Category: AU modern setting, AU still have powers, Imprisonment, mutant rights
Summary: The only reason Erik will even consider taking the case of one Charles Francis Xavier is because he owes Raven a favour.
Now one must know of Raven Darkholme and Erik Lehnsherr, that neither would ever lightly owe anyone a favour - least of all each other.
Notes: Thank you to Roz for pointing me in the right direction (not to mention catching my weird errors and strange stuff).
This is partly a WIP still being re-done/edited, but it's written from one end to the other, so it won't be abandoned. I'm posting as a WIP to keep the fire lit under my own **** ;)
I can't really say there are any warnings, apart from possibly questionable use of telepathic powers - depending on whether or not one agrees with Charles.
This story spun out from a small idea for a scene and into this - of course it did - two weeks before doing the nanowrimo in 2016 *facepalms*
Word count: 16,188
AO3: Should you want to tell me whether you liked the story or not, feel free to use the link to AO3. Here you can also download the story in your favourite e-book format.
Erik had gone through the past few months of information about one Charles Xavier much in the same way he did any other information about boring people with money: Not interested at all.
It wasn't until Raven had taken him aside and asked to cash in a favour. Now one must know of Raven Darkholme and Erik Lehnsherr, that neither would ever lightly owe anyone a favour - least of all each other.
Erik had learned early on in their ...friendship, that she should never ever be underestimated. He had tried hard to dislike her from the start, but his mother loved the girl and Erik had learned from childhood to trust Edie Lehnsherr's ability to judge people's honesty and veracity. If they had listened to her back when Sebastian Shaw had entered their lives, then Erik's father would probably still be alive and Erik wouldn't have been as emotionally scarred as he was.
With Raven it was her stubbornness and strength that appealed to Erik, even if, especially the former, could be annoying as hell on a good day and could drive him to the brink of violence on a bad.
Here she was, offering him to wipe the slate clean, if he would do this for her. Erik squashed the urge to tumble headfirst into a 'yes'. There had to be a catch. If Raven was offering to wipe the slate clean, then it would a) be something incredibly important, or b) something incredibly difficult, or c) - probably both.
"Go on," Erik said, keeping his voice even - working to not seem eager for the opportunity.
The corner of Raven's lips curved a little and it was possible she was on to him. "What do you know of Charles Francis Xavier?"
Erik sniffed and shrugged. "What's been going around, what most seem to know. He's a kid born with a silver spoon up his ass, has recently taken over Xavier BioGenetics Inc." A company that most suspected were behind some less than ethical testing of mutant suppression drugs but it was something no one could prove. And for some reason, he had kept his mutant status a secret. Probably to make life easier for himself.
Raven frowned at him. "Charles Xavier's childhood and younger years are not as privileged as you might think," she said, "but that is not a story for me to tell."
"Why do you ask?" Erik pressed. There was obviously something more to her request.
Raven looked a little cagey for a moment, then turned and shut the door to Erik's office, pacing in front of his desk. Both were habits that Erik had never seen her display before. Always at ease with herself.
Pulling out the bottom drawer, he lifted out two glasses and a bottle of scotch. He didn't say anything, suddenly realizing that pushing was the last thing he should be doing here. Pouring them both a glass, he pushed one to her side of the desk. A diplomatic offering.
Raven took it and drank it all in one swallow, making a face before setting the glass back down. "I never told you, or anyone else for that matter, about my own childhood." Raven paused for a moment and Erik poured her another glass, though this time she sat down and held the glass in her hand, without drinking it at first.
"Well, I was left on the street by my birth parents," she started, quietly. "For a while I lived there. New York is big enough to disappear in, you know."
Erik nodded. He encountered more than a few children through his work that had similar stories and Raven, with her physical mutation, was an example of how bad it could be for for this group especially. Sometimes being abandoned by parents was the least extreme outcome.
"I drifted alone in the city until I was cornered by a boy who was about my age. He was visiting his father's work that day." Raven paused and took a sip of her scotch. "It was a day of change for the both of us," she admitted. "I found someone who cared, possibly too much, and Charles lost his father."
Sitting up, Erik realized that she was sharing something she really hadn't shared with anyone else, ever. Erik knew all too well that there were parts of their pasts that they buried so deeply they rarely saw the light of day.
"Charles was a nice kid," she said with a small laugh. "Already a bit of a control freak back then, and if he wanted something enough, he would plan and work hard to get it." She paused for a moment. "I don't think anyone but his father knew that he was a telepath. Maybe apart from his mother, but I think he removed any knowledge of his gift when she remarried. Charles didn't tinker with people's minds easily, especially not back then - his control wasn't as finely tuned as I think it is now."
"He wasn't an out as a mutant until recently, was he?" Erik tried to remember anything else he had read about the man.
Raven shook her head. "It's not my place to defend his choices," she said. "Charles had his reasons and it is not my place to explain them." She shook her head. "I lived with Charles in Westchester for about two years. Now what I can say about it was that Kurt Marko, the man Charles' mother married, was not a good man. Nor was his son. Kurt obviously only married Sharon Xavier for the money and even more so, for access to Xavier BioGenetics and the research facilities."
Erik frowned, but didn't interrupt her.
"They studied mutations," she said quietly. "I don't think it was ever part of Brian Xavier's plan to create suppressors, but this is the direction that Kurt Marko took the company. I don't know for sure where Charles was during all these years - I hope as hell he got out of that old behemoth of a house up in Westchester - it was a bad place with Kurt and Cain around. I didn't find out about Charles' whereabouts until just shortly, after he took over Xavier BioGenetics."
"Was he hiding?" Erik asked.
"In all ways possible," she said with a huff. "I never understood why he didn't come forward as a mutant, but I can guess. If he had, before he was of a legal age, I don't think Kurt would have let him get away."
"So you're saying he not only hid, he ran away?" Still not much there for Erik to like, was there?
"I don't blame him," Raven said drily. "In the two years I was there, I know of several times that Cain tried to beat the shit out of him and Kurt encouraged the boys to roughhouse - calling it a healthy competition." Raven closed her eyes. "I know for sure that Cain tried to push Charles down the stairs at one point. Charles wouldn't let me do anything about it and it was the straw that broke the camel's back. We had a huge argument and I left that night." Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes again. "I sometimes wonder if I should have stayed. I was the only one he had who knew he was a mutant."
"But why wait so long with admitting it to the world?" Erik asked. "I mean, world's not perfect for us, far from it, but someone with his money, his background..."
"That's just it," Raven interrupted him. "I can't get to Charles and ask him. I found out he'd been living in Oxford for the past few years, finishing his studies in genetics and bioengineering. And I can't get to him, because he's being kept under arrest since he returned. Process and investigation pending. I need you to defend him in court, I need you to gain access to him."
Erik stared at her for moment, then shook his head. "I'm sure he has access to money and lawyers." And Erik didn't want to protect someone who studied them, someone who had kept his mutant status a secret.
"That's just it," Raven ground out again, looking annoyed and angry. "He refuses to hire a lawyer and I don't want the state to saddle him with some mutant-phobic asshole."
"This is important enough to you that you are willing to wipe the slate clean, between the two of us," Erik said slowly. "Where's the catch?"
"He was a stubborn kid," Raven said with a sigh. "I can't imagine him not being a stubborn asshole as an adult - and I'm sure he'll fight you the whole way. But I can't let him do this on his own. He must have had his reasons and I can't even make any guesses about it, because I can't get anyone to tell me exactly what he's arrested for."
Erik frowned. "Hang on a second. He's being held, but no charges have been filed?"
"It's being kept very hush-hush at the moment," Raven admitted. "I only know about it from one of our sources at the court." She stared at him for a moment, then drank the last of her scotch, setting the glass down on his desk as she stood and took a deep breath. "You're taking it."
"I'm curious," Erik said, knowing he was fighting a lost battle.
"You're taking it, you're going to get in there, you're going to at least speak to him."
"If he'll even speak to me," Erik replied, knowing when to fold.
"Tell him you're a friend of mine," she said slowly. "I think that still holds a little power, at least enough for him to listen to you for a few minutes. If they will even let you get that far, of course."
"They will," Erik said, raising an eyebrow at her smirk. "I'm not that easy, Raven. Depending on how deep this sticks, you may end up owing me a favour or two."
"Just get in there, talk to him." Raven's yellow eyes darkened. "If you can help him, we're even. Anything else is... negotiable."
Erik held out his hand. "Deal."
She shook his hand and Erik didn't wince when her grip was a little harder than it had to be. "You won't regret this," she said as she let go, turning to leave his office.
Erik stared after her. "I better not," he muttered, saluting the now empty room with his glass of scotch. "Well played, Raven, well played. You know which buttons to push."
The first time Erik met Charles Francis Xavier, he was seated on the other side of the metal table of a meeting room at the division for mutant crimes of the NYPD. The man sat, staring at the table as if it held the answers to all the secrets of the universe. Erik made a face when he saw the suppression collar circling the man's neck. Setting his bag down on the table, Erik waited for him to look up.
Erik leaned forward, trying to catch the man's attention, realizing that it wouldn't happen as he tilted the man's head up, looking into unseeing eyes.
Fucking suppression collar and chemical suppressants. Quite possibly the table and chair that Xavier wasn't sitting on melted into puddles of liquid metal.
Safe to say, Erik had to reschedule the meeting, right after apologizing for the destruction of state property and then spending twenty minutes ripping the higher ups a new one for drugging his client to the edge of functionality.
