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FIC: Vacation, 6/?, Charles/Erik, Logan/Marie, NC-17

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  • Henrika
    Chapter rating: Soft R Disclaimer and story information can be found in part 1. Chapter 6 So. What she feared did happen. She had to cook the dinner tonight.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 28, 2003
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      Chapter rating: Soft R

      Disclaimer and story information can be found in part 1.

      Chapter 6

      So. What she feared did happen. She had to cook the dinner tonight.
      Rogue was unwilling to accept such a great responsibility. Had it
      only been she and Logan, it would have been easier, but now here was
      Magneto, and of course professor Xavier. The headmaster of the
      school.

      She was going to cook for the headmaster. That was a task not given
      to any student, but Rogue was not sure if she saw it as an honour.

      She sighed, and went to the fridge to see what she could find. No one
      had told her what they preferred, but in case she asked all three,
      she would probably get three different answers, so she might as well
      make the decision herself.

      Both Charles and Erik, and Logan and she had brought food, so there
      were plenty of raw materials in the fridge.

      Rogue pondered. I have to cook something that everyone likes, she
      thought. What could that be? She already knew what Logan preferred,
      of course, but more people than Logan had to be satisfied.

      She found a large joint in the fridge, brought by Logan and her.
      Putting a joint in the oven couldn't be too hard? She started looking
      for something to make together with the joint. Potatoes, rice, pasta,
      French-fries...

      She wasn't really sure who had brought what, but at least the rice
      belonged to Magneto and the professor. They had eaten rice the
      evening before. Rogue recalled seeing their plates stand on the
      kitchen table last night.

      Hmm... She liked French-fries, like Logan, and they were easy to
      make. That settled it. It would be a joint with French-fries. In case
      the professor and "Maggie" would mind her choice of food, they could
      blame themselves for putting her at the stove.

      Rogue took out the joint and started looking for a suitable din to
      put it in once it was going into the oven. When she bent down to poke
      about in one of the kitchen drawers, Logan entered – newly showered
      and fresh – to get a beer.

      He smiled wryly when he saw his girlfriend, standing with her ass in
      his direction, rattling with pans and casseroles while looking for
      something she needed. Logan couldn't resist the impulse to approach
      her and grab her denim-clad behind.

      Rogue had surely heard him come, but still she winced when she felt
      him pressing his body against hers from behind.

      "Hi, darling," Logan grinned. "Looking for something?"

      "Yes. Get off me now," Rogue replied and pushed him away as she got
      to her feet with a blue-white porcelain din in her hands.

      Logan smacked her bottom. "What now?" he asked. "Are you mad because
      you have to cook?"

      Rogue turned to him with a stern expression that clearly revealed she
      was more than just a little annoyed.

      "Why do you always have to be such an ass?" she said.

      Logan gaped in surprise. "Ass? What, I was just kidding..."

      "With Erik, I mean," Rogue interrupted. "You don't seem to realize
      that you're making it difficult for all of us when you're acting like
      that. We're guests here, Logan!" she exclaimed.

      "What, I haven't..."

      "Out there, not so long ago? What do you call that? You almost looked
      like you'd wanna punch him again."

      Logan didn't find anything good to say. That had actually been his
      first spontaneous thought right then, but he had suppressed it.

      "He's really not that bad," Rogue proceeded, now in a milder
      voice. "He can be really charming and nice once you get to know him."

      "Yeah, right..." Logan muttered sarcastically.

      "Listen," Rogue said, leaning against the sink. "We can go home if
      you wish. It'll be best for all of us, if that's how you feel."

      "I don't wanna go home."

      "Then change your attitude. For me. And for the professor. You know
      how dear Erik is to him."

      Logan sighed. "I know," he said. "And you're dear to me. Well, I'll
      change, Marie. I promise."

      Now Rogue smiled. "That's better. I actually think we can have a good
      time here. Don't you?"

      "I certainly hope so..." Logan sniffed in the air. "What are you
      making, by the way?"

      "You'll find out when it's done. Now go, Logan. You're distracting
      me."

      Logan chuckled as he walked to the fridge to get his beer. "Joint,"
      he said. "Good. I wonder what Charlie and Mags will say."

      "I hope they like my choice."

      "Well..." Logan said, shrugging, as he opened his beer bottle with
      his adamantium-claws. "We'll see. Just don't burn the steak."

      Rogue stuck out her tongue at his back when he walked out of the
      kitchen.

      "If you say more I'll leave you *nothing*! Just wait and see!" she
      called.

      Logan merely chuckled in reply, and although Rogue couldn't see him
      any longer, she could almost see his wry smile before her.

      *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

      When Erik went into the living room to sit down and watch the rerun
      of "ER", Logan was already there. The TV was on, and the other mutant
      sat in the sofa, wearing jeans and a sleeveless white undershirt,
      holding a beer bottle in his hand.

      He looked up at Erik when the other approached, but didn't bother
      speaking, and quickly turned his gaze back at the TV. He was watching
      a boxing match.

      Erik sighed. This could be a problem. "Logan," he said calmly and got
      between Logan and the TV. "This is actually a two-seat sofa. If you
      don't mind?"

      Logan sat like he always did; broad-legged and sprawled, taking much
      more place than he was entitled to. He gave Erik an annoyed look when
      he stood in front of the TV and stopped him from seeing what went on
      in the screen.

      "Did you want something?" he asked critically.

      "Can you move a little so I can sit down too?"

      Logan snorted and surely didn't move more than an inch, making it
      clear that this was his final offer. Reluctantly Erik squeezed into
      the corner and had to press up against the elbow rest to prevent his
      thigh from pressing against Logan's much bulkier and denim-clad leg.

      "This *is* a two-seat sofa," he repeated sullenly, hoping that Logan
      would get the hint. Presently he was taking more than two thirds of
      its volume.

      "I'm bigger than you, Shrimp," Logan simply said. "I need more space."

      Magneto crossed his long slim legs elegantly. "I asked you nicely.
      Isn't that enough?"

      "No one's forcing you to stay here," Logan muttered.

      "Excuse me?"

      "Listen, I'm trying to follow this match! If you're staying, keep
      quiet! Okay?"

