Fantasies aside, Charles never thought he'd find himself in this position.
In truth, he hadn't realized he could find himself in this position. And yet, there he was, back pushed hard against a cold metal locker, held up by nothing more than the force of Erik's powerful thrusts. Their ridiculous yellow jumpsuits lay abandoned on a nearby bench in the locker room. Charles couldn't remember how he got out of his. He couldn't really remember much of the whole afternoon. Just flashes of images and emotions. Fear that Erik was going to be killed turned to blood-cold terror that he was going to commit mass murder eased into breath-stealing relief when Erik triggered the bombs safely miles high in the sky. It all blurred and pulsed together into one giant lump of quivery weakness that somehow became the catalyst for that first kiss.
Charles did remember he was the one who initiated it. All those months of holding himself back were forgotten in the heat of the moment and though he somehow managed to feel embarrassed of losing control even in the midst of mind-searing pleasure licking up his spine, Charles also felt proud he'd never once skimmed Erik's mind to see if his friend ever had the same fantasies.
Shielding against his thoughts right now was pretty much impossible though. Not just because sex always lowered Charles' defenses. Erik was all but shouting inside his head.
Too bad it was all in German.
Even without the details, Charles got the gist. Urgent lust, shocked relief, remnants of fear.
Charles recognized the apologies.
He didn't need them. Erik was safe and here. That was all Charles could ask for and he tried to communicate that in every touch, every kiss, in the way he arched his back and gripped Erik's hair and shouted his pleasure. He'd never been quite so vocal in sex or so open. Quite literally in this case. All his other times with boys at school had been fumbled exchanges, spurred by the excitement of something so taboo, the danger of being caught. It'd never progressed much past desperate and at times, humiliatingly swift dry-humping. Yet he didn't even think to question it when Erik lifted him up with intent, gripping under his thighs and rubbing his dick against the curve of Charles' ass. He laughed when Erik wrenched open the locker beside them with his power and began grasping for anything slick, but that laughter died a strangled death when Erik's long slender fingers pressed inside him.
Charles wasn't sure what kept him from trying this particular activity for so long, but it had clearly been a mistake.
It was only after he'd come all over his hand, his stomach and oh dear Erik's chest and felt Erik doing the same deep inside him that Charles had his epiphany. Those deep burning shocks of pleasure so different from tight wet heat around his cock were utterly delicious, but they weren't the reason Charles had climaxed so hard. Nor were they the reason his heart squeezed in his chest when Erik laid his forehead against Charles', warm breath puffing against Charles' lips and hitched his legs up again, determined to hold him close for a moment longer.
"Charles," Erik murmured, sounding as exhausted and wrecked as Charles felt.
There were times when Charles wished he could hear his own thoughts as clearly as he did others. Then the persistence of these inappropriate fantasies tumbled into reality wouldn't be smacking him hard in the face while Erik's dick still rested inside his body.
He was in love with his best friend.
They didn't talk about what happened. Charles because his revelation startled him so badly and then because Erik also didn't say anything. Even if he were threatened at gunpoint, Charles would never have dipped into Erik's mind. He'd practically thrown himself at Erik like a horny schoolgirl and okay, Erik had accepted his ardor, but days passed and then weeks without a word or better yet, an offer of a repeat. Charles didn't think he could bear learning Erik had only indulged Charles out of misguided adrenaline-fueled relief.
Not that the worry was any more amusing. But if Erik wanted to pretend it didn't happen and their relationship could survive, Charles didn't dare tip the balance. Besides, they both had plenty to do. It took a week of lengthy debates that occasionally edged into real arguments, but eventually between the four of them, Charles, Erik, Raven and Hank agreed on a basis for creating a school for young mutants. The biggest controversy being, of course, Erik and Charles' disagreement about disclosure to the public. Charles remained convinced non-mutant humans could not handle the sudden introduction of powered humans into their midst. Erik abhorred the idea of hiding.
The compromise came in baby steps. It pained Charles beyond telling to suppress Moira's memories, but the alternative would be asking her to give up her career and Charles couldn't do it. They weren't ready to risk an institution with the CIA's resources knowing of their existence. Erik hated leaving the description of their students at simply "gifted", but he agreed to it so long as they didn't teach the children to hide in their personal lives. Each student would decide for themselves whether they would reveal their powers to the humans around them. In addition to teaching duties, Charles would begin drafting a series of lectures that would begin to slowly raise awareness of possible mutations to both the scientific community and the general public. He'd most likely be laughed out of his own profession, but that hardly mattered. A slow introduction of his and Hank's evidence would soon intrigue minds and hopefully, spin opinion towards a positive reaction.
He might have to sit on Erik to keep him from speeding up their time-line, but then again, he might enjoy doing so.
And so it was that five weeks after their mission on Cuba narrowly avoided disaster, the Xavier School for the Gifted officially opened.
They made Charles claim the name because it was his money funding it. And because Erik said the Xavier-Lensherr-Darkholme-McCoy School for the Gifted would look crowded on the letterhead. Their first student was a quiet red-haired girl named Jean Grey who had telekinetic powers along with a latent sort of telepathy Charles didn't quite understand. The following week she was joined by Ororo Munroe who could control the weather, Piotr Rasputin who could his body to steel and Warren Worthington who'd sprouted positively enormous white wings the previous year.
From an expectation of teaching high-level genetics to doctoral candidates, Charles found himself teaching grade school history, biology and English to a growing collection of preadolescent mutants.
The vomiting started the third week of school.
"What the hell did you eat last night?" Raven asked at Charles' bathroom door, her yellow eyes managing to convey both disgust and sympathy.
"Same thing as you." Charles heaved the words between hitching breaths and the effort made his stomach rumble. "M'dying."
"No, you're not," Raven said dismissively. "Erik isn't here."
Charles didn't know what that meant and considering he was revisiting each of last night's courses in surprisingly accurate order, he didn't really care. All he wanted to do was drag himself back to his bed and let the end come. A cool cloth mopped the sweat from his forehead.
"You better have some good lesson plans," Raven said with a regretful shake of her head. "Because our choices of substitute teachers are Alex and Sean, so..."
Both boys...no, men, Charles corrected himself, lived in the mansion still, but neither were official teachers. At least not of regular subjects. They'd teamed up to tackle the issue of physical training. Charles knew it was necessary, but their students were just so young. Not young enough that they can't be put in danger just for existing, Erik had reminded him.
Sometimes, it occurred to Charles that Erik's glass wasn't even one-fourth full.
"Alex," Charles gasped between the meat course and dessert. Alex might be more destructive in general, but he wouldn't scar their minds.
When he felt sufficiently empty, Raven pulled his limp body onto the bed and tucked him in. "If you need any more help," she said, tapping the side of her forehead and grinning. "Call Erik."
Charles tried to throw a pillow at her, but all he managed to do was pick his hand up, flop it back down again and moan helplessly. Raven said something, but Charles missed it because he fell asleep again almost immediately. He dreamed about walking through the sprawling backyard garden, a small hand held tightly in his own much larger one. Just before he woke, he heard a very young voice chattering happy nonsense. A smile dressed his expression when Charles opened his eyes.
He felt perfectly fine. A short glance at the clock gave him 11 AM. Huh. It must have been something he ate after all. Whatever the cause, clearly it was gone now. A quick shower and he rejoined the rest of the mansion for the second half of the day. Most of the staff were none the wiser. Including Erik who plopped down beside Charles at lunch with his bowlful of stew and a carefree smile. Charles decided to neglect telling Erik of his little pukefest. Luckily for Erik's deeply closeted mother-henning desires, little Kitty Pryde sat down opposite Charles and gave him a wide-eyed look of concern.
"Are you okay, Professor?" she asked. "Mr. Summers said you was sick this morning."
"'Were' sick," Charles corrected absently.
"You were sick?" Erik asked, turning away from his lunch to face Charles and begin some kind of examination only he could understand. Peering into Charles' eyes, turning his face one way and then the other, feeling the back of his neck. Touching Charles enough to bring the flush of heat to his cheeks.
"I felt unwell this morning, but I'm much better," he assured them both.
"Mrs. Raven said you was...you were puking up your guts!" Kitty countered with apparent fierce determination to glue Erik to Charles' side for the rest of the day. He made a mental note to scold Raven for scaring the children and riling up Erik.
"I assure you, my guts are intact. Really, Erik," Charles admonished, pushing away Erik's palm from his now cool dry forehead. "I'm fine."
"Did you get Hank to test you?" Erik asked sternly.
"No and Hank isn't a physician." They'd advertised a position for an on-site medical doctor, but Charles had compromised for the others' desire that a fellow mutant handle the discretion of treating other mutants. Until they found a suitable candidate, Hank was their best bet and Charles knew it. So did Erik and his raised eyebrow evidenced this knowledge.
"Kitty," Kitty interjected, then giggled at her own joke. It thankfully distracted Erik off topic for a moment. Charles stamped the image of Erik's ever so slight fond smile onto his memory. Erik and first graders would never get old. But still, it was a good time to make his escape. His fingers curled around the edge of his tray, he began to stand and that was when Charles first felt it.
A whisper of another consciousness. Tiny and weak and unlike anything Charles had ever felt. He could sense no real organized thoughts. Even more shocking, no name, a sense of identity so deeply ingrained in people that it was usually the first word he lifted off another mind. He couldn't even find a concept of personality. Just the idea of a life, a spark of consciousness clinging to Charles more closely than he'd ever experienced. Even Raven and Erik, his two closest companions, didn't shadow Charles so intimately. It almost felt as though...Charles shook his head, trying to clear the notion, but the sensation stayed the same.
It felt like the other mind was inside him.
The second he processed that thought, Charles leapt from his seat, knocking the chair back till it hit the wall. Erik's smile slipped off his face.
"I'm sorry," he babbled, fingers white where they clenched his tray. "I just remembered...something to do. Have to...I'll see you later."
Judging by Erik's bewildered concern, Charles had not managed to escape the inevitable hunt and questioning Erik would force him to endure. But so long as he didn't follow him just then, Charles could care less. He doubted Erik would deal well with the idea that another mind had connected itself to Charles. Really, there was only one person he could trust not to completely lose it when he heard this information.
He needed to speak with Hank.
