Chapter 1: Charles
Charles folds his knees up against his chest, sheltered in the window seat in his room. It's been such a mixed day-- Charles received permission at school to take college courses early, in what would otherwise be his freshman year of high school.
He should be pleased, but so far it's only brought trouble. Kurt's been piqued, goading Cain with why can't you be more like your stepbrother, though he scarcely seems to have much use for Charles except as a comparison to make his own son feel badly; Cain has been even more resentful than usual, and nothing Charles does seems to help.
But at the same time, Charles has been getting so much emotion from the bond-- his soulmate has been excited all week, and it seems to increase almost by the hour.
«What are you looking forward to so much?» Charles sends to his soulmate. «Is your birthday coming up?» He can't help smiling to himself. «I hope it's not your birthday. I didn't get you anything.»
He doesn't get anything back but emotion, of course, more of that happy excitement. The feeling is so powerful that his soulmate must be trying deliberately to push it across their bond to him. Charles tries to just enjoy it, to send back gratitude. «Thank you for sharing this with me.»
Gradually the excitement slackens and begins to flicker, his soulmate's attention falling away from the bond. Charles taps his temple. «Maybe whatever you're so excited about is happening, and you're busy with that? Have fun,» he sends wistfully.
And he hears something back.
«soon... promise... there? ...hear me? ...potatoes...»
«What?» Charles sends back with all the power he can muster.
«I'm awake! I was asleep, I'm awake now, oh God, I'm awake, was that you?»
«Oh my God, I can hear you!» Charles presses his free hand against the window, staring out as if his soulmate is going to come into view at any moment-- it feels almost as if he could. If Charles can hear him, anything seems possible. «Do you hear me?»
«Is that you? Are you out there? Say something else!»
«It's me! Where are you?» Charles asks. «You must have moved...?»
«I'm, I'm, wait, I'll ask my mother--» The energy between them slackens a moment and then it's back, so strong again and clear in a way it's never been before. «An hour east of Columbus. Ohio. Where are you??»
«Westchester. New York. Are you traveling?»
«We've been driving for a week, we started out in Portland. My name's Erik. Erik Lehnsherr. What's your name?»
«Charles Xavier.» Charles feels the sting of tears starting in his eyes. For two and a half years, he's shared feelings with his soulmate, but even with their unusually strong bond, sometimes he's been worried that they might not find each other easily when they came of age. But now-- Erik. Now Charles knows his name. «Do you mean you're coming here? Please, I hope--»
«Charles,» Erik responds, excited and adoring. «Charles, yes, we're coming to you. I'll be there soon.»
Chapter 2: Edie
Erik's been dozing through most of this trip, not that Edie begrudges him the sleep. It's all pretty easy for her; with her mutation and her control over machines, she just needs to be awake and aware enough to have her attention on the road-- the car itself is like an extension of her body, more than for most drivers.
He's so intense, her son; she's been a little worried about him ever since he told her he was hearing his soulmate's voice. Not impressions, not emotions, not all the usual things soulmates can feel from one another, but a voice, someone talking to him, words he can't quite make out.
Like any mother, it scares her. Unlike most mothers, she's a mutant, and she recognizes more than just the very real possibility that Erik's soulmate could be sick or have some kind of mental illness.
Maybe if their family didn't have such a strong history of mutations, she'd be more inclined to jump at the likelihood that there's something wrong with Erik's bond-- but she's a mutant, Jakob was a mutant, her mother was a mutant and unbonded, her father is a mutant and so is his soulmate. That's as far back as she knows about for sure-- she thinks some of her grandparents must have been mutants, but in those days people were so much less likely to talk about it-- but in any case, it's a pretty compelling argument for something other than sickness happening between Erik and his other half.
And Erik's fourteen now, nearly fifteen. It's still pretty young, but better to know. If Erik's soulmate's been sensing a voice from Erik, too, then it'll be good for his family to have the answers as well.
Midway through Ohio, Erik's falling asleep. He's tilted forward against his seatbelt, his lips moving, an occasional mumble making its way past-- something about potatoes-- and then he sits bolt upright, eyes wide, staring straight ahead.
Edie slows down, looking for the next exit. There's a rest stop coming up in a quarter mile. "Erik?"
Erik covers his face with one hand. "Where are we?" he asks. "I can hear him. I can hear his voice. We're talking." His eyes close, and he shudders softly; not an emergency, they don't need to stop. Edie breathes out a sigh of relief. "We're talking, I can hear him," Erik says again, brushing at his eyes with both hands.
It's bittersweet for her, watching this happen to her son. Her own bond happened so long ago, that deep beautiful sensation of sparks flying and circuits connecting, and she'd rolled out from under the car she was working on and looked up and he'd been right there, standing at the doorway to her garage, looking around nervously at all the equipment but hers, completely, entirely hers.
She'd been twenty at the time; he'd been eighteen. A seeker trip was out of the question for her, she'd had no inkling of where to start, but somehow he'd found her.
"We're just about to hit Zanesville, honey," she murmurs to Erik. "An hour east of Columbus."
Erik nods. A few more seconds pass, and he starts digging down in the footwell, going through his backpack and coming up with the road atlas. "Westchester," he says, "Charles is in Westchester, New York." He looks up, beaming at her, eyes still wet with tears. "I was right. I was right about New York."
"You were right," she says, and that's a huge, huge relief, to know that her son hasn't been imagining things, to know someone's really on the other end of that connection.
"We'll need to stay on I-70 until Pennsylvania and then get on I-76…"
Edie grins at him. "Calm down, sweetheart, Pennsylvania's not for another couple hours yet. We've got plenty of time." Her voice is more serious when she says, "You need to ask him if he's all right. Has he been sick? Any health problems?"
Erik nods and looks forward again, out east, into space-- or not into space, looking across the miles for his soulmate. After a moment, he laughs. "No," he says. "No, Charles isn't sick. He says he's fine. He's a telepath." Erik breaks down a little at that, burying his face in his hands. "He's like us. He's a mutant like us. He's-- I have to tell him about me!"
A telepath! Well, that's certainly outside the family tree-- most of the mutants in Edie's family have had powers related to metal, technology, or telekinesis. And if he can reach Erik from all the way in New York, he must be at least Sigma-level, maybe higher. Erik's last test placed him easily at Sigma-level himself, but the Mutation Aptitude Tests are more about what a mutant can do now than about full-on lifetime potential. Edie's been keeping an eye on Erik's mutation. There's no way he's going to stop at Sigma; her baby's barely scratching the surface of his gift, and they both know it. She's so proud it's sometimes hard to bear, especially alone…
But she's not thinking about Jakob, not today. This is Erik's time, Erik's turn to meet and acknowledge and, if they're lucky, fall in love. If Edie had any reservations before, the look on her son's face dispels them in a heartbeat. He's smiling so hard all his teeth are showing, crying openly now, wiping impatiently at his tears.
This bond is going to change things, change everything. For Erik, for his soulmate… probably for Edie and for Charles's family, too. Maybe it's a mother's bias showing, but she's always believed Erik could do anything, be anything he put his mind to. And with a soulmate whose gifts rival Erik's… she can't wait to see what happens when they finally meet face-to-face.
Chapter 3: Charles
Charles shares the good news with his mother and Kurt, neither of whom is entirely pleased, and Edie explains why she's bringing Erik to meet Charles so early.
"Mum. I need to ask you something important," Charles says.