      Erik clenched his teeth to stop himself from screaming out loud.
      Wolverine was making him mad. Why did he agree to let them stay?

      "It doesn't matter anyway, for that boxing isn't staying on for much
      longer," he said coldly. "I came here to watch "ER". Give me the
      remote control, Logan."

      "Forget it!" Logan snapped and quickly snatched the remote control
      from the table. "I'm watching this."

      "Hand me the remote control, you brat!" Erik exclaimed and reached
      out his hand towards Logan, but now the other man just laughed.

      "'Brat'"? he snorted. "Oh, really? I'd believe I'm older than you,
      Shrimp! Or what do you think?"

      "I was referring to your behaviour," Erik claimed. "I'm sure you see
      what I mean. Why make this into an argument? Can't we solve this in
      some other way? I came here to watch one of my favourite TV shows.
      Can't you let me do that?"

      "'ER'?" Logan said with a big grimace.

      "Yes. Please put it on."

      "Is that the hospital show where a lot of white-coats run around
      poking bloody wounds all the time? Yuck! Who the hell would wanna
      watch that?" he finished with another snort.

      Erik inhaled deeply. "*I* do, and it is much more interesting and
      informative than what you're watching now," he said and nodded at the
      boxing match in the screen. "Who would like to watch two men standing
      in a ring beating each other till their faces are squashed? What is
      the point?"

      "What does an old queen know about boxing?" Logan said
      scornfully. "Your kind don't actually do what real men do!"

      "'My kind'?" Erik said furiously. "What the hell is that supposed to
      mean? Are you referring to my sexuality? I can tell you, that if you
      have to be heterosexual to know that shit, then I'm rather an old
      queen! But maybe you're nostalgic, Logan? Your life looked like that,
      didn't it, before Charles found you and took you to the mansion?"

      Logan spun around and stared at Erik. A dangerous glint crept into
      his eyes, and for a moment he looked almost feral. But the sudden
      anger quickly faded and he leaned back again.

      "I'll finish watching this boxing," he said hollowly. "If you can't
      deal with that, you can go. Go fuck Charles, or something. We all
      know you're good at that!"

      The comment made Erik grit his teeth, but he didn't bother
      answering. "How long does this crap last?" he asked instead.

      Logan shrugged. "I dunno. Half an hour, I think."

      "Half an hour!" Erik exclaimed. "Half the episode has passed by then!"

      "So what? I was here first. You can't just come and demand I'll give
      way to you."

      "Logan, this is not your house."

      "It isn't yours either," Logan retorted. "It's Charles'."

      "Yes, that is right. Shall we let him settle this conflict?"

      "Where *is* Charlie, by the way?" Logan asked.

      "At the moment he's in the bathtub," Erik replied. "And it would
      really be a shame to go and disturb him simply because of a mere
      trifle like this? Wouldn't it?"

      "Yeah," Logan agreed. "It would. So leave, Magneto."

      "Aren't you going to help your girlfriend cook?"

      Logan shook his head. "I don't think so," he grunted.

      "No, "real" men don't cook, do they?" Erik suggested
      sarcastically. "Only women and faggots do that!"

      Logan gulped at his beer and grinned. "Right," he said. "If you say
      so! And I'm a real man, am I not?"

      Erik stared at Logan, frowning, with a look that said Logan was
      clearly out of his mind. The other mutant's attitude had made him so
      flabbergasted that he couldn't come up with anything to say. Logan
      stared back with a scowl until his mouth started twitching, and
      suddenly he burst out laughing.

      "Seriously, Mags!" he snorted. "Did you really think I meant that?
      Did you think... I'm... too macho to cook? Jesus! You...!"

      Logan had to go quiet as he wiped tears of laugher from his eyes. The
      critical look in Erik's eyes had changed into surprise.

      Logan leaned out toward him and put his arm around his shoulders,
      still laughing. "No, Mags," he said, squeezing Erik's shoulder. "That
      was a joke. I didn't think you'd take it so seriously."

      Erik shrugged. He didn't see the joke, but he was glad that was all
      it was. "Well, I'm not a telepath," he said. "How do I know what you
      mean?"

      "You don't know me very well," Logan agreed. "And I suppose I don't
      know you either, but..."

      "No, I agree," said Erik. "What is your point?"

      "I'll be honest," Logan said seriously. "I don't like you very much.
      I'm sure the feeling's mutual, but I like Charles, and since you're
      so dear to him, and make him happy, I guess I'll have to tolerate
      you. And since we... well, live under the same roof now, we have to
      try getting along if this weekend's gonna work. And I want it to. For
      Charles' and Marie's sake, if not ours. So what do you say, Mags?
      Shall we try, from now on?"

      "Have you been talking to Charles?" Erik wondered.

      "No, but I gave Marie a promise," Logan claimed. "I promised her to
      try, and I apologize for my behaviour and what I just said. That
      about you being a queen..."

      Erik smiled faintly and shrugged again. "I guess I am one."

      "Maybe a little. But I apologize anyway."

      "You're forgiven."

      Logan laughed. "Good to hear. Want some beer, Mags?"

      "No thank you. I don't drink beer. I'll have some wine with the food
      instead."

      "Okay."

      Now Logan noticed that he was still holding his arm around Magneto's
      shoulders, and pulled it back immediately. "Sorry," he said. "I don't
      want you to believe I'm pawing at you!"

      Erik laughed as well. "Good, for even though I'm a queen, I don't
      want you. You are not my type!"

      "I'm relieved. So what *is* your type?" Logan asked amused. "Let me
      guess... bald men in wheelchairs?"

      "No, one *particular* bald man in a wheelchair," Erik elucidated. "I
      only want Charles. I love him."

      "Yeah, you'd better, for if you cheat on him and make him unhappy,
      I'll cut your balls off and feed them to you!"

      Logan still smiled wryly while he spoke, but his voice had gotten
      more serious, which surely meant he really was warning Erik of
      hurting Charles.

      "Don't worry," Erik said. "That won't happen. I will never hurt my
      darling."

      "You know, Mags, maybe Marie was right about you. You can be a
      real...-"

      Logan didn't have time to finish his sentence, since a sudden shrill
      and terrified cry sounded from the kitchen. Rogue. Something had
      happened. What?

