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The Proper Care of Actors

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Within ten minutes, Erik was quite convinced that Charles Xavier was a complete idiot.

First of all, no one ever, ever made Sebastian Shaw wait, not if they wanted to keep working in Hollywood. But it had already been twenty minutes and there was absolutely no sign of Xavier or that blonde, shrill agent of his who had a habit of flipping her hair and stalking everywhere in knee high fuck-me boots. Erik kept watching the way Shaw made a show of tugging back his sleeve, eyeing his watch, then letting out a discordant sigh of disinterested impatience. It was a magnificent performance, worthy of an Oscar. Still, Erik wasn’t falling for that bored, apathetic expression. Shaw was madder than hell – it was in the tight, clenched set of his jaw - and Erik couldn’t wait for Xavier to come in and get torn a new one by one of the most powerful producers in the industry.

Also, Erik had actually had the misfortune of being forced to sit through some of the idiotic movies Xavier had starred in over the years. They were formulaic and tired: typical romantic comedies with an insipid, flavour-of-the-month actress playing some Type A career woman with no time for love, and Xavier playing several different incarnations of the same floppy-haired, twinkly-eyed British twit who manages to steal her heart away, usually after two hours of bumbling shenanigans.

But for some reason that Erik couldn’t figure out, audiences seemed to gobble up Xavier with a spoon, particularly when he was cast with Moira MacTaggert, an actress whom Erik grudgingly admitted could at least act her way out of a paper bag.

Erik checked his own watch this time. Almost half an hour. Beside him, Emma was stabbing at the buttons on her phone, probably asking Xavier’s agent where the hell they were. The screenwriter duo, who looked like kids barely out of college, were slouched in chairs opposite Erik, eyes wide with awe as they stared at him. Erik suspected that the redhead might be a rabid fan from the way he kept gawking at Erik like a zoo animal. Erik was used to being gawked at, but he wished that the redhead would at least close his mouth.

Emma must have sensed his displeasure, for she was leaning over and whispering in his ear, "The two of them may look like kids, but they were nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay last year."

Erik made a non-committal, unimpressed noise. The less enthusiastic he appeared, the less hold Emma had over him and the less likely it was that he would be forced to read for the part with this Xavier fellow. "Why is he so late?" he asked Emma instead, who shrugged.

"We are so sorry!" Two figures quickly burst through the door, making everyone sit up. Erik rolled his eyes at the beaming Xavier, who barely looked flustered. "There was an accident on the freeway that caused some bad traffic."

“Really? Bad traffic in LA?” Erik said dryly as Xavier raised a cool eyebrow at him, as if noticing him for the first time. "Who would have guessed?"

"My sincere apologies," Xavier said again, his frank gaze resting on Erik for a long moment before he went over to shake a peeved Shaw’s hand. "I did not mean to keep you waiting, I know how extremely valuable everyone’s time is."

"Aww, that’s all right,” the blonde screenwriter – Alec? - said with a cheesy grin, obviously won over like Xavier’s hordes of female fans. “You couldn’t have known there would be an accident."

"Indeed I didn’t." Xavier’s acting skills were actually good enough to make him look quite genuinely contrite.

"But I have ordered lattes and gluten-free doughnuts for everyone, they are on the way. My treat."

"Awesome!" Redhead happily said, the traitor, and Erik narrowed his eyes at him. So much for being a fan.

"Just let me know if anyone wants to order iced tea or anything else from the hotel," Xavier’s agent was saying as she sat down beside Charles, passing him his script. "We are totally, totally sorry."

Surprisingly, even Shaw seemed appeased as he sat down again, smiling at Xavier. "Anyway, shall we get started? Charles, I believe you may have already met Erik Lehnsherr."

"I haven’t had the pleasure," Xavier said as he reached over and warmly shook Erik’s reluctant hand. "Erik, I’m such a big fan."

I’m sure you are, Erik thought as he retrieved his hand, ignoring the tingles spreading up his arm, and when Xavier shot him a rather amused, mischievous smile, he almost found himself smiling back.

* * * * *


Sebastian Shaw was one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood for a good reason. He had a nose for movies that always raked in millions at the box office, be they action blockbusters or sleeper indie hits. Directors loved working with him because he “trusted their vision”, and Erik definitely owed part of his success to Shaw and his regular casting agent, Jean Grey. A few years ago, Erik had been struggling in LA, going for auditions in the day and working as a bartender at night, and it was Jean who had seen promise in him at one such audition for a Ben Affleck movie. The next thing he knew, Sebastian Shaw had turned up on set to watch him in action, and suddenly Erik was being offered a much better role than the bit part he was playing.

For Shaw’s next project, he had decided to take a gamble on Erik for the supporting role. Both Erik and Shaw had benefited greatly, if the $800 million that ‘Cyborg Cop’ had raked in was any indication, along with the slew of movie roles that had landed in Erik’s lap afterwards. All as the lead male actor in action blockbusters, unfortunately, but he could hardly complain.

Erik was now at a point in his career where Emma was beginning to drop hints about taking up more serious dramatic roles, and he knew what she indirectly meant without her having to spell O-S-C-A-R for him. So when Shaw had called about this new project, Erik had been torn about it. He had been expecting maybe a period drama or an indie project, not a serial killer flick, and it was only his indebtedness to Shaw that had made him show up here in the first place.

Now, he was expected to work with this floppy-haired dandy who wasn’t even professional enough to show up on time? Great.

“Erik?” Shaw’s hands were steepled in front of his chin, and he looked concerned. Now the whole room was turning to look at Erik as well. “Is there something about the project you don’t like?”

Erik sighed inwardly. It wouldn’t do to offend Shaw in a room with so many industry people, but Erik wanted to be honest as well. “It’s just that a serial killer picture sounds a little too much like what I’m already doing,” he said. “I’m trying to increase my range.”

From the corner of his eye, he could see Charles nodding understandingly, while his blonde agent rolled her eyes heavenward.

“But it’s not just a serial killer flick,” Alex blurted out, looking rather worked up. “Sean and I wanted to stay away from the old tired cliches. We wrote it so that it’s more about the growing friendship between the two leads. You watched ‘Pride And Glory’, right? It’s something more like that.”

“How is it something like that?” Erik asked, curious despite himself.

“You see, you have Michael, your character, an FBI agent who works alone because of what happened to his last partner,” Sean explained eagerly. “And Charles is up for the role of James, who is one of the best minds from the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit. He is here to help Michael get into the killer’s head so they can figure out who his next victim will be, and stop him before he takes more lives. Above and beyond that, the special skills that James possesses allow him to understand Michael’s pain, on a deeper level than anyone ever has, and he helps him come to terms with his past.”

“And you also have the setting of the film,” Alex interjected, continuing, “It begins at the end of the sixties, with the Stonewall riots as the backdrop. Couple that with the in-flight murders being an act of airplane terrorism and we’re essentially addressing two of the key issues in the world today.”

“But the fact remains that this is still another action blockbuster. The hero catches the villain, saves the world. I’ve done a variation of the same movie so many times; it’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day,” Erik barked back, fist clenching on his thigh.

Charles leaned forward, looking at Erik pointedly before addressing the screenwriters, “I understand Erik has some reservations, but I personally think you two did a spectacular job on the script and cannot wait to be a part of the project. I’ll just step out with Raven for a moment to discuss some scheduling concerns and will be back with you shortly to sign the papers.”

Shaw walked over to shake Xavier’s hand, “Thank you, Charles. I believe we have taken up enough of Cassidy and Summers’ time. Let’s adjourn the meeting.”

“Erik, sit,” Shaw commanded as Erik made as if to rise from his seat, and Erik had to bite back a snarl, the vein on his temple throbbing. Charles took a backward glance as he left the room, eyes resting on Erik’s meaningfully. Shaw waited until everyone including Emma had left before proceeding. “The director specifically asked for you. I expect you'll reconsider.”

“We've had this conversation.” Erik replied, staring him down.

“I don't ask for favors, Erik. I express my expectations. So let me say it again, I expect you'll reconsider.” Shaw stalked over, his jaw clenching.

“The only thing I'll reconsider is walking out that door.”


* * * * *

“Erik!” Charles called out as he shifted from his position against the facade of the studio, his face slightly flushed from standing under the midday sun.

He paused and turned. “Are you stalking me?”

“Heavens, no, of course not,” Charles replied too quickly, earning a quirked eyebrow.

“Okay, fine, yes. The valet told me your car was parked here. I think we got off on the wrong foot and I would never forgive myself if-- it’s just… Erik, could I have a word, please? Everyone deserves a second take once in a while, yes?” Charles babbled as he strode over and placed his hand on the crook of Erik’s arm, pulling him aside.

Truly, not only was Charles Xavier a complete idiot, but he also had no sense of personal space whatsoever.

Which of course meant that he ended up being pressed against the fire escape by a stupid British import with annoying floppy hair who he most definitely was not beginning to find extremely endearing.

“They’re right, you know,” Charles began, eyes searching his face, “about the potential for box office success. Your fans and mine are from two completely different target audiences, just our core fanbases alone would easily bring in $80 million on the opening week.”

“Are you just going to repeat whatever Shaw said? I don’t give a damn about that money-grabbing--“

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry.” Charles raised his hands in surrender before resting them on Erik’s jacket lapels, and seriously, didn’t his mother ever teach him about personal space? “I was telling the truth earlier, about being a big fan of your work. I took this film for the chance to perform with you, you know?”

Erik snorted, incredulous. “Go on, pull the other one, it has bells on.”

“Wait, you don’t know.” Charles’ eyes widened, the sunlight causing his pupils to shrink to the size pinpricks, and Erik was sucked into the vortex of his cornflower blue irises so quickly that it almost felt like he was drowning. “You don’t believe just how gifted you are, how much potential you have. You are incredibly good, Erik Lehnsherr.”

Erik had had countless fans walk up to him on the street or at events, singing his praises and declaring their undying love, but no one had ever made him feel the way that Charles Xavier did in that moment, like he was better than whatever the critics made him up to be, like he was almost invincible.

It was ridiculous, how much he wanted to believe Charles, who was looking at him pleadingly. “I can’t make you stay, Erik. But I do sincerely hope that you will take a leap of faith with me. We could take on the world together, you and I.”

“CHARLES--!” A female voice shrieked from the direction of the entrance.

“Dear God, it’s Raven.” Charles pushed away, and when did he end up placing his palm over one of Charles’ hands?

“I’m here, over here. Be there in a moment.” He smiled apologetically before heading away, leaving Erik dumbstruck and reeling from the whiplash of the sudden loss of the warmth of Charles’ touch and the scent of his cologne.


* * * * *

“Erik, I was just looking for you.” Emma hurried up to him and kept pace by his side, phone in hand. “So I take it this is a no-go. I heard Matthew Vaughn is shopping around a script about superheroes with--"

“I’m not wearing spandex,” Erik cut her off, adding,”Tell Shaw I’ll take the job.”

“Really?” she replied, momentarily shocked. “Okay, I’ll go get the papers.” Emma rushed off with a toss of her hair, sensible heels clicking against the marble tiles.

“Erik!” Charles called out as he came down the hallway from the same direction, Raven in tow.

Charles quickened his pace, only slowing to a halt when he had reached Erik’s side, warm breath escaping in short puffs from his lips. “We were just about to leave, I’m so glad I managed to catch you before we had to set off for our prior obligations.”

Erik nodded, a tender expression gracing his countenance. “That’s fine. I’ll see you next week at the screen test.”

Charles broke into a full grin at that, and Erik could not help but smile when he took his hand in his once again. “I look forward to it. This is the beginning of a wonderful partnership, my friend.”

“You’re too optimistic for your own good, Charles. Don’t you know that I’m the most difficult actor alive to work with?” Erik added with a smirk.

Charles laughed, his eyes not once breaking contact with Erik’s, “I never believe anything I read.”

* * * * *


* * * * *


Jean looked around the small office on the Fox lot, nervous about the upcoming screen test. Despite her many years of experience, there was something about this particular casting session that set her off. There wasn’t a need for it, if she were to be honest, but Shaw had insisted that he needed to have a chemistry test between Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier anyway, adding wryly that he wanted to “ensure his investment wasn’t wasted.”

Jean knew better than that, of course. She had worked with him long enough to know that he was always up to something, and this screen test had his handprints all over it. Something definitely was afoot. If she had to guess, he probably wanted to see if there was any indication that Erik and Charles would not work well together, then twist it in his favour somehow. He was good at that.

Brushing her worry aside, Jean made sure the cameras were properly positioned in front of the windows, taking care to ensure that the cords weren’t going to be in anyone’s way. It was helpful, busying herself with all the small details to wash away the dread at what Shaw was up to.

Satisfied that the room looked appropriate for the stupidity of this test, she walked to the door, and opened it to see everyone assembled in the chairs lining the hallway.

“Come in, everyone. Sorry I’m running late,” she announced, quickly taking in all the various expressions around the room from Erik’s bored, chiseled face to the happy smile from Charles to the bemused expression from Shaw. Two blonde women entered first, happily taking seats next to each other on the far end of the table.

“Not as late as someone,” Erik intoned, walking through the door and giving Xavier a pointed look before setting his eyes to Jean and the room.

“Didn’t we agree to drop that, Erik?” Charles asked, before following the other man into the room.

“You did. I didn’t.”

“Now gentlemen, please save it for the camera,” Shaw drawled, looking pleased for a reason that Jean hadn’t managed to figure out, despite years working with him on his projects. Shaw’s eyes quickly wandered over to the women, eyeing them each in a way that made Jean wish for a shower, but they each responded with small smiles at Shaw, and he smirked back before turning his attention once again to Chares and Erik in front of him.

Both men nodded their heads slightly, and stood awkwardly against the wall opposite the camera.

“Is everyone here?” she asked, as soon as the rush into the room had quieted into a pregnant silence.

“Don’t see Singer anywhere,” Shaw replied, noticing that the room was missing the director’s frenetic energy.

“There’s no traffic today,” Erik rejoined. Charles huffed in response but made no other reply to the repeated jab. Quiet giggles came from the two women, and Jean figured that there was some story about traffic from the pitch meeting last week.

Not that it mattered to her what went on before this meeting.

“I’m sure he’ll be here soon, so why doesn’t everyone just take a seat until he arrives. Erik, Charles, do you need anything right now?” Jean asked, mostly to alleviate the awkward tension.

“I’d love some tea, if you have any,” Charles said, eyes bright as he walked toward the casting director.

“Earl Grey?” she asked, moving towards the small buffet.

“Yes, thank you.”

“Just one of those personal touches you’ll have with everyone here at Atom Studios,” she supplied before producing a small cup of tea.

“Thank you, Jean, for that nice little speech, but I don’t think it’ll be necessary.” Shaw shot her a rather displeased look before continuing, “Both Charles and Erik are committed to the project. This test is just to make sure everyone can be on the right page once production starts.”

“Of course, Sebastian,” she replied quietly, hating how little it took for her to back down whenever Shaw got like this.

Trying to fill the time before the director arrived, Jean tried to busy herself with the camera set up, double-checking that everything would work, especially how to crop out the heads of the assembled group. Each of the agents had a coif that could cut into the frame, so she raised the camera a few inches, hoping that would cut out the hair.

Five minutes later, Bryan Singer walked into the room, looking only slightly disconcerted.

“Apologies, everyone. I was on time but got called onto the House set regarding negotiations to bring Jennifer Morrison back for a guest episode.”

“It’s not a problem,” Charles said, looking eager to start, his eyes lit up at the prospect of finally starting the scene. It was one that Jean had picked for the read just to get a sense of how the men would meet each other on screen.

“Only because that was you last week, Charles,” Erik retorted, earning himself a pout, and was she imagining things or did Erik actually look amused?

“If everyone is settled, why don’t we just begin the reading?” Jean asked. She stood by the camera, waiting for some cue.

She was somewhat confused by the curious banter between the two actors, or more specifically, Erik’s bewildering good mood. Lehnsherr’s personality was the talk of all of Hollywood, all the way from his drunken tirade at X17 one night outside of The Roxy after seeing a secret Muse showcase, to the reported nights outside the West Hollywood Gelson’s yelling at the clerk for not having the time to properly bag his groceries. Perhaps the axiom was true: no one was immune to Charles Xavier.

“It seems like we’re all ready, so Charles and Erik, whenever you’re ready, please do start. The camera will be rolling in a minute.”

Moving from the camera to the chair on the other side of Shaw, she carefully watched as the two men, ever the professionals, quickly morphed into the characters she’d been imagining in her head for months now.


* * * * *

Raven had been to a lot of screen tests with Charles, so she was more than used to the entire process. The majority of his screen tests went pleasantly enough, because Charles really was supernaturally likable and he got along swimmingly with most of his other co-stars. So far, no other actor or actress had been able to surpass the onscreen chemistry Charles had with Moira, and even the tabloids were fooled, spawning several articles about them dating off-screen. Only Raven knew the truth about Charles, and she meant to keep it that way.

However, as she watched Erik step up to Charles, their eyes meeting, she was taken aback at the sudden charge of electricity in the air, as though lightning was going to strike at any minute. Erik now somehow looked older, beaten down, his angular shoulders now rounded and hunched as he assumed the character of Michael, the embittered, cynical lone wolf, staring intently at a frozen Charles.


MICHAEL: I don’t know what you heard, James, but I don’t work with partners. I do better on my own.

Now Raven’s eyes trailed over to Charles, whose eyes were bright and searching as they locked with Erik’s. Beside her, Emma murmured, “Oh my, they’re rather good together, aren’t they?”

“Yeah, I’m amazed,” Raven said, not even realising she was holding her breath. A quick glance at Shaw, Jean and Bryan confirmed that they too were leaning on the edge of their seats. She looked back to Erik and Charles, who were currently sizing each other up.

To anyone else, Charles would have looked the same, but Raven could see that his posture was different; he stood straighter, more alert as an FBI investigator would be, his eyes sharp and shrewd. His accent was also a little more flat and Americanised as he spouted his next few lines at Erik:


JAMES: That’s what I heard, Michael. But it wasn’t always like this, was it? No, you haven’t always worked alone. I read your file, and I know about your ex-partner.

At this point, Charles stepped closer to Erik, running his tongue over his bottom lip, and Raven could see Erik’s nostrils flare as his burning gaze raked over Charles. Beside her, Emma let out a soft, appreciative, “meep” as she squirmed in her chair.


MICHAEL: You don’t know what you’re talking about, McAvoy. You’d better leave good and well alone.


JAMES: I don’t leave things alone, Michael, it’s part of my job.

Now Charles was gripping Erik’s arm, but Raven was sharp-eyed enough to spot the way his thumb was rubbing over the pulse point on Erik’s wrist, and she could see Erik’s deep intake of breath, as well as how his gaze was darkening. He tilted his head a little to the left, as though preparing to lean in and kiss Charles, and Charles, that saucy minx, was smiling impertinently, staring at Erik’s mouth and licking his lips again, more slowly and deliberately this time.

“Does it say anywhere that they’re supposed to kiss now?” Emma said beside her, flipping through the script. “Because it sure as hell seems like it.”

“I don’t think so.” Raven just couldn’t take her eyes off the magnetism between the two of them, and she was only reminded that it was a screen test when Bryan started applauding both of them.

“Wow guys, that was great,” he said, as Shaw and Jean slowly started clapping too, open-mouthed. “That was a very emotionally charged scene, and the two of you brought this great energy to it.”

Raven could see that Erik was blinking as though he were coming out of a daze, while Charles seemed a little disappointed as he stepped back. Maybe the two of them had completely forgotten there were other people in the room. “Are we done?” Erik said, his voice a little hoarse. “If not, I need the bathroom for a minute.”

“Sure, go ahead,” Shaw said, smiling a little piggishly. He seemed like a man who had discovered something very precious and was now going to keep it for himself. “We’ll continue when you come back.”

As Erik quickly left the room, Charles was walking over to Raven and Emma, running a hand through his hair and looking flushed, as though he had just run a mile at full tilt. “That went all right, didn’t it?” he asked Raven, his eyes a little too bright and his smile bordering on an outright grin.

“Sure it did,” Emma said. “If it were a porn audition.”

Charles laughed a little too loudly. “Oh Emma, you are such a kidder.” His face brightened when he saw that Erik had slipped back into the room and he went off to corner the man, leaving both Raven and Emma staring incredulously at each other.

“Why am I torn between feeling turned on and terrified?” Raven said in wonder, eliciting a peal of laughter from her fellow agent who was patting her on the arm.

“You aren’t the only one, sugar,” Emma mused as she turned to stare at both Erik and Charles, who were standing together again, much closer than necessary. “I think we may have just discovered the cure for menopause.”

Raven had to clap her hands over her mouth before her loud cackle earned her a glare from Shaw.

* * * * *


Charles knew that a lot of people didn’t take him very seriously. It came with the job, especially when he had made a career out of silly romantic comedies that routinely had plot holes larger than China. He was dolefully aware that his looks also didn’t help; while they made it easy for him to charm little old ladies and convince traffic cops of his innocence, it also meant he had difficulty getting good, meaty roles. Most of all, it made it hard for him to date, because most people thought he was just an extension of the bumbling romantic Englishman he often played on screen. Charles wanted someone who was his equal, who would take him seriously and not expect him to live up to his celluloid equivalents.

And in Erik Lehnsherr, Charles very much sensed that he was dealing with an equal.

He had been just as taken aback as anyone else at the amazing chemistry sparking between them, and after the screen test, he knew for sure that Erik had felt it too, what with the way his eyes had practically devoured Charles whole, making him feel like he was already naked and in Erik’s bed. And it was easy to admit that Erik’s bed was exactly the place he wanted to be. It just wasn’t as easy to figure out how to get there.

Charles threw a nervous sideways glance at Raven walking beside him, chattering about some luncheon she attended with Jerry Bruckheimer. If she knew that Charles was currently plotting a way to get into his co-star’s pants, she would drag him up to the Hollywood sign and kick his ass for the whole of LA to see. So he had to be careful about asking Erik out on another pretence.

“Just give me a second,” he said when there was finally a pause in Raven’s chatter. He quickly ran back to the studio where he almost bumped into Erik and Emma, who were shrugging on their coats as they were leaving.

“Charles.” Erik looked faintly surprised, and it was obvious his lips were trying not to twitch up into a smile. “Forgot something?”

You, he said inwardly. “Er, yes. Erik, could I have a word? Alone?” Charles asked, glancing nervously at Emma, who stared back expectantly at him.

Erik turned to her, tilting his head towards the door. “Go on, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Emma sighed dramatically as she slipped on her pristine white gloves. “Men, you’re all so transparent.” She gave them a disinterested wave as her heels clicked down the corridor, leaving Charles alone with Erik.

“Ah, yes. We’re alone now.” Charles smiled up at Erik, who looked amused as Charles rested a hand on his chest. “That’s good, isn’t it?”

Erik’s mouth lost the battle with the smile, which was finally emerging, making him look softer, more handsome. “What do you want, Xavier?”

“I feel like if I leave things the way they are, you’re never going to stop punishing me for my tardiness last week. Let me buy you dinner and make it up to you.” Charles put on his most persuasive, beseeching look that made even the most hard-hearted directors agree to his script changes. “Are you free right now?”

Erik looked down at the hand on his chest, which Charles had stubbornly refused to remove, and to Charles’ surprise, he could feel Erik’s heartbeat rapidly picking up in pace. “If I do, will you promise to stop stalking me outside studios?”

Charles rewarded him with his most winning smile. “I will promise you whatever you want, Erik.” He shifted his hand a little on that warm, firm chest, and he could hear Erik’s soft intake of breath.

“Fine, lead the way.”

Raven was still waiting near the entrance, although her eyebrows shot up when she saw Erik trailing behind Charles. “We’re all going for dinner together,” he informed her. “With Erik.”

Raven’s mouth broadened in a huge grin. “Why am I not surprised?”

Charles eyed her evenly as he held up his car keys. “Just for that, I’m not going to let you drive. Erik, would you mind sitting in the back?”

Erik, who had been watching all of this with a certain wry amusement, simply shrugged. “I’m fine as long as you don’t chuck me in the trunk.”


Notes:
1. The title of this chapter is a quote from 'Jerry Maguire'.
2. Bryan Singer owns Bat Hat Harry Productions, which produces 'House, M.D.'

Chapter Text

It wasn’t that Charles was a bad driver. He drove perfectly fine whenever he was in the UK. American roads, however, were an entirely different ballgame that endlessly gave him problems. Then again, who wouldn’t have problems driving on the wrong side of the road? It was madness, that’s what it was, and it wasn’t his fault. Determined to get them to the restaurant in one piece (and hopefully, impress the pants off Erik), Charles turned on the engine and started pulling out of the parking spot near the office, heading towards the exit on Pico.

As the car finally approached the exit gate, it suddenly lurched forward, nearly hitting a pedestrian on the busy street.

“Bloody hell!” Charles yelled, giving the frazzled pedestrian a pointed glare. Really, shouldn’t people watch where they were going?

“Oh? What’s that, someone has a temper?” Erik’s dry, amused voice floated from the backseat.

“More like, Charles has an aversion to American driving,” Raven said. “Prepare for an interesting ride, Erik.”

“Raven, I am not that bad,” Charles said with an exasperated huff.

“You like driving on the left side, I think that says it all.”

A quick glance at the rear view mirror showed Erik’s brow was furrowed in nervousness. “My friend, you have nothing to worry about,” Charles reassured him. “I haven’t had an accident in nearly six months.”

“He’s inexplicably proud of something that’s supposed to be normal,” Raven deadpanned, double checking her seatbelt just in case.

“How about a change of subject?” Erik suggested, sounding calm as ever, but the way Charles could feel his knee knocking repeatedly against the back of his seat betrayed his nerves.

“Delightful,” Charles replied, eyes narrowing as he slowly navigated the evening traffic. “Since I’m busy here, Erik, the choice is yours.”

Erik shifted in the backseat, deep in thought. “I’m stumped,” he admitted, looking to Raven for help.

Raven brightened up as she twisted in her seat to face Erik. “Have you seen that video of Charles in that deleted scene from The Blind Date, Erik?”

“Raven, please,” Charles chided her, feeling his face heat up in embarrassment. Here he was, trying to watch the road in front of him at all costs - not that it mattered much, the traffic was horrendous – and Raven was trying to ensure his mortification. “Erik does not need to see that.”

However, judging from the bright gleam in Erik’s eye, it seemed to be too late. “Oh, I very much think I do, Charles.”

“Then let me fix that right now,” Raven added before tapping the screen on her phone. “Here, have a look,” she said, passing her phone over to Erik’s waiting hand.

Charles let out a pitiful, long-suffering sigh as Erik started guffawing over the scene he was watching. That scene, then. Charles was already more than familiar with the deleted clip from The Blind Date that had him dancing and shimmying to a Bob Seger song in nothing but his boxers. The last time he had dared to check, that video (uploaded by someone with the nick ‘Mystique88’) had already garnered more than 800,000 hits on Youtube.

“Okay Erik, that’s enough.” Charles wanted to hit his head on the steering wheel repeatedly.

“Oh, I don’t think so.” Erik was boneless with laughter, hitting the ‘Replay’ button with far more glee than Charles felt comfortable with. “It’s like watching a pale, skinny, dancing…swan.”

“I know, right?” Raven was in fits, and Charles found himself wishing his car came equipped with a giant red ‘EJECT’ button he had seen in Looney Tunes cartoons.

“Okay Erik, I really think that’s enough,” Charles said when he saw Erik sinking into the backseat, face red with laughter. “And thank you, Raven, for that distraction. I’m sure Erik doesn’t want to be haunted by the image of me dancing in my boxers.”

Now Erik was smirking at him. “You seem awfully sure to presume to know what I want and don’t want.”

Raven must have taken pity on Charles, because she was finally retrieving her phone from Erik again. “Well, I just think it’s funny to let Erik see this side of you, Charles. Don’t you agree, Erik?”

“Very much so,” Erik gave him a languid smile in the rear view mirror that made something hiccup in Charles’ chest.

“Well, I’ll be glad to tell you that I’m not exactly the golden boy that everyone in Hollywood wants me to be,” Charles muttered, making a left turn.

“It takes tequila to see that side of him,” Raven added, ignoring his sideways glare.

“Again, thank you, Raven. Erik doesn’t need to know all of my horrible qualities.”

“Actually, I like knowing they exist,” Erik said, running a lazy hand through his hair. The handsome bastard. “I’m feeling at a distinct disadvantage right now.”

“That’s what the meal is for, Erik,” Charles said with a grin, before looking at the stop and go traffic along Santa Monica Boulevard. “It looks like we’ll be there in twenty, maybe twenty-five, if all these blasted cars would get off the street.”

“Is that all it’s for?” Raven asked, giving Charles a very pointed look which he was more than happy to ignore as he switched on the car’s stereo as a distraction, relieved as the strains of ‘I Can’t Decide’ by the Scissor Sisters started booming through the speakers.

“Not the band I’d expect from you either, Charles.” Erik seemed agreeable though, nodding along much to Charles’ surprise. He had previously pegged Erik as a hard, angry man who listened to hard, angry rock.

“Well, what can I say?” Charles shrugged. “I like to surprise everyone.”

“They put on a great show, by the way,” Erik said, and now even Raven seemed surprised. “You should try to see them next time they’re here. Better than a drag show, if you ask me.”

“I haven’t managed to catch them recently, but I will. I’m intrigued by anything the band does,” Charles admitted, making a mental note to get tickets the next time they were touring.

Raven turned around to face Erik again “Please don’t get him started on anything Scissor Sisters, Erik. It’ll take all of dinner. He loves them and wanted to have sex with half the band after the show in London two years ago.”

“Raven!” Charles exclaimed.

“What, it’s true! I’m just telling Erik about the man he’s going to be spending the next few months working with.”

“Something tells me the next few months are going to be very interesting,” Erik drawled, and when Charles caught his eye in the rear view mirror again, he was mouthing along to the words of the song, smiling broadly as he did so.

* * * * *

Bossa Nova wasn’t exactly one of Erik’s favourite restaurants, but he had a feeling that was all about to change. He himself usually preferred Italian food (you could take the boy out of Europe, but never Europe out of the boy) but Charles goddamn Xavier had looked at Erik with those pleading blue eyes and said, “Are you in the mood for Brazilian food, Erik?” and Erik had shamelessly said yes, yes he was, and Raven had given him a sharp look that implied Erik would have said yes even if Charles had suggested dining on Sichuan-style stir-fried gator.

Erik told himself that he was just being friendly, that was all. He had to work with this man for at least the next few months, and he meant to make those months as pleasant as he could.

“Come on, Erik.” Now Charles was walking beside him as they made their way to the entrance, close enough that their shoulders bumped. “I’m starving, are you?”

“Exceedingly hungry,” Erik answered honestly, although he didn’t specify exactly what he was hungry for.

There was a long line of people snaking outside the restaurant, and their chatter quickly fell to an awed hush as Erik and Charles walked by. “Is that who I think--" Erik heard one woman exclaim while her friend made a noise that sounded like a cat whose tail just got stepped on. Charles seemingly took this attention all in his stride, as did Erik. It happened too often for them to get affected by it.

The maitre d’ was standing at the counter with a bored look, but his eyes widened comically when he spotted the three of them coming in. “Right this way, sirs and madam,” he said without even checking to see if they had reservations, and Erik found himself glaring at a waiter who was not at all shy about giving Charles an appreciative once-over.

They were seated at a quiet, semi-private table that was tucked away at the back, at least to shield them from the majority of the gawking diners in the restaurant. Charles was oblivious to the murmurs and stares their presence was causing, happily studying the menu while Raven fixed her hair in the reflection of her iPhone. Resigning himself to a rather bizarre dinner, Erik took up the menu as well, his eyes automatically skimming over anything that was heavy on the carbs.

“I think I’ll order the lamb skewers,” Charles announced after a while, rubbing his hands in expectation. “I heard it’s the restaurant’s specialty.”

“Charles, you’re supposed to be on a diet.” Raven’s tired, dull tone suggested that this was a fruitless conversation that the two of them were used to having.

“Raven, please.” Charles shot her an admonishing look. “We’re taking Erik out tonight for a good time, the last thing I want is to watch my waistline.”

“You don’t look like you have to,” Erik said without really thinking, and it only dawned on him what he had blurted out when he saw Charles beaming at him as though he had invented the cure for cancer. “Er, I mean, you look like you work out.” Wow Lehnsherr, that was even worse. Now it’s blatantly obvious you’ve been checking your allegedly straight co-star out. A mortified Erik hid behind his menu, refusing to emerge until the waiter finally came to rescue him.

“Good evening,” he heard Charles say pleasantly, already turning the charm offensive on their hapless server. “Raven, what would you like?”

“The warm spinach salad, and a screw driver.” Raven sounded bored. And a little irritated, although Erik couldn’t quite figure out why.

“Splendid. I myself shall have the wild mushroom soup and the lamb skewers. For drinks, I’ll have a glass of pinot noir,” Charles said. Now, Erik could feel Charles’s warm hand covering his. “Erik, what would you like to have?”

You. Erik was thankful that years of acting classes had trained his facial expressions and saved him from blurting out nonsense. “I’ll have the seabass fillet and a dirty martini to drink,” he said as he subtly slid out his hand from under Charles’, and maybe it was his imagination, but he thought he saw Charles’ eyebrows knit together in a brief, passing frown. Now his brow had smoothed out again, and Erik dismissed the thought.

“Excellent choices,” the waiter said before retreating, and now Erik took the valid opportunity to examine his fingernails very, very closely.

“So Erik.” Now those ridiculously blue eyes were fixed on him again. “What are you looking forward to most about the role?”

“Um.” Erik frowned down at the table cloth. Don’t look at his mouth. Don’t look at his mouth. “It’s the most cerebral thriller I’ve done, if anything else. Sean and Alex did a great job with the script.”

“Ah, yes, the script. It’s good, isn’t it?” Now Charles was propping his chin up with the heel of his hand, leaning in a little closer to Erik.

“One of the best I’ve read,” Erik admitted, ignoring the surprised looks on Raven’s and Charles’ faces. “What? I’m allowed to like things, right?”

Raven scrunched up her nose. “Eh, you somewhat have a reputation.”

Erik’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh? What for?” He was aware that his voice had dipped to that low, politely menacing tone that he employed for interrogating onscreen baddies.

Now Raven’s eyes darted away, but Charles didn’t seem the least bit flustered. “Like I told you, Erik, I never believe what I read.” And now that warm smile was growing on his face again, and it was only Raven’s polite cough that made Erik realise he was leaning in a little too close. He quickly sat back in his chair, looking everywhere but at Charles.

Thankfully the food didn’t take that long to arrive, and Erik could have smooched the waiter for providing such a divergence. He tucked heartily into his sea bass, letting Raven and Charles discuss an upcoming meeting with some other producer for a future project. He only looked up when he heard his name called, noticing that Raven was staring at him with a cocked eyebrow while Charles looked rather intrigued.

“Is it true, Erik?”

“What’s true?” Erik asked, and oh dear God in sweet heaven, was Charles deliberately wrapping those red lips around one of his lamb skewers, cheeks hollowed in a way that made Erik’s legs spread open slightly of their own accord?

“The time you got completely shitfaced after that secret Muse gig,” Raven said, and Erik noticed that she was smiling for the first time that evening. “Is it true that you threw up on some pap’s shoes?”

As Charles chuckled a little in disbelief, Erik waved a flippant hand at Raven. “All right, so maybe that night, too much tequila was drunk and shoes were thrown up on.” Erik paused for dramatic effect as Charles and Raven now dissolved in laughter. “And that may have something to do with why TMZ now always uses the most unflattering pictures of me whenever possible.”

Charles was grinning at him in delight, while Raven’s irritation seemed to have dissipated for now. “That explains so much, my friend,” Charles said in wonder.

“Just don’t ever try to drink Matt Bellamy under the table,” Erik said with a sigh. “He is a scoundrel and a lush. And I mean that in the most affectionate sense, of course.”

Charles just shot him a sly, teasing grin while Raven rolled her eyes dramatically. “Yes, Erik, because you have a reputation for being affectionate.” There was a glint of amusement in Charles’ eyes.

Erik leaned in, watching as that mouth wrapped around another lamb skewer. “I can be very affectionate if the need arises,” he said, and now the tone he used was the one when he used to seduce his leading ladies.

“Mmm.” Charles only allowed his lips to nuzzle the skewer, and Erik could only watch, not even bothering to look at Raven when she muttered, “Oh sweet Jesus” under her breath.

“You like the lamb, Charles?” Erik took a long pull of his drink. God, he needed it. What was he even saying anymore?

“Why do you say that, Erik?” Charles seemed to have forgotten that Raven was even there, judging from the way his gaze remained steadfastly fixed on Erik.

“Nothing. You seem to enjoy it a lot, from the noises you’re making.” Erik sipped his martini with a smirk.

“I always make these noises when I put something I like in my mouth,” Charles said, and as Erik drew in a deep breath, Raven held up her hands.

“Okay, you two need to get a room. For real.” She looked properly scandalised, the poor girl. “Want me to call the Beverly Wilshire?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Raven,” Charles said in a very calm voice, but the way his cheeks were tinted pink said otherwise.

“You have a little something over there,” Erik said, touching the side of his own mouth.

“Oh!” Charles exclaimed softly, eyebrows shooting up. Erik watched, transfixed, as he swiped his middle finger over the corner of his lips before curling the tip of his tongue around it and slipping the appendage into his mouth, gaze fixed on his the entire time. Charles let out a soft moan as his eyes rolled to the back of his head, dark lashes fanning over the pale skin of his cheekbones. “This gravy is divine.”

Fucking hell, have mercy, Erik cursed internally for the umpteenth time and knocked back the rest of his drink.

Charles called their waitress over, smiling as though he did not just audition for the lead in ‘Honey, I Blew… Everybody’. “Another dirty martini for my friend, please.”

Erik looked up, wondering what on earth he did to deserve this. “Make that a double.”

* * * * *

The three of them were in high spirits as they left Bossa Nova, heavily content with the food and even more content with the alcohol. Raven giggled as she carefully made her way to the car, tottering ahead in her boots.

“Am I taking you home, my friend?” Charles asked, slurring ever so slightly.

“Only if you can prove to me that you aren’t going to kill me on the way home,” Erik called out as he swept past him.

“Shall I walk in a straight line or move my index finger to my nose?” Charles didn’t wait for a reply before attempting both at the same time, finishing his walk with a ‘ta-dah!’ and bowing to sarcastic applause from Erik.

“You’re adorable for trying, Charles. But you’re really fooling no one.” Erik teased, walking backwards while facing him.

“Really, you two. Just kiss and get it over and done with already, man.” Raven’s voice was loud enough that the passers-by around them could hear her, turning around to glance at Erik and Charles with wide eyes and whispers.

Still, Erik didn’t seem affected by this. “No idea what you’re talking about, Raven,” he said casually, catching up with her as they neared the car. Rolling his eyes, Charles trailed behind, checking his Blackberry and reading a text from Moira, who seemed to have heard the rumours of him working on a new movie with Erik and asking if they were true, and if Charles was going to take out more life insurance.

“Silly Moira,” Charles muttered under his breath, smiling as he texted back a snarky reply, and he was taken aback to hear a strange voice beside him, ’Sorry Charles, what did you say about Moira again?’

“What?” He was stunned to realise that there was a small crowd of paps trailing him, cameras trained on him and his phone, probably attracted by Raven’s earlier outburst. He looked around wildly for Erik and Raven, who seemed to have disappeared. “Go away please, no comment.”

“Charles, come on, what’s the situation with you and Moira?” someone shouted, and there was a bright flash in his eyes, temporarily blinding him and leaving him stunned.

“Oh for god’s sake, people.” Charles turned away from the lens, squinting as he waited for the red imprint of the flash to fade. “Can’t you just give us a nice night out alone?”

To his surprise, someone was grabbing his arm and hauling him forward, and Charles found himself cocooned in the safe circle of Erik’s arms. “Back off,” he heard Erik saying curtly to the paps.

“Erik, we just wanted--”

“I said, back off!” Erik shouted, and the din of the papparazzi died instantly, and Charles tossed them a smug look as he allowed Erik to drag him to the car, bundling him and Raven inside.

Charles was still blinking in the driver’s seat, but soon their car was being surrounded by camera flashes again and he realised they had to get out of there, pronto. “Erik, where are we taking you?” Charles asked, revving the engine.

“Hancock Park, off La Brea,” Erik said, still looking rather miffed.

Raven was shaking her head, suddenly giving the paps the finger. “Damn, you guys can’t even go anywhere without getting splashed on the cover of ‘Us Weekly’.”

“Tell me about it.” The frustration in Erik’s voice was something Charles hadn’t heard since that first pitch meeting. “Let’s just leave. I’m not even going to wonder how the fuck they found us, but that doesn’t matter.”

Charles was holding up a hand to shield his eyes from the camera flashes, but the way Erik had rescued him from the paps earlier made him smile a little, at least. “Erik, if you ever need to get into character and practice shooting some human targets, I’m sure the paps will be glad to help.”

Erik surprised him with a really loud laugh, sinking into the back seat in his mirth, and there was one last camera flash before Charles finally managed to navigate the car out onto the street, avoiding the paps as he did so, smiling like an idiot all the way to Erik’s house.

The drive was quiet, with Raven absently texting on her phone and Charles focusing on the road, occasionally glancing at the rear view mirror and noting that Erik was still slumped down in the backseat.

“Erik,” Charles said, after he’d managed to return to La Brea driving south, but unsure of where to turn next. “A little help here.”

Erik sat up quickly, rubbing his eyes. Maybe all the alcohol he had ingested at dinner was finally starting to do a number on him. “Sorry, umm, make a left at Melrose.”

“Thank you, my friend.”

“I should be thanking you for the ride.”

“I did kidnap you after the meeting, it’s really nothing at all.” Although Charles could only see Erik’s profile now, he could see the corners of Erik’s eyes crinkling, which meant that he was smiling.

As the car finally approached Melrose, Charles looked back once again. “Where to next?”

“Oh, it’s the second left, and then it’s a few houses in.”

The car slowed down as it entered the quiet neighborhood with large homes on either side. “Yours?” Charles asked, pointing at a rather ostentatious house on the right side of the street with a brick trim and a terrace on the second floor.

“Spoils of my first project with Shaw.” Erik said, sounding a little distracted.

“Are you fine to make it in? Need me to come in and drag you up the stairs?” Charles swiftly ducked the clumsy, playful swipe Erik had taken at him.

“Believe me, I’m fine,” Erik declared. “Tonight was nothing compared to some of my other nights.”

“Muse?”

“Exactly, among others. Goodnight, Charles.”

Charles heard the back door open, before realizing that Erik had already left the car.

“See you tomorrow,” Charles called quietly, realizing the neighbors didn’t want to hear any yelling at 11 P.M.

The door shut just as quickly as it had opened, and Charles shifted his attention to Raven, who was rolling her eyes.

“Oh Charles…”

“What?”

She shook her head. “Nothing, just don’t make me your beard next time.”

“You have an overactive imagination, my dear.” Charles raised a lofty eyebrow at her, but apparently, from her exasperated sigh, she wasn’t buying whatever he was selling.

“Yeah, yeah. Anyway, you know where I live.” She rubbed his elbow, apparently willing to drop the subject, for now, which meant that she could only be after something. “Take me home, please.”

Charles simply smiled during the ride back to Raven’s apartment before heading back to his own Bel Air home for the night.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Raven strolled through the set for the FBI office, watching the crew members hurry about making final adjustments to the positions of the desks and lighting fixtures, labeling the marks on the floor that Charles and Erik had to hit later. Being on the set was the favorite part of her job. She loved how it was possible to alter the perception of reality in filmmaking, have the audience believe only what you wanted them to believe. Even the slightest fluctuations in the lighting could completely change the atmosphere of a moment; the same scene played out in a darkening room could come across vastly altered in the quiet embrace of the morning sun. Things could take on a whole new meaning, seen under a different light. She wondered how it must be like for Charles, playing those numerous roles over the years, shifting from character to character, and whether taking on so many different guises had any effect on the person that lay beneath.

“Oh! Hey, careful.” She heard someone startle as a camera narrowly missed making contact with her face.

“Hi, sorry about that.” She apologized as she stepped away, holding out her hand. “I’m Raven, Charles Xavier’s agent.”

The young man before her put his camera down, and Raven found herself staring into shy blue eyes that could almost rival Charles’ as she shook his hand. “I’m Hank. Hank McCoy. I’m one of the camera operators on the set.”

“Nice to meet you, Hank.” She smiled, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.

Hank stared for a long moment before blinking himself back to reality and adjusting the equipment on his shoulder. “Sorry, I don’t intend to be forward, but aren’t you too beautiful to be working behind the cameras?”

Raven’s laughter echoed off the low ceiling, her cheeks blushing slightly as she replied, “And I’m sorry that you weren’t.”

“I’ll see you around, Hank McCoy.” She spun on her heels and walked away, spotlights haloing around her flaxen hair, like a dream playing out on a silver screen.

* * * * *

“Good morning, Chief Platt. Quantico flew me out as soon as you placed the call.” Charles entered the office and shook his hand before seating across from him at his long metal desk placed against the full glass windows that overlooked the grounds of the compound.

“Thank you for joining the team on such short notice. We could really do with a fresh pair of eyes, heaven knows we’ve been running round in circles. It’s a media circus out there. They’ve taken to calling him the ‘First Class Killer’.” Burt sighed as he rubbed his temples, the months of dealing with the case taking its toll.

Charles nodded in understanding, face wrinkled in concentration. “Don’t worry about the reporters; I’ll handle the press releases from now on.”

There was a knock on the door and Charles spun round on his chair to face the entrance, eyebrows quirking up. “Chief, you wanted to see me?”

“Yes, Michael, come in. I would like to introduce you to Special Agent James McAvoy from the BAU. He will be your new partner on the case.”

Charles got on his feet and began making his way over. “Special Agent Fassbender, it is--"

“I told you I don’t want any help.” Erik interrupted, directing his pent-up frustrations at Burt. “This case has become personal. I thought you understood.”

“The Deputy Director is breathing down my neck. This is now an issue of national security and I’m not going to let you turn this into some personal vendetta when there are hundreds of lives at stake. The killer’s murdered 6 people so far, who’s to say he won’t take out the pilot the next time, crash the plane?”

“There won’t be a next time. Every minute I spend here arguing with you is a minute not spent out there tracking him down, so if you’ll excuse me, I have more important things to do.”

“Special Agent McAvoy is highly decorated and one of the best minds at the BAU. Good luck catching this killer without his help!” Burt barked after him as Erik stormed out of the room.

The Chief rubbed his hands across his face, trying to ease away some of the tension. “I apologize. He has been on edge lately, ever since his partner got murdered.”

“It’s all right, I understand. I’ll go talk to him.” Charles touched his arm reassuringly before chasing Erik down the hallway.

* * * * *

Erik found himself waiting outside Charles’ dressing room once he had changed back into his own clothes, idly smoothing down the front of his dress shirt. He had had an epiphany last night, somewhere between cursing Charles’ very existence and jerking off to images of his obscenely red lips wrapped around certain phallic-looking food items. Charles Xavier was a cruel, pitiless, evil fiend bent on quietly driving him mad, and he would be damned if he let him get his way. Though none of that really explained why he was standing here mooning over him outside his door.

"Why, hello there," Charles greeted when he caught sight of him, expression soft and fond, a smile playing over his lips.

Oh, fuck it. “Hello, Charles.” Erik replied, a touch of deviousness behind his grin.

“If you’re not in too much of a hurry, I ordered lunch. Do you fondue?” Charles stepped closer, tilting his head to the side.

Erik shrugged. “Sure, is Raven joining us?”

“She’s not. I asked but she said, and I quote, ‘No, I would not like to have a mid-afternoon fondue with you and Erik.’ That girl can be quite puzzling sometimes. So I guess it’s just me and you.” Charles nudged him with his shoulder playfully, grinning.

He let out a soft chuckle. “That’s fine by me.”

“Excellent. Come with me then.” Charles said as he pressed his palm right between Erik's shoulder blades and pushed him forward gently, a thumb tracing circles across the expanse of muscle. That same errant hand slid down Erik’s back as Charles hurried ahead to hold the lift, and Erik could feel heat pooling in the base of his spine.

"Where are we going?" he asked as he stepped in behind Charles, leaning in close enough to smell of the scent of shampoo in his hair. Bergamot, probably.

Charles tilted his head up to meet his eyes, smiling coyly. "To the roof, I asked them to deliver it there."

The roof terrace turned out to be stunningly beautiful. Hardwood walkways lined with smooth, round stones led to a lounge set beneath an ivy-covered steel trellis, the space decorated by manicured shrubs and potted palms. The elevation offered them spectacular views of the Santa Monica Mountains rolling in the distance, keeping downtown LA in their eternal embrace. The mountain range reminded Erik of Germany, of summers spent hiking through the Bavarian Alps. It was the first time he had thought of home in a while.

“So let’s start with the cheese, yes?” Charles asked as he started fiddling with the knobs. “Oh bugger, how hot is this thing supposed to be? They didn’t leave us any instructions.”

“You’ve never had one of these on your own, have you? Never seen the cheese still solid, I presume?” Erik teased as he got up from his seat across the table.

“Am I being that obvious?”

Erik smiled, shaking his head. “Here, let me.”

Charles scooted over as Erik sat down beside him, sliding back in as the cushions sank, a warm weight pressed against his side. Erik unbuttoned the cuffs of his sleeves and rolled them up, clearing his throat as Charles slipped his arm around his back, praying his voice would remain steady. “Firstly, Charles, we have to melt the cheese at medium heat while stirring, but make sure the wine doesn’t all evaporate. Then lower the temperature to keep warm...”

* * * * *

Charles eyed the pot as Erik stirred it in a figure-eight direction, the aroma of the emnenthal and gruyere cheeses filling his senses, notes of kirsch and nutmeg brought out by the wine. He brought a hand to Erik’s knee, massaging a knot of muscle as he asked, “Is it ready? Can I try some?”

Erik skewered a cube of Italian bread and dipped it into the bubbling cheese, rolling the skewer between his fingers to coat the bread evenly. He blew on it lightly before leaning over and placing it in Charles’ mouth. “Careful, it’s hot.”

Charles chewed, the sharp tangy flavor of the warm cheese filling his taste buds before he swallowed. “Oh Erik, this is incredible.”

“Really, Charles, it’s just fondue, all I did was melt the cheese. But I had to quickly learn how to prepare a feast from the barest of ingredients, once upon a time.”

“Back when you were a struggling actor? Why did you go into acting, anyway?” Charles perked up in his seat, eager to hear the tale.

Erik nodded. “Yes, I used to work as a bartender at some of the clubs in WeHo to pay the bills.”

Charles’ eyes grew comically large at that. “Wait, really? I believe I have found my Anam Cara. Raven keeps threatening to send me for AA, she’s no fun at all. My weakness for the bottle is the reason I have a yoga membership, actually. You have to make me a drink sometime.”

“For you, of course.” Erik smirked as he continued. “And as for why, I didn’t come from much. My parents had to struggle to make ends meet, but they always gave me everything I needed. I made up my mind early on that someday I’d make sure they no longer had to live that way, surrounded by pig farmers and tailors.” Erik paused, a faraway look in his eyes.

Something inside Charles sank at that. The more time he spent with him, the more he was convinced that Erik Lehnsherr was a beautiful, beautiful man and, even though he was not one to bear a blind grudge against society, he truly abhorred how much the media had tried to twist the way the world saw Erik, to make him out into the villain he was not. And oh how he wanted to make them see him through his eyes.

Charles reached out and took Erik’s hand in his and Erik blinked slowly as he turned his attention back to him, smiling forlornly as he shrugged. “And what better way to make obscene amounts of money than to be an actor, right?”

Charles squeezed his hand gently, tracing his thumb across his knuckles. “And where do they live now?”

Erik chortled at that, startling him a little. “In a mansion on the outskirts of Munich, tended to by a small army of domestic helpers.”

Charles could not help but laugh along, the weight lifting as quickly as it had descended.

“And what about you? You’re a powerful performer, Charles. Why did you waste your gift on romantic comedies?” Erik asked, clapping Charles’ knee with his free hand a couple of times before resting it there.

Charles smiled. “Oh that’s simple. All I wanted was to make everyone happy.”

* * * * *

He lounged back on the couch as Charles gleefully dipped strawberries into dark chocolate, though at the rate he was going, he might as well just lick the chocolate off the pot and call it a day.

The wind was picking up, and Charles was struggling to keep his hair out of his eyes as he slid over with the strawberries, resting the plate on his lap as he bit into one while popping another into Erik’s mouth. And okay, fine. Triple-dipped strawberries tasted better than single-dipped ones.

“It’s nice to know that you can at least prepare desserts on your own.” Erik pestered as he reached for another.

“I beg your pardon. The beef cubes weren’t that bad. I like them a little charred on the sides.” Charles replied with mock indignation.

Erik laughed, and it surprised him a little, how natural it felt to bask in the presence of Charles Xavier, with his easy smiles and unbridled affection, and how willing he was to simply share everything with this man, like he could talk to him for days and still not tire of the sound of his voice. He wondered where Charles had been all his life.

A soft breeze mussed up Charles’ hair, and Erik tucked the stray locks of his fringe behind his ear, hair slipping through his moving fingertips like sand in an hourglass. Erik only noticed his traitorous hand when it was too late, but Charles smiled that lovely smile of his, lips stained an even deeper shade of red by the strawberries, and Erik decided the hand could live. His fingertips lingered on the side of Charles’ head, unwilling to break contact, thumb tracing over his brow as his lips moved to speak. “I think we’d better head down soon.”

* * * * *

Charles sat on top of Erik’s desk, surrounded by an organized mess of papers strewn across the surface and empty takeout boxes pushed to the corner, poring over the files as Erik went through the details of the case, the clock on the wall reading a quarter after two in the morning.

“The first victim was Stephen Miles, an architecture professor at Columbia. That was followed by Maurice and Robert Fischer of the Australian energy conglomerate Fischer Morrow three weeks later. The fourth killing happened ten days later, a drug dealer that went by the street name ‘Yusuf’. The latest victim was a month after that. Mr. Saito, CEO of Proclus Global.”

“And your partner.” Charles added, looking up from the papers in his hands.

“Yes, and my partner.” Erik met his gaze evenly. “But we don’t need him in our victimology. The unsub must have found out about him being on the plane and took him out, together with Saito.”

Erik paused before continuing, “As you can see, the victims come from all walks of life. It could be possible that he picks them at random.”

Charles shook his head resolutely, “No, everything happens for a reason.”

He put the files down and took a gulp of his coffee that had long since gone cold. “The unsub is highly organized and patient. He kills with cyanide, slips it into their drink without anyone onboard noticing. And the flights the victims were on took off from different cities all over the world. It appears that he knows the schedules of his victims and kills them en route to or from their business trips. Miles was on his way to a conference in France, the Fischers were on a flight out to Australia for a Board of Directors meeting, Yusuf was returning from Mexico presumably there to check on his suppliers, and Saito was flying in from Japan to kick off a project with Cobol Engineering. If we can figure out how he is getting this information, we will be able to track him down.”

Charles watched as something loosened in Erik’s demeanor, like all the pain and anger that he was clinging on to with every fiber of his being in order to keep afloat in the darkness was slowly starting to slip away, now that he had given him a small ounce of hope.

He placed his palm to Erik’s cheek, warm and comforting, his thumb massaging at the lines etched around his eyes. He spoke, his forehead almost close enough to touch, barely above a whisper, “It wasn’t your fault.”

“I should have been on that plane.”

* * * * *

Erik stood from his seat as Charles entered the lobby looking freshly showered, a flush spread across his cheeks and neck. "I noticed that Raven left."

"Yes, I guess shooting ran a little late today." Charles made his way over to him, smiling.

Well, then. Surely he could not in good conscience let him drive himself home. If he could figure out a way to have Charles' international driver's license revoked, he would. That car of his was a deathtrap in his hands and it was nothing short of a miracle that he had managed to survive until this moment without dying in a freeway five-car pile-up. Really, this is what friends do, he reassured himself.

Erik brought his palm up, beckoning as he made his way to the exit. "Come on, I'll drive you home."

Charles beamed at him like the morning sun and wrapped an arm softly around his waist. “Thank you, my friend.”

And later, Erik would repeat that thought in his head like a mantra, with Charles safely tucked under his arm while they walked to the car, warm and pliant at his side, as he brushed his dark shower-damp hair back each time it fell across his eyes.


Notes:
1. The title of this chapter is a quote from 'Moulin Rouge!'.
2. Charles dances to 'Old Time Rock and Roll' in the deleted scene like Tom Cruise in 'Risky Business'.
3. They had dinner at the Hollywood branch of Bossa Nova.
4. Original paparazzi photos.
5. Oliver Platt played the Man in Black Suit in 'X-Men: First Class'.
6. “Do you fondue?” is a reference to Captain America.
7. Charles says that Erik is an excellent cook in 'Excalibur'.
8. Your Anam Cara is the friend of your soul.
9. Our poor murder victims are all from 'Inception'.

Chapter Text

The previous time Charles had seen Moira was at the premiere of her last movie, ‘Somebody Like You’. After that she had flown to London to start shooting a new movie, and they had not had the chance to catch up since then. So it was a very pleasant surprise when he ran into her just outside the studio lot, and she looked so chic and polished as always in a beige trenchcoat. “Moira!”

Her face lit up with the sunniest smile. “Charles!” They embraced each other fondly, and Charles gave her an extra tight squeeze as she laughed breathlessly. “Careful there, tiger. Anyway, what are you doing here?” she asked, tucking her hair back behind her ear. It was much longer now, way past her shoulders. The last time he had seen her, she had been wearing a short bob.

“Oh, I’m shooting ‘First Class’,” he said, smiling as her hand rose to her mouth in horror. “Yes, that movie you were asking me about, with Erik Lehnsherr.”

“I don’t know why you agreed to work with him,” Moira said in wonder, a hand resting on Charles’ arm in concern. “I mean, I heard that he’s so difficult. And such a diva.”

“Erik?” Charles wanted to laugh, thinking of his gruff but ultimately soft hearted co-star. “No, not at all. He’s a giant kitty cat.”

The way Moira’s eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets was comical. “Erik? Erik Lehnsherr? Are we talking about the same person?”

Charles was amused. “Yes, he is extremely charming.” He thought about the other night when they had been accosted by the paps outside the restaurant, and how fiercely protective Erik had been of him. “He is a really sweet chap.”

Moira wrinkled her nose in doubt. “Have you suffered a blow to the head recently?”

Charles laughed, leaning in for yet another hug. “Moira dear, your concern is very touching, but trust me, Erik is a wonderful man and a fantastic actor. Anyway, shall we catch up over lunch?”

He could feel the exact moment she stiffened in his arms, and when he drew away he noticed her staring over his shoulder with a strained smile. A familiar whiff of cologne tickled his nostrils and he immediately spun around to see Erik approaching them, his eyes narrowed a little at Moira.

But when Erik turned to look at Charles, his entire expression, well, opened up - for lack of a better word – and his features seemed to soften, that wide mouth tugging up into a smile, and for a second Charles forgot where he was and who he was with, right until Erik was standing right in front of them and said, “Hello, Charles.”

“Erik, I’m sure you know Moira.” Charles held his breath as the two of them warily shook hands. Realising he still had his arm wrapped around Moira’s waist, Charles quickly withdrew it, and Erik’s shoulders seemed to relax.

