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The Deduction Of Steel

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CHAPTER ONE: The Brotherhood Tavern

 

The day went by as usual; Erik Lehnsherr was walking home from school. School was as bothersome as always. Class was tediously simple and he completed his work in record time. The other students that surrounded him were imbeciles and even at the age of 13 he knew what the word meant. It was somewhat amusing that they feared him although he had no clue why. Erik's shoes made a scraping noise as he walked on the gravel stone lane that would end up at the little cottage that he shared with his mother. It was a small cottage, but it was warm, and it was home.

The small boy couldn't help the solemn frown that adorned his face as he looked glumly at the ground. He loved his mother so much, and it killed him inside to see how vulnerable she looked now that his father was no longer here. Erik silently cursed the freak accident that took away his father’s life: because of it his mother now looked utterly lost and Erik had no clue how to fill the void.

At best, all he could do was succeed in school and be there for his mother, and if that meant dealing with idiotic school mates and inefficient teachers then so be it. His stomach rumbled. Already he could imagine himself coming home, being greeted by the delicious smell of his mother's cooking and her warm smile. Even in her grief, she still succeeded in being a wonderful mother. Her hands were still warm and the scent of her flowery perfume still held its sweet embrace. She had comforted him, placed his grief before her own and Erik loved her even more for that. He would becomesomethingin the future. and he would take care of her like she took care of him.

A cold gush of wind blew and Erik shivered, very thankful that their home came into view. The sight of it instantly comforted him. A familiar white picket fence surrounded a small cottage. A tiny garden filled with herbs and vegetables rested in front of a clean brown door.

It was evening and nearing night so the lights in the house were on. Erik opened the door and instantly the smell of hot goulash wafted through it and warmed his soul. Grinning widely, he practically ran through, slammed the door shut and headed towards the kitchen.

Only to halt dead in his tracks.

Something was wrong. His mother was in the kitchen, sitting on the wooden chairs at the tiny dinning table. Her beautiful brunette hair was disheveled and frazzled, as if she had been running her fingers through it over and over again. Her normally warm eyes were wet with tears. Those steel green orbs stood out against her now sickly and pale complexion. Her lips, which quivered every now and then, were pursed together in a tight, thin line.

There was a man standing above her, dressed in a fine suit, looking down at her as if she were less than the dirt beneath his feet. He reached his hands out towards her, his fingers riddled with jeweled rings.

Anger filled him, embraced him tightly and consumed him and before he knew it, Erik was rushing towards the man screaming, “Don't hurt my mother!” His attempt didn't go far. Instantly, he was tackled to the floor and, being the child that he was, he hit the floor. Hard.

“Erik!” cried his mother as she got up to her feet, trying to run towards him, but the man held her back with a firm hand.

Erik growled and thrashed around, trying to free himself from the stranger that was currently holding him down. His father was no longer here and that meant that he was now the man of the house and that it was his job to protect his mother no matter what. He continued to struggle, ignoring the pain in his arms which were being twisted in an attempt to subdue him. “If you hurt her I'll kill you!” The stranger that was holding Erik down had maneuvered him till he was on his feet, his arms still held painfully around his back. The boy did his best to glare at the well dressed man that stood before him. His mother was still sitting on her chair, her eyes filled with fear for him.

“My, my, my, what a rude child,” said the well dressed man. His teeth were bared in a gentlemanly grin, but his brown eyes were cold and sick, as if his soul had floated out of them and never returned. He held out his hands and fixed the collar of Erik's shirt, despite the boy's protest. “My name is Klaus Schmidt, and as a gentleman, you are to introduce yourself as well.”

Erik just growled viciously before spitting out his own name.

Schmidt grinned even wider before glancing back at Erik's mother. “Quite a fire within your boy. Easy on the eyes as well.”

Erik didn't know what it meant, but the look of absolute terror on his mothers face could only signify that was it horrifically bad. Calloused hands ran through his hair and Erik felt dirty in a way that didn't make sense.

“No!” screamed his mother. By now she was crying, tears running down her pretty face as she tugged on Schmidt's sleeve. “This was not part of the deal!” She was on her knees now, her long skirts rumpled. “You were only meant to take me!”

“No! Mother!” yelled Erik and his struggles became stronger. What was happening?!

Schmidt sighed before nodding, “It's a shame that I am a gentleman. Your son would have brought in quite a pretty penny.” He fixed the cuff of his sleeves, “Anyhow, your debt is now settled, we shall leave your son be. Come along now, Edie.”

Erik stopped struggling when his mother placed her hands on his face, smoothing down his hair and smiling ever so gently. Only this time her smile was sad, full of grief, and Erik didn't know what to do. He felt helpless and utterly useless.

“Erik. Erik, my dear. Promise me you'll be safe.” His mother touched their foreheads together and Erik could smell her perfume. His eyes watered but he refused to cry. “Mama...”

“Promise me, okay? Be a good boy, do not worry about me. I'll be all right.”

“Where are you going?” he asked in a broken voice that ended in a pitiful whimper.

“Somewhere far away,” she took her head away and stared into his eyes, and Erik could see the love underneath all that pain. “But that doesn't mean I don't love you, or that I'll ever stop loving you.” She took a hair pin out and pressed it into the pocket of his shirt. “So no matter where I am, even if you can't find me, always know that I love you okay? My dear child, my Erik, I love you, so don't ever doubt that.” She was crying now, sobbing uncontrollably and it seemed to physically hurt her when she broke away from him. Then with one last look of anguish, his mother ran out the door, leaving him behind.

“Mama! No! MOTHER!” screamed out Erik. In his franticness he managed to free himself, but only slightly. Now he was being held by his jacket, his arms outreached as if he could grab her, hold onto her and never let go. “MOTHER!”

There was an angry grunt followed by a searing pain to his neck and then the world went black. When Erik woke up all that was left of his mother was her hair pin and a strange coin that had fallen under the table.

He was alone.

_______________________________________________________

 

Erik woke up in a cold sweat, gasping and shuddering as he sat up. Gripping the bed sheets harshly, he took panting breaths in an attempt to calm down. It was the same blasted dreams that had haunted him night after night and they were beginning to take their toll. Too bad he couldn't drink his sorrows away. With a groan that was more like a growl he sat up, the sheets sliding down his bare torso and pooling at his waist.

With gentle eyes Erik looked at his plain wooden bedside table. Or more specifically, the hair pin that rested upon it. It was his mother's hairpin: vines of silver curled around a sliver pin, blooming in petals of jade and purple. It had looked so beautiful against the brunette of his mother's hair, and even though it had been so many years, the image of her was so very clear within his mind. With a gentle touch that defied his personality, Erik caressed the hair pin before looking out the window and seeing the rising sun. His expression hardened before he tore himself out of bed. Today was just another day.

The streets of London were busy as always. The whole city was awake, rushing around to get to work and live their life the best way they knew how. The scent of bread and other foods froze in the chill of the air. The clanking of hooves against the pavement joined together with the bellows of the working men and together they created the symphony that was London. Children ran around laughing merrily and one even ran into him, yelling a clumsy 'sorry' before sprinting off towards his friends. Erik pulled up the collar of his woolly trench-coat as he tried to fend off the brisk, cold air. Tightening his grip on the briefcase he was carrying, he looked up at the gray, cloudless sky. London weather was so depressing. For now he had to make a stop at the bank.

Hours later Erik couldn't help the frustrated growl that left his lips as he stormed out of the local bank. Another dead lead. No one there knew of a man named Klaus Schmidt. How could that be?! A man could not simply disappear into thin air. Erik had chased lead after lead only to meet dead ends. The frustration was killing him. He had to be careful now, his money was running low and he didn't want to have to work temporarily at a hospital before continuing his journey. He had to find Klaus. Find him and kill him slowly and painfully. But this was Erik's very last lead. A dead end, and he had no clue what to do.

It was evening now. The air was getting colder and he had wandered listlessly till he was at a park. Night was nearing but he was reluctant to look for another place to stay for tonight.

“Erik?” said a gentle, feminine voice and Erik spun around, unable to help the growl that tore from his throat at being disturbed from his thoughts. His eyes widened slightly in surprise when he realized who it was. “Angel?”

“The one and only,” said Angel Salvadore with a grin on her face. Her sleek black hair curled softly below her shoulders. Her cream white dress clashed against her olive skin. A cheery smile suited her gentle features, giving her an innocent and soft appearance. Her dark eyes, however, spoke of something more. Of a past too dark and a life too bleak to speak of. Erik should know; he had once hired her for the night.

“Angel,” said the male gruffly, he didn't reach out to shake her hand. Instead, he dug his hands further into the depths of his pockets. “What?”

Angel rolled her eyes, though her smile didn't leave her face. “What are you doing in little old England? Last time I saw you, you were leaving for the Americas.”

“I'm back here for business,” it was somewhat a lie, but there was a bit of truth in it... if you dug deep enough.

“With a bit of fun in it I hope?” there was coyness in Angel's voice that wasn't there before. Her dark eyes glinted in lust as she touched his arm.

Erik drew back, “No, not this time Angel.”

The woman pouted, her arms crossed across her chest in a childish manner. “Spoilsport,” she said in a sulky voice. But her spirits picked up quickly. “At least come to the tavern for a drink? It's freezing out here.”

“There's somewhere I have to be.”

“Nonsense Erik, if you had somewhere to be, then you would be there by now. Come along now. Besides, you still owe me a favor. Might as well get it over and done with.”

Before Erik could protest, the woman grasped the hem of his jacket like a child and dragged him to god knows where.

___________________________________________________________________

'The Brotherhood Tavern' was surprisingly quiet for a drinking establishment at this time of night. There were murmuring voices. An occasional bellow of laughter would ring throughout the tavern. The smell of bar food and beer seeped into the atmosphere, even into the very timber used to build the place. This wasn't such a bad place. The lights were dim and it seemed as if people kept to their own business. Erik sat, suitcase by his feet, in front of the counter where the barkeep was serving drinks. As usual, Erik sat himself on the seat furthest from everyone else, closest to the wall, and didn't bother waving the barkeep over.

“As anti-social as ever Erik,” chided Angel in a strangely sisterly manner. She brushed some imaginary dirt off her long skirts and plopped herself beside him. “Now tell me, how have you been?”

Erik couldn't help but raise a brow. He had only known this woman for a night years ago, and yet here she was, sitting next to him and talking to him as if he werefamily.“Look,” he said, not caring about how harsh his voice sounded. He just wanted her to go away. “I appreciate your… curiosity, but- He was suddenly cut off when someone from the corner of the tavern, another female, called out Angel's name.

“Whoops!” said Angel, looking rather sheepish, “Best for me to be off. Talk to you soon!” she said. And before he could say anything else, she fluttered away like a dragonfly.

Breathing a mental sigh of relief, Erik was just about to just slip away himself, but his elbow hit a glass that hadn't been there before and it fell off the counter, onto the floor, shattering into many little pieces. He swore under his breath before uttering a 'sorry.'

“That's alright ol' chap,” said a smooth voice, dappled with a cultivated English accent.

Erik looked up and saw the most... amazing eyes he had ever looked upon. He had never seen such a vivid blue, and for a moment he thought he was drowning within their endless depths. He was brought back, however, by those insanely delectable looking lips. It wasn't just those features either. It was that face, firm and yet gentle, framed by a mass of perfectly tousled brown hair.

Those lips creased upwards into a warm smile and the man knelt down with him and began picking up shards of glass.

“You shouldn't have to help, I dropped your drink.”

“It's fine, really. I'm Charles. Charles Xavier,” said the man as he stood up and stuck out his free hand.

