“I wasn’t hiding it from you. Honestly, I didn’t know for certain until yesterday, which I think we can agree was bad timing and not the sort of thing one springs before the heat of battle,” Charles says earnestly.
Erik evidently does not agree, judging from the twitch of his jaw and the rattle of everything metal in the room.
“Prior to that, I was actually slightly concerned that I was experiencing side effects from Cerebro, or perhaps had a tapeworm,” Charles continues. “I could feel it, you see, and it wasn’t as if I had all the data, so perhaps you can forgive me for jumping to some less exotic explanations, although genetically speaking--”
“You can feel it?” Erik says hoarsely.
Charles rests one hand on his stomach. “Not -- not physically,” he says.
“My god,” Erik says, and looks like he is genuinely in danger of vomiting, which is completely ridiculous, because if anyone has the right to vomit, it’s Charles. He tries to remember if his mother ever told him anything about morning sickness during about her pregnancy. It might shed some light on what he’s in for, but since this would actually have required his mother to talk to him, he comes up empty-handed.
“At any rate, Hank thinks I’m about two and a half months along, so I don’t imagine I’ll be feeling the baby move for a while yet,” Charles says, although he’s mostly bullshitting because he read exactly one book on gestation, which was enough for him to tell Raven that she probably didn’t want any part of that until she was at least thirty, or perhaps never.
Erik had taken off that terrible helmet on the beach when Charles had given him one extremely good reason not to kill a lot of people, but Charles resisted the urge to peek to see what specifically was underneath Erik’s anger and confusion.
“How long do you think you’ve been able to--” Erik trails off.
Charles coughs. “Well, although our immediate evidence seems to suggest that many mutations manifest at puberty, others are clearly present at birth -- Raven, for example.”
“And it’s never come up before?” Erik asks.
“Well, of course it hasn’t, it’s not like I -- that is, you know I was a--”
Erik knows precisely, and the self-satisfied quirk to his lips is simultaneously stupidly attractive and intensely aggravating.
“My point is,” Charles says, enunciating, “you got me into this. You’d better take some responsibility.”
He expects an argument -- he expects Erik to lash out with bitter cold words, to act out of the same fear that has driven Erik for more than a decade, a fear not extinguished with Shaw’s death.
But instead Erik pulls him close, hands shaking where they clasp him, terribly, carefully gentle. “Charles,” Erik says, and his voice is a low murmur felt more than heard, and Charles takes a moment to be grateful that he’d been grossly exaggerating when he’d told Erik those months ago that he knew everything about him.
At this point, Charles should probably know to be careful what he wishes for -- which is to say, his elation at Erik agreeing to take responsibility should have been tempered by the realization that Erik was going to interpret that promise extremely broadly.
The mutant who calls himself Azazel takes them as far as Miami, before announcing that he is inclined to part ways. They end up at in a set of rooms that Eric procures with an enviable command of Spanish, and then Erik begins what he does best: making terrifying plans.
“We need to go to ground for awhile,” Erik announces. “Preferably in another country. I know a place in Canada--”
“Canada?” Alex says incredulously, as if Erik had suggested they make camp on the moon.
“Really, Erik, I think we can safely return to the mansion, don’t you?” Charles says.
Erik frowns. “Charles, it’s hardly secure. The CIA is going to figure out that we made it off that beach alive, and from there, it’s not much of a stretch to think where we might go.”
Charles bites his lip, because it’s not that he can’t see the sense in Erik’s reasoning. Still -- “I was really rather hoping to go home,” he says quietly.
Suddenly everyone in the room is pretending like they did not just look in the direction of Charles’ stomach, except for Sean, who says, “I dunno, kind of sounds like a bad--” before Alex claps a hand over his mouth.
Erik, in particular, looks stricken. “Charles, be reasonable, it’s not safe--”
It could be, Charles thinks at him. Moira could take care of it.
Only if you take care of Moira when she’s done, Erik thinks, along with a vague impression of Charles wiping away memories.
Charles closes his eyes in grief, but even without Erik radiating all of his long-stymied protective impulses, he would know that anonymity was the best protection they had.
“We’ll go to the mansion,” Erik says finally. He looks at Angel and Riptide. “We’re all mutants, we’re all in this together. Come with us.”
“You couldn’t protect us before,” Angel says, her voice cracking in pain and defiance. “What makes you think you’ll do any better this time?”
Riptide says nothing, but it’s clear he’s waiting for a response.
“The world knows mutants exist,” Erik says. “There’s no going back from that. All we can change is how we move forward -- they want us separate and weak, but we can take care of each other, be stronger if we fight together.”
“Erik,” Charles says, not precisely liking the direction this is going.
The room is silent for a moment, and then Erik meets Charles’ eyes. “If it came to it, I would move the earth itself before I let any of you come to harm.”
Riptide tilts his head, and then says, “We should travel together, and swiftly.”
“Oh, hey, I have an idea,” Alex says, and that’s when Charles remembers there are worse things than Erik’s plans.
“We are not hot-wiring a banana truck,” Charles says firmly.
“Why not?” Alex says, looking honestly perplexed instead of defensive.
Charles pinches the bridge of his nose. “In the first place, that’s grand theft auto.”
“I know, I’ve totally done that before--”
“In the second place,” Charles says, “the smell is unbelievable.”
“Pregnancy makes your sense of smell more acute,” Hank volunteers. “And we really do need to leave, Professor. Don’t you think you could just -- well, not breathe through your nose for awhile?”
“I will make a special point of throwing up on you,” Charles says darkly, before stripping off his wristwatch and handing it to Erik. “The owner is dependent on that truck for his livelihood -- we can’t steal it. We’ll buy it.”
“Awesome,” Sean says. “Can I drive?”
“No way in hell,” Erik says automatically.
Erik, Raven, and Riptide -- Janos, he’d introduced himself, a wry smile pulling at his lips -- take turns driving, and it’s a long, uncomfortable ride to New York. Moira leaves them in Maryland to make her way to Langley, and while Erik drives, Charles dozes against Hank, his blue fur surprisingly soft.