      Logan forgot Magneto and bounced up from the sofa in such speed, he
      believed hearing the springs creak under the cushions. He reached the
      kitchen within two, three seconds, and when he arrived there, he was
      met by thick, black suffocating smoke, that seemed to originate from
      the open furnace, quickly spreading in the whole room.

      Logan immediate smelled burnt meat, and a shooting pain struck his
      nose and throat when he inhaled the smoke. It didn't take him long to
      realize. The joint. The oven. Rogue. His girlfriend was standing near
      the furnace and tried to scatter the thick, black smoke by waving her
      hands, trying to look inside the oven. Her face was red, probably due
      to lack of oxygen, and Logan could hear her cough violently.

      "Marie," he began and stepped toward her. "Get out of there, you can
      get poisoned!"

      Rogue turned around when she heard Logan entering. Her eyes were red
      and teary, maybe due to the smoke, maybe because she was actually
      crying.

      "Logan..." she yelped. "I don't know what..."

      "What is going on here?"

      They turned around when they heard the question, and Logan could see
      that Erik had followed him, and was now standing in the doorway. He
      was too struck by an attack of coughing when he inhaled the smoke.

      "Hurry, open a window!" he croaked. "Logan, open a..."

      Logan did what he was told without questions and pulled up the
      kitchen's sash window as much as possible.

      "Marie, come on," he said, grabbing her arm, and started leading her
      out of the kitchen. They went out on the patio to get away from the
      smoke, and Erik followed. Rogue was still crying when they sat down
      by the table where she had played cards with Magneto and the
      professor before.

      "Marie, what happened?" Erik asked gently. "Did you put something in
      the oven?"

      "The joint..." Rogue sobbed and started looking for tissues in her
      pockets to wipe her face with. "I don't know what happened, it just
      started to reek... I think I've destroyed the oven..."

      "Marie, it is alright, " Erik said soothingly and placed his hand
      atop Rogue's to comfort her. "Don't cry, it isn't the end of the
      world."

      "But the kitchen... What if the professor becomes mad at me..." Rogue
      sobbed while she wiped her red-streaked face with the tissue.

      "Of course he won't," Erik explained. "It was an accident. Charles
      won't be mad. I promise."

      "But what about the dinner?" Logan added. "Did you see what happened
      to the joint, Marie?"

      Rogue shook her head. "No, there was too much smoke. I barely saw
      anything."

      "It's alright, sweetie," Logan said, standing up again. "We'll have
      to fix something else when we've gotten the smoke out of the kitchen."

      They waited for about fifteen minutes before they went inside the
      kitchen again, and by now almost all of the smoke had vanished out
      through the open window. It had left an acrid, pungent smell, though,
      which would probably stick around for a while.

      Logan approached the furnace and looked inside to see what had become
      of the joint. He saw a small black lump, which had obviously once
      been a joint. It wasn't any longer. Logan found no words to describe
      what it had become.

      Unconstrained, he stuck his hand into the oven and grabbed the din
      despite that it was still too hot to be touched, and put it on the
      sink. The hot porcelain left red burn marks that healed and
      disappeared within a few seconds after he released the din.

      Logan didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Laughing was tempting, but
      he tried not to, since that would make Rogue even more upset.

      "That doesn't look very appetizing anymore," Erik said seriously and
      Logan couldn't help grinning.

      "No, I can agree with you on *that*, Mags!"

      Rogue wasn't crying any longer, but she had gone to sit at the table
      and rested her head in her hands. They could hear her sigh deeply.

      Suddenly they all heard the sound of a wheelchair approaching, and
      watched Charles wheel in, still wearing a bathrobe after bathing
      recently. Logan couldn't help wondering how Charles really got out of
      the tub – and into it as well – completely without assistance.

      "Rogue?" he asked, partly worried, partly matter-of-factly.

      "She happened to burn the dinner," Erik explained before Rogue got a
      chance to reply. "And now she is worried that you'll become angry
      with her."

      Charles looked honestly surprised. "Angry?" he said. "Why would I be
      that? It was an accident."

      Rogue lifted her head. "I think I've destroyed the oven," she
      said. "I'm sorry, professor, but..."

      "It is alright, my dear," Charles said at once. "It is not your
      fault. The oven is nearly fifty years old, and it malfunctioned
      already when Erik and I used to come here, in the old days. The
      cables aren't what they were when this cabin was built. Luckily no
      one got hurt. What were you going to cook?"

      Rogue nodded at the remains of the joint that Logan had put on the
      sink. "Maybe you can't see what it is," she said sullenly.

      "It was supposed to be a joint," Magneto remarked.

      Charles' eyebrows went up. "Joint? But Erik, you're not eating pork,
      are you?"

      "No," Erik agreed. "But I didn't bring it here."

      "I did," Logan said. "It's my loss."

      Logan leaned against the sink, and with amusement watched the burnt
      little lump that had once been a joint.

      "It will be alright, Logan," said Xavier. "We have enough food left.
      If you look into the fridge you'll find some chicken salad left
      behind from yesterday."

      Logan snorted. "Yuck, no!" he said. "Let's have a drive downtown
      instead, and order a pizza or something. What do you say?"

      Erik frowned at once. "Pizza?" he said, sounding almost
      contemptuous. "Never! I'm on vacation now, and I won't waste any
      money on fatty junk food like pizza! Then I'll rather have some of
      yesterday's chicken salad!"

      Logan shrugged. "No one's forcing you to come, Shrimp."

      "Erik," Charles said. "Logan's suggestion makes sense. We *are* on
      vacation, and I think we can afford to spend some money. But instead
      of pizzas, I think we can visit a proper restaurant. I'll pay."

      Logan smiled wryly. "Sure, professor. Count me in!"

      "I'd love to," Rogue said, trying to smile. "You're too kind,
      professor Xavier."

      "Marie," Charles said seriously, "I am not your teacher now, so I
      think we can stop being so strict and formal. Can't you call me
      Charles while we are here?"

      Rogue looked at him, almost in shock. Charles! No way! You just
      couldn't call your headmaster by his first name; that was impossible.
      The mere thought made her flush.

