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one

When Charles Xavier sends his consciousness back to 1962, he allows those few of his students in the know to believe that he intends to kill Magneto nee Erik Lehnsherr - that he will take one life to save billions, which even he has to admit would be a more than fair trade in the larger scheme of things.

He is not actually going to do anything of the sort.

For one thing, he has never, despite everything that has happened, stopped believing that life is sacred.

And for another thing, he knows for an absolute fact that Erik has been in love with him for more years than either of them had lived when they first met.

Charles has never, not once, acknowledged to Erik or any other person that he knows this; and he has never, not once before now ever imagined using it; but torn between an intolerable option and a heinous one, he'll take the intolerable.

Maybe if he gives Erik what Erik wants, Erik will listen.

Charles has learned a lot over the past forty years; he's no longer the idiot he once was. Surely, surely he can manage to take a younger, more malleable Erik and bend him into a better shape.

He doubts he'll even need to read Erik's mind to do it. In fact, he won't at all unless he has to; a challenge to himself. He's astute enough now not to need to cheat, surely.

First mistake.

*

Seducing this younger Erik takes approximately two minutes.

During their first 1962 road trip, Charles vaguely remembers that he drank a lot and went home with a lot of girls, partly because that was what thirty-year-old Charles did, and partly because spending nights in hotel rooms with Erik trying not to listen to all those lustful thoughts about Charles was rather...discomforting to say the least.

During this 1962 road trip, Charles drinks just enough to muster up his courage, then follows Erik back to their room and says, feeling that directness will work best with this Erik (and bypass all of the back and forth is he interested or isn't he I can't tell should I make a move or not I'm confliiiicted okay definitely not making a move because he's a telepath so he probably already knows, so it's definitely his move if he's interested, shit, he can probably hear me right now, sorry Charles sort of thoughts he still recalls getting so many headaches from. Not that he intends to be listening in, but thirty-two-year-old Erik's conflicts involving their non-relationship tended to run loud and bleed out into the atmosphere whether Charles was strictly looking for them or not.), "You can fuck me, right now. I know you want to."

The look Erik throws at him then is not quite what Charles expects; not lust or eagerness or relief, but a flat disbelief that drags on for nearly a minute before Erik says, rather hoarsely, "...What? Are you sure?"

"...Yes?" Charles says, and then before he can come up with an answer slightly more convincing than that, Erik is on him, kissing him, and Charles has never quite been kissed like this by anyone, Erik sobbing against his mouth as though he's endured a lifetime of pining prior to this when in fact they have only known each other for...not even two weeks, isn't it, at this point?

Well, Erik never has done things by halves.

Charles fully expects to be bent over something forthwith - after all, the two most common fantasies in Erik's mind over the past forty years have involved Charles either bent over something (usually a piece of furniture - bed, chair, table, counter, etc), or on his knees, with Erik ramming into him, almost always angrily for the past three decades or so because older Erik is rather bitter about it all and always angry about that and so much else (hence why he thought using Charles as a conduit to kill all humans was a reasonable idea to begin with).

He does not expect, and is absolutely not prepared, to have Erik drop to his knees.

His cock is not prepared either; because for the past forty years - more than half of his life - he's had such limited sensation there, and obtaining and holding onto an erection long enough to get anywhere with it is not something he's succeeded in all that often (pity all the really good drugs didn't get invented before he got so damned old).

Now though, everything works again and he's so young, and obtaining an erection is very much not a problem, though holding onto it still is because oh dear lord, he has no idea if Erik knows what he's doing with his mouth or not, but the sensation of it, the warm wet suction, is enough to make Charles last no longer than -

Thirty seconds. If that.

It should be humiliating, but all Charles can think is that he'd thought feeling his toes was nice, and then Erik is on his feet again, kissing Charles' mouth again, and Charles can taste himself, how interesting, and he's probably expected to reciprocate at some point, and so he begins fumbling with Erik's zipper, hands shaking a bit because really, whose hands wouldn't shake when they're just about to suck off the person who is sort of their arch nemesis whom they occasionally visit in plastic prison to play plastic chess with in an entirely platonic manner?

"You know," Erik says, sounding vaguely amused after some three minutes of watching Charles fiddling with his zipper, "you don't have to."

It is very unlike Erik to demur in this way; perhaps Charles is remembering younger Erik more harshly than he ought. Or maybe he's just different in bed (not that they're in a bed, at present). That happens.

Or maybe he's so head over heels for Charles that he actually wouldn't mind being blue balled.

"I know that. I want to," Charles lies, rather weakly, but he's going to have to sometime if he means to keep this up, and so he forces himself to steady his hands and figure out the zipper conundrum.

The physical part of it isn't so bad; he's had enough experience in his lifetime to know what to expect, though he hasn't been on his knees for this since his Oxford days.

What is bad, what is very very bad, is the way Erik's fingers tremble against his hair (...hair. He could live in 1962 forever), the way Erik doesn't moan or scream Charles' name, but whispers it, like a prayer.

Charles didn't expect guilt to be an object here, all things considered. But then, he'd forgotten, somewhere along the line, that this younger Erik never regarded him with lust and anger alone; that there was awe and no small measure of worship in it too, once.

Less than one full day in and Charles is already having to remind himself that he is saving both the human race, and also Erik's life and probably soul, and it seemed like a good idea when he first thought of it.

*

In the morning, Charles wakes up to Erik bellowing in the shower: "Stop! In the name of love! Before -"

And the bellowing abruptly stops right there in the middle of the chorus, to be replaced by "Come on baby let's do the twist," which Erik apparently finds more satisfying to belt out because he doesn't stop right in the middle.

When Erik emerges from the bathroom toweling his hair, Charles says, "Do you always murder music in the shower or are you just in a good mood this morning?" He can't actually remember ever hearing Erik sing, in the shower or otherwise, previously, but it's possible he could have missed it on the first 1962 road trip due to being constantly hung-over.

Erik first gives him a strange, searching sort of look, then grins a big toothy grin and jumps him.

Charles has the feeling they're going to be doing this at least three times a day for the two weeks remaining to the road trip.

His cock sings hallelujah; the rest of him says 'goodie,' dryly.

 

two

Erik, as it turns out, is an attentive lover, ever taking note of what works for Charles and what doesn't; and not only does he observe, but he asks, breathy inquiries of "Is this good? This? What about this?" in Charles' ear, against Charles' skin.

These yes or no questions are the ones he asks after he stops with open-ended ones such as "What do you like?"

No doubt he imagines Charles to be a blushing virgin for squirming at such, uncomfortably admitting "I don't know" or "I'm not quite sure", coupled with the premature ejaculation issue he has at first (that Erik, who has never in Charles' memory been anything remotely like sensitive, pretends not to even notice); but the truth of it is that, while Charles has by no means been celibate through any period of his life, his erogenous zones are a bit...confusing to him, just at the present.

His nipples, for instance, have been a remarkably sensitive area for the past forty years; now, however, they're back to being nothing particularly much.

At one point in the past he did know about the ticklish spot behind his right knee, which when stroked with a particular light touch makes him instantly hard while also making him kick out reflexively (thankfully he does not break Erik's nose, and Erik laughs about it and waves off his apology); but until Erik he never did know about how the same touch on the sole of his left foot does the same thing for his cock (but without the kicking).

