Hannah, here is my first retaliation in our feels write-off.
Charles died at 4am on a Tuesday.
Erik’s alarm went off at eight o’clock on Tuesday morning, as it did every day of the work week, and he groggily reached out to turn it off with a tired sigh. He rolled over, groping across the bed for Charles’ body and finding nothing. It was unusual enough for Erik to open his eyes, recalling their fight from the night before that had ended with Charles slamming the front door and Erik feeling like the worst piece of shit on the planet.
Erik groaned, pushing himself up out of bed and sleepily heading for the living room, where Charles was probably sleeping his drunk off on the couch.
[ “Is everything alright, Erik?” Charles asked timidly, sitting up in the tub as Erik stormed past the bathroom and towards their bedroom. Erik threw his briefcase onto the dresser, fighting with his tie and kicking his shoes off. Charles appeared in the doorway, a towel around his hips and a concerned look on his face.
"Darling, are you okay?"
"Stop fucking asking questions!" Erik snapped, his frustrations rising and feeling so horribly crowded inside of his own skin. Charles looked taken aback, eyes going wide as if slapped. ]
The couch was empty, and Erik felt the first tendrils of horrible, suffocating panic. He instantly smothered them, knowing that Charles could have easily crashed at Moira’s or Ravens, or even at a hotel for the night.
He exhaled, cursing Charles’ name under his breath and searching for his phone in the cushions of the couch - where he’d thrown it in a fit of rage the night before.
12 unread texts messages and 4 missed calls later, Erik couldn’t breathe.
Hearing Charles’ drunken slurring, at first, had been amusing, until the next message was the hospital telling him that Charles had been hit by a drunk driver while crossing the road, and the next was Raven crying hysterically into the phone - begging Erik to pick up the phone because she just had to identify Charles’ dead body and wasn’t fit to drive.
The phone fell from Erik’s hands, and his legs gave out - knees slamming into the carpet. Erik tried to breathe, but all that came out was an inhuman groan that could have been a sob or a gasp.
[“I don’t understand why you’re yelling at me! I haven’t done anything!” Charles cried, struggling to at least pull on a pair of boxers as Erik stormed into the living room.
"You’re smothering! You can’t even let me be angry without asking me ‘Erik, what’s wrong? Erik, are you okay? Erik, let me mother you!’ Fuck’s sake, Charles, I’m not a child!" Erik snapped, flinging open the refrigerator and grabbing a beer as Charles hurried into the room in a pair of jeans and a tee.
"I’m just worried! I wasn’t trying to smother you, I don’t like when you’re upset because I don’t want you to be unhappy, is all!" Charles hovered in the kitchen entry, obviously afraid to enter and be subjected to Erik’s fury.
"I’m sorry, Charles, but nobody’s perfect like you!" ]
It took Erik an hour to stop his hands from shaking enough that he could text Raven back, and another twenty minutes for both Moira and Raven to come bursting into the apartment with Raven’s spare key.
Erik hadn’t moved from his spot at the foot of the couch, clutching his stomach and heaving empty, soundless sobs into the cushions. Raven dropped down on the ground beside him, pulling Erik into her arms and soothing him with gentle fingers carding through his hair as Erik clutched to her. Moira went into the kitchen, setting up the kettle and crying softly to herself as Raven rocked Erik back and forth, cradling him like a child.
"I didn’t mean it, Raven!" Erik cried, body trembling violently and saliva pooling in the corners of his mouth when he couldn’t muster the strength to close his lips and swallow around his grief. Raven shushed him, shaking through her own tears and running one hand down Erik’s back.
"I know you didn’t, Erik, I know." Raven murmured, sniffling and holding Erik as he choked and coughed, struggling to remember to breathe.
"I was so mad, I was just so mad - I didn’t mean it, I didn’t!"
"Erik, you need to calm down, you have to breathe." Moira came up behind them, a gentle palm pressing into Erik’s back as he released a pained, hitching sound and buried his face into Raven’s collarbone.
"I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry," Erik moaned, allowing Raven to manipulate their bodies until he was being held in her lap and rocked gently. It was obvious that she’d gotten the worst of her grieving out in the four hours between Charles’ death and Erik finding out, and Erik didn’t know what he would have without her.
He didn’t know what he would do without Charles, either.
Moira took Erik’s phone, calling his work to let them know he wouldn’t be coming in, and then returning to sit down across from Raven and wrap her arms around the both of them.
[“I know you’re mad because of your job, but you don’t need to take it out on me!” Charles snapped, grabbing the beer from Erik’s hands and trying to dump it in the sink. Incensed, Erik snatched it back with a snarl.
"Don’t take my fucking beer! You’re the godamn alcoholic!" Erik shoved at Charles’ shoulder, knocking him back against the counter as the words that had escaped him sunk in with the shocked, hurt look on Charles’ face.
Charles snapped his mouth shut, gaze shuttering into an emotionless slate. “I suppose I am, aren’t I?” He asked cooly, stepping back when Erik tried to reach out and apologize. “Don’t touch me,” he whirled, stepping out of the kitchen to grab his keys and wallet from the coffee table. Heading for the door, Charles dodged Erik’s hand again. “Better yet, don’t talk to me until you’ve cooled off.”
The slamming of the door had never sounded so final. ]
Charles’ funeral was three days later, a small affair with only close friends in attendance. Erik couldn’t even muster up the energy to give a eulogy - which caused murmuring among their friends, because what boyfriend of eight years wouldn’t give any parting words to the love of his life?
