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Human Compassion

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You were going to die!' The words rang through Erik's head as he stood in a secluded hallway of some American warship, enable to sleep as thoughts ran around his head. He clutched that blanket around him closer, as much from the cold as from as from the strange words. Naturally, he was 'happy' to be alive; he could go on and find Shaw once more, possibly drag him out to a battlefield of Erik's making. The thought brought a smirk to his face.

But that still didn't explain the Brit jumping in the 10 degree water in an attempt to save his life. He was rather mystified by the whole idea. After they were pulled up, it had been one big blur of people; soldiers scattering around to help the pair of them, some blond girl fawning over the Brit, the captain looking mildly sick. He followed the hallway for a while until he found a door with light spilling out from underneath it.

Erik closed his eyes and felt about the room with his power. He found nothing particularly special in the room; there was one person, undecorated and wearing male civilian clothes. He could only think of one person who could fit that description. He knocked briskly. Of course, it could have been someone else; an officer casting aside his uniform for the day. Just as Erik considered leaving, he heard a "Come in," spoken in a soft, distracted British accent. With a wave of relief he probably shouldn't have felt, he pushed the door open.

The room in front of him was small, made all the more so by the hoard of books covering most of the floor. It was lit with a soft, warm glow from a single table lamp on a side table next to a couch, which seemed amazingly out of place on a vessel such as this. The man whom had saved his life lay curled up on one end of the sofa under a number of blankets, a towel loosely draped over his head as if he had meant to dry his hair, but got absorbed in something else, namely the book he currently had open. A finger traced the words, his mouth slightly open as he shifted, reaching for a bookmark next to the lamp. He slowly placed the paper in the book, finger still tracing, eyes still intent on the subject. He slowly closed the book, still attempting to read it, hovering open the last inch before finally closing it, resting a fine-boned hand on top of the leather cover. He looked up, blinking a few times as his clear, blue eyes fixed themselves on his guest. "Oh! Erik…I didn't realize it was you…come! P-please sit down!" He shifted into a more upright position, placing the book on the table and gesturing to the space next to him.

Erik almost told him that he was fine where he was, but there was something in those clear, too-wide eyes that made him cross the short distance to the couch, easing himself down on it.
Those blue eyes fixed themselves on Erik's shoulders. "Oh! You must be cold! Here!" Erik almost though the Brit was going to give him on of the ones off of his own back until he reached down, pulling a box of blankets from underneath the couch. "The soldiers were kind enough to find me a few extra." He explained, handing Erik a couple, though he looked for a moment like he was going to throw them around his shoulders himself. Erik took them, nodding his thanks, pulling them around him. He sat for a moment in silence, unsure of what to say even after the distraction with the blankets. Finally, he settled on the question that he had been dwelling on. "Why did you save me?"

The blue eyes blinked a few times, obviously surprised at the sudden, fervent question. "Well…because you could have died." He said simply, as if that explained everything.

"You could have died too." Erik pointed out, a slight edge to his words. "The water was cold enough. Had we not been rescued, we both would have died from hypothermia."

"Well…" He replied, pausing slightly, apparently trying to dig up more explanations to what seemed to him an all-encompassing answer. "I don't think I could have lived with myself; knowing you could have died when I could have saved you."

Erik furrowed his eyebrows, not quite grasping his point, even through the insistent look in those blue eyes. "I don't know you. You don't know me. My life should hold no importance to you."

His brows furrowed as well, hurt making those blue eyes a shade darker. "There's…so much anger within you…so much hurt…I don't like seeing anyone like this. I don't like…seeing you so completely mystified by human compassion."

Erik stood up. He didn't need this, not from some stranger, not from a pair of bright blue eyes who thought that just because he could do a bit of hocus pocus he could see the end-all be-all solution for the entire universe.

"Erik-!" Erik looked back, one hand clenched on the door handle, the other on the doorframe. The Brit had stood up from the couch, blankets in a heap where he had been curled up. The towel was falling from around his head, leaving loose bits of dark hair falling in a disheveled flurry around his face. Those blue eyes pleaded him to stay, meeting his own dark eyes, completely ignorant of the effect they had on him. They stopped him in his tracks. "Come back," He said quietly, infinitely more effective than any yelling would have amounted to.

Erik gripped the doorframe tightly for a second, knuckles turning white, before turning back and closing the door behind him. "Well?"

A faint, relieved smile tugged at the Brit's lips. "I think we need a drink."

They both reclined on the couch a moment later, blankets re-adjusted and a bottle and a couple of glasses retrieved from a drawer in the table.

"So…" Erik began, watching the amber liquid as he swirled his glass. "You've never told me your name…"

The Brit coughed, drink pressed to his lips, and put it down on the table, whipping at his mouth in a movement that was far from roguish, a bit of a blush gracing his cheeks. "Ch-Charles. Um…Charles Xavier…" He chanced a look at Erik. "I…uh…tend to forget not everyone can know what I know. It seems silly, but…"

"It's hard to believe you're the only one with gifts." Erik finished.

"Yes…" Charles mused, smiling softly at Erik. "I suppose that's it…"

They finished their drinks, engaging in happy conversation. It was…a very odd feeling for Erik; it almost felt like a sin. He could see Charles' eyes blink slowly shut, face flushed and a happy, drunk smile spread across his face. Erik got up, feeling he should probably let Charles sleep. "I better head to bed. Where's your-" but he could see that Charles was already stretching out on the couch.

