Raven glanced sleepily at the clock on her dresser, which read 1:54am, before she collapsed back onto her pillow with a thump.
She could hear Charles in the living room, the tapping of his fingers on the keyboard, the occasionally scratching of a pen as he made notes, the clunk of a glass being put down on the table. But mostly she could feel him: his fatigue, the dull throb of a headache in his temples, and his general frustration at grading undergraduate papers.
She didn’t want to bother Charles. She knew he often let his rein on his power slip a bit when he was at home with her, because he had to keep such incredible control in place at every other time. They wouldn’t ever have been let into the UK if they had be aware that Charles was an omega level telepath – suspicion of all psionic powers was extremely high right now with many countries simply closing their borders to any mutant with even a hint of telepathic ability. Charles had only been able to sneak through with forged papers and the lie that he was a weak empathy.
Raven also knew Charles wouldn’t be up this late if he didn’t need to be and he certainly wasn’t projecting his feelings consciously, but damn it, it was after midnight on a school night and if she wanted to be up this late she’d have snuck out to go to a party with actual popular music, dancing, spiked punch, and men (as opposed to high school boys).
Raven slipped out of bed as quietly as she could, grabbing her robe and wrapping it around herself as she stepped out of her room and peered down the hall. Charles was hunched over the coffee table, papers piled high, the glare of his computer screen too bright in an otherwise darkened room, as he pushed his glasses up is nose to rub his eyes. He looked both ridiculously young and yet like he’d aged years since she’d seen him this morning.
They had been living as their own little family, just the two of them, since Charles had left home for university, determined to take Raven away from Kurt, and most assuredly Cain, whose cruelty was increasing every day toward both Charles and Raven. Since Charles’ mother had died, the last buffer they had against their step-father and step-brother had fallen, and Charles had begun plotting their escape almost immediately.
At first things had gone well, Charles had inherited some money from his father’s estate, although Kurt had tied most of it up in an endless legal battle, and they had stayed in the US, as Charles quickly completed an undergrad at Harvard and his masters at Columbia. But the move to England for his doctoral work had been both exciting and extremely difficult. Raven knew this was exactly where Charles wanted to be, perhaps where he had always wanted to be, his father’s alma matter, and she had loved the thrill of reinventing herself in a completely new place, despite all the rain and gloomy weather. However, their money was running low, especially with Charles insisting on sending Raven to an exclusive school known for its acceptance of mutants, which of course cost more than they could really afford. So despite his job as a TA, Charles had also taken on a part-time job at the Bodleian library, home to Oxford’s celebrated collection of tomes, and run by a draconian witch of a woman named Hazel who seemed hell bent on making Charles’ life an absolute misery.
“You’re projecting again,” Raven said breaking the silence.
“Oh,” Charles frowned, guilt sweeping over his face instantly. Raven immediately felt the pain of the headache Charles had been sharing with her fade away. “I’m dreadfully sorry, Raven.”
“You overworked yourself again. That witch didn’t let you do any work during your shift did she?” Raven asked as she curled onto the sofa next to Charles and leaned against him.
“I’m afraid her policy of no schoolwork on the job, even if no one is around and asking for my assistance, remains in place. She reprimanded me again tonight and I now have an official write up in my employee record,” Charles sighed. “And her name is Mrs. Vincent and she is not a witch.”
Raven could feel Charles smiling slightly behind her, even without looking and she glanced over her shoulder to look at his face as she replied, “I only call her that because you get so much more uptight when I say what she really is, which is a bi—“
“Raven, language.” Charles reprimanded, but without any real anger.
“Well, she is and you know it.”
Raven felt Charles sigh and then felt his arm wrap around her, hugging her affectionately.
“I’m sorry I woke you.”
“Apology accepted. Now, if I’m going back to bed, which I am, then you should head to bed too.” Raven stood, giving Charles a pointed look. “You’re exhausted.”
“Yes, of course. I just have a few more papers to grade and then –“
“No, Charles. You are going to bed now.” Raven tugged on Charles’ hand and dragged him to his feet, pushing him none too gently toward his room.
“But, I –“
“You can finish in the morning while you’re on the bus to school, or give them all random grades, who cares! Just get go to bed before you fall asleep on the couch and start project your weird dreams to me. Deal?” Raven crossed her arms over her chest and arched her eyebrow.
“Of course, deal.” Charles nodded, “Although I’m sure my dreams are all within the range of normal.”
“God Charles, just shut up and go to bed.” Raven said as she pushed her brother into his room and then firmly shut the door in his face.
