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[personal profile] monstrousregiment
Title: Brief Lives (20/?)
Author: monstrousreg
Word count:  3772
Warnings:  none for this chapter.
Pairing: Erik/Charles.
Summary: Erik thinks he's going to seduce, interrogate and murder some nondescript CIA intelligence agent, and winds up biting more than he can chew. Charles is not keen on being murdered, he doesn't favor interrogations, and he's certainly not willing to be seduced. That he's not cooperating is midly put.   
Notes:  Unbetaed, and stuff. Guys I'm SO sorry it's taken me this long to update, I don't know what happened to my brain last week. I also didn't reply to your comments but I will, I just, I have to go to the bank and camp there, so that might take a while, and I wanted to update first. When I come back I'll reply, promise.

Erik awakes, as he normally does, because he’s a light sleeper and Charles shifts around a lot. That Charles is still wrapped around him like a particularly whimsical anaconda is also not a surprise.

Early morning light is streaming through the open windows; the breeze of dawn, too weak to rustle the heavy curtains, drifts lazily down to their bed, cool and fresh with the scent of morning damp.

The silence in their room is peaceful and calm. Erik shifts slightly, raising his left hand to look at it in the dim light.

The dislocated fingers have all been aligned perfectly and have healed to Fraser’s satisfaction. The smallest finger is still wrapped in gauze and secured against a metal rod—hot against his skin, murmuring pleasant into his gift. The joint between the first and second phalanx had been shattered; Fraser doesn’t believe the finger will recover completely mobility, although he’s certain it won’t be stiff, which would provoke multiple subsequent fractures. His hand feels stiff and weak, his fingers slow to respond to his orders when he demands they bend. With the immobilized pinky he can’t bend them completely anyway.

He’s glad to be rid of the bandages. Fraser had insisted on keeping them on as a precaution, but Erik’s impatience had made him chafe against the restrictions. The shoulder is a peculiar joint, sacrificing stability for motion range and flexibility; a dislocation is a delicate thing, and Fraser had not been willing to risk the loss of muscle resistance that might eventually lead to arthritis. Still—Erik was glad to be free. Months of physical therapy would be necessary to nurse it back to perfect health, but he could handle that.

The right arm is a different matter altogether. After several X-rays and careful monitoring Fraser has reached the conclusion that the surgery was both timely and efficient, and is reasonably certain Erik will regain full use of the right hand. But the recovery will be long and tedious, and the inability to use his dominant arm restricts his access to the Danger Room and training circuits. Fraser keeps a hawk eye on him on the gym, and when Erik attempted to increase the workout sessions, he was quickly shot down.

“When you weigh as much as I do,” Fraser had said without looking up. “Then we’ll discuss it.”

“I do weigh more than you do, I’m a head and a half taller.”

“Yes, you are,” the doctor had replied. “And I weigh ten pounds more. I weighed you in the hospital, Lehnsherr, please don’t lie to my face. Put on weight and we’ll talk about training.”

The task is harder than it sounded, though. Erik is unused to eating three meals a day, and while he understands, rationally, that it is necessary, it doesn’t sit well with him. He feels like he is wasting food if he eats when he isn’t hungry. Despite Ororo’s insistence that it’s the right thing to do, he often doesn’t manage to finish his plate. Charles has quickly decided not to involve himself with it; when Ororo insisted he ate, Erik winced and did. When Charles took it onto himself, arguments quickly developed.

Charles, who is no imbecile and has the debatable privilege of looking into Erik’s mind, has realized that Erik’s health is Erik’s and Fraser’s problem, and it is better not to get into it unless otherwise asked.

For all of his protestations that he has no interest in morality and privacy, Charles has more respect for the sanctity of Erik’s body than anyone else he’s ever met. He might delve uninvited into people’s minds, but he’s never laid a hand on anyone unless asked.

