nekare: (Elektra)
This fandom is so addictive. I'm loving it! And of course, the X-men universe always feels like a well-worn jumper that just fits right, for all that it's not like I've written lots for it. But I've loved it since I was a wee girl in love with the cartoon, so there's that. :D

Title: Inertia
Word Count: 7000
Summary They call to each other, partly because they're both attracted to power, and partly in a way that becomes obvious in those soft brushes against each other, all those touches and glances and the way they keep on surprising each other. How they could never be bored by one another.
Author's Notes: Betaed by the fantastic [profile] sablier_bloque! I’m running with the idea (based in trufax, even!) that the US placed those missiles in Turkey in April, and the culmination of the Cuban Missile Crisis was in October, so we have months instead of the weeks they made it look like in the movie.



Inertia


Erik is a constant presence beside him. He’s always in step next to him, arms brushing as they walk; a hand on his shoulder when he’s bracing himself to use Cerebro, and the same hand on the small of his back once he steps away form it, pale and exhausted, but grinning. He’s always there, right on the edge of his vision, staring at him as if he wants to look right through him.

And he’s always on his mind, because even when they’re not touching, Erik has the kind of mind that is too big to stay confined inside him – it expands, sharp and clever, and with an undeniable touch of danger that Charles can’t pretend he’s not attracted to. He can always feel him, at the edge of his own mind, especially when he’s tired or sleepy or drunk, and it gets harder to follow his own morals and stay out when it is so tempting to just dive in.

They eat together, drive together, strategize together, and pretty much breath together, so in sync it’s almost scary, after all these weeks of traveling in search of their kind. And yet, it doesn’t feel intrusive. It’s exhilarating, to tell the truth.

They talk about books and philosophy and Charles gets to practice his rusty German as they drive across the country, sweating a bit against the vinyl under the sun he’d forgotten about in Oxford. The air is warm and dusty through the open windows as Erik corrects him on his pronunciation, turning to look at him far too much instead of at the road. Erik always stares at him like he’s the only person in the room, in the miles around them, in the entire earth. It should be overwhelming, but it strangely isn’t.

They play chess at night, always in Charles’s room because Erik has trust issues, enthusiastically in the way only evenly-matched players can. Raven can play, but she’s always found it boring, and Charles has been starved for the challenge. And, Erik for the attention, it seems, no matter how much Charles doubts he would admit it to himself. He opens the window to let in the breeze, the sound of cicadas coming with it, and Erik always looks tense in the face of the security breach, jaw clenched until he finally gestures and the window snaps closed.

“Why do I have the feeling you also sleep on the bed closest to the door and memorize escape routes?” Charles says, and regrets it almost instantly because he knows why he does it, but Erik only smirks.

“And why do I have the feeling you would try to reason with burglars about the merits of an honest life?” He says with a raised eyebrow, and Charles laughs.

They theorize about the future of mutant-kind, sometimes, while having lunch in diners that Erik irrevocably thinks cook their food too greasily. Charles wants to start a school, to shape the youth of their new species. He daydreams of a time when mutants will never feel alone, or different. Erik is less optimistic.

“If you think the humans will accept us just like that, my friend, you are sadly mistaken.”

“Well maybe I choose to see the best in people, Erik.”

Erik shakes his head silently, and they agree to disagree. For now.

Every mutant they recruit is a high, and every one that says no, or is forced to say no by frightened parents, feels almost like a personal offense. In Chicago, they walk back to the car in silence, after the door slams in their faces. Charles looks up into the sky as he opens the car door, squinting into the sun, and then he turns around sharply to look at Erik when he feels a cool hand on the back of his neck.

“We’ll get the next one,” Erik says, always so sure of himself, staring straight into Charles’ eyes. As he nods, he can feel himself blushing, starting from the place Erik is touching him. It feels a bit like falling.

They get drunk that night. Charles chats up a girl and she laughs, obviously finding him a bit of a loser but a charming one, and there shouldn’t be a reason why he leaves with Erik instead and tries to show him the sights of Chicago at two in the morning, laughing at nothing; but there is.