"Mmm?"

Erik shook his head, unable to keep a faint smile off of his face. "Nothing."

"Erik?" He was shutting the door behind him when he heard Charles call his name. He paused, waiting as Charles watched him from under sleepy, mostly closed eyes. "We should to a pub. When we finally get settled. Have a few drinks."

"Sure…" Erik replied, more than a bit surprised at how quickly that offer was made, even though
he told himself that two men going out to a bar wasn't anything new. But…still…why was his heart beating so fast?

"'M sure there'll be plenty of hot girls no matter where we go…"

Something twisted violently in Erik's stomach. He made to close the door again before he heard Charles say his name again.

"Erik…? Sleep well…"

He paused, feeling a spreading warmth that eased the knot in his belly and closed the door quietly. It was the drink, he assured himself as he walked back to his room. That was why his face felt so hot. But he wasn't quite sure why his thoughts kept on drifting back to Charles.

Chapter Text

It didn't take them as long as Erik thought for them to 'get settled.' He had imagined that it would have at least taken long enough for the blond, Raven as he quickly learned, to drape herself over Charles and make him forget their 'outing.' Charles was decent looking enough, he guessed, if he had to think about it, and Raven had a very attractive face as things like that went and if he was after 'hot girls' (the thought of Charles saying that made Erik's stomach twist again) it seemed reasonable enough to think he might get comfortable with her, childhood friend or no. The thought made him angry, reminding him of when she threw herself on Charles when they were pulled up on the boat. Though…he didn't miss the looks she was giving Hank and the way the poor sap looked nervous at the potential of 'scoring big.' They were both so pathetic, like children, ignorant of the cruelties of the world around them. He a look in Raven's eyes saw from time to time that suggested that she knew more of it than her pretty face let on, but, if anything, it only made her slightly less ignorant. His hands balled into fists. She didn't really know.

Erik opened his hands again, aware that the little space given to him as his 'living quarters' had started reverberating with his anger. He closed his eyes and began breathing deeply, focusing on the mattress against his back, the pillow under his head. Anger had saved his life many times, but…he had a brief flash of the water churning wildly around him, of Shaw's submarine in his grasp, of Charles' arms around him, begging him to let Shaw go. Erik shook his head. Perhaps there was a time and a place for it, but he needed the anger like some people needed God. It was his way of life and if had carried him well. 'You have to let go, Erik!' He let out a low growl and pushed the thought aside, sitting up and letting his chin fall to his chest. His way of living had worked out this long, he calmly tried to tell himself; it wasn't going to fail him now. But even as he was sitting there, he had a feeling that all of those thoughts, Raven, her and Hank, and even the anger, were all one big distraction.

He roughly grabbed his jacket and yanked the door open, slamming it closed behind him. No no no NO! He could feel the anger rising within him again, almost laughing at his protests, and he stood still, hands clenched, teeth bared in a snarl, trying to calm down. He had never had this problem before he was pulled up out of the water what should have seemed a short time ago. He had always been so sure, so confident, so deadly efficient in executing his goals. He closed his eyes. That inner turmoil still didn't change the fact that Shaw had to die. And, obviously, he had begun to forget, what with the idiocies of his newfound 'companions.' He let out another growl; at this rate, Shaw would soon be another nightmare, one he could have stopped in the waking world. 'I don't know if I could have lived with myself…' Erik closed his eyes. He couldn't stay here. He lingered bitterly on the warm memory of him and Charles laughing together. That…that wasn't a life meant for him; curled up in comfort with a fine companion and fine conversation. Schmitt had seen to that.

With a flick of his wrist, he lifted the compact suitcase he hadn't bothered to unpack and re-opened the door with a flick of his other wrist, watching the case coldly as it drifted through the air to his outstretched hand.

He walked briskly, attempting to give off the air of being busy enough to make people think twice about stopping him, but not enough to draw suspicion. It didn't matter much; it was late enough and so he saw no one until he reached the main entrance, where a small number of young employees were carrying boxes, looking amused enough at the job, if slightly confused. Erik watched them curiously for a moment before his attention was turned to the closing door where he heard happily chatting voices. Charles' voice. He felt a tug at his hear; he probably wouldn't ever hear that soft, insistent, way-too-smart-for-it's-own-good voice again. He let go of the case, willing it to lie against the wall next to the doors; he could leave after Charles went off. He didn't think he could leave if Charles tried to stop him.

He pushed the front doors open (even though a part of him pointed out he could just have gone back to his room) and shoved his hands in his pockets. There was a small moving truck open, a few boxes still lying about inside. Charles was talking merrily to the driver, who looked a bit startled at Charles' cheerfulness, but overall enjoying himself.

Charles turned slightly, hearing the door open. His eyes sparkled; a wide grin spread across his his face. Erik would have paused to smile at how ridiculous it made Charles look, especially considering they had seen each other only a few hours prior. He would have, but his breath caught in his throat.

"Erik!" Charles exclaimed. If the delight wasn't already clearly showing on his face, Erik would have stepped back from the sheer vibrancy of it. "I thought you already shut yourself in your room for the night!" He looked brightly up at him.