Jogging through the rain to get to his beat up Volkswagon Golf, Erik wondered again what had possessed him to stay in England, the land of perpetual disappointment. The place, where despite his PhD in Structural Engineering and his masters in mutant studies, he was relegated to being a student counselor (specializing in mutants of course) and shunned by the engineering department like he had the plague. The place where Magda had decided to practice law, only to fall in love with not only her work, but also her boss, leaving him to come home from work one day to an empty house with a hastily written note as the only explanation for his suddenly single lifestyle. Which had left him with almost a full year left on a lease for their flat, that was far too expensive for him to afford on his limited salary so he’d had to break the lease and pay a fine, which had caused him to sell his relatively nice BMW for his current beater of a car. He only managed to get himself to work everyday because he had worked in a mechanic shop while he was in high school and because he could manipulate metal, otherwise his piece of shit car would have collapsed in a heap ages ago.
Erik carefully controlled his car’s movements until he arrived at Oxford and began another jog through the rain toward his office. Oxford had decided to have a more ‘mutant friendly’ image in the past few years and one of the ways they could prove that friendliness and acceptance to the student body was by hiring a mutant specific counselor for mutant specific student needs. Erik thought that the fact they he’d been hired for the position showed just how little the administration actually cared about mutant students, since he had never counseled anyone in his life, and his background education on mutant law and civil rights applied to the United States, not England.
If Erik had thought his endless nights of studying Oxford mutant by-laws, and mutant civil rights laws in England was going to prepare him adequately for his new role, he had soon found out he was very wrong. Most students did not want to complain about being unfairly kicked out of their flats (although Erik was proud to say he had been able to help the few who had presented him with that particular problem), instead most students came to him completely emotionally overwhelmed by a cacophony of issues that just needed to be vented out.
Today he sat, in mostly stunned silence, as a young girl (God, when he had gotten so old? When had all the students started to look like kids?) wept on the chair across from him, occasionally emitting an ear splitting screech (for which she apologized profusely, she had trouble controlling her mutation when she was so upset). Erik had succumb to putting in earplugs to save his hearing from the high pitched wail the girl seemed to produce every few minutes.
Ever the professional, he still managed to follow her tear stained story of being dumped by her boyfriend (TMI, during a moment of orgasmic passion she had accidentally burst his ear drum and as an elite swimmer who could no longer go in water, he had not displayed any class while breaking up with her in front of her entire dormitory), her best friend (now ex-best friend) had hooked up with said boyfriend, and she was sure so was going to fail her Latin course and if that happened she ‘would just die’.
Erik let her cry it all out and when she finally pulled herself together, looking something akin to a drowned rat with mascara running down its cheeks, Erik did his best not to make her feel worse. Firstly, he told her in no uncertain terms her boyfriend was an asshole and her ‘best friend’ was too, then he told her he could help her move to another residence if she wanted to, but that she might find her current dorm mates quite sympathetic to her current situation, and thirdly he heard Prof. Ginters ran a really well attended Latin study group every Saturday afternoon.
After handing her some pamphlets about the study group and giving her his best reassuring smile, he ushered her out of his office and sat back in his chair with a groan.
“Tough morning Mr Lehnsherr?”
‘And it just got fucking worse’ Erik thought as he reluctantly looked up at the man standing in his doorway.
“Have you reconsidered my offer?”
Erik stared stonily at the perfectly coiffed man in front of him. Clarke was the spitting image of a Professor at a prestigious British university, with his tweed jacket, the elbow patches, glasses perched on his nose, and silver hair gleaming. He stood perfectly straight, looking every inch the aristocrat his was – Erik remembered someone telling him last year that Clarke was the ‘heir to a Earldom’, to which Erik had almost replied ‘Are you shitting me?’, before realizing that his colleague was completely serious.
Clarke may have been a cultured gentleman in the eyes of most of the population of Oxford, but he was also a self-centred, prejudiced asshole.
“I will tell you the same thing today, that I told you last year.” Erik’s words came out gruffly as he tried to contain his anger, “If you think I would ever betray fellow mutants by reporting about them to you, then you know nothing about me. I would never betray my people.”
“You act as though by reporting a few simple facts to me, you would be sending young people to the gallows. I am simply curious –“
“You can call it whatever you want. The answer is no.” Erik glared steadily at Clarke, not batting an eye. Erik had been fooled once by the charisma of older, powerful man who wanted him to ‘do what was best for mutant-kind’ and he wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice. “I do not want to have this conversation ever again. Now get out of my office.”