A/N: …Again: from Tumblr. Prompted by theonionistheonewhocries. Their words: "My friend, oh how Erik hated those two words. Everytime Charles called him 'my friend' something shattered within him, knowing that friendship was all Charles wanted; when he wanted so much MORE. Maybe he should tell Charles, but he couldn't. He didn't want to lose Charles, he would rather have just his friendship than nothing at all."
This is actually one of my top favorite out of all my Cherik fics. Because of lovely, angsty reasons.
"What is it, my friend?" Charles asks casually, glancing up from a book. "You seem troubled."
Erik winces. He hates that phrase. 'My friend.' Why does Charles insist on stating that they are merely friends? Does he know? That could be it. That would make sense. He knows how desperately Erik wishes to be more than friends (so, so much more), so he verbally reminds Erik that this is all they are, all they will be.
Erik clears his throat and hardens his gaze, his jaw locking into place. He stares down Charles, and the telepath straightens up in his seat.
"…You don't peer into my mind often, do you?" the taller mutant poses in a tone that is far too close to being a challenge.
Charles cocks his head slightly, and sets down his book, upside-down, so that his page is kept open. "No," he relays honestly, folding his hands in his lap as he leans forward slightly, back erect. "Why do you ask? You know that I like to leave people their privacy when they're close to me. It's less personal to violate a stranger's mind for a couple seconds than it is to enter a friend's off and on for years. It can even ruin a relationship, which is why I don't do it."
Erik's gaze wavers for a moment, but he holds it. He takes a few steps into the room, speaking as he goes along, "I only asked because I like to keep my secrets to myself. My business is my business, and I don't want you poking around in what isn't yours to know."
And with that, Erik turns sharply around and leaves the room before Charles can form a rebuttal.
The truth is, he has his dark history — most of which Charles already knows, he assumes, thanks to that night they met — and he doesn't want that to be refreshed or elaborated on. Furthermore, he would rather not have Charles see his feelings for him.
He wishes he could tell Charles how he feels; he wishes that he could say so many things; confess how he's never cared about anything but himself and his own selfish goals of revenge and ultimate leadership of a mutant nation, but that, along the way, he's… softened.
Softened under Charles' touches and glances and assurances, morphed from Charles' kindness and charm and honesty.
Charles, considering what Erik knows about him, should be just as messed up as Erik himself for different reasons and in another manner, and yet he isn't. He's the better man, truly.
And Erik knows he should tell him so. He knows he should reveal what he's hiding from Charles regarding Charles, but how can he? He couldn't.
He might lose him.
Erik would rather have friendship with the telepath than nothing at all, because where would he be, what would he do, if Charles rejected him?
Still, Erik can't deny to himself what he feels. Love, attraction, fondness, peace. He's at peace when he's with Charles, and it's a disturbing thought, because, in Erik's mind, peace is an illusion, a lie. And yet, he's beginning to wonder, maybe it's more plausible than he initially thought, at least in the form of serenity between individuals.
The beach has grown cold and petrified like cooled metal in a mold. Erik feels rotten and sore, as if the meat of his insides were left out to spoil in the sun, and then were gouged out, leaving him open and exposed and left to freeze in the wind.
He's hurt Charles. He's wounded him, and it's all his fault, he knows it, because Moira is a stupid human and doesn't know better than to shoot metal bullets at a metal-bending mutant and really, she can't be blamed any more than a naive baby could for breaking Mommy's prized flower vase.
Erik cradles Charles in his lap, pulling him up against his chest.
"…We're brothers, you and I. We want the same thing," Erik murmurs as gently as possible, his voice earnest and his tone sincere. He runs his thumb through Charles' sweaty hair and grips the fabric on Charles' chest.
I love you. I'm sorry. I want you by my side. I want to remain your friend. Please, don't let all this change things. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Charles, I love you.
Charles lets out a pleading, breathless, and humorless laugh. "Oh, no, my friend. I'm sorry, but we do not."
And there it is again, confirmation that they are only friends, and they never wanted the same thing.
Erik wants mutant superiority. Erik wants Charles with him until his dying breath, wants Charles as a lover. Erik wants so much more than he can say, and his greed knows no bounds, because he wants so much more than Charles could ever agree with.
And Charles is too humble; he wants mutant equality, he wants solely friendship, he wants to be touch-and-go with Erik like any normal pair of friends. He wants so little from the world, and doesn't ask for more.
So Erik winds up losing Charles.
He leaves so that it will hurt him less to be sent away.
And Magneto doesn't look back.