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He'd never felt more like a snake in his entire life. Everything about the character he was playing was making him nauseous. [b "I hate every second of this,"] he murmured to Charlotte, tucked against his side. [b "This is insulting to us."]
Erik knew he was no angel, but he certainly was not the type to lounge in a gentlemen's club with a half-naked woman on his arm. It felt like he was degrading Charlotte, which was not a nice feeling to have. [b "I suppose that while I'm in this role, I'm not allowed to offer you my jacket?"] he spoke quietly.
Across the club, he watched an older man spot Charlotte, and very obviously drag his eyes up and down her body. The slob even had the nerve to lick his lips. It took everything in him not to march over and break his nose. Play the part, and don't draw attention.
It was uncomfortable, to say the least. It was likely due to him being old fashioned, but watching a woman strip for a room full of men catcalling her was not his idea of a good time.
The older man from earlier had moved to a closer table. He was still watching Charlotte like she was a prize to be won. [b "I'm fully aware that you are capable of taking care of yourself, but seeing as you're supposed to be my arm candy, what is the protocol for me to put this man in his place for looking at my woman?"] he whispered in her ear.
Charlotte reached over and gently patted his hand. [b "You're either a gangster or a dirty politician of very high calliber, Erik, and I'm supposed to be your personal escort. Get with the program,"] she said teasingly, [b "unless you want me to go in under the guise of trying to be 'hired' as a 'dancer'?"] Adjusting herself in the dress, she couldn't help but wince. The dress may go down the floor when standing, but her breasts were nearly halfway revealed, so she felt more naked in this than in a swimming-suit. [b "And no, you can't play the escort on your end, because this is a [i Gentlemen's] Club—as much as a gentleman someone can be with going to a place like this...."] She had started strong, but her words had trailed off at the end in distaste.
Discomforts on both ends set aside, they had to get out of the hired limosene, and after a few minutes, they managed to get into the establishment. While looking like a small upper-class bar on the outside, on the inside it led to spiraling grand-staircase that lead to an underground establishment nearly two stories down.
She hated the thought of figuring out exactly [i why] and [i how] a newly-turned seventeen year old had managed to get a job here at fourteen. She hated the path those thoughts would take with a fury.
[b [i /+// We have roughly an hour until the prospective mutant is due to perform, //+/]] Charlotte spoke casually into Erik's mind, doing her best to block out the various level of lecherous male minds around the club. [b [i /+// Until then, we play a part. We don't know where Shay may have allies in this country—mutant or otherwise—and a place this 'special' in such a well known American city is a potential place of contact for him. We have to be careful. //+/]]
The duo were quickly led to a booth area, Charlotte taking her seat only after Erik had, and relaxed herself against his side while still doing her best to look as prim as one of her 'station' should behave like.
Erik didn't want to press his luck with pissing her off again, so he bit his lip until he tasted blood. She could dress him in whatever she chose to, as long as it made the rest of the trip more pleasant than the beginning had been. He didn't even speak as he was measured for his tuxedo, which he felt was just a little too tight for his tastes.
When they were finally on their way, he couldn't help but tug at the black velvet suit jacket they'd fitted him with. [b "I'm going to die of heatstroke in this. It's not practical at all."]
He loosened his tie. [b "If you're a prostitute, than I guess that makes me your...what? Pimp? Client?"]
It was meant to be a joke, but he winced at the insinuation. [b "I suddenly hate everything about this."]
He wanted to be sure that they would be taken seriously. He wasn't so confident that they would pay Charlotte any mind if they thought she was just arm candy. [b "Can we switch this around so I'm the prostitute instead? I feel like I could pass as an expensive male escort. Your dress sparkles more, so you'd pull of the wealthy look more than I would."]
Erik didn't think he'd ever worn clothes so expensive. He'd always been a practical shopper as an adult. As a child, he wore whatever his family could afford. At the camps, it was nothing more than thin cotton shirts and trousers. The tuxedo cost more than his entire wardrobe put together.