“We’ve met before,” Moira said with a tight smile, shooting Charles a pleading let’s-get-out-of-here look. “Anyway, you were saying about lunch, Charles?”

“Ah, yes.” Charles was determined to make his old friend see for herself that Erik Lehnsherr was actually a wonderful man. “Erik, why don’t you join us?”

Moira’s eyebrows jumped up, while Erik shot her a wary glance. “Uh, I don’t know, Charles--“

“Please, Erik?” Charles really shouldn’t be proud of the fact that Erik seemed to crumble every time Charles tried that soft, pleading tone with him, but it really did work every time, and now was no exception as Erik nodded reluctantly.

“Fantastic.” Charles rubbed his hands together in glee, eager for Erik to get to know Moira better. “Shall I drive?”

To his surprise, both Moira and Erik shuddered at the exact same time. “It’s okay, Charles, I’ll take us there,” Erik said with a wink. “I don’t want a few years shaved off my life.”

Moira, despite herself, was smiling at him. “I know, right? He thinks the roads of LA are like a Formula One circuit.”

As they walked off together towards the parking lot, bitching about Charles’ driving skills, Charles couldn’t help but be glad that his driving was good for something.

* * * * *

Charles didn’t really like lunching at The Ivy, which to him was an establishment that embodied all the pretentious flash and false glamour of Hollywood, an epitome of how fake L.A. seemed sometimes. But Moira loved the food there, and Erik didn’t seem to mind, so they had ended up heading there for lunch. They got a good table in the outdoor terrace, Charles sitting next to Moira while Erik sat opposite them, clearly unhappy with the constant camera flashes of the paparazzi outside the restaurant. Charles could see fans discreetly trying to snap their own pictures with their mobile cameras, and he offered them a quick grin before concentrating on the menu.

Once they ordered, Moira took a sip of her iced water before settling back in her chair. “So how do you enjoy working with each other?” she asked, giving Charles a secretive little smile.

He had to give it to her. It was quite a subtle way of finding out whether Erik's ill reputation was deserved. “Erik is one of the best actors I have ever worked with,” he declared, enjoying the look of pleasant surprise on Erik’s face. “Really professional, really talented. And you know I don’t say that about just anyone, Moira.”

“Oh, really?” Moira’s smile was on the edge of playful now. “You said the same thing about me, Charles.”

“Of course, my dear. And I meant every word. The most professional actress I have ever kissed.” To prove it, he leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek, making her chuckle. However, Erik’s mouth was now a straight, grim line, glaring at Moira as though she were a terrorist that Erik’s action hero character was supposed to dispose of.

Moira must have sensed the sudden tension, because her laugh seemed a little uncomfortable. “Well, someone had to be the professional,” she told Erik, whose fists were slowly tightening in the folds of his poor, abused napkin. “Charles kept missing his cue, because it was his first kissing scene, and we had to keep doing so many takes. That was a very tiring day, I can tell you that.”

“I can imagine it must have been a nightmare for you.” Erik’s tone was nothing but polite, but the rigid set of his shoulders and his equally tight smile were hard to miss.

“How about you, Erik?” Charles asked, just to take the focus off Moira. “I imagine you must have had some bad kissing scenes as well.”

Thankfully the drinks arrived, and Charles’ eyes widened as Erik knocked back a sizable swallow of his scotch before raising his hand for a new one. “I’ve had some good ones, had some bad ones,” Erik said, looking down at his almost empty glass. “I preferred the ones where I didn’t have to kiss anyone at all.”

“Ugh, tell me about it,” Moira said, flipping her hair back as she sipped her Manhattan. “The other day, I had to kiss Tommy Lee Jones. Can you imagine what that is like? I mean, God knows I love Tommy, but it was like kissing a craggy-faced bulldog.”

“Moira, you’re evil,” Charles said even as Erik started laughing. “Don’t be so catty.”

“It’s true!” she protested. “Trust me, it made me miss kissing you, that’s for sure.”

Charles was aware of the exact moment Erik’s laughter stopped cold. Now there was an uncomfortable silence, Erik tipping back more of his drink while Charles played with his napkin and Moira’s eyes flitted back and forth between the two men, sharp and curious.

When the food finally arrived, they began eating quietly, interrupted only by two young women who wanted Moira’s autograph. “You’re like, my favourite actress ever,” the one with long curly hair gushed, before she pointed at Charles. “In fact, all my favourite movies have the two of you in them!”

“Thank you very much for that,” Charles said politely, obliging as the fans asked if they could get a picture together with Charles and Moira, while a surly Erik just continued shovelling food into his mouth.

“Excuse me, could you help us take a picture?” one of the fans asked, and Erik muttered something under his breath before taking the camera and aiming it at them. Charles waited patiently, watching Erik as he adjusted the shot, a slightly pained look on his face.

“Charles, I’m so sorry, could you sit closer to Moira, please?” the curly-haired fan asked, and Charles scooted closer. The pained expression on Erik’s face intensified, but he obediently took the picture before handing back the camera to the fans.

“My apologies, Erik,” Charles said, reaching over and running his hand over Erik’s bare forearm, stroking the soft hairs there.

“Don’t worry about it,” Erik said, giving him a slightly strained smile, and as Moira shot both of them a long, thoughtful glance, Charles wondered whether he had been apologising for the right thing.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Erik was quiet on the drive back, and Charles had tried to draw him into conversation several times, but he only received monosyllabic answers for his efforts. Back at the restaurant earlier, Moira’s agent Levene had come to pick her up, sparing all of them an uncomfortable ride back to the studio. Although Charles tremendously disliked Levene, he hadn’t been more glad to see the man appear outside the restaurant. Now it was just him and Erik, silent in the car, and Charles couldn’t help but wonder why he felt like he had done something very, very wrong.

His phone buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out. A text from Moira: sorry i had to leave u with the bad-tempered bear. we’ll do dinner proper next week?

Charles texted back: Sure, sounds good. And don’t worry about Erik, he was just having a bad day. He’s a lovely man, I assure you.

There was a long pause before Moira finally replied: be careful with him.

Something defensive flared up in Charles, making him snort as he briskly typed: I don’t know what you are saying, but I know Erik will never hurt me. I don’t have to be afraid of him.

Moira’s reply was swifter this time: idiot, look again carefully at my last txt. i said with him, not of him.

Now Charles was more curious and mystified than anything else. He texted, What do you mean? and waited, but Moira didn’t reply at all.

“Everything okay?” Erik seemed cautious but concerned as he glanced over at Charles.

“Just fine.” Charles couldn’t help stealing a few quick peeks at Erik’s profile, realising he wanted nothing more than to make him smile again. “Erik, could you drop me somewhere near Rodeo and Wilshire? I need to make a quick stop.”

Erik nodded. “Want me to wait for you?”

“It’s okay, I’ll grab a cab back.”

* * * * *

Holding the small brown box gingerly in his hands, Charles stood outside Erik’s trailer door, hoping he was in a better mood by now. They had another fifteen minutes or so before they had to be on set, and from the sounds inside the trailer, it sounded like Erik was getting ready. He took a deep breath and knocked tentatively, hiding the box behind his back.

Erik opened the door a crack at first, but when he saw it was Charles, he swung it open all the way. “What do you want?” Erik’s tone was a little weary, but at least he wasn’t closing the door on Charles.

“I just have a little something for you.” Charles showed him the little box, which made Erik tilt his head curiously. “Can I come in?”

“It’s a free country.” Erik stepped back to let him in, taking the box from Charles and examining it. “What is this?”

“Take a look.” He flashed Erik his cheekiest, most playful grin as he made himself at home on the couch. There was a turtleneck draped over it, and Charles was half-tempted to pick it up and see if it smelled of Erik.

Thankfully, his lecherous thoughts were sidetracked as Erik undid the little gold ribbon and opened the box, peering at its contents. “Oh, chocolate.”

“One of the best.” Charles patted the seat beside him. “Come here, there’s a good chap.”

Erik eyed him for a brief moment before letting out a sigh and striding over, making himself comfortable beside Charles as he stretched out those long legs which made Charles’ mouth water. “Why are you doing this for me?” Erik asked, genuinely sounding puzzled.

Charles let a finger trail down Erik’s bicep, listening to the sound of Erik’s breathing quicken. “You seemed to be in a bad mood during lunch,” Charles said quietly, thinking about what Moira had said. “I just wanted to cheer you up.”

For a long time Erik didn’t say anything, just blinking down at the chocolates. Then, slowly, he picked up a piece and took a bite. The pleasure that flooded his expression was gratifying, and Charles watched with a smile as Erik savored the chocolate in silence.

It was a while before Erik finally spoke. “I’m sorry if I ruined lunch.” The flat, gruff way Erik said it gave Charles the impression that he wasn’t a man used to apologizing.

“Oh Erik, you didn’t ruin lunch.” Charles couldn’t resist sliding an arm around the back of the couch, letting his hand stroke soothing circles on Erik’s shoulder. “I was the one who made you come.”

Charles was only aware of the unintended double entendre after it had left his mouth, and he could feel his cheeks burning as Erik started chuckling, shaking his head. “Really, Xavier, you’re such a tart.”

“Am I?” Charles tugged Erik towards him and to his delight, Erik readily scooted closer, continuing to pop chocolates into his mouth. “Anyway, how are you enjoying the chocolates?”

“Really good.” Now Erik was holding one up to Charles’ mouth. “Try it.”

Charles had already tried the chocolates previously – that was how he knew they were good – but he wasn’t insane enough to turn down the opportunity to be fed by Erik. He opened his mouth, letting Erik pop the chocolate piece inside and savored it as much as he could without making any obscene sounds. This moment was a tender one between them, and Charles didn’t want to ruin it. Swallowing the chocolate, he let himself nuzzle Erik’s hair, and Erik didn’t seem to have any objections, if the big smile on his face was any indication.

There was a rapid knock on the door. “Erik, you’re due on set in a few minutes!” the PA called out.

Erik sighed heavily. “Thanks!” he yelled back, as the footsteps retreated. He shot Charles a regretful look before pulling away, stretching his spine before getting up, and Charles blinked for a while, getting used to the loss of Erik’s body warmth.

Be careful with him, Moira had said. Charles wondered how she had even known in the first place.

* * * * *

“We are so fucking screwed, man.”

Sean was used to Alex’s random fits of panic. In all their years writing together, Sean had always been the more laid-back one, the one who calmed Alex down whenever he got too worked up. It was why he believed that they worked so well together. Alex’s fiery nature was good at inspiring Sean and spurring him on to take chances he normally wouldn’t have taken, while Sean felt that his Zen approach on things tempered Alex’s impulsive tendencies and mood swings.

Now, sitting on the couch and snacking on goldfish crackers, Sean barely batted an eyelid at Alex, who was pacing the room nervously. “Why are we screwed?” he asked nonchalantly.

“Because our first original script is going to be a disaster, that’s why,” Alex said with a sigh. “This movie is going to tank if our two leads hate each other.”

“Oh, that.”

“Yeah, that.” Alex stared incredulously at Sean. “I don’t see how you can just sit there, munching on those damn goldfish crackers.”

“Well, whaddya want me to do?” Sean asked patiently. “Force Bryan to do a recasting? Hold Erik and Charles hostage, then force them to kiss and make up? Jesus man, you’re not making sense. Nothing is going to change with you freaking out like this.”

Alex ran his hands through his short hair. “Dammit, I’m just... sorry, I just have such high hopes for ‘First Class’, you know? I mean, Sebastian goddamn Shaw was the one who greenlit the project, we managed to land Bryan Singer, and then now we have these two awesome actors who just want to kill each other... it’s too painful.”

“I know, man.” Sean moodily popped in a cracker. It was his script too, he had just as much invested in it. “Look, since we’re supposed to go down to the set next week, let’s just see if things are better now. Who knows? Maybe they’re best buds by now.”

Alex conceded with a shrug. “Maybe. Anyway you’re right, no use freaking out about it.”

“Exactly.” Sean held up the bag of crackers at him with a big, wide smile. “Have a cracker and calm down. Things will work out, you’ll see.”

* * * * *

It had been a while since Erik worked with a partner, but Charles was so extraordinarily accommodating that Erik found he had very little to complain about. Charles seemed to know the right time to back off and let Erik take the lead, and when Erik’s mind (and stamina) started to flag, he would step up and take over the helm of the investigation at that moment. It was wonderful, working with a partner who could anticipate your needs like that, and Erik began to wonder if this meant the partnership was going to be permanent.

“Here you go.” Charles handed him a hot, steaming cup of coffee, and Erik could have seriously kissed the man for bringing him the exact thing he was craving. “Don’t overwork yourself to death, Michael, the morgue is full up as it is.”

“Very funny, James.” Erik sipped his coffee, groaning at how good and thick it was; he could see the oily swirls in it. “Oh God, how did you know I needed this?”

Charles only smirked at him. “Didn’t you know I can read minds?”

Erik raised an eyebrow at him. “All right, fine. Read my mind now. What am I thinking about?”

Charles put on a serious expression, raising two fingers to his temple. “You are thinking that I am the best partner in the world, and how handsome and virile I am.”

Erik stilled, a little nonplussed at how close Charles had come to the truth. “You’re a regular comedian, McAvoy.”

“I knew it, Fassbender.” Charles was smirking as he handed Erik a stack of folders. “I was right.”

Erik didn’t say anything.

* * * * *

“Erik, would you mind if we went for a drive? I don’t quite feel like heading home yet.” Charles asked as he strapped himself into the passenger seat, eyes wide and beseeching.

They had fallen into a routine after that first night he had driven Charles home. Erik had offered to pick him up the next morning, seeing as he was no longer in possession of his car. A string of late-night shoots had resulted in him sending Charles home at the end of each day, and a fine layer of dust had settled on the hood before Raven finally threw her hands up in the air in surrender and drove the car back to Charles’ garage. Erik told himself he was just taking a leaf out of those celebrity environmentalists’ books by carpooling; forget the fact that his and Charles’ homes were in opposite directions from the studio.

No, of course I wouldn’t mind. It’s my favourite time of the day, driving you. Erik shook his head, draping his arm around the back of Charles’ seat as he reversed out of the lot. “Where to?”

“How about Santa Monica?” Charles suggested, smiling as he leant over.

“As you wish.”

It was late enough that the streets were quiet now with barely any traffic, and Erik found that it was hard to focus on the road when he would rather watch the streetlights glimmer in Charles’ eyes as they drove down Wilshire Boulevard, while he rambled on about the thousands of ways that they could play out their scenes for tomorrow and whether or not Bryan seemed like the type to allow for slight deviations from the script.

“I’ll back you up, but you’ll have to be the one to ask him. He likes you better.” Erik said, pausing to direct his attention to Charles, “Everyone likes you better.”

“That’s not true.” Charles objected, “I like you better.”

Erik’s grip tightened on the wheel, heart lurching in his chest even though they were still cruising down the boulevard. Don’t read into it, Lehnsherr. Erik snorted, attempting to cover it up, “That’s because you’re biased. And a little out of your mind.”

* * * * *


Soundtrack: Herbert Grönemeyer - Der Weg

Santa Monica Pier rose up in the distance, the technicolor lights of Pacific Park setting the darkness around it aglow, its reflection rippling on the water’s surface. Erik turned into a slip road just off the pier, away from the pedestrians and their prying eyes.

“What would you like to do?” Erik asked as they pulled over.

Charles looked out at the pier, picturing the throngs of crowds, and felt overcome by a sudden wave of exhaustion, dreading the parade this would turn into once they stepped out of the safe cocoon of their vehicle. He unlatched his seatbelt and lowered his seat slightly, turning on his side. “Let’s just stay here.”

Erik slid his finger across the control panel and music began wafting through the speakers, a male voice carried on soaring strings and quiet keys. Charles loved the warm rasp of German, like a lover in a hotel bed, whispering in his ear, breath soaked in cigarettes. He watched the Ferris wheel rotating in the distance, lifting the couples inside up for a fleeting touch of heaven before bringing them back down again, over and over in a cosmic circle, and the coaster as it hung from the precipice, right before taking the plunge, and let the foreign words drift him across the Atlantic, back to Europe with her quaint villages and charming cities. If he closed his eyes he could almost see it, strolling through the cobblestone streets of Vienna under carnival lights, with Erik at his side, left alone by the rest of the world.

He took a glance at the playlist, populated with an assortment of songs in various languages. “Do you understand all of these?”

“I speak five languages.” Erik replied a little smugly.

“Erik, that’s amazing.” He said, eyes wide, “What is this song about?”

“Grönemeyer wrote this after his wife passed away. It’s about how he intends to go on despite the pain he feels, even if life isn't fair.” Erik paused, searching Charles’ face, “I don’t know if I could, if I lost the most important person in my life.”

And there he was, the man Charles was irrevocably falling for. Erik, who was long-suffering when it came to him despite his quick temper with outsiders, who was fiercely protective to a fault, who was utterly terrified of letting people in and yet loved unreservedly, until the end of time. He reached over and placed a hand lightly on Erik’s knee and spoke, barely above the swell of the music, gaze unflinching, “I believe you would. You’d continue on, but never forget.”

Habe dich sicher in meiner Seele. Ich trag dich bei mir bis der Vorhang fällt.

(I have you safe inside my soul. I'll carry you with me until the curtain falls.)

* * * * *

“Do you want to head back?” Erik asked as Charles stifled a yawn, burying his face in the crook of his arm.

“No, I’m fine. Stay. Tell me more about your mother.” Charles replied, eyes bleary and struggling to keep open.

“Okay.” Erik said after a pause. “My clearest memory from my childhood was the first time I lit the Hanukkah menorah. I was four, and my father was out of town due to work. We had the menorah placed by the window, and she held my hand as we lighted the candles, one at a time.”

“That sounds… lovely.” Charles mumbled, eyes slipping closed.

“Then she picked me up and sang ‘Ma’oz Tzur’, and I remember thinking, surrounded by the candlelight and the smell of latkas in the air, that…” Erik stopped, aware that Charles still had not reopened his eyes.

“Charles?” He called, but there was no response, only the gentle rise and fall of his chest. The look on his sleeping face was delicate in the moonlight, and Erik wondered what it would be like, to see the sun rise in his eyes.

Il vous aime, c'est secret, lui dites pas que je vous l'ai dit.

(He loves you, it's a secret, don't tell him that I told you.)

Erik watched him sleep for a while before stepping on the accelerator, leaving the flickering lights of the pier in the rear view mirror.

* * * * *

“Charles, wake up, we’re home.” Erik’s breath ghosted over the shell of his ear as he whispered, and a shiver ran down his spine despite the warm hand on his side.

Charles murmured as he stirred, wanting to stay suspended in that moment a little longer before opening his eyes, with Erik close enough to lose himself in his heady scent. “I’m sorry I dozed off,” he said, finally.

“Get some sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.” Erik said as he shifted, pulling away.

Charles nodded slightly, “Goodnight, Erik.”

He climbed out of the car, smiling softly at him as he leant in, his hand on the door. Erik bent over, resting his palm on the passenger seat, still warm from his body heat. “Goodnight.”

It’s my saddest time of the day, saying goodbye. Charles stood at his front door and watched as Erik pulled out of his driveway, waiting until his taillights faded into the night.


Notes:
1. The title of this chapter is a quote from 'The Notebook'.
2. The Ivy is on Robertson Boulevard and famous for celebrity sightings.
3. "It's my favourite time of the day, driving you." is a quote from 'Love Actually'.
4. "As you wish." is a quote from 'The Princess Bride'.
5. Full translations of Herbert Grönemeyer's 'Der Weg'.
6. Charles needs to stop dying in canon.
7. Full translations of Carla Bruni's 'Quelqu’un m’a dit' and audio.
8. We have created a @charlesxavier__ (two underscores) Twitter account.

Chapter Text

Alex had forgotten just how intimidating Sebastian Shaw could be. Despite the fact that the man was barely taller than Alex - hell, he was almost the same height as Sean - Shaw possessed the very unnerving ability of looking down his nose at everyone, eyes cold and calculative, forever assessing someone’s (or something’s) value in monetary terms. Not all producers were like Shaw, but the best of them weren’t that much different from him, and Alex supposed he had better get used to this if he wanted a long and illustrious career in Hollywood.

Getting out of the car, Sean didn’t seem as apprehensive as Alex himself felt during this set visit, but then again, Sean possessed an excellent poker face that had often carried them through the worst of long, tough negotiations with the most cutthroat suits in Hollywood. The suits were used to dealing with someone like Alex, a young novice eager for recognition and prestige, but someone like Sean - indifferent, infallible and relaxed - often threw them for a loop. It seemed to Alex that Sean already naturally was what Sebastian Shaw was trying to be: aloof and completely detached. Not for the first time, Alex shot his writing partner a brief, reluctant look of admiration.

No one took notice of them as they walked onto the set, but they could see Shaw already getting to his feet. “Boys!” Shaw was grinning from ear to ear like a proud parent as he approached them with his arms thrown wide, and Alex seriously hoped he wasn’t expecting a motherfucking hug, of all things. “Come to see your magnum opus in progress?”

Alex’s jaw twitched, while Sean smiled blandly. Why did Shaw assume this was the best they could ever do? They had barely even gotten started on the best of their scripts. But before Alex could make a snide reply, Sean was already saying, “Oh, you know, we’re not that worried since we knew we left it in good hands.”

“Ah Cassidy, you flatter me,” Shaw declared with a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. He was probably well aware that Sean was playing with him, and he seemed equally determined not to fall for it. “Can my staff get you something to drink? Eat?”

“Not hungry, but I’d love a cup of coffee,” Alex said. “Don’t bother your staff though, I’ll get it myself. I have hands.”

Sean shot him a look that pretty much told him he was going to hear about this back at their office, but Alex couldn’t care less at the moment as he went to fix himself a cup of joe, letting Sean and Shaw catch up while he looked around the sound stage. It must have been one of the more major scenes, for the set was a flurry of activity, ranging from the key grip ordering his team around to the make-up artists touching up Charles’ foundation and teasing his hair. Charles raised a hand in greeting at Alex when their eyes met, and Alex nodded back with a smile. He sincerely liked Charles, who seemed just as genuine off-camera as he was onscreen. It was Erik that Alex was wary of, a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

As Alex wandered back to where Sean and Shaw were chatting, he almost bumped into someone who was sweeping past him in high heels, clearly in a great hurry. It was Emma, that agent of Erik’s whom Alex had remembered from the first meeting. Emma shared the same shrewd looking-down-her-nose ability that Shaw had, except that Emma was a lot more subtle about it. Now Shaw was waving her over, and Alex caught the way her nose wrinkled in distaste a little. Ah, so she seemed to detest Shaw as well.

Alex liked her a little more already.

“Oh, Emma, darling, you remember the writers, Alex and Sean?” Shaw seemed far more interested in her than he did the two of them, his smile seeming genuine for once.

“Yes, it’s a pleasure to meet you both again,” she said politely, tilting her head a little. “If you’ll excuse me, Sebastian, I need to check on Erik. He hasn’t shown up to the set yet.”

“Of course,” Shaw said, and the three of them watched her walk off the set, prim and purposeful on her search. Now Shaw turned back to Alex and Sean, waggling his eyebrows. “That woman will drive me crazy, I swear.”

Alex hid his smile behind his cup of coffee. It was strange, but seeing the great, mighty Sebastian Shaw act like a complete horndog around a beautiful woman somehow made the man seem more human and fallible in Alex’s eyes. For a brief moment (but only a brief moment) Alex felt a little sympathy for him, but that didn’t last long. Shaw had armies of aspiring actresses and models at his beck and call; one disinterested agent was barely a casualty.

Sean, as usual, said nothing, but the sly quirk of his mouth didn’t escape Alex’s notice.

That odd little moment of solidarity was broken when Shaw cleared his throat, extending his hand towards the director’s chair. “This way, boys. If Erik isn’t on set yet, you’ll have time to talk with Bryan about the shoot so far.”

Bryan was in the director’s tent, huddled over the camera with the DP, discussing how they wanted to frame the next shot even though it was clear that the DP was disagreeing with him. Dissatisfied, Bryan waved over a nervous-looking young man with thick glasses who was tall enough to tower over even Sean and Shaw. Bryan asked him a question, to which the man shook his head, and the DP gave up, throwing his hands up in dismay. “Thank you, Hank,” they heard Bryan saying to the young man, who only nodded before scurrying back to his work.

“Bryan, look who we have with us,” Shaw said, and Alex knew he didn’t imagine the flicker of irritation that briefly crossed Bryan’s face before he turned to face them all, but he broke into a genuine grin when he saw Alex and Sean.

“Hey, what’s up?” Bryan said as he nodded at the two of them, who returned his grin. “I bet you came here expecting a train wreck, didn’t you? Bastards.”

Sean chuckled while Alex simply shrugged. “Well, since Erik isn’t here, I can only assume that Charles either poisoned him or pushed him down an elevator shaft,” Alex said, making Bryan laugh and Shaw frown in confusion.

“Is that in the script?” Shaw asked, seemingly perplexed, and this time Alex really had to hide behind his coffee cup while Sean was turning red with suppressed laughter.

“Uh no, Sebastian, I think it was a joke,” Bryan said slowly, and when Shaw wasn’t looking, he shot Alex a ‘WTF’ look which Alex only answered with a goofy grin. It was too tempting to make some kind of smartass remark, but thankfully Alex was distracted by the tall, bespectacled guy he had spotted earlier who was now walking up to Bryan again, clutching some metal contraption to his chest.

“Umm, Bryan, I’ve got a question,” the guy named Hank said, trying to maneuver around the small space without hitting anyone else in the face.

“Sure, Hank, what is it?”

“Do you want me to follow Charles or Erik with the stead cam in the scene we’re doing second? I wasn’t sure from the sides.”

“Follow Erik, if you don’t mind.” Bryan tugged Hank forward for an introduction. “Alex and Sean, this is Hank, one of our steady-cam operators, and sometime focus director. Hank, these are Alex and Sean, the scriptwriters.”

Hank eagerly extended a hand although it was lost behind the rig, hoping for either man to return the courtesy.

“Nice to meet you, Hank,” Alex said, taking his hand.

“Thanks. I’ve gotta go now, though. Sorry for interrupting, Bryan. It was nice to meet you both,” he said looking at Alex and Sean before turning around and going back to look for the camera.

* * * * *

“Charles, what’s wrong?” Erik asked as he pulled him to the side. They had just come off their twelfth take of the scene, and Charles would criticize his own performance each time, nitpicking everything from the way he delivered his lines to how he played off Erik, constantly insisting that something was not right.

“This isn’t like you. Is it Alex and Sean? I’ll get them to leave the room if you think it’ll help.” Erik said as he placed his hands on his shoulders, kneading them lightly.

Charles relaxed as Erik’s fingers dug into his muscles, the tension in them melting away. He tilted his head up, blinking slowly, some kind of epiphany crossing his features. He brought his hands to rest on the jut of Erik’s hips and nodded, tracing the lines of muscle on his sides with his thumb and smiling, features softening. “Come on, let’s try again.”

* * * * *

Erik’s gaze bore into him, eyes glistening with tears that were threatening to fall. He looked beaten down, dragged across hot coals for so long that every last defence he had put up had been torn asunder, leaving behind only a broken man struggling in vain to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Yet, beneath all that, there was the faintest trace of something else, the thing with feathers, fluttering across his features increasingly often these days, the more time they spent in each other’s company. Erik asked hesitantly, his voice hoarse, “What do you know about me?”

Charles shifted forward to close the distance between them, placing his hands on Erik’s chest, and felt his heartbeat quicken through the fabric of his shirt, like the trembling heart of a captive bird. He splayed his fingers apart before slowly sliding his hands up to rest on the sides of Erik’s throat, fingertips buried in his hair. His thumbs caressed his jaw while he searched his eyes for any signs of trepidation, any indication that the other did not recognise the inevitability of what was to pass. Charles tilted his head to the side as Erik did the same, eyes half-lidded, and whispered softly against his lips, breath warm and moist on Erik’s skin, “Everything.”

The kiss started out tentative at first, Charles licking at Erik's lips, and when Erik unexpectedly parted his lips, Charles took the opportunity to devour his mouth, and Erik surprised him by slipping in a little tongue and a soft, muffled groan of pleasure.

Unbelievably turned on by the sounds Erik was making, Charles angled his head to deepen the kiss, sifting his hands through the soft silk of Erik’s hair. He could feel Erik’s long fingers caressing his jaw tentatively, before his hands grew more bold and slid down Charles’ chest, sliding back to grip his ass with a possessive squeeze that made Charles moan into Erik’s mouth.

They broke apart, panting wildly, and Charles was sure his cheeks were flushed with colour, his lips reddened and kiss-bruised. Erik's gaze was fixated on his mouth, and when Charles licked his bottom lip, this time it was Erik who dove in for the kiss, much more urgent and out of control, hands and lips and teeth everywhere, Erik already untucking Charles’ shirt to palm his skin.

 

“Cut.”

* * * * *

“Holy shit.” Sean exclaimed softly once he had the presence of mind to pick his jaw off the ground. A stunned silence had fallen over the entire set, no one daring to move as they gawked at Erik and Charles, still wrapped in each other’s arms, frozen in time. Erik finally parted first, Charles tilting his head by a fraction as though moving to chase after the lost contact. Their eyes opened slowly, completely in sync, and they simply gazed at the other for seconds that stretched on to eternity, like they were suspended from the rest of the world, holding a wordless conversation only the two of them could comprehend. Charles stepped back, hand trailing down Erik’s chest before he made his way over to them, Erik following just steps behind.

“I am so very sorry that I strayed from the script, but I really do feel that--" Charles began, looking rather contrite.

Sean blinked, finally catching up with reality. Every scene he had written for the movie flashed before his mind’s eye, every line and word and the multitude of ways in which they could be interpreted, and he stood there sincerely wanting to kick himself for not realising this sooner, feeling like an idiot that Charles understood the characters he had created better than he himself. Sean held his hands up, cutting him off. “No, stop. There’s no need to explain yourself, Charles. This is brilliant!”

“It is?” Shaw asked, eyebrow raised.

“Yes! If their characters are in love, it changes everything.” Sean grabbed Bryan’s arm, barely able to contain himself, mentally ripping apart the world he had created and rebuilding it anew, gesticulating wildly as he continued, “Think about it, a gay couple living during the social upheaval of the Sixties and working in law enforcement, back when homosexuality was illegal. Love will tear them apart.”

“This is going to be fantastic,” Bryan agreed immediately, his face lighting up. “Erik, say ‘hello’ to Charles, your new love interest.”

A warm and besotted smile spread across Charles’ face as he turned to Erik, who had remained strangely silent the entire time but now looked like he was about to hyperventilate, face flushed and pinched with anxiety. “Erik, is something wrong?” Charles asked, concerned.

“No, I’m fine. This could really elevate the film, it’s just…” Erik paused, chewing on his lip briefly, then he suddenly murmured, “Could all of you excuse me for a moment?” before hurrying off the set.

“Erik!” Charles moved as if to follow him, but Alex pulled him back by the arm, his grip vice-like.

“Where do you think you’re going? We have to discuss the new direction for the film.” Alex demanded as he dragged Charles back into the circle.

He released Charles and crossed his arms in concentration, narrowing his eyes as if he were trying to burn a hole into the floor. “Okay, so given what happened to his ex-partner, Michael is going to be fiercely overprotective of James, I’m thinking the scene where they track down the killer has to be reworked.” Alex paused, looking back up at Sean, who nodded in agreement. “They will also have to hide their relationship from their peers and, considering James’ training, he is going to be very mindful of how the world perceives them and will want to hide who they are.”

Sean could see it now, the stolen moments and clandestine meetings between the two characters, the constant ache from yearning for something with all your soul but being denied it by a world that was blinded by hate, and raised his index finger as he cut in, “And this will cause friction in his relationship with Michael.”

“But he does it anyway to keep him safe,” Charles added, his voice quiet, his expression pensive.

“Exactly. And it looks like we are going to have to scrap the entire final scene, can’t have a cookie cutter Hollywood ending for a movie like this.” Sean said, his brows knitted in contemplation as he mapped out the closing moments of the film.

“Man, it looks like it’s back to the drawing board.” Alex huffed, burying his hands in his hair.

“Right. Chaps, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go check on Erik.” Charles gave Alex and Sean a pat on the back each before making his way towards the direction of the trailers.

Alex waited until Charles was off the set before he smacked Bryan on the arm, hard. "Dude! When the fuck did this happen?”

Sean laughed incredulously, planting his face in his hand, still not quite believing what he had just witnessed. “Seriously. For a moment there I thought Alex laced my weed with something stronger.”

Bryan snickered, eyes glancing upwards as he made a show of trying to recall the exact moment, "I think it was the minute they did the screen test. Sorry I didn't tell you earlier. I wanted to keep it a secret, so I could have them to myself later." He said, winking cheekily at Alex.

“I hate you, man.” Alex rolled his eyes exasperatedly as Sean rubbed circles on his back in commiseration. He had the distinct feeling things were just about to get very interesting.

* * * * *

Hurrying back to his trailer as though the hounds of hell were after him, Erik kept taking in huge gulps of air, forcing himself to calm down. He was only vaguely aware of the crew around him who took one look at his face and wisely scuttled out of his way. His head was swarmed with a swirling blur of vivid images, mostly of Charles so close to him earlier, close enough to share a breath. His eyes had been a blue blur, his lips a red, moist bow, even redder after having kissed Erik.

Erik groaned inwardly, grimacing as he hoped no one would spot his tented pants, his goddamn erection almost painful, making it difficult to walk. He was never more glad to reach his trailer, banging open the door and switching on the lights before he slammed it close, leaning against the wall and squeezing his eyes shut.

Charles. Goddamn. Xavier. Erik licked his lips. Good God, he could still taste Charles, the ghost of mint and coffee still lingering in his mouth.

Erik desperately tried to shut out all thoughts of Charles, but it was impossible. He simply couldn’t stop thinking about the kiss. The way Charles’ mouth had melded against his own so perfectly, as if they were made to fit together at the mouth, his body so warm and firm, his slightly shorter frame perfectly made to fit between Erik and a mattress. Oh God, he couldn’t stop thinking about Charles in his bed, those dark waves spread over his pillow, those blue eyes half-lidded in ecstasy, mouth slack in unrestrained pleasure as Erik thrust into him repeatedly, their hands locked together, Erik thrusting so hard his hair hung down, brushing against Charles’ pink cheek...

Quickly unbuckling his belt and unzipping his slacks, Erik took out his straining erection in hand and started stroking swiftly, thinking of how hot and tight Charles would be around him, those little hitching moans Charles would make when Erik finally slid home into him, the sloppy kisses they’d exchange, Erik occasionally pulling away only because he wanted Charles to hear the words spilling from his mouth, words he rarely said to another human being because he rarely felt them, but there was no denying it now, he felt them all for Charles his fucking co-star, and he bit back a moan as his strokes speeded up, thinking of Charles’ mouth and hands and body, thinking of him shouting Erik’s name in that prim, proper English accent, ruined raw with too much sex.

“Fuck, Charles.” Erik started panting as he began pulling up every single fantasy he’d had of Charles since the beginning: Charles on his hands and knees, looking coyly at Erik over his shoulder, Charles riding him in bed, knees locked around Erik’s hips as he gasped every time Erik’s thumbs circled his nipples, Charles beneath him, legs wrapped around Erik’s thighs as his hands scratched red lines down Erik’s sweaty back, the two of them fucking until the headboard was creaking, and at the thought of Charles coming first, crying out and splashing onto that soft, creamy belly that Erik wanted to lavish with kisses, that had Erik crying out too as he surged forward, spurting all over his own hand and the floor, gasping, “Charles, oh God, Charles....” as he shook and trembled with the force of his orgasm, slumped back against the wall.

The knock on the door made him jump, even in his post-orgasmic haze. “Erik?” Charles’ voice was laced with concern. “Erik, open up!”

Goddamnmotherfuckingsonof- Erik quickly scrambled for some Kleenex, haphazardly wiping his hands and cleaning up the mess on his floor. “What do you want, Charles?” he shouted back, hoping he didn’t have to open the door.

“I want to talk to you,” Charles said urgently.

“Now’s not a good time.” Erik was aware of how hoarse his voice sounded, but his main priority was to keep Charles out of his trailer. If the man came in, he would surely be able to smell sex in the air.

“Please, Erik?” Charles was now employing that pleading little tone that Erik was powerless against. “Just for a second.”

Hastily throwing away the crumpled pieces of Kleenex, Erik quickly washed his hands before running his hands through his hair in a quick attempt to tidy it. Praying to get Charles out of his trailer as quickly as possible, Erik reluctantly opened the door and there stood Charles, hair falling into his eyes, his bottom lip tucked under his teeth, his cheeks a nice, flushed pink. All of Erik’s good resolutions flew out of the window, and when Charles asked if he could come in, he only nodded wordlessly, unable to take his eyes off him. God, Charles looked so gorgeous.

“I wanted to talk about the kiss,” Charles said, his blush deepening, and Erik felt his spent cock twitch. “Why did you run off after that?”

“Um.” Erik was searching for a valid explanation that wouldn’t make him sound all macho-shit, but before he could come up with something, he noticed a faint frown on Charles’ face as he tentatively sniffed the air, then his eyes widened up at Erik.

“Erik, did you--" Then Charles’ eyes darted down to his crotch, and of course Erik had forgotten to zip up his fly, and Charles was now staring down at him, mouth dropping open as his eyes lit up in comprehension. “Oh, Erik.”

Fuck. Erik was just caught jerking off after kissing his co-star. The months before him stretched ahead, long and uncomfortable with Charles avoiding him off-screen, and the promo interviews they’d have to do separately because Charles wouldn’t be comfortable with his closeted co-star having--

It was an understatement to say Erik was stunned beyond measure when Charles practically jumped on him, yanking Erik down for a kiss that was a million times more intense and needy than the one earlier, his tongue invading Erik’s mouth greedily, his arms locked around Erik’s neck. It took Erik only a second, blinking before he gave in to the deep drugging kiss, slamming Charles up against the wall with a breathless groan. Charles didn’t seem to mind, though; he huffed out a half-laugh, half-moan, tipping Erik’s chin up for another kiss that left Erik’s knees weak.

“Wait, wait.” Erik pinned him to the wall, struggling to gasp out the words between kisses as Charles ran his fingers up and down his collarbone.

“What?” Charles’ voice hitched as he asked, muffled into the skin of Erik’s throat, the vibrations and hot breath sending shivers down his spine, and if Erik had not been already spent, he would have fucked him into the wall right there and then.

Erik held his arms out and tried to catch his breath as he looked Charles right in the eye, feeling as though the world as he knew it were spiralling out of control. “Aren’t you straight? Everyone says you’re straight.” Erik asked, thinking back to late nights spent in front of his computer Googling Charles’ name only to be bombarded with countless interviews in which his female co-stars waxed lyrical about how ‘charming’ and ‘lovely’ he was, or his legions of fans all eagerly lining up around the block for a chance to have his babies. The truth of the matter was that he had no idea how he would handle it if what was going on right here was all just some kind of game to Charles. Perhaps drop out of the movie and go live as a hermit monk in the Himalayas.

What?” Charles exclaimed incredulously, eyes wide. “Oh you are such a complete and royal idiot. Didn’t I tell you to not believe a single word you read?” He said, laughing as he shook his head.

Charles continued, tapping the side of his head. “Fortunately for us, I have impeccable gaydar. It’s my secret superpower.”

Erik’s mouth fell open as he hung his head in dismay, everything that had transpired in the past few weeks playing out before his eyes. I just went through two hours of bumbling shenanigans, he realized with utter, debilitating horror.

He stepped away, shaking his head vehemently as he wagged his index finger, “No, no, no, NO…” He stopped and dragged the palms of his hands down his face, trying his best not to scream. “I’m the insipid, flavour-of-the-month actress.”

Charles raised an eyebrow at that, “Really, Erik. Now you’re just not making any sense. You’re lucky that you’re handsome.”

“And dinner, and fondue, and Santa Monica. Those were all dates?” Erik asked, eyes going laughably wide.

Charles’ entire countenance softened as he moved forward to wrap his arms around Erik's waist, smiling at him like he lived and died by each beat of his heart. “Oh Erik, every day with you is one long date.”

That smile was ultimately Erik’s downfall. Erik bent down and claimed those lips, tongue licking into his mouth languorously and eliciting a soft sigh. He brushed their lips together as they parted, resting his forehead against Charles’. “Mein Gott, Charles,” he whispered, trailing fingers through his hair. “Let me make it up to you. You like drinks, right? I’m taking you drinking once we’re done here.”

“I must warn you that I’m terrible when I’m drunk.” He chuckled, the laugh turning into a choked gasp when Erik began nibbling on the tip of his earlobe.

“Why am I not surprised?” Erik replied, low and deep into his ear before he made his way down to his neck to suck on his pulse point, Charles rolling his head back to give him better access, breath coming in shallow pants against his hair.

“Erik! Charles! Are you guys in there?” Sean's voice pierced through the door of the trailer, his incessant knocking reverberating off the walls. Charles groaned as he buried his face into Erik's shoulder and Erik placed a kiss in his hair before stepping aside to answer the door.

“Wait.” Charles stopped him with a hand on his chest, grinning, and just as Erik was about to ask why, Charles looked down at Erik’s open fly with a chuckle.

“Oh.” Erik’s face felt hot with embarrassment.

“Yes, oh.” Charles kept his eyes fixed on Erik’s as he slowly, deliberately zipped him up, but there was the very real promise that it wouldn’t be long before Charles would be doing the exact opposite, and Erik bent down to claim one last kiss before pulling away to open the door.

“Yes, what do you want?” Erik said sharply, causing Sean to shrink back.

“We just wanted to let you know that we’re heading off. Massive rewrites need to be done and Shaw wants them on his desk in the morning, we’ll sleep when we’re dead, et cetera, et cetera. Oh and Bryan wants you back on the set to do a few more takes,” Alex said, eyebrows jumping as a very disheveled looking Charles peeked out by Erik’s side.

“Thank you, Alex. We will be right over,” Charles said, combing his fingers through his hair.

“Okay, see you guys some other time,” Sean called out as Erik closed the door on them.

“Really, Erik. There’s no need to be so curt,” Charles said gently as he adjusted his shirt, trying his best to smooth out the creases.

“Dude! They were totally making out!” They heard Sean exclaim from the other side of the door, footsteps leading away.

“We can still hear you!” Erik bellowed, and Charles could not help but rest his weight on Erik and laugh.

* * * * *

The first thing that greeted Charles and Erik as they re-emerged in the studio was a flurry of blonde tresses as Raven and Emma marched over, the latter looking extremely pleased with herself.

“Charles! You ass, you made me lose a hundred bucks!” Raven yelled as she smacked his arm. She took in his tousled hair and slightly rumpled clothes, the slightly raw appearance of the skin around his neck, and immediately started wiping her defiled palm on the fabric of her skirt. “Christ, you fucked in the trailer, didn’t you?”

Charles immediately flushed scarlet. “I did no such thing! And why, pray tell, is it my fault that you lost all that money?”

Emma stepped forward, gesturing to the other blonde. “Raven here bet that the two of you were going to give up on the charade and start macking on each other last week. I, on the other hand, very wisely said it was going to be this week,” Emma answered as she folded her arms smugly while Charles looked like he was about to fall over dead from mortification.

Erik snickered as he placed an arm around him soothingly. “Ah, big mistake. Never bet against Emma, Raven. She always wins. This woman used to work in Vegas, I swear she’s psychic.”

“But really, why did it take you two so long?” Raven prodded, still not ready to let it go, needing an explanation as to why she now had to think twice before buying that gorgeous pair of boots she saw in a window at Rodeo Drive.

“Ah, well. Erik here believed I was straight,” Charles replied, rolling his eyes.

Raven doubled over, laughing hysterically. “What? Have you even seen the way he crosses his legs?” she choked out at Erik between peals of laughter.

Erik blinked at a grinning Charles, perplexed. “Well, I, um--”

Go! Get back to your places, you fucking shitshows,” Raven cried affectionately as she shoved them off in the direction of the set, shaking her head.

Raven watched with resigned fondness as Charles and Erik stood on their marks preparing to reshoot the kiss, smiling at each other like lovestruck teenagers, and had to grudgingly admit that they really did fit perfectly together, Charles’ untempered exuberance and Erik’s brooding stoicism, like two incomplete halves of a whole. “Emma, I feel like a voyeur.”

Her fellow agent sighed dramatically, rolling her eyes. “Tell me about it.”

* * * * *

For all his forward moves in the last few weeks, Charles happily allowed Erik to take the lead this time for their upcoming night out. At this time, after filming had ended, he would normally be waiting for Erik to drive him home. However, tonight he was looking forward to a night of drinking, a welcome change in the routine.

He was absently looking at a sudoku puzzle Raven had left in his trailer when a rapid knock startled him. “Ready to go drinking?” Erik asked as he opened the trailer door.

“Of course. You lead the way.” Charles padded towards to the door, unable to stop himself from smiling like an idiot the moment he laid eyes on Erik. Well, at least Charles was certain that Erik’s intense gaze was raking over him as well, taking in his smaller and less muscular physique.

“Stop looking like you want to ravish me on set, Erik. The crew will talk,” Charles said with a laugh, falling in place beside him as though it was the most natural thing in the world.

It was a good thing Erik seemed to agree, pulling Charles even closer and pressing a chaste kiss against the corner of Charles’ mouth as they strolled to the waiting towncar.

* * * * *

Erik hated traffic almost as much as he knew Charles did, but for this night, he was willing to brave the ride into Hollywood. Hollywood Boulevard was a nightmare, tourists aimlessly walking down the street and across to find some idiotic trinket of their trip, all while hoping to see someone famous.

As the towncar pulled up outside The Roxbury, Erik looked at the long, snaking line of Angelenos, dressed up to the nines and waiting impatiently in the queue. Getting out of the towncar and telling the driver they would call him when they were ready to leave, Erik and Charles were spotted by the door manager who quickly ushered them to the front of the queue, beaming as though he had just won the lottery. Maybe it was true; celeb sightings were good business for clubs after all.

The Ivar Bar had been one of Erik’s favourite haunts before it closed, and with the opening of The Roxbury, he figured it was as good a chance as any to impress Charles. Once they were inside, a hostess found her way to them, moving them up to the VIP section smoothly and efficiently.

“What can I get for you two right now?” she asked when they’d been seated into a very private booth with a large banquet and low table.

Charles eyed Erik carefully, letting him know that the decision was his to make.

“A bottle of Macallan 25.”

“Excellent choice. Someone else will be back with it for you.”

She quickly left the two of them alone, and Erik now was starting to feel more at ease, draping an arm around the back of the seat, and Charles didn’t have to be asked to scoot closer towards him, making Erik smile.

Once the whisky arrived and they poured some out for themselves, Erik sat back to relax, his fingers tracing circles beneath the hem of Charles’ shirt as they spoke into each other’s ears over the steady bassline of the club music, lips accidentally-on-purpose brushing against skin. Charles would swirl his tumbler of whisky absently as he sang along to the choruses of the songs that he knew, all inebriated smiles and spontaneous giggles, holding the glass up to Erik’s lips for him to sip from time to time.

“Do you really have impeccable gaydar?” Erik asked as they neared the halfway mark of the bottle of Macallan, Charles slung over his side affectionately, his cheeks flushed from the whisky.

He bolted upright in his seat immediately, looking a little manic with glee. “Of course! Let me prove it to you,” he said as he turned to face the rest of the club and proceeded to point at random patrons in rapid-fire succession, “Straight, gay, gay, straight, spaghetti-straight--"

Erik laughed, resting his chin on Charles’ shoulder. “What do you mean by ‘spaghetti-straight’?”

“Spaghetti is only straight until it hits hot water. Now, where was I… Gay, straight, straight, gay--"

“Charles, there is no way that man is gay,” Erik argued when he pointed out a tall, well-muscled man sitting at the bar, face shadowed by a thick growth of stubble.

“Oh, my dear, I’m absolutely positive that he is,” Charles slurred over his shoulder as he got up perhaps a little too quickly, tipping sideways and stumbling around before Erik steadied his hips with his hands. Charles cupped the side of Erik’s face in appreciation before turning away to strut out of their booth and onto the floor.

“Charles, what are you doing? Charles!” Erik called out, the panic evident in his voice as he sprang up from the leather couch, the alcohol rushing to his head as he hurried after him, heart racing from a combination of the loud beats and moderate intoxication as soon as he stepped outside.

Charles grinned, completely unfazed, shouting over the music. “I’m going to ask him for his number, you can be my wingman if you want!”

“No, I believe you. Can we please just get back inside?” Erik begged, suddenly feeling completely sober. Charles was going to get beaten up by that redneck at the bar the moment he opened his mouth unless he did something about it, and the guy looked like he pumped iron for a living. Erik began sizing the man up as he squeezed his way past the press of bodies around him, mentally prepared to have this splashed all over TMZ and wondering how he was going to explain this to his attorney during the eventual lawsuit.

They ended up flanking both sides of the man, and Erik leaned against the counter attempting to appear calm even as every muscle in his body was tense and ready for action. “Hello, my name is Charles,” the man who would surely be the cause of his heart giving out someday greeted with one of his most charming smiles.

The stranger’s eyes flicked up to meet Charles’, blinking before trailing up and down his body and nodding in reply, “Logan.”

Charles leaned in, trying to speak over the track that was playing. “I couldn't help but notice that you were sitting alone. Would you like another drink?”

Logan shrugged noncommittally and Charles gestured to the bartender to bring over another bottle of beer.

“I love what you've done with your hair,” Charles said as he toyed with a tuft of his mane, and Erik did not know whether to praise his acting abilities or shake his head at the shamelessness of it all because, honest to God, he would not be caught dead leaving his house with that windblown disaster on his head. And if not for the fact that he was standing there in fear for Charles’ safety, he would have paid more attention to the irrational spike of jealousy that had seized his chest, or at least until Charles had glanced up at him with a look of sudden realisation before immediately dropping his hand.

The bartender tossed a coaster on the counter before placing the ice-cold beer on it, beads of condensation forming around the neck. Logan finished up the bottle he had been nursing and Charles hooked him with one of his smoldering gazes after he placed it off to the side, asking, “Can I have your number? We could get together for a drink sometime.”

There it was, the moment of truth, and Erik sucked in a breath, ready to lunge forward and hold Logan down at the first signs of aggression. “Sure,” he said instead, and holy hell Charles was right. He grabbed a pen from the bar and scribbled his digits on a napkin before saluting Charles with his bottle and stalking away, leaving a very dumbstruck, open-mouthed Erik in his wake. Charles picked up the napkin, waving it in his face as he shifted over and looking incredibly smug for someone who could barely walk straight.

“Fine, you win,” Erik huffed petulantly.

The corners of Charles’ mouth tugged down slightly as his eyes scanned Erik’s face before he held the napkin up with both hands and promptly ripped it into shreds, tossing the torn pieces in the air. He placed his hands on Erik’s shoulders and pressed their bodies flush together as he whispered, close enough to hear above the thumping bass, breath hot against his ear, “I only want you.”

Erik splayed his hand over the back of Charles’ head as he kissed him, fingers tangled in the soft waves of his hair, claiming his mouth like how he wanted to mark every other inch of his body before sucking on his lower lip, whisky-laced and swollen from the bruising kiss. Erik dropped one last kiss onto the corner of his mouth before pulling away, Charles panting slightly in his arms.

“You know he only gave you his number because you’re Charles Xavier.” Erik said with a smirk.

Charles laughed, flushed and happy. “Whatever helps you sleep at night, my friend. I bet he does musical theatre,” Charles retorted as he tossed his head back. He then proceeded to prop his elbows up on the bar top as he arched his back while looking up at him through his dark lashes, running the tip of his tongue along his lips before smiling coyly, and Erik seriously pondered the repercussions of spreading him out across the countertop for the world to see. “Now, how about that drink you promised me?”

Erik covered Charles’ body with his own and pressed his palm to the small of his back, eliciting a sharp gasp from Charles who arched himself higher to get closer to the other man. “Wait right here,” he said to the shell of his ear right before he drew away, smiling with satisfaction when he took in the flustered look on Charles’ face as he walked off. He made his way to the end of the bar and went up to the bartender at the side, slipping him several Franklins. “I’d like to make my friend a drink,” he said, nodding at Charles who waved back from the barstool that he now perched on.

“Of course, Mr. Lehnsherr,” the bartender replied as he lifted the bar flap to let him behind the counter. Erik grabbed an assortment of bottles of hard liquor from the shelves as he sauntered back over, lining them up in a row of in front of Charles.

“How would you like to be my lab rat for the evening?” Erik grinned as he asked him, not looking away even while he rinsed out a cocktail shaker in the sink.

“Oh you can try anything you want with me all night.” Charles propositioned, leaning across the bar top.

Erik chortled, shaking his head. “You’re terrible.”

“Oh they have Chartreuse, it’s very good.” Erik said when he noticed the vintage bottle of pale green liqueur hidden beneath the counter while drying the cocktail utensils. He picked it up and wrapped his hand around the nape of Charles’ neck. “Open up,” he said when Charles closed his eyes and tilted his head back obediently, and his lips immediately parted. Erik held the back of his head steady and poured a good-sized shot directly into Charles’ mouth, guiding him back upright as he swallowed, eyes not missing the way his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. He slid his hand along Charles’ jaw and swiped his thumb from the corner of his mouth to the centre of his lips, Charles flicking the wet tip of his tongue to lick the stray drop of liqueur off Erik's skin and sending a buzz through him that had nothing to do with the alcohol in his system.

Fuck. Erik threw his head back and gave himself a shot, letting the burn of the Chartreuse distract him from doing ill-advised things like ripping Charles’ clothes off in public.

“Mmm Erik, that was so good,” and oh heaven forbid Charles say anything that would make the odds of him losing his self-control any less.

"Chartreuse, the only liqueur so good they named a colour after it." Erik supplied as he put it aside, picking up a bottle of Ketel One vodka and a cocktail shaker and juggling them in time with the music. He tossed the vodka backwards over his shoulder, the bottle spinning through the air before he caught it in his other hand, followed closely by the shaker.

“Oh my God, Erik! You didn’t tell me you could do tricks!” Charles practically squealed, looking at him like he had just discovered an accidentally misplaced prototype of the iPhone 5.

He shot him a wink as he poured a shot of vodka in the shaker before swiping it through the air and emptying it into a separate shaker. Erik then grabbed a bottle of Blue Curaçao and tossed it high, only to have it land upright on the back of his hand, and this immediately earned him applause from Charles, who looked positively giddy with excitement. He poured a shot into the shaker, spinning it about before emptying it into the one containing the vodka. Then, without missing a beat, he picked up a bottle of Patrón tequila, Oronoco rum, and Tanqueray No. 10 gin and began juggling the three together, the bottles flying upwards in time with the pounding of the drums. He caught two of the bottles by the neck with one hand and the final one in his spare hand, and was startled by the sounds of loud cheers. He turned around to find that they were now surrounded by a small crowd of revellers, all eager to see this new side of Erik Lehnsherr: Flair Bartender Extraordinaire.

But Charles was still there, the only soul that mattered in the sea of empty faces, expression soft and proud as Erik walked over to pour a shot each from the three bottles in his hands. Charles bent over the counter when he was done and placed his hands on his face as he kissed him earnestly, not giving a damn about the people around them.

“You’re amazing.” Charles said as he held his gaze, the words only meant for his ears, drowned out by the club anthem that was being played before they could be privy to any curious onlookers. Erik brushed his lips against his forehead as he stepped away.

He topped off the drink with some Sweet-N-Sour mix before securing the lid on the shaker and flipping it in the air. Erik caught the shaker with his shoulder and rolled it along his arm, the metal defying gravity and yielding to his will. He flicked it off his wrist and caught it, rattling the stainless steel tumbler vigorously along to the beat of the music before serving the drink out over ice.

Charles raised his glass and took a large gulp, making a vaguely obscene noise. “How is it?” Erik asked as he took the drink from his hand to have a sip and goddamnit was it strong, though it did taste rather good, if he could say so himself. Charles did not reply, and instead just grabbed the drink from him and knocked the entire glass back. “Charles, you’re not supposed to drink it so fast!” Erik cried out, rather horrified.

Charles paid no heed to his words and merely lifted the glass precariously high in the air, arm swaying as he proclaimed, “This drink, I like it! Another!” The glass slipped from his fingers and was sent plummeting through the air, and Erik was rather proud of himself for being able to catch it before it went smashing onto the floor.

Erik raised his eyebrows at him, which only led to Charles bursting into drunken giggles as he sprawled across the bar top, pleading, “Come on Erik, it’s... I’m really quite fun. Fine. Humour me?”

“Only if you don’t down the next one in two seconds flat.” Erik warned as he began mixing it, without the bells and whistles this time.

“Suuure, darling. I’ll take my time with you-- It. Nice and slow.” Charles agreed, propping his head up on his hand.

“Maybe you need some water.” Erik suggested as he placed the cocktail in front of Charles and poured another for himself.

“Rubbish.” Charles protested as he took a sip of his drink. He held it up and stared at it, seemingly noticing the neon blue colour from the Curaçao for the first time. “This drink is very groovy.” Charles said, smiling to himself.

Erik swallowed several large mouthfuls of his cocktail before placing it down, laughing as he ran a hand through Charles’ hair. “Charles, do you even know why-- What you’re saying?”

“Y-yes, it’s very groovy... like my eyes?” Charles mused, blinking up at him.

A fond smile spread across Erik’s face as he leaned in close to Charles, his skin already flushed from the alcohol, “I like your eyes, very much.”

* * * * *

Charles simply couldn’t stop guzzling the delicious sky-blue cocktail that Erik had mixed up for him. The Curaçao gave it a bitter, citrusy zing which was rather addictive, but even then it couldn’t mask how strong the drink was. Still, Charles didn’t mind. It was worth it, getting to watch Erik in his element, those long, elegant fingers wrapping around various bottles of alcohol, masterful and in control.

The giddy lightness swimming in his head was a strong warning that he was well on his way to getting smashed. Raven had always warned him that he was an uninhibited drunk who got up to quite a bit of mischief whenever he got hammered. Right now, as he watched Erik right in front of him, sipping his own cocktail, there was nothing Charles wanted more than to snog him silly, then drag him home and chain Erik to his bed.

“Erik,” he called out, and when Erik looked questioningly at him, Charles beckoned him to step forward. As Erik drew closer, Charles couldn’t resist grabbing him by the lapels of his jacket and tilting his head so that their mouths met at an angle for an imperfect, sloppy, messy kiss. He could feel Erik’s muffled groan rumbling through him, and that groan only intensified when Charles let a thumb brush against Erik’s left nipple through his shirt, making Erik surge forward so that he was almost leaning right over the counter. If the bar hadn’t been in the way, Charles would have pushed Erik to the floor and jumped on him there and then, the public and paparazzi be damned.

“Oh my gawd,” Charles heard a familiar, nasal voice somewhere to his left, and he pulled his mouth off a disoriented Erik to see the one person he dreaded most. Perez Hilton was hovering nearby, his mouth twisted in glee, holding up his camera phone and snapping as many pictures as he could. “Charles, darling,” Perez was saying even as he continued taking photos, “I always had my suspicions about you, but Erik Lehnsherr? This is a fucking goldmine.”

