Chapter 1: Popcorn Balls
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.
Chapter 2: Orpheus
Charles/Erik - It's raining outside. Erik is determined to take his run anyway, until he looks back.
Erik isn't normally one for lingering in bed, but a storm's been raging outside of the house all night and when he lifts the covers to slip downstairs for his customary six am jog, Charles' chilly fingers close around his wrist.
"Don't go," he mumbles, half asleep still, eyes closed. He shivers and tugs at Erik's wrist.
"The world doesn't stop for a bit of rain," Erik says, but he eyes the outside dubiously. There's a chill in the air, and he's not precisely looking forward to jogging in the rain, though that's never stopped him before.
"Doesn't stop because you miss a run, either," Charles replies. The children will sleep well into the morning, with weather like this. Can't we do the same, for once?
Erik hesitates and, much like Orpheus, makes the fatal mistake of looking back. Charles is curled on his side under the covers, his cheeks and nose pink from the chill of the air in the bedroom. His hair is a tangled mess and there's a bruise standing out, bright against his pale skin, beneath his ear where the skin is soft and sensitive and Erik can't resist nipping. His mouth is curled into a frown and, suddenly, morning run be damned, Erik wants nothing more than to kiss that mouth until the frown disappears and Charles is smiling at him, sleepy and pliant and warm.
"You are incredibly irritating," Erik says, not without affection, giving in and burrowing back under the covers, pulling Charles up against his chest. Charles wraps his arms around Erik, pressing his cold nose against Erik's collarbone. "And lazy."
"Mm, I know," Charles says. "Yet, you love me despite those flaws." Charles opens his eyes, then, and looks up at Erik with a smile that's just too terribly fond to be called a smirk. And, though the tiny, pouting frown is gone, Erik can't help but kiss him anyway as he settles back into bed and pulls the blankets tight around them to block out the storm.
Chapter 3: Vegas, Baby
Modern, still-powered AU - Charles/Erik, Moira - Charles gets carsick. Erik's solution might not help the motion sickness, but it's more fun.
Somewhere between Boulder and Vegas, Charles gets spectacularly carsick.
"I warned you," Moira tells him, looking over her shoulder at him, head between his knees. "I told you that if you rode in the back, you'd get carsick. I know you, Xavier."
"Moira, please stop talking," Charles moans, and Moira just shakes her head and meets Erik's eyes in the rear view mirror, raising her eyebrows.
Erik's not positive--he's not the telepath after all--but he's pretty sure that Charles' choice to sit in the back seat despite a propensity for motion sickness might have something to do with him. He sees the way Charles looks at him and he's certainly noticed the way Charles slides easily into his personal space, as if he doesn't even realize how close he's standing. Erik can't complain--he's been doing quite a bit of looking on his own and he can't say he minds it when Charles leans over his shoulder to peer at the map or touches his hand to get his attention when he wants Erik's opinion. The timing hasn't been quite right, though. They've only known each other a semester and it's been a busy one. Erik was hoping this road trip might finally push them over the edge. Charles was clearly thinking so as well.
Charles moans pitifully and Moira sighs.
"Can you pull over?" Erik asks, which just makes her sigh again, but she does as requested, slowing the ancient station wagon to a stop at the side of the road. There are no other cars in sight and no real signs of civilization, either, as Erik pushes open the door, letting even more of the oppressive heat leech into the interior.
Charles stays where he is, head against the window, eyes screwed shut, while Erik works to rearrange their various luggage until there's enough room for Charles to spread out across the back seat. It's not light work, especially not with the sun beating down on his back, and before long, Erik decides his sweaty t-shirt has seen enough and peels it off, leaving it among their suitcases in the trunk.
Charles looks up at that, eyes wide. Erik never claimed to be a saint.
He solidifies that fact when he slides back into the car and pats his thigh. Charles first goes white and then pink, but he gingerly rests his head on Erik's leg without comment. Moira rolls her eyes so hard Erik can nearly feel it, but she doesn't say anything, merely turning up the radio and steering the car back into the road.
Somewhere in the rhythm of the road and the blur of telephone poles, Erik falls asleep. When he opens his eyes again, the sun is noticeably lower and he's shifted in his seat. He's twisted around Charles, whose head is now resting against his chest. Every breath makes the muscles in Erik's stomach jump and he finally stops trying to resist Charles' blue, blue eyes and soft, inviting mouth.
He intends the kiss to be brief, fleeting, something he can shrug off as comfort, but as their lips touch, Charles' eyes flutter shut and he makes a soft, needy noise that lights every one of Erik's nerves on fire. It kick starts the kiss into something more, something with sharp teeth and a mental wave of want that makes Erik shudder as one of Charles' arms wrap around his neck and--
The car stops short and they both pitch forward hard, hitting the seats in front of them. When Erik manages to untangle himself enough to look up, Moira is glaring at both of them over the back of the front seat.
"I didn't volunteer to drive so you two could have sex in the back seat," she says. "Keep it in your pants until we get to the hotel, where you'll be getting a separate room tonight, believe me."
She gives them just enough time to get back into their seats, Charles once again resting his head on Erik's thigh and closing his eyes, before she slams back on the gas, the sound of screeching tires echoing in their wake as they speed on towards Las Vegas.
Chapter 4: Automaton
No divorce, everybody lives AU - Alex/Darwin, implied Charles/Erik - Alex and Darwin make a discovery while cleaning out a room in the mansion.
For this picture prompt.
"What is it?" Alex asks when the dust settles. Darwin doesn't seem to have an answer, squinting at the bizarre artifact of Xaviers past and walking around it slowly.
"We should ask the professor," Darwin finally says. Alex bunches up the dust cloth and pitches it over to the pile in the corner, then takes a step closer to Darwin to inspect their discovery. There's something spooky about the odd statue, headless and unclothed and frozen in the middle of--something.
"I wouldn't have pegged the professor as the type of guy who keeps statues of mostly naked ladies around," Alex says. Darwin raises his eyebrows and Alex says quickly, "Hey, I'm not judging." He knocks his shoulder against Darwin's. "Obviously."
Darwin runs his fingers gently over the intricate buttons and knobs. Darwin's graceful like that, careful. Alex wouldn't dare try it himself; even before his power manifested, he could barely walk through a room without leaving a path of destruction in his wake. He wonders, sometimes, how their powers relate to who they are. Raven is as enigmatic as her ability. Sean's loud even when he's not using his sonic screech. The professor is unassuming but intense, just like his telepathy. And Darwin....
Alex watches Darwin inspect the statue. Darwin is as multifaceted on the inside as he can make himself be on the outside. He's a brother to Raven and Angel, an interested ear when Hank needs one, an assistant, of sorts, to the professor, and to Alex--
Alex isn't sure what he needs, but he knows that Darwin is it, so he supposes he fits the pattern as well.
"I think--" Darwin says, and then there's a snap and a cranking sound and the shriek of metal against metal and just when Alex thinks, Shit, we broke it, the professor's gonna be upset, the mechanical limbs start moving and the shrieking whines into something that's almost...music.
"I knew it!" he says, and it's almost grotesque, the way the limbs stutter and move, the music halting and haunting. The bits sticking out of the figure's head are moving too and it's like some horror movie parody of a musical recital but...it's also kind of pretty. In a really weird way.
