“I just don’t understand, Erik. Are you unhappy? Did I do something?”
Never before had Charles been more tempted to breach Erik’s mental shields. He just didn’t understand why, after two years of happiness, Erik was standing there and telling him it was over. They hadn’t had any recent fights or cooling off in their sex life. Nothing that he could point to as a reason.
“Look, Charles. We’ve run our course. I’ll come by tomorrow and pick up anything I left at your place.” Erik’s voice was calm, cold even. Charles wished he could see any sort of emotion in the grey eyes, but Erik’s demeanor betrayed nothing.
“I love you.” It was both a statement and a plea. For the first time, Erik looked pained, and glanced away briefly. But momentary hope was immediately dashed by his answer.
“I know. Goodbye Charles. Please take anything you’ve left here. I’ll take a walk while you pack up. Best of luck in the future.” And with that Erik left Charles alone in his apartment
Charles could only be grateful he held back the tears until he left. And that he had the self control not to set Erik’s place on fire as he left.
The next month was not Charles’s finest. He had considered getting smashed and picking up a couple casual flings at Logan’s bar, but had ultimately decided that he’d not allow Erik to reduce him to that. At the age of 30, he would handle this maturely by drinking alone and reminding himself of all the things that annoyed him about Erik.
He also spent a fair amount of time making sure he’d never even casually run into the man who calmly broke his heart. Making it clear to his friends that Erik had dumped him was easy; he told his sister who took the time to make sure that anyone bringing them together unexpectedly would receive the embarrassment than only a shapeshifter with no qualms against impersonating people could deliver.
Their other main point of contact, in fact where they had met, was the local mutant community center where they both volunteered. It was easy to rearrange the schedules so theirs did not overlap, and to gracefully decline any invitations he thought Erik might accept. Other life changes were made not so much to avoid Erik in person, but more to keep him busy with things entirely outside memories of the man.
Other than that, Charles needed to do very little to keep himself free from Erik’s presence. Erik spent the vast majority of his time at work, on projects that Charles had never been privy to, and for the most part their mutual friends were really Charles’s friends who had welcomed Erik into their group rather than people Erik sought out on his own.
Of course that just meant a scant month after their breakup, Charles ran into Erik on the sidewalk outside the community center.
Erik wasn’t alone of course. No, Charles couldn’t be that lucky. Next to him was walking an icily beautiful blonde. They weren’t holding hands or even that close together, but Charles had a sinking feeling that she wasn’t just a friend.
“Charles?” Erik sounded surprised and a bit dismayed. Considering that Erik was the one who dumped him and was now standing there with another partner, Charles felt it a bit unfair. He had sounded more emotional in saying the name than he did during their entire breakup.
“Erik,” Charles responded curtly. “And I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve been introduced,” Charles said gracefully to Erik’s companion.
“Oh, this is Emma,” Erik began…
“I’m Erik’s wife.” She finished.
Telepathy and the subsequent need to hide that he had overheard various private thoughts had gifted Charles with the remarkable ability to maintain his poise in public. He smiled pleasantly and responded, “it’s lovely to meet you! I’m sorry to admit my acquaintance with Erik is not as thorough as I had thought. How long have you been married?”
Emma smiled brilliantly, “only three weeks, so don’t feel badly at all, Charles was it?”
Resolving to not let this hurt him any more than he could help, Charles forced out, “three weeks? I’m sorry to have missed the celebration. I do wish you both well, though I’m afraid I won’t get much of a chance to see you in the future.”
He made a point of not looking at Erik.
“Oh, I’m sure we’ll run into each other at some point, Charles. I assume you’ll be attending the fundraisers for the center?” Emma idly waved a well-manicured hand at the building behind them. “The next one is in just two weeks, right?”
“I won’t be in the city for that fundraiser. I’ve already arranged my donation.”
Surprisingly, Erik interrupted the painfully polite conversation. “You won’t be in the city? I thought school started next week, surely you won’t be leaving your students to fend for themselves so early in the year?” As an aside he continued to his wife (his wife! a part of Charles’s mind screamed), “Charles is a Professor of Genetics at NYU.”
Offering the polite, meaningless smile he had used throughout his childhood, Charles answered, “I’m not teaching this year. I’ve arranged a sabbatical and won’t be in New York City at all.”
“Emma, could you please go on ahead, I’d like to talk with Charles for a few moments- his leaving will surely change the volunteer schedule.”
