They celebrated their partial success with the woman with infrared vision over a leisurely dinner and discussion of the usefulness of having a loose network of mutants, even those with no interest in working for the C.I.A. The discussion segued into the best drinks to chase a port, with evidence assembled in the scientific spirit of repeatable experiment. Around 11:00, they wound their way back to the room, mellow, Charles foggily enjoying Erik's amusement at Charles's lolling steps.
They flopped on Erik's bed, Erik on his back, a hand behind his head, while Charles leaned over him on an elbow, awash in contemplation. "You have the most mesmerizing face." Some moments were made to be maudlin. "The expanse of your forehead, the line of your jaw, your beautiful eyes, your hair..."
Erik stiffened, his mind cracking almost audibly in distress. He sat up.
"I'm sorry." Charles sat up--propped himself up--beside him, slightly dizzy. "Sorry. I've said something wrong. Sorry."
"It's nothing." Erik's thoughts flashed in strobe, working hard to repress the images: Charles picked up only pain and silver and the war. "I'm going to go for a walk." Erik swung his jacket off the chair, flew his key from the dresser into his hand, and was out the door without a backward look.
Charles floundered, vertiginous, got a glass of water, inadvertently caught himself in the mirror, scared rabbit-like, if rabbits had pasty skin, five o'clock shadowed. He knew Erik was putting distance between them so Charles wouldn't see his thoughts. Fair enough. Fair. Charles couldn't say it wasn't fair. Privacy is a basic fairness. He fumbled back to the bed to wait. But the room was unforgivingly big, and his eyes kept losing focus. He yawned and yawned faster and ought to wait up for Erik. Fair's fair. But he was bleary and recumbent, and if he stretched, he could almost feel Erik's presence. Not too far away. If he just hitched his eyes open, he could wait it out.
He awoke to gray: gray mood over gray thoughts in the gray of a curtained, hotel dawn, gray the soft thump of Erik's suitcase on the dresser. Click went the latches, Erik maintaining a tense, enforced calm that shivered flatly like silvery blue waves far below a plane. Charles rubbed his eyes and watched wadded clothes be thrust methodically from drawer into case. His mouth tasted incredibly furry.
"Good morning," he said because that was what one said.
"Good morning. If we get off by eight, we should get to Lincoln by lunchtime."
Charles hauled himself up and into the bathroom, tropical from Erik's shower (the sound of which ought to have woken him up). He brushed his teeth till his gums bled, then blasted the shower spray till his head was buffeted clearer. As he toweled himself, he heard the door click, and silence filled the landscape like cotton balls. He was dressed and half packed when Erik returned, paper coffee cups in hand.
"Breakfast in the lobby," he remarked, handing a coffee to Charles.
"Thanks." Charles sipped its comforting rancidness. "I am sorry."
Erik leaned on the dresser, observing his coffee. "You didn't do anything. Just forget about it."
"Don't," said Charles. "Don't do this. Don't hide like this."
An up-swell of something hurt-tired-contrite-ashamed. Erik sighed. "I thought you knew everything about me."
Charles pushed aside Erik's suitcase and joined him against the dresser. "That was an exaggeration. If it weren't, I would be God."
That won a pale laugh. Erik rubbed a hand across his face. "Oh. Hell," he came up with finally as if he'd run through the grittier expletives and found them lacking. He was tireder by the moment; he had had no sleep last night. "How much do you know?"
"That I said something that made you think of the war. You've been very careful to guard everything else."
He nodded. "Schmidt--Shaw--he told me when he first started working me over he wasn't a Nazi. He didn't care about their Aryan pride. His interest in eugenics was of a different order." He paused. "I think he didn't want his superiors to know what he'd found in me--or not all of it. That wasn't clear to me at the time... but I suspect he didn't report much about me. Still, he had to report something, so he added in some, let's call them, side experiments." He forced a distorted grin. "I'm sure you've heard that one of Nazis' more beneficent attempts at rescuing their inferiors from their inferiority concerned fixing their eye color."
"He used some sort of metal in the injections; I suppose that has something to do with why my body could tolerate it. I don't know what he used, but I can feel the metal." He set his coffee down, a second ahead of crushing it in his fist and sending it sloshing over the carpet. "And I could get it out, but probably not without blinding myself. And I'm not prepared to do that," he added as if it needed explanation. "As far as I know, I'm the only success story in that... line of research." The laugh was bitter and half hysterical. "He manufactured an Aryan."
Charles kept his face smooth despite the needles in his brain, which he treasured because they were Erik's. He laid his hand over Erik's as it clutched the dresser. "No. He did not. He did not."
Erik looked him out of the (beautiful) silvery blue eyes not his, yet still his, commanded by him to look at Charles, for a moment, with a caged child's desperation. Then, he nodded and stood and downed his coffee. And then, he gave Charles a second look, calmer, and a second nod, steadier. Hefting his suitcase, he headed for the car.