He wakes up when Erik climbs into the back of the truck in the middle of the night, Raven having taken over the wheel for the last stretch of road until they cross into Westchester County. It’s dark and he hasn’t rested well, and there are things they probably should talk about at some point. None of it seems to matter when Erik eases him away from Hank’s side and pulls him close, arm around Charles’ waist and fingers resting lightly against his side.
It’s just past dawn when they arrive at the mansion, and the kids all stumble out of the back of the truck. Charles is about to follow suit when Erik hops out first, and then offers him a hand.
“Really?” Charles asks dryly.
Erik looks utterly serious, and so Charles sighs, and accepts his perfectly superfluous assistance in jumping down from the truck trailer. His brain is ticking through a few practicalities -- Janos needs a room, he himself could sincerely do with a shower -- but while he’s certainly operated on less sleep, he hasn’t generally done it after stopping a war and also feeling another man die while inside his head. And so when Raven says to Janos, “This way, you can take the room next to mine,” Charles gives her a weak smile of gratitude and hauls himself up the stairs to his bedroom in the east wing.
Erik is hot on his heels -- not without cause, since he occupies a room just down the hall, but he follows Charles to his bedroom door.
Charles really doesn’t want to do this now, but he stops with his hand on the doorknob. “We should talk, I know,” he says, rubbing at his eyes.
“You should rest,” Erik says.
“Rest,” Charles echoes. “What if Moira calls?”
“Then we’ll deal with it. But for now--” Erik trails off, and shifts his weight forward as if he intends to follow Charles inside to make sure he’s tucked into bed.
“All right,” Charles says, and then with a remarkable amount of awkwardness, they stare silently at each other for a long moment, Erik with one foot into Charles’ room and Charles still with his hand clenched around the doorknob. “Good night, then, or -- morning, whichever.”
Erik looks at him steadily, searching his face for something, but then he merely says, “Good night, Charles,” and makes his way down the hallway.
Charles closes the door and leans against it, before deciding that a shower can wait, and he only manages to yank off his boots before toppling into bed.
Charles wakes up to find Raven’s face about six inches from his. “Mnrgh,” he says.
Since Raven is his sister, she doesn’t take offense. She knows what he’s like first thing in the morning, so she just waits, watching his face carefully.
“Morning,” Charles says. He feels wretched -- achy all over, and grimy, and what had he been thinking, passing out in his flight suit was clearly a terrible idea.
“Are you going to puke?” Raven asks solicitously.
“Now that you mention it,” Charles says, and manages to make it to the bathroom just in time.
Raven hands him a glass of water when he’s done, and he rinses out his mouth, still on his knees in front of the toilet.
“You could have told me,” Raven says. She sounds a little hurt, a little sad.
“I didn’t think you needed the distraction,” Charles says, and when he looks up in the mirror, Raven is furious.
“You can’t keep -- you can’t keep doing this, Charles, you can’t keep making decisions for me,” she says, and her form melts back to her natural blue.
“I’m sorry,” he says, as sincerely as he knows how. “I was going to tell you. I mean, as soon as I figured out how. It’s not exactly -- you know.”
“Normal?” she says, and sinks down next to him, wrapping one arm around his shoulders. “We were never going to be normal, Charles.”
He sighs and then offers her a weak smile. “What’s one more mutation, right?”
She strokes his hair with her fingers. “Get cleaned up, and come downstairs,” she says. “There’s breakfast waiting, and Erik’s already made two cups of coffee that he let go cold.”
Charles moans and hangs his head over the toilet again. “Can’t I just be indisposed?”
“Twenty minutes,” Raven says firmly, and shuts the bathroom door behind her.
He sighs again and begins to strip off his flight suit.
When he enters the kitchen, Erik stands abruptly and pulls out the chair next to him, looking impatient.
Charles sincerely wishes he could turn around and go back upstairs, but Raven is already coming over with a plate of food, and, well. There’s no point in making this more hideously awkward than it already is. He sits down and lets Erik help push his chair in, but there’s nothing he can do about his ears burning in embarrassment.
And then Erik goes and pours him a cup of tea and adds just the right amount of milk that Charles likes when he’s feeling under the weather, and places it in front of Charles without comment.
Everyone is staring at them, and Charles just can’t deal with this yet, and decides to nibble on some toast to see whether it will help settle his stomach.
“You’re going to need a doctor,” Hank blurts out from across the table. “I mean, an obstetrician. I’m really not qualified to--”
“Hank, I’m going to venture that no one on this planet is actually qualified for this,” Charles says, his tone a little more sharp than he intended.
“Then we’ll start with the best, and they’ll learn quickly,” Erik says resolutely, with something of an implied or else. He flicks a glance at Charles’ plate. “Eat that.”
Charles frowns at him, because he didn’t need to be told, and also, Erik had never been so solicitous of him, in public or otherwise. He can’t say he blames the children for being so surprised to hear that he was pregnant -- not just the pregnancy part, but the part where he and Erik have been up to anything over the summer that might lead to pregnancy. That they were becoming reasonably good friends was obvious -- that Erik was slipping into Charles’ bedroom late most nights was, by design, less so.
“I don’t get what the big deal is,” Alex says to Hank, talking with his mouth full. “Can’t you just read Dr. Spock and wing it?”
Everyone at the table turns to look at him.
“You read Dr. Spock?” Sean asks, incredulous.
“Look, it’s not like you have a lot of choices in prison when it comes to reading material. Anyway, Dr. Spock thinks women know way more about having babies and stuff than science does, so I don’t get why you’re freaking out about it.”
“Women,” Charles says, his headache starting to come back. “Not me, Alex.”
Alex shoves more food in his mouth. “Babies feel, right? Before they’re born. Can’t you just check in once in awhile, make sure it’s doing okay?”
Charles opens his mouth once, and then closes it.
“It would be safer to limit contact with humans,” Erik says. He pours Charles another cup of tea.
“Erik,” Charles hisses.
Erik gives him a bland, unrepentant look in return.
Hank is hunching his shoulders, and looking more than a little terrified, but he says, “I’ll do it. I mean, as long as you don’t mind.”
