A/N: Based on a prompt from the kinkmeme. Crossposted from the Archive.
It's a harsh, harsh world for something so fragile as love to exist in. Erik knows this better than some, less than others. There's bad people out there, and anger and hate and endless fighting. In the life he's had, love has always seemed more of an unreachable luxury, like a sport car or a diamond watch, a full night's sleep or a place to call home.
It hadn't really mattered to him though, one way or the other. Love, as he knows, he knows, is fragile. Like sport cars and watches and homes, it's easily broken. But it hadn't mattered. It hadn't been important.
Yet somehow, one day, under a glaring sun having just stopped two world powers from blowing all of them to smithereens, Erik comes to the shocking realization that yes, he is in fact in love.
And now he's in a dilemma. He hasn't had time to consider this, to think about it, and Erik knows from painful, painful experience that barging into anything without thinking is a disaster waiting to happen. He should have realized, he should have known. Should have known he'd get attached to Charles's blue eyes and enthusiasm, to the young mutants and their struggles with themselves. He'd been stupid to stay.
He'd been…too distracted by Charles to notice.
He's learned that when he wants something, he has to take it. Take it, before it's taken away from him.
Only thing is, he doesn't think Charles returns his feelings. Because Charles doesn't really feel, does he?
Erik's no telepath, but in the short time they've been together, he's noticed that Charles wears his heart on his sleeve. He's happy or he's wistful or he's excited. Or he's sympathetic. Sincere.
While Erik…while Erik burns.
So, how would he appeal to Charles.
Logical arguments. He just needed to convince him to stay. He could deal with the love-stuff later. It's too early to confess his love anyways. They're not even dating yet. But if he does this right, if he can just do this one thing for himself, then perhaps maybe—?
So Erik lays out his words, the weapons of Charles's choice, not Erik's, and Charles answers, and Erik doesn't hear anything more because his heart's pounding so loudly and so quickly that it feels like it's going to burst. His skin feels clammy and for the first time in his life, Erik can't feel anything. No anger, not hatred, no joy.
And Erik doesn't blame Charles, not really, because why should he decide to go with Erik, when it had been Erik's fault that he's lying on the sand bleeding from a bullet wound in the first place. Charles wants to build a school for young mutants, to teach them and to help them learn. He doesn't need an ex-Nazi assassin with rage-issues being a bad influence on impressionable minds.
It's just…he wishes—and he's ashamed of his weakness, of the childish, selfish thought—that for once in years, he could have gotten what he wanted.
When Erik says blithely that they want the same thing, that he wants Charles by his side, Charles just kind of squints up at him.
Now? Now is when Erik decides that they should have the conversation where they discuss this…thing that they've had simmering between them?
Because in case Erik hadn't noticed, Charles is lying on sand with a bloody hole in his back. There's also the little possibly important and probably very bad thing where he can't feel his legs.
And Erik wants to talk about his issues. Charles doesn't feel up to discussing morals and philosophy with him at the moment, as enlightening and interesting as those debates tend to be.
Charles aches for some reason, and it's not even his wound. He aches deep inside in a kind of bone-deep weariness. Because the thing is, Erik, despite his cool demeanor, he burns. No matter the issue, no matter how practical the argument, there's always a deep seated passion there.
There's nothing coming from him, and Charles knows it's the helmet, knows that, but he can't get over the fact that there's simply nothing when there's always been something, not now while he's still bleeding and oh god—he can't feel his legs.
Erik just needs to say the right words and Charles knows he will follow him wherever he goes, no matter how dark his path, but he needs to say them because Charles can't hear his thoughts, can't know what he's feeling.
But the only words that he says are those cold, cold words of brotherhood and togetherness, something he recognizes as a speech, and it hurts, oh it hurts. It's kind of ironic how with all the metal on the island, Erik uses what Charles considers his own weapon to stab him in the heart.
So he shakes his head, and refuses, and watches as Erik goes still and then leaves, resisting the urge to shout, "I love you! Come back to me!" because Erik doesn't feel the same. Whatever the potential between them had been too fragile, too new to withstand this test.
He knows this. He understand this.
But when Erik vanishes in wisps of red smoke, all Charles can hear in the pounding of his own heart—and can no one else really hear it?—is that childish, childish wish that for once in his life, where it really truly mattered, he could have what he wanted.