It’s been three years since the last time she saw Charles; just a glimpse of him, sharp suit and steel edges, rolling away in the distance during one of the few times the Brotherhood and the X-Men have engaged in the field. He looks as handsome as ever, though his dark brown hair is now peppered with a bit of grey around the temples. Clad in an oversized cardigan, light blue dress shirt and tan slacks he looks almost exactly the same as she remembers.
Charles is in his office, seated in his chair by the window looking out over the rose garden. She glances over to the desk and sees papers strewn about in seemingly random piles, as though her brother had gotten distracted and stopped mid way through his attempt at paperwork. The rest of the room is a lot tidier than she remembers, books now neatly stacked in shelves and the floor is clear of any clutter. The most striking difference is the empty space behind the oak desk where his old leather chair used to sit.
His back is turned to them but Raven knows he’s well aware of them both; had known that she and Max were on their way since probably before they left the kitchen. He swivels his chair around to greet them as Max runs in and proceeds to climb onto his lap.
“Daddy, Daddy look! Aunt Raven and I brought you breakfast.”
“Yes I can see that Max.” He hugs the boy and drops a kiss on his forehead, before looking up to acknowledge Raven. “Thank you, both of you for thinking of me.”
She feels awkward and unsure, a part of her wanting to run and throw her arms around Charles like Max did, the other afraid of a deserved rejection. Her brother is looking at her, not warm and welcoming as he’s always been but with a look she’s seen him use on difficult CIA agents and arrogant university administrators; overly polite and emotionally distant.
“Is your room alright Raven? Did you sleep well?” Still unfailingly calm and accent so very English.
“Yes, it’s lovely thank you.” She places the breakfast tray on his desk and then offers him the tea. “Here, have this before it gets cold.”
Something flashes in his eyes before Charles closes himself off again, his expression as unreadable as ever. He takes the mug from her with one hand, shifting Max slightly so he can take a sip. He murmurs a soft thank you before turning to his son and asks, “Did you eat all your breakfast?”
The boy grins and taps Charles’ head lightly. “You know I ate all my breakfast silly! You know everything I do Daddy!”
Charles laughs, genuine and warm and lets Max wriggle off his lap. “Yes but it’s always nice to hear you tell me about your day, instead of just reading it from your mind.”
Max doesn’t answer, just grinning and making his way over to the window to press his nose against the glass. “Have you seen Mr. Erik anywhere, Daddy? I didn’t see him at breakfast this morning.”
Raven is watching Charles intently and doesn’t fail to see him flinch ever so slightly at Max’s words. She doubts anyone else would have noticed, but she knows her brother's tells quite well, and paying attention to people is an important skill she’s spent many years honing. “He’s outside by the stone railing, love. I think he’s been out walking the grounds and hasn’t had any breakfast yet. Why don’t you go bring him one of the muffins you and Mrs. Bradley made yesterday?”
“Okay, that’s a great idea!” He turns and sprints towards the door, almost out of the room before he stops to address Raven. “Will you make sure Daddy drinks his tea? And doesn’t do too much work? I’ll come back as soon as I can.”
Charles frowns at them both, though they can tell that he isn’t really upset. “Really Max. I’m perfectly capable of looking after myself.”
She tries not to smirk at the scene before her, with Charles bemused and indulgent and Max scowling, sharp blue eyes narrowed with an expression more appropriate on a surly teenager. “No! Hank says you have to rest a lot more before you’re back to normal. And Alex made me promise to keep you from doing any work on the weekend.”
“Fine, fine,” Charles replies, waving at Max who takes it as agreement to his demands. “I’ll just sit here and drink my tea and have a chat with your Aunt Raven alright?”
“Good.” Max smiles at them both and then heads out of the room. They sit and watch for a few moments before Raven gets up and shuts the door.
“You look well.” The air is rife with unspoken tension and Charles doesn’t look at her when he speaks, rolling over to rest in front of his desk and placing his mug on the tray.
“Thank you. So do you.”
She takes a seat in one of the chairs and turns it slightly to face him, neither of them speaking for what seems like an interminable amount of time. Finally, she approaches him, kneeling in front of her brother to take his hand. “Charles. I want you to read my mind.”
“Pardon?” Whatever he was expecting her to say, obviously this wasn’t it. “You want what?”
She squeezes his hand and says it again. “I want you to read my mind.”
He pulls his hand away from hers and shakes his head. “Why? Why now?”
Raven stays crouched in front of him, moving to place her hands on his knees instead. “There are things I want to tell you, Charles. Things I need to say. And I want you to know the truth. I don’t want there to be any more misunderstandings between us.”
He turns his sharp blue eyes on her, assessing her, thinking over her offer, trying to gauge whether he can trust the motive behind her sudden change of heart. Finally, he reaches a hand over one of hers and says simply, “Alright.”