Erik is the first person with a mind and power alike to his own, and he feels like he can’t look away from it, from its brightness, even if it blinds him.

The next one is Armando, amazing, resilient Armando, who grins and looks so proud when he shows them what he can do.

This time, when they drive back to CIA quarters with Armando sleeping on the back seat, Charles won’t stop smiling. Even Erik is drumming his fingers lightly on the steering wheel to the tune of the song on the radio.

There might be a war coming on, but in this moment, Charles can’t seem to make himself care.


----



And then of course, everything goes to hell and Angel is gone and Armando is dead and the surviving CIA agents look at them like this is all their fault, like they want them to go see the widows and children of all the agents that died and apologize personally.

They went out to hunt Shaw and he came to them instead. After weeks of not wearing it, Erik gains back the haunted expression he had on the night they met, anger permeating his every movement. It’s like their entire cause just took a huge step back.


----



They have a small memorial service for Armando in the first few days of coming to Charles’ old home. Raven insists on the gravestone saying ‘Darwin’ under his name.

After that, they all struggle between feeling safer than they did in the CIA premises and not feeling safe at all because the gravestone is visible from all the west-facing windows of the house, and what seemed like fun and games for the children feels a bit too real now that they’ve lost a teammate and been left by another.

They can’t pretend there’s not a reason for training anymore, not when international pressure is building and war seems almost inevitable.

And yet, they manage to laugh during meals, at some joke or another, or at the way Sean has broken his fifth vase in the week. Hank and Raven flirt awkwardly over breakfast, and she teases him constantly with ever-shortening pajamas. The kids make Moira tell them stories of the glamourous espionage life they think she leads, and they all play football matches on weekends with powers allowed in the name of training. They end up bruised, and Sean will tell everyone that will listen that it’s soccer, not football, and that it’s a silly sport anyway and that no, he’s not bitter he can never make goals, thank you.

The kids watch the Ed Sullivan Show with fresh popcorn, and he and Erik play chess in his study, dragging games for longer than strictly necessary, a study in restraint as Charles struggles to keep out of his mind, already hazy and content from the company and the scotch.

If it weren’t because he knew exactly why they’re training, Charles would call it idyllic.

It seems to be what they all need, though. Raven gains confidence, Sean patience, Alex learns to trust himself and Hank finally pushes himself beyond his self-imposed limits.

Charles realizes he’s not a bad teacher, and that he would like to explore it a bit more. Maybe the Professor title will fit one day. Erik realizes he can’t live off rage all the time, and that he’s not betraying his own assigned mission by daring to feel content every once in a while.

----



“Do you know what you’re doing?” Raven asks, when she catches him looking out of the library window on the third floor, hand pressed against the cold glass. Erik is outside, throwing knives at makeshift targets. He looks almost feral like this. Like the targets have faces and he’s delighting in cutting them open again and again.

They both know what Raven means. “Sometimes I’m not sure. But some others...”

He could pretend to himself that all he wants is to help Erik, to make him into the man Charles knows he can be. But he’s not as selfless as that.

Raven nods and puts her head on his shoulder. “He’s dangerous,” she says, but it doesn’t look like it actually bothers her.

“We all are, Raven.”

“I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“I think that’s supposed to be my line as the elder brother, not the opposite,” he says with a smile as he puts his arm around her.

“Well at least you’re not giving your drunken speech about how beautiful the mutation in his crooked little toe is, or whatever anymore,” she says, eyebrows raised in an all too knowing look. He laughs and kisses her temple before he starts walking away.

“Who says I’m not?” he calls over his shoulder, and he hears her laugh. Just before he leaves the room he turns to look at her, and they seem to have traded places. Now she’s the one staring out of the window with a slight frown on her face.

(Years later, once she’s left, all he wants to ask her is if she knows what she’s doing, but he thinks he knows the answer. She’s always known her mind better than he does his own.)


