Sleep did not come easily that night, not that Charles had expected it to. Raven had been having some sort of identity crisis, and Erik...Erik was going to do something stupid, Charles could see it looming in front of them like a smoking volcano, and he didn’t know how to stop it. He knew Erik wanted to kill Shaw, but somehow he’d hoped...well, he’d known he was being silly, but he’d hoped some of these last few weeks would have made a difference. He’d hoped he’d made a difference. Just that afternoon, he’d gotten a real laugh out of the man! Maybe, if they had more time—but they didn’t have more time. They were flying to Cuba in the morning, and Erik was going to kill Shaw.
He wished, rather childishly, that Moira hadn’t interrupted them that afternoon. They’d made a real connection—Erik had allowed him into his brain, Erik had let him see him vulnerable, and for just that moment, it seemed like they were getting somewhere. But now there was a cold feeling in Charles’s bones, and for some reason he didn’t think he would be hearing Erik laugh again for very long time.
Eventually, restless, he got out of bed and wandered down the hall, casually brushing the minds of his friends. There was fear, and apprehension, but also excitement...it seemed everyone was asleep, except—Erik. Of course it would be Erik, the person he most and least wanted to speak with. More than anything, he wished this weren’t so complicated. They’d known each other for barely a month and Erik was already the best friend he’d ever had (Raven was his sister and he loved her, but she never got him the way Erik did), but even though it was obvious that Erik was happier with them, he consistently tried to pull away. Erik had the most beautiful mind Charles had ever seen, yet he insisted on dwelling in the dark spaces of it...if only they had more time, Charles might be able to pull him around—perhaps they did have more time. They were both awake, and Charles was hardly going to be able to get to sleep now.
Walking as quietly as he could, Charles made his way through the mansion to pause outside of Erik’s door. Erik, he thought gently at his friend. Can I come in?
He felt Erik start at the voice in his mind, but it was only a moment before the door opened. “What do you want?” Erik whispered curtly.
Charles stepped around him into the room, sitting on the edge of the bed and patting the space beside him. “I couldn’t sleep.”
Erik looked wary, but sat next to him. “Neither could I,” he admitted.
Charles half smiled, leaning his shoulder into the other man’s. Erik wasn’t big on physical contact, generally, but in the weeks they’d been searching for other mutants together this sort of casual touch had become normal. It felt a little stilted, now, but Charles was hardly going to pull back if Erik didn’t. “I’m terrified,” he said after a minute, entirely honest.
Erik nodded, looking at his hands. “So am I.”
They sat in silence for what felt like a long time, shoulders touching lightly, until Charles couldn’t stand it anymore and reached out for Erik’s mind. It was a swirl of resignation and vindictive excitement, underlain by fear and doubt and a little spark of something else. Before Charles could identify it, however, Erik straightened so that they were no longer touching.
“Raven came to see me tonight,” he said. “She was in my bed when I came back from our chess match.”
Charles felt something hot and painful boil up in his chest. “Oh,” was all he managed.
Erik rolled his eyes and bumped Charles’s shoulder again. “Don’t go into protective brother mode on me, I didn’t let her stay.” He made a noise that was almost a laugh. “I told her to get out and come back in a few years.”
The feeling receded, and Charles practically sagged into Erik’s side. His head was now on his friend’s shoulder. “Oh. Good.”
Erik did laugh now—not as freely as he had that afternoon, but definitely a laugh. “Besides,” he said, tilting his head to rest against Charles’s. “It’s not her I’m interested in.”
“Oh?” Charles said, and looked, because how could he not? And that something else was now in the forefront of Erik’s mind, the sort of warm, squishy feeling he’d hardly have expected out of Erik. Even more surprising was the fact that it was directed at him. “Oh.”
Erik heard the change in voice tone, turning to face him. “I thought you knew,” he said softly, raising a hand to Charles’s cheek.
Charles shook his head slightly, not wanting to break eye-contact. “I didn’t.” He hadn’t been looking, he supposed, and it was hardly the sort of thing one expected, and he did try to respect other people’s privacy...
“And?” Eric quirked an eyebrow. His tone was confident, but his mind was braced for rejection or worse.
Charles took a deep breath. He hadn’t known, but he couldn’t say he was displeased. There was a different feeling in his chest now, warm instead of hot, and instead of replying he leaned forward to press their lips together. He tried to project what he was feeling into Erik’s mind, and in return got a flash of unmistakable lust. Erik’s hands came up around him as he deepened the kiss. It was hot and wet and thoroughly unexpected—there was a desperation in the kiss that said they both knew this night might be all they had.
Reluctantly, Charles pulled back. As much as he didn’t want to, they needed to talk about this before it got out of hand. “I’m terrified,” he said again, and this time Erik pulled him into a hug, cradling him against his chest.
“I know,” Erik said simply, and that was all it took for the tears that Charles hadn’t even realized were there to start flowing.
They’re just children, Charles thought as a little sob escaped him. What if something happens to one of them? What if we don’t make it in time?
Erik rubbed his back gently, mind softening further. “I know.”
Raven thinks I think of her as a pet, he continued, and if something happens to her tomorrow I’ll never be able to fix that. And you, Erik, you’re my best friend! How will I live with myself after this if something happens to you? You asked me earlier if I could allow you to kill Shaw—but that isn’t my choice to make. I could never hate you, Erik, never, no matter what you did. Do you have any idea how beautiful your mind is? All the things you are capable of? You’ve hardly scratched the surface! Erik was crying now, too, if the wetness on his forehead was anything to go by. And I know I can’t change your mind, I would never try to change your mind on something like this, but just—I can’t lose you, Erik, not now. And they were kissing again, tears and all. Because there was nothing else to do. Because tomorrow this might all be over.
Erik pushed him gently down onto the bed, and Charles sobbed a laugh as they tried to get under the covers without separating. Eventually they managed it, and they curled into each other, still kissing. He could feel Erik’s erection against his own, but they were both content with this for now, cuddling and kissing until the tears finally stopped and they drifted off to sleep.
Charles woke up before he remembered where he was, sunlight in his face and limbs tangled in someone else’s. He blinked sleepily, curling closer to the warmth, before he felt something hard poking him and he abruptly remembered what was happening. The panic he’d managed to avoid last night came on full-force—what was he doing? This was Erik, his very male best friend, a bomb whose fuse they were going to light today and hope wouldn’t explode. There was no way this was going anywhere other than pain, and he really should get up and leave. Maybe they could pretend it never happened.
But...Erik was warm, and present, and his sleeping mind glowed with more happiness than Charles had yet seen. The dark emotions that Erik seemed to think defined him were pushed aside in favor of—love? Erik was in love with him? That alone should have been enough to have him running for the door, but instead it calmed him. Something in his heart sighed with contentment at the thought, and the warm feeling from last night was back, stronger...
Erik stirred, tightening his hold on Charles and burying his face in his hair, and the warm feeling settled. Oh. “I love you,” Charles murmured in surprised. “Erik, I love you.”
Eyes the color of sea glass met his own, and suddenly he was being kissed. It was a soft kiss, lips barely touching, and Erik pulled back far too soon. “I know,” he said, smiling.
Charles grinned back as Erik’s alarm started ringing. “Bugger.”
“Time to save the world,” Erik said, pressing their lips together one more time before turning off the alarm and getting out of bed. “You need to get back to your room before your alarm wakes everyone up.”
Charles knew he was right, even though there were a lot of things they should probably say. Now was not the time to say them, and he could only hope that later they would get another chance.