"Pretty in a weird way" seems to sum up most of what happens in the professor's house.
Alex stands close to Darwin, their arms touching every time he breathes in. He thinks there's some sort of metaphor in Darwin finding music in something Alex thought was weird junk, but the hell if he can put it together. He'd rather just stand back and watch and breathe and maybe smile, just a little bit.
Chapter 5: Longing
Charles/Erik - Wanting someone is like a sort of exquisite torture that Charles has never really experienced before.
Written for the prompt "write about longing."
Wanting someone is like a sort of exquisite torture that Charles has never really experienced before.
He thinks he likes it.
There have been others, of course, that he's wanted to be with, but never anyone he's wanted in this way, no one who's left his synapses nearly vibrating with the need to be close, no one who has left him fantasizing about a simple touch, curling his hand around a shoulder, the back of a neck.
He wonders how people go around like this all the time, these feelings twisting inside of them, pleading to be let out even if it's a truly terrible idea. He wonders how he manages to do it, clinging to the most inane, superficial gestures, smiling for hours after Erik brushes a hair from his shoulder or leans in close to murmur an observation in his ear.
The words are on the tip of his tongue every minute. In his mind, he's twisted a million words around, testing out different ways to say it, different things to do, wondering whether it's even important that Erik knows when Charles gets to have him like this, every day, next to him in a car, a diner, a hotel, a club. Wondering if it's even important to let him know that Charles spends hours thinking about the color of his eyes and the way he lays his hands on the steering wheel. Charles is mostly content to just be, to share his space and his jokes and his smiles, knowing full well that there's no competition for Erik's affection, that their world, right now, consists of each other and a long list of coordinates and seemingly endless weeks cris-crossing the country.
They'll go back to Virginia eventually, of course, and things will change. There will be others around, there will be things to do, and Erik will once again be tied up in his quest for revenge. It will hurt, then. Charles isn't foolish enough to doubt that. And it will hurt less if now, in this moment, he says something, does something so he can know definitively, so he can chase this feeling back to Virginia, keep it with him and close, make it better if Erik gives him one of those private smiles and admits that he wants as much as Charles does.
But there's always the chance that he doesn't. It's possible that Charles is nothing more than a silly child to Erik, nothing more than an ally, a friend, a partner in this new mission. And for all that it's fun to wrap himself up in this feeling of almost, this dance on the knife-edge of his attraction and longing, he's not ready to be shot down. He's not ready for the hurt that's sure to come when Erik laughs and brushes him off.
So he clings to the wanting and the fission of desire, clings to the way his stomach knots up and his hand aches to touch. He holds onto the longing for as long as he can have it, content to let it be what it is for as long as he can manage.
Chapter 6: Current Objective
Moira, gen - Moira doesn't regret firing her gun.
Written for the prompt "this is what we know."
Moira has trained for this.
Moira has trained for everything, actually. Moira's had trainings that "weren't recommended for someone in her... position" (a woman) that she did on her own, time and time again, until she got it right. Moira's ready every book on strategy, Moira's mind is as sharp as any male agent's, as anyone's period. She might not have a PhD, but she knows she can observe and assess a situation better and more quickly than Charles Xavier, perhaps even more quickly than Erik Lehnsherr, whose eyes are too focused on revenge to see the bigger picture.
Moira has trained for this, so in a split second, she catalogues what she knows:
Sebastian Shaw is dead.
Shaw's followers have been more-or-less neutralized.
Erik Lehnsherr has put on Shaw's helmet, making him immune to Charles Xavier's abilities.
The Russian and American navies have fired hundreds of missiles at the beach.
The CIA is not going to call them off or offer any assistance.
Lehnsherr has the missiles under his control.
Xavier does not have Lehnsherr under his control.
Lehnsherr is sending the missiles back at the boats.
A blink of an eye and this information is flying through Moira's brain, twisting through her synapses. A blink of an eye and she's already worked out the best solution. A blink of an eye and Moira's got her weapon drawn as she stalks across the beach to eliminate the threat.
She knows Erik. She's grown to like him, even, in their time together. He's not as friendly and open and positive as Charles, but he's refreshingly honest and smart and even funny, when the mood strikes. He's taken down some of the most vile men in the world all on his own, and she respects that.
But right now? Erik Lehnsherr is a threat to the fragile peace of the world and keeping that peace is her current objective.
She fires her gun.
She doesn't regret it.
Chapter 7: Green Line to Lechmere
Modern AU, Raven/Angel with background Charles/Erik - Raven hates public transit.
It's the luggage that does it.
If it was just Raven stuck in an unfamiliar city with her purse and her wits, trekking up and down the stairs and switching platforms and figuring out what line on what colored train goes where wouldn't be such a big deal. It would be a petty annoyance that she'd open with when she finally got to Charles' apartment.
"Jesus," she'd say. "How can you stand to live in a city that can't even label it's public transit clearly? Are route directions in some kind of secret code?"
And he'd say, "I've missed you too, Raven," and maybe, "Why thank you for congratulating me on my engagement, Raven," until she rolled her eyes and hugged him and told him how much she missed him.
But no, she's got two giant bags and making her way up and down the same staircases multiple times is a battle and a struggle and her arms hurt and she's lost and why did she bring so much stuff? God, she doesn't want to walk even another step, but she still has no idea where she's going. Her eyes are hot and damp, but she is not going to cry in the bowels of Boston because she can't figure out where she and her purse and her two heavy suitcases are going. She is absolutely not going to do that. She's not going to sit on the floor and despair, either, no matter how appealing that suddenly feels.
"I feel like you need help," a girl says behind her, and Raven blinks through the wetness in her eyes, quickly wipes them on the back of her hand, and turns around with her best Xavier Smile in place.
The girl is Latina and dressed in a black puffy ski coat. She has long dark hair that's falling in her face in a casual, attractive way. A really attractive way. Raven is suddenly keenly aware that her eyes are probably red and her cheeks are hot and blotchy.
"I could," Raven allows. "Um, I'm lost. I'm trying--my stupid brother--I'm not from here. I'm from New York, where our trains are easy to understand and 'uptown' and 'downtown' always mean the same thing and my asshole brother didn't even give me clear directions, just asked me to come and when I said sure just--springs on me that he's engaged to this guy who I haven't even met and is probably, like, a serial killer or something or just after Charles for his money and I can't figure out which of these trains to take and they all say they're ending different places even though this way seems like it has a clear end of the line and doesn't branch off and--"
The girl laughs and Raven thinks that maybe she has more frustration stored up than she previously thought.
"I'm sorry," she says, and the girl just shakes her head.
"It's fine," the girl says. "The T sucks, everyone knows it. Where are you trying to go?"
"Um," Raven glances at the printed out directions again, even though she has them memorized. "Lechmere," she says.
"You're in luck," the girl says. "I'm headed that way, too. My name's Angel, by the way."
"Raven," Raven says, and offers her hand to shake.
Angel has nice hands.
"I'm sorry about that rant," Raven says. "I just...."
"I get it," Angel says. "That's how I get in New York. And I have two older brothers, so I know how that goes, too."
Raven is about to ask if any of her brothers ever decided to marry strangers without telling her, strangers who can't even smile for pictures, when the familiar rumbling of an approaching train starts up.
