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[personal profile] nekosmuse
Title: Love's Own Crown (1/?)
Series: The Sonnet Series (aka the sequel to An Ideal Grace)
Rating: Eventual NC-17 (who am I kidding, this sequel is mostly porn)
Pairing: Charles/Erik
Fandom: XMFC (non powered, modern AU)
Summary: Follows An Ideal Grace, in which Charles and Erik navigate the complexities of their new relationship.

Notes: [personal profile] afrocurl has once again graced us with her lovely poetry. A thousand thanks. [personal profile] stlkrchck has once again offered to be my New York resource. I cannot tell you how helpful that's proven. Thank you.

swelling heart

a slow rise and

not the dread,
fear, loathing




new light,
new turn,


Erik Lehnsherr, October 2011


Erik liked Dr. Frost's couch. When he and Charles got a place together, he was going to buy one just like it.

Maybe not in white, though. Red, perhaps, or maybe a nice regal purple--Charles, he thought, would probably prefer the purple. They'd have to find an apartment that was a little more modern--something newly renovated, maybe--the couch far too Avant-garde for your standard box apartment. Certainly it wouldn't fit in his current apartment, but they'd need more space anyway--there was no way they could squeeze three people into the place, not comfortably.


A house, maybe. Could they afford a house? Probably not in the city--though there was still the possibility that Charles had money. They hadn't talked about it, though even if he did Erik would still insist on finding something they could split down the middle. Maybe half a duplex, or the bottom floor of a brownstone. Raven had always wanted a yard. Something fenced so that she could sit outside in the sun and feel warm and safe. Maybe Erik could try his hand at growing some herbs. Gardening couldn't be any harder than cooking. Did Charles cook, he wondered.


Probably not, Erik realized, thinking of the barren wasteland that was Charles' kitchen. He'd eaten three bowls of cereal there--three breakfasts, he thought with a smile--and each and every one had been stale. No, Erik would continue to do the cooking. Raven and Charles could trade off clean ups and table settings.


They'd have to work out a system. It probably wouldn't be much different from his current system, save that there would be three people involved instead of two. Raven would undoubtedly be thrilled by the prospect of dividing her chore list.


Erik blinked, Dr. Frost coming into focus. A quick glance to his watch showed him that the session had started ten minutes ago. Where the hell had he been?

"Are you with me again?" Dr. Frost asked. Erik tried--and undoubtedly failed--not to appear as flustered as he felt.

"Sorry, I was working out the logistics of living arrangements," Erik said. It sounded stupid when he said it out loud. He didn't even know if Charles wanted to live with him, never mind that they'd only technically been dating five days now.

Five lovely, perfect, incredible days that left Erik grinning whenever he reflected back on them.


Erik shook himself. "Sorry." It took a good deal of effort, but he finally managed to focus his attention on Dr. Frost. She seemed more than a little concerned. It wasn't a surprise when she opened the conversation.

"I've left you a handful of messages, Erik," she said, and she had, he remembered now, all cautioning him against going after Shaw, and then asking him if he'd seen Shaw, and then repeatedly asking him if he was all right. "I must say, I'm surprised to find you in so good a mood. Can you tell me what happened?"

Erik couldn't help himself; he grinned--and then grinned wider when Dr. Frost arched an eyebrow.

"Charles isn't a student," he said, as though that explained everything, except apparently it didn't, because Dr. Frost looked like she was expecting something more.

So Erik told her everything.

He told her about his confrontation with Shaw--she seemed less than impressed. He told her about learning that Charles was a professor. He told her about their new relationship, and how Charles had had to stop coming to his classes because on Monday he'd come and Erik had been too distracted to teach. He told her about spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday night at Charles' place. And about how he'd spent Monday at home, feeling guilty for having abandoned Raven three nights in a row--the next morning she'd told him he was being an idiot, so he'd planned on spending Tuesday with Charles again, except Charles had had a breakthrough in his research and had ended up spending half the night in the lab. He told her how they'd tried to meet this morning for coffee and had ended up making out in Erik's office instead--which had made him late for class, which he would have cancelled had Charles not had to get back to the lab.

