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Hiraeth

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                Erik’s eyes opened to a white-hot blinding light.  He shut his eyes to block out the painful brightness that seemed to exacerbate the throbbing ache of his body.  He tried to turn his head away, thinking that he would be able to open his eyes if he wasn’t staring at it straight ahead.  He felt resistance around his neck, a brace? and hands, gentle but firm, holding his head in place.  “Take it easy Mr. Lensherr, try not to move your head until we get you checked out.” A woman’s gentle voice floated above him, sounding muted to his muddled senses.

                Wait. What? Checked out? What the hell? He tried to move again despite the woman’s warning.  Charles had always said that his stubbornness was endearing most times but could get him in trouble more often than not.  He reached out to Charles in his mind. Nothing.  Just the buzzing of his own scattered thoughts jumping around in his eerily Charles-less brain. No gentle hum of Charles in his head, the constant warm presence that calmed him, soothed him when his emotions threatened to get the better of him. Charles. Oh dear God. In a flash he remembered the warm gentle touch of Charles’ finger on his face, the mint flavored puffs of breath on his lips, the heat pooling in his belly at the thought of Charles straddling him in their car. Then the sound of crunching metal, the shattering of glass, the harsh tug of the seatbelt against his chest, the faint distant sound of sirens. Charles had taken off his seatbelt so that they could….

“Charles!” he howled, as he fought against the hands that had gone from gentle to forceful trying to get him to lie still. “Mr. Lensherr!” the woman barked, the strain of the struggle in her voice.  “Charles! Where is he?!” Erik rasped. The ache in his body wasn’t from his physical situation; his inability to locate Charles made him frantic. He knew he was losing control when someone on his left gave a yelp as the medical equipment started to shake on its own accord.  He vaguely heard the clatter of medical instruments all around him and the alarms on the monitors started wailing. With a disgruntled cry, Erik lunged upward, striking out every which way.  The hum of metal twisting to his rage did little to soothe him. He was weak right now, not quite sure what was happening, but it couldn’t be good. He hissed when the sharp cool slide of a needle pierced his arm. The slow burn of narcotics filled his limbs with a fuzzy heaviness; every movement was a tremendous effort. He had been this drunk once, after a spectacular fight with Charles early in their relationship.  “Charles…” he moaned as the sedative took effect and he blacked out again.

 

It took him longer to regain consciousness this time. He was half sitting in a hard uncomfortable bed not his own. No. His bed was large and warm, sheets rumpled, pillows smelling like Charles, not the harsh sting of antiseptic that only hospitals could produce.  He groaned, his head pounding from a vicious headache.  He slowly opened his crusty eyes to see a pair of fretful blue eyes watching him intently.  His heart sank when he saw that it was the wrong pair of blue eyes staring at him. Raven. Charles’ sister.  Her blonde hair was a mess, as if she had been pulling at it for a long time.  A noise from his right made him aware of Hank, Raven’s sort of boyfriend and Charles’ research assistant from the University jerking awake in the hard plastic chair in the corner. “Erik? Oh thank God.” Raven scooted closer. The bags under her eyes were impressive and her pink lips were worried to the point of being chapped and bloody.  She reached up to touch  the side of his face, “Erik, how do you feel? Do you need anything?” she turned to Hank, “Hank, get him some water.” Hank fumbled with the plastic picture of water, the size not proportionate to his large furry hands. He thrust it forward so Erik had to reach out to grab it.  Raven watched as he guzzled the cold water, he hadn’t realized he was so thirsty.  Raven waited until he was done and slowly took the cup from him, clearly playing for time.

He had met Raven when she was an obnoxious sixteen year-old, she had matured since then and she was the only member of the family Charles still spoke to.  She was maid of honor at their wedding, and she had defended Charles against his mother when Charles had broken away from the Xavier- Marko household when he was 21.  She had her own room at their place and was welcome whenever things in Westchester got heated. That happened at least once a week.  “Raven, what happened? Where’s Charles? Is he ok? I can’t feel him…” Erik trailed off, horrified at the look of utter grief on her face. “Raven,” he repeated, slower and more menacing, “where the fuck is my husband?” Raven’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. Her lips quivered and she let her head sink into her hands. Hank had made his way to Raven’s side fidgeting with his glasses. “Erik,” he began slowly, “there was an accident last night. A truck slammed into your car at a pretty high rate of speed. The driver couldn’t stop in time and the roads were slippery.  He rear-ended the car and your seatbelt is the only reason you are alive right now.” Erik leaned back against the hard pillow at his neck. His body ached and his face hurt, probably from the shattered glass and the force of the collision. 

From the look on Raven’s face and how Hank had said everything but, he was preparing himself for the worst news of all: Charles was dead.

Chapter Text

           Raven must have seen something on his face, for she shot up, shoulders rigid, her red rimmed eyes shifted to a molten gold. Her form rippled in front of him for a second, giving him a glimpse of her blue form. The effect made his head spin.  She shifted back to her blonde form, but her eyes remained golden. “He’s not dead.” She said carefully.  Erik released the breath that he didn’t realize he was holding, the tense feeling in his shoulders receding a little. He wouldn’t be fully at ease until he was 100% certain that Charles was alright. That meant speaking directly with the doctor then with the telepath, because Charles would always downplay his own physical condition and only be concerned for Erik.  Hank coughed from somewhere behind Raven, and she shook herself, looking quickly to the door of the room and back at Erik. Despite being adopted, Raven, being the natural mimic she was, had picked up quite a few Charles Xavier habits over the years. He knew that gesture from being with Charles for four years: some kind of news, most likely bad, was coming.

           “Erik, Charles didn’t have his seatbelt on when the truck hit.” He nodded. Yes. The act of warming Charles’ hands when they reached the car had started out innocently enough, and then it escalated to something decidedly less innocent.  The click of the seatbelt as Charles climbed over to his side, straddling him with just enough pressure to make his blood burn and cock twitch.  He could still feel eager hands in his hair, the gentle tickle of Charles in his mind, whispering tantalizingly dirty suggestions into his head.  Erik’s hands on Charles’s slim hips, trying to catch a sliver of exposed skin as his cardigan rose up past his bellybutton.

            Raven continued, “He went through the windshield, head first. The paramedics had to resuscitate him on scene. He was in pretty bad shape when they brought him in. Once they got the both of you settled,” she gave him a pointed look, and he had the good sense to look sheepish, “the doctor threw a lot of information at us; something about massive swelling in his brain, possible brain damage. I was so upset that most of it went right over my head. They’ve put him in a medically induced coma right now; his telepathy was going haywire in the ER. He gave everybody really bad headaches even while unconscious.” She took Erik’s hand, he barely felt it. “Sweetie, the best thing is to get better so that you can be there for him. They put him in the mutant intensive care ward so that they can keep a better eye on him; you’re in the regular mutant ward.”

          Raven glared at Hank and then turned back to Erik. “I brought some clothes and stuff from the apartment.  The docs say that you should be up and about in a day or so. You have some minor contusions and a few bruised ribs.  Doctor Spencer will come and talk to you later on about Charles.”

          “Have you contacted Sharon?” Erik asked.  Raven shook her head, “No. I was the emergency contact for Charles after you. Luckily I was at the library doing research with Hank when I got the call and came right over.” She blushed a little at that and Hank looked nervous. Raven was many things but not the literary type.  Despite the situation, Erik gave them a wry look, “I hope that you two are being careful while doing this research.” Raven flushed blue at that. “One crisis at a time, Erik.” Hanks sputtered, although red wasn’t a becoming color with his furry blue complexion.  After Hank clapped his shoulder and Raven kissed his brow the couple left.  A harrowing evening had by all, they were going to crash at his and Charles’ place and field any calls or inquiries until matters could be settled.  He knew that their friends Moria, Sean, Darwin, Angel, and Alex wouldn’t let Raven alone until they heard the latest news.

         Finally alone, Erik had a chance to process all that had happened in the last 24 hours. A date night with Charles that included dinner and a movie had started out well, with witty conversation and faintly veiled innuendo.  When they emerged from the theater after the movie, the light snow that had been falling had turned into a heavy wet blanket.  Charles gripped the collar of his cardigan. “Perhaps I should have brought a jacket,” he mused, his red lips pursed in frustration. Erik chuckled, “That just means I can hold you closer.” He pulled the slight body closer, putting an arm around thin shoulders. Charles groaned, “Dear lord darling.  What a horrible line. It’s a good thing that I am hopelessly in love with you. If you tried that on me earlier in our relationship I would certainly have had second thoughts about dating you.” Erik hummed as he nuzzled the mop of warm brown hair, “Hate to burst your indignant bubble, libeling. But that’s one of your pick up lines.” Charles stopped short, his head cocked to the side. A graceful blush spread over his freckled cheeks and his blue eyes shone. “Why yes. I do believe it was one of mine.”  Erik laughed and bundled his blushing husband along the street to their car.

         Erik popped the door to the passenger side with a dramatic wave of his hand. He stepped to the side as the door swung open and bowed Charles into the cold vehicle.  Charles rolled his eyes at the cocky grin on Erik’s face. “It appears that you use that parlor trick on all your dates, darling. Does it help you get laid often?” Mischievous blue eyes awaited an answer. Erik’s grin was most decidedly shark-like. “You’re the telepath in this relationship, Charles. You tell me.” Charles laughed as he clipped his seatbelt into place and turned on the heater. “Hurry up so that we can test my theory.” Erik grabbed the snow brush and was quickly swiping at the snow that covered their 1995 Honda Civic.  “So you’re going to use scientific methods to test my ability in getting laid?” he called from outside. Charles grinned, “Oh yes, it’s one of the first things they teach you at university: to test out each theory until you get the results that are the most desirable.”

         Erik opened the door got into the driver’s seat and threw the brush into the back of the car. He rubbed his hands together quickly, “I hope that’s the only part they taught you.” He grumbled good naturedly as Charles laughed again.  After clicking his belt into the holder, Erik took Charles’ half frozen fingers in his own hands and blew on them. “If it’s good enough for Oxford then I think we need to do lots of experimenting.” Charles grinned and unlocked his belt. Erik looked at him with questioning eyes. “Charles what are you doing?” Charles grunted as he struggled over the center console and slid into Erik’s lap. “Never want to say that my parents’ money went to waste on my education. One must always do as their professors say.” He purred as he nuzzled Erik’s neck. 

         Erik’s hands went to Charles’ hips, his fingers pulling up the cardigan to expose pale freckled skin.  “Yes professor.” he hummed as they rutted against each other in the confined space. Kisses turned heated, Erik’s cock twitched in his jeans, aware of the warm pliant body straddling him. Erik. The word liquid as quicksilver through his thoughts, revealing the utter wreck that was Charles above him. He shuttered and was ready to unzip his pants and have his way with his husband, public indecency be damned.

      It all happened so suddenly.  He barely heard the screech of tires or felt the impact.  Charles was wrenched from his grasp as the car screamed as it was struck from behind. For a second, Erik’s thoughts were crystal clear. He was jerked forward and heard the shattering of glass. His lap was cold from the snow and frosty air coming from the gaping hole in the windshield.  His head hit the headrest and he knew no more.­­­­­­­­­­­­­

     The next thing he knew he was bringing the ER down onto itself in his anger and frustration. Then Raven was telling him about Charles and head trauma and coma and brain damage

       Erik’s head fell into his hands. Charles was his entire world. How was he going to survive without him?  Erik jerked up,shaking himself from his stupor. He was alright, physically anyway. He needed to be strong for Charles. He would be there through anything for the telepath.  In sickness and in health, for richer for poorer. Those were the vows they took not six months ago.  Those were the values his parents instilled in him.  That was his vow now. He was being selfish. He would not let Charles be alone. It was never an option. 

Chapter Text

Four Years Ago:

                Erik was not a patient man. He hated lines, he hated stupid people, he hated bureaucracy. Today he was getting a heaping dose of all three. Here he was in line at the DMV, having to take a whole day off from work in order to go to the DMV and pay the fine that he may or may not have incurred after bending three parking meters into giant metal pretzels.

    It wasn’t his fault that Shaw had made him wait for the schematics of the new robotic manipulator instead of having them couriered over to the office when they were completed.  The meter attendant didn’t care who he worked for (he hated dropping names but facing a $50 ticket, he could swallow his pride this one time) and had started to write the ticket. She didn’t care that he had been just two seconds late in adding money to the machine, she didn’t care that it was his first week at a new job and his boss was evil and had nuclear weapons at his disposal and could would start World War III with said nuclear weapons if his coffee wasn't right.  All he could hear was the scratching of her pen against the tri-colored pad, her lazy “mm hmm’s” the reaction to each of his increasingly frenzied excuses.

     Next thing he knew coins were whipping about in all directions. The groaning of metal and glass in his ears. The meter attendant screamed as quarters rained down on her. Erik quickly tried to stem the flow and slowly the coins stopped.  Panting, Erik looked at the meters that lined the street: the ones closest to him were completely twisted into incongruous shapes. The ones further down were all leaning to one side; he was able to correct those without much trouble. He turned to the woman in front of him. “Sorry,” was all he said, trying to make his smile as un-sharky as possible. The look on her face told him that was the wrong thing to say.

    Sebastian Shaw was a sadist, born in a pit of hellfire, Erik was sure.  He had no sympathy for Erik’s plight, despite the fact that it was on company time and occurred on an errand for Shaw himself. Not only did Erik lose the contract with Stark Industries for the robotic arm, Shaw refused to pay the $1000 fine that Erik was slapped with for the meters and attacking an attendant. Shaw did let him take a day off to see to his meter matter, but had implied that Erik now owed him a favor which could be called in at any time. That was scarier than anything the DMV could throw at him.

    Those were the circumstances which brought Erik Lensherr into the same area as Charles Xavier. Neither one of them knew it just yet.

    There were four people in front of him in line.  He had been waiting for thirty-five minutes and the line hadn’t moved. Not one foot. Erik suppressed a growl. If things didn’t start moving soon, he would probably get another fine for destroying a government facility. He imagined the steel garter creaking as the walls folded in; it gave him personal satisfaction in his imaginary destruction that Shaw was in the middle of it all. He saw glass flying everywhere, pieces of metal curled in around the smirking face of his employer, pinning him to the wall.

     From behind him, he heard a faint chuckle. He started to turn around and caught a glimpse of shiny brown hair before movement in front of him distracted him. The people in front of him had dispersed, simply walked away.  Blinking in surprise, Erik made his way to the counter. The apathetic DMV worker simply held her hand out for his ticket, nonplused that four people had just wandered away from her line. Erik gave her the ticket, and the prewritten check, almost his entire savings, with a wince.  The girl suddenly straightened, looked at the check and ticket for a moment and then pulled a form from behind her station. She scribbled in the lines and then stamped it with her signature. “Thank you. You will receive a receipt in five days.” She said slowly, shaking her head a little as if to shake off a sensation. “Next.” She called from over his shoulder. 

     Erik moved to the side as the brunette behind him accidentally brushed up against him as he sidled up to the counter. Erik suddenly went hot then cold from his head to the tips of his toes, jarring him from his stupor. He barely heard the man say, “Good day my dear. I need to drop off my plates. It seems as if I won’t need them any time in the near future.” The man’s voice was soft and slightly accented. British perhaps? He seemed to have been in America long enough to have lost some of his accent, but not all. His voice was pleasant, soothing, every word seemed to bathe Erik in comfort. All of the anger he felt before was muted somehow at the presence of this one man. The one part of Erik that was not in comfort at the moment was his cock, which had sprung to attention at the slight bump from the man.  Shifting uncomfortably, Erik turned and stalked out of the DMV before anyone could talk to him or even make eye contact. From the way people purposely moved out of his way, he must have looked like some super villain striding through the waiting area. All he needed was a cape and he would call it a day.

   Erik had his keys in his hand, ready to open his door when he heard from behind him “You have the uncanny ability to make people afraid of you, my friend. Terrorists could learn a thing or two from you.” An amused British voice called out. Erik turned to see the brunette from the line watching him, arms crossed over-was he wearing a cardigan?-his chest, messenger bag hanging by his slim hips. Erik flushed, “I don’t have time for incompetent people.” Erik glared at him, “Did you stop me to insult my lack of people skills or did you actually want something?” he mentally winced at his harsh tone. This guy was making him uneasy, and he was using verbal barbs in defense.  The man blanched, his incredibly blue eyes-how could someone have eyes that blue?-now a little afraid and unsure.

     Erik blew out a frustrated sigh and ran a hand through his hair. “Look, I’m sorry. That ticket I just paid almost wiped me out financially. It’s brought out the finer points of my personality.” The man smiled a little and bobbed his head. “It’s quite alright. These places tend to bring out the best in people. I find that if one can still have a civil conversation with a man after a day at the DMV, then they are certainly worth getting to know better.” The man smiled beautifully, “Charles Xavier.” He held out his hand. Erik stared at Charles’ red red lips and automatically reached for his hand. “Lensherr. Erik Lensherr.”

 

Chapter Text

Four Years Ago:

 

        They ended up at a café a few blocks away from the DMV.  Erik ordered a large coffee, black, and dumped half the sugar from the container into it.  Charles ordered Earl Grey tea, side of lemon.  They found a table near the back of the café and settled down. Charles set his chin in his hands and just stared at Erik for the longest time. It gave him time to fully take in the man in front of him. Charles was a good foot shorter than himself, with those vivid blue eyes and soft looking brown floppy hair.  Sinfully red lips and a gentle smile rounded out the parts of the man that he could see while clothed.  What lay beneath was an adventure for another day.

 Erik shifted under the intense blue gaze. Charles seemed to pick up on his discomfort since he blinked once and sat up straight.  “Oh I am dreadfully sorry. I sometimes come off as too concentrated. I was trying to block out the other people in here. Too many people make my head feel as if it’s full of bees.  It’s the drawback to being a telepath.” He waved his hand indicating the other café-goers

        Telepath? Oh shit. Erik grabbed his coffee and downed a too much of the scalding drink too fast. The burn on his tongue and roof of his mouth made him suck in a breath. Charles reached out in concern at his distress. “Oh dear. Forgive me, Erik. I didn’t mean to make you upset.  Most people get put off by my mutation so I thought that putting it right out there might make it less awkward.  My sister always says that I try to hide too much.” Charles looked sufficiently chastised, his blue eyes downcast and floppy hair falling into his eyes.

 

        Erik wiped is mouth on a napkin, working his tongue back to life. “No,” he rasped, “I’m sorry. I’ve never liked the idea of other people knowing what I’m thinking.  There was a telepathic counselor in the group home that I lived in as a kid. She didn’t understand words like ‘personal space’ or ‘private’. I kind of clammed up after she tried to dig deep into my mind.” He had never said that much about his childhood to one person before.

 

        Charles blushed crimson, the freckles on his cheeks standing out. “That, I am afraid is the plight of the telepath. Many of us want to help people and think that our powers give us a leg up in the mystery that is the mind. Many mean well but sometimes it may not seem like it.” He reached across and took Erik’s hand in his. Warmth shot up Erik’s arm at the contact.  “I will promise you here and now that I will not read your mind. I hope that we can get together for dinner very soon so that we can get to know each other better the normal way.” Earnest blue eyes bore into his, and he couldn’t do anything but nod. This was all very strange. He usually didn’t take to people this fast. People usually wanted to get away from him by this now, not make plans to spend more time with him.

 

        “Uh, sure.” He was so talkative today. Way to go, Lensherr!

 

Erik was desperate to change the subject. “So umm. What happened back there? Did you?” he wiggled his fingers near his temple. Charles laughed and blushed a little bit. He did blush quite prettily and often. “I do have a confession to make. I usually only use my powers for good but today I was a bit selfish.  I was behind you in line and you were projecting such intense frustration at your boss and everyone around you I decided to help a little.  I convinced the people in line that they could come to the DMV another day.” Charles seemed very pleased with himself.  Erik chewed on the plastic stirrer from his cup. “Wait,” he pointed the stirrer at Charles, “you said that you had selfish reasons. What you did seems like a public service; I wasn’t sure if was able to be held responsible for my actions if I had to be there any longer.”

 

        Charles clutched the paper cup of tea with both hands, “Yes, well. That part was for the greater good. The part I mean is that I snuck into the mind of the girl behind the counter. I took a peek at your information. I know that it was a grievous breech of privacy and a little creepy, but I just had to speak to you.”

 

        Erik’s mind stuttered.  “You didn’t read my mind?” Charles nodded.

 

“How much of the form did you see? What do you know about me?”

 

        “Everything.”

 

        Ah. OK then.

 

        “I bent three parking meters into giant pretzels and peppered a meter attendant with coins because my boss is an ass and I got a parking ticket while on an errand for him.”

 

        Charles smirked. “Yes. I know.” He lazily dragged his pale slim finger around the rim of his cup. Erik watched fascinated. “I have something else to confess. I may have influenced the girl at the DMV to reduce your ticket. You’ll receive a refund check in the mail.” He said quickly, not looking at him.

 

        Oh dear God, this guy was too much.  “You forced her?” he snarled.

 

        “I gently suggested. She was quitting anyway. They can’t punish you for her rebellion.” Charles leaned in, eyes intense.  “Forgive me?”

 

        Yes. No. Maybe.

 

        “Let me think about it.”

Chapter Text

     Erik was released from the hospital the day after the accident. He had had minor injuries and they needed the bed. It was just as well, between his concern for Charles and the bad memories of hospitals as a child; it was starting to make him itch. He found himself sitting in a chair in Dr. Renee Spencer's office, using his power to thread Charles' wedding ring through his fingers, the metal cold in its orphaned state, waiting for her to come back from rounds. They were going to 'chat' for a while and then go see Charles. When she has stopped by his room that morning before rounds, he had jumped at the chance to see his husband but Dr. Spencer wanted to be with him and she had other patients to see. This was the longest he and Charles had been apart for quite some time, and although he was a grown man, 32 years old, it felt as if the other half of his soul was missing. He hadn’t felt this alone since his parents died when he was ten. 

    The office was nice: not opulent but still rich looking.  The furniture was functional and modern that didn’t seem too comfortable but was better than the hard plastic chairs in the main waiting room. There were windows on the entire right side overlooking the medical center’s quad.  There was a desk in the room and two chairs opposite it. The wall behind the desk was covered with degrees and awards from medical schools and a few from the MCLU, Mutant Civil Liberties Union or “Brotherhood” as it was called by the more radical mutant activists. “Terrorists” Charles would say. Dr. Spencer didn't say that she was a mutant, but Erik had a feeling that she had some sort of gift. He wished Charles was there, he had a knack for spotting mutants, even without his telepathy.

     “I guess I’ve spent so many years studying mutations, I see them everywhere.” Charles had joked once while they had been with their friends. Darwin had suggested that might be a secondary mutation, but Charles didn't think so. “I knew Hank was a mutant this first time I saw him, and-” he looked pointedly at Alex, “not by his feet! It was-I don't know how to explain-” Charles ran his fingers through his thick chestnut hair, tugging it in frustration. “No, it had to be the feet.” Alex interrupted. Everyone groaned at the long-standing joke as Hank flushed and Raven sputtered, her face turning a wicked shade of indignant purple. Sean threw a pillow at his friend and Alex blocked it, letting it hit Angel on the side of her head.  After that, it became an all out war: Angel and Moira joining in to throw pillows and popcorn at the boys all over the living room of Erik and Charles' apartment.  It was funny until Sean shrieked with laughter and shattered three windows.

   Erik started when the door opened and the doctor came in. He rose and shook her hand, hoping that his palms weren’t too sweaty. Dr. Spencer was a petite woman with black hair and blue eyes. She was kind looking, but it was obvious that she took her job seriously. She was a trauma physician who specialized in serious cases involving mutants. “Mr. Lensherr thanks for waiting. I know that you're anxious to see your husband.  I have some things that I need to go over with you first.” She walked over to her desk and sat down flipping open a rather large brown folder.  Her eyes skimmed the top page for a second and then she folded her hands in front of her. “Charles sustained massive head trauma. There was bleeding in the brain, an epidural hematoma. It’s the most serious of head injuries.  It could have been fatal.  There was blood built up between the dura matter and the skull.  There was some leaking into his spinal column as well.  Fortunately, the swelling has been controlled and it seems that there isn’t any brain damage. We have had him under sedation so that his brain could heal on its own. We plan on weaning his off the medication and see if he wakes up on his own. There isn’t much else we can tell until he wakes up.”

     Raven had given him the shorter version the other day when she had come to see him: either she glossed over the details for his sake or she was too upset to let the medical jargon sink in. Dr. Spencer leaned forward a little. “Now the biggest question will be is he going to be the same Charles as before. That I cannot say. The brain is still a mystery to many people, even telepaths. It’s the wait-and-see game from now until he wakes up. It could be hours or days until then. Do you have any questions?”

    A hundred different questions swirled in Erik’s throbbing head and his tongue felt thick in his mouth, “Can I see him?” was all he could manage at the moment. Dr. Spencer smiled a little, her eyes filled with understanding. “Yes. The best thing that I can prescribe is your presence. If he’s half as in love with you as you are with him, just sitting there could do marvels for his recovery.” She rose and made her way to the door. Erik got up on trembling legs and followed her to the MICU. She started to talk about after care and if Charles would need physical therapy. Erik let her natter on as they walked. He wasn’t good at these kinds of things. Charles was the more responsible one. He took care of the bills (there were many) and the money (there wasn’t nearly enough) and remembered birthdays and anniversaries. He would just truss Erik up in a suit and push a gift into his hand for a colleague’s new baby or a neighbor’s 30th wedding anniversary. All Erik had to do was stand there and at least try not to look like a constipated shark.

   They reached the MICU and Erik had his first glimpse of Charles in nearly two days. He was stretched out on the bed looking small and frail. His skin was deathly pale and his usually sinfully red lips were barley pink. There were lacerations on his forehead and chin from going through the windshield. The guilt that swelled in Erik almost overwhelmed him. The soft beep beep of the monitors hooked up to almost every available part of the telepath made him look more machine than man.  He gave Dr. Spencer a quick look as if asking permission. She nodded and took a quick look at the chart before retreating quietly.

   There was a chair near the bed and Erik dragged it over, the scrape of the feet on the linoleum very loud in the near silent room.  He winced but tried to get it over with as quickly as possible.  He sat and took Charles’ hand in his. He gently pressed the fragile bones of his knuckles, trying to rub some warmth back into the cold digits.  Charles’ hand twitched in his and Erik’s eyes shot up to his husband’s face. There was a slight frown between his eyes but no other sign of him waking. He sat there for some time, just holding his hand. He began to softly sing “Come What May” from Moulin Rouge, Charles’ favorite movie. Erik didn’t care for the stimuli overload of the film but Charles adored it. Erik had to admit that the songs were kind of catchy, and that particular one had become their unofficial song not long into their relationship.  Charles had even managed to get a hold of a karaoke version of the “Elephant Love Medley” and charmed him into singing it with him. He had a hunch that Darwin’s hacking skills had procured Charles that particular piece of music. 

   Erik leaned in close to his husband’s lips. “Come what may…” Erik breathed. “Come what may…I will love you ‘till my dy--ing day…”

   He heard a sniffle behind him and quickly moved back. Raven stood there, watching them with tears in her eyes.  “Oh! P-please, don’t mind me. I can leave-” she turned to go, her blonde hair whipping around. “No!” Erik barked, and then closed his mouth in embarrassment. She turned back to him. “No,” he said quieter. “I have to go back to work in the morning, Shaw is threatening to fire me if I don’t show for the quarterly meeting and I was barely able to pay the bills before this. I need to keep my job.” He ran his fingers through his hair. His phone had almost exploded with the amount of messages and texts from Shaw in the past 24 hours.

    Raven scowled as she came into the room and set her purse down. “I can’t believe him! You and your husband have been in a serious accident, Charles still in a coma, and he’s worried about reports? I swear that man is one site accident away from being a super villain.” Erik chuckled.  “Yea. Well he wants me at the office bright and early and I want someone here with Charles at all times. The doctor said he could wake up in hours, days, or weeks.” Oh God, weeks. Weeks were a possibility. Raven shuddered as she slid down to sit on the arm of the chair. “Hank has taken up Charles’ research for the time being, the university is being very understanding.  Too bad Charles was doing the work pro bono.” Charles had used his share of the grant money to invest in new machines and more lab time, while not taking in a salary.  It had hurt them financially, but they were surviving. Barely. 

    Erik got up and stretched his tight muscles and hugged Raven tight and kissed the top of her head. “Call me if anything happens.” He murmured to into her hair.  She nodded slightly and took his place in the chair for her part of the vigil. He grabbed his coat off the side of the bed and shrugged it on. He moved to the door and Raven’s quiet voice stopped him. “Charles is so lucky to have you. I know he can wear the patience of a saint. If you two weren’t so ooey-gooey in love and I didn’t have Hank, I would have made a try for you myself. Hank’s a great guy. He’s grateful that I stayed with him after the lab accident. He’s smart and kind and still as handsome as the day I met him, even more so now. He wooed me by saying that my genes were super sexy.” She grinned wolfishly. Both Charles and Erik knew that Raven had had a huge crush on Erik from the beginning. Hank’s arrival had been a Godsend in more ways than one.

    Erik grinned, “You are exquisite, but Charles and I are a sure thing. Besides, Hank would choke the life out of me if I even tried.” It was Raven’s turn to laugh as she shooed him away. “Go. Take a shower and get some sleep. Try not to kill your boss tomorrow.” Erik nodded. “Do you need me to get you anything?” he asked, stalling for more time in Charles’ room. She shook her head. “Moria said she would stop by before visiting hours are over, she said that she and Angel were making a survival kit for me.” Cosmo and chocolate, Erik guessed. He went back to Charles’ bedside and kissed his forehead. “Come back to me,” he whispered as he slid Charles’ wedding ring back onto his ring finger. With one more glance at the Xaiver siblings, Erik left.  

 

Chapter Text

      The next week was a whirlwind of work and sitting at Charles’ bedside. Each of their friends took turns sitting with Charles when Raven had school and Erik had to work. Shaw was being a right bastard when Erik had begged for time off. “They can call you if anything happens at the hospital. Sitting in a room with a comatose man isn’t going to get the specs for the new all-terrain vehicle done.” Erik wanted to punch him. Instead, he used his powers to shift the satellite dish on the roof a few feet so that Shaw’s personal media room would be offline for a while.  It took a week to figure out and fix the problem.  The techs who repaired the dish knew it was Erik who did it, but they hated Shaw as much as he did so they didn’t say anything.  Also, Charles had sent over a gift basket to one of them when his wife had a baby last year. Score one for Team Charles.

      Between work and spending time at the hospital, Erik spent only a few hours at home each day.  Charles had moved into Erik’s converted warehouse studio apartment the spring before they had married. It wasn’t glamorous, like the Westchester mansion that Charles had grown up in, but was far better than the concentration camp-like group home that Erik had lived in when his parents died. There was a kitchen that was bright and airy with metal and ceramic tile island in the middle.  A large open space that served as office/living room took up most of the ground floor of the apartment and an area in the back that was their bedroom was separated from the rest by a metal and glass partition.

       Raven commandeered the small loft upstairs as her own as soon as Charles had moved in; a safe haven from the hostile environment of her life in Westchester. She was a student at Columbia, with a dorm room and roommates Kitty and Angel, but her independent gypsy lifestyle had her flitting from the mansion in Westchester to Hanks’ apartment in Alphabet City to Charles and Erik’s in a rotation that only she was privy to. 

       Erik had moved in right after he got his position at Shaw Industries; it had been sparsely furnished with a shitty couch that he had bought at the Salvation Army and a table set that Alex and Darwin had been getting rid of. They had a couch too, but Erik didn’t trust its history.  Slowly he had filled it with metal pieces from scrap yards and garage sales.  “Scrap Yard Chic” is what Charles had called it the first time he saw the apartment a week after they had met. When Charles moved in he brought better furniture and bedding so the apartment had gone from scrap yard to professor’s office meets poor little rich boy.

       Charles had a large oak desk, among other things, that had belonged to his father that he had brought with him from Oxford. Despite the fact that his mother and step-father had disowned him for being both gay and mutant when he was 21, he still had had access to the family money while at Oxford and had stocked up on quality items while he had the chance. Apparently the Xavier family had contributed much money to the university and cutting off the heir to the family fortune while he was still studying was considered bad form. As soon as Charles left school, the money was cut off. He had just enough to get back to New York and apply for aid before school started at Columbia that fall. Luckily he had been accepted early so he still had a spot.  He was able to work off most of his school loans by working at the labs in the genetics department. That is where he met Hank McCoy, science genius and social idiot.  Charles had been his last year of graduate work when he met Erik.

     It was two weeks after the accident that Charles showed any kind of improvement. Dr. Spencer didn’t seem worried about Charles’ coma.  His vitals were strong and the MRI had shown that the swelling was almost gone. “Let him wake on his own, a shock to his system would be even more traumatic.” She had advised. One Friday night, Erik found himself in the main corridor of the MICU dying for a real cup of coffee.  Suddenly, the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled his senses. He looked up to find the most rag tag team of kids that there ever was.  Raven, of course, today in a brown trench coat and knee high boots, she was in a ‘60’s mini-dress period at the moment. Hank, spilling out of his plaid shirt and khakis, glasses forever askew. Angel in her posh ‘stripper’ getup : black leather and fishnets.   Alex, Sean and Darwin in worn jeans, Converse, and faded band t-shirts.  Moira in a stiff skirt and suit jacket, clearly just coming off work at the university’s library.  They were all holding something: Raven a backpack from Charles’ university days, Darwin, Sean and Moira had coffee, and the rest had food ranging from doughnuts to curry.  “We all met up at school and decided that we should make a date of it.” Moira chirped as she handed Erik a steaming cup. “She already dumped half a pound of sugar into that,” Darwin warned as Erik began to paw one handed through the bag of straws and covers for the coffee extras.  “Thanks,” he said as he took a long sip. Ahh, real coffee; better than sex. Not as good as sex with Charles though.

     They settled into an alcove that had become the unofficial Charles Xavier Watitng Area. There were enough tables and chairs to accommodate and anyone who wasn’t part of their club was scared away by one person or another.  Some found Hank intimidating and others found out the hard way that Angel could spit fire (literally and figuratively) when riled.  “Tell me that you guys haven’t given up your Friday night to sit here with me while I mope.” Erik said as he helped himself to a serving of beef curry.

     “Oh please. We are Charles’ friends, and yours-” Moira glared when he began to argue, “so don’t think that you’re alone in this.”

      “Yea man. I mean it’s like watching Shark Week, the way you pace the floor. There’s a reason why the “Jaws” theme is my ringtone for you.” Sean smiled at him from behind his round purple John Lennon glasses.  Moira rolls her eyes at her boyfriend. “It’s all good Erik. Cassie’s band doesn’t go on until 11 so we have plenty of time. Especially when Sean is the lead singer’s muse and Dazzler won’t sing unless he’s there.” Alex high fived Sean while Darwin voiced his assent with a “Whoop!” Moira scowled; Sean’s sister Cassie was in a band called the Sirens and the lead singer, Dazzler, had the hots for Sean, much to Moira’s chagrin and everyone else’s amusement. 

     Erik smiled. “Thanks. I really mean it.” The smile must have been warm and friendly since Raven squealed and jumped him. He almost spilled his food as she climbed all over him. “Raven! Mein Gott!” he barked as she pulled away. “AWW” everyone else cooed. “Erik you are such an Xavier magnet.” Angel giggled.  “Ha ha,” he griped, but the smile lingered. Four years ago he would never image that he would have such good friends. Several close friends who were spending their Friday night with him in the hospital waiting room.  Not just for Charles, but for him. They had all been to the wedding, the small intimate group that sat with him now. Charles would be happy that Erik wasn’t alone in his vigil.

     It was almost 10 by the time the team left, having to get to Brooklyn in time to see the show. Raven left the bag of clothes for Erik and his shaving kit. “Trust me; you look like Mr. Rochester at the end of Jane Eyre. Not that that’s a bad thing per say, but you might want to clean up a bit.” She kissed his cheek. He grunted as he nursed his third cup of coffee. Hank offered to stay, still not comfortable in large crowds since his transformation. It took a lot of coaxing from the group to get him to go.

      Erik watched as they left the hall, laughing and joking. He got up and brought the leftovers over to the nurses’ station where Hazel and Claire were watching a Mutant documentary on PBS. “Ladies, with my thanks.” He nodded to them and presented them with a variety of foods with a smile. Hazel was an older Jewish lady who had picked up on Erik’s heritage right away. “Thanks, bubbala.” She smiled as Claire almost dropped dead at the sight of such a gorgeous man. Hazel smacked her arm, “Claire! His husband is in one of those rooms! Stop being a flirt!” the older woman scolded. Claire looked chastised as she took a sandwich from the offerings. His virtue was safe for another day with the Avenging Hazel on his side. She reminded Erik a lot of his mother; so much so that the first time he met the older woman he almost wept openly. Never had he wanted his mother more than when he was falling apart about Charles. Charles had been the one that he had gone to, now he didn't have that safe haven.  She must have sensed it since she wrapped him in a motherly perfumed embrace. “Alles ist gut.” She whispered in his ear.

      Erik sighed silently as he made his way to the bathroom in Charles’s room. He quickly lathered up and skimmed off the facial hair that had been the cause of Raven’s dismay. He thought back to Claire, the silly young nurse who had her eye on him. Erik had been extremely jealous and protective early on in his relationship with Charles. Every man and a few women were seen as threats. He once punched Alex’s brother, Scott, for hugging Charles a little too tightly for his comfort.  It turned out that Alex would have been kicked out of school if Charles hadn’t started tutoring him and helped him get his act together before the end of the first semester. Charles was never jealous; he knew that Erik was his and his alone. Erik sometimes envied that confident air that Charles exhibited, almost omniscient.  “No you don’t.” Charles said darkly after Erik had confessed as much one evening. The haunted look in his eyes made Erik drop the topic.

      Monday rolled around soon enough. There was no change in Charles’ condition and Shaw was breathing down his neck to get his share of the all-terrain vehicle’s circuitry done before the presentation to Tony Stark that Thursday. Erik was up to his elbows in circuits and motherboards when his cell phone went off. He squinted a moment, concentrating, as it rose from his desk and floated to him from across the workshop. “What.” He barked into speaker. Shaw would have his damn piece when he was done with it. Erik dropped the motherboard in his hands when he heard the voice at the other end.

