Charles isn't stupid and he's more self-aware than most people think upon first meeting him. He knows that the person Erik is when they're together isn't necessarily the person he is to the world at large. He knows that Erik is sarcastic and gruff and quick to anger. He knows Erik likes numbers and machines more than people and has no problem being abrupt or rude when someone annoys him. Erik has no patience for stupidity or timidness and cares little what other people think of him. He appreciates intelligence and a job well done and someone who can keep up with his jokes, but even the few people that meet those requirements are frequently put off by the rest of Erik's personality when they try to spend any time with him.
There's a reason that Erik can count his friends on one hand. Charles isn't judging--Erik's life has hardly been ideal--but he's not surprised he's the first person in a long time who's spent more than the required amount of time in Erik's presence.
There's something about Erik that's different when he's around Charles. He's softer. He smiles more. He's more affectionate than Charles thinks anyone in the rest of his life would ever have imagined he could be. He doesn't know what it is about him that brings out the best in Erik, why, after their disastrous first meeting, Erik allowed Charles to drive him to the hospital and hold his hand rather than railing at him for blocking the footpath in the bookstore, but clearly they connected in some way in those chaotic few moments between falling over each other and Erik passing out.
Charles knows that much to be true, because he feels the same connection, the same attraction, the same warmth. He felt it almost immediately, this need to be close to Erik, the constant desire to orient himself to Erik whenever they're in a room together. He may be an idealist, but he's not naive. He knows there's no such thing as star-crossed lovers or finding your soul mate. But, at the same time, he recognizes that what he and Erik have is something precious and rare and he respects that, knows that he needs to appreciate what he's been given. He knows, even without poking around his mind, that Erik feels the same way. He can see it every time Erik looks at him like he can't believe that Charles is real, that he's in Erik's bed, that he's in Erik's life, that he chooses to stay.
That's not to say being with Erik is always easy--they bicker and occasionally have out and out arguments, which end with Erik smoking on the fire escape (which Charles hates) and Charles stewing and invading Erik's mind with anecdotal evidence that further proves his point (which Erik hates). Erik still makes stray comments about how naive and privileged Charles is, which leave Charles simultaneously furious and hurt, but Charles can't help the occasional stray dig about Erik's social skills or temperament, so he supposes it's only fair.
Despite that, Charles still looks at Erik and marvels. That Erik has taken all the world has thrown at him and still remained standing tall and proud, that Erik put aside his usual resentment and loathing of other people long enough to give Charles a chance, that Erik still gives him a chance every day, every time they argue, every time Charles says something callous without even realizing it...it's humbling. And amazing. And why wouldn't Charles want the chance to experience it every single day of his life?
So it's easy to roll his eyes when Moira says, "You're asking him to what? You know he's insane, right?"
"He's not insane," Charles says, waving his hand dismissively.
"I'm not unconvinced that he's a serial killer," Moira says. "And you probably shouldn't invite a serial killer to move in with you. I think it probably makes you complicit in the murders."
"But he won't serial kill me," Charles says. He sips his beer and grins wickedly. "He loves me."
"He does," Moira admits. "And that's the only reason I'm not actually intervening in this mess for your own good. You know, if you live together, you might start to discover things about each other that aren't all sunshine and rainbows."
"We might," Charles says. "But I have a feeling, since I managed to convince him in the first place, we'll be all right."
It wasn't an easy thing, convincing Erik, either. "Resistant" would be putting his reaction lightly. It had taken Charles weeks to wear him down, to point out that they spent all their time together, most their nights together, that two apartments was an extra expense, that, most importantly, Charles wasn't planning on leaving him. Ever.
It took a lot of begging and a lot of fairly inventive sexual acts, but Erik eventually caved.
Charles and Erik are drastically different people--Charles knows that. He knows that Erik hates nearly everyone he's ever met and everyone he's going to meet, that he's incredibly tidy, that he works all hours and can have a sour disposition when he thinks anyone, Charles included, is distracting him. Charles, on the other hand, is sunny and outgoing to a fault. He's scattered and a little sloppy and prone to talking at length about whatever's on his mind, regardless of whether anyone is listening.
It shouldn't work, but Charles know it will. He knows it.
Moving Erik's things into the apartment isn't as much of a hurdle as moving Charles' things around the apartment to make room for the additions. He doesn't mean to be a packrat, really he doesn't, but he likes to try new crafts and projects for the daycare before he brings them to Moira and he likes to keep the things that the children give him and, okay, he occasionally skips actual cleaning in favor of piling things neatly with the intention of eventually going back and culling the piles.
Still, in the space of an afternoon they manage to move all of the boxes out of the moving truck and into the actual flat. There's not much room to move about, but Charles feels accomplished anyway, looking at the room with his hands on his hips, grinning at the progress.
"We still have to clean the old place, you know," Erik reminds him. He's leaning against the counter in the kitchen, sipping a beer and wiping the dust and sweat from his forehead with a dishcloth.