Fuck, he was actually going to take this case, wasn't he?
The second time Erik met Charles Francis Xavier was quite different from the first. The setup was much the same, though this time the room had no metal in it. The guard outside had snidely informed him of this - as if Erik couldn't tell. Erik had stared at him in silence until the man had started sweating and then he'd smiled at him, letting his displeasure shine through.
Then he'd entered the room and shut the door behind him.
This time, at least, Xavier lifted his head on his own. His eyes were bloodshot and the skin under them looked bruised. He looked like an addict coming down off a really bad trip.
"Not too far from the truth," Xavier muttered.
Erik drew in a sharp breath. "So that's why they went overboard on the suppressants."
Xavier just raised an eyebrow at him, his unshaven face pale, his blue eyes boring into Erik's.
Setting his bag on the table, Erik took the seat across from Xavier.
"Don't bother, I don't want a lawyer," Xavier said, voice sharp.
"Raven says hi," Erik said, meeting Xavier's eyes, unflinchingly.
"Fuck," Xavier said, for a moment losing his 'I-don't-give-a-flying-fuck' attitude. As he struggled to find his control again, Erik just grinned meanly at him.
"He doesn't exactly like me," Erik said idly, as he poured coffee into his cup. As if a client's feelings towards him were of any importance. Although Erik was used to his clients having hired him, so at least leaning towards wanting him to defend them.
"Charles has... anger issues," Raven started, then paused, making a face. "Trust issues like you wouldn't believe it. I've been trying to dig up what I could." She placed a folder on his desk and Erik studiously ignored it while he took a sip of his coffee.
"It's not much," she said with a shrug. "I know roughly what it was like when he lived in Westchester, physical, emotional abuse from his stepfamily. What he did while in Oxford, who knows?" She tapped the folder. "From what I can tell, everyone seems to think he lived the good life on old money, but it doesn't quite fit with what little I have heard from a few of the people I spoke to who knew him there. Or knew of him - he didn't exactly have the biggest network of friends."
Erik finally looked up. He'd read up on what they had had on the Xavier family and quite frankly, he'd not come away with anything that smelled of anything but old money and trust funds. Anything that could explain the attitude of the Xavier he had met with would at least tell him if he was making a mistake by considering taking the case. Not that he was considering it anymore. He'd had a letter that very morning that had cemented the fact that he was going to take Mr. Xavier's case. Threatening Erik only made him more tenacious.
"Go on," he prompted her when Raven stopped.
"Most of the stuff in the folder is his studies, his course plans etc. Nothing much personal about it. I did however speak with one of the kids he studied with. According to him, Charles had money in the beginning, nice digs and all, but the last few years he lived in a single room student accommodation, he worked in the local bookstore to get enough money to make ends meet. He didn't live big, Erik. No family money."
"This may explain why he came back to take over the company," Erik suggested.
"He had access to some of his funds - Sharon, his mother, may have signed a lot of it over to the Markos but Brian Xavier was no fool - he had set up a fund for Charles' education."
"So then, why live in poverty?" Erik was maybe a little curious about this.
"He spent the money on lawyers," Raven said. "He spent all those, not insignificant funds, on wresting the company from Kurt Marko."
"I guess since Xavier BioGenetics produces most of the suppressants on the market, they would be worth what little he put into the lawyers," Erik mused.
Raven made an impatient noise. "No, well, yes, but that's just it. Charles took over less than half a year ago. Something happened in there, and no one at BioGenetics will speak with me - so I have no clue what."
Erik felt his mouth curving into a mean grin. "So much like the more formally worded letter I received from one General William Stryker this morning, kindly telling me to not bother defending the young Mr. Xavier."
Raven eyed him with worry for a moment, then slowly nodded. "I guess I don't have to plead his case, do I? You were going to take it the moment that letter landed on your desk."
"I was already leaning towards taking it," Erik admitted, seeing the truth of his own words clearly for the first time. "I think it was decided for me when I walked in there and they had him on every suppressant known to man." He paused for a moment, struggling to find the right words. "Even more so when, during the second meeting, he proved to be strong enough to read me through wearing the strongest suppression collar on the market."
"You always were a sucker for power," Raven said drily, but there was a tinge of relief in her voice.
Erik fought off the flush of truth her words sent through him. "I wouldn't want someone as strong as him in the hands of the government."
Raven held his gaze for a moment and he was fairly sure that she only partly believed him.
He didn't blame her.
Raven's words about Erik's weakness for displays of power haunted him for the rest of the day and halfway into the next as he sat in his car, waiting for traffic to let him out of the city and to the facility to which they had moved Xavier. He wasn't terribly surprised that they had done so without letting him know. So far trying to even gain Xavier as a client had proven like psychological warfare with the Justice Department. Or rather, the division under the DoJ that ran the secure holding facilities.
Mutant jails. That was basically all they were. Erik had been there a few times and it always made him uneasy. Somewhere in there, he was sure, they had a plan for him as well. He was listed as a level 7 kinetic and noted specifically for being able to influence magnetic fields. For anyone above a level 5 there would be a 'protocol' in case the mutant went 'bad'. When he'd been younger he had been annoyed to not be a level 10 which would have earned him the omega label.
As an adult, having seen what the state and government put omega level mutants through... he had to be glad that he was low enough on the scale to be allowed to go about his day pretty much as he pleased. Erik frowned. He was unsure if he had seen Xavier's level in the paperwork.
It was fairly easy for him to float his phone out of his bag and initiate a call as he drove towards the exit that would take him to the facility.
"Raven, what level is Xavier?" Erik asked.
"Officially or unofficially?" she asked, rather unhelpful if you asked Erik.
"Does that make a difference?" Erik asked curiously.
"How secure is the line?" Raven asked cryptically.
"We're all running the new system, so pretty safe," Erik replied.
"I think they have him listed as level 9 when he 'came out' right after taking over the company."
Shit, Erik thought to himself. "Shit," he repeated out loud.
Raven's laughter rolled through the phone, though it lacked its usual mirth. "You can say that again."
"At the age of 8, Charles knew perfectly well what he would be put through if... or rather when he reached that level. He was damned scary, Erik." Raven trailed off. "How bad is it when an 8 year old has to keep his power a secret not to mention, downplaying it when he does come out as an adult?"
Erik nearly missed his exit as he stared unseeingly ahead. "Downplay?" He winced when the driver behind him used the horn. "Raven, just how powerful is he?"
"I don't think anyone knows," Raven hedged.
"I don't think Charles knows either." Raven's voice was low and barely audible.
"Fuck my life," Erik muttered, making a face. "That would explain how he could work through a suppression collar."
"I'm surprised he didn't get through both collar and meds when you first went in," Raven mused.
"I'm not," Erik disagreed. "A collar suppresses the ability using electromagnetism while the meds fuck with your mind's chemistry."
"Erik?" Raven's voice was deceptively soft.
"Don't let them get away with what they've done to him."
"And if he deserves it?" Erik asked, playing the devil's advocate. There were good and bad mutants and sometimes people could turn out to be worse than you thought. Erik could testify to this.
"Then find out exactly what they have him in for, and then make them pay."
Erik grinned and caught his reflection in the rearview mirror. Yeah, that would be the right attitude when he met with the DA in the facility later. "I'll give them hell."
Raven didn't answer and the phone beeped to let him know that she had hung up. As Erik pulled up in front of the gates of the facility, he took a deep breath.
Time to go to war.
"I don't think you should represent me," Xavier said, his face giving away nothing about his emotions.
"Is that so, Mr. Xavier?" Erik replied, as he flipped through the case folder. He was all too aware of the room having been stripped of most metal, the suppression collar around his client's neck nothing but plastic, save a few minor spots of metal that they obviously thought Erik couldn't manipulate if he wanted to. Not to mention the cameras: one behind him and one behind Xavier that he figured they thought he wouldn't try to manipulate. "And why is that?" He finally met Xavier's eyes, waiting to hear his answer. He was genuinely curious.
Something flashed through Xavier's blue eyes, darkening them for a moment. "There's no way I'm ever being let out of here."
"Now, now," Erik said evenly. "Don't be such a pessimist."
"Mr. Lehnsherr," Xavier said slowly, "you can not possibly be as naive as you come across as."
Erik eyed him for a moment, then sighed deeply and shut the file folder. "It would help if I knew what exactly they are holding you for." If Xavier wouldn't tell him in order to help, maybe he'd tell in order to deter Erik from continuing to represent him
Xavier cocked his head to the side. "Does it not say?" he asked, nodding at the folder. It was clear from his expression that he knew the answer to that was a resounding 'no'.
"It says that you are charged with withholding your mutant status, your power level and there was a footnote about hostile takeover of your own company with the intention of harming the good of the country." Erik leaned forward in his seat, elbows on the table and fingers steepled in front of him. "It's the last part that I find rather ... opaque." About as opaque steel wall.
"Finally," Xavier said, leaning forward, so focused on Erik that he could tell just how much the man had been holding back earlier, how much he had been waiting for something. "You are without doubt, an intelligent man."
'I can tell just from how damned gorgeous your mind is.'
Erik raised an eyebrow. He did not, in any other way, let on otwardly that he could hear Xavier's voice in his head.
'You're an omega.' He pushed the words at Xavier, focusing on him. He didn't bother phrasing it as a question. The suppression collar barely held the man back.