“Mr. Lensherr. It’s Dr. Spencer. You should get here as soon as you can. Something’s going on with Charles.”

 

Chapter Text

      Computer pieces flew all over the room, some embedding themselves into tables and the floor as Erik made a mad dash for his coat. His keys snapped into his hand while he shrugged into his leather jacket and sprinted down the corridor. He jabbed the “Down” button on the elevator and felt the car rise through the core of the building, half glancing at the door that lead to the stairs, debating on whether or not it would be faster. The ping of the elevator arriving shook him out of his thoughts and he slid through the crack in the doors as soon as it was big enough.  He stumbled into the elevator car and straight into Azazel, Shaw's right hand man.  The red skinned demonic-looking mutant stepped back as Erik barreled into him. He shot out a long nailed hand to make sure that Erik stayed upright as he straightened his Mandarin collar with his other.

          “Steady Comrade. Shaw can wait a few moments for the motor for his Matchbox car, no?” the Russian grinned devilishly. Erik shook his head, “Not going to see Shaw. The doctor, she called. Charles.” he was hyperventilating now, unable to produce more than short sentences. The other mutant squinted at him a moment and then his prehensile tail shot out and pressed the Emergency Stop button on the control pad. The whole car jerked to a dead halt in the middle of the shaft, gears whirring as they bit into each other. Erik lurched forward then back hitting his back on the cold steel doors. “What the hell!” he screamed. “I have to get to my car! I need to get to him!” he made a grab for Azazel and all the while the mutant grinned. “Agreed.” he said and then he and Erik were engulfed in smoke.

          Erik could smell brimstone, could feel flames lick at his heels for a flat second, before he blinked again and found himself in the MICU of the hospital, one hand on the mutant's shoulder, the other arm still raised to strike out at the him. The nurse behind the desk shrieked, papers flying everywhere at the sudden sight of a devil and man in the middle of the waiting room. Erik stepped back, still reeling. Shaw's bodyguard/personal killing machine had just transported him across town in the time it took to close the elevator doors back at the office. “Uh, thank you.” he managed as he shook himself back into some semblance of calm.  The trip had snapped him out of the panic attack that was threatening to consume him after the doctor called.

          The other mutant waved a hand, his tail lazily drifting to and fro behind him. “Is nothing. I tell Shaw you have emergency, yes? Janos can deliver the pieces to the rest of team. You have bigger things to worry about.” Erik had never felt comfortable around the red skinned mutant, despite the fact that he hadn't been raised to fear the Christian version of demons. His physical appearance made almost everyone uneasy. The man was deadly in ways that Erik didn't want to know about. Shaw was dangerous enough without Azazel around; it made Erik very nervous that Shaw had access to such powerful mutants.

          A woman called to Erik from the end of the hall, half hanging out of a room. Erik looked back and saw Dr. Spencer in the doorway of Charles' room. He looked back at Azazel and nodded his thanks. With a slight nod of acknowledgment, the mutant popped out again in a puff of smoke and harsh smell of sulfur. 

 

   Dr. Spencer walked quickly to his side, her cheeks flushed. “I’m sorry that I worried you. He's off the meds and is coming out of the coma; I wanted to make sure you were the first person he saw when he woke up. You didn't have to get your friend to uh, drop you off.” She smiled ruefully. Erik rubbed the back of his neck. “Azazel works for my boss. I guess I was a little panicked; I ran into him in the elevator. He must have sensed that I was in a hurry and decided to help.”

          The doctor smiled, “Sometimes friends show up in the oddest places at just the right time.  Come on, Charles should be waking up any moment. I don't want to miss the big reunion.” She put a hand on Erik's back and led him to Charles' room. Charles was half sitting up in the bed; the only medical equipment was an IV drip in his hand.  “I have him on telepathy suppressants right now. I don't want to give him a sensory overload and I don't want to give the entire floor a migraine.” She explained as she flipped through the chart at the end of the bed. Erik nodded; he had firsthand experience with Charles' telepathy going haywire and the havoc that it could wreak even unintentionally. He braced his hands against the railing of the bed leaning forward and took a deep breath. Charles was coming back to him. Soon he would have his husband, his mate, his reason for living, back. Since the accident Erik felt as if there was a huge gap in his life that only Charles could fill.

       It wasn’t just the sex, which was fantastic. Charles had this knack of working his way into your life and turning it upside down. Charles was his conscience, his calming exercise when Shaw or others made him want to rip the metal out of their fillings as punishment for being stupid. Dr. Spencer moved closer to him, both looking down at the sleeping telepath. “I’ve been working in this ward for ten years. I’ve seen married couples, dating couples, young and old. I’ve treated mutants for injuries from drunk drivers to household accidents to victims of assault.  Good people and not so good people. The love and respect that your friends have for you and Charles is a rare thing. The love that you have for this young man isn’t something that is seen every day. I just want to make sure that you have realistic expectations. Things aren’t going to be any easier. They’re going to be harder.”

      Erik nodded. “Sometimes he’s the only thing that keeps me from becoming monstrous. There’s a bit of a gap in my life right now to be honest.” He reached out and gently stroked the inside if Charles’ arm. The pale smooth skin was warm under his calloused fingers; the rough pads of his fingers from Sauder burns dragged across the delicate skin and Charles’ arm jerked under his touch. Erik’s eyes shot up to his husband’s face. Charles moaned a little and his eyes moved beneath pale lids. Erik went to grab his hand but the doctor pushed between them. “Give him some space,” she hissed as she pulled out a pen light, ready to check Charles’ pupils.

     Erik pulled back, heart racing. This was it. Charles was coming back to him. “Charles?” the doctor called softly. “Charles can you hear me?” Red rimmed blue eyes opened, blinking like a startled owl against the harsh light. Erik saw Charles wince as he adjusted himself in the bed; he grimaced in sympathy at the abuse that slight body had been through. He resolved to wait on his husband hand and foot: back rubs, warm baths, hot tea with butter biscuits. He would drive poor Charles mad in a few days but his husband would surely take pity on him.

      Daring to move forward, Erik said, “Charles?” Charles tried to move his head toward his voice but the pained look on his face made him stop mid-turn. He fell sideways a little; Erik leaping forward to catch him but Dr. Spencer was closer. “Whoa. Steady there. Erik, why don't you come over here so he doesn't have to move?” her voice was kind but there was an edge of steel in it. If Erik was going to hinder Charles’ recovery in any way, intentional or not, she was not going to have it.

     “Do you know your name?” Dr. Spencer asked.

      “Charles Xavier.” His voice was croaky with disuse. The doctor took a cup from the bedside table. After Charles had a few sips, he sighed and leaned back.

       “Do you know where you are?” she asked gently.

Charles smirked, “I’m afraid that you’ll have to be more specific, Doctor. I am obviously in a hospital, and most like still in New York City.” Charles crinkled his nose, “At least I hope I’m still in New York City.”

     Erik was so relieved to hear that soft voice that the context of what he said didn’t register immediately. Charles never sounded that—snooty in all the years that he had known Charles.

     “Yes on both counts.” It was the doctor’s turn to smirk. She then sobered as she said, “Charles, you were in an accident a few weeks ago. You hit your head pretty badly; you’ve been in a coma.”

    “So that’s why my head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton then.”

     “Yes, well we’ve got you on dampeners until you’re back on your feet. It’s a precaution for everyone. Do you know about your-” she wiggled her fingers near her temple.

      “Telepathy? Yes, of course. I’ve had it since I was a very small child.” He smiled at the doctor as if she were a small child. Erik started panicking a little. Charles was kind, almost to a fault, but this—condescending tone—was something that Charles only used for ignoratn academics who got under skin. Perhaps there was some kind of brain damage after all?

     The doctor flushed a little, “Well we want to make sure that you are able to control your powers before we release you.” It stating the obvious, but it was clear she had been caught off guard.

     Erik took this opportunity to speak up. “Do you know who I am?” God, did his voice sound as desperate as it did to his own ears? Even he could clearly hear the German accent heavy in his voice, thick consonants, guttural. He had worked so hard to rid himself of his accent that it only came out in times of pure exhaustion.

    Charles looked at him and smiled beatifically.  “Yes, of course. You’re a doctor too.”

Chapter Text

       Erik wished that the floor would open up and swallow him whole. He heard the doctor make a noise of dismay behind him. He lost all feeling in his limbs. Hot and cold needles pricked all across his skin.  His head swam; he was going to be sick. This was a nightmare. It had to be a nightmare. No one would play such a sick game on him, he was sure. No one would think that this was funny in the least.

      Charles, damn him, seemed oblivious to Erik’s distress. He turned to Dr. Spencer and said, “Would you would be so kind as to tell me if my younger sister is around? Raven must be going out of her mind.” He turned to Erik, and in a conversational tone said, “She’s only 16, poor girl. She shouldn’t have to bear this alone.”

Raven? 16? What the hell? “Charles, Raven is-” Erik began, ready to correct the man’s math.

    “CHARLES!” A girlish cry came from the doorway. Raven came crashing into the room pushing past the stunned forms of Erik and Dr. Spencer, falling into a graceless heap in Charles’ lap. Charles was startled, to say the least. “Wha-? Raven? What are you-? Why are you-? Why do you look like that?” he stammered. Raven pulled away, concern clear on her face. “What on earth are you talking about “Why do I look like that?” I always look like this.” Blonde, blue eyed, fashionably dressed; she smoothed down her shining hair, “I look like this most of the time. Or do you mean like this?” Her form rippled like a thousand tiny waves, her appearance shifted until she was scarlet haired, golden eyed, and blue scaled.

           Charles shook his head; at least he wasn’t startled by her natural blue form. He struggled to sit up better. “No! I mean you’re older! Why are you using an older version of ‘you’?” he gestured sharply. Before she could answer, Erik interjected, “Charles, Raven is 20 years old. She’ll be 21 in a few weeks. She’s not 16 anymore.”

            Raven snorted, “That’s for damn sure.”

            “Raven?” Hank called from the hall. “Is everything ok?” He poked his head into the room. Charles looked up at the sound of a familiar voice and gave a squawk of surprise. “HANK? Dear God! You’re-” he gesticulated wildly indicating his massive form. Hank straightened his glasses, “Devilishly handsome?”  Raven suggested, as Hank  shrugged grinning self-deprecatingly, still uncomfortable in his new skin. Raven sidled up to him. “Hank’s experiment went a little...wrong last year.” Raven explained, gazing fondly up at the large blue furry young man.

          “How did an undergrad get access to the labs for such an experiment? Hank, you should have known better.” Charles Xavier the Professor was emerging in Charles’s tone. It was a good sign. Hank looked uncomfortable. “Uh, I finished my thesis last year. You were my advisor, and you were there that night that I tried to fix my feet.”

Charles blinked, “Wait. What do you mean last year? I haven’t finished my own thesis yet. You’re still an undergrad.” He insisted.

         “What the hell is going on? Why does he think that it’s 2007? Is this normal?” Erik barked at the doctor who just stood there watching the scene. She shook her head. “Memory loss is normal. Some people lose certain memories, certain events or people, chunks of time, but 5 years is pretty rare.”

         Erik growled as he threaded his hands through his hair in frustration. “Will it come back? Will he remember?” It was Hank answered. “Some amnesia patients wake up one day with their lost memories returned. Others never regain their memories.  Hypnosis has proven helpful. I don’t think that there have been studies done on amnesiac telepaths, though.”

       That did it. Erik practically roared in frustration and the room exploded.

      “Erik!” Dr. Spencer shouted.

      “Stop! Please stop!” Charles wailed, cowering over the prone form of his sister. Erik’s rage sloshed away like dead skin. He felt drained, weak, blood drumming in his ears.  He surged forward, lightheaded. Dr. Spencer was at his elbow as Hank rushed to Raven’s side. “Jesus Christ Erik, what the hell!” Raven screeched from the protection of Charles’ arms. The girl slowly crawled away into Hanks’ embrace, the young man’s face wary of the other mutant. “Sorry,” he mumbled to Hank. Hank nodded a little, still poised to protect.

      Charles was curled up into himself encased in a metal rat’s nest that was his bed. “Oh God, Charles,” Erik groaned, lunging forward; Dr. Spencer’s grip tightened as sharp pins pricked his arm through his jacket. He looked down to see sharp nails digging into him. Dr. Spencer looked shaken but determined.  “I can inject a paralyzing toxin through my nails. It’s not lethal but I could knock you out in five seconds. And I will of you don’t back off.” She only released him when he moved back towards the other side of the room.

    “I’m sorry,” he said to no one particular. 

    “Gentlemen…” Dr. Spencer began.

     Charles huffed, “Well I know you’re not a doctor, your bedside manner sucks.”

     “I’m trying to get my head wrapped around this bullshit, and you have the nerve to insult me?” Erik spat.

     “What else am I supposed to do? I wake up in a hospital get told that my brain has been scrambled, with no memories of the last five years and you expect me to be ok with that?” Charles was incensed. 

     “Boys...”

     “I’m not a fucking doctor, Charles. I’m your husband!” He roared.

    “Oh lord,” Raven’s hand went up to her face.  Charles was stunned into silence. He lifted his left hand and found a gold ring on his left ring finger. His mouth formed a little O in shock. Four faces stared at him, looks ranging from pity to shame to concern to open anger. Charles crossed his arms over his thin chest. “I seem be missing a few memories.” He admitted wearily.

“No shit.” Everyone turned around to stare openly at Hank’s succinct assessment.

 

 

        He had been engulfed in white. The air was white. It filled his ears with a humming noise that vibrated his brain in his skull. Behind his eyelids it was white. Did white have a taste? If so, it was like eating pinecones and dry bark. Wasn't supposed to taste like cotton candy or something? He felt like he did if he had had too much champagne. Dizzy and sick. He tried to open his eyes, they were crusty and dry, and it took a decided effort to crack them open. His retinas burned at the harsh white light that assaulted him.

            “Charles?” a female voice asked. She sounded so far away, in a tunnel. “Charles can you hear me?” she asked again and a smaller brighter light was thrust into his poor abused eyes. He blinked several times and many things came into focus. First, there was a pretty woman with black hair staring at him intently. She wore a white coat with a stethoscope around her neck. Doctor, his foggy brain provided.  He winced as he sat up a little, body stiff in so many places. He neck had a crick the size of a great white shark in it and his legs felt heavy and useless.

            “Charles?” a man's voice, rough with some kind of accent came from his other side. He turned his head slightly and the pain in his skull made him want to vomit. The doctor must have sensed this; she quickly put a hand to his chest. “Whoa there. Steady. Erik, why don't you come over here so he doesn't have to move?”

          When the man came into view, Charles' heart did a little flip-flop. Tall, sharp features, handsome, intense blue-green eyes. He looked so bone-wearingly tired that Charles wanted to ask him to sit down before he collapsed. There was such intensity in those eyes that it made Charles uncomfortable. He thought that he knew what that look meant, but he didn’t want to admit it. It was pure adoration. He had seen that look in Raven’s eyes many times as a child, especially right after her adoption. He longed for that look in the eyes of his lover, and had yet to receive it. Christian Frost was many things; he could be as cold as his surname suggested.

      The man made the room explode. Fighting, yelling, his mind clouded with drugs. Raven: 21 years old. Hank: blue and furry. He was a professor at Columbia. Five years, gone. A husband who was not the same man that he was engaged to the last he knew.

     "I seem be missing a few memories.” He admitted wearily.

     "No shit."  Hank always had a way with words.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Erik had been IM’ing with Charles for about a week before asking him out on an official date.

Magneto : So, I think that we should go out to dinner.

ProfX : That sounds like a lovely idea. Do you have any place in mind?  I’m afraid. I am currently without a car so it would have to be close.

Magneto : I was thinking about the Gramercy Tavern. Why don’t you have a car?

ProfX : That, my friend, will be a conversation for dinner. Tell me when. I have a clear schedule at the moment.

Magneto : So you have a clear schedule? I thought that you were a grad student. I never had any free time when I was in school.

ProfX : LOL. Yes, usually free time is something that I have little of. I have made a point to clear my immediate schedule in case you asked me out.

  Magneto : I don’t know if that’s creepy or endearing. How about Friday at seven?

ProfX : Lovely. I will see you then. :)

    Erik sat back in his chair, hands behind his head, grinning. Charles just gave him a smiley face. God, he was such a sixteen year old girl. He leaned in and clicked on the link for the Tavern. He frowned as he read about how hard it was to get a reservation. The receiver to the phone lifted into his outstretched hand as he dialed the number listed on the website. He spent another half hour on the phone trying to confirm a reservation. By the end of his ordeal, he surmised that it would have been easier to lift a sub out of the ocean than get a reservation at a damn eating establishment. Apparently you didn’t need reservations to eat in the front room but it was always busy and the back room was booked solid.

   “Erik.” He heard from behind him. He sat up a little straighter and swiveled in his chair as he grinned sardonically at his employer. “Hello Shaw. What brings you down to the Danger Room? Come to watch us slave away on the projects you get all the credit for?” The entire bullpen was dead silent. Not one person moved. Ringing phones went unanswered; photocopies that fell into the tray went uncollected. Every eye in the office was on Sebastian Shaw and Erik Lehnsherr.  The muscle in Shaw’s jaw ticked. That was the only indication that the words had any effect on him. Instead he smiled paternally at his discourteous employee. “As a matter of fact, Erik, I came down to offer my services in your little endeavor.” He nodded towards the computer screen, the website still up for the Tavern. “I can make a call and get you a reservation for two. Say seven o’clock Friday?” The shit-eating grin on Shaw’s face left little to the imagination. The steel bars in the windows creaked as Erik stood up and faced his boss. “No thank you. I have faith that I can get in to a restaurant without having to resort to name dropping.” Shaw held up his hands in front of him in a defensive gesture. “Fine, fine; I just wanted to help out a fellow champion of love. I myself have a date this weekend. The lady is-temperamental- to say the least. I am pulling out all the stops for her this weekend. I hope that we both get what we want.”

    Erik gritted his teeth, “Good luck with your lady friend, Shaw. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to finish the circuit board for the Coulson account. We wouldn’t want your reputation to be tarnished by it being late.” Erik just stood there, smiling, waiting for Shaw to make his move. Shaw smiled, slipped his hands into his Armani suit jacket, and walked away.

    The collective sigh of relief was palpable.  Then the scurry to computers began, with almost every employee scrambling to delete the browser’s history in their computers. Erik sat down again and wrote down the number for the restaurant. So, Shaw was watching his computer. Maybe it was a company thing. He would make sure to be more careful in the future. No more IM’ing Charles from the office either.  That sucked. He and Charles had been chatting for a while, and Erik was having fun sharing conversation with a witty opponent. They had also started internet chess games in-between projects and papers. Erik sent a quick email to Charles telling him that they would have to keep their communications to after work hours. Charles was sympathetic, apologizing for taking up valuable company time. Erik thanked him but really wanted to say that his boss was a crazy bastard who enjoyed making people miserable. The only reason he curbed his impulse was that he knew Shaw was monitoring his work station.

    Erik stood outside the Gramercy Tavern at 6:50 Friday night, waiting for Charles. He kept looking at his watch impatiently; hands fiddling with the hat that he wished he hadn’t brought. What made him grab that damned fedora from the rack near his couch? It had been his father’s good hat, the one that he had worn on special occasions. It was one of the few possessions that he had left from his parents. Apparently old hats had little value even to the punks in the group home. He had dressed carefully in a lean cut black suit with a red skinny tie and white shirt. He actually felt like a member of the Rat Pack, which meant he felt a little foolish.  From the looks he was getting from females as he exited the subway gave him the impression that he at least was looking good for their tastes. He just hoped Charles felt the same.

    He wasn’t worried about Charles standing him up. He was coming; three harried texts and a breathless phone call confirmed that. He had asked to be put on the seating list for the main dining room and was told that it was first come first served, and the private room was booked solid. It looked like he was going to be buying Charles a hot dog from a street vendor for their first date.

     "Sounds good to me.  I like a lot of relish and mustard on my hot dog. Raven thinks that it’s sacrilege to have anything but ketchup.  An amused British voiced quipped behind him. Erik spun around to find a slightly wind-swept Charles smiling at him, his hair stylishly disheveled, blue eyes shining in the city lights. Erik smiled back, a little embarrassed.   “You were projecting.” Charles told him gently. Charles put his hand on Erik’s arm. “Really, Erik. A hotdog and Coke would be just fine. I’m a starving grad student. I have a box of ramen under my bed that will get me through the next month.” Erik ducked his head in for a quick kiss on the shorter man’s forehead. “You deserve better.” He murmured against warm slightly damp skin. Charles chuckled. “Believe me, Erik. I had enough of that when I was younger. It takes very little to please me.” Erik grinned as he pulled the shorter man hard against him. 

          “Very little, huh? I can work with that.”

          Charles huffed a laugh and took Erik’s hand; “Did we get a reservation?” he craned his head back to the front of the restaurant where the line to get in. he tilted his head to the side; his blue eyes had a faraway look to them for a moment, then he turned to Erik. “It’s not looking good. I rather do think that we’d have more luck with a street vendor.” Charles’ eyes glanced down to Erik’s hand that was still behind his back. Charles twisted out of Erik’s grasp, peering back to the object in Erik’s hand. “Erik, what is that?” he asked as Erik side stepped him, keeping his hand behind his back. “It’s nothing. A bad idea.” He said briskly, still trying to elude the telepath. Charles hopped up to peck Erik on the lips, a light kiss that titled Erik’s axis just enough for him to forget about his hidden hat. The fedora dropped from his hand onto the pavement.  He scrambled to grab it but Charles was much quicker. He snatched the hat from the ground and flipped it in his slim hands. “A fedora; very chic. Raven would say that it’s vintage, I think.” He reached up on his toes to place the hat on Erik’s head. He stood still heart pounding with Charles so close. He swallowed his dignity as Charles tilted the fedora on a rakish angle, half covering Erik’s eye as it slipped down further. “Oh dear,” Charles giggled as he tried to straighten it on Erik’s head. Erik’s hand shot out to catch the telepath’s hand. “Leave it.” He growled. Charles stepped back a little, unsure. Erik rolled his eyes and held on tighter to the young man. He began to pull Charles down East 20th Street, weaving through the throngs of people.

                “Erik, I’m sorry if I did something that offended you. I didn’t mean-” they stopped abruptly in front of a shabby looking café with the name Café Caspartina. Erik let go of Charles’ hand, dropping his to his sides. “Sorry, I just really wanted to get away from there. You didn’t do anything.” he took the hat off his head, twirling it around in his hands. Charles put his hand on the hat, “No worries my friend. I was concerned that I was to mess this up, it would be me.” He led Charles into the café towards the back. Charles took in the warm dim lights, the dreamy smells that wafted from behind the counter, the unpretentiousness of the quiet place. Erik dropped his hat on the table as they say down at a table with mismatched chairs, the scratched wobbly table.  As they settled, Erik gestured to the waitress who had been wiping down a nearby table.

              “Die übliche?” she asked in cheerful German as she wiped her hands on the cloth from her apron. Erik nodded, “Ja, und worüber wir gesprochen haben. Und…” he raised an eyebrow to Charles. Caught off guard, he blinked owlishly for a moment, blue eyes wide.“Oh, yes. Um. Tea please. Earl Grey if you have it.” Charles stammered. The girl nodded and bounced towards the counter. “Raven teases me on how no matter how long I have been in New York I still give myself away as a British old fart from my drink of choice. Oh, I forgot to ask for lemon.” Charles’ dismay buzzed on the surface of Erik’s mind.

           Magda, zitrone auch.“ He called out to the girl.

          “Schon gut.” The girl called back over the clacking of china.  He turned back to Charles who had been watching him during the exchange. His pupils were slightly dilated and his reddish lips seemed to glisten in the low light. “What?” he asked.

           Charles propped his chin on his hand, “I knew that you spoke German, it was obvious from your accent. I didn’t think that it would have such an effect on me. I find it fascinating.” Erik shrugged. “I don’t get to speak it much anymore. My parents spoke it at home. But I wanted to fit in with the other kids so I rarely spoke it after I started school. It was too foreign for most people to feel comfortable around. If I had to speak to any German-speaking relatives were I have to speak it at length, I would need to do brush up on it beforehand. ”

           Charles nodded in understanding. “Yes, I think that I speak French fairly well, but Raven says that I can’t completely erase my British accent. She can speak almost any language if she hears it, with a flawless accent. I envy her sometimes.”

           Magda came around with their order, tea for Charles (with lemon) and a glass of whiskey and a small box of chocolates for Erik. “Danke.” Erik said as he drew the box closer. “Gern geschehen.” She bent in closer to Erik, stage whispering, “Gute arbeit. Er ist wirklich süß.” She winked at him as Charles choked on his tea. Erik his his smile by taking a sip of scotch. Magda giggled as she sashayed away, attending to another customer.

           “Do you understand German?“ Erik asked warily.

            “A little, but I gleaned what she said from her surface thoughts.  She seemed genuinely happy for you; there is a lot of affection for you as well. Is she a relative?” Charles asked as he sipped his tea, trying to play it down. Erik cleared his throat a little, the burn of alcohol making his throat tighten. “No. Actually she’s my ex girlfriend.” Erik blushed. “We dated after high school and into college. She was born in Germany came here when she was fifteen. I didn’t know anything about girls at that time. Magda helped me find out what I wanted in a significant other. It turned out that she didn’t have the right…equipment…as she put it. We became closer as friends than lovers. She’s like a sister to me now.” He tapped the side of his glass. “Speaking of mystery women, who is this Raven you keep talking about? I hope that you don’t have a wife in the attic that I have to compete with.”

           Charles shook his head, grinning again as he pulled out a photo from his wallet. A photo of Charles and a young woman with blue skin and shocking red hair grinned back at him. Behind them was part of an impressive-looking house: gray walls and structured glass. “Raven is my kid sister. Well, my adopted sister. My father died when I was young, and my mother remarried when I was ten. I found Raven in our kitchen one night looking for food. I begged my mother to let us keep her. It sounds horrible when you put it that way, like she was a puppy or something, but it’s the truth. My mother barely paid any attention to me by that point so it was easy. She thought that it was better to say ‘yes’ at the moment so that I wouldn’t keep pestering her. That was almost ten years ago.  Raven’s sixteen now and utterly obnoxious. But if it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have met. She’s the reason that I was at the DMV that day.”

          Charles stirred his tea. Erik took another sip of his drink. “You promised me an explanation for why you are currently without a car.” He reminded.

          “Yes, I believe that I do.” He settled his elbows on the table.  “Raven and her best friend Irene decided to go joy riding through Westchester County one weekend. Both were underage and without licenses.  Well, the cops caught up with them, she panicked, and she shifted into me, since she was using my car.  She was able to get away with ‘Charles Xavier’ losing his license for six months. At first I was livid, but she’s a free spirit and my best friend so it was hard to stay mad at her. At least my mother and step-father didn’t hear about it. Besides, we live in the city, no real reason to have a car anyway. I was at the DMV turning in my plates the day we met.”

          Erik opened the box of chocolates as Charles talked. “Your sister shifted into you?”

      Charles nodded, “She’s a shape shifter. Her mutation is really groovy. She can imitate almost anyone. It was great fun when we were children. There weren’t many children to play with where I grew up so we entertained ourselves. There was a family near us that had a daughter who was also a telepath. The rest of her family was human, but we became close. Her brother was quite interesting. Christian and I got along well.” Charles blushed and bent over his cooling tea. Erik slid the box of candy towards him.  “Here, pick one.” Charles lifted the box to see the flavor chart when Erik pulled the box back. “No peeking. We’re going to play chocolate roulette. You have to eat the chocolate you choose, without knowing the flavor.” Charles arched an eyebrow. “A blind taste test? Really?  What if I don’t like it?”

      Erik grinned, “Tough it out.”

       ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

         A few weeks later, Charles was studying at the campus coffee shop; he had books and papers scattered around two tables, the scratched Formica barely visible under the genetics texts.  He had caught the finals bug that had been ravaging campus: his shining hair was sticking up in all different directions as if he had been pulling at it as he prepped to defend his thesis.  Charles had been feverish for days, both from illness and plain old nerves.  He was stuffed up, congested with red eyes and sore nose.  He was of the general mind set of the other students: DEAR GOD KILL ME NOW. Charles was stressed and miserable, just like the rest of the grad students in his year.

         Erik had bribed one of the student waitresses to slip a box onto Charles’ table without his noticing.  Considering how immersed he was in his work, it was not a hard thing to do.  When he did finally notice the box wrapped in brown paper with his name written on top in block letters, it was a lot longer than Erik had hoped. The telepath blinked red rimmed eyes at the box, and then slid it over in front of him. He picked it up and looked around.  He glanced at Angel, who had covertly delivered the box. She made an opening motion with her hands, mouthing Open it, not trying to hide her smile.

         Cautiously, Charles peeled back the wrapping. On the top of the box there was a candid photo of Erik, taken the day that he met Raven for the first time.  Charles had gone into this long rant about the differences in their mutations and Erik had just been watching him. Raven thought that Erik looked utterly smitten and snapped the photo as proof. 

          A copy of that photo was taped to the top of the box, For your heart was written on the Post It attached.

       

         Inside there were several items with Post It notes on them:

       

      Cough drops, For your throat

      Kleenex For your nose

      Aspirin For your head

       

         Charles smiled and put his hand back into the box …instantly he drew back his hand as if something had bit him.

      He tentatively put his hand back in and pulled out a pair of handcuffs and lube For later

         Charles, his face already flushed, turned tomato red as he stood there dumbly holding the cuffs and tube. He hastily dropped them to the table lest anyone see them. Angel and Darwin had been watching from the counter area, their gentle mental laughter made him look up startled and embarrassed.  Angel took pity on him and gestured toward the window. 

          It had started raining at some point during Charles’ study session, and it had turned into a complete downpour.  Cold wet sheets of rain battered at the tall figure in a leather coat standing on the sidewalk outside the café window.  It was Erik, in his leather coat, white shirt and jeans. He had no umbrella, but it didn’t matter, it wouldn’t have helped much in that kind of weather.  He was soaked to the bone, rivulets of water running down his face onto his shirt which was so wet it was transparent.  Despite this, his sharky grin told Charles that he was the one who sent the box. The hastily dropped handcuffs slowly rose from the table and began to rotate in front of Charles; and anyone else who bothered to look his way.  Charles made a grab for the cuffs, pulling them back down out of the general line of sight, and each time, the cuffs rose again. It was almost comical, the way that Charles fought with the pesky metal bracelets, trying to keep them down. Despite his best efforts, the cuffs wouldn’t budge. 

          Erik. Charles admonished, exasperated and cranky from his cold.

          What? The metal bender asked innocently, a paragon of innocence.

           I appreciate the gifts. He rattled the cuffs. All the gifts, it was very good of you. But it could have done without the audience my friend. He indicated Angel and Darwin still watching the psychic exchange.  The two younger mutants quickly began to wipe down the counter and straighten up the cups and saucers, concentrating on their tasks, trying to be inconspicuous. They weren’t very convincing. 

          Charles turned back to Erik, who was still out in the rain. Thank you Erik. It was very kind of you. I have to finish up here, but I should be done by 5. He pushed the images of the impending evening’s events in Erik’s mind. Erik grinned, nodded, and then turned down the street.  Charles watched him leave, and then looked down to his gift box, lube and all, and he couldn’t help but smile like a fool. 

       

          It was a lazy Saturday, Charles and Erik had slept in late when Angel, Darwin, and his roommate Alex arrived mid-morning with fresh food from the farmer’s market, the only redeeming virtue of unexpected guests.  They piled into his apartment, claiming chairs and edges of tables as Charles grabbed plates for their brunch.  As Erik accepted a cup of coffee from Charles, he reflected on the fact that he had acquired a handful of young mutants, and it didn’t bother him as much as it would have before he met Charles.

          Angel and Darwin had been his accomplices in his box delivery to Charles and they decided that watching the romance play out was worth schlepping to Brooklyn’s Waterfront District to see it unfold.  Darwin’s roommate Alex was a first year undergraduate student who had a sealed juvey record who was at Columbia through the court’s second chance program. Erik had a feeling that Charles would find space for Alex in one of his study groups before long.  Charles’ good friend Moira was a Political Science PHD candidate who worked in the Columbia Law Library, with hopes of joining the CIA. And with Moira came her boyfriend Sean. They were the oddest couple that Erik had ever seen: Sean worked part time at a record store in Greenwich Village and not much else. He slept on Alex and Darwin’s couch when he wasn’t at Moira’s apartment.

          Angel was finishing plating the eggs, bacon, and toast while Charles refilled Erik’s coffee. Charles was a vegetarian and Erik was a terrible Jew, so the bacon was the first to go. Between Alex and Erik the bacon was gone in only a few minutes.

          “So after you eat bacon, and you and Charles start the tonsil tango, does that mean that he’s still a vegetarian?” Alex asked as he examined the last piece of bacon in his hand before stuffing it in his mouth.  Darwin snorted into his coffee.  Charles chuckled and leaned in to kiss the corner of Erik’s mouth. “It’s a hardship to be sure. You wouldn’t believe what goes on in his mind. Half of the time he imagines dropping bombs on his boss, and the other half he thinks about ravaging me on any available surface. It’s exhausting trying to keep up.” Erik flushed; keeping his eyes on his coffee cup for so long he thought that it would combust. “Cut it out Alex. Leave them alone.” Angel admonished as she patted Erik’s shoulder.  ‘You two are so cute together.” She smiled at him. “Yeah like a shark and mouse are cute together." Alex muttered around a mouthful. “You gotta keep him around Lehnsherr.  He brings out the finer points in your sterling personality.” Darwin pointed out.  

         Angel smacked him on the back of the head. Alex leaned in, elbows on the table.

            “Hey, have you farted in front of him yet?” he asked Erik in all sincerity. They all stopped and looked at him. “What?”Erik choked out. He looked to Charles, who shrugged. Alex calmly stared at him; “Have you farted around him yet? It’s the ultimate relationship test.  If Charles can stand to be around you after you let one rip, he’s a keeper. It seals the deal.” Alex seemed very pleased with himself.  Darwin and Angel face palmed as Erik glared at him; Charles smiled behind his teacup.  “Don’t worry darling, I love your farts too.” Charles patted his hand and kissed his temple. Angel threw a look at Alex that ended the conversation and the rest of the meal was eaten in silence.

            As the silverware scraped against plates, Erik called over a few pieces of scrap metal that he kept around his workstation.  As everyone else finished eating, he warmed up the metal in his hands, making it more pliable with his power.  The metal soon became malleable, enough to begin his task.  He pulled the metal into strips, like Silly Putty, folding and curling them into letters.  The letters then were set up into words and laid out on the table between the remnants of brunch.  Charles had tried not to watch Erik as he worked, knowing that it made him self-conscious. 

         

            When he was finished, he laid them out on the table between the dirty plates and leftover cups. The others mouthed out the words, smiling as they figured it out.  Charles looked up from his eggs, frowning slightly as he looked at the metal words.  “Movie?” he asked Erik, “Sure. I think that there’s a German film playing at the Brooklyn Heights. I can check the times if you want.” Charles reached for his phone. “Charles, that’s not how you spell movie.” Angel pointed out. Erik frowned down at the table, taking a look at the letters he had assembled.  His eyes widened in understanding as he twisted his pinky so that the last two letters separated.

        MOVE IN

             Charles squinted, his eyes lighting up as he finally got clued in to what Erik was asking. “Move in?” he said out loud.  Erik stared at him intently, “Ja,” he breathed, not realizing that he had slipped into his native tongue.  Charles beamed as he leaned across the plate of eggs and scraps to toast. “Yes, please.” The kiss was lingering, soft and sweet. Everyone else “Aww’ed” and Angel and Darwin smooched in commiseration.  Then Angel snapped her fingers at Alex, “Pay up.” she demanded. Alex grumbled as he fished out a ten dollar bill from the pocket of his jeans. 

             “Ugh, please get a room!” Raven groaned as she slunk in the room, sliding off her coat and into an empty chair at the table. She pulled both Erik and Charles’ plates towards her, scraping the remnants of both onto one plate. “I didn’t come over to watch you two make out.  I can download porn for that.” Charles pulled back. “I do not need to know that Raven Xavier.” He said sternly. Raven waved him off, “Don’t worry, virtue is intact.”  She rubbed her hands together. “So. What’s going on? Are we having a kiss off?” She leaned into Alex, puckering her lips. Alex blushed furiously, pulling away. “Sorry Raven, not that I’m not flattered, but both your brother and his boyfriend are giving me death glares. And with one being able to fry my brain from the inside, and the other can impale me with forks, I’ll have to pass.”

             Raven pouted, but she quickly got over it, and began to eat her scavenged breakfast.  “Raven, Erik has asked me to move in with him.” Charles said, Alex and Darwin telling her how Charles first thought that it said movie. Raven looked up from her pilfered eggs, eyebrow arched, “Yeah, tell me something I didn’t already know.” Charles and Erik looked at her baffled.  She pushed the plate away and swiped Erik’s cup of coffee, “Oh please. You two have been playing house for weeks. This is not news to me.” She took a sip and winced. “Ugh, Erik, this is disgusting.” She grimaced and slid the cup back towards him. “That’s the whole point, so no one will steal my coffee.” He grinned and took a sip himself.  Raven took the cup of juice Angel offered and drank. “I think we do need to go to the movies.” Darwin said as he collected the empty plates. “Yeah, we need to celebrate.” Alex agreed.

            Four sets of eyes settled on Charles and Erik. Erik looked at Charles, who shrugged. “Why not? It looks as if you had a good idea after all.” Erik smiled and called over his keys. “I seem to be more brilliant than usual today.” Raven choked back a laugh.

            “Must be the coffee.” Darwin observed.

         

         

        Chapter Text

           Dr. Spencer suggested that Erik stay away from the hospital, and Charles in general, for the immediate future. Raven promised to act as a go-between in the meantime while Charles met with doctors and therapists who would evaluate his condition. Despite the fact that Charles had gone through a windshield and had been in a coma for close to three weeks, he was doing better than expected. Charles would scar a little: on his forehead and chin, but there was no major physical impairment. The emotional damage was yet to be seen.  Raven reported to Erik each night, either in person or over the phone. 

