Erik had gone through the past few months of information about one Charles Xavier much in the same way he did any other information about boring people with money: Not interested at all.
It wasn't until Raven had taken him aside and asked to cash in a favour. Now one must know of Raven Darkholme and Erik Lehnsherr, that neither would ever lightly owe anyone a favour - least of all each other.
Erik had learned early on in their ...friendship, that she should never ever be underestimated. He had tried hard to dislike her from the start, but his mother loved the girl and Erik had learned from childhood to trust Edie Lehnsherr's ability to judge people's honesty and veracity. If they had listened to her back when Sebastian Shaw had entered their lives, then Erik's father would probably still be alive and Erik wouldn't have been as emotionally scarred as he was.
With Raven it was her stubbornness and strength that appealed to Erik, even if, especially the former, could be annoying as hell on a good day and could drive him to the brink of violence on a bad.
Here she was, offering him to wipe the slate clean, if he would do this for her. Erik squashed the urge to tumble headfirst into a 'yes'. There had to be a catch. If Raven was offering to wipe the slate clean, then it would a) be something incredibly important, or b) something incredibly difficult, or c) - probably both.
"Go on," Erik said, keeping his voice even - working to not seem eager for the opportunity.
The corner of Raven's lips curved a little and it was possible she was on to him. "What do you know of Charles Francis Xavier?"
Erik sniffed and shrugged. "What's been going around, what most seem to know. He's a kid born with a silver spoon up his ass, has recently taken over Xavier BioGenetics Inc." A company that most suspected were behind some less than ethical testing of mutant suppression drugs but it was something no one could prove. And for some reason, he had kept his mutant status a secret. Probably to make life easier for himself.
Raven frowned at him. "Charles Xavier's childhood and younger years are not as privileged as you might think," she said, "but that is not a story for me to tell."
"Why do you ask?" Erik pressed. There was obviously something more to her request.
Raven looked a little cagey for a moment, then turned and shut the door to Erik's office, pacing in front of his desk. Both were habits that Erik had never seen her display before. Always at ease with herself.
Pulling out the bottom drawer, he lifted out two glasses and a bottle of scotch. He didn't say anything, suddenly realizing that pushing was the last thing he should be doing here. Pouring them both a glass, he pushed one to her side of the desk. A diplomatic offering.
Raven took it and drank it all in one swallow, making a face before setting the glass back down. "I never told you, or anyone else for that matter, about my own childhood." Raven paused for a moment and Erik poured her another glass, though this time she sat down and held the glass in her hand, without drinking it at first.
"Well, I was left on the street by my birth parents," she started, quietly. "For a while I lived there. New York is big enough to disappear in, you know."
Erik nodded. He encountered more than a few children through his work that had similar stories and Raven, with her physical mutation, was an example of how bad it could be for for this group especially. Sometimes being abandoned by parents was the least extreme outcome.
"I drifted alone in the city until I was cornered by a boy who was about my age. He was visiting his father's work that day." Raven paused and took a sip of her scotch. "It was a day of change for the both of us," she admitted. "I found someone who cared, possibly too much, and Charles lost his father."
Sitting up, Erik realized that she was sharing something she really hadn't shared with anyone else, ever. Erik knew all too well that there were parts of their pasts that they buried so deeply they rarely saw the light of day.
"Charles was a nice kid," she said with a small laugh. "Already a bit of a control freak back then, and if he wanted something enough, he would plan and work hard to get it." She paused for a moment. "I don't think anyone but his father knew that he was a telepath. Maybe apart from his mother, but I think he removed any knowledge of his gift when she remarried. Charles didn't tinker with people's minds easily, especially not back then - his control wasn't as finely tuned as I think it is now."
"He wasn't an out as a mutant until recently, was he?" Erik tried to remember anything else he had read about the man.
