A Gift For: anae_chan
Characters/Pairings: Charles/Erik, Raven
Summary: When events leave Charles with a new perspective on Cuba he sets about trying to heal his and Erik's differences by inviting the Brotherhood to Christmas. Understandably, they think he's lost his mind.
Author's note: anae_chan apologies for the lack of porn, it was originally supposed to have some, but it didn't seem to want to go that way. I intended to write your prompt 3, but then that gained a bit of prompt 2 as well and then grew a few thousand words of plot around both. I do hope you like it.
The small girl was underweight, scruffy and clearly hadn't had a bath in a while, but she had the most brilliant smile Charles had seen in a long time.
"So, you wan' her?" the man holding the child by the arm asked.
"Most definitely," Charles replied; "your money is in the envelope on the table."
He had scanned the man and he knew full well the low life intended to return and steal the child back at the first opportunity, but he was more than prepared for that. Sending out feelers into the less savoury layers of society was hard work, but if it brought him children like Susan he was more than happy to do it. She had an incredibly bright mind and her spirit had not been overly tarnished by her upbringing thus far.
"Wha' you gonna do with her?" the man asked, picking up the money.
Only now did the cretin actually think to ask such a question.
"I'm going to teach her and nurture the beauty in her soul," Charles replied, offering his hand to the girl. "Now if you don't mind."
With his other hand he touched his temple and removed all knowledge of Westchester from the man's mind before putting him to sleep. He did his best not to relish the thud as the man hit the carpet. Then Hank stepped through the door and Susan's eyes went big and round.
"Susan, this is Hank," Charles introduced with a smile, "he's like you and me, a mutant. Thank you, Hank, if you could place Mr Smith in the car and have Alex put him back in New York. He will not trouble us again."
"Bill won't come back for me?" Susan asked, all big green eyes and worried expression.
"Not this time, my dear," Charles said and gently scanned her.
"Oh good," she said and then smiled again.
Charles found himself smiling back automatically.
"Now, how about you tell me how old you are and what it is you can really do?" he asked and picked up the plate of biscuits from the desk and offered her one.
The girl had been very skilled at the sleight of hand her guardian had had her pretending was a mutant power, but it had been more than obvious to Charles. It had been his initial scan of her mind that had prevented him sending them on their way, straight to the nearest police station.
"How do you know I can do anything?" Susan asked, cagey despite the chocolate chip cookie now grasped in her hand.
"Because I can see inside your mind," Charles told her honestly, "and I know you are a mutant like the rest of us here. Don't be afraid, we want to help you. We want to help all mutants."
Susan looked at him steadily for a few moments and then nodded.
"I make things younger," she said and stuffed most of the biscuit into her mouth at once.
"Remarkable," Charles said and offered her a second treat, which seemed to shock her no end; not that she didn't take it. "When you say things ..?"
"Anything," Susan replied around cookie crumbs, "I made a cat into a kitten once."
Charles was very impressed.
"And how do you decide how young to make something?" he asked, utterly fascinated by her power. "Can you make them any age?"
Susan's brow creased into a frown at that as she thought about it. Then she shook her head.
"Things have youngness they can go to," she said, apparently very pleased with finding what she thought was the right word. "Some things only have one, other things have lots."
That was quite a remarkable insight and Charles tried to come up with something Susan might be sensing, but it was just too far out of his experience.
"How do you know how many points of youngness something has?" he asked as his thoughts all but ran away with him.
"Oh, I touch them," Susan said and took another biscuit when he offered. "Would you like me to show you?" she asked and smiled at him again.
"That would be wonderful," he replied, "how about ..."
But before he could suggest what, Susan pulled her hand out of his, placed it on his chest and screwed up her eyes. The most excruciating pain flared in his torso and shot down every working nerve fibre in his body, but mercifully his brain shut off in self defence.
He woke up flat on his back on the carpet to the sound of a girl crying and Sean leaning over him.
"What happened?" he asked, blinking up at his young friend and trying to track down the elusive memory as to how he had ended up in his current predicament.
"We don't know," Sean said; "we heard you scream and when we came in all Susan would say was sorry and then she burst into tears."
"Susan?" Charles asked; he had no memory of a Susan.
Sean pointed over towards the sound of the crying child, who was currently being looked after by something very large and blue and furry. Charles blinked and the person was still furry and then he looked closer and realised it was Hank.
"Hank," he said, sitting up very rapidly, "you're blue!"
He climbed to his feet trying to remember something at least and all but tripped over the wheelchair that was next to the desk. He was clearly missing some time, which he needed to get back. He was so busy looking around to see if something would jog his memory that it took him a few seconds to notice that Hank and Sean were both staring at him with their mouths open.