[b "Raven may have taken inspiration in her eye-color and curly hair from me, but according to her I hold no sense of fasion due to my love of suits and sweaters,"] Charlotte began with a smirk, putting her bag in the back and getting intot he driver's seat. At Erik's tease of glitter though her smirk dropped, and she rolled her eyes, [b "We are going to let the clothing people do our outfit selections somewhere fancy. I'm allowing you nowhere near me."] Lifting her finger, she wagged it at him in a jesting scold before beginning to drive. It really was amazing—maybe even terrifying—how quick she seemed to forgive others.
An hour of driving around later, they came to a place called [i "La Chic"] which tailored expensively to men and women. Charlotte had led them in, went to the main desk, and plainly stated with a flash of hers and Erik's temporary FBI badges: [b "I need to look some sort of highclass, well-off version of a mixture of a lounge singer and a callgirl, and he needs to look like some excessively rich combination of a politician and a mob-boss."]
The woman at the desk, to her credit, had simply blinked before giving a cheery agreement and leading them off.
Another few hours from that, freshly dressed, the two were in the back of a rented limo since they had agreed it would't help their persona of Erik being a "rich and powerful" man if Charlotte, his supposed "best girl" was the one driving him.
[b "I feel like the princess-version of a prostitute,"] Charlotte whispered to Erik as the limo pulled up in front of the very, very expensive, private gentlemen's club. Opening her purse, she handed a bundle of cash to Erik that they'd pulled off of the FBI-granted credit cards. You had to flash at least 10k to get inside, after all. [b "It's so revealing. I hate this outfit."] Charlotte griped once more, resisting the urge to scratch at her face as they prepared to exit the vehicle.
It was understandable she felt the way she did, considering what she usually wore was far different from now: a black gown covered in glinting, swirling blue-beading, sleeveless sans for the two-strap suppor, a lower sweatheart neckline, a slit up the to the left-hip of the dress, and an ornate necklac-and-choker combination around her throat. Her hair was halfway up in a billowing cascade of curls, a deep-red lipstick contrasting her pale skin, and nothing else more in the make-up than sharp eyeliner and countoring,
Truth be told, there was no way in hell Erik had ever anticipated that Charlotte would forgive him with his simple apology. He stared back at her like a fish out of water, trying to form another sentence before she'd gathered their food and started bustling around the room to get ready.
He did as he was told, and was in the midst of sliding his jacket on when he suddenly caught on to what she was saying. He frowned and looked at his clothes. [b "I think I look quite fashionable,"] he pointed out, looking at himself in the mirror.
Sure, the slacks were a little wrinkled, and his shirt had a small stain where he'd accidentally dripped some coffee, but other than that it was fine. A suit? No way. Still, when he turned to reject her suggestion, Erik remembered that he was to play nice from now on. [b "Alright. A suit it is. At least let me pick it."]
He wagged a finger at her. [b "I know your sister would likely dress me in something with flashy colours and rhinestones, but I'm hoping she didn't get her taste in clothing from you."]
He takes the passenger seat again, stuffing the rest of his sandwich in his mouth. [b "It does seem fair that if I have to dress in a penguin suit, you have to be in a dress, though,"] he grinned wryly at her. [b "I'm not sure I can picture you in anything but your scholarly wardrobe,"] he glanced at her practical outfit. [b "Maybe something with glitter?"] he teased.
Charlotte was speechless. If it was any other moment in time, it probably be like a badge of figurative honor to make the genius a loss for words. Alas, such a moment was not home for humorous thoughts.
[b "Erik,"] She began slowly after he'd retracted his hand from the brief contact, [b "I accept your apology."] If he managed to look at her, he'd see a smile again. It was barely existent, but this time it was at least a genuine one. [b "I... don't do well with abuse. A fight? Sure. Playful ribbing? Not even the same category. But any type of abuse? It just.... It's bad memories. I'll leave it at that."] The smile became a little strained, but it was still real. She added next, [b "The fact you apologize, and mean it, means the world to me. Especially since I know you weren't doing it intentionally. ...Well, you were at points, but not with the intent of harm. So, thank you."]