Erik turns his head and presses his lips gently to Charles’ forehead, settling in for a few more hours of sleep. Greedy for affection as is his usual, Charles shifts even closer. Somewhat experimentally, Erik finds his end of the bond and gives a tug. Charles’ sleeping mind unfurls easily around him, images opening like windows to memories. Erik takes a moment to sift absently, and when he finds what he’s looking for, pulls.

The desert settles around him easily, sand hot beneath the bare soles of his feet, the sun beating down on his shoulders and back.
“Francis?” he calls, turning around. The dunes are the same, a rolling ocean of golden sand, but the ruins are gone as if they had never been there to begin with. He calls again, raising his voice, but gets to reply.

The world seems to shift slightly, and Charles’ voice, blurry and still heavy with sleep.

He’s gone, Charles says. I’ve assimilated him.

Erik nods, giving a last glance around the desert before allowing Charles’ mind to shift to the emerald hills of Ireland, the field that is the fusion of their minds.

Charles appears in front of him, in dark jeans and a white T-shirt, dark hair in disarray.

“We should talk,” he says, blue eyes troubled. “About what upset you the last time you were here.”

Erik clenches his jaw. “The fact that you were willing to die to kill Shaw.”

Charles nods slowly.

“I realize it seems extreme, and I understand that you’re angry,” Charles says. “But at the time it felt like my only option. I couldn’t touch anyone but my sister, Erik, and I couldn’t expect her to be my anchor forever. That would be unfair and selfish. I thought if only I could take Shaw down with me it… it might be enough.”

“What of the children?” Erik asks levelly.

Charles shrugs, “The teachers here would have looked after the school. With Shaw gone Raven would have been able to take my place as the owner of the estate. Nothing would have needed to change.”

“You can’t possibly be that blind,” Erik snaps hotly. “You thought the children wouldn’t mourn you, wouldn’t notice the difference with you gone? What about Raven, you thought your death would just settle perfectly well with her? After everything she went through, what she did to get you out, to keep you safe?”

“I know the children care,” Charles says, disturbed and sad. “But they don’t need me. They would have pulled through, one way or the other, with the other teachers and the older students leading them. Raven… with how far I’d deteriorated at that point I’d imagined that while she would be sad, it might also be somewhat of a… relief, I suppose. She… she’d be able to be free of her dependant older brother. It wasn’t—well. I can’t pretend that I was in a healthy frame of mind. We both know better.”

Erik stares, anger thundering though his veins with the furious beating of his heart. He can see the tell-tale signs of his mood in the weather around them, as the sky darkens with clouds. He’s not in the mood to tolerate rain either, though, and just as he thinks of it irritably, the sky clears again, to a mild, brooding grey.

“You’d give up everything you’ve worked so hard to build for him.”

Charles presses his knuckles to his forehead, shivering in the sudden, biting cold.

“It seemed like… the only way out. And I won’t lie to you, Erik, I wanted out. I wanted a normal life—or as close to it as I might be able to manage, and I knew I’d not manage much. It was either that or—and yes, I was willing to do that. I couldn’t imagine a whole life ahead of me where I could not even touch the people I care for.”

“You knew there was a way.”

Charles’ shoulders slump. “No, Erik. There wasn’t one. Not until you told me you were giving it to me.”

Erik feels the almost irrepressible urge to stalk forward and hit Charles in the face. Instead, he takes deep breaths and lets them out forcefully through his nose, trying to ease out the tension and release the anger. It’s something Fraser told him to do in several of their sessions with his arms, when the frustration born out of the limited range of movement made Erik see red.

Anger’s no good, Fraser tends to say. It’s not taking you anywhere, babe. Patience, that’s the thing.

So Erik strives for patience, for calm, and with some effort he manages to achieve it.

“What about me?” he asks levelly. “After what we did, you were still willing to lay it all down and die with him, weren’t you?”

Charles’ shoulders hunch—a strangely childish, vulnerable gesture quite unlike him. He bows his head, hiding his face, and clutches anxiously at his own elbows, as if he fears Erik will hit him.

