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The Far Side of Redemption

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For a month of his life, in the weeks across which he bridged the gap from eleven to twelve, Charles Xavier did not sleep. The incident, as he would understand later, was a prerequisite to the manifestation of his mutation, in which his mind peeled open and suddenly was forced to withstand the consciousnesses of every living soul in a fifty-mile radius. He did go and cry to his mother about it, but he’s not entirely sure she noticed.

In the subsequent years, he gradually lost the ease of falling unconscious. If he exhausted himself – mentally, physically, sexually – he could push himself across the brink and recuperate as others could; but otherwise he taught himself the skill of meditation, learnt how to turn in on himself, bring each part of his consciousness to a state of relaxation and thus allow his mind to come to rest. By the age of twenty-one, he had reduced the process to a matter of two hours and forty minutes as necessary, although it does tend to make him rather bad-tempered in the mornings if he rests for less than three.

Charles is, therefore, used to spending the small hours with naught but his own mind for company. He revels in it; the simple hush that falls across the world, the thick expanse of silence such a contrast to the day. He thinks forward to a mansion filled with peaceful minds, in which he strolls along the corridors and ensures that they are safe. With a half a dozen others filling some of the plethora of untouched, dust-filled rooms, such a future does not feel so far and alien as it did, long ago.

The grandfather clock at the end of the hall takes up its tune and informs him merrily that he’s well into the small hours now; a few seconds later, the carriage clock atop the mantelpiece chimes out three times. Charles has a long way to go with the others tomorrow, and it’s best he has an early night. He puts his book on one side, works the kinks out of his joints and gets to his feet, finishing his drink as he does. He closes his eyes and makes a customary sweep of the house to ensure that all is well, feeling like some archaic policeman – and finds with a jarring jump he’s not alone.

Erik. He finds his stomach flutters, and stamps down furiously on any ridiculous notions of going down to keep him company for just a little longer. He wonders what has kept him up; he knows the man often suffers from nightmares which drag Charles from his bed even at the deepest point of relaxation. He places two fingers to his temple, reaching out in the hope of alleviating his distress, only to find him fully clothed and fully conscious, sat in a grandiose armchair, staring resolutely into space. He cautiously probes a little further, curious and ashamed of it – and inside Erik’s mind is the memory they unlocked together, on a loop, so intricately dredged from Erik’s subconscious that he’s remembered the meagre provisions they had for lunch that day.

Charles retreats. It stings him more than Erik can ever know to see the way his mother smiled at him, touched his face, held his hand. He’s handed Erik serenity, but brought nothing but torment for himself.

He comes to attention; Erik’s on the move. In a jumble of limbs he strips, clambers into his pajamas, throws the robe on the bedside floor, douses the lights, musses his hair and leaps into his bed, contriving as hard as he can to appear asleep and hide that he’s been spying all along. Erik knocks on his door within minutes, pushing it open when he finds it unlocked, and Charles rolls over and flicks on the light, the picture of innocence. “Is everything alright?”

Erik rolls his eyes. It’s a stupid question; they both know Charles would be fully aware of any threat. Still, courtesy demands he asks, and Erik’s too tired to taunt him fully. He comes to stand at the foot of Charles’ bed; his eyes are sharp, confused and somehow sad. “I need – ” He coughs, mainly from his nerves. “Can you show me more?” he asks, his voice small and childlike.

Charles had already read the request from where it beams across his mind in halogen lights, and it both troubles and pleases him. It will show Erik what he had and what he has forgotten, and help him become what he could be; but it doesn’t sit well to live inside the past, and ruminate on what might have been. “Of course,” Charles replies, and smiles beatifically. He pulls himself out from under the covers and resists the self-conscious urge to grab at the robe on the floor, crossing his legs, straightening his spine; Erik throws him a suspicious look and sits in front of him. “Copy my stance,” he says, and Erik scowls at him. “Seriously, it improves your bloodflow. Makes my job easier.” Erik does so, his surface-thoughts sounding extremely cantankerous, and Charles squashes down a smile. “Close your eyes,” he murmurs, “and open your mind.”

