Chapter 1: Early Morning Delusions by pocky_slash
Erik wakes when he feels someone gently lifting his face off of his keyboard.
"Mmrphen," he says.
"Sorry, love," Charles says quietly. "I didn't mean to wake you."
Erik blinks his eyes open. It's late. Charles is dressed for bed and the first number on the microwave clock is a single digit. Not good. He groans.
"I know you've been working diligently on this project and I'm sure it will pay off in the end," Charles says, stroking his hair, "but perhaps you should consider coming to bed? I'm sure you won't be much use to your team if you're this tired in the morning."
"I hate engineering," Erik says, closing his eyes and resting his face on the kitchen table again. "I hate computers. I hate electricity. I hate..." He opens his eyes and takes in the rest of his work space. "Pencils," he finishes lamely.
"I know, darling," Charles says. Charles is indulging him. Erik would glare at him, but that would require movement. Also, the fingers on his scalp feel amazing.
"I'm going to quit," Erik says mulishly. "I'm going to become an interior decorator. No more circuitry and troubleshooting and prototypes. It will be all fuchsia accents and... and violet ornamentation."
"Fuchsia doesn't really go with your complexion, love," Charles says.
But Erik's on a roll. "And shiny metal fixtures. And those frosted sliding glass doors. And lime green end tables."
"Okay," Charles says. "That's enough. You're delirious, Erik." Charles hoists him up by his armpits. "Bed. Now. Before you do something you regret. Like, well, anything with the color fuchsia, really."
"You just don't understand me," Erik absolutely does not whine. He tries to remember how walking works and settles for leaning against Charles and letting himself be dragged.
"Thank god for that," Charles says.
Chapter 2: Wardrobe Malfunction by pocky_slash
Chapter by pocky_slash
Erik makes a poor wardrobe choice for a child's birthday party.
"You're wearing that?"
Erik raises his eyebrows, because Charles "My entire wardrobe was probably purchased from an octogenarian's estate sale" Xavier really had no place to be commenting on his clothing.
"Yes," Erik says.
Charles looks at him again, critically, and shrugs. "Whatever you think is best, dear."
It's a birthday party, a birthday party that he's been sort-of invited to as a guest. It's not like they're headed to the daycare. He doesn't see anything wrong with khaki trousers and a white shirt. In fact, he has it on authority that he looks good in this outfit.
Which is why I was trying to save it, Charles thinks mournfully as they get into the car.
"There are going to be fifteen brats there and it's not even our job to watch them," Erik says. "They can entertain each other. I'll be fine."
"It's very charming that you think that," Charles says.
Erik is trying very hard not to think that he should have listened to Charles, because the second he thinks it--
I absolutely will not say 'I told you so.' Charles smiles serenely at him as he mops up fruit punch. I'm better than that, I'll have you know.
"I am so sorry, Erik," Katherine Summers says. "Just... well, you know how the little ones are when they're filled with sugar and excited to play."
"Unfortunately," Erik says with a grimace.
"Why don't you give that to me, I'll go put it to soak inside," Katherine says. "You can borrow something of Chris' or--"
"It's fine," Erik says, striping off the shirt. He has a wifebeater on underneath. It's a nice enough day out, and he dares any of the parents to comment.
"Mm, it is," Charles says, resting his elbow on the table and propping up his chin. The look on his face really has no place at a children's birthday party.
If I didn't know better, I'd think you planned this, Erik thinks.
I was not blessed with the gift of precognition, Charles thinks back. But you can't blame me for taking advantage of the situation, especially when I gave you ample warning.
"I hate you," Erik says. Charles just smirks.
He's still smirking, ten seconds later, when Alex Summers returns, racing around the corner with the other children on his tail and hitting Erik with a velocity that he wouldn't think it was possible for such a small child to achieve.
Charles is still smirking when Erik hits the ground and is swarmed by a mob of children, but that's okay. He'll have his revenge. The children haven't even had their cake, after all, and it wouldn't be hard to encourage them to share with Mr. Charles. Buttercream was hell to get out of a cardigan.
Chapter 3: Many Happy Returns by pocky_slash
Chapter by pocky_slash
Erik made Charles promise not to make a big deal out of his birthday. The daycare kids made no such promise.
On Erik's birthday, Charles forgets his lunch.
That should be the first sign of trouble, but Erik blissfully ignores it. He's not one for birthdays, really, but he uses it as an excuse to work from home (he uses everything as an excuse to work from home, really), and a day of total silence and a stream of terrible slasher films seems like the best present he could give himself. He's warned Charles off of a party several times, and he's confident that tonight will be just the two of them and his favorite take out and maybe a few bottles of wine.
Still, that's a few hours away, yet, and he collects Charles' lunch from the kitchen counter and walks over to the daycare.
The hallway is dark when Erik lets himself in. So in the cubby room. The whole place is dark, even, and by the time Erik puts together the pieces--the darkness, the childish whispers and murmurs, the fact that it's his birthday and Charles loves birthdays--it's too late. The lights are flicked on and Charles is shouting "Surprise!" and the children are rushing him as fast as their little legs will carry them.
He glares at Charles, just as Sean and Angel fly into his chest and he has to put out his arms to catch them.
"I said no party," he says.
"You said you didn't want to have anyone over or go out," Charles says. "You did not say anything about the children at the daycare." He's smirking and giddy and Erik would hate him if he wasn't so... Charles. Endearing. Adorable. It's awful.
Moira is smiling evilly, that wench. She's standing behind a cake that Erik probably won't even get to enjoy because there are children everywhere. Angel's chubby little arms are around his head and she's giggling cheerfully. Sean's hanging off of his arm. Raven and Ororo are clinging to one leg and Hank has the other. Alex and Jean, the oldest and the ones with the greatest capacity for speech, are jumping around in front of him.
"Happy birthday, Mr. Lehnsherr, happy birthday happy birthday!" Jean says, her red hair whipping around as she moves.
"Birthday!" Alex echoes and jumps towards Erik. Erik is out of hands, so he keeps the boy afloat by his zippers and buttons and gives Charles a withering look.
"Children, children," Charles says mildly, and carefully walks through the mass of tiny bodies, plucking Alex from the air and Angel from around Erik's neck. "Let's let Mr. Lehnsherr go and we can have cake."
'Cake' seems to go over even better than 'birthday' did and all the children but Jean and Alex race to the table. Angel manages to take off from Charles' arms and Alex is struggling to get down himself. Jean is hugging Erik's leg.