"This is us," Angel says, raising her voice over the din. She grabs the handle of one of Raven's suitcases, and before Raven can tell her it's fine, she's got it, she grabs Raven's hand with her free hand. The words die on Raven's lips, and she lets her goofy, grateful smile speak for itself.
Chapter 8: Waiting for the Cavalry
Erik + Moira gen (with implied Erik/Charles) - Erik and Moira have a small mishap on the road.
Takes place post-No Yesterdays on the Road.
The rain has tapered off into a light mist which is almost more annoying, given the thick fog that comes with it. At least rain falls where it falls and that's the end of it. This mist is penetrating everything. Even Moira's shirt feels damp, buried as it is under her jacket and scarf. She glances at her watch. It will be another hour at least until Charles and the children arrive to pick them up.
"I can feel you blaming me from over here," Erik says. He flips the collar of his jacket up against the damp, for all the good it does, and glares at her.
"I'm not blaming anyone," Moira says, but she is, a little. Erik's the one who lost control of the car, but he's also the one who yanked her out of it by her watch and her belt buckle before she could be crushed like the rest of it. How someone with control over metal and magnetic fields can lose control of a car continues to elude her.
"By the time I realized what was happening, I could either risk trying to change its course or pull you out," Erik continues anyway. "Believe me, I'm beginning to wish I made the other choice."
"I haven't said a single word since you finished your..." They need to come up with some telepathy terminology. "Conversation" just feels wrong since no one was actually talking. For the moment, though, she settles for a vague gesture. "With Charles," she finishes.
"You've been thinking it," Erik says.
"You're not the telepath, Lehnsherr," Moira replies.
Erik makes a face and leans back against the log, then sits up abruptly. "There's--" he starts to say, and then gets to his feet and disappears down the grassy slope towards the ditch that holds the remains of their car.
"Erik?" she asks. He doesn't respond. "Is something--where are you going? What's--" By the time she gets to her feet, he's already heading back up the incline. He's holding a large, slightly shabby looking blanket and a metal thermos.
"I forgot," he says. "Charles made us tea before we left."
Moira rolls her eyes. "Of course he did," she says. They share a look of mutual Charles exasperation, their previous argument temporarily forgotten. "I bet he would have made us cookies, too, if he'd had enough advance notice."
"A whole picnic lunch," Erik agrees, which is progress. Erik is very protective of Charles' authority in front of the kids and sometimes, when he's pissed enough at her, that bleeds over into their interactions as well. If he's willing to mock Charles, he's not really angry that she's (hardly at all, only a little bit) blaming him for the accident. More likely, he's embarrassed that it happened in the first place and anxious in the aftermath of just barely pulling both of them from the vehicle before it rolled over.
He sits back down, leaning against the log again, and throws the blanket around her shoulders.
"Don't take this as any sort of advance," Erik says dryly. "I'm merely attempting to conserve body heat until our rescue arrives." He then inches over until they're shoulder to shoulder and pulls the blanket more closely around both of them.
It's not awful. Erik's taller than her and warm, even through her coat. She hasn't had a boyfriend in years, not since her disastrous attempt to date in her first few months at the CIA to prove that she was "over" Joe's death, but this, having a friend is almost better. At least she doesn't have to worry that Erik's only using this as an excuse to cop a feel.
Still, despite the genuine affection she'll begrudgingly admit she feels for Erik, the sarcastic banter is the basis of the odd sort of friendship that they have, so she says, "If you tell anyone about this...."
"I was about to say the same," Erik says. "It will be our secret."
"Until your telepath boyfriend pulls it out of your brain and spends a week praising us loudly and publicly for our refreshing overtures of friendship." She says the last bit in a fair impression of Charles' accent and Erik snorts.
"I have ways of keeping him from talking," Erik says.
"More information than I needed to know, Lehnsherr," she says, but she doesn't pull away when he puts an arm around her shoulders, settling in to wait for the cavalry.
Chapter 9: Eight Blocks
Modern, Zombocalypse AU, Charles/Erik-ish - The only way to get around the chaos in midtown is to take to the tunnels.
"You're crazy," Charles says. His voice wobbles more than he'd like and the way he literally digs his heels into the chipped concrete would be comical if he wasn't so terrified. "Erik, we can't. It's suicide."
"It's the fastest way around the pile up," Erik says. "You want to get to your sister, don't you?"
Charles curls his fingers around Erik's wrist, nails biting into his skin nearly hard enough to bleed. He's cautious of that, though, careful. There's a possibility that blood attracts the creatures, and just a trickle would have them swarmed. He can't bear to think of that happening to Erik, even though it's likely to happen anyway if they try to get past the destruction in midtown using the tunnels.
"Erik," he pleads again and he can make Erik stop, but he swore he wouldn't and with the world quickly falling into chaos, he finds himself clinging to his personal morality almost violently. The world may be lawless, but that doesn't mean he can't have his own personal laws.
Erik stops walking, stops pulling Charles along after him, and turns around abruptly. He takes Charles by the shoulders hard enough to bruise.
"Do you want to find your sister?" he asks. His eyes are sharp and cool and focused, but Charles can still feel the fear and despair rolling off of him. And yes, Charles does want to find his sister, needs to make sure that Raven is okay, needs to assure himself that she hasn't been harmed. Because while the x-gene seems to leave mutants immune to the disease that's morphing humanity into these creatures, that doesn't mean they can't be torn apart, gutted, feasted upon. He's seen it, and though he can take it away from Erik if he wishes (he doesn't) the way he took it away from Sean and Hank, he'll never be able to unsee it himself.
"People who go into the tunnels don't come out," Charles whispers. Because that's how it started. Of course it is, in New York City with so many people stuck underground where it's hot and slow and crowded, of course someone snapped on the subway. The tunnels had been full of the creatures long before they started venturing above ground.
"Humans, you mean," Erik says. "We're better than that. It's eight blocks.We'll walk quickly and quietly. You can track them--remotely." Charles winces. He's been inside the mind of a creature only once. He was unconscious for eight hours, after, left with no memory and a sharp pain when he tries to access the missing time. He's not about to argue with his brain's own defense mechanisms. "We're in a tunnel made of metal. I can protect us. I wouldn't let anything harm you." As if he'd have a choice. "Charles, we're wasting time."
They are. So much precious time. The rumors Charles has been able to pick up from reading city officials point to all access points to Manhattan and the outer boroughs being closed off within forty-eight hours. The rush of creatures coming up from the sewers in Times Square is likely to advance that timeline. They need to get Raven and Alex and Armando and get out of the city as soon as they can manage, meet Sean and Hank and Moira at the house in Westchester. They don't have time to dawdle.
Charles glances once more at the daylight streaming down from the stairs up to the street and swallows down the last of his fear, holds it tight in his stomach where it won't stop him from taking Erik's hand and nodding and following him, closely, quietly, desperately, into the dark.
Chapter 10: Riding Lessons
Moira + Erik(/Charles) - There's a motorbike in one of the Xavier garages and the person offering lessons is not the person you'd think.
There's a motorcycle in one of the Xavier garages.
"It was my stepbrother's," Charles says when he sees Erik looking at it with raised eyebrows. "Although, I honestly don't think he ever rode it. I think he just enjoyed being able to tell people he owned it." That really raises more questions than it answers, first and foremost being that Charles has a stepbrother, but before Erik can voice them, Charles says, "You can take it out, if you'd like. Might as well get some use out of it."