Erik does so, without hesitation, and it makes his heart jump. He takes a moment to study him, the way the crinkles of age disproportionate to his youth smooth away from his temples, how his mouth slackens and eases even under Charles’ scrutiny, but the twitching of his fingers on his knees still betrays his excitement. Charles smiles, places his fingers against his temples and closes his eyes.

Let’s start with something small, he projects, and the fissures of Erik’s mind seem to agree, though it’s more of a feeling than actual speech. There are areas to either side of blackest pitch, and Charles ignores them; he knows their intricacies well. Lurking behind them are flashes of light, and he eases his way through, pushes aside cloying tar-black tendrils which beckon to him with dark truths of the years before Charles knew him. Charles is unapologetic and blatant with his forgiveness, and in return he is swathed in Erik’s disbelief and hope.

He enters the brightest part of Erik’s mind and reaches the epicentre with ease. Erik’s memories twine around him, pulling him deeper, each begging to be revealed, to be handled first. He sends them scattering and chases the smallest, draws it closer, winds it around their minds and soothes it until it remains still and peels open like a flower.

They are in Düsseldorf. It is before the war; Erik is four, maybe five. There is no yellow star upon his arm. There is tension on the faces of the adults and in the air of the city but it rushes over Erik’s head with a happy naïveté; he’s too young to be frightened, and besides, today is special. Today is a treat, a reward for him having done ever so well in his lessons. Today he gets a brand new pair of shoes.

He’s never owned his own pair before. He’s survived on hand-me-downs from family friends and visits to second-hand shops until now, and he hasn’t minded, not really, because he’s always just happy to walk without a pinch across his toes. His father used to get his shoes made at the best cobbler’s in town, and he feels like a proper little grown-up to know he’s getting his first pair from there, too. He can’t hide his excitement, a stupid grin across his face, swinging his mother’s hand energetically in his. His happiness seems contagious; she’s smiling with him, and she doesn’t scold him when he inevitably bumps into busy-looking gentlemen, often sharing his little grin when he gets under their feet and they huff and puff at him.

His mother goes still as they turn the corner and enter the approach to the cobbler’s shop. He can see it’s boarded over but she spins him around and drags him away before he has the chance to read the words sprayed across the door, and she doesn’t stop walking for what feels like hours and hours and hours until his feet ache from his pinching shoes and he’s tired and fed up and he tugs on her sleeve and contemplates sitting down and throwing the biggest tantrum he can muster.

She looks down at him and smiles, serene and lovely. She kneels down and smoothens down his lapels, attempts to make some semblance of tidiness in his hair. “Has Herr Eichman gone?”

“Yes. He’ll be far away by now,” she answers, her smile unfaltering. He thinks about how it must be nice to go on a holiday as he plays with his mother’s hair. “Do you remember the shoes we saw in Herr Brauer’s window? The black ones?”

“With the mouldy laces,” Erik says, looking sceptical.

“Well, if we go and get those, I promise you I will find the brightest red laces you’ve ever seen and throw the mouldy old ones away. Does that sound alright?”

Erik frowns at her. He wants to be cross, wants his own pair of shoes with his own red laces, but he understands somehow that something very serious must have happened for him not to be able to visit Herr Eichman. He sighs hugely and scowls at her. “Yes, alright,” he replies, and she rewards him with a smile and a hug that means far more than shoes that don’t pinch with matching black laces.

Enough, Charles thinks, and lets the ribbon of thought drift away, retreating into his own self once more.

They sit in silence for some time. Charles keeps his eyes tight shut, the crux of each hand wedged into his eyes in a vain attempt of regaining some self-control, but his own past is running amok, dancing rings around his composure. “I remember those shoes,” Erik’s saying, and Charles attempts to steady his breathing, to listen; he’s meant to be detached, present, helpful. “Thin as paper. I re-used the laces until they snapped and even then I kept the strands, hanging from my bedroom door...” He pauses. “Charles?”

