Erik drew a deep breath and smiled as his mother chuckled in the passenger seat.
"I love you, mum," he said and shook his head. "But hanging around at the airport for an extra two and a half hours was not my idea of fun."
"It wasn't my idea of fun to be sitting on the plane for that long either," Edie agreed. "But that at least is over now and we can get home so I can meet your Charles."
Erik rolled his eyes. He'd made the mistake of telling his mother about his new relationship, and of course she would want to meet Charles. And he wanted her to, absolutely. He just wasn't sure how to explain what Charles was.
"So tell me about him," Edie needled.
Erik huffed out a laugh. "Or you'll bug me until I do, am I right?"
Edie nodded sagely. "Of course. A mother's prerogative."
"He's a nice guy, smart, like, really smart." Erik paused for a moment. "He's a professor, but currently not tenured - spends most of his time writing articles and working on his book."
Edie watched him from her seat and Erik felt as if she was as skilled a telepath as Charles was. Which she of course wasn't. His luck, really. Her motherly instincts were more than enough for her to know how to needle all his secrets out of him.
"What does he write about?" she finally asked, obviously giving up on letting Erik tell her what he wanted to.
"Genetics, mostly," Erik said with a grin. He'd missed these 'battles' with his mother.
"So," Edie said, scrutinizing him. "Smart, nice, ...a mutant?"
Erik coughed and he had no clue why the hell he was blushing all of the sudden.
"Cute," Edie surmised.
"Well, yeah," Erik admitted, knowing very well that he might as well agree with her. "He's a grown man, and thus can't really be cute, though," he tried to argue.
"Oh, don't be silly," Edie scolded him good naturedly. "Just because society dictates such nonsense…"
Erik cleared his throat. There was also of course the little fact that Charles was stronger and faster than he was and could overpower Erik at any point. Not just during the full moon.
"Does Sherman like him?" Edie suddenly asked, after a few minutes of silence.
Erik chuckled. "Sherman worships the ground he walks on," he replied. And the doberman really did. In many ways, it was Sherman who'd been friendly with Charles first and the dog had still liked Charles although Erik had realized what he was. Hell, Sherman had pushed for Erik to stop being an idiot.
Dogs were smart people. Most of the time. Except when Sherman decided to chase non-existent things through the house. Then Erik had his doubts.
Charles had told Erik about Sherman's matchmaking, amused as hell that Erik's doberman had apparently been very exasperated with him.
Pulling up in front of the house, Erik stopped the car and pulled the handbrake. "Sherman's actually with Charles right now," Erik told her. "We'll get your bags inside then I'll go pick him up."
"I wouldn't mind stretching my legs, dear," Edie said with a smile. "When you've brought my bags inside, we'll walk over and pick him up."
"So you can meet Charles," Erik finished with a fond sigh.
"Of course," Edie replied.
Erik shook his head and while Edie undid her seatbelt and stepped out of the car, he simultaneously opened doors of car and house and used his gift to float her bags inside.
Out of habit, he reached his gift outward to check on Charles' watch and Sherman's collar further down the street. It was normally well within his reach, but today he didn't feel it. Erik shrugged. It could very well be that Charles had taken Sherman out for a walk.
Erik occasionally joined them on the long walks, but if Sherman really wanted a workout, Erik let him go out with Charles, especially the days around the full moon. Those were the times where Charles could run circles around them both without even breathing harder.
"Let's just wait a bit before we head down there," Erik said, "I think they're out for a walk, because I can't feel Sherman's collar."
Edie agreed and for the quarter of an hour, Erik didn't think much of it. Then he started getting worried, not sure why. He couldn't even feel Charles' mind near his. Not that he always did, but since Charles had known that Erik was bringing Edie back and Erik had texted him and told him they'd be delayed, he'd expected him to stay in the area and stay in touch. Either by text or through his own gift.
And Charles wasn't answering his texts. Erik pulled his phone out and hit call.
It went straight to voicemail.
Edie watched him silently and Erik realized that she was as observant as always.
"I think I'll head over and see if they're back," Erik said, knowing full well neither Charles nor Sherman were in Charles' house. But maybe he'd left a note?
"Let's walk over and have a look," Edie said, patting his arm. "After being stuck on the plane for so long, I would like some fresh air."
Erik nodded. It was probably nothing. There's be a good explanation as to why he couldn't reach or feel Charles or Sherman.
