Wait For It (2019)
Charles can feel Lorna scrutinizing him all morning. He's tempted to look to see why, but it's been a while since she's been okay with him poking around inside her head without permission. If he thinks about that too much he gets sad - she's growing up so quickly now; why can't she just slow down for a year or two? - but he knows it's like this natural part of growing into her own person and stuff.
So he waits, and waits, and early in the afternoon Lorna finally asks, "Charles, are you really my mom?"
She sounds just as skeptical about this as she should; not a surprise, considering that Erik is always lying to her, either because he thinks it's funny or because he doesn't like to answer awkward questions. Lorna, being an intelligent girl, knows exactly which adult she should always confirm new information with.
"...Let me talk to your dad first and then I'll get back to you, okay?" Charles says.
When Erik gets home from work, Charles calls him into the kitchen and says, "Erik, why did you tell Lorna that I'm her mother?"
Erik actually has the nerve to look affronted. "Well, she asked. What was I supposed to tell her, the truth?"
"You could have started with that, yeah."
Erik glances all around, then leans in close and hisses, "If you want to be the one to tell her that her mom doesn't want her because of the color of her hair, be my guest. I'm not going to be the one to break her heart."
Charles is fairly certain that that's a pretty slanted view of the problem; but he is also aware that when Lorna was two, Erik actually did try to get her mom involved in her life again. Erik has never said exactly how that went, but Charles can hazard a pretty decent guess, especially given that Erik spent two months afterward watching documentaries on the mutant separatist movement of the sixties and threatening to move to Genosha.
"Point taken," he says. "But why do I have to be the mother? It's because I'm shorter, isn't it? That is so heteronormative, Erik."
Erik raises an eyebrow and looks him up and down (it occurs to Charles that perhaps he should have waited to make this point until he's not sock-footed in the kitchen wearing an apron with frills on it, covered in flour and waving a spatula at Erik to punctuate his statement). "No, you idiot, it's because I'm the actual father," Erik says. "And anyway, you're the closest thing to another parent she has, so why can't you just go with it?"
It occurs to Charles out on the sidewalk later that the thing about him basically being Lorna's other parent is actually true. And that most people don't spend their summer vacations practically living at their best friend's apartment to watch their kid. And probably don't spend most of their evenings and weekends there during the school year either.
Oh, god. This is all really weird, isn't it?
"I think I'm having an existential crisis right now," Charles says to no one in particular, as he steps into the aircab.
It's his twenty-seventh such crisis this century.
Flagging down an aircab tonight was a bit of a mistake. If Charles wasn't having an existential crisis, he would have noticed it looked like rain and gone for a taxicab instead sine aircabs gum up so frequently when it's wet out. It's ridiculous.
As it is, he spends four hours fifty feet in the air waiting on the maintenance guy to show up, with nothing but the radio for company. He knows these things are computer operated and all, but he doesn't know why they don't at least put a robot or a mannequin or something in the driver's seat for stranded passengers to talk at.
After about ten minutes, he does call Azazel to come rescue him, only to learn that he's "in the middle of something, ifyouknowhatImean." Which is far more information than Charles cares to have, though if Raven weren't his sister he would certainly be jealous that she and Azazel are constantly getting it on even after fifteen years together.
He would call Moira to get her to enlist her on-again-off-again 'I do not date twenty-year-olds, so stop calling him my boyfriend' pilot dude Cassidy, except that they're off in like some warzone or the outback or something, which is so not helpful for Charles' needs here.
He could call Erik, and has when he's wound up in this situation previously, but somehow he'd rather not tonight.
By the time Charles gets home, he's decided: it's time to start looking for The One again. He's not sure why he ever stopped, but figures it must be because he needed a break from the stress and drama, even if he never consciously thought about it.
Maybe he's finally ready now. Maybe it's time.
It's with this thought that he spends three hours sweating over his online dating profile (the first of those hours is spent re-writing it, while the latter two are spent deciding which photo to go with). But when he goes to activate it, he freezes, because it occurs to him that if he starts dating again, if he meets some girl and they hit it off really well and marries her and moves to the suburbs and they have kids -
Well, then Lorna won't be such a big part of his life anymore, will she? Maybe she could come over to visit every so often, but that would hardly be the same as getting to see her every day like he does now.