           Raven called as he had been leaving the grocery store and Erik had been voicing his frustrations about the situation.  Erik pressed his cell phone between his ear and shoulder as he grappled with several grocery bags in his arms.  “He met Hank only a month before he met me. And it was only for ten minutes! They didn’t get to know each other until well into their program, a year later. How the hell is that fair?” he growled to Raven as the bag with the eggs slid to the crook of his arm. Cursing silently he flicked his wrist towards the door to the apartment and it swung open. He slipped through the door and dumped the bags onto the metal island in the center of the kitchen.

            “The doctor said that the amount of time that Charles is missing is rare, but she also said that all of his memories could come back in an instant, with no warning. It could hit him like a ton of bricks. Do you really want him to go through that kind of trauma, especially after what he’s already gone through? He could have a complete mental shut down because of this.” Raven told him, her voice tinny over the bad connection in the subway.

            “There’s also a chance that he’ll never regain his memories.” Erik countered bitterly. “There’s something off about him. It’s not just the memory thing. He seemed cold and-aloof -” Leave it to Charles to make him to use a word like that.

           He heard Raven sigh on the other end of the call. “I feel like I’m in an episode of the Twilight Zone. I mean, he’s still my brother; he remembers all the crazy shit we did as kids, but he doesn’t know who the current President of the United States is. He seems more upset at what’s happening with the Kardashians than what’s going on in the world right now. Charles is more like the guy he was in his undergrad than when he met you.”

           Erik pulled out a bag of oranges and poured them into a hideous misshapen bowl on the counter. The brownish green vessel was a gift from Charles for their anniversary. Apparently Moira was a member of a pottery club and Charles thought that a handmade bowl would be better than one from Pier One. Charles had been very proud of the horrid lump of clay and while he appreciated the gesture, Erik had been planning an accident for the poor thing from the beginning. Now he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

           “Was he that different back then? I know that he was a rich kid from a wealthy family, but from what I saw at the hospital he acted like the Queen of England.  That’s not the Charles that I know.” It was so silent on Raven’s end he feared that he had lost the connection, but he could still hear the rumblings of the train gliding over the tracks of the subway. Suddenly Raven’s voice came over the line, quiet and sad. “I love my brother; he took me in when I had nowhere else to go; helped me make a life for myself. But I can’t say that he was the nicest person in the world when he was younger. He wasn’t likely to kick a puppy or anything, but he had a certain distain for those who weren’t of his social class. Growing up with the people that we did had that kind of effect. There were people in our social group, like the Frosts, who were much worse. That whole family reeked of old money, cold and cruel.  Christian was the only one of them who was actually decent…” her voice drifted off, clearly aware that she had drifted off track. “Look, point is that you wouldn’t have thought twice about punching him in his adorable nose if you met him back then.  Before you met him Erik, my brother was an asshole.”

            During their conversation Erik had migrated to one of the bar stools that surrounded the island in the kitchen. He leaned his elbows against the cool metal, phone cradled in his hands.  “So he drank the Westchester Kool-Aid. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t change. Charles doesn’t even know that I exist, never mind the life we have together. What if he decides to go back to his old life? Raven, I can’t lose him like that.”

            “Don’t worry. Things are bound to get better. Look how well Charles is doing with his therapy; at first the doctors thought that there would be brain damage. If the only thing he comes out of this with is a few lost memories, it’s a win.” Erik gripped the phone tighter in his hand, “Raven… a traumatic brain injury isn’t a win.” he hissed through gritted teeth. “I know, I know.” He could see her waving her hand at him dismissively, “Think if it this way, he won’t remember the stupid shit you did when you were first dating. What is it that they say? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? That phrase was around a long time before Kelly Clarkson made it an anthem. We have to take this one day at a time.” He heard the sudden bustle of people and the honk of cars in the background. Raven must have emerged from the subway onto the street. “I have some errands to run but after that do you mind some company? Hank is working late tonight.”

         Erik sighed, “Sure. It’s pretty quiet around here right now.”

        “You need to be reintroduced to civilization Mr. Lenhsherr.  This broody Mr. Rochester act is getting old.”

            Erik snorted a laugh, “Fine, come re-humanize me then. I have some work to do but after that I’m free. It’s not like I have a husband to attend to.” He didn’t mean to sound that bitter but Raven took it that way.

           “Erik, he may not know who you are, but he hasn’t stopped talking about you since that day in the hospital.”

        Erik sat up a little straighter, “Really? Raven, if you’re fucking with me I swear to God-”

           “Sorry! Gotta go! See you later Magneto!” Raven chirped as the connection went dead. “Rave-Raven! Gott verdammt! ” he threw the phone across the room, the small electronic hit the wall with a crack, pieces of plastic and bits of metal flying all over the kitchen. Cursing under his breath, Erik focused in on the metal pieces and gathered them into a tiny pile. He opened the metal trash can and dumped them into it. It took him longer to collect the plastic pieces, since he had to look for them on his own. He never asked Charles if there was a mutant out there who could manipulate plastics.  As he felt around under the table and refrigerator, he had time to think about what he knew about Charles Xavier’s younger years.

             Charles had been born and rasied in Westchester, his father died when he was quite young. His mother, Sharon, had married Kurt Marko when Charles was ten; Raven had been adopted a year later, after being found scavenging for food in the mansion’s kitchen. Sharon had been drowing herself in booze for most of her life, never caring that she had a son, never mind that she had an obligation to protect him. Marko was a tyrant, Erik knew, and had held Charles under this thumb until Charles had escaped to Oxford, bringing Raven with him.  Charles had mentioned that there was a final break between himself and his family just before he returned from school.  Charles had been engaged, Raven had said one time, but it had all fallen apart around the same time that Charles was cut off from the family and the fortune.  Erik had asked if the broken engagement had anything to do with it and Charles refused to speak of it. 

            As Erik slid his hand under the refrigerator one last time, his fingers brushed up against something. He reached out and felt the edge. It was slightly cool to the touch, raised sides. Metal, then. He pulled carefully with this mind, honing in on the makeup of it. The small round object slid out from under the front grill of the refrigerator, inching its way across the linoleum. It was a coin, one of the coins that Shaw gave out at the end of successful contracts. Erik had a cup full of them, discs made of nickel and copper. He reached out and clutched the small token in his palm. He had proposed with one of these coins. He had fashioned a makeshift ring out of one a year ago as he and Charles had celebrated the completion of another Stark industries project that coincided with the publishing of Charles’ paper on mutation patterns in second generation mutants.

            Charles had picked up a bottle of cheap champagne and they had celebrated in style: dancing in the kitchen to some effervescent pop song on the radio. Charles was beautiful, his hair disheveled, blue eyes sparkling, red lips enticing, his happiness leaking into each synapse of Erik’s mind.  Erik was in a good mood too: there was some money in the bank, his boyfriend was completely moved in, and he had another project under his belt. He was happier than he had been in a while. He grinned as Charles tilted towards him, invading his personal space. He grabbed Charles’ hand and twirled him around in a circle. Charles’ laughter was infectious; the tickle of his mind against Erik’s made him feel lighter, at peace. As the song ended, he dipped Charles low; his hand pressed hard into the small of Charles’s back, Charles titled his head back, strategically exposing a pale neck.  Erik leaned down to taste that creamy skin with Charles breathlessly laughing against his cheek. “Ah, Erik,” Charles gasped. Erik hummed against his skin contentedly.  The latest coin was on the kitchen island forgotten in deference to more enjoyable activities. 

           Erik let Charles up, both of them breathless and rumpled. Charles extracted himself from Erik’s arms to turn down the radio and get dinner started when Erik suddenly reached out to the coin. He stretched and folded it into a thin strip of metal, working it until it resembled a ring. It wasn’t his best work, more like something that he would have made as a child, but the high that he was riding wouldn’t wait for precision.  “Darling, can you start chopping the carrots?” Charles asked from the sink, his back to Erik. Erik let the ring rotate in the air at eye level, not saying a word. “Erik?” Charles called. When Erik didn’t answer, Charles turned around, potato in one hand, peeler in the other. “Erik what are you-” his eyes caught the silver ring hovering in the air. “Erik, what is that?” Charles’ eyes widened, watching the rotating ring.

            “Marry me.” Erik whispered, half terrified of a rejection.

            Both the potato and peeler fell from the telepath’s hands; Erik caught the peeler before it hit the floor, saving his boyfriend’s toes from being chopped off.

            Charles just stood there, staring at him, mouth in a pretty red ‘o’ . The silence was so long and terrible that Erik thought that he had made a grave mistake. Charles’ eyes flicked to his for a moment before the telepath launched himself into Erik’s arms, flinging his arms around Erik’s neck. Erik barked out a cry of relief. Tears welled in his eyes as his grin grew manic, all teeth. He plucked the ring from mid-air and slipped down to one knee. “Charles Francis Xavier, will you marry me?”

           “Of course my love.” Charles smiled his eyes soft, full of love. Erik wrapped his arms around Charles’ middle, burying his face in the warmth of his cardigan, the soft wool absorbing the tears that spilled from Erik’s closed eyes. He felt gentle hands bury themselves in his hair, nails softly scraping is scalp, a firm yet gentle grasp of his skull. Erik, I will love you always. Charles’ soft gentle voice wafted through his thoughts. Erik mumbled his name against Charles’ stomach, nuzzling deeper into his warm haven.

           “Just think about it: Raven’s right. He won’t remember all the stupid shit you did when you first were dating. It’s kind of a clean slate.” Sean made his point by stabbing the air with a Twizzler before stuffing it in his mouth.

           “Great advice, Cassidy.” Moira  laughed  from her position on the couch. Erik was at his desk in the corner, trying to sort through the massive pile of mail that had accumulated in the weeks since the accident.  He had separated them into piles: bills, junk mail, and get well cards. All three piles were impressive, with the get well and bill stacks vying for first place.  The junk was set aside for Alex to incinerate later on in the back alley, no need for a shredder with a guy who could shoot plasma beams on speed dial. Get well cards from every corner of New York were stacked in neat rows at the corner of the table. There were cards and letters from the grocer down the street, the dry cleaner that they hadn’t been to in months, neighbors on each side of them, as well as anonymous notes that mysteriously made their way into the mailbox. The entire neighborhood knew about the accident, they all adored Charles, and everyone was showing their support.

         The bill pile, however, was the worst.  There was rent to pay for the apartment as well as the studio space that Charles used as a lab next door for his private experiments.  He and Charles had a few credit cards with modest balances but the interest was killing them. Both he and Charles took the subway almost every day so there were the metro cards.  Alex had once suggested that Erik could rig the subway card swiper with his power, but the look that Charles gave him said that it was out of the question. Charles was still paying off his loans, despite working long hours in the lab as comp for his tuition. Erik still had loans from Columbia’s engineering program to pay off.  Shaw wasn’t a generous man. His company’s health insurance sucked so the bills from the hospital mocked him from the incinerate pile. Erik worked on commission and despite almost five years with the company, Shaw hadn’t made him full time with a regular salary. Charles had a few undergrads that he tutored twice a week but it barely covered transit costs. Their meager savings wouldn’t last much longer with more bills coming in every day. Maybe he could sell a kidney or rob a bank. It couldn’t be that hard.

             While he wallowed in his private financial hell, Raven sidled up to his side, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. Damn, those Xaviers were touchy feely people. Perhaps it was because Charles and Raven were touched-starved as children. Raven and Charles were very affectionate towards one another, practically in each other’s pocket. It had creeped Erik out the first time he saw them together; almost a Flowers in the Attic vibe. Charles did not appreciate that remark.  Erik wasn’t a touchy feely person. There were only three people who had access to him in that way. The first was his mother. He had never shied away from her embrace as a child and now that she was gone, he would have done anything to have it again. Charles was next, of course, Erik actually craving the feather light touches of those slim fingers. It didn’t have to be sexual: a brush of a hand or a gentle squeeze of a shoulder could be taken at face value or turned into something deeper, something carnal. Raven had wiggled her way in, first as the annoying kid sister with boundary issues, then as a young woman who needed physical reassurance as much as he did. 

            Raven pressed her scaly blue cheek to his stubble roughened one. “Is it as bad as looks?” she asked, nodding slightly to the pile of bills marked with red OVERDUE and FINAL NOTICE. “Hm.” Was all he said in reply, shuffling papers just to give his hands something to do. She leaned in heavily, her arms dangling from his shoulders. “I have some money saved. For my own place when school is done. I can give you some if you want. Hell, you can have it all.” Erik pulled away, staring at the young woman next to him. “Raven, I can’t take that from you. You need to get out of that house as soon as you graduate.” Charles had insisted that Raven dorm at school since he wasn’t at home anymore. He didn’t want his sister around Kurt Marko any more than she had to be.  Raven shook her head, “I can stay with Angel in the Bronx.  Her brother is moving to L.A. and is subletting her the apartment. Besides, I still have one semester left at school.” She tapped her chin with one scaly blue finger. “Or I could move in with Hank.” She waggled her eyebrows suggestively. The protective older brother feeling bubbled up inside Erik, “There is no way in hell you are moving in with Hank,” he growled as the paperclips in the pen holder started to unravel. Raven laughed and smacked his shoulder. “That’s the Magneto I know!” she crowed. Erik felt a little less tense than before, thanks to Raven and her unconventional therapy.

         

              It killed him to ask for money from his husband’s kid sister. Raven seemed to sense his inner conflict. “Don’t worry; your manhood shall come out of this intact. Big provider and all.” She ruffled his hair then flitted towards the TV where Moira and Angel were watching America’s Next Top Model: Mutant Edition. Erik laid his forehead against the desk, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. Maybe he could still sell a kidney, or at least a pint of blood or two.

              Erik must have been more tired than he thought, since he woke up a few hours later sprawled across the bed on top of the covers still clothed. He could still see the gentle blue light of the TV in the living room and the hushed whispers of coming from the others.  Erik had never been a sound sleeper. In the group home you had to watch your belongings at all times, nothing was sacred.  He learned too late that personal effects were fair game. As a result he had very few possessions from his past. He learned to sleep lightly and awaken at the slightest sound. Sharing a bed with Charles had been an education. The telepath moved around more than anyone he had ever known. Charles chalked it up to his mind never really shutting off at the end of the day; his mind was restless even while he was resting. Now the bed seemed too big for one person. Erik admitted to himself that he had grown accustomed to being jabbed all night long by elbows and feet. The stillness was unnerving. It reminded him of the early days after the accident that had killed his parents and younger sister.  He was so tired. He was tired of worrying about money, about his job, and most of all Charles.

             Charles might have been a pain in the ass: hyper intelligent, single minded in his research and woefully unaware of anything outside of the genetics field. He could be so clueless of his environment at times that Erik’s faith in his common sense was shaken, making the metal bender want to tear his hair out. He swore he would be gray by forty. But Charles’ better qualities outweighed his faults: he was kind, beautiful, brilliant, a generous lover and as funny as hell.  Erik was no saint, he would be the first to admit, and he wondered how Charles put up with him most days.  They complimented each other: balancing out Charles’ blinding optimism with Erik’s fuck-the-world cynicism. Erik would do anything to keep that piece of him.

          Chapter Text

          They came in small groups, not wanting to draw attention as people dressed in finer than usual attire for the venue. They stood in line at the Central Park West entrance of the American Museum of Natural History, and Alex handed over the entrance fee for three adults:  Hank, Erik, and himself, waving off Erik’s offer to pay as he dug out his wallet. “On us, man.” Alex grinned as he gave Erik his ticket.  Erik gave him a grateful smile.  Darwin, Angel and Sean followed a few minutes later, a school group buffering them. Erik and the others made their way to the main floor to where Raven and Moira had Charles corralled in the hall outside the X-Gene exhibit in the Spitzer Hall of Human-Mutant Originsuamn H.

          Erik and the guys casually walked the halls, past the gift shop and the entrance to the planetarium, catching wary glances from museum patrons. He had been here many times with Charles, especially after Charles won the contract to feature his research in the exhibit.  What he was really doing was keeping an eye out for that burly security guard, Logan, who always gave them a hard time when they visited. “It was only one time!” Charles fumed as they exited the subway that morning. “And Erik didn’t even have his pants off all the way when that Logan fellow walked in on us.

          Raven popped her head through an archway at the end of the hall.  She motioned that the coast was clear and Erik strode across the smooth floor, the heels of his shoes staccato on the marble.  He adjusted his tie, hands shaking.  He reached the doorway and it was then that he faltered.  Was he ready for this?  He had faced insurmountable odds in his life and now the emotionally stunted orphaned mutant was making the biggest life decision of his life. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to throw up and run, or run and then throw up.  Sean and Alex appeared at his elbows, pressing into his back pushing him forward; forming a wall of silent camaraderie.  Erik inhaled shakily, calling upon the metal in the fixtures of the museum to steady his nerves.  He felt a warm caress against his consciousness, Charles sending a steady flow of calm his way. There was an undercurrent of the same nerves coming from the telepath, but knowing that they were in this together assuaged those fears.

            Charles stood with Moira and Raven at the base of the double helix display, the warm glow of the internal lights framing them in a halo.  Hank stood awkwardly to the side fidgeting with his glasses, his dark hair shining in the artificial light.  Charles wore a dark blue pinstripe suit with a dark tie and lighter blue shirt.  In contrast, Erik wore a sleek silver-gray suit and tie.  The rest of the kids gathered around. Raven wore a knee length blue dress with large blue cutout pieces with a black mesh under skirt.  Moira wore a blush colored dress with dozens of tiny feathery flowers and a matching belt.  Angel was dressed in a brown leather mini dress with different metal accents on the front. 

            Sean wore a bizarre checkered suit coat with a tee shirt with a tuxedo print on the front with jeans and Converse sneakers. He also had a ragged top hat under his arm.  Alex wore a gray suit with a black shirt with his jeans and his Converse.  Hank wore a dark blazer and jeans with red Doc Martins. Darwin had on a gray shirt and vest with a purple tie and a fedora.  Erik’s grin was manic as he stepped to Charles’ right, while Charles’s smile was a bit more sedate, but the buzz of happiness that emanated from his mind matched Erik’s own joy. 

            Darwin pulled out his digital camcorder as Alex moved in front of the couple.  The young man looked as terrified as Erik had felt coming in to the room, a faint flush on his pale cheeks.  Hank nudged him and Sean gave a thumbs up from Moria’s side.  Alex cleared his throat, pulling out a handful of index cards from the breast pocket of his jacket.  “Dearly beloved- do I have to say that?” Alex stage whispered to Raven. Raven gave him a death glare. “Don’t screw this up, Summers.” She growled.  Alex paled, shuffling the cards in his hands. “Uh, dearly-uh-Friends. We are gathered here today to join these two in matrimony.”  He smiled sheepishly as he gestured for Erik and Charles to continue.  Charles pulled out a much folded piece of paper covered in scattered writing; he took Erik’s hand with the other.

            “I vow to help you love life; to hold you with tenderness, to help you be the better man.  To have the patience that love demands; to speak when words are needed,” he tapped his temple with the paper, “and to share the silence when they are not.  To live within the warmth of your heart, knowing it will always be my home.” He added softly. 

            For a moment, Erik stood there gaping feeling very inadequate.  Moira was the one who jabbed him in the shoulder, breaking his stupor. He took out an equally rumpled paper from his pocket, taking a quick glance at the kids. They were all watching, completely enraptured.  Erik eyed Charles ruefully, “You don’t do anything in halves, do you Professor?” Charles chuckled, lifting his vows up to his lips, hiding his smile.  Erik’s sharp eyes got a better look at the piece of paper. “Is that- Did you write your vows on your traffic ticket?” he asked carefully.  Charles nodded as he flipped the paper over to give him a better look.  Erik slipped his own sheet up for Charles to see. “So did I.” Charles’ eyes widened a little in wonder. Raven hiccupped a sob from behind them.

            Erik flattened out his own traffic ticket; his tight script filled the edges.  “I vow to fiercely love you, now and forever.  I vow to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love, and always know that no matter what may try to tear us apart, we will always find a way back to each other. I will always want you by my side: my brother, my friend, my lover.”

            You could have heard a pin drop as he finished.  In the distance, the jangling of keys could be heard, and it was getting closer. The distinct smell of cigar smoke wafted into the atrium, Sean tiptoed to the door and peeked around the corner. “Oh shit! It’s that pointy haired rent-a-cop! Wolverine!” he squealed as he tripped over himself to get back to the group.  Alex looked quickly at the door and then at Erik and Charles, “Do you take each other as spouses forever?” he asked hastily.

            “I do.”

            “I do.”

            “By the power vested in me by the state of New York and instantofficator.com, I now pronounce you best friends for life. Now kiss and let’s get the hell outta here!” Alex shouted as he sprang for the exit.  He barely registered the hustle of the others around him as he caught sight of Charles’ red mouth.  Erik leaned in and caught Charles’ perfect red mouth in a chaste kiss that lasted only a moment before the hiss of radio static could be heard around the corner.  “Come on, let’s move!” Angel grabbed Charles’ arm, pulling them apart. Erik pulled Charles back towards him as they hustled out of the exhibit. They rounded the corner to the main corridor and were halfway down the hall when Hank tripped over his own feet, falling into Raven.  Raven barked a laugh as she pulled Hank up by his hand. They hit the ground floor as a group and were in sights of the exit, almost in the clear when a gravelly voice came from behind them “Hold it, bub!”

              “Run!” Erik barked as he thrust out a hand and the metal doors connecting two corridors slammed shut.  The burly man ran into the closed door full force, his cigar splitting on impact. The last thing Erik saw was the guard’s surprised, ash covered face. 

            Erik and Charles burst through the doors, hand in hand as they reached the 81st Street subway station. Darwin and Sean slid down the banisters on each side, hats gripped in their hands as they propelled down.  Moira and Angel ran ahead to hand out Metro Cards, and waved the rest of them through. The train was just pulling in as Alex slipped through the turnstile. Erik pulled Charles onto the subway car, pressing him close to him by his waist.  He reached up to grip the bar above his head, his fingers digging into the cold metal.  “Mr. Lehnsherr,” Charles purred as the train started, their bodies moving in sync with the motion of the subway car. “Mr. Lehnsherr,” Erik acknowledged sardonically.  The car surged forward and Erik pushed into Charles, letting the natural movement ease into his action. Charles wrapped his arms around Erik’s neck, to keep himself upright in the swaying car.  They fit so perfectly together, it was only natural for them to melt into a kiss. The clatter of the subway car and the chatter of their friends fell away as Erik was surrounded by Charles. The warm puff of breath on his lips, the musky scent that was distinctly Charles; he breathed it all in, his mouth open a little to savor the taste in the air, despite the sour odor of the subway.  Charles took the opportunity to slip his tongue into Erik’s open mouth, teasing him with a flutter of velvety warmth and wetness.  Erik groaned as the car swayed, creating perfect friction between their bodies. 

            “Keep it PG until we get to the hotel, boys.” Moira warned from the seat next to them, Sean’s hideous jacket draped across her bare shoulders.  Charles blinked at her, and then looked around. Erik and Charles broke apart, Charles was flushed, the color high on his cheeks.  There were several others in the car with them, including a young woman who smirked at them and kept crossing her legs.  Another man near the door of the subway car smiled and winked their way, his red-tinged eyes winked playfully at them as he shuffled a deck of cards in his hands.  Charles ducked his head in embarrassment as Erik grinned into the shorter man’s hair.  Charles rested his head under Erik’s chin and they stayed that way as the subway car swayed with them.

            They reached the next stop, one block over, at the Excelsior Hotel on the Upper West Side.  Raven and the others had pitched in to give Charles and Erik a short weekend honeymoon in a luxury hotel before returning to work that Monday.  Erik had tried to get time off from work, but Shaw was a demanding taskmaster and had scheduled Erik to be in Munich for the week despite the fact that the entire office had known of his pending nuptials.  Erik had almost brought the entire building down upon his smirking boss when Shaw told him about his business trip.  Erik then thought about asking Charles to come with him to Germany.  It would have been a glorious honeymoon; Erik would have been able to bring Charles to his hometown in Dusseldorf, despite Erik hadn’t been there since he was five, and perhaps they would have been able to go to some of the German science museums that Charles had mentioned on numerous occasions when they had been planning their never-taken vacation.  But, it wouldn’t have worked anyway.  Charles had to stay in the city to take care of his own work; his own boss, Dean McCone, not allowing him to take time off to go to Germany with Erik. 

            When they scrambled into the bright and airy main lobby of the Excelsior, Erik felt as if everything was finally falling into place.  The pale floors gleamed in the late afternoon light, along with the mahogany-encased front desk. Hank went ahead to check them in as the rest of them began to take pictures.  Raven, of course, had to be in almost all of them, some in her blue form, others, blonde. They laughed and joked in the lobby for a while, until it was decided that the newlyweds needed to start their alone time.  Charles took the key from Hank, and proceeded to kiss Raven, Moira and Angel in thanks for the gift of the room and shake hands with the boys.  Erik also shook hands in congratulations and endured hugs from the girls. Moira even snuck in a quick peck on the cheek. Erik could feel his cheeks flame up in embarrassment. 

            Darwin had procured a decent bottle of Champagne to present to them. “See you Monday Charles!” Moira waved by the front door.

            “I’ll be over after classes to keep you company.” Raven promised as she pressed another kiss to her brother’s cheek.

             “Thank you love.” Charles smiled brightly. Raven promised to stay with Charles while Erik was out of the country for a week. 

            Their room was on the fourth floor, they barely made it up the elevator without completely consuming each other, and when Erik opened the door, and he had a whole new appreciation for Charles’ sister and their friends. The room was in browns and whites, a pleasing mix of Art Deco and modern amenities. The carpet was a soft brown, the walls a deeper chocolate.  The bed was huge, plush with a pillowed headboard.  Charles ran to the bed and flopped right in the middle like a child. Erik grinned as he placed the Champagne on the small table near the bed.  He stood there a moment, watching Charles examine the ring on his left hand. Erik could feel it from across the room, felt it as much as the one that was on his own finger. “Do you like it?” Erik asked as he shrugged off his coat. Charles smiled from the bed, “Yes, I love it. It feels so right.”  Charles had refused to give up the makeshift ring that Erik had proposed with, even though Erik did get him a real gold ring soon after.  They compromised. Erik had fused the two rings together. 

            Erik pulled a tube of lube out of his pocket and put it on the side of the bed then climbed onto the bed, sitting against the headboard, staring down at his husband. “That shows that you’re mine.  You belong to me,” he held out his own hand, “just as I belong to you.” Charles’ red mouth surged forward to take Erik’s ring finger into his mouth.  Erik gasped, the wet heat of that gorgeous mouth making his mind white out for a second.  He fought to keep his hand still so that Charles could continue. “Jesus, Charles,” Erik moaned. Charles let go of his finger with an obscene ‘pop’.  Charles looked quite pleased with himself, his pupils blown wide, only a sliver of crystal blue could be seen. Erik bent down to capture those sweet lips, needing to taste that distinct flavor that was Charles. Charles moaned as Erik plundered his mouth, hand coming up to curl around Erik’s neck, pulling him closer.  Erik grunted into his mouth, shifting to cover Charles with his own body. He could feel their erections rubbing through their clothes, could feel his own wet spot in his trousers, the friction was delicious. 

            Charles wrapped his still-clothed legs around Erik’s back, using his legs to press Erik harder against him.  Erik, please, I need… the telepath pleaded in his head, mouth still occupied with Erik’s tongue down his throat.  Erik pulled away, panting for breath as he thrust his hips into the secure encasement of Charles’ legs. He felt Charles’ hips buck up into his, Charles desperate for release.  Erik sat up, pulling Charles’ vest open, using the smaller man’s movements to remove it.  He then pulled Charles’ blue shirt out from his pants.  Charles placed shaking hands onto Erik’s, helping him remove his shirt, tossing it over the side of the bed as soon as it was loose.  The telepath soon began to remove Erik’s own shirt, slight fingers moving deftly to remove the offending garment. The steady thrum of needneederikneed reverberated in his skull as he bent down to suck at the tender skin at the juncture of his shoulder and neck.  He licked and sucked, bringing the blood close to the surface. Charles mewed under his mouth, hands deep in his hair, holding him fast.  Erik used his power to unbuckle both their pants, letting them fall open. Those small deft fingers found their way into Erik’s pants, palming his impressive girth through his underwear. Erik bit down on Charles’ neck hard at the sensation, Charles crying out; his had faltering. 

            “I need you so bad,” he panted wetly into Charles’ ear. “I love you so much, so much; never want to be away from you.”

            “I love you too, my darling,” Charles purred, hand once again venturing into Erik’s pants. He curled his fingers around the bulge, teasing Erik into a frenzy.  Erik growled as he pulled Charles’ pants all the way down, taking his underwear with them, leaving Charles bare underneath him.  He shimmied out of his own pants, cock bouncing against his stomach.  He gazed down at Charles underneath him, bare and pale in the warm glow of the setting New York sun. Charles’ chest heaved as he stretched his arms up over his head, muscles undulating under his warm taught skin.  “You are exquisite,” Erik murmured, his large hands skimming over the smooth chest beneath him.  Charles arched up, pink nipples erect, “Erik, for God’s sake, if you don’t fuck me now, you will spend the rest of this weekend thinking you are a seven year old girl.” Charles ground out through gritted teeth. Erik sat back and blinked, hands on his thighs. “The fuck?” Erik gaped.  

            “Raven could braid your hair.” Charles added cheekily.

            Erik grinned as he leaned down putting his full weight onto the smaller telepath. He slowly dragged his hard, weeping cock over the warm nest of hair between Charles’ legs, artfully avoiding the other man’s own erection.  “You are awfully mouthy, schatz.” Erik said as he let his thumb caress his husband’s red swollen lips.

            Charles smiled against the roughness of the pad of his thumb. “Mouthy? You’ve never complained about my mouth before.” Charles observed, his hips trembling in anticipation. Erik reached down and gave his cock a few smart tugs, sliding his hand up and down, the tip weeping with beads of precum. Charles licked his ruby red lips at the sight, instinctively leaning forward.  “I’m going to open you up, make love to you until you scream.” Erik whispered to him. Charles whimpered.

            Erik moved his hips closer until the tip of his cock came into contact with Charles’ wet red lips.  That slick plump mouth engulfed the rounded head; Charles slid his tongue across the vein that went along the underside of his cock. “Mein Gott, Charles.” Erik groaned. Charles hollowed his cheeks as he sucked deeper, allowing the entire length to slide down his throat. He felt the pressure building in is balls, as Charles bobbed up and down eagerly sucking down this length.

            Erik abruptly pulled his cock out of that wet warm haven, a thin strand of cum attached to the head of his cock trailing to swollen red lips.  “Up,” he demanded, slapping Charles’ thigh playfully. Charles wiggled down until his ass was up in the air. Erik took hold and swung pale legs onto his shoulders, leaning down to nuzzle against the warm inside of his husband’s incandescent thighs.  He peppered kisses and bites from behind the knees to the juncture of where thigh met groin.  The warm flesh underneath his mouth tasted like Charles, and Erik wanted to savor it.  Charles was a bundle of over- stimulated nerves above him, shaking and swearing with each nip.  Erik, please it’s too much, the telepath whined. Erik grinned against Charles’ thigh. Patience, shatz. Erik nuzzled the soft thatch of hair nestled between Charles’ thighs, his delicious cock weeping in anticipation.  Erik kissed the tip before nosing his way down to the puckered entrance behind his balls. 

            He laved at the tight pink rosebud, his tongue pressing against it. He felt Charles clench against his ministrations, the tight pucker opening and closing a little.  Erik continued lap at him, I’m going to lick you open, he told his husband. Then my cock’s going to slide into you.  He reached up to tug at Charles’ cock, the telepath bucking beneath him. Errrrrik. He gasped, felt hands in his hair pushing his mouth closer to Charles’ entrance.

            Erik pushed the tip of his finger into Charles. He loved hearing the smaller man hiss in pleasure.  He kept inching his way in, reveling in the feel of the tight muscles clenching around his finger. He slid another one in after that, scissoring quickly, enjoying the way Charles moaned, clutching at the pillow under his head.  He was blushing furiously, face almost tomato red.  His eyes were closed, tears gathered at the edges.  Erik reached for the lube that was in the sheets next to him. He used his thumb to flip the cap open; he coated the base of his fingers with the cool liquid, pushing in more so that the lube could enter that tight hole.  Charles cried out as his hips bucked up, insides clenching around his fingers.

            Erik removed his fingers, bringing them up to Charles’ hard cock. “Ready libeling?” he asked as he took hold of his own turgid length.  “Please, God, yes!” Charles breathed, chest heaving. Erik lined himself up with the slicked up hole beneath him. He pushed in a little, the tip of the head of his cock being sucked in. he gasped at the wet warmth; Charles sobbing in pleasure under him.  He pushed in more, using his weight to position himself better.  Charles cried out as his legs wrapped around Erik’s shoulders, holding him like a vice.  Erik wrapped his arms around Charles’ shoulders, pulling him close as he thrust steadily into the quivering body underneath him. He pulled Charles up into his lap, sliding deep into him. He could feel the pressure of Charles’ firm ass pressing into his thighs, rubbing his balls. Charles wrapped himself around Erik, small hands gripping his shoulders; surely there will be marks in the morning.  Erik thrust hard into his husband, breathing wetly into the sweaty nape of the neck under his nose and mouth, inhaling the musky smell. Erik mouthed Charles’ shoulder, biting down hard, marking this man as his forever. Erikerikeirk thrummed through his brain as he thrust into Charles.  “Erik, oh yes,” Charles panted as his mouth found Erik’s. They kissed messily, devouring each others’ mouths with little finesse, but the desired result was reached. Erik felt the pressure building in his lower belly; he pressed his hands into Charles’ hips, impaling the telepath onto his cock. “Erik!” Charles screamed as pleasure burst in his skull, warm wetness spurting on his belly between them. Charles went limp after that, his sweaty body shuddering in aftershocks of pleasure.  The waves of pleasure radiating off Charles buoyed Erik as his own orgasm built to its’ peak. A few more thrusts and Erik arched up, expelling his seed into Charles’ tight channel.

            Charles fell back onto the bed, panting.  His belly was coated in cum, the patch of hair above his cock matted with it.  Erik collapsed onto Charles, mouthing his way up Charles’ stomach. He licked up the splatters of cum that dotted the pale expanse of Charles’s body, dipping into his bellybutton.  He nuzzled against the heaving warm salty skin under his face.  Charles’ stomach muscles jerked under his cheek, “I can feel your stubble.” He murmured as he gently stroked Erik’s hair.  “I love you.” Erik whispered against his skin.  He was lulled to sleep with Charles’ hand in his hair, listening to his husband’s heartbeat under his ear.

            He woke a few hours later, sticky with dried sweat and cum down the length of his body. Charles was asleep, snoring softly under him.  Erik grunted as he extracted himself from the bed and Charles.  He grabbed the blankets and covered the sleeping form of his husband then ambled to the bathroom.  He made quick use of the large shower room, making note to explore it more thoroughly with Charles before the weekend was over.  He strolled out of the bathroom, towel around his hips, he found Charles lying in bed, now clothed in his white undershirt.  “This is the best day of my life, I will never forget it.” the telepath said from the cocoon of rumpled sheets. Erik came closer to the bed, climbing onto the mattress next to Charles. He leaned in to kiss Charles’ lips. “This is the beginning of the rest of our lives together.”

             

            Charles had been awake for a week, and he had come in that day to see if Charles remembered him.  He hadn’t.  Charles had been polite, cool towards Erik when he came into his room. Beside him there were several science journals, a few were spread out on the bed around him. Charles looked good, his color was up and he seemed to be almost back to normal.  “Oh, it’s you again” He looked up slightly from the journal in his hands. Erik stood in the doorway, hands in his pockets. 

            “I wanted to see how you were. I know that the last time I was here, it didn’t go so well.” Charles made an “hmm” of agreement, not giving him another glance.  Erik swore as he pulled away and lunged towards the telepath. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he grabbed Charles’ thin shoulders and shook him. “I’m your husband, for God’s sake. We’ve been together for fours fucking years! You’ve been in my head, me in yours. You need to snap out of this-this-thing and-”

            Erik!” Dr. Spencer barked from the door. Erik immediately fell back, his hands trembling. Charles looked completely shaken, his blue eyes wide with fear. This was the second time Erik had lost his temper with Charles; the man must think him a brute. “I’m sorry.” He whispered. Oh God, he was a monster.  Dr. Spencer came to Charles’ side, checking his upper body. “Are you ok?” She asked him. Charles nodded, still a little dazed. “Yes.” He kept glancing at Erik from across the room.  Erik growled in frustration and stalked out of the room.  He stormed down the hall, the doors rattling all the way.  He came to the end of the corridor, slamming his fists against the vending machine. He pummeled the side of the machine, letting his power seep into his hands until the metal box was completely caved in.  He turned and slid down to the floor, head braced in his hands, knees bent, hitching a sob. The tears burned his eyes “What have you done to me?” he rasped to the Charles who sat in the bed down the hall

               “Mr. Lehnsherr! Erik! Wait!” Dr. Spencer called out from outside Charles’ room. She jogged down the hall, heels clipping on the linoleum.  She reached him a moment later, out of breath. “Erik, what happened in there? This is the second time you’ve completely gone off the deep end. If this continues, I many have to ban you from coming here. This isn’t good for Charles’ recovery.” He looked up at her from the floor.

            “You said things were good; that there wasn’t permanent damage.  How do you explain what’s happening now?” he asked quietly.

             Dr. Spencer sighed, leaning against the wall.  “A brain injury isn’t like a broken bone or a laceration. Brains are much less predictable.  Sometimes, due to the way that the swollen tissues press onto the skull, it can cause some impairment.”

            Erik stood up, “Some impairment?” he raked his hands through his hair, “He doesn’t know me.” He said lamely. 

            Dr. Spencer put her hand on his shoulder. “Even though he’s awake and functioning, the remaining swelling can cause confusion and memory loss. Even mood swings.” She added.  Erik pushed away from the wall, punching the vending machine.  Dr. Spencer turned sighed again and pinched the bridge of her nose. “It’s normal.” She insisted wearily as she started to walk away.

