Charles and Erik were playing chess. They were at the end game, the result already clear, with Erik in the lead. Charles would have to pull a miracle to get a victory out of it.
"Check mate." Erik said as he stood up. He took the glass and drunk the last bit of Sherry.
"What is wrong?" Charles asked. He remained seated, but looked at Erik expectantly.
"Nothing is wrong." Erik looked back at Charles. He was waiting for an answer.
"There are..." Charles leaned forward, supporting his head with an arm in a thinking position. "Never mind." Charles turned and started to clean the chess set.
Erik turned to him now and looked at him. "Don't start what you don't plan to finish."
Charles paused with a queen in his hand, turning it over before placing it in the box.
"You sometimes feel lonely when Raven talks to Hank or me to Moira. Not to mention that you were tenser around me today. And that time at the Russian general..."
Charles looked up and saw the displeasure written on Erik's face. He bit his lips. "I can't stop it, if people are screaming their thoughts."
Erik stepped forward, coming back to his chair, and put a hand on it, glancing at it. Then he looked at Charles. "There was one thing I was interested it."
"Hmm?" said Charles. His face was full of hope, as he dedicated his full focus to Erik.
Erik sat back down. "Why don't you let Raven be herself?"
Charles looked away, and took his glass of sherry, taking a sip from it. He looked at it, like thinking how is he going to choose his words. He bit his lips.
Charles looked at Erik, with apt concentration. "Sometimes people have to choose about being alone and being themselves." In his hand the glass rotated. "People still judge others by how they look."
"But is that not her own choice?" Erik said. He glared at Charles, challenging him.
Charles looked at his glass. "No, it is not."
Erik stood up and left the room. His pace was brisk, as he walked into the next floor to his room. He let his annoyance built up. But before he entered the room, he stopped, his arm supporting him on the doors as he sighed.
He opened the door, and he paused. There was Raven in his bed. "Well..." he said, as he closed the doors behind him. "This is a surprise."
"The nice kind?"
No surprise in bad had been a nice kind for him. He did not want to deal with it right now. "Get out, Raven. I want to go to bed." He started to walk toward the other end of the room to get her robe. He added a quip. "Maybe in a few years." Not that a few years could change anything.
"How about now?"
Erik turned around and he was met with the older looking Raven. She was smiling at him, challenging. At least she could drop her mask. "I prefer the real Raven." He could see her change in the mask she is usually wearing. "I said the real Raven."
She slowly changed into her blue form. She looked uncomfortable, shy. Erik looked her up and down. She was aesthetically pleasing. An formidable force.. "Perfection."
"Could you pass me my robe?" Erik did not even looked at the robe. To him, the cloths were just something that society expected the people to wear. She did not need them.
He sat next to her. If she could be proud of herself, she could be unstoppable. Like a predator. "You don't have to hide. Have you ever looked at a tiger and thought you ought to cover it up?"
"No. But..." Raven hid her face, shaking her head. Erik wanted to scream at her. How could somebody has such low self-esteem.
"You're an exquisite creature, Raven." She looked up to him. "All your life the world's tried to tame you. It's time for you to be free."
Erik leaned her face down to kiss her, but his body was tense. He wanted her to be proud of herself. He figured that this was a way she could feel accepted as a woman. But he also did not want to partake in anything more than a kiss.
The kiss was shorter than he expected. She was still inexperienced, which surprised Erik. They just looked at each other. Raven looked down, her eyes distant, but then the focused.
"You still want to sleep?" Raven said.
Erik thought to himself. Sleeping still sounded more fun, but he did not want Raven to feel unaccepted. He lived long enough thinking he is alone, to let any of his kind feel the same.
Raven started to stand up, and went to get a robe. She looked indecisive.
"I am tired, so yes. But you can stay." Erik said.
Raven turned around, a surprise written on her face. She smiled, and her face beamed. "Maybe another time."
But he could see that she is holding a piece of paper in her hands. The only paper there was the file, that he took from Charles room.
She looked a lot more confident, as she left the room, the robe in her arms. But then why did he have a feeling that she was worried about something.
Next morning, as he came for breakfast, he noticed how Raven was observing him the whole time. She had a thoughtful face on the whole time. Charles looked from one to another from time to time, but he did not comment on it. None of the others acted different, so Erik just assumed that it is siblings thing.
After breakfast Charles went to help Alex, Sean had a fighting lesson with Moira and Hank left to his laboratory.
Raven came to Hank, and she offered him a book
Erik took it and looked at it. It was a thin book, the title of it being 'Imre: A Memorandum', written by "Charles'?"
"It was given to him as a gift." she said. "I thought it might help you."
"Thank you." Erik said, as he weighed it in his hands. He tried to smile, but it was an awkward smile.