"What?" he asked and he could actually feel their shock.
"You're ... well ... you're ... umm ..." Sean said, apparently unable to form a coherent sentence.
"Walking," Hank offered lamely when Charles looked to his now blue friend for answers.
Charles flicked his eyes to the wheelchair, then around the study, taking in how it had been rearranged and he realised it was set up for disabled access. He didn't really like the cold feeling that tickled the base of his skull at that. It was then that his eyes flicked to the desk calendar and it read December 21st.
"Oh my god, I've lost over two months," he said, picking it up to check.
There was just so much he didn't know and he realised it was rather important that he did, so he quickly scanned Hank and Sean's minds for recent time. The slight animalistic quality of Hank's thoughts almost dragged him off track, but he managed to keep it together. The last thing he remembered was training with Alex in the bunker, but that had, apparently, been quite a long time ago.
It didn't take him long to glean that Susan was a potential student and that he had apparently bought her from someone calling himself Mr Smith. With a light touch on her mind he saw himself from her angle, sitting in the wheelchair and offering her biscuits and he replayed their entire conversation.
"Susan," he said, very gently, realising that the poor child was in shock and needed his help, "it's alright, I'm fine, in fact I'm better than I was. You don't have to cry."
Susan's tear streaked face half appeared from Hank's side.
"You screamed," she said, hiccupping.
He gave her a small smile, putting his own worries aside for a while in favour of hers.
"Yes," he said and held out his hand to her, "well I think what you did may have hurt a bit. You've never made a human younger before have you?"
Susan sniffed and shook her head, still clinging to Hank, but ever so slowly beginning to calm down.
"The cat never screamed," she said and then hiccupped again, looking so pathetically distressed.
"I'm sure we can help you find out how to make it so people don't either," Charles said, but he could feel her panic building up again. "I think it would be better if you had a sleep now, Susan; you're very tired and you've done something absolutely incredible."
He touched his temple and gave her a very gentle suggestion to fall asleep and almost instantly she yawned around another hiccup.
"Sean will take you up and find you somewhere comfortable to sleep," he said, smiling at her in what he hoped was a very reassuring way. "You don't have to worry about anything now and we'll talk again in the morning."
Sean went over to Hank and Susan and held out his arms and Susan went to him in a kind of daze, putting her head on Sean's shoulder as soon as he picked her up.
"I'll be back when she's asleep," Sean said, accepting his role and Charles just nodded, finally letting the immensity of what had happened settle in.
"Hank," he said as soon as Sean left the room, "what happened?"
"Cuba," Hank said and Charles felt that cold flicker at the back of his mind again.
He touched his fingers to his temple and quickly scanned the house, finding it empty apart from Sean, Susan, himself and Hank. He knew where Alex was from Hank and Sean's memories of recent events, but still left three very important gaps.
"Where are Raven, Erik and Moira?" he asked, not liking the possibilities that jumped into his mind.
The way Hank shifted uncomfortably didn't settle him at all. He needed to know and he needed to know fast.
"May I?" he asked and placed his fingers to his temple again.
Hank just nodded wordlessly and let him in.
He saw the President's speech, the Blackbird, their triumph and then the attack and Erik's reaction. He watched from Hank's angle as he tried to reason with Erik and he saw himself shot. Hank's memory of him falling seemed to be in slow motion and seeing the conversation between himself and Erik and himself and Raven was more painful than he could bare. He pulled out of Hank's mind before he could see anymore and sat down, shaking.
"Professor?" Hank asked, sounding very worried.
"I'm sorry, Hank," he said, trying to bring himself under control, "it's just rather a shock. What about Moira?"
He could not bring himself to look.
"You wiped her memory and sent her away so we were safe," Hank said quietly.
Charles could not imagine himself doing such a thing, but he was beginning to realise Cuba had changed him a great deal. He replayed Hank's memory of Erik and Raven walking away over and over again and he came to one simple conclusion.
"This cannot be allowed to go on," he said and looked Hank directly in the eyes. "We are being fools."
Raven hurried towards Erik's room with an envelope clutched in one hand and the neatly written card in the other. She was feeling so anxious she didn't even bother to knock and walked right in to the middle of a discussion between him and Emma.
"I'm worried about Charles," she blurted out, which instantly had Erik's attention.
"What happened?" Erik all but demanded.
"He sent this," she replied and thrust the card at him. "The ... the beach and then everything else, I think, well I think they may have affected his mind."
She watched Erik read the card and saw the man's face go from surprised to confused and then to worried.