His conviction wavered as they walked up the gravel to Charles' house. The door wasn't completely visible from the road, and the moment it came into view, Erik drew in a hard breath.
The door hung open, only attached on one hinge.
Erik shook his head. "Stay out here, mother," he said quietly, automatically feeling for any metal. As he opened the door, he realized that the inside was even more chaotic.
And there was blood.
The sound of his own heartbeat speeding up drowned out all other sounds.
Erik hadn't noticed that his mother had entered behind him, and for a split second, he reached out and grabbed onto any metal in the vicinity, everything rattling.
"Erik!" Edie's voice cut through the whole din and everything fell quiet.
Edie put her hand on his arm, watching the hallway behind Erik. "Oh dear."
Erik turned around again, feeling ill as he watched the blood on the floor, spattered onto the wall. He was saved from trying to say anything when a car pulled up in front of the house. He almost lashed out at it until he realized it was a police car.
"Moira," he all but breathed, as he turned his mother away from the gory hallway behind them and stepped back out onto the porch.
Sherif Mactaggert stepped out of her car and nearly ran up to the door. "Erik, it's not as bad as it looks," were the first words out of her mouth. She nodded at Edie, but focused on Erik. "It's Sherman's blood. I drove straight from the vet over here because Charles realized you must be back by now."
"Why didn't he call?" Erik asked, "Why can't I feel him?" The vet was still within Charles' radius.
Moira shook her head. "We had to give him painkillers - he was 'bleeding' emotions all over the place - and he keeps his shields tight when he's on painkillers, you know this."
Erik fell silent. Yes, he did. He'd only seen Charles on painkillers once, which was accidentally also the first time he'd met Moira. And yes, Charles did get loopy from painkillers and preferred to keep that to himself - hence shielding. Charles had explained it with hating the loss of control, which Erik could understand well.
"Why did he need painkillers?" Erik asked, suddenly catching up with it all.
"Nothing major, Erik," Moira said quietly. "Sherman's in surgery and Charles took a hit to the arm - it's healing, but not… as fast as it normally does."
Erik rubbed his forehead. It would be easier to question Moira if his mother hadn't been there. Moira knew about Charles and something was wrong if Charles didn't heal quickly.
"Let's just get to the vet's," Moira said, gesturing at her car. "I'll take you - you're in no state to drive."
Erik had to agree. His mother took him by the elbow and guided him out to Moira's car. She kept up a conversation with Moira while Erik's mind ran in crazy circles and the drive to the vet's felt like it took forever.
"Moira, what happened?" he finally managed to ask, trying to focus on the facts rather than worrying about both Charles and Sherman.
"Someone broke into the house and shot at Charles using specialized bullets," Moira said quietly. "Sherman, according to Charles, attacked the man and was shot as well."
"Where is the guy right now?" Erik asked, quietly, already wondering if he could call in any favours with people. Maybe even go after the guy himself.
"On the run with nation-wide attention," Moira said with satisfaction. "I may have alerted some people who owe me."
Erik breathed a little deeper. It was… calming, to a certain point, to know that Moira would be using all means available to get the assailant. "What do you mean, specialized bullets?" Erik asked, suddenly realizing what Moira had said.
Moira hesitated for a moment, then sighed. "Silver bullets."
Erik frowned, but that would mean whoever it was had been gunning for Charles, obviously knowing what he was.
"Silver bullets?" Edie said, turning from her seat next to Moira, raising an eyebrow at Erik.
Erik was saved by Moira pulling into the car park outside the vet's office. He was halfway out the car and up the stairs to the entrance before his mother and Moira had even opened their doors.
There were, thankfully, few people in the waiting room, and the secretary at the desk knew Erik from previous visits, obviously knowing who he was and why he was there. She stood and waved him over and Erik wished he could remember her name, short girl, gorgeous mutation in the form of dragonfly wings.
"Mr. Lehnsherr. Charles is through the door, waiting for word from the vet," she said to him, pointing him through the door ahead.
Erik nodded a quick thank you to her and slowed down before slipping through the door.
On the other side he found Charles in the hallway, sitting on a chair, head bowed down, arm bandaged and in a sling - a grotesque mirror of the sling he'd had his arm in back when Erik had hurt him in what he'd thought was self defence at the time.
Erik stopped just inside the door, frozen for a moment before Charles lifted his head and looked at him, tired eyes brightening just a little as he stood up.
Two steps and Erik pulled him into a close hug, mindful of the arm, but so happy to feel the drowsy mind of Charles on painkillers and his warm body against Erik's.