"Mr. Lehnsherr gets the first piece!" she tells the other children.
Erik sighs. "Thank you, Jean," he says, and she beams at him and then races to join the others at the table.
"Must you?" he asks Charles and Charles grins at him.
"I must," he insists gravely, and kisses Erik's cheek. "Come on, Moira made the cake, and I'm sure it's delicious."
"Poisoned is more like it," Erik mutters.
"Don't be silly, love, she'd never poison something she was giving to the children," Charles says, and drags him to the table.
The cake is delicious, as loathe as Erik is to admit it, and Charles even gently distracts the children from asking how old he is. Jean sits on one of his knees and Alex on the other and both, miraculously, abstain from covering him with frosting (although, in Alex's case, Erik suspects a little mental intervention from Charles). When the cake is finished and cleared away, Charles disappears into his office and returns with a package and a giant card.
"These are from the children," Charles says, as if it isn't obvious.
"Thank you," Erik says dryly, but children don't understand sarcasm and there's a chorus of "Welcome!" and cheerful babbling as Charles places both items in front of him.
The card is made from construction paper. The front says, "Happy Birthday, Mr. Lehnsherr!" and there are stick figure drawings and scribbles all over it. The inside has the date and says, "Love," leaving the rest to be covered with more scribbles, as well as Charles' name and Moira's as well.
He raises his eyebrows at her.
"They made me," she says, but she's smiling.
He turns his attention to the package, wrapped in the homemade wrapping paper that Erik recognizes from the hours of trial and error Charles put into coming up with it last Christmas. He gently untapes it and reveals a shoebox that's similarly adorned with painted shapes. He gives Charles a look, but he gestures for Erik to continue so he does, if only so Jean doesn't pass out from holding her breath in anticipation.
Inside is... well. It's possible the craft corner threw up in this shoebox. There are macaroni necklaces. Drawings. A glittery wand. A caterpillar made from an egg carton. A kaleidoscope made from a paper towel roll. A bracelet made from buttons. A paper covered with glued down beans and dry pasta.
"I don't know what to say," Erik says dryly, but it's... sweet. Almost. As much as he hates to admit it. It's maybe... cute of them. To do something like this for him. Obviously, it was Charles' idea and they're children, so they probably just did whatever he told them to, it doesn't matter but... well.
"The envelope's from me," Moira says, and Erik digs around until he finds an envelope from one of his and Charles' favorite restaurants. There's a gift certificate inside and it's more than enough to cover a nice dinner and a few drinks. Erik's surprised, but perhaps he shouldn't be. As much as he and Moira snap at each other, he has to admit that he does occasionally enjoy their verbal sparring and Charles could have worse friends.
"Thank you," he says. "Thank all of you," he amends, and Jean hugs him and Alex stands up and puts his arms around Erik's neck and then it's open season for children to be climbing all over him again, goddammit.
"You're welcome, Mr. Lehnsherr!" Jean says, and Sean tugs at his hair, and Hank chews on his shoe and Raven's hair goes pink and it's endlessly frustrating, but also, maybe the best birthday Erik's ever had.
"Happy Birthday, Erik," Charles says, leaning against the table and smiling at him, warm and open and affectionate.
Erik just sighs heavily in response, but Charles knows him well enough to hear the "thank you" even without reading his mind.
Chapter 4: Good Morning by pocky_slash
Chapter by pocky_slash
Erik doesn't need to be reminded of what he feels for Charles, but he can't complain when it happens.
Erik wakes up slowly and alone, which isn't entirely unexpected. He finally finished working out the intricacies of a new design around four am. Charles had long since been asleep, and he's kind enough to not bother Erik before noon on mornings like this. He can smell coffee, which is amazing, and just enough to get him to open his eyes and roll out of bed.
He goes into the kitchen, eyes still mostly closed, drawn by the promise of caffeine and oblivious to everything else. It's not until he's poured his first mug of coffee that he realizes that Charles isn't sitting at the kitchen table, smiling indulgently. He's not in the living room, either, and he certainly wasn't in the bedroom. He wonders if, perhaps, Charles went out, and then closes his eyes to check. He may not be psychic, but it's easy enough to seek out the body-warm metal of Charles' watch.
The other bedroom, then. The office.
He takes his coffee and crosses the apartment, vaguely curious as to what Charles is up to. The office is roughly divided in half, one side immaculate and bare save for a desk with a desktop computer and a neatly labeled filing cabinet. The other side is wallpapered in crude children's drawings and photos of the daycare children. There's a desk in there, somewhere, underneath a pile of books on early childhood education, mutant development, and genetics. Three plastic drawer sets are piled on top of each other and stuffed to bursting with craft supplies and ideas and the two bookshelves are equal parts textbooks and picture books.
Charles is sitting at the messy desk, temporarily unearthed, and cutting up paper grocery bags. He's fiercely concentrated on his task, but that's not what stops Erik in his tracks. Charles is wearing his glasses, horn-rimmed things that should look dorky and ridiculous but he somehow manages to pull off, and what could only be one of Erik's dress shirts, too broad in the shoulders and too long in the arms. It's open at the neck, exposing his throat and the line of his chest all the way down to his sternum. He's not wearing pants and he hasn't fixed his hair--he must have gotten up, turned on the coffee, and come up with whatever insane idea he was currently trying out.
Erik wants to make fun of him--affectionately mock his tunnel vision, his dorky glasses, his tousled hair. But no. He's having trouble putting together words and his mouth is dry. Charles keeps pushing the shirt up to his wrists as he cuts and traces, but the sleeves tumble down over his fingers and the open collar is displaying his clavicles and the fading lovebite on the left one. His tongue is sticking out just a bit as he concentrates on his project.
Fucking hell, but Charles is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen.
He should say something, but the words still evade him, and eventually Charles looks up and catches him staring.
"Oh, good morning, love," Charles says absently. He glances at his watch and his eyes widen. "I hadn't realized it was so late. I got caught up--"
He looks back to Erik and trails off. Erik imagines his face is an open book of staggering affection. Charles smiles, almost shyly.
Erik finds his voice.
"Come here," he says quietly. He puts his mug of coffee on his desk as Charles gets to his feet and crosses the room. He stops when they're nearly toe-to-toe. Erik rests his hands at Charles' waist and just looks his fill. "You're beautiful," he says.
"Erik," Charles says, looking away, color high on his cheekbones.
