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[personal profile] monstrousregiment
Title:  Thirty Pushes. Two Breaths.
Author: monstrousreg
Word count:  2835
Warnings:  There's mentions of violence and nudity, I suppose?
Pairing: Erik/Charles.
Summary: For this prompt (I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I need to stop snooping around the pompts. But I got fired yesterday and now I'm depressed and I'm using the time to write, so.. just ignore me.)

A somewhat nice afternoon out turns into a nightmare when the boys are attacked and Charles is dumped into an icy river in the Russian winter. Erik gets the chance to return Charles' reckless kindness, and then some.

The cold of the water hits him like a brick in every inch of his skin. The muscles of his thorax contract and air escapes him in bubbles—No—he manages to close his mouth just in time to keep some of it in his lungs, but he can tell he doesn’t have much. His skin feels like it’s on fire, his limbs are growing slower by the second.

He turns around in a sharp motion, eyes sweeping, searching, quickly, quickly

There.

He sends out his arms and kicks as powerfully as he can. The water soaking his heavy sweater make shim slow, but he has strong muscles and he can—ignore the cold, ignore the agony—just one more pull, a kick, two—

His right hand connects with something soft. Erik closes his fist around it only to find he’s grabbed onto Charles’ cardigan. That won’t do, he needs a firmer purchase. But the current is tugging at them now, and Charles, light and small and unconscious—a cloud of blood in the water from the wound in his temple—is not moving at all, not fighting or helping, he’s doing nothing.

Erik does not panic—Charles was unconscious when they dumped him in the water, so it’s only to be expected he’s not reacting now. Erik shifts like a snake in the water, ignoring the pain, the cold, ignore it ignore it—gets an arm around Charles’ waist and wrenches him close so the man’s back is against his chest.

He kicks up with all his strength, gift scrambling to get a hold of all the metal in Charles’ body—the silver chain around his neck with the delicate cross, only memento of a father dead long years ago, the silver ring on his left hand that Raven gave him for his birthday, the heavy steel watch Erik himself forced him to wear, simultaneously insurance and safety. Not enough to keep Charles anchored to him, unless he means to strangle him with the chain, so he tightens his arm around the telepath instead.

He kicks up, up up—until his hand meets the thick cover of ice above, the frozen surface of the river. The currents drags them along, and Erik shreds his fingers on the underside of the ice trying to find something to hold onto long enough to break the surface. Charles’ head lolls, blood trailing in front of him as the current carries it away.

How long’s Charles been under the water? Only about twenty seconds longer than Erik, no more. But he was already unconscious when he fell in—when they threw him in—so he was not being careful not to breathe in icy water. His lungs could be full by now. No way of knowing, no way of knowing—he needs to get the man out of the water now now.

The watch in Charles’ wrist breaks apart and reforms into a heavy steel ball—he’ll get him another one later, once Charles is breathing—breathing, right, Erik feels like his lungs are on fire, but ignore it ignore it—Charles—the ball of steel crashes through the ice. Erik directs it again, a rapid-fire blast of energy back and forth, like a machine-gun bullet zig-zagging recklessly in an out of the surface until the ice breaks and Erik can get a hold of the edge and stop their drifting in the current. He hoists Charles up harshly until his face is out of the water.

No reaction.

Erik looks around. By the art of luck and randomness, they’re not far from shore, although looking back he can tell they’ve covered a good long stretch away from the bridge where Charles was shot. They’ll be seen for sure, but there’s nothing for it—Charles isn’t breathing and the cold is starting to make Erik sluggish, clumsy. They need to get out of the water now.

Erik shifts until he’s got an elbow over the surface praying to all Gods that it doesn’t break down under his weight and dump them back into the current, and with a groan manages to pull Charles halfway onto the surface, face down.

No reaction.

The German pushes him up more, until the telepath is lying on the ice with only his calves in the water, and shifts to pull himself up—
A chunk of ice, underwater, hits him in the hip and drags him under. Erik only just barely manages to hold onto a protruding spike of ice underneath the surface, and immediately sets to work breaking another hole in the ice to get himself up. His limbs are weak and numb, clumsy, sluggish from cold and lack of air, but he ignores it—pain is only physical, and his body will obey him—and throws himself on the surface, pan ting harshly for air that rasps his throat from cold.

Charles is still lying on his stomach by the first hole.

No reaction.

Erik forces himself to his feet and stumbles over to the telepath, turning him around. The blood from his wound has already made a stain in the ice and is beginning to freeze over, startlingly crimson. Erik gets his arm under Charles’ shoulder and drags him into a sitting position. His head lolls. Charles isn’t breathing.

How long has he been unconscious? A minute, perhaps a minute and a half? How much water did he inhale? How much blood has he lost?

No time, no time.