            Erik sat there on the floor; arms hugging his knees against his chest, the antiseptic stench of the hospital bringing back painful memories of his childhood. He felt like he was ten years old again. Sitting in a hard plastic chair, bruised and aching, as the doctor told him that his mama, his papa, and his little sister Lorna, had perished in a car wreck. His breathing became labored, the past threatening to crush him from the inside, the blood pounding in his ears. He never felt more alone in his life.

            At some point he migrated to the couch in the Charles Xavier Waiting Area. Raven had stopped by with some clothes for Charles on her way out with Hank that evening, took one look at him, and stormed into her brother’s room. She was only in there for about fifteen minutes, and when she left, her blue eyes were shining with triumph. Hank had stayed with him, looking more uncomfortable as Raven sauntered down the hall back towards them. “Do I want to ask what happened?” her boyfriend asked.

            1. Raven bared her teeth. “Something I should have done that the first day.”  

            Hank stepped away when she rounded the couch. “I gave him something to think about,” she told Erik.

            Exhausted, Erik turned onto his side on the couch and tried to get some sleep.  He didn’t know how much time had passed when he felt a poke at his shoulder.  He snorted in annoyance then turned over. Charles stood there in pale blue hospital issue bathrobe and pajamas.  He had his arms wrapped around his middle, looking unsure and very breakable. Erik immediately sat up, running his hand through his already disheveled hair. “Charles, I’m sorry for earlier, it’s just I-”

            “Is there somewhere we can talk?” Charles blurted out.

            Erik wiped his hand over his face. “Uh, yeah, sure.” He grabbed the bag next to him. “Raven brought some clothes, thought that they would be more comfortable. “ Charles took the bag, “Thanks.” He hooked the bag over his arm. “I’ll go change and maybe we can get some coffee or something.” Erik nodded at him dumbly. Charles went back to his room and Erik shot up to the bathroom off the waiting room.  He flicked on the light with a wave of his hand, the harsh florescent light burning his eyes. He rubbed them for a moment then looked into the mirror. Sweet Jesus, he was a wreck: unshaven, bloodshot eyes, hollowed cheeks. The taps turned by themselves as he bent down and splashed water onto his face. He scrubbed for a moment before taking a paper towel and drying off. When he got back to the waiting room, Charles was already waiting. He was wearing a Columbia sweatshirt two sizes too big for him and a pair of cotton sleep pants.  The sleeves of the sweatshirt fell below his hands, and he had to push them back up.  Erik grinned at the sight.

            “So, coffee?” Charles suggested. Erik nodded and gestured towards the door. He instinctively placed his hand at the small of Charles’ back. Charles jumped at the contact. “Sorry,” Erik stepped back as if burned. Charles reddened, “It’s fine.” They walked in silence to the elevators. Charles’s finger hesitated on the key pad. “Down, first floor.” Erik prompted gently.

            “Thanks.”

            The elevator pinged and both Charles and Erik walked forward at the same time to enter the elevator car.  Their shoulders brushed together as they moved; Charles jumped back as if he had been burned.  “Oh, sorry.” The telepath blushed. Erik smiled sheepishly; he stepped back and bowed slightly, “After you.” He swept a hand towards the elevator.  Charles frowned a little; his eyes darted from Erik to the elevator. “Uh, thanks.” Charles slipped into the metal box a little quicker than necessary.  Erik’s eyes narrowed, “What?”

            Charles waved a hand at him, sleeve falling around his wrist. “Never mind, let’s go.” Erik entered and hit the button for first floor.  It only took a few moments to go down three floor, but the elevator ride was the most awkward he had ever had. They reached the cafeteria floor in silence.  The moment that the doors opened, Charles darted out as if he were afraid that the doors would close on him before he could exit.  Erik followed close behind.  Charles was as skittish as a colt, Erik realized.  He was almost afraid of him.  Well, that was unsettling.  Charles kept fidgeting with the sleeves of his shirt while they entered the cafeteria.  Erik grabbed two trays as they entered the queue, he handed one to Charles.  Charles took it without looking at him; he kept scanning the full tables around him.  Erik grabbed two bagels: one poppy and one onion.  He placed the poppy on Charles’ tray, along with a small container of cream cheese.  Charles looked down at his tray, “How did you know?” he asked.  Erik lifted an eyebrow. Charles flushed a little, “Oh, yeah.”

            They got to the beverage area and Erik took two cups, filled one with hot water and one with black coffee.  He plucked a tea bag from the container and out it on Charles’ tray as well.  Charles opened his mouth as if to ask again, but he shut his mouth with an audible click.  The professor was finally learning.  Charles took a fruit cup and yogurt before they got to the cash register.  While Erik paid, Charles looked for a table, trying to keep his sleeves up and hold his tray at the same time.  Erik came up behind him and nodded towards the back, “By the windows.” They settled down and took a few moments to fix their drinks and food.  “So,” Charles said as he stirred his tea, “we’re married then.” It wasn’t a question.

            Erik nodded, face solemn. 

            “How long?”

            “Six months, but we’ve been together for four years.  You’ll be 28 in January.”

            Charles leaned back in his chair, “How did we meet?”

            “We met while yachting in Miami.  You fell off the boat and I jumped in to save you,” Erik deadpanned.  Charles grimaced.

            “I highly doubt that. Firstly, the family yacht is in the Hamptons, and secondly, anyone who refers to a yacht as a ‘boat’, clearly knows nothing about the matter.” Charles sniffed primly.

            Erik broke his bagel roughly in half, “We met at the DMV. We were both having…issues at the time. Raven and my boss are to thank actually.”

            Charles nodded. “Ok. But I would like to verify some things: I have a lab? And why do I have weird hair?” to emphasize, Charles ran a hand through his rumpled locks. 

            “You have a private lab; you’ve been working on the X-Gene project for about a year.  You’re trying to determine the exact origin point of modern mutations, when we diverted from homo sapiens.” Erik smiled affectionately.  “It’s going to win you a Nobel, I’m sure.” He reached out, “I like your hair.”

            Charles pulled back, “But what about my law degree? I was going to grad school for law and I was engaged to Christian Frost.” Charles touched his forehead.  “At least that’s what I remember.”

            “You graduated from Oxford with a degree in genetics, and then started your grad work at Columbia.  You were a few credits shy of a law degree, so you majored in Bioethics. It’s led to you being published in journals across the globe. You are the Elvis Pressley of the field.”

            Charles blinked, “Oh, well. But what about my mother? Has she been notified?”

            Erik took a sip of coffee, “You and your family aren’t on speaking terms. Haven’t been for a long time.  As for Christian Frost, that was before you met me.  You’ll have to ask Raven for more details.”

            Charles took his fruit and yogurt and stood up. “There are a lot of things that I need to think about. Thanks for the food.”  He turned and left the cafeteria, leaving Erik sitting there, adrift in a sea of turmoil.

            Raven left a harried message on his phone the next day, hushed and a little panicky. “Something’s going on, but I’m not sure what. You have to get to the hospital.”

            Erik stormed into the MICU not long after, and when he pulled open the door to charles’ room, it was empty.  The bed was made, ready for another occupant.  He rushed to the nurses’ station, leaning heavily on the counter.  The nurse behind the desk looked up, files still in her hands. “Charles Xavier, where is he?” he snapped.

            The nurse blinked, then pulled up the file on the computer. “Oh, he was moved to the fourth floor, a private room. It happened this morning.”

            Private room.  That sounded expensive.

            “Go out that door and through the main hall. Go up the stairs and it’s second door on your right.” The nurse said as she pointed out the door.  Erik nodded in thanks and bolted thorugh the door. He ran for the elevator, thrusting his hand out to keep the doors open.  He stormed down the hall and found himself in the VIP Donor’s Wing.  He heard Dr. Spencer’s voice, and he followed it to a room down the hall.

            “Charles, you’re long term memory is intact, and im certain that you will get your memories back.  These things take time.” She looked up to see a harried Erik at the door, “Mr. Lehnsherr, just in time.” He barely heard her, his attention was on the slight woman standing by Charles’ bedside.  She was petite, with blonde hair streaked with gray. She wore an expensive fur coat and real pearls at her throat and on her ears.  Her face was made up perfectly, but age lines were still evident near her eyes.  Her eyes were pale blue, not as vibrant as Charles’ but obviously of the same family. Her expression was cool, detached.  Erik would have known who she was even if she hadn’t been standing next to Charles, those kind of eyes were rare.

            Sharon Xavier had come to see her son. 

            Chapter Text

            Erik stood in the doorway, struck dumb by the sight of Charles and Sharon Xavier standing that close to each other without some kind of bribe involved.  Sharon’s hand slid into Charles’, the age lines on her hand visible from the other side of the room. Charles squeezed his mother’s hand as he gave Erik a small friendly smile, one that was more suitable for the guy you see on the subway each day, not your husband. Dr. Spencer cleared her throat, aware of the tension in the room. She looked at Erik. “Yes, well.  I was telling Charles and Mrs. Marko that the best thing for Charles would be for him to go home and get back into his routine.”

            Erik nodded, wanting to get Charles away from that woman as soon as possible. He stepped closer to the bed, wiping his sweaty palm on his jeans. “This is really bizarre,” he said under his breath as he held out a hand to Sharon. “Mrs. Marko, I’m Erik Lehnsherr, Charles’ husband.” Sharon just looked at his hand, her pert nose wrinkling slightly.  “You’ve never met my mother?” Charles asked weakly from the bed. Sharon locked her ice blue eyes onto Erik. “Do you know how disconcerting it was to hear second hand that my child had been in a horrific car accident, and then in a coma for weeks, without as much as a phone call? Raven neglected to mention this crucial fact to me until this morning. That blue skinned creature is not allowed in my house from now on.”  She adjusted her fur collar with one elegant movement. 

            Erik didn’t realize that the metal in the room was rattling until Dr. Spencer sidled up to him, her shoulder pressing into the side of his. “Mother, Raven did nothing wrong. Erik should have told you. Please don’t punish her for Erik’s mistake.” Charles pleaded from the bed. Erik blinked; his mistake?   “Raven will be taken care of; she will always have a home with me.” Erik said carefully, teeth clenched.  He didn’t know who to be madder at:  Sharon for her flippant attitude towards Raven, or Charles pinning the blame on Erik.

            “As I was saying,” Dr. Spencer said, “Charles needs to get back to his daily routine, it will be good for him be in familiar surroundings.  It could jumpstart his memory.” She said helpfully, full of false cheerfulness.  Sharon nodded, “Which is why he is coming back to Westchester with me. He will be taken care by the best doctors and therapists.”

            Erik crossed his arms, “I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but, did you not hear what she just said?” He nodded towards Dr. Spencer. “She said that Charles needs to come home with me. Go back to his routine.  Start working on his research again.” Sharon put a hand on Charles’ shoulder. “That is a life that he doesn’t remember. He will be better off in his childhood home than with some stranger.”

            Erik stalked around Sharon like a shark honing in on its prey. “Home?” Erik snarled, “That mausoleum in Westchester was a childhood nightmare.  I don’t know about all the shit you and that asshole husband of yours put him through, but I know enough that if Charles had his memory, he wouldn’t walk across the street with you, never mind going back to living in that…Albtraum!” he roared.

            “Will both of you please stop?” Charles wailed.

            They both looked at him.

            “Erik, I know that you told me that you are my husband. Raven has said the same thing. But I need some kind of validation that we were in a relationship.” He gestured helplessly. “I’m sorry but I need something more than just your word.”

            Erik ran his fingers through his hair. “Ok, validation? Ok. You graduatedtop of your class at both Oxford and Columbia.  You have twenty five freckles on the right side of your body side, seventeen on your left.  You have a scar from falling off a ladder behind your right knee.” He leaned in, “I know every inch of your five foot seven frame, every freckle, every mark. I have mapped out your body on numerous occasions.  I know your mind, your heart. If that’s not validation, then I don’t know what else I can do.”

            Charles shook his head true sadness in his eyes. “I am sorry my friend, but it is not.”

            Erik swallowed a roar of frustration. He was desperate so he pulled out his cell phone and tapped open his voicemail. He put it on speaker and held it up for Charles, and everyone else, to hear. “Hello my darling.” Charles’ unmistakable voice came from the small device, “I’m sorry but I’m working late at the lab tonight.  You probably won’t be up when I get home.  I just wanted to tell you that I love you, with everything that I am. Sweet dreams, my love.  I might pop into your dreams for a moment at some point tonight, but since you dream of me so often anyway, how could you tell? Why can’t we have a little fun, even if we are in different boroughs?” Phone Charles laughed, “Anyways. I love you and will see you soon. Until then my darling, goodnight.” The line went dead after that.

            Sharon did not look pleased, her thin lips pressed in a hard line.  Her blue eyes were cold orbs staring at Erik, as if she wanted to flay him alive.  “Charles is coming home with me.”

            “Over my dead body.”

            “He can recover with people he knows and loves.”

            “Mother.”

            “You haven’t asked Charles what he wants. You want him under your thumb again. I won’t let that happen.”

            “Erik.”

            “You don’t have any say in his decisions! As his mother I have-”

            “Oh and you do? There’s a reason he doesn’t speak to you!”

            “Mrs. Marko! Mr. Lehnsherr!”

            Dr. Spencer held up her hand. “Look, it’s late; nothing has to be decided now. Go home, things can be settled tomorrow.” She put a hand on Erik’s shoulder. He nodded and watched as Sharon kissed Charles on the top of his head and swept out of the room, the cloying scent of Chanel No. 5 trailing after her. Charles looked shaken, color high on the apples of his cheeks, dark shadows under his eyes.  Dr. Spencer rubbed her forehead, “You guys have created more drama than any other patients that I have ever had. Ever.” She threw up her hands and stormed out of the room. 

            “So…” Erik stuffed his hands in his back pockets, “Coffee?”

            They ended up back in the cafeteria, Charles nursing a Jell-o cup and Erik his second cup of coffee. “If we have been together for as long as you say, why is it that you have never met my mother?” Charles asked, red lips glistening with the remnants of the gelatin.  Erik palmed his cup, “You haven’t spoken to them in years.  Raven has been the go-between ever since you left for Oxford.  You wanted to go into genetics; Sharon wanted you to go law or politics.  You did a year of law before some kind of major blow up happened and they disowned you.  I think that you’ve spoken to Sharon maybe three times in the last seven years.”

            Charles looked troubled, his brow furrowed. “The last thing I remember was going to law school and being engaged to Christian Frost.” Charles had the decency to blush. Erik blew air through his nose at the mention of the ex-fiancé. “Raven knows more about that part than I do.” He said vaguely. Charles narrowed his eyes, “That I doubt, my friend. Even without the use of my telepathy, I think you know more than you are telling.”

            “It’s not my story to tell.” Erik picked up his cup and drained the rest of his coffee. He got up and disposed of the cup and stalked out of the cafeteria.

            Erik sat in his living room with Raven, Moria, and Sean.  Sean pulled a Twizzler out of the bag and stuck it in his mouth.  “You know, I’m surprised that he went for you in the first place.  I’m no expert in the man love department, but I never knew what Charles saw in you.” He said around a mouthful. Raven shot out a hand and grabbed his chin, squeezing his face hard. She roughly twisted his head left and right, her blue eyes narrowed in scrutiny.  “He’s right. You are definitely less attractive than you were four years ago,” she announced firmly.  Erik grunted as he pulled away, the flush creeping up his neck.  He ran his hands through his hair. “I have to make my husband fall in love with me again. But seriously, what if he doesn’t remember me? Ever? Then what?”

            “Take him to a secret island, full of dinosaurs and killer plants, total Lost Word thing going on, and keep him as your sex kitten for the rest of his days; or maybe a giant fortress on a rock in outer space.” Sean offered.

            “You guys are such a great support system,” he deadpanned.

            He must have looked really pathetic, because Moira slapped his knee, “We’re family, you dolt. It’s what we do.” She told him. 

            Erik made his way to the Donor Wing, as he entered Charles’ room; he caught the tail end of a conversation. “This was the only thing in the bag that was remotely appropriate.” Charles said, dismayed. Sharon tweaked the collar of the over-large red sweater that Charles was wearing, “It will do for the time being.” She said off hand. The sweater had at one time been Erik’s, but Charles had a tendency to ‘borrow’ things and they never seemed to return to Erik’s side of the dresser.  Not that he minded, though. He always took perverse pleasure in the knowledge that Charles was wearing his clothes.  Raven said that it was a cry for help, and that she could find him a good therapist to help with those feelings. He told her to jump off a satellite dish.

            Sharon and Charles looked up as Erik entered the room. “Oh, Erik. I’m sorry but I think that I’ll be going home with my mother to Westchester. It does seem like the most beneficial decision.” Charles rubbed his hand on his shoulder, causing the sweater to fall, and exposing pale skin. Erik tore his gaze away from the enticing sight. He stepped into Charles’ space, a hands breath away from touching him. “Charles, please listen. You left for Oxford, moved away from Westchester, away from your mother and step father. You made that decision before you met me. Don’t you think that you owe it to yourself to honor the decisions that you made?”

            Sharon stepped forward, “This is a mistake. He’s coming home with me.” She said firmly.

            Erik ignored her, his eyes focused on Charles. “Come home with me,” he begged, his voice ragged. “Please, I promise to take care of you. I will always take care of you.” He watched as Charles pursed his lips in thought, catching Sharon fuming in the background. Charles looked at his mother, “I could try it out, and it’s not that far from Westchester. I can always come home if it doesn’t work out.” He looked at Erik, smiling a little. “I married him, there has to be a reason.”

            Sharon shot a dagger’s glare at Erik, but nodded slightly, knowing that she had been defeated. For now.

            Charles huddled in the passenger seat of the car Erik’s leather jacket wrapped around him.  Erik flexed his hands against the steering wheel as he maneuvered through traffic across the Brooklyn Bridge.  The static-filled music from the radio surrounded them in the uncomfortable silence. 

             “Who’s the president?” Charles asked suddenly.

            “Huh?” Erik glanced at him quickly then back to the road.

            “Who is the current president?” Charles asked again, a little more forceful.

            “Of the United States?”

            “Yes.” Charles said, exasperated.

            “Barak Obama.”

            “The senator?”

            “Yeah, you voted for him.”

            “Hm.  Good for him.”

                            As Erik maneuvered through Brooklyn commuter traffic, Charles asked, “Where do we live?” Erik eyed him cautiously.  “The Waterfront District, Brooklyn.” Erik said. Charles made a disparaging noise, but nothing further.  They rode in silence until Erik pulled up onto their street. Erik opened the passenger door and held out a hand. Charles took it, squeezing a little as he hauled himself up out of the car.  They walked the short distance to the apartment, Charles glancing up and down the street, as if he thought he would be mugged at any moment. It made Erik bristle inside. It was a quiet neighborhood, a good place to raise a family.  At that time of evening there were not many people out. As if anyone would try and hurt Charles in the first place. They finally got to the door; Erik jogged up the steps. “Well, this is home.” He said with a small smile, hand indicating their front door.  Charles stared at him, “This?” he asked, craning his neck to look up at the large arched windows and misshaped door of the converted warehouse. Erik swallowed. The look on Charles’ face was one of complete incredulity, as if they had stopped in front of a garbage dump and Erik called it a palace.

             “Yeah, this is our home, Charles. We live here.” He said with a little more force.  Charles flushed and started up the steps. Erik pressed his thumb against the lock, the tumblers clicking under his power.  He stepped into the main room, Charles trailing behind him.

            He should have felt all that metal before they entered the apartment, but his instincts were rubbed raw from the strain of dealing with a petulant telepath.  They barely got through the door before Raven burst out from the living area, grabbing Charles in a fierce hug. “Welcome Home!” she cried happily, a dozen or so people behind her cheering as she embraced her brother.  Everyone was there: Sean and Moria; Angel and Darwin; Hank and Alex; Cassie and her friend Dazzler; Kitty and her boyfriend Bobby; and Scott and his girlfriend Jean; along with a few other friends and acquaintances from the neighborhood and the university.  He saw all those smiling happy faces, saluting Charles and Erik with drinks in hand. 

            Sean was at the CD player fiddling with a few disks and a thrumming beat began to play.  Charles jumped at the sound; he looked like a mouse trapped in a room full of cats. His eyes were wide, darting around, looking for an escape. His hand went to his temple, fingers rubbing the side of his head in a sure sign that there was a headache coming on. Before Erik could say anything, Moria popped up in front of him grinning. “Charles, it’s so good to see you!” she hugged him tight. When she pulled back, he gave her a blank look, “I take it we’re close?” he asked her.  Her smile faltered. “I’m Moira, your best friend.  We, that is Sean and the rest of us, we were at the hospital every day but we didn’t want to overwhelm you.”

            Sensing distress on both sides, Erik put a hand on Charles’ elbow, leaning into Moira’s space. “Later, MacTaggart.” He said quietly. Moira nodded, eyes filled with tears as Erik led Charles away.  Alex stepped in front of them, red plastic cup in his hand. “Hey Charles, good to have ya back, buddy.” Erik snarled at him. Alex took a sip from the cup to hide his gulp of fear and then clapped Charles on the upper arm. “See ya around, Charles!” He said as he ducked into the living area where Sean was now scrolling through his iPod, looking for more music.

            Angel and Darwin made their introductions thankfully short.  Darwin shook his hand in welcome and Charles endured a brief hug from Angel. Hank waved awkwardly from the stairs that lead to Raven’s room, the cup Alex had given him clasped in his furry hands, barely visible.  His cheeks were slightly red, glasses askew on his blunt nose.  Raven linked her arms with Erik and Charles.  “I tried to keep it small, just the gang, but when the news got out, it was hard to keep it contained,” she said apologetically. “Can we call it a night?” Erik asked, trying not to sound as pissed as he felt. Raven colored a little, hearing the scolding in his voice. “Yeah, I’ll clear them out. I really am sorry.” She kissed Charles’ cheek and slipped away, going up to people and telling them that it was time to leave. Many were disappointed, but when they took a look at Charles, who was pale and leaning against the wall for support, they didn’t argue.

            The apartment emptied quickly, only Raven remained.  Charles had slumped down onto the couch, head in his hands. Raven perched herself on the edge of the couch, her hand rubbing his back.  “I’m sorry. I didn’t expect so many people.” She said helplessly.  Charles stood up and drifted towards the shelf running across one wall in the living room. He trailed his fingers across picture frames filled with photos of Erik and Charles, Raven and Charles, and one very old, tattered precious photo of Erik and his parents.  Charles wandered over to the table that served as a catch-all/vanity, where there were scattered pieces of stuff everywhere. Pens littered the surface; a few tie clips were in a little cup by the edge. Post it notes of half-formed ideas and notations were stuck to almost every available surface. A notebook full of Erik’s designs with funny notes and pictures drawn in the margin by Charles sat open. A few of the coins Shaw handed out lay in a pile. A bottle of cologne sat nearby. Charles picked it up and opened the cap. He took a quick sniff, nose scrunching in distaste, and set it down. Charles looked so out of place at his own space.

            Erik leaned against the divider that split the bedroom and living room, hands in his pockets. “Are you ok?” he asked quietly. Charles sighed and braced his hands against the table. “What do you think?” he asked, turning his head to look at Erik. Erik rubbed the back of his neck. “I know, it’s a lot to take in. Raven didn’t mean for it to get so out of control.”

            Charles held up a hand. “It would have been a lot to take in, coming home with a strange man that I don’t even know. To a strange apartment in Brooklyn,” he spat out the word like it was offensive, “but to come home to that,” he gestured towards the living room, “a bunch of people pulling at me, hugging me, crying in my face, their minds beating against mine, telling me about shit that I don’t remember. That’s not a lot to take in, that’s…that’s…bullshit!” he cried as he swept his hands across the table, the books and pens and other things crashing to the floor. Erik was too stunned to move, but when he saw the picture of his parents start to fall, he made a grab at it. He dove for the frame but he wasn’t fast enough. The fragile glass shattered against the hard floor.

            The crashing sound of glass shocked Charles out of his fit; he dragged his hands through his hair, tugging at the roots. He stared at the mess for a moment and then stormed into the bathroom. A moment later, Erik heard the shower running.

            Raven appeared at the doorway. “Is everything ok? I thought I heard...” she looked down and saw Erik cradling the broken picture frame. Her face paled as she picked her way through the debris. She knelt down next to Erik, careful of the broken glass and ceramic around her.  “Is it ok?” she asked softly. Erik turned the photo around with shaking hands. A few more tears in the corner, a jagged rip down one side. Raven hissed as she looked over his shoulder. “Peter took a course in art preservation at school, maybe he can help-” she was abruptly cut off by Erik jumping up and storming out of the bedroom.

             He paced the living room for a while until Raven came out, looking as tired as he felt.  “He’s asleep right now.  The suppressants are taking a real toll on him,” she murmured consolingly.  “Things will be better in the morning.” She bussed his cheek and climbed the stairs to the loft bedroom.

             Erik scrubbed his hands on his face, the stubble scratching against his palms.  He got up and went to the glass paneled liquor cabinet in the corner near the stereo. Charles had found it in an antique shop in Soho and had fallen in love with it immediately. It had taken Erik, Alex, Hank and Peter in his metalized form an entire Saturday to get the damn thing into the apartment.  Erik smirked as he opened the door and pulled out an old bottle of scotch.  He poured some of the amber liquid into a glass and knocked it back. The liquor burned all the way down his throat. He barely tasted it, despite being a very good vintage. He sighed and poured another finger of scotch and headed for the couch. He placed his glass down on the side table and began to pull off his clothes. When he was completely nude, he picked up the glass and finished his drink. He ached to crawl into bed next to Charles; he hadn’t had the telepath in his arms for more than a month. Charles would have had a complete fit if that happened. He put the empty glass down and spread out on the couch. He pulled a blanket from the side and curled up in a ball. Charles was home, in their bed, asleep. He was only ten feet away in the next room. Erik never felt so alone in his life.

            Erik woke early the next morning, despite the hellish situation; he still needed to go to work.  He flung off the blanket and stretched. Not bothering to cover himself, he ambled towards the fridge for a quick swig of orange juice before he brushed his teeth. The taste of juice afterwards always made him grimace. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and headed towards the bedroom. He walked in, on auto pilot, headed for the shower. He noticed Charles near the mirror, only a towel around his hips, body contorted, as he tried to get a good look at the tattoo on his back between his shoulder blades. Erik watched, amused, as the pale body twisted around. Charles was squinting to try and make out the markings. “It means lover, in Hebrew.” Erik offered. Charles jumped, towel slipping from his grasp. He shouted in surprise as he noticed that Erik was completely naked. Charles scrambled to cover himself, while Erik stood there, shameless. 

            “Knock next time!” Charles sputtered as he pulled on a shirt from shelf next to him. Erik held up a hand. “Sorry, sorry. Force of habit.” He made his way over to the bathroom door. He opened it and turned to Charles. “Not like you haven’t seen it before.  And thanked God afterward.” He winked as he closed the door, narrowly missing the pillow that Charles threw at him.

            Erik emerged a while later, showered and dressed for the office. Charles was not in the bedroom, so Erik poked around the apartment until he found his wayward telepath. Charles was in the office area, behind the living room. He was looking at the bookshelf, hand under his chin. He was dressed in a gray sweater and jeans, still barefoot.  Charles traced his hand across the books, slim pale fingers caressing the spines.  Erik swallowed hard, remembering those fingers caressing parts of his own body. He shook himself as Charles plucked a book from the shelf; he watched Charles flip open the book to a random spot.  He skimmed the page blue eyes darting back and forth, red lips mouthing the words as he read. He looked up, eyes bright. “This is marvelous! Whoever wrote this book has an extraordinary grasp of genetics.” Erik leaned against the edge of the couch, arms folded.  He nodded towards the book in Charles’ hands. “You wrote that.” Charles’ eyes widened as he clutched the book to his chest.  “I did?” he squeaked, then rustled to open to the author page in the front. “I did.” He breathed.

            Erik nodded; he pulled away from the couch and walked to the exposed brick wall next to the bookcase.  “You won the William Allan Award last year for your work on secondary mutations in males ages 18 to 35.” He indicated the plaque on the wall.  There was a picture of Charles with the Dean of the Genetics Department and a few other academics smiling over the same plaque that was on the wall.  “The year before that, you got the Mckusick Award.” He pointed to the other plaque and photo next to them.  He touched the metal frame of the photo, “According to pretty much anyone whose opinion matters on the subject, you are the leading expert on genetics in the 21st century.” Charles sat down on the edge of the desk, book still clutched in his hands.  “I’m am?”

            “You’ve come a long way, Xavier.  You’ve brought more money into the Genetics Department than anyone else in the last fifty years.”

            Charles looked down at the cover of the book in his hands. “I always had an interest in genetics, one that went beyond a passing fancy. I wanted to study it in school, but my mother wanted me to go into law, or maybe politics.  I deliberately failed my first few classes so that she would leave me alone. So I up and went to Oxford. I thought that Christian would wait for me.” Charles stood up and returned the book to its spot on the bookshelf.  “That seems to be ancient history now.”

            Erik sighed, a headache forming between his eyes.  “I’m going to make some breakfast, then I have to go to work.” Charles nodded absently, looking out the window at the street below. Sighing, Erik stomped into the kitchen. He was just finishing plating the last of the eggs when Charles peeked into the kitchen. “May I join you?” Charles asked meekly. Erik’s eyes widened, “Yeah, of course.” He indicated a seat at the kitchen island.  As Charles made his way to the chair, Erik couldn’t help but say, “You look nice.”

            Charles laughed, “This?” he asked, pulling at the over large sweater. “It’s the only thing that I feel comfortable in.” Erik hid his smile behind his coffee cup, “That’s mine, actually. You’ve been in at least three of my shirts in the past two days.” Charles flushed, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can…” he was about to lift the shirt up above his head when a rumpled Raven shuffled in. She was in short shorts and a tank top with Hello Kitty on the front, her red hair sticking up in every direction. “Coffeeneedcoffeecoffee.” She mumbled as she fumbled for a cup. She drank deeply for a moment, gold eyes closed in bliss before she noticed the spread on the island. “Whoa, is it my birthday?” she asked, gesturing at the pile of food on the counter. Charles stepped behind her and rustled through the cupboard for a glass. “This isn’t normal?” he asked her as he poured some juice.

            Erik refilled his mug, “This is an apology for last night.” He looked directly at Charles. “I’m trying to figure this out as we go along, and maybe I haven’t been as understanding as I should be.”

             Charles looked stricken, “I’m the one who freaked out, so I should be the one who’s sorry. I am, by the way.” Charles gnawed on his thumbnail, “So you work? You have a job?” he tried to be casual.

            Erik grinned, “Yes, I have a job. Or I probably still do. I work for Sebastian Shaw, the bastard of the engineering world. I was in Columbia’s Engineering program.”  Charles smiled politely, nodding appropriately. This was way too much like small talk while waiting for a bus. Charles absently picked up a piece of bacon from the plate and bit into it. Erik leaped up, hand stretched out. “No, that’s for me.” He barked. Charles looked at him, as if he had grown another head. Erik blushed, “You’re a vegetarian.” He said lamely. Charles stared at him as he picked the piece of cooked meat off his tongue. “He’s a terrible Jew.” Raven stage whispered to Charles.

            Erik glared at her and she stuck her tongue out at him. Raven downed the rest of her coffee. “Okaaay, I’m getting dressed and going to class. See you guys later.” She kissed Charles on the cheek and tweaked Erik’s ear on her way out of the kitchen.

            Erik looked at his watch, he needed to leave now or he would be late. He stood up and grabbed his wallet and keys. “I have to leave too.” He touched a phone and set of keys on the counter. “These are yours, my number is auto dial one, Raven is two. I’ll try to be home as soon as I can.” Charles nodded, glancing at the phone and keys. “Thanks.”

            Erik opened the back door that lead to the car, hovering in the doorway. “Call me if you need anything.” He insisted. Charles smiled, making a shooing gesture. “Go to work, we can make flash cards later.” Erik nodded and closed the door behind him.

            He was opening the door to the driver’s side when Raven materialized out of nowhere. “So first hour down, I think it went well.” He jumped a mile at the sound of her voice. “Mein Gott, Raven!” he swore. She just grinned. “You know, everything before this was the easy part. The hard stuff is just beginning.” She tried to sound cheerful, but the solemn look in her blue eyes revealed her worry. Erik grunted as he climbed into the car. Raven was right: everything up until then had been easy. Now the real work began.

             

            Chapter Text

            Charles watched as Erik shut the door; he heard the rumble of an engine as Erik left for work.  Charles plucked a piece of bacon off the plate and bit into it. He chewed the deliciously crispy morsel thoughtfully, glancing around the metal kitchen: large island in the middle; stove; refrigerator covered in photos and notes; countertops with the usual kitchen paraphernalia. Despite the abundance of metal, the kitchen felt warm and inviting. Charles finished his eggs and toast, plus more bacon, placing the plates in the sink. He would worry about the dishes later; he might be from money, but he still knew how to wash a cup, thank you very much. 

            While nosing through the cupboards, he found a tin of his favorite English tea, so he made a cup and decided to take a look around the apartment.  It was a converted warehouse, obviously. Large windows allowed light to flow in, warming the open space. There was the living room with its leather couch and throw pillows.  Mismatched chairs and tables filled the living space, also filled with photos and mementos of his and Erik’s life together.  Charles wandered around, tea in hand, looking at the photos of him and Erik at the beach, completely entwined with each other. They looked so happy; the smiles on their faces were completely joyous. There was one photo of Erik, who was curiously, blond. Charles would have to ask about that one.  He saw what he assumed was their wedding picture, him and Erik hanging off each other in the lobby of a hotel, smiling like maniacs. He went over to the TV, where a DVD was sitting on top of the console.  It was a burned DVD with Charles & Erik August 2011 written in unfamiliar script. He popped the video into the player and settled down on the sofa.

            The screen was blue for a second, before a young black man’s face appeared, close to the lens, grinning. He looked familiar, and then Charles realized it was that Armado fellow, or was it Darwin? from last night. “Alright,” he said to the camera, “here we are, about t-minus one hour until the big event. Alex Summers presiding.” He panned over to a scared looking young man pacing behind him. Darwin handled the camera well, despite the fact that that blond boy was then grabbing at it. The picture was shaky as it panned around, catching Raven adjusting Hank’s tie and that young woman, Moria, playing with a top hat that seemed to belong to a red headed young man who was trying to retrieve it. Charles fast forwarded it until he saw Erik and himself standing in the middle of a museum exhibit. Charles pressed play, leaning forward to listen.

            Alex cleared his throat, pulling out a handful of index cards from the breast pocket of his jacket.  “Dearly beloved- do I have to say that?” Alex stage whispered to Raven. Raven gave him a death glare. “Don’t screw this up, Summers.” She growled.  Alex paled, shuffling the cards in his hands. “Uh, dearly-uh-Friends. We are gathered here today to join these two in matrimony.” 

            “I vow to help you love life; to hold you with tenderness, to help you be the better man.  To have the patience that love demands; to speak when words are needed,” he tapped his temple with the paper, “and to share the silence when they are not.  To live within the warmth of your heart, knowing it will always be my home.” He added softly. 

             “I vow to fiercely love you, now and forever.  I vow to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love, and always know that no matter what may try to tear us apart, we will always find a way back to each other. I will always want you by my side: my brother, my friend, my lover.”

            Charles sat back into the leather of the couch, knees curled up to his chest, completely in awe of the way that he and Erik played off each other. Tears welled in his eyes, his hand came up to his mouth, the love he saw on the screen threatened to overwhelm him. No wonder Erik fought so hard for him to come home. Charles suddenly felt overwhelmed. He rushed to the door, only pausing to slip on a pair of sneakers. He slid out the door and onto the street. When he emerged, he breathed a sigh of relief at being in the fresh air.  Charles looked around the neighborhood. There were several people on the street, a few cars passing by. It was a quiet place, and Charles felt a little less stifled. Bracing up, Charles started down the street, in search of something that was familiar.

            Charles wandered through the streets, watching people, trying to skim surface thoughts off of them. It still felt as if there was cotton in his head, a buffering that was unnatural for a telepath. Charles found a Metro Card in his back pocket, and a few crumpled dollars, but found that he had left his phone and wallet back at the apartment.  Charles stood in front of the entrance to the subway he found a block from the apartment.  Would he dare venture into Manhattan? He was more familiar with the area than he was in Brooklyn.  Setting his shoulders, Charles entered the subway, and swiped the card at the turnstile.  He had just cleared the metal bar when he heard, “Professor Xavier! It’s good to see you!” an older woman with a wheeled grocery cart scuttled over to him. Charles had jumped at the voice, not knowing what to expect. When the woman came in front of him, she smiled warmly. “It’s so good to see you out and about. I told my Hannah that you would bounce back from that terrible accident.” She peered at the scars on his face, “Oy gavoualt, those look painful.” Charles felt very uncomfortable; “I’m sorry Mrs…” he trailed off.

            “Rosenblatt,” the woman offered, a small frown of worry forming on her kind face. Charles rubbed his arm, “Mrs. Rosenbaltt, yes. Um thank you for your concern. I have to be going, but I appreciate your kind words.” The woman nodded, rattling her cart a little. “Oh, alright, dear. Well, tell that adorable sister of yours that Hannah has been asking after her. She needs to stop by soon. That little girl just adores her!” Charles bit his lip, nodding. He hopped from his right foot to his left. “Thank you again,” he said as he turned and fled towards the subway platform.

            He didn’t have to wait long for a train, and settled down for the long ride to Manhattan. He watched the people on the train, some reading, and most listening to music. Charles leaned his head back, trying to find the center that his father had spoken so much to him about when he was a child. He drifted as the train swayed along the tracks. He stretched his mental limbs out to the others in the car. It hurt a little, like putting weight on a limb that had been asleep for a long time. A frown formed on his lips, the headache that was forming was formidable. He retracted his psychic tendrils, and sat quietly the rest of the way.

            He emerged near East 20th street, letting the flow of people buoy him down the street. He strolled, watching people as they walked by. The breakfast that he had had was now wearing off, and Charles went in search of something to eat. He wandered over to a quaint café with a battered weathered sign. He went in, making a b-line for the counter. The glass case was filled with decadent pastries, cupcakes and cakes filled with savory and sweet fillings and topped with fruits and candies. Charles’ mouth watered at the sight. He surveyed the goods, and found a lush chocolate cake that called to him. He looked over the counter at the pretty brunette who was grinning at him. “Charles, what a surprise! I didn’t think that we’d see you so soon. Is Erik with you?” she beamed.