"Charles," Erik says plainly. He swallows the lump of emotion in his throat, blames it on the lack of sleep, the fuzz still fogging his brain as he waits for the coffee to kick in. He blames it on the way this man has somehow wormed his way into all of the empty spaces that existed in Erik's life. His chest is warm and tight and he doesn't think he could say anything else if he wanted to.
He puts his arms around Charles slowly, just holding him close because he can. Charles rests his head against Erik's shoulder and they breathe together in the mid-morning sunlight.
"Good morning," Erik says when he feels like he can speak without splitting into two.
"Good morning," Charles murmurs against his neck.
Chapter 5: Music Appreciation Week by pocky_slash
Chapter by pocky_slash
Charles calls it "music education." Erik calls it "justifiable homicide."
Erik jabs each number on the keypad hard enough that he fears he'll inadvertantly crush the insides of the phone. The fear doesn't stop him, however, from punching in all ten digits and pressing the phone against his ear while covering the other ear with his palm.
Moira picks up on the third ring.
"Hello?" she says.
"I am going to kill him," he shouts into the phone. "And you, MacTaggart, will be complicit in the murder."
"Oh, don't pin this on me," Moira replies. "You've met Charles, right? Do you think anyone ever tells him what to do? He came up with this one all on his own."
"I don't care!" Erik shouts. "You could have stopped him! You had your chance to save him, MacTaggart. I hope you remember that when you're delivering his eulogy."
"Oh, come on," Moira says. "It can't be that ba--"
Erik misses the end of her sentence, pulling the phone away from his ear in order to point it in the direction of the kitchen. He winces at the increase in volume now that one of his ears is uncovered, but gives it a good ten count before returning the phone to his ear.
"--orry, sorry, sorry! Jesus!" Moira's shouting.
"Do you understand now?" he asks. "Will you testify at my trial that this is a justifiable homicide?"
"Oh, you could never go through with it," Moira says. "He'd just give you those big, innocent eyes like he always does and you'd give in. It will be the zoo all over again."
"He tricked me!" It's an old argument, but one that Erik won't let go. "You know me! I never would have agreed to that zoo debacle otherwise!"
"The point is, he turned those big blue eyes on you and you were agreeing without even thinking about it," Moira says. "That's Charles. He makes you think he's all cute and innocent, but he's a conniving fiend underneath it all."
"I'm going to drown him in the kitchen sink!" Erik says in reply.
The noise in the kitchen stops. Erik's ears ring in the sudden absence of sound.
"Did you say something, darling?" Charles calls cheerfully. Erik turns around to give Charles ten seconds to run for his life, but Charles is smiling innocently, cheeks flushed with pleasure, eyes clear and bright, and Erik forgets what he was going to say.
"Uh," Erik says.
"Well," Charles says, "while you're trying to remember, tell me which of these pots you think would make the best bass drum."
And then the noise starts again.
"Told you!" Moira shouts. "Conniving mastermind. Devilish fiend."
"Fuck this all," Erik says. "I'm going to go drown myself." He hangs up the phone, cursing the daycare, homemade musical instruments, and wherever it was Charles first heard the words 'music appreciation week.'
Chapter 6: Our Gertrude by brilligspoons
Charles brings a temporary guest back to the apartment one night.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Charles disappears from their apartment one Saturday morning and doesn't return until well after their usual dinner time. Erik, who spent the day on the couch alone and very pointedly not sulking, manages not to pounce on him as soon as he walks through the door. Instead, he tries to position himself in a 'oh, were you gone all day? I didn't notice' sort of way on the couch when he hears Charles' key in the door.
"You're very sweet," Charles calls to him as he locks the door back up, "and you aren't fooling anyone. That's my pillow you're clutching, dearest."
Goddamn telepaths, Erik thinks.
I love you, too, replies Charles. "Now, will you help me bring these things into the living room properly? I want to make Gertrude as comfortable as possible until I can move her over to her new home on Monday."
"Oh, sure," Erik says. He rolls off the couch and heads to the door, then stops short in the hallway. "Wait. Wait. Who is Gertrude?"
Gertrude, as it turns out, is a Netherland dwarf rabbit no more than a few months old, inky black in color and sweet in temperament. She trembles visibly when Charles picks her up out of her cage but calms once he cradles her to his chest. He coos nonsense words at her before looking up at Erik again and beaming like an idiot. "Isn't she precious?" he asks.
Erik scratches his head. "Whatever you say," he says. "Though I can't fathom why you bought her in the first place."
"A pet for the daycare, of course," replies Charles. "The older children could do with some exposure to animals, and a rabbit is the perfect size for the space we have." He tickles Gertrude under her chin and smiles down at her.
"You wanted a pet for yourself, didn't you," says Erik.
A flash of guilt across Charles' face gives him away. "Not allowed to have pets here in the apartment," he mumbles.
Erik sighs and takes Gertrude from him. She barely weighs anything, doesn't even come close to filling out the palm of his hand. "Come on," he says. "I'm sure the rabbit would like a place to bunk down for the night."
"Gertrude is a lady," Charles replies, perking up immediately. "She doesn't 'bunk down' in places."
"My apologies," mocks Erik. "Will the young miss be taking her carrots with tea this evening as well?"
"Naturally," Charles says. "A very prim and proper young rabbit, our Gertrude is."
"Next you'll be wanting to read to her," says Erik. Charles cocks his head to one side, considering. "No, Charles, she's a rabbit."
"You don't think she'd enjoy a little Beatrix Potter?" asks Charles with a smile.
"I don't even know you right now."
Because today seemed like a baby bunny sort of day. :D?
Chapter 7: New Additions by brilligspoons
In which Alex (surprisingly) gets his way at the daycare.
Alex wanders over to where Moira and Charles are gathering everyone together for story time with something tiny and wriggling stuffed up underneath his shirt. There's a mutinous look on his face, as if anyone who asks him about the lump or tries to take it from him will suffer severe consequences - a formidable facial expression indeed for a four-year-old. Moira rubs at her eyes and silently curses the sinus headache that's been brewing since she woke up this morning.
Patience, dear, Charles thinks at her. As soon as we're settled with a book, you can go into the office and overdose on the cold and sinus medicine I know you have stashed away somewhere.
"Alex," she says, choosing not to respond to Charles, "what are you hiding under your shirt?"
