Universe: X-Men (original trilogy)
Warning: past violence, disability, chronic pain, complicated intimacy
Summery: years of war take there toll and some of Erik's scars are physical
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters or the setting only the plot is mine.
Notes: not beta'd sorry. This can be read as taking place in the post- Days of Future Past in the newly retconned "modern" universe. Honestly you could probably read this with an eye to the comic books too though. My version of the movie verse characters tend to bleed into comic books characters a little bit.
He can remember it happening. The crunch of bone as it shattered, the way his leg twisted and crumpled under the force being exerted down on it. He can remember thinking I can't stop, we'll all die if I do.
Calling the metal to encase his lower body was instinct more than anything else. He can remember the way the air smelled heavy with smoke, blood, fresh meat that's probably his own and the tang of every piece of metal within twenty feet converging on him in a great rush.
He doesn't remember the actual act of standing up, does remember someone screaming his name and then just screaming, doesn't remember if it's the same person, but probably not. The pain is indescribable even for someone, like him, so well acquainted with it. He can't breath under it, there's the smell of vomit mixing with everything else.
Somehow he manages to raise his hand, and then everything after that happens in a blur, or, looking back on it, he's not sure if anything happened at all.
He get's told of course, but it's not the same as remembering.
What he does remember is coming back to himself lying flat on the floor in the wreck of a bombed out building. Voices, very far away arguing over where to get a doctor -- a surgeon, he's going to need a specialist for that, but how? We'll never find a mutant one, you trust some human to operate on him? -- and further still his own thoughts whisper is this how I die?
But it's not, and he doesn't.
He has a cane, well multiple canes in fact, made out of different kind of metal at varying weights and strengths. There is one Beast made of the same indestructible metal as Charles' chair. Erik could, technically also use his powers to summon it from any point in the house.
Not that he does, in fact all his canes stay lined up neatly in his closet. Despite the meaningful looks people give him he never uses them. It's an easy thing to do inside the mansion, with its elevators, ramps, levels floors, wide doorways, and nothing set up too high. If he spent most of his days sitting down then people don't mention it.
Erik isn't foolish enough to think that people didn't notice, the x-men -- teachers, as Charles called them most of the time -- notice everything he does. There's never a point in the day or night where he isn't being watched. He understands that though, their lack of trust is something he's earned after all.
Charles would probably have something to say about earning it back, but Erik doesn't think it's possible. Not for him, not any more, there is just too much, for too many years.
He lets them watch him and doesn't use his gifts in the house, it's the only peace offering he had to give. Even so he doesn't expect it to ever be enough.
Of course it's different with Charles and different when they leave the mansion. It's not often but does happen from time to time. In this specific instance Charles' had decide Erik didn't own enough clothing.
"You have a perfectly good closet and wardrobe both of which are practically empty." Charles says like that explains everything.
He's right, Erik thinks, the wardrobe should probably be taken out of the room entirely if it's not being used.
"No." Charles answers like Erik had spoken out loud. "It means we should buy you a few suits to put in it."
Erik wonders for a moment if Charles picks thoughts out of his mind specifically because Charles knows he hates it so much. Probably not though, Charles has been trying to "mend bridges" since Erik got here. Which means this is more of Charles being oblivious about the way his gift affects others, as always.
Charles is using his manual chair, the one he prefers when he goes out by himself, light and easy to disassemble and stow in the back seat of his car. He has his keys on one hand and generally seems to be excited about getting to drive himself instead of having one of his X-Men do it for him. Erik lets Charles' happiness soothe him enough to put aside his annoyance at Charles' mental prying.
He pulls on his coat, while Charles fusses with his own outerwear and does up his scarf.
"Oh." He turns to look back at Erik, "you should probably bring your cane. The tailor I have in mind is accessible but the walk to the offices might be a bit long for you to manage."
Erik stiffens, but he catches what he wants to say behind his teeth, and only slides his gloves on. "I'll be fine."
"Well bring it just in case." Charles turns his chair towards the door.