"Oh hello, Charles," Hank called out from under a pile of papers and what looked like bits of a microscope. "I was just cleaning...are you okay?" he asked once he got a good look at Charles' half-panicked expression. His mood shifted from pleasantly calm to pleasantly alert. It was one of the reasons Charles loved him so much. Ever since his form had changed from man to furry blue cat-man, Hank had settled into a zen-like state punctuated by bouts of scientific joy that not only suited him quite well, but was very soothing for Charles' abilities.
"Oh not really," Charles said, running fingers through his mop of sweaty hair. "I'm having a little problem."
"What sort of problem?"
"I think an alien consciousness may have attached itself to my mind."
There was a pause where Hank slowly removed his glasses and nodded thoughtfully.
"Well. We should probably do some tests."
Three hours later, Charles lay on a cot in Hank's lab and massaged his aching temples. Most of the tests were mental. An hour and a half strapped into Cerebro while Hank calibrated the controls every so often to perform a complicated battery of tests had left Charles exhausted and even more convinced the consciousness he felt was not projecting from a long distance, but rather was somehow very nearby. In comparison, the physical examinations, the x-rays and blood tests, were quite relaxing.
"It's the damnest thing," Charles said, letting his hands flop back down on the cot. Frustration bit at his nerves. "It's almost totally unobtrusive. If I stop thinking about it, I don't even really sense it anymore. Why would someone bother to connect to my mind and then not try to steal information or harm me?"
"I have a...theory," Hank said. It was the hesitation in his voice that caught Charles more than his words. For the first time in an hour, he turned his attention from the consciousness to Hank's state of mind. The pervasive disbelief had him sitting up so fast his head swam.
"What? What's wrong?"
"Charles..." Hank's eyebrows furrowed and for a moment, he looked like the nervous kid Charles remembered meeting all those months ago. "I want you to know that I would normally never ask you something this personal, but...is it at all possible that approximately seven weeks ago, you engaged in unprotected intercourse with a man?"
Charles nearly fell on his cot.
"Why on earth would you ask me that?" he shouted.
More importantly, how could he possibly know?
Hank sighed and held up one of the x-rays. "I don't know how else to say this, Professor and believe me when I say I've tried to come up with any other explanation, but I can't. Your body has a secondary adaptive mutation centered in your reproductive system."
"You're pregnant, Charles," Hank blurted.
Stunned silence followed this proclamation, though Charles didn't sit idle. His mind latched onto Hank's, demanding entrance and the proof of truth. Because this had to be a strange joke. Charles' life had never been normal, but male pregnancy stepped over a line he couldn't bear to cross. To his credit, Hank didn't even flinch at the insistent request before letting Charles in. A sudden rush of images and information streamed through Charles' mind. The same tests completed three and four times, the same results, each scan showing the exact same thing.
A tiny spark of life growing inside Charles' slowly mutating body.
"That's impossible," Charles whispered, eyes clenched shut against the truth.
We are all impossible, Hank murmured inside Charles' mind.
"Is it..." Charles had gone numb, but one point stuck out. "Is the baby safe?"
"Besides the fact that it's growing inside a male body, the fetus is perfectly healthy and on the correct time-line with its development," Hank assured him, this time out loud. He shuffled through his papers, excitement making the fur on his arms stand on end. "It's actually quite fascinating how exactly your body has created the necessary parts and space. The change happened slowly enough that we didn't notice, but I think if you looked, you'd find that your hips are even slightly wider. You know, I wouldn't be surprised if when the time came, your body even made it possible to expel-"
"Hank!" Charles couldn't hear anymore of that right now. He jumped off the cot and began pacing. In his life, Charles couldn't remember ever being so frightened. Not even when he first heard his mother's cool distant voice in his head when he was only three years old. It felt as though his body had betrayed him.
"Your body has always been this way," Hank objected. Charles paused. He hadn't realized he'd projected that thought. "You just never knew it because...well, I don't want to assume, but that must have been the first time you introduced foreign sperm into your body. You might never have known otherwise."
Excellent. His body was so desperate to create a new line of Xaviers that it gave him a way even if he preferred taking it up the ass.
"What am I going to do?" Charles groaned as he sank down into the large armchair he always favored when he and Hank discussed science until late into the night.
Hank's expression turned troubled, but whatever difficulty he had with his next sentence didn't stop him from saying it.
"There are options," he said very slowly. "If you feel this is more than you can handle. But I feel obligated to add, if you choose that way I think the father...that is, the other father deserves to know."
Charles stared at him. The other father.
"Charles, would I be correct in assuming that when you tell the other father, it would be best to do so in a setting where there isn't any metal?"
Oh god, Erik.
Erik was Charles' best friend, very probably the love of his life and now apparently the father of his child.
And yet still...Charles had no idea how he would react to this news. He didn't think Erik would have much trouble accepting the mutation part of the explanation. His pride in their abilities would turn unbearably hypocritical if it failed him just because Charles was pregnant. No, once the shock passed, Charles could even see Erik being fascinated and pleased with this new addition to Charles' already not inconsequential power.
It was the deeper connection to Charles that he wasn't sure Erik could accept. After all these weeks of silence, Charles found it hard to believe that Erik wanted anything other than for their friendship to remain the way it was. He knew some people raised children without the benefit of a romantic connection. But raising a child with Erik and successfully burying his feelings seemed very unlikely.
Either way, Hank was right. Erik deserved to know about the baby. The flicker of consciousness might be clinging to Charles' mind only, but it was half Erik's. He needed to help make decisions about what to do with it.
If Erik said he wanted him to get rid of it, Charles didn't think he'd ever recover from that.
"Erik? Um...could I please speak with you? Privately?"
His tests with Hank had been three days ago. Three long days of absentmindedly teaching, barely seeing where he was going or tasting what he was eating. Charles knew his students and friends were worried about him. None more so than Erik, who'd threatened him with a whirling storm of paperclips just that morning if he didn't tell Erik what was wrong. But he hadn't been ready. He'd needed those three days to even make a dent in the process of accepting what was happening to his body.
And to ready himself for a possible end of his friendship with Erik.
"I should think the paperclips would have answered that question for you," Erik growled as he stood from his little study group. "Excuse me, children. I need to speak with your professor," he said, grabbing Charles by the wrist and dragging him into the nearest room, a large bedroom converted into a classroom. "Now tell me what's been making you drive me insane recently."
"I assure you, driving you insane wasn't my intention," Charles snapped, already defensive and antsy. Erik didn't look impressed. He crossed his arms, leaned against the door and glared down at Charles from his unfair height advantage. "Stop that. You know I hate it when you loom."
"Just tell me what's wrong, Charles."
"It's not that easy." While Erik stayed perfectly still, Charles couldn't stop moving. He paced from one end of the room to the other, alternatively wringing his hands and running them through his hair. "What I have to say is not...it's not easy," he repeated, feeling foolish. "It's not even strictly believable."
"Why don't you allow me to decide that for myself," Erik said calmly. His nonchalance irritated Charles. This whole thing was Erik's fault anyway. Erik and his demanding penis. See if Charles ever let Erik put it anywhere near his body again.
"Fine. You remember what happened in Cuba?" Charles asked and though he meant to sound businesslike, his nerves turned his voice shaky. Only Erik ever made him sound that way. "I mean, after the mission. In the locker room."
The subtle change in Erik's stance made Charles want to wrap his thoughts around Erik's so badly it honestly hurt. Now that he was finally bringing up the subject, Charles felt like he was pointing a light on the space between them that hadn't existed before Cuba. A space made of uncertainty and unfulfilled desires. A space that would only get larger now that Charles was openly speaking about it. He watched Erik's casual stance sharpen into tension, saw the way his cheek twitched and without using his powers, felt the air between them grow thick and awkward.
"Of course," Erik said shortly.
"Well, it seems..." Charles rubbed his temples again, already nursing a headache from this conversation. He'd never been trained on how to tell a one-time lover that they'd impregnated you. "The thing is, when I became ill recently, I went to Hank for a check up and he discovered that...well, when that happened, we...or rather, you...and I..." One hand closed over his belly. Charles couldn't feel any difference yet. "I'm...you know..." he said helplessly.
"No, I'm sorry," Erik said with a frown. "I don't speak inflection, Charles."
Charles sighed. Even using the proper words made him feel ridiculous. Besides being scared and upset, this whole ordeal embarrassed the hell out of him.
"Oh for...my mutation isn't solely mental." When Erik's confusion only deepened, Charles steeled himself. He didn't survive this long in life by shying away from his problems. "I'm pregnant."
It was almost comical the way Erik's emotions rapidly cycled in his expression. The confusion twisting into suspicion into anger back to confusion and then finally settling a cautious thoughtful look. Charles held his abilities tightly away from Erik's mind. "Well?" he asked.
"This is not your sense of humor," Erik said, his tone speculative. His light eyes flicked to Charles' belly and back up again.
"Even if it were, I am not joking," Charles assured him. He hadn't really expected Erik to believe him at first. "I could show you?"
If nothing else, Charles would love Erik for how quickly he always acquiesced to these requests. As with everyone, Charles did his best to stay out of Erik's private thoughts, but whenever he asked to connect to his mind, Erik radiated curiosity rather than the hesitation Charles' abilities typically inspired.
Charles paused for a moment to think. Showing Erik the test images Hank sent him would be the most logical choice. Erik liked hard scientific evidence as much as the next intelligent man. But this wasn't like telling a friend. This was telling the child's parent. He needed something deeper than distant facts.
Charles eased into Erik's mind, unable to keep the smile off his lips. Ever since he'd first pressed into it under the shock of frigid water, Erik's mind had been one of Charles' favorites. Deeply emotional without being hysterical. Neatly ordered. So many hidden spaces for Charles to explore if he were given the chance. At that moment, Erik's primary emotion was impatience.
He snapped himself out of his indulgent enjoyment of being there. "Sorry, just...give me a moment," Charles murmured. While keeping Erik's mind embraced, he curled another strand of his power around the tiny spark of life. The baby didn't really react to it, but that was to be expected. The brain was still growing. It would be awhile longer yet before Charles could discern any actual thoughts. But it was enough to feel the presence. His child. Charles' hands trembled, but his power remained steady as he slowly drew Erik and the baby's minds together. He could tell the exact moment when Erik understood what he was sensing. The irritated confusion faded away and in its place, wonder blossomed across Erik's expression and his arms uncrossed, falling slack at his sides.
"Charles?" he asked again, but this time he sounded staggered. "Is that...?"
"Yes," Charles said thickly. "The baby. Your...well, our baby, yes."