Erik hums noncommittally and continues to follow Charles through his impromptu tour of the grounds.
He finds himself back in that garage later, giving the bike a long once over. It's dusty but not rusty and, as far as Erik can tell from following the internal mechanisms, it still runs. He approaches it slowly and lays two fingers on the closest handlebar.
"Do you ride?"
Erik has spent seventeen years steeling his body and mind to be ready for anything. That's really the sole reason why he doesn't jump five feet in the air at Moira's question.
He turns around, crossing his arms.
"Excuse me?" he asks.
"Do you ride?" she repeats. "The motorcycle, I mean. It seems like something you would do."
"Something I would do," Erik repeats flatly.
"Yeah," Moira says. "You know, leather jacket, sunglasses, killing people with your bare bands, riding a motorcycle."
Erik fights back a smirk.
"No," he says. Then, because he's trying to be better about being civil to Moira, he adds, "I've wanted to learn, but never had the time. I can't imagine it's difficult."
"Well," Moira says, "if you ever have an afternoon free, I can teach you."
Moira is wearing a conservative purple dress, a grey cardigan, and heels. Erik blinks a few times, trying to imagine her on the seat of a motorcycle and...no. It's still not working.
"Oh, come on," she says. "I work for the CIA. Sometimes I have to sneak into strip clubs in my underwear and sometimes I have to chase spies across Venice on a motorbike." She shrugs. "You're right--it's not hard. It's all about balance. I can--"
Charles pokes his head into the garage, grinning his usual benign grin.
"Hey, Charles," Moira says. "Erik was just offering to teach me how to ride the motorcycle." She smiles at him, innocuous and charming, the way she has of making people forget that she's a competent CIA agent. Erik shouldn't have been fooled by the dress and the pearls for a second.
"Wonderful!" Charles says, clapping his hands together. "I'm so glad to see the two of you getting along. I was just coming by to see if Erik wanted a game of chess before dinner."
"Sure," Erik says. "I'll finish up here and see you in about fifteen minutes?"
"Brilliant," Charles says, and the benign grin is replaced by something softer and sweeter. "I'll see you then."
He leaves, hands shoved in his pockets, and Moira is smirking when Erik turns his attention back to her.
"Thank you, Moira," she says, "for earning me points with my boyfriend."
"Yes, well," Erik says.
"Bet you anything he asks you to teach him," she says. "So we'd better start those lessons as soon as possible."
"I would almost think you were looking forward to it," Erik mutters.
"Looking forward to make you superbly uncomfortable?" Moira asks. "I can't imagine why."
Chapter 11: Trust
AU - Charles/Erik - Something's chasing Charles and Erik, and Erik knows more than he's saying.
Written for this picture prompt.
"And you're sure your friend will help us?" Erik asks. He doesn't sound uncertain--Charles doesn't think Erik's ever been uncertain of anything in his life--but he does sound...skeptical. And perhaps concerned. Charles is aware of what this looks like, the two of them creeping silently across the foggy streets, the way that passersby glance at them and then hurry away.
"Yes," Charles says. He doesn't add that if Phillip won't help them, he's not above forcing the issue. He's changed the minds of people he's like far more than Phillip with little to no guilt. He has no compunctions about taking advantage if it means they can find out why this man is following them and what he wants.
Charles leads the way, projecting as much confidence as he can muster. He's halfway across the alley when Erik's fingers close around his elbow and redirect him to a gloomy corner. Erik crowds him against the wall, damp and cold, and holds his gaze.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Charles?" Erik asks. "You may not like the answers you receive."
Charles thinks back to their meeting on a train just a week ago, to Erik's haunted, quiet confession--I think there's someone--whatever it is that's following us, I think I may be to blame--to the way Erik is always so quick to step between Charles and danger, to the feeling of Erik's lips brushing his own, gently, reverently.
"I trust you," Charles says.
Erik keeps staring at him.
"Do you really?" he asks.
Charles very slowly and very deliberately tangles his fingers with Erik's own, not breaking their eye contact.
"I do," Charles says.
Erik holds Charles' gaze for another endless minute.
"Fine," he says. "Let's go."
He doesn't let go of Charles' hand until they reach Phillip's front door. It's all the reassurance Charles needs to know he's made the right choice.
Chapter 12: The Other Side
Charles, gen, AU-ish? - Someone needs to confront the presence on the other side of the woods and Charles is the only one left.
Based on this picture prompt.
There's no other way.
The trees are blackened and embers are still sputtering out on the ground. Smoke's obscuring the air and filling Charles' lungs, but the way he came in has already disappeared behind him. The only way to go is forward, even though the ash and smoke and stench are suffocating.
"You can do this," he says to himself, as if saying the words will make them more true, as if hearing them will make him believe them.
There's something on the other side. Through the orange glow that promises more flames, through the smoke obscuring the path, Charles can sense something. It's not a mind, not like any mind he's ever felt before, at least. It's a... it's a....
Whatever it is, it makes him sick if he concentrates on it for too long, makes him shudder and shake and goddammit, he can do this. Someone needs to find the children, someone needs to find Erik and he's the only one left and he can manage. He can. He's more than just an academic, more than the rumpled professor he looks like. He's capable and he's strong and every second he can feel the echo of Erik's mind far on the other side of the smoke is a second too long.
"I can do this," Charles says out loud again. "I can--Erik, I'm coming." He can't speak to Erik in his mind and he knows that saying the words here, alone, with nothing behind him and who knows what in front of him means nothing, but he needs the words. He needs the certainty. "I promise, I'm coming," he says, "please just... hold on. Please hold on."
Three deep, measured breaths and he takes his first step into the charred husk of the woods.
Chapter 13: Bad Hair Day
Charles/Erik, Raven - Modern AU - Written as a response to this photo and the caption "Charles is never going to let Raven cut his hair again" for pearl_o.
“Just keep the hat on and he won’t even notice,” Raven says.
“Oh, yes,” Charles says. “I’m going to keep the hat on while we’re fucking. That won’t be suspicious at all.” He sighs and automatically moves to run his hands through his hair, halting abruptly and rubbing at the wool of the hat instead. “Why did I think this was a good idea?”
“It’s very chic,” Raven insists. Charles just stares at her. “Look, he’ll be too enamored by your stupid face and your stupid earnest speech to even notice your stupid hat,” she tries instead, which is a slightly more successful tactic in that he drops his hands and shakes his head, retreating back to his room.
“Nice hat,” is the first thing Erik says when he see Charles later that night. The second thing he does is tug off the hat. The third thing he does is choke on a snort of laughter.
“Happy Anniversary to you, too,” Charles mutters, and unceremoniously drops the box with the engagement ring onto the table.
Chapter 14: Three-Piece Suit
Charles/Erik - during the mutant recruiting road trip - Erik hardly seems aware of how attractive he is. The same can't be said for Charles.
Dumping a bunch of ficlets for my end of year word count. This is from November, I think.
Charles is well aware of his looks. He's not a film star, by any means, but he knows he has a certain quality about him that people find attractive. "Attractive" is, in fact, the word people use in their heads. "Cute" is another. He's not exactly vain, but it's hard to resist harmlessly picking through people's brains when you know they're thinking charitable thoughts about you, so he also knows that it's some combination of his hair and his eyes and his coloring, the roundness of his cheeks, the ease of his smile, all of which work together to make him look younger than his twenty-four years. "Adorable," would be another word that gets tossed about.