"They're waiting for Sherman to come out of anesthetics. He'll be okay," Charles muttered against his shoulder.
"I saw the blood," was all Erik could say. It was all he could think about. The hallway of Charles home, his safe place, blood.
"Oh, darling," Charles mumbled, rubbing Erik's back with one hand. "I'm sorry - I got ahold of Moira and she drove us here before going off to find my attacker. My phone was damaged in the struggle."
"Who…?" Erik tried to ask.
"Someone my step-brother had hired," Charles said coldly. "I know Moira is using all her connections to get him, but I'm going to have to see about dealing with the root of the problem - soon."
Erik buried his face in Charles' shoulder. "At least you're okay," he said. "And Sherman will be okay as well."
"Yes," Charles agreed. Then he gently untangled himself from Erik's hold on him, a distant look in his eyes. "I think your mother might need an explanation or two, though."
Erik cursed under his breath.
"Go tell them that Sherman is okay," Charles said quietly.
"She won't dislike you, just because," Erik started to argue.
"She's worried about you, you silly man," Charles said with a chuckle. "Go on, I'll nip into the bathroom, splash some water in my face and then I'll join you."
In other words, Erik would have to deal with his mother's suspicions on his own.
"She should hear it from you, Erik, not me," Charles said to him. "And you have my blessing in telling her - she's your mother."
Erik huffed out an annoyed sound. This close, even with painkillers in his system, Charles was reading him far too easily. He leaned forward and kissed Charles as hastily as he could manage before heading back out into the waiting room.
Back with Moira and his mother, he found the former having found the latter a cup of tea and he shot Moira a quick nod in thanks. She just nodded at him and walked over the speak with the secretary.
"How are they?" Edie asked him quietly.
"Charles will be with us in a moment - he said the vet's waiting for Sherman to wake up from surgery." Erik bit his lower lip.
"Erik," Edie said, meeting his eyes, her gaze stern. "Is your boyfriend a Werewolf?"
Erik was about to ask her why she would draw such a conclusion, then sighed deeply. When Erik had been a child, they had lived near Schwarzwald and his mother was no fool. With the mention of silver bullets; she really couldn't draw any other conclusion. He nodded.
"Why didn't you say so?" she asked him, putting her hand on his.
"It wasn't my secret to share," Erik admitted. "Charles is a very private man and while I admit that I was initially worried when I found out, I can't say that I've had cause for regret." And he'd put off asking Charles if it was okay for him to share it with his mother. No wonder Charles occasionally called him a silly man.
Edie shook her head, a small, sad smile on her lips. "I would not judge him for it, Erik - our old neighbour was a werewolf, did you never know?" she asked.
Erik stared at her. "He was?" Come to think of it, some of the odd quirks of Mr. Stein made more sense now that he knew Charles. "Huh."
The door behind him opened and Charles came in, nodding at Moira before heading over to Erik and Edie.
"Mrs. Lehnsherr," Charles said, holding his hand out to shake Edie's.
Erik could tell that Charles was a little nervous. "She knows," he said quietly. "Apparently we… worried for nothing," he said feeling a little stupid. He'd after all been the one to worry about telling her.
Charles sighed and shook his head, strangely enough sharing a fond smile with Erik's mother before letting go of her hand.
Edie reached out to pat Erik's hand. "I think he was worried about me because I'm your mother, not because of what he is."
Charles tried hard not to laugh and Erik just glared at him.
"She's right, you know, Erik," Charles agreed. "The ultimate test - meeting the mother of the man I love. Trust me, I'd feel more at ease facing down armies than this."
Erik rolled his eyes when Edie nodded sagely.
Possibly he'd made a miscalculation in introducing his mother to his boyfriend.
Charles squeezed his hand. "I spoke with the vet on the way out," he said quietly. "They want to keep Sherman overnight and I promised him to send you through to see him."
Erik nodded and reluctantly let go of Charles hand. "I'll be right back then," he said, knowing he wouldn't rest well before Sherman was back home with him.
The look in Charles' eyes softened. "I'll wait here with your mother and Moira - take your time."
Erik took a deep breath, leaned in to kiss Charles on the cheek before heading back to speak to the vet. He would bring his mother home and Charles as well. There was no way that Erik was allowing the latter to stay in his own home for the foreseeable future. It wasn't safe there - all on his own - he'd need Erik and Sherman, when the dog was well again. Strength in numbers and all.