The short female held out a hand towards him with an eyebrow arched, and once he'd eventually comply, she would wrap both of her smaller hands around his. She gave a firm little squeeze.
[b "You, however, do not have to apologize for all of your traumas that led up to you acting the way you have. Those were not your fault."] She knew at some point she'd have to help him acknowledge the fact that while it wasn't likely there were many, that there was bound to have been mutants in the Nazi Germany Military during the Holocaust. Shaw was proof of that. [i Now is not the time, however. Later. When this entire mess with that monster is done.] Giving Erik's hand a small pat, she released it and stood up.
[b "Come on! We can finish our sandwiches in the car. We can't actually go to where our last canidate within the state is until tonight, and we have to go shopping beforehand. A suit for you, and someone... considered a dress,"] Her face screwed up a little, [b "For me. Where we have to go, they only let you in if you look as if you come from money. A very 'elite' little place."] Grinning, she wrapped up what was left of their sandwiches, popped them into the fastfood bag, grabbed her coffed, and moved over to the hotel door. Glancing down at her full hands, she looked over at him in a playful manner.
It really was amazing how zero-to-a-hundred that Charlotte Francine Xavier could go. That a thing as little as an apology could absolutely brighten her day. Such warmth... could be some type of dangerous for many, including herself or he, in various ways.
He cleared his throat and cursed himself once more. [i Great, now I've made her feel guilty on top of sad,] he thought to himself.
[b "No, I'm afraid I do need to apologize. You were very right and I've been an asshole, as you so lovingly pointed out last night,"] Erik looked to her. [b "I am not used to...this."]
Realizing that that did absolutely nothing to clarify his behaviour, he tried again. [b "I have been alone since I was fifteen. I lost everything to humans. They took my family. They took my home. My people were locked in camps and forced to do hard labour while they starved to death, if disease didn't get them first."]
He recalled seeing the bodies on the first day getting off the train. [b "I couldn't trust my country. They turned their back on me. This concept of teamwork is completely foreign to me. Putting trust in complete strangers who are 'normal' for lack of a better word, is not something that I can do easily."]
Reaching out, he awkwardly laid his hand to cover hers, before deciding to was too much contact and pulled it back. [b "Seeing you working with them without question is something that brain cannot comprehend. And I've grown to believe that mutants can only trust each other. To watch you work with humans over partnering with me alone, I guess has made me a tad...jealous,"] the word fell from his mouth.
The sight that she met at the door was... not one she was expecting. Even when she had managed to rise later or at the same time as him, Erik had... never looked so disheveled. She instantly felt guilt, wondering if his sleeplessness was somehow her doing. She had been sending a wave of calmness to his mind every night, in hopes of negating any nightmares that may or may not exist.
[i All because you couldn't keept your mouth shut.] Charlotte scoldded herself, and managed a small smile and a nod of her head as he welcomed her in. Shutting the door behind herself, she watched as he left into the bathroom, and then she finally let herself fully enter into the room. She had her overnight bag with her, she wanting to leave as soon as possible after finding this last eligable mutant in Chicago: a girl who could fly. Whether they succeeded or not, Charlotte could tell without her telepathy that neither of them wished to stay in the city for much longer.
She had been lost in her thoughts so greatly that she startled when he returned from the bathroom, staring at him, but then slowly nodded at his suggestion... until he took the coffee and [i thanked her] for it. Nonetheless, she managed to make herself move over to the small table to sit down.
She handed him his sandwich, took her own—another sandwich that spoke of the owman somehow being able to eat more than her weight: a bacon-egg-and-cheese bagel with a sausage added onto it. She had been unsure of what to get him since at all the places they had eatene, he'd critisized everything she suggest. So, she'd gotten him two sausage biscuts. And, of course, she'd gotten them each two hashbrowns. Just as 'of course', she had stressed over if she was purchasing correctly, considering the stress she'd been under th enight before.