It was a struggle to keep his face strait. "I-" He coughed slightly. "-wanted some fresh air." Charles blinked at him for a second that Erik easily could have imagined, and nodded once. They stood there like that for just slightly too long before Erik cleared his throat and nodded to the van. "What's in the boxes?"

Charles turned to consider them. "Oh, just some books I had brought over from my place. I thought of a few ideas and I wanted to cross reference them, in addition to a few other works pertaining to the various topics and…a bit of light reading." He admitted, semi-guilty at the last statement.

Erik picked up a box, trying to look amused at Charles' never-sated obsession with books. "Shall we take these up?" He asked from over the top of his box. The sooner they could get those boxes put away, the sooner Erik could leave, the sooner he could stop watching that goddamn smile like he could lose it forever.

Charles nodded. "Oh! Yes!" and scrambled to pick up another box. Erik turned back to the door, holding it open with a thought and a small twitch of his hand, letting Charles in first. "And thanks again!" Charles called back through closing door. He turned back to Erik, grinning. "Can you…just imagine…some people spend their entire lives…just driving and hauling around…heavy things?" Charles paused slightly now and then, adjusting his hold on the box to stop it from slipping through his fingers.

Erik sighed at his pathetic attempt to carry the thing, albeit amusing, especially as his face was starting to turn red from the strain. Erik stopped, causing Charles to turn to face him in surprise. "Give me the box." He lowered his own for Charles to place his on top.

Charles, for his part, clutched the box closer, defiance shinning in his eyes. "No! I have it, Erik!"

Erik shook his head, chuckling faintly, causing Charles to look even more set in his ways, adding more depth to those already fascinating eyes. "Come on. You're struggling. How long do you really think you can carry that box before you drop it on your toes, incapacitating you?" The words came out more gentle than he had meant them to.

Charles didn't look at him for a moment, clearly annoyed at his weak body, used to a comfortable, academic life. He placed his box where Erik indicated, unable to deny his logic.

The combined weight of both boxes was slightly over what he could comfortably carry, but he hid his own look of strain behind both boxes, where, thankfully, Charles couldn't see. He peaked around the edge of the boxes when he was done shifting his grip to support the added weight.

Charles was staring, looking at him with two fingers pressed to his temple. He looked worried, which bothered Erik, especially after seeing that warm smile such a moment before. He slowly brought his hand down to rest at his side. "I told you I had it…" The words didn't quite seem to match his expression. He turned quickly, starting to walk down a hallway. "This way." Erik fell into step behind him and they walked in silence for a while. "So!" Charles began sometime later, too loud and too abruptly. "I was…thinking that we could…go for that drink tomorrow evening…" Charles brushed some hair back behind his ear. "If that's….alright with you…I-I mean-" He shrugged in what Erik could only call nervousness. "-I would have done it tonight, but-" He gestured vaguely. "-you know, I had all this coming." He finished awkwardly.

Erik blushed, slightly, in surprise. He had vaguely led himself to believe that Charles had forgotten. "Y-yeah. Tomorrow. Sounds…nice…"

He could see Charles visible relax. "Alright…" He breathed out, turning to look at Erik, a relieved smile on his face. They reached the door shortly, where the young men were just leaving. Charles thanked them all by name, though Erik was sure one of them was giving him the evil eye. Erik shot back a shark grin and watched with satisfaction as he scurried out the door after the others. He felt oddly smug at the whole exchange, even though he wasn't exactly sure what he had done this time to deserve that look.

Erik placed his boxes next to the other ones, looking up at Charles, who was leaning on a box, trying to stifle a yawn. He saw Erik looking and smiled, that same smile, the one that Erik didn't like seeing his face without. "I guess I better head to bed." Erik nodded in agreement and they left the room. Charles paused outside the door, as they were about to part ways for the night. "Goodnight, Erik."

Erik paused, looking quickly back before walking slightly faster than before. He could feel his friend's worried eyes on his retreating back.

Erik made one more stop before returning to his room. He looked down at his suitcase, still lying placidly where he had left it. He could wait one more night. He bent down and picked it up, returning to his room without another thought on the matter.

Chapter Text

The next day was rather calm one. Charles and Hank spent quite a bit of time discussing some of Hank's latest work, Charles adding ideas in their application as well as modifications and new projects. Raven looked bored at the line of conversation, but he noticed how her eyes lingered on Hank, just as Hank's did from time to time. Charles had no need to use his gift to see the ideas forming in their heads. It was funny how Raven had so recently considered approaching Erik in that manner. Young love was so fickle.

Moira watched them, appearing to be listening avidly, but Charles could feel no higher level of understanding from the woman, as he would normally feel when standing so close to a person.

And Erik…he leaned against the wall, pointedly detaching himself from their group, but Charles could feel sharp energy of his attention. Erik's self-imposed seclusion worried him more than he would have been willing to admit. If he hadn't seen into Erik's mind last night, seen what would have happened if Charles had not been waiting outside…He promised himself he wouldn't think about that now, especially not with everyone there. He forced himself to pay attention to what Hank was saying, relying on years of mental discipline to stay in his own head, to stay on those words.