            Charles flushed, yet another person who knew him. Was there anywhere that he could go without being bombarded? “Ah, hello. Can I have that one please?” he pointed to the cake. The woman gave him a curious look, one eyebrow arched. “Don’t you want your usual?” she asked kindly. Charles blinked. “I have a usual?” he asked. She nodded.  Charles fidgeted, clearly unsure. “How about both?” she suggested with a smile. Charles grinned at her. “Deal.” She took two cakes out of the glass case and placed them in a pink box. “Thank you,” Charles smiled as he reached for his wallet. His smile faltered as he remembered that the wallet was on the counter back in Brooklyn. The woman was eyeing him, a knowing smile on her face. “Don’t worry, it’s on the house.” She winked at him, passing over the box. Charles gaped as he took the box. “I-thank you.” He stammered. The woman smiled and closed the case. “Don’t worry; it’s a small thing, considering how happy Erik is with you. I think that we can spare some cake.”

            A man emerged from the back, a towel in his hands. “Magda, bringen die neue Charge von Blechkuchen.” He said to her.

             “Ja, Papa,” she called back. She turned to Charles. “Take care, libeling. Erik is worried about you.” She smiled and turned towards the back of the shop.  Charles took his cakes outside and dug in with gusto. He walked up the street, munching on his cake like a little boy set free in a cake shop. In a way, he had been. After his cake was gone, Charles decided that it was time to head back. He looked left, then right. This area was unfamiliar to him. He must be in the Village. The cake sat like a leaden weight in his stomach. He was lost. He wandered up a little more, trying to get his bearings. The further he went, the more confused he became. He found a small bodega and slipped in; he went to the counter and said to the old man behind the counter, “Excuse me, may I use your phone?” the old man nodded, pulling an old corded phone from behind the counter. Charles gave him a grateful smile, taking the receiver. His hand paused over the buttons. He didn’t know Erik’s number, nor Raven’s. Sighing, he dialed the only number he knew.

            About half an hour later, the black Rolls Royce pulled up in front of the bodega. The driver door opened and a black suited man walked over. He nodded to Charles, and then opened the back passenger door. Charles bent down to look at the occupant. “I’m sorry to call you like this. I didn’t know who else to call.” There was no response from inside the car, but Charles smiled and got in. The chauffer closed the door and went back to the driver’s side. The card pulled away from the curb, a trail of gray exhaust following them.

            Erik got home about four, exhausted from being in meetings all day. Shaw was being a bigger asshole than usual. Rumor around the water cooler was that his girlfriend was giving him the cold shoulder and he was taking it out on his employees. Janos and Azazel were having a hard time reigning in their boss and it was taking its toll on everyone. The usually stoic wind manipulator stalked the office, tiny whirlwinds following him, disrupting papers as he passed.  People had resorted to using crates filled with office supplies to weigh down the files.  The red teleporter had been throwing knives at a dart board constantly, leaving deep grooves in the wall.

            Erik groaned as he fell onto the couch. He kicked off his shoes, and undid his tie. “Charles?” he called. Silence. He looked up. “Charles?” he called again, a little louder. He pulled himself off the couch, and went into the bedroom. No one was there. He tried the kitchen, same thing. He poked his head upstairs in Raven’s room. Nothing. Erik ran his hands through his hair. He pulled out his phone and dialed Charles’ number. He heard the ringing from the kitchen, and he found Charles’ phone on the counter. Erik growled, clutching his phone tightly. “Damn it Charles,” he muttered. He tossed his phone on the coffee table and ambled into the bedroom. He pulled off his suit and put on a t-shirt and jeans. He strode towards the kitchen and found a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Erik sighed and began to wash them. After he set them out to dry, he opened the fridge and pulled out a beer.

            Erik sat back down on the sofa, noticing that the DVD of their wedding out on the console. He turned on the TV, the tail end of the ceremony on pause. Erik waved his hand, the DVD returning to the beginning. Erik re-watched their wedding, smiling like a fool at how in love they were. Are. Erik flicked his hand, shutting the player and TV off in one gesture. He checked his phone, two messages from Raven and one from Moira; they basically asked the same question: How is Charles doing?

            Erik hit Reply: He’s not here. Im starting to worry. Call me if he shows up or calls either of you

            A few hours later, Charles breezed in the back door, laden with several shopping bags; he was dressed in a sharp looking jacket and white dress shirt and dark jeans. His hair was trimmed and styled, the scruff of beard that had been there since the accident was gone. He smiled brightly at Erik, oblivious to Erik’s annoyed expression.  “Hello Erik.” Charles greeted him cheerfully. Erik stormed over, “Charles, where have you been?” he demanded. Charles looked at him curiously. “Oh, I went out and got lost, literally and figuratively. I didn’t have your number so I called Mother and we went shopping.” He placed the bags on the counter. “We made a day of it.  And she invited us to dinner tonight. Kurt flew back from Amsterdam this morning so it’s a family thing.”

            Erik leaned his arms against the counter, “Is Raven coming?” he asked. Charles paused in his search for a glass. “Um, Mother didn’t mention it, so I suppose not.” He covered himself by grabbing a glass and filling it with water and taking a long drink. Erik snarled softly, “I don’t even know you anymore,” as he pulled away, stomping into the living room. Charles stood there, holding an empty glass, watching after him.

            Raven turned a sickly shade of green when she heard about dinner. She slid onto the couch, hands between her knees, pressing down.  Erik sat down next to her, close enough to be near to her, but not touching. “You’re going.” She said in a level voice, it wasn’t a question. Charles was at the other side of the room, rifling through another genetics text. “Mother seems very eager to see me.  After all: we haven’t seen each other in such a long time; there is a lot to catch on.” Raven groaned, sinking deeper into the cushions.  Erik put his arm across the back of the couch. “Charles, did it ever occur to you that there is a reason why you haven’t spoken to your mother in almost a decade?” Erik asked sardonically. Charles waived him off, “Nonsense, Erik. I’m sure things were blown way out of proportion.” Raven hissed through her teeth like a tea kettle ready to blow.

            Nothing seemed to be able to convince Charles that going to Westchester was a bad idea; so around six that night, Erik found himself behind the wheel of the car, with Charles in the passenger seat, heading upstate on the 278.

            The Xavier Mansion was located at 1407 Graymalkin Lane, Salem Center, in the Northeast corner of Westchester County. It had been built by Charles’ ancestor, the first Charles Xavier, in the late 1700’s.  Charles had shown Erik the house and surrounding grounds (lake and all) on Google Earth and on the National Registry of Historic Homes website. Charles had regaled Erik with countless stories as a young boy, then later with Raven, exploring the ancient house, finding many secret doors and passages in the cavernous rooms. It had been a lonely, harsh childhood, yet Charles seemed to be well adjusted as an adult.

              Not long after they began dating, Charles took Erik out to the house, only going as far as the massive gray iron and brick gate that started the long driveway up to the house. They stood there, on that misty Sunday morning, looking at the large house looming in the distance. Charles had his arms wrapped around himself, shivering despite being bundled in Erik’s coat as well as his own.  Erik watched Charles’ beloved blue eyes go far away as he relived his childhood in his head. “This place holds so many memories for me. Good and bad. When I was a young child, before my father died, it was a good place. My father was a very busy man, but no matter what he was doing, he would drop everything to play with me. There was a swing attached to one of the trees in the back. He would push me on that crappy little thing till I was dizzy. He once came home early from California because I fell off ladder in the library and had broken my arm. My mother wasn’t the warmest person; she was raised in England, High Society and all that. She married for status, not love. My father knew that and yet he gave her all the love that he had. My father wasn’t as concerned with class as she was.  If you were a good person he didn’t care where you came from or who your parents were.

            “I really think he would have liked you. You’re smart and kind and you love me. I bet the two of you would have been great friends.” Charles grinned despite the tears welling in his eyes. “When he died, I was devastated.  I think Mother was too, in her own way. She hid her pain in booze and affairs. Thank God Raven came not long after that. I really think that she saved my life. Then I met you and I have never felt so loved.” Erik could see the ghosts of young Charles and Raven skittering around the grounds, trying to be children while avoiding Kurt and Cain Marko. He saw young Charles stop, even from this distance he could see those deep blue eyes. The desperation in those eyes made Erik’s heart clench. Save me, the boy seemed to say.

             Charles raised his hand and pushed gently against the iron gate. Erik felt the metal sing under Charles’ fingers. It wouldn’t take much to make that iron buckle, to pull the whole damn thing into itself. Instead, he gathered Charles into his arms, pulling him tight against his chest. Charles leaned into him, tucking his head under Erik’s chin. Erik could feel the telepath’s barriers weaken, so he opened himself up, letting Charles soak in his strength. “Thank you,” Charles breathed; Charles turned his head so that Erik could capture his lips in a sweet kiss.

            They arrived at the mansion about an hour and half later. Erik would never admit it, but he did gape as he pulled up to the house. His eyes widened as he leaned over to look up at the house through the windshield. Holy shit, he was in trouble. Charles bounded out of the car as soon as Erik turned off the ignition. “Come on Erik,” Charles grabbed the bouquet of flowers he had picked up on the way from the backseat. Erik got out of the car, hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. He had changed into a black polo and khakis after Charles had come home and dropped the bomb on him.

            They made their way up to the door, Charles fidgeting with his collar then rang the bell. He looked down at the simple bouquet of sunflowers and carnations that he held in his hand. “I don’t think that this arrangement says ‘I’m sorry for not speaking to you for almost a decade, but now that I have a brain injury, it makes it OK’.” Charles observed. Erik frowned at the flowers, “You’re right, should have gotten forget-me-nots.” He said in a serious tone. Charles stared at him a moment then laughed breathlessly. “That is funny, really funny. It shouldn’t be funny, but it is.” A few moments later, a stoic-looking man in a suit opened the door. He glared at Erik, but when his gaze fell to Charles, the man’s expression softened. Christ, even the help loved Charles. “Ah, Arthur! Splendid to see you again. How is your wife?” Charles grinned, shaking the man’s hand. The man’s mouth twitched a little, which could have been a smile. “Martha is very well, Master Charles; she will be pleased to know that you asked about her.” Erik cleared his throat and Charles glanced at him. “Arthur, this is Erik Lehnsherr, my uh, husband.” Erik nodded curtly and Arthur nodded back just as curtly, stare still hard.  It seemed that the servants were protective of Master Charles; Erik would have to earn their respect before he was deemed worthy. 

            Arthur stepped aside so that they could enter. Charles slipped through, eyes straight ahead, at where Sharon stood by the main staircase. Erik slunk in behind him, sulking like a forgotten child. The main foyer was paneled in dark woods, with light woods in geometric patterns on the shining wood floors. There were delicate vases full of fresh flowers in niches along the walls, a grandfather clock ticked in the background. A large crystal chandelier hung high above them.  There was a fucking set of full antique amour, head to toe, in the corner that lead to one of the many rooms off the main hall. Erik tried to control his breathing; he was in the dragon’s lair, the enemy had him in their sights. Sharon floated over to them, drink in hand.  She wore a cream colored silk gown, the shimmery material as incandescent as the pearls she wore. She air kissed Charles, and just frowned at Erik. “Charles, so good of you to come. I hope you didn’t have trouble finding it.” She addressed the last part to Erik. “No problem at all,” he replied coolly. He had promised himself that he would behave, for Charles’ sake.

            “So the prodigal has returned.” A man’s voice boomed from one of the rooms off the main foyer. Charles stiffened a little and Erik took a step closer to him, just in case.  Kurt Marko was an imposing bull of a man. He wasn’t fat, but he was large. He had a good inch on Erik, who was six feet tall, and his bulk made him look even bigger. Marko was broad shouldered, had dark hair silvering at the temples. His face was almost good looking, save for the smirk on his face. His mouth was hard, stern. This man must have appeared monstrous to a small child. No wonder Charles feared this man so much. Erik could have overlooked all that, but when Marko came forward to shake his hand, Erik looked into the man’s eyes and froze. The eyes that stared back at him were hard coals, fierce and evil. This man had no soul.

             

            Chapter Text

            “Erik Lehnsherr,” Erik said smoothly, voice steady, as he took Marko’s hand. Kurt’s fingers were thick, his palm damp as he clamped onto Erik’s hand. Erik tried to hide his grimace, letting his best Shark Smile hide his discomfort.  When he tried to pull away, Marko held fast, thick fingers grasping tight. “So you’re the fag mutie kike who snagged our Charles. Didn’t take you long to get here from Hymie-town. ” Marko’s words flowed like sour honey.  Erik heard Charles make a strangled noise behind them. “Yes, I suppose I am,” Erik replied smoothly. It wasn’t the first time he had had words like that said to him, by better people, but they still hurt.

            Sharon came over with a tumbler of scotch and handed it to Marko, a gin and tonic her own drink of choice. It was only then that Marko released Erik’s hand. Erik made a show of wiping his hand on his pants, before slipping them into the pockets.  Charles sidled up to him with another tumbler, the amber liquid the same as Marko’s.  “I’m sorry. I hoped that he would behave,” Charles murmured as he took a sip of his sparkling water. Erik smiled over the rim of the glass, “Don’t worry, it’s still early. Murder, I have found, spoils my appetite.” Charles looked startled, and then a tight lipped impish smile spread on his face. Erik’s heart skipped a beat; that was the special smile that Charles only had for him. The flare of hope snuffed out when Charles started to look at him strangely, and Erik collected himself quickly as they followed Sharon and Marko into the drawing room.

            The room was dark and heavy, oppressive in its opulence. Dark paneled wood and heavy red velvet drapes covered the wall. Gold sconces, thick carpets, and uncomfortable chairs littered the room. It was stifling, decked out like a French whore house. Erik sat stiffly in a wing backed chair near the empty fireplace as Sharon lounged on the chaise on the other side of the room. Marko was at the bar, refilling his empty glass and Charles was wandering around, re-learning his old home.  “I do hope that you have no objections to roast for dinner. I was told that your people have dietary restrictions.” Sharon said to Erik conversationally. Erik shifted in his chair, “Thank you for your consideration ma’am.  I am not practicing, so anything served would be fine.” He felt the verbal knife slide into his ribs. Underneath the seemingly genteel question, he knew that it was a barb against him.

            “Even if there was, we weren’t going to make a whole different meal for one.”  Marko smirked from the bar. Under his breath, he heard the man mutter, “Hymie cocksucker.” Erik sucked in a breath, fingers digging into the armrests of the chair. Just breathe, he kept repeating in his head.

            “Kurt, please stop,” Charles begged. Marko huffed, but said no more.  Just as the silence was becoming more uncomfortable, Arthur appeared, and announced dinner. Sharon rose and took Marko’s proffered arm and they walked into the dining room. Charles rubbed his hands together. “I think it’s going well, don’t you?” he asked weakly. Erik knocked back the remaining scotch, not bothering to answer and they went to join Sharon and Marko at the dinner table.

            “Senator Kelly sends his best wishes, Charles. He invited us up to his cabin in the Catskills for the holidays.” Sharon said as she carefully cut up her piece of roast. “That sounds lovely, Mother.” Charles replied as he pushed around the roasted carrots on his plate. “I assume that you will be observing your Jewish holidays. Don’t feel obligated to come to any Christian festivities.” She said to Erik, her smile condescending.  “I’m sure that we can come up with something. Charles and I were planning on going abroad for Christmas.” Erik told her; Cuba was at the top of their list of destinations.

            “Speaking of abroad, Cain is still in Amsterdam, finishing up business. He’s sorry he couldn’t be here.” Marko joined in, his mouth full, pieces of food spitting out all over the table. Erik snorted into his wineglass. Erik was sorry that the younger Marko wasn’t available so that Erik could bash his skull in.

            Sharon picked up her wine glass, “Is Amsterdam near where you’re from, Aaron?” she asked her words slightly slurred.

            “It’s Erik, Mother.” Charles reminded her, his voice indulgent.

            Ignoring the misstep, Erik set down is glass and looked at Sharon. “Not exactly. I’m German, ma’am. I was born there and my parents brought myself and my younger sister to America many years ago.” Erik kept it vague; best not give them anything to latch on to.

            “What do they do? I assume that your parents are gainfully employed? Not draining the public resources that our tax dollars are providing?” Sharon smiled, her white teeth stark against her blood red lipstick stained lips. Erik gripped his fork, wanting to stab the woman. “Both my parents come from Germany. My father was a machinist in Dusseldorf and my mother was a school teacher. When she was young, she taught German and Polish in Ireland for a year.  My father was on vacation with friends in Ireland when they met.” He said carefully.

            He could still see his mother, smiling at him as she wiped a dirt smudge from his cheek, calling him shatzi as his father grabbed her from behind, twirling her around till she was breathless with laughter. She would kiss his father and call him a romantic fool, the affection in her voice made Erik smile, even as a child. He vowed to find that kind of love when he grew up. At first he thought that Magda was the one, but he found that he loved her like a sister, instead of a lover. When he met Charles, he instantly knew who he was going to be with for the rest of his life. He knew then he was going to have what his mother and father had. Now he wasn’t so sure.

            The rest of dinner was civil; if sitting at a table with a bigot and an aging drunken socialite could be called civil, and soon they were back in the drawing room with after dinner drinks. Erik had been just sitting there, waiting for the chance to grab Charles and get the hell out of Dodge when something that Sharon was saying to Charles caught his attention.

            “I have resigned myself to the fact that you are a mutant, and I could live with the fact that you’re gay, Charles. It’s just that choosing the proper mate is crucial for those of our social standing.” She sloshed her drink around, gesticulating wildly. “This Lensherr boy: he has no prospects, no family connections.  A gay Jewish mutant; I swear that you did it just to give me apoplexy.” She moaned as she pressed the glass to her forehead, a crease between her eyes. Charles gaped at his mother, “I cannot believe you just said that.” 

            Just then, the doorbell rang and a few moments later, the crisp clicking of heels could be heard on the hardwood floor. “Sometimes I think Charles was born to give you apoplexy, Mrs. Marko,” a wry female voice said from the doorway. A statuesque blonde woman in blinding white dress stood there, the lamps giving her a faint halo effect that complemented her attire. Her long blonde hair was coifed in a perfect style and her makeup was stunning. Her ice blue ice blue eyes scanned the room with a predatory gaze; her sharp eyes seeing everything.

            Erik had an inkling of who the woman was, which was confirmed when Charles sprang up and cried, “EMMA!” pure joy in his voice, and bolted towards her. He skidded to a halt in front of her, then grabbed her shoulders and kissed her cheek. “I am so happy to see you,” he gushed. “You are so beautiful!” he gasped, holding her out at arms’ length. The woman’s face softened as she gazed at Charles. “You don’t look so bad yourself, sugar. I bet you get carded everywhere you go.” She smiled as she patted his cheek. Charles laughed as he swatted at her arm.   “It’s good to see you, Charles,” she said, genuine affection in her voice.

            “You’ve always had a sharp tongue, Emma.” Sharon drawled.  Marko snickered from the bar.

            Emma glided past Charles and shook hands with Sharon, kissing her cheek softly.  “I came over as soon as I heard that Charles was back. The old gang is dying to see him. I do hope that you will let him come out with us. It’s just out to the Lazy, nothing strenuous. You never know who will show up.” She shrugged elegantly.

            Sharon smiled, “Of course dear. It will be good for him to be around those of his own kind again.” She glanced at Erik, who was standing in the corner.

            It was then that Emma set her sights on Erik; she narrowed her eyes at him, cold and fierce. He felt a sliver of ice stab into his mind, hitting against his inner barriers. He visibly winced, the sharp pain of a telepath inside his head. It was so different from Charles. Charles was warm and soft, so very welcome inside Erik’s mind. And he was careful. Charles never ventured where he wasn’t welcome, and respected Erik’s private thoughts. Erik never minded Charles inside his head, giving the telepath full access to every corner of his mind. He shook off the uninvited invasion with ease. Charles had taught him how to recognize and block a telepath very early on. It had been one of the conditions that Charles had set before they began dating. A small frown appeared on Emma’s face, as if she was surprised that Erik had shaken her off so easily. She recovered quickly; no one even seemed to notice the slip in her composure.

            “Emma, this is Erik Lehnsherr.  He’s uh, my husband I suppose.” Charles said awkwardly.

             “So this is Erik.” She purred as she circled around him. “Oh Charles, he is quite scrumptious. Although he’s a little thin,” she said pointedly, scrutinizing his torso. Erik pulled at his shirt self-consciously. “Emma Frost, we meet at last,” he smiled at her, making sure that his grin was bordering on manic. Emma blinked at him, her pink lips pursing as she surveyed him.  A sly smile spread on her face and she held out her hand.  As Erik shook it, he felt her flesh go cold and hard. He looked down and he realized that he was holding a feminine hand made out of diamond.  It was Emma’s turn to grin wickedly at his surprise. She slipped her hand out of his, the appendage instantly turning back into flesh.

                            “So Erik, a few old friends are gathering to see Charles at a favorite spot of ours. I don’t suppose you would like to come with us?” Emma asked, she wasn’t unkind, but she also wasn’t offering an outright invitation. “If Charles doesn’t mind, and I need to keep an eye on him. He’s not supposed to drink or drive on his own. Doctor’s orders.” He replied, hands in his pockets.  Emma grinned wickedly, “Oh how he must hate not being able to drink. When we were young, I thought that Charles’ mutation was that he could drink copious amounts of alcohol and not be sickened by it.” Charles blushed, “I know how to keep my liquor.” He mumbled under his breath.

            “We’d better get going,” Emma said as she slid her arm through Charles’. “Come along, Erik.” She called over her shoulder as she and Charles left the room. Erik stood there, in shocked silence for a second, staring at the doorway. “Go on, faggot. Get your Jewish cockloving ass outta my house.” Marko sneered as he waved his hand towards the door. Erik swallowed hard, his anger boiling over. Sorry Charles, he thought to himself. His hand reached out and the metal poker from the fireplace sprang up, soaring through the air until it was level with Marko’s eye. The man gasped in shock as Erik stalked over to him, invading his personal space. He barely heard Sharon’s cry of protest behind him. Leaning in, he could feel Marko’s rancid breath puffing against face.

            “You listen to me you bigoted manipulative asshole. You are the reason why Charles had nightmares. I would hold him at night as he cried; all that bullshit you put him through, you will pay. If you ever, ever go near either Charles or Raven again, I will end you. I will pull every ounce of iron from your blood and tear you to pieces with my bare hands.”  He glanced over at Sharon, with her tight lipped pale face. “You are even worse, you drunken bitch. You only had one job in this world, to be a mother to your son. You failed, lady. You failed big time. Brian Xavier is rolling in his grave at the way you’ve been treating his son.”

            He whipped away from Marko, keeping the poker at level. “I’m leaving, and we aren’t coming back. Ever you won’t see any of us again.” He waited until he was out the door before letting the poker drop to the floor; the door shutting out on Sharon’s wail of despair.  He met up with them as Emma was entering the backseat of his car.

            “Erik, is something wrong?” Charles asked as he climbed in the car. “Everything’s fine,” Erik assured him as he climbed into the driver’s seat. Erik adjusted the mirror, catching Emma’s amused smirk in the rearview mirror. “Ms Frost, where to?” he asked. Emma patted her hair, “White Plains, if you’d be so kind.”

            Erik nodded solemnly, “As you wish.” He shifted the car into gear and drove smoothly down the driveway.

                           

            Chapter Text

                          Erik kept his eyes on the road as he drove through Westchester, heading to the White Plains restaurant. Charles and Emma were in the back, talking quietly. He tried to stay out of the conversation, feeling like a voyeur but when the name Christian came up more than once, he made a point to clear his throat, “Directions would be good right now. I don’t come up this way very often.” He said briskly. “Verbally,” he added sharply, not wanting Emma in his head again.  “Keep going south on 684, sugar. Then get on 287, the sign will say Rye/White Plains.” She answered off handily, still listening to Charles as she spoke. Erik nodded, glancing in the rearview mirror.

                            “Emma, I have a tattoo,” Charles hissed, rolling his shoulders against the back seat. Emma laughed sharply, “Oh Charles, you are precious and so easily corruptible.” She purred. “Erik seems to have brought out the rebel in you. Oh, turn here.” She shot her hand into Erik’s face, a well-manicured finger pointing at the turnoff. Erik jerked his head away, swerving the steering wheel jerkily. “Jesus woman, let me drive.” He growled at her as he flipped the directional and changed lanes. Emma sat back into the seat, a smug look on her face, arms tucked under her well-endowed chest. “Emma, can you look into my head? These damn suppressants are really screwing with my telepathy.” Charles whined. Emma turned to him, shoulder leaning against the backrest. She huffed a little and then her eyes narrowed. The look of concentration on her face was intense. After a few moments, she shook her head as if to clear it. “Damn, those things are strong. I’m surprised that you’re not on the floor convulsing.” She made a face. “Thanks for that,” Charles deadpanned.

                            They drove up the tree lined street, the lights from the bar illuminating the night sky. Erik parked and they piled out of the car, Emma patting down her dress, making sure that her dress was perfect. From the outside the Lazy Boy Saloon looked like a cantina, with florescent lights advertising “Food Spirit, and Brew” emblazoned on the façade. “It hasn’t changed,” Charles said in awe as he closed the car door. “Charming,” Erik mused as he pocketed his keys. An hour tops, to indulge the socialites then he would take Charles home.

                            They entered the bar, and were enveloped in the warmth of the place. It was like a sports’ bar, with TVs and memorabilia on the exposed brick walls, but the atmosphere was high class. “The food and booze are top notch,” Charles shouted to Erik over the din. Erik nodded, watching the place. It was a nice place, he thought begrudgingly. He would have enjoyed the place if it were under different circumstances.  At the back of the bar there was a table on a small dais against the wall. At the table were five blonde women, all so similar that they had to be related, if not from a multiple birth. “Oh my God! The Cuckoos!” Charles squealed as he ran towards them. The woman on the end smiled as she stood up, “Charles, we missed you.” She said as she kissed his cheek. “Oh Celeste, it’s been so long.” Charles looked towards the other women at the table, “Ladies, all lovely as usual.” The women all smiled in tandem, it was a little creepy. Like the twins from The Shining.

                           Charles grabbed Erik’s arm and led him to the table. “Erik, these are my friends Celeste, Esme, Irma-”

                           “Mindee!” the middle girl corrected him mock seriously.

                            Charles smiled, “Yes, Mindee, Phoebe and Sophie.

                            “Ladies,” Erik nodded.

                          As Emma and Charles commiserated with the Emma Clones, Erik hung back, unsure of his place. “Ah, the Stepford Cuckoos: mutant quintuplets with a hive-mind. I weep for humanity.” An amused male voice said from his left. Erik turned at met the wry smile of an incredibly handsome man. He was tall, about five ten, but shorter than Erik, with dark blond hair and blue eyes. His features were fine with a sculpted nose and pleasing mouth. He was very good looking, dressed in a designer suit with the shirt and tie undone. His straight white teeth shone in the darkened room.

                            “You must be Erik.” The man said.

                            Erik’s heart sank as he said, “Christian Frost.”

                            As if on cue, Charles turned around. His blue eyes widened as he locked on to Christian. Frost smiled lazily at Charles, the charm oozing off him like oil. “Hello bright eyes.” Christian purred. Charles opened his mouth but no sound came out. “Oh, hello Christian. How nice of you to come.” Emma drawled from the table. Charles hopped off the dais and pulled the other man into a hug. They both held on a moment too long until Emma cleared her throat behind them. They parted awkwardly while Erik fumed in silence. Too many casualties he tried to remind himself.   

                          Emma sauntered up to Erik’s side, “Erik certainly is handsome, Charles; in that raw sort of way. He’s not classically handsome, like Christian, who you dumped spectacularly; I don’t think he’s recovered yet.” Emma scolded, her hand on Erik’s shoulder. Take it easy, sugar. You may be his husband, but Christian is still my brother. She said in his mind.

                          Christian smiled as he rubbed his hands together. “I think a round of drinks is in order. Appletinis’ for the girls, Champagne for Emma, Jack for me; Erik, what’s your poison?” he asked.

                         “Scotch.” Erik choked out.

                         “Excellent. Charles, martini with extra olives?” Christian asked.

                         “Oh, well-” Charles began.

                         “Charles can’t drink, he’s on medication.” Erik interjected.

                         “One drink won’t hurt, Erik,” Charles begged, his blue eyes shining.

                         “Oh come on, Mr. Broody. Let us have some fun!” Sophie chimed in. Or was it Mindee?

                         “Erik, don’t ruin this for me.” Charles gave him a stern look.

                          Running his hands through his hair, Erik sighed. “Fine. One drink. One.” He pointed a finger at Christian to make his point. Frost nodded and headed to the bar. Charles grinned and squeezed Erik’s arm before scurrying back to the Cuckoos. 

                            “Welcome to Westchester, sugar.” Emma patted his arm and took her place next to Charles.

                            “Oh Charles. Do you remember junior year when we snuck into the city to go to that club? Oh my God we were sooo drunk!” Esme giggled.

                            “You got picked up by that guy, Vinnie? Gary?” Sophie tittered.

                            “Victor,” Christian supplied as he returned with drinks.

                            “Remember that summer we spent at the lake?” Christian prompted as he placed Charles’ martini on the table. He leaned in close to push the glass close to Charles’ hand. “Yes, the lake.” Charles blushed tomato red; he grabbed his drink and gulped it down. He reached out for Christian’s tumbler of Jack and downed it too. Erik put down his drink and slid over to Charles. “Charles, stop. You can’t drink while on the suppressants,” he growled. Charles waved a hand at him. “S’all right Erik. Christian’ll make sure I get home alright. In the morning.” Charles grinned, his eyes on Christian.

                            The Cuckoo’s stared, open mouthed. Christian had the decency to blush. Emma hid behind her glass.

                            Erik grabbed Charles’ arm and pulled him through the crowd. “Oh come on Erik, I’d let you watch, you are my husband!” Charles laughed as Erik tossed him in the car. Erik got in and pulled away from the restaurant, wheels screeching.  “Why are you treating me like this? Why were you so rude at dinner? Those were my friends!” Charles wailed from the passenger seat.

            Erik flexed his hands on the wheel; he swallowed, trying to get the lump out of his throat, “I think I was well within my rights to act the way I did, considering I’m your husband, whether you remember or not.”

             “Well when we go visit your parents, I guess I’ll have a free pass to act like an utter asshole.” Charles snapped, arms crossed against his chest, slouched in the passenger seat. Erik slammed on the brakes, making them both lunge forward, straining against the seatbelts. “Jesus fucking Christ!” Charles screamed, “What the hell are you doing?”

                            Erik gripped the wheel, air seething through his teeth. “My parents died in a car crash when I was ten years old; my little sister Lorna too.” He began quietly. After a second, he continued, “It was horrific. Twisted metal and glass everywhere. Everything was coated in blood. I could feel every ounce of it: the metal from the car and in the blood. I can still smell the gas and burnt flesh; sometimes I can still hear my little sister sobbing, begging me in German to get her out.  I had just come into my powers, barely able to bend a spoon and I was tangled up in a heap of broken metal. I tried. For hours I tried to move the car so I could get her out. I could hear my mother moaning in the front seat, she kept telling us that everything was going to be OK. I think my father died on impact. It was seven hours before anyone found us. All three of them were dead by then.”

                            He slowly eased off the brake, continuing down the road. “I survived with minor injuries. I was placed in a group home after that.  I aged out and pretty much ambled my way through life.  Met Magda, thought I was in love; realized that she was a better friend than girlfriend; dated a few guys after that, nothing serious. Got my engineering degree and started working for Sebastian Shaw. Not long after I went to the DMV and met the most beautiful, frustratingly adorable telepath in the world. I knew I was a goner. I fell hard and fast, and have never stopped loving you. I love you even now when you don’t know me, when you openly flirt with the guy who left you when you wanted to go out on your own.  Even when you’re acting like a spoiled brat and treating me like a stranger who’s just along for the ride. ” He stopped talking, voice hoarse from the pent up tears.

                            He glanced over, anxious to gauge Charles’ reaction. Charles was as white as a sheet, freckles alarmingly vivid on his pale skin. His blue eyes were wide as saucers, brimmed with tears. “I-I’m sorry,” he said in a small voice. Erik sighed, he was so tired. “Forget about it.” He just kept his eyes on the road, concentrating on getting them back to Brooklyn in one piece.

                          Erik woke the next morning, eyes gritty with sleep. He rubbed them harshly, wiping away the flecks of sleep. He walked towards the kitchen and found Raven sitting on the steps that led to her bedroom, still in her robe, arms around herself.  

                         “You guys got in late last night.” She said.

                         Erik sighed and leaned against the wall. “It was surreal. I mean, I’ve heard the stories, but to actually see it.” He shook his head. “I didn’t know him last night. He was flirting with Christian right in front of me. Emma Frost is a frigid bitch; and those clone bimbos, ugh.” He shivered.  Raven pursed her lips, “Ohhh, you met the Stepford Cuckoos. Creepy, huh?” she stood up and kissed his cheek. “He chose you, Erik. He left all that and chose you. You made him fall in love with you once, you can do it again. We’ve got your back.” She slipped upstairs to get dressed.

                         He ambled over to the coffee maker, ready to start a pot, and noticed that the pot had already been brewed. He smiled softly, his mind going back to the old days when Charles would make the coffee and get breakfast started before work. He poured a cup and dropped in his usual half ton of sugar before going into the dining area of the apartment. He found Charles sitting crossed legged on top of the table, dressed in nothing but the dress shirt from the night before and his underwear. Erik watched him, hands wrapped around his mug. Charles sat there, photos covering the table. The shirt was open, and each time he moved, it slipped a little off his shoulders. He had to stop what he was doing and pull it back up. He looked so engrossed in what he was doing, Erik hated to interrupt him.

                       “Charles, what are you doing?” Erik asked gently.

                        Charles only glanced up for a second before going back to his project. “Trying to map out my life. Last night, as we drove home, I tried to remember my last memory. My actual last memory. I remember my childhood: my father and my mother. Raven coming to live with us, the Frosts as our neighbors. I remember going to school in London.  I remember living in the city and getting engaged and applying to Oxford. I remember ordering a bagel and coffee at Pandini’s then…nothing. It’s blank.” He shrugged and the shirt slipped all the way down his shoulder, exposing pale freckled skin. Erik couldn’t take his eyes off the tempting sight.

                       “Erik, are you listening to me?” Charles asked exasperated.

                       “Huh?” Erik asked, blinking. Charles looked at him, annoyed.

                       “I’m trying to figure out my life and your standing there thinking about bending me over the table and fucking me into oblivion.” He snapped, eyes flashing. Erik almost dropped his mug. “How did you know that?” he asked in a strangled voice, heat rising in his face.

                      Charles smirked, “Don’t have to be psychic to know that. You’re expression says it all.”

                      “Am I that transparent?” Erik asked sheepishly.

                       Charles smiled, “It’s obvious that you adore me, even when I’m being an ass.” He shuffled a few of the photos in front of him, fanning them out. “Care to help me sort these out?” he asked. Erik nodded, walking over to the table. He tried to figure out Charles’ sorting pattern.

                            Pictures of Charles and Raven as kids; Christian and Charles hanging all over each other; Charles and Emma in high school; Charles and Raven at Oxford, with friends and strangers at pubs in England.

            There was a pile of photos to the side, all of him and Erik. Erik took that pile and carefully thumbed through them. “This is our life. In a pile on the table. I don’t see where I fit in all this.” Erik put down the photos and stalked to the bedroom. “Erik, wait!” Charles called after him.

                            Erik pulled out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He pulled them on and grabbed his leather jacket. He was pulling on his shoes when Raven bounded down the stairs. “You’re coming with me.” she told him as she grabbed her bag.

                           “Raven, where are you going? And Erik?” Charles asked from the doorway, still half naked.

                            “Secret X-Men meeting.” She said as she grabbed Erik and pushed him out the door.

                             Charles stood there, a dumbfounded expression on his face. “X-Men?” he wondered out loud.

                             Raven must have sounded the alarm because when they reached the coffee shop, Darwin, Angel, Sean, Moira, Hank, and Alex were waiting for them.  When they were settled with their coffees, Erik told them about dinner with the Markos and then about drinks at the Lazy Boy.

                        “I had to stand there, and watch Charles flirt with Christian while surrounded by Emma and her Stepford Cuckoos.” Erik told them.

                           “Wait, like the Stepford Wives?” Darwin asked.

                            “Christian. As in ex-fiancé Christian?” Moira gasped.

                            “Except in Charles' mind, it’s current fiancé Christian,” Raven added.

                            “It must have really sucked having Charles’ husband cock block him all night,” Alex mused. Raven pushed him off his chair.

                            “That is a lot to get my mind around, man.” Sean said in awe.

                            “So what turns him on?” Angel asked, leaning in, exposing her ample bosom.

                            “Charles?” Erik asked dumbly.

                            “No, his mother,” Angel said as she rolled her eyes.

                            “Eww, I do not need to hear this,” Raven covered her ears, a look of disgust on her face.

                            “I think I know where Angel is going with this,” Moria offered, “Everyone has their kinks.” She hastily took a sip of her macchiato.

                            “In bed though?” Erik asked in a strangled voice, he could feel the blush creeping up his face.

                            “Oh dear Lord, this is painful,” Darwin groaned.

                            “Yes in bed you idiot.” Angel snapped.

                            “It’s private.” Erik pouted, “it’s between me and Charles.”

                            “Dude, it’s too late for that,” Sean grinned.

                            “We won’t judge,” Hank offered.

                            “Speak for yourself, bozo.” Alex snickered.

                    “LA LA LA LA I’m not hearing this.” Raven kept her hands over her ears.

                    Erik shrugged uncomfortably. “He likes being tickled.” He said quietly.

                    There was a beat of silence, seven pairs of eyes stared at him. It was Hank who was the first to break. “Seriously?” he asked. “I thought you weren’t gonna judge.” Erik growled. Hank waved his furry hands nervously. “Ah, no, I’m not. It’s ok if you’re into kink.”