Sharon looks up from her novel. "What is it?"
"My soulmate's seeking me now. He's with his mother. They can stay here, can't they?"
"Seeking? Charles, you're only fourteen," she frowns. "And how do you know?"
Charles touches his temple. "I can talk to him now! He's close enough that I can reach him. Mum, please. Please? You wouldn't make them stay at some hotel after coming so far."
"They can stay here when they arrive, of course, but beyond that, we're going to have to discuss it," and she goes, probably to find Kurt. There's really no telling how he'll react; Charles shakes off his worry and turns his attention back to the bond.
«Did you get that?»
«Yes!» Erik answers. «My mother says we can only drive another hour tonight, so it might not be until late tomorrow before we get there. But I can keep talking to you-- we can keep talking...? Will you stay up with me?»
«Of course! I can't possibly sleep til you get here. Where were you before, you said Portland? You could hear me in Oregon? Ordinarily forty miles is my best.»
«We were on the west coast, we always were, I started hearing you in Spokane. But it was just the sound of your voice, Mom didn't believe me at first... but I was just waiting, all this time I was waiting to hear you, I'm so glad to hear you--» The tenor of Erik's thoughts changes a little. «I'm, I'm submissive, I already know that, are you...?»
«Dominant, definitely.» Charles bites his lip, feeling a little abashed but mostly sly. «Have you felt it, when I've sent you, um, ideas…?»
«Yes, but I'm in the car with my mom right now! But, um, I only caught... just... the feeling... um, nothing... specific...»
The shy eagerness in Erik's thoughts has Charles smiling hard. «I wouldn't do it now, I know you're in the car! But maybe later...? I usually took a bath first, did you ever feel that? I was trying to give you a bit of advance notice.»
«Um... no, it always sort of came out of nowhere. Sometimes at school. Time zones.» More tentatively Erik sends, «I-- I liked it-- I liked that you could do that to me, that there wasn't anything I could do about it. But please not now when I'm in the car with my mom!»
Charles sends back gently, «I promised I wouldn't. I won't.» And exuberantly, realizing, «I can wait. It won't be long. You'll be here tomorrow. How traditional is your family? Can I kiss you? Do you think you can acknowledge early?»
«Not this early!» Erik seems a little scandalized. «I can't believe Mom even agreed to bring me... but I'd like to kiss you. I'd like that very much.»
Charles sends him the heartbursting feeling of affection that sparks through him at that, but Kurt and his mother are coming back in the room, distracting him.
"What's this about seeking already?" Kurt demands.
Sharon is softer but no more pleased. "Charles, why are they coming so soon?"
"I don't know," Charles crosses his arms. "Maybe they think it's ridiculous to wait four more years just because that's what everyone does?"
"It's not ridiculous. You're not running off with your soulmate at fourteen," says Kurt.
"I don't want to run off anywhere! He's coming here."
"Why?" Kurt asks. "Are they broke? What've you been telling em?"
"Obviously I told him, come east, we can rob the mansion of all the silverware and jewelry and run away together," Charles snaps, much to Kurt's shock; Charles has never really talked back to him before. There was never anything that mattered enough to risk it, but Charles won't have anyone treating Erik badly or speaking ill of him. "I haven't told him anything, and his mother is bringing him. What are you afraid of?"
"It's normal to be concerned, Charles," Sharon tells him. "If you can-- communicate-- ask him why they're coming so soon."
«My mum and her husband want me to ask you why you're coming early. I'm glad you're coming early!»
«Um... because my mom agreed... after I told her I could hear your voice, she said maybe after Portland we could try to find you.»
"He's asking his mother," Charles says to Sharon and Kurt's expectant look.
"You're talking to him now?" Kurt asks.
"From now on," says Charles, "you can just assume I'm always talking to him."
«We just left Portland last week and now we're coming... should I ask my mother why she decided it was all right?» Erik picks up Charles's agreement without words and there's a pause, and he relays his mother's answer: «"Because the truth is, sometimes when someone's hearing voices through their bond, it's a sign that their soulmate's sick, or in trouble. If that was happening, I thought it'd be better if we knew, and I thought his parents would be better off knowing."»
«I'm not sick, I'm psychic.»
«I know that now!»
«What's your mutation?» Charles asks. Erik started to tell him before, but it was lost in the garble of excitement between them; Erik said he was a third-generation mutant and Charles sidetracked them, fascinated by that family tree. He's going to have to research Erik's genealogy.
«For me it's metal. I control metal,» Erik sends.
«That's so brilliant. Like a specific kind of telekinesis? Or magnetism?»
«Yes, but... more... I can shape it and bend it and move it, but I can feel it too, sense it around me, what it's made of.» A vibrant sense of pride comes through as Erik goes on, «I'm getting the hang of alloys. I can tell the composition of metals, sometimes. Coins are easy, jewelry is easy. Other things are harder, construction materials are tough. But I can move things, big things sometimes, too.»
«I want to see that!» Charles thought nothing could outmatch hearing his soulmate's voice, but learning he's a mutant as well, with such a fascinating ability-- Charles is so excited he's shivering with it. «You can show me soon. I can't believe you're coming! We'll have rooms made up and waiting. Who's with you?»
«My mother,» Erik sends, a tremendous sense of love with the thought of her. «Just us two. I didn't know she was worried we might be sick. But I'm glad she decided we should make sure. This is all I ever wanted, this, hearing you, and... and we'll be able to see each other. Touch... I wonder what you look like...»
«I can show you,» Charles offers. «Just a minute.» Aloud he says, "I'll be right back."
"Charles! Did you get an answer?" Sharon asks.
"Oh, that," Charles says. "I've been trying to contact him telepathically and he sensed a bit of it, so his mum thought they should come and make certain I wasn't some sort of madman. Does that happen? Do people really go mad like that?"
"It-- I've heard sometimes there can be voices if the soulbond is malformed," Sharon answers.
"Well, ours is fine, it's just my telepathy. I'll be right back, okay?" Charles doesn't wait for an answer, racing up the stairs to his room.
He goes to his bath and stands before the glass, turning on the light and eyeing himself; he combs his hair and fusses a bit, but he looks how he looks, and anyway, everyone says soulmates are attracted to each other no matter what. «This is me,» he says, and sends his image.
«Charles...» Erik sends him a wave of adoration, love, lust; it's so heady, Charles has to grip the sink and focus very carefully to keep himself in check.
And he needs to, because he senses Raven approaching; since he didn't shut the door, she feels free to come in, and she looks over his shoulder into the mirror with him. "What're you doing? Kurt and Sharon are bickering away down there."
"I'm talking to my soulmate, he can hear me now. He's on his way," Charles tells her.
At the same time, Erik is telling him, «Hold on, I can-- can you get images from me?» And when Charles reaches for Erik's vision, he sees the windshield of a car-- Erik's hand, pulling down the sun visor, and his bright blue eyes as he looks at himself in the little mirror.
«You're so--! People always say 'cute', but that's not the right word. Is it strange to say handsome? You are.» Charles looks at himself again, a little more critically. «I know I'm a bit odd, but mostly people seem to think I look all right. It doesn't feel as if you mind.» To Raven he says, "I'm showing him what I see. Shift to your real form, I'll show him. He's a mutant like us."
"Really?" Raven beams, and shifts to her natural blue, textured skin and golden eyes.
«Pretty!» Erik sends.
