Author Notes: Many thanks as always to JennMel, for being my beta and having to suffer through the arduous process of fixing my appalling grammar.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Erik slid a finger through the dust coating the piano lid idly, leaving a trail of sleek black amongst the muted grey. There were so many rooms in this ostentatious labyrinth that Charles called home, he had not been overly surprised to find a piano room.
He had been a little surprised at the disuse of the room. The layers of dust in here were thicker, the air more still and clogged with abandonment.
This room had been shut up far longer than others in the mansion.
Erik absently wondered why, the hand not drawing patterns in the dust fingering the reichsmark in his pocket.
Peaceful sleep had been evasive, so he had sought the release of physical movement. The rain outside prevented a walk in the grounds, so he had taken to wandering the many corridors.
He wasn't quite sure why he had stopped in this room, but something about how forgotten and tucked away it was had resounded within him.
Perhaps he was hoping his dreams might emulate this room if he spent enough time in here brooding.
Erik snorted at himself; how sickeningly poetical. He was spending too much time around Charles.
His drifting fingers ghosted over the lid and an absent pull at the metal hinges pushed it back.
The whiteness of the keys was stark in the shadows and Erik avoided them in favour of pressing a finger against a black one, eliciting a minor note that reverberated through the air in its bitterness.
"I haven't been in here in years…"
Erik started and his hand wrapped around the hilt of the knife in the back of his belt before he registered that it was just Charles.
He scowled at him, irritated that the telepath had managed to sneak up on him; irritated that he hadn't registered him as a threat until he was practically right behind him.
Being in this place and around these people was causing him to become lax, and that was dangerous.
Shaw would not be letting his guard down. Shaw, Erik thought sarcastically, would not have almost have been given a heart attack by a man five inches shorter than him.
He glowered at Charles as the other man stepped into the room, "You shouldn't sneak up on me like that," he said curtly.
Charles gave an easy shrug, "You wouldn't hurt me."
Erik felt a rush of frustration. The worst thing was Charles absolutely believed that, and that frightened Erik in ways he didn't want to admit.
Charles slid onto the piano stool next to him, "I couldn't sleep either."
Erik watched as his fingers spread over the keys, "Do you play?"
"Not for a very long time," Charles murmured in response, plucking a few discordant notes and wincing, "It could probably do with a tune. What about you, my friend? Do you play?"
"No." Erik watched Charles' pale hands flex and move over the piano, beginning to pick out snatches of tunes.
Suddenly, the chilling notes of a familiar piece were echoing in the room and Erik reacted instantly.
Charles right hand was yanked away from the keys sharply, eliciting a slight hiss.
Erik had sensed the small, metal surgical pin that sat beneath the skin of Charles hand the minute they'd met and he knew Charles must have realised that. He had never planned to use it against Charles unless he was betrayed and felt a twist of guilt as Charles' wide, hurt eyes fixed on him.
But that tune was a betrayal, he told himself furiously. Charles must have looked and seen and picked it deliberately, trying to rile him and get under his skin and…
Except Charles' gaze was confused and innocent. Erik realised he had picked the tune at random, an ill fated choice that was devoid of malice.
He tightened his jaw. "Please," he said stiffly, "I am not fond of that…particular piece."
"May I ask why?" Charles said softly.
Erik let silence stretch out long and heavy between them for several moments.
"Shaw played it." he murmured simply, offering no further explanation. He did not add while he shot my mother.
It was enough to make Charles' eyes soften with apology though, and his voice was gentle when he spoke, "Forgive me. I did not mean to dredge up bad memories."
"It's alright." Erik gestured to Charles' hand, "I should not have used that against you."
"It's quite alright." Charles smiled at him and Erik regarded him curiously.
"You must have broken it badly, to require a pin?"
Charles stiffened and Erik was hit with a sudden wave of fear and panic and shame that didn't belong to him.
There was a ghost sensation of mocking laughter and the feel of the bones of his hand shattering under the tread of a shoe.
The sensation abruptly pulled back and Charles was stammering and avoiding his eyes.
"I'm sorry! I didn't mean for that to happen. I don't usually let things spill over like that…" He laughed nervously, "I must be tired, sorry."
Erik eyed him, "Who was that? Who broke your hand?"
Charles gaze was on the keys of the piano, "My stepbrother," he finally admitted after a sigh. "Cain had a nasty temper. His father made a comment about how playing music was a worthy intellectual pursuit and…well…" He offered a twisted smile, "Cain decided it would be much harder for me to continue such a pursuit with a broken hand."
Erik felt rage flare up in him, a murderously protective urge in his veins. It seemed Charles' childhood had not been as comfortable as he had assumed.
"Pointless. After your hand healed you could just continue to play," he said with surety. He couldn't' imagine Charles giving up on anything.
Charles gave a smile that didn't reach his eyes, "No. I stopped after that. I'd only learnt anyway for…well, for mother. She liked to listen to piano music and I thought that if I learnt for her it might please her." He gave a casual shrug that was juxtaposed by his expression. "But she took no interest in it, so there was little point in continuing."
Silence fell again, as heavy as the layers of dust in the room and Erik noticed that Charles was rubbing his hand absently.
He pulled it towards him using the pin, though with much more gentleness this time.
"Did I hurt you?" he asked, "I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Erik" Charles smiled at him, the old sorrow bleeding out of his eyes into something warmer. "Just a little sore."
Erik realised he was still holding Charles hand and found himself fascinated by how it was almost swallowed in his own.
Charles' fingers were delicate and smooth against the roughness of his own fingers and his thought process seemed to have shut down as he raised the back of his hand to his lips.
It was a chaste brush against the skin directly over where he knew the pin to be, more symbolism than passion.
But Charles' face lit up like a super nova regardless and he didn't stop smiling even as Erik released his hand and turned his eyes back to the keys.
"Play for me?" he asked quietly.
Charles' fingers settled on the keys, and his thigh was warm where it pressed against Erik's.
The joyous swell of the major keys and the sharp melancholy of the minor notes filled the room until dawn.