"Nothing," he replies, sullen and guarded. Moira raises an eyebrow at him, and Alex has been at the daycare long enough to know she means business. "I couldn't leave it outside!" Alex insists, and he stamps a foot down to emphasize how serious he's being. "It's raining, and it looked cold, and I'm not putting it back, you can't make me."
Moira sighs. "What is it, Alex?" she asks again.
He reaches under his shirt and brings out a tiny bedraggled calico kitten. It has mud caked on its belly, and as soon as its eyes adjust to the electric light, it mews pitifully and loudly. All at once, the rest of the children are up and surrounding Alex and exclaiming awwww, how cute! over the poor thing.
Moira exchanges a look with Charles, who merely sighs and gets up from the floor. He retrieves some extra blankets from the shelf below Gertrude's, takes the kitten from Alex and wraps it up, rubbing softly behind its ears until it purrs. "Looks like we have a new guest," Charles says. Alex's face breaks out into a wide, happy grin, and the other children cheer for their new pet.
Moira groans a little, but the happiness in the room is infectious and almost (almost) is enough to relieve the pressure in her head. "I'm not cleaning out the litter box," she warns Charles as he hands the kitten back to Alex.
"I suspect you won't have to," he says, nodding at Alex, and Moira supposes he's probably right.
Chapter 8: Fortuitous by pocky_slash
Rainy Saturdays are perfect for spending in bed.
Written for the Rainy Day Cuddles, Cookies, and Tea Fest.
At first, Erik thinks the noise is someone driving past their building. The window is open just a crack, and it's not until the sound has continued for almost a minute that he realizes that, no, it's not a car, it's a rainstorm. A very abrupt rainstorm.
Erik smiles, eyes still closed, and stretches. The smile disappears as he realizes with a sigh that he's alone in bed. A rainy Saturday is a perfect day to spend in bed and it's just like Charles to waste it.
Charles? he thinks hopefully. Actual speech is a little beyond him.
I'm in the kitchen, Charles replies. There's a disappointed sigh in his mental voice, a moments later, when Erik cracks open his eyes, he's standing in the doorway to the bedroom, smiling ruefully. There are three reusable bags dangling from one of his hands. I was about to go to the Farmer's Market, but.... He gestures towards the storm outside.
How fortuitous, Erik thinks.
Fortuitous? Charles thinks. I would think the opposite, myself.
"No, no, no," Erik says out loud. He yawns and stretches again and lets the sheet ride down his hips. Maybe on purpose. "It's a rainy Saturday. It's the perfect day to spend hours in bed. If it wasn't for this storm, you would have gone out to the Farmer's Market and let this opportunity pass you by."
"Oh really?" Charles says. He puts his hands on his hips and raises an eyebrow. He's doing his best to look cool and aloof, but Erik can see the way his eyes are following the edge of the sheet as he shifts again and it exposes his hip bone.
"Really," Erik says. He raises one hand and gently tugs at Charles' watch, not hard enough for him to stumble, but hard enough that he gets the idea and drops the bags, making his way over to the bed and shedding his cardigan on the way. Outside, the rain continues to patter against the streets and sidewalks and Erik lets the noise wash over him as first the cardigan and then the rest of Charles' clothes slowly find their way onto the floor until he's wearing only his shorts and crawling back under the covers.
Charles wraps his arms around Erik's waist, but he seems content to just hold on for a moment, and Erik can do that. They shift around until Charles' head is resting in the crook of Erik's neck and their legs are tangled together. Charles' breaths match his, long and measured, and Erik feels the flutter of eyelashes against his neck. He runs his fingers through Charles' hair and lets his eyes drift shut again as he listens to the sound of the rain.
It's going to be a good day.
Chapter 9: Parachute Painting by brilligspoons
In which Erik hates matching socks together.
Erik eyes the brown package sitting on the kitchen table with no small amount of trepidation. He knows he hasn't ordered anything in recent memory, which means Charles has, and Erik really isn't sure he could handle another Bedazzler situation. He shudders and eases his way down the hall and into the living room, where he sets his laptop case down on the coffee table and falls face first onto the sofa.
"You're being ridiculous," Charles calls from somewhere inside the apartment. "And Moira ordered that Bedazzler and had it sent here, not me. Blame her for living in such a terrible apartment complex."
"I don't care whose Bedazzler it was, that thing was terrifying," grumbles Erik into the cushion. "My fingers haven't been the same since."
"No one told you to play with it," Charles says. His leg brushes Erik's ear as he passes by the couch, and a moment later Erik's head is buried under a pile of unmatched socks. "Up now. Put all of those together properly, will you?"
"Can't I make dinner for us instead?" Erik groans. "I hate matching socks together."
"You're not very attractive when you whine, you know that, right?" Charles says. He nudges at Erik with a knee. "I've already ordered dinner, so no excuses this time."
Erik sighs and reluctantly sits up, the movement creating a cascade of socks, most of which land on the floor around his feet. He sighs again and leans back on the couch, and Charles rolls his eyes at him and goes back to folding their undershirts, clearly unimpressed with his behavior. "Fine," Erik relents, but every matched pair gets tossed at Charles' head in retaliation. Charles, much to Erik's frustration, mostly ignores the projectiles.
"If I can put up with five mutant children under the age of two all fighting with each other over Tickle Me Elmo, I can put up with you throwing socks at me," Charles says. Erik throws the last pair and manages to hit Charles directly on the nose. "I hate you so much."
"Sure you do," Erik says. The doorbell buzzes from down the hallway, and Erik stands and plants a sloppy kiss on Charles' nose where he'd hit it before going to retrieve their food. He sets the bag on the table next to the box. "Are you going to tell me what's in the box, or do I get to play the guessing game?" he calls out.
It's a parachute, Charles tells him.
Erik raises an eyebrow at the box. Are you and Moira in need of an escape route from something?
Charles laughs as he joins Erik in the kitchen. "No, nothing like that, as amusing as that mental image was," he says. "It's a play parachute for the daycare. I even bought one that's blank so the children can personalize it however they wish."
"That seems," Erik struggles to think of a word to finish his thought that won't get him into trouble, "fun?"
"Very good, love, you're learning," Charles coos. Erik shoves the container of rice into his hands and starts to set the table. "And yes, I think they'll enjoy the activity quite a bit. Fingerpainting always goes over so well with them."
