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Alex looked extremely dubious. "Erik, are you sure about this?"

Erik rolled his eyes. The boy's objections were growing tiresome. "Just try it like we talked about, Alex."

"But the professor--"

"You won't be using your talents in a basement in a real fight." Erik had his doubts about some of Charles's teaching methods. These children needed to be prepared for the real world, and Charles was too much of a scientist to get outside his "controlled environments." Erik had a much more direct approach.

Alex shifted uncomfortably on the terrace balcony. "I don't want to hurt you, Erik."

"I'll be out of the way, don't worry." Erik didn't really think Alex would hurt him. Hank's little contraption had been doing a fairly good job of concentrating Alex's powers into a single beam; Erik was fairly confident he could dodge it if something went wrong. "Don't worry about that," he said firmly. "If you're concerned about me, you aren't giving your power your full focus."

He took a few steps to the side, pointing Alex out over the lawn. Alex, his face still set in an anxious frown, turned dutifully to the wide expanse of grass, the satellite dish visible in the distance. "What do I do?"

Erik wasn't exactly sure how to be calming; he wasn't Charles. But he managed a sort of reassuring smile as Alex looked nervously back at him. "Remember what we said. We'll start small, just a short blast. Short as you can. Aim up," he added, casting a glance at the dish.

Alex took a deep breath. "If I wreck something, you're explaining it to the professor," he muttered, then tensed his body, bracing himself. Against his better judgment, Erik found himself tensing, his powers at the ready, to jump aside or pull up a shield if he needed it--but that wasn't trusting the boy, he reminded himself, and tried to be calm as Alex drew in his concentration.

Alex threw his shoulders back and a blast of red exploded from the emitter on his chest--a single ruby burst that lanced harmlessly off into the sky.

Erik let out the breath he hadn't realized he'd held, and Alex laughed in disbelief. "See?" Erik said, grinning at him. "Easier than you think."

"That's the first time that's ever gone well," Alex laughed, running a hand through his hair. "Okay, you were right, outside is good."

Of course he was right. Open spaces were always better than dark, dripping basements. "Try again," Erik instructed him, crossing his arms over his chest. "Easy does it. A little longer this time."

Alex nodded, bracing himself again. Another ruby-red explosion shot forward, slightly unsteady, wavering a bit before Alex shut it off. The young mutant fell forward against the rail, panting. "That was a lot harder," he gasped.

Erik clapped him on the shoulder. "You're still in control, though," he congratulated him. "We'll try that again."

"Give me a sec."

A scraping noise echoed down from behind them, and a slightly annoyed voice called, "What do you two think you're doing?"

Erik twisted, looking up over his shoulder. Charles was leaning out of his study window, frowning at them. "Training," he called back, grinning impudently up at his friend.

Charles had his rumpled-academic look on, his shirtsleeves rolled up and a pen tucked haphazardly behind one ear, glaring at them in that professorial way of his. "This is not safe, Erik," he said critically.

"It's going well so far." Erik shrugged.


"We're just trying it my way, Charles."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Charles muttered, his voice carrying down to them.

Erik turned away from the window, ignoring the killjoy upstairs. This was working. Results. "Try it again, Alex."

Alex glanced between Charles and Erik. "Are we gonna be in trouble?" he asked Erik in a low tone.

Erik squeezed his shoulder. "Not if you do it right." His voice was only slightly ominous, and Alex swallowed. Erik took a step away from him, not backing up, just moving a little further along the balcony--he wanted to show Charles that he wasn't scared, that he knew Alex could do this. Alex went rigid as he drew in his power, focusing so intently Erik could hear the air start to crackle around him.

No--wait, that wasn't the air, that was the emitter--

"Alex, stop--" Erik began, but too late--the emitter spat sparks then exploded, unleashing a concussive blast of energy and he was too close to do a damn thing about it--

And without knowing how, Erik flung himself backward, the shock wave of Alex's power catching his subconscious push and sending him hurtling backward through the air over the lawn--

Alex yelled and Charles's silent scream ripped through his head but Erik didn't hear because he was thirty feet in the air and falling and he was going to die, the ground was rushing up at his face, there was absolutely nothing he could do, and frantically he reached out with his power for something, anything to catch himself but there was nothing and oh God oh God and without thinking he pushed--

He stopped an inch from the ground.

He blinked. He was floating--

He was so surprised he dropped himself, hitting the ground about twenty feet from the terrace with a thud, but he was so shocked he didn't even feel it. Had he just flown?

