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Nation Building and other Diplomatic Negotiations

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.prologue.

It was a hard thing for Erik to admit, as independent as he was, that Sebastian Shaw truly had made him the man he was today. All of the rage and all of the hate that he'd cultivated in his years under government 'monitoring' programs had suddenly taken on a shape and a purpose. He'd always known he was not alone - ever since his youth he'd had Emma in the back of his mind, the two of them forge hot and ice cold even as they could do nothing to get away - but it was Sebastian who had made him part of something. Sebastian's focus was incredible, precise, and exacting, and Erik had thrived on it.

There was always a bit of trouble when so many strong, independent, and Dominant voices clashing together, but Erik - and Emma - had always found it easy enough to go along with Sebastian; their ideals complimented each other, fed off each other, and Sebastian was brilliant and had vision. That was before everything started to change. Erik was hardly an idealist. He believed, just like Sebastian, that humans would never accept mutants. The best solution would be to carve out a home for them in blood and steel, but it was meant to be a home, somewhere for all mutants.

Erik had thought Sebastian believed that, too.

Emma had told him as much on more than one occasion.

But then...

There he was, with Sebastian standing out at the rail of his yacht, parked a few miles off the coast of Genosha, laughing as dozens of warheads came hurdling towards them, screaming at Erik to let one hit so he could bask in that energy - bask in it and flatten Genosha into rubble. Emma was standing behind Erik, hand on his back to keep him from breaking under the strain of controlling all of the missiles.

"We'll burn them all to the ground, Erik!"

What about...?

"Sebastian," Emma's voice was cool despite the effort she needed to keep Erik completely focused. "There are tens of thousands of mutants on that island."

There were slaves, mutant and mutate, on that island; that was why they stood there, Sebastian, Emma, Azazel, Janos, and himself, staring out over the beautiful cityscape of Hammer Bay. Sebastian's plan had been to liberate them to join in the uprising against the humans.

"Weak trash."

Erik gritted his teeth, thought of all of the mutants he had never been able to save. He thought of the young mutants in the testing facility where he and Emma had been held, some older than them, some younger, sub and Dom alike, all a mix of weak and strong, all tortured slowly. He hadn't joined with Sebastian all those years ago to kill weak mutants, he joined with him to protect them.

"Sebastian..." Emma's voice was a flash-frozen warning, all ice and hard.

He wouldn't do that. He wouldn't.

"Turn the missiles back on them!"

Sebastian made him want to, Sebastian made him want to agree, made him want to stand by his side, but... "No."

Rather than punish Erik, Sebastian backhanded Emma, sent her flying across the yacht; only a second before she hit the far wall, her body changed to diamond. The loss of the telepathic push in his mind and his concern for Emma made half of the missiles explode in the air, raining hot debris on them and stoking the flames in Erik's chest.

"No, Sebastian," Erik growled.

It took every ounce of will to say that, and Emma finally picked herself up from the rails, sloughed off the diamond outer body, and then she cracked her knuckles, unladylike, but so very her. Azazel drew his sword, Janos tensed, and Erik - his mind still half on keeping their boat unscathed - turned to Emma. Sebastian reached out, his hand lightly touching Erik's shoulder - and then he was on the ground, collarbone and shoulder snapped, stifling his scream. A few more missiles exploded. He fumbled with his left hand, scrambling to keep himself from collapsing on the deck of the yacht and to keep the missiles from killing them all.

"Oh, Erik... I don't care that you're a Dom, I cannot accept anything but your complete submission."

Sebastian leaned down, a finger gently caressing Erik's spine - the way one might caress a rabbit before snapping its neck. One touch, one touch was all it would take to snap him in half... but the touch never came.

After a few moments of attempting to accept his own death, Erik glanced up. Sebastian's was frozen in place, and it took him only a moment to realize that Emma had done it. Sebastian had been going to kill him; Erik had almost been ready for it, but Emma had given him a chance, and had put her survival in his hands now. If he didn't kill Sebastian, Emma's life was forfeit as well. Erik grabbed Azazel's sword with his mind and jammed it - ever so slowly - through Sebastian's jaw and up through his brain.

He felt ill, watching as his friend and mentor's eyes go glassy and dead. Sebastian collapsed onto Erik's back, pressing down on his shattered collar. He screamed, then, screamed from the pain in a way he'd never allowed himself to do before. Azazel grabbed Sebastian's corpse by his neck, pulled him off of Erik and drew his sword out of the man's skull.

"Get us out of here, damn it!" Erik yelled at the man, and Azazel tensed, but obeyed.

They retreated to the submarine below, beat a hasty retreat with Erik holding back his whimpers as he was jostled by the two men.

"Emma?"

"You are an idiot, Erik... but you know I would follow you anywhere, don't worry about the rest."

The rest, the dozens of mutants waiting for Sebastian's command to overtake the slaver island of Genosha. They were his to command. He would make the humans on that island wish they had never been born, he would make them submit.

.1.

Erik pressed his head to the side of the window, looking out over the ocean from his Genoshan penthouse. He wondered if he could have picked the exact location where his mentor's body had sunk to the ocean floor, just at the horizon, wrapped around the metal coffin of his beloved yacht. It had been six months to the day, and it seemed like a lifetime and a blink of an eye to Erik. He'd once looked up at the skyscraper where he now stood and considered the best way to crush the support struts and bring it down, now he stood inside, gazing out over his territory.

King Magneto.

He snorted, leaving a puff of fog against the glass where he'd exhaled.

There was a soft tap on the door, really just a familiar touch on the metal of the door to his apartments. He twisted his hand and let the door open up behind him, his mind still out on the waves. A few moments later, Emma stood beside him. She was regal like that, his Prime Minster, her body wrapped in sinfully tight white silk and lace in contrast to his own billowing red-brown robes. It was impossible not to contrast the beautiful and confident woman - nearing thirty, just like him - to the scared eleven year old he'd met years ago. The changes - to both of them - were striking.

"Stop thinking about my ass, Erik."

He smiled, accepted it for what it was, and headed over to the bar he kept near the window, pouring them both a scotch. She knew where his mind had actually been - as a telepath it would be impossible for her not to - and she also knew he needed to be drawn away from that dark place. Wordless, the two of them turned and settled into the chairs that Erik always left facing the window, sat and exhaled as the weight of the day slowly fell off of Erik's shoulders.

"How is the reconstruction?" Emma asked, her fingers lightly clinging to the top of her glass, tilting it from side to side to leave the cubes sloshing against the sides rather than take a drink.

Erik flexed his fingers on his right hand, feeling the slight stiffness there and trying to ignore it. He'd worked most of the day clearing away rubble and destruction from the bay coast, picking up and discarding the memories of a battle so recently fought. "Well enough, Janos and I have the south side of the bay nearly cleared. I've heard there's already been land grant requests."

"Only a few, mostly mutants who want or need contact with the ocean, fish callers... Janos of course." Emma finally took a sip of the scotch.

Erik nodded, Emma would make certain it was taken care of. There were so many government functions and so few people to care for them. His purpose before they had liberated Genosha had been conquest and destruction. Rebuilding took a skill-set that he wasn't entirely familiar with. He had a lot of people who were fantastic at smashing things but really only a handful when it came to building things. Emma was one of the best.

"What would I do without you?" He asked, half-sarcastic and half-serious.

"Probably kill the entire Parliament."

That sounded about accurate. The makeshift Parliament was made up almost entirely of mutants who had come out of the woodwork after the worst of the fighting had passed. Erik felt strongly about mutant solidarity, but that could only extended so far when it came to the men and women who had decided that now that it was finally safe to oppose the enslavement of mutants they could do so. Now that it held no risk, they had decided to take the opportunity to cement their position in power as the founding fathers (and mothers) of their new country.

"How is the constitution progressing?" He asked. One of his assistants - Angel - kept him well stocked in reports from the assembly, but he didn't give them as much attention as perhaps he should.

"You really should read them." Emma answered his thoughts rather than his words. "We've started in on sub registration, again."

He didn't care. Mutant registration he was - of course - opposed to, but sub registration wasn't something he concerned himself with. He'd read some of the literature, from time to time, and it was hard not to read about pro or anti mutant registration without many of the authors discussing sub registration in the same breath, but it wasn't important to him. The knew the stereotypes; subs were weak and aimless, they spent their lives constantly dressing to attract a Dom, they weren't suited to the work of running anything. Mostly he agreed, he had never met a sub that was much more than a beautiful distraction from real work.

"We've had the Crown take up a position of anti-registration," Emma told him.

The Crown. Him. There was probably some sort of conflict of interest in having the Prime Minster put out his press releases, but in general Emma and Erik knew each other's minds better than anyone else, and if she wanted them to take the anti-registration position, that was what they would do. He knew she wasn't a sub, so he found her position on the matter a bit surprising. "What has gotten you on the anti-registration parade, Ems?"

She sniffed at the name, but didn't protest it. Anyone else would probably have had their balls cut off with diamond bladed fingers. "Us," she reminded him. "Perhaps you could say the renowned Professor X has rubbed off on me just a touch."

Erik winced. Charles Xavier - hippy pacifist. Erik's only consolation was the fact that The Professor had absented himself from the Genoshan reconstruction entirely, choosing instead to stay in England. He had certainly had his representatives, Angel - his assistant, Scott - complete asshole, but very competent, and a handful of others. Graduates from his Institute had represented nearly a quarter of Erik's martial strength in the final days, and almost every mutant under his command who could take orders, give orders, could think on their feet, and kick ass had been care of Xavier's Institute. Not that he gave Xavier much credit for that.

"He does have a point." Emma could obviously sense his discomfort. "Sebastian tried to recruit him to our war effort at least a dozen times over the previous five years, and he has plenty of articles rebutting some of the worst evolutionary psychology papers on the topic of the natural order of Doms and subs."

"That still doesn't explain why we're trying to cater to some Oxford Don who spent the last ten years acquiring diplomas and teaching mutants not to fight for their independence and freedom." His anger bubbled dangerously to the surface of his mind, but Emma ignored that. The rest of Genosha might fear his ire, but never Emma.

She answered by pressing her fingers into his arm, just a slight touch, but backed with ice. "Erik, it's politics."

He hated politics almost as much as he hated mutant toadies who bowed and scraped and stooped instead of fought.

"Did you read your briefing materials for the day?" He shook his head in answer. Angel had gotten it to him while he had been concentrating on a particularly difficult set of debris and he hadn't bothered since. "Britain has just passed a rather harsh set of sub registration laws."

Erik imagined that hadn't particularly pleased one Charles Francis Xavier - Lord of the Institute.

"No, it did not." But while Erik was amused and pleased, Emma was obviously not. "It was quite impressive, required declaration of orientation upon voter registration, voter restrictions on subs, no switch orientation allowed, and a few other nasty restrictions on intraorientation relationships to discourage incorrect registration. Xavier's already announced his intention to leave his position at Oxford, remove his endowment of several health initiatives, and relocate his Institute somewhere a bit more suited to the needs of his students. He did it once before - the rumor is that the CIA calls him regularly to apologize for the American sub registration act."

"Running away." Sometimes he doubted that Xavier was even the switch he played in front of Parliament and the Congress. He was probably a sub.

"See it how you will, Erik. Do you know how many industrialized nations with a centralized and relatively stable government have neither a sub registration law nor a mutant registration law?"

He shrugged. He didn't keep track of that sort of thing.

"Two. Luxembourg and Genosha - and technically Sealand."

"That's it?" He sat up, suddenly very interested. If what Emma said was accurate - and it always was - then Xavier was running out of countries to run to. The chances that Genosha would ever have a mutant registration law were zero, and if... the Prime Minster and the King were vocally against sub registration... "Oh, you are brilliant, Emma." He grinned at her, all teeth and aggression. "Xavier's Institute on Genoshan soil, that would be a coup."

Just because he didn't care for the man didn't mean the man wasn't ridiculously well respected. Erik could be even more aggressive in his recruitment from Institute ranks, and that would swell the army - and the competent state-staff - quite nicely. Erik rarely had use for a sub, but Emma had suggested he would need a partnership eventually and the Institute would have quite a few mutant subs to consider. He'd also heard several of the subs there were quite brilliant - and many of them were paired with powerful mutant Doms who had likely not considered joining the war effort because of their subs, not just because of ideology.

"Stop being sharky," Emma said, some snap, but mostly amusement in her voice. "You look like you're circling his Institute hunting for fish to snap up. It won't be that easy. Your politics are barely compatible and you don't exactly have a history of subs' rights stances. Even if he relocates here, that's a far cry from getting him to your side, and don't forget, if he's here, he will become involved in Genoshan politics. You can think he's a sub all you like, but he could have collared Sebastian and made him like it."

The mention of Sebastian, and the cool reality of Emma's assessment, brought him somewhat back to Earth. He needed a better plan than just standing around and hoping that Xavier would agree.

"There's another matter as well, Erik." Emma paused, waited until he was out of his own head again. "His sister, Raven; she's a sub, one of the most powerful mutant subs on our radar. If she falls in with one of your political rivals - including ones who feel quite a bit closer to Xavier's position, it could destabilized our claim, Hero of Genosha or not."

So he would have to seduce a sub - usually Emma's area of specialization - and win over a Dom - also usually Emma's area of specialization - and continue with the reconstruction efforts because if he took Emma way from the constitution efforts there would be even more to contend with whenever the document was finalized.

"Don't worry, I'll be on my best behavior."

Emma gave him a dubious look, and he couldn't help but think she was completely right to give him one.

.2.

The airport in Genosha was - like everything else - absolutely brilliant, and Charles thought it was some of the nicest architecture that he'd ever seen. Raven was behind him giving off similar thoughts, while Amy also smiled, taking it all in. The small charter jet they'd taken from Cairo had just been unloaded, and Charles moved the girls' bags so they all fit on the bag cart and checked the weight. He imagined that the 'completely unofficial' welcome committee would arrive any minute - if they weren't already there just beyond the tarmac.

"Professor Xavier!" He looked over in the direction of the yell and saw Angel giving him a wave and a flutter of wings. He returned the wave and then grabbed the bag cart to head over in her direction. Emma Frost - the Prime Minister - stood at her side, and the man between them could only be Magneto.

"Angel, lovely to see you again." When he arrived he wrapped her into a tight hug and kissed her cheek, the feelings between them were mixed, but he never begrudged his students a decision to move on. "And Prime Minster Frost." The two exchanged a firm handshake that lingered too long, trading a few bits and pieces of emotion and expectation. Clearly this was important to her, which was good to see. She'd been too much a pawn of Sebastian Shaw the last time they had met, and even if her stance hadn't changed much, their direction had, at least a few degrees. Emma was the first to blink, releasing his hand. "And... Your Majesty."

He gave his best bow and the ladies curtsied, apparently this amused 'His Majesty' just enough for the wisp of emotion to pass through whatever shields Emma had forged for him or he was holding under his own power. "A pleasure to finally meet you, Professor."

"Please, call me Charles."

"Charles, then." And of course he didn't offer the same courtesy in return, not that this surprised Charles. "Welcome to Genosha. I will be taking care of your accommodations and providing you with anything you might need."

Apparently Magneto was prepared to go all out for his comfort and to get his Institute relocated exactly where he wanted it. Charles nodded something that probably passed for a pleasantry while he scanned around for any stray thoughts that he might be able to catch.

"And, your travel companions?"

Charles gave Raven the slight mental prodding she would need to get over the worst of her nerves. "Raven Xavier, Your Majesty, Charles' sister."

Amy followed without needing any prompting. "Amy Pollard, Professor of Literature and Biology."

"An interesting combination," Magneto noted. Charles had to admit he could be at least a bit charming - which was honestly a surprise to him. Charles had always imagined Magneto as hard steel and no give, but he was actually already a good deal more charming than Sebastian Shaw, even if it was partially an act for Charles' benefit.

"There's nothing wrong with slightly eclectic schooling," Amy answered, all polite smiles.

The small talk continued while Magneto lead them out of the small airport and into Hammer Bay proper. The city itself was similarly gorgeous, crafted as it was by the thousands of mutants who had previously been enslaved to the human government. To the best of Charles' knowledge, the old regime was locked away somewhere dank and disgusting, awaiting a proper judiciary development in order to be put on trail for some sort of 'crimes against mutants' prosecution, which Charles couldn't help but agree with.

"Like what you see, Professor?" He heard Emma's voice in his thoughts just as clearly as though she's spoken in his ear.

"Well, it's hardly an accomplishment, just setting up in the emptied out homes of those who came before?" He prodded around the edges, looking for cracks. Emma's resolve had always been pure ice when she was with Shaw. Their visits had begun infrequently, but towards the end of the war he saw the two of them on four occasions in a single year. Emma had never shown signs of cracking, then.

"I think you underestimate us, and baiting me will work no better than it did last year."

He would just need to try Magneto, then, he supposed. Emma's resolve was quite strong, he knew she felt very strongly about the destruction of humans in order to pave the way for a mutant utopia. The acquisition of Genosha seemed to have halted the worst of the aggressions, at least.

"Professor Xavier! Professor Xavier!" He turned towards the noise, getting his picture snapped several times for the trouble. There was a small rabble of reporters lined up at the edge of the small airfield. "Are you allying yourself with Magneto?" "What is happening to the Institute?" "Do you have anything to say concerning Parliament's passing of the registration law?"

Charles sighed, waved his hand and sent a doppelganger off to the reporters - which would likely lead to great consternation when they realized that their photographs of the - somewhat - elusive professor would do them no good, but at least they would have a few sound bites. He could feel the quirk of Emma's eyebrow, impressed.

"Allied with Magneto?" Emma's voice baited him, her own lip quirking, slyly.

"Mmm," Charles answered, as though he wasn't paying much attention. "I really couldn't say. I understand there is something of a divide at present."

Charles actually knew very little about the system as it was currently coming into being in Genosha. The position of King was apparently a foregone conclusion, and Charles understood Magneto was still nominally - and likely in practice - also the head of the military if it came to that. The current population of Genosha barely numbered fifty thousand, but Charles knew that the total global mutant population was probably in the millions. The incorporation of non-territorial mutants was apparently a topic of some debate during the constitutional convention.

"Where do you stand on the topic of the Parliament, then, Charles?" Magneto asked him, his voice smooth and with just enough bite that he thought the king might be teasing, just a bit.

"Oh, well, as you can imagine, I do not have anything particularly nice to say about any legislative system at the moment." He gave Magneto a bright smile. "I suppose the most pressing issue at the moment is not the system itself, but the franchise."

He could tell he'd struck a nerve from Magneto's closed off response and Frost's decided chilling of her own mind. The right of any human citizens of Genosha - or even allowing humans citizenship at all - was obviously still an open question of some debate.

Charles continued to babble as though he couldn't hear the overwhelming tension in the air. "Personally, I favor the right to vote being extended to all citizens, and citizenship extended to all residents."

The air continued to be quite tense, and Charles continued to ignore it, but he could feel a pleasant sort of feeling bubbling up from behind him - Amy. She was one of those pesky corner cases that would so infuriate any attempt at proper enfranchisement. As a sub, she often found her voting rights curtailed or handed over to her (currently nonexistent) Dom, as a human her rights would be in question in a mutant run country like Genosha, and Charles would certainly never support a constitutional platform that didn't have a place for Amy in it. Charles knew the position he was in, Raven had termed it 'Genosha or bust', but Moira had certainly made an appealing case for Sealand - of only metaphorically. On general principle he was opposed to wasting millions of dollars building a tiny island to hold his mutants on, it was more likely he'd be able to finance a challenge to the registration law in America the next time the court appointments swung in their favor. Still, as much as he needed real estate on Genosha, he would not consent to take it without some concessions and he didn't hurt to feel out the waters.

"How... progressive." Emma's voice conveyed her obvious displeasure.

It seemed he would have quite the mission on his hands, then. Not all X-Men missions could be flashy and explosive, however, and Charles found that easy enough to accept. "Quite."

The group made their way slowly through the city streets, finally ending up somewhere that looked rather important.

"This is the seat of the government," Emma explained. "For the moment it is the royal residence, Parliament, and our Embassy."

Charles imagined that the original Genoshan Parliament was one of the buildings that had been destroyed during the war - so this was likely a converted residence or some other sort of building, but it was - like everything else - quite lovely, with long lines and a sort of neo-deco style that he couldn't help but appreciate for its retro appeal. "Groovy."

Behind him, Raven snorted, and he grinned.

.3.

Erik's annoyance with Charles Xavier only grew as the man continued to babble on the way up to the temporary residences that had been picked for their honored guests. He seemed able to talk about absolutely everything, and he was also obviously testing the waters for a few of his more ridiculous and radical ideals. Human citizenship on Genosha was completely unacceptable, it was bad enough that they were going to have to cave to the minority opinion on sub registration just to get the man's foot in the door, but after that he had no idea how he was going to keep Xavier without having him go over and put his full support behind the integrationist factions.

Integrationists!

"Erik, hush."

He could calm his mind at least slightly from that. Emma had this well under control. His job was to look intimidating, command the armies, and hold some sort of ceremonial position of ... something. He wasn't entirely certain what the point of a monarch was, but Emma had convinced him that the idea of vesting the authority of Genosha in a terrifying mutant general was likely good for business.

At least Xavier mostly shut up once they got to the rooms that Erik and Emma had selected for the Institute delegation. "How lovely!"

And they were lovely, done up in bright golds with plenty of very metal and very little by way of wood, the walls practically hummed to Erik, and it seemed that Xavier was at least slightly smitten, running his hands over the walls and much of the furniture.

"Well, Raven, if you would?" He indicated the cart and the girl went to work first inspecting all of the available rooms and then slowly divvying out luggage based on some sort of silent selection.

He noted that the other girl, Amy, had her baggage settled into a third room rather than sharing it with Charles - not his sub, then. Erik mentally worked his way through the list of subs he knew, trying to think if there were any that seemed like they might meet the Professor's tastes. He wasn't certain they made subs in tweed.

"Amy, please be a dear and find us some refreshments. Angel, I would appreciate a thorough report on any constitutional proceedings, the blog-o-sphere is quite silent on the current matters, dreadful." He spoke to Angel, kindly, but obviously expecting his request would be obeyed, and he watched, stunned, as the girl nodded, barely holding herself back from doing as Charles asked long enough to wait for Erik's nod of approval. "And, of course, Prime Minster, perhaps tea or cocktails sometime later?"

Emma paused for a moment, and he could see - could hear - his oldest friend trying to decide the correct tactic to take with Xavier's casual dominance of the room. "I'm afraid I'll be indisposed today."

"Tomorrow, then?"

Emma could only hold off so long, if she waited more than a few days it was very likely that the opposition would begin to court Xavier's support - and possibly his sister - and that would leave Erik and Emma's power base with a very obvious and gaping hole in it. Xavier was in no position to play kingmaker, but he held several cards, and it seemed he had a determination to play against Erik if Erik and Emma didn't fall far enough in line. "Perhaps I will find myself available today."

Xavier didn't even seem annoyed by the slight power-play. "I look forward to it. I'm very partial to scotch."

Emma gave a curt nod, and headed out of the apartments and back to the constitutional convention - she'd probably only missed a bit - and Charles gave her a very friendly wave.

"Whatever you do, Erik, do not underestimate him."

Erik would do his best. Still, he watched Xavier as he continued to circle around the room, hands touching the metal on the wall and the furniture, finally working his way over to the well stocked bar by the window - a mirror of the one in Erik's room, three floors above.

"Would you like something, Your Majesty?" He tilted his head towards the bar, already scrounging up a shaker and a few bottles. Charles' actions confused him slightly. With Emma and the others he'd expressed a certain level of casual dominance, but now he was offering to get Erik a drink - it was a weird mishmash of signals that Erik didn't know how to interpret.

"A martini." Erik pulled off the heavy fabric that made up his cloak, folding it neatly over one of the chairs, before he sat. "And I see no reason you can't call me Erik."

Charles turned towards him for a moment, the shaker in his hand pausing for only a moment. "Erik." His name sounded good on Charles' lips. "I'm surprised - the children tell me that in general your army prefers their mutant names."

The children? His mind puzzled on the phrase for a moment and then he realized... the children, his students. "I suppose I always imagined that your students who left to join our cause didn't leave under the best of terms."

He watched the telepath pour out the martini, set it down, and then went back to mixing something for himself. It was hard to judge - but Charles seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. "No, even if we do not always agree, my students rarely leave on bad terms. Many of them are still in contact with me from time to time."

Charles wound his way back to the seating area, handing Erik his drink before he poured himself into a chair and closed his eyes. Erik was surprised to see him look lightly frayed around the edges. It was odd to see; most Doms had very strict and rigid self-control when it came to showing any weakness, but Charles was there metaphorically showing his belly. Erik wondered if it was deliberate.

Of course it was deliberate. Everything about Charles was designed to elicit some sort of reaction. He probably had picked that second sub to do just that, if she wasn't there for sex.

Erik couldn't help but admire the man, at least in an intellectual sense. He was casual and self-assured. As much as he had told Emma the man acted like a sub, he'd never met a sub with such poise. He knew he was in command, infuriatingly so, and he held himself as though there was never any doubt that people would be following his will. He also looked infuriatingly like the sort of sub you'd see in some magazine, all pouting cherry lips and smooth edges, tantalizing softness that hid a will of steel. That had to be intentional, the wide eyes, the too-long hair, and the soft, neat clothes. It made him look like a sub.

He realized he'd been staring, stopped, and then searched for a topic they might be able to work from. "Your students are always among my best warriors."

Charles nodded, not acknowledging how much that had cost Erik to say, and how much he admired the students that had come from the Institute. Mutants who came from backgrounds without the training Charles had provided were not nearly as poised or as strong; they had a casual confidence that made them perfect warriors.

"They also have a strong understanding of organization, even running a country." A few of them were erratic, or difficult to handle, but most of them had the practicalities well in hand.

"That I can believe. Running the Institute can be a bit like running a small country, foreign policy, international trade..." He smiled, a private joke, maybe. "And we all do our chores. They take instruction and orders well, don't they?"

Erik had to admit they did, very well. It was unusual to get Doms who were sufficiently self-assured to accept and follow orders while still retaining the individuality of Doms that tended to be lost with military subs. "They do."

A few moments later, they were interrupted by Charles' sister, Raven, returning from wherever she'd been working on the clothing and other belongings, clearly actually unpacking rather than living out of the suitcase. She entered, looking just a touch lost, and he felt... a pang of sympathy. He hated to think what it might be like to rely constantly on reassurance that he was doing the right thing.

"Oh, just wash up and change, love. Your sundress is lovely with your eyes. I'll send you and Amy off when she returns." The girl leaned forward and Charles gave her a peck on the forehead. It reminded him of him and Emma, but with less physical affection between himself and the telepath. The similarity made it easy to notice the cock of Charles' head and Erik thought they might also be communicating telepathically.

He took a few moments to appreciate the girl, she was beautiful, nicely shaped, if still a bit girlish, beautiful cheekbones and nice eyes. Erik knew she could change her shape to look like anyone, mimic anyone, and her power was truly incredible, but for beauty he couldn't imagine wanting her to wear anything but her own skin.

Charles tilted his head towards Erik, enough that he wondered if his shields might be slipping. He didn't need the other man reading him. The last thing he needed was state secrets and his own desires laid bare.

.4.

Charles, in general, tried not to peek into other people's minds. He'd spent many years spent around hormonal children and boys and girls wondering if when they grew up if they'd be a Dom or a sub or if one of the other children (or sometimes Charles) would boss them around into bed. Erik's mind was, on the whole, blissfully shrouded behind an iron curtain, but bits seemed to show themselves at the most inopportune moments. Apparently Erik thought both he and his sister were quite aesthetically pleasing. He was used to that, but it was still surprising to feel the open admiration from King Magneto. Charles found him attractive enough in return, but he wasn't fool enough to court that level of political complication when all he needed was a safe haven for his mutants.

He had met Emma several times, and perhaps he'd thought that Magneto would be similarly cold, but Erik was obviously passionate, warm, and driven. The focus on the martial was always annoying, the drive to win and conquer and succeed overwhelming good sense, but he was hardly an uncivilized brute. Sebastian Shaw - for all his pretensions of being a man of wealth and taste - had always been something of a vicious brute under his silk and bespoke suits.

Erik, however, was brutal, but there was something raw and innocent there too. He didn't have the same cruel and calculating brutality, and it was tantalizing. He was the sort of man that some Doms would have appreciated breaking over their knee until he knelt down and begged to get fucked.

Charles shook his head, trying to clear the image. That was... not his usual style, and he was surprised to even feel the whiff of that sort of fantasy teasing at his mind.

At least he didn't have his arms wrapped around his sister while he was thinking that sort of thought, and he returned to his seat and watched Erik turn his assessment back towards Charles once more.

"You don't think much of me, do you, Erik?"

The twisted curiosity, where Erik wondered how much Charles had read and how much he had merely guessed, played over Erik's face. "I suppose I know we are very different, and I have a hard time believing we will end up on the same page in just a few short days."

"No, I imagine we could argue until we were old men and wouldn't change each others minds much at all." Erik was raw stubbornness, but so was Charles. He'd come by that stubborn and unyielding perspective very honestly, however, and was at peace with it.

"At least we could agree on that," Erik answered, humorous.

Even if they would be at each other's throats by the end of Charles' time there, he would certainly enjoy that humor.

"So, which of the many topics we'll disagree on would you like to tackle first?" Charles asked. He took another sip of his drink, enjoying the sweet burn as he drank. "We do have so many things to argue about, and so little time."

Charles could feel Erik teasing the question around, trying to decide what might be the best course of attack; they could go for the little things first, a few possible small agreements paving the way for larger potential agreements, or they could attack the big things first, the differences between their politics that might not be bridgeable. Charles was content to follow Erik's lead on selecting the topic.

"Let's talk, then." Erik finished the last of his drink and then carefully rolled the olive between his teeth. "What are your requirements for your Institute?"

Apparently they would start somewhere in the middle. "Several acres at least, for the grounds; lake, ocean, or other body of water on the premises; dormitory housing for at least one hundred, some doubles, some singles, some for couples with en suite; fourteen classrooms, two gyms, and a lab of at least 1,400 square feet... and a satellite dish." Charles stood, taking Erik's glass and heading back over to the bar. "That's the absolute minimum to accommodate our current needs, more would be preferable, so we don't have to limit enrollment."

Erik was clearly surprised, and Charles enjoyed the moment of oneupsmanship, even if it was slightly unbecoming. "You have one hundred students?"

"Yes, and that would merely accommodate the move from Britain, if we wanted to completely consolidate we would need larger grounds." He decided to get himself a martini this time, mixing them both one while he considered. "I prefer to integrate education of the Doms and subs whenever possible. Further time and resources might require more age stratification of the students, several more schools..." He sighed, actually thinking about it. He touched almost every mutant mind in the United States and Europe during his time with Cerebro, and given more time, more calibrations, and more work by Hank, he would no-doubt be able to touch the entire globe. "Depending on the vector that is taken with immigration we may have further need. I have no wish to set up a private, exclusive education only for the mutants that are most martially desirable, but as it stands now my recruitment has focused mostly on those with the most dangerous or visible mutations out of necessity."

Charles had to admit his own head was spinning from the prospect. Based on his numbers there were at least a million mutants in the world, possibly several million, and many of them were children. If all, or even many, of them choose to come to Genosha, Charles would hardly be able to educated them all.

"It sounds like you have quite a few ideas concerning educational reform, Charles." Erik looked up from his chair, and Charles caught his eyes, seeing something... surprised, and maybe a bit warm.

"Minister of Education, perhaps?" Charles teased, pouring out the drinks and bringing them back to where they sat. "I'm afraid you can't push me off to the side so easily."

"I wouldn't dream of it."

The shocking thing was realizing that Erik meant it. He'd expected and anticipated that Erik would try to find somewhere largely ceremonial to put him, get him 'in' the government while leaving him away from any areas he could potentially be damaging or too revolutionary. "Well, it is an issue that needs some consideration."

Amy finally returned after that, carrying a tray of all sorts of food that had come from somewhere in the building. She set the food down between him and Erik, and Charles gave her a nod. She was tense, and Charles didn't have to pry to see that someone had been a bit domineering with her.

"Alright, love?" Her mouth quirked into a tense smile that confirmed his first impression - she wasn't feeling well.

"It's fine, Charles."

"Go get changed into something nice. I'll do up your hair."

He could feel Amy's sense of... disappointment. The young woman was far more independent than was usually found in subs, she had strong opinions and a great deal of drive, but she couldn't quite help a certain desire to be told what to do and be taken care of. Charles had wanted her along for dozens of reasons, her sub and human nature, her intelligence, her keen observations of people's thoughts and motivations, and the fact that she tended to need a soft touch that made most Doms uncomfortable to witness. Really, like everything else, she was meant to solicit a reaction, and she knew that. Just because she knew and had agreed to that didn't mean she was always happy to be a slave to her drives.

"None of that, love," he insisted.

The smile she gave him was brighter after that and she headed off to her room. He turned back to Erik. "I'm going to send the girls out shopping."

"Without you?" Erik asked, before he obviously thought better of the question and grimaced.

"Yes. They're more than capable of having their own sense of style and aesthetics. I'm rather rubbish with that sort of thing, truth be told." It wasn't that he was incapable, but he did enjoy the tweeded look for himself; it was unassuming, and he strived to project that aura whenever possible. "I thought we could look at potential sites for the Institute. That way you can try to convince me to fall in love with one so I will have to move."

"No fooling you."

"Telepath."

The undercurrent of second guessing and hidden motivations drifted away, Erik knew Charles' score, Charles knew his, and they would simply have to fumble through everything else. Charles was a telepath, he more than understood subtext, but he had no need for it, usually. As a telepath, he strove to be as... textual as possible, most of the time he was very much what he seemed to be.

Amy returned, changed into a light skirt and blouse and then settling down at Charles' feet so he could brush her hair while he talked. Erik's discomfort was immediate, obvious, and palpable. Charles was disappointed.

"You don't actually want to move here, do you?" Erik finally asked.

Charles focused on untangling the waves in Amy's hair, letting them fall a little more neatly. "No, actually. I know certain mutants have decided to label themselves homo superior or other such nonsense-" Erik was one such mutant, actually, and Charles could feel him bristle - "but the truth is that by all conventional measures, humans and X-gene mutated humans are one species, capable of interbreeding and producing viable and non-sterile offspring. Outside of an exacting and rigorous genetic sequencing and differential analysis, I'm left with no other choice but to see the children I teach as a group of students with a unique abilities, but still human. I want desperately for them to grow up seeing themselves as exactly that: humans."

Erik's nostrils flared and his cheeks flexed from where he clamped his jaw down. Charles had obviously struck a nerve, a rather raw and exposed one if Erik's irritation was any indication. It took him a few moments, but he closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and settled. "This is different."

"Different? From categorizing based on skin color, gender, or orientation?"

Charles silently braided two strands of hair just above each of Amy's ears, and then braided them together down the back of her head. It would keep most of the waves out of her eyes for the day, and Charles always thought it looked quite good on her. He could feel Amy's happiness with his choice, even as she tried to ignore Erik sitting across from her.

"What do you think?" Erik looked down at Amy. "Not whatever he thinks."

Amy smiled, brushed a hand down her skirt. "I think there are plenty of humans who would be more than happy to have mutants live and work among them. We have six human professors, two of which aren't attached to a mutant in a relationship, and most of the house staff is human."

Erik looked surprised by the answer. He obviously couldn't tell for certain how much of her opinion was influenced by Charles, but she'd answered him immediately and easily. "And segregated education?"

"Well..." Amy didn't tend to deal with the administration - that was his and Moira's area of expertise - but she did have her opinions. "We currently have the more difficult cases; when you can blow up someone's house because you are frustrated, that's far more dangerous than someone who can shift eye colors. The training for children with more innocuous mutations... not to devalue the work Charles does, but it could be done with a Powerpoint presentation."

Charles smiled, actually, leaned back and grinned. "Quite right."

.5.

Charles was infuriatingly academic. He had an answer to everything and it sounded so... academic. Erik knew, more than anything else, that ideas that sounded brilliantly academic were usually that - academic - and usually not practical, not something you could put in your hands and make work the way you hoped it would work. Erik ignored the treacherous part of his mind that told him that his best soldiers and diplomats had been churned out of that idealist's school.

Raven and Amy - both dressed up and ready for an outing, fists full of Genoshan dollars in their purses - headed out before Charles and Erik, and Erik decided to leave most of the trappings of his office at home, clad it just a neat grey suit.

Their argument continued, out into the street, matters of heritage ('what heritage? I'm english-american and my parents were both pure human'), D/s integration ('honestly, how do you expect them to be independent if you don't give a firm example?'), and student recruitment ('what good is a mutant education to a girl who can turn her index finger into a glow stick?') had managed to both rile him up and calm him down. Despite the fact that he knew, intellectually, that he should be frustrated with how little progress he seemed to be making, he was enjoying himself. A lot.

Erik commandeered them a car and a driver, and the two of them headed out just to the edge of Hammer Bay and off into the quieter suburbs.

"It's like a Genoshan Malibu!" Charles had laughed and looked out over the waves.

The city was near-empty, the suburb had been entirely human, the pleasant hide away for some of the elite politicians who had made their way on the backs of the enslaved mutants. Most of them had thought better of sticking around after the war had gone south for them.

"It would do until you acquire a substantial non-boarding student population." If they had an influx of young mutants there would need to be a school in the city. "Angel will need you to submit a budget if you want tax funding."

It felt odd to say, tax funding for a school for mutants, the idea itself made Erik's chest expand with something like pride.

"R&D funding would not go amiss," Charles hopped out of the cart and started to walk around, obviously trying to get a feel for the place. "Hank just invented a breathable ceramic mesh of some sort, bulletproof, kinetic dampening properties, flame retardant... very groovy."

"Hank?"

"Dr. Henry McCoy, the children call him Beast. Lovely young man, PhD from Harvard at the age of 16."

Erik wanted him working for him.

"I actually poached him from the CIA, back when I was consulting with them before the registration act." Charles continued to babble as though it was absolutely nothing that he had a man who'd just invented an incredible battle armor. It wasn't as though all of his soldiers could use their powers to deflect bullets the way Erik could. "More, I should say, I poached him because of the registration act. It seems that unbonded subs don't actually appreciate being tracked and monitored."

Charles had made his point, really. He must have known that Erik wasn't completely sold on subs rights and anti-sub registration, and he had to admit that the point was a solid one. Most countries would have made certain that Hank was paired with someone suitable and taken out of the workforce, but his contribution to research and development would have been lost.

"I do feel bad thinking of knocking over a house or two, but the area is very lovely and suited. I wouldn't want to train someone like Cyclops in the center of the city." Scott, his power was incredible, and no, Erik wouldn't have wanted to be around for the first tentative steps the boy must have made to harness his power.

"We could probably grant a good portion of the town - at least a few bars or stores will want to spring up around the school."

"Our very own little Oxfordshire. You do know how to treat a professor right, Erik." Charles scanned the horizon one more time, hands in his pocket. "Well, I see your offer, it's very lovely. I hear Luxembourg has fantastic pastries, however."

Erik snorted, actually snorted. Charles was completely intolerable. "Do you want a pastry, Charles? We can get pastries."

"Better beer as well, you know, being so close to Germany..."

That, Erik was in complete agreement on. "Unfortunately, we're fixed to the US Dollar, currently, so it leaves us in a bit of a bind when it comes to running foreign trade deficits; at least that's what my Prime Minster tells me."

"Pity." The two of them slid into the car and Charles looked back out over the abandoned town. "Sounds like you need some foreign investment."

Foreign investment... that sounded like Charles was driving at something specific. "You mean not scaring the humans away?"

"That was the implication I was aiming for, Your Majesty."

Of course. Everything came back to that, politics, humans, mutants, immigration, education, taxes, and almost everything else they managed to talk about. It was going to become annoying. He was beginning to feel frayed. It wasn't even the conversation with Charles, it was just the feeling he had that he should be doing something, should be out working to clear rubble, or something else that might build his country. He was all thumbs at the conference table - at least without Emma's careful instruction beforehand - and he knew his place was mostly in the army.

Erik was slowly discovering the irritation of the position of being a general-turned-politician. Without something to crush mercilessly he was a bit lost on how to crush someone politically.

They drew stares when the two of them got out of the car and a few photographs followed. Erik did his best to look happy, and possibly a bit possessive. He needed to strengthen his position, not weaken it, and it needed to look like Erik had Charles right where he wanted the man. Charles seemed oblivious to the subtext of the moment, which probably meant he was acutely aware of it, still, Charles stopped and smiled and even cooed over a small child who was already showing signs of telekinesis.

Erik's mind drew a strange contrast to his former mentor. Shaw was brilliant at dominating others, and he'd done it seamlessly with the threat of violence. Charles was no less capable - he was stronger than Emma, and Emma could scramble your brains for the rest of your life - but there was no threat of force, just honest smiling and a 'oh, please be a dear' and somehow Erik felt like Charles was pushing him - more than was inherent in their little political theater.

He had a few moments to think about it, however, because Charles was leaning over the bakery case and picking out little cakes like a kid in a candy store.

A light sensation of knocking hit the side of his head, and he realized it was Charles, still leaning against the case and pointing at things. He sent back a questioning quasi-formed thought.

"What sort of cake do you like?"

He glowered at the back of Charles' sweater vest. "Chocolate is fine."

"There are five chocolate cakes, though. I may need to reevaluate my impressions of your baked goods selection..."

Even though he was certain he wasn't actually competing with Luxembourg on their baked goods selection, he still felt unaccountably smug. The baker here was one of the mutates that had been engineered by the previous regime and he'd been one of the first to apply for a post-revolution license to change jobs, private domestic servant turned baking entrepreneur. "Just pick one!"

Instead of one, he ended up sitting at a corner table having a little 'sample size' of all five cakes - sharing with Charles - and trying not to think it was incredibly awkward that he was having a cake tasting with a professor of genetics and mutant school headmaster all while trying to orchestrate a political something that left the man willing to work with his and Emma's government rather that join the opposition coalition.

He decided he liked the red velvet chocolate cake the best, but it needed different icing, and the fact that he was concentrated on cake - and absolutely no other reason - was why he was surprised when Charles leaped across the table, dragged him down to the ground and screamed 'get down!' in a voice that hammered into his ears and his mind.

The rest of the patrons pushed themselves to the ground and then the world above him exploded in glass and steel. Warm metal hurdling towards the patrons and Erik grabbed it with his mind, twisted it up so tiny beams and huge slabs imbedded in the ceiling; the glass, however, rained down hard, and he felt Charles wince above him and saw a trickle of blood down the professor's cheek while his arm gave out under him and Charles landed hard against his chest.

Emma would kill him if he got the professor killed. He shouted for a medic.

Chapter Text

.6.

Charles would have argued that he did not, in fact, pass out, and it had actually been wooziness, followed by falling over, and then whiting out from pain for approximately three minutes. When he came to, his ears were ringing so loudly he could barely hear and his mind was bombarded from all sides with pain and fear that he could barely think.

If he had passed out, it would have been entirely justified.

The sound in his ears felt hollow, muzzy, and even though he was dimly aware of the shouts around him they didn't actually register as anything but white noise. Erik was hovering near him, lips close to his ear, speaking loud enough that Charles could hear that he was speaking but couldn't understand any of the words. He moved to push Erik away, but found his arm pounding with pain; looking down, there was a huge shard of glass still sticking out of his arm. He grimaced.

"Charles?!" Erik's voice was loud in his mind, cutting through most of the panic-haze of minds around him.

Instead of answering, he just pressed his finger to his lips and made a soft shushing sound that echoed inside his own mind. He reached out with his undamaged arm and pressed an assurance into Erik's mind.

"Take care of everyone else, if you please. I'll be fine." Charles ran his fingers over his own face, felt a small cut there and dabbed at it. Erik took one final look at him and headed off into the crowd. Charles couldn't see him, but he could sense the strain of his powers while Erik worked with metal just outside of his vision. No doubt something more impressive than a shattered bakery window had happened outside.

Charles tugged out the shard of glass, winced, and pulled out another three from his leg and one from his side. All of the cuts were shallow, but he tugged off the sleeve of his shirt - now ruined - and tied off the wounded bicep with his other arm and his teeth.

He still couldn't hear, but he followed the only other thing he had, the sense of pain that was radiating off of everything. The bakery patrons themselves had largely been saved from injury, Charles' commanding press against their minds had gotten them down and under cover before the blast hit, but there were waves of pain coming off from just outside.

The epicenter of the blast was obvious, a splatter of blood and bone a half block from the bakery with cracked pavement underneath. A handful of mutants were already dead around the crater. Charles yanked off his belt and knelt down next to a woman, hands pressed against her thigh as it bled profusely.

"Pardon my hands." He could barely hear his own voice, but he gave her a gentle smile and yanked the belt painfully tight around her upper thigh.

Healer... healer... he stretched out, felt one, two. One was a Dom and had automatically started to take charge of the area she was in; another was sub and was panicked, frantic.

"Jonathan, please calm your mind." He felt the man start, but then turn around, caught Charles' eye and Charles waved him over. "Cut to the artery in her leg, be a dear and stabilize her. Not too much energy, must keep you in good form."

His own hands were wet and bloody now, but he wiped them off on his sweater and touched the back of Jon's neck as he kneeled down.

"Relax, you're doing fine, love. Deep breath."

Charles made his way to the next body conscious enough to feel pain. Just scrapes and bruises.

"This one check for internal injury and move on."

He cut his way through the crowd like that, passing over the dead, looking for the ones who were passed out or in the most pain. It was... triage for his mind, and as Jon trailed behind him the screaming ache of injured men and women started to subside. Those who were only mildly injured, or uninjured but frantic, he touched their shoulder, or their hand, gave them a quick assurance, a command if they needed it, and slowly that fearful ache subsided around him as well. He started to hear the sounds of other people around him, more yells, groans in pain, but the worst of the pain bleed had stopped... the ache in their chest had just started.

Charles felt their questions, who had done it, why, what next, was it humans, mutants... why was I here, why is he dead and not me. He tuned it out as much as he could.

"CHARLES!" Raven ran up to him, arms wrapped around him and squeezed so hard he thought she might give him internal injuries.

"Raven, I'm fine, really, barely a scratch."

She snorted, pressed her nose into his collarbone. "That's why you're bleeding and have most of your shirt ripped off and strewn about around other people's arms and legs, right?"

"Of course." He pressed his arms around her, stroking her back. "Hush. I'm fine. Relax. Nothing to worry about." He didn't even need to press the thought into her mind, just his voice and the careful touch started to unwind her coiled tension, and when she finally seemed together again he pulled away and kissed her forehead. "I got you some cakes... they may be embedded with glass shards, however, so perhaps we should try that again tomorrow."

Raven laughed, just a nervous little giggle, but she let go, and Charles just had to press a calming word into Amy's mind and she felt obviously better.

"What happened?" Amy asked, looking around. She knew the obvious, but the rest was still up in the air.

"That is exactly what I'd like to know." Emma said, her voice icy cool, as she stepped up beside him. "You felt the bomber?"

Charles nodded. "I got a warning to... the block or so nearest to the bakery, but beyond that..." He shrugged, winced when he realized that he was still bleeding from a cut to his arm.

"Human?" Emma's question pounded into his skull. Charles winced, both from the sound and the answer.

"Not here, please. I've a bit more calm to instill anyway."

It didn't take much longer, not to finish all he could accomplish. He ended up with his shoulder wound healed and his leg wounds pressed with a bit of healing energy - just enough to speed up the natural process - and then he let himself be escorted back to the Embassy.

"I didn't feel any other attacks," he noted to Emma, and the Prime Minster shook her head. "Good. He felt... alone, but it is always good to know for certain."

"The bomber..." Erik gritted through his teeth.

"Oh, just... hush. You'll have your press release as soon as I get the death out of my mind." He was glad that he hadn't been in the bomber's mind when he had died. It was the most exceptionally painful experience Charles knew, and he didn't want to have the feeling of being blown to bits echoing within his own mind. The rest of death had been... manageable, at least.

Erik hushed, and Charles was very grateful for that.

"Are you alright, Professor?" Emma's voice held actual, genuine concern, not just rooted in his position as Headmaster of the Xavier Institute.

"If he's cranky enough to snap, he's fine," Raven answered for him. "It's the quiet you have to look out for."

"Quite." Charles grabbed her around the shoulder and pulled her in for a kiss to the forehead, and he could finally feel her really relax. "Well, I think it would be best for me to grab a shower - Your Majesty as well - and then I assume there will be some sort of press conference for you two."

They didn't labor over it, but less than twenty minutes later, Charles was cleaned up and back feeling presentable and Erik was back in his room - now in full on Magneto robes - while Emma glowered between the two of them. "Out with it, Xavier, I have a press release to write."

Charles took a deep, calming breath, trying to put himself back in the frame of mind he'd been in for the few moments when he'd brushed against the bomber's mind. "Human, middle aged, he felt like a loner, my feeling was that he was motivated by grief of some sort, perhaps a dead family member."

"Well, he's made at least ten new dead family members, so I'm certain he feels pleased with himself!" Erik was slowly getting more and more agitated, and Charles could feel it in the back of his mind, like the man was clawing to get out.

Emma shot Erik a glare, but he barely seemed to notice.

"Erik, my friend." Charles reached out his hand but then thought better of actually touching him. "We'll do no one any good in such a state. A calm and level headed response to such a tragedy is the only way to instill a belief that you are prepared respond appropriately."

Far from finding it soothing, Charles' words had the opposite effect on the man. "Fuck calm, and fuck your academic appreciation for the situation. Ten mutants are dead!"

Emma glanced down at a tablet in her hand. "Sixteen."

Charles winced, looked down at his hands. He wondered if he could have been a bit firmer with Jon or if there really wasn't any more to be done.

The news hit Erik hard. "Damn."

Whatever shielding Erik usually managed around his mind was frayed, starting to crack at the seams, and Charles could feel everything pouring through Erik's mind; anger, frustration, hate, a desire for revenge, disgust, and shame swirled around in an unappealing cocktail. Emma could obviously feel it too, and she went over to Erik, manicured fingers sliding around his wrist; it reminded him of the way he sometimes was with Raven, close and almost sisterly.

The move left a question floating in his own mind, and Erik's raw emotion and the calm way that Emma touched his arm humanized the pair for him in a way not even joking about cake had managed. Charles felt desperately bad for them.

"We must get ahead of this, Erik," Emma said, her words a mix of assurance and command.

"Right. There will need to be an investigation. Azazel and Janos can head it up."

"Azazel and Marie, Janos will be needed for clean up."

Erik nodded. Charles wondered if that was his Marie, he liked to think so, she was brilliant at people skills, for all she was isolated from others.

"Investigation, appropriate response, heart goes out to the victims." Erik checked with Emma, and she nodded in response.

"We should thank Professor Xavier." Emma's tone was grudging. It took Charles only a moment to realize why. They were still... wooing him, if they built him up, and Charles chose not to support Erik and Emma's political aspirations, he could shift the balance of power far enough to take Emma out of her position.

"Please, it's unnecessary." He didn't need the complication, getting Emma and Erik on his side was going to be tough enough without them worrying about him going completely rogue. "I would have helped regardless. A few moments warning is hardly commendable."

He watched as Erik took another deep breath, eyes meeting with Emma's and he could almost hear the edges of the mental conversation, no words, or even emotions, but it sounded like a conversation several rooms away.

"Charles, you took firm control of the situation and saved lives," Emma finally answered. "It would be inappropriate not to recognize your contribution."

Someone must have him on film looking really heroic...

.7.

Underneath her cool exterior, Erik could feel the edges of Emma's panic. Charles likely couldn't - as far as Emma told him he'd been a perfect gentleman when it came to looking at other people's thoughts - and that was the only reason that Erik wasn't also panicking.

Even he had no trouble seeing exactly how easily Charles had taken command of the situation, had brought out the most incredible success from someone who was by all accounts an unremarkable healer. Jon was already singing the praises of Charles to all who would hear, and apparently there were a few pictures of Charles also looking heroic. Erik had gotten some treatment as well, of course, but Emma was worried about Charles, not his, profile.

Erik's mind was also still roiling in a way that he couldn't bring under control. He wanted to lash out, kill, and take down anyone related to that damn suicide bomber who had taken lives. Holding that rage back was hard for him. With Shaw he'd always been able to channel it, hone it, direct it somewhere productive, but for the last few months it was hard not to see that he'd been having more and more urges to do something needlessly violent.

Emma used to bring him masochistic subs when he was in this sort of mood, but it was never actually satisfying, and left him more tense than satiated.

It was hard to slake the desire to punish someone when there wasn't anyone nearby to punish.

Through the haze of anger and frustration and hate, he looked up and saw Charles, smiling. Erik couldn't quite understand how he could just stand there, as though... as though people weren't dead.

"I'm going to put together your speech." Emma squeezed his wrist again before letting his hand fall. "Make certain you are ready to give it."

Erik sat down on one of the sofas in Charles' room, trying to gain some measure of calm, something that might make him feel ready to go in front of a nation - the entire world, even - and put their fears at ease. Charles sat down next to him, so close they were almost touching shoulders.

"Amy, be a dear, call Moira, let her know we're unharmed. Have her draft some sort of release from the Institute. Condolences, our thoughts with the families." The young woman left, Erik watched her leave, her steps sure, unworried. "Raven, some tea, strong."

"How can you be so calm?" He finally asked, when they were alone again. He wanted to tear things apart.

"I run a school for children, seventy five of the ones in Britain are subs. I also have a few dozen Doms who come to me when they are frayed." Charles smiled, sad but warm and understanding, and Erik couldn't help but smile back just a little. "I live every day with that control. Erik... would you mind very terribly if I touched you?"

"As long as you don't use it to get into my head." Emma touched him sometimes, but other than her he really didn't allow himself to be touched. Subs sometimes... maybe.

"Of course."

Warm hands pressed against his neck - he tensed. Undeterred, Charles pressed his fingers into the nape of Erik's neck, digging in, hitting tense muscle. A few moments later, Charles stood, hands sliding down into the high collar of his robe and rubbing where his neck met his shoulders.

Against his own best judgment, Erik felt a bit of tension wick away.

"The most difficult thing for anyone to realize - Dom or sub - is that we are never in complete control." Charles' voice was soft, warm, and it made him feel as though the man was somehow hypnotizing him, but he was there, his own thoughts clear in his mind. "Accepting that isn't weakness."

"That doesn't mean just doing nothing." Just a few minutes ago, his words would have been heated, angry - he was still angry - his rage boiling just below the surface, but his voice, at least, was calm.

"No, of course not." Charles fingers slid against his scalp, pressing and leaving him feeling heady and dizzy for a moment while his mind cleared. "You're not just a general anymore. It's not just about a few movements on the field, through a city, press this down, shore this up. Sometimes the greatest strength lies in seeing exactly where to press."

Erik was very certain that Charles was saying something important, but instead of really listening his eyes were closed and he found himself just feeling the firm touch just along his neck and shoulders before the over-personal touch slowly faded away. When he finally let his eyes flutter back open, Charles was working on pouring them each a cup of tea.

"How do you take it?"

"Three sugars."

"You, Your Majesty, have a bit of a sweet tooth." Charles grinned at him even as he dropped the lumps into his tea and started to stir, only adding a touch of milk to his own tea. "Feeling a bit better?"

He almost hated to admit it, but he was. Erik stretched so he could sit up a little straighter and then took the tea when Charles leaned back in his seat, handing it over. "It seems so..." un-Domly.

Charles seemed to follow his thoughts, effortlessly, even though he hadn't actually said what he was thinking.

"I certainly don't find it inappropriate."

Erik nodded, trying to take that in. He couldn't deny that he felt a bit better now, for having just let himself relax and have some tea. Charles' hands having been warm and firm certainly hadn't hurt. He was still going to murder people if he found them responsible.

"A measured response in a few days will serve you, and Genosha, much better in the long run, Erik."

Academic. However as much as Erik wanted to be frustrated, he knew Charles had been there nearly at his side, instructing, helping, making certain that everyone had a chance to live. Erik had only shored up some collapsing structures, and there was no one pinned beneath rubble to help with his own power. It was hard to begrudge him his perspective when he'd seen the telepath wading in and touching bodies, face downcast with his own pain.