“Go away,” Erik growled at Perez, who only smirked and took more photos, and now Erik looked dangerously close to swinging over the bar and pounding the crap out of the celebrity blogger.

Sobering up a little, Charles wished this wasn’t happening when he felt so tipsy. Shooting Erik a warning look, Charles immediately walked over to where Perez was. “Look, Erik and I were just being friendly--”

“No way,” Perez said with a snort of incredulity. “I’ve been here for the past twenty minutes and I’ve already seen you sucking face, like, twice. Also, I saw you literally give him a shot in the mouth, how much gayer can you get? So don’t try and bullshit a bullshitter.”

“I wasn’t--” But it was already too late as Perez tucked his phone away and waltzed off with his friends, one of whom made kissy faces at Erik and Charles before they all burst into mocking laughter. Erik still looked pissed off, although Charles was already resigned to his fate. They had been pretty reckless so far, and it was only a matter of time before a picture of them kissing would end up on Twitter or someone’s blog.

“Forget it, Erik,” Charles whispered soothingly into his ear, rubbing circles on Erik’s chest. His very warm, very firm chest, and Charles wanted nothing but to sit down somewhere and rest his head on that marvellous chest. “Come on, let’s get our drinks and get back to our booth.”

The frown line between Erik’s straight eyebrows loosened. “Are you sure? That annoying little shit will--”

“Erik, it’s too late now. I just want to enjoy the rest of the night with you.” Charles brushed his lips against the curve of Erik’s ear. “Please? For me?”

The shiver that ran through Erik was visible. “All right. For you.”

It was a little unsettling, how easily obedient and pliant Erik was with him, but Charles was far too buzzed and happy to start questioning it. The familiar strains of Pitbull’s ‘Give Me Everything’ were booming throughout the club, turning the dancefloor into one united heaving mass. Charles and Erik managed to cleverly navigate their way around the crowd, arms wrapped around each other’s waists as they stumbled back to their private booth, laughing and giddy. The Macallan 25 was still there, waiting for them, and Charles happily sloshed more into their glasses while Erik sprawled on the couch, those intense blue-green eyes watching him intently. Maybe Erik was better at holding his liquor than Charles was.

“Say when,” Charles said as he continued pouring the whisky into Erik’s glass, but his hand started trembling when Erik slipped off his shoes, then ran a socked foot up and down Charles’ leg, a sly grin growing on his face. The handsome bastard.

“When.” Erik’s voice was low, smooth velvet, as smooth as the whisky. “Come here, Charles.”

Picking up both their glasses, Charles made his way over to where Erik was sitting, but instead of sitting beside Erik, Charles boldly perched himself on top of Erik’s warm, broad lap, smirking at the way Erik’s eyes widened. “Here you go, Erik,” Charles said as though nothing was out of the ordinary, handing Erik his glass calmly.

Charles tried not to laugh as Erik knocked back his drink immediately, grimacing a little at the burn while Charles savoured his more slowly, wriggling his bum about to make himself comfortable on Erik’s lap. “Charles.” Erik’s voice sounded a little rough and strangled. “Do you know what you’re doing to me?”

“Oh sorry, I just thought it’ll be more comfortable sitting here, my friend.” Which was the biggest lie in the world, of course, because the couch was so big, and Erik’s lap barely had space. But it was warm and firm, and since he was this close, Charles could smell Erik’s scent, a lovely, sharp mixture of his usual cologne coupled with the musk of light, clean sweat from his exertion at the bar earlier.

To get more of Erik’s scent, Charles rested his head on Erik’s chest, feeling soothed by the soft, erratic heartbeat thumping below his ear. “Mmm Erik, you smell so good.” Charles took in a deep breath, then nuzzled against Erik’s crisp shirt.

Erik shifted a little, and Charles could now feel his nose pressing into Charles’ hair. “Could say the same for you,” Erik murmured, those long fingers carding through his hair, gently massaging his scalp. It felt so good and strangely erotic, and Charles turned his face inwards so he could plant kisses along the long, lean line of Erik’s neck, making him gasp.

“Fuck, Charles.” The plain, rough need in Erik’s voice just made Charles even harder. “I’m this close to pushing you down on the couch and having my way with you.”

“Good,” was all Charles said before he slid his lips up Erik’s jaw, and their heads tilted just enough for their mouths to meet in a long, sweet kiss. Charles could feel something poking him in the back of his thigh and he smiled triumphantly into the kiss, which just made Erik nip at his swollen lips.

Erik was staring at him as though he couldn’t quite believe Charles was real. “Mein Gott, your mouth,” Erik said, before nuzzling at Charles’ lips again and they were deep in another kiss, longer and hungrier this time, and Charles felt Erik’s tongue sliding possessively into his mouth, as though Erik wanted to taste every single inch of him.

Well, Charles thought, two can play at this game.

He broke off the kiss, leaving Erik blinking, dazed and a little drugged. Before Erik could regain his senses, Charles quickly swung his feet down and clambered onto his knees, throwing a leg across Erik’s thighs so that Charles was straddling him. He grinned down at Erik, whose pupils were so dilated that his eyes almost looked black in the dim lighting of the private room as he stared reverently up at Charles. “Wait, what are you doing?”

“Shhhh.” Charles placed a finger on those firm, warm lips, but his control almost slipped as Erik’s lips parted to let that finger slide into his mouth, up to the knuckle, before taking in another one. Charles’ jaw dropped as Erik slowly sucked on his fingers, eyes fixed on Charles as though to say, You’re mine, you’re mine, no one else can have you because when the night is done, you’ll be in my bed, crying out my name, legs locked around my hips, and Charles wanted all those things so desperately that he slid his fingers out immediately and replaced them with his mouth, seeking out Erik’s tongue and sucking on the tip of it, pulling it into his mouth and feeling more than hearing Erik’s moan vibrating through him.

One of his hands slid down Erik’s chest, deliberately taking a detour past his right nipple, then it slid under Erik’s shirt and Charles pressed a thumb inside Erik’s navel, which made him gasp, squeezing his eyes shut. So this is what you look like when you’re about to come, Charles thought with a smug sense of satisfaction, happy that reality matched up with his many fantasies concerning Erik. It was hard to tell which made him more tipsy, the alcohol or the feel of Erik’s hard, flat stomach beneath his fingertips.

When he started unzipping Erik’s pants and sliding his hand into his briefs, Erik broke off the kiss, panting, “Fuckfuckfuck, wait, Charles--"

“It’s okay, hush,” Charles whispered against his cheek, but Erik was still resistant, and Charles wondered if he had ever made out so publicly before. And perhaps it was the intoxication, but a side of him was giddy with the risk of being caught. Charles curled his fingers around the curved outline of Erik’s erection, trapped in his briefs, but Erik started shaking his head frantically, gripping Charles by the wrist and stopping his errant hand.

“No, Charles, I mean it, stop.”

* * * * *

Erik was desperately trying to calm his mind, inhaling deeply and trying to ignore the fact that the air was spiced with the clean, oceanic scent of the cologne that Charles often favoured. He tried not to open his eyes either, because he didn’t think he could withstand the sight of a rumpled, sweaty, tipsy Charles straddling him, brow furrowed, looking so confused and hurt. After a few long moments of silence, Erik at long last felt like he wasn’t going to come in his pants at the slightest movement from Charles and finally peered up at him.

It was worse than he thought. Charles looked so despondent, so sad, the light in those clear blue eyes entirely diminished. He wasn’t looking at Erik, and now he made a move as if to climb off Erik’s lap, his movements a little clumsy with drink.

Erik quickly slid his arms around Charles’ waist, locking him in place. “Wait, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I don’t understand,” Charles said dully. “You asked me to stop, so I’m stopping.”

“I know.” Erik’s frustration was making his words bottle up in his throat, so he forced them out. “I mean, you got me wrong. It’s not that I don’t want this.”

Charles stilled, but at least now he was peeking up at Erik again through those dark, sooty lashes. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, I do want this.” Erik gestured between both of them, making Charles smile a little, and Erik scooped up one of his hands, squeezing it. “I know I sound silly, but I, uh, I mean--"

“Erik.” Now Charles didn’t seem so sad anymore, the corner of his mouth quirking up in a reluctant, rather drunk smile. “We’re adults, we can say how we feel.”

“I didn’t want our first time to be some grope-and-feel in some private room in a club,” Erik blurted out so quickly that he wasn’t sure if Charles heard him, but judging from the brilliant smile slowly dawning on Charles’ face, maybe he did. “I mean, you’re not, you know...this is not a one-time thing.” Erik pressed that hand to his cheek. “Not to me, anyway.”

Not only had the light returned to those eyes, but now they seemed soft, unreal. “Oh Erik, of course I understand.”

“Good.” Erik couldn’t help grinning at him, and this time their kiss was sweeter, more chaste. His erection was still being persistent, but he knew by the time they finished their drinks, he would be able to walk out of the club without attracting attention for the wrong thing. “Come on, drink up, then I’ll take you home.”

“Good.” Charles grinned, wobbling a little on Erik’s thighs before Erik helped him onto the seat beside him, his head resting on Erik’s shoulder as they finished the rest of their drinks. Erik couldn’t help nodding along to the new Rihanna song blasting on the dancefloor, and he grinned to himself when he realised how appropriate it was for his current situation with Charles. We found love in a hopeless place.

He bent down and pressed a kiss to the top of his hair. Charles nuzzled back against him, heavy and content as Erik texted the limosine service to send a towncar to pick them up.

Erik finished off the rest of his whisky, there's a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good Scotch. Once he saw Charles tipping back the last of his blue drink, Erik called for the bill, then left a very generous tip for the waitress. Having been a bartender himself, he knew what a big difference tips made to the service staff, and sure enough, she flashed a huge, megawatt smile at both him and Charles as they stumbled out of the club. At least it was less likely now that she would blab if Perez and his ilk came back to interrogate her on what had happened.

As the two of them made their way out, Erik was obviously the more sober of the two of them, but he was starting to feel the effects of the Macallan as well as the cocktails he had mixed for Charles and himself. He could find his way out of the club, but he was having difficulty walking in a straight line. Charles was far worse off, practically clinging to Erik for support, face flushed red with alcohol as he grinned at nothing in particular. Erik put on his favourite pair of aviators before fishing Charles’ own shades out of his pocket, slipping them onto his face. A bouncer guarding the back door nodded as he saw them coming, speaking into a walkie talkie before he swung the door open. Erik smiled at him and tucked a twenty into his shirt pocket, patting it down before steering Charles out into the alley.

It didn’t take long for camera flashes to start surrounding them again, but Erik was quite tipsy and in far too good a mood to bother snarling or snapping at the paps. Still, he moved his body a little to shield Charles from the cameras. Hurrying towards the towncar idling outside the club waiting for them, Erik quickly opened the door and helped Charles into the backseat before sliding in himself, closing the door and greeting the driver, a regular member of the staff who already knew where Erik lived. He gave the driver Charles’ address, and the rest of the ride was quiet and uneventful, Charles dozing against his shoulder as Erik stroked his hair.

They reached Charles’ place first, and Erik hesitated before telling the driver to wait for him. It was far too tempting to stay over, but Charles was so drunk that Erik knew sex would be out of the question. It was going to be an epic night of blue balls for him, but he would rather go through that (again) than a few drunken, hazy fumblings with Charles that wouldn’t be particularly memorable. No, Erik had fucked up his fair share of relationships, and this was one he wanted to start off right.

They made it inside the house, and Charles flopped onto his bed while letting Erik take off his shoes and socks. “Erik, m’here and into bed wit- me.”

Once Erik was done, he put the shoes and socks aside before lifting the quilt and covering Charles with it. “Charles, I have to go,” he said gently, but at least Charles had enough presence of mind to frown.

“No, my friend, stay....sex.” Charles yawned deeply, snuggling under the quilt even as he made bedroom eyes at Erik, who wanted to simultaneously laugh and kiss him.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” Erik said, bending down to leave Charles a lingering kiss on the forehead, and when he pulled away, Charles’ slightly parted lips were so red and moist that he couldn’t resist kissing him there as well, cupping his face tenderly and feeling Charles smile into the kiss.

“Not...drunk...” But Charles was already drifting off into slumber by the time Erik crept out of the bedroom and out of the house, locking it behind him. It was so painful to not go back and crawl in beside Charles, so warm and snug under the covers, but Erik really didn’t trust himself.

Heading outside and back into the car, Erik stared out of the window, wishing the alcohol didn’t leave his head feeling so muddled so he could think. But really, the only thoughts he seemed to be capable of was the way Charles had felt in his arms, and Erik smiled all the way back to his own house.

* * * * *


Notes:
1. The title of this chapter is a quote from ‘Velvet Goldmine’. Ewan McGregor’s character says it to Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ character before they kiss. The line is in turn a quote from Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’.
2. The Roxbury is a newly reopened club that used to be on Sunset Boulevard and one of the West Coast's premier celebrity playhouses.
3. Hugh Jackman’s opening number at the 2009 Oscars where he ends it by singing, “I’m Wolverine!”
4. "Chartreuse, the only liqueur so good they named a colour after it." is a quote from ‘Death Proof’.
5. Erik prepared a modified AMF (short for ‘adios motherfucker’) for Charles, without the soda. Your resident alcoholic author (no prizes for guessing who) tried this out and it really is damn bloody strong.
6. “This drink, I like it! Another!” is a quote from ‘Thor’.
7. “There's a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good Scotch.” is one of Michael Fassbender’s lines from ‘Inglourious Basterds’. ETA: Michael Fassbender bartending for Hugh Jackman during the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con.

Chapter Text

* * * * *

Erik always enjoyed the route up Mulholland Drive, offering panoramic views of the San Fernando Valley, though it was not the scenery that had captivated him but rather the passenger that he came to pick with pleasure on a daily basis. The guards at the entrance to Charles’ gated community now knew to expect him, offering a friendly greeting each time he drove by. Erik actually returned with a genuine smile that morning, throwing them for a loop, not that he really cared about their reaction anyway, his mind focused solely on what awaited him just beyond the top of those familiar front steps.

He knocked on the door lightly and waited, but there was no response. “Charles,” he called out as he rapped on the carved oak panels again, getting a little worried and thinking that perhaps he should have stayed after all, if only to make sure Charles didn’t die in his sleep from alcohol poisoning. He was just about to pull out his phone and give him a ring when he finally heard shuffling on the other side of the door right before it swung open, revealing a very rumpled-looking British lush.

“Good morning, Erik.” Charles stumbled into his arms, and for a moment Erik seriously wondered whether Charles was hungover or still drunk. Charles slid a hand round the back of his head and drew him in for a kiss, and all that slipped from his mind once he had Charles’ warm mouth on him, body pressed wantonly against his. And okay, fine, Charles did taste slightly of alcohol, which quite frankly only made him more delicious.

“How are you feeling?” Erik asked when they regained some self-control, taking in Charles’ pallor and unshaven face. Charles had ginger stubble, and perhaps that was truly a sign of how far gone Erik was since he found it absolutely adorable.

Charles scrunched up his face in response. Okay, both drunk and hungover, then. “I’ll live, I made myself a Bloody Mary for breakfast. The best cure for a hangover is more alcohol.”

He raised a cool eyebrow at that, rather amused. “I really don’t think that’s how it works.”

Charles laughed, putting on his best mock aristocratic accent, all clipped phrases and lengthened vowels. “I come from a long line of alcoholics. Trust me, my dear.”

“Let’s go, Charles,” he announced, shaking his head as he wrapped an arm around Charles' waist to help him down the stairs. Charles whistled when they reached the bottom, only just noticing the sleek silver Porsche parked in his driveway.

He trailed his fingers on the bonnet, waggling his eyebrows. “Oh Erik, are you taking me all the way in your ride?”

Charles really was completely incorrigible. “I don’t take this car out often, but we left the other one in the studio yesterday,” Erik explained as he held the door open. “Watch your head,” he cautioned as Charles climbed in, unsure of how he would navigate the low suspension in his current state. Erik went round the back once Charles had settled in and got into the driver’s seat, slipping on his shades, the engine purring to life once he turned the ignition. He backed them out of the driveway slowly, eyes fixed on the mirror.

Charles groaned loudly the moment they drove onto the street, hit with the Californian sun in all its blazing glory. “Oh God, oh God. Erik, go back, please go back. Sun, too much sun. Someone’s slicing through my brain, Erik, help--"

Erik laughed, taking off his Ray-Bans and putting them on Charles instead, earning himself a huge sigh of gratitude. He reached for the bottle of water he had brought with him and handed it over. “Let me introduce you to the Lehnsherr Hangover Cure: rest and plenty of water.”

“Don’t you need these?” Charles asked in concern, pointing to the shades he was now wearing.

“No, I’m fine, you should keep them. They look good on you,” Erik replied, gently massaging Charles’ scalp before getting his hands back on the steering wheel. Turning into a mother hen instead of saying, “I told you so!” was a second sure sign that he was too far gone.

Charles placed a hand on Erik’s thigh, rubbing it softly. “Thank you. Please don’t drive too fast, especially not down the hill. I think I’m going to be sick.”

* * * * *

Emma instinctively knew something was wrong when she blearily opened her eyes and realised her phone was buzzing away furiously on the nightstand while it was barely light outside. Groaning loudly, she rolled over and picked up her Blackberry, squinting at her screen. If it was Sebastian goddamn Shaw asking her out for yet another breakfast date, she was seriously going to march down to the set later and kick him in the nads.

Her frown disappeared when she realised it was an L.A. phone number she did not recognise. She waited until it stopped ringing, then checked her missed calls. Her eyes widened when she realised she had 66 of them, and they were ALL numbers she did not recognise, except one from Sylvia, a reporter from the New York Times she had met once when Sylvia wrote an article on Erik.

“Oh my God.” Emma sat up in bed, the strap of her slip falling down her shoulder, but she barely noticed it. The sudden explosion of unidentified numbers could only mean one thing; the media was trying to get hold of her, and there could only be two reasons they were trying to call her so early in the morning. Either her client had been nominated for an Oscar (which was highly unlikely, given that Erik’s last major role had been that of a talking shark in a Pixar movie) or he had been caught doing something incredibly, incredibly idiotic.

“Erik, you stupid cow.” Emma flopped back in bed with a sigh of frustration. She was willing to bet that Raven’s phone was currently besieged with calls as well.

Not wasting any more time, Emma quickly showered and got dressed, but she took care to do her hair - a lady always did her hair, no matter the circumstances - and she roared off to the studio in her Lamborghini. During the short drive she had managed to calm down a bit, and by the time she reached the lot, she was capable of an actual plan that did not involve skinning Erik alive and turning him into one of her fur coats.

She ran into Raven outside the parking lot, and one look at Raven’s face, red with fury and incredulity, was enough to tell her that Raven must have woken up to the same thing she had. “Do I even want to guess?” Emma asked tiredly, whipping off her oversized sunglasses.

“Perez fucking Hilton!” Raven hissed, shaking her head in dismay. “Of all the people to get caught by, of all the places to get caught! Sucking face in public at the fucking Roxbury!”

“Oh sweet mercy.” Emma massaged her temples, reminding herself of her plan to leave Erik’s genitals relatively intact. Charles Xavier may be known for his sweet, friendly reputation, but she didn’t dare put it to the test by damaging something of immense value to him. “Why, why, why do men always think with their dicks? Why?”

“I’ll be damned if I know,” Raven said in a huff, folding her arms and leaning against the wall, frowning in contemplation. “I must have been crazy, thinking that working for a gay client was easier than a straight one.”

Emma fluttered a dismissive hand at her. “Oh honey, honey, they’re all the same, straight or gay or whatever. If you find an actor who is a eunuch, hold onto him tight and never let him go.”

Raven shook her head. “It’s too late for that. Now I’ve got to clean up the mess Charles has left behind.”

They started walking together towards the set, and Emma was aware that the people passing them in the corridors were giving them a wide berth. Which was probably wise, given how furious Raven seemed and how Emma herself probably looked none too pleased. “Has Charles’ publicist gotten hold of you yet?” she asked Raven, who nodded.

“I told her ‘No comment’ first, because apparently Charles is too plastered to pick up the phone,” Raven said, her expression grim. “What about Erik’s?”

“Oh, Erik fired his last publicist,” Emma said airily. “Apparently she ‘didn’t do a good job’ because she couldn’t explain what he was doing, drunk as a skunk after the Muse gig. Erik was all, ‘You should not have made me sound like such a drunk!’ and I told Erik that he doesn’t need a publicist, he needs rehab.”

Raven snorted. “Sounds like he and Charles are a match made in AA heaven.”

Emma tilted her head a little. “They are actually quite a gorgeous couple.” At the wary sidelong glance Raven shot her, Emma held her hands up in surrender. “I know, I know, we’re both pretty cheesed at them now, and rightly so. But if you think about it, they both seem really sweet on each other.”

Now Raven just looked worried. “Do you think...it’ll last?” At Emma’s enquiring look, Raven hesitantly added, “I just don’t want Charles to end up getting hurt if Erik’s just a wham-bam kinda guy.”

Emma cleared her throat as she took off her white gloves. “I have just as much concern that Erik will get hurt as well.”

Raven rubbed her face with her hands. “Well, it’s too early to tell. Let’s deal with this shitstorm first.”

Emma was about to reply when she spotted Charles and Erik staggering onto the set, Erik looking relatively normal while Charles hung off his side, definitely looking the worse for wear. Pointing them out to Raven, the two women marched over to where Charles and Erik were standing by the catering table, helping themselves to donuts. “You two are so fucked,” Raven hissed at them. As Erik’s eyebrows jumped and Charles looked hopefully at Erik, she quickly added, “No, no, no, stop looking at him like that, I meant the other kind of ‘fucked’.”

“What did we do?” Charles mumbled, adjusting the Ray-Bans he was wearing which Emma recognised as Erik’s. “And please stop yelling. Why is everyone yelling?”

“No one is yelling,” Emma said calmly. She fished out her Blackberry, opening Perez’s blog and scrolling to the damning article and picture before handing it over to Erik and Charles. “See for yourselves exactly what you’ve gotten into.”

There was a moment of guilty silence as Charles scrolled through the blog, Erik resting his chin on Charles’ shoulder, their heads pressed together. Then, to Emma’s amazement, Charles started grinning.

“Look, Erik, I can see you slipping me a bit of tongue. You rascal.”

“Yeah?” Erik shot Charles a fond look before kissing his cheek, and Raven let out a noise that sounded like a kettle about to explode while Emma rolled her eyes.

“Oh my god, you two just don’t give a shit about your careers, do you?” Raven said bitterly before she stalked off, leaving Emma with the two bewildered men.

“She’s right, you know,” Emma said wryly, as Charles frowned after the departing Raven. “With the reckless way you two are behaving, one would think you don’t care about your careers anymore.”

“That’s not true,” Erik said defensively, before casting a tender glance at Charles. “I’ve just found something I care about much, much more.”

“Oh brother,” Emma murmured as Charles practically melted at those words, standing on his tip toes to kiss Erik on the nose. She sighed dramatically as she plucked her phone out of his hands, scrolling through her contacts list. “Fine, fine, I know some of the best publicists this side of L.A., let me make a few calls.”

“You’re a gem,” Erik said, giving her a wide grin as Charles settled against him again, and Emma really couldn’t begrudge him this little happiness as she turned away, dialing one of the numbers.

After all, she had never seen him this happy before.

* * * * *

Raven was seldom angry, but when she was, she preferred to stay clear of everyone so that there would be no poor unsuspecting soul to lash out at. Right now she was hurrying briskly down the corridor and heading towards the green room, pissed off with Charles and Erik and Perez Hilton and everyone in Hollywood, essentially. What the fuck was Charles thinking, behaving so recklessly and wantonly in public like that with another famous male actor? No, he wasn’t thinking, and that was the problem. She sincerely hoped his career - and by default, hers - wouldn’t be over just because of this.

She forced herself to take a deep breath, willing her mind to be calm first. She needed to sit down, she needed to think and dear God she needed an iced coconut latte. The thought of her favourite drink cheered her up a bit, and she wondered if there was enough time to send Marie out to Barry’s to buy the coffee for her.

She was in the middle of fishing out her cellphone to call her assistant when she turned the corner and collided with someone much taller than her who was carrying two drinks, the ice rattling in the cups as Raven steadied the other person. It was Hank, blinking owlishly at her as he scrambled to hang on to his drinks. “Whoa, I almost dropped those.”

Raven had been on the verge of snapping, “Watch where you’re going!” but one look at Hank’s eager, puppy-ish expression and the words instantly died in her mouth. He seemed so, well, delighted to see her. So instead she gave him a strained smile, patting his arm. “Sorry, I’m just...distracted.”

“Oh.” A frown marred Hank’s youthful face, making him look older. “You look...stressed out.”

“I am.” She was surprised to find herself admitting this to him, of all people. She hadn’t really gotten to know him that well, but there was something about him, so sweet and trusting, that made her want to be the same. Also, she would be lying if she didn’t admit that he was very easy on the eyes. “I’m just having a rough morning.”

“Ah, I see.” Hank’s tone was sympathetic. Then his face brightened as he handed one of the drinks to her. “It’s a good thing I was looking for you then, because this is for you.”

“It is?” Raven was surprised as she accepted the drink, its sides slippery with condensation.

“Yup. It’s an iced coconut latte from Barry’s.” Hank studied her face a little anxiously. “It’s what you normally drink, right?”

“Well, y-- wait, how did you know that?” she asked, a little suspicious as she narrowed her eyes at him.

Now his face was flushed a nice shade of pink. “Um, I observed it’s what you’re always drinking on set.”

“Oh, you noticed.” Now Raven was a little awed as she looked at the drink, then back up at him again. His eyes were so blue and vibrant, darker than Charles’, and she found that it was hard not to get sucked into them. “Er, thank you. Sorry if I’m a little freaked out because it was exactly what I was craving, right this moment.”

“It is?” Hank beamed, looking as though he had just won the lottery. “Great, then I’m glad I could help.”

Raven took a long sip of her drink, which tasted divine. “You’re amazing,” she said, the admiration clear in her voice as he blushed even more. “You single-handedly brightened up my morning. Come, walk with me to the green room.”

“Really? Uh okay, sure.” Hank fell into step beside her, sipping his own coffee and staring at his own feet. He seemed so unusually shy around her, which was rather mystifying as she had observed him being completely different at work on the set. When Hank was in his element, he was confident, clear and very sure of what he was doing. Now a different man seemed to stand before her, unsure and coy, and she linked her arm with his. He said nothing, but his smile widened and the tips of his ears reddened.

When they got to the green room, there was no one inside except for two grips who were on their break, shooting pool at the billiard table. Raven went to sit down on the long, green L-shaped couch, then patted the seat beside her. “Come on,” she said to Hank. “I don’t bite. Much.”

He smiled a little as he sat down beside her, hands cupped around his drink. “So who made you so upset?” he asked quietly.

“Charles,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t know if you read Perez Hilton’s blog, but--”

“Yeah, Charles and Erik, I know,” Hank said, taking another sip of his coffee. “I’m not at all surprised, to be honest. They’ve been really obvious.”

Her eyes widened at him. “Wait, what do you mean ‘obvious’?”

Hank pushed up his glasses, blinking at her. “Well, it’s all the looks they’ve been giving each other on set, you know? And all the little touches they keep exchanging. I mean, my job is to keep an eye on the cameras and watch the dailies. A lot of people don’t even notice me sometimes, and that’s fine.” He offered her a smile. “Maybe that’s why Charles and Erik didn’t realise they were kind of broadcasting their attraction to the entire set.”

Raven shook her head at him, still in awe. “You really are amazing, Hank.”

“Nah.” Hank studied his drink earnestly. “I’m just an ordinary guy, doing my job.”

“Not to me,” Raven said a little too quickly, and when he raised an eyebrow at her, it was her turn to feel rather embarrassed. Was she going to become like Charles now, throwing herself at cute guys? Not that she wanted to admit Hank was cute; he just wasn’t the type of guy she would normally go out with. Besides, it wasn’t as though he was interested in her or anything like that. He was just being friendly, and she shouldn’t misinterpret his friendship as anything else. “Anyway, thank you. For the drink. And for listening to my ranting.”

Hank only offered her a shy shrug. “It was my pleasure.” And it did seem like he meant it, a smile growing on his face. “Don’t stress out too much about Charles and Erik. They’re happy, the movie is going to be huge and people will eventually move on to other news. You’ll see.”

Raven couldn’t help laughing a little. “I highly doubt people are going to forget two famous actors who have just outed themselves and are essentially dating each other.”

“Maybe,” Hank conceded. “But just wait until Brad and Angelina adopt ten more babies, and this will hardly be news anymore. Look at Ellen and Neil Patrick Harris, they’re fine. I mean, Zach Quinto just came out, and no one’s stoning him or pelting him with Bibles when he goes out in public.”

Hank did have a point. Raven squeezed his knee, genuinely glad that she had run into him this morning. “I suppose you’re right. Thank you for everything, Hank.”

“No problem.” Hank stood up, offering her a hand. “Come on, let’s head back to the set.”

Touched by the gentlemanly gesture, Raven found herself taking his hand and letting him help her up, and as they walked back together to the set, she couldn’t help throwing him a grateful glance, hoping that everything he had said was right.

Still, even if he wasn’t, at least she now felt much better.

* * * * *

* * * * *

The day before had gone by in a blur, a collection of hours lost in the wreckage of his spinning head, aching limbs, and random bouts of nausea. But Erik’s chest had been warm when he had buried his face in it, his arms comforting when they held him as they lay tangled together on the couch in Charles’ trailer, and Charles knew that he would gladly suffer through all that again just for the feel of Erik’s fingers as they carded through his hair. Work itself had been merciful; Bryan and Shaw had spent the day in a meeting with Sean and Alex discussing the script changes and had left him and Erik to their own devices, mindful of the media circus that had sprung up around them overnight.

Now here they were back on the couch, with Charles’ head resting against Erik’s chest as he held the reworked script in his hands, the changes annotated with post-it notes for easy reference. Charles read the text printed across the pages aloud as Erik looked on over his shoulder, the rich cadence of his voice filling the space around them, the occasional press of lips against the crown of his head letting him know that Erik was with him for every word he narrated.

We shouldn’t keep denying ourselves, don’t you see? I’m like you.” Charles felt Erik’s arms wrap around him as he read his line, and allowed himself a moment to dream of what it would be like to spend the rest of his days just like this, caught up in nothing but Erik, reading to each other as they drifted off to sleep, Erik’s chest rising and falling in time with his own, and found he wanted absolutely nothing more than just that.

“Charles?” Erik’s voice snapped him out of his reverie, just that one syllable possessing enough power to draw Charles back to him, like the enchantment of a siren’s song.

“I’m sorry, I lost myself for a bit.” Charles said as he turned to kiss the side of his jaw. He fished his phone out of his pocket as he sat up, staring at it thoughtfully. Erik had switched it off after the third time Charles had let a call go straight to voicemail yesterday, crying pitifully about the noise and declaring that he would very much like to crawl into a hole and die. It was admittedly not his finest hour.

“I should probably turn it back on,” he mused as Erik got up as well, resting his head on Charles’ shoulder. He pressed the power button and tossed the device aside in dismay as it continued to ring for a couple of minutes with a cacophony of text, voicemail, and email alerts. He picked it up when it was done, rather surprised that the poor phone had not simply given up the ghost and short circuited, and scrolled through the barrage of messages quickly.

“Some of these are from Moira, I should call her, she seems awfully worried.” Charles said as he pressed the phone to his ear, his free hand stroking the back of Erik’s neck.

It rang twice before Moira answered, the relief in her voice evident, “Charles, I have been trying so hard to get you. Are you okay?”

“I do apologise, my dear. Yesterday wasn’t a good day, and I’ve been rather preoccupied today. But yes, I’m excellent,” he paused, rubbing the side of his head against Erik’s, “more than excellent.”

“Really?” she asked, sounding rather disbelieving, “How about dinner tonight? At The Palm?”

Charles shifted to face Erik, raising his eyebrows as he repeated, “Just me and you, at The Palm tonight,” he waited until Erik nodded his consent, “sure, I’ll see you at 8 P.M.”

“Take the Porsche, it’s time I brought the other one back.” Erik offered as he held out his keys after Charles had said his goodbyes to Moira, but hesitated as a realisation dawned upon him, “You do know how to drive a stick shift?”

Charles took the keys from him, smiling, “Yes, darling. Thank you.” He reassured and planted a chaste kiss on Erik’s lips, adding with a smirk, “Would you like me to demonstrate to you how good I am with a stick?”

Erik laughed, shaking his head as he rubbed his thigh affectionately, “And drive safely, I mean it.”

“Yes, yes,” Charles said as he waved his concerns away, leaning over to grab the script before he crawled back into Erik’s waiting arms, “Now, where were we?”

* * * * *

“Hello, Moira. So sorry I’m late, I got held up at the studio,” Charles apologised as he kissed her forehead in greeting, though what he really meant to say was that Erik had spent a good fifteen minutes in the lot making sure that he could accelerate, reverse and park to his satisfaction, and that was then followed by a goodbye-kiss that stretched on into a desperate tangle of tongues and limbs, and Charles had been extremely close to screwing dinner and going home with Erik instead.

Moira smiled in understanding and motioned for Charles to take a seat, “It’s all right, I went ahead and ordered a bottle of pinot noir.”

“Excellent, what would you like to have? The usual?” Charles asked as he called the waiter over to their table and Moira nodded in reply.

“Good evening, sir, how may I help you?” their waiter greeted after making his way towards them.

“Hello, good evening. Could you take our orders, please? A lobster for the lady, and I’ll have a filet mignon, medium rare. Thank you.” Charles smiled brightly as he placed their orders, the waiter thanking them and pouring some wine for him before walking away.

Charles held the glass up to Moira before placing it to his lips and taking a sip, the liquid smooth as it slid down his throat. “Thank you for asking me out to dinner. I understand your concerns regarding Erik, but I assure you he is a very wonderful man.” Charles began, his eyes taking on a faraway look at the mention of Erik’s name, oblivious to the smile spreading over his face.

Moira sat straight up at that, startling him back to reality. “Charles, this isn’t about whether or not I think you’re right for each other. You’ve always been a good judge of character, so I’ll just have to trust you on that. Have you even seen any of the reports?” She asked, looking alarmed.

“No, I’ve been avoiding them, quietly honestly,” he replied despondently, tugging a little on his hair as he combed it back with his fingers.

Moira took a large gulp of her wine before proceeding, “Well, let me inform you that the headlines getting the most mileage aren’t those that are some variation of ‘Are Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr Dating?’. No, ‘Charles Xavier is Gay’ – that’s what’s trending right now on Twitter.”

“Oh.” Charles whispered as he wrapped his hands around the back of his neck and hung his head, his elbows resting on the table. That was it, then. All those cold, empty years spent starving for someone to touch him, all that for nothing. No, all that is finally over, he corrected himself, and let out a long, deep breath he never knew he had been holding.

Moira’s eyes softened and she reached over to touch the side of his arm. “It’s not too late to issue a statement, say it was a mistake fueled by alcohol.”

“But it wasn’t, Moira.” Charles protested as he snapped up, latent fury burning behind his eyes. He and Erik were many things, but all that he felt and did for Erik was not, and could never, ever be, something he regretted, no matter the consequences. “Yes, we were terribly reckless, but the truth would have come out eventually. And at least now I don’t have to keep projecting an image of someone I’m not to the rest of the world.”

Moira’s eyes grew wide as she tapped her palm rapidly on the table, “You need to stop being so idealistic, Charles. Think about your career.”

Charles raised his voice, incensed. “What do you think I’ve been doing for the last five years?” He paused when he realised that some of the other patrons had turned to stare at them, ducking his head as he continued in hushed tones, “All this time, I’ve put aside what I want in order to fulfill my contractual responsibilities to the studios, for the sake of the films. My whole life has revolved around trying my best to please the executives, the fans, everyone. Enough is enough.”

“I’m just looking out for you. Hollywood is such a sexist place, there are barely any good roles for women, you know it as well as I do. I’ve lost track of the number of scripts that have been sent my way for the part of the clichéd love interest. It’s going to be twice as bad for a gay actor, especially when playing the romantic lead. Which studio is going to risk the capital when they aren’t sure if audiences are going to find the idea of you charming your leading ladies believable? They’ll simply cast you as the gay best friend. Think very carefully about it, Charles. All you’re throwing away for what could end up as just a passing dalliance.” She begged, creases marring her forehead.

“You’re right about this industry, Moira, but I’m just so tired of concealing who I am.” He admitted as he looked sincerely into her eyes. For all his freely given affection and cheerful disposition, the truth of the matter was, for the longest time, Charles Xavier had felt utterly, devastatingly alone. Hardly anyone knew him for who he truly was, and if he were to be honest, Raven had been his only real friend through it all. Until Erik. Erik, who did not give a damn about what the rest of the world thought of him, who lived by his own insane set of rules and ideals, had smashed his way through the smoke and mirrors and freed him from his own self-imposed martyrdom of crippling loneliness, and he could no longer imagine a world where he would choose anything else over being by his side.

“I haven’t had anyone for my entire professional career, I don’t want to live like this any longer,” his voice trembled, barely audible above the chatter of the other patrons, “I want to be with Erik, above everything.”

Moira reached over and held his hand as their food was served, eyes reddened and glistening in the low light. Charles found he could barely hold it together, let alone have any appetite for dinner. “Are you sure?” she asked after the waiter had left, quiet and low.

Charles nodded, slowly but with complete resolution. “I’m sorry, I can’t leave him.”

She smiled reassuringly as she squeezed his hand. “Then go.”

* * * * *

A blinding flash exploded in his eyes the second Charles stepped out of the restaurant, leaving him dazed and disorientated. “Goddamnit, how did you people even find me?” he cursed under his breath as he took in the large swarm of paparazzi that had gathered around him, blocking the way to the car.

“Charles, did you just break-up with Moira?” one of them shouted from the side.

“What? No, please, just let me go,” he implored as he tried to jostle his way past the front line of paps, pushing the lenses of their cameras away as they shoved them in his face.

“Are you leaving her for Erik?” another yelled into his ear as someone tried tugging on his sleeve and, good grief, how were they coming up with these stories? Charles shielded his eyes from another burst of flashes as he squeezed by five more paps, one of whom was holding up a voice recorder.

“How long have you been dating Erik?”

”Is he a good kisser?”

”Have you always been gay?”

“Please, just go away,” Charles begged as he finally scrambled his way to the Porsche and unlocked the door.

“Isn’t this Erik’s car?” one of them asked over the ruckus, and how the hell did they even know these things? Charles slammed the door shut, locking it immediately, and rested his head against the steering wheel as the engine started up, wishing he could just make them all forget his face for a day.

“If you don’t move away, I won’t be held responsible when I drive over your toes!” Charles tried shouting through the windshield, motioning for them to step back. The paps eventually eased up as he inched the car out of the lot, and Charles heaved a sigh of relief as he turned onto Santa Monica Boulevard. That was, until four bikes rounded the corner and began tailing him, professional DSLR cameras hanging off the necks of the riders.

“Oh bloody hell! I’m sorry, Erik, but it’s either this or showing up at your doorstep with all of them,” he muttered his apologies as he shifted gears, slamming down on the accelerator as the light turned amber.

* * * * *


Soundtrack: Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More

After a long day of shooting, Erik usually had his own routine for winding down in the evening. Dinner, then followed by a hot shower, the length of which was determined by his mood (and these days, his showers tended to last longer and longer, depending on which fantasy about Charles he was entertaining at the moment). Then he would slip into his favourite bathrobe, fresh and relaxed, then read his emails, watch a bit of TV and let his iPod playlist run on shuffle.

However, today was different. He studiously avoided checking his email; the last time he had dared to take a peek, there had been 146 new messages, and judging from the subject titles, they were all about the goddamn Perez article. There was nothing good on TV (and Erik was avoiding the E! channel like the plague) so he just lay on the couch, listening to the Mumford & Sons album and thinking about Charles, who was probably still having dinner with Moira. Erik couldn’t help speculating on what they were discussing and was willing to bet that she was currently chewing poor Charles out about him.

Erik stared at the ceiling, humming along to the song. He knew the Perez article and the resulting media circus was all their fault, of course. He and Charles had been reckless, had kissed in public with no regard for the consequences and now they were paying the price. Still, despite everything, Erik couldn’t bring himself to regret anything when it came to Charles. Maybe it was a little too soon, but already he knew his feelings for Charles ran far too deep.

Erik closed his eyes as his favourite Mumford & Sons song came on, and the lyrics couldn’t be more apt. Love it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you, it will set you free, be more like the man you were made to be. This was how Charles made him feel; as clichéd as it sounded, he made Erik want to be a better man. He made Erik want a lot of things, actually, and right now Erik wanted Charles to right here on the couch next to him, his body warm and snug, nuzzling against Erik.

The music rose to a swell as the chorus came on, and it was so loud that Erik didn’t realise there was knocking on the door until it had turned to loud, angry thumps. Putting the song on pause, Erik could hear Charles shouting, “Don’t do this, Erik!” before there was another series of muffled, rapid knocks that sounded as though Charles was slamming his palm against the door.

“What the--" Erik hurried to the door, swinging it open just as Charles’ fist was about to land on the wood. His eyes widened when he saw Erik, and a flush crept into his cheeks as his eyes slid down Erik’s body, taking in the fact that he was wearing nothing but a bathrobe.

“Charles?” Erik asked, but the skidding of car tyres distracted him, and he quickly peeked outside, realising the paparazzi had followed Charles from the restaurant and were hot on his heels. Tugging Charles into the house, Erik quickly shut the doors and made sure the windows were closed, the curtains drawn, before turning to face a flustered Charles. “What’s going on? I thought you were having dinner with Moira?”

Charles sighed at the mention of her name. “I was. I mean, yes, we were having dinner. And we were talking about you.”

Erik wasn’t at all surprised. “I figured. Not that I’m not ecstatic to see you, but why are you here? You must have left really early.”

Charles raked a hand through his hair. “I know, Erik. She was talking about how detrimental it would be to my career – our careers – if we came out, and how difficult it already was for her as a woman in Hollywood to get proper roles.” Charles started pacing around Erik’s living room, rubbing his temples in distress. “I mean, I get it, she was just concerned for me, but she started hinting that maybe I shouldn’t pay permanent consequences for what may be a temporary thing.”

“Temporary?” Erik was aware how his voice came out sounding strangled, and his heart was pounding in his ears. “You...think we’re temporary?”

There must have been something in his expression, for when Charles looked at him, he immediately walked over to where Erik was standing, cupping the sides of Erik’s face. “Erik, no, that is precisely why I left.”

“I don’t understand.” Erik couldn’t help leaning into Charles’ touch, sliding an arm around his waist to draw him closer so they only stood inches apart, and this made Charles smile up at him.

“This is not easy for me to say, Erik,” he began, his thumb brushing over the corner of Erik’s mouth. “I know you’ve heard a lot of rumours about me dating Moira or my female co-stars or whatever else. And I know you may find me a bit too friendly with other people sometimes.” Charles took a deep breath before he continued. “But the truth is, I’ve been on my own for years. Yes, there’s Raven, who has been like a sister to me. But other than her, I haven’t had anyone in my life for a very long while.”

Erik was confused, letting his free hand stroke through the dark waves of Charles’ hair. “What do you mean? I think I get you, but--"

“Don’t you understand?” Charles huffed out a short, nervous laugh before his eyes met Erik’s, and they were so blue, so tender. “Erik, I’m madly, desperately in love with you.”

For a long moment Erik just stared at Charles. Maybe he had heard wrongly, but judging from the anxious, lip-biting way Charles was watching him, it definitely seemed like Erik had heard exactly what he wanted to hear. Love. Charles Xavier was fucking in love with him, and damn if Erik wasn’t just as crazy about him, feeling warmth bubbling up in his chest like a new spring as he began grinning from ear to ear like a lunatic.

Erik tipped his head forward so that their foreheads were pressed together, and Charles’ eyes were now just a blue blur. “Tell me again.” His voice was barely above a whisper, but he knew Charles heard him, judging from the brilliant smile dawning on his face.

“I love you, Erik Lehnsherr. I think I’ve felt this way about you for the longest time,” Charles murmured, closing the few inches between them for a soft, chaste kiss that had nothing sexual about it at all, and Erik’s heart felt like it was a few sizes too big for his chest. Then Charles was pulling away again, his eyes now slightly reddened. “Erik, you have every last bit of me, heart and body and soul. Please say yes, please.

Erik couldn’t stand to hear Charles pleading like this. “Don’t beg me for something you already have,” Erik said softly, unable to stop himself from stealing another kiss, burying his hands in Charles’ soft curls. “I was yours, Charles, from the moment you stepped into that meeting room twenty minutes late.”

They shared a chuckle at that, and then Charles was tilting his head and kissing him proper this time, his hands sliding up and tugging Erik’s hair as his tongue dove into Erik’s mouth. And Erik welcomed the onslaught, his own hand drifting down to palm that firm bottom and squeezing it, making Charles moan into his mouth. Mine, he thought, and the delight that accompanied that realisation was beyond compare. “Mine,” he growled possessively when Charles broke their kiss, and this sent a shiver through Charles’ body which made Erik want to slam him up against the wall. “You’re mine, mine, Charles. I love you so much--"

“Oh, Erik.” Charles’ lips were a shiny, sinful red, wet with Erik’s saliva, and his hair was tousled and mussed from Erik’s hands. Charles looked every inch like Erik’s property, and when he licked his lips, Erik trailed his hands up the curve of Charles’ spine and seduced him into another kiss, one that held back a little so Charles was kept wanting, and sure enough he was making little noises of protest that just made Erik harder. “Erik, please--"

“Whatever you want, I’ll give it to you,” Erik whispered against that luscious mouth, licking against the seam of Charles’ lips before they parted and they were kissing again, hungry and open-mouthed and sloppy, the room filled only with the slick sounds of their kisses. Sliding his palms down again to grip Charles’ ass, Erik grinned at the desperate sound Charles made, half-moan and half-whimper. Erik slid his mouth down to kiss the sweet line of Charles’ throat, mouthing against his neck. “Tell me what you want, Charles, I’ll give it to you.”

And then Charles was tugging him down, down until he was sprawled beneath Erik on the soft faux bear rug that lay in front of the dormant fireplace, and Erik huffed out a laugh before Charles swallowed it in yet another kiss, hands fisting in his hair. Erik was lost, completely dizzy with the feel of Charles’ smaller frame trapped below his own body, and every time Charles pulled away to breathe, Erik sucked on his engorged lower lip, already raw from being scraped against of his teeth. Then Erik chased after his mouth to lull him back into yet another endless, drugging kiss, slow and sweet and wet. He took an exquisite delight in sucking on the tip of Charles’ tongue, and this made Charles buck under him, his hand already slipping between Erik’s legs to run a hand up the inside of his thigh, and Erik could feel the knot of the bathrobe loosening.

“You know what I want? You, I want you.” Charles gasped as Erik moved down to his neck to suck on the delicate skin below his jaw, feeling his pulse throbbing beneath the tip of his tongue. When Erik bit down gently on the smooth, soft skin, Charles rewarded him with a high, keening gasp. “Oh God, Erik, please for the love of God, I want you to fuck me, please--”

It was an incredible high, hearing Charles beg like this beneath him, body squirming under Erik’s on the downy faux fur. Erik lifted his head so he could gaze down at Charles again, taking in those electrifying blue eyes, that bruised, red bow of a mouth and the pink flush of his cheeks, giving Erik a prelude to what Charles would look like after he’d been fucked. Dropping a kiss to that plush mouth, Erik began undoing Charles’ jeans, which was quite a feat as Charles was so hard that his jeans were rather tight, the seam of the crotch distended. “Lift your hips and help me get these off,” he whispered soothingly to Charles, who obediently arched his hips off the rug. Having managed to unzip Charles’ jeans, Erik shot him a wicked smile before sliding them off along with his briefs, more than turned on at how willing Charles was to get his clothes taken off by him.

“And now, my shirt needs to come off.” Charles had a predatory glint in his eye, and before Erik could guess what he was up to, Charles had grabbed him and pushed him down before climbing on top of him, triumphantly straddling his hips. He was now teasing his first button open, staring down at Erik with hooded eyes. “Would you like me to take my shirt off, Erik?”

Erik helplessly nodded, his mouth going dry at the sight of Charles slowly undoing his shirt buttons, and Erik could already see the red tip of Charles’ erection poking out from beneath the tails of his shirt. He desperately wanted to have his mouth on Charles, sucking him until Charles shot down his throat with a cry, but he was far too distracted by the little striptease Charles was giving him, his gaze burning into Erik.

When Charles reached his waist, Erik placed his hands on top of Charles’, murmuring, “Mine,” and feeling his face go hot when Charles shot him a pleased grin, and they both slowly undid the buttons together. Erik watched his shirt finally fall open, sliding off Charles’ white, smooth shoulders, and Charles tossed it recklessly over to some far corner of the living room.

Erik took this moment to fully appreciate the sight of a very naked Charles Xavier sitting on top of him. Suddenly Erik felt far too clothed, and he moved as if to take off his bathrobe, but he felt Charles’ hands on his own, stopping him. From the intent look in those blue, blue eyes, he seemed a man determined to do it himself.

Erik laid back on the rug, his lips tugged up in a lazy smirk as he watched Charles get to work.

* * * * *

Charles moved his hands to the knot on Erik’s robe, tugging slowly at the ends of the belt until it came undone before sliding his palms down his firm, broad chest, the plush fabric slipping off to pool around him. He took a moment to admire the lean, taut muscles of Erik’s abdomen by running his fingers appreciatively over them, extremely pleased to note that no digital musculature enhancement seemed to have been required in his filming of ‘Sparta’. Even better was the way Erik was reacting to his exploratory touch, those pale blue eyes lidded as he gazed up at Charles, hungry and almost wolfish.

The most obvious proof of how much Erik liked his touch, however, was the hardness poking against Charles’ thigh, leaving a smear of moisture on his skin, marking him as his.

“Charles.” Erik’s voice was low and husky, and Charles readily bent down to claim that generous mouth in a kiss that turned into two, three more kisses, and then Erik laced his fingers around the back of Charles’ neck, keeping him there so he’d have no choice but to go on kissing Erik. Not that he minded, of course, having that long, talented tongue slide into his mouth and tasting every last inch of him. Charles shifted himself on top of Erik to get more comfortable, but both of them groaned when his cock brushed against Erik’s, and Charles could see Erik squeezing his eyes shut again as he pulled away, gasping, “Oh fuck, Charles.

Erik grabbed Charles’ thighs as he flipped them over, grinding down as he slid a hand to splay across his chest, pinning Charles on the ground. Charles bucked his hips up as Erik thrust against his erection, moaning as the friction sent shivers up his spine, his fingers digging into Erik's shoulder blades.

“Yes, fuck Charles. Brilliant idea,” Charles declared between gasps as he pushed Erik’s arm away to bend up, planting one last kiss on those swollen lips. “Take me upstairs. Now.”

“But Charles, Schatz--”

Charles pressed a finger against Erik’s reddened wet lips, trying not to think about how he was the one who had made them that way. “No, no, no, I don’t care, we’ve been putting this off and I keep throwing myself at you and you keep being a gentleman. Now take me upstairs, throw me onto your bed and fuck me so hard that the bed breaks, and even then you’re not allowed to stop fucking me, do you understand?”

Erik’s eyes were wide as he stared at Charles in disbelief, then he broke into the most pleased, predatory grin ever as his eyes raked over Charles’ naked form. “Oh believe me, I understand.” Now Erik was tangling his fingers in Charles’ hair, sifting through the strands. “And you’d better understand too that I intend to pick you up and carry you off to my bed, and I’m going to take my time with you.” Erik was bending down now, leaning in closer and closer so that he and Charles were nose to nose. “And you can beg all you want for me to get inside you, and trust me, by the time I’m done, you won’t be able to walk. All you’ll do is remain in my bed, spent, and beg me to fuck you again and again.”

Yes,” Charles whispered before Erik was even finished, running a hand over his own erection just to tease himself with the promise of everything Erik was offering. “Yes, Erik, please.”

Erik seemed to take a deep breath, then he nodded as though to clear his head. “Put your arms around my neck.”

Charles did as he was told, and he let out a surprised gasp when Erik cleanly lifted him off the rug and held onto him, carrying Charles in his arms as he made his way to the staircase. Charles snuck a peek at Erik’s face, and his expression was so determined and possessive that Charles couldn’t resist stealing a kiss, and of course the feel of Erik’s lips responding to his was an open invitation to attack his mouth even more, tilting his head so that he could deepen their kiss. Erik’s low, desperate groan rumbled in his throat, and this just made Charles hold onto him tighter, his fingers curling across the broad nape of Erik’s neck.

Erik pulled away with obvious reluctance, blinking a little as he wobbled on the first few steps of the staircase. “Charles, dammit, I can’t see.”

“Sorry, darling,” Charles murmured against his mouth, but it was moot because they were kissing again, unable to stop, and it was Erik’s fault entirely for having such addictive lips. They stopped on the stairs just to kiss, and suddenly Erik growled before Charles found himself slammed up against the wall, Erik ravaging his mouth so thoroughly that he felt deliciously used and ravished.

“Erik,” he managed to get out before Erik’s mouth latched onto his shoulder, hot and wet and leaving Charles arching up into him, scrabbling onto the wall for leverage. Charles wished he could see himself from a third-party perspective, pinned against the wall like this under Erik’s lean, lithe body, and he knew that if he asked Erik to fuck him against the wall right here, right now on the stairs, Erik would do it. He would hold Charles’ thighs open, slick him up, and then fuck him, hard, the back of his head thumping against the wall with every one of Erik’s thrusts.

However, as enticing as the thought of getting fucked against the wall by Erik was, Charles was even more interested in the idea of finally being in Erik’s bed. There was something about the thought of lying on sheets that smelled of Erik, feeling them warmed by his skin. Yes, Charles really wanted that, and he gripped Erik’s broad shoulders to get his attention. “Erik, wait.....bed, please, your bed...”

Erik lifted his head to stare at Charles, his hair mussed and his expression dazed. “Oh. The bed.” Something in his eyes seemed to clear as he gradually regained his senses for a moment. “Yes, there’s lube by the bed. We need lube.” The frown line between his eyebrows deepened. “We don’t have lube here... no lube is bad.”

Touched by Erik’s concern for him, Charles allowed his thumb to smooth out that tiny frown. “Next time, I promise, you can fuck me up against the wall,” he murmured against Erik’s mouth, teasingly staying out of range for a kiss. “And in the shower, and over the kitchen table, and on the couch... there’ll be lots of next times, I promise.” He finally allowed Erik to kiss him, and he was delighted to realise that the more intense the kiss, the more Erik was hitching him up the wall, and he finally had to tug Erik’s hair to get his attention again. “Erik, the bed is waiting.”

Erik pulled away, eyes unfocused as he licked his lips, chasing the taste of Charles. “Right, uh, right.” He held Charles tighter to him, and this made both of them groan as their cocks brushed together momentarily, a delicious prelude to the rest of the night. Quickly, Erik steered them up the rest of the stairs and down the corridor, nudging open the door to a clean, minimalist bedroom done up in hues of blue. A book was propped up on the nightstand beside the lamp, and Charles vaguely recognised it as the book that one of his own movies had been based on.

However, what stole Charles’ attention was the massive king-sized bed dominating the room, the sheets a cool, dark blue and the pillows just a shade lighter. Erik bent down, turning on the lamp before gently depositing Charles on top of the sheets, and Charles melted into blissful softness. Erik’s bed felt like a cloud. Running a hand over the smooth fabric, Charles was pretty sure Erik was a fan of 1000-thread-count sheets like him. He wondered if Erik would mind that his fancy sheets were soon going to get covered in sweat, lube and come.

Judging from the way he was looking down at Charles now, hovering above him as his gaze travelled down Charles’ naked body, the sheets were probably the last thing on Erik’s mind right now.

“Come here,” Charles said, wrapping his arms around Erik’s neck and tugging him down for a slow kiss. Charles had already decided that his favourite part of Erik’s anatomy was his tongue: Charles would want to feel it laving at his nipples, then down his stomach, then flicking at the head of his cock, tasting the pre-come already beading there. Charles moaned into the kiss, wanting all of Erik at once in so many greedy ways - inside him, sucking him, so tight around him... and Erik seemed to smile into the kiss as though he could read Charles’ mind and see the scandalous images imprinted there, born on the very day they first shook hands.

As Erik’s mouth slid away from his own and down to suck on Charles’ collarbone, Charles found himself wondering if Erik really could read minds. But the fanciful thought quickly flew out his head the moment he felt Erik’s long, elegant fingers wrapping around the base of his cock, choking a gasp out of him as his eyes flew shut. “Oh god, Erik, Erik--”

Erik only nipped at his collarbone in response, his hand tightening around Charles’ erection as it began a slow slide upwards, his thumb trailing along the vein as he pulled his mouth away, inspecting his handiwork on Charles’ reddened skin. “I like this,” he said conversationally, as though the bastard weren’t fisting Charles’ cock at the same time. “People will know who you belong to,” he remarked as he slid the tip of his thumb under his foreskin, and Charles let out a startled sob as his eyes flew shut and his back arched off the sheets.

Erik, torturer that he was, released his cock at that, and Charles fought hard to muffle his groan with the heel of his hand. His mouth resumed its slow path down Charles’ chest, leaving a wet, warm trail which made Charles shiver. “I thought it was very clear from the way I look at you,” Charles replied, after he had finally found his voice.

Erik’s mouth stilled in its journey, and Charles bit down on his lip as Erik placed a very tender, chaste kiss on his navel. “I love the way you look at me,” Erik confessed, pressing his cheek against Charles’ stomach. “I--I love you.”

Charles stroked Erik’s hair, playing with the soft, fine strands as Erik nuzzled his abdomen. “I love you, too,” he said, smiling down at Erik as he brushed a thumb over the sharp edge of Erik’s cheekbone. “So much so that I’m afraid it’s too fast.”

Erik dropped another kiss to his stomach. “Don’t be.” He started moving down again, resuming to slowly stroke Charles’ persistent erection which was starting to leak precome all over Erik’s hand, not that he seemed to mind. “Not when we both feel the same,” he said with a grin as he made himself at home between Charles’ thighs, letting go of his cock so he could use his hands to spread them wider. “Oh, I could get used to this.”

“Don’t take too long.” Charles was aware that his voice sounded a little rough and husky, but oh God Erik fucking Lehnsherr was between his legs, his mouth a mere kiss away from his straining cock, and Charles didn’t think he would last beyond a few licks. He gripped Erik’s shoulders in warning, trying not to get distracted by the warm, firm muscle. “Erik, I don’t think I’ll last much longer.”

Erik put a finger against his lips, grinning wickedly at Charles before he began pressing kisses along the crease of Charles’ left thigh, leaving Charles wanting to weep from the torture of it all. Studiously avoiding Charles’ bobbing erection, Erik swiftly moved on to continue kissing along the right crease, a low throaty chuckle in his throat as Charles began thrashing about under his hands, desperate for Erik and Erik’s mouth and Erik’s cock inside him. Thankfully Erik must have taken pity on him, for he was finally sitting up, though still remaining between Charles’ legs. “Liebling, open the top drawer, there should be a tube inside there. And condoms.”

Impatiently Charles twisted around to rummage through the drawer, grinning in triumph as he finally fished out a foil packet and a half-used tube of lubricant. His grin faltered a little when he noticed this, and it didn’t escape Erik’s sharp eyes. “I have to confess, I’ve been having an affair,” Erik said, lifting Charles’ right knee and pressing a kiss behind it. “A six-month affair with my right hand.”

