Charles was not expecting to be attacked by a vampire at Moira's annual Halloween bash, to say the least. If he'd had any inkling of what was to come, he would have worn a different costume.
The semester had been a real bear thus far, and this week was no different; Charles was busy every single minute of his Friday except for his lunch break (alone in his office, talking to no one, with the lights off) and by the time he got back to his apartment in the early evening there was no way in hell he was going to be able to pull any kind of imaginative costume out of thin air before Moira's party that night. He didn't particularly like living up to his reputation as a young square, but he'd had absolutely no time or brainpower to put into thinking up something interesting. "Sexy professor" it was going to be, then.
At least, it was going to be sexy professor if he could get Raven out of their bathroom.
"Raven! I need to style my hair!" Charles shouted through the door, leaving off tying his black tie to pound on it for good measure when there was no immediate response.
Instead, Raven herself pulled the door open ten seconds later, and Charles stared.
He had expected his sister to exit the bathroom in a cloud of steam and a robe, hair in some elaborate arrangement prefatory to another stunning outfit. Raven's costume ideas were the best and most creative of anyone he knew, and had been since they'd been children. He'd grown used to her overshadowing him at Halloween parties at a very young age.
It appeared that Raven had gone for radical minimalism this Halloween, however, as she was currently wearing blue body paint, a red wig, and nothing else.
Charles goggled. And possibly also gurgled; certainly he choked. "Raven! What is--what--what--"
She grinned at him, and he realized belatedly that she was also wearing yellow cat eye contact lenses. "Do you like it, Charles?"
Charles was aware that he was being teased, but it was difficult to be sanguine about his sister going naked and blue to a Halloween party.
"What are you supposed to be? Where are your clothes?"
Raven laughed. "I'm a monster, Charles, and it's Halloween. If clothing isn't optional now, when is it?"
"You'll freeze your ass off!" Charles protested, falling back on practicalities.
She shrugged. "I'll wear a coat on the way there and back. You'd better get your ass in the bathroom and get ready, or we'll be unfashionably late."
Someone with less experience of Raven might have chosen to continue arguing, but there was a gleam in her eye that Charles recognized. Choosing the better part of valor, he walked past her into the bathroom and shut the door behind him.
* * * * *
Needless to say, Raven overshadowed Charles from the moment they walked in Moira's door this year, too.
The apartment was already half-full of people, Ke$ha blasting on the stereo, and Moira was in her preferred hostess position in the dining room, glass of wine in one hand and what appeared to be a scythe in the other. "Charles! Raven!" she called, and Charles did his best to make his way through the crowd to kiss her on the cheek. As soon as she took her coat off Raven was deluged by partygoers ogling her--well, "costume" was something of the wrong word, Charles thought, and then decided not to think about it anymore.
"Hi, Moira." He stepped back and gave her costume the once over: she was wearing a suit and had what appeared to be a graphing calculator and a slide rule affixed to her belt. The aforementioned scythe was complimented by large dangling skull earrings and a pencil behind one ear. "What are you?"
Moira raised an eyebrow at him. "Come on, Charles, you can guess! What are two things that are unavoidable in life?"
"The NSA and LinkedIn invitations," a new, slightly accented voice said from behind Charles. He turned to include whoever it was in the conversation, and then promptly forgot what he was going to say when he saw the man behind him.
He was tall, maybe a good five or six inches taller than Charles, dressed in black and wearing a black, billowing cape that couldn't hide the slender but powerful lines of his body. Charles followed those lines up to his sharply-carved face and had to blink at how handsome he was, particularly with his several days' scruff of beard, though the red greasepaint smeared around his mouth, trails of it drawn down to his chin like drips, was both alluring and a little off-putting. The man smiled when Charles' eyes met his, revealing a very nice set of costume pointed teeth.
"Dracula, I presume," Charles said faintly, and immediately wanted to slap himself for being inane.
"It's Erik, actually," the vampire said, and Charles was fairly certain he wasn't imagining the way Erik's blue-grey gaze heated when he looked Charles up and down. "What's your costume?"