Charles thought he'd have to fake it, but re-learning his own body with Erik as such a very willing partner, he's more than a bit appalled to find himself responding to Erik in a way that seems entirely too natural: melting into a kiss, leaning into a touch; letting out those soft keening sounds that he's always been so embarrassed of when Erik's doing something particularly delicious.

*

He means to broach all their (to him) old-hat politics; he actually does try, a few times, with and without clothes on, but all this Erik ever seems to respond with is "Let's talk about it later," or "Shhh," or "Come here," followed by kissing and other things so very distracting.

And what can Charles say? 'You're ruining my mission, we're supposed to talk about this, I'm supposed to convince you I'm right with the weight of my seventy years on this Earth and also sex, you have more of a one-track mind than I'd ever thought' certainly won't work.

They seem to have the sex part down, but Charles is beginning to feel like rather much of a failure otherwise.

*

One day, it's especially good, and when Erik rolls off him, breathing heavily, Charles has a moment of absolutely blinding panic.

Something shows in his face, because Erik says, "What's wrong?"

"It's nothing," Charles says, "You only - you've made my legs go a bit numb, is all."

Erik stares at him blankly for a moment; then he begins to laugh, and goes on and on with it until his face is all red and tears are streaming down his face.

"It's not funny, Erik," Charles says, rather more peevishly than he means to. "I don't like it."

Erik stops laughing then, face going serious, eyes softening. "Of course you don't," he mutters, and comes back over for a kiss, which Charles gives somewhat grudgingly, and a few seconds later when he's nuzzling the curve of Charles' neck he adds, "Sorry, sorry, I'm sorry."

"It's...alright?" Charles says, confused because he's not certain he's ever heard Erik say he's sorry before, about anything.

*

Charles chose to forget this a long time ago; but back in 1962, the first time around, it wasn't that he didn't return Erik's interest.

The thing is, he took a good long look in at Erik's mind, and decided he seemed high maintenance. Just a bit.

And thirty-year-old Charles was rather...well, rather lazy.

After the accident, it seemed inadvisable to revisit it, all things considered, so Charles...didn't.

*

Charles wakes up slowly in the middle of the night, more painfully aroused than he can remember ever being in his life, with Erik's chest pressed up against his back, Erik's leg draped over his own, Erik's arm around his middle and Erik's sleeping breaths warming the nape of his neck.

"Erik?" Charles says in a whisper. "Erik, are you awake?"

The lack of any response whatsoever other than Erik's continued even breathing indicates that Erik is decidedly not.

Charles tries turning around to remedy that, but he's too firmly in Erik's grasp to manage, so then he wiggles back against Erik a bit, and after a few minutes his efforts are rewarded by the awakening of Erik's cock against him; but Erik himself remains stubbornly asleep.

"Fine then, be that way," Charles says, somewhat nastily, knowing he's not exactly being rational - but it's so hard to think like this.

He'll take care of it himself, then; and go back to sleep, and in the morning forget how ready he was to try and wake Erik up, just for this.

He takes his cock in his hand and tries not to ruminate on how a week ago, this alone would have been too much, but now it's not enough.

It'll have to do.

He's so entirely focused on what he's doing that he misses the shift in Erik's breathing, and he's startled to hear Erik's voice rumbly in his ear, saying, "Here, Charles - let me," followed by Erik slipping his hand under Charles' to take the helm.

Charles thrusts into Erik's hand with more abandon than he ought; and when he comes he hears himself gasp out, "Erik, god, Erik," and in his own shock nearly misses Erik's sharp intake of breath.

*

Where did that come from?

He's an old fool.

 

three

Seventy-year-old Charles doesn't drink much. Sometimes, if he's out for dinner or off somewhere with Erik - but he certainly doesn't keep alcohol in the house, what with all those teenagers. If they're going to have a raucous party during any of the times he is completely unexpectedly kidnapped, poisoned or otherwise incapacitated, a party which they then will all spend some weeks trying and failing not to think about in his presence, he is not going to make it easier for them to stock it.

Even if he did keep alcohol at home, he certainly wouldn't drink enough to become impaired. He's expected to be a role model.

This, however, is 1962; the house will be empty for another several weeks, and once it's not everyone in it at that point will be of age to drink; and there is no reason Charles can come up with not to go ahead and start getting himself intoxicated.

He's sitting with either his fifth or his ninth drink in his hand when Erik slides into the booth across from him.

"Oh look, it's baby Erik," Charles says, enunciating each syllable clearly and not slurring his words a bit. "Hello, baby Erik."

"...Hello, Charles," Erik says; then, with a completely unnecessary sort of frown towards Charles’ glass, he adds, "How many have you had?"

"Just this one," Charles says. "But there will be more; because I must kill the feelings."

"Feelings," Erik repeats.

"Yes, feelings," Charles says, "You see, baby Erik, the feelings; they are confusing, and must die."

Erik's mouth twitches. "Really."

"Really," Charles agrees, and then thinks of a marvelous factoid he can share. "Alcohol dulls the senses, you know."

"Does it," Erik says.

"Mmmm-hmmm," Charles says, and drains his glass. "...drat, still there; think I'll have another."

"You've had enough," Erik says. "Let's go back to the room."

"I have not had enough," Charles says scathingly, drawing himself up in the booth and fixing Erik with one of his 'Professor' glares. "I - I am seventy; and you - you are a baby. So don't you try telling me I've had enough."

Erik rolls his eyes, gets out of the booth and takes Charles by his upper arm.

"Come on, old man, let's go," he says, and drags Charles to his feet.

"...Not going anywhere," Charles protests, attempting to stand his ground; but Erik's grip is very firm and the world is somewhat tilt-y, so rather than holding his position, he ends up using Erik for balance; and this gives him an idea, which is that if he kisses Erik, right now, maybe he'll get another drink out of it. Lord knows he needs one.

But when he tries to kiss Erik, Erik rears back and says, in a low, harsh tone, "Not here. Idiot."

"What?" Charles demands. "Not good enough? Would you rather I sucked you off? I'll do it, will that make you listen to me when I talk?"

And so saying, he reaches for Erik's belt buckle with his free hand.

Erik grabs his wrist, not gently; his face has gone dark.

Oh look, he's made the baby angry; there it is, there it is, there's the Erik he remembers.

Erik's mouth moves to right by Charles' ear, and Erik hisses, "Go on, make a scene. But first, consider: this is pre-fucking-Stonewall, Charles, and people are staring at us, right now. And you are too fucking smashed to do a thing, so it'll be up to me to take care of it when someone tries something. You won't like that, you never do. Think about it."

Charles sorts through this, then says, "...Good point."

For the first time since he came back to 1962, he opens up the mental channels to be more than a pleasant buzz at the very back of his mind; and indeed, there is hostility around them now, though he can't pinpoint from whom to offer them up a splitting headache or a neat dose of disremembering.

"Erik," he says, "Erik, someone is having not-nice thoughts in here; about us; I think we should go."

And they go.

Charles mentally pats himself on the back for being so quick to take in and neutralize the situation.

He doesn't miss a thing.

*

Charles wakes up feeling like death reheated.

"Oh, my God - I think I'm dying," he offers up to the world.

Erik, sitting beside him on the bed, wordlessly hands him a pair of shades; and, when he's managed to sit up, two aspirins and some water in a little plastic cup.

He seems a little tense this morning, for some reason.

Charles takes the aspirins, and remembering his manners through the all-encompassing pain behind his eyes, says, "Thank you."

Two seconds later he's rushing to the bathroom, and up comes the water and the aspirins and a great deal of nastiness that actually manages to make his mouth feel filthier than it did before.

