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Been There, Done That

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1. 

Erik had a habit of waking up with the sun. 

He honestly couldn’t remember if it was a habit he’d had as a child; there was very little he remembered from those days, save for the precious memories Charles had been able to pull from recesses of his memory that Erik hadn’t even realized he still possessed. 

It had served him well in all the years he’d spent on his own. He knew how to operate on little sleep, fuel himself with nothing but determination and grit. He took advantage of it at the manor by going running in the early morning, the dew on the grass dampening his sneakers as the sun peeked over the trees surrounding the manor grounds. These morning runs were as close as Erik had come to letting his guard down in as long as he could remember. 

His instinct was to push himself on this morning’s particular run, but he held back, knowing that his energy would be better spent on what was to come. He had dreamt of Shaw that night. They were in Germany, and Shaw was taunting him to move the coin, only Erik hadn’t been a little boy anymore, but a man, an angry, embittered man, and he’d sent the coin flying into Shaw’s chest, embedding it into his heart. 

Erik shook his head, shook off the last vestiges of the dream, and continued to run. 

Charles was alone in the kitchen when Erik came in from outside, sneaking in through the side door. Charles smiled warmly at him, if a bit strained. No doubt the upcoming confrontation with Shaw and his mutants had been weighing on Charles’ mind as well. 

“Good morning, Erik,” Charles greeted, offering him a cup of tea. Erik declined, moving in next to Charles to search the cupboards for coffee beans instead. 

Charles chuckled, taking a slow, careful sip of his tea. “So uncivilized,” he teased, opening the small wooden cabinet door beneath the sink to reveal a can of coffee beans. 

“I’m pretty sure you have to have a degree from Oxford to be allowed to drink tea. Alas,” Erik told him as he began making himself a strong brew. 

Charles snorted, and they spent the next few minutes in companionable silence. Charles looked into the remnants of his mug as if they held the secrets of the universe. 

“Do you think they’re ready?” Charles asked suddenly. “Do you think we’re ready?” 

Erik looked up at him. “I don’t know,” he said honestly. 

Before Charles could reply, Raven came careening into the kitchen, gripping the doorway to steady herself. She was in her natural form, although she was dressed in regular, everyday clothing. 

“Hank,” she said breathlessly, “is gone.”

Raising the submarine had been the single most exhilarating and terrifying moment of Erik’s life. He had never believed himself capable of such a thing, and all the while Charles’ voice was in the back of his mind, a reminder; an anchor. 

Killing Shaw had been a different matter. Erik had expected that he would feel… more. Oh, he had taken pleasure in the act, as though he could wrap himself in his vindication like a warm blanket. But it hadn’t done much to fill the empty cavern that lonely, revenge driven years had carved out from Erik’s heart. He found that he was oddly disappointed by that. 

Afterward, everything was so painfully simple. The helmet. The truth about humans, come to light at last. Urging his mutant brothers and sisters, his friends, to join him in the next step of evolution. 

Erik should have known that Charles wasn’t going to make it that simple. Erik was learning more and more that Charles Xavier rarely ever did simple. 

When Charles fell to the sand, Erik knew, in that moment, that his life would never, ever be the same. 

“I want you by my side. We’re brothers, you and I. We want the same thing.” 

“Oh, my friend, I’m sorry, but we do not.” 

The rest of the beach passed Erik by in a blur. All he had left were his words. Words and a small group of allies and whatever pieces of himself that remained, that’s what Erik had. He took Raven and Angel by the hand, and in the blink of an eye, they were gone. 

The smell of salt and sea air was replaced by something old and stagnant, musty and worn. 

“We’re currently in the Florida Keys. Shaw used this facility as a hide-out,” Azazel informed them, brushing sand from his jacket. “We can stay here.” 

“What was this, his vacation home?” Angel asked as she looked around the large living room they had teleported into. 

Azazel smirked. “Something like that.” 

“Get some rest,” Erik ordered gruffly. “I want to find Emma Frost as soon as possible.” 

He turned and stalked down the first hallway he could find, hoping that he would eventually run into a bedroom. Sure enough, a door at the end of the hall led to a small, plain room with a narrow bed and a nightstand that stood on three legs. 

“Erik…” 

He hadn’t realized that Raven had followed him. He turned and she bit her lower lip, looking at him with something he wasn’t ready to face. Not now. Maybe not ever. 

“We did the right thing… didn’t we?” she asked. 

“Of course,” Erik told her, his voice wooden and hollow even to his own ears. 

She nodded. The silence that followed was uncomfortable, and when she took her leave, neither of them was able to look the other in the eye. 

Erik shut the door behind her and walked stiffly to the small bed in the center of the room. He sat down, the springs creaking beneath his weight. He sat for a moment in the silence before he put his head into his hands and wept. 

2. 

Erik had a habit of waking up with the sun. 

His first thought was of Charles. He had expected to dream of Charles falling to the sand, the scene playing out in any number of horrible ways. Strangely enough, though, it was his dream of Shaw from the night before that lingered in his memory as he sat up. 

It took him a moment to realize that he was in his bed at the manor. 

Erik blinked, telling himself to stay calm. He wasn’t sure how he’d ended up back at the manor. Had Azazel brought him here? Had Charles and the boys somehow… had Moira contacted the CIA and… but no, it wasn’t possible. How could they have? Charles should be at a hospital. The thought churned Erik’s stomach, and it was followed by the thought that it was possible Charles and the others had never made it off the beach at all. Erik felt the world spin for a moment, sure that he would be sick. 

Had it… had it all been a dream? Erik had never had a dream so vivid, so real. He felt shaken and unsteady. He was running his usual path around the manor before he’d fully registered what he was doing, and this time, he found no solace in it. 

When he slipped into the kitchen, Charles was there, wearing the same blue button down shirt and sweater combination he had been wearing the day before. No, not the day before. In the dream. It had been a dream, hadn’t it? 

“Good morning, Erik,” Charles greeted, offering him a cup of tea. Erik looked at the cup and then at Charles, the sense of déjà vu so strong he thought it would overwhelm him completely. 

“I… coffee,” Erik managed to say. 

Charles chuckled and opened the cabinet under the sink, pulling out a can of coffee beans. “So uncivilized.” 

Erik could feel his mouth working, but no words were coming out. “Oxford. Degrees. For tea,” he finished lamely. 

Charles gave him a quizzical look. “Are you all right, Erik? I know we’ve a rather daunting day ahead of us, but -- ” 

Raven came careening into the kitchen, gripping the doorway to steady herself.  

Erik shook his head. He had to focus. Whatever he was remembering, whatever dream or nightmare conjured up by his subconscious, he had to put it aside. He would never be able to defeat Shaw if he couldn’t pull himself together. 

