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Wir Schützen Was Wir Lieben

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Erik arrives at the mansion by foot.  He still wears his leather jacket, but just his under shirt underneath, stuck to his side. The left side of his face is one big, irregular bruise, with the darkest purple showing where his jawbone runs under his skin. His lip is split, but has stopped bleeding some time ago. His actual shirt is bunched up around his right fist, probably now stuck to the open patches of skin over his knuckles. It’s going to be a bitch prying the fabric clear later.

But Erik does not think about that. He presses the bunched up fabric to his side, just above his first floating rib. His shirt is stuck there too, blood still sluggishly seeping through. He pulls his leather jacket closer round himself and presses down harder, trying to keep the pieces of skin closed. He doesn’t want that scar.

Raven is in the kitchen when he walks stiffly through the door. He doesn’t want her to be there, he wants to be alone, to care for his wounds himself and be done with it. And cut that fucking wound in his side a different shape.

“Oh my God, Erik! What happened?” She is by his side in an instant and he stiffens even more. He glowers at her and snarls dangerously, “Piss off, Raven.”

But he has apparently underestimated her protective instincts. “Oh no, you don’t, Mister!” she snarls at him, and for a moment Erik is so surprised he doesn’t move. Raven uses that window of opportunity to take his arm and propel him back onto a chair. He manages to stop himself from wincing.  Every instinct is telling him to get away and as soon as she turns to get the medical kit, he tries to move towards the door.

“Sit the fuck down, Erik Lehnsherr!” her voice is bristling with annoyance but he can hear the worry underpinning her anger it stops him in his tracks.

He looks over his shoulder, trying to placate her, “I just crashed with my motorcycle, that’s all. Nothing to worry about.”

“Sit down and let me help!” she hisses dangerously calm through her teeth. Erik sighs. He knows her well enough now to realise it is no use if she’s worked up like this. He sits down on the chair again. He is careful not to reveal what his leather jacket is hiding. He doesn’t want her to see that, doesn’t want to see her react to it. Let her believe he crashed with his bike.

She goes to the freezer wordlessly and gets a bag of peas out handing it to him. He presses it carefully to his face wincing just a little as the coldness stings his skin, while she grabs the small first aid kit from under the sink.

He lets her examine his right fist without giving any more trouble. Anything to distract her from what’s underneath his jacket. He tries not to wince as he moves.

She peels the fabric away expertly, getting a bit of luke-warm water to carefully pry the patches free that are stuck to the knuckles with blood and clear serum. She cleans the abrasions with iodine.

“Which side did you fall on, Erik?” She asks without any expression colouring her voice. It makes Erik instantly suspicious. He raises an eyebrow above the bag of peas still pressed to the left side of his face, as if to say well, what do you think?

“I mean, from your face I’d say it was your left, from your hand, it was your right.” She pauses in her ministrations looking directly in his eyes, calling his bluff. He can see an angry flicker of amber in her blue eyes. “Which side was it then, Erik?”

“Leave it, Raven,” He warns dangerously calm and hopes his dark expression is enough to dissuade her. She holds his gaze a moment longer, her chin stuck out in defiance, but she doesn’t press any further.

Hank and Sean walk in while she finishes bandaging his hand.

“Oh man, what happened to you?” Sean asks, clearly impressed with Erik’s darkening bruise on his face.

“Motorcycle accident,” Raven supplies smoothly before Erik can answer and he feels stupidly grateful for a moment. More grateful than he felt for her cleaning his wounds.

“Oh,” Hank breathes in shy sympathy, then adds, “Did you bring it back or shall we get it for you?”

Erik is confused for a moment about the helpfulness and sympathy of these kids, but then they had, if not a generally happy, a vastly different childhood than he has had. He shakes his head. “It’s ok, I’ll get it in the morning.” He gets up, keen to go but then remembers that they are kids and only want to help. So he adds a “thanks” to all of them with a smile that is not so much fake as it is just not reaching his eyes. His side is pulsing with sharp stings.

He sways just a little with the bag of peas still held to his face trying to just get out. Hank reaches out to steady him. His hand lies flat against his side with the gentlest of pressure for a moment and Erik hisses sharply twisting away. Erik feels the wound open again and a few droplets of blood splash onto the tiled floor. He has only a moment in which he sees Raven’s face darken with something akin to betrayal and he wants to just get away. They cannot see this.

“Hank, get in the door. Don’t let him leave.”

“W-what, but I –“

“Do it!”

Under Raven’s stark glare Hank instinctively builds himself up in the kitchen door. When he doesn’t hunch, like he usually does, he is actually an inch taller than Erik. Erik feels instantly trapped.

“Motorcycle accident, my ass.” Raven hisses angrily, grabbing for his undershirt, he twists away from her, more blood dripping from under his leather jacket with the movement. Sean just stares, rooted to the spot, confusion on his freckled face.

Erik backs away from Raven, circling the kitchen table until he realises he has just trapped himself against the sink and counter, with the three youngsters facing him and blocking the only escape. He feels his blood pressure rise making more blood drip and also he can feel the cutlery moving towards him stacking up on one side inside their drawer.

“Raven,” he implores her with a calm he doesn’t feel, “let me go. Now.”