While his head is in the toilet, Erik rubs his back and makes bizarre soothing sounds.

Actually, they're rather nice soothing sounds; bizarre only because of the source.

After he brushes his teeth - three times - he asks Erik, "What happened last night?"

"...What do you remember?" Erik asks.

"Nothing whatsoever," Charles says.

"...That's probably for the best."

Charles recalls a great number of the things he did in his past life while drunk, both those he remembers for himself and those remembered for him by others. "Oh, God; was I horrid?"

"You've been worse," Erik assures him. He shakes two more pills out of a bottle, and passes them and another plastic cup over to Charles, and says, rather more ironically than aspirins generally call for, "Do-over?"

 

four

On the second-last night of the road trip, Charles quite without meaning to remarks on the beauty of Erik's arms.

If he's not certain of when he started needing Erik's touch, he's even more uncertain of when he found himself needing to touch Erik in return, memorize the lines of his body with his hands and his lips and his eyes.

Seventy-year-old Charles is too experienced not to know what is happening to him; and he knows he needs to put the brakes on this for a bit, so he can remind himself of why he's here.

*

On their last full day on the road, Erik wears a white polo shirt.

Erik, for reasons that only became clear to the original thirty-year-old Charles around the time he was thirty-two-year-old Charles (he was a bit slow on putting together people's actions with their motivations in his thirties), does not generally wear short sleeves unless he's making a particular sort of point.

So Charles knows this is for him, and although he has until this point been able to keep his hands off Erik outside of their nightly lodgings (this is, after all, 1962), he can't seem to stop himself reaching over to stroke up and down the outside of Erik's forearm.

Erik shivers, and a delightful crop of goose pimples comes up beneath Charles' fingertips; and his knuckles go white on the steering wheel.

"Keep on doing that and we're going to need to pull over," he says, sounding rather bothered.

When Charles takes his hand away, Erik looks crestfallen - until Charles reaches down and gives his upper thigh a good hard squeeze.

"I'll make the car invisible if you'll prevent us being sideswiped," he offers.

"...Done."

Charles is seventy years old; much too matured to get a kick out of having sort-of public sex in 1962 right off the shoulder of the highway right during lunch hour; but he's absolutely tickled about it anyway.

Thirty-two-year-old Erik seems pretty pleased by what they've gotten away with too, because he keeps glancing over at Charles with a grin on his face for the rest of the day's drive; though several times Charles catches him looking with a most peculiar expression on his face, followed by the shaking of his head when he turns his eyes back to the road.

*

Charles knows he needs to bring himself back to reality.

But every time he gets his resolve up, he looks at Erik or Erik looks at him, and he loses it again.

Then they arrive back at the CIA compound, and are met by Moira's ghost.

And reality comes crashing back with no input from Charles.

*

She probably thinks Charles is some sort of creeper, the way he hugs her so tightly and doesn't let go for a completely inappropriate amount of time considering that they barely know each other in 1962.

He looks; yes, she definitely thinks he's a creeper.

(His Moira - the one who was his very best friend for decades - always thought so too, so he has to remind himself that this is not the same Moira who will accost him in the street in 1967, first saying, "Charles?" and, once ascertaining he's the one she remembers, screaming, "What did you do to me?" followed by lots of things about her credibility and her career.

Even in the present day, if he makes the mistake of remarking that she seems happy as a geneticist, she says, "That's not the point, Charles, and you know it.")

"So sorry, love," he says to her now. "I have the most horrid habit of being overly friendly with people I barely know. Pitfall of telepathy, I'm afraid. Now if you'll excuse me."

He proceeds to the restroom, where he locks himself in for ten minutes in order to have a panic attack.

*

Charles can't bring himself to go see how the children are settling in, that first day back.

Gathering them up one by one was different, somehow; surreal.

He doesn't know how he can possibly face them, gathered all together.

*

When Erik comes to his room that night, Charles means to beg off, citing tiredness.

But he's never felt more alone in his life, so he clings to him tightly instead.

*

"You should be Professor X...and you should be Magneto!"

Charles seems to remember that he fussed, the first time around. In fact, this situation is rather indicative of exactly the sort of thing he'll be dealing with in his school for the next forty years, and he has as a result gotten rather skilled at fussing where fussing is needed.

But he can't bring himself to fuss now.

"Marvelous," he says. "I'm sure the CIA didn't need that window. Or that statue."

He realizes Erik isn't there anymore; is in fact halfway across the courtyard now.

As he trots after him, he calls back over his shoulder, "Rock on with your bad selves!" before it occurs to him that perhaps something involving the word 'groovy' would better suit.

*

Charles gives a great deal of thought to how much meddling he should allow himself.

It's not that he has any particular compunction about playing God; it's merely that he's uncertain how much he can reasonably change. After all, in the here and now Shaw is the greatest threat until he's taken care of; and Charles isn't sure whether or not changing too much might give Shaw the winning edge this time around.

In the end he decides to meddle around with free will the least amount necessary to preserve life and cover his own tracks.

Therefore, he plants the suggestion in Armando's mind to let Angel go.

And on the night Shaw comes to the compound, every operative, every agent on the CIA night shift has gone home five hours early, and everyone remaining over from the day shift has followed them out.

Later, every one of them will recall that they were there when Shaw came; and every one of the children would confirm this, if asked.

 

five

Russia goes much the same as Charles remembers it, and he only makes one deliberate change.

Emma has the mentality of a message board troll. The first time around, she spent most of the flight back making sly, uncomfortable references about Erik's attraction towards Charles, for no better reason than to watch the both of them squirm.

This time, Charles has the know-how to keep her out, and a disinclination to hear anything about their sex life out of Emma's mouth (or, more importantly, for her to weasel into his own mind and discover who he is and when he's from), so he pops up mental shields around both himself and Erik before they're anywhere near Russia.

Erik passes much of the flight back studying his cuticles with an expression of detached disinterest.

Emma spends the entire flight pouting.

*

"But I don't understand why you have to leave," Agent Platt says, seeming highly upset; he really does like them all, quite a bit, and Charles is very glad he's alive. They'll need all the allies they can get, in the years to come. "We can beef up security; we can -"

Charles winces as Erik slams his hands down on the desk top.

"I will help you understand," he snarls, all but frothing at the mouth as he gestures wildly with one hand towards the hallway. "Shaw waltzed right in here right past all your precious security and took one of ours. More security is not going to help if they're all asleep or something again the next time -"

"Erik, I'm sure they did their best -" Charles begins, not about to tell him that in fact, most of them had been at home in their beds at the time, while the remainder had most certainly not been here.

Erik straightens, rounds on him. "Their best, Charles? Their best wasn't good enough, was it?"

Charles has no idea how best to respond to that, so turns back to Platt, says in one of his firm 'Professor' voices, "At any rate, it's not safe here anymore, with Shaw knowing right where to find us. We're going to a place I know - you don't need to know it, you aren't going to know it - and we'll be in touch. The others have already agreed, and we are letting you know as a courtesy, nothing more."

"It's not up for debate," Erik concludes, menacingly, and for a moment Charles is utterly shaken by the sense that this, this is how it always should have been, he and Erik standing shoulder to shoulder together against whatever threat might come.

Which is not, of course, how it’s gone for the past forty years, except for now and again when they’ve had a common enemy; but perhaps, if Charles can manage to work out how, it could go like that this time around.