"I remember," Erik grumbles. He summons forks and knives from the drawer and dishes out the Pad Thai onto the plates while Charles gets drinks for them. They eat mostly in comfortable silence that is punctuated here and there by Erik's mock indignant grunts whenever Charles steals food from him. Once they finish and clear the table, Charles grabs the package and brings it into the living room.
"I have the best idea," he declares as he rips the packing tape and wrapping off. "You and I will decorate a panel of it tonight, and the kids can fill the rest of it in tomorrow. It'll be wonderful, they'll be thrilled that you put something on there as well."
Erik sinks down into the couch and shakes his head. "I'm not having any part in this," he says.
"Go get some paper plates from the cupboard, will you?" Charles requests, blithely ignoring Erik's remark. "We can scoop some of the paint out onto those, just so we don't knock the jars over and ruin the carpet or table or something."
Erik closes his eyes for a moment but dutifully stands back up and goes to find paper plates. Remember when the only thing you had to put up with was his obsession with TLC and HGTV reality shows, Lehnsherr? Those were the days.
I heard that, Charles says. Bring some of the rattier towels with you, too, for cleanup.
By the time Erik returns to the living room, Charles has already spread the parachute out across a section of free floor and artfully painted the name of the daycare across part of a panel in a bright blue color. "I'm going to fill the children's names in below it," he says as he strokes the paint onto the fabric with his fingers. "Do you think I should do them in one color, or alternate them? The set didn't come with that many options."
Erik kneels down next to him and sets the plates and towels on the floor nearby. "You could always mix the paint and make your own colors."
Charles turns his head and beams at him. "That's a fantastic idea, Erik, thank you!" he says.
Despite himself, Erik flushes a bit at the warmth in Charles' voice. He feels a little foolish, getting all worked up over the little things his boyfriend says or does after all this time together, but Erik finds it extremely difficult to hold back the rush of emotion. So, instead of fighting it, Erik places one hand on Charles' face and draws him in for a kiss. Charles meets him halfway there and reaches up to cradle Erik's face with both hands.
Erik pulls back slightly. "There's paint all over my face now, isn't there," he says. Charles merely grins in response and leans forward to kiss him again.
Chapter 10: Common Ground by pocky_slash
Erik and Moira have more in common than bad movies and good scotch.
"What the hell are you watching?"
Erik tries to lift his head, but the room goes...spinning.
"My god, have the two of you had that entire bottle?"
Charles slams the door behind him and Erik and Moira wince in unison.
"You didn't come home!" Moira says and she sounds so much like one of the kids from the daycare that Erik has to snicker. "You said, you said--um."
"You said you'd come here," Erik clarifies. "To meet her. And you didn't. So what the fuck else was I supposed to do with her?"
Charles drops on the couch hard enough to make Erik go all wobbly again, but it's Charles and he's been gone all day and Erik is terribly, embarrassingly smitten, so he tries to kiss him. It doesn't go quite as planned, but he's perfectly happy just pressing his face into Charles' shoulder.
"I can't think of anything better to do than getting her drunk and watching terrible movies with her," Charles says. He pets Erik's hair.
"The scotch was lonely," Erik says.
"Erik was lonely," Moira says. She makes kissy faces and Erik swats at her.
"I'm terribly sorry," Charles says. "I was stuck on the train, I didn't have any reception." He strokes Erik's hair again, and Erik burrows into his sweater. "I'm glad the two of you managed to find some common ground. Even if that common ground was my best scotch and..." He gestures at the television. "Whatever that is."
"Quality...terrible...something," Moira says. Erik gropes around the coffee table and raises his glass in agreement. Charles snorts. "Quality terrible movies. And less than terrible scotch And, besides. It's not our--we have, you know--other common ground. We have you!"
"Mm," Erik says. "We do."
"Well, thank you both," Charles says. "I hope you're as charitable when you're both hungover come morning."
Chapter 11: Rocky Raccoon by pocky_slash
While Erik understands that daycare antics can be frustrating to the daycare teacher, to Erik they're mostly just hilarious.
Written for this picture prompt.
Okay, at this point, it's like a personal challenge to do these. Blame who was like, "Just write about baby mutants smearing jam on their faces."
The water is running when Erik opens the door to the apartment.
"Charles?" he calls out.
Don't even start.
Erik raises his eyebrows. It was obviously a long day at daycare.
"I didn't say anything," Erik calls inside, unwinding the scarf from his neck and leaving his briefcase by the door. He doesn't want to seem eager to see what's happened to Charles but. Well. Erik's had a long day, too, and while he understands that daycare antics can be frustrating to the daycare teacher, to Erik they're mostly just hilarious.
I heard that, Charles grouses. Don't come in here.
"I'm not going anywhere!" Erik lies, tip-toeing around the coffee table and down the hall.
"I hate you!" Charles shouts down the hall, but of course Erik is already there and turning around the corner and--
Erik does a very good job of not laughing for about five seconds.
"I really do hate you," Charles complains, with a pout to rival those of the children he spends all day with. The sink is running and there are several canisters of soap littering the sink, the back of the toilet, and the side of the tub. Erik can only assume that Charles is trying whatever he can to get the dark black circles around his eyes off of his skin.
"What..." Erik tries to ask between laughs. "What..."
"You're terrible!" Charles says, and pushes at Erik, who nearly falls over, he's so weak from laughter. "There was some sort of mistake," Charles says, folding his arms and glaring. "Jean, bless her, was asked by Moira to fetch some facepaint for storytime and she pulled the wrong thing from the craft drawer and Moira failed to double check before applying it to my eyes."
"What is it?" Erik asks, wiping tears from the corners of his eyes. He reaches for Charles' cheek, brushing against the stain with his thumb.
"Permanent ink," Charles says miserably.
Erik swallows down another laugh. "Oh my," he says, but he saves the twenty three jokes that spring to mind when he sees how truly upset Charles seems to be. "Why don't I get the rubbing alcohol and we'll see what we can do?"
Charles' smile is worth it.
Plus, those jokes will be even funnier if spread out strategically over the next few days.
Chapter 12: 'Tis the Season
Charles attempts to get Erik into the spirit of the season. When that doesn't work, he resorts to bribery.
Based on this picture by liverquiver on tumblr. With apologies!
Erik is tired and grouchy (not cranky, no matter what Charles says, Erik doesn't get cranky, he's not a child) by the time he stumbles through the snow and elbows past the commuters and dodges the bellringers begging outside the buildings on the same block as his office. It's been a long day and he's exhausted and he wants his boyfriend and a drink and a blanket and dinner and bed. Not necessarily in that order.