Erik's gaze dropped to his belly again. His throat moved around several deep swallows. Connected as he was to Erik's mind, Charles could sense his sudden strong desire to reach out and lay a hand across his stomach. But Erik was unsure of his welcome. Charles frowned. How could Erik not know how welcome his touch would always be?
"You can...I mean, if you want-"
In an instant, Erik had leapt from the wall to Charles side and pressed one large hand across Charles' abdomen. Charles sucked in a sharp breath. The tips of Erik's fingers were dangerously close to much more intimate locations. "It's really there," Erik whispered, his eyes fixed on his own hand gently massaging Charles stomach. "I can really feel it."
Charles could barely get a word through the unfortunate pleasure mixing into his unsteady emotional state. "Yes," he finally croaked. "What...what should we do about it?"
Erik's gaze wrenched from Charles' middle to his face. The speculative thoughtfulness returned full-force, but before Charles could get an idea of what Erik was thinking, the connection between them broke. The loss stunned Charles and maybe he was projecting, but he could have sworn the baby's consciousness also felt unsettled.
"Do?" Erik said slowly. "Yes, we..."
Then without another word, he abruptly turned and stalked out of the room.
"Erik? Erik!" Charles ran to the door in time to catch Erik whipping around the nearest corner. "Erik!"
Well. Charles slumped against the door frame.
"Now what," he muttered.
His answer came later that night while Charles readied for bed. He'd left Erik's thoughts alone after being abandoned, but Charles had sneaked enough of a search to pinpoint Erik's location. Which had remained constant the entire afternoon. Something had held Erik's attention in his own quarters for several hours. Charles couldn't imagine what. He only hoped Erik wasn't moping or raging or...Charles paused in buttoning his sleep shirt. Oh god, he hoped Erik wasn't packing his things. The very idea had him half way to the door when it suddenly opened and Erik appeared as though Charles had summoned him with the strength of his alarm.
Erik carried a small overnight bag in one hand and had a larger duffel slung over one shoulder. Charles' heart leapt into his throat. Holy shit, he had packed his things. And he was here to say goodbye and leave Charles and the baby forever and it was all Charles' fault for having the stupidest mutation in the world and...Erik threw his duffel on Charles' chair and disappeared into the bathroom with his overnight bag, leaving Charles and his panic attack in the main room.
"E-erik?" Charles tried again.
"What are you doing?"
"Brushing my teeth," he answered before shutting the door. Charles stared at it while he listened to Erik turn the faucet on and off, knock things around, flush the toilet. The basic 'getting ready for bed' sounds. Understanding hovered at the edge of Charles' mind, but he couldn't quite grasp it. The door re-opened and Erik was wearing a pair of sleep pants topped with a sleeveless shirt.
"I don't understand," Charles spluttered, his eyes locked on Erik's bare upper arms. Heat flushed his cheeks. In comparison, Charles felt soft and small in his over-sized pajamas. He had plenty of pajamas that fit well, but Raven had gotten him these ridiculously large silky striped pants and a shirt with sleeves that fell down over his wrists. He liked to wear them when he was upset because it felt like being wrapped up in a hug. But now he just looked-
"You look like an overgrown child," Erik commented as he unfolded the blanket from the head of the bed.
Charles would have protested, but well, Erik was climbing into his bed.
"What are you doing?"
Thankfully, Erik didn't pretend he didn't understand Charles' question this time. "I'm moving into your room," he said plainly. "And no arguments. I don't care if your mutation is making this possible; you're still a man having a baby. There could be problems. You need someone here just in case," he said, tone darkly ominous in reference to these imaginary problems.
"But I could very easily call any one of you with my powers-"
"And if you were unconscious?" Erik challenged, hands on his hips.
"Erik, the baby is still tiny. What on Earth could possibly happen?"
"Well, let's not find out," Erik groused. He reached over to fluff up Charles' pillow. "Just shut up and go to sleep."
Charles stayed put. "So...so this means...I suppose you want me to keep the baby then?" he asked, twisting the material of his silly sleeves into balls in his fists. Erik jerked back as though Charles had shouted at him, his eyes wide and...was that hurt Charles saw in them? "Erik?"
"You were thinking of ending the pregnancy?" he breathed and no amount of holding back his powers could keep Charles from sensing Erik's devastation.
That was the moment Charles realized how completely blind he'd been. He'd been too focused on how this child could frighten Erik without realizing that this was the same man who'd been forever transformed by the tragic loss of his family so early in life. And now here Charles was talking about taking another member of his family from him.
"No!" Charles rushed forward till his knees hit the side of the bed. "I never wanted to do that," he said with such sincerity that Charles realized he'd really hadn't ever intended to do such a thing. Even if Erik had wanted it. "I'm just so...I don't know. I can't believe this is happening."
Erik threw back Charles' side of the blanket and fluffed Charles' pillows again, his motions jerky and distracted. Like he was covering an immense reaction to Charles' words. "I can't either, but here we are," he said and Charles didn't need powers to sense his relief. For the first time since Hank told him the news, Charles wondered if there were another way of looking at this situation. "You need rest," Erik added. His expectant look made Charles' scalp tingle. It wasn't exactly the way he'd envisioned getting Erik in his bed, but it'd do.
Besides, Charles had read a few of Raven's horrible trashy romance novels and he knew how these things ended. The two people, both in denial and forced to share a bed, find their way into each other's arms in the middle of the night. Erik might not want to start up a relationship, but surely after the week that he's had, he wouldn't begrudge Charles a little cuddle.
"Oh very well," Charles said with a mock scowl. "But keep to your side of the bed."
"I wouldn't dream of invading your space," Erik deadpanned. With a flick of his wrist, he used his ability to shut off the light. The bed bounced lightly as Erik tried to find a comfortable position. It only took him a moment to settle on facing Charles, curled forward, almost close enough to touch. Charles didn't dare.
"Goodnight, Erik," he said, his voice too loud in the silent dark.
There was no answer for a long time. So long Charles thought Erik fell asleep, but then a tentative touch on his stomach sent a cascade of shivers down his entire body. Erik flattened his hand low on Charles' abdomen and then sighed. For all that he'd been so good about not peeking, Charles just couldn't help himself anymore. His touch was as tentative as Erik's and when he didn't feel any resistance, Charles pushed forward.
It was all love. The sweetest softest emotion he'd ever sensed in Erik and it touched Charles so deeply he didn't even care that every bit of it belonged to the baby.
"Goodnight, Charles," Erik murmured. Charles covered Erik's hand and let that feeling lull him to sleep, already looking forward to his morning cuddle.
He woke up to an empty bed. Not just empty, but cold. Clearly, Erik had been gone for hours. Although he'd obviously returned at some point because there was a tray of food beside the bed that still had steam rising from it. Oatmeal, apple slices, orange juice and plain toast. All perfectly healthy and tremendously boring. Laying on the tray was a note written in Erik's severe hand.
You will eat this.
Charles sighed. How perfectly Erik to expect cuddles upon waking up only to find threats instead.
Even so, Charles ate every bite.
"So how come I met Erik coming out of your room at 6 AM this morning?"
Charles froze, his pen hovering over the notes from his latest research. His hopes of having a few days to come up with a way of telling the others about the baby died a horrible strangled death as Raven plopped down beside him, an amused twinkle in her yellow eyes.
Still, Charles wasn't above delay tactics.
"What were you doing up at 6 AM?"
"Erik and I go for a run every morning," Raven said dismissively as though she hadn't just revealed her secret Erik-related hobby.
"I didn't know you did that," Charles said. An uncomfortable shade of jealousy settled across his mind. Which was silly, of course. Erik and Raven had every right to spend time together without informing Charles beforehand.
It was just...A week or so after Cuba, Raven had confessed to Charles that she'd come on to Erik in a rather blunt fashion. She'd played it off as a good joke on herself, but Charles knew she'd figured out his feelings and felt guilty about the whole thing. It didn't amount to more than a very sweet kiss, she'd assured him. But still...he made me believe I wasn't hideous when I really needed to hear that.
On this one point, Erik and Charles very much agreed. He'd been a terrible cad for ever letting Raven feel bad about her appearance.
"You probably didn't even know there was such a thing as 6 AM," Raven teased. When he didn't immediately respond, she eyed him more closely. "Don't worry. I'm done trying to steal your man."
"He isn't my man," Charles objected, fighting a dreadful blush. "Erik is welcome to date anyone he likes."
"Uh huh," Raven said with no small amount of sarcasm. "And that's why he was coming out of your room this morning." Charles stared resolutely at his paper and Raven sighed. "Well, I'm just saying, you're in no danger from me. I spent the morning trying to get blue fur out of my bedsheets."
It took a moment for that news to sink it, but when it did, Charles' head popped right back up, his eyes and grin both very wide. "You don't say," he said, rather gleefully. And not just because it meant Raven was serious about her lack of interest in Erik. Charles never knew exactly what happened between Raven and Hank, but he'd been disappointed when it hadn't worked. "When did this happen?"
"Nope, sorry," Raven singsonged, jumping to her feet. "Not unless you tell me yours first."
Damn. Charles really wanted to know the dirt and getting it required Raven spilling because if he ever invaded her mind, they'd never find his body. But in exchange for his situation? Charles' hand dropped to his belly. The baby's consciousness hummed pleasantly against his.
She'd have to find out sooner or later.
"Oh fine," Charles said, nerves abruptly shaking.
Several moments later, Raven's voice could be heard echoing all the way across the third floor.
"Shhh! You're going to bring the house down on us and I can't deal with that right now," Charles said, glancing to the door they really should have closed. Thankfully, no one appeared.
"But...but...pregnant?," Raven hissed. "I can't believe Hank didn't tell me! See if I ever let that jerkface in my bed again."
If Raven was anything like her brother when it came to letting jerkfaces into her bed, Hank was safe.
"It wasn't his secret to tell," Charles said sternly.
"Okay, okay," she said, leaning forward to stare at Charles' belly. "You don't look any different. Is there really...hang on, oh my god! I just realized what...you had sex with Erik!"
Charles was glad Raven wasn't yelling anymore, but he wasn't sure this scandalized whispering was any better. He pinched the bridge of his nose. "Yes, I may be a mutant, but I can't actually produce a baby from nothing."
"Ah. Yes, that." He fidgeted, toying with his pen. "Do you remember in Cuba when you complained at me because you said Erik and I took too long changing back into our regular clothes?"