Erik pulled Charles into the center and then into an empty antechamber. Charles endured it in silence; he knew that if Erik didn’t get whatever answers he wanted now, then he’d force another meeting until he was satisfied. Charles supposed it was the price of knowing someone in law enforcement.
“Charles, please, I can explain."
“Explain what? That you broke up with me because you didn’t want a long term commitment and then married someone a week later? Would it have been so hard to send me an e-mail that you had gotten married so I could at least be spared that?” his hand waving towards the street nonverbally encompassed the entire encounter up until this point.
Charles continued, “though I suppose given how you dumped me, you rather assumed the emotions were shallow enough that I’d not be hurt.”
“It’s not, I’m not…” Erik paused. “You don’t seem upset.” For some reason Erik sounded hurt by this realization.
Charles refused to make eye-contact, and instead shrugged. “Should I be? I accepted a lot of things in our relationship Erik. You needed privacy and secrecy for your job, which I had no problems with- I signed all the releases. I’ve just come to realize that I accepted too many excuses on top of that. I think I might not have been surprised if Emma had said you’d been married for years.” The first part was true. Charles had never pushed on Erik’s past, even those areas outside his secretive professional life. At the time Charles thought he was being considerate; now he felt as though it was just another sign that Erik wasn’t invested in their relationship.
“We only broke up a month ago.”
“Are you accusing me of cheating on you?” Erik demanded.
“I’m not making any accusations. It’s not worth it.” Though, truthfully, Charles didn’t think Erik had cheated on him. Which made the man’s marriage even more surreal.
“I just thought you’d be angrier,” Erik admitted.
“Are you really asking me to be upset right now, when you’re married to someone else? Besides, you made it clear that whatever you did in the future was none of my business, just as it is none of your business if I’ve invited half the men at Logan’s into my bed since you left me.”
“What? Please tell me you didn’t do that.” Erik sounded furious; Charles by this point had whipped out his phone and made a point of scrolling through it, every inch the unaffected member of their conversation.
“Honestly Erik, they’d not all fit,” Charles could feel the tension leave Erik until he continued, “at least not all at the same time. Individually though…or sometimes two at a time if we’re being honest here.”
Charles glanced up to see Erik gaping at him. It was a surprisingly unattractive expression on such an attractive man.
“As I said, it’s none of your business. And I find it rather offensive that you expect me to be pining over you when you’re clearly over me.”
At that, Erik managed to school his face back into bland politeness. “You’re not teaching this year?
“I already said that.” By this point Charles was done with this conversation. Erik hadn’t said anything new about their breakup or his marriage. He turned towards the door, clearly telegraphing his intent to leave.
“You love teaching,” Erik said as he used his ability to pull the door closed.
“Sometimes things we love become things we can no longer tolerate.” Charles didn’t look back at Erik, but he was certain the barb hit.
“Where will you be?” Erik asked softly.
Charles considered ignoring Erik all together before he finally said, “Doing research. It’s a working sabbatical.”
“But you’re not staying in the city.”
“Where will you be?” he repeated.
“Frankly Erik, I don’t particularly care to tell you.” Charles looked over his shoulder and said, “now open the door and go catch up with your wife. I have plans to celebrate my last week in the city and an ex-boyfriend hanging around would really cast a pall on it.”
Erik looked torn. Quietly the taller man said, “I’m sorry Charles. I hope you’ll be happy.”
For the first time Charles felt his emotions break free from his control and he laughed bitterly. “I’m sure you do Erik. Now, you’ve done enough to fuck with my head and my emotions. Let me leave.”
Erik reached out a hand as though he were going to touch him, but instead waved the door open and allowed Charles to leave.
Charles didn’t look back.
Charles’s ownership of Xavier biotech gave him far more flexibility than the normal academic when it came to his research. Once it became clear that he’d sponsor the costs of his graduate students conducting their research off-campus at the Xavier facility in Westchester, the department had been much more willing to let him take an extended sabbatical. Truthfully, the school didn’t want to lose the opportunity to attach its name to any new discoveries Charles made when he was working in a lab with equipment that far outpaced what the academic world could provide.
The chance to completely immerse himself into research was a surprising balm. He was still both hurt and angry, but the urge to lash out ebbed. And then a new discovery in gene expression and mutant manifestation occupied all of his attention. Eventually his students created a schedule to make sure someone was there to drag Charles out into the fresh air at least once a day.