He told her in fits and starts, with a lot of prompting on her part, but he told her. When he was done, he smiled, fond and more than a little proud, expecting some sort of affirmation from her. Instead he found her frowning.

Erik's smile fell.

"You said I could date him. You said it was okay to have a crush. That it meant I was healing." And this was why he hated coming to psychiatrists, because just when he was starting to establish a rapport with one, when he was starting to feel comfortable with one--to like one--she had to prove him right; prove that every single shrink on the planet was simply waiting to rain judgement on him, like there was something horribly wrong with him when clearly--Charles was proof--there was not.

"Please relax, Erik," Dr. Frost said.

The corners of her mouth turned up slightly, her version of a reassuring smile. Erik, who was midway to pushing himself off her couch, eased back down onto it--he couldn't for the life of him figure out why, when all of his instincts were telling him to leave. His body remained taut with tension.

"I am not suggesting you can't date Charles, and I'm glad you and he are working towards something. My only concern--and it is a concern for you--is the speed at which this relationship seems to be progressing."

Erik frowned, brow furrowing, but before he could ask, Dr. Frost pressed on.

"May I ask a question?" she said. Erik nodded, curious now. "How long have you known this man?"

The question gave Erik pause. It felt like it was impossible to answer. It occurred to him as he considered it that he'd only been in New York five months now. He tried to remember back to when he'd met Charles. Was it the first week of September or the second? Either way that made it at somewhere around six weeks. Six weeks was long enough, wasn't it?

Erik sounded entirely too tentative when he answered, "Six weeks."

"And how long did you know Sebastian Shaw before he initiated a sexual relationship with you?"

Erik answered that question without pause. "Three months," he said, though after he'd said it he realized what she was driving at. It may have taken Shaw three months to lure Erik into his bed, but Erik would have gone well before then. He'd fallen for Shaw almost instantly; weeks after having met the man.

It was entirely possible that Dr. Frost was right. He might be rushing things a little. Certainly his plans for that brownstone now seemed a little hurried. It was entirely possible he shouldn't be picking out furniture either. Charles might not even like leather.

"Have you considered slowing down a little, giving yourself some time to get to know Charles? It would undoubtedly benefit you both," Dr. Frost said. Erik tried not to pout--because Erik didn't pout; had never pouted in his life--he really did. It was hard not to, though; especially now that he had what he wanted--what he'd always wanted.

What he thought he'd had with Sebastian, all those years ago. He hated that the thought made Dr. Frost right.


"Out of curiosity," Moira said, scanning the requisition Charles had placed on her desk, "exactly what are you going to do with these pigs?"

Charles arched an eyebrow, because Moira shouldn't have needed to ask the question. This would hardly be the first time a geneticist had used pigs in their research. As if to stave off Charles' inevitable question, Moira shook her head.

"I mean, physically, because the animal labs are over capacity at the moment, so I'm fairly certain they don't have room for," she glanced at Charles' requisition form, "twelve pigs, and you're sure as hell not keeping them in your office."

Charles made a face at that, because, yeah, that wasn't going to happen. For the first time in years his office was clean--in hopes that Erik would stop by and then they could spend a few hours making out on his couch--so even if he did have room for twelve pigs, it was out of the question, not to mention very against the rules.

"I can find a private animal lab," he suggested, because surely the school had some room in the budget for these sorts of things. Moira frowned--it was her budget after all--but Charles was confident he could convince her. The advantage, Charles knew, of finally making some progress on his research, despite having spent the better part of the semester too distracted to do anything save the preliminaries.

"Provide me a list, along with associated costs, and we'll see," she said, which was pretty much her version of yes. Charles smiled and then leaned forward in his chair, business settled for the day.

"So?" he asked, because she'd told her parents last night--in person--and he was dying to know their reaction. He had a twenty riding on her father getting misty-eyed.

Moira let out a little huff of air, like she thought Charles impossible but liked him anyway. It couldn't be helped, though, because he'd barely seen her all week--between Erik and his research things had been more than a little hectic--and he missed their gossiping.

"Yes, he cried," she admitted, "and then my mother promptly asked about grandkids, like we ought to get started on that even before the wedding."