«Her, or me?» Charles teases.
«Her. You're so far beyond that, I just... there aren't words for this, just--» Erik gives Charles access to everything he's feeling, a huge tangle of longing and admiration and anticipation.
Charles goes pink, looking away from the glass quickly so he doesn't share that... and then he feels silly, because Erik feels his emotions through the bond, Erik knows he's abashed and blushing. Charles looks at himself and Raven in the mirror again, her cheeky smirk, his flushed face. «I want everything, but I feel as if I could just sit and look and look at you and that would be enough. I don't know that I can be quite that philosophical when you're actually here...»
"He thinks you're pretty," he tells Raven. "His name's Erik, his mother's bringing him here."
"Oh, that's what Kurt and Sharon are going on about," says Raven. "Heads up, I heard Kurt say 'gold digger', so... look out for that."
Charles rolls his eyes, but Erik's picked up on the words in quite a different way. «I wonder if I could actually do that,» he sends. «Pull metal out of the ground, I mean, hand-smelt ore...? I haven't tried, it would be fun, I'd just need to go somewhere... I wonder if they have mines near you...»
«Maybe we could take a trip! I know there's a marble quarry near here, maybe there are other sorts not too far away as well. We could go...» Charles stops, dazzled all over again. «Erik, we could go together. You'll be here tomorrow. We can do everything together, now.»
Chapter 4: Erik
For the next hour, Erik and Charles share thoughts: everything from what's happening at that particular moment («There's another Perkins... How many are there, there must be dozens, we've never been this far east...») to the things they've been doing just today («College courses already! Charles, that's amazing, I'm so proud of you--» and Erik backs off a bit, blushing. «Is it too soon to say I'm proud of you? But I am, I can't wait to meet you, tell you in person...»).
Once or twice Erik glances over his shoulder into the back seat, wondering if he should grab his coat and pretend to be cold. He's anything but cold, but getting so much from Charles is making him wish for a little more privacy.
"Can I have my own room in the motel tonight?"
Edie snorts and shoots Erik an amused look. "You'll see him in person tomorrow night. I think you can wait until then."
"But I can hear him now, with words and everything," Erik pleads. "It's different from before!"
"Erik. Seriously. No! You just need to learn how to keep control over yourself. For that matter, you're only fourteen--"
"And we've bent the rules enough by letting you come this far so early. I hope you don't expect to get to recognize before you're both eighteen."
Erik's face falls, and the terrible sense of disappointment washes straight through him and into Charles, who stops midway through an explanation of what he plans on studying in his upcoming college courses and says, «What? What's wrong, what's the matter?», alarm lacing his thoughts as well. «Please, you're so close, you can't be stopping...»
«We're not stopping! I wouldn't stop now for anything,» Erik sends back fiercely. «But my mother says--» He opens up-- already he's starting to recognize what it's like to share memories with Charles instead of just moment-by-moment thoughts. Charles weaves his way through the last few minutes, and his disappointment echoes Erik's. «I'm sorry--»
«Well, you'll still be here,» Charles sends; Erik feels a buoyant sense of optimism over the bond, and he can't help smiling, lifted up along with Charles's radiant sense of positivity. «And even if we can't recognize early, maybe we can still acknowledge before then...»
That's true; it's a good point, too. Acknowledgment is just the first step, not the full-out legal, spiritual, and emotional lifetime commitment of recognition. Acknowledgment means openly accepting someone as your soulmate, and sometimes people do that at a young age. It's usually just people who were lucky enough to find their soulmates living in the same town as them, going to the same school; anyone who has to wait until eighteen to take a seeker trip, like most people do, doesn't even get to meet eir soulmate until then, let alone acknowledge.
But Erik and Charles are going to be together tomorrow, not four years from now. And there's no doubt in Erik's mind that Charles is the one, the one he's been talking to and waiting for all this time. Charles sends him a strong rush of affirmation and acceptance; to Erik, from here, it feels like they've acknowledged in spirit if not in the traditional words and first night's sleep that usually go along with acknowledgment.
Oh, but he wants that. He wants to stand in front of Charles, hands joined with a strip of ribbon, staring into Charles's eyes, wrapped up in his soul while Charles says I, Charles Xavier, acknowledge you, Erik Lehnsherr, as my soulmate. He wants to look at Charles and share the love and joy when he says I, Erik Lehnsherr, acknowledge you, Charles Xavier, as my soulmate, he wants to hold his breath and wait to accept Charles's kiss, he wants to go up to Charles's bedroom and stretch out beside him and rest his hand against the back of Charles's head while they fall asleep, palm covering the spot where all the psionic energy that creates the soulbond gathers, connecting them.
He grabs for his coat and arranges it carefully over his lap, glad the car's too dark for his mother to see the way his cheeks are burning. On the other end of their connection, he can feel love and fervent agreement from Charles, who only adds the words for the joy of sending them and knowing Erik is receiving them; it's obvious from feelings alone that they're completely in accord on this. «I want that, too, Erik. So much...»
"How long until we can acknowledge?" Erik asks out loud. He keeps the lines of communication open this time, giving the conversation to Charles as it happens.
"How about if we figure that out when we get there? You really don't need to be in a hurry for everything..."
"Easy for you to say," Erik mutters, shifting under his jacket. Edie glances over and groans softly; Erik wrinkles his nose and looks at her. "Are you sure I can't have my own room tonight?"
"You can wait," Edie says firmly, and then her expression softens a little. "Erik... I know it's not going to be easy, waiting when you'll be right there with each other. I don't want you to think I don't understand that. I know what it would have been like for me if I'd met your father at your age and couldn't acknowledge him, couldn't recognize for years and years."
"Then can't we--"
"You're fourteen," Edie reminds him, and oh, Erik wishes she'd stop that; it's not as though he doesn't know how old he is, how young everyone thinks he is. "I know the way you feel seems very grown-up right now, and you're talking to your soulmate, and it feels like the rest of your life should get to start right now. But there are things you need to experience at fourteen, fifteen, sixteen-- things that would be very, very different if the two of you were trying to start a life together at your age. Eighteen might be kind of an arbitrary number, but there's a reason people try to wait until then."
More disappointment flowing through to Charles, but this time he's been receiving the whole conversation, so it doesn't come out of nowhere. «We may not even be able to acknowledge early,» Erik thinks, despair coloring his thoughts. «How am I going to even be near you without wanting to kneel...?»
There's a flare of excitement just hearing those words, but Charles quickly contains himself and sends, «We'll manage. Erik, it's all right, we'll be together. That's the most important thing. Being together.»
«I--» The wisp of what he was about to say probably gets through to Charles, because Erik senses a little surprise at Erik's cutting himself off, at Erik holding back what they're both feeling. But there's a reason he's waiting. «I want to say it for the first time when I can see you face-to-face,» he explains, and Charles gives him relief and understanding and love, so much love. Erik goes almost breathless with it and gives back the emotion, heart every bit as full, even if he's saving the words for tomorrow night.
Chapter 5: Charles
Easter egg for fans of the original X-Men trilogy: Erik's grandparents, Kristof Lehnsherr and Julien Durant. :)
The next day is the longest of Charles's life.
Partly because he barely slept all night. He felt Erik's mortification when his mother told him to wait til she fell asleep before he locked himself in the bathroom-- personally, Charles rather admires her forthright attitude-- and the electric impatience they shared until Erik finally slipped off for a little privacy, running the shower and the bathroom fan. Erik shared how he felt, kneeling on the bathmat, waiting, and Charles thought he'd burst with how much he wants and loves his soulmate.
