Charles didn't really know what to do with himself, but the sopping-wet man clinging desperately to his shoulder was another story entirely. That, he could fix.
"Moira," he called, catching the brunette's attention, "I'll be taking him belowdeck. He'll catch cold out here, and there are cabins, yes?"
"Mhm." She responded, putting away her walkie-talkie and gesturing belowdeck. "You go keep an eye on him. I'll let you know when we get back to the mainland."
"Thank you, dear," he said, but neither his heart nor his mind were particularly in the goodbyes as he gripped the other man closer, "I'll let you know if something goes wrong."
He disappeared down the stairs and belowdeck, his footsteps echoing alongside the dripping of water, soft throughout the hallways.
"That was quite a display there, Erik." Charles said, keeping his tone conversational and light. "A submarine, my god. I would have liked to see you do it. Perhaps another time, when you are not about to drown."
The man on his shoulder shuddered, tensed, and chuckled. His laugh was low and dark, bordering on a growl; Charles, to his credit, did not flinch at the sound.
"Perhaps another time," Erik agreed, his voice a low growl that trailed down Charles' spine and made him shiver, not unlike the growl of an enraged tiger, "but I do not think you will allow me to swim after submarines for quite some time."
"Considering your propensity for attempting to drown yourself, I don't believe I'm even going to let you near a kiddie pool." Charles teased, smiling fondly down at the man. He was shivering; he had to be cold, but of course he wouldn't acknowledge it. He looked like a man made of sharp corners of the soul and broken edges of the heart; of course he wouldn't acknowledge pain. Charles grinned. He could fix him right up, though, he knew just what would do the trick...
"Come along, Erik," he began, "just down this hall and to the left; I believe there's a cabin, and then we'll get you fixed up and cleaned off."
"Huh?" Erik mumbled, blinking up at him, confused. Charles tsked and led him down the hall, opening the door and taking in the cabin. He frowned. It wasn't a beautiful sight, but it would do. He could see the adjacent bathroom, at least. The shower stall, complete with a bath, was actually much nicer.
"Right in here, of course." Charles told him, gesturing towards the bathroom. "We're going to get you undressed--no sense in keeping wet clothes on--and I'll get you right into the showers..."
The cry that ripped from Erik's throat was inhuman. Charles felt his heart stop for a second, and his mind, which had been lazily stroking against the borders of Erik's own, was suddenly rocked with animal rage, primal fear, and all-consuming panic.
He was so very, very strong. Charles could feel him bruising his shoulder bones as he gripped him tight, getting right in his face, his breath hot against his cheek like an animal gone rabid.
"Never again," he snarled, in a mix between a desperate plea and a hateful, venom-filled command, "never again, I will not, never, never, never--"
"Erik," Charles called, his voice faint as Erik's hands began to wrap around his throat, "Erik, my dove, calm down, calm, please--Erik, your mind, you're hurting me--"
Erik didn't hear him. Erik probably didn't--couldn't--hear anyone right now. There was so much screaming in his mind. Charles felt sick to hear it; the dying animal cries of people in the mud, getting shot down and kicked into ditches, ditches he had dug--no, not him, a pale boy with the eyes of a starved bird--who was this boy, couldn't--
"Erik," Charles whispered, and his voice was a caress, soft and pleading, "Erik, my dove, breathe. You are not in the camps. You are home. You are safe."
Erik was still breathing hard, but his grip had relaxed. The look in his eyes had not left. Charles swallowed and did his best to focus.
"You are in a large, dimly-lit room," Charles continued, "and you feel safe. There are candles lit on the night-stand. Your bed is made up for you; silk sheets, down comforters. There are rose petals scattered about, a bottle of wine on the dresser. I am right there with you, Erik. Close your eyes. You can see it, can't you?"
Blinded by romance, Erik sighed and sagged against him. He closed his eyes and nodded against Charles' neck.
"It's beautiful," Erik said sadly, "but it isn't real, is it, Charles?"