Xavier studied him quietly for a moment, then a scary smile spread over his lips. "The question is, when I took over BioGenetics, what did I do?" 'Such a sweet talker. Looks and brain.'
Erik leaned back in his seat, partly to break the tension between them, partly to give himself a moment to breathe. "It doesn't say in the file," he replied, which still annoyed him like hell. The file he'd been given on the case had been a joke. Barely any information, half of it listed as 'top secret' by someone higher up than Erik would ever be.
'I'm not going to tell you - if it ever comes out that I have shared it with you, it might do more damage than good to you.' Xavier's mental voice was low and intense inside Erik's head. Intimate.
"You had an agenda when you took over Xavier BioGenetics." Erik held eye contact, not daring to look away now that he had Xavier talking.
Xavier inclined his head, but did not answer.
"They had something you wanted, or needed," Erik carried on. If he was forced to make guesses and judge Xavier's reactions, so be it.
Xavier stayed still.
Still enough for Erik to think he was on to something. "You didn't want the company back for the money."
"Maybe I wanted revenge? Maybe I wanted to get back at my stepfather." Xavier's voice was low, deceptively calm.
"Maybe that's what you want me to think, want the world to think." Erik shot him a long look. "You're not telling me everything."
'I shouldn't tell you anything at all,' Xavier's voice whispered in his head.
'You should tell me everything,' Erik pushed back.
'For the sake of your safety, and Raven's, I am not telling you anything.'
"We'll see," Erik said, pushing the file folder into his bag. "Think about it until our next appointment. There must be someone out there who is willing to help you - and I'll find them and then I'll find out what it is everyone is trying to hide."
Xavier snorted, but didn't say anything.
"There's of course the possibility that you did do it for the money and then fucked up," Erik said, standing and walking towards the door. "Maybe Raven was wrong when she said you were an honest man, someone who wouldn't do something stupid unless it was the only way out. Maybe you are just a rich brat with nothing better to do with your money than getting a hard-on just because you can take over a company. A privileged asshole who kept his status as a mutant a secret all these years just because it made his life easier..."
"Do not," Xavier said in a low, warning tone of voice. "Do not try to get a rise out of me by mentioning Raven, do not think that you know me, or know why I kept my genetic status a secret - I had my reasons."
"I'm sure you did," Erik taunted him, reaching for the door.
Suddenly the room vanished around him and Erik knew he'd possibly pushed too hard, too far. Inside his mind, where he was suddenly trapped, where everything was grey in white, he turned and looked at Xavier, and if he'd been physically seeing what he was seeing, he'd have possibly cowered in fear.
As it were, he might be feeling more turned on than afraid.
Xavier's mental avatar was a more worn version of his physical self. It was like he was fraying at the edges, darkness in his eyes and so much despair and raw anger coalescing with power that Erik couldn't have looked away even if he'd tried. There was no mistaking the danger that Xavier could pose at that very moment.
Just as quickly as the mental landscape had appeared, it was gone again, leaving Erik feeling vertigo as he was no longer facing Xavier, but once again at the door. Not daring to look back, Erik knocked on the metal, waiting for the guard to let him out.
Not once, while leaving the facility, when handing over the visitor's card that allowed him access to Xavier, not once did he allow his mind to form any reaction to what had just happened.
Driving away from the facility, Erik eventually pulled over at a small side road. Killing the engine, he just sat there, staring at his hands where they were resting on the wheel. Were they shaking? Should they be shaking? Shouldn't he be fearing what he'd seen? The power he'd felt? Instead he tried without success to ignore how hard he was, how uncomfortably turned on he'd been by the power display.
Fact: Charles Francis Xavier was so powerful that a suppression collar was a laughable accessory at best, a nuisance at worst for him.
Fact: Charles Francis Xavier was so powerful, he could probably walk out of the facility and disappear if he wanted to.
Fact: Charles Francis Xavier chose to stay in the facility, had tried to discourage Erik from taking his case.
Question: Why the hell wasn't he trying to get out? Why wasn't he working with Erik to clear his name?
Dilemma: When Erik rarely felt attracted to anyone, why now? Why did Xavier intrigue him this much? Why was the obvious show of power he'd witnessed nothing short of magnificent to him, instead of scary beyond words?
Erik stayed where he was for a while, until he felt his libido going back to it's usual low. Looking unseeingly out the front window, he knew he couldn't stay where he was for the rest of the day.
Pulling out his phone, he shot a text off to Raven - just asking her to try to find someone, anyone within Xavier BioGenetics who could be bullied into saying anything that might shed some light on the case and their reluctant client.
For a moment, his finger hovered over the screen, then he shot off another text, this one to his mother's number. Just three short words: I feel lost.
Raven's text of 'I'll see what I can do' arrived a moment before the one from his mother.
'Come home, I have cooked, unburden if you need.'
Erik drew a deep breath and turned the engine back on.
"Do you really think it's a good idea to have me here?" Raven asked for the third time.
"I told you already," Erik replied. "Edie told me that I needed to use whatever leverage I have." Erik figured that would have sunk in already.
"I can't believe you discuss your cases with your mum," she muttered to herself as they drove up to the checkpoint outside the facility.
"Who do you think taught me to be the ruthless asshole that I am?" Erik asked with a mean grin.
"I happen to know Edie, and while I will give you she'd be a formidable opponent, you're an asshole because you're you. Don't blame that on your mother." Raven mocked him too often but he knew the words had no bite.
"Too true," Erik agreed easily. Truth be told, he had considered asking Raven to come along as his assistant more than once, but it had taken Edie's digging to get him to decide on it. This might be one of the last if not the last chance that Erik had to turn Xavier to his side and to agree to let him represent him in court. They were fast losing time and the more Xavier fought him, the harder Erik pushed back.
It wasn't really the norm for Erik to ask for Edie's input in his cases, but she had been the one who had turned him onto protecting mutants. She may be absolutely human, through and through, but she had taught him to be strong and quite frankly, he had met very few people as strong as she was. Mutant or not.
She was also freakily good at seeing through all his reservations, when he was working through a problem. And she had quite possibly caught onto him being more than a little attracted to Xavier, or at least Xavier's power. Or overall, the enigma that was Charles Francis Xavier.
Erik didn't say anything as he let Raven into the room they were meeting Xavier in. The reply, however, was prompt.
"Now you're playing dirty," Xavier muttered, part annoyed, part impressed. The look on his face as he watched Raven walk in and take a seat across from him made Erik feel unexpectedly empathic. So much pain.
"I tried playing nice," Erik said lightly.
Xavier snorted. "I think you're many things, Mr. Lehnsherr, nice, however, is probably not one of them."
Erik just grinned menacingly and Raven couldn't help but hide a laugh behind her hand.
"You need a good lawyer," she finally managed to get out. "Nice or not. Someone better than the public defender, at least."
"The public defender was rather young and inexperienced - I told him not to bother," Xavier replied, leaning back in his seat.
"I'm not as easily swayed." Erik leaned back against the wall, watching Xavier like a hawk. Anything in his body language, anything that could be added to the ever growing list that Erik had of Xavier's quirks.
"What a surprise," Xavier said drily.
Erik rolled his eyes. "Anyone ever tell you, you're a pain the ass?"
Xavier eyed Raven. "At one point in my life, frequently."
"Now that we've established you're both a couple of assholes," Raven interrupted them, bringing things back on track. "Do you think you could cut your crap, accept the damned best pro-mutant lawyer you can imagine and then tell us what you're even accused of?"
Xavier studied her for a moment, then broke eye contact, not quite managing to conceal a small smile. It didn't escape Erik's attention that there was no mirth to it, just a simple touch of sad nostalgia.
"Very well, file the paperwork," he finally said, looking up but this time looking Erik in the eye instead of Raven. "Once that's done, I believe you'll have access to everything you wanted."
'Don't say I didn't warn you.' Xavier's mental voice still felt so odd to Erik. Nevermind the fact that he shouldn't even be able to do so.
"Good," was all Erik chose to say in reply. He had to wonder how much he was giving away to Xavier. Not just because Xavier could obviously enter his mind without Erik even noticing, but also what he might have learned from Erik's body language and everything Erik hadn't said.
Erik met Xavier's eyes and noticed the slight quirk of his lips. But where he'd taken it all as attitude before, he now noticed the tired lines around his eyes, the slump of his shoulders and the fuzziness whenever he heard Xavier's mental voice in his head.
Had Xavier been hiding it, or had Erik just not noticed? Either way, he should have, he was supposed to be good at this, damn it.
"We'll be back," Raven said, standing, her hands on the table between them. Erik could tell how much she wanted to reach out and touch Xavier's hands, but it wouldn't be allowed, and Raven knew it. They had been told more than once before entering to keep their distance from Xavier.
It tore more at Erik than he'd expected. All of that he could feel funnelling into the anger that was never far from his mind. The remnants of Shaw during Erik's teenage years, the shit mutants went through to be allowed to live their lives, life kicking people already lying down...
Taking a deep breath, Erik nodded at Xavier, who in turn held his gaze for a moment longer, before letting his head hang down again, breaking the intense eye contact.
Finally, they were getting somewhere.
"What the hell is this?" Erik muttered to himself as he dug through the file folder. If he had expected the Xavier file to be big and full of answers to his questions, he was sorely disappointed.
"A load of bull," Raven answered from her side of the table.