"... I know."

He almost thought that Charles must have pressed his own emotions onto the back of Erik's mind, because the approval and the pleasure that Charles was obviously feeling felt like it was pounding against him.

It didn't matter how it had happened, the wave carried him through his speech, Emma and Charles to his sides, assurance pressed into the back of his mind by Emma and just a warm, comforting, blanketing feeling coming off of Charles.

When he was finally off stage again, he let himself lean up against the wall and take a deep, calming breath.

"We're trending well," Angel interrupted his reverie. "Authoritative, commanding, but measured; considered and respectful. Mostly good. There is some concern that the action will be used as a pretext for war." Erik had been teasing the idea around. "And... there are more than a few people who want your email address, Professor."

"They underestimate the resolve of a telepath who spends most of his days and all of his nights surrounded by hormonal adolescents," Charles answered back immediately, and Erik could tell this was a bit of a private joke between the pair.

Emma arched an eyebrow. "If you don't mind, Professor, I need to steal His Majesty for some affairs of state. You can entertain yourself, can't you?"

"Certainly, especially if Angel has found me the information I have requested in the meantime...?" Angel handed Charles a small memory stick and the man gave her shoulder a little squeeze. "Thank you, love."

Erik missed the rest of the conversation, he and Emma headed back to his office and despite the frustration and hate and anger that was teasing around in his mind he actually felt at peace. As much as he wanted to lash out, he knew Charles was right, nothing would be served by having some sort of disproportionate response to the attack. They needed answers before they did anything rash.

"You seem..." Emma trailed off, Erik arched an eyebrow at her. "Relaxed."

He didn't feel relaxed, he still felt angry, upset, and antsy, but the worst of it seemed subdued. "Charles..." An uncomfortable thought hit him. "He didn't do anything to me, did he?"

Emma pressed her fingers to his temple, and Erik felt his mind run back through the last few hours, the attack, the hour or so spent with Charles, and then the speech and the walk back to the room. "No. I suppose he might be powerful enough to do something I couldn't see, but... no."

Erik let out a strained breath and nodded, feeling a bit better. "Couldn't say, then."

"Mmm." The sound was more a grunted exhalation than a real word, but Emma nodded anyway, apparently satisfied enough for the moment. "How are you feeling?"

The question confused Erik for a moment, and he ignored the oddness of Emma asking rather than just plucking at his emotional state and deciding for herself how he was feeling. He gave it some thought, though, while he circled around his desk and poked at the computer there. "We need to find out more about the man who did this."

"That's not how you're feeling, Erik."

He frowned, trying to find a real answer. "Fine?"

Emma looked at him again, her own face hard and unreadable. "We need to work on a response to this."

Right. "Marie and Azazel will head up our investigation - Charles said that he was probably a human, do we know anything else yet?"

"A few photos, enough that we might be able to identify him over the next few days. There's obviously nothing left for a positive identification based on teeth or hair. DNA is a possibility, but there's more than enough... splatter that even that might not be possible," Emma spoke as though they were talking about the weather, or something else other than a dead splatter of flesh and blood in a crater in the middle of the downtown core.

"That will happen," he answered, certain of it. "How are the humans responding?"

"They are tentative, for the moment."

They should be. "We'll use it to push for further concessions on citizenship."

As far as Emma had told him there was a pending question about the nature of Genoshan citizenship. The thousands of humans who had been a part of the corrupt system that had imprisoned mutants and mutates had largely fled after the revolution, but there were still several thousand who had decided to stay, and a few who had moved in after the revolution itself. All eyes of the UN and other international communities were watching to see how Erik and Emma and their slowly forming government would handle the human situation.

Erik wouldn't have minded ejecting them forcibly and killing all of the ones who resisted. Emma was only slightly less radical in her own desires, but three of the fifty-some representatives in the constitutional committee who were full human. Another fifteen or so had human-leaning sympathies.

"We'll select a position that makes it clear that Genosha is intended to be a country that first and foremost concerns itself with mutant issues - but we have a rather large constituency who want integration." Emma pressed her finger against her tablet. "It's a very fine line to walk, Erik, and I'm concerned about the... Xavier issue."

"What about him?" Charles had stood and looked nice and non-threatening for the press conference, Erik would have rather not worried about him.

"His integrationalist tendencies are... rather legendary." Emma was looking over the notes that she still had on her computer and Erik could feel the gears working. "If we position ourselves strongly counter, and he speaks firmly for, it could splinter public opinion on the matter."

Erik grabbed the steel paperweight on his desk and squished it in his hand, the semi-molten metal squeezing between his fingers and leaving the ball contorted and strands of metal stuck between his fingers. "A human just killed sixteen mutants. Ems, I didn't take over a country to paint a target on the back of mutants, I did it to protect..." He squeezed harder.

All those children he and Emma had grown up with who had never had the opportunity to see the outside of their cage.

"I know." Of course she did. "Get Xavier on our side for this, Erik."

Erik wasn't certain he could. He didn't know how Charles had suddenly found himself so instrumental in the tiny little pieces of policy that were going to shape their country, but if Emma said they needed to make certain Charles wouldn't undercut them, then that was what he would need to do.

"I'll do my best."

.8.

Charles finally had a few moments to himself, without Erik hanging around to watch him or whatever it was that the man had decided to do around him. Amy was perched to one side of him on the couch, thumbing through a biology journal, while Raven flanked him on the other side reading some sort of fashion magazine that Charles was completely uninterested in.

Normally it would have just been him and Raven in the evening, his sister snuggled under his arm while he read to her or the two of them talked about the day.

"Charles, is that report as boring as I think it is?"

He laughed and pulled his sister's head down to kiss the bright red hair. "More so, I'm afraid. It's minutes for the last three weeks of the constitutional committee. The first two or so weeks after the revolution were given over to crushing remaining pockets of fighting and even the most basic reorganization, after that... it was a matter of selecting the candidates to represent the people. Coalitions of several thousand individuals each put forward several members... and so the representatives have been talking out the constitution since then."

Amy put down her journal and then shamelessly stretched her legs over his lap. "What have they gotten so far?"

He didn't need to be telepathic to read that signal, and slowly started to rub her calves and ankles while he considered his answer. "Erik... um... His Majesty put his foot down somewhat firmly on the matter of sub citizenship, so we've none of that 'two votes for a bonded Dom, no vote for an unbonded sub' ridiculousness you see so often. I think we are all aware that was his opening gambit to have the Institute relocate here."

Raven snuggled up next to him, and he gave over one of his arms to hugging her around the waist and continued to rub Amy's feet - she wiggled her toes at him and he pinched one lightly. "Well, at least I'd get to vote, right now if I'm lucky you get to vote for me."

"Yes, and voting for you is quite tiresome, generally it's assumed that the Dom will vote twice for something, but we do not always agree on congressmen or the like and there's little way to register that." Charles found the whole thing desperately barbaric, and he had no intention on allowing such a system to spring up in Genosha. "This concession to the Indies - Independents, that's Erik and Emma's preferred coalition - meant that the Integrationalists - pro-human and pro-integration camps - wanted something in return. That may be the vector for human citizenship, but with the recent attacks it seems more likely there will be a different set of concessions made and the issue of human citizenship will need to be fought at another time."

The politics gave Charles something of a headache. In general, he voted for whoever seemed most likely to support sub and mutant rights, international humanitarian aide, and several social programs; he put his money in several endowments for sciences and he considered that the end of it. He'd never had to vote in the UK elections, but the Genoshan constitution was aiming to set up a less polarized collection of parties rather than the two party system of his home country.

"I think it's fair to say that no one coalition espouses the ideas I think would make Genosha an international territory to be reckoned with."

"They may have made a mess of the sub registration, but a true multi-party system is one thing the UK has going on you Yanks," Amy said, nose crinkling slightly as she teased him.

"Very true." Charles sighed. "At least I've a better understanding of the lay of the land."

"His Majesty and the Prime Minister seem rather keen on you," Amy noted.

"Yes. It's not that we agree on nothing, but I'm concerned about being seen to be throwing in with him completely." This was why he tended to stay out of politics. He was always happy to come in front of Congress - or Parliament - and speak on the effects of mutation or the Dom/sub interrelationship, switch issues, and so forth, but that was where it ended for him usually. "Clearly I will have to spend a bit of time with the opposition just to make certain my intentions aren't misunderstood."

"They won't like that," Raven predicted, and Charles knew she was more than correct.

"I know, love."

Truth be told, what he really needed was a shag. The students - and a few of the teachers - alternated between seeing Charles as some sort of sexless entity who dispensed brilliant education on the topics of genetics, power control, and historical perspectives on D/s relationships and an amazing sex god who needed to be seduced in some sort of sexy detention scenario that he only assumed came from some form of pornography he wasn't familiar with. It left him living a lot more like a monk than he would prefer, he was barely approaching thirty.

He never lacked for children in need of a firm hand, and it took some of the luster out of mixing domination with pleasure. He sighed. "I've got to get some time away, ladies."

Raven rolled her eyes; unfortunately one of the only students who didn't expect him to live like a monk was his own sister and that was completely unhelpful for the problem at hand.

"Can you entertain yourselves for a few hours?"

They both nodded. "We're not kids, Charles," Raven growled at him.

"Never said you were."

The air had transitioned from scorching and bright into a cool sunset that left the air warm but no longer uncomfortably in danger of burning Charles' fair skin to a crisp. He made his way towards the shore, only a few blocks from the state building, and he walked all the way down to the docks that shipped out all sorts of gadgets and wonders built by the Genoshan mutates.

Charles shut his eyes and let himself feel the warmth and the spray of the ocean. His thoughts drifted, and he listened for the thrum of arousal and the haze of alcohol that usually marked a good bar. There was one only three blocks down the bay. Moira likely wouldn't approve of him wasting time on the Genoshan nightlife, but he was getting a bit tense in a way that he really didn't really think he was going to be able to solve without it.

It seemed that picking up men and woman was a great deal easier when your picture was all over the internet saving people. The only way it would have been more effective was if he had a kitten while he'd done it. His 'groovy mutation' pickup line was also unsurprisingly effective.

Most people tended towards the belief that Doms should be the aggressor in the pickup scenario, and Charles was usually only too happy to oblige, but he wasn't averse to the half-dozen beers that he was slowly plied with throughout the night and the mutants who came with them.

Unfortunately, the reverse of his usual technique found him unexpectedly picky, and a few hours after he had arrived, he sat, nursing a water, towards the corner of the bar, feeling a bit over-stimulated and under-satiated.

"Is this seat taken, Professor?"

A young woman, brunette and beautiful with stunning green eyes, slid into the seat next to him, and it took him just a moment to place her face. She was the woman whose leg he'd bound with his belt, looking quite a bit better than when she'd been bleeding near the center of the explosion just a few hours before. "Of course not, please."

"The man of the hour." She raised a glass to him and he clinked his own water against hers.

He blushed, even though it was not the first time someone had pointed it out. "I did what anyone else with the resources and abilities would have done, nothing more."

"You're too modest." He felt the edge of her thoughts without trying - she thought he was putting on airs - but he did his best to ignore her second-guessing his motives. "Celeste Vandermeer."

"Charles Xavier, as I'm certain you're well aware by now."

The name teased at the back of his mind, and he felt like he should know it, but it didn't connect to anything he could place and he wasn't about to go fishing through her mind just to satisfy his curiosity. "Yes, the famous Headmaster, shepherd of young minds and trainer of warriors."

She was puffing him up, and he could feel it, but no one was completely immune to a bit of flattery.

"Most don't see it that way, you know, the warriors bit." He didn't see it that way either. He trained young men and women to use their powers and their mental faculties to make the best decisions they could with the information available.

"No?" She relaxed a bit, curled towards him just few inches more, body broadcasting her intentions just as clearly as her mind did.

He leaned in, not taking his eyes off her bright green eyes and the attractive way her lips turned up into the ghost of a smirk. "No, that's not what I'm about."

"A lover, not a fighter?" Her smirk grew a little more obvious.

"You could say that."

"Love it." She reached out, fingers touching along the back of his hand and he let her, his own fingers twisting just enough so he could feel along the inside of her wrist. The curious-aroused feeling at the front of her mind became more pronounced as their hands and fingertips brushed together. "What's it like?"

"Mmm?" He knew what she meant, but had to admit he enjoyed being chased for a change right now.

Celeste wasn't even bothering with subtlety, and he didn't mind. The woman leaned forward, lips and nose brushing against the hair that fell loosely next to his face, mouth next to his ear as she whispered. "Sliding inside someone else's mind."

Charles reached up, fingers brushing along her jaw and he set his thumb to her lips and two more fingers to her temple, letting the soft touch of his own arousal brush her mind. She moaned.

"s'intense..."

"For all the same reasons someone else feels so much more satisfying on your body."

She pulled back, just enough to break the connection, and Charles watched the way her eyes adjusted back to the light of the bar, she blinked a few times to brush off the effects. "I never did thank you for saving my life."

"No need." He wanted her anyway.

"I wouldn't mind returning your belt either..." An image - the flash of him on her bed, hands tied above his head, her riding him, tan and taut and naked - flared in his mind.

Celeste held that image at the front of her mind, her hand reached out to trail down the clean button down shirt he was wearing, fingers pressed hard against the fabric there.

"So very kind of you," Charles answered.

She dragged him out of the bar and into the cooling night air.

.9.

"Absolute, unmitigated, disaster." Emma radiated a cold fury that Erik knew from experience he would just have to ride through. "Celeste fucking Vandermeer!"

Erik blinked. Emma did not, as a rule, curse. She was far too cool and aloof to stoop so low, but she did not spare him the colorful language.

"Out of our sight for less than four hours and Celeste Vandermeer had her hands wrapped so tightly around his dick that the whole bar probably had blue balls." Emma glowered down at the tablet on her desk, a few covert pictures from Azazel - nothing racy, but it was obvious that Charles and Celeste hadn't gone back to her place for a spot of tea and some chess - sat on the display.

Erik cocked his eyebrow and flicked through the images on display - not at all pausing to look at the final picture before Celeste shuttered her windows, the one with the head of the Humanist faction had her teeth on Charles' neck and the telepath looked like that was just fine thanks. Emma flipped the screen over and glowered at him, her gaze finally turning icy rather than angry.

"Vandermeer is a Dom, what was Xavier doing with her?"

Erik sighed and went to his desk to sit down at his own computer - he ignored the pictures that Azazel had also forwarded to him. "I though you said Charles was a switch."

He watched as Emma's face relaxed and she struggled to keep herself under control. She swept her white fur-lined cape to the side and settled in to one of the plush chairs across from Erik, everything about her poise was graceful and natural and controlled, despite her current fury. "I honestly thought it was a front. He goes in front of various political bodies and claims to be a switch, but I've met him, Erik. I have never met a man more tightly in control of himself."

"Sebastian?" The man had been everything Erik could admire about pure self-control. He had his moments of sadism, but always to a precise and exact purpose.

"Not even Sebastian."

"Charles..." Erik paused, tried to shape the words into something that makes sense. "Charles doesn't see submission as weakness. It's supposed to be enjoyable for approximately half of the population."

Emma pinched her lips together - and Erik could see that she had some thought on the tip of her tongue.

"Well, he hasn't thrown in with her, right?" He tried after that.

"No. That is some relief." Emma flipped the screen back over. "He left about three and a half hours later, didn't stay for breakfast. Unfortunately that is more than enough time for sex and politics."

Erik could read Emma's tone, knew what she was thinking at least in general terms. She thought something needed to be done or they were going to start to lose representatives from more centrist positions. Charles had an appealing outsider quality, he was well respected by the human community despite his mutation, he was attractive and attentive, and he was a fucking hero right now.

"I'm going to see him in just an hour or two, Ems. What do you expect me to do?" If she couldn't give him anything but vague concerns and half-formed worries that Charles might do something in the future than he really couldn't do anything productive.

"Anything." Emma tapped her finger against the screen and thought. "Seduce him, befriend him, seduce his sister, seduce that other teacher, anything. Stuff him in a box until the general election."

"We haven't even picked a date for the election..." They were at least six months off; they didn't even have a constitution yet.

"If we cannot command at least a plurality of the voter turn out I will lose my seat as Prime Minister and someone like Celeste Vandermeer - who has never lifted a finger to fight for mutant rights - will be the guiding force behind the first years of Genosha as an independent nation. We'll be overrun with humans and gene-engineering apologists who will want disarmament or worse."

"I know that." His position - at least - was secured enough by the constitution as it had started to take shape, but the monarchy was largely a ceremonial position. Sebastian had always relied on Emma for certain minutia and practicalities, and after they had killed him, Erik had done the same. He had relied on Emma since they were children to see the little details that he missed his grand, sweeping gestures, it was only logical to put himself as an emotional leader of the country - Emma's brilliance was her precision and she had a firmer grasp of policy. "A military dictatorship is feeling a lot more appealing now, isn't it?"

"Quite." Emma's computer beeped and she tumbled through to another file. She was silent for a few moments while she read whatever had just arrived. "Marie was up most of the night interviewing witnesses and we have a composite sketch now of our bomber. You'll need to grovel to Interpol; Marie's already forwarded it to immigration."

Erik took the computer and looked over the sketch - it looked... vaguely familiar. "Immigration is going to be spotty at best - we did just have a revolution two months ago, the bureaucracy hasn't exactly caught up."

"Hence the groveling for Interpol."

Erik looked down at the face of the man who had killed sixteen mutants. "He looks familiar."

Emma took the tablet away from him, looked it over, tried to decide where she might have seen him before, but there was no recognition in her face. "Go grovel, and then make nice with Xavier. If he's going to have bedroom antics lead to a political alliance it needs to be with us."

"You could always ask Charles if he'd like you to spank him." Erik's thoughts tended to avoid the idea of Emma - a woman he thought of like a sister - in sexual situations, but he'd rather it was Emma than Celeste Vandermeer. Or maybe he didn't. He didn't examine that thought too closely.

"If you do not manage to seduce someone I may have to."

The two of them looked at each other across the desk, and Erik felt the uncomfortable beginnings of some conversation about his inability to actually seduce people and have relationships. Emma was not entirely innocent and blameless in this - however - because she'd made very little effort in finding a sub for herself either.

Truth to tell, Erik thought she might have had feelings for Sebastian, even if she'd never said as much to him.

"If we are going to have this conversation, Erik, it should be out loud so I do not have to catch whiffs of speculation." Emma's voice was icy.

He didn't know how to say it, or how to even start that conversation. Rehashing the basic details seemed pointless, however, and Erik had little to add. "Raven is very attractive."

"I had noticed," Emma's voice was neutral, but Erik thought he caught an edge of something in her voice. "You've always had something of a kink for the more visual mutations."

He had. But somehow kink rarely seemed to transition into desire, not that Emma hadn't lined up several potentially suitable subs with some variation of fur, scale, or feather. For him it was a lot like admiring a work of art.

Maybe he could seduce the other professor.

"She's not your type," Emma answered, smoothly.

Erik put an end to that line of thought. Emma had never quite been able to find him the perfect sub, but she knew his tastes almost as well as - if not better than - he did. It meant, really, that she had just slowly stopped bothering to even try to find someone for him.

He missed it sometimes, though, just the contact of two people.

The change in his thoughts brought Emma to his side in only a few moments, and even though she was hardly effusive in her affection she did press her hand to his shoulder and squeezed lightly. "Just spend more time with Xavier, Erik. He..." She trailed off again, and then she pressed her fingers into his hair, running hands through it very gently and making him relax just a touch. "He would likely know if you were pursuing him or one of his companions for political gain."

Of course. "He's not difficult to be around."

He just had to make certain that Charles didn't end up with one of his political adversaries either.

"Go ahead," Erik said, and Emma let her fingers fall away, taking her computer with her. "I'll contact Lyon and ask them to look into our terrorist."

Technically, Genosha wasn't a member state in the ICPO, which meant that probably they shouldn't have access to their databases and resources when it came to tracking the terrorist, but they might be able to tell him if the man was a part of some international anti-mutant or terrorist organization.

He sighed and ran his fingers over the keys of his computer.

It felt particularly like groveling, something he'd never done, not even in the worst days in captivity with Emma.

Three drafts later and he was no closer to composing something that didn't sound either like self-absorbed posturing or weak-kneed begging.

He finally gave up for the moment, dragging himself up the elevator towards Charles' room in the hope that he might be able to find some clarity there that was eluding him in his office.

.10.

Charles hadn't realized his bed partner from the night before was an influential politician until he was back in his room for the morning and going back over the last week's constitutional negotiations. He wasn't exactly opposed to the circumstance, but he realized - belatedly - that he probably shouldn't be taking political sides when it came to choosing bed partners.

He didn't like having to worry about who he had sex with, it was hard enough to find someone when he was surrounded by hormonal teenagers.

There was a knock on the door - he checked the time, barely after sunrise.

"Erik?" Charles opened the door, surprised to see the king standing there in his somewhat usual private attire of slacks and a nice shirt. "You don't need to entertain me today, really. You have a country to run."

"The monarchy is largely ceremonial," he said, as though that explained everything.

Charles moved to let him in, tension of some unspecified nature rolling off of Erik in waves. Something was bothering him, clearly.

He had only one real solution to that sort of thing - one he had used on his sister since they were nearly babies, and all of his students soon after that. Tea. It was the solution to almost every one of life's ills. Thankfully he already had a half pot of very hot water on the stove and he made up a cup for Erik. Three sugars, because Erik had a weakness for sweets, and chocolate, sadly he could not accommodate him with chocolate biscuits, just plain.

Small tray of biscuits and the tea settled in front of Erik, Charles sat next to him, doing his best to read the man without relying entirely on his telepathy.

"Uh... Amy and Raven?"

"Still asleep, jet lag and very comfortable beds, I'm afraid."

"Is immunity to jet lag a secondary mutation?" Erik picked up the tea and sipped it. Charles could feel the flicker of shock at the just sweet enough taste of the tea.

Charles was offended that Erik thought he might not remember. "No, no, I suppose it's a reactionary response to so many long nights at college, either spent out in the pubs, working on my dissertations, or both."

The two of them leaned back, sipping their tea and he could sense at least the worst of Erik's tension start to fade away. It was hard not to notice how much Erik seemed to carry on his shoulders; for all he claimed the monarchy was a ceremonial position it was clear there was something about it that left him deeply uneasy.

"And so now you wake up early for a cup of tea?"

"Usually a jog, actually. Believe it or not, when I was in high school, I was on the track and field team and was really rather good." He had then spent his college years getting a bit out of shape if he was honest, but the founding of his school and the rigorous physical training had more than cured him of that. "All of the children train, mind and body, and I would be remiss if I did not set a good example."

Erik's emotions spiked. Something about the idea of setting a good example seemed to have caused it. Oh.

"And I'm certain despite the ceremony you've managed to carve out something of a niche. There are entire countries with monarchs who seem dedicated to nothing more than finding ways to embarrass the rest of their family or created elaborate public spectacles to little purpose." He set his tea down - surprised, really. He hadn't thought he'd spend much (any) time talking with the monarch of Genosha and spending time assuring him of his position.

Charles had expected to find Erik cold, arrogant, and unyielding. Instead he had found a man who cared deeply about his people, about mutants. Yesterday had hurt him and wound him up, more than Charles would have expected. Charles was always... detached, in some ways; sometimes that made him a good Dom, sometimes it made him good at objective advice when emotion got in the way of rationality, sometimes it meant he made an ass of himself when he didn't quite realize how deeply someone else was hurting. The last was a mistake he was happy to make less and less as he grew older.

Erik still didn't say anything, so Charles continued to talk. "I'm finding myself feeling a bit ceremonial myself... I do not know how others are handling it, but I do have a great deal of experience with the intense emotions of personal trauma." He found himself unaccountably awkward. "I'd like to help."

Sea green eyes flicked up towards Charles and then back down to the pad he had resting at his side. "We only have three registered counseling empaths."

"That would be something I could help with. Come with me after tea?"

Erik nodded, mind obviously still too lost in thought. Charles understood the type too well, unfortunately. Erik was not the sort who would allow himself to cut loose, not even for a moment, even when he could have used the opportunity to unwind, in the arms of a willing partner or any number of other diversions.

He reached up and brushed his fingers against Erik's neck.

"I don't need counseling."

Charles winced from the mental rejection, but he ignored it, fingers brushing against Erik's neck the way he had yesterday, not moving to stand behind him, just touching what he could from where he was seated. "You've let yourself run ragged, Erik. I understand why, yesterday was horrid, but you cannot remember that you are no good to your people if you cannot take care of yourself."

Shame welled up, just a touch, and Charles couldn't help but feel it. Erik bowed his head and let himself be touched.

Erik seemed so dreadfully unprepared to take care of himself. He seemed...

Charles slowly pulled his hand away, shocked.

Surely... "Finish up your tea, love. I want you to show me where we can be of as much use."

Erik downed the tea, not too fast, just a few sips strung together in quick succession, and some of the weight that Erik seemed to be carrying melted away all together. Charles' mind reeled, flipping back through the last days, recalling the way Emma and Erik seemed to know each other, slid between asking and demanding of each other as though it was completely natural.

"Unless there's something that needs your attention other than my desire to help." Charles waited, near breathless, for Erik's response.

"I have... we must make a request to the ICPO to ask them to run a picture we have of our terrorist."

Charles looked when Erik tilted the computer screen to him. The man didn’t seem familiar, Charles had been in his mind, of course, but beyond that the image offered him no secrets.

"Having trouble finding the right tone?" Walking the line between demanding and polite was a difficult line for anyone to walk.

"On my fourth draft already."

"I know an Agent there, Sterling, a bit of a terror, but I've worked with him before." Charles considered, turned the offer over in his mind. "Two of my students are with Interpol as well. I gave them glowing recommendations. One was a sub."

No response from Erik, at least not the one Charles was fishing for.

"A bit of shameless name dropping would not go amiss, Erik." Charles grinned at him. "Why don't you finish that, I'll whip up some breakfast for us and the girls. What do you like for breakfast?"

Erik came over to the breakfast bar of the apartment and sat there, teacup seated just to his left, computer resting on the bar top. "Fruit."

Charles could tell there was a story there, but he was smart enough to avoid the worst prying, instead he raided his refrigerator and pulled out some fruit to start. The cup he refilled with more tea and more sugar, setting it back at Erik's side, and then he cut up some papaya and mango. He was going to miss apples desperately.

He took his time with it, slow and methodical, before he slid the bowl in front of Erik and then went to work on pancakes, nibbling at fruit he'd set aside for himself as well.

"Why do you do that?"

"Hmm?" Charles was raiding the dry goods - thankfully the baking soda had not reached its expiry - and then continued to measure and then mix some batter.

"Make your subs food and rub their backs and... things." Erik glowered down at his food, picking at it for a few moments as though he wasn't quite certain what to make of it.

Charles suppressed the momentary flicker of irritation. At Erik, to some extent, but to society as a whole in general. "Because I like to, and because they enjoy it. There really shouldn't need to be any more answer as to why a Dom or a sub does anything."

Erik opened his mouth and then snapped it shut. Charles had to keep himself from laughing even though it wasn't funny. Emma and Erik wanted to keep him happy and Erik wouldn't do anything to compromise that too much.

"That was a bit peevish of me, wasn't it?" Charles hated these sorts of conversations. Normally he had them with other Doms at some sort of conference while their subs sat around on their knees, pretending like they couldn't hear when their Dom called them lesser than. He knew the way they whispered when he showed up without a sub - and it was just all so unnecessary. "I'm very sorry. I've done the research, really I have, and no matter what evolutionary psychologists say about subs tend towards this and Doms tend towards that there is nothing particularly hard wired about those elements of psyche. Some individuals do better in control, others do better when that control is held by someone else. Neither is more inclined towards aggression or child rearing or art. You can't tell a sub by the clothes they like when they're a child, you can't make a sub into a Dom by pushing or twisting or changing something about them..."

Charles took a long, slow breath, and Erik's eyes were on him, wide and curious, but as soon as he saw Charles collect himself he put his head down and went back to his letter. He let Erik avoid further conversation. Erik was so caught up in his ideas about what it meant to submit or what it meant to dominate that Charles wasn't certain he would have appreciated even more.

Erik bought into the same ridiculous line of thinking that everyone else did, that submission meant weakness and domination meant strength. Erik's submissive nature did not make him any less strong or any less passionate, and he was getting more and more certain as time went on and he considered hints of both Emma’s and Erik’s actions for the last days, that Erik was submissive, that he needed a firm hand and didn't even know how to allow himself to accept it.

He was hardly the poster child for submission, and Charles’ own assessment could not overrule whatever Erik felt of himself, but Erik seemed the sort that needed someone else to hold him back. Thinking over what little he knew of Erik’s history from his students who had joined Erik, the man did not lack for passion, but it seemed likely that Shaw, and then Emma, provided the light guiding hand that made Erik truly shine. Charles had long since come to terms with the elements of his personality that were traditionally submissive, but Erik buried them behind unfocussed aggression and seemed completely blind to them.

It was not a healthy combination, but Charles felt loathe to broach the subject with the monarch for reasons he wasn’t entirely certain how to explain, even to himself.

He tore himself away from staring, and let Erik work on his letter, made two stacks of pancakes and delivered them to Amy and Raven, he waited for Erik to send off his letter to Interpol, and then the two of them made their way out into Hammer Bay, Charles' mind fixed on ways to help the city while he reminded himself he needed to stay above the politics.

Chapter Text

.11.

Erik didn't need to be a telepath to tell that people were tense and that there were thousands of mutants who were struggling with something that felt a great deal like fear. The attack had rattled everyone. For the mutants Erik had grown up with, fear had been a constant companion, and for the men and women he'd lead into battle against Genosha, fear was what they were trying to defeat. They had fought fear with almost as much fervor as they fought the people who profited on the backs of enslaved mutants.

Now he held Genosha and yet fear was everywhere.

Charles, usually so warm and cheerful, was obviously strained, and even as they made their way to the make-shift crisis building, Erik found that Charles was stopping constantly, poking into buildings, pulling people over off the street, and just touching them.

Even though Erik couldn't imagine Emma like that, using her powers in that particular way, Erik had a hard time finding it strange. Charles was... different.

Erik couldn't help but remember the kind, compassionate way that Charles seemed to be around his subs and it made Erik feel a bit inadequate. "Are you sure you're alright, Charles?"

"Of course. I understand my limits, Erik. This is fulfilling for me. Touching another mind and helping them - whether it's to come into control of their powers or to help release the pain and anxiety of loss - is everything to me." He looked tired, still, but Erik could see it was just the way the man was when it came to this sort of thing.

"I... feel a bit useless at this." It was hard for him to admit.

"Of course you do." Erik felt his irritation flare. "You are really quite brilliant, Erik, but what you are brilliant at is not what is needed. It's easy to become frustrated. Do you want to be brilliant at nation building?"

Erik found himself strangely unsure. "Is that what you teach at your Institute?"

"Nation building? Hardly." The two of them continued to walk and Erik tried to figure out how to from a question out of the thoughts swirling in his mind. Charles continued to talk without him prompting. "I teach understanding yourself. When I was a young boy, I never realized exactly how lucky I was to have grown up with the ability to read everything from every mind. My sister, Raven, was also born with her mutation, and we never really associated our powers with hate or anger or fear. For some, that interconnection comes as naturally as breathing."

For some. For Erik. He heard the accusation. It took him several silent moments before he realized that it wasn't an accusation, or even pity, just a statement of fact for Charles. "I'm not afraid."

"But you are angry."

"Of course I am!" He looked around, realized he was drawing stares, and then lowered his voice. "You saw what we're facing first hand. You see how much they hate us. How can you sit there and not feel angry?"

Charles didn't answer, not with words, but he reached his hand out, pressed his fingers against Erik's wrist, holding onto him lightly. At first, Erik felt nothing, but then there was a flare of emotion in his mind. He couldn’t untangle it at first, couldn’t pick out individual emotions, but it was warm and excited and angry and tense with even more layers he couldn’t start to untangle. He stumbled, and Charles pulled his hand away.

"What was that?" It was rough around the edges, hard to put into words, but it was sad and happy and incredible all at once and Erik's mind was still trying to process the feelings there.

"Beautiful, isn't it?"

Against his better judgment, Erik nodded.

"That's what your terrorist felt, just before he died." Charles paused for a moment to allow that to sink in. "How could I hate him?"

And then Charles walked away. In actuality, it was more that he continued to walk and Erik stood staring after him. The complicated press of feelings that Charles had put into his mind still rattled around and made him feel broken apart. He wasn't one for self-reflection, but even he could recognize that was exactly how he felt when he went into battle, when he fought for what was right.

Charles continued to weave through the crowd, and Erik watched him go, stunned.

Fucking. Fluffy. Hippy... Erik finally managed to get his feet to move, to catch up to Charles. He wrapped his own hand around Charles' wrist, angry, viciously angry, but he didn't know how to do anything but be upset, he barely had the words to communicate that.

In the end he didn't say anything, just pressed his fingers, too tight, into the telepath's wrist and Charles didn't do anything, didn't defend himself, didn't even seem scared, just looked up at him and looked sad.

"Hate can't build anything, Erik."

He let go of Charles' wrist. Hate had gotten him this far, he saw no reason it couldn't see him farther.

He didn't answer, though, just lead Charles the last few blocks to the center. It was just a old school - one that used to be for the human children who had lived on the island before the revolution - and there were hundreds of people scattered around, some with children, some just alone, who stood around, stunned and shocked and silent.

Erik's eyes swept over the auditorium. There were so many people there. Most of the children were obviously fine, they played games and were even laughing. It was the presence of other people, shocked, stunned, some weeping, that gave the room its intensely somber air. A few young teens were playing cards or trying to prod other children into playing. The older kids, and the adults, were the ones who seemed to not know what to do with themselves.

"And these are the ones who managed to pull themselves out of bed today," Charles said, voice low. His own eyes sad and downcast for a moment before the perfect and bright face he usually wore was back.

"Please sign in and... Oh. Your Majesty..." Erik looked over to the woman standing in the entrance to the cafeteria. She was obviously a mutant, blue hair, eyes that looked like they might be better suited to a fish. She moved to bend down on a knee, before Erik gestured at her to stop. He knew they were trying to put on a show for Charles, but he really couldn't handle that much deference. "Is there something I can do for you?"

Erik realized that he didn’t have a good answer.

"Charles Xavier," Charles said, holding out his hand to the woman. "I'm a telepath and a counselor... His Majesty thought perhaps you could use the assistance?"

Erik watched the way the woman's face lit up, and he realized exactly how overworked she must have been. Erik scanned the room again, a few very makeshift areas, barely a table and a privacy wall, showed where they had gotten some space to conduct one on one counseling sessions.

"And His Majesty..." Charles turned to him, and Erik felt confused and bereft and out of his depth. Maybe he could move something, there had to be some metal, somewhere. Charles just smiled at him. "I'm certain you could find something for him to do, yes? Story time, maybe, for the children."

He was going to kill Charles.

Or he would have...

Probably...

Perhaps he would have if he hadn't felt useful for the first time in days.

Angel found him sometime around three in the afternoon and dragged him away from 'King Magneto is going to make little sculpture things out of metal can you make me a puppy?!' time.

"The Prime Minster wants dinner with you," she said. "And... what the hell are you doing here, anyway?"

"Professor Xavier is doing counseling sessions. I'm babysitting Professor Xavier."

It didn't feel like babysitting, though. The two of them had barely shared seven words since they'd come in together. He saw Charles, from time to time, radiating a somber sort of pleasant that didn't seem out of place but even Erik couldn't help but feel comforted by it.

"Yeah..." Angel looked lost and far away for a moment, and Erik saw her head tilt towards where Charles was tucked away behind a screen, speaking with a young man, maybe in his late teens or early twenties. "He's... good."

"Good?" Erik couldn't let the offering pass unexamined.

His prompting changed the way Angel looked, her face broke, hard, tough, and closed off. She was hardly effusive, but she usually looked at least pleasant. "He helped me... you know. With stuff."

Stuff. Erik struggled to find something to say. The Angel he knew was self-assured, she took no shit, and she told it how it was. She was strong, firm, but somehow managed to have a bit more empathy than he managed on most days. "Why did you leave, then?"

"The Professor sees the best in people. Sometimes it's hard to see what he sees." Angel shrugged. "Shaw made me an offer and I left on good terms."

Erik couldn't help but sympathize with Angel, but he was starting to understand Charles a little better as well. If Charles really did feel what he’d shown to Erik, and could really see everything about another person, then it was a bit easier to see why he might not...

He shook his head, trying to clear the awkward thoughts. Charles was too naive. Maybe he could see the good in other people, but Erik knew that there was no good in enough people that it would never matter. He'd never really thought to ask his soldiers - the ones who had come from Charles' Academy - why they had come, but it seemed that there was a lot more to the Professor than Erik would have expected.

.12.

No matter what he told Erik, Charles was feeling completely run down by the end of the day. He had spoken with almost a dozen people - some for less than a half hour, but a few had taken much more of his time. Erik had seemed... well enough. He'd taken a chance, offering Erik up as a story reader, but it really seemed like the King of Genosha had managed to make the best of it. The way some of the children were thinking of him, he decided that there was an untapped potential for Erik to do something that made him feel as though he was making an impact in a way he hadn’t felt since the war.

Charles found it frighteningly adorable.

"How did it go, then?" Charles asked when the two of them met up just outside of the school. There was still more work to do, sadly, and Charles wouldn't be surprised if there were even more who came the next day.

"It went..." Erik trailed off, the two of them cutting a path through the downtown core. "Well."

"I think you may have some underage admirers," Charles joked. A few of the children were quite taken with the impressive King Magneto.

Erik's eyes flicked towards Charles. "How do you live with such hardship, Charles? Angel seemed to imply you were quite well-liked by your students as well."

Charles laughed, burying his face in his hand.

"It's not nearly so romantic as you would think, to be honest." Fantasies were, by their nature, often over-blown, exaggerated, or just awkward and embarrassing. "I think you have a few years before you need to be worried about any advances, Your Majesty."

That wasn't entirely true, there were more than a few of the older teens who had been very enamored.

"I'll keep that in mind."

"Would you like to get something for dinner?" After getting through the first - and most awkward - moments, Charles was finding he did want to spend time with the man.

"I'm afraid my Prime Minister has demanded my time, and she never takes no for an answer."

Emma. Charles found himself curious to know if the other telepath had realized that Erik wasn't a Dom. She'd known him for longer, and better than Charles, so he wouldn't have been surprised.

"Tomorrow, maybe."

Erik looked conflicted for just a moment before he nodded. "Of course, Charles."

The rest of the walk home was warm and easy, and there were more than enough people who had managed to pull through yesterday without any real visible or invisible wounds that he was able to bring himself up out of the worst of the slump that came from being a telepath around people who were hurting.

Amy greeted him when he came through the door. "Your girlfriend called."

"I don't have a girlfriend."

"Bit of stuff, then?"

He sighed and took the proffered paper. "Celeste." He looked down at the paper, saw the number scratched there in Amy's handwriting. "Have you eaten dinner, love?"

"Raven and I both have. Where have you been, anyway?"

Charles stripped out of his suit jacket and vest and laid them neatly over the back of the couch. "I was at the counseling center."

Whatever joke that had been on Amy's lips died there and she frowned. "Sorry, I figured you..."

Had been shagging. To be fair, he didn't blame her for thinking that, he was in desperate need of a shag lately. Honestly he could have used one right now. After a hard day there was nothing quite like curling up next to someone you loved and just appreciating the warm feeling of love and contentedness. It would have helped if he loved Celeste.

"Might as well."

"Do you..." Amy stopped. She was brilliant, and lovely, and Charles thought the world of her, she spoke her mind and thought brilliantly, but she still sometimes brought herself up short. "Do you need anything?"

"I'll be fine, love." He wrapped an arm around her and kissed her forehead. "I know you have journals to review. Do make sure you enjoy the vacation, too."

Celeste answered the phone on the second ring. Despite his slight hesitation, he accepted her invitation to dinner - in at her place, not out - changed, picked up a bottle of wine on the way over, and then arrived at her door forty-five minutes later.

He kissed her, just a peck, and went back to making himself at home in the small apartment. "Just a bit of fair warning, I am... exhausted." He'd almost said 'shagged out' but that had so much potential to be misinterpreted.

"Oh?" She uncorked the wine, poured them each a glass, and then dragged Charles over to the couch.

"Genosha's rather low on empaths and telepaths. Probably because most of the newest citizens are mutates and the former members of Magneto's army." He took a sip of the wine, good enough, not quite date quality, but not bad. Erik had said that imports were a bit on the lean side at the moment.

"And you were volunteering for the cause?"

Charles smiled and blushed into his wine. "I helped at a counseling center."

"Telepathy must come in handy."

"The psychology degree doesn't hurt. I'd always meant to go back for my doctorate, but I spent so much time on the genetics and biophysics." He had his undergrad in psychology, but he had spent most of his time towards the end of his Oxford years pursuing his activism and putting in place measures for the future of the Institute.

"Having only two doctorates is so... above average." Her tone was humorous, light, and poking fun at his self-deprecation.

"I did want one." Dealing with children, their lives, their foibles, was more than difficult enough and he would have appreciated more guidance on the matter.

He'd told Erik earlier that mutants spent so much time thinking their powers were tied to anger or hate and thinking that was the only way to learn, Charles wanted to break that cycle as much as possible.

"Correspondence courses, maybe, from here on Genosha?"

Charles felt as though Celeste was fishing for something, and he couldn't resist the urge to peek. On the surface he found very little beyond her desire to end the evening in bed again. He wasn't averse. "The idea of relocation is hardly set in stone."

"Where else would you come but here?" She pressed her hand against his back, fingers sliding up his neck and starting to play with his hair, teasing it between her fingers.

He looked again - she wanted him here, with her. It was an awkward mix of thoughts, and he couldn't quite untangle it without making it truly obvious he was looking for something.

"We do have options, love." Two. Sort of. "I don't want to make a decision that doesn't reflect my beliefs."

He'd meant not wanting to leave the impression that he wholly supported Erik, but he supposed that went for Celeste as well. She was lovely, and sexy, but although they disagreed on different things than he and Erik did there was still plenty to disagree on.

Celeste, at least, seemed content to ignore politics, which was more than acceptable. Dinner was fantastic and the sex was acrobatic and vigorous, which was exactly what he needed to get the lingering feeling of death and mourning out of his mind.

Afterwards, he dozed in her bed, content, fingers carded through light brown hair while Celeste nipped at his chest, her own hands playing with his chest while he sprawled. He shouldn't have come, not really, but he couldn't bring himself to regret it. He'd spent far too much of his life giving, never quite finding the right piece that fit him completely, someone who could give and take with him.

Even if she wasn't a telepath he really shouldn't have been spending time in someone else's bed thinking of how he hadn't found what he needed yet.

He rolled her over, tried to bury that thought in something more pleasant, and he liked to think they both ended the evening well-fucked and satisfied.

Despite Celeste's invitation to the contrary he dragged himself home just after two, showered and fell into bed.

In the morning, he made eggs, toast, and fruit for him and the girls. Erik didn't show up at his usual eight or nine in the morning, and around ten Charles took Raven and Amy out for sight seeing, coconut rum cocktails, and shopping, feeling a little grouchy for no particularly good reason.

.13.

Erik woke up feeling better than he had in weeks. He exercised, ate, and considered the possibility of going back to the counseling center even without Charles. The kids there had been... tolerable. Good. His emailed inquiry had been answered by Sterling, and although he was snappish he did say that the picture would be run and they would get him whatever information was available.

He found an attachment, this one from one of Charles' students, with information about some of the anti-mutant terrorism that had sprung up most recently in the wake of the Genoshan revolution. He forwarded the information on to Marie to comb through, but also looked over it himself as he had breakfast.

The morning he whiled away on a few matters of state that he had been neglecting. It was mostly ceremony, but he did have a few matters to weigh in on and another speech or two about Genosha's bright future to write. He worked on that until Angel brought him lunch a little before noon.

"Emma needs to see you."

With Angel's summons, Erik took his lunch and made his way through the corridors of the lower levels of the government building, finding the opulent - yet sleek - crystal and blue room that Emma had taken over in her position of Prime Minster.

Emma was tense. It wasn't just a simple tension that she carried with her almost every day since the fall of the previous Genoshan government, and it wasn't even the same as her rage at Charles and Celeste having sex two nights ago, this was something a bit like terror.

Erik shut the door, went over to her, and opened his arms for a hug. She slid her arms around him with barely a moment's hesitation. "Do you think you can kill Xavier and make it look like an accident?"

He blanched. At first, he thought it might have been hyperbolic sarcasm, but after a few moments he realized that it was more a quiet desperation.

"What happened?"

"Xavier has sided with Celeste Vandermeer." Erik felt his fingers dig into Emma's back, an involuntary twitch of anger. "Just before we broke for lunch, she told me she had already has secured his cooperation in requesting UN peacekeeping forces in response to the attack from two days ago."

That didn't make sense. Why would Charles have spent the day with Erik, working with traumatized mutants, invite him to dinner... everything? But Erik had to admit he didn't really understand what Charles believed in and how he operated; perhaps he'd been fooling himself to think they might have been able to find a common ground.

"Aside from making him a martyr, I don't think it would help." He didn't think Emma was serious about the murder, but Erik was going to give the fluffy haired telepath a piece of his mind.

Emma sighed, sat back into her chair, and waved Erik away, trying to bring back some of her dignity. "You're right. I thought you had him under control."

Erik didn't think anyone could make Charles do something he didn't want to. "I thought we were making headway." Maybe not the headway Emma would have preferred, but enough that he was starting to see that maybe Charles wasn't completely academic and completely theoretical in his understanding of the issues of the day. "He doesn't think of himself as a mutant enough, but..."

He ran his hands over his face, scrubbing away the annoyance and the concern. UN peacekeepers. He tried to consider what that would mean. Humans, with weapons and a mission statement, feet on the ground on Genosha. Everyone would think Erik and Emma were weak, illegitimate, or unable to hold onto their own tiny country. It would be a disaster.

"I can't believe that Charles has thought this all the way through," Erik said, finally. "Why would he spend time trying to court our favor if he was going to throw in with the Integrationalists?"

"He had dinner with Celeste last night."

Erik winced. He'd turned down Charles to have a working dinner with Emma...

"And he didn't leave until well after two in the morning." Emma leaned forward and stole one of the pickle spears that Erik had sitting on his place. "What is it about men? You only think with your dicks."

Sometimes Erik wished he could think with his dick.

"Where is he now?" He knew well enough that Emma was tracking Charles within an inch of his life right now.

She checked her computer. "On the beach with Pollard and his sister. They all look rather attractive in bathing suits."

"I'll keep that in mind."

Erik had worked himself up spectacularly in the few minutes it took to get to the beach, and even though Emma was correct that the three of them made a rather striking picture, Erik was still incensed by the time he had made it to Charles' side. The telepath was hiding under a beach umbrella, dressed only in short swim trunks and a pair of sandals. Aviator sunglasses covered his eyes and his skin was obviously slathered in sunscreen. He looked ridiculous. Erik wondered if that pleasant, self-satisfied, grin was just how the Professor looked after he'd gotten well fucked. The thought annoyed him.

"Celeste Vandermeer," Erik bit out the name and then sat down next to where Charles was sprawling, not even waiting for an invitation.

"So you are having me followed. Not very trusting, Erik." Charles wriggled up into a sitting position, but he still was almost a half-head shorter than Erik, and Charles was hunched slightly over his knees. The pose made him look even smaller.

"It's our business."

Charles' face was harder to read without his too-expressive eyes, but even Erik could see the way the corner of his mouth turned down. "I fail to see how my personal affairs are any of your business."

Irritation teased around in the back of Erik's mind. "Is a good night's fuck just how you cement political alliances, Charles? If you needed a spanking I'm certain Emma or I could have obliged."

"Excuse me? It's none of your concern."

"It is when my political adversaries are fucking you into agreement." Politics, politeness, and even general courtesy had somehow flown out the window. He imagined Emma might have wanted him to be calm, or sedate about the whole thing, but she had asked for an assassination. Maybe he could just kill Celeste and make it look like an accident...

"I don't know what political conspiracies you're weaving, Erik, but it's nothing so sordid. I helped save the woman's life, she wanted to thank me; call me a slut or an ass all you'd like but I rather thought it acceptable to take advantage of the offer." Charles' voice wasn't as hard as Erik had expected, just cool and firm.

When Erik got truly angry it was all fire and fury, but sometimes he could hold himself back and manage the ice he felt from Charles now. "Well she seems to think you're lined up to support her bit with the UN."

"Bid with...?" Charles' mouth continued to turn down, and Erik wished he could see Charles' eyes. "We didn't discuss it, but I do think it's a good idea."

"A good idea?!"

Amy and Raven seemed to finally notice that Erik was there, and maybe get an idea of the topic of conversation, but one wave from Charles kept them from coming over. Erik struggled to get his anger and frustration back under control. He'd thought that Charles at least respected him enough to not completely destroy his and Emma's chances of running the country they'd helped found.

"It will completely undermine Emma and my authority, Charles."

"That seems a bit over dramatic." Charles' own anger seemed to have cooled, even as Erik's was still heating up. "It's just member status; being part of the international community is a good step for Genosha."

The telepath reached out his hand, fingers curling around Erik's and for one brief moment he thought Charles was going to do something to his mind. His heart quickened and he wondered how long it would take Emma to realize... but then he just squeezed, and nothing changed in Erik's mind. He was still frustrated, still angry, but Charles was holding on to him and trying to calm him without words or powers.

"Member status? Well of course we'll pursue member status, after the elections and the Parliament is actually formed." Erik frowned. "What about the peacekeepers?"

Charles' eyebrows sunk below the rim of his glasses. "There aren't any here, are there?"

"Celeste told Emma you supported her decision to bring in UN peacekeepers in response to the attack."

Finally, the telepath pulled off his sunglasses, eyes completely confused and just the beginnings of tears or just the burn of a too-bright sun in his eyes. "Why would I...?"

The cold iron was back.

"First, my personal liaisons are absolutely not the business of the state of Genosha, her Prime Minster, or His Majesty. Second, if I chose to support Celeste's aspirations it would be because I believed deeply that her perspective was correct, not because of any other concerns. Third, I do not support a UN peacekeeping presence in Genosha, not even because of a terrorist attack." Charles stood, brushed the sand off of his backside and then put his sunglasses back on. "And tell your Prime Minster to stop keeping tabs on me."

Erik watched as the Professor headed over to where Raven and Amy were currently talking with a few mutants on the beach, body language flirty and engaged. Charles gave them both a kiss on the forehead and then headed off of the beach, not returning where Erik sat in stunned silence, watching the telepath leave.

He'd made quite a mess of that, and he didn't have the faintest idea of how he might be able to fix that. Somehow he'd managed to turn Celeste lying about Charles' intentions against himself and Emma. That took a certain amount of mismanagement he'd never quite had the pleasure of reaching before.

Amy and Raven were still there, however, and he made the proactive decision to figure out how best to grovel for forgiveness for implying Charles was an opportunistic slut.

.14.

Charles had mostly calmed down by the time he got back to his room, showered off the smell of beach and sun screen, and headed down to where he knew the various delegates to the constitutional negotiations spent their afternoons. He was in luck, the group hadn't reconvened for further discussions and Celeste was currently enjoying some sort of drink with a few other delegates.

It was impossible not to notice Emma - regal, and underneath the iced calm he could detect just a hint of worry that spiked as soon as she saw Charles. He ignored her, he didn't want to say anything to her while he was still unsure of Celeste's motivations.

Celeste was dressed in a neatly tailored suit with a grey skirt that fit her gorgeously, but the attraction of it was somewhat lost on him at the moment.

"Might I steal you for a moment, love?" He put a gentle hand on her elbow, nothing too domineering, but enough that she knew he was serious.

"Of course, Charles. Do you know the representatives?" Celeste gestured to a few of them and Charles quickly took an assessment, a few were pure humans, members of business concerns, mostly, but they were obviously attempting to make headway in the new, mutant run, Genosha. "This is Charles Xavier, the Headmaster of the Xavier Institute. Rather incredible, isn't he?"

Charles shook hands and filed away names while Celeste continued to have him on display. Charles might not consider all of the politics of his positions but he did recognize the motions of her showing him off like a prized horse. He wondered if any of them would check his teeth; Charles was in the mood to bite.

"Professor, I read your paper on the social psychology of the sub career," one of them said - male, mutant, some moderate chameleon manifestation. "Provocative theories."

His tone didn't invite comment; Charles was going to disappoint him. "I think you'll find that subs raised outside of the more traditional and rigid Dom/sub societies have very different social and career organizations. We do a disservice to ignore the potential of half of the population."

That got Celeste out of her seat, where before she'd seemed intent on lingering and taking in the reflected appraisals that had been cast Charles' way. "I'll find us somewhere private."

The woman took his elbow and led him out of the room - practically dragging him for the few moments he dawdled. They ended up in a small office with barely enough room for a desk and a window.

"Charles, there was no need to be snappy."

He frowned, unused to taking that sort of criticism from anyone but his closest friends - usually Moira, Raven, or Amy. "It was hardly snappy - the Integrationist position on sub's rights is antiquated and anti-scientific."

Celeste's usually very attractive face contorted when she pursed her lips, nostrils flaring just slightly when she breathed. "It was snappy, these are important people, and we must keep them happy."

"We?" He’d kept himself to a casual sweep, but nothing from the two dates he had been on had made him think that Celeste had any reason to use the word ‘we’ for them. She’d been interested in fun, and sex; the bar pickup had been fairly casual. "Love, I-- really had no intention of entering into something more permanent right now, politically or... otherwise."

Far from look upset, or angry, Celeste looked sad - but not in the way he'd expected. "Oh, Charles. I'm sure it must be hard to admit, but keeping your guard up all the time won't win you any favors."

Charles still had no idea what Celeste was trying to imply. He could admit it, sometimes, for a telepath, he was a bit lacking in the fine details of people skills, but she had him completely lost. "What guard?" He tried to be as completely open as he could.

"It's alright to admit you need to be taken in hand, directed." She pressed her fingers against the side of his face, stroking very gently. "Playing Dom for your sister must be so tiring."

He opened his mouth, closed it again. "You think, what? That I'm a sub?"

"You do rather like being taken care of, Professor."

It was so... typical. "I'm a switch."

"Of course."

He didn't need to rely on his telepathy to sense the condescension of that answer. "You don't believe that switches exist. You think I'm... a sub in denial."

"Hiding. You obviously are comfortable enough in your skin, but Charles, there's no reason to hide what you are."

Celeste thought that a pair of nights where he let himself be wooed instead of doing all the work meant that he was a sub, spoiling for a commitment and a collar, and that he would...

She thought that he would back her position because all a sub needed was a good tending to and then their positions would, naturally, fall in line with their Dom. "I'm sorry, love, but when it comes to UN peacekeepers... I'm with His Majesty and Emma. There's no need and it sends the wrong message."

The casual look in Celeste's face went instantly hard, and not at all pleased. "I thought we could bypass the uncontrolled behavior and play defiance, Charles."

"Subs don't play defiant, and I am not playing, Celeste." He knew how people saw him, especially when they weren't looking hard. He could see - now - the way Celeste must have seen him. Charles didn't mind, he wasn't embarrassed, he knew his mind completely, but her arrogance was surprising. He drew himself up to his full height, still slightly shorter than her from her high heels, and his voice took the tone that he used incredibly rarely, dominant, assured, and very disappointed. "I happen to agree with the Integrationalists on a number of issues, but not all, and certainly not this; you would know that if you hadn't assumed I was submissive, and assumed I was yours to command. If you attempt to use my name to reinforce the support for your policies you will find out how far I am willing to go to deny you. It will not be pretty."

"You can't agree with the Independent platform!" Celeste's voice was unsure, with a hint of whine to it.

"Can't I? I think you'll find that at least I know my perspectives have been heard, which is more than I can say for you and your rather backhanded attempt at claiming me for yourself." He took a deep breath. "I'm not your chess piece, Celeste, and I do not appreciate you pushing me around the board."