Her eyes narrowed and she stuck a finger in his face. "I knew you looked different when you came out of that room."
"Different like...like you'd been canoodling a scary German man," she declared.
"So this is why Erik moved in?" she asked, brightening out of her apparent shock at his lascivious canoodling. "You found out you're having a baby and it made Erik realize he couldn't live without you? You're going to get pretend-married and raise a whole brood of tiny little mutants and live happily ever after?"
It sounded as though Raven had been in her collection of trashy novels again.
"No, no, nothing like that," Charles said and he thought he managed to keep the melancholy out of his tone. "He just wants to be nearby in case something happens."
Raven contemplated him for a long moment, one red nail tapping on his desk. Her searching expression made Charles feel like she was the one with mind-reading powers. Certainly, she seemed to know things about him that Charles often took much longer to understand.
"Bullshit," she finally said.
"He doesn't have to sleep in the same bed as you to keep you safe," she said and then continued loudly over Charles' objections, "And don't tell me he didn't sleep in your bed. You only have one bed in there. He could just as well stay across the hall and-"
"You'll excuse me for being overly cautious, but perhaps you missed the part where Charles is a pregnant man?"
Both siblings jumped in their seats, neither one having noticed Erik's approach until he was already ten feet into the room. Raven recovered first. Charles could only focus on his relief that it was Erik who'd surprised them and not one of the children.
"Oh, I see," she said, standing from her chair and raising an eyebrow at Erik. "You just have to be there, huh? In case something comes up?"
"Raven," Charles scolded, his blush returning with vigor.
"Don't upset him," Erik said. He tried his looming trick on Raven, but Charles could see it wasn't nearly as successful with her. "He doesn't need the stress. It's not safe for the baby."
"You're really going to pretend this is just about the baby?"
Her gaze moved from Charles' silent pleading for her silence on the subject to Erik's stormy anger and back again. Charles didn't want her to press this because he didn't want to hear Erik confirm it was just about the baby. Charles was grateful for the support. It didn't have to be more than that.
"Right, okay," Raven said, backing down from Erik and turning to surprise Charles with a hug. "I can't believe it," she murmured in his ear. "I'm going to be a sorta aunt."
Charles' throat closed off as he brushed his cheek against her soft red hair. Raven wasn't a sorta anything. Erik's support aside, Charles was going to need her if he was going to get through this intact. "You're going to spoil it horribly, aren't you?" he managed to say. She chuckled and kissed his forehead.
"You bet I am," she promised before whirling on Erik and poking him hard in the chest. "And you. You better take good care of him, Magneto. Or else."
Everyone in that room knew Erik's power far outstripped Raven's, but none of them were surprised when Erik dipped his head and winked at her. She might not be able to harm him physically, but no one doubted she could annoy the hell out of him.
"You both know I'm perfectly capable of handling my own health, right?" Charles said. Really, it was sweet of them to posture like gorillas over him, but it was also giving him a headache. "Just...thank you both, but please go away. I have a lot of work to do." He pointed a finger at Raven. "Although don't think you're getting out of telling about Hank."
Raven blew him a kiss as she breezed out the door, but Erik stayed put, watching Charles work for a few moments until the feel of his gaze boring into Charles' forehead annoyed him enough to look back up.
"You didn't tell Raven to keep this a secret."
Oh bloody hell.
Raven swore up and down that someone must have overheard her bickering with Hank about the pregnancy and that she didn't tell anyone. Whatever happened, every single person in the mansion knew by that afternoon. None of them dared approach Charles, but their thoughts were unavoidably loud as their eyes followed his every step.
...can't be possible, can it?
...doesn't look any different...
...wonder who knocked him up...
The worst part was that Charles had promised himself long ago not to confront people about their private thoughts. And especially not snap the snide comments crowding his tongue. Erik was right. This couldn't be good for the baby. By lunchtime, he'd begun desperately hoping anyone would approach him so he could vent some of the aggravation building in his chest.
Since Charles' luck had been rotten since birth, that person was Kitty Pryde.
"Professor?" she asked, slipping into the chair across from Charles' desk. "Are you really gonna have a baby?"
If Charles ended up having to explain the birds and bees to Kitty because of this, he would personally tear Erik's dick off his body.
"But I thought only girls could have babies," she said, chewing her bottom lip, clearly troubled.
"Well, that's usually true, but you know how we all have powers?" he asked. At Kitty's slow nod, he continued, "Well, as it happens, part of my power is to have children. But that's absolutely not true of most men," Charles said in decided tone. He didn't want her to scar her for life. "It's unusual, but we are all unusual and special, right?"
One of Erik's favorite lessons, though Charles sometimes had to surreptitiously pinch his sides when he started using words like 'superior' and 'better than'. But he wasn't entirely wrong. Each of their children were unique and very special. It couldn't hurt to teach them that lesson. Especially if it helped answer questions about humiliating male pregnancies.
"Yeah," Kitty said, but the confusion hadn't lifted from her expression quite yet. "But if you're having a baby, then...who's the mommy?"
An excellent question. In no way would that information stay secret and well...Erik deserved this.
"Mr. Lehnsherr," Charles said. "Mr. Lehnsherr is the mommy."
Later that night, after Erik and Charles had settled into bed and the lights were out, right as Charles was on the verge of sleep, he felt Erik shift to face him.
"If one more person calls me 'mommy'," he whispered, his breath soft on Charles' ear, his tone deadly serious. "I will murder you while you sleep."
Charles smiled into the dark.
Maybe this pregnancy could be fun after all.
"You know, it won't be long before I can't go out in public anymore," Charles said mournfully.
If he studied himself closely in the mirror, Charles could see the slightest swelling around his abdomen. But nothing that couldn't be blamed on too much beer or sweets. Not that Charles had been enjoying much of either lately. Certainly not the beer, but since his morning sickness had only just begun to ease, it'd been weeks since he ate anything that wasn't bland.
"Why not?" Erik asked as he examined a small ceramic statue of a goose. For reasons passing understanding, he'd wanted to step into one of the antique shops in town on their...outing. Raven insisted it was a date, but people could go for dinner and window shopping without it being a date.
"I'm not going out when I start to show and please, don't tell me mutant and proud," Charles hastened to cut off Erik's protest. "There's a difference in showing your true nature when you're not the only one who stands to get hurt from it."
Whatever head of steam Erik had built evaporated immediately. After the last month of suffering what Charles privately dubbed Erik's baby regiment, he wasn't surprised. Erik had made it his life's mission that nothing could ever harm the baby. Especially not Charles. Just that morning, Charles had been forced to attack Erik with a pillow for trying to drag him out of bed at an ungodly hour for exercise. Which really, Charles could just as easily exercise in the afternoon.
"Fine," Erik grunted, turning back to his inexplicable search.
"What are you looking for?"
"Something I am not finding," he answered, frustration coloring his tone.
"Well, maybe if you told me-"
They both turned to see a tall and extremely broad-chested man of perhaps thirty-five. Thick black hair fell into piercing green eyes that were fixed on Charles' face. Erik's immediate dislike soured the air around them and triggered the beginnings of a headache behind Charles' eyes. He frowned at Erik. Only the very loudest emotions could cause that reaction.
"You interrupted my friend," Erik growled. He stretched his back, puffing himself up. Unfortunately, he still remained a good two inches shorter than the stranger.
"Oh I'm terribly sorry," the man said, his soft gentle voice at odds with his immense size. Charles felt like a shrimp beside him. "It's just that I couldn't help-" The man seemed to finally notice Erik's fiery glare and cut himself off. Charles was ready to erase the memory if the man should also happen to notice the iron fireplace tool set trembling in its bracket behind him.
Calm your mind, Erik. I don't think he meant to be rude.
I don't like presumptuous humans.
Oh yes and you're so much more fond of presumptuous mutants.
"Is there something I can help you with?" Charles asked politely. In truth, he didn't want to pursue that spark of interest in the stranger's eyes, but nor did he want to build a negative reputation among the natives in town. Trips away from the mansion were important in teaching their young ones how to act in public.
"Well, yes, but do you think we could speak in private?" the man asked, throwing a meaningful glance at Erik.
"I don't think so-"
"Yes, why don't we step over here," Charles said loudly over Erik's response. If nothing else, it would be good to give Erik the message that Charles could very much still make his own decisions.
I'd prefer it if you stopped speaking for me.
The only answer he got in return was a sulky feeling as Erik stormed to the other side of the store. Charles sighed. All he'd wanted was a nice visit to town while he still looked like a normal man. And now he had to deal with a hormonal daddy and a terrifyingly large man who looked like he wanted to eat Charles for lunch.
"I'm sorry about my friend, he's-"
Obsessive about his pregnant not-boyfriend?
Charles jerked to a halt at the new voice in his head. The man winked at him, his eyes flashing yellow for a split second before returning to light green.
Raven! What the hell are you doing? Charles demanded. He really should revise his policy about not scanning the thoughts of strangers without reason.
Out loud, Raven chuckled warmly and put her giant manhand on Charles' forearm. "No need to explain," she said, rather too loudly for someone who claimed to have wanted privacy. "If I were him, I'd hate to give you up too."
Oh dear god. Raven, please tell me you aren't-
I'm sick of your denial. I'm trying to prove a point. Look at Erik. He's seething.
Charles did not look at Erik. He knew Raven was right without looking. But it was hardly a surprise. Erik never liked any strangers and particularly not strange humans. It didn't help that Charles had dismissed him.
All you're doing is stirring up trouble. Erik is understandably annoyed by having our day interrupted.
You mean your date, Raven thought, her words dripping with sarcasm. Look, I'm just trying to help. I see the way you two look at each other and you can't tell me that sleeping with him every night isn't making you closer than ever. I think if Erik saw another guy horning in on his territory, it would make him make his move.
Charles gaped at her. He was peripherally aware they must look insane, silently staring at each other, Charles with horror written on his face. Her plan was, by far, the worst he'd ever heard.
Have you lost your mind?
Just trust me. Raven leaned in, her current mask's full lips turning up in a cheeky little grin. Despite himself, Charles had to admit, she'd chosen a fetching form. He always did like a tall man. What is Erik thinking now? "Oh, Charles is it?" she said out loud. "That does suit you."
"Yes, thank you," Charles snarled. You know I won't read his mind without permission.
Well, then I'll just have to make his thoughts loud enough for you to hear.
