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[personal profile] monstrousregiment
Title: Brief Lives (21/25)
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. So, uh, I finished writing this story, so I'll be updating at the old rhythm again until the end. I can't believe I dragged this out to 25 chapters o.O

It’s dawn, and grayish half-light has covered the world.

Erik is wakened by the strange, peculiar feeling of things falling finally into place after a long time. Before he has a time to wonder vaguely at what the feeling means, the doors to the bond with Charles unlock and slide slowly open.

It’s like sunlight dripping through clouds, warm and comforting and familiar.

Yes, Charles says gently. I’m myself again. This feels right.

Erik opens his eyes and picks his head up, ignoring the crick in his neck. He shifts and looks at Charles, stretched out in the backseat looking calm and peaceful, boyish.

It’s back, Charles thinks, smiling shyly. I won.

You were fighting yourself, Erik snorts, amused. But congratulations, nonetheless.

I think they’re deserved, Charles stretches like a cat, rather indecently, though the confines of the Bentley restrict his movements severely. He pulls himself up to a sitting position and leans forward to press a gentle kiss to Erik’s lips.

Chirpy, are we? Erik thinks lazily, licking into Charles’ open mouth.

I’m me again, Charles says with a sigh. It feels like stretching out your legs after a long time. I’m aware of everything again. I feel balanced. It feels right. I can’t believe I ever wished this to be gone.
Not knowing what you have until you lose it, blah blah yadda yadda, Erik grins.

Charles chuckles, the sound more than a little dirty, but before Erik can sit up and claim his mouth again he pulls away. He brushes Fraser’s hair away from his forehead tenderly, murmuring in a quiet, soothing voice.

Ever the medic, Fraser stirs immediately.

“Your family’s at the manor,” he says when the doctor blinks at him. “Your children miss you. And ours miss us,” he adds, giving Erik a shy smile.

Fraser rubs his eyes and rolls his shoulders. “How’s your head? Working again?”

Almost up to normal, Charles sends his way. I’m a little out of touch, but I’ll be alright.

Fraser’s smile is nearly blinding. He still looks pretty terrible—his lip was cut rather deeply and had scabbed darkly against his pale skin, and his nose and the soft space beneath both his eyes is bruised. But he is still Fraser, and if there is something nothing can steal away from him, it is his good mood.

Erik laces his fingers with Charles’ and leans back against the seat for the drive. Fraser could have been more sedated now that he wasn’t consumed by anger, but he is instead consumed by the desire to see his children, so the speed is in fact the same.

“How old are they?” Erik asks, looking out the window absently.

“Nicholas is fourteen,” Charles answers. “Caroline is three.”

“Caroline is Sofia’s daughter?”

Fraser nods. “Nicky’s mom is Sarah. Good old Texan sweetheart,” he muses, surprisingly melancholic. “Hair like corn, eyes like the sky, lips like cherries, peach for skin.”

“You still love her?” Erik blinks.

The medic nods again. “I still love all of them, you know. With Sara, it was my fault our marriage didn’t last. No tragedies. I just—wanted more. That’s the kind of fellow I am. And Sarah was happy in our small little Texan town. It wasn’t enough for me, and it hurt her.”

It stuns Erik that Fraser can be so open with his mistakes, admit them so freely. Fraser doesn’t smile, and doesn’t turn to look at him, and Erik realizes he’s stopped projecting. He grins.

Fraser reaches over and switches the radio on, and the cheerful sound of ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we’re together’ filled the car, promptly accompanied by Fraser’s rich voice. Erik leans his head back and closes his eyes.

Sometime in the night, Ororo must have found a way to calm down, because it’s stopped raining, thought the heat of summer is yet to return. Clouds are still a thick blanket on the sky, but inside the car, the mood is calm. Erik is happy to be confined to his own mind again, and let Fraser’s voice lull him to sleep, aided by the hum of the Bentley, purring like a contented cat against his gift.

He wakes up again when the car rolls to a stop in the driveway. Fraser’s out of the car so fast Erik has to use his gift to stop the door from slamming back.

Nicky lives with Sarah, Charles explains. He hasn’t seen him in months.

The door opens and Erik lays eye for the first time in Sofia Vazquez-Fraser. She is a short, willowy lady of honey-colored hair and dark eyes, undoubtedly attractive and evidently intelligent, if the gleam in her eyes is any indication. She arches a brow as she gives her husband a quick once-over, clearly disapproving the sorry state of his face.
“Mi amor, what happened to your nose?”