Charles doesn't mind it. He had a friend at university who would scowl when women called him "cute," claimed he wasn't trying to be cute, that he was handsome and good-looking and Charles never understood it. Desirable was desirable, at the end of the day, wasn't it? If it ended with someone kissing you, touching you, following you to bed, it was all the same.
He knows differently, now. Because while he acknowledges that he's no less attractive, there's the pretty sort of charm that Charles gives off and then there's--
He's not sure he can put words to Erik. He's sharp and stark and that should be scary or off-putting, but it's really the opposite. Something about Erik makes everyone's pulse jump. He's sexy in an effortless way, and the fact that he doesn't care or try just enhances it.
It's not just Charles, though he doubts anyone felt it with quite the same intensity, feeling Erik's mind, jumping in to rescue him without second thought, the lightheadedness of the lack of oxygen mingling with the lightheadedness of wrapping his arms around Erik's body, feeling it under his hands, the way he pulled Erik from the water and then saw his face and, like a slap, wanted nothing more than to kiss the saltwater from his lips. But though no one else may have stumbled upon their attraction so tumultuously, Charles is hardly the only one to be wrapped up in it. Every where they go, people stop to look at Erik. Women and more courageous, if subtle, men approach him in hotel bars. People on the street look twice and sometimes raise an appreciative eyebrow.
And, as if it wasn't bad enough before, Erik has just put on an impeccably tailored three-piece suit that's left Charles desperately needing a drink before they even find the mutant they're looking for.
"Is something wrong, Charles?" Erik asks, looking carelessly over his shoulder, and Charles shakes his head. Because, against all probability, Erik seems to have very little idea exactly how devastatingly handsome he is. Oh, he's aware that he's attractive, distantly, and isn't surprised when he gets propositioned, but it doesn't resonate with him. He doesn't acknowledge the overall effect, or even seem to care much at all.
He certainly doesn't seem to notice that Charles is possibly going out of his not-unsubstantial mind every time Erik strips off his shirt or smiles in that particular way. Or, apparently, puts on a very fine suit.
"I'm fine," Charles says, forcing a smile. "Fine. Fine. Just fine. Shall we get going?"
Erik adjusts his tie. Charles trips over his shoes.
They have a meeting with the oldest mutant they've come across so far. As close as Charles can tell, his mutation, amplified hearing, has little to do with Mr. Leon's success as a lawyer, but it's hard to be sure. They spend all morning waiting for him to get out of a meeting, only to eventually be told he's gone to lunch.
"He'll be back soon," his secretary assures them. "And then he'll see you, I promise."
She closes the door, leaving them in the empty conference room they've been relegated to, and Charles sighs.
Erik raises his eyebrows. He's sitting on the edge of the table, feet crossed at the ankle, arms folded across his chest. The things Charles wants to do to him on that table, Christ.
"Why, Charles," he says. "And here I thought you were the patient one between us. Will another half an hour really be your undoing?"
"There's a lot on my mind this morning, my friend," Charles says as mildly as possible.
"Care to share it?" Erik says. "A burden shared is a burden halved. Or so the saying goes. I've never been one for spilling secrets, myself."
"It's not something I'd like to share, particularly," Charles says. He's pacing around the front of the conference room, doing a very good job of not looking at Erik.
"Oh really," Erik says. "And what sort of thing does the man who knows everyone's secret like to keep secret himself?"
And Charles could have ignored the taunt, he really could have, but then Erik followed it up by adjusting his tie and damnation but he needs to kiss Erik before his head explodes.
So he does.
He crosses the room in three quick steps, takes Erik's face in his hands, and kisses him like he's wanted to for weeks. He holds him steady and puts all of himself into it, nearly climbing onto his lap and ignoring the fact that Erik seems too shocked to participate much. That's fine. Charles can kiss with enough fervor for the both of them.
He can't help but notice that Erik doesn't push him away.
When he does pull back, breathless and weak-kneed, Erik looks at him critically.
"Really, Charles," he says. "Why didn't you say?"
"You are infuriating," Charles responds, and when he moves in for another kiss, Erik meets him halfway.
They miss their meeting with Mr. Leon.
"Who needs super hearing, anyway?" Erik asks sleepily from the hotel bed, and Charles can't help but agree.
Chapter 15: Sunset
Modern, non-powered AU - Charles(/Erik), Moira - Charles is six hundred miles away from where he was at this time last week and he's still not sure if he's six hundred miles closer to his goal or six hundred miles further away.
It's only four-thirty but the sun is already setting over the strip mall across the street from the hotel. Moira's getting ice and hitting up the vending machines and Charles is sitting on the balcony, smoking a cigarette, shivering violently, and wondering if he's doing the right thing. He's six hundred miles from where he was at this time last week, as he watched Erik get on a plane and pretended his world wasn't shifting violently. He's not yet sure if he's six hundred miles closer or six hundred miles further away. The enthusiasm and conviction have worn away as the odometer climbed higher and he's left with niggling doubts and fear for his future.
"Penny for 'em," Moira says. Charles, curled against the railing of the balcony, looks up at her in the muted light of the sunset. He hadn't even heard the door open.
"Spring semester last year, he gave me this--it was stupid," Charles says. Moira doesn't say anything, but she pulls one of the chairs from the ancient, rusty patio set closer and holds her hand out for Charles' cigarettes. "He gave me this stopwatch. It was stupid--a little digital thing they sold for two bucks in the bookstore. But it could be set as a timer and he said I clearly needed something to remind me to take breaks. I hadn't eaten in...well, it had been awhile and he was concerned and he handed it to me and then handed me a sandwich. Four years of undergrad and two years into my PhD program and no one has ever--people joke, all the time, about how I'll get into it, study through the night, forget to eat. Raven. You. Hank, even. But it was the first time anyone ever thought to...take care of me, I guess."
He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the stopwatch. It's scratched and well-used and still keeps perfect time. He tosses it to Moira, who catches it easily and turns it over in her hand.
"Am I losing my mind, Moira?" he asks her. Because Moira's the kind of friend who will tell him very frankly when he's out of his depth and she's been oddly quiet since they left Boston. She takes a long drag on her cigarette and leans back.
"I think if you didn't do this, you'd regret it," she says. "And regardless of what I think of Erik, I know you're different when you're with him. You're better. You both are. And it's only natural to want to chase that. I don't know whether he'll say yes, but I think it's worth it to try."
Charles nods and turns back to the sunset as he finished his cigarette. He can't suppress a shiver, but he doesn't think it's from the cold.
Chapter 16: Home for the Holidays
Modern, non-powered AU - Charles and Raven - Raven won't let a hangover deter Charles from tradition.
Based on this photoset on Tumblr.
“It’s tradition!” Raven says for the sixteenth time, as if Charles will smile and say, ‘Yes, you’re right, of course, what was I thinking, this is a brilliant idea!’ if she says it enough.
“I have a dissertation to write,” Charles says instead.
“You mean you have a hangover to nurse,” Raven says.
“Well, nursing the hangover is an important part of actually getting work done today,” Charles says. Raven ignores him.
