Erik and Charles do not join in. Instead, they watch, awkwardly, like unwanted parental chaperones.
Raven had dug up her old record player, so of course they had to find the old records as well— a project that took an entire afternoon, one that could easily have been spent training. Well, to be honest, anything would have been better than struggling through dank, dusty cellars, searching for old records that were most likely warped or broken. But Raven was never really one to be reasoned with.
And now that they had music, obviously there had to be a party. Naturally.
Raven is a great dancer— Hank is not. He makes up for his appalling awkwardness with effort, or so Charles thinks, anyway. Erik is smiling a little, like this whole thing is one big inside joke.
He does that a lot. Charles wishes he was in on it, because he's getting a headache.
They're in the foyer, the chandelier glittering above them, a Buddy Holly record spinning languorously under its needle. Buddy Holly croons to Peggy Sue, and Sean doesn't dare sing along in fear of knocking down the chandelier (again).
Erik is leaning casually against the wall, angled towards Charles, watching the kids only out of the corner of his eye. Sean is jerking around like a dying horse, either dancing or pretending to be electrocuted; Alex, stoic as ever, is only watching, his arms crossed. He's smiling, though, which is a start.
Erik gives up on looking cool and collected when Sean falls headfirst into Alex and they both tumble to the marble floor; his laugh is louder than the record.
"I broke my leg," Sean cries.
Hank, who is frantically searching for a first aid kit, has to be told by Raven that Sean did not, in fact, break his leg.
Alex stands, dusts himself off, and offers a helping hand to the wailing Sean. The second he's on his feet, the din ends and they resume their dancing and seizures (respectively).
"We've created an elite force, haven't we?" Erik says.
"Shut up," says Charles.
Fool(s) in the Rain.
What was supposed to have been a nice run on a sunny day has turned into a race for the manor through driving rain, thick mud, and slick gravel. Their gray training sweats are soaked, filthy, and utterly ruined; Erik's slicked-back hair is collapsing around his eyes. Charles doesn't even want to think about what he looks like.
My poor hair. My poor, beautiful hair. "I call the bath."
"Not if I get there first!" Erik sprints off and charges across the lawn, heels digging deep ruts in the slimy, pliable mud. There's no way Charles can catch up— that is, until Erik slips and falls face-forward into the muck.
Charles jogs leisurely up to him, laughing. Erik is struggling to pick himself up, the mud squelching and sucking at his hands.
"The tortoise and the hare, Lensherr," Charles sing-songs over the thunder, delighting in his accidental rhyme. "Hare Lensherr. Lensherr the Hare! It's even better than Magneto."
The muck monster before Charles stands and moans. "Or— and I know this is a revolutionary concept— I could just be Erik."
Charles rolls his eyes. "Not while Raven lives and breathes. Or should I say Mystique?"
"Can I please have the bath first?"
Charles pushes his hair out of his face with one slimy hand. It immediately flops back down. "We could just share,"
Erik scoffs. "Do you really think that's a good idea right now?" He raises his dripping, filthy arms.
He's even got dirt in his eyelashes.
"No," Charles says. "But we should put the joint bath thing on our agenda."
"Now let's— Erik, if you think I'm going to shake your hand, you're insane."
In the Light.
"Come on, Professor X, you're being a spoilsport."
"Am not! And stop calling me that."
"Professor X, Professor X, Professor X!" they all chant. Even Erik. What a twat.
In fact, it's Erik who says, "It seems that our fearless, peerless leader is afraid of ghost stories!"
"Don't feel bad," Hank says. "I'm afraid of ghost stories."
"That's a given," Raven says. "But Charles? Really? Come on, Chuck—"
"Don't call me that either." But Charles makes a place in the circle with the rest of them, tucking in his legs Indian-style. One of his knees brushes Erik's.
"Oh no! I felt a ghost's presence," Erik whispers, and he's glared into silence.
"I can just mind-control all of you into shutting up once we begin," Charles reminds them, waggling two fingers near his temple.
Raven throws a pillow at him. "You can, but you won't. Who's got the first story?"
Sean's hand shoots up. "Me! Alright, so. One dark, stormy night, wolves were howling… and banshees were screaming!"
"Somebody else?" Alex groans.
They're all quiet for a moment. Hank is chewing gum and staring at his fingernails, trying to look less terrified than he is. Sean is sulking, and Erik is laughing quietly at all of them.
"Let's turn on the light," Charles suggests hurriedly.
Raven sighs. "Where are the board games?"
Stairway to Heaven.
After Charles' room, Erik's favorite part of the house in Westchester is the staircase leading up to it.
There's a sort of delicious anticipation that follows climbing those stairs. At the top, there are two outcomes: chess or sex. Either one, though, affords Erik some security, some affection, and some company, three things he has never had much of. He is grateful for them— more grateful, he suspects, than people who have had them their entire lives.
And he knows to cherish them, too, because he understands that they are fragile. Shaw had made sure that Erik knew that.
Erik feels the metal all over the place— the gold and bronze and copper of gilt frames and jewelry, the silver candelabras that line these stairs and the candles that light his way.
The candles are almost as comforting as Charles. They remind Erik of Chanukahs past, eight days of prayer and family, eight days of gifts. He doesn't celebrate it anymore— there is so little, now, that he feels celebratory about— but at least the memories are fond.
The staircase seems endless, but Erik is young and strong, and he is not winded when he reaches the top. (His breathing is labored for different reasons.)
He knocks on the door.
"Come in," calls the best voice in the world.