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Lifelong Service

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Erik stood in the kitchen as he watched Charles lead Hank around the mansion in a paced run. They had only been at the mansion in Westchester for two days, but Charles at least understood the need for discipline in their little army. It was a touch pathetic, however. As much as Hank had been in the CIA, it was clear that physical training had not been high on the list of things required of its research branch. Charles easily beat the young man, over and over again, barely seeming to break a sweat. Considering that Charles had a PhD and had probably spent the last ten years hiding behind a pile of books with little care for his fitness it was a clear case of the blind leading the blind.

He'd made a few overtures, but apparently Charles was not a fan of the rough and tumble approach that Erik took to training with the boys and Raven. He'd actually nearly made Hank cry before Charles had sent him on his way with a 'yes, thank you, Erik'. When Shaw finally showed himself again, he supposed it would be on Charles' head when his 'G-Men' weren't ready.

There was one area where Erik absolutely wouldn't allow Charles to reign, however, and that was in the hand to hand training that Charles had assigned as part of everyone's regular training regimen. Charles had set himself to lead the lessons. This he couldn't allow to stand, as a point of pride. Charles was a good natured sort, however, and Erik expected him to take the suggestion and not be too upset.

He found Charles stretching in one of the large rooms set aside for training.

"Charles?"

Charles hummed in response, but said nothing as he continued to stretch.

"I want to lead the hand to hand work."

Charles stretched up to his full height, not necessarily the most impressive, but Erik supposed the man needed that. "I would not object to sharing the responsibility, Erik."

This was not how Erik had envisioned this conversation going. Charles was supposed to agree, not fight him on this. "You don't want them learning bad habits. Most of them are going to need at least some retraining, or training in the first place. I thought you agreed we were building an army."

"I would prefer to think of it as a specialized task force dedicated to dealing with problems for which we are uniquely suited, but I suppose 'army' has a certain appeal, yes."

Erik gritted his teeth slightly. "They need to learn how to be 'uniquely suited' for something beyond nonviolent conflict resolution. Or did you forget that the whole lot of them froze in the face of four mutants and one of them is already dead?" And one of them already so sick of Charles and his methods that she'd left of her own accord, but he didn't give voice to that now. He wasn't above using that fact to make a point, but Erik didn't think Charles would take kindly to the reminder right now.

"Alex and Darwin coordinated themselves admirably," Charles answered, eyes downcast. "The results were unfortunate, but I have nothing but respect for their attempt."

Their attempt was a rank failure. "Let me train them in hand to hand."

A long silence fell between them, and for a moment Erik thought Charles might finally agree with him on something. "We will train them together," Charles finally decided. "I would prefer to take the lead. Your skills are admirable, Erik, but there is more to fighting than knowing how and where to hit."

"Fight me for it."

"I beg your pardon?"

"If you think you have some secret to teaching how to fight, prove it."

Charles watched him, both of them silent again, but Charles finally nodded, as though he'd made a decision far more momentous than agreeing to a quick spar. "Very well. A pin? Incapacitation?"

As much as he ached to beat a bit of sense into Charles, he didn't want to hurt the man. He was... attached to him for reasons he wasn't quite able to articulate. Charles infuriated him, yes, but it was comfortable to be challenged by him from time to time. "Ten second pin."

Charles stepped to the center of the mat, stretched one final time and then nodded. "Tell me when and we will start."

"No powers," Erik added.

"Of course."

Erik walked over to Charles, leaving a good six feet between them to start. That might at least give Charles fighting chance to mount a defense.

"Go ahead."

Charles didn't move. Erik waited a moment for Charles to move, to do anything, but he didn't, just stayed relaxed, and yet coiled, ready. Non-violent pacifist to the end, apparently. Erik pounced. A hard fist hit him in the solar plexus and he staggered back, pain bloomed in his jaw a split second later. He dodged the third blow, dancing back. His hands hadn't even hit.

He struck again, landing a hit to Charles' jaw hard enough to take him down. Charles had always struck him as the type to have a glass jaw. The telepath just shrugged it off, continued his assault.

They traded blows, far more than Erik expected, hitting and punching, kicking, landing blows and missing, staggering each other and getting back up. Erik found himself without time to plan a best course to take Charles down. Even as he tried to plan a kick lashed out, hitting right above his knee and he fell. Charles grabbed him, but rather than some weak grab for his throat, Charles threw him down, face to the ground, one knee pinning him high on his back, his arm twisted back so hard he thought it would have taken only a fraction of an inch to dislocate it. Charles pinned his other hand with his foot.

Erik flailed against the pin, angry, frustrated, and Charles continued to hold him there, counting out loud.

Erik's reaction was instantaneous, he grabbed for the only metal nearby. He wasn't on the training mat now, he was on the battle field; defeat would mean that Shaw would escape, that there would be no one to avenge his mother. He grabbed the steel chain that always sat on Charles' throat, wrapping it tight around Charles' throat, but not before Charles' left hand grabbed it, kept it from digging into his windpipe.

"Eight."

Erik squeezed harder; Charles didn't even struggle above him.

"Nine."

His teeth gritted, his back flexing.

"Ten. Erik, please, calm yourself."

Charles released his pinned arms and Erik rolled, depositing the telepath on his back and towering over him, hands grabbing into Charles' sweatshirt, panting dangerously.

"Calm." A hand pressed to his face and he had to fight the urge to bite it. "I am not your enemy. It was just a spar."

"How?" Fear melted into anger and frustration. How did Charles best him? The man was six inches shorter and academic. Erik had trained his whole life to kill a man with his bare hands.

The telepath hooked a thumb into the metal around his neck, sliding it to show two bruised metal dog tags. Charles F. Xavier; Type B+; Catholic; The Graymalkin address for the mansion where they now sat...

"Army?" Erik asked, to confused for rational thought.

"8086th," Charles answered. "I believe they're calling that sort of thing 'Special Ops' now-a-days."

"You're a professor!"

"And I served in Korea, or did you think most PhD candidates faff about for eleven years to write a single dissertation?"

Erik... hadn't really given much thought to it. He supposed he figured Charles just enjoyed drinking and flirting a bit too much to actually concentrate. He'd enjoyed his fair share of the behavior for the few weeks they'd gone recruiting.

"Yes, thank you for that, Erik," Charles responded to his thoughts and Erik recoiled, crossing his hands on his chest. Charles tugged on his sweatshirt for a moment. "Now, are we done with this mess about my qualifications for training in hand to hand?"

Mutely, Erik nodded.

"Good, I have decided to begin with some basic self defense principles and we will move from there. Good fundamentals, as you recommended."

Erik knew the sentiment was supposed to soothe him, but in the not-quite-privacy of his own mind he wondered what else Charles was keeping from him when he wasn't allowed a single secret from Charles.