"Clever boy." Charles shook his head. "No, it is not real. Not yet. But it will be. I promise. You are not in the camps, Erik. You are with me. I am right here beside you, and I always will be. You are not alone. I suspect you never will be again."
"I don't want a shower." Erik cried, in a voice so soft and weak and frail that Charles almost wanted to go back into the memory he had seen before, of the boy with the eyes of a starved bird, digging graves for his own people, if only to provide him some comfort somehow--a hand on his shoulder, a kiss to his cheek, even if he would only recognize it in the haziest of half-remembered dreams.
"Not a shower, then," Charles promised, running a thumb over his tear-soaked cheeks, "not a shower, no showers for you then, my dove, but perhaps a bath? A bath would be nice. There is soap, and hot water, and, well, not much more than that," he smiled ruefully and tsked, "but I can promise you'll be clean, and soon enough, we shall go home, and I shall bring you to that room I showed you."
"Was that your room, Charles?" Erik mumbled. "I have never seen a room like that. Not even in pictures..."
"Yes, it was." Charles told him. "We could go back there tomorrow, if you liked. Raven can stay with Moira. She can work things out for a little while."
"Raven?" Erik said, confused. Charles shook his head.
"My sister, wonderful girl, but that isn't important right now," he said sternly, "what matters is you and a nice, hot bath."
"Don't want to take one alone." Erik pleaded, his voice still raw and vulnerable, full of fear and panic. "Please, you said I wouldn't be alone, you said, you promised--"
"I did, my dove, oh, I did," Charles cooed, soft and comforting, holding Erik close and stroking his hair, soaked with seawater, "but I doubt you want me in your bath."
>"I do." Erik said, and there was a certain kind of edge to his voice that made Charles shiver. "I want you in there. I wouldn't ask if I didn't."
"Well, then." Charles bit his lip to keep from having a full-body sort of spasm. That was for horny teenagers only, and he was a horny college professor, and they had different standards, damn it. "You're soaked. Would you rather I undressed you?"
"You're just as wet as I am," Erik murmured, and Charles wilted a little, but with a soft laugh, he knew he was still more than welcome, Erik putting his hands on his hips and murmuring, "but I do think I could use assistance."
That bravado, evidently, only lasted so long. Despite knowing it was a bath, not a shower, Erik was still on edge as Charles led him into the bathroom. That was fine by him. He understood, if not entirely so, and he certainly wouldn't push.
"Hush, my dove," Charles murmured, tugging on the wetsuit and undoing the zippers, peeling latex and cloth away from soft skin that had been marred with callouses and scars, "let me unlock your cage, let you spread your wings..."
"A dove?" Erik chuckled, his voice going dark and low again. "Charles, I am--"
"A man of anger, I know." Charles said through gritted teeth. "A man of rage and fierceness, of sharp corners of the soul and razor-wire of the heart. I can feel it within you, plain as day." He shook his head. "But one day, I promise you, there will be peace there. So long as that stands, you will be my dove."
"You have a strange way of being kind to a man," Erik said, in a tone that told Charles he enjoyed the attention, "but not without its charms." He wriggled out of the wetsuit with some further assistance, letting Charles' hands roam over his legs a little longer before he stepped out of it.
"I've been told that before, but mostly by women." Charles said ruefully, grinning despite himself. "Still, being told by a man has a special feel to it. Like dark chocolate versus white."
"Not a fan of chocolate, myself." Erik murmured, and there was another sharp-souled edge to his voice creeping in. Charles shook his head.
"That is quite all right, there's no need to fret, my dove," Charles comforted him, undoing the buttons on his shirt and unzipping his pants as he did, "I keep a hefty stock of ice cream and cupcakes as well, if you feel like indulging in those instead."
Erik couldn't help the soft laugh that bubbled out from his throat and spread its way past his lips, hanging in the air around them like bubbles of warmth, so very rare and fleeting. Charles grinned at him, encouraging that laugh with his affection.