Laughing, Charles tossed the tube and foil packet to Erik who caught the items with a smirk. “You are a terrible, terrible man, Erik Lehnsherr.”

“But you love me anyway.” Erik’s smirk loosened into a smile as he kissed the back of Charles’ knee again before lowering his leg, then unscrewing the cap of the tube. Charles watched as Erik coated his fingers with slick, then his eyes flickered up to meet Charles’ gaze, intent and bottle-green in the dim light, pupils blown wide. “Just relax.”

Charles nodded, biting down on his lip. He had not been lying when he said he hadn’t been with anyone for the longest time, and he couldn’t help being a little nervous, even if he instinctively knew Erik would take care of him. He rested his head on the soft pillow, not knowing where to put his hands so he tucked them behind his head.

Erik kept his watchful gaze on Charles as his fingers began to circle his entrance, just teasing first, slicking the area with lube. Charles tried his best to settle down, and he smiled when Erik’s clean hand squeezed his knee in encouragement. There were times when Charles was caught off-guard by Erik’s handsomeness, and this was one of them. Erik had the sharp, good looks of the classic Hollywood stars of the past, but there was a rough edge to his attractiveness, a smouldering James-Dean type of danger that all Hollywood bad boys possessed. And Erik had it in spades, which explained why he pulled off gritty action hero roles so well.

Now, those eyes were smouldering at Charles as Erik slowly slid in a long finger, watching Charles intently. Charles’ breath hitched a little at the intrusion, but he nodded. “More, Erik.”

Erik lifted an elegant eyebrow at him, but he obediently slid in a second finger, and this time it felt fuller and infinitely more satisfying. Charles exhaled slowly, giving himself time to get used to the stretch. “Don’t worry, Erik, I’ll let you know if it hurts.”

The tight expression on Erik’s face relaxed. “You must tell me at any point if I’m hurting you,” he said, caressing the inside of Charles’ thigh. “How does it feel like?”

“To be honest?” Charles said, as Erik nodded. “Can’t wait to get more of you inside me.” Charles’ gaze dropped to Erik’s erection curved up against his belly, moisture already pooling at the tip. “Erik, I really, desperately need you to fuck me until I can’t walk.”

Erik’s nostrils flared as he slid his two fingers in deeper, twisting them around a bit. “Love the way you feel around my fingers.” His voice was a little strangled, particularly when Charles arched his hips up at Erik a little. Erik scissored his fingers, gently coaxing the tight ring of muscle to loosen up for him. “And I can’t wait to feel you around my cock.”

Charles couldn’t stop the low moan from escaping, twisting his fingers in the fabric of the pillowcase as Erik slowly slid in a third finger, and he hissed at the slow burn. “Oh fuck, yes Erik, pleasepleaseplease--”

“I know you want it bad,” Erik said roughly, working in his fingers as he searched for something. “I know you want me inside you, but I’ll be damned if I hurt you because I was impatient.”

Charles swallowed the sudden thick lump in his throat. “You won’t hurt me--”

“No,” Erik said, determined as he slid out his fingers, then added more lube. This time, when he hooked his fingers and pressed in, Charles bucked up with a cry as a delicious electric shock seized him, tightening his balls and making him fuck himself on Erik’s fingers. “Erik, oh please Erik, please more--”

Sweat was now pouring down Erik’s forehead, but he looked pleased with himself. “Hang on, Liebling,” he murmured soothingly as he withdrew his fingers again, this time to tear open the foil. As the condom slipped out, Charles recovered enough to sit up and grab it from him, already starting to pant.

“Wait, let me do it,” he insisted, and Erik watched as Charles circled his thumb around the head of Erik’s erection, sweeping up the moisture pooled there before bringing it to his mouth and licking it off, smiling provocatively. The taste was salty and a little bitter, and entirely Erik. Erik’s eyes widened, and they were kissing again, slow and languid. Pulling away, Charles slowly rolled the condom over the tip of Erik’s cock, and they locked eyes as Charles slid the latex down inch by agonizing inch, Erik’s lips parted as he watched, a voyeur to his own seduction.

Even after the condom was properly on, Charles couldn’t stop stroking Erik, admiring the length and girth of his cut cock. Erik was thick and easily nine or ten inches, bobbing against his stomach, and Charles was beyond eager to feel Erik all the way inside him. He poured more lube onto his hands and continued to slick Erik up, but after a few more strokes, Erik stopped him.

“If you keep that up, I’m not going to last,” he murmured through gritted teeth, and Charles chuckled before finally letting go. He laid down on the bed again, but his breath hitched when Erik grabbed his hips and pulled him lower, nudging his legs further apart. “Oh Charles, if only you could see yourself, all spread apart for me like this.”

“Only ever for you,” Charles said softly, and Erik bent down to kiss him quickly before grabbing a pillow, then placing it under his hips. Satisfied, Erik took a deep breath before guiding himself inside Charles, and he could feel the head of Erik’s cock breaching the tight ring of muscle. Charles reminded himself to relax, and it helped that Erik was lovingly nuzzling his cheek, the way his body was trembling slightly against Charles’ a good sign of how much Erik was struggling to restrain himself and go slow.

“Tell me if it hurts,” Erik whispered, and Charles nodded, his hands sliding down Erik’s smooth, strong back in an effort to distract himself. He felt very full and stretched, but it wasn’t as painful as he had first envisioned.

Charles pressed his face into the crook of Erik’s neck and breathed in deeply, allowing himself a few moments to get used to the feeling, while taking in the intoxicating combination of perspiration and bath oils on his skin, and underneath it all, the heady scent that he had come to recognise as distinctly Erik. Charles finally nodded again. “Okay Erik, move.”

Erik’s hand brushed back a few stray curls from Charles’ damp forehead. “You sure, love?” And oh God was he sure. In that moment, he felt for certain that he had been waiting all of eternity just to be right there, laid bare beneath Erik, coming undone in his hands.

Charles closed his eyes. “Erik, if you don’t move right now, I’m going to have to finish the job myself by getting my DVD of ‘Sparta’ and having a good old wank to the sight of you in a loincloth.”

Shaking with laughter, Erik pressed a kiss to his forehead before nodding. “I want to see you do that anyway, one day.”

“Deal. Now move, please.” Charles arched his hips up, and they were both taken by surprise as the movement took Erik’s cock in even deeper, nudging something inside Charles and giving him another of those delicious electric shocks. “Oh God, Erik.” Charles was now scrabbling frantically at Erik’s back. “Do that again, again!”

“This?” Erik smirked at him, thrusting in hard and making Charles arch off the bed, moaning loud enough to startle Erik’s neighbours. “Mein Gott, Charles...so hot, so tight--" Now he was backing all the way out until his cock was almost out of Charles, and then slowly he was sliding in again, inch by delicious inch, making Charles writhe and cry out with pleasure.

“Erik, Erik, harder, please.” Charles knew he was begging, but he didn’t care, as long as he got more of that fantastic cock inside him, and then Erik was plundering his mouth in another kiss, starting to thrust with abandon and Charles gripped that wonderful, tight arse, squeezing it as Erik fucked him long and slow, his thrusts dragging in and out and making Charles giddy with lust and love, the muscles in his abdomen and lower back coiling tighter each time Erik plunged into him. One particularly hard thrust had Charles bucking up, his toes curling as a shot of pleasure seared down his legs.

When Erik’s warm hand wrapped around Charles’ straining erection, that was when he lost it. “Oh Erik, love--" And then Charles was coming between them, hot and wet onto Erik’s stomach, his own stomach, Erik’s hand and part of his thigh, and Erik just swallowed his words in kiss after kiss, eyes half-lidded as they watched Charles ride through his orgasm. Charles melted completely under Erik’s body, feeling him thrust a few more times before Erik stiffened in his arms, then let out a cry against the crook of Charles’ neck, moaning his name in disbelief as though he couldn’t believe Charles was right here, under him. After a long moment their mouths found each other, kissing tentatively as they fought to get their breathing under control again.

“Oh my word.” Charles blinked up at the ceiling, wondering if he could convince Erik to install a mirror. “Erik, that was....Erik.” He declared unintelligibly, all coherence clearly fucked out of his head.

He could feel Erik’s huff of laughter against his cheek. “And that was very...Charles.” He withdrew slowly with a wince, pulling off the condom and knotting it at the end before throwing it into the bin. “Hang on a second.”

Erik gave Charles a peck on the lips before heading to the bathroom, and Charles could hear the sound of the tap running. Stretching out on Erik’s bed, Charles felt peaceful, languid and well-fucked, which was exactly how he imagined he would feel after he and Erik had made love for the first time.

When Erik emerged from the bathroom with a damp washcloth, he surveyed Charles with a soft smile. “Hi,” he said as he sat by Charles’ side, wiping the drying streaks of come on Charles’ stomach and thigh, cleaning him slowly and carefully. Charles watched him, his heart close to bursting with love for this man. How could anyone ever believe in Erik’s reputation as an ill-tempered grouch? Charles was beginning to get the idea that Erik must not have let many people in this far, and he couldn’t help feeling special and privileged.

“What are you smiling about?” Erik was grinning as he tossed aside the washcloth, then stroked back Charles’ hair. “You look like you’re up to no good, and I’m worried.”

“Just thinking about you,” Charles said truthfully. “And what a lovely man you are. And how so many people can’t see that.”

The corner of Erik’s mouth tugged up in a crooked smile. “I don’t allow just anyone to see this side of me. Only the people I love.”

Charles smiled sleepily at him. “And I’m one of them.”

“Right now, you’re the only one,” Erik said seriously. “Aside from my parents, that is.”

This made Charles reach up and kiss him again, but he had to pull away because he was starting to feel the tiredness seep into his bones. “No one knows what a romantic sap you are, Erik,” he said with a sigh as he flopped back onto the pillow, catching sight of the book on the bedside table he had seen earlier. Now that he could see the title, he was laughing.

“What is it now?” Erik asked, looking a little amused.

“I see you’re reading ‘Becoming Penelope’, I never pegged you as the romance novel type.” Charles grinned teasingly as Erik climbed back into bed, indicating the book on the nightstand. He held Erik’s face as he kissed him, relishing in the return of the warm weight of Erik’s body.

Erik laughed, shaking his head before dropping a kiss on the love bite blossoming on Charles’ collarbone. “I only bought it because you were on the cover.”

An image of Erik waiting in line at a bookstore checkout doing his best to conceal his item and mortification flashed across Charles’ eyes, and he tried his utmost not to giggle too loudly, making an attempt to stifle his laughter in Erik’s hair. “I’ll probably never be in a rom-com again.” Charles commented, matter-of-factly.

Erik snorted at that. “Good. I don’t think I can stomach watching you kiss yet another actress.”

“Oh, Erik…” Charles lifted Erik’s chin with back of his fingertips, nudging him to shift up with his free hand. Erik complied, propping himself up on his elbows as they gazed into each other’s eyes, fringe falling loosely down around them. Charles cupped his face, his chest tightening as he began to speak slowly, desperately hoping Erik understood that he meant every word he was about to say. “No matter how many roles we play, together or apart, I will always, always love you, Erik Lehnsherr.”

Erik exhaled deeply, his eyes softer and brighter than Charles had ever seen. “And I will never stop being madly in love with you.”

He bent down to claim his lips, and Charles parted them willingly, inviting his tongue in and caressing it with his own. When they finally broke the kiss, Erik laid down on him with his face buried in his neck, and as Charles wrapped his arms tightly around his chest and closed his eyes, it felt as though he had been holding him for all of time.

* * * * *

Erik didn’t usually wake up feeling like he was on top of the world. In the mornings he was usually more familiar with the desire to murder anyone and anything that stood between him and the coffeemaker, especially if there was an early call and he was due on set at the buttcrack of dawn. However, when he opened his eyes this particular morning, he was smiling like an absolute lunatic. He didn’t have to report to the set that early – and more importantly – Charles was currently wrapped up in his arms, snoring pleasantly, his hair tickling Erik’s nose. Erik bent down to press a kiss to the dark mop of hair, and the pleasant burn in his thigh muscles was also a sweet reminder of what happened with Charles last night.

Erik knew he should stop his kisses, but Charles looked radiant in the morning light, and he simply couldn’t resist the siren call of Charles’ pale skin and pink cheeks. Soon, Charles was stirring in his arms, “Mmm, Erik?” he murmured, gazing blearily at Erik. “Morning.”

“Hi.” Erik stroked the dark waves back, unable to stop smiling. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been this happy. “Had a good sleep?”

The sunny, sleepy smile Charles flashed him was beautiful. “The best. It seemed that someone tired me out last night.”

Now Erik couldn’t help smirking at him. “Oh, I wonder who that could be.” He was about to dive in for a proper kiss, but Charles batted him away gently with a laugh.

“Let me brush my teeth first, my breath is probably disgusting. And a shower, too.” Charles squeezed his shoulder and extricated himself from Erik’s arms, which was quite a feat as Erik wasn’t quite willing to let him go yet. After a playful bout of mock wrestling, Erik finally relented and fixed his eyes on that beautiful pale ass, which still bore red marks the rough size and shape of Erik’s fingers. Charles threw him a knowing smirk over one shoulder before disappearing into the bathroom, and Erik sighed with contentment as he heard the shower running and Charles’ soft, muffled singing.

When Charles finally came out of the bathroom, he looked considerably more awake as he towelled himself dry. “Are our clothes still downstairs, Erik?”

“I think so.” Erik sat up, untangling himself from the sheets and feeling a burst of satisfaction as he noticed Charles’ hungry gaze. “You can wear something of mine if you like.”

The way Charles’ face brightened suggested that he really liked this idea. “Wearing your clothes? All right, then.”

Hopping out of bed, Erik walked over to open the doors of the wardrobe, showing Charles his everyday wear. “Help yourself, I’ll go brush my teeth.”

“Thank you.” They exchanged a quick kiss before Erik took his turn in the bathroom, and by the time he emerged, Charles had picked one of his blue long-sleeved shirts.

Erik watched as Charles slid on the shirt, but the sleeves were a little too long, his pale hands peeking out from the cuffs. Erik simply couldn’t describe how wonderful it was to see Charles wearing his shirt, the open collar displaying the scattering of reddened love bites which bore the crescent shape of Erik’s teeth. As Charles started to button the shirt, Erik stepped forward and brushed aside Charles’ hands, doing up the buttons himself.

There was an amused glint in Charles’ eyes. “I can do it myself, you know.” But he made no move to stop Erik, who was leaning in closer, so close that their noses brushed.

“I know, Liebling.” Erik moved in just an inch closer, watching as Charles’ lips slowly parted, as though he was expecting a kiss. “Just let me do this for you.”

Wickedly turning away from Charles’ plush mouth and chuckling at the deprived groan that followed, Erik made his way down to one of his favourite places, that soft crook where Charles’ neck met his shoulder. He began kissing him there, fingers fumbling a little with the buttons, but from the way Charles’ breath hitched, he didn’t think Charles gave a damn about the shirt or its buttons, only the mouth softly kissing his neck.

“If you don’t stop right now,” Charles warned him, his voice breathy and a little desperate, “we’ll be late for work.”

“Oh.” Erik planted one last kiss before smiling against his neck. “I’ll just tell Bryan that it’s your fault for being so damn irresistible. He won’t get mad at you, since he likes you better.”

“Don’t be silly, Erik.” Charles’ hand tightened in Erik’s hair before stroking the back of his neck. “Anyway, I like you best of all.”

Lifting his head, Erik pressed a chaste kiss to that beautiful bow of a mouth before smiling at Charles. “I can’t imagine why.” He was about to dive in for another kiss when they both heard the gurgle of Charles’ stomach rumbling. “When was the last time you ate something?”

Charles scrunched up his nose. “Um, lunch yesterday, I believe? I didn’t eat anything during my dinner with Moira.”

“What?” Erik’s concern for Charles was far stronger than his libido. “That’s it, put on some pants while I make you breakfast.” Fishing out another bathrobe from the closet, Erik put it on quickly and tied the belt. “Make yourself at home, I’ll see you downstairs.”

“You really don’t have to cook for me, Erik--” The tail end of Charles’ protest was lost as Erik waved a hand dismissively at him, heading out of the room and rushing down the stairs.

The living room was exactly as they left it last night, and it was rather amusing to find their clothes still scattered around the faux bear rug. Smiling as he picked up the various articles of clothing and neatly folded them, he paused before folding Charles’ shirt, then pressed his nose against the fabric. The heady scent of Charles warmed him and Erik smiled as he put it aside on the couch with the rest, then made his way to the kitchen.

As they were pressed for time, Erik made a quick meal of fried matzah, since all he had in his pantry was eggs and leftover unleavened bread. As he heaped the food onto the plates, he realised Charles still hadn’t come down. “Charles?” he called out, and he heard an answering yell in the living room.

Making his way there, Erik could see the top of Charles’ dark head resting on the back of the couch. His heart jumped at the sight, and as Erik made his way in, he could fully see Charles now, flipping through a large photo album, Erik’s clothes a little too big for him. Erik had to swallow the sudden lump in his throat. Charles looked so entirely and completely his like this, dressed in his clothes and sitting on his couch, bathed in the beams of sunlight flooding in through the French windows.

Then he looked up from the photo album, and those deep blue eyes were fixed on Erik, a smile dawning on his face. “Hey, you.”

Erik had to shake his head to clear it. He didn’t think one person could ever have this effect on him, and he had spent most of his adult life guarding against this very phenomenon happening. If one person had total control of your heart, it meant that the same person could very easily hurt you. Years down the road, would Erik see this moment in time as his biggest mistake, or the best decision he would ever make in his entire life?

“Erik?” Charles was tilting his head questioningly. “Why are you staring at me like that?”

Erik finally managed to find his voice. “Nothing.” He walked over and sat down next to Charles, trying not to think about how easily the two of them were already melding together into a tight embrace, arms and legs folded against each other. Charles felt like bliss, so warm and solid in his arms. And damn did he smell good, like home. “What are you looking at?”

Charles was shooting him an amused, curious look. “Your baby pictures. Erik, I didn’t think you could be any cuter, but this album just proved me wrong.”

Groaning when he saw the old photo of himself splashing about in the bathtub with an army of rubber duckies, Erik buried his face in Charles’ shoulder. “This is so embarrassing.”

“Don’t be silly.” Charles kissed the side of his head. “And look at you here, all dressed up!” he exclaimed, pointing to a picture of him wearing a helmet in a red outfit and dark cape.

“Ah yes, now I remember.” Erik laughed at the fond memory of pestering his mother to make him the costume. “When I was 9, I wanted to go as a comic book character for Halloween. My mother made me the helmet out of tinfoil, then painted it magenta and red. I wouldn’t take it off, not even during meals, and my father threatened to take me out of drama class if I continued to keep it on.”

“That is so sweet.” Now Charles had that evil little glint in his eye again, the one Erik was beginning to recognise was a precursor to trouble. “You know, speaking of Halloween, we should absolutely celebrate it this year. It’s just around the corner, isn’t it?”

“Well yes, it is.” Erik stared at him with a growing smile. “The both of us will probably get a slew of invitations, we could just pick one.”

“Or,” Charles said slowly, “we could throw our very own party, Erik.”

“Really?” The idea was definitely intriguing. “You know, that’s not a bad idea. We could invite our friends, ban the press--"

Charles laughed, the rich sound rumbling against Erik’s chest and making him sigh with contentment. “Oh yes, the press are definitely banned. I’m already having the best idea for a costume.” He turned to raise an eyebrow at Erik. “But I’m not doing this without you, of course. What do you think?”

Erik pressed a kiss to his nose. “Anything you want, Charles. You already know I would follow you into the fires of hell, if you only asked.”

Charles squeezed his hand with the biggest grin. “Splendid, this is going to be so much fun.”

* * * * *

“Here, let me,” Erik offered as he made his way over to him, smiling in amusement as he watched him fumble to push his shirtsleeves up, the fabric slightly too long for his arms. Erik unbuttoned his cuffs and folded his sleeves repeatedly, until they stopped just above his elbows and revealed his pale forearms, Charles loving the touch of his thumbs as they trailed over his skin the entire time.

“Thank you, darling.” Charles smiled as he kissed the corner of his mouth, delighting in how utterly claimed he felt dressed in Erik’s clothes, the delicious ache in his muscles a constant reminder of the previous night’s transgressions.

“We’d better get going,” Erik said as he placed a peck on his forehead, grabbing his keys on the counter as he strode towards the door. He stiffened when he held the knob and shifted to the side instead to slide the curtains back and peek out the window. “Fuck.”

A sudden fear gripped him as he took in the way Erik’s fist had clenched down on the drapes, knuckles gone white. “Erik? Erik, what’s wrong?” He asked, heart racing in his chest.

“They’re still out there,” Erik answered as he turned around, “at the gate, with their lenses targeting the door.”

He sighed, resting his forehead against the heel of his palm. The day had started off so perfectly, and then all those people just had to show up and ruin everything. “I’m so sorry I led them back here, Erik.”

“This isn’t your fault, Liebling. It’s the damn paps swarming around the gate like insects, they’re going to hang us out to dry,” he replied, practically snarling. “Society will not accept us.”

It pained him to see Erik this upset, especially when he thought of how wonderful it had been to be held by him earlier, sharing a laugh over that album of memories and fantasizing about all the new ones they were about to make. Charles went over immediately, wrapping his arms around him and rubbing soothing circles over his back to calm him down as he spoke softly into his ear. “Erik, Erik… The Sixties were a long time ago, mankind has evolved since then.”

Charles sighed as he felt Erik relax in his arms, hands sliding around him to return the embrace. “I really hope that you’re right,” Erik said with his face nuzzled in his neck.

“I’m always right,” Charles answered with a grin as he pulled away, heading to the window to inspect the situation. It was worse than he had expected, the numbers having multiplied like rabbits overnight. “But I really do wish you lived in a gated community.” Charles lamented as he closed the curtains and turned back to face him.

Erik looked thoughtful for a moment before he shook his head slowly and stretched out his arm, expression soft and beseeching as he spoke, “No more hiding.”

If there ever was a moment where Charles could say that he felt time stand still, or the world stop spinning on its axis, that was it right there, standing in the doorway with Erik reaching out to him, and he knew that all of his dreams lay right there waiting for him, in the palm of Erik’s hand. Charles closed the distance and took it, understanding that he was agreeing to so much more, freely signing over everything of himself to the man before him, and Erik smiled softly as he raised the back of Charles’ hand to his lips and sealed it all with a kiss.

“Are you ready for this?” Charles asked when Erik grabbed hold of the handle, his other hand staying firmly clasped in Charles’, feeling overcome with the sense that they were at the start of something incredible.

Erik tilted his head and gazed at him, full of love and that certain air of conviction that never failed to take his breath away. “Let’s find out.”

Erik twisted the knob and pushed the door wide open as he led them outside, stepping out into a crescendo of shouts and cheers and blinding flashes from the photographers that had camped overnight, but as they turned to look at each other, Charles felt the chaos fade away, until it was just the two of them left in the universe, and when Erik swept him up in his arms and kissed him like the world was ending, he knew that everything in existence could crash down around them, and none of it would even matter, as long as he had Erik by his side.

* * * * *


Notes:
1. The title of this chapter is a quote from '(500) Days of Summer'.
2. Oh look, Erik in a poster for 'Shark Tale'.
3. The pictures used for the feature on boyfriends sharing sunglasses are not manips.
4. The Palm is known for its celebrity patrons.
5. Stolen from Charles’ spank bank, Erik Michael Fassbender in a loincloth on the set of ‘300’ listening to his iPod.
6. James McAvoy needs to throw us a bone and do more romantic comedies.
7. Gratuitous use of quotes from the X-Men movie canon. Majorangecat drew this amazing picture of Logan eating spaghetti. The next chapter is going to be a multifandom orgy, otherwise known as Halloween.

Chapter Text

Charles had insisted on helping to bring in the morning papers and mail whenever they were staying over at Erik’s place, and it was not until two days ago that he had understood why. Charles had guiltily pulled out a hastily torn envelope (after he had very enthusiastically volunteered to perform a string of sexual favours that had whited out Erik’s vision) from the Superior Court saying that his Porsche had been caught running all the red lights between The Palm and his house, at twice the speed limit. Erik had wanted to go on a tirade on Charles’ reckless disregard for his own safety, but Charles had started worrying his already very red and swollen lips and unleashing the full power of his devastating blue eyes, and Erik could barely muster giving him a long exasperated sigh. Charles, upon informing the court that it was him driving the car, had then been immediately slapped with a Court Order revoking his license for a year, and Erik was not above admitting that it had been one of the best news he’d ever heard in his life.

Aside from that, they hadn’t run into much trouble the past week after issuing the joint statement confirming their relationship and asking the media to leave them in peace, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they hadn’t been running around at all, never able to get home fast enough for Charles’ liking. Charles really was insatiable, or as he so eloquently put it, “just making up for lost time, darling.” Erik wasn’t keeping count, but he was pretty sure that they had by now fucked in every room in both their houses at least twice, and there had been times when he simply wanted to just admit defeat and beg for some rest and sustenance, at least until he could see straight and hopefully not die from an aneurysm. Not that he was complaining, oh no, not at all. In fact, he really should send Raven a gift basket for dragging Charles along with her for yoga classes, especially after what Charles had come up with last night.

Or perhaps Charles really was an evil mastermind, lulling him with too much sex; because that was the only logical explanation he could come up with as to why he was standing there, in front of Charles’ full-length dresser mirror, looking like that.

“Do I really have to wear this?” Erik stared at his reflection, truly quite horrified.

“Whatever happened to the boy who used to play dress-up?” Charles asked from the other side of the bedroom as he walked over with a professional makeup kit.

“Firstly, that was a costume. Secondly, this isn’t even a dress. It’s a sequined handkerchief held up by a couple of straps. And thirdly, simply putting on a fedora and holding a gold-tipped cane doesn’t make you look anything like a pimp. Besides, after a few drinks, you’re just going to be Charles in a fur coat using a very expensive walking stick because he can no longer stand straight.” And no, Erik was most definitely not being petulant.

Charles chuckled, clearly getting a rise out of watching him suffer. “You’re wrong, my friend. I’m getting out of that coat the moment we’re done taking pictures. And it’s just backless, all this fuss coming from someone who once spent three months in nothing but a loincloth.”

Charles ran a hand up and down his spine, tracing the thin blue straps that crisscrossed over it with his fingertips, and oh, there were definitely some benefits from wearing so little clothing. “Okay, fine. But if there is a wardrobe malfunction it’s completely your fault.”

“Of course, you can spank me if that happens. Now sit on the bed, close your eyes, and let me do your makeup,” Charles said as he pulled out an eye shadow palette.

Erik complied and soon Charles was applying powders onto his lids and cheeks, his free hand tilting Erik’s face from time to time. He then felt a fine brush running along his lashline before Charles blew on his skin lightly, followed by a soft pencil dotting gently on the mole on his left cheek. Charles’ hands were warm where they brushed against his skin.

“Part your lips,” Charles said, and when he did, Erik let out a startled moan as Charles pressed his mouth onto his, hot and wet and desperately devouring every gasp he made as Charles traced patterns down the back of his neck with his fingers, palms spread out across his throat, licking at his lips and into his mouth. He pulled away before Erik regained the presence of mind to push him down onto the sheets.

“That’s to last me until the end of the night. I don’t want to ruin my masterpiece,” Charles stated, smiling slyly when Erik opened his eyes in a daze. He took out a tube of lip gloss and applied it to Erik’s lips, still moist from the kiss.

“One last step, Erik. Look down,” he said as he swept mascara across his upper lashes, “and up,” he paused, using the tip of the brush on Erik’s lower lashes, “and all done.”

Charles could not stop grinning as he picked up a paper bag by the side of the bed and pulled out a fiery red wig, styled in a bob, and Erik had to stop himself from leaning over and kissing the dimples that formed on his cheeks whenever he smiled like that by reminding himself that Charles would be none too pleased if he messed up his handiwork so soon.

“I borrowed this from Raven. There was a stage when she used to hit the town wearing this, playing the mysterious stranger sitting at a bar and adopting a different personality each night. She looked really good with this hairstyle, actually. Anyway, I promised we would take absolute care of it,” Charles prattled on as he adjusted the hairpiece, smoothing it down when he was done and smiling incandescently.

“What?” Erik asked, before curiosity got the better of him and he climbed out of bed to take a look in the mirror. He was immensely relieved when he found that Charles had picked neutral shades for his eye makeup, unsure of how he would have reacted if he had, God forbid, decided on something like purple. Charles came over and clipped on a pair of large gold loop earrings as Erik scrutinized himself, absently adjusting the straps of his dress. Oh if only his younger self could see the things he was willing to do for this man.

Erik turned his full attention back to Charles when he slid himself in between him and the mirror, still smiling affectionately as he held both his hands and declared with utmost tenderness, his gaze steady and fond, “You’ve never looked more beautiful, darling.”

* * * * *

Thanks to Emma’s wealth of connections, Charles had managed to book ‘Rage’ on West Hollywood for their Halloween party, despite the late notice. As their driver pulled around to the back entrance, there was already a long line snaking outside the club as usual, despite the sign on display saying the club was closed for a private function. Charles could see the hefty bouncers smoking under the red neon ‘RAGE’ sign, ignoring people who were pleading to get onto the guest list. Charles knew for a fact how short this guest list was. Even then, the club would still be quite packed.

He smothered his own giggles as he cast a sly glance at Erik beside him, all dolled up to the nines in his wig and dress. Erik was being rather quiet, but the way his large hand was sprawled on Charles’ knee, squeezing and kneading it gently, spoke volumes about how he felt at the moment. A little nervous, perhaps, but generally content. Charles was a little disconcerted that he could already read Erik this well despite the fact that they’d only known each other for about a month, give or take. Then again, they had fallen deeply for each other in that space of time as well, and they had been spending almost every day together. So maybe it wasn’t exactly a surprise.

As the car began nosing down the alley, Charles turned to Erik again, sifting his fingers through the red strands of Erik’s wig. “It’s not too late for you to back out, you know.”

Erik grinned at him, his lips smooth and shiny with carefully-applied gloss. “If I take off my costume, then you’ll be no one’s pimp.”

Charles leaned in, trailing the pads of his fingers up the long, lean line of Erik’s neck, his breath warming the skin and sending a visible shiver through Erik. “Then maybe I’ll take off my costume too,” he whispered, before softly kissing Erik’s neck. “Then everyone will see all the lovebites you’ve left on me.”

He could feel Erik tilting his head to give Charles access, parting his legs a little as an automatic response to Charles touching him. “No one sees you naked but me.” The undertone of steel in Erik’s voice was obvious. “Are we clear?”

Charles huffed out a laugh as he nuzzled into the crook of Erik’s neck. “Was that ever in doubt?” he said as he slid a hand between Erik’s legs and under the hem of his dress, lifting his head to watch greedily as Erik tipped his head back with a low moan, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he swallowed. Charles would have teased his lips open for a kiss if he weren’t afraid of messing up Erik’s lip gloss, so he settled for planting a series of kisses down Erik’s jawline instead, palming Erik’s half-hard erection in his underwear.

“Charles,” Erik ground out in warning. “If you keep this up, the dress is going to be levitating by the time we step out of the limo.”

The laugh was out before Charles could stop it, and he just buried his face in Erik’s shoulder as he chuckled, sliding his arms around Erik’s narrow waist. “I really do love you very much,” he said, his voice thick with affection.

He could feel the flex of Erik’s cheek muscle against his as he smiled too. “I know, I love you too,” he said quietly, and Charles could feel Erik’s warm hand caressing his back. Their foreheads pressed together, and Charles caught the faint scent of powder and lip gloss, making him smile.

“I believe you, because otherwise you wouldn’t be here willingly, dressed like this.” Charles laughed as Erik let out a long-suffering sigh, tucking a lock of fake red hair behind his ear. He was gratified to see Erik leaning into the touch, nuzzling against Charles’ hand.

“You’re probably the only person who can get away with this.” Erik turned, pressing a kiss to Charles’ palm. “It also doesn’t help that you’ve made my mind hazy with too much sex.”

Charles pretended to look indignant. “Oh? I didn’t hear you complaining last night when you fucked me so hard that we almost fell off the bed.”

Now Erik seemed to be fighting back a grin, a finger tracing along Charles’ collarbone and swirling around a giant, red lovebite blossoming there the exact size of Erik’s mouth. “You seduced me,” he pretended to complain. “I just wanted to read a book and you were the one who started kissing my neck.”

“Mmmh.” Charles was smiling now, bending his head down and taking in the scent at the crook of Erik’s neck. Here he smelled manly, like sweat and musk. “Just like this?” he whispered, before brushing his lips against Erik’s jumping pulse point.

Erik’s wandering hands tightened on his shirt. “Charles--”

The car rolled to a stop, making them jerk forward slightly with inertia, and Charles groaned against Erik’s skin. “Bloody hell.”

“I know, I know.” Erik gave him a soothing peck on the lips, leaving just a touch of lip gloss. “We won’t want to miss our own party, would we? Then all your prep would have gone to waste.”

“Of course not.” Charles sighed as he leaned back in his seat. As always, Erik’s practicality saved the day. “But we’re continuing this later.”

“Sure.” Then Erik, the magnificent tart, actually fluttered his eyelashes at Charles. “Besides, don’t you want to show me off?”

As he watched Erik slink out of the limo, he wondered if he had created a monster.

* * * * *

‘Rage’ had an open concept, where visitors were first greeted by the airy patio outside.The bar stretched all the way from the patio to the dance floor further inside, linking both sections and giving the club some semblance of continuity. Charles wandered along this bar now as he and Erik headed inside, nodding to the staff who were grinning as they spotted Erik, and one of them raised their mobile to try and take a picture. A manager immediately chided the staff, but that still didn’t stop them from chortling amongst themselves.

“You’re the belle of the ball,” Charles told Erik, who was starting to look relatively uncomfortable. He squeezed his hand. “Are you all right?”

“I’ll be fine,” Erik assured him. “Schieße, the things I do for love.”

“Come on, distract them with your fine bartending skills.” Charles patted his backside, before guiding him towards the bar as one of the staff let Erik in behind the counter. “Make me something sweet and pretty, like yourself.”

The look Erik shot his way promised Charles that he was going to pay for it later, but Charles was laughing too hard to care. Still, for all his posturing, Erik didn’t really seem to mind, wiping down the counter and adjusting the strap of his dress. “All right, I’ll make you something nice to drink.”

Charles hoisted himself onto the bar top, watching as Erik grabbed several bottles from behind the counter. “What are we having tonight, love?”

“I was thinking of a wolf bite for the occasion,” Erik replied as he rolled a bottle of Midori melon liqueur down his arm like it was second nature, and Charles didn’t think he would ever get over that surge of awe and pride each time he had the privilege of observing Erik in his element, spinning bottles and cocktail accessories about with such precise control, almost as if they were an extension of himself.

“Do you need help?” Charles asked as Erik poured the Midori and some pineapple juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.

“Sure, why don’t you add the absinthe?” Erik suggested as he indicated the bottle beside them on the counter.

Charles grabbed it and began pouring, the pale green liquid blending in with the Midori already in the shaker, “Tell me when to stop.”

“Stop,” Erik said, laughing as he placed a hand on Charles’ to tilt the bottle up when he deliberately continued to let it pour. He capped the shaker and shook it, tossing it in the air for good measure before straining the glowing green cocktail into two shot glasses. Erik splashed lemon-lime soda on top before drizzling some grenadine, the deep red looking like swirls of blood.

“To a wonderful night of drunken debauchery,” Charles announced, lifting his glass in a toast and locking eyes with Erik as their glasses clinked.

“I’ll drink to that,” Erik said as he knocked back the shot, and Charles did not miss the stain his lip gloss left on the rim of the shot glass, rather turned on by the fact that he was the one who put it there.

“Oh this is delicious. But don’t let me drink too much, I don’t want to pass out again. I will feel very put out in the morning if I didn’t get to have fun with that dress, you hear? Don’t give in, not even if I beg,” Charles said, leaning in and slinging his arms around Erik’s neck.

“I think I have been trained well in that respect.” Erik smirked, earning a playful shove from him.

Charles reached over the counter and grabbed two dozen shot glasses, arranging them on a large tray. “Let’s bring this over to the others. I’m sure they’d love some.”

They prepared the rest of the shots together, Erik coming back round the counter to carry the tray when they were done. Charles held his free hand as they made their way over to the table, very grateful that they were spared the crush of bodies that they would normally have had to contend with on a regular night here, and there was even room to breathe and mingle.

“Robert!” Charles called when they reached their destination, Erik going on ahead to place the tray on the table.

“Charles, my boy, I’ve missed you!” Downey greeted as he spun around in his red and gold metal suit. ”Everyone, group hug!”

At that, the other four people at the table rushed over, sweeping Erik along with them, and piled themselves onto Charles as Robert picked him up. “Ow, ow, Robert, your suit armour,” Charles jokingly protested, laughing as he put him down.

Charles placed a hand on the small of Erik’s back as he shifted over, beaming at the old friends assembled before them. “Thank you everyone for showing up in your outfits. Erik, have you met Robert?” he asked as he gestured towards the other actor.

“No, I don’t believe I--"

“Erik Lehnsherr?!” Robert exclaimed, eyes bulging out of their sockets. He went over immediately, placing his hands on Erik’s exposed sides as he inspected Charles’ handiwork. “Wow, I didn’t recognise you, will you look at that? I used to have little drinking competitions with your boyfriend; neither of us ever remembered who won. Anyway, it’s such a pleasure meeting you,” Robert said as he spanked Erik’s ass.

“Now, now, Robert. Hands off.” Charles laughed as he batted him away, his heart skipping a beat in disbelief that he had a boyfriend, that Erik Lehnsherr was his boyfriend. Spotting a familiar mess of dark curls, Charles grabbed his old friend. “Hello, Tom! I’m so glad you decided to sell your soul and switch from theatre to movies.” Charles gave Hiddleston a squeeze before turning back to Erik. “We were in a West End play together once.”

“Erik! Come here, mate,” Chris Hemsworth called out as he gripped Erik in a tight bear hug. “You look so cute in your dress!”

“This is all Charles’ doing,” Erik answered, smiling as he shook his head. “Charles, Chris and I share the same personal trainer, as well as Evans. And if you recall, Samuel and I did ‘Serpents on a Jet’ together.”

“So nice to meet you!” Charles was smiling from ear to ear as he shook Hemsworth’s and Jackson’s hands before hugging Evans. “I know this Chris, we were in ‘Three’s a Crowd’ with Jessica Alba.”

“They go to the gym, I just stand there and look pretty,” Robert remarked, preening.

Charles laughed, poking Hemsworth’s biceps to make sure they were real. “I know exactly what you mean. Where are Mark, Scarlett and Jeremy?”

“Mark got called back to do some voicework for post-production, said to send his regards. He was so upset that I thought he was actually going to Hulk-out for a moment. Scarlett and Jeremy had to reshoot some scenes,” Chris Evans said apologetically.

“Oh that’s really too bad... Well, now that we’re all introduced, come try this drink Erik prepared,” Charles said, handing out the shots.

Robert came over, removing his open helmet as he grabbed one from Charles. “I thought you’d never ask.”

All of them raised their glasses as they stood in a circle, looking like the greatest group of remarkable actors ever brought together. “Chin-chin!” Charles said as they clinked their glasses, then knocked back their shots in unison.

Chris Hemsworth chuckled, slapping Erik on the back. “Blimey, Erik, this is excellent. Another!” he declared, as the lot of them downed a second shot.

“This is green, so there must be chlorophyll in it. That means I’m not cheating on my diet. I hereby declare this a health drink! Right, Erik?” Robert asked as he picked up yet another shot.

Charles laughed as he wrapped an arm around Erik and tilted his head to lock eyes with him. “Don’t answer that.”

Erik smiled at Charles before turning to Robert. “It’s practically a salad,” he joked as he took a shot with him, grinning as he watched Robert recover from the burn of the alcohol down his throat.

“Charles, I like him already! Whoever said Erik’s a big emotionless meanie ought to be shot.” Robert laughed as he came over to sling an arm across Charles’ shoulders. Charles grinned, delighting in how well the two of them were getting along, and how much more open to outsiders Erik had become, pleasantly surprised at the conscious effort Erik was making to be gracious to his friends in particular.

Erik smirked, instinctively pulling Charles closer to him as he offered Robert one more shot, “It’s really just the alcohol talking. Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.”

* * * * *

It was strange how Raven felt so out of place, considering she was the only one in the club who was dressed normally. All night long she had seen zombies, aliens, vampires - hell, even a drunk Sarah Palin staggering to the ladies’ - but so far, no one else had forgone a costume. She smoothed a hand down her black Donna Karan dress, feeling a little self-conscious for once. “Who are you supposed to be?” Emma had asked her earlier, looking regal and swanlike in her Ice Queen costume, and when Raven had told her she didn’t believe in costumes, Emma had seemed confused. But at least Emma hadn’t said anything else, merely excusing herself to go and talk to a very gorgeous and suave Jon Hamm.

Raven checked her watch. Moira would be here soon, so at least Raven could hang out with her. Charles, the drunk traitor, was downing shots with Erik and the Avengers cast, so Raven decided to look for other company.

She was relieved to see Alex and Sean making their way into the club, Sean dressed as one of the Beatles in a Nehru jacket and Lennon sunglasses while Alex’s shirtless state was attracting a lot of attention. They waved to Raven, heading over to where she was standing by the bar. “Nice costume,” she said with a laugh as she gestured at Alex’s bare torso. “Must have taken you ages to make it.”

“Hey, I’m a sexy werewolf, okay?” Alex said a little defensively, while Sean just rolled his eyes.

“Tell me exactly what part of your costume is werewolf-ish,” Raven said, raising an expectant eyebrow at Alex who looked stumped.

“To cut a long story short, Alex just wanted to go shirtless and pick up dudes,” Sean said drolly, dodging Alex’s elbow just in time.

“Can you stop putting words in my mouth, asshole?” Alex glared at him, before turning to the bar and ordering two Heinekens from the bartender. He gestured at Raven’s empty drink. “Want a refill on that?”

Raven was about to answer him when her gaze was drawn to a tall, tall guy striding through the crowd, dark wavy hair swept to one side, a curl tumbling over his forehead in the shape of an ‘S’. As her gaze raked over him, she realised he was wearing a bright blue Superman costume, the red cape billowing behind him as he made his way to the bar. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Alex staring too, along with quite a few other people in the crowd, and she couldn’t quite blame them. This guy was a gorgeous Superman, complete with the steel blue eyes and boyish grin that had been the trademark of Raven’s childhood crush on the superhero.

It was Sean who broke the silence, his voice filled with disbelief. “Holy shit, Hank?”

What.” Alex’s head whipped around to stare at Sean, then back at Superman. “Hold up, are you saying that is Bozo?”

“It is!” Sean hissed at him. He leaned over, tapping the Superman guy on the shoulder. “Hey, McCoy!”

Raven was still speechless when Superman turned around, and she realised Sean was right; it was indeed Hank, albeit without his glasses. It was uncanny how different he looked without them, and for the first time she was beginning to believe how people might not have recognised Clark Kent. Hank grinned broadly at all of them, but his smile turned shy when he spotted Raven. “Hey guys, good to see you,” he said, his gaze lingering on her.

“Holy crap.” The admiration was plain in Alex’s voice as he ran a hand down the giant yellow and red ‘S’ logo emblazoned on Hank’s chest. “You clean up real nice, McCoy.”

Sean whistled. “You can say that again. New contacts?”

“Yup, but I hate wearing them though. So I just break them out for special occasions,” Hank admitted, brushing back his hair and making Raven swoon just a little bit more. “You guys don’t think I look dorky?”

“No, of course not,” Sean said. “You know what’s dorky? Turning up shirtless and calling it a ‘costume’, that is major dorkage.”

“You are such an ass,” Alex grumbled as he collected their beers and shoved one at Sean, who accepted it with a grin. “We’ll see who gets the last laugh when I go home with a hottie and you go home to your stupid fish again.”

“My fish are not stupid, they’re awesome,” Sean retorted before taking a swig of his Heineken. “And if anyone is going home with a hottie tonight, it’s SuperHank, not you.”

Raven was surprised at the sudden surge of acidic jealousy that flooded her gut at Sean’s remark, and she frowned as she turned away, ignoring Alex’s and Sean’s bickering. It was just Hank, after all, plain old nerdy Hank who did his job and cheered her up at work and probably went home to his stamp collection and a dozen cats. Just because he was wearing a Superman costume (and looked good in it) didn’t mean she should see him any differently.

“Raven?” she heard him say, and when she turned towards him, he was frowning down at her in concern, his eyes especially large and luminous in the dark light of the club. Now that his glasses were gone, Raven could see for herself the the dark curve of his lashes, framing his gorgeous eyes. “Raven, are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” she said shortly, pretending not to notice the hurt look flickering across his face for the briefest of moments. “I just need some fresh air.”

He nodded, then gallantly waved towards the exit. “Want me to escort you out?”

“Really layin’ it on thick, are we, McCoy?” Alex said with a chortle, and Raven was momentarily irritated that she had forgotten they weren’t alone. “You don’t have to pile on the charm for her, I mean, it’s not some hot chick, it’s just Raven.”

She turned to him, raising a cool eyebrow. “You know, Summers, for all your cynical posturing, it’s really obvious you’re just a scared little boy dying to be loved.”

Sean howled with laughter at that, while Alex just let out a loud scoff. “Whatever.”

“No really, you keep making fun of the rest of the world. But you know what? You want to be a part of it.” Raven knew she had hit the nail on the head when she saw the way Alex’s jaw tightened.

However, he had no reply to that, simply raising his beer bottle to her. “Thanks for the free therapy, but I’m off to check out the goods. There’s gonna be more celebrities here than rehab,” he said, before pushing himself off the bar to wander through the crowd. Now Raven and Hank both turned to look at Sean, who gave them a dismissive wave.

“He’ll be fine. You two kids enjoy yourselves, I’m going to talk to Bryan,” he said with a waggle of his eyebrows, before sipping his drink and heading off to where Bryan was standing by the bar in a Keyser Soze costume.

“That was...unexpected,” Raven said, laughing a little nervously as she brushed her hair back. She could feel Hank’s eyes following her movements, and this simply made her more self-conscious. Maybe it was a good idea to step outside after all. “Join me for some fresh air? I’d like to get to know the real McCoy, I hope I get to see him around more.”

Hank flashed her a huge smile as he readily offered his arm to her. “I’m always around.”

* * * * *

It had taken Shaw more than three hours just to put on his costume. Granted, all he did was sit in a makeup chair while Angel and her team carefully painted half of his face. After putting on the special custom suit, he was more than delighted with the results. It wasn’t as good as the actual Harvey Two-Face make-up on ‘The Dark Knight’, of course, but he thought his attempt still looked very realistic for someone who wasn’t in the actual movie. Getting out of his limo and strutting into ‘Rage’, he looked around for Emma, looking forward to her reaction (which would surely be one of delight).

His grin faded when he spotted her standing near the stage, laughing with some tall, handsome guy in a tux. When he realised it was Jon Hamm, his eyes narrowed, but he was determined that Emma would drop that idiot for him once she saw his outfit.

Maybe it was a testament to how good Angel’s make-up skills were when Emma turned around and shrieked when she saw the ‘deformed’ half of his face. “Oh for God’s sake, Sebastian, you almost gave me a heart attack,” she said, her hand fluttering over her ample bosom.

“Hey, Shaw.” Jon was smirking at him as he sipped his martini. “So you came as Two-Face. What an appropriate costume.” He peered closer at him. “Which side is the deformed one again? I can’t tell.”

Shaw ignored his comment, preening in front of Emma who was at least admiring the makeup. “It took me more than three hours to put on, but it was worth it,” he told her, but she didn’t seem too wowed by this.

“Well, I spent two months getting my costume together,” she said, daintily sipping her own martini while Jon Hamm gave her costume an appreciative leer. “So I think I still win.”

“Of course, my dear.” Shaw shot Jon a death glare, but the idiot was too busy staring at Emma’s chest to notice. The worst part was that she was staring right back at Jon, her lips curving up into a flirtatious smile.

“Anyway, how about me?” Jon showed off his tux with a blinding grin, waggling his eyebrows. “I’m James Bond.”

Shaw made an unimpressed grimace. “What an easy costume, any chimp can just put on a tux and call itself James Bond.”

Jon’s eyes narrowed at him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Emma didn’t even bother to hide her epic eye-roll. “It means he’s calling you a chimp, sugar.”

“I see.” Jon shook his head with a condescending ‘tsk’. “Pretty rich, coming from a guy who looks like half of him got run over by a truck.”

Shaw was taken aback when Emma tittered at this, her hand coming to rest on Jon’s broad chest as she chuckled. Maybe she liked Hamm a lot more than he had initially imagined. The thought was rather depressing, and Shaw wondered if a tactical retreat was in taste. He didn’t want to look like he was licking his wounds, but it would be rather embarrassing if Emma left with Jon instead of him at the end of the night.

“Anyway, I should get going and have a chat with Tom Hardy, I thought I saw him around somewhere,” Shaw said politely, smoothing down his half-grey, half-purple suit and ignoring Jon’s smirk.

“Have fun.” The disinterest in Emma’s voice was plain as she turned back to Jon Hamm, the two of them whispering and giggling like two gossipy teenagers. Shaw was about to turn away when he remembered the pièce de résistance of his outfit: Harvey Two-Face’s double-headed coin. He fished it out of his pocket, running a thumb over the smooth surface.

“Before I go, Emma, how about a little bet?” he said, holding up the coin. Emma now looked curious, while Jon merely rolled his eyes and muttered ‘geez’ under his breath. Ignoring him, Shaw continued, “Heads, I’ll see you later. Tails, I’ll never bother you again.”

He could now see her mouth was trying not to twist up into a smile. “Fine, flip the coin.” Her tone sounded disinterested, but he noticed the way her sharp eyes were following the object in his hand.

He flipped. Heads, of course. Jon’s brow crinkled in irritation, but Emma didn’t look bothered at all. In fact, her mouth had finally given in, curving up into a rather secretive smile which was directed at Shaw this time.

“Looks like it’s heads.” Shaw gave her a little bow. “I’ll see you later, my dear,” he added, before walking away and smirking to himself. So much for James Bond.

* * * * *

“Erik! Come here, love. We’re just about to have a beer bong competition,” Charles called out as Erik made his way back to the group of increasingly intoxicated superhero actors gathered beside the large stage in the centre of the floor. Evans was seated on a stool by the table, Charles’ fur coat slung over a shoulder, propping himself up on his shield. Robert was leaning against him, pimp cane in one hand, gently petting Evans’ hair, the blonde now looking a little glassy-eyed upon closer inspection.

“What are you playing for?” he asked once he reached Charles’ side, amused by the long plastic contraption in his hands. Trust Charles to come up with an even faster way of getting drunk the moment he let him out of his sight.

“Oh, good question! Chris, I want to lift your hammer when I win,” Charles announced, swinging the empty bong from side to side as he talked to Hemsworth.

Tom laughed as he poured the beer into Chris’ bong, the frothy head rising a third up the neck. “Charles, you mean ‘if’ you win. Your overconfidence never ceases to amaze me. I stole one of those props after the first movie, it’s in my home, you’re welcome to come over and play with it if you like. And just so you know, I have Mjolnir in my pants,” Tom added teasingly.

“Charles, I think I’m beginning to see why you two are friends,” Erik said, deadpan.

“Very well, I shall play for Erik’s beautiful red wig. If I win, he has to exchange it for my blonde mane for the rest of the night,” Hemsworth said as he stretched his neck.

Erik touched his wig self-consciously. The image of an awfully cross Raven from last week was still fresh in his memory and he was very sure that he did not want to relive the experience any time soon. “Charles, I don’t think Raven will--”

“Deal!” Charles declared, cutting him off. “Don’t worry, I’m very good at this,” he half-whispered in Erik’s ear, patting his back reassuringly as a shiver of dread ran down Erik’s spine. He was acutely aware that Charles was quite literally half Hemsworth’s size, and even when he considered Charles’ cast iron liver, the odds were still clearly stacked in Chris’ favour. Well, at least he could always call Emma for backup if things went south.

“What’s wrong with Evans?” Erik asked as he gestured to their fallen comrade, trying to get his mind off the pointless worrying.

“Oh, the chap’s just feeling a little tipsy. Tom defeated him at shots while you were away,” Charles said as he expertly poured his beer into the bong.

Erik grinned, cocking a sly eyebrow. “I thought Captain America can’t get drunk.”

“Sorry to break it to you, but I’m not really Captain America!” Chris shouted over before resting his head in his hand and groaning.

“Lies!” Robert yelled dramatically. “And for the record, the truth is... I am Iron Man.”

Chris sat up, grabbing his shield and trying to suppress a laugh as he attempted to shove Robert away with it. “Big man in a suit armour. Take that away and what are you?”

“Your naked onscreen boyfriend?” Robert replied as they both burst out laughing, Chris sprawling across his shield and Robert collapsing on top of him over Charles’ coat.

“Just give them a little booze and they start method acting. Charles, you see what I have to put up with? Humans,” Tom said jokingly as he handed Chris his bong.

“Charles, what happened to your costume? We haven’t even met most of the others yet,” Erik asked in wonder as he helped Charles unbutton his collar, noticing that all he had left on were his shirt and waistcoat, and feeling a tiny little bit abandoned.

Charles smiled as he kissed Erik’s cheek before combing his hair off his face with his hand in preparation for the contest. “I promise I’ll put it back on later.”

Samuel stepped forward wearing Charles’ fedora as Charles and Chris climbed onto the stage, placing the mouth of their beer bongs to their lips. “Gentlemen, if you’re ready.”

Robert hurried forward as Samuel spoke, waving Charles’ pimp cane in the air. “Wait, wait. Samuel, you’re wearing an eye patch for fuck’s sake, I hardly think you’re going to be able to keep an eye on both of them, if you know what I mean.”

“Fine, I’ll take it off if it makes you happy,” Samuel said as he started to lift the patch up, earning gasps from the people around.

Robert threw his hands up immediately, “No, I’ll be the judge,” he stated as he jumped on the stage, revealing his true intentions. “On my right, Charles Xavier: The Lehnsherr Whisperer. And on my left, Chris Hemsworth: The God of Thunder from Down Under. Guys, get set...” He raised the pimp cane with the gold tip pointing upwards, holding it for a long moment and looking at each of them in turn before swinging it down, “...GO!”

The both of them tilted their bongs up in unison at the signal as the crowd began chanting, and Erik watched Chris take several large gulps of his beer before turning his attention back to Charles, eyes going wide when he realised that he was almost done, the liquid sliding smoothly and rapidly down his throat. Charles wiped his mouth with the back of his hand as he raised his empty bong high in the air a second later to deafening applause and cheers, turning a little on his heel to acknowledge the rest of room as he soaked in the attention. Tom gladly passed him Mjolnir and Charles roared triumphantly as he lifted it up, Erik smiling broadly the entire time. Chris went over to slap Charles fondly on the back in congratulations before Charles climbed off the stage into Erik’s arms, beaming as he spun the hammer around by its leather strap.

“Well done, Charles.” Erik smiled affectionately as he placed a chaste kiss on Charles’ lips, the lip gloss transferring onto his perfect bow of a mouth.

“It’s much harder than it looks, actually,” Charles said as he leaned against Erik’s side, body warmer than usual from the alcohol, the flush from his cheeks now spreading down his neck and under his open collar, and if they weren’t surrounded by so many people, Erik would have gladly unbuttoned the rest of his shirt just to see how far that flush really did go. Charles shifted slightly, turning up to look at him. “Would you care to try?”

Erik nodded, quirking a corner of his mouth upwards into a lopsided smile. “Sure, why not? I’ve never done this before, though.”

Charles placed Mjolnir on the table as he picked up a pitcher of beer, pouring it slowly down the side of the neck to minimize the amount of froth. He handed the bong to Erik when he was done and ran his thumb in circles down the knobs of his spine, Erik’s breath hitching at the pleasing burn from the touch of Charles’ warm errant hand against his exposed skin. Charles whispered in his ear, his voice echoing low and deep inside his head, “I can guide you through it.”

Oh God, Charles. Erik tried to ignore the shiver that ran down his back from the feel of Charles’ hot breath against the shell of his ear, his body remembering exactly what that had led to earlier that morning. He raised the bong to his lips as he arched his neck, swallowing the ice-cold beverage quickly in large mouthfuls, the bubbles fizzing on his tongue, Charles’s hand slowly finding its way up his back and resting on the crook of his neck.

“That’s it, Erik, you’re doing so, so good,” Charles praised him, squeezing his shoulder tightly. “The trick to finishing fast is not to swallow; you have to relax your jaw, open your throat--”

Erik’s eyes flew shut as he choked, trying his best not to spill the remaining beer as some of it went back out through his nose, stinging his nasal passages as it did so. Charles was practically falling over in hysterics as he patted his back while Erik coughed up a lung, the dirty minx surely having done everything on purpose.

“I’m s-sorry, love,” Charles said while wheezing, planting kisses to the back of Erik’s earlobe as he rubbed soothing circles across his back.

Hemsworth reappeared just then, looking concerned. “Are you all right? I hope you weren’t trying to outdrink Charles.”

“Thanks, I’m fine. Charles was just telling me the correct way to do a beer bong... with the completely wrong choice of words.” Erik shot Charles a chastising glance as he straightened back up, playfully slapping his hip with the back of his hand, his breathing finally back under control.

“You should show Chris what an excellent teacher I am,” Charles said as he gestured to his new friend while heavily resting his weight against Erik’s side.

“Very well.” Erik readied the bong back against his lips, taking a moment to switch off his gag reflex as best as he could before tilting the bong up, the beer flowing effortlessly down his throat this time. He spun the bong around when he was done to raucous cheers from Charles and Chris, the latter reclaiming his hammer and rapidly hitting it against the table for added effect.

Erik’s features twisted in effort as he swallowed the last of the beer, clearing his throat. “Charles, I don’t know how you drink this. I need to take you to Munich, have some real Weißbier.”

Charles smiled teasingly, running his fingertips across Erik’s clavicles as he rubbed up against him. “Erik Lehnsherr, are you asking me to meet your parents?”

Erik paused briefly, trying but failing to figure out how they had gone from lewd innuendos to taking Charles back home with him to Germany, and could not stop the warm smile from spreading across his face. “Yes, yes I am.”

The touched look on Charles’ face made Erik lean forward, wrapping his free arm around Charles’ waist as he teased his lips apart, smiling into the kiss, the pleased noises escaping Charles’ throat unmistakable despite the music playing in the club. Charles snaked his arms around his neck, pulling him close and deepening the kiss, bodies pressed flush together.

They were interrupted by a familiar tapping and turned to find Chris smiling sheepishly at them, Mjolnir in hand. “Ah, sorry for spoiling the mood, guys, but I’m still here,” he said apologetically, adding, “Anyway, Erik, I grabbed you a boilermaker. Cheers, mate!”

Erik pulled away reluctantly, taking the mug of whisky-spiked beer from the table and knocking it against Hemsworth’s before taking a swig. “Oh, this tastes much better.”

