When Sharon comes home, she seems a bit taken aback to find Charles, Erik, Wanda and Pietro on the floor in her living room. "Oh, hello," she says.
"Is das deine Mama?" Wanda asks Charles. Charles doesn't understand much of German yet, but he's good enough to understand that much.
"Yes, that's my mum," he replies. "Mum, these are Pietro and Wanda, Lorna and Raven are upstairs. Pietro, Wanda, this is my mum."
"Hallo Charles' mum!" Wanda says loudly.
"Hello Wanda and Pietro," Sharon says earnestly. "It's nice to meet you."
Wanda smiles at her, but Pietro is too busy hiding behind Erik and peeking around his big brother at the stranger to say anything. He generally goes back and forth between being shy and bold whereas Wanda is usually the bolder of the two. However, right now her fingers are clenched tightly in Charles' shirt and she makes no effort to approach Sharon with her usual curiosity and openness. It's not only the unfamiliar environment in Charles' family's home that the twins are struggling with but also the scare they got earlier when their mother had gotten injured.
Charles would like to go explain the situation to his mum, but Wanda is clearly reluctant to let him go. Luckily Cain is in the kitchen making a simple dinner for them all and when Sharon goes there he explains the situation to her. He hopes she's not angry with him for making the decision to bring the Lehnsherr's to their home without consulting her first.
A little later, Raven and Lorna come downstairs; Lorna still looks a bit upset but she seems to have calmed down enough. The two of them distract the twins, giving Charles a moment to go talk to his mum.
She's just coming out of her bedroom, having changed out of her business attire.
"Sorry for not asking for your permission to have them stay here," Charles immediately apologizes. "I just thought it'd be better for them to be away from home." There's still blood and glass shards in the kitchen, and Charles just couldn't bear the thought of any of the Lehnsherr siblings having to clean that up.
"It's alright, love," Sharon says, cupping Charles' face. "I'm proud of you."
Charles flushes and smiles. "Uhm, thanks. How was your day?"
"Never mind that," Sharon waves his question away impatiently. "Tell me, did you have a plan? Will they stay the night? Because we don't really have the right kind of bed for toddlers."
"Uh, I didn’t think that far," Charles admits.
"Okay, then I suggest you give me Erik's parents' number so I can talk to them."
Unfortunately, Charles doesn't actually have any of their mobile numbers. When he goes to ask Erik, his boyfriend is determined to go speak to Sharon himself, even though his leaving upsets the twins somewhat. Luckily between Charles, Lorna and Raven they are easily placated and distracted, and a little later Erik is back. A couple of minutes after that, Sharon joins them as well. Her offer of pizza for all is met with much cheering and when she informs them that Jakob and Edie will come to join them soon everybody is even happier.
They order pizza and watch a movie – The Emperor's New Groove, which amuses all of them – and near the end Edie and Jakob come back from the hospital. Edie clearly is groggy from painkillers and, after her children have assured themselves that she's fine she's put to bed in the guest room. Wanda and Pietro get a mattress in Sharon's office, on floor-level so that if they fall off there won't be any injuries, while Lorna is to sleep with Raven and Erik with Charles.
Once everything has been organized and all the children are in bed, Erik and Charles curl up together. Erik is still a bit unsettled after the excitement earlier – Charles would have to be extraordinarily oblivious not to realize that Edie's accident dredged up some bad memories – and holds Charles tightly.
In an effort to lighten the mood a little, Charles jokes, "This isn't how I imagined our families' first meeting." Erik just snorts in agreement, so Charles continues, "but we do make a great team."
"You and me or your family and my family?" Erik asks.
"Both, actually, but I originally meant you and me."
Erik is silent for a long moment. "I don't think I could have managed without you," he eventually admits quietly. When his mama had stumbled and fallen into the shards of the bottle she had dropped, noise of pain and blood spilling out, Erik had felt like his heart had stopped. He had automatically, instinctively taken hold of all the metal in close vicinity and had felt Lorna's power right alongside his. Lorna had freaked out completely, and her panic had freaked out the twins; Erik himself had held on by a thread as Jakob had taken Edie and driven her to the hospital. Without Charles there to calm him and take control of the situation, this whole ordeal would have been a lot more stressful for them all.
"You would have managed," Charles replies; he sounds very sure. "You maybe would have freaked out a little, but you would have stayed calm for the children."