“We want to help you,” she says, confusion and hurt colouring her voice.

“We do?” Sean asks quietly looking completely out of his depth. He is also the first to notice that the whisks and cooking utensils have started to sway on their hooks with Erik being their magnetic centre.

Erik takes a steadying breath. They are just kids, he doesn’t want to hurt them, but he has to get away. He needs to get his knife - Blut und Ehre, he thinks sardonically - to obliterate what is on his body. What those fuckers have carved into it.

He feels trapped and it feels like the air in the room is running out for him. He can’t breathe and sweat clogs the pores in his skin, stinging his abrasions. He can feel the metal pipes sing behind the plastered walls, behind the wood panelling and even above in the ceiling running between this floor and the next. He has to get away.

“If you want to help me, you will let me leave,” Erik says with an exaggerated, brittle calmness, which bears no relationship to the hurricane within.

Sean tugs at Raven’s sleeve worriedly, never taking his eyes off the whisks. They are now bent towards Erik in an almost 90 degree angle and there is a weird scraping sound in the air, as Erik’s unseen force bends the hooks they hang on.

Raven sees it too and instantly calms, putting her hands up in a conciliatory gesture. “Erik, please, let me have a look.”

“No!” he shouts and shrinks back although she is still across the room from him. The metal strings on the whisks suddenly curl in on themselves, the pans rattle on their hooks and the three youngsters can even feel an undefined pull from within their own bodies.

“Fuck, Erik, stop! Stop!” He hears Raven shout frantically, as her nose suddenly starts bleeding. Hank scrunches up his face, as his head pounds violently and the tiny capillaries in Sean’s eyes start bursting one by one. The blood drops from Raven’s nose fall in an arc towards Erik instead of straight down. He sees all this and desperately tries to stop, but he can’t. He feels like he is suffocating and no conscious effort can calm him enough to let go of the protective instinct. The rage was always there to fuel this, this basic instinct to survive and use every means necessary. Any metal necessary to protect himself.

Hank just collapses to his knees, holding his head. Erik can hear him whimper pitifully between clenched teeth.

Suddenly Charles is there, pushing Hank and Raven roughly out of the way, taking a few strides towards Erik’s side. For a ridiculous moment Erik wonders if Charles has particularly high levels of iron in his blood, which is pulling him closer to Erik.

“Erik!” Charles shouts. “Calm down!”

He clenches his hands, willing them to release the metal around him, but it’s no use. He still can’t breathe and dark spots appear around his peripheral vision. The ceiling and walls are groaning under the bending pipes.

“I can’t,” Erik whispers miserably, shocked to the core as Raven collapses behind Hank with a wail. Sean just stands rooted to the spot, his now blood-shot eyes fixed on Erik.

“I’m sorry, my friend,” Charles says with more calm than he actually feels.

“No, don’t!” Erik breathes, just before Charles’s hand touches his temple.

I’m sorry, my friend, he hears Charles’s voice inside his head. Calm your mind, Erik.

Erik feels suddenly sluggish and slow. Can’t Charles see he is suffocating, that he cannot breathe, that he is dying? “Get the fuck out of my head, you bastard!” His shout is not nearly as loud and as forceful as it was meant to be. Even his lips feel heavy and leaden.

You need to calm down, you are hurting them.

That finally sends a chill through his sluggish brain right into his bones. Charles’s voice is calm and soft inside his head, but Erik can feel the steel edge to it. If you continue to try to kill them, I will end this. I will end you. Without hesitation.

That thought is strangely calming. Erik feels the pressure bleeding away from him, leaving him tired and cold.

The whisks slump back towards the wall, the pans stop their rattling and he hears the gasps of the three teenagers as the pressure inside their bodies suddenly eases. Everything is finally calm, except for the HJ-Fahrtenmesser hovering benignly in the exact middle of the kitchen’s door frame. Erik just smiles tiredly. Blood and Honour, indeed. He lets it zip towards him before anyone can stop him and just grabs the knife from the air, slashing through the leather, through the fabric and through his skin repeatedly: a lattice of shallow cuts. He just wants it gone. Gone forever.

Surprisingly strong arms wrap around him from behind, stilling his movements instantly, pressing his arms to his side, into the wound, but Erik doesn’t care. All he can clearly feel is the pointed chin pressing between his shoulder blades and he can smell Charles’s cologne. It calms him.

Soft, shaking, blue-scaled hands grab the knife from his numb fingers. Detachedly he thinks that the dark crimson of his blood looks out of place on Raven’s hands. He looks up at her.

I’m sorry about your nose,” he says stupidly, because there isn’t anything else he can think to say.

 

Kitchen Scene

 

“That’s ok,” she whispers, her hands holding the bloody knife still shaking. She has changed into her natural blue form and seems out of place between the two pale boys. Hank has dark circles under his eyes, but otherwise looks ok. Sean, not so much. His light blue irises look out from completely red scleras. All three look shaken.

Erik feels sorry for them that he has put them through this. Guilt punches him hard in the stomach, eating at his insides.

It’s ok, Erik, they don’t hold it against you. Charles’s voice is a soft whisper in his mind and he feels the other man shift behind him, slightly loosening his grip on Erik’s bleeding side. What happened to you?

