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Three Kinds of Learning

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It takes Erik a good three hours to find the right pub, since Raven had simply said it was 'the one right by the college, you can't miss it!' (which were generally the most useless directions he'd ever received). The only thing that lets him know it's the right bar is the sound of Raven's laughter, echoing loud and happy throughout the room. Finding her is more difficult, considering there are plenty of laughing girls and she's not blue at the moment. He assumes he should be looking for a man with her, considering the point of the meeting is to try and recruit her (supposedly) extremely powerful mutant brother into the Brotherhood.

He's almost nervous to meet the man he's heard so much about. Erik tries to take Raven's praise of her older brother with a grain of salt, but when she talks about how he'd saved her life and was the most powerful mutant she'd ever heard of, to the point that Raven was a little bit afraid of him at times, he couldn't help but anticipate great things. Raven has never seemed to be the kind to build someone up so much without a sliver of truth to the praise.

At one table there is a brunette sitting with a tall smirking blond man, but neither of them are laughing, too deep in conversation. At the bar there's a redhead with another redhead, and he considers going over when he sees the woman's shoulders are shaking. That impulse stops quickly when he realizes she's actually crying.

Raven's a blonde, it turns out, hunched on a table she's laughing so hard, a brown-haired man (in tweed) sitting next to her, also laughing. He feels like he shouldn't intrude - it's been three years since they'd seen each other, after all - but when Raven's head lifts she spots him and beams at him. "Erik!" she shouts, and there's no turning around from that. Particularly when she starts waving at him too, cheeks flushed. "Erik! Erik, over here! ERIK!"

And that's when Erik realizes she is well and truly drunk. Probably both of them are. When he gets closer he can see the table is covered in shot glasses, a wine glass, and four empty pints, two half-empty glasses between the siblings.

"You must be Erik," her brother says, tilting slightly as he offers a hand that Erik shakes. "Charles Xavier. My sister has told me quite a bit about you."

Raven nearly spits out the beer she'd been drinking, dissolving into laughter again.

"Don't pay attention to her, she's a bit drunk right now. I know, it must be shocking, she hides it so well," Charles says, and Erik can feel himself smiling, just a twitch of his lips. "Please, sit. I'll buy you something alcoholic and get you drunk too."

"Thank you," Erik says, because he has no idea what else someone can say to that, and sits.

"Tell him your power, Charles," Raven says excitedly, poking her brother in the arm. "Tell him, it's great, you should come be one of us."

This, Erik can navigate. "All I've really heard is that Raven thinks it's impressive," he adds.

"Raven used to think pogo sticks were impressive," Charles says dryly.

Raven huffs at him. "Those are damn fine creations and you know it."

"And she doesn't claim pogo sticks have saved her life," Erik says wryly.

Charles rubs at his temple, sighing. "Alright, then." He gives Raven a sidelong glance, smiling, before turning to look at Erik again, squinting in concentration. "Think of a number."

Raven laughs so hard she nearly falls out of her chair, and Charles is laughing too, grabbing her by the shoulder and whispering oh dear, your roots are showing and that just makes her laugh even harder. It's true, though - thankfully, nobody seems to have noticed Raven is now a strawberry blonde with amber eyes.

Erik sighs. "Maybe we should talk in the morning instead." He can't fault them for enjoying their reunion, even if it seems a bit...excessive.

"That's usually my line," Charles says, smirking at him. "But you probably have a point. Much more and she won't be able to walk out of the bar."

"I'm just fine," Raven protests, and beams at Erik. "Think of a number!"

Erik rolls his eyes, but humors her. "Fine," he says, and thinks, 1349.

Charles looks at him for a long, long moment, and for a second Erik thinks he can almost sense something inside his head, something quiet and deep and cautious.

And then, triumphantly, Charles says, "Five."

At that, Raven really does fall out of her chair.

---

"You are a very good boss," Raven says quietly in the morning, downing the aspirin he'd brought to the cafe for her and Charles. Her brother doesn't seem to be having any problems, aside from not removing his sunglasses when they came in. Charles had thanked him but passed the medicine on to Raven, since according to him her metabolism was fast enough that she needed double the medication for the same effect. It was news to Erik, and he was glad to know it.

"I'm impressed you managed to get her home before she shifted," Erik tells Charles dryly.

"Practice makes perfect," Charles says, smiling. "I'm more impressed you managed to find us, considering the directions she gave. You must have been very determined." To do what, Charles doesn't say, but he tilts his head towards Raven. "I have class in twenty minutes. Can I trust you to watch over her while I'm gone?"

"I don't need a babysitter, Charles," Raven protests, hands wrapped around a mug of coffee.

"You do when you're hung over," Charles says. "Remember Valentine's Day?"

Raven actually blushes.

"I rest my case," Charles says, and smiles at Erik. "It'll only be an hour, two at the most if someone decides to be inquisitive, but that's unlikely."

"You're a student?" Erik asks.

"Professor, actually," Charles says, and Erik finds himself thinking, ah, that explains the tweed. "No more Irish coffee, Raven."

"I hate it when you do that," Raven mutters, but still smiles when he gives her a one-armed hug and plants a kiss in her hair before walking off. Erik knows he watches a bit too intently.

It's not until Erik's bought Raven a second cup of coffee and finds himself thinking maybe she could use a nap that he notices this really, really isn't how recruiting is supposed to work.

---

Erik has things to do that are much more important than watching over a hung-over Raven. He has an entire new species to try and keep alive, an organization to lead, mutants to save. Instead, he is fetching Raven another glass of water and thinking about how Charles' couch is actually surprisingly comfortable.

The professor (and how did he manage that, Erik wonders, when he's only a few years younger than Erik?) has no serious powers other than being related to Raven, as far as Erik's seen. That and the ability to somehow make Erik agree with whatever he's saying.

He sighs, and looks at the back of Raven's head. "If he's not even going to speak with me about the Brotherhood, there's no point for me to be here," he tells it.

"He's wonderful, I promise," Raven insists, and turns to look him in the eye. "Charles is just...careful. I don't blame him, but that's because I know him. You don't. Give him time and I'm sure he'll come along. He's worth it." She smiles awkwardly. "You could use a vacation anyway."

"I can't afford a vacation," Erik says.

Raven shrugs. "I could handle it for a week. And if something comes up I can always get in contact with Charles, so if you stick by him there won't be any communication problems."

Erik frowns. "How?"

"He's my brother," Raven says, like it explains everything there is to know about Charles. Her jaw clenches for a moment. "And I think we need him."

Erik considers asking her why, precisely, she ran off when Charles is such a wonderful person in her mind, but abstains. The Brotherhood lets their kind be who they are, not who they've been. If Raven volunteered the story Erik would listen gladly, but he will never force someone's past from them. Instead, he concentrates on her passion about this recruitment. "Are you sure?"

"Completely," Raven says immediately.

Erik nods. "You'll have to return tomorrow then, you understand."

She shrugs. "He'll forgive me," Raven says, and then smiles. "And it won't be a concern if he's recruited, will it? It's even more incentive."

"True," he says, and pauses. "But you're telling him."

---

Charles takes it about as well as Erik had suspected. He looks betrayed for an hour spent eating lunch, and then he spends a good two hours sulkily grading papers and glaring at Erik like it was all his idea, and then he resigns himself to Raven leaving and, to Erik's horror, seems determined to give Raven the best remaining eighteen hours with Charles he possibly can. He cancels his classes for the next day, exchanges the tweed jacket for fingerless gloves and a cardigan (not an improvement, Erik thinks, not at all an improvement; he still looks like he's determined to become someone's grandfather via wardrobe), and drags them both to the nearest park. Raven somehow manages to procure alcohol on the way there, a treed balloon is discovered and stolen, and they somehow find themselves drunkenly bouncing a balloon around while invading a playground and setting up camp on a slide.

This is not how recruiting trips usually go.

Raven is busy horrifying her brother by doing far too flexible tricks on the swings, with Charles also barely restraining himself from that stage of frustration Erik's heard from other parents in the park, that get down here this instant young lady stage. Considering Raven is climbing up the chains by wrapping them around her knees and ankles and then somehow tumbling upwards, Erik can sympathize. Erik himself is at the top of the slide with Charles and the (third?) bottle of vodka, playing a strange nameless game with Charles that seems to involve trying to whack each other in the head with the balloon while debating random subjects, so long as the subject begins with the letter D.

Descartes changes to dominos changes to digging graves versus cremation changes to democracy changes to Dadaism changes to dramatic readings of limericks changes to damned if he knows, until suddenly Charles turns towards him, looking rather tragic, and says, "Despoiling of my sister, Erik."

"I don't know where she learned that!" Erik protests, pointing at her current...provocative stance on the swing.

"You turned my baby sister into a pole dancer," Charles accuses. He hurls the balloon string at Erik's head, and it...drifts lazily towards Erik.

"Acrobat contortionist martial artist, Charles," Raven shouts. "I'm limber! I am not ashamed of my assets!"

"That doesn't mean you have to be 'displaying your assets' so prominently," Charles snaps back, and Raven glares at him. "Have a heart, Raven, and stop doing that in front of your big brother."

"I'll stop doing tricks if you'll start doing them," Raven says, but at least she unwinds herself from the chains.

Charles clearly refuses to be out-manipulated, because he says, "How about we go shopping instead?"

And oh, how torn Raven looks. Erik has personally been subjected to her enthusiasm with the new boot movement, and he can see the war she's fighting in her mind, shoes versus recruitment. Again, Erik can't fault her for it - he's having trouble passing up the opportunity to take Charles shopping for something that doesn't make him look like he's trying to be eighty years old. Raven perseveres, though, and says, "I'm fine with it, you know."

"I'm neither fine with it, nor drunk enough for this conversation to happen," Charles says cheerily, and steals the vodka from Erik.