They managed to exhaust each other eventually, and snatched a couple of hours of sleep before dawn. But Edie woke Erik up at six and Charles woke with him, and since then, the day has seemed to stretch endlessly on and on.
In a way it's impossible to mind, when he can talk to Erik the whole time. But at the same time, he needs to see Erik so badly-- what used to be a long-term yearning has become a desperate and immediate craving.
And keeping the connection up takes a toll. Charles has to take painkillers at midday and again in the afternoon. He's never used his telepathy this much and over such a great distance. Erik's unhappiness ebbs to him, his unwillingness to cause Charles pain and his longing to stay in contact even so; it's a huge relief when the painkillers work and they don't have to choose.
«I can't believe we're just now hitting I-287,» sends Erik. «Mom won't go faster than the speed limit, she thinks the police are more likely to pull over a car with out of state plates.»
«She's probably right,» Charles replies. «I'm glad she's careful. I want you here as soon as possible but it's much more important that you're safe!»
«Of course we'll be safe, Mom controls machines and I control metal,» Erik sends, all confidence. «In another couple of years I could probably fly us there in the car.»
It's a spectacular notion. «I'm going to hold you to that. I might be able to help. Sometimes I've helped Raven focus a bit better to control her ability a little more effectively.»
«You always say 'ability' and not 'powers,'» Erik notices.
«Calling them powers makes people nervous that it means we have power over them.»
«Maybe people should be nervous.»
«I'd rather they weren't. If only because I sense it and it bothers me. Anyway, it's not a 'power' for everyone. Someone whose mutation is functional polydactyly wouldn't seem to have a 'power', unless it's the power to pick up slightly larger things. But ey has the ability to control eir additional fingers.»
«I guess so,» Erik responds, mulling. «We're passing another billboard for that Nicholas Cage movie. I'm not sure what we've seen more of these past couple of days... that billboard, or Perkins restaurants. Do you like his movies?»
«I'm not much for films as a rule,» Charles sends. «I liked The Lion In Winter, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and Hamlet, but I'd already seen all those performed in the theater. I like live theater much better.»
«But isn't it weird for you? The actors feel something different than what they're pretending to feel.»
«I try not to read them, I shield as much as I can. I just get their presences. But at least they have one. I suppose for most people, watching a movie simulates what it's like to watch people ordinarily, sort of? But to me it's not like that at all. It's just pictures. I can't feel anything, so it's a bit creepy, like everyone's dead.»
Erik's bemused. «Maybe you should watch zombie movies.»
A little embarrassed, Charles tells him, «I'm not allowed to watch horror films. A couple of years ago we watched Se7en and I had bad dreams, and I broadcast them to everyone else in the house.»
«Does that happen much?»
«Only a few times.» Charles catches an unformed thought from Erik and smiles. «And luckily I don't have sexual dreams very often, so I've never shared those. I don't think it would really bother me, but I'm sure everyone else would be awfully uncomfortable.»
Incredulity. «How could that not bother you?»
«I can't remember not being able to read people, if there was ever a time I couldn't,» Charles explains. «I didn't learn how to shield properly until I was seven, and it's not always easy to maintain it. So I was reading sexual fantasies and experiences from people before I really knew what they were. Discretion was something I had to learn by rote, and it still seems arbitrary to me, what people are willing to talk about and what's taboo.»
He can feel Erik absorbing that and considering it. «Just a second, we're going out of range of the radio station,» Erik says, and turns the knob with his ability.
It's not the first time Erik's used it while Charles has been in touch with him, but this time, Charles feels something. It's an expanded sense, a bit like his own telepathy, but Erik uses it to move the radio dial, and that's utterly unlike Charles's mutation. Erik's can affect the world in a visible, tangible way.
«I felt that! I felt it when you used your magnetism. That's so brilliant.»
«Really?» Erik's equally excited, and they play with it for a few miles, Erik switching the radio some more, weaving coins around his spread fingers, extending his awareness to show Charles his sense of the metal frame and parts that make up the car.
«I love using it,» Erik's enthusiasm comes through, so bright. «Everything about it. Feeling the metal, moving things around, altering shapes, making things...» Suddenly he listens very intently to the radio, concentrating on it to keep thoughts at bay.
«Are you trying not to think of something?» Charles can't help feeling hurt. People do that around him sometimes when they find out he can read minds. Erik has been so accepting, it stings to get it from him.
«It's not a bad thing!» Erik responds to the emotions he's getting from Charles. «I want to surprise you with something and I don't know how else to keep from thinking of it, like how they say if you try not to think of an elephant, you can't think of anything else. Maybe I'll do that.» And Erik thinks very hard about an elephant, with the kind of detail that suggests he's seen one up close in person at some point. In response to Charles's curiosity, Erik shares the entire memory, a circus setting up their tents, Edie holding Erik's hand as the elephant trainer lets him get near the placid giant.
Charles laughs a little. «All right, we'll talk about something else. Have you had any pets? We can't, Raven is allergic.»
«We move too much. Or we used to... maybe we'll settle down now. Maybe we can get a dog or a cat.»
«What kind of music do you like?»
«Heavy metal. That's not a pun,» Erik adds, «that's really what I like! I finally got to go to a Dio concert last year. I think I managed to talk Mom into it when I told her it was the Angry Machines tour,» Erik adds, sparkling with amusement. «Not that I really liked Angry Machines, but they did Holy Diver and The Last In Line, so that was awesome. Mom was there too, but she didn't make me stay with her. So I got right up front. It was fantastic. I could sense the guitar strings while they played! And the frame of the drum kit and the microphones... I want to go again as soon as I can. What about you? What do you like?»
«Not so much that, unfortunately,» Charles answers. «I like big band music and jazz standards. My father used to listen to them...» It's strange to feel he's known Erik so well for so long, after sharing the bond more than two years now, and yet Charles keeps realizing again and again that Erik doesn't know important things about Charles's life. «He died when I was five. An accident at the lab. They said it was instant.»
«We don't know where my father is,» Erik sends. «No one's ever been sure just what his mutation is, because it disrupts machines, so any instruments the doctors tried to use on him would just go crazy or break. When he first met my mom, she could fix a lot of the things that went haywire around him, so it worked out for a while. But any time they were apart... I guess he got more and more frustrated, he started leaving to spend time in places where there wasn't any technology that his mutation could affect. Then he left and never came back.»
«Your mother can't find him?»
«He blocked the bond,» sends Erik flatly.
Just the thought of it makes Charles's heart ache. He can't imagine what his life would be like without feeling Erik's presence as a constant. It's meant so much to him to feel as if he's never truly alone.
Right now Erik's feeling bereft and sad and a little angry, and they don't exchange anything but emotion for a little while. Charles just sits in the window seat and keeps him company.
After Edie stops at a filling station and they pick things up at the attached convenience store, Erik shakes off his melancholy, sending, «I have a Snickers. Can you read tastes?»
«Sometimes. Usually, feelings come easiest, and to get thoughts, I just have to pay attention. Vision takes a bit more effort, and hearing and touch. And then smell and taste are harder than that. I think they're easier for me dependng on how much people pay attention to them. People are always feeling and almost always thinking, so those are easy, and most people experience the world visually and pay attention to hearing and touch. They pay less attention to smell and taste unless they're actively smelling or tasting something unusual. I feel less of that from them, so I have less practice sensing it and interpreting it, and so it's harder to discern. Anyway, that's my theory.»