Don’t, Erik thinks desperately. Please, don’t look.

I won’t, Charles promises and his breath is warm against his neck.

The blood seeping from Erik’s side has soaked into his jeans and is slowly congealing against his hip, sticking jeans and skin together.

Can I let you go now? Charles asks tentatively.

Yes.

I need to look at your side. I need their help. Is that ok?

Yes.

The monotone of the mental words worries Charles a little, but there isn’t much he can do at the moment. He slowly uncurls from around Erik. He tugs gently at the leather jacket until it starts slipping down Erik’s arms. Erik doesn’t move. He continues to stare straight ahead and Charles is tempted to just send him to sleep for this, but he is sure that Erik would see that as the greatest violation of all. He has learned that being helpless, being unable to know what is happening around him, is worse than any temporary pain.

The jacket comes free and reveals the short-sleeved undershirt underneath. And his bare arms. Charles can feel the twitch, as Erik fights the impulse to get away or fight, as three pairs of eyes instantly snap to the number tattooed into his left arm.

“Oh my God,” Raven gasps, the first to understand what the number means.

“I survived,” Erik says nonchalantly, but it sounds bitter. No one says a word. The silence is uncomfortably stifling.

Charles carefully peels back the shirt and freezes. His blood is running cold at what he sees and from the utter silence in the kitchen he knows that everyone feels the same. They are not even breathing as they stare at all the scars criss-crossing Erik’s torso. But like all the metal earlier was riveted to Erik as its pole, their eyes focus on the fresh wound of the jagged-edged, slashed up swastika still oozing dark blood.

“I don’t want your pity.” Erik presses between clenched teeth as if to prevent anyone saying something apologetic. No one says a word.

Raven, still blue and still holding the bloody knife clenched in her hands, suddenly walks over to the kitchen sink, drops the knife in it with a metallic clatter and washes her hands thoroughly. Her resolute movements spur everyone into measured action. Sean takes up the open first aid kit from the kitchen table and lays out iodine solution and sterile gauze on a paper towel on the counter.

Charles grabs a chair and makes Erik sit down gently. Erik lets him.

“Professor, I think it’s better, if Erik lays down,” Hank says in his halting way and grabs one of the gauze pads from where Sean has laid them out, then grabs a half full bottle of vodka from the freezer and slathers the wooden kitchen table with the alcohol, sterilising it as best as he can.

“Don’t worry, Hank, I’ve survived less clean surroundings.” Erik says tonelessly. Hank stiffens and looks at him for a moment, but then resolutely resumes his scrubbing of the table.

Charles gets a pair of scissors and cuts away Erik’s shirt. It is irreparably slashed up anyway, no need to make Erik move his arms and consequently his side more than he needs to.

He and Raven help Erik to climb awkwardly on the table and lay sideways, his arms stretched away from his body, carefully avoiding the massive bruise on the side of his face. Raven provides a few folded-up kitchen towels for his head to make it a little more comfortable, but his calves and feet dangle over the side of the table, so it is less than ideal.

They all look at each other uncomfortably, not really knowing how to proceed, until all eyes settle on Charles.

“I do have only very basic medical training…”

“I can do it,” Hank says quietly, already moving to the sink, washing his hands and pulling latex gloves on.

He grabs a chair and sits closer, looking slightly sick as he sees the badly cut area around and over the bloody swastika. Charles isn’t sure if the cuts or the symbol make him queasier.

Raven stands on the other side, looking at Erik. Her hand wanders to his good hand, but stops before she touches him, not sure, if her gesture is welcome. Erik just reaches out brusquely avoiding her eyes and grabs her hand firmly. It is painfully clear to Charles that it is more to comfort her than the other way round. “You’re alright, meine kleine Tigerdame,” Erik murmurs with a warm smile and she hesitantly smiles back, clearly not understanding the endearment, but recognising it for one by his soft tone.

“We don’t have any narcotics here and that’s gonna hurt quite a bit.” Hank looks up from the open gashes at Charles hopefully.

“I can handle it,” Erik whispers gruffly, squeezing Raven’s hand as she suppresses a quiet sob.

“You don’t have to Erik,” Charles says. “May I?” He strokes a hand over Erik’s head without thinking and feels him stiffen instinctively against the intimate contact. Even without probing Charles can feel Erik debating with himself to just bite his teeth and bear it.

“You should let the professor. If you twitch, you make my job harder,” Hank mumbles, shooting a glance at Charles. Charles is unbelievably grateful for Hank’s quick thinking as Erik relaxes minutely and nods, accepting the excuse without comment.

Charles steps around the table to Erik’s head and lays a cool hand just above his temple. He lets soothing coolness radiate into the other mind and feels Erik relax even more, as all his pains slowly vanish into the background without taking his awareness from him. Charles concentrates on the area just above the other man’s floating ribs, numbing it completely. The swastika still stands out starkly under the new cuts Erik has slashed over it in his haste to obliterate it. What did they use? Charles wonders to himself. Clearly not metal, he would have been able to protect himself then. Maybe ceramic shards, glass? He is not sure, he should probe – actually, he is sure, he really shouldn’t, but he needs to know. Tentatively he lets his mind slink forwards. He only gets flashes. They are like an old black and white film, flickering before his inner eye, too fast, the movements too jagged, cut up and fraying at the edges.