Charles is torn between reassuring Hank and having a nice panic attack. Anxiety is coming off Hank in waves, though, and so Charles decides to peek just to make sure that Hank isn’t overstating his ability to learn midwifery in a hurry. A shocked laugh escapes him and he says, “Hank, don’t be ridiculous -- of course you can do a physical exam, what makes you think--”
He turns to look at Erik, who is staring Hank down in stony silence.
“Erik, honestly,” Charles says, rolling his eyes. “Well, Hank, I’m sure we’ll both...learn a lot.”
He gives Hank his best encouraging smile, but Hank just gulps and nods. Erik turns his attention back to Charles then, watching him eat with a disturbing amount of interest -- and Charles would yell at him again, he really would, but it turns out he’s actually quite hungry, after all.
The rest of the day -- what’s left of it, anyway -- passes in a strange flurry of routine activity. It feels odd to watch Sean hang laundry on the line outside, but the world doesn’t stop just because they stopped a war. Janos had offered to make dinner, and the smells floating out of the kitchen make Charles’ stomach gurgle in anticipation.
He hears the study door open behind him, but instead of Raven or Erik, it’s Angel who comes up quietly behind him.
“Everything all right?” she asks eventually.
“Hmm? Oh, yes, everything’s fine,” Charles says, almost absently.
Angel crosses her arms them, looking out the window and not at his face. “Okay, it’s just -- I knew some girls who didn’t plan on it, but. You know.”
Charles could guess, even if Angel wasn’t broadcasting a series of faces, surprise and despair and sadness and joy. “I’m not certain it feels real to me,” Charles confesses, and runs a hand through his hair. “I keep remembering and then wondering if I’m not hallucinating.”
She does look at him, then. “You’ll be okay,” she says, and Charles marvels that someone so scared can sound so determined. “You won’t have to do it alone.”
“I’m fortunate in that regard. I have all of you,” he says, and offers her an honest smile along with the deliberate inclusion.
“And Erik?” she asks, and it takes him a moment to separate out the strands of emotion, to realize that she’s worried, because she’s seen too many women abandoned to less than ideal circumstances.
He wishes he could give her some easy reassurance, but he has none to give on this score. “Erik,” Charles says carefully, “believes in protecting all mutants. I do not think he will desert this one.”
She nods, and squeezes his arm once before she slips out of the study.
The general consensus seems to be that an early bedtime is in order -- Raven and Sean nod off in front of the television, and Charles has read the same three paragraphs without absorbing their meaning. It’s Erik who finally stands and says, “It’s been a long day -- go get some rest.” The children -- Charles really should stop calling them that, he should, people who have fought a battle and faced down missiles are not children -- and Janos rouse themselves and shuffle off to bed.
Charles stares at the fireplace while they go, until Erik gently tugs the book from his hand. “You too, Charles,” he says. “You especially.”
Charles doesn’t much care to be told what to do, but it wouldn’t really do to be petulant, particularly when Erik is probably right. Erik follows him upstairs again to his bedroom, and this time, follows him right in.
“I’m really not in the mood,” Charles says shortly.
Erik runs his thumb over the post of the four-poster bed, probably tracing the inlaid filigree. “Let me sleep with you,” he says.
“What did I just say?” Charles snaps, unbuttoning his cardigan with more violence than is probably necessary.
Erik is silent for a moment, but frustration is roiling just under the surface. “I don’t like you in here by yourself.”
Charles gives him an unfriendly look. “How strange that it didn’t bother you before now.”
“This is different,” Erik says, and walks around the bed to Charles’ side. There’s no trace of Erik in the room, no possessions left behind, but though he never slept next to Charles through the night, he never left right away, either -- and he always slept on the right side of the bed, nearest to the door. Erik pulls Charles close by strong hands on his hips, and even though Charles is still feeling decidedly prickly, he allows it.
The next words are spoken against the crown of Charles’ head. “It would make me -- feel better,” Erik says haltingly, like the words are part of a language he doesn’t know yet. “Let me.”
There are things Charles could say, and he’s all out of sorts -- he knows this, but can’t seem to stop it. But Erik’s arms are warm around him, and it’s comforting, and Charles doesn’t want to fight right now about motivations and what this means.
“All right,” he says, and he can feel Erik’s muscles relax a little.
He wakes up once in the middle of the night. He and Erik started out on separate sides of the bed, but they’ve migrated to the middle, so that Erik’s long frame is bent around his, as naturally as metal bends to Erik’s mind. He can feel Erik’s breath stir the hair at the nape of his neck, but that’s not what woke him.
Even if Erik were not in the room, Charles would not be alone. He can feel it, a little pinpoint of brightness growing even stronger, nothing recognizable as thoughts or consciousness or anything except existing.
It’s there, and it shouldn’t be but it is -- and it’s marvelous as the day he first met Raven and realized he wasn’t alone, and terrifying because of all the futures he imagined for himself, he’s never imagined anything like this.
Erik mutters something in his sleep, lips moving against Charles’ neck, arm flexing around Charles’ midsection before relaxing. Charles wonders belatedly if he’s been a bit sloppy, broadcasting while Erik is wrapped mentally and physically around him, but Erik’s dreams are innocuous, all memories of sensation and a warm breeze and no obvious bleed-through of Charles’ anxiety.
He sighs, and pushes himself back just the tiniest bit against Erik, and lets his eyes fall shut again.
He wakes up in a different mood, though, chiefly because he has to struggle out of Erik’s grip to make it to the ensuite bathroom, where he suspects he is going to be spending a lot of time.
He’s aware of Erik standing in the doorway, the undershirt and boxers he wore to bed rumpled from sleep and some strange expression on his face that Charles chooses not to investigate in favor of being noisily sick. But Erik just runs the tap and fills a glass with water before crouching next to Charles. “Reminds me of Chicago,” he says, and he has the gall to sound amused.
Charles grabs the glass from him and rinses his mouth out. “I told you, that was from a migraine, not from drinking too much.”
By the time he makes it down to the kitchen, Hank is lying in wait for him.
He is just putting the kettle on the stove when Hank says, “I think you should stop drinking tea.”
Charles squints at him. “Rubbish,” he concludes.
Hank throws down a slim stack of periodicals like a gauntlet. “No, really.”