*

Charles didn't intend for this as a consequence: the CIA compound left standing, in fairly good shape with just a few walls blown out in a demonstration of power, leaving it serviceable, habitable, but a horrifying non-option so far as he's concerned.

He also didn't intend for this: Erik, raging throughout much of the night, going on about how they took Angel, damnit, Charles, and when Charles points out that it sounds like she went of her own free will, Erik actually kicks him out of his room (though he shows up at Charles' room about an hour later for Charles to make it up to him).

At least the fact that Erik never trusted the CIA to begin with means he backs Charles right up when Charles said they ought to leave, without even questioning it.

The children take very little convincing due not only to Shaw, but to the difficult time they've been getting from some of the agents, and everything is right back on track where it ought to be.

They leave the following morning.

*

The house is at once an old friend and a stranger.

On the one hand, it's never been breached, never been raided by men with guns, and retains a certain innocence and sense of safety for that; on the other hand, it's never been invaded, never been overtaken by dozens of children making themselves at home, children for whom it is so often the only home, and for that it seems very lonely, a bit forsaken even.

Charles feels as though he won't fit through any of the doorways, narrow as they are; and he spends half an hour trying to figure out why his study looks so strange before recalling that he hasn't yet replaced or repaired his desk, the walls, the window, the floor or the ceiling times innumerable, this being where so many children have come to vent throughout the years.

When he retires to his room at the end of the first night, he realizes that Erik hasn't yet kidnapped him fifty-three times from out of this window (thirty-nine times in mid-to-late October or early November, within two weeks either way of the anniversary every year to follow, with the sole exception of 1979; ten times because he was upset about something or other and wanted to hint around about comfort sex for a week; and four times because of plots he didn't want Charles ruining. As for 1979, that was the year Charles decided he didn't feel like being kidnapped and moved bedrooms, which resulted in Erik wandering the halls knocking on doors asking for him and frightening the children, so that by the following year Charles had moved back).

He's surprised at how nostalgic, nearly pained, these particular memories are.

"So, what do you think?" Charles asks Erik when they're lying tangled together in his bed that first night home, both of them sweat-covered and spent.

Erik looks at him a bit blankly. "Of what?"

"My room," Charles elaborates, feeling somewhat silly, but still honestly curious of Erik's first impression.

"...It's alright," Erik says, then kisses Charles fervently, his intentions quite clear.

"You can't possibly be ready to go again already. It's physiologically impossible," Charles protests.

Erik proves him very wrong on that, and Charles finds himself wondering crossly why his bedroom never had magical erectile properties for him.

 


six

The only notable difference in training for most of the week is that instead of training with mannequins, Alex trains with Armando. Charles has rarely had the luck to have a student with such a dangerous mutation as Alex's so well paired with another student with such a complementary mutation as Armando's, and delights to watch them once it's safe.

Alex is so, so much lighter, without Armando's death on his shoulders; and Armando is so unbelievably loose around him; and suddenly, Charles sees something between them he never did when he was thirty. Out of curiosity, he looks - he's gotten so much better at resisting curiosity over the past forty years, having too often found that it is in fact true that eavesdroppers rarely hear good about themselves, but he can't seem to bother worrying about that in this case - and sees that they're still dancing around each other, barely admitting anything to themselves as yet.

He doubts it will take them anything like forty years.

"It's marvelous, it really is, that you react so reflexively to attack," Charles tells Armando when he gets the chance. "You have that down perfectly, so it would be to your favor to work on actively shaping your reaction to things, to control your body with your conscious rather than your unconscious mind. It could save your life one day."

*

"He's gunning for you, you know," Charles says to Moira one morning, after catching her and Sean giggling together over some unexplained joke made in his absence (and most definitely at his expense, from the guilty look on Sean's face as he excuses himself). "You two ought to make a go of it. I think you'd do very well together."

Moira spits her coffee all the way across the table, and sputters for a bit before saying, "I'm not going to rob the cradle, Charles."

As if Moira would know anything about cradle robbing, Charles reflects, and wanders off to find Erik.

*

The days go by in a blur, and before he knows it he's waking up on that last morning before, Erik snoring in his arms and drooling onto his pillow; and when Erik wakes up a while later, he hears himself saying, "You know, you might want to get some training in too, Erik. This afternoon, perhaps?"

"Might as well," Erik says.

*

Hank comes to Charles later in the morning, so excited, assuring Charles that he's found the solution for his and Raven's 'problem.'

"Oh, Hank, no," Charles says, horrified, having actually forgotten about this in his preoccupation with all things Erik, and spends an hour trying to talk Hank into giving it more time, into trying to accept himself for what he is, feet and all.

But in the end, Hank looks at him, flatly, and says, "What do you know? You'll always be able to hide."

Charles agonizes over whether or not he has the right to force change here; and decides, in the end, that he does not, that Hank must make his own mistakes; that this is not life or death, and he won't take away Hank's right to choose his own road.

He knows that Hank will spend the rest of his life trying to overcome his own loathing for himself; and knows, too, that that loathing will not stem from blue fur or yellow eyes, but came on Hank much earlier in life, even long before his feet first changed.

Deep down inside, Hank hates himself more than any person Charles has ever met, save one; and it is not a Hank-specific problem, but one that Charles deals with all the time, with nearly every one of his students at some point during the years they spend here.

'You are perfect,' is something he says a lot. 'It's the world that's broken. You are beautiful. The world is broken. You are amazing, just the way you are. The world is broken. You are groovy/rad/gnarly/wicked/awesome. The world is wrong.'

And these are things he could say to Hank; but they are things that must be repeated, over and over and over again to even begin to sink in. And no matter what Charles says or does, it's not a way of thinking he can force from without.

*

"See that? Try turning it to face us."

Erik makes a face, says, "Oh Charles, I just don't know if I can."

"Sure you can!" Charles says encouragingly. "Why don't you give it a shot; if it doesn't work I have a trick up my sleeve."

Charles puts a great huge load of pep into his voice when he says it, but inwardly cringes at the thought of having to go into Erik's mind to pull out a happy memory for this. He can't imagine how he can possibly avoid any thoughts Erik has about him in doing so; and at this point, he would prefer not to know. The level of deception he's living, necessary though it is, turns his stomach; and he's always tried to be aboveboard with his lovers, considering that none of them could ever lie to him and expect not to be caught out on it eventually. So if he's going to be doing this, if he's going to have to see the adoration in Erik's eyes when he wakes up next to Charles every morning, if he's going to have to hear the wonder in Erik's voice when he comes calling Charles' name, he doesn't want to have to feel the source of all of it directly from Erik's mind.

But he will if he has to; he is seventy, old enough to face the consequences of his own choices.

Erik faces the satellite dish, outstretches both his hands, gesturing a little more wildly and dramatically than he generally does forty years from now; he keeps this up for several minutes, while shooting sidelong glances at Charles, which Charles responds to by saying encouragingly, "Keep it up, I think you've about got it!"

Finally, Erik slumps; and with a sinking heart, Charles is about to make his offer, but then Erik says, "Let me try again," and then repeats the endeavor, and this time, this time, the satellite dish rotates slowly but surely to face them.

"Well what do you know," Erik says with an expression of delight that seems almost exaggerated.

He pounds Charles on the back twice and then walks off, shaking his head in what is no doubt amazement at his newfound skill.

Charles watches him go, mouth hanging open, wondering how that happened when he didn't even have the chance to demonstrate to Erik how to channel emotions other than anger.