Erik’s broken down motorcycle, a guy offering to help, Erik cursing at his bike, “Verdammtes Drecksding!”, and then a sudden, sharp pain in his face, blackness, coming out of bleary unconsciousness, a wooden shed, no metal to hand, four guys now, three holding him down, two of them pulling up his shirt, one with a broken bottle.

With a quiet gasp Charles pulls back and hopes Erik has not felt his intrusion. Glass then.

Erik is still just lying on the table, looking only at Raven.

Sean steps up to the table next to Hank, having put on gloves as well, ready to assist him, his eerily red eyes fixed on the wound.

Can he cut it away? Erik’s mental voice startles Charles somewhat and he cannot prevent the iodine that Hank is currently using to disinfect the wound and area around it from stinging painfully. Erik doesn’t flinch at all, even his breaths stay regular and Charles admires the self-control and pain threshold this man has.

You cannot ask that of them, my friend, Charles replies to Erik’s muted question.

Please, Charles.

Charles cringes inwardly at the plaintive tone. You cannot ask that of them, he repeats with more emphasis. Raven hitches a breath, as Erik’s hand clenches painfully around hers for a moment. He lets his hand relax with an apologetic smile towards her.

We’ll find a way, Charles promises although he is not sure, he can keep it.

 

xXx

 

Charles uses a wooden spoon to scramble the eggs - all the metal ones are useless - making the runny part swish around the misshapen pan. Everyone assumes he cannot cook to save his life, because he grew up a rich kid, but of course he can. Just nothing fancy. Raven often commented amusedly that he can only cook kiddie food and he guesses that that’s actually true. But he makes damn good English breakfasts, thank you very much. Especially good scrambled eggs and fried bread.

He usually sleeps longer, but he isn’t even sure he slept at all last night.

He puts the scrambled eggs into the bowl in the oven to keep them warm and proceeds to make another batch. Having a hoard of hungry teenagers around is proving to be quite a challenge when it comes to preparing food.

“You know the old phrase `eating someone out of house and home´? The German saying goes as follows: They eat the hair off your head.”

Charles looks over his shoulder with a warm smile. Erik is leaning in the kitchen door frame, the bruise on his face has darkened even more overnight, but he looks relaxed. He is favouring his left side of course and Charles has the distinct feeling that the relaxed pose is a front. But he doesn’t probe.

“God, let’s hope that’s never going to happen.” He brushes a hand through his full hair self-consciously. Erik snorts, amusement sparkling in his eyes, muttering, “Du eitle, kleine Kreatur, du,” under his breath. He sidles over, standing next to Charles, leaning one hip against the counter nonchalantly watching the runny, eggy mass in the pan congeal slowly. He lets a fork, which is only slightly bent, float towards him from the drawer and steals a piece from the pan. Quickly Erik stuffs it into his mouth in one go and smiles broadly, all teeth, raising a challenging eyebrow at him. The domesticity of the situation hits Charles hard and for a short moment he feels out of his depth for some odd reason.

The moment is broken when Erik suddenly splutters, flicking one hand in front of his face frantically and breathing loudly though his open mouth. “Hot,” he mumbles around the mouthful of eggs.

Charles waves the wooden spoon in front of his face, grinning, “That’s what you get for stealing the kid’s food.”

Erik swallows convulsively and stares at Charles, his expression unreadable for a moment. “Thank you,” Erik mutters, avoiding his eyes, “For yesterday night.”

“Don’t thank me, thank them. They pretty much did all the work,” Charles answers gently. He feels a sudden wave of Erik’s guilt wash over them both, leaving him slightly reeling with the stupid wooden spoon still held in front of Erik’s solemn face. It makes Charles’s insides twist painfully.

“We decided we need an infirmary of sorts,” he says to distract them both from the uncomfortable feeling, “so Hank has agreed to close off an area of his lab, make it as sterile as he can for the moment and stock it up, until we can figure out if we can actually built one and where it should go. And he has agreed to show me how to do proper first aid. Guess, I’ve to practice something as well. Life long learning and all that,” he says with a grin, hoping to dispel the guilty feeling still radiating off of Erik. “They all want to help, you know?” Charles says the last sentence with a fond smile gracing his lips.

“Why didn’t you get me to a hospital?” Erik asks, seemingly out of the blue.

Charles takes the eggs off the stove and shoves them into the bowl, needing the time to think about that. To be honest, he has wondered that exact same thing through the whole of yesterday evening and half of the night. It was logical that bringing an agitated metal bender into a hospital would never be a good idea, but he had the sneaking suspicion that wasn’t it. Like the kids, who hadn’t slept at all either, he knew from their erratic thoughts and plans during the night, he felt fiercely protective. And after seeing the marks on Erik’s body and grasping the scope of what that meant, it seemed they had all reached the same unspoken agreement that the hospital simply wasn’t an option.

 

xXx

 

Through the day everyone pretends to behave normal around Erik. He feels that it’s far from normal and that they are all still shocked about the night before, but he understands, that it’s born from their concern and he sees how hard they try not to let him feel it.

Except for Sean, whose eyes are still bloodshot, they look normal, if a little tired. Charles has assured him that they are all ok though.