      "I think I'm gonna keep calling you professor Xavier," she murmured
      with burning cheeks.

      "Of course," Charles smiled. "If you're more comfortable with that."

      "Honestly, I am."

      Charles almost couldn't help laughing. He knew very well what Rogue
      meant; it could be difficult, at least for a student, to think about
      him as "Charles", instead of "the professor". The very essence of him
      virtually radiated authority, and even the X-men – except Logan, of
      course – mostly called him "professor", although he had repeatedly
      encouraged them to call him by his first name.

      Logan, on the contrary, who had never been his student, didn't see
      him that way. His annoying habit to call him "Charlie", or
      sometimes "Chuck" instead of "Charles" was something Xavier had
      learnt to tolerate, although he didn't actually like it.

      "Get ready," Xavier told Logan and Rogue. "We'll leave as soon as
      I've gotten dressed. Come, Erik."

      *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

      Fifteen minutes later Charles was neatly dressed in a grey suit,
      white shirt and dark tie, sitting in his wheelchair watching Erik,
      who stood before the hallway-mirror, pulling a brush through his
      thick, airy grey hair.

      Erik hadn't brought any suit, so he decided to go as he was, wearing
      easy summer clothes. Charles had offered to lend him an elegant
      spring jacket, but Erik had said, "We don't exactly have the same
      build, Charles. Your jacket would only make me look silly, so I think
      this will be best."

      Charles smiled while he watched his lover stand a few feet in front
      of him. He wished he could have risen from the chair, approached
      Erik, and wrapped his arms around his waist and kissed his neck, as
      he often had done before the accident. Charles suddenly longed to
      inhale Erik's scent and feel his closeness.

      "You look so incredibly handsome, my dear," Charles said with a
      smile.

      Erik turned around, also smiling. "You think?"

      "Definitely."

      Erik put his brush away and went to Charles' wheelchair, kneeled in
      front of it, and grabbed the other's hands.

      "You look handsome too..." he murmured and leaned in for a kiss. When
      Charles felt Erik's lips touching his own, he gently grabbed Erik's
      jaw, very careful not to muddle his neat hair.

      "Are we leaving?" suddenly Logan's voice sounded and the two elder
      men quickly broke their kiss. Magneto smiled and stood up. "Of
      course, we are ready now."

      Logan was already standing at the door with Rogue, holding his arm
      around her waist. He was wearing the same jeans as before, but at
      least he had put on a clean shirt over the undershirt. Rogue hadn't
      changed clothes either.

      "Are you going like that?" Erik asked, and couldn't avoid sounding a
      bit critical.

      "Yeah, of course," Logan said irritably. "Come on now, I'm hungry!"

      Erik looked at Charles, but realized protesting was useless, and
      instead started pushing Charles' chair toward the front door.

      "Whose car are we taking?" Rogue asked once they'd reached the patio.

      "Mine," Erik said before Logan could say anything. "And I'm driving."

      *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

      Five minutes later, when the time was 5:50 PM, all four mutants were
      sitting in Erik's dark blue Mazda, headed for the little society Dark
      Score.

      Erik was driving, and Charles was sitting next to him in the front
      seat. Logan and Marie sat behind them. Charles' wheelchair had been
      folded and placed in the trunk.

      It would take about half and hour to reach the society. None of them
      came up with any good topic of discussion, and after a few minutes of
      silence, Rogue decided to break it. She leaned out and looked over
      Magneto's shoulder.

      "Erik, professor, could you please turn on the radio?" she
      asked. "It's so quiet in here."

      "Alright, I can do that," Erik replied and switched the car radio on.
      He had also started to dislike the uncomfortable silence, and
      wouldn't mind some noise.

      Celine Dion's latest hit, "I Drove All Night", sounded from the
      radio.

      "Oh, please!" sounded from Logan. "Turn that shit off, Mags! It's
      giving me a headache!"

      Erik changed frequency on the radio. "Is this better?" he asked.

      There was no music this time, but now it sounded like some kind of
      radio gospel program. Logan groaned again, and Rogue couldn't help
      giggling. Erik turned the radio off.

      "I have a CD with Mozart here, if you would like to listen to some
      music," he added.

      "Forget it!" Logan snapped. "I prefer silence."

      "What did you expect?" Erik retorted. " Hard rock? This is *my* car!"

      "If you sometimes could...-"

      "Please, stop arguing now," Charles broke in with a pleading
      voice. "Now we are going out to eat and have a good time. Aren't we?"

      Logan let out a truly beautiful sigh, but listened to Xavier and kept
      quiet. To be honest, Logan didn't like to sit in the back seat as a
      passenger very much, and he didn't like to be in Magneto's car
      either. It gave him a feeling of powerlessness. When he was driving,
      he was in control of the vehicle, and therefore of himself as well,
      which he wasn't now.

      It was not that he didn't trust Magneto as a driver, but he just
      couldn't relax in the passenger seat.

      We should have taken *my* car! he thought while he watched the trees
      sweep past them outside the window. Erik was a very calm and
      controlled driver. He kept an even speed, and the drive down to the
      society took around 30 minutes, like Charles had predicted.

      Erik gave Charles a questioning look as he drove along the narrow but
      asphalted roads in Dark Score's "centre". His eyes were searching for
      something that could possibly be a restaurant. He saw the post
      office, the small grocery store and a car repair shop, but no
      restaurant.

      "Does anyone know where we are headed?" he asked finally.

      "Marie and I have only been at the pizzeria," replied Logan. "I
      thought you and Charlie..."

      "That was like 25 years ago," said Erik.

      "The only thing we can do is to keep looking," Charles said calmly.

      They cruised about in the streets for yet another while, and they
      were all looking for the word "restaurant", or at least a diner, and
      suddenly Rogue called out. "There! Stop! I thought I saw..."

      Erik stopped the car and the three mutants that could walk jumped out
      immediately. Charles remained seated in the front seat, and agreed
      that it would be best not to take out his chair until they were sure
      this wasn't a false alarm.

      It wasn't. What Rogue had seen really was a restaurant, or a decent
      copy of one, "The Dark Score Diner", but when they approached the
      entrance, they saw a signboard put up on the inside of the door. It
      said "closed because of flu".