"But I am, Charles," Raven protests.

"You know better than try and lie to me, Raven," Charles says, and Erik...Erik doesn't want this. He's never had any difficulty dealing with conflict, but he doesn't want to see them fight. He wants drunken balloon-batting and laughter so loud he hears it when walking through the door of a pub full to bursting, not this old dark grudging anger that seems to be clawing its way into what had been a bizarre but lovely evening.

So, Erik stands up and says, "Stop fighting. We're getting donuts."

Charles stares at him. "Are we?"

"Yes, we are," Erik states. "Nine of them."

Charles buys a tenth to keep Erik on his toes, supposedly. Since he also buys two bottles of good wine (...not that quality matters at this point, but it's the thought that counts), Erik doesn't really mind.

---

Erik wakes up slowly, which is rare for him. It's usually a snap into awareness quickly followed by checking the room for anything that could be dangerous, but he feels so safe in the bed that he sighs and lets himself sink back down into the feeling. He hasn't felt this content in years, curled around...

The world screeches to a halt, because he is in bed with Charles. Charles and Raven, who is on Charles' other side in her natural form, curled around a pillow and snoring softly. Erik has managed to get himself tangled up in Charles, with an arm under his head and Charles smashed into Erik's chest, Erik's other hand on the small of his back. He jerks away like he's been burnt, and finds himself staring at the sleeping man's face.

A feeling of calm is still clinging to him, which is such a strange case of disconnect that he's not sure what to think about the entire situation. On one hand, he's somehow managed to curl up in bed with the Xavier siblings, which is not at all appropriate in any way. On the other, it is somehow lovely to be curled up with the Xavier siblings. Particularly Charles, who is smiling just a little bit in his sleep, soft and content.

Suddenly Raven jerks awake, and quickly puts a hand over her mouth. "Charles," she finally squeaks out.

"Mm," Charles replies, and it vibrates through Erik's chest. Erik gives Raven a look that he hopes doesn't look as frantic as he feels, because if this keeps up things will become awkward for everyone in bed. It's not exactly a big bed, either. If Erik pulls any further back from Charles, he'll go over the edge.

Help me, he tries to tell Raven, thinking it loudly and hoping it'll somehow get to her.

"Fine, this once," Charles murmurs, nose still smashed into Erik's shirt, and holds out a hand to his sister. She takes it and presses his palm to her head with a relieved groan, and Erik wonders if maybe he has a healing ability, because Raven doesn't look even a little bit pained anymore.

He can see the moment Charles actually wakes up, because the calm breathing stops entirely and he pulls away to stare at Erik. Erik stares back. "Sleep well?" Erik can't help but ask, dry and more than a little amused at the fact Charles looks so incredibly awkward, trapped between Erik and Raven.

Charles recovers quickly though, clearing his throat. "Yes, thank you," he says, and draws away to try and pull his hand away from Raven. "It's not like giving my hand back will make it come back, Raven. You have things to do anyway, you can't just kidnap my hand and take it with you."

"Have I mentioned I hate you never getting a hangover?" Raven grumbles. "I should never drink with you. Ever."

Erik notices he doesn't feel anything from the copious amounts of alcohol last night either. It's a handy trick, and he wonders if this is the sort of 'life-saving' Charles has done for Raven. God knows it could feel like salvation, some mornings.

"You know you love me," Charles says fondly, and finally manages to get his hand back. "Go get ready for the flight and to take over your mutant club."

"Not a club, Charles," Erik says.

"A group that meets to discuss their shared interests?" Charles asks wryly. "Sounds like a club to me."

"We do more than talk," Erik says. "We help."

Raven rolls out of bed, groaning, and heads for the shower in the bathroom. Charles puts a hand over his own forehead, sighing, and slumps into the pillow Raven had been clinging to. "Later, Erik. I'm going back to sleep. Would you wake me when you're out of the shower?"

Erik consents. Considering they get a pain-free morning, Erik figures it's the least he can do.

---

Breakfast, the taxi ride to the airport, and the walk to Raven's gate are enlightening for Erik. It's the first time he's seen the Xaviers together when they weren't drunk, hung over, or sulking. Charles is obviously trying to not act like an overprotective big brother, even if it seems he turns more into a mother when he does that, and Raven seems fond but frustrated and just a little bit hesitant, like she knows something between them is broken. Erik doesn't know what it is, but the pain seems like it's just being bulldozed over by Charles's questions.

"Do you have everything you'll need? Did you drink enough water? We could go to the shop if you need something. You always get cold on flights, do you have-"

"I'll be fine, Charles," Raven says, barely restraining a sigh. "I'm a big girl now, I can take care of myself."

"That doesn't mean I can't still worry," Charles says, but he says it with a doting (motherly) smile. "It's my job to look after you."

"We look after each other, you mean," Raven says, and there's that strange tension again.

Charles lets it dissipate, though, as if he doesn't rise to the challenge. Or, Erik considers, it may be an invitation to talk about whatever happened to make Raven leave. Charles draws her into a hug, smiling into her hair. "How could I forget?" When she pulls away, smiling, he adds, "Thank you for coming to my commencement."

Raven actually blushes. "You're welcome."

"Now go do Erik's job while I corrupt him," Charles says, and Raven laughs.

Erik isn't sure what to do with that comment, or Charles in general, but he does smile at Raven. "Take care," he says.

Her smile is almost as wide as it was when Charles hugged her. "You too. A vacation will do you good, you'll see. And thank you for this."

Erik simply nods at her thanks, because he honestly isn't sure what he's being thanked for. All the things he can think of are things he'd do for her even without any asking. She's become his right-hand woman, and he intends to keep it that way.

She walks through the gate, and Charles doesn't stop staring out the windows at the airplane until it'd taxied out of sight. Even then he seems hesitant to leave the airport, but when Erik starts walking away, he follows.

"Thank you for bringing her home," Charles says, and Erik watches him. "I know you have more important things to do than try and recruit her brother based on unfounded praise, Erik. You did this because she asked you, not because you believe I'm really some super-powerful mutant."

Erik thinks about the ways this conversation could go, and settles for honesty. "Raven is a remarkable woman. I can tell she misses you, and I think the visit has helped her come to terms with whatever made her leave."

"She's getting there. Having time to grow without me hovering has certainly helped," Charles admits, even if he doesn't seem particularly enthusiastic about the situation. "Although now I'm wondering if I need to do horrible things to your person to defend her virtue, if you're going around calling her a remarkable woman."

"How many times do I have to tell you I didn't corrupt your sister?" Erik asks, torn between amusement and what seems to be endless frustration when it comes to Charles. "She's her own woman. I'm more worried for the virtue of the Brotherhood's resident scientist when she gets back."

"Ah, Raven," Charles says, fondness practically dripping from the words. "She gets it from me, I think."

"Shocking, that you have similarities," Erik says dryly. "And you have a doctorate in genetics, you said?"

Their taxi is still waiting, despite how unlikely it seemed that the driver would actually wait for them when there were so many arrivals with ready money and places to be. Charles tells the man to take them back to his apartment, and is quiet for another moment. "She's adopted, actually." He smiles. "I'm glad she's kept the last name. To be honest, I hadn't expected she would ever come back."

"Was whatever made her leave really that bad?" Erik asks. "It's obvious she loves you."

"Loving someone and wanting to be around someone are two very different things," Charles says wryly. "Now, what do you want to do on your vacation?"

Erik has no idea, considering this is the first vacation he's had in his entire life. And, in at least one way, it's not a vacation. He may not know precisely what Charles' power is, or how powerful it is, or even if he actually has any ability other than hangover removal, but he does know Charles is intelligent and good for Raven. It's enough reason for him to try and recruit him.

"I don't want to get in your way," Erik says. "Maybe see a movie, go to a museum." He tries to think of...vacation-like things. "Stretch out on a beach."

"Stretch out on a beach? In England?" Charles asks, and grins. "You don't know how to vacation, do you."

"It's a new experience," Erik admits.

"You do all the things you can't afford to do when you have work to do, be they from time or money," Charles says, as if this is the actual subject he has a PhD in. "I know a woman who does nothing but gamble during holidays, and I also know students whose idea of a vacation is sleeping for thirty-six hours, waking up to eat waffles, and then going back to bed. Sleeping and resting are usually a theme, but so is indulgence. Spend the money for a fine hotel room, take the time to go see the Eiffel Tower, that sort of thing."

Erik considers the words on the drive back to Charles' apartment, trying to figure out what he enjoys. He's fairly sure Nazi-hunting doesn't apply, particularly if he's trying to drag Charles along with him wherever he goes. Erik imagines taking Charles along on a manhunt, and barely avoids putting a hand over his eyes at the absurdity of Charles Xavier fighting Nazis. "I suppose I'll spend my vacation finding out what to do on the next one," Erik finally says.

"Experimentation," Charles says. "Well, as a scientist, it is my professional duty to help you along. In any context." Charles grins at him. "I've always enjoyed experimenting."

"Here's your stop, Mr. Scientist," the driver says before Erik has much time to form a reply, and he's embarrassingly grateful for the easy cut to the sudden tension. Well, not exactly sudden. Charles hasn't been forward, exactly, but he's certainly...flirted, Erik supposes.

Charles' apartment is in a nice, comparatively quiet building just far enough from the college to be respectable and not full of students, but is also close enough to be convenient. Charles unlocks the door with a flourish, saying, "Well, what would you like to try? I have the day free."

Erik thinks about many things, then. Charles, mostly, but he puts that out of mind for now - a potential subordinate isn't someone to get involved with, no matter how unlikely it seems that they'd actually join the Brotherhood. "I've never gone golfing."

Charles sighs. "I've avoided doing that since I was fifteen," he says. "We could probably rent clubs somewhere, although I don't know where the nearest course is."

Erik frowns. "You hate golfing, but you're willing to go because I may potentially enjoy it."

