Pairing/Characters: Raven, Charles/Erik
Summary: Hunger Games AU. Erik has survived his final reaping, but Charles and Raven are still eligible.
Note: Originally written as a minifill here on the kink meme. Thanks for all the kind reviews over there! Wish I could've written more. (someone else definitely should!)
Raven pushes through the front door beaming. The mood out on the street is somber and reserved, but she’s having a hard time respecting it. Today should be the cause of celebration, regardless of the loss to the community, the reminder of their weakness, because today Erik is safe; he’s survived his last reaping.
“Charles!” Raven calls, searching the house. She plans on going to the market and getting some less than legal alcohol for the three of them but she needs to find her partners in crime first. There’s a noise from the kitchen and Raven follows it, but stops short in the doorway.
Erik and Charles are there, Charles pushed up against the pantry door with Erik leaning over him, arms braced on either side of Charles’ head. They’re not touching at all except the press of their lips together and the light curl of Charles’ fingers on Erik’s neck, his thumb brushing little arcs over Erik’s ear. They’re both smiling and trembling and hesitant in a way that Raven doesn’t associate with either of them, but in a way that makes perfect sense.
The sight hurts less than Raven thought it would. If pressed, she would have to admit to being a little bit in love with both Charles and Erik, but seeing them together for the first time is different than simply knowing they’ve wanted it for so long and were unwilling to take a chance. It is the first time, Raven knows because Charles tells her everything, and it’s beautiful. They fit together and they’re happy and Raven can’t help the joy that flutters in her chest as well.
Charles mumbles something and Erik almost lifts him up, pressing their bodies together and pushing the kiss deeper and Raven rolls her eyes.
“Ew,” she says loudly, striding purposefully across the room to get a glass of water. “You two could keep that private, you know.”
“R-Raven!” Charles gasps, shoving away from Erik, who, to his credit, looks equally embarrassed.
Giving them only a few moments to compose themselves, Raven turns around and asks, “who wants to have a party?”
“You look very dashing,” Charles says, pulling at Erik’s suspenders, and Erik tries not to hear the way his voice quavers.
Trying to catch Charles’ eyes, Erik places a hand on Charles’ cheek and pulls him close. Charles trembles against him and Erik can’t stop himself from wrapping him up in his arms. He doesn’t say anything, but hopes Charles will understand, will read him for once in his life.
Be safe, Charles voice blooms warmly across his mind. Come home safe.
It’s Erik’s first shift in the mines, the first day they have to stop pretending that he’s still a child. In a way, the danger of the mines is better, easier, than facing the reaping together each year. Erik’s power can help him down there more than it can against their names printed neatly on small slips of paper. But on top of the daily danger of the mines, there’s still the weight of Charles’ final reaping looming before them.
“I’ll come home,” Erik says roughly, pressing a kiss into Charles’ hair. “I promise. I’ll always come home and we’ll have money and we’ll be just fine.”
“Charles,” Erik says, his voice tight, but Charles presses a finger to his lips.
They’re curled towards each other in bed, fully clothed and waiting. They used to spend the night before the reaping with Raven, the three of them staying awake the whole night, laughing and joking and trying to forget what the following morning would bring, but tonight Raven has left them alone and Charles is grateful.
“I love you,” Charles says, pressing his forehead against Erik’s.
Erik’s grip on Charles’ shirt tightens. His mind is a whirl of regret and self-hatred and Charles tries to press a little bit of calm onto it. It’s better this way, he thinks. He won’t have to worry about Erik at all, not if Erik will be selected or if he’ll do something stupid like volunteer in Charles’ place. It’s just him alone now, and he can do this.
“Come home,” Erik says softly, his fingers nearly trembling. I can’t protect you this time.
Charles tries to smile. I’ve never needed you to before.
The whole square is silent as the first name is drawn, and Raven finds herself bouncing on the balls of her feet. It hasn’t ever been someone close to her, that she can remember, but the tension of each reaping grows and grows and she almost feels like she wants to be chosen, but that’s ridiculous because it’s a death sentence. No, it’s more like she would just like anything besides the wait here in the square. Her anxiety rises until—Calm your mind, Raven. You’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.
And just in that instant, “Sarah Pruett!” is called forward.
Instead of watching the small girl step up and cursing the injustice of it all, of forcing the small and the weak when there are so many more eligible children around, Raven tries to spot her brother, to show him her frustration and relief, but he is invisible amongst the taller boys his age. He’s always been too small for this, too passive, too peaceful. The crowd is settling again, waiting for the next tribute’s name to be drawn, and Raven thinks she can see Charles’ perfectly styled, disheveled hair through the press of boys around him.