“Erik Lensherr,” replied Erik, as he hesitantly took the brunet's hand, only to mentally scold himself. He really shouldn't give his name to a stranger like that; it's how a person could end up dead. Now that they were both standing up, Erik noticed the difference between them. Charles was at least a head shorter than Erik, reaching up to his neck at the most. Charles dressed rather differently as well. His simple white shirt and black pants, while clean, were unpressed and ruffled. His tweed jacket seemed a size too large and covered most of his form. He looked... scruffy. In a rather endearing way.

Charles returned to his seat and sheepishly handed the barkeep the remains of the glass.

“Want 'nother drink bub?” asked the barkeep as he took the shards and dumped them into the bin. His muscles bulged underneath his white shirt.

“The usual please Logan. And a coffee for my new friend.”

Logan made a gruff noise of acknowledgment that sounded rather like a dismissal, though he began making the requested beverages.

Charles shot Erik a smile and gestured to the empty seat next to him, “Sit.”

Erik's eyes narrowed but he sat down anyway, “How did you know that I didn't drink?”

“Well, you don't seem the type to like to drink in front of others, judging by the way you dress.” Charles shrugged, happily accepting the glass of scotch that was placed in front of him. He took a sip and moaned at the smoothness of the alcohol.

Erik took a sip of his coffee without adding any sugar or cream. How strange it was that a Tavern served coffee. “My clothes?”

“Neatly pressed, color coded, tailored. Nothing is out of place, not even your hair, and yet the weather out there is abysmal. It shows that you care about how you look. Not out of vanity, but out of the need to always be in control, which leads to the fact that you would not appreciate any loss of control. Alcohol reduces inhibitions and judgment, therefore leading to aforementioned loss of control.”

Erik couldn't help but leave his mouth hanging in amazement before he caught himself. “And you got all this from my clothes?”

“Yes,” said Charles without any hesitance, as he took another sip of his scotch, “Which brings me to another matter; would you like a place to stay? You seem to be needing it, my friend.”

This time the German male couldn't help the wry grin that swept across his face. He took another sip of his coffee and made a casual gesture with his hands. “Go on then, tell me how you know I need a place to stay.”

The brunet seemed happy at the fact that he was able to continue his rambling, and did so without needing any further encouragement. “I can tell by your suitcase... and by what you aren't wearing. You don't wear anything that seems to be of sentimental value; no necklaces, not even a well-worn and well loved tie. You wear a watch, but that seems out of necessity and being punctual rather than anything else. It means you have little to no human attachment. You're a loner, a traveler, further proven by the state of your suitcase. It's slim, showing that you carry very little. It's also scuffed at the bottom edges slightly. Not scuffed enough to belong to a person who works in a business, but scuffed enough to show that you carry it around often, and are therefore a frequent traveler. Are you searching for something?”

Charles eyes were big and soulful, filled with a child-like curiosity that Erik didn't want to quell. Instead, he changed the subject. “Charles, has anyone ever told you that you ramble for a rather insane duration of time? It's astonishing really.”

The brunet grinned sheepishly, “Well, yes. Many have told me that I have a habit of rambling on and on. Will you still move in with me however? The rent is very cheap.”

“What's with this urge to find a room-mate all of a sudden?” Erik couldn't help but smile. The happiness of the smaller male was contagious. “For all you know, I could be a murderer.”He wasn't really, but he was going to be the moment he found Schmidt.

At those words, Charles seemed to blush ever so slightly. The color of his cheeks clashed against the cream of his skin and complimented the red hue of those sinful lips. “I don't think you're a murderer. If you were, then I would know, since even the cleanest murderers would slip up and leave evidence. I would know, I always do. Er… And… Well... to answer your question… You see, my maid, Moira, she thinks me to be too anti-social, and told me that if I didn't go looking for a friend then she would mess up all my books and hide my chess set.” He chuckled nervously, “So here I am. Also, you seem to be very pleasant company, if I do say so myself.”

Erik couldn't help the toothy grin that spread across his face like a pleasant breeze. “My dear Charles, it will be an honor to move in with you.” And at the moment it really did seem so. The man before him seemed to be intelligent, and was very easy on the eyes. The fact that he played chess was just a bonus. For the first time in a very long time, Erik reveled in the company of another human.

“Wonderful! And the best thing is you're already packed and ready to go.”

Chapter Text

 


 

Erik woke up to the soft tunes of a violin playing and instantly knew it was Charles. In the two weeks Erik had moved in, he had learnt that Charles would sometimes play the violin for nights on end, not that he minded of course. The melody was soothing, the notes gentle and soft. He had never heard this piece before, but it was something uniquely Charles; filled with a light joy, amusement, punctuated by a touch of deep, grave sorrow.

Living with Charles was... not what Erik had expected. It wasn't unpleasant, but neither was it a frolic in the park. He had to admit that the fact that Charles was highly attractive was a huge bonus... and the chess. Playing chess with a competent opponent was very pleasing indeed. Mind filled with happy thoughts, and looking forward to their next chess game (he would win this time around, he was sure of it) Erik fell back into slumber.

 

______________________________________________

 

Okay, maybe he had been sugar-coating the fact that living with Charles Xavier wasn't too bad. Erik woke up in the morning at the usual time. Wearing nothing but his pajama bottoms, he padded towards the kitchen for breakfast, only to almost break his neck falling down the stairs.

“Mein Gott!” snarled Erik as he picked himself up and glared at the object that caused his fall. It was a pile of books. There were books everywhere in this apartment, everywhere. It was definitely a safety hazard, and one that Erik had thought he had already dealt with. The moment he had set foot in this apartment for the first time, he had been blinded by books upon books upon books. They had infested every inch of the apartment, even more so than the dust that coated every surface. Erik had shot Charles a rather appalled look, only to receive rather sheepish and pleading blue, puppy-dog eyes that should not be allowed to be pulled off so well by a fully grown man. Erik had relented and together they had made compromises.

Ignoring the pains and aches from his fall, Erik made his way to the kitchen where Charles was happily sipping his morning tea. Erik noticed that while Charles was eating his breakfast, in his hand was yet another book. His sky blue, silk pajamas had the first few buttons undone, and one side seemed dangerously close to toppling off his shoulder. Yet he remained as oblivious as always. Sitting down, Erik gruffly took the morning newspaper and ruffled it open. A pleasant silence filled the room. “I thought we agreed that the stairway would be a book free zone, Charles.”

A pause.

Peering over his newspaper, Erik watched as the brunet's eyes widened slightly in realization, before he set the cup down and abruptly left his seat, heading towards the staircase. He came back a moment later, setting a pile of books near the plate of bacon and eggs prepared by their house-maid Moira. “Apologies my friend, I got terribly distracted last night.”

Erik didn't say anything. Instead, he reached over to take a slice of toast, heavily smeared with butter and marmalade. The newspaper crinkled loudly as he flicked the pages, scanning for anything that Charles might find amusing. “Missing aristocrat?”

Nibbling on a piece of bacon, Charles chuckled and continued reading his book. “Hiding in the slums to avoid his many shady debt collectors.”

“Missing housewife?”

“With the stable boy in Paris.”

Erik couldn't help but snort at that. It was amazing how Charles managed to figure out the truth of things with such ease. It was as if he could read anything and anyone the moment they were exposed to his gaze. As if those cerulean orbs saw through everything and everyone. It was an amazing skill that was almost scary. Thankfully, Erik knew that Charles was about as harmful as a litter of new born kittens. “Alright then, where did I leave my watch then?”

“Hmn...” Charles stopped his reading and looked up at the ceiling, biting his lower lip and looking even more appealing than usual. “On your desk? Even though you usually leave it on your bedside table.”

Erik blinked in disbelief. “That was a lucky guess.”

“You took it off to write a letter or something of the sort. There are faded ink stains on your fingers.”

The taller male shook his head in exasperation before reaching over for more toast. “It still amazes me sometimes, the things you notice... it also amazes me how little you take care of yourself. I don't blame Moira for making you seek friendship.”

“Yes, quite. She was worried that she would one day find me dead amongst a pile of books,” Charles sighed, though it was one of affection. He smiled gently and took a sip of his tea. “But in taking her advice I have gained a trusted friend and a well trained doctor.”

“You trust too easily, Charles,” chided Erik. It was true. In their short time together, he had noticed how... naïve Charles was, despite his intelligence and deductive skills. His faith in humanity was laughable, yet admirable. To have someone in this world who still believed in the good of humanity was a rare thing indeed. Charles had a heart of gold and more than once Erik had scolded him for it. After all, no deed goes unpunished. He was... fond of Charles, and really did not wish to see the brunet hurt in any way.

“And you trust too little, my friend. The world is not as bleak as you think it to be. You are no longer alone, Erik. You have me.”

The words were said so earnestly, so filled with conviction and loyalty that Erik had no choice to believe it. A strange tightness settled within his chest, and if Erik wasn't a doctor, then he would've thought it was a heart problem. Perhaps his arteries clogging up, or something of the sort. Instead, he poured himself a cup of coffee, drinking the dark substance with ease. The harsh bitterness of the caffeine evening out the sweetness of Charles' words.

Erik knew he shouldn't get too attached. It was a weakness that was unwarranted and unwanted... but this domestic scene, quaint and warm, was something that Erik had been deprived of since his mother had been taken away. And now that he had it once again, he found himself very reluctant to part from it. But it was fine to indulge himself for now, he reasoned. All his leads on Schmidt had met dead ends and now there was nothing left to pursue. So he would stay with Charles as his hired doctor until he grew restless. “What are we doing today Charles?”

“Nothing at all. I want to catch up on my reading. You're welcome to do whatever you wish, though.”

Erik shook his head, “There's nothing of importance that needs to be done.”

“Another day filled with books and chess then? Maybe some scotch?” There was a happiness and hope in Charles’ voice that Erik couldn't deny.

“Yes. Now finish your breakfast before Moira scolds us both, that woman is scary.”

Charles just laughed.

____________________________________________________________________

 

“That was an amazing game as always, my friend. I've never had to fight this hard for a win before,” said Charles, as he finished the last of the scotch in his glass.

Leaning forward on his cushioned sofa, Erik stared intently at the chess board in front of him. How in the world had Charles won? Again! It was ridiculous, their game had started off on even terms. Until midway they continued to be on equal fields, and yet Charles had check-mated him out of the blue, and Erik was practically growling in frustration. How did he do that?! Maybe it was because he always chose to play white. White always went first and that meant having an upper-hand against your opponent. Being the first to attack, being ruthless and straight to the point and leaving no weak spots always lead to victory for Erik. However, that rule didn't seem to apply when it came to Charles. Erik voiced his thoughts and was met with Charles’ soft laughter.

“Always play black, white moves first, and then all is lost. The place they choose to move to, the piece they first play, is it they aggressive? Are they being defensive? How firm is the hand with which they move? Are they confident, or are they hesitant? When you play black, you're able to use those weaknesses to your advantage and thus find the most efficient way to win.”

“For a pacifist, you play chess like a war general. It would be quite daunting if you chose to become a villain.”

“Aggressive behavior should only belong on the chess board, my friend, never in the real world.” Charles stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets. “I think I shall go take a bath now,” and with that, he began to walk away.

“I get to play black next time!” hollered Erik. Charles made a gesture of agreement with his hand as he headed to the bathroom. Erik rapidly muttered something dark and incoherent in German, but his irritation, as always when it came to Charles, quickly dissipated.

Erik stared at the chessboard a while longer, attempting to distract himself from the sound of running water and the thought of Charles stripping himself free of his silk pajamas. The sound of the door being knocked on hesitantly was a welcome distraction. That was, until Erik saw who it was at the door.

