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What the Future brings

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If you could change the future, would you do it? If you knew something was about to go wrong, would you try to prevent it? If you could change anything you wanted, would you fix things, or make them worse? If you could see every possible future, which one would you choose and would you be brave enough to make the required changes? Time is a fragile concept, you never know what a tiny change can lead to, but if you could see it all, if you knew exactly what needed to happen or not to get a certain outcome, what would you do?

There’s one mutant, only one, who can do exactly that and she already knows what needs to be changed. For the greater good and for the good of two stubborn men who don’t even know she exists. Yet.

~◊~

Something inside Erik breaks as he holds Charles in his arms. He isn’t sure what it is, but it must be something important because he can barely breathe. He hardly manages to fight back a sob when Charles whimpers, whispering that he can’t feel his legs. But the scenario unfolds in front of him anyway, right on the hot sand, soaked with saltwater and Charles’ blood. Erik turns away from him. He leaves him there, broken. He’ll never forget the look of betrayal on the man’s face. He barely manages to fight back the tears threatening to spill, but he moves on nonetheless, leaving Charles behind and whatever peace the telepath might be able to give him.

Erik wakes up with a start. He could swear there is a faint taste of saltwater on his lips. But that can’t be, right? Moving to lie back down, he realizes that his pillow has a small wet patch. He frowns, but then notes that his cheeks are wet too. Tears. So that must be the salty taste… He never cried over a dream. Well, almost never. Dreams about his mother were the exception, but tonight… Whatever this was, it was different from any other nightmare he’s ever had. And yes, it did somehow qualify as nightmare. He lies down, avoiding the wet patch, and stares up at the ceiling. It had felt so real. And so, so painful. Hopefully Charles didn’t sense it, because he really doesn’t want to talk about it.

Strange how the telepath seems to care for him. No one has ever cared for him like this, except his mother. He absentmindedly traces the numbers on his arm. He can’t allow Charles to take care of him though. He won’t stay. He can’t. It scares him that something deep inside him wants to stay.

He feels out the metal watch on his nightstand. 6:24 am, as good a time as any to get up and go for a run, maybe that can clear his thoughts a little.

As it turns out, it can’t. When he comes back, his mind is still on edge, still trying to figure out this strange dream. There’s an odd afterimage floating around his head; eyes that have a color he can’t quite name. He takes a quick and efficient shower as always and makes his way downstairs, hearing faint voices and smelling coffee. As he steps into the kitchen, a somewhat familiar sight greets him: Moira and Alex bickering about their right for coffee, Sean sitting at the table barely awake, Raven and Hank muttering about something he can’t make out. And, of course, Charles, just sitting there, watching the scene at the kitchen table with a fond smile as he sips his tea. Erik stands in the doorway for a moment, fighting back a fond smile of his own, before he moves to pour himself a cup of coffee. He leans against the counter to simply watch the group at the table, his mind still reeling, but now at least a bit more quiet.

Charles looks up at him, the smile still on his lips, but something in Erik’s face must give him away, because Charles’ expression turns into one of concern. He stands up and moves to join Erik at the kitchen counter. For a moment he’s just standing there, sipping his tea and standing a little too close for Erik’s comfort. Except that it actually doesn’t make Erik feel uncomfortable. That probably came with the road trip that they took to find all the recruits, since they had to spend a lot of time in close proximity during their travels. And now— they've been living with Charles in his huge mansion for… how long has it been? A month perhaps? Erik isn’t entirely sure, but he can’t recall the last time he’s stayed this long in one place.

“What’s wrong?” Charles asks at last, trying to appear casual, but Erik can see right through it, can hear the worry in his voice.

“Nothing,” he replies gruffly, then almost winces. He didn’t mean it to come out this harsh.

Charles doesn’t prod further, but, oddly enough, Erik feels bad for shutting him up like that.

“Just a dream,” he says after another moment of hesitation. Because that’s what it was. Just a dream. Nothing more. How could it be? It’s not like he has precognition as a secondary mutation or anything like that.

“I take it you don’t wanna talk about it?” Charles asks, already knowing the answer.

“No,” Erik says, but this time it’s softer, without bite to it.

He sees Charles nodding in the periphery of his eye. They stand there in companionable silence for a while, until Charles returns to the breakfast table and, after another moment, Erik follows him.

The rest of the day is as uneventful as it can be. Training goes well, the recruits are constantly making progress, but Charles and Erik agree that they should engage in some training of their own. There is always room for improvement after all — especially on Erik’s side, in Charles’ opinion. Erik insists that Charles needs some practice as well, if he wants to be ready for battle instead of using his extraordinary powers merely for cheap party tricks to impress girls. The argument finds its end when they agree that there is a lack of something for Charles to practice with, since Erik isn’t exactly willing to offer his mind as a playground.

In the evening, while the recruits watch tv, Charles invites Erik into his study for a game of chess. It isn’t new; they’ve done this many times by now. It’s a pleasant continuity in Erik’s current life, something he occasionally finds himself looking forward to. He follows Charles without hesitation. The game is pleasant as always, their conversations ranging from quick witted arguments about mutant rights to warm joking and affectionate teasing. It is enough to make Erik almost forget about the dream.

Chapter Text

Stumbling out of the crashed plane, Erik sees Shaw’s submarine laid out in front of him. Never before has he been so close to his goal, his revenge finally within arms length. He finds Shaw inside the stranded submarine, puts on his helmet and kills the man while Charles holds him firmly in place. Charles would’ve told him that this won’t bring him peace, but peace was never an option, was it? It was all about revenge for his mother, revenge for his lost childhood, revenge for being turned into a weapon, a monster. It might not bring him peace, but it still gives him a feeling of satisfaction, however short-lived.

Coming out of the submarine and slowly floating down onto the sand, Erik displays Shaw’s corpse like a trophy, a symbol of his victory after all these years of hunting. Catching sight of Charles, he can see pain on his face like he has experienced Shaw’s death firsthand, but above all there is betrayal evident in those blue eyes. He looks away again, instead focusing on the other mutants on the beach.

He tells them of the missiles as he meets Charles in the middle of the beach.

Moira runs off, in a useless attempt to stop it. Then the ships fire. But Erik extends one arm, stopping the missiles midair. Charles just watches. Then the missiles start to move again, slowly turning towards the ships.

Now Charles turns to look at Erik again. “Erik, you said yourself, we’re the better men. This is the time to prove it!”

But Erik doesn’t listen.

Charles keeps talking, trying to reason. “There are thousands of men on those ships, good, honest, innocent men! They’re just following orders…”

But that has never been an excuse. Not now, not when the Nazis had killed Erik’s people. Many Nazis whom he’d hunted down over the years had used that very same excuse, but that hadn’t made them any less mass murderers.

“I’ve been at the mercy of men, just following orders…” Erik says and turns his head to look at Charles. “Never again.”

With a single hand movement he sends the missiles flying towards the ships.

“Erik, release them!” Charles shouts, but Charles can’t control him, he won’t let anyone control him ever again.

Charles tackles him to the ground, trying to wrestle off his helmet — Shaw’s helmet — and some of the missiles explode in the air, but Erik shoves him away, “I don’t wanna hurt you! Don’t make me.”

It’s the truth. He doesn’t want to hurt Charles, his only friend, but this needs to be done. The recruits approach, wanting to stop him as well, but he sends them flying through the air.

He holds Charles to the ground and sends the remaining missiles towards the ships again. Charles tries desperately to get the helmet off of Erik, pleading him to stop, but Erik is having none of it. Charles just wants to control him like everyone else.

Erik punches Charles in the face, two more missiles explode, but he regains his hold on the rest. Then Moira shoots at him, but he deflects each of the bullets with ease.

Suddenly Charles falls, face contorted in a silent scream of pain. Erik’s heart stops for a second as he witnesses his friend hit the hot sand. He rushes over to his side, kneeling down next to him and pulls the bullet from Charles’ back, the missiles dropping, exploding mid air, their targets already forgotten.

“I’m so sorry.” It wasn’t supposed to go like this. He turns Charles onto his back and he cries out in pain.

Moira and the recruits approach again, but Erik screams at them to back off. They stay where they are.

He thinks he hears Charles mumbling something like, “I can’t feel my legs…” but he tries not to think about that.

Full of rage, Erik lashes out at Moira, uses his power to wrap the chain of her dog tags tightly around her throat, choking her. It’s all her fault, she did this, if only she hadn’t—

“Please!” Charles shouts at him with all his remaining strength. “She didn’t do this, Erik. You did.” And the words hurt him more than any wound possibly could.

Erik’s grip falters and he releases her with a sigh. He tells Charles he wants him by his side as he holds him in his arms. He looks so broken, so fragile. Erik never wanted this to happen.

He tells him that they’re on the same side, they shouldn’t fight each other, they want the same thing.

Charles’ laugh is bitter and laced with pain as he looks up at him with so much hurt and sadness in his eyes, “Oh my friend… I’m sorry, but we do not.”

And there it is. That feeling of something breaking deep inside Erik. Something important shattering into a million pieces. It feels like déjà vu. The most sickening déjà vu he could ever imagine.

He looks up, waving Moira to come over and she rushes to Charles, kneeling down, telling him she’s sorry over and over again while he assures her it’s all right. It’s not. It’s all so wrong.

Erik stands up, feeling hollow and utterly numb, he gestures at Charles grunting in pain and starts holding a speech about humans not accepting them and asks the others to come with him.

Raven and Shaw’s former followers join him. They are about to leave together. Erik has what he wanted. But he’s never felt so empty, so alone.

This has happened before. But that’s not possible. Then he remembers. It was a dream. He has dreamt about this before.

He waits for Azazel to teleport them away, but it doesn’t happen. In fact, nothing happens. The world seems to stand still. Everyone around him is frozen; not only the people, also the waves of the sea and the leaves floating in the wind. Everything just… stops.

As he looks around, he notices a woman standing not far from him. She has long brown hair and is wearing a white blouse, dark grey jeans and a grey coat that reaches to her knees. He doesn’t know her, but she is the only one except him who isn’t frozen. When she turns around, he is hit by another déjà vu. Those eyes, he’s seen them before, haunting his dreams and his waking hours. Eyes with irises that appear almost white, but shimmer in a million different colors. Tilting her head slightly to the side, she smiles at him and it seems genuine.

“Who are you?”

But when she opens her mouth to reply, no sound comes out. She frowns and only a second later Erik opens his eyes and finds himself in his bed.

~◊~

Later that day, Erik is staring down the barrel of a gun, his own gun to be exact, which is in Charles’ firm grasp.

“You sure?” he asks.

“I’m sure,” Erik confirms.

“Got it.”

The gun is loaded and Charles’ finger wraps tightly around the trigger. He’s about to pull it and Erik is excited. They have agreed to do some training after all and training with Charles is just so much more fun!

Erik can see the battle going on in his friend’s head, written all over his face. He can feel Charles’ fingers wrapped around the cool metal, nervously stroking it. He wants to pull the trigger, but in the end, he can’t.

“No! No, I can’t! I’m sorry. I can’t shoot anybody point blank, let alone my friend.” He lowers his hand holding the weapon.

Erik is still grinning, feeling slightly giddy with excitement. “Oh, come on! You know I can deflect it.”

He grabs Charles’ wrist without thinking about it and pulls it back up, pointing the gun at his head again, “You’re always telling me I should push myself.”

But Charles isn’t having it. “If you know you can deflect it, then you’re not challenging yourself! Whatever happened to the man who… who tried to raise a submarine?”

“Well, I can’t!” Erik protests. “Something that big, I… I need the situation, the anger.”

“No, the anger is not enough.”

“Well, it’s gotten the job done all this time.”

“It’s nearly gotten you killed all this time.”

“Oh and what do you think is the right way, Professor?” he asks mockingly, but without any real sting to it. It’s teasing, friendly banter, something he never got to have before.

“Well, I’ll come up with something.”

Erik raises a challenging eyebrow, but leaves it at that. Charles hands the gun back to Erik and then they are interrupted by Hank, who has a suggestion for a rather interesting way Sean’s power could be put to use.

The rest of the day passes in a blur, Erik’s mind constantly returning to the memory of the dream, the beach, the pain in Charles’ voice, the betrayal on his face. A pair of shimmering eyes staring at him.

In the evening, when Charles asks him for a game of chess, he doesn’t even need to think about it in order to say ‘yes’. He thinks, absentmindedly, that he’s never enjoyed someone’s company so much.

Chapter Text

Getting into bed, Erik has trouble falling asleep, his mind still reeling with images of a beach and gemstone eyes. When sleep finally does take him, he immediately finds himself at the very same beach again and the scene starts to unfold like before. He doesn’t hesitate putting on the helmet and then killing Shaw. He puts his body on display like before.

He holds his speech, stops the missiles and turns them against the ships. Charles tries to stop him like before, but Erik doesn’t let him.

When Moira draws her gun and shoots at him, he makes sure to deflect the bullets away from Charles. It seems to work out fine, but suddenly he hears a gasp to his left. Raven. One of the bullets hit Raven in the chest. Charles rushes to her side. Erik is frozen in place.

That night, Raven dies in her brother’s arms. Charles weeps for her. When Erik wants to apologize, Charles shouts at him, tells him to back off, to leave them here like he wants to anyway. Shaw’s mutants come over to him and Azazel teleports them away.

Erik bolts upright in his bed. The image of irises shimmering like the inside of a shell is clear in his mind. Who is that woman? And what does she want from him?

The following few days and nights are all pretty much the same. In the day, he helps the recruits with training, in the night he lives through the same scene in different ways. He tries to deflect the bullets in different angles, into different directions, but it always ends in disaster. Every time, he wakes up with an afterimage of seashell colored eyes.

Charles knows something is wrong. Erik has become more and more distant, rings forming under his eyes, but he refuses to talk about the problem, so Charles is stuck worrying for him.

That evening Charles asks for a game of chess again and this time Erik declines.

~◊~

During the night, when the same dream plays out once again, Erik tells Charles to stay away from him. There is hurt in those blue eyes he’s grown so fond of, but if Charles stays away from Erik, everything will be fine.

Of course, nothing is fine, because Charles doesn't listen. It was a simple enough command, but he just didn’t listen and now everything is as it was before, Charles in Erik’s arms, broken, bleeding, betrayed.

Time stops.

Charles vanishes from Erik’s arms and so does the entire scene around him, leaving him on a sunny beach. He breathes in and can almost taste the salt on his tongue. Then time unfreezes and Erik looks up to see the woman standing at the shore, the wind playing with her hair, looking at him with something like disappointment in her eyes.

He stands up from where he was kneeling in the sand and she opens her mouth. This time, the words really do leave her lips.

“Have you figured it out yet?” she asks with a warm voice and an accent he can’t seem to place. It sounds like something akin to British, but not quite there.

He tilts his head as well and slowly approaches her. “Figured it out?”

She doesn’t answer, but her eyes flick over their surroundings, her smile turning a little challenging.

He looks around again and thinks about how he’s lived through this horror before. It takes a moment, but then realization hits him.

“This is a dream. I’m dreaming.”

Now her smile widens just a fraction. “I knew you’re smart. Of course he’d like you…”

“Excuse me?”

She shakes her head. “Oh, never mind.”

She twines her hands behind her back and starts strolling across the damp sand, her grey coat swaying around her knees. “I apologize for my earlier attempt to talk to you, something in the connection went wrong. I’ve never done this before, you see, but the problem should be fixed now.”

“Would you mind explaining what this is? Only if it’s convenient for you, of course,” Erik says with a sharp edge of sarcasm.

But she remains unaffected, still sauntering along the beach. Only now does he realize that the color of her eyes is that of opals. That was the word he’d been looking for all this time. Opal. It’s probably a side-effect of her mutation, but still rather extraordinary. Charles surely would love to meet her. He’d probably end up nerding out over her powers and the many striations in her eyes respectively… provided he would get close enough to really look at them.

“Hmm… of course I’ll explain, otherwise I wouldn’t be here after all. After you dismissed my first attempts as merely normal dreams, I figured it would be wise to tell you what the deal is in order to make it possible for you to act accordingly.”

He eyes her warily for a moment before he inquires, “then go ahead.”

She chuckles. “Oh Erik, always so impatient.”

“You know my name.” It’s an accusation, rather than a question. He wants to get a hold on her and demand answers, but his powers aren’t working, it’s a dream after all and the one who controls the dream has the power.

“I do, Erik Lehnsherr. I know a lot about you.”

“Are you a telepath?”

“No. I merely know someone with low level telepathy and the ability of dream walking. It is quite helpful for my purpose and she is so kind as to ‘lend’ me her abilities. We’re both sleeping, you and I, and she created a link between us, a connection that allows me to stand here in front of you. And it also enables me to create this environment.” She gestures at their surroundings.

“And why are you doing this? Why create this… illusion of something that never happened?” Erik demands, anger simmering just beneath the surface.

“Because,” she replies, suddenly turning serious, “it’s not about what was, it’s about what will be.”

Now the anger gives way to utter confusion, which she seems to sense as she immediately goes on to explain. 

“I am a mutant too, just like you and Charles. My mutation allows me to see the future. Every future, to be exact. There is an infinite amount of possible futures and I can see all of them. When I want, I can focus on one of them, on a single person even, skip forward and backwards on the timeline, see what I want to see. The higher the probability of one future to become reality, the brighter it shines for me.”

Erik’s eyes widen. “That sounds like an extraordinary power. Why don’t you join us?”

“Oh, I’m a bit… far away at the moment. Maybe Charles sensed me with his amazing power while looking for recruits using that… interesting machine. He can see every mind on the planet with that, can’t he? But I’m simply in a place where it’s impossible for me to participate in your little war. That’s okay though, I think I can do quite a lot from here.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means, I don’t like the future we’re moving towards and you don’t like it either, I can see it in your eyes.”