“You should see the other guy,” Michael quips, crushing the woman eagerly to his chest.

“Did his knuckles get bruised? Broke a nail on your front teeth?” she teases, carding her fingers lovingly through his hair.

“You are awful.”

But she has a beautiful laugh, and Erik grins. Charles leans tiredly against his side, and Erik puts his arm around his shoulders and drops a kiss to his temple.

Fraser mumbles something unintelligible against the curve of his wife’s neck and hides his face on her shoulder, a feat considering she’s much shorter than he is. She’s tiny, really.

Used to be a ballerina, Charles offers. You ought to see her dance. A thing of beauty.

“Hello, Charlie,” she calls, grinning over her husband’s shoulder. “Come give me a hug and introduce that boy of yours like a gentleman.”
Charles obeys dutifully, dragging Erik up the steps with him.

“Sofia teaches Latin-American literature at Oxford University,” he says with a bright smile, then turns back to the woman. “I’m glad you could come, Sofia, I’ve missed you.”

Sofia gives him a smile that could put the sun to shame, and wraps her arms around him in a tight hug. She presses a quick kiss to his cheek before pulling Erik down by the front of his sweater and pressing one to his cheek. She pats his neck companionably after releasing him, smiling slyly.

“You trip my Mikey again, I knee you in the balls.”

Well, Erik doesn’t know what he was expecting. This woman married Michael Fraser, after all.

Just then Fraser drops brusquely to his knees, and a little blur of pink pajamas barrels into him like a cannon-ball, squealing.

“That would be Caroline,” Charles says unnecessarily, grinning.

Caroline’s features are impossible to see because she’s buried herself in her father’s chest, but her hair is certainly her mother’s. Erik has a better chance of studying the face of the boy that peeks out the door, grinning brightly at the sight of Fraser. Nicholas Fraser is a handsome young boy, tall for his age and willowy like an athlete, long limbed and lose-muscled in the way only Southern boys can achieve at such young age. He’s as comfortable in his skin as he is in his dark jeans and leather boots.

This one’s a lady killer, he tells Charles, arching a brow.

You’ll be keeping him away from Ororo, I expect, Charles says impishly. Erik decides to ignore that.

“Da,” he says, voice thick with a honey-like accent. “They told me you got in a fight with a floor. And lost.”

“Raise ravens and they’ll pick your eyes out,” Fraser mumbles, wrapping his hand around the boy’s head and bringing him in for a hug.
“What would I do with your eyes?” Raven asks, stepping through the door, wearing a long black overcoat that Erik knows belongs to Charles. The shape-shifter pins Charles with her golden eyes, face carefully smooth and blank.

Erik can feel the weariness in Charles’ beaten-down mind, the few hours of poor sleep followed by the hours of psychological rummaging as he strived to fix his own mind, the emotional devastation of Fraser’s words in the car paired with Erik’s admonishments in their bond.

But Raven has as much right to say her peace as everyone else or even more, and Charles steels himself and forces his body to move away from the gravitational centre that is Erik’s presence.

He offers his hand, and Raven takes it. They walk away, hand in hand, shoulders brushing, heads bent together.

Erik rubs his eyes, tired beyond words, and since he’s not paying attention he’s rather startled when Nicholas Fraser stops in front of him, coaxing his little sister to turn around and face him.

“Look Car, we’ve got ourselves a new uncle,” he says with a smile, bottle-green eyes twinkling. “This is uncle Erik.”

Caroline seems unconvinced, dark eyes searching as she pushes her back against her brother’s front.

“Eh,” Nicholas shrugs, “She’ll come around. She loves uncles. Get her some chocolate and she’ll be following you around like a pup, no time flat.”

Erik has absolutely no idea what to say.

Nicholas blinks, seemingly waiting for a reply.

“Well,” he says finally as Erik flounders for words. “Sit on it, sir.”

“She doesn’t bite,” Fraser says, amused.

Erik shakes his head. Fraser laughs, and wraps a hand comfortably around the back of Erik’s neck, leading him inside the house with the same familiarity that he does his son.