      Despite this Logan tried the doorknob. It was locked.

      "That stinks...!" he muttered angrily. "It's closed!"

      Erik sighed. "Yes, it looks like it is," he agreed. "How fortunate we
      didn't take out Charles' wheelchair."

      The disappointed trio slowly started walking back to the car. Logan
      snorted and took out a cigar from his breast pocket, plus a couple of
      matches. Erik leaned in and opened the door to the driver's seat.
      Charles regarded him from the passenger seat.

      "It was..."

      "Closed," Charles finished. "I know. I am sorry. I could have found
      out about it earlier, so we didn't have to drive all the way here."

      Erik shrugged. Really, it didn't matter to him, they had enough food
      at the cabin, but it annoyed him to drive all the way back to the
      cabin for nothing.

      "So what now?" Rogue asked.

      "It looks like we're gonna have to visit the pizzeria instead," Logan
      said with a shrug. "I'm starting to get hungry."

      "The pizzeria!" Erik exclaimed when he heard the word being
      mentioned. "Never! Get in the car, I am going back to the cabin!"

      "Forget that, Mags!" Logan spat out. "I haven't gone all the way here
      for nothing! We went here to eat, and I'm hungry, so I'm heading for
      the pizzeria!"

      "In that case you'll have to get back to the cabin on foot, because I
      am taking my car, and driving back." Erik stated resolutely. "It is
      your choice, Logan. You'll do as you wish."

      "You can't do that!"

      "I don't see you paying for any gas!" Erik countered. "It is my loss
      in either case. Get in or don't."

      Logan's eyes narrowed into slits, and they could see him clench his
      teeth and his jaw muscles flexed, but he managed to control himself.

      "Very well," he said. "Then go back in your car. Marie and I are
      going to the pizzeria. Hopefully we'll get a ride back, at least a
      part of the way."

      Charles, who had chosen to stay out of this until now, hoping that
      the argument would settle in some way, couldn't keep quiet any
      longer, but intervened.

      "I can't allow that," he said shortly. "No one will have to hitch
      here. Logan, Marie, if you want to stay and have a meal, then
      certainly we will. I agree with you that it would be silly to have
      driven here all for nothing."

      Erik gave his friend and lover a disliking look and opened his mouth
      to object, but a telepathic message from Charles shut him up. //Erik,
      now you're being childish,// the telepath said. //Let us make a
      democratic decision concerning this. I promised them.//

      So everyone could hear, Charles said, "I think the lady shall make
      the final decision. Marie, what would you like to do?"

      "I think I'd like to go to the pizzeria," she said at last, flushing,
      in a low voice. "If there's not too much trouble..."

      "Good, then let's go there," Charles said with emphasis and gave Erik
      a pleading yet stern look.

      Magneto realized he would not get his will through without taking
      this argument further, so he gave in.

      "As you wish," he said. "For the lady," he added, and even managed to
      smile at Rogue. "Get into the car, everyone. I guess we are going to
      the pizzeria after all."

      With Logan's help it didn't take Erik long to find the pizzeria. He
      parked his car by the roadside, and stepped out to take out Charles'
      wheelchair from the trunk. Logan jumped out too, with a content
      little smile on his lips. He usually smiled like that when he had
      gotten what he wanted.

      Erik suspected that Logan really had wanted to go to the pizzeria all
      along, and maybe hoped that the restaurant would be closed, but he
      didn't say anything, not to risk starting another argument. Instead
      he unfolded Charles' wheelchair, and went to lift the telepath into
      it. Logan stopped him.

      "Let me handle that, Mags," he said confidently and pulled Erik
      aside. "I'm stronger than you are."

      Erik didn't object, since he knew Logan was right; he was physically
      much stronger, and wouldn't have any problems lifting Charles. Erik,
      or at least his back, secretly thanked Logan.

      Logan took a firm hold of Charles, lifted him into his arms, and
      placed him safely and without hesitation in the wheelchair, like he
      hadn't weighed more than a pillow.

      The same act always made Erik grimace from exertion, and his back
      always ached, sometimes for hours afterwards. Hmm... Maybe Logan
      could be good to have around occasionally?

      But although Logan offered himself, Erik insisted on pushing his
      lover's wheelchair himself. "Let's go," he decided. "I can do this."

      As they walked toward the entrance, Erik thought it felt almost like
      old times, after Charles' accident, before he got his electric
      wheelchair. But then Charles had been very determined to show he
      could take care of himself, in spite of his handicap, and barely
      accepted any help when Erik offered it. Now Erik smiled at the
      memory. They had been young back then. Now they weren't young
      anymore, and Charles had accepted his situation.

      Inside the pizzeria it was even hotter and stuffier than outside, and
      there was a strong smell of spices and roast ham. They would have to
      eat in there, since there wasn't any chairs or tables outside.

      Of course they could have bought the pizzas and taken them back to
      the cabin, but since the reason they were here *was* to eat out, it
      would be like cheating.

      The quartet sat down at a table for four by the window, and waited to
      be served. Not many people were here now; only around five people
      besides themselves, and they could see a red-haired waitress in a
      pink uniform deliver two pizzas to a young couple sitting left of
      the "mutant table".

      "Are we the last of all?" Logan asked irritably after a while.

      "Yes, since we were the last to arrive, let's suppose we are," Erik
      replied quietly.

      Charles and Erik were sitting next to one another, opposite of Marie
      and Logan. They had move one chair aside to make place for Charles'
      wheelchair. Rogue was the only one who looked expectant. She didn't
      eat out very often, and definitely not in the company of the
      headmaster.

      Ten minutes later (and some muttering about bad service from Logan)
      the waitress walked past their table, and gave them a plastic-coated
      menu each.

      "Let me know when you're ready to order," she said, turned around and
      started walking back into the kitchen. She wore a very short skirt –
      probably it was a part of her uniform – and everyone could see that
      Logan's eyes were riveted on it, and he was surely not thinking about
      pizza.

      "Nice ass..." he murmured when she had gotten out of earshot.

      Charles sighed, Erik grinned and Rogue gave her boyfriend a disliking
      look. "Think of what you're going to order instead," she told him
      shortly.

      "But not as nice as yours," he then said with a smile.

