leandraholmes: (Charles Eric Kiss)
[personal profile] leandraholmes
Title: A Christmas Carol (4/4)
Fandom/Pairing: X-Men: First Class, Charles/Erik
Genre: Drama/Romance
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 4,070
Summary: Around Christmas 1962, Erik gets a nightly visit by a strange woman with extraordinary abilities who claims to be the Ghost of Christmas – Past, Present and Future. Despite his objections – after all, such things only exist in stories – she takes him on a journey to re-discover himself.
A/N: I will be posting one chapter every day, ending on Christmas Eve.
Many thanks to my two beta readers yourareunearthlything and sonicshotguns, and also merci beaucoup to gabrielmanga who helped me with some French lines in the first chapter (translations at the bottom).



Westchester, New York, December 24th

The tree was one of the most beautiful ones Charles had seen since his childhood. Tall, with the golden angel on top almost reaching the ceiling of the sitting room; fairy lights from bottom to top and big, shiny orbs in red and gold. The others had really outdone themselves decorating the living room as beautifully as possible, and Charles found himself smiling despite the fact that the warmth and happiness such a day should cause hardly filled his chest as much as a sense of melancholy that he was unable to shake off. Melancholy was, in fact, rather mildly put, though Charles tried to shove the feeling into the back of his mind.

It was not fair to the others, to Moira, Hank, Alex and Sean who had been bending over backwards to make this year's holiday season as enjoyable for him as possible; he was not unaware of their constant concerned looks, the hushed conversations that always ended abruptly when he entered a room. Charles knew they worried about him, and it made him both grateful and, ironically, a little angry, though the anger was probably addressed more at himself than any of them. He knew all too well what it was like to care and worry about people close to oneself, had caught glimpses into their minds and the worries they had for him.

"Some eggnog?" Sean asked with a smile on his lips as he leaned down to hand Charles a mug filled with the creamy-sweet drink.

"Yes, please. Thank you," Charles replied and took a small sip. "Oh, are you sure that's just eggnog? It tastes rather like you've added some rum," he said, chuckling faintly and mentally patted his own shoulder for the fact that he managed to uphold a lighthearted attitude at least for a little while. He owed this to them. And to himself.

Sean grinned sheepishly. "Um well. It's possible we spiked it a little," he said and exchanged a glance with Alex who grinned in return and then shrugged at Charles apologetically. Moira gave them both a slightly stern look, and – even without reading her thoughts – Charles guessed she may be a little worried about giving him too much alcohol to drink.

That thought made whatever happiness Charles may have achieved fade and be replaced by a sense of shame and inability.

Aside from their general concerns, Charles had also picked up on the theory that they all seemed so set on. A theory that, when diving briefly into Hank's mind after having been asked whether he was sure he felt nothing in his feet, had no less than insulted and angered him, though he had been too shocked to even show any reaction to it. However, also a theory that had planted a seed of doubt in him, had kept him up at night with the attempt to force himself to move, to examine his own mind, re-evaluate all facts and circumstances and medical evaluations. And when he finally came to the conclusion that what they were considering may very well be true, he had felt so ashamed and embarrassed that he had not been able to see the prospect of being able to walk again and instead wished it was an ultimate injury.

At least, that he could deal with, could gradually get used to being in a chair the whole time – and he had become quite apt with handling it now. Imagining that this was all just some psychological trauma, which implied – despite his better knowledge of human psychology – that he had somehow lost his mind, felt like nothing he could picture dealing with. Because it felt like he was being stupid, made him feel flawed and ashamed and even angrier with himself than he already was for so many reasons; reasons other than just the physical effect of the events on the beach. A part of him knew he should not feel that way, also knew that the others most likely didn't regard him as being responsible for his own misery, but that did not change the fact that those thoughts and feelings were there, impossible to get rid of and to even begin the healing process that would solve this mystery eventually.

"Stop staring at that present," Moira said to Sean and tore Charles from his reverie. Despite the slightly admonishing tone of voice, her features were friendly as she looked at Sean with a crooked smirk.

"You know," the boy said, "in some countries they open their presents on Christmas Eve."

"Yes, but we're not in 'some countries'. How old are you, buddy? Ten?" Alex teased and Hank shot both of them a look as if he meant to say he'd slap their fingers if they were to reach for any of the colorfully wrapped boxes beneath the tree.

Today was going to be a good day, Charles had to remind himself, focusing on the expectation of everyone opening their presents, smiling and thanking each other and filling the house with positive energy. At least, he succeeded to hold on to such thoughts for a few moments, before his mind drifted back to everything else he wished he didn't constantly have to think about, most of all to those that weren't here with them today.