Even though Charles desperately latched onto her thoughts, he still wasn't quick enough to avoid the kiss. She clamped both hands around his shoulders and wrenched him up, practically off his feet. Her strength training had clearly paid off. Those lovely full lips didn't feel quite so nice as he might have imagined. At least not the way Raven smashed them against his own, knocking their teeth together. Pain bloomed behind his eyes, but it wasn't nearly enough to block the explosion of emotion and sound emanating from the corner where Erik had retreated.
No no no get away get off mine mine MINE .
Charles ripped out of the kiss, wiping his mouth with one hand and pushing Raven away with the other. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" he shouted. I've got this, Erik he sent when he felt Erik approaching. The fact that Erik actually stopped made Charles decide to find a way to reward him later. Maybe with less pillow abuse the following morning. "Well?"
"Oh, I'm terribly sorry," Raven said, her impersonation oh-so-apologetic. "I must have misread the situation."
So? she asked eagerly. Even I could almost feel how angry he just got! Really, she shouldn't sound so excited about it.
Raven, if Erik wanted me, he would have said something by now. He felt threatened by the idea of another man becoming close with the...the person having his baby, Charles sent back, tripping over almost saying 'the mother of his child.' Raven would have never let him live that down. All of it's just about the baby, I assure you.
Oh. My god. I can't...even. That's just...fine. You know what, I give up. You're on your own.
She didn't wait another moment before turning and stomping away, throwing an irritated glare at Erik that he must have found at least slightly puzzling. If so, it didn't deter him long from appearing at Charles' side. His mind quieter than before, Charles could still sense his fading possessiveness and so was pleased when the only outward evidence of it was a gentle touch to his elbow.
"What the hell was that about?" he asked.
"He thought he saw something that wasn't there," Charles answered, gaze fixed on Raven's retreating form crossing the street. A smile caught at his lips. She certainly had style. Charles turned that smile on Erik. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
"No and I'm tired of being here," he grunted. The touch on Charles' elbow became heavier. He let Erik drag him away. They probably would never set foot in that store again because of the incident. Erik's mind often thoroughly confused Charles.
"Well, fine, but you owe me for acting like a neanderthal."
"I did not! That man's advances were unwanted-"
"And I could have easily deflected his affection onto that ficus over there," Charles scolded.
"But you wouldn't and then see what happened."
"I was never in real danger.."
Their bickering carried through the rest of the afternoon while Erik treated Charles to lunch and chess.
Charles still hadn't gotten his morning cuddle. Erik slept quite literally like a log, arms and legs kept straight and close to his sides. He moved like any other person, but only from back to front, never letting his arms stray too much. Charles thought perhaps it was a result of his awful past. His uncertainty in those unsafe environments kept him tense and as quiet as possible even in sleep. It didn't worry Charles so much as annoy him. Erik obviously slept well, woke early and always seemed rested. But that didn't stop Charles from feeling he was sleeping with a corpse in those first few months. Complaining wasn't really an option. Erik, love, would you mind trying at least once to put your arm round my waist? Thanks ever so. Charles couldn't imagine that would go over well.
As it happened, complaints became very pleasantly unnecessary a few weeks after they began sleeping together. Erik may not have been a physical cuddler, but he turned out to be a hell of a mental cuddler. Which Charles discovered late one sleepless night. The emotional toll of dealing with his pregnancy often stole the sleep right out of Charles' body. And then the worry that his fatigue was taxing the baby added to the problem. He'd never been a heavy sleeper. Even as a child before his father died, when the house was relatively empty, there were too many minds whispering in the background of his consciousness to settle into truly relaxing sleep very often. With a houseful of mutants, Charles was forced to do with frequently interrupted sleep.
That night was no different. Charles jerked awake from a dream of diapering a watermelon and stared at the ceiling for a good thirty seconds before reality pressed on him. A light snore caught his attention. Erik was on his stomach, facing Charles with his cheek smashed into the pillow. Charles wanted to reach for him. An innocent touch, perhaps to brush back the hair from his forehead. Just so he could feel less alone in the fight against so much information streaming through his tired mind.
But he kept his hands still. It wasn't his place to touch. Fondling a sleeping person felt too much like touching a mind uninvited. So Charles merely watched and grew more exhausted as the minutes passed.
Right when he'd almost decided to search out something warm to drink, Charles felt the touch of another mind. Not the touch of an alert mind either. Oh no, this was the mental equivalent of a large puppy crawling into your lap and insisting on having your attention. It was a clumsy affectionate jumble of nonsense thoughts so very different from the usual sharp brief touches from this particular mind.
"Erik?" Charles whispered, both shocked and pleased by this unusual initiation of contact.
Erik didn't wake or move, but his mind seemed encouraged by the emotion Charles couldn't help transmitting. Still deeply asleep, Erik curled his thoughts around Charles tired mind, pulling him as close as possible and settling in as though he were a child hugging a stuffed animal. The incessant murmuring from the other minds in the house immediately vanished to the level Charles could maintain when he had been fully rested. The sudden respite dragged down the weight of his exhaustion and before Charles could think to shake Erik awake and ask him about the connection, he'd fallen into the most amazing sleep he'd had in years.
When he woke up, Erik's mind and body were both gone, but Charles still felt wonderfully relaxed and alert.
Which is why he decided not to say anything the following night when Erik's sleeping mind grabbed his and basically rolled his thoughts into a protective and comforting circle.
By the fifth night, Charles' transformation from a half-asleep haggard mess back to his cheery bright self had Erik bringing up the subject.
"You seem different," he commented one night as he shook his pillow into a freshly laundered case.
"Oh?" Charles was distracted by Erik's choice to sleep sans shirt that evening.
"Yes. You're less..." He veered out of whatever he'd been about say. Probably something about Charles' level of irritability, another victim of his previous fatigue. "More relaxed."
"Right, yes. Well, to be honest, it's your fault," Charles said. It wasn't fair to keep taking advantage of Erik without his knowledge. Charles just hoped Erik wouldn't retract his support. If he even could. Sleeping minds weren't always easy to control.
"My fault?" Erik asked, startled. "How is it my fault?"
"I hadn't been sleeping well. A few nights ago, you began...inadvertently offering some stability," Charles said, taking care to keep his voice casual. He didn't want to make the shielding sound as important as it felt. "From the other thoughts in the building. It's been a little harder to shield them with the baby making me so tired."
"What kind of shielding?" Erik asked without sounding too alarmed. Charles allowed himself a moment to watch the way Erik's bared muscles stretched and twisted as he climbed under the covers before answering.
"I don't know how to describe it really," Charles said. He joined Erik and turned on his side, keeping that all important eight inches of space between them. "I've never had anyone really shield my mind for me. I wasn't even aware it was possible. But you just sort of..." Hold me, Charles didn't say or even dare send silently to Erik. "Keep a barrier around my thoughts. It's been very relaxing actually."
"And it's not intrusive?" Erik's voice dipped towards worry, his light eyes darkening under the weight of the same emotion. "No...no unpleasant dreams?"
No nightmares, he meant, Charles felt sure. He remembered that Erik frequently suffered from bad dreams and with good reason. The things Charles had glimpsed in his friend's mind were terrible enough to give Charles his own nightmares. But the strangest thing, Charles didn't think Erik had even been having nightmares since they began sharing a bed.
"No, nothing like that," he assured him. "It's very peaceful. I don't think you've been having nightmares, my friend."
Erik looked more startled than he had yet in this conversation. His gaze blurred with memory, his lips parting as realization set in. "I haven't, have I?" he said softly. Charles smiled. Maybe he wasn't the only one benefiting from night time support.
"It's your choice, obviously, but really I don't mind it. In fact, it's been helping, so..." Charles trailed off into vague uncertainty.
"Oh yes, that's. Well, if it's helping, I don't see the problem," Erik was quick to say. "It can't be good for the child to be so tired all the time."
Charles' pleasant smile drooped, but only slightly and only briefly. Erik was right, of course. The baby did need to rest too.
So nothing changed. Each night, Erik rolled into slumber before Charles and only moments later, his thoughts would surround Charles' mind, warm and familiar. Each morning, Charles would wake up with a distant sensation of loss. He missed Erik's mind during the day, but even if they were to wish it, keeping his thoughts tangled in another's mind all day long simply wasn't practical. Even the closest of companions needed some privacy some of the time and Charles didn't need to expend the energy on maintaining the connection.
That didn't stop him from occasionally seeking out Erik's thoughts. After a particularly grueling class or when someone's unkind thoughts about his rapidly changing body wormed into his brain. Quick fleeting touches that often turned to gentle caresses. A bit of a connection to get through the next set of problems. Erik never turned Charles' thoughts away and neither of them ever spoke of it, not even when Erik's returning touches began to feel more like embraces.
It wasn't until the fifth month of his pregnancy that Charles discovered what turned out to be the most thrilling side effect of his growing reliance on Erik's mental touch. As usual, he woke up to an empty bed and a full plate of breakfast. Charles couldn't remember the last time he'd actually eaten breakfast in the kitchen with other people. That morning, he'd apparently earned a treat because there were two lovely crisp pieces of bacon sitting alongside his melon pieces and poached eggs.
But instead of the expected pleasure, Charles could only sense a formless sort of discontent. He frowned, thinking back to the previous evening and then to his plans for the day. Nothing had happened to annoy him and he only had the usual classes and mental training on his agenda for the coming day. No fights, insults or school-related concerns to fret over.
"Strange," he muttered as he pulled himself up to a sitting position, his hands automatically falling to his rounded belly. The feeling only increased, turning from discontent to true unhappiness. Charles almost felt like crying and though his changing hormonal state sometimes caused melancholy, he hadn't experienced any dreaded mood swings. It was only when he started to become alarmed that Charles finally understood the truth. His alarm felt distinctly different from the unhappiness.
It wasn't Charles that felt unhappy. It was the baby.
Charles' sudden and overwhelming joy had him mentally calling out without even thinking it through.
Erik! Erik, come here!
His baby, his tiny precious spark of life, was thinking its very first thought. So different from the blank sense of consciousness, this thought filled Charles' mind and his heart, creating the very first stirrings of a true connection with his child's mind. It was unlike anything Charles ever expected to feel. There really was a small person inside him, totally dependent on him. With a developing brain and slowly growing personality and Charles didn't realize he was crying until the first tear fell off his chin.
