Charles has just about given up on having any kind of interaction with Erik before the girls are born, so he's somewhat stunned when Erik walks into his study one day, sits down in the chair in front of Charles' desk, and frowns.
"Where's our game?" he demands.
"...I put it away," Charles says. "I do need space to work, you know. Surely you didn't expect me to keep it sitting on my desk indefinitely."
Erik gives him a look suggesting he'd expected precisely that. Truth be told, that would have been the case if he'd come by anytime within a week after their discussion; after the first seven days, even Charles had had to admit it was unlikely their game would be continued.
"We could set up a new game," Charles suggests.
"I was winning the other one."
"That you were. Let's say I conceded it, and begin a new one." Charles rolls backward and retrieves the chess set from its shelf, then rolls forward and begins setting up the game on his desk.
"Are we saying you conceded it, or are you actually conceding it?" Erik asks.
"There's not much of a difference, really."
Erik raises an eyebrow at him. "Isn't there."
Erik's more than capable of getting in a snit for even less of a reason than usual when it comes to games, but he doesn't sound angry about this. He doesn't look angry, either. If Charles didn't have a great deal of recent evidence to the contrary, he'd almost think Erik were flirting with him.
"All right, you've got me there; I concede our previous game. Although you were cheating."
"Cheating. Blatantly. So it's not all that prestigious a win for you, really."
"A win's a win," Erik says. Then he winks, and there's no way to interpret that as anything but flirting.
Charles doesn't have the first idea where this is coming from. He has the vague sense that he's grinning like a fool. "Well, in that case, two can cheat."
"Stay out of my head."
"That's not at all what I meant," Charles says, before Erik can work himself up. "You'll see."
Charles is losing the game badly by the time he finishes and then sends in the first of the cavalry, a lumpily-formed queen that began life as a handful of pennies. He slips it onto the board as soon as Erik isn't looking. When Erik looks back at the game a moment later, he does an immediate double-take.
"You're in check, by the way," Charles says. He doesn't see the point of being subtle.
They play several more games, all of which Charles loses despite his unduly-acquired queens - as he presumed he would, given that Erik knows what he's planning to do with them.
Erik leaves as soon as the last game ends; he returns around the same time the following day, and they do it all over again. Their talk is all of the game itself, or of babies and mutations - usually their own, but occasionally Alex and Darwin's.
At no point does Erik speak of his plans. At no point does Charles ask. Much as he'd like to press Erik, much as it's killing him not to know, he doesn't wish to drive Erik away.
On the sixth day that Erik comes by, the lift doors disappear from the hallway.
"I don't suppose you'd know anything about that, would you?" Charles asks. He's teasing; he thinks it's far more likely that Hank's taken them for whatever reason.
"What would I want with your lift doors?" Erik asks.
It's not a no - and so when Charles wakes up the next morning to someone rudely poking him and his lift doors floating menacingly above his bed, it's not terribly surprising.
Alarming? Certainly. But not surprising.
"Charles." The finger digging into Charles' shoulder retreats, then prods at him again, harder this time. "Charles, wake up."
Charles sighs and says, "Erik, what -"
Which is when he actually looks at the lift doors and realizes they're...not his lift doors anymore. The object floating above him used to be his lift doors, there's no doubt of that, but now appears to be a -
"Why," he amends, "are you levitating a wheelchair around my room?" He feels a tugging sensation from within, which causes the chair to shudder slightly toward him. "And would you mind setting it on the floor now? I have every faith in your ability to keep it aloft, but Emily seems to want it very badly. I'd prefer not to be crushed this early in the day."
Erik flicks a finger at the chair, which backs away and descends to the floor.
"You look a bit grumpy. Were you expecting a reaction from me? Are you upset that I didn't squawk, cover my head with my hands? I could make a better effort, if you'd like."
Erik rolls his eyes, which is as good as an admission in Charles' book. "That won't be necessary," he says. A moment later, he adds, gruffly, "Well? Do you like it?"
"I suppose so," Charles says carefully, though he hasn't given the chair itself much more than a glance in favor of peering at Erik and trying to read his motives from his facial expression. "What's this really about?"
Erik gives him a sharp, impatient look, as if he expects Charles to follow along with what he's thinking without the benefit of actually reading his mind. "If I'm going to stay, you're not going to keep using that." He waves a hand at the plastic wheelchair sitting by the bed.
"What?" Charles heard the words, but it takes several moments before they make any sense inside his head. When they do, he sucks in a breath and says, "So you've decided, then? You're going to stay?"
Erik stares at him long enough that Charles thinks he must have misheard, must have misunderstood - and the bitterest part of the disappointment is that he knows, he really does know better than to get his hopes up, by now.
But then the color drains out of Erik's face. "You want me to," he says, looking horrified, like he thinks Charles is going to say, 'No, of course I don't want you to stay, Erik. I was only pulling your leg when I said I did.'