      Rogue rolled her eyes.

      "That was a compliment," Logan added.

      "Sure, of course it was," Rogue said impatiently. "I know that. But
      don't bring it up now."

      Logan shrugged, still smiling slightly. "Very well. Alright, pizza..."

      After studying the menu for a while, Erik put it away with an
      overcome sigh. "Why did I ever let myself be talked into going here?
      Can you promise you didn't manipulate my thoughts, Charles?"

      "Yes, I can promise you that," Charles replied.

      "If they could at least have something eatable on this menu," Magneto
      continued. "Look at this..."

      He picked his menu up and started reading out loud for the
      others, "Pizza with ham, cheese, tomatoes; pizza with ham, cheese;
      pizza with ham, garlic... Ham in every pizza!"

      "Erik," Charles tried, but Erik interrupted him brusquely.

      "Wait, I am not done yet!" He continued reading. "Hmm... Kebab plate
      with French-fries... Those often contain salmonella bacteria," he
      said, wrinkling his nose. "And for drink, then... Beer, Coca-Cola..."

      "Yeah, what would you like?" Logan asked irritably. "Russian caviar
      and Champagne? If you don't want beer, there is mineral water and ice-
      tea as well. If you look thoroughly."

      "Yes, maybe," Erik said morosely, but at least he kept quiet.

      "What's wrong with ham, by the way?" Logan asked. "It's good!"

      "I am Jewish," Erik explained. "Jews don't eat pork."

      "I didn't know you were that religious, Mags?"

      "I am not, but it is rather like a tradition," Magneto said. He
      looked at the menu again and tried to find something he could imagine
      eating. Not pizza, anyway, he decided. Some variants didn't contain
      ham, but he was going to avoid those as well. Besides the pizzas,
      there were also some other dishes.

      Hamburger with French-fries? Could that be something? Erik thought.
      His eyes landed on dish No. 3 – a chicken burger with French-fries
      and optional soft drink. "You can also exchange your French-fries for
      salad", it said.

      Erik thought that this was the most reasonable offer on the whole
      menu. He liked chicken, and even though he usually didn't eat it
      between bread, it had to do now.

      The waitress came back after a while and asked if they had made up
      their minds and wanted to order.

      "Sure," Logan replied and looked up at her. Rogue suspiciously
      followed his gaze to see if it landed on the woman's bare legs or the
      short, tight skirt again, but it didn't.

      The waitress took down their order in a small notepad. Logan ordered
      a king-sized tunny fish-pizza, Marie a ham-pizza, Charles Xavier
      chose one with minced meat, and Erik decided upon the chicken burger
      with salad instead of French-fries.

      "Are you on a diet?" Logan asked teasingly when he heard Erik's
      order.

      "Even if I did, it is nothing that concerns you," Erik replied
      angrily and looked after the waitress to see if she could possible
      hear what they said.

      "You shouldn't," Logan said, serious this time. "A shrimp like you
      shouldn't lose weight."

      Magneto released an annoyed sigh; he didn't know what was worst –
      Logan's way of questioning everything he said and did, or the fact
      that Logan had started calling him "Shrimp". He tried to come up with
      something analogous to "Shrimp" that matched Logan's physique, but he
      didn't find anything good.

      "I'm not trying to lose weight," he said with emphasis, "I just don't
      like fatty French-fries."

      "Alright, sorry then," Logan muttered and shrugged.

      Charles regarded Logan, and then Erik, considering if he should say
      anything about their constant bickering, but he didn't. So far it had
      worked well, considering how reluctant Erik had been to go here.

      The same waitress as before delivered their food. Logan started to
      wonder if she was the *only* waitress in this place. Or at least the
      only one working now.

      Besides the pizzas and Magneto's chicken burger, she gave them their
      drinks; a beer for Logan, a coke for Rogue, lemonade for Charles and
      ice-tea for Erik.

      "Enjoy your meals," she said with a smile and went away again,
      swinging her swelling buttocks, concealed behind the tight, short
      skirt.

      Logan immediately fell to his extra large tunny fish-pizza, and while
      he chewed he wondered if he'd have to order something more to still
      his hunger. No, he thought. I can't do that. Not when Charles is
      paying. It would be both audacious and impolite. Surely money is one
      of Charles' smallest problems, but still. There is more food at the
      cabin.

      No one spoke while they were eating. Erik silently watched the others
      eat; Logan and Marie sliced their pizzas, took the slices in their
      hands and ate without using the cutlery, and Charles cut up his pizza
      to pieces, picked them up with his fork and put them in his mouth.

      Erik looked down at the burger at his plate. He usually didn't
      eat "junk food", as it was called, but despite this he knew that a
      hamburger was to be eaten with one's hands, not with a knife and
      fork. But although Erik had lived in the States since 1950, he had
      not gotten used to the way Americans ate. Besides the bread was soft
      and flabby – barely denser than bubbles – and the burger itself was
      dripping with some kind of cheap dressing Erik didn't want to get on
      his shirt. So he started to eat it with his knife and fork.

      The first response he got was a loud snort from Logan. He ignored the
      other mutant and kept on chewing as if nothing happened. Then Logan
      couldn't stop himself any longer.

      "Oh, my God!" he explained. "Mags, you're supposed to eat a burger
      with your hands! Get it?"

      Even Rogue was staring, and thought it was comical, but she said
      nothing, and wished Logan hadn't either. She started to get sick of
      Logan's constant picking at Erik, and besides that attention was the
      last thing they needed.

      Magneto sighed again and put his knife and fork down. He could almost
      hear Logan's thoughts, without being a telepath. //Foppish old bitch.
      Don't you know anything?//

      Maybe that was exactly what he was thinking. He could always ask
      Charles later.

      Really he wasn't very foppish; some people just got that impression.
      The only reason he did this was to avoid stains on his clothes. It
      happened easily, especially to someone who wasn't used to eating
      burgers.

      "Can you mind your own business instead, Wolverine?" he muttered,
      calling Logan by his code name because he knew Logan hated it as much
      as Erik himself hated to be called "Shrimp".

      "It was just a good piece of advice," Logan said. "You're
      embarrassing us all."