He managed to hang on until lunch, trying to force cheerful conversation on their small band to very little success; Raven and Hank fell into their own, pointless conversation, the only purpose it seemed to have was to stare into one another's eyes. Erik ignored it. Charles found it mildly awkward, being so close to the pair of them and feeling their attraction nearly pulling them together. He cast a glance toward Erik, feeling a slight twist in his stomach when Charles considered what he had narrowly avoided last night. He looked away, quickly, realizing his gaze was lingering just a bit too long on Erik; it must have been him feeling Raven's soft thrum of attraction to Erik, magnified by her current mood.

He turned toward Moira, wanting to clear that away lingering feeling before talking to Erik, and he could see that she thought Hank and Raven were cute. She began chatting happily to him. Charles welcomed the distraction. The more they talked, however, the more it seemed like she wasn't going to stop. He tried to cut short their conversation a few times, only to be talked over and was about to FORCE the woman to shut up out of sheer annoyance, when Erik stood up, tall and brooding. Charles took that brief moment in which Moira turned to watch Erik leave to put two fingers up to his temple and command their attention, mainly for Raven's and Hank's sake. "Just one thing before we head out," He told them, lips not moving. "I know yesterday was long and, seeing as we'll probably be staying here for a while, I think we should take a little time to personalize our rooms a bit." He let the connection break. Erik left, no further emotion or word to be shared. Moira finished up her last bite, commending him on his idea and, thankfully, running off. He caught Raven as she was about to leave with Hank. He would have felt guilty, but it was her fault for making him stare at Erik like that earlier. "Hey, Raven, can I ask for a favor?"

She turned to him, blinking like she was remembering that there were other people in the world other than her and Hank. "Oh? Of course."

"I have some nameplates in my room," He told her, handing her a key from his pocket. "Could you put them on everyone's door? I thought it might give everyone a bit of that 'at home' feeling. Remind them that we're all in this together."

She looked back at Hank, who nodded awkwardly and left, looking more than a little disappointed. Raven turned back to Charles, narrowing her eyes, placing the key in a pocket. "You owe me one."

He smiled at her with too much cheer, drawing a deeper frown. "Thanks Raven!"

 

He hadn't remembered the walk back to his so-called library to be so long. The personalization break wasn't just for them, as he would have like to tell himself; he needed to think, to get some things sorted and out of the way before they started weighing him down and hindering his ability to lead.

Erik…Erik was going to try to leave. He closed his eyes tightly as a wave of fear washed over him. He didn't WANT to think about it, but if he hadn't done anything last night, he was sure he'd never see Erik's face again. At least not alive. The thought brought another torrent of fear. As it was (he forced himself to continue) he was surprised to see Erik at all this morning, about as much as it relieved him.

He liked people. He cared about them (sometimes too much, as Raven liked to tell him without much enthusiasm), but it didn't explain why this was bothering him so much. The fact that Erik was a mutant might have said something…but Hank was a mutant too and he was nearly Raven's boyfriend and the only thing Charles would have felt at Hank's departure (as far as it concerned him personally) was a touch of sadness. Was it perhaps that tragic past he had gotten a glimpse of? Well…he was certainly fascinated by it, but if anything he felt worry rather than pity towards Erik on the whole. He did save his life, which consequentially may have made Charles feel responsible for the other man's life. That was once possibility, but it felt slightly off because he enjoyed simply being around the man, which then led him to the next explanation: Was it because Erik clearly preferred his company to anyone else's? Or was it because Erik's thoughts were only focused on him when they were together? Charles blushed at that last one. He hadn't really mean to take a peak, but...it was too tempting and Erik's face was always such a mask and, he had to admit, he was just too curious to see what Erik thought of him. It was clear Erik was confused on the matter, but after seeing all that pain in Erik's heart, he couldn't blame him for questioning his feeling about the first person to genuinely care since he was a boy.

Charles reached the door, laying a hand on the doorknob. He really hadn't figured anything out. He shook his head sadly. He would do whatever it took to keep Erik there.

No…not everything, he corrected himself, gripping the doorknob tightly. If Erik truly wanted to leave, how could he force him to stay, gift or no? He pulled the door open and buried himself among the books. That was a problem for another time.

 

+++

For Erik, the day was spent in preparation, sharing knowledge, and spending a bit of time personalizing rooms. In his case, it meant handing back, nodding, listening to the nerds chatter on (which it seemed almost anything was more interesting with a British accent), and hanging up a few shirts, only to find himself getting too comfortable with the idea of 'his room'.

Once he realized this, he snapped his suitcase shut. He stalked over to the door. He knew he should have just gone back to him room last night and waited, rather than fulfill that mad desire to see Charles. And then Moira! He had seen her, yes, but Erik hadn't really given the human a second thought, not realizing that Charles would let the woman get so close. Like Erik. He forced the thought down, anger rising. Who did that woman think she was?! He could feel his anger rising to an incoherent mass. She would just betray them; she would go back to her filthy human ways. But Charles likes her, a calm imitation of his own voice told him. And Charles was a naïve, happy idiot, he snapped back.

