|Home Is Where the Heart Is
Author: Ayra Sei Ethari PM
Kinkmeme prompt: Erik really wishes his family would stop fostering abused mutant kids. One nearly burst his eardrums, and another blew the roof off. Literally. Then his mother brings home little Charles Xavier, who promptly steals Erik's heart.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Xavier, C. & Magneto - Chapters: 13 - Words: 32,327 - Reviews: 189 - Favs: 159 - Follows: 259 - Updated: 07-02-12 - Published: 03-29-12 - id: 7970259
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Charles's firsts: Swimming time!
Chapter dedicated to The Scarlet Rook and oo, who went out of their way to review all of my previously posted chapters in one go. Thanks!
Also, kudos to blanc-hiver, who spotted that Erik was saying canon!Charles lines. I assure you, that was on purpose, and shall continue . . . just 'cuz I feel like it. I bet you all can figure out which movie lines I use this chapter, and yes, they are a bit out of context, so imagine Erik is saying them with humor and the intent to tease, not the intent to . . . yeah, you'll see.
~ Erik Lehnsherr ~
At Charles's first proper meeting with Mister Shaw – the kind where parents and siblings, even foster ones, aren't allowed – Charles is very reluctant to let him go.
When a bored receptionist calls Charles's name, the boy clutches tightly at Erik's arm.
"I'll wait right here," Erik promises, but Charles just treats him to that wide-eyed pleading stare that hints at real fear. It's like a punch in the gut, honestly; he's grown used to Charles's pouts, and he can ignore them, but even when Charles is trying to hide it, Erik can see the very real fear hidden behind the childish plea.
Erik hugs him and repeats the promise in his mind, but Charles only clings tighter.
"Touching as this is," says a cold, amused voice from above them, "you are needed by Doctor Shaw, telepath."
Erik doesn't recognize the voice, and in actuality, the only reason he doesn't jump is because Charles does, a little abortive shudder that tells Erik just how close Charles is to losing it completely. In any case, when he looks up, there's a young man in a fashionable grey suit who reminds him of Shaw in his younger days – creepy smile, hard eyes, white lab coat and shiny shoes. And he's wearing no metal, and the pulse of iron in his blood is faint and fading, like he's not really there, unlike the steady thrum of iron from Charles, clutched close in his arms. But the second he notices that, the pulse of iron grows strong and steady, and he decides he just wasn't paying attention to it.
The man smiles that creepy smile and leans down so that he's about Charles's eye level where Charles is perched in Erik's lap, which only makes Charles tremble and withdraw more, and Erik sighs.
Really. If these people signed up to work in the Department of Mutant Children and Families, which almost always deals with the abused children, you think that they would know etiquette to deal with abused children who react badly to tall figures who represent the people who once abused them. Instead, Erik, who has no training at all, seems to be doing better with Charles than any of these people.
This is why Erik is voting to just do away with the DMCF. It doesn't ever do much to help – just whisks kids away when they grow too dangerous.
It's all right, maus, it's all right, Erik soothes, alarmed by the rabbit-quick pulse of iron thrumming in Charles's veins. He will not hurt you. And if he does . . . Erik cuts off the thought there, but he knows Charles can feel his determination, because Erik can't bear the thought of Charles hurt again.
Charles looks at him, and Erik feels the soft touch of his telepathy before Charles finally nods reluctantly and slides off his lap.
The man smiles and reaches for Charles's hand, but when the boy avoids him, he merely shrugs and calls out more names, and two young girls also stand up as well, moving so fluidly that they almost seem to be floating across the floor as they follow Charles, who keeps as far away from them as he can, and the man in the lab coat.
"Brilliant, isn't he?" says a man sitting across from Erik. He's older, middle-aged, and has the hardened air of a solider about him. "Just absolutely brilliant."
Erik eyes him warily. The only other child in the room is a quiet Spanish boy who is currently moving the curtains from across the room, and yet Erik doesn't think that the man is referring to Charles. In fact, he can't be; he should not be able to tell the gift Charles has, that's secret, and Charles hasn't done anything with his telepathy except read some thoughts around the room, like he can't help doing, and talk to Erik through the mind, which shouldn't be detectable.
"My son," the man clarifies, and offers a large palm. "The name's Wyngarde, William Wyngarde. And you?"
