The metal of Erik’s sword glinted in the moonlight. With a wave of his hand, the surface roughened to dull the shine, leaving only the honed edge a silver line. His slippered feet were whisper soft across the pine needles as he approached the hut.
Flickering candlelight lit the hut’s windowsill. He crouched beneath it and felt with his mind for the throwing stars at his hip.
One sleeping by the door and another two smoking their revolting tobacco outside my cage, Erik heard in his mind. If nothing else, please sneak in here and relieve them of that horrid stuff so I can meditate in peace.
Erik smirked beneath his black hood. Leave it to Charles to make it sound like his captors -- who had enlisted a shaman to block Charles’ mind control, but who hadn’t succeeded in blocking his tie to Erik -- were simply gnats buzzing about his head while he sipped his tea.
And try not to kill them, Erik.
Erik rolled his eyes and sent the stars in through the window.
“LAND AHOY,” Raven called down from the helm. “And the compass is broken again. It keeps spinning around when you’re belowdeck.” Her blasted parrot repeated the whole thing in its annoying squawk.
Charles stopped unbuttoning Erik’s shirt and flung his head back in exasperation. Erik held in his laugh at the captain’s reaction.
“Must they always have such terrible timing!”
“Sir, they are young,” Erik pointed out. “And I think it is your enthusiasm that has rubbed off on them.”
“I haven’t rubbed off on anything,” Charles said, slipping his buckled boots back on and donning his hat. “That was exactly what I was just attempting to do!”
Mutations were one thing. Semi-reanimated corpses were another thing entirely. That’s why the two of them were beating a retreat across the meadow next to Charles’ manor, their dinner left abandoned in the dining room when the attack suddenly came. Erik wondered how likely it was that this was Shaw’s doing.
Charles grabbed Erik’s wrist hard and yanked.
“Wait! This way.” Charles took an abrupt left about ten yards from the forest and dragged Erik along faster.
Erik looked back over his shoulder and saw at least a dozen bodies lurching out of the darkness. A hand covered with decaying flesh missed his ankle by inches.
“They’re blank spots,” Charles panted in way of an explanation as they fled.
As they careened past the gardener’s shed, Erik threw the pitchfork and two shovels spinning back toward the zombies. The squelching sound of their oozing flesh slumping to the ground was grotesque. He tore the blade off the lawnmower and carried it with him.
Dawn brought an uneasy quiet. They were two grown mutants crouching in a child’s treehouse, scanning the yards around them for more of the bodies.
Charles looked at Erik finally and laughed. “Well, my friend, that was simply fascinating.”
Erik laughed and drew Charles into a hug. Leave it to him to find the good in any situation. Hours on the run meant adrenaline pumped through them still. Charles turned his face into Erik’s neck and inhaled deeply. Erik felt himself hardening. He pulled Charles closer.
“I am glad you are not a zombie,” Erik said, striving for humor but he couldn’t help his voice cracking.
Charles blanched when the large shipping container arrived at the ship’s dock. The label on the container read Erik8. He dismissed the crew and flipped the latch alone.
The windowed container hissed as it slid open. The robot borne within, cradled in fluffy packing material like a womb, was nothing like the robots Charles had onboard the Edie II to date. This one looked human... or mutant. The resemblance was utterly uncanny, though the hair was too blond and the skin was too flawless.
Erik8 lurched once and opened his blue eyes. His smile wasn’t perfect, but it bore the same wide expanse of teeth Charles expected. Charles’ breath hitched.
“Good afternoon, Dr. Xavier. I am very happy to be joining you,” Erik8 said smoothly.
Charles tried to smile and swept a tear off his cheek with the back of his hand.
Erik slid one fingernail under the other and picked away the dried blood, his head hanging. He had hated his maker to his core, and manic glee had suffused his blood when he finally drove the stake through Shaw’s dead heart. Still, Erik didn’t feel the joy he expected now that the deed was done and he was finally free. Erik finally had his vengeance for Shaw slaughtering his family and enslaving him, but he just felt alone.
For the second time in a century, Erik found himself wandering Oxford. University towns were easy for vampires; plenty of young, foolish humans made hunting an afterthought. He picked out a girl with long red hair and waited. She would notice him soon enough. He’d give her the smallest mental push and she’d fall into his arms willingly.
“She is quite beautiful,” a quiet voice whispered along Erik’s shoulder.
Before the shiver had even reached the base of his spine, Erik had turned. His eyes found a beautiful vampire with lips pink from drinking. Erik could feel the power rolling off of him in seductive waves. He was ancient.
I’m Charles, he said in Erik’s mind. What should have been an intrusion deserving no less than death in a younger vampire instead felt like a great burden being lifted off of Erik. Perhaps as if the lid was being lifted off the box that had trapped Erik’s soul. Charles’ voice caressed him and his blood fluttered unexpectedly.
“Telepathy is a rare gift,” Erik commented, attempting to keep his voice neutral.
Charles angled his head in acknowledgement. “And yours is...” Charles’ fingers came to his temple and Erik felt that pressing caress again. So intimate and gentle. His eyes had a ring of deep blue around the iris; they were filled with a kindness that Erik hadn’t seen for hundreds of years.
Metal, Charles said, withdrawing his mental touch. Erik almost wished he hadn’t. My, Erik, that is quite a dangerous gift for a vampire.
Erik wondered if Charles had said “My, Erik.” Or had it been “my Erik”?
His mind felt across the short distance that separated them and he tugged on the necklace around Charles’ neck. Erik could both feel Charles’ smile and see it.
Erik gestured toward the girl. “I am about to feed. Will you join me?” He tugged Charles closer and a flicker of hope ran through him.
Oh, my friend, that is not the way of things here. Charles looked over Erik’s shoulder at the young woman and then back at Erik. He was standing very close now. May I? He wiggled his fingers and brought them close to Erik’s temple.
Charles’ touch was soothing as the thoughts flooded him. Millennia of hunting, of selfishness, and of loneliness.
Erik gasped when Charles withdrew. “Why did you show me that?” His voice quavered.
Vampires must learn to live together with humans. We cannot simply treat them as cattle. Charles held out his hand. Never fear, Charles laughed. I have willing donors.
The idea of sharing a human with Charles made a ball of pleasure coil in Erik’s center. His fangs pressed against his gums.
“I am just a man,” Charles sighed, staring at the ceiling of their bedroom. His eyes were so tired.
“No. You are a mutant,” Erik responded. “An extremely powerful one.”
Erik stroked a curl of Charles’ hair off his forehead and smoothed his eyebrow with his thumb. Charles wanted to save the world. No less than that would be enough. Erik had first thought it folly, but if anyone could do it, it was Charles Xavier.
Charles looked at Erik fondly. “I am glad to have you by my side through this.”
Erik leaned down and pressed a kiss to Charles’ warm, familiar lips. “For as long as you’ll have me.”
A flash of happiness and mischief brightened Charles’ eyes. He rolled on top of Erik, and said, “I will certainly have you, Erik Lensherr.”