And then his rage fell back, not gone, but no longer at that mind-crushing intensity. He felt slightly sick. He knew he hadn't said it to Charles' face, but he still feel like he betrayed him, the only person he had considered as a friend. He leaned his head on the door. Just one more day. One more day. Then he wouldn't have to think of Raven or Moira or Charles again. Charles…

His face hardened. Shaw. Shaw was what was important. It wouldn't matter how many good things were in his life; if Shaw had his way, nothing good would be left.

He embraced the anger, let it flow through him. Shaw would not get out of this alive. He would kill Shaw, murder Shaw, and return every bit of suffering he had caused tenfold. He ripped open the door and nearly barreled over Raven, who was standing holding a little wooden plank over her head. She brought her hands down quickly, staring like a doe into Erik's hell-bout eyes. "What do you want?" He growled, his voice deep with an annoyance that was aimed at her for just being there, for throwing herself at Charles.

She skittered back a few steps, a number of other wooden planks tumbling out of a pocket. He caught a glimpse of a '-nk McCoy' before it clacked to the floor, obscuring it from sight. She practically threw the plank at him. "Charles asked me to put them up."

He considered it for a moment, reading his name a few times before tossing it back to her, expression still clear he wasn't in the mood to play. She scuttled to one side as he made a move to shoulder her out of the way. He looked back at her, distain in his eyes as he met hers -- and they were no longer a little girl's eyes; they were eyes he saw every morning without fail, no matter what part of the world his vengeance drew him to. They were his eyes.

His own eyes, the ones on his face widened, though the rest of his face remained stony. The mirrored version followed more slowly, as realization dawned on the girl and they were quickly replaced by her 'own.' But not before they flicked to yellow and black.

He stalked on past her, shutting his door with a band with a clench of his fist, a smirk sliding across his face when he heard the girl yelp.

He sighed once he turned a corner, blocking the girl from view and from his rage. God…he never used to have to deal with thinking about other's feelings. It seemed odd to Erik that it was almost natural to anticipate any shift in Charles' mood, but Raven…it was all too easy to slap her around. He just had to wait one more day and then it would all feel like some sick dream. In the meantime…he had to see Charles. If anything, that smile, those glittering blue eyes wouldn't be just some sick dream later; in some ways, they would be more dreaded than the ones with Shaw.

 

There was only one place a book-obsessed mutant with boxes of unpacked books be in a time like this. When he made it back to the room he vaguely remembered from last night he found the door open, Charles sitting on the floor, leaning against a half-unpacked box, books lined in neat stacks around him. There was an open book perched on one knee. He looked…tiered, but Erik wouldn't have put it passed him to wake up in the middle of the night and rush back with a fresh new idea in his head. The image of Charles running about in a robe and pajamas made his face soften, drawing away some of the pain that ate at him. He almost turned around then, to let Charles stay in the simple world of books, but he was desperate to see him, desperate for every possible memory of Charles he could keep for himself. "Charles…" He called out softly.

Blue eyes snapped up to meet his own, too wide and too deep from the surprise. "Oh my-!" He let out a small laugh, head falling down. "Erik!"

He couldn't help but grin, the main in his hear feeling much more distant with Charles so…there, so real. He sat down on a nearby box,, forearms resting on his knees, looking down at him. "I see you're hard at work."

Charles blushed a bit. God, was it a sight! "Yes, well…if only I always had you to keep me on track…"

Erik chuckled without feeling as much humor as he displayed.

They were quiet for a second before Charles spoke up again. "Look…do you think you could help me separate these? They packed them in absolutely no order…that is, if you're not doing anything." He trailed off, the move to get Erik to stay obvious.

He was…touched. More than touched. "Of course. For you." He replied simply. He wanted to say so much more; to tell Charles what it meant to him, to tell him he'd always be there. But that wasn't what men told other men. Even the little he did say seemed a bit inappropriate, but…anything else he could have said would have been a lie. And even if he did stay, Charles would have Moira or some other girl to always be at his side. Somehow with Charles there, he really couldn't bring himself to hate them.

Charles…blushed. Actually blushed. Erik could feel his own face increase by a few degrees. Charles, for his part, turned to the half-empty box he was leaning against, hiding his face, and began chattering on about books and which ones went in which pile, trying to regain his composure.

Erik began the work as thick, awkward silence filled the room. Of course, they couldn't just ignore each other; Erik had to lean other to Charles every few moment to place a book, drawing their eyes together for a brief moment and made the silence ever more awkward. Erik couldn't take it any longer. "So…um…you have a place picked out for tonight?"

"Oh…um…yes. It's just a small place. It's a little ways out; about as far as you would imagine any sort of establishment to be from a super-secret government facility. I have absolutely no idea what sort of ladies we might find there, but it should suffice for a nice, quiet drink or two."

Erik smiled, if a little weakly. He just had to mention the women again. "That sounds great."

"I, um, took the liberty of inviting Raven along."

Erik froze. He wasn't exactly sure what expression crossed his face. "R-Raven?! I-I thought…I thought it was just going to be us."

Charles didn't meet his eyes. "I-I didn't think you would mind. I…didn't think there would be much of a chance to get out and…I thought I should give her the opportunity."

Erik turned away, not even wanting to look at him. "So…I take it Moira and Hank are tagging along too." He was aware of the cold slipping into his tone.