“What…” Erik takes a step back in shock and lingering confusion.

“Yes, what I showed you up until now was the future with the highest probability depending on how you act. None of those was really a bright prospect, was it?”

Erik stares at her, for a moment. “How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“You don’t.” She looks out at the sea before them, “Dreams are amazing little things, aren’t they? In a dream, one can do anything. I could build a pyramid solely out of water as easy as breathing. I can create entire landscapes out of nothing. No one holds such power in the real world…” She pauses, considering him. “I can’t prove to you that I see the future. However, I can prove to you that I can see your timeline.” 

She snaps her fingers and the beach vanishes. From one moment to the next, everything is gone and they’re standing in the middle of the camp where Erik lost his mother. He hears his younger self scream for her and the noise of the metal gates bending. His hands ball into fists and he presses his eyes closed until the noise stops. When he dares to look again, they’re in the middle of the mansion’s kitchen, witnessing the moment Charles met Raven and invited her into his life. The next thing she shows him is the moment he and Charles met, in the middle of the icy ocean. All of these are memories but they’re from an outsider’s perspective, not how a memory would typically be if a telepath accessed it.

Another snap and they’re standing next to an apple tree. A man is sitting underneath it and as Erik looks closely, he spots the woman hidden in the treetop, holding an apple in one hand and… dropping it onto the man’s head. That man is Isaac Newton, Erik realizes with astonishment. Snap. They’re in a haven where a giant ship lays at anchor. It has the name Titanic written on it. The opal eyed woman is walking along the path to the ship, dressed in old clothes. She bumps into a man with a suitcase on his way to board the ship with his family, and apologizes. When she walks away into a different direction, Erik can see her pulling tickets out of her coat, ripping them in half and throwing them into the nearest trash can.

She snaps her fingers again and they’re back at the beach, the wind toying with her hair and coat. “Do you believe me now?”

Erik doesn’t want to believe her, but what other way would there possibly be for her to have seen all these things– done all these things? Not only is she clairvoyant, but if the last two things she showed him are true, she is also ageless. Reluctantly, he nods.

“Why- why did you show me this? Why show me the future?”

“Because I want to change it. I want to help you change it.”

“How?” he breathes.

“This moment at the beach is a key-moment. The decisions you make here, can change the future radically. Not many people have this much influence on the course of time. You and Charles can change the world together. If you do it for the better or the worse will be determined on this beach. I’ve seen some terrible futures where you broke apart. Many innocents had to die in the battles you fought afterwards, both humans and mutants alike. I don't want to live in such a future… and neither do you.

“I have decided to use my abilities for the benefit of human and mutantkind, but also for your and Charles’ benefit. I want to help you find the right path. People talk about second chances, but what about third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances? I will give you as many chances as I can in the form of dreams. You can try out different ways, different actions and the dream will show you what is most likely to happen in each scenario. And when the time comes for the battle in the real world, I hope you’ll know what to do. I believe in you, Erik. I believe you can do this, you can change the way things play out. But it won't be easy. You’ve seen how the scene on the beach can end. This wasn’t the worst possible future. You might suffer, but if you succeed, the change you can make will be worth it.”

He looks at the ground, considering her words. “Do I have a choice?”

She is quiet for a moment before she answers with a little less energy. “You do. But I already know your choice. You like these futures just as little as I do, I’ve seen it in your eyes.”

He nods slowly. He doesn’t want to lose Charles, doesn’t want to break him like this and if there is a way to prevent it, he’ll do everything it takes.

“But I warn you, once you agree to this, there is no backing out, Erik, no taking it back. However much it hurts, I’ll keep going.”

There is a pause as Erik scrutinizes her. “Why me? Why didn’t you go to Charles with this?”

She sighs. “Because it has to be you. You are the one who will kill Shaw, you are the one who puts on the helmet, you are the one who stops the missiles. It’s all you. No one else could change so much. Besides, I can’t visit the both of you, sadly, you alone are already putting a strain on my friend’s powers. Charles’ mind would be unbearable for her to endure for the amount of time the dream needs to last. We’ve discussed this, believe me, it is simply too dangerous for her. We might be able to work something out on short notice, but there’s no guarantee.”

He nods again and eyes her for a moment longer. “It seems awfully unfair that you know my name, but I don't know yours.”

She chuckles. “There are many names people like to call me. Foresight, Fate, Clockwork… but for now you can call me Fortuna.”

“The goddess of luck?”

“Hopefully I can be that for you.” And there is that warm smile again.

He considers her offer for a long moment. He watched her closely the entire time, but there had been no sign of a lie. He still can’t fathom why she would do this though. Simply tormenting him with made up futures would bring her no benefit. He doesn’t trust her, not really, but her powers are real, that much is clear. So why did she just offer to help him? This is too much effort for an act of pure selflessness, there must be something in it for her. She talked so much about ‘fixing’ the future. What if she told the truth and the futures where he and Charles part ways are really so terrible? ‘Fixing’ that could probably qualify as a benefit for her too. He can’t actually think of any other plausible reason why she would go through all that trouble.

If all of this is really true, he has to take the offer. How bad can it be anyway? It’s only dreams, right? And if anyone would need a hundred second chances, it’d be Erik. If this is the only way to prevent Charles from getting hurt…

“I’ll do it. I’ve endured worse.”

She regards him with a strange look. “Maybe. Or maybe not, we’ll see.”

She goes silent for a moment, putting her hands into the pockets of her coat.

“Distance is not the right way, you know? You’re pushing Charles away and it hurts him, he’s worried about you. He cares about you.”

Erik scoffs, of course Charles is worried about him, what else is new?

“I think there is something you should know. You and Charles have a special connection. Your timelines are tightly entwined. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Whatever happens, whatever you do, you’ll always be connected to each other, even when separated. Whether as allies or as enemies, you just belong together. There exists no timeline where you’re truly apart. I’ve seen futures where you’ve become enemies and it’s not pretty. Both you and Charles, old and bitter and full of anger and regret… and loneliness. You can do so much more when you’re working together instead of against each other, so why fight it? Charles isn’t always right, but neither are you. Sometimes you have the right answer, sometimes he does and sometimes it lies somewhere in the middle.”

Erik doesn't reply.

“You know it’s the truth. It’s written all over your face,” she drawls.

When he still doesn’t say anything, she turns to face him fully. “Think about my words. Learn to accept the truth behind them. You already know that I’m right. Come to terms with it.”

As she looks out over the calm sea again, Erik can't resist the urge to ask, “will I see you again?”

She doesn’t turn towards him as she says, “hm… You will. I’ll visit your dreams as long as this deal of ours lasts.”

He takes a step forward, looking out at the sea as well, the cries of seagulls filling the air around them.

“You should wake up now, it’s getting quite late.” 

With those words Erik jerks awake in his bed. It’s already past eight. She has been right, it really is getting quite late. Wait… this dream… Opal eyes. She was real. He remembers her taking him back into moments of his past, into Charles’ past even. No one could possibly know these things. He remembers her showing how she changed things before. He could’ve never come up with such a crazy story in his wildest dreams. Then he recalls what she told him. He has a chance to change the future. Or rather a lot of chances. He isn’t sure what to do with that.

He doesn’t get up yet, instead he lies there, staring at the ceiling and thinking about what Fortuna said. A connection. Charles and he have a connection. And not just any connection, a special connection independent of timelines. He takes a long moment to just let that sink in.

Erik doesn’t go for a run that morning. He must be looking worse than he thought when he’d looked into the mirror that morning, because now Charles is giving him concerned looks.

He sits at the breakfast table with the others and doesn’t say a word. He thinks about how he could change the futures she showed him.

Chapter Text

Charles keeps pestering him about his sour mood, even tries to cheer him up, but to no avail. He tries to talk to Erik every time they cross paths, but no matter how often he asks, Erik always deflects and makes excuses neither of them believe, and yet, Charles lets him go anyway. Erik never thought he could miss someone he is residing in the same house with. Still, he can’t seem to get himself to talk to the telepath. He just doesn’t know what to tell him. Thinking about what Fortuna told him, that distance isn’t the right way, he considers that maybe he should apologize for his behavior, but that has never been one of his strengths after all.

During that evening, while the recruits are watching a movie together, Charles announces that he wants to retreat to his study. It takes a moment for Erik’s brain to kick into gear and he jumps up from his seat, following Charles out of the room. The recruits give him funny looks, but he doesn’t care.

Charles is just making his way up the stairs when Erik calls out after him. 

“Charles!”

The telepath stops dead in his tracks, turning around. 

“Erik.” He sounds surprised and Erik wants to hit himself for making Charles feel that way.

He shifts for a moment at the base of the staircase, before he finally looks up, making eye contact with Charles and asking with a small, hopeful smile on his lips, “Fancy a game of chess?”

Charles blinks at him in confusion, before his entire face lights up. He tries to suppress a grin. “Of course, I’m not tired anyway.”

The telepath motions him to follow as he starts walking again. Erik smiles as he trails behind him. He wouldn’t need to follow, he’d know the way to Charles’ study blind. When they enter the room, the game is already set up. Charles pours them both a drink and settles down in his seat opposite from Erik.

“Would you tell me what has you so preoccupied, my friend?”

Erik stares down into his drink for a moment, takes a swig and says, “there is a lot on my mind right now… I don't wanna talk about it. Not yet.”

At that last line, Charles’ lips quirk into a smile and Erik makes his first move in the game.

They play and drink together for hours, their conversations full of life and it makes Erik feel lighter than he has the entire week. He hasn’t even realized how much he missed this until now.

Some time later, they are only half paying attention to the current game anymore, the alcohol a pleasant buzz in Erik’s veins and Charles’ company a soothing warmth in his chest. Speaking of Charles, the telepath is still sitting in front of him, a slight flush on his cheeks and a bright smile on his lips. No matter how hard Erik tries to fight a smile of his own, it just doesn’t work. He just can't help it. Charles seems to be delighted at the sight, his insanely blue eyes shining brightly.

Erik leans back in his chair.

“Tell me something about you.”

Charles looks taken aback by that request, eyes widening slightly. “What do you want to know?”

Erik shrugs. “Anything. Something no one knows about you. Not even Raven.”

“Not even Raven…” Charles mumbles, gaze turning thoughtful now, then it shifts and becomes serious albeit a bit sad. “Y’know, Raven doesn’t realize that when she tells me to stay out of her head, it makes me feel much the same way it makes her feel when I chastise her about keeping up her disguise…”

That’s not what Erik hoped for, but he is still thankful that Charles is willing to tell him this.

“Really?” he says dumbly.

Charles just nods.

Erik stares down at the table between them. He wants to reach out to Charles and somehow make it better. Provide at least some kind of comfort. But how could he comfort Charles? Erik is a weapon, while Charles is an idealist. How could someone like Erik provide comfort for someone like Charles? He doesn’t know. Hell, he told Charles to stay out of his head countless times, too! He doesn’t even want to think about how that must’ve made him feel… Unwanted and freaky, probably. How could Erik tell Raven and the others to embrace their mutant identity and stop hiding, when he asks the exact opposite from Charles? He needs to fix that. Somehow. But not right now. Right now, all he can do to make it better, is trying to make Charles laugh.

“I can feel pleasure when someone strokes or… caresses a piece of metal that I’m concentrating on.”

Charles instantly snaps out of his melancholy, his eyes widening almost comically. 

“What. Really?”

Erik nods, cheeks reddening slightly, but the smile is back on his face and Charles laughs. It’s a beautiful sound, Erik thinks. He’d like to hear it more often. Not just the occasional chuckle, he wants to hear this. This wholehearted laughter that makes Charles wipe tears from his eyes.

“Erik that’s… that’s amazing,” Charles says with a chuckle, still trying to get his breathing under control. “That’s fascinating.”

They make eye contact for a moment and then, suddenly, both burst out laughing. Erik can't remember when was the last time he felt this good, if ever.

As they are finally breathing somewhat evenly again, Erik says, “now you again.”

“Hm…” he taps a finger against his lower lip as he thinks, then frowns a little, glancing at Erik, before he lets out a deep breath. “Okay, I don’t actually know if Raven knows this, does it still count?”

“As long as no one else knows it.” Erik shrugs.

Charles considers him for a moment. “Well, I occasionally like to have sexual relations with men.”

Now both of Erik’s eyebrows go on a trip up his forehead. That’s something he definitely hasn’t expected. Charles stares at him in expectation.

“Erik?”

He shakes himself out of his stupor. “Sorry, just… surprised, that’s all.” He shrugs, then adds, “No big deal.”

Charles smiles. “Most people would view that differently.”

“I’m not most people, Charles.”

Charles’ smile widens a little as he says, “indeed, you are not, my friend.”

Erik mirrors the smile. “And neither are you.”

There’s a short moment of comfortable silence.

“Now you.”

“Hm…” Erik hums to himself as he leans forward again. “Well, I don't really have much of a sex life. I did experiment with women and men and found that I don't really have a preference, but in the end, I guess I’m rather inexperienced for my age.”

“What, really? I thought a man with your remarkable intellect would be favored among women as well as men. Your… physique is a benefit too, I suppose.”

Erik chuckles. “There have been quite a lot of… interested parties over the years, but the mission always came first and sex tended to get in the way. It was simply impractical.”

“I see,” Charles replies, seemingly contemplating if he should say anything further, but then deciding against it.

There is a moment of silence where they are just sort of staring at each other before Charles claps his hands onto his thighs.

“Okay, my turn.”

Erik grins. “I’m all ears.”

More like ‘all teeth’, but whatever.

“Okay, I got something,” Charles says with an amused chuckle. “One time I went to college in a dress, but I created an illusion to make everyone see normal clothes. It was sort of practicing my powers if you will… No one could figure out what I was laughing about the whole day.”

Erik almost chokes as he tries unsuccessfully to suppress the laughter that bubbles up his throat.

“I can't believe you really did that!”

“Oh, I did.” Charles is laughing too now. “Your turn.”

“Hm… okay.” Erik thinks for a moment. “You probably won't find this funny, but to me it is.”

“Oh, don't underestimate my sense of humor, my friend.”

“Fine, but I warned you. Years ago I was hunting down a Nazi in Saint Petersburg and he was living in this bizarre villa where almost everything was made of wood. The guy must’ve had some kind of wood fetish, it was insane… Anyway, there was only very little metal in the house that I could work with, but I found this ridiculously pompous-looking spoon that he was keeping behind glass. He seemed to be really proud of that spoon, because it was supposedly very old and expensive…”

“Oh no, don't tell me…”

“Yep, I killed him with that spoon,” Erik states with a smirk.

Charles snorts into his drink. “How does that even work?”

“Well, it’s actually fairly easy when you know what you’re doing.”

Charles chuckles, shaking his head. “You’re unbelievable.”

Erik takes a sip from his drink, saying almost casually, “I still have that spoon.”

Now Charles bursts out laughing.

Erik smiles at him. “I even use it occasionally. I like to eat muesli and cereal with it.”

Charles is having trouble getting his breathing under control as he gasps for air. It’s strange, hearing this, Erik has never heard Charles laugh so wholeheartedly before, it’s a beautiful sound in his ears.

“You know, your humor is a lot darker than I thought, Charles. I really didn’t think you’d find this funny.”

It takes Charles a while to get himself under control enough to string more than three words together without bursting into laughter.

“Well, is it a pleasant surprise?”

“Very pleasant.” Erik’s smile widens into a grin.

Charles pauses for a bit. “Can I see that spoon?”

Erik snorts. “It’s not like I carry it with me all the time, but I can show it to you someday.”

Charles nods. His cheeks are flushed a wonderful shade of pink, his smile is bright and his blue eyes are shining.

The urge to reach out and touch is unfamiliar to Erik and almost overwhelming. He downs the rest of his drink and moves to get up before he might do something they’d both regret.

“I should go to bed, it’s quite late,” he tells Charles.

The telepath looks disappointed at the prospect of Erik leaving, but when he glances at the clock, he nods. “You’re right, it is. We should both get some sleep.”

When Erik gets into his bed, he falls asleep easier and faster than he has in days.

Chapter Text

That night, he tries to shield Charles from the bullets with a piece of metal from the submarine. But as he lets it float towards him, the man doesn’t understand what Erik is trying to do. How could he when Erik is still wearing the helmet? As the metal piece flies towards him, he panics — quite understandably in retrospect — and tries to dodge it. But he moves just in the wrong way and the metal ends up cutting deeply along his back. Erik drops the metal in an instant, rushing to Charles’ side.

“I’m so sorry, Charles! I’m so sorry! I just wanted to protect you. Why did you have to move?” he babbles.

“Erik, why did you do that to me?” Charles asks, voice strained with pain, both physical and emotional.

“I didn't… I didn’t want to… It was an accident, I just… Moira would’ve…” he stammers.

“It might’ve been an accident, but it was still your fault. Don't blame someone else, you did this to me…”

Erik looks down at his hands, covered in his friend’s blood and his bottom lip wobbles ever so slightly as he says, “I know. It’s my fault…”

Then everything goes on as usual. He stands up, holds his little speech and leaves with Raven and the others. So Fortuna hasn’t lied when she told him there were worse futures.

When he wakes up, he thinks about just leaving this mansion behind. If he left, Charles would be safe from him. But of course, Fortuna was right when she said that they were never really separated, because Charles, that stubborn bastard, would find him and talk him into coming back. He has an inkling that if Charles tried to change his mind regarding this, he would have a hard time not giving in. Not because the telepath would use mind control on him, he’d never do that, but simply because it is Charles and Erik seems to have a weakness for the man.

