Harry chewed his lip, hesitating at the door of the room, unsure of what to do. Erik was twisted in the sheets of the bed and Harry's eyes widened when the frame twisted with him, the noise loud. He stumbled back, almost out of the room when the images from Erik's nightmare hit him in startling clarity.
Tears stung his eyes at the feelings attached to those images. He did the only thing he could think to do. He closed his eyes, followed that glowing connection in his mind and yelled for Charles. It was only seconds later when Charles was there, pulling him back, out of the room.
"Go, Harry," he said, his voice firm. Harry nodded, glanced once more back towards Erik before he ran. He didn't go to his room, instead running into Scott's. The other boy stirred when Harry climbed up on the bed with him.
"What…?" Scott started, confused, half asleep. Harry only shook his head, forgetting maybe that Scott couldn't see it before he latched onto the other boy. Scott pulled him close when he felt Harry shaking and didn't ask any more questions.
Charles only waited until he knew Harry had gone into Scott's room and shut the door behind him before he ventured into Erik's. He felt a pang of guilt that it had been Harry to wake first. He should have known this would happen. It wasn't the first time, after all.
Erik was twisted in his sheets and the anguish rolling off of the man only gave Charles pause for a second. Ignoring the way that the bed frame twisted with Erik's limbs, Charles came up beside the bed, leaning over his friend.
"Erik!" He called first, reaching down, securing his hands to the side of Erik's face. He blinked several times, trying to push past the images of the monster that haunted Erik's dreams.
He projected the thought loudly and it was usually enough to snap Erik out of it. This time, however, it wasn't. The metal frame twisted further, lashing out, wrapping itself around Charles and yanking him away from Erik.
Charles cried out when it wrapped securely around his chest and squeezed.
'ERIK! Erik, please!'
The thought was frantic that time, when the twisted metal snaked up, securing around his throat. It squeezed harder, cutting off his airway and he couldn't make a sound when he felt his ribs crack under the strain.
With one, final desperate attempt, Charles pushed forcefully into Erik's mind, projecting new images, every good memory he had of Erik. Of playing chess or talking or drinking with the man.
Black invaded his vision and he was on the verge of losing consciousness when Erik finally snapped awake, sitting up in bed. It only took a second to register what was happening and he released his hold on the metal. Charles dropped to the floor.
Charles wheezed on the floor, his chest on fire. He curled one arm protectively around his chest and clawed at the floor with the other as he couldn't get an adequate breath past the burning in his throat.
His vision swam again and he was hardly aware of Erik turning him over on his back, or his worried voice calling.
This…this was a nightmare.
Erik had leapt from the bed as soon as he'd realized what was happening, as soon as Charles had hit the floor. Charles curled in on himself as soon as he hit the floor, wheezing. Erik stared down at him for a moment, horrified before kneeling beside him.
"Charles?" He leaned close, taking in the damage he'd inflicted, unsure of what to do about it. But Charles' throat was swelling even as he watched and he mentally calculated how long it would take to get to the nearest hospital.
The guilt of what he'd done was threatening to bring him down but he ignored it for the moment. Instead, he quickly rolled Charles over onto his back before putting one hand under his knees, the other on his back and lifted the man into his arms. He stood, staggering only slightly under Charles weight.
Charles gave a hoarse cry at the action, his fingers twisting in Erik's shirt. Erik was out the door a second later, stopping only when he spotted the two children in the hallway. Harry was staring up at them with wide, terrified green eyes, clutching one of Scott's hands in his own.
"I know," Harry cut him off. Erik nodded to the boy, a stab of regret that he'd be leaving them there alone, and then he was running for the car.
Harry chewed on his thumbnail nervously, staring out the front window, his leg bouncing. Erik had left, with Charles in his arms, almost an hour ago. Harry had repeatedly checked his connection to Charles, afraid of what might be happening.
"Erik hurt him." Scott was sitting beside him, still holding onto his free hand.
"He didn't mean to," Harry said, remembering what he'd seen of Erik's nightmare.
"But he hurt him." Scott was angry. Angry and scared. He also didn't understand why Erik had left them here. But Harry had seen why. Erik hadn't been thinking straight when he'd left.
"He didn't mean to," Harry repeated. He was scared too but he couldn't be mad at Erik. Not after what he'd seen. He'd felt sick afterwards. Those images were horrible. He'd thought growing up with the Dursley's had been bad but what he'd seen inside Erik's head had been worse.
"Charles won't blame him." It was a statement, one Harry was sure of.
"How do you know?"
"Cause he loves Erik." Harry was sure of that too.
Scott's face scrunched up but he didn't question that. "But he's okay?"
"Will be." That, he wasn't so sure of.
When Charles woke, he was in considerably less pain. He brought one hand up to his head before opening his eyes, the memories of what had happened coming back to him. He shifted where he was lying, could tell even before he opened his eyes that he was in a hospital room.