Erik took a deep breath and centered himself just in time to hear Raven tell them that Hank was gone. 

“Look, don’t get angry, because I mean this sincerely: you’ve never looked better, man.” 

If looks could kill, Erik would most certainly be dead from the glare Hank was currently favoring him with, but he didn’t try to attack Erik this time around. 

Interesting. 

Erik killed Shaw. It made him feel a little less victorious and a little more tired than it had the day before. No, not the day before. The dream. Everything had been a dream, a crazily prophetic dream, and Erik was half convinced he was displaying a previously latent secondary mutation of some sort. 

He was ready for Moira’s gun. He whipped it from her hands and bent it into nothing, dropping it to the ground at her feet. 

“Erik,” Charles begged, looking up at him, still sprawled out on the sand, face reddened where Erik had hit him. “Please, my friend. Please.” 

Erik refused to allow Charles to be a distraction. The dream had been a warning. He knew that now.

He sent the missiles speeding toward the enemy, his focus no longer deterred by gunshots and Charles screaming as he fell to the sand, and watched as they exploded the small fleet of ships at the embargo line. 

Erik felt a little bit disappointed that this, much like Shaw’s death, didn’t make him feel as good as he had been expecting. 

Charles made no move to stand up. Instead, he buried his face into the crook of his arm and cried. Even Raven looked shaken, eyes darting from Erik to the flames and smoke off in the distance on the water. 

“I did what had to be done,” Erik told them. “They were going to kill us without a second thought. I’ve shown them that we can be just as merciless, just as strong.” 

He felt a shove from behind and turned to see Charles, hair wild, eyes red-rimmed, looking at him with an expression that Erik suddenly realized he never, ever wanted to see on Charles’ face. 

“You didn’t do anything but murder hundreds of innocent people!” Charles screamed at him, and Erik was brought to his knees by a sudden surge of overwhelming feeling, of terror, fear, confusion, death. He realized, dimly, that Charles was projecting, that Charles had felt the simultaneous deaths of all those men. He looked over and saw that he wasn’t the only one affected by Charles’ unintentional outburst. 

Charles took a deep breath, bringing himself back under control with a promptness that impressed Erik. Charles was so powerful. With Charles by his side, they could – 

Charles’ eyes were on him, ice cold, burning with a barely concealed fury. 

“Don’t even think it,” he said to Erik, voice low and filled with emotions Erik couldn’t identify, didn’t want to identify. “I can’t… I can’t even look at you right now.” 

He turned his back to Erik, and it felt like something more finite and final than a gunned down Charles telling him they didn’t want the same things. 

That night, the United States and Russia declared war. 

3.  

Erik had a habit of waking up with the sun. 

He sat up with a gasp, clutching his sheets in his fists as he looked around his room at the manor. 

He was getting the distinct impression that something was very, very wrong. 

He dressed in his sweats and went for his usual morning run. He couldn’t have dreamt up two different scenarios of the same day. He didn’t see how it was possible. He had to be waking up from the aftermath of what had happened in Cuba. He and Charles would work through what Erik had done with the missiles and then they would continue to fight for the good of mutantkind. 

He slipped into the kitchen and there was Charles, in the same blue button down shirt and sweater combination he had been wearing the day before. And the day before. 

“Good morning Erik,” Charles greeted, offering him a cup of tea. 

No. It wasn’t possible. Erik shook his head, staring at Charles as if he’d grown two heads. 

Charles laughed softly, bending down to retrieve the can of coffee beans from the cupboard below the sink. Erik took a step back. 

Charles stood, setting the can on the counter. “I know, I know, tea is for stuffy old British men, strapping young German men drink coffee.” Charles had taken on a horrible German accent and puffed out his chest as he said the last part, and Erik felt like crying. 

Charles frowned. “Erik? I was just teasing. I’m sorry, I tend to make terrible jokes and act inappropriately when I’m stressed or nervous, and today is… well, it’s a rather big deal, isn’t it? Do you think… do you think we’re all ready?” 

Erik blinked at him. This wasn’t happening. How was it possible that he was living the same day for the third time?

Raven came careening into the kitchen, gripping the doorway to steady herself. 

“Hank,” she said breathlessly, “is gone.” 

“Charles,” Erik said, fighting down the panic that was threatening to claw its way out of his chest as they boarded the Blackbird. “Charles, I think something is wrong.” 

Charles frowned at him, placing a gentle hand on his forearm. “What’s the matter, my friend? You haven’t been yourself all morning. I’ve felt nothing but confusion and tumult from your mind. We will defeat Shaw, Erik. I promise you.” Charles gave him a reassuring smile, all traces of the nervous, unsure Charles from that morning gone, replaced with a Charles who was calm, confident and sure. 

Charles knew how to be a leader. Erik knew how to be Shaw’s monster. 

Erik considering asking Shaw why his mother had had to die, if that would give him the sense of closure he’d been chasing after for most of his life. Shaw was a mutant, had been one at the camps – he couldn’t have believed that Erik wouldn’t ever grow into his powers. 

Maybe, suggested a voice in his head, Shaw simply enjoys watching the destruction at his feet. 

“Everything you did made me stronger,” Erik told him, feeling carved out and hollow. “Made me the weapon I am today. It’s the truth. I’ve known it all along. You are my creator.” He took a breath. “Now, Charles!” 

Erik put the helmet on, Charles’ protests even more difficult to hear than they’d been the last time. And the time before that. Erik felt as though he’d aged years in a matter of hours. 

Shaw’s body felt less like a trophy and more like a burden as he levitated the man outside of the submarine, dropping his body onto the sand. 

“Today our fighting stops. Take off your blinders, brothers and sisters. The real enemy is out there. I feel their guns moving in the water, their metal targeting us. Americans. Soviets. Humans. United in their fear of the unknown. The Neanderthal is running scared, my fellow mutants. Go ahead, Charles. Tell me I’m wrong.” 

“Erik,” Charles pleaded. “You said yourself we’re the better men. This is the time to prove it.” 

Erik hesitated for a long moment. He didn’t think that he could stomach watching Charles fall to the ground with a bullet in his spine, or Charles turning his back on Erik as dozens of ships burned into the sea, or hearing Charles tell him, “They’re just following orders.” 

So instead, he said, “All right, Charles.” 

Instead of sending the missiles back toward the ships, Erik sent them flying upward, releasing them into the atmosphere to detonate and fall back down to the wide, empty expanse of ocean below. 

Moira shrieked in delight while Hank, Alex and Sean cheered, clapping and patting each other on the back. And then, suddenly, Erik had an armful of Charles as Charles leapt onto him, hugging him tightly, voice alight with breathless happiness. 