Erik and Raven come into the kitchen then, and Raven says, “What’s going on?”
“Hank wants me to treat my body like a temple,” Charles grouses, giving up on the kettle in favor of pulling out a chair at the table.
Apparently emboldened by Charles’ acquiescence, Hank says, “Definitely no smoking.”
“Please, I barely smoke at all.”
Raven coughs, and he viciously regrets having shared any of the contents of the tin that resides behind several books in his study.
“And I think you should stop drinking alcohol, too.”
“That’s completely ridiculous,” Charles says firmly, but the thoughtful way Erik is nodding his head probably means that all liquor in the house is going to find itself temporarily fused inside a metal box with no opening.
“Mice trials,” Hank says urgently, and Charles skims the summary of several articles off the top of Hank’s mind, and blanches.
“All right, no drinking, no smoking, no -- oh good lord, no tea for seven more months, I’m going to die,” Charles says mournfully.
It isn’t the only surprise Hank has waiting for him, although he waits until later in the afternoon to ask Charles to come down to the lab. Erik, who has been more or less dogging his footsteps, doesn’t wait for an invitation to accompany them.
“What’s all this, then?” Charles asks politely, looking at a hodgepodge of metal and dials.
Hank fiddles with a few things, turning switches that bring the machine to life. “Ah, well, we confirmed the pregnancy with blood and urine samples--”
“I know, I was there,” Charles says. “You were like a vampire, honestly, I don’t think you needed all of that blood--”
“But I thought you’d like to see it with your own eyes,” Hank continues on.
Charles opens his mouth once, and then shuts it. “I don’t recall have a sonography machine on the grounds.”
“Oh, there wasn’t one, I built it last night,” Hank says, pushing his glasses up.
Both Erik and Charles stare at him.
“I couldn’t sleep,” Hank explains. “So -- Professor, if you’ll just, um, unbutton your shirt, then I can put the gel on your stomach and we can--”
“You’re sure it’s safe,” Erik says, and it’s not a question. Also, he is looming over Charles in rather disconcerting way.
Hank doesn’t growl, but he does give Erik an impatient look. “It’s fine. Professor?”
Charles sighs and hops up on the table that Hank indicates, and he fumbles with the buttons on his vest before Erik steps in and stills his hands, silently undoing the rest of the buttons and sliding the vest off Charles’ shoulders.
“You really needn’t,” Charles says under his breath. “I’m not a child.”
Erik does not respond, except to hesitate just briefly at the top button of Charles’ shirt before carefully undoing the rest. Charles draws the line at letting Erik undo his belt, and takes care of pushing his trousers and underwear out of the way himself.
Then Charles wrinkles his nose at the cold gel -- Hank does at least apologize for that -- and pressing a wand uncomfortably on his belly while looking at a screen, which bears some resemblance to the illustrations in his anatomy textbooks.
And then Hank says, “Okay, here, and oh, oh wow--”
“Fuck me,” Charles breathes, wide-eyed.
Hank’s hand trembles a bit, but Erik steadies the wand in place, as the three of them stare at what is very obviously a fetus.
“I feel we should study this,” Charles says, hands gripping the edge of the table until his knuckles are white. “I also feel very much like having a nice fit of hysterics, which might be first. Don’t hold it against me.”
“My god,” Erik says, his voice rough. Charles looks at his face to see what that means -- Erik has grown adept at walling his thoughts off, and Charles won’t look without permission -- but there’s no revulsion in Erik’s expression, not at all. Erik is staring at the cobbled-together monitor with something that looks like wonder, his fingertips stroking Charles’ belly.
Hank is flipping through some books. “This looks right -- ten weeks along, maybe eleven,” he mutters, and then looks up at Charles. “Does that -- I mean, that timeline, it’s possible, right?”
“Yes,” Erik surprises him by answering, and Charles gets a flash of skin and warmth and Erik’s tongue dragging down Charles’ spine on a sweltering August evening.
Hank looks relieved. “Oh good, because I was really a little worried that all of my references were going to be useless since it’s a mutation, and if this is a survival mechanism, I had to consider whether the Professor was reproducing asexually--”
Charles wheezes. “Yes, thank you, Hank, very interesting from an evolutionary perspective, but it seems unlikely. Under the circumstances.”
“Right,” Hank says, but Charles is aware that Hank is making some unnervingly calm mental calculations about Erik’s stamina and how long it took to impregnate Charles and whether Charles’ mutation had been there all along or if it only responded to stimuli, and that’s when Charles calls a halt to this whole business and gets himself cleaned up.
There’s a phone call from Moira that night. There are two telephones in the mansion -- one in the front hall, and the other in Charles’ study.
He takes the call in his study, not wanting the others to overhear. When Erik slips in the door, he just motions him forward. He actually suspects that Erik can interpret electromagnetic pulses and can listen in on his conversation without much difficulty, but that’s a subject to raise at another time.
“I can’t talk long,” Moira says. “But I’m done. You made it there safe?”
“Yes,” Charles says. He knows she’s being as discreet as possible, but he’d still rather say nothing much. “When can we expect you?”
There’s a crackle of static. “Thursday,” she says finally. “I don’t know if I should--”
Erik’s mouth hardens into a stern, displeased line.
Charles says, “You should come. We’ll see you Thursday.”
The line crackles again and then disconnects. Erik doesn’t look that apologetic.
“I think,” Charles says carefully, “that it ought to bother me more. What we’re planning to do.”
“Even if she doesn’t want to talk, someone could make her,” Erik says. “If you want to stay here, Charles, you know what you have to do.”
Charles wants to insist that there’s another way, that they could go on the run. But he knows Erik is right. And besides, what kind of life would that be for a --
He touches his stomach, and even though his belt is at the same notch it always is, there was something about actually seeing the baby today that makes his resolve harden.
Erik steps close, and his hand comes up as if to cover the one Charles is holding against his belly, but instead he lets it fall back down to his side. “I won’t risk your safety,” Erik says.
It’s what Charles wanted, surely. For Erik to find a new purpose, to turn away from vengeance. And Charles hadn’t been lying to Angel when he said that Erik would fight to protect all mutants. He just wishes he knew whether Erik would have stayed for Charles alone.
