Erik was moping. A lot. And feeling guilty. More than a lot.
He liked to think of himself as a reasonable and decent human being, but he had never felt so irrationally like grabbing someone and shaking them and possibly something even more violent. There was absolutely nothing that some random, pretty humanities major could offer that Erik couldn't. He was completely certain of this. He... shit, he'd been smitten with Charles from the moment they'd met and then Charles had to go and develop feelings for someone else and he thought he was going to be sick. He couldn't stand the idea of going out to dinner, of having one of those heart-pounding almost-dates that had become their custom after exercising, and he'd had to leave. Unfortunately, home was hardly the best place to mope with three girls, two boys, and a handful of adults, so he ended up on the back porch working his way through one beer after another and just feeling sorry for himself.
Anya had joined him after dinner, just flopping down on a pillow and leaning against his knee and he two of them sat there, Erik feeling sorry for himself and Anya... "What's wrong, leibling?"
She tilted her head up at him, and Erik ran his fingers through her hair, teasing away the red strands from her eyes. She looked to be moping as well.
"Do you ever just want to go up to a boy and kiss him?"
"Yes." His answer was out before he could think better of it, and then he realized he had multilayered damage control to perform. "Not a boy, of course, a girl, and really you shouldn't be worrying about that sort of thing." He knew his sister was sixteen - and he remembered himself at sixteen, all fumbling relationships and valiant attempts at sex - but he just couldn't quite wrap his head around his baby sister doing any of the things he was doing at that age. "And don't you dare let some Casanova talk you into the back seat of a car, young lady."
She sighed, theatrically, but didn't flounce off. "You have very little reason to worry about that. He doesn't know I exist."
That was probably for the best. He ran his fingers through her hair again and just... sighed. "Just..." He was apparently really bad at relationships, and flirting, and getting anything he wanted, so he maybe wasn't the best person to give advice. "Be yourself, liebling, if you change anything about yourself to make someone else happily you're just going to make yourself miserable, and no boy is worth changing who you are." Today was Erik's day to be a hypocrite. "Is he Jewish?"
She shook her head.
Mom was going to be... thrilled. At least Charles' currently smitten status meant the idea of actually... whatevering to his mother was again delayed, possibly forever, because he was certain he would never meet anyone quite like Charles again in his life. He took another long drink of beer. "If you get hurt, I'll kill him."
Anya sighed again, theatrically. "You're sunshiny today."
He really wasn't, but he wasn't going to talk to his little sister about how some guy he really cared about was off being smitten with a stupid psychology student. She probably was cute, and maybe she had a little button nose. He wondered what sort of girl Charles would like. She would have to be smart and thoughtful, sensitive, she should be fit, probably... she was likely brilliant with perfect white teeth and she adopted stray puppies and they would have adorable children and Erik's chest was aching now.
"I'm probably coming down with something." Where 'something' was apparently defined as heartbreak mixed with jealousy mixed with an irrational desire for some girl he'd never met to just fall off the face of the planet.
Erik realized he really should have been glad they made it to sixteen before Anya was asking questions like 'do you ever just want to go up to a boy and kiss him?' He just couldn't deal with this right now, and he was going to have to take a mulligan on the big brother duties tonight. "Be good, leibling."
Class the next day was a nightmare, filled with growling and a certain amount of desire to just say 'fuck it' and not bother with teaching at all, but he somehow managed to make it to almost five pm and then... well... he made his way over to Mudge, suspecting that Charles would be there working on homework before he and Tony would go to the gym. He wasn't entirely certain what he was going to say, but he needed to say something, because he was going to go crazy if he couldn't see Charles again and he was fairly certain he wasn't going to be able to just leave it how he'd left it last night. As painful as it would be to go on not-dates with Charles, it would be even more painful to give them up entirely.
He knocked softly on the door and waited. "Come in!"
Erik pushed the door open and peeked in; Charles was typing something up on his laptop. "Tony, I..." Charles looked over his shoulder. "Erik." Charles... smiled, this huge, gorgeous, beautiful smile, and Erik melted just a bit inside. "Come on in."
The bed was a mess and still rumpled from the night before, but Erik pulled the sheets up and then sat carefully on the bed, his hands clasped uselessly against his knees. Charles seemed to sense that Erik wanted to talk, so he pulled away from the computer desk and rolled over next to the bed. Charles left himself a respectable sort of distance, far enough that Erik couldn't be tempted to reach out and touch him.
"I'm sorry I left it how I did yesterday," he said, finally.
Charles nodded, but didn't say anything, face impassive. Maybe he needed to say more.
"I'm really alright with it, with you being bi and... everything." He took another deep breath, trying to force out the rest of the words. "I'm happy you have someone you like, and I want to be your friend, no matter what, always. You mean a lot to me."