"Still!" Charles says brightly. He slips into the kitchen and takes Erik's beer from his hand, first stealing a sip and then a kiss. "We've done the tough bits. We can rest." They're both filthy and exhausted, but when Erik backs Charles up against the counter, he goes willingly, shifting up onto the ledge, which puts them at a height.
"Or we can not rest," Charles murmurs against Erik's mouth.
"That's more what I had in mind," Erik says. "We may not be christening the place, but it is sort of a--oh!"
Erik pulls away, just as the afternoon is starting to look promising.
"What?" Charles asks, trying not to chase after Erik's mouth.
"I...it's stupid," Erik says. "I have something for you." He ducks out of the kitchen and Charles is forced to jump down and follow, watching as Erik peers at various boxes. He seems to find what he's looking for and tears off the packing tape from a box labeled "Unpack first." Charles leans in the doorway to the kitchen while Erik shifts through the contents. When he finally straightens up, there's a small box in his hands, wrapped in cobalt blue paper.
"What's this?" Charles asks. Erik shrugs and won't meet his eyes, gesturing towards the sofa. They pick through the boxes and squeeze onto the two cushions not piled with things. Erik hands him the box, trying to project an aura of calm, though he keeps looking at his hands, his shoes, anything but Charles.
"It's just...something," Erik says. He shrugs, and Charles really isn't a very patient man, so he tears open the paper and discards it on the floor (he's not a slob, really, he'll pick it up eventually), then wiggles the top off of the plain black box.
Inside is a watch. It's a nice watch--elegant, but not ostentatious. It's very much his style, not so large that it looks awkward on his wrist, the numbers plain and easy to see without extra ornamentation. The whole thing is metal, which isn't surprising, but is also convenient as leather watchbands tend to chafe Charles' wrist. He takes it out of the box and looks at it more closely.
"Erik," he says. He can feel the uncertainty rolling off of Erik without prodding his mind more than necessary. "Oh, Erik, it's lovely, but I didn't get you anything. You didn't have to--"
He takes Erik's hand and smiles at him warmly. Erik relaxes, smiling back, though he still looks nervous.
"It's just...something," Erik says. "I...it's...hard to explain."
Charles turns the watch over in his hand, intending to secure it on his wrist, when he spots the engraving. Again, nothing ostentatious, simply, To C.F.X. With love, E.M.L.
Charles swallows, squeezing the watching in his hand.
"Try, then," he says softly. If he was a better man, he'd offer to go in Erik's mind and pull the answer out, but he wants to hear the words, even if he already has an inkling of what they are.
"You don't wear a watch," Erik says.
"I don't," Charles says. "I wore one in college, but once it broke I never bothered to replace it. I generally have my mobile on hand or a clock in sight at the daycare. Plus, well. Work is messy."
"This one is shatter resistant and waterproof," Erik says. He gently pries Charles' fingers from around the watch and opens the metal clasp, sliding it into his wrist. "It tells the date and the numbers glow in the dark." He doesn't let go of Charles' wrist entirely, but he does shift his hand to admire the look of the watch.
"Thank you," Charles says again, covering Erik's hand with his own, "but that doesn't quite answer the question."
Erik manages a half-smile. "Noticed that, did you?" He turns Charles' hand around in his own, his thumb tracing over the lines of Charles' palm. He looks up, finally, with the same almost smile. A lesser man wouldn't be able to meet his gaze, Charles thinks, but Erik catches his eyes and holds them.
"I don't mean this in a possessive way," Erik begins. "It's just...you don't wear metal. Not regularly. And I like--" He frowns. "I can...familiarize myself with particular metal objects. The shape, what it's made of, the space it takes up. And once I know it, it's the same as knowing a person. You know how you can look out into a crowd and zero in on the person you know? Or, for you, reach out and feel the minds you have a connection with?"
Charles smiles. "You want to know where I am," he says.
"Not in an overbearing way," Erik says. "Not to check up on you. My range isn't even long enough to feel you from work. But it would be nice to...know you're there."
Charles can't fault him that; how often does he use his own powers to reach out and find Erik, just to feel him? It's sweet. It does complicated things to Charles' heart.
"I'll wear it every day," Charles tells him.
"You don't have to," Erik says.
"I want to," Charles says. He slides his hand up Erik's jaw and pulls him close for a kiss and then another. "It's wonderful, Erik."
Erik may be abrasive and he may be an ass, he may seem cold and emotionless to other people, but that's not all of him. He's so, so much more, and if Charles ever forgets it, there will always be moments like this to remind him. He almost wishes everyone else could see this, that he could have something to point to, to shout, "See? See? He's amazing!" but that would mean sharing it and he can't bring himself to do that. These moments are just for him and he'll hold them close and pull them out during black moods and arguments and on days when they've just had enough of each other. On good days, too, days when they spend hours in bed or whole afternoons curled up on the sofa watching teevee. This is his moment to keep in case he ever doubts, even for a second, the depth and breadth of Erik's affection.
Not that he thinks he ever will, if the tenderness and delight with which Erik pulls him to his feet and then lays him down on the bed are anything to go by, but it's a good thing to have in his arsenal anyway, just in case.