There’s Christmas music blaring through speakers that Charles can’t see as they crunch over the loose gravel and remnants of snow. A bored looking man at the front booth hands Raven a saw and points them towards the Douglas Firs. Raven takes off, skipping down the path and singing along to the music with the ridiculous Tom Baker scarf she stole from Hank trailing after her. Charles shakes his head, but though he aims for disdain, it’s a fond smile that peeks through as he trudges after her.
Though his head is pounding and his eyes are gritty, Charles can feel himself falling prey to the holiday spirit all around them. Charles does genuinely like Christmas. He likes their Christmas, at least, the Christmas they forged for themselves before Raven even started school. They found their own tree, usually somewhere on the property, and set it up in their playroom, decorating it themselves. They went caroling together. They watched movies together. And, on Christmas morning, when they could hear Charles’ mother and Raven’s father started drunkenly screaming at each other before the clock even chimed noon, they huddled together upstairs and exchanged presents, telling elaborate stories of the Christmas miracle that would get them out of the house once and for all.
Christmas means time with Raven. It means sharing secrets and stories and spending time together, even now that they’re both nearly adults with busy social schedules (Raven) and academic obligations (Charles). It means that even though Charles still feels like he fell asleep in a dumpster (it’s possible he did, actually), he jogs down the path to catch up with Raven and slips his arm through hers, joining her in the last chorus of “Jingle Bells” as they wander through the trees.
Chapter 17: Distraction
No-divorce AU - Charles/Erik - Charles can prove very distracting when he wants to be.
Based on this photo.
“Stop trying to tempt me,” Erik mutters. He’s not even looking up from his tests. Because he’s not tempted. And he doesn’t even want to know what Charles is doing. Really.
“I’m not doing anything of the sort,” Charles says, and Erik glances up to check the time and because he thought he heard the little ones scampering around again not at all because of anything Charles was possibly doing, and finds himself staring at miles and miles of pale skin, at the obscene column of Charles’ throat, at the tease of his collar bones and the swell of his adam’s apple and—
“You’re impossible,” he growls and he’s across the study in seconds, straddling Charles’ lap and sinking his teeth just there, leaving his mark on that expanse of pale white skin and it’s Charles’ fault, entirely, and that’s what he’ll tell the students tomorrow when he doesn’t have their tests graded. “Entirely your fault,” he says against Charles’ neck, damn from his breath and his tongue.
Chapter 18: Family Dinner
Modern, non-powered AU - Raven/Angel, Charles/Erik - Angel may have made a mistake in accepting the invitation to Raven's brother's engagement dinner. At least the fiance is good company while Raven and her brother argue.
The sequel to this short ficlet about how Raven and Angel meet.
The whole dinner situation is weird to say the least and fucked up if she's being frank, so right around the time that Raven and her brother seem to be having some kind of psychic battle over the dinner rolls, Angel excuses herself, ostensibly to take a call, but mostly to smoke as many cigarettes as humanly possible before someone notices she's missing.
It's chilly and slushy on the streets of Cambridge, but the cold air is almost a relief after the stifling interior of Charles' apartment. She's not sure if it was actually hot enough to make her sweat or if she only imagined it thanks to the combination of angry looks and awkward silences. Still, even the frigid breeze feels nice as she fumbles for her lighter and pulls out a pack of cigarettes from her pocket. Behind her, she hears the whine of the door swinging open again. Seconds later, Erik joins her in leaning against the side of the building.
"Those are terrible for your health," Erik says. "It's really in your best interest that I confiscate them."
Angel digs the pack back out of her pocket.
"You can't just ask to bum one?" she asks skeptically, digging inside the crumpled pack to find another cigarette.
"No," he says, "because I think I'll need at least a dozen."
Angel snorts. "I hear you, man," she says, and tosses him her lighter. "You're really going to marry that guy? I mean, don't get me wrong, he's cute, but there's gotta be a better way to get a visa."
"Probably," he says. "But, at the end of the day, it's the most efficient and it makes the most sense."
"The most sense?" Angel asks. "How do you figure that, huh?"
Erik takes a long drag on his cigarette, then lets it dangle between his fingers as he considers his answer.
"I love him," he finally says. "I've never felt this way about someone before. And I could go back to Germany and never see him again and never know if we could have worked or I could give it a try and see what happens. If it doesn't work out, I'll know and I'll still have my job and my life. I won't wonder."
Angel nods. It's funny, how when Erik says it, it sounds reasonable and logical and when Raven says it, it sounds like her brother turned a corner somewhere.
"I can respect that," she says. "That's how I ended up in Boston. Sort of. Mine didn't work out, but I hope yours does. Even if I can't imagine willingly marrying into that." She jerks her shoulder back towards the apartment. She's not sure if she can actually hear Raven and Charles shouting at each other still or if she's just imagining it.
Erik raises an eyebrow. "I've known Charles for two months," he says. "I knew what I was getting into. You're the one who willing agreed to be party to a family dinner with a group of complete strangers.
Angel winks. "What can I say? I like a pretty girl and I like a challenge. Both of them together? I couldn't resist." She pauses and then admits, "I didn't think it would get this...explosive."
"Nor did I," Erik says. "All I've heard about for weeks is 'Raven this' and 'Raven that.' I thought there would be a great deal more tearful reunion involved, to be honest."
"Oh, there were tears all right," Angel murmurs and Erik laughs.
"The hell of it is," Erik says, "I didn't even know he had money until this week. I mean, obviously, you see the way they are. I knew he came from wealth. But I had no idea he was that Xavier. I suppose I'm used to socialites who throw money away."
"I think she'll mellow," Angel says. "Sometimes a girl has to be a little overprotective of her brother for his own good."
"I wouldn't know," Erik says. "I don't have any siblings."
They both turn towards the source of the voice. Angel wonders how they missed the creaking of the door, desperate as it is to be oiled, but there's Raven, hands on her hips, looking only slightly less mutinous than she had during dinner.
"Where's Charles?" Erik asks, because he's maybe a little braver than Angel realized, even after he admitted he actually wanted to marry Charles.
"Upstairs," Raven says, still looking like an angry goddess. "Cleaning up."
Erik drops his cigarette to the pavement and grinds it out with his heel.
"I'd better go make sure he doesn't hurt himself doing something so unfamiliar."
Something like a smile flickers across Raven's face very briefly and, yeah, Angel's pretty sure that by the next family holiday, Erik and Raven will be ganging up on Charles like old friends. For now, Erik gives Raven a wide berth as he heads back inside, and once the door squeals shut behind him, Raven sighs and leans against the wall he just vacated.
"Smoke?" Angel asks, and Raven accepts eagerly. She stands closer than Erik did, and Angel lights the cigarette herself, her fingers absently brushing Raven's cheek as she does so.
"I just don't get it," Raven says, letting out her first lungful of smoke on a sigh. "After seeing what Kurt did his mother, I don't understand how Charles could just agree to marry some stranger. I mean, sure, he says for the visa, but I know my brother. He's head over fucking heels for this guy who's just gonna take his money and break his heart and abandon him."
Angel tips her head back and stares into the sky contemplatively. Across the street, the door to one of the other buildings opens, a sea of rambunctious college students spilling out onto the sidewalk, shouting and laughing at each other. Angel watches them as she takes another drag.