He knows from the glances that they all now know what has happened, also know what has happened to him in the past and he is grateful that they cannot see the monster it has made him. They are wonderful kids, and they like him, he knows that, despite all his gruff moods. He is just so incredibly relieved to think that they might never see what Schmidt has made him into. It’s not something for little kids to see after all.

When he finally decides to go to bed in the evening after a day of all of them pretending that everything is perfectly fine, Charles is waiting for him in his room, sitting in a chair opposite his bed.

“Well, that’s a surprise,” Erik drawls sarcastically. He hasn’t missed the worried glances the telepath has shot his way over the duration of the day. It has annoyed him all day long.

“The nice kind?” Charles asks without inflection.

“I’m tired, Charles, what do you want?” He knows his voice is way too curt, but he is tired. He might have a high tolerance for pain, but he is not immune to its effects. He feels worn-out.

“I need to look after your wound,” Charles says apologetically and gets up.

“I thought Hank was the medic here?” Erik asks with a raised eyebrow.

“He showed me what to do and I thought,” Charles halts in his tracks suddenly unsure and it is painfully obvious that it hasn’t occurred to him until now, that Erik might not welcome him here, “I thought that you’d want my company,” he finishes lamely. It’s supposed to sounds like a statement, but Erik can hear the question in it.

In answer Erik just unbuttons his shirt with a quiet sigh, folding it neatly and sits on the bed, his right side with the dressing facing Charles. Charles grabs the little first aid kit opening it next to Erik on the bed, then kneeling on the floor by his side.

Cold fingers pry the taped edges loose carefully. Charles works gently, but swiftly, trying to make this experience as short as possible.

“How bad is it?” Erik asks tonelessly and Charles knows he is not referring to the severity of the wound, but how much of the swastika is still visible. Charles is not sure that any work with a knife might have gotten rid of it. He suspects, that even if Erik had cut a chunk of his own flesh away, he would still be able to see it in his mind’s eye. From a medical standpoint it doesn’t look too bad. It’s not inflamed and Hank has done a wonderful job patching up the edges of all the cuts with surgical tape, since neither one of them felt qualified to try to stitch it up. Hank had assured him, that surgical tape was, however fiddly to apply, actually quite good for surface wounds such as this. Charles looks at the wounded area critically to assess what it might look like healed to give Erik an honest answer. He deserves nothing less, he thinks.

“I’m not sure, Erik,” he says after a while. There is nothing else that he can say without sugar-coating the truth. If everything heals fine it might still be visible under the criss-crossing cuts, Erik has cut over it, but then, it might not and just look like surface knife wounds. There is just no telling right now. Charles applies a new dressing quickly.

Erik just nods, staring straight ahead.

“You do know what the symbol actually means, right?” Charles asks hesitantly as he re-packs the medical kit and puts the medical waste in a separate bag.

“The crap about it being a sun symbol?” Erik snorts derisively, “That’s not going to help me. I know how it was meant, and none of your mind-tinkering is going to change that. Or make it right.”

“I’m not here to make it right.” A tinge of anger is in Charles’s voice, “I’m here to help you. You. All of you, mind, body and soul.”

“Oh, that’s original, Charles,” Erik says with a raised eyebrow, cynicism dripping from every word.

Charles feels himself bristle at the mocking words. He really likes the man, but damn, does the stubborn bastard make it hard sometimes to care for him. He rubs his fingers over his forehead to stifle a headache and sees Erik from the corner of his eyes recoil slightly from him at the gesture.

“Don’t worry, I’m not doing anything, Erik. You are simply annoying me,” Charles says uncharitably.

Erik grins suddenly. “And you are entirely innocent, Professor?”

And just like that it’s a little bit more ok again.

 

xXx

 

The next day something is instantly different. Pretending that nothing has happened is apparently not in fashion anymore.

Raven’s hand brushes along Erik’s back for a moment, as she rounds the breakfast table. It isn’t unpleasant as much as it is unexpected. At least for Erik, everybody else apparently seems to thinks this is normal behaviour. Someone has shifted the dynamic and forgotten to send Erik the memo.

Before his flight training, Sean waits for Erik at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the satellite dish. And why Sean has asked him to push him over the edge again, Erik doesn’t really understand. Sean hugs Erik quickly. Erik freezes. After only a moment, Sean lets him go with a flustered expression. “Sorry, man, I just – it was a manly hug.” Sean assures him hurriedly.

Erik just raises an eyebrow. Manly hug? he thinks, bewildered.

They do exist, you know, old friend.

Get out of my head, Charles.

Just saying.

Out.

Oki-doki.

Seriously, `oki-doki´?!

Hank gives Erik a vitamin supplement with his tetanus vaccination just before lunch. It makes him feel weirdly awake for the rest of the day.

Alex has prepared some ice cubes and bought a new bag to put them in and hands both over during lunch. Erik only then realises that his face actually still hurts and cooling the bruise is probably a good idea anyway.

Erik is not sure what he is supposed to make of this. He really likes them all and he feels warm with fuzzy feelings for them, but it also makes him uncomfortable. They give their affections so freely, without any care if someone might exploit them. He wants to protect them, teach them to be more careful with what they give, but he realises that not taking their gifts or accepting their hugs and touches will make them unhappy. He sighs over the whole mess and accepts his responsibility as an adult. Also, it is nice.