Unfortunately, Erik can't really share that surety. He had really freaked out; the noise of pain his mama had made and her bleeding from several cuts had taken him immediately back three years ago, into the mindset of the time. All the months and all the change and progress he'd made in-between had melted away and he had been thirteen again, terrified and half-crazy, completely traumatized. Before today, he wouldn't have thought that this was still possible – he hadn't been triggered in almost a year; not even during the meeting with the others in New York had he come this close.
Charles cups Erik's face and looks at him searchingly; Erik lowers his gaze, but he invites Charles in mentally, thins his shields. They don't do this often, most of the time if they do anything at all, they brush emotions against each other; amusement, exasperation, shy affection. And while Erik really doesn't know how to express what today's events stirred up in him with words, he still wants to share with Charles.
As usual, Charles is incredibly tentative, giving Erik a lot of time to reconsider, to push him out – not that Erik ever does. Once he has made the move to let Charles in, he is sure and doesn't need to retract the invitation. And each time it needs less and less consideration on his part to thin his shields for Charles.
Once he's in, Charles carefully sifts through the feelings and fragmented memories and fractures of thoughts Erik has given him access to; it's less ordered, less controlled than usual on Erik's part. Erik also pays less attention to what Charles is doing, drifts through the contented tranquility Charles is projecting instead. Charles has taken to opening himself up for Erik as well when they do this – it's mostly a gesture because Erik can't actively enter his mind without Charles pulling him in, but it means he is very sensitive to any impulse from Erik and reacts immediately. So when Erik nudges Charles gently, Charles immediately recognizes his barely-formed wish and pulls Erik into his emotions, only as deep as Erik wants to go.
You're fine, Charles murmurs to him. Your reaction was instinctive and perfectly understandable, considering what you went through. Charles keeps his own feelings and thoughts on Erik's past carefully tucked away; Erik is grateful. It always makes him feel like he needs to take care of Charles, comfort him, and he isn't really emotionally in the right place to do so right now. Hush, Charles says at the twinge of guilt Erik inevitably feels at that. You take care of me when I need it. Let me take care of you too.
Of course, Erik replies. It makes him a little uncomfortable, but he knows that it's okay to need others. It doesn't mean he can't take care of himself, his therapist has been telling him this for years, and while he doesn't quite feel it, he knows it.
You take great care of your siblings, Charles says a moment later. He's hesitantly swimming through the memories connected to the events of today – not the Genosha ones, he stays away from those unless Erik specifically offers them; it's memories of his siblings. Moments in which they needed him and he was there, and also moments in which he wasn't, or not in the right way.
From those memories – not necessarily always happy, though some of them aren't particularly sad either – Charles tentatively starts to look through just memories of the twins and Lorna. He seems curious about the way they interact; he doesn't really have all that much to do with toddlers, and the way he interacts with Raven is inherently different.
I like spending time with the twins, Charles confirms a bit shyly. And Lorna… Raven and I… I used to be the main parental figure for her for some time. Mum, it's sort of difficult to rebel against her, she's very, well. Apparently deciding that memories explain better than words, Charles offers him a few memories; once Erik indicates that he wants to see Charles shows them to him. They're of his mother, just everyday interaction that show Erik that she's caring but bad at being demonstrative with it, that she's very strict but susceptible to logical, well-reasoned arguments. Erik can see why it would be difficult to rebel against her. Yes, Charles agrees dryly. So the person Raven usually rebels against when she needs to be confrontational is me. She thinks I'm… boring, and controlling. She can be quite unreasonable.
That's puberty for you, Erik replies. He and Lorna had a few moments too; they usually get over them by yelling followed by not talking to each other for a couple of days.
Charles looks through the offered memories carefully. I think I do it wrong, he then offers mournfully. I don't yell back.
Also you get hurt by the things she says, which makes her feel guilty, which makes her more angry, Erik adds. He doesn't even need to have seen any memories of Raven and Charles' fights to know that. Charles is no push-over, but he's very non-confrontational. It's not fun to fight like that. She pushes so you'll push back; she's testing boundaries.
"I don't really… do that. Yell, I mean."
It takes Erik a moment to realize Charles has spoken with his mouth, not his mind; he blinks, abruptly becoming aware of their bodies again. Their faces are close, sharing a pillow, and Charles is lying half on top of Erik with his arm wrapped loosely around Erik's chest, their lags tangled. Their minds are still joined, but Charles isn't actively looking through Erik's memories anymore or showing him his; it's just a loose, superficial tangling of surface emotions. It's the way they often share, only more prolonged.