The shock on her face was almost comical, but Charles was in no mood to laugh. He didn't care that she thought he was a sub, it meant very little to him, but the idea that she would think... that a few nights of sex and a dinner was enough that he should have been willing to just do what she said was unacceptable. He knew Doms like her, throughout college, out in the field, and he knew how she thought. She thought subs couldn't make their own decisions and needed to be taken in hand, pushed, and controlled. It was sick.

"If you find yourself interested in policy discussions, you have my number, but otherwise I won't be needing to hear from you," he said it firmly, and put out his hand. She reached for his mechanically and he shook it.

When he finally exited the room he tugged his shields around himself, making himself momentarily invisible while he collected himself again. He was fighting desperately with his frustration. He had come to Genosha because he believed he could make a difference, for subs, for mutants, for everyone, and having his ideas dismissed, his Institute and his beliefs co-opted, left him feeling particularly cross.

Then there was Erik, who had also left him cross. Charles never made any excuses for his behavior, he didn't think there was anything to excuse, he enjoyed sex, he enjoyed the simple act of adoring just one person for a few hours, and although he knew it sometimes made him a bit... over-fond, he'd never done something (too) short-sighted in the name of a really good shag.

He couldn’t blame, Erik, though, he was a sub, he couldn't control himself. Charles felt sick as soon as the thought crossed his mind. That was just the thought he'd been fighting against when he'd talked to Celeste. Erik was an adult, he could own up to his behavior or not.

The whole situation left his mind swimming with questions. His position with Emma was back up in the air, and he was still not pleased to discover for certain that he was being spied on. Obviously Celeste had a vote on the UN peacekeepers coming up, although he was unsure if she would dare now, but he had no idea what course of action would be the best.

"Shit." He closed his eyes and tried to make up his mind. Now, right this minute, he needed to stop the provisional government from voting to request the UN peacekeepers. For all his ranting, Erik was right, it would completely undercut Genoshan authority internationally.

Decision made, he made his way back to the sitting room where the little mini-parliament was still having their long lunch. Emma was lightly socializing with a few delegates he didn't recognize. A flicker of tension ran up her spine when she saw him, and he carefully and deliberately walked right up to her; he could feel all eyes on him. Emma's eyes were locked on him, a mix of wariness and confusion.

He took her by the elbow and kissed her cheek. "I'll see you for dinner tonight, love."

"Of course," Emma said, after only a flicker of hesitation. "I'll send you the details."

"Don't abuse that little display, Prime Minister."

He felt an echo of conversation in the back of his mind, obviously projected by Emma so he could hear: 'Oh, nothing, the Professor just wanted to spend some time, I'm sure.'

This was why Charles wasn't a politician.

.15.

Erik spent the next few moments trying to decide if it would be more painful to kill himself or wait until Emma did something to his brain to make him constantly feel unending and excruciating pain for the rest of his life. Either way he probably deserved it.

He'd told Emma that Charles likely hadn't realized the repercussions of siding with Celeste. He was right, and instead it seemed like he might not have even thrown in with her at all, hadn't even known what she was trying.

Amy and Raven finally broke away from the men - likely Doms - that they'd been flirting with and found Erik still sitting under the umbrella that Charles had vacated only a little earlier.

"Hi, um... Your Majesty," Raven said, looking down at him awkwardly. Erik wondered how much Charles had told her about what had happened, how much she could guess, and how much was just natural nervousness from being around him.

"Raven, hello." He stood, dusted off his pants, and tried to decide what to do. "Are you heading back to the apartment? I could help with the things since Charles left."

Amy made a face, nothing overtly rude, but it was obvious that neither one of them were particularly keen on him at the moment. The two girls looked at each other, and he saw Raven defer to Amy - she was a professor, after all. "Alright, we need to pack up."

It wasn't an order, but the request was obvious, and he folded up the blanket and took down the umbrella while the girls packed up a small cooler and tucked away some drinks and other things.

There was nothing for it, he would have to swallow his pride. "I'd like to do something for your brother." He paused. Neither of them responded. "To apologize."

A wicked grin broke over Raven's face. "First we'll need some cake."

"Devil's food cake," Amy answered immediately.

"And chinese food."

"Extra egg rolls."

Apparently the first step in apologizing to Charles would be to bribe is subs.

The three of them ate a late lunch at the only chinese food restaurant in Genosha - more a pan-Asian fusion noodle shop, unfortunately, but they were hardly rolling in food imports at the moment. Largely they had to make do with the assortment of fruit, vegetables, and meat that were available on the island at the moment. Amy thought the egg rolls weren't particularly good, unfortunately.

He still got points for effort, at least.

"Pizza," Raven finally told him, half way through the mostly-silent meal. "There's this little pizza place in Manhattan with the best pizza. He used to get a slice there almost every day when he was an adjunct at Columbia - extra mushrooms. That would be hard, though, so apples, apple pie, apple turnovers, apple crumb cake... He already said that what he would miss the most if he moved to Genosha was fresh apples."

Erik nodded, trying to decide if Raven was putting him on, but she seemed completely earnest.

After that, he was forced to sit through two hours of tourist site seeing and making a spectacle of himself holding up some large metal beam with one hand while being photographed, and the three of them finally returned to the apartments where he dropped the girls off and went to face the music in the form of an irate Emma.

Angel found him before he found Emma, and he was nudged in the direction of Emma's office. He found Emma dressed in a skin-tight white dress that barely covered her mid tight and boots that came all the way up from the other direction. He thought she looked a little...

"If you value your life you will not continue that thought, Erik."

He concentrated very hard on pink elephants.

"What did you say to Xavier?"

Emma didn't sound upset... but really he could never be absolutely certain. It seemed as though she was going to lie in wait, letting him stumble into whatever terrifying punishment she had in mind.

"I... strongly implied that he was a slut, or possibly a prostitute, whose political values were for sale for a piece of ass." He tried to decide if he'd overstated the matter, decided that was about accurate, and waited for Emma to explode.

Emma, however, just arched an eyebrow. "Xavier didn't strike me as the type to have a humiliation kink."

"He doesn't." That much had been obvious. The way Charles had responded had been anything but enjoyment.

"Then...?" Emma's near motionless face was obviously twisted in confusion.

"As near as I can tell, Vandermeer didn't actually get his agreement to back her move to have UN peacekeepers brought to the island. He said it would set a poor example in the international community."

That got Emma's neat and perfect look on her face to break. "Is she mad? She would have to be--” Emma trailed off. “No wonder Xavier told me not to try to take advantage of his gesture." Erik suddenly watched her face change and he realized she was looking for the line she might be able to straddle to take advantage of Celeste's misstep.

"Forget it, Emma. I'm apologizing to Charles and hopefully that will be the end of it."

"Do you have a plan? You are not particularly good at groveling. The letter to Interpol was good, though."

"I am going to say I'm sorry and bring pizza from New York." Hopefully Azazel would be able to find the place. Time zone differences meant he would likely be able to get some of the last pizza of the evening as a very early Genosha breakfast. "And apples."

Emma quirked her eyebrow.

"Raven's advice."

"Getting in good with a Dom's submissives is always a good start."

Erik knew that wasn't why he'd done it. "I don't think it works that way with Charles. Just talk politics with him, even if you disagree. Who knows, maybe you can be more convincing than Celeste or I." Then he found himself wondering if the evening would end in sex. Emma wasn't an idiot, and she'd know not to take advantage of anything Charles might say... but it seemed likely that Charles would be wary so...

It made him feel slightly better.

"I will bring your friend back in one piece, Erik," Emma said. She slid a hand against his shoulder, neatly manicured fingers scraping just lightly. "Xavier said not to take advantage, but I think I will take the opportunity to see if we can feel out some further common ground."

"He..." Erik tried to put into words what he'd been unraveling concerning the mystery that was Charles Xavier. "He is very idealistic."

"So is everyone who has not had to face what we have."

The weight of the last few days settled on to Erik's back in that moment and he started to wander Emma's office, temporarily lost. Out her picture window he could see a few of the buildings, the skyscrapers that littered the capital meant he couldn't see out to the ocean but he could feel the hum of a few of the close by buildings.

"Interpol sent us information on a few of the anti-mutant organizations that have been gathering influence for the last few months." Erik hadn't gotten through all of the information, but they were woefully non-national, just a few crazy and hateful individuals who were dedicated to the eradication of mutants.

The anti-mutant prejudice in the United States had slowly subsided in the last few years, only to spike again with the revolution in Genosha. Erik remembered the earliest years, his time when he was in his teens had been spent in the special 'observational' camps for mutants with exceptionally dangerous powers. Erik knew that when he'd gotten a bit older the worst of the drive to have dangerous mutants locked up had faded about the same time Shaw had broken him and Emma out of their prison.

"They did?" Emma hadn't been briefed yet, then. "I'm surprised."

"Charles put me in contact with two graduates of his Institute, they seem to work anti-mutant crimes from Lyon."

"Layers within layers for our professor." Emma joined him at the window, her hand against his shoulder as she tried to help him drive away the worst of the memories teasing around in the back of his mind. "If he were on the front lines, Genosha would be unstoppable. I'm Dom enough to admit he could take me."

"All the more reason not to underestimate him," Erik thought out loud. "I want him by our side."

"He should have been there years ago."

Erik pressed his fingers against the glass, feeling the metal frame, the walls that slid a few stories down to the ground, and the pipes and electric wires, he let the sensation ground him. "Why wasn't he? Charles is here, now, willing to listen, maybe even change his mind a little. What is so different about me and Shaw? Why now?"

Emma nodded. "Something. Even with me there he must have seen something in Sebastian that made him pause, or he really just has become that desperate."

Erik couldn't understand Charles, he didn't see all the little pieces that made the man tick, and yet the more time he spent, the more he wanted to know Charles, wanted to understand him, wanted to be his friend. That made what he'd said even worse, he supposed, but he thought, perhaps, that he could fix that. Soon. Tomorrow.

"I'll put in a good word for you," Emma told him, leaving for her date with Charles, apparently.

He stifled the buzz of irritation the assurance gave him.

.16.

Charles suffered through the indignity of Raven and Amy criticizing almost every item in his wardrobe before they finally deigned to allow him to wear a charcoal grey three-piece suit that he'd brought more because it was the nicest thing he owned than because he liked it. If he was going to keep playing politics he was going to need more suits.

"Perhaps you two should take me shopping tomorrow." Amy, especially, enjoyed taking care of him, even though it ran counter to the way Charles liked to relate with her.

"Yes," Raven agreed. "If you're going to be going out with someone as sexy and put together as the Prime Minister you should look a little nicer."

"Do you mean to imply that His Majesty doesn't dress nicely enough to worry about?" Because as far as Charles was concerned, Erik generally looked delectable.

"Have you seen his King Magneto outfit? It makes your fashion sense look suave and sophisticated." Raven had a point... "The suits, however, yum. We'll get you something nice, maybe mutate-made. Some of them are amaaazing, they can actually like... spin silk, just... done! Like a spider."

Charles had to admit that was slightly disturbing, but he could see the appeal. "Mutate and proud?" Charles asked. "They are the surest proof that we cannot divide between sapiens and superior, actually." Every Genoshan mutate was a genetically engineered homo sapiens.

"I heard..." Amy fell silent for a moment, just concentrating on buttoning Charles' shirt. "Some of the people out while shopping don't think mutates should be allowed on Genosha, since... you know..."

Charles closed his eyes, frustrated. Amy hadn't said it, but it likely went without saying that some of the mutants on the island didn't want a human like Amy there. Somehow he doubted that her mutation of heterochromia would engender any particular solidarity. "They truly have nowhere else to go."

"And with the attack, people aren't very happy with humans either," Raven added. "I... I like it here, but... not without Amy or Moira."

"All very important questions to discuss with the swanky and sexy Prime Minster." He winked at Raven, and her expression soured just for a split second. "Who I am not going to sleep with, because sleeping with one politician is one politician too many." He wasn't usually one for regretting his dalliances but the decision to let himself fall into bed with Celeste was giving him quite the headache.

"Moira called this afternoon," Amy cut off whatever Raven had been about to say in response. "She's decided to allow break, some of the children are visiting with their parents. Since in all likelihood we'll be moving somewhere in the next few months she decided it wouldn't go amiss."

Charles nodded, absently, but tucked away whatever Raven had been about to say to be examined later. "Anything else?"

"Alex, Darwin, and Chris are coming to Genosha to visit Scott, apparently for some sort of 'meet the parents' thing?"

That was news. He'd suspected Darwin and Alex were getting more serious, but he tried not to pry into the private lives of his students. Alex had been much more focused since Darwin had come into his life. "Chris must be beside himself." The human was one of Charles' favorites, to be honest, brilliant, kind, brave, and completely supportive of his mutant sons, and his sub son.

"Are you worried about them coming here?"

"No. Chris is smart, he'll be able to see the writing on the various walls. If anything, I suspect he wants to know my intentions towards Genosha. Seeing me here, working with Magneto and Emma can't be comfortable, even for the more tolerant humans."

Amy politely didn't mention that she and Moira both found it more than a little uncomfortable. It was an argument that he couldn't change his position on right now.

The conversation was cut short by the arrival of Emma. The knock on the door was precise and hard, and when Charles opened the door he had to admit she looked stunning in her bright clothes.

"Prime Minister."

"Professor."

He decided to let Emma set the pace, for their conversation, for their dinner, everything, and if she decided to take that as him behaving 'sub-ly' than he would just have to investigate the regulatory climate of Luxembourg, as much as he would have preferred not to.

They exchanged meaningless pleasantries while he and Emma took a short walk - only a few blocks - to a restaurant that seemed French-Creole themed. He missed pizza.

"How have you been enjoying Genosha, Professor?"

"It is different than I expected, or perhaps I didn't know what to expect. The provisional government seems to be handling the transition well..." He trailed off, deciding if he was going to be overly candid or they would play cat and mouse. "I'm told by my sister that I will have to do some shopping if I intend to look presentable."

"There are a few tailors I prefer; I could offer you a recommendation."

"Are the tailors on your payroll, or only whichever mutants you've had following me about?"

Emma didn't even have the good graces to look embarrassed. "A necessary precaution for your safety."

He shook his head no. She inclined her head, and it seemed that they had managed to make that agreement without an argument.

"Erik says you enjoy discussing politics."

"You might say I make it a point to stay abreast of the various policies that impact my students. They are always my foremost concern." Wine arrived - a white, a bit more acidic than he cared for, but not unpleasant. "The tentative nature of the government here makes me nervous."

"And what would make you less nervous, Professor?"

She was asking for his bottom line, it seemed. He and Erik had often found themselves so caught up in the cerebral, in the theoretical, and in the practical minutia, that he had never really found himself needing to think on those terms. He knew what he wanted, what would be ideal, but the baseline was difficult.

"Subs rights, voting and citizenship, discrete from their Doms, enshrined in the constitution. Liberal citizenship requirements that allow for human citizenship, equal rights for mutate, mutant, and human..." He wanted so much more than that, it felt frustrating to break it down so simply, but... "There are other elements that I wound find better than others, but I consider that the bare minimum for a parliamentary democracy with room to grow and not stifle itself with some of the worst constitutional baggage from older countries."

"Wouldn't it be delightful to have fifty-some delegates agree even on that?" Emma tilted her glass towards him, and Charles raised his own to clink lightly, annoyingly distracted with how the gesture might be interpreted. "I would promise you that if I could, Professor. And believe me when I say my constituency is... not particularly amenable to human citizenship."

"Weak trash," Charles said the words lightly, with no fire.

Emma flinched, a surprising gesture from her usual poised demeanor and Charles realized he had accidentally struck some sort of chord with her.

He pressed on. "That's how mutants who wish to categorize themselves homo superior see humans. But I know at least some of your history, you have a brother Prime Minster, is he different from the other humans?"

"Of course."

"Does His Majesty consider your brother an exception to the rule that humans are worthless?" Charles didn't wait for her answer, he honestly didn't want to know, and preferred not to think what the answer would say about Erik. "Almost all of us have our humans, the ones we consider exemplary. It's too easy to say that humans are bad and mutants are good, we're all... human, DNA and genes and alleles and glands."

Emma looked away for a moment, just a moment, but Charles knew he had hit something that landed in the back of Emma's mind.

"We have groups that think the mutates are less deserving of citizenship than pure mutants." Emma pulled away from the issue of humans and citizenship, Charles let her, not interested in their dinner turning in to some sort of argument on the topic, but he'd made himself as clear as he could. The Institute would not move here if he couldn't guarantee a place for humans.

"And you?"

Emma hid behind a sip of wine, her mind flicking through thoughts that Charles didn't look into to deeply. "I killed the man I loved to protect the mutates of Genosha."

There was no one else her words could have referred to but Shaw. That explained the sudden shift in power six months ago, it had been the trigger that made several of his students finally decide to throw in with Magneto and join the revolution, even though he promised himself never to influence them... his children were more than capable of seeing that Shaw was too much, too far, too fast.

"I didn't know." It wasn't an apology. He doubted Emma wanted one, just an acknowledgement, and she tilted her head, accepting.

"He challenged me." She said it in a way that made Charles think she meant that as a positive, not an explanation, soft, reflective.

"All our best relationships are challenging."

Emma nodded, not having a response to what Charles had said. The two of them slipped into easy talk, Charles talked about Oxford and Emma avoided speaking of herself more than necessary, sticking to the bits of policy that were uncontentious - however few. Charles knew why, Emma had spent years in government facilities, years working under Shaw, a few months working under Erik. Charles would have been surprised if she had many moments in her life that she could look back on with unadulterated joy.

They stayed in the restaurant until it closed, and they retired to their separate quarters. He fell into bed, mind whirling with the thousands of things that kept them from being able to forge something on Genosha that could truly last and wouldn't wear itself out in vengeance.

.17.

At approximately seven in the morning - Genosha local time - Erik sent Azazel to New York. It was late, and the various restaurants were closing, but the mutant helpfully returned from his pan-Atlantic jaunt with a mushroom encrusted pizza from the pizzeria that Raven had said Charles favored. He added that to the apples he'd gotten the night before, and decided that this would have to be enough of a groveling gift. There was only so much groveling that could be expected from the King of Genosha when it came to a lowly school headmaster.

Emma had called him 'a perfect gentleman' when she had visited Erik around midnight last night.

And he wasn't vaguely annoyed at that.

Internally he considering the possibility that he was delivering the pizza at seven in the morning not only because it was the most reasonable time to have it delivered, but to nudge the telepath out of bed earlier. He was surprised to find Charles answer the door in less than a minute; he was still dressed for bed, in boxers and a thin t-shirt, and his hair was a complete mess, but he gave Erik a bright grin rather than the wary glance he had expected.

"Erik, come in... is that pizza...?"

He tilted the box, presenting it for inspection and Charles actually looked slightly suspiciously at it.

"That's pizza from Nick's..." Charles' face lit up, just for a brief moment before he cautiously took the box. "Hot pizza from Nick's..." And then he peeked inside. "Hot mushroom pizza from Nick's. How did you know? And how did you get it here?"

Charles backed away from the door, clinging to the pizza as though it was some sort of precious manna from heaven, and Erik considered that invitation enough to come in and close the door behind him. He found his way to the kitchen where Charles was pulling down plates and then he sat down at the breakfast bar, picking up the largest piece and not even pausing before he took a rather large bite of it.

"I may have bribed Raven and Amy with chinese food and shopping, and the mutant who has been trailing you, Azazel, is a teleporter, so since he is not trailing you any longer he was free to get pizza."

"A win-win solution," he said between bites. "Would you like some?"

"I don't care for mushrooms."

"Pick them off." Charles laughed. "It's the best pizza in the world. When I was working as an adjunct at Columbia this was my favorite part of a class, heading to Nick's for a slice."

Erik couldn't deny he was curious, so he took a plate and took the least mushroom-covered slice and started to pick off the offending fungus. "Oh..." Maybe he should keep the apples in reserve for the next time he accidentally called Charles a slut. He decided better of it, though, and set the paper bag on the counter.

Charles peeked, and laughed again. "You seem to have discovered my weaknesses. But... Erik, as much as I appreciate the tokens of appreciation, I'd have just accepted an apology."

An apology. He wondered if Charles knew that was far more difficult for him to give than transatlantic food bribes. Maybe he did and that was the point. "I... shouldn't have assumed the worst of your intentions."

That was probably the best he was going to be able to manage, and Charles seemed to accept that. Erik had finally cleared off a corner of the pizza and he bit into it. He had to admit it was very good.

"But Your Majesty is still assigned to babysitting duty for me?"

It wasn't just babysitting duty, however; he was truly starting to enjoy his time with Charles, he enjoyed their conversations, even their arguments. "You are so delightfully entertaining, Charles. I'm not sure what I would do without having to spend all of this time with you."

"I'm going to spend another day at the counseling center." Charles prodded the edges of his pizza and then folded it so that the slice was halved and took another huge bite. When he finished chewing, he continued, "There will be plenty of people who thought, at first, they were fine with what had happened, but as time goes on..."

"I'll come." As somber as the first outing had been, it had been fulfilling.

Charles' grin was infectious. "Let me get showered and dressed and then we can go."

Erik spent the half hour poking around the common area of the condo, unencumbered with one of the Xaviers or Amy for the time being. Charles had one of the data pads that were ubiquitous on Genosha. Inspecting that felt like too much of a breach, but there were some scattered notes, 'Moira' had apparently called - one of the professors, if he wasn't mistaken, someone had written a few notes in response to a journal article on biology, and there was a piece of paper with a variety of doodles in the shape of hearts, hopefully not done by Charles.

The pizza was now settled into the refrigerator and the apples on the counter, and when Charles emerged, hair still slightly damp in just a button down, sleeves rolled up, and a pair of khakis, Erik had to admit he didn't look like a man who ran the most prestigious mutant educational institute in the world. He looked like a grad student.

Charles brought an apple - and handed one to Erik - and the two of them headed back out towards the center.

"Did you and Emma have a good evening?" Erik tried to keep his voice casual.

"I'm sure she's already briefed you on that," Charles answered, half light-hearted and half serious. "We have some common ground and many differences, like any other two people in the world. But there are some things that I cannot compromise on."

"Does that mean there are some things you can?"

Erik noticed the brief flick of Charles' eyes. Like so many people, Charles was set in his ways, but at least he seemed well aware of it. "Some. I suppose you might say that yesterday reminded me that there's a difference between theory and policy. Something that I had been too keen to ignore."

It felt like victory. Erik felt smug. He then felt slightly less smug when he realized it was Emma who'd forced the change of heart, not him. "You are an academic, Charles."

"And you are a warrior."

"A king," he protested, even though he put little stock in that particular title.

"Yes and no. I will not deny you are a king, however, when you approach the world you see it as a warrior does, not a king. A king is concerned with who is his equal and who is his subordinate, appearance, flattery, and political power. A warrior is concerned with who his allies are and who his enemies are. When you encounter an obstacle, your first thought is the martial solution, not the political or the diplomatic."

He would have accused Charles of reading his mind if what he'd said wasn't so painfully obvious. He might have been king, but his eyes were always out for threats, not political opportunities. Emma had made the transition far more smoothly than he had, yet another reason she was far better suited for the ever shifting and changeable position in politics. "And as an academic you live with shoulds, oughts, and theoreticals."

"Yes. I am a scientist, however, and we are empiricists at our hearts."

Erik felt something, a small, odd flicker at the edge of his consciousness, like a harsh shifting in the back of his mind. Charles tilted his head, almost as though he was listening to something, and then the scream hit his ears. Charles fell to his knees and vomited up undigested pizza.

"Charles? Charles!"

"Go..." Charles was trying to stagger back to his feet. "Seven blocks."

The telepath pointed but he didn't need to, the smoke was already obvious in the distance. "Are you ok?" He'd seen Emma like this once, right after he'd killed Shaw, her mind recoiling from the death she'd felt as Erik killed him.

"Will be. Go!" Charles pushed his shoulder, and he stumbled for a moment before he set off running.

Whether Charles had known the urgency or not, it was obvious he was needed. The last bomb had been in a square, tiny in comparison, with debris only going a block. The shattered windows and bodies started two blocks out, and when he arrived in the tightly packed street he saw at least one building - short, five stories - almost completely collapsed.

It was a mutate house; one of the group homes where mutants who hadn't found new work were living while things settled down.

He stretched out his hands, grabbing at the building, ripping away the first layer of collapsed structure. Panicked voices screamed as he moved the metal beams, dragging concrete with it. It was impossible to tell how many might be alive in there, but it was early, and most of the mutates didn't have work, there might be as many as two hundred in there. The anger that fueled his power turned to fear and worry, made his control waiver.

Erik worked like that for minutes, trying to get the building standing upright again.

"Erik, calm your mind."

Charles. Charles was in his head.

"Yes, hush. I will not peek where I am unwelcome, but you must calm your mind."

He turned away from the destruction and saw Charles, perhaps twenty feet from him, fingers pressed to his temples as he scanned the crowd. At least some of his concentration was wasted on Erik. He tried to think back at Charles. "Emma pushes me... helps me focus..."

"I know. I cannot hold that and help these people. You must focus on your own, listen to my voice. Rage and fear can only take you so far. You need hope, peace, serenity. You are going to save them, Erik. Balance."

Erik shut his eyes and tried to find that hope Charles spoke of, tried to remember the way it felt when Emma held his mind tight. Peace... He didn't know how to feel peace. A feeling, warm and crushing, pressed into his mind. He dragged scaffolding back into place, welding it into shape and stabilizing the frames.

He felt a flare of pain, realized it had come from Charles, and felt the telepath's concentration waiver and his own concentration shattered the building started to groan, still too unstable to stand without Erik propping it up. "Erik, let me in, let me find what you need."

Unthinking, he agreed, and he felt something run through his mind, warm fingers, like a soft touch inside of his memories. He heard hushed singing, his voice, the voice of a boy, breaking and warbling as he tried to sing his verses from the Torah from memory and not alert the guards who would yell at them for the noise. Emma was sitting next to him smiling, girlish face wincing every time he fell too far off key but still smiling, smiling the way she'd long since stopped smiling...

Even in their cages that had been a far simpler time. He felt Charles' mental touch slide away but the warmth left in its wake remained. He felt every one of the beams in the building, felt the way they should touch, the way they had touched before, and he shifted them easily into place. Tumbling bits of concrete were stopped by thin lines of metal, grabbing and tugging the blocks away, placing them to the side of rooms where there was no warmth - no touch of a body against metal. He didn't know how much time passed like that, but when his concentration pulled away from the metal there were dozens of people working on the bodies - both dead and alive - around him.

Charles was still knee deep in people, shouting orders and pointing - a few of the children Erik new had come from the Institute rushing at Charles' command. His face was wet, tears running down his face and he felt like a fool for a moment until he realized he was hardly alone, almost everyone was crying.

A moment later he felt a warm hand slide around his wrist, Charles' hand, the telepath was crying freely. "Are you alright, Erik?"

There was devastation surrounding them, but for the lingering moment before reality set in... he felt something a bit like peace.

.18.

Erik continued to stare at him for several seconds, the man's arm tense under his, and Charles found himself feeling guilty at the way he'd intruded into Erik's thoughts, wondering - momentarily - if Erik had given in only because he'd told him to. The idea made the crush of pain-fear-guilt around him even more intense. He repeated the question. “Are you alright, Erik?”

"What?"

"Your memory... it was the brightest spot in your mind."

Comprehension dawned. "I'm alright, Charles." Forgiven. "I'd forgotten it..." He smiled, just a small twitch at the corner of the man's mouth. "There's work to do."

"Right." And Charles let him go, missing the contact instantly. He needed grounding right now, there were too many voices, in pain, dying, mourning, afraid, and his mind tried to reach out to soothe them all at once, to hold their emotions in check, to ease them. His knees wobbled.

Oh god, my son. Why not me? Why her? I hated her. I loved him. I never... I wanted... we should have... I need... DIE!

Charles' hand lashed out before he could think, grabbing the approaching man, fingers pressing into his temples, just the confluence of emotions around him, pressed against the man's mind, was enough for the attacker to stagger. The knife - ceramic with a wrapped leather handle - fell to the ground.

Erik turned towards him, blinking and confused, but the image of an attacker splayed out on the concrete, Charles' hand on his face, and the knife, obviously meant for a metalbender, told the story. His face hardened and Charles watched as he grabbed some of the metal off the ground, bending it around the man's arms and fusing it tight.

"Charles?" Erik turned to them. "Are we in more danger here?"

Charles knew what he was really asking. Erik wanted him to read the man's mind. He got down on his knee and pressed his hand to the man's face, trying to flick through the thoughts there. The screaming in the man's mind was loud - maryhadalittlelamblittlelamb... enough that Charles subconsciously started to hum it.

"James Winters. Human." The nursery rhyme fell away. "There are no more attacks planned for today, but..."

He closed his eyes and grabbed Erik's hand to drag himself up.

"You have a problem."

Winters was only the beginning. Charles had a sinking sensation that he wasn't going to be able to keep this from exploding all over the little island. He had enough of the details - enough that he could have told Erik exactly what to expect - but he hesitated. Erik - his friend - was volatile, and his emotions were raw. That was Charles' fault, and the wrong thing could do far more harm than good.

"Louis Martin's personal assistant is already aware of the failure. I recommend you have him arrested quickly, before he has time to flee the island."

Erik was up in a flash, charging out of the square, presumably to find Emma or Azazel or the assistant. Charles sighed and looked down at the man sprawled on the ground with his hands bound behind his back. "Oh my friend, there was no need for this."

There were dozens dead, at least, and Charles doubted everyone who was only injured now would make it through the day.

"What do you know about me?"

"Everything." Charles sat down next to the man, close enough that he could hear the shallow breathing, could see the way the man's eyes were wide with fear. "I often wonder what makes a man turn in one moment and have everything change. What moment was it for you...? The moment you lost your son to the government for being a mutant? Or was it the moment he was killed for becoming too powerful? Why are you here, James?"

He knew the answer, as soon as he'd asked, not out of some great insight, but because the answer floated to the tip of his mind where Charles could skim it just off the surface.

Revenge, revenge against a tiny island that was still in the womb instead of the system in his own country that he didn't feel he could fight. Misplaced aggression, and the belief that if his son couldn't live, then they all should die.

"Has your pain lessened? Do you feel at peace?"

No.

Of course not.

"I'll get to see my son again."

Charles had felt too many minds slip away, clinging to the tenuous threads of life or fleeing gratefully, to be entirely certain - or uncertain - that there was anything beyond. This man's mind had started to seek death, had already resigned himself to it when he attacked Erik.

"Will he be proud of you, your son?"

No.

Of course not.

"I'm his father."

The twist of self-denial started to tug at the back of Charles' mind, start to drag him in, and he pulled his mind out from the mire. James' proud-fear-hate-shame curled around in the air and Charles thought he might choke on it. The man started to cry, and Charles pressed his fingers against the man's hair, stroking gently, feeling him shatter.

"Charles?" Raven stood over him, Amy right by her side. "Who is this?"

The man sobbed. "He is the one responsible for the attacks today, the destruction of the mutate home and the attempted assassination of Magneto."

"Crap."

Charles couldn't help but agree, he tilted his head to see where more bodies were pulled from the repaired wreckage. "Arrests are being made. I'm afraid things are going to get quite a bit worse."

Charles had hoped, desperately, that would be the end of it, but even he was not so optimistic that he could believe that.

As soon as the bodies were cleared and the worst of the mourners and grievers were replaced by gawkers and reporters, Charles fled.

He spent the morning at the crisis center, wicking off the grief of others, helping them bleed away the fear and the pain of the morning. Some where new to the feelings coursing through their mind, others found the latest attack just picking at a barely scabbed over wound less than a week old. A few just saw it as another in a long line of indignities that was their just due for being born a mutant.

Charles listened, he listened and he let all of that pain soak into him, most of it released but some of it coiling close to his heart and dragging down his soul.

Raven found him just after lunch, brought him a sandwich and let him eat before she put even more weight on his mind.

"Amy's been arrested. Chris Summers has been too, every human who's come to Genosha in the last eight weeks and some that have been there longer."

"Why?!" He felt the pain twist in his throat, the ache that he felt every time things started to go to pieces.

"There's some sort of conspiracy, apparently, humans coming to Genosha to do terror strikes. The arrests are part of a campaign of mutant supremacy, at least that's what the blogs are saying."

"Never trust a blog..." Still. "Have you talked to Erik or Emma?"

Raven's eyes grew wide. "Of course not, they're..." Intimidating-Doms-beautiful-distant.

Charles wasn't certain he'd wanted to hear the train of his sister's thoughts, but his mind was too raw to block her out completely. "Where are Darwin and the Summers boys?"

She twisted her ankle, awkward. "Outside waiting for me to bring you..."

"We have to get this reversed before people start thinking that Genoshans are dangerous, that mutants are dangerous."

"I know!" Raven grabbed him by the wrist and pulled him. "And Amy! We have to help her."

"Raven, please, we'll do no one any good like this."

"Amy's only here because of us... because of me." Raven's voice was starting to strain.

"She's here because..." Because she would be the perfect way to gauge Magneto, Emma, and Genosha as a whole on how they would react to her. And oh how they'd reacted. Amy was now somewhere, possibly a prison cell, or somewhere else entirely uncomfortable because he had brought her there. "She's here because I wanted her here."

"I'm not a kid, you know." Of course she wasn't.

"I know that, but there's no need to get worked up." He knew he wasn't at the top of his game, he'd spent so much time focusing on helping strangers that he hadn't even noticed how much Raven might be hurting, or how much she blamed herself. "We'll have it sorted before you know it."

"How can you know that?" She had a point, of course, and Charles had to admit that he didn't have confidence in his promise. Erik and Emma - or both of them - had gone completely off the rails as far as he was concerned. This was not a proportional response.

"Because I know that Erik and Emma are quite reasonable individuals."

"They both want to kill humans! They want to kill Amy."

In the specific, certainly not, but in the general he couldn't help but be concerned that Raven's babbled concerns might hold a hint of something that merited worry.

"Everyone is hurting right now, Raven, acting rashly. Soon, cooler heads will prevail and things will be back to normal."

They exited the building and he was struck by the midday heat. "SCREW YOUR OBJECTIVITY! Make this better!"

Many Doms would have hit her; Charles dragged her to his chest and held her close while she cried.

Darwin came up beside him, his own hand wrapped around Alex's wrist to help ground the younger man. It was easy to feel the anger and fear and frustration start to well up in Alex's mind. He didn't have the protection of Scott's visor to assure he wouldn't lose control of his powers if his emotions got too tense.

Scott stood with his arms crossed, glowering towards Charles.

"Professor?"

"Yes, Scott?"

"I’m all for Emma and Magneto, but locking up all humans for the crimes of a few isn't what you taught us to support." Scott felt the weight of what Erik - what the Genoshan government - had decided to do, and the wrongness of the action pressed down on his own conscience.

"I know. I've taught you a great many things, and it is good to see they are still in there. Come. I will speak to Emma and His Majesty, and if we cannot end this now, and properly, then we will discuss what is to be done."

Chapter Text

.19.

Erik glowered at the pandemonium that had exploded over the temporary holding cells set up in a semi-abandoned apartment building near the Parliament building. Genosha itself had only perhaps fifty thousand inhabitants at the moment, and although most of them were mutants, still, there were well over a thousand humans that had to be rounded up for questioning. Some were nursing injuries from when they had resisted, and others were just looking shell-shocked.

The first real shock he found was when Janos walked passed him dragging an incredibly pissed off looking Amy Pollard, her arm wrapped tight around a few papers. She noticed Erik only a few seconds after he did, her eyes hard and stony.

"What is she doing here?" Asking the question of Janos was almost useless, the man didn't speak, but Amy seemed more than capable of answering that herself.

"You're rounding up all recently arrived humans, right? Well here I am." She spread her arms wide and on Erik's nod Janos released her. "Well?"

He hesitated. "You can leave."

"Oh, no," Amy answered immediately. "I'm staying here. Xavier Institute professor jailed. Do you really think Charles is going to stand for this?"

"That's why you can leave," he ground out between teeth.

"You obviously don't know Charles very well." Amy stretched her back up to her full height - not particularly impressive, but obviously a posturing gesture - and grinned at him. "I'd like to be taken to my holding cell now."

He nodded at Janos, and for the first time since he'd started this project he was beginning to regret it. The decision had been a rash one, made almost instantly after the revelations about the nature of the attacks came to light. They had to make a stand and do something proactive, otherwise the humans would walk all over them.

"While I agree on the general principle," Emma said into his mind, sliding up behind him. "I think you will find the practicalities of this little... temper-tantrum are not going to be worth the price."

He ignored the accusation that he'd thrown a temper-tantrum; it had been a required and appropriate response. "I didn't know Pollard was a human."

"Yes, I thought it best to keep that in reserve so you didn't start thinking unseemly thoughts near Xavier."

"You don't get to decide what I need to know, Emma." Amy was right. Erik could realize that he'd stepped on a landmine where Charles was concerned. He would not be happy - pizza and apples notwithstanding - and he doubted the man would begin to understand the practicalities of what was needed.

"I suppose it might have saved us this mess." She started to walk away, towards one of the administrative offices that Erik had commandeered in the last few minutes. "Come."

He followed, feeling a bit like a scolded child. When the door to the office was closed he started to pace. "You can't tell me you disagree!"

"The principle is sound, Erik, but we have just detailed hundreds of humans, many that were here to report on the proceedings of our attempts at democracy and a few that were here to assess whether to Genosha was the place to build the cornerstone of mutant education in the world." Emma took a deep breath, her eyes not pleased at all. "These are not people who we can afford to piss off."

"I'll take them all on," Erik bit back, regretting it instantly. He was the hero of Genosha, but... this was far more complicated than killing the people who wanted to kill them.

Emma, thankfully, ignored his outburst. "I must take a position on this, Erik. If I agree to the detention that I'm condoning the imprisonment of hundreds of individuals who legally entered our country on legitimate visas, if I disagree I open myself up to accusations of being weak or sub-like. I think you know there are more than a few from the revolution days who think I'm sub-like for my affection for Sebastian. You have put me in an untenable position."

And if Emma spoke out against him... it would drive a wedge between the mutants who supported Emma because she was close to him, and he was a war hero. "I... I had to do something."

"I know, now something has been done, all that remains is the fallout." She paused, cocked her head. "And here it is."

She reached out and opened the door, to find Charles there, fist raised about to knock. Charles walked in, his eyes sweeping over the two of them. Out behind Charles, Erik could see Scott, Raven, another boy who looked a bit like Scott, and a black man who resembled none of them, tall and lanky compared to the more compact Scott.

"What can I do for you, Charles?" Might as well start off gentle.

"We can start by undoing the perversion of justice and human rights that is occurring not twenty feet away from me and then go from there." Charles' voice was pure ice.

"You know we can't do that, Xavier," Emma answered for him, and Charles, at least, put some of his ire towards her instead of glaring daggers solely at Erik.

"Won't. Let's be honest about our relative administrative powers. You won't undo this. It is more than within your power to do so." Charles stepped farther into the room and then glanced over his shoulder at the collection of young men and Raven standing there. "Go on and see to everyone." The students dispersed instantly and Charles pulled the door closed behind him.

"There is evidence of a credible plot..." Charles waved his hand, dismissing what Erik was about to say.

"I want to make it clear that the only reason I have not yet left is because you have one of my Professors and the father of two of my students in your custody." Charles continued to keep his voice even and unimpressed.

"Take them," Erik bit back, knowing, even as he said it, that he was only lashing out in fear of losing the man he had come to think of as a friend but unable to stop himself.

Charles shook his head. "No. I am also staying because I believe that we have it in us to be the better men - and women." He nodded towards Emma, and the telepath inclined her head back and said nothing. "This accomplishes nothing of use."

"We will not be backing down," Emma answered, smoothly. "I'm sorry, Professor."

Erik was torn between wanting to kiss the woman and realizing that Emma had just blown almost all of the good will she had likely earned with Charles just a day or two ago on the back of Celeste Vandermeer overstepping her bounds.

"Prime Minister, could you give us a moment?" Erik wasn't certain what possessed him to say it, but he couldn't just leave it there with Charles

"I see." Emma nodded and headed out of the door, eyes glancing behind her, trying to get a feel for what Erik had in mind.

"Charles, I..." He didn't quite know what to say, or how to say it. Words like 'I'm sorry' did not come easy to him, and he did what he had to do to ensure the safety of the mutants of Genosha. "I had to do this."

"No my friend, you did not." He watched the way dozens of emotions played out over Charles' face, and Erik didn't think he was imagining the look of disappointment. "What does this make us, Erik? What does it make you? Is this the way you want the homeland for mutants to be founded? On fear and suspicion and hate?"

He realized, very suddenly, and with very little forewarning, that Charles' eyes were painfully, incredibly blue. That was not the thought he should have been entertaining, with Charles barely three feet from him with those eyes staring up at him, filled with pain and even more emotions. "They will stop at nothing until we have been destroyed. They fear us."

"Tell me, then, Magneto, are they wrong to fear us?" Charles pointed behind him, to the door closed at his back. "How many of those humans did you drag away from their family or their loved ones?"

"It's not that simple!" Damn Charles and his naiveté and his intellectual appreciation of the situation. "There are terrorists out there!"

"And there are men and women there who love their mutant brothers and sister and children! The two are not even mutually exclusive." Charles closed his eyes, finally releasing Erik from having to see the way Charles was obviously hurt and upset. He reached out, pressed his fingers gently against the creases in the dress shirt he was wearing, smoothing away the wrinkles. "This will be where we must part ways, Erik. I cannot let this action go unchallenged, and for that I am sorry."

"I'm sorry, too."

Enemies.

He'd thought... perhaps... but that didn't matter now, and he watched Charles turn away from him and walk out of the door. He ached to ask Charles back, to keep the man at his side, but he thought that might mean giving up everything he believed in, and he couldn't do that. Not for Charles, not for anyone.

"Come on." He heard Charles' voice from the other side of the door, and for a moment his feet twitched, wanting to follow, but he watched Scott and the others fall in line behind Charles and he felt lost.

.20.

Charles let out a breath as soon as he was outside. He could admit that he hadn't known Erik long, and found him endlessly frustrating, but he'd rather thought they'd started to become close. He liked the man. He appreciated Erik's passion, his drive, that he wasn't just a man bent on the destruction of all humans at any cost like Shaw had been, and yet Erik had started to walk a path that would drive Genosha away from its nervous and tentative peace and in to something that might have looked like war.

Erik had imprisoned several reporters, bloggers, a few UN officials... it was not going to end well if this continued. Charles was already starting to fear that they were approaching the point of no return, or had already crossed it.

"We need to make it clear that the actions here are not condoned by every Genoshan," Charles said as soon as they were out in the streets. "Scott - spread the word, get a feeling for the positions of the students. Report back when you have something." He tapped the side of his head and then ran a finger against Scott's temple. It was more psychological than a physical requirement, but it was one Scott was familiar with.

The young man checked with Charles, just a tilt of the head, and when Charles nodded he headed off, dismissed.

"Raven, call Moira, explain the situation. I would like her to prepare some sort of statement." He took a deep breath, considering what he needed to say. "Mutants being a vital part of the international and human community..." He considered his words again, carefully. With a few choice statements he could condemn Erik and Emma, point to them as irrational and thoughtless, and possibly destroy whatever remained of the heroic pedestal many mutants placed them on. But, Charles understood the world needed heroes, people to believe in, and for most mutants, the mutants who had not been a part of his school, he had no history with them, he had not liberated them. "And this is a harsh reaction to a terrible tragedy as Genosha seeks to understand what has happened. Got it?"

Raven had calmed some since her outburst, but she was still hanging on to her emotions by a thread. She saluted and fled.

He looked over towards Darwin and Alex - wondered if he could trust Alex to keep his calm for the moment.

"Darwin. I need... a venue."

"Bigger than a press release?" Darwin asked. Charles nodded, and he watched realization dawn on the man. "You're going to... what? Stand there on top of the mountain and yell until they listen?"

"Please, I'm an Oxford professor, I do not yell."

Still, he had no firm idea of what he intended to say. He danced around the possibility of confronting Erik and Emma directly, of calling their behavior was it was - totalitarian and overwhelmingly blind - but he dismissed it. He already knew he could not solve all of the problems facing Genosha on his own, or even just with his students at his back, and that meant he needed to rely on what little good grace he could continue to hold with Emma, Erik, and perhaps even Celeste.

He was even beginning to regret severing ties so completely with her, but only for a moment. She would, possibly, back him on this; the detentions flew in the face of everything her coalition stood for, but he would not make the mistake of assuming her support would be absolute, or even present.

"Alex. I - of course - would never condone the appropriation of materials that you were not the proper owner of, however, I am under the impression that several human journalists have found themselves indisposed, and it would be a shame should anything happen to their cameras and other broadcast equipment." He gave the young man a smile, feeling like he was back in college again and undertaking a particularly wicked prank. "I think we might like to acquire some of the equipment, strictly for safe keeping, of course."

Alex turned to Darwin, and the older man nodded to Alex. "On it, Prof! You know if we have a technopath to run it all?"

"I assume your brother will let me know as soon as that is settled." He ran over the list of students who had graduated and chose to side with Erik during the revolution, he was certain there would be someone. He tapped the boy's temple. "Go on, let me know how it goes."

And then Alex was off, leaving Charles along with Darwin and the two of them started to walk through the streets.

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" Darwin asked.

Charles valued Darwin's opinion, not quite as much as Moira's, but he did value it. The man was nothing if not steady and willing to go along with almost anything, going with the flow, adapting. "At least six of the humans that were taken into custody were UN inspectors here to monitor the development of the democratic government of Genosha."

Darwin winced. "Ouch, man."

"This goes far beyond your future father-in-law or one of my professors, this goes to the very heart of what Genosha must stand for - mutants, as part of the international community, not apart from it." That was what Charles had hoped for, even when it was Shaw who was working to create a mutant nation. "If this continues, any dream for Genosha will become toxic, tainted at its core."

"I know, man, but what are you actually going to do about it?"

Charles honestly had no firm idea. He was decisive by nature, however, and Scott, Raven, and Alex were all putting together pieces of what would no doubt become a plan. "The government action will no doubt be perceived as an attack on humans, so we must... express the idea that Genosha is committed to being a part of the international community."

Darwin nodded, with him so far, and Charles had to admit he felt better, just a touch. Normally he would bounce his most expansive ideas off of Moira first, but there wasn't enough time for that at the moment, he needed to act now. "With you so far, Prof."

Charles pulled out a piece of paper and started to scribble on it, trying to find the right words for the moment.

"I mean... Prof, Charles, it's all well and good but... that's the tactics, what’s the strategy?"

He was honestly stunned for just a moment, at Darwin's succinct way of pointing out precisely what he'd been allowing himself not to look at and not to notice. He'd been avoiding a long-term strategy when it came to the politics of Genosha because... that would naturally mean having to become a part of the politics, become a part of Genosha.

Charles stared down at the paper in his hands, realized exactly what he'd been doing wrong, and came - quickly - to a decision. "Thank you, Darwin."

"That's still not a strategy."

"Yes it is." Charles grinned, turning back to his paper. "I've been trying to stay apart from what is going on here in Genosha, that's what I've always done when it came to sub or mutant registration laws in the US or the UK, go before congress or parliament, talk a good talk, and hope that the system will sort itself out properly."

Charles continued to head out through the city, trusting that Darwin would stop them if he found what they needed. "But it's not worked, twice, and if it doesn't work here then there is honestly no other place to go. The Institute needs Genosha to work, I need Genosha to work, and... mutants, mutants as a whole need this experiment in mutant self-governance to work. So..."

Darwin looked towards him, eyes cautious, and curious, and after a few moments he broke out into a wide grin. "So you're going to make it work?"

"Yes. Absolutely."

He'd stood before congress, he'd stood in front of the parliament less than three weeks ago when he argued, testified, passionately against the initiative to register subs to their Doms - or require them to be registered at all - he'd cited facts, statistics, social trends, the errors in the methods of social psychological research on the matters, the non-distinctions of the genetics... but there was absolutely one thing he had never done.

The Xavier Institute stood apart from whatever country it was in, a pillar of education for exceptional children, but... there had certainly never been a time when he might have actually...

"So you're, what? Running for Parliament?"

For a moment he doubted it was a good idea. He had the Institute to think about, the children, his research, his students, and he couldn't imagine giving them up for anything. But all of that was moot, wasn't it? If Genosha destroyed the chance for mutants to have a home that would never turn them away.

"Yes. I suppose I am."

Charles was self-assured enough to admit that the idea filled him with an exceptional panic.

.21.

The pandemonium slowly subsided as Emma cut her way through the human population in the hotel. Erik watched her, marveling - as always - at her poise, and the self-assured way she conducted herself. He wondered if that might be a side effect of being a telepath. Her grace had always been something he had admired, even in his youth, barely into puberty. He’d almost always had her, and she was the only other young mutant who seemed to understand him wholly and completely.

His memory - the one of his impromptu Bar Mitzvah - the one that Charles had somehow dragged out from the depths of his mind - pressed to the front of his mind even as he tried to tuck it away. What had Charles called it? Hope, peace, serenity, balance.

The emotions that had come with that memory lingered in his mind, and he could feel it tug at his thoughts. It was not unlike the focus that Emma gave him when they worked together, her powers sliding through his mind, amplifying, making them razor sharp. At the same time, it was different, and it was something that he'd been able to hold even as Charles has weaved through the crowd, with his mind nowhere near Erik’s. That power had some only from himself - or himself and Charles.

Charles had given him back that moment.

It made the slight twist of guilt as he watched Emma - her poise flagging slightly from so much use of her powers. Less than an hour of touching minds and Emma retreated to the small office where Erik was half-heartedly working on a speech.

Emma made a 'give it here' gesture, and Erik did. There were barely ten words there that might have been useable, and she slid the tablet back to him.

"I'm sorry."

She just nodded in response, not answering. He knew it was enough, though. She always forgave him, even if she didn't forgive him right this moment. "We haven't found anyone yet, who was here to commit a crime. I did, however, find someone Charles was holding in reserve: Christopher Summers."

"Who?" The name didn't sound familiar, but he must have been human.

"Scott Summers' father. He's a US Army Colonel... runs an integrated human-mutant regiment."

Erik shut his eyes, wishing he could shut out the spike of shame he felt in that moment. He honestly didn't know how many humans were good, or kind, but there were more than he might have expected...

"He and Pollard have taken up damage control with the UN and reporters." Emma's lips pursed slightly, pressed together so tightly they grew whiter even under her lipstick. "Summers was discussing how proud he was to have a child in the Genoshan military, and Pollard has been saying how of course this is only temporary."

"It's only been a few hours." How the hell had they answered so quickly when Erik found himself still reeling from shock?

"And I have only cleared a few dozen of the thousand or more humans than we've imprisoned here." Emma curled her fingers lightly, unable to focus completely.

"Charles..." He could feel her tense across the room from him. "He said something about... serenity?" He shook his head; he wished maybe he had listened to Charles. "It made me stronger, somehow."

Emma nodded, and it looked like she understood at least a sliver of what he was saying, but there wasn't any real change in her demeanor. He wondered if Charles would be able to do that for Emma... he shook his head. "We will release the UN representatives and reporters in the next hour or so. It is the least we can do."

It would still be well into the evening, which would mean... he didn't know.

Their silent introspection was interrupted by a loud pop and a whiff of sulfur. Azazel.

"You need to see this." No other preamble, the red-furred mutant grabbed both of their hands, and as soon as Emma and Erik were standing there was another pop and the jerking sensation at the base of his spine.

The three of them landed on the mutate house that Erik had salvaged earlier, he and Emma struggling slightly to maintain their balance. It was still warm, the sun still at least a few hours from setting, late afternoon. None of that, however, was what Azazel had brought them to see. There were at least a thousand Genoshans gathered in the square area outside of the house, and towards the back, facing the house, was Charles. Even without his usual tweed he recognized the man, dressed only in a neat shirt, sleeves rolled up passed his elbows, and dress pants, he looked approachable, attractive, and in control.

Emma glanced at him, but said nothing, not yet. Her face was impassive.

Next to Charles, he saw Raven, not dressed as she usually was in flowing clothes, but naked, blue scales and yellow eyes glowing bright - mutant - obviously so. Scott stood behind him, dressed in the makeshift but easily recognizable uniform of Genosha, next to him the boy that looked enough like him to be a brother - possibly he was - and a black man, both dressed neatly and presentably.

"I don't think this is good," Erik mumbled under his breath.

Emma's face pinched even tighter. "No. I do not think so."

He recognized too many of his soldiers, the ones from Xavier's Institute, standing in the crowd, the rest were the men and women of Genosha, furred, feathered, pink, black, and any color in between.

"Emma?"

"No one is certain why they are here..." She squinted, the way Erik knew she was using her powers, and he saw Charles' expression change. The telepath glanced up towards them, and even with almost a hundred yards between them, Erik imagined his face softened.

"Hello." The voice was one Erik easily recognized, half heard on the wind, but mostly pressed into his mind. Charles. "We've all come here for different reasons," Charles continued, and Erik continued to hear-sense the words. "We've all... lost something here today. I can feel that - a hole in the chest where a feeling of hope and security used to be."

The telepath pressed his fingers to his chest, a gentle motion, a light touch. Before there had been a few chattering voices in the crowd, talking over Charles, ignoring him, but whether through some subtle working of the man's telepathy or just the natural consequence of hearing Charles the way they were - half through the ears and half through the mind - the mutants spread throughout the square slowly quieted.

"The one thing, however, that we cannot afford to lose today, is our humanity."

A few loud boos wafted up from the crowd, and Erik was torn between amusement, pride, and wanting whoever had booed Charles to be quiet.

"I am a human."

Another few boos, but he watched Charles wait, as they quieted again, and then continued on, implacable.

"I am a professor, a headmaster, a geneticist, a son, a brother, an Anglo-American, a telepath, and a mutant." There were a few cheers for the word mutant, but the crowd had largely settled down.

"Eukarya Animalia Chordata Mammalia Primates Hominidae Homo Sapiens Sapiens." Sure. Calm. Professor.

Erik's mind automatically corrected, 'Homo superior' but he also remembered the way Charles had said that no, mutants and humans were not a different species, no matter what Erik wanted.

"There are hundreds, if not thousands, of ways that I can say that I am different from each and every one of you and there is one easy, effortless way that I can say I am like each and every one of you."

Charles paused, his voice in Erik's ear and head softer now. "I am human."

This time the declaration was not met with jeers, just silence. The idea, Charles' words, they hit him, he felt it, but at the same time he felt that Charles was denying something, pushing away at his mutant nature, the history that Erik and Emma and so many of the citizens of Genosha had suffered. It was hard not to know, however, how much some, many, maybe even most of the mutants on Genosha and out in the world at large yearned for someone to recognize them as human, not a creature.

"It's easy to categorize - that's what scientists like me do every day." Charles gave a self-deprecating little laugh. "But if there is one thing I have learned in my life, hearing the little wisps of thought that come from every person that I pass on the street, it is that we all, fundamentally, want the same things, feel the same emotions, and have similar dreams."

Charles continued, and continued, and Erik heard the telepath's words as he weaved something over the crowd, hopeful, inclusive... Erik and Emma rated no mention, either of praise or condemnation, but the message was obvious: Genosha, part of the world not apart from it.

Emma looked slightly green by the end of the speech. Erik couldn't blame her, he felt high, amazing powerful, and yet he couldn't deny what that meant for Emma, politically speaking.

And then, as if on command - and it very much could have been on command - when Charles finished his speech a few of his students, and then much of the crowd, started to chant. "MP X! MP X!"

MP X. Member of Parliament X, Xavier.

"Shit," Emma said beside him.

Erik couldn't help but agree.

.22.

Charles was wrung out, exhausted, and ready to fall over by the time he started to head back to his rooms well passed midnight. Erik and Emma had released the first wave of human prisoners soon after his speech, the UN inspectors and the reporters, mostly - for obvious reasons. He doubted it had anything to do with what he'd said, no, Emma and Erik were not stupid and likely had intended to release the high profile prisoners quickly, but it was still the principle of the matter that was at issue there.