"I'm a sexy professor," Charles said, suddenly wishing he'd taken five minutes to come up with something more creative. He rallied, though, and gave Erik the genuinely sexy vampire his best flirtatious smile. "Doesn't the pocket protector give it away?"
Erik chuckled. "How could I have missed that?" he asked, and then reached a long arm past Charles to poke Moira in the arm. "It's good to see you, hagface."
"You too, blowhard," Moira said, and pulled Erik into a hug. "And actually I'm Death and taxes," she told him, and turned back to gesture towards Charles, placing Erik directly across from him. "Charles, you remember me telling you about my friend Erik, he's an engineer at Stark Industries."
"Oh," Charles said, trying not to stare too blatantly at Erik and remembering Moira's endless attempts to set him and "my friend Erik from work" up on dates--he's perfect for you, Charles, trust me. Clearly he should have paid her more attention. Suddenly dating didn't seem like something he was too busy for after all.
"Charles is a professor at Columbia," Moira was saying to Erik, who slid his gaze towards Charles and gave him a sly grin when their eyes met. Charles' throat went dry, but he managed a smile back. "Biochemistry and genetics, right, Charles? Tenure-track."
"That's right--" Charles started to say, but then Raven slunk around Erik--she'd added blue leather ankle boots to her ensemble before they left, though nothing else--and waved at Moira, and everyone's attention was immediately diverted.
"Raven!" Moira exclaimed, and then she smiled a shit-eating grin. "Nicely done."
"Hi Moira," Raven said, giving her a conspiratorial grin. "Sorry, no hugs tonight."
"I bet," Moira said, eyeing the body paint. "Do you know my friend Erik?"
"No, I don't," Raven said, and when she offered Erik her hand he turned so that his back was to Charles. "I'm Raven," she said. "Charles' sister. Moira's told me a lot about you…and your propensity for feeding on innocent young men."
"Oh really," said Erik, glancing at Moira, who shook her head in denial, grinning. "And what's your costume, Raven-who's-Charles'-sister?"
Raven smiled even wider. "I'm a monster."
"The kind that eats hearts?" Erik asked.
"Hearts…and other things." She glanced at Charles, who rolled his eyes.
"I'm getting a drink," he announced. "Does anyone want anything?"
Erik looked like he was about to say something, but Raven's friend Angel had just arrived, and then Raven was bodily dragging him away to meet her, exclaiming at Angel's costume, a dragonfly with remarkably intricate wings.
"Did you want anything?" Charles repeated to Moira. "And is Nick around?"
"I'm good, thanks," she replied, looking away from him to scan the crowd to corral any other newcomers. "And Nick's around somewhere. You can't miss him--he's Morpheus."
Would I take the blue pill, or the red pill? Charles wondered as he headed for the kitchen. He couldn't help but hope that Erik would extricate himself from the web of Raven and Angel talking excitedly about their guerrilla performance art collective, though he knew it was even odds that Erik would forget his obvious earlier interest in him when confronted with his sister's passion and, well, naked and blue-ness.
In the kitchen, Charles found Nick pouring a drink--whiskey on the rocks. "Charles!" he said, and Charles saw himself perfectly reflected in the mirrored sunglasses when Nick turned towards him. "Nice costume. Sexy professor?"
"Yeah," Charles said. "Hi, Nick. You look good."
"Free your mind, Charles, and you'll see that you need a drink."
"I'll just have a beer."
"They're in the fridge," Nick said, indicating the rear of the kitchen with a nod. "Good to see you, Charles. I'm glad you could come--Moira says you've been busy."
"There is no spoon," Charles replied, opening his bottle against the countertop. "It's good to see you, too."
Charles found his beer and drank it too quickly, even allowing for his attempts to circulate through the party. He and Moira had quite a few friends in common, as they'd met at freshman orientation and been thick as thieves ever since. The mysterious Erik was one of the few Charles hadn't met before, as he and Moira knew each other through their work for Stark Industries, which Moira always said she couldn't talk about. Sometimes Charles was convinced she was really a CIA agent working undercover.
So Charles actually did have a good time catching up with people and admiring their costumes--more than a few times he found himself pulling out his phone to immortalize someone's sartorial brilliance on Instagram. But when his beer ran out he headed back towards the kitchen, which was temporarily empty…except for Erik, who was contemplating the selection of liquor and mixers laid out on the counter.