"N-no…Hank's…too cheap as a drunk. And Moira…I didn't think it was appropriate…" 'But Raven is?!' Erik wanted to snap back. Instead he kept silent. Charles continued when it was clear Erik wasn't going to say anything. "Raven…She's really a good girl. She's one of my closest friends, next to you. I thought…maybe…the two of you could hit it off. I-I know she has Hank now…but you never know how things work out." Charles sighed. "Please…just…give her a chance." He gently touched Erik's arm.

Erik finally turned to look at Charles. He was sucked into perfectly blue eyes, shinning with worry and regret. "I'm not interested in Raven."

Charles' expression grew a little sadder, but he didn't let his arm fall away. "I am sorry my friend. I can ask her not to go, if it really bothers you."

Erik felt his hurt melt away. Charles hadn't meant anything by it. He had done it for Erik, sacrificing their own precious time together (if he thought of it anything like Erik did) for a chance at his own happiness. And he didn't want Raven. And he didn't want to bother with Moira. Erik's throat tightened and he shook his head jerkily, not trusting his voice just at that moment.

"You sure?"

Erik gave him a weak smile. "She'll probably run off with some other man before the night's out."

Charles gave him his own pathetic attempt at a smile. "Probably." He leaned back against the box next to Erik's. "We'll be turning into old women before too long." He sighed, grinning at Erik.

"Then it's all tea in front of the fire and a basket of yarn at our feet." He replied, returning his grin.

Charles laughed. "Doesn't sound too bad, really…"

"No…it doesn't."

They sat there for a while, grinning stupidly, both relieved at resolving that issue, making them both a bit giddy.

Charles was the first to snap back to reality. "We really should get back to the books. Otherwise, I think we can forget about tonight."

+++

Erik stood in front of the slim mirror in his little room, fiddling with his shirt. He drew his hands away, clenching them tightly. He was doing it. Again. God…was the hell did he think was going to happen at some small bar in the middle of nowhere?! If anything, he should be putting on something he wouldn't care if it got messy rather than one of his better shirts.

He stopped himself from reaching down to snatch at his comb. Again.

In a fit of frustration, he threw the door open, pausing briefly to calm himself before striding into the main hall.

He waited there for the next ten minutes before Charles and Raven finally showed up. Charles' hair was combed more carefully that Erik was used to seeing it. He was dressed in chic, casual professor ware, which was normal, though it looked nicer than usual. At least Erik didn't feel like a complete fool. And then he realized he was staring and had to amend that last statement. "You ready?" He asked in an attempt to regain his composure, eyes gliding over both of them. What was that he smelled on Charles? He couldn't quite place it, but it smelled…nice. Real nice.

"Yeah." Charles replied, looking up from fiddling with a cuff. Erik was vaguely aware of Raven nodding her consent. A grin spread across Charles' face, eyes obviously flicking up and down Erik's long form. "Erik! You look nice!"

Erik looked away quickly, bringing his fist to his lips in a feigned cough. "Just…something I had lying around…"

"I'm sure!" Charles pulled out a pair of keys, dangling them at Raven and Erik. "Got the keys to one of the nicer 'company cars,' a sleek, black number!" He grinned mischievously, drawing a breath-stopping vibrancy into his eyes. "And, seeing as I got the thing, I claim the first drive!"

Chapter Text

Erik wondered why the hell he had let himself be dragged into this mess. He leaned closer over the bar, glaring at the drink he was cradling. The bar was old and slightly run down. The stool he was on was the only one he even considered trusting his weight to.

Raven had found a rather good-looking young man, laughing a bit too hard at his dry comments, but it had been a while since he heard the pair of them.

And Charles…apparently the girl had come back to her boring hometown with not a single hot piece of ass in sight and nothing better to do but drink the night away. Then, MIRACULOUSLY, some adorably dorky guy shows up with some odd pickup line about mutations and…Erik gritted his teeth, eyes threatening to make the drink EXPLODE. He really ought to stop speculation about the girl and how many ways she would get into Charles' pants before the night was done. God knows, Charles was acting desperate enough. He took an angry swallow, hearing the top of a stool fall down as it (and the others along the row) had begun to shake uncontrollably. He made a note to himself: NEVER drink in a public place again.

And then Charles was leaning on the bar next to him, a bit too wobbly and his face a bit too flushed, brows furrowed in a hazy worry and confusion. "Are you alright?"

"'M fine, Charles." Erik growled at him, turning back to his drink.

"You're not fine!" Charles protested, voice too loud. "Stop lying to me! I hate it when you lie to me…" It looked like he was about to cry.

Just how many drinks had he had? Erik had been keeping a close eye on it and it was not quite as spectacular as one might have guessed. He distantly wondered how cheap Hank was if Charles was commenting on it. "I'll be better in the morning. Go have fun with your lady friend." He hated saying that last bit, but he hated seeing Charles so distressed just as much, if not more.

"Oh…it's her, is it? You can have her, if you want."

Erik thought he heard a little squawk of protest from behind them. "No, Charles, I don't want her." He said impatiently. The bartender was starting to give them a weird look. God…if was going to go bed her, he could already go and do it. "Just go have fun. I'm terrible company anyway."

"No you're not!" Charles shook his head instantly, threatening to unbalance himself. "Trust me, friend, you're not going to get any ladies with an attitude like that."