Charles laughed at that. He could picture Moira with kids. She was a great adviser, and a fantastic friend, so it stood to reason she'd make a wonderful mom.

"But I can tell that's not really what you want to talk about, so go on, spill; what's he like in bed?"

Charles' smile grew more than a little soft. They hadn't had a chance to talk about this yet, save for Charles' excited phone call on Saturday morning--not five minutes after Erik had left--to let her know what had happened.

He wrote poetry on my hip, Moira, he'd said, still dizzy with excitement, barely able to keep his voice from cracking as he read it to her over the phone. He'd spent the entire week carefully not washing the area, but it had faded considerably--would vanish entirely before the week was out. Fortunately Charles had taken a dozen or so pictures, and then had carefully written the poem out in the leather journal Erik had bought him--it was delightful to find some use for it.

"Enthusiastic," Charles said, answering Moira's question. It was a good starting place, because he'd never in his life met someone so thoroughly interested in him. Erik couldn't seem to stop himself from touching--he'd grown so distracted in Monday's class they'd been forced to agree that perhaps now Charles ought to stop attending, lest Erik molest him in front of all of his students.

"That's it?" Moira asked--a fair question, except, for reasons Charles couldn't explain, he found himself reluctant to elaborate.

It was unlike him--he'd never once shied away from giving Moira blow by blow--sometimes literally--details of his sex life. Still, there was something about this that was different--or maybe it was just Erik, who seemed so intensely private, Charles loath to breach Erik's trust in anyway.


"It's actually kind of odd," Charles said, and then immediately clarified, "not the sex--that's fantastic--but it's pretty much all we've done. We haven't really had a conversation, or gone anywhere, or discussed anything. I keep meaning to, but then he'll give me this look or lick his lips and the next thing I know we're having sex."

He actually got the impression that Erik was a little sex-starved. In the last five days, they'd had sex thirteen times--and Charles was keeping count.

Not that he was complaining--really not complaining--but he rather expected by now they would have maybe had dinner, or made plans to have dinner. He didn't just want a physical relationship with Erik--and he was fairly certain Erik wanted something more, too. It was just a little hard to get there when he couldn't seem to think past tearing off Erik's clothes.

Across her desk, Moira was shaking her head at him, like Charles was an idiot for worrying about something like having too much sex. Still, it stood to reason, because Charles had had a lot of sex, but he hadn't had many relationships, and he was certain--very certain--that he and Erik had a connection that went beyond the physical. He wanted something beyond the physical.

"I know," Charles said, holding up his hands.

And he did, but he also knew he was an incredibly selfish bastard, and aside from convincing Erik to fuck him--which hadn't happened yet, their encounters limited to blow jobs and hand jobs; although Erik had quickly lost his earlier hesitancy where both were concerned--Charles couldn't think of anything he wanted more.


Erik stood outside Dr. Frost's building, tucked neatly under the green awning in order to avoid the late afternoon drizzle, and stared at his phone.

Was he allowed to call Charles? What exactly constituted slowing down? Did it mean not seeing Charles as often, or simply not having sex with Charles as often? It was entirely possible Erik should have thought to ask Dr. Frost for clarification.

The thing was, he wanted to call Charles, and aside from Dr. Frost's concern that he was getting too invested too fast--It's normal to get swept up in a new relationship, but I think, given your history, it would be good for you to slow things down a little, she'd told him--he could see no reason not to.

Unless she meant he was seeing him too often--although Erik didn't think such a thing existed--in which case calling was probably a bad idea. Still, she was always telling him it was his choice--his boundaries--so that meant he called the shots here, so if he wanted to call Charles he could damned well call Charles.

He called Raven instead.

"Am I moving too fast with Charles?" he asked as soon as she answered. There was a pause on the other end of the line.

"You're kidding, right?" When Erik didn't answer, she continued. "Erik, if you moved any slower, you'd be going backwards. Seriously, why are you worried about this?"

She sounded exasperated, which was to be expected, Erik knew, especially considering how frustrated she'd been with him while he still thought Charles was a student. She'd taken to beaming at him constantly since he came home on Saturday morning, offering teasing smirks whenever Erik glanced at the door or the phone or even out the window--laughing at him outright whenever he called to say he was spending the night at Charles' place.