He watched Charles' face, his head turned down a bit so Erik couldn't look into those ridiculous blue eyes, and then he could see that Charles had started to tear up just a little, and then he was nodding. A few moments later he nodded again, and then he reached his hand out, careful and tentative, towards Erik's knee, as though Erik would ever not want Charles touching him. Erik took Charles' hand and pressed it lightly to his own knee and left his hand resting on top like that.
"Thank you, my friend. I would be lying if I said your friendship did not mean a great deal to me."
Friendship. Erik took his other hand and picked up Charles' hand and just sort of ran his fingers along both sides of Charles' hand. "So... I realized you were probably worried how I would react, and then I... I ran away, and I'm sorry." He'd run away because he was so, so scared, and hurt, and Charles just made him feel so fucking vulnerable sometimes. "I'd like to go to dinner with you, tonight."
"That would be very nice." Charles pulled away though, and sighed. "I thought I would be in for the evening, however, so I will need to take a little while to get ready."
Erik nodded. "I'll be right here." He wasn't certain of the details, but Charles had some very elaborate toiletry rituals that went before going out. He had never asked, although he really had wanted to, but he assumed it wasn't because Charles was primping like a teenager in the bathroom. It was very likely something to do with his injury.
Each passing moment brought more and more peace to Erik's mind. Everything was going to be fine, Charles was smiling at him again, whatever damage he'd made between them seemed to be on the mend, and he felt... good. He could just suffer through the smitten-Charles and they would be stronger for it, really. He ended up pulling out a book and settling it on his lap, reading slowly while Charles continued to get ready in the bathroom. Maybe he could even try that big brotherly talk again tonight... possibly with a reminder about condoms... although he doubted Anya was going to get any more lucky than he was tonight. That was likely for the best.
Charles emerged later, in a new shirt, neat and buttoned down, and looking delicious. They wandered down the street together, nervous silence giving way to chatting again, Erik complained about his students - who had mostly been impossible to deal with because of his own nerves - Charles reminded him that he might want to be a bit more forgiving of the unsuspecting undergraduates, they talked classes, Charles whined about the snap of rainy weather that had made Tony's ridiculous golf umbrella idea into a requirement, and Erik found himself squeezing Charles' shoulder as they slid into Union Grill, early enough that they could get a table immediately, and Erik made the point of sitting next to Charles, their knees brushing together even if Charles didn't notice.
"My sister has a crush on a boy."
"Anya or Wanda?"
"Isn't sixteen a little old for you to be worrying about her virtue?"
"I know you don't have a younger sister," Erik shot back, but he did give Charles a soft smile, which Charles returned. "Twenty-five would be too young, Charles."
Charles laughed, prodding his chicken sandwich before cutting it into quarters and picking up one of the pieces carefully. "Do you remember being sixteen, Erik? I was... a mass of hormones, freshman in college..." He shook his head, and Erik could almost imagine Charles, cute and boyish, breaking all sorts of hearts at Harvard. "I had a new crush every day."
Erik opened his mouth, closed it again, and then hid behind a sip of soda before he figured out what he wanted to say. "Is that still a common affliction with you, Charles?"
Charles tilted his head over towards Erik, and Erik could see the gears shifting behind those overly expressive eyes. "Crushes... still come and go," he admitted. "But Tony has always said that when I fall, I fall rather hard."
Erik hid behind a french fry this time, chewing it slowly and ignoring it when Charles stole one of his smaller french fries and then scooped up mashed potatoes with it. A moment later, Erik swiped a bite of Charles' potatoes, the two of them slowly eating their spoils of war. "Are you in love with that girl?"
"Laura." He shook his head. "No. I may be a romantic at heart, but even I can't fall in love with someone without getting to know them. I have to..." Charles stopped, took a bite of his sandwich and chewed it slowly, but Erik waited for him to finish, a bit... overly curious about how Charles would finish that thought. "I would have to think there was a chance she--" Charles trailed off again, eyes on Erik now, maybe trying to get some sort of measure. "Or he, would accept the whole package."
Oh, Charles was still worried about the bisexual thing... Erik nodded, because that was all he could do. "You're a very nice package, Charles."
Charles picked up his soda and took a long drink. "So no, I wouldn't call it love."
Good. Well... Erik shouldn't be so pleased that Charles wasn't in love with some random pretty girl with nice hair and a gorgeous smile, but he was.
Erik looked up at Charles, confused.
"Is there some lady you haven't told me and Tony about yet?"
"Oh..." He took a deep breath, he could do it... or not. "No, there's no lady at the moment. I haven't... I haven't really dated since high school. I had... a few girlfriends but it never seemed to work out." Not for lack of trying, over and over again. The first time, Erik had been willing to blame it on the girl, not everyone could be compatible, after all. By the fourth attempt, he'd decided that it was very likely that there was something wrong with him, not the string of girls he'd tried to date. "I've been too busy since starting college."
