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22 July 2011 @ 02:44 am
lessons exquisitely crafted.  
lessons exquisitely crafted.
erik/charles (x-men: first class). 1680 words. pg-13. charles sits on the edge of the bathtub as erik slides the razor against his scalp and lets the first clump of soft curls fall to the floor, a small black crescent against the white porcelain. (modern-day, powered-down)




The first words Charles deigns to speak to him in a week and it’s a request they both know he will refuse.

How dare he. How dare he.

“Erik. Stop it, Erik.”

It’s the calmness in Charles’ voice that arrests him. All the angry words and accusations about giving up and not fighting hard enough that he wants to shoot at him like bullets fall back into his throat, heavy as lead. Erik throws himself into the chair beside the bed, refusing to look at Charles. Instead he focuses on the lamp across the room, imagines being able to hurl it against the wall and watching it shatter into a million pieces with just his willpower alone. He doesn’t know if it will make him feel any better, but at least it would be better than this.

Anything would be better than this.

Ask Raven, ask Hank, ask anyone else, Charles, anyone but me.

“Erik, please.”

Erik keeps staring at the lamp because if he looks at Charles and sees his face, his concern for Erik so palpable and singular, he is certain he will break.

Perhaps he already has.

“You cannot ask that of me, Charles.” He says finally, voice sounds weak even to his own ears, weaker than Charles’ and with none of his calm or conviction.

You could ask the world of me and I would give it to you. I would kill for you. I would die for you if I thought it would do any good. But don’t ask me to do this, Charles. Don’t ask me to give up on you.

He wishes he could say these things out loud. More so, he wishes Charles could pluck them directly out of his head so he would know why Erik can’t just be as maddeningly calm about this as he is.

“You know you’re the only one I can ask. I would rather do this now than lose my hair to the chemotherapy later.”

He feels Charles’ hand on his shoulder, the brittle warmth of his fingers seeping through his shirt and burning his skin like a brand. The touch is gentle, asking, and there is no doubt in his voice, just a soft rasp from fatigue. Erik closes his eyes and despite his better resolve, turns to press his lips to Charles’ knuckles, his heartbeat stuttering in his chest. It’s the first skin-to-skin contact they’ve had in days and the extent of his starvation momentarily overwhelms him.

It’s just hair, is what he tries to tell himself because it’s such a simple request, something he should be able to indulge without a second thought, but it’s not just hair, not just. It’s also a concession and while Erik is willing to sacrifice a few of his pawns during chess games with Charles in order to further his other pieces, every inch of ground they give the disease is another inch that becomes impossible to reclaim.

Erik has done his research. The chance that Charles’ condition will approve after chemotherapy is a little more than sixty percent. The chance that it will worsen due to the side-effects is significantly higher.

The irony weighs heavier every time it comes to mind. Charles Xavier, expert in just a little bit of everything, holder of multiple doctorates and is known as one of the world’s foremost pioneers in human genetics research. He has one of the best brains in the world—and now it’s slowly killing him.

After a long moment, Erik swallows and stands, walks to the corner of the room and gingerly picks up the discarded straight razor he threw when Charles first asked him for a favor and placed it in his hand. He runs his thumb along the blade (ugly, hateful thing), then looks to the bed.

Charles, propped up on mountains of pillows with texts stacked almost as high beside him, smiles gratefully at him with paper-dry lips. His skin is milk-pale and the bruises beneath his eyes are deeper than ever.

He is still the most beautiful thing Erik has ever seen in his life.

“Thank you, my friend.”

Erik doesn’t want to be thanked. He wants to be far away from here, in a place where he doesn’t have to watch Charles Xavier waste away from the same illness that took his mother so long ago. He doesn’t know if it’s selfishness or cowardice that makes him stay—a bit of both, most like.

He realized a long time ago that what hurts the most isn’t watching someone you love fight and then eventually succumb to sickness; it’s the feeling of helplessness, the realization that no matter how thoroughly you arm yourself, there will always be too many demons you cannot fight.


--


Charles spends an unnervingly long time examining himself in the mirror as he unbuttons his silk pajama top, a whole size bigger now than when he had last put it on. Erik watches him from the doorway as he runs a hand carefully across his collarbone, which juts out far starker than it used to. His shoulder-blades too, are more pronounced than usual as he hunches over the sink, looking at how his face has thinned, the new hollowing in his cheeks.

“Are you sure you want to—”

“Yes.” Charles looks up from his own reflection to catch Erik’s eye in the mirror. They are still so blue, impossibly large and so full of something that Erik fears to name. “I’m perfectly sure. Please, I’d rather not—” He swallows and offered him a sincere, if trembling smile. “But I would rather not prolong it, if you don’t mind. I’ve always been inordinately fond of my hair.”