She was also probably right. There was absolutely no reason he couldn't get swept up in this--just because, as Dr. Frost explained it, most people experienced the euphoria of dating at a far younger age didn't mean Erik couldn't experience it now. Dr. Frost had also told him that Shaw had undoubtedly stunted his emotional development. Instead of flirting with and dating people his own age, he'd been sucked into an unhealthy relationship that was far too mature for his age. It stood to reason that Erik would approach his relationship with Charles like most people approached their first relationships--and in a way, that was exactly what this was.

"Erik, are you even listening to me?"

And this, Erik suspected, was exactly why he need to stop seeing psychiatrists. When the hell had he started over-analysing every single thing that he did?

"Sorry. I just wanted to give you a head's up that I'm inviting Charles to dinner tonight. Can you make sure the house is presentable? And if you want, you can invite Azazel."

His statement was met with silence. Erik could almost see Raven smiling into her phone. Erik still cleared his throat.

"Sorry, just picturing the look on his face when he sees you cooking. I think Azazel's working tonight, but dinner sounds like fun. Do you need me to pick anything up?" she asked.

Erik shook his head, despite her not being able to see. "I'll stop on my way home."

He hung up before she could put in an order--Raven loved to send him out to pick up the most embarrassing things, the least of which were her magazines. This time he stared at his phone for all of two seconds before bringing up Charles' number and hitting the call button.

Charles answered after two rings. He sounded a little breathless. It called to mind the ragged breath Charles had taken this morning after they pulled apart, already late for their respective obligations. He'd leaned slightly away from Erik then, saying, If I don't leave now, I'm not going to leave, like Erik would have minded at all if he'd stayed.

"Erik?" Charles' voice brought him instantly back to the present.

"Hi," Erik said, feeling more than a little pathetic at having not come up with a better greeting. Still, this was what Charles did to him. It was several seconds before he could get his brain to start working again, and then he managed, "What are you doing?"

He'd started walking during his conversation with Raven, so in addition to being thoroughly damp, he was now nearing the subway station. He didn't want to lose his signal by going underground--some stations were fine, but on any given day that might change, and Erik didn't want to chance it--so he stood on the sidewalk in the drizzle, straining to hear Charles over the sound of traffic, a steady sea of pedestrians jostling him as they passed by.

"I'm in the process of calling animal labs, in hopes of finding someone who can host my pigs," Charles said. A dozen questions came to mind, most revolving around what exactly Charles intended to do with pigs, but Erik couldn't seem to force any of them past his lips.

"Too busy for dinner?" Erik tried, and he would be disappointed if Charles was, but he would understand--he had to tell himself this twice before he believed it.

"Not at all," Charles said. He sounded delighted by the prospect. "Where and when?"

A woman in an overcoat knocked against Erik with her bag--a monstrosity of a thing that undoubtedly carried enough supplies to see her through World War Three. Erik shifted so that he was pressed against a building. He couldn't seem to wipe the smile from his face.

"Actually, I thought I'd cook." There was a pause--a rather long pause--during which Erik panicked and wondered if he'd made a mistake. Maybe all Charles was interested in was casual dating and sex--and God, why hadn't Erik considered that possibility sooner?

But no, that couldn't be it, because he knew Charles--better than Dr. Frost seemed to think he did, anyway--and there was no way Charles would have waited as long as he had if he'd only been interested in sex.

"Should I bring anything?" Charles said then, Erik instantly relaxing. There was something in Charles' voice--some hesitancy--that named Charles' pause for what it was. Erik's smile grew teeth. Suddenly the space around him seemed to double in size, pedestrians avoiding the manic-looking man grinning into his Blackberry.

"Just yourself," Erik said, and then, "Is seven too early?"

"Not at all," Charles said, promptly this time, and Erik was fairly certain he sounded eager. It eased the last of Erik's tension, Erik ending the call with a promise to see him tonight. He tucked his phone back into his pocket, and then descended into the subway.


Charles took a cab.

It had less to do with laziness and more to do with wanting to keep the cuffs of his jeans dry.