The elevator is broken, of course it is, it's been broken for two whole days now, and Erik trudges up three flights of stairs and all but faceplants into the flat.
"Hello, darling!" Charles calls out. He's far too cheerful, and Erik would glare at him if that didn't take effort. Charles meets him in the living room and kisses his cheek, then turns him around and marches him straight into the bedroom. Erik's not about to complain. He doesn't complain when Charles starts stripping him, either, because--well, he has yet to be disappointed in the results of Charles taking his clothes off.
He does blink a little when Charles starts putting Erik's clothes back on.
"Wait," he finally says as Charles buttons up a nice black dress shirt over Erik's chest. "Why are you making me dress up?"
"Hm?" Charles asks. He loops a red tie over Erik's neck and skillfully knots it.
"What's going on?" Erik asks.
"Erm," Charles says. "It's a Christmas party." He grabs a blazer off the bed and Erik raises his arms, too tired to turn off his brain's automatic response.
"But why?" Erik asks, groaning.
"Sssh," Charles says. "You're going. We already RSVPed."
"I don't even celebrate Christmas!" Erik says. Charles buttons Erik's jacket and smooths it out across his chest.
"Don't whine, love, it's not at all attractive."
"I'm not whining," Erik whines. "I'm tired."
"It's Friday night," Charles says. "You can sleep in tomorrow. And when we get home, I promise to take off every item of clothing you're wearing with my teeth."
"There better be alcohol at this party," he grumbles.
Chapter 13: Q and A
Charles and Erik spend a holiday evening early in their relationship getting to know each other.
"I like the idea of it," Charles says. "Baking. All of that, especially around this time of year. I'm not particularly good at it, though. Moira made the gingerbread."
Erik hums against the back of Charles' head, breathing deep and filling his lungs with the scent of Charles' shampoo. They're wrapped in a cocoon of blankets of Charles' sofa, the only light coming from the lights on the Christmas tree in the corner. It's not Erik's holiday, but that doesn't mean it's not sweet and soothing, especially combined with the gingerbread cookies and the cocoa that's been liberally spiked with peppermint schnapps.
"Your go," Charles murmurs when the silence drags on.
"I've never really baked," Erik says. "Never saw a reason to. It was just me. It's been just me until you." That's, perhaps, a bigger revelation than the baking, but Erik is relatively sure that Charles understands, at this point, how few and far between his past relationships have been. He thinks, for a moment, on a new topic. "I'm allergic to animal fur. Cats and dogs, mostly. A couple of smaller things. Not horses. Not rabbits."
"No pets, then?" Charles asks, and Erik makes a negative noise. "The only thing I know I'm allergic to is ferrets," he says. "Violently so. I haven't a clue why. I probably never would have known if my best friend's sister didn't keep one as a pet when we were children."
It's Charles' turn to broach a topic in this odd game they've been playing, this trading of information, but instead of speaking again, he turns around, rolling his body over until he and Erik are nose to nose.
"It's getting late," he says, and Erik feels out for the hands of his watch and has to agree. It's nearly midnight, now, and they both have to work in the morning. If he's honest with himself, he's known that for a long time, now. For at least an hour, he's been warding off the niggling voice telling him how late it was. He hadn't wanted to break the magic of this evening, of the four hours spent telling secrets in the dark, holding each other just for the sake of it. It was like a quiet escape from the world, somewhere to hide. It's always like that with Charles, and each time it gets progressively harder to break away and return to the real world.
"I suppose it is," Erik says.
"Will you stay?" Charles asks. In the dim, colorful lights of the Christmas tree, Charles' eyes seem almost indigo, but just as fathomless as they always are. Erik shouldn't stay--he doesn't have his briefcase or his laptop and he has a meeting tomorrow morning at ten.
"Yes," he says anyway, and kisses Charles, soft and familiar and tender as Charles' lips curl up into a smile.
Chapter 14: Bribery
Charles takes advantage on a lazy Saturday morning.
Written for writingchatthingy and the prompt "can I ask you a question?"
"May I ask you a question?" Charles asks.
Erik wants to say, You already have because it's seven in the fucking morning on a Saturday and he would never dream of being up this early if it wasn't for the very attractive man lying in bed with him, fidgeting about and looking far too awake for the hour.
"Mmphren," Erik says, then clears his throat and repeats, "Be my guest," with slightly better enunciation.
"Are you doing anything tomorrow afternoon?"
There are several things that Erik very much wants to say, all of which basically boil down to, "Yes, I plan on doing you tomorrow afternoon." He has slightly more decorum than that--just slightly, and it is all hard won thanks to the efforts of relationships past, so instead he shakes his head and rolls onto his side, covering his face with a pillow.
"Erik?" Charles asks again, and slides his fingers across Erik's bare chest, his thumb exerting just enough pressure on a purpling bruise for Erik to shiver.
"What?" he asks. "Yes. No. No--I'm not doing anything."
"Good," Charles says. His hand continues it's downward descent. It curls around the jut of his hipbone and then across his flank, drifting towards his ass. Yes, that would be nice, wouldn't it? It would be worth being up at seven in the fucking goddamn bullshit morning on a Saturday if he was up so that Charles could fuck him back to sleep. His hand stops, though, just shy of where Erik would like it. "Would you mind terribly helping me with something?"
"Eghn," Erik mumbles. He's not even sure if that's supposed to be an affirmative or a negative. He's really not concerned with very much aside from the drag of Charles' short, blunt fingernails against his skin.
"Just some chores around the daycare," Charles continues. Even his voice sounds like sex now, hotter and lower than it was a moment again. Erik goes with it and rocks himself further into Charles' touch.
"Sure," he says, finding words at least. "Whatever you want, just--"
"Oh!" Charles says. "How dreadful of me! You're waiting for something, aren't you?"
And then Charles slides a thigh between his own and slides his fingers the rest of the way towards Erik's ass and they're kissing in a sort of hot, muted, way, like they're drowning in molasses, and Erik could get used to this, could grow to maybe like mornings, even....
He falls asleep once he comes, his head lolling onto Charles' shoulder, fingers curled around Charles' hip.
"You tricked me," Erik mutters the next morning, dropping another two canisters of paint onto the concrete. "You used sex to trick me into helping you paint."
"I did," Charles says, shameless and distracted as he checks the labels on the paint cans. "It's called 'being in a relationship,' dear. One of the very pillars of long-term monogamy is that I can use my body to trick you into all sorts of things. I'd get used to it, if I were you."
