Emma crawls up the mattress, carefully balancing the glass. "One day," Emma says thoughtfully, settling against the headboard, "we're actually going to do something in your bed that's in the spirit of what beds are used for. And I don't mean sleep, either."
"Your choice of location." Charles considers the far wall carefully. "And activity, for that matter."
"That's because Alex will leave us on the floor in the study if we pass out," Emma answers reasonably. "Unless you developed telekinesis recently--"
"Not from lack of trying when one's chair is just that one centimeter out of reach," Charles answers, rolling the glass between his hands. "As for activity--"
"Lying back and thinking of Oxford really wouldn't work in this case, but thanks for the offer, I'm sure I'd enjoy that immensely," Emma answers acidly, taking a drink. Bracing herself, she adds, "I need to talk to someone who believes in peace."
"How serendipitous," Charles answers, forgetting to be sarcastic. "I need someone who knows there will be a war."
"Sometimes," Charles says quietly, "I hate all humans, every one of them. Even the lovely young woman whose only crime is her propensity to forget I do not wish for cream in my coffee when I visit that restaurant. I've been going there for many years, and she recognizes me and sometimes we talk about her boyfriend and her mother's insistence she marry before she's a spinster--I'd never heard anyone use that word in conversation before--but then she forgets how I prefer my coffee and suddenly, I think, I don't need her to remember. I don't need to be subject to anyone's memory or their desires if they conflict with my own. I can make them want to do exactly what I wish." Charles' eyes fix on his glass. "I can make it be the only thing they know how to want. And then I can make them beg to do it."
Emma nods, taking a drink. "Right. I'm teaching a class of children who actually believe they have a future, that its' possible they'll be accepted for what they are. They're reading novels by human authors and studying the stars from books written by human scientists and then they'll grow up and realize when they meet the world that humans will never forgive them for what they are. I know what's out there, and I know what they'll face every day hiding what they are because if anyone knew, they could be killed. I'm teaching them, at least by omission, what I know for a fact is a lie. I can not only tell them; I can show them. And when I leave, I can bring them back to Erik with me."
Charles takes a drink, head turning on the careful stack of pillows. "Your confession lacks that touch of megalomania that would make it frightening."
"I could convince you to come back with me," Emma answers honestly; she knows she can. "Abandon the school and any thoughts of a frankly impossible dream of peace; even you wonder about the ground you're exploring. I could frame it as just a way to talk to Erik; then I tell him how to keep you. All he has to do is let you keep doing exactly what you've been doing. Erik would settle for subjugation; you're doing that to them already."
Charles nods slowly and takes another drink. "Oddly, that doesn't frighten me." After a moment, he looks at her ruefully. "Around the time I have brought the better part of the Pacific to heel, I notice she's brought me tea as well, because she knows perfectly well that I don't care for their coffee. I just--forgot."
Emma laughs hard enough to choke on the brandy.
"I leave a large tip on those days," Charles says thoughtfully, taking another sip of brandy. "Though I do wonder; what is the correct percentage to leave when one was only just contemplating conquering the world for forgetting that one prefers tea?"
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