                    “It’s not like that. It helps Charles relax, when he gets stuck in his head,” Erik explained.

                    “It’s a start,” Angel said kindly.

                    “Go for it. What do you have to lose?” Moira asked.

                    Erik sighed, running his hands through his hair. Yeah, what did he have to lose? Everything.

            *************************************************************************************

                     Charles looked up at the gleaming tower of glass and steel, the bright Manhattan sun making the building sparkle. Taking a deep breath, he strode into the main lobby. He headed towards the elevators and hit the up button. He stepped back, hands in his jacket pockets; it was the only way he could keep his hands from fidgeting with his collar or his hair. The elevator dinged and he slipped in and pressed the button for the 23rd floor. The smooth machine flew upwards and within seconds, the elevator chimed and opened to the executive floor of Frost Enterprises.

                   

             

             

             

             

            Chapter Text

                 Charles stepped off the elevator and was engulfed in the hustling bustle of the dozens of office workers buzzing around him. The din of voices could be heard over the clacking of fingers on keypads, phones ringing, people scurrying by.   Charles sidled past them and went towards the back, where the private offices were. It was almost lunchtime, so there weren’t many people around this far back. Charles strode past the bored- looking girl behind the desk. “Hi Jubilee,” he waved as he went past.  The girl looked over, “Hi Charles,” she said automatically. She sat up like a shot and stared after him, “Charles?” she asked weakly to his retreating back. Jubilee scrambled for her purse, pulling out her phone. She pulled up the right name and shot off a quick text. Charles X is here 2 see chrisitan

            She only had to wait a moment for an answer. I’ll be there as soon as I can Jubilee sighed as she slipped her phone back into her bag. She rested her head in her hand, looking out towards the bullpen, hoping that Emma would get there soon.

            Charles peeked his head into Christian’s office, where the man was on the phone.

            “I need to have those documents signed and delivered by two, or all of this will be for nothing.” Christian was saying into the phone. He wore a crisp white shirt, dark pants and pinstripe tie. His jacket was across the chair near his desk. He looked up to see Charles in the doorway. “I’ll have to call you back.” He hung up and turned to face Charles. “Charles, what a pleasant surprise.” He slipped his hands into his pockets, leaning against his desk. Charles shrugged nonchalantly, “I was in the neighborhood,” he smiled, a bit unsure.

            Christian smiled back and slipped behind his desk, gesturing for Charles to sit. “Do you remember that time at the lake?” Charles asked as soon as he was seated. Christian smiled fondly, “The night at the boathouse. When I promised to wait for you to finish Oxford? That we would get married.”

            Charles nodded, looking down at his hands. “Yes, well, could you please tell me what happened between us?” he asked awkwardly.

            Christian chuckled, “Only the great Charles Xavier would dump a guy and then come back demanding answers.”

            Charles winced. “So I dumped you?”

            Christian smirked. “A cold hard pre-wedding dumping; Mother had to be put on suicide watch for a week afterward. You and Raven kind of disappeared right after, to Oxford I suppose. None of us heard from you for almost a year after that.”

            Charles rand his hand through his hair, “Yes, but why? I was told that you dumped me.”

            Christian shook his head, “There are always three sides to a story: his, theirs and the truth. You had started to change. You dressed differently, talked differently.” He rose and sat against the desk. “I know that you enjoyed pissing Kurt off but the rebellious streak that you were on was starting to be less attractive. I thought I could wait it out, but I was wrong.”

            “Is there anyone in your life now?” Charles asked.

            Christian blew out a breath. “No one special. I couldn’t wait around for you forever; I’ve been playing the field.”

            “So it never occurred to you that I would have a traumatic brain injury, forget our break up, and come storming into your office demanding answers.” Charles said wryly, leaning back in the chair.

            Christian laughed softly, “No I guess not. But you were always full of surprises, Xavier. I should have known better than to underestimate you. You’re a world-renowned geneticist; you have a handsome husband who adores you…” he trailed off wistfully.

            Charles got up, face reddening, as he wiped the creases from his pants. “I should let you get back to work.” He turned to go and Christian grabbed his arm, pulling him into a kiss. Charles froze for a second, before kissing back. He put his hand on the back of Christian’s neck, rubbing the tiny hairs there. The both moaned into each other’s mouths, the wet heat mixing together. Charles felt the hardness of Christian’s cock rubbing against his thigh, his own erection starting to form. Christian got a better hold on Charles, his hands on Charles’ upper arms. They were pressed together, in an intense embrace when a female throat cleared in the doorway. They broke apart like two guilty teenagers, panting and mussed. Emma glared at them both, arms under her ample breast.

            “I’m taking Charles to lunch; hopefully you’ll have cooled off by then.” She said to her brother as she grabbed Charles by the arm and dragged him from the office past a bewildered Jubilee.

                            Christen swore under his breath as he ran a hand through his hair, in an attempt to make it more presentable. He couldn’t keep the smirk off his face, despite the slight twinge of guilt in his gut. He liked Lehnsherr, really. But Charles was Charles; he hoped that Emma knew what she was doing.

             

            *************************************************************************************

             

             Charles let himself be dragged along the street, bumping into people as they trudged through the throngs of human traffic.  “Is this really necessary?” he asked Emma in one of the rare pauses in their commute. “Now’s not a good time, Charles.” She snapped. She pulled him into a small café around the corner from the office. They were seated in the back, out of the way of the other patrons. Tea was served, and it was then that Emma began her interrogation. “What possessed you to come all the way to
            Manhattan and start making out with my brother?” she asked as she stirred the spoon in her cup.

            Charles sighed, wrapping his hands around his own cup. “I don’t know what to do, Emma. I don’t understand what happened to make me cut off everyone I had ever known for five years. I wake up in the hospital, cut off from my telepathy, with a handsome yet emotionally constipated man who says that he’s my husband. You have to admit that it’s a lot to handle.”

                            Emma sighed, “Oh sugar. We’ve missed you. Everything went so wrong those last few weeks before you left for England. After the dust settled, I realized that you had every right to leave. I doubt that anyone could have stopped it.” Her face softened with true affection.

                            “But what did happen?” he asked intensely.

                            Emma shook her head, “I’m sorry. I can’t say.”

                            Charles huffed, blowing a lock of hair out of his eyes. “Very well then; if we won’t talk about that, then may I ask you something else?”

                            Emma looked at him expectantly.  

                            “Just who in the hell is Justin Bieber, and why is he so bloody popular?” Charles asked.

                            Emma started laughing like a madwoman, making the entire café turn to look at them.

             

            *************************************************************************************

             

            Charles was still holding his phone when got home later that night, the conversation that he had just had still replaying in his mind.  Erik was already there; Raven and Hank were also present, plastered together on the couch. Hank looked more nervous than usual, and Raven was just about bursting with energy. Erik smirked as he sipped his coffee. When Charles came near, Erik leaned over and tried to peck him on the cheek; Charles moved his head a little, so that Erik’s lips only brushed him. “Welcome home. I think these two have something to tell us.” Erik’s voice was steady, not acknowledging the slight.

                            Raven leaped forward, shoving her hand in their faces, “I’m engaged!” she shrieked; all the men winced at the high pitched squeal. Charles couldn’t keep the grin off his face, “Oh Raven, that’s wonderful!” he gathered his sister into a joyous embrace. He looked over her shoulder to Hank, who was cowering on the couch. “Hank, congratulations.”

                           “Thanks,” the blue mutant mumbled. Erik laughed as he ambled over to Hank, slapping him on his massive shoulder. “Congratulations, Hank.” Raven flitted from one side of the room to the other, letting herself get caught by Erik who kissed her on her forehead, “I’m happy for you, libeling.” He murmured against her hair.  Raven hugged him hard, “Thanks.”   Erik still had his arm wrapped around Raven when he said, “I think we need to celebrate. Go out to the city, have a nice dinner, terrorize the populace. Like we used to.” Raven readily agreed and Hank scratched his nose with his paw, clearly torn between fear of Raven and Erik. Charles smiled, “That sounds great, but something’s come up that I need to speak to you about, Erik.”

                            The uncomfortable silence descended upon the room. Raven slipped from Erik’s grasp, coming up to Hank’s side as he rose from the couch. “Uh, we’ll head out. We can celebrate later.” She kissed Erik and Charles and Hank waived as they left, the door shutting behind them. Erik slipped his hands into his pockets, shoulders tense. “So, what’s going on?” he asked casually, but Charles could hear the tension in his voice.  Charles bit his lip, “Well, I want to make sure that Raven gets the best wedding that anyone has ever seen. Nothing’s too good for my sister. I’ll get Mother to pay for it.”

                            Erik’s tension loosened a little. “Good idea. Let the woman pay for at least one of her children’s weddings. I’m not sure that Raven will accept, though. She’s not at the top of Sharon’s list of favorite people.” Charles swallowed against the lump in his throat. “I’m sorry,” he blurted out.

                            Erik looked at him strangely, his thin mouth set in a frown. “What?” he asked.

                            Charles shook his head and barreled past him to the bedroom. He grabbed a bag from the pile of clothes in the corner and started stuffing clothes and socks and things into it. Erik had followed him into the bedroom, “Charles, what are you doing?”

                            Charles didn’t look up, his insides twisting in guilt. “I have to go. I’m going back to Westchester. This isn’t working out. I am no closer to getting my memory back today as I was a week ago. We’re still strangers; I don’t know what made me think that this was going to work. I think that going home is the best thing for me. It also allows me to convince Mother and Kurt to pay for Raven’s wedding.” He cinched the bag and turned to leave when the look on Erik’s face stopped him. Erik looked wrecked. His eyes were wide, skin pale. His mouth opened in surprise. The look in his eyes was that of utter despair.  A little boy abandoned. Charles could see in his mind the little boy that Erik had been, alone and hurting after his parents died. Charles felt shame in causing that.

                            Charles had seen Erik in many moods in the few days that they had been together. Most had anger or resigned sadness; there had been some witty banter mixed in as well.  Charles knew from the photos that Erik could look happy, especially when he was with Charles. The lines in his face would soften, the grin that was bordering on insane was genuine; it showed the love, the adoration that Erik had for Charles. The lingering haunted look in Erik’s eyes had not been in those photos, but had been in the real Erik since they had come home from the hospital.

                            “You’re leaving then,” Erik said quietly.

                            Charles slung the bag onto his shoulder. “I got a call from my mother on the way back tonight. She’s agreed to pay off my school loans. I don’t have to give up my position at Columbia, but I’ll be working in a lesser capacity. She wants me home so that I can recover.” He slowly came up to Erik; put a hand on his arm. The muscles under his hand tensed. “I am so sorry. Thank you for your help and concern. I know that I haven’t been the best roommate these past few days. I know that you loved me, and I know that I probably did love you. But that was the old me; the new old me. I don’t love you, Erik. I don’t even know you.” Charles let his hand slip from Erik’s arm.  Erik was a statue. Eyes fixed on the wall in front of him. Charles gave him one last look before heading towards the door.

             

            *************************************************************************************

                            Erik heard the door shut, despite the blood rushing in his ears. He was frozen, his mind was working at a hundred miles an hour, but his body refused to move. He felt tears, hot and heavy, start of fall from his eyes; he heard his breath catch as it exited his lungs. His lip quivered. “You didn’t even try,” he whispered hoarsely to the empty space that Charles had occupied only moments before.

             

            Chapter Text

                            Charles sat looking out over the grounds from the window seat of his old room in Westchester. Mother had met him at the door that evening, bundled in a fur coat over her nightgown. She had given him a slight, one-armed hug, then ushered him into the house. His old room had been made up by the maids and his clothes had been put away in the dressers. Mother had mentioned going shopping in the next few days to “get him properly attired”. The cab ride had been horrible; he sat huddled in the back seat of the cab, staring out the dirty window as the city lights flashed by, the cab making its way to the more suburban landscape. Charles knew that he had hurt Erik, and he did feel badly about it. Erik was intense, in everything that he did, and it scared Charles a little. For Erik to burn that brightly, he was sure to burn out too fast. Charles’ father had been the same, and Brian Xavier had paid the ultimate price for it, dying so young. Charles sighed, leaning his forehead against the cold glass. His eyes burned from lack of sleep. He didn’t want to sleep in his bed alone, a sentiment he had since he was young.

                            First it had been his father, who had sat with him at night when he was vulnerable to the voices in his head that he couldn’t shut off. Brian would talk to him about science and history, or silly common things, just to distract him, allowing his son’s mind to rest.  Raven, who came along not long after his father died, had begun to sneak into his room at night after weeks of many nightmares. He would tell her stories out of his many books, tented under the covers with a flashlight. This was the time when Raven could be who she was born to be: her large luminous golden eyes shining brightly in the glow of the single beam of light. The shadows it created playing off her scales beautifully. Mother had shuddered the first time she saw Raven’s true form, and forbade her from showing it around the house. Raven would sit, enraptured as Charles read her Tolkien, Lewis, Bronte, Austen, White, and even Tolstoy if he was feeling adventurous. They would make up their own stories, where they would escape their captors and live happily ever after loved and safe.

                            When Charles was sent off to school in London, Raven had to stay in New York. He called her twice a week, telling her all about his classes and the other boys who were also there. There were only a few other mutants at the school, most could do things like light fires or shoot projectiles from their hands. They ruled the school, intimidating the non-powered children and teachers alike. Those boys were cruel to Charles, who had promised not to use his power on anyone. They bullied and tortured him for months, calling him a fag and a coward for not using his powers to lord over the rest. It culminated into one day when St. John, the fire manipulator, made a sexual comment about what he wanted to do to Raven, who had sent a letter with a photo in the last mail pouch.

                            Charles was more than angry, watching the little prat sneer and gesture lewdly. He watched the boy’s hands move wildly back and forth, his grin obscene. Charles felt the anger build, and his desire to make the boy just STOP. He felt the pressure between his eyes, kept staring at the little bastard. The anger pain hate that filled and overwhelmed him; and he blacked out, coming to hours later. St. John almost died; his brain had almost burst in his skull. Charles had been sent home over it and the family had to pay a large sum to the boy’s parents. Kurt had not been pleased and kept Charles on a short leash afterward.

                            Charles breathed on the glass, fogging it up. He let his finger trail through the condensation, making DNA patterns with the pad of his finger. He pulled his ring finger away, a bead of wet clinging for dear life. Charles slid it into his mouth, the droplet going down his throat. He had a sudden shock of memory: of looking up from his back, in a comfortable bed, staring up at a grinning Erik who had his finger in Charles’ mouth. Charles gagged, sitting up with a start. “Jesus,” he wheezed. Charles stood up on shaky legs, running his hands through his hair. He began to pace his room, almost tripping on the ancient carpet beneath his feet.

                            Charles was just making another circuit around the room when Raven came bursting in, her face red with anger. Charles stopped short, goggling at her. “Raven?” he asked.

                            Raven grabbed Charles by the arm, slamming him against the bookshelf, her forearm against his throat. “What. The. Hell?” she screamed at him, slamming his head against the shelf. Charles grunted in pain, trying to breathe. “What’s wrong?” he rasped against her arm on his Adam’s apple. She let go of him abruptly, turning to stand in the middle of the room. Charles coughed, bending over with his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath. When he looked up, Raven had her arms wrapped around herself. She looked so alone and scared, just like when she was a little girl, stealing bread in the kitchen.

                            “I love you, Charles. You’ve been a brother, a friend, a father to me almost my entire life. I don’t remember a lot about my life before, but I learned some things in that time that have helped me. You are a horrible person, Charles Xavier. Do you have any idea what you’ve put Erik through? Treating him like shit, flirting with Christian, leaving the apartment.” Raven pulled on her blonde hair in frustration. “To be honest, I didn’t like you when you were in college. You were brash, cocky, and kind of a slut. You wanted to go out on your own and conquer the world, fine. But you stepped on everyone else in the process. You didn’t have any kind of compassion for others. I sometimes wondered why you took me in. Was it for your own selfish reasons? I’m not a puppy that you can put outside when you get tired of playing with it.” She bore her eyes into Charles, who had the good sense to stay silent.

                            “Erik Lehnsherr isn’t perfect. You drive each other nuts even in the best of times. He has baggage, you have baggage. You guys broke up twice before your first anniversary. Despite all of that, he adores you and you adored him. I have seen that man weep because he loves you so much. We are his family, since his was taken from him.” She wrapped her arms around herself as she settled on the window seat. “He was crying when I found him; when he told me you had left. He was completely gutted. I couldn’t let that stand.” Raven sat down on the side of the bed. “He was always kind to me, even when I was a brat kid; he’s my brother now. He will defend me from anything that wants to hurt me. I can’t say the same about you.” She pulled a crumpled batch of papers from her purse. “I found these in the box of photos you left on the table.” She held them out.

                            Charles took them in his shaking hands, smoothing them out. The top paper was his marriage certificate. He saw his signature at the bottom, along with Erik’s, and Raven and Moira as witnesses.  The next few papers were a legal jumble. He frowned as he read, trying to grasp the basic concept underneath all that flowery legal wording. “Adoption?” he said out loud.             

                            Raven nodded, “You were planning on adopting. If Erik made partner, and you got more funding for the lab.” She said quietly. “You guys would be wonderful parents. Erik always wanted kids. You wanted them too, at some point.” She sighed, the waning loss of adrenaline of her outburst leaving her weak.

                            Charles let the papers fall from his numb fingers. “Raven, I’m sorry. I know that I’m disappointing you, and everyone else. You can’t force me to love someone that I don’t even know. I know he loves me. I feel very bad that I don’t love him back. I couldn’t stay there and keep hurting him.” Raven looked up at him, her eyes full of sadness. “Erik helped you be a better man, Charles. Something else sparked it, before we left for Oxford, but Erik’s the one who brought it out in you.”  She rose and came over to him, wrapping her arms around him. “I’m sorry for choking you,” she said into his shoulder. Charles harrumphed, stroking her hair. “I already have brain damage, what’s a little more between siblings?” Raven laughed against his chest.

                            After a few moments of silence Charles said in a small voice, “I kissed Christian Frost.”

                            Raven held him close, “I know.”

             

            *************************************************************************************

            Four Months Later

             

                            Erik scowled at the rotating schematic on the computer screen in front of him. For the life of him he couldn’t figure out why the turbine kept blowing out after only a few revolutions. He had taken the whole thing apart (figuratively) and hadn’t found anything wrong. The math was correct and his design was ingenious. But there was something that he was missing. He sighed and leaned his head against the keyboard.

                            Erik had almost killed himself that first night after Charles left. Despite the fact that he wasn’t a practicing Jew, suicide was forbidden in Jewish Law. He figured that he owed his parents that much by honoring at least one of the values instilled in him as a child. Instead of burying a coin into his own head, or making a bullet smash into his skull, he drank. He drank all night long, until everything was a blur and his mind was fuzzy. He didn’t bother calling into work that next morning; or the one after that.  It turned out that Raven had impersonated him on the phone and had called in the excuse of a family emergency. He called out of work for two weeks, almost losing his job. His only saving grace was that when he did return, he had brought with him a notebook full of brilliant ideas that he was still producing projects from. He had thrown himself into his work to keep his mind busy. 

                              Raven and the others had given him his space, and time to mourn. But one by one, they started coming around more often. Moira had tried to convince him to be her target at the shooting range when she was practicing for her weapons assessment interview with the CIA. Langley was going to be calling not long after graduation, which was only a few weeks away.  Alex had offered to bring him to an underground mutant fight club, so that he could beat his frustrations out on others.

                            It was Hank, of all people, was the one who broke through his wall. Hank had showed up, a week after Charles left. He brought with him several bottles of cheap booze. They didn’t talk. They didn’t watch TV. They sat in silence and drank. After a few nights of wallowing in liquor, Erik finally started to talk to Hank. They talked about science and engineering. Hank had a good grasp of building things, and one night those conversations culminated into a breakthrough.  The subsequent evenings involved the construction of a prototype for a mutant-detecting machine that would run on telepathy. They called it Cerebro, in honor of the cheap bottle of Tequila they were drinking. “Isn’t supposed to be Sombrero?” Hank hiccupped, examining the empty bottle with a large hat emblazoned on the front.  Erik shook his head as he knocked back the last of his drink. He grimaced as it burned his throat. At that moment, he couldn’t feel his teeth, so he let it slide.

             

                            Erik felt a sharp jab at his shoulder. He groaned, rolling over to face the couch. He felt another poke, even more insistent. He threw out an arm, waving the offender away. “Up and at em’ Lehnsherr!” Raven yelled into his ear. Erik swore under his breath and burrowed deeper into the pillow. Two sets of hands grabbed at his shoulders, hauling him off the couch. He landed with a thud, all arms and legs. He rubbed his ass as he looked up blearily at Raven and Magda. Both women were scowling down at him. They were pissed. “Mein Gott, Erik. You look like HELL.” Magda gasped as he rubbed his bloodshot eyes, blinking up at her.

                             “What do you expect when you’ve hit rock bottom?” Raven snarked as she picked her way through the empty liquor bottles and fast food wrappers that littered the floor.  She pulled the drapes back, flooding the room with light.

                            Erik hissed, in proper vampire fashion, as his retinas burned. “What do you want?” He growled his throat raw. His mouth tasted foul. Raven wiped her hands on the nearest drape as Magda helped haul him up to his feet. He swayed precariously, the ground shifting beneath his feet. He was soo hung over. Everything hurt. Thinking hurt. He just wanted to go back to bed. Erik found his footing and shuffled towards the kitchen. He took a swig of water and rinsed out his mouth. He spit into the sink and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. The two women had followed him and the looks of disgust on their faces were priceless.  So much for ladies’ delicate sensibilities. “You’ve lived with me long enough to know that I don’t have any manners,” he told Raven. He looked pointedly at Magda, “And you’ve known me long enough. This shouldn’t shock you.”

                            Magda scrunched her face, “Yeah, you have the table manners of a caveman.”

                            Erik landed in one of the chairs of the kitchen island, head propped up in his hands.  “Tell me again why my sister-in-law and ex-girlfriend are in my apartment, tossing me around like a rag doll?” Raven pulled some mugs from the cabinet. “I called Magda because you’re being an ass.”

                            Magda nodded, “Dumkoff.” Then her expression softened. “Raven told me that you’ve given up on getting Charles back.” She said as she rubbed his back.

                            Erik sighed.

                            “I figured that Magda’d be the only other one you’d listen to.” Raven poured three cups of coffee and handed them out.

                            “So you want me to do what? Date other people? I’m still married to that pain in the ass brother of yours. For better or worse. Emphasis on worse.” He said bitterly as he took a sip of coffee.  He frowned at the black liquid for a moment before his head snapped up. “Wait, has Charles…?” he couldn’t even finish the question. Raven shook her head frantically, blonde hair whipping around her. “No no no. He’s getting ready to go back to Columbia. He’s been reading up on his research for the past few weeks. He hasn’t been seeing anyone. That’s why I moved back into the mansion.”

                            Magda smiled sadly, “Hank is sad that he can’t come sit with you anymore. He will be busy with Charles at the lab now.”  Erik grinned, in spite of himself. Hank had been a real trooper.

                            Raven curled her hands around her cup, “You need a new game plan. We’re gonna help,” the fierce gleam in her eye frightened him. “You have to make Charles fall in love with you again,” She told him. Erik snorted, “Been there, tried that.” He took a swig of coffee. Raven scoffed, “You weren’t doing it right.  You didn’t push him hard enough; he needs a swift kick in the head.”

                            Magda reached over and covered his hand with hers. “You are going to woo Charles, shatz.”

                            Erik grimaced at Raven. “The last time you tried to play matchmaker, you tried to get Darwin and Alex together. That didn’t go the way you planned,” he reminded her.

                            Raven waved her hand at him. “That doesn’t matter.” She pointed a finger at him. “Don’t bring up the past. Don’t remind him of his old routine. Don’t correct him when he makes a mistake. Don’t try to tell him what he likes. Just be yourself. Just be the suave, dashing, German sex god that I know’s in there somewhere.”

             

            *************************************************************************************

             

                            Erik ground his teeth against the pencil in his mouth. He leaned over his desk, forearms resting against it. He tapped out the rest of the coding into the computer, muttering to himself. He had an hour before Raven sent her mercenaries after him. Deadline or no, he was not going to miss Raven’s engagement party. He typed faster, fingers flying over the keys, using little pulses of power to make the keystrokes translate faster. He hit ‘save’ and breathed a sigh of relief, with forty five minutes to spare. Erik stretched, lifting his arms above his head. He waved a hand towards his computer, shutting it down and grabbed his suit jacket from his chair. He pulled it on as he walked swiftly towards the elevators. Shaw had been skulking around the bullpen that afternoon and Erik couldn’t promise that his boss would survive an encounter.

                            He got as far as the first set of glass doors then he heard, “Erik,” a sneering voice called from behind him. Erik grabbed the handle of the door, so close to just walking away. Instead, he squared his shoulders and turned to his boss.

                             “Shaw, I was just on my way out. Family thing.” Erik started to turn back to the door when he heard Shaw make a disparaging noise. He turned back to Shaw who had a disappointed look on his face, like a father whose son took the car without permission.

                             “Another ‘family thing’, Erik? You’ve been spending so much time on family things these past months that I was beginning to wonder if you even remembered you have a job.” Shaw crossed his arms, tutting.

                            Erik ground his teeth, “Yes, Shaw. I have had some family issues these past months. A few rough patches, even. But all in all I have been a model employee. I have brought fifteen projects to the table this month alone, and twelve of them have been approved by Tony Stark himself.  I am making you a very rich man, Shaw. I should have made full time years ago, but I let it slide, since the longer hours would have meant that I would have been away from Charles. My situation has changed, and I won’t have my job taken away from me like my husband was.”

                            Shaw looked thoughtful as he surveyed Erik. “I’ve always thought of you as a son, Erik. I recruited you straight out of college. You were a nothing when I first met you. You should be thanking me for making you the man you are today.”

                             Erik’s eyes widened, “Thanking you? You’ve held me back at every chance you’ve had. You’ve kept me on commission for six years, while others have gone full time. You’ve taken credit for dozens of my ideas and have profited from them.  Yes, you made me. You’ve made me Frankenstein’s Monster, you created this. No more hiding.”

                            “Big words from a cock loving faggot who couldn’t keep his prissy-assed whore from running back to his drunken mommy.” Shaw sneered.

                            Erik saw red, and the next thing he knew, his fist was meeting Shaw’s smug face. He felt his knuckles crunch like he hit a solid wall, Shaw barely flinched. Erik gasped, cradling his hand against his chest.  Shaw worked his jaw for a second, feeling it out. “Run along now, Erik. Musnt’ keep Charles waiting.” He waved Erik away, unfazed.

                            Erik stood there in shock, hand throbbing. His phone buzzed in his pocket. He used his power to lift his phone out and looked at the screen through watering eyes. Raven. On my way he texted to her and pushed the door open with his backside. He slipped into the elevator and leaned his sweaty forehead against the cool steel of the doors.

             

            ***************************************************************************************************

                            Despite his vow to never step foot in the Westchester mansion again, Erik found himself pulling up to the house an hour later. His hand still throbbed, and Erik thought that at least one knuckle was broken.  Hank met him at the front of the house, took one look at him as he got out of his car and ushered him into the sitting room faster than Erik had ever seen the young mutant move. “What the hell happened?” Hank asked as he grabbed at Erik’s injured hand in his furry paws. Erik hissed in pain as Hank carefully examined the swollen appendage, his inspection surprisingly gentle despite his large paws. “Finally punched Sebastian Shaw; felt good for a few seconds, before the pain started,” Erik ground out. Hank hummed in commiseration as his squeezed Erik’s hand. Erik jumped in pain, pulling his hand away. “I think you broke your knuckle, and there’s a deep sprain. You should see a doctor.” Hank pushed his glasses back up on his nose.               

                            Erik cradled his hand against his chest. “You’re a doctor. You do it.” Hank stared at him, eyes wide. “Are you sure? I mean, I’m not a doctor doctor. You should really-”

                            “Hank, I’m in the lion’s den here. I can’t be seen as weak.” Erik snapped.

                            Hank gulped, his fur bristling. “Come on then, we’ll take care of it in the kitchen.  Try not to be too conspicuous, I’m not exactly welcome around here. Mrs. Marko asked if I was housebroken.”

                            It was Erik’s turn to bristle. “Bitch,” he hissed.

                            Hank laughed a little as he led Erik to the kitchen and a first aid kit.

             

                            An hour later, Erik found himself mingling with the upper echelons of New York society. The entire back garden of the Xavier Estate had been transformed into an elegant, fairy tale inspired garden party. Large tables with vases of flowers filled every corner, catered food tents were set up along the perimeter and fairy lights were strung from the bushes into the fruit trees. It was really beautiful, Erik had to admit. It was what Raven had always wanted. She had seen something similar in a magazine a while back and had obsessed over it for weeks.  Erik was glad she was finally getting something out of the Markos, even if Charles was the one who had insisted that they pay for the wedding. She had always been the odd one out, despite Charles’ insistence that she be part of the family.  At least Raven was in Charles’ good graces.

                            Erik watched from under one of the many trees in the garden as Senators and Congressmen drank champagne with bankers and moguls. Donald Trump was there with his latest trophy wife; both the governor and the mayor were at the open bar; debutants and heiresses huddled together in packs, giggling mindlessly. They kept shooting glances at him; they reminded him of a pack of tittery birds. He did his best to ignore them, letting the dim throb from his hand distract him. The guests were all Sharon and Kurt’s friends, none of Raven or Charles’ friends had been invited. Moira and the others hadn’t been invited, but Erik knew that Moria and Sean were going to be hosting a large and raucous party in the near future. Irene Adler was the only person who was a friend of Raven’s that was attending, and she was stuck at her social climbing parents’ side, so she wasn’t able to roam freely. Erik nodded politely to Irene from across the yard; she looked at him with desperation in her eyes. He winced in sympathy.

                            Raven and Hank were standing by the stairs, arm in arm, smiling woodenly. Sharon and Marko were standing to the left, fielding questions and greeting guests. Poor Raven and Hank, put on display like a side show attraction. Hank looked uncomfortable in his suit and tie, his massive bulk not suited to the restrictive attire. Raven looked radiant, her cheeks pink and eyes shining, in her yellow chiffon tea-length dress. Her hair was auburn now, long and flowing. She smiled and nodded a lot, clearly on edge, but her genuine happiness still shone. Erik hadn’t had a chance to greet her yet, so he made his way up to the front, eyes sweeping the crowd for Charles, just in case. 

                            He spotted a familiar mop of brown hair over by one of the punch stations and Erik changed his trajectory in favor of talking to his wayward husband.  Charles looked good; beautiful to Erik’s Charles-starved eyes. He was laughing at something someone said, his crystal blue eyes twinkling. Christian Frost was at his side, a protective arm hovering at Charles’ waist. Emma Frost was there as well, immaculate as ever in a pure white dress with a scoop neck, emblazoned with dozens of diamonds. Her appearance was marred by the annoyed look on her face, aimed at the man by her side. Erik’s view was obscured by a flock of old blue-haired widows, but he was able to side step them and get the full picture: next to Emma stood Sebastian Shaw, champagne glass in hand, talking to Charles.

                             

                           

            Chapter Text

                        Charles scanned the crowd of party-goers, half listening to what Emma’s date, Sebastian, was rambling on about. Something about robots? He heard Tony Stark’s name come up, but Charles could care less at the moment, knowing that Tony would forgive him. He was more interested in finding Erik in the throng of blue people that were milling around the garden. Charles nodded absently times, making the appropriate noises of interest when Sebastian paused. Charles was very adept at pretending to pay attention whilst his mind was occupied elsewhere. His telepathy had always aided him in his endeavors; Sebastian didn’t seem to notice that Charles was devoting only a portion of his mental capacity to the conversation. Charles took note of Emma’s sour expression, sending out a tendril of inquiry to his friend. Emma caught his eye and shook her head a little, putting her champagne flute to her lips to hide her moue of distaste.                       

                        Charles sighed inwardly. Emma being secretive was only one of the problems he was dealing with that day. Firstly, Raven and Hank were being put out on display, for the whole of New York society to gawk at. He had begged Mother to keep it small, an intimate affair with just close friends and family. But she and Kurt had already sent out the invitations to their friends, and the discussion was closed. Secondly, Christian had been annoyingly attentive lately, which was rubbing him the wrong way entirely. Thirdly, Erik was supposed to be there and he wasn’t. Charles didn’t know why he was so anxious to see Erik again, but it was making him distracted.     

                        Christian said something to Emma and then leaned in and kissed Charles’ cheek, his warm breath whispering over his skin. Charles shuddered, closing his eyes against the sensation that made his skin crawl, his stomach lurch. He opened his eyes to see Erik at the other end of the lawn staring at them with a fierce intensity. Charles slipped out from under Christian’s arm passing his glass of champagne to Emma. “Sorry, I need to see someone about the...thing,” he said lamely as he motioned towards the crowd. Shaw finally stopped talking, his smile turning into a smirk as he followed Charles’ line of sight.

                        “Ah yes, the husband. Christian, it looks like Charles wants to speak with his husband.” Shaw sneered.  

                        Christian bristled, his blue eyes hard. “Yes, Sebastian, I can see that.” He snapped as he leaned away to allow Charles to slip by. Charles gave Christian a grateful look as he weaved his way through the crowd of high society. He kept his eyes locked on Erik, his stomach doing flip flops as he made his way over. Erik had caught sight of Charles moving towards him and made a point to stay in one place, lest he get swallowed up by the vapid masses. Charles realized that he was grinning at Erik, truly glad to see him. He finally stepped forward, hand poised to reach out and touch the taller man, an automatic gesture, not fully aware that he was doing so, when Charles noticed Erik cradling a bandaged hand against his chest.

                        The grin faded into a sharp look of concern as Charles took in the rough visage of Erik Lehnsherr. Erik’s eyes were bloodshot; the deep creases around his eyes were more prominent, his skin was rugged, the stubble more pronounced on his gaunt cheeks. His green-gray eyes were clouded with pain. Erik smiled at him wearily, the joy of seeing Charles eddying inside Charles’ mind.  “Erik, what the hell happened?” Charles gasped as he reached out for Erik’s wounded hand. Erik flinched as Charles’ fingers wrapped around his wounded hand, pulling it in for closer inspection. Charles gently turned the hand over in his, feeling the hard calluses on those long slim fingers. The bandage didn’t quite cover the swollen knuckles, and the raw looking skin. “A momentary lapse in judgment.” Erik confessed, a rueful smile on his face, not quite hiding his pain.

                        Charles clucked his tongue in annoyance. “Really, Erik. Violence solves nothing.” He chided, and, not even thinking, brought the wounded hand to his lips, brushing against the prickly bandage. Erik sucked in a breath, his whole body rigid. Charles closed his eyes, savoring the closeness.  He felt warm and safe with Erik, something that he didn’t feel with Christian. They stood there for a few moments, frozen in a scenic tableau, until a solid mass bounded into them. Charles opened his eyes to see Raven next to them, smiling. Her dark hair and rosy cheeks made her look radiant in her yellow chiffon dress. Erik pulled his hand back, heat rising to his cheeks. Raven, damn her, was now grinning. She hugged Erik tight, rooting her forehead into his shoulder. “Thanks so much for coming.” She gushed, wrapping her arms around his middle. Erik kissed the top of her head. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world, libeling.” He smiled warmly at her.  She pulled away only enough to keep an arm around Erik’s waist. “Has Charles been a good host so far?” she asked Erik.

                        Charles bristled, “Raven, go terrify someone else for a while. I think that Irene needs rescuing from Cousin George. Go on.” He gestured towards the food tables. Raven pouted, but nodded. She reached up to kiss Erik on the cheek then hit Charles on the shoulder as she pranced away. 

                        “I’m glad you were able to come, Erik.”  Charles said softly, watching the breeze play with the decorations in the trees. He could feel Erik next to him. “Raven would have killed me if I hadn’t.” Erik replied truthfully. There was a strained silence for a moment before Erik spoke again. “Did you get the gift that I sent? For your birthday?” he asked hesitantly.  Charles winced inwardly, embarrassed that he hadn’t opened it yet. “Yes, thank you. I meant to send you a proper thank you but it’s been so hectic with the wedding and getting back to my research….” He trailed off. “You’ve cut your hair,” he said changing the subject; glancing sideways at Erik’s new severe buzz cut.

                        Erik ran a hand over his shorn head. “New beginning, I guess. Fresh start.”   

                        “Mother had a fit this morning. It appears that Hank has been shedding all over the place and Raven neglected to mention it until the guests started to arrive.” Charles said ruefully. Erik snorted a laugh. He narrowed his eyes and looked out over the heads of the guests milling around the garden. “They think that we’re all deviants in one way or another: being a mutant, gay or both. Raven said you were off the suppressants.” He gave Charles a pointed look, “Don’t deny that they are all thinking that we don’t deserve to live. That we need to be branded and corralled like cattle.” Erik spat out.  Charles tilted his head, letting his inner barriers open up. Much to his chagrin, Erik was right. Many of the guests were anti-mutant, homophobic bigoted assholes. Kurt’s people. Charles bit his lip for a moment before he said, “Men cannot always change their way of thinking, so it is we who have to rise up and be the better men. Show them that we are worth something.” Charles countered.

                        Erik’s lip curled into a snarl, “We shouldn’t have to argue, to prove to them that we have the right to live our lives. We shouldn’t have to justify our right to love whom we choose. We have the right to walk down the street and not be shunned or beaten because we kiss men, have wings, or extra arms, or are blue.” He bit out and Charles couldn’t help but immediately have a vision Raven, chased by a mob, chanting for her death, calling her a demon. Charles shivered, his arms coming up to hold himself. Erik looked regretful for his outburst.  “Sorry, it’s just that I grew up hearing about what happened to my family in Europe, during the Holocaust. The anti-mutant leagues are spewing the same kind of bigoted shit that the Nazis were almost eighty years ago. It’s hard not to make comparisons. The Nazis were some of the first to discover mutations in prisoners of the camps that they experimented on.”

                        “Many of the anti-gay advocates use the same rhetoric. It’s why both groups usually work in tandem. A shame, really.” Charles supplied.

                        Erik took a breath, “Can I ask you something?”