“Thank you, my friend,” Charles whispered softly. “Thank you.” 

Erik felt rocked to his core, warmth coiling around his insides as he hesitantly returned Charles’ embrace. 

He hadn’t realized just how right Charles would feel in his arms, like two pieces of a puzzle locking together for the first time. The feeling was simultaneously frightening and breathtaking. 

Charles released him and stepped back, still smiling brightly. The click of a gun being cocked surprised them both. 

Erik turned to find Moira pointing her gun right at him. 

“Hands up, Lehnsherr,” she said. 

Erik laughed at her as Charles asked, “Moira, what are you doing? Put your gun down!” 

“You were going to send those missiles right back to the ships. I saw it in your eyes. In the way you hesitated. Hands. Up. I can’t let you go. You’re too dangerous.” 

“Moira, for God’s sake, he just saved our lives! He didn’t hurt anybody!” Charles exclaimed, a hint of alarm creeping into his tone. He looked dismayed, but Erik also knew that Charles trusted Moira implicitly. He wouldn’t invade her mind, stop her from firing her gun. He wouldn’t think he needed to. Erik didn’t have that luxury. He knew exactly what Moira MacTaggert was capable of. 

“Erik, put your fucking hands up or I will shoot you,” Moira yelled, spreading her feet apart in the sand as she leveled her aim at him. 

“I’d like to see you try,” Erik told her with a feral smile. 

Moira fired off a shot a split second after Charles stepped between her and Erik. “Moira, don’t do th --” 

Charles’ voice was cut off by the heavy sound of a thud. Before Erik knew what was happening, Charles was falling backward into his arms. 

When Erik looked down, a bright spot of red was blooming from Charles’ chest, and Charles was looking up at him with pained, confused eyes. 

Erik tried to pull the bullet from Charles’ chest, call the metal into his hand just as he’d done before, but it was stuck, lodged somewhere in Charles’ chest. Erik realized with a sickening horror that the bullet was embedded in Charles’ heart. 

“Erik,” Charles gasped, and Erik pressed his hands on Charles’ chest to stanch the blood flow, desperately trying to apply enough pressure to make a difference, to save Charles’ life. 

“No, no, no,” he murmured in a near blind panic as his hands became slick with blood. 

“Erik,” Charles tried again, accompanied by a hitch of breath. 

Erik looked down at Charles, and it was only when he saw the tears in Charles’ eyes that he realized there was wetness pooling in his own. 

“I’m proud of you,” Charles rasped, never breaking their shared gaze. 

Charles’ body convulsed, once, twice, he cried out, and then he was still. Erik watched as Charles’ eyes, his vibrant, beautiful eyes glazed and fixed on a point beyond Erik’s shoulder. 

Erik heard the creak and groan of strained metal coming from the joint wreckage of the submarine and the Blackbird. It took him a moment to realize he was the one causing the metal to cry out as if it too had just lost something precious and irreplaceable. 

Moira collapsed on the sand next to Charles, who Erik was still holding in his arms. Erik looked up at her, and in that moment he had never hated anybody more, not even Sebastian Shaw. He knew that if he reached out, he could choke her with the dog tags around her neck, twist his hand just so and watch as her life, too, disappeared before his very eyes. 

Instead, he looked back down at Charles. Charles, who wouldn’t want him to harm Moira, no matter what she’d done. He brushed a stray lock of hair from Charles’ face, leaning down to press a gentle kiss to his forehead. 

“Get out of my sight,” he told Moira before he sent her flying backward into the sand. 

If he could, he would raise the missiles sinking to the bottom of the sea and watch the world burn. 

4. 

Erik had a habit of waking up with the sun. 

His eyes flew open and he was out of bed before fully registering what he was doing, hastily throwing on his black turtleneck and trousers from the night before. 

He ran down to the kitchen, taking the stairs two at a time, almost colliding with the dining table as he tried to run around it. 

“Erik?” Charles called, poking his head out from the kitchen. “What in the world are you doing?” 

Erik wanted to shout for joy. Charles was alive. Instead, he practically leapt onto Charles, a mirror of what had happened on the beach the last time Erik had lived this day, when it had been a jubilant Charles holding on to him. He felt hysterical laughter bubbling up inside his chest, but he swallowed it back down as he held Charles to him, taking in everything about him: his scent, the way he still fit so perfectly in Erik’s arms, the tickle of his hair on Erik’s face and the ghost of his breath on Erik’s neck as he laughed and returned the embrace. 

Erik wanted to cheer. 

“What is this?” Charles asked, giving him an affectionate squeeze before pulling back to look at Erik quizzically. 

“I…” Erik wasn’t even sure where to begin. He was fairly certain that he could tell Charles and Charles wouldn’t laugh at him, or think him crazy. He could show Charles how he was trapped in some sort of strange time loop. But, Erik realized, if he did that, he would show Charles all of the horrible things that had happened in the three times Erik had so far lived the day. He didn’t want Charles to see that. Not if he could do things differently. Make things better. 

Charles gave him fond yet puzzled smile as he turned back into the kitchen. “I was just about to make a pot of tea. Would you like some?” 

Erik shook his head, content to drink in the sight of a living, breathing Charles who was smiling and making tea like it was any other morning and not the greatest threat that perhaps either of them had ever faced. 

He was so distracted that even he was a little surprised when Raven came careening into the kitchen, gripping the doorway to steady herself. 

“What is it with everyone running panicked into my kitchen this morning?” Charles asked, scratching his head. 

“Do you date, Charles?” Erik asked as the Blackbird flew toward Cuba and the open sea. 

Charles (and everyone else, for that matter) favored him with an odd look. Charles laughed, shaking his head. “I’m… not sure what that has to do with our impending battle with Shaw?” 

Erik shrugged. “I was just curious. I thought we might make small talk to pass the time.” He was going for nonchalant, but the way Charles was studying him with an all too perceptive gaze, Erik was fairly certain Charles could see right through him. 

Charles had always been able to see right through him. 

Raven chuckled, looking out the window at the landscape as it flew by. “Charles tries to date, but he’s a horrible flirt with women and things rarely work out in his favor.” 

“Just women?” Erik asked, and in the awkward, tense silence that followed, Erik figured that these things weren’t talked about, even among mutants. There was a greater chance than there wasn’t that this day would only repeat itself once more, though, and Erik had never been an overtly cautious or tactful person to begin with. 

“Because,” Erik continued, “I see no problem with it. I’ve slept with both.” 

Sean turned about as red as his hair, while Alex and Raven shared a glance that was a mix of discomfort and amusement. Hank made a strange sound from the pilot’s seat, but it was Charles that Erik was most interested in watching. Charles, who had an unreadable expression on his face as he studied Erik. Erik thought he may have caught a flash of want in those striking blue eyes, but he wasn’t sure he couldn’t just chalk it up to sudden wishful thinking. 