The next night, Erik doesn’t want to fall asleep. He spends hours pacing in his room, trying to figure out what to do or what to say to finally get things right.

When he eventually calms down enough to lie on the bed, utterly exhausted, he falls asleep in a matter of seconds.

This time, when Erik stops the missiles, he keeps his eyes trained firmly on Charles.

Charles watches him right back. Then the missiles start to move again, slowly turning towards the ships.

“Erik, you said yourself—”

“We’re the better men.” Erik grimaces. Why does Charles always have to say the same things…

“Yes, this is the time to prove it! There are thousands of men on those ships—”

“They’re just following orders…” Erik finishes for him.

Why does Charles always have to use the same petty excuse? Somewhere deep in his mind, Erik is sure Charles could say something that would make him stop immediately, but he doesn't. He always says the same things and they never fulfill their purpose, because they’re not the right words. Not what Erik needs to hear.

Not an excuse.”

He sends the missiles flying towards the ships.

“Erik, release them!” Charles shouts, but Erik’s ears are ringing.

Charles tackles him to the ground and they wrestle, leading to some missiles exploding, and Erik shoves Charles away from him. 

“I don’t wanna hurt you! Don’t make me. Please.

He holds Charles to the ground and sends the remaining missiles towards the ships again. Charles tries desperately to get the helmet off of Erik, pleading him to stop, but Erik is not having it.

He punches Charles in the face, two more missiles explode, but he regains his hold on the rest. Then Moira is shooting at him, but this time he doesn’t deflect the bullets. He tries to stop them.

He’s never stopped so many bullets before, not while concentrating on something as big as a handful of missiles, but he has to try. The first one works just fine, the second one is all right, the third one is pretty okay, the fourth one is already rather difficult and suddenly his hold on the missiles slips and he has to readjust his focus to regain control over them and… the fifth bullet slips from his hold before he manages to slow it down significantly. It hits him directly in the chest.

It takes him a moment to completely grasp what just happened. The missiles fall from his hold and explode in the air. Then he falls to his knees.

Somebody shouts his name, but it feels distant to him, like a voice under water.

Just before his body hits the ground, he feels hands grip his shoulders, steadying him and lying him down on the sand with great care.

He hears Charles’ voice again, laced with fear and desperation. “Erik! Oh dear god, Erik, look at me, please!”

The air smells and tastes like salt, he can feel sand under his fingers. When his eyes focus, he can see Charles staring down at him, his hair ruffled by the wind and his eyes the color of the sea that is only a few feet away.

“Charles?” he rasps and realizes only now that he can barely breathe.

“Erik, it’s okay, we’ll get you to a hospital, you’ll be okay.” Charles’ eyes are filled with panic and Erik becomes aware that he’s lying in his arms. For once their roles are reversed.

“I wanted you by my side… I never wanted to leave…” Erik mumbles weakly.

Charles is desperately trying to stop the blood flow, “Erik, you don't have to leave, you never have to leave. We’ll fix you and then you can stay with me, for as long as you like. Just, please, Erik, stay awake. Stay with me… Oh god…”

There are tremors running through Charles’ body that Erik takes a moment to recognize as crying. Charles is crying. Charles weeps for Erik.

In the last moments of his awareness, Erik finds himself taking his hand. “It’s okay. It’s okay, Charles. At least you’re safe…”

Then everything goes black.

When he opens his eyes again, he isn’t lying in his bed, he’s still lying on wet sand, the sound of crashing waves a calming change in his surroundings. He’s still sleeping. The bullet should’ve woken him up, but it didn’t. He stands up, Fortuna just a few feet away from him, staring at the ground. He can feel something on his cheek and wipes away a tear.

“I’m sorry…” he hears her say and when she looks up at him, there seems to be a stray tear on her own cheek as well. “I’m sorry you had to live through this…”

He studies her for a moment. He doesn’t trust her, not really, but this moment seems like an affirmation of her true intentions.

“So am I,” he says, but she doesn’t flinch.

“I know,” she says instead. “But you know the rules. There’s no getting out now. I won't stop.”

“I know.”

“I hope this isn’t how it’ll end in reality. If Charles was to lose you…” she swallows hard, “It’d break him. So much more than losing his legs. It’d truly break him… and when Charles is truly broken, he’s dangerous.”

“I’ll try not to die then,” Erik says dryly, but he’s scared. Scared for Charles and what he might become.

Fortuna lets out a long exhale, closing her eyes. This time she doesn’t say anything before waking Erik.

~◊~

That day, during their regular game of chess, Erik finally talks to Charles about what’s bothering him. He doesn’t tell him about Fortuna and the futures she shows him. He just tells him that he’s having nightmares almost every night and that this is why he’s acting a bit strange.

Charles’ face shifts from worry to sympathy. “Oh, my friend… Why didn’t you say anything earlier?”

“I didn’t want to bother you. I’ve had nightmares before, I can deal with them.” But not with these, goes unsaid between them.

“I see. You know I could…” Charles trails off, waggling his fingers next to his temple.

“I know, but… it’s not necessary. I’m all right. As soon as we’re done with Shaw, it’ll be fine.”

Charles looks a bit surprised. As though he’d expected a more defiant answer, telling him to stay out of Erik’s head again, but Erik knows now that saying this would hurt Charles. Even though Charles drops the topic for the time being, he still worries about Erik. Of course he does, he cannot know if it’ll actually be over after the fight at the beach. At least Fortuna’s dreams will be over. Whether Erik will keep having nightmares of the beach without her, depends on how this ends.

That night, things go totally unexpected. Erik snatches the helmet from Shaw and Charles freezes the man in place, as he always does. But this time, when Erik holds the helmet in his hands, he hesitates to put it on. He doesn’t want to shut his friend out. He doesn’t. He trusts Charles and it kind of scares him how much he really trusts the telepath. The very same telepath who is currently inside his head, begging him to not put on the helmet and Erik is so close to dropping the stupid thing, he’s so close. And suddenly Charles is shouting inside his head.

“Erik, I can't hold him for much longer!”

Erik’s attention snaps back to the frozen Shaw, whose eyes have started to move again. Erik puts on the helmet at last, this time with the words, “I’m sorry, Charles.”

Then he pulls the coin out of his pocket.

“I’m going to count to three. And I’m going to move the coin. One…” He lets the coin float in front of Shaw’s forehead. “Two…” The coin is almost touching Shaw’s skin. “Three.” He’s just about to push it through the skull, when Shaw’s hand suddenly comes up to catch it. Erik hadn’t even realized that Charles’ hold on Shaw had slipped further.

An evil grin spreads on Shaw’s face and Erik feels sick with it. It’s the second time Erik dies, but this time is way more painful and Charles isn’t there to make it better. He doesn’t want to know what kind of damage Shaw would inflict further if things were to play out like this.

That night, he is ripped early from the dream and ends up wandering the hallways of the mansion for the remainder of it. The rings under his eyes grow darker and stubbles on his jaw itch, but he simply can’t summon the energy to shave.

Chapter Text

Erik excuses himself the next evening, telling Charles he didn’t sleep well last night and goes to bed early.

When Moira approaches him this time, he scrunches up her gun like a piece of paper, before she is able to fire a single bullet.

For a moment, Erik thinks everything is alright. Charles is still healthy and whole and the missiles are still on track, but when Charles approaches him in an attempt to talk him out of this, Azazel suddenly teleports behind him and draws a dagger.

It happens too fast for Erik to react and he’s left to watch Charles getting stabbed in the back.

“No!” he shouts, rushing over to his friend’s side like he has so many times before, shouting at Azazel, “What have you done?!” The missiles drop into the sea again.

“He wanted to stop you. Was that not what you wanted?”

“No, it wasn’t!” He screams at the mutant, who just looks shocked and confused. “Leave!”

“What?” Azazel says.

“I said leave!”

“Maybe you should leave as well,” Hank growls at Erik from where he’s standing only a few feet away, but Erik doesn’t look away from Charles. Everyone around him but Charles appears faded to him, like an afterimage.

“No, I’m not leaving him here like this…” Erik looks down at Charles in his arms, bleeding and in pain. “I’m sorry, Charles, but you don't know what it was like. The pain, what they did to me while they were just following orders. It’s no excuse! You weren’t there! You don't know!”

“You’re right, I don't, but you’re not the only one who had to suffer because of what you are.”

“Yeah, I think you should leave,” Alex agrees with Hank.

“It’s okay, Erik. It’s okay. You can leave,” Charles assures him, voice strained with pain.

Erik tries hard to keep the tears at bay. “But I don't want to leave. I want you by my side. We want the same thing, you and I.”

Charles swallows hard, fighting with tears of his own. “Oh my friend, I’m sorry, but we do not. I think now it would be better for you to leave.”

A tiny sob escapes Erik’s throat as he gets up and joins Azazel, Riptide and Angel. This time, Raven stays with her brother.

Erik doesn’t want to leave, he really, really doesn't, but Charles doesn’t want him to stay, so he does what everyone expects him to do and waits for Azazel to teleport them away.

Instead, everything around him, but the beach, vanishes. He looks around and finds Fortuna, as expected, standing at the shore and staring out onto the ocean. She has her hands in her pockets, her hair and dark grey coat flapping in the breeze. She doesn’t say anything, just keeps staring ahead into the distance. It’s almost as if she is waiting.

Erik takes a few steps forward, standing next to her. “Why are you here?”

She doesn’t move, doesn’t even blink. “Tonight you said something different to Charles.”

She doesn’t ask him why, but the question is implied.

Erik looks down at the ground. “He doesn’t understand.”

She still says nothing and he takes it as her way of telling him to go on.

“Charles doesn’t know what he’s talking about, he doesn’t understand. All his life, he never wanted for anything. His family was rich, his childhood sheltered. He never had to suffer. And he wants to tell me to show mercy, because these men are just following orders?” Erik scoffs. “He doesn’t know what it means to suffer. He can’t even imagine what I went through at the hands of men who were following orders.”

There is a moment of silence and Erik looks out over the sea as well.

“Are you so sure about that?”

Now Erik turns his head and finds her cool eyes staring at him.

“Well? How can you be so sure he doesn’t know what it means to suffer?” she asks further.

He blinks. “Well, he grew up in a mansion, he had parents, that can't exactly be called hardship.”

She hums, looking out over the blue water again. “But what if he did know? What if things weren’t as they seem? Some people are just better at hiding their scars than others.”

Erik’s mind is buzzing with the heavy implications behind that. Could Charles, sweet, idealistic Charles, really have scars? And if so, how has Erik never noticed? Suddenly he remembers what Charles said to him in the future he’s only just seen. You’re not the only one who had to suffer. Had Charles referred to himself? During their road trip, Charles had never changed in front of him, not even just his shirt. Erik had paid it no mind back then, but thinking about it now — it suddenly makes sense.

He stares at Fortuna for a moment, before he asks hesitantly, “did Charles suffer?”

For a split second, a sad smile appears on her lips, but it’s quickly replaced by that serious mask again. “You should ask him that yourself, don't you think?”

In a rare moment of weakness, he averts his eyes and she takes it as her cue to step closer, whispering into his ear, “now… wake up.

With those words, Erik’s eyes snap open and he’s lying in his bed. It’s already past seven, Fortuna’s constructed dreams making him sleep longer than usual, but it’s not a very restful sleep. He rubs fingers over his tired eyes. Where would someone like Charles get scars from? He can't make sense of it all.

~◊~

Charles is leaning with his elbows onto the railing of his balcony, watching Hank, Sean, Alex and Raven down in the yard training by themselves. There’s a soft breeze in the air and he leans into it, basking in the afternoon sun when he senses Erik’s presence behind him. The man is troubled lately, plagued by nightmares and Charles worries about him.

“Erik.” He turns around, leaning back against the railing and smiles at his friend.

But Erik isn’t smiling back. His face looks grim and yet determined. Charles’ smile falters.

“What’s wrong?”

“We need to talk.”

Now Charles’ worry increases even more. It takes all his self control to not simply check Erik’s mind for what is bothering him. “About what? Did something happen?”

“About your past. The things I don’t know about you. I’ve been wondering.”

“There is a lot you don’t know about me, my friend. You can’t expect me to just tell you my whole life story,” Charles says, trying to keep the conversation somewhat light.

“No, of course not.”

There is a tense pause, where Charles just watches Erik. His hair looks unruly, as though he’s been running his fingers through it, and the sun lights his face in just the right way. He looks beautiful.

“You never talk about your parents. Whenever you talk about your family it’s always Raven. You already know what happened to my family, you can’t condemn me for wondering why you never talk about yours.”

Now Charles’ face falls completely and eyes find the floor between them. He never expected Erik to call him out on this. Then again, the man will always keep surprising him.

“My father died when I was very young, I barely remember him. Mother married again and when she passed away, she left me everything, including this mansion.”

“But that’s not all, is it?”

“I don’t know what you want from me.”

Charles, don’t hide from me.”

“Why not? It’s not like you don’t refuse to talk to me about certain things, so why should I?”

He doesn’t want to talk about this, why does Erik have to keep prodding?

Now Erik goes very still and his eyes darken. He seems to consider something for a moment, then he stretches his arm out to Charles and pushes up the sleeve, revealing the numbers tattooed into his skin. Charles freezes.

“You already know who hurt me,” Erik says, his voice surprisingly soft. “Will you please tell me who hurt you?”

Charles swallows hard. Erik never showed that tattoo to anyone since he’s been with them. Sometimes one could catch a peek, but he never showed it openly like this.

“My step-father’s name was Kurt.” He avoids Erik’s eyes. “He had a special fondness for his leather belt. He died many years ago.”

Charles doesn’t say anything more about the matter. He doesn’t mention Kurt’s son, who wasn’t better than his father, he doesn’t mention what happened when they found out he was different. Erik doesn’t need to know these things.

“What about your mother?”

Charles almost winces at the question, but keeps his emotions in check. He stares at Erik for a long moment. “Minded her own business.” Usually at the bottom of a bottle…

Erik nods, looking to the ground. “I’m sorry,” he says. “For thinking you wouldn’t understand what it means to suffer. All I saw was this huge mansion and the fact that you had a family. I didn’t even consider the possibility that your childhood was anything but perfect.”

“You needn’t apologize for that. It’s the picture I present to everyone.”

Now Erik looks up again. “But you told me.”

“I did.” They finally make eye contact. “But in my defense, you are a very persistent man.”

The corner of Erik’s mouth ticks slightly upward for a fraction of a second, before he turns serious again, taking a step closer to Charles.

“Would you… show them to me?”

“What?”

“Your scars. I would like to see them, but of course you don’t have to.”

Charles has never seen Erik look so vulnerable before, but he isn’t going to give in easily.

“Quid pro quo, my friend. Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.”

Charles watches as Erik considers the offer. He absentmindedly traces the numbers on his arm before making his decision and nodding once. Charles really hadn’t expected him to be ready to accept that offer. Were it not for the context, Charles would smile at this display of trust.

They walk inside and Charles closes the balcony door behind him. 

Erik takes a deep breath and lifts the hem of his turtleneck sweater to reveal bare skin. His entire torso is littered with scars, some of them small and almost faded, others long and raised. They stare back at him almost like a mirror image of his own. A few of these wounds must have been rather deep and Charles wonders how often Erik scratched the brink of death while under Shaw’s ‘care’. After only a few seconds, Erik lowers the sweater again, covering himself, and looks at Charles expectantly.

He sighs and starts unbuttoning his cardigan and shirt. He can’t remember ever being so open with anyone. Then again, he never expected Erik to be so open with him.

Once his shirt is unbuttoned, he pulls it open, baring his chest for Erik to see. They aren’t even touching and yet this feels the most intimate he’s ever been with anyone.

Erik’s hands clench and unclench at his sides as he looks at the thin scars that the belt left behind on Charles’ skin.

“Now you know that we have even more in common than you thought,” Charles says as he buttons himself up again.

Erik is quiet for a moment, his jaw set. He swallows and starts to lift one hand as if to reach out for Charles, but he stops himself and lets his hand drop to his side.

“For what it’s worth, if he weren’t dead, I would punish him if you asked.”

Charles smiles a sad smile at him. “I know,” he says softly. “And I appreciate it.”

~◊~

Erik doesn’t punch Charles in any of the following futures. Never again.

Chapter Text

The next night, Erik is truly desperate. Desperate enough to take extreme measures. Taking the gun away from Moira has never worked so far, so he shoots before she can. He uses his power to throw a pointy piece of metal at her before she can even draw her gun. She dies within seconds. Erik feels sorry for her, but choices need to be made and he would always choose Charles.

Charles watches with shock as Erik kills her and Erik tells him, “I had to. She would’ve hurt you…”

Erik turns back around towards the ships and the missiles. Charles uses the opportunity to take Moira’s gun from her dead body and points it at Erik. 

“Erik, stop! Release them!”

He turns to the telepath and his eyes widen in shock. “Charles… put it down. I’m not your enemy.”

“I don't want to hurt you, Erik. Please don't make me.” Charles’ voice is steady but his eyes shimmer with yet unshed tears.

Erik could destroy the gun, but he knows that Charles won't shoot him, so he doesn’t take the risk of accidentally hurting him. “Put the gun down, Charles.”

Charles wants to shoot. He wants to end this madness. But he can’t. Erik killed Moira and Charles still can't bring himself to pull the trigger.

“I will, if you drop the missiles,” he says instead.

Erik is about to do just that, when suddenly Azazel, in a vain attempt to save Erik, teleports next to Charles and stabs him with his dagger. The very same dagger he used in an earlier dream. Charles’ eyes go wide and the finger that is resting on the trigger tightens. The loud noise of a shot is ringing in their ears. Erik didn’t even try to stop or deflect the bullet. Maybe it was out of surprise, because it all happened so fast. Or maybe it was out of resignation.