“Those few days we spent alone… I hoped that—I hoped I would find another way, something that would allow me to… to continue, with you. Even after we were taken, I thought—if only I could take Frost down and then get rid of Shaw, we could be free. But then… then he started torturing you, and I couldn’t—“

He stops and his head snaps up, eyes unbelievably blue and glassy.

“I was there with you,” he whispers, and Erik feels a wash of cold down his spine. “Every step of the way, every second, like a movie unfolding in the back of my eyes. I saw what he did to you, as he was still doing it. I was desperate to shield you, but Frost kept—breaking into my mind, making me defend myself, and I couldn’t split my attention and risk her finding the bond. I knew if she discovered it she’d burn you up like a match. So—I decided that it was worth it, after all—to die along with him, and the at least you’d… walk away.”

Erik swallows.

There are a hundred things he could say and do, and he can tell Charles is reading them all from his mind. The anger running like a sub current through Erik’s mind is nearly whitening in its fierceness, maddening in its intensity. Erik eases up on his self control momentarily and watches as Charles flinches visibly, mind instinctively attempting to pull away from the jagged edges of unrestrained emotion. But he doesn’t pull back—he draws a breath and settles in, quietly taking in everything Erik’s mind is throwing at him with something more vivid than words and images, a language exclusive to their connection.

Erik takes a deep breath, holds it, lets it go.

“Never again,” he says steadily. “You will stop that, Charles, you won’t ever do it again. It’s not just your life—it’s our life. Never again.”
Charles nods shakily, overwhelmed by the raw intensity of Erik’s feelings.

“Say it,” Erik demands harshly.

“Never,” Charles echoes almost silently, and the sky breaks.

Erik snaps awake in an instant, lucid and alert, lifting his head.

Ororo’s hand is in his arm, dark eyes wide and troubled. Behind her, Fraser looks like he’s torn himself from bed, in a white shirt and long sweatpants, hair in disarray.

“You were projecting,” Ororo murmurs, a tear rolling down her cheek. Erik leans up on an elbow to comfort her, realizes she’s shaking. “Strongly.”

“It’s alright,” he says, sitting up.

“No,” Fraser says, voice rough, and his eyes turn like lasers to Charles. “It’s not. It’s really fucking not.”

Charles flinches. Erik realizes he must have been projecting for a while. Goddamnit.

“How much…?” he asks dimly, watching the storm in Fraser’s eyes, and just as he asks he realizes there’s another storm, beating furiously at the windows, lightening splitting the sky open.

“Everything,” Ororo says quietly, eyes fixed in Charles.

“And everyone,” Fraser adds. “The whole house is awake and terrified. Alex tore open the wall of his bedroom thinking he was in danger, woke up Scott who tore open the other wall. Both of the Cassidys shattered their bedroom windows. Raven woke up in such a panic I had to get Azazel to teleport her away, out of your reach, which I am told is nothing short of formidable. We thought you were in danger.”

Fraser goes around the bed slowly, and for the first time since he’s met him Erik realizes the man can move like a panther, lithe and lean and dangerous. As he continues to move, he doesn’t tear his eyes away from Charles, until he’s standing over him, eyes alight with rage.
“I thought you were hurt,” he says quietly, leaning down to an inch of his friend’s face. “But as it turns out, you’re just plain stupid, aren’t you?”

Charles swallows dryly.

There’s genuine fear in Charles’ mind now—not fear of being hurt, because he knows Fraser would never lay a hand on him, he loves him too much—but fear of having done something he won’t be forgiven for. Fear of having made his friend so angry that Fraser will pull away from him, exit his life, leave and—

“Stop that,” Fraser snaps unexpectedly, glaring at Erik. “You get a goddamn grip, Erik, or so help me God I will sedate you. You’re scaring everyone. And you,” he turns back to Charles. “Stop being a motherfucking idiot. I’m spitting mad, and Good Lord, I could hit you—but you know better than to think I’ll give up on you. Calm down.”

