He's been the Pilgrim for longer than he cares to remember. Still, he can recall with perfect clarity how long it took him decide on a name, how hard it was, and every couple of regenerations, he would try out a different name.
Not that it ever helped.
Simple fact is, he feels old. Right now, he feels every single one of his countless years. He almost wants to go back to looking the part, but that's silly and pathetic and also rather impossible.
Then again, considering the occasion, he figures his sentimentality can be excused. This is the last funeral of one of his kind the Pilgrim will ever attend; he's truly the only one left now. He would like to say he hadn't expected it to hurt so much, but that would be a lie – he's always relied much more on the Shepherd's continued presence than he would have liked to admit. Right now, there's still a part of him that believes that maybe, just maybe the Shepherd will find a way to come back; he has done it so often now, returned from the death. Careful planning had been as much a factor as pure luck and deals with Death (quite literally), and there will probably always be a part of him that keeps on hoping.
It's probably the same part that had kept insisting that one day, maybe, they can find a common ground and- what? Make up? Reunite? Marry?
There's a reason the Pilgrim calls that part his irrational, unrealistic, daydreaming part. He likes to think it's small, but truly, he dwells on it a lot more than he should. What could have happened if the Pilgrim hadn't, or had, or would, or wouldn't, if, if, if…
In the end, it doesn't matter.
"Charles!" Calling his best friend's name loudly, Erik storms into the library, ignoring the glares he receives for disrupting the respectful quiet.
"Erik!" Charles hisses, hugging a book to his chest and glaring at him. Whenever Charles tries to look angry, his lower lip protrudes, having the rather unintended effect of Erik wanting to cuddle him instead of feeling chastised. He knows better than to do it most of the time, but every now and then he can't resist to wrap himself around his best friend's body and hold on. Charles lets him, but only because Erik does it when nobody's around to be scandalised at their indecent behaviour.
"Come on," Erik urges, hands curled into fists, practically vibrating.
As expected, Charles relents – he always gives in to Erik, something which Erik admittedly calculates on every now and then, but right now he's just as excited as Erik and not able to keep up the front for long. "How did it go?" he asks, leaning forwards eagerly.
Erik manages to keep a straight face for all of three seconds before his mouth stretches into an uncontrollable, wide grin. "We can do it!" he exclaims.
Charles' eyes widen. "You asked?! I thought you-" A loud "hush" interrupts them and he ducks his head, looking chastised. But he is way too excited to let it rest, and so he does something he rarely does – interrupt his studies. Erik follows his best friend obediently as Charles leads him out of the library and over into his father's empty office. In there, they'll have privacy.
As soon as the door closes behind them, Charles whirls around and takes hold of Erik's shoulders. "Tell me exactly what happened," he orders fiercely.
Erik shrugs and explains. He was supposed to ask their friend Emma what she thought about the whole thing, of Charles and Erik getting married once they were of age; one of her parents was a member of the council and she was being groomed to follow that legacy, so she would know. The thing was that, at just twenty-two years, Erik and Charles are way too young to make any such plans in the eyes of the council. But what to them would seem silly and rash is inevitable to Charles and Erik; they had known from the moment they met onwards that they are meant to be together. So, in an effort to seem more rational and less led by feelings, Erik and Charles had compiled a list of logical reasons as to why Timelord society would be helped if their families and Charles and Erik's individual abilities were united. Erik had been supposed to test these out with Emma, but as it had happened, her parent had been there, heard the reasons, liked them, and told Erik it was likely to happen.
"The council is going to discuss it tomorrow, but she doesn't have any doubts they're going to agree," Erik concludes.
Charles' face reflects Erik's own feelings; excitement wars with brief panic at things happening so quickly all of a sudden. It's all overcome by happiness as Charles beams widely and throws his arms around Erik's neck in his excitement. "We're going to get married," he breathes. His eyes are wide and blue, and his face is practically glowing.
Erik leans in and presses their lips together.
The contact holds for just a moment before they pull apart simultaneously, wearing mirroring expressions of shock.
"Erik!" Charles squeaks, face beet read.
"It was an accident!" Erik quickly disclaims, covering his mouth with one hand. "I didn't mean to!"
They stare at each other with wide eyes for a long moment. It was their first kiss, of course, and it had been an accident. Erik hadn't known he was going to do it until he did it.
"Uhm," Charles makes eventually. He's shuffling on his feet, unable to look Erik in the eyes.
Erik shifts, embarrassed as well. "But it wasn't too bad, was it?" he blurts out.
"No." Charles pulls up his shoulders and glances up before looking away again quickly. "It was, uh, nice."
They avoid looking at each other for a while. "We're a bit young though, don't you think?" Charles eventually mumbles, sounding embarrassed.
"Of course," Erik agrees quickly. He knows Charles is right, and he's relieved Charles had the guts to say it. It's too early. Besides, they'll have lots of time for that sort of thing later, when they're married.
Charles glances up and meets his eyes. They share a shy smile.
They have fights, of course. They always had, and their disagreements get only more fierce the older they get and the firmer their opinions become. Charles believes in the order of things; Erik wants to see the universe. He wants to see everything, and Charles indulges his fantasies, but in their hearts, they both know that Charles doesn't have the same desire for adventure that Erik has.
Erik wants to see all the messed up things there are, and he wants to see what happens if he tweaks a little. Charles chastises him; the non-interference laws exist for a reason, and there is also a reason why they're so strict. In their ugliest fights, Charles yells that Erik is trying to play god, and Erik screams back that they are gods. How could they not be? They are so different from any other species in the universe, their senses sharper, their brains quicker, everything superior, naturally more advanced. Charles says there's a difference between being more advanced and being superior. Erik doesn't agree.