Every telepath she’s ever encountered feels slightly different in her head. Emma Frost was every bit as hard and uncompromising as her diamond form; it was much later in their friendship before she allowed Raven to see that a softer side of her even existed. Max was like a gentle sunny day, warm and happy and maybe a little bit wild.
Charles reminds her of running water; sometimes a gentle, babbling brook lulling her to sleep, other times a torrent of waves capable of massive destruction. But she has only ever been amazed by her brother’s gift; never frightened of his immeasurable power.
More than anything it’s the thing that reminds Raven of home.
She almost staggers forward when Charles opens his mind to hers again after all these years; it’s been even longer than the eight years since they last lived together as brother and sister. He reaches to steady her and then helps her back into her chair where they sit in silence as she collects her thoughts.
“I’m sorry Charles.” She can tell he’s hearing her words as well as her meaning. That’s she genuine in what’s she saying to him but he doesn’t dive any further ahead, choosing to let her lead him through her thoughts and feelings.
“I’m sorry,” she says again, “for so many things. For not understanding you. That you loved me. That you didn’t think of me as charity, someone to pity. I’m sorry for blaming you for things that weren’t your fault. For not understanding how much you wanted to protect me.” She has to take a deep breath before she can continue, “I’m sorry for being so selfish and leaving you when you needed me the most. I’m sorry I haven’t been here to help you with Max. I’m sorry I ever made you feel that I didn’t love you. Because I do, Charles, so much.” She squeezes his hand again and wipes a stray tear from her face. “You’re my family.”
Charles hasn’t reacted to her words but she can tell from the look on his face that he hears and understands what she’s trying to say. The polite facade starts to crack a little as the warmth slowly returns to his gaze.
“Oh Raven.” His voice is softer now, edge and formality bleeding away as he reaches to brush the hair from her face. “I don’t think I understand.”
“What do you mean?”
He shakes his head, looking sad and wistful. “How did this happen to us? You and I, we used to know everything about each other. I can’t believe you ever doubted that I loved you, that you were everything to me, not charity.”
Her hand is trembling at little but she has to get it all out, tell Charles everything. “I should never have asked you to stay out of my head.”
There’s no judgement in his tone, just curiosity. “Why did you? It didn’t bother you when we were kids. What changed? Was it something I did?”
“No!” She grabs both his hands and looks him straight in the eye. “It was all me. You were wonderful... a little hard to take sometimes...but the best brother I could have ever hoped for.” She smiles at him, self deprecating and a bit sad, and then drops his hands, pushing herself back in the chair. “I didn’t want you to know that I had feelings for you.”
“You had feelings...”
“I was attracted to you Charles. You do understand the concept right?” She’s teasing him now and he doesn’t seem offended though his eyes go wide at the revelation. “I wanted you. Wanted you to want me. I watched you flirt with all those pretty, perfect girls and not once did you ever look at me that way. And I thought it was because you found me ugly. Because we loved each other right? And if I was attracted to you I didn’t understand why you couldn’t be attracted to me.”
Charles pulls her into his arms, hugging her close and it’s enough to make the tears fall. “Raven, you’re my sister. You’re my family. Just because I didn’t see you that way doesn’t mean that I find you unattractive. You’re incredibly beautiful and I’ve always thought so, since the very first day that I met you.”
She sniffs into his cardigan and laughs. “I know. Max, he showed me your memories when he contacted me with Cerebro.” Pulling back again she holds one of Charles’s hands and sighs. “There’s more. I want to tell you all of it.”
He looks at her, a bit concerned as she continues, “I didn’t know about you and Erik. Not until much later; about a year and a half after Cuba actually.”
“It was...” For a moment, Charles appears a little lost for words. “That was between the two of us and no one else.” He touches her hand gently, looking confused, “What does Erik have to do with what you’re telling me?”
“You have to know that I left because I didn’t want to hide anymore. I believed in Magneto’s cause, I still believe in him, that he'll fight for a world where we don’t have to be afraid of humans anymore.” Charles watches her, a thoughtful expression on his face as she explains, “But I thought...well it’s not the entire reason I left.”
She can feel his light touch in her head now, as she struggles to put her regret and embarrassment into words. His eyes narrow slightly as she pushes the thoughts and feelings and images to him, before he pulls out of her mind and removes his hands from hers to grip the arms of his wheelchair.
Raven swears she can feel the temperature in the room drop a couple of degrees as her brother’s expression becomes polite and distant once again, an attempt to armor himself against her revelations. She sighs audibly and says, “Charles, I didn’t know. I would never have gone to him; got into his bed if I’d known you two were involved. I wouldn’t do something like that on purpose to hurt you.” She already knows he’ll deny being upset and cuts him off before he begins, “I thought...I thought since you didn’t want me, that maybe Erik would. That maybe once we knew each other better then he and I could have something more.”
Charles rolls backwards, out of Raven’s reach and turns back towards the window. He keeps his eyes stubbornly fixed outside, refusing to look at her for a full minute before he asks, “And? Do you? Have something more?”