----



They call to each other, partly because they’re both attracted to power – Charles in awe, wonder, and Erik because he’s always looking for the perfect weapon. They are, undoubtedly, the most powerful people the other has met. But it’s so much more than that. It’s Erik’s slow smug smile when he wins at chess, the way Charles doesn’t have to read his mind at all to know what Erik’s thinking when they look at each other. The way he makes Erik calmer, and the way Erik makes Charles more focused. It’s spelled in a way that becomes obvious in those soft brushes against each other, all those touches and glances and the way they keep on surprising each other. How they could never be bored by one another.

It’s intoxicating.



----



Charles wakes up, uncertain of why. He scans the house, and hears nothing but mumbled dreams and Hank still working in the lab. Erik is not there. He stretches his mind a bit, and ah, there he is, by the cluster of trees on the edges of the grounds that can’t quite be called a forest. He dresses in the dark, in not, possibly, a single matching thing, and goes outside.

He wonders at his readiness to go, because it’s obvious Erik wants to be alone, but it’s like something is pulling at him. The grass is wet, fragrant after the afternoon’s shower, and he can hear the buzz of distant insects.

The full moon was five days ago, but there’s still enough moonlight to turn the trees silver, making the tiny forest look a bit eerie, like something straight out of a storybook. When he finally finds Erik, he’s painted silver as well, his sharp features in high contrast. He’s standing in a little clearing, a coin hovering over his outstretched hand. Charles has never seen it before, but he’s seen it through Erik’s eyes, and it makes him instinctually wary.

Erik hasn’t acknowledged him, but Charles can tell that Erik knows he’s there. He stands a few meters away from him, hands in his pockets, chin up.

“Fancied a midnight stroll?” he asks.

“It’s past midnight.”

“I know.”

Erik grabs the coin, almost as if it was going to get away from him, and finally turns around to look at Charles.

“That house –”

“It can be too much, sometimes,” Charles finishes for him. “I understand.”

Erik frowns. “I wonder if you really do, Charles.”

But Charles thinks he does. Or at least, as much as he can begin to understand such a complex mind like Erik’s. It’s partly true – the house is so big. So full of rooms and invaluable objects and luxury, suffocating for anyone not used to it and even for those who are, but that’s not all. It’s not just the house, but the people in it. Erik has been on the run for most of his life, although he thinks of it more as being on the hunt. He has never stayed long enough in one place to form alliances, friendships.

Charles leans back against a tree. “Being close to people won’t hurt you, Erik.”

“Won’t it? In my experience, all relationships do is become weaknesses.”

“Am I a weakness, then?” Charles asks, almost testing a limit. Erik comes closer, looking at him with his head to the side, appraising.

“Yes. Yes, you are.” He looks vaguely menacing like this. There must be something wrong with Charles because his pulse quickens.

He smiles at Erik, close enough, now, that he has to look up. “Maybe I should feel flattered, then,” he says. He grabs Erik’s arm, meaning it to be a casual gesture, and the sheer want he can suddenly taste in the back of his throat is not his own.

He lets out a shuddering breath, and Erik smirks, knowing what he just felt, staring at him with such intensity Charles can feel it all the say down to his toes.

“Definitely a weakness,” Erik says, and Charles is already moving forward to meet him when Erik kisses him, crowding him against the tree, hungry and demanding, and Charles has to hold on to him, hand bunching the collar of his shirt.

He has pictured this before. They would be sitting by the fire in his study, the light shadowing an unfinished chess game. Or maybe after a run, sweaty and exhausted, yet still thrumming with energy.

But this is better, the bark biting into his back as Erik presses himself fully against him, a hand around his nape so Charles won’t hurt his head on the tree, never mind his knuckles getting scratched raw. Erik’s kiss is precise, thorough, and Charles tries to match him but he’s always too messy at this, too uncontrolled. Erik makes a small gasp when he touches his tongue to his, and he opens his eyes, trying to commit this to memory.

“I think of you as a strength, my friend,” Charles says against his lips.

“That’s because you’re a fool, Charles,” Erik says, but that doesn’t stop him from kissing him again, from bringing their hips together and panting against Charles’ ear, both of them shivering. He’s far too awake for the time it is, senses working in overtime as he takes in the scent of pine and dew and Erik, and as he jumps a little at Erik’s cold hands under his shirt and as he tastes him, after wondering for so long.