There was a man, or rather, a boy who had yet to become a man. The clothes that he wore, which hung off his tall and lanky form, were further emphasized by the thick, woolen coat that seemed to hang off his shoulders. His hair was short and messy, as if he ran his hands through it countless times. His dark brown eyes were covered by thick rimmed glasses. He looked utterly harmless, scared even. And although there was a shyness about him, Erik knew him for what he was: a police officer.

“How may I help you officer?” asked Erik, and while his words were polite, his tone was far from it.

The boyish officer seemed rather surprised at the fact that Erik knew of his occupation without him having to state it himself. In a small, hesitant voice the officer spoke, pushing his glasses back up his face in a nervous manner as he did so. “Sorry for the bother, sir, but I'm detective officer Hank McCoy of Scotland Yard. I was wondering, is Mr. Charles Xavier here? And if so, may I please see him… if it's not too much of a bother?”

Erik's hackles rose; he had never trusted the police. They were useless when it came to finding out the truth about anything. Incompetent fools, who were unable to help him or his mother. Corrupt and inefficient, though perhaps that wasn't such a bad thing. If the police were indeed to be competent, then Erik wouldn't be a free man. After all, some of his own methods of finding out the truth involved... rather illegal activities. “I'm afraid that Mr. Xavier is busy, so he will be unable to meet you.”

“May I come in and wait for him then?”

“If you wish to do that, then you shall do so with a warrant, and as I doubt you have one, then the answer is no.” Erik was about to close the door, almost getting it fully shut before a strong hand stopped him and yanked the door back open. When the door was wrenched open, there was someone else standing next to Hank. Another officer most likely.

“Damn it Hank, you have to be more assertive than that or people like this bozo here will walk all over you.” said the other officer in a strong American accent. He was the complete opposite of Hank. He had a stocky build and toned physique. Short, straw blond hair clashed pleasantly with blue eyes that glittered violently with aggression, and a jaw that was tight with rebellion. He was short. Either that, or Hank was freakishly tall. The blond officer stared at Erik with contempt and stood in front of Hank in a rather protective manner. “Look, Is Charles Xavier here or not? If he is, go get him, and if he ain't, then tell us where he is or we'll arrest you for obstructing an investigation.”

Erik didn't know whether to be amused or horrifically angry. So he opted to do both, crossing his hands together as he stood to his full height and looked down at the blond officer. “Do you have as much bite as your bark, runt? Scotland Yard must be scraping at the bottom of the barrel if they hired a vicious toy dog like you.” It was low of him to sink to their childish levels, but government officials just rubbed him the wrong way. Erik really couldn't help himself.

“That’s it! Listen here, buddy. You're hereby under ar -" The blond cop moved forward in a threatening manner, but Hank pulled him back by the collar of his coat. “Alex,” chided the taller man, “It's alright, we can wait for the Professor out here.”

“Hank! It's bloody cold out here! And that guy’s being a jerk! What if he kidnapped the Prof?”

Erik bristled with anger now, his lips contorting into a vicious snarl. As if he would ever hurt Charles. He took a step forward, and to his immense satisfaction, a flash of fear swept through the officers’ expression. They looked more like frightened children than they did enforcers of the law.

“Alex? Hank?” said a surprised feminine voice and the three males turned to face the origin of the voice.

Moira McTaggert stood at the end of the stairs that lead to their apartment, at 221 B Baker Street. Her long, chocolate-hazel hair flowing past her shoulders. She wore a thick hand knitted scarf that covered half her face, so that practically only her chestnut eyes were visible. “What are you two doing here?” she asked, shuffling her paper bags filled with groceries.

“Miss Moira,” said Hank, looking very relieved to see her, “Is the Professor home?”

“Of course he is, he's been bored for weeks. Please tell me you've a case for him.” Moira walked up the stairs, her petite coats and the hem of her dress swishing around her feet. Together, the four of them stood cramped up in the front entrance of the apartment. Moira looked at the two very tense males and the one nervous one, then rolled her eyes. “Let me guess? A pissing contest? Really now, men,” she scowled before pushing her bags of food in front of Alex, who took them without complaint. She made to enter the house, but Erik's form prevented her from doing so. “Erik, come on, let them in.”

“They're pigs,” snarled the German, and his accent thickened ever so slightly.

“Charles will be happy to see them, I promise,” she said. And as if those were the magic words, Erik allowed the officers entry, although he was far from happy doing so.

“Would you like some tea or coffee?” asked Moira once everybody entered the house.

“Ah, no thank you Miss Moira,” answered Hank as he scanned his environment before shooting Erik a wary look. “We need to see the professor, it's rather urgent I'm afraid.”

Moira took the bags away from Alex, then looked around the room, “Where is he by the way?”

“In the bathroom,” replied Erik, his answer curt and straight to the point.

Moira rolled her eyes and unraveled her scarf, hanging it on a nearby clothes hanger. “Deary me, I shall have to go fetch him shan't I? He must be daydreaming in there about some crazy theory of his, or trying to figure out the origins of bathroom tiles again. I swear, if he didn’t have you and me then he'd think and ponder ‘til he starved to death.” swiftly she made her way down into the corridor, heading to the bathroom. To Erik's utter surprise, she slammed the door open and entered.

There was a yelp, followed by an almost childish bickering. Erik, Hank and Alex winced.

“Poor Prof., having Moira as a maid. That woman is scary” said Alex with a shudder as he sat himself down on the nearest chair and slouched.

Hank nodded his head in agreement and sat down in a more refined manner, jumping up when Erik shot him a warning glare. “I- I agree, but she's his childhood friend first, before being his maid. She's not that bad... most days.”

A strange feeling settled into Erik's stomach at the realization that these officers were on good terms with Charles. Not only that, but they seemed to know a lot about him too. Definitely a lot more than what he knew about Charles. Erik quelled down the sensation, deeming it to be impractical. He had only known Charles for two weeks, of course they would know nothing about each other. But it was easier said than done.

Moira came back into the living room, then left for the kitchen. A rather miffed looking Charles entered next. Of course, he lit up when he saw his guests. “Alex, Hank,” he greeted, his voice full of happiness, blue eyes lit up in joy.

All the tension and insecurities that had enveloped Hank like a bubble dissipated from his form, and he was instead replaced with a rather gentle, yet confident man. “Professor! It's been too long.”

“Quite, my boy,” Charles shook Hank's hands and patted his shoulder. It was a strange sight to see, as Charles had to stand on the tips of his toes to do it. He paused, recognition marring his features before he smiled in amusement. “I see that Raven has been giving you grief once again.”

Hank blushed in embarrassment but nodded, “One day you will have to tell me how you always know when Raven toys with me. She pick-pocketed me and now I am without my badge.”

Charles laughed joyously and then walked over to Alex, who had sat up straighter than before. He ruffled the blond's hair. “And I hope you're keeping your temper in line young man?”

Alex’s demeanor had also changed; his vicious personality replaced with something a lot more tame. He even blushed, mumbling a “Sorta,” before shooting Erik a dirty look.

Erik had to be surprised. Never had he seen anyone cause such a change in a person's personality. Charles had exceptional social skills it seemed, despite the fact that he had practically cooped himself up in his room for two weeks. What was more amazing was the fact that he seemed to be genuine in his social interactions. Briefly, Erik wondered if Charles had influenced or changed his personality. Also, why in the world did they call him professor?

“The tension out there was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. They were practically growling at each other like beasts. Well, at least Erik and Alex were.” Moira entered the room holding a tray of tea and biscuits.

Head tilted to the side Charles shot Erik a look of utter confusion.

It was a rather endearing expression and Erik hated the fact that it made his heart melt. “They're from Scotland yard.” he said, as if those words would excuse his behavior.

The brunet smiled, full of understanding. He thanked Moira for the tea and all the males sat down. Moira on the other hand had gone back to her own room. She knew what they were soon going to talk about and she found such subjects distasteful.

“Hank, Alex, this is my new friend and personal doctor, Erik Lehnsherr. Erik, this is Hank McCoy and Alex Summers. They're the head detectives at Scotland yard... Which I assume you already know?”

“Yes,” grumbled out Erik and he made no attempt to shake hands with either of the officers. “They're just kids.”

“Excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Lehnsherr, but my age has nothing to do with my intelligence or skill.”

“Fuck that,” Alex gave Charles a worried look, “Are you sick Prof.? Is that why you need a doctor?”

Charles laughed, brushed the worry off and began to make tea. “It's just a bonus. Erik is very much my friend. Anyhow, what seems to be the problem officer?”

“There's been a murder.” said Hank, looking rather grave. “They happen often unfortunately, but... this one feels… wrong”

“In what way?” asked Charles. His expression was a mixture of curiosity and sadness. It was a strange mix Erik had never seen on the brunet before.

“I'm not sure,” admitted Hank sheepishly, “That's why we came to see you.”

“Then we should get going to ensure that all the evidence is intact. Time is of the essence when it comes to a crime scene.” Charles drank down his milk tea and quickly stood up, Hank and Alex did as well, but Erik stayed where he was. After all, it wasn't him that had been requested to go.

Charles seemed to realize this. He gave Erik a rather vulnerable look and bit his lower lip. “Will you come with me?”

“I'm your doctor, I have to go. What if you get hit by a carriage? Knowing how absentminded you are, it’s quite likely.”

Charles didn't seem offended at all. Instead, he smiled brightly. He rushed to the clothes hanger, where he hastily donned a coat, a sky blue scarf and practically slammed the door open. “Let's us go then! The game, my dear Erik, is on!”

 

 

Chapter Text

Erik quelled the feeling of sickness as he stared down at the body before him. It was Angel. Blood, bright and frozen by the cold of London, coated the ground and soiled the soft peach of her dress. Her ebony hair covered her face but Erik could see her wide open eyes, filled with terror and drained of the joy that had once lit her eyes.

Her form, tinged with a sickening blue, contrasted against the gray that was London, and it looked so very wrong. To see a human life splattered on the concrete like this, a violation against nature. You barely even knew her, her death should mean nothing. Whores die all the time, t hought Erik. As simple as that, the sickening feeling in his stomach stopped. He knew what a bastard he was, but death was inevitable. This was a world where the strongest lived and the weakest died. In this world, you should only look out for yourself, no one else. No exceptions.

There was a crowd gathering; a number of petty, nosy onlookers who wanted to see the hype and the death of a fellow human. They struggled against the human barrier that consisted of police officers, attempting to keep the crowd back so as not to tarnish the crime scene. 

Erik looked at Charles, who stood across from him and suddenly knew why all the officers called him professor.

The brunet was wearing a blue button up shirt, with a cobalt cardigan and black jacket on top. A sky blue scarf, thick and long wrapped around his face until only his upper face was visible. His vivid azure eyes, however, made the blues that he was wearing pale in comparison; making them look as gray as the concrete he was standing on. His hands were tucked into the pockets of his slacks as he stared down at the body with a twisted expression of both pain and fascination. He looked like a professor, staring down at a project, critically inspecting every aspect, visually dissecting every nook and cranny and unraveling every secret. He also seemed to like the color blue, very much so. “Erik? Can you tell us anything?”

Erik, on the other hand, wore his usual black turtle neck sweater, tanned slacks and a heavy beige trench-coat. He knelt down, and with cool detachment pried open Angel's eyes, looking at those listless orbs, and touched her cold, dead skin. Examined the blood that dripped down her ice blue lips. “A few broken ribs, most likely puncturing the lungs and causing internal bleeding. Obvious head trauma and other broken limbs. She died due to an impact that snapped her neck. Instant death. However, were there the slightest chance she survived, which is highly unlikely, she would've suffocated on her own blood, due to internal bleeding.” Once he was done he accepted the wet handkerchief that Hank had given him, wiped his hands clean and put on a pair of black, leather gloves.