"...Ye-es," Charles says, taking a moment to let himself catch up. "Yes, I do. I'm certain I said as much, before. There was a clear statement on my part. I'm surprised you don't remember it, considering you were there." The 'you idiot' is implied strongly enough that Erik can likely pick up on it without reading his mind. Charles' fondness, his relief, is stamped even more strongly onto every word. He doesn't think there's any way Erik could miss the fierceness of his joy, written plain in every thought.
As Charles speaks, the color comes back into Erik's face. By the time he's finished, Erik is once again regarding him with an impatient expression.
"Aren't you going to try it?" Erik asks.
"Not right this moment. I won't even be properly awake for -" Charles glances at the clock on his bedside table "- three hours yet."
Charles is toasty warm and comfortable underneath his blankets; he simply does not have the inclination to bother with the logistics involved in getting out of bed right now. He'll reacquaint himself with his former lift doors when he's good and ready, and then only if he decides to go along with it. Irritating as Erik may find this, he'll live. Charles has been waiting, he's been waiting so patiently for Erik to come to him; Erik can stand to wait a little too.
Erik goes a little red, and opens his mouth. Before he can say anything, Charles lifts up one end of the blanket and says, "You're welcome to join me."
Erik closes his mouth. He looks very...young, suddenly. Young and uncertain, and not a little shy.
Charles feels rather overwhelmed himself.
"Hurry it up, now," Charles says. "I haven't got all morning." He'd like to be asleep again within a quarter of an hour or so, and he'd prefer to do it with Erik petting his hair.
"What would I want to do that for," Erik says, unconvincingly. He climbs into the bed beside Charles, somehow just as graceful as he ever was, if slower and more careful.
"I notice you're not denying it." Charles waits for Erik to get himself situated, then maneuvers himself closer and curls up next to him as best he can. He lays his head on Erik's shoulder and his hand on Erik's stomach. It's like letting out a breath he's been holding for...minutes, days, weeks, months, maybe ever since the last time they lay together this way.
Charles doesn't fall asleep as quickly as he means to, largely due to Erik distracting him by playing tug of war with Emily over some of the metal things on Charles' stomach. After a while, he finds himself idly wondering about the metal wheelchair, the meaning behind the gesture. The most obvious answer is that Erik is trying to level the playing field between them. If that's what it is, he's going to be disappointed; except for when Erik has his helmet on, Charles will always have the advantage over him. He could be sitting on ten times his own weight in metal and still have it.
He doesn't suppose he'll say this to Erik - at least, he'll try not to. He can only imagine Erik's reaction if he did; he might take to wearing the helmet everywhere in a fit of paranoia.
Charles pictures him wearing it to bed, or to the dinner table, and can't help sniggering.
"I wouldn't wear the helmet to the dinner table," Erik says, sounding oddly furtive. "That would be stupid."
"All right, then," Charles says, amused. He closes his eyes and tries to think somewhat more magnanimous thoughts.
This isn't how Erik had expected this to go. Charles was supposed to shriek when he woke up to see the wheelchair, but he didn't. Then he was supposed to be impressed about Erik's engineering genius, but he didn't do that either. He was supposed to drive it around and he didn't, then they were supposed to have sex (possibly on the wheelchair) and they didn't. And now Charles is asleep, using him as a pillow, he's once again sabotaged everything Erik wanted to do, and Erik can't even manage to summon up much annoyance about it.
Erik's arm is going numb, but he can't move it. That might wake Charles up. Charles, whenever he wakes up, might change his mind. Better not to jostle him. Better not to reach out his other hand to stroke Charles' hair (not that it's not tempting, but he won't give Charles the satisfaction of waking up to find him doing it). Better not to move at all, not to even breathe any louder than he has to.
Stillness and quiet are old tools in Erik's repertoire, and they come to him easily now. Waiting is familiar, too. And doing it with Charles beside him, warm and comfortable and solid - that's not a hardship.
Erik doesn't plan to go to sleep, but that doesn't go as expected, either. He wakes up several hours later to Charles shifting next to him, yawning and patting Erik up and down in that absent-minded, familiar way he always used to.
Erik catches the exact moment Charles remembers. It's in the way his hand falters on Erik's gut, the way he might as well have said '...oh,' for as loudly as Erik hears it in his head. He looks like he's woken up to find himself unexpectedly petting a shark.
"Good afternoon, Charles," Erik says, enjoying the upper hand. He'd thought he'd lost it for a while there.
"Ah," Charles says. "Good afternoon." He smooths his hand over Erik's gut then, and it's different this time, all casual possession. "You're still here."
"Evidently." Erik had the upper hand a second ago, but it's gone now, fled to wherever it goes when he's with Charles. He doesn't know why he thought it might be different this time, how he thought he could feel anything but exposed before him.