"Baby steps, Erik," Charles says, grinning. "If you like golfing, we know you at least like being outdoors for long walks involving whacking a ball with a stick. We could build from there - just long walks, or just generally whacking things with sticks."

"Bludgeoning things isn't an appropriate vacation," Erik says, even if violence is the closest to an actual hobby he already has.

Charles shrugs, slumping into his couch and still smiling away. "It is if you find you enjoy it. Indulgence, Erik, remember? We're trying to find things that make you happy."

Erik can't remember ever being truly happy, but he remembers how pleasant last night's senseless conversations and pointless balloon-whacking had been, and how horribly wonderful he'd felt when he woke up. It had been close to happy, he thinks. It was closer than he'd been in quite a while.

He joins Charles on the couch, looking at the wall. "You're not going to let yourself be recruited, are you."

"You're looking for a follower," Charles says. "An acolyte. I'm not sure I could be that, even for you and Raven." Erik looks at him, and he can see that strange Charles that only comes out when he and Raven have had those barely-avoided fights. It's a version of Charles that Erik could actually believe the stories of. "And I don't like how important my supposedly wonderful abilities are so important to you."

"You don't trust me," Erik infers.

"I don't." Charles sighs. "I think I could learn to, but I don't."

Erik had already known this, already known that Raven could push Charles only so far. It makes him worry, makes him think about all the ways someone could hurt Charles if there's nobody around to protect him, but he nods. "That's fine," Erik says. "Just know the offer is always on the table."

He trusts Charles to understand. No matter how ridiculous, pointless, or harmless his power may be, Erik would always take him in if he asked.

"I have a better idea than golf, I think," Erik says, and grins.

------

Erik’s new motorcycle is shiny and black and makes Charles very uncomfortable.

"I think I would have preferred golfing," Charles says, eyeing the Triumph like it's about to rear up and attack him. "You do realize that you'll be waddling around on it in traffic, yes?"

"That's why I'm going to be avoiding traffic," Erik says. "And it's worth it." He smiles, and revs the engine.

"No," Charles says.

Erik's smile widens, and he revs the engine again, making it go vroom, vroom and watching Charles' struggle to keep from laughing. "You can have a helmet," Erik offers.

"I hate helmets," Charles says. "I try to avoid anything that would require a helmet. Doing something that everyone knows can damage your skull is a bad idea."

Erik grins. "Come on, live a little. Ride on the motorcycle. I won't let it kill you, I promise."

"I'm more worried about brain damage than death," Charles mutters, but sighs and, after a moment's hesitation, goes in and buys them both helmets, shoving one into Erik's empty hand before buckling his own on his chin and cautiously getting on the back. "You know this is a bad idea, right? Any vehicle that requires speed to balance on its own is just-"

Erik ignores him, moving onto the road. They're far enough out of the city that he doesn't have to worry about traffic (but at the same time doesn't get the joy of cruising past slow cars), and he moves at a leisurely pace, keeping it an easy ride. He knows the bike is a quality machine, since he can feel it practically humming along beneath him, purring and feeling as alive as metal can be. He also doesn't bother trying to talk to Charles, who is clinging for dear life despite the fact they're going about 35 MPH.

Their first turn over 40 leaves Erik nearly squeezed to death, Charles' vicious grip only tightening. He would have imagined that to be a nice thing, but it's just uncomfortable and, honestly, difficult to keep from laughing at. And laughing would be a bad idea; Charles facing a fear is a good thing. Even if it is a ridiculous fear and he's treating Erik like the only buoy in an ocean of terror.

The longer they're on the road, the less Charles seems to notice how fast they're going. He still clings, but Erik ignores it, savoring the feel of wind and metal and fire, of endless beautiful cooperation, of revolutions per minute and mile markers passing by.

This, Erik enjoys. He could go for years, he thinks, years and years. He does turn back into town instead, moving towards Charles' apartment building. Familiar surroundings, it seems, has relaxed Charles enough that Erik can breathe comfortably. He still scrambles off the bike when they mount the curb and Erik stops right in front of the door, nearly tripping on his way down.

"You survived," Erik says cheerfully.

"Hooray," Charles says, and sounds terribly upset he's still alive. Or just upset in general. "You can do that on your own, from now on. During my classes. Without me."

"And here I was thinking of auditing," Erik comments, feeling endlessly cheerful. He likes this bike.

Charles laughs, and shakes his head. "I've no idea where you're going to keep that thing without it getting stolen-"

Erik dismounts, wheels the bike to the wall, and fuses the wheels to the frame. It won't be moving anytime soon, unless Erik bends it back. "If they can lift it, they're welcome to it."

Charles isn't responding. He's staring at the bike, at the places Erik has warped the frame, and looks absolutely shocked that Erik is capable of molding metal. After a moment, the staring turns to Erik.

"Let's go inside," Erik says, and Charles moves inside and up the stairs, unlocking the door and somehow managing to do all of this while still giving Erik the impression he's staring. Erik waits until the door has closed before speaking. "I thought you knew."

"Of course I do, I've just," Charles says, and stops. "You're the first mutant I've met who isn't Raven, you know. And your power is." He clears his throat. "Well, it's impressive. Mine's very...quiet, and Raven's is, well, you know Raven's, and twisting metal with a flick of your hand is very different. Raven and I can chalk ours up to extreme physiological mutations, but yours, it's just." He pauses. "It's extraordinary."

Erik can't help it. He smiles. "I can levitate metal too, you know."

"Can you really?" Charles says, so excited Erik is worried he’s going to burst a blood vessel in his very, very wide eyes.

Erik had been trying to develop vacation plans for the rest of Charles’ free day, but he tosses them all away and grins at Charles. "Get some coins."

---

Erik is levitating Charles on a cookie sheet when Charles asks, "What if I could summon dogs?"

"Then there would be many dogs around wherever we were located," Erik says.

"Yes, but what if I did it with a really irritating whistling noise?" Charles asks. "And I could only summon poodles?"

"There's nothing wrong with poodles," Erik says, and nearly loses his (or Charles', to be accurate) balance when Charles leans over to grab the whiskey. "They're technically a water dog. They specialize in hunting and fetching in marshy areas, and are one of the most intelligent breeds."

Charles puts the bottle down and stares at him. "Why do you know this much about poodles?"

"Because I never know when I'll meet a mutant whistling poodle-summoner," Erik says, and frowns, moving Charles a bit closer to him and the floor in the process. "You're never going to tell me, are you."

"Who knows," Charles says, and hands the whiskey back. "Alright, what if I could blow up organic matter?"

Erik sighs. "Then your power would be very messy. And you'd still be a mutant, and therefore invited."

"If I could turn my arms into pinwheels?"

"Still a mutant," Erik says. "Still invited."

"If I could induce amnesia," Charles says.

"Still a mutant, and invited," Erik says.

"If I could sweep floors with my mind," Charles says.

"Still a mutant and invited, although I warn you I'd probably ask you to do the housework," Erik says.

"Good thing that's not my power, then," Charles mutters, and Erik barely balances him when he starts to slump to the left. "I have class in the morning, don't I."

"Most likely," Erik says, amused.

Charles groans. "I don't like having to be responsible," he says, and Erik barely has time to drop him down to a safe distance when he slides off the cookie sheet. "I should have draped a rug over that, made it a magic carpet."

"It'd look more dignified than old cookware," Erik agrees. "And you seem to do a good job being a responsible older brother."

"Yes, because that went so well," Charles says and grabs Erik's forearm, pulling him up from the couch. "Time for bed. I have work in the morning."

Erik would very much like to freeze and pull his hand away and possibly run out the door, but there's none of the playful hinting Charles usually gets. "I have a hotel room," he says instead.

"And if you sleep there, you'll have a hangover in the morning," Charles says. "Sleep here, and you will have a wonderfully peaceful night and a headache-free morning, all for the low price of me possibly making you feel awkward in the morning, despite the fact you know I'm secretly a gentleman."

"You hide it very well," Erik says, and he wants it to come out humorous, wants to keep Charles smiling, but he doesn't seem to manage it. The words sound tense and strained and a little bit scared, and it stops Charles mid-step.

Charles lets go of his arm, and looks him in the eye, dangerously intent. "Erik, if there's one thing I am cautious about and respect, it's being given permission, or consent, or whatever you'd like to call it. I never go anywhere I'm not expressly invited, or have to be. Do you understand?"

"Yes," Erik says, and this is a part of that deeper Charles, he knows it. As ever, it's gone before Erik can even begin to try and understand.

His answer seems enough for Charles, who nods, toes off his shoes, and falls on top of the bed. Erik considers following his example, since he has nothing but what he's carrying on his person with him, but he knows there's a toothbrush he's already used in the bathroom from that morning.

And really, when he gets in the bathroom and stares at the toothbrush that he's already legitimately starting to think of as his, he wonders what, exactly, is going on. What this entire recruitment-turned-vacation is doing to him.

Nothing you aren't enjoying, his mind whispers, and Erik brushes his teeth violently, like he can clean the thought away.

---

He wakes in the middle of the night with his nose pressed into brown hair, arm loosely thrown across Charles. They're the only two points of contact between them, but Erik still feels the contentment and relaxation of last night, even if Charles seems curled in on himself.

Erik begins to wonder if maybe this is his power. Maybe Charles just brings peace.

---

"You don't need a key, do you?" Charles asks, and Erik whips up to a sitting position, blinking at him. Charles is smiling at him, looking perfectly put together in that nerdy covered in wool sort of way. "I'm not sure how good your control is; can you lock and unlock doors and I'll still be able to use the key when I need to?"

"Of course," Erik says, head still fogged and hazy. He clears his throat. "Thank you. For the sleep, I mean."

Charles looks confused, but still says, "You're welcome. I'll be back in three or four hours. I have another class at eleven, but everyone just rushes off to lunch after that one."