It was nearing the Christmas season when Raven called the lab.
“Charles, pull up CNN on your computer.”
“You’ll have to give me a minute or two Raven. The lab computers are running modeling software and I’d rather not do anything that could interfere with them.” Charles left the lab for his mostly unused office. To his surprise, Raven didn’t say anything as he waited for his computer to wake up.
Following her instructions, Charles opened up the news site.
Charles’s eyes were drawn to the picture first. It was a photo of a slightly disheveled Erik leading a man in handcuffs out of a building. The man looked vaguely familiar, and Charles glanced at the title.
“International Mutant and Arms Trafficking Ring Busted!” was the headline, posted about two hours ago based on the timestamp.
Scanning the article, brief points and phrases jumped out at him. “six month investigation,”“Industrialist Sebastian Shaw,” “cooperation from former business partner Emma Frost of Frost Manufacturing,” “undercover work by Agent Lehnsherr of the CIA.”
Raven’s voice eventually broke through Charles’s absorption.
“Charles? Are you there? Did you see the article?”
“The one about Erik?” Charles asked.
“Of course the one about Erik!” She then paused, “Well actually, no, the one under that one that’s the transcript of the initial interview Emma Frost gave.”
“I don’t really want to read about Erik’s wife helping him solve a case Raven.” Truthfully, it was a cold reminder than when Charles had dated Erik, he’d known nothing about the man’s work, let alone help with an investigation.
“The marriage was part of the undercover operation!” Shouted Raven gleefully. “They never really married, but Erik needed an in that wouldn’t make him suspicious.”
For a moment Charles was elated. But only for a moment. “Raven, Erik still dumped me months ago. I have no reason to believe that he wants to get back together.”
She was silent.
“Raven?” Charles asked hesitantly.
“I know he does, Charles.”
She didn’t sound hopeful. She sounded certain.
“Raven, how exactly do you know that?”
“He called me,” she admitted. “I think he tried to call you, too.”
“I blocked his number,” Charles said. He hadn’t wanted to risk calling or texting his ex while drunk.
“He wanted to know where you were.”
“Raven…” Charles said warningly.
“And I was just so happy there was an explanation that I told him. I’m sure he’s on his way to Westchester, or will be as soon as he’s allowed to leave.”
Part of Charles wanted to yell at his sister. Erik had had many options other than just leaving Charles without an explanation. Instead, the man chose the most hurtful; Charles didn’t like to think his sister had already forgiven him. She sounded so hopeful, though, and he knew that her worry for him over the past few months had to have eaten at her.
“Thank you for the head’s up. I’ll be expecting him. If he calls you again, give him directions to the house. I’d rather not bring him into my workplace.”
Mechanically, Charles ended the call and arranged for one of his students to come in and supervise the lab while he packed up.
Was Erik really looking to get back together? Or did he just want to offer an explanation? And was he ready to forgive him? The concerns that had surfaced after the breakup weren’t gone.
These thoughts swirled around him as he made his way home and into the study. He quietly informed the housekeeper that someone might be coming by to see him, and to send the man upstairs when he arrived.
Pensively, Charles poured himself a drink and waited.
Rather than brood, Charles decided to distract himself by shopping for Christmas gifts. Raven was nearly impossible to shop for, fortunately there were a number of mutant artists who had online galleries that he purused for ideas. The brandy he had poured himself sat untouched on the desk.
The knock on door was almost a surprise; he hadn’t allowed himself listen for Erik’s mind.
“Enter,” Charles called as he put away his laptop.
Erik slowly pushed open the door and walked inside.
He looked tired, was what Charles noticed first. He wore a grey suit, the same one Charles recalled from the news photo, but no tie. There was a scratch that ran from under his right ear down across his throat and under the shirt covering his left shoulder. The smudges of darkness under his eyes looked like bruises, and matched the actual bruising Charles could see on Erik’s knuckles.
But more than just the physical damage and signs of sleeplessness, Erik’s entire demeanor screamed of exhaustion. His shoulders were slumped and his stride slower than Charles was used to.
Charles stood from behind his desk and walked around until he was next to a pair of chairs next to the window. “Hello Erik, please take a seat.” He patted the chair next to him as he sat.
