The first time Charles uses Cerebro it feels like flying. Like somehow he has cut all his ties to the ground and rises up. It feels as if he has left the earth to touch the
Thousands, millions, billions of minds shining like tiny pinpricks of light flickering in the black planes of space. He soars among them, through them, and for the first time since Charles can remember his power, his mind, is totally and utterly free.
When he finally comes back down to rest - curling and folding the breadth of his consciousness back into it’s tiny space inside his head – he opens his eyes.
There is his sister, her blonde waves shining under the artificial light as always. There is Hank, his nervous excitement spilling through as ever it has. And there is Erik looking on at Charles with grey-green eyes that are as penetrating as they were that first moment in the water.
But there is something different too. In the rush of adrenalin, the high of Cerebro that leaves him laughing and joyous, he almost misses it. The way Erik’s eyes now seem to reflect a little brighter as they stare, how Raven’s skin glows warmly on her cheeks and hands.
Somehow, in the space of mere minutes, Charles feels almost as if some tiny aspect of the universe has shifted, leaving everything just a shade more intense.
It is a strange feeling, but as Charles contemplates the sheer exultant flight that was Cerebro, he knows it was worth it.
Despite Erik’s lighthearted jibes otherwise, Charles has very little time for vanity as they trek across America in search of young mutant minds. He is merely clean and conscientious. A cursory shave in the morning, a cleansing shower at night, a quick change of clothes at each place they stop.
He supposes it is this small sense of urgency, of being at the edge of something so spectacular that makes him hurry through these tasks. How can one stop to admire oneself in the mirror when such potential, so many brightly flickering lives call him on?
So Erik’s gruffly spoken compliment on Charles’s new physique over a glass of whisky in the Midwest takes him by surprise. He tries to look back at Erik and divine the meaning of such a statement but Erik merely looks away to the right of the bar. Charles can feel the distinct sense of gruff embarrassment against his shields and he decides to drop the matter.
Still, after a curious lingering look in the mirror that night, Charles can see what Erik means. Somehow without his noticing, he has lost the roundness that has always characterized the planes of his body.
He is slimmer, leaner, he supposes. His clothes lie flatter on his body and his cheekbones are just the slightest bit more prominent in his face.
Something about his skin, too, is subtly smoother. Still perfectly pale, despite his time under the American sun.
The entire effect makes him look… younger. Almost like he did when he first moved to Oxford, so happy to be free of Westchester and his distant family. He had been almost handsome then, and although the lines around his eyes are a little deeper now, he seems to have reclaimed some of that old freshness that used to animate his every action.
Charles regards his reflection one last time before stepping out into their joint hotel with the ghost of a smile.
He catches Erik watching him as he lays out his clothes for the morning. There is a small warmth in that gaze that makes Charles think that perhaps this new leaner look is something he can live with.