He'd not done this before, had dinner at a boyfriend's house--was that what Erik was now? His boyfriend?--so he had no real idea of what to wear. He'd decided on something a little bit casual, something a little bit trendy, and according to Moira--who he'd forced to come over and help him decide--he looked quite edible.

Is this our first official date, then?, he'd asked, Or does a neutral location have to be involved? He still didn't know, and neither had Moira, telling him only that it probably didn't matter--though Charles knew better than that; of course it mattered.

He was starting to wonder now if he was underdressed. Certainly he felt underdressed, given that Erik's building had a doorman--he'd forgotten about that.

His mother would undoubtedly be impressed.

Charles paid the cab driver and quickly exited the car, ducking through the rain and into Erik's building, the doorman holding the door wide open to accommodate him.

"Um, hello," Charles said, because he hadn't actually thought to ask Erik what number he was in. He only knew the building because of that time he'd shown up expecting to go to Coney Island--and learning that Erik had thought him a student put that fiasco in an entirely different light. "Sorry, do you happen to know which apartment..."

"Charles!" a voice called. Charles turned in time to see Raven step off the elevator. She gave the doorman a friendly nod. "Erik sent me down to fetch you. I think he was just getting tired of my straightening his collar."

Charles laughed at that, mostly because he'd had to endure Moira fiddling with his hair twice before she'd let him out of the house.

"So," Raven said as soon as they were alone in the elevator. She'd turned and was standing directly before Charles, blocking the elevator doors. "This is where you get the 'hurt him and I kill you speech'," she said, which was quite possibly the most ludicrous thing Charles had ever heard--especially considering how much effort she'd put into getting them together.

"I assure you, I will do everything in my power to avoid such a thing," he still vowed, because Raven looked quite serious and he was fairly certain, in a fight, she'd come out on top.

Then again, with the exception of Hank, he suspected most people would. Even Moira--but then, she was scrappy.

Raven smiled at that, seeming completely at ease now that she had Charles' word. She turned back to face the elevator doors, just as the elevator lurched to a stop, the doors sliding open. Charles swallowed against sudden butterflies as he followed her out into the hall.

It occurred to him then--not that he hadn't considered it before--that he was about to see where Erik lived. He was about to see Erik's life in a way he'd only fantasized about. When Raven finally stopped outside a door marked 4G it was all Charles could do to wait patiently, to not push past her to rush inside.

The first thing that caught his attention when she opened the door was the scent of cooking. Some sort of roast, Charles thought, though the sweet scent of onion and garlic caught his nose as well. He stepped into a tiny foyer that opened into a large space, where an open concept kitchen and living room merged seamlessly into one another. There, standing at the stove, was Erik.
He turned when he heard the door, and offered Charles a wide smile that grew soft around the edges when Charles returned it. Raven chuckled under her breath and then crossed to the kitchen.

"I think I can keep it from burning for five minutes if you want to do the tour," she said.

Erik looked doubtful, but when he caught Charles' eye the second time, he nodded and then handed her a wooden spoon.

"Constant stirring," he said, even as he crossed to the foyer, coming to stand directly in front of Charles. His gaze swept a line from Charles' head to his toes, Charles watching as his pupils dilated ever so slightly. He knew now what Moira had meant by edible.

"So, the tour," Charles said, though for as much as he wanted to snoop, all he really wanted at this moment was a quick tour of Erik's bedroom.

Well, maybe not a quick tour.

And this, he suspected, was why they never managed to do anything except have sex. It should probably be illegal to look as good as Erik did. For God's sake, the man was standing in his hall, barefoot, staring at Charles like he wanted to eat him.

Possibly a tour was a really, really bad idea--especially if dinner required any kind of attention.

"Hi," Erik said.

It was pretty much the last thing Charles was expecting to hear, but it also served to short-circuit his brain enough that Charles could pretty much only smile stupidly in response--which was exactly when Raven cursed, followed by the sound of something metal hitting the floor, Erik's eyes growing wide even as he spun.

"It's fine," she said, and then, "Except, I don't think it's supposed to be turning this colour."

Erik was moving across the room even as he called over his shoulder, "Sorry, the tour will have to wait, make yourself at home," which Charles took as his cue to snoop.