«I believe it,» Erik replies. «Metal is like that for me. The more ferrous it is, the easier it is to feel and control. But if I spend a little time with a piece of something, I get more of a feel for it. Copper was like that. I got a copper bracelet, and after practicing with it for a while, I didn't just get good with that piece, I started to pick up copper everywhere. And the older I get, the easier it is to feel them all. I sensed someone's lithium pills once.»
«I hadn't thought of lithium,» Charles admits. «What else? Zinc is a metal, isn't it? And arsenic.»
«Nickel,» Erik sends, a little dreamy. «Tin. Lead.»
«It sounds like you're going to want a metal collar,» Charles replies almost without thinking, and then stops, arrested.
They each feel the surge of lust at the idea, their own and each other's at once, and the sense of one another's feelings gets them both even more excited until Charles is hugging himself to quell his shivers and Erik's sending, «In the car! With my mom! I'm going to die.»
«What if I send you something boring?» Charles offers. «Here,» he passes Erik the memory of sitting in Latin class, doodling little stick-gladiator battles while the teacher declines irregular nouns. He was secretly rather proud of the stick-gladiators who were teaming up to fight Cerberus. Despite not really having much in the way of faces, let alone the rest of them, somehow they looked properly determined.
Of course, his little flicker of pride is no secret to Erik, who sends, «They did come out well. Latin, really?»
«I can get living languages by reading the speaker,» Charles explains. «But something like Latin, I'll only be able to master by studying. It's useful for science and etymology.»
«I don't like to study,» sends Erik. «I like to learn, but not studying. I'd rather read.»
«I like to read, but mostly just nonfiction. There aren't many novels that keep my interest. Sometimes I like older stories that have an omniscient point of view. But the more involved it is in the viewpoint of a character, the less I can relate to it. They're so stuck in their own heads. They only have the bond, and usually they don't even feel that all that strongly unless it's part of the plot.»
«I like romance novels,» Erik admits. «Not the classic ones like Venus in Furs or Story of O, either. Cheap ones, the kind they sell in supermarket checkout lines. I get mine from thrift stores. Sometimes in five-packs.»
«I like comic books,» Charles confesses in return.
«You don't like movies or novels, but you like comic books?»
«They're drawn, so it's less like they're trying to be real...? I don't know,» Charles ponders. No one's ever really asked him why he likes what he likes. He's close to Raven, but she's his little sister; sometimes she teases him about his quirks, but she just accepts them as givens, she doesn't really wonder about them. He's scarcely wondered before. «Maybe because sometimes you get to see what the characters are thinking. So when I was smaller, it was the only thing that was close to my experience.»
«It's important,» Erik sends. «To find things like that. If my mom weren't a mutant too, I don't know what I'd do. It's really important to me that she knows what it's like.»
«I wish I'd had someone like that... Raven and I share a lot, but her ability is so physical and mine is all mind.» Charles smiles. «I suppose I have someone now, in you. You can physically move things, but it seems like a psionic ability, since you think of it to make it happen.»
«It's really both,» Erik tells him. «I mean, it comes from my mind, but it doesn't feel like I'm only thinking at things. I can feel it in my body when I'm touching metal or moving it. Mom says it's like that for her, and I guess maybe it was like that for Grandpa Lehnsherr, too...»
There's that mention of Erik's grandfather again! «Oh, you never managed to tell me about him...!»
A warm glow of pride slides through the bond to Charles, and he can't help smiling, almost as proud as Erik is. This is his soulmate, Charles's other half, and he's not just another mutant, he's proud of mutations. He's excited by Charles's telepathy! It's something Charles hoped for, but never dared to count on.
«So I told you about how mutation runs in my family,» Erik sends. «Not just me and my mother, but my father, too, and my mother's parents. And my grandfather's soulmate!»
If Charles weren't a telepath, he might have difficulty following that statement-- Erik's mother's parents, his grandfather's soulmate? But it's clear from the context in Erik's mind that he's talking about the same set of grandparents. «Your grandparents were bonded to other people?» Charles asks, curious. «How did that happen...?»
«Mom's mother wasn't bonded at all,» Erik sends, and there's a hint of sadness in it, one that seems like it might be new to Erik. Charles understands, he thinks-- even as little as they knew each other before, losing the bond would have been unthinkable. Now that they can feel each other, now that they're finally getting to know each other, there's no way either of them could stand to lose each other... Charles doesn't even have to ask in order to know that's true. But maybe if Erik's grandmother never felt the bond, she never knew the difference. «And Mom's father was bonded to another man, so they couldn't have children together. My grandparents were really close, though. All three of them. They lived on the same block when my mother was growing up.»
Charles sends the hint of acknowledgment and attentiveness that tells Erik that Charles has been listening and hearing him, taking in the story. It's a little like a nod, but not; Erik instantly understands the sense, though, and sends back a feeling of pleasure that Charles is finding the story interesting. «Do you know what their mutations were?» Charles asks.
«My grandmother, no one was ever really sure exactly. I guess sometimes she made wishes? But she tested high on a MAT, or something, when she took one in her sixties. My grandfather, Mom's dad, he could transmute metal!» Erik's excitement bubbles up and over with that. Charles can only grin right along with him. «So that's three of us in a row with powers that are related to metal. Mom does machines, anything with moving metal parts. Anything from locks to helicopters.»
«Your mother can fly a helicopter?»
«She says it's more like being the helicopter, but yes!» Erik beams over at Edie, who reaches over and pets Erik's hair. Erik ducks and backs off, but he's still smiling ear-to-ear. "I was telling Charles about you and Grandpa Lehnsherr and Grandma Koehler."
"Did you mention Grandpa Durant, too?"
«Oh, and Grandpa Lehnsherr's soulmate. My Grandpa Durant. He was an empath.» Erik smiles, a little cleverness in that sensation, a little sly satisfaction. Another generation of psionics meeting metalbenders... Charles can understand it, it's like having things come full circle for Erik. «I've missed having family like me,» Erik sends, and it's not as though Charles didn't catch the way everyone's name was in past tense, but that makes it more stark, more clear. Still, what Erik's feeling now isn't sadness; it's excitement, anticipation. «I think my mother has, too. I can't wait to meet you. For so many reasons...»
«Soon,» Charles says, sending his own longing and pleasure over the bond. «I can't wait to have you here, Erik.»
«I'll show you what it's like for me when I'm there. My powers. I'll move some things around, I probably won't even be thinking about it. When there's metal around it calls to me, it's like it stands out... little things like picking up a fork, bigger things like moving furniture.»
«Most of our furniture is wood,» Charles points out. «Antique.»
«Even wood furniture is almost always secured with metal somewhere,» Erik thinks smugly. «If there's any bracing, even any nails, I can lift things that way. But I'd rather have a metal bed...»
Charles has to take a breath, thinking about it. «We have a room with a daybed. It's all done up in pink, but the frame is made of iron.»
Erik sends more smug amusement over the bond. «I don't think I'll care what color anything is.»
«Well, I wasn't going to assume,» Charles thinks back, almost giddy. «Where are you now, how close...?»
«I'll check...» Erik looks at the map, and his thoughts go a little hazy with excitement. «Oh, God, Charles. We'll be there in two hours!»