"What is it?" Emma asked, looking between them.
Raven handed the telepath the envelope.
"Charles just invited us to spend Christmas at the mansion," Erik said as if he didn't quite believe it.
"You and Mystique?" Emma asked, looking at the envelope closely.
Raven shook her head.
"All of us," she said; "he named all of us and he even mentioned doing something Hanukahish for Erik."
"He must have had a breakdown of some kind," Erik said, "something must have happened since we last looked."
They kept an eye on the mansion so they knew all about Charles' disability and how he had sent Moira away, but this was something new.
"We need to know what has occurred."
Raven nodded and then Emma held up the envelope.
"What I want to know," the telepath said, "is how he knew our address."
After reading the card Raven hadn't stopped to think about that, she still thought of Charles as her dear brother. The fact that the whole address of their supposedly secret location was written in Charles' neat handwriting on the front of the envelope was rather a conundrum.
"I'm going to see him," Erik decided without discussion. "I'll go tonight."
Raven was not about to argue; she wanted to know what was wrong with Charles as much as Erik did.
"Hello, Erik," Charles said, looking up from his book, "you didn't have to sneak in you know, you were invited, my friend."
He wasn't sure what he had expected when he had sent the invitation, possibly a phone call, but, of course, Erik had to be much more dramatic. Erik was standing at the French windows in what Charles would have to say was a rather gaudy ensemble in red, black and plum, but he doubted Erik thought of it in those particular terms, so he chose not to mention it. The damned helmet had changed design a little, but it still had the same frustrating effect he had deduced from what the others had shown him of their memories.
Never having been in contact with it as far as his own experiences were concerned, he found the actual effect to be even more disturbing than he had assumed. Erik was standing there only it could have been a ghost for all Charles could feel. He did not like it at all.
"Charles," Erik greeted, stepping into the study and looking around, "we received your card."
"Good," he replied, "I was worried it would take longer to reach you."
He closed his book and placed it on the table next to the chess game they had started before Cuba. He had no idea why they had not finished it and the Charles who had lived through the weeks after the confrontation had not cleared it away. Erik's eyes flicked over the board and then back to his face.
"How did you find our previous address?"
Charles smiled as Erik stressed the word previous.
"I asked Raven," he replied and Erik all but scowled at him
"Mystique did not tell me that."
"Yes, well to her it probably seemed like a dream and she's unlikely to remember it clearly."
Now Erik really did scowl at him.
"You entered her mind."
"No, I pulled her onto the astral plane," he replied, refusing to sound remotely apologetic. "Everything she did there was under her control, I did nothing untoward."
"It's a place of the mind, but outside all minds," he did his best to explain. "Many years ago I made sure that no matter what happened to her I would be able to find Raven in an emergency. I made a connection between her and myself on the astral plane and then made a sincere promise not to use it unless circumstances made it absolutely necessary. I deemed the current situation to be such a time."
"You felt inviting your enemies to Christmas was a situation requiring such drastic measures?" Erik sounded as if he thought Charles was insane.
He wished he had some sort of feel for Erik, but the helmet meant there was nothing. Erik had always projected very loudly at times of stress and he missed it, even though, in the beginning, it had always distracted him.
"You are not my enemies," he said very firmly, "and it is time to put this conflict behind us. I felt the good will of season a good place to start."
To underline his point he stood up. Erik just stared at him.
"As you can see," he said, "I am whole again. In fact, for me it is as if the past months have never happened. I have no personal memory of Cuba, although the boys have given me theirs, and the last thing I remember for myself is the morning of the day before."
"How?" Erik asked.
"A mutant child called Sarah," he replied; "she has the power to make things younger. We had a small miscommunication and she demonstrated her ability by making me a little over two months younger. She literally has the power to turn back time for isolated people and objects. She is very spirited, you would like her."
Erik still looked as if he was dazed.
"Can I offer you a drink?" Charles asked and walked over to the drinks cabinet.
He had restocked with Erik's drink of choice, just in case. Since Erik seemed to have been rendered almost speechless, Charles just mixed the martini and poured them both a glass before returning to his chair and placing both drinks on the table. Sitting back down, he indicated the seat opposite himself, the one Erik must have occupied when they last played chess. For a while Erik did not move and Charles picked up his own drink and sipped it. He kept his features perfectly schooled, but on the inside his heart was beating like a drum.
Finally Erik moved and as Erik sat down, Charles could not help a small wince and he rubbed his forehead.
"What's wrong?" Erik asked in his usual straightforward manner.