They were seated in Erik's kitchen, around the big table. A couple of cups of half drunk coffee, long since gone cold, were pushed to the side and the rest of the surface of the table was taken up by file folders and paper.
"Is it me, or is there more red tape here than any other case we've ever seen?" Erik asked her, looking up to find her bent over her own papers. She looked so tired. They had started out in the morning, ready to take on the world. Now, close to midnight, her shoulders were hunched and her eyes tired.
"We need rest," Erik said quietly. "We need to look at this with a clear mind."
"I don't want to go home and lie in bed, awake, because this is all I'll be thinking about," Raven replied, looking up at him.
"Take the guestroom," Erik offered. It wasn't as if he was going to get much sleep either. The files were full of bloated information that explained absolutely nothing.
It spoke volumes as to how tired she was, that Raven simply nodded and trotted off to the bathroom to get ready for bed.
Erik sat back for a moment, the pushed himself away from the table, busying himself with finding sheets and pillows for her. The guestroom was more or less what he'd initially intended to be his office, and it had a narrow bed that he'd set up in case he had overnight guests.
It was rarely used - bed or office. He tended to end up in the kitchen, easy access to his coffee maker and he was used to the kitchen being a place for him to make his homework when he'd been a kid.
His mother's kitchen, her fortress and his free space.
Erik squeezed Raven's shoulder as she passed him in the doorway, wordlessly trying to lend her a little strength. She may not have had anything to do with Xavier for years, but she was like a dog with a bone. She would not give up until she got to the bottom of it all or it broke her.
In many ways Erik saw a lot of himself in her. She viewed, to some extent, Xavier as a brother figure, even after years apart. And Erik saw her as the sister he had never had. She'd nag him, tease him, make sure he ate when at the office, help keep him sane. Raven's respect was not easily earned, and the fact that she was doing this for Xavier told Erik that he'd made the right choice when he'd demanded to get the case.
About an hour after Raven had gone off to bed, Erik realized, as he lay in his own bed, that he would not be getting any sleep. Too many thoughts were rolling around in his head, vying for his attention.
It shouldn't have surprised Erik, but once they had started scratching the surface, he saw how wrong he'd been about Xavier. Yes, he'd come from old money, yes he was a white, well-educated male, but Erik had to wonder how many protective layers the man had. And getting any information was like pulling teeth. Be it from official channels or Xavier himself.
"It's like you don't even want to get out of here," Erik confronted Xavier one afternoon when he was visiting without Raven.
Xavier watched him quietly for a moment. "Maybe it's better if I go away, maybe it's better for the world."
"Could you be anymore cryptic and theatrical?" Erik asked acidly.
Xavier shot him a small indulgent smile. "I could try?"
"Don't go to any lengths for me," Erik muttered.
"Ah, but I would go to great lengths for you, Mr. Lehnsherr," Xavier said quietly.
Erik wanted to look away, but he couldn't quite bring himself to break off the intense contact.
Before things could get awkward, a knock on the door told Erik that the meeting was over. "Next time," he said barely audible.
"Yes," was all the reply he got from Xavier.
That night, Erik pushed the papers away with a frustrated grunt and dug his running shoes out of the closet. He tried to run a couple of times a week, but this case had eaten most of his time and he felt like a restless racehorse. Not the kind of state of mind that would get him anywhere with the case files.
The run, he hoped, might clear his mind and after about five minutes he was beginning to find the rhythm, again. Unfortunately, clearing his mind meant that other issues were lining up for him to deal with.
Most of them seemed to center around Xavier. And not just the case. Although, of course it was all connected in some way. Erik wondered if his mother had seen through his flimsy explanations the last time he'd visited her. He'd been a little rattled by his own attraction to Xavier, and he'd long since realized that it had been because he was unsure if the attraction was to the power the man wielded or if it was the man behind the gift, as little as he did know him. Xavier had a sharp mind when not numbed by
Turning a corner, Erik was so close to admitting to himself that maybe, for once, it wasn't solely the power and the thought might have formed completely, if he hadn't nearly run over a young guy who was standing in the middle of his path, a slightly desperate look on his face.
Erik skidded to a halt, subconsciously reaching out for any metal in the vicinity; lamp posts, cars, two bicycles. Staring at the guy, Erik took in his bedraggled looks, obviously having been caught out in the rain earlier in the evening, damp collar, wet-then-dry sweatshirt and messy blond hair.
And a look of determination and desperation warring on his face. It all made Erik wonder if he was about to be mugged.
"You Lehnsherr? The lawyer?" the guy asked, voice rough and low.
"Yes?" Erik let his gift flow around the nearest lamp post, readying himself for the attack.
The young guy blinked at him, seemingly realizing that something was up. Then he held up both hands, taking a step back. "Hey man, I'm not mugging you, just need to talk to you."
Erik didn't let his guard down, but he did nod, realizing his heart was hammering with adrenaline. Forcing his breathing to normalize, Erik waited for the guy to go on.
"Can we go somewhere more private?" the guy asked, making a show of not looking over his shoulder. "It's about Charles."
Now this was not something Erik had expected. "Xavier?"
The guy cocked his head to the side, then straightened up and nodded. "I'm Alex, friend of his."
"I didn't think he had any friends," Erik said, before he could stop himself.
Alex pursed his lips, then the corner of his lips curved up into a mirthless smile. "There aren't many of us, but we do exist."
"Well, he will probably need that," Erik agreed. "Know that I can probably rip the iron from your bloodstream or something that would equally kill you."
"Probably?" Alex asked curiously.
"Never tried it, but it's a sound theory," Erik said, turning towards his apartment and gesturing for Alex to follow him.
"Fair enough," Alex agreed as he fell into step next to Erik and neither said anything again before they were back at Erik's apartment.
Erik busied himself with the kettle, setting up two cups with instant coffee. Maybe not the best, but he had a feeling they would need the caffeine. As he waited for the kettle to boil, he turned the night's encounter over in his head. Not to mention his 'guest'.
Bracing for whatever might come, Erik put the cups down on the kitchen table and gestured for Alex to share. And he wasn't disappointed.
"Let me guess, Charles never told you why they took him, did he?" Alex asked.
Erik raised an eyebrow, but he had to admit that he did appreciate the straight to the point attitude. "Apart from the fact that he kept his m-status a secret? Can't say that he did."
Alex grinned without much humour. "Yeah, no, there's a lot more to it than that. I just need to know that I can trust you. If I can, there's someone I want you to meet. He's a bit of a nervous type, and has a lot at stake, so I don't blame him. He'll be in there with Charles if it turns out I can't trust you."
"I think you know you can," Erik found himself replying, though not entirely sure why. What if the kid was involved in something illegal? Erik was a lawyer, he'd sworn to uphold the law and if there was something fishy, he would have to turn the authorities towards it.
"Here's what I know," Alex carried on. "You're vocally pro-mutant, you have a rep of defending us when we can't, when the law is used against us."
"Unless you fuck up and you are guilty. If you're not good, you go away." At least Erik could be honest with him.
Alex looked wretched for a moment. "Charles is good." There was so much conviction in his voice, such incredible trust.
Erik didn't answer, but found himself nodding.
"I need for you to meet this friend of mine." Alex looked determined as hell.
"Will he explain why Xavier isn't cooperating?" Erik asked curiously. This was still his focus, because if he couldn't get inside the head of a client, it would be damned hard for him to represent and defend them in any way.
Alex laughed. "Fuck knows why Charles does anything, but my friend will at least be able to tell you what he did."
"That would at least be something," Erik said drily.
"I'll, go get my friend...," Alex made to stand, then stared Erik straight in the eyes, tenacity and desperation warring on his face for a moment to only be exchanged with tired, fake indifference. "Don't disappear on me."
"Why do you go to such lengths for Xavier?" Erik asked curiously, not bothering to point out he was home and not planning on going anywhere. While he'd seen an intelligent, young man in Xavier, he wondered what could spark such devotion in people.
Alex paused at the door, hand on the handle, but not turning it enough to open it. Erik could feel the heat from his skin against the metal of it.
"Charles ...helped me when I needed it the most. It's the least I can do, right?" His voice was rough, low and Erik had to strain to hear him.
Erik stared after him. Stared at the closed door a few moments after Alex had left. Well, didn't look like he was going to get much sleep this night. He dug his phone out while he sat up the coffee maker for what he knew they'd need, he shot a short text message off to Raven, telling her to get to his place ASAP.
If he was going to suffer, so was she.
Hank McCoy was a bit of a surprise to Erik. Least of all his appearance. Big, blue and furry, damp from the rain that had come on again since Erik and Alex had gotten back. The young man seemed terribly nervous, as if he expected someone to kick down the door any moment, dragging him away to lock him up for life.
Alex had bitched somewhat about Raven being there, about a stranger and the less people involved the better. Raven had told him to shut up, but of all the people present, Erik had been surprised when Hank, who had struck Erik as shy, had growled at Alex to shut up and sit down. And considering that Alex followed orders, Erik decided he was not going to underestimate the kid.
"Raven, Charles told me about you," Hank said, holding out a huge, taloned hand, which Raven took as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Erik had occasionally seen her struggle with her own visible mutations, and he couldn't be more happy and proud of her to see her treat Hank with absolute normality.
It seemed to also put both Hank and Alex at ease, at least to some extend.
Setting the coffee on the kitchen table as well as the mugs, Erik gestured for them to dig in, and took his own seat. "Alex tells me that you know about Xavier's violations, what he's in for etc. All the stuff we can't get to."