"Have a nice day, then," Erik says hesitantly, because he's fairly sure that's what you say to someone going to work. It is in the movies, at least.

Charles just looks amused. He actually winks at Erik on his way out, and closes the bedroom door behind him.

Erik sighs, and gets up. He needs to check out of his hotel room.

---

It's easy to find the classroom Charles is teaching in, mostly because Erik can recognize the change in his pocket from toying with it yesterday. It's a small room, and for a moment he worries if he'd be welcome inside. He doesn't know what class it is, after all - he's been assuming something related to genetics, but for all he knows Charles could be teaching philosophy or ancient history or botany. Still, he wants to see Charles Xavier in what is probably his natural habitat.

Slipping inside is simple, since the room is probably three-fourths occupied, and the aisle seats he's nearest are empty. Charles notices, of course, and he doesn't look very pleased, but he doesn't look surprised, either.

It's introductory genetics, from what he can tell. Half of the undergraduates are taking notes and look engaged, and the other half...well. They're asleep. Charles doesn't look like he cares, but Erik does. He thinks about causing a metal-based earthquake in their chairs, but that might raise questions, or possibly end with them screaming. Humans are strange that way.

The lecture is almost over when he gets in, of course, and Charles is explaining something that Erik doesn't know enough about to really understand. There are prerequisites for basic genetics, even if Erik doesn't know them, and his own education seemed to focus on languages, philosophy, and tactics. Explosives, poisons, and biology were the only science lessons he ever really got.

Charles ends class early, sending them off with another article for assigned reading, and just as he'd predicted they all clear out without a second glance at their professor. The professor himself seems tired in a way Erik isn't used to seeing on Charles' face, but he still approaches Erik with enough humor on his face that Erik doesn't feel like he needs to hurt something.

"I wish I understood more of that," Erik says, "but from what I did understand, you're a good teacher."

"Thank you, Erik," he says, and sighs. "I don't think I've had that many of them fall asleep before, though. Either there was a very good party or that was a very bad lecture."

Or they were just rude and don't actually care, Erik thinks, but keeps it to himself.

---

Charles is still dragging along, even after they eat. Erik wishes he wasn't actually worried, but he's used to a much more upbeat man. When Charles catches him looking, he smiles. "I just miss Raven and I'm feeling a bit drained, is all. I can't make myself sleep well, or at least I haven't figured that trick out yet."

"Then sleep," Erik says. "Unless you have other plans for the afternoon?"

Charles smiles. "You're the one making our plans, Erik. My schedule is as free as I can make it for the week."

Erik leans back from the table, well aware he's smirking. "Well, you're welcome to join me on the motorcycle-"

"A nap sounds lovely," Charles says.

---

Charles is reading on the couch when Erik gets home, tousled from sleep and looking terribly nerdy. "Welcome back," Charles says, and clears his throat when he sees Erik. "I saw your suitcase is in the bedroom."

"It didn't make sense to spend money on a hotel room when it could be spent on alcohol," Erik says dryly, because that seems to be how things work between them and Erik has always believed in honesty.

It makes Charles laugh, and he puts the book aside on the side table. "A wise set of priorities if ever there was one. How was your enjoyable death trap?"

"Enjoyable," Erik says. "Are you feeling better?"

"Yes, thank you," Charles says. "Raven called, by the way. She said to tell you everything is fine, and that you should enjoy your time off."

Erik sighs, situating himself on the empty couch cushion. "And should I believe her?"

"I have no idea," Charles says. "What's the plan for tomorrow? I only have one class, at 1:30."

"Why are you a professor when you don't seem to enjoy your job?" Erik asks. "You could certainly do more than teach introductory classes."

"It's called paying your dues. There's a hierarchy, Erik," Charles says, words icy and sharp. "New professors take the classes the older, more prominent ones don't want. And I like it just fine, thank you."

Erik sighs. "You seem like you're already wasting away."

Charles stares at him. "Just because I'm not out fighting Nazis and collecting mutants doesn't mean I'm wasting away. It means I'm normal."

"But you're not," Erik bites out, barely avoiding the words turning into a shout. "I don't care what your power is, Charles, I truly don't at this point, I just want you to stop acting like some normal boring human and stop being afraid of what you were born to. Your power could be turning your fingers orange and I'd still want you with me."

Charles glares at him, leaning forward in a move that is more intimidating that Erik thought Charles was capable of. "Not all of us have lovely powers that can be harmless fun when you wave around a hand," he snaps. "I'm afraid because I should be afraid, and who are you to criticize me about being afraid of myself? You're scared of me, aren't you? Or no, it's not exactly me you're afraid of, is it."

"I'm not afraid," Erik says, and he can tell this is a perfect example of deflection but he can't just let it go. He lets Charles turn this sudden, terrible conversation onto him, like a painful inevitability, like how everything that climbs eventually falls.

"Would it help if I pretended I didn't know who you are?" Charles asks, scathing, and Erik swallows, feels his heart pumping like he's in for the fight of his life. "If I promised not to use your name, Erik? If we were in some dark alley where you could pretend I was just another mouth-"

"Stop it," Erik snaps, because this, this is the thing that could break him, after all these years and tortures. He knows in the deepest corners of himself that Charles could rip him apart just by being himself. He could be completely human and still utterly defeat Erik. "Yes, Charles, I'm scared of my own feelings, congratulations on figuring it out. But at least I'm willing to admit what I'm running from."

"You wouldn't understand," Charles says.

"At least let me try to!" Erik finally shouts, barely restraining himself from grabbing Charles and shaking him. "I don't care how scared of yourself you are, I want to know you-"

"Erik, you're breaking the lamps," Charles says, staring at him.

"I don't care about the lamps, I'll fix them later," Erik shouts, and Charles' hand grabs a fist full of Erik's shirt, dragging him so close that it would be unthinkable for Erik to not kiss him. He can feel the crunch of the lamps when Charles' tongue meets his own, feel the crunch of the doorknob when Charles makes a beautiful whining noise at Erik's fingers in his hair and nails sliding across his scalp, feel the iron in Charles' blood when his hand slides against Erik's hip.

Charles pulls away for a moment, panting, and Erik takes the opportunity to get at his absurdly pale throat. "I'm trying, Erik, but-" he says, and cuts himself off in favor of another kiss. "My power, I can't-"

"I don't care," Erik says, absolutely thrilled to have gotten Charles out of today's cardigan. "I trust you."

"Oh god," Charles moans, "I really hope you do."

And Erik is crashing into a wave of Charles, his mind breathing in everything as his body keeps on undressing a rather euphoric-looking Charles who seems incapable of doing anything but clinging to Erik's lips. Not that Erik minds. It feels like that same sort of contentment he gets waking up with Charles, but infinitely more intense, more intimate. More Charles.

He hums, incapable of not smiling with Charles a widening beam of warmth in his mind. "I like your power," Erik says.

"How are you so perfect," Charles says, sounding confused at the way he was being smothered in bliss, and passes out.

Erik stares at Charles for a moment, and then says, "...Charles?"

The only response Erik gets is a dim, endlessly happy sensation from deep in his head, like a goldfish released back in water or a bird finally stretching its wings out again.

He groans, runs a hand over his face, and does his best to put Charles in a position that'll be comfortable whenever he decides to come out of the bliss-induced unconsciousness. "Well," Erik tells the empty room, "that was both less and infinitely more awkward than I'd thought it would be."

And then Erik figures he might as well fix the lamps.

---

Charles wakes up, and they have sex.

That's how Erik tries to think of it, for about forty minutes – something nice and inconsequential. He tries to think about Charles in his head and his body, being swallowed whole and honest-to-god happy as just another encounter, but it doesn't last long. Erik always tries to be honest with himself. He has to admit it. Charles could never be just another body.

"You should know," Erik says, staring at the ceiling. "I might kill you if you break my heart."

"We'll avoid that, then," Charles says, pouring them both another drink. "Did you see that new secret agent movie yet?"

It seems nothing has really changed, is the strangest thing. They do the same things as before, but naked and with Charles in his head. Charles is still so awkward and hesitant about his powers it's honestly funny, even if Erik tries to not show his amusement. The man had actually blushed when he'd woken up, blushed and apologized and looked completely helpless for a moment.

Erik had taken one look at him and found himself saying, "I was locked in an isolated wooden building once."

And Charles had actually understood. Charles had touched him then, soft and grateful and all the things Erik wasn't sure he would ever be able to deal with. It had been easy to slide together, easy for Erik to just feel.

Erik had thought something would have shifted, something would have turned uncomfortable, at the very least, but instead it all feels even more natural. He doesn't like being naked, never has and never will, and while he did collect his pants, his shirt has gone suspiciously missing and Charles is refusing to let him get out of bed to find it. Charles doesn't cling, exactly. It's more like he just wants to constantly have the opportunity to touch.

"No, I haven't seen the new secret agent movie. I'm usually busy and not close to a theater." He looks over at Charles, who is still smiling and naked, a book draped across his side of the bed right along with a near-empty bottle of whatever liquor Charles grabbed. "Are you empathic?"

"Sort of," Charles says. "We should go see it. I've heard it's ridiculous, but I've also heard it's a good time. I think you'd enjoy it."

"We can do that after your class, then," Erik says. "And what do you mean, 'sort of'?"

"I'm in your head, not just your emotions," he points out. "I don't believe in labeling myself."

"How very anti-establishment," Erik says dryly. "I have trouble believing this is what Raven was afraid of, though."

"Well, the other part is that I was a bit overprotective," Charles says, and drinks, offering no further details. Erik is actually fine with that. He knows he'll find out eventually; if not from Charles, then Raven will tell him. He can be patient."We should eat something."

"I need all of my clothing back for that, you realize," Erik says. It's logical. He might actually win the debate for once.