Then it occurs to him that he's very likely made Erik so happy that Erik was able to unlock it without that extra mental help.

He'd thought he couldn't feel more sick to his stomach about all this; he was wrong.

*

That night, he's rummaging through the refrigerator looking for that bottle of wine - having no intention of getting smashed tonight of all nights, but he'd like to settle his nerves enough to be able to sleep - when Raven finds him.

He's largely avoided her this week, having no idea what to say to her when he knows she'll hold him in little better than contempt for the next forty years.

"What did you say to Hank?" she says.

Preoccupied by everything else, Charles almost knocks his head on the inside of the refrigerator; and when he straightens up to look at her he very nearly says, 'Oh Raven, I am so happy for you.'

Because - and he has no idea how thirty-year-old Charles missed this, forty years ago - he can see it glowing out from her now, like a religious conversion: the beautiful, the glorious mindset of 'fuck what the world thinks. I'm groovy/rad/gnarly/wicked/awesome.'

Charles loves to see that, so much; he prefers to see it channeled in a constructive manner (namely, by the individual in question not joining Erik's Brotherhood immediately afterwards), but if he can't get constructive he'll still take 'Fuck the world' any day over the alternative.

He even tries to precipitate it when he can. Though no person who has not attended his school would lend any credence to this, sometimes, every so often, his response after listening to one of his students go on about something their parents said or that their friends said or that they heard on television or in the school they went to prior, is to answer, in a calm, measured tone, 'Fuck them.'

He nearly always has to repeat himself a few times to make them sure they did, in fact, hear him correctly.

Sometimes, anger is helpful; sometimes, it's healthy; sometimes, a teenager, a child who has tried so very hard to live up to unreasonable expectations of being a normal human being when they will never be, needs to be shown that they are, in fact, allowed to be angry about being set up for failure.

Charles loves getting to say 'Fuck them,' actually; loves getting to repeat it; loves to see the response it evokes, shock shifting into disbelief into agreement and righteous rage.

The more difficult part is saying, afterwards when something has been blown up, smashed, set on fire, frozen solid, hit by lightning, melted or otherwise decimated, 'Now, we really do need to get that under a tad more control. Just a bit, not to worry,' without saying it in such a way that it undoes all the progress they just made.

Looking at Raven now, he has to swallow several times around the lump in his throat before he can say, "Ah. I told Hank it might be a good idea to hold off a bit - think about it a while, decide whether or not he might need to sleep upside down off an airplane one of these days. Could come in useful, you know."

"Oh," she says, and he doesn't need to look into her mind to see the confusion radiating off her.

"Say, can you still do a 'me'?" he asks her.

Now she looks even more confused, because of course she hasn't done a 'Charles' ever since he stopped reading her mind.

*

In 1947, Charles is fifteen, and Raven looks twelve or so, though another ten years could probably be added to come up with her real age in years.

"Charles, I need you to do something really important for me," she says.

"Anything, for you," he says, meaning it; he turns to her and glances into her mind to see that she wants him to stop - now that's just not fair. "Well, if that's the way you're going to be, then don't you dare wear my face around anymore."

"I wouldn't want to wear your ugly face anyway!" she shouts, responding to the venom in his voice.

"Well so are you!" Charles screams, in that disjointed way he speaks to her back when her mind seems nearly an extension of his own.

She knows exactly what he means by it, and they don't speak to one another for an entire week, one of the loneliest of Charles' life.

*

Raven shifts into his form and says, in the stuffiest imaginable version of his voice, "I think you just don't want to see me naked."

"Oh, were you naked?" Charles says, grinning. "I hadn't noticed."

He really hadn't; she's never not naked when blue, for the next forty years. He's long since got used to it.

"Ahhhh, my virgin eyes!" Raven!Charles screeches, covering her face with her hands and staggering around.

Things get steadily more ridiculous from there, which is an improvement over the past forty years, where she has shifted into his form no more than four or five times that he knows of, in order to impersonate him for some shifty plot or other; and where he has read her mind only three times when he felt it absolutely necessary; and where they are far closer to feeling like enemies than he and Erik ever have been.

He does not read her mind now.

*

Charles is still chuckling over it all when he gets back to their room - his and Erik's, and he's not sure when he started thinking of Erik as more than a visitor here, with so very much still up in the air.

"Come here," Erik says in a low voice from the bed.

"Now Erik, really, we have a big day tomorrow, don't you think we ought to get some rest?" Charles says; but he goes to him anyway, knowing that if Erik weren't initiating it he would most likely be.

It's more than a bit desperate on both their parts, and Charles wonders just how thirty-two-year-old Erik got through this night the first time around, when he spent it alone; wonders, for that matter, how thirty-year-old Charles got through it.

He can't decide if it's better now, knowing what's to come, planning against it; or if it was better then, not knowing.

At least this time he has a chance to change it.

In fact, Charles has an actual plan of how to make things go right tomorrow; it's a good, solid, simple plan, and he can't think why it wouldn't work, though he's awake half the night going over it in his mind making sure he can't see any holes in it.

*

And if his plan goes wrong, if everything spirals out of control again, if things go bad - well.

There'll still be Moira, and the gun.

 

 

seven

The plan is very simple: he'll simply reach out telepathically to keep the men on the ships from firing the missiles to begin with. Then with the trouble averted, he'll bring Erik home and have all the time in the world to figure out what to do next.

Nothing to it.

He honestly can't think of any way it can go wrong.

*

When Charles wakes up that morning, Erik is already dressed, sitting up against the headboard with his legs crossed out in front of him, waiting.

"One more for the road?" Charles offers, unable to help himself upon seeing the way Erik's eyes soften when he looks down on him.

"Later," Erik says, and it sounds like a promise - and a very nice one, but more premature than he can possibly realize.

"...Please?" he manages, since he obviously can't say 'but I might not be able to later - not like this.'

Erik laughs, and they have one more for the road.

*

Charles doesn't remember much of the original ride down to the airbase other than having to talk Sean out of having a screaming panic attack, so it's a surprise to him this time when Moira is the last to arrive, ten minutes after everyone else.

In explanation, she says, frowning, "I couldn't find my service pistol."

"What a shame," Erik says.

Moira ignores him. "Thankfully, I happen to have my backup with me," she says, and places her hands on her hips as she surveys the children with a severe expression. "I hope none of you took it. It is not a toy."

When no one confesses - and Charles, who can feel a guilty teenage conscience from thirty miles away, feels nothing of the sort, so he supposes Moira really must have misplaced it - she climbs into the driver's seat while the rest of them clamber into the back, and they're off.

"She's obviously too stupid to do us any good. What kind of incompetent loses a gun? Let's leave her at the base when we go," Erik hisses once they're settled, sounding much more incensed about it than seems necessary.

That suggestion is obviously not an option, and neither is it fair to Moira, so Charles says, "Moira is the most capable person I know. Of course she's coming with us."

Erik stares at him. "...Whatever you say. I'm sure you'd know better than I would."

Charles is quite certain they didn't have this exchange in the previous 1962, and when he thinks of how he hugged Moira on their return to the CIA compound, he thinks he knows why.

Tell me you're not jealous, he projects at Erik, since they obviously can't have this sort of conversation out loud and it seems a good idea to test drive whether or not he can communicate mind-to-mind with Erik without picking up stray 'I love you Chaaarles' sort of thoughts that might distract him in the middle of the action later on. That was a problem, the last time.