Moira says hello to the children when she arrives, offers a respectful greeting to Janos, and then asks to speak with Charles and Erik privately.
“Most of the records were destroyed when Shaw blew up the facility,” she said. “The rest were with who you said they’d be, Charles. I destroyed them. Funny thing was -- they didn’t even seem to know they had them in their possession. It was like mutants had completely slipped their mind.”
Erik raises an eyebrow. “My, my, Charles, you were busy.”
“Don’t mistake a disinclination to kill for an unwillingness to protect us from harm,” Charles says evenly.
“You have to do the same to me,” Moira says. Her voice does not tremble, and she looks him dead in the eye.
“Oh, Moira,” Charles sighs.
“You have to,” Moira insists. “I can’t tell them what I don’t know. It’s the only way I can make sure you’re safe -- all of you.”
Erik’s brow is furrowed, as though he honestly hadn’t imagined a human was capable of this.
Moira’s mind whispers be safe be safe take care as Charles slides his fingers against her temples.
Hank puts his foot down about the issue of the obstetrician.
“Professor, I promise you that I will do my best to take care of you, but I am not delivering your baby,” Hank says, looking wild around the eyes.
Charles pauses in the middle of eating toast off Erik’s plate. He’d already consumed his own breakfast, but Erik’s plate is just sitting there next to him, and for all that Erik has definite feelings about his food and the value of fresh fruits and vegetables, all twisted around dark shadows of deprivation, he lets Charles take whatever he wants (although he does frown briefly when Charles filches orange segments).
“Well, if that’s the way you feel about it,” Charles says, eyeing the steaming cup of tea in front of Hank with longing.
Hank gives a frustrated rumble of a growl. “It has nothing to do with how I feel -- I’m not a medical doctor, and I’m not going to perform surgery on you.”
“Surgery?” Erik asks sharply.
“He’s going to need a Cesarean section,” Hank says, looking deeply uncomfortable. In fact, his fur seems to be standing on end around his neck. “How did you think the baby was going to be born?”
Charles hadn’t actually thought that part all the way out -- to be truthful, he hadn’t gotten much further than a sort of bemused resignation at having to buckle his belt at a new notch. “All right, I’ll make some calls this morning,” he says.
Erik looks perturbed and uneasy, but offers Charles another piece of orange before he can steal it.
He and Erik have resumed their regular chess matches in the evening, sans alcohol. Charles would complain bitterly about the scotch embargo, but as Erik has chosen to forgo it in solidarity, it seems a little churlish to whine about it.
“You want to start a school?” Erik asks skeptically.
Charles rearranges himself in his chair, leaning forward a bit to move his bishop. “There are so many of us. I saw them with Cerebro -- and maybe the adults have learned to control their abilities, to live with them, but what about the children? Should we leave them to medical professionals who won’t understand them, or to the government, who will use them?”
“Careful, Charles, you’re starting to sound like me,” Erik says, his lips curving into a wry smile.
“I thought you might like that,” Charles says. “But I’m absolutely serious. We have the space and the means. We can help, Erik.”
Erik takes one of his pawns with a knight. “And who will you get to teach?”
Charles gives him his most charming smile and waits expectantly.
Erik looks pained. “I can’t even begin to imagine what you think I’m suitable to instruct.”
“You do have lovely penmanship,” Charles says, studying the board leisurely. He rests one hand on his stomach, which still doesn’t make him look pregnant but does make him look like an extremely soft academic, overly fond of custard cream and sitting still in libraries.
“You’re already going to have the pitter-patter of one mutant child here before long -- are you really that eager to add countless others at the same time?”
“And what,” Charles says, “makes you think our child will be a mutant?”
“Of course it --”
Charles takes Erik’s bishop and raises an eyebrow. “There’s no ‘of course’ about it, my friend. We still don’t understand which genes are responsible for mutations, nor the dominance of these genes. It’s perfectly possible that you and I will end up with a very human child.”
Erik stares blankly at the chessboard, where Charles will probably be checkmated in three moves.
“What will you do, then?” Charles asks gently.
Erik looks -- Erik looks wrecked. “What will I do?” he echoes.
Charles forces himself to wait.
“I meant it,” Erik says, his voice gone gravelly. “When I said I’d take responsibility. Mutant or no, that won’t change.”
It’s not precisely the answer that Charles wanted, but it’s good enough for Charles to lean forward and tip over his king. “I don’t suppose I could prevail upon you to make me some hot chocolate?”
Erik looks slightly surprised at Charles backing off, but he recovers quickly and says, “If only to prevent you from burning down the kitchen.”
“I really think we could have salvaged that pot,” Charles says, feeling a little defensive about his attempt to replicate Janos’ recipe the other night.
“As always, your optimism astounds me.”
A few weeks later, Charles wakes to find Erik pressed close behind him, hand curled so gently against Charles’ stomach as to be almost not touching.
“You don’t have to be quite that careful,” he murmurs, tugging up his undershirt and places Erik’s hand firmly against his skin. He can hear Erik’s sudden intake of breath, and then Erik’s fingers cautiously stroke his belly.
Erik’s voice is low and sleep-rough when he says, “I need to go into the city today.”
“Oh?” Charles asks, yawning. “Well, I do have some errands that need seeing to.”
Erik’s hand stills. “Not a good idea. Just give me a list.”
“Oh, really, I don’t actually look pregnant -- in fact I think I’m starting to bear a distinct resemblance to my Uncle Bertie, God rest him.”
“You walk differently,” Erik says. “A list, Charles.”
“Fine,” Charles says, sulking.
He sulks more when it becomes clear that Erik is taking Raven and Janos with him, which seems incredibly unfair. He vengefully adds marzipan rolls from Li-Lac Chocolates to his list and thrusts it into Erik’s hand after Erik puts on his greatcoat and trilby, in deference to the late November cold.
“You’ll be back for dinner?” Charles asks, feeling uncomfortably like somebody’s wife.
Erik scans the list, looking thoughtful until he gets to the last item, and then the corner of his mouth quirks in a way that actually makes Charles want to thump him on the arm. “We should be,” he says. And then, because Erik is obviously an ass, he bends down to press a kiss just to the right of Charles’ mouth.
