"What are we doing down here?" Erik asks impatiently as Hank putters around a metal cylinder, tightening bolts and surreptitiously banging the cover down with a wrench.
"I'm sure Hank is going to show us something fascinating," Charles says, placating. "Do enlighten us, Hank," he calls over to him.
"Oh, yes, certainly, Professor," Hank says, bringing the machine over and shoving aside an electron microscope so there's space to set it on the table in front of them. "It's still in the development stage, but this machine should be able to act as a power transfer device. I'm hoping it will be especially useful for Alex. If he's overwhelmed with plasma energy, this can help siphon that energy into harmless electrical energy."
That would actually be useful, Erik has to admit. Last week, Alex had suffered an overload of plasma energy, which Hank theorized came from increased exposure to solar radiation, and he'd lost control. Luckily, he'd been outside at the time, but all that's left of the east garden is scorched earth.
"Fascinating," Charles says as Hank flips a switch on the side of the machine.
A spark shoots out. "Hold on," Hank says, "that shouldn't--" and then the machine starts sparking in earnest, shuddering along the table. Charles shoves Hank away, so it's only he and Erik that take the full brunt of the shock wave that flattens them to the ground.
Erik groans and levers himself up on his elbows, reaching blindly for Charles until he feels the rough tweed of Charles' jacket under his fingers.
"What on earth?" Charles says, bewildered, and Hank says, "Oh, shit," except they're not speaking, their lips don't move, but Erik can hear them.
"Hank," Erik growls, pulling Charles up with him as he stands.
But then Charles says, really says, "Oh, dear. Did I do that?" staring at his hands as Hank's metal machine goes flying into the wall with an ominous crunching noise.
"It's not Hank's fault," Charles says, even though Erik can hear him thinking, maybe it's a little Hank's fault. The dissonance is jarring.
"It is Hank's fault," Erik says. "I know you think so too," he adds, tapping his temple with two fingers in Charles' familiar gesture.
Charles' face scrunches endearingly. "Well, all right," he says, moving his bishop forward and sipping at perhaps more than the usual amount of scotch, "But what does fault matter, really? Instead of assigning blame, what we need to do is fix this." He tries to shake a fork off his right hand where it's been sticking, magnetized, since dinner.
"I think you destroyed our best chance of that along with Hank's machine," Erik says, taking one of Charles' pawns.
"Honestly, Erik," Charles huffs, "I'm sure he can rebuild it."
"Undoubtedly," Erik agrees, "But what are we going to do in the meantime? Wiping Moira's memory may have served for the short-term, but there are paper records of us as CIA assets and dozens of other people must have known what we were doing. They will come for us, Charles." He thinks of Cuba, how he'd turned those missiles back at the ships and then Charles had stumbled out of the wreckage of the plane shouting, "Erik, don't!" and rubbing the heel of his hand against the center of his forehead, right where Erik aimed the coin at Shaw, and Erik suddenly realized how much he'd asked of Charles and how little he'd given in return. He'd dropped the missiles into the ocean, the only restitution he had to offer.
Erik hadn't pulled the trigger, but all the humans will remember is that he pointed their own guns back at them. They won't forgive it.
"We'll just have to put in some practice," Charles says, holding up a hand and making a silver candlestick fly off a side table. It streaks toward him too quickly to catch and hits him solidly in the shoulder. Charles winces. "Lots of practice," he amends.
Charles, through huge amounts of trial and error--mostly error--finally succeeds in exerting some measure of control over metal. He can make things hover or push away from him instead of simply flying at him like dull, metal projectiles in range of a powerful magnet.
Of course, because he's Charles, he chooses to practice his new found skills in the most obnoxious way possible. There's a box of twelve table settings worth of polished silver flatware in front of him and he's levitating and bending the spoons one by one before sending them crashing back into the box with their fellows.
Erik, two feet away, is trying to get a reading on Alex's thoughts halfway across the mansion. The jangling of metal disrupts his concentration before he gets more than wonder what Sean-- jump off the?--holy--
"Charles, stop," Erik says, annoyed. Charles stops. Erik feels vindicated until he turns and sees the blankness of Charles' eyes. His heart stutters. "Charles," Erik says, stalking over to grasp him by the shoulders, "Charles?"
Charles' head jerks to the side and his eyes fill in. "What happened?" he asks, startled to see Erik suddenly so close.
Erik stares at him. "I don't...I didn't..." he peters off, unsure what he means to say. Part of him can't believe what he just did, how easy it was, how easy it must always be for Charles and how very hard to resist. Erik doesn't know if he could have stopped himself from truly flagrant abuses of such a power back when Shaw still lived. Even now, he imagines what he could do to those who are left in the world, the German soldiers who were just following orders when they ripped apart his family and burned numbers into their arms, locked them away, apart, like chattel. He could find those men and make them throw themselves on their own swords the way they should have. Death before dishonor.
"Did you just use mind control?" Charles asks. Erik expects him to look horrified, but Charles just smiles. "That's wonderful!" he says, "You're progressing far better than I am."
Erik doesn't want to talk about mind control ever again, so he deflects. "Perhaps we should challenge you with more than bending spoons," he says.
The satellite dish looms in the distance. "You can't possibly expect me to move that," Charles says, "You could hardly do it yourself ."
"Try," Erik insists.
Charles extends a hand, palm out, and tries to pull the dish around. His face is utterly serene.