They touch until they come apart, hands pulling at each other like they’re trying to climb inside one another. They’re quiet for while, after. They’re still pressed together and sticky, almost doubtful, until Charles laughs quietly because this is them, up against a tree in the darkness like teenagers, not being able to help themselves, and when he passes the thought along Erik laughs too. It’s easier, after that. There are owls calling to each other as Charles pushes Erik back and then grabs his wrist.

“Come with me,” he says, pulling at him, and Erik follows. He would like to think he always will, that he will never find him a weakness too heavy to carry. But he won’t think of that now. For now, Charles takes him into his room and they undo each other all over again.

The next morning, Erik is still in his bed, warm against him.


----



It’s surprisingly easy. There are a pile of reasons why it shouldn’t be; their differences and their similarities, Charles’ frank openness and Erik’s world of secrets and lies, but somehow, it is. Just as easy as it had been to jump into the water and pull Erik out, the brightest light on his mind that he had ever seen.

It’s easy to run together in the mornings, planning the day’s lessons, stomachs rumbling with hunger. And it’s just as easy to touch in the evenings, hands frenzied on each other’s clothing, mouths unable to pull apart and bellies pooling with want.

Charles knows he must look dazed all the time, but he doesn’t give it much thought.


----



“Come on, let’s get out of here,” Erik says as he pushes Charles in the vague direction of the door, after Sean and Alex get into what feels like the fifth fight of the week over the programme on the telly. Erik grabs both their jackets on their way out, and Charles lets himself be dragged by the wrist.

Once they’re on the car, Erik rubbing at his forehead on the passenger seat, Charles asks, “Where to, then?”

“Anywhere that only accepts adults,” Erik says, and Charles has to laugh a bit.

“They’re only kids, Erik.”

“Whatever. I need a drink.”

They end up in a bar Charles and Raven used to sneak into when they were younger, a place full of chandeliers and red velvet upholstery, opulent and presumptuous itself, while full of opulent and presumptuous people. Charles can feel that Erik hates the place as soon as they go in, but he has fond memories of it, of how it always felt like triumph to go inside his stepfather’s favorite club with Raven wearing his face and Charles projecting the image of his mistress. They would be loud and obnoxious and had managed to make him lose work contracts every once in a while. It had been petty and stupid but he had been a teenager, and Raven had still looked like a child. They could be excused the childishness.

He projects the story into Erik’s mind, and can hear a low chuckle as they sit on a curved booth, legs touching under the table almost by inertia, and Erik relaxes visibly. “Not always so fond of morals, then,” Erik says, sly.

Charles just smiles and orders their drinks.

Two hours later, he’s completely drunk. He’s pliable and happy, as he tells stories of the mischief he and Raven used to get up to, mostly Raven’s ideas the majority of times, but Charles himself was no saint. Erik doesn’t offer stories in return, but it doesn’t matter. Charles has seen them before, felt them, and the degree of intimacy he’s achieved with this man always takes his breath away.

Erik is looking only at him, eyes lidded, and it makes Charles’s blood sing. This is a man that is always in control, always aware of where he is, how to escape it, how to destroy it, and the fact that Charles makes him forget everything else sometimes, that he can snap Erik’s control, is always a bit humbling and overwhelming. Erik wants to touch him right now, is thinking about it so loud Charles doesn’t even have to strain himself to hear it.

Charles cuts himself in the middle of a sentence, and bites his lip. “Well then,” he says, very low, and leans in to kiss him over the table.

Erik pushes him away. “You’re drunk, Charles. Look around you.” There’s an edge to his voice, a kind of self-hatred at having to hide, at being so used to hiding since he was a small boy in a big war. Charles wants to make it all better. He really does, but right now his blood is flowing fast and he can still taste all that bourbon and his head is swimming with the proximity. Right now he wants to be selfish.

“No one can see us, I promise. You could jump on the table and no one would notice.”

“It’s not as easy as that,” Erik starts, at the same time that Charles simply says his name, putting too much into it but not caring at the moment, not when everything is so bright and when he feels so breathless already.

