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Exhale your name

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Thud. Thud. Thud.  

Erik pounded on the steel hatch as, from above, Charles screamed again.

“Let him go, you bastards!” He growled. Their enemies had been ready, drugging him in that instant before he’d realized it was a trap. He’d woken up powerless, trapped, and, worst of all, alone. He hadn’t known where Charles was or if he was even alive...until the unmistakable screaming started.   

Another cry erupted from above. This time Erik let his fury swell and he threw his arm against the hatch. Again and again his fist met metal, until steel rent skin and his knuckles rang out in pain. He could feel blood pour down his knuckles, his fingers, his arm, spilling out of him like lava, but he hardly noticed, and the eruption of pain was a mere whisper in his mind as he heard Charles scream again.

“Stop it, you bastards! You’ll kill him!”  

All at once, the cry cut short, and for a terrible second, the silence was worse than the screaming. They’ve killed him, Erik thought. But an eternity later the hatch opened, light blinded him, and something fell. Erik realized what--or who--it was only a brief second before Charles hit the ground. They collapsed together, a mess of blood and bones, as Erik tried to break Charles’ fall. But they’d thrown him down like a bag of trash, and his contents spilled apart. Tattered clothing; fractured bone; blood, so much blood.

He only got that frenzied glance, and then the hatch closed and they were thrust into the dark.

“Charles! Charles! Talk to me.”

He sat himself up as he laid Charles flat on the concrete, his head cushioned in his lap. He patted the man’s cheek. “Come on. Come on, Charles.” Is he breathing? He couldn’t tell. The thought sent a dagger of pain through his chest, and he put a hand on Charles’s own, desperate to find the rise and fall.   

Instead, he started when he felt a hand grasp his own. “Erik?”

Charles’ word was a whisper, quiet and dazed and far too pained, but Erik had never heard anything more beautiful in his life. He let out a breath he’d been holding since he’d woken up drugged, in the dark, and far too alone.

Mein Gott. Charles. Are you alright?”

“I’m--” He started, then stopped, and Erik started to feel fingers trail along his arm. “Did they hurt you?” Charles asked.

“What?” Erik asked.

It was only then that Erik realized his arm, which was wrapped around Charles, was slick with blood. His blood, wet and warm from his frenzied attempts to get to Charles. His failed attempts. He gulped down a cry as he realized that Charles--Charles, who held Erik’s fingers in his broken hands as if they were a priceless treasure; Charles, whose first breath upon waking exhaled Erik’s name; Charles, who deserved so much more than to trapped and tortured and halfway toward bleeding to death--was worried about whether they’d hurt him . “No, Charles, they didn’t hurt me.”  

“Good,” Charles said, and Erik felt him exhale a breath as if he’d been holding it. Erik wanted to roll his eyes and cry at the same time, but instead he just closed his fingers around Charles’. “Woke up alone,” Charles murmured, his words already a sleepy slur. “Was afraid they’d--”

“Shhhh, just rest Charles,” Erik said.  “You won’t wake up alone again. I’ll make sure of it.”

He flexed his fingers, the thrum of power returning as the drugs finally began to wear off. Their captors had fooled him once.

Erik would see to it that they never had the chance again.