Wyngarde gives him a look, which Erik coolly returns. Charles is a minor and an abused one at that; if this man tries to dig through the archives for a Charles Xavier, he'd have a hard time finding out where Charles lived. But if he looks up Lehnsherr. . .
He doesn't know why, but there's something odd about this man.
"My son's an illusionist," Wyngarde continues, sounding a tad too much like Shaw when he's in his more eloquent rants about the amazing capabilities of their kind. "Can make you believe you're on fire if he wishes, or asleep and dreaming, or – or practically anything really." He smiles smugly, as if showing off his son's ability will elevate him above Erik. "And your son?"
Erik splutters. He is seventeen years old. He does not look enough to be a father, much less to a six-year-old Charles.
Granted, he's always looked older than his age, and a Charles who is curled up in his lap looks much younger than his age – but still. Yeah. Erik's not seeing it.
"Ah, not yours then?" Wyngarde says. "If you're new to this business, let me give you some advice. Always keep a firm hand on the muties, all right? They need it. Train them young, so when they grow up, they'll never go off wild."
Erik's liking this guy less and less by the second.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, before he can respond with something highly scathing and possibly insulting, there's a burst at the edges of Erik's mind, rather like a psychic distress call flaring out and shooting out sparks off into the sky, calling out to everyone who can hear. The Spanish kid playing with the curtains stiffens too, looking up at the ceiling as if expecting to see fireworks, but Wyngarde and the receptionist don't even flinch while Erik finds himself on his feet with the metal humming around him, tensed for something that he doesn't understand.
Moments later, the door opens, and Charles tumbles through, winding his arms around Erik and shaking like a leaf. Erik crouches on the floor and lets Charles tuck himself into a hug as if he wants to disappear, and he really wishes that 1) Charles could be small enough for Erik to pick him up and carry him away and/or 2) to go and pummel that creepy-smile lab coat man.
Option #2 is winning out too.
Those two strange girls come out too, and they pause at the site and smile at Erik. God, what is it with the creepy smiles?
Then Charles suddenly stiffens in his embrace. He turns his head and glares at the twin girls. They are not twin girls, Erik, he says. There's a soft flicker of telepathy, and then Erik's vision seems to clear from the strange haze around the girls to reveal . . . a boy. He's younger than Charles, and looks about to wet his pants from the force of Charles's glare.
I didn't even feel that.
Charles nods. I know. I didn't realize he was manipulating you either, or I would have stopped it beforehand. Charles's voice is soft, but there's a small silver of iron control there, and Erik knows Charles could have done much than whatever he's done.
Erik doesn't understand what's going on, but he doesn't like it. Not one bit. And this is the end of his patience.
"Let's go, maus," Erik says, standing. "We're done here."
The receptionist tries to stop them, but Erik glares and slams the door with a wave of his hand, and they are not followed. Charles merely clings close, his telepathy fluttering around him and Erik due to his anxiety, and Erik represses the urge to flinch at the remembrance that soon he'll be in college and Charles will be alone.
This thought hardens his resolve, and when Charles is in the car, he drives pointedly to the new destination.
Charles leans forward, and moments later, Erik feels his soft mental knock. He catches Charles's eye in the mirror and gives a slight nod for permission. Charles smiles and says, Where are we going? Home is that way.
"Just a short side trip. You'll like it. And no cheating, please."
Charles pouts at that, so Erik deliberately turns his gaze away from the rearview mirror to collect himself. It's really his only defense, and not much of one, so he bites his tongue and counts random numbers in his head to distract himself. Except that just makes Charles pout even more, and god, it's a vicious cycle, and Erik is really, really glad when they finally get to their destination.
"A swimming pool?" Charles says, looking up and down as Erik pulls out towels and their swimming trunks. "I can't swim."
"It's easy. I can teach you."
After they've paid and gone in, Erik changes quickly and then goes out to put their stuff down on a bench outside the pool. It's not too hot out, but it's hot enough, and there aren't many people around, which is good. Charles comes out then, pale enough that his blue swimming trunks are a stark contrast, and Erik is forced to bite off laughter as he pops open the sunscreen and tries to get Charles to sit still long enough to apply it. It's not exactly easy; for all that Charles is a quiet child, it's more because he suppresses his natural exuberance than because he actually is a quiet child like Erik.
"Maus," Erik says eventually in exasperation, "if you don't sit still, I am going to pick you up and throw you in the pool."