Erik grinned at him, at all of them, full of teeth. “See now? For five minutes, no one was thinking about fighting.” 

That earned him scattered laughter and an eye roll from Raven, but Charles didn’t stop looking at him all the way to Cuba. 

Erik decided to try something new after dropping Shaw’s body to the sand with no more than a flick of the wrist. Nothing with Moira and her gun had gone well. So, Erik reasoned with himself, what if he was able to make it so that Moira never had reason to fire at all? 

“Tell me I’m wrong, Charles,” Erik said, the words familiar on his tongue by now. He watched as Charles closed his eyes, raising his fingers to his temple as he reached out with his telepathy to verify Erik’s words, that the humans were about to fire their missiles at the very mutants who had just saved their lives.

“Ask them to stop,” Erik told him, watching Charles intently. Charles opened his eyes and looked at Erik in surprise. 

“Erik, I --” 

“They’ll kill us, Charles. You’ve just read it from their minds. Tell them not to, that they have nothing to fear from us. We saved them from annihilation. We aren’t the enemy.” 

Charles looked uncertain. 

“We’re the better men, Charles,” Erik said, using the words Charles hadn’t yet spoken against him. “This is the time to prove it. Prove to the world that mutants, Americans and Russians can work together to stop a war.” 

Charles nodded slowly. “All right… all right, I’ll try.” 

He closed his eyes again, face scrunching in concentration. After a few moments, he laughed happily in surprised delight. “My God, it’s working. Erik, it’s working!” 

Erik smiled and wondered what would happen if, in that moment, he decided to give Charles a kiss. 

But then Charles’ brow was furrowed, lips turning down into a frown. His eyes flew open in panic. “Oh no, no. No no no no no!” 

“Charles?” Raven asked as everyone looked at each other in concern. “What’s going on?” 

“The Russians and the Americans, they think that… because one didn’t fire, they’ve betrayed the other. They’re going to… oh God, oh God, no, I can’t stop them! I can’t hold them, I can’t reach them anymore!” 

Charles began running toward the open waters of the ocean, stumbling to the ground into the surf, crying out desperately, “NO!” He put his head into his hands and sobbed. 

Erik and the others watched in horror as the Americas and the Russians turned their missiles on each other and opened fire. 

“I made you tea,” Erik said, offering Charles a cup of the tepid Earl Gray he’d somehow managed to brew. The others had long since gone to bed after having spent the evening whispering feverishly to each other and looking at Charles with unmasked concern. Charles, who blamed himself for what had happened. Charles, who blamed himself for starting a war. 

“Thank you,” Charles said quietly, taking the cup from Erik but not drinking from it. He held it cupped in both of his hands, gaze focused on an unfixed point. Erik knew that his mind was miles away. This was a different kind of pain than the one that had torn through him at seeing Charles shot, seeing Charles hate him, seeing Charles die. That pain had ripped through him like a knife, cutting away at him, sharp and violent. This pain was a slow death, an agonizing ache. 

Erik knelt beside Charles’ armchair, kissing his cheek. “Charles,” he whispered against the other man’s skin. “Come back to me.” 

Charles didn’t respond, and Erik felt lost. 

5.  

Erik was beginning to lose track of the days. 

One morning, he decided not to get out of bed at all. He warped the hinges and the doorknob of his bedroom door down to a mess of metal, unable to budge, unable to open. 

“Erik,” Charles pounded on the door. “Erik, wake up! We’re wasting time!” 

“Erik,” Charles yelled, “what the hell is going on? Open the door! Let me in!” 

“Erik, I swear to God, I’ll break this door down.” 

Erik. Please, my friend. We need you. 

Eventually, they left without him. They didn’t come home. 

Erik sided with Shaw, just to see what would happen, just to see if mutant supremacy really would begin to fill the void that was starting to stretch apart his insides. 

The look of complete and utter betrayal on Charles’ face cut Erik down to his very core, soothed only by the slightly hysterical thought that it didn’t really matter, because they’d be right back on the beach again the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next… 

Erik watched in something like horrified awe as Shaw absorbed the energy from the blast as the missiles exploded on the sand. There were no memories after that. 

One morning, Erik decided to tie everyone up with metal bindings. He used mostly old piping he’d found in one of the sheds on the manor grounds, warping them into fastenings he could wrap securely around everyone at the manor. 

“Erik!” Charles cried, struggling against his bonds. “What the hell are you doing? We have work to do! This is no time to go around the bend!” 

Erik laughed, the sound tinged with hysteria. “Oh Charles, this is the perfect time to go around the bend.” 

“He’s crazy,” Alex said, and Erik could see him calculating his chances of blowing his friends up should he try and free them with plasma blasts. “I always knew you were crazy.” 

“Erik,” Raven said calmly, “you need to let us go. We have to stop Shaw. You of all people know how badly we need to stop him.” 

“Use your telepathy,” Sean hissed at Charles, as if Erik couldn’t clearly hear every word being spoken. 

Charles looked distressed as he said, “I… can’t. He’s blocking me, somehow.” Charles seemed more distressed by this than he ought to, given the situation, and Erik took a moment to believe that it was because Charles liked being in Erik’s head. Admittedly, Erik had no idea how he was keeping Charles out. He’d merely woken up and thought to himself that he didn’t want Charles in his head on that particular day, and so far, he hadn’t been. Erik didn’t make up the rules, he supposed, he just lived them again and again and again. 

When Hank showed up just as the sun was beginning its descent into the sky, wondering where the hell they’d been, Erik tied him up too. 

“So,” he said, rubbing his hands together with a smile as he looked at five incredibly angry mutants, “who’s up for a game of chess?” 

Erik watched the missiles flying toward the beach and chose not to raise his hand. 

Charles looked horrified but resigned, and it occurred to Erik that Charles might not even realize Erik had the power to stop the missiles until he actually did it. Erik didn’t bother looking at the others, because he realized that more than anything, the last thing he wanted to see was the face of Charles Xavier. 

Charles looked at him with desperate, sad eyes, and Erik smiled warmly at him before the world went dark. 

With one hand extended, holding the missiles at bay just before impact upon the beach, Erik kissed Charles. 

In that moment, everything else fell away. There was no one else but the two of them and the impossibly sweet press of their lips. Charles’ lips were softer than Erik ever imagined, and Erik now had to admit to himself that he’d imagined them quite a lot. Charles was stunned, briefly, before it was Erik’s turn to be surprised as Charles returned the kiss, pulling Erik’s body closer to his own. 

When they broke apart, Charles looked surprised, but he was smiling. He was smiling and something was trying to claw its way out of Erik’s chest, something foreign and unfamiliar, an emotion buried deep inside of him for as long as Erik could remember. 