Chris and Amy still hadn't been released, and at this point he figured it was either spite or that the pair had intentionally chosen to stay even though they could have been released. Charles approved of the idea of Amy and Chris sitting out the detainment in solidarity, but the idea that Emma and Erik trying to keep the pair out of spite was less appealing.

'The Campaign', as the small group of students had suddenly become, arrived back in his suite with him, Scott trailing behind while Alex and Darwin excitedly gabbed over one of the computer screens and Raven had her arm wrapped through Charles'. "I think you're going to be a meme or something, Professor," Alex said.

"I doubt I will be a meme, Alex, perhaps a youtube video." He was smiling, but internally he was feeling a bit like he'd just jumped out of a plane and was now free falling, hoping his parachute would open when needed. "What do we have other than my memetic nature?"

"There's already been a few petitions to get you into the constitutional committee," Alex answered, smoothly. "But with no obvious way that would work based on the current transition government no one is sure if that would even matter."

"Your interviews are already up," Darwin added.

After the speech and the release of the journalists, they had done the most natural thing in the world: realize that their equipment was missing, track it down, realize there was a story unfolding in the city square, and then nothing would do but for Charles to have a press conference, and three interviews.

He thought he'd done... well enough. It was impossible to say. He hoped it would be enough to undercut some of the international outrage that should have been brewing in the wake of Erik's decision to arrest the humans on Genosha.

"Reactions?" He asked.

"It's the middle of the day on a Wednesday in the US, it's all over the blogs and the news."

"The King and Prime Minister?" He expected some sort of reaction, and he doubted it would be good.

Charles and his entire parade came to a halt as they rounded the corner and Charles saw Celeste Vandermeer leaning up against the door to his apartments. She looked lovely - as usual - sprawled casually, boneless, and yet still poised. It was hard not to draw a contrast with Emma, now that he knew both of them better, the crisp suit, the makeup, and the slight coolness in her demeanor.

"Professor. Or should I say MP X?"

Raven slid her arm out from where it was in the crook of Charles' arm, her face annoyed and shoulders tensed. Raven knew - of course - the general shape of Charles' few interactions with Celeste and she was naturally protective of him.

"Seems a bit premature, has the legislative body even been deemed a Parliament, yet?" Charles knew it was shaping up that direction, but it certainly wasn't set. He also hadn't been elected, or the way that they might have gotten him in on the constitutional meetings decided. "Even constitutional representative Xavier is without any basis in reality."

"How would you like to change that?" Celeste's tone held a decided 'let's make a deal' quality that could have been reminiscent of back room dealings or just simple kindness.

Charles had no delusions that Celeste wanted him on the constitutional committee out of kindness. They were about to talk quid pro quo.

"I suppose that's the next logical move, isn't it?" Charles brushed passed her, pressed his key into the lock - more a formality than a true assurance of privacy - and then opened the door. He swept his hand to get Celeste to follow him inside and the kids followed, not needing to be told to disappear off into Raven's room where they would likely be pressed, ear to the door, listening.

He considered the room, eyes falling to the bar, and then he offered her a drink.

"Wine, red if you have it."

Charles inspected the alcohol on offer and poured the two of them glasses before they ended up on the couch, too close for professionalism. Charles took a sip of his drink before he set it aside. "I think it might be best if you start, Celeste."

"I underestimated you, Charles." Celeste made a reasonable start. "Do you act like a sub intentionally?"

He shrugged. Let her draw her own conclusions on that. He acted the way he wanted to, in ways that people thought of as 'sub' or 'Dom' only because that was the way they had been conditioned to consider the actions.

"You seem to have burned your bridge with the King and the Independents rather spectacularly, wouldn't you say?"

"I would always be happy to work with Prime Minster Frost or His Majesty in the future on any number of initiatives, but I would say for the moment they aren't terribly keen on me, no." And as much as he liked to play it off, that did bother him some. The bushel of apples sitting on his kitchen counter was a stark reminder of less than a day ago when Erik had come groveling.

"Tomorrow there will likely be a motion to include you on future proceedings as a constitutional delegate." That surprised Charles. "In part, because I imagine some people will want to turn it down, ending the question of whether or not a few thousand signatures could allow you in the back door." Qualified that way, it made more sense.

"And what do you intend to do about the motion?" Because Charles had absolutely no doubt that was the reason that Celeste was here, looking like the cat that ate the canary.

"That rather depends on you, wouldn't you say, Charles?"

They were going to play rough, it seemed. Celeste's voice had the tone of a parent who expected you to do as she said.

"Still expecting me to grovel, then?" Because as much as his position - his needs - had changed in the last few days, he was still hesitant of what he knew of Celeste's politics. He wasn't even certain if he and Emma or he and Celeste had more in common or which one of their ideals would align the best, but Emma, at least, did him the courtesy of respecting him.

"More that I would like you to accept the practicalities of your situation now that you've broken with the Independents." Celeste continued to sip her wine, eyes locked on Charles' face while the man played with his own wine glass.

"You want me to join with you and argue that the men and women who tore down what Genosha was are not fit to make Genosha what it will be?"

"Yes."

Charles considered, slowly, what he was being asked. It would mean cutting Emma and Erik - and many of his own students - out of the political landscape, something he was not comfortable with. If anything, he had made his move to make sure that his students would be allowed to have the dream they'd fought to create. "My political position is not for sale."

"And what is your position, Charles?"

She asked, finally. He supposed he should have been glad that she finally was actually curious, rather than assuming he would just go along with her positions.

And so they talked, Charles did not censor himself, and Celeste obviously did. He didn't look or inspect her mind - not too closely - just enough to realize that she was trying to keep her cards in reserve. If he had truly wanted to know her minds he could have, but he wasn't certain that he would learn anything other than the obvious. From this moment one, he couldn't trust Celeste or Emma to have his own best interests in mind.

Finally she left, with Charles not quite certain what she would do tomorrow when it came time for the vote; he still wasn't certain the vote would happen at all. More than anything, he realized he would need to speak for himself, and make sure his ideas were out there and working their way into the budding constitution.

He ate a - now cold - slice of pizza and turned in for the evening.

.23.

Erik and Emma were orbiting around each other slowly in Erik's room, early the next morning. Erik knew that things had gotten much more complicated, very quickly, and the politics that were starting to form were making him very uncomfortable. He wanted to trust Charles, but he couldn't deny that the man was a pacifist and an idealist, and that was something that they couldn't afford to be right now.

"I'm going to allow us to support the vote to have Xavier come into the assembly," Emma told him. "It's useless to pretend we could keep him out, and it will just make us look scared of what he has to say."

"I never would have imagined how many of his students - even the ones who joined us for the fight - would fall in line with his position. He told me most of his students left on good terms."

Emma nodded. "I think... I think we have underestimated him."

"So did Celeste Vandermeer..." Not that the idea was any consolation now, after Charles had called out their position as shortsighted. It hurt even more because Erik was certain they had been starting to see eye to eye, starting to understand each other...

"Well, she visited him last night at his apartments." Erik gave her a look. "Don't look at me like that, it wasn't spying, she had to sign in to get to the floors above the Parliament, just because we follow her to his apartments doesn't mean that we were spying on him. Hopefully they didn't come to any real agreement."

Erik hoped so, he hoped that Charles might... be willing to compromise still.

"Do you want me to continue to entertain him? Or is that a lost cause?" Even if it was, he hoped that he would be able to continue to talk with Charles. He still wanted to know how he had amplified Erik's powers without touching him, without staying inside of his mind.

Emma was quiet for several moments before she nodded. "Go ahead, do not apologize for your position, Erik. We did find another terrorist."

Late last night, Emma had found one of the other humans that had been smuggled in to Genosha to attack them. It was a major victory, and they might finally be able to stem the tide of death that threatened to overwhelm what they were trying to accomplish. The only question there, remained, what to actually do with someone when the only proof of their guilt was buried in their mind, not in an act. For now, at least, the man was detained.

"Charles will simply have to be content with knowing he cannot change my mind."

Emma looked thoughtful, her hands running gently together, fingers touching her own palms and then switching as her fingers ran over and against her skin. "Allow Xavier the same courtesy. Vandermeer's greatest weakness is her arrogance. There are several topics upon which the two of them would agree, but Vandermeer is more likely to force him. Let him articulate his positions, even if you do not agree."

Erik considered bringing a peace offering, but he realized that, like Emma said, they would need to accept respect in both directions, not just Erik groveling for what might have been a mistake. It had made Genosha safer they had taken at least one terrorist off the street.

When he knocked on Charles' apartment door, however, it wasn't Charles who greeted him. Instead, it was one of the boys from the Institute, the one that looked a bit like Scott. He was wearing only sweatpants, showing off a well-defined chest and shoulder muscles.

"Alex?" Charles' voice called from somewhere inside the room.

"It's the King," Alex answered, head turning towards the kitchen.

Erik heard a noise that sounded like a snort. "Don't just let him stand there, then, let him in."

The apartment seemed to have transformed overnight, instead of containing just Raven and Amy, Charles' collection grew to include the boy Alex, a black man a few years older than Alex, and Scott. The living room tables were now overrun with papers, computers, journals, and a great deal more detritus. Charles was in the kitchen with an apple, cut into sections that he was dipping into a small cup of honey. He didn't look like a political candidate hell-bent on the destruction on all Erik was working towards. He looked like a floppy haired idealistic professor who didn't realize that summer in the tropics probably deserved at least khaki shorts.

"I've seen your state dress, Erik. You do not hold the fashion high ground."

Erik scowled, but at the same time he couldn't help but be a bit amused. Apparently he was thinking too loudly; Emma complained of that from time to time.

"I must admit, I'm surprised to see you here today."

He sat down next to Charles, struggling to find a clean way to respond to what the other man had said. Emma had told him to stand his ground, and of course that was important, but he knew he needed to say something appropriate. "We found another terrorist in among the humans we arrested."

"I'm not surprised. The conspiracy seemed far reaching."

He hadn't expected that sort of reaction, calm and accepting. Of course Charles hated what he had done, but at the same time seemed willing to accept the results. Erik tilted his head towards the man and then realized it wasn't quite that simple. Charles' eyes were downcast as he prodded at one of his apple slices before he finally tilted the plate towards Erik. He took a slice and dunked it in the honey. "Emma expects us to find more."

Charles nodded, taking another apple wedge. "It's likely you will, from what I gathered there are at least two or three in the country with intent to cause further damage. Erik... I hope you understand, I'm not opposed to protecting Genosha, but there must always be a line or a cost, that we are not willing to cross or pay." He watched the telepath fumble around with another slice of apple, looking down at it. "You've experienced that already before, haven't you?"

Erik frowned, not positive what Charles was referring to.

"Shaw," he clarified. "I do not know what he did, or why, but you and Emma made the decision not to continue on with him, and to kill him. The two of you had been at his side for over five years, I do not think you suddenly grew tired of him."

The name brought up a twist of emotions in Erik's stomach, enough that he wasn't sure how to respond right away. It was hard for him to even put into words how he felt about Sebastian, even now. "I killed him, yes."

He stood, headed out towards the window that looked out over the ocean, Charles followed after only a split second. Erik pointed, just to the south and east. He knew the position well, even if it was nearly impossible to pick an exact location out to see. "There, about three miles out. The Genoshans were bombarding us with missiles, I had Emma at my back, helping me concentrate, and Sebastian told us to turn the missiles on the Genoshans."

"But you didn't." Not a question, just a soft voice, calm, understanding. Charles placed a hand on Erik's shoulder, enough that he started to feel a bit better.

"Our intelligence told us there were several thousand mutates in Hammer Bay alone. If I had turned the missiles on them, leveled the city, I would have killed thousands of my brothers." Erik hadn't thought it through, not completely, not in the moment, just enough to know it was wrong, to know it wasn't the man he wanted to be. "Sebastian called them weak trash."

Charles flinched, but said nothing else.

"That was my line that I could not cross."

"And you are a better man because of that, Erik."

Not good enough, not yet. He'd known in that minute that Sebastian was wrong, if only because he knew that they should never harm other mutants, even the ones who had not been born mutant, and instead mutated later. After Sebastian's death, however, he had been less sure that what he was doing was right. Liberating Genosha, of course, but everything passed that was littered with so many things Erik had never bothered to understand that he was never sure what he was doing was right. Having time to reflect on his decisions seemed to make those decisions less wise in hindsight. Emma was the one who reflected for him. That had always been the way, since they were children.

"What did you do to me? Out in the city square." He hadn't been able to get it out of his mind, but he also hadn't exactly been able to replicate it - not that he'd tried. Charles had done something however.

"Oh, yes." Charles blushed bright pink. "I know you said you did not mind but it was a bit personal. It was a very beautiful memory."

"Yes, but what... why did it make my powers stronger?"

"That's what I teach my students. True focus, the place where your can bring your powers to bear, lies between rage and serenity, between two polarized emotions." Charles smiled. "I hope you don't mind me being a bit pedagogic about the whole thing..."

Erik wondered if Charles felt a bit nervous about having the audacity to think he could teach King Magneto something, but then again, he didn't know when Charles wasn't smug, superior, and extremely knowledgeable.

"Teach away, Professor."

.24.

Charles found that even though he was somewhat tentative around Erik after what had transpired the day before, they fell in together again easily enough. Charles grabbed them two cold pizza slices - Erik's picked free of mushrooms - and some pineapple juice, which didn't really go well together, but it was breakfast and Charles had standards; no beer before noon, not even for pizza.

He was dimly aware of the fact that today might very well be his last free day... ever. Although he really did keep himself busy with the school, with the children, with his classes, he had just committed himself to a country, which was much larger than a school, even two of them.

"I will say... the opportunity to be constantly surrounded by tropical fruit almost makes up for the lack of apples and pizza."

Erik had joined him on the floor of his bedroom - the only room in the apartments not covered completely in papers - and they were both sitting on the floor, Charles leaning up against the bed and Erik against a sitting chair.

"That is why you need a teleporter - New York pizza, any time you want."

That would be rather lovely. "As much as I am certain my pizza preferences are of interest, we were here to talk about you, your powers, Erik."

He could feel Erik's excitement, and his tension. "Yes. I have to know."

"As mutants, our powers are most frequently triggered by strong negative emotions, fear, rage..." Charles had given a variation on this speech so many times it seemed almost second nature now. "And while that can offer you control, to some extent, there is so much more. There is so much more than that."

Charles did his best to read Erik's emotional state, to get a sense for his emotions. What Charles felt, more than anything, from Erik, was doubt. Sadly, the emotion wasn't unfamiliar to Charles when he gave these sorts of talks.

"The image you saw... it was yourself, younger, with Emma, correct?"

"My powers manifested when I was about eleven..." Erik's mouth was tense, his whole body was, and Charles could tell that even sharing this much was hard. "I'm Jewish... and when a boy turns thirteen he is supposed to be considered a man by reading from the Torah." Charles was familiar with some of the broad strokes of Judaism, although most of his students came to him after that age. He nodded for Erik to continue. "I couldn't... do it properly, but I felt it was important and Emma was there to witness it."

"It was a lovely memory, Erik." Charles smiled. "It's not so much the specific memory, all I did was access the brightest corner of your mind, brought that forward, it... pushed you towards that serenity. It is more difficult to maintain that without a constant presence in your mind. In all likelihood it is something like that when Emma touches your mind to help you maintain your control."

Erik was obviously considering the question. "It never felt like that."

Charles wasn't certain what to make of the confession, but he smiled anyway. He couldn't really have said what Emma was doing for Erik, what way she touched his mind. He knew from experience that many subs - although not all - did better with someone pushing them, guiding them, and he didn't yet know if Erik needed that or if he would come to be able to find that serenity on his own.

"That is... I actually could not say."

"Don't have all the answers, Professor?" Erik was grinning at him.

"I have no trouble admitting when I'm out of my depth." If anyone had asked, he would have been happy to admit he was outside of his depth on politics and so many other things. "I have never seen Emma amplify your powers. Still, we'll start with some meditation."

Erik arched an eyebrow, and Charles could see the skepticism.

"None of that. Up." Charles scooted himself to the center of the room, legs relaxed and his posture upright; Erik moved to imitate him. "Do you struggle most with the gross control, or the fine?"

"The larger items are a challenge, I never would have been able to save that house if it weren't for your push."

As a teacher, Charles had to admit that was something he enjoyed hearing. "Perhaps we can try your greater control in the future, for now we will work on the theoretical."

Minutes faded into hours as he pushed and pulled - and watched as Erik pushed and pulled - his mind through its paces, feeling the way he struggled to find that balance. Erik fell back on his rage easily, abandoned the serenity that Charles had helped to dredge up in his mind, and Charles had to stop him, help him pull that memory and the feelings that went with it, back to the front of his mind.

Soon enough it was time for lunch, though, and Charles stood up, stretching as his back popped and he had to laugh. "I am not getting any younger."

Erik had just as much trouble getting up. "Then neither am I, but you can't be much more than twenty-five."

"Almost thirty, actually." He stretched again. "But you do know how to give a girl a compliment."

Raven had scrounged up more food - mostly rice and pineapple and some decent pork chops - and Charles set to work cooking lunch for everyone. Mostly it was 'try not to burn the pork, Charles', although he thought he handled that mostly well.

Alex was practically dancing around, waving a computer under his face as he continued to try not to burn things. "Youtube. Sensation. You have like a billion hits."

"I think you're exaggerating, Alex." Not completely, though, several million was rather impressive, especially since he thought he tended to drag on towards the middle...

"Who knew you had it in you, big brother? Under the sweater vests you are a great public speaker!"

He flushed, slightly. "I did take debate in high school, Raven, and I have been said to be rather inspirational to students of all ages."

"Because they want to make out with you," Raven shot back, immediate and deadpan.

Erik, Alex, and Darwin managed to simultaneously snort in their drinks. "I prefer to think of it as part of my natural charm that has nothing to do with making out."

Really, he didn't think that he wanted Erik to listen to his sister say that his students want to make out with him. Alex and Darwin's tender ears had likely already heard something along those lines several times before. Lunch cooked and served, Darwin and Alex and Raven headed back to her room, leaving him with Erik again, although he imagined they were listening at the door - a brief check found they were.

"Charles..."

"Mmm?" He picked at his own food, leading the two of them back out over to the window. Charles couldn't help but notice how uncomplicated things felt for him when Erik was around like this, he would have been happy to just lounge and drink cocktails, maybe play chess. He wondered if Erik played chess.

"Never mind."

Charles did his best not to look. Knowing that something was shifting around in Erik's mind did nothing to calm his curiosity, however. Prying would solve nothing, really. He speared another cube of pork, ate it. He felt as though he was standing on the cusp of something unstoppable.

"What would you have done?"

He looked over to Erik, surprised. "With... the humans, you mean?" Erik nodded.

It was an interesting question, tantalizing and something he hadn't thought about long enough and hard enough. It was impossible to stifle his natural instinct to say that what Erik - and Emma - had done was wrong, but there was rarely a neat, clean, bloodless solution to the issue.

"Did Sterling get you access to the Interpol database of anti-mutant terrorists?"

"No, one of your students did."

Of course, Sterling was too severe and a bit too up tight for that sort of loose flow of information, but he was pleased. It all boded well for Genosha possibly making an entry into the ICPO and becoming more of a part of the international community, if the country wasn't branded some sort of civil rights violating terrorist state before that.

"I imagine it will be a bit easier once we're able to establish immigration standards that are not based on the previous ones, issue passports, and so forth, but facial recognition should be able to weed out the ones who are known members of an organization."

"That doesn't account for anyone who just woke up one morning and decided to kill mutants," Erik shot back, instantly.

"No," Charles answered. "Nothing but having a telepath muck around in their minds will do that, but you don't have enough telepaths, asking telepaths to constantly touch the criminal mind is a recipe for disastrous consequences, and, in the end, thought is not action."

If Charles judged everyone based on what they considered, what they thought, or what they dreamed, he would not have any good will left for mankind. He also knew the dividing line between thought and action was much firmer than people tended to give it credit for.

"We need more telepaths."

"I had hoped that wasn't what you would take away from that, Erik." Charles sighed. He did have more telepaths, Jean, of course, Betsy, and a few others, but he had no intention bringing them to Genosha if they were destined to be immigration enforcement agents. "We are mutants, I doubt anyone has gone through the passed week and decided to be over-cautious when it came to assessing a threat. We want to believe we are safe, and in broad strokes I believe we can be, but not at the expense of liberty."

"Still academic, Charles." Erik sounded frustrated, of course he did, and Charles tried to ignore it. Sometimes it was hard to remember that very few people could fall back and appreciate the fundamental decency in the large majority of a population.

"There was a bit of practicality in there, my friend. Immigration reform, facial recognition software, more rigorous ingress monitoring." Charles ran his hands against his pants, just a tick, itching to ease Erik's mind away from constant preparation for another attack. "It will come."

"I do not have your faith," Erik answered, instantly.

"I know. There is nothing wrong with that."

Whatever Erik was going to say in response fell away when there was a knock on the door. Charles went to answer it and saw Angel standing there, looking a bit flustered and excited. There wasn't any danger there, however, and Charles relaxed slightly as he let the winged girl into his room.

"Well, Professor... or should I say Delegate, it sounds like you are going to have a bit more on your plate from now on." The girl gave him a warm, tight hug, something he knew she never could have imagined two or three years ago, and Charles wrapped his own arm around her back, holding her in return.

"That's wonderful, Angel. Thank you for the news. I suppose I better get myself sorted, then." As calm as he was trying to appear on the outside, his mind was a bit of a mess in that moment. He was about to be thrown to the wolves, and unable to stand on academic grounds, results only. He took a deep breath, letting the girl go.

If he had any doubts that the kids were listening to the living room closely, they were dispelled when less than a minute later Raven, Alex, Scott, and Darwin were on him as well, shaking hands and sharing a few hugs, Alex and Scott showing their typical reserve, but Raven was squeezing him tight and Darwin slapping him on the back.

"Awesome, big brother." Raven laughed and gave him a rib-crushing hug. "I don't think I can like you anymore, now that you're a politician."

"Hey, give the Prof a break," Alex answered, immediately. "Give him a few days to get too important for the little guys, at least!"

Charles' head was still spinning almost a half hour later, as the kids continued to poke, prod and tease, and Charles found himself feeling more and more excited and out of his depth. He wasn't certain how it had gotten started, but there was nothing for it but Charles to throw an 'awesome party' and then the kids were darting off to start preparations.

Erik - who had been sitting back throughout the congratulations, finally came up to him and patted Charles on the shoulder. "Welcome to Genoshan politics."

"Is that a congratulations or a warning?"

"A bit of both." Erik seemed... content enough, at least. "Well, Delegate Xavier, I assume you're indisposed for tonight, but I hope you'd join me for dinner, maybe tomorrow."

Politics. He reminded himself to be wary, but at the same time, he wasn't going to turn down more time with Erik, if only to make sure he had the chance to help the monarch have a bit more serenity in his life.

"Well it seems only fair, since you'll be free of your babysitting duties during the day." Silence stretched out between them. "And I suppose it would seem a bit churlish if the Academy didn't end up on Genosha after I've gone to all this trouble."

That had been Erik's goal, and Emma's, courting him to get the Academy on Genoshan soil. He couldn't imagine giving up the opportunity, now, all that remained was to make certain that Genosha was the best country in the world for his students to live in.

The pressure was already starting to feel too heavy.

Chapter Text

.25.

Erik found out, later that night, that the vote had actually not been close at all. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion on both sides that having Charles as a delegate would either discredit him with the people he had wound up the day before, or actually be of some sort of benefit. Even having known Charles only for a few days, he knew it wouldn't be so simple as either of those options. Nothing was simple right now. He had... well he'd made a mess of things, it seemed.

"I invited him for a celebratory dinner in a day or two."

"A good plan," Emma agreed, instantly. The two of them were in her chambers for the night - she had a view of the city, rather than the ocean. She didn't much care to gaze out over Sebastian's final resting place the way Erik did. "I'm trying to decide if he's completely brilliant or just lucky."

Erik made a questioning noise in response.

"Almost every human who arrived recently - with the exception of some of the reporters - was here because they had at least one mutant who cared about them, who made them want to come to Genosha to be a part of it. Those mutants are now not pleased with us. Xavier said something to me about how we each have our own humans, the ones we consider exceptions to the rule that humans want to harm us; almost every human here was someone's exception." Emma sighed again, and Erik came over to touch her shoulders slowly, massaging the tightness in her neck.

"I'm sorry..."

"I know, Erik, but we need to get these humans back out again. There are already calls for a protest. If we release the humans too quickly we're caving to pressure and being sub-like, too slowly we're being totalitarian, and our damn Professor has set himself up to look like the only grown up in the room."

Erik realized that Emma was right, they looked ridiculous no matter what and it was all his fault. "Well... at least it seems that he's started to take it as a foregone conclusion that the Institute will end up on Genosha." Charles had certainly implied that. "So... that's a benefit." It was a hollow victory, Erik supposed, to have Charles here if he was going to be fighting with Emma and him at every turn.

Emma's laugh was completely sour. "Good or bad, then. I had no idea his students remained so fond of him. If they throw in with him we are going to have a wreck on our hands, Erik. They are some of our best soldiers, our best administrators, and we cannot do this without them." Emma shrugged off his hands and went to pour herself a glass of something. "We cannot afford to keep those humans locked up a moment longer than necessary."

It was a testament either to how naive Charles was, or how unwilling he was to let the political circumstances dictate his actions, because he heard back from Azazel less than an hour later that Charles' Hank McCoy had sent along some sort of facial recognition software that was surprisingly easy to interface with the information from Interpol.

By dawn they had found three more terrorists - two men and a woman with solid affiliations with anti-mutant hate groups, and the materials to carry out strikes - just on facial matches. It had been a hard decision, but Emma and Erik had agreed to let the rest of the detained humans go. There was always a risk of more strikes, but... Emma couldn't be Prime Minister and the only telepath doing law enforcement. They needed more telepaths. Charles had more telepaths - of course.

"I can't believe how many military grade research projects Charles has been running." He poured Emma and himself some juice for their morning meal.

"I can," Emma answered when he gave her a glass. "Sebastian thought that he was holding a few things close to the chest. I was never able to uncover specifics - Xavier was a stickler for meeting Sebastian and I alone and we never had much chance to spy - but you should see Xavier's 'private jet', it puts several stealth planes to shame."

That day, Charles spent the bulk of his time with Emma in the chambers discussing the constitution, and that meant Erik found himself, again, with little to do. He checked up on the implementation of McCoy's facial recognition software and uploading the ICPO databases and the reconstruction efforts in the area of the first bombing. Erik spent most of his day trying to find that sweet spot that had been so easy in the theoretical but was harder now that he was standing in the middle of a street thinking about the man who had killed mutants with his hate.

The metal had finally slid into place, at least, and was ready for a glazier. He wondered how other monarchs spent their time. He imagined he was probably supposed to be entertaining foreign dignitaries. He wasn't certain how he felt about that, besides, they didn't have foreign dignitaries at the moment so he wasn't even avoiding that responsibility. He would probably need to wait until they were actually a nation, or maybe until people weren't talking about him like he was a totalitarian dictator. It was sad that had become his goal for the day, to seem less like a dictator.

He decided that perhaps tomorrow he would spend some time back at the crisis center or... more likely he should spend the time making amends with Amy or Chris. It would have to do.

Unsurprisingly, the excuse went over quite poorly, mostly because Erik found himself stammering about national security more than actually admitting he might have been wrong, but he thought he did... alright...ish. He'd also had a bit of an audience in the form of the Summers brothers, Raven, and Darwin - and no Charles to fall back on - but he was not going to back down to a bunch of teenagers, and in the end he made his apologies and fled back to his own quarters.

Charles found him later in the evening, in his room, reading over the briefing notes that Angel had gotten to him - at least Angel had stuck by him and Emma, even if he had a few moments of curiosity if she was actually a spy, which Emma dismissed instantly. It seemed as though Charles had at least started as a positive influence and they had started to work on the citizenship issue again in earnest. Erik was reminded of the little things that Charles had marked as extremely important to him, and so it was no surprise to see that there.

"Have a good couple of days without babysitting duties, Your Majesty?" Charles asked, leaning up against the door frame of Erik's apartments, grinning and boyish.

"Yes."

Charles face fell only slightly, and Erik was surprised to see the change at all. Charles needed to work on his poker face, but he felt a bit thrilled that the idea had bothered Charles. A moment later, Charles caught his humor, however. "Ah, I see, putting me on, then, Erik?"

"Of course." He put his hand out to brush Charles out of the room and the two of them made it down to the street level.

"Perhaps we should be a bit nervous, going out like this; two of the last times we've been out we've found ourselves in the middle of an attack." Charles was all good humor, but Erik got the idea that the telepath was a bit concerned over the pattern.

"Well, the second was an assassination attempt, so it's always possible we will see more of the same." The two of them fell silent for a long stretch, just walking, Erik enjoying the warm night and the wafts of cool ocean breeze. "As I'm certain you've heard, we released all but three of the remaining humans, based on the matches we got from the Interpol database. Three more confirmed human supremacists."

"How will you be prosecuting them?" Charles asked, obviously curious.

Prosecution... Erik hadn't thought that far, to be honest. The legal system was in such flux that there was no easy way to try them for the moment. "I suppose we will have to wait for your well thought out legal foundation before we can move to put them on trial."

Charles... beamed at him, bright and toothy and pleased. Erik realized that the telepath had been concerned there might not be due process for them, not without reason, to be honest. Erik had to admit that he hadn't been thinking of anything more humane than sending metal filings stabbed through their eyeballs, but Charles' question had shaken loose another reality of his situation.

"I hope we will have some laws to enforce, soon, Charles."

"We are working on it, my friend."

Erik picked an Indian style restaurant, something he didn't think Charles had as much exposure to the cuisine, but as soon as he entered the door his face lit up. "We have a great deal of Indian food over in Oxford."

Of course, there would be quite a few Indian places in England, Erik wasn't certain why he would have thought otherwise. It was nice, still, to spend some time out, together, and Charles seemed to hold few hard feelings towards him. It was a unique experience for him, to find that someone didn't hold something he had done against him. He was unused to that level of forgiveness.

"Have you ever considered what it might be like to have mutant cuisine?" Erik asked, while they were picking over their appetizers.

Charles' eyes flicked up towards his, slightly coy. "My friend, I think that would be quite a difficult proposition, as we're far too soon into our evolution to have an ethnic identity of any sort. If it were up to me, I would request pizza and fish and chips for our cuisine."

Erik rolled his eyes, not unkind but he thought Charles analysis was, as usual, a bit superficial on the issue. "Perhaps something that takes advantage of the natural resources of Genosha, then?"

"A more tropical flare?" Charles tilted his head, considering. "That is just taking the location, regardless of where we all have come from. I hope - despite my difficulties with their politics - to always consider myself American as well as Genoshan."

"I think for many mutants it would be a blessing to erase where they came from."

"For you, Erik?" Charles was looking at him, again, and it was hard for Erik not to feel a bit awkward from the question.

Erik nodded. He sometimes wished that he could forget where he had come from. It would make everything more simple. If he had the choice, he would have forgotten everything about his life before his time in the camps, maybe even the camps as well. All he had from then was Emma and he would have given up those memories as well for the peace it might have brought him.

Charles had obviously caught the tone of his thoughts, however, eyes soft and sad. "My friend, who you are, good or bad, is inescapable. If you lost any of that you would no longer be the man you are today."

It was a nice thought, but Erik would have still preferred it.

"We can't all be college professors, Charles." He wondered if Charles had ever had anything in his life that he wanted to forget.

"Nor should we be." Charles leaned on his elbows, prodding his food. "I am not blind to the realities of the world or the pain in it, Erik, no matter what you might believe."

Erik was skeptical, and he really wasn't certain what to make of the Professor turned Delegate sometimes, a mix of practical and naive that constantly startled him. He wanted to know Charles better, it was inexplicable, really, how someone so completely different from him also seemed to be one of the easiest to talk to. He and Emma had long since moved passed the point in their lives when they could talk to each other like this, they knew each other too well, and yet... there were pieces of Emma he knew he would never understand, but he felt like given enough time, maybe he could understand Charles completely. Maybe that was folly, but it was a nice thought.

The idea was overwhelmingly appealing, surprisingly so, for a man who had spent most of his life with only a single other mutant for true company.

He wasn't certain how he had gotten there, but he was finding more and more that he didn't mind.

.26.

Charles' days had become instantly busy and had taken on a length that he had previously only known while he was in grad school towards the end of writing his thesis. At the time, he was both scrambling to make certain all of his results were solid, able to be duplicated, and in line with his thesis, and he was constantly working on revising and rewriting his actual thesis. It turned out that his thesis had been more of a warm up to his role as a delegate, and he yearned for having a single, uncomplicated, goal in mind. He was called on to use all of his skills as a university department member, a headmaster, and a Dom, constantly and in the presence of several dozen other strong personalities with strong thoughts and opinions. By the end of the day he was exhausted.

It meant he had to leave Raven and Amy somewhat in the hands of Darwin, as much as he didn't like to put too much on the boy. Raven and Amy were mostly independent, at least. And Erik...

With the release of the humans and the - slight - easing of tensions that had caused, Erik had become a delightful spot in the middle of a long day. Some days he let their conversations travel the breadth and depth of the differences between them, other days they focused on the similarities, their hopes for the next generation of mutants, safe and secure in their home of Genosha, safe in the knowledge that they were special and yet not alone, never alone.

What he had with Erik was easy and comfortable, and... different.

He'd spent most of his college years, between working too hard, dating a string of subs who had been strong, confident, and yet willing to let Charles take care of them. The difficulties with that came later, and as soon as things became a bit more serious everything always seemed to change, leaving him with someone who wouldn't challenge him, wouldn't second guess him, and wouldn't stand up to him. Erik was willing to fight him for every inch, and Charles was enjoying it far too much.

Charles had been a delegate for over a week, and the progress from before his entrance into the scene had remained and even more slowly found its way into the constitution. He was pleased with the progress - humans would need a sponsor for their citizenship, but it was more than a start, and they were continuing to hash out voting rights - subs still maintaining their rights, and the very beginning of a military discussion was on the horizon - that was going to be a contentious topic, so Charles was feeling... accomplished. He knew he wouldn't get everything he wanted, but for now that didn't matter, sub and human rights had become a cornerstone of Genosha's founding, and that would be enough.

Alex met him as soon as they broke for the day. "Blogs of note for the day are looking good. Moira called, wants and update... she said she doesn't want to relocate until we have a facility - which hasn't been started, and His Majesty wants to have dinner, again."

The decision to have Alex manage his schedule had been a good one, the boy could be scattered, but Darwin kept him grounded and he had enough of the natural authority that no one questioned his right to demand details and facts and figures. "I'll call Moira tomorrow, hopefully Erik will be open to the possibility of building us the bare bones facility and we can consider relocating Cerebro and the students."

"It's weird that you call him Erik."

"Is it?" He asked.

Alex instantly looked chagrined, and Charles had to smile in response. He didn't want Alex to lose his bite just because Charles challenged him from time to time. "Just... you know, Scott calls him King Magneto."

"And I call him Erik." Charles started the trek back to his apartments, slid into the elevator, and the pair of them leaned against the walls while Charles looked over the reports that Alex had compiled. "Someone has to call him Erik, just think how big the heads of all the other monarchs must get, sitting back, called nothing but Your Majesty and The King." At least Emma kept Erik in line as well, and Erik was keeping him honest as well.

"Right, well... I'll just keep calling him Your Majesty." Alex shuffled nervously on his feet.

"Alright, well, please tell His Majesty I will be happy to have dinner with him, after take a bath and wash away the politics for the day." Spending time on the constitution was a mix of thrilling and exhausting, and Charles had to admit what he really would have liked was someone to take charge and let him just relax, and be taken care of.

"Should I mention the bath part?"

"No, just an hour from now will be fine, Alex. And tell him I'm not interested in a debate, today." Alex nodded and left Charles to get off of the elevator as Alex continued to head up to the penthouses.

Sadly, with the blistering hot sun in Genosha, he could never quite enjoy the same warm baths and tea he sometimes indulged in after a particularly grueling week, instead he had to settle for a lukewarm bath and no tea. He was in love with the fresh fruit on offer, at least, and got himself a glass of the juice that he'd gotten yesterday to take to the bath.

He wasn't entirely certain he liked what he was becoming. He hadn't even started on the terrible back room deals or double crossing - although Celeste hadn't been pleased when he had started to voice some thoughts towards a standing Genoshan army, and Emma had looked more than a bit surprised. He had no idea how Emma - or Celeste - could have known that his students made up almost a fifth of the revolutoinary force but though he wouldn't see the need for a standing army. He might not enjoy war, or the threat of it, but he understood the need for force and could divide the theoretical from the practical. It was one of the areas that Charles admitted that Erik may have had an advantage, however, even if he sometimes took that advantage too far and didn't allow himself to see the good in idealism, too mired in the practical difficulties of the country.

Thoughts of Erik were entirely off limits for his bath, however, and instead he let his thoughts drift towards the future of his school.

He would have to give up his school.

The idea twisted in his stomach and his chest while he tried to relax. Moira would be the headmistress, likely, and perhaps he could call on Jean, or Scott, or Ororo, likely Ororo, to take over the day to day when it came to training, but even though he could make plans and contingencies, the idea of spending his whole day on politics and setting aside his research, his time mentoring his students one on one, was painful.

Charles wanted to believe he could have it all, but it seemed increasingly unlikely. He was even going to miss his grad students.

Grad students, Moira, and Scott were likely not appropriate bath time thoughts either, he sighed and submerged himself completely, instead thinking about something much more scientific - genes, mutations, rebuilding Cerebro... he would love to get back into the rounds of recruiting students, maybe he could still do that. The parliament would have to have time off sometime.

After his bath, he got up, dried off, and slid into one of the many - at least ten - outfits that Amy and Raven had selected to make him look 'very dishy', because tweed and the Genoshan late spring climate did not mix at all. The net result, however, was that he felt very underdressed. The white linen shirt was a bit scratchy and covered his arms well enough, but the collar was cut too low to allow him an undershirt, which Charles was beginning to think was the point...

He would need to have a talk with his sister and Amy about appropriate levels of sexualization of a professor/delegate/brother in the future.

When he tugged on his pants, he noticed that the hem had some sort of design that looked a bit like an abstract DNA molecule and he actually grinned. He really did have the best sister in the world, even if she did have some strange ideas about how he should dress himself.

Erik arrived almost exactly an hour after Charles had gotten upstairs, and caught Charles in the middle of sipping on some juice and reading one of many journal articles than he'd lost track of in the last few weeks. The thousands of little clippings and papers and other research that Alex and the other kids had done for him concerning constitutional law remained unread for the moment - for the day - today was a day for genetics, for spending time with Erik, and ignoring any other pressing matters of state.

The king was, as usual, dressed to the nines, but far more casual than the usual purple robes or a full suit, instead he was wearing only dress pants and a white polo and a panama hat. He looked delicious - and Charles was suddenly glad that Erik wasn't a mind reader.

"You mentioned no politics, Charles, so perhaps drinks and an evening at the beach?"

"That sounds lovely." He grabbed his own hat - a must for his skin in the Genoshan weather - and the two of them headed down to street level. "I never thought I would miss interdepartmental politics."

"Until today?"

"Until yesterday, but today has been no better." He smiled, leaning back against the elevator while Erik leaned right next to him. "I do have something of a request, however."

"Not political?" Erik asked, because as much as Charles thought they were becoming friendly, he had no delusions where Erik's first loyalty was, and it was not to him.

"Oh, no, well... lightly. Moira has asked me to begin work on the construction project for the new school. A bit of a conflict of interest, I would say, now, but I can handle some of the particulars until Moira can come down as administrative head. I'm afraid school can't spare her, she has over forty students still on the premises." Charles shrugged, burying his hands in his pockets and doing his best to look boyish. "Which I suppose means I might want to... actually put some thought into the design, wouldn't you say?"

Erik headed out of the open elevator doors and into the evening air, Charles following after him as they headed down towards the beach.

"Why are you asking me, then? You're far more in tune with Emma as the other delegates when it comes to approving land use or the status of an academic institution."

The man didn't sound hurt, but Charles knew that Erik felt a bit lost when it came to his responsibilities, and it was hardly an act of charity but who wouldn't want a man who could hold up an entire building with his powers to help in the construction of the new site. "I... rather thought you might like to go over the designs with me, perhaps help with the building if it's not too much trouble..."

Charles' thought had not been off the mark, Erik beamed at him.

"I would be delighted to lend my assistance, Professor."

.27.

Erik ended up whiling away several hours in a beach front bar - sipping drinks and arguing furiously over the location of mutant training facilities in the larger Institute context. Charles continued to describe things the way he apparently had them in Westchester, a home away from home feel. Erik thought there was more merit in a more institutional structure, even though he had poor memories involving the cold and unfeeling dormitories in the facilities he lived in since his youth.

"I don't see the need for so much personal private space, Charles."

"Eleven square meters is hardly over-large, Erik. The children have personal possessions, some they bring with them, others they acquire during their studies. Personalization is required and desirable for teenagers." Charles was toying with his cocktail, some fruity concoction with rum in it, his hat in one hand, lightly fanning himself.

Erik felt a bit sorry for the man, he was far too used to New York - and Oxford - weather where shorts or a light shirt would have been required only for a few months. Genosha, however, was all heat and humidity and it left the over-tweeded professor constantly flush and needing cool drinks.

"Iced tea, perhaps, Charles?"

Charles made a face as though Erik had possibly murdered his favorite animal. "That is a crime against tea, my friend."

He hid his grin behind a palm, but let Charles continue to fan himself while they traded scribbled criticisms of each other's design plans. It took hours, and took them far beyond the bar's usual after-work crowds, before they had finally reached something of an agreement on the grounds.

"The metal we have, actually, it can be repurposed, the electrical and data connectivity as well, but almost everything else will need to be imported."

Charles nodded, fingers brushing over the makeshift plans, eyes bright. "I had hoped... perhaps... I could prevail upon you to work some of your talent to help us with the aforementioned repurposing."

"And that would be the heart of the slightly-political favor your wanted, Charles?" He already knew the answer, but he was amused to see Charles look up at him, bright blue eyes pleading, and he wondered how many favors the man managed to get out of unsuspecting individuals with those eyes. Telepathy and mind control would have been completely unnecessary.

"I had hoped." Charles fluttered his eyelashes. The man was a tease.

Erik found himself wondering if that was just how he related to people, if he spent his days flirting with the rest of the delegates to get his way when it came to getting his way on the constitution. He didn't like it. Charles' grin faded instantly.

One of the problems with telepaths was that they were constantly in your head and even with his shielding that he had learned over the years from Emma it was still imperfect. "Sorry..."

Charles shrugged. "Not a problem, Erik. I do try to keep to myself, but..."

"Sometimes I think too loudly. I've been told it before." Erik shut his mouth and tried to think of what he should say, there was something about Charles being flirty with him that made him a bit uncomfortable and he couldn't quite place it. "I'll help, of course."

"Brilliant." Charles grinned, not the coy flirty one, just brilliant and toothy. "Thank you, Erik. It will mean a great deal to all my students... former students."

"Making the transition to politics permanent, Charles?" And then he caught the edge in Charles' voice, the sadness there. "I'm... certain you can teach whenever Parliament is out of session."

"Of course..."

And just like that, the man's good mood had evaporated and Erik settled their tab to drag the telepath out into the late evening cool. "Come on."

They headed down to the beach, then, it was dark, but the night was clear and the lights from the city still cast the beach in an ethereal glow. The whole stretch of sand was clear of debris thanks to Erik and Janos, and all of the tourists or mutants who had finished with work for the day had long since gone home, and it was incredibly peaceful. He though, maybe, Charles might like it.

"I don't usually make it to the beaches in New York, but the Bay is really beautiful. Amy and Raven keep attempting to burn me to a crisp out here." Charles actually toed off his shoes and sunk his feet into the sand.

Erik watched him as he carefully spun around in a circle before settling back to walking in the correct direction again. Charles might have been almost thirty, but sometimes he acted like an overgrown kid. It was hard to believe he was only a few years younger than Erik, and Erik chalked that up to Charles' relative easy life.

"I'm curious, Charles."

"All the best minds are," Charles answered immediately.

He grinned in spite of himself. "You've mentioned before... Amy and Raven taking you places, making you buy clothes, that sort of thing... it just seems the opposite of how most people relate to their subs, especially ones that... well I assume Ms. Pollard isn't your dedicated sub."

Charles arched his eyebrow at Erik - and for a moment Erik considered pretending he didn't see.

"Your... dalliance with Celeste Vandermeer certainly would suggest you weren't otherwise engaged."

"Very true... No, Amy and I..." Charles fell silent for a long moment and Erik waited impatiently, a mix of annoyance and curiosity teasing his mind. "She's a lovely girl. I met her towards the end of her education and I did rather think about it, but then I hired her, and I may be a horrible cad, but I am not a horrible cad who sleeps with my direct subordinates."

Erik thought that the line, however soft, was at least some measure of character. "That doesn't answer my question, Charles."

"You haven't asked one yet." Charles was grinning again, but the man took pity on him and waved a hand at him. "I understand the question - is it because I'm a switch, why do I do that, and so forth. Am I really a Dom?"

Erik had thought that when they first met, but slowly he was coming to realize that Charles was just so comfortable with himself, so willing to go with the flow, that he didn't particularly care if people thought he was a Dom or a sub or something in between. Erik had thought it was something to do with his more sub tendencies, but Erik was starting to realize that Charles was just so... confident that he didn't care about how he was perceived, it was interesting.

"All of that," Erik finally answered. "Yes."

"I... like my subs to have strong opinions, and I understand that I am one person and I don't know everything about what there is to know. Raven and Amy are, by far, my superiors when it comes to fashion." Charles still seemed amused by the whole thing, and Erik just watched him as they moved along the shore, close enough that Charles' feet were getting lapped with water.

"So you... admit you don't know everything?" Erik had to admit, the man sometimes talked like he did know everything.

"I do have at least a bit of modesty, my friend."

And that left Erik to wonder if, perhaps, Charles might actually be willing to learn when it came to the way some mutants grew up, the way he and Emma had spent their lives in institutions dedicated to breaking them and making them harmless, keeping their powers under wraps and keeping them docile. Charles didn't understand that - never could - and Erik hoped that maybe he could help Charles understand why some mutants did long to feel as though they were considered humans, but so many of them just longed to know they were better - more than - humans. Humans had rejected them.

He didn't mention that now, not today, Charles had asked for no politics and Erik assumed that conversation would skirt the line, as much as he wanted to bring it up.

"Did... did Celeste think you wanted to sub for her?"

Charles flushed, or at least he seemed to. More, it was that Erik saw him tilt his head down and away, slightly bashful. "I will admit I let her take control of the situation and she thought that she could take advantage out of bed."

As much as Erik had ruined some of their advantage with his decision to imprison the new human immigrants, he couldn't imagine that had endeared Celeste to Charles. He tried to imagine how that confrontation must have gone...

"She thought I was a sub."

Erik snorted. "Has she ever spoken to you? You're rather... opinionated."

"I do believe that might have been how the misunderstanding started. Communication does help ease misunderstandings."

Erik tried not to think about the number of ways that Celeste and Charles could have spent a half-dozen hours together that wouldn't have led to much communication. Largely the thoughts featured Charles in a gag, which was a mix of infuriating, tempting, and arousing.

He tried to hum particularly loudly in his own mind to avoid Charles snooping, but the telepath either hadn't noticed or was politely ignoring the thought.

"Why don't you date switches?"

The fact that the conversation had slowly turned into a probing of Charles' sexual preferences only dawned on Erik in that moment. He shouldn't have cared - or if he did care it should have been so he could report it to Emma and have her use it - but instead he found he did care, although he couldn't have rightly said why.

"Most people don't think switches actually exist," Charles answered. "And I don't--" He cut himself off, looked over to Erik and obviously reconsidered what he'd been about to say. "I've considered it, but most people prefer to express themselves along the binary instead of a larger distribution. And in any case, I would be happy enough to find someone who suited me, no matter their orientation. We spend too much time concerned with dynamics when most of the people I've spoken to don't fit neatly." Charles laughed at his own words, and then continued. "Listen to me... I haven't been able to convince a single government of that, and why should it matter...?"

Erik looked over at Charles again, and couldn't help but think that, of course, Charles didn't think it mattered, he'd been in control his whole life. For someone like Erik, someone who had spent his entire life feeling out of control, feeling a though he had no one to rely on but himself, to feel as though if someone told him what to do one more time he might snap... for him control was the only thing he had in his life that was his own.

The two of them started to head back towards the city lights, Erik following Charles' movements as the man changed their pace. "There is no shame in needing what you need."

Erik wondered if Charles had meant that for him, or in general, but it didn't matter, the words felt comforting regardless.

.28.

Charles was no structural engineer - and neither was Erik - but the two of them somehow managed to get the plans to someone responsible for the engineering reconstruction of the island, a mutate, late in the evening while they were both still slightly buzzed on rum and beer - respectively.

He wasn't certain what to make of Erik's sudden interest in his orientation, the thought of using it to find him a proper sub had obviously crossed the monarch's mind once or twice, but the questions were all wrong to find him someone suited. Charles was happy enough to ignore the puzzle, however, Erik needed, desperately, to feel in control, and although Charles was more than capable of giving that to him, he doubted the man would appreciate anything beyond the occasional nudges Charles gave him.

Erik was too strong and opinionated to stand for anything else, so Charles let it be and allowed himself to focus more on the architecture and building than the puzzle of Erik.

Genoshan architecture needed to withstand cyclones in the warm, wet months, and Charles was only too happy to make certain they were engineered correctly.

"So yes," Charles said on the phone with Moira late the next morning. "We will have the plans redrawn sometime in the next few days to a week, pay the engineer, pay a few construction folks for the engineering acumen... the rest of it is finishing, wiring, insulation, ducts... It will take a while, but I have spoken with Erik about prioritizing a move-in ready section for our subs in England first."

"And what did Erik say to that?" Moira's voice was amused and a bit sarcastic. Charles appreciated it.

"He said he would be only too happy to help."

"Ha!" He could hear Moira as she shifted in her chair - his chair - stuck inside Charles' administrative offices at the Institute. "I would like to see that. I swear, he's a pussycat with you, Charles, are you sure you aren't controlling his mind?"

"I think the Prime Minster might have noticed by now."

"With you, you can never be too certain. I bet you could, though..."

Charles sighed, shifted in his chair and scanned the list of topics for the upcoming day, education policy, lovely. "Did you know we are discussing education policy today? The Prime Minster herself put it on the agenda today."

"Are you sure you didn't mind wammy her as well?"

"I do not mind wammy indiscriminately, Moira. It's easy enough to get what I want without it." Charles prodded the tablet again, scanning for more information. "I will have you know I also have only slept with one politician since arriving, and that was actually to my detriment."

"That was very restrained of you."

"I'm working on my restraint." He changed the display to bring up the preliminary designed he and Erik had worked on last night. "I'll get you a schedule in another week or so. Please free up some funds for me, I will need a more liquid line of credit to purchase the non-native materials and the labor. Any luck with listing the Institute's UK wing?"

"It will more than cover costs for new construction, but no buyers yet. It is a castle, Charles, people don't just snap them up on a whim."

"More's the pity." She was right, though. "Well, I must be off, laws to create, politicians to dominate."

"Have fun," Moira answered.

Charles paused, hearing the slight tension there. "Are you alright, love?"

The pause on the other end of the line was enough of an answer. No, Moira was not 'alright, love'. "Charles... you know I respect you a great deal, but..."

Even though he tried to have an open mind, he knew he was not going to like what Moira had to say. Moira didn't continue for several moments. "Go ahead, Moira. I'm listening."

"Amy was locked up for almost three days! Chris, too. And if... when you have us move, it's going to be fine for the kids, they're all mutants, not even mutates, and they'll be full blooded citizens or whatever it is you're negotiating, but me, Amy, the other humans... we're going to be at the sufferance of a king who leaps before looking."

Charles stifled his sigh, fingers running over the smooth, glassy surface of the computer he was working on. "You're right." She was right... "I don't have any other way to say it but... I trust Erik."

The silence that stretched out between them was palpable, and Charles wished he could reach out across the ocean and feel Moira's thoughts.

"I'm glad you do, but... we can't all be telepaths, Charles."

It wasn't his telepathy, though, that told him to trust Erik, it was something else far more fundamental that he couldn't explain. "You'll get to know him." He hoped so, desperately. "By the time you meet him I will make sure he's charming and completely infatuated with humans."

She laughed, long and amused and bright. "You do that, Charles. If anyone can, it's you. Go on, I hear you're talking about some school or other."

"Goodbye, love."

He scrambled down to the meeting room, taking his papers with him before sliding it just a half hour or so after they started in earnest, grabbing one of the last seats towards the center of the table and spread out all of his notes and other things, listening as Celeste started to outline her ideas for a more centralized and public school.

Charles pulled up census numbers while she spoke.

"Do you have a thought, Delegate Xavier?" Of course he'd barely been in the room long enough to hear half of a sentence, much less get the full scope of her argument. Classic tactic, trying to push him off balance.

He just grinned back at her, boyish and charming while he grabbed a tuft of the idea from the delegate next to him. "Of course, Delegate Vandermeer. I'm in favor of a public institutional framework. Currently we only have a child mutant-suspected population of about two hundred, even under the most rigorous requirements that demands no more than one educational institution for grades K through 12, as the Americans would put it." Charles tapped his finger lightly against his pad. "I would prefer the ages be more separate, educational research suggests that exposing pre-teens to teenagers is frequently detrimental to appropriate developmental milestones."

"The Xavier Institute isn't age segmented," Celeste shot back. Charles wondered - for a second - if she was trying to trip him up, and it seemed very likely that she was. Celeste should have tried him on immigration policy, not this.

"With only one hundred students in our English branch and limited staff there's little we can do on that note. We do maintain the 8 to 1 student-teacher ratio, however. Xavier's also takes only post-manifested mutants, which trend towards at least age twelve-plus. Manifestation before twelve occurs in only 0.72% of known mutants. Twelve to fifteen is the prime of mutation manifestation and requires the most rigorous monitoring of students."

Now it was Celeste who seemed to be stumbling, and Charles tried not to feel a flutter of giddiness. This was his element.

"And yet you wish to relocate the Xavier Institute, a private institution, to Genosha?"

"If you are uninterested in almost thirty trained and certified teachers with experience teaching young mutants coming to Genosha to be incorporated into the educational system I'm certain they could stay where they are." It was a bit of a bluff, everyone at the table knew that, but at the same time Charles knew he was in possession of the only teachers in the world who spent most of their time dealing with young mutants. "Xavier's has never been a fee charging institution despite its private status."

Celeste... grinned, wicked and... she thought she'd trapped him. "You want your little private academy to be publicly funded, Delegate? That sounds like a conflict of interest."

"I've already begun the process of my resignation from my position as Headmaster. Moira MacTaggart - the temporary Headmistress - is now considering mutants for the position."

Charles could feel Celeste's attack crumble and Emma both smirk and become more nervous.

"Professor Xavier appears to have the matter well in hand," Emma said from the head of the table. "I assume you have a proposal?"

He did. Unfortunately it was not as together as he would have liked, he had only been a delegate for a few days and they had only been considering the matter of education since yesterday, but he was a college professor and used to thinking of the fly. He distributed his notes, and then outlined his ideas.

To him the most logical idea was dividing students into an age where powers were unlikely to have manifested, and then older children divided based on manifestation. He didn't necessary approve of segregated education, he wanted all of the children on Genosha to receive the best education, but reintegration would be safer after a few years of more dedicated mutant-powers focused education.

After he'd finished his presentation - which he had kept to a rather sparing thirty-couple minutes - the table was silent. He waited. No one spoke. "Any comments?"

Emma cleared her throat. "You seem to have the matter well in hand, Xavier. Perhaps a more formalized write up of the Ministry of Education and we can hash out the details afterwards?"

