I woke with a pained groan, my eyes cramming shut against the face full of sunlight coming in through the window. I shrunk down into the covers and twisted around to my other side till I was pressed into Steve's back. Pushing my face into into his skin, I wormed my arms around his waist the best I could, pulling us impossibly close. His scent swam around my head as I kissed up his spine, lingering when I reached the top of his shoulders.
"You know, I was havin' this swell dream," Steve's sleep-thick voice sounded. "There was this dame in a beautiful white dress. She kept callin' me her husband but she musta been mistaken cause a chump like me couldn't get a girl like that."
I smirked into his skin before sinking my teeth into- feathers. I coughed as I pushed myself up, the pillow that had been clutched to my chest spilling out across the otherwise empty bed. "Ste-" I cut off with another cough, shoving a hand down my throat to pull out a straggler goose feather. "Motherfucker."
This was really starting to get on my nerves. Nerves and worries. I could handle flashbacks from the wars. All the blood and the guts, and the violence. I could handle the wars. But having Steve appear every time I let my guard down? That I couldn't handle.
Check out wasn't till twelve and the clock on the night stand read eight thirty. I allowed for a moment of appreciation for the fact that I managed to get more than three hours of sleep, before getting out of bed, trailing feathers as I went. Seeing that I hadn't planned on an overnight stay I pulled on the same clothes I wore yesterday, not particularly caring that they were wrinkled to shit. A quick brush through my hair, a wash of my face, and I was out the door.
To their credit the waitstaff at the hotel restaurant didn't bat an eye when they seated me, bringing me coffee before I even had the chance to ask for it. The table was set up in the far right corner of the restaurant, giving me the peace of mind to keep my back to the wall and watch the exits. A learned habit I had yet to break. They kept bringing the coffee and I ate my breakfast at a leisurely pace I hadn't been able to do for some time.
During my sixth cup of coffee the host dragged the phone to my table with a chipper Howard on the other end. The plane had been chartered and was scheduled to depart at two, the usual two and a half hour flight cut down to an hand and a half thanks to the lack of commercial airline bullshit. We'd be back in New York before we knew it, and in my opinion it wouldn't be soon enough.
Charles appeared amongst the tables not too long after the call, a suave smile on his face as he approached.
"You were missed last night," he stated, pausing a moment to gesture to the chair across from me. "May I?"
I cocked a brow but nodded all the same. "I sent Erik down. Wasn't he good company?"
"Thank you, darling," he said as he took the seat. "Erik was wonderful company, but we all would have liked to have seen you there as well."
"Sometimes not getting what we want is good for our health."
A startled laugh left him. "I can't really argue with that," he admitted.
"I'm hard to argue with," I agreed, finishing off my cup and gesturing to the waiter for another. "Have you eaten yet?"
"I have not. I slept longer than I intended to."
"I've never faulted anyone for being able to sleep," I told him, holding my cup up as the waiter came with the carafe. "Thank you. Charles, they have a very good English breakfast here, if you're feeling homesick."
The man perked up at that and nodded enthusiastically. "That sounds wonderful. I'll have one of those please. Thank you."
"May I assume that you would like tea as well? We have a breakfast tea specially blended for us."
"That'd be lovely. Thank you."
"Very good, sir," he said with a nod before disappearing into the fray.
I spooned sugar into my coffee as I watched him take in the room, his eyes going a bit distant when he looked from person to person. "Find anything good?" I asked, pouring in a bit of cream as well.
His attention snapped back to me and an almost bashful look crossed his face. "Sorry, darling. Places like this always get a little too loud," he explained. "Hard to ignore it all."
I could understand that. "I used to hate crowded places because of that."
"Are you reading minds now too?"
"It's not mind reading if they're talking out loud."
"No, but it sure is something else, isn't it?" he asked, that grin of his spreading across his face. "I was right about you, wasn't I?"
I sipped my coffee at him.
His grin turned a little more understanding and he leaned closer across the table. "Eleanor, I know this is a delicate situation, and I don't wish to push you, but I want you to know that you're not alone," he said, sliding his hand towards me on the table, offering up a gesture of comfort.
I bit at my lip as I stared at his hand, the various options for where this conversation could go running through my head. "What did you and Erik talk about last night?" I decided to ask instead.
"Erik and I have a lovely conversation about our childhoods," he answered, withdrawing his hand. "And I use the term lovely in the vaguest sense of the word. More so for him than for me of course, but still."
"I wouldn't even use it vaguely," I muttered over my coffee cup.
He nodded his head to the side. "Fair enough."
"So, you know why he wants to personally rip Schmidt's heart out of chest."
"And why you do as well."
I shrugged with a dismissive hum. "I'll settle for ripping any part of him out; it doesn't have to be his heart. Maybe his spine."
He cleared his throat as he eyed a passing waiter, offering the man a polite smile as he went. "I hold no illusions of being able to stop either of you from doing just that," he admitted. "Not that I feel particularly inclined to even try, mind you."
"I clocked you as a pacifist."
That grin returned to his face. "I'm a lover, not a fighter."
"And yet you want to help hunt down a Nazi."