For a second, he thought this very train of thought must have caused a cruel illusion in his mind, the illusion of feeling a presence he hadn't felt for over two months now, though even before that he had not so much as allowed himself to sometimes reach out for the contours of that mind, never fully diving in, because he had promised he wouldn't. But he knew the feel of it, the shape and edges of that mind, like recognizing a house from the outside without ever walking in.

Before he could ponder why his mind was playing yet another cruel trick on him, Hank jumped up as the sound of the front door opening could be heard, and Sean as well as Alex were ready, too, should an intruder have found his way into the mansion. But then, a shape appeared in the doorway, reluctantly peeking around the corner, golden eyes wide and reflecting uncertainty as well as the faint smile on her blue lips. But an enormous sense of longing and emotion that Charles was sure not even somebody without telepathic abilities could miss.

"Raven," he found himself breathe out, his voice cracking in the back of his throat as his nose started prickling and his eyes burning, and he was only very vaguely aware of the surprised gasp from Moira and the expletive from Alex.

"I… hi," she said, her own eyes filling with tears though the smile on her features was spreading. She took one reluctant step into the room, faltered for a moment and then, finally, rushed the remaining distance and knelt down at Charles' feet, her arms around his knees. "I missed you! I missed you so much," she said, her own voice weak with tears, but the joy of seeing him again was limited by still persistent uncertainty in her eyes as she looked up at him. At him, who was staring disbelievingly down at her beautiful face, unable to find the right words or even any at all, to begin with.

"Oh God, Charles, say something," she nearly begged. "I'm so sorry. I should've never left. When I learned what happened to you…" She swallowed, lowering her gaze.

For the first time, Charles found himself capable of speaking, and it was that sense of shame and frustration that made his words sound more bitter than he had intended. "Is that why you came back?"

Shock was visible in her eyes and her lips parted. "No. No, no, gosh, Charles, no. When I heard what happened I felt horrible. If at all, it was all the more reason why I didn't dare coming back. I didn't know whether you'd hate me… I still don't know… Gosh, Charles, I was so stupid and so stubborn."

"I don't hate you," he said, and a faint smile lay on his lips despite the tears making his voice thick and heavy. "I never could, Raven. You're my oldest friend. You're my sister, and I love you. I always just wanted what was best for you. I never meant to make you feel like you weren't good enough."

"I know. I know!" she almost laughed and shook her head. "I was being a brat!"

"And I a patronizing arse," he chuckled out through the tears that now spilled from his eyes. Raven let out another laugh and leaned further up to wrap her arms around his shoulders, hug him as tightly as they hadn't done for many years – which he realized now.

When he blinked away the tears and let his gaze briefly flicker over the other four people in the room, he found them all torn between trying not to stare and watching in touched amazement, and he could not hold it against them in the slightest. Though he could have let the embrace last forever, he did draw away from it and spread an arm in an inviting gesture, beckoning the others to come near.

"I suppose we'll have to set the table for one more tomorrow," he said, his heart giving a joyful jump in his chest as he looked back at Raven. "You are staying, aren't you?"

"If you'll have me?"

"Oh God, yes!" Charles exclaimed with another teary laugh as the others drew nearer. Hank was the first to place his large paw on Raven's shoulder as she got up and pull her into a hug as well, and she laughed some more as she let Alex embrace her while Sean asked: "So, you're staying for good then? Not only over Christmas?"

"Yes," she beamed, and her joy was so contagious that Charles felt it swell inside his chest, chasing off all the dire thoughts and emptiness.

"What made you change your mind?" Moira asked now, equally happy, and maybe even a little more for the fact that she wasn't the only woman among four men any longer.

The smile on Raven's lips faded somewhat then, but the joy did not vanish, was only slightly camouflaged by a hint of abashment. "Well… um… Someone told me to… listen to myself," she said vaguely, and her gaze drifted to the doorway of the living room.

Charles' gaze followed hers, confused and curious and, as proven to himself with such a sense of shock that it pressed all air out of his lungs a second later, completely clueless. Clueless because he would never, not even after the unexpected reunion with Raven, ever have dreamed to see the face again that he was now looking at; the face that became clearer for him to recognize when the helmet that had obscured half of it was lifted and Erik took one more step into the room.

And his mind, beautiful and unique like Raven's, was back in Charles' consciousness, his presence rushing into him as that night on the water when he had first felt the depths and dark edges of the other man's mind, calling him and entrancing him like nothing else before ever had, and nothing ever could. As if a part of him that he had believed to have lost forever came back to life.