“I’m sorry,” Charles blurts out, eyes wet. “I’m sorry, I didn’t—“

“Good,” Fraser says intently. “You ought to be. Now get up and get dressed, both of you. You’re scaring the children and I won’t have it. We’re going to take a little trip, and then we’re going to have a little chat.”

The words are ominous enough, carried as they are by a flat monotone that denotes no emotion, but it’s the gleam in Fraser’s eye that makes Erik scramble to get out of bed, even as Ororo wrenches a drawer open and pulls clothes out for him. She knows where everything is—she and Kitty moved everything from his old room.

Fraser is looming over Charles and is looking as intimidating as a man his height might. He’s actually a few inches shorter than the telepath, but Charles looks intimidated enough, and no wonder—Erik himself is feeling uncertain in the face of such passionate wrath.

“Since you feel so uncertain,” Ororo murmurs, shoving a sweater against his stomach, “Get dressed faster. Erik, I love you, but right now we need you to leave.”

Erik shakes his head and twists clumsily into the sweater, frustrated at his useless right arm. Irritated, he pulls at the right sleeve too sharply and winces when it drags too high over his bandage. Fraser pins him with his eyes, livid, and both Erik and Ororo freeze.

“Do not try my patience,” the Texan warns lowly.

The three of them fly through the manor without a single glance to the sides and without stopping to tend to the children they can hear crying in the bedrooms. Logan meets them in the hall, eyes wild, and shoves a set of car keys on Fraser’s hand without a word. It’s the Bentley. Fraser slams the door and puts his foot on the gas and they tear out of the driveway and into the street at a speed not at all advisable.

Erik, seating in the front seat, reaches out to discreetly grip the door handle, in the vague hope that having contact with the metal might give him the chance to save all their lives when Fraser’s volatile temper inevitably crashes the car into something.

It takes nearly an hour and a half before the Texan can bring himself to slow down and ease his grip on the leather of the wheel. By that time they estimate they’re at a reasonable distance from the manor, well out of the reach of Erik’s untrained telepathy, and Fraser dares turn into the shoulder and stop the car on an open field.

It’s still raining, the storm a thing of legends. Ororo is obviously still deeply unsettled.

She’s not the only one. Fraser stares out the windshield, mind absent, eyes wide.

“Do you think me a fool, Charles?” he asks quietly.

Charles cringes. “You know I don’t.”

“No?” the doctor turns around in the seat, pale. “You sure? Because it looks to me like you think I am.”

Erik shifts in the seat to face the man, pushing his back tightly against the door. Erik isn’t the only one projecting—Fraser is broadcasting a broken-hearted sorrow so deep it reaches the marrow of Erik’s bones, bringing stinging tears to his eyes, obstructing his throat. The depth of Fraser’s emotions is uncanny.

“No, Mikey.”

“That’s what you say,” Fraser insists. “When you take something I love and treat it like it’s worthless, that’s what you convey. That I’m a fool for loving it. I don’t know what to do with you sometimes, Charles. It tears me apart that you don’t see yourself clearly. That you do these things to yourself, to someone I care so much for. Can you imagine what it would have done to me if you had died? What Nicky and Car would have felt without their Uncle Charles? You’re a part of our lives, Charles, as much as any of my brothers.”

There’s a long silence. Charles pulls his knees up and presses his forehead to them, shaking. Erik reaches out with his arm to touch him, but Fraser catches his wrist and gently lowers it down, shaking his head.

“I need him to understand this,” he says, green eyes wet. “I’m sorry, I know you want to help him, but I need him to listen.”

The urge to comfort Charles is choking Erik, but he swallows thickly and nods.

“Charles,” Fraser says, wrapping his fingers on Charles’ wrist and tugging until Charles lifts his head and stares at him, cheeks stained with tears. “Charles, you are loved. Not just Erik and Raven. I love you. Sofia loves you. My children call you uncle Charlie and they’re happier to see you than any of my siblings. Your students fall over themselves to get your smiles. You’re cherished, Charles. You’re not alone anymore. Do you understand?”