They both fall to the ground, bleeding and in pain. Charles’ wound is in his side, while the bullet hit Erik in the stomach.

“I’m so sorry, Charles,” Erik presses out, trying to breathe as normally as he can.

“I know, Erik. So am I,” Charles replies weakly.

The other mutants are around them, trying to help, but Erik and Charles only have eyes for each other. It almost reminds him of the moment in the strip club during their road trip. There were beautiful women all around them and they were only looking at one another, smiling like fools.

Erik reaches up and wrestles the helmet off his head. He can't stand the thought of being further away from Charles than the few feet that separate them anyway. He meets Charles’ insanely blue eyes and they both reach out with shaky, blood covered hands. But they are just that tad bit too far away to really touch. Erik’s chest hurts and it’s not from the bullet wound.

He wants to touch Charles, pull him into his arms and hold him close during their last moments, but he can't reach him.

He just wants to hold Charles and beg him for forgiveness. But he can’t, because Charles is just out of reach and Erik can feel his heart breaking. There is an echo of that feeling that isn’t his own and he realizes dumbly that Charles must be projecting. The circumstances are terrible, but the thought makes Erik’s heart swell nonetheless.

The others are trying to staunch the blood flow, but it’s of no use.

Charles wiggles a little to the side, just enough to make their fingers brush and croaks out, “Erik, I-”

But he doesn’t get to finish the sentence anymore as the light leaves his bright eyes and the last breath his lungs. Erik feels his own heart skip a beat as Charles’ heart stops forever. In this moment, he is grateful that he doesn’t have much longer to live himself, at least he won't have to live without Charles.

When Erik’s heart stops, it doesn’t make much of a difference to him. He already died when Charles did.

Moments later, he finds himself on the empty beach, Fortuna already waiting for him at the shore.

He takes a moment to collect himself and takes off the helmet, setting it aside onto a rock nearby. It is only a dream anyway, so the helmet is totally useless here. Then Erik gets up and joins Fortuna at the shore.

“It felt so real this time,” he says. “I even forgot it was a dream.”

She nods. “My friend and I had to turn it up. If you knew at every point of the dream that you’re dreaming, it would lose its effect. What would be the purpose of that?”

He doesn’t answer. His mind can't let go of the picture of Charles, bleeding on the ground, just out of reach. The thought makes him feel sick.

Fortuna barely reacts when Erik vomits onto the sand. But when he looks up at her from where he’s kneeling now, there is a look of sympathy written across her features.

There is a long moment of silence before she audibly breathes in. “Sometimes you have to lose what you love most, to realize it truly was love in the first place.”

The words feel like a punch in the gut. They hit just a tiny bit too close to home and it surprises him.

“You haven’t even considered that this feeling might be love, have you?” she continues.

He just stares at the ground, not knowing what to say.

“Much less, sleeping with him,” she adds quietly and Erik feels something in his stomach that isn’t sickness.

He thinks back to when Charles showed him his scars, chest bared. At the time, Erik couldn’t think about anything but the once broken skin and the cause of that, but as he recalls the picture now, he can feel his ears heat up. Erik hadn’t been attracted to many people over the years — not to mention love — but Charles… somehow Charles is different.

He remembers the way Charles smiles when they play chess and the way that beautiful smile makes him feel. He remembers the almost unbearable desire to reach out and touch, to bring Charles close and he realizes… she’s right. Shit. Fucking shit. How could he have been so blind?

“Do you see it now? It’s been there for a long time.” Fortuna’s voice is soft, almost soothing, but Erik’s ears are ringing with the weight of it all.

“Yes,” he croaks, closing his eyes, then resting his forehead against the saltwater-damp sand and breathes with a small hint of bitterness. “I’m in love with Charles Xavier…”

When he opens his eyes again, he feels disoriented for a moment before he realizes that he’s in his bed in the mansion. He is awake. In his bed. And Charles is alive.

He feels more tired than when he fell asleep, his eyes burning. This is getting to him. Losing Charles every night is in a way worse torture than everything Shaw ever did to him. He tries to rid his mind of the picture of Charles dying by holding onto fond memories he has of his favorite telepath. They fill his chest with a pleasant warmth and he lets out a sigh, letting go of some tension and sinking deeper into the mattress. How had he not noticed his rapid downfall? It all seems clear as day now. He was in a strip club with Charles and instead of checking out the girls, he just had eyes for him, smiling like a fool when their eyes met. He’d been such an idiot. He covers his face with his hands and groans. This was never supposed to happen, what should he do now?

After another few minutes of silent contemplation, he decides to do nothing about it for now. He doesn’t know how the future will ultimately play out in real life and he doesn’t want to make things more complicated.

He wants to take a shower but doesn’t have the energy to get up just yet.

Why did he have to fall in love? And why with Charles of all people? It was dumb and impractical and just plain the most inconvenient thing that could’ve possibly happened to him on his hunt for Shaw. But God, he’ll be damned if Charles isn’t the best thing that ever happened to him. Charles sees him as a person, as a good man, instead of just some kind of weapon or monster. Charles believes in him, as odd as it may be. Charles is his equal. Thinking about all of this now, it almost seems inevitable that Erik fell for this man. This beautiful, endlessly idealistic, cute genius. Who has a surprisingly dark, lovely sense of humor.

Erik turns onto his side with another groan. Oh no, he has it even worse than he thought. Curling in on himself, he tries not to think of Charles anymore, but fails miserably. Why did he have to fall for the one person he couldn’t be with? Charles wouldn’t want him, why should he? Erik is a mess, a killer, and Charles? Charles is a damn genius with four PhDs! What would someone like that possibly want to do with Erik? Then again, Charles seems to genuinely care for him. Erik feels the need to yell into his pillow. It’s all so confusing. But if he doesn’t manage to fix the future, it won't matter anyway.

For now, he needs to focus on training, Shaw and fixing the timeline. So he pushes it down, to the very back of his mind, and is about to get out of bed. Part of him wants to go to the bathroom and throw up, but he is simply too tired even for that. He wonders how long he’ll be able to keep going, how long it will take until this breaks him. He isn’t even sure anymore if there is a way to fix everything or whatever it is Fortuna expects of him. She’d only stop if he got things right, but Erik can’t really imagine what that means after everything he’s seen.

There is a soft knock at the door and Erik unlocks it with a flick of his wrist without even thinking about it. The door opens slowly, and Charles peeks inside. Erik thinks he must be looking terrible, eyes red, with dark rings underneath them, face pale and he hasn’t shaved for enough time that the stubbles itch. The look of concern and sympathy on Charles’ face tells him he isn’t far from the truth with his assumptions.

“What do you want, Charles?” Erik asks, sounding more tired than annoyed or anything else.

“I couldn’t help picking up on intense distress coming from you and I thought I should check on you.”

“And?”

Charles sighs. “I brought you tea.”

Erik blinks at him for a moment, before his brain starts to catch up. “Come in.”

Charles closes the door behind himself before walking to the bedside and setting a cup of tea onto the bedside table, steaming vapors climbing out of it like hands trying to reach the ceiling.

Erik sits up on his bed and takes the cup gratefully. The tea is exactly how he likes it. Black, no sugar, a few drops of lemon.

“Thank you,” he mumbles before taking another sip. Charles is still standing somewhat awkwardly next to the bed and Erik sighs, patting the place next to himself. Charles hesitates for a second, then sits down in the offered place next to Erik on the edge of the bed. Erik has to hold onto his cup and scrape up every ounce of self control he can find in his current state, in order to refrain from leaning into Charles’ warmth.

Charles clears his throat. “If you don't want to talk about it, I understand. But if you do, I am here.”

Erik closes his eyes and sighs into his cup. “I know.”

No one has ever taken care of him like Charles does, not since the death of his mother. Part of him wants to push Charles away and tell him he doesn’t need to be taken care of by anyone. But the other part, the bigger one, wants to fall to his knees and beg Charles to take care of him forever. Judging by the look of surprise on Charles’ face, he must’ve somehow picked up on that. Erik distantly thinks he should stop broadcasting such things, but on the other hand, he can't bring himself to regret something that makes Charles blush so wonderfully.

They sit in silence for a moment until Charles musters up the courage to ask, “what did you dream about? You're exuding so much emotional pain right now...”

Erik takes another sip of his tea. He doesn’t know how to answer.

“Was… was it about your mother? Your past?” Charles tries quietly.

“No,” Erik answers instantly.

After that Charles is silent, waiting for Erik to say something further.

Erik lets out a deep sigh. “The dream wasn’t about the camps… or my mother… or Shaw.”

Charles watches him curiously, yet worriedly, waiting for Erik to collect himself.

“It was about you…”

Charles’ eyes widen and his mouth opens slightly in shock.

Erik swallows thickly and whispers barely audible, “I saw you die, Charles.”

Charles’ mouth opens and closes a few times as he tries to comprehend the meaning of what Erik just said. It was Charles’ death that caused so much pain and distress in him. All Charles can do is put a hand onto the man’s shoulder to give at least a little comfort.

Erik turns his head to look at Charles and gives him a small smile, before laying his own hand over the one resting on his shoulder. It’s a small gesture, but it means so much. Erik already feels better. Charles always manages to have that effect on him.

When Charles leaves the room with the empty cup, Erik is ready to get up and go to the bathroom. Looking into the mirror, he sees the dark rings under his eyes and the stubble on his jaw, but he doesn’t look nearly as bad as he would’ve thought. He’s in no condition to go for a run, so he takes a quick shower, finally shaves, and gets dressed before heading down for breakfast.

As he enters the room, all eyes are on him. Raven is the only one with the courage to say something.

“You okay?” she asks.

“Trouble sleeping,” Erik grumbles. “It’ll pass.”

The boys look like they want to say something, but they’re probably too scared of Erik to actually open their mouths. Erik is glad for it. At least he hasn’t lost his authority yet.

Erik refuses to leave Charles’ side for the rest of the day. Even if it partially means just standing somewhere in the background while Charles is helping the recruits with their training. Watching Charles makes him smile. He’s sure he must be looking like a lovestruck idiot and the smug, knowing looks he keeps getting from Raven, Alex and Sean only confirm that theory, but he doesn’t care. All he cares about is that Charles is alive and with him. However this turns out, no one will ever be able to take these moments away from him.

~◊~

They are standing on top of the big satellite dish with Sean in his flying suit and Hank who developed it. It looks kind of ridiculous, but Erik doesn’t say that out loud. They already tried to have him take off from a window in the mansion but he just fell to the ground like a potato. It was hilarious, but Charles smacked him on the head when he snorted. Erik clearly saw the smile on his face though, that hypocrite.

So now here they go again, but this time it’ll work, Charles assures Sean.

“I trust you,” Sean says.

“I’m touched.”

“I don’t trust him.” He gestures at Hank.

Erik is fighting a grin.

“Say nothing,” Charles commands sternly. Erik pointedly presses his mouth shut.

Then Sean turns towards the edge of the platform. It’s a long fall from up here, but he can do this. Erik knows it and Charles does too.

“I’m gonna die!”

Erik resists rolling his eyes when Charles goes on to assure Sean that they wouldn’t make him do something he isn’t comfortable with. All he needs is a little nudge, that’s it. They both know it.

So Erik gives him exactly that. And he falls. And then he flies! He gets the hang of it in no time at all and flies loops and spirals, whooping loudly.

Erik just watches him proudly for a moment, racing through the air, before he turns back to Charles, who looks at Erik with a scolding smile on his face.

“What? You know you were thinking the same.”

That causes Charles’ smile to widen. Erik’s got him there. They really are more similar than it appears at first glance. That thought makes Erik’s heart beat just a tiny bit faster.

The sense of calm in this moment fades though, when an image of opal orbs flickers to the front of Erik’s mind, bringing with it the memory of the metallic stench of blood mingled with the smell of the sea.

After this, he can’t get any training done of his own; he feels drained, exhausted, as though he hadn’t slept in days. But he still plays chess with Charles in the evening, because he needs to see him alive and healthy and there. These memories are his and they always will be.

The telepath keeps prodding, concern laced into the questions about his state, but Erik brushes it off, refuses to talk about it and changes the subject. He knows he’ll have to give Charles some kind of answer at some point, the man isn’t someone who would just give up, but he doesn’t know what to say, so he keeps avoiding the subject as best as he can.

~◊~

After a short game of chess, they end up sitting on the couch in Charles’ study, just talking a little. Not for very long though, because Erik falls asleep, leaning against Charles’ shoulder. That never happened before. Erik doesn’t let his guard down like this with other people. But Charles seems to be the exception, because Erik is tucked neatly against his side, sleeping soundly. Charles smiles at him fondly, reaches for a book and pulls him a little closer against himself. He opens his book and lets Erik sleep with his head resting on Charles’ shoulder. The man deserves some rest. And it’s not like Charles would ever object to being so close to him.

Charles contemplates for a moment, but in the end decides to let himself indulge a little. He turns his head slightly, presses his nose into Erik’s hair and breathes him in. Without waking up, Erik nuzzles Charles’ face, trying to bury his head even closer to Charles’ neck. Erik is a fierce man, some might even say he’s frightening, but right now, Charles can't help but find him adorable.

He reaches out with his mind to check where everyone else is and finds that they’re all minding their own business. With a smile, Charles leans his own head against Erik’s, one hand stroking softly through his hair and reads his book.

When Erik awakes only a few hours later, he feels more rested than ever in the last couple days. Still sleepy, he pays it no mind that he apparently fell asleep on Charles. He stands up and stretches.

“I better get to bed now.”

Charles nods, already missing Erik’s warmth. “Have a good night. See you tomorrow.”

“Sleep well, Charles,” Erik says as he leaves the room.

He hadn’t dreamt anything while leaning into Charles. But as he crawls into his own bed, alone, he is under no illusion that he’ll have a restful night.

Chapter Text

Before he walks out of the crashed jet, Erik uses his powers to remove all the bullets from Moira’s gun without anyone noticing. Then he goes on as usual, marches into the submarine, kills Shaw with Charles’ help, comes back out, starting his speech, then he stops the missiles and turns them around.

Charles turns to look at Erik. “Erik, you said yourself, we’re the better men. This is the time to prove it!” It’s always the same.

“Charles, I have to do this. Why don't you understand? We need to set a warning example, they have to know that they can't just wipe us out if they desire to.”

Charles doesn’t reply.

“Please, Charles, try to understand.”

Charles looks at the ground and sighs. “I do understand where you’re coming from… But you have to understand my point too,” he demands, “If we give them a reason to fear and hate us, things will be even worse!”

Erik can feel Azazel drawing his dagger and takes a piece of submarine metal and sends it flying towards the mutant, stabbing him before he even gets the chance to teleport. Azazel’s dagger is still in his hand as his dead body hits the ground.

One look at it and Charles knows what Erik just did.

Their eyes lock and Erik whispers, “I had to, he would’ve hurt you.”

Charles takes a tentative step forward, towards Erik. “Erik please, drop the missiles, this isn’t the right way.”

Erik doesn’t know what to say. Is there even a right way?

He turns to face Charles fully and almost doesn’t notice the movement in the corner of his eye. When he realizes what it was, it’s already too late, he reacts too slow. Angel picked up Azazel’s dagger and threw it at Erik for revenge.

Erik doesn’t react fast enough, his attention too captured by Charles, but he never feels the metal piercing through his skin. Because all of a sudden, Charles is standing in front of him, his back turned towards Erik. Charles just stands there for a moment, then his knees give out and he falls into Erik’s arms. When he sees the dagger in Charles’ chest, Erik immediately lets go of the missiles and they drop, exploding mid air without doing any damage.

Charles saved Erik by shielding him with his own body. How fucked up is that? Charles is apparently willing to sacrifice himself for Erik of all people. Charles really must love him, because otherwise no one would be stupid and crazy enough to die for a killer like Erik.

Erik lowers Charles carefully onto the hot sand, pulls one of Moira’s bullets from his pocket and shoots Angel with it right into the head. Riptide flees. The others are too stunned to pay much attention to the third body on the beach now. They all gather around Erik and Charles, but do nothing more. They’re too shocked to really say anything at the moment. Erik barely registers their presence in the corner of his eye, it’s all just a blur.

He cradles Charles’ head gently with one hand, while he uses the other to try to staunch the blood flow. But no matter how hard he tries, it just keeps on flowing, slowly soaking the yellow-black suit and the sand underneath them.

“Why, Charles? Why did you do that?” Erik asks with tears in his eyes.

“It was my turn to save you,” Charles replies weakly.

“Oh, you bastard. You saved me the day we met. And you kept saving me every single day after that. Just by being you, Charles. You never had to do anything else…”

“But I was never enough to make you stay, was I?”

“Yes, you were. You are. We’re gonna get you to a hospital and you’ll get better and I’ll never leave you,” Erik says with utter determination and doesn’t hesitate for even a second to yank off the helmet and throw it across the beach.

Charles’ eyes widen and his lips part in wonder.

Erik’s bottom lip quivers as he whispers, “you’re everything to me, Charles. Please don't leave me. I need you…”

“Oh, my friend… I’m afraid I can’t make that promise…” Charles says with a cough.

Charles’ eyelids are drooping and panic rises in Erik’s chest. He can't hold back a sob. “Charles, I—”

But Charles shushes him. “Will you take care of the students for me?”

“Yes. Anything, Charles, anything you ask. I’d do anything for you…” And the truth in his own words hits him like a brick.

He would do anything for Charles. He would even open a stupid school for him. He would go to the end of the world for him. He would kill for him — or not, if Charles wanted it. But right now, he would do anything to not lose the man.

“And I would do anything for you…”

“You already have. Remember- remember when you jumped into the ocean to save me?”