"'The only think necessary for triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing'," he recited. "Moral responsibility often outweighs personal opinion."
I hated how much that sounded like Steve and I had to stop myself from throwing my coffee at him.
His grin dropped slightly as he leaned further away from me. "Blood hell, that's some impressive anger," he mentioned with a cocked brow. "I'm worried to ask what I said."
I grimaced and looked away from him, focusing instead on the couple across the room. "The Telepathy is really starting to become an issue," I told him, running a check list of all my mental shields, making sure they were still firmly in place. "This is going to be harder than I thought."
He leaned over till he was back in my line of sight. "What is going to be harder?"
"Being in the same room as you," I answered absently.
"Ah. Well, I shall make a conscious effort to keep my end of things tidy," he reassured with a bit of teasing in his voice. "If there's still issues then I can possibly help you with-"
"No," I cut in, focusing on him again. "You're the third person to suggest it, and you'll be the third person I tell no. I don't want you anywhere near my head or have any input on how it works."
He narrowed his eyes at me. "Has anyone ever told you that you're awfully mistrustful?"
"I've learned from my mistakes," I countered before plastering on a cheerful smile when I spotted the waiter walking over with Charles' breakfast.
Taking my cue, Charles plastered on his own smile just as his food was placed in front of him. "Thank you very much, mate," he said, looking very pleased with what he saw. "Just like Mum used to make."
"Please do not hesitate to let me know if there is anything else I can get for you, sir. Ma'am."
"Thank you," we chorused with a shared look, his smile brighter than mine.
The waiter dismissed himself and Charles dug into his breakfast with enthusiasm.
A spark of amusement came to me as I watched him. "Are you hungover?"
"Mhmm," he hummed around a mouthful of beans.
"You hide it very well?"
He hummed again as he sipped his tea. "It's a perk of being a Telepath. I've learned to compartmentalize the pain. Keeps it all manageable."
"Huh," I mused. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little jealous about that." I've never been hungover before but compartmentalized pain was never a bad thing.
Charles paused mid-bite. "I can show you how," he offered. "It's not all that different from those walls you put up in your head. Sam concept it's just applied differently."
I pursed my lips in thought.
"You get a lot of headaches, darling?"
"Sure it's not something else?"
"You'll be something else if you keep pushing."
He held a hand up in surrender. "Okay, they're an occupational hazard," he relented. "Think about it, yeah? If you won't let me help with anything else, let me help with this."
"Maybe," I allowed before taking a too big gulp of coffee, nearly draining half the cup. "While I have you here, I wanted to talk to you about the CIA."
Charles lost all traces of a smile. "What about them?"
I eyed the entrance for a moment before leaning a little closer to him. "I'm sure I don't have to tell you that we're sitting on a powder keg with this situation. Not only with the Nazi bullshit, but with the Mutant part too. The only reason I'm cooperating with the CIA is because I don't want them going off on their own again and getting further into something they don't need to be involved in. Sure, they're not Nazis, but they're also not all that straight forward with their agendas and I'd rather not introduce Mutants into that."
"You're worries that they'll do something similar to Schmidt."
"I've seen what the government is willing to do to win wars," I told him, doing my best to keep my thoughts on Project Rebirth buried as deep as possible. "I don't doubt for a minute that they wouldn't take advantage of this. Why do you think I was in the meeting yesterday? I wasn't even away of the situation until a few hours beforehand, but I went because you were giving a lecture to the fucking director of the CIA about the existence of Mutants."
"I know, but that's not the point. The point is that we need to keep the CIA as far away from this as possible. No matter the circumstances or the outcome, they cannot believe that Mutants are a real thing."
A hard edge had grown in his eyes. "Do you expect us and everyone else to live our lives in the shadows?" he demanded. "To go along with the prejudices and ignorance?"
"I don't expect anything, but it's in our best interest for the CIA to not be the first people to know. If we want our existence to be known? Great, but we can't tell the fucking government first. We tell them first and they'll do their best to bury us so far that we'll never see sunlight again. We'll end up in labs or prison cells. Jane and John Does in state ran mental hospitals. I'm talking about a fucking silent holocaust. Do you understand that?"
Charles had gone pale, that hard edge replaced with a startled wetness. His hands had abandoned his tea and fork in favor of holding onto the table, knuckles white and arms shaking.
It took me a matter of seconds to realize what I had done, the images of the death camps flashing through my head viscous and loud. The walls had lowered with my need for him to understand, and in doing so I had all but choked him with it. I pulled in a sharp breathe and was greeted with the smell of Human ask. Copper burned in the back of my throat as I scanned the room at the once unfamiliar faces, all now mirroring those I had seen in the mud and the mass graced, features gaunt and pleading. Pleading for someone, their God or otherwise, to take them from that Hell. To get their families out before they're taken to the showers and-
My eyes snapped back to Charles and the world disappeared.
It was a beautiful day in New York and the sunlight dancing off the Jackie O Reservoir was almost hypnotic. A soft breeze rustled through the trees around me and the sound of playing children accompanied it. The quilt spread out on the grass below was the same one that had laid across my mother's lap on most nights, the well cared for blanket just as soft as I remembered it.