But, for all their fights, they never forget they love each other. Perhaps they haven't said it, but they both know it, the memory of an accidental kiss burning bright in their minds when they brush against each other, mentally or physically.
They're twenty-six when they graduate from the Academy. Charles immediately pursues a career as a lawmaker; everybody knows it's the perfect occupation for him. His mind is sharp and keen; he's compassionate but not sentimental. Erik goes into mechanics, engineering, the physical aspects of their technology. Naturally, this means the two of them aren't able to spend as much time together anymore, but they meet as often as they can. They're growing up, and part of this means growing apart, but they're both safe in the knowledge that when the time comes, they are to get married.
When Erik turns thirty – the age where it won't be considered quite so rash anymore to get married, if it is sanctioned – he gets called before the Council. He's a bit older than Charles, but only by a mere three months, so he isn't surprised that he's being called to them before Charles is of age – it's only a formality anyway, he expects.
They tell him that he is to get married to a member of the Xavier family, but instead of Charles, Charles' younger sister Raven has been chosen to be his mate.
Erik doesn't understand. He knows Raven, naturally, what with the amount of time he spent with Charles, but they've never been close. He asks them why – impertinent, but he's quite decomposed in his shock, so it's understandable – and they tell him that it has been decided that Erik and Raven make a better match. It has come to the Council's attention that Charles and Erik fight a lot, and Raven is similar inclined to Erik both in opinions and in abilities; them producing children is undoubtedly more desirable than Erik and Charles.
There is little choice; Erik has to bow to his orders and leave the council chambers. Inwardly he's a complete mess, but he manages to keep a firm grip on everything until he finds an unoccupied room with a door he can lock. Only then does he allow himself to give in to his confusion.
He feels utterly helpless. They were beaten by their own cleverness; their arguments weren't just good, they were too good. Apparently, it doesn't matter that Raven is a year younger than them – from what Erik understands, there had been a loom malfunction, causing the Xavier loom to produce another child once Charles was born; it had been quite the topic of gossip at the time, them having two children so indecently close after one another. But that doesn't make it better at all, because with a sinking feeling Erik realises that they've planned this – they must have decided early on that Raven and Erik were the better match, perhaps even in that session eight years ago. Of course they hadn't seen a reason to inform them, because the reasons they had presented had been quite logical, and consequently it shouldn't matter if Erik married Raven instead of Charles if the outcome were the same – or better, even.
Not that they could have done it any differently. If they had used any emotional argument, they would have been dismissed as youngsters in the throes of first romance, and quite possibly they would have had to wait until sixty before they would have been taken serious. Most likely they would both have been married off to somebody else in the name of furthering their race by that point.
Like right now, in fact.
Fuck. Erik doesn't want to do this. It's not that he dislikes Raven, but she's just not Charles; nobody could mean to him what Charles means to him. He's never wanted to marry anybody but Charles; it's why they did this whole thing in the first place.
They gambled, and they lost. It makes Erik so angry, at the council, at their younger selves drunk with their own cleverness, at Raven, even at Charles and Raven's parents for using a malfunctioning loom. If Raven didn't exist, this wouldn't be happening right now. And yes, he feels bad for thinking it, but damn it, it's the truth.
After about half an hour of freaking out, Erik brings himself under control again, taking several deep breaths. He has to go talk to Charles; it will be the worst thing he has ever done, and that includes burning his parents after they had been murdered by Daleks until they were out of regenerations.
Charles looks at him for a long time; his eyes are cold, passionless, all the happiness at Erik's visit leeched out of them. Eventually, he licks his lips and says, "There's nothing we can do."
His face lowers to the scroll he'd been studying. "If you'll excuse me, I'm quite busy here."
Feeling numb, Erik can't do anything but turn away and leave.
Later, when it's far, far too late, when it shouldn't even matter anymore (but it does, clearly it does, for both of them, no matter how hard they both try to hide it), Erik will yell at Charles for abandoning him first, that day, that very moment when he basically gave Erik the go ahead to marry his sister. Charles will yell back that Erik had wanted Charles to say that. He hadn't wanted to fight; otherwise, he would have done it on his own, wouldn't have come to Charles with that helpless, resigned expression, eyes pleading.
By that point, they've long stopped listening to each other. A long time later, Erik will think back to this conversation, and the one it had been about, and cringe at how blind they both had been – how they'd both assumed the wrong things, how easy it would have been to prevent this if only one of them had spoken up. By then it's far too late.
Erik marries Raven. They loom a daughter. They're not happy, not in the sense Erik would've been with Charles (and they both know it), but they're content. At eighty-three, Erik steals a TARDIS and closes a rift. He becomes famous, then infamous, gets exiled, brought back, runs away, takes on a new name and kills everyone.
Charles becomes a lawmaker. He's so good at it he quickly obtains the highest position possible and becomes the Magistrate. Eventually he becomes so obsessed with order he starts making chaos, a logical course of action that makes sense to nobody but him. Eventually he's prosecuted for it and he runs, takes on a new name, and dies, and dies, and dies, and dies. He becomes an expert at dying and coming back way past the normal number of regenerations, and eventually he makes it his ultimate goal to destroy things that hold a meaning to the Pilgrim.
He doesn't die when the Pilgrim kills everyone. Instead he runs and hides, steals the Pilgrim's TARDIS and makes her into a Paradox Machine, takes over the planet the Pilgrim likes best for exactly that reason, captures the Pilgrim and his friend and tortures them all.
He dies. The Pilgrim begs him to regenerate, but the Shepherd refuses.
The Pilgrim burns his body and still doesn't know if this is hate or if it's love, if either is supposed to hurt this much.