~*~

Erik had expected to feel and experience a multitude of things during the long hours he had waited for this moment; when he had first made up his mind in the middle of the night in Budapest to pack up his things and check out to make his way to the airport and catch the first flight to America – for a reason he learned about only much later, he had not been able to make a connecting call to Emma Frost's house to contact Raven. When he had waited in Frankfurt, Germany of all places, for a connecting flight to New York and tried again, in vain, to reach Raven, because it would have been so much easier for him to simply ask Azazel to teleport them. Though he first had to find out whether Raven even wanted to come with him. And during the eight-hour flight that finally landed at JFK at 6 pm local time – before he finally had reached Raven, finding out the phone line had been disconnected due to a storm - he had had more than enough occasion to picture this moment. To brace himself for the things he might be feeling, things he would need to say... things that could be said back at him to ruin whatever hope had sparked and grown in him during the past twenty-two hours.

What he had not been prepared for, what he simply had not been able to anticipate, was the fact that he found himself unable to speak at all, unable to remember any of the countless things he had prepared in mind carefully. And he even found himself unable to grasp a specific emotion, other than that he suddenly felt very... young. As little sense as that made even to him.

He didn't know how much time passed then; it could have been just two, three seconds or maybe an entire minute, and he was even less sure whether he heard his name spoken out loud or only in his head or even in his imagination, but it didn't matter. It was that, as well as the look on Charles features, his deep blue eyes shining with tears and lips gently parted in wonder, that finally made Erik move. Hasty steps took him towards Charles, though he stopped at arm's-length from the other man. What words could ever cover everything that he was feeling and thinking in that moment?

“Please, somebody pinch me, or I might think I'm hallucinating,” Charles got out, his voice trembling with tears, and there was an odd, strained chuckle coming from one of the boys, and a faint sob from Moira, as far as Erik could tell. He did not look at any of them.

“Alright, maybe we.... hey do you guys have any dinner leftovers in the kitchen? I'm a little hungry,” Raven spoke and led the others out of the living room who all followed without protest. Erik was quite thankful for that, because the moment the steps of the last person faded into the distance on the hallway floor he felt tears spill into his eyes and a breathless gasp leaving his lips. He had also not anticipated just how much he'd missed Charles. Physically, desperately, and wonderfully.

“You convinced Raven to come back?” Charles' voice still trembled slightly, but there was something serene and gratuitous in it as well as he looked up at Erik who still stood at a distance.

“No. I convinced her to simply do what she'd been wanting to all along,” he replied, realizing once again how much it applied to him as well.

“And you...?” Reluctance to believe just yet clearly visible on his features, but hope all the same.

“I was a fool,” Erik finally blurted out, swallowing the lump in his throat. “I was a fool to think I could find purpose in leaving everything good I've ever had. I was such a fool, Charles. About everything.”

Another faint sound left Charles' lips, and his brow furrowed with the pained frown that spread over his entire features. He reached for the wheels of his chair to cross the last remaining distance, but Erik was faster, and a split-second later he was kneeling at the side of the wheelchair, one hand at the back of Charles' neck as he stretched up to make up for the distance their position caused.

“I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Erik,” Charles said in barely more than a tear-strained whisper, but Erik immediately shook his head, his other hand reaching for Charles' knee, wandering up to his hand to take it and grasp it as tightly as he could without causing the other man any pain.

“No, I'm sorry, Charles. I should have listened to you. I should have fought for you. Not against you. But...” There were so many things he wanted to say, wanted to explain and in return understand himself, but he did not know where to start, did not know what aspect to focus on first until he realized that none of this even mattered. Those were details, and there would be much time talking about each and every one of them.

“You were wrong in one aspect, Charles. We do want the same things. I just had to find out what I wanted most.” When the words had left his lips, it became more clear to Erik, more clear still than it could have during all those long hours when the moment of reconciliation was but another far-away dream. When he felt the soft hair in the back of Charles' neck under his fingertips, the goosebumps on his skin beneath that caress, and the hand in his holding on as tightly as he did, it was a moment of purest, simplest clarity that could not even have been foreseen in the epiphany-like dreams or visions – whatever they had been – he had had the previous nights.

“All I want is... is this. What we started together. With everybody,” he started, something wide and big spreading in his chest that was not entirely pleasant or unpleasant. And he needed to spell it out completely, needed to say the words that would express what he had denied himself to realize all along. “All I want is you.”

It was then that Charles seemed to let go of his last remaining restraint and doubts, and he leaned forward to wrap his other arm tightly around Erik's shoulders, pull him near and let the tears flow freely that forced their way out of him with unrestrained sobs.

“Can you forgive me?” Erik whispered against the side of Charles' head as they embraced more closely than he could remember they had ever done. Even in the moments they had shared most intimately, they had never held on to each other with such need and sheer desperation.