There is a fragile peace that exists between them, between him and everyone in this house. If he wants to stay here, it is in his best interest to tread carefully. Erik closes his eyes for a moment and asks himself, as he does everyday, if this is really where he wants to be. The answer is yes, as it always is, but when he opens his eyes he just shrugs further down into his coat. "Charles leave it, I'll manage."
Charles twists enough to look back at him, gaze calculating now. Then he turns his chair around to face Erik again. "Don't tell me you are embarrassed, or you think it makes you look weak to use it?"
They look at each other for a long, fraught second, before Erik sighs. "I'm not used to it. The way it feels to us it." He hesitates. "To rely on it."
Charles tilts his head to the side. "So what would you rather do? Force yourself to walk on a leg that was injured and never properly healed? Even though it's becoming more difficult for you to do so and risk falling and injuring yourself again?"
Erik's gaze flicks away, he wants to argue, want to tell Charles that he is not a frail old man, that he won't put a hip out of he were to fall. He is old now though, his body is starting to fail him and Charles is right forcing himself to walk on a compromised leg is to no one's benefit.
"Just bring the cane." Charles turns back towards the door, pauses. "I've just sent someone to fetch one for you, so you won't even need to back upstairs."
"Of course you have." Erik leans against the wall, arms crossed over his chest. He frown at the back of Charles' head for his presumption, but he doesn't argue.
He half expects Summers to be the one Charles sends, he doesn't trust Charles isn't above using humiliation in order to make a point. It's Storm though who walks into the hall carrying the cane in one hand. Her expression is calm, completely lacking in judgement when she holds it out to him.
"Thank you Ororo." Charles says and she turns to offer him a smile she doesn't give to Erik.
"It was no trouble Professor, have a good trip."
"Oh we will." Charles pushes the button to open the front doors.
Erik presses the tip of the cane against the ground, lets himself feel it. He leans against it, shifts his weight to let it take some of the burden. The shape of the handle in his hands is solid, almost good. The metal sings like a deep thrum that goes up his arm into his bones, familiar from all these years experiencing it through Charles' chair.
"Come on." Charles calls from where he's already outside. Someone has brought Charles' car around for them, Erik can sense the shape of it.
He steadies himself, squares his shoulders and heads out to join Charles.
It's late by the time they get back. Charles had managed to procure him three tailored suits along with several bags of clothes from off the rack. Enough no doubt to fill his closet and perhaps even take up space in the wardrobe. It's all wholly unnecessarily as far as Erik is concerned but Charles seems to have very much enjoyed their day out.
His cheeks are pink, and he hums a little snatch of song as he turns the car up the mansion's drive.
Erik leans back against the headrest of the seat and lets his eyes drift, shut just for a moment. His back aches, a deep grinding pain, that radiates down his hip into his leg. The muscles in his thigh and calf have begun the cramp and his knee is a knot of near agony. In truth the pain has been bad for about a week now, one of the reasons he'd given into Charles this afternoon. He keeps his hand flat on his thigh, so he's not tempted to reach down and rub at his knee. With a little concentration he should be able to block out the worst of the pain.
"Are you all right?" Charles isn't humming anymore and when Erik opens his eyes Charles is looking at him.
The car is parked in the driveway, the mansion lit up with golden light just a short distance away. Erik wonders if he can say no and have Charles believe it. Probably not even without knowing full well Charles dips into his thoughts at will.
Charles frown deepens. "I assure you don't go out of my way to read your mind, but some thoughts are too obvious for me to overlook."
Erik snorts at that and makes to open the car door. Charles hand lands on his arm, warm and solid and for a horrifying moment Erik wants to lean into it, wants Charles to keep touching him more.
"Erik" Charles' voice is concerned but still warm, still far too caring. He must be able to sense how Erik's pain is now edging into panic.
He jerks away, wrenches the door open, and climbs out. What he wants to storm into the house, but there is no point running from this. It's Charles' house after all, this conversation will happen whether he likes it or not. Forcing himself to stop, he clenches his hand around the handle of his cane until his knuckles go white.
Charles is still sitting in the car, just watching him. Their gazes meet and Erik presses his lips together into a thin line. He makes a gesture with his free hand, half inpatient. The door to the back seat opens, Charles' chair comes out in pieces and reassembles itself.