"You're devious," Erik says.
"Well, you can always leave now," Charles says. "Of course, I was planning a nice, long shower after this, and then maybe spending the rest of the afternoon in bed--"
Erik picks up a paint roller.
"Devious," he says again.
"I never said I wasn't," Charles says cheerfully. "Now, let's get painting."
Erik, Charles thinks, is being remarkably patient.
He has a feeling it's a patience that goes both ways, a patience that exists because no matter how curious Erik is about Charles' past, asking questions would open the door for Charles to ask reciprocal questions, and Erik tries to avoid talking about those things if he can help it.
Erik likes to avoid talking about a lot of things, but Charles doesn't mind. Erik might not be good at vocalizing his feelings, but Charles can read them off of him all the same. He knows Erik loves him, and that he trusts him, and that's enough.
It doesn't stop him from feeling bad, though. Or for wishing he had the guts to talk to Erik about certain things.
On the anniversary of Kurt's funeral, Charles gets through work by the grace of Moira and flagrent misuse of his telepathy. He comes home to an empty flat--of course he does, Erik's not moving in for another two weeks--and lies on the couch, staring up at the ceiling. He ignores his phone when it rings, all three times, but he can't ignore the flustered anxiety projecting out from Erik's mind, getting steadily closer until there's a key in the lock and a sigh of relief when Erik catches sight of him.
Charles closes his eyes and coasts on the emotions pouring off of Erik, the confusion and irritation and relief. For once, Erik doesn't seem to have a smart remark, though. He closes the door and locks it. Charles can hear the tumblers moving in the lock, the tread of Erik's footsteps against the floor. The steps stop in front of the couch.
"Today is the anniversary of my stepfather's funeral," Charles says, without opening his eyes.
"Oh," Erik says. A pause. "Do you miss him?"
Charles snorts. "No," he says shortly.
The next pause is longer. It seems like whole minutes go by before Erik says, "Do you want to talk about it?"
"No," Charles says, just as shortly.
"Do you want--do you want me to stay?"
"Yes," Charles says.
They shift around silently. Charles doesn't open his eyes, just lets Erik's hands glide across his body, moving him and bending him until they're both prone on the couch, their bodies overlapping and twisting together. Erik is warm and smells like cigarettes and coffee and soap and recycled air. His hands hold Charles steady at the small of his back and the nape of his neck, and it's comfortable, somehow, despite the fact that the sofa is too small and their feet are dangling off.
"Do you want to tell me about daycare today?" Erik asks. His mind is zipping about, worried, nervous, afraid of making a mistake, saying the wrong thing, unsure of what to do to make it better.
"Yes," Charles says. "I--yes. That's fine. I can do that."
And just--fuck it, Erik thinks. Anyone who--I don't know what you-- There's a buzz as Erik cuts off his projection and the haze of his mind takes over as he tries to clear his thoughts, pin down the sentiment. Anyone who doesn't appreciate you isn't worth your time. Living or dead.
"The babies are really coming along," Charles says. "Raven and Alex especially."
Thank you, he thinks, and launches into a story about Scott and Bobby and a war in the sandbox, and if he blinks back tears as he does it, Erik doesn't say a word.
Chapter 16: Candid
Charles and Erik are off for a four day weekend, just as soon as Erik proves to Azazel that he has the most attractive boyfriend in the office.
So I saw this picture on Tumblr and reblogged it saying that Daycare!Erik probably had it stuck to his fridge. And then I decided to write how the photo came to be in the first place. Like you do.
So, uh. Here.
Erik's shutting down his computer and pretending to listen to whatever it is Kozlov is saying when his phone buzzes its way across the desk.
I'm downstairs. Ready to go :)
He grins at the text. He can't help it, even as Kozlov snorts at him.
"Pathetic," he says, but he's smirking.
"Shut up," Erik says. He texts back, Be down in a second. Packing up. "I enjoy my boyfriend's company. I'm sorry that's a crime."
"No," Azazel says, "I enjoy my boyfriend's company. You are hopelessly lovestuck and smitten. It has been what? One month? Two?"
"Two and change," Erik mutters. And, yes, okay, he texts Charles all day and talks to him all night and spends at least every other night with him and thinks about him all the time and is completely and utterly in love, but that's normal. Isn't it?
(Erik's honestly not sure. He's never been in a relationship quite like this one before.)
"Over two months and I have yet to meet him," Azazel says. "You should be ashamed."
"You're not my mother, Kozlov," Erik says. He tosses a few thumb drives into his bag. "You don't get to meet my boyfriend. I have a little something called 'work/life balance' which means I don't want you within ten feet of him."
"I have not even seen a picture," Azazel says.
"I don't pester you about your boyfriend all the time," Erik says. Mostly because he doesn't care, but still. That's the point. Azazel shouldn't care.
"Well, yes," Azazel says. "That is because I am a normal person capable of having adult relationships. You, on the other hand, are a robot with worse social skills than Marvin the paranoid android, which makes the whole affair fascinating."
Erik flips Azazel off and grabs his coat and bag.
"I'm going," he says. "I'll be back Tuesday morning. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to contact me while I'm away."
"Enjoy four days of sex with your boyfriend," Azazel says. "If you can. Given your reluctance to show me a photo, I can't help but conclude that he's unattractive or in some way defective."
Erik flips him off again and, for good measure, silently slides his chair back about six inches. Erik hears Azazel fall to the ground as he heads towards the elevator and smirks to himself the entire journey to the ground floor.
Charles is waiting for him on the sidewalk outside the building. It's unseasonably warm and his jacket is resting on the hood of the car. He's wearing a ridiculous sweater over a denim button down shirt, daycare staples though he wasn't supposed to go into work today. There are faded splotches of paint on his hands and some not-so-faded splotches on his jeans, however, and he looks more exhausted then he would be from packing.
"Hello," Charles says, grinning widely. He kisses Erik in greeting and Erik doesn't even care enough to ask if the paint is dry. "Are you ready to go? You can still back out, you know. I don't want you to spend four days being dreadfully bored."
"It will only be two and a half days, won't it?" Erik asks. "You said you'd be done by Sunday at noon and we'd have all of Sunday and Monday after that."
"Well, yes," Charles says. "But that's still two and a half days of entertaining yourself while I attend seminars and present a study."
"I'll come to your presentation," Erik says.