“What made you think it was murder?” asked Charles Hank gently, as if coaxing a student. Alex had headed towards the crowd and made it his job keeping them back.

Hank's brows furrowed as he peered more intently at the body. “I don't know, but it is... isn't it?”

“Of course it is, my dear boy, a murder veiled as a suicide but where's the proof?”

Bending down on one knee, Hank tried to look closer. “For one, there wasn't a suicide note further proving that it is murder, for another... there are many tall buildings about. She must've either jumped off or was pushed off one of them... I think she was pushed off rather than jumping off.” Hank's glassed slipped down his nose and he let out a noise of frustration. “There's more to all this but I just can't see it. Professor?”

“It's alright, you'll see more clearly as the days go by.” Charles placed a comforting hand on Hank's shoulder and grave it a reassuring squeeze. Then he crouched by the body himself, “Murder. As you said Hank, there is a lack of a letter. Another is the fact that her dress is well worn and her face is void of makeup.”

It was time for Erik to look skeptical, “Charles.... even if it’s a murder, you can't base the cause on physical appearance.”

“Oh, but I can,” a wry grin spread on his vividly red lips. “Women… generally they're vain. If these were her last moments, if this was, indeed, a suicide then she would want to look her best. Men are prideful, that's why they use masculine methods of suicide such as guns. If she knew she was going to die, then wasting money on a pretty dress would've meant nothing. Her makeup as well; she's wearing very little.”

“And if she were, and could not afford a dress?”

Charles shook his head, “No, she smells of roses and her skin isn't marred. If she could afford perfumes and baths then a dress would've been no problem. Murder.” He tilted his head to the side, “Also, she appears to be grasping something.”

Hank obviously had not noticed that before, and without further ado, pried Angel's stiff fingers apart and pulled out a coin. “It's not money.” Said the taller man as he glanced at it before passing it onto Charles.

The brunet took it and stood up, “It's made of metal, a coin, but seems to have no value of currency.”

Curiosity getting the better of Erik, he walked closer, until he was standing behind Charles. He peered over the smaller man's shoulder. His heart froze in his chest when he saw the coin. It looked so insignificant between Charles' fingers, but to Erik, the coin meant so much more. He had the same coin in his possession, left behind the day his mother had been ripped away from him. It belonged to Schmidt. Erik wanted to say something, anything but instead he kept silent, his hands clenching in his pockets, to the point of pain. His jaw clenched, “Charles, what do you get from this?”

“Nothing at all, I'm afraid.” said Charles. He tossed the coin to Hank, who caught it, “Find the origin of the coin, and then you'll find the killer.”

Hank's eyes widened, as if the prospect of Charles not having an answer to everything was impossible. “ That's it? How am I to find its origins?”

Charles smiled, “That, my lad, is the mystery. I suggest you start with the room with the window left open. If it was murder, then she would've pushed out the window. Someone would've seen her entering and a culprit leaving.”

Hank nodded meekly, the disappointment visible in his eyes, “Thank you for your help Professor, but if you find anything, will you notify me?”

“As always, I'll pay for the burial and tombstone for her once she’s identified.” Charles fixed the collar of his jacket and turned to walk away, “Best of luck!” and with that, he left at a brisk pace, Erik trailing behind him.

Once they were a fair distance away, Charles spoke again. “You knew her, didn't you? The night at the tavern?”

“Yes,” bit out Erik, as he continued to look ahead. The two males were walking side by side though the busy streets of London. Erik's crimson scarf complimenting the sky blue of Charles' one. “Her name was Angel. Her... working name was Tempest.”

“I'm sorry, my friend. It must've been painful to see her so.”

Erik shrugged, “I barely knew her, she meant nothing. Whores die all the time.”

“Erik.” Charles tone was grave, hurt even. “She was another person, loved by someone in this world. A daughter, a friend. She will be missed, she has to be. No one leaves this world unloved.”

“This is a dog eat dog world. You help Scotland Yard on a regular basis I assume? You see this proved all the time.” Erik glanced at the brunet, but his expression was unreadable.

“No Erik, because the people of Scotland yard, and people like me, we find the killers and punish them. We can't bring the victim back to life, but we can bring justice.” Charles' voice was gentle, but firm nevertheless.

Erik couldn't help but think how naïve Charles was. “Why didn't you tell those officers that I knew the victim?”

“What good would it have been? You were with me, therefore you have an alibi. I need your help to find the killer.”

“You don't think Scotland Yard will succeed in finding the culprit?”

“There is more to this than just a simple murder. This is something much bigger I am sure. I didn't want Hank and Alex to get involved, they're merely children. She was meeting someone. If she had been working, then she would've covered herself in makeup. But she was only wearing it lightly, so she was meeting someone. Not just anyone either, someone more important. The coin... you're connected to this, are you not, my friend?” Suddenly Charles stopped and Erik realized they were in front of a fish and chips stand. He ordered his food and over-paid, telling the woman at the counter to keep the change.

There was no point lying to Charles and Erik knew it. “Yes. But how did you realize?”

“Your jaw twitches ever so slightly whenever you're in distress. The last time you did that was when I asked about your family and past.”

“The coin belongs to someone I'm looking for.”

Charles was silent as he allowed the information to sink in. He seemed to realize the underlying goal behind those words and shook his head sadly. “Erik...” but he was interrupted when his fish and chips were given to him, wrapped in newspaper. The brunet tore open the paper, ate a few chips and offered some to Erik.

Erik declined and once again they continued their walk. “You paid the lady too much. You're paying for Angel's burial as well.”

“And?”

“It means you're too kind. Your kindness will be the death of you.”

Charles laughed lightly. “And your hate will be the death of you.”

“Where are we heading, by the way?” asked Erik.

“To 'The brotherhood Tavern’,” Charles took a bite of fish and Erik noticed that the brunet wasn't wearing any gloves.

Erik placed his hands on Charles’ shoulder to stop him, “You aren't wearing gloves.”

“And you're wearing a red scarf.” Charles smiled and ate some more fish. He licked his fingers, and as ashamed as he was to admit it, Erik found it highly attractive. He coughed awkwardly, “It's bloody cold out here.” 

“Because it's London?”

The German male had to refrain himself from rolling his eyes. He began to take off his own leather gloves and handed them to Charles. “Put them on,” he said gruffly, “before you get frostbite”.

Charles stared blankly at the gloves in front of him, and a silent battle of the wills occurred. Eventually he relented, handing Erik the packet of fish and chips as he tugged on the gloves. “They're too big,” he mumbled softly, his words muffled even more by the scarf he was wearing. “Your fingers are longer than mine.” Charles held up his hands for Erik to see, and true enough, the tips of the black leather gloves were looking rather loose. “See?”

“Then you'll do your best to remember to bring your own gloves next time.” Erik handed back the food and the brunet began eating again. “Besides, they'll stop your hands from getting dirty, wont they?”

“Mhn.. but your gloves are getting dirty.”

“Dirty gloves can be washed, but frostbitten fingers will not grow back.”

“What about your fingers?”

Erik shrugged and dug his hands into his pockets, “Mine are fine. Yours are the ones out in the cold picking at bits of deep fried food, which by the way is very poor for ones' health.”

“When I hired you as my doctor I did not think you would actually coddle me so. I must admit it feels... quite pleasant indeed.” Charles laughed, the sound light and gentle. Erik couldn't help but feel an incredible warmth because of it.

“You're paying for me to coddle you. If you weren't, then I would not have bothered at all.”

“So you say,” said Charles with a cheeky smile, “Perhaps you are more kind than you let on?”

Erik growled, feeling very insulted at the accusation. “Charles... That is definitely not the cas-Oof!” Erik and Charles stumbled forward when a body collided into them.

“Sorry!” said a childish voice, thick with a cockney accent. The slim boy that had bumped into them didn't bother even looking back.

“Brats,” snarled Erik as he straightened his clothes and looked back at Charles. “...Charles?”

The brunet had a strange expression on his face, one of shock and amusement. His lips curled up into a smile, and without another word, he dropped his food and broke into a sprint at break neck speed, giving chase to the slim boy that had run into them.

Erik had no choice but to chase after him. “Charles!” he bellowed trying to run without knocking anyone over. “What's wrong?!”

“Pockets Erik, Pockets!” said Charles with a grin. His scarf was trailing behind him in the wind, his cheeks were flushed and he looked... insanely happy.

Whilst running, Erik cursed and dug his hands into the pockets of his pants, and then cursed some more. His wallet was missing... and so were the keys to their apartment.

The boy had noticed them chasing him, and had broken into a sprint. He was slimmer and seemed to be able to move through the hordes of people with a strange ease. He knocked over some trashcans, trying to slow them down.

Charles leaped over the can and so did Erik, but the woman behind them had not and she had toppled over in a crash. Erik, being a doctor (unfortunately) had to stop his pursuit to check on the fallen woman. Charles on the other hand had continued running, and boy could he run. For such a slight male, he could run like no tomorrow.

By the time Erik had resumed his run, Charles and their pickpocket had gone into an alley. The German certainly didn't expect to see what he saw.

Charles was standing in front of the boy and they seemed to be fighting. His arms were held up in a defensive manner, shoulders tensed and feet apart. Eyes sharpened and highly alert, with a smile on his face. He was forced back slightly when the pick-pocket kicked him, the brute force of it making an audible sound. Charles returned an attack of his own only it seemed rather... weak. It seemed more like sparring than an actual assault; the pick-pocket's back was turned.

Erik grasped him by the back of his vest and with brute force smashed him against the alley wall, spinning the pickpocket around and holding him by the throat. The pick-pocket let out a rather feminine yelp, and even though his fingers were cold, Erik could feel how soft the pick-pocket's skin was.

“Charles you cad! That's cheating!” gasped the pickpocket, the cockney accent replace with flawless proper English. As he frantically struggled against Erik's vice grip, the hat he was wearing fell to the floor and long blonde hair flowed from his crown. He was a she.

Erik didn't know whether to let go or keep his grip. However, his mother had taught him better and Erik let go. One should never use force on a woman or child. Also, Charles had bellowed at him to let go and never had he heard the brunet's voice so firm.

“Raven? Are you alright?” asked Charles, voice softening and filled with concern.

The girl, Raven, nodded and massaged her neck. There was a pause before she leaped into Charles’ arms, laughing loudly. “Charles! Charles! It's been too long!”

Charles twirled her around, “Raven, my little love, my turtle dove.” He set her down, looking down into her blue eyes adoringly. A horrible feeling gnawed in the pit of Erik's stomach; it was hot and raw. Raven kissed Charles on the cheek and the sensation in his stomach intensified, rising up his throat and making him clench his fist. He didn't recognize the feeling but it was horribly unpleasant.

“Raven. Please do not pick-pocket my friends in an attempt to get my attention.” Charles shook his head and reached into Raven's shirt pocket to take out Erik's wallet and keys. “Can you not knock on my door like everyone else?”

Raven rolled her eyes, “Where would the fun be in that dear Charles?” She gestured towards her attire, “I even put on boy's clothes to try to throw you off. Did it work?”

“Obviously not, you must be losing touch with your skills of disguise. However, the strength of your attacks have increased, which in the end is a good thing.” Charles handed the wallet back to Erik, who accepted it gruffly. “Raven Darkholme, this is Erik Lehnsherr, my friend.”