                        Charles started, not expecting the question. “Uh, sure?”

                        Erik squared his shoulders, “What’s your favorite book?” Charles blinked, mind racing for the appropriate answer for Erik’s version of Charles. “It’s probably not what you remember it being.” He said carefully. The look on his face must have given him away, because Erik then said, “Don’t think about it.  Just tell me. I won’t say anything.”

                        “Well, I would have to say The Beach House.” Charles replied.

                        Erik blanched, “Really?”

                        Charles glared at him. “You promised.”

                        Erik grimaced, “Sorry. Didn’t expect that.”

                        “Besides criticizing my literary choices, what does my favorite book have to do with anything?” Charles asked.  Erik readjusted his injured hand. “So, you have your favorite book; if you liked it so much, then you would want to read it over and over. Maybe let Raven read it too, to share in the experience.   But what if you could go back and experience reading your favorite book for the first time?” Erik’s green-blue eyes sparkled with enthusiasm.

            Charles looked at him blankly. “I’m sorry, but what are you getting at?”

                        Erik smiled, “We go out on a date. A real date so that we can get to know each other again. You don’t remember how we met, or how we fell in love; but those were the best times of my life. You were the greatest thing that ever happened to me. You made me believe in love and miracles.” Erik’s deep, soul searching eyes bore into Charles. He fidgeted in place, his eyes glancing towards Christian who was talking to Kurt and his mother across the lawn.

                        Charles bit his lip, unsure. “I’m not sure, Erik. The wedding is coming up soon and I’m going back to Columbia next month.” He gestured helplessly.

                        Erik nodded, “But if I take you out before then, perhaps you can add me as your plus one on the RSVP card.” He smiled, one of his sharky, full-of-teeth grins. “I can’t promise that this will work, but I believe in second chances.” Charles smiled despite himself. “All right. A date. Raven will be ecstatic, of course. She’s been extolling your virtues for weeks now.” Erik smiled, “It’s settled then. I’ll pick you up, seven o’clock?” he asked carefully. Charles nodded, his eyes wavering towards where he had left Christian. “Um, yes.” He caught a glimpse of him chatting up Sharon and Kurt over by the marble fountain. The pang of guilt he felt only lasted a moment as he saw the adoption papers Raven had showed him months ago. Mentally shaking himself, he returned Erik’s smile.

                       Charles ran the brush through his hair, scrutinizing the way that his hair flounced back into it’s familiar disarray. He sighed in frustration and ran his hand through his hair, completely mussing it up. “You’re going to go bald if you keep doing that,” Raven said from the doorway of his room. He looked up sharply, eyes narrowed at his sister. “Don’t you have something better to do?” he snapped as he shrugged into navy blazer he had chosen for the evening. Raven crossed her arms, “As opposed to what? Pressing my nose against the glass of the window, watching for headlights to come winding down the driveway? Like a dog?” Charles colored slightly, “That’s none of your concern, Raven. I’m not some desperate chimpie fluttering around my room waiting for my date to arrive.” He said gruffly.

                        “Well hate to burst your bubble, Chuck, but Erik’s already here.” Raven smirked.

                        “What? For how long?” he squawked as he scrambled towards the window and craned his neck, trying to get a glimpse of the front of the house from his wing of the manor, almost leaning completely out the window. Raven shrugged and pulled out her phone and scrolled through her messages.  “About ten minutes? He’s been texting me like crazy, all neurotic and shit. I swear I should be a shrink with all the bullshit I have to deal with.” She shook her head, blonde waves swaying against her shoulders.  Charles groaned and collapsed onto his bed, head in his hands. “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” He repeated over and over, hands tugging at his hair. He scrunched his eyes closed so hard he saw colored spots swimming around behind his eyelids.  Without thinking, his mind reached out towards the warm metallic tinted bright spot close to him.

                        Erik.

                         He could feel Erik’s anxiety rolling off him in waves: the nervous churning of his stomach, the desperate need of a cigarette, although he knows that Charles hated the damn things, the deep ache of missing Charles.  “Oh god, what was I thinking when I agreed to this madness?” Charles groaned, tugging harder at his hair. “I must have been drunk!” he popped his head up so fast he was dizzy; he lunged at Raven, grabbing her shoulders, pushing her towards the door. “Raven, please. Tell him to go away. Tell him I’m sick, or out of town, or…SOMETHING!” he wailed. Raven grabbed his hands off her shoulders and squeezed. The fierce scowl on her face shocked him out of his panic.  “Charles Francis Xavier, you are going down there and going on a date with Erik.  You owe him that.” She bit out.  Charles’ hands fell limply at his sides; “I’m afraid that he won’t like what he finds.” He said quietly.  Raven’s blue eyes scrunched in sympathy as she cupped his face gently in her hands. “Oh, sweetie, Erik loves you. Truly.” She gently brushed Charles’ bangs out of his eyes, “Just be yourself, and don’t fuck it up.” She said brightly as she patted his shoulder and flounced out of the room, golden hair bouncing behind her. She popped her head back in and said, “Oh, and I hear he puts out on the first date.” She winked then ducked out of the room.

                        Charles sat there for a moment before shaking out his hair and straightening his jacket. “Suck it up, Xavier.” He grumbled to himself as he hauled himself off the bed and tromped down the stairs towards the front door.  As he passed his mother’s rooms, he sensed the hazy alcohol-laced mind that he had known since childhood. She didn’t know that he was going out tonight; she would have surely advised against it. Charles didn’t bother trying to seek out Kurt. Kurt had been holed up in the basement for most of the day, and the staff was too loyal to Brian Xavier’s memory to inform him of Charles’ plans for the evening. Even if Charles wanted to sully himself with the vileness that was Kurt Marko’s mind, it would have been in vain. Kurt and his son Cain were both psi-null. They could neither be influenced by a nor read by a telepath. It had made Charles’ childhood a nightmare. Charles had lived in constant fear, trying to anticipate an attack from either Kurt or his son. When Raven came along, it got worse. Charles had grown up sleeping with one eye open, so that he could remain vigilant.

                        He opened the door to find Erik, poised to knock on the impressive oaken door.  Erik blinked, his gray-blue eyes widened in surprise. Charles tried to smile reassuringly, self-consciously biting his lip in a sudden wave of shyness. Erik resembled a deer in head lights as they just stared at each other for several awkward moments. Charles decided to take the plunge. “Hullo.” He said, shoving his hands into his pockets.

                        Erik sucked in a breath, rubbing his hand across his shorn hair. “Hey.” Erik looked extremely uncomfortable, despite being casually dressed in dark jeans, a dark blazer and dark v-neck undershirt. Charles took a quick look down at his own outfit, dark wash jeans, light blue paisley button up shirt, under a light-weight sweater with a maroon striped jacket.  They seemed to be matched without being matchy.  Erik noticed too, since his eyes swept over Charles, drinking in his clothes, leading up to his face.  “You-um ready to go?” Erik asked, gesturing towards the car.  Charles nodded, walking swiftly towards the passenger seat. He went to open the door when it suddenly popped open on its own, making him jump back in surprise. He yelped, spinning around to find Erik smirking at him. “Show off,” he muttered as he climbed into the front seat.

                        Charles was fastening his seat belt when Erik said, “I hope you don’t mind going into the city.” Charles shook his head, “Not at all. I need to be home by ten tomorrow morning.” Erik frowned at him, “Oh.” Charles cocked his head to the side, “What’s wrong?” he asked. Erik shook his head, leaning on the car door. “Nothing, just that it’s only the first date and you’re already inviting yourself to stay overnight. You don’t waste any time do you, Xavier?” Charles made a sound of indignant protest and was gearing up to defend himself, quiet forcefully, when he felt a brush of fond amusement against his mind. He looked up to see Erik smiling at him. Charles grinned back and grabbed the handle to the door. “Just get your skinny ass in the damn car and drive, Lehnsherr.” Erik chuckled and nodded in acquiescence.  As Erik turned on the ignition, he turned to Charles, “I mean if you really do want to stay the night, I won’t complain.” Charles’ smile was strained, not sure how to respond. Erik sighed a little as he started to drive down the gravel driveway. “Let’s just see how it goes then.”

                       Charles nodded gratefully.

            Chapter Text

            It was a quiet ride into the city.

                        They filled the hour and a half with polite chit chat:

                        Charles was busy re-acclimating himself to his research at Columbia; and he was only working four hours a day, with Hank picking up the rest. Charles had felt bad leaving Hank with so much responsibility, but the young man didn’t seem to mind since science and Raven were the most important things to him, and he was having his fill of both at the moment. Erik said that he had been busy as well, but the tightness around his eyes told Charles that he was holding back about how it had been affecting him. It didn’t take a mind reader to know that Sebastian Shaw was a grueling taskmaster.

                        Moira had been accepted to the CIA training program and would start as soon as the next rounds of recruits were assembled. Sean was moving down to Virginia with her and would probably find work in a music store with a back room for more clandestine products. Darwin and Angel were not speaking to each other at the moment, and Alex had been acting strangely recently. None of them was saying what had happened exactly, but something had happened.

                        Charles told Erik about the bit of fun that Raven had at the cake tasting a few days before, literally turning purple then green then blue at the selections that were laid out in before her, in front of the caterer, no less. “I think that if Mother ever wanted a mutant power, it would have been at that moment. She wanted to sink right through the floor, I swear to God.” Charles chuckled, leaning against the seat.

                        He turned a little; watching as the flickering glow of the streetlights played off Erik’s stark features, taking in the defined cheekbones, the Romanesque nose, the strong brow. Charles did think that Erik was ruggedly handsome, but so world weary that it made him appear so much older than he really was. Erik glanced over, one eye on the road, the other on Charles. “I wanted to thank you, for giving me this chance.” He said softly.

                        Charles sat up a little straighter in the seat. “Well it’s the least that I could do, considering that I’ve been less than hospitable to you recently.” He raised his fingers to his temple, Besides, Raven would have killed me if I hadn’t. Erik startled a bit at hearing Charles in his head but it soon turned into a hum of pleasure in Erik’s mind at the psychic contact. Charles smiled pleased that Erik welcomed him in his mind so openly. Christian still felt uncomfortable with that kind of contact, despite growing up with it.

                        Erik glanced over at Charles’ hand still poised against his temple, a slight frown creasing his brow. “You’re not wearing your wedding ring.” He commented.

                        Charles felt his cheeks flame, “Yes, well, Mother thought that it would be in poor taste to keep it on and not be…well, with you.” He explained, pressing is hands between his knees out of sight. Erik’s lips were set in a thin line as he went back to watching the road. Charles sighed; this wasn’t going so well after all. Perhaps he could covertly text Raven to rescue him from this date before it completely crashed and burned.

                        Erik pulled into a non-descript parking lot in front of a large grey government-looking building. He turned off the engine and turned to look at Charles, his grey-green eyes illuminated in the streetlights. Charles smiled a little uncertainly. “Um, should we get out?” he asked hesitantly.

                        Erik shrugged, rubbing a hand over his shorn head. “If you’d like.” Charles unfastened his belt and rolled down the window to get a better view. He looked back at Erik expectantly, “So is this the moment you tell me that you were never really my husband and that you’re going to strangle me with your bare hands?”

                        Erik chuckled and shook his head, “This is where we first met.” Erik explained.

                        “Oh,” Charles replied softly, catching flashes of a line of people, traffic tickets, and smug satisfaction.

                        He was feeling very uncomfortable; he hadn’t expected a trip down memory lane when he agreed to this date. Erik seemed to sense his discomfort, and turned the car back on and quickly tore out of the parking lot, making Charles have to hold on tightly to the seat just to feel more secure as the car began to increase speed at an alarming rate. Charles soon realized that Erik was using his powers to push the car faster than it was designed for; he was weaving in and out of traffic, letting is powers flow through the car like a race car driver on a closed track. Charles could hear horns blaring as they whizzed past, he could feel himself being pressed against the seat from the force of the acceleration.

                        “Erik, please.” He gritted out through clenched teeth, his hands beginning to ache from gripping the fabric of the seat. Erik seemed to not hear him, his hard eyes looking forward, hands white-knuckled against the steering wheel. Charles tried again, this time, telepathically. Erik, please, he sent forcefully, letting his rising fear bleed through. A tick in Erik’s jaw was the only sign that he heard him, then his long fingered hands flexed against the wheel, and Charles could feel the car slowing to a more reasonable speed, and it was then that Charles finally began to relax. He let go of the seat, prying his cramped fingers off his seat. Erik eased them off towards Brooklyn Bridge Park, and he pulled into the parking lot, overlooking the river, and turned off the engine, letting his hands fall into his lap. The silence in the car was palpable. Charles looked out the window at the landscape. There was a beach of sorts, looking towards the Bridge with sprawling greens on either side. Charles watched the car glide by, the twinkling lights flashing across in a line, the sky purple-pink beyond the skyscrapers.

                        Charles opened his passenger side door and slid out of the seat, shaking legs barely able to hold him. He shoved his shaking hands into his pockets and wandered around the perimeter of the grassy area, surrounded by the parking lot, gravel crunching beneath his feet. He felt Erik behind him, watching. Charles turned and looked at Erik, “I’m sure that we were very happy.” Now that didn’t sound condescending.

                       Erik grunted, “Extremely.” He gave Charles a hard look. “But don’t get me wrong, we also drove each other crazy.”

                        Charles raised an eyebrow. “Oh? I didn’t think that there was trouble in paradise,” He replied drolly. His stomach was churning in anticipation.

                        Erik grunted again, pulling out from inside his jacket a slim silver cigarette case, a lighter following suit of its own volition. He lit up, pulling a long drag out of it as the case and lighter floated lazily in front of him. Charles narrowed his eyes and reached out to grab both the lighter and case¸ fixing his own cigarette. Erik paused, watching as Charles took his own drag, inhaling the deep rich flavor of foreign tobacco. Charles flicked some ash into the wind, glancing at Erik, daring him to say something. Erik said nothing; he pursed his lips around his cigarette, the long winding curl of grey smoke trailing up into the wind. He turned towards the waterfront watching the lights play off the black rolling waters of the bay.

                        “We both worked hideously long hours, sometimes opposite of each other. We wouldn’t see one another for days. Sometimes the only way that I knew that we lived in the same apartment was the towels you left on the bathroom floor in the mornings. I have a tendency to leave the coffeemaker on, bend the light fixtures in the apartment when I’m angry, and not speak to anyone for days just for the hell of it. I don’t trust people or suffer fools easily. I can be harsh, downright cruel sometimes and not be apologetic.

                        “You tend to get caught up in your work, forgetting that you have to eat and sleep. You never wash the dishes after you eat, and there were always half full tea mugs all over the apartment. You’re too trusting, a flirtatious drunk, impulsive, and selectively forgetful. You become obsessed with projects like a puppy with a new toy, so single minded that you sometimes were of reason. ” Erik spoke into the darkness across the water.

                        Charles felt a sharp pain in his chest, as all of his secret insecurities were laid out by this man, who really did know him so well. “If I’m that horrible, why the hell did you marry me then?” he asked thickly, his voice catching in his throat.

                        Erik was still looking out over the river, his voice soft. “Because you are the most beautiful, kind, caring, gentle, brilliant person that I know. You see the good in other people, even me. You made me a better person: an orphaned angry bitter man. Every morning I woke up to my best friend, the love of my life. When my parents and sister died, I never thought that I would be able to trust another person with my head as well as my heart.” He turned to Charles, unshed tears shimmering in his eyes against the backdrop of the city lights.

                        Charles finished off his cigarette, crushing it under his shoe, realizing that he hadn’t enjoyed it as much as he anticipated. “So the fairy tale isn’t so perfect after all,” he mused, still smarting.

                        Erik took another long drag and tossed the spent butt onto the pavement. “I have something to show you, if you’re interested.” Erik offered as he subtly wiped his eyes.

                        Charles looked around, still unimpressed, and then sighed. “I suppose.”

                        They made their way silently up the path, leading to a large glass enclosure with a beautiful carousel inside. The bright colorful lights twinkled like jewels in the darkness. There was a young man standing by the entrance, in a white-shirt and jeans. When they got closer, Charles saw that it was one of Erik’s friends, Alex. The young man looked a little haggard, his blond hair disheveled and there were bags under his blue eyes. Charles made a cursory sweep and sensed fatigue and a twinge of guilt. Charles couldn’t dig deeper without the young man noticing, so he focused on what he and Erik were saying.

                        “It’s all yours, Erik. Just lock up when you’re done.” Alex pushed away from the fencing, pulling out a set of keys and tossing them to Erik.

                        “Thanks kid.” Erik smiled as he pocketed the keys. As Alex turned to go, Erik asked, “How’s school going?” he sounded casual, but Alex would have been a fool not to answer.

                        Alex winced, “Well, since the Prof isn’t tutoring me anymore,” he looked towards Charles who guiltily averted his eyes, “it’s been kinda tough. But Darwin uh, Armado’s been helping me.” Alex flushed a little and Charles felt a surge of interest at the mention of the other young man. It was clear that Alex and Darwin have been doing more than studying.

                        Erik seemed to sense it too, smirking a little at Alex’s discomfort. “I’m sure that you’ll do just fine then.”

                        Alex kicked the dirt with his sneaker while his shoulders hunched. “Yeah,” the young man mumbled, his shaggy blond hair just concealing his blush.

                        Erik slapped him on the back and moved to lead Charles towards the carousel. A few moments later, the roar of a motorcycle could be heard and Alex rode away towards the

                        The closer Charles got to the glass structure, he realized the glass and steel box was a remarkable piece of structural design. The entire carousel was encased in a perfect cube, the lights playing off the glass like a Faberge figurine. “It’s like something out of the Nutcracker, you know, from the second act in the Land of Sweets,” Charles breathed as he pressed his hand to the glass pane.

                        Erik leaned against the steel bar, “We used to come here a lot; I couldn’t keep this place to myself. I kept showing you the progress that I was making here. They commissioned the build in ’09 and I was on the design team. I wanted to make a place for us, for the family that we might have together. A place where we could sit and play chess or read and you would know that I made it just for us. A place where our kids could play and not feel judged for being different. A little piece of heaven in Brooklyn.” Erik grinned ruefully. “The city decided to gentrify the place a few years ago. Shaw’s company won the bid to build it, but of course it was his underlings that did all the work.” He pressed his hand against the beam, “Ninety percent of this is my design.” Not that I got any credit for it he projected rather loudly.

                        Charles smiled, “It’s truly magnificent, like out of a storybook.”

                        Erik beamed under Charles’ praise. “Do you want to take a closer look?” Erik asked sheepishly.

                        Charles grinned, “I was hoping you’d say that.” Erik smiled and opened the gate, motioning for Charles to go through. Charles was feeling daring so he scrunched his nose and bit his lip as he vaulted over the turnstile, landing a little inelegantly on the other side, resembling a drunken gazelle. He shook out his jacket as he righted himself, turning to Erik to meet his challenge. Erik, not to be outdone, concentrated on the rails and the entire metal gate folded into itself. Erik walked forward and the metal rippled around him, letting him pass through. Charles smiled at him, lifting his hand to brush a stray lock of hair out of his eyes; Erik apparently had the same idea. He too raised a hand to brush away the offending strands, his fingertips brushing against Charles’ forehead.

                        Charles felt a shock through his skin straight over his scalp, shooting down his spine. He gasped at the sensation, body stock still the tingling racing through every nerve, awakening every synapse in his mind and body. Erik’s gaze never wavered, the intense green-grey eyes staring intently into him. Erik’s longer tapered fingers gently brushed the lock of hair away, a warm gently tickle against heated skin. Those lean fingers trailed down his temple to trace his jaw, Erik leaned in closer, so close that Charles could feel Erik’s breath against his skin, hot and moist. Charles inhaled deeply, the sharp clean scent tinged with a hint of tobacco that was purely Erik. He closed his eyes, let his body thrum with the delicious sensations that Erik’s hands were creating. He felt warm lips on his own, slightly chapped but still wonderful. He felt blissful and afraid all at the same time.

                        Erik pulled away and strode towards the carousel, his longer legs making the journey much shorter so Charles had to jog to keep up. He was panting slightly as he climbed up onto the platform, grabbing the brass pole for support, his legs jellified from the kiss. Erik was slightly to his right, weaving in and out of the rows of immaculately carved horses. He stopped in front of an ornate sleigh, with a red velvet seat. The panels’ background was a robin’s egg blue; the carved sides were eggshell white with a sparkling sheen to the swirling crests sprawling up the sides. It would have been a fitting conveyance for an ice queen Charles mused. The White Witch, perhaps.

                        Charles took the initiative and slid into the seat, slouching down to push his knees against the front panel. Erik slunk over to take a seat next to him, his arm across the backrest. The carousel was quite beautiful: bright and magical with twinkling lights and painted murals. “Mind if I?” Erik asked as he wiggled his fingers.        

                        “Um, sure.” Charles said.

                        Erik swept his hand into a flourish and the carousel began to stutter to life, the calliope music starting up as everything began to move. Charles laughed in delight, feeling like a child. “My mother never let us go to places like this when we were young,” he commented. “She thought it was too common. My nanny asked her once, if she could take us to Coney Island. Poor dear was sacked by the end of the conversation.” Charles scrunched his nose, “I really liked her. Margie had a niece who was an empath. She was one of the few staff who didn’t run away screaming the first time when I asked for some milk telepathically.”

                        Erik grunted, a flicker of recognition told Charles that Erik was familiar with Margie.

                        “Christian Frost was the first boy I ever kissed.” Charles said, staring at a serene mural of a pretty smiling girl swinging from a tree swing, her amused lover pushing her from behind. “He wasn’t the last, mind you...”

                        “You’ve always been fond of him,” Erik offered neutrally, the clench in his jaw threatening to shatter his teeth.

                        Charles hummed, “He was available.” he emphasized. “He was in our social circle, the only one who was remotely interesting, and he was used to being around a telepath ‘cause of Emma; so it seemed that if I had to kiss a boy, it was logical to have been him.” Charles shifted in his seat, “It was right after I was expelled from boarding school,” he looked over to Erik who only nodded, acknowledging that he knew about the St. John incident. “I was lonely and he didn’t think that I was a freak.” He shrugged, “We just went together: to parties, out to clubs in the city, private country clubs with our parents. Everyone assumed that we would get married and just…continue on. Christian would run the family firm, absorb my family’s wealth and I would be the quiet little spouse who just stands there, hanging on his arm, gazing up adoringly, so lucky to be in the same hemisphere as the illustrious Frosts.” Charles shook his head, “Even at seventeen, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.” He leaned forward and rubbed his hands on the tops of his thighs. “I ran away.” He confessed. “It was the cowardly way out but I couldn’t be trapped in that world like my father had been. It killed him in the end and that same fate terrified me.” He had pieced together the last few weeks before Oxford, since it went a bit fuzzy that last summer.

                        Erik pushed his shoulder against Charles’, “You did a brave thing, going out on your own, with that brat kid sister of yours in tow. You were stronger than you realized then. I always admired that about you, you helped people find their inner strength even when they didn’t think they had any left.”

                        “Please.” Charles snorted. “You seem to have very high expectations of me, my friend.”

                        Erik grinned, raising his right hand so Charles could see; he twirled his index finger lazily in a circle a look of smug satisfaction on his face. Charles felt the carousel began to increase in speed in its rotation. Charles felt himself being pressed up into the plush mist of the seat, “Erik what-” he let out a breathy laugh at the rush of air against heated face. Emboldened he pushed himself up off the seat and had to grab on to a nearby horse to keep himself upright against the momentum. He swung around the poles weaving in and out of the horses, drunk on the heady recklessness of it all. He turned back to look at Erik, who was watching him, arms crossed against his chest an unreadable look on his face yet a trickle of amusement flowing over to Charles. Still a little punch drunk Charles sends a rather flirtatious mental nudge his way, noticing how Erik’s pupils dilated, only a sliver of pale green visible even at that distance. Erik surged forward using a thrust of magnetic power to keep himself steady as the carousel increased speed, hovering over Charles.

                        Charles had a hard time keeping his breath steady with Erik so close to him and try to keep his balance both mentally and physically. Charles swayed a bit, dizzy from going around so many times so fast. Erik reached over and took Charles’ hand in his. Warmth pooled in his stomach at the contact and he found himself entwining his fingers with Erik’s. Erik then began to run his thumb against Charles’ knuckles, back and forth. “I took you here on our anniversary last year. This is where I asked if you wanted to have children.” he cleared the catch in his throat. “I’ve always wanted a family, since mine was taken from me so long ago. You didn’t have such a great childhood either, so you wanted to make up for that by making a child part of our family.”

                        Charles swallowed hard, his fingers tingling. On instinct, he lifted Erik’s hand, still on his, and brushed his lips against the skin of the back of Erik’s hand. Erik sucked in a breath as he slipped out of Charles’ grasp and traced his thumb against Charles’ lips, his intense gaze never wavering. “Erik,” Charles breathed, his tongue darting out to brush against Erik’s finger. Erik groaned as he surged forward, kissing Charles with intensity. Charles gasped against his lips, letting Erik’s tongue slip in.  

                        Charles moaned as he grabbed the back of Erik’s neck, pulling him in close. Their lips brushed against each other as Erik climbed over to cover Charles with his body. “Missed this,” Erik whispered as he nuzzled Charles’ neck, his mouth leaving wet kisses against his skin. Charles began to feel uncomfortably tight in his jeans as Erik ground against him. “Jesus,” Charles gasped as Erik made his way up to Charles’ ear, licking the shell and biting the lobe. Erik’s hand hovered over the bulge in Charles’ pants and his zipper pulled down on its own. Charles laughed breathlessly as he was eased out of his pants, warm rough fingers stroking him reverently. Erik’s thumb brushed over his weeping head, making Charles buck up. That same hand trailed down under his cock to fondle his balls, long fingers squeezing gently. Charles bit his lip bloody at the intense sensations flowing through his body.

                        It had been so long since he had been touched; he had skirted around the issue with Christian, who had been very diplomatic about intimacy. Charles groaned, his head lolling back as Erik sucked and bit at his neck. He bucked up into Erik’s grasp, hearing a grunt of pleasure from the taller man. Erik continued to slide a hand up and down Charles’s cock, the pre-come creating delicious friction against his hardened flesh. Charles’ hips kept undulating as Erik leaned over him, pressing his back a little painfully into the car ornamentation of the sleigh. He felt Erik’s hot mouth against his neck the slight stubble from Erik’s cheek whispered against his oversensitive skin. His hips bucked up into Erik’s hand as the friction increased and the heat pooled in his belly, a voice pressing against his mind chanting Charles Charles’ Charles. The mantra brought him over the edge as one last hard stroke send him spiraling into oblivion he came with a strangled cry spurting cum all over Erik’s nimble fingers and onto his own shirt. His legs were weak, he felt himself struggling to keep his balance. He tried to lean against the side of the sleigh felt himself sliding down; a strong arm held them up keeping him in place. He panted roughly as his senses returned he internally checked to make sure he was a vertical. He all looked up and Erik who was watching him hungrily, his own breath ragged, irises blown wide the hot desire evident in his face. Charles looked down a bulge in Erik’s own jeans and felt the flush rises in his cheeks.

                        “Um, that was. Yeah,” Charles mumbled as he fumbled to get himself back into his pants. His cock was still sensitive; each touch sent electric shocks through his entire body. He shuddered as he adjusted himself, zipping up his jeans. He kept his eyes on his shoes for a moment before having the courage to lift his gaze to Erik’s. When he looked up, Erik was staring at him intently. But there were tiny crinkles around his eyes, and his lips twitched, trying to suppress a sly smile. That set Charles off, a laugh bubbled up inside him, erupting from his insides. He started to snicker which Erik caught on to, which made Erik snort a laugh.

                        They both were overcome with laughter, a pleasant hum of pleasure coming from Erik’s mind. Charles found himself doubled over with laughter, tears pricking his eyes. Dear God, he had just received a hand job on a carousel. He gasped, grabbing onto the nearest pole to keep himself upright. The rush of his post-orgasm high made him feel lightheaded. He looked to Erik, whose laugh was a low rumble that Charles could feel reverberating through his very core. Erik rested his forearm against the same pole as Charles, leaning over him, smile still pulling at his lips. Charles glanced down at Erik’s crotch, the bulge evident in his tight jeans. He looked up at Erik, biting his lip.  

                        “Did you want me to, um?” he began to gesture to Erik’s crotch but mid-move he instead rubbed the back of his neck. His mind flashed back to months ago, the glimpse of Erik’s endowment made him a little hard just thinking about it.

                        Erik shook his head slightly, his hand reaching down to adjust himself. God, Charles admired the other man’s self-restraint. He hadn’t realized that the carousel had slowed to a stop during their encounter and his legs still felt like jelly, he was glad that he was still holding.

                        “I have something else in mind, if you’re game,” Erik said as he stroked the pole, long fingers caressing the metal. Charles knew what those fingers could do.

                        Charles nodded, “I’m game.”

                        Erik nodded, holding out his arm indicating that Charles should dismount. Taking a breath, Charles lifted his leg and it only trembled slightly as he jumped down onto the ground. He swayed a little but then he felt a hand at the small of his back keeping him upright. He looked up to find Erik right behind him, pressed close. Despite the layers of his jacket and shirt, he could feel the heat emanating off Erik. It took everything that Charles had to not rub himself against Erik like a cat in heat. Well, technically he hadn’t gotten laid in months so he could be considered a cat in heat.

                        They made their way back down to the shore overlooking the city. Charles slipped his hands into his pockets, rocking back onto his heels. “I have always loved this city; it would be a shame to leave.”

                        “You love the city in-between Park and Madison. Everything else beyond the Upper East Side is beneath you.” Erik snarked, Charles heard him shuffling behind him. Charles bristled, he turned to tell Erik off, a sharp retort on the tip of his tongue; he was greeted with the sight of Erik stripping off his jacket, tossing it to the sand.

                        “What in God’s name are you doing?” Charles gaped as Erik continued to shed his clothing, shirt, shoes, then jeans and underwear. It was all so fluid, each movement was deliberate yet seemed so effortless Charles envied his grace.

                        Erik pulled his watch off, stuffing it in his shoes. He turned to Charles, standing in the sandy grass, completely naked, nonplussed. “We’re going for a swim.” He said simply, as if it was an everyday occurrence. Charles ran his hand through his hair.

                        “Yes, ok. But why are you naked?” he asked weakly, trying to avert his eyes

            Erik raised an eyebrow, “We’ve done this a bunch of times. Besides, when has Charles Three Continents Xavier been shy about a little nudity?”         

                        Charles sputtered, his cheeks flaming. “A little. A little? Erik, we are in a public park! We could get arrested!” he looked around frantically, scanning for any signs of life.

                        Erik strode past him into the inky water, splashing him as he went by. Charles held up his hands shielding his face as he was peppered with droplets of water. Each sharp pins prick against his exposed skin. Erik waded in until he was waist deep. “Just before you left for Oxford, right after finals you and a few buddies ran naked through the campus and ended up in a fountain.”

                        Charles was struck dumb. Christ, he had done that. It seemed like yesterday to his recollection. He suddenly felt very old.

                        Strengthening his resolve, Charles shucked off his jacket and shirt; his jeans halfway off before he realized that he needed to remove his shoes. He stumbled, hopping on one foot then the other as he pulled off his shoes, tossing them in the mixed pile of clothes. He tromped down to the shore, hands trying to cover himself as he moved towards the water. Charles stopped, the cold air dancing across his skin making him break out in goose bumps. He carefully dipped a toe in, needles shot through his nerves at the sensation of the icy water. He jumped back, trying to keep covered. “It’s bloody freezing!” he shouted, his teeth chattering.

                        Erik shook his head, trudging back to shore, sending waves Charles’ way. He jumped back a little, his bare feet stinging on the rough beach. Erik reached him, looking pale and glistening in the illuminated water, like a mythical creature rising from the deep. Despite the chill, Charles felt the thrill of desire for the lean hard body before him. Erik grabbed his hand, pulling him into the water. Charles shouted as his whole body was shocked by the icy blast of frigid water. “Erik!” he gasped out, his voice taken by the cold.

                        Erik pulled him close, their naked bodies pressed hard together, sharing what little body heat was left. Charles let his head loll back as Erik pressed his prickly cheek against his neck. He lifted his arm up wrapping around Erik’s neck to pull him closer; he could feel Erik’s hard cock rubbing against his ass. Charles’ hips pressed harder, eliciting a moan from Erik. His arms came around Charles’ waist, holding him close. Charles felt the eddies of Erik’s mind ebbing and flowing against his own, Charles basked in the surprising peace that was Erik’s mind.

                        Erik hugged him tighter, and then lifted him up out of the water, twirling him around, splashing water every which way. Charles laughed, trying to get his grip on a piece of the slippery wet man. Erik pulled him by the hand back to shore, both inelegantly tromping towards the pile of clothing they had left behind. Panting, they scrambled to the pile, Erik swooping down to grab Charles’ jeans first and toss them to him then pulled his on his own along with his shirt.

                        Charles’ frozen fingers refused to work as he fumbled with his jeans, dropping them several times before he was able to pull them on. He wrapped his arms around himself, waiting for Erik to move so that he could collect the rest of his clothes. Instead, he found that Erik had bundled everything up in his left arm, and with his right, he grabbed Charles’ arm and frog marched him back to the car. Charles was too cold to actually protest, and was grateful when the trunk of the car opened to reveal several blankets. Erik tossed the clothes in the back seat while Charles grabbed a blanket, pulling it around his shoulders. He was still shivering as Erik began to rub his hands over Charles’ arms. Charles looked up at him, smiling despite is shivering. Erik returned the smile, pulling Charles into a side hug. Charles sighed, resting his head against Erik’s shoulder. They watched the cars cross the bridge as Erik took Charles’ hands into his, blowing warmth into his icy digits.

                        Erik turned on the ignition, then the heater. Charles rubbed his hands together then placed them in front of the small vents. He saw out of the corner of his eye that Erik was watching him. He turned and smiled, “Thanks for tonight. I mean it.” he said warmly. Erik nodded as he pulled out of the parking lot and back onto the street. As Erik maneuvered the car to get onto the exit to take them back to Westchester, Charles suddenly out his hand on Erik's. “Wait, can we um, go back to your place?” he asked before he lost his nerve.

                        He felt and saw Erik’s surprise and joy as he nodded and turned the car back toward Brooklyn.

                        Erik unlocked the door, tossing his keys onto the table next to them as they entered. Charles looked around, feeling a sense of calm come over him in what used to be his and Erik's home. Erik had brought in their clothes and he set them on the couch, he waved his hand and a lamp by the TV came on. He began to sort through the clothes, picking out his shirt and underwear.

                        “You still have some things in the bedroom, if you don't want to wear these again.” Erik said as he haphazardly folded his clothes and tossed them onto the floor. He folded Charles' clothes neatly, placing them on the back of the couch within easy reach. Charles shuffled from one foot to the other, watching Erik fidget. He crossed over to the couch and grabbed his white tee shirt, pulling it on as he went into the dining area, lifting himself onto the wooden table. He spread his legs slightly, hand on his thighs. Erik was watching him from across the room, a predatory look in his eyes. Charles smiled, the heat pooling in his belly making him reckless.      

                        Erik felt the pull and stalked over, invading the space between Charles’ thighs. Charles wrapped his legs around Erik’s narrow waist, locking his ankles together at the small of Erik’s back. He ground his cock roughly against Erik, enjoying the strained noises coming from the other man. They panted wetly in each others’ mouths as they sucked on tongues. Erik’s large hand held Charles’ head at the nape of his neck, long fingers pressing deep into the flesh. Charles let his head loll back exposing his throat to Erik’s ministrations.

                        Erik nosed at Charles’ neck, the rough bit of stubble brushing against his skin making Charles shudder. Erik mouthed at exposed skin biting and nipping till he was peppered with hickeys. Erik pushed him down gently onto the table, rucking his shirt up to expose his torso. He watched Erik watch Charles’ chest heave in exertion. The sharp, visceral attention that Erik showed him made his heart race the raw sexuality that flowed off of Erik in waves.

                        Erik ran his hands down Charles’ torso, thumbs swirling around pink nipples, calloused fingers glancing off his sides, grazing his ribs. Charles moaned a laugh, it tickled, the bastard. His hips bucked as Erik pressed on top of him, covering him completely. He should have felt smothered, instead he felt protected, a safe haven from the outside world. Erik continued to worship Charles’ body, pale and a bit doughy as it was. Charles raised his own hands and lifted up Erik’s shirt, exposing hard planes of muscle undulating as Erik breathed.

            Charles touched, cataloging the difference between his own body and Erik’s. The obvious difference in physique made him really wonder what Erik saw in him. He watched Erik’s eyes, pupils blown wide as they touched and petted each other. Erik scooped Charles up and carried him bridal-style to the bedroom, easily maneuvering around furniture by muscle memory. He was deposited on the bed gently, guided down onto the pillows. He let himself sink into the covers, loose-limbed and aching.

                       “Charles,” Erik rasped, hands on Charles’ sides, rubbing up and down. Charles arched up and Erik took advantage to pull down his pants. Charles wiggled out of his jeans, and Erik tossed them over the side of the bed. He wasn’t wearing underwear, which was a blessing and a curse for each touch was like a lightning bolt through his balls.

                         “Erik,” Charles whined, his hips bucking up for more touching. Erik kissed his way down Charles’ neck, his thumbs swirling around his nipples, nipping at his sides. Charles was lost in the sensations of Erik all around him. He needed more, needed something deep inside. Charles put a hand against Erik’s hot chest; he could feel Erik’s rapid heartbeat as erratic as his own. “Wait,” he panted, struggling to sit up. Erik pulled back as if he had been burned. He shut down, walled off his mind in rejection, his eyes filled with hurt. Charles scrambled to sit up, his hand held out. “No, no” he stammered, shifting closer. “This,” he whispered, as he kissed Erik hard, climbing into his lap. Erik was stunned for a second, before wrapping his arms around Charles. Charles shifted his naked ass against Erik’s hard cock, still in his jeans. Erik slid back as Charles pushed so that he was straddling him. Charles slithered down, unzipping Erik’s jeans and pushing down his underwear, freeing his impressive cock.