"Imagine for a minute," she finally says, "that this isn't why you were coming here. Your brother and Erik met a long time ago and everyone knew they'd be getting married one day and you're here to celebrate their engagement. But you've still never taken the T and you still needed my help to get here."
Raven turns on her side, propped up against the building by her shoulder, her eyes dilated in the dark and from the rush of nicotine, but focused on Angel intensely.
"Okay," she says.
"And you still invite me up and dinner is nice and you're in town for a week and we go out a few times," Angel continues. "And, the day you're set to leave we have coffee and I look a little down, so you say, 'Hey, New York's not that far, we can still see each other sometimes.' And I say, 'No, it's not that--I'm here on a student visa and it's up at the end of the semester and I really don't want to leave my house and my friends and my job, but I've been through all my other options and there's no way out at this point, unless I can rope some chick into marrying me.'"
Raven sucks on her lip and breathes out noisily through her nose. The cigarette dangles from her fingers, forgotten. Angel drops the butt of her own cigarette and crushes the burning tip, before turning to face Raven.
"I'm just saying, sometimes you meet someone and you just...feel something. And the choices are to let it go and always wonder or take a chance and see what happens. From what you said, your step-father is a fucking dick who'd been eyeing your mom before your dad's body was cold. Erik seems like a genuinely okay guy in a bad spot who doesn't want to lose his fellowship or his place or his life or your brother."
Angel plucks the cigarette from Raven's fingers and breathes deeply around it. The end is chilly and tastes like strawberry lip gloss.
"I'm just saying," she says again, "if it was you...what would you do?"
Raven stares at Angel for a moment and then leans forward, capturing her mouth in a kiss. Her lips are soft and slick and taste like artificial strawberries and her fingers resting on Angel's hip startle her into dropping the cigarette in favor of tangling their fingers together.
The air between them is warm and moist and Angel doesn't want to pull away.
A cab speeds down the street, breaking the spell, and Raven jerks back, but only enough to smile wryly. Angel reaches out to tuck Raven's hair behind her ear and lets her fingers linger there.
"He's still kind of an asshole," Raven finally says.
"Yeah," Angel agrees, "but does your brother deserve any less?"
Raven shakes her head, but she's smiling as they climb the steps back to Charles' apartment. Smiling and still holding Angel's hand. She waves to her brother tentatively when she pushes open the door and nods at Erik even more tentatively, but there's a spark of warmth there, and Angel knows then that she was right--Raven and Erik will be thick as thieves by Christmas.
And, maybe if she plays her cards right, she'll even be there to see it in person.
Chapter 19: Truce
Charles and Erik, five years after the beach.
Written for writingchatthingy and the prompt "a fragile connection."
It's been an hour and neither of them have moved. They've barely spoken, really, and the ticking of the old grandfather clock feels loud enough to make the walls shake. Erik is pointedly not looking at the wheelchair, nor anywhere near it, which gives Charles the advantage of being able to study him without being studied in return. The past five years have not been kind to Erik--he's sharper and looks exhausted, edgy, anxious. Charles knows he's lost his own boyish charm, but he'd like to think he's more settled than Erik, that he's aged without quite so many worry lines.
There are dozens of things he wants to say, but he made himself promise that if this day ever came, if Erik ever sat down across from him again, he would allow Erik to make the first move. Too often in his life has he been the one extending the olive branch, brushing it all under the carpet. How many excuses did he make for his mother, his father, Kurt, his school friends?
Charles is powerful and arrogant and single-minded. He knows these things. But he also knows he can be a doormat when it comes to the people he cares about. He cared--cares, still--about Erik more than anyone else he's ever met, and for that reason, he can't let himself give in this time.
The clock chimes the hour and Charles picks at a stray string from the blanket on his lap. He hears Erik shifting in his own chair, the creak of old leather and wood, the shuffling of Erik's feet against the carpet.
The thunk of something metal and round on the floor, almost drowned out by the sudden flurry of mental activity in the room.
He looks at Erik, eyes wide, and just barely restrains himself from reaching out, wrapping himself in Erik's mind, weaving in and out of the familiar tumult of his thoughts. This truce, if it is one, is fragile. Charles can't squash it all at once by being impulsive, even if his brain is telling him that Erik, Erik who's been as good as dead for the past five years, is right there, right there right in front of him--
"I don't play chess much, any more," Erik says. "No time. No worthy opponents."
Charles clears his throat, suspiciously wet all of a sudden.
"We have time," he says, voice quiet but also quite firm. "We have plenty of time."
Chapter 20: To the Happy Couple
Alex/Darwin (Charles/Erik, Raven/Hank) - Modern AU, no powers - Charles and Erik's wedding day is the start of a new life for more than one couple.
Written for writingchatthingy and the prompt "write about a toast." Theoretically it's from the crazy Alex/Darwin AU I keep promising myself I'm not actually writing.
Almost everyone's drunk before the actual toasts start, the guests gathering around the tables behind the mansion. Alex has had a few himself, leaning against the low stone wall out back while everyone waited for paperwork to be signed and photos to be taken. He can tell Raven's plastered from the way she's plastered up against Hank, and he can tell Hank's also been drinking by the way he allows it without blushing. The only people whose intoxication he questions are Charles and Erik--it's entirely fucking possible that they're just that happy, no alcohol involved.
Raven stands on her chair and clears her throat, gathering their attention. She raises her glass in the air.
"My brother," she says, "is the biggest fucking nerd you will never meet." There's general laughter, because that's true--he's a bigger nerd than Hank, even, though he's able to hide it better behind his personality and social life. "And when he told me that he'd met this 'fascinatingly rude man' at the coffee shop across from campus, this man who argued with him for an hour over some science crap that I could hardly follow, I knew it had to be love."
The speech goes on from there, long and winding, but funny and chock full of ridiculous stories from their youth. Charles blushes a lot and argues with her loudly and holds Erik's hand the entire time, and Alex can't help but smile as he shakes his head.
"Something funny?" Darwin asks right against his ear, and Alex's smile grows and stretches and goes sort of soft and wiggly. It's a little bit embarrassing, but he kind of likes it, too.
"Nah," he says. Then, "Yeah. I don't know. A year ago I thought Raven and Charles were stuck-up assholes. Six months ago I thought I never see any of you again. And now I live here." He looks at Darwin with that soft, wiggly smile. "Now you live here."
"Well," Darwin says, "I wouldn't get too excited. It's just for a year. Then Charles and Erik'll be back in the states and Edie will be with them and I'd think they'll want to reclaim their space. Besides, we don't want to share a house with newlyweds. They already can't keep their hands to themselves as it is, you know?"
Alex doesn't, but he doesn't say anything, either, because he trusts Darwin and he trusts this is leading somewhere awesome.
"I just think, you know, a year of house-sitting and we might want to think about getting a place of our own."
And there it is. The awesome thing. Because--yeah, living at the mansion is pretty cool and he's sure Charles and Erik wouldn't kick them out, but it's still Charles' house. But a place of their own? A place that belongs to Alex, but not just Alex--Alex-and-Darwin as a single entity?
"I think that sounds awesome," Alex says.
Raven asks them to raise their glasses to the happy couple and Alex is glad she doesn't specify which one, because he can't take his eyes off Darwin and he doesn't know that he ever wants to again.