Then Erik spoke.
[b "What?"] She snapped her head up, staring at him, needing to blink a few times as she processed his words. Ultimately, she sighed, setting her sandwich onto it's wrapper. [b "Erik, you don't have to apologize,"] The short genius sad, offering a smile that very clearly wasn't a genuine one. [b "It's my fault, really. You can just forget everything I said, hm? You didn't deserve any of that."
Erik hadn't slept at all.
By midnight, he'd left his room and took to walking the streets. It would have been quite peaceful, if he wasn't alone with his thoughts that were eating away at him. They flipflopped from being angry at Charlotte for putting these thoughts in his head, to plotting how he could get her trust back.
He'd gotten desperate around three in the morning and purchased a teddy bear and chocolate bar from a 24 hour gift shop down the road, with the full intent of gifting them to Charlotte over breakfast. By four o'clock, he'd angrily eaten the chocolate and ripped the head off the teddy bear.
When her knock came with the sun, his hair was unruly and his clothes were disheveled. [b "Come in,"] he murmured, stepping aside.
[b "I'm uh...I just need to shower,"] he quietly excused himself to the bathroom.
He set the water as cold as he could handle to wake him up and clear his head. [b "Don't screw this up again,"] he gave his reflection a pep talk as he buttoned his shirt.
There was an moment of awkward silence as he rejoined her, accepting the coffee with a quiet thank you. [b "Shall we eat?"] he gestured to the bagged food waiting on the table.
The coffee was slightly tangy on his taste buds, but he offered her a smile over the cup. [b "This was very kind of you. I don't deserve the generosity. I apologize for my behaviour,"] he stammered over the words, unused to being apologetic.
The next morning, March 21st, would come no matter how much Charlotte didn't want it too. Sitting up in a room she hadn't bothered settling into, she found her head throbbing in a way it hadn't since the day after her twenty-first birthday.
[i ...I still feel pathetic. Lovely.] The British-blooded girl thought to herself, raising her hands to rub at her temples slowly. Glancing at the clock, she saw it was before seven, and after a few minutes she found the motivation to go and shower.
Two hours later, at 9 a.m. on the dot, she showed up to Erik's room with two coffees and breakfast from a fast-food place nearby. [i 'This stuff is horrible, Charlotte, I don't know why you got it. It's not real coffe' and 'These sandwiches are calories beyond my worst dreams' are bound to come.] Despite that fear, she had gone out and got it anyway. She had a couple happy memories of fast food places, and eventually getting something from there helped lessen how bad she felt after a panic attack.
Granted, it had been years, but she always had a soft-spot for McDonalds. She and Raven often joked it's the only thing that prooved America had apparently infected the genius after years of moving back and forth between there and England.
This was not one of those happier moments though, so as the woman awaited for Erik to open the door so they could get going, her eyes dimmed, she schooled her face as calm as possible, and she inhaled as calmingly as she was capable. For her own sake.
Erik's eyes flew as wide as they could as this little firecracker of a woman got right in his face. [b "I-"] he tried to interject, only to be shut up once more.
His heart was hammering in his chest with adrenaline pumping through his veins. He'd only ever felt this kind of intensity during a fight. Granted, this was slightly more terrifying than any fight he'd ever been in. His mouth hung slightly open for the duration of the verbal obliteration.
Then the tears started. [i Fuck.]
Charlotte Xavier had been a beacon of confidence and reassurance since they'd met. And now she was looking at him like he was worse than the monster they were hunting. Erik's eyes fell to the floor, unable to maintain eye contact knowing that he was the one who had made her fall to such a level.
The door slammed behind her and he was left alone. Always alone. [b "Goddamnit,"] he slumped back into his chair and rubbed at his face.
She was right.