"You don't have to," Charles replies quickly. "I'm not--well, it's not that I'm not as qualified, of course, given my line of work, but it won't be nearly as academic as--"
"Charles," Erik says, and Charles quiets. "I'm coming. You'll be fine. You're brilliant." Erik slept at Charles' last night and heard him pacing half the night, nervous and self-conscious about his presentation. Erik wanted to shake him and say, You're so smart. You're so articulate. You're so knowledgable. You're so charming. Stop worrying and come to bed. He wants to do the same thing now, but he understands there are some things Charles just needs to work through on his own.
"Besides," he continues, "I brought work for the other times. I'll be fine." He doesn't say, I want to go, I want to see you work, I want to spend time with you, I'd rather be bored then spend four days not seeing you, but he thinks it all openly and Charles seems to get the message. He smiles at Erik again, annoyingly attractive, and then grabs Erik's bags.
"Well," he says. "let's hit the road."
Erik looks at him, adorable and exhausted with his ruffled hair and hideously bright sweater and day old stubble and says, "Hold on one second." He pulls his phone out of his pocket and snaps a photo before Charles can do more than look a little tired and confused.
"What was that?" Charles asks, smiling tentatively. "I can't imagine I look my best."
"You look fine," Erik says, and reassures him with a quick kiss. "And that was...nothing. Go on. Get in and I'll drive, at least for the first few hours."
"You are the very best boyfriend," Charles says. "Out of all the boyfriends I have, you are definitely my favorite."
Erik rolls his eyes and pinches Charles' ass for good measure. Charles laughs, sharp and bright and Erik knows that despite the nerves and the exhaustion, Charles is going to be fine. A few hours sleep in the car, a nice dinner tonight, a full night's rest at the hotel, and he'll be bright-eyed and enthusiastic for the start of the conference in the morning.
Erik watches Charles get into the car and curl up in the passenger seat, but he pauses before following him. He types, one-handed, And this is a three-hours-of-sleep-went-to-the-daycare-even-though-he-had-the-day-off day. He attaches the photo and hits "send."
Because, well, he's 100% confident that Charles is more charming and brilliant and gorgeous than the poor bastard Azazel's dating, but there's nothing wrong with rubbing it in a little bit, is there?
Chapter 17: make it up to you
Charles is absolutely not annoyed. And Erik is absolutely not infuriating.
And I wrote fic about it. Now with 100% more typo corrections!
"You're mad at me."
Charles barely glances up from his magazine. He's engaged. He's riveted, really, and Erik's not distracting and Erik doesn't deserve his attention. Charles is mature. He leagues more mature than Erik.
"I'm not mad at you," Charles says. He rustles the magazine and focuses his attention on the article he's reading. "I don't know why you would say that."
"I'm saying it because you always make that snooty face when I've done something that doesn't quite meet your approval, like you can't believe you allow yourself to be seen with me."
Charles wrinkles his nose and pushes his reading glasses up. "That's absurd," Charles says. "I absolutely do not. And I'm not angry. You're just projecting because you feel guilty."
"Nope," Erik says, and Charles steals a peek, watches him stirring his coffee, and god, it's really not fair how fucking attractive Erik always is, even first thing in the morning--well, one in the afternoon--even when Charles is--yes, okay, annoyed with him. "I don't feel guilty at all, because when I said, 'Do you want me to go to the Summers kid's recital with you?' You said, 'You don't have to, you can come along if you wake up in time.' And I said, 'There's no way I'll wake up in time, but I'll go if you want me to' and you said, 'It doesn't matter.'"
Charles huffs and doesn't say anything.
"Charles, if you want me to do something with you, I'll do it. You just have to actually ask," Erik says. "We're not all telepaths." Charles opens his mouth to snap at him, but before he can so much as draw in a breath, Erik continues. "But, since I'm such a nice guy, I'm going to finish my coffee and then I'm going to make it up to you."
Charles can feel Erik's smirk, even though Erik's back is to him. His back, fuck, and his waist and those jeans and--
"Bloody hell, you drive me mad sometimes," Charles mutters, and Erik just laughs.
"If you think that's bad, wait until I finish my coffee."
Chapter 18: Parting is such sweet sorrow
Erik knows he has to go, but he really doesn't want to.
Written for the writingchatthingy prompt "write about leaving." This takes place very early on in Charles and Erik's relationship.
"Where are my keys?" Erik asks and immediately feels transparent. Not that he doesn't always feel transparent, given his boyfriend is a telepath, but it's particularly clear right now as he slowly gets to his feet and pokes half-heartedly at the papers on the table in order to "find his keys."
Charles, miraculously, doesn't say anything. He doesn't even smile. He definitely doesn't get up to help.
"You could always stay if you can't find them?" he says, his voice lilting up into a question at the end.
"I can't," Erik says, and hopes he sounds as sorry as he feels. "I have to drive into the city at like, seven am. It's going to be a nightmare."
Charles gives him a half smile from the couch, but still doesn't move to help, probably because he knows how farcical the whole thing is in the first place.
"You want to stay," Charles eventually says, looking up at Erik pleadingly.
"I do," Erik says, because there's no sense in lying about that. "But I really can't."
Charles sighs and finally pushes himself up. "I know," he says. He slides his arms around Erik's waist and kisses him briefly, then rests his head on Erik's shoulder. "Your keys are on the kitchen table."
Erik knew that, of course, but he doesn't move. He wraps his arms around Charles, rests his chin on the top of Charles' head. He really doesn't want to go. It doesn't feel...right, at home. It should--it's the same apartment he's lived in for four years now, the same things in the same order. The same amount of space. But in the past few months, it's all become too much. Too much room on the couch, too much food in the fridge, too much space in the bed. It's the same place, but somehow bigger. Or maybe it's just that Erik's smaller, that he's gone from being an entire world to only half of one.
He sighs and kisses the top of Charles' head.
"I'll see you tomorrow night," he says.
"Yeah," Charles says. "Have a good meeting. You should wear the purple tie."
"I will," Erik promises. He tips his head down and tips Charles' up until their noses are nearly touching. They stare at each other for a moment, and then Erik kisses him.
Being in love is not an acceptable excuse for calling out of a major meeting, he reminds himself, and releases Charles with one last squeeze.
"I'll call you," Erik promises as he raises his hand and summons his keys from the kitchen.
"Good," Charles says. "Good night."
"Good night, Charles," Erik says, and forces himself to finally leave.