"Take-away, then," Charles says, and Erik can feel his amusement deep in his mind. "You get your shirt when you don’t want it anymore."

He sighs. Why did it have to be a pampered, naïve, cardigan-wearing professor, Erik thinks, but says, "Fine."

And Charles smiles at him, small and brilliant, and kisses him. "I love you too," he says.

"You’ve known me for four days," Erik says, and hopes he doesn’t look as horrified as he feels. Not that it makes much of a difference with someone who can read his emotions no matter what he says or does.

"But when you think about it, we’ve known each other for ninety-six hours," Charles says. "That’s about the same amount of exposure to one another as two people who spend eight hours together every week for three months. So really, it’s not nearly as sudden as you’d think."

Erik stares at him. "Do you actually believe that?"

"Erik, I’m inside your head," Charles says. "That’s about as intimate as I can get with someone." Erik can read the words beneath, too – Charles wouldn’t let himself sink into someone’s mind if he wasn’t ready to feel everything inside.

"Food," Erik says. He can’t deal with this, not yet.

Charles indulges him. "Yes, dear," he says, and leaves Erik to his lurching emotions.

---

Twelve minutes after Charles leaves, Erik finds himself running out the door and into the rain, barely stopping to press a hand to the motorcycle before he's tearing towards wherever Charles and his pain/fear/anger/confusion is coming from. It feels like he's trying to run through a thick sludge of emotion as he approaches, and is amazed to see people walking around without feeling Charles in their heads.

He's in an alley with a hand pressed to his temple, staring straight into the eyes of a man who, Erik notes, has a gun pointing straight at Charles. It's pressed against his chest, straight over his heart, and Erik doesn't know if he can catch it when Charles is bombarding him with feelings, whether or not the other man knows it.

Erik grabs a nearby trashcan lid, condenses it with a thought, and it at the man's head, the rest of his mind wrapping itself around the gun and the man's hand. The gun warps around his hand, slicing it off at the wrist when the metal finishes making the sphere Erik commanded it into. The other clamps onto the man's head like a spherical bear trap, clamping over his head and slicing it at the neck, and the man falls to the ground in pieces before Erik has even stopped in front of Charles.

Charles, Erik notes absently, is now covered in blood from the waist up. He also looks ready to vomit, eyes rolled up into the back of his head.

"Are you alright?" Erik demands, grabbing him by the shoulders, and Charles moans. "Charles."

"Oh god, they have Raven," Charles says, pushing Erik away just in time for him to turn his head to the side and throw up in another trash can. "Erik, what did you do?"

"I killed the man attacking you, obviously," Erik says. He notes, absently, that Charles might be going through shock. He's too busy noticing the impact mark of a blunt object on the back of Charles' head to do much more than wish he'd given the man a much more painful death. "Do you know why he tried to kill you?"

"I was finding out," Charles says, grabbing at his head, eyes squeezed shut. "Oh god, I could feel his spinal column get sliced, oh my god."

Erik frowns, carefully moving them deeper into the alley, towing the bike behind him as they get further away from the body. "Charles?"

"I can't do this right now," Charles says, and Erik can tell it's not directed at him. "They're going after mutants. They found me, and they know about Richard, and they have Raven, we have to get her, Erik."

Erik grabs Charles' blood-covered face between his hands, trying to meet his eyes while Charles twitches. "Charles, what happened to Raven?"

"Collections," Charles murmurs.

Erik needs to get him out of shock, needs to figure out what the hell he's talking about before something else potentially happens. "It'll be fine, Charles, believe me," Erik says, doing his best to sound reassuring. He doesn't have much experience comforting people, but he does know how to take care of a dead body.

"Oh god," Charles mutters, "how many people have you killed?"

"None who didn't deserve it," Erik says.

"That sounds rehearsed," Charles says.

Erik shrugs, not bothering to deny it. At least Charles seems more coherent now. "What happened here?"

Charles swallows, and Erik tries to wipe some of the blood off his face while he speaks. "Jeffrey here was sent to collect me due to potentially dangerous powers already known to have been used in a dangerous way. They...they take people, and lock them up, and they have Raven, they found out about Richard, but that wasn't her-"

"Who is Richard?" Erik asks.

Charles' breath is getting sharper again, and Erik tries to calm him down, tries to whisper something comforting but all he can think of are German lullabies, so he settles for pulling Charles in for a light, easily escapable hug.

"I gave him amnesia and he thinks he's five," Charles says.

Erik is actually impressed, even if he tries not to be. "I had no idea you could fight." Charles freezes again. After a moment, Erik's fingers still from where they'd been combing through Charles' hair. "You can't fight, can you." He takes a deep breath. "And when you say you gave him amnesia-"

"I'm a telepath," Charles says, and sighs. "1394, by the way. Surprise."

"What?"

"Your number, from when we met." Charles pauses, and draws back. "And I have an excellent memory, but I have a feeling that's me and not the telepathy. And I haven't touched anything other than the feelings and surface thoughts in your mind."

Erik stares at him, because if that was a just in Charles' mind he isn’t sure what exactly the man can actually do. Particularly if that knocked him out for two hours. "Explain what you do."

"I'd rather go find my sister," Charles says.

"We will," Erik snaps, and regrets it when Charles winces. Shock, he reminds himself.

"It's not shock," Charles says. "You, ah." He frowns, and Erik can almost feel him trying to grab the right words out of the air. "I was in the man's mind when you killed him. And it was...unsettling."

Erik can read beneath the words. Charles felt the man die.

"Sounds like something that would cause shock to me," Erik says, and starts walking him to the opposite end of the alley. He tries to think of stereotypically happy things, like...kittens, and fluffy blankets, because if Charles is in his head, Erik would prefer he not feel the way Erik is currently compressing the new corpse into a water-tight metallic container about the size of a bread box. "Now. Telepathy."

"Now, Raven," Charles shouts, and Erik is so surprised that the corpse-box drops to the alley floor. "These people have my sister, and you want me to walk you through what party tricks I can do?! We need to find her before they do something to my baby sister, Erik!"

Erik is about to shout back at him, but is suddenly struck by the thought that he has recruited Charles. He's not hiding, he's not desperately trying to be human, he's furious and glorious and Erik is having trouble restraining a grin because here, in front of him, is everything Raven had him halfheartedly believing in, but so, so much better. He knows Charles can get inside people's heads. It's all he really needs to know for now - that, and that he's Charles Xavier.

"We need to look at Jeffrey's body, see if he had anything that could tell us where to look," Charles says. He's obviously not looking forward to it, but he looks determined, like a brick wall couldn't stop him getting to that body.

Car-crushing force and a solid metallic box, on the other hand...

Erik clears his throat. "About that."

---

When Charles stops being irrationally angry at Erik's foolproof way of disposing of bodies, Erik decides two things. The first is that Charles is no longer allowed to be around when people die, because it's been so painful this time around that Erik dreads going through it again. The second is that there's no way Erik is running around trying to take down a mutant-abducting conspiracy with a man dressed like a stereotypical grandfather.

"We have more important things to be doing," Charles says.

"And which one of us has experience with this, Charles?" Erik asks, and he tries to not feel smug when Charles cedes to the request. "Nobody will take you serious in a sweater vest."

Charles glares at him. "People see me how I want them to see me, and they're comfortable, I don't see why I need to wear a suit to hunt Raven down."

"Because I say so," Erik says. "And I'm the expert, remember?"

Charles glares at him, but he puts the suit on. Erik is so proud of himself for finally getting his way at something.

"Of course, you know you'll be taking care of any dry-cleaning it needs after this," Charles says, because he just has to have the last word, doesn't he?

Why did it have to be this endlessly irritating professor, Erik thinks, and consoles himself with the fact that at least he looks nice in the suit. Uncomfortable and a bit like a cat just dumped in water that’s already plotting revenge, but still very nice.

"And now I go get kidnapped," Charles says. "Since you compressed the only clue we had."

"Are we getting into this again?" Erik asks. He was fairly sure their argument was over, but he's willing to accommodate Charles and his naive moral debates. Erik almost finds them charming, which is...very strange. Then again, he's also already starting to miss the tweed. Charles is going to slowly drive him insane, he knows it. "And how exactly are you going to get yourself kidnapped safely, in a way I can follow?"

Charles shrugs. "I'll just make them think I'm kidnapped, and we'll let them take us to Raven."

"You can do that?" Erik asks.

"I can do many things," Charles says. "Most of which I don't do because they're not very nice. Now, are we going or do you need me to wear cufflinks now?"

"They might be a good idea," Erik says, because cufflinks are metal, but at Charles' glare he abstains. "Where do you think would be easiest to have you kidnapped?"

"I have no idea," Charles says. "If you were kidnapping me, where would you do it?"

"You make me sound like a criminal mastermind," Erik says, and he can almost feel Charles impatiently tapping at his mind. "Fine. If I was someone who kidnapped people, I'd do it on your way to campus."

"That wasn't so hard, was it?" Charles asks, and pulls him out the door, trusting Erik to lock it behind them.

---

Charles first actually goes to campus, mostly to inform the office that he'd be gone for an undetermined amount of time due to a sudden family emergency, and then he decides to get kidnapped on the way back to the apartment. He seems to think that someone broadcasts kidnap me! by acting like a lost, mindless tourist. Charles wanders around, stops in the middle of a sidewalk and stares at buildings for no good reason, and generally makes the biggest production of loitering that Erik's ever seen. He also manages to look so helpless and vulnerable that at least five people stop what they're doing to ask if he needs some help.

It takes almost an hour for a man in a black suit and grey coat to walk up to Charles with a barely-hidden gun in hand, which Erik immediately controls, even if he doesn't do anything with it.