Before Erik can get another complaint in, Charles pulls him close by his shirt and presses their mouths together, eyes already closed and a bit more aggressive than he would be while sober. Despite his words, Erik kisses back almost instantly, insistent and focused, one of his hands pulling at Charles’s hair, and Charles has to bite back a moan. Erik nips at his lips, and then licks away the sting. It’s always a bit heady, being under Erik’s full attention, the way his thoughts are always a mass of CharlesCharlesCharles, nothing else apart from himself, whenever they touch, and Charles didn’t intend to read that, never does, but alcohol always makes his mind bleed away from him.

Come in, Erik thinks when he notices Charles on the edge of his mind, and it’s like breathing out, when Charles lets go and surrounds Erik’s mind with his own, his want indistinguishable from Erik’s. After an entire lifetime of forcing himself to stay out of people’s minds, the way Erik seems to delight in having him inside leaves him breathless. The fact that it’s Erik, a man that had never trusted anyone before, only makes it better.

Charles moves away slightly just to kiss him again at the corner of his mouth, and then bite him lightly on the jaw before kissing the skin there in earnest. One of Erik’s hands is still around his drink, and Charles vaguely notices how white his knuckles have gone.

“I think, my friend, that this might be the wrong place for this,” Erik says, eyes blown and mouth red, and Charles can’t help but groan at the sight.

“At the contrary, it’s just the right place for this,” Charles says, voice dripping with the arrogance he works so hard in denying to himself he has, as his hand grabs Erik under the table. Erik curses under his breath.

Charles strokes him over his trousers, slow and languid, and Erik moans and pulls him closer, demanding a faster pace. They’re kissing again, messy and unrefined and so, so very good, Charles’ lungs burning because he can’t seem to be able to make himself breathe, not now, with Erik’s hand moving over his own, telling him how he wants it, before going underneath Charles’ shirt, warm against the skin right over his waistline. He opens his trousers, not with his power but just pulling down the zipper so very slowly.

“What do they think we’re doing?” Erik asks, gesturing at the other people in the restaurant. Erik’s hand is inside his trousers now, and it’s getting hard to think.

“They can see us having an agreeable conversation on the merits of mutation,” Charles says, his voice going high near the end when Erik bites at his throat, and then laughs against his skin.

“But I was under the impression that that is exactly what we are doing,” Erik says, eyebrows up in a fake questioning look, and then Charles has to laugh as well. He likes Erik like this, relaxed and almost light, missing the edge of steely rage that seems to be a perpetual constant in his life. Charles prides himself in knowing he’s doing this, maybe prides himself a bit too much, but it’s not like he isn’t conscious of his own flaws.

Charles finally gets Erik’s cock out, and they both shudder, Erik’s pleasure reverberating onto Charles. He breaks a kiss he doesn’t remember starting, and they press their foreheads together, breathing warm air into each other’s mouths, eyes unfocused.

Erik bites down on Charles’ shoulder when he comes, over his shirt and jumper, body pulled taut for a long second. No one turns around when Charles comes, but every single person in the room blushes, a tingle going up their spines, and their confused expressions at the sudden way their toes want to curl make Charles laugh a bit, loose and boneless, mouth pressed against Erik’s jaw.

They laugh together, after, still too tired to move, or even clean up and fix their clothes, almost like they can’t believe what they’ve just done. The things you make me do, Erik thinks, but it’s directed mostly at himself, almost as if he’d forgotten Charles is still there in his mind.

Just steering you in the path of righteousness, he thinks back, sarcastic, and Erik snorts.

No one might have seen anything, but the people around them are uneasy, wary of something they can’t quite make out after Charles’ involuntary display of power, and he can feel a communal sigh of relief when they finally stand up to leave.

They stand in the dark for while, sobering up, sides pressed together shoulder to toe as they rest against the car. Charles looks up at the stars, trying to recognize constellations, and basking in the company. Erik is quiet. “We shouldn’t have to hide,” he says after a long silence, frowning.

“I don’t think the police would agree with the idea of sex in public places all that much, I’m afraid,” Charles says, trying to lighten the mood.

