End of Part II in sight. Hard to believe …
It was easier to think of it, Charles thought, if he told it as a story. He always told stories, after all … this night of all nights, for his students. Each and every year.
“Once upon a time,” Charles whispered to the chair’s back, where he leaned against it, “in a faraway land, a young prince lived in Queen’s College House.” His voice cracked. “He had everything he could have wanted, even if he didn’t know it then. He had his students, he had his friends. And he had his sister, whom he loved.
“But one day, the young prince …”
Charles listened to his own words fade away.
It was dark in his room. The fire had died down. Its coals were a red-orange blur in the corner of one eye; out of the other eye, Charles could only see the weave of the chair’s upholstery.
“Well. There can’t be more than one prince in a story. Can there? Although … I suppose I could call him the beautiful princess. The fair young virgin, in his lonely tower – oh,” Charles coughed. His laugh had caught in his throat; turned into a half-sob. “Oh. I …”
The room was just as chilly as it was dark. He must have slept after leaving MacMurphy’s mind. Dully, Charles considered sending his raven out to look for the other – Erik, he told himself. His name is Erik.
“But alas, Princess Erik. You’ll have to be left all alone.” He was too tired to search; Raven as well …
Charles curled up further into the chair. He rested his head on his arms; stared ahead at nothing. All alone. “But keeping you in good company, Princess. Great minds, and all. We’re much alike, are we not? So lonely; so beautiful …”
He let his imagination take the idea and bring it to its ending: Erik staring into a dark wood from a distant window – Erik walking down an empty road – Erik lying in an ice-crystal coffin –
He heard footsteps.
Charles shuddered. “Stay away,” he whispered to his raven. “All of you – stay safe.”
When Erik stopped on the threshold, Charles knew what his view would be. A slight figure, completely alone, booted feet drawn up beneath him on the chair. Staring dully at nothing.
He kept quiet.
Erik paused. Then asked, “May I come in?”
Charles nodded. And the other eased into his room and paced over to him. So close … Charles could almost feel warm breath coasting down, over his face. Not over his bare scalp, thankfully. He had not yet taken off his hats.
“It’s very dark and cold in here, Rabe,” Erik said, voice gentle.
I’d have it no other way, Charles considered – but kept from saying it.
“Planning to suffer, then?”
Charles made no reply.
“Xavier. At least take your boots off.”
“It’s ‘Charles’. After all, I’m not planning on calling you ‘Lehnsherr’ anytime soon.”
“Good.” A smile.
And Charles blinked as Erik gracefully went down to his knees. Lean hands took off his own gloves, placing them on the floor – and then took one boot and, matter-of-fact, eased it off Charles’ foot. “Your pronunciation being what it is, you understand.”
Charles did not dignify that with a response either. Only watched, instead, as Erik divested him of the other boot and several layers of socks.
“Can you –”
“Can you leave one pair on? It’s cold in here.”
“It need not be.”
Charles heard his pulse rush in his ears as Erik cupped one callused hand round his heel. Then stared, as the other bent forward and placed a gentle kiss on his ankle.
His breath was very warm.
Charles twitched his foot away. His mouth was dry.
Erik leaned back again and stared in silence.
Until he said: “I have something for you.”
It took him a moment to dig into a jacket pocket – but then Erik poured metal into Charles’ upturned hand, lying limp on an armrest. Why take it out that way? Why not use his - ability? – Charles wondered, but then saw –
He felt his stomach lurch.
Dog tags. With blood on them.
Aw, Erik. You’re so sweet. This reminds me of this little comic:
Because murder presents are the best presents. ♥