It was happiness, Erik realized, at the same moment he realized he’d held the missiles for too long, that inaction always looked like indecision in Moira’s eyes, and that her gun was a ticking time bomb. 

He heard shots fired off and realized dimly, as he found himself suddenly staring up at the sky, that it was him she’d shot, not Charles. The missiles exploded in the distance.  

Erik had just a moment to think that the blue of the sky seemed so dim compared to Charles’ eyes before his vision darkened. 

Dying with the memory of Charles’ lips pressed softly to his own, Erik thought, wasn’t such a bad way to go. 

6. 

Erik had a habit of waking up with the sun. 

As he ran around the manor grounds, Erik realized with something close to a giddy, hysterical delight that he had all the time in the world to examine the kiss he and Charles had shared on the beach from all angles, analyzing the data until he reached a conclusion that would grant him the desired outcome. It’s what Charles would do, after all. 

“Good morning, Erik,” Charles greeted as Erik slid into the kitchen through the side door, offering him a cup of tea. When Erik paused, Charles chuckled and moved to get the can of coffee beans out from the cupboard under the sink. 

“You know, Charles,” Erik said with a smile, reaching for the proffered cup, “I’d love some tea.” 

“Everything you did made me stronger. Made me the weapon I am today. It’s the truth. I’ve known it all along. You are my creator. Now, Charles!” 

Charles froze Shaw, and Erik levitated the coin eye-level with Shaw’s frozen visage. 

He opened his mouth to speak, but instead of the usual lines rolling easily off of his tongue, he saw Charles in his mind, cheeks flushed and lips reddened from their kiss, the one they’d shared just outside, mere feet away from where Erik stood. 

“I used to think that I agreed with everything you’ve said,” he told Shaw, feeling weary down to his bones. In his darkest moments, killing Shaw a thousand times wouldn’t have been enough to satiate his rage, his bloodlust. Instead, Erik had lost track of how many times he’d exacted his vengeance upon Shaw. It no longer felt victorious, but a chore, a routine, part of the script Erik followed every time he lived this same day. Taking a deep breath, he forced himself to look into Shaw’s eyes, seeing nothing but frozen fear. “But now I’m not so sure I believe in anything you’ve ever had to say.” 

He sent the coin flying through Shaw’s forehead without another word. 

Erik stopped the missiles without casualties and Moira never reached for her gun. Azazel teleported all of them back to the manor grounds before leaving with Janos and Angel. Raven had seemed torn, and Azazel had slipped her his contact information before he’d gone. 

Erik didn’t have time to mull that over, elated as he was at this new turn of events. Surely this meant that the day would no longer repeat itself? Shaw was dead, he’d stopped the missiles from hitting the beach, no one had been shot and, more importantly, no one had died. Erik felt certain that the day could be chalked up to nothing but a victory. 

He found Charles in the study, sitting in front of their chess board. Erik smiled to himself as he realized he’d begun to think of it as theirs. Perhaps he and Charles were going to discuss their future as brothers in arms. Perhaps Erik would get the chance to kiss Charles again. 

Perhaps Erik would get the chance to do more than kiss him. The thought made Erik feel hot underneath his collar, skin tingling pleasantly at the sudden image that flashed through his mind of Charles writhing beneath him, looking up at him with passion-dark eyes. 

“Erik?” Charles asked, watching him with a peculiar expression.

 Erik cleared his throat and hoped fervently that he hadn’t been broadcasting his fantasies too loudly. He joined Charles at the chess table, smiling in a way he hoped didn’t expose his sudden nerves. 

Charles worried his lower lip as he looked at the chess pieces. “What happens now?” he asked, not looking up at Erik, keeping his focus on the board. 

“Well, you move your piece, and then I move mine, and then you move yours again, and eventually someone comes out the winner,” Erik replied in amusement. 

Charles shook his head. “No. I mean… you can’t want to sit idly by and do nothing but drink scotch and play chess for the rest of your life.” 

Erik chuckled. “Well, no. We were lucky today. We might not be in the future. The humans showed their hand, Charles. We need to retaliate, and quickly.” 

Charles sat back in his chair, regarding Erik with an unreadable expression. “Is that your answer for everything? Destruction?” 

“Charles,” Erik said, leaning forward, “humans will never understand us. They will never accept us.” 

“We haven’t even given them the chance to try!” 

“They had their chance today! They were going to destroy us without a second thought.” 

“They were scared, Erik,” Charles protested. “They acted without thinking.” 

“If their first thought is to kill all mutants, no questions asked, I don’t think a little time is going to change their minds.” 

“We cannot become terrorists and murderers and vigilantes. We have to appeal to their humanity, their goodness, their logic and understanding. Not all humans are like Shaw, Erik.” 

“And not all humans are like Moira, Charles.” 

They stared at each other with matching expressions of frustrated stubbornness. Erik reached for the bottle of scotch left out from the night before and downed what was left of it. 

Charles laughed sadly, looking at him with an expression that Erik didn’t want to see, hadn’t thought he would see, not after the day had gone so well. 

He grasped desperately for something, anything to say, and blurted out the first thing that came to his mind. “I want you by my side. We’re brothers, you and I. We want the same thing.” 

Erik knew, from the sudden sting of tears that filled Charles’ eyes, what he would say next. He wasn’t sure he would survive hearing it a second time. 

“Oh, my friend, I’m sorry, but we do not.” 

7. 

Erik had a habit of waking up with the sun. 

He scrubbed his hands over his face, wondering what it would take for this endless looping of time to swallow him whole. Erik felt like the weight of the entire world was on his shoulders as he dragged himself out of bed and outside for yet another morning run around the manor grounds. 

“Good morning, Erik,” Charles greeted as Erik slid through the side door into the kitchen. 

“I don’t want tea,” Erik said, cutting Charles off before he could speak again. “Or coffee. I would like to kiss you, though.” 

“I… what?” Charles asked, nearly dropping the cup of tea in his surprise. He laughed nervously, turning back to the tea kettle, fiddling with it as if to distract himself, or look like he had something to keep him busy. 

Erik chuckled softly and moved to stand directly behind Charles, chest brushing against his back. “I said,” Erik whispered, leaning in to breathe into Charles’ ear, “that I would very much like to kiss you.” 

Charles’ breath hitched and he tugged at the collar of his shirt. “Erik…” He turned, backed up against the counter by Erik’s close proximity. 

Their eyes caught for one impossibly long moment, suspended on the brink of something Erik very much wanted to see through to what he hoped would be the natural conclusion. 