Kids are resilient, but still, he thinks it would hurt her pretty badly. For sure it would hurt him; to the point that he's not sure that it's so much worth it to get back in the dating game. If there was a guarantee, then maybe (maybe), but -
It occurs to him, then, to wonder if Erik has ever considered dating. It's an idea Charles would have scoffed at, years ago; but then, Erik has settled so much since Lorna came on his scene. It wouldn't be at all surprising really, if Erik brought home some guy someday. And then Charles will be out in the cold, out of Erik and Lorna's lives whether or not he has a family of his own.
Charles thinks of some other guy refereeing the game of Slap Bet the kids always want to play when Lorna has friends over (Charles always, always has to veto the use of powers to administer slaps, particularly when the Summers brothers are in attendance), and he's never felt quite so miserable in his life.
Then he thinks about some other guy massaging Erik's feet late at night when he comes hobbling home from a long day at work, and - fuck that guy. He hates that guy. He can't stand that guy. He's going to make that guy think he's a Pomeranian for the rest of his life and then give him to some ten-year-old boy who really wanted a German Shepherd, who won't brush his fur so he'll get all matted and have to be shaved and look just really, really stupid -
Charles can't exactly go up to Erik and say, 'I apparently go into a murderous rage thinking of some theoretical guy putting his hands on you. I think I'm in love with you.' He's never had trouble putting his heart out there before, but then there's never been so much to lose before. He falls for people he's just met, or he doesn't fall at all; this is very much new territory.
He thinks he'd rather never confess this than bring it up and have Erik shoot him down. Things could get so much weirder, so much worse. He's never forgotten what happened the last time, and that was just sex.
So Charles decides not to bring it up at all. It's safer. Less risky. Better to go on as they have been.
It's a good decision, but it's driving him nuts already.
Charles doesn't think Erik notices the way he looks at him the next day, and he doesn't seem to be concerned when Charles begs off early either.
But when Charles makes an excuse about why he has to leave thirty minutes after Erik gets home for the third day running, Erik frowns and asks, "Is everything all right, Charles?"
"Everything's fine," Charles answers, plastering a too-big fake smile on his face.
It takes Charles almost a week to think of reading Erik's mind.
Not that it's guaranteed he'll find an answer; if Erik has never considered Charles in that way, never had an opinion about it, reading his mind won't be helpful. It's impossible to predict someone's future reactions to something they haven't thought about; even predicting reactions to something they have is a crap shoot at best, but at least the latter would give him something to go on.
He figures, considering that they do actually have a history (however brief), that it is more likely than not that Erik does have an opinion on the subject; further, that it is not anything Charles wants to know.
Charles doesn't look and doesn't look and doesn't look for nearly two whole weeks.
Then, one night after Lorna has been put to bed, Charles is on his way out, his hand on the doorknob when he just - can't, anymore. Not knowing if there's something to know - whether positive or negative - is driving him out of his mind.
So he'll look, and if it's good or bad or nothing at all, he can go home and deal with it privately, then spend the rest of forever pretending he didn't. It'll take no more than a couple of seconds, and Erik will never need to know a thing about it.
So he looks.
Charles doesn't know how long he's been standing there when Erik comes back into the room.
"Oh, I thought you already -" he begins, then stops dead because - well, it has to be all over Charles' face, doesn't it? There's a reason he never got away with snooping in Raven's mind when they were growing up, and that's because of the whole deer in the headlights thing he always has going on after he does. Which is why he meant to like leave after peeking into Erik's mind.
"I didn't know," Charles says. "Erik - I really had no idea." That Erik loves him; that Erik has loved him, for such a very long time. That that was a proposal, a real one, if ill-timed. The only thing that doesn't surprise him about any of it is Erik's emotional constipation. And you know, normally he would even comment on that, but somehow it doesn't seem to be the right moment for that kind of thing.
Erik turns white, swallows hard, and when he speaks his voice is hoarse. "Look, it doesn't matter. It doesn't have to change anything. Things are good the way they are. I don't need - things are fine the way they are."
Charles recognizes Erik's fear, now. He wonders how he's missed it for so long. He lets go of the doorknob, and steps toward Erik, and tries to find the words, the right words for this.
Charles has said 'I love you' on more first dates than he's proud of. He's said it on any number of second dates too. He's said it on no few third dates. Once he even waited until the fourth date, and praised himself for his self-control.