This is the part of the plan that Erik really hasn't been looking forward to. He's close enough to see the man is threatening Charles, but far enough away that he has no idea what they're saying. It doesn't take very long for Charles to resolve the situation, though - one moment the man's doing his best to loom over the hapless mutant professor, and the next Charles is waving Erik over while the man in the grey coat gestures them towards a waiting car, smiling.

Erik tries to not stare at the man's mindless smiling, but knows he fails when Charles says, "You swore you wouldn't have a problem with this."

"Hearing and seeing are very different things," Erik says, but shakes off the shock. He can feel Charles' insecurity and a strange blend of fear and hatred in his mind, and Erik doesn't think about it. He just grabs Charles' hand and holds it in his own while the man in the grey coat beams at them and holds the backseat's door open for them. "I've never seen a telepath in action, Charles. I'll adjust soon."

Charles relaxes just enough that Erik doesn't feel like he needs to wrap Charles in a blanket and hide him away for a few days. "Am I meant to be drugged, Thomas?"

"Only if you struggle," Thomas says cheerfully. "When we get to the plane you'd be drugged, though. There's a tranquilizing dart gun in my coat, along with the real one. I'll use it on you when we reach the airport."

"As you should," Charles says, like he's telling a dog it's a good boy. "Do you enjoy your job?"

"Not really," Thomas says. "I'm glad I'm keeping the world safe from mutants, though. And I get to travel, which is nice."

"An excellent perk," Charles says. "Feel free to drive to the airport, Thomas. I'm already drugged and alone in the backseat."

"Of course you are," Thomas says, sounding for all the world like a bowl of joy and sunshine just landed in his lap, and they're on the road.

Erik tries to think of something to say in the silence that suddenly absorbs the car.

Charles beats him to it. "I'm actually out of practice," he says, resignation weighing the words down. "I'm fine and can still manage everything, but it's still not as impressive as it used to be."

"Believe me, Charles," Erik says dryly. "I'm impressed."

---

The airport is a small thing, with a waiting single-engine airplane already running and waiting for them when Thomas pulls up in front of it. Thomas gets out and reaches for the tranquilizers in his coat, but stops when Charles puts two fingers to his temple and says, "I'm already drugged, remember?"

Thomas looks confused for a moment, and then relaxes. "Oh, yes, of course. How silly of me," he says, and opens their door, holding it open with a smile as Charles and Erik climb out.

"Can you fly a plane?" Charles asks.

Erik considers the question, and says, "I can make a plane of this size fly."

Charles glances at him, almost smiling. "Erik, can you pilot a plane?"

"Probably," Erik says. "If I knew where I was going."

Charles frowns, and says, "Good point. Thomas, where are you taking me?

"I'm not sure, since the flight usually has a halfway point. The one right before you-"

"Raven," Charles says, eyes wide. "But we walked her to the gate. We saw her get on the plane."

"Yes, her," Thomas says, nodding. "She had a flight transfer in Paris. I transferred her to a different plane there, a private jet the others pay for. I do that when I use the prop to get them to Paris, too. I don't know where exactly they go, but I'm reasonably sure it's Genosha."

"Where's Genosha?" Charles asks.

Thomas shrugs. "It's an island off the east coast of Africa. I've never been there, but I've heard good things."

"How many people have you done this to?" Erik asks, because this all seems far too international and organized for a simple kidnapping, or some sort of 'dangerous mutant relocation program' like the man before had seemed to suggest to Charles.

Thomas seems to think Charles asked the question, since he's still looking at Charles when he says, "I lost count somewhere around fifty."

"God, there's that many of us?" Charles says, and shakes his head. "Thank you, Thomas, now I need you to take me to the jet in Paris."

"That's my job," Thomas says, smiling, and escorts them to the plane.

"I don't like this, Charles," Erik finally says, inside the airplane.

"What?" Charles shouts, and sighs, and suddenly Erik can hear him in his head, saying, This is easier. What did you say?

Erik stares at him. "You're talking in my head," he says.

I can't hear you, Erik, Charles snaps, from inside his head. Honestly, what's so surprising about this? I'm making Thomas fly us to Paris while he's thinking I'm an unconscious body sprawled in the back of the airplane. Speaking to you telepathically shouldn't be that much of a stretch.

Erik pauses. True.

And yes, I know this is not looking like an ideal situation, but they have Raven and that makes me not care about the odds all that much, Charles says, and...yes, it's useful and convenient to have Charles talking in his mind, Erik can admit. And it also has an awful lot of potential, for many, many things.

Don't let me fall asleep, Charles says. It shouldn't be a terribly long flight, but just in case.

Erik nods, and turns to face out the front of the airplane. Thomas is humming a song Erik doesn't know, as if he flies kidnapped mutant professors to Paris every day. Which, Erik realizes, he probably does.

Erik likes this entire affair less and less by the second, but Charles has a point - they have Raven, and at least forty-nine other abducted mutants. They have to do this, no matter how suicidal it feels, no matter how irritating a self-(and-Charles-and-actually-Xaviers-in-general)-preserving instinct is, because Erik can't think of anyone else who could, or would.

-------------------------------------------------

Getting to Paris is easy. Charles doesn't get close to nodding off, Thomas doesn't bat an eye at the fact there's two very conscious (and very dangerous) mutants sitting in the back of the plane instead of an unconscious professor of genetics, and they land without anything other than the usual happening.

Getting on the plane to Genosha, however, is where it gets complicated.

Thomas unloads an imaginary body with a song in his heart, carrying very heavy air over to a small charter jet, Erik and Charles following along as he hums to himself (it sounds like Sinatra, Erik thinks) and moves into the back of the other plane. They follow only a few steps behind him, and Erik can barely see beyond Charles and Thomas to watch him unload his imaginary load into one of the seats.

It's when Thomas leans down to buckle the air down securely that Erik sees the other occupants of the plane.

"God, they're children," Charles says, a queasy horror creeping from him and into Erik's mind. Erik moves out of Thomas' way so the man can get back to whatever he does when he's not kidnapping children.

There are five of them, and all of them are sedated and strapped into seats that look engineered to hold people down no matter what instead of in case of emergency. With Charles, the plane would be filled nearly to capacity.

"We'll get them out of here too," Erik says, and puts a hand on the back of Charles' neck. "We won't let these people get to them, no matter who they are."

Charles shakes his head. "People would look for their children, and they're American, they couldn't have just been randomly collected," he says.

Erik squeezes lightly, and it makes Charles look at him. "Calm down. We'll figure this out when we have more information."

He frowns, but after a moment he nods and turns to the chair he was meant to be strapped into. "You can control this, right?"

"Of course," Erik says, because the straps all connect to a metallic disk. "I could undo the children's harnesses too, but I'd prefer not to before the next pilot comes in to check on his cargo."

"I see," Charles says, and turns to look Erik in the eye. "I need to strap myself in."

Erik sighs, and sits in the single remaining seat in the airplane. "Have you forgotten that you're pretending to be kidnapped?"

"They have to do more than just hold someone down to keep their cargo in check," Charles says, and Erik is already starting to recognize that tone of voice. It means that nothing good is going to come of this and Charles is going to do it anyway because he thinks it's oh so very necessary. When Charles really notices the glare Erik is directing towards the chair, he scoffs. "Erik, be realistic. You can snap me out of that thing with a flick of your wrist."

"That doesn't mean it doesn't have a lasting effect that could kill us both when the pilot comes over."

"And if we wait until we're in the air and it knocks me unconscious, there's suddenly a stowaway," Charles points out. "It's the safest option."

Erik doesn't stop glaring at the chair, but he says, "Fine. You don't lock yourself in entirely until I say so, understand?"

Charles rolls his eyes, but says, "I understand. Now, would you be so kind as to undo it?"

Erik reaches into the disk-like center, feels what he can of the mechanisms inside, and makes the buckles slide out of it, one by one. He'll be faster next time, now that he's taken the time to really understand what he's manipulating. "All yours," he says.

"Thank you," Charles says, and smugly sits himself down like he's the king of the little jet they're inside, regal and insufferably pompous.

"Now you're just being childish," Erik accuses.

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Charles says, and god, Erik has clearly spoiled him rotten. At this rate Charles will be expecting a bouquet of roses or something equally ludicrous when they land.

"Don't buckle it yet," Erik says, stretching his awareness into the straps and the chair itself, trying to find anything particularly dangerous.

"You convinced me to wear a suit," Charles says. "So I don't get what I want all the time."

"Oh good, I've gotten my way once in our relationship. That bodes well for its success," Erik says. "And you can buckle it now. Slowly."

Charles grins, and slowly starts buckling him into the seven straps that attach to the disk. "Look at that, I'm actually doing what you want," he says, like the insufferable brat he is, but Erik ignores the growing irritation (and, horrifyingly, also a sense of endless fondness, like he finds Charles charming when he's like this) in favor of feeling the harness.

The minute Charles' final strap connects, Erik barely has time to snap a hand out and stop a needle from bursting out of the chair and directly into the back of Charles' neck. The chair protests, and Erik twists his other hand to unbuckle every one of the straps holding Charles down. As soon as they're out of the buckle, the needle drops back innocuously into the cushions of the chair.

"You aren't doing that again," Erik says, not letting himself really drop his hold on the needle before Charles has moved out of the chair.

"Now that I can agree with," Charles says.

They both do their best to smile, knowing they're in a plane with five children who have needles pumping an unknown drug into their blood.

---

They're over the ocean when one of the children tries to wake up. He makes a pained, groggy noise, eyes still shut, and while Erik has barely noticed, Charles is already rushing over to him, doing his best to keep the kid calm.

"We're going to get everyone out of here," Charles says, looking confused but determined. "You're going to be fine, Armando, we'll-"

"Darwin," the kid says.

"Darwin, then," Charles says. "I promise you, we're going to take care of you."

Darwin's eyes barely have time to register Erik's existence a few feet away before he passes out again. They wait for a few moments, just in case he wakes again, but Darwin remains limp and sleeping for another twenty minutes.