What! Erik demanded, his mental voice frantic. Charles could tell he was already on the move. What's wrong, Charles?
Nothing, nothing, Charles hastened to assure him. I'm sorry. Nothing's wrong. I'm fine, but please, come anyway.
As if Erik needed the encouragement. He'd want to yell at Charles for scaring him, if nothing else. Charles didn't care. He had a thinking child. His arms closed around his stomach and for the first time, Charles attempted to make a purposeful connection with his child. It was the oddest sensation. The baby's mind just didn't feel complete. The total lack of verbal thoughts unnerved Charles. All he could get was pure emotion. In this case, something of a tantrum.
Erik burst through the door before Charles could decide why the baby was so upset. His wide eyes dropped to Charles' arms wrapped protectively around his waist. His concern flared, beating against Charles' mind without any finesse. "What's happening?"
"Come here," Charles beckoned, holding out one hand. "The baby is thinking. I felt it have its first thought."
Erik's concern exchanged seamlessly with the flabbergasted amazement he only ever felt for the baby. He faltered in the doorway, held still by the depth of his emotion. Charles secretly cataloged everything about that moment. The way Erik's eyes grew bright, his throat muscles jerking around a deep swallow, his swelling of awe and endless affection.
"Of course." Charles shook his hand until Erik crossed the room to take it. "I'm afraid he's rather annoyed."
"He?" Erik stumbled the last foot before sitting far closer to Charles than usual. His hand immediately pressed against Charles' stomach. "It's a boy?"
Until he'd spoken the pronoun, Charles hadn't realized he knew the baby's sex. He wasn't even sure how he knew, but it couldn't be denied. The baby was a very little boy. Charles covered Erik's hand, uncaring how emotional and open he might have looked. "Yes, I think so. Your son is not pleased about something."
To his surprise, Erik chuckled. "That sounds like my child."
Charles laughed along even as he tugged Erik's thoughts close, pulling him into the mind loop he'd created with the baby. The second Erik's careful thoughts touched the baby's nebulous discontent, it melted into bright happy relief and then, not two minutes later, the quiet peace of sleep. Charles was too stunned and bemused to speak. Erik did not have that problem.
"He doesn't seem annoyed to me," Erik said, one eyebrow raised. Through his confusion, Charles could sense his pleasure at his first taste of the baby's thoughts. "He seems really happy."
Charles dove into the feeling, viewing it from every angle and using his considerable experience to determine the reason behind the change. When he figured it out, Charles didn't bother quelling the bark of laughter that slipped out. Erik's other eyebrow joined the first.
"He's upset at you! He wanted you. He was sleepy and you were gone," Charles crowed. Oh this was definitely his child. His brilliant little boy. In these last few months of sleeping tangled with Erik's mind, the baby must have been pulled into the mix. Or maybe slept better when his father's overactive mind was at rest. Whatever the reason, the baby clearly knew Erik had gone. Charles hugged his stomach. Clever amazing child. "I wonder if telepathic mothers always have this issue," he said. "I'll probably have to wean him eventually, of course, but that's to be...Erik?"
Charles' thoughts skittered off course when he looked up and saw an oddly familiar wrecked expression on Erik's face. A quick touch of minds gave him a much quieter feeling than he expected. Not the outpouring of overwhelmed joy Erik when he first got to the room, but rather something even more profound. Deeper and sadder, the way life-changing emotions always are. "Erik?" Charles repeated, too soft. He feared breaking the moment.
"He wanted me?" Erik asked, equal in his pleasure and disbelief.
That's when Charles recognized the emotion. He'd lifted it from Erik when he recovered the memory of his mother that helped him moved the satellite. In that moment, Erik looked as though he could have lifted the satellite and whirled it out of sight.
"Well, you're very comfortable," Charles said with a warm smile that probably didn't match his teasing tone. I can hardly blame him, Charles thought, but didn't communicate. In fact, he wasn't sure what else to say, but it didn't seem to matter. Erik abruptly jumped into action and closed the space between them very quickly. Charles yelped as he was pushed down onto his back and rolled to one side.
"What are you doing?"
"He needs to sleep," Erik said reasonably and after months of pining for it like a lonely housewife, Charles finally got his cuddle. Erik budged up behind him, looped his arms around Charles' waist and slotted one leg between Charles' knees. A perfect physical expression of his mental cuddling style. "Go back to sleep," Erik ordered the nape of Charles' neck. He shivered happily.
Darling wonderful baby boy.
Considering Charles' gender, he'd had a surprisingly easy pregnancy. Hank had appointed himself Charles' primary caregiver over Erik's objections and really, he was every bit as brilliant and knowledgeable as any obstetrician. With the added benefit that Charles wouldn't have to let a stranger conduct the embarrassing multitude of tests Hank required. Every stage was reached with success and the baby continued to develop like any other child, thanks to Charles' obliging mutation. The morning sickness and exhaustion had both eased. He'd been dreading the arrival of mood swings and the much ballyhooed food cravings. But they never appeared.
Until one morning when Charles woke up and wanted nothing in this life more than a chocolate malt.
And not just any chocolate malt, but the ones made at Sloan's, a diner three towns over where he used to take Raven once he learned to drive. He felt certain their malts were laced with drugs because he'd never tasted one so perfect and delicious as those served there.
Now normally, of course, he'd round up a group of students for an impromptu field trip and treat everyone to their choice of frozen treat. But it'd been months since Charles left the estate. The one aspect of this pregnancy he could never quite accept fully was the way his body changed. He never considered himself a vain man, but that was before he'd twisted out of a natural male shape into the strange awkward clod-footed freakshow he currently was.
Erik told him he didn't look so bad. Of course you look bizarre, Charles, we're not used to it. wasn't exactly the comfort Erik obviously hoped it would be. No one commented openly on it and by the third month, only a few stubborn stragglers clung to awkwardness when they saw Charles waddling around the mansion. But Erik was right about one thing. The change was so fundamentally against Charles' life expectations that he still hated to look himself in the mirror. He certainly wouldn't be going out to get a malt.
No matter how desperately he wanted it.
The unfortunate side effect was his transformation into a complete terror. One day he was cheerful enthusiastic Professor Xavier and the next day, for the lack of a chocolate malt, he became a sarcastic hateful monster. Charles watched himself as if outside his own body as he snapped at Hank for mentioning his upcoming physical, shouted into the phone at a colleague who wanted to discuss his latest paper and then finally stormed out of a staff meeting because their thoughts were buzzing in his brain and he couldn't get them to stop.
Raven was the one who found him stewing in his office. "I was wondering when you were going to turn into a bitch."
"I'm not in the mood," Charles said, tone clipped.
"Yeah, I don't really care. You're terrorizing the natives. I can take what you can give out," she said and then because she was evil, she morphed into the familiar blond from their childhood. She knew he had trouble being mean to that face. "Tell me where it hurts."
"Oh for the love-"
"Seriously, something is obviously bothering you," she said, looping her arm through his and leaning them back against the couch where he sat. "So spill."
Charles winced. Had he really been such a mess over a chocolate malt? "It's stupid," he said, impressing on her the strength of the feeling for emphasis. She snickered.
"Well, I figured that, but come on. You're pregnant. You're allowed to be nutsy, but it's gonna fester. I promise I won't laugh."
He knew she wouldn't leave him alone. Her favorite form of support came through persistent irritation. Still, Charles didn't trust her as far as he could throw her. So he wasn't entirely surprised that when he expelled the words in a pained rush, Raven broke her promise in a rather spectacular fashion.
"Oh god, Charles, a malt? That's classic," she said, collapsing against his shoulder so she could more effectively focus on shaking with laughter. Her form changed back to blue in her distraction. Charles elbowed hard enough to draw a yelp, but in truth, her laughter was contagious.
After all, he'd thrown a fit over a milkshake.
"I was afraid of this," he moaned, covering his eyes with one hand and trying not to smile. "Next thing I'll be sobbing uncontrollably and screaming at Erik for having done this to me."
"Well, don't overrule the screaming yet. That might be fun," Raven said with a grin. She sat up and released his arm. "Okay, hilarious yes, but you should have just said something. We can get you a malt."
"No, it won't be the same," Charles said, not bothering to hide the dismay in his voice. Raven already knew his shame. No reason to hide anymore. "It has to be one from Sloan's and there's no way it would make it all the way back here without melting." He deflated. "We should have recruited that teleporter chap."
"The one that tried to kill us? Yeah, great idea, Charles. No, we'll figure something out," she declared, hopping up from the couch. "You just leave it to me, sweetie."
Charles didn't know what that meant and Raven didn't give him the chance to ask. She disappeared out the door, leaving him alone with his craving.
"This is your fault," he told his belly fondly.
Three hours later, Charles was seriously considering a third helping of macaroni and cheese when Erik sat across from him and set down a frosted glass full of what looked like a chocolate malt. Charles blinked. A vague sense of horror flitted through his mind.
"She told you, didn't she?"
"She also said I wasn't allowed to comment or tease because and this is a direct quote, 'It's your greedy dick's fault he's dealing with this'," Erik said, tapping the side of the glass. His lips didn't so much as twitch with humor. "So consider this an apology straight from my penis."
There were so many other ways that Erik's penis could accomplish an apology, but for the life of him, Charles still wanted that malt more. But only if it were the right one.
Erik handed him a spoon.
"See for yourself."
The first taste released the tension Charles had been carrying all day and the last time he made the sound that escaped his lips was when he and Erik had been busy making the baby responsible for the craving. His tension must have slipped into Erik because Charles vaguely noticed his position stiffen, but he didn't care. All he cared about was the cold sweet perfection sliding down his throat.
"How did you get it here?" he asked in between loving licks to the spoon. "It's still cold and lovely."
"I..." Erik faltered for a moment when Charles lifted the glass to lick at an escaping drip. "I impressed upon the diner staff the importance of serving it in a metal container." When Charles lifted an eyebrow at him, the first hint of a smile touched Erik's lips. "I then impressed upon the metal the importance of staying cold."
"You carried a freezing cold cup home all that way?" Charles asked, eyes wide.
"Well, between my legs. My thighs may never recover."
Charles' eyes fell to the glass and the unexpected treat inside. In his life, he'd never been so handsomely rewarded for being a pain. He stretched his legs out under the table and captured Erik's foot between his ankles. "Thank you," he said, then looked up at Erik from under his lashes, a cheeky grin fighting its way onto his face. "You can consider your penis forgiven."