He knew she was right. And still, he'd gone and made her cry because he couldn't handle being wrong. The humans had tried helping. They'd provided the information needed for their search. They'd given them sleeping quarters and food.
And how did he repay them? By consistently pointing out their flaws and shortcomings. His preaching of superiority had provided the necessary wedge he'd come to drive between himself and anyone who could get close. He'd viewed them all as the monsters that had locked his people in camps to starve and die. Yet here he was claiming to be the better species. Just like the man who had put his people in those camps.
[b "I'm sorry, Charlotte,"] he murmured to himself, knowing that it would be best to leave her be for the night.
Tomorrow, he would do better. He would make it up to her and be worthy of her friendship.
The looked of rage stayed on her face, she getting up from the bed she had claimed. [b "Would just fucking [i stop] that?!"] Charlotte snapped again, her breathing speading up and she getting red in the face. [b "Stop speaking down at me like nothing is your fault."]
She stompped up to him, shoving him once in the chest, but instead of continuing the current triade, she looked up at him and abruptly asked, [b "Do you hate me, Erik?"] The question hung oddly heavy in the air for a duo of people that knew each other as little of a time they had, and no matter what he'd answer, her expression would not change as she raised a hand to cut off his response.
[b "I have done nothing, at all, to deserve the way you've been treating me."] She raised a hand, tacking off on her fingers, [b "I saved your life, gotten you resources, and have extended a hand all for no cost from you. This is not my battle, but I'm fucking in it, because a monster like Shaw does not deserve to run free. And if I get to help others like us—others I didn't know might exist beyond me and my sister until I bloody met you—then that is the only selfish gain I get: that pleasure of knowing I've helped others."] Charlotte was trembling, glaring up at him as she lowered her arms. Her lips were quivering, her jaw clenched tight.
[b "I've known you hardly a week, Erik, and I know not why I've put up with you. You've belittled me, nit-picked, judged, cursed, and done so many rude things I do not believe I deserved. Do you resent me, hate me, want me dead? I don't know,"] She threw her hands up in the air, [b "But I'm trying to help you anyway, no matter what those answers are, because I don't think I've [i ever] met a mind more bright and more deserving of justice then [i yours!"]] Her chest was heaving by this point, her eyes stinging, and no matter how much she worked her jaw she couldn't stop the tears that finally forced their ways down her face.
[b "And above all, you preach supperiority. It was not a human that's had me need to stop nearly a dozen confrontations that could get them arrested over the past week—stopping them in a way I hate doing, because I hate having to control anyone to such a degree, let alone innocent bystanders. A regular human did not put me in the position to have to do that."] She stocked forward, hitting him in the chest and backing him up against the wall, [b "A human did not make me feel like lower than dirt the entire week because things weren't going the way they wanted, Erik. [i You] were the one who did that to me, and I don't know what I did to deserve it, but I meant what I said after our flight; I am so [i sorry-],"] Her voice broke a bit, she inhaling shakily, [b "That...th-that I decided to invest myself so quickly into thinking you deserve all the kindness I have, because despite all the bad shite you've done to me so far, [i even now], that thought hasn't changed. "]
She backed up from him, walking over to the nightstand, grabbing her carry-on back from it, and slipping her shoe on. [b "I'm getting a different room. I'll come and get you at 9 a.m., and I suppose I'll be stupid and worthless and a waste of time yet again from waking you up at either too early or not early enough. I'm sure if neither are true, you'll still say the insults anyway."] She marched to the door, pausing, and then marched out of it before slamming it shut.
God, she really wanted a drink.
And she wished she wasn't crying, even as she wiped her cheeks whilst walking to the elevator. Soft sobs still escaped her.
She felt absolutely pathetic, and she couldn't help but fear that it was just gonna get worse with the rest of the journey, but she wouldn't give up. She'd help him if he liked it or not.
Despite her determined thoughts, Charlotte had to stop short of the elevator to lean against the wall, trying to calm her quickly turning-panicked breathing that had been induced by her high stress, emotions, other things she really wished were cropping up in her mind right then, and by her silent-though-nearly-violently-intense sobs.