It really shouldn’t be enough to leave Charles feeling witless all afternoon, but it is.
When Erik returns with Raven and Janos in tow, he’s plainly triumphant and self-satisfied, which makes Charles distinctly nervous. “How was your trip?” Charles asks, making a point of not sounding too interested.
“Profitable,” Erik says with a considerable amount of relish.
“What did you--” Charles stops, because there are far too many people in the room, and he’s not certain what Erik has done, but he is certain that it’s for his ears alone.
Alex has made a surprisingly credible attempt at a roasted chicken, which delays the questions Charles wants to ask Erik. It’s only after plates are cleared from the table that Charles says, “Erik, my study, please?”
Erik gamely follows him down the hall, and Charles carefully shuts the door before demanding, “What did you do?”
Erik draws a creased note out of his pocket, which is Charles’ list. “I went to your solicitor, as requested, and the library for those articles--”
“I emptied Shaw’s bank accounts and seized his assets.”
Charles stares at him, slack-jawed. “You did what?”
“Janos knew what he had, for the most part, and Raven’s impersonation was persuasive.”
“Erik, I have more than enough money, if you needed some--”
“It’s not about that,” Erik cuts him off. “Charles, can you honestly think of any better use for that money than to help our people?”
He can’t, and his expression must say as much.
“Listen to me, Charles. You want to open up a school -- that’s fine, and I can help you do that. But it will never be enough to change people’s minds. You know that.”
“It might,” Charles says. “In time.”
“Money will change it, and it will do it more quickly,” Erik says. “Money in the right men’s pockets.”
Charles fundamentally dislikes being surprised so much in one conversation. “Are we talking about large-scale bribery, now?”
“It’s called lobbying, Charles, and it’s not illegal.”
“Oh,” Charles says, and takes a deep breath. “Well. Not illegal, no. Clever, really.”
“And I got you this,” Erik says, and Charles doesn’t know how he’s kept it out of sight all this time, but there’s no mistaking the distinctive Li-Lac box.
“Oh,” Charles says helplessly. “You didn’t have to, I only put it down because I was feeling a bit stroppy about the whole thing.”
Erik peers at him. “Are you going to cry?”
“I’m going to punch you in the face,” Charles says, and then does nothing of the sort and goes up on tiptoe to kiss him. It starts out tentative and careful, because they’ve never kissed outside of bed before -- and Charles still doesn’t know what the hell Erik wants, if he wants this, but if he’s going to go to the effort of retrieving marzipan rolls from a confectionery in the Village, then the least he can do is stand still while Charles kisses him in thanks.
The door to the study swings open, then, and Raven says, “Charles, did you murder Erik -- oh. Sorry. I’ll just--”
The moment is broken, and Erik takes a careful step back while steadying Charles with a firm grasp on his shoulders. “I’m alive, as you can see,” Erik says dryly.
“Right,” Raven says, and closes the door behind her.
“Chess?” Erik suggests, moving away completely.
Charles thinks very seriously about eating all the marzipan by himself and not sharing any of it.
“Oh -- oh my god,” Charles moans.
Hank looks up uncertainly. “Am I hurting you?”
Alex rolls his eyes. “Hank, if you ever get a girl in the backseat of a car and she makes a noise like that, here’s a hint: don’t stop.”
“Yes, that’s very charming, Alex, thank you,” Charles says witheringly. “Unfortunately, Hank, he’s right -- please do continue.”
“Shut up,” Angel and Sean hiss in unison, glaring at them before resolutely turning back to The Guiding Light.
Charles wiggles his toes, and Hank resumes rubbing his feet with a truly enviable degree of muscle control. He’s honestly trying to keep it down, but Hank has his number, and Charles can only make an indecent noise in the back of his throat when Hank rocks his thumb against Charles’ arch, somehow managing to keep his claws well away from skin.
“What,” Erik says, his voice no less threatening for how quiet it is, “are you doing.”
Charles blinks his eyes open. “Oh, hello, Erik,” he says, sighing happily.
Erik looks unamused. Janos, two steps behind him, looks very amused indeed, but Charles has come to realize that Janos has a delightfully perverse sense of humor.
For all that Hank is now larger than Erik, he still hunches his shoulders. “I was just -- the Professor said his feet were hurting, and I read that massage was therapeutic, so I--”
“Hank, if you’re going to make somebody else’s girl sound like that, you’d better be ready to face the music,” Alex says, shaking his head.
“But I wasn’t doing anything!” Hank protests as Charles says, “Really, I’m nobody’s girl--”
“Back from commercial!” Sean says urgently, and Angel shushes them all again.
Charles slides his feet out of Hank’s lap and finds his slippers. “Let’s talk in the other room,” Charles says, voice hushed in deference to to the all-important afternoon soaps.
Erik gives him a hand up, which has stopped being weirdly protective and even patronizing, and has become quite welcome in the face of a rapidly shifting center of gravity.
“Well, how was your...business meeting?” Charles asks, taking advantage of the opportunity to root around in the refrigerator.
“I have several leads,” Erik says. Charles tries very hard not to think about the fact that Erik’s investigative skills were honed while hunting Nazis, which may or may not lend itself to identifying members of the Congress who can be pressured in advantageous ways.
“Oh, excellent,” Charles says, and pulls out sauerkraut and cheese and rye bread and places them on the counter before retrieving a plate.
Erik actually doesn’t look repulsed, but that’s probably because Erik bought the sauerkraut in the first place, and also because Charles refrained from adding peach jam to the mix. He leans against the counter next to Charles, and then says, “What’s this about you not being my girl?”
“Please, if we could agree never to repeat anything that comes out of Alex’s mouth, that would be a kindness,” Charles says, assembling his sandwich with care.
“So he was just joking about Hank,” Erik says carefully.
Charles scrunches up his face. “What did I just say about repeating anything Alex says? And anyway, that’s completely inappropriate and where would I even find the -- honestly, Erik, you’re in my bed every night, do you imagine that I’m sneaking out to canoodle in the hallways while you’re asleep?”
Erik looks uncertain.