Charles had promised himself that if Erik came he would not play games anymore and he was just as straightforward back: "That damned helmet is giving me a headache."
Erik appeared dubious.
"It does not affect Emma."
"Yes, well Miss Frost and I have mutations which lead to a similar gift, but they are not the same," he replied, possibly a little peevishly.
Erik didn't seem to know what to say to that.
"Why does it give you a headache?" Erik finally asked, which at least was a sensible question.
"Because I cannot feel your mind and that causes certain reactions in mine," he replied quite openly.
He was willing to explain if Erik wanted to listen. Of course Erik took that completely the wrong way.
"You promised not to read my mind."
"If you were sitting there without that damnable helmet I would not be reading your mind, I would be feeling it," he replied, just a little bit fed up of Erik's paranoid attitude.
Once again he was subjected to Erik's confused frown. They had often discussed the other's gifts, but they had never really talked about Charles' telepathy. Charles knew this was probably his fault, but he was through hiding, since it had brought him nothing but grief.
"What do you mean?" Erik finally asked.
Charles picked up his drink again and took another sip, before placing it back in the table. The question was how to explain something that really only another telepath could comprehend, not that he thought anymore that all telepaths were even the same.
"Think of it like body heat," he finally decided on an analogy he thought Erik would understand. "When you're in a room with other people you feel their body heat, but you can't tell how hot or cold they really are without touching them or, for more delicate measuring, using some sort of instrument."
He looked over and found that Erik was listening with great interest.
"For me minds are like that," he said. "When I was younger it wasn't the same, I was open to everything and I had to train myself not to be. I can still be overwhelmed at times and if people are thinking or feeling things very strongly it can be as if they are shouting at me, but otherwise I sense the mind, not what is going on inside it. The helmet is like a hole, I suppose, I can see you so I know I should sense you, but you're a cold patch in the room, a cold patch that makes me work harder trying to warm you up, if that makes any sense at all."
Surprisingly Erik was not staring at him as if he had grown another head.
"Explain to me why you think we can be on the same side when you were adamant we could not on the beach," Erik said, without making further comment about the helmet.
Charles rubbed along his nose again; he hadn't really expected anything less.
"On the beach I was injured and in shock," he replied, "not exactly at my best. Afterwards I can only guess how I compartmentalised and dealt with my disability. It is something I know I do, but now I have never lived that time. Seeing it through others' eyes makes it far easier to be objective about what happened. We have conflicting views, but so do many people who manage to act together quite well; the United Nations proves that."
"We are not the United Nations."
"No, we are the mutant nation and dividing at this early stage has to be considered utter foolishness," he said, sitting back in his chair.
Erik stared at him for a while longer and then, much to his shock, Erik reached up and carefully removed the helmet, placing it on the table. Charles did not bother to hide his total astonishment. What he had seen in the boys' memories had made him believe Erik would never willingly give up the protection.
"I never wished us to be divided," Erik said simply and picked up his drink.
The feeling of Erik that he had found himself searching the house for more than once, was right there, back where it was supposed to be and Charles couldn't help it, he laughed. It was a shocked, possibly confused sound, but it was his honest reaction.
"That was easier than I expected," he said and took a rather large gulp of his drink.
The temptation to reach out was so much greater than he had thought it would be and he sat on the instinct very hard.
"Chess?" he asked, since his carefully thought out words had all apparently deserted him because of the one simple fact that Erik was back in his head.
"I believe I was winning," Erik replied and looked at the board, "and it was your move. While we play you can explain to me how you think we can work together."
Erik didn't exactly sound hopeful, but then Erik wasn't a hopeful sort of person, so Charles did his best to gather his thoughts as he contemplated his move.
Sometime at least over two hours later by Charles' estimation, they had had one rather heated discussion about tactics and not killing people, Charles had learned a hell of a lot about some government programs on both sides of the cold war he wanted to help Erik squash out of all existence and they were on their second game. They were never, ever going to agree on exactly how to do things, but it was more than obvious to Charles that there was middle ground to be had.
It was Erik's move and Charles was just enjoying his friend's company.
"Charles, why are you staring at my mouth?"
He blinked and realised that that was exactly what he was doing. The glass in his hand was to blame, or rather the alcohol that had been in it (they had filled up several times and Charles has switched to Scotch) and for a moment he didn't know what to say. Then he remembered his promise to himself to answer any questions Erik had completely honestly. He hadn't thought about quite the current scenario, but he had promised.
"I was wondering what it would be like to kiss it," he said and had the pleasure of seeing Erik completely shocked for a second time. "Look, I promised myself I would answer any questions you ask truthfully, so if you don't want to know, don't ask."