He looked up when Charles walked in and dropped his empty bottle in the recycling bin and actually smiled. Between the red smeared all around his mouth and the fact that he seemed to have quite a few more teeth than normal, the effect was somewhat spoiled.
"Can I get you anything?" Erik asked, nodding towards the bottles, and Charles decided that yes, he could have one drink.
"I'll have a screwdriver, if you're offering," he said, but Erik immediately rolled his eyes.
"Oh come on now. Sexy professors don't drink screwdrivers at Halloween parties."
"And which of us is the sexy professor again?" Charles asked, raising an eyebrow, but Erik shook his head.
"Look, I'll make you something more exciting." When Charles' other eyebrow lifted, he added, "I used to be a bartender, I swear I know what I'm doing. I'll prove it to you--I'll make you a screwdriver to die for."
"Show me, then," Charles said, and despite his vague feeling that Erik was going rather far to try to impress a random party acquaintance, he leaned back on the counter and watched Erik work. There was no denying that he was experienced--in no time he'd filled a tall glass with ice, covered it halfway with orange juice, and then painstakingly but quickly poured a double shot of ink-black vodka ("I brought this") over the back of a cocktail spoon into the glass, so the two liquids, at different densities, didn't mix with one another.
"Hand me a piece of licorice," Erik instructed, somewhat brusque, but Charles grabbed one of the black twists from the bag lying on the counter next to him and handed it over anyway. Erik swiftly cut the ends off and then popped it into the drink--to serve as a straw, Charles realized, when Erik presented it to him. "Try that."
Charles sipped. It wasn't really any different than a normal screwdriver, except for the licorice straw, but it was far more visually impressive and, he had to admit, exciting. The burn of the vodka was perfectly gentled by the tang of the orange juice, like hot velvet. "It's good," he admitted. "Thank you. What do you call it?"
"A sexy screwdriver," Erik said, grinning rather wolfishly at him, and Charles knew he wasn't imagining the way Erik's eyes strayed to his mouth when he licked his lips.
"Where's Raven?" he asked, hoping that his fishing wasn't too obvious.
Erik, however, seemed completely non-plussed, which was really rather gratifying. "I don't know," he said. "She was talking to Angel the last time I saw her. That was a while ago, though. Why?"
"Oh," Charles said, "good," and then Erik blinked and his smile slowly widened into something even more predatory than before. Charles couldn't ignore the way it ignited a hot twist of something in his abdomen, something that he knew perfectly well.
"Charles, hasn't Moira ever mentioned to you that I'm gay?"
Oh. Jackpot. "She only tried to get me to go on a date with you," Charles said, blushing unaccountably. "She never said whether you were--gay, or bi, or what."
"Well," Erik said, moving closer, "I can assure you that I'm very gay." He leaned a little closer. "Your sister is a fascinating person. Also rather intense." Closer still, until Charles could feel his warm breath tickling his ear. His voice seemed to have dropped an octave as he'd crossed the distance. "I'm sorry I let myself get sidetracked; it was rude. But Raven's not the Xavier I'd like to feed on tonight, if you know what I mean."
"Oh really?" Charles murmured, feeling a genuine smile tugging at his lips. "Well, Dracula, you'll have to work harder than that to seduce this particular victim." He looked up at Erik through his eyelashes, giving him his best come hither look, but then Erik's mouth twitched and Charles couldn't help but laugh, and Erik joined him. He liked Erik's laugh, Charles decided.
"Make yourself one of these," he said, holding up his black and orange drink, "and then let's find ourselves a corner."
* * * * *
The makeup on Erik's lips tasted just as unpleasant as Charles had suspected it would, but when Erik opened his mouth to Charles' tongue he could suddenly taste the orange and vodka of their screwdrivers, and more importantly Erik, and the makeup--particularly when Erik nipped gently at his bottom lip--didn't matter so much any more.
* * * * *
Moira found them on the balcony at two in the morning, wrapped in each other's arms, talking intensely. It would have looked fairly innocuous except for the red makeup smeared around Charles' mouth and the one clear imprint of lips on his forehead, where Erik had initially tried to kiss him and totally misjudged the angle because they were both laughing too hard to see straight.