With a sigh, Charles pushes the car door open. "Well bring it over here." He nods at the chair. "So we can do this somewhere a little more private than the middle drive."
Erik directs the chair to where Charles needs it to be, waits while he transfers into it.
Charles pauses, once he's settled, seems to be listening although Erik thinks he's probably contacting one of the X-Men then he turns back to Erik.
"We should go inside and talk."
"If we must." Erik says but he still turns and follows Charles into the house.
Charles sheds his coat and then leads the way into his study and Erik throws the lock behind them because the last thing they need is to have one of Charles' students or the X-Men interrupting this.
For a moment Charles just sits, composing himself, and Erik waits. He considers staying where he is by the door but then thinks better of it and moves over to the couch, folding himself down onto it.
"How long have you been in pain?"
Trust Charles to start there. "Years." Erik shakes his head just once at the shocked look Charles gives him. "Oh come now, you must have known, all the battles you've seen me fight. Did you think none of them left marks? And with all the times you've been in my head. Didn't you feel it?"
"I didn't realize that this was a long term problem."
"I didn't realize, or didn't stop to think." Erik says and then regrets it when Charles' expression changes to wholly devastated and then hardens into something else Erik likes even less on him.
He doesn't want this to turn into a fight, not really. "You didn't know because I didn't tell you, my friend." He gentles his voice, tries to think only of how this is true.
"Erik." Charles says, "Why are you here?"
Here it is, the question he's been waiting months for, the one Charles hasn't ask until now.
Charles smiles although it's small. "Yes, but I never thought that would stop you."
Erik laughs, soft and bitter. "I'm old and I'm tired," Rarely has he felt that more keenly than now, his whole body aching, the beginnings of a headache coming on and his cane propped up against the edge of the couch. Charles has turned back to look at him now and Erik gives him a small smile.
"I need to rest."
"And so you can here." It isn't really a question so Erik doesn't answer it just watches Charles see the truth hidden inside of this.
Then Charles goes to the side board and picks out one of his good bottles of scotch. "I'm going to make sure you see a doctors -- a mutant doctor so you needn't worry about that -- they will probably subscribe you pain medication, which you will take along with any other treatment they might proscribe." Charles pours each of them a glass.
"Charles --" Erik starts and Charles holds up a hand.
"I'm not finished. You are going to use the cane even inside the house and if said doctor things you will do better in a chair we will look into that at well."
"Are these your terms?" Erik stood pulling his cane to him and walked across the room, not trying to hide the fact that he was limping anymore. He took the glass Charles held out to him."Are you planning kicking me out if I don't complain?" He take a sip.
"Of course not." Charles took his own glass, cradling it between his hands."I wouldn't test the limits of my patience."
"I've always tested the limits of your patience." Erik couldn't help smiling and Charles smiled back.
"Yes, that is true." Charles tilts his face up to Erik, his voice goes deeper very slightly. Even know it makes Erik's pulse flutter with the beginnings of anticipation.
They've not done anything more flirtatious than a game of chess since he arrived. Erik has kept to himself, Charles has also maintained a certain distance. Not that Erik expects anything else -- or more for that matter -- not after them having been enemies for so long.
Last time they'd been intimate had been angry and frantic, laced through with bitterness and pain. Erik doesn't like to think about it, nor does he want to repeat the experience. Besides, he's too tired and in too much pain tonight to do much more than have a drink and go to bed. So instead of closing the space between them he takes a sip of his scotch.
Charles leans back a little, expression assessing and then he nods towards the couch. "Come and sit?"
Erik does as he's been told but then frowned when Charles moves his chair to be directly in front of him.
"Charles what are you doing?" If this is some sort of overture he's not sure if he can or should accept.
Charles reaches out, fingers brush against Erik's trouser leg right over his bad knee. Charles frowns then looks around the room, before pointing to a small leather upholstered stool. "Can you move that over here for us?"
Erik is still frowning, unsure where this is going but he leaches out for the metal screws and braces in it, moves it just as Charles moves over slightly to make room.
"Can you put your leg up on this comfortably?" Charles asks and Erik's eyes narrow.