Long after the ceremony had ended, Erik lingered. He watched the sun set, seated on the soft, freshly turned soil of Charles’ grave with his back pressed tight against the alabaster headstone boasting a name, a time frame, and a simple sentence that really said nothing at all about who Charles really was.
Erik dug his fingers into the earth, dirt sticking under his nails and wondering if he could use his bare hands to dig back through the ground and join Charles in his coffin.
Instead, he clenched his jaw and dropped his head back against the grave marker, watching the clouds listlessly.
"I was going to propose," he croaked, swallowing heavily. "I was mad, because they cut my bonus, and I couldn’t afford the ring I wanted."
Erik closed his eyes, tears slipping from the corners and down his cheekbones. “So stupid, right? Getting worked up over a fucking ring.”
He wouldn’t be surprised if Charles was scolding him from Heaven at this very moment, and the mere idea made Erik bark out a bitter laugh and curl his fingers into a fist, dirt squishing into his palm. “I’m so sorry, Charles…”
Erik pulled his knees up to his chest, arms curling around his shins as he struggled to keep his composure. “I love you, I never meant any of the things I said and I wish so much that I could take it back,” he sucked in a shuddering breath, swallowing and shaking his head. “I just want to go back and fix everything, I can’t do this, Charles. I can’t do this without you, I don’t know how.”
The first sob was like opening the floodgates, until Erik had cried himself into exhaustion, falling asleep curled at the head of Charles’ grave and feeling more alone than he had in his entire life.
Morning came with the obnoxious trill of birds in the air, chirping and hopping all around the trees overhead and making Erik struggle into wakefulness. His eyes felt puffy and sore, body aching everywhere and a fine layer of dew clinging to his suit. He snuffed, sitting up from where he’d curled himself around Charles’ headstone and rubbing at his eyes.
He stood, stretching and groaning before reaching down to run a hand over the dark granite marker. For a fleeting moment, he tried to recall the previous day - he could have sworn that Raven had chosen alabaster for it - and decided that the only way to take his mind off of things was to stop in to work.
He, luckily, had spare suit in the back seat that he’d picked up from the cleaner’s on Monday (all the stress had made him forget to bring it into the suddenly empty apartment) and changed into that before heading to the office.
"Erik! Here early, are you?" Shaw greeted as Erik passed him by on the way to his cubicle. Erik hovered, reluctant to receive any sympathy coming from his boss, and was relieved when Shaw did nothing but clap him on the shoulder and smile.
"Been working hard to get everything done on time, haven’t you? I think your efforts should be rewarded - coming in three hours early," Shaw wrapped an arm around Erik’s neck, guiding him into the office and gesturing for Erik to have a seat.
Erik sat down, and Shaw perched himself on the corner of his own desk. “Why so down?” Shaw asked, and Erik had to resist the sudden desire to strangle the man for his ignorance. Instead, he shrugged halfheartedly. Shaw shrugged and smiled.
"Well, I’m sure it’ll cheer you up to know that I’ve decided not to cut your bonus. We were going to have to, you see, to save some money we lost during the slow season, but you’ve put forth a lot of effort lately and I think you’ll find that hard work doesn’t go unrewarded."
Erik, gobsmacked, stared at his boss incredulously. He could do nothing else, not when Shaw was unaware that he was practically the catalyst in Charles’ death, and instead dumbly took the envelope that his employer handed him.
Shaw gave Erik a clap on the shoulder and a smile and Erik numbly stood up and left to return to his cubicle.
The day passed by far too quickly, as Erik buried himself into paperwork that he was rather certain were duplicates of some things he must’ve filled out earlier in the month, and it wasn’t long before he found himself driving back to the apartment with trepidation heavy in his heart.
Sliding the key into the lock, Erik opened the apartment and felt his heart stop when he heard a splash of water and an achingly familiar voice humming to itself.
Erik’s keys fell from his hand, clattering to the ground as he walked slowly through the apartment, afraid that if he made any noise - whatever it was would be startled away.
The bathroom door was open, a figure shadowed by the mirror behind him making it hard to pick out specific features as the person wiped water from his face and leaned back into the tub with a thoughtful noise.
The floorboards creaked underfoot, and the person in the tub turned to look at Erik, face lighting up with a smile.
Erik’s heart gave a sudden, painful palpitation as Charles’ smile fell and he leaned over the edge of the tub to get a better look at Erik.
"Is everything alright, Erik?" Charles asked, water dripping from his arms and hair, making small puddles on the bathroom tiles. Erik entered the bathroom, grabbing the door frame for support as Charles continued to look at him in growing confusion.
"Something wrong with work?" Charles asked, bringing a hand up to slick wet bangs from his face. "Erik, are you okay? You’re rather pale, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost!" This was exclaimed with teasing cheer, but Erik could do nothing but release a strangled whimper from the back of his throat and stumble towards the bathtub.
"Erik?" Charles furrowed his brows, mildly surprised when Erik reached out with trembling hands to cup his face, feeling every inch of his skin and memorizing the flesh beneath his fingers. Charles smiled, albeit looking utterly bewildered, and reached up to cup one of Erik’s hands with a dripping palm.
Erik’s legs gave out and he fell to his knees, trousers soaking up the water on the bathroom floor in an instant as he dragged Charles forward, leaning in at the same time and putting his entire being into kissing the breath right out of Charles’ lungs.
This was a second chance that Erik would never, ever take for granted.
*tosses the ball back into Hannah’s court* it has been brought.
— gif is not mine, for some reason it won’t let me reblog without making half this post a giant block of text *sob* click here for original