His mother had never taken him shoe-shopping. Three times a year, his nanny had escorted Mr. Robertson into his room and made him walk up and down the hardwood floors, measure his insole, count his steps, assess his posture. If there had been a need for new shoes, they would arrive the following Monday, custom-made, slathered in crepe paper in a voluminous cardboard box. The maids would make him walk around the garden until they melted into place around his feet, even if his toes blistered before the shoes gave in. He had thrown away each pair before they wore thin – they had probably gone to people like Erik, but he’d never given them a second thought.

“I’m sorry,” he says, and attempts to keep calm, but finds it comes out as somewhat of a gasp, his face smeared with tears. “Thank you, Erik, that was – lovely.”

Erik looks utterly unconvinced. “Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yes, fine, it’s just a little – honestly, I’m fine.” He breathes in rapidly, giddily, and makes a show of glancing at the clock. “My goodness, would you look at that! Time for bed, I think.” He can see himself through Erik’s eyes, sense his confusion and concern, and he feels sick to his stomach for usurping his friend’s request for his own purpose.

Charles stares resolutely at his feet whilst Erik leaves, feels the dip and slide of the mattress as he climbs off and dampens down on the urge to make him stay. “Goodnight, Charles,” he says, and Charles can feel the guilt and remorse fizzle to the surface of his mind. He thinks he’s done me wrong, Charles realises. Oh, my friend, if only you knew how much the opposite is true.

He hears Erik shut and lock the door as he turns off the light, settling himself beneath the covers. No more, he decides, teasing out the functions of his mind, slowly bringing himself down to rest. It will bring no peace to either of them, wishing for what they cannot have.

 

 

Raven scowls at him suspiciously when he makes it down to the kitchen in the morning. “You were up late again last night,” she accuses, narrow-eyed, “and Erik’s been brooding all morning. What are you two up to?”

“Nothing at all,” he answers sweetly as he forages for bread, flipping on the grill. He doesn’t blame her when she is entirely unconvinced. “How’s the weightlifting coming along?”

She rolls her eyes at his tactless attempt to change the subject. “Great, actually. Hank reckons my cell versatility might be allowing my muscles to bulk up more quickly. But you knew that already, didn’t you?”

“Right, good,” he replies absently. He’s sweeping the house for Erik on the pretence of security – he locates him on the balcony, furling and unfurling the railings like beautiful and deadly snakes. He can sense his disquiet from here.

“Charles,” Raven sighs, and he resists the urge to snap at her.

“Yes?”

“Your toast’s on fire.”

 

 

Charles is thankful for how the others keep him occupied. He’s spent his life craving selflessness, a true state of altruism, and they each and all reward him in their own little ways as he guides them to open their minds not only to him but themselves as well. For him, honesty is the basis of trust. Erik disagrees with him most strongly – he believes privacy is a necessity of an intelligent being, having the consciousness to decide when to say what to whom. It brings Charles no end of guilt over his ability, fully aware of how his depth of knowledge of Erik must anger him so. Nevertheless, Charles revels to watch them respond to his gentle coaxing, each opening into something infinitely more beautiful as they learn to stand tall, to understand when and when not to feel shame. He wishes most of all for Erik to do the same.

He attempts to spend the same amount of time with all of them to avoid the appearance of favouritism, but the moment he sets up shop in Hank’s laboratory to discuss amendments to Cerebro Alex crashes through the door, bouncing for more target practice, Sean wants to throw himself off another building, and Raven’s stood behind them, one immaculate eyebrow raised, demanding to know why Charles never spends time with her anymore, and he has to resist the urge to hold his head in his hands and groan.

“Let me go get Alex going,” he tells Hank. “Erik can take Sean – ” Sean pales considerably at this idea. “ – and Raven, I’ll have dinner with you tonight, I promise.”