“Can we just stop talking about it?” Charles pleads, his knuckles white where he’s gripping the edge of the counter. “I have to say, it isn’t very nice of you to -- to be so flippant about it, not when you don’t--”
“When I don’t what?”
“When you don’t love me,” Charles said evenly, looking Erik straight in the eye.
“You think I don’t love you,” Erik repeats, his tone flat.
“Well, of course you don’t, I understand that we both got a bit carried away, and it’s not like either of us knew you could knock me up, and believe me, I’m extremely grateful that you haven’t left me to give birth and raise a child alone, but I’m not expecting anything.” Charles sucks in a shaky breath after that.
“Charles,” Erik says, his tone impossibly tender, “you are, without a doubt, the dimmest telepath I’ve ever met.”
“That’s completely uncalled for--” Charles begins, and then Erik kisses him. It’s just as distracting as the day Erik brought him marzipan, but more so, because Charles is actually trying to think.
When Erik breaks for air, Charles says suspiciously, “Wait, does this mean you really--”
“For once, can’t you just read my mind and put us out of our misery?” Erik mutters against Charles’ jaw.
“Well, now you ask. I was trying to do what you wanted, to give you privacy,” Charles snaps. “You can’t fault me for that.”
Erik draws back to look at him. “I thought you knew, but you didn’t want to--”
“Oh for god’s sake -- what if I’d looked and known for certain that you didn’t care and then had to live with it?” Charles nearly yells, and then grabs Erik’s hair in what is no doubt a painful manner and brings him down for another kiss.
He feels desperate and relieved and so stupidly, terribly happy that he doesn’t know what to do with it -- and Erik must feel the same way, because he doesn’t stop kissing Charles, just hitches him up on the counter and holds onto him like he’s afraid Charles might go somewhere, like Charles isn’t clutching his thighs around Erik’s waist and sighing into his mouth and trying to touch as much of Erik as he can reach.
Of course, this is when Sean walks in. “Okay, I’ll come back later. No, you know what, it’s not that important. Oh god, my eyes.”
“Get out, Sean,” Erik growls, and Sean pulls the door shut quickly behind him.
Charles attempts to pull Erik forward for another kiss, but Erik remains stubbornly where he is. “What?” Charles asks.
Erik actually looks guilty. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have--”
“Why on earth not?” Charles asks, mystified but ready to be offended, depending on the answer.
Erik touches Charles’ belly in answer.
“Oh, please, you can’t knock me up twice,” Charles says.
Erik is silent for a moment. “Are you sure?”
“Erik Lehnsherr,” Charles says firmly. “Stop stalling, and take me upstairs right now.”
It’s just a little awkward -- the last time they’d had sex, it was before the beach, and Charles has been decidedly more flexible and certainly capable of riding Erik into the mattress. And he’d done his best, then, to do as Erik wished, and stay out of his head -- but he’d heard things just the same, Charles and so good and things in German that he understood when Erik thought them but could not remember afterward, all passionate threats and taking the Lord’s name in vain rather a lot.
This time, he allows Erik to maneuver him onto his side with Erik behind him, which is a position he’s now accustomed to waking in, and seems all the more intimate for it. It’s been almost three months of chastely sharing a bed with Erik, never mind that his hormones are going crazy and he’s wanked off in the ensuite with a frequency unknown since his adolescent years.
He tries to tell Erik this, and when that doesn’t work, he shows him, and Erik growls, “Don’t rush me, Charles. You’re ready when I say you are.”
“Really? Because I’m pretty sure I’m the one who would know, and I was ready about fifteen minutes ago. In the kitchen, remember that?” Charles says, and then pushes back on Erik’s fingers with a little wiggle and feels a hot flare of lust go up Erik’s spine, and tries not to grin triumphantly but must fail somewhere along the way. He’s not certain whether his mouth or his mind betrays him, because everything is gently open now, porous like sandstone but not a deluge of thoughts and feelings that Erik couldn’t handle.
By the time Erik finally, finally presses inside, his capacity for rational thought takes a nosedive -- it’s just heat and sensation and Erik’s need to protect him warring viciously with want and missed this and something else, something warm and quiet and deep that might have been there all along,
Charles basks in it, and then, because he’s never known when to leave well enough alone, he says, “Is that all you’ve got, truly? Come on, Erik, put your back into it.”
“You are the mouthiest -- don’t want to hurt you,” Erik mutters against his neck.
Charles just thinks, you won’t, I trust you, and that’s when Erik grips him behind the knee and raises it, and Erik won’t give it to him faster but does give it to him harder, and it’s not long before Charles curls a hand around his cock and strokes himself a handful of times before coming, Erik groaning behind him moments later.
“Well,” Charles says after several minutes, still trying to catch his breath.
Erik presses lazy kisses to his neck and shoulders. “All right?”
“Mmm,” Charles says, stretching a little bit. “Oh bother, I forgot my sandwich in the kitchen.”
“Really?” Erik says. “We did all of that, and just -- sandwich.”
“It was very good, but it made me more hungry, not less,” Charles says. He cranes his head around to flash Erik a smile. “Have I mentioned I’m mad for you?”
“Oh, for god’s sake,” Erik mutters, and disengages gently before going to retrieve a washcloth, and then, Charles’ snack.
That feeling, warm and deep and pure like a tuning fork struck, emanates from Erik all the way down to the kitchen, even though he encounters Janos on the stairs who offers him a handshake.
He’s six months along when Erik comes back to the mansion with Azazel in tow.
A change of heart? Charles asks Erik with cool interest.
He’ll be useful, Erik thinks. He’s ready to stop running.
Charles steps toward Azazel, and holds out his hand. “Charles Xavier. I don’t believe we were, er, formally introduced.”
Azazel looks at him uncertainly, and then delicately shakes his hand.
I won’t break, you know, Charles thinks in his head.
Azazel’s expression does not change, but his mental voice is rueful. Lehnsherr made some very specific threats. He is not a man to be trifled with.
Nor am I, Charles says with a warning smile.
“If you’re finished posturing,” Raven says from the top of the stairs. “This way.”
Charles and Erik watch Azazel climb the staircase, and Charles says, “I wonder what I can get him to teach?”