"Hey!" The girl was standing there, blond hair too wavy and too soft-looking for Erik's comfort. "I'm going back to my place. Coming?" She gave Charles what she probably thought was a sultry gaze.

"Let me check up on Erik a bit." Erik looked up at Charles in surprise; he was sure that Charles would have taken any opportunity to 'run back to her place.' His heart fluttered a bit in his chest.

She pursed her lips, making her look a bit like a shrunken head with too much makeup. "Well, you know where to find me. I'll keep my door unlocked."

"She's such…such a charmer…" Charles said fuzzily, staring after her as she left, swaying slightly where he stood.

Erik shook his head. He probably should have said something about running after her. Probably. Wirth a flick of a few fingers, he scooted the broken stool out of the way and pulled the next one closer. "C'mon. Sit down."

Charles scrambled onto the stool, making use of Erik's waiting hand to steady himself. "'M sorry, Erik…"

Erik sighed. "I can't see how you possibly think you did anything wrong."

"But we were supposed to go out. Just us. Have some fun." Charles gestured at the bartender for another drink, who then looked questioning at Erik. He nodded and got a 'good luck, mate' look in return. "And here you are all by yourself! All…pouty! And then I had to go bring in Raven and I know you don't like people…And yet here we are! 'M such a bad friend…" He took a swig from a new glass.

"It's fine Charles. A change of scenery was probably for the best…"God…what ARE you supposed to SAY in this sort of situation?

"You're such a good friend to me!" He grasped Erik's arm tightly, the momentum nearly sending him tumbling from the stool. Erik caught him, sliding his friend more solidly on the stool. He began to pull away, but Charles clung tightly to his shirt, the short distance between them seeming to make his face get hotter and his heart beat faster. "Such a good friend…" Charles mumbled into his shirt. "Don't leave me…" Charles slight shoulders began to shake. "Please…don't leave me…"

Panic leapt up into Erik's throat. What WERE you supposed to do when your best friend was sobbing like a little girl in your arms?! He patted his back awkwardly, the only thing he could really think of doing. Charles clung tighter to him, sobs louder than before. Oh God, was he making him feel worse? Relying on a sudden impulse, he cradled Charles' head closer to him, long fingers tangling themselves in his hair. It was softer than he imagined, soothing. Charles released the death-grip on his shirt, winding his arms around Erik's back. Erik wrapped his other arm protectively around his slight friend, letting his sobs wind down. Erik wasn't sure what made him hold Charles like that. He had a feeling that he wouldn't even have considered doing that if he was completely sober. God…He looked so frail in his arms like that for all the strength he displayed around Hank and Raven. It made him feel…privileged that Charles would even allow him to see him like that. He felt a wave of affection for the smaller mutant roll over him, more intense than anything he had felt in his entire life. He let his fingers stroke the back of Charles' head, feeling the curls slip around his fingers, delicately soft. The sobs slowly faded into silence, his body relaxing, leaning more heavily against him, arms slowly sliding limply from his back.

Erik waited for a moment, waiting for Charles to look up at him at any time, either to apologize for the outburst or look away embarrassed, waiting for Erik to explain his actions (which he couldn't even begin tom he admitted), or ask Erik not to leave him at this crummy bar. Because he couldn't possibly have known of his plans to leave; he had hidden those thoughts when he was around Charles with every care.

But Charles didn't look up at him. Growing a bit uneasy, he shook Charles gently. "Charles?" He was greeted by a soft snore. Oh…

He reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet, shoving a wad of cash over to the bartender and slid the sleeping Charles into his arms. This was going to lead to a very interesting conversation in the morning. If Charles remembered and Erik hoped to God that Charles wouldn't.

+++

Erik stood in the parking lot, Charles still asleep in his arms. It was less than half-full with pathetic, run-down excuses for cars. But, he noticed with rising anger, not THEIR car. RAVEN!

Erik looked back and forth along the empty main road. He could have gone back in and used the pay-phone, but it wasn't like he bothered learning any numbers except the main office's, which would have been deserted by now anyway. He looked down the main road once more in the direction they'd come. This was going to be a very. Long. Walk. He slid Charles over one shoulder to keep one hand free in case they ran into any trouble and stepped onto the road.

+++

It was very meditative, that walk, alone, in the dark, with a softly snoring Charles dangling limply from his shoulder. He thought about many things like, for example, where the hell Raven was or the look on the girl's face when Charles never made it over or….why he had been holding Charles like that, though, honestly, he didn't stay on that topic for long.

He was currently contemplating socks (one he paused to think about it, he had absolutely no idea how he had gotten to that train of thought) when car lights shinned behind him. He stepped off of the road, unable to see the car as it passed due to losing his night vision from the blinding headlights. It stopped a short distance in front of him before backing up slowly to meet him.

The window rolled down. Cops. Shit. Out of principle he tried to keep his dealing with the law to a minimum. "What're you doin' out here, sonny? This here's a deserted road; there's nothin' for mi-" His eyes fell on the backs of Charles' dangling legs. "Put your hands where I can see them! Put him down slowly!"