“L-let me try.” Charles leaned over to grab the handle of the mug from Erik, one arm still wrapped around Erik’s waist. He lost his balance slightly from the sudden movement and tipped the mug over as a result, some of the beer splashing out onto part of his trousers.

“Oh bollocks,” Charles muttered as he tried to shake his hand dry while Erik quickly placed the mug of beer on the table, Hemsworth immediately handing over some napkins to clean up the spill.

Erik chuckled as he took in the sorry state Charles was in, noting that he really did have to start monitoring his alcohol intake if there was going to be any hope of them making it through the night. He tucked Charles’ fringe behind his ear before throwing an arm around his shoulders, nudging him with the side of his head. “Come on, Liebling, let’s go get you cleaned up.”

* * * * *

Moira was beginning to wonder if it had been a good idea for her to come to the party tonight. Sure, it was amusing to see a lot of other famous faces in costume, and at one point she thought she spotted Florence Welch, before realising to her horror (and amusement) that it was Erik in drag - definitely the handiwork of Charles. But other than that, she didn’t know what she was doing here. Normally she would have hung out with Charles and Raven, but they were both preoccupied with other people, so she was on her own tonight.

She made her way to the bar, careful to lift the sides of her gown so that no one would trip on it. It had seemed like a good idea at first, dressing as Aphrodite, but she hadn’t exactly thought it through and failed to predict how cumbersome it would be to wear a long, flowing gown to a dark nightclub filled with tipsy party-goers. So not only was she bored and lonely, but she was also spending most of her time making sure people were not going to fall on their faces because of her dress. Ordering a vodka cranberry, she took a seat by the bar and let out a long sigh.

“What’s wrong? A low, husky voice said beside her, and when she turned, she was surprised to see a tall, young-ish redhead with John Lennon sunglasses looking at her in concern. She found him vaguely familiar, though, and wondered if they had met before and she had forgotten.

“Nothing, just tired,” she said politely. “Sorry, but have we met? You’re quite familiar.”

“Oh no, I don’t think so. I mean, I’d remember meeting you.” At this point, Not-John Lennon’s cheeks were flushed, highlighting the many freckles scattered all over his cheeks and chin as he extended a hand. “I’m Sean Cassidy, I’m one of the--”

“--scriptwriters for ‘First Class’, I know,” Moira finished for him, and now his jaw was hanging open, making her laugh as they shook hands. “Charles is always singing your praises, you and Alex. And I loved the ‘Catcher in the Rye’ adaptation you guys did. It was one of the best scripts, it really should have won the Oscar last year.”

“Really?” Sean was beaming at her. “Man, too bad we lost to Geoffrey Fletcher.”

“Yeah, I know.” Moira gave him a sympathetic grimace. At this point the bartender placed her drink on the counter, and she nodded her thanks. As she sipped her drink, she realised Sean was grinning widely at her. “What?”

“Oh nothing, it’s just that I thought you were going to order a White Russian.” Now he was casting his eyes downward, a little embarrassed.

“Why would I order that?”

“It was the favourite drink of this character you played in one of your earlier movies.” Sean grinned with fond remembrance. “I know I’m gonna sound real creepy and all, but I think I’ve seen all of your movies. And your role as Charlie was one of my favourites.”

“Really?” Moira was amazed. ‘Charlie and the Goldfish’ was an indie comedy she had done ten years ago, and she only had a copy on VHS. She didn’t think anyone Sean’s age would have seen it. “That was really long ago.”

“Yeah, kinda. But it was one of my favourite movies as a kid. Charlie was awesome. And she loved fish.” Sean shot her a curious glance. “Do you like fish?”

It was an odd question, but chatting with Sean was a much better alternative to being bored and drinking alone. “I have two pet angelfish at home,” she said with a demure smile.

Sean grinned a little awkwardly. “You like fish, I like fish, too.” Now he was clearing his throat, peeking at her over the rims of his Lennon sunglasses. “Maybe we should get a bite sometime, talk about it?”

It was definitely one of the strangest invitations Moira had ever received, but she found herself chuckling as she sipped her vodka cranberry. Sean seemed harmless enough, and she doubted that he would even follow up on the dinner date if she said yes. “Sure, why not?” she said, grinning at him as she tucked her hair back behind her ear.

“Cool.” Sean was pleased, nodding to himself. “Then we can talk more about what a great movie ‘Charlie and the Goldfish’ was. It’s in my top ten movies of all time, y’know?”

Moira eyed Sean carefully as she sipped her drink. She knew Charles had sung his praises, but she still intended to tread carefully. “I’m glad you liked the movie,” she said instead, a stock reply she usually gave to fans who approached her in public. “It was fun shooting it.”

Raising a hand to the bartender and signalling for a beer, Sean perched himself on the stool next to Moira’s. “It was the movie that made me want to become a scriptwriter,” he admitted, taking off the Lennon glasses. Now that she could see them, he had such clear, earnest eyes. “It made me wish there were more movies with such cool, funny heroines like you, ya know? And at that time there weren’t many, so my Mom was like, why don’t you write one? And so I did.” Sean flashed her a rather goofy, endearing smile. “My first script was about a girl and her best friend, who was an elephant, and they solved crimes together.”

Moira couldn’t help smiling back. “I would have liked to watch that.”

Sean lifted his shoulder in an offhand shrug. “Nah, it was kinda bad. Alex couldn’t stop laughing through it. And not in a good way. We wanted--”

They were interrupted by cheers across the room, where it seemed like there was some rowdy drinking game going on between Charles and the Aussie actor who played Thor. Moira craned her neck to take a look, rolling her eyes as Charles started to wobble after what must have been his hundredth drink. When she turned back to Sean, she realised he was still staring at her, but he looked away quickly and said thanks to the bartender as he collected his Heineken.

He’s so young. Moira frowned a little as she watched him nurse his beer. She wasn’t sure how old he was exactly, but he had to be at least fresh out of college. “You were saying earlier?” she asked.

“Oh nah, it’s not important.” He turned when someone yelled his name from across the room, and the corners of his mouth tugged down with regret as his friends waved him over. “I’ve got to go. But hey, we’re doing dinner, right?”

“Sure, of course.” Moira pulled a name card out of her purse that bore Levene’s number. “Call my agent.”

She pretended not to notice the way Sean’s face fell a little, as though he had been expecting her personal number. Sure, she felt bad for not giving it to him, but she didn’t get where she was by throwing caution to the wind. Thankfully Sean did take the card, but now he seemed to be considering something, and his next few words caught her off guard. “You’re asking me will my love grow?

“Wait, what?” At first Moira blinked at him, but she started laughing when she realised why the words were so familiar. They were lyrics to ‘Something’, which was one of her favourite Beatles songs after all. “I don’t know, I don’t know,” she replied, more than amused and definitely charmed.

His answering grin was bright enough to light the Hollywood sign. ”Stick around and it may show.”

“I might just do that.” Biting her lip, Moira caught Sean’s hand just as he was about to step away. “Wait,” she said, taking Levene’s name card back from him, then scribbling her number on the back. She tucked it into the pocket of Sean’s mod jacket, and his face was now beetroot red. Putting on his Lennon sunglasses again, Sean pretended to take a graceful bow. “So long, my Muse.”

Moira watched him weave his way through the crowd, smiling to herself.

* * * * *

It was inevitable, of course. Charles, clumsy with drink, had spilled beer on his trousers in the aftermath of the whole beer bong fiasco, and he could tell Erik was trying not to laugh at him despite how turned on he was. Charles couldn’t stop staring at Erik’s wide, generous mouth, pink with lip gloss, even as Erik stopped a passing waitress to ask if there was a room where Charles could attempt to dry his trousers. The waitress, dressed as a zombie Marilyn Monroe, pointed them towards a door beside the bar that said, ‘EMPLOYEES ONLY’ and Erik nodded his thanks.

“Come on, love.” Erik placed his hand on the small of Charles’ back, directing him towards the room. Charles stumbled a little as he walked, still a little tipsy and shamelessly clinging onto Erik as they made their way to the employees’ room. A vampire bartender let them in, and Charles blinked in the too-bright fluorescent light of the room, a stark contrast to the darkness of the club. The employee room seemed to be a break area of some sort, filled with rows of bag lockers. There was also a table with napkins and someone’s Ziplocked sandwich as Erik locked the door behind him.

He felt Erik propelling him towards the table, and Charles gladly leaned back against it. “My God, how much did I have to drink?” he murmured, massaging his temples as Erik picked up some of the napkins.

“I’ve seen you take more than this.” Erik sounded amused, kneeling down before him and peering at the wet patch on Charles’ left thigh. “I never thought I’d see you waste alcohol, though.”

“An absolute tragedy,” Charles agreed, although he forgot what he was going to say next when Erik started dabbing at the damp patch with the napkins. From this viewpoint, Charles could see down Erik’s dress, where a woman’s cleavage normally would be, but instead he was treated to the view of Erik’s firm, broad chest and the small points of his nipples.

“Still with me?” Erik asked after Charles had been silent for a while, looking up at Charles through the fan of his eyelashes. Earlier, when he had been putting makeup on Erik, he hadn’t needed to use that much mascara because Erik was already blessed with long, full eyelashes, and now Charles was struck by the sight of those pale blue eyes peering up at him through those dark, sooty lashes.

“Sorry, I’m just...distracted,” Charles said, subconsciously lifting a hand to sift through the red, artificial strands of Erik’s wig. He was taken by surprise at the soft, ‘mmm’ sound that Erik made at this gesture, and it sent a shot of lust straight down to his cock, which was already showing signs of liking the proximity of Erik’s hand to his crotch.

Erik was still dabbing at the patch, but his artificially thickened lashes fluttered. “Charles, you’re looking at me like you want to devour me.”

Charles chuckled, biting his lip as his thumb brushed against Erik’s cheek. God, Erik was so gorgeous. And his. “How is this different from any other time?”

“True.” Erik seemed to be breathing harder, the rise and fall of his chest more obvious as he dabbed at the beer stain. “But if you keep this up, there’s going to be a different kind of stain on your pants.”

“No idea what you’re talking about, Erik,” Charles said with a laugh even though his crotch was visibly distended now, his growing erection aching to point towards Erik’s mouth. His hand landed on Erik’s broad shoulder, playing with the strap of his dress. Oh please Erik, your mouth, so warm and wet on me, lip gloss everywhere--

By now, Erik had given up all pretence of drying the stain, his eyes fixed on the outline of Charles’ erection trapped in his trousers, just centimeters away from that lush, sweet mouth. “Charles, since I’m down here, is there anything else I can do for you?” he asked, a knowing glint in those clear aquamarine eyes, a naughty twist to that generous mouth that could kiss Charles for hours (and has).

“Oh, I don’t know.” Charles tugged at the strap of Erik’s dress, winding his finger around it so he could pull Erik even closer to him. “Maybe you can show me all I’ve taught you about learning how to ‘open your throat’ and I’ll tell you how you did.”

Erik was now rubbing his cheek against Charles’ clothed crotch, making him gasp. “Oh, I hope I do well. I had a very, very good teacher.” He caught the zipper with his teeth and tugged it down, then pressed his nose against the now exposed swell of Charles’ cock, trapped in his underwear. “Charles, you always smell so good.”

Charles was now panting, his cheeks hot as he brushed back Erik’s fake hair. The sight of Erik nuzzling against his erection in his briefs like that was going to be seared onto his brain forever, an image for Charles to jerk off to whenever he was apart from Erik. “Oh Erik, I want your mouth so badly--”

“Patience,” Erik crooned, and Charles moaned at the vibration it sent through his cock, which had been half-hard all night, watching Erik like this in his dress, his boots, his stockings which Charles longed to rip as Erik fucked him hard later on. Oh yes, Charles fully intended to jump Erik at some point during the night, although this was a nice unexpected bonus.

Now Erik was gently tugging Charles’ cock out of his briefs, pressing a kiss to the flushed head. There was such love in this gesture that Charles wanted to bend down and kiss Erik senseless, but before he could do so, Erik started sucking at the tip of Charles’ leaking cock, making his knees buckle as he allowed the table to support more of his weight. “Oh my God, Erik--”

Erik’s only response was to take more of Charles’ cock into his mouth, and Charles threw back his head with a groan, marvelling in how warm and tight Erik’s mouth felt sucking wetly around him, He could feel Erik’s large hands on his thighs, spreading them a little and steadying Charles, his grip possessive. In turn, Charles slid his fingers into the strands of Erik’s wig, tugging as hard as he liked since he knew it wouldn’t hurt Erik.

“Oh, I-- Oh!” Charles was pleasantly surprised when Erik did something wicked with his tongue, flicking under the glans before trailing along the vein while his hand wrapped around the base of Charles’ erection, stroking him in the slow, firm way Erik knew he liked. Now Charles had to watch, looking down and moaning when he saw the way Erik’s lip gloss was smeared all over his cock, making it look slick and shiny. “Erik, Erik, please...”

Erik pulled his lips off, his hungry stare fixed on Charles. “If you keep begging me like this, I’m going to come faster than you are.”

Charles huffed a breathless laugh. “How is that possible?” he asked fondly, running his thumb around Erik’s beautiful, puffy mouth, smearing the lip gloss over his chin.

“It’s possible if I do this,” Erik said with a grin, before bending down and taking Charles into his mouth again, only this time, Charles saw Erik’s hand disappearing under his dress, and he understood what Erik was up to as he moaned around Charles’ cock, his eyes squeezed shut in pleasure. The bastard was stroking himself while sucking off Charles, and Charles could only watch helplessly as Erik’s hand moved back and forth under his dress.

“Open your throat,” Charles reminded him, panting as Erik made a sound of agreement before trying to take more of Charles in. There was a moment where Erik paused, then his cheeks hollowed as his mouth slid down, and Charles brushed a thumb over Erik’s cheekbone, which stood out even more now that his mouth was currently wrapped around Charles’ erection. He gave an experimental thrust, which made Erik blink a bit before he relaxed, and Charles couldn’t hold back a moan at how wonderful Erik’s mouth felt, a soft velvet heaven.

“Erik, I’m going to--” Charles warned him, even as he watched himself fuck Erik’s mouth, the feel of Erik’s lips around his cock so different now with the sticky drag of the lip gloss, but Erik just winked up at him before sliding further down an inch, his hand gently stroking Charles’ balls still cradled in his underwear. Charles bit his lip, thrusting harder now and he was able to feel how much Erik enjoyed this, judging from the low moans vibrating around his cock. Erik’s wig was probably close to being ruined now but Charles didn’t care, gripping tighter as he surged forward, feeling his cock hit the back of Erik’s throat.

“Erik, oh fuck, Erik, love you, Erik--” Charles babbled as he pulsed into Erik’s mouth, and he quickly pulled out for fear of choking him, but this only resulted in him spurting all over Erik’s face, chin and collarbone. Erik blinked, a little surprised at first, but his growing smile was obvious as his tongue flickered at the corner of his lips, licking up the drops of come there. He didn’t even wait as he rose to his feet, kissing Charles soundly, and Charles blindly groped under Erik’s dress and wrapped his hand around Erik’s straining erection, bringing Erik off in a few strokes.

Both of them were panting slowly, coming down from their respective highs, occasionally trading a languid kiss or two. Erik tasted of lip gloss and of Charles himself, and his wig was askew. Charles straightened it with his clean hand, then reached for the stack of napkins. He wiped his hand first, then quickly cleaned Erik up before tucking him back inside his boxer briefs. Erik just watched him, eyes dazed in that sleepy, post-coital haze that Charles was starting to be very familiar with.

“You all right, love?” Charles asked him, and Erik nodded, pressing his open lips against Charles for another kiss, slower this time. Charles couldn’t resist, his fingers brushing against Erik’s collarbone and feeling a smear of wetness there. A jolt ran through him when he realised it was his own come, and he took delight in rubbing it into Erik’s skin, marking him as his.

When they pulled apart, Erik licked his lips as Charles mopped up the rest of the mess. “So how did I fare?” Erik asked, his voice a little hoarse, and Charles was embarrassed to admit just how turned on he was by that.

“You were wonderful,” he told Erik with another kiss. “Top marks, darling.”

* * * * *

Charles clung to Erik’s side as they made their way through the club, limbs loose and still in a daze from Erik’s spectacular demonstration of his freshly-acquired throat-opening skills backstage. He could feel the loud thump of the club music rattling his bones, though the buzz from the alcohol flowing in his veins was muted now, thanks to their physical exertions. They exchanged pleasantries when they ran into their friends, and Charles smiled when he saw a few familiar faces he wanted to catch up with.

“Joe! My regular Joe, how are you?“ Charles said in greeting when he spotted Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the corner chatting with Tom Hardy, the latter cutting a rather terrifying image with his leather muzzle and thick jacket, numerous spikes protruding from around the area of his mouth like fangs.

“Charles! It’s been too long. Aren’t you going to introduce me to your stunning escort?” Joseph’s warm, dimpled smile made him look young and boyish, a huge contrast with his police officer uniform and bomber jacket. Charles was mindful and only shook his hand, afraid to get too close, wondering if he and Erik still smelled of sex and actually feeling rather turned on by the possibility.

“Erik, I was in ‘Midsummer’s Day’ with Joe and Zooey Deschanel,” Charles said by way of introduction as Erik shook the other man’s hand.

Erik nodded in acknowledgement. “I’ve seen that movie. I thought it was one of Charles’ better ones, at least it wasn’t your typical love story.”

Charles laughed, hugging Erik from the side. “You’re just happy that Zooey went with Joe in the end. Erik’s not big on sharing you see,” he said as he dropped a kiss to his shoulder.

“Tom, can you even talk in that? Have you had anything to drink?” Erik asked as he eyed the muzzle strapped around his face.

Tom chuckled, the laugh sounding muffled from behind the leather. “I’m fine, I’ve gotten used to it over the weeks.”

“Oh how’s filming for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’?” Charles asked as he extricated himself from Erik, going over to scrutinize Tom’s muzzle and marvelling at the craftsmanship.

“It’s a lot of fun working with Tom again. Maybe the most fun I’ve had in my life, physically... with my clothes on,” Joseph replied, giving Charles a wink.

Erik snorted as he rolled his eyes. “Charles, I’m beginning to wonder if you met all of your friends while making a porno.”

“Oh don’t be silly, Erik.” Charles shot him a fond look, before turning his attention back to his two friends. “It must be lovely, getting to do another film together,” he said to Joseph, though his thoughts were preoccupied with fanciful musings of being in more films with Erik, of being in every film with Erik, never having to be separated because of the roles they signed on to play. It wasn’t that far-fetched, was it? Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson seemed it be able to pull it off just fine.

“It’s great. It doesn’t even feel like a job at all, and practically everyone from ‘Inception’ is back, which makes everything so much easier,” Joseph replied, smiling broadly.

“Speaking of the film, Erik, would you like to come by for a cameo?” A low, deep voice said from behind Charles, causing him to jump.

It was then that Charles identified the tall, dark figure clad in Kevlar looming over him, face covered in a mask. “Holy Batman,” he let slip as he gaped. And now that caped crusader mentioned it, Charles couldn’t help but think that Erik would make an excellent brooding and tormented Batman, with enough sex appeal to play his Bruce Wayne alter ego perfectly as well. He had enough raw sexual energy to even be the next James Bond, if he wanted.

Christian Bale let out a deep throaty laugh, sounding very different from his usual self thanks to the voice augmenting device. “I was wondering when you were going to notice me.”

“He was standing there the whole time, Charles. We should really cut back on your drinks,” Erik said, sounding amused. “Thank you for asking but I won’t be able to, we’re heading out to start filming on location soon.”

“Yes, it’s really too bad. Joe, I take it you’ll be apprehending Tom?” Charles asked casually.

“Nice try, Charles. I can’t tell you, spoilers, you know the drill,” Joe said, smirking.

“Well then, are you going to arrest me, officer? I’ve been a very bad boy,” Charles said playfully as he held out his wrists. Joseph laughed, pulling out his cuffs and slapping them on him, the catches clicking into place. Charles blinked at them for a moment, stunned, before sidling up to Erik and tossing his restrained arms over his neck, smiling seductively as he rolled his hips at him, enjoying the feel of the metal pressed against his wrists. “Erik, I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with these, don’t you?”

Erik sighed dotingly, resting his hands on the small of Charles’ back to still him. “I really can’t take you anywhere. And Joseph’s costume will be incomplete without those cuffs.”

“Oh you two can keep them. This isn’t my real costume, anyway,” Joseph said as he stripped off his uniform to the beat of the club music, tossing the shirt and jacket aside like a professional gigolo and revealing the skin-tight latex black-and-white French maid outfit underneath. “It’s a costume within a costume,” he announced as Tom’s eyes went wide with shock, adding, “Oh come on, you’re always asking me to use my imagination.”

Tom took off the contraption on his face, gasping for air as he laughed. “You’ve never been afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”

Still stunned, Charles wanted to whip out his phone and take a picture of Joseph in his French maid costume, but he was confused when his arms remain steadfastly locked around Erik’s neck, reminding him of the handcuffs. “Oh bother,” he mumbled, releasing Erik from his hold and looking around for help. Nothing could describe the relief he felt when he spotted Superman towering over the crowd, arm in arm with Raven. “Raven! Ask Superman to release me,” he pleaded, shoving his handcuffed wrists at the surprised couple.

“Jesus, Charles, you’re as drunk as a skunk,” Raven said with a laugh, while Superman peered down at the handcuffs, examining them. Charles blinked owlishly at him, wondering why Superman looked so familiar.

“Oh don’t worry, these are trick handcuffs, you don’t even need a key,” Superman said, before lifting a little latch and behold, the cuffs slid off and Charles was free.

“Thank you so much, you’re amazing, my friend.” Charles beamed at Superman, stroking the bright yellow and red ‘S’ logo on his chest. It wasn’t as nice as Erik’s chest, but Charles was far too grateful to his benefactor. “How can I ever repay you?”

Superman now seemed a little wary as he stepped back, away from Charles’ pawing hands. “Uh, it’s okay, I didn’t really do anything--”

Charles.” The tone of Raven’s voice made him spin around, and he was confused to see the identical black looks of thunder on her face as well as Erik’s. “Just how wasted are you? Stop pawing Hank, for God’s sake.”

Charles was stunned by the revelation. “Wait, that was Hank? My goodness.” Now his head was throbbing with the effort to comprehend all this, or maybe it was the bloody alcohol, he couldn’t be sure. “Hank, you look amazing.”

“Uh, thanks,” Hank said a little uncomfortably as Raven rolled her eyes and walked off, and he trailed after her like a lost, confused puppy dog. Charles spun around to look for his real saviour - Erik - and pouted when he saw Erik still didn’t look happy. He locked his arms around Erik’s waist, nuzzling his cheek.

“Did I do something wrong?” Charles pressed a kiss to the corner of Erik’s mouth, watching it struggling not to twitch up into a smile.

“If you’re going to get like this every time you get drunk, maybe you should lay off the sauce a bit,” Erik said with a low sigh of resignation.

“No one but you, Erik,” Charles assured him. Although his head was swimming, he meant every single word. “You’re the lof-love of my life. Everyone else is just....eh.”

Erik was finally smiling again. “Come on, let’s get you some water.”

* * * * *

Later, Erik would not be able to remember how that little corner of the club ended up in another drinking game. He’d been deep in conversation with Tom Hardy when it started. By the time he caught on to what all the cheering was about, it seemed as if half the club was either watching or participating in the game. Charles and Hemsworth seemed to be the nucleus, the main event, while the others went along and stopped whenever they wanted to; the rules, from what Erik could make out, were to do with the song lyrics being blasted over the club, and also arbitrary and subject to change at a moment’s notice, as were the drinks. Everybody seemed to be having fun, though. Erik even spotted Benedict Cumberbatch dressed as Sherlock Holmes cheering as he watched the proceedings from the side, and he made a mental note to tell Charles that his old friend had been able to make it after all, despite the last-minute invitation. Still, Erik hoped Charles was sober enough to recognise Benedict in the first place.

The drinking game was still in full swing, and at least there was no nudity or inappropriate snogging, so Erik just cheered along with everyone else as Charles downed a brightly-colored shot seconds ahead of Hemsworth and Hiddleston.

He did sidle closer, as a precaution; Erik was no biologist, nor completely sober himself, but he had enough common sense to be able to compare body mass and prepare for Charles’ eventual defeat.

The next minute, it occurred to him that the only person who would suffer tonight from a completely inebriated Charles was him. Erik had plans, damn it, and needed Charles to be conscious.

He grabbed the shot Charles was currently holding in his hand and finished it, and then leaned forward, tapped Charles lightly on the nose - which elicited a distinctly cat-like and not at all adorable blink - and announced, loudly, “I’m tagging you out.”

This was met with the expected chorus of protests, and Erik managed to discern Hiddleston in the corner shouting, “What, is he pregnant?”, but there was also a wave of disorganized shouting and shuffling; several others were being tagged out as well, voluntarily or otherwise. Charles was reluctant but easy to placate with a deep kiss and Erik strategically lifting his skirt up as he squeezed past the crowd to where Charles was perched on the bar stool, like his dress was modestly floor-length and not already around his thighs. Somewhere nearby, he heard Robert denying both drunkenness and the need for someone to tag him out. “Sorry, pal, but Iron Man doesn't have a sidekick.“

The whole thing, not surprisingly, soon broke down into a confused but happily inebriated muddle, and Erik was far more interested in drinking Charles’ mouth than the shots put in front of him. He wasn’t sure if the heady, world-blurring feeling was due to the alcohol finally hitting him or an effect of Charles’ kisses. Possibly a combination of both.

He did wonder if he’d intervened too late when, after a few moments of pleasant necking, Charles’ head began to loll over Erik’s shoulder. “You need water,” he said, tracing Charles’ lower lip with a finger.

“Tom ha’ m’water,” slurred Charles. He waved a hand, presumably to point towards ‘Tom’, and smacked Erik in the face instead. “Tom, Tom - t’one with, with, y’know, lips. Not curly. TOM.”

“Here,” Tom Hardy popped in with a laugh, and handed a bottle of water to Erik.

“Why ha’ you all got the same name?” Charles complained. He obligingly opened his mouth so Erik could pour a bit of water in. Erik missed slightly, which suggested that he was quite drunk himself; clear drops of water splashed out, trailing down those nicely puffy lips in a way that caught all of Erik’s attention. “‘S bloody incon- inconven- ‘s bloody hard.”

Erik sighed, though he was smiling. He should really stop finding drunk Charles adorable and endearing. Charles suddenly sat up and coughed. Erik put the water bottle down, rubbed his back, and said, “Swallow first before you try to speak.”

“‘S not what y’said this morn’,” Charles leered. Benedict, who’d just settled down on the other side of Charles, laughed openly. Erik felt his face warm.

“Ben! You made it!” Charles exclaimed in delight, leaning over to give his friend a brief hug before releasing him. “Ben, I like you, you have an in’ers’ing name. Rolls off the tongue. Well, not right now, not my tongue because, y’know, drunk, can’t feel it.” Charles frowned, eyes crossing - dear God, he was trying to frown at his tongue while it was in his mouth. “But you’re not a Chris or a Tom. We ha’ a surplus of both. So I like you. And Erik. ‘S is why you and Erik are my favourites!”

Charles waved his arms about, a gesture meant to encompass Erik and Benedict that then morphed to an attempt to clap a hand on their shoulders. He missed on the latter, not surprisingly, and toppled off the bar stool.

Erik met Benedict’s eyes as they both reflexively grabbed onto Charles before he could hit the floor. The other man was obviously on the verge of laughing outright.

“If it helps,” said Ben, his deep voice melding nicely with the alcohol in Erik’s system to create a pleasant, warming effect, “he was much worse at uni. Especially when we celebrated landing a role. You should ask him about that time we woke up in a golf course, in the middle of the green.”

“Maligned!” exclaimed Charles, staggering to his feet. “I’m being maligned!”

“Water,” Erik said determinedly, and snagged the bottle from the bar. He helped Charles onto a bar stool and got more water into him and was just about finished with the bottle when somebody bumped into him from behind.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” whoever it was said cheerfully. Strong, warm hands helped Erik regain his balance before their owner slid his way in to face them.

Erik smiled in recognition. “Adam, I’m glad you made it. Charles, we met at an Anti-Defamation League event a couple of years ago.”

“Adam Lambert, such a p-pleasure to meet you,” Charles smiled warmly as he shook his hand, the singer dressed as a Victorian vampire in a top hat, face powdered white.

Adam smiled charmingly in return. “Fantastic party, guys. Heidi and Seal have nothing on you. And Erik, I love your dress.”

“Thank you. How are you? And how is the new album coming along?” Erik asked as he steadied himself against the bar beside Charles, the counter cool against his exposed back, flipping the red hair off his face with a toss of his head.

“It’s been amazing and so much fun. I’m about to fly off to Northern Ireland to perform at the European Music Awards with Queen, actually,” Adam replied, showing off his fangs with a toothy grin.

“We’ll be sure to catch it on cable,” Charles declared, resting a hand on Adam to stop his topple while Erik grabbed onto his waist even though he could barely feel his legs himself, before abruptly breaking into giggles, “I’ve always wondered what it’s like, to be kissed by Adam Lambert.”

Erik pulled Charles back, shifting him safely against the bar top. “I’m sorry, Charles has no boundaries once he’s in this state.”

It was Adam’s turn to burst out laughing, leaning against Erik as he did so, and it was now clear to Erik that he would be hard-pressed to figure out which of them was the least drunk. “Charles is really cute, I’d be happy to oblige,” Adam slurred as he tapped Charles’ chin up, earning a rather aghast look from Erik. “Oh don’t worry about it, people always walk up to me and ask me to kiss them, I tongue-dive from stage all the time.”

Charles sobered up immediately and bolted upright, shaking his head as if to clear it, “Mmmh, no, wait. That won’t be necessary, although I’m sure it will be magical. I don’t--"

Adam cut him off by leaning in towards Charles before Erik’s alcohol-addled mind could even process what was going on, only to veer off course at the last moment to plant a quick peck on his cheek. He pulled away, laughing as he planted a matching one on Erik’s cheek as well, draping an arm around both their shoulders when he was done.

“You should have seen your faces!” Adam didn’t stop giggling as he tucked them both close to his side, warm and snug against his chest, and Erik couldn’t help but laugh along, caught up in the giddy combination of that spike of adrenaline and what must by then have been an entire bar’s worth of alcohol in his system.

Adam was still grinning when he drew away from them, Charles taking the opportunity to wrap his arms around Erik’s neck and kiss him thoroughly when Adam grabbed a drink from the bar, and Erik was vaguely aware of Adam calling out to them before making his way back into the crowd, voice drowned out by the music and the drum of CharlesCharlesCharles in his head, “You two crazy kids have fun.”

* * * * *

After so many rounds of socialising and drinking, Erik was glad to stumble into a nearby booth just to take a breather. All night long, people had been pawing at him, touching him and twirling strands of his wig around their fingers. He was tired of being a point of curiosity, although not drunk enough yet to go along with it. He squinted at his phone to check the time; there was just enough time to sit down and catch his breath before his ‘surprise’ for Charles would turn up on stage.

Casting a glance at the exit, Emma’s blindingly white costume caught his eye, and he smirked when he noticed she was locking arms with Jon Hamm as they headed towards the door. Shaw wouldn’t be happy about that, but then again, Emma had never really given Shaw the time of day even before Hamm had even come into the picture.

His thoughts were interrupted when someone tumbled into the booth beside him, and Erik’s body recognised Charles before his mind did, registering his scent and his laugh and filing it under the mental folder ‘Important’. “There you are!” Charles said with a laugh, the joy in his voice clear and unrestrained, his arms clumsy around Erik’s neck. “Been looking for you, daaaarling.”

“You’ll be the death of me,” Erik slurred, and even then he couldn’t resist leaning in to claim that sweet, soft mouth in an earnest, sloppy kiss. “Enjoyed yourself tonight?” he asked after pulling away, stroking back Charles’ mussed hair.

“The best,” Charles said with the widest grin. “Erik, you’re the besht- the best boyfriend ever.”

Erik didn’t even know why he found this funny, but he did. “Takes one to, uh, know one. Is that the phrase?”

“Think so.” Charles was now blinking hopefully at him. “Do-does it mean sex?”

“Not everything means sex,” Erik reminded him, although he was trying his best to remember if it did. Before he could answer, the lights in the club were being dimmed, along with the sudden loss of music. As people started chattering in confusion, Erik craned his neck to look around. From where he was sitting, he could see that the stage was suddenly flooded with lights. Finally, he thought, pressing a kiss to Charles’ temple, but his aim was hazy so it landed on Charles’ hair instead. “I’ve got a surprise for you.”

“Awwww, Erik.” Charles was beaming at him, cheeks flushed and eyes dancing. “For me? You didn’t haf- um, have to.”

“Trust me, you’ll want to see this.” Erik draped his arm around Charles, arranging him slightly so that he faced the stage. Now there was a little frown of confusion between his eyebrows as a very familiar tune started booming from the speakers, eliciting cheers and rabid applause from the crowd.

“Erik, why--” Charles trailed off as he stared at the stage in utter shock, his jaw dropping. On the stage, a diminutive figure wearing oversized sunglasses with a puffy mountain of teased blonde hair was stalking her way to the front, crooning into the mic, “Ooohhhh, oh oh oh ohh....

“ERIK!” Charles was practically mauling him, his hands clumsily grabbing Erik while his eyes remained fixed on the stage, wild and surprised. His mouth was opening and closing like a goldfish as he struggled to find the words. "Erik, it’s Gaga! You....oh my word, you got Godga!"

“Charles!” Before Erik could even think, Charles was already up and stumbling to the stage, arms pinwheeling around and around like a windmill, almost hitting a passing Chris Evans in the face. Erik stumbled to his feet and gave chase immediately after his wayward boyfriend, who was now flailing right in front of the stage much to the amusement of everyone else. Lady Gaga was smiling down at him as he sang along raucously with her to the first few lines of ‘Bad Romance’, and Erik refused to admit how endearing it was that even when drunk, Charles knew every single line by heart, even the pauses in between the words.

“Erik! Sing with me!” Charles commanded loudly before wrapping Erik’s arms around himself like a mink stole, loud and out of tune. Laughing, Erik couldn’t help but give in, singing along, “Love, love, love, I want your love...

They were enthusiastically joined by the audience during the chorus, everyone pumping their fists in the air to the beat. Charles was entirely in bliss, adoring gaze fixed on Lady Gaga as he stood cocooned in Erik’s arms. Erik rested his chin on Charles’ shoulder, just enjoying the feel of Charles in his arms like this, leaning heavily against him more than usual because of the alcohol.

When the song’s bridge came on and Lady Gaga started singing, “Walk, walk fashion baby”, Erik was nonplussed to find that people were surging forward and pushing him and Charles towards the stage, and Gaga was crooking her finger at them, smiling lasciviously. “What do you guys think if these two joined me on stage?” she asked the audience, who absolutely howled in approval, pushing Erik and Charles to the front even more.

Charles didn’t even need to be asked twice, yanking Erik forward as the two of them climbed the few steps required, and the applause and cheering now was deafening, almost drowning out the backing track. Gaga herself was applauding with her microphone, blowing kisses at them and urging them forward. “Come here!”

Now the three of them were standing together, and Erik was smiling as his favourite part - the bit with the French lyrics - was coming up, and Gaga pointed the microphone at him, arching an elegant eyebrow. “Sing it, sister,” she demanded, and Erik shrugged. Who was he to refuse? He sang into the mic, hoping his pronunciation was accurate enough:

J'ai ton amour et je veux ton revenge
J'ai ton amour, I don't wanna be friends
...”

The screams and catcalls he received were a good enough indication that he had nailed it, despite his rather tipsy state. Not to be outdone, it was now Charles’ turn to hog the mic, drunkenly singing, “I don’t wanna be friendsss...” and the three of them shouted together: “Want your bad romance!”

Now stumbling off stage, Erik was still laughing while Charles was buried in his arms, shaking with mirth. Erik couldn’t believe they had just shared the stage with Gaga, and for once, he was dressed more outrageously than she was. They stood by the side and watched the rest of her performance in awe, Charles slumped against Erik. She was such a pro, and Erik was so glad that she had agreed to this special performance.

The last chords of the music faded away, though the raucous applause that surged up in its wake meant that the noise levels didn’t decrease in any discernible amount for several minutes after. Lady Gaga took a long bow, blowing kisses to her adoring audience, then - to Erik’s surprise - beckoned him and Charles back over to the side of the stage.

They went, of course - it was Lady Gaga - and she somehow managed to half-crouch, half-lean over to drape her arms over their shoulders, one each. She looked up, and the crowd fell quiet.

“To Erik and Charles,” she announced in her throaty, slightly hoarse voice, “I give my heartfelt blessings. Now go suck face, and make your Mama proud.”

“HAIL GODGA!” someone shouted from the upper floor. The whole club erupted again, cheers and hoots and colourful hollering. Lady Gaga pressed a sticky kiss to Erik’s forehead, then Charles, and stood up, causing a small explosion of glitter over both their heads.

“I think we just got hitched,” said Charles, in an atrocious Southern accent. Erik had no choice but to swoop in and cover Charles’ mouth with his, kissing him deep and dirty, in case he had a mind to try out any more badly-suited accents; besides, Erik was only doing as Lady Gaga commanded.

* * * * *

The party wound down gradually. The level of attention Erik paid to his surroundings tended to be inversely proportional to the level of attention Charles was dedicating to him. Now that Charles seemed to have forgotten about everything that wasn’t Erik, and seemed to be taking his new matrimonial duties very seriously, the two of them could have been teleported somewhere with bombs flying towards them and Erik wouldn’t have noticed.

He had no idea how long they were making out for. They’d started out right next to the stage, but the crowd, now mostly intoxicated and happy to dance their way back to sobriety, good-naturedly shuffled and bumped them towards the darker corners, which Erik was totally fine with.

Eventually, a warm and somewhat heavy body came to rest against Erik’s back. It still took far too long for Erik to realise, I should probably do something about this, and even longer to extricate his mouth from Charles’ and peer over his shoulder.

It was Evans. They were in a corner of the main club floor, where there was a wall partitioning that area and the outer area where the bar was. Evans appeared to have fallen asleep tucked into the corner, but then slipped sideways and was now resting his head on Erik’s back.

Charles peered over Erik’s side and giggled. “Got Cap?” he asked with a wide grin.

“You’re ridiculous,” Erik said fondly. He looked around, and spotted Hiddleston coming through the door from the outer area. “Tom!”

While Hiddleston was helping Erik with Evans - for someone who looked leaner than Erik, the man was surprisingly strong - Charles looked around the club with a very satisfied expression. “I believe we can call this party a success. A raging success, even.” He waggled an eyebrow at Erik.

Erik laughed, sending Tom a somewhat helpless see what I have to put up with look, to which Tom responded with a knowing smile.

There weren’t many people on the floor, he noticed, and Evans was far from the only one relying on the ambulatory services of their friends.

There was a brief snicker of static over the sound system, then Samuel L. Jackson’s voice came through, loud and clear.

“All right, everybody. Go the fuck to sleep.”

* * * * *

The door of the limousine had barely closed when Charles practically launched himself at Erik, appearing to have mostly recovered from his previously inebriated state. It was the hardest thing in the world, when he was still fairly drunk-dizzy and had a lap full of eager, aroused Charles, to free his mouth and tell the very professional driver to head for Charles’ house, and then close the partition. Charles punished him for the brief break into responsibility by sucking hard on his collarbone until Erik went back to kissing him.

“You don’t know how much this has been teasing me all night,” Charles said, breathless, right into Erik’s mouth. His fingers trailed lightly up and down the length of Erik’s thighs, playing with the slinky hem of the skirt.

Erik had mostly forgotten about the dress while they were inside. Now he couldn’t help but be aware of it again: the feel of the material sliding over his skin, the rub of the leather seats against his bare back, how the whole thing clung to him in strange but exciting ways.

Charles seemed particularly fixated on his legs. He gave Erik an impish grin and bent down. Erik watched as Charles kissed one of his knees, and then a pink tongue slipped out and licked down the side towards the sensitive crease of the back of the knee. Erik’s legs parted of their own accord. The air in the limo felt too hot.

Charles continued to lick, and plant open-mouthed kisses; that damnable tongue slipping under the fishnet threads, leaving them wet, and sometimes Charles would graze his teeth over the stockings, as he slowly nosed up between Erik’s legs. One hand slid up Erik’s inner thigh, and Erik gasped, his body conflicted between thrusting up from the hips and, strangely, closing his legs.

It’s the skirt, he decided. There was something erotic about the way it wrapped around his hips, partially constricting the movement of his legs, and yet allowed for easy access between them.

“So hot for me, Erik,” moaned Charles, who was crawling up Erik’s body again. His hand continued its climb up under the skirt, deliberately slow; when he reached Erik’s erection and gripped him tight, Erik found it hard to breathe for a moment. “Do you know how,” Charles panted, licking sloppily at Erik’s lips, “how badly I wanted to hitch this up and- and have you, in front of everyone?”

Erik tried to capture Charles’ tongue, but ended up mouthing along his jaw instead. “Yes. Right there on the stage,” he groaned. “Can you imagine the pictures?” Images flooded Erik’s mind: Charles laying him down on the glitter-strewn stage, his stocking-covered legs locked tight around Charles’ waist. Erik shuddered from wanting it; he didn’t know whether to regret or be relieved by their lives not allowing so public a claiming.

“Even death by Raven would have been worth it,” muttered Charles.

Erik’s body decided that it should probably be more active in the proceedings, and he surged up, hands tugging impatiently at Charles’ belt and trousers. He was, possibly, not as coordinated as he’d like to believe, because an attempt to pull Charles’ shirt up somehow ended with Erik’s hand down the back of Charles’ trousers. This was not, of course, an unwanted turn of events, and Erik eagerly seized the prize of the moment with, as it were, both hands.

A pleased noise rumbled out of Charles’ throat. Erik shifted on the seat so that Charles was mostly draped on top of him. Another thorough kiss, luxuriating in the familiar heat of Charles’ mouth even as his hands squeezed Charles’ gorgeous rear. The fingers of one hand dipped down, searching, and then Erik was letting out a shocked gasp, because the skin around Charles’ hole was unmistakably slick.

The gasp quickly turned into a desperate growl. Erik nipped at Charles’ puffy lower lip. “That is very presumptuous of you.”

Charles looked thoroughly unapologetic, and wiggled his ass in a very pointed and distracting way. “I’d like to think of it as ‘efficient’.” The car hit a small bump. Charles balanced himself with a hand on Erik’s shoulder, then stroked said hand down Erik’s chest. His eyes were blown dark. “Or are you just sorry that you missed watching me prepare myself?”

Erik swallowed heavily. He moved one hand to grip Charles by the hip, steadying him, while he continued to explore the extent of Charles’ preparations with the other. With so much of Charles pressed against him, he could feel Charles’ breathing go shivery when Erik’s finger slid inside, smooth and easy, all the way to the knuckle. Yes, Charles whispered, yes, more, please.

The second drew an audible moan from Charles. “Fuck, Erik, I love your hands.” He pressed another kiss on Erik’s lips, and pushed down with his hips, trying to deepen the reach of Erik’s fingers despite the awkward angle and the trousers still caught around his thighs. “Thought about them when I was fingering myself. Wished it was you slicking me up.”

“Oh God, Charles,” groaned Erik. He used his free hand to pull at the inconvenient trousers. “Need to take this off.”

“Right. Yes.” Charles pushed himself up, and narrowly missed kneeing Erik somewhere tender. His head bumped against the ceiling of the limo. “Ow. Just. Gerrof.” He flapped ineffectually at his undone belt. Erik did his best to help him one-handed.

The car suddenly jolted, and jumped, like it had hit a crater rather than a pothole. Charles lost his balance, fell sideways, and tangled up as they were, Erik followed him. There was a confusion of limbs, stuck clothing; luckily the limo had ample floor space, though Erik’s head still bumped against the door. He ended up lying on the bottom again, but at least Charles had gotten his trousers and boxer briefs most of the way off now. Erik yanked hard and threw them somewhere that was away, and settled Charles’ lovely, pale, and slightly hairy legs down on either side of him.

“This is much better,” murmured Charles approvingly. The car continued to bounce and jolt alarmingly. “I should be concerned that we’re being driven through the worst maintained streets in Los Angeles or, possibly, the backwoods of nowhere, but oh, what do we have here?” Erik gasped when he felt Charles stroking his erection through the fabric of the dress.

Charles,” whined Erik.

“Hush, love.” Charles captured his lips in a very thorough, very distracting kiss, before scooting down a little. “Let me get you out of this.”

Erik felt Charles hitching up the skirt of the dress, tellingly slow. His eyes were hungry and appreciative, raking over what he could see of Erik’s body under the light of passing streetlamps and closed storefronts, occasionally stroking the inside of Erik’s thighs. Erik felt distinctly like a gift being unwrapped; arousal and anticipation coiled hot under his skin.

He shivered when his erection, which at this point felt barely contained by his tiny boxer briefs, was exposed to the cool air and Charles’ intent gaze. A strangled sound escaped Charles’ throat; and then Charles was mouthing at the sizable bulge, tracing the shape of Erik’s cock with his tongue and closing his lips, as if in a wide kiss, over the head, licking at the already damp fabric. The sudden contact made Erik’s hips buck up violently before he could control himself. “Charles, Charles, please,” begged Erik.

Apparently Charles was not all that patient, either. He pulled hard at Erik’s underwear, hooked his fingers into the fishnet stockings; Erik felt the garter belt around his waist go taut. Charles let out a frustrated noise, and yanked, careless. Erik heard something tear, but the almost painful constriction of his underwear disappeared, and ohsweetmerciful finally, Charles’ talented, glorious mouth was on his cock.

“Nmmrgh, not yet,” said Charles, pulling off after only a few painful moments; his voice alredady sounded ragged, desperate. “Want, want you, in me.”

Erik felt too far gone for words, but he helped Charles roll the condom onto his cock, and had to bite down on his hand when Charles made the first, tight slide down, taking Erik’s cock into his body. Erik could tell he was going slow, giving himself time to adjust to the stretch.

Then the car hit another big bump, and Charles, losing his balance, sank down the rest of the way, impaling himself fully on Erik’s cock. Being suddenly gripped by the too-tight heat nearly finished Erik right then. The high, shocked sound that came from Charles made his dick twitch, which perhaps made him a bad, bad man; except he couldn’t care less because fuck fuck fuck, Charles was beautifully flushed and shining on top of him, mouth open and head tipped back, arching into the penetration.

Once Erik was able to draw a full breath, he asked, “Charles, are you all right?”

“Fine,” Charles replied breathlessly, “it just took me by surprise. Needed a moment.”

“If you’re hurt-”

“No, honest.” Charles did feel relaxed again, and was smiling at him. “It’s, it’s good, I love having you inside me.”

Erik shuddered, forced himself to take a deep breath. They hadn’t started moving yet, but the bumpy car ride was already bouncing Charles a little; each up-down shift and rub sent sparks of pleasure through Erik’s body, but they were far from enough.

Charles bent over and claimed his mouth; Erik responded eagerly. He was glad to be thus occupied when Charles lifted himself up and slid smoothly back down, because Erik would have shouted at the top of his lungs, the driver’s plausible deniability be damned. His hands groped all over Charles’ legs and hips, unsure where to settle. Charles wobbled due to a series of hard bumps of the car, so Erik kept a hand on his hip to balance him, while the other curled around Charles’ cock. God, there was already a ridiculous amount of precome on the head; Erik eagerly covered his fingers with it, and spread it all over the steel-hard shaft.

Another motion up, Charles letting Erik’s cock slide out of him until only the head was left, then he sank back down, sharp. Erik moaned, lost in a haze of alcohol and lust and pleasure, and maybe also something hot and tight that sat in his chest and twisted whenever he locked gazes with Charles. It had the shape of a secret, except Charles knew it too without having to ask, telling it back to Erik in the soft lines of his mouth and the way his hands stroked Erik’s face and chest, reverent.

Erik could only tighten his hold, hard enough that come morning there might be a bruise in the shape of his hand on Charles’ hip; he squeezed and stroked, until Charles’ breath broke into uneven pants. All throughout, Charles rode him, hips rolling and thighs shaking. The sudden bumps of the car added an unpredictable element to his movements, but instead of being put off, Charles only chuckled.

It was a bit of a mess, uncoordinated, and so, so good. When Charles’ rhythm stuttered, Erik found leverage with his feet and began thrusting up, meeting Charles’ downward movement and driving his cock harder into Charles. A stream of swear words left Charles’ mouth, garbled and mixed with “Erik” and “yes” and “fuck me”. There was a warning clench around Erik’s cock, and then Charles was coming, body arching, hot come hitting Erik’s stomach.

Charles whimpered a little when Erik kept pounding into him. It took only another handful of thrusts before orgasm roared through Erik’s body. He clumsily yanked Charles down for a kiss and fed high, keening noises straight into Charles’ mouth

He wasn’t sure how long they lay there, just breathing. A distant part of his mind pointed out that, no matter the quality of the vehicles, the floor of a limo was probably not sanitary enough to be lying down on. Still, it took him several long minutes before he could even look down and reluctantly survey the damage.

The dress was very likely a lost cause. One of the shoulder straps was snapped - he vaguely remembered Charles tugging on it, at some point - and the bottom of the dress had been rucked up to the middle of his stomach, revealing the garter belt, which meant that some of Charles’ come had gotten on it. Erik tried to convince his libido that this was not arousing in the least, and mostly failed. The glimpse of the garter belt led him to carefully shift his legs, and what he felt suggested strongly that the fishnet stockings had been torn.

In short, “I think we embraced the spirit of our costumes very thoroughly.”

Charles muffled a laugh into his neck. “Yes, fully dedicated to our roles, that’s us.”

Maybe it was the sex and the alcohol and the sex and Charles and, also, so much sex, but the rest of the night passed in a soft blur for Erik. There were gentle hands guiding him back to the seat, and the bone-jerking limo ride ending at one point, and he stumbled after Charles’ voice in the dark, those hands guiding him again. There was a door, and another door, and eventually, soft sheets that wrapped him in warmth. He clung on long enough to feel Charles’ fingers undressing him and brushing back his hair, and then he let sleep pull him under.

* * * * *

The line at the Santa Monica Starbucks was insanely long, snaking out the door. Emma wasn’t surprised to see other hungover Halloween revellers like herself in line, bleary and desperately in need of caffeine the morning after. Beside her, Jon was texting on his Blackberry, and already she felt bored and abandoned. Sure, he was great in bed, but other than that he wasn’t much of a delight to be with. It wasn’t a good sign that she was already trying to think of the best way to get rid of him once they had gotten their coffee.

Once it was their turn to order, Emma had to wait yet again while the cashier fawned over Jon and asked for his autograph, fighting not to roll her eyes as they flirted and laughed while he signed a napkin for the cashier. Then another excruciating fifteen minute wait until Emma finally had a hot cup of life-giving coffee in her hands, and she inhaled the lovely aroma, pleased.

“Let’s get some sugar,” Jon said as he tugged her towards the condiment station, where a group of teenagers were laughing raucously as they watched something on their phones. She ignored them as she tore two packets of Splenda and stirred them into her coffee, wondering what excuse she could make to leave soon.

However, Jon was now pawing at her. “Em, you’ll want to take a look at this,” he said, his eyes wide with shock as he watched the video over the shoulders of the teenagers, blindly gesturing for her to come over and take a look.

Picking up her coffee, she walked over to where Jon was standing. The teens seemed to be watching some Lady Gaga performance on YouTube, and Emma squinted at the screen when she saw that Gaga was sandwiched between two familiar people. One was Charles, yelling drunkenly into the microphone, and there was a strange-looking woman on Lady Gaga’s left, singing along as well.

Wait, that was no woman. That was--

“ERIK!” Emma’s shriek stunned the Starbucks into silence, and it was only when she heard Jon’s howl of pain that she realised she had spilled her coffee all over Jon’s lap and crotch, causing the teenagers to laugh even more. She hurriedly snatched a few napkins and wiped at his lap carelessly, muttering ‘sorry’ even though Jon was still bent over in agony. As the manager came over to help them, Emma ignored Jon and pulled her Blackberry out of her bag, pressing the speed-dial button for Erik’s number.

Erik Lehnsherr was going to be single-handedly responsible for sending her to an early grave.

* * * * *


Notes:
Guest List:
'The Avengers' cast: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury).
'The Dark Knight Rises' cast: Christian Bale (Batman), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (John Blake, a beat cop in Gotham), Tom Hardy (Bane).
Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes)
Jon Hamm
Adam Lambert
Lady Gaga

1. The title of this chapter is a quote from 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'.
2. 'Rage' is a gay club in West Hollywood known for occasionally staging drag shows.
3. Erik made wolf bite shots for Charles and the Avengers.
4. The codename for 'The Avengers' during production was 'Group Hug'.
5. Sean wore John Lennon sunglasses in 'First Class'.
6. "There's gonna be more celebrities here than rehab." is a line from 'New Year's Eve'.
7. January Jones currently plays the ex-wife of Jon Hamm's character on 'Mad Men'.
8. Tom Hiddleston said, "Dear God, I have Mjolnir in my pants." in this interview.
9. Thor drank boilermakers with Erik Selvig in 'Thor'.
10. Rose Byrne played Briseis, the cousin of Trojan princes Hector and Paris in 'Troy'.
11. The song that Sean 'sings' to Moira is 'Something' by The Beatles.
12. Joseph Gordon-Levitt said, "Maybe the most fun I've had in my life, physically... with my clothes on." in this interview.
13. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in his French maid costume at a concert he staged during Halloween this year.
14. Benedict Cumberbatch is James McAvoy's good friend in real-life.
15. Adam Lambert's costume.
16. The Anti-Defamation League is an organisation against anti-Semitism.
17. Clocks also wrote 'Bad Romance' under a different pen name, about €rik as a popstar.
18. Samuel L. Jackson reading the bedtime story, 'Go the Fuck to Sleep'.
19. Viral videos are what happen when you pick Hamm over Bacon.

Chapter Text

Erik had learned many valuable things over Halloween, the most important one being that his alcohol tolerance was definitely getting worse with age. It was tempting to blame it all on Charles, of course, but Erik knew that it was also his own fault for not being able to say ‘no’ to any of Charles’ zany schemes, be they regarding Halloween parties, drinking contests or limo sex. However, what benefited Charles also benefited him, and Erik conceded that a killer hangover was a small price to pay for making the love of his life happy.

He sat up in bed, wincing a little. Beside him Charles barely stirred, still sleeping off the previous night’s excesses. Erik ran his fingers through the dark waves of Charles’ hair, brushing a few errant strands back from his forehead. God, he loved this man. Erik was about to bend down and press a kiss to Charles’ pale cheek when his phone started vibrating on the dresser. Irritated, Erik cursed himself for forgetting to turn it off before they collapsed in bed last night. Glancing at the caller-ID and realising it was not worth risking Emma’s wrath, he decided to pick up the call. “What?” he hissed a little curtly.

“You really are the stupidest putz this side of LA!” she shrieked at him. “I know you’re never going to listen to me and keep doing what you want, but do you always have to announce it to the whole world?

“What are you talking about?” Erik said with a yawn, still idly stroking Charles’ hair.

“The video, idiot.” The exasperation was plain in her voice, but unfortunately for her, Erik still didn’t know what she was talking about. “Haven’t you seen the chaos on YouTube? You and Charles and Lady Gaga?”

Erik was suddenly a lot more awake. “Someone put that on YouTube already?”

“What do you think?” The scorn in Emma’s voice almost corroded his earpiece. “I’m in a Starbucks now, and I almost castrated Jon Hamm when we saw some teenagers watching the video on their phones.”

“Wait wait wait, how did you ‘almost’ castrate Jon?” Erik was now more curious than anything else, and at least it would explain the howling and laughter he could hear in the background.

“Um.” Emma sounded uncharacteristically remorseful. “I may or may not have accidentally spilled hot coffee all over his crotch.”

The snort of laughter escaped before Erik could clap a hand over his mouth, but Charles was already stirring, a faint frown creasing his brow. “Now look what you’ve done,” Erik chided Emma, running a soothing hand over Charles’ forehead. “You almost woke Charles.”

“Um, what?” Emma’s tone was full of icy disbelief. “I think there are more important things to worry about right now, Erik.”

“I disagree,” Erik said, just as icy. “We should wait until Charles is up, then I’ll discuss this with him and call you back.”

Any other agent (with the possible exception of Raven) would have just given up at this point, but it was only because Emma had worked for him for so long that she actually spoke up, her tone much more calm and serious now. “Erik, I think you need to think long and hard about your priorities.”

Erik leaned back against the headboard with a sigh, feeling Charles nuzzle into his touch. “I did, Emma. And I know you’re just looking out for me. But right now, freaking out about some YouTube video isn’t going to change the fact that it’s already on YouTube. So if you don’t mind, I’d like Charles to get his rest before we start freaking out, proper.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake--” Emma’s very unladylike cursing was cutoff as she hung up on him, but Erik really couldn’t care less. Tossing his phone aside, he slid back under the sheets and cocooned Charles in his arms with a contented sigh, but it was too late as Charles’ breathing picked up, and his eyes fluttered open.

“Hey.” He smiled as he blinked blearily at Erik. “What time is it?”

Erik ran his thumb along the jut of Charles’ collarbone, huddling closer to him. “We have enough time to pack and run to LAX, I think. But you can get a few more minutes’ sleep if you want.”

Charles scrunched up his nose. “Ugh, I hate LAX. I prefer to fly out of SFO.”

“Me too.” Travelling for work had its downsides as well, and Erik wasn’t surprised that Charles had pretty much the same preferences. He pressed a kiss to Charles’ ear, the dark curls tickling his nose. “Too bad we can’t live - and work - in San Francisco all the time.”

“Oh, Erik.” Charles now smiled at him, looking a little more awake. “I don’t really care where we live, as long as you’re there with me.”

“All your movies have turned you into such a sap,” Erik pretended to grumble, but it was hard to keep up the act when Charles was slowly sliding his hands down Erik’s spine, his mouth twisted in a naughty smile. “I can’t believe I’m saying this but no, Charles, we really have to leave for the airport soon.”

“Bloody hell.” Charles sighed, before reluctantly releasing Erik and swinging his legs out of bed. He winced as he stood up, balancing against the bedpost. “Ow, my head, why did you let me drink so much last night? You were under strict orders.”

Erik’s eyes grew wide. “Me? I tried to tag you out a couple of times, but you are a very wiley one, Mr. Xavier.”

Charles rubbed at his temples, cracking an eye open at him. “Did I throw myself at anyone last night?”

“Apart from me?” Erik arched a cool eyebrow at him. “You had your hands all over Hank’s chest at one point. And then you asked Adam Lambert to kiss you, and backed out when he actually offered to.”

Charles was staring at him with growing dismay. “You’re messing with me.”

“No, I’m afraid not. Thank goodness Adam was a really good sport and ended up kissing our cheeks.” Erik saw Charles’ mouth open to ask something, and he quickly added, “No Charles, he kissed the ones on our faces, don’t worry.”

“Oh.” Charles looked relieved, about to head for the bathroom when he turned around, grinning as he caught Erik in the midst of giving him an appreciative leer. “Is it me, or did I dream that we went onstage with, um, Lady Gaga?”

Erik heaved a long-suffering sigh. “It’s already on YouTube.”

Charles’ eyes almost popped out of their sockets. “We’re watching it on the plane,” he demanded, before checking the time and ducking into the bathroom.