“European languages,” Erik says promptly.
“Not a chance. You’re not getting out of that, and he doesn’t know German and his French is only so-so,” Charles says.
“I thought you might feel that way,” Erik says, but he doesn’t sound enormously put out. “Shouldn’t you have your feet up?”
“I was on my way to the kitchen to get a snack,” Charles says.
Erik grimaces. “I’ll leave you to it, then.”
Charles rolls his eyes and makes his way to the kitchen. It’s not that disgusting, he reasons, and pulls the peach jam out of the fridge.
It’s March, and there aren’t enough pillows in the world to prop him up in bed to read comfortably. He lies on his side, a pillow in between his legs as he skims an article that was apparently peer-reviewed by a group of drunk and disorderly chimpanzees, for all the sense the experimental parameters make. He’s not paying very close attention, though, because something else is bothering him.
“Erik,” he says.
Erik is sitting up against the headboard, reading Rilke with a thoughtful twist to his lips. “Hmm?”
“I think Azazel is looking at my sister in an improper way.”
“Other way around, Charles.”
Charles sniffs. “Be that as it may.”
Erik turns a page. “Raven can take care of herself. And besides, I think he’s actually a gentleman. You could always read his mind if you were really concerned.”
“I suppose,” Charles says, dissatisfied, knowing he’ll do nothing of the sort without cause.
“You could make a rule. Only one pregnant Xavier at a time.”
“You are terrible and I loathe you,” Charles says. “Rub my back?”
“Such hardships I endure,” Erik says, but the corners of his mouth are turned up.
Raven looks grim, indeed, when she walks into the mansion.
“Whatever’s the matter?” Charles says, reaching out to take Kurt from her arms. Kurt goes willingly enough, blinking wide golden eyes at him before dissolving into giggles when Charles sends out a tickling touch to his mind.
“No take-backs on babysitting,” she says, narrowing her eyes.
“Really, Raven,” Charles says. “I would never. After all the times you’ve watched Wanda--”
“Put Kurt down, and you’ll see,” she says.
Charles obediently sets Kurt down on the floor. His legs are still unsteady, and he holds on to Charles’ shin for support, his tail wrapping around Charles’ ankle.
Raven crouches down and holds out her arms. “Come to Mommy, Kurt,” she says, giving him a big smile.
There’s a ploof of air displacing, not quite a crack, and Kurt is suddenly clinging to Raven’s outstretched arms.
“Oh my,” Charles says, wide-eyed. Erik, come see this.
Erik comes down the stairs, Wanda perched on his hip. “Raven,” he says in greeting, giving her a short nod. Kurt sees them and babbles something before teleporting three feet closer to the foot of the stairs, then another two feet, and then the plops down on his bottom and starts to cry in frustration.
Erik puts Wanda down, who looks curiously at Kurt like she can’t understand why he’s making so much noise, and then Erik scoops Kurt up and says something quietly in German. Kurt hiccups once and stops crying, his little hands fisted in Erik’s shirt.
“Charles Xavier,” Raven says in a low voice, “get that look off your face right now.”
“What look?” Charles says dreamily.
“Don’t you have a school to run? And weren’t you the one who complained all the time about how hard it was to child-proof the mansion?”
“It would have been difficult even without her mutation,” Charles says dryly. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this place is a bit on the enormous side. And besides, it’s all child-proofed now, or as much as it’s going to be.” Hank had gone a little overboard when designing the first baby-gates for the mansion, which was how they found out that Wanda had a way with machines -- she touched them and they did what she wanted, which was inevitably to place herself in situations designed to give everyone a heart attack.
“And you want another one?” Raven says skeptically. She sound exhausted, and if Charles knows parenthood, she’ll spend every spare second of her trip to D.C. catching up on her sleep.
“Hmm,” Charles says, eyes still locked on Erik, who is murmuring something to a transfixed Kurt.
“What am I talking about, you probably want nine,” Raven says under her breath.
Erik joins them, Wanda trailing close behind him before making a break for it and throwing her arms around Charles’ knee. Charles reaches down to pat her head, taking care to not muss the pigtails he’d tied up in her hair that morning.
“You’re ready?” Erik asks. “Remember, Caughner first, then Lewis--”
“Then Willis, I’ve got it,” Raven says. “Piece of cake. That bill will never hit the House floor.”
“This would be kind of terrible to listen to if I didn’t agree with everything you were doing,” Charles observes.
“Democracy in action,” Raven says with a cocky grin, and shifts from her natural blue to an indeterminately middle-aged man.
Kurt, who seems to know his mother in all forms, reaches out for her and makes a squeal of dissatisfaction when Erik prevents him from attempting to escape Erik’s arms and brain himself on the floor.
“Be good, honey,” she says, and kisses him on the forehead. “Oh, he’s a little colicky, so feel free to...” she wiggles her fingers next to her temple.
“Raven!” Charles says. “I would never.” When Raven and Erik give him frankly disbelieving stares, he amends, “All right, but only as a very last resort.”
Raven pats him on the shoulder. “Other parents just use cough syrup,” she says by way of consolation. “Azazel will pick him up on Monday if I’m not back first.” She kisses Charles on the cheek, and makes it out the door before Kurt begins to protest this state of affairs.
Later that night, after the students are all in their rooms for the night and the children have been put to bed, Charles reaches for the book on his nightstand while Erik is brushing his teeth in the bathroom. When Erik comes to bed, Charles expects him to take up his book as well, but Erik just clears his throat. “Charles?”
“Just so we’re clear, the next one isn’t going to be a surprise.”
“You say that like I had any choice whatever about--”
“Charles,” Erik interrupts him, taking the book from his hands and looking him in the eye, “I meant -- not a surprise to either of us.”
“Oh,” Charles says, processing that for a moment. “Oh -- you mean like -- wait, you know that Hank never actually determined a few key factors, so we really don’t know what sort of variables control whether or not I’m -- you know.”
Erik shrugs a little. “We managed well enough the first time around.”
“Imagine if we tried on purpose,” Charles says, and they look at each other for a long moment, contemplating that particular future, before Charles pounces and Erik laughs and, fortunately, remembers to lock the door.