“We got a problem, Erik. We’ve got ourselves a house full of children scared for the sun in their skies, and said sun is too busy being beaten to a pulp by his sweet sister to be of any help to the current situation. Charles being absent, and you being Charles’, um, spouse, so to say, if you will allow me the twirl of tongue, I fear for our lives when I say you’re the next best thing. Gather up your wits, my boy, you’re about to make some rounds reassuring teary-eyed kids.”

“Why can’t you do it?” Erik asks faintly. “I’m no good with kids, they’re terrified of me.”

“Sir,” Nicholas says, picking up his sister and balancing her on his hip. “I think you’re more scared of us than the other way ‘round.”

“Nicky, don’t alienate the company,” Fraser chided.  “Like he’s not got enough issues as it is.”

“Thank you,” Erik says dryly. “I am reassured by your faith in me.”

Sofia laughs, “Lose the growl. Also, you need a shave.”

The Fraser family huddles close and goes up the stairs to Fraser’s room, with Sofia and Michael speaking quietly in a lovely accented Spanish. Erik’s never been to Chile; the closest he’s been is Argentina, its close neighbor. He knows next to nothing about Sofia’s homeland, except what he’s heard, and most of that amounts to beautiful beaches and very clean cities.

Erik makes his way to Charles’ bedroom, and is glad that shaving is one of the first things he learned to do with his gift. As he lathers his cheeks clumsily with his left hand, is suddenly aware of a presence in the bedroom. He peeks out suspiciously, and finds Kitty there, hugging herself, wide eyed and pale.

The girl is clearly in need of comfort, but he doesn’t know how to offer it. It’s easier with Ororo; he’s tactless and harsh and she takes it all in stride. But Kitty’s different.

“He’s in the garden with Raven,” he says.

Kitty nods slowly. “Do you need help with that?”

“No,” Erik arches a brow, bemused. It takes him a moment and Kitty’s flick of the eyes to realize she simply doesn’t want to leave and be alone. The next best thing after Charles, Erik remembers with a wince. Kitty looks as lost as he feels.

He shrugs, “Help me with the brush. I’m useless with my left and it’s made of wood.”

Kitty blinks, but mechanically takes the foaming brush and methodically makes sure to spread the foam on his cheeks and chin, and the underside of his jaw. She’s curiously good at it, using the right amount with practiced strokes.

“You’ve done this before?” he asks, genuinely curious as the razor hovers near his left cheekbone.

“My dad works a lot,” Kitty answers quietly. “He was never home, so the only times I got to see him where in the mornings while he was shaving. It became sort of a thing we did together.”

Now Erik feels distinctly uncomfortable, but Kitty’s eyes are bright and red-rimmed. He can’t send her away, the foolish girl is trying to get something from him, some kind of warm, maybe a kind word—Erik has no idea what to offer.

Maybe Nicky Fraser is just as perceptive as his father is, after all, because Erik feels unbelievably like he’s been frightened into silence by a little girl.

He wants to call for Charles, but the bond is closed off, and there’s a gut-wrenching feeling of sorrow and guilt filtering occasionally through that lets him know that his lover is still with Raven, and stern words are being exchanged.

Kitty sits the brush down on the edge of the sink and looks away, biting her bottom lip. Erik sighs, and reaches haltingly for her shoulder, squeezing it. Kitty shivers, so he brings her in against his chest and hugs her. The way she clings to his sweater makes his throat feel tight, but he swallows and hugs her tighter for a moment.

“I’m sorry you all had to see that,” he murmurs. “You weren’t meant to know. That’s behind him now, you know.”

“It took you to come here and fix everything,” Kitty mumbles.

Erik can’t help but bark out a laugh, disbelieving. “Fix everything, me? Are you mad?”

“Well, he was willing to die until you sauntered in, wasn’t he?” Kitty retorts, lifting her head to glare at him.

Erik’s amusement vanishes. “That’s not how it is, Kitty. He loves all of you more than his own life. But—when you’re in a situation like his, some extremes don’t seem as… extreme, anymore.”

“We weren’t enough,” Kitty says so quietly he nearly doesn’t hear her. “The school, and all of us, and the things we do together, it wasn’t enough, wasn’t it? You had to come home and—God, I’m sorry I sound like a bitch, but—“

“You’re allowed to be angry,” Erik shrugs. “I’m not hurt. Just know that while I understand why you feel this way, I need to tell you that you’re wrong. Charles is happy with you, with the school. He was going to give up not because you’re not enough, but because it was the only way to stop a dangerous man that would have hurt you.”