Erik grasped Raven's hand and brought it to his lips. “I apologize for my earlier behavior, Miss Darkholme,” he said in a polite manner, although what he really wanted to do was throttle her for kissing Charles.

“She's like a sister to me,” explained Charles as he looked fondly at Raven. And just like that, the horrible feeling that churned within Erik's belly disappeared... only to be placed with an uncertainty and confusion that was very unpleasant for him. What was wrong with him?

“What are you up to now Charles? Solving another case?”

“Yes, but before we delve into that matter, you must promise me one thing.” Charles held out his arm and Raven looped her arms with his. They were such doting siblings it was rather sickeningly sweet.

“Anything for you Charles, my dear.”

The brunet smiled, “I need you to return Hank's badge, and for you to stop bullying him as well.”

Even as a fully grown woman, Raven couldn't help but put her lips into a pout. “Why on Earth would I want to do that? It's so fun to tease him. Hank blushes such a pretty pink and Alex just fumes.”

“Do you want to end up on death-row again? Small tricks build up into a big problem. I hoped you’d have learned your lesson after last time.”

That caught Erik's attention. “Death row?” he inquired. His guard went up now in regards to the seemingly harmless blonde before him. She must be a threat if she had been placed on death row.

Raven rolled her eyes, “That was a mistake and you know it. Besides, Emma sorted out the mess so everything's fine.” She looked at Erik, “Mr. Lenhsherr, please don't think ill of me. It was a mistake, I didn't mean to do what I did.”

“You mean: You didn't mean to get caught. Please stay out of trouble little sister, your shenanigans age me terribly. Come now, we should head back to the tavern. I must see Logan.”

“You were born old Charles, and you certainly don't help it by dressing the way you do. Or spending all your time cooped in the apartment like a hermit. Moira is worried, so are Emma and I.”

The three of them headed back onto the main street, Erik trailing behind them, not wanting his back exposed to Raven. For all he knew, she was a killer, or something equally lethal. Never let your guard down was a lesson that he had taught himself a long time ago. Had his guard been up then Raven would have been unable to pick-pocket him the way she did. Erik concluded that Charles’ presence had lead to him softening. 

The brunet turned his head to look back at Erik, as if to make sure that the taller male was still there. He gave Erik a grateful look before returning his attention back to his little sister, who was babbling on about god knows what.

“Will you need my help for this case?” asked Raven, face filled with excitement. She had the most fun when helping Charles. Not only were her skills put to the test, but it was all pretty much legal as well... most of the time 

“For now it seems not,” Charles looked ahead. The Tavern was in sight. “But we shall see shan't we?”

“You worry too much. I'm a big girl now, I can take care of myself.” Raven let go of the brunet and smiled. “I'll go in first. I want to see if Logan still remembers me.”

Much to Erik's surprise, Raven tied her hair back into a tight bun, covering it with a hat, before digging her hands into her pockets. Out of one pocket she pulled a red strip of cloth, and her other hand came out covered in soot. She tied the scarf around her neck, then smeared her face with soot. With a flawless cockney accent she said, “Or perhaps he'll think me for a chi'mney sweep boy he will, eh?” and then ran ahead of them in a childish gait.

“Master of disguise that one is,” chuckled Charles as he made his way to the tavern. “When she tries hard enough, she can even pretend to be me. She doesn't though, says I'm far too mundane to imitate.”

“What put her on death row?” asked Erik now that Raven was no longer here.

The brunet rolled his eyes before placing a gloved hand on the brass door handle of the tavern. “She took on the form of royalty and tried to steal the crown jewels. The only reason she got caught was because the person she feigned to be escaped their bonds and tattled to the nearest guard.” He shook his head with a 'tsk.' “Which reminds me, I must teach Raven how to tie knots properly. Poor thing can barely tie her shoelaces.”

“Indeed” said Erik. Really, it was the only thing he could say. As he entered the tavern with Charles he couldn't help but think... how crazy Charles and Raven were. A genius that seemed blind to the fact that his adopted little sister was a criminal thief. Yet despite that, they seemed to love each other dearly.

At least he would never be bored.     

Chapter Text

The tavern was quiet as always. Raven was in some corner, dressed in her costume. Erik assumed she was trying to swindle some money off some poor bastard for shits and giggles, criminal mastermind that she was. Once again Charles made his way towards the bar where Logan was wiping away at the counter-top with a washcloth, smoking on a cigar and humming a gentle tune. 

The brunet sat upon a stool and smiled. “Logan.”

Erik chose not to sit, and instead stood beside Charles in an admittedly protective manner.

“Evenin' bub,” The rugged barkeep disappeared into a kitchen for a moment, only to reappear holding a plate of food that he set down in front of Charles. “Eat,” he ordered, pouring Erik a cup of coffee before continuing his task of wiping down the table. He didn't particularly care whether Erik wanted anything to eat or not.

Charles stared down at the plate of fluffy pancakes, lavished in butter and drowned in syrup with a rather... lost expression. “I've already eaten.”

“Too fucking bad, you'll eat it all or you'll get nothing from me.”

Scanning the tavern and seeing no threat, Erik sat down. Judging by the amount of food that was on Charles's plate, they would be here for a while, and even Erik had a limit to how long he was able to stand there and do nothing.

Charles shot Erik a pleading look, “Help me?”

Not even trying to resist such a kicked puppy expression, Erik turned to Logan and put on his best glare, the one that had caused many men before to cower. “He's eaten already.”

Logan simply grinned, but his muscles tensed ever so slightly, as if preparing for battle. “Your scary looks don't work on me bub, I'll gut you like a animal before you even scratch me.”

A challenge. Erik's own hackles rose and his expression hardened, “Is that so?”

Logan looked up and glared at him. “Yup.”

A tension filled the room, ugly and thick as Erik and Logan measured each other up. A low growl erupted from Logan's throat. Erik wouldn't be surprised if the barkeep was more animal than man.

Logan put his cloth away and stubbed his cigar on a nearby ash tray. Erik pushed his coffee cup away. He could feel the adrenaline pulsing through his veins. Logan may be a brute of a man, but he was sure he could win this.

“Donef!” said a muffled voice as if in an attempt to diffuse the situation. It worked, as both alpha males spun around to see Charles, his plate empty and his cheeks stuffed with pancakes. He tried to smile but was unable to. Instead, he struggled to swallow the insane amount of food in his mouth, beating at his chest as he choked a little.

Instantly concerned (much to his annoyance) Erik patted Charles' back.

“T-thank you, my friend,” rasped the brunet as he swallowed his food and drank the cup of water that Logan set in front of him.

“Atta boy,” said Logan with a wide grin. He ruffled the smaller male's hair affectionately. “Now what do you want, bub?”

The smile on Charles' face instantly faded, to be replaced with something more serious. His vividly blue eyes sharpened, “Angel, or Tempest.”

Logan's face sobered up, “Ah. Yeah. One of the boy's came in to tell me. Poor thing saw her corpse.”

“Do you know anything about her?”

Erik frowned, as if he were searching his mind for all the information he could find. He couldn't help but snidely think that the barkeep’s head was empty.

“She was a hooker, but I'm sure you must've deduced that already.”

The brunet nodded.

“She worked in a private establishment, with a lot of other girls.” Logan grimaced before taking out two glasses and filling them with scotch. He drank his own and Charles followed suit. “They'll miss her, she took care of them, spitfire that she was. I don't have anything else, but when I do, you'll be the first to know.”

“Thank you, Logan. May I have the address of her work place?”

Logan took an ink pen, scribbled the information on a piece of paper and handed it to Charles.

Charles looked at Erik, “We should go tomorrow to see if we can find any evidence or information. Anything really.”

Erik smiled reassuringly. “Charles, you could look at a spec of dust on a murder victim and deduce who the killer is.”

“If only it were that simple, my friend.”

The mood seemed to die and darken. Erik and Logan, being men of little words, were unable to cheer up the brunet who suddenly seemed as if he were bearing the weight of the world upon his shoulders.

Then, right on time, as if she had sensed the mood, Raven jumped onto Charles’, back wrapping her hands around his neck in an embrace, almost making the two of them topple over. “Are you done with your manly talks yet Charles?”

“Raven!” spluttered the brunet, a smile instantly appearing on his face.

“So? Need my help dearest brother? I can do some sneaking around for you if you like.”

Charles smiled wryly, “Thank you, but no thanks poppet. However, should the need arise, you shall be the first one I go to.”

“Promise?” the blonde held up her pinky finger and Charles entwined it with his own. Erik didn't know how to react, faced with such a... sweet scene.

“Oh, also,” Raven let go of Charles and dug her hands into her pockets, pulling out wads of cash, which she then set in front of Logan, “For the kids.”

Logan took the cash and placed it in a small wooden box. “Will do little miss, even if it is swindled money.”

“Money is money,” said Raven with a pout.

“The children?” inquired Erik softly.

Charles also took out a rather alarming amount of money from his wallet and added it to the box, “For the homeless children. Logan uses the donated money to run a small shelter to help the kids,” he looked straight at Erik with soulful eyes, and the German male felt his heart skip a beat. Not good.

“That's very kind of him,” said Erik, trying to distract himself. He looked at the barkeep. His cover was blown, he was one of those brutes with a heart of gold. It meant that he was already a better man than Erik would ever be (he wouldn't admit it though). He had never done anything for anyone else. Until Charles, of course.

“I've told you all I know for now bub. If I find out anything else, I'll send a lad to tell you.” Logan looked outside the window, “Best you be off now. Go on, shoo. Scat.”

Charles didn't seem to mind being scolded like a child, and instead got off his stool and stood up. He looked at Raven, “Shall I take you home?”

“No thank you Charles, I'm going to go to Logan's afterwards, so he'll be my bodyguard.” Raven kissed her brother on the cheek and smiled, “But get home safely? Last time you headed off on your own you reached an epiphany and ended up in the middle of nowhere. Elder sister was furious with you.”

“Raven... that was only thrice.”

Erik quirked a brow. Never had he known anyone so.. oblivious.

“...three times too many Charles.” berated Raven. Once again, she scampered off to do god knows what.

“We best be off, shan't we Erik? Logan is terrifying when you don't listen to him. He's the ‘I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed’ type... only he gets angry as well.”

Erik actually rolled his eyes, but followed Charles out of the tavern anyway. A cold gust of air, littered with specks of white hit them as they left the tavern. Charles looked up and smiled, “Erik! It's snowing!”

The German watched as flakes of snow fell upon the brunet's hair and shoulders. His cheeks were a rosy hue due to the cold. When he turned around, wearing that dazzling smile, and those eyes that were filled with everything good in life, Erik felt his heart lurch. Dear god... this feeling… this pounding within his chest and the warmth that blazed within him... It was love. There was no other possible explanation. The unpleasant feelings before, when Charles was overly friendly with Raven and Logan. It had been jealousy, raw and pungent and ever so real.

How could this be? He had known Charles for a mere two weeks and yet... he was utterly smitten. Erik froze, trying to process everything, trying to organize all the information that his heart had known all along but his brain had been too stupid to realize. Dear god what was wrong with him?

Charles froze. A look came across his face, as if for a second he knew what the other male was thinking. He stood still, frozen. “...Erik?”

“Yes?” croaked Erik, the feelings causing a lump in his throat. He desperately tried to retain his stoic composure, his control.

“Good heavens! My friend, you haven’t yet eaten,” a guilty look flashed across Charles’s face, “We must get home and have you fed. You must be famished!” Then without another word, the brunet walked in a hurried place back to their apartment, oblivious as always.

Erik did what he always did when it came to Charles. He followed and watched over the smaller male. Only this time, he was silently cursing himself for being such a fool for falling in love.