"Erik! Oh, shit, Erik!" Alex's slightly shrill voice echoed across the lawn, and Erik twisted his head to look back at the house. Alex was frozen in the act of starting to jump over the stone railing, and Charles was hanging out of his study window, horrified, his mouth hanging open and his eyes huge. Erik could feel the panicky edges of the telepath's thoughts pushing at him and he sent back a reassuring wave, getting to his feet.

"I'm all right," he called, waving them off and standing a little shakily. "I'm fine--"

"How can you be all right?" Charles said not a little hysterically, still hanging out his window as if he were debating whether to actually jump down or not. "You just fell thirty feet, how are you not completely broken, you idiot--"

"I think I flew," Erik said, trying to think back to what he'd done when he was falling.


Erik ran a hand through his hair bemusedly, walking back across the lawn. He'd find the look of mildly crazed confusion on Charles's face hilarious if what he'd just done weren't so much more important. "It was like I threw myself away from Alex--and then before I hit the ground, I caught myself. I was hovering."

Charles groaned in disbelief, burying his face in his hands and resting his elbows on the window casement.

"Stop that," Erik snapped. He climbed the stairs back up to the terrace, and Alex ran to him, the ruined emitter on his chest still smoking, stopping just short of throwing his arms around the older man.

"I am so sorry, Erik--"

Erik brushed him off, preoccupied with this sudden new manifestation of his power--at least, that was what he was sure it had been. "I'm fine. It was an accident. Go find Hank and fix your--"

"What was that explosion?" a new voice called, and Raven came running around the corner with Hank and Sean close on her heels. "Alex? What happened to your emitter-- Erik, why are you covered in grass--?"

"I overloaded, it was an accident, and Erik went flying and he thinks he actually, y'know, went flying, it was awesome--"

"Erik, you can fly now?"

"No, he can't," Charles yelled from the window, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Erik, for heaven's sake, I know you think you caught yourself but you might have some broken bones or a concussion, can you please just come inside--"

"No," Erik said indignantly, looking up at him. "This might be something I've never done before, don't you normally get all excited about things like that?"

Charles made a noise like a strange cross between a shaky laugh and an angry cat, looking down at him with a slightly crazed look in his eyes. "Yes, Erik, and I promise I will be very excited once I've made sure you aren't hurt after that positively terrifying fall, but first, can you just--"

"I'm just going to try," he said distantly, drawing his power in and looking down at the ground, reaching out, feeling-- There, deep in the ground, something humming, something that could respond to him. But no, that was wrong--for once, he needed to respond to it, and Erik frowned.

With a kind of inversion of his thought, Erik pushed, expanding the bond between himself and the metallic elements in the ground.

His feet lifted a few inches off the terrace.

Erik smiled in triumph. Gasps went up around him, and Erik's smile widened. He flexed his thought and rose a foot or so further, and Alex whooped in admiration. Raven laughed in delight, clapping her hands, and Erik grinned back over his shoulder at them. He was flying. He was flying!

He looked up at Charles, who was in serious danger of falling out that window, he was so far out of it. They were only a few feet apart now, and Charles was staring at him, his eyes huge. "Oh, my God," the telepath said faintly, and Erik floated up a little closer. Charles laughed suddenly, wonder spreading across his face. "Erik, you're flying--!"

"I told you," Erik said with a grin. It was easy, it was so easy, how had he never tried this before? Charles laughed again, amazed, looking down at him with sparkling eyes, and Erik was grinning so hugely his smile was threatening to split his face in two.

The children were cheering down on the terrace, and Erik looked down at them, unable to resist the urge to show off a bit. He'd never been able to do anything like this before, something that wasn't violent or just a little frightening, and he was seized with the sudden impulse to have a little reckless fun with it. He pushed away from the house, going higher, higher than Charles's window, and Raven applauded, Sean whistling through his fingers.

He flipped, then, a loop-the-loop that took him almost level with the roof, and Charles made a strangled sound, clutching the window. Raven laughed, delighted, and even Hank was cheering now (though looking as if it were despite his better judgment).

"Erik, for heaven's sake, come down before you--"

"Higher, higher, higher!" Raven started chanting, the boys taking it up and clapping along rhythmically. Erik glanced at Charles and shrugged, still grinning like an idiot, and floated slowly up and up, higher than the roof. It was getting a little harder, but it was still doable, and at any rate he had the sense of it now.