Erik smiled to himself, before forcing himself out of bed to collect his ruined dress. Yes, it was indeed quite a night.

* * * * *

Most of the crew and cast were already at the Tom Bradley terminal, either checking in or texting on their phones, and Charles saw quite a few people saying goodbye to their families and loved ones. For a moment he was glad that he wasn’t going to have to be separated from Erik, but the relief didn’t last long. After all, at some point after they finished shooting ‘First Class’, they would have to go on to separate projects for a while. It was hard to fight the glum feeling settling over him, which wasn’t helping his killer hangover.

“Got your passport?” Erik asked him as one of the PAs started making the rounds to collect everyone’s, and Charles handed his over readily. He looked up when he saw Raven and Hank standing together by the check-in counter, snickering over a video playing on Raven’s phone. He didn’t need to be telepathic to know what they were watching, and he buried his face in Erik’s shoulder with a laugh.

“What’s so funny?” Erik asked, before his eyebrows jumped when he saw Raven and Hank cracking up over the video on their phone. “Dammit, news travels fast.”

“Let’s go watch the Gaga video now.” Charles grabbed his hand and tugged Erik over to the counter. They both viewed the video over Raven’s shoulder (Hank was too tall for even Erik to spy over him from behind.) Charles could make out Erik and himself on the small screen, flanking Lady Gaga who was riling up her adoring audience with fist pumps, and he found himself laughing at the video. God, how drunk was he?

At that moment, Hank and Raven turned and acknowledged them with a giggle before turning back to continue watching the video. “Erik, how did you manage to look campier than Gaga?” Hank said in awe, and Raven dissolved into peals of laughter with Charles, while Erik just stared wryly at Hank like Clint Eastwood staring down a quivering informant. Unfortunately, since this look was directed at the back of Hank’s head, the intended recipient did not even notice Erik’s murderous gaze, making Charles and Raven laugh all the more.

“Be nice, Hank, I was the one who did Erik’s make-up.” Charles leaned his cheek on Erik’s shoulder, taking in his cologne. How was it that he always smelled so good? “Besides, Erik had never looked more beautiful.”

“Oh, barf,” Raven said in disgust, while Hank laughed. Erik, however, had turned to Charles and was looking at him as though he were the most wondrous thing he had ever seen, those steel blue-green eyes softening as they raked over Charles’ face. He gave Erik a rather secretive smile, leaning up on his toes to kiss him, and he was pleased to find Erik already meeting him halfway.

“Seriously, can you two keep it in your pants for a minute, at least until we check in? Or better yet, the hotel room in Paris?” Surprisingly, Raven didn’t look or sound miffed. Instead her tone was one of wry amusement, and her lips were pursed as though she were fighting a smile as she watched Charles pull away from Erik. Hank was nervously averting his eyes, pushing up his glasses and blushing a little, and Charles was willing to bet that his blush had nothing to do with their kiss, and everything to do with Raven’s close proximity to him.

“Don’t be jealous, Raven,” Charles said airily as he rubbed Erik’s back. “It doesn’t become you.”

“Oh shut up,” Raven huffed, but there was a telltale flicker of her eyes towards Hank, who was still blushing. Charles sincerely hoped these two would soon get a clue, and he couldn’t help wondering if others had thought the same thing about him and Erik before they had finally gotten together.

“You look extraordinarily thoughtful, what’s on your mind?” he heard Erik murmur against his ear, and he gave Erik’s hand a quick squeeze, which was code for ‘I’ll tell you later’. Thankfully Erik seemed to have understood, squeezing back before turning to walk over and collect their boarding passes from the PA who was passing them out, along with their passports.

Just as he was about to join Erik, he felt a hand on his shoulder, and he turned to face a rather apologetic Raven. “Hey, um, you know I was only kidding back there, right?” she asked a little tentatively, surprising him. They were in the habit of teasing each other, and there was seldom a need to apologise or clarify things they had said.

“Of course, Raven, don’t be silly.” Charles wrapped an arm around her shoulder, aware that Erik had turned to look, and thank god Erik was a smart man and knew not to intrude for now. “My dear, if there is anything that is troubling you, you know you can talk to me, right?”

There was a wry twist to Raven’s usually cheerful smile. “I know. It’s just that--” here, Raven’s eyes skittered towards Erik before looking away again, “--you’re busy now, and I get that. I mean, if I were in a new relationship too, I’d want to spend my time with my new boyfriend as well.”

“Hey,” Charles said a little sternly. “That’s not true. I may be with Erik now, but I’ll always have time for my friends, especially you.”

Raven must have believed him, for her eyes lit up. “Well, I’m going to hold you to that,” she warned him, even as he chuckled. “You’d better remember that the next time Erik has you in the sack and I need to vent about something.”

“I heard my name and something about us in the sack,” Erik’s droll voice said from behind them, and they all laughed as they started making their way to the boarding gates.

* * * * *

* * * * *

The pilot’s voice was low and soothing on the intercom, announcing that they would be landing in Paris in about thirty minutes. Erik blinked slowly, not quite awake yet, caught in the state between consciousness and lucid dreaming. He turned immediately to his right by default, and Charles was still there, cocooned in the window seat under the pile of airline blankets they were sharing, deeply absorbed in his book. Under the blanket Erik sought out Charles’ hand, twining their fingers together and making Charles look up with a sunny smile. “Oh Erik, you’re up. You were out for quite a while.”

“Someone wore me out last night,” Erik replied with a smirk. “So it was their fault.”

“It takes two hands to clap, Erik.” Charles said dryly as he flipped a page, making Erik grin a little sheepishly.

“I’d much rather your hands do something else with me.” Erik laughed as Charles rolled his eyes. Erik slouched down so that he could lean more heavily against Charles, their hands still linked under the blankets. A stewardess discreetly glided by, nodding with a smile and thankfully leaving them alone. Erik sighed with contentment, squeezing Charles’ hand. “You know, I’ve never really done this before.”

“Done what?” He could feel Charles putting down his book and start stroking his hair, and Erik couldn’t help wondering how many members of the paparazzi would give their left eyeball to take a shot of them like this.

“Visited Paris with someone I love,” Erik said thoughtfully. “Well, except for the time I came here with Klaus.”

“Who is Klaus?” Charles asked, his voice very steady, but Erik could feel Charles’ grip on his hand tightening.

“My teddy bear when I was five,” Erik said solemnly, bursting into laughter as Charles started thwapping him with his book. “What can I say? I really loved Klaus, you know.”

“For god’s sake, I was imagining some German himbo,” Charles grumbled, cheeks a little flushed. “You are such a troll.”

“Oh no, I prefer British himbos now,” Erik said, and this time his hand was quick enough to block the next attack with Charles’ book, laughing as he did so. Charles rolled his eyes, but Erik didn’t miss the slight curve of his lips in a secretive little smile. “All right, Charles, I’m sorry I....called you British.”

“Idiot.” Charles shot him a glare of mock exasperation, but it quickly melted when Erik lifted his hand and planted a kiss on the back of it, nuzzling his cheek against it.

“You know I love you, right?” Erik brushed his thumb across Charles’ knuckles, still amazed at how easy it was for him to say this to Charles, whose eyes were now transfixed on him, so blue and so clear. “You’re everything to me.”

Charles leaned in, kissing the corner of his mouth. “Now look who is being a giant sap.”

“Stop calling yourself a giant sap, Charles.”

Laughing, Charles tilted his head so that their mouths matched up on the second kiss, soft and slow, growing in intensity as Erik wrapped an arm around Charles’ waist and slid him nearer. The armrest was already up, so he thankfully had unrestricted access to Charles. Erik pulled him closer, surprised at the depth of feeling in this kiss, especially since the stewardess could come by at any second. The thrill of getting caught just turned him on even more, and Charles was doing that really sexy thing with his tongue that was distracting Erik beyond reason, and those little pleased noises he was making in the back of his throat didn’t help either.

“Wait,” Erik whispered against that beautiful red mouth before reaching down to unbuckle Charles’ seatbelt - of course he still had it on - and Charles let out a little whoosh of breath as Erik started unbuckling his belt as well.

“Erik, what are you doing?” Charles’ weak protests didn’t seem very convincing, especially with the way his hips were already arching up into Erik’s touch. “What if we get caught?”

“Keep a lookout,” Erik told him, smiling as he finally managed to unzip Charles’ trousers. “There, spread your legs for me, that’s it...”

“Erik, you--” Charles’ words were cut off with a gasp as Erik slid his hand into Charles’ underwear, palming the warm curve of his erection. “Erik, oh god, we’ll get caught--”

“Shhh.” Erik could hear the soft muted click-clack of the flight attendant’s heels approaching, and he quickly went limp and pretended to be fast asleep on Charles’ shoulder. Thankfully Charles took his cue and scrabbled for his book again, clearing his throat, but his heavy breathing and flushed cheeks were a dead giveaway for anyone paying close attention.

The flight attendant breezed past them again, her attention focused on the call button two rows down that was lit up. That would be Shaw and Bryan then, as the entire first class cabin was filled only with the principal cast and the upper echelons of production. Relieved as she zipped past, Erik cracked open an eye again as Charles put down his book. “Erik, you can get your hand out of my pants now.”

“But why?” Erik said with a frown. “We weren’t caught, and no one can see under the blanket.”

Charles patted his cheek, amused. “Erik, think about it. Think about the stewardess blabbing to her friends, and tomorrow in the newspapers, you’ll see the headlines, ‘LEHNSHERR LE PERVERT’ or something like that.”

Erik hated to admit that Charles did have a point, and he reluctantly withdrew his hand, zipping Charles up again. “When we get to the hotel room, then.” He thought of something which made him smile. “Maybe it’s for the best, you’re so noisy anyway.”

“Me? I’m not the noisy one!” Charles was indignant. “It certainly wasn’t me who was screaming, ‘Charles, Charles!’ in the trailer last week and scaring half the crew that walked past.”

Erik chortled against his shoulder. “Now now, let’s not get into who was screaming what.”

“Pervert.” But Charles was smiling, wrapping his arms tightly around Erik, and they remained huddled under the blanket together until it was time to land.

* * * * *

* * * * *

There was a gorgeous man in a long leather coat waiting at the CDG terminal right outside ‘Arrivals’. His longish light brown hair was swept back, straight teeth gleaming in a rakish grin as he held up a sign with Erik’s name on it, looking as though he had just stepped out of the pages of ‘GQ’. The man was currently ogling two flight attendants who were wheeling their suitcases past him, calling out ‘Bonjour!’ to them and dropping them a wink as they giggled. Charles narrowed his eyes at the man, who was now returning his attention to the stream of passengers getting off the plane. Erik hadn’t noticed him yet, still texting Emma and grumbling about some ‘surprise’ she had promised him.

“Erik, love, I think that man is looking for you,” Charles said quietly into his ear, and Erik looked up immediately, alert. The security officers who travelled with them were nearby, and Charles was determined to make sure they stayed within shouting distance so he could call for help if the man turned out to be a psycho.

As the man stepped up to the both of them, he didn’t exactly look psychotic, which was a relief. “Monsieur Lehnsherr?” His French accent was thankfully not that thick, which spoke of some time spent abroad. At least Charles could understand him. “I’m Remy LeBeau, Emma Frost sent me.”

“She did?” Erik narrowed his eyes suspiciously at the man, placing a protective hand on Charles’ chest while using the other to dial Emma’s number. Charles was touched that Erik’s first instinct was to protect him, and his hand crept into his pocket for his own mobile, ready to call for help if things turned ugly.

Thankfully, that turned out not to be necessary as Charles heard Emma’s voice on the phone, and Erik’s eyebrows were knitting together in confusion. “I don’t need an assistant,” he told Emma, and now Charles could hear Emma’s voice rising in objection, Erik wincing at her shrill voice blasting from the phone. “Come on, Emma. I wasn’t the one who uploaded the video on YouTube, it’s not my fault!”

Charles laid a soothing hand on Erik’s shoulder, ignoring the curious looks from Remy. “Let me talk to her,” he said gently, and he was surprised when Erik gave him the phone immediately, meek as a lamb. Placing the phone against his ear, Charles said, “Emma, it’s Charles here. Who is this man at the airport?”

“Charles, thank goodness.” Emma sounded relieved. “I hired Remy as Erik’s new PA, but as you can tell, he isn’t wild about the idea. Maybe you can talk some sense into Erik. In fact, I think you’re the only person he actually listens to.”

“Um, all right.” Charles kept a wary eye on Erik who was pacing about in irritation, watched by an increasingly amused Remy. “So, why the new assistant?”

“Just to keep an eye on Erik,” Emma said with a sigh. “I have a feeling the media circus is just going to get worse, and I want to make sure someone is there with Erik to get a handle on things while I sort out the mess you two left behind in L.A.”

“Erik doesn’t seem too happy about this,” Charles said. “And if Erik doesn’t like the chap, there’s nothing even I can do, because I’m not going to force him to do anything he doesn’t like.”

“Well, how about this?” Emma sounded a little desperate. “Just keep Remy on for a trial period of a few weeks, see if they get along together. If not, Erik can send him packing before Christmas, and then we’ll look for a new assistant together.”

“That sounds reasonable. Let me ask him,” Charles said, before putting his hand over the mouthpiece and telling Erik the terms of Emma’s new proposal. Erik gave the grinning Remy one last long withering look before nodding sharply at Charles.

“Okay Emma, Erik will give him a trial run.” Charles shot Erik a smile, which seemed to put him at ease.

“Oh good!” Emma’s tone went from pleased to sly. “I suppose you’ll be rewarding him later for this.”

“Emma!” Charles stared at the phone, stunned as Emma hung up with a cackle. He handed the phone back to Erik, who seemed resigned to his fate as he slid it back into his pocket. Charles got the vague impression that Erik had agreed to all this simply because he was the one who had asked him, and he made up his mind to ‘reward’ Erik, just like Emma had suggested. He rubbed Erik’s back in slow circles, feeling the tension ease from it slightly.

“So I take it that I’m hired, oui?” Remy’s winning smile was just this side of smug.

“Only temporarily,” Erik warned him. “One wrong move and you’re going back to being an underwear model or whatever it is you were doing before you came here.”

Remy only laughed as he followed them to the cars, and Charles suspected it was going to be a very interesting few weeks, to say the least.

* * * * *

“Have you ever been to Paris before, James?” asked Erik.

Charles made a show of looking around, as if he was surprised to find himself in one of the most recognizable cities in the world. “That depends.”

Erik looked torn between exasperation and curiosity. “What, are you training me to read minds now, too?” After a moment, Erik caved. “Was it for business or pleasure?”

He got a coy smile, which Charles pulled off with a practiced ease that undoubtedly made him popular with the ladies. “Tell me, Michael,” Charles stepped closer to Erik, “would you call this,” one hand casually ran down the parting of the detective’s crisp work shirt, where Erik had left the top two buttons unbuttoned, “business, or pleasure?”

Erik found his body leaning in of its own volition, as if there was something about Charles that drew him in like a magnet, despite all the rational arguments for how this was a really bad fucking idea.

Then he spotted someone in the uniform of the Prefecture striding purposefully towards them, and the moment was broken.

“Messieurs,” the officer said, undeterred by Erik’s scowl, “we are ready for you.”

“Play nice,” Charles chided him quietly.

“Interpol called us in,” said Erik. “I don’t have to play nice.”

Charles and Erik followed the officer down the airstrip to where the plane was waiting. The murder hadn’t been discovered until after the plane had landed, so the passengers had simply been disembarked quickly, and the rest of the plane’s routes cancelled. They climbed up the stairs and into the fore door, where a different officer led them to the first class section.

The most recent victim, Ariadne, was still in her comfortable first class seat, posture relaxed and head resting against the wall of the plane. Her red blouse was eye-catching but also looked comfortable.

”She’s so young. She looks like she’s just sleeping, waiting for someone to wake her up,” Charles said quietly.

Erik rested a heavy hand on Charles’ shoulder, and went to speak with the cabin crew who’d been kept back for that very purpose. No one had noticed anything strange, or how the cyanide could have gotten into the victim’s drink.

“Michael,” Charles called.

Erik turned and went back to where Charles was crouched in the aisle. He reached gloved hands into the compartment under the seat, careful to disturb Ariadne’s body as little as possible, and pulled out a small bag. A look inside revealed the usual items - wallet, keys - plus a sketchpad, with the logo of École D’Architecture in front.

They opened the sketchpad. It was filled with scribbles and doodles, but every few pages, there was a fairly detailed sketch of well-known Parisian buildings. They seemed fairly innocuous, just a student’s studies of the city she was living in, which happened to have one of the most spectacular examples of architecture in the world. But his detective’s instinct told him that there was something important, hidden there in those sketches.

He gestured for Charles to flip back to the first sketch. La Tour Eiffel.

“James,” he flashed his teeth at Charles. “How do you feel about doing a bit of sight-seeing?”

* * * * *

* * * * *

It wasn’t often that they could sleep in during a shoot, but an unexpected downpour had delayed shooting for half a day, so Remy had called Erik to let him know that the Eiffel Tower scene would be postponed until further notice. Erik was more than fine with this, as it meant he and Charles could laze about in bed, legs tangled together in the sheets as he listened to the soft tapping of Charles’ fingers on his iPhone screen. A quick peek showed that Charles was smiling to himself, tweeting replies to his fans.

“Are you up to no good again?” Erik whispered against the shell of his ear, watching Charles’ thumbs rapidly flying all over his keypad. “Because you have a particularly evil smile on your face.”

“According to you, I’m always up to no good,” Charles said over his shoulder, before resuming his tweeting. “The fans are so sweet sometimes. And hilarious.”

Erik tucked his chin over Charles’ shoulder, pressing a kiss to the pale, creamy skin. “What are they saying about us?”

Charles laughed out loud. “Someone just suggested that we play strip chess.”

Erik chuckled, before nuzzling his cheek against Charles. “That is actually an excellent idea. Tell her I will send her a box of brownies.”

“You do have your own Twitter account, love, you can tell her personally.” Charles sounded amused, scooting back into Erik’s embrace so that the curve of his backside was nestled in the cradle of Erik’s hips.

“Fine.” Erik reached over for his phone, planting yet another kiss on his shoulder (asking him to stay away from Charles’ skin was like asking a thirsty man to stay away from water) before settling in against him in companionable silence. They typed on their phones for a while, occasionally chuckling at the other’s tweets, and Erik slid his arm around Charles’ waist, dragging him closer.

“Are you jealous of Twitter, Erik?” The laughter in Charles’ voice was obvious as he continued to type on his iPhone.

“No, I’m not,” Erik grumbled, trying to think of a way to get Charles’ full attention. He experimentally slid a hand over Charles’ stomach, hearing his breath hitch. Bingo.

“Erik, you sly devil.” Charles almost dropped his phone when Erik started sucking on his earlobe. “Aah, oh god--”

“Let’s see if Twitter can do this,” Erik said with a triumphant smirk before sliding his hand further south between Charles' legs, cupping his growing erection. His own hips rolled against Charles’ as Charles gasped, his head lolling back against the pillow.

“Erik, you’re insatiable.” The way Charles was shamelessly arching back against him contradicted his weak protest, though.

“Look who’s talking,” Erik whispered against the curve of his ear, smiling as Charles let out an involuntary whimper. “Don’t blame me, your skin tastes too good, you smell too nice...really Charles, this is all your fault.”

“Oh please, Erik, you are so full of--” Charles’ words stuttered to a stop when Erik slid a teasing finger down the length of his cock, which he had learned was a surefire way to win any impending argument with Charles (who called it ‘playing dirty’ as though he wasn’t guilty of the exact same thing). “Erik--”

“You were saying?” Erik knew he sounded too entirely smug, but it was hard not to, what with Charles coming apart in his arms like this, panting hotly, cheeks flushed as he arched up blindly, seeking Erik’s touch as his phone tumbled off the pillow, forgotten.

“Oh, Erik.” Charles was biting his lip, and Erik lifted his head to get a better look, transfixed. Charles always made the most glorious noises and expressions during sex, and it was Erik’s mission in life to catalogue them all and file them away for future research. Right now Charles was making those sweet hitching sounds like he always did when he was desperate for Erik, throat exposed and begging for a kiss.

Erik’s mouth slid down his neck, sucking on the smooth jut of Charles’ collarbone, grinding his already interested cock (when was it not interested around Charles?) against the back of Charles’ thigh, the head dragging along the smooth valley of his closed thighs. Erik was insane with want for Charles, punctuating his messy kisses with ‘love you’ and ‘so beautiful’ and giving Charles the agonizingly long, slow strokes he loved, and every time Erik rubbed a thumb over the dripping head of his cock, Charles let out an unintelligible ‘ngghh’ sound between those beautiful parted lips, breathless and already looking like he’d just been fucked. “Oh Erik, fuck, Erik--”

“Mine,” Erik growled against the back of his head, taking in the sweet, sharp scent of Charles’ shampoo that never failed to arouse him. He actually had a problem on set whenever Charles walked past, smelling so good like this all freshly showered, leaving Erik with problems concealing his erection. However, he didn’t have to now, rubbing himself against Charles with increasingly desperate moans, his eyes fixed on the man writhing in his arms. How could he love someone this much, want just one person this much? He didn’t know and didn’t care, as long as Charles was with him, always.

“Erik, I--” Charles arched up with a cry and warm stripes of come coated Erik’s hand, making his grip slick. He continued to press kisses to the line of Charles’ shoulder, still pumping his cock and holding Charles through the last shivers of his orgasm. This was his favourite part, looking at Charles like this, eyes a startled electric blue just after coming, lips puffy and parted, colour high in his cheeks, dark hair mussed and tousled.

“Perfection,” Erik whispered before he thrust against Charles and slammed his eyes shut, coming all over Charles’ thighs and the sheets, letting out a low guttural groan that may have been an attempt at Charles’ name. He could feel something nipping at his lips and realised Charles was trying to kiss him, and he willingly opened his mouth, exchanging exhausted, sloppy kisses as Charles partially rolled on top of Erik, taking the sheets with him. Erik felt sated, sweaty and deliriously happy, clutching Charles to him and trying to tell him how much he loved him in a series of off-aim kisses, and from the growing smile on Charles’ face, he probably got the message loud and clear.

“Don’t you dare put this on Twitter or I’ll kill you,” Charles warned him, confiscating Erik’s phone in case he got any ideas, and Erik just laughed, rolling Charles under him and kissing him some more.

* * * * *

The view from the third level of the Eiffel Tower was as magnificent and breathtaking as one could hope; even Erik, for all his single-minded dedication to the job, had to pause for a moment and take it in. It seemed fitting, somehow, that he was here with Charles.

“Beautiful,” murmured the other man.

Erik stared at him, not bothering to hide how his gaze was riveted to Charles’ lips. “Yes.”

Charles caught his look, or maybe the tone of his voice, and a faint blush appeared on his face.

Erik cleared his throat. “So.” He gestured around them. “We should probably take a look around.”

“Yes,” Charles agreed. “You take the first level, I’ll take the second, and we’ll meet up back here?”

Erik nodded. They took the elevator down, Charles stepping off on the second level. Erik went straight into the restaurant on the first level, reasoning that the employees there would have a better idea of anything interesting in the surrounding area than the tourists, since they were there regularly.

He wasn’t surprised when he didn’t get anything concrete, though. It wasn’t as if he even knew what, exactly, he was looking for. The wait staff all spouted interesting Parisian or Eiffel Tower trivia at him until he flashed his badge, after which he then had to assure them that they weren’t in any trouble that he knew of. He’d never been more grateful before for his fluency in French.

Erik dutifully went over the rest of the first level, too, speaking briefly with the few employees of the Tower that he came across. He looked out over Paris, trying to imagine what could have been important to Ariadne about this particular place. He suspected that it wasn’t the building itself - it was too well-known, too obvious. A student studying architecture in Paris; casual observers would see those sketches and dismiss them. But Erik suspected that Ariadne had been clever enough to anticipate this. An architect... aesthetics versus structural integrity, appreciating the difference between the visible and the hidden... there had been doodles of mazes in some of the pages... she would have hidden the information in plain sight.

Charles was frowning when he showed up back on the third level several minutes after Erik.

“No luck?” guessed Erik.

“Not as such,” Charles admitted. “But the chef of Le Jules Verne mentioned that there’d been riots down on the Champ de Mars last year.”

Erik nodded, making a note to see if Ariadne had been involved, though he didn’t hold out much hope for there to have been any kind of record. And they still hadn’t had the chance to go through the little notes around the sketches. “We probably won’t get anything else here,” he said. “Shall we move on to the next place?”

Charles looked grim. “Seems like we have no other choice.”

* * * * *

* * * * *

Charles watched as the crew packed their gear up for the day, camera grips and production assistants hurrying about to complete their tasks before the sun went down. The shoot had gone smoothly, and the tourists had been very accommodating considering they had closed off a large section of Champ de Mars around the base of the Eiffel Tower for filming. He supposed that was the reason Bryan had chosen the off-peak season to film there, the amount of resources that would have been required for crowd control during the summer months would have made the venture rather unfeasible. However, that also meant that they had much fewer hours of daylight to work with for the outdoor shoots, and there was the added unpredictability of the Parisian weather in November, the threat of passing showers always looming.

Raven strolled over with her hands tucked into her leather trench coat, her knee-high boots finally a necessity rather than a fashion statement now that they were no longer in Los Angeles. "I'm going to make a move first," she announced, the pink rays of sunlight filtering through her loose curls as she tipped her chin.

"I'll see you tomorrow," Charles replied as he wrapped an arm around her waist and pressed a kiss to her temple. Raven turned to leave, and he smiled to himself when he noticed her weaving her way through the crowd towards Hank, who was piling the last of the equipment into the camera van. Hank was endearingly shy and awkward, but at the same time completely brilliant in what he did, and Charles had often caught the chap watching Raven from the sidelines when her back was turned. It was nice to see her finally paying attention to him, and they really did look quite lovely together. Well, provided of course Raven did not decide to eat him alive first.

Charles felt Erik's presence approaching without even having to take a glance. There was something in the way everything in him seemed to shift towards the man whenever he was around, like a piece of him perpetually pointed due Erik and that piece would always find him, was always meant to find him. If Charles were a compass, Erik would be magnetic north.

"What are you looking at?" Erik questioned as he tucked Charles under his arm, and Charles snaked an arm around Erik's back and beneath his coat to share some warmth.

"Oh, nothing. Would you like to go for a stroll?" Charles asked even as he pulled Erik along, already knowing the answer.

Erik fell into step beside him, leaning their heads together. "Lead the way."

Charles took them north through Champ de Mars towards the River Seine, only a few scattered tourists occupying the park with them. The beauty of being somewhere that thrived on tourism was that, now that the travellers were gone, it almost felt as if the entire city belonged to just the two of them. The best part of it all was that the general attitude of indifference Parisians had towards foreigners meant that he and Erik had the luxury of walking the streets just absorbed in each other, with the occasional polite smile towards people who recognised them. Photo requests were rare, and not once had they been mobbed by admirers or paparazzi. He felt like he was slowly finding himself again, meandering through empty streets in the familiar, chilly European weather that he had grown up in, worlds apart from the blinding glare of the sun and spotlights of Los Angeles. After spending such an extended amount of time caught up in the excesses of Hollywood, he had almost forgotten what it was like to simply just feel... normal.

"She really is majestic, isn't she?" Charles said, pausing to turn around and take one last look at the Eiffel Tower before they headed on their way, the setting sun turning the bronze tones of the landmark a deep rich carmine. Like all things beautiful, the structure was intimidating and overwhelming at close proximity, yet breathtaking when beheld from afar.

"Everyone found it odious at first," Erik remarked as they continued on their path, Charles turning his attention back to him. "It's made of over eighteen thousand pieces of puddled iron and has over two and a half million rivets, and when it was constructed, it surpassed the Washington Monument as the tallest man-made structure in the world."

Charles slipped a hand into the back pocket of Erik's pants and drew him closer, flashing him a coy smile. "I get the feeling you didn't just read that off a travel guide."

Erik chuckled, and Charles was pressed close enough to feel the laugh vibrate through Erik’s chest and against his side. "You're right, I studied engineering in university."

Charles beamed at that, delighted that Erik shared his love for science and technology. He never got to show this side of himself much, people from the entertainment industry tended to either get intimidated or have their eyes glaze over whenever the subject came up. “I majored in genetics, graduated at the top of my class in Oxford, actually.”

Erik pulled away a little to face him, and Charles felt something unravel inside as Erik smiled softly at him for the longest time, before abruptly breaking into his shark grin as he turned away. “This explains the grandfather cardigans.”

“Really, Erik? I tell you my scholastic accomplishments and you quote my stylist?” he huffed, playfully batting at Erik’s arms as they wrapped around him.

“I’m sorry, Liebling. You have brains and brawn and talent and I’m very proud of you. I love you very much, and I even love your frumpy cardigans. And I’m sorry I called you a himbo the other day, please forgive me. Is that better?” Erik kept Charles’ face still with one hand, barely containing his laugh as he trailed a series of kisses from his temple down to the side of his chin, all the while holding him firmly around his waist with his other arm.

Charles giggled against him, cheeks flushed as he pressed a soft kiss to Erik’s lips. “Yes, much better.”

Erik kept his arms around him as he pulled him along, slowly getting them back on track. “I only tease you because you look adorable when you pout.”

“I know,” Charles replied fondly, rubbing the back of Erik’s neck with his hand.

“So why the change in career choice?” Erik asked, curious.

Charles slid his palms down Erik’s arms, letting them rest on top of his hands. “I did a college play in my sophomore year. That’s where I met Ben, by the way. The acting bug bit me and I guess the rest is history. Let’s just say my parents were... displeased.” Charles answered, eyes trailing to the shadows of the barren trees that lined the park as they stretched away from them.

“You don’t talk about them,” Erik remarked, holding him tighter.

“I wonder why,” Charles said, pursing his lips as he shrugged. “Do you ever think of how different our lives would have been if we’d just kept at it, continued on in academia?”

Erik nudged the side of Charles’ head with his, whispering into his ear, “Then I wouldn’t have met you.”

Charles untangled himself from Erik at that, shifting to circle his arms around his neck. They were inseparable these days, wherever he went, Erik would follow. They shared the same space, the same breath. Life without Erik was unfathomable. “I’m sure we would have run into each other eventually, perhaps at a conference?” Charles suggested, tiptoeing a little as he pressed himself against Erik. “I’d walk up to you with my most charming smile and say, ‘That was an excellent presentation. I must confess that I’ve been following your research for years, and it truly is remarkable. I know I’m being forward, but I was wondering if you would be interested in collaborating? What’s your opinion on the use of superparamagnetic nanoparticles for targeted gene delivery?’”

Charles inched closer, the corner of his mouth quirking up in a smile as he slid a hand through Erik’s hair. “Think of all the amazing things we could accomplish together, you and I. We could discuss it over a spot of tea, if you like? I saw this lovely place just around the corner.”

Erik tilted his head to the side, voice low with a slight edge of danger, “And I’d say, ‘I don’t do collaborations, and all the people I’ve worked with turned out to be imbeciles...’” He paused, eyes falling closed along with Charles’ as he leaned in, “But for you I’ll make an exception.”

Charles’ breathing went shallow as he took in the scent of Erik’s skin now so near his. “Oh, where are my manners? I’m Professor Xavier, but you, my friend, can call me Charles.”

He whispered the words against Erik’s parted lips before claiming them, fervently conveying his desire for their lives to always be tangled with each other's through the kiss, and Erik drew him close enough in his arms that no space could ever exist in between.

* * * * *

"Let's get on that boat!" Charles declared as he grabbed Erik’s hand, pulling him along as he ran for the Bateaux Parisiens sightseeing cruise ship that was docked on the Seine.

“No, it’s for tourists. It’s embarrassing!” Erik protested as he hurried after him, boots pounding against the pavement in time with Charles’.

Charles laughed as he carried on sprinting, his hair flying in his face when he looked back at Erik over his shoulder. “Aren’t we tourists?”

Erik grinned as he shook his head in resignation, knowing very well that his half-hearted complaints were just for show. They made it to the dock just in time and were greeted by a mildly startled boatman as they climbed on board, who seemed to be blinking at them in disbelief as he watched them catch their breaths. Erik exchanged a few words in French with him and handed him some Euros, placing a hand on the small of Charles’ back as they made their way into the cabin.

“What did the boatman say?” Charles asked as they maneuvered their way through, the inside of the cabin rather empty save for several vacationers occupying a few of the seats. They emerged at the stern of the boat, the air outside cold enough that the wind had a bite to it as they cruised eastwards along the river, and Erik could see the visible shiver that shot through Charles.

“Oh nothing, he asked if you were really Charles Xavier.” Erik grinned as they leaned against the railing, pulling Charles to him and half-tucking him inside his coat. “Apparently his daughter loves your movies, and would marry you if she could.”

Charles huddled against him, and Erik could feel an arm sliding snugly around his waist. “And what did you say?”

“That you’re already spoken for.” Erik pressed a kiss to his temple when Charles chuckled. “Good thing nothing fazes the French much.”

“You can say that again.” Charles was smiling in contentment now, his eyes fixed on the horizon. Erik gazed at Charles as he held him close, taking in how the flush from their earlier footrace crept across his cheeks, the contrast with his eyes making them appear even brighter than they normally seemed. Charles shifted in his arms, smiling softly as he tilted his head up to meet his gaze, and Erik knew then that he would give anything to remember Charles just like that, standing there against the wind with the city fanning out before them, the world tinged in red and gold. If he looked hard enough, perhaps he could simply capture that moment with his mind, unmarred by lenses, just his vision of how Charles would always be in his eyes.

“What is it?” Charles asked, resting his palms on Erik’s chest.

“Just enjoying the view,” Erik replied quietly, fingers curled over the soft curve of Charles’ ear as he started stroking a path down his neck, which he secretly suspected was one of Charles’ erogenous zones, judging from how extremely responsive Charles always was when Erik kissed or touched him there.

Charles tiptoed up and placed a kiss on Erik’s lips, his skin soft and warm, a comforting contrast to the chilly air. “You’re fooling no one, you know. I could feel you staring the entire time.” Charles murmured in his ear before looking back out across the water. “Too bad about the weather, we can barely see the sun setting.”

“But it’s still there.” Erik pointed out the faint yellow glow of the sun peeking through the scattered cover of clouds, and Charles followed his gaze. They watched the setting sun in silence, and Erik slid his arms around Charles so that he could tuck his hands into his pockets. He snuck a peek at Charles’ hand splayed on his chest, frowning when he saw Charles was only wearing fingerless gloves. “You’re always wearing those gloves. Aren’t you cold?”

“You can warm me up,” Charles said a little sleepily, his head nestling against Erik’s shoulder.

“You do realise I’m not your human hot water bottle,” Erik said, amused as he pressed his nose against Charles’ hair, only half an eye on the scenery.

“Oh, I’m afraid you very much are. Didn’t you read the contract?” Charles sounded as though he was trying not to laugh.

Erik’s eyebrows jumped. “What contract?”

“The Charles Xavier Relationship Contract.” Charles had now raised his head to look at Erik, his expression solemn even though his eyes were dancing with amusement. “You signed it after the very first time we slept together.”

“Huh, that’s interesting.” Erik’s mouth twisted as he fought back a smile. “I must have been too blissed out to remember.”

“Most of them are.” Charles was openly smirking now, and he must have seen the look on Erik’s face because he burst into laughter. “I’m kidding, my goodness, it’s disgustingly easy to rile you up.”

“Sorry.” Erik let out a sigh which ruffled Charles’ hair. “Just don’t like imagining you with other people.”

Erik could feel it when Charles’ grip on him tightened. “Then how am I going to make more movies in the future? There will be love scenes, you know, even if it’s not a romantic comedy.”

“I don’t know.” Erik could feel the corners of his mouth pulling down in a frown. “I was kind of hoping to cross that bridge when we get to it.”

They didn’t say anything for a while, deep in thought as they watched the red sun sinking into the horizon, its slow absence darkening the skies of Paris. Erik could see the first few stars out and about now, faraway jewels dotted in the dark blue sky.

“Erik.” Charles took in a deep breath, before letting his hand stroke up and down Erik’s back. “We’ll really have to think about the future, for real, because as much as I would love to, we’re not going to be able to do every movie together.”

“I know,” Erik said glumly. He had happily gagged his inner realist as best as he could ever since he had gotten together with Charles, but he couldn’t deny there were a lot of points they needed to discuss, particularly regarding their careers and the future. It was no wonder Emma and Raven were concerned. “We should sit down one day and discuss it seriously. I mean, I have another project after ‘First Class’ that I’m already committed to, but other than that, my plate is empty.”

“Me too.” Charles ran his hands up and down Erik’s spine under the fabric of his coat. “Don’t worry, we’ll find a way to work things out. Other actor couples have been doing this for decades, we’re not the first ones.” He glanced up at Erik, offering him a slow smile. “I have every confidence we can do this.”

“I know, we will.” And really, Erik did mean it, because this was the first time something had ever become more important than his career. “No matter how many heart attacks we give Emma and Raven in the process.”

Charles’ laugh was light and happy. “That’s my Erik. You were all Tickle Me Emo for a while there, you worried me.” Charles leaned up on to give him a proper kiss, and Erik could feel himself getting lost in it, in the sturdy feel of Charles pressed against him from head to toe.

They could hear the chime of church bells, and Erik broke away from the kiss, his eyes drawn to the beautiful spectre of Notre Dame dominating the backdrop. “Look,” he whispered, turning Charles to face the view, and they huddled together even closer inside Erik’s coat, taking in the magnificent sight of the ancient cathedral with its flying buttresses and towering spire. “This is one of the reasons I will always love Europe.”

“I know what you mean,” Charles said, tucking his hands into Erik’s pockets. “There is something old and grand about Europe that you just can’t find in the States, you know? Italy has it in spades, and so does Germany.”

“Speaking of Germany...” Erik waited as the cruise hostess popped in to check on them, nodding with a smile before she trundled off, satisfied. “Remember what I said about wanting you to meet my parents?”

“Oh.” Now Charles was turning back to face him properly, grinning from ear to ear. “Yes, and you also mentioned being afraid of your mother and I ganging up against you and sharing embarrassing stories.”

Erik pretended to let out a heavy sigh. “I suppose there’s no escaping my fate.” He bent down slightly to kiss Charles again, looking serious this time. “Come home to Munich with me. We’ll go during the Christmas break?”

Charles’ brilliant smile turned soft at the edges. “Nothing would honour me more.”

Erik couldn’t resist another kiss, chaste and gentle this time. “What about your family?” he asked, running his fingers through Charles’ fringe which had flopped down. He could see the very instant Charles froze in his arms, a distant look in his eyes.

“Do you really want to see my family for Christmas?” Charles said quietly, avoiding Erik’s searching gaze.

“Of course we should, I should meet them, at least.” Erik didn’t like the pinpricks of anxiety running up and down his skin. “Is something wrong?”

Charles probably knew better than to lie to Erik, for he just heaved a tired sigh. “My mother, she’s not exactly Mum of the Year.”

Erik wondered just how different Charles’ mother was from his own, who was nothing other than kind and loving even if she was a little fussy and liked to get involved in Erik’s love life. “We should still go see her, as an obligation,” Erik said. They were now sailing past the Louvre, and as usual, there were throngs of people huddled outside in the cold. Erik spared them only a cursory glance before returning his full attention to Charles. “I’ll be with you every step of the way, I promise.”

This made Charles smile once more, at least, and Erik held onto him tight for the rest of the cruise, fiercely promising himself that he would do anything in his power to make sure he never saw that sad expression cross Charles’ face again.


Notes:
1. The title of this chapter is a quote from 'Casablanca'.
2. Remy’s Taylor Kitsch’s old job.
3. In ‘Inception’, Ariadne was a graduate student at the Ecole D'Architecture in Paris.
4. @eriklehnsherr__ (two underscores) is now trolling on Twitter.
5. "Let's get on that boat!" and "No, it’s for tourists. It’s embarrassing!" are quotes from 'Before Sunset'.
6. Route for the Bateaux Parisiens sightseeing cruise.

Chapter Text

Erik and Charles stared up at the magnificent swoop of the Arc de Triomphe, taking in the details on its surface, from the inscriptions of names and victories to the sculpted reliefs celebrating French patriotism. “This was the next thing in Ariadne’s sketchbook,” said Erik.

Charles frowned as he rubbed the back of his neck. “I still can’t figure out a connection between all the sketches, apart from them being famous French landmarks.”

The two of them walked over to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, situated beneath the arc. A moment of silence passed, during which the both of them gazed sombrely at the eternal flame.

“Sometimes,” said Charles, “I’d like there to be a memorial, too, for the victims whose murderers go free.”

Erik let out a breath. “Let’s walk around, talk to people as usual.” He paused, reaching out to squeeze Charles’ shoulder. “If we catch whoever’s doing this, that’ll be a few less names for that memorial of yours.”

* * * * *

Alex always considered himself a guy who totally minded his own business, which was why he was currently a little edgy about creeping up on Charles’ trailer like how he was now. Given a choice, he would have made Sean do it, but Sean had been smart enough to disappear earlier when Bryan had suggested more changes to the script, so it had fallen to Alex to drop off the new script at the trailers of the principal cast. Charles’ was nearer, so Alex headed there first.

His footsteps slowed down as Alex neared the trailer, listening intently. He knew quite well what Erik and Charles got up to during shooting breaks - hell, everyone in the shoot knew, judging from the sounds that came out of Charles’ trailer - and although Charles and Erik were supposed to be out for a quick shopping break along Champs-Élysées, Alex didn’t think there was any harm in being careful in case they decided to pop back for a quickie.

No sign of their voices or - shudder - any other sounds. So far, so good. Alex was about to bend down and slip the new pages under Charles’ door when he heard someone stumble, then a loud, “Goddammit!” that definitely did not sound like either Charles or Erik.

Alex froze, eyes widening. How long would it take for him to run to the security HQ?

There was another loud stumble followed by a crash, then a drawer opening and closing. Alex didn’t care if it was Charles and Erik who were trying out some new inventive form of wardrobe sex, he was going to call security over before the intruder had a chance to get away. There already had been a previous incident at his last movie set where a fan had snuck into George Clooney’s trailer, so he wasn’t sure if this was a repeat incident. He pulled out his phone, then dialled the number he had been given as he stepped away, keeping an eye on the door.

Security promised him they were on the way, so Alex clipped his phone shut and squared his shoulders, prepared to tackle the supposed burglar to the ground and stop him from escaping if necessary. Thankfully, he could already hear pounding footsteps approaching, and as the security guards arrived, Alex pointed at Charles’ closed trailer door. “He’s still in there.”

The three guards nodded at one another, and the tallest one stood by the door while the leader, Emmanuel, flung open the door. “Don’t move!” he yelled at someone, and Alex quickly darted forward to see who the perp was, craning his neck to look above Emmanuel’s shoulder. The security guys were pointing their tasers at this tall African-American man who was wearing a fitted grey top that was practically clinging to his (sculpted) body, hands up and eyes wide, looking just as scared as Alex had felt earlier. A drawer was open before him, and now Emmanuel was edging forward.

“Keep your hands up,” Emmanuel told the guy sharply, who seemed more than happy to obey, and when Emmanuel peeked into the drawer, the last thing Alex expected him to do was burst out laughing. “Hey Laurent, you must see this,” Emmanuel said, waving the tallest security guard forward, and now everyone was just crowded around the open drawer, laughing their asses off.

“I am so fucked,” the African-American guy was saying miserably. “Charles is not going to like this.”

“Wait, who exactly are you?” Alex demanded. “And why is everyone laughing?”

“My name is Darwin,” the guy said with a sigh. “And I am Charles’ assistant.”

“No way, Charles doesn’t have an assistant,” Alex said, frowning at Darwin. “And what’s in the drawer?”

“I just came back from vacation,” Darwin explained. “And uh, I’d really much prefer that you don’t look in the--”

It was too late as Alex peeked into the open drawer, and his eyes bulged out at the small mountain of Louis Vuitton condoms there. “What the flaming fuck?”

Darwin scraped a hand over his face. “Okay, look, Charles asked me to get those, and I would really rather that he didn’t know--”

“Know about what?” came Charles’ cheerful voice from the door, but his smile dropped when he realised that security was in his trailer. “What happened here?” he asked in shock as Erik peered from behind him, curious. They were both carrying shopping bags, and Charles handed his to Erik immediately, stepping into the trailer. “Darwin, what’s the matter?”

“This is your PA, Charles?” Emmanuel asked, finally moving to holster his taser.

“Yes, I’m vouching for him.” Charles saw that everyone was peering into the open drawer, and that must have been his designated condom drawer, for his face was now turning a nice shade of scarlet. “Oh my god.”

Alex would have laughed, if it weren’t for the fact that Erik was now muscling his way into the trailer, frowning deeply. “Charles, what is the matter-” He stopped talking when he saw the open drawer, and his reaction was interestingly the opposite of Charles’ - he was now as white as a sheet of paper, mouth open.

Darwin was shaking his head with a wince. “I am so sorry, Charles,” he kept saying. “I was trying to keep it quiet, like you asked, but suddenly security burst in--”

“Wait, how did security know?” Charles asked, and all three guards pointed at Alex, who was trying to hide from Erik’s murderous glare.

“Alex called us, he thought he heard a break-in,” Emmanuel said as they began making their way to the door, careful to give Erik a wide berth. “Anyway, since this is all a happy misunderstanding, we’ll just go and let you folks enjoy your expensive condoms.”

“Um, thank you,” Charles muttered, blushing more furiously than ever as the security guards trooped out, leaving Alex trapped in a trailer with two embarrassed guys and a homicidal Erik who looked ready to break someone’s legs.

“Why is everyone looking in our condom drawer?” Erik demanded, walking over and closing it immediately. A part of Alex’s brain - the part that was 12 years old and not at all interested in self-preservation - thought, ooooh ‘our’ condom drawer, but his desire to laugh quickly fled when Erik advanced on him, nostrils flared. “Alex, what’s wrong with you?”

“I thought, um.” Alex was starting to panic, backing towards the door. “I mean, what if it was a burglar?”

“He’s right, Erik,” Charles said tiredly. “It’s all right, Alex, thank you for looking out for us.”

“Uh, no problem. By the way, these are the pages for the new scene.” Alex took this as a free pass to flee the trailer and possibly the country, judging from the unhappy look on Erik’s face, but when Alex threw one last glance Darwin’s way, he felt bad about how dejected Darwin seemed, shoulders slumped as he stared at his feet.

I’ll make it up to him, Alex promised himself as he ran off in search of Sean, certain that his writing partner would laugh his ass off at this unexpected turn of events.

* * * * *

After the whole debacle with Darwin and the condom drawer, Erik was beginning to grudgingly admit that maybe Remy wasn’t as spectacularly dumb as Erik had feared him to be. Remy had particularly scored points when he had taken the trouble to hunt down some obscure French bakery which sold a local pastry that Charles wanted (and Erik had never even heard of) and Charles had been happily surprised when Remy had turned up on set with a box of the sweet treats. Of course, whatever made Charles happy made Erik happy by default, and Erik found himself trusting Remy more with his schedule and list of personal tasks.

“He’s smart,” Raven had said one day when they were observing Remy laughing on the set with Charles. Erik had glanced at her, and she had been smiling to herself.

“What do you mean?”

“I meant that the fastest way to a Lehnsherr’s heart is through his Charles.” Raven’s smile had turned into a full-on smirk by now. “Remy probably figured out early on that there was no point buttering you up, and went straight for the jugular.”

“You’re mad,” Erik had said, even as he had secretly wondered if she was right as he watched Charles patting Remy affectionately on the back. Still, even if she was right, it just proved that Remy was resourceful and willing to find alternative ways to get to where he wanted. And Erik had always been a fan of that.

Erik was so lost in thought that he jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Mon ami,” Remy said gently, grinning from ear to ear. “It’s just me.”

“Jesus, you’re a PA, not a ninja,” Erik said irritably. He had forgotten that he had given Remy a key to his trailer. “Anyway, do you have what I asked for?”

Unfazed, Remy pretended to take a bow as he handed Erik a piece of paper. Erik was reluctant to admit that if he were a fifteen year old girl, he may have possibly found Remy charming. “A list of the best restaurants on Montmartre,” Remy said with a flourish. “And I have arranged for a car to take you to the 18th arrondissement as well.”

“Oh.” Erik hadn’t thought to ask for a car, as he had been quite sure that Montmartre wasn’t that far. “Thank you.” He began frowning at the list of restaurants, but Remy cleared his throat politely.

“I suggest that you head to ’La Mascotte’, they serve the freshest oysters,” he said, pointing a well-manicured fingernail at the third restaurant on the list. “Also, it is cosy and unpretentious.”

“Oysters, huh?” Erik was intrigued. Still, it wasn’t as though he and Charles didn’t already behave as though they were on an all-oyster diet. “Maybe I will check it out.”

Remy nodded, pleased that Erik was considering his suggestion. “So do you want me to get the car to come earlier, so you can pop back to the hotel to change?”

“Change?” Erik looked down at the shirt and jeans he was currently wearing. “What’s wrong with this?”

The stricken look on Remy’s face suggested that Erik was intending to go to Montmartre dressed in a potato sack. “You want to look smart for your date, non?”

“Well yes, but--”

“Then this will not do,” Remy said firmly. “I will have a selection of suits waiting in your trailer by the end of the day, you will choose from one of those.”

Erik was staring at Remy with his mouth hanging open. “I beg your unbelievable pardon?”

Remy leaned in, an eyebrow cocked, and to his surprise, Erik found himself a little afraid. “Erik, this is how relationships die, you know. You think, ah I don’t need to make so much of an effort as before, because we’re already together. Mais non! You still must keep making the effort, so Charles knows he is special.”

Erik just blinked at Remy. And blinked again. “Uh, okay.”

“Good!” Remy clasped his hands in delight. “I will go to pick out the suits now. You will look sharper than that English pansy James Bond, I promise you.”

Erik just remained seated in his chair as Remy left the trailer whistling, wondering what the hell just happened.

* * * * *

”There’s something about this next sketch that seems... different,” Charles said, as they rounded a corner and the Notre Dame came into view ahead of them.

“What do you mean?” asked Erik.

“Well, the others were all from the front and straight-on. This one was clearly drawn from an angle.” Charles looked thoughtful for a moment, then tapped Erik on the arm. “I have a hunch. Can I-?” He gestured at the sketchpad.

Erik glanced at the famous cathedral ahead of them. Well, the approach they’d been taking thus far hadn’t yielded any useful clues. “By all means.”

Charles walked to where he could get a good view of the building, then held the sketchpad up so he could compare between them. He led the way down the street, circling the church, looking around them and referring to the sketch at various intervals. Looking over his shoulder, Erik eventually caught on to what he was doing.

“Close, but you can’t see those far windows from here, and they’re perfectly visible on her sketch,” said Erik. “Perhaps the next street over, and a little further away?”

They ended up in the middle of a quiet little street. Charles held up the sketch and let out a triumphant “Ha! This is the place.”

The two of them looked around. Just a few feet to one side was a cosy cafe, with chairs and tables spilling out into the street; the aroma of the coffee was invigorating in the cold weather. There, on a similarly clear day several months ago, Ariadne must have sat and sketched. The question was - why?

“Come on.” Erik nudged a squinting Charles, gesturing for both of them to enter the cafe. It was dim inside, but there was enough sunlight filtering in through the glass windows for them to see where they were going. A tall barista with a Mick Jagger pout and haircut was wiping down the tables, ignoring them until they flashed their badges at him.

“We need your assistance in an investigation,” Erik told the barista. “Were you working here about 3 months ago?”

“Oui, I am here almost everyday,” the barista said with a faint frown. “Is anything wrong?”

Charles reached into his folder and pulled out the photo of Ariadne. “Do you remember this customer?”

The barista frowned at the photo for a while, before breaking into a smile. “Ah, la petit mademoiselle,” he said fondly, before looking at them in alarm. “Why, what happened to her?”

“Homicide,” Erik said with a sigh as he took out his notepad and pen. “Why do you remember her in particular?”

“She used to come a lot, sitting outside and drawing. I remember her because she was quite good.” The barista now looked utterly downcast. “What a shame.”

“We need you to think carefully if you’ve seen anything unusual,” Charles said, and the barista frowned. “Did she meet up with anyone?”

“Non.” But the barista’s frown was slowly deepening. “But I remember she stopped coming after this blonde creep hassled her on the day of the protests."

Now Erik could hear Charles flipping open his notebook as well. "When was this?"

"About three months ago." The barista was now watching the two of them scribble furiously in their notebooks.

"Do you know what the protests were for?" Erik asked.

"Oh, it was some queer rights thing, very boring," the barista said.

"What about the blond man, what was he doing to Ariadne?" Charles asked.

"He was sitting at the table opposite her, watching her over the top of his newspaper for a long time before he went over to her. She got upset and I had to chase him away. She was so creeped out that she left almost immediately. I didn't see her again." The barista was looking at them with wide eyes. "You think he killed her, non?"

"We don't know yet," Erik said. "Can you describe anything else about him?"

"Just medium height. Stocky. And squinty, I think." The barista shrugged. "Sorry, I don't remember anything else."

They asked him a few more questions, but it didn't seem to help as he couldn't remember many details from the day of the protests. Erik wasn't surprised, as very few witnesses had eidetic memories. He and Charles were lucky enough that the barista had remembered Ariadne and her menacing blond stalker.

“So what now?” Erik asked as they stepped out of the cafe, tucking their notebooks inside their jackets. Charles looked particularly thoughtful, though.

“Come on, we have some research to do,” he said, nodding towards the way they had come from.

Hours of coffee and phone calls later, Charles and Erik sat staring at the mess of papers fanned out under Ariadne’s folder. The bags under Charles’ eyes were especially pronounced, but despite how tired he looked, Erik still felt a surge of attraction.

“After the barista mentioned that Ariadne was at the cafe on the day of the protests, I did a check on what happened at all the locations on the dates she’d indicated on her other sketches.” Charles announced as he handed the files he had been holding over to Erik. “It turns out that demonstrations had been staged at each of those locations on the dates the drawings were marked with. I then took a closer look at the details of Ariadne’s life. School subjects, club affiliations, etc. She was politically active. Specifically, she was a member of Comite Pederastique de la Sorbonne.”

“I’m not familiar with that.” Erik stated as he straightened his posture, frowning as he thumbed through the documents.

“It’s a fledgling political movement, advocating for the civil rights of,” Charles paused, glancing away, “homosexuals.”

* * * * *

Erik was ready to kill someone. Thanks to Hank cocking up one of the shots earlier, Erik had been made to stay back and re-do several takes of an important close-up that Bryan wanted to nail. Charles, who had already done his scene, had seemed a little tired, so Erik had told him to go back to the hotel first and get ready for their date. It was agreed that Erik would change in his trailer, then pick Charles up at the hotel so they could immediately proceed to Montmartre.

By the time Bryan had wrapped things up, it was already almost dark. Erik hurried to his trailer, letting himself in and hoping Charles wasn’t starving by now. He had never been more relieved to see Remy waiting inside, holding up two suits and a fresh set of towels, everything ready and good to go. “You still have time, don’t worry,” he told a flustered Erik, who nodded and ducked into the shower immediately.

It felt good to get the grime of the day off, and Erik haphazardly washed his hair with the new shampoo which produced an alarming amount of bubbles. Rinsing it out and turning off the water, he towelled himself dry, wiping the water out of his eyes.

Remy was waiting outside the shower, and he started laughing when he saw Erik in his bathrobe. “You look like a wet dog, mon ami!”

“Thanks a lot,” Erik grumbled, trying to slick his hair back but it was still too wet. Remy got up, rolling his eyes as he disappeared, then came back with a hair dryer and a towel.

“Change into your suit, I’ll fix your wet fur.” Remy’s dimples were showing, which made it all the more obvious that he was trying not to laugh even more at Erik looking like a drowned rat. Erik waited patiently while Remy blow-dried his hair, quick and efficient, then he gestured for Erik to pick one of the suits. Erik eventually selected the charcoal gray Dior three-piece, putting on the trousers after buttoning up his shirt. Remy helped him knot the tie, and Erik slid on the vest, feeling quite chic.

They were done in less than ten minutes, Erik fastening his cuffs while Remy slicked some product onto his hands and quickly ran his fingers efficiently through Erik’s hair. “I can do my own hair, you know,” Erik said, shrugging on his jacket.

Remy made a derisive snort. “You mean that usual flat style of yours where you always look like you’ve just taken off a helmet? No, we’re trying something different today.”

“Charles doesn’t care what I look like.”

“Indeed he doesn’t,” Remy said dryly. “Still, no harm done in making an effort for him, non?”

Erik sighed. Why couldn’t Emma have gotten him a PA who wasn’t a smartass? “Fine, do what you like.”

Still, by the time Erik was checking his reflection in the mirror, even he had to admit that Remy had done an outstanding job. Erik looked exceptionally smart in the Dior suit which seemed tailored just for him, and Remy had done his hair in a way that begged for Charles’ fingers to run through it, slightly slicked back and parted at the side, making him look smart and dashing.

Remy let out a low whistle. “If I were gay, this is the moment I’d consider risking my job and hitting on my employer.”

Erik couldn’t help laughing. “If that is supposed to be a compliment, I guess I’ll take it.”

Oui, it is.” Remy was now smiling. “Okay, now show me your best smile, the one that will make Charles rip off his trousers and fall into bed with you.”

“Oh, okay.” It felt weird to do this without Charles here, who had the effect of making Erik smile naturally just by being around. Feeling a little self-conscious, Erik flashed Remy his brightest grin, but it faded as Remy stepped back quickly in alarm.

Mon dieu, what was that?” Remy seemed to be recovering from a fright. “You’re going to take Charles out on a date, not eat a clownfish named Nemo.”

“Why does everyone say I smile like a shark?” Erik asked, exasperated.

“Um, because you do?” Remy said matter-of-factly. “Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Now, tell me what comes to mind when you think of Charles.”

Erik blinked, thinking of the sweet press of Charles’ lips against his, how soft his hair had felt earlier when Erik had raked his fingers through the dark silk of Charles’ locks, and his eyes, so blue and kind. Erik found his mouth curving up into a smile of its own accord, and now Remy was nodding his head in approval. “There it is, that’s the smile I wanted to see, not that scary one earlier with millions of teeth.”

“You’re a terrible PA,” Erik said without much heat to it, and Remy probably knew that because he was laughing.

“You’ll thank me later tonight,” Remy said mysteriously, patting Erik’s side pocket which felt thicker, and he could guess what Remy had slipped inside. Before he could check, there was the loud honk of a car outside, and Remy was hurrying him towards the door. “Come on, you don’t want to be keep Charles waiting. And remember, be as romantic as you want. You’re in Paris, after all.”

“Yes, of course.” Erik checked his reflection one last time before scurrying out to the waiting car outside, hoping Charles would like what he saw.

* * * * *

Charles didn’t know what Erik would be wearing to Montmartre, but it seemed like a place too casual for one of his tweed suits, so he ended up selecting a light blue shirt that Raven had once said brought out his eyes, as well as grey slacks and a matching waistcoat. He stood in front of the mirror, buttoning up his shirt and blushing a little at the numerous red marks around his neck that were clearly visible, thanks to the open collar.

Well, Erik was definitely a biter.

