on. “Intimate,” he finishes, a flush crawling its way up his face.

“And if that's the truth,” Erik says, voice serious, but lacking the usual edge. “What about it.”

And Alex doesn't know what to say to that, because Erik's words are as good as admission that he and Charles are more than friends. It's an admission and he just doesn't care and Alex wishes that he could be like that as well.

“It's abnormal,” he murmurs. “People don't accept that. Won't accept that.”

“Why would I care about foolish bigots that are afraid of anything that's different.”

“Why would you not?” Alex counters.

“Because I am proud of who I am,” Erik answers harshly and crosses the room in a few quick steps, standing in front of Alex, so the boy has to raise his head to look Erik in the face. “Because I do not want to hide, because someone thinks they know better. Deciding about my life. My choices.”

“I am afraid,” Alex says and shakes his head, running his hand through his hair. “I've seen what happens to men, who love other men. They get assaulted and beaten to death and no one, no one, would even help them.”

“Then be the one to help yourself,” Erik says and continues, ”You're a better man than those weak fools.”

“Even if I agree with you,” Alex snorts out a desperate laugh. “Even if I accept myself. How I can be sure others will do so as well. What if -” he stops and bites his lip. “What if someone, who is my friend, can't accept me?”

“Then he is not worthy of being your friend,” Erik answers and sighs. “I think we're done here,” he says, and turns towards the door, but then as an after thought, adds, ”And if I were you I wouldn't be worried about Darwin.”

+

Alex feels better.

The shock, of holding an actual conversation with Erik, passes, and he has to admit that the man made some valid points during it. His urges and certain wants, towards one unsuspecting mutant, still don't sit well with him, but there is this smallish ray of hope blossoming in his mind.

“Maybe it's just not such a big deal,” he mutters to himself, padding barefoot to the kitchen. The hallways are empty and he doesn't really expect for anyone else to be up at this hour. It's barely a few minutes after six and the usual time for Charles or anyone for that matter – excluding Erik, who is the only early riser in the house, but he is not in the habit of walking around without a reason – to wake up is nine, sometimes ten.

“That's quite a surprise,” says Raven, shifting from her usual blue form to the blond-headed bimbo in a matter of seconds, full make up and all that. Alex snorts, but doesn't comment on the sudden change of image. He wonders if it's vanity or fear making her wear a mask twenty-four/seven. Does she show her real face to anyone, he wonders as he pours himself some tap water and downs it in one go.

“I haven't been expecting anyone to be up,” he says then and looks into the fridge, meditating between scrambled eggs and pancakes.

“Like you're one to talk,” she says and yawns widely. “I don't always get up late,” she says and snorts good naturedly. “It's Charles, being the old fart he is, that would sleep the whole day away if he could.”

He looks at her curiously. He wouldn't peg the older man to be the type, he seems exactly the opposite. The man is constantly on the move.

“I've never seen him sitting down,” he says slowly and pulls three eggs from the fridge. “He's always doing something with one of us, be it pushing Sean out of the window or running around with your big foot lover,” he exclaims loudly.

“He is not my lover,” Raven hisses and glares at him, which in turn makes him smirk.

“But you don't deny that he's a big foot,” he barely finishes when there is an empty cup flying in his direction. He ducks quickly, but it almost hits him in the face. It's his turn to glare. “What the hell?!”

“He is perfect, just as he is,” she glares and walks over to him, poking him in the chest with her finger. “And your jealous, teenage asshole act is not cute.”

“That's rich,” he snarls, slapping her hand away. “Me being jealous of a nerd and his girlfriend, who can't even accept her own blue skin!”

Raven growls and shifts into a burly, dangerous looking man, punching Alex straight in the jaw with a brute force. The blond staggers a few steps back, partially because it really fucking hurts and partially from a surprise that she'd actually hit him.

“Oh, it's on,” he mutters, feeling the heat in his body rising and energy around him shaping itself into sharp circles.

The rush of adrenaline pushes the remains of sleep from Alex's mind, making him alert and focused on Raven. She stands before him, wearing a body of a stranger like an armour, with fists as two heavy – and dangerous – weapons.

At the moment, it doesn't matter if they're still in the kitchen, or how lethal and problematic the outcome of their fight may be. It's not exactly the best place to unleash his powers, but if the girl wants to fight, then fight.

He will fight. He – will protect himself from random cutlery suddenly pinning him to a wall?!