                              Erik’s cock bobbed in front of him, the weeping glistening head very near to his mouth. He looked up at Erik thorough his lashes seeing the green-grey only as a sliver around blown pupils. Charles nuzzled Erik’s cock, testing its firmness and texture. Erik whimpered above him, hips twitching. Charles kissed along Erik’s shaft, using his tongue to trace the throbbing vein on the side. Erik thrashed around as Charles put his hands on Erik’s thighs and sucked him down. Hard. Erik strained against his mouth as Charles sucked, hollowing his cheeks as Erik’s cock his the back of is throat. He felt Erik try not to thrust up, trying not to suffocate him. Charles took his hand and slipped it under Erik’s balls, his fingers massaging his perineum as he sucked. Erik grunted and thrashed under his mouth, a mixture of saliva and precum dripping from the corners of Charles’ mouth.

                               Erik carded trembling hands through Charles’ hair, his nails pricking at his scalp. Charles pulled off him, sitting up on his haunches. Erik looked up, his chest heaving. He struggled to sit up, only able to rise up to rest on his arms. His cock was hard and dripping in the nest of reddish hair between his legs. “Charles,” he began, his eyes were hungry but still wary.

                               Charles smiled as he wiped his mouth, spitting into his hand to gather the mix of saliva and precum in his hand. He reached back behind himself, his left hand on Erik’s leg for balance; he spread his legs and used the mixture to press deep inside himself. He winced, the pain beating out pleasure for a moment. It had been too long since he had done this; at least he thought that it had been too long. He worked himself, using the impromptu lube to ease his way in deeper. He kept his eyes on Erik, who had taken a hold of his own cock and was stroking himself, keeping his cock hard. Charles scissored himself for a while, rotating his hips as he fucked himself splayed across Erik’s legs. Charles felt his hole clench and unclench around his fingers, the slick walls of his insides sensitive to his ministrations.  

                                  Erik pulled his legs out from beneath Charles up onto his knees looming over Charles. He ran his hands over Charles’ shoulders, stroking his fingers down his arms, moving his body with the rhythm that Charles had set. Erik pulled at the hand that was working inside Charles, easing it out, making Charles gasp. Erik nuzzled Charles’ wet fingers, licking and sucking on the damp digits. Charles moaned as Erik fellatiaed his fingers, swirling his tongue around the digits.

                                  Erik’s hands slid across his thighs, fingers tickling the undersides of his knees. Charles giggled when Erik hit a particularly sensitive spot. Erik released his fingers, pressing his cheek against Charles’ knee, smiling as he rubbed his cheek against Charles’ leg. Charles laid back into the pillows, carding his hands through Erik’s hair. Erik’s fingers found their way towards Charles’ entrance, already loose from his own fingers. “Top drawer,” he whispered. Charles leaned over as the drawer opened on its own. He pulled out the bottle, popping the cap. Charles leaned over and tipped the bottle contents onto Erik’s outstretched fingers.

                                 Erik was gentle as he pushed in, Charles felt himself clench down. Erik used the resistance to curl his finger upwards, brushing against his prostate. Charles jumped, pleasure spiking through his limbs like and electrical current. Erik paused, “Are you ok?” he asked.

                                 Charles wiggled against the fingers inside him. “Don’t ruin this for me, Erik.” He ground out. Erik huffed out a laugh, spreading his fingers to widen him. Charles bore down, undulating his hips. Erik withdrew, Charles’ hole resisting the retreat of those glorious digits. Erik spread Charles’ legs wide, sliding his hands across his thighs. Erik lifted him up slightly, resting the backs of Charles’ thighs against his legs. Erik gripped the base of his cock, easing it into Charles’ gaping hole. Charles hissed as his muscles engulfed Erik, the delicious burn spiking up his spine.

                                  Charles arched up, pulling Erik flush against him. He felt Erik tremble as he kept still, the arms that bracketed Charles trembling with the effort to hold his weight. Charles wiggled under him, clenching his ass around Erik’s cock. Erik groaned, burying his into Charles’ neck. Charles wrapped his arms around Erik’s shoulders, pulling him into a sweet kiss. Erik…Charles whispered into his mind; Erik’s hips snapped forward, thrusting hard into Charles.

                                  Charles gasped as Erik’s balls slapped against his ass, his thick cock piercing into him. Charles sobbed as he clung to Erik’s shoulders as Erik pounded into him, the wet sound of flesh on flesh punctuated by grunts and gasps from both men. Charles felt Erik’s hand on his cock, rubbing him as he thrust into him. Charles…I need…Erik gasped in his mind. Charles felt the pressure in his balls growing as Erik hit the sweet spot deep inside. One final thrust pushed Charles over the edge; his scream filled the room and reverberated through both their heads. Erik came seconds later, his eyes clenched, teeth bared as his cry of pleasure was ripped from his throat.

            Erik collapsed on top of Charles, both completely spent. They panted against each other, their sweaty bodies complete entwined. Charles raised a shaking hand to touch Erik’s temple. He gently whirled a finger against the hot skin, letting his sleepy affection seep in. Erik’s eyes fluttered closed a peaceful expression on his face. He gently pulled out of Charles, adjusting them on the bed so that they were hip to hip. Charles hummed in satisfaction as they settled in to sleep, Erik’s arms surrounding him.

                                   Charles came awake slowly, his body achy in all the right places. It had been so long since he had engaged in sex that he forgot how good it felt. He stretched his arms up above his head and flexed his toes, enjoying the pleasurable muscle burn that traveled through his appendages. He sighed, burying his nose into the soft pillow under him. He inhaled, the musky scent imbued in the down intoxicating. The scent was vaguely familiar, filling him with a sense of warmth and safety. He sighed, burying his nose into the soft pillow under him. He inhaled, the musky scent imbued in the down intoxicating. The scent was vaguely familiar, filling him with a sense of warmth and safety. He was cocooned in warmth that he didn’t want to leave, the security it filled him with such peace and serenity. He tried to turn over but found himself wrapped up in an arm securely around his very naked middle and a solid form against his back. An equally naked form, with a hard on pressed against the small of his back. He suddenly stiffened; the sense of being smothered overwhelmed him.

                                  The owner of the arm mumbled something inaudible and tightened his grip on Charles pressing the hardness deeper against him. It didn’t take him long to figure that it was Erik, especially with the fuzzy contentment emanating from behind. Charles made a desperate noise, a shrill whine in the back of his throat, like a trapped animal. He struggled against the arm pinning him down, pushing his palms against the taught, muscled forearm; the noise sounding more desperate as the seconds ticked by.

                        Erik snorted behind him, finally sliding his arm away, freeing Charles. Charles scrambled out of bed, tumbling around the twisted sheets wrapped around his legs; he grabbed a handful of discarded clothing pawing through them desperately to find his underwear in jeans.

                        “Charles?” Erik’s garbled voice was rough with sleep. Despite his panic Charles found it highly arousing much to the chagrin. Erik rose to his elbow wiping his eyes as Charles turned to him clothes clutched to his chest.

                        “I’m sorry this was a mistake I have to.” Charles said in a rush. Erik blinked, his grey eyes confused then they widened in understanding, he then shot up in bed, sheets falling down to reveal his trim, well defined body.

                        “What do you mean? Charles?” he asked the painful uncertainty evident in his voice.

                        “Sorry!” Charles squawked as he hastily pulled on his jeans and threw on his dress shirt, not bothering to button it the whole way. He stumbled into the living room area, and found his cell phone and keys on the coffee table. As he grabbed at them, he heard a loud thud coming from the bedroom. He winced in sympathy when he heard a muffled curse. Charles found his jacket strewn over the back of a chair near the door; as he lunged for the door knob he heard Erik behind him calling his name. Charles opened the door and stumbled out onto the front stoop. He could feel Erik behind him, so he pressed his fingers to his temple and closed his eyes. He imagined a dense fog surrounding himself, silently asking Erik to forgive him in the process. He jumps down the stairs arms flailing as he almost lost his balance. He adjusted his jacket as he slunk down the street, head down, eyes clenched shut silent tears. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. He chanted in his head hoping that on some level Erik could hear him. He turned at the corner of the street and hailed a gypsy cab not far away. “347 Park Avenue.” He bit out as he slid into the backseat. Charles hunkered down in the backseat of the taxi, silently praying that Erik would forgive him.

            Chapter Text

                        Charles’ palms were sweat he knocked on the door in front of him, trying to control his breathing. His barriers were severely weakened; it took all his remaining strength not to project is fear throughout the building. It seemed like an eternity, but the door finally opened, revealing a disheveled, half naked Christian Frost, leaning heavily against the door jamb.

                        “Charles, it’s 3 AM,” he moaned into his arm. He leapt back as Charles pushed his way past him into the apartment.                  

                        “I don’t know what’s going on,” Charles ranted as he began to pace across the living room carpet.

                        “That makes two of us,” Christian mumbled as he moved away from the door, settling on the arm of his sofa, crossing his arms over his chest. Charles kept grabbing at his hair, pulling at the roots. “Not that I don’t enjoy your company Charles, but I have an investment meeting at 8 am so…?” he trailed off, his blue eyes bemused.

                        Charles froze, mid-pace. He looked at Christian clad in only sleep pants, his hair tousled, eyes still squinting from the lights. He was sleep roughened; as sexy as he had ever been. The sight of Christian didn’t stir Charles in the least, not even a flicker of interest. Ashamed, Charles lunged forward and pulled the other man into a hard kiss, grabbing at the small hairs at the back of his neck. Christian’s hands came up defensive a surprised noise escaping him as Charles ravaged his mouth. Soon hands were on Charles’ waist, holding him firm against the other man’s crotch. A warm wet tongue tried to press into Charles’ mouth and Charles made a distressed noise, starting to pull away. The invasion made him feel queasy inside.

                        Charles pulled himself away just as quickly as he had flung himself at Christian, breathing heavily as he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Christian leaned over slightly, hands on his hips as he panted. “Jesus Charles, way to give a guy emotional whiplash,” he wheezed.         

                        Charles groaned as he flopped face first into the sofa, “I fucked up,” he moaned into the pillows. He liked Christian’s couch. It was soft and warm and probably cost more that a Mercedes. He felt a dip in the couch as Christian sat down next to him.

                        “I take your date with Erik didn’t go well,” Christian ventured. Charles mumbled into the pillows and Christian said, “Sorry, what?”

            Charles sprang up, almost knocking Christian in the chin with the back of his head. “IT WAS BLOODY PERFECT!” Charles wailed, clutching a pillow for dear life. “We had sex,” Charles said in a small voice, burying himself into the pillow once more.                 

            Christian scratched his chin, “OK, so you had sex with the guy you’re still married to. What’s your problem? You’ve been sleeping with the guy for five years; I don’t think his dick has changed since then.”

            Charles huffed, flopping the pillow onto his thighs, “That’s precisely the point! We’re still married. I’m cheating on him with you while cheating on you with him!” Charles’s face had gone from flushed to tomato red. “He still wears his wedding ring. Every thought in his head is of me, of us, and I can’t be what he wants me to be.” Charles leaned his head onto Christian’s shoulder. “I am a horrible person. I should never have agreed to go out with him. I’ve been leading him on. He’s stuck in a past that I can’t remember.” He looked up at Christian through teary eyes. “You are the only other man that I trust, Christian. Please help me.”

            Christian sighed, slipping his arm around Charles’ shoulders. “When I heard that you had gotten married, my first thought was that it wouldn’t last.” He huffed a laugh, “I mean if I couldn’t keep you, then who was this guy that was able to hold your interest? I mean, you were the biggest catch of our generation. We had to cope as best we could when you left. Emma had her society friends, I had a company to run, your mother had her booze, and Kurt had his lab of horrors. You found someone who adored you, who was able to fill the hole in your life that we were never able to.”

            Charles gave him a narrowed-eyed look, “So what you’re saying is that Erik was lucky to have me?”

                        Christian chuckled, “No idiot, you’re lucky to get him,” he nudged Charles’ shoulder playfully.

                        Charles laughed through his tears, “Yeah, he is a great guy. That’s why I feel so bad. It seems like everything I do hurts him.” He bit his lip, “I really like him.”

                        Christian rand his hand over Charles’ hair, “I like him too. He hasn’t given up on you yet; don’t give up on yourself.” He stood up, offering a hand to Charles. “Come on. You can crash in my spare bedroom for tonight since this is just a social call.”

                        Charles allowed himself to be pulled to his feet and ushered towards the bathroom. “How did you become so wise?” Charles mused as he stopped before the bathroom door.

                        Christian shrugged, “I grew up. And for a while, I thought that you had too.”       

                        Charles put his hand on the doorknob and stopped, “Did you love me back then, even when I was like this?” he asked softly.

                        “You always had a certain charm, Charles, which drew people in. we all knew you were destined for great things. A person would have to be truly heartless not to love you. I may be a ruthless businessman, but even I’m not that heartless. But on the other hand, being able to put up with your shit and still be a saint is another story entirely.” He grinned at Charles.

                        Charles laughed and swatted at his shoulder before opening the door to the bathroom. He slipped inside, flicking on the light. He went to the sink and turned on the tap. He cupped his hands under the cool water, splashing it on his face. He blinked the water droplets off of his eyelashes. He scrubbed away the water, and turned off the tap. He meandered back into the living room, noticing that Christian’s light was not on in his bedroom. He wasn’t sure if trying to get into bed with the man was a good idea, the thought actually made him very nervous.

                        He felt a flicker of a friendly goodnight from the occupied bedroom which strengthened his resolve. He opened the door to the guest room and made his way to the bed. The room was rather sparse: a bed with plain linens, a small desk and chair and two end tables. There were a few generic paintings on the walls, but nothing that made it personal. Charles thought back to the warm cluttered apartment that Erik and he had shared and felt homesick.

                        Sighing, he pulled off is shoes and shirt and fell into the bed. He slid up to the pillows and inhaled the fresh scent of detergent. He sent a fuzzy thanks to Christian as sleep overcame his battered heart and exhausted mind.

             

            ******************************************************************************

                        “Yu haf twoo fiks mreh.”

                        Doctor Rene Spencer sat in her chair behind her desk in her office, watching Charles Xavier cradle his head in his hands. She leaned forward, eyes narrowed, straining to hear the muffled words.

                        “Excuse me?” she asked.

                        Charles’ head shot up, his blue eyes red-rimmed, cheeks unshaven, looking paler than she had ever seen him. “I said: you have to fix me! This!” he repeated, gesturing to his head, his voice shrill.

                        Doctor Spencer frowned, her concern growing. “Charles, there is nothing physically wrong with you. I have given you a clean bill of health. I have poked and prodded you to the fullest extent medically possible. Your memory issues are not something that I can really help you with. You would need to see a telepathy specialist. I know several that I could refer you to.” She opened her drawer and pulled out a pre-typed list that she had prepared when she had seen his name on her calendar. She set it on the desk in front of him. He didn’t even look at it, just pulled his legs up onto the seat of his chair.

                        Charles growled in frustration, tugging at his hair, elbows on his knees. “I’m falling apart! My husband thinks I’m a vapid whore, my boyfriend coddles me, and my stepfather wants to have me committed! You can’t tell me this is normal.” His legs fell back onto the floor in a fluid motion as he leaned in closer to her. “Fix it.” He snarled, impatience emanating from him in waves.

                        Doctor Spencer crossed her arms across her chest, “Short of scooping out your brain with a melon baller, there is nothing that I can do to help you regain your old memories.” She reached out her hand to him, “Charles, I know that this whole experience has been traumatic for you and your family. You may regain your memories at some point, but there is a good chance that you will never get your memories back.” Her face softened when he made a small desperate noise. “Some people who have memory loss don’t want to regain their memories; there is something that they are afraid of remembering. Is that something that you have considered?” she asked gently.

                        Charles colored slightly, “I don’t know who I am anymore. Am I Charles Xavier the famous geneticist, married to Erik Lehnsherr? Or am I Charles Xavier playboy telepath being courted by Christian Frost?”

                        Dr. Spencer raised an eyebrow, “Well which one feels more comfortable to you?” she asked.

                        Charles shrugged, “Neither.”

                        The doctor sighed, “Maybe you need a new perspective, a fresh start. Do you have any other friends besides the ones that you’ve already been associating with?”

                        Charles looked thoughtful for a moment. “I think that Tony Stark is in New York right now, maybe I could ask to use his Malibu house for a while.” He mused.

                        Dr. Spencer sat back, wow, talk about powerful friends. “Ok then, give him a call.” She pushed the paper closer to the young telepath, “I would recommend getting in touch with at least one of the specialists on this list. It’s not just doctor’s orders, but as a friend.” She smiled at him with genuine affection.

                        Charles smiled at her for the first time since he hand slunk into his office. It was a warm true smile that made her insides flutter. No wonder half of New York was after this man.

                        “You have a daughter who just manifested. Possibly an empath,” he said suddenly.

                        Dr. Spencer sucked in a breath; she had tried not to think of Allison during her session, cautious of this exact situation. “Yes, she just turned twelve.” She said carefully.

                        Charles stood up, folding the paper in half and stuffing it in his jacket. “You haven’t told her school yet since she might be asked to leave. There’s only a month left before summer break and you don’t want to out her this late in the year.” He said off-handedly.

                        Dr. Spencer blinked, damn this guy was good. “Yes, but is there a point to all this?” she asked carefully.

                        Charles smiled, “I may be a wreck with my own life, but I like helping others, especially fellow mutants. If you need help with your daughter, please keep me in mind. I have a few exercises that might help her get through her last few weeks of school.”           

                        Dr. Spencer was at a loss for a moment, her mouth opening and closing with no words coming out. “I, yes, ok. I’ll ask her about it. Thank you.” She stood and shook the younger mutant’s hand. She stood there staring at the door after he had closed it behind him. Charles Xavier had offered to help her daughter with her abilities. Shaking her head in silent bemusement, she pulled out her cell phone and texted her husband about the offer. When he texted back his enthusiastic answer a moment later, Renee mused that perhaps Charles had found his new calling after all.

            Chapter Text

                           Charles sat cross legged on the floor in his father’s study, thick crème colored card stock spread out before him like a pale lily pads on the crimson Aubusson rug. Raven was beside him, leaning against the oxblood leather couch, a battered single subject notebook in her hands. He leaned in to pick up another card, waving his pen with a flourish, “Next.”
                        Raven slid a blue finger down the list of names. “Ok, so we have Jenny from my yoga class, Martin from the Starbucks in the campus center, and…..the girl from the bodega down the street from Hank’s apartment. They should be at table seven.” She replied primly, resting the notebook against her thighs.
                        Charles stopped, pen poised above a blank Post It note. “Raven, do you really even know these people? I mean, Jenny, probably should be invited, but the others? Do you even know their last names? Or first for that matter?” he asked as he turned his head to face her.
                        Her golden eyes narrowed, “Just because Sharon and Kurt are paying for this wedding, I am not having all the guests be their friends. I will invite the people who are important to me. And since I can’t invite the people that I really want,” she gave him a pointed look, “then these will have to do.” She scooted closer to the cards scattered on the carpet. “Now, table seven. D’you think that we could stick Aunt Agnes there too? She always has something to complain about. I think it’s time that we rise to the challenge.” She grinned wickedly, her teeth blindingly white against blue lips.
                        Charles sighed, “Whatever makes you happy darling.” He placed Post It notes on the four cards, noting the names and table numbers. Mother was having the cards professionally printed by a calligrapher in the morning and Raven had been dragging her feet on getting them done. Raven was silent as she skimmed the list, her eyes darting to look over at him every few seconds. She had another list, Charles knew, only partially visible under the approved list of names vetted by Kurt and Sharon. It had the names of those that she wished she could invite to the wedding and Sharon, or rather Kurt, had forbidden it. Charles knew the people on that list, if not by sight by association. Moira, Sean, Angel, Armando, Alex: mutants, or humans who associated with mutants. He and Raven had quite a row when he mentioned that they were not to be invited. It had been one of the conditions of the generous offer made by Kurt and Sharon.  
                        Raven had bristled, her features literally feathered at the idea that her true friends were not welcome to her wedding. Hank had swallowed a growl when Charles broke the news to them just after the engagement party a few weeks ago. “Erik’s coming,” Raven snarled, her eyes glowing molten yellow.
                        Charles winced, “I don’t think he wants to be around me, not after that disastrous date.” Charles had been avoiding the other man like the plague for weeks.
                        “It’s my, our, wedding, Charles.” She jerked her head towards Hank, “And if I want to invite my brother-in-law, your husband, whom I like more than you right now, then I will.” She crossed her arms and that was that.
                        Charles and Raven worked in silence for a few moments, the only sound coming from the mantel clock above the fireplace. Charles felt two minds approaching: one had a viciousness seeping into his periphery; and the other slightly buzzed from liquor with an underlying sense of bitterness.  They approached the door together and that was when Raven heard them as well.  There was shuffling outside and Kurt pushed the door open without preamble.  Raven looked up, her body rigid, shoulders tense. Charles felt a flicker of fear from her mind.
                        Kurt strolled into the room, his hands in his pockets, leering down at the two of them. Inappropriate thoughts were skimming through his head at the intimate way that Charles and Raven were sitting together on the floor.  Charles cringed at the lewd implications as his own irritation bubbled to the surface.  Sharon floated in behind him, ever so careful in her sensible pumps. She staggered a bit as she stopped next to her husband while the scent of alcohol only just wafted around her. So, Mother was only slightly intoxicated, but the night was still young.   She held a thick envelope in her hand which only shook slightly.  “Charles darling, we have something to discuss with you.” His mother said, she wasn’t drunk enough to slur her words just yet. Charles could sense she wanted this conversation over as soon as possible for many reasons.  Firstly, this room held many memories for her and she felt Brian Xavier’s spirit strongly in the space.  Secondly, Raven and her true form always made her uncomfortable especially when her husband was around; you do need to be a psychic in order to know that Kurt to the special interest in Raven.  Thirdly, and the strongest of all the images running through Sharon Xavier’s head, was the thrall of the gin and tonic  waiting for her downstairs in the sitting room.
                        “Perhaps Raven and I should go downstairs in give you two some privacy,” Kurt smiled.  Raven paled visibly at the suggestion and scooted just slightly closer to Charles.
                        Charles put an arm around Raven shoulders pressing her firmly against his side.  “Thank you Kurt, but I don’t think that’ll be necessary.  Whatever Mother has to say she can say in front of Raven as well.” Kurt looked rather put out but nodded.
                         “Do you remember Mr. Trask, darling? He is on the board of trustees of the company. We have known him for many years. He was a good friend of your father’s.  Kurt rang him and asked if he could pull a few strings back at Oxford. ”
                        When Sharon did not continue, the pause prompted Charles to ask, “And?”
                        Kurt pulled his hands on his pockets and then crossed them across his chest, “That means, boy, that you’re back in.  You’re going back to Oxford.  Bioethics to be precise.  They’ve agreed to let you work in the department while you complete your law degree.  Tit for tat.”
                        Charles scrambled to his feet, hands brushing against his pant legs, “Are you serious?  This is, I mean, I didn’t even apply. How could they have?” he asked.
                        Sharon held up the folder, “We’ve taken care of it. It just needs your signature.” Raven snorted behind him, surprised they didn’t forge it, she thought savagely.
                        Charles looked at her for a second, then back at his mother and Kurt. “Oxford?” he said weakly.
                        Kurt nodded and Sharon smiled, her blank mask of tolerance slipping to reveal her impatience. “Yes dear.”
                        Charles massaged the back of his neck, feeling three pairs of eyes on him. The thought of getting back into academics was thrilling. The research that he had been doing at Columbia before the accident was no longer his. Hank had been shouldering all the work for months and Charles had felt guilty for keeping his name on the door. Raven shot to her feet, putting herself between Charles and Sharon.  “Charles can’t go back to England. There’s the wedding for one. And he’s still married to Erik.” She held herself as tall as she could, her shoulders back, head held at a defiant angle. Sharon stepped back a half step, wobbling a little. Kurt took a step towards Raven, who held her ground, but was fighting to keep steady.
                        Charles put his hands on his sister’s shoulders, “Raven, it’s alright. I wouldn’t dream of leaving before your wedding.” Raven, calm down. He can’t hurt you. Raven’s mind trembled against his, fighting her natural instinct to push him out; -he promised his mother he would look over the application before going to bed that evening. Sharon was eager to leave the room so she nodded and swept out, the pull of alcohol stronger than her motherly nature. Kurt lingered, assessing them, his thoughts transparent. Raven was still standing strong, her chin jutting out in defiance. Charles clutched her shoulders, trying to make her stand down but also giving her silent strength.
                        Finally, Kurt turned and left, lumbering out into the hall after his wife. It was a few seconds later that Raven crumbled. She fell to the floor like a marionette whose strings had been cut. She landed on her knees, her hands desperately grabbing at the carpet under her. She was hyperventilating violently, her whole body wracked with sobs. Charles fell to his knees next to her. “Shh, darling, he’s gone. They’re gone. No one’s here but me. I won’t leave you.” He soothed. He tried to touch her, but she kept shifting. Her body rippled from blue to pink to green to black. Charles sat back on his haunches, helpless to do anything but send as much peace and calm to her as he could.
                        “GET OUTTA MY HEAD,” she rasped, her voice almost inhuman, as she sprang up to her feet, disrupting the neat piles of cards on the floor. Charles fell back, legs folding under him. He stared helplessly at the door swinging on its hinges, Raven’s heavy footsteps thudding down the hall, her mind closed him.

            ********************************************************************************************************
              Erik slumped against the expensive chintz sofa in one of the many drawing rooms of the manor, clawing at the tie at his throat, suddenly feeling choked. He pulled until the scrap of silk gave way, sliding through his fingers till it lay limp in his hand. He clenched his fist, not caring that the delicate fabric would be ruined.  The distant chatter and tinkling glasses numbed his aching heart and throbbing head. If it wasn’t for his love of Raven and Hank he wouldn’t have come. Charles hadn’t returned any of his calls and the two attempts that he made to get back to the manor before the wedding had been thwarted by hired security guards. Including the mutton chopped asshole, Logan. Erik had bristled at the smug look of superiority on the shorter mutant’s face when was waiting for him at the gate. “Turn it around, bub.” It took everything in Erik not to rip the metal right out of Logan’s body.
            The sun was too bright, the air too crisp. No one paid much attention to him as he weaved his way through the sea of people till he found a spot apart from the throng.  He watched from the sidelines as Charles took selfies with Raven and egged Hank into doing the garter belt thing. Always on the outside, never part of the group. Too poor, too foreign, too dangerous.
            The wedding had been beautiful, actually. Raven had been resplendent in silver and white with flowers in her golden hair. Charles gave the bride away with as much pride and adoration as a big brother could have. None of Raven’s friends had been invited, other than Irene, who had been pinned to the hip of her overbearing mother the entire day. Erik had tried to covertly maneuver the young woman away, even just for a little while, but Kurt had been eying him since he arrived and he didn’t want to cause a scene. Not yet anyway; the cake hadn’t even been cut.
            The sun had gone down by the time he made his way towards the large stone staircase that led down to the lower garden where most of the tables had been set up. He didn't notice that Sharon Marko had followed him until she slunk up next to him, the heady scent of booze and Chanel No. 5 oozing from her pores. She wore a red dress, off the shoulders, with gleaming white diamonds at her neck. Her figure was still rather trim, considering her liquid diet. Her skin was starting to show her age: wrinkles around her mouth and sagging in her neck. Erik could imagine the beautiful woman that she once had been until bitterness and alcohol had destroyed the woman that Brian Xavier had known.
            They stood in silence for a few moments, watching the people mill about below. Distant laughter could be heard in the distance. Sharon placed her hands against the balustrade, her blue eyes scanning the scene below. She was very majestic in that moment: a queen gazing out at her kingdom from on high.
            “You’ve behaved yourself remarkably well this evening. If I didn't know better, I’d say you were a gentleman.” Sharon remarked coolly as her eyes followed the movements of the guests below them.
            Erik allowed himself to smirk at her remark, letting the barb roll off him with little effect.
            “I’m here for Raven. I wouldn’t dream of ruining her special day.” He replied as cordially as he could muster.
            Sharon sniffed at that, her shoulders stiffening. “Kurt was right, you are a rather rude beast.”  she sneered, giving him a sideways glance to gauge his reaction.
            Erik suppressed a snarl, his fingernails scraped against the stone under hands. His mind sought out any metal around him only finding some in a few lawn fixtures across the vast lawn. He mentally skimmed across the bronze fixtures, winding through the intricate patterns of the table and chairs. He could taste the faint hint of rust in the back of his throat from the neglected set.  After a moment, he found some semblance of balance so that he could face his mother-in-law.
            He turned, and caught the mue of annoyance on Sharon’s face as she watched him. Her eyes narrowed and it occurred to him that she probably knew that he had been using his powers in some way or another. She was Charles’ mother after all, and he had been using his powers from the age of five.  Erik raised his chin a little and gave her a daring look that said, “Say something about it bitch, and I will kill you.”
            “I have it on good authority that you are in some rather dire financial straits,” she said casually, her eyes still fixed ahead of her.
            Erik’s eyes narrowed, “I’m getting by,” he replied. It was a total lie. He was one week away from losing the apartment, his car, and anything of value, but it would be a cold day in hell before he admitted that to anyone, never mind Sharon.
            Sharon laughed softly, “Please, you don’t have two pennies to rub together at the moment.” She brushed an invisible speck of dust from her arm. “I-We are willing to offer you some financial relief.”
            It was Erik’s turn to laugh, “You’d offer me money out of the goodness of what’s left of your cold withered heart?”
            A flash of temper flared in Sharon’s eyes. “$500,000. Cash.”
            “What do I have to do? Kill the president? Level a city?” He asked sardonically.
            “Nothing so banal,” she scoffed, “All you have to do is sign some legal documents.”
            The pieces clicked together in Erik’s head, “You want me to divorce Charles,” he breathed, “Lady, I think you’ve killed too many braincells. There is no way in hell that I would, in any universe, divorce Charles.”
            Sharon waved a hand dismissively, “Don’t be stupid. Of course there wouldn’t be a divorce. Xaviers don’t do that kind of thing. I mean an annulment.”
            Erik’s heart plummeted to his feet. All he could hear was the blood rushing in his ears. “You bitch,” he rasped as he leaned against the stone balustrade suddenly feeling very weak. “What makes you think that I would go through with this?”
            Sharon sighed dramatically, “Oh all right, $750,000,”  Erik growled.
            His mother-in-law squared her shoulders as she faced him, “Charles wants this. He’s already signed the papers. He’s moving back to England and wants to be free of you. He needs to be unattached when he goes to Oxford. He-” she gasped as her diamond necklace slid up higher on her throat. She clawed at the platinum noose that was cutting off her oxygen. Erik ‘s hand flexed in front of her bulging blue eyes.
            “Listen carefully, das miststück, if Charles wants an annulment, he better damn well ask for one himself. I will not let you play with our lives anymore.” Sharon was turning blue, tears were flowing down her cheeks, her breath almost completely gone. Erik flexed his hand again and released her.
            Sharon gasped raggedly, clutching her throat. She was coughing harshly, drops of spittle dripping from her mouth. “You beast,” she managed to rasp out through a ruined throat. “Get the hell out of my house. You’re just a low born Jew faggot mutant freak. You don’t deserve my son.”
            Erik smiled as he turned to walk away, “I know. Funny how we should agree on something after all.” He spun on his heel and strode back into the main house, leaving Sharon coughing and gasping behind him.
            Erik stormed through the house, when people saw the thunderous look on his face they gave him a wide berth.  He was stopped in his tracks by the familiar sound of Charles’ laughter. Erik craned his neck around to see Charles hanging off of Christian Frost, his eyes crinkling with merriment. Christian also was smiling but more subdued in his expression. Out of the corner of his eye, Erik saw Emma Frost leaning against the fireplace. She was keeping subtle watch on her brother and Charles. Keep a leash on your temper, sugar. This isn’t the place for it, she reminded him gently. The sincerity in her tone shook Erik out of the most of anger and caused him to be noticed by Charles.
            He watched Charles’ eyes dim as they met over the chintz pattern of the loveseat.
            “Oh Erik. Thank you for coming.” Charles squeezed himself closer to Christian, his eyes not meeting Erik’s.
            Erik tried to smile, “Wouldn’t want to disappoint Raven.” Charles blushed at that.
            “Yes, well I have to go check on the servers. Good to see you.” He slipped out of Christian’s grasp like water against oil. Both Erik and Christian watched Charles rush away.
            “We both know that was a retreat,” Christian commented as he sipped his champagne.
            “A strategic retreat,” Erik agreed. He really wanted to hate Christian Frost but something made him unable to completely loathe the man.
            Emma swanned over and looped her arm with Christian's. “Erik’s been a naughty boy, darling,” she murmured as she scanned the room so casually that Erik almost missed it. Erik suddenly felt nervous; you didn’t have to be a psychic to know that Emma knew what had happened out on the balcony.
            Emma smirked at Erik’s nervousness. “Relax sugar. I’ve taken care of it. Mrs. Marko has had a little too much to drink.” She swirled the champagne in her flute then finished it.  “She’s retiring to her room for the night. She’ll forget to remove her necklace before bed. She’ll get all tangled it in and have a nasty bruise to show for it.” She said matter of factly. Christian gawked at his sister, clearly this kind of thing even shocked him.
            “Em, that’s just...wow,”
            Emma grinned in triumph as she plucked the glass from her brother’s hand and tossed back the rest of the champagne in one gulp. She then handed both empty glasses to the stunned man and sauntered off. Both men stared after her, at a loss for words.
            “Jesus,” Erik breathed.  Emma was certainly a force to be reckoned with.
            “That’s my sister,” Christian sighed. “If I’m expected to keep the peace tonight, I’m going to need more booze. Care to join me Erik?”
            Erik looked at the man who was in a relationship with Charles. “Sure, let’s see if they have enough alcohol in this mausoleum to get us blindingly drunk.”
            Christian laughed, “Sharon Marko lives here, of course there’s going to be enough.”
            Erik barked out a laugh.

            Charles felt like a bloody coward as he literally ran away from Erik and Christian. He had anticipated that Erik was going to come, but the reality of seeing him shook Charles more than he expected. Erik would be thinking of their wedding, the moments and memories that Charles still had no recollection of. He didn’t want to hurt Erik any more but it seemed like everything in his life had something to do with Erik. He had to admit that Oxford was looking like a good option at the moment. Raven had Hank now, even though Charles knew that Raven didn't really need anyone to take care of her. It made Charles feel better to know that she had someone when she needed them.  It lessened Charles’ guilt about going back to England. A little.
            Charles really needed a drink, and as if by magic, a tray of champagne appeared in front of his face. “Oh gracious you’ve read my mind,” he sighed happily has he plucked a glass from the tray.
            "Reading minds was always your area, Charles, not mine,” the server said ruefully.
            Charles blinked as the woman came into focus. She looked familiar, just out of place with the tray perched artfully on her shoulder. Auburn hair brushing her shoulders, friendly eyes. “Moira?” he ventured. “What on Earth are you doing here?”
            She nodded, hefting the tray higher up. “Yep, it’s me. We’re all here. We didn’t want to miss seeing Raven and Hank tie the knot so we um, kind of gatecrashed the party.” Charles felt a mental nudge and his eyes were directed towards a shock of red hair next to a semi-nude marble statue clad in strategically placed shawls. Sean was appreciating the detail that the artist had put into its’ realistic anatomy while holding a tray of canapes.  Angel was hovering over by the chocolate fountain, under the guise of assisting guests, but was in reality coveting a plate of strawberries.  Alex and Darwin were in a secluded alcove behind a potted plant, trying and failing to be discreet with their ardor for each other.
            Moira followed his gaze, “Hank let us in through the kitchen just before things got into full swing. Thought it would be easier to blend in with the help than the guests.”
            Charles felt his face flush, these people shouldn’t have had to sneak into the wedding of their dear friend, they should have been invited and treated like any of the other guests that were there. These people were her friends, Erik’s friends, his friends.  Moria sensed his discomfort and placed her hand on his arm,“Don’t worry, we’ve all done some kind of food service in our lives. This isn’t the worst gig that we’ve been to.”    
            Charles rubbed the back of his neck, “Thank you for taking it all so well. The dynamics in my family are rather tricky.”
            Moira smirked, a flit of amusement skimmed across his mind. “I’ve known you for years Charles, your family would make Dr. Phil want to run away screaming.”
            “You all must care very much about Raven and Hank to go to such lengths to see them get married. I am sorry that it had to be like this,” he said truthfully.
            Moria shrugged, “I’m moving to Virginia next month and Sean is coming with me. Angel is heading out to LA to see her brother and she doesn't know when she’ll be back. Alex and Darwin are still getting used to the new dynamic of their relationship so their useless to everyone else. This is the last time that we will all truly be together for a long time.” He saw a glimmer of tears in her eyes.
            Charles flt his heart twist, “Oh Moira, please. Let me host a party for you all before then. Give you a proper send off, I'm sure Raven and Hank would love it.”
            Moira nodded, wiping her eyes with her hand, “Thank you Charles. You’ve always been so generous. And we all love a good party.” Charles squeezed her arm in commiseration.
            In the background Charles could feel Christian and his stepfather  approaching, a hint of distaste coming from his stepfather. Ah, he was talking to the help. That was a cardinal sin in his family. Moria had seen the change in his face and glanced over his shoulder. “Oh Kurt is coming this way,” she whispered, “I’ll see you later, Charles.” She gave him a tight smile and a with a turn of her heel, she sauntered off into the crowd, tray held high.
            Charles felt adrift. Moria was supposedly one of his closest friends. It didn’t take a psychic to figure out that these past months have been hard on her and all of his other friends. He felt horrible that he wasn’t missing them as much as they missed him. That sentiment seemed to be occurring a lot lately.  
            “You were talking to that server for a long time, Charles,” Kurt said gruffly as he and Christian came to his side.
            Charles bristled, “An acquaintance from Columbia. She’s working her way through school. She wanted to say hello, is all.” His answer seemed to mollify Kurt, but he knew that Christian knew something else was going on.
            “The toasts are about to begin and it seems that your mother has retired for the evening. Shall I bring you up?” he offered Charles his arm.
            Charles spared one last look in the direction that Moira had gone. “Yes please.” He took the proffered arm and allowed Christian to lead him towards the ballroom, grateful for the support.