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Winter in July

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There's a new student in the house. Her name is Ororo, she's seven, and can control the weather, "So everyone calls her Storm." This Charles tells him when Erik puts his helmet on the table and idly wonders why it's raining everywhere else and yet somehow there's a halo of sunshine surrounding the Xavier Mansion.

"That's a useful mutation," Erik says, rubbing at his forehead wearily.

"Possibly someday," Charles says ruefully. "As it stands, right now, you do not want to accidentally run over her favorite toy with your wheelchair."

Erik laughs, then winces.

"Does your head hurt," Charles asks, his expression shifting into worry. "Come here."

He collapses at Charles feet, relaxes into the warmth of his fingers as he skillfully massages his scalp. At some point he tilts his head backwards and Charles leans down to kiss him. "Bed," Erik says, when he breaks the kiss.

"Bed," Charles agrees.

*

The first time they meet he's wandering into the kitchen to get a drink and there's a silver haired child solemnly peering into the refrigerator. "Hello," Erik says.

She turns to look at him, eyes wide and guilty. Her hand is sticky with something that looks like chocolate.

"I promise not to tell on you," Erik says, as she continues to stare as if she's waiting to be admonished, because, knowing Charles, he probably has rules for such things. No chocolate after supper or brushing your teeth. Or no chocolate at all. Fruit and vegetables and meat only, for strong bones and healthy growth and utter lack of imagination.

The child breaks into a gap-toothed grin. "I'm Ororo," she says shyly.

*

She takes to following Erik around after that. He's not in the mansion often, but whenever he is, he can sense the metal bracelets around her tiny ankles, just hovering out of sight.

Sometimes he turns around and heads towards her, but if she spots him she bolts.

"I don't understand why she's doing that," Erik complains to Charles. "Can't she just avoid me like the other children if she's so scared."

"She's not scared of you," Charles replies, his head bent over some book or another. When Erik frowns he drags his gaze away and sighs in exasperation. "It's because she's fond of you. She's always going on about how tall you are, how handsome." He pauses. "Mostly it's about how tall."

"Oh," Erik says. "Well. Can you make her stop? Tell her what a monster I am. That seems to be the prevailing opinion around this place, after all."

"Nobody thinks you're a monster, Erik," Charles says. "You just have a flair for the dramatic, what with your insistence on stomping down hallways with your cape flying behind you."

"I do not stomp." Erik bristles. "And it's not my fault the cape billows."

Charles sighs. "Look, that girl makes up her own mind. I don't even try to persuade her otherwise anymore."

"Yes, but I don't like it," Erik says. He grabs the book from Charles' hands and slams it shut. "Make her stop."

Charles only smiles benignly.

*

Erik wakes up in the middle of the night and it's freezing. He wraps himself around Charles to warm up, but when that doesn't quite work he seeks out the metal of the central heating system and turns it on. "Mmph," Charles says, eyes still closed, as he slides cold arms around Erik's waist and pulls him closer.

"Charles," Erik says, in the morning, when he walks to the window and peers out to a thick fog of billowing snow. "It seems that we're trapped in the middle of a blizzard."

Charles raises his head, then drops it back down again. "Are we," he says, drowsily unconcerned.

"Charles," Erik repeats. There's no response. "Charles."

"What?"

"It's summer."

"Ah, Storm," Charles says, with the self-indulgent tone of a proud father. "She must not want you to leave."

Erik frowns. "So she just conjures a blizzard?"

"Fascinating mutation, isn't it."

"It's getting increasingly less so by the minute. I have to go, Charles. I have work to do. Important work."

Charles cracks open one eye. "Then tell her to stop."

"You do it." He lowers his voice warningly, but Charles continues to look sleepy and contented. "You're the telepath."

"I'm not going to force a seven year old to do something if she doesn't want to do it," Charles says. "It would be violation of her trust in me as a teacher. Besides, it's only around the house. No harm done."

"What about the garden?"

"You're suddenly concerned about my azaleas?"

"All your plants will die."

"Yes. Horrible, that. You best get going then if you're going to talk to her."

"Fine," Erik says. "Fine. I will."

Charles yawns and puts a pillow over his head. "You do that. She's in the kitchen making breakfast."

*

In the kitchen, the conversation between the two of them is brief, defined as it is by a beaming seven year old and a large, looming man who, as it turns out, can make entire governments tremble in fear at the mention of his name but cannot intimidate one child.

"Storm," Erik says sternly.

"Mister Erik!" Storm's face brightens considerably. "You're still here!"

"That's because there's a blizzard outside."

"Yes, I know! It's pretty! I like snow." She pauses, then adds. "I made you breakfast."

"Oh," Erik says. "You did?"

It's horrible: she put a bowl of cheerios and added milk and chocolate sprinkles and strawberry jam, "All my favorite things," and pushes it towards him expectantly.

This is all, Erik concludes, as he chokes down another mouthful of what amounts to nothing less than concentrated sugar, Charles' fault.

"Ororo," he says, when he's about halfway through. "You need to stop making it snow."

"Why? Snow's pretty."

"Yes, but. I have to leave." Possibly he could try floating through the blizzard until he breaks through.

The corners of her lips turn down. "You shouldn't go," she says quietly. "The Professor is always sad when you leave."

Oh.

"Well, be that as it may," he says, "You can't just trap people against their will."

Someone pokes their head into the kitchen. Summers.

He scowls at Erik; Erik scowls even more furiously back.

Ororo brightens once again. "Alex, do you want breakfast?"

"Yes, Summers," Erik says. "Have some cornflakes."

"Storm, are you responsible for the blizzard outside?"

Great, Erik thinks. Perhaps Summers can be of some use and make her stop. When she nods her head though, he just gives her a thumbs up signal and saunters back out after shooting Erik another glare.

Erik always hated the little shit.

"Look, Storm-"

"I don't like it when the Professor is sad," Ororo says.

Erik clamps down on his neither do I, and his you'll understand someday, and instead just wordlessly chokes down another bite of his breakfast.

*

He returns back to the room and destroys a lamp, Charles' favorite lamp, some family heirloom that's supposedly priceless. Was, Erik smiles grimly as it shorts out and twists in horribly upon itself.

"That was unnecessary," Charles says, but then he peeks out from under his pillow and he's laughing, eyes bright. "For heaven's sake Erik just come back to bed."

"I refuse to be held hostage by a child."

"Did you enjoy your breakfast?"

"Shut up."

He tells himself that it's because he has no other choice, as he pulls off all his clothes and crawls back under the covers and presses himself up against Charles' body. Charles turns to kiss him, "Mmm," he says. "You taste delicious."

"I'm going to die of diabetes," Erik says. "It was awful."

"I'm certain it was. Did you get me my tea? Ah, you did. Thank you."

"I," Erik says, very very slowly. "Hate everyone in this house."