"Charles?" The voice was familiar but Charles frowned at the roughness of it. When he let his hand drop and opened his eyes, he was staring up into Erik's unreadable ones. He opened his mouth to respond but all that came out was a croak. Erik grimaced.
"They said it would be difficult for you to speak for a while." Guilt shone in Erik's eyes as he spoke. "Charles…"
But he shook his head, already knew what Erik was going to say. 'It's okay.' Erik's eyes flashed at the projected thought and one of his fists clenched.
"Dammit, Charles. It is not okay!"
Charles winced at the tone. Still ignoring the physical pain that had been building since he'd woken up, though, he reached for Erik, wondered if Erik actually thought he'd blame him. Erik's expression was dark, angry and pained.
'I'm not angry'
"I know you're not," Erik hissed, scowling down at him. "You're too damned stupid to be, apparently."
Charles frowned, ignoring the insult in favor of focusing on the self loathing he could hear in Erik's tone.
"And what if it had been one of the children?" Erik asked, before he could try and argue against Erik's words again. Charles froze at that. Harry had been the first to wake up. He'd been hovering outside Erik's door when Charles had found him.
Erik straightened and Charles could see the decision he'd made in that moment. He surged up, ignoring the flare of pain across his ribcage and grabbed Erik's wrist. He was aware that his eyes were wide, pleading.
Erik seemed to fight with himself for a minute but finally relented. "Alright. I'll stay…for now."
His knee was still bouncing, and he was hardly listening to whatever it was Raven was talking about. The girl had shown up sometime after Erik and Charles had left and she was trying her best to keep him and Scott distracted but it wasn't working, at least not for him.
Harry knew they were on their way back, and he chewed his lip as he worried about it. He hadn't liked what he'd seen. He hadn't liked the way that Charles had looked before. He liked Raven well enough but he wanted Charles and Erik back. It felt wrong with them both gone.
That feeling had settled in on him sometime after his conversation with Scott. He'd only been scared at first but now he was feeling the strangeness of being alone with Scott and Raven. Charles hadn't been away since he'd brought Harry home with him and Harry didn't like that he was now.
He jumped to his feet suddenly, when he felt the connection grow stronger.
He ignored Raven, running towards the front door and opening it. He made it outside just as Erik was helping Charles out of the car. He stopped short just in front of the two men, knew that Charles was hurt and didn't want to make it worse.
Still he couldn't help but to fidget, the fear returning when he caught sight of the bruises on Charles' throat. Charles smiled at him and knelt, pulling him close, into an embrace and Harry fought the urge to cry.
He only pulled away when Raven brought Scott out and he stepped to the side, surprising Erik by grabbing the man's hand.
Hugging one of his pillows to his chest, propped up against the headboard of his bed, Charles watched Erik pace warily. Erik had been calm, at least on the outside, after they had arrived home, most likely because the children had been there but he'd been agitated since Raven had left and Harry and Scott had gone to bed.
"I think I should leave," Erik said after a moment. Panic flared briefly in Charles' chest and he shook his head.
"You shouldn't," he said, his voice coming out barely above a whisper and hoarse.
"Charles." There was a warning in Erik's tone and he was tense, angry. "If this happens again…if it had been one of the kids…"
Charles shifted, grimaced and dropped his gaze for a few moments, unsure if he should voice what he'd been thinking.
"We can take…precautions," he offered hesitantly.
"Oh, yes. Precautions. So that I don't kill you while I'm sleeping," Erik said bitterly. His fists clenched at his sides.
"But that was an extreme scenario. You've stayed with me before, dozens of times and it's never happened."
"All it takes is once," Erik pointed out. "I won't risk it happening again." He started towards the door and the panic came back, stronger than before.
"Wait! E-" His voice gave out, throat burned. He coughed, cursing himself for a moment. 'Please, Erik.'
Erik paused at the door and Charles only hesitated a second more, sure that if Erik left then that he wouldn't come back at all.
'There's a way that I could reach you, even in your darkest dreams," Charles started, giving up on speaking out loud for the moment.
Erik turned to him. There was recognition in his expression. Charles had explained what he was talking about before. His eyes darkened and he scowled.
"No." The refusal was blunt, firm.
"How could you even suggest that? No, Charles. That is not an option."
Charles blinked a few times, his fingers clenching in the pillow. 'I don't want to lose you.' Even his mental voice sounded small to him but it gave Erik pause and he started over to the bed again.
"Why?" Erik's expression was pained then, and confused.
"Because…" Charles hesitated but Erik was leaving, leaving for good and it was that thought that forced the confession. 'I love you.'
Erik recoiled, violently, from the words, and from the emotion attached to them, that Charles couldn't help but to project. Then he stepped back. His expression closed off, his mind seemed to shut down.
Charles watched helplessly as Erik turned on his heel and fled the room, and then his house.
Charles' solution to being able to reach Erik will be explained later. I want to save that bit for later.