Unfortunately, that just seems to be ignored. Erik sighs. His clout power as older brother is really getting to be nonexistent. He isn't sure if it's because Charles is unnaturally good at getting things his way, or just because Charles is growing up and getting more comfortable. Or because they both know Erik sucks at actual threats.
You wouldn't actually do it, Charles confirms.
Ten minutes later, the situation is completely reversed. Erik is standing in the four feet water, arms crossed, watching with one eyebrow raised as Charles dips his toe in, retreats, dips his foot in, and then slowly, slowly, slowly begins his descent into the pool, clutching at the edge like it's a lifesaver. When Erik taps his fingers impatiently, trying not to laugh because Charles looks constipated, the boy glares at him.
"You're going to have to let go sometime," Erik observes.
Charles shakes his head and grips on tighter. He hasn't budged out of the two feet water level, which is slightly pathetic in Erik's opinion. Charles has never gone swimming before, but still.
It's scary! Charles protests.
"Let me guess. You can't let go, you can't, because if you do, you'll drown." Erik grins at Charles's indignant expression. "Charles, really, you have to let go." He wades his way back to Charles, deliberately not touching the edge of the pool, and then slips underwater and swims the rest of the way back, pulling up just short of Charles. Then he stands abruptly, making water cascade everywhere, and Charles squeaks in surprise.
Erik feels his grin grow wider. "I know what this means to you," Erik says, trying not to laugh as he pats the edge of the pool, "but you're going to die."
Erik gestures at the sun. "You're going to be baked like a lobster in this sun, and I refuse to be responsible. Now come on, just let it go. You have to let it go. Otherwise there's no fun in this."
Charles peers at the four-feet area Erik just came from with all the caution of an elderly asthmatic man who has just been told he has to do a five-hour military obstacle course. He seems as irrationally scared of the water as he is of thunderstorms, but this is ten times funnier, because Charles is scared just because, not because of anything his stepfamily did to him. Well, they did deprive him of a fun thing like swimming, but Erik doesn't mind being the one to introduce it to him. He didn't mind introducing cookies either, or pillow forts, or hugs. Simple things, really, but they make Charles smile, and that's reward enough.
"Come on, Charles. Do you really think I'd let you drown?"
Charles shakes his head, very, very slowly, and then reaches out with one hand to place it delicately in the hand Erik is offering. He allows Erik to – gradually– pull him away from the wall, and into three-feet water and then four-feet before he stops.
"I can't," he says. "Erik, I can't."
Erik stops immediately. He knows better than to test Charles's boundaries too far – and four feet is enough anyways. "All right, that's fine," he soothes, smoothing a hand through Charles's hair to ease away the panic on his face. "It's fine. Now come here, maus."
The second Charles is close enough, Erik ducks and scoops up Charles's legs, cradling him against his chest. The water provides enough buoyancy for Charles to float without too much trouble, but Erik holds on regardless, because Charles shrieks in surprise and clutches tightly at Erik's shoulders, shocked and scared at finding his feet swept out from under him.
"See?" Erik murmurs into Charles's hair, not doing anything but holding him and letting Charles realize he isn't drowning. "No problems. Just relax."
Charles swallows. "Don't let go."
Erik doesn't answer that. He knows Charles can read the unconscious message, the why-would-I-ever-let-go-of-you that thrums steadily in Erik's heart. He just lets his calm flood his mind, until he isn't thinking of anything, really, except the sun warm against his back and the water cool around him and Charles cradled safely in his arms, floating in the water. Charles picks up on that calm, and then he begins to relax too, his fingers loosening as his head tips back to rest against Erik's shoulder and wet his hair. His face smoothes out, and he closes his eyes, and the tension leaves his body, until he's all but floating on his own and Erik's arms are merely preventing him from drifting off.
This is nice, Charles says, rolling his head until it rests against Erik's shoulders. Then, very quietly: Thank you.
Erik smiles against Charles's soft curls and hugs him. "You're welcome, maus."
A/N: I'll leave the question I posed at the end of the previous chapter open for answers until I post the next chapter, which is basically: readers, are there any other firsts you want to see Charles undergo? (Right now, I've got everything from the boys' first argument to someone getting sick to ice-skating.)
Coming up next: Birthday party! (as requested by Magpie09)