      Erik opened his mouth to counter, but Charles beat him to it.

      "Logan!" the professor said. "I have tried to be patient and
      objective, but now I have had enough. Immediately stop commenting
      everything Erik does. He isn't embarrassing anyone; you are with your
      childish behaviour. We are all adults. Let us behave like ones."

      Charles spoke in a low and calm voice, but the anger was evident in
      it. And Charles' wrath – if rare – always made everyone yield, even
      Logan.

      "Yeah, okay..." Logan murmured. "I meant no offense. I just... Nah,
      forget it."

      Erik resisted the impulse to grin at Logan. He knew what an authority
      Charles had, and when he displayed anger, everyone knew they had gone
      too far. Even Logan.

      Charles then gave them a smile, to assure them that he wasn't mad any
      longer. In fact he hated to seem partial in a situation like this, by
      defending his "darling", but he'd felt he had no choice. Logan had
      been mean to Erik. And he could not tolerate that.

      Erik continued to eat his chicken burger with his knife and fork, and
      Logan didn't mention that another just as large pizza would be
      welcome, and when everyone was finished, Charles asked if it would
      suit them if he paid now. Everyone nodded in unison. Logan was hungry
      and wanted to get home to eat, and Erik wanted to get away from this
      place as well.

      To Rogue it didn't matter.

      "Oh, no!" Charles sighed after checking all his pockets. "I think
      I've forgotten my wallet in the car. Could someone be so kind and
      fetch it? I am sure I placed it in the glove compartment."

      "I've got money," Erik said at once. "I can pay."

      "Thank you, my dear, but I promised you all that I would pay this
      time," Xavier replied.

      "I can get it, professor," Rogue offered.

      "Thank you, dear, would you?"

      "Sure," she said and stood up. "In the glove compartment, you said?"

      "Exactly. You are an angel." He smiled at her. "Erik, hand Marie the
      car keys."

      "Here." Magneto dug up the keys from his pocket and gave them to
      Rogue. "It is the little, black key," he told.

      "Okay, I'll be right back," Rogue said and trotted out of the
      pizzeria. If she had known what was waiting for her outside, she had
      probably been more hesitant.

      With light steps she jogged the distance to Magneto's car with the
      keys in her hand, ready to unlock the door and take out Charles'
      wallet.

      Rogue halted next to Erik's Mazda, unlocked the passenger door, and
      leaned in to open the glove compartment. She didn't hear the steps
      behind her until they were really close, and then it was already too
      late to do anything about it. She spun around when she heard them,
      and saw three young men – they were all probably in their early
      twenties; a few years older than she was. One of them, a blond, large
      guy with icy blue eyes, grinned at her.

      "Hey babe," he said. "Come with us, and we'll buy you a beer. What do
      you say?"

      Rogue almost winced when she saw them. Instinctively she looked
      around for other people, but saw no one close, and got apprehensive
      at once. Whoever these three were, they didn't seem very nice.

      "Have you lost your tongue or what?" another one said. He was shorter
      than his blond friend, and had darker hair. "My friend gave you an
      offer!"

      The anxiousness that came to life a few seconds ago turned into sheer
      terror. This could be a real problem, she saw now.

      "No, I can't..." she tried. "Excuse me..."

      The grin faded from the blond guy's face, and instead he looked
      menacing. "What the hell do you mean by that? Are we not good enough
      for you?"

      "I didn't say that. I said excuse me," Rogue replied and tried to
      step aside, but the blond man grabbed her immediately and pushed her
      up against the car.

      "Let me go!" Rogue cried and tried to push him away. "Help!"

      "Shut up, you city cunt!" the blond hissed and slammed her against
      the car. Now the sneer returned to his face. "I think you'll get a
      great time with us, and believe me, I know what upper class bitches
      from the big city like you need!"

      He moved his right hand down and squeezed her breast through the
      fabric of her top.

      Rogue, now almost panicking, screamed and tried to tear loose, but
      discovered that she stood no chance against the three men. The
      blond's two friends started to tug at her hair from both sides, and
      they were grinning too, as though her panicky fighting only amused
      them.

      "Logan!" she screamed in terror. "Logan, help me! Help me!"

      "No one will help you now, little girl, `cause you're coming with us!"

      Suddenly they tore her away from Erik's car and started dragging her –
      at least Rogue believed – toward another car, probably their own,
      parked on the same street, a few yards away.

      Rogue screamed and fought against them; kicked them, punched them,
      tried to claw their faces – everything she could think of. Oh God,
      they are going to rape me! She thought while she was being dragged
      toward the other car. And what more? What do they *want*? Is there no
      one in this dead fucking place that sees what is happening? No one
      who can help me?

      She suddenly regretted that she hadn't taken the self-defense courses
      at school more seriously. She had really needed to know those moves
      now. If these three guys managed to get her inside their car, her
      future looked all but bright.

      She hoped that someone – Logan preferably – would hear her screams
      and come to her rescue. One of the guys opened the trunk of their car
      as the other two pulled her toward it. Rogue instantly realized their
      intention.

      "No!" she cried and struggled even more. "Stop it! Get off me! Help!"

      "Let her go this instant!" a voice suddenly said and made the three
      perpetrators stop.

      Erik. Rogue saw him – and the men saw him as well – standing beside
      his Mazda, looking at them with hateful eyes. They froze for a couple
      of seconds, but started grinning again when they saw who had come.
      Rogue realized that Erik's aged, slender and frail-looking shape
      appeared as scarcely impressive, and all but menacing.

      Erik took a few steps toward them. The small muscles in his face
      flexed when he clenched his teeth, and Rogue could see his eyes get
      narrow.

      "Let her go. Right now," he repeated in an icy voice.

      But instead of getting scared, the three men began sneering
      scornfully.

      "Buzz off, old man!" the blond called. "If you won't, you'll regret
      it!"

      But Erik ignored the threat and continued toward them.

      "Help me..." sobbed Rogue, who was still being firmly held by the
      three men.

      "Didn't you hear me, grandpa?" one of the men snapped when Erik
      approached. This time his voice contained traces of irritation,
      though not fear. Maybe he had started to realize Erik could become a
      real problem.

      "This is my last warning," Erik said furiously. "Let her go. Or *you*
      will regret it!"