I looked to my right and found Charles sat next to me, a sheepish expression on his face.
"I know I promised to stay out of your head, but you were spiraling," he explained quietly. "I had to do something before it got worse."
A spike of worry shot through me when I remembered what had happened, the conversation that had led me to shoving the Holocaust down his throat like a deranged lunatic. How I had lost complete control due to desperation. It only backed up my worries from this morning. The war was sneaking in and there was nothing I could do about it.
"I didn't hurt anyone, did I?" I thought to ask, remembering all those times I had lashed out during an episode.
His eyes softened as he shook his head. "No, darling, no. You didn't hurt anyone," he answered. "Though you did worry me there for a moment. It took me a while to get you here."
I looked back to the lake with a frown. "Where is here? It's not really Central Park. It doesn't smell right."
Charles grimaced and dipped his head to the side. "Smells are always the hardest to recreate," he mused. "Of course, it would have helped if I've actually been to Central Park."
"If you've never been there then why are we there?"
"Because this was the first place your mind went to when you thought 'safe'."
A weak laugh escaped me. "I've always been fond of the place, but I wouldn't go as far as to say I'd consider it safe."
"Perhaps it's your 'safe' when there's someone else along for the ride," he corrected with a shrug. "Even when you're spiraling into your subconscious, you're still on your guard. I'm sure there's somewhere else you feel safe but didn't want me to see."
"So, I'm paranoid to the core, huh? That's reassuring."
"I never said it was a bad thing. Given our current situation it's probably an advantage."
I couldn't argue with him on that. Not when Schmidt had his own Telepath. "How hard did you have to try to get here?"
He shifted over to catch my attention. "You did most of the work," he said. "All I had to do was offer your mind an exit and it took it."
"And it doesn't bother you?" I wondered, taking in the sheer size of the park. "Having all of this in your head?"
Charles gave me a considering look. "I've been doing this my whole life, darling. I learned a long time ago how to keep things from bothering me."
"You're whole life?" I repeated. "Literally? Or since you were a child?"
"I don't remember a time when I didn't have my mutation. It's gotten stronger over the years, changing here and there, but I've always had them. I know it's rare for a Mutant to present powers so young, but I can't explain it."
I pondered that for a moment. "Was there anything traumatic in your childhood? Anything stressful or life threatening?"
"Just a thought," I dismissed, telling myself to bring it up with him later when this was all over. "So, what now?"
He allowed the subject change and turned his attention back to the lake. "That's up to you. We could stay here a little while longer, take a moment. Or I can kick you out and we can go back to our lovely breakfast conversation."
I grimaced and looked back to the lake as well. "How much did you see?"
"Enough," he answered after a moment. "More than enough, but I understand now."
"Do you?" I pressed, the taste of blood back in my throat again. "Do you understand what I was trying to say? Why we have to be careful?"
"What you've seen..." he trailed off with a sigh. "The lengths that men are willing to go to when they don't understand something is harrowing. I don't blame you for your caution or your worries."
"So you'll cooperate with me?"
A humorless laugh left him. "I'm not sure 'cooperate' is the correct term, but yes, I'll cooperate with you," he answered. "And as far as the CIA is concerned, I'm cooperating with them too. I'll act the person they want me to be, but I won't be naive."
I swallowed down the copper tang with a huff, his reassurance more than a little unsettling. "Thank you. I'll, uh, I'll try not to be so hostile."
That earned me a small smile. "I wouldn't worry too much about it. I've realized that it's part of your charm."
"Oh gods," I huffed out with an eye roll. "I don't want you anywhere near my charm, Xavier."
His smile grew wider. "I don't see how I can help that, Rogers."
The name tugged the usual heartstrings and the man sitting on the bench was suddenly blonde with impossible shoulders. I darted my eyes away from him and cleared my throat. "So, how long do we have to stop here? Is there a time limit?"
Being polite enough to ignore my discomfort, he shook his head. "Uh, no. No limit. Do you want to leave?"
I nodded quickly when I caught sight of a familiar brunette walking up the path. "I think we should before I turn this into more of a nightmare," I told him, pushing myself up to my feet. "Come on, let's go."
An amused look cam across his face as he stared up at me. "We don't have to physically leave, darling. All I have to do is pull us out. Mentally."
I rolled my eyes harder than I had to. "Then do that."
Just as quickly as the park appeared it was gone. I pulled in a slow breath and slumped back in my chair, careful eyes tracking the patrons to see if anyone was watching.
"Well, you're just full of neat little tricks, aren't you?"
He smiled at me from across the table. "You have no idea."
"Mhmm and let's keep it that way," I told him, picking up my still hot coffee and gulping it down. "Now, If you'll excuse me, I have a debrief to go over."
Charles watched with knowing eyes as I got up from the table, still managing to smile as he chewed a mouthful of toast.
Is Eleanor slowly losing it? Yes.
Is it all Charles' fault? Yes.
What's she gonna do? Emotionally cripple him and then stab him in the face.
Hope you guys enjoyed!