“Truly exceptional,” comes Erik's dry voice from the doorway, and Alex feels dread in his guts. He tries to push away from the wall, to free himself, but it's pointless. Each piece of metal, that melts under his still half-activated power, is quickly replaced by a new one. At the rate they're going, soon they won't have anything to eat with, but Erik doesn't look like he's even considering letting him go.

“Erik! ” Raven squeaks, back to her female form, currently suffering the same treatment as Alex was. Oh, he thinks. Them go.

“What,” Erik speaks, looking between the two of them, his arm raised keeping them still. “Do you think you're doing?”

“He started it,” snaps Raven, glaring at Alex across the room.

“You threw a fucking cup at my head,” he counters, but stays still. He has enough self preservation to know that it's best to stay as calm as he can. Erik does not look amused and at the moment, if Alex uses his powers, there is no way to for them to survive it. Unless Raven can transform into the red skinned guy with a tail. He sure does look like a demon, surely fire wouldn't hurt him. Much.

“So, because of your little spat,” Erik's voice grows more dangerous. “You decided it would be a good idea, to unleash your powers,” he says and Raven smirks at Alex, but it quickly wavers when Erik turns his angry stare at her. “That includes you too Raven. Did you think about what kind of backslash this kind of action may have?”

They both fall silent at this, not looking at each other or at Erik. Alex tries to calm himself down, and it's slowly working, but he feels like the burnt wallpaper won't let him forget his own idiocy that easily.

“Hey, what's all that rucu - ” Darwin's voice comes from the hall, but when he steps next to Erik and actually sees what's going on, he stops. “What?” He says after a moment, eyes roaming all over the kitchen taking in the damage and the weird – and probably funny in other circumstances – situation.

“We were having a little chat,” answers him Erik and one moment Alex is on the wall, then the next one he is falling and hitting the floor. Hard. He winces at the pain in his backbone, but wisely keeps quiet. Erik doesn't look bothered by it at all and adds, “I think we're done here, but Charles will know about this.”

Now, that's a good way to make a guy feel more guilty, because Charles is going to be upset with them and for some reason that stings more than Erik's anger, or the bruise from Raven's fist slowly shaping on his cheek.

+

As soon as Erik allows both of them to go, Alex breaks for the door. Carefully avoiding any eye contact with the man. The only reason he doesn't run is because he has some dignity left and it has nothing to do with the fact that he's only a little afraid of making any sudden movements when Erik is watching him like a hawk.

Alex's clothes are ruined, so it's only natural to retreat to his room and take care of his wounded ego and maybe wallow in shame as well. Whatever the reason, he needs to be alone and his room seems like the safest option.

It is not, but at least the person knocking at his door a few minutes later is not Erik, because he'd probably enter uninvited, like he had the very night before.

“Alex,” Darwin's concerned voice, almost makes Alex bash his head against the nearest hard surface. He probably needs to rethink the at least it's not Erik part.

“Yeah,” he calls out, modulating his voice so it would pass for his normal tone.

“Can I come in?”

No! Yes! No, shit. I -

“I'm kind of changing my clothes, man,” Alex answers after a beat and mentally pats himself on the back, because that is a perfectly good excuse and it's not even a lie.

“You've seen me naked,” Darwin chuckles, but doesn't open the door. “I think I can manage, unless -”

“No, it's ok - ”Alex grimaces and makes a quick decision. “You can come in, I -”

“You?” Darwin asks, stepping in and looking at him and perhaps if Alex wasn't so keen on avoiding looking at him, again, he'd have notice the not-so-subtle glance at his body.

“I, nothing -” Alex shakes his head and rubs at his own arm. “It's just not a very good way to start a day, don't you think?” He tries for a smile and he's sure Darwin sees how forced it is, but smiles back anyway.

“I wouldn't know,” the black man shrugs. “I'm not a mind reader. I don't know many things.”

“Yeah, sometimes I wonder just how much professor X knows,” Alex chuckles and sits on the bed, leaning back with an irritated groan, before remembering himself and motioning at the room. “Sit whenever you like. I won't burn you, or pin you to the wall,” he jokes and Darwin makes a humming noise, choosing to sit on the bed next to him, watching him with a wondering look. Alex doesn't blush.

“Sometimes I wish I had the ability to look into people's minds,” Darwin says suddenly, and before Alex can react, lifts his palm to Alex's cheek and trails his fingers along the bruise.

“And what if you'd read something you don't like,” Alex says, his voice shaking just a bit.

“I'd rather know,” Darwin says and moves his hand away from Alex's cheek to the bed cover, leaning on it and looking into the blond's eyes. “Than be in doubt.”


Oh, thinks Alex and clings to the spark of hope that is bigger now.

 

END