A small smile grazes Charles’ lips as he looks up at Erik. “Of course I do. How could I ever forget? No mind I ever entered has wrapped itself around mine, except yours, there in the water…”

Now Erik smiles too, a stray tear rolling down his cheek.

“I- I need you to know that- Erik, I-” Charles breathes in shakily. “I love you.”

The words leave Charles’ mouth together with his last breath and Erik’s heart breaks into a million little pieces.

“No. No, Charles, no no no no no… Charles…” He presses his forehead against Charles’ and whispers, his voice breaking, “I love you too…”

Then Erik finally lets go, the tears falling freely as he holds Charles tightly in his arms, rocking gently back and forth. It’s the first time he allows himself to weep for Charles, his lost love.

And by God, he does weep. He weeps until he has no more tears left to shed and he still doesn’t stop, keeps on sobbing. He can’t stop. The loss is too deep, it’s too much. Charles loved him and he’ll never know how much Erik loves him in return, will never stop loving him.

Moira wants to step closer, wants to say something, but Raven holds her back. “Let him. He loved my brother.”

They all stand by and watch with tears of their own as Erik’s soul crumbles apart.

When he finally does manage to stop crying, his cheeks are wet, his throat raw and his eyes red. He feels hollow and numb, but he made a promise to Charles and he won't disappoint him again. He presses a soft kiss to Charles’ forehead and looks up at the others. Charles asked him to take care of them and he will. He will even start that damn school Charles always dreamed of and he’ll name it after him. It’s what he would’ve wanted.

“We should leave,” he says hoarsely and they all nod, looking at him in sympathy.

Then, literally in the blink of an eye, everything is gone and Erik is sitting on the empty beach.

His eyes still hurt from crying, but as he looks around, he spots Fortuna, sitting in the sand not far from the shore, legs stretched out in front of her as she is holding Shaw’s helmet in one hand and eyes it curiously. She almost looks like she might be about to play Hamlet.

“Funny how you seem to become more and more willing to get rid of this thing…” she says, not expecting a reply. She looks at the helmet a little longer, turning it around in her hand, before she sets it aside and leans back on both of her hands, gazing out at the horizon.

Now Erik gets to his feet, a little wobbly, but he manages.

“I apologize,” she says then, “for the side effects. The tiredness and all, y’know. I didn’t know dream walking could cause that. I’m sorry.”

Erik just stares at her with red, puffy eyes.

She looks down and pats the sand next to herself. He doesn’t move.

She sighs and once more he sees genuine sympathy behind her cool mask.

“I’m sorry for causing you so much pain, I really am. But I can't influence these dreams as much as you might think. I’m just showing you what would happen, I can't make any changes myself.”

He studies her for a moment, then sits down next to her, keeping his distance.

“How are you feeling?” she asks softly.

He stares at the shore in front of them, thinking about that. “I don't know.”

She nods, “At least you know now what Charles really feels.”

Erik scoffs. “Do I?”

“Well, he told you, didn’t he?”

“Yes, but it wasn’t real…”

He can practically hear her eye roll. “Just because you saw it in a dream, that doesn’t make it any less real. It’s an existing timeline, a possible future and that means Charles meant everything he said. What he told you here is very real, Erik. In every timeline.”

Erik swallows, staring at the ground, his heart in his throat. “Yeah… maybe. But just because he loves me, that doesn’t mean he wants me.” And Erik does want Charles. It’s almost a shock how much he wants him. “Maybe he loves me as a friend or even a brother, but…”

Fortuna lets out a mirthless laugh. “Are you kidding me? You think he doesn’t want you? Are you really sure about that…? Has he never been staring at you when you didn’t look? And didn’t he immediately look away when you caught him staring? Has he never walked close enough to let your hands brush? And doesn’t he take every chance he gets to touch you, however brief?”

Erik considers that for a moment and yes, he remembers multiple occasions where these things happened. How has he been so blind? So it must be true, right? Charles really feels the same. Now Erik wants to cry from happiness.

He’s grinning like a fool as Fortuna talks again, a small smile on her face. “So you finally figured it out by now… took you long enough.” There’s a pause, then she goes on, “you two can have a future together. A life. A chance for happiness. Don’t let that chance go to waste. There isn’t much time left until the day you’ll set foot on this beach for real. I know you can make the right decision, just… please don't mess this up, okay?”

Erik chuckles humorlessly. “I’ll try my best.”

There is a moment of silence between them, both thinking about that day’s events.

“What will you do now?” Fortuna asks then, turning to look at him.

“Well, I’ll do anything to stay by Charles’ side and try my best to make the right decisions. I don't want to lose him. Never again…”

He wants to love Charles and be loved by him in return. He wants to take care of Charles and let Charles take care of him. He wants to touch Charles and be touched by him. He wants to wake up next to Charles in the morning. Erik wants all of these things for the rest of his life. He wants a life with Charles.

“When will you tell him?” she asks further, tilting her head a little to the side.

Erik sighs. “Not yet. After the beach. If it turns out well. I don’t want to start anything with him if we then might end up parting on bad terms.”

Fortuna nods. “I think I understand.”

“If my friend and I did things right,” she adds, “you should be more rested than usual when you wake up now.”

~◊~

Slowly, Erik blinks his eyes open. She was right, he thinks after a moment, he really does feel better than the previous mornings. But not by much, just enough to be able to function entirely normal for a change. He wipes the tears from his eyes and gets out of bed. At least he feels good enough to start his training with Charles again. He can't wait.

Charles seems happy to see Erik visibly better and ready for training. He takes him outside to the huge satellite dish where Erik pushed Sean off the platform only a few days ago.

Charles walks in front of him to the railing and points at the satellite dish. “See that?”

Erik walks closer and looks at the thing, not sure what Charles might want.

“Try turning it to face us,” Charles says.

Erik can't believe his ears. He turns around and looks at Charles, who only gives him an encouraging nod. If Charles expects that from him, he might as well try.

He turns towards the construction again, takes a breath and reaches out for the metal. Nothing happens. He tries as hard as he can, but it doesn’t work. Erik has to steady himself on the stone railing as he pants for a moment.

He’s still leaning against it as he hears Charles talking behind him. “You know, I believe that true focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.”

Erik turns to face him again. That beautiful accent will never stop getting to him.

“Would you mind if I…” Charles raises a hand and wiggles his fingers near his temple.

Erik finds he doesn’t mind. It’s a bit of a surprise, but not really. He’d like to have Charles in his mind actually. Still, he is grateful that the telepath asked for his consent.

He shakes his head and Charles puts his fingers to his temple. He almost can't believe that Erik really agreed to his request. It’s a display of trust unlike any other.

He dives into Erik’s beautiful, bright mind, the part of him he first fell in love with, and looks for the brightest memories he can find. Surprised is an understatement of what he feels when he finds some of Erik’s most treasured memories to be of moments they shared together. They are Charles’ most treasured too. But now is not the time, if there will ever be a time for this, so he moves on and finds what he is looking for. An almost forgotten memory, long buried under pain and loss and too many sacrifices for a single lifetime. He tugs gently at the memory and brings it to light.

Suddenly Erik remembers something he thought was long forgotten. A birthday with his family. The memory ends after mere seconds and Erik feels a tear stream down his face. Looking at Charles, he sees a tear on the telepath’s cheek as well and he wants to wipe it away, but he doesn’t move from where he’s leaning on the railing.

Charles wipes the tear away himself and looks at Erik.

“What did you just do to me?” Erik asks, without accusation to his voice.

Charles steps closer, leaning against the railing right next to him. “I accessed the brightest corner of your memory system,” he pauses, then adds, “it’s a very beautiful memory, Erik. Thank you.”

They both know that the ‘thank you’ is not about the memory itself, but about the trust Erik put into Charles, enough trust to let him willingly into his own mind.

Erik looks at him with wonder and gratitude, a small smile making its way onto his lips “I didn’t know I still had that.”

And Charles is looking at him with so much adoration that it almost leaves Erik breathless. “There’s so much more to you than you know. Not just pain and anger. There’s good, too. I felt it.”

He says it with so much sincerity that Erik wants to believe him. He wants to be the man Charles already sees in him. For the first time, he actually believes he can achieve that. With Charles’ help.

“When you can access all of that,” Charles continues, “you’ll possess a power no one can match. Not even me.”

Erik finds himself lost in eyes full of love and trust. He never wants to hurt this man.

“So, come one,” Charles claps him on the arm. “Try again.”

Anything for a little contact, however brief. How right Fortuna was.

Erik reluctantly turns away from him to face the satellite dish again. With a deep breath, he reaches out for the metal once more, thinking of the memory Charles showed him, but most of all how much he loves this man beside him, and the tears fall again. The metal creaks in the distance, protesting against Erik’s pull, but he holds on. Holds onto everything that he went through with Charles by his side, everything that could be between them and he holds onto how much he wants to fight for what could be.

Charles is watching him in amazement as he moves his hand and the satellite dish moves with it, turning to face them.

And Erik can't hold back the happiness that bubbles up inside him, doesn’t want to hold it back anymore. He breaks into a wide grin and lets his upper body fall forward, leaning his elbows against the railing while Charles laughs with him and pats him on the back. The little contact leaves Erik wanting for more and he is suddenly very aware of how close they are standing. He wants to lean in and kiss his beautiful telepath. But the moment is over too soon, interrupted by a voice from the mansion shouting out of a window as the two of them are still laughing together. 

“Hey!”

Charles pats his shoulder once more, still grinning. “Well done.”

Erik can't help but wonder if he, too, wishes that this moment could’ve lasted longer. He probably does.

They turn around to see Moira leaning out of a window on the ground floor. “The president is about to make his address!”

Charles gives him a last pat and rushes inside, Erik following shortly after. When they are all gathered around the television, hearing the president’s words about missiles in Cuba, Erik knows what’ll happen next.

“That’s where we’re gonna find Shaw,” he announces.

“How do you know?” Alex asks skeptically.

“Two superpowers facing off and he wants to start World War III,” Charles provides. “He won't leave anything to chance.”

“So much for diplomacy,” Erik says. “I suggest you all get a good night’s sleep.”

Then he leaves the room. He knows that whatever happens tomorrow, will determine how both Erik’s and Charles’ lives will go on. The beach. It’s about to happen. One more night and then it’ll be real.

Chapter Text

In the evening, Erik goes to Charles’ study like he does every evening. When he enters the room, Charles is already sitting at the table with their chess board, waiting for him. Funny how Erik has already started to think of it as their chess board. Erik cracks a smile and sits down in front of Charles. They play all evening long, immersed in discussion.

Charles isn’t taking shit from him, he never is. That’s one of the many things he loves about this man.

“Listen to me very carefully my friend. Killing Shaw will not bring you peace.” There is worry laced through his voice, worry that he’s trying to mask, but Erik hears it nonetheless. He knows Charles, knows that he’s fearing for Erik’s life and sanity. Maybe not entirely unfounded after what Erik saw in those dreams.

He wants to say that peace was never an option, but looking into the Charles’ eyes, he thinks better of it. Maybe peace is an option, after all. Maybe Charles could give him peace. Looking at the man in front of him, the emotion on his features chase all his doubts away. Charles could give him all the peace in the world, if Erik let him.

“Maybe not,” he says then, “but Shaw is too powerful to be left alive. He’d be a permanent threat. Even if imprisoned.”

Charles sighs. “I see your point, but—”

“Charles. This needs to be done. You know that. So I’m asking you, do you have it in you to allow that?”

Charles rubs a hand over his face and sighs once more before looking into Erik’s eyes again and then he nods slightly. “I think I don't have much of a choice. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.”

Erik nods. They keep playing in silence for a while until Erik decides to ask, “do you think we could maybe compromise?”

That catches Charles by surprise. “What?”

Erik leans forward to study the pieces that are still left on the board. “My opinion doesn’t apply to all humans, I admit that. But neither does yours. You know that as well as I do. Do you think we could meet somewhere in the middle?”

Charles just stares at Erik as though he just said something earth-shattering. It might actually be, Erik supposes. He has always thought of the two of them as ‘immovable object meets unstoppable force’ and until now that has been true. But now he is here, suggesting a compromise, a middle-way. For a moment, Charles is rendered speechless. A small, lopsided smile tugs at his lips and he looks like he wants to reach out to Erik but then doesn’t.

Instead, he just chuckles with an amazed expression, “Yeah. I think we could.”

Erik shows a smile of his own.

“You keep surprising me, my friend.”

Without thinking Erik replies cheekily, “you love me for it.”

Charles bites his lip, trying to hide his widening smile. “I guess I do.”

He looks damn kissable like this, Erik thinks in that moment.

Their conversation is a lot more relaxed after that. There even is some shared laughter on occasion. Erik doesn’t want to give this up. Ever.

Both of them only reluctantly part to retreat to their separate rooms, but they need to be rested for the following day. Erik hopes this isn’t the last time he gets to play chess with Charles.

~◊~

When Erik opens the door to his room, he is surprised to see a seemingly naked Raven lying in his bed.

“Well,” he closes the door behind himself, “this is a surprise.”

“The nice kind?” she asks.

He really doesn’t want to deal with this right now, but it seems he has to, “Get out, Raven. I wanna go to bed.”

She doesn’t move, just shifts into an older version of her human form, “How about now?”

Erik sighs, “I’m tired. And I’m really not in the mood for this… nonsense.”

Suddenly she shifts again, this time into a very naked Charles and asks, “And now?”

Erik swallows thickly and almost chokes on his spit. Having Charles naked in his bed is something he is fantasizing about for days now, but this isn’t the real Charles. It’s just a bad attempt at a copy that has nothing on the original. Erik doesn’t want a copy, he wants the real Charles and no one else. Even looking at Raven right now, in this form, feels strangely like betrayal.

He catches himself staring and feels his face heat up slightly. Luckily the room is only dimly lit by the moonlight that comes through the window.

He peels his eyes off the naked form, clears his throat and says, “I prefer the real Raven.”

She shift into her natural blue form, looking a tad bit too pleased with herself.

“Could you pass me my robe?” she asks then with a slight smile.

Erik studies her face for a moment. “Of course.”

He turns to find the robe thrown over a chair next to the bed and hands it over, turning to face the wall as she gets dressed. When he turns back towards her, she’s standing in front of him, wearing the robe and an incredibly smug expression.

“What?” he requires.

She smirks at him. “Be good to my brother.”

He blinks at her for a moment, trying to comprehend. “Did you- were you… testing me?”

She chuckles. “Naturally, I had to make sure you’re true to him. And you passed. With flying colors.”

He knows he’s gaping slightly, but he can't find it in him to stop. “So you know? And you don't mind…?”

“Of course I know, silly. You two couldn’t be more obvious in your pining.”

“I don't pine,” he grumbles.

“Oh, but you do,” she insists. “And obviously I don't mind. I mean, look at me, who am I to judge anyone for being different?”

Erik huffs in amusement. “Thank you, Raven. Do you think Charles and I… have a chance?”

She lets out a laugh, “Oh dear, I think you’re perfect for each other.”

He fails to keep the lovestruck smile from his face at these words and it makes Raven look even more smug.

“I should go to sleep now,” she tells him then. “Tomorrow is gonna be a hard day.”

She has no idea, Erik thinks.

“Good night, Raven,” he says as she opens the door. “And… don’t do that again.”

She snickers as she leaves, telling him, “good night,” over her shoulder before she closes the door behind herself.

Erik sighs and locks the door with a flick of his wrist, trying not to think of the million ways their mission could go wrong. He gets ready for bed and crawls under the covers.

Lying on his back in the dark room, he closes his eyes and thinks of Charles. He thinks of the moment in the icy water when their minds touched for the first time. He thinks of the fun they had during their road trip. He thinks of passionate arguments and shared laughter during their stimulating games of chess. He thinks about their conversation this evening and the possibilities it offers. He thinks of their shared moment in front of the satellite dish and remembers Charles’ touches. He tries to imagine what it might’ve been like if he had kissed Charles right there.

He knows that he must be smiling like a loved up fool right now, but he doesn’t care, because for once, right in this moment, he’s a happy man. Hopefully that won't change by tomorrow.

~◊~

When he drifts off to sleep, he is surprised to find himself on an empty beach. He is standing where the crashed plane should be, but there’s nothing but sand. He’s alone. But when he looks around more closely, he realizes he’s not.

Fortuna is standing a few yards away, hands in her pockets and staring out at the ocean. Her face looks grim, but she still tries for a smile as Erik approaches her.

The question in his eyes is everything she needs to promptly give an answer. 

“I won't show you another future tonight. But I wanted to talk to you.”

“Why?” he asks and it refers to both things she said.

She lets out a deep sigh and the smile slips from her lips.

“The probabilities are constantly shifting. There’s no way to tell what might happen. I can't show you a possible future because for once I’m as clueless about the future as everyone else.” She rubs her fingers over her eyes. “It’s terribly confusing.”

Erik nods. So, tomorrow remains a big question mark.

Fortuna goes on, “tomorrow you will either fix things, or break them. I’m not religious, but I hope to God it’ll be the former.”

He turns to look at her and finds dread in her eyes. She’s scared of what might happen. But surely not as scared as Erik himself.

“It’s in your hands, Erik. You are the key. I know you have it in you. The future lies in your hands. Treat it well.”

He balls his hands into fists, lips pressed into a thin line. “I will.”

She nods a little. “I believe in you. Do you have it in you to believe in yourself? Believe in Charles?”

He closes his eyes. “I do.”

He isn’t sure whether he’s trying to convince Fortuna or himself. But then again, does it matter?

