Erik prides himself on not asking stupid questions, on cultivating a persona of cool detachment when faced with even the most perplexing of situations. He's been clinging to that fiercely in these past few days, his tenacity for seeming unaffected the only way he knows to combat the despair pooling in his stomach every time he sees Charles in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines, pale as death.
It's their first day back in the house, which seems still and silent without Charles. They've been ordered home by the doctors and nurses, and though a disapproving look from a doctor is hardly enough to keep Erik away from somewhere he wants to be, Raven and Alex and Sean had urged him back to the house, if only to shower and change and, perhaps, sleep for the first time since they'd appeared in the hospital parking lot in a puff of sulfur, Charles unconscious in his arms.
It's here at the house that he allows that stupid question to roll out from his lips, unbidden. He can't help himself. It's not every day he walks in on Raven making popcorn balls in the kitchen.
"What are you doing?" he asks before he can stop himself.
They're the first words he's spoken since Raven and Alex physically shoved him into the car and drove him back to the house. Raven startles at the noise, dropping a popcorn ball onto the floor, where it breaks apart.
"Jesus!" she swears quietly. "You scared me!"
Erik blinks at her, awaiting the answer to his question.
"I...it's Halloween," she says.
"...and?" Erik says, when it becomes clear she's not going to elaborate.
"And...well, Charles--" Her voice cracks, but she pushes through it. "Charles and I used to always make popcorn balls for the theoretical trick-or-treaters."
"Theoretical?" Erik asks.
Raven rolls her eyes and waves her arm in the air.
"You really think there are a lot of kids going willing to trudge the half-mile up the driveway to ring the bell to this place? But, you know Charles--he always held out hope." That certainly sounds like Charles, holding out hope for impossible things through impossible circumstances. Erik wishes, now, that he could bring himself to do the same. "Usually, we ended up sitting together, reading scary stories out loud and eating them ourselves. I just thought--" She stutters again and, abruptly, her eyes fill with tears. "I just thought he'd want me to be prepared. Just in case."
"He would," Erik allows. The words scrape against his throat, suddenly sore and raw and thick with something painful. "Perhaps we should bring him one today."
Raven wipes at her eyes and breathes deeply, changing almost instantly from a bereaved little sister to the take-charge young woman she's proven herself to be over the last three days. "We should," she says. "The doctors probably won't let him eat it, but I bet it will make him smile." She smiles at Erik, and something of his aching despair must slip through his indifferent mask, because she takes three strides across the room and hugs him, unbidden.
"He'll be all right," she says. "He has to be. He's Charles."
Erik hugs her back, hesitantly. He doesn't believe her, not really, but it's Halloween. For this one night, he can allow himself to slip into the persona of someone who can believe, someone who has faith, somehow who knows what hope is.