He gets back on his feet and pulls Charles up, throwing him over his shoulder. Thank God Charles is short and thin like a rake, because Erik’s running on adrenaline and gut-gripping terror, and he’ll crash soon. But first, before he does, he’ll get Charles safe—safe and breathing.

His boots find little purchase in the frozen surface of the river, but he pushes grimly on, breathing harshly, carrying Charles, until he feels glorious mud under his soles and can scramble up the riverbank to the street. The fence guarding the river bends like butter under his will, and Erik takes a moment to stop, sit Charles down and look around, quickly, quickly.

No reaction.

Probably because there isn’t a pulse. That explains why the blood’s stopped pumping, too. No breathing no pulse—Erik imagines he ought to be panicking now, but he’s not. Charles has drowned. There’s no breathing because his lungs are full of water and there’s no pulse because with no oxygen his heart can’t beat.

He’s dead but he’s not gone yet.

The house he’s in front of looks closed and forbidding, but nothing’s going to stop Erik from getting Charles inside. He bursts the lock into a thousand pieces in his rush, and feels no remorse as he carries Charles through the hall and into the den, where a hearth lies silent and cold. Time to deal with the cold—first he needs to restart Charles’ heart.

He takes a single moment to calm himself, find his center, and brace his flagging strength. Then he wrenches off Charles coat, tears his sweater away and wrestles the shirt over to bare his pale chest.

Push down on the center of the chest, two inches thirty times, a clinical, detached voice says in his mind. Brace your weight on your shoulders, lock your elbows, lace your fingers, bear down.

Thirty times.

Erik tilts Charles’ head back, pinches his nose and opens his mouth. Two breaths, long enough to get the chest to rise, each one second long.

Thirty pushes.

Two breaths.

Thirty pushes.

Two breaths.

Thirty pushes.

The sound out of Erik’s mouth sounds like a sob the third time he bends down to Charles’ lips. No, not again, not another one, he can’t bear to lose another one—

Thirty pushes.

Two breaths—chokes on the second, has to try again.

Thirty pushes.

Two breaths.

Thirty—

Charles coughs, water spilling from his blue lips. Erik quickly grabs his shoulder and turns him on his side, turning his head to the ground and slapping his back so his lungs can reject all the water logged in them. There’s a lot of it.

When he stops coughing, he starts shaking so violently he’s almost convulsing. Erik turns him fully on his stomach, gets the sleeve of his sweater between his teeth and leaves him there to find blankets. They’re in a closet by the staircase. He grabs all of them, six in total, and runs back to the den. Charles is still unconscious and shaking, possibly going into shock. No time no time.

It takes him seconds to strip Charles down to his skin, wrap him tightly in blankets. He needs to get oxygen running to his limbs urgently, but he needs warmth more, so he diverts his attention to getting a fire started as quickly as possible. Erik hadn’t even thought of whether the house was empty or not, but he’s undeniably thankful it is.

Once the fire is roaring, Erik takes off his own clothes and drops them in a sodden pile on the side. With only a second’s spare of thought, he grips the blankets, burrows inside them and shifts until the long, cold line of Charles’ back is beneath his fingertips. Sliding an arm around the telepath’s chest, he brings him on his side and spoons behind him, aligning shoulders, spine, hips and legs, skin flush against skin.
Charles is still shaking violently, eyelids trembling as his eyes roll in their sockets, but he’s far from wakening and his wound is bleeding again. Erik swipes a thumb over the gash quickly, cleaning the blood to give it a look. It’s a long line, starting from the brow-bone and arching back until the curvature of the skull put the flesh out of the bullet’s path. The top of Charles’ ear is split, but it’s stopped bleeding for now.

Erik buries his face in the curve where Charles’ neck meets his shoulder and tightens his grip on the telepath, hoping the small amount of body heat he’s building up will help the man. Charles gives no sign of being aware of his surroundings. But he is breathing, and his heart is beating, and that will have to be enough for now.

He’s not aware of having fallen asleep until he wakes, abruptly, when a log in the fireplace splits and falls. He lifts his head with some effort, blinking in the warm glow of the fireplace, and looks down.

Charles is unconscious still, face stained with blood, but his shaking is down to slight, intermittent tremors. Erik has a split second flash of relief before he remembers that lack of trembling might well mean Charles is getting worse, not better. Shivering consumes energy, so his body would stop trembling to save it rather than spend it. Charles body is still cold, very cold. And his hands and feet are icy. Erik drags himself out of the cocoon of blankets, wrapping the thinnest one around his shoulders, and starts massaging Charles’ hands in turns.

The motion becomes automatic and his mind drifts. He knows he killed the men that attacked them, but now his worry is that the bodies will be found and traced back to them. They’re at least a mile away from the bridge, and with the temperatures the holes in the surface of the river might have closed back up by now, but it’s not snowing, which means the stain of Charles’ blood in the surface is still there and visible. They mess he did of the fence is ridiculously obvious, too.

