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when the road bends

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It's late in the evening, and this is Raven's second drink; Angel and Emma seem to have passed her, but that's not entirely surprising. Raven's not great at drinking, to be honest.

Angel and Emma are sharing Shaw stories, something that feels absolutely blasphemous and oddly freeing at the same time. Mostly Raven's glad they're not stories of anything dangerous or abusive; most of the time they start with "Do you remember when we stole his helmet and-" and end with Emma wiping whatever revenge they'd extracted for being such an asshole from his mind.

"It just struck me what a weird conversation this is," Angel says. "But I think it's weirder that this is a totally normal conversation topic."

"That's life around here," Raven says, swirling her glass slowly to watch the last drops roll around the sides. "One day you're a waitress, a year later, you're halfway around the world, fucking a guy who wears a cape."

It says something that Angel doesn't even laugh, just makes a noise of commiseration. "You need another," Emma says, standing up and taking Raven's glass, even though Raven's not entirely sure that she does.

"I've been curious," Raven says, drumming her fingers on the arm of the chair. "Does Riptide talk? I didn't want to ask him, in case it was a thing."

"I know he can talk," Angel says. "I think I've heard him say four words total." She sits back. "Azazel's weirder. He's the most amoral, coldblooded killer I could ever even imagine, but he's definitely a gentleman."

"Solicitous," Emma adds, over her shoulder.

Raven has absolutely nothing to say on the subject of Azazel. She's not a murderer- not yet- but she'd kill him if she had the chance. "There's no more juice," Emma says, coming back and handing her a glass of vodka. Raven takes a sip, but it turns out to be more than she can handle; she coughs hard, setting her glass down on the end table.

"You alright?" Angel asks, sounding amused.

"I'm not used to it," she admits. "Charles never let me drink."

Nobody touches that one, but Raven can feel the tendrils of Emma's mind wrapping around hers, sinking in slowly. "Will you please cut that out? It's rude."

Emma tilts her head, looking at her strangely. "Most people can't tell."

"I grew up with a telepath," she says. "You learn pretty fast."

Emma gives her an odd look, and it occurs to her that there's no reason Emma would know about her and Charles, what they've been through; Raven sees no reason to tell her. It's kind of a relief, having someone around who doesn't know about it. She wonders if there's a way for people to stop knowing, how long it will take before it passes out of the collective memory of the- of whatever they are now, whatever world they live in. It's like reading Captain America or something, bad guys and good guys, and she's pretty sure they're the bad guys. She's pretty sure they're right, but that doesn't seem to matter much.

But it wasn't good or bad, not for her. It came down to two men, no other way out, no chance to reconsider; all she got was the choice between a brother and- and whatever Erik is, whatever Erik could be. They've both got ideals behind them, but that's secondary. She could have learned to be what Charles wanted her to be; she doesn't even know if it would have been selling out, not when they came so far at the end. But Charles pushed her to Erik and Erik pulled her from Charles, and that was it, her life decided for her.

She doesn't know whether Erik was the right choice, and she doesn't really think she ever will. She's still overwhelmed by Erik, just what she wanted and doesn't know if she can handle; there's so much, sensory overload, his cold eyes on her, feeling him inside of her, the idea that she might be the spoils of war. She doesn't know whether he actually listens to her more than Charles did, but at least he's better at faking it, taking in what she has to say instead of dismissing it out of hand.

That doesn't mean she doesn't miss Charles, no matter how he treated her; it doesn't mean that there's not an acute ache in her chest, a pain whenever she thinks of him- which is pretty often. It certainly doesn't mean that she was ready to go, ready to leave everything behind, the last eighteen years of her life, which is the only part of it she could or really wanted to remember; for Christ's sake, she left without her toothbrush.

But she's making it through, making a new life for herself, because now there isn't another option. She keeps it together as long as she doesn't stop, as long as they're moving forward, as long as she's looking at the goal.

And she's suddenly struck by what a horrible fucking idea this was, ladies' night or whatever this is, because it's the farthest possible thing from that; she's a little drunk, and now she's kind of a lot depressed. Angel and Emma have been talking while she's been sitting here, lost in her own head; now one of them has asked her something, and suddenly Raven just can't be here anymore.

She manages to hold back until she gets into the bathroom and shuts the door, resting heavily on the vanity, braced up on one arm. She holds her hand over her mouth, but she knows her crying is still audible- not that it matters, when there's a telepath in the next room. There's a light tap on the door, Angel asking if she's okay; Angel will sit with her for a while if she wants, hold her hand, rub her back, but she and Emma have both already decided it's Erik's problem if Raven loses it- you broke it, you fix it. It's good and bad; Erik is the person she'd least like to see her like this, but he's also the only one who understands.