_____________________________________________

When Erik and Charles got home, the first thing Charles did was fall upon the couch in front of the fireplace that Moira, thankfully, had kept burning. Erik, on the other hand, took off his scarf and placed it on the clothes hook by the door. He proceeded to enter the living room in a more refined manner.

Charles gave a tiny moan as he placed his gloved hands upon his stomach. Erik, who had managed to get a grip of his emotions, walked over to the smaller man, slightly concerned. “Charles, are you alright?”

“Perfectly fine, my friend,” the brunet gave a gentle smile, “I'm just not used to eating so much. Logan always tries to feed me, says I'm nothing but skin, tweed and bones. I highly disagree, my ratio of weight and height is perfectly fine.”

“I concur with Logan, to be honest,” Erik placed a hand on Charles’s forehead, his hands brushing against perfectly tousled hair. “Your temperature is slightly high, but it's probably due to the fact that you were outside in the cold. Also, you happen to be very close to the fire place at the moment.”

“Go eat Erik, before I tattle to Moira,” grumbled Charles as he spun out of Erik's touch and sunk deeper into the sofa. “She's worse than Logan when it comes to eating properly. Luckily, she’s deemed me a lost cause, so she no longer tries to mother me.”

“Will you go take a hot bath whilst I eat?”

“Very well then, even though I've already bathed today.” Charles rolled off the couch and shuffled towards the bathroom.

Erik watched with a smile on his face before heading towards the dinning room, where sandwiches awaited him. Perhaps Charles would like some tea as well.

By the time Charles finished his bath, Erik was already finishing off the last of his sandwiches. He had been taught throughout the years to never take food for granted, and ate all that was on his plate.

“What was your relation to Angel?” asked Charles as he sat across the small dining table. His eyes sparkled in delight when he noticed the pot of tea. He poured himself some and, being the tea fanatic that he was, he poured in a seemingly exact amount of sugar and milk, stirring the beverage with a tiny spoon without it clinking against the rim of the cup, like a well bred gentleman.

Erik chewed his food properly before he spoke. “What do you think?” he swallowed thickly, but that had nothing to do with the food. Rather, Charles was wearing his silk pajamas, the delicate fabric practically framing his form like a second skin. His pale skin was still damp and Erik saw droplets of water run down from Charles' brown hair, to his neck, then even further down to where silk hid his skin. Erik felt his groin tighten and mentally scolded himself. Control, control, control...

“I don't think you used her for sex, if that's what you were thinking I was thinking.” Charles smiled. Really, was there ever a time where a smile of any degree didn't adorn his face?

“That's unusual, many would think exactly that.”

“I'm not many. As if you would let your guard down for a single night to partake in carnal needs with a woman you barely know.” Charles opened a tin of biscuits and looked as if he wanted to have one... but he frowned, as if recalling his current state of fullness and put the lid back on wistfully.

“You're right, I hired her for the night as a distraction.”

The brunet took a sip of his tea, his expression casual, at ease with the fact that Erik sounded as if he was going to explain something not quite legal. “Oh? Do go on my friend.”

There was a silence, comfortable in manner as Erik decided how much he should divulge to his Charles. Then again, he was very much an open book under those ridiculously blue eyes. In the end, there was nothing to lose when it came to telling Charles. It might even aid him in his quest to look for the bastard that took away his mother. “I'm... I'm looking for someone. He... took my mother away from me when I was a child.”

“And you want to look for him? Look for your mother?”

“Yes,” for of the taller male, this was... surprisingly hard to talk about. “I want to kill him.”

Charles looked concerned. He set his teacup down and it didn't even make a sound as it was set back on the saucer. “That will bring you nothing in the end, my friend.”

Erik shrugged it off, “Perhaps, perhaps not. But I shall decide when he is before me.”

Since the first time they met, Erik sensed hesitancy in Charles’s voice. It sounded strangely vulnerable. “... And if we do not find your mother?”

“Then his death shall have to console me.” Erik grinned, his smile sharp and glistening like a knife. It had been a smile that had invoked fear into the hearts of many, and yet Charles didn't even seem to notice it.

“We shall see, when the time comes, should we even catch this man at all.”

Erik took off without a word and climbed up the stairs to his bedroom.

As if knowing he would come back, Charles remained in his seat, sipping his tea. Only now there was a pain in his eyes, torn emotions that were currently waging war within him. This game, this hunt, it thrilled him, made his mind race and made him feel alive. But this came with a cost. A murder mystery of course means that someone had died. Charles was pulled away from his mental meanderings when he head Erik's footsteps descend upon the stairs. They grew louder as they drew closer to the dinning room.

“You will find him,” Erik sat back down on his chair and pushed something small in Charles' direction.

Charles picked it up and peered at it. It was a coin, of the exact same design as the one that Angel had been gripping. “Erik, my friend, I am so sor-

Erik spoke before the brunet could finish, “Use it, deduce what you will from it. Whatever you think, whatever clue you think it may hold, we will follow it.”

The brunet didn't take his eyes off the coin. “Indeed.”

___________________________________________

“Charles... do you not think that I haven't thought of this before?” Erik leaned against the door, his arms crossed. There was an indulgent smile on his face.

“I do not think you had as many books at your disposal, my friend.” Charles was surrounded by books, which was a normal occurrence, only this time the books practically blanketed him, covering his knees as he sat cross legged on the carpet. He had been in the same position since last night, skipping out on sleep, breakfast and lunch, much to Erik's disapproval. Moira had given up on him long ago. Why eat and sleep when there was a case to crack?

“Charles, time to eat.”

“I have 4 books left, I shall eat then,”

“No. You shall eat now.” Erik put on his best glare, but was ignored. Charles' face was deep in a coin collecting book that looked thicker than the bible.

“But­ I'm not hungry.”

“It has nothing to do with whether you feel hungry or not. Your body needs nourishment, especially since you've been missing out on sleep. Humans are used to eating and sleeping at regular hours.”

Charles didn't say anything.

“Charles... now, or else.”

That caused a reaction. Red lips broke into an amused smile, but Charles continued to flick through the book, looking for anything similar to the coin that they had in their possession. “Or else what, my friend?”

“If we do not go eat now, I am sure Logan will be fine bringing you some of his famous pancakes?”

Charles paled, then snapped the book closed with a sigh. “Very well then, on one condition.”

“And that is?”

“Help me up?” the brunet smiled sheepishly, “I cannot feel my legs.”

Erik rolled his eyes, but he couldn't help and think how utterly adorable it was, how needed he felt.

__________________________________________________

Dressed in a thick, black, woolen coat, scarf and leather gloves, both males once again found themselves in front of the closest fish and chippery.

Erik watched with a stoic expression as Charles ordered his food with his usual soft smile. Overpaying the server for his meal, as usual. “Are you besotted with fish and chips?” asked the German as Charles tore into the newspaper wrapper and ate a couple of chips.

“No, of course not, I'm utterly sick of it,” said the brunet as they returned to the busy streets of London, seemingly meandering without a purpose. But Erik knew better. Charles always had a reason for everything he did.

Erik frowned at that, “You've eaten nothing but fish and chips, or tea and biscuits the whole time I’ve known you so far. 

Charles smiled and glanced at Erik with those soulful blue eyes, “Ah my friend, you forget about Logan's pancakes and scotch.”

“Why do you eat it all the time if you don't like it?”

The brunet shrugged. “It's convenient. Swiftly made, easy to eat, very efficient, really, and I do not eat much anyway.”

“No Charles.” Ignoring the brunet's protest, Erik took away the pack of fish and chips and handed it to the nearest beggar. “No.”

“Erik!” exclaimed Charles, “How can I eat anything if you take away my food?!”

Erik scowled, standing behind Charles and placing his hands on the brunet's shoulders, his grip firm. “My dear Charles, I thought this to be painfully obvious.” And before he knew it, Charles was being forcefully steered towards the nearest restaurant.

“My friend... this is very unneeded,” mumbled Charles as he sat in the restaurant. He seemed to be slouching, looking rather out of place. “What was wrong with my fish and chips?”

Erik lips were set firm in disapproval as he made a hand gesture to call over the waiter. “Have you any idea of the nutritional value of fish and chips? Or rather, a lack thereof?”

The smaller man shrugged, looking very much like a sullen child. “It has kept me going for years.”

“Years.” Repeated the German, his tone clipped and taut, displeasure obvious in both his voice and expression. “Charles, there are basically only three things in fish and chips. Fat, protein and carbohydrates. Very little of anything else.”

“Yes, and? I've been alive and well eating that, nothing needs to be changed. I know that all the body really needs is protein and carbohydrates to turn into energy. I believe nothing other than that is needed.”

Just then the waiter came over and Erik ordered without looking at either the waiter or the menu. “Steak,” he said gruffly, “with mashed potatoes and vegetables... for two.” as if he was able to sense the negative emotions that radiated off the German in fluctuating waves, the waiter nodded and scurried off at surprising speed, tail tucked between his legs.

Erik leaned forward, placed his elbows on the table and crossed his hands as he stared at Charles. “The body needs so much more than that.”

The brunet nodded, but seemed not to care. The food came and Charles' eyes practically bulged out of his sockets at the sheer volume of it. “Erik, my friend, I simply cannot finish all this. There's no possible way. Well, there is, but we would be here for an unnatural amount of time.”

Erik nodded, “The attempt shall be enough, look,” he pointed towards the food, “Protein, carbohydrates, iron and vitamins. The elements most needed to maintain a healthy body.”

“I did not think vegetables were so important.”

“Did your mother never tell you the old wives tale? The 'eating carrots let you see in the dark' trick?”

Charles smiled wryly, saying a gentle “No,” before starting on his food.

Erik looked surprised as he cut into his steak, “No? Come now Charles, surely there must have been-” Erik froze midway, seeing the lost expression that flashed across the brunet's face. Never had he seen those blue eyes looking so lost and vulnerable. It tore at his heartstrings and Erik awkwardly coughed, “Anyhow, you are to eat like this every day.”

Charles froze, looking like a deer caught in headlights. “Surely you jest!”

The German remained firm, looking nonchalant as he shrugged, “No jesting from me, you must eat regularly, even if you do not feel like it. There must be variety in the food that you eat as well. Naturally, I will be here to reinforce this.”

Charles continued to eat, looking miserable in an adorable way, his voice soft and sulky, “Really, I do not need to eat that much at all.”

“Doctor's orders.”

Charles continued looking as he did, consuming his meal at a turtle's pace.

Erik pushed his plate away, already finished. He had taught himself to eat swiftly long ago. “You can look at it this way then: do it for me. If not for your own health, then do it for me as either your friend or doctor.”

“You are too cruel, my friend.” Charles smiled softly, more to himself than anyone else. “But I am glad that you now see me as a friend.”

“It is an effective method, the clause that is 'friendship'.” Erik allowed the waiter to take away his plate and pour him a cup of coffee. Erik savored the fine roast, shooting the waiter another glare that once again sent him scurrying off. He couldn't help but smirk; it was amusing to scare people. He peered over at Charles, who was still less than halfway finished with his own food. “Hurry along now Charles, or you will miss dessert.”

Charles blue eyes widened in realization and he groaned, “Erik, my friend, do not even breach the subject of dessert.” 

Erik simply just laughed.

Chapter Text

 

“This is the place?” inquired Erik as they looked at the quaint, two story building in front of them. The building was wedged between larger establishments, looking discreet and small. The design of the building was clean and well kept but simple, as if to portray a positive environment while also being discreet. Unlike many other buildings, the one in front of them was nameless. Then again, many whore houses remained nameless.