"At least we know it doesn't kill them," Erik says.

Charles rubs at his temple, breathing. "I couldn't get into his mind. I can read the other children, but he's...tricky."

"You got his name fast enough," Erik says.

"But not the right one," Charles says, and Erik admits he has a point. "Do you think it's his mutation? An immunity to telepathy?"

"I think immunity to almost everything," he says, because the liquid is still pumping as steadily into Darwin as the other occupants, and only the one with mental barriers happens to wake up? Erik doesn't like coincidences, and in this case, he doesn't think it could be anything but a mutation. "What do the others do, then?"

Charles frowns, and concentrates. "There's Darwin, who...is Darwin, a young lady with wings who can shoot acidic balls out of her mouth, one who can project energy, one who can project sound waves, and one who can project energy out of his eyes." He sighs. "And the two who can project energy are brothers."

"I guess it runs in families, then," Erik says. He's glad to know, even if he learned it from a plane full of kidnapped children.

Charles nods, and glances over at Erik. "You should sleep. I'll wake you when we get closer to Genosha."

Erik watches him. "And when do you get to sleep? You've been awake for over a day now, and using your powers for most of it." Erik imagines it must be like having to run a marathon after only one day of running two or three miles to prepare himself.

"I'll sleep when it's safe," he says easily. "I'm sure there will be a nice place for a nap after we land, or at least there will be on the plane back home."

Erik frowns. They'll be vulnerable with Charles asleep, but they'll be even more vulnerable if he's exhausted and loses what hold he has on his powers due to exhaustion. Plus, he's starting to look a bit unhinged-

"I can hear that," Charles snaps.

"And you snapping at me makes it even more true," Erik says smoothly.

Charles sighs, and leans back in his very much not-buckled seat. "Fine. We'll have shifts, then. You've been awake just as long as I have, after all."

"That sounds reasonable," Erik says, even though he wants to protest, wants to force Charles to sleep for at least a few minutes. It's not worth the fight, though. He trusts Charles. "We'll switch off every two hours."

"You really should get your way more often," Charles says, and Erik wonders what exactly that means as he drifts to sleep.

---

Erik wakes up because the airplane is landing, and he barely restrains the urge to punch Charles in his stupid exhausted face while the jet drags its way down the tarmac. "Charles," he grits out, but Charles' eyes are wide. He puts a hand over Erik's mouth, and looks shaken enough that Erik obeys the silent command.

It makes sense the moment the jet comes to a full and complete stop, because the door opens the moment they've stopped rolling. A man in a blue coverall uniform steps in, followed by a blonde woman wearing a similar bright red jumpsuit. Erik's fury with Charles quickly changes to shock when he notices the collar clenched around her throat.

"Start with that one," the man in blue says, pointing straight at Darwin. "Pilot said his seat was giving strange readings."

The woman doesn't nod. She simply obeys.

Her eyes flit over Charles for the shortest of moments, and Erik can hear the quick intake of breath. Erik grabs the hand over his mouth and squeezes it tightly, lacing their fingers together. What's happening?

She's a telepath, Charles answers. She knows you're here, and that I'm not actually kidnapped.

"Will anyone come looking for you?" the telepath asks, emotionless, as she looks into Darwin's eyes.

"No," he says.

The man in blue makes a satisfied noise, and Emma moves on to the next mutant, the redhead boy. "Will anyone come looking for you?"

"Yes," he says, and the man in blue makes a note on the clipboard in his hand.

It goes on like that for a while - two answers are yes, the others are no - until she reaches Charles' chair. Erik can tell Charles has linked their minds, because he can hear them in his head just as easily as if he were eavesdropping.

You're a fool, sugar, the telepath says. Nobody escapes, nobody can change anything here. All you've done is come to hell willingly.

We are here to save my sister, Charles says. We're here to save everyone, Emma. Let us help you.

"Will anyone come looking for you?" Emma asks, at the same time saying, I can only give you until sunset before they read my collar and see what I've been up to here. You'd better use it wisely, and you better hope this is worth the pain because if you waste my time I will hunt you and your boyfriend down.

It'll be worth it, Charles says, and Erik wonders whether or not it's the truth when Charles answers, "No."

---

Those who said yes are taken to a phone, with Emma staring them down as they reassure whoever is on the other line that they're just fine, that nothing is wrong, that they'll be home when they've taken care of everything that needs to be done.

Emma manages to maneuver Charles and Erik to a completely different area of the airport, mentally pointing them down a separate corridor than the one the other mutants are being sent through. Erik wants to rip the place apart, wants to search the building to see who he needs to kill to stop everything and save every single one of their kind who is trapped here.

Charles keeps holding his hand, dragging him along the route Emma had provided and whispering that everything would be fine, just a bit further to go, we can take care of this and save everyone somehow, I promise, we could do anything when we're together, and Erik knows Charles is the only thing keeping him from twisting every single piece of metal into a weapon he can hurt these people with.

They have a processing center and protocols, Erik says, and tries to press down the memories that come with the thought. He knows they're still carried towards Charles, but hopes they're subdued, at the least. Charles, this isn't a small operation we're dealing with.

I know that, Charles replies, and even in his mind Charles sounds exhausted. He's been awake for over a day straight now, constantly using his abilities for the duration. And yes, Erik, I know that too.

Erik sighs, and they step into sunlight. Genosha, Erik thinks absently, looks like a paradise. The ocean is a pure deep blue, with palm trees littering the green grass and sand, rolling hills turning into a small mountain range. It's wasted on the humans.

It doesn't take long for a siren to sound in the processing center, loud enough that even they can hear it, already invisible to the world and half a mile from the city of Hammer Bay. We need a plan, Charles thinks at him urgently.

"Here is our plan," Erik says, and Charles stares at him, like he'd forgotten they have vocal chords and Erik using them is the most remarkable thing he's ever seen. "We get a collar so that I can learn to dismantle them, we find Raven and the rest of the mutants, free them all, and take over the island, with the death of all the humans enslaving them as a bonus."

Charles shakes his head. "Erik. Nothing good would come of killing the humans; they would only feel justified."

"But you know they need to be punished somehow," Erik says, and Charles grabs his hand again, projecting calm. He has no idea why until they turn a corner, into the city, and can see the red-suited people lined up on a corner, each one with a collar on and their eyes downcast as men in blue load them into a military truck. Their guns are at rest while they joke with each other, and the people in red stumble forward, clambering into the truck.

CALM roars through Erik, dulls everything but the soft contentment he gets from Charles' presence, but he still makes the nearest storefront's vacuums shake.

"Let's go with the original plan," Erik says, words dark. When Charles frowns at him, Erik motions at the truck. "Go with the flow. We'll definitely be around the collars, and they like to keep the unwanted in one place." Charles hesitates, looking like he wants to just keep walking into the city. Maybe he'll try to walk up to the nearest governing body and shame them into letting their kind go, or maybe he expects a miraculous sign telling him how to fix the world. I find your optimistic tendencies charming, Charles, Erik projects, but now is not the time for idealism.

He watches Charles think, and doesn't feel any relief when Charles nods and they head towards the truck. If anything, he feels resigned to fighting another atrocity and having to drag Charles into it too as they move into the back, the rest already loaded in and silent, Charles still projecting peace and stillness towards him.

-------------------------------------------

The truck takes them around the island, away from the beautiful beaches and cliffs and palm trees and into the rockier area of the island. There is a plain on Genosha, one that is dry yet thick with humidity, and it's there that they've dug a tiered pit, lined it with metallic shipping containers off of cargo ships, and put a barbed wire fence around the occupants.

Calmcalmcalmcalmcalm Charles projects at him, but he can feel how tired Charles is - keeping them invisible, keeping Erik calm, and keeping himself awake is obviously taking its toll. Erik can bend any part of the fence to get them (and the rest of the people in the camp) out, so he doesn't protest when they are dropped off halfway down the huge terraced pit. There's water at the bottom at least, he notices. Possibly even drinkable. What a kindness.

"I can’t feel Raven," Charles says, leaning more heavily on Erik than any fully awake person would. He pauses, eyes sliding shut. "Two tiers down, there's an orange container. It's where they keep spare equipment. Collars too."

"Can you walk that far?" Erik asks.

"I'll manage," Charles says.

The walk is one of the more miserable sights Erik has seen, which is saying quite a bit. Everyone they pass looks dead inside, even if it seems there's only mild malnutrition and dehydration. He wouldn't call any of them healthy. Some have pointless conversations among themselves, but there's no heart in it. Erik knows this sort of place, knows exactly how it feels. He knows their souls are dying.

Calm, Charles projects, but concern/horror/love/regret/determination/concern slips through with it, all tinged with an exhaustion so deep that he stumbles. Erik resolves that he doesn't care what Charles says, as soon as they get into that orange container he's going to make Charles sleep, no matter how dangerous it might be.

The fence surrounding the orange container twists itself out of their way, and the lock on the doors are nothing to Erik. He unlocks them with a flick of his hand, and he drags Charles inside with him before shutting the door behind them. Inside it's so dark that Erik can't see the top of Charles' head until he feels for a lightbulb's filaments, and turns on the lights.

Rack after rack of collars are inside, along with guns and something that looks disgustingly similar to a bear trap that his mind keeps sliding away from. There is also a small folding table obviously used for maintenance, with a conveniently already-dismantled collar laid out lazily.

"You're going to sleep while I do this," Erik says, helping him sit down in one of the three metal folding chairs around the table.

Charles shakes his head. "We only have a few hours-"

"Charles, I've been trusting you to get us this far unseen, it's your turn to trust me," he says, and sits down in front of the fractured collar, calling an intact one to the table as well. "We'll be fine in here; we're surrounded by metal, people rarely come in here, and I'm going to be sitting quietly right here." Well, comparatively quietly; you never really know when you have to take a hammer or blowtorch to something when it comes to engineering. He'll do his best for Charles. "Sleep."