Just for Charles, he dropped himself a few feet, faking outrageously. Raven screamed and the boys yelled, and he felt a blast of uncontrolled panic from Charles before he caught himself. He grinned roguishly at them, and the young mutants on the ground laughed shakily, Sean and Alex cheering again.

He flashed a wink at Charles, who looked about ready to kill him. "Did I scare you?"

"You get down from there right now," Charles ground out, glaring at him. "For God's sake, Erik--"

"You need to loosen up, Charles," Erik instructed him, floating back down. He stopped just outside the window, holding out one hand to the telepath. "Come on."

A slow flush spread over Charles's face as Erik gazed steadily at him, realizing what the other mutant was asking. "No. No. No, no, no no no no."

"Chicken," Raven called teasingly, and Sean and Alex almost gleefully took up the taunting. "Come on, Professor!" "Yeah, don't be scared, go on!"

Charles rolled his eyes in exasperation, looking beseechingly at Erik as chants of "Do it, do it, do it" echoed up from the grounds, but Erik only smiled, extending his hand a little more insistently.

"I won't drop you," he promised in a voice only Charles could hear.

Charles glanced anxiously down at the very long drop. "Erik--"

"Do you trust me?"

Charles's head snapped back up, and his eyes were very blue as they regarded each other. Of course, he whispered in Erik's head, and reached up to push the window open further.

Raven and the boys--even Hank--exploded with cheers, and Charles shook his head with a disbelieving laugh as he got a leg up onto the casement. "I can't believe I'm doing this, I cannot believe I am doing this," he muttered to himself, his voice slightly hysterical again.

Erik grinned at him, reaching out to take Charles's hand as the telepath climbed fully out onto the ledge. "I've got you, just relax."

Charles laughed nervously, flashing him a wild smile. "Easy for you to say, darling, just promise not to go too high--?"

"I make no promises," Erik said firmly, and without another word wrapped an arm around Charles's waist and floated straight up.

Charles yelped and grabbed onto him, clinging to Erik as the children cheered and they went up--and up--and up. "Erik--!" His voice was comically shrill and Erik laughed in unbridled delight, holding Charles tightly to him and taking them out over the grounds. It was a little more difficult, with the extra weight, but it was just a new way of doing the same thing he'd always done, and at any rate Erik was having too much fun to start doubting himself.

Charles was nearly hyperventilating, staring down at the ground below them with huge blue eyes, and Erik nudged the telepath's forehead with his. I've got you, Charles. It's all right. He did his best to send the feeling of what he was doing to his panicking friend--the steady presence of the ground, the power of his control, the surety that he knew exactly what I'm doing, don't worry--

And Charles sucked in a deep breath, looking up at Erik and managing a nervous laugh. "Unbelievable," he chuckled shakily, wrapping his arms more securely around Erik as they floated in a wide circle around the grounds. "Unbelievable, this is--this is amazing, Erik, I can't believe..." His voice trailed off in wonder, and Erik grinned tightly down at him, loving the chill of the wind, the confidence of his power, the sense of Charles against him--

Charles looked up at him, his eyes if possible even wider, and Erik winced, belatedly realizing that Charles must have heard that last one-- "Erm," he began, casting wildly around for an explanation, but he didn't get to give one.

The sudden sharp press of Charles's lips to his own startled him so much they dropped a few feet before he caught his control back, and Charles broke away with a startled exclamation, clutching him even tighter. "For God's sake, Erik, don't do that--"

"Don't do that yourself," Erik snapped a little breathlessly, floating them back towards the side of the house opposite the terrace. He didn't exactly want the children to witness this part. "That was your own fault. You could warn me before--"

"Kissing you?"


Charles grinned at him as Erik lowered them slowly back down to the ground, drifting down in a slow, gentle spiral. "Erik?"


"I'm going to kiss you." And he wrapped his arms around Erik's neck and kissed him with a barely restrained passion that snapped Erik's concentration in two.

They fell the last foot and landed on their feet with a startling jolt, Charles stumbling against him with a completely undignified yelp. Erik laughed, catching him, and pulled the telepath against his chest. "Sorry."

That slightly hysterical laugh was becoming incredibly endearing the more Erik heard it, he decided, as Charles ran a shaking hand through his hair, looking flushed and windblown and altogether lovely. "What am I going to do with you, Erik?"

"I have a few ideas."

Charles flushed again, a beautiful, brilliant red, and Erik burst out laughing as the children came running back around the side of the house, cheering and applauding. He basked in the warmth of their attention and in the steady pulse of pride affection excitement Charles couldn't help projecting to him, and decided that flying was his new favorite power.