It can be said that Raven's tour of the Xavier mansion is nothing if not grand and she appears to have a fine time showing off her and Charles' shared childhood home, nearly as much fun as the rest of the gaggle of teenagers seems to have being on the receiving end. However, despite her cheerful exterior, Charles would have to be blind to miss the overtly concerned glances that she has been trying to secretly toss in her brother's direction since their arrival; even he isn't that dense.
Still, Charles understood her worry well enough not to feel patronized by it. By the time their group had reached the west wing, where the Alex, Sean, and Hank were busy choosing their rooms from the vast selection of extremely spacious rooms that were always available in the west wing, Raven seemed to have fixed a constant, nervous stare on the telepath. Between the pressure of his sister's scrutiny and the overwhelming emotions that where welling up quickly from being in this wretched section of the house, it wasn't very long before Charles found that he had to excuse himself from the group.
"Pardon me, my friends," he apologized. "If you don't mind terribly, I'm going to find a room for myself in the east wing," he told his company. "Please enjoy the rest of the lovely tour that Raven has and make yourselves at home," he said quickly before tottering off down the hallway leading in the opposite direction.
Luckily enough, most everyone was already too enamored with their new rooms to take much notice of Charles' anxiety, but he couldn't quite get the act past Raven or a certain metal-manipulator.
Forcing her gaze from her retreating brother, Raven pulled Erik aside to where they were just out of earshot from the others with a solemn mien.
"Will you do me a favor?" she asked, a small plea already rising in her voice as she looked imploringly at Erik.
"I don't suppose this has absolutely anything to do with the way Charles just took off in terror like that," he said before taking a hint from the sharp glare that his words evoked from the girl. "What can I do?" he gave in with a sigh.
Raven glanced over each shoulder before speaking again to make sure that no one else was around to hear the exchange. She was worried about her brother but that didn't mean that she wanted to spoil the good image that seemed to mean so much to a man's pride. "Charles and I haven't been back to this house since he graduated from high school and we left for Oxford," she began with a resigned look on her face. "I honestly don't know how he's going to handle being back here after all this time but I really doubt that he's taking it well," she told him. Receiving a look from Erik that told her to get to the point, she continued. "What I'm asking is whether you would mind taking a room somewhere close to him in the east wing. Just keep an eye on him for me," she said, hoping that her voice didn't sound quite as desperate as she felt at the moment.
Erik almost asked why she couldn't just take a room in the east wing herself. She knew Charles better than any of them and, if she wanted tabs kept on her older brother, then why didn't she do that herself. Before he could bring it up, though, he already knew the answer: as much as she wanted to be able to help Charles, she knew full well that is was because she was the little sister that it would never work the way she wanted. If she hung around Charles like that, he would keep up the big brother role and act like nothing was wrong. He would let himself slowly drown in whatever it was that was disturbing him so that Raven would never have to look after and protect him like he was so used to doing for her.
Not really knowing what to say, Erik simply nodded before turning on his heel to head for the east wing, not missing the relieved smile that Raven gave him before he left, a silent thank you.
A few hours later, the messes from an immensely satisfying dinner are being taken care of while Erik pondered on the fact that Charles is extremely lucky that comes from all the old money that he does or else these insatiable kids would eat him out of house and home and they all be out on the streets by the end of the week.
Leaving the children to their chores, Erik stalked toward the study located in the west wing where he knew that Charles had no doubt already set up for tonight. His suspicions are confirmed as he pushed the door open to reveal a mussy haired telepath smiling at him from his chosen spot in front of the old chess board, holding out what looks to be a generous glass of very nice, and expensive, scotch.
Taking the drink from his friend and settling himself into the comfortable chair opposite from Charles, Erik paused to allow his opponent make the first move as the white piece.
"So," Erik began while Charles pondered his moves. "Why are you taking a room in the east wing. Looking around, the chambers in the west are much larger," he asked, never one to avoid a topic.
"The east wing is cozy and its rooms are already bigger than most house's master bedrooms. It's really not necessary for me to sleep in a chamber the size of a living room, my friend. Besides, you chose an east wing room yourself, right next to mine, did you not?" he asked pointedly.
Erik felt like calling the telepath out on turning the question back on him but instead settled to play along as he moved his next piece. "Fair enough but, as was pointed out to me, you old bedroom is in the west. Why not just take that one?" he pressed as he took a sip of the scotch.
"Yes, it is. All of my family always slept in the west wing. The east wing has always been used as servant quarters," Charles replied, hoping to avoid the question before he realized that his comment had only served to further his opponent's argument. He let out a submissive sigh that told Erik that he was too tired to continue the debate any further. "The walls of my old room, along with those of most of that wing, hold a lot of memories, my friend, memories that I would much prefer to not have to face again," he told him without meeting his eyes before forcing himself to look up, silently begging Erik not to pry more.
Erik complied and didn't push the matter any further, letting them both turn their full attention to the game in front of them. They sat in a not quite conformable silence, only making sound to take sips of their drinks or to move pieces, until the time came that Erik was forced to knock over his king in defeat.
"Another round?" he inquired only to be turned down by a quiet and worn shake of the head from Charles.
"Sorry, my friend, but I'm afraid that if I subject myself to another round in this state I may just end up giving you the opportunity to actually beat me," he teased with a weary smirk before gathering his things and standing from his chair. "I'll see you tomorrow. I suggest you get a good night's sleep. Training starts in the morning," he said with a small wave before stepping through the doorway.