"You really will like the house, once we get back there." Charles told him, heading over to the taps, still clad in his underwear. Erik tensed, shivered, prepared to bolt, but before he could, Charles had started to turn the taps, and water--thank god, water--was gushing from them, steam rising up as it began to fill the tub. "Would you like to see a picture of it, Erik?" He paused. "I could show you. With my mind."
Erik approached him, his feet padding quietly across the floor. Charles just watched him, eyes wide and innocent, not searching his mind in any way.
Erik ran a calloused thumb across his lips--so red and stark against his skin, so womanly for such a masculine man, all muscle and chest laid out before him--before his fingers went down Charles' sides. He tensed; Erik allowed the ghost of a smirk to creep across his face as he realized Charles was ticklish. He continued on before Charles could protest, his fingers stopping at Charles' waistband, elastic and soft fabric beneath his fingertips.
"Are you sure?" Charles asked, his breath soft and his question even softer. "I don't want to make you feel like you, you know, you've got to do anything--I helped you because I wanted to, Erik, not--"
"Ssh, ssh, Charles." Erik murmured, cutting him off. "This is my decision, not yours. It's...strange, not having control, isn't it?" He grinned. "You could tell me not to do this, if you wanted."
"You said it was your decision." Charles reminded him. Erik shrugged and nodded.
"True," he agreed, tugging the soft fabric down and leting it pool around Charles' ankles before turning around to check on the tub, "and I'm rather glad I made it. Anyways, you said something about soap...?"
Charles shook his head, more amused than aroused, (a rare thing for him), and turned around to rifle through the cabinets in an attempt to find soap and washcloths.
"Tell me more about the house," Erik said, in a voice that danced on the knife-edge of being a command, "tell me everything you can; the house, the bedroom, the bed..."
"Well, it's a rather big house," Charles began, closing his eyes and sinking deeper into the bath, "more like a castle, really, with turrets on the sides, and a whole courtyard around it. There's a path up to the house, and it leads out into the fields--the grass is wonderful, that deep sort of emerald green only nature can give."
He could feel Erik beside him, his head on his shoulder. His hand was on his thigh, and it felt nice; callouses rubbed rough against his soft, sensitive skin, and Charles murmured nonsense, nuzzling Erik's cheek, leaning his forehead against his skin as he continued.
"It's not just the bedroom; there's plenty of rooms, a library, a billiards room, a room with a table for my chessboard...oh, and the bathroom. Lovely place, done up in chrome and ceramic. The tub is much bigger there, too; big enough to swim in, I know, I've tried..." Charles rambled on, his voice melding with the images he created within his mind, sharing them with Erik.
"But the bedroom is a nice place, certainly." Charles said, a smile crossing his lips. Erik nodded, his calloused hand curling around Charles' side, fingers drumming against him, making him tremble, just a little, and Erik was laughing against his skin, damn him.
It's all done up in scarlet and gold, very proper, very pretty," Charles began, "and there's plenty of books scattered about, I like to read and I'm a bit of a slob, so there's that, do be careful once you get there, you're liable to trip, but aside from that..." He grinned. "Well, there's the bed..."
"The bed," Erik repeated, as if he was in a dream. "What's the bed like, Charles?"
"Soft," Charles crooned, his voice getting lower and lower as he ran a washcloth down Erik's side, the soap bubbles blooming in the water like flowers made of iridescent, glimmering foam, floating on the surface and skimming about effortlessly, "soft, and warm, and very fluffy. Lots of blankets, too, it gets damn cold during winter. Good place to lie down. The bed's huge, Erik, I could fit ten of you in there and I would never notice..."
"Nice..." Erik murmured. "Soft. Safe. A good place. A warm place."
"Mhm." Charles told him. "A warm place. Blankets and pillows. I'll get rose petals too, if you like." He teased. Erik glared up at him through half-lidded eyes, but the glare was halfhearted at best, and Charles filed away an arrangement at the florist's for later.
