”(…) and Erik tries to balance two things he will never be able to reconcile: he can finally look at that beloved face, and Charles will never see Erik again.” (damn, Ornithologies went right on my feelings ; A ; All was so sad!!!!!!!)
Erik looks at him every day, strokes his hands along the lines his eyes take and rememorises Charles’ face every morning in the dawn light before the others are awake, every freckle he’s gained from the sun that had never really warmed him before, every line and blemish from fires spitting sparks he cannot see to avoid, and Erik tries to balance two things he will never be able to reconcile: he can finally look at that beloved face, and Charles will never see Erik again.
He lies still in the mornings after he has looked his fill - he has never looked his fill, but concedes to his body’s demand to blink - and lets Charles map out the shape of his cheekbones, the swell of his brow and the bristly stubble that coats his cheeks after sleep and before shaving, lets his fingers explore - gently - the dip of his eyelids, the flutter of his eyelashes when he cannot help but twitch, and last of all the line of his mouth, his lips, parted on an exhalation of love.
I’d do it again, Charles says into Erik’s mind every morning, in the drowsy space between sleeping and waking when his telepathy is strongest, into the breathless space between them. The first day after they move into their new house he doesn’t get up, keeps Erik in bed with him by force of sloth. Read to me?
And Erik does.
I’ve included a little more on either side for context from the section in question, and since it’s the end of the fic I figured a ‘read more’ was a good idea in case anyone hasn’t read it yet who wants to.
Ornithologies was a really tough fic for me to write, not only because it included some elements I found challenging to write - description in a lot of places without visual components, a large cast, travelling - but also because of the theme in the fic of sacrifice and of giving things up for the one you love, which ties into my own strong feelings about fiction which basically boil down toevery reward must have a price, or, more mainstream,there’s no such thing as a free meal.
Throughout the fic the only thing Erik wants is to be able to look at Charles again - his inability to do so wears at him, and strains him in a way he never imagined. So when he gets exactly what he wanted it should be wonderful - except that the trade for that was Charles’ own vision. The man he loves has been deprived of the very thing he has bought for Erik.
There was really no other way for it to happen - if Charles had simply fallen and they could look at each other again then they would pretty much get everything they wanted at no price they cared about. And if Erik became an angel again then it would be too easy, and again, too cheap. It wouldn’t ring true. There had to be a price, and unfortunately the dramatic irony of blinding Charles was too strong to ignore. There’s a poetry in it that made me have to call my friend to get her to agree with me it was the right thing to do narratively, because I didn’t want to do it! But ultimately I had to be true to the needs of the story and make it worth Emma’s while to help them. Even when it makes me feel like a bully.