It's Saturday morning, and Erik's flushing sick down the toilet.
Splashing water up on his face, he glares into the mirror.
It's the same face he's used to, the same functional form he's seen in this same mirror each of the hundreds of days he's lived in this flat. A little more exhausted, perhaps. A little more sallow. He tilts his head, considering. More puffy? Is that weight he's putting on, or--
The knock on the bathroom door is tentative, but Erik jumps all the same. Despite the fact that he's living with a telepath, he somehow thought he would go on avoiding this moment. It's been weeks now that he's successfully hidden these early-morning bouts of illness from everyone. That is, everyone save the cat.
The other tenant of the apartment, and--considering the state of Erik's abdomen--the other guilty party in this impossible situation.
It shouldn't even be an option, Erik thinks. He isn't even capable of this. Not any longer, that is; and he'd told Charles that the very moment he'd brought up kids. Test after test had shown the same thing.
Excessive scar tissue. Inoperable.
It had been convenient enough in the beginning. When they were first dating--Erik a rookie working petty theft cases and Charles in residency--it had been difficult enough to remember to feed themselves, much less an infant.
Now, from the hall, there's a wave of concern so strong it's palpable. Erik shields his thoughts.
"Darling? Please, if something is wrong--"
Hastily, Erik opens the door. The cat, no doubt still sulking from her insulin shot (and only Charles would bring home a diabetic cat) uses the moment to bolt into the bathroom, her customary safehouse in the mornings.
Charles still has a hand raised, awkwardly, to knock again.
And then Charles beams, ridiculous and bright. As if Erik had just come back from being lost for years in some distant war, rather than opening the door after monopolizing the bathroom in a three-bedroom apartment for approximately one hour.
It was exactly that expression, Erik thinks, that made him ask an upper-class grad student with astonishingly naive opinions on human-mutant relations out for a drink in the first place. He smiles back, and hopes it isn't too wan. Charles gestures him down, and with a little reluctance, Erik settles in a low crouch against Charles's chair.
He's not at all surprised when Charles brushes over his forehead with the back of his hand.
"Aren't you the one always insisting the difference between PhD and MD?" Erik grouses. Though he stays crouched by the chair, he impatiently brushes away Charles's hand. Erik has never done well with doting.
"Regardless, I'm quite certain I have the credentials to tell if you've a fever, Erik. Which it doesn't seem you do. All the same--"
"All the same, it's probably just something I ate," Erik interrrupts, leaning tiredly back against the bathroom counter. A likely enough excuse--every Friday night, Charles's little sister and Irene show up, and sometimes everyone has to suffer the fate of Raven's vague-at-best attempts at cooking.
"But I'll call in."
It's a risky move. He could as easily invoke Charles's suspicion with this, and sure enough Charles frowns. Erik carefully thinks only of last night's dinner, of the nausea still roiling in his stomach. For good measure, he thinks of how dull the caseload's been and how insufferable his new rookie partner in the mutant division gets when she hasn't an excuse to fling bones at someone; he covers up every worry with haven't taken a day since--.
They've been together years, and his old hesitation at having Charles about in his brain has largely vanished. He's still learned a few tricks--most of them used whenever he's stuck talking to that private investigator, Frost--to deal with telepaths during that time.
Charles smiles, slightly. Erik tries not to worry if the smile seems forced or reluctant, and he lets his mind dwell only on how rotten he feels. Eventually Charles leans forward a little, brushing his fingers over the back of Erik's hand. "You must really feel quite poor, my friend," he says. "You haven't taken a sick day since 2007."
As if he didn't remember--his partner at the time may have had impressive healing abilities, but he still apparently could carry a mild enough case of chicken pox to infect the whole damn department without having so much as a sniffle. He'd been laid up for days, with Charles attempting (with variable success) to invent a telepathic cure for itching.
"I'll bribe Irene to tell us when Raven's about to feel adventurous. We'll order out," Charles adds, letting his hand slide up Erik's shoulder and rub at the base of his neck. Some of the queasiness dissipates.