“It’s alright,” Hank replies, with his customary half-smile. “I think I got what I needed from you today.”

Charles searches for Erik, closing his eyes, and finds him in the library, caught up in last night’s reverie, a book lying forgotten on his lap. He hesitates, not wishing to disturb him, but decides sending Sean would probably be far worse. Erik?

The reverie snaps and leaves a nasty red weal across Erik’s mind, like releasing a taut elastic band. Yes?

Sean wants more flying practice and I’m run a little ragged. Could you do the honours?

Tell him to meet me in the lobby in five.

Charles lingers for a moment, unwilling to retreat but with no real reason to stay, and then surrenders, coming back into himself. “Go get your kit, he’ll meet you in the lobby in five minutes. I’ll tell him to be nice,” he adds, noticing Sean’s distraught expression, but this doesn’t seem to comfort him much.

He sends Alex to fetch more mannequins and Raven stomps off on her own accord, and he settles in the high lab chair and avoids Hank’s eye. Charles is thankful for how the others keep him occupied; there would be no other reason significant enough to stop him from losing himself within the facets of Erik’s mind.

 

 

He dines with Raven as promised, if a little later than is usual, as Erik brought Sean back with a grumpy expression and a twisted ankle, and he deemed it proper to give Sean his immediate attention. He spent his time in the infirmary holding Sean’s hand and conducting a little of his pain as Hank pottered around looking for bandages probing Raven’s mind to work out what she wanted for dinner, and then cooked to make up for its lateness, plying her with a glass of wine which unfortunately makes her quite vocal.

“You’ve still not told me what you and Erik were doing at three a.m. yesterday morning,” she murmurs, smiling wickedly. She projects a few images which Charles can only describe as raunchy and he chokes on his drink.

“Nothing of the sort,” he hisses through gritted teeth, “and nothing which concerns you.” She looks a little offended, her eyes downcast, and he scolds himself for his choice of words – he can’t betray Erik’s confidence, but he can at least be civil about it. “Thank you for your work with Alex today,” he continues, changing the subject quite rapidly.

“No problem. He’s a good kid, I like him. How’re things going with Hank?”

“Mmm, well. I need to clear a little transference of funds from the bank, but we should be able to get a second Cerebro running in under a month, by my reckoning.”

“Jesus, can you imagine? We’re gonna have our work cut out, I can barely handle these guys.”

“We’ll manage,” he replies, finishing off the bottle.

“I couldn’t believe it when she said you were cooking,” Erik says, lounging against the doorway. Charles nearly jumps out of his skin.

Raven grins. “He worked it out during uni. He figured it would help him get girls.”

He raises an eyebrow. “And did it?”

She shrugs, her smile flirtatious. “Every once in a while.” She drains the last of her wine, licks the purple from her lips and stands, her movements a little too steady. “I’ll leave you two to talk shop,” she murmurs, winks obscenely at Charles and sashays out of the kitchen.

Erik takes up her seat as Charles attempts not to melt through the floor. “I’m sorry about Sean.”

“No problem,” Charles replies breezily, clattering around with their dirty crockery. “Just cuts and bruises. It’ll help him to be more careful next time.” He puts the dishes on the side and leans against the counter, staring out of the window into the muggy night. “I know what you want me to do, Erik,” he says, softly. “I don’t think we should make a habit of it. You’re becoming... addicted.”

He feels Erik tighten behind him, the rage this bubbles beneath his skin. It feels ever so hypocritical to preach when he gathers as much satisfaction from this as Erik does. “You said this was the way to serenity,” he mutters, after a while. You can’t dangle this before me and then snatch it away

“I don’t mean to,” Charles interrupts, turning from the window. “I want to help, Erik, I do, but you can’t afford to live in the past any longer. It won’t help.”

Erik sits in silence, and Charles stays out of his mind for fear of what he might see. “Alright,” he replies, eventually. “Just one more time?”