Hank nodded and made a face, pouring a cup of coffee and adding liberal amounts of the milk Raven had raided from Erik's fridge.
"I don't know why Charles did what he did, I don't think anyone does," Hank began, curling his ridiculously big hands around the jumbo size mug with two kittens on that Edie had given to Erik on his last birthday. "But I can tell you what he did to get him in the pickle he's currently in."
Erik shared a look with Raven and poured his own coffee. "That will at least be something we don't know - it's been nothing but red tape since the beginning."
"I'm not surprised," Hank said with a sigh. "Shortly after Charles took over the company - around half a year ago, he came to me with some pretty specific questions. Now, some of his questions were regarding stuff that our scientists had barely theorized yet, while other stuff was well known within the company."
Erik gestured for him to go on.
"Charles spoke of some things that he shouldn't even have known about, because the only place that existed would be inside my head. Worries I'd had about specific turns our R&D department had taken, how much our ethics committee was laughable at best."
"Xavier is a pretty powerful telepath," Erik argued.
"He said his source was an outside one, that what he was worried about was not even necessarily going to happen," Hank said, looking up at Erik.
"Charles was never capable of premonition," Raven said quietly.
"No, but it's a possible mutation, probable," Hank replied. "There's bound to be someone out there who can do that."
"Isn't that jumping to conclusions?" Erik asked.
"Maybe, possibly," Hank replied with a sigh as he emptied his cup and poured a new one. "While it's all theories, Charles slipped once or twice and I'm pretty sure he believed that our research was going somewhere it shouldn't."
"What did he do to get locked up?" Erik asked quietly.
"You have to understand that Xavier BioGenetics, from what Charles and I could dig up from hidden files and from behind numerous firewalls, did work for the government. Did research for the government. Highly classified experiments. Through the past decade..."
"What did he do?" Erik pressed.
"Mr. Lehnsherr," Hank said, hand curling into a fist on the table. "We found things that would destroy the company, but neither of us cared at this point. We found a decade worth of research and experimentation on mutants to find the ultimate ...cure for the mutant gene."
Erik just stared at him, not really taking the words in. It had been suggested through the years, that an anti-mutant treatment could maybe someday be created.
"By chance, about the same time that Charles took over the company, they were close to finding the cure," Hank said, voice small and low, but fell like thunder to Erik's ears. "Xavier BioGenetics was running experiments for the government, delivering the medical cocktails needed as well." Hank shook his head. "How the heck Charles could have known, I don't know but a mutant with the gift of premonition could explain it. He knew when to counter, who to target..."
"What did he do?" Erik repeated for the third time, knowing that it would have to be something extreme to make the government put him away like this, making it so damned hard to give him a fair trial.
"He fought tooth and nail to get to the company and then he started removing, deleting and destroying the research."
"That would be enough to make the government take notice and punish him for it," Raven muttered.
"BioGenetics had government contracts that Charles cancelled," Hank said with a nod. "Contracts that would have given the government the ultimate weapon against mutants."
"Hell of a way to make enemies, huh?" Alex asked, leaning back in his chair.
"I'm surprised they let me speak to him," Erik said.
"Maybe they hoped he'd share something with you that they hadn't been able to get out of him," Raven mused.
"Hoping he had copies of the research?" Erik raised an eyebrow at Hank.
Hank laughed, low and without mirth. "Trust me, there are no copies, it's all gone."
"How can you be so sure?" Raven asked.
"Because I helped him write the virus that wiped out the research and destroyed the servers and the backups." Hank looked completely unapologetic and Erik drew a breath of relief.
"Are you telling me they had no paper copies?" Raven asked in disbelief.
"A small accidental fire that can be put down to faulty wiring," Alex replied, a small shrug.
Erik really didn't want to ask, because he was beginning to guess that nothing had been left to chance. "I take it the scientists remember a lot of their research and can recreate some of it?"
Alex coughed and Hank looked up at the ceiling.
"Fuck," Raven muttered, looking both impressed and uneasy.
"That would take a lot more than a level ten or eleven telepath to remove such information without damaging the person," Erik tried to argue. It would also explain why they wanted to lock Charles Xavier up. Someone who was willing to use his telepathy to remove memories. Memories important to the government. Someone who was capable of doing so. If they didn't want him for their own nefarious purposes, they would put him away because they were afraid of him.
"Yeah, we don't know how much he can do and he did pass out that night so obviously he hit some kind of limit," Hank agreed quietly.
"That's..." Erik trailed off.
"Scary," Raven supplied.
Erik didn't want to admit to her or himself that it was also an attractive trait so he just nodded.
They sat in the quiet of Erik's kitchen for a little while, then Erik broke the silence.
"What the hell do we say to him tomorrow?"
He was only met with more silence. They had to find a way to free Xavier - and as long as Xavier wasn't cooperating and the government didn't want them to succeed, Erik couldn't do anything but go back to the facility and chip away at Xavier's stubbornness.
Erik would have happily tackled the challenge of making Xavier talk, if it had meant actually seeing the man the next day. When he and Raven had entered the secure main building of the facility they had been met with some baby-faced military man in a suit that didn't quite hide the weapon sitting under his arm.
"You can't do that! You can't just have moved him overnight," Erik argued, fuming at the stupidity of not considering this, of not thinking with what he'd heard the previous night, they would allow him to keep meeting with Xavier.
"It was Mr. Xavier's wish," the man said.
"Bullshit," Erik replied.
"Sir," the man replied, obviously shifting uneasily under Erik's glare. Or maybe that was just wishful thinking from Erik's side. Even if it wasn't there was always the risk of intimidating a public employee to the point where Erik might find himself on the wrong side of a set of bars.
"Alright," Erik said, taking a deep breath. "But you know I'm not just going to back off."
The minion shrugged. "You are more than welcome to file a complaint through official channels. I'm sure you know how."
"Trust me, we will," Erik promised him, marching back out through the security with a pissed off Raven behind him.
"What the hell are we going to do?" Raven asked.
"We have to honour Xavier's wishes," Erik said lightly turning his head just enough to hold her gaze for a moment, before quickly shaking his head. He hadn't really realized until now that they might be bugged and he couldn't afford to give away their acquaintance with Hank and Alex to anyone.
At least Raven was, as always, quick to follow his lead, and she nodded and stayed silent.
Once they were a few miles away from the facility, Erik pulled over and gestured for Raven to take the wheel. Sitting back in the passenger seat he waited for her to start driving again, before he closed his eyes and started running his gift over and through the car in much the same way that one would run a hand over the hood of a car to search for unremarkable bumps and scratches.
However, Erik was looking for bugs. And he wasn't disappointed. Three of them, two sound ones and one GPS tracking. The GPS tracker Erik lopped at a motorbike that overtook them and the two sound ones, he hit with an electromagnetic pulse that he knew from experience would create a hell of a feedback loop. He had, after all, done that to his first stereo as a kid and if nothing else, it had taught him what not to do around electronics. No reason why he couldn't abuse this knowledge now.
Heading back to Erik's apartment still with Raven behind the wheel, Erik shot off a short text message to Alex, letting him know that they needed to talk. The reply he got back was just an address and a request for an ETA.
When Erik told Raven the address, she shook her head and hit the next exit. "Westchester. I can't believe he's back at that place."
"Yeah, where we grew up. I thought that Kurt still had the house and that Charles had only gone after the company, but apparently I was wrong."
"Need directions?" Erik asked, knowing that the answer would probably be a no.
He was right. Raven shook her head and just carried on driving, while Erik shot a text back to Alex to let him know what road they were on and that he had no idea how quickly they would get there. He wasn't about to start up the GPS of the car to have a look - if the government was involved, he didn't want to make it too easy for them to follow. Raven handed him her own phone. "Put us both offline, flight mode preferably."
Erik nodded. "Won't they know where to look?"
"I doubt Charles has listed the house in Westchester as a home address. Hell, even Kurt moved out years ago from what I know.. If anything, the only reason I could imagine for Charles to take over the house, would be to burn it to the ground to get rid of all the bad memories."
Erik both wanted to ask and yet really didn't want to know. While his family had been a little broken after the run in with Shaw, at least he still had a nurturing mother who had been there for him whenever he had needed it. The house he had grown up in might not have been much to look at, but it had been a welcoming one.
Driving up the long, slightly overgrown road to what Raven warned would be a mansion, Erik wasn't sure what to expect, but the house looked like it hadn't been lived in for ages, some of the windows boarded up, while Erik was fairly sure a new layer of paint wouldn't do much good. It needed more than that.
"According to what I've come across, Kurt moved out about three years ago," Raven muttered as she pulled the car up in front of the house, killing the engine but not moving to get out of the car. "Officially the place has been left abadoned since."
They both jumped when someone knocked on Erik's window and Erik realized they'd both zoned out for a moment.
Alex made a face at them and gestured for them to follow and Raven and he got out of the car, following Alex inside.
Inside was completely different from the outside.
"Cool, huh?" Alex said with a grin. "We strengthened the structure and left the outside as it was to avoid attracting attention."
"Impressive," Erik replied, beginning to understand that Charles' friends were skilled beyond what he'd thought..
"So, how was Charles?" Alex asked as he led them into the living room that looked very modern and fancy, where Hank was seated in front of a laptop with a cup of coffee next to him.
"That's just the problem," Raven said. "They moved him."