"Good. That's good." Charles thinks for a beat - Erik doesn't get any of the details, just a murmur, low and warm at the back of his mind - then says, "Well."
His hand is still on Erik's gut, his thumb stroking back and forth. Erik can't think about anything else; he can barely even breathe. He rolls onto his side so they're facing each other. Charles' hand slides over to his waist.
"'Well,' what?" Erik asks.
"Well," Charles says again. Erik doesn't miss the mischief in it; Charles never has had much of a poker face, and it's even worse now than it used to be. "It's about time we were up and about, don't you think? You know, we really have a great deal we ought to -"
Before he can say 'talk about,' Erik leans forward and kisses him, hard. Charles is expecting him this time, kisses back with a heat, an intent, that makes him want so much more. Erik's in a better position for this than he was the last time, too - he's not going to end up with even more of a backache than usual, for one thing - and when Charles tugs at him to bring him closer, he goes eagerly.
Erik had completely forgotten about that thing from before, and so when the giggling starts, he jumps, lurching away from Charles in surprise.
Realizing what it is, who it's coming from, he looks down at his gut.
"...Er," Charles says.
"It doesn't matter," Erik decides, and moves back in - but Charles holds him off.
"Let's give it a minute and see if they stop," he says.
Erik rolls his eyes. They wait. The giggling tapers off after a few seconds, but as soon as they resume and things get heated it starts again, even louder than before.
"I don't care," Erik says when Charles pulls away.
"You may not, but I most certainly do." Charles looks just as frustrated as Erik is: red in the face, breathing harshly. He bites his lower lip, which only ramps up Erik's sense of frustration, thinks something more Erik can't quite make out, then lays his hand on Erik's gut and says, "Quiet down, the both of you." Nothing happens. After a few seconds, he adds, "It's grownup time now. Go to your rooms."
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard you say," Erik says. It's probably the stupidest thing Charles has ever said, period, but he's willing to allow that Charles might have said something even stupider sometime Erik wasn't around to hear it.
Charles raises a skeptical eyebrow and says, "Yes, well, I'd like to see you do better."
As much time as Erik spends having conversations with his gut, he tries to keep them private. They're no one else's business. But this is important, and no matter how humiliating it is, there's no way he could manage to sound stupider than Charles.
He looks down and says, "Now."
And just like that, the giggling stops.
Charles stares at Erik, his mouth hanging open. "How did you - oh, that's not fair. That is so utterly not fair."
"What isn't?" Erik asks, smirking as he moves back in and finally, finally gets to nip at Charles' jaw and get his hands under Charles' shirt without anything - or anyone - ruining the moment.
"It's not fair that you get to have the scary daddy voice when I'm the one who can kill people with my mind."
As if Charles ever would. Erik's pretty sure he's only bringing it up because he thinks it turns Erik on when he says things like that in bed.
Erik hisses into Charles' ear, "I can kill people with my mind. I just need a conduit." He rattles all the metal in the room for a second to help make his point.
Charles rolls his eyes and laughs. Then he reaches out for Erik, reels him in and kisses him hard until they're both breathless.
All Erik can manage to do in response is hold on, hold on tight to Charles, lest he drown.
"Don't touch me," Erik snaps, jerking his arm out of Charles' grasp. "You've done enough." He storms off without another word, heading down the hall, around the corner and up the stairs.
Charles tracks him as he goes, a horrible sinking feeling in his stomach.
Things have been going so well for weeks now - nearly two months, in fact. Though Charles still has a moment of panic every time he wakes up in the morning to find himself alone, the only sign of Erik (nearly always the earlier riser) an Erik-shaped impression in the sheets, he really had begun to think that this was all going to work out without any further complications.
On the heels of the dread comes anger, because how dare he, how dare he go and act like this, without so much as an explanation? All Charles even did was pat him on the arm in greeting, and this is the reaction he gets? What the hell?
Oh, he's going to give Erik a piece of his mind - just as soon as he catches up with him.
Charles follows Erik up, taking the lift to the top floor. Erik, predictably, has gone all the way up to the roof, where he thinks he's safe.
Charles rolls to the bottom of the staircase leading upward, and considers. It's narrow, yes, but this still ought to be manageable once he adjusts his chair a bit. He's discovered over these past few weeks that, thanks to his growing affinity for metal and his new chair, he can get to areas in the house that were formerly impractical if not impossible for him to reach on his own. He's been trying not to get too accustomed to floating himself around, but it comes in very useful at times like this.
I'm coming up, he projects to Erik. If I should begin to fall, I expect you to catch me.
Erik isn't very good at projecting, so what Charles gets back is not so much words as it is a general sense of 'what-stay-away-don't-you-dare,' underlaid with a whiff of abject misery that completely contradicts it.