She seems to contemplate something for a moment, then starts talking again, “Do you believe me when I say, killing people isn’t a solution to your dilemma? There is a future — the best one I’ve seen so far — where no one has to die. Neither human, nor mutant.” She pauses for a second, then adds, “except Shaw, of course, but I’m not counting him as a person… for obvious reasons.”

Erik listens intently, but he isn’t sure what to make of that.

“When I leave you now, you won't wake up. You’ll drift into a normal dream. You need to rest for tomorrow,” she tells him and the world around them begins to fade.

He wants to ask her a million different things, but all he ends up saying out loud is, “will I see you again?”

The smile she gives him then is completely genuine. “Maybe. Who knows what the future will bring?”

And then she’s gone, letting Erik slip softly into normal sleep.

Chapter Text

On the next day, when they meet in Hank’s lab to suit up for the mission, Erik finally learns why Hank looked kind of... different in his dreams. And rather blue. Not that he minds. He hardly even noticed it in his dreams, since Charles was always the focus of his attention, but he’s glad to find out anyway.

They get into the jet and fly to Cuba. Charles uses mind control to let a Russian fire at his own ship. That display of Charles’ power is kind of shady and admittedly rather scary, but also strangely hot if Erik is concerned. He enjoys seeing the darker side of Charles, hid behind bright smiles and endless idealism, but it’s undoubtedly there. Sometimes it feels like only Erik can really see it, just beneath the surface. Erik always knows it’s there, but seeing it displayed, if only subtly, makes Charles almost unbearably attractive. It reminds Erik of how similar they truly are, despite their differences. Two sides of the same fucked up coin. Charles isn’t a typical rich kid or academic and he’s also not a typical hero. He has scars like Erik, he liked to party and flirt during college excessively and he has a dark, dangerous side to him that makes Erik feel hot and tingly. Charles isn’t as he seems on first glance and to Erik that makes him impossibly more beautiful.

Sean uses his power as an improvised sonar to locate Shaw’s submarine. Now it’s Erik’s turn.

Charles looks at him. “Are you ready for this?”

“Let’s find out.”

The jet hovers in the air over the ocean and Erik climbs down onto the landing gear where he’s basically outside. Charles is there with him, looking out of the plane at Erik.

He needs a moment to feel out the metal of the submarine underneath the surface of the water. Then he grabs for it, starting to pull. He strains to move the thing but it does nothing but to drain him.

Suddenly he feels Charles’ mind reaching out to him. The engines of the jet are loud, so this is their only way of communication.

Remember, he hears Charles’ voice in his head, the point between rage…

…and serenity, they finish the sentence together.

Of course Charles would feel the need to remind him, as though he could ever forget that moment at the satellite dish. Charles Xavier, ever the control freak.

No, Erik scolds himself. Charles isn’t trying to control him, he’s trying to help him. And with Charles’ help, Erik can do great things, it seems, because the submarine comes to the surface and out of the water. Erik has never felt this powerful before and it is all thanks to Charles. He holds the submarine in the air as Hank speeds up the jet to carry it towards the nearby land.

Suddenly someone comes out of the submarine, looking up at them. The figure turns out to be Riptide, who immediately conjures a small hurricane that grows exponentially as it speeds towards their jet plane.

“Erik, take my hand!” Charles shouts.

Hank launches the jet into an evasive maneuver, but Erik holds onto the submarine. He can't let go, not now, not this time. He barely manages to send the thing crashing onto the beach, before he starts to crawl up into the plane.

“Erik, take my hand!” Charles yells with increasing panic and desperation.

The jet is sucked into the storm, one of the jet engines gets ripped off and the machine starts to spiral towards the ground. Erik reaches out for Charles’ hand and the telepath pulls him into the plane right before it crashes down onto the beach. The plane keeps moving, it’s overturning and without a moment’s hesitation, Erik throws himself over Charles, pinning them both to the floor of the plane with his power to keep them from flying around as the jet keeps turning over.

When it finally stops moving, he lowers himself and Charles to the ground.

As Erik steps out of the crashed plane onto the beach, it feels hauntingly familiar. But he pushes that feeling of dread away, because he needs to focus. Running over the hot sand, he rips a hole into the submarine’s hull, knocking Riptide down with the chunk of metal. Then he sprints inside, letting Charles’ voice in his head guide him until he finds Shaw in a room full of mirrors.

“Erik, what a pleasant surprise,” the man says and his voice sends a chill down Erik’s spine.

He tries to pull Erik to his side, tells him he’s sorry for what he’s done to him, tells him he only did it to make Erik stronger. And it had made him stronger, but the power he has now is not unlocked thanks to him. It’s all thanks to Charles.

Erik smashes the mirrors and takes the helmet from Shaw’s head.

“Now Charles!” he shouts as Shaw scrambles wildly to get the helmet back and the man freezes mid movement. Erik walks to stand in front of Shaw and takes the helmet from the cable that’s still holding it. He looks at it for a short moment, not wanting to put it on. He doesn’t want to shut Charles out, to ban him from his head. Having him in his mind is oddly intimate and he admits to himself that he likes it — a lot. But right now he doesn’t need the distraction, doesn’t need Charles’ voice screaming at him inside his brain.

“Sorry, Charles,” he says as he lifts the helmet, “but Shaw is too powerful to be left alive. We talked about this.”

“Erik, please. Do what you must, but come back to me,” Charles pleads, but there’s resignation in his voice too.

“I truly trust you, but this needs to be done and you know it.” Then he sets the helmet onto his head and Charles is gone from his mind. He doesn’t like doing this, but their connection would be too distracting in this moment — he needs all of his focus on Shaw, can’t allow him even a small chance to escape and do even more harm.

Erik steps closer to Shaw and starts to talk to him, “If you’re in there, I’d like you to know that I once agreed with every word you said. But then I met Charles Xavier. He’s changed me, more than you ever could. But,” he turns away, taking a few steps back, “unfortunately, you killed my mother.” He can't forgive that, as much as he wants to change for Charles.

He turns back towards Shaw and pulls the Nazi coin from his pocket, lets it float in front of his face and counts to three before pushing it through his skull. The coin comes out of the back of his head and falls to the ground.

It’s done.

He knows Charles went through immense pain, holding Shaw in place, and Erik would’ve liked to spare him from this, but it had to be done and he couldn't have done it without Charles’ help.

When he floats out of the submarine this time, Erik doesn’t display Shaw’s corpse. It isn’t a trophy to him anymore. Things have changed since he lived through this for the first time. He has changed.

Catching sight of Charles, he feels guilt at the obvious pain he can see on his face, having experienced Shaw’s death firsthand, but above all else, there is a sense of betrayal evident in his expression.

He points out the missiles the ships are about to launch and meets Charles on the beach.

Charles puts his fingers to his temple and checks, then he lowers his hand again, turning to nod towards Moira who runs off in her useless attempt to stop it. Then the ships fire. But just as he did in the dreams, Erik simply extends one arm, stopping the missiles midair. Charles just watches. Then the missiles start to move again, slowly turning towards the ships.

Now Charles turns to look at Erik again, “Erik, you said yourself, we’re the better men. This is the time to prove it!”

Erik wavers. He’s heard that sentence so often by now. What can he do to prevent everything from falling apart…?

Charles wants to say something more, about the men on the ships being innocent, but suddenly there’s an unfamiliar voice in his head that he didn’t seek out. It’s a woman, talking to him calmly but sternly, saying, Don’t. He went through so much at the hands of men ‘just following orders’. Saying that won't do any good. Tell him what you really think. Don’t talk around it.

Erik waits for Charles to go on with his usual speech about innocent men just following orders, but this time, to Erik’s surprise, he says something entirely different.

“Erik, you’re not like him. You’re not like Shaw. I know you’re not.”

Erik’s throat runs dry and his hand is starting to shake. He’s listening closely now to whatever Charles has to say.

“Erik, when I held him in place, I could see through his eyes, feel what he felt and hear all his thoughts. I heard what you said to him and I’m so proud of you. But while he was afraid as he saw what you were about to do, he was proud to see you put on his helmet. He thought you were going to follow in his footsteps. But Erik, you’re not like him. You’re so much better than him.”

Moira comes out of the plane again and reaches for her gun. Charles shakes his head at her and steps closer to Erik, hope and desperation in his eyes. “Erik, please.” Then he adds quietly, only a faint whisper compared to the rushing of the wind and the ocean, “come back to me…”

And suddenly Fortuna’s voice is in his head, although that isn’t possible, right? Because he’s still wearing the stupid helmet. But the words are ringing clearly in his mind nonetheless. Things she said to him during their few encounters.

You and Charles can change the world together. If you do it for the better or the worse will be determined on this beach.

You can do so much more when you’re working together instead of against each other.

Sometimes the right answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Charles and you can have a future together. A life. A chance for happiness. Don’t let that chance go to waste.

I know you have it in you.

I believe in you.

He doesn’t care much that a stranger like her believes in him, but Charles believes in him and that means a whole lot.

All of a sudden, something occurs to Erik. He’s seen so many possible futures, all of them different, but not in a single one did the missiles ever hit the ships he targets.

“Erik, please release them!” Charles pleads next to him and Erik thinks, maybe… maybe he should do just that. They wouldn’t reach the ships anyway, maybe he should just let them go.

Maybe this is the right way.

Erik’s hand is shaking, he misses Charles’ mind against his own. It must be the right way, he decides and lets the missiles drop unexploded into the ocean. Beside him, Charles breathes out in relief.

Erik yanks the helmet off his head like it might burn him and throws it across the beach, using his powers to crush it, making it impossible to ever be worn again.

He turns to Charles and pulls him into his arms, holding on tightly, afraid to let go. Afraid he might wake up and it’ll be just another dream. Charles is in his arms, healthy and whole and hugging him back just as tightly. Erik loves him with all of his heart. With everything he is and everything he has. He’d offer it all to Charles. If Charles would want it.

“I’m so sorry, Charles. I was stupid,” Erik mumbles into his telepath’s hair.

“It’s okay, Erik. You did the right thing. It’s okay.” Charles voice is soothing, but there’s something else that would be a lot better.

“Charles,” Erik whispers shakily, “come in.”

He can feel Charles stop breathing. It’s obvious that the telepath can't believe his ears. Erik put on Shaw’s helmet to shut him out mere minutes ago and now he asks him to come into his mind. Of course he wouldn’t believe that. Why should he?

“Charles, I want it. I miss you. Charles, please.” Erik begs him, pulling back slightly to put his fingers to Charles’ temples.

Charles looks at him in wonder, disbelief and amazement, letting out a small huff before he closes his eyes and sucks in a shaky breath. Erik feels Charles’ warm, endlessly soothing presence enter his mind and he lets out a bone-deep sigh of contentment. He doesn’t bother to hide anything from him anymore. Charles deserves to know how Erik feels.

And when they open their eyes, gazes locking, Charles is wearing a tentative smile and Erik answers it with his own. The telepath chokes out a laugh, happy tears filling his eyes and Erik knows their lovestruck expressions must be matching. But right now, he cares about nothing except Charles, who is smiling at him as bright as a thousand suns, looking so beautiful Erik wants to cry about how lucky he is to have found this man. Of course Charles picks up on that and his grin widens, arms tightening almost possessively around Erik.

In that moment, the world has narrowed down to only the two of them, lying in each other’s arms, longer than what could ever be considered platonic, gazing into each other’s eyes and smiling like dorks.

It’s so easy then, to lean in just a tad bit closer and Charles is leaning in as well, at the same time as he is. When their lips meet, it’s everything they ever wanted and more. Charles practically melts against Erik’s body, humming into his mouth and Erik pulls him closer, one arm encircling his waist. Charles’ hands are gripping his side and shoulder, holding on like his life depends on it.

Erik opens his mind completely, lets Charles know everything he feels, baring his soul for him to see and Charles returns the favor gladly, shows Erik every bit of love and affection and desire he has to offer. It feels amazing. Their mouths and minds joined, bodies touching from head to toe and it feels magnificent. Erik feels like he’s falling or flying or something in between. He feels like he finally found his way home after having been lost for far too long. He feels loved and wanted and like he belongs. He belongs with Charles. Erik feels at peace.

When they have to part for air, Charles whispers only for him to hear, “you’re getting soft, Erik.”

Erik presses a tender kiss to Charles’ jaw and whispers back, “entirely your fault.”

Charles hums against Erik’s lips. “Good. I like it.”

Erik chuckles and thinks, I knew you would. And then they are leaning in again, the kiss still soft, but with more passion. The hand Erik still has on Charles’ temple moves to cup his cheek. He doesn’t need to keep it at his temple anyway, the link between them is already established. Charles moves a hand to the back of Erik’s neck, holding him close.

The other mutants on the beach stare at them in shock and astonishment. Raven just looks smug, a knowing smile on her face. Angel is wearing an expression of disgust, while Azazel and Riptide are equally confused. Sean and Alex are muttering something about a bet, Hank is blushing, not knowing where to look and Moira is simply gaping at them. But Erik and Charles don't pay much attention to them. Charles’ lips are warm and he moans into Erik’s mouth and it’s absolutely perfect.

Yeah, there’s no way the others didn’t see Charles’ tongue slipping into Erik’s mouth, but it feels too incredible to care. Erik lets out a soft groan and his hand moves from Charles’ cheek into his hair. They’ve waited too long for this to let the circumstances tame it.

When they finally do part, they are both panting, faces flushed, hair mussed and stupid grins on their faces. They are resting their foreheads together, eyes locked and Charles laughs.

“You are, hands down, the best kisser I’ve ever had.”

Erik chuckles and presses another kiss to Charles’ reddened lips. “Can’t wait to show you more.”

Charles kisses the corner of Erik’s mouth and cradles his face. “Let’s go home.”

“Home,” Erik breathes with a nod.

They turn towards the others, who are still coping with what they just saw, and Erik’s demeanor changes momentarily. He’s standing straighter — as straight as he can be anyway — and his face is stony. That mental comment brings a small smirk to Erik’s lips and Charles realizes with a little astonishment that their minds are still linked to each other.

Erik turns to Azazel. “Can you bring us away from here? Preferably somewhere near Westchester, New York.”

The mutant blinks at him for a moment and looks around at the others, before giving a nod. “Da.

“Good.”

They all take each other’s hands, but Charles and Erik are the only ones who interlace their fingers. Right before they teleport, Erik hears Fortuna’s voice in his head, sounding somewhat distant, but still clear. Well done, Erik. I knew you could do it.

Erik smiles and then they are gone from the beach. What they don't know is that many of the men on the war ships saw what happened and remember this as the one time they fired and nothing was fired back. They saw how powerful these mutants are, especially Erik, but they’ll never forget how these powerful… people decided to spare their attackers. It’s a miracle, some would say. Others argue it was an act of humanity. In any case, many men who served on these ships learned to have a certain respect for mutants that day and will even pass it on to their family members when they get home. They’re only a small part of the population and probably won't change the world, at least not over night, but it’s a start. And a better one at that than both Erik and Charles are anticipating.

After the teleportation, the odd group finds themselves truly not far from the mansion. Those who want to stay are welcome, the rest is free to leave to wherever they desire to go. The old team stays together, but Azazel also takes them up on the offer. Janos, which is Riptide’s real name, accepts to stay with them for a while until he figures out what to do next. Angel regards Erik and Charles with another look of disgust and leaves.

“Not everyone can be as progressive as us, I guess,” Alex comments with a small shrug.

“Judging people for being different while expecting not to be judged is wrong,” Azazel suddenly speaks up with a clear Russian accent. Everyone is silent for a moment. Janos nods his quiet agreement.

Chapter Text

It's dark outside when they finally reach the mansion and as soon as everything is mostly settled, everyone retreats to their respective rooms to sleep. Everyone except Charles and Erik. It’s been a long day, but they are too wound up to sleep yet, not to mention that they aren’t willing to miss out on their favorite evening routine.

The fireplace is warm to his right, but Charles’ presence is warmer. Erik can hardly believe that he actually made it, that he is back here in Charles’ study, playing chess with him. It feels a bit surreal, but at the same time the reality of what happened on the beach is just starting to sink in. He and Charles kissed. And it wasn’t just a kiss on the forehead, it was full-on making out in front of everyone. He remembers vividly the feeling of Charles’ warm lips and the slow drag of his tongue against his own. Heavenly.

A small smile creeps onto Erik’s lips as he regards the chess board in front of him.

“You know,” Charles speaks up, his drink in hand, “for a moment there, on the beach, I thought you wouldn’t listen to me…”

Erik looks up at him. “I almost didn’t.”

Charles watches him for a moment. “And why did you?”

“Fortuna. She’s the reason I’m still here, Charles. If I had chosen on my own, I wouldn’t be here now and you’d be sitting in a wheelchair… because of me.”

Of course Charles has seen what had happened when they established their telepathic link and he sighs. “Erik, you went through this over and over just to find a better way.” He shakes his head. “I can't believe you went through all of that pain for me…”

“I couldn’t stand the thought of losing you.” Not after he saw what it’d do to both of them.

Charles doesn’t comment on that. He’s too caught up in staring at Erik with an amazed smile that lights up his features. Erik wants to kiss him again. The kiss on the beach had been great, wonderful really, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Charles made it clear that Erik’s feelings are mutual, still, Erik isn’t sure how to proceed. He hasn’t been with many people over the years and with most of them just for a single night. But with Charles he wants to do it right.

Erik makes his move in the game, takes a sip of his drink and leans back in his armchair, stretching out. Charles can't help giving him an appreciative once-over, not bothering to hide that he’s looking.

Like what you see? Erik thinks at him cheekily.

Charles smirks over the rim of his glass. Immensely.