Charles smiles. “So long as it is just once more.” He takes up his seat at the table once more, the chair leg scraping across the tiles with a scream. Erik closes his eyes, his mouth half-smiling, his pulse a little heightened from anticipation, and Charles calms himself, opens his mind. What will it be this time, my friend?

He sits in patience as he waits for Erik to decide. He can already feel the cluster of bright memories pushing against his own, each clamouring to be brought to the fore, to be considered with love. I can’t – you decide, Erik replies. Charles straightens his back and walks into the midst of Erik’s mind once more. They twine around his fingertips, dance in and out of his reach, playful, and he looks between them, lost in the monumental task of selection. He could spend days here and make it feel like a lifetime. He brushes his fingers along each, feels the sorrow and rage and fear even within the brightest ones, and decides it best not to evoke such feelings in Erik again; the one which he settles upon is not the brightest by far, but it is serene and filled with hope. A collection of memories, rather than an event, as seen before. He tangles them up inside it and coaxes it to play before their minds.

Erik spent most of his childhood in flight, once the war came. All friendships he made were fleeting and inconsequential, the only inexorable presences within his life his mother and father. They roamed from relation to relation, each time becoming more and more distant as they became easier to trace, but when word comes on the air of what they are doing to people like them – of die Endlösung – and they cannot escape the country, his father decides to settle, to conceal themselves as successfully as possible.

They wait out the last few months before capture in the basement of a butcher’s shop his grandfather’s mistress had once frequented along with three other families, of which none have children to keep him company. He doesn’t mind; his mother spends the days with him, filling his head with ridiculous stories, some half-remembered epics she had studied in her own days of education, others purely her own invention, ranging from the silly through to the arcane, all wonderful ways of spending an afternoon. She has a never-ending supply of games to keep him occupied, some with small rewards on the better days and others without, but he loves them nonetheless.

It is always damp and cold in the basement, and they only occasionally can afford to keep it well heated and lit; he remembers pressing himself up against the fire’s grate for so long and so close that the heat raises a vivid pink weal across his skin. The best moments of all are when his mother gathers him up in her arms and sits with him by the fire, slides her fingers through his hair and whispers him stories about the shapes that dance in the firelight.

For a moment after separation Charles’ hand sears with heat, and he thinks himself trapped next to an anonymous German fireside – but then it lessens and recedes, and he identifies it as nothing more than the warmth of Erik’s hand across his own. He doesn’t remember that happening, and he can’t prevent a blush as he snatches his hand away, as if truly burnt. Erik doesn’t seem to notice, eyes caught on something in the middle distance, vacant and a little tear-stained. He resists the urge to probe into his mind and fetches a glass of water instead, draining his own and placing its twin on the tabletop. He can only hope that Erik is reckoning with his past, learning that his life was not so filled with hatred and suffering as he had remembered it to be, but the set of his jaw and a hardness in his eyes brings Charles to expect even greater determination for vengeance for what he might have had.

Charles has failed. The novelty of this does not sit well with him.

Erik? he projects cautiously, but Erik either fails to acknowledge or receive it. He leaves him caught inside his own mind, and scorns himself for wanting to join in.

 

 

“You’ve made him worse,” Raven tells him knowledgeably, and Charles shoots up in bed and makes a point of hoisting the covers above his chest. She rolls his eyes. “Please, I’ve seen it all before.”

“I’ve told you before about knocking,” he hisses back, shifting nervously.

“I did! For about five minutes! I probably woke the rest of the universe before you.”

“What do you want, Raven?”

She sighs. “Look, I don’t want you to freak, but he’s been stomping all around the house all morning with a face like thunder and he nearly took Alex’s hand off with a pallet knife at breakfast, and I know it’ll have something to do with what you two did in the kitchen last night. So go fix it, ok? In case you forgot, none of us mutated with the ability to regrow our own limbs, or we sure as hell don’t want to test it out.”

He groans, and wriggles pathetically across the bed to search for his watch. “What time is it?”