Erik is still frowning. “You know what I mean.”

Charles sighs. “No, we shouldn’t have to. But what can you do about it.” He can tell by Erik’s face that it’s not a satisfactory answer. That it could never be.


----



Erik reads the paper while Charles cooks them pasta. It’s so… domestic that it almost feels wrong. They’re supposed to be stopping wars, not making lunch while stealing glances at each other while Sean and Hank having a competition outside about who can run or fly faster. Raven is judging.

“You haven’t been training,” Erik says, looking at him over his paper.

“Of course I have, just keeping you lot out of my head is training enough,” he says lightly, as he sets their plates down in front of them. Erik folds the paper carefully and sets it aside, as he floats them cutlery from the drawer.

“That’s bullshit and you know it, Charles. If you tell us to challenge ourselves, you should do the same thing.”

“It’s not as easy with my ability, my friend. And now eat, it’s going cold.”

Erik shakes his head, kicks him lightly on the foot under the table and goes back to his food.

He brings up the subject again that night, after he’s check mated Charles and drowned the rest of his scotch in one big swallow.

“Be honest with me. Doesn’t it drive you mad, that you can never use your powers to their full potential? That it’s always there, right underneath your skin, just asking to be released, and yet you never do?”

It does. It really does. He’s never known exactly the full extent of what he can do, and if he’s honest with himself, he doesn’t know if he wants to. He might not want to stop, if he does, after all.

His face must say everything, because Erik says, “It’s part of you, stop holding yourself back.”

“It’s not as easy as that, there’s the issue of consent, for one thing, and then the danger –” he starts saying, only for Erik to grab Charles’ hands with no warning, and press them against his own temples.

“Use me, then. You have my permission.” He looks so defiant, and Charles knows he won’t take no for an answer. And it’s tempting, it’s so very tempting to test his limits for once and get himself lost in Erik’s mind, always impressing and interesting.

“What should I do, then?” he asks, eyes digging into Erik’s. It already feels a bit too intimate, and he should be used to that by now but it always feels novel and brand new. Erik feels warm under his hands.

“Think of something. Something you’ve always wondered if you can do.”

He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and dives into Erik’s mind, sorting through the memories and pain and theories and terror and rage until he finds the bright center that is his power, a supernova of still-untapped energy, almost blinding. He gives it a nudge, another one, and then he grasp it, molds it in his hands. It takes time and concentration to convince it he’s not a threat, that he should surrender itself to Charles, and when it finally does, it’s exhilarating.

When he opens his eyes, his fingers still against Erik’s temples, every single metallic object in the room is floating in the air. There are pens and paperweights and fixtures and spiral-bound notebooks, just hovering, and Erik looks a little bit in awe. The rush is only comparable to the first time he used Cerebro, when he first found out just how not alone they all were.

“I’m not doing this,” he says, stating the obvious.

“I know. I am,” says Charles, and then they look at each other and grin, in pure joy and excitement. 

“I can feel it, but I take it that’s only because you’re letting me?” Charles nods. “Try to make them change shape,” he says, and there’s something fragile and powerful at him not minding Charles controlling his powers, controlling him.

He tries, frowning with the strain, but it’s taking a lot of effort just to keep them in the air, and settles for making the smaller objects spin around them.

“Marvelous,” Erik says. “I wonder if you have limits at all.”

Charles lets a breath out and everything goes tumbling to the ground as he releases Erik’s power from his hold. He feels drained, and can feel a headache coming, but he’s still thrilled.

He doesn’t move his hands, not until Erik does it for him when he covers his wrists to pull him closer, over the chessboard with only a few pieces on it.

“Thank you for the push,” Charles says, against Erik’s skin.

They’re thinking the same thing, in that moment. Together, they could do anything.


----



The next day Erik moves a satellite dish and the president gives a speech and they all brace themselves for what’s to come.

No bracing could have prepared Charles for the empty feeling after Erik and Raven disappear from the beach, and his legs disappear from his mental map, though.