Charles nodded, forwarded his work to Alex, and then found an applicable law from the US and England. Prettying it up shouldn't be too hard. He just wanted to make sure he wasn't distracted by the educational problem while the rest of the items lost his attention.

That was but one of many potential pitfalls he imagined Emma, Celeste, and the others trying to lay for him.

.29.

Erik ended up not seeing Charles for days after their discussion of the school plans. Emma had told him that Charles was fired up for the plans to make the Institute into a major part of Genoshan education. For all he thought that Charles didn't really understand practicalities, the man obviously loved teaching and everything about it.

The plans had finally gotten sketched out by an engineer, Charles had approved them, and a large chunk of raw steel - reforged by Erik and checked for structural integrity by an engineer - was delivered to the future Xavier Institute grounds. The night before there had been some preliminary concrete work done, but the Saturday morning broke clear, dry, and sunny. Charles was there beside him - he looked like he was ready to go raid an Egyptian tomb, done up in a shirt with a half-dozen pockets, pants that fit him a touch too snug but obviously comfortable, and sturdy looking boots that might have actually come with him from England. He was also wearing his ridiculous boater hat, hand clamping it to his head whenever a particularly rough gust of wind came in from the ocean.

Alex, Darwin, Amy, and Raven were all there as well, Alex standing the closest with a spread out paper version of the plans.

"Do you need any more measures, Erik?" Charles asked.

"No, it's gotten to the point where I see them when my eyes are closed."

Charles smiled in return. "Are you ready for this?"

"Let's fine out." He felt he was, but this was the first time he would try to channel rage and serenity - as Charles called it - since he had practiced with the man approximately a week ago.

He found his rage easily enough, death, destruction, pain, and hate - he tried to find the point of serenity, but it slid away. He gritted his teeth, hopefully where Charles couldn't see.

"Come at it from the other end, Erik."

Erik didn't question how Charles knew what he was thinking, because that was like questioning why the sky was blue, but he nodded and closed his eyes, trying to feel that moment of serenity, perfect belonging, acceptance, family. It was comfortable and warm, Charles pressed his hands to Erik's neck and he wanted to shy away, but Charles wasn't pressing that feeling in his mind, he was holding onto it on his own.

"It's good." He heard Charles in the back of his mind. "Hold on to that and bring in the rage, the urgency. I have complete faith in you."

He nodded, slowly, so as not to break the contact, but he brought the other feelings in, the need, the requirement that he do this. He took a slow, deep breath, exhaled, he needed this, it had to be done. Holding on to that focus was difficult, spotty, and he felt himself waver from time to time only to feel a soothing, or encouraging, touch at the back of his mind that took on the flavor of Charles' voice without being words.

A half-dozen steel beams responded to him instantly, and he stood them upright in the pre-dug concrete holes. He listened, felt the other workers hold levels against the metal and indicate a direction with a soft tap against the beam. It was... incredible, he felt connected to every piece of metal at once, holding it lightly, but firm. The exercise, previously an exertion, faded into a slight burn, the way a coiled muscle slowly warmed under a run.

Erik grabbed another beam, slid it in to place and after the workers tapped it into level, Erik welded and fixed it in place, grinning. He had no idea how long the work went on, with him grabbing more and more beams as time passed, Charles' hand still touching along his neck but it was just a light presence. He could feel the man there, gauging him, making certain he would not let something stumble or fall, but not pressing him, not giving him the serenity that was helping him do this.

"My friend," Charles' voice whispered in the back of his mind, startling Erik out of his reverie but leaving him enough control to avoid dropping everything. "You need to eat something... and... I believe you might be able to leave things as they are for the moment."

Erik had to rest two beams back on the ground, but the rest of it stayed up. He was finally able to open his eyes again, to really look, and what had started the day as a pile of beams was now a scattered framework, the skeleton of... the future.

"Come on," Charles urged him, a hand resting gently on his elbow. "Food."

Erik's stomach growled so loudly he blushed. The sun was well passed its zenith and already working towards the late afternoon. "Wow..."

"Very impressive, Erik." Charles was flushed, his cheeks red with sun even though he was still wearing his silly hat.

Erik grinned at him. "I..." He took a deep breath, and then another. When he tried to take a step he nearly fell and Charles wrapped his arms around Erik's waist, shifting to stand in front of the man. He was holding Erik up despite the fact that Erik was taller and weighed a good bit more, and Erik just... sort of rested there, half dead weight.

"Perhaps done for the day?" Charles' voice was teasing, but Erik knew that the man was right.

"Yes..." He answered with some reluctance but Charles was right, he could barely walk, another round like he'd just done was unlikely to be as successful. "I've never..." He took Charles's shoulders, intending to use them to stand, but instead he ended up continuing to lean, wishing he could just close his eyes and take a nap like that.

Time passed, maybe minutes, maybe hours, before he finally felt like he could stand on his own feet, and he stood, tugged his shirt back to neaten it and looked across the small rise where he, Charles, and the students had been standing. They were alone, just him and Charles, the students long since gone, apparently.

"Your power is incredible, Erik... the world at your fingertips..."

Charles took their first step back towards Hammer Bay, and Erik followed, slowly, feeling like an old man, knees creaking and protesting the use. It felt good, though, the breeze from the ocean, the sun overhead. Charles was next to him, smiling, shy, hands pressed into his pockets. No wonder his students followed him, years later, if Charles gave each and every one of them the world...

He felt, in a word, pounded, weak and tired; exhausted. Charles got him into the little cart to get back into the city, and then back up to his room, and all he wanted was to take a shower, lay down, perhaps, and he found himself in the backroom, Charles standing a few steps behind him.

"Think you can take it from here, Erik? I'll get you something to eat."

It felt silly, to need that, but he waved Charles away and when the door clicked behind him he was alone for the first time in hours. He could almost feel the place where Charles' mind had been pressed against his, watching, guiding, making certain Erik's control stayed tight.

He missed it.

Slowly he stripped out of his shirt and pants; they were sweat soaked. He tossed them in his hamper and crawled under the icy cold shower that slowly warmed as he scrubbed. He'd - almost - told Charles as much, he'd never moved anything that heavy or that massive for that length of time, holding beams still and precise for hours at a time. The feeling had been incredible, he felt like he could have touched every atom of the steel. He wondered if he could have.

And Charles... the telepath had been there at the back of his mind, so familiar and yet just a barely-there gentle touch, guiding, touching, but not doing the lifting for Erik.

Charles was incredible.

He scrubbed his hair, massaging away dirt and sand, and then washed the rest of his body, even the slow movements of scrubbing himself clean made his muscles feel sore and tired. He'd never felt as wrung out from using his powers, but he'd just run a marathon instead of sprinting.

It took him far longer than it should have to wash himself, dry himself, and get himself dressed in pants and a sleeveless t-shirt than it should have, but when he walked back out into the living area of his room there was... food. It smelled so good...

He sat down at the breakfast bar and Charles very neatly placed a plate in front of him, and then a fork and knife. Erik stared at the food - blankly - for several moments before his mind kicked in and told him that eating would be a good idea. Charles had cooked chicken, with some mint, a citrus salad, also slightly minted, and potatoes, no mint, which was probably for the best. Erik stabbed at the food for a few moments before he finally started to eat.

Charles sat down next to him with his own plate and started to eat his own food. "Hopefully it is to your liking. I abused your refrigerator stock in the hopes of finding something that you enjoyed."

"It's good..." He said around his food, chewing quickly, before a minute passed and he was able to talk properly again. "It's... really fantastic, Charles."

They ate in silence, and then retired to the couch to drink wine next to each other in silence; Erik spent the afternoon leaning back against the couch, eyes closed and half-snoring, but every time he cracked open his eyes he saw Charles tilt his head away from the computer he was working on and smile at him, blue eyes bright. He felt warm, despite the cool air and the sea breeze from his window, and a few glasses of wine only made him feel warmer.

He felt as though he should talk, maybe thank Charles for his instruction, but the telepath didn't seem to mind the silence and Erik was loathe to say anything when it would only come out inadequate.

The sun started to set, with Erik still sprawled on his own couch, lazy, and the western evening sun bronzed the entire skyline and the water off in the horizon. The telepath stretched where he was seated next to Erik, slid the balcony door closed, and turned around to face him. Charles' face was dark, backlit as he was against the sunset, but Erik knew the man was still smiling.

"Perhaps I should take my leave, Erik? You could do with some sleep. More than some..."

Charles returned to his spot on the couch sitting as he packed away papers and his computer, tucking them in to a messenger bag, slowly.

Without even thinking, Erik reached out, fingers circling around Charles' wrist. He was acting on instinct, but he trusted those instincts more than reflection. Charles didn't tug away or even look startled, just let go of his bag; Erik pulled Charles' wrist towards him, slowly, and the man followed, leaned in.

His heart was racing, breath hitching in his chest, Charles' hot breath mixing with his, all wine and sun and brilliant blue eyes that screamed 'yes' loud enough that even Erik could hear. Erik tugged Charles the final few inches, lips meeting, dry and too firm, but a moment later Charles was on him, mouth and tongue wet, lips soft.

One of them, maybe both of them, groaned, low and rumbling and demanding.

Something inside of Erik snapped, tension unwinding, and he felt like he was free falling and would never reach the ground.

Chapter Text

.30.

Charles had to admit he hadn't put a lot of thought into his intentions towards Erik. That wasn't entirely the case; he'd given some thought to it, mostly considered the possibility of falling into bed with the man and then dismissed it as a poor idea even if Erik had very nice shoulders, eyes, and ass. However, if the King of Genosha was going to grab him by the wrist and kiss him, he was not going to say no.

He had his hands against Erik's chest in a moment, fingers threading through the tight t-shirt and he tugged them even closer together, tongues clashing and sliding against each other. Erik's fingers threaded through his hair and tilted Charles' head enough to deepen their kiss. They stayed like that, long, slow movements, kissing on the couch like teenagers with Erik's hand still wrapped around Charles' wrist.

Erik pulled away, broke their kiss, and Charles whimpered slightly from the loss.

"I'm sorry, I..." Erik stammered, doubt creeping in immediately and Charles pressed his thumb to Erik's lips. Charles listened, felt the edges of Erik's emotions, no regret, just a brief struggle to recover from the impulsive action.

Charles brushed his finger down, removed it from Erik's lips, and when Erik didn't continue the unnecessary apology, Charles leaned in. Erik kissed him again, mouth hard and claiming Charles' mouth like he owned him and Charles was more than pleased with that. He wrapped his arms around Erik and tugged the man down, dragging him so that he sprawled on Charles, his larger frame pinning Charles to the couch.

Erik was warm and hard and sharp angles, rough, and Charles moaned as Erik's lips and stubble scratched across his throat, fingers touching and encouraging. Erik nipped his neck.

"No marks." His fingers grabbed Erik and kept him close.

Erik - clever, thoughtful, and very determined - began to unbutton Charles' shirt and bit farther down his neck, down his chest.

Charles groaned from the attention. He could feel Erik, previously restrained, now all raw passion and want, emotions so loud Charles didn't need to look to feel them. Need and lust and desire threaded together and around in Charles' senses and he was intoxicated. Erik was still holding back, but Charles let him, waited for the moment to coax it out. The hard lips continued to kiss down his chest and his body responded, arching up of its own volition, his pants starting to grow tight. Erik made short work of the rest of the buttons, pressing Charles' shirt open and leaving his chest exposed.

Erik stopped his licks and touches, leaned back on his knees, and looked down at Charles. His own pants were obviously tented and his sea-green eyes were dark with want. Charles wanted Erik, wanted his hands and his lips, everything, but he waited. He often let his lovers set the pace, and he knew that Erik wouldn't stand for anything less than feeling in complete control.

"See something you like?" Charles quirked his lips, cocky and shy all at once. "Your Majesty."

Erik laughed, the coiled nervous tension faded, and he leaned in and kissed Charles' neck again. "Certainly not an arrogant Professor-Delegate."

"That's too bad," Charles answered, fingers running through Erik's hair. "I guess I should go then..."

The answering growl in Erik's throat was heaven, and it spurred on Erik to unbutton Charles' fly and carefully tug down the zipper, spread the front of his pants and then reached down to fish his cock out of his boxers. Their bodies were pressed close, Erik's mouth still on his, and he started to stroke Charles, the two of them almost completely clothed and it was perfect. There was something tantalizing about the almost fumbled awkwardness of Erik's movements, and Charles gave himself over to it, let himself arch into Erik's hand and kiss the man deeply.

Erik set a slow pace, stroking, his thumb rubbing against his tip and then down the underside, down his shaft, back up again. Charles just let himself feel, caught between his own sensations and Erik's eager nerves, his barely restrained want and his tight control.

It didn't take long, and Charles came across Erik's hand and shirt and on his own chest, pleased and groaning. When his eyes finally fluttered open he saw Erik above him, eyes dark and needy.

He could see every ounce of want in Erik's eyes, coiled in his arms, held back, restrained, but only just barely. "Take me to bed, Erik."

He had no doubt, on a good day, the monarch could have thrown Charles over his shoulder and carried him off to his royal bedchambers, however, Erik was sporting an impressive erection, so instead they moved more slowly, trading kisses, bodies pressed together, Charles' pants shed somewhere along the way from unbuckled pants falling off slim hips and pooling on the floor where Charles could step out of them.

Erik tugged them both in to his room, and then ended up knees against the bed, sitting awkwardly while Charles grabbed the hem of his t-shirt and tugged it off quickly before tackling Erik's pants, leaving them in a pool on the floor before he finally got to see Erik and what he was constantly hiding under too many clothes. His eyes raked over broad shoulders, slim hips, and a cock that made his jaw ache to look at.

"You are gorgeous." There was nothing else to say. "I want to suck your cock."

Not his most suave of lines, but it worked.

"Shit, Charles..." Erik leaned back, let himself be led and then Charles shifted down to slide between Erik's legs and licked, mouth sliding down, taking him in as far as he could.

Charles was lost in the bliss of sucking and tasting and just moaning around Erik. Erik's fingers ended up tangled in Charles' hair and in his sheets, and Charles barely noticed when Erik twisted his hair too tight when he came down Charles' throat and Charles swallowed every drop.

He waited out the slight trembling and rubbed lazy circles into Erik's hips with his fingers, nose pressed to his thigh.

"Very lovely," Charles said, wriggling up so he could run his hand over Erik's chest and relax.

Erik wrapped an arm around him. "Yeah."

As assessments of his performance went, it was vocally underwhelming, but the cautious way Erik's fingers ran over Charles' shoulder and tentatively pushed off his shirt, and the shy smile told Charles everything he needed to know. He pressed a soft kiss to Erik's chest and then used the larger man as a very bony body pillow.

He felt Erik's tension, nothing too overwhelming, but it was obviously that Erik was still feeling a momentary awkwardness from acting so out of control, so Charles did his best to just touch him, nose pressed against his chest, fingers gently stroking. He ached to just ask if Erik was alright, and to try to find the root of whatever was knotted up in the man's chest.

"Something on your mind, Erik?" It was only slightly better than asking, but he was beginning to get the strong impression that Erik wouldn’t stand for coddling.

"Can't you tell?" Erik's tone was half ironic and half irritated, and Charles wasn't positive how to take it.

"Of course, but it's still polite to ask." Charles would have had to go digging to find the real answers, and even though he might have been able to do it without Erik noticing he still didn't like to depend on it.

"I don't do this often."

The first thing that sprang to mind was 'I do', which seemed startlingly inappropriate, so Charles just ran his fingers over Erik's side, trying to collect his thoughts. He could make assumptions, of course, could make a guess as to what made Erik this reserved, but it seemed invasive, and there were several possible reasons. "I couldn't tell."

Erik snorted, but wrapped his arms around Charles and pulled the man up so Charles was a slightly squishy blanket to the taller man. "This isn't..."

Charles heard a few of the stray thoughts that went through Erik's mind - worried how it would effect the Constitution, didn't want it to change Charles, wanted it to change Charles, didn't want it to change him, wanted it to change him, wanted to be inside of Charles...

"It's not political," he answered, immediately. "It was..." More than he'd expected. "Fulfilling."

He looked up at Erik, and saw the way the man's face transformed with a weak smile. When he saw Charles looking up at him, he nodded. "I don't want to change you, Charles."

Charles nuzzled up into his throat, kissed him there softly as he chuckled. "No danger of that, my fr-... Erik." Calling Erik his friend while they were curled up together like this seemed very wrong. "You would not mind if I changed just slightly, I imagine."

The humor in Charles' voice was infectious, and Erik pulled him closer into a tight hug. "A bit less idealism... a bit more practicality."

"How ironic, I was about to suggest just the opposite." Charles punctuated the thought with a light nip to Erik's jaw. "Even without that, I will be only too happy to give you want you need, Erik."

"What I need..."

Charles thought he might have pushed too far, but Erik just ran his fingers down Charles' back, touching, pressing his back to work at the tense muscles there. It felt good, and Charles wriggled in to Erik's chest while the other man continued to touch him.

"I need..." Erik trailed off again, thinking and trying to articulate what he needed, or even just figure it out for himself.

Charles nuzzled more, just nipping against the skin near his teeth. Charles would have been far too happy to make this a regular occurrence, to take Erik to bed at the end of a long day, to help the man unwind, to unwind himself, to set aside politics for the day...

"I need more, Charles."

He didn't even need to think about it. "That is something I would be only too happy to give."

Erik exhaled, a long, slow sigh of relief.

Charles sat up on the bed, and when Erik fumbled to join him, Charles rested his hand on Erik's chest, not firmly enough to truly pin him, but enough that Erik didn't bother to sit up either. "Here, in these apartments, I can be yours completely and you can be mine."

He wouldn't usually make that sort of commitment, wouldn't have even offered; too many times he'd let himself hope that he might have found someone who would balance him and complete him, but he couldn't deny the way he gravitated towards Erik.

"You are magnetic."

.31.

Erik looked up at Charles where the other man was leaning on him, and laughed. Magnetic. He hadn't laughed this much, hadn't smiled this much, in ages, but now he had a corny, cheesy, and sexy telepath who wouldn't stop kissing him and touching him and smiling at him and the emotions were infectious. He was still surprised that Charles had agreed at all, had kissed him back, had fallen into bed with him... or maybe he shouldn't have been.

No, based on what he knew he wasn't surprised Charles had come to bed with him, he was surprised that Charles was staying.

He tugged Charles' wrist, drawing the telepath back down and sliding them under cool, thin sheets. Charles took up a position right next to Erik, nuzzling into his shoulder like an over affectionate cat. And then, finally, he allowed himself to think about what he'd just done. He'd never been a thinker. He was more than capable of planning and plotting, but the art of self-reflection was never one he'd been comfortable with.

But just like he'd never much been comfortable with the presence of someone else in his bed, he'd never been so comfortable with someone else near him in his life. Except Emma, but Emma was not really someone he could imagine taking to bed, even if she hadn't fill the spot a sister might have.

There was something special about Charles. He didn't know what, couldn't place his finger on it, but Erik could tell it was something he'd never felt before. It was an awkward, strange, and new feeling that he was hesitant to name, especially not in the presence of the telepath, even in his own mind.

Erik just found himself wishing he'd come to Charles with a bit more experience. Mechanics he was more than capable of, but...

"You are thinking too loudly," Charles grumbled next to him, mouth questing over to Erik's shoulder and then biting him softly. "I haven't done my job properly."

"Maybe in a half hour you could try again?" Erik asked.

"I'm surprised you haven't just nodded off, to be honest," Charles answered.

Erik was too, actually, he even could have blamed his own decision to kiss Charles on his tired state, but now he didn't want to. Charles shrugged out of Erik's grasp, and he felt sadly annoyed at the loss. Charles then made himself entirely at home, poking through his end table and retrieving some lotion that Erik had there.

"Roll over and let me rub your back."

He did, realizing that Charles was right and he was exhausted, and he was surprised to find Charles' hands warm and sure against his back and he had slipped off into sleep before he even realized he was dozing.

Erik woke some time later, still sprawled on his stomach, clutching at a warm, muscled pillow - Charles' leg - while the other man had a tablet propped up on his knee, typing with one hand while his other lightly rubbed and scratched at Erik's scalp, soothing.

"Shouldn't you be in bed?"

"I am in bed," Charles' answer was full of fondness with a slightly touch of humor.

"I mean sleeping."

"It's barely midnight, I'll go to sleep later." Charles massaged his fingers into Erik's scalp and although he was fairly certain there was no mind control involved, it seemed not to matter because Erik dropped the issue and dropped back off to sleep before he had a chance to protest again.

He woke again at dawn and found himself spooned completely around Charles' naked back, arms wrapped around him and nose tickled with long brown hair. The presence of another person, warm and naked, pressed against him, was an unusual surprise but completely pleasant, and he spared a few moments to consider the dubious morality of rubbing himself off against Charles' ass while he slept before the telepath stirred and took the matter out of his hands.

Charles - now slightly sticky but still cuddly - kissed his chest before pulling away. "I'm going to grab a shower, love, and breakfast. I need to be in chambers in under three hours."

Erik was showered, fed - Charles had cooked him breakfast while he had been showering - and in Emma's office less than two hours later.

"Professor Xavier didn't make it home again last night," Emma said, almost as soon as Erik walked in the door, and Erik froze where he was standing, trying to not feel guilty, so instead he settled for nervous, because nervous might have suited the situation as well.

"I thought we'd agreed not to follow him." He sat down across from Emma, meeting the telepath's gaze as blandly as he could. Emma had agreed, and he wasn't going to have her irritating Charles on that because it was... not necessary.

"Yes, we agreed, however I went looking at him around ten last night and Raven informed me that he was 'very likely not going to be home tonight'." Emma sighed, leaned up against her hand and raked her fingers through her neatly styled hair, mussing it up. "She did invite me in though, perhaps I have a bit of intelligence on him... If he's sleeping with someone, I need to find out who. Maybe if we're lucky it's not political, but he's brilliant, Erik, and he's sneaky..."

"It's me." The words were out before he could stop them; he was too irritated at the idea that Emma thought Charles was... sneaky or would do that for political gain.

Emma looked up at him, face confused. "It's you, what, Erik?"

Too late to back out now, Erik completed the thought. "He spent the night with me."

"You...?" Emma's eyes raked him up and down, and it was hard not to notice the appraisal, physical and mental, that Emma was subjecting him to in that moment. "That... is not usual for you, Erik."

He probably should have been offended by the assessment, but Emma was right, he didn't usually pick up people, didn't have sex with people, didn't sleep with people, and certainly didn't feel warm and gooey and defensive about it in the morning.

"I wanted him." It felt weird to put it so bluntly, but he had, he'd wanted Charles, wanted to touch him and kiss him and curl up with him. He didn't usually want people. It was an unusual feeling for him.

Emma pursed her lips, thinking, and then thinking more, before she nodded. "And... what are your intentions towards the esteemed Delegate-Professor, Erik?"

He realized, slowly, that he had no real idea what he intended. Getting Charles into his bed had seemed... well it hadn't been hard, but it was such an unusual step that actually doing so had seemed like the only necessary step, and then he'd stayed and... "I'd like to have a relationship with him."

Erik winced, realized what he'd said had come off almost like he was asking Emma's permission - which he was not, because it wasn't her business - but she was almost as close as a sister to him and he really couldn't imagine talking to anyone else about it even though he could hardly get the words out.

"And Charles seemed willing on the matter last night." He met Emma's gaze, daring her to challenge him. He wasn't entirely certain what had brought the defensiveness on, but it was probably a mix of his own hesitancy about the budding... thing, and the fact he was heading in to uncharted personal territory.

"You discussed that with Xavier?" She sounded surprised.

"No politics, and it stays in the bedroom." Or possibly the couch... He wondered if Charles would let him fuck him up against the breakfast bar while he was cooking breakfast...

Emma's face suggested she had likely heard that. It served her right for prodding.

Suddenly it wasn't about politics, though, and it wasn't his Prime Minster briefing him as a King, it was just... Emma and she got up, circled around to the other side and hugged him. He returned the affection awkwardly, and tucked her head under his as he held on to her. "I should have noticed."

Erik shook his head. "I didn't even notice until yesterday. He's been... relaxing."

"He grounds you." She sighed, fingers pressing lightly into his back. "I still should have noticed."

He realized that Emma was right, even when he wasn't using his powers to do so, Charles' presence helped him focus, helped his powers, helped him decide on a course of action and believe in it. It was... incredible. Emma had done that for him, in their youth, Sebastian as well afterwards, but Charles was the first time that certainty had been rolled up in the form of someone he wanted to take to bed and have pressed against him in the middle of the night...

"Stop, you're turning my head to mush."

"Get out of my head, then." He laughed.

His good mood lasted the whole day, thought his trip back out to the new Institute grounds and his powers were just as keen and focused without Charles' hand at his back and his presence in his mind. He emailed Alex around lunch time to ask if Charles could make it to dinner, and Alex regretfully informed him that Charles would be having dinner with his little staff pool, but Erik was welcome to join.

When Erik asked if he could bring something, Alex had responded: Prof says if you wanted to use your secret connection to bring some tart apples he'd be 'quite thrilled'. -A

And so Erik had a mission for his late afternoon - or Azazel did, anyway - and Erik was left feeling... content.

It was an odd emotion for him.

It wasn't bad.

.32.

Charles found himself surprisingly distracted in the morning after he got to the delegate chamber and settled in for a morning of lawmaking and politicking. He was fairly certain that asking for a recess so he could find the King of Genosha and blow him would probably be met with awkwardness and skepticism so he kept that thought to himself.

It wasn't typical for him to spend time thinking about a hookup after the fact. Although, Erik was hardly his usual hookup. Truth to tell he hadn't been in anything like a relationship with a sub since college. The irony of it was that he was fairly certain Erik thought he was a Dom, so it was a bit like having his streak unbroken.

If he were being honest with himself he'd admit the fact that he knew Erik didn't think of himself as a sub had made him hopeful.

He managed to make it through to lunch without giving away the farm - politically speaking - at least. The citizenship and voting rights were getting hashed out further today, and as long as the sub and human rights remained, Charles had to admit that he wasn't going to sweat the fine details.

Alex caught him at lunch - Erik had invited him to dinner - and he answered that before Emma gave him a 'you, me, somewhere private' look that had nothing to do with sex. Or, well, it probably did, just not him and Emma.

It seemed particularly fitting that the first time Charles found himself in the Prime Minster's office it was because he'd slept with the king, rather than anything actually political.

"Go ahead and say your piece, Prime Minster... Ms. Frost."

She nodded, accepting the second appellation.

"Xav... Charles." She sat, brushed an imaginary speck of dirt off of her pristine clothes, and sighed. "Erik is very special to me."

He held his own thoughts on the matter close to his chest for the moment, but he nodded.

"He's not... affectionate, by nature, and if I didn't know it would be incredibly stupid of you to attempt it I would have been concerned that you had influenced him some way."

"I wouldn't influence someone into bed with me," he answered, immediately. That was one thing he wanted to be entirely clear. "That is part of the code I live by, and I teach to any of my students with a mind altering power."

Emma just waved, lightly dismissing the whole issue. "He is a very complicated person."

Charles frowned, tried to tease at the edge of Emma's words, they were being too textual, or he was, Emma was looking for something... feeling something out... she was nervous. It hit him, suddenly, what they were actually talking about, and he laughed.

"I already know he's a sub."

Even with her shields in place Charles could sense the out of control spike of alarm. She hid it well, in her face, her mouth and her eyes, but he could feel her mind working through repercussions, designing strategies.

"I don't support sub voting and citizenship rights for my health, Emma. I do it because I honestly believe in the sanctity and the autonomy of a sub as a person, a person capable of their own decision-making. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Erik."

She calmed, slightly. "Erik doesn't..."

"Yes, I noticed." Charles pressed his fingers to the front of his forehead. "Although my sister once informed me that she would want me to approve of a Dom she was interested in, I do not think Erik would particularly care for anyone - even you - attempting to vet his personal decisions. I care for him, and I intend to give him what he needs, and what he needs is to feel in control of himself for the first time in his life."

"You're... subbing for a sub because that's what he needs?"

"If that is how you'd like to consider it, yes." Charles leaned forward, considered pressing his luck on the matter. He realized, as he considered it, that this was exactly his moment to make his point, clearly and unequivocally, to the Prime Minster when she might really believe it, not just support it because it was what got Charles to come to Genosha. "Doms and subs are not so different, we have individual personalities, and the distinction is a very fine line between how we manage the control we all need in our lives. Erik is passionate, and believes passionately in his cause, he doesn't need direction, or take it well, but he struggles to channel that belief productively. All his life, whether he's realized it or not, he's had people do that for him, and now he does not."

Emma pursed her lips, the unsubtle way she showed her direct disapproval of something. He wasn't sure if it was a disagreement of his assessment or just not particularly caring for his conclusion.

"You've let him hide from his true nature, and it means he doesn't even realize how much he's missing what he needs." Charles was firm with her, but he kept his irritation out of his voice. "I am not going to break him, that's not what I do, but even though he had no idea what he was asking for, yes, I am going to give him what he needs."

Whatever chord was holding Emma back broke, and she smiled, and then chuckled, just a soft sound, amused at herself. "I didn't even realize until after he had become king. I've known him almost my whole life and I never realized."

Charles wasn't surprised, not really. "Have I satisfied your curiosity, Emma?" He would have reassured her more, if that was what she needed, but, call him old fashioned, but he liked to keep certain aspects of his personal life private, even if he did tend to have a bit more personal life than some others.

"For now." She gave him a weak smile.

"Then, if there's nothing else, Prime Minister, I think we should get our lunch before we have to get back to work." Charles stood and gave her a nod.

When he walked out Alex found him a few moments later and brought him a sandwich - fried egg - and then showed him the return email from Erik. He made an off-hand comment about apples and considered the prospect of pie...He wondered if mangoes could go in pie...

The citizenship question was finally, mercifully, put to bed, and the voter rights - all citizens over 18 - were settled and the final draft was on his computer for him to pick over that evening. Charles was feeling a bit buzzed and on top of the world. Back in his apartments, Scott, Darwin, Raven, Amy, Alex, and Chris were all there, and Charles set to work on cooking dinner for them all - plus Erik - and get to work on making pie crust and curry, not to be eaten together.

Charles was in the middle of considering the merits of another interview, when Erik arrived, bushel of apples in tow and Charles could have kissed him, but instead settled for squeezing his elbow and then setting Darwin to work on peeling and Raven on slicing while Charles sorted out the very awkward introductions.

"Erik, I think you know everyone but Chris, Christopher Summers is Alex and Scott's father and a Colonel in the US military." The handshake was firm, but only slightly combative, Christopher was not a harsh man.

Charles could feel the back of Erik's mind, the way his behavior earlier made him feel heavy and bogged down. Charles reached out with his mind, left the lingering impression of a squeeze to Erik's shoulder. Everyone's tension was still there, remembering Erik's unimpressive apology from earlier.

"I don't suppose we've made the best impression, Colonel, but it's a pleasure to have you on Genosha," Erik finally answered. He actually sounded like he meant it.

"Dinner will be..." Charles looked over his shoulder. "As soon as I finish the pie."

He breathed a sigh of relief when Amy mentioned the new school grounds and it was a topic the entire group could participate in, everyone offering their own opinions and perspectives, while Charles got to work turning sliced apples and mangoes into two apple and one mango pie. Scott, however, seemed more interested in the potential for recruitment from the Institute.

This meant Scott, Alex, Christopher, and Erik ended up in a four way battle concerning militarization of the school - Scott and Erik pro, Alex and Christopher against - with an increasingly heated debate raging before Charles slid right in between the four and gave them a very big smile.

"Naturally any educational institution will be primarily dedicated to the instruction and enrichment of the student body. Whatever choice the students make when they are of an age to consider their options is, of course, their own." And then he made an encouraging 'everyone get up' gesture. "Dinner is served."

Plates handed out and rice and curry served, everyone dug in.

"Excellent dinner, Prof!" Alex started the string of encouragements with all of the students adding their two cents.

"It constantly surprises me how much you cook, Charles."

He turned to look at Erik where he sat, plate balanced carefully on his knees as they sat around the living room table. "I learned a great deal growing up, looking after Raven..." His mother had not been particularly useful in the kitchen, and what little Charles had learned had been from servants. "And then I acquired a few dozen children and from then on cooking was an absolute requirement. It's difficult to keep help when someone insists on setting the kitchen on fire regularly."

"Hey, not guilty!" Alex waved his hands. "That was all Scott."

"You are such a little shit, Alex!"

Charles ignored them both and continued to eat his own dinner while everyone else watched the looming cold war of glares, especially since one of those glares had the weight of plasma behind it. As long as they only hit each other, Charles didn't much care how they worked out the sibling rivalry matter, but thankfully Darwin ran a hand over Alex's chest and that cooled the worst of the argument.

Then he used a time-honored method of cooling the remainder of the Summers brothers' tempers. Pie.

.33.

Erik was slowly starting to realize that Charles was somewhat incredible. He was naive, and over trusting, but he was brilliant and had an easy way with people that Erik couldn't help but admire. He commanded a room - and he truly commanded it - a room full of aggressive Doms like the Summers father and sons, and a wide variety of sub personalities all with the ease of someone with long experience.

He almost felt bad about the kids who would be robbed the opportunity to learn from Charles Xavier because the Professor had found himself inducted into the world of politics.

Charles caught his eye and gave him a rueful smile.

Erik hoped they could find a way to have Charles still maintain a position at the Institute somehow, although he knew that had been the topic just a few days ago, the blatant conflict of interest that came from having Charles work on something like funding for the Xavier Institute couldn't be denied. Charles seemed to constantly have the threads under control, and Erik could at least envy that, even if he didn't love everything about the man's politics.

Dinner and dessert were slowly getting cleared away, and Erik found himself drawn to Charles, and even helping with the dinner clean up - which was endlessly amusing to everyone involved, apparently monarchs were not supposed to do dishes, but Charles shot them a look and it made them all quiet instantly.

Charles stood beside him, their bodies and shoulders a respectable distance apart, while he slowly packed up the remains of the pies and the leftover curry while Erik scrubbed dishes and set them to dry.

"I want to get you out of here." Erik hadn't done much by way of mental talking with Charles, but he hoped the same method that he had with Emma would work.

Charles responded by tilting his head slightly so he could catch Erik's eyes, his cheeks flushed.

Oh... Erik looked away, suddenly embarrassed.

"The children will expect me back tonight. There are only so many times I can wander off in the company of King Magneto before they put something together. They are not blind."

"I want to show you something."

Charles arched an eyebrow and Erik wanted to smack the man, and kiss him, probably at the same time.

He thought it was remarkable that the two of them managed to make it out of the room without completely making fools of themselves, but the soft, furtive kiss in the hallway more than made up for Erik having to make the effort.

"I... actually have something else in mind," he admitted, reluctantly, as he and Charles made their way to the elevator.

Charles was obviously confused when Erik called the elevator to take them down, rather than up to Erik's rooms, but he took advantage of the fact they were alone in the elevator to pull Charles to him and plunder his mouth. The telepath arched under him and kissed him back just as hard. It was barely a minute, but both of them were flushed when they broke apart.

"So where are you taking me, Your Majesty?"

Erik hesitated for a moment, stumbling over his words. "Are we still allowed to discuss our politics, Charles?"

"Of course." Charles looked... surprised, maybe, or hurt. That hadn't been Erik's intention and he wasn't certain where the emotion had come from. "The intent wasn't to stop having our debates."

"Good," he said. "Good..." He was bad at this, bad at making himself understood. Sometimes he was brilliant and eloquent and he could make almost anyone follow him almost anywhere, but other times his speech was written by Emma to make sure he said all the right things in all the right ways. "I wanted to make a point, but it's not something I can explain, so I wanted to show you."

The light, fun, humorous Charles who had been cooking dinner and laughing at jokes had been tucked away, and the serious Professor-turned-Delegate was back, mouth slightly tight.

"Have I upset you?" Maybe he shouldn't have tried to spring this on Charles...

"No, no, Erik. I was simply caught up in my own thoughts. It's an occupational hazard, I'm afraid. Although, it's a shade better than being caught in someone else's thoughts." Charles was perhaps not being entirely honest with him, but he knew that he could hardly force the issue, not if Charles wanted his thoughts to remain secret.

"I'm sorry, I'm bad at this."

"'This'?"

Relationships, feelings, emotions, expressing his feelings, explaining how he wanted to touch Charles... "I don't think I've ever... woken up with someone." That wasn't entirely true, but he hoped the idea of it got through to Charles. He'd had things that might have generously been called 'relationships' if having sex with the same person across several days in rapid succession could be termed a relationship, but nothing that came with dinners and educational debates and tentative kisses in the elevator in between.

He didn't want to call this a relationship, though, calling it that seemed like destroying and defining something that he wasn't certain of yet.

"Are you uncomfortable with me, now, Erik?"

The answer was no, yes, and everything in between. He could see how much Charles was holding him at exactly the same distance as had always had between them, two men of conflicting politics, but layered on top of that there was this other man of conflicting politics who Erik had been to bed with and that had fundamentally changed something and yet Charles seemed content for it to both change them and not change them. "Are you holding me at arm's length?"

That's what it felt like, distance.

Charles tilted his head towards Erik, and he felt like Charles was trying to figure him out. "For the moment, yes. I've made mistakes in the past that I would like to not repeat."

His mind was filled with visions of Celeste Vandermeer and her sometimes insincere smile.

"Among others," Charles answered, but he lifted his hand up, brushed a thumb and finger against Erik's wrist as they walked. "I don't think you'd appreciate the direction of my thoughts at the moment, so I would prefer to keep them to myself for the moment."

The two of them walked in silence for several blocks after that, Erik unsure of how to bring them back onto safer ground.

"So, tell me what it is you are going to show me." Charles closed the conversation topic neatly, but the light touch of his hand against Erik's meant he didn't feel as though the topic had ended, just been pushed aside for the moment while there was something else pressing.

"I've been thinking about your speech."

The other man grinned, and it lit up his entire face. Erik twisted his hand slightly so he could squeeze Charles' fingers.

"You wouldn't appreciate the thoughts, I think," Erik continued.

"I'm a Professor, I appreciate all thoughts on a topic, even if they disagree with my own, because it means someone has at least put the time in to understand me and forming a counter opinion."

And that was what was so different about Charles, he seemed... just to accept everyone, and it was somehow wonderful and infuriating. "You know we aren't human, right?"

Charles sighed. They'd had a variation on this talk at least a half dozen times, maybe more - probably more. "What are we then, Erik?"

This time he wasn't completely certain what his answer should be. Charles had beaten into his head, over and over, how useless and unhelpful ideas like 'the next stage in human evolution' really were. Charles spoke easily about branches of evolution that the fossil record suggested were - objectively - strictly superior to other evolutionary examples on display at the same time in history, the interbreeding of homo sapians and homo neanderthalensis, and everything else that told Charles that he had science on his side.

That didn't change what Erik felt, what he knew deep in his bones.

"Different."

Charles arched an eye, question obvious. "Of course we are different."

Better. What he wanted to say was 'better'. Charles never stood for that, though. "Different, Charles, different enough that we can't... Not all of us want to be lumped in with humans, Charles."

"I know," Charles' voice was soft, sad. "And humans have done a fair job of denying them. I understand, Erik."

"I don't think you do. If you did..." He wish he had the words for it, the words to help him get Charles to understand that there was so much more to being mutant than just a country, but it wasn't even something he could put into words, wasn't something he'd been able to express.

"Show me, then." Charles reached out and squeezed Erik's hand.

Erik didn't know if he could, didn't know for certain that what he was doing was the right thing, but Charles' idea of mutants who worked with humans, mutants who considered themselves humans, mutants who wanted nothing more than to be human didn't cover everyone. Maybe that was Charles, maybe that was Raven, or even Scott or some of the other children who were part of Charles' school, but there were so many others...

Somehow he had to make Charles see that not every mutant could have a PhD and teach peace and tolerance when the world had done nothing but hurt you.

They walked deep into inland Hammer Bay, far away from the coast, into the parts of Hammer Bay that were sparsely populated and used to be where some of the more disfigured mutates lived when the city had been filled with humans who subjugated the mutates for their own enrichment. The area was nothing like the bright and shining pillars that littered the coast, instead it was dark and less well lit, but Charles walked beside him, unconcerned.

When they arrived at the at the window pane, Erik looked at the stylistically drawn hand, reaching up out of a sewer grate. Charles inspected it, as though judging its artistic merit, and then shoved his hands into his pockets.

The sign read Morlock's and the inside was dark despite the full glass pane.

"I take it this is the location of our trip?"

Erik nodded. "Stay close."

"Of course."

.34.

Charles was starting to get an idea of Erik's purpose when they headed out of the bright and shining parts of Genosha that were full of light and sound and people, and then in to the danker and darker parts of the city. The human population of Genosha had been in the hundreds of thousands, and the total population had shrunk down to only a few ten thousands, and yet there were at least some individuals that kept to the shadows.

When they entered, most of the people in attendance - all mutants, no humans - turned and took a look at them, giving them the once over.

Charles didn't respond by smiling or anything else of the sort, just walked in, not tentative, he was a mutant, and he was on Genosha, and perhaps it felt slightly strange to be somewhere outside of the walls of his school or the capital building, but he didn't mind one bit.

"Your Majesty!" Charles turned, saw a woman walking towards them with spikes bursting out of her skin that were tan and fragmented.

"Marrow." Erik took her hand and shook. "My friend Charles Xavier."

Charles put out his hand and she ignored it, but he didn't let a moment of doubt show on his face. The spike of hostility from the surrounding mutants was palpable and struck him hard between the eyes. "A pleasure to meet you, Marrow."

"MP X, right?"

That made him blush, just slightly. "My students call me Professor X, but it seems a little pretentious as I'm currently without a school or students. Delegate X doesn't have quite the same ring, and I usually respond well enough to Charles."

She seemed... satisfied enough with the answer, although she was not particularly pleased, still. The tone of the room was harsh, unwelcome, and that emotion was directed entirely at him, he didn't feel the same animosity from the group towards Erik.

The two of them retired to a corner, but the tone of the group had changed entirely. It was easy to see the rough lay of the land here. He and Erik were the only mutants without some sort of obvious physical mutation, and they were not the sleek pleasant mutations of his sister, or the way that another mutant had cat eyes or milk-pale skin, no these bordered on what would be considered grotesque, some had long since passed over that line.

"What's your poison?" A waitress, covered in thick black scales, shiny, but large enough she looked like a humanoid dragon, came up to their table.

"Whatever's on tap," he answered, immediately. "A pilsner if I have the choice."

Erik nodded his agreement and the waitress disappeared.

"Am I learning about our differences, Erik, rather than our similarities?"

The monarch returned his thought with a glower rather than particular words. Erik had been unable to say what he'd wanted to, not quite able to communicate what he was trying to get Charles to understand, but Charles was slowly starting to feel out the edges of what Erik must have meant.

Mutants who did not yearn for humanity. The idea was... awkward for Charles.

Their beers arrived, and Charles started to sip his - it wasn't very good - the look on Erik's face said he agreed. He reached out under the table, fingers lacing against Erik's and then he closed his eyes, getting a feel for the room the best way he knew how.

Most of them knew he was a telepath, and some of them were conspicuously guarding their own minds - or trying - and Charles respected their privacy as much as he knew he could have looked. Others were looking at him with open hostility, seeing nothing but pink skin and a professorly exterior and judging him wanting - weak, not good in a fight, thinks he's better than us.

Charles latched on to the last, traced it back to its source. They didn't want to be human, they wanted to feel better, wanted to feel as though they had something more. Wanted to answer hate with hate, violence with violence.

There wasn't an easy answer.

He liked to pretend there was, but there wasn't always.

"Well, Professor..." A mutant slid into a seat across from Charles, he was tall, maybe taller than Erik, bits of him - his arms at least - were painfully thin and lanky, and he had a bulbous hunched back and pale skin - albino, really. "What do you think of our bar?" His voice was calm and soft, it actually reminded Charles a bit of himself.

Charles considered smiling, but instead gave a little shrug. "I've had better beer."

The man smiled - it was not a good look for him - he had a wide head, uneven and not proportioned in a way that looked human, and his teeth did not form a smile so much as a thick mess of teeth set in all the wrong directions. "And do you like what you see?"

They were talking about something a good deal more than Charles' assessment of the ambiance and the decor. Charles didn't need his telepathy to tell him that. The man was searching for something from Charles. He looked towards Erik and saw the man nod. Whatever it was that Erik couldn't quite articulate, he hoped that Charles would be able to hear from this man.

"I've never been to this side of town - Hammer Bay is too large to see all of in the few weeks I've been here."

"Too much variety to be covered, perhaps?" The albino asked him.

"That is certainly one consideration of many. Do you think I've missed something by not coming here sooner?" These men and women were not like the mutants, mutates, and humans who clung to the beaches and the shops and the bakeries and the schools, they were different, and they liked it that way.

"What do you think, Delegate?" His voice was rough, and difficult to read, but Charles could sense from him a tension that was not unexpected.

"I think you don't much care for me, and I would like to know why."

The mutant snorted. "Are you afraid of me, Delegate?"

"No." It was an easy answer.

"Why?"

"I'm here as His Majesty's guest, I don't think you're interested in harming me." That was only part of it, but it was the easiest.

"And if His Majesty wasn't here?"

Charles turned to Erik, saw the way he had suddenly become nervous.

"Would you mind leaving us?"

Erik stood, awkward, and tentative, he wasn't interested in leaving, but Charles had asked. Slowly, he walked out of the bar, backward glance saying that he, at least, was nervous about leaving Charles in this den of mutants.

"Brave deeds for someone who wasn't here to fight for our freedom, someone who sent his children to fight and stayed at home," the mutant growled at Charles. "What do you say to that, Delegate? How does that make you different than all the humans who send their children off to war while they sit home and smoke cigars?"

A few of the mutants in the bar around him stood up, and started to circle around his table, pinning him to the left and right, the albino still in front of him. There was no obvious route of escape, and although none of the mutants were menacing him outright there was a certain amount of aggression to the action.

"If the world had nothing but men of war there would never be peace."

"Do you really believe that?" The albino asked again, leaning forward.

"Of course I do." Many people found it hard to believe, but he didn't.

The albino put out his hand, and Charles looked at it, unsure what the man wanted. "You can read my thoughts, yes, my memories?"

"If you would like." The contact was unnecessary, but he imagined that was part of the point for the albino. He knew Raven wanted to be touched, hugged, more than anything in the world; she was so used to being looked at with fear, of being rejected in her own skin that she longed constantly for that reminder of her own humanity.

Charles reached out, touched the man's hand - Caliban - named from the Tempest... even the name itself made him ache. No one would name a beloved son 'Caliban'. His free hand he touched to his temple, unnecessary but it helped him focus.

"If you have something specific you hope to show me, please focus on the thoughts and I will follow your lead."

Caliban had a well ordered mind, and Charles suspected at least some of his powers were mental - he felt the edge of it with Caliban's first memories, feeling the presence of mutants, sad, alone, scared. That was his power, finding other mutants. He could feel the way their minds reached out, wanted to be accepted and find they were not alone, wanted answers for why they were different, wanted confirmation that they were special.

The touch of their minds together laid the groundwork for what followed, Caliban's youth, abused and hated by his father for his differences, the way he felt belonging when he found other mutants like him, the ugly, the scarred, the ones that looked like something out of a nightmare.

Charles felt all of their pain, their sadness, he felt every time Caliban - or any of the others - had been struck, been belittled, been ignored, been hated, been beaten... everything. He was unsure how long they stayed like that, but by the end his chest ached.

"Could you see that every day, Professor, and not hate them?"

He closed his eyes, let those thoughts and emotions wash over him and rattle around in his mind. He thought about his own father, more interested in his powers than in his son, his stepfather visiting abuse and indignity on him...

Yes. He could.

Charles knew that some of the children in his school had been abused, assaulted, beaten, mutilated, and sometimes worse, and yet he could not hate the humans who did it, even as he understood why that hate festered in his students' hearts.

"I..." He could think of nothing that would soothe Caliban's painful aloneness. 'I understand' sounded hollow, even though it was true. 'Yes' sounded dismissive, even if it was the truth. "I believe in defending ourselves."

It was the best he could manage without laying his own hopes, fears, and difficulties bare before the man. It was something he had never shared with anyone, not Raven, not Moira, and perhaps it meant he looked callow, but he couldn't imagine being any other way.

"But not striking back?"

"I believe there is a difference, yes. The dream of Genosha is a dream of mutual security for all of us, the ones who terrify humans and the ones that put on a face that others deem pretty and acceptable. And... to suit your own needs, you have the Prime Minister and His Majesty, more so than me."

Caliban did not look pleased with the answer.

"Not everyone can respond as I do..." And perhaps he'd forgotten that, forgot what it was like to not know everything about the heart of the people who hurt him. "I will try to remember that more in the future."

"I suppose that's all I can expect from you, Professor."

"I hope it will be enough for you."

He'd spent so long with children he'd long since convinced of his own vision that he seemed to have forgotten that it often wasn't enough. He sighed.

"Can I buy you a beer? My drinking partner seems to have disappeared."

The mutant snorted, and it was impossible not to see the humanity in it. "I'd prefer rum, it's all we have on the island that's palatable."

"Rum, then."

.35.

Erik found Charles at the bar, several hours later, looking almost completely plastered on beer, rum, and likely several drinks in between, and when Erik returned he found his Professor spinning Marrow around in some poorly coordinated dance.

"Your Majesty!!" Charles yelled in his general direction, waving frantically and then depositing his dance partner in a nearby seat. "Come join us!"

He frowned, not quite certain he liked this side of Charles, wild and drunk and not the same in-control man he was used to. Still he came over and took the man by his elbow. "You did mention that the children expected you home at a reasonable hour."

"Right!" He scanned the crowd, eyes sweeping over everyone there. "I should go then."

He helped a staggering Charles out of the bar - after helping him to settle his rather impressive tab - and he lead the man out into the cooling night air. "You're a bit drunk, Charles."

The man took a deep breath. "Not particularly." He'd sobered almost instantly. "I do not know if Emma has told you, but a drunk telepath is not a good idea."

Charles ran his hands together and then smiled over at him.

Erik watched him, the way his face moved, thoughtful but obviously pleased with himself. "Did you and Caliban... talk?"

Charles sighed and leaned against Erik; he knew the telepath wasn't drunk, but he wrapped his arm around his shoulders and pinned the smaller man to his side as they wandered back towards the city center.

"He... reminded me of some things I had been ignoring."

Erik couldn't help but be hopeful from Charles' assessment. Charles seemed to forget how wide and broad the category of 'mutant' was, and that there were so many people for whom 'mutant' was all they were, and all they felt they could be. Humanity held no allure. He wished there was an easy way to explain it but everyone, Caliban, Emma, Scott, and everyone in between, they were all mutants and all his people.

"That's good." He leaned in, fingers running through Charles' hair as the telepath continued to lean against him. "That's all I wanted."

"I can't help him," Charles said. "Not the way he wants."

He felt annoyance spike in the back of his mind, of course Charles didn't understand what it meant to be beat down, to not feel as though you anywhere else to go... and to feel that the only solution was to fight. "Have you ever fought for what you believed in, Charles?"

Charles pulled away, put distance between them, and Erik was only too happy to let him go. Maybe he'd heard Caliban, but he obviously hadn't listened. Charles was infuriating, and Erik sometimes wasn't certain what he'd seen in the man as recently as last night.

"Is it only fighting if I hurt someone?" Charles' voice was hard, harder than Erik had ever heard it before. Charles usually made his points lightly, with a soft tone, but not this time.

Erik frowned.

"Is training 219 children to accept and harness their powers nothing? Is watching 53 of them go off to war for you and 14 of them not return nothing? Is standing up when you made the decision to violate the basic rights of hundreds of humans due to the actions of two nothing? Is it?"

"That's not... fighting, Charles."

"I see." Charles fell silent, and when Charles slowed his own pace, Erik found himself slowing to match even though he almost wanted to leave the telepath in peace.

Minutes passed, long and silent. Erik hadn't expected Charles to be... upset, or just quiet, he hadn't expected the accusation to actually sting, Charles was a pacifist, he didn't believe in fighting, so why should he care?

"Do you miss it?" Charles asked, finally breaking their silence.

"What?"

"Fighting. Do you miss it? Do you miss killing to achieve your ends?"

The question was incredibly blunt, and yet... "Yes. I do."

Every day he missed being useful, he missed making a mark and feeling like he'd accomplished something, he missed tearing into the ground of Genosha and taking it back for mutant kind. He missed breaking into secure facilities and freeing the mutants there, he missed... he missed making humans bleed for their crimes against mutants...

Charles reached out for his hand, took Erik's wrist, and brought them both to a stop in a completely abandoned section of the city, there was no one around, no noise, not even the scratch of a cat or a dog. He felt Charles' thumb circle into his wrist, and then Charles reached down and started to rub his other wrist. He'd thought perhaps that Charles was upset, and yet he saw none of the momentary fire that had marked their brief exchange.

"Was helping me build my school nothing? Was catching three anti-mutant terrorists nothing? Is helping to found a country where your people, our people, can be ourselves nothing?"

It wasn't fighting.

"Yes it is, Erik."

He hadn't spoken aloud, but he was long since used to having telepaths answer his thoughts as well as his spoken words.

"That is the hardest sort of fighting." Charles continued to rub his fingers against Erik's wrists, and his fingers were warm and profoundly comforting. "Today I was reminded of how easy it is to hate, to hate yourself, to hate other people, and that is the one thing I cannot allow myself to do."

"Love thine enemy, turn the other cheek?" That only got you killed, someday it would get Charles killed.

Charles sighed and wrapped his arms around Erik's neck, his own hands threaded behind Charles' back almost on instinct.

"Make love, not war?" Charles asked, voice coy, and he could feel the way Charles was trying to pull him away from the point of their argument, and he debated, for a moment, whether or not to let him, and instead of fighting he leaned down and kissed Charles.

When they finally broke apart, Charles pressed his nose into Erik's chest and took a deep breath.

"Erik, you are fighting the most important battle for the future of mutants right now." His hands squeezed and bunched up Erik's shirt under his hands. "Freeing mutants, taking them away from the people who would abuse and exploit them is only the first step, we are building them a place to live and a place to thrive. What is more important than that?"

It was impossible for him to see it that way, just as it seemed it was impossible for Charles to see other mutants or their fights his way, and...

He was starting to feel that maybe that wasn't the end of the world, that it was alright. It wasn't as though he was sitting with Celeste arguing that war was never an option, was never appropriate and would never be justified. Instead Charles had allowed fifty three students into battle with Erik and fourteen of them had died. Erik had felt their loss acutely and it had probably been more than a bit rude to imply that Charles hadn't suffered anything from sending them.

"I'm sorry I didn't protect your students better."

Charles ran his fingers down Erik's chest. "I have never blamed you for their loss, and I do not intend to start."

It was a weight off his mind, every loss during the war weighed on him, and even though he knew that he had done everything in his power to keep his soldiers safe, it had been war, and safety during a war was an impossible dream. Deaths were a natural consequence of war, and Erik had seen many deaths and a great deal of war.

"Thank you."

The two of them went back to weaving through the night streets, tucked close together, but Charles was no longer leaning on Erik's side, he missed the contact, but he was still glad to have the man by his side.

"Do you really think of this as a battle? The constitution, citizenship rights, sub rights, and all of that."

"Yes, very much so." Charles looked over at him, his eyes bright and passionate and warm. "I know when you were on that boat, several miles out from the Genoshan shore it must have seemed like you would never make it to the city, would never liberate the mutants and mutates in the city, would never break the hold that humans had over the global mutant population, and yet here you are, less than eight months after your first assault on Genosha. But this is the hard part, rebuilding. The buildings are mostly standing, the infrastructure is largely in place, and yet the true infrastructure, the beams and wires and supports that will hold up a nation, not just an island full of people, hasn't been knit together yet."