Erik shows up quickly enough that Raven knows he's been called; he must not be wearing his helmet, something he's been doing more often, a show of good faith towards Emma. She hesitates before she opens the door for him, even though she was always going to, and he comes in and takes her into his arms, holding her there for a long while.

She's glad she doesn't catch his face before he does it, because Erik panics when she cries. He looks at her like he's trying to find the off switch, like there's a passphrase or an incantation to make the tears dry up; it hurts when she sees it, how she's hurting him, and the whole thing becomes a horrible cycle.

"Come on," he says, pulling away from her and reaching for her hand. As Erik leads her down the hallway, she doesn't see Emma or Angel; they're probably gone off to talk about her behind her back- this isn't the first time this has happened lately, though it hasn't been much- but Raven is having a hard time caring about that right now. Erik leads her into the bedroom and sits her down on their bed; it's always been their bed, ever since the first night. Erik didn't even touch her, but he wouldn't let her out of his sight, not when he didn't trust any of them.

She puts her head down on his lap, curling up. He strokes her slick hair, petting her until she stops crying, until her stomach aches and her head is spinning. "You've got to hold it together, Raven," he says gently. "You've got to help me hold it together. This can't happen again. We can't let things fall apart."

It's just what he said last time.

When she looks up at him, his face is weary, miserable, but Raven knows it's not that he's put out at her for acting this way. It's just everything else, the mask he can't afford to drop crumbling into pieces, the way he can only allow himself when it's just the two of them. It doesn't help, but that doesn't mean she can blame him. He shifts, urging her up. "Let's lay down."

This is how it usually ends up, when she has a meltdown. Sometimes they make love, sometimes they don't; sometimes it fixes things, sometimes it doesn't. It's almost time for bed anyway, so she slides beneath the sheets, waiting while Erik undresses, until he gets in beside her, pulling her into his arms. He weighs ten pounds soaking wet, but he's still nice and warm, and she huddles close; she is fucking freezing all the time, because nobody else thinks it's common sense for the person with no clothes on to be in charge of the thermostat.

She rests her head on his chest, listening to him breathe, steady and solid, something to cling to. Not content with that, he tilts her face up and kisses her softly. She puts her arm around his neck, pulling him closer, kissing him deeper. It's slow, sensual; there's no need to hurry, more value in drawing it out than letting it go.

Erik reaches down, sliding his hand between her thighs and stroking over her gently. She gasps as he presses a finger inside of her, moving it slowly; she's getting wet now, ready for him, needing him. He doesn't stop, adding another and rocking them in and out, his thumb glancing over her clit.

"Erik," she whines; she needs it from him, his cock inside her, needs to connect with him as soon as she can.

"Like this," he says, and she lets him roll her onto her stomach. She's pretty sure taking it like this is supposed to be degrading, something that only sluts do, but she doesn't know what's so bad about it, when Erik is all over her, covering her like a blanket, holding her tight and safe.

Then again, she's the one who left her family and ran off with a man she barely knew; maybe she is a slut.

She tries not to think about it, shuts her eyes and lets the press of Erik's cock into her sweep it away; it gets easier the more he moves, the more she spreads her legs for him. He runs his hands down her arms, laying his palms over hers and lacing their fingers together. She moans in satisfaction as he slides in and out; it's so deep like this, so much of him so far inside of her, so good.

He bends down to kiss the back of her neck, her shoulders, nipping and sucking at her skin. He's moving faster now, harder, deeper, and Raven wants all of it, absolutely everything he has to give her. Her orgasm creeps up, easy as anything, and when it comes it washes over her gently, smooth and quiet. He makes a desperate, wrecked noise, thrusting into her quicker, harder, and then he's right with her, groaning as he spills into her.

She doesn't really want him to move; he feels good right where he is, holding her down, keeping her warm. But eventually he does, out of some kind of misguided desire not to crush her or something. He stretches out alongside her, laying a hand at the small of her back, just so his fingertips can trace patterns over her skin.

"You're not going to ask, because you don't know where I'll hit you if you ask if your plan to fuck the sad out of me worked," she says, smiling, and Erik's "Oh god, she knows" expression is priceless, "but yeah, I do feel better."

She doesn't know if she should or could explain that it's not about the physical release, the comfort of someone else's body over hers. What matters is that every time feels like a promise, a reassurance that this isn't going to be the day, the day she loses everything again. She doesn't know if he loves her, and she isn't sure it makes a difference, just as long as he needs her; all that matters is that he wants to help her build something, something that can replace what they left behind.

He kisses her temple, smiling at her. "Good."