"Where to?" Alex asked as Hank looked up and frowned at them.
"They wouldn't tell us," Erik said, finally letting his anger shine through. "Said Xavier had requested it, but I doubt it."
"As do I," Hank agreed. "Who told you?"
"Some minion," Erik said while Raven cleared her throat. They turned to her and when she had their attention, her body shifted and in her stead stood a perfect replica of the man they had met at the facility.
Alex hissed and shook his head. "Not just some minion, Lehnsherr, that's one of Stryker's men - which means that Charles is in deep shit."
"Damn it," Erik cursed. "Stryker had signed that letter trying to discourage me from defending Xavier."
"I'm not surprised," Hank said, going back over to the laptop. "That leaves it up to us to find Charles, then."
"How are you going to do that?" Alex asked, dropping into the chair across from him.
"I intend to use what little information that BioGenetics still has about the various government facilities it had agreements with."
"How the hell are you going to do that?" Alex asked, "You were suspended."
"And that will stop me how?" Hank asked.
Erik had watched the back and forth silently. "Do we want to know?"
"Let's just say that I'm good at getting into systems," Alex explained with a small grin, "but Beast here is a master."
It was possible that Hank was flushing underneath the fur. "Probably not something you should know about if you want plausible deniability."
Erik shared a quick look with Raven, mirroring her mean grin. "What do you need? I think we're in it for the long haul - especially if the government is running experiments on mutant."
"It might not be best for your career, Mr. Lawyer," Alex said with raised eyebrow.
"Who cares about my career if the future of our kind is at stake?" Erik asked cooly.
"Point taken, Lehnsherr," Alex replied.
"Erik," Erik corrected him. "We're all in this together, so call me Erik."
Alex bowed his head in agreement.
Three days later, Erik found himself wondering how the heck he had gotten from being a lawyer to sneaking through an air duct of a facility in the Nevada desert that wasn't on any map.
Except on the map that Hank had created by means that Erik didn't want to think about.
He'd wanted to argue against the skin-tight suit that Hank had presented them with, but Alex had told him to just forget it - if they were going in anywhere, they wanted to be dressed for it - all Erik had gotten from that conversation was that the suit was apparently bulletproof.
At least it was comfortable.
Raven was sneaking along behind him and Erik focused on her for a moment, which would turn out to be the worst thing he could do. The hallways were lined with cameras, but Hank had sworn he had hacked each and everyone of them, looping them to fool the guards.
They were following the blueprints that Alex had dragged out of the system and while Alex had entered through another entrance, heading towards where any research material was kept, Erik and Raven were trying to find where Xavier was held.
Erik didn't notice the guard until it was too late and the man held up a weapon.
Instinctively, Erik reached for the metal that would be in the gun, realizing there was none. Neither could he feel any ammunition. The only thing that saved his life was that Raven yanked him back and the impact of the projectiles hit only the suit.
It still hurt like hell, though.
Erik growled and made to wrap any available metal around the guard, but in the blink of an eye, the man was unconscious on the floor of the hallway. Erik hadn't even seen Raven move, she'd been that fast. She turned to him, a look of smug delight on her face.
"Don't get cocky," Erik warned with a groan as he managed to get back on his feet. Pressing his hand against his chest, he could tell that the suit had kept anything from penetrating, but the impact had still hit hard enough to bruise severely. Erik could well imagine that his chest would look like he'd been beaten to within an inch of his life.
"Pot, kettle," Raven replied with a snort, taking the point as Erik took a few moments to just follow her and focus on breathing through the pain as he moved.
"Man, Raven, you're wasted in a lawyer's office," Erik muttered when she took out the fourth guard who had tried to sneak up on them.
"I could say the same about you," Raven said quietly, leaning around a corner to check if the coast was clear.
Erik checked his watch and held Raven back. "Thirty seconds, and Hank's diversion will kick in."
Raven nodded. "And we need to get through that door," she said pointing ahead.
Erik breathed in as deeply as he could without actually whimpering. He was going to need some serious painkillers once they got out. Letting his breath out again slowly, he felt out the door, the mechanisms of the high tech lock. While the guards had taken his gift into account, the locks didn't and with a few pokes and prods, Erik knew exactly where and what to do.
"Ten seconds. You ready?" Raven whispered.
"Five, four," Raven began counting down. "Three, two, one, hit it."
At the same time as the alarm went off, courtesy of Hank hacking the system, Erik switched the lock off, taking out the only alarm he could feel was connected to the door. If he was lucky, that would be the only one and everyone else would be following the evacuation alarm that Hank was planning on setting off.
-Evacuate. This facility will lock down in T-minus 4 minutes, 52 seconds-
Erik winced as the loudness of the evacuation alarm made his ears ring.
"We ready?" Raven asked.
"It's unlocked," Erik replied, following her through the door before anyone would come running down the hallway and notice them.
"Should we be worried about the lockdown?" Erik asked.
"Hank said he could reopen the locked down areas where needed," Raven replied as she slowly pushed the door open, looking through the crack. When no one was on the other side, she slipped inside and held the door open long enough for Erik to get through as well.
"Oh, god," she breathed and staggered forward to the table in the middle of the room. On it, Erik realized was the still body of Charles Xavier.
"I think he's breathing," she said, "barely."
"How do we get him out of that?" Erik asked, staring at the IV drops attached to him, the cords attached to his naked chest and shaved head.
"Very carefully," Raven replied, carefully removing the needles in Xavier's body. Erik stepped up and helped her, undoing the disgusting suppression collar.
"He's probably pumped full of suppression drugs as well," Erik muttered, remembering vividly the first time he had met Xavier, when the man had not even been aware of what was going on around him.
"Probably," Raven agreed, making sure that everything was detached. "Wanna bet they have alarms attached to these?" she gestured at the machines that had been attached to Xavier.
"More than probable," Erik agreed, wincing as he moved to pick Xavier up, for a moment forgetting his bruises.
"Try not to hurt yourself," Raven said drily, doing what he couldn't and picking up Xavier like he weighed nothing.
Erik occasionally forgot that shapeshifting wasn't the only advantage that her mutant genes gave her. With a wave of the hand, he crushed every piece of equipment that had been attached to Xavier, feeling really good about it.
Checking the hallway, Erik found no one waiting for them, and he led the way out towards where Alex had told him they'd meet up if they could, or at least would serve as escape route for them.
The fact that Erik had a few minutes to think as they tried to get out should probably have warned him that he was in trouble. The fact that the thought trickled into his mind again how amazing it was that Xavier seemed to inspire such loyalty in people, even Raven who hadn't seen him in years. If Erik could manage just half that, he could raise armies instead of fighting his battles in the courtroom.
Shaking his head to clear it, Erik tried to focus on the task ahead. He hadn't considered such foolish self destructive ideas since Shaw had had his claws in him and Xavier was many things, but Erik could tell from their conversations that he was no Shaw. Quite frankly he was as far from Shaw as he could be, even if the man that Erik had slowly gotten to know was almost as consumed by anger as Erik had been back then.
Considering what Xavier had tried to do, what he must have seen his family company do to his own kind, Erik couldn't blame him. Hell, he'd be there beside him, razing the assholes to the ground, if Xavier asked it of him.
Of course the time for contemplation was limited. They turned a corner and right ahead of them was a veritable barricade of soldiers, all weapons trained on them and Erik didn't even have to check, the weapons were completely void of metal.
"Sucks to be me," he muttered to himself.
Erik heard a beep in his ear and Hank's voice rough and guttural. "Hold your ears if you care about your eardrums."
Erik clapped his hands over his ears, watched in amazement as Raven's ears morphed shut and she quickly knelt down and put her hands over Xavier's ears.
Before he could wonder what was behind Hank's warning, a horrendous noise punched through the hallway, almost physical in its presence. While Hank's warning had come at the right time, the soldiers who had been the target of the attack obviously weren't so fortunate.
Most of them sank to the floor without a sound, while others were whimpering, obviously only halfway conscious.
Erik looked up to find Alex staring at him from the other side of the now passable hallway. Behind him were six frightened kids and next to him stood a young man with red hair and a satisfied look on his face.
"Thanks guys," Raven said as she picked Xavier up again. "I see we have gained a few extra kids along the way."
"Who are you calling kids?" someone muttered in the middle of the group behind Alex, but otherwise no one opposed the comment.
"Hank's already working on that," Alex replied, eyeing Xavier who was still out for the count.
Getting out was suddenly not as difficult or a matter of stealth as Erik had expected. All the kids were obviously mutants and more than a few of them had a hell of a grudge. In most cases, when they did run into resistance, it took very little to clear the way and send the soldiers packing.
Erik noticed, as they headed down another nondescript hallway that Xavier was beginning to move a little.
"It's okay, Charles," Raven muttered at one point and Erik watched as Xavier turned his head on her shoulder, eyes still shut, as if he was calming down from hearing her voice.
Somewhere between that and actually breaching the surface of the facility, Xavier woke up, but was obviously still loopy from the drugs. And Erik realized yet another thing he could add to his ever growing list of attractive traits when it came to Charles Xavier. Obviously Xavier was metabolizing the shit a lot faster than what Erik had seen before. He'd only himself once been under the influence of a suppressant and that had been for the hellish trial of Shaw, where the judge had been worried about his temper.
It had taken Erik the better part of a day to metabolize it and he was pretty damned sure that Xavier had been pumped up with a lot more than the dosage that Erik had had.