Kitty seems to relax minutely in his arms, nodding slightly.

Erik sighs and untangles her fingers from his sweater, shifting away. “I need to shave. You can stay if you want to, but don’t distract me. The last thing we need is me slitting my throat open.”

It’s the wrong things to say. Kitty pales visibly, eyes huge.

“Goddamnit, that’s not going to—I’ve not even nicked myself in years. I’m sorry, I—“ he exhales angrily through his nose, shaking his head. “Nevermind. Stand there and be quiet.”

Kitty obeys, hugging herself again as she leans against the doorjamb and lets her eyes follow the controlled movements of the blade on his skin, stripping away foam and stubble efficiently, slowly and painstakingly. Erik shaves fastidiously; he always has, despite the fact Charles likes his reddish stubble and when they were alone, he let it grow out. In front of the children he’s never anything less than perfectly shaved. He lets the motions unfurl in silence, and Kitty seems, surprisingly, to find some comfort in the bathroom with him and the razor.

She’s running warm water over a washcloth to help him clean up when there’s a knock on the bedroom door, and Azazel peeks in.

“Yes?” Erik asks, somewhat testily. Kitty, who is young but certainly not idiotic, realizes Erik’s unwilling to be seen as vulnerable in front of the red-skinned man, and smartly makes it look as though she’s not helping at all.

“Some of the children are asking about you,” the Russian says, amused as per usual. The man’s got a smirk tattooed on his goddamn face, Erik is certain. “They think you might be angry at them.”

“At them?” Erik is perplexed. “Why would I be angry at them? That’s ridiculous.”

Azazel shrugs, “You were very angry. Children are sensitive, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.”

Erik gives him a cutting look, but Azazel shrugs again and ducks out of the bedroom. The German takes the cloth from Kitty and wipes at his face angrily, frowning.

“What am I supposed to tell a school-full of frightened children?” he mutters, looking at his face in the mirror. Sharp-boned and tan, grey-blue eyes shrewd and thin-lipped mouth ungenerous. He’s nothing like Charles.

“Tell them what you told me,” Kitty offers with a slight smile. “That helped. And, if you could maybe not growl, that could help.”

“I don’t growl,” Erik growls.

Kitty’s smile widens.

Erik makes a sound of distaste, tossing the washcloth to the hamper. “Get out of my sight. Get all of the students to the ball room and… I don’t know, hand out hot chocolate or something. I’ll be there in a minute. And if you see Fraser around, send him over.”

Kitty nods along and obediently darts out of the bedroom. Erik sits on the edge of the bed he shares with Charles, leans his forearms on his thighs and lets his head hang. He didn’t get much comfortable sleep in the car, sitting in an awkward position and with Charles’ mind silent and closed, unnervingly absent. His back and neck ache, but he feels clear-minded and alert.

He still has no idea what he’s going to tell Charles’ kids, though.

There’s a knock on the door, and when Erik calls permission, Nicky Fraser come in, carrying the first-aid kit.

“My Da’s conked out,” he says with an apologetic shrug. “But I can change the dressings for you, sir.”

“You know how to change bandages?” Erik asks, floating a chair close to the bed for Nicholas to sit on.

“And stitch, and tons of other stuff other kids my age don’t,” Nicky grins. “When your Da’s a medic, you sort of can’t help it.”

Erik nods, watching the boy as he competently snips the fastenings of the dressing and starts rolling the bandage in his fingers, peeling it carefully away from Erik’s skin layer by layer. Nicky’s fingers are strangely long as callused, square-tipped and strong. He doesn’t look fourteen. He supposes he ought to have expected it, since he is undoubtedly his father’s son, but apparently he can still be surprised.
“My father was a jeweler,” he says, apropos of nothing.

Nicky hums, “That sounds interesting, sir. I bet you learned a lot from him.”

The boy peels away the last layer and looks at Erik’s arm, a quick assessing glance that slides over the stitches and the skin around them, checking that everything is in order.

“It looks worse’n it is, I’ll bet,” Nicky says unexpectedly. “It’s looking pale ‘cause the rest of you’s tanned, but the wound’s alright, I can tell.”

“Are you going to be a medic like your father?”  