“This is Angel's work place.” Charles walked up the steps and opened the door, entering without another word. And as always, Erik followed.

The scent of something exotic and... exciting filled the air. Despite the fact that it was broad daylight outside, it was dim inside, the soft glows of candles making the red accents of the wall stand out even more. The place was surrounded by women, in various states of undress. They were all beautiful, looking coy as they talked to each other, mysterious and alluring.

“Why hello there,” said a soft voice, gentle and seductive as a redhead pulled at Charles' arm. “Are you looking for some company?”

“No he is not,” said Erik with a tight smile, trying to quell the sudden jealousy that clawed at the pit of his belly. “We are here strictly for business.”

The woman's smile faltered and her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “I see then... what do you want?”

“I think, before we are to say anything,” said Charles in a gentle tone, rich with sympathy and kindness that was almost incomprehensible, “It would be best if you were to sit down My Dear.” He placed a comforting hand on the redhead's shoulder. “It's about your friend, Tempest.”

Insecurity flashed through the redhead's eyes, a nervousness and vulnerability that should only belong to a child. “...Okay then. You can call me Phoenix by the way.” the woman held onto Charles' hand before leading them to a more private room.

Erik wanted to sever the tie between them, but in actuality, Phoenix looked more like a lost child holding onto her big brothers hand than anything else. Charles seemed to have that effect on people, to be able to make them love and adore him. Everyone that knew him, no matter how long, seemed to bask in his kindness, and it was amazing... and yet, even though he seemed to have touched the lives of so many... Erik couldn't help but think how alone he seemed.

Erik had lived with Charles for almost a month now, and not once did Charles ever visit anyone unless it involved a case. No one knocked on his door unless they needed something from him. The closest people to him were Raven and Logan, and even then they visited ever so rarely. Moira was an exception, but other than taking care of them and the occasional scolding she gave Charles, there was still distance between them. Most of the time Charles spent his alone, surrounded by his books, endlessly meandering within his own mind.

Charles kept people at arm’s length, and now that Erik had realized this, he wanted to find out why. But he would make do another time. For now, they had to deal with this.

Phoenix led them to a room with red drapes, walls and carpets. In the center of the room was a simple bed with red sheets and pillows. On the bed sat another woman; her hair was white as snow and her skin as fine as chocolate.

“Storm,” said Phoenix, sitting on the bed and holding onto Storm's hands. She glanced at Charles and Erik. “Something’s happened to Angel.”

“Ah... yes.” Charles sat down on a nearby wooden chair but Erik, being the person that he was, chose to stand behind the brunet, his hands holding onto the frame of the chair. “She passed away yesterday.”

Storm's face was stoic, but her eyes were a raging storm of grief. Phoenix's lips quivered, her eyes watered. “...What?” she croaked out.

“She was found dead yesterday. Murder,” repeated Charles.

Phoenix began to cry softly. It was Storm who spoke. Her voice was controlled but tight, “And how would you know this?”

“We're here on behalf of Scotland Yard,” bit out Erik. He may despise them, but their name was indeed useful. “And we're looking for her murderer.”

“Why do you care?” snapped out Phoenix, “As if Scotland Yard would ever want to investigate the death of… girls like us....”

“My name is Charles Xavier and this here is Erik Lehnsherr. I promise you, we will find Angel's killer.”

Storm stared at Charles a little longer, as if she were trying to see into the very depths of his soul for the truth behind his words. She seemed to have found what she needed, because she nodded. “What do you wish to know.”

“What she did the day before yesterday, were there any notable customers, if she did anything that seemed strange, if there was a 'john' that seemed... unusual.” Charles sat back, his posture perfect, legs crossed, hands clasped together on his knees and fully alert.

“She was fine, no one hated her. I mean, she looked after everyone, all the new girls,” Phoenix took out a handkerchief and wiped away her tears. “She met her usual 'John' the night before yesterday. She came home looking upset.”

“Do you know why?” asked Charles. There was a sharpness in his eyes, one that told Erik that Charles was onto something, dissecting every word and every clue.

Storm spoke next, “She didn't tell us why,” she rubbed Phoenix's back, “But... she looked… scared.”

“Scared?” asked Erik, only to be shot down with a glare by both women. It couldn't be helped, he knew that he didn't have any social skills. It would've been better if the people they were questioning were men rather than women. It was so much easier to beat the answers out of people than politely ask them. Being nice was such an inconvenience, but Charles didn't seem to mind.

Erik was ignored, but looking at Charles, Storm continued speaking. “She was jumpy, after meeting her John, but I don't know why so.. I'm sorry.”

“It's fine Love. Can you tell me who her John was at least?”

Phoenix shook her head somberly, “No. He always remained in the carriage; she would go to him and spend the night.”

That caused Charles to quirk a brow. “I thought you girls were taught not to do such things. It is unsafe to enter a customer's carriage or enter their property.”

“In most cases yes, but this John was different. She said... she said he paid good money, and that he was normal... with his tastes. He was charismatic.... normal. You know?”

“Obviously not, if her “normal” John was the killer.” Storm bit her lip, “I know that his carriage was custom made though.”

“How so?”

“I recall red trimmings on the design of the carriage, but that was it.”

“Do you recall anything else? Anything at all?”

Pheonix shook her head miserably, “I'm sorry but I do not.”

“Neither do I” added Storm.

Charles bit onto his lip and nodded in understanding, but Erik knew that the brunet was probably feeling quite frustrated by now. They had come here and found very little information that would help them with their case.

Charles stood up and walked over to place a comforting hand on Phoenix's shoulder. “We will do all we can Miss Phoenix. If you remember anything else, anything else at all, then you talk to the barkeep of ‘The Brotherhood Tavern.’” He dug his hands into his pockets and pulled out a wad of cash, handing it to the women who took it warily. “For your time,” he explained, and before they could reply, Charles headed out the door. And as always, Erik followed.

It was a relief to get out of the establishment, to be able to breathe air that was not infused with the scent of musk and sex.

“You are... comforting, My friend. Pleasant to be around, to have around,” said Charles after 10 minutes of walking in silence.

Erik stopped dead in his tracks before catching himself and walking beside the brunet once again. “What do you mean?” he asked, trying to sound casual, but his words were gruff and it was hard to deny the... insane happiness that flickered in his chest.

Charles didn't even glance back, his gaze was forward, his voice normal and light as if he were commenting on the weather. “You are always beside me and yet you do not stifle me. Really... It is like having a guardian by my side. Very comforting. To be honest I am surprised, do you not tire of always standing or being so silent?”

“I'm a man of few words... and standing up ensures that I do not leave myself vulnerable to attack.”

The brunet smiled. “I've noticed. I do not regret at all, when I plucked you from the masses from within the confines of the tavern.”

“Not even when I force you to eat or rest?” asked Erik in a joking manner.

“Oh... I hadn't considered that.” Charles feigned a thoughtful expression, biting on his bottom lip in a way that Erik thought was indecent. “But none the matter My Friend, the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to you.”

The German rolled his eyes, his outer appearance contrasting with the exuberant happiness that he was currently feeling... he felt like a child. “Where off to next, Charles?”

“Back home to get the list of all the nobility in the town.”

“Why?”

“Well... Phoenix and Storm said red rims. Surely, only a person of great wealth would be the type to waste money on such superficial appearances. He would be male too, most likely from middle-aged or elderly with no wife or children.”

“...and you got all this from red-rims?”

Charles looked back at him with wide eyes, his head tilted to the side in a puppyish manner that was utterly adorable. “Yes.”

The taller male sighed, “Do explain.”

“Well, you see, as shameful as it is to say, men are stupid when it comes to carnal pleasures, at least the ones that are under the ages of 35. So he must be above the age of 35, most likely of a high status since he didn't want his identity to be revealed. A person of any lesser nobility wouldn't care if they were seen seeking pleasures from the whore house. Though, the 'John' must be somewhat... arrogant and vain. He's going through all these lengths to keep his identity hidden and yet rides around in a custom made carriage. His carriage is only rimmed red though, so it means that while he may be vain, he shows his class subtly, hence the red lining. If he were more flamboyant then the carriage itself would be of a completely different design. Something more eye catching. Does this all make sense?”

“It does somehow, but in the end that doesn't matter.”

That stopped Charles dead in his tracks. He spun around, almost bumping into Erik before he spoke. “What do you mean?”

“It means, Charles, that I'll follow you regardless, even if I do not understand half the things you prattle on about.”

That caused the brunet's eyes to widen, a rare look of confusion fluttered across his face before his lips broke into a smile, wide and filled with joy. It was a smile that Erik had never seen before, but it warmed him to the very core of his being.

“Thank you, Erik, sincerely,” said Charles, the smile still warm on his face. He turned around once again and briskly made his way through the snow, a tiny bounce to his step. “Now, My friend, time to head back home to look for all the nobility within our region.”

“Slow down Charles, it's not as if the many, many, many books within our home will disappear if you do not get to them immediately.”

“But there is very little time.” The brunet made a sharp turn into an alleyway, “Best we take some short cuts home.”

“This is London. We have a higher chance of getting lost in this blasted maze than getting home.”

“That would be true. If you were with anyone else that is.”

Erik snorted, “What, you've memorized the streets of London?”

“Every nook and cranny.”

The taller male froze for a mere second in surprise before finding his composure and catching up to Charles, walking side by side. “Trust you to know such things.”

“It's useful,” explained Charles. He rubbed his hands together, trying to get warmth back into them. He was very thankful for the fact that Erik had reminded him to bring his gloves. He might've lost his fingers otherwise. The weather was getting colder, bleaker, and it wasn't even that dark. The sun had set a mere hour ago. It seemed that winter would be insanely cruel this year. He'll have to give Logan more money for the children. The thought of them cold and hungry did not bode well with him at all. No child should have to suffer in this world.

“Charles?” said Erik, his voice softer than usual, the baritone smooth and deep like a fine scotch.

“Yes? My friend?” inquired Charles.

They made another sharp turn and entered an alley.

“We're being followed.”

“I know, why do you think we are in an alley?”

“And a crowded place would not have been better?” growled Erik. He was tense, preparing himself for the assault that was soon about to occur. He had to admit, it was nice to feel the adrenaline flushing through his system, it was a familiar sensation. One that he was used to and could deal with.

“And risk innocent people being harmed? Never.” Charles looked up at Erik and grinned. He seemed to be rather at ease with the current situation.

Erik bit his tongue to stop the verbal scolding that he wanted to direct towards Charles. “They are not mere pick pockets or muggers, Charles, you could get killed. We both could.”

“I do not think so.” the brunet glanced back, just in time to see a couple of figures walking ominously towards them. “Their strides are not confident. They come in numbers. It only takes one person with a gun to kill two unarmed people, and yet there are 5 of them.”

“You can never be too sure. What now?”

“Stay and fight of course. They might have information that could prove useful too.”

Erik couldn't help but laugh darkly in disbelief. “You can fight?” it was hard to believe that such a slight male with a heart of gold was capable of inflicting any sort of pain. He didn't believe at all, not until he saw it.

Charles abruptly spun around to face the group of burly men that was approaching them. He cracked his knuckles in a masculine manner, his plush lips set firm and jaw tight. His stance was proud and strong, accentuated by his blue eyes which were sharp and glinting. He stood out amongst the snow, against the stone of the walls and the rapidly darkening sky. He was breathtaking and for a moment Erik forgot where he was, and the danger they were in. All he could hear was the pounding of his heart.