There wasn't any place for a retired general turned monarch in a world where they had to build some sort of political infrastructure, Emma was good with that, Charles was as well, even Celeste Vandermeer if he had to be honest about it, but he wasn't a man who was used to talking, negotiating, and figuring out how to do things nicely. When he needed something done, it usually involved dead bodies at his feet.

When he looked over at Charles, he saw the man was looking up at him, waiting to catch his attention, and then he smiled. "I don't recall any dead bodies when you put half of my school together in one day. There is so much more to you than you realize, Erik, if you just allow yourself to imagine that you could have... peace."

"Peace was never an option, Charles."

"What do you think you have here?"

He paused, looked down at Charles, and realized... he had a country, incomplete, still gestating, but a country nonetheless, one that was growing more secure and closer to its first election as a sovereign country for mutants, he had... Charles, he was unsure what Charles was to him and what he was to Charles, but he had never had someone he'd shared as much with, he even had arguments he enjoyed, and someone who thought him showing up with apples was incredible. It wasn't peace, but it was closer than he had been his entire life.

"Let me take you home before the children start to miss you."

Maybe it wasn't quite peace, but it actually looked a lot more like it than he'd ever felt before.

Chapter Text

.36.

Charles snogged Erik senseless in the elevator back up to his room, considered the wisdom of taking the extra two floors up to Erik's room and spending the night before abandoning the idea in favor of keeping up the current semi-secrecy of the relationship. He was not ashamed of Erik, however, the dynamics of the relationship were still too tentative for Charles to be comfortable putting words on it. People would think Charles was acting at Erik's sub, and while he had no trouble playing that part for the world, he wanted Erik to be sure in his own skin before he had to play that part to anyone.

He spent the rest of the evening with Amy going over an article she was set to review, talking her thoughts out with Charles. She already had a solid understanding, but Charles had almost a decade more academic experience and he was glad to soothe the jitters that were a natural part of the first few academic submissions a professor submitted.

The morning broke clear - like every other morning he'd spent on Genosha - and he didn't even debate with Alex and Raven the relative merits of them not eating apple pie for breakfast and just accepted their life decision while cooking up some scrambled eggs for himself, and absolutely not stealing a slice of pie for himself where the children couldn't see him being a horrible influence.

He headed down to the Parliament chamber early and settled in for a long day of debating the process by which new laws would come into being, and there would likely be a bit of a tussle over the unicameral versus bicameral legislature. Charles had decided to be firmly on the side of unicameralism, on the assumption that Genosha, as a state more Luxembourg-sized than the size of the United States, would have little fear of a geographic territory exhorting undue influence and there was no need for some sort of House of Lords with a current Genoshan aristocracy of one.

Charles made his normal morning rounds on days he wasn't late and said hello to some of the visiting reporters and bloggers, there wasn't enough time to do a proper interview, but he had all the usual sound bites for the day 'progressing well', 'commitment to equality at the foundation of the country' and so forth. He believed them all, and they weren't just buzzwords for him.

Emma floated in a bit after him and gave similar sound bites with more of a tone towards preserving Genosha's independence from outside intervention, which had proven so disastrous to mutants in the past.

And then... Celeste. Charles didn't make a point of reading minds, although he admitted he was a bit more liberal with his students who gave him permission, and Erik who seemed to have a much easier time expressing himself in thoughts than in words. Celeste, however, was radiating a certain vicious smugness that Charles found it good to be wary of. With a glance to Emma he was able to confirm that she, too, felt it, and it was making her similarly uncomfortable. Politics being what it was, he knew she could have almost anything up her sleeve and she was not particularly inclined towards him at the moment.

"Delegate Xavier?" Still smug and firm, and she was doing this in front of reporters and cameras. She wanted to embarrass him.

"Yes, Delegate Vandermeer?" His own tone was as even as he could manage under the circumstances.

"I heard the most fascinating rumor this morning, about you and His Majesty."

Emma's tension spiked instantly, and Charles didn't flatter himself enough to think that the beginning of panic stayed completely off his face. He groped around in his own mind wildly for some way to answer the incoming accusation. "Oh, it couldn't have been that fascinating, I'm sure."

"The two of you weren't at the Morlock's bar last night, throwing back drinks with dangerous mutants who want nothing more than the destruction of humankind. Not exactly the image you want the world to believe, is it, Delegate?"

Surprisingly enough that was less bad than the accusation that he and Erik were fucking, still, it wasn't the accusation that he'd intended to answer and his mind tried to shift gears, tried to remember why it was wrong of him to have spent the evening with a few mutants who were not so lucky to be shaped as attractively as he or Emma or Celeste.

Denials were always bad; he knew that as a student of the mind and psychology, so he couldn't deny it. He had to own it.

"Is there a particular reason I should be ashamed of that, Delegate Vandermeer?" Because he didn't feel ashamed, he had enjoyed the night, the discussion with Caliban, the time pouring through the man's mind, and even the time fighting with Erik on the way home. Maybe other people couldn't quite understand, and Charles knew that - intellectually - that people looked at Caliban and the men and women who spent time with him and saw deviant freaks, but Charles saw people; that was all he ever saw, happy people, people in pain, and people who wanted the same affection anyone else would want.

Celeste, however, seemed to think she had won. "Spending an evening drinking and carousing with the most vile and violent members of society? They are practically terrorists!"

He bristled, for a moment, but only for a moment, because although he could allow himself to be firm with Erik, to argue and push against Erik, to challenge him and allow himself to be challenged, he could not afford to be anything less than a gentleman to Celeste under the blare of the spotlight. If she was going to try to paint Caliban as a terrorist, then he would need to guard against that, not fight and argue the way he might have with Erik.

He realized, after a moment, that Celeste was addressing herself less to Charles and more to the cameras. Two could play at that game, and he took a moment to calm himself, nothing overt, no deep breaths or sighs or tense steeling of his spine and nerves, instead he smiled, just bright enough, and turned directly towards the nearest camera.

"The Morlock regiments served in the war next to every other mutant who fought in the battle to claim Genosha. If that makes them terrorists, then there are some in this very room."

Emma, at least, had more than served in the war along with Erik, a few other representatives that were closer to Emma's perspective were also war heroes of a sort. The children from the Institute had largely eschewed direct involvement in politics so he had none of his students in the room as representatives, but Erik's personal assistant, Angel, was there, and she had served alongside the men and women he'd shared drinks with.

"They don't know that the war is over, Xavier." Her tone was hard, but not frantic, but she obviously felt she wasn't making her point clearly enough if Charles wasn't flushed with embarrassment.

"Genosha has suffered terribly in the last weeks, two attacks have taken over fifty lives from citizens of Genosha who wanted nothing more than a safe haven and a home among people who accepted them. To equate veterans of the war for Genoshan independence to the terrorists who are claiming Genoshan lives is..." He paused, wondered if there was a good word that would still allow him a working relationship with Celeste. "In poor taste."

He heard Angel in the back of his mind; she was more than used to attempting to communicate with him mentally. "Oh snap!"

Charles barely resisted snorting.

"There are several delegates here, all of us working to shape a constitution to represent every person who wants to be a part of the country that we are forging in these chambers." Although his message was for Celeste, he was keen enough to political realities to address himself directly to the cameras. "We cannot each represent every voice of every mutant, that is why we have representatives from all across the political spectrum. I doubt the men and women of the Morlock regiment will ever consider me a candidate who serves their ideals to the fullest, but if they wish to have a drink with me, as a Delegate of their government, or as a fellow mutant, then I will tip my glass with them."

He felt... buzzed, and nervous. He was tentative with the idea of identifying - out loud - as a mutant. He was a mutant, obviously, and there was no one who followed politics in the US, in England, or in Genosha who did not know his status as a mutant, but he preferred to call himself human, to not close himself off from identifying as a headmaster, as a Dom, and as any other aspect of himself. But here, now, he needed to be a mutant, because... he hoped other people would see him and perhaps that meant more acceptance of someone who looked like Raven or Caliban because 'mutant' could mean so many things.

"Is there anything else, Delegate Vandermeer? I believe the Prime Minister had hoped we might get to business soon." Emma had thought no such thing, but he was going to take the opportunity to lean on her for this, because he wasn't certain he could continue the conversation without shaking, raising his voice, or both, and he wanted to do neither.

"Yes," Emma backed him up immediately. "If there is nothing else, I'm certain we should get down to work on the question of how to apportion legislative representation."

Charles slid into his chair, head held high, tapping a note to Alex to find out exactly how badly he had stepped in it according to the international and Genoshan media.

.37.

Erik spent his morning at the future grounds of the Institute, putting the finishing touches on the first 'wing' of the building. It would leave the Insitute only able to house about three hundred students, but that would be more than enough to take in the current children of Genosha and the students from the Xavier Academies in the US and in England. A secondary wing would be constructed in a few months, after any kinks in the older wing had been uncovered and addressed.

The work was less strenuous than what he had done while Charles was there with him, but he was slowly starting to find that place Charles had spoken of, between rage and serenity, where he could put all his focus into the urgency of his powers, but still find the peace and calm to hold onto the metal and the place it needed to be in his mind. It was satisfying, though, and he had a certain renewed perspective on it. It was a fight, a battle, and a struggle. Erik was helping to build the future of Genosha here on the ground.

Erik hoped he could find a way to apologize to Charles for making an ass of himself and calling Charles' work unimportant. That's what he'd done, and he could see that clearly in the light of day after he'd cooled off a bit.

He needed to make it up to Charles, somehow. He wasn't good with apologies, and he'd just used his apples card yesterday, so he wasn't sure what he could do on that front right now either.

Perhaps he could pioneer ground by just staying he was sorry, but that seemed difficult, even without Charles' ridiculously blue eyes looking up at him in hurt and happiness and lust all rolled together.

Erik was deep in introspection when Angel arrived - flying low. He was watching the workers do some of the work of putting up wooden walls and running electric and telecommunication and plumbing too detailed or intricate for Erik to do any faster than a professional. He gave the girl a wave and she landed, almost dainty.

"Prime Minster wants lunch with you," she said. It was almost amusing how little formality she had with him. "And, just so you know, Professor Xavier was badass today."

He snorted. "And what did the Delegate-Professor do today?" It wasn't that he doubted Charles could be impressive in his element, but he had a hard time believing that he would do anything that Angel - of all people - would categorize as 'badass'.

"Celeste Vandermeer was trying to get the Professor to admit that he'd spent an evening with 'terrorists' over at Morlock's last night, and he just..." She waved a hand and then passed over a computer. "Just watch it on YouTube."

Angel drove them back into the city while Erik watched Charles, completely calm, tell off Celeste, stand up for Caliban and the other Morlocks, and call himself a mutant. Erik had watched the video a half-dozen times by the time they wheeled up in front of the Parliament building, and Erik decided it was very likely that he loved Charles Xavier in that moment.

Thankfully, or unfortunately, Erik didn't run in to Charles on the way to Emma's office, but she caught the tone of his thoughts almost as soon as he'd walked through the door.

"I appreciate the sentiment, but you may need to tamp down on it for the moment."

Erik closed the door behind him and frowned, picking at the food Emma had gotten for them. "I don't understand."

"Angel told you about Xavier's little outburst this morning?"

Erik nodded. He didn't understand what Emma was getting at, but that little 'outburst' was the reason he was feeling particularly affectionate.

Emma sighed. "Someone saw you out last night, either one of the Morlocks or someone else, and they reported that information to Vandermeer specifically because they thought it would undermine Xavier. Xavier has staked out a relatively moderate position, with some elements of extremism that at least his students find compelling. If he loses credibility, we could lose many of his supporters to Vandermeer." She shook her head, stabbing a fork at a piece of fruit and eating it while she seemed to collect more thoughts. "Although I imagine his students aren't particularly pleased with Vandermeer at the moment. She did call mutants they fought with terrorists. But it is very important we do not allow Xavier's image to be compromised."

Slowly, finally, Erik realized exactly what Emma was getting at. He and Charles hadn't much discussed the dynamics of their relationship, but Erik had - perhaps presumptuously - assumed that Charles might sub for him, and anyone else who knew of the relationship would assume that as well. Even without that, any Delegate having a sexual relationship with the king would likely blow any appearance of impartiality.

He wondered how much of this had already crossed Charles' mind.

All of it, likely.

He set his head down in his hands. "Are you telling me not to see him, Ems?"

Emma was silent for a long time, too long, long enough that Erik was starting to worry that she would say yes, and he would need to defend the fact that he... that he cared too much about Charles to do that, even if the dynamics felt complicated and they hadn't discussed them. He wanted Charles, wanted him in a way he hadn't felt for anyone else ever before.

"Keep it private, and you follow his lead on this, Erik. He has a lot more to lose than you do. You're position is already secure, and it's part of the constitution and no one is going to take it out, but Xavier..." Emma looked him in the eyes, face fond, or as fond as she managed to be under most circumstances. "I don't want to ruin what good he can do for us, internationally and domestically."

"We're a long way from hoping he would just stand next to you and look pretty cutting the ribbon to his new Genoshan Institute," Erik noted, realizing that was exactly where they had been barely a month ago, if that.

Emma nodded, and it seemed to Erik that she was thinking back on those easier moments fondly. "We'll be finished with the constitution soon, have an election..." She shook her head.

The idea was overwhelming, how far they'd come in the last few months, and he got up to go stand by Emma's side, and then wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "We're... fighting the next stage of the fight for the future of all mutants. You more than me, but we are all fighting for that now."

Emma looked up at him and wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling him closer and pressing her forehead into his side. He put his hand on her head, and gently brushed her perfectly coiffed and styled hair. Hopefully he wouldn't mess it up too badly, but he wanted to... he didn't know. He realized that they hadn't had dinner in a few days, they hadn't spent an evening together talking and drinking and reminiscing about the past lately, and he just hadn't been there for her as much as he had been before Charles had arrived.

Part of that was a natural consequence of the assignment to keep Charles close, now largely moot, and part of it was the feelings that had been brewing for the telepath for some time before they had come to a head. He wondered if he could find her a sub.

She laughed. "Don't you start. I have a country to found, first."

"I won't think about it again," he promised, although he knew those sorts of promises were impossible to keep.

"Go on. I'm sure you have more to do today, but I think Charles wouldn't mind an easy evening, whatever that is."

Charles - through Alex - declined his dinner invitation, but offered up drinks in Erik's room after, which Erik accepted. He had no idea what drinks would entail, although he imagined they wouldn't be discussing politics. Charles would like to hear about the school, and... maybe have a martini... Charles liked martinis, he thought.

He tried to think of what might be best to offer Charles.

The raw passion and the fire that Charles had shown confronting Celeste had been incredible - and sexy - and Erik thought the man deserved credit for that. Even though he hadn't been able to express it, and he didn't think Caliban had left feeling particularly happy with Charles, yet somehow Charles had figured out enough to say the right thing.

Charles arrived earlier than Erik had expected, barely seven at night, and he didn't even pause to say hello before greeting Erik with a searing kiss and pressing them both into Erik's room. They didn't make it far, just inside the door, before Charles closed the door behind him and dragged Erik against him. They kissed like that, mouths and teeth and fierce aggression from Charles that Erik met and gave back as good as he got, pressing Charles hard against the door and licking along his throat.

Whatever fire was inside Charles that made him press Erik like this, he eventually quieted, slowed down to a slow burn of mouths and tongues dancing together slowly, and then, Charles maneuvered Erik until his back was against the door, got down on his knees, peeled Erik's trousers apart and then sucked him off, slow and expertly.

Erik came with his fingers through Charles' hair murmuring endearments that he didn't even know were in his vocabulary. He knew, even if Emma had demanded he give this up, that he couldn't have, not because of the sex, but the bone deep contentment he'd felt from the moment Charles had walked through the door.

.38.

Charles ran his hands through his hair, finally letting himself relax. He felt more in control now, and the tension that had been pooled in the back of his spine eased slightly. Erik helped him back to his feet, even though he could still feel that the man was boneless and relaxed himself, and Charles leaned in to kiss Erik's neck. "Thank you, Erik."

Erik snorted, and wrapped Charles tight in a hug. "Charles, I think you are the only man in the world who would greet someone with a blow job and then tell them thank you."

"Maybe," he mumbled into Erik's shoulder. "I still mean it."

He took stock of the room, looked around, saw that Erik had set up a chess table, and martinis; his mind was a bit too scattered for either that much alcohol or the concentration that would be required for chess. Charles settled for resting there, pressing Erik against the door and running his fingers down Erik's stomach, swirling lightly, and just breathing him in.

A few moment's later he felt Erik's hand creep down to his hip bone, seeking out his own erection, but he took Erik's hand and kept him from heading down that route. "I'm afraid I couldn't much enjoy that right now, Erik. I'm wound a bit too tight."

He could tell that Erik thought that was a fine time for a hand job or a blow job, and as nice as it would be to have Erik's mouth wrapped around him he couldn't let go at the moment without feeling like he would shake apart. Still, Erik didn't push the issue, and warm, firm hands on his back were more than acceptable.

"Celeste Vandermeer?"

As much as he didn't want to hear the name, he nodded, glad for the invitation to say what had been on his mind all day. He had considered confiding in Emma, she was more than aware of all of the pieces that were pulling at him right now, but to confide in Emma rather than Erik seemed like a violation of what he thought they were starting to build.

"Yes." He broke away from the hug far enough to start to drag Erik to the kitchen where he raided Erik's refrigerator and pulled out some papaya that would go very well with just a splash of rum. "I was concerned she was going to out our relationship."

Erik nodded. "Emma said... that you cannot afford to appear subly at the moment, and that there is too much riding on your political dominance."

That was part of it. They might be able to work something out, after the elections, but for right now his position as a Delegate was too new. He would be more than capable of teaching them how fierce and willing to fight he was, but at the moment he couldn't afford it. "Yes."

"But you're still here."

"Mmmm. Yes. I was under the impression we rather enjoyed each other's company." His mind screamed at him to say more, that he wanted to care for Erik, wanted to give him everything that he needed, wanted Erik to sub for him, but challenge him constantly. He wanted the two of them to fit.

He couldn’t, though. He’d talked dozens of subs through their own issues, talked to them about how subs could maintain their autonomy while still giving in to their desire to submit, but he couldn’t do that for Erik. If he pushed Erik that way, attempted to mold him into the sub he knew he needed, he would never forgive himself. There were many reasons he did not have relationships with his students, but the morality of shaping a sub’s sexuality and then using it was beyond unconscionable. If he did that, Erik couldn’t be the equal he needed.

Even through his own introspection, Charles could feel Erik was turning something over in his mind, something that was taking a great deal of his concentration. Charles could feel the way he was thinking and turning over his thoughts and there was a great deal of emotion to it as well.

"I want this to work," Erik finally blurted out.

Charles smiled, and dragged him in for a kiss. "I do, too. Erik. You are something I always knew I was missing, but wasn't sure I would find." He could have said more, could say that Erik completed him, and he hoped that he could be the same for Erik. That might have been too strong a declaration, though, for the moment.

What he’d said was more than enough for Erik.

Papaya slush made, he and Erik made their way over to the couch and he dragged the larger man over and got to work lightly massaging and rubbing Erik's back. He wasn't tense, was more relaxed than Charles had felt him in ages, and Charles thrived on that pleased and comfortable energy. "This can work. I promise you."

"Have you had relationships with other Doms before?"

Charles' hands froze over Erik's back for just a moment, as he considered the option to have this conversation with Erik right now. "No, I haven't. Sex, certainly, but not relationships."

"You're not actually a switch, are you?" Erik asked.

He was surprised at the accidental perception in Erik's question. He sometimes felt the need to be taken care of and the need to let go, but he always knew his mind and never wavered and could never truly give someone true submission, just a mockery of it. No matter what so many people believed, the desire to get fucked or the desire to go down on someone did not necessary equate to a desire to submit to them out of bed.

Erik was brilliant, and outside of the bedroom he needed only the faintest touches to keep him focused, if that, but he wasn't certain how well he would take the man attempting to Dom him outside of the bedroom.

He needed to answer Erik, though. "No." He reached and pulled Erik towards him and then kissed the man's forehead. "We will make this work, Erik."

Everything was so complicated, and he hesitated to dictate the rules they would need to follow, but...

"I know I said this cannot leave this room, but... someone saw us last night out with Caliban, someone could have seen us in the street and I should have been more thoughtful of that."

Erik nodded, accepted immediately.

"There must be no reason for anyone to think that I have been compromised, or my opinions and political goals are anyone’s but my own."

Erik nodded again, but this time he smiled. "I don't think anyone could think your opinions are anyone’s but your own, Charles."

"You would be surprised, Erik." He sighed, and thought about Celeste and how she somehow couldn't conceive of him having personal principles and opinions. "My children - and I hope the people who would consider themselves my constituency once we are campaigning - would hopefully not see it that way, but some may. Politics is about appearance, and today I lost a good deal of enthusiasm from a moderate constituency because of my defense of Caliban and the Morlocks."

He had - unintentionally, but perhaps unsurprisingly - poached much of the 'middle' out from between Celeste and Emma, however, the natural consequence of that was that when he swung too far towards one of the two poles, he shed enthusiasm from the other side, and Celeste had certainly picked up a few people who might have voted for Charles and his politics before yesterday. He certainly hadn't earned the affection of Caliban and his Morlocks from his words. Emma had them firmly in her own camp.

No, he had said it because it was the right thing to do, and it had lost him credibility, and if he was discovered to be with Erik people would assume he was subbing and that his politics were further compromised. He would lose the people who saw him as a mutant-focused, yet moderate position to Celeste and it would compromise the core of what Genosha stood for.

Erik might not be pleased with his willingness to call himself human, to deal with humans, and discuss the future with humans, but there were several who did, and Charles was going to make certain that they had a voice and were heard.

That was the problem with him, he supposed. He had never considered it a problem when he was an academy in his ivory tower, but it was coming back to bite him now that he had a political career. He did what he believed was right, and to a lesser extent he did what made him happy. He defended the Morlocks and their principles because it was the right thing to do, and he had start to fall for Erik...

He had started to develop very strong feelings for Erik because it was what he wanted to do. It was impossible to deny that he'd enjoyed his friendship with Erik from the moment they met, and it was hurdling towards something far more serious. Charles was thrilled and terrified in equal measure that he would be unable to be exactly what Erik needed, or would be unable to give Erik exactly what he needed. It was an awesome responsibility, and even though he took it on frequently with his students it was something else entirely to give to someone completely.

.39.

Erik finally ended up tangled on the couch, arms wrapped around Charles while they sprawled, Charles' back to his front, and the two of them ran their hands over each other. It was more relaxing than Erik would have expected, and Charles seemed content to just lay there and relax. He had little experience with relationships with subs (or anyone really), and knowing that Charles didn't truly identify as a switch made it even more complicated, but it seemed to fit, at least for now.

"I saw what you said today... it was all over the internet, and..." He didn't know if Charles wanted to rehash it, but it was important for him to say. "Thank you."

"Mutant and proud?" Charles rolled over and nuzzled into Erik's chest, the two of them cuddled like that instead.

"Yes," Erik answered. Charles said it with a bit of tongue in cheek flavor, but Erik agreed, yes. Mutant and proud.

"Caliban may not have appreciated my perspective, Erik, but I understand his righteous anger, yours as well, I just cannot feel it the way he, or you, or even Emma, or some of my students would like me to." Charles ran his hands up against Erik's chest, and he relaxed under Charles' touch. "I'm sorry."

It confused him so much, how Charles could feel, could sense what Erik felt, and yet not feel that same anger. Even the touch of the terrorist's mind that Charles had given him weeks ago couldn't quite make him understand it.

"He let me look into his memories and thoughts, and what he remembered was pain and abuse and horror. Sometimes we allow ourselves to forget what makes us happy." Charles kissed his neck, nuzzling there. "Rage and serenity, not just rage."

"And just forget what has been done by humans against us?" Erik tried to keep his voice light, but sometimes it was impossible when Charles was so placid and accepting of humans who wanted to kill them. "Whatever war we have with the humans it was a war they started by putting us in cages."

"Yes, mutants have been hurt by humans." Charles surprised him by agreeing. Erik waited for the 'but', but it didn't come.

It was a testament to how tired Charles was, then, that he wasn't prepared to have this discussion. Charles kissed Erik's neck and nuzzled there, boneless, and Erik let him get away with it because he was happy Charles had defended Caliban and the other mutants, even if he didn't agree.

Erik brushed Charles' hair out of his face and looked down at the man. He liked this, maybe even loved this, but it was hard for him to figure out how this was supposed to work between them. Charles had implied he didn't mind - liked? - submitting in bed, but he had known the man for weeks and he knew it wasn't something he did in his life. He was used to being in control. And when Erik had thought about what he wanted to do with Charles, his mind came up with obvious answers - sex, preferably with Erik on top - but when it came to the details of things that the occasional sub that Emma picked up for him had liked he found he couldn't think of anything that he wanted to do to Charles.

Charles didn't seem like the type to enjoy a whip, and even if he did Erik wasn't the sort to enjoy it, and even something simple like ordering Charles onto his knees wasn't quite as appealing as Charles just... doing it. Getting greeted with a blow job had been...

"Are you going to keep sitting around thinking about tying me up and spanking me where I can hear, or would you like to have a discussion?" Charles' voice sounded amused, not annoyed, and he punctuated the question by stretching out languidly and not unlike a cat.

Erik scratched a hand down Charles' back at the thought, and Charles laughed, obviously seeing the connection between thoughts and action.

"What do you like, Charles?" Because that was so much less complicated than what he liked.

"I like whatever you need." Charles didn't say much else and just took Erik's hand until he was dragging Erik back towards his bedroom. "And I look forward to finding out exactly what that is. Come and take me to bed."

Erik recognized, dimly, that what Charles had said was the sort of thing a Dom would say, but it was hard to think on it when Charles pulled him down on top and moaned so amazingly when Erik slid slicked fingers inside of him. It was even harder to think about when Charles growled for Erik to hurry up and fuck him and Erik thrust into Charles' welcoming heat.

Erik felt it when Charles started to touch at the edges of his mind, and though he didn't think his thoughts would be particularly impressive - mostly just a mix of wet, dirty, and possessive feelings - but then the ghost of Charles' own pleasure started to pound in the back of his mind and... oh...

He wasn't certain why anyone would have sex with anyone but a telepath.

Unfortunately, the thought stuck with him well passed morning and Emma picked up on it immediately when he walked in the next morning.

"So, did he blow your mind?" Her voice was wry and smug and very her, but her expression suddenly became much dirtier and knowing.

"Mein Gott." He raked his fingers through his hair, trying to get the thoughts that he was having out of his head. "Can you do that?"

"Very likely," she answered, and her lip was quirked up and she obviously found the whole thing hilariously funny. "Sit."

Erik slid into his seat and looked at her. Emma's face sobered.

"We'll be heading into the final stretch of the constitutional convention soon. We expect a general vote of all of-age mutants on the constitution in less than two weeks, and then after that..."

"Politicking?" Speeches, he imagined, Delegates wanting to become MPs, he hadn't read the constitution but he'd be surprised if there wouldn't be room for more politicians after they had transitioned from a constitutional convention to a parliament.

"And we'll need to be set up for further immigration, possibly. We've been loose with it, for obvious reasons, but we need a proper governmental office set up to handle the possibility that we may have hundreds of thousands of mutants who want to come here."

"That many?"

"Xavier has said as much to me in conversation. He has... a device one of his students, Hank, constructed that amplifies his reach exponentially. Apparently he's touched at least that many minds." Emma took a sip of juice. "And, as you can imagine, he hopes we can welcome them to Genosha if they would like to come."

"Hank again? You should marry him, Emma, he's brilliant." He closed his eyes, ignoring whatever look Emma would give him in response to his proclamation. "Do you think I should work more with the current immigration department? They have been working to integrate some of the information we have from Interpol, and we have the police to... create, at all. What form is that going to take?"

"We will need to do recruitment, probably from the military for the most part, draw up some more rules, regulations, fitness requirements. You can take care of that, right?"

It sounded wonderful. "Of course. Back to the good old days, recruiting and training mutants."

Emma leaned lightly against her fingers and smiled. "Yes, I think so."

The buzz of a new project was something he could feel in his chest, practically in his fingers. Long hours, hard work... less time with Charles... His thoughts soured slightly.

"Ems?" She was the only person in the world - other than Charles, and he thought he might be avoiding having this conversation with Charles - who he could talk about this with.

She looked up from her desk, and he could see her sigh, but even though she was obviously exasperated, she arched her eyebrow in the textbook way that said she knew what was coming and he was allowed to ask.

"Did you and Sebastian...?"

Apparently the start of the question wasn't what she'd expected at all, and her face hardened instantly. "Erik... I know you, I know what's on your mind, and it's nothing that has anything to do with Sebastian and myself."

It had everything to do with that, though. Sebastian was a Dom, Emma a Dom, and the two of them obviously had... something. Erik didn't know what, and he didn't often think about it. Sebastian had been like a father to him and Emma like a sister and that had a whole pile of thoughts in it with family members you didn't want to think about the particulars of, but Sebastian hadn't been like a father to Emma.

They didn't talk about it often. The two of them had killed the man who had freed them and gave them a purpose, given them Genosha as a dream, set them on a path that they walked that had ended up with them as King and Prime Minster; they had killed him. He wondered if that was simply the way that it was always going to be, if that was why two Doms didn't often get together for anything but sex.

Would he and Charles eventually fight and have to break, because one of them couldn't bend?

He didn't want that.

"Erik... you are still learning..." She paused, a very long pause. "You are still figuring out how you interact with Charles, your dynamics, and I recommend you take some time with it. This is the first time you've cared enough to try something for longer than a night or two, and it is something that will take time."

He didn't ask how she knew he was blindingly new to this, but she was right; he and Charles had time.

.40.

Just when Charles was starting to get used to the absolute chaos of being a representative in a constitutional convention, it was over. It had taken five weeks since he'd been on the committee, and about two and a half months before. Charles didn't flatter himself to think he'd managed to bring order out of the chaos, much of it had been worked out before he arrived, but a few of those key, touchstone issues had finally been worked out to the satisfaction of most involved.

Sadly the constitution would only be eligible for a vote by any adult mutants, which left Amy and Chris out of the voting process, however the constitution itself had the right of the human vote enshrined in it and Charles understood the symbolic importance of allowing mutants to vote to allow humans on their island.

It was a simple up-down vote, and as was typical of politics he, Amy, Raven, and the Summers family (Darwin included), dressed up and headed to the polls. There was a polling station in the parliament building itself and he joined Emma, Erik, Celeste, and a few other members of the committee to cast 'secret' ballots and wave for the cameras.

Everyone looked dashing, Emma in her brilliant white outfits, and Charles in a far more tailored suit - probably conspicuously Genoshan - and Erik... Erik had taken a break both from his exquisite grey or white suits and his eyesore of a magenta cape, and somehow managed to marry the two without as much fuss as he would have though. He thought maybe it was that he just liked Erik in anything, or not in anything, or anything in between. He nipped the train of thought mostly in the bud and returned to making his circuit through reporters and potential political allies.

Amy and Chris even managed to say something brilliant to the reporters about the importance of self-determination of mutants and he found he wanted to kiss them both, possibly at the same time. He expected that would be distressing to almost everyone involved, including the Summers boys, and Erik, who was still floating around somewhere at the edge of his vision. Their eyes never quite managing to find each other, partially by Charles' design and partially because Charles found himself very busy explaining some of the particulars to one of the bloggers who had not bothered to sit through almost four months of deliberations.

Charles was reminded unfavorably of certain students who waited until the last minute and then asked the professor questions like 'so if I were writing a paper on the importance of transcription errors in the mutation process, where would I look for books and could you maybe give me some papers on the topic?' Still, he had a smile on his face the whole time.

And at midnight the - relatively unsurprising - result of the vote was unveiled and... he wasn't Delegate Charles F. Xavier anymore, he was Candidate Charles F. Xavier, of the... well he was certain they could come up with a party name by the next day...

He got just a touch tipsy and danced with everyone - Celeste Vandermeer, Emma, and Erik included - before he and the rest of his little party core retired to his room to plan strategy. Strategy was always best while slightly tipsy. Either that or Charles was mostly relying on the foresight he'd had to already have his party platform outlined even if he didn't actually have a party name.

Recommendations ranged from 'Xavierites' - from Alex - to 'Awesometacular' - from Raven - and even mildly intoxicated Charles made a mental note to never allow Raven to name anything.

In the end, they settled on the Unification Party and everyone agreed that was at least acceptable and Alex sent out the early morning press release and they all slept the sound sleep of the vaguely youthful and their wild dreams.

He awoke to thoughts far more complicated and convoluted than the pleasantness of last night, and largely those thoughts were of Erik. Between the renewed pace of the committee, and Erik's sudden surge in activity on the front of organizing a domestic police force to compliment the international military and the immigration offices, they had seen each other infrequently, a dinner here and there, and a few hours in bed, and very little on the core topic of conversation in Erik's mind - how would two Doms form a relationship - and the complimentary topic on Charles' mind - how to broach the possibility of Erik learning to acknowledge his own submission.

Charles didn't particularly fancy the conversation, not while he was constantly negotiating every minutia of a new government. A new relationship, sadly, had to take a secondary place, and Erik had almost a lifetime of experience taking care of himself. It was one of the things about Erik that Charles lo-- admired.

Loved.

He groaned and rolled out of bed.

It had gone on for too long, really. He was used to... cultural depictions of subs that told them to wait breathlessly for a declaration from their Dom, to leave hints on how to ask for a commitment or a collar, and Erik wasn't anything like that and yet he was so tentative about their relationship. He knew what he wanted - mostly - sexually, but emotionally he could feel Erik grasping at straws whenever they were in the same room.

He loved Erik, and even though Erik was giving him very little that resembled submission Charles still found he still wanted him.

He went to the bathroom, scrubbed his teeth, and then reached out his mind to find Erik. He was in his room doing calisthenics. Charles had to wonder if he would ever not keep himself in incredible shape. Charles had spent the last two months on Genosha not training with mutants and not being in shape.

"Erik?"

The man almost stumbled over his own feet, and Charles stifled a laugh, which probably would have gone through the mental connection they were currently holding.

"Yes?" Erik's voice held a touch of sleep and nerves and the question of why Charles was contacting him mentally, like this, rather than coming up two floors to see him face to face.

"I’m coming up to see you."

It didn’t take long to pull on pants and a shirt, to push through his living room unnoticed and take the stairs two at a time before he knocked on Erik’s door and was let in. Erik was standing there, dressed in a sweatshirt and sweatpants, looking flushed and beautiful.

Charles took a long, deep breath, standing there, rather unromantically. "I'm sorry we'll not get to see each other much before the election, so... I hope you will settle for a declaration of love and affection in the meantime." He took a deep breath, even though there was no need. "I love you, Erik, and this is going to work, all of it, you, me, Genosha, Parliament, the school, and everything else."

He felt a good deal better.

Erik just stood there. A bit frozen, and Charles was glad he could actually feel some of the emotion in Erik's mind, because otherwise the dazed and slack jawed look would have been disconcerting. "Oh." The word echoed around the room.

Charles smiled, very fond. "Please take care of yourself until we can see each other again properly."

"Yes. You too," Erik mumbled, and then Charles watched him shake his head, trying to clear it. "I mean... I love you, too." He could feel Erik's heart racing, in time with his own, all nerves and awkwardness and an acute fear that this wasn't going to work.

He was a bit of an old hand at soothing fear, at least, even in Erik's mind, and he reached out, ran his fingers through Erik’s sweat-soaked hair. "Brilliant. Very brilliant. I'm certain we can manage a dinner this week, and if I can get away from the children it will be sooner rather than later."

Erik was grinning, all smiled. "Work does come first, Charles."

Work and the children... He had a great many people who relied on him and he could hardly abandon them to go swanning off with someone just because he loved them. They would get this sorted, he and Erik would have a tough time of it, he knew, but it was more than worth it for the man.

"You are extraordinary, darling."

Erik didn't even protest the appellation, and didn't even think to, and that made Charles feel giddy and warm.

.41.

Erik was giddy for most of the day, although he would have denied it if anyone but Charles or Emma had asked. Maybe he still would have denied it if Charles or Emma asked. He just wasn't certain what to do with Charles' confession, and his own. Love. Charles' words had been confident and assured and Erik couldn't help but allow himself to believe, just a little bit, that this would work out alright.

Even though the new day had dawned and they were now officially a country with a proper constitution, there was still so much work to be done. It might not have been fitting for a king to 'stoop' to doing such detailed work as assembling a properly trained police force or helping to build a new center for learning, but Erik found the work tremendously soothing and helpful to keep him calm knowing that he and Charles had to keep their distance.

After breakfast, Erik took Angel with him and he began to work out the details of the police force with Azazel. As they were still a small country, he'd decided that the police force should cover most domestic interests, with further foreign interests to follow, and there was no one he wanted in either position more than Azazel. When the dust finally settled and the police force was working, then he would steal Azazel again for watching the skies, metaphorically speaking, for trouble from without.

"Are we done with the ICPO database integration?" Erik asked.

Azazel nodded. "You still have not explained to me how we got this data. We are not members of the ICPO."

Erik shrugged. "Politics, that's apparently what I do."

"And the facial recognition software?"

"Also politics." That set of politics had been far more pleasant, and had mostly involved Charles giving him exactly what he needed to clean up the mess that he had made in the wake of the second terrorist attack. "There's the whole matter of voter registration, still, and some sort of citizenship licensure. But sub and human are protected statuses outside of the immigration requirements placed on humans."

"Yes, Prime Minster Frost informed me of this, no discrimination. To be honest, I am more worried about out of control mutants than humans once we are more settled. I think we both know that being a mutant does not require one to be law abiding."

Erik leaned back in his chair and snorted. "I'm more than aware, still, that's why you have a police force that contains mutants."

Azazel growled slightly at that, while Angel brought all of them a pot of coffee, clearly unimpressed by dominance display, she even flicked her wings at him in a distinctly 'don't bother me' sort of way that made Erik grin.

"What we need," Azazel said, pouring the three of them coffee, "is more telepaths, maybe a telekinetic. Our telepaths are politicians." He spit out the word like it was a very dirty curse, and Erik couldn't help but grin.

He knew the newly minted police chief had mostly nice things to say about Emma, however he didn't know Charles much at all - outside of his affection for apples and pizza - so Erik could forgive him not being particularly generous towards two individuals with such a talented mutation doing something so un-useful with the talent.

"We'll have some sort of recruitment drive." Erik shrugged. "I have no idea how frequent telepathy is as a mutant trait." Certainly he'd met thousands of mutants in his lifetime and he only knew of Emma and Charles who had the level of telepathy that would have been useful in the crime fighting setting.

"Well, Jean, of course, she's running the Xavier School in Westchester with Ororo. The Doms who didn’t want to move to England a year ago stayed there to leave a US presence," Angel said, pouring a bit of cream into her coffee and sipping it. "Scott would like to have her back. Betsy, of course, just set Charles' baby blues on her and she'd come..."

Erik decided that under absolutely no circumstances would this 'Betsy' be anywhere near Genosha. Ever.

"Does Xavier usually flirt his way into the good graces of mutants?" Erik asked, trying to suppress a growl.

Angel shrugged. "I mean he... he's flirty, sure, but I've never known him to flirt with intent."

Erik wasn't entirely certain how the conversation had turned into something about Charles' - and by association, Erik's - personal life, but he was not going to say anything on the subject, and just listened while trying not to stare horribly. His brain caught up to him a moment later, however.

"So Scott and Jean are both Doms?" Erik found himself boggling at that revelation.

Angel actually waggled her eyebrows at him. "I know, kinky, right?"

Azazel, however, blanched. "How does that even work? You cannot tie them up, or..." He made a gesture that Erik interpreted to indicate spanking, or possibly something even kinkier that he didn't want to think about in conjunction with Azazel and Janos.

And suddenly Erik was feeling fantastic, better than fantastic, because even though he didn't know Jean at all, and he didn't know Scott as well as he would, apparently they were both Doms and had something. Angel, who knew them both, had an immediate reaction that they would be happy to see each other.

Angel, however, was now shaking her head and looking at Azazel like he was an idiot. "I mean, one, Scott told me that sex with a telepath is like... yeah."

The two of them looked at Erik, eyeing him speculatively. "What?"

"You and Emma..."

He was almost relieved that was where Azazel's thoughts had gone, and it meant he could more easily screw up his face into the appropriate disgust. "You do know that we've known each other since before puberty, right?"

"But you get to see her develop--" Azazel made a gesture for breasts.

Erik had thought the conversation couldn't possibly get more disturbing, but then suddenly it had. "I hope you are prepared for the consequences when the Prime Minster reads that from my mind the next time we have a meeting, Azazel."

He waved off the concern. "Nothing she doesn't know I've already thought."

Sadly the prurient turn of conversation meant the question that Erik was more interested in - but afraid to ask - went unanswered, and the question of how two Doms might actually have a relationship would have to wait. Still, that meant Charles knew it could work, and his confidence seemed less like his usual idealism.

They returned to work, instead, hashing out the last of the details on the police charter and how they would assure that any officers who were mutants were trained in the use of their powers and unlikely to be intentionally dangerous, psychological profiling, and then, of course, the question that always seemed to show up when talking about having someone in a position of authority.

"Subs?" Azazel asked.

Erik found his resolve falter for just a moment. Subs were... weak. He knew Charles didn't believe that, but that didn't change biological facts, they tended to be smaller, less muscled, weak, and with a poor mental constitution for violence. Still, it was... well it was the law, now. "Orientation is a protected class, so it can't be asked for employment purposes."

Azazel sighed. "They're completely unsuitable."

Angel frowned, and Erik was surprised to see the set of her mouth get very hard. "You know a lot of subs wanted to join up with Magneto, and some did. You just assumed they were Doms, and they never said. And even some who didn't join would have been more than suitable. Alex would be a great as a cop or in an army."

"Alex? Summers?" Charles' personal assistant was never mousey, never demure, and Erik had fought with him on more than one occasion - usually philosophy, late at night, in Charles' apartments - and he more than held his own, never caving on his beliefs.

"I mean I guess if you don't know him well you might think it, but you see him with Darwin, the two of them fighting back-to-back, and it's obvious they're better together." Angel stood, and gave the two of them a goodbye wave with her wings, more just a casual dismissal of them.

Erik could have gotten mad, but it didn't seem worth the effort. He was beginning to realize that Charles had instilled a particularly firm way of thinking in his students, one that said subs were equal.

Azazel looked at Erik and then shrugged. "Am I the only one who thinks that school must be kinky as hell?"

The only reasonable response to that was for Erik to glower at the furred mutant, but secretly he had to agree. He might have been a novice in anything beyond the sexual, but he was horribly confused by the revelation that Charles was already aware of another Dom/Dom relationship, and that Alex - who he had thought of was a Dom - was a sub.

He couldn't say that Angel's outburst had changed Azazel's mind, or Erik's, completely but the case was starting to feel a bit stronger. Perhaps there was a bit of something to Charles’ perspective if some subs were people like Alex.

"If they can't function independently, Dom or sub, you don't want them anyway," Erik finally pointed out, which helped hide some of his confusion.

Azazel agreed with that, at least, and Erik decided that would be the end of it.

After he talked to Alex.

.42.

Charles found himself immediately doing far more than he had ever expected to be when it came to building a nation. The skeleton was built, and accepted, ratified, and now all that remained was... everything else.

The Unification Party was in full swing, it seemed, and he wasn't certain why it had seemed like a good idea to have Moira come the day after the constitutional vote, but she, Hank, Sean, and the entire rest of the Academy had arrived late in the morning, and Charles had sent Scott to bring them and since it would have been the height of impropriety to plan his Parliamentary campaign at the Xavier Institute he had rented a storefront by the beach for planning.

This, of course, meant that three-quarters of the students wanted to go to the beach rather than have anything to do with a Parliamentary campaign, and Charles was actually only too glad to have his mind clear. Moira hugged him the minute she saw him and Charles ran his fingers down her back. "Well, hello there, love. Been busy?"

He accepted the well-deserved pinch to the side, not nearly as hard as she could have, but enough to make the point.

"We'll have the American branch in here in a few days and you will have a few more professors to assist, at least, and Amy now, of course." Amy was currently chaperoning the 'everyone run around on the beach' excursion.

"And you? MP? What a betrayal of your education and breeding!" There was no fire to it, and it was just a rehashing of an argument they'd had long before he'd left for Genosha.

He squeezed her again, before he let her go and then ushered everyone into their seats. Alex he sent off for food, Scott was there, and even more of his students.

"I want to be very clear. This is not about my position as your professor, and moving forward the school, and my activities - hopefully - as a Member of Parliament, will, by necessity, be more separate from my former position as Headmaster." He looked across the table at everyone there, and even though he hadn't asked for specific confirmation, many of them answered with nods. "Enshrined in the Genoshan constitution, there is protection for the rights and position of submissives, and that orientation is something that is required remain a private matter if someone so chooses, and that is a key position that I will continue to defend. Submissives are their own people, with their own minds."

Charles felt relaxed now, at ease. "And it is not my concern, or Moira's, or anyone else's if you choose to vote for an MP from a different party, or even choose to run for Parliament under one of their platforms. I actually have all four of the operant platforms here." He passed them around, Hank looking at them first, carefully examining one, before passing it along and moving to the next.

He sat down again, head tilting towards Moira to discuss with her.

"Any takers from the Genoshans?" She asked.

Charles shook his head. "It's barely been ten hours since we've all released our platforms. Emma and Celeste have the advantage on that front. Their constituencies and their MP candidates were already selected by the Constitutional Committee. Myself and a gentleman by the name of Tate are the only ones who will be forming newer constituencies, and he wasn't on the committee at all. His platform is -- radically pro-human, even by Celeste and my standards."

"Is that good?" Moira asked.

"Perhaps, it means if he gains any seats that pro-Integrationalist items, like joining with the UN or Interpol will be smoothed by having a radical voice along those lines, but Erik believes - and I must agree - that too radical a pro-human sentiment may threaten to overwhelm what Genosha should be at its heart."

Moira's response was politely mixed, her face was passive but the phrase 'Erik believes - and I agree' had certainly raised her hackles. "A few months ago there were rumors he might try to launch a war, Charles."

"No one would stand for it, Moira, not now and hopefully not ever." There were raw feelings, certainly, and a desire for revenge against government programs, however, but Charles liked to believe that they would resolve those issues diplomatically.

Erik hadn't threatened horrible doom against a government in at least two weeks within Charles' range of hearing. It was a comfort.

"I hope you're right, Charles."

Sean had been listening in, of course, and he frowned slightly. "Charles is usually right about people's intentions." Moira seemed conflicted by the proclamation, but eventually wrapped her arm around Sean and kissed his forehead.

Charles left the two of them alone, left all of the students and teachers who had remained in his campaign headquarters alone, actually, and walked outside. He leaned, with his back against the side of the building, cool metal soothing at his back. He wondered if that was some new mental quirk because of Erik. He'd never thought of the press of metal as anything but cold and unfeeling before coming to Genosha.

He looked out at the beach, feeling the edges of consciousnesses that he hadn't felt in months - his students - he'd missed all of them.

The peace was interrupted by a spike of nervousness from someone nearby. Normally he wouldn't have pried, but the latest attacks meant he stayed alert to potential threats, but the nerves were only from Marrow. Which actually surprised him, not that she was nervous, but that she'd voluntarily taken the few mile trek to the beach from the Morlock bar.

"Marrow, hello, love."

She smiled at him, shy, actually, which was an not an unusual reaction for Charles to elicit - if he was being immodest - but it wasn't backed by the same flirtatiousness that the look usually came with.

"I read your platform."

He patted the side of the wall next to him and she tentatively joined him, her awkwardness more from the bone spikes that came out of her back than anything mental, she ground into the wall slightly.

"Did you mean what you said? When you defended us?"

Charles nodded. "I do. You are a veteran of a war that I did not serve in, and that I allowed children under my protection to serve in, and that is something honorable."

"I remember your kids, they were all... ballsy, fought for what they believed was right."

He was proud of that. The war to free Genosha... Charles was beginning to come around to its necessity. Even had he been at liberty to go he wouldn't have gone at the time, but he was more than willing to see that Genosha was turning into something beautiful, somewhere for mutants, and humans.

"That's what I taught them. Even if they do not agree with my ideals, they fight for their own."

Marrow seemed to be considering what he'd said, and Charles respected her right to mull over her thoughts in her own mind, unhurried by him. He should have brought his hat, and he wondered where Alex had gotten off to. Picking out food shouldn't have taken nearly so long.

"I've done things... that I am proud of," Marrow started, and Charles nodded even though the phrase wasn't typical. Usually people confessed to things that they were not proud of. "I hate humans for hating us, but hating them and killing them... hasn't made peace."

"No, it hasn't." Charles felt something quite a bit like hope in his chest. "Do you still hate humans?"

"Somedays." She cracked her knuckles, which looked vicious and wicked, and Charles had to wince. "But then you said that Genosha was for humans as well as mutants it made me remember... not all humans are sinners and not all mutants are saints."

"We're all..." Human was what he would usually have said. "People."

"I want to run on your platform."

Charles considered himself generally unflappable, and hard to surprise, but the declaration surprised him completely and totally. "Are you sure?" He'd largely assumed the Morlocks would go to Emma and he had considered them... a loss, in the political sense.

"Yes."

"General non-intervention, membership in the UN, human-rights, diplomatic resolution to outstanding extraterritorial mutant prisoners?" It wasn't that he didn't believe her, but he had a hard time reconciling the position with that of Caliban. And, of course, she wasn't Caliban, but...

"Of course. I did say I read your platform." He was glad she wasn't offended.

"Well then, welcome aboard, Marrow."

"Sarah."

It made him... not uncomfortable, but he thought about the idea of Erik giving up 'Magneto', and he knew that was just not something he could do at this point, dividing 'Erik' from 'Magneto'. "You do not need to give up what marks you as mutant, Sarah."

She smiled at him, pink and toothy and spiny. "Sarah Marrow, then."

"Come on in, then, we're talking strategy and my assistant Alex will be back at some point with food."

They walked inside, and Charles felt... strange, actually. He spent his whole life wrapped up in other people's minds, seeing what could be the best parts of them, and knowing that, for the most part, they would deny those pieces, ignore those pieces, and not be everything he hoped they could be. It was a pleasant - if rare - surprise when his optimism was proven right.

.43.

Erik's own mind was slightly scattered as he tried to figure out what was bothering him. Alex was a sub. He knew that there was no reason he should even care, and it wasn't really his business. He had rarely met someone so stubborn and someone so dedicated to his own view, so the conflict in his mind seemed to be centered around how to interact with the man.

He knew subs had a harder time knowing their own mind, so surely he shouldn't be so argumentative with him in the future. It wasn’t fair to him. Maybe his confusion was that Alex kept himself fit and muscled with a tight cropped and hard haircut. It was a very Domly look.

Azazel wasn't really finished with him for the day, but Erik wanted to get away from Azazel, clear his mind, and get something to eat. He could finish up the afternoon going over the more technical aspects of the new database with Angel. He found the girl, annoyed, leaning against the wall of the new police precinct.

"I think Azazel is just old fashioned," he said, by way of an explanation, not sure why he was making excuses. He should make it clear that he expected an apology from Azazel or something. Angel was his assistant and she was fantastic at her job.

"I've noticed." She flicked her wings, annoyed.

"Would you... like an apology?" His own thoughts on subs were hardly complimentary, but at least Charles had gotten him to stop voicing them even if he still sometimes had a flicker of a thought.

Angel looked up at him, and then shrugged. "Not from you, and you can't order him to change his mind." She got up, mostly by fluttering her wings to push her off the wall. "Sometimes I forget that there's a lot of that going around, and Charles doesn't really stand for it, but he's only one guy."

There had to be something comforting he could say, but it seemed to escape him at the moment.

The girl mostly ignored him as he pondered, her phone beeped. "Emma says... she doesn't need you for anything today, except maybe dinner."

"Busy recruiting potential candidates, I'd say." Angel nodded at his assessment. "I'm probably not supposed to show favoritism."

"The whole point of a monarch is they're supposed to be above politics. You get to go to state dinners and wave that fake little wave." Angel demonstrated something that reminded Erik uncomfortably of a Disney princess. "And then you laugh at some Dom's jokes and step on some sub's foot. Then you get some cute little sub - or a girl on the side, and then you have heirs and stuff while the paparazzi try to decide if the girl looks pregnant or not yet."

Erik felt vaguely nauseous at the thought. "Do you think it's too late to give the crown back?"

She laughed, and then he laughed. "Waaay too late, Your Majesty, sorry."

"No you're not."

"No, I'm not. Being your assistant is good, actually, read gossip magazines, keep track of where you are most of the time, schedule your public appearances..."

"I'm out in public all the time," he shot back. He was outside most of the day for the last month, even.

"Public, appearances, like you'll have to do with Emma and Charles and Celeste and Tate with the little wave."

Erik decided he hated public appearances. "Well, I'm going to go make a public appearance in some sort of sandwich shop, now, and I'll be at the Archives afterwards. Do you want something?"

She shook her head. "Nah, I'll get my own."

Angel fluttered off and away, and Erik started to realize that perhaps the personal assistant of the monarch shouldn't say 'nah' to him, but it seemed unnecessary to stand on the formality, they'd served in the military together for far too long for him to care as long as they followed orders in the heat of battle. He headed towards the beach, mind stretched out and feeling the metal of a few buildings around him, feeling fairly peaceful for the moment. Then the Alex question resurfaced and made him frown.

He ducked into a sandwich shop near the beach, where he saw no one other than Alex Summers, standing in line looking at a notepad and scribbling on it as he stood at the end of the line.

"Summers," Erik greeted him.

Alex jumped. "Um, hey... I mean... uh, good morning, Your Majesty."

Erik nodded, and the rest of the shop - not particularly overflowing with people - turned to look at him for a few moments. It wasn't unusual for Erik to be out and around, maybe monarchs should be dignified and not have take out sandwiches for lunch, but he was hardly a man who'd been raised for the position and he was going to eat a damn sandwich if he wanted to.

Most everyone else took it for what it was, Erik had been to the shop a few times before so he was hardly an unusual occurrence, but Alex was frequently a bit nervous around Erik. He watched the young man and looked for some sort of hint that he might have missed that Alex was a sub. He didn't look like a sub. There wasn't one look for subs, though, but he was fit and a bit rough looking, which wasn't what he expected. He was sometimes nervous - usually around Erik - but he was confident usually.

"Would you like to go ahead of me?" Alex offered. "I'm ordering for fifty plus."

Erik considered, headed up to the counter and ordered a spiced chicken sandwich and leaned up against the counter as it was being prepared. "Charles has you picking up food for the party meeting?"

Alex nodded. "Moira and the rest of the students came in today, well the UK ones, US will be next week, planning, recruiting,... that sort of thing."

Erik had known that was coming soon, but he hadn't been keeping track of it. "Big day."

Alex shifted from foot to foot, but he nodded again, meeting Erik's eyes and looking particularly serious. "Charles and the rest of us have a lot of work ahead of us."

Suddenly, Erik thought that maybe that could be an opening. "Does Darwin mind?"

The response from the younger boy was strange, a bit of a frown and a tilt of the head, like he couldn't quite figure out how he was supposed to answer the question. "Not really. All the students are sort of used to Charles Domming us now and again."

Erik had started to unwrap his sandwich, and then his fingers paused. "All of you?" He hadn't meant to say it so choked and strangled, but the idea of Charles... with his students. It sparked a few particularly unfavorable emotions in Erik.

"Oh... um... no, ew. Not that Charles isn't..." He stopped. "There's no good way to finish that sentence. No, he just... you know, with training powers, helps you find your focus, talks you through it, and knows what you need to find the right balance, so it's easy to want to defer to him."

Erik took a deep breath, his mind trying to calm down. It was nothing sexual, just Charles’ typical presence that was calming. Of course, Charles was an excellent teacher. "That's not really... Domming."

Alex arched an eyebrow and Erik had enough younger soldiers in his army that he recognized it for what it was: 'whatever you say, Erik'. He frowned at the side of Alex's head when the man started to rattle off his order for the cashier.