Charles was rolling up his shirt sleeves when the doorbell to the suite rang, and he checked himself in the mirror one last time, raking his hair back. No matter what he did, it was always floppy and had a bit of wave to it. Biting his lip, he shrugged before heading to the door, wondering if it was Erik or maybe a nosy Raven.

When Charles opened the door, he found a grinning Remy standing there. “Your date awaits,” he said with a flourish, before stepping back and tugging someone forward, and Charles literally felt his jaw dropping open.

Erik was standing before him, and he looked as though he had been poured into the gorgeous charcoal gray suit he was wearing. Erik had always been handsome in Charles’ eyes, but now he looked spectacularly gorgeous, all neat and trim and dashing in the suit, which was accentuated with a maroon tie. Charles licked his lips, his mouth suddenly dry. He was dizzy with lust, want, desire and love, all warring within him like spoiled children.

It seemed Erik was just as dumbstruck, his eyes raking over Charles and lingering on his arms where he had rolled up his sleeves. Then his gaze slowly travelled upwards, taking in the waistcoat, then lingering at the open collar where he could undoubtedly see the love bites he had left on Charles that very morning. Now his eyes were half-lidded, dazed with want. “Remy, get out.”

Remy made a show of sighing. “Okay, but no sex,” he warned them. “Because I’ve already moved your reservation three times.” Erik seemed to pay his assistant no mind at all, eyes still fixed on Charles as the door closed behind Remy.

“You look...” Charles tried to think of an appropriate word that would describe his all-consuming need to rip Erik’s clothes right off him now and climb him like a tree. “Um.”

Erik chuckled, stepping a little closer so that their chests brushed. “You too.” He was leaning in slowly, his lips ghosting against Charles’ parted mouth in a feathery-light kiss, more of a tease, really. Such a contrast to all their usual passionate kisses, and it left Charles edging forward on his toes, aching for more.

“You’re so beautiful,” Charles whispered against Erik’s lips as he locked his arms around Erik’s neck, and Erik purred as Charles began raking his fingers through the soft baby hair on the back of Erik’s neck. “I can’t even articulate how much I want you right now.”

“Kiss me,” Erik pleaded, nosing against Charles’ cheek, and their mouths finally met. Now, the room was filled with the slick, wet sounds of their kisses, Charles running his hands up and down the straight lines of Erik’s suit. It was crazy, how he couldn’t get enough of Erik even after spending almost all day and night with him, and there was something tightening in his chest when Erik’s kiss turned tender towards the end, his long fingers caressing Charles’ cheek.

“I’ll want you. Always.” Erik gently brushed back a floppy lock of Charles’ hair. “Until my last breath.”

Charles rested his forehead against Erik’s shoulder, holding onto him tightly. “Then we still have a long way to go.”

There was an urgent knocking on the door. “Messieurs, I know I’m probably going to be fired for interrupting, but we really need to go.”

Erik grimaced. ‘Dammit, Remy--”

“He’s right.” Charles’ mouth quirked up in a playful twist as he palmed Erik’s cheek. “I like him, Erik, you’re not allowed to fire him.”

Erik pretended to let out a long-suffering sigh. “Can I at least yell at him?”

“Be nice, I like him.” Charles gave Erik one long, lingering kiss which was meant to be their last, but when he pulled away, Erik chased after him and this kiss was dirtier, steamier and left Charles speechless when Erik started sucking on his bottom lip. It was only when the knocking started again that Charles finally had the presence of mind to push Erik away. “Come on, let’s enjoy dinner.”

“All right.” The way Erik smiled down at him, fond and affectionate, made Charles’ skin tingle all the way to the car.

* * * * *

“Oooh, Erik,” Charles said, grabbing Erik’s arm excitedly, “it’s the Montmartre funicular!”

A little apprehensive - and possibly, also, a little turned on by Charles saying words, really, what was wrong with him - Erik peered out of the car that Remy had so helpfully procured for them. The funicular turned out to be a kind of tram, that traveled up the steep slope towards the Sacré-Cœur basilica.

Seeing it also meant that they’d reached the 18th arrondissement. Erik took one look at Charles’ beaming face and directed the driver to drop them off past Place Saint-Pierre, where the Gare Basse, the base station for the funicular, was located.

“So,” Charles said, in a coy way that fooled nobody. “We can climb three hundred steps up the Rue Foyatier to the summit, or...”

Erik rolled his eyes. “Get in the tram, Charles.”

Since it was approaching dinnertime, there were quite a lot of people wanting to use the funicular. The crowd was polite, though. Charles and Erik found seats in the upward cabin, which looked clean and well-maintained. There was a brief wait as more people came in - not quite filling up the cabin, but it looked to have quite a large capacity - then it began its ascent, with barely a jolt.

Charles hummed appreciatively at the view through the high glass panels, and his face broke into a delighted smile once the cabin was clear of the tree-line, revealing a gorgeous view of Paris. He even whipped out his phone and snapped a couple of pictures.

The ride was quick, just under a minute and a half, and then they were stepping out onto the Gare Haute at the top. A gust of wind, sweetly cold, ran up the slope of the hill and stirred up grass and trees and clothing. Charles scrunched up his face when the longer parts of his brown hair flopped down over his eyes and Erik chuckled, quietly; though not quietly enough, from Charles’ somewhat obscured glare. Erik apologized by ducking down and pressing their lips together in a hard, close-mouthed kiss, ignoring the wayward hair caught between them.

It was gorgeous walk. The view offered by the hill was unparalleled by any other location in Paris. Erik caught sight of apartment buildings facing the incline, and wondered what it must be like, to have this vision outside one’s window every single day. Around them, other couples were snuggling close, some sharing a bottle of wine to battle the dropping temperature.

He had a vague idea of where ’La Mascotte’ was, but glancing down at Charles’ delighted face, Erik decided that they could take their time. He waited for Charles to snap a few more pictures, and even posed obligingly when Charles wanted him in the shot, attesting that, “there’s no such thing as too much of a good view.”

Then the female half of one of the other couples offered to take their picture for them, so both of them could be in it. Erik saw Charles hesitate for a second, but the woman did not look like a crazed fan, and was beaming at them in a how-adorable-are-you-two way rather than someone who recognized them, so he handed over his phone and stood with Erik.

A couple of shots, and then again from another angle, and Charles thanked the woman profusely, while Erik exchanged a dignified smile-nod with her counterpart. They set off for the restaurant, finally, Charles winding his arm around Erik’s and letting Erik guide him while he browsed through all the photos he’d taken so far.

Erik saw the poster when they’d nearly reached it, and flushed. He attempted to discreetly lead Charles past it without Charles noticing - so, of course, that was precisely when Charles lifted his head and saw it.

“Oh my, Erik!” he squealed excitedly. He grinned between Erik and the poster. “Fancy seeing you here.”

Naturally, Charles just had to share his find with the whole world.

“You’re lucky you’re pretty,” grumbled Erik.

“A bit rich, coming from a model whose ad I’m currently looking at,” retorted Charles cheerfully. Then he hopped up to his tip-toes and pressed a slightly chilly kiss to the tip of Erik’s nose, leaving him blinking. “I think you look very handsome. In a serious and brooding way.”

“Um. Thank you.” Erik bit his lower lip, glancing uncertainly at the poster.

“Raven always teased that one day I’ll let fame get to my head and date only tall, gorgeous supermodels who are out of my league.” He leered unashamedly at Erik.

Erik chuckled and drew Charles close. “Flatterer. Come on, let’s get to the restaurant before we lose the reservation entirely.”

* * * * *

It had been a whirlwind return for Darwin, struggling to get his bearings on set and get himself up to speed on Charles’ schedule. Charles was now out with Erik on a date, and Darwin was relieved to have the evening to himself just to sort things out. He had never expected this many changes during the few months he was away backpacking in South America, and the biggest change of all, of course, was evident in Charles’ schedule, the name ‘ERIK’ lovingly scrawled everywhere in Charles’ neat, printed handwriting. Christmas with Erik, New Year’s, Valentine’s.....Charles was definitely a goner.

“Charles, you horndog.” Darwin chuckled to himself as he stared down at the planner. It was nice to see Charles happy and madly in love after his long years of self-imposed celibacy, which would explain why the first thing Charles had asked Darwin to do when he came back to work was to get him a mountain of Louis Vuitton condoms and surprise his new boyfriend.

Of course, it would have gone smoothly too, if it hadn’t been for that interfering little--

“Hey.” There was a knock on the door of the trailer, and Darwin was stunned when he saw it was the same interfering little shit, Alex, leaning against the doorjamb and looking sheepish. “It’s Darwin, right?”

“Yeah, did you want to ruin something else for me?” Darwin said dryly as he flipped the planner shut. “You’ve already called security on me and embarrassed my boss and his boyfriend. If you come back next week, you can burn down my house?”

Alex rolled his eyes. “Dude, come on, it’s not that bad--”

“Alex, the security guards have started singing ‘Louie Louie’ whenever Charles is around,” Darwin said, exasperated. “It’s a good thing Erik hasn’t heard them yet or we’d have a lot of security guards with broken legs.”

The frown line between Alex’s eyebrows deepened. “Why are they singing that- Oh, wait, the Louis Vuitton thing. Ha, that’s funny.”

“Thanks,” Darwin said sarcastically. “So, next week? You bring the gasoline, I’ll bring the matches?”

“No, I’m sorry. C’mon, let me make it up to you,” Alex said pleadingly. “A beer or something?”

Darwin sighed. People had always said he was just as soft-hearted as his boss. “All right, but you’re buying.”

Alex grinned as though he had just struck gold. “Deal.”

They ended up in a dusty, quaint pub in the 5th, not far from where they were shooting, and Darwin had to admit the ale they had on tap was quite good. It was hard to have a proper conversation though, as they kept getting interrupted by the loud ‘pings’ from an ancient pinball machine in the back of the pub. Finally Alex gave up, rising to his feet and collecting his beer, motioning for Darwin to follow. They watched two Lyon fans play on the machine for a while before collecting their winning tickets, hooting in triumph. Darwin watched Alex slide over to the machine, cracking his knuckles before starting a game, and Darwin leaned over the machine, intrigued.

“Hey I meant to ask, is your name really Darwin?” Alex shot him a curious, sort of squinty glance, and Darwin sighed, reciting the explanation from memory.

“Well, actually my name is Armando, but Charles calls me Darwin.” Darwin watched as Alex easily toppled the high score that the Lyon fans had set earlier. “He says he calls me that because I’m the first assistant to be able to handle all the shit he throws at me, he says I ‘adapt to survive’. So I guess it stuck.”

“Your boss sounds scary,” Alex said, scrunching up his nose.

Darwin leaned in confidentially. “Not as scary as his boyfriend, to be honest. Erik is a total nutjob.”

“Damn straight he is.” Alex was grinning, his eyes still fixed on the machine. “I’ve been on the receiving end of his insanity a few times.”

“Holy shit.” Darwin was now chuckling outright. “Tell me, is it true that their first kiss was completely unscripted? Charles was trying to tell me ‘the script called for it’ but I knew he was so full of shit.”

Now Alex was laughing loudly. “What a load of crap! No, there was initially no kiss in the script. Actually, Charles and Erik hated each other at first and didn’t get along. So me and Sean nearly had a heart attack when we went down one day, and Charles stuck his tongue down Erik’s throat to say hi.”

“Wow.” Darwin’s gaze flickered down to Alex’s clever, quick hands before returning to the game at hand. “So who’s Sean? Your boyfriend?”

“What? No, ugh.” Alex seemed mildly repulsed, which caused a twist of glee in Darwin’s gut, for some reason. “He’s the other scriptwriter for ‘First Class’; my writing partner. If you see some dork drooling over Moira MacTaggert, that’s probably him. But he’s more my brother than boyfriend, if anything else.”

“I see.” Darwin realised Alex was now silent, and when he stole a glance, Alex seemed rather pensive. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“My brothers and I used to play pinball during our spare time,” Alex said a little wistfully, and Darwin looked up at him, surprised at this unexpected revelation. “I haven’t seen them much since I moved out to L.A., I miss them.”

Darwin smiled. “I miss my sister too, but Charles constantly sends her beautiful dresses so she’s half in love with him and doesn’t mind he’s stolen away her older brother.”

Alex’s smile softened. “What’s her name?”

“Juanita. She’s 15 this year.” Darwin took out his wallet and showed Alex the picture of his sister and Mum. There was a loud ‘PING’ and they both realised Alex had just lost, due to the momentary distraction. “Oh, sorry man.”

Alex rubbed a hand over his face. “No, you know what, I’m the one who should be saying sorry. You had a shit time because of me.”

Darwin waved ineffectually at him. “Water under the bridge. Just let me kick your ass in pinball, then we’re even.”

Alex laughed, the straight white line of his teeth gleaming in the dark of the pub, and Darwin was surprised to find himself acknowledging that Alex, despite being an irritating little shit, was quite hot. “No way, I’m taking your ass to school,” Alex said as he clung to the machine with a smirk.

Darwin pretended to shove him off the machine. “Jesus man, you are killing me.”

* * * * *

Dinner had been more than excellent, and it seemed that Charles had fallen in love with the quaint, unpretentious restaurant. Erik grudgingly awarded another point in Remy’s favour as they left ’La Mascotte’ hand in hand, Charles chattering excitedly about seeing the city lights, and Erik wanting nothing more than to see Charles happy.

However, when they got to the top of the hill and stood outside the magnificent Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, even Erik himself was awestruck by the pretty spectacle of the Paris nightscape, a carpet of warm glowing city lights laid out before their feet. Charles leaned against the banister and Erik wrapped his arms around him from behind, shielding him from the frosty nip of the evening wind. There were a few tourists who stared at them open-mouthed, but most of the other people there were couples who were busy making out, and Erik pressed a kiss to the top of Charles’ head.

“Shall we start heading downhill?” Charles said after some time, holding out his hand for Erik to take, and of course Erik didn’t need to be asked twice.

Erik held Charles’ palm in his as they left Sacré-Cœur, tucking their bare hands into the pocket of his coat to keep them warm. It was getting late and a light mist had descended around them, the temperature having dipped during dinner, and it felt like they had been transported back to the past, the stark shadows cast by the old world street lamps creating a chiaroscuro effect reminiscent of a film noir from the Forties.

“Let’s not call for the car. I think the Moulin Rouge is that way, would you like to take a look?” Charles asked, pointing downhill towards Rue Azais.

“Of course,” Erik replied, and Charles grinned as he slipped their hands out of his pocket and guided Erik’s arm behind him, swinging his own over his head so that Erik’s limb now looped around his waist. Erik pulled him in closer and dropped a kiss to the back of Charles’ ear, the skin there warmer than usual against his lips as a result of the bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau they had shared earlier over dinner.

They strolled down the cobblestone streets, emptier now that most of the patrons and caricature artists had left, and Erik was vaguely aware of staff from the alfresco restaurants beginning the task of clearing the heat lamps and tables from the sidewalk as they passed by. All that seemed to fade into the mist with Charles pressed up against him, Erik’s focus centred solely on the steady sounds of Charles breathing in the night, and it was in quiet moments like these that Erik heard his thoughts best, thoughts that these days consisted of nothing but Charles, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that, if he listened closely enough, the voice inside his head was now unmistakably and irrefutably Charles. They continued on into the night, Erik still holding Charles' hand in his, an irrational subconscious fear of him being spirited away in the fog.

“You’re doing it again.” Charles sounded amused as he huddled closer to Erik, who wasn’t quite sure what he was referring to.

“Doing what?”

“I call it ‘going off into Erik-land’, if you will,” Charles said, laughing as he winked at Erik. “You just get this distant look in your eyes sometimes, like you’re really lost in thought.”

“Oh.” Now Erik was laughing as well, squeezing closer against Charles so another couple could pass by them. “Does it make you feel better that Erik-land has a population of one, and it’s only you?”

“Strangely enough, yes.” Charles was chuckling as he rested his head on Erik’s shoulder. “So, tell me what I am doing there in Erik-land.”

Erik thought for a while, remembering Remy’s instructions to be as romantic as he wanted to be. In the end, he decided honesty was the best tack. “Erik-land was empty for a long time,” he finally said, aware that Charles had lifted his head and was staring at him. “I didn’t trust just anyone to let them in. But you came along and...I don’t know, it was so natural for me to let my guard down. By the time I wanted to let you in, I realised that you had been there all along.”

Charles stopped him in his tracks with a hand on his chest, staring intently at him. “You know I won’t be held responsible for ripping off your suit and jumping on you in public even if we both get arrested, right?”

Erik was laughing as he bent down to kiss Charles fondly, his hand running over the buttons of that sexy waistcoat. “Don’t worry, Emma and Raven will get us the best lawyers.”

“Thank god for the capable women in our lives.” Charles pressed one last kiss to his lips before they continued on their stroll. “You know, I want Raven to be as happy as I am.”

Erik snorted with amusement. “Is she still unaware that Hank is mooning over her? The other day, he was staring at her so much that he almost tripped over some wires and smashed a camera.”

Charles laughed, running a hand over Erik’s back. “You saw that as well? Though, knowing Hank, it very likely could have been a separate occasion. I’m sure Raven is aware, it’s just that Hank seems so petrified of going after her.”

“He really is Captain Oblivious,” Erik commented dryly.

Charles batted teasingly at Erik’s chest, still chuckling. “Oh you’re one to talk. There were days when I thought I could walk up to you and drop my pants to reveal ‘Property of Erik Lehnsherr’ tattooed across my arse, and you still wouldn’t have gotten the hint.”

“Where is this tattoo you speak of? Clearly I’ve not given your posterior a thorough enough examination.” Erik gave Charles’ ass a firm squeeze, grinning triumphantly when it earned him a startled yelp in return. He circled in front of him and bent his knees, grabbing Charles by the back of his thighs and lifting him up before pressing him against a nearby lamp post, Charles’ limbs instinctively wrapping tightly around him. Erik dropped his tone to that deep rumble he always used when he had Charles pressed into the mattress and squirming beneath him, sliding his hands to trace circles around the jut of Charles’ hipbones with his thumbs, “I think it’s bright enough over here, shall we take a look?”

Erik…” Charles shuddered, his breath misting in the chill night air right before Erik kissed him soundly, and Erik did not miss the way he arched his back to rub himself against him. “Oh god, if you don’t stop right now, we are going to spend the night in jail.”

“That won’t do, you’re too pretty to go to jail.” Erik smirked as he let Charles down reluctantly, hooking his fingers into his belt loops to pull their hips flush and teasing his lips apart, savouring the fruity taste of the Beaujolais Nouveau that still lingered on his tongue. A shiver ran down Erik’s spine when Charles dragged his teeth lightly on his bottom lip as he pulled away, the promise that they weren’t done yet lingering in the air.

Charles took hold of his hand, leading them down the steepening decline. “Anyway, before you deviously distracted me, I was thinking we should help Raven and Hank out, jumpstart things a little. Goodness knows they need it.”

Erik sighed fondly. “We’re meddling in their love lives now? Sometimes it worries me how much you’re like my mother. Okay, but not here, I’m enjoying spending time with you walking around Paris too much, perhaps at our next stop.”

Charles smiled delightedly as he kissed the back of his hand. “Splendid. I knew you’d come around.”

“Have I ever said ‘no’ to you?” Erik asked, feeling a little miffed at himself.

Charles spun around to face him, laughing as he walked backwards, pulling Erik along. “No, I don’t think you have. You spoil me, my darling. What did I ever do to deserve you?”

Erik grinned as he tugged on his hand, and Charles played along, falling into his waiting arms. He embraced Charles tightly, inhaling deep and losing himself a little in his scent, and feeling like it was really he that had been lucky. “Well, you’re not so bad yourself.”

He kept Charles bundled up in his arms as they made their way down Rue Lepic, stopping before one of the two remaining iconic windmills left on the hill, its blades stationary in the night. Standing beneath the old windmill next to Charles, Erik wished he had the power to get the once functional turbine back in motion, watch the blades spinning round their axis over and over again through some unseen force, and be moved by whatever it was that had inspired painters and poets all those centuries ago.

“I wonder what it must be like, having to stand still for eons and watch the world pass you by.” Erik draped an arm over Charles’ shoulders as he looked upon the unmoving structure, all cold stone and unyielding steel.

“At least it’s not alone; it’ll always have the other one right by its side.” Charles answered, indicating the accompanying windmill in the distance as his arms wrapped firmly around Erik’s waist, and Erik smiled into Charles’ hair as they carried on.

They curved left down Rue Lepic, past the fire engine red awning of the Café des 2 Moulins made famous by ‘Amélie’, doubling as a pub now that night had fallen, and Erik would have been tempted to suggest they make their way in if not for the crowd.

Charles chuckled beside him, squeezing his side under the coat. “Look at that, they placed her gnome on the bar. If we had one of those, I’d name him Gnomeo.”

“Charles, if you carried a gnome everywhere we went, I hope you understand if I destroyed it out of jealousy,” Erik replied wryly and Charles burst out laughing, still grinning when he planted a quick kiss to the corner of Erik’s mouth. Charles looped an arm around Erik’s, leaning against him as a cold gust of wind swept down the street from behind, pushing them along.

Erik could finally see the brightly lit windmill of the Moulin Rouge, its name written in red neon lights, beckoning them at the end of the road, and he was looking forward to heading indoors (or really just anywhere with central heating), perhaps even get a drink, and settle into a plush chair with Charles in his lap. He was just about to quicken his pace when Charles stepped in front of him with one hand pressed firmly to his chest, stopping him in his tracks, an eyebrow quirked up, his tell for when he was about to set one of his dastardly plans into motion.

Charles smiled wickedly as he trailed the back of his fingers up from where they were resting on Erik’s chest, his fingertips leaving small tremors in their wake as they slid slowly up his neck and along the side of his face, and Erik shivered when the warm pads of Charles’ fingers circled the shell of his ear before going back down to hook around the knot of his tie. The fabric loosened its hold around his neck as Charles pulled on it, but the way the thumb of Charles’ other hand was running along the crease of Erik’s thigh over his trousers was making it decidedly harder to breathe. Charles’ eyes flicked up from where they had been previously trained on his neck, gazing up at him through his long, dark lashes.

Monsieur Lehnsherr,” Charles began, the tip of his tongue darting out to lick his lips tortuously slowly, and Erik could not pry his eyes away from the wet trail saliva lingering on his skin to save his life.

Charles slid Erik’s tie all the way off and ran a finger down the pulse of his throat before beginning to undo the top button of his collar, and Erik’s breath hitched when Charles pressed his warm body against his to suck and tongue at the tip of his earlobe, mouth scorching and wet on his chilled skin. Charles dragged the earlobe through his teeth as he pulled away to whisper hotly in his ear, fingers making their way south to pop another button, “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?

Mein Gott, we really are going to jail. Erik let out a groan as he buried his hands in Charles’ hair, tugging at it to angle his head back for a dominating kiss, plundering his mouth with his tongue while Charles held on tightly to the collar of his shirt, moaning softly. Charles shifted then, pushing away and holding out his index finger, touching it to Erik’s lips.

Charles dragged Erik’s bottom lip as he trailed his finger down his chin, and Erik swallowed deeply as it went over the curve of his Adam’s apple before finally coming to rest on his chest. “How much are you willing to pay?” Charles asked, voice low and hoarse, tugging on the lapels of Erik’s suit, and Erik had to fight hard not to slam him against the nearest building and take him up against the wall.

He cleared his throat instead, hands stroking down Charles’ back to cradle the curve of his hips, his tone dark and dangerous. “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been with a rentboy.”

“I’m sorry? Do I look like a rentboy to you?” Charles asked in mock indignation. He tossed his hair back, taking his time to tilt his head sideways to expose the smooth pale skin of his neck, marked by lovebites, before looking up at Erik seductively out of the corner of his eye. Charles twisted the ends of Erik’s tie around his hands, tossing the silk fabric over Erik’s head and pulling hard in one swift movement, using the tie as leverage to bring his face closer to Erik’s, voice sultry as it escaped his lips, “I'm a courtesan.”

Fuck. Erik always took pride in his remarkable self control, but Charles was leaving him at his wit’s end, and he could already feel himself half-hard against Charles’ thigh. Erik shut his eyes and bit back a whine as Charles rubbed that said limb teasingly on his groin, choking as he replied, “And I’m penniless, I can’t afford you.”

Charles let the end of the tie fall from his left hand, and Erik could feel the fabric dragging at his collar as Charles stepped back, pulling the necktie along. He picked the tie back up again, letting it thread through his fingers as he looped it around the back of his neck before yanking at it with his left hand, so that his right hand rose up to his unbuttoned collar. He popped the next button as he bit down on his lip, pulling the shirt aside to expose his collarbone, and Erik wanted so much to mouth the skin there until it was red and swollen. Charles nodded slowly, “Very well. One night in the name of love.”

Erik lunged at him, nipping at his bottom lip as his hands grabbed at his face, devouring his sweet, perfect mouth when Charles threw his arms over his head to haul himself up with the necktie as his legs scrambled around Erik’s hips for purchase. Erik growled, gripping tightly at Charles’ ass to support his weight, almost falling over when Charles ground down on his cock and sent a spasm of pleasure down Erik’s thighs. Charles gasped out, his warm breath against his face driving Erik mad, and quietly murmured against his lips, “You're going to be bad for business. I can tell.”

He took Charles’ lip into his mouth, sucking on it and savouring the delicious sounds his ministrations were coaxing out of Charles’ throat. He was about to make his way to Charles’ jaw when Charles startled in his arms, and Erik was on the verge of asking what the matter was when he felt it as well, cold sprinkles of rain landing on the side of his face. Charles buried his face in Erik’s neck, laughing as he slid his way down now that Erik had dejectedly loosened his hold on his hips. Charles pressed two soothing kisses to the side of Erik’s neck as he slipped an arm around his waist, brushing back his own dampening hair with his other hand. “So much for that.”

Erik stared dumbly up at the sky for a moment, blinking as the icy rain hit his face, the cold pinpricks dragging his lust-clouded mind back to the here and now. Erik shook his head, laughing incredulously as he remarked, “I can’t believe we didn’t bring along an umbrella. We are such idiots.”

Erik hurriedly stripped off his jacket, holding it over their heads as Charles tucked himself next to him, and the two of them started sprinting down the empty street, skipping over the tiny rivulets that were forming in the cracks on the road. As the bone-chilling shower continued to mist his skin, it abruptly occurred to Erik that he would readily run to the ends of the Earth and back, so long as Charles was beside him. They were just metres away from the shelter of the Moulin Rouge when Charles slowed down, Erik dropping his speed to match his pace.

“Erik, stop,” Charles said, pulling on Erik’s shirt to hold him back. Erik halted, looking down at him quizzically. Charles slipped out from under him and into the falling rain, holding out his hands. “Let’s stay here.”

Erik’s gaped at him as he lowered his arms, hooking his fingers into the collar of his jacket and slinging it over his shoulder. “Charles, have you gone mad? We’re almost there.”

Charles smiled brightly, beckoning him with his fingers, “We’re already drenched, there’s no point going in.”

He surrendered, tossing his suit jacket to the ground and stepping forward to take Charles’ hands in his. Erik would not deny that Charles had a control over him that no one ever had before, and it would terrify him if not for that fact that he trusted Charles implicitly, a part of him knowing that he would even bring the world to its knees, or build a city with grains of sand, if only Charles asked. Erik pressed his forehead to Charles’, trying his best to use his body to shield him from the drizzle.

Charles guided Erik’s hands to the small of his back before wrapping his arms around his neck, stroking his hair as he said, “It never rains in L.A., this reminds me of good old England.”

“We should get inside, it’s freezing.” Erik kissed Charles’ forehead as he held him closer in a bid to keep him warm, tasting the rain on his skin.

Charles tiptoed up, lips brushing against the shell of Erik’s ear as he whispered, “No it’s not,” pausing to tap two fingers gently to Erik’s temple on the opposite side of his face, “it’s really all in the mind.”

Charles kissed him lovingly then, just the tips of their tongues meeting as they licked against each other gently, lips sliding smoothly along skin moistened by the rain. “Tonight was perfect,” Charles said quietly as his hands moved reverently down his neck, finding their way down his chest to wrap firmly around his torso. “I love you, Erik.”

“I love you, too,” Erik replied, meaning it completely, unconditionally. He was a fool to not have known from the start that, the moment Charles had come into the picture, the world as he knew it had been over. They stood there soaked to the bone, reflections shifting on the water’s surface as the rain landed softly on the street, and as he let himself be held tightly in Charles’ arms, he knew for sure that somewhere along the way, Charles Xavier had saved his life.

* * * * *

It had been Charles’ idea to stop by the modest little hotel just off Rue Lepic and get out of the rain, and maybe he was still unapologetically giddy and high on the romance of the entire date so far, but the thought of them ‘running’ away and making out in some cheap hotel room was incredibly exciting. As with anything else, it didn’t take long to persuade Erik, who was of course baffled at the thought of booking a new room while a perfectly nice - and luxurious - one waited for them back at the Four Seasons, but of course all it took was a smile and a ‘please?’ from Charles to make Erik nod, and in they went.

The clerk at the reception of Hotel Du Moulin did not even bat an eyelid at them, simply exchanging a few terse words in French with Erik before registering them under Erik’s go-to pseudonym (which was ‘Max Eisenhardt’). After they paid in cash, she emerged from the behind the counter with a sour look, trudging up the stairs as they trailed behind her. Charles was already shivering a little from the damp and cold, and he couldn’t wait to get out of his clothes and warm up. Erik must have seen him shivering, for he was drawing Charles closer and pressing a kiss to his temple, not at all giving a damn that the staff could have seen it.

“Just hang on,” Erik whispered to him and this time a shiver of a different kind ran through Charles at Erik’s warm breath against his ear. Since they didn’t have any luggage, the clerk simply handed the key to them, then walked off briskly without even bothering to show them the room.

“What marvellous, award-winning service,” Charles said with an eye-roll as Erik chuckled, pushing open the door. After being used to the elegant surroundings of their suite, the cheap, garish decor of the very modest room was a bit of a shock. Still, the sole queen-sized bed looked comfortable, and Charles bent over to push down on it experimentally, the springs groaning under his touch.

“Hang on a sec,” Erik said, striding into the room, and once again Charles couldn’t help admiring the way the damp, tailored suit clung to the lines of his body in all the right places, and Charles was a little embarrassed at the way his mouth was watering at the thought of running his hands all over those firm, toned muscles.

Erik flipped a switch behind the radiator, and it wasn’t long before warmth was flooding the room, making Charles sigh in relief. “Oh, that feels wonderful,” he murmured as he closed the door, then locked it. It really did feel like a mini-adventure, as though they were a couple who had been forbidden to be together and had to run away from prying eyes. Charles couldn’t stop smiling at the little fantasy they had acted out earlier by the Moulin Rouge, a little thrill running through him at the thought of continuing the ‘courtesan scenario’ with Erik.

“Are you all right?” Erik asked in concern, walking over to check on him. “You must be cold, you need a hot shower. You should take most of the blankets.”

“I’m fine,” he said to Erik, before turning to frown at the bed. “But we’re both poor, now that I’ve run away with you. I’m so sorry there is only one bed. It looks like we will have to share.”

Erik was now staring at him as though Charles had lost his mind. “Wait, what?”

Charles continued to keep a safe distance between them as he circled the bed, putting on his most regretful expression. “It is big enough for us to share without touching,” he said, running a finger down the bedpost and trying desperately not to laugh at Erik’s stunned, confused expression. “So I suggest we take turns drying our clothes. I promise I won’t look.”

Charles could tell the exact moment when the light went on in Erik’s head and he had cottoned on to what Charles was up to. Erik was shaking his head with a rather incredulous smile, but when he met his eyes, he looked just as serious as Charles. “Why no touching? I thought you were a...courtesan.” Erik had stepped closer now, their bodies only inches apart, and Charles was drunk on the smell of him, of Erik’s enticing body heat.

“I don’t let clients touch me outside of work,” Charles said a little haughtily, his breath catching as Erik’s eyes travelled down his wet clothes. “So no touching unless I give my explicit permission.”

“Fine. I give you my word, no touching unless you ask me to.” Erik gave him a slow smirk, which pretty much promised that Charles would end up begging him before the end of the night. “Did you want to take a shower first? I’ll dry my clothes here.”

“If you don’t mind,” Charles said, and quite frankly he was amazed that Erik was agreeing to play along with his charade. Charles undid the buttons to his waistcoat, then unrolled his sleeves, more than aware of Erik’s hot gaze on him. When he looked up, Erik pretended to look away, and not for the first time Charles admired his underrated acting skills.

He stepped into the shower first, which was too small for the two of them to have shared anyway, letting the hot water warm his chilled skin. He would have much preferred for Erik to do that, of course, but if his silly plan worked, Erik would be doing more than just warming him up.

Wrapping himself in a large towel and nothing else, Charles emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam, and he could see Erik sitting up immediately, his hungry gaze devouring Charles from head to toe.

“Your turn,” Charles said politely as he remained in the doorway, not moving even when Erik approached him, nostrils flared as his eyes unapologetically raked over Charles, making him feel more naked than he already was.

Squeezing in through the doorway, Erik deliberately brushed every single part of his body against Charles as he made his way in, lips quirking up in a smirk as Charles bit his lip, the towel tightening around him. Erik didn’t bother closing the door all the way, and Charles started laying out his damp clothes over the radiator, listening to the shower running and Erik’s low humming. He couldn’t help grinning again, pleased at how Erik was playing along with his little fantasy, and he was already naked and waiting with the blankets drawn over himself when Erik emerged from the bathroom, towelling himself dry.

Erik seemed to be stuck in the doorway, breath hitching at the sight of Charles already naked under the sheets. “Oh.” He almost dropped his towel, but managed to hang onto it as he made his way to the other side of the bed. He continued towelling himself dry, deliberately bending over so Charles got a free show, and by the time Erik crawled into bed, Charles’ breath was coming in short and shallow. He could feel the warmth radiating off Erik’s body, so close yet so far, and he could see Erik tucking his hands behind his head on the pillow, staring at the ceiling.

His hands were already itching to wander all over Erik’s warm, smooth skin, so Charles cleared his throat and moved on to the next stage in his silly little fantasy. “I’m still cold, are you?” Charles asked him, and Erik nodded.

“There’s a way to keep warm,” Erik said, his voice a little husky as his gaze remained fixed on Charles’ neck, where they both knew there was already a giant angry lovebite the exact size and shape of Erik’s mouth. “Since we have no spare clothes, we could stay warm with...shared body heat.”

Charles pretended to bite his lip coyly at this suggestion, which must have made Erik all hot and bothered as Charles could hear him rustling against the sheets. “If you don’t mind, then I suppose we have no choice.”

They edged closer, and Charles held back a moan as Erik slid his arms around his waist, so warm and familiar, pulling him closer so that their legs were tangled together, so close that they were almost sharing a breath.

Erik’s eyes were bright and luminous in the soft yellow light from the bedroom lamp they had not bothered to switch off, and Charles’ mouth went dry at the amount of emotion in them that even Erik couldn’t disguise.

“Well, we should go to bed....Erik.” Charles slowly leaned in, angling his head as though to kiss Erik, but just as Erik’s eyes fluttered shut, Charles whispered, “Goodnight,” and pulled away, unable to help the smallest of smiles at Erik’s growl of protest.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Erik’s voice was low and rough as Charles found himself rolled over onto his back, and Erik’s body was on top of his, his delicious weight pinning Charles to the bed, their hips and pelvises aligned perfectly. Charles was helpless to stop himself from arching up against Erik’s body, their mouths barely an inch apart. “You shouldn’t tease people like that.”

Charles licked his lips agonizingly slowly, and Erik’s gaze instantly dropped to Charles’ mouth, his pupils dark and blown. “I’m sorry,” Charles whispered against those open lips, and he could tell Erik was trembling with the struggle not to take his mouth there and then. “Erik, your lips...I just couldn’t resist.”

Erik’s head dropped down just a tiny bit more, so that their lips now brushed, their breaths hot and sweet. “I still can’t afford you.”

Charles slid his hands up Erik’s arms, admiring the smooth defined firm muscle before cradling Erik’s head in his hands. “And I agreed to one night in the name of love,” he murmured, before leaning up to press a kiss to Erik’s left eyelid. Erik let out a long, shivery breath that warmed Charles up like nothing else could, and Charles moved on to the right eyelid.

“You’re so gorgeous,” Charles continued as he bestowed a kiss onto the slope of Erik’s nose, his thumbs brushing up and down Erik’s sideburns, and he could feel Erik growing hard against his right thigh. “How can you expect me to turn you down?” he said with a soft sigh, letting the heel of his foot rub up and down Erik’s calf, and Erik made the sexiest, muffled noise that sounded like a bitten-back moan.

“Kiss me.” Erik’s command sounded ragged and broken, he was breathing so heavily that Charles could hear nothing else, not even the patter of the rain against the window. “Don’t make me take that red, pretty mouth of yours without asking.”

Charles flashed Erik his naughtiest, flirtiest grin. “You should see what else this mouth can do.” His mouth left a trail of kisses to Erik’s ear, before whispering, “And you have.

That seem to break something in Erik, who bent down and mouthed a line of kisses up Charles’ jawline before claiming his mouth in a sinful, dirty kiss that completely melted Charles’ brain. It was possessive, it was hot and the dominant way Erik’s tongue swept into his mouth, tasting every last inch of it, that unleashed something in Charles that was begging to be held down and fucked, very hard, by Erik.

Charles tried to tell him this, but Erik wouldn’t stop kissing him, and for a while Charles forgot what he wanted to say to Erik when he felt Erik’s hips move against his, their legs gloriously tangled. When he tried to place a hand on Erik’s chest, Erik growled and took that hand away, pinning it to the pillow above Charles’ head, and that was so insanely hot and dominant that Charles moaned into Erik’s mouth with eager approval. Erik was usually so gentle and considerate with him, and to see this primal, dominant side of Erik was like Christmas and his birthday rolled into one.

When Erik pulled away, Charles tried to chase after his mouth, but it was now Erik’s turn to deliberately deny him a kiss. “Tell me you want this,” Erik said, his grip tightening on Charles’ wrist. “Tell me you want me on top of you, like this, with your legs wrapped around my waist.”

Charles bit down on his lip, taking in the sight of Erik’s mussed hair hanging down over his flushed face, framing those intense blue-green eyes. “Erik, you can’t expect me to share a warm bed with you all night and keep my hands off you.” Charles’ hips rolled up of their own volition, and Erik made a soft, strangled noise in his throat, shifting against Charles amidst the rustling of sheets.

“No.” Erik mouthed the word against his throat, before bending down further to nip at his collarbone, his mouth sucking on the very spot that made Charles see stars. “Do you know what you’re doing to me? Waiting for me in bed, naked under the sheets? You’re doing it on purpose.”

“Me? Tease you on purpose?” Charles huffed a laugh against Erik’s hair, sliding a hand down the curve of Erik’s spine before coming to rest on the luscious swell of his backside. “Now why would I want to do that? It’ll only rile you up and make you fuck me harder than ever before.”

Erik’s entire body stilled as he let out a desperate groan against Charles’ shoulder, his forehead warm and sweaty. Charles was a little worried if he had pushed his little fantasy too far, about to nudge Erik when he felt Erik’s warm, wet mouth latching onto his right nipple, making him arch up. “Oh god, Erik!”

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” Erik whispered between licks of his nipple, and Charles slid his hands into Erik’s hair, tugging him over to the other nipple and gasping in pleasure as Erik’s tongue flicked over the tight pink bud, wetting it and savouring the taste of Charles’ skin, just like how Charles was currently losing himself to the wicked sensations of Erik’s clever mouth.

“We need to stop, this isn’t right.” Charles knew his words were contradicting his actions, because he was running the sole of his foot up and down Erik’s leg, teasing him to madness, tugging on his hair like he couldn’t wait for Erik to fuck him. And thank god Erik wasn’t listening to what he was saying, giving his nipple one last lick before reaching up to pin Charles down to the bed again.

“You want me, I feel it in the desperate way you kiss me,” Erik declared, and this was punctuated with a roll of his hips against a quickly hardening Charles. “So you will stay here and I will fuck you so hard that we almost fall off the bed.”

Charles partially sat up on his elbows, breathing heavily as he shot a defiant look at Erik. “Make me.”

The sudden kiss took him by surprise, Erik’s teeth dragging on his bottom lip and sucking it into his mouth, and Charles couldn’t help the shameless, muffled moan that followed at the way Erik was just taking his mouth, his overwhelming kisses punctuated by little nips and bites. By the time Erik pulled away, Charles was sure that his mouth was redder than ever, and judging from the way Erik couldn’t stop staring at his lips, he knew he was right.

Erik licked at his own lips, which were moist and reddened, and Charles felt a surge of lust when he realised he was the one who had made them that way. “I’ll make you do a lot of things,” Erik promised him, placing a hand squarely on Charles’ chest and pushing him flat down on the mattress again, and he could see the corner of Erik’s lips curling up into a dangerous smile when Charles pretended to struggle under his grip. “I’ll make you come apart with my hands, my tongue, my cock--”

Erik.” Charles was already panting shamelessly, hands clawing at the sheets as a slew of images ran through his head, particularly of Erik holding him down and fucking him mercilessly, the bed creaking with every thrust. “Erik, god, want you in me--”

“Be a good boy and hold still,” Erik murmured, his intense gaze raking over Charles, lingering on the red marks he had left all over his body the night before (and that morning). “I’ll make you feel good, make you come so hard that you’ll be wanking to this memory forever.”

“God, yes.” Charles arched his hips up at Erik a little impatiently, and Erik’s breath hitched as his hands expertly maneuvered Charles and rolled him over onto his belly. Charles went along, easy and pliant, eager to see what Erik would do with him being so submissive. He could feel Erik fitting a pillow under his hips, so Charles braced himself on his arms, his arse arched in the air at Erik’s mercy.

“Fucking hell, you’re so beautiful,” Erik growled, his warm, calloused hands running all over Charles’ bottom and squeezing the firm flesh. “You make me so hot, Charles.”

“Then do something about it.” Charles wiggled his bum a little, and that must have done the trick because he could feel Erik’s mouth on his skin now, hot and wet, trailing down one cheek and driving him mad. However, Erik didn’t seem to be stopping, and Charles wondered what he was up to.“Erik, what are you--”

“Shhhh.” Erik now sounded amused, leaving a trail of open-mouthed kisses that was slowly leading inwards. Charles was starting to tremble with anticipation, letting out a soft groan when Erik’s strong hands gripped him and further spread his legs apart, leaving him open and vulnerable to Erik. The unspoken trust and bond between the two of them had never been more apparent than this moment, Erik’s mouth just inches away from Charles’ most vulnerable, intimate spot. “Going to open you up with my tongue, with my mouth...”

“Oh god.” Charles gasped into the pillow, hands bunching up the sheets as he shamelessly thrust back against Erik’s questing mouth, despite his burgeoning hesitation. After all, they’d never done this before. “I don’t think--oh, Erik...”

“Trust me,” Erik murmured, before Charles felt his tongue flicking out and licking at his hole, smooth and wet and eager, and Charles momentarily forgot all sense of language as he panted into the pillow, giving himself up completely to Erik.

“Charles.” Erik’s voice was low, rich with arousal. “Still so open and slick from this morning, I can feel you.”

“Ngh.” Charles shoved back into Erik’s hands and mouth, desperate for more of Erik’s tongue. “Inside me, please.”

Erik’s laugh was low and rough. “You belong to me,” he murmured, before his mouth resumed its trail of kisses, licking slowly and deliberately across Charles’ entrance, driving him crazy with his wet, smooth tongue.

And then-- “Erik, Erik, Erik--” Charles almost lost his mind when he felt Erik’s tongue slipping past the ring of muscle, determined to get inside him and drive him wild. Charles was rutting shamelessly against the pillow, hard and dripping pre-come on the pillowcase’s scratchy fabric, shoving back against Erik’s mouth. “Oh god, oh fuck--”

Erik’s only reaction was to grip tighter and spread Charles further apart, licking into him eagerly, making him all loose and wet, and Charles started trembling when he realised Erik was getting Charles ready for him, prepping Charles to get fucked long and hard after Erik was done eating him out. Charles let out an intelligible, helpless sound at that, closing his eyes and imagining how he must look like, sprawled out on the bed like this and held open, completely at the mercy of Erik’s hot, wet mouth.

As if that wasn’t enough, Erik’s hand was sliding between his stomach and the pillow, searching out and wrapping around Charles’ stiff cock, fisting him at the same rhythm of his tongue stabbing into Charles, and Charles grabbed onto the sides of the cheap headboard, completely surrendering himself to Erik who seemed determined to make Charles boneless with pleasure. There was nothing hotter than the thought that Erik cared more about Charles’ gratification than his own, and Charles arched his spine up, thrusting back against Erik as he spiraled up into blinding pleasure. “-rik, Erik, fuck me now,” he begged, his voice almost raw and hoarse.

Erik finally pulled his mouth off, pressing kisses to his bottom before hopping off the bed, and Charles was grateful for the few moments of respite to pull himself back from the edge of orgasm while Erik was rifling through his suit for a condom, and he heard Erik say, “Oh thank you, Remy, you resourceful fellow, you’re so getting a raise...” before the mattress dipped and Erik crawled back onto the bed again, pressing a row of kisses down Charles’ spine. “Charles, if only you could see yourself, all stretched out and open for me, all mine...”

“Mmmm.” Charles rubbed himself against Erik wantonly, enjoying the strangled groan that the action produced. “I believe I was promised a very hard and very thorough fucking.”

“That’s right.” Erik sounded soft and dangerous again, the dominance creeping back into his voice. “You’re not allowed to touch yourself, you can only come by fucking yourself on my cock.”

The gasp was out before Charles could stop himself, but he refrained from stroking himself like he was told to, determined to act every bit the good boy. Erik’s good boy. He could hear the rip of foil, then the snap of rubber as Erik sheathed himself. Another rip, and the slick sounds of Erik slathering lube on himself, making Charles hum with anticipation.

The anticipation, however, failed to prepare him for how utterly glorious it felt to have Erik spreading him open, then sinking into him slowly, inch by sweet inch, his breath stuttering with effort. “Oh Charles, oh my god--” Erik sounded like a broken man, and Charles himself was amazed at how slick and loose he was that Erik slid in almost immediately, buried deep in him.

“Erik--” Charles was panting heavily, grip tightening on the creaky headboard, writhing under Erik’s deliciously heavy body. “So good, so big...”

“You like it,” Erik mouthed against his ear, his breath hot and sweet, before dipping to kiss the juncture of his neck and shoulder. “Charles, sweet, beautiful, trusting Charles...”

Charles’ eyes watered as he squeezed them shut, overwhelmed from Erik’s words and the feeling of Erik’s thick cock inside him, and he desperately wished he was in a possible position to kiss the man senseless. “Move,” he hissed through his gritted teeth, his throbbing cock pressed against the pillow and just a few pulls on it would be enough to make him come. “Please, Erik, move...”

He felt Erik’s teeth sinking into his shoulder as Erik started thrusting, slowly at first, but Charles was so loose that his rhythm picked up quickly, Erik fucking him so hard that the cheap bed was creaking, no doubt annoying their neighbours (if they had any). Charles couldn’t bring himself to care, consumed only with the sensations of Erik pounding into him, teeth scraping his shoulder, his knees raw and sore as they slid forward on the sheets with each thrust.

“God, Erik, love you, fuck--” Charles was getting fucked into incoherence, letting slip the only words left in his vocabulary, and he moaned very softly when Erik’s thrusts started slowing down, Erik drawing out the long slide of his cock until only the tip remained inside Charles, then slowly slamming it home again.

“I love you,” Erik mouthed against his ear, and even though he couldn’t see Erik’s expression, he could hear the heartrending sincerity in Erik’s voice. “I love you, loveyou, love-- oh, Charles, Charles--”

“Unh, Erik.” Charles bowed his head, feeling Erik’s teeth nip at the curved line of his neck, his hair flopping into his eyes, damp with sweat. He could hear Erik’s erratic breathing and gasps, the slap of Erik’s hips against his, and then - suddenly - furious pounding on the wall. Erik immediately stilled his thrusts, and they both listened as their neighbour swore at them very colourfully in French, ending with a hearty, ’Merde!’

“Jesus.” Erik was chuckling breathlessly, pressing a kiss to the sweaty nape of Charles’s neck. “We’d better keep it down.”

“Gag me,” Charles demanded, and he turned his head sideways when he felt Erik’s tight, obvious hesitance. “Get your tie, and gag me.”

He could feel Erik’s cock inside him twitch, and then Erik was pulling out and rummaging through his drying clothes like a madman. Charles was amused, although his eyes were drawn to the sleek curve of Erik’s bent-over arse, and the shadow of his heavy cock between his legs. Once Erik found the tie, he climbed back onto the bed and gripped Charles by the hair, his hold gentle but firm. “Open your mouth.”

Charles did.

The tie was made of dupioni silk, and it still bore the scent of Erik’s cologne, which made Charles ridiculously hot all over. He bit down on the smooth fabric, arching back against Erik impatiently, eager to get his cock back inside him. “Be still, or else I won’t fuck you,” Erik said sweetly, which made Charles groan around his makeshift gag. “Good boy.”

Charles could feel his mouth watering as Erik pressed the tip of his cock teasingly inside him again, driving him mad before finally, finally sliding in to the hilt, and Charles couldn’t stop the muffled moans any more than he could stop himself from loving Erik, and Erik had a possessive hand splayed on the small of Charles’ back, holding him down while he fucked him, his thrusts picking up speed. Erik was close, Charles could tell, his breath getting shallow, his grip on Charles getting tighter. “Oh, fuck, Charles--” And then Erik drove into him one last time, their hips glued together, his hand dragging a line through the sweat on Charles’ back, holding him tight and perfectly still. Charles was shaking, mouth dry around the tie, so close to the edge of orgasm but remembering Erik’s command not to get himself off, but he needn’t have worried because Erik’s hand was fumbling for him now, pushing away the pillow, those long elegant fingers wrapping around his cock and stroking him firmly, a thumb brushing against the pearl of pre-come on the head. “Come on my hand, come on, want to feel you--” Erik was nosing against the shell of his ear, and Charles let out one long, stifled moan around his impromptu gag before spurting all over Erik’s hand and the garish hotel sheets, his legs trembling with the effort.

There was a pause as Charles fought to regain his breath and basic mental processes, and he could hear Erik getting up and walking to the bathroom, presumably to throw away the condom. There was the sound of running water, then the mattress dipped as Erik climbed on top of him again, and Charles could feel the soft, cool rub of cloth cleaning him up, Erik’s strokes mild and gentle.

“God.” Erik’s voice was shaky with laughter. “I think my brain is still somewhere on the floor.”

Charles let out a muffled reply, and he tried not to laugh as Erik reached over, pulling the tie out hastily. “Ah, that’s better.”

“You’re constantly full of surprises,” Erik said fondly, stroking back Charles’ hair. “First the courtesan thing, then the tie...every day with you is like my birthday.”

Charles laughed lazily. “You bring out the worst in me.”

Now Erik was leaning over him, kissing Charles’ shoulder. “And you bring out the best.”

* * * * *

Their driver had been very obliging when Charles had called him earlier requesting that he picked them up from outside the Hotel Du Moulin instead of the Four Seasons where they were being put up, merely offering them a knowing smile when they had entered the car, and for that he had Charles’ undying gratitude. However, that had turned out to be the only free pass they received that day. There had been a last minute change of plans as the rain was still pouring, and Darwin had informed him that they would be doing a studio shoot instead. Judging by the startled looks they had received the moment they had stepped into the studio, he and Erik must indeed appear just as bedraggled as he had thought. Charles shifted closed to him, placing a comforting hand on Erik’s back as they continued on, searching for Bryan to have their morning briefing.

“Jesus Christ!” came a shriek that was most positively from Raven, along with the familiar sound of heels clicking against marble floor as she hustled over. Charles sighed long and hard. Might as well get this over with.

“Good morning, my dear,” Charles greeted as he placed a kiss in her hair, wondering just how terrible his own bedhead must look.

“Oh no, you’re not charming your way out of this one. What the fuck? You two look like you were rode hard and put out wet.” Raven squirmed away, making a show of dusting off her sullied clothes for added measure.

“That...would actually be not too far from the truth.” Erik answered, grinning brightly, and Charles was starting to feel the beginnings of a blush creeping across his own cheeks.

Raven wailed, covering her ears with her hands. “I’m going to need brain bleach for that! And that still doesn’t really explain why you two showed up looking like this.”

Charles shifted uncomfortably on his feet, suddenly finding the floor extremely fascinating. “We couldn’t get out of bed in time to go back for a change of clothes. In my defence, that was entirely Erik’s fault.”

“Was it, now?” Erik commented with a smirk as he looked over, and Charles could not help the guilty smile that broke out across his face, which promptly earned the both of them a much exaggerated eye roll from Raven.

Charles was about to reply when he heard a loud gasp from behind, and was soon in the presence of a rather distraught Frenchman. “Mon dieu! That was Christian Dior!” Remy exclaimed as he took in the sorry state of Erik’s attire, horribly wrinkled by the rain. Erik merely shrugged innocently, and Charles bit his lip in an attempt to not break down in hysterics at the look on Remy’s face as he fussed over the jacket, vest and tie that he had grabbed from where they had been slung over Erik’s arm.

Remy sighed as he slumped his shoulders, though he brightened up when he turned to face Charles. “Bonjour, cher,” Remy greeted as he bowed slightly, flashing a very dashing grin, “I hope last night was good?”

“Oh yes, the restaurant was excellent. Thank you for the recommendation.” Charles smiled sincerely as he patted Remy’s arm. They truly did owe him for the wonderful evening, and Charles made a mental note to find a way to repay him someday.

Remy beamed in return, waving it off. “It was my pleasure.”

“Sorry to break this up, but Bryan wants the both of you on set as soon as possible,” Raven interjected, locking her arm around Charles’ as she led the way.

Charles surveyed the floor as he kept pace, frowning a little when he noticed that there were a lot more people loitering around the set than usual, many of whom he did not recognise, staring at them as they strode by. “Is it me or are there more people here today?” Charles asked, wondering if he was just being more sensitive to gawkers since they were quite literally taking their walk of shame.

It seemed it was Raven’s turn to be highly amused. She giggled, squeezing his arm tightly to her side. “Didn’t you know? You’re doing the love scene today. They’re here to watch.”

What?” Charles exclaimed, stopping dead in his tracks with Erik doing the same, looking back at him sheepishly. “We’re doing it now? No, we are not going to meet Bryan. We need to see Angel, immediately.”

“Why?” Raven asked, before the realisation finally dawned on her. “Oh, oh.”

They turned tail, heading for the makeup department instead. Angel was seated on one of the dressing tables when they arrived, smiling to herself as she checked her phone, the intricate tattoos on her back reflected in the vanity mirror. She looked up when they entered, taking a moment to blink at them in stunned silence before hopping off the table. “Christ on a cracker...”

“I know, right? Charles here says he needs you to work your magic on him.” Raven supplied as she shoved him over.

Angel raised a knowing eyebrow, holding back a laugh as she shook her head, “Get changed into a robe and let us see exactly how much damage Erik did.”

Erik shot Angel a smug, predatory grin at that, and Charles was rather ashamed to admit that he was torn between wanting to crawl into a hole to die and jumping Erik’s bones. Charles stripped quickly in the dressing room, emerging in a plush cotton robe and sitting down in front of the vanity mirror next to Angel, who was looking at him expectantly. He sighed heavily, letting the robe fall off his shoulders and pool around his waist.

“Sweet mother of god!” Raven yelled as she took in the bitemarks all over his body, the fresh ones on his shoulder from last night still red and angry against his porcelain skin, with a scattering of fading ones lingering on his collarbones and the juts of his hipbones. Out of the corner of his eye, Charles could see Remy stifling his laughter into the back of his fist before giving Erik a congratulatory pat on the back, the latter nodding his head and smirking proudly in response.

Angel snorted before breaking into full on giggles, fluffing up Charles’ hair as she ran her hand through it. “I’m sure we can get Erik’s dental records from these,” she joked as Charles buried his face in his hands, wondering if he was going to be the first person ever to actually die from mortification.

Charles looked up as Erik stalked over, resting his hand on his shoulder as he stood close to his side. “That’s enough staring, now can you fix this or not?” Erik asked as Charles gave him a grateful look through the mirror. Erik rubbed his thumb in soothing circles over the raw skin on his shoulder which caused Charles to shudder inwardly, and he had to admit that it did feel good, being so completely claimed by Erik for the world to see.

“Of course I can, now stand back and let me do my job.” Angel instructed, chasing Erik away by fluttering her hands in the air.

Charles placed his palm over the back of Erik’s hand just as he remembered, stopping him from leaving. “Actually, Erik should stay,” Charles said as he exchanged a look with him, “he needs you to work on him as well.”

“Oh…right.” Erik stated calmly as he began unbuttoning his shirt, pulling it off and leaving it on Charles’ chair to display the shallow ligature marks around the back of his neck, the result of Charles’ little role-play with the tie.

“Fucking hell. Were you two having sex or trying to kill each other?” Raven exclaimed as Erik smirked, that smug bastard. “Please tell me your sexcapades aren’t the reason Erik’s always in turtlenecks.”

Charles was about to vehemently deny that when they were interrupted by a knock on the door and turned in time to see Sean pop his head in, “Guys, Bryan would--" Sean stopped mid-sentence as he took in their half-dressed states, entering the room to circle around them, his eyes trailing over their exposed skin as if cataloging the bruises. Sean whistled loudly when he was done and exchanged a fist bump with Erik, clearly impressed with his handiwork.

“I would be eternally grateful if the ground would please just open up and swallow me whole,” Charles lamented as the rest of the room laughed at his expense.

Angel placed her hands on her hips after a while, clearly the only professional in the room at that moment. “You cats know it’ll take double for both, right?” She let out a fond sigh before continuing, “Raven, help me with Erik. Sean, tell Bryan to go out for coffee, this will take a while.”

They did as instructed and Erik settled down in a chair beside Charles, gently tapping the side of his jaw with the back of his knuckles and receiving an exasperated smile in return. They were still engaged in a wordless conversation with each other, all fond looks and quiet smiles, when Remy swung by holding Charles’ discarded clothes in his arms, picking Erik’s shirt from the back of Charles’ chair in the process as he announced enthusiastically, “I will send these for cleaning and have fresh clothes delivered to your trailers.”

“Thank you, Remy. You’re a lifesaver,” Charles said gratefully.

Remy bowed with a flourish, giving Erik a two-fingered salute as he turned to leave, and Charles heard Angel call across the room as he sauntered out the door, “Stop by Sephora while you’re at it. We’re going to need all the concealer we can get.”

* * * * *

Shooting a sex scene in any movie was, in Erik’s experience, an awkward and stressful production all around. It was as far from the real thing as anything involving nudity could get, and yet they had to make the viewers believe that it was real. Half the work usually lay in the rest of the movie: establishing a sense of chemistry between the characters involved, building in the sexual tension, getting the viewer interested in the relationship.

But, at some point, the clothes had to come off and the talent needed to do the hump fandango. Erik had, by now, established a plan of attack: get the other person comfortable, determine boundaries, do the scene in as few takes as possible, follow the path of least mortification. His prep chat with his various female on-screen partners over the years tended to go along the lines of, "Do you mind if I touch your breasts? Do you not want me to do that? Can I kiss your breasts? What lines do you have that you don't want me to cross?”

He had a strong feeling that a sex scene with Charles was going to go a little bit differently.