Erik clearly had no idea what to say about that.
"Why would you want to kiss me?" was the next question and Charles realised he probably shouldn't have told Erik that last bit.
He was pretty good at holding his alcohol, but they had consumed quite a bit already and it had definitely loosened his tongue.
"Because I've wanted to do it since the moment I met you, but it never seemed to be the right time," he replied.
Erik was clearly in a mood to push the issue.
"Because I'm in love with you," he declared, possibly louder than was absolutely necessary; "there, now you know. I've been in love with you from the moment my mind touched yours and I tried to ignore it, even had a go with Moira to see if I could distract myself, but it didn't work. You're just right here," he pointed at his forehead to illustrate his point, "and I can't get rid of you."
The way Erik looked at his own glass suggested his companion was not overly sure if he was hallucinating.
"In love with me?" Erik asked in a rather plaintive tone.
Charles stood up and then wobbled, which gave him a clue he had maybe had a little more to drink that he actually remembered. He wasn't actually a lush like Raven liked to sometimes make out, but when he was nervous he tended to forget how much he had drunk. His inebriation didn't stop him walking around the table to Erik's side of the board and kind of looming over Erik, while swaying.
"Why do you find that so hard to believe?" he asked and awarded himself points for being able to say most of it without slurring. "Does the idea repel you that much?"
"No," Erik said in a very vehement tone before glaring at him.
He couldn't help the pleased smile that graced his face at that.
"I'm not loveable," Erik said, frowning as if he wasn't sure how they had come to this point in the conversation.
"I beg to differ," Charles said, "I have very good taste."
And then he climbed into Erik's lap before Erik could object. Throwing caution to the wind seemed to be working for him, so he was going for it.
"Can I kiss you?" he asked just as Erik had to catch him to stop him falling off onto the floor. "I really would like to."
"You're drunk," Erik pointed out.
"Not that drunk," Charles replied and smiled again; "I still know what I'm doing."
He swayed closed to Erik so that their noses were almost touching and looked the other man directly in the eyes.
"Please," he said very quietly.
Erik grabbed him behind the head and dragged him down, smashing their lips together in something almost brutal. That sent shots of delight all through him and Charles found himself smiling and kissing at the same time. The lead crystal glass in his hand slipped out of his grip and bounced across the rug, but he couldn't have cared less. Erik was right there kissing him, kissing him very enthusiastically, and nothing else mattered.
[I will destroy you,] Erik's mind whispered at him.
[You already have,] he replied, never breaking the kiss. [Now put me back together.]
He would be happy to go on kissing forever, although every time he tried to worm a hand under Erik's clothes his friend stopped him. As he did his best to wreck Erik's hair instead, he made a mental note to figure out how to get round Erik's desire to keep clothes artfully arranged.
Raven wasn't overly impressed with her ex-teammates reflexes as they sat at the breakfast table and kind of just gawped at the members of the Brotherhood.
"What have you done with Magneto?" Emma demanded and glared straight at Hank.
Hank appeared utterly astonished, which was lucky, because Hank was probably the most dangerous one if it came to hand to hand.
"What?" Hank said and really didn't seem to know what Emma was taking about.
The way Emma narrowed her eyes for a moment was the only clue Raven needed to know the telepath was scanning Hank.
"How about you tell us what the hell you're doing here," Alex said, standing up and taking a stance that actually looked dangerous. He seemed to be protecting a small girl.
"Emma?" Raven asked.
"They haven't seen him," was the short reply.
"You think we did something to Magneto?" Sean sounded incredulous. "Like the Professor would ever let us."
"Know that feeling," she heard Emma mutter.
"Where is Charles?" Raven asked, noting her brother's absence from the kitchen.
"Why should we tell you?" Alex said, glaring at her.
"Because Erik came to see him last night," Raven replied, "only he didn't come back."
That set the boys all to looking at each other.
"His bedroom door was open when I came past," Sean said, talking just to the other two.
"Study?" Hank suggested.
"Or lab," Sean agreed.
The three looked back at the brotherhood group.
"I don't suppose there's much point in asking you to stay here?" Hank said and Raven didn't really like his cold stare.
"Not a chance," Emma replied.
"Come on then," was all Sean said and they all marched into the main house.
The door to the study was locked, but Alex made short work of it and they soon had it open. When Raven stepped into the room she stopped dead and had to wonder if she was really seeing what she thought she was seeing. There were clothes draped on the furniture as if someone had taken great pleasure in flinging them off and all the decanters she knew Charles had habitually kept filled appeared to be empty.
"What the hell happened in here?" Sean asked, looking around with wide eyes.