The young man clearly thought whatever Charles did was Domming, but Erik had a hard time seeing it that way. Certainly he was commanding, Erik had noticed that as soon as the shock of Charles' more friendly and affable exterior had given way to a shrewd bargainer. It wasn't barking orders, though, not the way he saw Azazel with Janos from time to time, it was a very soft touch, and certainly something Erik hadn't found himself uncomfortable with. Charles obviously knew how to work with Doms in a way that didn't raise Erik's hackles.

When Alex had finished with the order, Erik invited the an over to a table to wait, and Alex sat there, still obviously nervous, even though he was more than comfortable with fighting over philosophy in the privacy of Charles' room.

"I can't say I'm used to thinking of what Charles does as anything to do with dominance."

Alex blinked, and then shifted, looked out the window and then looked at his hands. "Charles is way better at explaining this."

Erik just nodded something he hoped was encouragement, and not intimidating, although Alex did look intimidated, or at least nervous.

"Charles just... there's plenty of ways to be dominant. Charles' style is just a lot more..." Alex trailed off, and then flushed. "Tender."

There was nothing he could say that would make sense to him in that moment, certainly Charles was sweet, and particularly giving, but to call that... dominance. "Like Darwin?"

The slight flush on Alex's face transformed into something bright red and awkward. "Thanks," Alex mumbled. "Because thinking about how my Dom is like my old professor isn't weird at all. That's only slightly better than him being like my dad or something."

Alex prodded his fingers against the table. "Just... read some of Charles' work, he goes into all sorts of stuff like different types of dominance and submission. He's good at helping you understand what sort of Dom or sub might be the best for someone because you can talk about styles and... Yeah, just read that."

And then Alex got up, and fled, the awkwardness of his demeanor completely gone after he was out from under Erik's gaze, calm, confident, and sure of himself. Erik suddenly realized that the reason he'd been so confused by the idea of Alex being a sub was because he reminded Erik a bit of himself.

And Darwin apparently reminded Alex of Charles...

Shit.

Chapter Text

.44.

Charles was back inside, he'd brought Marrow in with him, and after a few introductions - largely to introduce her to the newer students who had just arrived - they had gotten down to business. Marrow knew Scott well enough, they'd been part of the off war effort together, and then they were planning their attack, the way they would present themselves and argue their politics to the people of Genosha.

Alex returned a few minutes later, depositing sandwiches and looking harrowed. Charles looked around and saw that Darwin had taken off to the beach, so he pulled the boy aside.

"Everything alright?"

"You try having the King grill you on your... whatever." He crossed his arms in front of his chest, obviously not feeling well.

Charles wheeled him over to the side and rubbed on his shoulders, sat him down. He wasn't certain what to make of the declaration or what Alex's 'whatever', was, but it had obviously shaken the boy up. "What did Erik ask you about?"

"Me and Darwin."

It took a moment, but Charles realized exactly what Alex might have been taking about, although he wondered what had gotten it into Erik's head to ask in the first place. "He asked you about being a sub?"

"Yeah and... a bit about how Darwin doms with me, and... then he said you were like Darwin which, no offense, eww."

Charles smiled. "No offense taken."

"He's just..." Alex leaned forward and lowered his voice, but he didn't even need to open his mouth for Charles to know what he was about to say. "He's like me, right? And he doesn't realize it."

Most subs wouldn't think twice at the way Erik acted, but Alex had had the fortune - or misfortune - to see Erik in a few of his wilder moments, when he was acting on instinct rather than thinking, when he was being aggressive and firm in a way that was more destructive, rather than the way he managed to channel himself more productively. Alex probably recognized it all too well, because he'd been exactly like that before he'd come to school.

"I think we should keep any speculation about His Majesty's orientation to an absolute minimum, Alex." The way he said it held a definite spark of demand and an order, even if his tone was as light as always. "I assume Darwin has already noted the similarities as well?"

Alex nodded, miserable.

"Is that why you've been so awkward with him?"

"When I thought I was in control I was dangerous, Charles. I just see... things burning to the ground and people getting hurt." Alex rubbed his own knees, and Charles pressed a hand to his back, patting as soothingly as he could manage while his own mind was starting to worry.

He knew he should have had this conversation with Erik sooner, but there hadn't been time and he'd felt as though the relationship was far too new to worry about how dynamics would enter into it anyway, and never mind how wrong it would have been for him to enforce an idea on Erik like that. Orientation was a personal thing.

"Take it easy, no harm done. Erik's gone quite a few years managing himself, his anger, he lead a whole army, so I think it's not something we should worry ourselves with for now, yes?" Charles pressed his hand to the side of Alex's head and brought the boy's head to his shoulder.

"Alright."

"Go and have a sandwich, Alex. We have a lot of work to do."

Charles picked up a sandwich at random before he headed to the window of the building and pressed a finger to his temple, searching out Erik in the thrum of the crowd. "Erik?"

The response was immediate and final. "Stay out of my head, Charles."

Erik was confused and angry.

"Erik... You know where to find me if you would like to see me." Charles should go to him... "Have dinner with me tonight, please?"

"Absolutely not."

Charles - briefly - thought about pressing an artificial calm into Erik's mind, he was more than capable even at this distance, but he was certain that Erik would notice and realize and not take it kindly. "I love you, and I would never ask you to do something..."

"Something you hadn't decided that I needed?" Erik's voice was a perfectly formed mental snarl. "Out!"

He withdrew, pressed his head against the cool glass of the storefront and closed his eyes. He'd been an idiot, probably, delaying like he had. He pressed a finger to his temple again and sought out a different mind.

"Prime Minister? Emma?"

"Scouting the enemy, Xavier?" Emma's voice slid into his mind, humorous and light, teasing.

Charles considered what to say, and how to say it. "Erik may have come to the impression that he's a sub, and I do not believe he is taking it well."

Emma's sigh, and a vague sense of acknowledgement, floated into his mind.

"I would appreciate a suggestion for how to make amends with him. Would red velvet chocolate cake with cream cheese icing go amiss?"

He heard her mental snort. "Not a bad start." And then he felt the other telepath withdraw.

Idiot. He'd been an idiot.

He'd been avoiding the conversation because it was difficult and he did not want to have it. He also knew that he worried that the idea of being a sub might... break the man he'd fallen in love with. Certain things, certain types of submission, were so culturally engrained that it was hard to break, even for subs who desperately wanted to be free of the cultural baggage. When he had worked with Alex, he'd had months to work with him, to use a soft touch to deal with his anger, his feelings of inadequacy, and his fear. He'd hoped he'd have that much time with Erik. After... He couldn't guide Erik the way he had Alex - or any of the other subs - this was the man he wanted to be with, possibly for the rest of his life, and the idea of molding him into a sub that would suit him was distasteful at best.

The natural consequence of Domming with his students was that he was used to being able to give only some of his time, a few hours a week at best, and he would share that time, and those hours, with Moira, with the other teachers, and in some cases he would share that time with a sub's personal Dom. But... he had been a very long time since he'd had to put one, singular person's needs first, and Erik certainly was one, singular person.

He headed to the door. "Scott, I'm heading out for a bit."

Alex caught up to him only a few moments later. "Hey, if it's something you need to get done, that's what I'm for. I'm not fragile."

In spite of himself, Charles smiled. "I know, Alex. I have never considered you fragile, but there are some things I need to do myself."

The boy looked like he couldn't tell if Charles was just being polite to humor him, or if he really had a task he needed to do himself. He could have told Alex, possibly, but he wanted to leave Erik his privacy, and one couldn’t just pass Domming off on someone else. This was his mess and he would have to fix it.

"Would you help your brother a bit? You've been my right hand for the passed weeks and I think you know my mind almost as well as my own."

That did the trick, and had the benefit of being entirely true. Alex nodded and let Charles go, and the man cut his way through the city, to the little cake shop that Erik had taken them to when he had just come to Genosha and they were still being standoffish. It was even before Charles had realized the man was a sub, and yet he'd still wanted to uncover what sort of cake the man might want, find out what Erik liked and needed. Apparently he hadn't quite noticed how hopelessly smitten he'd been.

He ended up at the shop, ordered a little cake, and asked for it to be frosted in different icing. He'd ended up waiting almost forty-five minutes, minutes he - perhaps - should have been using to plan the way he was going to run his election, but today, right now, this was more important. He would have another two months to plan his election, he only had a day or two to make certain Erik knew how he felt.

The cake he ended up leaving on Erik's doorstep, he likely could have gotten into the apartments they occasionally shared, but he imagined the intrusion would feel like exactly that. He considered a note, decided against it, and then finally allowed himself to head back to the headquarters.

Electioneering was in full swing, and thankfully he had missed very little. Marrow and Scott had begun some sort of strategy debate, which, although heated, was obviously not antagonistic. Alex, meanwhile, was just watching them and looking amused.

"I take it I've missed nothing of importance?"

Alex looked over at Charles and gave the man a smile. "Blah blah military, blah blah reasonable justification of force." He pointed to Marrow, and then Scott, as he said it, and Charles actually grinned.

"As I am certain my very dear friend Moira would agree, we will need to make certain that the educational institution is decoupled from the military," Charles said to Alex and Moira, next to him, Scott and Marrow still ignoring him while Charles continued to watch the disagreement.

"What are you thinking, Charles?" Moira asked.

He leaned back in his chair, eyes closed for a moment. He was thinking he'd like to see Erik. "I'm wondering when we'll be suitably populous to merit a college."

Moira laughed. "You just want to be Professor Xavier again."

"I do, love. I haven't been in the classroom in months." He missed it. "Perhaps I should write philosophical letters on the nature of nation building."

He was mostly joking, but Moira laughed and kicked his chair lightly. "MPs don't do any work anyway, you'll be an adjunct in no time. When’s the election, anyway?"

"Eight weeks from today, with at least seven moderated debates in the meantime. Four inter-party and three mostly concerning specific issues of the greatest importance to certain segments of voters, sub right, human rights, that sort of thing."

Moira's eyes grew wide, and her expression shocked. "I keep forgetting Genosha is becoming... an actual country, Charles."

Charles knew the feeling. Even after weeks of sitting in the constitutional meetings and almost a day of planning true political strategy, it still felt like a dream that he might wake up from in any minute. He might have preferred that, if only because of how much less complicated it would make things between him and Erik.

"It's pretty amazing." That didn't even begin to cover it.

.45.

Erik wasn't certain what he was feeling as he reeled from his own thoughts. He considered calling it a revelation, but that would mean claiming that he was a sub as some sort of truth, which he was completely unprepared to accept. He was a Dom, he always had been, in control, driven. He was the one who held many of the mutants he had lived with in the experimental institutes, he was the one who had stood against Sebastian when he had gone off the rails, he had run an entire army against the exploitive regime on Genosha.

He was commanding, in control, in charge. That wasn't the way a sub acted, that wasn't the way a sub would behave. If he'd been a sub he never would have survived to be rescued by Sebastian, he never would have been able to stand up to the man he'd seen as a father. Subs didn't have opinions, they didn't... think.

Erik gave up progress on the integrated citizenship database as a loss while his mind was swirling with questions, he stayed in the sandwich shop, staring out the window and watching people go by for far longer than he might have otherwise. Charles' mental inquiry had caught him by surprise, and the realization that either Alex suspected he was a sub, or Alex had told Charles something to make Charles suspect, left him feeling even more ashamed and frustrated.

Lost in his own thoughts, he let hours pass by before he finally roused himself enough to head back to his quarters and... hide. It wasn't that long after lunch, maybe two hours, and when he returned he saw a neat little box on his doorstep. Erik considered throwing it in the trash, but instead brought it inside and opened it. There was no note, nothing to indicate who it might have come from, but it was a small cake with cream cheese icing, from the bakery he and Charles had gone to together weeks ago - where the first bomb had gone off. He supposed, if one were counting it that way, it could have been called their first date.

He glowered at the cake, but then took a slice of it, sitting down on his couch. That was something he knew Doms did, learn the likes and dislikes of their subs, it left Erik feeling mixed. Had Charles looked at him as a potential sub all those weeks ago or had he just remembered naturally? And beyond all that, Erik was left with the question of whether or not it even mattered.

They didn't tie each other up and spank, as Azazel had suggested earlier in the day - although it hadn't been concerning Erik's sex life. If Erik had been forced to say who was in control in bed he would have said it was him. More often than not, it was Charles who was on his knees or on his back. He wondered if Charles had done that intentionally or he just liked it.

The end result of two hours of reflection was that Charles was complicated, but at least he had cake now.

Alex had mentioned that Charles wrote papers on this sort of thing, which was likely some of where that - completely random - psychology degree of his came in, and Erik ended up looking for some of Charles' theories. The site he found informed him that the theories were controversial apparently, and Erik settled in to read.

Submission - at least according to Charles - was apparently complicated. Erik had missed all of this, it was the sort of thing that kids were taught when they were just coming into their own, hitting puberty, and discovering themselves, so perhaps he'd been a bit slow on his own sexual awakening. Charles' own views on dominance were apparently complicated as well, but seemed to revolve around one thing, anticipating the needs of another individual and fulfilling them.

He glowered at the page. If anything that was what Emma did for him, picking out subs that might suit him when he had needs, selecting projects that suited him and making certain he stayed focused on what was most important to running a country rather than an army.

In short, Emma was what Charles had termed a 'lifestyle dominant' for him. Erik felt a little ill.

Angel had mentioned that Emma might have wanted dinner with him, and he headed down to the PM office only to find her finishing up something with Angel and then leaning back into her chair. "Erik, good. I need you to go pick Charles' brain on-"

"No." It felt surprisingly good to say.

"Excuse me?" Emma didn't sound upset, just surprised.

"I'm not going to see Charles again." Ever. "For a little while. It's campaign season, he's busy." That reason might last at least five seconds on Emma.

Emma seemed to accept the rationale, at least for the moment. "I'm afraid that's why I need you to go pick his brain, Erik. Marrow - she's one of the Morlocks, if you'll recall - has decided she wishes to run for an MP position with the Unification Party." Emma left the words to sink in for a few moments, and Erik sat down across from her, slouching more than was strictly necessary.

Marrow was a war hero, smart on her feet, her only negatives - from a position of courting moderates - would be the fact that she had bone spurs growing out of her body and looked more than a bit intimidating to the average human or even human-looking mutant. The Morlocks had always been exceptionally loyal to Erik and Emma, and even though he doubted the Morlocks - as a whole - would decide to align with Charles, one of them running on his platform was at least a moderate blow. "So what would you want me to get from Charles?"

"I need to know if he intends to tack towards Celeste. Humans will have voting rights in the upcoming election, and even though we only have perhaps a thousand humans here - if that - that is certainly enough to make a dent when there are only a few tens of thousands here on the island." Emma tapped her finger, impatient, against the desk. "Either that or Celeste may attempt to use it against him, but he's unlikely to tell me. Even though I think we may count as acquaintances I am the enemy for the next two months."

"So you want me to find out whether or not Celeste Vandermeer is trying to twist his arm?" Emma nodded in response. "No."

She pursed her lips unattractively and glowered at him. "Really, Erik?" She cocked her head to the side like he was being exceptionally difficult, and then got up, locking the door and pulling him over to one of her couches so they could sit there. "Are you going to tell me what's wrong?"

He looked down at his hands, looked at the backs of them. "Is the reason you told me not to concern myself about the intricacies of Dom relationships because you knew I was a sub?"

Emma looked over at him, her face only slightly abashed. She nodded.

"And you knew Charles knew?"

She nodded again. "When you told me you had spent the night with him, I spoke to him to find out if he knew. He already did." He watched the emotions in her face, awkward, a bit, but happy. "And then he told me the details were personal and he doubted you would appreciate him treating you like a sub who required his family's permission to do what you wanted when it came to a relationship."

His stomach felt like it was cramping, almost like he was going to be ill, but... Charles had respected him enough to keep that relationship private, he supposed.

"I don't want to be a sub. I can't be a sub." He scrubbed his fingers through his hair. "You can't have a sub for a monarch. I'm supposed to provide direction for parliamentary tasks and negotiate with foreign dignitaries, Emma."

Emma reached out to put an arm around him, and as much as he thought he might be better off just ignoring it or not allowing it, he let her. "You have been doing more than well enough. Perhaps you haven't noticed because you haven't been at the negotiation table, but Xavier's opinions have not remained entirely static, and as distressing as it is for him to be encroaching on our political territory he has a Morlock on his ballot. And while he may have perhaps attracted her somewhat because of his personality, it is also because his perspective has shifted enough that someone who has been ostracized her entire life knows there is a place for her in Xavier's politics."

"Subs don't change the opinions of Doms."

"Maybe not Doms like Azazel, who think that any change is a weakness. But you and Charles will never see precisely eye-to-eye but you have already started to influence each other. Charles told me..." Emma fell silent, thinking. "After Sebastian... I didn't quite know what to think of myself, how to define myself as someone so willing to submit to Sebastian's ideals, I mentioned it to Charles, that Sebastian challenged me, and he said that all great relationships are challenging. You need to talk to him Erik, but if he wants you docile and on your knees he's not the man I thought he was."

Erik nodded, although he still wasn't feeling settled, intellectually he knew Charles was caring, and didn't think poorly of subs. "I'm still not going to talk to him about Marrow or Celeste."

Emma's smirk was slightly condescending and it rankled. "Erik, do not be contrary just for the sake of it. If you do not think it's a good idea, at least articulate why, not just because you think mindless argumentativeness is how subs behave."

"He's a telepath, he'll know if I have ulterior motives, and we agreed to keep politics out of the bedroom," he answered, mulishly.

"Are you going to go talk to him?"

"No." Yes. Maybe.

.46.

Charles spent too much of the passing days thinking about how much he missed Erik. He was able to stay focused on the tasks at hand, the ranks of Unification Party were growing quickly, and much to Moira's utter chagrin, Amy decided to attempt her own career in politics. She was nervous, of course, Charles was nervous, but he hoped that she would be successful. There were about eighty seats, and it seemed like they were going to field about sixty candidates, some from the ranks of Charles' old students, some from the citizens of Genosha, and it was a delightful mix that made him feel hopeful for the future.

The one thing that did gnaw at the back of his mind was Erik - who he had not seen since just passed the vote on the constitution. He did his best to give Erik the space he obviously needed, to not pry, to not listen, but he also found himself brushing silently against Erik's mind, only to find it still clouded and a swirl of emotions.

He spent more hours in their headquarters than his own rooms, but five days after the constitution was ratified it was finally just him, Raven, Moira, Amy and the Summers in his room, picking at the remains of spice rubbed chicken. The knock on the door made everyone groan, not just Charles. Perhaps someday they would have a minute's peace.

When he opened the door, however, he was actually surprised to see Erik there, his mind slightly ragged and confused but clearly he meant to be there.

Charles turned back to the room at large and Raven caught sight of who it was, waved. Erik returned the gesture. "Matters of state," Erik grumbled, as though the King of Genosha would actually, really, be visiting Charles at his doorstep if there was an actual emergency, still, as excuses went it wasn't poor, and Charles headed back out of his room and to the elevator, the two of them taking the short trip to the top floor - and Erik's room - in silence.

Erik had him through the door and his mouth was on Charles before he could even ask what Erik wanted.

Oh how he'd missed the taste and the pressure of Erik's body against him, but even though he had missed this, he'd missed talking with the man more. He very gently pushed Erik away... only to have Erik sink to his knees, fingers pressing against his belt buckle and just lower. As much as he wanted to stop Erik, he was only human, and it took him several seconds of his fingers stroking along the side of Erik's face, feeling the scratch of stubble on his jaw, before he managed to pull away.

"Erik... love, I am really quite horny and I haven't gotten off properly in days, but we need to talk more than I need an orgasm."

For someone who had moments ago been intent on getting Charles out of his pants, Erik seemed surprisingly relieved by the declaration. Charles helped him up, just offered a hand, really, and Erik levered himself up. He took the time they needed to get to the couch to calm himself a bit. He hadn't actually thought 'matters of state' would have turned into sex, so it was a bit of a shock he was still coming down off of.

When they were settled, he leaned forward and brushed a kiss along Erik's lips. "I imagine you wanted to discuss... something."

"My orientation."

Charles nodded. "I think I should say... I have had this conversation, in some variation, with a great many young men and women, and a few who are older. I would like you to attempt to direct our conversation, however, because I do not think a lecture from me would be appropriate." He'd had this conversation at least a hundred times, maybe more, with students at the Institute, even with students at Oxford - Doms who didn't feel dominant enough, subs that felt overly submissive or underly submissive, felt they should want to fight against someone else's dominance more than they did, ones who felt they couldn't submit the way a partner wanted.

Erik actually pulled out a sheet of paper, with a few scribbled notes on it, and Charles had to keep himself from grabbing the man and pulling him in for a hug because it was adorable and yet he did not think Erik would particularly care for being considered adorable right now.

"I like feeling in control," Erik said. Charles just nodded. "I don't like feeling out of control. Why didn't you... tell me?"

Charles shook his head, wishing there was an easy answer. "I... I wanted you, Erik, and as soon as I do something like that, as soon as I try to take you and tell you the sort of sub you should be..." He snorted, and he felt Erik tense. Charles had a hand on Erik's back before he could move away. "What I mean is that I enjoyed what we had, and I have quite a few people who tend to rely on me, so it left me little time or energy to... if you'll pardon the expression Dom you properly, talk with you, negotiate. I was rather swept up in talking politics and philosophy rather than relationships."

Erik looked wary, but nodded. "You don't have any more time now than you did a week ago, you have even less."

"I've rather cheated by missing some of the worst of your... panic, I suppose." Charles felt mad at himself for that, but... "Self-discovery is usually the best, however complicated."

"I still feel weak."

Charles tried not to sigh, instead reaching out to touch Erik's shoulder. "May I?" Erik nodded and Charles went to work running his fingers down along his shoulder, just enjoying having Erik there with him. "So many subs spend their life thinking they are weak, or cannot do things on their own, that they need to find someone else to complete them, and for some subs that is actually completely what they want. I’d say perhaps as much as twenty-five to thirty-five percent feel that way, actually." He shrugged, he'd done the research, quite a bit of it, and it was remarkable what a sub would tell a switch instead of their own Doms. "And the rest... the rest have moments where they want independence, where they don't want their lives run by someone else, but culturally we tell subs to be coy and submissive and just resistant enough to really rile up a Dom and get themselves properly claimed and collared."

It was an old, old rant, and one that Charles kept close to his chest. "Emma told me to stop resisting just to resist... to do it because it was what I thought was right."

"She's very intelligent."

"I think she read your research after we killed Sebastian to try to make sense of their... whatever it was." Erik shrugged, and Charles ran his fingers farther down Erik's arm, rubbing his fingers softly for a moment before putting his hand down. "I think that's how she figured I was a sub."

Very few people would have called Erik a sub, in truth, and the novice eye was more likely to think he was one, than Erik. Charles didn't mind that, he really didn't.

"Charles?"

"Mmm?"

"Would you... 'Dom me properly'?" Erik asked it awkwardly, like he wasn't certain he wanted to ask for it, but at the same time Charles knew what Erik was asking, and what it meant for him to ask. Charles thought he might have choked on his own tongue, just for a moment.

"In bed? Out?"

Erik looked down at his own hands, and then back up at Charles. "My understanding is you've been doing more than a bit of that out of bed since we met."

Charles grinned, slightly abashed. "I'm afraid sometimes I can't help myself on that one." He thought about mentioning that he was usually in charge of over a hundred students and thought that might have killed the mood. "Come on, then, let's talk."

That was clearly not at all what Erik was expecting to hear, but that was exactly why he needed to.

It was a strangely exhilarating proposition, usually when he slept with a sub - or a Dom - he had someone who already had fitted themselves somewhere into the well-worn grooves of some sort of dynamic. He had never dug too deeply into Erik's past experiences, and he knew from his own stretches of dating that sometimes it meant steeling yourself for hearing something, knowing that someone might have hurt or taken advantage of the person who you wanted to be with.

"I don't want to be tied up," Erik said a few moments later. "Or humiliated, or hit."

Sometimes it was difficult to be a pacifist, and never more so when he saw the little flickers of what some of his students, and Erik, had endured at the hands of people who hated and feared them.

.47.

Charles didn't ask him why he didn't like those things, and Erik was obscenely grateful for that. The last thing he wanted right now, while he was trying to let go and submit and all of the many things he read about, was to relive the years of his life that he would usually rather forget. Erik tried to think of something else he could say that would make sense or let him make sense of how he felt for Charles, but eventually Charles just brushed a hand down his arm.

"Do you enjoying doing anything like that to someone else?"

Erik shook his head, immediately and fiercely. He had thought, perhaps, that he might enjoy that, when he was younger, soon after being broken out of the institution set aside for studying powerful mutants, that it might somehow help him exorcise the anger and the pain that he felt towards the humans who had done what they did to him, who had killed or broken dozens of mutants. But he barely took joy in punishing the people who so richly deserved it, and got little pleasure it if the person wasn't deserving. "No."

Charles nodded. "I sometimes enjoy being tied up."

Was Charles going to make him--?

But then Charles' hand was on him and squeezed. "That is simply for your information." And Erik felt himself nod, stiffly. Charles hugged him close. "Did you read something wretched about not telling me no?"

Maybe. Yes.

Charles pressed his nose into Erik's temple and nuzzled, voice humorous. "Don't lie to a telepath."

He knew that rule, it was a good one that he'd lived by since he was a boy, and yet here, struggling with the idea that he still wanted Charles, but all he could think was all the things he didn't want Charles to do, all the things that Azazel sometimes talked about in low tones that he liked to do with Janos. It was complicated, he felt as though there were all these things he was supposed to like, and they were certainly nothing he'd ever liked in the past. The idea of being submissive in bed, when the idea of being whipped or tied up made him nauseous and want to panic...

"Erik!" Charles' voice shook him loose from the spiral his thoughts were about to take, and he reached up and pressed a hand into Charles' shoulder, holding onto him. "...Love, you really do not need to think about that. Listen to me, you're not there, you are here, with me, safe."

It was... embarrassing, actually, he'd never felt like that, not even listening to Azazel go into - overly - loving detail in his descriptions of his own practices. Maybe it was the reality of thinking about it happening to him. He sighed, feeling a bit defeated.

Charles ignored the sound, however, and pulled him close enough that he could start to touch and massage at Erik's neck. Charles liked doing that an awful lot. "Let's start from the other direction. What do you like? The last think you remember really enjoying."

The image of Charles pushing through his door, pressing Erik up against the door, and going down on him, flashed through his mind.

When he looked over to Charles he could see the telepath looked rather pleased with himself. "Something not involving me?"

Erik tried to think of something, most of his time before Charles involved one-offs that had never been particularly satisfying. He'd had more than a few blowjobs, as well that were fine, passable, or even great, but nothing that held the same charge as that simple act. Charles had... pushed him, been demanding even, but it had been about getting Erik off, and it had felt amazing, almost desperate on Charles' part.

"Will you let me be in your mind?" Charles asked.

That - for some reason - Erik had become more comfortable with, although he supposed Emma was somewhat to blame.

"Then I think we can work through this, tease at the edges of your preferences, find something you didn't know you liked. If you want me to stop, if you're unhappy or uncomfortable, I will know, but I would like you to say so as well." Erik watched Charles' face shift very slightly, thoughtful. "I will already know, so do not even think of not voicing it."

Erik nodded, and took Charles' hand when the man reached out. They made their way to his room, somehow novel and different even though he'd had Charles here at least a dozen times before. Charles tugged him towards the center of the room a few feet from the bed, and he stood there. After a moment his hands went to his own belt. He felt Charles' hand on him, brushing his away. "That's for me. Unbutton my shirt."

He'd undressed Charles before, usually in the heat of the moment, and the order held no particular charge. He did it, of course, because he wanted to, but the little thrill he thought he was supposed to feel was missing. Charles' hands reached up to stop his again.

"I do not want to hear what you are supposed to like, Erik, only what you do." Charles was still calm, his voice sure as always. "Go on, finish with my shirt."

Erik reached out again, fingers flicking down, carefully undoing buttons and watching as a pale sliver of Charles' body was exposed. His neck was slightly darker, so many days out in the sun, even with sunscreen and a hat, had finally left a very light tan, the tan was marred by thousands - if not millions - of little freckles. He smiled at the way it made Charles look boyish and sweet.

He let his hands stop when he finished with the buttons, fingers resting very lightly on Charles' stomach.

"That's good, Erik," Charles' words of very light praise shot straight to his cock. He didn't remember reacting like that when Charles was instructing him, but a twisted, crushing shame slammed down into him only a moment later, how weak and pathetic and disgusting it was to need that, to want that validation... "Whoa, hey..."

Charles tugged him, one arm around his waist and one against the back of his head, holding on to Erik and Erik hugged back for dear life. "Shit."

"Come here," Charles said, and he moved Erik towards the bed and the two of them settled down with Erik wrapped tightly around Charles' waist. "What are you feeling right now?"

"Turned on... ashamed."

"A horrible combination." Charles pressed his lips to Erik's forehead and nuzzled, his nose brushing against the hairline, lips pressing softly, and then nuzzling again. "Why are you feeling that? What's the source?"

"You're in my head. You know." Erik felt... miserable, couldn't Dom properly, apparently, couldn't sub properly, and now Charles wanted him to talk about... this.

But Charles didn't turn away or leave or even sound particularly upset, he just pressed a kiss softly against Erik's temple. "Call it Socratic then. I am asking the question to hear you answer."

He didn't want to talk about this, not at all, not even with Charles, or with Emma. No one. "This can't exactly be fulfilling for you, Charles."

Instead of agreeing, or even really denying it, Charles just moved them so they were leaning against his headboard, back supported by the too many pillows that he had even though he didn't need even half of them. "Erik, I actually have a very impressive cuddling kink. I'm certain I'll be fine."

It was a testament to how strange his mind sometimes found Charles that he actually had to stop and wonder for a few moments if Charles might actually have some sort of cuddling kink. Charles gave him no indication that he was going to stop hugging him, or leave, however, so he settled in against Charles' chest and ran his hands against the barely exposed skin. When he tugged at the shirt to pull it out from where it was tucked into Charles' pants, Charles didn't correct him or resist, just continued to hold onto him.

"I'm sorry."

"Oh, Erik, no. I'm sorry. No more of this 'Domming properly' for now." And Charles left them like that, curled up together. "I shouldn't have pushed, you are far too wrapped up your own head for this right now, but we will work on it when you are ready."

The thing that was pushing him, though, and making him even consider his side of himself - a side that clearly enjoyed having Charles tell him he was doing well - was how badly he still wanted to figure out how to be with Charles.

"I am not going anywhere, love," Charles said, kissing his forehead. "Which is not strictly true because I cannot stay the night, but we will find a way to work this out, I promise."

"Even without...?" Erik wasn't certain he could ever let go enough to submit like Charles would want, would need, to have a complete relationship.

Charles was silent for several minutes, slow, fingers tracing up and down Erik's back, touching his hair, and as much as the silence unsettled him, he knew it meant that Charles was actually considering the question honestly.

"Yes," Charles finally decided. "I enjoy your company too much to waste my time worrying about how you are oriented. I love you."

It was an intense weight off his shoulders, and even though he didn't want to let Charles go, he did, finally, a half hour later, and watched the man head out the door, the continued promise was heady and he allowed himself to imagine that - much like Genosha - somehow everything was going to fall into place after months of hard work.

.48.

Charles spent the next few days hovering between thinking he should see Erik more and thinking he should see Erik less. Erik was obviously still grappling with his own questions, about where submission fit in to his own concept of himself. It was something Charles had dealt with for dozens of children and he felt good at it, but this was the first time the other person was someone he wanted to be with. Erik was an adult, mature, and more than capable, and so while he ached to help Erik through it, he was nervous of shaping Erik.

Even if the idea that someone could force Erik to do anything he didn't want to was preposterous.

Still, he sent Erik gifts, little things, like a neatly assembled ball of metal, streaked through with a half-dozen different alloys. It would have been useless for anything but aesthetics for anyone but Erik, but he imagined for someone who could control metal as easily as breathing that it might be a bit like a toy. And he did make a point of setting up a proper dinner date a week or so after their rather unfortunate last attempt at being alone together in Erik's room.

"Can I ask a question?" Erik asked while Charles was in the middle of frying up rice.

Charles quirked his lip. "As long as you never ask me that question again, Erik. You are always welcome to ask questions." It was almost distressing to hear him ask for permission.

"Why do you like cooking?" Erik leaned up over the breakfast bar to inspect Charles' work. "There are just so many things that seem to be... more sub related, that you do, cooking, back rubs, um... sucking me off." Erik blushed at that, but Charles only ducked his head slightly. "It's confusing."

"Submission is complicated." That was the easiest way to start the conversation, he supposed.

He thought he heard something that sounded like 'at least I have cake' drift through Erik's mind. He made a note to get Erik more cake.

"Do you know why I like cooking?" Erik shrugged. "It's what I like. I could dig more deeply, inspect it more closely, and say it is because I like to see Raven or Amy, or especially you, enjoy a meal I've prepared. Taking care of other people is what I find fulfilling. Some people, for cultural reasons, have tied that into submission. Who is a couple you know with very traditional roles?"

"Azazel and Janos," Erik answered, instantly.

Charles knew them, or at least he'd met Azazel from time to time, and he knew Janos less because the man was more involved with the reconstruction efforts than the political like Azazel was. "And Janos cooks, cleans, all of that?"

"As far as I know. He always cooks when Emma and I come over."

He thought about that for a bit. He didn't know Janos and Azazel, but it was obvious that they did have more traditional roles. Sometimes it was hard to decide how much of that was because Janos wanted it to be that way, and because of how much that was what he thought it should be. In the end, as long as Janos wanted it, Charles didn't this it was his concern. "And perhaps he enjoys knowing Azazel enjoys his cooking. Do you think you would enjoy cooking for me and me telling you I enjoyed it?"

Erik recoiled, mentally, without even really considering the question, but eventually he did consider it, and then shook his head. "I do not think you would enjoy my cooking."

Charles laughed, because leave it to Erik to ignore the dominance or the submission of it and just boil it down to terrible cooking skills.

"I don't know if I would like it." Erik placed his chin on his hands and looked across the kitchen at Charles. "How do you decide what you like?"

"Trying it out." Charles had spent most of his young life listening to what people liked, what they didn't like, and by the time he was ready to start trying out his own forays into discovering his orientation he had a truly impressive list of things to try and discover which ones he liked and didn't. "Don't assume that of course you would like one thing because submissives like that. Trust and exploration are the keys to it, really."

Erik leaned against his hands, nodding. He could still feel that Erik felt awkward about the whole thing, worried that Charles would grow tired of a relationship where he couldn't be appropriately Dominant, and yet unwilling to give in enough to be truly submissive. "Could I be a switch?"

Charles honestly didn't know. A true switch was culturally very difficult to find, since it would involve someone who would be allowed to perform both, and that would require a switch partner. It was difficult for him to admit, but he shrugged. "I do not know. It's not the dominant aspects of your personality that you have trouble accepting, however. I would say talk to Alex if I did not think it would traumatize you both."

Poor Alex, he had a hard time with Erik, and he didn't think Erik would much enjoy it either. Finally done with dinner, the two of them curled up on the couch and sat next to each other. A few moments later he ended up with an arm around him, Erik squeezing him close. Charles looked up at him, a bit confused by the sudden affection.

"Indulging your cuddling kink."

He could more than deal with that.

Their days passed like that, seeing Erik only a day or two a week, dodging the press when they went out from time to time - no more and no less than Erik spent with Celeste or Emma out in public - and generally failed to make any headway when Erik tried to indulge himself and let go enough to enjoy Charles' encouragement. Even his progress with his powers seemed to take a step backwards, though that had very little to do with Erik's submission. Charles was frustrated, but at the same time he knew he couldn't afford to let Erik see that. His frustration had little to do with not being able to indulge in his own dominance, or even sex, and everything to do with how hard it seemed to be for Erik to break through the mental barrier that seemed to be holding him back from accepting all of himself.

They made it until about three weeks from the elections, when Charles finally decided it was time to push. "I want to talk to you about what you think is holding you back, Erik."

Erik resisted, which likely meant there was something wrong, something that Charles hadn't picked up during his casual scanning of Erik's surface thoughts. It also meant that Erik was likely well aware of what was holding him back, and resisting confronting it. "I'd rather not."

He might have been able to get away with ordering Erik, without any of his telepathy. With the weight of his power behind it he could force almost anyone to do almost anything, but that wasn't something to be used that way, especially on someone he was building trust with. "You haven't been able to push past this on your own, Erik. You need to find a new way to address it. If you must talk to someone else, like Alex, do that, but eventually we are going to need to understand each other completely, trust each other completely, and we cannot do that if you cannot share your thoughts with me."

"I don't want to change," Erik blurted out. "I love you, I want you, but..."

Finally he could see what Erik had been avoiding thinking about around him, cooking, cleaning, kneeling, submitting in all those ways that fit the standard imagery, the way submission looked in paintings and on the television and in the casual and coarse way people talked about having a sub, wearing a collar, and Erik...

"I don't want to do that, but I want you."

Charles felt like a complete idiot, sometimes, and if he'd just thought, maybe he would have realized what Erik was so afraid of, for all his assurances weeks ago. "I want someone who can challenge me, who will challenge me, that's what I got from you long before we went to bed together. I said I would be with you even without a dynamic, and I meant that. If you like getting on your knees I want you on your knees, if you don't, I don't. I'm a telepath, Erik... I hope it's not too crude to say, but I get off on you feeling good, and you feeling wretched and uncomfortable and concerned about what I might make you do ignores the very real possibility that all I want is to push you farther than you could without me and make you feel incredible." He sighed, finally letting go of that knot in his chest. Erik didn't know him, not the way his students did, didn't know how much he was willing to give - or allow to be taken - for his students. Erik wasn't there to listen to what Charles told the Doms, about how important it was to take care of a sub, but not condescendingly. "If we went the entire rest of our lives with you telling me how horribly wrong I am and you letting me make you feel good I would be more than happy."

.49.

Submission was... hard. At least he had Charles.

Erik leaned forward and kissed Charles, completely without asking or getting permission because he just wanted to kiss the man, and so they kissed like that, Erik sprawled on top of him, mouth pillaging and claiming and fuck dominance or submission because he just wanted. When he had kissed the hell out of Charles, he broke their lips apart and set his head on the man's chest. Charles chuckled and carded his fingers through Erik's hair, playing with it while Erik laid there. "Is this your way of telling me you want to try to let go, or should I just lay here and have you debauch me?"

He could have... he really could have, but that wasn't the point, he'd had sex with Charles long before all the mess with his orientation. It was so hard for him to believe that Charles wouldn't just take his submission and use it to strip Erik of everything that he was, but... Charles wouldn't just lie to him. Charles wanted him to challenge him, and be...

"Equals," Charles filled in for Erik's train of thought. "Kinda kinky isn't it?" And then the telepath was laughing at his own joke. "It didn't used to be kinky, it just was. Sociocultural evolution is fascinating, but not what we have on the menu, right?"

There were so many ways he could answer. "I don't know. Tell me what to do, Charles." He couldn't keep the slight humor out of his voice, because as much as he still wanted to try to figure out what could be between him and Charles, the idea that he wouldn't know what he wanted was ridiculous.

Erik watched Charles' face break out into a grin, and he snorted. "Up you get, off."

He did, and he stood like that next to the couch while Charles got himself up from where he'd been pressed into the cushions.

"Nothing complicated." They'd tried 'nothing complicated' quite a few times, and Erik had cocked that up every time. "I'll be in your mind enough to feel your reactions, but I want you to tell me how you're feeling, no means no, yes means yes." He nodded. "Bedroom."

They ended up back in his room, Erik standing in the center waiting, and Charles standing across from him. His fingers itched, and he reached out to undo Charles' shirt - he always asked for that - but Charles reached up and stopped his hand. "Undo your shirt, Erik."

He started on his own buttons, neatly undoing them and letting his shirt fall open as far as it would - not far - and showed off the center of his chest and then his abs. Charles' eyes flicked down, appreciative, and when he reached the buckle of his pants he let his hands fall to the side and he braced himself for...

"Very good," Charles really had a wonderful voice, and the purr all by itself ran down his spine, warm and slow.

Erik felt the pleasant little charge, expected the answering spike of shame, and he felt it, but it was mild, an annoying little voice he could push away instead of something pervasive.

"That's very good." Charles put his hands on Erik's shoulder, and then started to peel the shirt off, kissing at the juncture of Erik's neck and nuzzling there lazily. Erik reached out with his mind to try to undo his belt. "None of that, love." He enjoyed that, too, which surprised him. Being told no was something he was neither used to, nor particularly fond of, usually. "You're testing my boundaries," Charles explained, and then smirked slightly. "A bit like a young child figuring out what they can get away with."

Erik shouldn't have found that sexy, but the smirk was adorable.

It was an odd feeling, trying to get used to letting go, letting himself enjoy this, letting Charles just lead him along and make it good. Charles reached down and started to undo Erik's belt, tugging it off and letting it drop and his pants followed soon after. "On to the bed, lie down."

He made an odd effort, to try to both appreciate what Charles was doing, and trying to keep track of what he enjoyed, before he'd found himself too caught up to really let go, too worried where Charles would take him that he couldn't enjoy the journey. It was hard not to get a bit caught up in that now, to try to analyze why he felt what he did.

Charles could sense the conflict there, of course. "I'm afraid, Your Majesty, that you will just have to lay back and enjoy this. I insist."

It certainly helped that the way Charles insisted was by sinking his mouth down on Erik's cock and starting to lick him, tongue pressed against his tip. Erik was fairly certain he could have lived with Charles doing nothing but this, licking and sucking, and Charles just really seemed to love giving head. He reached up, to brush his fingers through Charles' hair.

"Don't touch my hair," Charles said, light, in Erik's mind, but there was definitely a command in it. Charles held him down, lightly, but Erik missed the connection, the way Charles' hair felt between his fingers, but instead all he had to hold onto was the warmth of Charles' mouth and the gentle way Charles pinned him down. With nothing else to focus on, he was forced to just feel Charles on him, sucking, slow and wet. "And you'll need to ask for permission to cum."

He sputtered, annoyed - because who needed permission to cum - but he didn't complain, or say no, which he knew would have ended their 'nothing complicated' for the night. Charles kept his attention light at first, just slowly running his tongue up Erik's shaft and sucking the tip, just barely enough sensation to keep the low grade arousal there. Erik left his hands in the sheets, twisting lightly, until Charles took Erik entirely into his mouth, warm and wet, welcoming.

"Shit. Charles. Let me come."

Charles hummed, and Erik could swear he felt Charles' smile. "No.

He cursed again, fisting the sheets so tight he would have pulled out hair if he'd had his hands in Charles' hair. And then just as suddenly as he'd taken him in, Charles backed off, returning to more tentative licks and nuzzles, playing too gently with his shaft, laving one side and then going to the other, and Erik could feel the threat of looming orgasm recede, barely. "You are a damn tease."

"Do you like it?"

"Yes." Because apparently he did, there was something about Charles telling him to just lay back and enjoy himself that appealed to him.

"Letting go, maybe?" Charles' mental voice was smug, but Erik could hear the mental teasing there, just a nudge.

Erik bit his lip, enjoying the combination of Charles' voice in his mind and knowing the telepath couldn't speak out loud because his mouth was otherwise occupied. "You're awfully smug for a man giving a blowjob, Charles. Perhaps you should pay more attention to that."

Charles didn't answer, out loud or in his mind, and instead went back to work actually trying to drive Erik crazy, bobbing slowly up and down, taking Erik in and then sliding off and sinking back down. The telepath was slowly fucking his mouth on Erik's cock and not letting up.

"Fuck!" He let go of the sheets, reached for Charles' head to grab but then groaned to keep his hands pinned to the bed. "Can I come, please?"

"It's 'may I come', Erik."

"Damn it, Charles, may I come?" Charles was a tease, a fucking tease. Erik had no idea why he thought this was a good idea. Maybe because he was rock hard and aching and Charles was slowly dragging him to the edge and holding him back and the strain was too delicious.

"Still no, I'm afraid."

Erik felt the urge to thrash, to grab Charles and hold onto him and come, but he held on. Instead his mind became a rapid fire litany of don't come, don't come, don't come even though Charles continued to suck him. He could feel himself getting closer, close enough that he could have come easily if Charles said yes. "Please."

Charles slowly removed his mouth until he was just sucking on the head, pushing Erik dangerously close, his fingers wrapping around his shaft and stroking quickly, not letting up. "No. I think you can hold on a bit longer, don't you?"

Erik's entire body was tense now, as though he could somehow find the muscle to clench to keep from tipping over the edge.

He was arching up, body begging for more and begging for less. "Please let me come, please, Charles, pleaseletmecome, please will you let me come?"

Charles didn't answer, not right away, but he pulled back, enough that his mouth was just barely touching him. "Go ahead, love. Come."

Erik wasn't even quite aware that he had come, not right away, instead he felt white hot relief, and an intense feeling of 'oh thank God', and then he wasn't quite certain, but he felt his orgasm in his spine and his toes and in the back of his mind. He didn't quite come to right away, but when he did he felt Charles, mouth still on his cock, sucking the last of his orgasm and then carefully licking him clean.

"That's very good, you know. You taste fantastic, Erik. I love you." Erik sort of wished he could come again just so he could keep hearing that, because Charles' voice was incredible, but eventually he pulled away and let Erik relax like that, sprawled across his bed.

"Do you need me to--?" Erik tilted his head, indicating Charles' crotch.

"Mmm? Oh, no. You finishing was more than enough to get me off." When Charles wriggled up the bed, still in his boxers, Erik realized that Charles had come, his boxers wet and tacky as they clung to his cock and legs.

Charles hadn't been kidding when he said he got off on getting Erik off. "You've never done that before." Not with him, anyway.

"Well, it was a rather impressive orgasm." Charles kicked off his boxers and held his arms open for Erik. He snuggled over into the hug and closed his eyes, loving the feel of Charles stroking gently down his back as he drifted off to sleep.

.50.

Charles laid in bed with Erik for a long time, just running his hand up and down the man's back, enjoying the moment. Erik was incredible, beautiful, and Charles couldn't deny how much it felt right, how much they fit. He'd spent his whole life being in charge, with his sister, with his students, even with his professors, and no one challenged him and pushed him the way Erik did. He loved it desperately and never wanted to let him go.

Some Doms felt threatened by a challenge, and Charles always thought that was wrongheaded, because he knew if he had to he could let go with Erik, not right now, not completely, but Erik was strong enough to take it. It didn't hurt that even the mildest of dynamic play seemed to just work for Erik, and Charles had not been joking when he said he got off on his sub's happiness.

"Erik, love?" The monarch groaned in response and nuzzled into Charles' shoulder rather than say anything. "We are pushing almost five hours of time spent 'having dinner', the children are going to grow suspicious."

Erik just tugged Charles tighter and pinned them together. "Don't care."

It took him almost a half hour to get disentangled, dressed, and out the door. He knew Moira was starting to become suspicious - he rarely spoke of anyone with as much warmth as he spoke of Erik, and considering his own natural warmth that was saying something. Amy also seemed to have her suspicions, but they were milder, and she was so caught up in her own attempts to run for a seat in Parliament that she had little time to vet Charles' personal activities. Raven... Raven he was fairly certain knew, at least she very heavily suspected. Alex, meanwhile, did not suspect that Charles and Erik were actually together, but apparently he and Darwin had concocted some sort of elaborate speculative fantasy that involved Erik, collared, growling and submissive that probably said more about his students' sex life than he wanted to know.

There were a half-dozen looming problems, his fellow party members, his students, the relocation of the Institute, the appointing of a new headmaster, and... Erik. Of the countries that currently had monarchies, exactly two countries allowed subs to take the throne at all. Genosha was one of them, and it was a right that he had fought for and Emma had backed him completely. However, the difference between allowing subs, and actually respecting subs, was overwhelming. As far as Charles knew, no sub had ever been able to hold onto a throne against challengers for longer than a year or two at the most, even with the weight of the legislature behind them.

Erik would be, de facto and constitutionally, Genosha's premiere ambassador, and if he could not hold on to respect internationally it was the end of Genosha. Emma, or whoever became the first Prime Minister, would be able to back him, but there was so much at stake there that Charles wasn't certain how to have it all. Erik, their relationship, and the ability to go around in public, in love and belonging to each other, might be things that could not all coincide and that stung, deeply. He just needed more time and perhaps he could find something that would work for them.

He showered and slept well despite his concerns and he woke feeling refreshed. Having Erik opening up and allowing himself to let go and open up was thrilling and it gave Charles a buzz just to be around it.

Emma picked up on it when they had an early and light breakfast together. "Is Erik going to be this revoltingly smug today as well?"

"Very likely." He picked at his food, enjoying the sectioned fruit and a particularly gooey poached egg.

"I'll just have to avoid you both, then," Emma said, but Charles could see the hint of a smile there. "I'm glad you've gotten over your hurdle."

"It's slow," he admitted. "But, yes, I think we will manage. I can finally focus on the election again." He'd been worried about Erik, about how he was handling his revelation, and although he knew the election was important, he had never met someone who mattered more than him and the election had lost just a touch of luster. "I do not think I'm much of a politician, Prime Minister."

Emma snorted, very daintily, into her pineapple juice. "Xavier, you are the consummate politician even if you don't act like it. I don't think I've ever met someone who hyper aware of appearances, and yet committed to doing whatever you've decided to do, appearances be damned." Charles arched his eyebrow, asking. "Marrow, my dear Sarah? If you had asked she might have sat out the election."

"If we don't run candidates with visible mutations we are not being honest about who we are, Emma. My sister enjoys being able to pass, or to be anyone she likes, but fundamentally she is blue, and Genosha will need to be a country that loves her for it." Sometimes Raven needed to hide, and Charles knew that frustrated her and she didn't always see the need, but it was a need sometimes, in places where being a mutant could get you killed or imprisoned. America was that way when he'd first met her.

"Well, your sister is exceptionally attractive, blue or otherwise," Emma answered. "It is the world's loss if they do not agree."

Charles caught the edge of... something in Emma's voice, and although he liked to think he had firm control over his expression he still arched his eyebrow at her declaration. "Maybe I'm not the only one who finds himself distracted by the opposition?"

Emma didn't answer directly, ignored the implication, and went back to her breakfast. "That is something to revisit after the election. It's no time for that right now."

If only Charles could have stuck to that level of self-discipline, but he didn't mind it. He wasn't opposed to the idea, if Raven wasn't. He knew Raven had a number of old-fashioned ideas and she wouldn't have pursued something if he didn't approve. He shook his head. "You're right, later. I would accuse you of trying to distract me but I'm doing that well enough on my own."

The two of them fell back into silence for another moment, and he could sense that Emma was itching to ask him something. "Yes?"

"You and Vandermeer..."

Charles took a sip of his own juice. "I assume we are not discussing my poor personal life decisions?" Emma's arched eyebrow was the only answer he needed. "What are we talking, then?"

"Has she approached you concerning the future of the party?" Emma was very direct in the question, and Charles was pleased they weren't talking around the issue much, although he was surprised she hadn't sent Erik to...

He cleared his throat and went back to his breakfast. "Did you try to get Erik to answer that question for you?"

"He refused."

Charles felt the near-overwhelming desire to go find Erik and kiss him soundly. "I haven't heard much from her, however it's still not too late for her to try an aggressive tactic with me, try to undermine my support with the more integrationist end of the party." He didn't see the harm in telling Emma, if Celeste wasn't going to come at him privately, Emma would watch her come at him publicly.

"And if she doesn't try to break you for your support of Marrow's candidacy?"

Charles shrugged. "If you're asking what I would do depending on how the vote shakes out, I honestly could not say. I will say I am not going to allow personal loyalties, however strong, to make a political decision on what is best for Genosha." Emma's politics were, volatile, and in flux at the moment. The more revolutionary aspects of her politics were giving way to the more realistic requirements of a nation to be built and the growing pains were sometimes obvious as she struggled to keep some personalities, like the Morlocks, energized while creating an identity that was more encompassing.

It wasn't the answer she wanted, but whether or not they would be allies or opposition moving forward was still very much up in the air and Charles wouldn't promise something he couldn't deliver. "And Erik?"

"We'll make it work." They would. Charles would stand for nothing else. "Politics aside... I hope we will continue to remain close. You are the closest person Erik has to a family, and there is no reason for Genoshan politics to descend into something vile and nasty, least of all because we hold an interpersonal connection." Politics were somewhat inherently uncivilized, unfortunately, it was one of the most natural reactions to deeply held beliefs clashing with each other.

"I'll expect some sort of holiday dinner, Xavier."

"Perhaps I could invite Tate and Vandermeer if I didn't think Erik would seriously consider maiming Celeste." That would make for interesting interpersonal debates moving out. It wasn't everyday that one ended up at the bargaining table with an ex-hookup and your sister-in-law. He didn't think this was what people usually meant when they said the personal was political.

.51.

The increased political climate on Genosha left Erik with less time for his own life and far more time that seemed to be given over to media appearances, and the arrival of various diplomatic... people. First there was a visitor from the United States - James Rosen - who seemed to have some sort of semi-political and ambassadorial flavor to him. Emma had confirmed with him that he was, in fact, under consideration for the position of Ambassador to Genosha from the United States, and the president would likely put him up for confirmation before congress after the first Genoshan government was officially formed. Azazel had confirmed through various means that he didn't have any connections to anti-mutant groups, but he also had some connections to intelligence work, not diplomacy.

A few African countries had sent similarly semi-political humans, as had a few European countries, including England. He had done... well, he thought. Charles was a help, at least. Politically speaking he was the heir apparent to a moderate government, if that was what the voters decided on in two weeks, and he was also one of the few citizens of Genosha who had ever had dinner with an MP, even though he was usually there to browbeat them about sub rights or mutant rights or something similar, not to discuss politics as an equal.

It did leave him appreciating the benefits of a telepath in politics, however, even if he still wished he could steal Charles or Emma for the police or the army. With two telepaths in the mix, he had a feeling that Genoshan politics would soon become some of the most honest, or some of the most fraught.

He found he was not actually horrible at holding a conversation and as long as he avoided the obvious 'how about that time your country basically enslaved a bunch of mutants and studied and tortured them to death' as an opening line they made a good bit of progress.

The constant reminders from Charles that there had been a regime change - or at least a cultural and political change - in most of the countries since the first time the policies of containment and experimentation existed in the countries helped. It also helped that at least according to the intelligence he had from Interpol - and confirmed by Azazel - the number of research institutions was rapidly declining.

It was a start. Erik wished he could just rip them all apart from their foundations, but he knew Emma especially - and him now, too - were more focused on the future of the mutant race.

The night before the election, Erik ended up throwing some sort of gala - or something. Actually Emma had told him that he should probably throw one, Erik had told Angel to make it happen, and that was how he ended up with more politicians than he could shake a metal stick at in one room and was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

Charles circulated easily around the room, and Erik watched him from time to time, trying not to be annoyed when Celeste cornered him, hand pressed gently to his elbow, and they talked in low tones.

"Oh hush," Emma's voice rattled into the back of his mind. "If they are going to plot, they are going to plot, if not, not."

Erik glowered into his wine. "Obviously you should have made it so the monarch appoints the Prime Minister rather than it be determined by the popular vote"

He could feel Emma's smirk even though she was three-quarters of the way across the room. "The PM would still need to form a government, Erik, no matter who wins the vote."

It took some effort, but he finally managed to get back out of the floor and chatting with a few of the de facto ambassadors and generally realized that he was doing... well. He was calm, mostly, even though Charles was still flirting with Celeste - it was only flirting when it was with Celeste, if he was talking to Emma, that was clearly business - and after one particularly impressive glare, Charles managed to tear himself away long enough to shoot Erik a mental admonishment.

"Really, Erik? I think I've made it clear that I'm mad for you, but I'm going to have to do business with this woman for the rest of our careers. There's no use shooting ourselves in the foot more than I already have and making it worse."

Just because Charles was right didn't mean Erik couldn't still be irritated. He just wanted to do something because Celeste was flirting with him and Charles was his. "Clearly you should retire."