Chapter 21: Wishing
Charles, Raven gen - The first time Charles actually gets his wish.
Written for the writingchatthingy prompt "write about the first time you got your wish."
When Charles was a very small child, he wished for a pet.
He wished long and hard and begged and pleaded with his parents, but they dismissed him, put it off, gave excuses, and he continued to be on his own.
When Charles moved to America, he wished for his father to come back and his headaches to stop.
His father wasn't coming back, though, and he knew that. He knew he could cry and beg and pray all he wanted, but his father was dead and that meant forever and he would never see him again. And the headaches--so many doctors, none of whom knew what to do, all of whom dismissed him outright. Grief, they said.
The grief dulled. The headaches got worse.
When Charles was older, stronger, more in control, when the headaches stopped and he finally understood why he had them, understood far too much now that he could see everything, much more than a boy of eight should be seeing, when Charles was finally coming into his own, he wished, desperately, that he wasn't alone.
He wished it every hour, quietly in his own mind, wished harder and harder for years because the big empty rooms in the big empty house in Westchester were overbearing, because the nannies didn't really care, the help couldn't be bothered, and his mother never wanted him in the first place. He wished in a constant, distant hum of want, an undercurrent to all of his thoughts. He wished, he wished, he wished.
When he finally got his wish, he held Raven's hand all night, even after she fell asleep. He told himself he'd never wish for anything else again, that he'd do all that he could to protect her and keep her and stop her from being taken from him the way his father was. He promised himself and her and the air around him, whatever was out there that made wishes come true, that he wouldn't take her for granted. He promised that he'd never let her go.
(It's one of a great many promises that he'll go on to break, of course, but in that moment, on that night, he'd rather die, and it's that conviction that Raven will remember with exasperated fondness and tightly guarded love on the night she leaves her son with him.)
Chapter 22: Love Letters
In the moments before Charles opens the note from Erik, it could be anything.
Written for the writingchatthingy prompt "write about a letter." This is some sort of high school AU. I blame pearl_o entirely, but I blame her for roughly half my output in this fandom, so that's no surprise.
The note is shoved into Charles' locker when he gets out of tutoring. Erik has track practice for at least another thirty minutes and Charles is trying to decide if it's worth the long trudge up to the track to watch for the last few races or if he should just take his things into the woods and wait for Erik at their spot.
He turns the note over in his fingers. It's not folded elaborately the way some of the girls fold their notes, it's just in half and then in half again, with Charles' name written on the front in Erik's thin, clear hand. He almost doesn't want to open it at first--he can't fathom why--it's not going to be anything bad, probably just an update on what Erik will be up to after school. Maybe track practice was cancelled but Charles was already in the middle of tutoring Sam Whitson and Erik didn't want to interrupt. Maybe Edie had to stay late for some reason and offered them a ride. But for the moment, it could be anything. It could be a break up or it could be a love letter.
He rather hopes it's a love letter. Erik's never sent him a love letter before.
He opens it slowly. It's very short.
If you come up to the track to watch practice, don't forget your coat, okay? It's chilly and you're always complaining how cold you are.
PS: I'll leave my sweatshirt on the bleachers for you, just in case you forget. (Which you will.)
So, maybe not a love letter. Charles smiles ruefully; Erik's mostly above that nonsense anyway and it's not that Charles really cares and he knows that Erik loves him, but...well, he thinks it must be nice to have it in writing like that.
Except, well. Isn't that what this really is? A note that Erik took time out of his day to write, even though he usually has to rush to get all the way from Algebra down to the gym to change in time for practice? Erik left him a note because he was thinking of Charles, because he wanted Charles to be warm and happy, because he was worried. Not only that, but he left his sweater out so that when Charles inevitably forgets his jacket in his haste to get up to the track, he'll have something to keep him warm until Erik gets done.
Erik's thinking about him. Erik's looking out for him. Erik's doing these things because he loves him.
"What's that?" Sam Whitson asks as he wanders down the hall, buttoned up and ready to head home, most likely. "Love letter from your boyfriend?"
He smirks a little, good-naturedly. Sam's not a bad kid, even if he is pants at physics.
"Yep," Charles says, grinning, and Sam rolls his eyes. "See you tomorrow, Sam."
He forgets his jacket as he races up to the track, but that's okay--he likes wearing Erik's better anyway.
Chapter 23: a sudden rainfall
On the recruitment roadtrip, Charles and Erik get caught in a sudden thunderstorm that brings several things to light.
Written in fifteen minutes for the Writing Chat Thingy prompt, "write about a sudden rainfall."
There are things about Erik that Charles finds surprising, and that in and of itself is delightful. The night they met, Erik's panicked, desperate mind pulled Charles in so abruptly he barely had time to breathe before he was all but drowning in pain and the broken images and feelings of Erik's life story. He absorbed everything in a matter of seconds. He knows Erik Lehnsherr better than anyone else ever has. But there's a difference between seeing the structure of someone, the things that make them up, and seeing what fills them in around the bones.
That doesn't stop Charles from making assumptions, from filling in the blanks with his best guess. Charles likes knowing everything, but he should know that Erik is unpredictable.
They're half a mile from their hotel when the skies darken. They're hardly a few dozen yards further when the first crack of thunder opens the sky up and drenches them within seconds.
Charles' thought process devolves into chaos. He tries to keep his mind orderly--it's the only way to keep his sensations and thoughts and feelings separate from everyone else's. The sudden shower takes him by surprise, though. It shuffles his deck and spills it across the table and he's thinking about his wet shoes and the water dripping down his back and how far they are from the hotel and if he has anything dry to wear and what Erik is going to think and he's trying to pull all those things back into a neat, orderly pile, but he can't focus on it because there's something delightful and distracting pulling on the edge of his consciousness.
Oh, he thinks when he tugs harder and sees what it is. He turns his head. Oh.
Erik's head is tipped back to the downpour. He's grinning up at the sky. He's stopped walking, and Charles stops too, turns back to him. There's a peace on his face that's so rare that Charles has only seen it in Erik's memories. He looks...happy.
Charles pushes his wet hair out of his face.
"Erik?" he asks, squinting through the rain. Erik looks at him, still grinning, still open and bright and looking easily ten years younger.
"It's a good feeling," Erik says. "When the humidity breaks. I can feel it in my head and in my bones and all around me and in that final moment when it snaps and the rain comes--"
There's probably a fascinating correlation between the electrical energy in storms like this and Erik's control over magnetic fields, but Charles will have to think about it later because Erik is laughing and it's maybe the most beautiful sound that Charles has ever heard.
He steps closer still, squashing his instinct to run for cover from the rain and watching Erik's face. He looks so comfortable. Charles fears he'll never see Erik look this comfortable again, and that's a tragedy.
"It's a build up," Erik says. "It gets so heavy that I think I'm drowning in it."
"I think I know what you mean," Charles murmurs, but Erik hears him over the rain and the wind and the thunder and his eyes lock with Charles'. Charles swallows hard. This isn't where he meant to have this conversation.
"I had wondered if you might," Erik finally says.
The street is clear--everyone else has taken cover. The rain is coming down hard all around them, soaking them to the bone. The sound of the wind in the trees is rough and eerie. Erik's mouth is warm and tastes like rainwater.