Feast Or Famine
by Stellamaru

"You must eat, Charles," Erik said, picking up one of the tiny sandwiches from the tray the maid had left. "Starving yourself won't complete the device any sooner." He took a bite of the sandwich--it was dry and hard. Charles was seated at his large desk, going over the mountains of sketches and figures they had been working on non- stop for the past year.

"What? I'm really not hungry," Charles said absently.

Erik sighed and rubbed his eyes. They'd been awake for more than a day, he was positive. He glanced around the room, the bedding mussed from their lovemaking that morning. Charles always knew exactly what to do, Erik thought. Today, he'd done everything quickly and efficiently before throwing on his robe to take up the Cerebro designs again. It was only the third time Erik had stayed in Charles's room; Charles was concerned the servants would talk and spread rumors.

On the wall, next to the large dresser, there was a small array of framed photographs. Erik stood and went closer. "Is this you?" he asked, indicating a plump bald baby in a long Christening gown.

"Yes. It won't be long till the resemblance is unmistakable," Charles said, smiling and touching his growing bald spot.

Erik laughed. The other pictures showed a variety of scenes: Charles at seven, taking Communion; an older couple, stiff-backed and stern (Charles's grandparents?); a school picture with a line of identically dressed young boys; a beaming young Charles holding up a freshly caught fish; and a teenaged Charles, dressed in a suit standing next to a table filled with food. It must be some kind of party, Erik thought. There were several other young people milling around the table. "What is this from?"

"Hm? Oh, I think that was my Confirmation," Charles said. "The suit was brand new, if I recall, and it itched. My parents threw a party."

"Ah," Erik said. The table couldn't have held a scrap more food. In the center was a massive ham, surrounded by oranges and apples. There was a roast and several chickens as well, and platters full of bread rolls, and more potatoes than Erik could count. Charles would've been confirmed around age fifteen, Erik knew, but still he was compelled to ask, "What year was this?"

"1944, I believe," Charles said. "Yes, 1944. The war was still on, and my father had a time scraping together food for the party."

Nodding, Erik returned his gaze to the photograph. A bread roll or one of the smaller potatoes would've seemed like a feast to him in 1944. Suddenly the pictures seemed less charming, less nostalgic. Charles and his young friends looked meaty and fattened; their cheeks were round, not hollow, and their bodies strong and sturdy, not frail and weak.

"I'll wager it was quite a time indeed," Erik said softly.

After a moment, Charles looked up. "Did you say something?"

Erik closed his eyes. "No. Nothing at all."


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