That fuzzy feeling of niceness all around quickly dissipates as Erik walks to the study for a quiet game of chess with Charles after the surreal day he’s had and they are all waiting for him with those mushy expressions on their faces.

Enough is enough. He’s not made of glass and they should know him better than that.

“Let’s have a party,” Erik grumbles sarcastically, crossing his arms and glowering at all of them in turn. It seems to not have exactly the effect he thought it would have.

“Oh thank God, you can still be an ass,” Raven exclaims happily and turns to the room with a brilliant smile, “People, everything is ok.”

They all file out quickly and leave him and Charles alone in the room. From his red face and the strained expression Erik knows that Charles is trying very hard not to laugh. Wir schützen, was wir lieben, my friend, Charles thinks at him and Erik is amused that even in his head Charles has a strong British accent to the words. Then he stumbles over the meaning of the sentence and wonders, if Charles is actually aware of the wealth of meaning this sentence can carry.

They don’t talk about it. They play chess in comfortable silence.

Later Erik assumes his place on his bed with Charles kneeling on the floor next to him, to change the dressing, the medical kit open next to them.

“They used a shard of glass.” Erik’s voice is calm and collected. He could be reporting the weather, Charles thinks, but decides to go with it instead of calling him on it.

“Why did they attack you?” Charles asks with the same detached calm. 23 degrees Celsius is 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Does it matter?”

“It might.” God, it’s like pulling teeth, Charles thinks a touch unkindly.

“If hatred needs a reason in your opinion, it’s because I’m German.” Erik answers finally.

“Did they see the number?”

“If they did, they didn’t care,” he says, voice sounding bitter and cold.

“You need to report them,” Charles advises gently with the merest of pressure behind his voice. He tapes the medical tape over the rim of the dressing and carefully presses it to the skin for a moment.

“Why? They could be dead for all you know, Charles.”

It chills Charles to the bones, how matter-of-fact and calmly those words come across Erik’s lips. “God, Erik.” He closes his eyes for a moment, letting the words fully sink in.

“What? If you know everything about me like you say, than you must know that I’m a killer.”

Erik’s voice is mocking in its calm kindness. Charles just nods once, not looking at him.

“I survived this,” Erik gestures to the number on his arm, “because people have died, because I have killed. I will continue to survive this in any way possible. You knew that from the beginning.”

Charles nods again wordlessly rubbing his forehead. He knows the anger, he has even gotten glimpses of the people Erik has killed in the past, but he cannot, try as he might, see the other man as a killer. Despite all his faults, Charles has to believe that Erik can be a better man. Maybe even better than himself.

The silence is heavy, oppressive in the darkened room.

“Erik,” Charles starts, but Erik interrupts him, “I’m tired, Charles.” He turns without another word and stretches out on the bed on his good side facing away from Charles. It’s as good a dismissal as Charles has ever seen one. He bites back an unhappy sigh and turns to leave. Just before he closes the door, he sees Erik’s fingers tentatively brush over the dressing.

He really hates that wound, Charles thinks miserably. He has always admired that Erik never seemed ashamed of his body, of his intense physicality. In a way, Charles thinks, he has always associated that to be very German, to be so uncompromisingly grounded in his own body. He hopes desperately that his friend will not lose that over this. His chest constricts with the thought. He would so much like to be able to help his friend, but he doesn’t know how. He hasn’t forgotten, that he promised Erik that they would find a way, but he has no idea where to start. This feeling of helpless anger at the unfairness of this whole fucked up situation keeps him awake.

 

xXx

 

Erik does not sleep either.

The tips of his fingers flutter over the rough fabric of the dressing on their own accord, repeatedly, like clockwork. Gentle like the touch of a lover. His first reaction to the thought is disgust at even thinking along those lines in relation to that wound, but then it just slowly dies away. This is his skin, it is part of him. Everything that has happened to him has made him stronger. He mulls this over, his fingers stroking his side. The pressure stings just a little. His skin feels warm, alive. He strokes his side, up over his ribs then down again feeling all the smaller and bigger scars. It tickles until he reaches the dressing, then it stings, then it tickles again as his fingers stroke the side of his stomach.

It’s his skin, reflecting what he is. It’s like history has been forcefully pushed onto his skin, through it, into him and it has made him Erik Lehnsherr inside. But despite the same name, he is a different man to the boy he has been back then, to the man he might have grown up into. Schmidt has made him, Nazi Germany has shaped him, he has no Jewish identity left to speak of and it is ok to be branded the monster that he is. That he thinks about this wound in this way is only further proof of that.

Wir schützen, was wir lieben, he thinks with a satisfied smirk. And Erik has always protected himself.

He thinks about Charles, his fingers fluttering like butterfly wings over his side. It feels mesmerising. He thinks about how Charles has touched him, mind and body. How his chin has pressed into his back the other night and how his scent and harsh mental words have calmed Erik, how Charles has seen the monster and still wants to protect him. Because he loves.

 

xXx

 

The only light in the room comes from the dim lamp on the bedside table. Charles just raises an eyebrow when Erik enters his room, closing the door behind him and leaning against it.