“Nearly midday, you slob. I don’t know what’s gotten into you lately, but if you decide to go through a lazy phase now instead of at college when I needed sleep I will kill you.”

He shoos Raven from his room, dresses himself largely in the dark, and stands before the mirror to tidy his hair and make sure he hasn’t forgotten how to button up a shirt correctly since meeting Erik. He stares himself down in the mirror. He will ask it of me again, he thinks, combing his hair, and I must refuse. I must be the better man. He shudders, straightens his spine and steps from the room.

A quick mental census of the household reveals Erik has taken charge of the topmost floor, the others – he refrains largely from calling them children, considering what he wishes for them to become – skulking notably around the exits or caught up in their own work. He pauses at the lip of the stairs; he could descend and carry out his duty to them, or he could ascend and face his demons. Charles squares his shoulders and forces himself to take the bottom step.

Erik has broken his way into the boarded-up attic, wrenching the stepladder from its padlock. Charles follows him up, and is surprised to find the room empty; a large metal bedstead, propped against the far wall, has been wrenched from its place and twisted to form a spiral staircase, making the skylight accessible. He’s on the roof, Charles thinks, dryly. Of course. He takes hold of the rudimentary banister, feels the press of the torn, jagged metal against his palm, and hesitates. Erik?

A long pause, and then, Charles.

May I come up?

If you must.

He’s angry. Charles can feel it from here; a gut-wrenching, inexorable, deep anger that inspires Charles with not a little fear. He hopes it’s not directed too strongly at him, and ascends the rickety staircase, wincing as it creaks horribly underfoot. The roof space fans off into a small plateau a few feet out, and Erik is perched in the centre of it, staring broodingly into the middle distance; Charles pushes off from the skylight with his foot and keeps one hand in the guttering as he edges along to join him. Erik is decidedly not looking at him, focused on the satellite dish looming on the horizon, and Charles attempts a bit of levity. “I hope you’ve not been messing with those poor scientists’ results too severely, Erik,” he murmurs, smiling.

Erik gives him a slow, sidelong look, raises his hand and bunches his fist. In the distance, the dish crumples in on itself like crêpe paper.

Charles gapes at him. It is a horrific display of power – far beyond what he thought Erik capable of, and he regrets underestimating him most acutely – but worst for its wantonness, for its impulsiveness, for the way Erik had, in that split second, taken pleasure in its destruction. “Really, Erik,” he breathes, “there was no need for – ” The expression on Erik’s face stops him dead.

“There was no need for Shaw to kill my mother,” Erik replies, his voice perfectly calm, “but that didn’t stop him.”

Charles takes a deep, steadying breath, closing his eyes. “I fear I have done you a great disservice, my friend, in showing you what you wanted.” Beneath him, he can hear Moira calling out for him, the household in uproar. It’s alright, he sends to her, with reassuring waves of calm. I’m handling it. “I should have known better,” he continues. “I had thought to presume it would help. I was... wrong.” Erik says nothing in reply, but Charles takes courage in the fact he’s not been pushed off the roof yet. “I did what you asked mostly in the hope of helping you to forgive yourself for what has passed – ” Erik shoots him a dangerous look. “ – but partly for my own purposes. I was selfish, Erik, and I am truly sorry.”

Erik glowers at a bunch of trees near the foot of the lawn as if to set them alight. They are the size of matchsticks up here. “I don’t understand,” he mutters, gruffly.

Charles takes relief in the fact that intrigue is at least now battling with rage. “I know it may seem unfathomable to you, and I don’t mean to parallel our childhoods in the slightest, but I wasn’t happy here. My father was absent in body, my mother in mind. She did what she thought best by me, but with a logical practicality, and not with affection. Raven helped, but – there is a difference between the love of a sibling and that of a parent, and I was always more responsible for her anyway.” Erik is watching him now, his eyes bright and sharp, and Charles attempts to keep his composure, rally himself for the final furlong. “When I entered your mind to guide you through those memories, I felt and saw everything as you did. The way your mother treated you – the way you felt – was alien to me. I became... obsessed with that sensation, to the point of it clouding my judgement on how such instances were affecting you. I cannot apologise enough.”