He's pleased to find that it shouldn't be one, this time; forty years of finessing things will come in handy that way. There's a definite sense of Erik's mental presence, speaking into his mind like this, but nothing specific leaks out.

"...Sure. Why not," Erik says.

Well, you don't need to be, Charles thinks, sending him a wave of warm reassurance on top of it. I like you.

"Try to remember that," Erik says, which seems an odd statement.

Before Charles can give it any more thought than that, Sean says, "We're all going to die," and Charles moves around Alex and Armando to help Sean put his head between his knees so that they won't all get burst eardrums, wind up in an accident and really die.

*

Everything after that goes smoothly, with little difference Charles can detect. The events of the day lead to this: Erik's newly-sought-out presence snuffing out between one moment and the next inside the submarine, leaving Charles to think Be safe be safe be safe, on and on for a few terrible minutes.

And he knows, he knows how this will go, that this is not the true danger, but it's still enough to make him want to weep with relief when Erik's presence, vague and undefined as it may be, erupts into his head again.

"Whatever you're doing, keep doing it, it's starting to work."

And while Erik is thus distracted, Charles takes a deep breath, knowing what he has to do; because he can't take chances, not here, not now, not with so many lives in the balance.

He forms up a suggestion, a small one, the text of which reads 'no need to put that ridiculous thing on your head,' and lobs it off into Erik's mind, not needing to go deeply or follow it in to make sure it sticks since Erik has not yet learned the most basic of blocking techniques, never mind the repertoire he'll sport decades from now.

That done, he waits, and the moment he can feel Shaw's mind he seizes him, holds him in stasis.

Back in 1962, when Charles was thirty for the first time, this alone took him to his limits; this time around, he brings the length and breadth of forty additional years to the table. Holding Shaw takes no more than a fragment of his attention; and seeing no reason why he should live this man's death again, he turns his attention next to switching off the parts of Shaw's mind responsible for feeling pain.

And with that done, he finds himself peering into Shaw's mind, out of morbid curiosity perhaps, and what he sees there makes him recoil.

He, of course, knows everything Shaw did to Erik; has known it since before dragging Erik out of the sea, so many years ago. But remembering it from forty years ago through Erik's eyes is not the same as seeing it now, new and fresh through Shaw's eyes; seeing that despite what he said to justify it to Erik and perhaps to himself, he enjoyed it, all of it, every moment.

This man - this man is vile.

Charles feels the adder uncoil at the back of his own mind; senses it glide up to the forefront, scaring off all thoughts of compassion or empathy as it comes.

Inside the mind of every human being, every mutant, every living creature, there is an 'off' switch. Charles regards Shaw's now, with a sort of cold dispassion that does not frighten him, although he knows from somewhere very far away that it should.

He reaches out to it now, taps it once, flirting with it; taps it again, venom pooling; it would be so easy.

No.

This is not the plan.

The adder withdraws, and in the moment before the coin pierces Shaw's skin, Charles returns to him the ability to feel pain, and shields his own mind off from it.

He holds Shaw in the vise, holds him tight for Erik.

*

Charles is in so deep, far too deep in Shaw's mind, so much more so than he was back in 1962 when it was all he could do to hold the man still, never mind go flipping through his memories; but even still, he doesn't realize the trouble he's in until the moment of Shaw's death, when his own mind snaps back into his skull and careens back and forth wildly within the confines of his head, rattling about so that he can't think to pull himself together.

It doesn't hurt, precisely; but he's stunned for several minutes at the least, and when he comes to with Moira shaking him by the shoulder shouting his name into his ear, it's with nothing less than panic that he erupts out of the ruined jet to see -

A clear sky, thank God; and Erik, standing there gazing out at the ships on the water, helmet held under his arm, and Charles feels a rush of relief at that as well.

"Charles! So good of you to join us," Erik says in a bizarrely conversational sort of tone.

He turns around and, looking Charles straight in the eye, lifts the helmet up and places it on his head.

Charles could swear he winks, and that can't be right, but there's no time to think about it through wondering how he could possibly have flubbed such a simple thing.

Erik then says, sounding almost bored, "They're about to fire. If you were wondering."

In that moment Charles forgets everything else in the world outside of stopping what's about to happen, and turns every bit of his attention to the men on the ships, sifting through them to find the pertinent ones, slamming into each of those with not a mental suggestion but a command that they are not, under any circumstances, to fire those missiles.

All the men he goes through will have migraines for days; but there's no time to be gentle, no time, no time.

*

No time.

Charles manages to stop about half of them; but half of massive overkill is still overkill, and even one missile fired is one missile too many.

He watches in horror as the missiles streak towards them.

Erik raises his hand.

"Erik, no," Charles says, as the missiles rotate in the air with an almost lazy sort of menace.

He can remember all of the other things he said, here before forty years ago; can feel the taste of them on his tongue even after all these years. They replay in his head, on and on - 'we're the better men, there are thousands of men on those ships, good honest innocent men, they're just following orders' - but he does not repeat them now.

Charles realized decades ago that there was nothing he could have possibly said to Erik, in these moments, to make Erik choose to change his path; that Erik decided on the road of turnabout as fair play before Charles spoke the first word against it (and it was hardly the first time, hardly the last, and isn't that why Charles is here?).

"Why ever not?" Erik says, sounding curious; but the missiles continue to turn, so slowly, almost taunting.

It's at this point that Charles realizes he can't move; that he's being held at his shoulders, his breastbone, his waist, by all the metal he knows and has known is on these suits, that he didn't even think about before this moment.

"You won't be needing that, my dear," Erik says, not to Charles, and out of the corner of his eye Charles sees something small and L-shaped flying through the air, and when he turns his head to look closer he sees that it's the gun somersaulting into the surf.

The missiles, all turned towards the sea now, begin to move forward slowly, so slowly.

"Well?" Erik says, with a wild, almost manic expression on his face. "Don't you have anything you want to say to me?"

I am so sorry, Charles projects to the men on the ships, old friends met so briefly long ago, now met again only to be failed.

As if from very far away he hears himself, begging, "No, no, no, no, no - Erik, no, please no, Erik -"

He goes on in a similar vein, he doesn't know for how long, and eventually comes to a halt when breathing becomes an urgent necessity.

"Is that the best you can do?" Erik sounds almost disappointed.

He gives Charles a long, searching look; his eyes harden.

"For the record," he says, "they started it. And they'd deserve it. But -" and here his face twists in such pain as Charles has never seen, and can't begin to parse, "- fortunately, for them - I don't feel like taking their blood on my hands today."

Erik flicks his wrist, and the missiles fall into the sea, every one.

*

What the bloody fuck just happened?

Charles has no idea, but he'll take it.

He keeps his mind focused on the men on the ships, feeling certain that if the other half of the missiles are fired there will be no reprieve.

From far away he notes that he can move again, that Erik is bargaining with Azazel, that they are going home, going now.

*

As soon as they're back to the house, Erik disappears off somewhere while Charles gets Azazel, Riptide and Angel settled in, once he's convinced them that yes, of course they're welcome here for however long they wish to stay.

At some point when speaking to the children, making certain they're all alright, he sees in Alex's mind the words 'cover me,' sees the plan he and Armando were seconds away from putting into action when Erik dropped the missiles; and he is so grateful that neither Erik nor they were hurt.