“Erik?” He asks, holding back the mental thought of Are you alright? He assumes it would not be welcome with Erik.

“You said `Wir schützen, was wir lieben´,” Erik says his voice devoid of any emotion.

Charles isn’t sure where this is going, but he is willing to play along if only to help his friend in any way he can. “Yes,” he answers putting the book he hadn’t been reading anyway to the side, focusing his whole attention on Erik.

Erik is still leaning against the door with an air of casualness that seems utterly forced and quite aggressive because of it. “Do you really know what it means?”

Charles swallows. He now has an inkling where this might go conversation-wise. “Yes: `We protect what we love´.”

“Do you?” Erik asks directly, uncompromising.

Charles knows instantly with crystal clear clarity, that Erik is not asking about being protected. Charles’s throat is dry, so he swallows once. “Yes,” Charles murmurs, his cheeks flushing a little, but he refuses to feel embarrassed about it keeping his gaze steady on Erik.

Erik smiles. He looks both eerily creepy, because of the dark glimmer in his eyes, and strangely relieved. “You amaze me, Charles. You’ve seen all of this and still you…?”

Charles thinks about the rage, about the anger, about the old scars and the new wound on Erik’s body. “Yes,” Charles answers as directly, as uncompromising.

Erik steps away from the door then, shedding his clothes on the way to Charles’s bed. He reaches it completely naked, standing next to it, just looking down at Charles.

 

Enjoy the buttcheeks

 

Charles swallows convulsively, his eyes raking over his body, all the obvious scars, the dressing a stark white contrast to the colour of his skin, but also the muscle structure, his skin, the way Erik holds himself, proud and alluring. He exudes a predatory, unconscious sexuality Charles has no defence against. He tries to suppress a quiet moan, when Erik smirks down at him seeing what his unabashed nakedness does to Charles. Erik places a knee on the bed, slowly leaning forwards and Charles feels himself sliding towards him slightly, as the mattress dips under Erik’s weight. Like the whisks, Charles thinks, the thought being instantly chased by a hilarious feeling of hysterical unreality. But it vanishes in an instant as Erik climbs fully over him, straddling his waist. Charles is aware that he is the one still fully clothed, but he feels completely naked under the other man and it strikes him as odd, that he feels this way. “Fuck, Erik” he husks, brokenly, one hand fluttering nervously out to finally be able to touch.

“Yes, I do, too.” Erik murmurs with a shudder. For a moment Charles isn’t sure whether this is dirty talk, or if Erik means that he loves him, too. Maybe it is a bit of both.

Erik shudders again, when Charles’s fingers finally make contact with his skin. His breath hitches and then flows out in a breathy moan. The sound makes Charles instantly, uncomfortably hard inside his pyjamas. Erik grins when he feels it, rocking his hips once, just to be cheeky.

“I’ve never wanted anything, like I want you, Charles.” Erik murmurs as he leans down, the words breathed against Charles’s lips. Not even your revenge? Charles thinks quietly to himself, but the thought is lost, as he feels Erik’s dry lips brush lovingly against his own.

They kiss, slowly, lazy strokes of tongue on tongue, wet and utterly perfect, while Erik’s hands are busy shoving Charles’s pyjama pants down to mid thigh. His hands are callused and the skin is rough, but the movements are gentle and soft, reverent. Erik groans, when his hand brushes against Charles’s cock accidently, then he strokes it, because he is already there with his hands anyway and Charles makes the most delicious raspy sounds, when he does.

“Do you have -?”

“Yes,” Charles hisses between clenched teeth, he already knows what Erik’s asking for. He scrabbles for his nightstand with one unsteady hand, trying to get the drawer open without taking his eyes off of Erik. Erik’s hand never ceases its slow strokes and it drives Charles insane with want. He groans, squeezing his eyes shut tightly, concentrating hard to get that damn tin of Vaseline and he hears Erik chuckle.

“So eager,” Erik mocks slightly and Charles bucks up, just because he can, jolting Erik above him. “So are you,” Charles whispers pointedly with a wicked grin, finally getting hold of the small round tin.

“Yes,” Erik groans, the steady movements of his hand faltering for a moment. He leans down to kiss him again and grabs the tin from Charles’s fingers. Charles feels a very hot flush spread all over him as he sees Erik unscrew the lid and dab his fingers liberally inside. Erik arches his back with a wanton moan, as he reaches behind himself, preparing himself. He arches and rotates his hips above Charles as his fingers work, moaning in breathy huffs.

God I want this so much, Charles.

For an uncomfortable instant Charles is afraid he has probed into the other’s mind again, uninvited, but then he sees Erik’s eyes open, fixing an unnervingly intense look at him, his shoulder muscles moving rhythmically with the strokes of his fingers inside himself and Charles knows Erik is deliberately focusing on the thought on purpose.

Erik’s greasy hand strokes him once as he leans forward to kiss him again. He swallows Charles’s moan between this lips, as he positions himself. Charles hands grab his hips needing an anchor, needing something to hold onto, to not get lost.

Erik’s arms and thighs tremble with the effort to regulate the speed with which he slides down. His constant pants change to husky, choked off groans the further he gets. Charles stares at him, transfixed. Erik is flushing and it intensifies as Charles watches, sweat starting to break out all over his forehead and then spreading with the flush all over his chest.