But he's not sure how to say it to Erik - whether because words said too soon and too often become cheap or because those words don't go far enough to express what he means, he doesn't know - so instead he says, "Erik - you and Lorna, you're my life. My world. My family."
This does not have quite the illuminating effect on Erik that Charles could have hoped for. Erik offers him a flat look, then says, impatiently, "What does that mean?"
"Well," Charles says, stopping just within arms' reach of Erik, "it means you're right: it doesn't have to change anything. But it could. I - I'd like it to, very much." He waits a few beats, then adds, "Erik, you obviously need to watch more chick flicks. That was totally your cue to kiss me. I mean, unless you aren't planning to, which would be like really stupid of -"
Erik's eyes go very wide somewhere in there, and then he totally cuts Charles' sentence off by stepping forward and drawing him close. He may not have seen very many chick flicks (or very possibly none, considering the gagging sounds he makes whenever Charles mentions them), but he's got the whole passionate 'God have I wanted to do this for like this whole movie and now that we're just about at the end credits I'm going to make up for all that wasted time' thing down pat.
Not much later - and honestly, they barely even make it to the bedroom, and that only because scarring Lorna for life is something they'd both prefer to avoid - Erik is above him, filling him, Charles' legs wrapped around his waist, and it's so good and about to get so much better -
But Charles wants more, so badly.
Other people's thoughts are boring or uncomfortable like eighty-three percent of the time. The other seventeen percent of the time (give or take like sixteen and a half percent) is...well, sex.
Charles raises his hand, touches his fingertips to Erik's temple, so lightly.
"May I?" he asks.
Erik goes very still, then says, "...Yes, do it."
But he's gone all tense, and when Charles just peeks into his mind he can practically see the 'no trespassing' signs. It occurs to him that bringing this up during may not have been the best plan.
"We really don't have to, Erik," he says. "If it's too invasive or whatever -"
"...That's not it. Don't be stupid, Charles," Erik says. "It's just - I've never - it's the only virginity I have left, okay?"
It takes Charles a few moments to come back from the realization that he could be a first for Erik. He really, really likes that idea; he's surprised just how much, actually.
Charles spreads his fingers out on Erik's face. "My mind to your mind," he intones in his best Nimoy (with a touch of Quinto too because how awesome was that trilogy?).
Erik snorts, then laughs, and relaxes just enough.
Charles dives in, and though he's tempted to go with everything all at once, he figures that might be a little much, and so he leaves the parts of Erik's mind that would amplify pleasure alone for now, as he gives Erik everything he himself is feeling, the weight of Erik above him, inside him, the angles of Erik's cheekbones against the tips of Charles' fingers -
"Fuck," Erik says in a low voice. He presses his forehead to Charles' shoulder and begins to move.
Charles loses himself to the rhythm of Erik's body, to the pulse of his mind.
In the morning, Charles wakes up first, and a quick check indicates that Lorna's up too, and likely in need of someone to keep an eye on her. And maybe to feed her too. Charles never makes it over here until later, so he's not really sure what the protocol is for breakfast.
He has his pants almost all the way back on when he notices Erik looking at him bleakly; notices, too, the parallel curling between them like cigarette smoke in the air.
Was Erik even paying attention last night? Like at all?
"Erik, really," Charles says as he zips up. "I will totally marry you, on one condition: you have to tell Lorna that I am not her mother."
The air clears immediately, like someone's opened a window.
"...I'll think about it," Erik says.
Erik makes pancakes for breakfast that morning. He tries to get Charles to do it, but Charles refuses on the grounds that he's not even technically alive before eleven a.m. and three cups of coffee.
Lorna takes Charles' presence at breakfast seemingly in stride, while Erik lets Charles flail around in the water all by himself when Lorna asks why he's wearing one of her dad's shirts.
When they're about done eating, Erik turns to Lorna and says, "Now don't get all upset but I have something to tell you: Charles is not your mother."
Lorna pulls a face, and she's never resembled Erik nearly so much as when she says, "Well duh."
Erik blinks, then shrugs. He reaches across the table for Lorna's cup of orange juice, and swallows half of it down in a single gulp.
"Ewww, Daddy," Lorna protests.
"Whine more," Erik says.
Lorna crosses her arms over her chest. "Daddy, that is so - that is so uncouth."
She's never sounded more like her -