"I'm relieved," he said, leaning forward and nodding to the glass. "Are you giving me a taste?"
Charles gathered the glass into a protective circle of his arms.
The closer Charles got to term, the more energetic he became. So one morning when he felt like taking a stroll around the grounds, he immediately decided to give it a go. Anything to get out of the house for awhile. He felt terribly cooped up. Partly because his students had all lost their minds. About a week ago, everyone finally realized how soon the baby would be there and became determined Charles that would be one hundred percent safe and cared for. It was like Erik times a billion. He couldn't cross a room without someone hopping up to offer him an arm or eat anything without someone questioning if it would hurt the baby or sleep a second longer than normal without suffering a hundred inquires into his health.
He'd probably kill someone soon if he didn't get some fresh air and quiet.
Well maybe not quiet. He'd be taking Erik along, of course.
Except when Charles scanned the house, he realized Erik wasn't in the mansion. A wider search told Charles that Erik was in one of the old sheds at the back of the house.
Which meant Charles had both a mystery and an adventure on his hands. The fact that both excited him so much probably meant he should get out more.
Before leaving, Charles told Raven where he was going, lest everyone lose their minds when they discovered him gone. It took far too long to hobble down the three flights to the first floor and then along the garden path that winded through the backyard grounds. The air had turned crisp and cool, a pleasant freshness on his skin. Charles paused a moment to sit on a shaded bench and enjoy his stolen freedom. A little moment just for him and for his baby. As they so often did, his hands slid over his belly. Soon enough, he'd have to give up this total protection. Now, the baby was safe and warm and close. Charles wanted the pregnancy over, but he also didn't like the idea of losing that sense of safety.
When the hard bench began to hurt his back, Charles struggled back to his feet and continued on his journey. In the distance, he could see the shed door hanging open and hear a slight scraping noise. A quick brush showed him that Erik's mind was focused on his task to the exclusion of all else. Charles' curiosity rose.
But even Charles' clever brain couldn't have guessed what he'd find when he peeked around the edge of the open door. Erik sat on the edge of his chair, his sleeves rolled up and his gaze intent on the gorgeous wooden bassinet in front of him. One hand drew a sanding paper along an arching curve towards the head and the other followed behind to sweep away the resulting dust. There was obviously hours of work here and Charles had no idea how he'd missed them.
Charles startled Erik, but he recovered quickly. The self-conscious smile looked unusual on Erik's face, but it charmed Charles nonetheless. "It's not done yet," he said as though assuring Charles. "But it'll be ready in time."
"I don't understand." Charles walked into the small shed, the scent of wood shavings hitting him full in the face. "We already made up the baby's room." The elegant antique cradle they pulled out of storage had been Charles' when he was a baby. Made from mahogany and hand-carved by a well-known woodworker from the 19th century, it was probably worth thousands of dollars. And it had nothing on this homemade piece Charles reached out to touch with the tip of one finger.
"I know, but there will be nights when it won't be possible to keep him in a separate room," Erik said in distraction. An apparent flaw had caught his attention. He grabbed a sharper tool and began to scrape at one of the slats. "I thought we'd probably need a second bed in our room." Charles' hand froze. Our room? He searched Erik's face, but could see no indication that Erik realized what he'd said. Or rather what it implied. "I'd been looking for one in the local shops, but I didn't like any of the available ones, so I decided to make my own," he explained.
"Oh," Charles said, feeling at a loss. His mind stumbled for the first topic he could find. "I would have thought you'd make a metal one."
Erik's nose wrinkled. "Metal is too cold for a baby, Charles," he said in a rather condescending fashion. "Besides, I've already made this." He gave a careless gesture. A clinking noise drew Charles attention behind him. He laughed. An entirely metallic baby mobile floated up to eye level. Each piece hanging from the spindling metal bars were shaped into animals. A kitten, puppy, duck, fish and mouse. Constructed from burnished copper, each edge was rounded and smooth.
"You're certainly far more ready for this than I," Charles said, turning back to Erik's bassinet. "I had no idea you were good at woodworking."
"I haven't often had reason for it," Erik admitted. His movements over the wood slowed, his expression turning soft with memory. "One summer when I was very small, I helped my father make some furniture. A cabinet and a table. A few chairs." Charles' breath stilled. He so rarely heard Erik speak about his parents, much less about his father. He knew the painful details of his mother's death and that Erik never knew what became of his father. But Charles had never heard him voluntarily bring up a pleasant memory before.
"He taught you well," Charles said, but the compliment only made Erik chuckle.
"Not really. He was dreadful at it. One chair was so crooked that my mother tumbled out of it and nearly broke her hip," he said. Laughter transformed his face. Years of solemnity lifted to reveal a spark of joy Charles found absolutely breath-taking. Too much had happened for Erik to show it often, but it warmed Charles to know it existed. "He wasn't...he was a teacher. He taught literature. He never really understood how objects fit together the way I did."
The last was said with enough melancholy that Charles automatically reached for his mind. Erik welcomed his touch as always, but Charles felt him holding something back. His gaze stayed on the bassinet even though he must have noticed Charles moving closer. Charles dragged a stool over and perched on it.
"What is it?" he asked. Erik may be holding back, but Charles also sensed his need to talk.
"I've been thinking about...I had wonderful parents, Charles," Erik said. The topic's difficulty turned his words stilted and slow in a way they so rarely were. His candidness created a bubble around them, a private place where only the two of them belonged. "But I only had them for a very short time." His eyes finally lifted from the bassinet and in them, Charles saw a hint of that self-conscious smile. "I'm not sure I had time to learn what I should know from them."
Charles tried not to let his relief show. This problem, he could handle. Erik might not be good with people, but he'd already fallen deeply in love with the baby. As far as Charles was concerned, that was all he needed. "I don't know as much about your parents as I'd like," he said without any hint of heat. He certainly didn't blame Erik for finding the subject painful. "But I do know they died trying to protect you. I can't imagine a more impacting lesson."
"I already know how to die, Charles," Erik said, one hand clenching hard around the bassinet's head frame "And I'd do it without question, but...there are other concerns...things I don't really..."
"If you mean practicalities," Charles interrupted. "I'm as clueless as you. We'll learn as we go. If you mean emotional worries, well." Charles threaded his fingers together over his belly. "My mother abandoned me without ever leaving my side and my stepfather rather enjoyed hitting me when the mood struck. So you might actually be the knowledgeable one here."
He meant it as a joke to lighten the mood, but Charles forgot that laughing through the pain didn't work quite so well when that pain belonged to someone you cared for. A fire lit in Erik's eyes and his tools began rattling under the weight of his anger. Charles had his hand on Erik's cheek before he registered moving.
"I'm so sorry, I shouldn't have been so flippant."
"They should die," Erik growled with genuine feeling. Like the joy Charles glimpsed earlier, a darker side of Erik would never leave him. "They should be punished."
"It's too late for that, I'm afraid," Charles said. Mother drank herself to death and Kurt committed suicide soon after. I think that's punishment enough. Erik clutched at Charles' hand, leaning his cheek into the touch. I only meant we've neither of us had excellent pasts, but I think we're both good men.
"You're the best man I've ever known," Erik answered, the passion in his voice matched by the feeling he showed Charles. "You're already an amazing father."
A hundred images whirled in Charles' mind. Charles kneeling down to bandage Kitty's scraped knee. Teaching a class full of rapt students, his enthusiasm making his motions frenetic. Breaking up a fight between two surly teenage boys over the affections of a petite blond girl who could turn herself invisible. Obediently eating the boring menu Erik and Hank planned just because he knew it was good for the baby. Listening patiently while Alex vented his insecurities about teaching children. Charles barely recognized himself in these memories. Surely he wasn't that bright captivating man.
It's what I see, Erik thought.
The only way to respond was to give Erik the same treatment. To show him what Charles saw. Not just the enigmatic mind that first drew Charles to Erik or the terrifying power Charles so admired, but that kinder side of Erik that living among friends had slowly been revealing. The way he became so gentle around their younger students, even when they needed correction. How he'd taken Raven underwing and showed her the truth of her own beauty. The hundred different ways he'd been protecting the baby since the very beginning. The fact that he still had the ability to care so deeply for others after everything that had been done to him astonished Charles every single day.
"I've never once worried you wouldn't be a fit father, my friend," Charles said as he reluctantly lifted his hand from Erik's cheek. "The baby already adores you, I think."
That brought a slight pleased smile to Erik's lips that Charles found pathetically endearing. "You know," he said, straightening up and resting a hand on the bassinet. "We're going to have to come up with a name for it. We can't really call him 'the baby' after he's born."
"No? The Baby Xavier has a nice ring to it," Charles mused.
"And why not The Baby Lehnsherr?" Erik protested.
"Well, if we're raising him in your religion, it's only fair that he has my last name," Charles said in a reasoning tone. Although truth be told, he hadn't really given the name issue much thought. He supposed the fair thing to do would be to called him Lehnsherr-Xavier. But it was such an awkward mouthful. "We could-"
"You want us to raise him Jewish?" Erik interrupted, sounding gobsmacked. Charles grinned. If nothing else, this issue could be settled right now.
"Of course I do," Charles said. "I don't really have any affiliations myself and I know it means a lot to you. I think it's a beautiful religion. I have no problem with teaching it to our child."
Some of Erik's dearest memories were associated with his religion and Charles knew it would also give him another way to connect with the baby. After all this worry about not being what the child needed, Charles was eager to give that to Erik. The look on Erik's face amused Charles. A hint of that disbelief mixed in with a certain kind of suspicion that Charles believed lay at the root of his next comment.
"Don't think this means I've given up on the last name thing," he warned Charles.
Charles just laughed.
Thirty-six and a half weeks
"You'll have to set him down sometime."
"I challenge that assumption."
Charles was too tired to even fondly shake his head. The baby lay nestled in Erik's arms, impossibly small and utterly trusting. Such a beautiful innocent picture that Charles could cry. Or maybe he already had. The last few hours were an exhausting blur. He thought he probably did cry when Hank set a tiny seven pound human in his arms and said it was his son. Intellectually, Charles knew seven pounds was not much. But intellect flew out the window when faced with the reality of a miniscule blob of flesh that would someday grow into a man.
Judging by the look on Erik's face, he was experiencing this same brain meltdown. He'd been gently rocking the child and whispering German nothings to him for the past twenty minutes. Sooner or later, he'd have to give someone else a turn. Charles knew Raven was practically scratching at the door to see her nephew. But she'd have to wait until Erik was good and ready.