He shrugged off his jacket, hesitating for a minute before hanging it on the back of the doorknob. He wanted to see Erik's bedroom--really wanted to see Erik's bedroom--but instead he started in the living room, instantly spotting Raven's touch, Erik's office too Spartan for any of the knickknacks or artworks to be his. The furniture was practical, though, and very European looking. He wondered if they'd brought it with them, or had simply purchased new upon arriving. Everything, save perhaps the couch, certainly looked new.

There were no pictures, which Charles might have found odd, save he didn't keep any pictures. Still, most women he knew did, which meant either Raven was unique--which he suspected she was--or Erik had forbidden it. He wondered if that had anything to do with his parent's deaths.

Then again, Erik didn't exactly seem like the type to keep mementos.

Actually, there weren't many personal artifacts at all. The entire house looked like something out of a magazine. There were throws that matched pillows and frames that matched the coffee table, and an assortment of candles that looked like they'd never been lit. Charles took it all in; wanting in that moment to know everything there was to know about Erik. The apartment was giving him very little in the way of clues.

He completed his circuit of the living room and headed towards the kitchen--because here, he suspected, he would learn a good deal about Erik. Raven was standing by the sink, washing something that undoubtedly was giving her trouble--judging from the scowl she wore--while Erik worked frantically at the stove, trying to salvage whatever it was that Raven had ruined. For a moment Charles merely stood on the other side of the island and watched.

"I'm sorry about this. Dinner will just be a minute," Erik said, moving gracefully between pots and pans, so completely in his element that it took Charles' breath away.

"Take your time. I'm enjoying the view," Charles said, partly because it was true; mostly because he could. He watched, amused, as some of Erik's tension dissipated. Charles wasn't sure, but he thought that Erik was smiling.

The kitchen was easily the warmest, most inviting room he'd seen so far. It was filled with clutter, though neatly kept, suggesting that this was where Erik spent a good deal of his time. The glass-faced cupboards revealed more food than Charles suspected he'd bought in a year, rows upon rows of staples that Erik could undoubtedly craft into any meal imaginable. He was just contemplating a closer look when Raven appeared before him, holding a handful of plates.

"You can set the table," she said, gesturing to a tiny table in the back half of the living room. It sat under a narrow window, four chairs crowded around its base. It was already set with cloth placemats.

"Can do," Charles said, and set about completing his task.

Raven helped--a good deal in fact, Charles having no idea where to find anything--and by the time they were done Erik announced that dinner was ready. He shooed them over to the table, and then collected the plates--Charles frowned at that, wondering why he'd set them--bringing them back into the kitchen to serve. Charles occupied himself by uncorking the wine Raven had set on the table, filling the two glasses he'd set along with the plates.

"I'm not really a fan," Raven said when she caught him looking for a third. Charles nodded and set down the bottle. It was then that Erik reappeared, carrying two filled plates.

Charles was more than a little astounded by the meal that Erik set on his placemat.

In addition to cooking, Erik was apparently also quite adept at presentation. The plate before him easily rivaled some of the best restaurants in the city. Charles waited until Erik finished serving and took his seat to make eye contact.

"This looks incredible, Erik," he said.

Erik blushed, but he didn't say anything, ducking his head like he wasn't used to receiving praise. Charles made certain to comment--enthusiastically and quite honestly--on the meal several times during dinner. Erik, had he wanted to, could easily have pursued a career as a chef.

Midway through the meal Charles was beginning to see the logic of having Raven join them for dinner--not that he'd minded before, Raven easily one of his favourite people after everything she'd done for him. She led most of the conversation, asking Charles about his research, his hobbies, his education. Charles was in the middle of regaling her with stories from his time at John Hopkins when he glanced over to find Erik watching him, wine glass halfway to his lips, looking completely enraptured. He realized then what a golden opportunity this was.

"But now that I've embarrassed myself by telling you my first dissection story,"--God the mess he'd made, formaldehyde and vomit everywhere--"I think it's only fair I get to hear some of Erik's stories. What was he like growing up?" Charles asked, purposely ignoring Erik in favour of meeting Raven's eye.