Raven shook her head. "It's not my place to defend his choices," she said. "Charles had his reasons and it is not my place to explain them." She shook her head. "I lived with Charles in Westchester for about two years. Now what I can say about it was that Kurt Marko, the man Charles' mother married, was not a good man. Nor was his son. Kurt obviously only married Sharon Xavier for the money and even more so, for access to Xavier BioGenetics and the research facilities."
Erik frowned, but didn't interrupt her.
"They studied mutations," she said quietly. "I don't think it was ever part of Brian Xavier's plan to create suppressors, but this is the direction that Kurt Marko took the company. I don't know for sure where Charles was during all these years - I hope as hell he got out of that old behemoth of a house up in Westchester - it was a bad place with Kurt and Cain around. I didn't find out about Charles' whereabouts until just shortly, after he took over Xavier BioGenetics."
"Was he hiding?" Erik asked.
"In all ways possible," she said with a huff. "I never understood why he didn't come forward as a mutant, but I can guess. If he had, before he was of a legal age, I don't think Kurt would have let him get away."
"So you're saying he not only hid, he ran away?" Still not much there for Erik to like, was there?
"I don't blame him," Raven said drily. "In the two years I was there, I know of several times that Cain tried to beat the shit out of him and Kurt encouraged the boys to roughhouse - calling it a healthy competition." Raven closed her eyes. "I know for sure that Cain tried to push Charles down the stairs at one point. Charles wouldn't let me do anything about it and it was the straw that broke the camel's back. We had a huge argument and I left that night." Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes again. "I sometimes wonder if I should have stayed. I was the only one he had who knew he was a mutant."
"But why wait so long with admitting it to the world?" Erik asked. "I mean, world's not perfect for us, far from it, but someone with his money, his background…"
"That's just it," Raven interrupted him. "I can't get to Charles and ask him. I found out he'd been living in Oxford for the past few years, finishing his studies in genetics and bioengineering. And I can't get to him, because he's being kept under arrest since he returned. Process and investigation pending. I need you to defend him in court, I need you to gain access to him."
Erik stared at her for moment, then shook his head. "I'm sure he has access to money and lawyers." And Erik didn't want to protect someone who studied them, someone who had kept his mutant status a secret.
"That's just it," Raven ground out again, looking annoyed and angry. "He refuses to hire a lawyer and I don't want the state to saddle him with some mutant-phobic asshole."
"This is important enough to you that you are willing to wipe the slate clean, between the two of us," Erik said slowly. "Where's the catch?"
"He was a stubborn kid," Raven said with a sigh. "I can't imagine him not being a stubborn asshole as an adult - and I'm sure he'll fight you the whole way. But I can't let him do this on his own. He must have had his reasons and I can't even make any guesses about it, because I can't get anyone to tell me exactly what he's arrested for."
Erik frowned. "Hang on a second. He's being held, but no charges have been filed?"
"It's being kept very hush-hush at the moment," Raven admitted. "I only know about it from one of our sources at the court." She stared at him for a moment, then drank the last of her scotch, setting the glass down on his desk as she stood and took a deep breath. "You're taking it."
"I'm curious," Erik said, knowing he was fighting a lost battle.
"You're taking it, you're going to get in there, you're going to at least speak to him."
"If he'll even speak to me," Erik replied, knowing when to fold.
"Tell him you're a friend of mine," she said slowly. "I think that still holds a little power, at least enough for him to listen to you for a few minutes. If they will even let you get that far, of course."
"They will," Erik said, raising an eyebrow at her smirk. "I'm not that easy, Raven. Depending on how deep this sticks, you may end up owing me a favour or two."
"Just get in there, talk to him." Raven's yellow eyes darkened. "If you can help him, we're even. Anything else is… negotiable."
Erik held out his hand. "Deal."
She shook his hand and Erik didn't wince when her grip was a little harder than it had to be. "You won't regret this," she said as she let go, turning to leave his office.
Erik stared after her. "I better not," he muttered, saluting the now empty room with his glass of scotch. "Well played, Raven, well played. You know which buttons to push."