The smile Erik offered was a shadow of his normal toothy grins, but he tried. And he also took the offered seat, clutching a plain manilla folder in his lap.
Charles waited for Erik to start. The man might be exhausted, but Erik had chosen to come here in his current state.
“Raven said you’d seen the news?” Erik finally said.
“Yes,” Charles agreed. “Congratulations. It sounds as though it was an important case.”
“The most important in my life,” Erik said quietly. “Bringing down Sebastian Shaw was why I joined the CIA to begin with.”
Part of Charles wanted to pounce on this new information about Erik’s past. But a larger, sadder part realized that he wasn’t the same man Erik left months ago. Immediately after the break-up, Erik offering a small bit of his past, of himself, would have been enough to smooth over all of Charles’s doubts. He’d have quickly offered forgiveness and welcomed Erik back into his life and heart.
But Charles had had enough time to heal. He still loved Erik. And even in his fatigued state Erik remained the single most attractive man Charles had ever met. Neither was enough to prevent Charles’s less than welcoming response.
“Wow, he dictated your entire career path and I never heard of him before today. It’s almost like I never knew anything about you, Erik.”
Erik’s already tired eyes grew more pained. “You know everything important about me, Charles.”
“Yes. My past is just that, the past. You are what I want for my future. I love you.”
Charles couldn’t help his sad sigh. “When I said that to you months ago, you said, ‘I know.’ It wasn’t even the Hans Solo romantic line from you. I can’t say the same thing here, Erik. I don’t know that you love me.”
Erik looked devastated. “Charles, please. I had to take the case, and the only way to get access to the information we needed was through Emma.”
“And you couldn’t have simply told me you were going undercover? Or that work commitments meant we had to break up?” Charles barreled on before Erik could answer. “Instead you decided that the best plan was to say that we were done, to all but declare that you were tired of me and our relationship. Tell me, Erik, how I can reconcile your words now and your actions then.” Charles was almost shouting as he finished, and he felt traitorous tears gathering.
Erik unclenched one of his hands from his lap and reached out, gently settling it against Charles’s arm.
“First, my cover was very publically blown by Emma when she outed me as a CIA agent. I’ll be leaving the agency, so this won’t happen again. And I’ll answer any questions you have, Charles. It was just too risky before.”
“How was it risky, Erik? Lord knows I want to forgive you and accept this, but I don’t understand.”
“They wanted it to be you.”
Charles didn’t understand and said so.
“The CIA. They wanted to use you and Xavier Biotech as a way to get to Shaw,” Erik swallowed harshly. “And once you and your company were brought in, they’d want to keep using you.” He held out the manilla folder he was holding.
Curious, Charles took it and flipped it open. His own face stared back at him. As he flipped through page after page he grew steadily more alarmed. When he found a transcription of a private conversation with Raven about the geographic range of his abilities, his hands began to shake slightly.
He stood, letting Erik’s hand drop from his arm, planning to go grab his untouched drink, but his legs buckled slightly and he staggered. Rather than letting him fall, Erik lept up to steady him. He leaned into the embrace, welcoming the comfort in a world that seemed a lot darker than minutes before.
And without a word, Erik slid into the chair behind Charles and pulled down until he was cradled in Erik’s lap, head tucked against Erik’s broad chest. Charles couldn’t think of a time when he had been held like this for comfort. His mother was never the most maternally inclined, and his continuous parade of nursemaids and nannies were never encouraged to take on that role. Charles allowed himself to relax as Erik pulled away the folder and tossed it onto a nearby coffee table.
“The CIA has a file on me.” Charles was impressed with how steady his voice was.
“As you can see.”
“This file goes back more than two decades. It has private conversations, private e-mails, unpublished research.” Charles had never continued the research in gene suppression, had never allowed anyone else to see it. The CIA having it was horrifying for more than just the privacy implications.
“Yes. The CIA has always maintained a close watch on all known telepaths. Illegally close sometimes.” Erik kept his voice quiet, as if the the lower volume could lesson the damnation of his words.
“Did you know who I was before we started dating? Was I another assignment? One of those illegally close investigations?” Charles knew he was begging for reassurances now, but of all the problems he had picked over regarding his past with Erik, never once had he considered that it was fake the entire time.
“What? No. Of course not Charles. I didn’t even know for sure you were a mutant when we met at the community center.” Charles was glad that Erik didn’t sound angry at being asked such questions.