----



So it is remarkably easy, until it isn’t anymore. Maybe it had never been, and they had just been fooling themselves. Maybe that is what happened on that beach, both of them realizing just how easy it would never be.

“I want you with me,” Erik had said, and Charles knows he had been honest, never mind the helmet. He could see it in his eyes, could feel it in the way his hands cradled Charles’ head. But his cause, their respective causes, would always come first. He should have seen it coming, but he’d been blinded by enthusiasm and optimism and daydreams of a war fought together.

After the beach, the days are a blur of hospitals and surgeries and painkillers that make his powers feel fuzzy, that quiet down the world around him completely at times and then amplify everything. Moira, Alex and Sean sit outside his room, not really knowing what to do. Hank doesn’t want to go out all that much, these days. The doctors don’t say much, but it’s not like they need to. Spinal damage, he hears them think, and he looks down at his unmoving toes, feeling as if they have betrayed him. He thinks of what happened on that day constantly. He has time, after all. And still has time, once he goes back to the mansion in a wheelchair.

Maybe he hadn’t known him that well. Or maybe he had, but maybe reading a mind doesn’t mean he can fully understand it. Maybe he had just been too arrogant, thinking he could shape Erik into the man he knew he was capable of being, and had conveniently forgotten that Erik was nothing if not unpredictable.

His childhood home doesn’t feel the same without Raven. For all that he’s finally becoming aware of the mistakes he made with her, he still misses her. He misses the old times when they were little, staying up past their bedtimes, and they would tell each other scary stories under bed sheets and munch on scones. And he misses her steady presence by his side as they grew up. She was always there for him, and yet he wasn’t always there for her. Another regret.

And there are more things to get used to.

He used to dream of flying, before. Now he dreams of walking, through deserts and mountains and cities, just endless walking until his feet blister and he can feel them hurting. It’s amazing. Sometimes, he forgets himself, right after waking up, and automatically tries to swing himself out of bed while still yawning, and it tastes bitter when only one half of his body obeys him.

His mutation helps though, a bit. He can be everywhere, anywhere, in any condition, inside his own mind. He has taken to running across a deserted and familiar beach in his free time, faster and faster until his lungs ache and his legs are screaming in pain. Then he lies in the sand and moves his toes just for the sake of it, because he knows he won’t be able to when he opens his eyes and lowers his hands from his forehead and moves on with life the way he really should be doing, instead of lingering on the past.

He had hardly used his abilities like that before, had barely experimented with the possibility. Vaguely, he’s aware that Erik would be proud.

He could make everyone see him standing upright, but he won’t. Not even after seeing the pity in people’s glances that he’s beginning to recognize. He’s starting to see Raven’s point more and more, the one she kept making all her life, and the one he kept shooting down as nothing more than her own teenage insecurities. He shouldn’t have to hide.

Sometimes, he thinks he can feel something, maybe on his ankle, just a twitch, or maybe an itch on his knee, maybe from a small mosquito bite, and then of course there’s nothing there but phantom pains and more bitterness. He doesn’t blame them, not Moira and not Erik, and not even the people on those ships, scared in a way he never expected, not even with Erik’s warning.

But it’s done, and he sits in a chair and gets calluses on his fingers from wheeling himself and, maybe, learns how to be a different, wiser person. He won’t let this define him. He won’t. He’s seen Erik being defined by his rage, and he won’t become that person. He will adapt, like a good mutant, and he will feel whole again, once this period of mourning for himself passes.

But he can’t really deny that Erik, too, feels a bit like a phantom limb.


----



It’s eleven months after a beach in Cuba when they have to put aside their differences, at least for a bit, to go against a threat bigger than both of them.

It’s not like half of the Brotherhood doesn’t know where the mansion is, so there’s no point in not using it as their base of operations. It’s a bit strange to be waiting at the foyer, the children fidgeting behind him, when Erik – Magneto now – and company walk into the house. He’s wearing a cape, and that stupid helmet is painted red. It should look ridiculous, but the sheer power Erik’s always exuded makes it look almost menacing.

They stare at each other, Erik resolutely not looking at the wheelchair, until Raven slips out from behind Azazel and goes to kiss Charles on the cheek. He smiles at her, so very fond, and says, “Welcome back.”