He wasn’t sure which of them moved first, but they leaned in together, lips about to touch when Raven came careening into the kitchen, gripping the doorway to steady herself. Charles quickly turned away from Erik’s mouth, and Erik stepped back, holding in a frustrated growl. 

“Hank,” she said breathlessly, “is… am I interrupting something here?” 

Erik laughed, because he wasn’t sure what else he could do. 

*

Erik made his way through the submarine, Charles’ voice strong and clear in his head. He waited for Shaw to reveal himself, as always. He waited for Shaw to bait and taunt him, as always. He waited for the opportune moment to snatch the helmet from Shaw’s head, as always. 

When he had it, however, the words “killing Shaw will not bring you peace” kept repeating inside of Erik’s mind like a mantra, and he realized that even when Charles held Shaw prisoner to his own mind, he didn’t want Erik to kill him. 

Erik used his powers to wrap the loose wiring around Shaw, binding him tightly in place. 

“You may have created me,” Erik told him, “but you’ve never controlled me.”

*

“Where is Shaw?” Charles asked, emerging from the wreckage of the Blackbird just as Erik stepped out of the submarine and back onto the beach. 

“He’s secure,” Erik said, scanning the beach. Everyone was accounted for except… 

“Where is Azazel?” Erik asked, eyes squinting as he did another take. 

“Behind you,” said Shaw, and Erik turned just in time to see Azazel lunge for him. They both hit the ground with enough force to knock the wind from Erik. In a flash, Azazel had teleported back to Shaw’s side. 

Shaw, who had Charles. 

Shaw chuckled as Erik stood slowly. He had Charles pulled up against his body, arm wrapped securely around Charles’ throat. Charles clawed at Shaw’s arm, but his hold was firm, and with his helmet firmly in place, Charles was powerless against him. 

“You see, Erik,” Shaw said with a cold smile, “I do control you. Because right now, you’ve got a choice. You can save your telepath, or you can save your friends. Either way, I survive.” 

Erik looked behind him in growing horror at Raven, Hank, Alex and Sean, who were watching the exchange with varying degrees of fear and anger. Even Angel, standing near the water with Janos, looked unsure. 

“Erik,” Charles gasped, still struggling to free himself from Shaw’s hold, “please, save them, get them to safety, you have to --” 

Shaw pressed his forearm upward into Charles’ windpipe, cutting him off. 

Erik, Charles spoke into his mind, and he sounded so resigned, as if he had already accepted his fate. Erik felt the world tilt a little, like he was no longer on steady ground, and never would be again. Save them. Please. 

I can’t let you die, Erik thought desperately. 

You can, and you will. Please, Erik. Do this for me.  

Shaw was laughing, waiting. All eyes were on Erik, and he could no longer bring himself to return Charles’ gaze, his eyes filled with acceptance and a faith in Erik that Erik knew he would never, ever be worthy of. As his vision swam, Erik looked away, closing his eyes against the tears that threatened to spill. 

For what it’s worth? I would have liked you to kiss me, too.  

With the sound of a snap and a thud, Charles was gone from his mind, and a guttural sound tore its way from Erik’s chest. Raven began to scream, and Erik forced himself to look at Charles’ crumpled body at Shaw’s feet, neck twisted at an odd angle, eyes fixed and unseeing. 

Shaw’s submarine gave a great lurch and Shaw laughed, smiling cruelly at Erik. “I control every single thing you do. Never forget that. Azazel?” 

Erik realized too late that Shaw had never intended to give him a choice, watching Azazel, as if in slow motion, pierce his tail through Sean’s chest, through Hank’s gut, across Alex’s neck and into Raven’s heart, disappearing and reappearing fast as a lightning strike and just as deadly. 

They dropped to the sand like flies and Erik sank to his knees, retching. He didn’t know where Moira was, if she was still hiding in the Blackbird trying to radio for help. No missiles had been fired. Maybe she’d been successful. Erik hoped like hell that she’d run instead. 

Shaw stood in front of him, grabbing Erik by the arm and yanking him to his feet. Erik’s cold fury only seemed to amuse him. 

“Join me, Erik. You know it’s always been inevitable.” 

“I would rather die,” Erik spat. 

Shaw chuckled, eyes moving to a point just beyond Erik’s shoulder as he nodded. Erik registered the smell of sulfur, a moment of pain, and then nothing at all. 

8. 

Erik had a habit of waking up with the sun. 

He threw on the first set of clothing his hands came in contact with and raced down to the kitchen, heart thudding painfully in his chest at the sight of Charles rummaging through the cabinets in search of his tea. 

He looked over in surprise at Erik, but the surprise was quickly replaced by a smile. “Good morning, Erik. Shouldn’t you be out for your morning run by now?” 

“I had something better to do,” Erik told him, reaching Charles in a few short strides. Charles gave him a searching look and Erik smiled, leaning in to capture Charles’ lips in a kiss that was just as perfect as the others had been, perhaps even more so. 

Charles made a noise of surprise against his lips before relaxing against Erik, moving closer to him. Erik wrapped his arms around Charles and spun them, lifting Charles up and onto the kitchen table, pressing against him as Charles pulled their bodies closer together. 

Charles broke the kiss, breathing heavily, “Erik --” 

“Shh,” Erik cut him off, stealing another kiss, stepping between Charles’ splayed legs, bracing himself with one hand on the table surface. “We don’t have much time. Raven will be here soon.” 

Before Charles could ask, Erik slid his tongue past Charles’ red, kiss swollen lips, and Charles moaned into his mouth. 

Erik had the thought that this was the moment he wished he could relive time and time again, safe in Charles’ kitchen, holding him close, kissing him in what had been a succession of the best kisses of Erik’s life. 

He pulled away, touching his forehead to Charles’, the two of them trying to regain their breath. 

“I thought…” Charles started, and Erik glanced up to meet his eyes.

“You thought?” he asked. 

Charles laughed softly. “I thought myself alone in these feelings.” 

Charles’ eyes were so impossibly beautiful, so stunningly open and honest, that it almost hurt for Erik to look at them. He also didn’t think he’d ever be able to look away. 

“Oh Charles,” Erik murmured. “You’re not alone.” 

“Where’s Hank?” Raven asked. 

“I’m here,” Hank replied, moving toward them. As he came into full view, Erik still took a moment to appreciate just how well the mutation from his experiment fit him, made him seem stronger somehow, more capable and sure. 

“I think I’ve got a new name for you,” Alex told him with a grin. “Beast.” 

Erik clapped him on the shoulder and grinned. “Mutation took us from single-celled organisms to being the dominant form of reproductive life on this planet. You’ve evolved, Hank. Been made better, not worse. Never worse.” 

Hank smiled, thin and tense, but a smile nonetheless. It was more than Erik had ever gotten from this moment before. 