After that, they're both quite useless for a while.
Chapter 6: Charles
Charles goes downstairs to wait. Then into the foyer. Then onto the veranda. Then he sits on the steps leading up to the veranda.
The rest of the family filters out to join him eventually. "You can stay here til they arrive," says Kurt firmly, but Charles ventures further into the courtyard, lingers at the fountain in the middle of the roundabout for a while. He can see Kurt is annoyed, but Charles's mum is demurring for a change, touching Kurt's arm and shaking her head when he tries to order Charles to come back.
«I saw the sign for Westchester!» Erik sends. «We're so close now!»
Charles finds himself more and more wrought up, unable to contain himself, watching the horizon with tear-blurred eyes.
«Can you see where we are, how close are we, are we close? I need you--» Erik feels as shaken as Charles is himself. «I need you, oh God.»
Looking through Erik's eyes, Charles recognizes the street they're on. «You're close. Just a little more than a mile.» He feels as if he's going to fly to pieces, he has to move. «I can't wait, I'm going to the gate to meet you there.»
«I can feel you, I can feel you, can you feel me, can you feel the bond, can you feel it, oh God, Charles, I didn't know it was going to be like this when we met...»
It's not like this always, not like this for everyone; Charles has read about it. People usually wait until they're eighteen, not just because most people feel the bond more accurately as they get older, but also because the feelings from the bond can easily become overwhelming, the younger the soulmates are.
Charles doesn't care. He wants to feel overwhelmed. He wants to feel everything, experience all of this, and he wants it right away, running the last quarter-mile to the gate.
He feels Raven as she dashes up behind him. "You pissed off Kurt," she says. "He thinks someone else should be here, and Sharon says we should let you do this however you want, so they're scrapping. I'm thinking if I'm here to chaperone, maybe Kurt won't come."
"Thank you," Charles hugs her, and turns to the west, bouncing on his toes. He feels like he might jump out of his skin if they don't get here soon-- because they'll get here soon, because he can feel how close they are, tracking them with his telepathy, feeling Erik through the bond. «I'm at the gate, Raven's with me. That might keep me from tackling you into the grass the moment I see you. Maybe.»
«Tackle me. Anything,» Erik sends fervently. «I want to kneel, I want to kneel for you.»
«Don't you want to wait?» Charles tries to keep back his own impatience. Last night Erik was adamant about observing some of the traditions around acknowledgement and recognition.
«Wait, God, who can think about waiting, we're almost here, we're almost here--»
«I just want you in my arms, however you're standing or kneeling or lying...» He hears something, the purr of a perfectly calibrated engine. «Is that your car? I think I hear the car!» Charles goes to open the gate, punching at the keypad with unsteady fingers. He gave Erik the code this morning when they set out, but what was he thinking-- he can't wait for them to pause and open it.
«I can feel something big moving, is that the gate, are you opening the gate for us?» And Erik's excitement spikes still higher. «I think I see you!»
Charles lurches forward, nearly takes off running. He only stops because Raven grabs his arm, saying, "Let them drive through the gate at least!"
But he has to do something, he's never felt lit up this way, this full and alive. He waves frantically as the car comes closer, biting his lip, tears welling over.
«I see you. I see you, Charles, we're here, I need to-- MOM LET ME OUT OF THE CAR--»
The car stops just inside the gate, and Charles has to run.
At the same time, Erik bolts out of the car toward him, but as they near each other, he stops and braces himself and holds his arms out, and Charles laughs, delighted, speeding up even more and throwing himself into Erik's arms. "Erik! You're here."
It's almost too good to be real, his soulmate right here with him, warm and strong and perfect, holding Charles tightly. Everything is just so much more in person. For two years, Charles has shared moods and emotions with Erik, and they've just spent almost a solid day in silent conversation, mind to mind, incredibly intimate.
But that was all so incomplete. He needed this, he needed to be in the same space as Erik, hear his voice and his breath, touch his skin and his hair. He needed to wrap his arms around Erik's waist and marvel at how narrow he is, feel his arms and chest and the whole lean length of him.
"Charles. I'm here." Erik clings so hard he pulls Charles right off his feet, and he twirls Charles in a circle before setting him back down. "Charles. I'm--" his voice breaks, a sob stealing his breath. «I'm here, I'm here, I'm here, I'm yours, I love you.»
«I love you too,» Charles tells him, drawing back enough to kiss him; his mouth is so warm and so yielding and they're so attuned, heads tilting just right, everything falling into place until they're all but breathing in sync with one another. «Erik. I'm so glad you're here, I'm so glad you're mine...» He can feel that his face is wet, but he can't stop smiling so widely his face aches. "I love you so much," he says aloud, and laughs, looking up at Erik's face, so dear already. "You're tall!"
Erik laughs with him, tears on his cheeks as well. "You're not!" he blurts out, his mind full of love, affection, attraction, a heartfelt desire to bend and pledge himself here and now, only the barest sense of propriety holding him back til later. He's throwing his mind wide open to Charles, sharing the way he feels as if he's falling in love moment-by-moment, showing Charles how Erik sees him: lashes glistening with happy tears, freckles on his nose, the vivid red of his lips, the taste of him still thick in Erik's mouth.
«I can't believe you're so beautiful,» Charles tells him, sharing every bit of his own feelings back. «Your eyes! And your mouth, and your shoulders, and you're so strong... I want everything.» He knows he should get hold of himself, but hang should. This is only ever going to happen once, the first time he meets his soulmate, and if he cries and clutches and can't stop shaking, then... then that's what's happening. This is happening, this is really happening now. Impulsively he commands, «Kiss me again.»
At once Erik cups Charles's face in his hands and kisses him. Charles falls into it gladly, and there's nothing else, nothing else matters but this, nothing else could ever compare.
Chapter 7: Edie
Edie watches Erik catch up his soulmate, hold him, spin him around; she watches long enough to see the other boy's face, long enough to be reassured by his expression, his joy and wonder, the way Charles looks at Erik like he's the most important thing in the world.
"Erik, you're here," he says, and that's a little surprising; he has an English accent. Edie wonders if Erik picked that up when they 'spoke' psychically and just forgot to say, or found it unremarkable.
Then there's an unmistakable shift between the two and they move to kiss, and Edie quickly turns to give them privacy. It might be harder if she just had to stand here on her own, but she's happy to see Charles's sister coming toward her across the lawn.
Erik already described Raven after seeing her through his soulmate's eyes, so Edie knew what to expect, but she didn't realize how beautiful the overall effect would be, Raven's patterned blue skin, rich red hair pouring back from a widow's peak, golden eyes.
"So hi," Raven says, smiling and offering her hand. "Nice to meet you. I'm Raven, Charles is my brother."
"Hi, Raven. I'm Edie Lehnsherr, Erik's mom." Edie shakes the offered hand with a wide smile, happier than she knows how to express. Her baby's bonding into a family with more mutants. It's as if this bond is honoring their own family tradition, and it gives her so much pride and hope to see it happen.
Though right now, she's really trying not to see it happen. She pointedly faces away from the boys and tries to ignore the murmuring and pretends not to hear any other noises. Keeping a leash on them is going to be even harder than she thought.
Raven looks a little dubious too, holding up a hand to shield her eyes; Edie laughs, "You got a fire hose handy?"