The telepath sets his drink aside and looks at the board between them. Erik notices Charles having difficulties to concentrate with him so near. He’s always been somewhat of a distraction, his mind so brilliant and always active, but now that Charles can't seem to stop thinking about Erik’s lips, hands and skin, focusing has become a lot more difficult. Erik doesn’t mention that he picked up on this train of thought, but he can definitely relate.

“I’m glad,” Charles says then and it takes Erik a moment to trace their vocal conversation back to what he might mean, since he’s been staring at Charles’ face for the past minute.

“I’m glad you decided the way you did,” Charles clarifies when Erik doesn’t reply. “I’m glad you didn’t do what Shaw had in mind for you. I’m glad you came home with us. You came back to me.”

“Of course, Charles. Always.”

The words tumble out of his mouth without a conscious decision, without permission even. Probably because of the exhaustion from this wearing day, but he finds he doesn’t mind one bit. It’s the truth and Charles deserves to hear it.

“You know, you’re not the only one who might’ve done something wrong on that beach.”

“What?”

“In your dreams I always said the same things, about soldiers who just follow orders. And it was always the worst possible thing to say. Didn’t you wonder why I said something different when we were there in reality?”

Erik thinks that over for a moment. “I did.”

“Well, I was about to say exactly that, but then I heard a voice in my head that didn’t belong to anyone on that beach. A voice that told me to say what I really thought instead of these… empty phrases. And for some reason I listened to that voice. Now I know who that voice belonged to…”

“Fortuna,” Erik states.

Charles just nods, “It seems like you weren’t the only one in need of a little help to find the right way.”

Erik breathes out a short laugh. “So we’re both idiots.”

“Indeed we are, my dear.”

The grin Charles gives him then, warms Erik’s insides and he simply can't suppress a smile of his own.

“You should smile more often. It looks good on you,” Charles comments.

Erik arches an eyebrow. “You know, most people look quite frightened when they see me smile.”

Charles huffs a laugh. “I know. Your smile is rather unusual, but don't forget that I’m not most people. I think you have a beautiful smile, Erik.”

For a moment Erik doesn’t know what to say, so he reaches for his drink again. He takes a sip, thinking about his next move, then states, “you should stop wearing those cardigans, you’d look much hotter without.”

For a moment Charles looks taken aback, but then a smirk appears on his lips and a glint in his eyes. He didn’t expect Erik to start flirting, but this could be fun.

“I’ll think about that,” he says, “but I have to say, no one in the world can wear a turtleneck like you do.”

Erik chuckles at that and makes his next move in the game. “Admittedly not the first time I’ve heard that.”

Charles tilts his head and grins. “Of course not… One request.”

“Hm?”

“Please never stop wearing black. It’s making you look so unfairly dangerous,” Charles drawls in his beautiful accent that affects Erik almost like a siren’s song.

Charles~,” he draws out the name deliberately, raising an eyebrow and smirking “I never thought you’d be into that.”

“Oh, but I am,” the telepath replies with a wink.

Erik almost chokes on his drink as he suddenly feels something touch his ankle. Charles’ foot. Charles’ foot is touching his ankle and slowly sliding upwards. There is a word for that. It takes Erik’s mind longer than he’d ever admit to finally come up with the name for what Charles is doing: playing footsie. The gentle touch makes the short hairs on Erik’s neck stand on end. It’s an unfamiliar, but not exactly unpleasant sensation. He doesn’t move his feet away from Charles, instead he presses slightly into the touch and even starts to actively search for the contact at some point.

Charles looks incredibly pleased at that. He makes his move in the game and says almost casually, “we should play strip chess some time.”

Erik lets out a bark of laughter. “Is that even a thing?”

Charles shrugs. “We could make it a thing.”

A slow, predatory smile makes its way onto Erik’s face upon noticing a light flush on Charles’ face and neck.

“I suppose we could… but wouldn’t that take awfully long?” Erik asks, letting his eyes wander over Charles’ form as he rests his head on his left hand, elbow propped up on the arm of the chair.

Charles tilts his head to the side. “Isn’t that half the fun? Letting anticipation build until it’s almost unbearable?”

“Hm…”

Erik assesses Charles’ current condition. He’s sporting a light blush, his eyes are bright and his pupils dilated. Perfection. When the telepath wets his lips, his tongue peeking out for barely a second, Erik can't stop himself from tracking the movement and he realizes that he might not be any better off. He swallows.

“You’re probably right.”

Charles appears to consider something before he wordlessly starts to unbutton his cardigan and watches Erik with an amused glint in his eyes. He shrugs out of the piece of clothing and hangs it over the backrest of his chair with the remark, “I’m not stripping for you.” At least not yet, he adds telepathically.

“Shame.” Looking forward to it.

This time it’s Erik who initiates a point of contact under the table, letting his foot graze against Charles’ ankle. Erik’s heart is racing inside his chest and he almost feels dizzy with how much he wants this man. Chess has never been more… erotic — for the lack of a better word.

He must have been projecting, he realizes dumbly as he notices the self-satisfied smirk on Charles’ face. He takes another gulp of his drink and makes his move in the game.

There is a moment of silence between them, then, “how long?”

“What?”

“When we linked our minds and kissed on the beach, it was obvious you’ve been feeling that way for quite a while, so… how long?”

Charles makes his move in the game. “Well… I felt connected to you from the moment I jumped into the water to save you, but I suppose I actually fell for you at some point during our road trip. What about you?”

“I’m not sure.” Erik smiles fondly into his drink before taking a sip and continues, “I didn’t realize it for a long time. But I guess it happened slowly, gradually.” Every time you smile at me like that, I fall a little more.

That makes Charles smile even wider. You really don't seem to mind having me inside your head.

I don’t. Erik gives him a lopsided smile, thinking vaguely about where else he’d like to have Charles.

“I believe it’s your turn,” Charles says, leaning back in his chair. You know, nobody has ever taken to this way of communication as well as you do.

Erik chuckles lightly, examining the board. What can I say? I like having you in here, he taps a finger against his temple.

Charles grins. I like being there too. No mind I ever entered has wrapped itself around mine, except yours during our first contact. It’s comforting, having a connection like this.

Erik makes his move. You don't have to suppress your nature with me anymore, Charles. You deserve to be yourself as much as every other mutant. “Your turn.”

“Of course.” Thank you.

Erik leans back in his armchair and Charles stares at him for a moment, projecting a faint whisper of ‘where were we?’ It was probably not intentional, but what does it matter? Erik is all for continuing what they started.

I believe you were trying to seduce me. Erik smirks at him.

Was it working? Charles gives him his most charming smile.

Erik doesn’t answer, instead says out loud, “that smile of yours should be illegal.”

Charles chuckles, lets his eyes wander over the sharp lines of Erik’s form. “You should have to carry a weapon license for that body.”

Erik smiles lopsidedly “That’s probably true for multiple reasons.”

That actually gets a hearty laugh out of Charles and Erik takes a moment to just drink him in.

“I’m still amazed by your lovely, dark sense of humor.”

“And while I’m very glad that I can make you smile like that, I have to admit, you’ve only seen a glimpse so far.”

“Oh, Charles, is there something you want to tell me?” Erik simpers. “I knew we were like-minded, but the longer I know you, the more similarities I find. We are much more alike than you want to admit.”

Charles bites his lip, trying to suppress a smile. “Oh, shut up. You’re just a terrible influence.”

Erik shoots him a self-confident, slightly mischievous grin. “You love it.”

Now Charles gives up on holding back a grin of his own and leans forward. “I do.”

Erik leans forward as well. “I’ll do my worst then.”

With both of them leaning forward, there is only the distance between them that the table with the chessboard puts there. It’s fairly small, but it feels like they are miles apart. Too far away. Just out of reach.

There’s a long moment of silence stretching out between them, neither paying attention to the chess board anymore.

All of a sudden, they both speak up simultaneously. “You’re too far away.”

For a second they look surprised at each other, then Charles chuckles. “Oh, thank God, I’m not the only one who feels this distance.”

Erik huffs a laugh. “You’re definitely not.” He gives a challenging smile. “Well, what do you want to do about it?”

Charles contemplates for a moment, biting his lip. As he looks Erik up and down, he decides that he has drank enough to give him the boldness to outright tell Erik what he wants.

I want to climb into your lap.

Erik raises an eyebrow. Things just got a lot more interesting. He leans back in his chair, moving his arms to his sides invitingly. Then why don't you?

Charles stares at him for a moment. “Fuck it,” he chugs the last bit of his drink, gets out of his chair and straddles Erik.

“Much better,” he mumbles after making himself comfortable.

“Mhm.” Erik puts his hands on Charles’ thighs and lets them glide upwards to his waist, his back, his chest, shoulders, neck, everywhere he can get them.

Charles lets out a content hum, almost purring under Erik’s touch. Been waiting so long to have your hands on me.

No more waiting. Erik adjusts his own position so that their chests are touching and Charles can put his hands on Erik more comfortably.

“Hm… it’s getting warmer?” Charles whispers, slipping a hand underneath Erik’s turtleneck sweater. Or should I say hotter?

They both lean in closer until their faces are mere inches apart.

“Almost.” Charles breathes against Erik’s lips.

He can feel Charles’ rapid heartbeat against his chest and his hot breath against his lips and he can’t wait any longer. When they finally close the gap between them, it feels like a fire has been lit.

Charles’ lips are warm and perfect and Erik knows he’s already addicted. He pulls Charles closer, gliding a hand through his hair as he sweeps his tongue over Erik’s lip, asking for permission. Erik doesn’t hesitate to open his mouth and grant him access.

When their tongues meet, Charles can't hold back a soft moan. Perfection.

Erik pulls back a fraction and breathes, “yes.”

But Charles isn’t having it. He can't get enough of him. “Don't stop.” Charles pulls him back in and Erik is all too happy to oblige.

Erik has never enjoyed kissing so much. He never really bothered with it before. Sex had only been a sometimes necessary inconvenience and kissing had been more or less unnecessary, except for undercover situations, for manipulation and as an unconventional diversionary tactic. But Charles is an excellent kisser. The best he’s ever had and — Oh, do that again.

When they have to part for air, Charles looks positively wrecked. His eyes are hooded, pupils dilated, his skin is flushed a beautiful shade of red and his hair is askew, because Erik couldn’t stop running his fingers through it.

After only a short moment to catch their breath, Charles moves back in, pressing Erik into the backrest of the chair as he tries to get closer still.

They keep kissing and touching like that for who the fuck knows how long. It doesn’t matter anyway. Shaw is dead. They have all the time in the world.

Erik almost laughs, because isn’t it funny? He never expected there to be an after. He only ever knew his mission and now… now there is a life lying in front of him. A life that he can live as he pleases. A life with Charles. That sounds like a damn good prospect. He wouldn’t give it up for the world.

When Erik’s legs start to go numb under the constant weight of Charles, he shifts. I can’t feel my legs anymore.

Maybe we should go somewhere more private then.

Erik hums and sucks Charles’ bottom lip into his mouth. What do you have in mind?

The answer comes without missing a beat. My bedroom.

You’re so direct, I like it. And with that, Erik slips his hands under the telepath’s thighs and lifts him into his arms as he stands up from the chair.

Charles doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around Erik’s shoulders and his legs around Erik’s waist. They keep exchanging lazy kisses while Erik carries Charles to the bedroom. He could walk these corridors blind if he needed, he knows every bit of metal in the walls around them and that’s sufficient to navigate the mansion even in the dark.

When they are finally in the bedroom, Erik lies Charles gently onto the mattress and doesn’t waste any more time to lock the door with his powers.

~◊~

Their clothes are strewn across the floor of the room and the only sounds are the rustling of bedsheets and the sound of skin moving against skin, interspersed with a few quiet moans and soft sighs.

It almost feels a bit surreal, finally being inside Charles. The only thing grounding Erik is the telepathic bond that they established between them. Having sex with a telepath has its perks, Erik has realized. Such a link helps a lot to quickly find out what drives your partner crazy and the feedback loop feels fantastic.

They are pretty much a knot of limbs, with Charles’ legs wrapped around Erik’s waist and their arms around each other while they’re slowly rocking their hips together. Erik is trailing kisses along the lines of Charles’ body, worshipping each scar, every imperfection on soft skin. “You’re beautiful,” he whispers into the hollow of Charles’ neck and the only answer he gets is a soft gasp.

Erik wants to ask if they are making love, because he has surely never done that before, but whatever this is, it feels like it.

Of course that train of thought doesn’t go unnoticed by the man he’s currently sharing his mind with and he hears Charles whispering his name before he is drawn into a passionate kiss.

Afterwards, lying sated and spent in each other’s arms, they just relish the closeness as long as they can. Charles’ thoughts are a constant buzz of Erik, Erik, Erik as he peppers his skin with kisses and Erik is radiating love and affection for Charles in waves. Neither feels the need to say the three little words that are already so glaringly obvious to the both of them.

As they are lying there, legs tangled together, just enjoying the afterglow, Charles hums happily into the quiet of the room. “I wish I could meet this Fortuna someday, I feel like I owe her a big ‘thank you’.”

A low chuckle rumbles through Erik’s chest. “We might get to. Who knows what the future might bring, right?”

Charles smiles as he leans up to kiss Erik again. We might.

~◊~

Only a few days have passed since the beach, but Erik feels more at peace than he ever has since he can remember. It’s quiet, they decided to keep their relations with the CIA to an absolute minimum from now on and will soon start to make the necessary arrangements to open a school. Charles’ dream will be coming true and Erik has a part in it, too. That’s more than either of them ever imagined having.

It’s an ordinary morning in the mansion. Well, as ordinary as it can get with eight mutants and a CIA agent under one roof. Janos’ powers proved to be very helpful in setting the table and it seems like he will be extending his stay with them, along with Azazel. Erik is sitting at the breakfast table with the others after his morning run. Hank took his breakfast with him to the lab and Charles is still in bed. Their bed. Erik hasn’t slept in his own room since the beach and all of his belongings somehow ended up in Charles’ room. He suspects Raven and Moira to have something to do with that, but he won't complain. At least he didn’t have to move his things himself.

Erik can't help but smile, thinking about the past days. On the first night he half expected to wake up from another of Fortuna’s dreams, but by now the reality of this new life is starting to sink in. Part of him wants to see her again, if only to thank her for what she did for him. And maybe to punch her in the face. She hasn’t exactly been gentle with him in those dreams — and that is putting it lightly, somewhere in his mind he’s still mad at her for making him watch Charles die multiple times, though he does his best not to think about that — but it got the job done. The future has been changed and definitely for the better.

He is startled out of his reverie when Charles enters the room in his robe. “Good morning.”

“Morning, Charles,” Erik says as the others at the table greet him as well.

As Charles pads into the kitchen, Erik adds, “tea is ready in the kettle. It’s still hot.”

“Thank you,” Charles says, smiling back at him.

Returning to the breakfast table with a cup of tea in his hand, Charles surveys the seating situation for a moment, before moving to sit on Erik’s lap without further comment. Erik doesn’t complain a single bit — even though he is still sore from last night’s activities.

“Good morning, my dear,” Charles purrs, leaning in close and Erik can't help closing the gap between them for a sweet kiss. It’s not like they could’ve kept their new relationship status a secret after making out in front of everyone on the beach, so they don't bother hiding their affections either, at least when they’re not in public.

“Wow, could you guys be any more gross?” Alex says and Raven snickers. Moira kicks him under the table.

“Of course we could,” Charles replies smugly.

“Positive,” Erik agrees and kisses him again. Charles hums into his mouth and sets the teacup aside to wrap his arms around Erik’s shoulders.

It’s a normal morning in the mansion. This is Erik’s normal now. He couldn’t imagine anything better.

Chapter Text

It’s been a year since Cuba and ‘Xavier’s and Lehnsherr’s School for gifted Youngsters’ has had a pretty good start. New students and teachers are constantly finding their way to them and the school is slowly starting to gain a good reputation. Things are looking great.

It’s one of the lazier mornings for Charles and Erik with comparably little work for the headmasters, even though the number of students is steadily increasing and they should hire a few more teachers or otherwise their free time will lessen considerably in the near future. But for now, they are lying comfortably in their bed, Charles placing loving kisses on Erik’s chest and stomach.

“You’ve gained a little weight,” he comments, trailing the tiny bit of softness on Erik’s middle with his mouth and fingers.

At Erik’s answering grumble, Charles looks up at him and says, “Erik, that’s nothing bad! You’re not on the run anymore, you’re finally settling down. I like it.” He punctuates it with a kiss to Erik’s sternum and when Charles looks up at his face again, Erik’s eyes soften.

He reaches out to stroke Charles’ cheek and brushes his mind against his like a caress. Erik has gotten a lot better with all things involving telepathy in the past year.

Charles leans into the gentle touch and gladly lets himself be drawn into a kiss.

They stay like that for a while, exchanging lazy kisses and just being close to each other until Erik sighs and gets reluctantly out of bed to get dressed. He picks the grey suit that even after all this time always earns him a compliment from Charles.

“Why so formal? Not that I’m complaining, because you look delectable in that suit…” Charles says playfully from their bed.

“Someone applied for a job and the interview is in…” he checks the clock, “twenty minutes. As a headmaster of this school I should look at least somewhat professional, don’t you think?”

“Hm… Yeah. But at least leave the tie here. What job did they apply for?”

Erik eyes the tie for another moment, before hanging it back into the wardrobe. “Teacher.”

“Oh? Good. We need more teachers. What subjects?”

“The application said history, mathematics, languages, science and ‘whatever training the headmasters deem fitting considering my mutation’,” Erik replies complete with air quotes. “Now get up, you should be present at this interview too.”

Charles sighs, but gets out of bed anyway, padding over to Erik.

“You should put on your navy blue three piece suit, it makes you look like the hottest professor the world has ever seen,” Erik tells him almost nonchalantly, but the tiny smirk pulling at the corner of his mouth gives him away.