Erik continued, “but that didn’t last long. It took less than a week for the CIA to realize who you were. And it took less than a month for them to begin pressuring me to recruit you.”
“Recruit me?” As far as Charles knew, there was little call for geneticists in the CIA.
“Charles, you’re a rich, well-respected academic. You travel all over the world and meet people whose secrets my superiors would love to know. It can’t surprise you that people would want to use you and your gifts.”
He had never really thought of his telepathy in terms of espionage. Really it showed how little people understood his abilities; the expectation that he could just skim minds and walk away with meaningful information flew in the face of all his experiences with people. Individually, Charles could certainly uncover a person’s secrets, but a crowded room or social event was not the place for a telepath to gain information.
While he internally sighed at the CIA’s folly, Erik kept speaking. “That’s why I made sure your confidentially agreements were so thorough.”
“So I wouldn’t learn that the CIA was keeping tabs on me?” asked Charles.
“No, so you wouldn’t learn a secret and give them an excuse to bring you in.”
“But you’ve told me this now. You’ve given me the file.” Charles didn’t think that Erik was now trying to recruit him, especially after saying he was going to leave the CIA. Still, he had to know what the consequences of learning all this would be.
Charles had tucked his head against Erik’s chest, so he couldn’t see the smirk, but he definitely heard it in Erik’s voice when he answered, “once I was certain that we were going to take down Shaw, I took certain steps to cripple the CIA’s mutant records. That is the only existing copy.”
Charles wasn’t sure how to process this information. So he deflected onto an earlier subject.
“Tell me about Shaw,” it was more a demand than a question.
“You know that my parents died when I was in high school,” Erik said quietly, his voice rumbling in his chest as Charles shifted to a more comfortable position against him.
“Yes, your sister and parents died in a housefire. I remember you telling me that.” It had been one of the few facts Charles had gleaned from Erik’s past. Erik had been upfront that he had changed his name when he became an adult, and Charles had accepted that unless he hired a professional investigator, he’d have to be satisfied with what Erik chose to reveal.
Erik reluctantly continued, “it wasn’t so much an accidental house fire as it was deliberate arson.”
“My god, Erik. Why would someone try to kill your family? Or were their deaths unintentional?” Charles almost winced at the bluntness of his own questions. To his surprise, Erik dropped a kiss on the crown of his head and then rested his cheek there.
“They were hoping to conceal my disappearance.” In spite of Erik’s tight control over his own mental state, Charles could still feel the tendrils of guilt and grief coloring that statement.
Charles’s mind flashed to the headline from CNN. “You were one of the mutants Shaw was trafficking.”
Charles almost exclaimed that he couldn’t just leave the story there. The secondhand grief that he could still feel sharply reminded him that this was Erik’s life, his past, and not just a story to be told. In their entire relationship, Erik had never been willing to discuss this, and Charles didn’t want to trivialize Erik’s openness now.
Erik continued before Charles could find the words to urge him on. “They didn’t anticipate the breadth or flexibility of my abilities, and I escaped just in time to see our house collapse. Then there was too much official attention on me for them to try again.”
“Oh darling, I’m so sorry.” Charles could easily see Erik as a devastated teen trying to process the misplaced guilt of being targeted for kidnapping with his family as loose ends. “You were just a child.”
“It took me years to track down who was behind the gang they eventually convicted of the arson. About the same time I put a name to the crime, the CIA came knocking.”
Charles absently patted Erik’s arm as he considered the information. “So Shaw was the one behind it?”
“Yes. I don’t know how involved he was in making the specific decision about me, but he was the driving force and mastermind behind the mutant traffickers that targeted me.”
“And the CIA gave you a way to get to him.”
Erik hummed thoughtfully. “For awhile I thought I just wanted revenge. But the more I investigated, the clearer it was that they were still kidnapping children. Killing Shaw would have made the organization temporarily headless, but someone else would have stepped up. Bringing down the entire organization publically was the only way I could see to stopping it on multiple levels. And that required official backing.”
“I don’t like the CIA, and the more I learned about them and their tracking of mutants, the more similarities I saw with Shaw. So I started making longer term plans for after I brought down Shaw, to make sure I didn’t leave the CIA with too much information.”
“But why not just let me help? If you were going to leave the CIA after Shaw anyway, and planned to destroy the records, why not just bring me in? Why go to Emma Frost?”