"What are you saying to him?"
"Honestly, Charles, you have a once in a lifetime world-class mind. Are you really saying you haven't picked up any German this whole time you've been in my head?" Erik said, exasperated.
"I'm afraid I only know the naughty words," Charles said.
"I'm telling him how useless you are and that he's never to trust you." Erik brushed his fingers across the baby's soft cheek. "That he's only to listen to Vater."
Charles scanned the baby's mind. His thoughts were much more cohesive now that he had a fully formed brain. Still not a lot of words, but bright hazy images that made Charles smile. The baby seemed utterly fascinated by 'Vater'. "Well, if you teach him only German, he may not have a choice."
Erik didn't seem to hear Charles. The baby's fascination was obviously mutual. With each moment that passed, Charles saw and felt Erik falling ever harder. He knew the sensation because he had it himself. From the second he laid eyes on that crumpled up little face, Charles' heart was gone. Given freely and without regret. "He is beautiful, isn't he?" Charles murmured absently.
"He's perfect," Erik declared. "You are, aren't you, Julian? Quite perfect."
"There goes my hope that he won't be spoiled," Charles said with a smile. As if there'd been hope.
Their low tones drew such comfort around the baby that Charles could easily feel it through the connection they shared. Julian was as fatigued as Charles, so it wasn't a surprise when he yawned. A massive jaw-popping yawn for such a small creature. Charles only laughed, but Erik's emotions jumped. Or rather leapt over an cliff Charles hadn't realized he'd been approaching.
"We have to have more," he said, eyes snapping up to Charles' face.
"What?" Charles yelped. The surprise gave him more than enough energy to struggle into a sitting position. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"I'm sorry, Charles," Erik said, his words rushed. "I've been trying to...I know you've only been letting me close because of Julian, but-"
"Hold on. Stop. I've been letting you close? You're the one who kept your distance until I got pregnant," Charles accused. He had it all backwards.
"Only because you didn't say anything after I mauled you in-"
"Mauled? I wouldn't call it a mauling-"
"I practically tore your clothes off, Charles," Erik hissed, keeping down a shout only because he still held the baby. Charles felt his shame bubbling up through their entwined emotions, so open with the birth of their child. He knew he was gaping, probably looked like a helpless fish, but he couldn't help it. After all these months and Charles had never know Erik felt that way. A distant part of Charles was impressed with Erik's mental shielding and all those handy hiding places in his structured mind. The rest was flabbergasted.
"In what universe are you living that you think I couldn't have stopped you from doing that if I wanted to?" Charles demanded. "I don't care if I did just give birth, I'm not some flimsy maiden you besmirched, Lehnsherr. Haven't you realized how easily I could destroy you?" Charles certainly didn't mean that as a come-on, but hell if it didn't work. Erik's pupils dilated so fast, it hardly seemed natural. "I wanted you to tear off my clothes. I've wanted you to do it every day since then, but you never said anything and I thought...every time I felt something from you, it was always for Julian."
Confusion muted the lust in Erik's gaze. "I don't see how that's possible. You must have been reading me wrong."
"I hardly think so; I've been reading people my whole life and-"
Erik abruptly stood and with careful motions laid Julian in the bassinet he'd made. Then he marched back to the bed and sat alongside Charles, reaching over to clamp both hands around Charles' upper arms. "Read me now."
Charles wasn't going to pass up a chance to freely dig around in Erik's thoughts. His usually neat mind felt wild and edgy. The brightest emotions still sang for Julian. His pride and love, the overwhelming protectiveness Charles now knew so well. "You're thinking about the baby."
"I thinking about both of you, Charles," Erik said with frustration. "I'm sorry I can't separate you so easily. You're my family."
His family. Charles stilled. Maybe he'd been looking at these emotions the wrong way. The Charles way. Seeing the most obvious answer and accepting it as truth. But Erik was anything but obvious. In his life, Charles had never known a more complicated man. He stepped back from the feelings and took a deep breath. Family meant everything to Erik. His feelings for each member couldn't be compartmentalized. Which meant...
The truth slammed hard into Charles while he was trying to decide the best way to change his perspective towards the feelings.
"I'm your family?"
Erik collapsed forward until their foreheads touched. "You really aren't as smart as you let on, are you?"
"But I always thought-"
"Look now, Charles." Erik's memory played the scene from the locker room. In sight and sensation. Charles didn't just see himself with his head thrown back, panting and writhing on Erik's dick. He felt the way the memory affected Erik. Fucking Charles gave him pleasure, yes, but it also made Erik feel powerful and alive. That he could even have Charles this way, even this one time to make love to him this way, Erik never wanted it to stop, wanted to stay buried inside Charles forever, please never leave me, love you so much-
Charles dragged himself out of the memory, gasping and shaking with the intensity of Erik's emotion, his thoughts at the time translated into words and truths Charles could understand. A statement of the desire and feelings he'd so carefully hidden when Charles didn't approach him again.
"I-I didn't know, I swear. Thought you only cared about Julian," he struggled to say.
"I wanted to protect you both." Erik pulled back enough to see Charles and brush away a lock of damp hair. "I tried not to feel those other things anymore, but I can't stop."
"Don't you dare stop, Erik Lehnsherr," Charles said fiercely. "Not after I've been torturing myself for nine months. D'you have any idea how badly I need a shag? Jesus Christ, Erik, I could murder you for hiding this from me," he raged, not bothering with the annoying idea that Charles hadn't said anything either. Screw that. He'd just had a baby. He was allowed to be irrational.
Erik's laugh was both gorgeous and annoying as hell. Charles poked him. "Don't you laugh at me. This is all your fault. Now go and get me my baby."
Erik didn't hesitate to obey.
Week Two Hundred and Sixty/Week Three
"Is there really a baby in your belly?"
Julian patted Charles' stomach, his gray eyes wide and curious. Charles glanced at Erik, but he was too busy gathering clothes to listen. Leaving Charles to this explanation. Of course. Erik always left Charles the hard tasks.
"Something like that," Charles said. Julian really was too young for the full technical explanation. "My special powers mean I can have babies like girls can." Oh and Charles would never get tired of telling people how he was like a girl. "So you're going to have a sister or brother."
"Julian, come here," Erik said. In his hands, he held a small pair of snow boots. He and Julian had decided to go sledding that afternoon while Charles wrote his speech for the upcoming conference. But Julian was too interested in this baby business to give his father the time of day.
"I don't know yet," Charles said. "Daddy asked you to come over there," he reminded Julian. The moniker 'Vater' hadn't taken with Julian. From the moment he could speak, Erik was 'Da'. Then 'Dada' and now, the simply endearing 'Daddy'. Charles got stuck with the too formal 'Father'. Though it didn't stop him from loving to hear Julian say it.
"But how does the baby come out?" Julian asked.
Thankfully, Erik took over. Without even bothering with the usual hand motion, Erik lifted their child by the metal sewn into his clothes and floated him across the room. Julian instantly forgot about the baby. He loved it when Erik used his mutation on him. It was one of the reasons Julian wore so much metal. Another being that Erik wanted a way to find him at all times. He knew the shape and feel of every scrap of metal that ever came into contact with their son. Charles could hardly blame him. He used his own power to keep tabs on the kid throughout the day.
"You must obey me when I ask something of you, liebling," Erik scolded lightly.
"Sorry, Daddy," Julian said, sounding genuinely contrite.
They had all wondered if Julian would take more after Erik or Charles in personality. When they learned that they'd managed to birth the sweetest mildest child ever known, they'd realized he didn't take after either of them. Charles had begun to wonder if that wasn't true of his DNA as well. But he never mentioned it. Most mutants born in recent years were showing signs of their mutations by age three. But Erik didn't present his mutation until he was much older.
He'd once asked Erik what he would do if Julian turned out to be one-hundred percent human. The question had earned him a lonely night sleeping on his office couch and they'd never spoken about it again.
Erik kept Julian floating while he buckled up his snow boots. "Are you sure you don't want to come?" Erik asked Charles.
"I do, but I've been neglecting this speech. Why don't you ask Raven and Hank?"
"Uncle Hank doesn't like snow in his fur," Julian said with a confidential air.
"Yes, I can imagine that's-"
"Ouch! Fu...ow," Erik corrected himself at the last second. Julian slipped an inch in the air before Erik gently set him down and stuck his finger in his mouth. Which looked rather fetching, Charles thought.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Stupid shoe buckle," Erik groused. "Punctured my damn finger."
"Ah, finally betrayed by your metal friends," Charles said, shaking his head with faux sadness.
"Is it bleeding?" Julian asked over top of whatever retort Erik had been about to snap.
"Just a little. It's not that bad." From irritated to reassuring within one breath. Nothing kept Erik from putting Julian's feelings above all else. "I'll be fine."
"But you're bleeding!" Julian grabbed Erik's wrist and tugged him down into a crouch. He put his hand over Erik's finger. "I'm sorry, Daddy."
"It's not your fault, child," Erik said. An odd look passed over his features, but disappeared as soon as Charles registered it. "Why don't you run along and find Aunt Raven and Uncle Hank? We'll worry about his fur later, okay?"
"Okay!" Julian hugged Erik, ran up to hug Charles and then bolted from the room, eager to complete his Daddy-given mission. Charles eyed Erik. Something had obviously happened.
"What is it?"
"Do you remember when you asked me what I would do if Julian wasn't a mutant?"
"I was just thinking about that actually. Why?"
Erik held up his perfectly unmarked finger. No blood, no scrape, not a hint of injury. Shock bloomed in Charles' mind.
"Well, then, you should know, I love him exactly the same way I did before I knew he had a healing mutation."
There were times in his life when Charles would look at Erik and see something that made his breath catch in his lungs. Another shade of tenderness or a new depth of fierce loyalty. Sometimes, a simple gesture. His pillow fluffed up or the paper folded neatly by his breakfast. Other times a significant display of his obvious love for Charles. An ideal sacrificed to reach a painful compromise or a night devoted to slowly driving Charles insane with pleasure. There were hundreds of these moments scattered throughout the last five years and during each and every one of them, Charles would look at this man he shared his life with and fall in love with him once again.
That moment was, by far, his favorite.
"I love you so much," Charles whispered.
Erik tapped the side of his head.
"I know. I already heard."