"We're closing it down, guys," she said, eyeing them. "Do I need to call you a cab? Also, can I just note, I told you so."
"Mmm," Charles said, turning in Erik's grip to look up at him--they'd wrapped their arms around each other under their jackets to keep their hands warm, and then never let go. Even Moira's smugness couldn't dent his euphoria. "I think we're good, thanks, Moira."
She rolled her eyes. "You know the way out. Have a good night, you two. Thanks for coming."
"Thanks for inviting us," Erik said, still staring down at Charles, who thought again that Erik really was beautiful, even with the makeup making a mess of his mouth.
"I mean it, I'm throwing you out in five minutes," Moira said, but she turned and left them alone all the same.
"Come to breakfast with me," Erik said, leaning forward so that their foreheads touched. "This morning."
"Mmm, but vampires are nocturnal, breakfast would be dangerous," Charles said, and he leaned forward and nipped Erik on the lips when he pouted. "I'd rather go to dinner. Tomorrow. Today, technically. And then you can take me to breakfast," he said, running his hand up Erik's chest, petting his collarbone under the dark shirt.
Erik exhaled, not at all smoothly. "You know I'm not really a vampire. Nocturnalness isn't something we need to worry about."
Charles took pride in the fact that the non sequitur of this visibly lust-addled protest was a sign of Erik's desire for him interfering with his otherwise iron logic. "Your false teeth falling out when you sucked on my tongue rather gave that away," he agreed, leaning forward to kiss Erik again. "Dinner, tonight. Will you come?"
"Yes," Erik breathed, and clutched Charles tighter, kissing him deeply enough that Charles thought Erik might want to devour him in truth--
"Charles, we should get home, Moira's going to kill us," Raven said, poking her head out the door to the balcony.
"Raven--" Charles yelped, turning, but Erik only laughed, and under Raven's hairy eyeball, which looked remarkably like Moira's, he at last let Charles go, reluctantly.
Raven's hairy eyeball only got hairier when Erik took Charles' hand for the walk back through the apartment to the door. "I called us a cab," she said, holding up her phone before dropping it into her coat pocket and belting the coat around her waist.
"Give me your phone," Erik said to Charles, still faintly peremptory, but Charles rolled his eyes and pulled his phone out anyway, swiping the screen to unlock it. Erik tapped the screen for a few seconds, and then Charles heard the unmistakable sounds of the James Bond theme emanating from the level of Erik's trouser pockets. "You have my number now," Erik said, tapping the screen again, and the ringer on his phone stopped. "Call me."
"I will," Charles promised, and leaned in and kissed him again, once more, for good measure. "Think about where you want to go to dinner. I don't know any Transsylvanian places, I'm afraid."
"I'll find us a good place," Erik assured him, and then gave him another sharp smile. "I already know what I want for dessert."
* * * * *
"You two should have a Dracula themed wedding," Raven said when they were finally out on the street. "You could have it at night and make everyone wear red and black Victorian outfits and have a red velvet cake, it would be brilliant. It'll match the red all over your face."
"You might want to hold off on the plans for the nuptials until I've at least slept with him," Charles said, not bothering to deny it, because he couldn't keep the goofy grin off his face.
"Whatever, Professor Sexy," Raven said, but she was smiling. "I know you. And I'm glad you had a good time. You've been having a rough semester."
'Good time' was perhaps something of an understatement. Charles felt a little as though he were floating. The thought of Erik, the memory of the scent of Erik in the air and the feel of Erik under his hands, were all intoxicating, and he was fairly certain that he looked as dazed as he felt.
But he was touched by Raven's concern all the same. "Thanks," he said, nudging her in the shoulder, heedless of the blue paint, which was definitely worse for the wear after a night of partying. "What about you? Did you meet any interesting monsters?"
"Maybe," Raven said, and from the smug note in her voice 'maybe' most likely meant 'yes.' "Come on, or we'll turn into pumpkins."
"I think you've got your stories mixed up, Charlie Brown," Charles said, but he followed his monstrous sister into the night all the same.