She smiles, too, and looks back at her group. “Come on, time for the tour.”

The others leave and he and Erik are still staring at each other, like they don’t know exactly what to say. It would all be much easier without the helmet. He finally settles for a feeble, “Hello, Erik.”

Erik nods. “It’s good to see you, Charles.”

Then they go straight into business because it’s easier to ignore the unfinished whatever between them.

Erik doesn’t apologize, but Charles can tell he wants to, even with the helmet on. He can read it on his expression, in the way he sighs, eyes closing for a second, whenever he looks at the wheelchair. It’s not in pity, like Charles has come to recognize in so many stares coming his way since it happened, but more like he can’t quite forgive himself.

Brotherhood and X-men plan together, train together and ultimately fight together, in a whirlwind of a fortnight, with Raven smiling at him again as they cook in the kitchen, and him and Erik looking at maps, arguing strategy with him. It feels like home, a little bit. Except that Emma keeps taunting everyone while sipping on fifty year old champagne that belonged to Charles’ stepfather. Hank is wary of Raven, and Sean and Alex can’t decide whether to be terrified or awed at this new version of Erik.

He can’t ignore that Raven is harder around the edges now, angry at the world that does not accept her for who she is. She is always herself now, blue and so much more comfortable in her skin that he had ever seen her before.

And he can’t ignore how Shaw’s death only made Erik cling to the next, bigger cause, no matter the price. “Gods amongst insects,” he says, and Charles knows he truly believes it.

He knows the instant Erik finally takes the helmet off. He has to take a deep breath from the sudden feeling of Erik’s mind mingling with his at the edges again after so long, so he’s not surprised when Erik slips into his room, closing the door behind him. They stare at each other for a long time, in silence, almost like they’re weighting their options. Their truce is very likely to end tomorrow, so urgency wins, and Erik comes closer.

“Charles –” Erik starts, but is cut off.


“I think – I think I would rather not speak,” Charles says, because if they do, they would just end up deep in a bitter debate or a philosophical discussion and they could be doing that any day but not this. Not when Erik walks determinately toward him and bends down and kisses him, simple as that, his hands on Charles’ jaw. The wheelchair is shaking slightly, in time with Erik’s frantic breathing. It’s a bit flattering, knowing he can get inside Erik’s skin just as much as he does to him.

It’s different, in bed. Harder than it used to be, definitely, logistically. But also more urgent, more desperate, like they’ve both been starving for each other and they’re afraid they won’t get their fill anytime soon. Erik breathes his name into his ear, right before biting at his earlobe, while thinking a litany of It’s been so long I’m sorry I’ve missed you I’ve missed you I have to stop missing you Charles, and all while Charles is feeding off his pleasure, Erik’s need mixing with his own arousal and it doesn’t take long at all, but then even if it were hours long, they would still need more time.

Erik strokes the scar on his lower back, after, but neither of them comment on it. The next day they save the world and stare at each other from opposite sides of a half-destroyed warehouse and nod their goodbyes and it’s not enough, probably won’t ever be, but it’s the best they’ve got.

It happens significantly often over the years, almost as if they were making excuses to see each other.


----



Many, many years later, they play chess in a plastic prison. Erik wins slightly more often, partly because the years have made him ruthless, and partly because he has more time to think about chess now.

They talk about books and Charles keeps him up to date with the news and Erik asks about the Institute, sometimes. They do not discuss how Erik is going slightly out of his mind with no metal whatsoever to feel. Charles closes his eyes and they’re at a junkyard under the harsh August sun, tons and tons of twisted metal for Erik to bend and Charles standing to pull him closer, to kiss him against one of the broken abandoned cars but Erik pulls away. “No. Not like this.”

Charles opens his eyes and they are old and encased in glass again. Erik leans over to kiss him over their half-finished chess game, aggressive in his familiar all-consuming way, and this time Charles doesn’t tinker with other minds, just lets the world to see.

Erik smirks a bit. “No hiding,” he says.

It feels, oddly, as if time hasn’t changed things at all.

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