"You get angry sometimes," Erik eventually finds the topic of conversation again. "It's not shameful to show it."
Charles sucks his lower lip between his teeth, gaze lowering. He's full of apprehension and… fear.
Erik frowns. "What is it?" Absent-mindedly, he starts running his hand up and down Charles' back, trying to calm him.
"People… never got angry while I grew up," Charles explains haltingly. "Or rather… they did get angry, but they never acted like it. Servants would hide it, my father, well. Even my mum's anger was turned inward. The first time I actually experienced someone expressing their anger was Kurt."
Oh, fuck. That must completely have messed up with Charles' perception of anger – and the more Erik thinks about it, the more examples of this he finds. Most prominent the fact that Charles hadn't gotten angry at Moira at all, even though she had done something really ungentlemanly and not befitting a best friend when she had tried to badmouth Charles to Erik at that party. To this day Erik doesn't understand how Charles could have forgiven her so easily.
"As long as it's not at somebody dependant to you it's okay to yell," Erik says eventually. He doesn't really know what else to say. "It's cathartic, and if someone is angry at you it's good for them to see that you are as affected by them as they are by you. It's even okay to throw things, as long as you don't throw them at a person, and as long as you don't try to intimidate them physically." He himself had to carefully learn the minefield of triggers within his family; they all had had to. To this day, Jakob and Edie leave the house when they fight, because they're the focal points within the family and it distresses their children incredibly when they witness fights.
"It's just… when someone yells at me, I go…" Making a frustrated noise, Charles mentally asks for permission to join them further again to show Erik. Once he's gotten it, he pulls Erik in – he doesn't really show him a memory, just the way Charles feels when someone yells at him – and what he does is freeze up inwardly. His heart starts racing, his hands start trembling and he feels hot and cold all over, on the verge of panic, it's hard to breathe and it's all he can do to keep himself calm outwardly and to answer. He just wants it to stop, wants to run away but he can't, he's frozen, and it'd be ridiculous, nothing is wrong, it's just-
Erik clears his throat and blinks rapidly, trying to distance himself; Charles immediately pushes him away from the memory. "That… that's what it feels like to be triggered, love," Erik manages to say eventually. He feels a little sick. It's an effort to keep his breathing calm.
Charles looks stricken. "Oh god, I didn't mean- I'm so sorry!"
"Stop," Erik commands, gentle if somewhat shakily. He turns on his side to wrap both arms around Charles, pulling him close. "You didn't actually trigger me, and this was somewhat mild in comparison. You don't get flashbacks, then?" If he did, Charles would have noticed quickly that triggers and flashbacks often come hand in hand. Not always, and less and less with Erik, but at the beginning they did nearly every time.
Charles hesitates. "Not with Raven," he reveals eventually.
"But with Cain," Erik guesses.
Looking absurdly guilty and ashamed, Charles nods, biting his lower lip.
Erik takes a deep breath and combs his fingers through Charles' unruly hair. He really doesn't know what to do with this – he has experience in dealing with triggers and flashbacks, both with having them himself and with others having them, but he really hadn't expected Charles to be among them. And it's clear Charles doesn't know much about it, that he doesn't want to know, at least where having them himself is concerned.
"It's okay," Erik eventually says. "It's not your fault you get triggered, and it's not directly the triggerer's fault either, be it a person or situation or smell – triggers can be anything at all, but you get triggered by only one scenario?"
Reluctantly, Charles nods. Making a mental note to ask this question again at a later point, when Charles is more used to the idea that he gets triggered, Erik continues, "There's nothing to be ashamed of. You went through some bad things, they're bound to have left an impression. That you get triggered when someone yells at you sucks, but it's not your fault."
"I know." Charles squeezes Erik's chest tightly and inhales his scent. He keeps his face turned away when he asks, voice small, "Can we talk about something else?"
"Of course." Erik soothingly rubs Charles' back. "Though I think we really should sleep, we had a difficult day." Was it ever.
Charles snorts. "Indeed," he says dryly.
They arrange themselves into a position more comfortable for sleeping, with Charles spooning Erik, their hands tangled and Charles' forehead on the back of Erik's neck, but it's a long time before either of them falls asleep.