The irritation and slight frustration of the whole thing didn't abate, even when Charles snuck upstairs to see him close to midnight before he went to bed. Even a very sweet and soft kiss did little to make him feel like there was any end in sight.

"I have... a thought, Erik. I have no idea if it will be workable, but we will have what you want. I don't think Celeste believes - even now - that I'm a Dom, as much as she tries to browbeat me." Charles shook his head and leaned, almost melting, into Erik's chest, and the two of them held on like that while Erik started to feel marginally better. "You will be able to have me on your arm."

"It's usually the other way around..." Erik mumbled into Charles' hair.

"Well, yes, but you are the king, so one could see how someone could get confused." Charles wrapped his arms around Erik and dragged him into a very pleasant kiss after that.

And - unfortunately - that had to be the end of it. Charles had to be up early the next morning, and he was up the next morning doing every sort of press conference Erik could imagine, talking about his views, his hopes for Genosha, Emma was just as involved with her own interviews, her own plans.

It was hard to not get swept up in the magic of it, and he headed down to the voting booths himself even though Kings didn't actually vote because that was a little too pedestrian, and apparently being the head of the military and the liege of Genosha for life was good enough. Mostly he stood around looking intimidating and waving, and then he spent the afternoon with the international delegates, before he could escape for the evening.

He also commended himself for only passing by Charles' campaign headquarters twice before finally hiding in his room while the votes were counted.

It couldn't do for him to appear political; that was what Angel, Emma, Charles, and anyone else he had asked had said. All of this meant that he ended up taking in the election results in his room, on the internet, with a slice of cake. Emma had explained it to him before, but representatives would be both voted for outright and selected by party, which apparently meant that a few of the seats were filled easily. Anyone who earned more than a thousand popular votes - a number that was subject to change as the population grew - merited a seat outright. The senior and 'expected' seats were filled by Emma, by Charles, by Celeste, and Tate, only a few others won their seats outright (Morrow did, which Erik was largely pleased to see even though he should have been upset Charles was making headway against Emma), but beyond that it went to the party. That was where it got confusing, at least to him, but apparently people who followed international elections for a living had no trouble following it.

With exactly eighty seats on offer, Emma and the Independents took only thirty-four, which meant they needed to get at least six more votes to support her bid for Prime Minster. Emma - and Erik - had hoped she would just win outright, but Emma had warned him this would leave open the door for even more politics, and Erik was not looking forward to it one bit.

.52.

Charles still wasn't asleep at almost two in the morning, he was, however, finally back in his apartments and - mostly - by himself. The Unification Party had clenched twenty-six seats. Celeste and the Integrationalist Part had earned only seventeen, with Tate and his more colonialist stance taking a paltry three. In a quiet moment of self-reflection, Charles could admit that he was shocked at how well they had done. Twenty-Six. Almost a third.

"I don't understand," Raven said, when Charles sat brushing her hair out on the couch. "Emma and the Independents won, right? Why is everyone acting like Charles is going to be running something?"

Amy looked up from the tablet she was reading. Or, Charles should say, MP-elect Pollard. He was so very pleased to see her there, a sub - publicly known and recognized as such - elected to office. Celeste's party hadn't fielded any subs in their candidates, Charles and the Unification Party had fielded three, with only Amy getting elected, and Emma had fielded two, one elected. It was... hard not to see it as a win, although it was a small one, two out of five was... something to be hopeful about.

"It's not too hard, really," Amy said. "I'll explain it."

He wished she hadn't glanced to him for tacit permission, but it was only that, a glance, and Charles was going to consider that progress. He didn't nod, though, just waited when Amy took a deep breath and steeled herself to carry on without his permission.

"There has to be a vote, for Prime Minster. Some countries the monarch appoints them, but Genosha doesn't do that, we're styled along a variation on the Westminster System, not the full on system. Obviously Emma and the Independent Party are the logical choice, they did, after all, get the most votes, but it doesn't work that way, they need to pass a bill called a Policy Address, where the candidate for Prime Minister basically outlines what they would like to do moving forward as the head of state."

Raven nodded. "Ok, but Emma still has the most votes, right? It shouldn't be too hard to do. Lots of people, even Morrow, maybe, might vote for it if Emma gave a good speech."

Charles continued to brush Raven's hair out, and put a few small braids in it while he listened to Amy continue her explanation.

"Of course, but, you know, she has to poach votes from us, the Integrationalist Party doesn't agree with MP-Elect Frost on much of anything, and they never really have. The constitution is a set of rules to make rules, not many real laws, those will come starting now, and getting Celeste to agree with Emma is unlikely, so Charles - or the Unification Party in general - are where those votes need to come from." Amy took a deep breath, she was doing quite well, actually, and Charles enjoyed seeing her co-opt some of her teaching acumen and use it for MPing, where she would be for the next few years. Explaining these sorts of things was important. "Charles, however, and Celeste, together have forty-three delegates."

Charles watched as the revelation sunk in. "Wait, so Charles could be Prime Minister if he teamed up with Celeste?"

Amy nodded, and Raven turned around to look at him where he was brushing her hair. Charles didn't look either of them in the eye, too caught up in exactly the conundrum that Amy had outlined.

"Why would Celeste do that?" Raven finally asked. "I mean you... dissed her pretty hard after she tried to Dom you like she did."

"Exactly because I 'dissed' her, and because if she does not form a government with me, she loses the ability to have as much influence on the policy that comes before Parliament until the next election." Celeste was many things, but an idiot - at least outside of her personal decisions, an affliction that Charles was also not immune to - was not one of them. She knew what she was up against if Charles and Emma formed their government with policy dictated on the more pro-mutant end of the political spectrum. "If we form with Emma, then Celeste will be able to criticize us next cycle, but by then we'll have already made our mark, if we form with Celeste, then she can ride any success in the next cycle and probably push politics in general more towards her way of thinking because our opinions moderate hers."

"And, there's always the... erm, quite politically devastating option that has been suggested in the media," Amy continued. Charles had heard it as well, and he found it obscene and distasteful, but that did not stop political analysts from suggesting it. "Charles could see to it that Emma's Policy Address goes down in flames, possibly after agreeing to support it, and then she would have quite a bit of egg on her face."

"Charles wouldn't do that!" Raven said, but she turned and looked back to Charles with the slightest hint of worry in her eyes.

"No, indeed I wouldn't, and I suspect Emma, at least, knows that, however she cannot be certain I would support her Address at this point."

And there was the rub. Getting his own Address, one that would sufficiently appeal to all of Celeste's faction and his own would be tricky, if not impossible, right at the moment, and that didn't even begin to account for the fact that he didn't have quite the numbers to demand his way entirely. In time, he could possibly peel support off from Emma's flank, but the idea wasn't as appealing as it could have been.

Then... then there was the very simple matter of what was right.

The knock on the door that he'd been expecting and dreading all night finally came a little after two. "I see she is trying to keep me on my toes." Charles stood rumpled his hair, kicked off his slippers, and shooed Raven and to bed. "And lights off."

He kept Celeste waiting; she deserved that much.

His own trek down towards the bottom floors took place over an hour later, Celeste's offer burned in the back of his mind, barely tempting, but he had still needed to hear it. He was going to spend the rest of his days thinking and over-thinking this decision, so he owed it to himself, he supposed, to have heard it.

Charles reached Emma's door, and knocked slightly. More than the knock, he also sent a mental touch, rousing her. She hadn't been expecting him, and certainly not so late. She was less impeccable than usual, hair slightly askew in a way she normally probably never would have allowed.

"Xavier?"

He nodded. "May I come in?"

She let him in, nodding towards one of the chairs and Charles sat.

"What can I do for you, Xavier?"

"Charles," he corrected her, and then took a moment to collect his thoughts. "I think we both know I can hardly hold my entire party back from voting on your Address."

She arched an eyebrow at that. "Then you're not exactly the Dom I thought you were." Her voice, at least, was playful, and he shook his head.

"I'd rather not play that game more than once in a day, if you don't mind." Celeste's various offers ringing in his mind.

"And what did Ms. Vandermeer offer you?"

He shrugged. "The usual. I think she was offering to stay in my bed. And I'd appreciate you not mention that to Erik, the man has a jealous streak as wide as the island when it comes to her." Not entirely without merit, there was a certain unsavoriness that went with a more clandestine relationship that he was hoping to eventually shake.

"I wouldn't dream of it. I would be the one left to handle the sulk." She brushed her hair to the side, flattening the stray hairs that had broken free when she slept. "It does create a question in my mind, however. Why not? You know you could poach the fringe of my own party just as easily as I could poach yours, and you could keep your own party more centrist for it."

It was a hard question, really, one that was difficult to put into words, as much as he'd been trying. He hadn't really imagined he would be in the position, with a chance - however small - to actually be the first Prime Minister of Genosha. "It's not supposed to be me, Emma. I came here... to build a school, you and Erik came here at the head of an army to free a country, to help our people. We're always going to have our differences, all mutants are, even among each other, but it would be like... Thomas Jefferson becoming the first president, instead of the man who fought for independence in the first place."

"Thomas Jefferson was the third president," she said, wry.

"I didn't say I had no aspirations!" But he laughed, feeling a weight off his chest. "You hardly will need my permission, as I said, it would be hard enough to keep Marrow and some of the rest of my party from voting for your Address, especially to denigrate their former Prime Minister, their politician-soldier who liberated Genosha. I think we have a long future ahead of us, of arguments and collaborations."

"And this has nothing to do with Erik?" She wasn't wrong to ask. Charles found it hard to imagine Erik would not be very displeased with him if he had the audacity to do what he could have, to stab Emma in the back like that.

"Very little." Some, but still it was more because he knew that Erik - and thus Emma - had ideas that had merit, and there was no way he would allow their ideas to be pushed aside in favor of someone who would force him to be too human centered, and too Dom focused. "I'm here, telling you this, because I think it's the right thing for the country, because my ego can stand not being in charge even though I could be."

Emma stood, put her hand out for him, and Charles joined her to shake her hand.

"To Genosha?"

"And our future together."

Chapter Text

.53.

In the morning, without Erik actually taking note of how he figured it out, it was clear that the news media now expected Emma to become the first (elected) Prime Minister of Genosha. Charles continued his circuit of various news programs and talked about his hopes for the legislative session and the like and Erik was just glad to not feel so conflicted about who he wanted as Prime Minister.

Emma's conferences talked bluntly about some of her and Charles' common ground, while also emphasizing the areas that she wished to press forward beyond Charles’ party’s positions. The rhetoric was... fiery, but gracious, and Erik was riding so high he wasn't even overly concerned with how annoying it was going to be now that they were an actual country and he would actually need to entertain diplomats instead of tentative diplomats.

And then... the ceremonies and the ceremonies and the ceremonies, because what was the use of establishing a constitutional monarchy in the twenty-first century if one didn't have horses and carriages and complete and utter ridiculousness.

Although, Erik supposed if your Parliament was full of people who could destroy the very foundation of your being by shattering your mind or could rip out their own femur and stab you with it, then maybe a little bit of formality was a good thing. And he supposed he could admit he enjoyed the cape just a little.

The Policy Address, written by Emma, slightly pared down and buffed up by Charles, and delivered by Erik, went off without a hitch. It was strange, standing there, MPs and bloggers and newscasters all watching him as he delivered the Address as coolly and impersonally as he was supposed to, and every time he said 'My Government' it was impossible not to think about the brilliance of Emma and Charles and every other mutant - and some humans - working together to make something that was going to last forever, he hoped. A country of mutants, protecting each other, making a safe home for each other, and a country that would stand up against the tide of degradation of mutants across the world.

It was a good day.

Erik had spent his whole life hoping he would eventually find half the peace he had right now with a country, with Charles.

Everyone was on their feet. Angel had told him that technically they should probably be staid and not applaud, but it seemed that the peanut gallery, and even some of the MPs, had an entirely different idea. Instead of quiet respect the whole damn chamber was full of thunderous applause. It wasn't bad, really.

Erik wasn't certain how he recognized one tiny movement in the sea of metal that surrounded him, buttons and zips and bracelets and necklaces and collars; he didn't immediately realize it for what it was, but the slow, shift of metal scraping against metal, metal parts sliding together, woke something primal and violent in the back of his mind.

"Get down!" Charles. Charles was shouting. The gun went off, maybe forty-five feet away - well within the range of the powerful handgun. Everything happened at once, screaming and diving and panic filled the chamber. Four more shots were fired before Charles yelled. "Stop!"

Erik's hands were in the air in a flash, two bullets pelted towards him, one he heard clatter against the diamond hard shell of his Prime Minister, and the fourth... or... no, the fourth and fifth were lodged in the faux-ancient wood paneling of the new Parliament chamber and one he had deflected had punched into Charles' chest.

"Charles!"

Whatever command Charles had managed to make, stemming the tide of bullets stopped when he hit the ground. Three more shots rang out, and Erik curved them towards the ceiling and he vaulted over the bench where Charles had collapsed.

"Charles?" Erik pressed his hand to the man's forehead. Charles twitched slightly.

Pain. Anger. Desperation. Guilt. Erik spun, face murderous, towards the man in the crowds. He grabbed the gun with his mind, bent it, curved it and wrapped it around the gunman's throat, starting to choke him. Between the onlookers and Erik he was well subdued, but Erik clenched his fist tighter, the metal squeezing, cutting off the air to the man's lungs, biting into his throat. This was his fault. His! Hishishis. Not Erik's.

"Erik..." Charles' voice was weak, too weak... "Not for me, please..."

Erik turned towards Charles, one hand threaded through the man's hair while his other focused on crushing the life out of the man who had done this to Charles. "Charles... you..." His heart was hammering - too fast, nauseatingly so - and his gut twisted, Charles was sprawled out under him, outward calm belied by the beads of sweat on the man's forehead. Erik brushed his thumb along Charles' brow to wipe them away.

He glanced down; an obscene amount of blood had started to pool just below his ribs on his crisp white shirt and dark blue jacket. Hand trembling, he reached out and peeled away the jacket from the wound. Too much blood...

"Hey..." Charles smiled, coughed just a little, no blood there at least. "Just a flesh wound, I'm sure..." He coughed again and winced, painfully. "Oh that hurts."

"Charles, I am so sorry..." He'd been into battle so many times before, and yet he had never done anything but deflect bullets, allowed them to arc around him, but this time... "I..."

"Erik..." Charles' voice slipped right into his mind. "Please be calm and... do not kill for me. Not even that man."

"Stop, talking about him." He released the hold he had over the man, the crowd had long since subdued him, police moving in. "We need to get you a doctor..."

"Already on the way," Emma answered, immediately. She was standing over both of them, diamond form sparkling wickedly in the sea of flashbulbs. "As fast as they can make it."

The gallery around them was crowded now, full of people pressed too close, looking at Charles, and Erik could hear photographs going off, camera phones and video recorders and they were acting like Charles wasn't bleeding on the damn floor! "Get back, damn it all!" He growled at every single one of them, his hands pressed into Charles' wound now, trying to stop the bleeding. "Make a hole!"

If they didn't get out of the way, whatever help was coming would never get there in time. As it was, Charles didn't look good, freckled-and-tanned skin was somehow growing whiter by the moment, and it took a great deal of effort for Charles to even reach up, to wrap his hand around the back of Erik's neck and cling there like that.

"I'm sorry." He had to say it again...

"Erik, please, there is nothing to forgive." His finger reached out, traced his ear slowly, the only thing he could reach and leave his hand on Erik's neck. "Calm, love..." How did Charles think he was supposed to be calm?! "Too many... voices... please... calm." His lips moved slowly. "Calm...."

And then... silence... nothing...

Charles was barely breathing, if that, now, eyes closed, too pale.

Medics arrived, finally, and Erik was shoved away, his hands completely covered in blood.

"Erik?" Emma's voice was barely audible over the blood rushing in his ears. "Erik?"

He turned towards her, ready to bleed the whole damn world if that was what it took. "Find out what the hell happened. I want to know everything about that guy, why, everything. Names, contacts, who the hell put him up to this. I want it through Interpol, everyone."

Emma nodded, and he could feel her fingers curl very lightly against his forearm. "Erik, you must keep your focus. What happens to Charles it out of our hands and we cannot let..."

"Do not finish that sentence, Prime Minister." If Emma told him he needed to keep it together for Genosha he was not certain what he would say.

"Your Majesty?" He felt a soft tug on his sleeve cuff, a woman, blood red eyes and milk-white skin looked up at him. "Please, we need to remove the bullet."

We. Him. Erik nodded and got down on his knees, there was some sort of blood mutant there, medic, maybe, he didn't recognize the others. "The bullet has fragmented."

"Can you sense any of his organs?" She asked him, and Erik shook his head in response. Only metal. She stared down at Charles for a long moment. "Get them out of him, we will deal with the damage organically."

Fine control was always hard for him - as was the most extreme gross control, and it took most of his concentration. Finding the balance to focus like this - with Charles there, under him, pale and deathly - was almost too much. Focus. Focus. Charles... his...

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and carefully started to move the bits and pieces that had lodged in Charles' gut. "Please... Charles... Please stay with me..." There were six pieces, some bits twisted and gnarled, others almost whole, and Erik brought them out and set them all - mostly - calmly in his own hand. He couldn't resist the urge to brush a finger across Charles' forehead, accidentally leaving a small smear of blood.

"... Anything else?"

The woman waved a hand shooing him away. He went five feet down the benches and sat, looking at his bloodstained hands and the bits of bullet that he was cradling in them.

"Your Majesty?" He turned and looked again... a man with a microphone and a camera. In his face.

He desperately wanted to scream, wanted to grab him, wanted to shake him and tell him to fucking back off because Charles, his Charles, was bleeding out on the damn floor and it was his fault. But Charles had said ‘not for me’ and he supposed that included strangling asshole reporters with no sense of propriety.

He took a deep, ragged breath, and it was all he could do not to shove the microphone through the man's mouth. He looked back to Charles, the telepath was there, breathing, but barely. He nodded, just slightly.

"Do you have any comments?" The reporter asked.

Erik was no telepath, but he felt Emma tense, half a room away. Erik looked down at the fragments in his hand, and then over to Charles. His voice was focused, and deadly calm. "We will find who is responsible for this, the shooter has already been taken into custody, and we will find anyone he may have acted with, who abetted him, and we will see that they are brought to justice. All of Genosha is with Charles - MP Xavier - today."

There was a hushed sort of silence over the room, the mutants by Charles still working frantically in a way that made Erik increasingly nervous. The reporter seemed reluctant to ask another question. "Do you think this will impact the reception of the Policy Address?"

"I believe..." Erik's eyes flicked towards Charles again. "MP Xavier wound not want anything to detract from the historic moment of the first Genoshan Policy Address. He would no doubt want to be there for the vote, however I am certain the rest of the Members of Parliament will keep his seat warm while he is recovering." Because he would recover.

The reporter cleared his throat, nervous. "I think it's safe to say that the entire world's thoughts and prayers are with Genosha, and MP Xavier."

Erik bit his own tongue to keep himself from saying something snappish, and to keep from killing everyone in the entire damn room.

.54.

Charles woke to the knowledge that he was horribly, viciously, and obscenely in pain, and yet his body didn't seem to mind. His brain was muzzy and he felt as though he had a half-dozen blankets over his brain, light dappled and barely visible through the material wrapped around him.

He was also dimly aware of someone being irritated four floors down from where he was, and one exceptionally worried little sister approximately two feet to his right. Charles moved his hand, just enough that Raven's head shot up, surprised.

"Charles?" She pressed a hand to his forehead. "Charles can you hear me?"

He opened his mouth and discovered it tasted a lot like iron shavings and an animal that had died in it and settled for using his mind. "Yes."

"Oww! Too loud, Charles, jeez. You need less morphine."

"That is the exact opposite of what I need, Raven." His voice was scratchy from disuse, and when he opened his eyes completely he saw that he was hooked up to a relatively nice set of medical equipment, oxygenation, blood pressure, heart rate were all happily beeping along on one side, more detailed heart rate monitors were stuck to his chest, a few more stuck at his temples. He was in the process of being made love to by a medical octopus apparently.

"Oh god, Charles, can you please stop thinking!?" Raven whined. "I can hear like... everything. You're leaking all over the place."

Unlike most human beings, when confronted with the possibility of projecting his every thought onto those around him he did not immediately think of all the horrible and embarrassing things he didn't want everyone to know; instead he started to do times tables... unfortunately he was relatively high on morphine so by the time he got to two times ten he was a bit lost and had to start back over at one times one.

Conjugating Latin proved to be equally fruitless, the only think he could remember was 'vini, vidi, vici' and that was not conjugating at all, that was something to do with salad dressing he thought... possibly babies...

His winding and rambling thoughts were suddenly stifled by Raven knocking slightly on his forehead. "Helloooo, stop that. One head full of thoughts is enough thanks."

"Raven, I am currently an invalid, be nice." He brought his fingers on the hand not currently hooked up to an IV up to his temple, using that to focus and concentrate more completely on his shielding. He was usually much better than that, but it wasn't surprising after that sort of trauma that he was a bit ragged. "Was I leaking before I woke up?"

"No. One of the mutants put you into a coma, or something, so your body could rapidly regenerate and so you were pretty out of it. You were fine before, you know..." Raven trailed off, and Charles wasn't certain what 'you know' meant, exactly. He saw himself through her eyes - almost like an out of body experience - as he bled out on the Parliament floor. It was a miracle he was awake again at all.

"What’s the damage, then, Raven?"

"The bullet was in your belly, and it nicked your intestines so there was almost some sepsis, or something, you were pretty infected. You've been on fluids and they weren’t going to consider a tube for a few more days, so probably no food. You can probably drink a little." Her yellow eyes were rather puffy, and he could see that even under the blue and the scales. She had been crying, possibly recently.

"I'm quite alright, love. How long have I been out?"

"A week."

"A week!?" He'd thought maybe a few hours, but no, one did not simply enter a medically induced coma for a few hours, he supposed. He had to sleep off a bullet wound, and some infection, and who knew what else. "Have we entered some sort of horrific military state while I was out? Parliament dissolved? Totalitarian leadership?" He was only slightly joking, Erik was... not the most levelheaded in his responses sometimes.

"Such faith you have in me, Charles." Erik's voice was wry, and a bit tired, but he looked the same as always, in his casual garb rather than that hideous thing he called a cape and the vestments of his office. He did look rather dashing, though.

Raven arched an eyebrow and he wondered if he'd said that out loud or just thought it very loudly. "Out loud," Raven answered.

He wasn't certain what was worse, but he supposed it was better than projecting all over the place. "Raven, would you be a dear and find me a toothbrush or at least some mouthwash? I may not have died but I'm afraid something took up residence in the back of my throat and did so."

She responded with a rather graphic yuck face before she kissed his forehead and headed out into the wild. As she passed by Erik she pressed her fingers into his shoulder and he responded by patting her hand in return. Charles scrunched his eyebrows; that was an unusual response from Erik, the man usually didn't care for much in the way of casual touching from anyone but himself and Emma.

"Just so you know, MP Xavier, the internet has decided that you and I are having a sordid affair." Erik was smiling, but Charles could see the touch of concern at the corner of his mouth and his eyes, his face a little too tight as he waited to hear Charles' response.

Charles' own heart skipped a beat and then thudded, both with a certain amount of joy, but also worry. He just laid his head back down on a pillow. “The last time there was an attack you nearly declared martial law. You can’t distract me with tabloid trivia, Erik.” He was high on morphine, not amnesiac.

Erik came all of the way into the room and took up the seat Raven had vacated, taking Charles’ hand up and running his fingers against the skin there. “I would say that one mutant didn’t carry the same weight as a hundred.”

Charles waited, even though he had an idea where this was going.

“It would be a lie.”

He smiled, and even though he did really feel quite gross, he tugged Erik’s hand to his lips and kissed him lightly, leaving his fingers to circle around Erik’s wrist. “That still doesn’t explain why we aren’t at war with whatever country the shooter was from.”

“America.”

"Oh, that's lovely."

"This guy named Platt sent you flowers and a CIA dossier on the guy."

"That was very kind of him." Charles yawned and wriggled back down into the sheets even though the last thing in the world he wanted was to drop off and go back to sleep. "I take it you're having Azazel corroborate it?"

“It wasn’t necessary,” Erik answered, piquing Charles’ interest just enough to fend off sleep. "Why is someone from the CIA sending you flowers?"

"As an apology for his country being stupid enough to pass a sub registration law," Charles answered. “Why wasn’t it necessary, Erik?”

Erik was not exactly hiding something, which would have taken a particularly concerted amount of effort to hide, but he was obviously debating something, even Charles’ drug-addled mind could feel that. He pressed a hand to Charles’ chest. “Do you remember a mutant by the name of Edward Mannings?”

Charles had to think about it for only a moment, he had... many students, who he had been close to, who he had worked with, trained, and helped to grow. Edward was one of his. “He went with you, as I recall, died during the final weeks of the offensive.”

Charles didn’t know the details. Well, he knew some of the details; he always considered it his duty to his children and students to know how they had fallen, to know their lives after they left his Institute, even if their lives came up a bit short.

Erik looked a bit crushed by the reminder. “It was my fault.” He sighed. “I don’t mean it in the way where I felt generally responsible for all the lives lost, no, Edward was my fault. Emma never even bothered with the placating comforts that it wasn’t my fault.”

Charles imagined that it was, at least partially, Edward’s own choice, as much as Erik blamed himself. He understood the guilt, though, and he realized that any assistance in working through that would be unhelpful at the moment.

“The man who shot you... the man who was trying to shoot me was Edward’s father.”

Charles’ mouth formed a silent little ‘O’. “I see.”

“It seemed that watching the man who led him to his death giving a speech in celebration of a new country was a bit much for him.” Erik took a deep breath. “And that is why we are not at war with America. I didn’t need to be telepathic to understand why he hated me.”

Charles reached out, and even though he imagined he didn’t exactly look or smell particularly desirable, Erik crawled into bed with him, slid between wires and chords and leads, and pulled him close. The two of them stayed like that for several minutes, and Charles gently scratched the back of Erik’s neck, soothing. It took some time, but Erik was slowly able to put away the emotions he’d dredged up with his memory.

“You did the right thing, Erik.” Charles didn’t know if Emma had told him that in the week that had come and gone since he’d been shot, but he had. “Even if we seem to be the focus of a tabloid affair?”

Erik latched on to the change in topic immediately.

"My Prime Minister informs me that my voice may have broken while discussing The Crown's desire for your speedy recovery during a press conference." Erik's nerves were flaring, Charles could feel them in the back of his mind, and he was not denying that there might have been some clinging. Charles couldn't remember precisely, but he remembered Erik's hands on him, eyes wide and panicked.

Charles just reached out and squeezed Erik's hand, running his fingers over the back of his hand. "And what have you said?"

Erik shook his head. "I haven't even bothered to neither confirm nor deny, they're just rumors, and..." Erik's thoughts devolved into a jumble and Charles found them impossible to follow even though he'd gotten used to them. "It's our decision, not mine."

And it was a decision they should make together, even though Charles had no firm idea of how he was supposed to fix this. He loved Erik, wanted him desperately, and he knew that Erik was more than a touch jealous when he couldn't stake his claim and make it clear that Celeste wrapping an arm around Charles' forearm was not welcome in the slightest. "When I'm up and about again."

"I'm glad you're alright, Charles." Erik reached out and ran his thumb down Charles' jaw, and Charles could feel the way that a week's growth was not nearly so impressive as he sometimes wished it would be, even if he never put much stock in beards and the like.

He yawned, in spite of the armful of monarch-sub-lover in his arms. "I was in a medically induced coma for a week, why am I tired?"

"Morphine, and comas are not actually restful." Erik brushed his fingers through Charles' hair, it was too long, falling everywhere, but Erik ran his fingers through it despite how horrible and unwashed it must have been. "You should sleep."

"Are you going to sleep with me and give the tabloids a real eyeful if they sneak in?"

Erik snorted. "There are armed guards at both ends of the wing and only Raven, Emma, myself, and some of your students are allowed through."

"Oh, good, no reason to avoid it, then. Do watch the morphine drip, though."

"You know you smell horrible, right?" Despite arguing, Erik climbed off the bed, walked around to the other side, kicked off his shoes and crawled back into bed, taking up a considerable amount of the small hospital bed, but Charles just curled up around him.

Charles was already asleep and he only barely heard Erik make some joke about cuddling and hospital beds and how Charles was very kinky when he was ill.

.55.

The very best thing about being king, Erik decided, was that no one gave him any shit if he wanted to lay around and cuddle a sleepy Member of Parliament for the day. Well, Raven did slightly, if only because His Majesty was hogging her brother. After Charles had napped for about four hours, the two of them managed to get Charles scrubbed, showered, shaved, and mostly presentable. Charles took to his tea, juice, and jell-o with aplomb and Erik thought Charles looked heavenly when he finally got outside into a small semi-private garden area for the hospital.

Genoshan weather - at least during the dry season - was wonderful, and they were just about to head out of the dry season and Erik was more than happy to see Charles enjoy the last sun they would get before the rains and storms started up for months. So the three of them sat there, Charles attempting to choke down more apple juice and forget about the world for a little bit.

"What happened with the Policy Address?" Charles asked.

Well, they had forgotten about the world for about a half hour, which probably was a record with Charles.

"It passed," Raven said, kicking against the stone pavers of the grounds. "Actually I cast your vote for you, since it was historical and everything, but it passed like seventy to ten."

"Good, I'm glad I didn't cause too much disruption." Charles snorted, obviously thinking the idea was at least a bit funny, but Erik glowered at him.

"Everyone was very worried about you, Charles," Erik snapped, regretted it instantly. Erik had been beside himself, Raven and Amy, too, Moira, everyone. His damn telepath had so many people worried about him and he thought that they would just... go forward with no thought about...

"Erik..." Charles held out his hand to him and Erik took it, squeezing a little too tightly. Charles winced. "I know it was distressing, but I am still glad it didn't cause a disruption. Genosha is very important to me."

Raven made a little coughing sound and wiggled her fingers in a way that Erik couldn't quite interpret. "Why don't you two, you know, whatever while I get you some more juice, Charles."

And then she backed away from the little garden, and Erik could swear he heard her thinking horribly lewd thoughts, and he wasn't the telepath. Charles snorted; Erik just hung his head.

"We do rather need to sort that out, but I'm afraid any decision making is quite compromised by the presence of painkillers and lack of sleep. I cannot for the life of me remember why it was a good idea to hide in the first place."

Erik threaded his fingers through Charles' good hand. "Because most countries don't have rulers... like me." A sub. Erik still had to admit he struggled with it, especially in the wake of Charles' attempted assassination and how rough and aggressive he managed to be, it was like old times, and he was calm and in control in a way he hadn't been since coming to Genosha.

"Ones that struggle to fulfill a particularly idealized perception of what it means to be a Dom," Charles supplied. "Yes."

Charles closed his eyes and leaned back in the wheelchair he was currently occupying. Erik felt his nerves spike, and then he tried to calm himself; being out of sorts was no use to Charles. The telepath put out his arm, and then Erik found himself, head pressed against Charles' chest, Charles' fingers curled through his hair, and Erik just hung on, arms wrapped around Charles.

He could feel Charles, fingers fluttering through his mind, touching, soothing, and just being there with him. "Are you happy like this, love?"

The question was a difficult one. Being with Charles had been the easiest, and the most challenging, relationship he'd ever had. A certain level of intimacy, previously non-existent in his relationships, was suddenly acceptable. But it was hard, Charles effortlessly seemed to command the people around him, and he found himself still worrying he'd lose everything if he let himself get swept up with anyone else, even someone who he seemed to fit with as well as Charles.

"I want to be with you. I want to belong... I want to belong to you, but I can't..." He couldn't stand the idea of losing himself.

"Erik, I'd like us to belong to each other."

Erik swallowed back the lump in his throat. Perhaps that was one of the advantages to dating a telepath - and perhaps also to having a telepathic sister figure who was in your mind more often than not - even if he couldn't quite manage to get the words out, Charles heard them anyway.

“No one else will see it that way,” Erik said, trying not to feel glum about it. “I do want us to belong to each other.” He wanted it all now. He could even imagine, in a few years, wanting a collar, wanting to be marked as Charles’. He knew Charles would be his in return.

Charles’ fingers reached up and brushed Erik’s throat, probably having sensed the tone of his thoughts. “I would sub for you,” Charles said, finally. “In public, collar, kneeling, proper consort.”

Erik shook his head. “Your career would be over before it started.” He could see from Charles’ face that he knew Erik was right on that. “Maybe if you were just going to be Professor Xavier, but you’re MP Xavier, maybe one day PM Xavier.”

“One day? I have my eye on the post for two years from now, Erik.” Charles laughed, winced from the jarring sensation it must have caused in his gut, but then smiled, sucking in air between pained and clenched teeth.

“The work you’re doing is too important.”

Charles’ lip quirked into a smile. A few weeks ago Erik had said that Charles wasn’t fighting for anything, wasn’t working for anything, and now he knew how wrong he’d been. They were both fighting now, on the same side, for Genosha.

“What do you want, Erik?”

“You’re my Dom.”

Charles sighed, but Erik meant it, he wanted them to want the same thing, to find some way to have it all.

“I want to prove the world wrong about subs and mutants. I want Genosha to stand for a thousand years. I want you by my side.” It was so nice to say.

He felt warm fingers press against his jaw as he leaned, only a foot away from Charles, maybe less, and the telepath was smiling at him, bright and toothy and over-energetic considering he’d really just been shot a week ago. “Is that all?” He asked, voice teasing. “We’ll make it happen, Erik, Your Majesty. One step at a time.”

Erik closed the distance between them, lips touching softly against Charles'. Charles still looked so pale, and Erik found himself worried he would break the man. Charles, however, seemed to have no desire to stand for that, and slung his arm around Erik's neck, pulling him closer. The kiss started slow and shallow, but not tentative; Charles was too familiar with Erik now, his body and his mind, to be tentative when it came to this.

Sitting over Charles in the hospital - hand threaded in Charles’ - had done nothing to comfort him and dispel the idea that he may have lost Charles forever. Having Charles there, touching him, fingers threaded through Erik's hair, did everything to push the thought away and Charles was surprisingly enthusiastic in taking Erik’s breath away.

They kissed like that for a long time, possibly minutes, but Erik couldn't have said if it had been hours. Charles' lips pressed against his, lazy and slow, slightly drugged, his hand sliding through Erik's hair and pinning them together. At some point, Erik gave up the idea of leaving space between them as a lost cause, and slid his knee onto Charles' chair next to his leg, pinning them even closer together, Charles' hand clinging to Erik's shirt to keep him close.

That was, of course, about the time when the media - informed of MP Xavier's recovery - decided to arrive, roughly in unison, and start taking pictures.

A jumbled array of thoughts that roughly sounded like 'shit' tumbled through Erik's mind, but Charles just held Erik close. "Your choice, Erik. I'm fairly certain they could forget this..."

"Don't want them to." Brave words, but Erik wasn't entirely certain he was ready to face what it would mean. He wanted the entire damn world to know Charles was his, but the rest of it... Erik broke their kiss, slowly, and rested there, like that, with his forehead on Charles'.

Charles sent a very warm and comfortable wave of assurance towards him, and Erik felt instantly better even though he was already beginning to dread what the decision might mean. "Leave... leave our dynamics out of whatever you say, Erik. It's really none of their business. As to the rest, I always find the truth works the best."

"I'm beginning to think you bring out the worst in me, Charles." Still, he leaned forward and kissed the man again squarely on the lips, stood, straightened his robes, and then headed off to take questions, because oh would there be questions. Charles was... incredible. He had no idea how to sort out this mess but he wasn't going to let Charles slip away.

The impromptu press conference, surprisingly, started with a few easy questions, how Charles was recovering, and if there had been any progress with the shooter's background. Charles managed to work up enough energy to wheel himself over to Erik's side and actually look somewhat alert.

"How are you feeling, sir?" One of the younger looking blogger-types asked Charles from near the front of the pack.

"Well enough, a bit shot, but I'm told I'm recovering well, and I should be back to work soon enough." Charles smiled, happily, and Erik was just so, damn, glad to see him like that, even if he knew that he must be exhausted.

"And a bit shagged?!" Someone yelled from the back.

Charles had a particularly withering look, however, that was apparently effective on both students and journalists. "I think there is very little of more import than what's happened here, this week. We have a new country here, newly minted, with a newly elected Prime Minister and His Majesty's government and a rather impressive number of MPs. The vagaries of who is shagging whom are not nearly so important, although I'm certain someone's paper will feel free to correct me on that point."

Erik put his hand against the back of Charles' neck, brushed his fingers against the skin there, and thought that Charles could sometimes be so astounding right, and so very wrong. Right now, to Erik, it was exceptionally important that he was shagging Charles, that they were each other’s, and at least for an hour or two, Genosha could wait.

Despite Charles' request that the hospital staff allow the king to stay, Erik was run out of the hospital late in the evening and ended up back in his own quarters. He wished that Charles were just a few floors away, instead of partway across the city. Kings probably shouldn’t be run out of their own country’s hospitals, but Charles obviously needed rest and he wasn’t going to get it with Erik there beside him. Emma arrived just a few minutes after he'd gotten home, a very soft rap on the door rousing him from where he was making himself a drink. He tugged the door open with a flick of the wrist and then went back to his drink.

"You're on all the blogs, you know," Emma said, rather than something more conventional. "Apparently it's quite nice to see a monarch let their hair down a bit - metaphorically speaking."

Erik tilted a martini glass towards her and Emma nodded, Erik mixed her one as well. "Well, good. Perhaps some of the ambassadors will stop looking at me like I am going to rip the blood out of their veins through their eyeballs." Which would be a bit of a shame, actually, but Erik would somehow manage.

"Have you and Charles given much thought to how your relationship is going to shake out, publicly?"

Martinis finished, Erik brought them over and handed one to Emma before landing in his chair. "Not as much as we should have. I'm certain Charles has given it more thought than me but..." He shook his head. "I suppose it's just a matter of giving it enough time to be nebulous so that no one thinks I'm unsuitable when we finally clarify it. I could pass for a few more months, maybe a year or two with two telepaths on my case."

Emma sat down beside him, her fingers pressed against his shoulder. "No doubt you could. Your little protective display - when Charles was shot and today - no doubt will help enforce the idea of you as in control."

"Right." Erik pressed his palms to his forehead, hung his head like that, eyes closed, relief, finally, washing through him. "God, Ems, I was so worried he..."

She just nodded, fingers rubbing lightly into his back.

A nervous chuckled bubbled out of his chest. "I didn't think it was really Genosha, that we'd really succeeded, until he woke up."

Emma might not have appreciated the sentiment, she didn't say, but she did seem to understand it. "Sometimes I feel as though it will never be quite right without Sebastian here." Her tone was matter of fact, and didn't invite sympathy or empathy. When she'd had dreams of Genosha, Sebastian had been a part of them.

"You miss him."

"I miss... the idea of him, yes." Emma gave him a very faint smile. "Less and less each day."

Erik took a sip of his martini. "You know you could find a---"

"Do not finish that sentence, Your Majesty. When I want, in my own time. Are we clear?"

He smirked, dragged her into a hug. "Of course, Prime Minister."

.56.

Charles was surprisingly distressed to find that he 'moved around like an old man' as Raven now put it. After a few days, he was nudged into making sure he could walk - which he could, although apparently even with a coma that accelerated the healing process he was still not particularly spry. Thankfully after three days of wakefulness and walking around and proving that he could, in fact, eat and it would manage to make it all the way through, he was allowed to leave. He was absolutely beat, and had trouble staying up for more than an hour or so before he was forced to seek refuge in a chair.

The one good thing to the entire mess was that he could now curl up with Erik at night, although somewhat conservatively as Erik had a tendency to squeeze in his sleep and Charles' middle region was still tender, to say the least.

"Back to work tomorrow?" Moira asked from the kitchen, where she and Darwin and Raven were working on dinner for the entire... mini-clan that Charles had apparently adopted to live in his quarters. Admittedly Darwin and Alex had relocated to the school, so they were only visiting, Amy had gotten her own apartment out by the beach where she was going to be living on her own, Moira and Sean lived at the school as well, so largely he was still living with Raven - who had not decided what, exactly, she wanted to do with herself yet - and Christopher, who would be leaving in another two days to return to the United States.

"Yes, I feel a bit behind the eight-ball, however. My sister has cast more votes in Parliament than I have." He wasn't even overly distressed; he was just surprised and a bit lost. He was certain he would get back into the flow eventually, but it was jarring.

"Charles, don't worry."

"I'm not worried, just a bit... tentative." Worried. He sighed and raked a finger through his hair.

Erik ended up not coming to dinner, which wasn't entirely a surprise, he spent a good deal of time with diplomats now, but Erik would no doubt be home before Charles fell asleep. Moira, however, took advantage of the opportunity to pull him aside after dinner.

"Are you happy?" It made sense that would be the way she broached the subject.

He nodded. "Deliriously. It could be the morphine, but... we fit, love."

She wrapped an arm around his shoulder and kissed him softly on the cheek. "I just worry about what it will do to the party, to your politics. Like it or not, people still think subs are weak, and... well everyone is going to assume one of you is a sub."

Charles had been thinking about exactly that, although for the opposite reason that Moira was suggesting. And he had to admit he was somewhat amused that she hadn't twigged to the truth of the matter. Still, he spent far more time with Erik than she did, so the little clues didn't have the same amount of time to settle. "Can't we be just two men in a slightly unconventional relationship?"

He knew the answer to that well enough.

"People might start to think you're a sub, Charles. I've seen the way His Majesty acts around you and people can see he's the one that's... possessive, aggressive. I know you say that those are neither necessary nor sufficient qualities for a Dom but..."

Her concerns were almost comical, but he knew she meant well. "I'm well known as a switch already; you know I don't mind people thinking I'm a sub, or that I sub for others, as long as it doesn't affect the way they interact with me. Will it under these circumstances? Almost certainly, but I am prepared for it." As prepared for it as he could ever be. He patted her knee. "Truly, Moira, what wouldn't you do for Sean?"

That was the right thing to say, and she nodded, because she was a good Dom, and she understood caring for your sub more than anyone in the world. She more than understood that. Sean could be a handful, and although Charles occasionally gave her a hard time for being a bit of a cougar she was good for Sean in a way that was obvious to anyone with eyes.

"He challenges me, Moira, challenges me and pushes me to be better. He's the reason we're here in a country that is going to mean something to the world, a home for the people who need it." Erik's faults and his strengths were the reason that Charles had pushed himself to where he was. "I will miss the school, I admit."

"We're barely five miles out of the city!" She knew what he meant, though. "Ororo and the American students will be here in a day or two, she'll take care of everything and you will be our Headmaster emeritus."

"I hear MPs actually don't do much work, just listen to their advisors and make them write legislation while they go and play golf, clearly I will be able to come to the school and do some teaching every now and again. If my relationship with Erik ruins my career in politics I could always come back and find very small children who think I am the most intimidating person in the universe."

"Charles, you have floppy hair. They think you are a puppy."

They laughed over that until Charles was - unfortunately - clutching his side and trying to slow his breathing down. When he finally caught his breath he groaned and laid back on the couch. "I will miss them, you know, seeing them every day, watching them grow up. That was always the greatest joy of having them all about, you know."

"Clearly you should get one of your own."

Charles tried to imagine that conversation. He and Erik had never really discussed it. Either way, he knew he would always have his kids, even if he only saw them on occasional weekends. The Institute had almost two hundred already, and he knew there would be more. Genosha was already starting to grow, even with him nearly being killed, people knew that Genosha was going to be safe. Safety in numbers. "I have a rather new relationship. You, however, promised me a niece or nephew ages ago."

"Charles Francis Xavier, you are shameless."

"Very guilty as charged, love." He leaned back against his couch, eyes closed, thinking about everything that was going to come. Cerebro would be up and running again in another week or two, he would begin his quest to locate new mutants again, perhaps with Jean spearheading it instead of him, but they would find them. Mutants would have no reason to feel they were alone, no reason to hide, not when there was Genosha, shining and full of people like them and humans who would support them.

He knew that he had by no means done it alone, Erik and Emma had started the journey years ago, and Genosha was barely a year off from the moment their soldiers had taken Genosha from the humans who were exploiting mutants. Now it was full of... politicians and humans and mutants and mutates and ambassadors and just... people, normal, ordinary people who grew bones out of their shoulders and could read minds and could spin fabric like an insect and it was... incredible.

"Are you happy?" He finally asked, because they had had so little time to themselves lately. He was used to telling Moira almost anything, they had been working to run the school together for years, ever since she'd left America to be with Sean after the ridiculous registration act, and here she was, surrounded by mutants again.

She nodded. "The kids... they needed somewhere like this. I know you love integration, Charles, and I think it's going to happen, it is, but..." These things took time. It pained him, it did, but she was right.

"I'm a mutant," he said, finally. He could say they were all human inside, and they were, but he knew he needed to stand here and scream it from the rooftops. Maybe he would be hated for that, and maybe be shot for that, but he was a mutant and... "And we needed a place for that, as much as I wish it weren't the case."

He and Moira sat like that, shoulders touching, for a long time as Charles tried to let go of the bits and pieces of his life that he was going to miss the most, his privacy, the school. Everything was in good hands, though, the best he could have put them in, and everything was going to be more than alright. He could admit, at least to himself, that he had a hard time letting go of the dozens of things he was used to handling, used to having be his purview, but he had two things that would have to be the most important to him from now on, Genosha and Erik, not necessarily always in that order, and that would be more than enough.

.epilogue.

James Rosen - the US Ambassador to Genosha - took in the beauty of the palace exterior. Since the official founding of the country five years ago, much had changed. The palace had actually become its own entity, a perfect sprawl out over one of the scenic overlooks above the shore of Hammer Bay. It was not overly large, in truth, but it suited the neo-modern style that had come to be known as Genoshan.

He exited the car he'd been driven in, his sub, Michelle, on his arm a moment later. It was hard to remember that only a few years ago the most opulent display of wealth the country could manage was fresh fruit canapés, and now instead there was an entire palace that seemed to have been etched out of a single piece of metal wrapped around wood and glass. He'd been there for some of the groundbreaking, the King himself dragging gold, silver, and iron around to make the supports and the decorative aspects as well.

The whole thing screamed... mutant. He'd written a book on the palace construction, actually, one that the King had called 'passable' and the Prince Consort had called 'absolutely marvelous'. James was certain that was something he would never quite be able to communicate to someone who had not lived and breathed Genosha. As his reign progressed, King Magneto had become particularly charmed with the arts, with the uniquely mutant ways that the people of Genosha could express themselves, and it was etched in every inch of the soil, now.

There was no one element that exemplified it, however, Michelle had always been particularly taken with the gardens, the entire grounds were tended to by one mutant who was responsible for taming shrubs, bushes, vines, and grass into an artistic tangle. Hedges that kept their shape without trimming intermixed with vines that whirled around and through stonework and never tangled the foot.

James and Michelle made their way through the entryway, and into the largest ballroom that had been set aside for the evening. Ambassadors were littered around the floor, interspersed with MPs and a few Genoshan VIPs that James would have recognized in his sleep. Ororo Monroe - Headmistress of the Xavier Institute, Moira MacTaggart - Assistant Headmistress, and MacTaggart's sub - Sean Cassidy, were scattered around talking with MPs and Ambassadors. Michelle headed over towards Cassidy, both of them were gossipers at heart and James knew he could get the pulse of the King, the Prime Minster, and the Prince Consort just by having Michelle chat up Cassidy.

The Prime Minster entered a bit later, decked out in perfect white finery, Raven Frost on her arm, they were dressed to match today, Raven's neck neatly circled by her diamond and crystal collar. He'd heard jokes before that the collar should be counted among the crown jewels of Genosha; it was finer than the ruby broach that King Magneto wore rather than a crown, or the matching bracelet-gauntlets the royal couple wore after their marriage.

Normally a Dom would wear the bracelet and the sub a collar, but the couple was nothing if not... unconventional.

James had actually enjoyed the stir they had caused, and the fact that they were responsible for the third court case to make it to the Supreme Court of Genosha. MP Celeste Vandermeer had put a complaint in not two weeks after the founding of a country, stating, definitively that MP Xavier - as a lover to the king - should not be allowed to hold a political office. The court had declared the whole thing moot - as Xavier was only a lover, not a spouse - and then had heard a case on human discrimination - found in favor of the human - and a case on... import taxes on apples brought by the head of the international and domestic police, Azazel.

To this day, no one had been able to adequately explain to James how the international police chief had standing to bring the case, or how the 'apple tax' affected anyone as far as he knew. Mostly it seemed to just make apples particularly expensive if someone wanted them.

When the couple had actually married a year or so later, the case had come up again, and the court was finally forced to decided and ruled that nothing in the Constitution barred it. The Prince Consort had taken no additional styling - although James had heard 'Duke of Xavier' thrown around, or 'Earl of Hammer Bay' - and the matter had been put to rest.

The royal couple, however, was still not in attendance, so he made his way over to the Prime Minster and exchanged greetings.

"Ambassador Rosen."

"Prime Minister." They exchanged the polite head-nods of people too well acquainted to stand on proper bowing. "I trust you're enjoying being back at the reins?"

"Oh yes, well Xavier did a marvelous job of PMing, of course, but I think we know the way the pendulum was going to swing with the changes in the United States." Emma was all smiles, but he saw the unsubtle tension in Raven's mouth from what the Prime Minster had said.

"I am not my government," he answered, as politically as possible. Truth to tell he wasn't pleased with it, the way the most recent President had swept in on a tide of anti-mutant propaganda. He was the only choice for Ambassador, however, especially with two telepaths so high in government - and any number more in the police force - he was one of the few career politicians out there who had never touched anything too deeply classified, and he also had a relatively clean opinion on subs and mutants.

"An honest response," Emma answered. "Rich with a certain amount of nuance, however. No doubt the King making a good show of polishing his saber in preparation for rattling it has made your government nervous."

James sighed, he couldn't deny the king had a point - perhaps that was a side effect of living in Genosha so long, he had come to get used to being surrounded by mutants and mutates, enough so that the idea that they were any more or less dangerous than any other sort of human seemed laughable. "I can't say it helped, but we would do well to remember the lessons of the revolution."

A hundred mutants had taken down a power structure of thousands, and now there were thousands of mutants, trained, many of them battle ready. He knew Prince Consort Xavier was not a proponent of war, but he was famous for doing what is necessary. If his government pushed too hard, it was possible they would find themselves mired in something messy.

Emma inclined her head, not voicing a response.

"Perhaps I could have His Majesty's ears concerning a state visit sometime in the future."

The Prime Minster sniffed, her variation on polite disdain. "Perhaps after your news media has stopped vilifying him. I think we know some of your fringe requires little provocation to do something... rash."

James wished she were wrong, but she wasn't. "Then I wish more non-Genoshans would take advantage of the tourist season. The whole dry season is lovely, nice beaches, lovely food..."

Raven smiled at that, crinkling her nose. "No one wants to be around for the wet season, though, not even Genoshans."

"Very true, Lady Raven." He certainly didn't like the wet season either, when they were more prone to get monsoons than beach weather.

"Oh, it's Their Royal Terrors," Emma interrupted, looking over her shoulder to find Prince David and Princess Anya running around and diving through legs.

The more surefooted - and familiar - Ambassadors and MPs knew exactly how to sidestep, but some of the newer arrivals had no idea what to do with the rambunctious pair. But it was finally Raven who stepped up and took them both by the collar with an impressive 'ahem!' before finally dusting and flattening out rumpled robes and tugging them straight.

"None of that," she told them both, and they nodded, solemnly. "Go to your places, your fathers will be out shortly."

James watched the pair nod again and head back towards the dais and stand half-stiff, half-bored.

Raven leaned back in towards James. "You didn't have children that age when you started your career, did you, Ambassador?"

"I did have children, but they were ten and fourteen, actually, and... I'm sure you'll forgive me for admitting it, but Michelle and I had more traditional roles. It must be a bit hard, having a King for a father and an MP and sometimes PM for a father as well."

"That is one of the advantages of having an entire house staff to attend to them, though," Emma cut in, her voice cool and James realized - rather belatedly - that he'd been being a bit Domish, and not in a terribly becoming way.

"Forgive me, Prime Minster."

And she nodded, graciously. It was... rather incredible, though. James had been to state dinners all across the world and that comment really would have garnered nothing more than a polite nod, not cool dismissal, but Genosha was a rather incredible feat of statecraft compared to many other countries.

"It seems His Majesty is about to make an appearance." Emma put out her arm and Raven took it, the two of them heading over to their more traditional place to greet the royal couple.

Everyone else took their cue without the need of announcement and moved to their appointed places.

Angel stepped out onto the head of the stairs, all eyes on her, and with graced them all with a flick of gossamer wings that quieted down the last chatter. "Presenting His Majesty, Magneto, King of Genosha, Defender and Servant of Mutantkind." The king entered a moment later, Prince Consort Charles behind him, unannounced - as was their slightly peculiar custom - but no eyes were on the Prince Consort today.

The king was...

James gawked. The king wore a collar. Magneto was half down the stairs before any of the few journalists on hand for the event managed to get a camera up to actually take a picture. The collar was beautiful, crafted in either platinum or white gold, studded with a few diamonds and rubies, but he doubted anyone was interested in the manufacturing pedigree, and the concern was actually to the fact that the King of Genosha was wearing a collar and the Prince Consort walked deferentially behind him, his own matching bracelets obvious against his blue robes.

He found himself in something of a fog while the King and Prince Consort worked their way to the dais and finally sat down. His head spun as Magneto gave what was no doubt an interesting - or at least uneventful - speech concerning the five-year anniversary of their country. There were no doubt cameras or microphones that were picking it up, would record it and nitpick it and consider it, but James could barely pay attention to the words themselves.

The king was in command, he spoke easily, the rallying speech was long since old hand to him and James didn't expect any stumbles but...

The King of Genosha was wearing a collar.

The Prince Consort sat, poise lazy, watching the king as he spoke, face unbelievably fond.

The King of Genosha was a sub.

And no one had realized for five years.

Oh there had been speculation, but it was never because of anything the king had done. It was a bit of a joke - who was the top, who was the Dom, who told who what was what. It was natural to be curious about royals, that seemed to be what citizens of monarchies - and citizens of countries who vaguely wished they were monarchies - did with their time, but this... this was bizarre.

Michelle squeezed his elbow lightly and he managed to stop gawking after that.

He could imagine the gossip now, wondering about Magneto's weaknesses, but James had been across from the man at the negotiating table and he was fierce, driven... perhaps a bit too hard sometimes but nothing untoward...

Life and chatter slowly came back up in the room, one of the entertainers - a mutant who could make trilling noises almost like a bird began to provide the musical entertainment, and the king got up, held his arm out for the Prince Consort, and the two of them slowly circled around, making their greetings.

James had almost an hour to collect himself properly, and for his own mind to be as collected as possible. When the King and Prince Consort came to exchange pleasantries it was easier than James had expected to keep his focus on Magneto. Most of his dealings were with the man anyway.

"Your Majesty."

"Ambassador, ma'am." He paused for a moment. "It's a pleasure to have you share the occasion with Charles and I."

They talked, James asked after 'The Royal Terrors' - oh, out loud he'd said 'the children' but the way the Prince Consort's lips turned up he knew he hadn't guarded that thought well enough - and somehow the world didn't end because he was dealing with a sub. His opinion had shifted, a bit, he couldn't avoid it, but the king was somehow still the same man he fought across the negotiating table with and... he really was impressed.

Hours later, he and Michelle were taking a break from the festivities inside, curled up on a wood-grown bench in one of her favorite parts of the park.

"Is it terribly rude if I sometimes like it better here than back home?" She asked him, an arm threaded through his, leaning up against his shoulder.

James considered the gardens, the palace, the beaches, the weather, and everything else that had shocked him when he'd come to Genosha five years ago. He shook his head. "It is pretty nice, isn't it? Mutatis mutandis." That was how they said it at the Xavier Institute, he supposed. Genosha - despite being the first home primarily for mutants - somehow managed to... make James consider exactly what he knew of humanity.

Today he felt a little bit Genoshan, and it was a good start.

.the end.