In fact Erik does mind, but this is not about what he wants; it never has been. It’s about Charles, Charles and the six-letter word that no one ever says within earshot and even then, in nothing but fearful, hushed whispers as though if spoken any louder, there will be no other choice than to believe that it’s true.

But god, he’s only thirty years old.

Charles sits on the edge of the bathtub as Erik slides the razor against his scalp and lets the first clump of soft curls fall to the floor, a small black crescent against the white porcelain. They don’t speak at all as Erik solemnly works his way from one side of Charles’ head to the other, from temple to nape in short, efficient strokes. Erik listens to Charles’ breathing, shallow and even, his body still for all of how much it must pain him to sit up like this for so long, but Erik dares not go any faster; he doesn’t trust his fingers not to slip.

When he’s finished, Charles’ hair lays in a dark halo around his feet. In pieces on the floor, there seems to be so much more of it and it fills him with an inexplicable sadness.

Erik flings the razor carelessly toward the sink and listens to it clattering against the porcelain bowl, unable to stop his fingers from shaking any longer. He helps Charles up and allows himself to put most of his weight on Erik now, leaning on him with a tired exhale. It’s a testament to how severely the disease has affected him—a month before, he would have politely but adamantly refused assistance from anyone. Erik gives him his shirt back and Charles lets himself be led to the mirror again where he runs a hand cautiously over his newly bare head. Erik can see the rapidfire synapses of thought by each shift of his eyes, but he does nothing to try and decipher them—they’re not for him to know.

“Well?” asks Charles, almost shyly, turning to Erik once he’s done with his self-assessment. “How do I look?”

Like you’re sick, Erik wants to say, like you’re sick and there’s a possibility you won’t get better and like you’re sick and we can’t ignore it anymore because you won’t let us, but above all, still you, Charles, still alive—

“Like you will when you’re sixty,” is what he says instead.

It takes the beat in which Charles’ eyes widen a fraction for Erik to realize what he’s just implied and he quashes the immediate impulse to apologize.

I will not take it back, He thinks fiercely, Never.

Charles doesn’t balk, just takes a step toward him with a sharp inhale. “Erik,” He says, the sound of his name strangely thick in his normally elegant mouth, “You—”

The rest of the thought is forgotten as his hands fly to Erik’s shoulders and he pushes them against the wall with a strength that seems to surprise them both. The first press of Charles’ mouth against his own is soft and impossibly chaste, an outpouring of quiet joy and gratefulness and more things than Erik could ever hope or want to describe, a rediscovery. It’s been too long, too much distance bridged between them in too short a time.

There is a question in his eyes when they separate briefly for air and Erik doesn’t even need to consider it before he is reeling Charles in again, cupping his jaw and fitting their mouths together, thumbing his lower lip gently, seeking the entrance that is immediately, so willingly given. Despite what he has forced himself to believe and deny in alternating cycles, he is not the only one to have missed this.

Charles finally breaks from him with a ragged exhale that sounds almost like a laugh. “Erik?”

“Mm?” He leans in to press their foreheads together, reveling in their renewed closeness, the thrum of life beneath Charles’ skin, beating strong and bright.

“Take me to bed?” The tone of the question is innocent but the way Charles is looking up at him, gaze almost coquettish beneath his fan of dark lashes, mouth bitten red and cheeks flushed, suggests something far less so, and suddenly there is nothing different about him at all.

“I thought you’d never ask,” says Erik, and really should not be surprised when he finds he means it.





notes.
▩ Title and lyrics from "Eric's Song" by Vienna Teng.
▩ This fic really hits home for me in a personal way; some members of my f-list knew me back when I had my own little brain adventure and so this is largely dedicated to you, for sticking with me all this way. Thank you, always. ♥
▩ And thank you, of course, for reading. I can't do this without you.
 
 
 
lyceumidence: marilynlyceumidence on July 22nd, 2011 11:08 am (UTC)
oh, my God, this is so incredibly gorgeous and just...:3 so perfect, for both the characters, and gentle, it's so quiet but at the same time you can just sense the tension just underneath <3
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:38 am (UTC)
Thank you so much. ♥
constantly attacked by killer plot bunnies: charles/eriksirona_gs on July 22nd, 2011 12:51 pm (UTC)
Beautiful. Sad, but excruciatingly beautiful, and so cinematic I could see every moment in my mind. Well done!
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:39 am (UTC)
Thank you! ♥
Acid: Erik 1acidqueen31 on July 22nd, 2011 02:29 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. This is really great. it's so beautiful and sad and hopeful, it's just perfect. Your grasp of the characters is perfect, and it's exactly how I think they'd deal with it. Thank you for writing this, it's beautiful.
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:41 am (UTC)
Writing the characters in this type of setting is always nervewracking for me, so I'm glad you enjoyed this. Thank you for reading! ♥
galidor: Erik & Charlesgalidor on July 22nd, 2011 02:42 pm (UTC)
this is beyond words. especially this line:

He realized a long time ago that what hurts the most isn’t watching someone you love fight and then eventually succumb to sickness; it’s the feeling of helplessness, the realization that no matter how thoroughly you arm yourself, there will always be too many demons you cannot fight.