“First, Emma came to us, I didn’t recruit her as a fake wife, Charles.” Even though he already knew, Charles was pleased to hear Erik refer to the marriage as fake. “Besides, Charles, I couldn’t ask you to use your powers that way.”
A quizzical noise escaped Charles,
“Emma is also a telepath. When she approached me with the idea of bringing down Shaw, she also wanted to make sure she’d be free once it was done. As I said, she’s a telepath like you, but she’s a telepath who had no qualms about erasing memories of the mutant files and watchlists.” There was a certain amount of veiled disdain in Erik’s voice as he spoke of Emma. Charles wondered if it was because of how she used her abilities or if there was another source.
“You’re saying I couldn’t do that?” Charles finally asked as he worked through the idea that a Erik had allowed a telepath to cover his tracks.
“I know you could have. I’m saying that I didn’t want to ask you to do that. I was trying to protect you.” Erik twisted Charles in his lap until he was forced to straddle Erik’s legs or knee him in the gut. Charles lifted himself and settled himself back down with his knees on either side of Erik’s hips. Erik’s hands dropped to Charles’s waist and held him steady. Looking at Erik’s face so close to him, the signs of exhaustion were even clearer.
“I don’t need protection, Erik.” Charles raised a hand to Erik’s face and ran his fingers lightly along the wrinkles crinkling the corner of his left eye. “Especially not when the price is so high.” Charles continued to explore Erik’s face with his fingertips, unable to resist the chance to touch him.
Erik reached up and stilled Charles’s hand. He held it unmoving against his face until Charles met his intense gaze. “You say that, but you haven’t seen what I’ve seen.”
Charles swallowed at the knowledge he could see darkening the other man’s gaze. “I love you, but I cannot be in a relationship where you make that kind of decision for me.
“You don’t understand…” Erik snapped, his voice harsh.
Charles combed his fingers through Erik’s close-cropped hair as he said, “But I want to. Give me the information I need, let me actually be a partner for you. At the very least think of me as an adult.”
Erik closed his eyes, but Charles couldn’t tell if it was because he was considering Charles’s words or because he was distracted by Charles’s touch.
When he didn’t respond, Charles added, “And with you making all the decisions, you overlook the obvious.”
“How so?” Erik’s eyes were still closed, and he sounded sleepy, as though his final dregs of energy were being drained.
“I get that you wanted to keep me out of the CIA, but did it never occur to you that you could tell me about what you were doing without bringing me in? You were planning on leaving after this mission anyway. I'd not have to hide my knowledge of the secret for long.”
Erik’s eyes snapped open, and he gestured at the table next to them. “You saw the file, Charles. Don’t be naive and think the surveillance ended just because we started dating.”
“I’m a telepath. And you have had more than enough training to learn how to project to me. I mean, by the end of our first month together, you knew exactly how to throw a thought my way. Unless the surveillance is much more sophisticated than I thought, you could have let me know without ever saying a word out loud.”
Erik looked even more tired at the revelation. “I never thought about that. Maybe I was just too used to keeping your ability separate from my job,” he muttered.
“See, this is why I need to know that you’ll trust me enough to at least let me make my own decisions.”
Erik pulled Charles closer, until their torsos were pressed against each other. “There is so much I want to say to you, Charles. So many things I want to explain now that I’m out. But I’m also about to collapse. Do you mind terribly if I stay here?”
Charles clumsily disentangled himself from Erik’s embrace, and grabbed his wrist to pull him towards the door. “Come on, let’s go to bed. You can sleep with me tonight.”
“While I appreciate the invitation, I don’t think I could properly show that appreciation at the moment,” Erik commented ruefully.
Charles didn’t look back, but his fingers did tighten slightly before they relaxed. “Just to sleep Erik. You look like the dead walking, and I don’t have a zombie fetish.” Charles continued towards his own room. “Besides, I’m not ready for anything other than sleeping at the moment.”
Erik tugged his wrist back until Charles turned to look at him.
“But you think that you might be ready at some point?”
Charles smiled sadly. “I know myself well enough to admit that I want you back, Erik. And if you’re really with me this time, I think we can get there.”
For the first time in since they had met over two years ago, Charles could feel Erik reaching out not just with precise thoughts, but with the whole-hearted emotions he normally kept locked tightly away. It was more of an answer than any of the words Erik had already offered.