A snuffling sound came from the other side of one of the couches. Raven wasn't sure if she dared, but no one else looked as if they were about to move. If Charles had finally lost it she wasn't sure she wanted to see. It was as she stepped a little closer that she saw the helmet on the coffee table and then she realised that not all the clothes around the room belonged to Charles.
Leaning over the couch, she finally saw two figures on the carpet. Erik was lying on his back where the coffee table had been pushed to the side and appeared to be wearing nothing but pants. Charles was lying half next to and half over Erik and was wearing nothing but y-fronts and one sock. Erik's arm was curled rather possessively around Charles and Charles had a chess piece clutched in one hand and both were sound asleep. They were partially covered by Erik's cloak, but that had apparently half slipped off at some point during the night. Raven wasn't sure whether to laugh or back away slowly and pretend she had seen nothing.
"Well that's definitely not what I was expecting," Emma said and Raven looked left to find the telepath standing next to her. "It does rather explain a lot though."
"Oh my god," Hank said, clearly shocked to the roots of his blue fur.
"What the hell?" Alex said, "did they..?"
"Not unless they put some clothes back on afterwards," Raven said, nipping that one in the bud, but the two men did look rather cosy and trust Alex to know more than he let on about certain subjects.
She had to agree with Emma; interpreting what she was seeing in a certain way did make Erik and Charles' behaviour make a whole lot more sense.
"Please don't do that, Miss Frost," Charles' voice made her look back down at the two men and Charles had cracked one eye open, "I am feeling somewhat delicate this morning and I may react badly."
Whatever Emma was doing she apparently stopped and just raised an eyebrow at Charles.
Raven had seen Charles with a hangover on many occasions and she could see all the signs.
"Exactly how much did you drink last night, Charles?" she asked, since she didn't like being as worried as she had been and scolding Charles for his wild behaviour always made her feel better.
"More than enough," he replied and then sat up, bringing one knee up so that he could lean on it.
Raven was struck dumb a second time or she might have been pleased by the bright smile he sent her as he rubbed his temples.
"Charles ... you're ... you ..." she finally managed to blurt out.
"Yeah, I said something similar," Sean said with a grin, apparently forgetting they were enemies for the moment.
"Oh, the legs," Charles said as if catching on, "yes; never happened thanks to young Susan. Made me two months younger, quite remarkable."
"Charles," Erik's husky voice broke into the conversation, "please tell me you did not make me play strip chess last night."
"Strip chess?" Sean mouthed at Raven, clearly trying not to laugh.
"That I can do," Charles said, suddenly looking incredibly pleased with himself, "there was no forcing involved; you were rather enthusiastic as I recall."
Erik then said something in German that Raven suspected was terribly impolite and sat up. She couldn't help admiring the very sculpted bare chest this presented to the room even though she had given up chasing Erik some weeks previously.
"Let me get this right," Alex said in the same incredulous tone as before, "you two got drunk last night and played strip chess?"
Evidently that was one step too far for Alex's brain; Raven would have been amused if she hadn't been annoyed. When Erik had not returned she had imagined all sorts of terrible possibilities.
"Yes," Charles said with a totally unrepentant smile, "it was fun."
Most faces Raven could see appeared dumbfounded, or what amounted to the same thing from people used to not displaying every emotion in their expressions. All the worry Raven had been feeling since the invitation arrived came barrelling back as she couldn't help wondering if her brother was losing it.
"I am of perfectly sound mind, Raven," Charles said, giving her a gentle smile, "you need not worry."
"Then what ... why?" She wasn't sure what question to ask first.
"Because I have lost two months of my life," Charles replied, moving to stand up with a little help from Erik, "and that has given me a whole new perspective. I have not lived through Cuba and, as I told Erik, that makes it far easier to be rational about it. This feud is utterly ridiculous and can only damage us in the long run, which is why I sent the invitation. Will you all be staying?"
"What invitation?" Sean asked and it was clear to Raven none of Charles' group knew about that at all.
"The one to Christmas with us," Charles replied, picking up a discarded cardigan and pulling it on. "I thought it might be a good place to start."
"We assumed he had lost his mind when the invitation arrived," Erik added helpfully.
"So you came to see," Hank said, eyes opening in surprise.
"They've been keeping an eye on us since day one," Charles said as a throw away comment that had Erik giving him a glare. "I wish you would not keep thinking I am a complete idiot," Charles said with a raised eyebrow and shook his head at the other man.
Raven was utterly astonished at how at ease both seemed to be in each other's company.
"Are you all staying?" Charles asked and broadsided her yet again.