I know from first hand experience it is very true. thank you for this.
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:48 am (UTC)
That's my personal experience, too. Thank you so much. ♥
(Deleted comment)
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:49 am (UTC)
THE SONG OF ALL OF MY TEARS

MICHIIIIII ;w;♥♥♥
Luna: cekisslunafille on July 22nd, 2011 08:14 pm (UTC)
Okay, I bawled. This is so beautiful and moving and sweet, tender and sad - and all the lovelier for it. I love their bond so so much, and it's so needed. In sickness and in health (because in my mind, they're married) Beautiful fic!
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:50 am (UTC)
(because in my mind, they're married)

You know, I did not even consider this before you just mentioned it--I will definitely include this in one of my follow-ups. Thank you so much for your wonderful headcanon because it's now become my headcanon. ♥!
Luna: James - Prettylunafille on July 30th, 2011 02:39 am (UTC)
Your icon! Gorgeous! :D And you're very welcome. I look forward to your follow-up. You write beautifully! (And I'm glad you like the headcanon!) <3
drinking the otp kool-aid: charles/erikpocky_slash on July 23rd, 2011 12:27 am (UTC)
This is just beautiful. Sad and heart-breaking, but also so hopeful at the end. Erik's pain and denial is just painfully gorgeous.
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:51 am (UTC)
Thank you! ♥ To be honest, the original ending was a bit bleaker, but I just couldn't help myself. They deserve a bit of hope, I think.
belle_favrielle: Anthybelle_favrielle on July 23rd, 2011 07:22 am (UTC)
D: So beautiful and sad! (And I love Vienna Teng! Saw her play just this summer.)
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:52 am (UTC)
Ahh, you're so lucky! I would loooove to see her live. Thank you! ♥
tuckatangenttuckatangent on July 23rd, 2011 05:07 pm (UTC)
So sad, and yet hopeful. I choose to believe Charles will recover after the chemotherapy. I lost my grandmother to stomach cancer, and I wouldn't wish that death on anyone, certainly not Xavier.

Could Charles read Erik's thoughts? It seems like he couldn't, since Erik chose to say something different aloud, and Charles didn't react to the: Like you’re sick, Erik wants to say, like you’re sick and there’s a possibility you won’t get better and like you’re sick and we can’t ignore it anymore because you won’t let us, but above all, still you, Charles, still alive— thought.
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:55 am (UTC)
No, neither of them has powers in this story--I felt like it would complicate things unnecessarily, so it's just them. ;u; Thank you very much. ♥
bringing the party to youscintillulae on July 24th, 2011 06:07 am (UTC)
Noooo, such sadness. ;3; This was gorgeous bb, thank you for writing it. ♥
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on July 24th, 2011 07:55 am (UTC)
No bb, thank you for reading. It means a lot. ♥
the boy who would be king: first class ;; but we do notchrysanthemums on July 24th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC)
“You know you’re the only one I can ask. I would rather do this now than lose my hair to the chemotherapy later.”

I teared up, here. And fic rarely makes me cry. :( This was so soft and elegant and I loved it. And the thought that a story like this held a lot of personal meaning to you did cross my mind! I remember working myself up with worry over whether or not you were going to be okay, since I can't fathom my life without you in it.

aaah this got so sappy I'm sorry!! I loved this fic a bunch; once again I only dream of writing as well as you do. ♥
my hat is deep & full of magic.chezvous on August 1st, 2011 06:43 am (UTC)
UGH WIFE I LOVE YOU SO MUCH I never want you to worry about me, ever. ;w; I'm also super-sorry this comment didn't come sooner. I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE AT DISNEY WORLD AND I WISH WITH ALL MY HEART THAT I COULD BE THERE WITH YOU NOW. ♥♥♥
ginbitchginbitch on August 5th, 2011 06:43 am (UTC)
Beautiful! Sad but beautiful!

<3
telperion_15: X Men ErikCharlestelperion_15 on August 5th, 2011 11:02 am (UTC)
*blinks away tears* Perfect.
dean_is_batmandean_is_batman on August 28th, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
Good god, that was both incredibly sad and PERFECT. <3. That was sadly beautiful.
ascoolsuchasiascoolsuchasi on September 8th, 2011 06:28 pm (UTC)
Wow. That was beautiful. Just-it was so fucking beautiful. Wonderful and tragic and fucking beautiful. You are an amazing writer.