"I've a full day, I'm afraid," he says, hand withdrawing all too soon. It's quite the understatement. Early Saturday mornings are always Charles's busiest, most mutants being forced into underpaid jobs where they could hardly ask a day off for something as frivolous as psychotherapy.
"I'll keep my cell on. You'll call, should you feel any worse?"
Erik nods. And backs away, hurriedly, when Charles leans in to try for a kiss.
"Charles," he hisses, scandalized. He stands, grabbing for his toothbrush, and manages to suppress a grin at the point Charles makes about that never bothering Erik before, when Charles was still an irresponsible college student.
Charles lingers, nearly long enough to be late to his office. Feeling more steady with the taste of last night's curry out of his mouth, Erik walks with him to the door. Erik's accustomed to being the first out of the apartment in the mornings, so he feels absurdly domestic as he slouches--still in a worn t-shirt and flannel bottoms, his one concession to the winter--in the doorway. He smirks as Charles makes it almost to the end of the hall before turning back and waves off Charles's final warning to consider calling the paramedics should Erik start actively dying.
He waits until he feels the keys in Charles's pocket and the frame of Charles's chair go distant enough he can't feel them. He waits longer for the distant subterranean hum of a subway train to escape the reaches of his powers.
And before he begins paging through his contacts for Moira's cell, he steps into the spare room. The apartment they've shared these past four years is a three-bedroom: their room, Charles's home office, and this. This, a room stacked haphazardly with boxes and books and uncomfortable furniture they're always about to donate.
It's not what Charles had hoped for this room when they got the place.
Much as Charles tends to put on a brave face for these things, Erik knew he'd been disappointed when he had first seen the test results.
Well, there are options, Charles had said. His smile had been brilliant, soft with understanding. Erik kissed him, then, and said yes, and with the help of one of the guys in legal who knew a bit about that sort of thing, he'd got together the proper phone numbers and forms.
They've been on the list for three years, now. Erik had known beforehand that most adoption organizations have no interest with mutant couples at all. Of the few that would work with a potential mutant parent, half of them are run by religious groups that are--as Erik had also said often enough to anyone who'd listen--less than enthused at the fathering abilities of a queer mutant-separatist Jew.
He can safely admit that this is something he wants. It's not just Charles who finds the spare room stark and empty. For a short moment he lets the uneasy feeling in his gut give him hope.
But he's been through enough, now, to know not to ever let his hopes up. After all, though it's unlikely Raven's chicken curry is to blame, it could still be the flu.
He dials Moira.
Or it could be he's pregnant.
His hand tightens as he listens to the ring tone.
Could be he's pregnant, and it'll only end like that time when he'd not wanted it. When he'd sat, fifteen years old and terrified in a poorly-run public health office in Dusseldorf, and learned for the first time that he had a not-entirely-uncommon secondary mutation. When he learned he was pregnant.
When he learned the fetus wasn't viable, that (though they weren't sure, then, of the genetics behind it) it seemed twenty-five percent of mutant-with-mutant pregnancies resulted in miscarriage.
The phone continues to ring.
But you're young, the human doctor had said, not even bothering to look up from a thick stack of paperwork, you'll have other chances.
If it happens again, he thinks, it'll be better. There are more sophisticated tests for this; he can catch it earlier. Obviously, he can't get Charles's hopes up before he knows for certain.
But even if he has to make the same decision, and even if he still needs to make it alone, perhaps it will be easier. He's thirty-six. He's with a man who astonishes him daily with his effortless kindness.
He won't be holding the hand of a underpaid mutant nurse, trying to settle the rattling of speculums and trays. He won't be shaking his head when he's asked, softly, if he has someone to pick him up after the procedure, when he's asked if he's somewhere safe to go.
Moira picks up on the sixth ring. She sounds surprised to hear from him, and rightfully so. Though she may be a close friend from Charles's undergrad days, he's always been wary of doctors and humans.
He focuses on the distinct hum of his wedding band, and asks if Moira's able to pencil him in.
At the least, he thinks, he won't be having an ultrasound of a nonviable fetus be the thing to tell him his foster father is actually a mutant.