At least everyone looked at Erik for an answer.
"For Christmas at least?" Charles added as an afterthought. "And does anyone have any aspirin?"
"There's some in the lab," Hank offered rather helplessly.
Emma sighed and then narrowed her eyes at Charles for a couple of seconds. The look of surprise on Charles' face was almost comical.
"Thank you, Miss Frost," Charles said with a delighted smile, suddenly looked about a hundred times as awake and ten years younger. "That is an amazing trick, you must show me how to do it."
It appeared that Emma had cured Charles' headache.
"Seb ... my previous employer tended to kill people if he had a hangover," Emma said, narrowing her eyes at Erik as well; "it was self preservation."
Erik did not look overly sure whether to be pleased that his headache was gone or not, but Charles looked happy enough for both of them. Raven was beginning to remember how pathetically grateful Charles had always been when presented with little white pills after over indulging.
"Remarkable," Charles said, apparently very happy to have the enemy in his home, "I think we really could learn quite a lot from each other."
"Charles, stop trying to poach my team," Erik said, but sounded remarkably unconcerned by the whole thing.
Raven was beginning to think something quite significant had occurred the previous night and she wanted to know what it was. Charles and Erik had not spoken since October and yet they were acting like they had done when they first arrived at the mansion. Then again, if what Charles said was true, for Charles it wasn't long after they had just arrived at the mansion.
"Um, are we friends now or what?" Sean asked with his usual blatant honesty and Raven totally had no idea how to reply.
"We're working on it," Charles said as he headed for the door. "Anyone want breakfast?"
Charles was not feeling as confident or as cheerful as he was pretending, but he knew how to keep up an act. He was kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, or in his case, for Erik to put the helmet back on and pretend that the previous night had been all about alcohol. One thing Charles never did when he was drunk was forget; sometimes he faked forgetting, but it was always crystal clear. Every kiss, every touch was there in his memory and he had to keep his mind very busy so as not to dwell on them.
"Your things are still in your room, Erik," he offered as he headed up the stairs, "I'm not sure a cape is suitable attire for breakfast."
All through his shower and getting dressed he did his best not to dwell on what Erik might or might not do. It was actually amazing that Erik was still in the house really and that was what he chose to focus on. It was as he was pulling on a cardigan to keep out the winter chill that he felt a familiar presence outside the door.
[Come in,] he sent without waiting for a knock.
Erik opened the door without comment and then closed it behind himself. He had changed from his Magneto outfit into one of the black turtle necks he had left behind and a pair of beige slacks. Charles couldn't help looking, not sure he was really allowed to, but unable to not enjoy the view.
"You remember last night?" Erik asked, looking him straight in the eye. "All of it?"
"I never forget," he replied with the same honesty he had used the previous evening.
That made Erik lift an eyebrow, because there had been that one time on a recruiting trip where Charles had managed to get drunk and then claimed absolutely no knowledge of it whatsoever the next day. Erik even flashed him a mental picture of the incident and he wondered when Erik had figured out how to do that.
"White lie," he said with a small, hopeful smile.
"You really want this?"
"Peace between us?" Charles asked. "Yes. And you? With all of my heart."
He didn't need to ask if Erik remembered everything; it was more than obvious.
"There will be bloodshed, Charles," Erik said, back to his usual serious tone.
"But hopefully it will be minimal," he replied, because after some of the things Erik had told him he knew conflict would be forced upon them. "A race is not guilty, Erik, individuals are and if we can stop those individuals, we can have peace. There are always evil men willing to take advantage of ignorance."
Erik did not agree, but neither did Erik openly disagree with him, which was a start. Stepping up to him, Erik brought up one hand and cupped the side of his face.
"I should fear you," Erik told him, "you will stop me doing great things."
"No," he replied, "I will help you do great things. I do not want to tame you, Erik, I want to be there to help guide you. We are the better men and the better women, we are evolution. We can make this world a wondrous place."
"How, after everything you have seen, everything you know, can you have such hope?"
"Because I understand nature, my friend. There may be conflict, in places there will be hatred, but nature is unstoppable. Even if we die tomorrow, evolution will win this for us no matter what. I hope for mankind, because I can bear no other thought, you refuse to hope for them because of the cruelty you have seen. Together, maybe we can be realistic."
"Mutants will rise," Erik said, moving closer still and leaning down to kiss him.
[One day there will be peace,] he replied and wound his arms around Erik's strong torso.
They were different men with different values, different ideals and different religions, but Charles refused to allow that to matter. They were both mutants, they both needed and they both loved deeply; he knew that without a doubt. He did not know if any of Erik's love was for him, but he hoped and he gave in to the dream. Erik wanted him, he was sure of that, and he silently prayed it was much more than that.