"I thought about turning on the sprinkler system, but Charles knows where all the blind spots are," Raven grins back. It fades too fast as she looks over her shoulder toward the hulking mansion in the middle of all this spread. "Maybe we could just kind of shove them into the backseat and take them back to the house."
Erik explained last night that Charles has had trouble with his stepfather, but it's worse than Edie realized if it's enough to worry Raven so quickly.
Behind her, Erik clears his throat. She turns around; Erik's blushing very red and standing awkwardly, and Edie feels for him. There are a lot of reasons people wait til they're older to seek their soulmates, and this is a big one: it must be embarrassing to face your mother after meeting the person you desire more deeply than anyone else in the world.
She's so proud that he fords the discomfort and straightens anyway, showing dignity and saying, "Mom, can I introduce you to my soulmate, my dominant, Charles Xavier."
And here he is, the boy Erik's been wrecked over, these past days; the boy whose voice reached him from all the way across the country. She wouldn't have guessed it to look at him. Charles Xavier is a slip of a thing. Erik's maturing fast-- she swears he shot up a couple of inches just since the summer-- Charles might catch up eventually, might not.
She doesn't know what she expected. Someone like Jakob, maybe, dark and handsome. Charles is freckled and wholesome-looking, like he could feature on the front of a box of cornflakes. But she likes the way he looks adoringly at Erik, and he has a sweet smile.
He's certainly self-possessed. He steps a little in front of Erik as if to give him a little cover while Erik tries to get his composure back. Charles doesn't seem to be having that problem; he's a little pink in the face but otherwise projects calm confidence, extending his hand. "Thank you so much for coming early." His voice is a little lower than she'd expect from his size and his age. "I'm sorry to worry you."
She gives him a firm handshake, and he clasps her hand in kind. "It's nice to meet you, Charles. It's good to have some things answered. I have a feeling Erik already 'introduced' me to you, but just in case, I'm Edie Lehnsherr. You can call me Edie."
Charles smiles. "It's nice to meet you too, Edie. Raven..."
"Covered it while you and your soulmate were attacking each other," Raven smirks.
Charles flashes her the briefest irritated look before turning back to Erik, dissolving into another wide smile. "Raven, meet Erik."
Raven goes to shake Erik's hand with a friendly, "Hi!"
Erik takes Raven's hand and does a little bow from the waist, like something from a movie-- Edie's not sure whether to shake her head or take a picture, it's silly but it's so cute, too.
"I'm very pleased to meet you," Erik says.
Raven stifles a giggle and says in an accent like Charles's, "Likewise." She gives a speaking look to her brother. "We should go up to the house."
Charles sobers a little and nods at her, but the moment he looks at Erik, he's all smiles again, taking Erik's hand. He tears himself away long enough to say to Edie, "I guess I should show you where you can park the car."
"Why don't you both hop in and I'll drive us up," says Edie.
Charles opens the door for Erik solicitously. "After you."
Erik climbs into the car, beaming, and then grabs Charles by the belt and tugs him in too, tumbling Charles in across his lap.
Edie has to smile. That's her boy, and she's glad to see Charles dissolving into laughter. Erik's always been strong-willed, and it's been one of her secret worries that his soulmate would be the sort of dom who'd see that as a challenge to eir authority. It was one of the things that made her waffle about coming here: if everything was all right with their bond, she might be putting Erik into the hands of a young, insecure dominant with something to prove.
She'll still be watching out for that, but she doesn't get the feeling that's going to be a problem with Charles, who's still laughing, and squirming now-- apparently Erik found a ticklish spot.
"Don't make me break out the seat belts," she says, as Raven settles more sedately in the shotgun seat.
"Sorry sorry sorry! We'll behave," Erik lets go, showing his hands innocently. Charles hauls himself upright, pink-faced and still laughing a little.
"Don't think I wouldn't! You guys are not necking in the back seat all the way up to the house."
"We won't," Charles says quickly, his expression angelic. That's what she's probably going to have to watch out for with this one. He probably gets away with murder with looks like that. In the rearview she sees him cut a look to Erik and smirk a little while Erik bites the inside of his lip. God only knows what they're talking about mind to mind.
As they approach the house, though, Charles is quick to direct, "You'll want to turn right and go through the roundabout, and there's a branch that comes off by the courtyard... there. That goes to the garage."
"Thank you, Charles," she says. The garage is an attached outbuilding, and she feels, good grief, seven cars in there.
Charles fidgets. "There's a tarp if you want to cover the car," he starts, but he catches her eye in the rearview and makes an apologetic face. "Or we could just go up."
"We shouldn't keep them waiting," says Raven.
"It'll be okay, Charles," Edie tells him softly, looking sympathetically from Raven to him. "Let's just go ahead; I'd like to meet your mother and your stepfather." Erik coached her on Charles's rocky relationship with Kurt Marko, so she knows better than to say 'your parents,' and Charles looks a little relieved. He takes Erik's hand as they get out of the car and head toward the house.
It looked huge from the gate; it's massive up close. There must be more people living here than just the five of them in the immediate family. The size is imposing, but not intimidating. If Edie's grandfather hadn't been worried about destabilizing the gold standard, he could've used his mutation to muster enough wealth to build a place like this.
They come in view of the veranda. An elegant blonde sub smiles wanly as they approach, her dom beside her glowering, his arms crossed.
Edie returns the woman's smile politely. She was expecting some of this, she expected it when they set out in the first place; she knew she was risking disapproval. It flies in the face of tradition to bring Erik here so soon. "Mr. and Mrs. Marko, hello. I'm Edie Lehnsherr, and this is my son, Erik."
Mrs. Marko steps forward and gives her a gracious handshake and kiss to the cheek. "It's very good to meet you, Edie." And there's the accent; she's English too. "Please call me Sharon. And let me introduce you to Kurt."
"Nice to meet you," Kurt says, giving her a typical dom-to-dom handshake... strong, but nothing that sets off any alarms yet.
Charles steps forward with Erik, his eyes huge, his hand tight on Erik's. "Mum, Kurt, let me introduce you to my soulmate, Erik Lehnsherr."
Erik makes her proud again, bowing his head, his voice strong and even. "Mr. and Mrs. Marko, it's a pleasure to meet both of you. Thank you for allowing me to come and meet Charles."
"You're welcome," Kurt says heavily, with a pointed look at Charles. But when he returns his gaze to Erik, he only says, "It's good to meet you," and shakes Erik's hand.
Sharon gives Erik the same courteous handshake and cheek-kiss she gave Edie, but then she hugs him and says, "Welcome, Erik."
Erik beams at Sharon. He and Charles slip closer, arms around each others' waists, Erik looking to Charles, bending toward him instinctively. Edie remembers what that was like, meeting Jakob, how badly he wanted to fold for her, how much she needed to see him on his knees.
"Let me show you to your rooms," says Sharon. "Do you have luggage in the car?"
Edie takes pity on the boys. "Yes, we've got a few things. Erik can run back for them."
They jump on the chance. "It'll only take a minute," says Erik.
"We'll be right back," adds Charles, and the two of them take off before anyone can argue.
Putting on her best company smile, Edie settles in to make some small talk and hopefully let everyone pretend they don't know what's likely going on in the garage.
Chapter 8: Erik
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
«I didn't think I could be any more excited than I was before you arrived,» Charles sends, «but now you're here, and I am, even more...»
«So am I,» Erik answers, squeezing his hand. «Oh no, we left Mom alone with-- no, Raven's still there--» And suddenly, they're in the garage and they're out of sight, and it's just them and the cars. Alone. «Charles...»
