Charles wheeled himself out the study as quickly as he could without looking like he was fleeing. He sent Logan a reassuring mental nudge and went to his room. He needed to collect himself before he faced everyone again. Charles wanted Erik to come home, he wanted them to be a family again but he was still hurt. He had forgiven Erik but that didn’t mean he trusted him again, not with the children or with his heart. The telepath flicked the door to his bedroom closed with his wrist, that was another thing ever since giving birth to Jean and honing his skills, he discovered he was a low level telekinetic. He could move small things, it seemed Jean's powers reflected his own more than he had ever thought. The truth was, he was growing more powerful every day. His range continued to grow as did his powers.
The telepath sighed softly, leaning forward to put his head in his hands and let himself feel. Seeing Erik again had brought so many emotions to the surface, his love for the metal bender had never waned and today proved that much. It took everything in him not to fall into Erik’s arms and beg him to come home but he was an adult. He had children and a school, he needed to do what was best for them.
“Bloody Erik,” Charles huffed, tears slipped from his cheeks again. The memory of finding out Erik and Raven had slept together fresh in his mind. Knowing Erik didn’t cheat on him, at least, physically was a relief, it lessened the hurt in some ways. Charles pulled the rings from out of his shirt and smoothed his fingers over the metal.
Charles giggled as Erik pinned his arms above his head and kissed his neck, they had just gotten back from an improv date. They had drank a bottle of wine between the two of them and they were both pleasantly buzzed.
“I made you something,” Erik whispered in Charles's ear as he kissed along the stretch of his neck.
“Oh?” Charles hummed as he wrapped his legs around Erik’s waist to bring him closer, “Do tell.”
Erik pulled back just enough to look into Charles's eyes with a fond expression, Charles basked in the love that was pouring from Erik’s mind. The metal bender released his hand and levitated a metal box into his hand. Charles breath hitched, it was a ring box. If Charles was thinking correctly, Erik was going to propose.
“A long time ago, you saved my life, and you offered me a home. You became my home, Liebling. I’d like to do the same for you,” Erik said seriously, opening the box to reveal two perfectly crafted rings, “Will you marry me?”
“Oh, darling, of course,” Charles answered, pulling Erik into a desperate kiss, laughing and crying a little bit, “You’re my home too.”
Charles chuckled at himself, wiping blurrily at his tears and taking deep breaths. He needed to alert the boys of Erik’s presence before they accidentally ran into him. Charles could only imagine what would happen if Alex caught him roaming the grounds.
“Boys,” Charles reached out telepathically through the link that connected all of their minds. A chorus of acknowledgments came back through the link, “Erik is here.”
There was a pause before the link exploded, the emotions being transfer were both good and bad.
“What the hell does he want?” Alex demanded, his mental voice louder than any of the others.
“He is here about Jean,” Charles responded calmly, “I will explain later but for now, don’t be alarmed if you see him on the grounds. He may be staying for a bit.”
“Professor, do you want me to get the plastic chair?” Hank asked, he was angry but doing his best to keep himself calm. This was a trait Charles admired about the boy, his ability to regulate how he was feeling, he had come such a long way.
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” Charles answered back.
“Who’s Erik?” Scott asked through the link, “Is he Jean’s other dad?”
“Yes,” Charles responded, blocking out Alex and Sean’s responses. Scott barely remembered Erik, he was only three when Erik had left. Alex’s mind was a storm of anger, the telepath knew the mutant would not accept this quietly. Sooner rather than later did he expect an outburst from Alex.
“Man, I pick the worst times not to be home,” Sean grouched through their connection, Sean was currently at his university. The classes were watching each documentary the students had submitted. Charles shook his head ending the link between them all. Whatever Erik decided Charles needed to be ready for. No matter what, Charles wanted Erik back into his life, in whatever way that would be. That is what it truly came down to, Charles would never stop wanting or loving Erik. He would rather have him in his life than be without him.
Meanwhile, Erik took a walk around the grounds after Charles had wheeled from the room, he needed to clear his head and figure out what he wanted. Charles was right, he couldn’t just come in and out of her life. He had tried so hard to hold on to his anger so that he wouldn’t break down and vow to stay forever. He wanted to. Coming back here was a sign more than anything that this was what he truly wanted. The truth of the matter was the Brotherhood wasn’t as needed as before. There was another group out there saving mutants, public reforms for peace had been working and the Brotherhood looked like a terrorist group that took things to the extremes. Erik would never get along with humans but maybe he could give up the Brotherhood. Maybe he could have this. He could win Charles back and rebuild the family he had torn apart.
He had come to this realization when he felt it. Erik scrunched his eyebrows together, reaching out with his powers and feeling the large metal under the ground. They had made more changes than Erik originally thought, there was metal pathways running all through the ground, a huge one leading out towards the coast. He would have to ask Charles about it, he turned on his heel and started his way back to the mansion.
Charles had made his way back into the study, having collected himself and was now going over some of the older children’s essays.
“How can you take him back?” Alex asked angrily as he burst into the room, “He abandoned us and now he staying at the mansion again? I know you love him but he isn’t worth it.”