Looking at Raven and the man in question, Erik realized that Xavier's eyes were open and that he was studying Erik openly. Xavier's pupils were still blown to an unnatural size and he looked more than a little loopy, still. It was only cemented that perhaps it wasn't leaving his system as fast as Erik had thought, when Xavier slurred something against Raven's shoulder.
"What was that?" she asked, looking more than a little surprised.
Xavier repeated it and this time Erik heard it as well. "Would you mind terribly if I dated your hot boss, Raven?"
"For fuck's sake, Charles," Raven growled at him and rolled her eyes when Xavier just buried his face in her neck and giggled like a teenager high on weed.
It wasn't too far off, really and Erik had to wonder if perhaps it was a good thing that while it lasted, Xavier's gift was dampened.
The strange giggle inside his head made Erik rolls his eyes this time - why was he even surprised?
"Where are the soldiers?" Raven asked as the whole group of mutants, liberators and liberated prisoners, broke through the final lock and found themselves in what was obviously the entrance area, the yard of compacted sand.
"I think maybe Xavier had something to do with that," Erik muttered, not taking his eyes away from the man in question, who was letting Raven carry him, while staring at Erik like he thought if he looked away he might disappear.
"Probably," Alex muttered from next to him. He was fiddling with his mobile phone, obviously communicating with Hank.
"Let me down for a moment, darling," Xavier said quietly, looking far more composed than he should be. "I do metabolize fast," Xavier said with a tired smile. "It's a bitch when you want to get drunk."
Erik couldn't help the snort escaping him.
"And while I'd love to go out for a drink with you," Charles said with a saucy wink, "just know that I can drink any of you assholes under the table." Turning around and looking back at the facility, Xavier frowned. "Everyone is out and yes, that would be part my doing, part their survival instincts. What we're about to do... well, I didn't want to bury anyone alive."
"Where's Stryker?" Raven asked.
"Not in the facility," came the reply. "Not even in the state. My best guess is in Washington, brownnosing some politicians."
"What do you suggest?" Erik asked curiously. This was definitely a side of Xavier he wasn't familiar with. The side that seemed to easily take command of a situation. It wasn't exactly discouraging Erik.
"Hank's made sure that there are EMTs on their way to take care of the children, at least the ones that need it. Apart from that I think he's found a plane we can 'borrow'," Xavier said, turning to Alex who nodded and held up three fingers.
"We'll get the kids out from the facility grounds," Alex said, pointing into the darkness of the desert. "The EMTs are almost here; we'll give you guys room and meet with them."
Erik realized that Xavier was looking at him now. "What are we doing?" he asked carefully. It felt like for all that Xavier had been out cold less than twenty minutes ago, he was now well ahead of Erik.
"I think you'll like it, Erik, and please, it's Charles - especially if you take me up on that drink."
"You're a horrible flirt," Erik muttered. "So, what?" Erik gestured at the facility.
"Kids are out of the way," Alex replied as he made to follow them away from the yard.
Erik realized something metallic was coming from two directions.
"That would be Hank on the plane, right on time," Charles said, eyes closed, leaning on Raven. "And more than a few news choppers as well as EMTs."
"News crews?" Erik asked, eyes widening.
"We'll need them," Charles replied with a wink. The light from the choppers' searchlights lit up the night.
"Did you...?" Erik trailed off.
"Hank did, on my request," Charles explained. "We need it, we need to blow this open or the government will just cover it up. If you're worried about the world knowing about your involvement-," Charles started.
"Fuck what the world thinks it knows," Erik grumbled, and felt the truth in the words. This might make it difficult for him to continue the life he had, but hadn't he been the one to, on more than one occasion, tell Edie that he was getting restless and needed some outlet for it all? That he felt he wasn't doing enough?
The grin Charles shot him pretty much told him that he'd already made the choice.
"Hank's been busy," Charles said as they watched Alex stand back with the rescued prisoners. The news choppers were drawing closer and Erik could tell that Charles was keeping track of the news people above them.
"Are you tinkering?" Raven asked, voicing what Erik was only just wondering.
"Just making sure that they are aware that this facility was a mutant research facility and that the subjects were not asked before getting here. Ah." Charles trailed off, his eyes half closed. "Hank has made sure that the news stations have received most of the information he ripped out of the facility servers."
"Is that wise?" Erik asked, looking up and feeling the metal of the choppers.
"He destroyed the research results," Charles said quietly, shivering in the cool night air. "They only get the names of the people running this place and what they were doing, the methods, not the actual scientific findings."
"And why are we still here?" Raven tugged him in a little closer.
"Erik is going to collapse the part of the facility that holds the servers - just to be on the safe side."
Erik stared at him. "I can't - I'm not that good, nor is my gift a surgical scalpel."
"Oh, Erik," Charles said, eyes darkening as he held Erik's gaze. "You are capable of so much more than you think."
Erik opened his mouth to argue that he didn't even know where the servers were, but he didn't get farther than that. Charles staggered over, dragging a bemused Raven along. Leaning against Erik, who only just managed to catch him, he reached up, grabbed Erik's chin and pulled him down, pressing their lips together.
Inside Erik's head everything exploded, like every sense of metal he'd had in the past had been through a filter. In his head he felt out the entire structure and could tell, from the information Charles was flooding him with, exactly where to strike.
With surgical precision and a gut feeling of how to do so.
Smug asshole, Erik thought to himself and he could tell how Charles' mouth curved into a grin against his. Pretty, impressive, smug asshole. The ground around them shook and then stopped and Charles broke the kiss, leaning his forehead against Erik's temple.
"Was the kiss necessary?" Erik asked, a little out of breath, only partly thanks to aforementioned kiss. And damn it, he had the headache from hell. Like all his senses had been dialed up beyond maximum.
"No, that was just because I felt like it."
"You're such an asshole, Charles," Raven said, laughing as she buried her face against the side of his head.
"Well, yes, no arguing with that," Charles agreed with a small laugh, pulling Erik in close as well. Around them EMTs had arrived and were doling out blankets and taking the kids in to check them over. Erik knew that they would eventually have to deal with it all, but for the moment, he just hung on to the two of them..
Erik had no idea how long they stood like that, until Raven poked him in the side and told him his phone was buzzing.
"You're on TV."
"Uh-huh," Erik agreed, letting the soothing sound of Edie's voice wash over him.
"Bring ihnen nach Hause."
"Don't thank me for being a decent human being, child," Edie huffed.
Erik struggled against laughing. He thought if he let go, the laughter would turn into hysterics.
"My mum says to bring you home," he told Raven and Charles.
"Sleepover?" Charles asked, groggily, obviously more worn out than Erik had thought. Then again, Erik couldn't fathom how he was even standing after the days he'd had and the boost he'd just given Erik.
"Sleepovers at Edie's are the best," Raven agreed. She'd know, she'd crashed on Edie's couch more than once in the past.
"We'll be there as soon as we can, Mama. Just have to make sure the kids are okay."
"The door is always open for you, Erik - just get here. And the house is big enough for you and your friends."
Hanging up, Erik drew in a deep breath. "Time to deal with the shit show," he muttered.
"Yes, that," Charles muttered. "Don't mind if I pass out, do you? There's a good chap." With that, Charles sagged and the only reason he didn't slide to the ground, was because he was still squashed in between Erik and Raven.
"Perfect timing," Erik said drily.
Raven just laughed and picked up Charles, and Erik tried not to think about how cold he felt now that he was no longer pressed against the both of them.
Erik sipped his coffee and winced as moving his arm made his mottled chest hurt.
He should be in bed, everyone else was. Instead he'd changed out of the skintight suit and into a t-shirt and loose sports trousers. His mother's house was finally quiet as Edie had shooed the last of her guests off to bed. In the end, they'd only left three of the six kids they'd found to the authorities - those were the ones who had families that had filed them as missing. Angel, Darwin and Sean had come back with them.
It tore a little at Erik. Three kids had come back with them because they didn't have families who were looking for them. How many other facilities were there out there that had similar laboratories with cells filled with people no one was looking for?
"Don't dwell too much on that tonight, my friend," Charles interrupted him. He was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, watching Erik with tired eyes.
"Why aren't you in bed?" Erik asked him, not wanting to get into that conversation.
It seemed Charles was going to let him get away with it. "The chemicals are still working their way through my system. While I'm not under their influence anymore, they have the annoying side effect of preventing me from a good night's sleep."
Erik pointed at the cupboard and the coffee maker.
"Yeah, because that would help," Charles said with a grin. "Does your mother have tea?"
Erik yawned and flicked his hand, lifting the kettle from its place and under the tap. Twisting the tap open and filling it. Resettling it and switching it on, Erik pointed at the cupboard next to Charles. "In there." Then he realized that Charles was watching him completely unguarded.
"What?" Erik grumbled, tired. "Something on my face?"
Charles came forward, tea obviously forgotten. He came to a stop right in front of Erik, barely an inch between his leg and Erik's knee.
"You are labelled a lot lower on the scale than you really are, aren't you?" Charles asked, voice barely audible.
Erik felt heat rise through his body, and unwittingly felt the sense memory of Charles' mouth on his. "No," he said, an automatic response. He wasn't. He, unlike Charles had never hidden his m-level. Something that would have been a felony. Something that would have kept him from pursuing the line of work of a lawyer.