Charles gave him a sidelong glance. “Did you just quote my thesis?” 

“Three.” 

Erik relished the press of the coin against Shaw’s flesh, the slow slide through his skull, watching as he fell, lifeless, to the ground. Erik hadn’t been able to fully shake the images of Charles, dead at Shaw’s feet, or Azazel as he gutted and slaughtered the others. Erik could still hear the snap of Charles’ neck and the dull thud of his body hitting the sand. This particular victory against Shaw felt like justice, vindication, vengeance for Charles, for his mother, for his friends, for all of the times he had lived this day and failed to break what felt like a never-ending, unyielding curse. 

He levitated Shaw’s body out of the submarine, dropping it to the ground without a second thought. He didn’t bother with a fancy speech, instead striding purposefully down to the shore, sea water lapping at his boots as he waited. 

“Erik, what’s happening?” Charles asked, joining him in the surf. 

“Trust me, Charles,” Erik said, sensing the missiles being prepared for launch. 

“I do trust you,” Charles replied, sounding surprised that Erik might think otherwise. Erik recalled the first time he had lived this day, as he’d put on Shaw’s helmet for the very first time. It’s not that I don’t trust you, Charles

He wondered with an uncomfortable twist in his stomach which of them actually meant it. 

Charles cried out in alarm when he spotted the missiles, but Erik merely smiled, reaching out to stop them in midair, far enough away from both the ships and the beach to do nothing more than explode and fall into the waiting water below. 

Charles laughed in giddy relief, clasping Erik on the shoulder. “That was incredible, my friend.” 

Erik regarded him warmly, allowing himself to savor the moment that passed between them, tucking it away somewhere safe inside himself before turning to face the other mutants. 

“Shaw is dead and the humans have played their hand. You have a choice. You’re with us or you’re not. Either way, we won’t stop you.” 

Azazel, Janos and Angel clustered together a few feet away. Hank, Alex and Sean had moved to join him and Charles near the water, the rising tide at their feet. 

Raven hadn’t moved. 

A pained expression crossed Charles’ face before he took a deep breath, steeling himself. 

“You should go with them, Raven. It’s what you want.” 

“You promised me you would never read my mind,” she told him, hurt and confusion and indecision warring together across her face. 

“He doesn’t need to read your mind to see that you want this,” Hank cut in before Charles could reply. “Just go, Raven.” Erik could detect the hurt in his tone, but there was a newfound hardness there, too, something Erik recognized innately. 

Raven’s yellow eyes flashed, but soon resolve had settled over her features as though she’d shifted into it as naturally as she did into anything else. She walked over to join Shaw’s remaining group of mutants, taking Azazel by the hand. 

In a burst of smoke, they were gone. 

“I’m worried about Hank,” Charles said, breaking what had been a lengthy silence as Charles had stared intently at the chess board, contemplating his next move. “It isn’t like him to be so… cold.” 

Erik shrugged. “He’s angry and hurt that she wanted to leave, she’s angry and hurt that he couldn’t look past their mutations. They’ll get over it.” 

“Do you think we’ll ever see her again?” Charles asked, worrying his knight between his fingers. 

“I don’t know,” Erik answered honestly. 

When Charles looked up at him, the fire that had been smoldering between them since their kisses that morning in the kitchen blazed to life, scorching Erik’s skin underneath the clothes that he very suddenly did not want to be wearing. 

Making it from the study to Charles’ bedroom was a blur of hands and kisses, and before he knew it, they were naked in Charles’ bed, grinding against each other and devouring each other’s mouths as if they could swallow one another whole. 

Charles was gorgeous like this, wild and passionate, writhing against Erik as his eyes darkened with desire, whispering hot and dirty into Erik’s ear. 

They clutched and clung to each other as if nothing else would keep them tethered to the ground, the Earth, the bed, the moment they were losing themselves to. Charles spread his legs and Erik was nearly undone. 

The fire engulfed them both as Erik thrust into Charles’ body, slick, hot heat and a desire so heady Erik wasn’t sure he would ever come down. Charles moaned into his mouth and dug his nails into Erik’s back, leaving marks that would be there come morning, and Erik thought through the haze of lust that there had to be a tomorrow, that everything had finally gone right, that if anything could break him free it would be Charles, beneath him, surrounding him, everywhere. 

Charles was everywhere, and Erik came with a cry, stroking Charles to completion as he continued to ride the high of his own orgasm. 

He collapsed on top of Charles, breathless and sated. Charles carded his fingers through Erik’s hair, murmuring words against Erik’s temple that sounded like darling and yes and always

9.  

Erik had a habit of waking up with the sun. 

A sense of helpless despair threatened to overwhelm Erik as he realized he had woken up alone in his room at the manor. He had been so sure he’d done enough, finally lived the day as he was meant to. He couldn’t think of an alternative solution other than that, of fixing his mistakes over and over until he got it right. Hadn’t he gotten it right, finally? He remembered Charles beneath him, what it had felt like to move inside of him, the way Charles had looked when he came, and after, when he’d seemed so… content in Erik’s arms. A great sadness overtook Erik as he realized that maybe this was nothing more than an eternal torment he’d never be able to escape. 

The cool morning air did little to ease Erik’s melancholy as he ran the familiar path around the manor grounds, and it was with some trepidation that he slipped into the kitchen through the side door. 

“Good morning, Erik,” Charles greeted, offering him a cup of tea. In that moment, a parade of endless possibilities flashed through Erik’s mind, ways in which he could change things, the ways in which he already had. He thought back to that first morning, the first time he’d lived this particular day. 

Erik declined the tea, heading straight for his coffee beans. 

“So uncivilized,” Charles chuckled as Erik knelt down to the cupboard in front of the sink. 

“I’m pretty sure you have to have a degree from Oxford to be allowed to drink tea. Alas,” Erik told him, glad that Charles couldn’t see the smile on his face. 

“Do you think they’re ready?” Charles asked him, just as Erik knew he would. “Do you think we’re ready?” 

“Yes,” Erik replied, voice steady and sure. When Charles smiled at him, grateful and relieved, Erik realized he would continue to live this day if it meant seeing that smile each morning. 

Raven came careening into the kitchen, gripping the doorway to steady herself. Erik took the moment before she spoke to wonder, for the first time, why she’d gone to Hank’s room to begin with. 

“Hank,” she said breathlessly, “is gone.” 

“Erik, I can guide you through once you’re in, but I need you to shut down whatever it is that’s blocking me, then we just hope to God it’s not too late for me to stop him.” 

“Got it!” 

“Good luck!” 

Erik paused, turning back to Charles. He reached for Charles’ hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze. Surprised as he was, Charles returned the gesture. 