"Erik..." Charles voice was soft and a bit sad. "Don't cut yourself off to those feelings, it does no one any good."
He opened his mouth again, wishing he could just force the words out, but he had never, ever said those words, not even to himself, not even when he was ogling men in the gym, not even when he was touching himself and thinking of broad, flat pectorals, not breasts. "I guess I haven't met the right person."
It was such a dumb thing to say. There was the right person, right there! Looking at him through those eyelashes with those blue eyes. Right! There!
"I know." He knew he would. He knew he already had. He just had to wait for Charles to get over his stupid crush. Had to... had to force those words out of his throat to someone. Maybe he could tell Tony. Tony wouldn't mind. He was a decent guy. He had to know Charles was bisexual and he didn't mind that, so... then it would get back to Charles and everything would be fine.
Charles would wheel up to him and wrap his arms around him and just say something... Charles-y, maybe 'oh my friend, I'm here for you', a hand reaching up to Erik's neck and... now Erik was shifting slightly uncomfortably in his seat, with Charles there right next to him, prodding another quarter of his sandwich. Erik picked up a few fries and set them on the corner of Charles' plate, earning him a warm smile.
The one thing Erik hadn't anticipated, knowing as he did now that Charles liked men, was exactly how much their outings now felt like dates; the shy little smiles, the two of them stealing bites of food from each other's plates, the easy laughing, the lazy way they picked through dinner, unconcerned with being anywhere but with each other, all of it felt so very intimate.
After dinner, the two of them slowly meandered up to Fifth, rolling slowly back towards Charles' dorm, and Erik let his hand rest on Charles' shoulders as they rolled passed the apartments and the little corner store before finally arriving back at Charles'. They silently settled in, Charles stretching out his legs in the chair before Erik took his ankle and held it outstretched, another hand resting on his knee.
"I'm not really interested in Laura," Charles said, and Erik thought his stomach might have physically clenched. "I just said it because I thought it would help you be alright with everything."
"You..." Erik choked on a good answer. "I'm fine with it, Charles, really."
He silently settled Charles' leg back into the chair, and then extended the other one, stretching it.
He had no excuses.
He had to stop with all of damn excuses.
"Will you go out with me?"
Charles' face faltered for one very brief moment before he smiled. "We just got back!"
"A date. A date in the future, with the two of us."
Charles just stared at him, eyes wide, and for one brief, horrifying moment, Erik thought he had ruined... everything, but then Charles smiled. "You're... you've never given me much reason to suspect you were gay, Erik."
"I..." He struggled with the words. "I don't like sex with women... I find men attractive, and I want to go out with you." Which, it layman's terms sounded very 'gay' but he just couldn't get those words out.
"So you've never...?" Erik shook his head in response. "Are you sure?"
"I think I would know if I'd slept with another man!" He said it too harshly; he bit out the words, because why couldn't Charles just say yes or no?
Charles slid a bit closer, his hand very hesitantly ghosting over Erik's knee before he touched him and squeezed very lightly. "If you would like to go out with me on a date, Erik, I would very much like to as well."
Erik might have sort of jumped on Charles after that, more stumbled off of Charles' bed and wrapped his arms around Charles and buried his head in Charles' shoulder, so relieved he didn't have words for it, and then Charles wrapped his own arms around Erik and everything was fine. He probably made a sort of sobbing sound, just once, but then he was able to calm himself with a few long, slow breaths. "Can I---?" He ran his hands along Charles' shoulders. "Can I kiss you?"
"I think that can be arranged."
Erik pulled back just enough to give each other some space and then Erik leaned in, head tilting just slightly and he pressed his lips to Charles' and it was... exactly right. If there was one single thing that could have summed up everything he'd been missing for the first twenty-two years of his life it was that he hadn't kissed Charles yet. Charles' hand came up to his face, fingers brushing against his jaw, and then they were kissing more deeply, tongues slowly running together, and every nerve in Erik's body was tingling.
But then Charles pushed him away, not hard, just his fingers against Erik's chest, enough to force him to back off. Erik felt like... he felt like he might stop breathing.
"I'm... getting a crick," Charles said, blushing.
Erik panicked for a moment. Perhaps that was just a polite excuse and... "What... what should I do?"
Charles rolled back more, futzed with his chair slightly and brought his knees closer together, and then he put on the breaks. A moment later he patted the chair beside his thighs with both hands. "Knees here."
Erik grasped most of that, and climbed up onto the chair straddling Charles thighs; that still left him too tall, and he shimmied farther into the chair, their hips nearly touching, and then he leaned back. He was still taller, of course, but he knew he was taller than Charles even if they'd both been standing. Charles pressed his fingers lightly to Erik's side. "And now we can try again."