He was going to break something.
Probably the next mutant who said no to them.
They were zero for four, and it wasn't looking like things were going to be in their favour. [b "I'd advise you to reconsider,"] he'd even snapped at the last person they'd spoken with, before being ushered off by Charlotte.
There was another problem. He hadn't quite been able to kick his attitude from the plane, and neither of them were in a particularly good mood. In fact, Erik would be impressed if they made it back to headquarters without having killed each other first. [b "I told you this was a bad idea,"] he had snapped at her while slamming the hotel door shut.
He was now perched on the lumpy armchair in the corner, watching a mindless game show. [b "We could have found Shaw by now."]
Erik glanced over at her, silently reading her book. [b "I trusted you. You said that this plan would work, and so far all it's done for us is get us cheap hotel dinners and rejections."]
He stretched his legs out and crossed his arms over his chest. [b "But this is what you wanted, right? To play along with the humans. To try and make them happy. Well congratulations, we're screwing ourselves over."]
She'd finally had enough of his shit and the next thing he knew, her book was hitting him in the face. [i "Are you out of your mind,"] he yelled, rising to his feet and pressing a hand to his nose to check if it was broken.
The remaining four hours of the flight would pass in silence. Charlotte wouldn't try to get Erik to talk to her—surprisingly. That oddity of what the man had come to understand about the genuinely certified-genius of a woman would easily be explained by the fact he was sleeping, of course, so the grouching man probably woudlnt' think anything of it.
The duo would land, and Charlotte would be silent until they were about to leave the airport. A car being dropped off for them by a government official in the Chicago area once they had called and given one of their valid badge-numbers.
[b "You're right,"] She said as the car pulled up, nodding as the driver went to go and get a taxi, and she moved to get in the driver's seat herself. [b "I am most definitely sorry."] Her tone was genuine with the apology, but something seemed slightly... off. But she ahd flashed him a smile, and it seemed there was nothing to worry about.
[h3 Two Days Later — March 20th, 1962 ]
It had been another long, long, [i long] day.
There were four eligable mutants in the state of Illinois, and all four of them were in Chicago.
Two of them were siblings—powers of lifting things with their mind, and the other being able to make a force-field with a purple hue.
They had found them on the first day, and both of them had said no.
They found the third mutant—one who could manipulate water—just this morning: they declinded a little more than an hour ago.
She and Erik having been back at their room for the past half hour, she had been silent. Reading a book, and writing notes as Erik watched the television whilst making general jabs her way. Charlotte hadn't spoken much the past few days, but... after a another jab of Erik's , she just couldn't take it anymore.
[b "For the bloodiest of fucks, would you just [i stop it!?]"] Charlotte snapped, slamming her book shut before, honest to God, throwing it at at the metal-using mutant.
He grimaced right back at Charlotte. [b "Don't you look at me like that. He was only proving my point that mutants are the advanced species. You'd never see me discarding peanut shells on the public floor, like some ill-mannered child."]
Erik huffed and pushed himself back in his chair, drawing the complimentary eye mask down to block out the light. [b "You know I'm right,"] he grumbled.
He never had been a friendly drunk. Taking advantage of the free champagne had put him in a sour mood, and he was hell-bent on giving her the silent treatment until the flight landed. [i I'll show you to undermine me,] he thought to himself stubbornly.
The rest of the flight was fairly uneventful. Though he did make sure to bend the slob's fork when he wasn't looking to make his meal a little more difficult. By the time they were disembarking the flight, Erik turned to Charlotte. [b "I hope you've had time to consider your actions. I will accept an apology whenever you are ready,"] he waited with an air of condescension.
When she said nothing, he frowned. [b "I was only trying to teach him some manners. It's not like I physically assaulted him. Though if you ask me, a good smack upside the head might have done the animal good,"] he dusted off his jacket and pulled it in place.
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