“Of course, we're in London after all.” Charles studied the men that were currently approaching them. There were 5, all roughly of the same stature. They were average height, wearing working class clothing. Their arms were muscled, fingers heavily calloused. They were working men, most likely from near the harbor where the ships were built. Their expression was hard and determined, but even from this distance Charles could see the hesitance in their steps. They were most likely just normal people, desperate for extra money to no doubt use to feed their family.

The brunet glanced at Erik, "Five burly men, a darkened alley in the wee hours of the night. Rather cliché, don’t you think, My friend?”

The doctor grinned, his smile looking lethal as those pearly whites gleamed. “Either way, you better come out of this alive Charles, or I shall be very unhappy with you.”

“Likewise, Erik, likewise. Also, please don't hurt them too badly, it's not their fault. Really”

“Oh for goodness sake, Charles,” groaned Erik.

The brunet shot him a pleading look.

The taller male rolled his eyes, bunching up his fists, “Very well then, but truly, this bleeding heart of yours is starting to become an issue.”

“Thank you.” Charles seemed to have ignored the last comment. Instead, the brunet smiled before rushing towards the burly men. Erik rushed after him.

Together the two males charged, taking strong strides forward in an elegant unison, facing their enemies head on. Being of a larger size, three of the men decided to take on Erik whilst the other two headed towards Charles.

Charles braced himself, ready for battle, his eyes frantically darted from various spots, trying to get a reading from his attackers. They were of a solid build, burly, with thick muscles. Most likely they worked in construction.

The first man took a swing, his meaty fists hitting nothing but cold air as Charles dodged the attempt with ease. He caught the scent of salt and fish. This particular man most likely worked near the docks, building ships perhaps. But there was an underlying scent to him, veiled by the smell of tobacco and salt, but it was definitely there. The scent of alcohol. Ah... a drinker then. A heavy one, judging by how thick the smell enveloped him.

The brunet suddenly took a blow to the cheek, staggering for a moment before he caught himself again. The man's attempts held much force, but he was clumsy. It meant that he was most likely new at this. He probably lost his job due to his drinking problem, and money was an issue right now. He had no other choice than to resort to petty jobs that were rather unsavory. Within his own mind time slowed as Charles deducted facts from his attacker. But in reality his reading was done in quick succession. At his attackers next attempt he sideswiped the man's punch, gasped his attacker by the jaw, pushing him against the cold brick walls with a force that many thought he did not possess. Charles kneed the man where he was most vulnerable, his liver. This was swiftly followed by a punch to the jaw that had the man hoarsely crying out, toppling over and staying down. Out cold.

Charles turned around to face his next attacker, briefly making sure that Erik was okay before reading the man in front of him.

His attacker tensed up, more alert now that he had seen what Charles could do. He took a step forward and Charles noticed the very pronounced limp, the same scent of the sea. The attacker’s clothing was worn, looking very close to tatters, but his face was clean-shaven. Despite the wear and tear of his clothing, Charles noticed the added patches of fabric, painfully and carefully stitched on, most likely by a wife. The connection was easily made: an injury that lead to his unemployment, a family to feed, money was needed. It was wrong, but what else was a man to do?

Charles just as easily took out this man, taking pity on him and hitting all the spots that weren't vital. He already had a hurt leg, he didn't need any more injuries that would prolong his unemployment. It took longer, but soon enough this man went down too, crashing to the floor in a heap. Done with his lot, Charles returned his attention to Erik, wondering if the doctor needed any help. It didn't seem like it at all.

Erik grunted as he blocked a blow. Three against one was hardly fair, but then again it wasn't as if the scum of the earth cared about such things. It would be so easy to kill them all, to hit certain areas that would ensure either a swift death, or a painfully slow one. He was a doctor, such knowledge was second nature to him. It would be so very easy.

“Need any help?” asked Charles from a distance, and Erik glanced his way. The doctor was very surprised when he saw the unconscious men by the brunet's feet.

“It's alright!” bellowed out Erik as he dodged a blow. He couldn't stress enough how easy it would be to kill these men. The temple, the most vulnerable part of the head, an opening where there was nothing more than soft tissue protecting the brain. A strike there would lead to serious damage and death. The Jugular was the next spot, all soft tissue, easy to crush, cut off blood supply to the brain. The throat was another human weak spot, or specifically the trachea, nothing but cartilage rings that when struck correctly would lead to the cartilage collapsing, blocking the airways. Suffocation was a swift but painful death.

“Are you sure?” asked Charles as Erik made another dodge and landed a harsh punch on one of the brute's jaw.

“I'm fine!” insisted Erik. He was frustrated now and really, he didn't want to keep Charles waiting. It was cold outside and the brunet was small, he would end up frozen if they continued to drag this out. Erik aimed for the solar plexus, striking at that particular spot compressed the nerves that controlled the diaphragm, temporarily making breathing an issue. After that it was simple; Erik's own bunch of felons quickly made close friends with the icy, frozen ground.

There was such a contrast to the men that he had dealt with and the men that Charles had dealt with. Charles' attackers were out cold whilst Erik's were on the floor, wheezing for breath and groaning in pain.

Erik watched as Charles crouched down to go through the pockets of the unconscious men. And soon enough, after a while of blindly rummaging around, Charles pulled out a single coin. It was of the exact same design as the one Erik had, the same one that Angel had clutched within her hand during her final moments.

“That's... strange,” murmured Charles as he used the light of the moon to look at the coin. “I should have been more careful. Someone must have been tailing us when we at the whore house before.”

“Whoever it is that caused Angel's death knows we're on to them.” Erik took a sharp intake of breath, “What now?”

“There's nothing else much to do really, other than find out who would have a carriage rimmed with red.” Charles took out his own wallet, took out some money and stuffed it in the unconscious men's pockets.

Erik shot him a disapproving look. “Might I remind you that these men just tried to kill us?”

“Don't worry, they're not usually criminals. Just need a bit of help putting food on the table.” Charles stood back up and rubbed his hands together. “We best be heading home now, it's gotten very cold,” The brunet shot their attackers a questioning look, “...Will it be alright if we leave them out here in the cold like this?”

“They'll survive,” ground out Erik. He pulled Charles by the sleeve of his coat in the direction of their home, “Come on Charles, we should go before we freeze to death.”

The two managed to walk about two blocks before Erik felt a sudden weight by his side. Charles had suddenly leaned heavily against him. “Charles,” he asked, concerned, “Are you alright?”

Charles let out... a chuckle? It was more like a giggle though, “I'm sorry Erik, I think it's the adrenaline leaving me.”

“That's understandable.” Erik moved so that he was holding Charles close, easily supporting the brunet's weight. It felt so right to have Charles so close to him, as if they belonged to one another. Erik was glad that the brunet could not see the blush that had swept across his face. He was so love struck he was starting to sound pathetic in his own mind.

_______________________________________________

They had finally reached home. Charles had settled on his usual couch, still wearing his gloves, coat and scarf as he huddled within himself. Erik, on the other hand, had briefly gone outside to fill a bowl of snow. He came back and set the bowl on the coffee table before taking off his damp coat. He stared at Charles for a moment, and when the brunet did nothing, Erik scowled and moved to take Charles' coat off, followed by his scarf and gloves. Then he moved a wooden chair right in front of Charles and took off his gloves.

“It's fine, no damage done,” said Charles with a small smile. The blood had returned to his lips, and under the light of the fireplace they looked so deliciously red.

“Adrenaline is most likely still running its course through your system so pain is dimmed. You'll be feeling it tomorrow, however.” Erik gently touched those fingers, marveling at how soft they were. There were very few calluses; they were the hands of someone who had led a very privileged life. Beautiful and elegant. “You fought very well,” commented Erik, as he noticed that only the knuckles of Charles' hands were tinged red.

Charles took his hands away and peered at them with a shrug. “Logan taught me how to fight. I used to spar with Raven as well.”

Erik handed Charles the bowl of snow and Charles dug his hands into it. He closed his eyes with a slight hiss, opening one dazzling eye when he noticed that Erik did not have a bowl of snow of his own. “Are you alright, My friend?”

“Perfectly fine,” replied Erik. He proceeded to take off his own gloves, glancing at them for a moment, just to double check. They were fine.

“Your hands are different to mine.”

The doctor grinned. “Of course they are. Did you think them to look exactly the same as yours?”

For the first time since Erik had known him, Charles’ face twisted into a pout, “You know what I mean. Your knuckles are flat. Did you fight often? In the war?”

Erik was silent for a moment, pondering on what to say next. It was harder to talk when he was just sitting there, so instead he stood up to crouch over Charles. Telling himself that it was purely medical, Erik grasped Charles’ chin, peering closer to inspect the bruise that was starting to appear on the brunet's cheek. “...When... When my mother was taken away, I was sent to an orphanage. I fought a lot there.”

Charles seemed to understand. He tried to nod, but it was kind of hard since Erik was still holding onto his chin. “Children can be cruel.”

Erik grunted in agreement, moving Charles' head from side to side, telling himself that it was only to inspect for further wounds. Not so that he could feel Charles' soft skin, thinking how kissable those lips where and how mesmerizing those eyes were. “Children can be cruel, but only for awhile. They leave you alone after you beat them into submission. Hence the flat knuckles.”

Charles bit onto his insanely red lips. “I'm sorry you had to go through that, Erik. No one should suffer as you have suffered.”

He looked so concerned, those eyes wet with a kindness and compassion that was unheard of in a human. He was chewing on those lips now, worrying them and deepening their shade. Erik inched in closer, ever so closer. He wanted to capture those lips, consume them and kiss them until they belonged to him just as much as they belonged to Charles.

He leaned in closer.

Closer.

And then realized what he was doing, caught himself and practically almost toppled backwards in an embarrassing lump of flesh and human awkwardness. Spluttering like a fool, Erik coughed madly into a clenched fist, fighting the blush that ransacked his face.

Hands still wrist deep in melting snow, Charles looked at him with those ridiculously and annoyingly blue eyes, his expression innocent and oblivious. “Erik, are you alright?”

Gottverdamm. Snarled the doctor mentally as he tried to think of something to say, but his mind was racing about other things. How did Charles not notice this tension? No one could be THAT oblivious, surely not a genius like Charles. Then again, the brunet hadn't known that the world revolved around the sun until recently... “I'm fine,” muttered Erik, “I... er... I think I shall retire for the night,” and then he disappeared to his room before Charles could say anything. 

Charles slouched back into his couch, staring at the ice that was beginning to melt. He bit his lip. Hmn... his heart seemed to be beating slightly faster than usual and a strange feeling was flopping within the pits of his belly. It felt as if there was butterflies fluttering away inside of him and his cheeks felt really warm. It was a strange medley of sensations that were very much new to him. He had fought many times before and never had he felt this way.... Perhaps he was getting sick? He shall have to have Erik check tomorrow. But for now, Charles was content to just sit back and try to figure out who would want them dead.

 ___________________________________________

 

Erik groaned when he had the door to his room shut. He leaned against the solid wood and mentally cursed himself to high heaven. What was wrong with him?! Doing something as stupid as trying to steal a kiss from that intelligent idiot. But dear god had Charles looked absolutely delectable. His eyes had been glistening and bright and slightly wild, his cheeks flushed from heat and exertion. He had been panting, his hair messy and slightly wet from snow. It looked as if he had just been fucked.

The ache in his nether regions became too much for him. Loosening the front of his pants, Erik carefully pulled out his stiffening erection, and with the self control of a pubescent moron he jerked himself off. Imagining his cock wrapped by those blood red lips, watched with those azure eyes... Needless to say, Erik came pretty quick. He banged his head against the door and went to clean himself off. Tomorrow was another day... Charles was going to be the death of him.