“Nah,” Nicky shakes his head. “I’m gonna raise horses like my grandda. What about you? You a jeweler, sir?”

Raising horses. That makes sense; the image seems to suit the golden-skinned boy, and explains the rough skin of his fingers. Erik doesn’t answer. Nicholas doesn’t insist, simply allowing the silence to fall over them like a blanket. Erik wonders if such calm and patience are Fraser traits, or a Texan characteristic. Perhaps it’s dealing with horses; Erik understands a great deal of patience and calm are involved.

“It doesn’t frighten you that there are people out there that can bend bullets?” he asks suddenly.

Nicholas glances at him, busy re-wrapping his arm in quick, practiced movements.

“Not really, so long as they don’t bend them Caroline’s way, I guess.”

He finishes the re-dressing and takes the trouble to pull Erik’s sleeve down over the bandage, closing the cuff of his shirt for him. Erik nods, and follows him out to the hall and down to the ballroom, where he can hear the murmurs of the students gathered there.

Sofia and Moira are standing outside with Azazel. The Chilean gestures Nicky into the room and turns to Erik, offering a smile. When he stops in front of her, she reaches up and confidently tugs his collar in place inside his sweater, patting his chest.

“Looking quite decent,” Moira teases with a smile.

“Smelling quite panicked,” Azazel arches a brow. “They’re just kids, comrade.”

Erik shrugs, all too aware of the anxiety curling like a serpent in the pit of his stomach, the occasional stabs of dread arcing up his spine. He takes a deep breath, trying to quell the sensation, but it’s persistent. He glances at Sofia, feeling distinctly ridiculous as he asks, “Your husband?”

“He and Caroline are sleeping,” the woman answers kindheartedly. “Mikey acts tough, but this whole thing hit him hard. He’s with you in spirit. Now please make an effort to stop looking like you’re going to the guillotine.”

The metallokinetic nods, and with another deep breath, pushes the door open and steps into the ballroom.  All one hundred and seventy-two students are there, along with their fifteen teachers. Their ages range from ten to twenty-two—Scott, the oldest, just turned them last week. Logan obviously doesn’t count. There’s no telling what he is, but certainly not a student.

They’re all sitting in the hardwood floor, looking pitifully like refugees wrenched from their beds, but when they make to stand Erik waves at them to stay, brushing back his hair as he makes his way to the front by the piano. He drags the piano bench closer and sits down, aware that his height makes him intimidating. His eyes skitter uncertainly over the kids, wrapped in coats and sweaters and cradling mugs of hot-chocolate and tea.

“You’re all understandably rattled,” he starts, clearing his throat. “I’m sorry I was projecting. I didn’t mean to. That was a private conversation regarding a subject you weren’t supposed to know. I wasn’t… I don’t want any of you to think I was angry at you. I wasn’t. I was angry at Charles, for—being foolish. But that’s been discussed, and he won’t do it again, you have my—both our words. I promise you. So don’t be scared that he’ll do that again. And don’t think I’m angry at you, I wasn’t.”

He stops, looking around at the many, many childishly wide and sad eyes. Many of them are still wet. He feels his heart sink. What else is there to say, that will reassure them?

His eye catches a motion and he stares at Kitty, as she gestures to herself with her hand, and then point at him. Bobby, at her side, gives her a weird look. Erik narrows his eyes at her, but forces his jaw to move.

“And,” he says doubtfully. There are two people in the premises he trusts, and both of them are absent from this room. Without their guidance, he feels clumsy and incompetent, but he genuinely wants to help these kids. “And—you all need to know that what Charles was… going to do was to keep you all safe, and not because you don’t make him happy. He’s… very happy with you all, and loves you immensely. He just wanted to keep you safe.”

His voice dies out and there’s a long, thick silence. At the back, Alex elbows Kitty, who ducks her head and punches his thigh. Sofia leans against the wall, Nicholas against her front, her hands clasped over his chest. Moira and Azazel share satisfied looks, and Logan shrugs, but offers a vague, barely-there sign of appreciation.

Someone clears a throat, and Sean Cassidy sits up a little straighter, wide pale blue eyes blinking.

“I’m sorry, man, but I mean—what were you doing in the Prof’s bed, anyway, and why the hell can you project his telepathy? You bend metal. What the hell?”

Erik feels like a deer, and there are one hundred and ninety pairs of headlights staring at him.

Chapter 22
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