"When can we go back?" Erik pleaded, his voice soft and plaintive. Charles sighed and leaned against his chest, sloshing water about in the tub.
"Well, trouble is, I've got to go meet with those CIA suits." He muttered. "And what about Shaw, Erik? Didn't you want to go after him?"
"I want to go there," Erik whined, his voice wheedling and desperate, "I want to go there, it's warm there, it's safe--I want that, Charles, I want that more than anything--"
"Even revenge?" Charles murmured. "I'm sure there are nicer houses in New England, I don't think mine is that exemplary."
"It's not the house," Erik cried, gripping Charles' shoulders and burying his face into his neck, "It's you, it's you, I just--I just want a warm, safe place, and I want you to be there, you promised--you said, you promised, I believed you--I don't want to find Shaw. I don't want to do anything. Not until I have to. I just want to lay down in bed and feel warm and soft and safe, just for a little while--don't I deserve that?" He demanded. Charles nodded, his breathing getting heavier, his chest feeling like it was about to break as his heart thudded against it.
"You do, Erik." He said gently. "Shaw can wait. You need training, anyway. And we need a plan. There's no reason we can't make that plan at home, is there?"
"No, no there isn't." Erik said, satisfied. He let go of Charles' shoulders as Charles sighed in relief. "It's home, then? Really and truly?"
"Well, if you'd like." Charles told him, unable to stop the smile spreading slow and sweet across his face, like the water running down Erik's cheeks that he would let him believe was from the bath, instead of his tears. "I wasn't kidding about the nicer homes, though, among the upper class, the Xaviers weren't exactly the most lavish--"
"Oh shut up, you posh little brat." Erik grumbled, but he sounded more amused than anything. Charles huffed and nuzzled his cheek.
"Oh, copping an attitude, aren't we just a good boy." Charles cooed. "Naughty Erik. I ought to send you to bed."
"Yes, you ought." Erik mumbled, closing his eyes. "Or we're both going to fall asleep in this tub."
Charles ran a gentle finger over Erik's cheek and leaned in so their foreheads touched.
"Rest now," He murmured, "and dream of a warm place. When you wake up, you'll be in it, my dove. I assure you."
The soft-spoken plea, a command clothed in velvet, had Erik's eyelids falling shut almost immediately. Charles washed his face before picking him up and carrying him into the bedroom, laying him out on the bed.
"I really should've thought to let him get dressed first, but oh well," Charles tsked, "I just have to hope he fits into my old clothes..."
Thankfully, he did, and thankfully, they arrived back on land soon enough. Charles didn't explain why Erik was asleep in his arms, or why he carried him out the car, laid him out gently in the backseat, and then promptly got in the driver's seat and drove off without any of them, but thankfully, Moira was debriefed on those shenanigans almost as soon as Charles was out of range for them to chase him.
She sighed, but accepted it, and did her best to explain to Raven that the two of them were the only ones left to deal with the CIA as of that moment, but from the look on Raven's face as Moira dialed for a taxi, she had a feeling she wasn't the only one that was going to straight-up murder Charles.
Still, from what he had explained about Erik...maybe she would be a little softer on him. After all, from the sound of it, if anyone needed a safe place, Erik Lensherr did.
Moira got Raven into the taxi and leaned her head against the window. She would deal with it later. Right now, the closest thing she had to a safe place to rest was a taxi, and she was okay with that.
From the way Raven was leaning on her shoulder, closing her eyes and snoring softly, she figured the other girl didn't care much, either.
About ten hours later, Erik awoke, blinking as he looked around, taking in the room around him.
He smiled as he took in the sights; done up in scarlet and gold, just like Charles had said, and with plenty of books all over, on the bed, on the floor, on the chairs, and underneath the pillow his head was laying upon, as well. He wondered, briefly, how Charles had survived without tripping over everything and spraining his ankle constantly.