      "Oh yeah?" the blond said and his face expressed mockery. It seemed
      like he couldn't really believe that a frail old man like Erik
      actually *threatened* him. Suddenly Erik had advanced from being an
      inconvenience to a real problem. A ridiculous such, but still a
      problem.

      The blond let go of Rogue and left her to his two companions. He
      looked hard at Erik and no longer looked amused. He took out a clasp
      knife from his trouser pocket and extracted the blade. For a moment
      Erik was worried that this scamp might try to cut Rogue, but when he
      started walking toward him instead, he realized this wouldn't be a
      problem.

      "A knife," Erik said. "How original. And how stupid."

      "Shut up, old man, and leave it, or I'll cut your nose off!" the man
      hissed while advancing toward Erik. But instead of being scared and
      backing, like he believed the old man would do, Erik stood defiantly
      and stared at his attacker.

      "I think not, young man," said Erik, and suddenly he was Magneto. The
      knife was torn out of the blond's grip and floated freely through the
      air, before Erik made it stop and go against its owner, stopping it
      only a few millimetres from his left eyeball.

      The blond man, who had recently been a cocky and confident
      perpetrator, was reduced into a terrified and trembling mollusc. Erik
      took another step toward him.

      "Listen to me," he said coldly. "There is only one thing that stops
      this knife from penetrating your head, and that is me. Now you will
      tell your scum for friends to release the girl immediately, or this
      knife will proceed its journey right through you. Understand?"

      "Shit, he's a mutant!" one of the others screamed and released Rogue
      instantly. His companion followed his example, and the shocked young
      woman stumbled away from them.

      "Now leave this place!" Erik hissed. "You know I am serious!"

      And the three men knew. The two closest to the car tumbled to it,
      tore the car doors open and crawled inside.

      "Come on, Rick, let's split!" they cried through the open window.

      The blond man, who was apparently named Rick, glanced nervously from
      the car to Erik. He heard the call of his friends, but dared not to
      move in fear that the knife would fly into his skull.

      "Leave!" hissed Erik. "If I ever see you again, I will remember you!"

      Rick took some tumbling steps backward, then staggered to his car,
      jumped in, and as soon as he was in, they tore off and were gone in
      seconds.

      Erik let them leave. Instead he focused on Rogue, standing a few feet
      from him, sobbing. He approached her and gently placed his hands on
      her shoulders. "Are you alright?" he asked seriously and tried to
      look into her eyes. "Did they hurt you?"

      Then she flew around his neck and buried her sobbing face in his
      shirt. "Oh, Erik!" she cried. "They were... going to put me in... the
      trunk... and..."

      "It's alright, my dear," Magneto said and gently hugged her back. "It
      is alright now. They're gone, and you're safe..." he tried and
      stroked her muddled hair while she was crying. For a while they just
      stood by the road locked in an embrace, and to begin with Rogue
      seemed almost inconsolable. She clung to the older man, sobbing and
      crying against his warm chest. Erik was much smaller than Logan, and
      his body was slender instead of massive, but anyway he felt safe, and
      she was unwilling to break the contact between them.

      At last Erik felt forced to grab her shoulders and keep her at arm's
      length, enabling him to look into her face. Gently he seized her chin
      and turned her face up toward himself.

      Rogue's eyes were red and swollen, and her mascara had poured down
      her cheeks, leaving black streaks on them.

      "I believe we should go back in," he said mildly. "They must be
      wondering what happened to us."

      Rogue nodded and tried to pull herself together. "Yes, I guess we
      should..."

      She also realized she surely looked terrible, and would have to
      explain to Logan what had happened, and she didn't want that.

      "I'm glad you came, and not Logan," she told Erik.

      "How so?"

      "Since Logan had probably... killed them," she whispered. "He can't
      control himself when he gets mad. You know that. He often flies into
      rage and becomes uncontrollable."

      "Maybe you're right," Erik admitted.

      "Please, don't tell him about this," she pleaded. "I don't want him
      to become upset. I'm alright, and ...those men aren't coming back to
      disturb us. So don't tell him? Okay?"

      Erik thought about it for a while. Perhaps Rogue was right. Logan was
      all but nice when he was upset, and there was actually no harm done.
      Although it had been very close. Erik picked up a paper napkin from
      his pocket and wiped Rogue's cheeks.

      "There," he said when he was done. "Now you look much better."

      Rogue even tried to smile. "Thank you," she said. "Thank you for
      saving me. And for not telling..."

      "Schh," Erik said, placing his finger over her lips. "Of course.
      Let's go back inside. Did you find Charles' wallet, by the way?"

      "I didn't have time."

      "Alright. Then I'll get it."

      When passing, Erik took Charles' wallet out of the glove compartment
      of his car, and closed the door. Then he and Rogue went back inside
      the pizzeria. They had been away for roughly seven minutes, or
      perhaps more. Erik couldn't help wondering what Logan would say, and
      if it would be possible to come up with a good white lie.

      "Some time it took," Logan said when they returned. "Did something
      happen out there?"

      "It was a bag-snatcher," Rogue lied. "Someone tried to steal the
      professor's wallet, and Erik helped me to get it back."

      Logan frowned. "No shit? And what happened to the thief?"

      "He ran away, after I showed him some of my tricks," Erik replied,
      hoping it sounded convincing. Inside he groaned. Was this really the
      best the girl could invent?

      "Freakin' guy!" Logan muttered. "People like that should be locked up
      in jail!"

      "Yes, maybe you're right," Erik murmured. "But there was no harm
      done, so there is no reason to get upset, right?"

      Now Logan simply shrugged. Obviously that meant he didn't care.

      At the same time Charles caught Erik's eyes, as to say he knew the
      true deal. Charles' wise eyes expressed sympathy and understanding.

      //Don't tell him anything,// Erik said with a thought. //She doesn't
      want Logan to know.//

      //You did well, Erik,// was all Charles said. //I am proud of you.//

      Erik couldn't help smiling. It meant a lot to him.

      "Now I'll pay, so we can leave this place," Xavier said for everyone
      to hear. The next time the waitress came by he stopped her and
      offered to pay for the food. He even tipped her.
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