Erik spent the next day reading the book in pockets in time. It was a romance novella, not something he would be normally interested in. He could see some parallels, like the two strangers that meet and gain each other's trust. But did Raven think that he wanted to be with Charles?
When the dinner came, he left the book on the counter, as he helped to prepare it. He knew how much work does it goes into preparing food for a group of people.
Hank came into the room, and he picked up the book. Erik glanced at him, but did not otherwise paid him much attention. He did notice a frown on his face.
"Bozo." Alex welcomed him. "Help me with carrots?"
Hank put the book down, and stared at it some more, then went to the counter and started to cut carrots.
Charles moved himself away, making sure that the hands dripped as little as possible. He looked at the book. "That is a book a haven't read in a while."
"It is yours?" Hank asked in surprise. "I have not expected that."
"Xavier. My classmates thought it was funny." He said, a smile on his face. "It is not a bad book either."
"I like it too." Raven jumped in the conversation. "Quite well written."
Hank looked at the book. "It is not something a decent man," He glanced at Raven, "or woman would read." he said.
Erik noticed Charles stills as he narrowed his eyes, and then take a deep breath. But it was barely seen. It looks like the last comment pissed him off.
"I find nothing indecent in it." Charles said, in a flat voice. But he refused to look at Hank.
"The relationship described there is not natural." Hank started. "We were made to reproduce among each other."
"It is just as natural as anything a society considers normal." Charles said, as he put the salad away, to glare at Hank.
"You can't know that!" Hank said. He looked annoyed, with his arms crossed in front of him.
Charles pointed with two straight fingers to his temple and looked at him in question. "Can't I?"
He then realized that he was having wet hands, and he went and took a wipe cloth to dry it. But he then looked at Hank in expectation.
Hank looked uncomfortable and he turned away, ending the conversation. He continued to cut the carrots.
Charles' face fell down, but he also returned to his salad. "I am sorry."
After a tense dinner, Erik went to the Charles' study, the same as every evening. As he stood in front of the door, he paused. He only now realized how these meetings looked like. Even when the truth was far away from it.
"Are you going to stand here the whole evening?" Charles asked.
Erik turned around and he saw Charles standing behind him, with a couple of books in his hand. He raised them up. "I wanted to put some books back."
Erik opened the doors, then took the book that Raven lent him and put it on the top of the pile. Charles did not react, so he went and took a seat at the table, while he put the books away.
"I imagine Raven gave you this book?" Charles asked, as he put the last book in place, and turned to Erik.
Erik simply nodded, and then took a chess set and started to prepare it for the game. Black figures for him and white for Charles.
He could feel Charles linger longer at the bookcase, but then he also took a seat opposite from him. "She told me you found my former employment offer."
Erik looked at him in confusion. Former employment offer? He does not remember seeing anything like that.
"For the Swiss institute." Charles said, to jog his memory.
Erik remembered it now. The folder that Raven looked at it last evening. About the institute where they were curing the lack of libido in men.
"Former?" Erik said. He wanted to clarify the stance that Charles has on that.
"A former girlfriend of mine works there." Charles said. "I would have refused otherwise, but they would not even let me take Raven with me."
"Didn't expect her to talk to you about that." Erik said.
"Who could she talk to? Hank?" Charles asked, a humor in his voice.
Erik smiled. He gave him that point. It seems that at least when it comes to subjects like that, everything is open in their family.
Charles waited a moment, then moved his pawn on the board, looking up expectantly.
Erik moved a pawn as well, blocking Charles'. "But it is just a story, isn't it?"
Charles moved another pawn, as he thought of the question. "Kinsey wrote two controversial books about it. According to him, it can be a reality."
"What did he said?" Erik asked.
"We are all somewhere in the range between loving only our own sex and only other sex. The minority outside that was described as an X."
They played a couple of moves. Charles was starting to lose and he looked at the board with more intention. Erik liked that Charles was so easy to read, but at the same time, he was still hiding a lot. He smiled.
Charles looked up in question, but then he bit his lip and looked back to the board. It was curious.
There were a couple more moves played. Erik had just checked Charles' king with his bishop. "I think I might be an X."
Charles stilled his hand, that he had moved towards his knight. He then took it and moved it between his king and Erik's bishop.
"It would have explained your confusion with the Russian general. Most people would have realized that Emma was making him play with illusion of her."
Erik did not answer, not even looked at him. He moved his pawn a place further.
Charles looked up and frowned. He leaned forward as he looked worried. "Erik?"
Erik was quiet as he looked at the board, waiting for Charles' next move. But it did not come. He eventually looked up.
"Want to talk about it?" Charles said. He looked at him like a person looks at a frightened animal, that needs support and comfort.
"What is there to talk about?" Erik said.
Charles looked at him for a moment longer, then he moved his queen.
Erik looked at the board. That was an interesting move. He moved his king to the left. "What is your opinion about it?" he asked.