Charles shook his head. "No, I'm sorry, I think I might have pushed you beyond your usual level tonight. You may have been below omega level before, but your potential is above that - and I possibly pushed you across that limit."
Erik shook his head. "I've always been good at fine control." He pointed at the kettle, at that moment finishing boiling and clicking off.
"Your mind is already different than it was the last times we met," Charles pressed.
"You were under the influence of a suppression collar then," Erik argued.
"I was under more tonight," Charles said with a small smile. "I might have pushed you without considering it, my fine control wasn't... entirely up to its usual levels."
"I'm not getting measured, so it's a moot point." Erik wasn't going to discuss this - especially not tonight.
"Yes," Charles replied to his unspoken thoughts, probably. He put a hand on Erik's chest and Erik winced. Yeah, another reason sleep wouldn't be easy. "Hang on a second." He disappeared out into the hallway and Erik shook his head. It seemed like all his conversations with Charles were doomed to confuse more than enlighten. And also leave him with a constant state of unresolved sexual tension.
A moment later, Charles came back into the kitchen. He put a small glass on the table next to Erik, who craned his neck to look.
"It's good for bruises," Charles told him, stepping in close to Erik and urging his shirt up and off.
Erik opened his mouth to ask how Charles would know, then shut it again.
"Ah, yes, Raven would have mentioned something like that, huh?" Charles said, a tired look on his face. "Don't feel sorry for me, Erik."
"I don't," Erik said, realizing it was the truth. "If anything, I feel anger towards your stepfamily - and no, Raven didn't tell me that much."
"But she told you enough," Charles argued, unscrewing the glass and dipping his finger into the waxy ointment.
The scent filled Erik's nose and made him feel like he needed to sneeze for a moment. "I have seen too many similar cases of abuse," Erik said. "I could draw my own conclusions."
Charles paused for a moment, hand hovering over Erik's chest, by now turning all sorts of vivid shades with bruises. "Yes, unfortunately you have. I wish there was something we could do."
"We don't ever give up, we do what we can to make the world a better place and we protect those not strong enough to protect themselves." Those were words that Erik had lived by for years, even if sometimes they did ring hollow to him.
"Hmm," Charles said, looking thoughtful. "Perhaps we should shelve this conversation for a later date and focus on this instead." He touched the ointment lightly to the largest of Erik's bruises. Three impacts had Erik taken to his chest by the time they had gotten out of the facility and the bruises were colourful and painful as hell.
The light touch was by no means uncomfortable, at least not until Charles applied a little too much pressure to one of them. Until that point, Erik had drifted off somewhat, probably broadcasting more than a little arousal. The warm touch of Charles' hands on his chest, meticulously rubbing into his skin set Erik's mind on fanciful paths. There was no one who said that he would be seeing Charles much after this. Hell, Erik couldn't even imagine what blowing the story open to the media would do the court case against Charles.
"One thing at a time," Charles replied, leaning in over Erik, fingers putting a little too much pressure on the bruise. "Don't borrow trouble - I'm not going anywhere just yet."
"Might not be your choice," Erik muttered, tilting his head back to meet Charles' eyes.
"I don't know if you've noticed, but when I set my mind to do or get something, I normally don't stop until this is accomplished." Charles slid his hands up to rest on Erik's shoulders, out of the reach of the most sore bruises as he leaned down to hover over Erik.
"Raven did warn me that you were a stubborn asshole," Erik agreed, his heart picking up speed and heat suffusing his skin.
"Well, yes," Charles agreed, a small huff of laughter that sent his breath skirting over Erik's mouth and a shiver down his spine. "I guess she's right about that. Trust me, I am in no great hurry to part ways with you."
"Good," Erik agreed, "I don't do one night stands."
Charles chuckled and closed the distance between them, straddling Erik's lap and letting him take his full weight. "You'll have to help me there. I haven't been in a relationship for years - too busy trying to avert-," he trailed off.
Erik looked him in the eyes, recalling what Alex and Hank had spoken about, regarding Charles' having mentioned things that smacked of premonition. "Keep your secrets, Charles. But know that if you need to share with someone, I'm here."
For a moment a look of relief crossed Charles' face. "I might take you up on that, eventually, but for now-"
Erik shut him up by curling his hand around the back of Charles' neck and pulling him into a hard kiss.
'Yes, this is better.' Charles' mental voice sounded mildly breathless.
Erik broke the kiss and licked lightly at Charles' lips. "We're not starting anything in my mother's kitchen."
"You have a bed here," Charles muttered, trying to catch him in another kiss.
"Yes," Erik agreed readily.
Charles laughed, sliding back off Erik's lap. When Erik grabbed for him again, Charles pulled him from the chair. "I suggest we use our current bouts of insomnia for something fun."
Erik shook his head but happily followed Charles. Once in the bedroom he kept in his mother's home, however, between two slow kisses, a yawn broke the heat of the moment and Charles couldn't help but laugh. "Maybe that insomnia's wearing off," he suggested.
Grabbing him around the waist, Erik maneuvered him towards the bed. "Can't promise you olympics worthy athletics, but I'm not about to just stop."
Charles slid backwards onto the bed. It wasn't as big as Erik's at home, but it would hold the both of them easily enough. Reaching out, Charles grabbed Erik by the hip and guided him down onto the bed, gentler than Erik had expected.
"We'll do those more strenuous exercises when we're rested and have a bigger bed," Charles said with a wink, pulling Erik's trousers and boxers off. Letting himself fall into the bed next to Erik, he pushed his own trousers off and dropped his t-shirt off the side of the bed.
Erik grabbed him by the waist again, pulling him up on top, letting his legs part to allow Charles to push one leg in between his own. Skin to skin was definitely better than Erik had expected.
"Like you wouldn't believe it," Charles muttered, pushing the mental feeling of his own enjoyment at Erik.
"It's not going to take much," Erik muttered, eyes shut, arching to press his erection against Charles' hip and searching blindly for Charles' mouth.
"Fine with me," Charles said between kisses, grinding down against Erik, a little more frantic.
Erik was fairly sure he was going to have bruises as Charles grabbed his thigh, but it wouldn't be any different from the marks he was leaving on Charles' ass. Especially when Charles bit into his shoulder, shuddering against him as he pulled Erik along a moment later, almost painful in the intensity.
Reaching over the edge of the bed, Erik grabbed Charles' t-shirt and wiped them off, Charles nearly passed out, halfway on top of him. Erik poked him in the side to get him to roll enough to the side that Erik could grab the covers and pull them up and over them.
"I met this woman named Irene," Charles said quietly, face buried against Erik's neck. "She came to me with a warning... She could see parts of the future and what she'd seen... If I didn't intervene, there wouldn't be a future..."
Erik poured his coffee and checked the news on his tablet. The past couple of weeks had been insane and if the public wasn't trying to make it worse, it was either the kids, Edie or Charles.
It was often Charles.
Erik grinned to himself as he browsed the day's news and sipped his coffee.
"Mmm, the feeling's mutual, darling," Charles said as he breezed into the kitchen, long since up and fresh from his run. In the beginning, after they had moved out to Westchester, Erik had tried to join him for runs, but they hadn't managed to make it through more than half a mile to a mile before they found some secluded place and the run was the last thing on their minds.
Now Charles ran in the morning and Erik in the evening, but it still mostly ended in sex, either in the shower or somewhere before or after.
Charles slipped his arms around Erik's shoulders from behind, nuzzling the back of Erik's head. He reached, but Erik used his spoon to push his cup of coffee out of Charles' reach.
"Go make your tea and then join me - I can tell there's something you've been dying to share with me all morning," Erik told him, half in jest, half really grumpy that Charles would go for his coffee - considering that Charles preferred tea.
"Mmm, grumpy pants," Charles muttered against the back of his head. "Caffeine is caffeine."
Erik rolled his eyes and flicked the kettle on with a thought. "The tea's set up," he replied, knowing how to fight his battles. He could feel Charles being torn between staying where he was, probably considering groping Erik and the tug of the need of tea.
Tea won, and Erik had a few moments to himself, to carry on studying the news. If he hadn't turned around and just allowed himself to enjoy watching Charles as he poured water over his teabag. The mild sense of amusement in the back of his mind told him that Charles was aware of this - cemented by the turn of Charles' head, the smile curving his lips.
Taking his seat next to Erik, Charles held his mug of tea in his hands, staring into it for a few moments. "We seem to have amassed a few people along with your mother over the past few weeks," Charles commented, a small smile creasing the skin at the corners of his eyes. "And if... when the court case is over, I do want to consider whether or not this place could become a bit of a haven for our kind."
"To hide them away?" Erik asked curiously.
"No, officially, I'd like to have this as a sort of home slash school for our kind. Especially the one's who need it." Charles paused for a moment, taking a sip of his tea.
"This place would need a bit of seeing to on the outside," Erik warned him. As much as the outside was run down to make it look abandoned while the inside was perfectly fine, for Charles' plan to work..."
"I can't do it myself," Charles said, putting his mug down on the table, staring down at his hands. "And I'm not just saying that because legal support would be brilliant for us."
Erik rolled his eyes and put his hand on top of Charles'. "Don't be an idiot," Erik told him grumpily. He'd had a feeling that Charles had wanted something along these lines - mainly because it had been part of what he'd told Erik that Irene had told him of the future. "You are many things," he continued. "Alone is not one of them."
Charles ducked his head, a light flush colouring his cheeks. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me yet," Erik warned him. "Just wait till Edie joins in."