“Oh, Alex,” Charles murmured, reaching his mind out to soothe the anger in the young mutant’s mind, “Just because someone stumbles and loses their way, it doesn't mean they're lost forever. Sometimes, we all need a little help. I remember a young boy who stumbled quite a bit whom I never gave up on."
“Don’t compare me to him,” Alex grumbled back, crossing his arms over his chest and plopping into the chair, “I never abandoned my family.”
“Alex,” Charles said into the mutant’s head, “I forgave Erik a long time ago. That does not mean I trust him nor does it mean I forgot what he did. In the end, I’d rather have him than not.”
Alex deflated at that, his pouting expression reminding Charles of when he first met the mutant. A sixteen-year-old foster kid who was angry at the whole world, “Fine but I’m not playing nice with him and I’m still pissed. He’s an asshole that left us.”
“Thank you,” Charles responded with a smile, “All I ask is no maiming, yes?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Alex answered, grumpily, “But if he takes one step out of line, no promises.”
“Now you sound like Logan,” Charles said with a chuckle.
“Logan has the right idea,” Alex replied with a huff, seemingly placated for the moment. The mutant stood from his chair and sighed, “I got a class to teach, call me if Magnetman is being a dick.”
“Of course, darling,” Charles said, watching as Alex opened the door and Erik was on the other side, waiting thereafter Alex had basically shoved him from the room. Alex paused to give Erik a nasty look before stalking off.
“Lovely children you have,” Erik commented as he stepped into the room and taking the seat Alex had just vacated, “Very protective.”
“They all are quite lovely,” Charles agreed, ignoring the sarcastic nature of the comment.
“Almost all grown up now,” Erik commented, the ache in Charles's chest returning. The metal bender had missed so much when he left but maybe he wouldn’t have to miss anymore? Maybe Erik would stay? No. Charles couldn’t think like that, he couldn’t get his hopes up.
“Yes, Scott still has a way to go,” Charles answered, giving Erik a pained smile, “I must warn you, Scott does not remember you.”
Erik seemed to pause at that, looking away from the telepath to hide the conflicted expression on his face, “I see.”
“He was three when you left and eventually he just… forgot,” Charles said softly, lifting his hand to touch the metal bender before dropping it before it could reach it’s mark, “I’m sorry, Erik.”
“He stopped asking for you after six months,” Charles responded, even without reading Erik’s mind he could tell what the metal bender was going to ask. Erik nodded, running a hand over his face. The lyrics of one of Charles's songs sprang into Erik’s mind, the telepaths pained singing filling his ears.
“Every step I take, we used to lead the way.
Now I’m terrified to face it on my own.
You’re not there to celebrate the children we made.
You’re not there to share in their success and mistakes.
Is it fair, you’ll never know the people they’ll be?
You’re not there with us.”
“I wasn’t there,” Erik stated, the remembrance of the song echoing in his mind, turning his gaze back to the telepath. The lyrics could not have been more true and yet they made him hurt, “Not for them and not for you.”
Charles understood what the metal bender was referencing, of course, Erik had listened to the album. The telepath had practically poured all his heart into music about the one man in hopes he would hear it and hopes that he wouldn’t.
“You listened to the album then?” Charles asked, the telepath was careful not to look into Erik’s mind, even if he was dying to. Every part of him wanted to delve back into it, finally returning to his rightful place but he did not dare. He was terrified of what he would find there.
“Yes,” Erik responded, not tearing his eyes away from the telepaths. He wouldn’t admit to the telepath that he had tried almost everything in him to avoid listening to it. Not everyone had an entire album written about how they had abandoned someone. Erik had spent his time on the way here, listening to the album. He listened to each song on repeat, memorizing the words in hopes that it would stop the aching in his chest. It didn’t. “It was good.”
Charles laughed a little, a bit hysterically actually. Of course, Erik would listen to it and just reply with, ‘it was good’ and not elaborate. So much had been said in those lyrics, it almost made Charles feel naked. His lyrics had begged the metal bender to come back, relating how much he had missed him and that was all Erik could say about them.
Erik seemed to realize he had said the wrong thing, saying, “I liked- I am- Verdammt. I- Can you please just look into my mind.”
“I told you-,” Charles started but Erik grabbing his hands and moved to kneel in front of the telepath.
“Please, Liebling.” Erik pleaded, bringing Charles hands to his head and moving as close as he thought the telepath would allow. “Please, look.”
Charles could feel the desperation leaking off of Erik, no matter how much he was trying to shield the metal bender, he could still feel his emotions rolling off him in waves. How could Charles deny him when he was pleading like that? Charles still loved him and he would be lying if he said he didn’t. This just proved that nothing had changed for the telepath, he would still always fold when it came to Erik. No matter what he did, he would always give him another chance.
“Okay,” Charles conceded and the relief filled the metal benders face. The telepath took a deep breath before closing his eyes and pressing his fingers against Erik’s temples. He did not need to touch him or even move his hands to read his mind but he wouldn’t pass the chance to touch him. Erik’s mind was just as Charles had remembered, orderly and metallic. It was like coming home, he couldn’t tell if it was him or Erik that had sighed in relief at the feeling.