Erik watched as a gun was trained on him and the cop awkwardly getting out of the car. He had half a mind to knock the gun away, steal the car and run. But then again, he didn't need the attention it would cause him and Charles probably wouldn't either. He showed his hands then slowly placed Charles on the ground, straitening, holding his hands high.

"Oh my God! Oh my God! What the hell were you doing with this man?!"

Erik sighed; this was not going to turn out well.

+++

He eased back again the wall of the cell. He couldn't believe that being in here would actually be better than dealing with these cops. God…he had spent an aggravatingly long time dealing with protocols and nervous country cops and QUESTIONS. God, so many stupid questions! What was he doing out there? Where was he going? Who was that man? How long had he known him? Where did they meet? Where did they come from? Once it was finally established that they were both drunk and Charles -probably- wasn't drugged, the questions winded down, and they shoved the pair of them in a cell, putting off the real question, whether Erik was a serial killer/rapist, until the morning when they could properly question Charles.

And what sort of cops put the perspective victim and the suspect in the exact same cell?! Either these poor saps were greener than he previously thought of they had tipped back a few too many on the job. He cast a glance at Charles who was leaning against the opposite wall, miraculously still asleep through the whole ordeal. 'Don't leave me…' Could it have been…? Erik shuddered to think that Charles was powerful enough to influence the waking world in his sleep.

At least he didn't have to walk back now. This mess would sort itself out in the morning; Charles would explain and they would call the office and get someone to drive the pair of them back. In the meantime…he watched Charles sleeping, a few line of worry still showing on his face. He longed to go over to the smaller man and hold him and stroke his hair and chase away the worry. Erik's hand twitched as the sensation of Charles' hair ghosted over his fingers. God…what was wrong with him? His eyes flicked up to the crude security camera. He didn't need to give them a reason to think that he was everything they suspected he was. He shook his head, trying to clear away those annoyingly persistent thoughts and perhaps some of the alcohol in his system.

He stretched out his long legs, getting comfortable. Well…he wanted more memories of Charles and this would be pretty hard to forget. Ha ha. Still…even this, as pathetic as it was, would be one of his happier memories. He leaned his head back against the cool wall. And it would be probably one of the last. He let his eyes rest on Charles again and felt that desire to just touch Charles overwhelmed him more intensely than before. It scared him. The last time he had touched or been touched by someone other than Charles was…Blissful warm memories started to drift back from corners of his mind that he had long since forgotten. It was a struggle to beat them down. Now wasn't the time or the place for that. Perhaps…after Shaw was dead. Maybe…He cast a look over at Charles. Maybe then.

But the 'now' was still calling to him, telling him over and over again how soft that hair was, how warm Charles' arms felt holding him closer, how plump those lips-. Erik tried to drown out those thoughts. He NEEDED that physical contact, even though he had thought he placed himself above such simple things. It scared him. Hell…it terrified him; the sheer strength of its pulls and the power Charles seemed to have over him. That time…when Charles had rescued him…it hadn't been like this. There was that uncalled for need to see him, he realized, but…still…it was like everything that mattered in his world for the past week was Charles. What was Charles to him?! He shouldn't have been anything, but from the moment he met him, he was most definitely something. At first, that something had been enough to draw Erik to Charles, but now…

He stopped; this line of thought was bothering him. He hated the idea of ignorant people living in comfort, let alone luxury. Perhaps that was the reason he preferred mutants (since the relatively short time he had found out about them); there was that suffering of hiding, that alienation. But Charles, while he was a mutant, his life had more in common with humans. For that alone, it was enough to think the pair of them would, at the very least, have some sort of animosity between them. Yet it was more than that. It was that silly, ignorant ideology that Charles cherished; human and mutants living together in super magical sparkly goodness. Most times, just that was enough for his hate, but all it made him feel was….sadness. Curious…It made him sad because…Charles' simple, blissful little world wasn't the way it worked. Sad of the hurt that the humans would bring Charles, of how they would inevitably betray all his faith in one fell swoop.

He watched Charles, a frown knitting his brows together. He hated this…this confusion, this…uncertainty that was tearing him apart. But he would never hate Charles, for all that frustration, for all the feelings of remorse that the little man was causing him.

Erik got up, crossing the small space to Charles. He was shivering slightly and a soft groan of discomfort escaped from his slightly open, delicately pink lips. He didn't even bother to look away; soft, warm feelings taking up whatever was left of his attention. Erik sat down next to him, momentarily only aware of the warmth of Charles' leg where it pressed against his own. Sucking in a breath, he wrapped his arms around Charles pulling his limp form to lean against him. It would have been enough, just feeling Charles' warmth melding with his own, whether the smaller man was aware of it or no, but then he shifted against Erik, snuggling closer, a hand falling limply on his thigh. Erik let out a little gasp, heart pounding.

Erik closed his eyes, just FEELING for a moment, to the slow rising and falling of Charles' chest, Charles' hair tickling Erik's neck, the quiet sound of his breathing closer than he had ever dared to imagine to his ear. He couldn't bring himself to describe the feelings that threatened to make his heart burst.

In that quiet, perfect moment, Erik waited for the guard to come and try to end it. He would never let anything he cared for end so violently again. As he sat there envisioning the horrors that would befall THAT guard, he realized that it wouldn't be the guard that would end that perfect moment; It was sleep.