"Come now." Charles pats the stool. "When I sensed the pain you were in I noticed some muscle cramping along with joint pain. It so happens I have experience with both, and a good massage will help with the pain."
"Absolutely not." Erik says very calmly and he thinks, fairly reasonably.
Charles sets aside his glass on a small end table and then folds his hands in his lap. "And why not?"
Because I don't want you touching me, Erik thinks, loud enough Charles winces and backs up a little.
"I'm sorry, I didn't realize ..."
"No." Erik rubs one hand across his face. "I'm sorry. That's not true. I'm just not comfortable with the idea of this."
Charles nods, looking serious. "I understand." He reaches for his glass again.
Erik hesitates and then comes to a decision. He eases his leg out, flinches as his knee cracks, but resting it on the stool actually helps more than he thought it would.
Charles watches him, expression careful, then sets aside his glass again and pushes himself forward.
He eases, Erik's shoe off, drops it with a dull thud onto the carpet, then slides his hands up, eases the sock off too. Erik clenches his hands into fists in order to keep himself from jerking away. It feels very vulnerable to be like this, to let Charles see him like this. The pain is still too intense though, radiating from his knee making his muscle clench tight, spasming a little. His hip feels like it's going to lock, the pain still radiating up his back.
Charles' fingers skim across Erik's knee, down his calf. Charles’ hands rub along the edge of his foot, down the arch, around the shake of his ankle. It makes Erik shiver, try to pull away and push closer to the touch at the same time.
They’re quiet and almost still like this.
Erik's breath stuttered a little in pain and Charles’ fingers gentle against the curve of his calf.
Charles’ hands are dry but warm against his skin. His fingers press down against skin, muscle and bone. Trying to unlock each with careful touches. Something that is both pleasure and pain and oh so tender.
He sighs as Charles’ hands work up again and think maybe he doesn’t hate this quite that much after all. Charles picks up Erik's ankle and shifts it carefully into his lap, before working his thumbs into the muscle of Erik's leg. It feels too good for Erik to stop him, or object to the change of position. He let his eyes drift shut and concentrated on the feel of Charles' hands and the way the pain was starting to fade.
"Better?" Charles asks even though he must be able to feel it. Erik nods once, catches a small noise before it can make it all the way out.
Charles' hands still lightly cupping his bare ankle. "How does your other leg feel?"
"A little stiff." No point in lying now. "But it wasn't injured as badly so the pain isn't as intense." He moves his leg out of Charles' grasp and reaches for his discarded sock. "It should be fine."
Charles looks like he wants to say something else or maybe offer something, but stays quiet. Erik straightens up, reaches out to put one hand on Charles' shoulder. "Thank you."
He gives Erik a small smile. "Don't mention it. Now I'm going to see if I can find us dinner, if you want to join me you are welcome to, otherwise feel free to stay here, go to your own rooms." He hesitates for a second. "I found over the years that a hot bath does wonders for back pain and cramped muscles. I have a quite large tub in my bathroom if you would like to use it."
Erik pushes himself up, wobbles for a moment, as he puts weight onto his leg again and reaches for his cane. "Like I said, I should be fine."
"All right." Charles doesn't push him on it, for which Erik is grateful. "Will you be joining me for dinner?"
Erik stretches a little, rolls his shoulders back. He's still tired, his back twinges, as does his hips and the pain in his leg is far from gone. But he thinks he can probably stand to wait a few more hours before going to bed. "I suppose the children have already eat."
"Probably." Charles says, "but we are grown men who can find our way around a kitchen. Especially our own kitchen."
Erik raises his eyebrows at 'our kitchen' but only says "This is your way of telling me I'll be doing the cooking isn't it? Unless you've learned how to boil water without burning it since the last time we lived together?"
"In fact I have learned how to assemble my own sandwiches and heat up soup in the last twenty years." Charles ushers them both out into the hall but he's smiling too. Erik can't help but smile back, bend down towards Charles, if only just a little.
They are being watched from further down the hall. Summers and Grey Erik thinks but he doesn't turn around to make sure. He concentrates on Charles, solid and warm by his side, as they head for the kitchen.