It would have been so simple to look and find out, to sink into Erik's mind until he knew, but that was a sin he could not allow himself. The helmet was still downstairs in the study and he had no intention of ever giving Erik a reason to put it back on.
[I love you.] He ghosted the words into Erik's mind, barely touching their minds together and taking nothing back.
Erik kissed him harder, drew him closer, and the most amazing feeling crashed into him. It was raw and slightly confused and full of passionate notes and Charles moaned as the essence of Erik soaked through him. Ever the man of action, Erik didn't say anything, but Charles felt everything and it left him breathless and wanting more. He couldn't help himself and he clawed at Erik's back over the turtle neck, needing more contact. A ripping sound and a knock at his door were the only things that finally made him draw back.
"Raven," he said as the second familiar presence impinged on his consciousness.
Erik's lips were red and if he looked anything similar, Charles knew all too well it was very obvious what they had been doing. It wasn't as if he could just leave his sister standing on the landing, however.
"Come in," he said, glad that at least Raven had not simply walked in.
When Raven saw them both she paused and then smirked just a little.
"Charles, you might want to fix your hair and your clothes if you want everyone to think your motives are all pure and altruistic," she said and then Erik was smirking at him as well in a rather smug manner.
He looked down and realised his neatly arranged shirt and cardigan were no longer any such thing and he had the distinct feeling Erik liked it that way. It looked to him as if Erik was probably what might be termed territorial.
"Um, yes, well," he said, feeling a little flustered for far too many reasons to catalogue.
He stepped over to the mirror in the wardrobe so he could see to straighten himself out.
"Charles, you dog," Raven said and then burst into laughter.
He turned back to find that Erik had followed him across the room and Raven was staring at Erik. Erik lifted his hand and felt just behind his neck and then pulled off the turtle neck in one smooth move. Charles felt his mouth go completely dry at the very nice view and he couldn't help staring. His contemplations were interrupted by Erik holding up the garment and wiggling his fingers through the hole at the back of the neck.
"I will go and change," Erik said, even as Charles felt just a little bit pleased with himself.
He was beginning to see where Erik was coming from on the whole staking a visible claim idea.
"Oh wait," he said, remembering and diving into the wardrobe.
He came back with one of Erik's other turtle necks that had been living in there since he had filched it from the clean washing pile shortly into their original stay at the mansion. Erik lifted an eyebrow, but accepted it without comment, but Raven was not so polite.
"Why do you have Erik's clothes in your wardrobe, Charles?" she asked, seemingly having fallen back into the role of his little sister with ease.
He was too busy mourning the loss of the view of Erik's chest to reply.
"Oh, good god," Raven said in an exasperated tone, "you're really gone this time aren't you."
"This time?" Erik's tone was a little dangerous.
"Yes," Raven replied, "Charles likes to try and fall in love at least once a year, but I've never seen him actually manage it before. Should have known he'd have to try and re-enact Romeo and Juliet to do it properly."
Charles couldn't help blushing.
"No one is ending up dead," he said very firmly; on that point he was very sure.
"Somehow I think I should be horrified or terrified or something," Raven said, giving them both a very long look, "but you're just too adorable. Erik, I know you and Charles don't always agree on practical things, but, just so you know, if you break his heart now he's given it to you in a neat little box, I will break your nose."
From the look on his face, Charles realised that Erik took the threat very seriously. Suddenly he wanted to know what Erik had been teaching his baby sister; she hadn't been into breaking noses before she left. Frankly he wasn't sure whether to beam at her protectiveness or frown at the whole nose breaking idea.
"Stop thinking, Charles," Raven said and took his hand to usher him out of the room, "you'll hurt yourself."
"Thank you so much," he replied, but went where he was urged to go.
He needed to talk to Raven and to everyone else and he and Erik really hadn't settled anything the previous night, but for a while he just wanted to enjoy that they were there. It was Christmas Eve, joy to the world and peace on earth and he didn't want to think about anything else.
"Is everyone staying?" he asked as they walked into the hallway.
"Amazingly, yes, it appears so," Raven replied. "I think mostly ours want to see if you have both suddenly gone insane, but no one has tried to kill anyone else yet."
It was a start at least, Charles supposed, one they could work with. It only occurred to him as they walked down the hall that not once had he worried that Raven was naked. The thought made him smile and he gave in to the impulse to link arms with both Raven and Erik and then dragged them towards the staircase.
"Come on," he said, "I'm hungry."