"There are medical reasons. The most frequently cited being the repression of the homosexuality." Charles said, as he moved his rook. "But if it is natural, then I see nothing wrong with that."
"Well, maybe Raven is right and I am just repressing." Erik said. But to him is sounded wrong.
"You do not." Charles said with conviction. "You lacked the interest even when you were younger. Freud made a couple of good points regarding that."
Erik frowned. "Did you just..." Erik got his answer as soon as Charles looked down. He used his telepathy on him when he strictly asked him not to. He walked away from the study angry for the second time in a row.
After walking away, he did not want to go to his room, so he ended up at the laboratory, that the Hank made himself. He only got a hello, before Hank buried himself back to his work.
For Erik it was relaxing seeing him work. He moved between the microscope, the drawing board and tubes like he was born there. There was barely any wasted move. The cup next to the microscope still had a drink in it.
"Why are you doing this?" Erik asked. Just because he did not agree with it, does not mean that he was disinterested in it.
"I just want to feel normal." Hank said.
"Then what?" Erik asked. Feeling normal was overrated for him.
"You can't know how if feels." Hank corrected the dial on the microscope. "You look normal."
"I don't feel normal." Erik said. He saw Hank look at him. "I don't want to either."
Hank thought for a moment, then returned to his microscope. "Some of us want to. I want that to become a choice. Not a decision of nature."
"How does it feel?" Erik asked. "Not using it, I mean."
Charles looked up at Erik, not answering. Then he turned to Moira, and excused himself, walking away. Erik followed him some distance away, still waiting.
"Like going around deaf or blind." Charles said, "while knowing that it was my choice not to hear or see."
"Why?" Erik did not understand. Erik could imagine it. It would be like feeling no metal around himself. So he did not understand Charles' choice.
Charles turned around, looking at the distance. There were hills around. Charles sat down. "Your reaction to telepathy was quite normal."
Erik sat down to him, remembering how invasive did he regarded telepathy. If that was a normal reaction, then he could imagine why Charles don't use it. Then he frowns.
"But you use it a lot." Erik noted.
"I don't care if other people think I am invasive." He said. "It is the people close to me that matter."
"So you choose to cripple himself?" Erik asked in disbelief.
"It is better than constantly being told that you are..." he looked for a word, his eyes unfocused. "freak, I guess."
Erik looked away, remembering all the time. At the camp, whit Shaw experimenting on him, while he was forced to help with extermination of his kind. His wife's, Magda's face, when she found out he is not interested. The mop that killed Anya, his daughter. The look on Magda's face, as he killed them all. The looks on all the people he haunted to get to Shaw...
"You get used to it." Erik said.
He could see Charles glance at him, a sad smile on his face. He then noticed that Charles laid down to the grass, looking at the clouds.
"I wish we wouldn't have to." said Charles. But he sounded almost defeated.
"Then don't." was Erik's reply.
Charles turned to him, looking at him for a while. Erik was unable to read his face. But none of them said anything about that.
When Erik walked in the evening to Charles' study, he was met with a raised eyebrow.
"Are you sure?" Charles asked.
Erik nodded, as he sat next to Charles. He was nervous, and he was sure that the person sitting opposite knew that.
"I could make you feel arousal, and then you can decide how much do you want something like that." Charles said. He sat himself closer to the edge of a seat.
"Well, let's see what is so special about it." Erik said. He tried to relax, but he was not succeeding.
He could feel more and more heat inside his skin, and he started to feel uncomfortable. His mental faculties were more and more focused, not analytic like normally. And it was getting more intense every second. He started to squirm in his seat, then jumped up. "Stop."
The feeling was getting less intense, but Erik could feel the irritation at himself increase. "Why would anybody want to feel like that? I felt like I am losing my mind."
"It is part of the feeling." Charles looked apologetic. He looked like he wanted to stand up, but he remained seated.
"Don't apologize, I asked you to." Erik waved at him, as he walked up and down. "It was horrible."
"Breath." Charles said.
Erik stopped and took a couple of deep breaths. "I don't want to feel something like that again." Erik said, as he sat down. "It is horrible."
"Then don't." Charles said, echoing Erik from earlier today.
Erik and Charles just looked at each other for a while. Erik sat back down on the seat, letting the feeling die out. He had a suspicion, that Charles was helping them, but he did not comment on it. "What do I then say to others?"
"You can always say that you are celibate for a reason." Charles shuddered. "If they even ask." He looked like that it is a adequate solution for him.
"And if I ever..."
"Then I am sure you will be able to explain it." Charles finished his thought. "There just don't exist a label for you. Except maybe X."
"So I am an X." Erik said. Then he looked at him, laughing. "But aren't you considered professor X."
They both started to laugh. Laughter comes a lot easier, when people accept each other for what they are.