Charles chuckles and then proceeds to pick exactly that suit out of their wardrobe. He always likes it when Erik gives him a slow, appreciative once-over.

Making their way to the study, Charles sends a quick telepathic message to Hank, who currently doesn’t have a lesson to teach. We’re awaiting an applicant for a job as teacher, be so kind and show them to our study when they arrive.

Of course, Professor.

While they are waiting sitting side by side behind Charles’ desk, Erik busies himself by playing with a few of his favorite paperclips when there’s a knock at the door. Precisely on time.

Indeed. “Come on in,” Charles calls out and the door swings open.

Inside walks a woman in a black suit, long hair flowing loosely over her shoulders, a coat draped over her forearm and confidence in her steps. She looks already somewhat familiar, but her eyes. Erik freezes minutely as he catches sight of eyes he would never forget, could never forget. Eyes that radiate a tired calmness with something fierce lying underneath, somehow soft and hard at the same time, with something hidden beneath the surface. Eyes that stand testament to things that can never be unseen. Eyes glowing with a determination that could possibly bring the strongest soldiers to their knees.

Unique eyes, glistening like opals in all colors of the rainbow and more.

Charles feels Erik tense up beside him. It’s her, isn’t it?

Yes. Fortuna.

She takes the seat in front of them at the other side of the desk, a small smile playing on her lips, “I see you’ve been doing quite well. I’m sure you recognize me?”

“Of course, how could I not?” Erik answers.

“You have a point, I do tend to make rather lasting impressions on people…” she laughs, then her tone gets softer, “it’s good to finally meet you in person. Both of you.”

“I can only agree. We owe you a lot.”

“You owe me nothing. Everything that happened was your doing. I didn’t make the decisions for you, I only showed you the possible outcomes. And I can say, I’m very proud of you two. You’ve come a long way since I first took a look at your timelines.”

“It’s an honor to meet you, not many people are able to sneak into my head like that,” Charles says brightly, offering his hand for her to shake.

“Oh, I have to admit, that only worked thanks to my friend Sophie. She might come around soon. I’m very honored to finally meet the great Charles Xavier. I read all about you and your work. It’s fascinating. May I call you Charles?”

“Of course. Should I call you Fortuna, or…?”

“Oh, please call me Claire. From clairvoyant, you know?”

Charles chuckles.

There’s a moment of silence in which Claire notices something. Charles and Erik are wearing rings. Matching rings that seem to have a pattern engraved in them that looks like a DNA helix.

She can’t stop herself from asking, “are you married?”

“Two men can’t get married,” Erik replies not without chagrin.

“Right, I forgot what century we’re in again…” she mumbles, looking at her hands, then she looks up at them again with a glint in her eyes. "I could marry you. In at least… ten religions.”

Erik casts a quick look at Charles and laces their finger together. “I think we’re fine, thanks.”

A smile grows on Claire’s face. “Alright. It’s the love that matters anyway, marriage is just a concept. You exchanged rings as symbols of your devotion. In some really old, pagan religions you’d be considered married already.”

“So, why are you here?” Erik asks after a beat.

“Well, I applied for a job. You should know that as the headmasters of this school,” she says.

“That’s it? A job? You do nothing without a deeper reason, so why here, why now?” he inquires.

“Oh Erik, you smart smart boy. You like that about him don't you, Charles?” He doesn’t answer, just smiles radiantly and she goes on, “you’re right, I do nothing without reason. Would you believe me if I said that my reason to be here is that I wanted to see you?”

Erik regards her suspiciously. “Maybe, but not the only reason.”

She chuckles. “Alright, fine. I give up. I’m here to watch over you. Think of me as… your guardian angel. Or just your guardian, because I can't really be called an angel.”

Charles and Erik exchange a look, then raise their eyebrows.

“Why would you do that?” Charles asks.

She sighs. “You know how my power works, what I can do. I see every possible future at any given moment. The worst ones so far have been averted when you made your decisions on the beach, but there are some more that I’d like to keep from happening and the best way I can do that is by staying with you to protect you and your- our future.” She looks at Charles and says, “in one of them you go bald, y’know.”

There is mild panic in Charles’ eyes at that and Erik starts to rub soothing circles with his thumb on Charles’ hand.

“Besides,” she goes on, “I like what you’re building here. This school. There’s a great future lying before you and your students. I wanna be a part of it. I don't need this job, but I want it. I could live by winning small lotteries every few years, and I have lived like that for a long time, but I want to work here. I want to help young mutants and I want to help you.”

Do you believe her? Charles wants to know.

I think I do. Do you want her as a teacher?

We need more teachers and she seems a good choice.

“What exactly qualifies you to teach in our school?” Erik asks then.

Claire smiles. “I would be the best history teacher you’ll ever get. I’ve been present at almost every important event in human history. Some of them went quite differently than it is taught in books.”

Now Charles perks up. “Wait, does that mean that you’re ageless?”

“I am,” she spreads her arms and does a little bow with her head. “Born and raised in the ancient Roman Empire. But, well, it wasn’t called ‘ancient’ at the time.”

Charles gapes. “That’s fascinating. Would you allow me to ask you about three million questions?”

She lets out a laugh. “Of course. If I get this job.”

Charles’ head whips to Erik, who calmly asks, “what about the other subjects you applied for?”

Charles already seems convinced, but they always make decisions like this together.

“Ah yes, with my age I have accumulated quite a lot of languages, some of them dead, but many of them not. I had relations with the most famous scientists and mathematicians in history and I know quite a lot about science in future times, so I think I’m quite qualified. As for my mutation, I’m not quite sure whom I could train, since I’m the only one with this power, but I’m sure you’ll find a way to employ me adequately.”

Erik nods. You want her here?

Yes, we could learn quite a lot about her. And from her. This mutation is extraordinary.

“All right, you’re hired. When can you start teaching?”

“Right now if you need me,” she answers with a shrug.

“Splendid. I will show you around. Do you have a place to stay or do you need accommodation?” Charles asks enthusiastically.

“I need a place to stay, actually.”

“All right, I’ll show you to your room then. Follow me.” Charles stands up and moves to leave the room, but before he opens the door he turns to Erik and says, “Erik, darling, would you start to change the class schedules to include our new teacher?”

“Of course.”

~◊~

Months have passed since Claire started to teach at the school for young mutants and she’s doing well. The children have taken a liking to her and she can get them to listen like no other. Charles and Erik quite appreciate the additional free time that gives them and they also have more time to take care of their headmasterly duties.

For example today. The family of a possible new student is visiting the mansion. It’s a rich family, the Worthington’s, the father being a senator for some time now. They’re bringing their son, Warren Worthington III. From the phone conversations they’ve had yet, Erik and Charles assume that they’re just another rich family who wants to get their child into a prestigious school. Usually people like that are rather easy to get rid of, but not this time. The mother, Kathryn Worthington, keeps asking questions and the father, Warren Worthington II, constantly seems to scrutinize the two headmasters. They give the family a tour through the mansion, subtly trying to get rid of them, but to no avail.

They’re back in the study, Charles and Erik having a cup of tea while talking to the parents. They always both sit behind Charles’ desk in situations like this, even though Erik’s desk is standing right next to it. It would just feel weird to sit further apart than necessary during interviews.

Something about them is strange, don't you wanna take a peek? Erik takes a sip of his tea, giving nothing away about the telepathic conversation going on.

Charles gives the equivalent of a mental sigh. Fine, it doesn’t look like they’re about to give up anytime soon, I might as well…

So he nonchalantly rubs his temple as though he’s having a headache and slips inconspicuously into the father’s mind. What he finds there, startles him for a moment. There’s so much worry about his son and mistrust for everyone he doesn’t know. In a memory Charles sees them. Wings. Beautiful, white, feathery wings on the small boy’s back. Quickly Charles dives into the mother’s mind too, finding the same pictures there and worry about her son’s future, but also hope, for she has a suspicion about the true nature of this school.

Erik, the boy is a mutant.

What, really? He sets his teacup onto the desk to answer another question about the accommodation of the students.

Yes, he seems to have wings. The parents brought him here because they suspect something about our school being for mutants, but they are not sure.

Then I suppose we should reveal ourselves. Do you want…?

Oh no, you go first. Charles takes a sip of his tea and leans back.

Erik clears his throat. “I think there is something we haven’t told you yet that you ought to know.”

Before the parents can react, he lets the partially metallic teakettle float to fill up Charles’ cup and makes the spoon stir on its own.

“Thanks, dear,” is all Charles says to that, while the eyes of the parents go comically wide.

Charles puts his fingers to his temple, this time more obvious and projects, your son is not alone anymore. He’s in good hands at our school.

After a moment of silence, the mother bursts into tears of relief, “oh thank God!”

Her husband takes her into his arms to calm her and Erik uses that moment to let a swarm of paperclips fly figures in front of the little boy. His eyes are wide in wonder as he watches them dance.

“Would you show us your wings, Warren?” Charles asks.

The boy looks questioningly at his father, who gives an encouraging nod and then he pulls off his t-shirt and spreads his still rather small wings.

“He’s my little angel,” the mother says, wiping tears from her eyes.

“They’re beautiful, Warren, thank you.”

The boy smiles at Charles and puts his shirt back on.

“He can start at our school in the coming year if you want,” Erik tells them.

“Thank you. You have no idea how scared we were that this school might not be what we thought it is,” Kathryn says.

“But it’s true,” her husband continues, “you are like our son and so are your students, right?”

Charles nods. “We’re mutants. And we teach young mutants like your son to control their powers, to not hurt anyone and to use them for good.”

“And you… are a telepath?” the man asks.

“I am. And Erik here can control metal and magnetic fields.”

Suddenly Charles notices another presence in the room and as he turns, he sees Claire standing in the doorway. “Claire, can I help you?”

“No, I’m fine,” she replies, “just wanted to see the new student.”

The Worthington’s are quite obviously confused and Erik starts to explain, “This is Claire, one of our best teachers. She tends to be… a bit nosy.”

“And clairvoyant,” Charles adds.

Kathryn looks at the woman in the doorway with wonder. “Is that true?”

Claire nods. “It is. Your son will be a marvelous student.” Then she turns to the father, “and I think you really should run for president in the next years. You could do a great many things for the people of this country, especially mutants. Oh, and homosexuals, if I may add.”

The senator gapes at her. “Um… I uh… I’ll think about it.”

“Your brother is gay, right? Let me tell you, there’s nothing wrong in that. In a couple decades homosexual marriage will be legal either way, but I believe you could make that happen a lot sooner.” She steps to the desk and fumbles for a scrap of paper to scribble a number on it. “If you ever need help, with your campaign, a decision, no matter what, don't hesitate to call me.” She gives him the paper with her phone number on it and smiles, “I do give some excellent advice, you know?”

He takes the offered scrap of paper and nods. “I, uh… Thank you.”

All of a sudden, Hank appears in the doorway, seemingly looking for Charles. “Am I disturbing?”

“Sorry, we’re busy at the moment. Maybe Claire can help you?” Charles replies, directing the last bit at Claire.

She turns towards Hank, squints at him for a moment. “Yes, I most definitely can.”

Before leaving she tells the mother, “it was nice to meet you,” then regards the father, “you have my vote,” and looks at the boy, “I can't wait to see you in my class.”

Marching out of the room after Hank, she says to Charles and Erik, “see you later!”

There is a moment of silence as the Worthington’s process what just happened.

“Um… she seems…” Mr. Worthington trails off.

Charles laughs lightly. “I know. We’re still trying to decide if that has something to do with her mutation.”

Mrs. Worthington chuckles at that.

“Her ability is… quite interesting, rather powerful, right?” the senator asks.

“She is quite powerful, yes,” Erik agrees, “but such a mighty mutation always comes with a price.”

“Some can ease the price they pay, but others can’t…” Charles adds.

Charles knows what he’s talking about. Ever since he established a permanent telepathic bond between Erik and himself, his sleeping problems have lessened considerably to the point where he can sleep normally for ninety percent of the time, without thoughts of strangers haunting him.

Claire never gets that kind of relief. Charles remembers vividly the day he found her sleeping on the couch in the living room. All of a sudden she jerked awake, looking around in panic and upon noticing Charles she breathed out in relief. “You’re alive… I need a calendar.” She jumped up from the couch, took a look at the calendar and promptly asked Charles, “do you know what a Sentinel is?”

He blinked at her in confusion for a moment. “…Should I?”

She shook her head and sat down again. “Good. That’s good.”

“Claire, is everything okay?”

“I’m fine. It was just… sometimes when the probability of a possible future drops to zero, that future manifests as a dream before it vanishes entirely. In this case, that’s a good thing. A very good thing.” There was a pause where she rubbed her temples.

Charles tilted his head. “I have a feeling that you’re keeping something about that future from me…”

“I do, but you don't need to worry about it. That future just died. There’s no reason to burden you with it.”

He nodded slowly, “Alright, but if you ever need to talk…”

“I know. Thank you.”

Charles wishes he could help her, but he supposes no one can.

“What price?” Mrs. Worthington asks a bit worriedly.

“Well, for me it was a problem to block out the thoughts of the people in the area in my sleep. I had really bad sleeping problems, but it’s gotten a lot better lately,” Charles tells them and takes Erik’s hand in his under the desk.

“As for Claire,” Erik starts to explain, “it’s a bit more complicated… for example, she tends to forget what year it is and she often mixes up past and future. She might try to talk to you about things that haven’t happened yet or will be invented in a century from now.”

“It needs getting used to,” Charles adds.

“Now, I think this interview is taking pretty long already. Let’s wrap this up so we can welcome your son into our school in the oncoming year, shall we?” Erik steers them back on topic.

Charles smiles, he’s lucky to have him.

Chapter Text

The sun is shining through the curtains of their bedroom window as Erik slowly blinks awake. It’s a quiet morning in the mansion, considering all the children living and learning here. An arm is slung around Erik’s waist and behind him Charles is still fast asleep. A lazy smile forms on Erik’s lips, he doesn’t feel like going for a run today. Carefully he shifts and turns around to face his lover. He looks peaceful when he sleeps. Charles only needed a mind he could tie himself to in order to be able to block out the chatter of the world and Erik is glad to be that mind. Besides, it also seems to help Erik sleep without nightmares.

Charles mumbles something in his sleep that sounds vaguely like Erik’s name and he smiles. “I’m here, Charles.” He leans down to press a kiss to Charles’ cheek and then his neck.

Charles stirs and his arms tighten around Erik, pulling him closer.

“Good morning, love,” he says, before leaning in for a kiss.

Erik cups his cheek and threads fingers through his hair and the kiss deepens. They both have morning breath, but neither of them cares. They’ll brush their teeth in a minute…

~◊~

“I haven’t seen either of them all morning, which isn’t unusual for the Professor, but Mister Lehnsherr didn’t go for a run,” Scott mumbles, in front of the door to Erik’s and Charles’ bedroom.

“I wonder what they’re doing,” Ororo whispers.

Sean shrugs where he’s trying to eavesdrop at the door. “I can't hear anything.”

“Maybe they’re still asleep?” Kurt tries.

“No way, Erik never sleeps that long,” Alex replies.

“Scott, what are you doing here?” Jean asks after rounding the corner. “Are you eavesdropping on the headmasters?!”

Scott looks like a deer caught in the headlights, blushing violently and Jean goes on, “do you know how stupid that is? Professor Xavier is a telepath!”

“Calm down, everyone knows that he only has eyes — and thoughts — for Lehnsherr when they’re together,” Ororo retorts.

Jean just rolls her eyes, takes Scott’s hand and drags him away. The rest of the group watches them leave.

“She has a point though, what if we get caught?” Kurt asks worriedly.

“Don't worry, Miss Darkholme and Professor McCoy are occupied with each other. Mister Quested and Azazel are busy with classes,” Ororo reassures him.

Kurt’s eyes widen, “I almost forgot, I have teleportation training with Azazel in a few minutes, I gotta go.” And with that, he runs off into the direction of the training grounds.

Alex and Ororo look at Sean again, who raises his eyebrows, whispering, “sounds like they’re kissing.”

Alex raises a single eyebrow. “Think they’re gonna have sex?”

Ororo might be a rather mature teenager, but she still makes a face at that. “I did not want to think about that… How does that even work?”

Alex chuckles. “I’ll explain it in sex ed.”

Suddenly someone clears their throat behind them and they slowly turn around to see Claire standing in the corridor, arms folded in front of her chest, one eyebrow raised expectantly. “Would you be so kind as to explain what you think you’re doing here?”

The three of them freeze instantly and only manage a simultaneous, “um…”

Claire raises her eyebrow even higher, while she taps her fingers against her arm. “Well?”

Alex is the one that finds his words again. “Wait a second, you’re clairvoyant, you already know what we’re doing here, so why ask?”

Her lips curve into a mischievous smile. “It’s more fun to watch you squirm. Now, shouldn’t you have something better to do than spying your headmasters? C’mon, let them have their privacy, they deserve a day off.” She waves them to follow her and they do, groaning, but without further comments.

~◊~

“I could stay in bed with you all day,” Erik confesses quietly, stroking Charles’ soft hair.

“Then do it. We have nothing important to do today. Claire can handle the children, they love her.”

Erik seems to contemplate that for a moment, but then he replies, “no, I should go for a run.”

When he tries to get up though, Charles catches his lips in a kiss, weaving fingers into Erik’s hair and before long, they’re sinking back into the sheets, Erik pliant in his hands.

When Charles breaks the kiss, Erik sighs, dropping his head back against the cushion. “I’m weak for you, Charles.”

“I know,” the telepath says with a smile and kisses him again.

I love you.

I love you, too.