Turning to face him, Charles wraps his arms around Erik's neck and tucks close, breathing deeply. «We don't have long. A few minutes. How are we ever going to wait for anything?»
Erik slides his hands down Charles's sides, down to his hips. His hands are trembling a little, but he can't help it; he tugs Charles forward to press up against him until there's not a molecule of space between them. «I want to wait for some things, but not everything... I've wanted to kneel for you for so long now, months and months.»
Charles leans into him. «I've wanted to be able to talk to you like this...» He brushes his fingers against Erik's temple. «So much. I wanted that even more than I want to see you at my feet, and that's a lot.» He traces down Erik's cheek and touches the corner of his mouth, and suddenly gives Erik a breathtaking smile. «Oh! That was my first real kiss.»
Erik's smiling ear-to-ear. «Mine, too. Oh, Charles. I wanted this, too. Ever since I realized I was hearing you. I wanted to share this with you so much. I was hoping you were like me, you were a mutant like me...»
«I hoped you wouldn't mind,» sends Charles, a little tentative. «But that you wanted it, that's--» and he simply gives Erik his feelings, a huge outpouring of relief and delight, and kisses him again while Erik's still reeling.
Erik clings to him and slips his hands around to Charles's ass and squeezes, too excited and happy not to, but he's happy to give all the ground and let Charles take over the kiss, and the next one and the one after that, learning how to kiss with each one they share.
Charles pushes him back against the car, sitting him against the hood and nudging his legs apart a little so they can get just that little bit closer, and that really feels way too good.
"Erik," he murmurs aloud, his hands ghosting lightly up the back of Erik's neck, pausing just before he reaches soul's-home. «We could, now.»
«I want, I want to, but...» Erik can't stop the hitch of his desperate breaths. He tries to back off a little and there's nowhere to go, and that just heightens the excitement; he has to bite his lip to keep back the moan. His face feels like it's on fire. «I'll need to change clothes...»
Charles darts a quicker little kiss to his mouth, teasing, «Aren't your things just in the boot of the car?» He caresses Erik's chest, and then his hand travels down, between them, resting against Erik's lower belly while Erik tries not to bite through his lip or give up and scream out loud. Charles tells him, «I think I can help you, if you'd rather nothing showed...»
Eager, relieved, Erik answers, «Yes, please.» It catches him up, makes him dizzy as he realizes this is the first time he's said please to Charles face-to-face.
Charles catches his reaction and gives him a huge grin. «You're perfect,» he puts into Erik's head, and he stays there, closing his eyes and concentrating, fingers to his temple. «Maybe it would help... bend your head down to mine.» With mischief he adds, «Even if it doesn't help, I'd like that.»
«You have to know, I'll do anything you ask,» Erik swears. «I trust you.» He bends his head down and rests his forehead very gently against Charles's, and he says it again, relishing it. «Please, Charles?»
«I have you,» Charles sends tenderly. He strokes Erik's temples, and... Erik does trust Charles, he already trusts Charles with more than his life, but this is still a little scary. He feels Charles shifting and changing things, and much as Erik doesn't entertain any doubts, they still pass through his mind. He can't imagine what would happen to him if Charles were to slip.
But all that happens is that Erik feels his physical arousal back down a little, not even enough to get rid of his hard-on, but enough to make it feel less urgent and achy.
«That feels good, doing that.» Charles takes a shaky breath and smiles. «Thank you for letting me.»
Erik still feels like himself, everything's all right, and he's flooded with love and affection, nuzzling and rubbing his cheek against Charles's. The idea that Charles can do that to him, can have that much power over him, leaves him breathless. «That was... I feel more yours than ever. I love you.»
Charles sends him happiness and rests his hands just below Erik's joining spot again. «I love you, too. Do you want to wait? I will, if you want to. I'll wait as long as you want. I thought it would be years til I met you.»
«We need to talk about all of that-- all the things I do want to wait for, and the things I don't. Why do we have to deal with parents? I just want to be alone with you, to talk, and, and, other things...»
«We'll have time. Even if they make us stay in separate rooms, we can still be together.» Charles kisses him. «I've never been so happy about my mutation.»
And the mention of their mutations, happiness, it floods into Erik and reminds him of what he'd tried so carefully to keep secret during the car ride. «I can't wait, I have to give you this now. Right now.» Erik gently presses Charles back and digs into his pocket. All at once he sinks and kneels at Charles's feet, and he opens his hand and floats his windcatcher up.
It looks like it's just a metal disk on a chain at first, engraved with concentric circles, something simple and elegant, highly polished and lovely; but then Erik waves his hand and it reveals itself, splitting into a series of nesting rings that spin and spin around each other freely. Erik lets it dance and twirl in the air until it's far enough up for Charles to catch it in his hand.
Charles receives the windcatcher from the air. «This is what you were trying to keep a surprise, when you were thinking earlier about using your power to make things? You made this? Erik, it's so beautiful.» Charles brushes his sleeve across his eyes, spilling a few more tears. «Thank you.»
Erik's a little moist-eyed too, but he's bursting with pride that Charles admires it, that Charles is holding it cupped in his palm and looking at it as if it's more precious than jewels. «My mutation might not let us be close the way yours will, but I can feel it when you touch the metal...» Suddenly the possibilities of that seem much more significant than they've ever been before. «Oh. Oh, Charles. I can feel it when you're touching metal.»
Right away Charles folds his hands around the windcatcher, stroking his thumb along the outer ring. «Can you feel that?»
Erik shudders, trying to pass the sensation to Charles with his thoughts. «Yes, yes. Charles, you're going to have to 'calm me down' again if you keep doing that--»
«We'll save that for later,» Charles smiles sunnily. He opens the chain and fastens it around his neck, and drops the windcatcher inside his shirt to rest against his chest; Erik can feel the metal warming from contact with his skin.
Charles looks down on him, sending the satisfaction and pride and adoration of looking at Erik like this: not just his soulmate, but his kneeling sub, head bowed to him. They may have to wait to acknowledge and recognize, but this is a custom they can observe here and now.
Softly Charles says, "Thank you for the honor of your submission," and offers his hand.
Erik takes Charles's hand in his, kisses the center of his palm, and then presses Charles's hand to his cheek. After all the nerves and tears, he feels steady, now. Peaceful. "I'm so glad to be yours, Charles. Thank you for the gift of your care and dominance."
With his brightest smile yet, Charles bends and kisses Erik's brow, completing the traditional acceptance. "You may stand." Charles beams at Erik and kisses him the moment Erik rises and straightens; his hand presses warm at the back of Erik's neck, and then, oh, slides up to soul's-home.
It's never felt like this, never. Erik cups his own hand at that same spot, slipping his fingers through Charles's hair to gently rest at the back of his head, completing the circle between them, sealing their bond.
It's like the ending scene of practically every romance Erik's ever seen or read, the soulmates meeting and sharing a kiss while touching each others' souls. But they all got it wrong. This isn't how a story like theirs ends. It's just the beginning.
SO MANY THANKS to everyone who shifted gears and came over to visit the bb!s with us! Writing an AU of an AU is incredibly self-indulgent, but these guys are so cute we couldn't help ourselves. We're not entirely sure when we're going to come back to them, but we have enough of their story in our heads that it wouldn't surprise us at all if we see them again. :)