katydidmischief: (lights)
[personal profile] katydidmischief posting in [community profile] cjs_own
disclaimer. Not mine. So incredibly not mine.
title. Gloss Emulsion
rating. PG
pairing. Charles/Erik
summary. The students never ask about the photo album.
notes. Inspired by this prompt at [livejournal.com profile] 1stclass_kink.

The students never ask about the photo album, they just know it's there – a fixture on Professor Xavier's desk, between a framed photo of his mother and tiny clock with a strange engraving. Only the new kids are ever brave enough to touch it and no one looks at it a second time; the images are committed to memory after the first viewing, etched into adolescent minds like a brand.

But sometimes, Alex will walk into the office and pull it from the desk, collapse onto a sofa or a chair or lean up again the doorjamb, thumbing through the pages with a blanker and blanker expression. These, he always thinks, are the only images left of his true family (minus Scott, the only blood relative he cares about); the only copies, the only photographs, of the happier days.

(He covets the first picture, the one just inside the cover, of all of them – Erik and Charles and Hank and Sean and himself – on the couches in the living room, not doing anything but spending time together.)

Alex never quite hides it, but Charles makes sure never to mention how Alex makes sure, each time, to place the album in precisely the same space.

Hank, with his heightened senses, doesn't take the time to do the same; when he decides it's time to reminisce, he does so with the album in his hands and Charles at his side. He does so with a swallow of brandy, a cigarette, and the Swinging Blue Jeans playing softly at their backs.

The juxtaposition of an up-tempo song against the black and white images serves to hold the tears at bay, giving Hank enough time to look at each of their faces, still and perfect within the white edges. He never needs more than an hour to glance through each photo, but his gaze inevitably is held by the final one: Erik and Charles standing in the doorway to the kitchen, looking befuddled as Sean and Alex stand amid the flour-coated space and Hank wipes at the white mark on his face.

(It's the last one Raven took, just a few days before the "cure" and the beach and everything changing.)

For Charles, though, he doesn't need silence or another's presence to look within the album; he doesn't hold it in reverence or think it some sort of sacred artifact. He doesn't think it needs to be treated like it can terrify, haunt; it's a book, he reminds them all from time to time, a picture book with the reminders of a past he will not forget.

Cannot forget.

"We don't learn who we are in the easy times – it's the challenges that shape us. I can't look at my past and regret because every choice and every action led me here," he tells them, his voice filled passion and solid belief.

(When he looks at the album, there might be students around or teachers, or it might be after the younger children have gone off to bed and it's just the older kids, clustered in his office, asking about Mystique when she was still Raven, Magneto when he was still Erik.)

He lingers, only for a few seconds ever, on a photo midway through; Charles smiles at himself in the gloss, remembering how happy he had been, then lifts the page to turn it, his lips tinging at the memory of Erik's lips on his.

(On occasion, he'll be looking at the picture when Alex will walk by and over his shoulder, he'll say, "You know you two can always get remarried, right?" and keep walking.)
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