Erik absorbs this in silence, his eyes so keen Charles is forced to look away. “We make a right pair of fools,” Erik mutters eventually, and there’s a smile in his voice, echoed hugely on his face. Charles can’t help but mimic it a little, and then Erik dives on him and kisses him furiously, leaving Charles thrilled and more than a little stunned at the sudden turn of events, arcing up into him happily.

“I was beginning to think you’d never take the hint,” Charles murmurs when Erik pulls back, grinning obscenely and licking at his bottom lip where it has been inadvertently caught by Erik’s teeth. He can feel the rage draining out of Erik until almost, almost gone, eclipsed by happiness and not a little awe. “You’ve been wanting to do that for a while.”

Erik arches his eyebrow in a silent admonishment of Charles’ flagrant misuse of his mutation, but doesn’t take it further, focusing his attention on mapping small circles on the back of Charles’ hand. “You could have made me,” he points out.

“Mmm, there’s no fun in that.” He settles back against him, turning his face into the sunlight. “Besides, there are some things one needs to discover for oneself.” He allows himself to dip into the very surface of Erik’s mind, skimming along the shallows, to learn how differently he perceives the sunlight, the breath of wind through his hair. For a moment Erik tenses, but when he senses Charles’ good-natured intentions he relaxes once more.

I had no idea it would mean so much to you, he thinks at him, the sentence easier to voice in his mind than out loud where it could adopt misconstrued intentions.

Charles smiles. I have to confess, neither did I. But thank you, my friend, nonetheless.

Anything, is his heartfelt reply, but Charles can’t bring himself to answer. He knows he needn’t read Erik’s mind to discover his resolve to slaughter Shaw is still inexorable, and it stings in his throat a little, like a bitter pill.

“You could start by righting that satellite dish,” Charles murmurs, a little distracted by the manner in which Erik’s fingers are creeping up under his shirt to slide along his hipbone.

He immediately feels Erik’s annoyance in body and mind. “They’re just humans,” he mutters back, scowling.

Charles attempts to keep his voice calm. “You don’t know that,” he replies. “There could be mutants whose entire bodies of work rest on the data from that station, or others whose dreams for the future depend on its effectiveness. It might not seem much of a life to you, my friend, but it could mean the world to someone else.” He twists himself round to plant a little kiss on the side of his jaw. “Besides, he murmurs, “creation is a far more complex task than destruction.” He grins. “I’ll dare you if I have to.”

With a glare in his direction, Erik closes his eyes and raises one hand. Charles watches as his face slackens and relaxes, his mouth tight but his brow smooth, and dips into his mind to understand how he feels the metal, teases it from inexorably contorted to flat and smooth, slopes the sides gently to form the perfect circle, moving from inwards out until it stands as it did once more. He’s breathing a little heavily when he opens his eyes again, but he’s smiling, looking utterly pleased with himself. “Happy now?” he says, breath still coming a little short, sweat beading on his temples and in the crux of his neck Charles itches to lick off.

“Definitely. I almost feel I should applaud.” I told you I’d handle it, he sends down to Moira, and chuckles at the wave of exasperated thanks he receives as reply. He tilts his head back expectantly and Erik leans down to kiss him, slowly and sweetly, and he lies there in the sunlight and wishes the world weren’t ending. “How about,” he murmurs, pulling away to nip at his jawline, “I set the others on their tasks for the afternoon, and you,” he kisses a stripe down his neck, “meet me,” he arches against him, “in my room in half an hour?”

Erik slides his hand further up his shirt with rather a lot of nail. “Fifteen minutes.”

Charles shudders, biting his lip against a moan. “I’ll make it ten.”

He hasn’t changed him much, Charles admits as he careens through the halls of the mansion, hurtling to find the others and set them training as soon as possible. But he’s created a little leeway, and Erik might, might just stay.