*

All at once he's conscious of the smell of sea salt, and of the sand, gritty and coarse in his hair and his boots and everywhere. As much as he needs to track down Erik, suddenly he can't bear the remainders of Cuba clinging to his skin, so he heads to his room for a shower.

Once he's cleaned and dressed, the visceral panic subsides a bit, enough for him to start thinking about Erik, about why.

Charles isn't fool enough to think that his cock is a cure-all for the reactive sort of judgment Erik is so prone to; the original plan involved buttering Erik up and then talking him into becoming a more moderate version of himself. But of course they never have talked about it ever since Charles has been here.

All he can come up with as an explanation is that he has unconsciously been meddling around in Erik's mind in his sleep; or perhaps Erik has developed a brain tumor related to the same.

Or maybe - and he only comes up with this one due to decades of hearing about the wretched things the children watch on television - he's been sent back not only in time, but to an alternate universe altogether, one where Erik is less...well, less Erik.

Charles is just trying to decide which of the three is most likely (he has just about discarded the brain tumor one, not for any logical reason except that he can't bear to consider it too closely), when his bedroom window unlatches and flings open by itself.

Erik climbs inside, closes the window, then sits down on the window ledge. He's still wearing the helmet, but the flight suit is gone, replaced by his customary turtleneck.

"Worked it out yet?" he asks.

"...What?" Charles says.

"...Well then," Erik says. "We need to talk. Come sit." He pats the window ledge beside him.

Charles says, more curtly than he means to, "I'll stand, thanks."

He's fairly certain he never plans on sitting again.

Erik's mouth twitches. "Stand, then; we still need to talk."

Charles is certain he's right; but he can't begin to think of what he should say.

"You first," Erik prods. Then, a minute later when Charles is still racking his brain for something, anything, to say and wishing that he'd read Erik's mind any of the times he had a chance, Erik sighs and says, "Damnit, Charles, you're supposed to say something along the lines of 'I'm not who you think I am,' so I can tell you that's interesting, I thought you were a condescending, arrogant, stupid, blind, idiotic -"

And while Erik is speaking all this, Charles is barely listening, because as Erik gets to 'Charles' he takes the helmet off his head and sets it down, and Charles discovers that Erik's mind is not open to him as he's been assuming this whole time, that Erik is shielded very properly; that, while Charles can break in through his shields, he very likely can't manage it without hurting him.

"- bald paraplegic pain in my ass," Erik finishes.

"...Oh," Charles says, and staggers over a few feet to steady himself against a bedpost.

*

In November 1985, Charles is on the phone with Moira upon returning home from being kidnapped for the thirty-first time.

"Are you sure you're alright? You sound a little strained."

"I'm fine," Charles assures her. "It's only Erik; he'd never hurt me."

Moira does not respond with the obvious, long since made aware of her part in things.

Instead she says, as she has many times before, "You know you have a Magneto-shaped blind spot in your rear-view mirror, right?"

"Now that's just silly," Charles says. "It's only that I know him so well. He'd really never -"

"No, I don't think that's it. I've thought about it, and I've figured out exactly what's going on, why you let him get away with so much that no one else ever could, why you turn a blind eye to just about every horrible thing he does."

"...What are you getting at?"

"You love him," Moira says.

"I don't - that's just ridiculous, really now," Charles says with a startled laugh.

"You're in love with him."

"I am not in - Moira, you kill me," Charles says.

He laughs himself sick, then puts the whole conversation out of his mind until 1962.

*

And now, he finds himself thinking that he should be appalled, or horrified, or at the very least completely humiliated.

But instead, he feels a knot loosening inside his chest that he didn't even know was there until this moment; and some of what goes through his mind is 'not alone, not alone, I'm not alone,' but the greater bulk of it is something brilliant and warm, and if he's forced to put a label on it then the most fitting word would be 'joy.'

"You're my Erik," he says.

"All yours. Bravo," Erik says, dryly, and offers him up a one-man ovation.

Charles deflates just a bit.

 

eight

Charles perches on the bed, toes curling in the carpet.

"How are you - how did you get here?" he manages once Erik has finished up his applause.

Erik says, simply, "I have no idea." And then, before Charles can respond by saying 'really, Erik, how can you not know how you got to 1962,' Erik waves a hand to hold him off, and says, in a tone of voice that is terrifyingly conversational for the subject matter, "You know, I woke up - this was the first morning, after - and I thought, 'what have I done?' And every morning after that first one was the same, for nearly - three months, for me; the same for you?"

"Three months, less two days," Charles confirms, barely whispering it, remembering the smell of rot and the crackling of fires, and the maddening plane of quiet inside his head in those days.

"For nearly three months," Erik continues. "And then one night, I thought I heard you call out my name in my dreams - not that that's unusual, I'm sure you're aware, but this was different - and when I woke up I was here, and you were -" and what he says next is said with a sort of disbelieving wonder "- and people, everywhere." He glances down at his hands, grimaces, then keeps on. "And then you - you're telling me to fuck you, and I knew, from right then, knew it had to be you. You never offered me that the first time."

"Oh, Erik," Charles breathes, realizing that there are tears on his cheeks, though Erik's eyes remain dry.

"I'm not finished," Erik says, and takes in a deep, rasping breath and then says, softly, "It's fading now - but sometimes, when I look at my hands, I see crusted blood under my nails. Other times, I smell it, so thick in the air I can taste the iron at the back of my throat."

He holds both of his hands out in front of him, palm-down for Charles' perusal; but they seem normal enough.

"I don't know what you did," he concludes, "and it doesn't matter. I don't know that I can ever thank you enough."

Then he stops talking, closes his eyes, and Charles finds himself searching for words through the ache in his chest.

But what, really, can he possibly answer any of that with?

"Erik," Charles says after a few minutes. He comes to his feet and crosses the room in three quick strides; and standing before Erik now, takes his hands and says, as earnestly as he's ever said anything in his life, "Erik...you don't know how much I've missed you; how happy I am to see you."

Erik opens his eyes, and the bleakness in them is banished now, replaced by a familiar smugness. "I know all about it. I wasn't certain you'd admit it."

"...What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well," Erik says, and though he's not actually laughing right at the moment it's clear he wants to quite badly, "you dress up for me, for one thing. Whenever you expect me to come calling, you wear your red silk pajamas to bed; and whenever you don't expect me, you wear that flannel nightgown...thing...with the tea spill stains and the holes, that you never wash."

"One must be presentable when going out," Charles protests.

Erik snorts. "In red silk? Really, Charles, you couldn't wash the other one?"

Charles can't think of anything to say to that that isn't either an admission or a very weak denial, so instead he focuses on stroking Erik‘s knuckles with his thumbs, hoping it will be sufficiently distracting to get them off the subject of his sleepwear, thank you oh so very much.

"Not to mention," Erik says, "that whenever you're shit-faced you ask after sucking my cock."

"...Oh surely not."

Erik smirks. "Once recently, so it doesn't count; and there was that time in 1978, and that other time in 1981, and that one time in -”

Charles would prefer to return to the subject of sleepwear now.

*

In November of 1978, kidnapping is evidently tiring business, for Erik has passed out in the arm chair of their hotel room far too early in the evening, leaving Charles to his own devices.

Thankfully, Erik has brought along a great deal of wine, and Charles sets about making good use of...all of it.

When he runs out, he rolls up to Erik and starts shaking him by the knee, meaning to tell him to go get some more wine; but what actually comes out of his mouth when Erik looks at him blearily is, "I think I want - I think I want to suck your cock."