The blankets around him were soft and warm, and felt like the touch of his mother, surrounding him and cradling him with the promise of safety. Erik hummed softly and laid his head back down on the pillow, tugging the book out underneath it before closing his eyes again, snuggling into the silk sheets.
"Oh, you're awake." Charles' voice was warm in his ear, and Erik opened his eyes again to see the sparkling blue eyes of Charles Xavier staring right back at him. "I think you should know I'm in a lot of trouble. Moira and Raven are not pleased with me." He huffed. "We'll have to go back to the CIA in a few hours. But we'll come back, I promise." He cooed, stroking Erik's hair as the man began to snarl softly at the thought of leaving. "Hush, my dove. We will come back."
"Could we stay in here until they arrive?" Erik asked. "This room is everything you said it was and more, Charles."
"Yes, it really is lovely." Charles agreed. "And it suits you so well, Erik. Scarlet is a nice color on you. Very regal."
"I'll consider it, if we start wearing capes and jumpsuits." Erik teased, his voice a low growl, but borne of sleep rather than anger, this time. "Are you going to lay down with me, Charles?"
"My dove, you just slept for ten hours!" Charles protested. "Surely you can't be that tired?"
"I hadn't slept in four days when we met." Erik confessed. At Charles' horrified expression, he hastily defended himself, "I was looking for Shaw!"
"Good lord, you're one of the most foolhardy, reckless men I've ever met, Erik, four days, how--" Charles sighed at the hurt on Erik's face. He just stroked his hair and shook his head, all the fight gone out of him. "Damn it, nevermind, but you're never to do that again, and if I catch you doing it, you're getting sent to bed with telepathic suggestion whether you like it or not."
"You're a cheater," Erik grumbled, but Charles was getting into bed beside him, and all the fight left him after that, so he just murmured, "all right, though. I suppose I won't complain."
"Oh, you will." Charles teased. "But I think you'll like being in bed, once you get used to it."
"Charles..." Erik murmured, looking into his eyes, letting Charles stroke his forehead, conveying the query in gestures, before he nodded in acceptance and whispered, "I believe I already do."
Charles felt Erik open his mind up to him, and the tumble of thoughts that came winding through his brain made him spasm, crying out in agony as Erik wound his arms around his waist and held him close to keep him from thrashing about.
So much pain there. So much sorrow, so much anger, and the raw, all-consuming wave of grief. Regret. Hatred. And a deep, sickening feeling of self-hatred.
"You couldn't have stopped him," Charles cried out, and he wasn't even aware of what he said, but Erik heard, and Erik clung so tightly to him that his hands began to shake, "you couldn't have saved your mother, there was nothing to be done, my dove, just let it go--let it go, let yourself be free, and I promise you, I promise you on all of my power that everything will be all right."
Erik's heart seized up at the words.
"Everything will be all right," Charles repeated, unaware of the effect he was having on Erik. "Everything will be all right, my dove. Hush now. Hush."
Erik relaxed his grip as Charles opened his eyes, tilting his head as his hair tumbled over his forehead. He looked so confused that Erik couldn't help but chuckle for a second, despite the ache that pulsed throughout his chest.
"Erik?" Charles murmured. "Did something happen?"
Erik leaned in a little closer--testing, hesitant, like a child dipping his foot into the ocean, unsure if it will surge up around him--but to his eternal relief, Charles leaned closer towards him in kind.
"Yes, Charles," Erik murmured, his lips brushing against the edges of Charles' own as he spoke, "I believe you fixed me. If only a little."
Their lips met, then, and Erik understood the true meaning of softness, warmth, and safety from that small embrace alone. Charles shivered beneath him, and Erik wrapped his arms tight around him again, protecting him from whatever had made him tremble on instinct, unaware it was his kisses that made Charles shiver and shake like that.
Through the emotions currently roaring all throughout his mind, Charles still managed to push outward, just a little, and do a quick scan of Erik's mind.
The only thing that met his fragile touch was peace.
My dove, Charles told him, resonating through his mind with love and satisfaction.
Erik just smiled.