“Charles,” Erik whispered in his mind, the overwhelming pain, love, guilt and so many more emotions crashing in Charles's own mind.
“Hello, Erik,” Charles responded, allowing himself to stretch out in Erik’s mind, the metal bender was pleading for it, asking for the telepath to look at everything.
“Please, Charles, I’m sorry,” Erik spoke, as Charles passed over the memories of Raven and Erik’s entanglement and the memories of leaving Charles alone, the kids alone. Charles felt Erik’s guilt and regret there. That he had been with Raven out of misplaced anger and affection. The memories of the years he had spent longing to come home, that Charles was his only home. Erik’s overwhelming remorse for everything, his genuine pain. This was why the telepath could never hate him, he knew the metal bender for everything and loved him for it. What surprised Charles the most was Erik still loved him, he still wanted him. The telepath was shocked.
“You love me?” Charles asked telepathically, his mind still submerged within Erik’s own.
“Of course,” Erik answered back, the emotion slamming into Charles's own mind, his fierce love for the telepath, “My feelings for you have never been in question.”
“I thought…” Charles trailed offed, projecting the memories of Erik walking out and Erik pushing him from his mind. The images of Erik not coming home, even after Shaw was dead. He showed Erik that when the news of Shaw’s death had found him, he had expected, had hoped Erik would come back. That he had left a lamp on every night in hopes Erik would show up but never did.
“I wanted to come home so badly but I didn’t know if I could,” Erik explained, his words being back with the memories and longing swirling around Charles's own mind, “You gave me peace, you offered me a home and I wasted it. I couldn’t face my mistakes, what I did to you. I couldn’t forgive myself, why should you?”
“Oh, Erik. I forgave you years ago,” Charles assured him, projecting his warmth and forgiveness into the metal bender’s mind, “I always knew you would go after Shaw, I thought we were happy and it was enough.”
“I was happy, I really was. Thank you for the happiest years of my life,” Erik whispered either aloud and within in head, Charles wasn’t quite sure, “I really loved you, I still love you. Nothing will change that.”
Charles let out a sob at the words both in anguish at what they had lost and in relief at the words. Erik pulled back slightly to look into Charles's eyes, the telepath was still in his head, sitting in that spot that he had carved out for himself all those years ago.
“Do you still?” Erik asked, fear and doubt tinting his gaze. Of course, the lyrics had spoken but the metal bender needed to hear it. Charles understood what he meant and nodded.
“I never stopped,” Charles whispered into his mind and relished in the relief that washed through the metal bender.
“Is there a chance?” Erik questioned, trailing off but Charles was in his mind understanding every unspoken word. The telepath knew the answer, he would welcome Erik back but it would take time.
“Yes, but I need time,” Charles answered, the image of Raven and Erik wrapped around in a naked embrace coming into both of their minds, “I love you and I want you to come home but I can’t trust you with my heart right now…And I can’t if you leave again.”
Erik nodded in understanding, unwillingly pulling back from Charles embrace, saying, “I-I want to stay. I want to meet Jean and be with you. I need to figure out what to do with the brotherhood but if you allow me, I’d like to come home.”
Charles gave the mutant a watery smile, stray tears slipping down his cheeks, “Then come home, Erik.”
“How do I start?” Erik asked, his emotions choking up in his throat. How was he going to work this out? He knew what he wanted but how would he get there? The forgiveness of the boys, the news of the disbandment of the brotherhood. There were so many things that needed to be worked out before he could actually have things back to where they were. If things ever could return to the way they were.
“How about we start with a game of chess?” Charles asked, offering a hand to a man drowning in a sea of doubt.
Erik nodded, moving to where the chessboard was set up by the fireplace, saying, “When’s the last time you played?”
“Truly played?” Charles said, considering, “Since you left. None of the boys ever had the patience for it and Jean’s interest is limited to using the pieces as practice for her telekinesis.”
“I’ll go easy on you then,” Erik answered with a grin and Charles tilted his head to look at him with a fond expression.
“No, you won’t,” Charles answered with a hint of a laugh, “You were always such a sore loser.”
“At least I don’t cheat,” Erik shot back with a teasing glint in his eyes.
“There is no pleasure in winning if you don’t do it fairly,” Charles responded back with a sniff, “Besides it was only one time.”
“We almost got kicked out of the casino because of it,” Erik teased.
“How was I supposed to know there was a telepath monitoring the game?” Charles argued, moving one of his pawns, “Besides I was exhausted from my performance, the minds of crowds always weakened my shields back then.”
“But they are better now. You’ve become stronger since we parted,” Erik commented as he moved his knight on the chessboard, “Your range has grown too. You used to only feel people from a 100-mile radius and now its 250.”
“After you left, I was in a great deal of pain,” Charles answered, examining one of the chess pieces, “It's not their pain I was afraid of. It was my own. And as frightening as it can be, that pain made me stronger. I realized if I allowed myself to feel it, embrace it, it would make me more powerful than I could ever imagine. It's the greatest gift I have: to bear their pain without breaking. And it comes from the most human part of me: hope."