When Erik reached Shaw, he allowed the confrontation to play out just as it had the first time he’d lived it. 

“You are my creator,” Erik told Shaw, and it was true. The words hadn’t lost their meaning just because Erik had now said them more times than he could count. Shaw had molded and shaped every decision Erik had ever made since the day his mother had been killed. He also realized, with a startling clarity, that just because Shaw had written the beginning of Erik’s story didn’t mean he had to write the ending, too. 

He held Shaw’s helmet in his hands, looking down at it. The only thing Shaw’s helmet would do for him was keep Charles out, and Erik knew with a certainty that he had rarely felt in his entire life that Charles was the very last person Erik wanted to keep out of his head and his life and his heart. 

Charles, Erik asked calmly, what do you want me to do? 

Erik felt Charles’ spike of surprise and he smiled. I trust you, Charles

Charles was quiet for a moment, and Erik waited, fixing Shaw with a cool, even gaze. 

Erik… I’ve seen into his mind. He’s never going to stop trying to destroy the world. I’m not sure that he can be stopped. I can’t hold him for much longer. I… do as you’ve always intended, my friend. End it all right now. 

It was Erik’s turn to be surprised. Charles hadn’t wanted him to kill Shaw, hadn’t believed it would bring Erik peace. Erik had killed Shaw more times than he could count, and the only thing he’d really taken away from it was that Charles had been right. 

Do it, Erik. I don’t see another way.  

Erik took a breath. Get out of his head, Charles. 

No. I won’t leave you to face him alone.  

You’ll feel it, Erik told him, heart thudding painfully at the thought. 

Charles didn’t hesitate. Maybe so. It doesn’t matter. You’ve got to act now, Erik. Please. I’m about to lose him. 

Erik faced Shaw, levitating the coin between his eyes. “This is what we’re going to do. I’m going to count to three, and I’m going to move the coin. One.” 

He thought about his parents. His father, so stalwart and strong, and his mother, the one good thing in his life that he had ever known. 

“Two.” 

The one good thing in his life that he had ever known… until Charles. 

“Three.” 

Shaw’s body fell to the ground with a dull thud, but Erik was already moving, running back to the wreckage of the Blackbird. 

To Charles. 

Charles was leaning heavily against the doorframe when Erik emerged, and Erik couldn’t reach him fast enough. He cupped Charles’ face in his hands as he looked him over in poorly concealed concern. 

“Are you all right, Liebling? I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” He peppered Charles’ face with kisses, everyone and everything else all but forgotten as he pulled Charles into his arms, holding him close. 

“It’s all right, darling,” Charles said, voice slightly unsteady as he returned Erik’s embrace. “It’s all right. It’s over now. We’ve won.” 

“No,” Erik said, pulling back from Charles. “No, it’s not over yet.” He turned and ran down the beach, eyes scanning the horizon for the missiles that he knew would be launched toward them any moment. 

“Erik!” Charles called, stumbling from the wreckage after him. He came to a stop at Erik’s side, gasping in horror as the missiles flew straight toward them. Erik reached out to detonate the missiles before they neared the beach, unable to stop the smile that spread across his face, because it felt right, it felt effortless, it felt easy, as if he’d known all along that he had the power to do something greater than himself, only he was just now realizing it. 

He looked at Charles, who was ethereal in the glow of the afternoon sunlight. He turned back to look at the other mutants scattered along the beach, looking at each other in distrustful uncertainty. 

“One of us should make a stirring speech,” Charles said with a breathless laugh. “It feels like the sort of moment for a stirring speech.” 

“I’ve never been one for grandiose declarations,” Erik said, pushing down a sudden burst of giddy, wry amusement. “I think you’ve got this.” 

“Do you think we’ll ever see her again?” Charles asked, frowning down at the chess board. 

“Raven?” Erik asked, sipping his scotch. “Of course we will. She said as much herself.” 

“I know,” Charles said, biting his lower lip as he pondered his next move. Erik hid his smile against the rim of his glass. By now, Erik knew just about every single one of Charles’ moves in this particular game before he made them. 

Liebling, don’t let it worry you too much, all right? You’ll see her again.” 

Charles smiled ruefully at him, making his move on the board before tilting his head, brow scrunched in thought. “Liebling. You used that word earlier, on the beach. What does it mean?” 

Erik grinned as he moved to checkmate Charles’ king. “You’re the Professor, aren’t you? I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” 

10. 

Erik found that sometimes, old habits were easy to break.

His smile felt impossibly wide as he stretched, careful not to wake Charles, whose naked body was pressed against his side. Judging from the sun streaming in through the windows of Charles’ bedroom, they’d slept to mid-morning. 

He turned his head, nose buried in Charles’ hair, inhaling deeply. He closed his eyes against the sudden sting of tears. His relief alone was enough to unman him, but Erik felt so many other things, too. He felt happy and content for the first time in as long as he could remember, settled and secure instead of always looking over his shoulder. Warm in Charles’ bed, nestled against him beneath the sheets, Erik, for the first time in his life, felt truly free. 

He turned to study Charles as he slept. He looked peaceful, visage free of the worry lines that had marred it the night before as he’d worried over Raven, over the others who had stayed with them, over the future and whether or not he’d really be able to create a safe haven for other mutants. 

Erik had quieted his worries with kisses that had led to the bedroom, and sex that had felt just as passionate and sensual as it had the first time, yet somehow still something new and exciting and wonderful. Erik didn’t think that he would ever tire of knowing Charles so intimately. 

As they’d shared sleepy, sated kisses afterward, Charles falling asleep against his shoulder, Erik had realized that positively, absolutely, irrevocably and without question that he had fallen in love with Charles. Charles, who was Erik’s equal and perfect match in every way. Charles, who was brilliant and beautiful and kind and courageous and hopeful, the perfect light to Erik’s dark. 

He knew Charles wasn’t there yet, but Erik found that he didn’t really much mind. Charles hadn’t had the advantage of an endless loop of a single day, lived over and over again, but still each day a new opportunity to find something else, something different to love about Charles. He knew that eventually, Charles would catch up. And maybe, one day, Erik would share with Charles the days he had lived through, every dark moment and every cherished one, the pieces that, when put together, made up the sum of the man Erik had become. 

“Good morning, darling,” Charles murmured into the pillow, favoring Erik with a sleepy smile.

“Good morning,” Erik said fondly, unable to help the smile that spread across his face as he took in Charles’ rosy cheeks and sleep tousled hair.

Charles snuggled closer to Erik, pulling the blankets more tightly around them, cocooning them in. “What do you want to do today?” he asked with a yawn.

Erik shrugged, kissing Charles hello. “Anything we want to sounds good to me. We could do nothing at all and that would suit me just fine.”

After all, there was always tomorrow.