No one needed to tell him again, and he leaned in, fingers sliding behind Charles' head, holding him like that, fingers massaging lightly into the back of his neck. That seemed more comfortable for both of them, Charles' arm wrapped around him, one hand on Erik's jaw to guide them together, and they just kissed and kept kissing...
And more. "God, Charles..." He didn't have words. "I could just... do this all night."
Still, he settled back on his thighs and looked at Charles and just... he whimpered a little.
"I agree," Charles said, breathless. His red lips were even redder from where lips and teeth had teased them. His hands settled lightly against Erik's thighs, stroking up and down the outside as he tried to collect himself. "I've been rather taken with you for some time, Erik."
Erik just nodded. "I... I'm really gay."
Charles laughed just a bit, probably at the ridiculousness of the comment, but Erik frowned.
"I've never told anyone."
"Oh!" Charles wrapped his arms back around Erik. "Thank you for telling me. Your... your family doesn't know, then?"
He didn't want to imagine that conversation... "No."
Charles looked down at his thighs, hands touching lightly again. He seemed to be thinking about something, but the fingers pressed just barely against his leg were driving him to distraction. "Can I tell Tony?"
Erik shouldn't have been surprised that was his first question. "Yes. You can tell anyone... except my mom... and my siblings." How could he even begin to explain? "I've never met someone who made me want to... rock the boat. It's been easier to just let mom think I was busy and didn't have time for dating. I will, though... if you ask, I will... because..."
He inhaled, mostly to stop himself from saying something that was ridiculously premature.
"Because you'd be worth it."
Charles' hands went back to Erik's hips, and he tugged him forward, Erik went back to kissing, because he was so very much enjoying it. This time, he threaded his fingers through Charles' hair, his other hand lazily stroking up and down Charles' arm.
"Is this comfortable?" He finally asked, lips brushing against Charles' jaw.
"I'll just stay right here then."
"Good, I'm not letting you go."
"Is that why your hand is on my ass?"
"Mmmmhmmm." Charles gave his ass a light squeeze and they were back to making out again, even though Erik's thighs were starting to protest slightly.
They didn't even hear the sound of the lock clicking and the door opening. "Oh my god! I need to have sex with someone!" Tony.
Erik broke away and checked the door where he saw Tony standing there, open mouthed, and just sort of... taking in the scene.
Charles coughed, awkwardly. "Sorry, Tony, I'm off the market."
"... Ditto." Erik managed to spit out a moment later.
Tony seemed to still be processing what he was seeing. "You are like a brother to me, and you that would be awkward for so many reasons I can't even begin to think about. I'm... going to go... do... things."
"Tony!" Charles almost growled, and Tony legitimately looked like he was worried for his life. "Are you alright?"
The question clearly came as a shock.
Charles sighed dramatically and patted Erik on the thigh. He took that as he cue to slowly step back off the chair, his legs protesting the long time spent hunched like that. Clearly he was going to have to start stretching those muscles if making out on top of Charles' chair was going to be a regular occurrence. God he hoped that would be a regular occurrence. He sprawled on the floor and started to stretch out his hamstrings.
"Do you actually need...?"
Tony was looking at him now, but Tony was nodding and looked more than a little freaked out.
Erik shrugged. "Go ahead. I'll just... go."
"Stay," Charles insisted. "Please?"
He nodded. It wasn't like Charles was asking something difficult.
He watched Tony head back out of the room and then Charles wheeled over to Erik. "As much as I want to keep making out with you until four in the morning, I can't just--"
"I understand, he's your brother. If that were Anya I'd be right there as well." And he did understand, it wasn't as though Erik wouldn't be asking for Charles to make similar concessions sooner rather than later.
"I think your sister has a lot better sense than Tony."
"Very true." He did manage to crawl back up onto his knees for a moment, and then stood enough to lean in for a kiss. It only lasted a few moments, but it was just as intoxicating as all of the others. He needed a few moments to collect himself, anyway. "I'll be here, waiting. Take as long as he needs."
"You are wonderful." Charles kissed him one last time before wheeling out of the room.
Erik let himself fall back onto the floor, stretched out and feeling... so damn incredible. Charles had wanted him back, immediately and instantly. He finally allowed himself to process that; this wonderful man, the first person to make him feel so raw, so alive, and so completely smitten had wanted him back. They were... dating.
A strange giddy sort of giggle escaped from his throat.
He also felt this weird sort of comfort, finally allowing himself to put words to how much he'd failed to make things work in high school. He'd just been... so wrong about himself, one - very prolonged - kiss had him more wound up than anything he could remember from high school. His mother would not be pleased, he knew that, instinctually, but... he loved his whole family dearly, he was doing everything he was for them, he could carve out this one little piece for himself, especially since he was such a nicely shaped piece.
Erik's mind wouldn't even let him dwell on that, though, he couldn't. He was far too happy, warm, content, and absolutely nothing in the world could ruin that for him right now.