Erik goes positively cross-eyed with lust for about three seconds, before taking in the army of empty bottles poking out of the wastebasket, whereupon his face goes dark.

He removes Charles' hand from his knee gingerly, then hisses, "Suck your own fucking cock," and stomps into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him.

He emerges some ten minutes later looking rather flushed in the face, and sets up a chess board on the table, careful to remain well out of arms' reach.

They proceed to play the sort of game that happens when Charles is impaired, which involves Erik capturing every one of his pieces, then chasing his king about the board until he catches on.

The next afternoon, Charles wakes up in his own bed with a an awful hangover, just terrible; he really must stop overindulging. Thankfully, someone has been so considerate as to leave a bedpan - which he promptly winds up using - on his bedside table, along with a bottle of aspirin and a glass of water.

An hour later, when the aspirin is taking some minimal effect, he opens his mind up to the rest of the house. This results in the most nauseating two minutes of his life before he can recall how to turn it back off, as he experiences not only his own consequences but those of twenty-six teenagers, none of whom expected him home for another several days at least.

If this house is not spotless by dinnertime, I'm expelling every last one of you, Charles threatens.

He is constantly offering to expel this one or that one for this offense or that offense; it's universally known among his students that he doesn‘t mean it. But he‘s serious now, at least while he says it.

When he finally braves the hallways that evening he wouldn't know there was a wild party the night before if he weren't a telepath.

Erik kidnaps him in March, May, and August of 1979, each time forgetting to bring any drinks, hinting around more than he usually does anymore, seeming more and more irate each time for whatever Erik-esque reason he might have. Charles doesn’t look to find out why, on the grounds that when Erik seems frustrated about something his thoughts are generally lewd in nature.

*

And now, Charles takes his hands from Erik’s, brushes his fingertips lightly against Erik’s knees, up between his thighs; and he slides in between them, presses up to Erik for a kiss.

Erik sobs into Charles’ mouth, as he hasn’t since that first night; and to Charles’ astonishment, he hears himself answering it with a high sort of whining sound that is most embarrassing.

They’ve been here any number of times, these past weeks; but something about this is different, forty years’ frustration and forty years’ pole-barging down the Nile now acknowledged, out open in the atmosphere.

“Bed, now?” Charles suggests when they come up for air.

Erik looks at him blankly, then says, almost casually, “...Here works.”

“My God,” Charles says, understanding something now. “You get off on doing it in my room, that’s why you can - Erik, you’ve kidnapped me fifty-three times from here, doesn’t that seem a tad bit wrong to you? I mean, really.”

Borrowed,” Erik corrects. “I’ve borrowed you fifty-three times.”

“Oh, is that the euphemism we’re using now? How lovely to know,” Charles grumbles.

Erik leans towards him, barely brushing his lips against Charles’ ear, breath coming harsh and shallow and warm into it. “I’ve always wanted to fuck you up against this window.”

...That actually is appealing, now that he says it like that, and Charles shudders.

“Or you could fuck me, if you wanted,” Erik offers, clenching Charles between his thighs . “Or both.”

“...Here works for me too,” Charles says.

*

Some time later, they have long since made it over to the bed, and Charles has to ask, “Why didn’t you say something before now? Things could have gone so wrong today; it would have been safer to be on the same page -”

Erik huffs at the nape of his neck. “I couldn’t have my gift horse looking me in my mouth too soon, now could I? I needed the time to seduce you properly.”

“You’d managed that by the second week,” Charles admits, only because it sounds better than ‘by the third day.’

“Well, then I wanted to see how long it would take you to catch on,” Erik says, shaking with laughter; Charles has the feeling he will never live this down.

*

“So, what do we do now?” Charles asks a little later, knowing they have to talk about it sometime soon, not any more excited over the prospect than Erik was to discuss politics before now.

“Let’s kill Stryker,” Erik answers immediately.

“Erik, he’s a child.”

“...How old?”

“Fourteen.”

“...I suppose it can wait a few years,” Erik allows, grudgingly.

There follows a discussion - really a bit of one-sided lecture - on how assassinations do far more harm than good to their cause.

Erik listens, makes a few noises of agreement, and Charles would feel wonderful about that except that long before he’s done talking, Erik starts to snore.

*

“What if things go bad again?” Charles asks later that same night, thinking of Weapon X and the mutant registration act and every other thing that Erik has ever held up as rationalizations. “What will we do?”

What he really means, of course, is ‘what will you do?’

“...That depends. For starters, how did we get here?”

“Well, Hank -” Charles begins, but apparently that’s all Erik needs to hear.

“Then,” Erik says, kissing Charles’ shoulder, “if things go bad, we’ll come back, and try again.”

Charles thinks this over, then says, “I think you might be brilliant.”

“Well, one of us has to be.”

 

epilogue

Charles wakes up one Tuesday morning in 1987 to find that Erik’s side of the bed is empty, his helmet gone from the window ledge.

There’s a stack of memos on his pillow, all stamped TOP SECRET; and there’s a note paper-clipped to the topmost memo. It reads:

 


Dearest Charles,

Off handling this. Home by Sunday. Don’t try to stop me.

Love,
Erik

P.S. Don’t worry, it’ll look like an accident.


“...Don’t worry,” Charles mutters, and starts paging through the memos to see what Erik’s on about this time.

These aren’t from Moira, clearly; she knows better than to hand Erik anything that Charles hasn’t already seen and approved for Erik’s eyes.

Probably from Platt, then; that man calls them up like clockwork twice a year, threatening to retire, whereupon Erik always invites him to make a visit (“You must see the modifications we’ve made to Cerebro/what I did to the Danger Room when Charles wasn’t looking/this new kid we’ve got who can shoot plasma beams out his eyes, unexciting to me personally but he’s new to you!”); and by the time Platt leaves he’s willing to stay on as Erik’s inside man for another half a year.

Erik seems to very much enjoy this little game; for Charles’ part, he wishes Platt would retire already. It would save headaches.

Charles reads over all the memos, some of them twice, a cold feeling pressing harder against his stomach the further on he goes.

They’re couched in code, of course; but knowing what he does, there is no doubt in Charles’ mind.

William Stryker is requisitioning funds to build the Weapon X facility.

Charles sets the memos aside, and thinks.

He thinks first, as ever, of rallying the troops.

Then he thinks of what that man has not yet done to his own son.

He thinks of the soldiers that man has not yet sent to raid his home, to seize his children.

And he thinks of what that man has not yet tried to do to all mutants, everywhere, planning it all so carefully, for years; and he thinks of what Erik did out of reactive anger and so, so much fear for their people.

Charles very deliberately folds up Erik’s note, places it in his wallet, then puts the memos through the shredder one by one.

On his way down to breakfast, he hears an explosion from across the house and picks up the next fire extinguisher he comes across; and a good thing too, as the fire alarm is blaring by the time he reaches the scene.

“Not to worry,” he says in the chipper-est tone he possesses, to a so very young Ororo who is still frightened unto death of herself. “It could happen to anyone, really. You have such a glorious gift; it’s merely a matter of harnessing it.”

She doesn’t believe him, not yet; but she will.

*

When Erik returns on Saturday evening, Charles says, “I don’t want to know so don’t tell me, and don’t take this as approval because it’s not.”

“Of course it‘s not,” Erik says dryly. “That’s why you tried so hard to stop me.”

Erik kisses him then, long and deep, and that’s the end of the discussion, as it were.


fin