You are letting me cut your hair after this, Charles, she thinks as loudly and clearly as she can.
There is the brief sensation of laughter on her mind before—
And her world comes crashing down.
Erik feels like he’s been punched in the stomach. The man next to him gasps in pain as his watch becomes suddenly too tight for his wrist, but Erik can’t take the time to notice. He can’t breathe, can’t think. Charles is tribute and no one is volunteering, they’re just stepping aside, letting him walk forward and Erik can’t volunteer for him, can’t do anything at all except watch everything he wants and everything he needs in life slip through his fingers. Charles doesn’t deserve this.
That’s a lovely thought, Erik, but I’m not the only one; no one deserves this. Charles’ mental voice is much weaker than usual, quiet where it should be loud and wavering where it should be clear.
“Shut up,” Erik whispers, “just shut up.”
He tries to catch Charles’ eye, stands up on his toes to make himself even taller and more recognizable in the crowd, but Charles is looking pointedly at nothing, his shoulders unnaturally squared. Even through the façade, Erik can see the way Charles’ chest is heaving with each breath, imagines he can almost hear Charles exhaling through his mouth the way he does when preparing himself for a physical challenge. Miserably, Erik thinks that this is it, the last time that they will ever see each other, and Charles won’t even look at him.
No, not the last, Charles whispers in his mind, marginally stronger than before, I won’t let them have that on camera. What we have is ours alone.
As the anthem rises around him, all Erik can do is whisper, “I love you,” and hope that it reaches Charles.
Charles has only been alone in the Justice Building for a few moments before Erik enters. The sight of his distraught face and the press of his grief are almost too much, but Charles manages to keep his face schooled. “Where’s Raven?” Charles asks, not trusting himself to say anything else.
Erik hovers by the door, taking a few, deep breaths, before saying, “She’s outside. She said—she’s just—she’ll be in later, Charles.”
The second Charles finally looks Erik fully in the eye, he knows they’ve both lost. Erik is on him, pushing him back into the couch, kissing him with so much feeling that Charles can’t even begin to sort it out. And Charles is kissing back, arms winding tightly around Erik’s neck, fingers curling in his hair. When they finally break apart, Charles tries to ignore the tears in Erik’s eyes.
“Promise me you’ll take care of Raven,” Charles says, keeping their foreheads pressed together.
There’s an odd twist to Erik’s mouth. “Don’t talk like that, Charles. You’ll win. All you have to do is use your mind. We both know you can do it.”
“No, Erik, please. We’ve talked about this before. I won’t kill that way; I won’t kill at all,” Charles says.
“For me, Charles, for Raven. Couldn’t you just—” Erik tries, but Charles cuts him off with a firm kiss and Erik melts into it.
“I don’t want to fight with you now, Erik,” Charles says, allowing some degree of sadness into his voice. “Just promise me, please.”
And Erik nods, pressing in again. They stay wrapped around each other until the Peacekeeper returns and forces Erik from the room.
When Raven is finally able to slip past the Peacekeeper into the room, she finds Charles hunched over his knees on the couch, face buried in his hands.
“You really should’ve let me cut your hair,” she says softly, and Charles looks up at her with a sad, fond smile.
“The last time I let you was the most embarrassing month of my life,” he says, patting the couch next to him.
Raven ignores the invitation, standing across the coffee table from him instead. “Yes, well, I was seven. What did you expect?”
Charles laughs, his smile genuinely reaching his eyes, and Raven knows she’s made the right choice. If she can preserve any of Charles’ and Erik’s happiness, she will.
As the laughter fades, Charles looks up at her pleadingly. “Look after Erik, Raven. He’ll need it,” he says, swallowing thickly.
“Sorry, Charles,” Raven says, shrugging her shoulders and rippling blue, “but I can’t do that.”
She doesn’t waste a moment lashing out, striking Charles once on the head with deadly accuracy and worrying only for a second as he slumps over on the couch. He should be out long enough for her plan to work. It takes barely any effort to move Charles from the couch to the large, ornate chest in the corner, but getting him inside is awkward. Closing the lid lightly and wincing at the weight of it, she hopes that Erik will be able to locate it from the rather unspecific directions she had hastily written to him.
Assuming Charles’ form, Raven takes his seat on the couch and straightens her shirt. She can do this; she can save her brother; she can win. And then she can come home; she has to come home.
“May the odds be ever in your favor,” Raven says, testing Charles’ voice as the Peacekeeper summons her from the room.