Her mocking laughter surprises Charles, and its enough to make her brother turn around and face her again. “Oh Charles I was so stupid! He complimented my mutation and told me not to hide! That’s all it took for me to think he might be able to love me! Magneto!” She lets out an unladylike snort that makes him chuckle; apparently her brother can well imagine his ex-lover’s reticence and inability to handle relationships. “He appreciates me for the weapon that I am. For the ruthless and efficient second-in-command he needs to help him run the Brotherhood. But I might as well be Azazel or Janos to him for all the attention he pays me.”
Charles frowns and his eyes narrow slightly at her words. “Has he mistreated you? Been unkind?”
“No. I think I’m his only friend really. And he does his best to look out for all of us but he doesn’t let anyone in. You remember what he was like Charles? When we first met him? Paranoid? Wary of everyone and everything?” She sighs and taps her fingers lightly on the arm of her chair. “He’s alone and that’s how he wants it to be. Or thinks he deserves.”
She can admit that the seemingly nonchalant tone in her brother’s next words are a little unexpected. “I’m sure Erik is quite content with the choices he’s made. After all, a man striving for the salvation of all mutant kind can’t very well be burdened with things as mundane as feelings and commitments.”
Now this – this Charles with the biting wit and the arrogance reminds her of the brother she knows and loves. “Don’t be an idiot Charles. You know he’s still in love with you and never stopped. He’s been carrying you around in his head and his heart like you’re a perfect saint. A man foolish enough to love him that he didn’t deserve and couldn’t keep in the end.”
Charles scoffs at her, “And I suppose he told you all this then? Poured his heart out to you, did he?”
She hasn’t seen Magneto all day, not since they arrived back at the base from their mission in Arizona.
The mission where they’d run into Charles and his X-Men for the first time since Cuba.
It’s also the first time they’ve seen her brother in his wheelchair.
Magneto may have appeared unaffected to the other members of the Brotherhood but she knows him better; knows how close he was to Charles and how hard today’s unintended meeting must have hit him. She’s not surprised when he doesn’t come out for meals or to debrief the team and give them their next assignments. The others are starting to get antsy.
It’s two in the morning when she finally decides to brave Magneto’s temper and check in on him. It doesn’t take her very long to pick the lock and she’s infinitely grateful he hadn’t melted them in a fit of pique.
Inside the spartan room she finds him sprawled on his bed, helmet and cape thrown haphazardly on the floor, an empty bottle of whiskey still clutched in one hand. In his other hand he’s holding a piece of paper...a letter?
Given who they saw today she’s fairly certain of the letter's origin, and she’s burning to know its contents. Even though she had been the one to deliver Charles’ letter, Magneto had never revealed to her what her brother had written. She lets herself succumb to the temptation, privacy and friendship be damned.
She means to leave after she reads it, her hands shaking and her head spinning with rage and hurt and denial. Charles never told her! And all this time she had thought there was a chance for her and Magneto! And they were more than just friends; they loved each other and Magneto still left him. Still left her brother bleeding on the sand.
Like she had done.
Later, she thinks she did it to punish them both.
He stirs when she slips the letter back into his hand and moans drunkenly, before grabbing her wrist. She shifts instinctively, without any real thought into an achingly familiar form and when he opens his eyes, Magneto is looking up at Charles Xavier.
She sits on the bed next to him and says nothing; she’ll let him think he’s dreaming or hallucinating a visit from her brother. Magneto grabs at her arms and clutches at her cardigan as though he’s afraid to let go, then drags himself forward until his head is in her lap and he’s wrapped his arms around her waist. She sits still while he clings to her, stroking his hair softly and lets him cry.
Raven watches her brother process the memory, his face going through a myriad expressions until he settles again into a semblance of neutral calm. “That was a long time ago,” he whispers.
She shrugs and pulls her feet up onto the chair, wrapping her arms around her knees like she used to do as a child. “Some things don’t change with time.”
They sit together then in a more comfortable silence, Charles rolling his chair next to Raven’s so she can tilt her head to rest it against his shoulder. After a while, he reaches for her hand and squeezes it gently, and asks, “Will you leave with him again?”
“That depends entirely on you two,” she sighs and squeezes his hand back. “I don’t want to leave but if Erik goes than I need to follow. We have the Brotherhood to run and the things we’ve accomplished – I believe in the good we’ve done for other mutants.” She turns and looks into her brother’s eyes. “It’s been eight years Charles. Surely, you’ve both spent enough time apart being stubborn. And you have Max to think about. Find a way to compromise so you can work together.”
She watches as he shakes his head sadly. “Raven, you know it’s not that simple. I just...I love Erik, but I don’t trust him not to leave.”
“I don’t know Charles, he might surprise you yet.” She tilts her head up to kiss him on the cheek. “You and I...are we going to be okay?”
He puts his arm around her and tugs her closer. “Maybe, eventually. We will be.”