But what can he do? He can’t move Charles, and even if he could where would they go? If Erik could contact the agent, McTaggart, surely she would help, at least for Charles’ sake, but he has no way of getting her attention and she has no idea where they are.

Erik is exhausted. Everything hurts. He hasn’t been this tired in years—obviously he’s suffering hypothermia himself, but the activity’s been keeping him going until this point. All that he can do is wait now, wait for Charles to pull through, hope that they won’t be found before they’re both in fighting condition, hope that McTaggart will somehow suspect something has gone wrong with their innocent stroll across Moscow’s streets.

Charles’ hands are getting warm. Erik hasn’t any strength left in him, except to brush Charles’ hair back and check that the wound has stopped bleeding. He climbs over Charles to curl at his back, snaking under the blankets and burying his nose in the curling hair at Charles’ nape.

At some point, he must have fallen asleep again. This time he wakes up when Charles shifts, mumbling in his sleep. Erik moves back a bit to give him some room, and realizes that sweat’s build up between them, slick at the line of Charles’ spine and the hollow of Erik’s stomach. Charles turns until he’s lying on his back. Tired and comfortable in the warmth, Erik burrows back closer to him, covering him like an additional blanket, a thigh between Charles’ legs, an arm around his torso, and his nose behind Charles’ ear.

The third time he wakes up, it’s because Charles is combing back his hair, fingers slow and gentle.

“How are you?” he asks, voice rough on a raw throat.

“I’m alright,” Erik says, lifting his head and clearing his throat. The fire’s nearly out. He needs to get up and start it anew. But he’s warm, now, with Charles stretched out under him, and sweat sticky between their stomachs. The side of Charles’ face has bruised already—he’s so fair skinned. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m sore,” Charles admits, wincing. “My head hurts. But—Erik, thank you. You saved my life. I can—how could I ever repay you for this, my friend?”

“I’d say we’re even,” Erik replies, shrugging slightly.

“I don’t know that we’ll ever be even,” Charles murmurs, eyes soft. “In your sleep you saw me dead again, and I saw that you had to bring me back. I’m sorry.”

“It wasn’t your fault, Charles.”

“I’m sorry nonetheless.”

“Just—just don’t do it again,” Erik says, fingers curling around Charles shoulder tightly. “Ever. If you do that again, Charles, I swear—“
It’s not a promise Charles can make, not really. Erik wants him to promise he’ll never die, and neither of them is naïve enough to believe they can give their word on that respect. But Erik can bet his life that if he’s alive and breathing, no one will lay a hand on Charles again. Charles could give his word that he’ll never let anyone hurt Erik—because if he can help it, and maybe if he can’t, he won’t—but that’s not what Erik cares about, so he doesn’t say it.

“I’m sorry,” he says instead, gently, carding his fingers tenderly though Erik’s hair.

Erik makes a sound, and manipulates Charles so he’s on his side. Then he curls around him, sliding his right arm under Charles’ head and bending it to tangle his fingers on his hair—and uncomfortable pillow, but Erik feels the need to hold on and Charles doesn’t have the heart to protest. Erik’s other arm wraps around Charles chest and grabs onto his shoulder, a shade too tightly. His legs slides between Charles, pinning him down between the blankets.

There’s no way Charles is going anywhere unless Erik allows him to. Charles could probably get himself out of the tangle of limbs if he really felt the need, but Erik’s began to shake behind him, and pushed his head against the curve of Charles’ shoulder—and there’s nowhere Charles wants to be but where Erik needs him; which, right now, is right here when he is, pinned and warm and safe.

So instead of struggling, Charles wraps a hand loosely around Erik’s left wrist, closes his eyes and goes to sleep.

Hours later, when he wakes up because there are men outside looking at the broken mess of a fence and thinking of blood stains on ice, he disentangles himself only to get up, get rid of the men with his telepathy and find a spot in the laundry room to hang their wet clothes to dry. Then he rekindles the fire. When he turns around, Erik is awake, eyes intense and narrowed as he watches him.

“I’m sorry I woke you, Erik,” he says, sitting down next to the German. “I had to handle some men on our trail, but we’re safe now.”

“I’m still tired,” Erik says quietly, grey-blue eyes sharp on Charles.

“I know, sweetheart, I’m sorry. Go back to sleep.”

“I can’t,” Erik says tightly, curling his long fingers intently on Charles’ wrist.

It takes a moment for Charles to understand.

“Oh,” is all he can manage to say before docilely getting back under the blankets.

Even as he manages to sink back into a restless sleep, Erik doesn’t let of of Charles’ wrist.  


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