Charles knew full well that he was the last person that had a right to tell Erik to try for a good night's sleep. Even on the best of nights, he only ever managed less than a handful of hours of true sleep. Being telepathic had many disadvantages, one of which was the fact that it did not come with an off button. Even into the ungodly hours of the night, he could hear the thoughts of those around him filtering into his head, keeping the ever elusive sleep still out of his grasp.
Even now, with the thoughts of others dimmed because there were so few and because most of them were on the other side of the mansion, sleep still refused to settle into his grasp. Instead, Charles was left to deal with the unnerved feeling that he had been unable to fight off since stepping foot back onto these grounds. He knew full well that he would never be able to completely shake the fear that had been so deeply ingrained into him as a child. Yet, regardless of this knowledge, he still found himself turning over and curling into a protective ball as he tried to will himself into some sleep like state so that he could face tomorrow.
Somehow, after nearly two hours of effort, Charles managed to force himself into what he desperately hoped would be a dreamless sleep. He was highly aware of the risks of going to sleep in his current state but he also knew that it was necessary and prayed that, by the grace of any deity that would listen, that he would not be subjected to the unsightly ghosts of his past in the darkness of unconsciousness. Unfortunately, Charles was a man of science, not religion.
Within a hour of pitching himself into a slumber, Charles could already feel his childish nightmares starting to plague him. There was nothing strictly definitive, a matter that almost made things more terrifying. The fact that his terrors refused to take a shape, instead being allowed to morph into whatever would haunt him the most.
His mind flashed with images of his mother stuck at the bottom of her bottle, his father rotting in his grave, his awful step-family consisting of a horribly abusive older brother and a step-father that taught that brother ever cruel trick known and still had a few more torments up his sleeve.
Above all, though, Charles' mind was enveloped in the illusion of pain, not just from the beatings and punishments, but also from the flames that he had barely escaped almost fifteen years ago. The flames licked at him, crawled up his legs and down his back, dragging him down into their blazing bit until it was all that Charles could do to launch himself forward from their grasp with a harsh scream ripping through him as he clawed at his body, trying to make sure that he was still in one piece.
After a couple of seconds, Charles regained enough sense to realize that he was safe in his bed and not trapped in his step-father's burning laboratory, although safe was a relative term. Yes, he was certainly safe from the fire but he was still playing victim to the terrors of his mind.
Panting, Charles held his pillow closely to himself as he tried desperately to steady breathing with attempted self-soothing words. "It's just a dream. J-just a dream. A p-product of your mind. J-just a d-d-dream," he whispered horsely to no one and breathlessly before collapsing into tears as a harsh sob broke through him. No matter how many times he said the words, they would never become true. It wasn't just a dream. Sure, it wasn't quite real anymore but it would never become truly imaginary. Those terrors had really happened and nothing could change that.
Choking on a sob as he squeezed his pillow closer to his chest with a grip that threatened to cut off circulation and curling further into a protective ball, Charles was too far gone to even take notice of his door being opened. He was, however, able to realize the hand that was placed on his trembling shoulder as he involuntarily reacted by violently jerking away from the touch.
Charles didn't need to be a telepath to feel the stab of hurt that shore through his visitor. Forcing his head out of the cocoon of blankets that he had engulfed himself into, Charles met a concerned gaze.
"E-Erik," he managed to choke out before burying his face back into hiding as he was overcome with shame in reacting to his best friend the same way he would have to his abusive step-father. I'm sorry. I-I'm so s-sorry. He sent out to the other's mind, not trusting himself to be able to speak again at the present time.
Erik sighed softly as he more carefully placed a comforting hand on his shaken friend's shoulder. "Move over a bit," he whispered softly. Catching Charles' confused look as the man peeked out from his sheets, he reiterated. "Scoot over," he said with a slight, reassuring squeeze of the telepath's shoulder. He waited for a moment while Charles slowly inched himself over before lifting the blankets enough for him to settle in next his friend.
After feeling the dip of the bed that told him that he was no longer alone under the covers, Charles felt strong arms encircling his chest, pulling him close. They stayed that way for a few minuets without words as Erik allowed Charles to cry himself out in the reassurance of Erik's embrace.
Once he had calmed enough to breath properly, Charles shifted around and turned himself over so that he could bury his face in Erik's chest. He nuzzled in close and breathed in deeply, taking in his consoler's scent and letting it was away the remaining fear. He brought up his arms and legs to curl back into a ball, tucked comfortably against Erik.
"Is this alright?" he asked warily, giving Erik an apprehensive look, silently hoping he wasn't taking advantage of his friend's act of kindness and causing him any discomfort.
"More than," the metal-bender replied softly as he started to rub soft circles into the smaller man's back. They stayed like that for a long time that felt like even longer before Erik spoke up again. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked carefully, not wanting to drag up any unwanted memories in the other.
Charles shook his head slightly and turned to rest his cheek against Erik, letting his ear lay in a spot where he could hear Erik's steady heartbeat. His eyes slipped closed and he sighed contentedly. "This is enough," he murmured quietly.
Glancing down with a soft smile at the image before him, Erik nodded and placed his lips softly to the soft head of hair that had nestled itself into the cook of his neck. he could feel the soft, faint presence of Charles in the back of his mind as latter started to drift off once again.This time, there was no insomnia and no impending fear of nightmares, not with Erik anchoring him.
Thank you, Erik heard before the only sound was gentle, deep breathing as Charles finally managed to sleep peacefully. A few minuets later, Erik let himself follow suit, knowing that his own dreams would be blissful as he slept wrapped around the telepath.