"Oh, for god's sake," Charles mutters to himself. "Would you make up your mind."
He intends to make the wheelchair an inch or two thinner to facilitate his ascent, but when he reaches down to check how much space he has to work with - and to make sure he doesn't accidentally cut off his own circulation without knowing it - there seems to be less of a margin than usual.
Further investigation of the matter brings to light that it's not that the wheelchair is any narrower than usual, but that Charles himself is...rather wider in the hips than he had been even as recently as this morning.
Exploration beyond that reveals that there's been quite a bit more than wide hips added.
Charles thinks he understands Erik's outburst now. Frankly, he feels a bit ill about it himself. But it is awfully hypocritical on Erik's part, considering he's the one who's spent a great deal of time and hot air over these past weeks informing a fretting Alex that there's no reason to worry, because as a pregnant male mutant, Darwin (and, by extension, Erik and Charles) will obviously be able to adapt perfectly to every pregnancy-related challenge he might come up against.
Erik has been full of completely nonsensical opinions about evolution and mutation this entire time, no matter how often Charles tries to tell him that it doesn't really work like that; yet, when mother nature gifts Erik with her best tools for birthing babies naturally, he decides he doesn't like it. See if Charles puts up with any more of Erik's speeches. Erik can go on about 'blah blah mutation, blah blah evolution' all day long if he likes; Charles still won't pay him any attention.
Floating up the stairs is a somewhat harrowing but ultimately exhilarating endeavor. Charles emerges onto the roof to see Erik at the railing, facing away from him and looking out at the grounds. Since the roof isn't really made for wheels, Charles continues floating an inch or so off the surface as he makes his way over to Erik.
When he's just about there, Erik looks at him and says, dryly, "'Blah blah mutation, blah blah evolution.'"
"Yes. Well. You deserved that." Charles feels himself flushing. Then, before he can think better of it, he blurts, "I really wish the two of you would stay out of my head." He immediately wishes he hadn't when Erik bursts out laughing. The man really is a terrible hypocrite. "If you're quite finished having a tantrum, let's head back downstairs, why don't we? It's beastly hot out here."
He reaches out to put his hand on Erik's hip - his hips are definitely wider than normal, now that Charles is paying attention - and though Erik stiffens for a moment, looking immensely irritated, he doesn't pull away.
"What were you doing up there this time?" Charles asks with a frown when Erik comes down from the roof.
Charles has some sort of issue with Erik being up there. Erik doesn't know why; it's not like Charles can't come and get him when he wants to. It's not like he doesn't all the time now that he's figured out how.
"I was taking measurements," Erik answers, gesturing at Charles with the tape measure.
"The machine guns," Erik says.
Charles gives him a flat look. "Machine guns."
"Mounted machine guns," Erik clarifies. He fully intends to get a few Uzis too, but that's a secondary concern. "I needed the measurements to decide how many we need." By 'need' he means 'can fit'; you can never have too many machine guns.
"We are not mounting machine guns on the roof."
It's cute that Charles thinks that; this is why Erik gets to be in charge of defense, offense, and everything else remotely security-related.
"Yes, we are," Erik says. "You can afford it. Two dozen or so should do it to start with."
"You are entirely missing the point," Charles says. "For one thing, no one here knows how to use a machine gun, mounted or otherwise."
"...Be that as it may, if we were investing in anything like that, which we most certainly are not, twenty-four would be overkill. Even you couldn't operate that many at once, surely."
"Yes, I could," Erik says, more than a little affronted at Charles' lack of faith in his abilities.
Charles stares at him some more. He's gone a little red. "Even so, the answer is still no."
Erik ignores this; Charles will come around eventually. Time to move on. "We're going to need a jet, too."
"We have Hank," Erik explains. "We might as well use him."
Charles pinches the bridge of his nose. "And where would you suggest we put such a thing?"
"Under the basketball court," Erik says. He's proud of that; he's actually given it a lot of thought.
"We're not putting a hangar under the basketball court; that's just ludicrous," Charles says through gritted teeth. "We're not putting one anywhere else, either."
Erik doesn't know what his problem is. Charles has spent the last week making Hank, Alex and Sean rearrange furniture all over the house, but God forbid Erik try to change anything. Charles is being completely unreasonable about it. He won't even let Erik have his knife collection in bed at night. Erik can't believe Charles cares more about redecorating than keeping their family safe.
Erik can't wait until this is all over; maybe they'll be able to have a reasonable discussion about it once he doesn't have to spend the whole time arguing around Charles' idiotic nesting instinct.
One way or another, Erik is getting that jet. And that hangar.
But first things first.
"You should give your accountant a call," Erik says. "There's still time to get moving on the machine guns today."
Charles looks Erik up and down, then breathes hard out of his nose and wheels away.