As Erik finally sits completely astride him his arms still tremble and Charles realises this has nothing to do with the strain. He gets a glimpse of an uneasy feeling, almost tinged with shame.

Erik? Charles stops himself at the last moment from reaching out to touch Erik’s thigh and instead, gently brushes Erik’s mind with his own. And it’s good he does, he realises, when Erik laughs self-deprecatingly and mumbles, “I’m…this is…it’s…” Erik looks embarrassed and Charles catches a spiked thought – strange, weird, wrong to be here. This position…Not a woman.

Thank God Charles has refrained from touching him. Erik might have construed it as Charles feminising him. He feels the anguish of the shame, burning just under Erik’s skin. Charles feels a swell of pride that Erik stubbornly refuses to fully surrender to it.

“God, Erik,” Charles moans, his voice heavy with sympathy and a feeling that goes so much deeper. He does reach out then, wrapping one hand firmly around Erik’s cock, stroking slowly, with relish and placing his other hand on his muscular, but flat chest. “You’re no woman, thank God. Far from it.”

 

Lux Aeterna

 

Erik just looks away, sweat dripping from his brow onto Charles. It tickles and is cold as the drops splash against his skin.

Charles sends Erik an image, unasked. He feels bad for all the times he has invaded the other’s mind without his consent, without him even knowing, but he desperately wants to make him understand. The mental image shows how he sees Erik; flushed, sweat beading on his skin, reflecting light, making his muscles gleam and stand out starkly, shiny droplets getting trapped in his chest hair, slicking the dark treasure trail down to his flushed cock, the feel of the taught, satiny skin there, of how Erik’s maleness is exactly what turns Charles on.

He feels his own cheeks flush at the honest admission. You showed me yours, even if you do not know. So it is only fair I show you mine, he thinks wryly to himself, ignoring the guilty twinge he still feels about that. He desires Erik, all of him - all the marks and numbers and scars be damned.

Erik’s eyes snap to his and they both freeze caught in the gaze.

Erik makes him feel and want something he has never wanted before. Charles could always appreciate beauty in both sexes, but he has never desired another man like this before.

Erik has never seemed afraid of his body. At first it had fascinated Charles, but then it had quickly grown into something that is utterly attractive to Charles. Erik is so unashamedly himself and it shows in every movement, in ever stride and Charles wants that, wants Erik to feel that now. Despite the scars, despite the number, Erik has never bowed to shame over his body. He should not have to start now, Charles thinks.

Erik’s fingers flutter over the dressing at his side. Charles is not sure it’s a fully conscious gesture.

Gentle like the touch of a lover, Charles hears from Erik’s mind almost as an afterthought. He acts accordingly, carefully stroking over the dressed wound with the merest of pressure. Erik hums contentedly, rolling his hips and Charles groans.

Erik moves then, slowly, the intensity of it making his breath hitch and catch in his throat. I never knew it would be like this, he thinks, staring intently into Charles’s eyes. He sees the naked want reflected there, knows without any doubt Charles feels the same. It makes him smile and move with more determination, the sensations spreading through him slowly, languidly, picking up speed as he moves.

Charles moans, writhing underneath him, seemingly begging with his body’s movement alone for Erik to move faster, deeper, harder. He strokes Erik, matching his rhythm and Erik is lost. Lost in sensation, lost in thoughts and feelings and it is all an intense maelstrom.

He leans in and kisses Charles. He is coming, coming hard and he moans into Charles’s mouth, tensing, shuddering and feels Charles’s hand tighten round him, his hips bucking up into him as Charles follows him, groaning and writhing, both arms suddenly flung tightly around Erik’s torso.

For a while they just breathe raggedly, lips almost touching, just looking at each other. Then Erik smiles warmly and Charles grins, stroking his sweat slick shoulder, because his face is still bruised.

Without any words they curl around each other, Erik behind Charles, wrapping his arms around him, just feeling his chest rise and fall with his breaths.

I scare you, Erik thinks.

Yes, Charles answers honestly.

I scare myself.

That’s ok. I scare myself, too, sometimes.

“I will never be someone else.” Erik’s voice is firm, but Charles can hear the unspoken plea for understanding underneath the words. An uncomfortable realisation flickers through Charles’s mind, He is not safe. He has never learned how. His mind revolts violently and the thought is gone so quickly Charles is happy to ignore it and forget it, revelling in the comfortable feeling of the warm presence of Erik behind him. Charles turns his head awkwardly to reach Erik and kisses him then, lazy and wet. He has to believe that Erik can change, can learn other things, learn new things, be a better man. Charles can teach him. Not to believe that would change Charles and he is not willing to let that hope go.

Erik kisses him back with want and desire and love. Their core beliefs may differ, but Erik loves and he wants to protect what he loves. There are some lines he is unwilling to ever cross.

“Would you have done it?” Erik asks after a while, brushing his nose against the back of Charles’s neck lovingly, breathing in his scent.

“What?”

“Killed me the other night … you know with the kids, if I hadn’t … stopped.”

“Yes.” Charles says without any hesitation.

“Good.”  Erik answers simply

 

xXx FIN xXx