Charles nods jerkily, wordless.

Fraser swallows, nodding as well, seemingly convinced. Then he turns to Erik, and lays his free hand against the man’s neck, warm and gentle.

“Or you, you spectacular asshat,” he says fondly. “Half the time you’re an asshole, and the other you’re insane, but somewhere in the middle you manage to be sort of adorable. I can’t say that I love you, but I care, alright? I want you to know that. I care. I might not be much, but I’ll do whatever I can to protect you and help you, if you’ll let me. Okay? Are you listening?”

Erik clears his throat, “Thank you.”

Fraser sighs, sagging back against the door, letting go of both of them. He rubs the pad of his thumb against his forehead.

“I’m aware the emotional atmosphere is a bit devastated right now,” he says shakily. “But we need to deal with the telepathy problem before something bad really happens. I nearly got killed last night, and tonight a lot of children have been traumatized. We’re going to be dealing with this for a long time. Charles, you need to get a grip.”

Charles nods, shifting to press his chin against his knees.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,”

Fraser’s shoulders slump. “Don’t you? I think I do.”

Erik rubs his left hand over his face tiredly. They are all exhausted.

“Shaw’s death,” Erik says quietly. “You were willing to die with him. That’s why you held him still for me, though you knew it’d hurt you. You were ready to die. But you didn’t. You didn’t die. So instead… instead you let him take your telepathy. Isn’t that what you’re thinking, Michael?”

The medic nods warily, “Got it one. Smart boy.”

Charles rubs his eyes, “But that still doesn’t tell me how to fix it.”

“You’re a telepath,” Erik arches a brow. “If anyone knows how your mind works, it’s you. Remember where you’d put your father, the fortress in the desert? Maybe you’d built a similar prison for your telepathy. Try to look for it. You know your mind. Explore it a little. We’ve got time now.”

Charles nods and stretches himself out in the backseat, closing his eyes. “It might take a while.”

“Not going anywhere,” Erik says gruffly, reaching out for Charles to take his left hand. They link their fingers, and Erik feels the curiously uncomfortable sensation of Charles shuttering the connection to focus on his own mind without sharing the experience. This is something he needs to do on his own—without the distraction of Erik’s company.

Erik feels incompetent and unsettled, useless. He wishes he knew something he could do, some way to provide aid, a trick he could offer to help Charles on this battle. He hates that Charles has to do it on his own, that he can’t be there at his side.

“But you are,” Fraser says, bottle-green eyes uncharacteristically blurry with fatigue. “You’re with him all the time, but you need to understand some fights he has to fight on his own, just like some fights, you’re going to have to fight on your own.”

They’re quiet for a long time, in the car in the cold, with the rain pelting down on the metal of the Bentley and Charles sunken deep into his own mind. Erik stares at his bandaged right hand in his lap. Fraser stares with half-lidded eyes out the windshield, head rolled back.
“I need help,” Erik says at length. “Dealing with some things.”

Fraser closes his eyes.

“I’ll get you someone. I know some brilliant psychologists that will know how to help you.”

“Why can’t it be you? I trust you.”

Fraser smiles warmly.

“Because I care, my boy. I’m past the point I can be your therapist. But if you trust me, trust my judgment as well. I’ll get you someone—the best.”

Erik rests his head back against the window.

“Isn’t your family coming over today?”

“You’ll like Nicky,” Fraser mumbles fuzzily, half asleep.

“I’m sorry about your face,” Erik says, slightly amused. He’s never seen Fraser not alert and sharp, and it’s quite the revelation. He looks like a boy. “Please tell your wife not to punch me in the balls, hm?”

Fraser reaches over and punches him in the thigh, surprisingly hard.

“Settled,” the medic says, and without another word falls asleep.

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December 2011

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