He looks like he wants to fight it - what is he thinking, of course he wants to fight it, it's Charles - but he nods, and puts his head down on his folded arms, looking at Erik across the table. "I'm worried about what I'll wake up to, though."

Erik does his best to smile at Charles, trying to be reassuring. "We'll be fine, Charles. I don't know what you're fretting about, honestly. We're inside a metal box. It's the safest place we could possibly be."

Charles still looks concerned, but he also looks too tired to even really complain. "Promise me you'll wake me the moment you need me," he says.

"Of course," Erik says. He wonders what exactly Charles is so concerned about. He doesn't seem inclined to share, though. Or maybe he's too drained. Either way, Charles shuts his eyes and is unconscious within moments.

Erik takes a deep breath, and starts with the intact collar.

They're ingenious little beasts, using much of the same design as the airplane chair - the collar is directly connected to the spinal column via a needle that maintains a supply of power-dampening serum in the body. He has no idea how it must be affecting Raven, considering her body and skeletal structure are part of her mutation, but smoothly pushes that thought to the side in case Charles happens to be listening in while he sleeps. The back of the collar is concerned with the dampening, while the front records the supply of suppressant in the collar and mutant. They're heavy, as well - yet another way to keep a captive's head bowed. The collar itself is locked on with a complicated three-key device, layered in a way that would make it impossible for someone without the right tools to get it off.

At least, someone without the right tools who can't control metal.

Erik doesn't know how long it takes to fully understand the collars, but at the end of it he knows every wire and joint and element, and doesn't doubt for a moment that he could snap a thousand collars off at the same time, possibly more. It only takes a moment more to realize that if the wearers were willing (and able) to yank the needles out themselves and Erik wouldn't have to do anything for a few hours afterwards, he might be able to manage every collar on the island.

Taking everyone's collars off at the same time would undoubtedly be the safest option; no mutants are left to be forced to kill other mutants, no mutants are defenseless when the humans realize what is going on and attack anyone in a jumpsuit, and none of the mutants are left behind wondering what they did wrong. But the process to get the needle out is one that would have to be done carefully to avoid injury. They'd need to know what they were doing before actually doing it.

He glances at Charles, so out of it he's drooling on his sleeve, and sighs. Maybe if Charles was rested and had time to prepare he could manage it, but he's still hesitant to suggest it. As valuable as it would be, he doesn't know what being inside the minds of that many people would do to Charles, and Erik is...he isn't willing to risk that. Erik could do it in waves, starting with the most human-populated areas and then the hellpit they're currently in and then everyone else, but it would take him time and the effort would leave him drained for longer at the end.

"Whatever you're deciding, you're doing it very loudly," Charles mutters into his arm, and reaches a hand across the table, palm open. It takes Erik a moment to realize what he wants, but it's easy enough to hold Charles' hand. He's getting used to it by now. "Ah. Well, it's the best option. I think the sooner the better for it, too."

Erik frowns at him. "Charles, you're exhausted. It can wait-"

"No, it can't. They'll know we're here and they'll start looking, and the moment they know there's non-collared people with powers, it's over," Charles says. "These people need us. We may end up passed out in this shipping container for a few days afterwards, certainly, but I think it'd be worth it."

Or we could end up dead, Erik thinks, and hopes Charles can't hear him. He doubts the reality of the situation hasn't crossed Charles mind, though. "You're serious about this."

"As serious as you are," Charles states, and squeezes Erik's hand. "Now, show me how you safely remove the needle."

Erik does, in as much detail as he can manage. He does it physically, showing Charles how the needle works and trusting Charles' biology background to take the place of a physical demonstration. Then he does it mentally, and imagines removing the needle in as much detail as possible, including how much it would hurt. Charles helpfully adds in the feeling of returning powers to the end of that, and it makes the entire process seem absolutely worth it, no matter how much it costs them.

You gave that feeling to me, Charles thinks while they go through their intended message one last time, and somehow Erik knows he didn't intend for that to get through. "I'm worried how it'll effect more powerful mutants," Charles says. "Their abilities suddenly rushing back might lead to unconsciousness as their bodies readjust."

"If you have a better, safer idea, I'm listening," Erik says, which is only partially true. Half his attention is on Charles; the other half is on the ridiculously difficult task of feeling out every piece of that very strange and beautiful metal they're using for a lock. He can't feel it anywhere else, save for in a nearby mine (which may be an issue; there's collars down there, but there's also whatever that element is, and he can't accurately differentiate it to free those mutants).

Charles smiles at him. "Remember when we spent most of our time drunk or asleep?"

"You mean four days ago?" Erik asks dryly.

"Yes, back then," Charles says, and laughs a little. "God, I've cancelled far too many of my classes. They'll fire me at this rate."

"Heaven forbid," Erik says, letting his eyes slide shut, and takes a deep breath. "I almost have them all."

"Good. I'm just piggybacking on your hard work," Charles says, and Erik doesn't know when the man took his other hand, but there they are, stretched across the table.

He doesn't have to tell Charles when he finally picks out the last collar (a tiny dot on the far southern coast, probably a fishing boat). Charles does warn Erik, though, even if it's just a sudden death grip on Erik's hands and-

-Hello all, this is a quick lesson on how to safely remove the collars keeping you from reaching your abilities. My friend is about to detach them for you, but there's a needle you'll need to take out on your own. If you see someone who cannot remove their needle safely, please assist yourself, and then your companion.

The tutorial model is a slow-motion image of Raven removing the needle, in the hopes that, should the worst happen, the rest of the population would at least recognize her as one of the people responsible for their salvation. She takes the needle out and the collar off, and smiles as she shifts to her blonde form (clothed, had been Charles' ultimatum, I refuse to have my little sister wandering around everyone's mind naked) and then back. She's in front of the orange container they're currently in, Erik notices, which he agrees was a good idea to add. She knows where to go, now.

Good luck, and stay safe. Your turn, Erik, Charles finishes, voice fading, and Erik doesn't waste any time.

He concentrates on the image of a single collar's lock and latch and that strange metal disk, splinters it into thousands of identical collars, and reaches, tugging them outwards and away from skin, and he can feel thousands of simultaneous clicks-

And then he feels light and heavy all at the same time, and the table rushes towards his head.

---

Erik wakes up to the familiar sound of Raven shouting things.

"No, no, no, that goes there - what do you mean you can't fit it, that's where it was before! I don't care if the wall fell down, that's what powers are for - oh for the love of - fine, go bake cookies, I don't even care anymore," Raven is saying, a whirlwind of capability.

"Erik!" Charles says.

He figures opening his eyes might be a good idea, and there's Charles, beaming down at him and looking like he still needs a nap. "Hello," Erik manages to say. He hasn't been this soul-deep sort of sore since he ripped a yacht apart.

And then he notices the ceiling. It's covered in ornate fancy cherubs, even if half of them are missing pieces. A headless cherub is directly above him, and it is quite possibly even more disturbing when Charles leans directly into his line of sight and replaces the stone above with his face, connected to the tiny fat baby body with wings. "Congratulations, you saved the world," he says.

"We, you mean," Erik says. It hurts to speak, so he projects, I just did the heavy lifting.

Which not a single person on the planet could have managed, except for you, Charles projects back, and then Charles yelps and is flying to the side.

"You are so stupid, you both are. I'd tell you to get a room if everything wasn't falling apart," Raven says, and she's grinning down at him, blue and happy. "Hi, Erik. I'm so glad you're awake, we have an awful lot to do. They caught the entire organization and brought them here; I'd been trying to organize some kind of resistance, but you guys managed it before me."

"I see where I stand in my sister's graces," Charles mutters from the floor, and Raven rolls her eyes to drag him back up.

"Suck it up, Voice of Genosha. You haven't been asleep for most of a day," Raven says, and Erik is proud to say he manages to prop himself up on the absurdly ornate headboard with only minimal wincing.

"Voice of Genosha?" Erik echoes, amused.

Charles sighs, and runs a hand through his hair. "Well. There's some things that have...changed while you were unconscious. And none of them were my fault because I passed out too, so remember that, I didn't decide anything-"

"You both are in charge of Genosha now," Raven says. "You have a half-destroyed country to run now. Surprise."

"What happened to the previous government?" Erik asks.

Raven grins. "They happened to have some very powerful, very angry mutants in the building when the collars came off."

"The same thing happened in a few of the more populated areas," Charles says, looking so sad about it that Erik wonders if he really forgot what the humans were doing to them. He shakes his head. "Humans have been leaving by the boatload, literally. We could coexist so easily, but-"

"We have time for that later," Erik says. "For now, I'm assuming there's a good bit of clean-up work to do."

"And infrastructure," Raven says. "And making a government. And police, that would be a good idea to start with. Probably a military pretty soon too, considering there'll probably be some retaliation in the near future."

"I'll take care of immediate opposition," Charles says, and again Erik can't help but wonder if he knows how powerful he is, considering he's treating mind-controlling what could end up being an entire navy away from their island (and that...will take some adapting) so very casually. "We need to do a lot of things."

His emphasis on the we isn't mean, but it definitely draws Erik's attention to the fact the Xaviers are staring at him, waiting for something.

Erik sighs, and wonders if this is fate's revenge on him for actually trying to have a vacation.

"Then I'd better get out of bed," Erik says, and does.

---

TO
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy
and
President John F. Kennedy

You are cordially invited
by Raven Xavier, Duchess of Mystique
to
the one-week anniversary party
of

Charles F. Xavier, PhD
and
Erik M. Lehnsherr, Nazi Hunter

Voice and Imperator, respectively,
of
The Independent Sanctuary of Genosha

 

Please RSVP promptly via the teleporter who delivered this invitation.