“Oh God, Erik, of course I forgive you,” Charles said more willingly than Erik thought he deserved. Maybe it would really take some time for him to be fully able to forgive himself. There was a lot to work through, for both of them it seemed. And a lot to face. Together.

When he slowly withdrew a bit from the embrace, their foreheads still touching, Erik also let go of Charles' hand and let his own gently rest on the unmoving knee, and he realized there was something else he needed to say, a second, most important truth that he needed get out now, no matter if his nightly visions had shown him the truth, and most importantly if they hadn't.

“I'm sorry for what I've done to you,” he said and heard a faint gasp leave Charles' lips, but he continued. “But you must know that none of this matters to me. So if you can forgive me for this as well, I still...” He didn't know how to say it, how to express how much he still wanted Charles, not any less than before, and probably even more now that he had gone through what it meant to lose Charles. But he did not find any words that could sufficiently express just how much he wanted Charles in every way, how much he loved him. And so he did the only thing that he could think of to let deeds say more than words and leaned up to bring their lips together in a firm kiss, suppressing his need to breathe in deeply, needing to make sure Charles understood, felt it with every fiber of his being as much as did Erik.

“Oh Erik,” Charles sighed as their lips parted, and there was something sad and regretful in his blue eyes as he looked down at him. For a moment, Erik feared that Charles would say he did not want him in this way any longer – for whatever reason; be it that he had to deal with his disability first or could not imagine a relationship of more than a platonic kind in the near future. Or ever. Though in that case Erik was determined to make sure it wouldn't be due to Charles thinking he was in some way inadequate.

“I believe I've done you a terrible injustice,” Charles continued and bit his lower lip for a moment. “You see, the bullet that hit me – which was a terrible accident in the first place, well, it didn't cause any lasting damage.”

Erik wasn't sure if Charles was saying what he thought it implied, and he could not help the faint gasp of confusion leaving his lips as he looked up at Charles with furrowed brow. He could not deny that each of the three nightly visits had left an enormous impact on him, but in the end he had found it most likely and most logical that all of them had just been a way of his subconscious to lead him to the realization that was more important than any of these details. But if they had shown the truth, had shown reality after all...

“You're not paralyzed?” It was not quite a question addressed at Charles but almost a realization for himself.

“No, I... well, technically I am since... You... you do not sound surprised. Did somebody tell you? Did Raven speak to anyone about this and they just didn't tell me?” Confusion rose and rose with each question, noticeable in Charles' tone and features, and Erik could not help but let out a faint, breathless laugh of relief.

And utter amazement.

“It is a very long story, but no, nobody told me,” he replied then and placed his hand back on Charles' knee, caressing it softly as he looked up into his eyes. “Do you feel anything?”

“I feel... happy,” Charles replied with a faint chuckle, but his legs remained unmoving.

And that was all that mattered. To Erik, at least, and he hoped to Charles as well. Whether the paralysis was really only temporary and would start lifting come tomorrow, or in a few weeks, months, years, or never, it may have initially changed the amount of guilt Erik had felt for that terrible accident, but it didn't change the way Erik felt about Charles. And it never would.

“H-how do you know this though?” Charles asked, the confusion not completely absent from his tone and features despite the lasting smile.

Erik let out a curt chuckle and lowered his gaze. “Well, I suppose I've been... Scrooged.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Another amused, if rather thin chuckle that Erik found came over his lips quite naturally. “I'll explain everything to you, but as I've said it's a rather long story. Though, if you had a copy of Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' somewhere around here...”

“You're not making any more sense, I'm afraid,” Charles said, confusion mingling with amusement as well, though he did take another deep breath and blink away the moisture – tears of pure joy now – that formed in his eyes. “But you're right. We have all the time in the world for you to explain.”

“Well,” Erik shrugged. “I suppose I'll take that as a gentle hint that we have a Christmas party to continue?”

“If you don't mind celebrating it.”

He shrugged again, though his hand remained on Charles' knee, caressing even though the other man couldn't feel it. “You do know your Jesus was born in late summer anyway, don't you? So, no, I don't mind celebrating a Pagan holiday.”

Charles laughed out, freely and in pure amusement, and shook his head. “Oh, my friend... My love. How I've missed your sense of humor,” he said and gently caressed the side of Erik's face. It was impossible then to resist to lean in for another kiss, and this time the contact of their lips lasted longer, more tender and patient to slowly re-built what had never been fully broken.

The others could wait just a minute longer.

~ The End ~

A/N: There'll be a New Year's Eve sequel to this, for those of you who have been hoping for a chapter with a slightly higher rating than PG-13... if you know what I'm saying ;)
I hope you did enjoy the story and its ending. Merry Christmas to you all! :)
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