"What you need," Erik considers, "is rage."
"Perhaps," Charles agrees, somewhat hesitantly. He closes his eyes and his hands clench into fists. Erik hears a faint, garbled echo of Kurt, married her for the money--broken arm, your own son. Charles opens one hand and reaches out toward the satellite dish. There's a screech of metal and the dish shudders, once, twice, but it doesn't turn. Charles drops his hand, breathing hard.
"Better," Erik says, noncommittally, "but I think that was anger more than rage. You have to truly hate, Charles. Isn't there anyone you've hated enough that it boiled your blood, that you wanted to kill them?"
Charles turns away. "Hank is going to fix us," he says, shrugging off the question. "I don't think it's really necessary for me to gain this degree of control. Maybe we should just knock off for the night."
Erik frowns at him. "We have no idea how long it's going to take Hank to fix us. If he can at all," he adds pointedly. "You do need my control. What if they send missiles at the mansion? What if they come for the children?"
I don't know, Charles thinks, I don't know what we'll do. There's a helpless fear in his mental voice and it softens Erik. "Why don't we try what you did for me?" he offers. "You found me a memory of serenity. I'll find you one of rage."
"I suppose," Charles says, looking less than certain.
"It will work," Erik promises. "Now, how did you do it when you accessed the memory center of my brain?"
Charles frowns, considering how to explain. "We're making a memory right now," he says, "Follow the thread of it. I found the bright places it led to. You'll have to look for the dark."
"The thread?" Erik says, but suddenly it's right before his eyes, a gleaming strand of gold stretched tight between the two of them. He closes his eyes and follows it.
Less of Charles' memory core is the brightness Erik expected. There are pale shadows, like mist, hovering in the majority and a deep inky blackness tucked away in a far corner, trapped in a glass-like box. There it is, Erik thinks, reaching to touch the box, Rage.
He hears Charles gasp and suddenly Erik is back in himself, but over Charles' shocked face he can see a ghostly overlay of images.
A younger version of Charles is sitting at a table in a bar, Raven, in her normal blonde guise, aligned close against his shoulder. They're both drinking shotglass after shotglass of pale amber liquid, slamming the glasses down against the table after each one is finished, like some kind of race.
Charles' cheeks are flushed pink, his lips wet and red. In contrast, Raven looks like she's been out in the cold too long, the edges of her lips and fingers tinted blue.
"Done!" they both shout at the same time, throwing down the tiny glasses.
"We are the champions!" Raven slurs loudly, taking Charles' wrist and raising it above her head like a victorious prizefighter.
"Yes," Charles laughs, his eyes hot blue. "Yes, we are. And we should be getting home. I can tell you're tired." He brushes a thumb across her chin, like the subtle blush of blue is the remnant of some tragic drink concoction that he can wipe away.
"Aw, Charles, I'm fine," Raven says, but the hint of blue is deepening and creeping up her face, down her arms.
"Raven!" Charles hisses in horror, "You've got to get a hold of yourself!" He tries to wrap his coat around her, but the damage is done.
"Monster!" a blonde man cries, leaping up from the table beside them. What the hell? Thing like that-- I'll kill you. The two men drinking with him stand too, hanging in the wings as the blonde reaches out to grab Raven.
"Don't touch her!" Charles yells, shoving the man off, but one of the bastard's friends forces his arms behind him, pressing Charles down to his knees, and the blonde steps back over to Raven. He grabs her arm and Raven's yellow eyes are wide with frightened help me as the man pulls back his hand to aim a punch at her face.
Something in Charles snaps.
The man's raised hand freezes and he drops Raven's arm to scrabble at his forehead. "Get out! Get out!" he screams, but Charles tears into him until he's crumpled in a heap on the floor.
People stare in stunned silence. Forget, Charles thinks, forget, forget, forget and everyone in the bar slumps, like marionettes with their strings cut.
Charles staggers to his feet, takes Raven up in this arms, and runs.
The memory fades like smoke, replaced with the tortured shriek of metal as Charles rips the satellite dish halfway out of the earth. It hangs at an awkward angle, not quite parallel to the ground, like a broken puppet. Charles barely glances at his accomplishment. "Don't tell Raven," he begs Erik.
"Charles," Erik says, uncomprehending.
"She doesn't remember," Charles says, breathing fast, tears streaming down his face. "No one who was within half a mile of that bar remembers what happened that night, except me. And the man who thought those terrible things, who reached out to hurt her, he's in a mental institute in south London."
"Charles," Erik says again, drawing Charles to him and brushing kisses over his cheeks because he can't stand the wave of guilt, the way Charles thinks, crushing, I'm a monster.
Erik knows about monsters. "You're not a monster," he repeats, until, when Erik listens, he can tell that Charles almost believes it.
It's easy after that.
Charles can lift the antique cars in his sprawling two-story garage like they weigh nothing. He can stop bullets that Erik aims out toward the gardens with the gun they could never fire at each other.
Erik can make himself seem invisible, everyone's eyes sliding away. He can project to Charles--down in the lab with Hank, tinkering with a new and improved version of the power transfer machine--you're everything to me. It's so much easier than saying it out loud and it makes Charles run up the stairs to their bedroom to kiss him and tumble down into bed.
Hank has promised a new machine within the week, but even though Erik misses feeling the hum of metal, he can be patient. Telepathy has its merits.