Erik smiled to himself as he waved good night to Charles. It was amazing how two weeks worth of work tended to build up in his head and one night out for dinner with Charles and their after dinner talk on the way home could undo all the knots. And Erik could admit to himself, sometimes, that the drive home and the following ten to fifteen minutes in the car with Charles would leech out the last of his headache.
Not for the first time, Erik was glad that Charles' ethics were as strict as they were. Most of the time he didn't think about it and Erik was damned good at compartmentalizing. But in the privacy of his own home, he could admit to himself that he liked Charles. A lot. That his dinners with Charles had gone from networking the first few months to something he looked forward to without comparison to anything else - even time away from other people. He liked the other man's company, the fact that Charles had a brain and opinions he wasn't afraid of debating with Erik. It had annoyed the hell out of Erik in the beginning, but now, after having known Charles for more than half a year, he needed him much like he needed oxygen. Needed his casual touches to Erik's arm, shoulder or back.
Erik poured himself a glass of water as he went over the talk he had had with Charles tonight. He had no idea for how long they had sat in the car, but the last few times they had done this, and Charles had dropped him off on the way home, the time they spent, parked in front of Erik's apartment building, had gone from ten or fifteen minutes to half an hour. And tonight it had possibly been an hour. All because Charles always let Erik vent his frustration with the system, with work, with his life at him. Quite frankly, Charles knew more about Erik's emotional problems than anyone else - including his mother.
Getting ready for bed, Erik picked up the newest M-Issues and dropped it onto his bed cover. He'd read a bit, then get some sleep. The magazine had some fine articles, but most of them were just feel-good pieces, which Erik would die before admitting to reading with great pleasure.
Slipping under the covers, he thumbed through the first few pages of the magazine, always full of advertising he had no interest in. Then he stopped and went back. The page referred to one of the articles about what help any mutant could get referred to. One of those 'top five things' people didn't know they were entitled to. Like legal help in specific situations as well as help in controlling powers. All the kind of articles that Erik would normally save for his Saturday morning cup of coffee. Except, there was a list of the places one could get help and Erik realized that what had caught his eye was Charles' name.
Erik skimmed over the article until he came to the part that Charles was mentioned in. A mother of two children, whose powers were volatile and had manifested within minutes of each other. What caught Erik's attention was the line saying that the basic health service did not cover this kind of help for the family, but that several privately owned services and fonds did. That the service they had received with the Xavier Institute had been a necessity since unlike many other services, they were not simply offered drugs to block their gifts, but were given training on how to control them, and through this, not harm anyone.
The final paragraph mentioned that the children had also received psychological counselling with Charles Xavier, who was one of the world's leading names in the field of psychology with the focus on manifestation and the mental strain it put on mutants, especially children.
Erik smiled softly as he put the magazine away and yawned. He often poked fun at Charles for being such a do-gooder, but Charles made a world of difference, for the children especially. For children and especially teens already feeling different, the shocks of suddenly being thrown into a new category, Erik had seen it far too often: it damaged them deeply.
Closing his eyes, Erik drifted off and was more or less asleep when the thought hit him.
Charles was a psychologist specializing in the toughest cases of mutants, especially centering on manifestation and abuse.
The one thing that Erik had told Charles that he had never shared with anyone else, was his past with Shaw, who had tried to turn Erik against his own family when Erik had been no more than eleven.
And had almost succeeded.
Charles, who happily sat through Erik's diatribes, who supplied him with suggestions and had given him several ways to deal with the occasional nightmare… The one who had gone a long way in mending Erik's guilt towards his mother. A guilt that Charles seemed to patiently wait for Erik to realize carried no weight and that Erik's mother did not, in fact, deep down, feel wronged by her son.
Something she had told him time and time again.
"Holy shit," Erik told the ceiling. Reaching out, he felt the metal case of his phone and a moment later it hit the palm of his hand. Seconds later he heard the ringing. And waited.
"Yes?" Charles voice was low and muffled.
And Erik realized he'd probably just woken him up. Erik meant to apologize, but instead all that came out was: "You've been my therapist for over half a year!"
Charles was quiet at the other end. "Sorry, come again?" he said, sounding confused.
"I'm sorry," Erik finally managed. "I didn't mean to wake you up, but I suddenly realized that you have been dealing with my problems, like a therapist, almost since we met." It shouldn't hurt, but it kind of did. Charles was a good man, but he would have been looking at Erik through the glasses of a therapist, right?
There was a low chuckle in his ear. "Erik, don't be daft. We're friends and friends share."
"People pay you for what you've given me for free," Erik argued. If he'd wanted a therapist he could have paid for it.
There was silence at the other end and Erik realized how that might have come across around the same time as Charles sounded as if he was trying hard not to choke on his own laughter.
"I didn't mean it that way," Erik backtracked, trying to salvage his pride, feeling his cheeks heat and damned glad that Charles wasn't close enough to see or read him.
"Mmm, no, that I'd gladly give for free," Charles said with a sleepy chuckle, then fell silent.
Erik held his breath for a moment.
"I mean-" Charles began, his voice suddenly clearer, obviously more awake.
"No take-backs," Erik said before he could stop himself. "No take-backs," he repeated, sure that he could hear his own heart thundering loudly so Charles must be hearing it as well.
"I-," Charles trailed off. "I'm sorry, Erik, but I'm not good at this when I can't see the other person."
"Good at what?" Erik asked, hoping that he was right about the answer, everything else momentarily forgotten about.
"Flirt?" Charles said. The question in his tone made Erik feel soft and warm inside.
"Your cheesy one liners wouldn't-" Erik started, then stopped himself. "I was about to say that your cheesy one-liners wouldn't work on me, but since it's you-"
Charles drew in a deep breath, audible through the telephone. "Maybe we should try this conversation in person," he suggested, a warmth to his voice that did even more strange things to Erik's insides.
"Breakfast?" Erik asked, checking the time and wincing. It was Friday night, but 2AM… he'd called Charles later than he'd thought. "Brunch?" he amended.
"There's a diner close to you that's open 24 hours?" Charles' voice went up a little in the end. This time more with hope than worry.
Erik knew which one he was talking about and before he knew it, he had one leg halfway into his jeans, phone held against his ear with his gift while he half-stumbled out of the bed, trying to get dressed. "Yes," he managed to say, not nearly as breathless as he'd expected.
Charles' laughter rang through the phone. "Take your time, darling. I have to get dressed and into the car." He sounded as breathless as Erik felt. "Shall we say in half an hour?"
Erik drew a deep breath, trying to slow the hammering of his heart. "Half an hour is fine," he managed to reply. Half an hour would allow him to get there without losing his breath and sweating like he'd run a mile. Half an hour he would spend grinning like a loon and not giving a damn about anyone seeing.