He was more than a little surprised when they dimmed.

She glanced first to Erik, as though seeking permission, but it was still Erik who answered the question.

"Raven and I didn't grow up together. Raven's my foster sister. I was eleven when she came to stay at the foster home."

And that Charles hadn't known; hadn't even considered, though it made sense, knowing that Erik's parents had died--he still remembered the break in Erik's voice when he'd told Charles. It stood to reason that he'd grown up in foster care; that he'd met Raven there--certainly it explained why they looked nothing alike.

"I couldn't have asked for a better brother," Raven said then, disrupting the awkwardness that threatened to settle around them. Charles offered her a sympathetic smile, and then turned back to Erik.

"That must have been hard, living with strangers. I'm sorry," he said, but Erik only nodded, like it wasn't a topic he felt particularly comfortable discussing. Charles immediately dropped it.

He told them instead about having always wanted a sister, and how for a while, when he was seven, one of his mother's maids had had her granddaughter come and stay with them for two weeks while her daughter was in hospital. Charles' mother had been entirely disapproving of the arrangement, but she'd allowed it, and for two glorious weeks Charles had had a playmate--a sister. He left out the part where Kurt had found them playing in Charles' mother's closet, swathed in scarves and silk, a harmless game of dress-up that had ended with the girl--Charles couldn't for the life of him remember her name--being sent home early and Charles not being able to sit for several days afterwards.

When he finished, Erik was smiling fondly, casting the occasional glance at Raven, his fondness for her readily apparent. The conversation flowed easily after that.

After dinner, Charles offered to do the washing up, only to have Raven outright refuse, physically pushing Charles towards Erik as she cleared the plates, carrying them into the kitchen.

"It's her night," Erik said, and there was something in the way that he said it that made Charles think he meant something else entirely.

Charles couldn't for the life of him figure out what that was, so he simply stepped into Erik's space and said, "About that tour."

Erik smiled and offered Charles a hand--he still instinctively reached for Charles' uninjured one, even though tomorrow Charles would lose the splint and hopefully get some mobility back. It wasn't a surprise when Erik dragged him towards the hall that ran off the foyer. It was a surprise when he led Charles into a study rather than his bedroom.

Still, Charles wasn't going to complain, because this room at least said a lot about Erik. Erik, who had paused in the doorway, released Charles' hand so that Charles could do a circuit of the room. There were two desks--the one with the computer obviously Raven's; the only one with anything approaching clutter. Erik's desk, which sat in the middle of the room, facing out--a lot like the one in his office at the school--was cleared of everything save a small pile of textbooks--Genetics, Charles was pleased to note--and a familiar looking Moleskine.

It was the bookshelves that told the real story, though. Erik kept books in his office at the school, too, but they were all in his field--all poetry or critical analysis or paperbound essays kept in file-folders. Here some of his personal tastes bled through.

What surprised Charles--aside from the fact that Erik kept books in at least four different languages--was the abundance of nonfiction. He had books on philosophy and psychology and history and linguistics and a dozen other subjects besides. The collection was incredibly diverse, and while Charles recognized several as likely having been course books from Erik's own education, a lot of them were newly purchased, meaning that even now Erik's interests were diverse.

He was about to ask--because it seemed a likely avenue for discussion, one Erik wouldn't shy away from--when Raven appeared in the doorway. She was holding her iPhone in her hand.

"It's quiet tonight, so Azazel was going to knock off early, leave the closing to Pyro. He wants to know if I'm free to grab coffee," she said.

Erik stared at her for a moment, and then glanced back to Charles. Charles didn't miss the sudden heat in his eyes--so much for conversation, Charles thought, more than a little giddy at the prospect.

"That's fine," Erik said, turning his attention back to Raven. Raven shot him a smirk that suggested she knew exactly what her leaving had facilitated.

"Give me at least ten minutes to get ready," she said before she brought her phone back to her ear, falling immediately back into conversation with Azazel.

Erik waited until she'd swept from the room to extend a hand.

"I haven't shown you the bedroom," he said, and if Charles leapt forward to accept Erik's hand, well, he could hardly be faulted for his eagerness.

On to chapter 2

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