A tiny remnant of professionalism had him asking, “Are there any lines you don't want me to cross?” anyway.

Charles gave him a look. Erik felt his face heat and quickly added, “I meant on camera.” Several feet away, Raven let out a strangled noise and pointedly crossed to the other side of the set.

Erik liked to think that he was growing rather fluent in reading Charles. The expression on Charles’ face now suggested to Erik, in unabashedly suggestive terms, that he might be in trouble. “I think you have more lines than me, darling.” It took conscious effort to stand his ground when Charles stepped closer. “I’m willing to wager,” said Charles in a low voice, “that you will back off long before I do.”

The scene began in the shared hotel room, courtesy of Interpol, of Erik and Charles’ characters. Both men looked tired, worn out, and the rumble of rain was audible through the old walls. There was a new tension between them. It’d been there since they figured out the link between the murder victims.

“James,” Erik started. The other man looked up. There was a lost look to his wide blue eyes, and Erik hesitated, his character forgetting what he’d wanted to say.

And then, almost like magic, Charles was right in front of him, deliberately in his space. Erik felt his body - sadly conditioned to associate certain outcomes with Charles’ presence - starting to lean forward. He had to dig his nails into his palm to stop himself. Fortunately, his character was supposed to have been resisting James McAvoy all this time. Erik had to admire Michael Fassbender’s fortitude.

“I want you,” Charles hissed through gritted teeth. Plainly, boldly. Erik’s hands moved, without prompting from his brain, and gripped Charles by the arms. Charles’ face was beautifully expressive, and there was lust there, but something else, too. It looked like fear.

“James?” whispered Erik, a question this time.

“It’s... You always know that there are people who would- ” he waved towards the desk in the corner, where all their case files and assorted evidence and Ariadne’s sketchbook lay, “- people like us. It’s not a nice world, for you and me.”

“Or anyone, I should think,” murmured Erik. McAvoy tended to be the steady one, the personable half of their partnership, so it felt fitting that Fassbender would be the anchor now, the calm in the storm.

Fingers grabbed at the back of his neck, scratching him - and damn it, he sincerely hoped Charles hadn’t taken that dare business seriously, because even those brief lines of pain had his cock twitching inside his trousers - and Charles’ mouth was on him. Familiar, by now, but also somewhat shocking, because there were cameras right there, a full crew along one wall of the bedroom set.

He’d known, he’d known, that lines were going to blur here, that the wall between what was wanted on-camera and what needed to be off-camera would be temporarily transparent. But actually doing it felt nothing like what he’d expected.

Also, fuck, there was a chance that he had a burgeoning exhibitionist streak.

Charles walked backwards, breaking off a few times to hiss, “want you, need you so bad right now,” while tugging him towards the bed. This being not a wholly unfamiliar maneuver, something about it felt... off, or strange. It wasn’t until the first rush of excitement and arousal was past that Erik realized why - Charles was angling them towards the cameras.

Erik found it easier to concentrate after that. There was still a wall, it seemed, between personal and work. It was in all the little differences; for example, James didn’t kiss as deeply as Charles did, probably because, as much as Erik enjoyed sharing spit with Charles, he’d been told that they looked like they were trying to eat one another’s face.

They hit the edge of the bed, and Erik followed Charles down, happily covering Charles’ body with his own.

“CUT!” shouted Bryan. “All right, a couple more takes of that before the costume change. It was good, but I think you two can tighten up your delivery even more. Really bring the emotion into it.”

By the sixth take, Erik and Charles looked as haggard as their characters were supposed to be. Erik loped off for the ‘costume change’ - which, in fact, involved taking off his costume, putting on the cock sock, and coming back out in nothing but a robe - and hoped that the next part would be easier.

It wasn’t.

Don’t get hard, don’t get hard, Erik mentally chanted as he settled into place between Charles’ legs. Charles, at least, seemed to be in similar straits, face stern with concentration and not quite meeting Erik’s eyes. Erik’s dick, however, seemed to recognize the sweet little nook of heated skin it was nestled against and wanted to wave hello.

He saw Angel approaching the bed with a spray bottle. “Try not to sweat all over my hard work, boys,” she told them, right before she sprayed them with a mixture of rosewater and glycerin; evidently, fake sweat was acceptable. Another member of the crew tugged the sheets over so it draped artfully over Erik’s ass, leaving one leg uncovered and a sliver of his hip peeking out.

Charles took a couple of deep breaths, and shared a reassuring smile with Erik. He was careful not to move anything that was touching Erik below the waist, which Erik was grateful for. Erik saw those blue eyes glance out towards the camera and lights.

“Is it just me,” whispered Charles, “or is there an unusual number of people in here? For a closed set?”

“Just remember,” Bryan called out, preventing Erik from looking over his shoulder and glaring at the cheerful lechers that were the film crew. “Fassbender and McAvoy have just realized that they’re dealing with hate crimes, the kind that they could be subjected to one day. They’re unsure, don’t know if they’re doing the right thing, but the passion wins out!”

Erik resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Charles adjusted his legs, until Erik’s hips were between his thighs. Under the sheets, Erik felt his dick brushing against Charles’ balls, and swallowed a whimper. The cock sock might as well be a condom, for all the good it did in keeping the skin of their intimate parts from touching.

“ACTION!”

Erik rolled his hips, simulating a hard thrust. Charles gasped, jaw going slack as if Erik was entering him, hands gripping Erik’s arms in a way that seemed undecided on whether to keep him at a distance or pull him closer. Their lips met, clumsy, wet.

“James,” whispered Erik, reverent. Somewhere, his old acting coach must be feeling a grave chill, because this wasn’t acting, this wasn’t acting at all. “I didn’t... this is...”

“We shouldn’t do this. Oh God, I know we shouldn’t,” mumbled Charles, mouthing at Erik’s jaw. “‘S a really bad idea.” He pushed his tongue into Erik’s mouth.

“The very worst,” Erik agreed, pinning Charles’ arms up on the bed. “We’ll get into trouble, if we’re found out.”

“So much trouble,” Charles moaned. “God, do you know how hard it’s been to work beside you every fucking day, trying to act professional?”

“I’ve wanted to kiss you,” admitted Erik. “Your mouth, James-”

He was overridden by Charles chanting, “yes, yes, please Michael, I want this, I want you - I don’t care anymore” and pulling Erik down for a crazed, drunk-like tangling of tongues.

Erik kept moving, thrusting, trying not to rub his dick against Charles’ skin too much but failing spectacularly. His own hands were skittering up and down Charles’ body. He kept going for the areas where Charles was the most sensitive, or loved being touched in, and remembering halfway through the movement that he wasn’t supposed to be getting Charles worked up. He hoped that, to the camera, it just looked like a new lover being unsure and desperate.

He’d never been able to forget the cameras before, had never gotten a role that was deep enough for him to completely sink himself into the mind of the character. And then there were the lights and the crew and the inherent awkwardness of being in this position with a relative stranger. But Charles was so very much not a stranger, Erik probably knew his body better than his own at this point, and if the unavoidable friction wasn’t bad enough, the sounds that were coming out of Charles, plus the smell and heat of him, overcame Erik’s best efforts to the contrary, and had him aching and his cock filling under the sheets, until he was hard enough to pound through walls.

A low, shocked sound escaped Charles, and his body tensed under Erik, a gorgeous arch of tension. The pretend orgasm was far more controlled than the real thing. Charles kept his eyes open, maintaining eye contact with Erik. Erik groaned out his own fake climax, and sought Charles’ lips for a last deep kiss before collapsing on top of him.

There was a heavy silence in the set for several seconds, like the aftershock of a lightning strike, and then Bryan called out “CUT”.

The faint hum of conversation sprang up once the cameras and lights and other technical parts of the shoot were being checked and adjusted and carted about. Erik distinctly heard a female voice saying, “damn, if that’s them faking it...” and another responding, “I think I need a change of panties.” He caught Charles’ gaze, and the both of them started laughing.

Charles was flushed for real, sweating for real, and now Erik wanted to cover him up. He’d known, going in, that he’d have to share Charles with, oh, the rest of the world; as far as Erik was concerned, they’re welcome to his public persona, and the fruits of his acting. The real bits, though - they were Erik’s, and only Erik’s.

Erik sucked in a breath when he felt Charles shifting. It was a bit of a relief to feel that Charles wasn’t entirely unaffected, either. “It’s probably a good thing we didn’t formally enter into the dare,” said Charles with a grin and a huff. He winced. “Ah. We might have to consider, well, a bit of lubrication, if we’re doing a lot more takes of this, as I imagine it will start to chafe.”

Bryan appeared on one side of the bed, presumably having finished checking the cameras. “Good work, guys, great effort. We’ll do at least a couple more takes...”

Erik groaned, his head dropping down to nuzzle Charles’ neck. Charles laughed, shaking him a little, and Charles’ hand came up to pat him on the back. “There, there,” said Charles, wearing the grin of a man who basically just had to lie back and think of England, instead of doing any actual work.

“I’ll have you know that all the moaning and groaning is quite taxing,” said Charles, making Erik realize he might have said a bit of that aloud. “I should look into becoming a phone sex operator, for when I start losing my figure.”

Erik was glaring at the suggestion, instinctively possessive, before he even thought about it. Though it would be hot, to record Charles’ real sex noises so he could listen to them whenever he wanted--

“Down, boy,” murmured Charles, his thigh nudging Erik’s increasingly hardening cock. Erik swore under his breath, convinced that this was it, he was going to die of blue balls, a martyr to his art, he was going to meet his maker clad in only a cock sock.

“... try to make it a bit harder, maybe angrier, really put some teeth into it...”

Erik took Bryan at his word and scraped his teeth over the pale line of Charles’ neck on the next take, and was sure that he could feel Angel attempting to skewer him with her glare from the other side of the lights. Charles retaliated by shoving his hand under the sheets covering Erik’s lower back, vengefully squeezing one buttock.

After the third take, Charles had to request some lube, which incited a round of catcalling from the crew. Erik glared and Charles reddened, but the stress of the shooting must have been taking its toll on everyone, too, because by the fifth take, people were shouting suggestions at them.

“Slap him around a bit!”

“Roll him over and ride him!”

Bryan didn’t bother stopping them, so Erik figured this take was probably down the drain anyway.

Charles seemed to reach the same conclusion. He grinned up at Erik and said, in a loud, faux-feminine voice, “oh, you’re so big, Michael, give it to me hard.”

Charles,” hissed Erik, because Charles had started wiggling and undulating in ways that he hadn’t known Charles was capable of, and it was rubbing parts of Charles - well heated and lubed parts - against his dick and balls, over and over.

He felt a flash of admiration for Darwin, who must have dealt with Charles in a vindictive mood before, when Charles’ eyes gleamed with mischief and a pair of hands yanked Erik down. Erik’s tired arms nearly gave way, catching himself before he headbutted Charles, and that sinful sex-telephone-operator voice was panting right into his ear. “Are you thinking about it, Erik? Taking me right in front of all these people? On camera? Sliding inside me for real, making me moan and beg for real? No one would be able to tell. We’re actors, right?”

To Erik’s horror, he could feel Charles’ thigh moving against him, the lube and their own sweat making everything slippery, and - “no, Charles, don’t you dare,” hissed Erik when he could feel his cock sock beginning to slip off.

The touch of Charles’ thigh, smooth and soft, against the bared skin at the base of his cock, had Erik swallowing groans of relief, though his hands grabbed at the sheets in frustration. It didn’t help that Charles smelled like Charles now, no longer the foundation or powder or rosewater that had been applied on them, but sweat and musk, exactly like Charles-during-sex. He really couldn’t blame his body for being a bit confused.

He was about to get up, halt proceedings, fuck the voyeurs pretending to be professionals, but then the world spun, literally, and he was suddenly flat on his back, looking blankly up at Charles.

The crew was outright hollering now but they were easier to ignore, like this, when Charles was looming over him and blocking out the rest of the world, blue-eyed and beautiful and a little terrifying. “Got you exactly where I want you,” whispered Charles brightly.

Charles began to move, lifting himself up and then down, as if he were riding Erik’s cock. He’d somehow brought the sheets with him, so that Erik was covered from the waist to his knees, and most of the fabric was pooled around Charles lap. Erik could tell that Charles was hard now, too, which made him feel a little bit better.

But Charles also continued his campaign of removing Erik’s cock sock. Erik found Charles’ thighs under the sheet and dug his fingernails in, warningly. Charles just smirked and moaned, loud and hitched, exactly the way he would if they were doing this for real, and a part of Erik’s brain skittered away with thoughts of Charles enjoying Erik’s bruising hold on him and this blatant exhibitionism.

Pleasure flared and sizzled under his skin with every brush of his cock - now partially free of its sock, thanks to Charles’ efforts - over Charles’ ass. He didn’t know how much longer he could contain himself. And he wouldn’t put it past Charles to be able to somehow manipulate his glute muscles into pulling the sock all the way off; the man’s ass was magic, after all.

And then, just when he was burning with the prospect, feeling the first licks of the impending shame at coming in front of lights, camera, and crew, Charles stopped. He didn’t quite sit, just held himself over Erik’s groin, ass lightly touching Erik’s cock but at least no longer rubbing.

“Well,” said Charles, noticeably breathless, “this is quite a bit of work, isn’t it?”

“I hate you,” grumbled Erik, grabbing a set pillow and attempting to smother himself with it. “I hate you, and the moment we are both alone, I’m going to ream your ass so hard, you won't be able to walk for a week.”

“Cut! I think we have everything we need.” Bryan called out, but he was smiling. “You guys know the boom is picking up everything you’re saying, right?”

“Oh fuck me,” Erik said with a mortified sigh, but it was hard to stay embarrassed when an incredibly amused Charles was doubled over with laughter, hands resting on Erik’s chest to support himself, and Erik couldn’t help gradually smiling.

After all, he had just survived filming an actual sex scene with Charles Xavier.

* * * * *

“You two old farts need to hurry up!” Raven called from up ahead, hitting the button for the elevator as she waited for them. Charles laughed, holding Erik tighter as they quickened their pace. They were on the tail end of their stay in Paris, and Charles could not help but agree that it truly was a city for lovers. He felt closer to Erik than ever before, the two of them growing more entwined with each passing second, and every day brought with it a new opportunity to fall in love all over again. Charles tiptoed as he brushed his lips against the back of Erik’s ear while they waited for the elevator, Erik smiling softly as he kissed his hairline.

They entered the elevator when it arrived and Raven hit the floor for the offices of French GQ, the doors opening to the mild chaos of the magazine’s bullpen when they reached the floor. However, everything seemed to grind to a halt as he and Erik stepped out, the staff looking up from their monitors as they walked by. Charles offered them a polite wave, his other hand grasping Erik’s as Raven led them to the meeting room.

Bonjour! We’re so glad the both of you agreed to come,” one of the GQ staff greeted as he and Erik sat down on the leather sofa, her French accent slightly thicker than Remy’s but still easily understandable.

Bonjour!” Charles replied, continuing as one of the lines Erik had recently taught him popped into his head, “J'ai eu les jambes en l'air toute la journée.

The entire staff burst out laughing at that and did not stop until most of them had gone red in the face. Charles stared at them wide-eyed, a feeling of dread creeping up his spine. “What? What did I say?” he asked hesitantly.

The interviewer he had been addressing recovered enough to reply, wheezing a little as she answered, “You said that you’ve had your legs up in the air all day.”

Erik! You told me it meant ‘you look stunning today’.” Charles groaned as he buried his now scarlet face in his hands. “I am so, so sorry.”

“I didn’t think you were going to use it in an interview,” Erik answered, fighting back his laughter as he rubbed Charles’ thigh.

“Oh god, what other inappropriate lines have I been spouting all this time?” Charles asked, raising his hand when Erik tried to speak, “No, wait, please don’t answer that.”

Erik grinned brightly as he dropped a kiss in Charles’ hair and Charles sighed, leaning back and resting an arm behind Erik across the top of the sofa, “Shall we begin?”

* * * * *

Remy had worked in a lot of jobs before, but so far, being a personal assistant to such a big celebrity was a whole new bag of tricks. It was a good thing that he was always able to think on his feet, because Erik was constantly throwing new challenges at him. But Remy had figured out right from the start that the person he needed to work on was not Erik, but Charles, and it was a gamble that had paid off handsomely. Charles adored him, and as a result, Erik seemed less likely to stuff him into a suitcase and send him back to Toulouse.

Still, it was a huge surprise when Erik came into the green room one day, holding a stack of papers and a leather planner, looking for someone. “There you are,” he said, gruffly handing the startled Remy the papers. “I need you to fill these in for your work visa application.”

“Work visa?” Remy’s eyebrows jumped up. He had already been keeping an eye out for more gigs after this Paris assignment. “What work visa?”

Erik gave him a withering look. “You need a work visa to be employed in the U.S., you pretty-boy moron.”

“The U.S.?” Remy echoed, blinking down at the papers. Now Erik was handing over a leather-bound planner to him, and Remy found himself frowning down at Erik's packed schedule for the next few weeks.

"I just need you to make sure my appointments don't clash," Erik reminded him, as Remy's frown deepened. "Also, always check with me if the appointments are not vetted first by Emma."

"Oui," Remy said a little doubtfully. "But I think it would be easier if you had a 'Yes' list and a 'No' list."

Despite himself, Erik seemed intrigued. "What's that?"

"Put a few people on your 'Yes' list so I know they always get access," Remy said. "And everyone else on your 'No' list so I don't waste your time."

"Fair enough." Erik didn’t take long to think about it. "These people will always be on my 'Yes' list: Charles, my parents, Emma. That's it."

Remy arched an eyebrow at him. "I see Charles gets 100% access to everything." Now he was grinning wolfishly at Erik. "Nicely done, mon ami."

"Uh, all right." Erik’s face was now a little flushed, but he was also smiling as though he had just won the biggest, best, most important lottery in the world. "In case of medical stuff, you can call him as well."

"He's your emergency contact?" Remy asked, fishing a pen out of the coat of his leather jacket.

"Yes, and I am his. If anything happens to me, he's the one you should go to," Erik said. "Even if you need to make life or death decisions."

Remy whistled. "Très serious. I like it." He flashed Erik a sunny grin before writing down the information in his planner.

“Yes, this is a lifelong thing so nothing changes,” Erik said very patiently, as though he were explaining this to a complete idiot. “If there are any questions, I’ll be in my trailer.”

Erik was already halfway to the door when a light went on in Remy’s head, and he yelled out, “Wait, so I’m hired?”

“Don’t make me regret it!” Erik shouted back before he left, leaving a triumphant Remy to pump his fist in the air.

* * * * *


Notes:
1. The title of this chapter is from the French movie of the same name.
2. Charles’ Louis Vuitton condoms are kind of a fandom meme.
3. The security guards were probably singing ‘Louie Louie’ like this.
4. In 'Inception', Cobb told Ariadne about dream-sharing at a cafe in Paris.
5. GPOY for Remy getting Erik ready for date night.
6. The beautiful Sacré-Cœur Basilica and dinner at La Mascotte.
7. Beaujolais Nouveau is a festive red wine that goes on sale in Paris on the third Thursday of November.
8. Charles and Erik’s walking route after dinner, complete with a map and pictures.
9. Oh look, Charles got Gnomeo after all.
10. The lines Charles used during his courtesan role-play are quotes from ‘Moulin Rouge!’.
11. Hotel Du Moulin is a two-star hotel close to the Moulin Rouge.
12. Michael Fassbender on simulating sex.

Chapter Text

It had been a long night, and Erik was tired of looking at documents. In front of him, there was yet another stack of unread folders, all filled with info that may - or may not - have devious links to their case. Beside him, Charles was resting his head on the table, having claimed that he wanted to 'rest his eyes' for only a few minutes. That had been half an hour ago, and now Erik could hear soft snores emanating from Charles' direction. Chuckling under his breath, Erik found himself reaching out and brushing back a lock of Charles' floppy hair. Things had been a little strange between them since they kissed, as though they were walking on eggshells around each other and the case, both waiting for the other to make the first move.

Erik continued to run his fingers through Charles' hair, stopping when he felt Charles stirring awake. "Oh, sorry," Charles murmured, cheeks turning a little pink when he realised he had fallen asleep. Charles looked around their makeshift office in the Parisian hotel room. "How long was I out?"

Erik started to withdraw his hand, but he was surprised when Charles quickly caught it, stroking the back of Erik's hand with his thumb. "Uh, not long. Half an hour, perhaps. Why don't you go and take a nap?"

Charles sighed, shaking his head and releasing Erik's hand. "No, you look wrecked as well. Let's just do this so we can get some proper sleep."

They shuffled through the documents again, and every so often, Erik couldn't help throwing Charles a lingering glance. He forced himself to focus on the case, though, and was about to dig into a new folder when Charles made a soft noise of surprise. "Michael, look at this."

Erik leaned over his partner's shoulder, frowning down at the open file. There was a grainy black and white security camera photo of a stocky man hurriedly leaving the cafe where Ariadne had been seen, squinting at something in the distance. Although it was black and white, Erik could see that the man's hair was light enough to be blonde. "James, you think this is--" Erik raised his eyebrows at Charles, who nodded grimly.

"I think this is our man."

They continued to work through the night and the morning, finding out more about their mysterious suspect and why he was interested in Ariadne. Erik remembered what the barista in the cafe had said about Ariadne and the gay rights protest at Notre Dame. He picked up one of the folders on Yusuf, a previous murder victim. Just as he had suspected, Yusuf had been arrested for selling drugs at the Stonewall Inn, situated in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood of New York City and where gay rights protests between the New York City police and rioters had occurred several months ago, not long before the murders first started. Maybe Erik was being hypersensitive due to his own recently questioned sexuality, but his finely honed detective's instincts were telling him to probe further. He held out the folder to Charles, beckoning for him to take a look. "James, do you think all of this is connected to Stonewall?"

Charles frowned down at the folder, then bit his lip. Erik tried not to stare, and Charles finally picked up the phone and made a call, speaking into the mouthpiece after a few short moments, "Oliver, can you run a background check on all the arresting officers at Stonewall?"

Oliver sounded perplexed. "All right, I hope you guys aren't wasting valuable FBI resources on this."

Charles looked grim. "Trust me, we're not."

Erik was just about done with his sixth cup of coffee when they received a call back from Oliver, who read them the information that HQ had dug up so far as he faxed over the photos.

"This is him," Charles said as he picked up one of the pages, staring into the cold eyes of the man in the photo. He was one Dominic Cobb, an NYPD officer who had been on the force for six years. Nothing extraordinary, at least until Oliver mentioned that Cobb had been issued a warning for excessive force during the Stonewall arrests.

Erik got up, moving over to Charles' side and taking the photo from him to have a better look. "Get us everything you can dig up on Cobb. Immediately."

* * * * *

Charles was sad to be leaving Paris; shooting on location often had its perks, and he had really enjoyed himself in the City of Lights with Erik. Still, he was looking forward to a sunnier climate after braving the chilly onset of winter in Paris, and filming in the Canary Islands did seem enticing in that respect. Besides, as long as Erik was with him, that was all that mattered to Charles, really.

The warm, balmy air that hit his skin the moment they got off the plane at the Tenerife airport was a welcome respite, and Erik must have seen him smiling for he squeezed Charles' hand as they walked down the tarmac. "Looking forward to getting tanned?" he asked a little teasingly with a chuckle. "Although I think you're more likely to turn lobster-red than anything else."

"Then you can help rub tanning lotion on me," Charles replied, grinning when Erik stopped laughing, licking his bottom lip instead. "Ah Erik, you seem to like that idea."

"Of course I do," Erik said as they headed inwards towards Immigrations, Remy and Darwin already in front of them with their passports. Leaning in, Erik whispered in Charles' ear, "As though I'd ever turn down a chance to get my hands on your body."

Charles bit his lip, mentally calculating how long it would be until they were able to check into their hotel room. "Good, because I never want you to," he said to Erik, who was grinning from ear to ear as he kissed Charles slowly.

"Hey guys, don't get us thrown out of the country before we've even gone through Customs, okay?" Darwin said from in front of them, while Remy smirked beside him. "I'd like to actually get through Immigrations first."

"Then hurry up," Erik said with a roll of his eyes. "Or I'm making out with Charles here whether you like it or not."

"He means it," Remy warned Darwin, who sighed dramatically. "I had a front row seat when they were sucking face at the Departure hall in CDG. It was like live porno."

"C'mon everyone, stop lollygagging," Alex called out from where he was already queuing at the Immigrations counter. Charles happily got in line, resting against Erik's shoulder as they stood together, hands linked under Erik's leather jacket.

It was a good two hours before the film crew and cast were finally checking into Hotel Botanico, which was one of the few five-star hotels in Puerto de la Cruz. Charles could see the pristine blue waters from the lobby and couldn't wait to spend their day off at the beach. From the way Erik was staring longingly at the view, he was probably thinking of the same thing.

Charles rubbed his back soothingly. "We'll get a chance to hit the beach with the tanning lotion after we finish the key scenes. It won't be long now."

"Mmm?" Erik seemed distracted as he smiled down at Charles. "Sorry, you lost me at 'lotion'."

"Ahem," Raven said very loudly as she strolled past them, collecting her room key card from one of the PAs. "Don't mind me, I'm just trying not to barf."

"Oh, I've learned to tune them out," Darwin said cheerfully, from where he was standing behind Charles. "I found that it is necessary for my sanity."

"That's it, you're all fired," Erik declared to much laughter, as he started tugging Charles towards the hotel elevators.

* * * * *

The beach was quiet at night, the cool wind rippling against Charles' T-shirt. It had been a while since he had been able to wear such light clothing, and he was going to take every opportunity he could before they had to return to colder weather. He smiled at a hotel employee who was picking up stray towels off the beach chairs, watching her for a while before he wandered down to the water's edge. The full moon hung suspended in the inky black sky, luminous and golden. Charles had heard Darwin mention something about a lunar eclipse, but he didn't know if they would be able to see it from this part of the world.

His phone chimed with a text, interrupting his thoughts, and Charles fished it out. As always, a smile spread slowly on his face when he saw it was Erik. 'Done talking to Alex and Sean about my new lines, where are you?'

Charles texted back, 'Taking a walk along the beach in front of the hotel, come join me.'

He was already settled on the sand, sitting cross-legged and watching the waves when he felt someone press a kiss to his hair. "Sorry," Erik said as he plopped down onto the sand beside Charles. He looked excruciatingly good in a black polo tee, the fitted sleeves showing off the definition of his biceps. The wind was making his ungelled hair tumble down, and Charles couldn't resist reaching out and brushing it back. In turn, Erik caught Charles' hand and pressed it to his cheek, his eyes so clear and luminous. "I thought it would have been boring for you to sit in on that script meeting, since it didn't involve James."

Charles simply smiled, leaning in to give Erik a slow kiss. "You know I wouldn't have minded."

They continued trading languid, lazy kisses for a while, surrounded by peaceful silence interrupted only by the crashing of the waves. Charles was beginning to find himself tempted to get on his knees and straddle Erik when he felt Erik pulling away, and the serious expression on his face brought Charles' lascivious thoughts to a screeching halt. "Charles, you're coming home with me to Munich, right?"

"Of course." Charles stroked Erik's cheek, feeling the slight bristle of stubble. "I want nothing more than to meet your parents."

Erik's ensuing smile was brilliant. "Good. My mother can't wait either. I have to warn you, though, she may be a bit of a handful with her incessant questions."

Charles brushed a thumb over Erik's plush bottom lip. "Was she like that when you brought other people home?" He couldn't help the strong flare of jealousy in his gut at the thought of Erik with other partners, and he hoped Erik couldn't sense this.

However, Erik shook his head. "I've never brought anyone home before," he said seriously, cupping the back of Charles' neck. "I've never wanted to. You're the first."

Charles couldn't describe the radiant joy warming him all over, making him beam at Erik. "You're such a charmer, Erik."

Now Erik was smiling too. "Yes, I'm doing all this to get you into bed, then I'm dumping you once I've taken your virtue."

"Idiot," Charles huffed out in laughter, while Erik kissed him on the nose. "Then why are you still here? You must have 'taken my virtue' 20,000 times already."

Erik was chuckling now as well. "God, I don't know. Maybe somewhere along the way, I unexpectedly fell in love with you."

"Good thing you fell into my trap, then," Charles said, deadpan, making Erik laugh even harder. Their hands found each other naturally, and Erik bent down to place a very soft kiss on the back of Charles' hand, the touch of his warm lips sending tingles all along his skin.

"I tried to remember the exact moment I really fell for you." Erik's voice was full of wonder as he gazed at the sea. "Then I realised it was a series of moments. Just you, being yourself, really. Being kind, generous, more concerned with the welfare of others than your own..." Erik trailed off, pink spots of colour high on his cheeks, and Charles realised he was embarrassed.

"Hey, come on, love." Charles tipped Erik's chin up, palming the side of his face. "That was very touching. Do go on."

Erik let out a sigh. "I don't know how to express it in words. It's crazy, right? As an actor, we're supposed to know how to portray every other emotion for the screen. But if you ask me here, right now, how I feel about you, it's like asking me to condense the entire universe in a box."

"Oh, Erik." Charles took Erik into his arms, just holding tightly onto him while the waves crashed in the background, overpowering the constant singing of the crickets. They stayed silent for a long time, just enjoying the moment and being together without the crew and their staff constantly around them in the background. At this moment, Charles felt like he and Erik were the only two people left on earth. "You must never doubt how much I love you, Erik," Charles finally said, feeling Erik nod against him.

"Come here," Erik's voice was low and rough as he pulled Charles onto his lap, his arms tightly wrapped around him. They stayed like this for a while, but it wasn't long before Charles felt Erik trailing kisses down the curve of his neck, his lips coming to settle on the crook where his neck met his shoulder.

"Mmm we're in public, Erik," Charles murmured, tilting his head to give Erik access anyway.

"Since when has that ever bothered you?" Erik sounded amused, before his hot mouth travelled down Charles' shoulder, tugging the rounded collar of his T-shirt down. Charles moaned very softly at the feel of Erik's teeth scraping gently against his skin. "If I remember correctly, we almost made love right up against a lamp post in the streets of Paris--"

"Oh please, you liked it," Charles retorted with a breathless laugh, surrendering more of himself to Erik's kisses.

"And not only that, you almost made me come for real during a supposed fake sex scene in front of God and half the crew," Erik said, sounding so indignant that it made Charles laugh even more. "Trust me, Mr. Xavier, you are very much an exhibitionist."

Charles turned in Erik's lap, getting onto his knees so that he could comfortably straddle Erik, their chests pressed together. Charles could feel the rabbit-quick patter of Erik's heartbeat against his ribs, and he could see the intense love in his eyes. Charles smiled, pushing a thumb against the plush swell of Erik's bottom lip. "If I am an exhibitionist, it's only because you bring it out in me," he said with a smile, slipping his thumb into the moist warmth of Erik's mouth, watching as Erik started sucking on it. "You want everyone to see you taking me, claiming me, marking me as yours, don't you?"

Erik moaned around his digit, eyes heated and liquid as they met Charles' gaze. He released Charles' thumb, edging closer so their lips were only a brush away from a kiss. "I won't deny there's a part of me that likes that," Erik admitted, those beautiful lips quirked up in a knowing smile. "But can you blame me? You're beautiful. Who wouldn't want to make you theirs and claim you for themselves?"

"Ah, but I am not up for claiming," Charles grinned at Erik, stroking back his windblown hair. "I've already given my heart to someone."

"Tell me who he is, and I'll break his legs," Erik said with mock determination, and they exchanged a few sweet kisses before Charles pulled away with a grin.

"Well, now I want to see how you're going to break your own legs, then."

"Cheeky." Erik gave him one last kiss before they both got up, smiling like idiots as they hurried back to their hotel room, and as they made their way hand in hand along the sand, Charles felt certain that he would love Erik until the last wave kissed the shore.

* * * * *

Dominic Cobb was a hard man to pin down. Being ex-NYPD, he knew how to cover his tracks, and Oliver admitted that HQ had a very tough time tracking him down. Thankfully, an informant had tipped them off that Cobb would be back in his home residence in Queens that week. Erik and Charles found themselves on the very next plane out of France, and Erik couldn't sleep, distracted by Charles' nearness in the adjacent seat.

They got to work the moment the plane landed, hurrying towards the hotel they were being put up in on 102nd Street, near where Cobb lived in Rockaway Beach. Oliver had already sent two vans over for surveillance to monitor his house, and they only had to wait a few days until Cobb slipped up and mentioned Ariadne's name over the phone to someone. "Now that's not a common name," Charles said with a knowing smile as they listened to the tap, and Erik grinned back, relieved to finally have a breakthrough in the case.

The trouble was, how were they going to bring Cobb in for questioning without revealing that they had been tapping his phone?

"Cobb has a wife, where is she?" Charles asked after several days of surveillance. They promptly ran a background check on her and made the discovery that Dominic's wife, Mal, once worked for Transatlantic Airlines as a leading flight stewardess. "You know what that means, right?" Charles said, quirking an eyebrow at Erik.

"No, what?"

"The one who serves First Class is always the leading flight stewardess," Charles explained, and Erik nodded with an 'ahhh'.

"You must be very well-acquainted with stewardesses, James," Erik said dryly, which only earned him a mischievous, knowing grin from Charles, who seemed blissfully ignorant of the pang of jealousy in Erik's chest.

They requested for the logs from all the airlines whose flights had served as scenes of the crime, and it was becoming increasingly clear as the photos came in that Mal had been on each of those flights under a string of aliases.

"Well, we have intel that Cobb is going to meet someone at the Drake Hotel near Rockaway Beach this afternoon," Charles said. "I think we have enough circumstantial evidence to bring him in for questioning."

"Sounds good." Erik didn't know why he had a foreboding sense of uneasiness about this, but this was their only opportunity to apprehend Cobb before he struck again.

* * * * *

They bumped into Hank on their way down to breakfast, and Erik was amused to see that Hank was wearing a Spongebob T-shirt with cargo pants. He wondered if it had anything to do with yesterday's shoot, where Raven had been showing off her new Spongebob wallpaper for her iPhone. Judging from the slight, quirky twist of Charles' smile, he was probably thinking the same thing as Erik.

"You guys should try the French crêpes," Hank said, pointing to the poolside cafe. "Much nicer than whatever the hotel restaurant is serving."

"Sure, we'll try it out," Erik said, about to move on when Charles stopped him, turning to look at Hank.

"You know, Hank, their breakfast may not be good but their dinner courses are amazing," Charles said, shooting Erik a knowing look. "We had tapas for dinner yesterday, and it was wonderful. The ambiance was quite magical too, a Spanish guitarist goes from table to table to serenade you."

Hank looked a little mystified, but he just nodded. "Oh okay, then I'll be sure to try it out."

Charles folded his arms. "Actually, why don't you join Erik and I for dinner tonight? Then you'll see what I mean for yourself?"

Ah. Now Erik understood what Charles was trying to do. "Yeah Hank, you should come, we barely talk outside of work," Erik said, feeling warmed by the grateful smile Charles shot him.

Hank looked pleased at that. "Uh okay, in that case, I'd love to."

"Splendid!" Charles clasped his hands together in barely-disguised glee. "Let me ask Raven if she is free to join us, too."

"Uh, Raven?" Now Hank was turning three shades of red, nervously pushing up his glasses. "She, um, you want to ask her?"

"Of course." Charles was the perfect picture of innocence, but of course Erik knew better. The more innocence Charles projected, the more he was up to no good. "The four of us will have a lovely time, I bet."

"We'll see you later, Hank," Erik said, giving the blushing Hank a little salute as they headed outside to the cafe. Once they were out of earshot, Erik finally gave in to the laughter bubbling up inside him. "Charles, you are so incredibly devious."

Charles shot him the most angelic smile. "I'm just trying to bring them together since they're both being daft."

Erik squeezed his hand. "Charles Xavier, matchmaker extraordinaire." He couldn't resist bending down and kissing those tempting red lips, thinking that Charles was extraordinary in so many other ways as well.

Squeezing his hand back, Charles' smile was now quirked up in amusement. "I'm sure you would have wanted someone like me to meddle and bring us together earlier."

As usual, Charles was right. Then again, Erik would have agreed with him about anything, even if he had declared that the moon was made of cheese, or that tea was better than coffee. "I'm just happy that we found each other in the first place."

Charles chuckled, linking his arm in Erik's as they walked into the restaurant. "Never stop being a sap, darling."

* * * * *

Business at the Drake Hotel was in full swing, so when Dominic Cobb walked in, Charles almost missed him. It was only when Erik nudged him sharply that he sat up, following Erik's gaze. Cobb sat in the lobby for a while, frowning as he flipped through his planner, and he only looked up when a man in a sharp, elegant suit sat down opposite him. The two of them talked at length, and Charles saw the man in the suit pass Cobb a stack of papers, as well as a bottle of suspicious liquid.

"That's our cue, let's go," Erik said as he rose to his feet, Charles quickly following him. They walked up to Cobb and the man in the suit, who were eyeing their approach warily. Erik whipped out his FBI badge, saying, "Dominic Cobb? I'm Agent Michael Fassbender from the FBI, we would like to ask you a few questions--"

"Run!" Cobb shouted at the man in the suit, who took off towards the door, and Charles just missed grabbing him by mere inches. Cobb had pulled out a gun, pointing it straight at Erik. "Not so smart now, are you?"

Erik was calmly holding up his hands, and Charles took this opportunity to kick Cobb in the knee - a typical FBI trainee manoeuvre, but it worked as Cobb dropped his gun with a howl. Erik was on Cobb in a flash, wrestling him to the ground, but there was a muffled kick, and as Erik rolled away in pain, Cobb jumped to his feet, grabbing his fallen gun and shooting at them. They immediately ducked, but Charles heard screams and to his horror, he saw a few hotel guests behind them crumpling to the ground in pain, bleeding heavily. "Call an ambulance!" he shouted at a terrified clerk nearby who ran to the phone. Meanwhile, Cobb was already sprinting out of the hotel lobby, leaving behind screaming bystanders.

"Michael!" Charles helped him up, and they sprinted after Cobb who had pushed through the revolving door and was already out on the street. Cobb knew the streets better than them, dodging into hidden alleys that served as shortcuts, and Charles started to lag behind Erik, who was the faster runner.

They made a turn down a back alley behind a row of restaurants, and Charles could hear Erik shouting at Cobb to freeze or he would shoot. Cobb ran past a row of gawking chefs on their smoke break, and before Erik or Charles could fire, Cobb whipped out a second gun and started firing at them. They both ducked immediately, and Cobb quickly scaled up the metal fence, swinging himself over and running for his life.

"Fuck!" Erik shouted, and before Charles could react, Erik was rugbytackling him to the ground behind a cluster of garbage cans, shielding Charles with his body.

"Michael, what are you--" Charles' eyes went wide as a loud 'BOOM!' rang out followed by a cry of pain from Erik as glass from the shattered windows rained down on them. "Michael!"

Erik grimaced as he clutched his right arm. "Forget about me, go after him," he yelled, coughing as the smoke enveloped them temporarily. Charles helped him up, and he could see the garbage cans were now on fire. Thankfully, the Chinese chefs were all right, having taken cover in an alcove, and one of them was now running over to help Erik. "What the bloody hell happened?" Charles asked.

"Cobb shot at a couple of LPG cylinders behind the restaurant," Erik said, wincing as the cook tried to bring him into the restaurant. "Quick, go after Cobb, we're losing him. I'll be fine."

It was a split-second decision - Erik was in pain, but the Chinese cook was helping him, and Cobb already had a good few minutes' head start on them. Charles gave Erik's hand the quickest of squeezes before sprinting in the direction Cobb had gone, which was towards the beach, unable to shake the thought of how Erik had selflessly thrown himself on top of Charles to shield him from the blast, and if he hadn't already fallen for the man before this, he surely would have now.

* * * * *

Everyone was huddled around the playback screen in front of Bryan, watching the footage of the explosion. "Fantastic!" Bryan said, pleased as he squinted at the screen, while Erik stood behind him, gulping down a bottle of water, his free arm (the one not covered with fake blood and make-up) slung around Charles' shoulder. Erik liked shooting action sequences; they were familiar territory for him, and they were infinitely easier than sex scenes, especially with a devious co-star who also happened to be his real-life boyfriend and had absolutely no qualms about making him almost come - for real - on camera. He shot Charles an affectionate glance, and the smile he got in return made something in his chest skitter.

They replayed the scene again from a different angle, and now Alex was whooping in excitement as he watched the LPG cylinders explode in slow motion. "Now that's what I'm talking about!" he shouted, exchanging a high five with Sean.

"Ugh, men." Raven was scrunching up her nose in distaste. "You and your guns and explosions."

"That's the best part of action movies, my dear," Shaw said patiently beside her, musing over the scene. "It's what draws audiences to the box office."

Raven shrugged. "All I know is that I liked the scene where Michael threw himself on top of James to shield him," she said with a contented sigh, as Alex made a disgusted face.

"I agree, I really like that part as well," Charles chimed in, squeezing Erik's hand. "Whose idea was it, Alex? Yours or Sean's?"

"You won't catch me writing anything wussy like that," Alex said with a snort. "Totally Sean's idea."

Sean rolled his eyes, but winked at Charles and Erik. "You're welcome," he mouthed to both of them, and Erik grinned at him.

Shaw clasped his hands together, rubbing them eagerly. "All right people, let's do the next shot and not waste any more precious daylight, shall we?"

"Roger," Bryan said automatically. "Places, people!"

* * * * *

Charles spotted Cobb a few streets down, running at full tilt towards the beach. He could see that Cobb was starting to lag behind, his face red and breathless, and he thanked all the deities he could think of that he consistently kept up with his morning jogging habit. Charles dodged past two surfers bearing their boards like leaf-cutter ants, cursing to himself when he saw Cobb heading towards one of the boats.

"Bloody hell," Charles muttered as he stared in dismay. Cobb somehow managed to summon an extra burst of energy as he fled towards the boat, and Charles knew it was only a matter of seconds before they lost Cobb. He unholstered his glock and pulled it out, speeding down the pier and ignoring the screaming beach-goers who were panicking at the sight of a gun and scattering out of his way. He raised his gun, taking aim squarely at Cobb's shoulders.

Cobb tossed a glance over his shoulder, seeing Charles still on the pier, and his squint turned into a clever sneer. Charles knew that look, had seen it on the handful of criminals who had so far outsmarted him, and his face felt hot with anger. If only Erik were here, but he was probably still receiving first aid back at the Chinese restaurant

"Stop, or I will open fire!" he shouted, stopping by a bench on the pier and taking aim, but Cobb had already toppled himself onto the boat, and Charles let out a wordless noise of frustration. He had to get further down the pier.

The Rockaway marina was shaped like a comb, so visitors and anglers could turn in into smaller piers. Charles turned left into the furthest small pier and ran out to try and get closer to where Cobb's boat was going to escape, and already he could see Cobb pointing his gun at the frightened boatman, shouting, "Let's go, let's go!"

"Fuck," Charles said, biting his lip and running right up to the end of the marina. The boat's engine started sputtering to life, and Charles kept his aim fixed on his blonde target.

"STOP! FBI!" Charles squinted hard, then fired off a clean shot at Cobb's shoulder. Unfortunately the boat veered off to the left at a crucial second, the bullet missing Dom by mere inches. Dom immediately fired back, and Charles dodged down behind a bench. Unfortunately, out of pure vindictiveness, Cobb started shooting at other people on the pier, and Charles cursed when he saw a middle-aged woman clutching her leg, which was bleeding as she screamed.

"Fucking bugger arse--" Charles immediately stood up and took aim again for a second shot, but the boat was now blocked by a much bigger yacht, and Charles was torn between jumping into the water and going back to the restaurant to see if Erik was okay.

Charles gave up after a few seconds. Even if he jumped in, there was no way he could out-swim a motorboat. He ran over to where the injured woman was groaning, reminding her to stay calm and asking her husband to call an ambulance. After this, he was determined to go back to the Chinese restaurant to check on Erik and, if he could walk, they needed to call Oliver immediately.

* * * * *

Charles climbed down the flight of wooden stairs and onto the sand, making his way over to where Erik, Bryan and Shaw were gathered around the cameras watching the playback of the footage they had just captured. This shoot they were doing on the Canary Islands was his first time being involved in filming big budget action sequences, and he had to admit that his previous experience shooting grand romantic sprints through airports and down wedding aisles had in no way prepared him for the demands of a true fast-paced chase sequence, complete with explosions and a getaway speedboat. Everything had to be synchronised perfectly, and the number of angles they had to get for each scene to ensure that the finished product would look outstanding in the IMAX format was daunting. They had spent most of the afternoon filming the sequence where he had to chase Cobb along the pier, and his legs were starting to feel the strain from the repeated takes. Charles shook his head as he chided himself internally, making a note to join Erik at the gym more often. Despite the physical toll, finally getting to be in the thick of things and shooting an action sequence was exhilarating, and Charles was truly enjoying being involved in a production of such a grand scale.

Erik smiled as Charles neared, opening a bottle of ice-cold Fiji water and handing it to him. "Thank you, darling," Charles said as he took it gratefully, downing half of it in one go before placing the bottle against the side of his face, glad that he was finally out of the scorching sun and under the tents the crew had erected along the beach.

"How does it look? I managed to hit all my marks, I believe?" Charles enquired as he leaned against Erik to catch his breath, relaxing as Erik placed a hand on his shoulder and began kneading it.

"Yes, excellent job. This will fit nicely with the crane shots we did earlier." Bryan replied, looking very pleased. "I think we have enough footage to work with, let's call it a wrap."

Charles perked up at that, relieved to finally get out of the stifling suit he was wearing, his body still not acclimatised to the humidity on the Canary Islands. Shaw stepped forward then, frowning as he turned the screen towards himself. "The shot is too calm, it makes James look like he still has everything under control. Cobb just blew up a damn building, there's not enough panic and mayhem." Shaw paused, looking up to scrutinize Charles, his hard gaze making Charles feel a little uncomfortable, "We should do one more shot with a handheld close-up of Charles, exacerbate the jerkiness of the footage to up the urgency of the scene."

Bryan nodded as he took the screen from Shaw to review the footage. "You have a point, we could do that."

"We should at least let Charles take a break first, he's been running around all day." Erik insisted, raising his voice a little as he addressed Shaw.

Charles immediately shook his head. "No, it's fine. I would much rather we just did this now. Time is precious and we should film this before the light changes." Charles tilted up at Erik, running a hand soothingly across Erik's stomach as he addressed him, "Besides, the sooner we're done here, the sooner we get to go back to the hotel and get ready for dinner."

Erik seemed appeased at that and Charles smiled, resting his head softly on Erik's shoulder. If Erik had his way, it would be his stunt double, Wesley Gibson, who would be doing all of these scenes. Charles would hear none of it, of course. He took great pride in doing all of his own stunts, and had explicitly instructed Wesley to just stay in the hotel lobby and have some beers on him. Moreover, this was his first action-thriller, and he would be lying if he said he didn't feel like he had something to prove.

"Thanks, Charles. This shot will be done before you know it, and then you and Erik can go off on your lovely little date." Bryan winked before waving Hank over to give him instructions, "Hank, I'd like you to manage the Steadicam. Just dismount it from the dolly when you get on the pier," Bryan began, pointing at the wheeled contraption before continuing, "You'll be running beside Charles, let him stay on the outside of the turn so we get a sweeping shot of the harbour when the camera pans. There's a red indicator light just before the turn, you have to speed up once it goes on for the final stretch of the chase."

"Okay, understood." Hank nodded as he adjusted his glasses, listening intently.

Erik pulled Charles aside while Bryan carried on briefing Hank, patting Charles' back as he said, "I must say I'm impressed, I was worried you wouldn't be able to handle all this extended sprinting and climbing."

"Well, my stamina's improved, thanks to someone," Charles replied as he flashed Erik a coy grin. Charles placed both hands on the juts of Erik's hipbones, his smile now teasing, "Oh but I would be very, very grateful if that someone could also give me a leg massage tonight, so I have the energy for other activities."

"I'm sure he'll see what he can do," Erik answered, tucking the stray locks of Charles' hair behind his ear when the wind blew them out of place.

The sounds of the crew setting up for the shoot caught Charles' attention and he took Erik's hand in his, gesturing towards the pier, "Walk with me?"

"Of course," Erik nodded, tugging Charles along as they made their way across the sand.

Charles squinted, now that they were back under the tropical sun, using his hand to shield his eyes as he looked up at Erik. "I do hope they serve Galician-style octopus at the tapas place tonight, they're Raven's favourite."

"I'm sure if you told Hank that, he'd dive into the sea and catch one for her if they said they didn't have it." Erik joked, and Charles nudged him with his shoulder as they both laughed.

"In a fight between Hank and an octopus, I think I'd place my money on the octopus. When you're talking Man versus Beast, the odds are usually in the beast's favour, you know?" Charles retorted, swirling his index finger around in the air to punctuate his statement.

Erik grinned, pretending to rummage around in his pockets. "Hang on, let me call Emma for her expert opinion before we place any bets."

Charles shoved him lightly as he chuckled, "All right, love. This is my stop." Charles climbed a couple of steps before turning around, and was momentarily struck by how beautiful Erik's light-coloured eyes looked just then, the blazing sun shrinking his pupils to the size of pinpricks, so it felt like he was drowning in Erik's pale cerulean irises with their slight tinge of green, just like the ocean around them. He bent forward and placed a kiss to Erik's forehead, whispering, "Hurry back, don't want you to end up with a sunburn."

Erik smiled fondly, brushing his lips against the back of Charles' hand, "I'll catch you on the flip side."

Charles made his way up the steps of the pier, walking over to where Hank was adjusting the Steadicam on his shoulder. He stopped beside him, patting him affectionately on his other shoulder, "Hello, Hank. Let's get this over with so we can all head out for a nice dinner. I don't know about you, but I'm famished."

"Me, too." Hank replied as he nodded, and Charles noticed that he had taken his glasses off for the chase. He looked much more confident now that he was no longer hiding behind them, and Charles had a brief flash of the Hank he'd seen at Halloween, the one with Raven on his arm. A smile crept across Charles' face as he silently swore to try his best to set the two of them up.

"Come on, I'll race you to the end of the pier, see if you can beat me. Don't hold back!" Charles announced as he got into position, earning himself a quizzical look from the young man. Before Hank could even reply, Charles heard Bryan call "ACTION" from the distance and he turned to Hank, quirking a challenging eyebrow up with a smile before he opened his mouth, "On your marks, get set, go!"

* * * * *

Erik stood at the edge of the tent, watching as Charles chatted with Hank on the pier. Charles had done an exceptional job the entire afternoon, completing each sequence in fewer takes than any of Erik's previous co-stars, even seasoned professionals like Brad Pitt and Gerard Butler. To top it off, Charles had not complained even once, no matter how many times Bryan had wanted to reshoot because of a bad camera angle or the extras had cocked up a take, simply smiling it off and heading back to his mark obligingly. But Erik could tell that the relentless demands were taking a toll on him, that enthusiastic spring in his step that Charles always had when dragging Erik from place to place all but gone just moments ago when Erik had walked him to the pier. They had a couple of hours left before their dinner reservation, and Erik was determined to make sure Charles took a nap before they had to leave, his plans involving a lot of cuddling and massages after a long hot bath.

"Action!"

He refocused his attention when he heard Bryan's voice boom from the loudhailer, Charles and Hank taking off running moments after the cue, the both of them neck and neck, hurtling across the boardwalk with Charles on the outer side. They passed the first mark and Hank sped up as they hit the turn, his long legs giving him an added advantage, and Erik had a split-second to register, no he's going too fast, before Charles slammed straight into Hank as the faster man cut into his path, Charles' arms instinctively flying up to shield his face from hitting the camera before the momentum sent him stumbling backwards and over the edge of the boardwalk.

Erik's blood ran cold, jaw slack as he witnessed Charles falling off the pier in front of his eyes, compelled to look on helplessly because he could not tear his gaze away. He only registered that he had started running when he felt the wind whipping across his skin, like he had been split right down the middle and the other half of him was still rooted to the spot, trapped in a waking nightmare where he was doomed to forever stand by and watch the one person he held most dear plummet in slow motion onto the sand.

"Charles!" Erik's voice came out strangled, barely audible over the pounding of his heartbeat in his ears, his stomach lurching when Charles continued to lie motionless on the sand. He felt like a fool for believing something so perfect could have lasted forever, every remaining dream of his crashing down with each passing second, like waves against the shore.

"CHARLES!"

* * * * *


Notes:
1. The title of this chapter is a quote from 'Titanic'.
2. There was a total lunar eclipse on the 10th of December.
3. The part where there is an explosion and Michael shields James with his body is a reference to ceiling!sex in XMFC where Erik magnetises Charles to the ceiling of the plane when it crashes.
4. James McAvoy played Wesley Gibson in ‘Wanted’.

Chapter Text

Erik.

Charles opened his eyes slowly, staring in a daze right into the blazing sun and feeling like a moth drawn to a flame. The back of his head was throbbing as though someone had taken a sledgehammer to it and wouldn’t stop pounding, and he winced when he tried to move, shots of pain searing up his back and making it difficult to breathe. Everything else seemed muted in comparison, faded away into oblivion like the endless blue of the sky before him, and Charles attempted to focus on his breathing, on the blinding ball of fire in the sky, on the grains of sand that were falling through his fingers as he tried in vain to cling on to something, anything that would take his mind off the pain that was wrecking his body.

“Charles. Oh God, Charles,” he let out a sigh of relief when he heard the dear voice that he had spent nights falling asleep to calling out to him, blinking as he let it guide him back to himself like how it would in mornings when he woke in Erik’s arms, and everything seemed to hurt just a little less knowing that Erik was only a moment away. Erik leaned over him, his face blocking out the sun, and the thought that that man right there was the centre of his universe flashed across his mind just before familiar hands were on him, one cradling the back of his head while the other rested comfortingly on his chest, just above his heart.

“…Erik, it’s okay. I’m--” Charles answered, biting back a cry when he tried to get up.

“Try not to move.” Erik said in hushed tones as he eased him back down, rubbing small soothing circles on his chest. “Where does it hurt, Liebling?”

“My back, mostly.” Charles grimaced as he spoke, his ribs hurting with the exertion, “And my head.”

Erik paled as he glanced down the length of Charles’ body, “Can you feel your legs?”

Charles froze at that, realising that he had been so focused on the pain that he hadn’t thought of the parts that weren’t hurting. He tried to move his right leg tentatively, heaving a sigh when the limb did as it was told, his left leg following suit. “Yes... yes, I can.”

Erik’s shoulders slumped forward as he wiped at his eyes with the heel of his hand, and Charles reached out to trail his fingers calmingly over the underside of the forearm that Erik was using to support his head, his own eyes feeling wet as well. Erik turned his gaze back to him, bending closer to his face as he tilted Charles' head gently from side to side.

“How bad is it?” Charles asked, biting down on his lip.

Erik nodded slightly. “I don’t see any fluids.”

“Good, that’s good...” Charles said, voice shaky before Erik pressed his lips to his forehead, staying in that position as Charles closed his eyes and placed his hands on Erik’s chest, trying to concentrate on just taking in his scent and getting his breathing back under control, feeling Erik calm slightly under his hands at the same time. Now that he was lying beneath Erik and shielded from the outside world, Charles finally allowed himself to believe that perhaps everything was going to be okay.

“Oh my god, Charles!” He could hear Raven’s panicky voice and the frantic pounding of her footsteps, and then she was by his side, her blonde hair hanging over him like a halo as she pressed a hand to his cheek. “Charles, are you all right?”

The brief morbid thought that if this was it, at least he had the two most important people in his life with him, crept up on Charles. He winced as he tried to move again, and Erik flinched as though that wince had caused him physical pain instead of Charles. “Liebling, try not to move, please,” Erik pleaded, his consonants thicker and heavier. Maybe his accent was more obvious in times of duress.

“Medic!” Raven shouted, waving more people over, and there were more running footsteps before Charles was surrounded by the medic crew in their bright red vests. They were trying to get Erik to release Charles, but Erik simply wouldn’t let go, snarling something at them in Spanish as he held on even tighter to Charles. The medics looked baffled and confused, unsure how to proceed.

“Erik, for fuck’s sake, he needs professional medical attention!” Raven shouted at him, while Bryan and Darwin appeared behind her, shocked and pale with worry. Erik shook his head stubbornly, clutching Charles even tighter to him.

“Tell them to back off,” Erik warned her, and Bryan threw his hands up in despair.

“Erik, come on--” he began, and Erik’s face crumpled in anger and worry.

“I said, back off!” he shouted at everyone else, who were exchanging looks of confusion. Charles completely understood why Erik was worried out of his mind. He would be too, if anything had happened to Erik, but he recognised that he was the only person Erik would listen to at the moment.

“Darling,” he said hoarsely, struggling to reach up and press a hand to Erik’s cheek. Erik looked back down at him, and his eyes were a little too bright. Charles managed a strained smile as he stared up at the one person he cared about more than himself. “Erik, you need to trust them, okay? I’m fine, I’ll be fine. Just let them take care of me.”

“But I--”

“Erik, calm your mind,” Charles said soothingly, brushing Erik’s cheek and wiping away a tear that was tracking its way down. “Calm down, I’ll be fine. I won’t be though, if I don’t get medical attention.”

Erik paused for a long while, and it seemed like an eternity before he finally nodded. He looked up at the crew, beckoning them over with a quick ‘come here’ gesture with his hand, and they immediately ran over, holding Charles as delicately as a priceless Ming vase while Erik handed him over, his face seemingly calm, but his eyes were wild with worry and fear. Behind him, Charles could see an anxious Remy running over, placing a calming hand on Erik’s shoulder, but Erik just shook it off stiffly.

“Okay Charles, just lie perfectly still,” the head medic said in English as she started checking his vitals, then flashed a torchlight into his eyes and peered at his pupils. She said something brief to her crew, but Charles thought he recognised the word “concussion’’.

“There’s already an ambulance on the way,” he could hear Bryan telling someone, probably Raven, but now there were more running footsteps and raised voices, and Charles struggled to crane his neck and see what was going on, despite the pain shooting up his back like sharp needles.

“You are a fucking professional!” Erik was shouting, his face red with rage and fury, and Charles could see a pale, shaking Hank standing somewhere behind Bryan. “What the fuck were you doing?”

“I was...looking at the l-l-light,” Hank stammered, and he quickly backed away when Erik advanced on him.

“What the fuck is it with you?” Erik shouted, while Remy was doing his best to hold his boss back. “Think for one fucking second, look what you’ve done to Charles!”

“I didn’t mean to--” Hank began, but he was cut off when Erik lunged at him, hands scrabbling at Hank’s shirt.

“I’m going to kick your fucking ass,” Erik snarled, while Remy was struggling desperately to hold him back, and Darwin was trying to get between Hank and Erik, and Raven was raining her fists down on Erik’s back, screaming for him to stop it. Charles could see the medics shaking their heads in disbelief.

“ERIK!” he shouted as loudly as he could, and Erik finally stopped pulling at Hank’s shirt, chest heaving with rage and exertion. Remy was clinging onto him like a desperate koala, refusing to let go lest Erik went off the deep end again. Everyone was now staring at Charles, wary and watchful, waiting to see what he would say.

“Erik, it’s not Hank’s fault, let him go,” Charles said calmly, while poor Hank hid behind a shocked Bryan. Erik’s face was still red with rage, a vein popping out in his forehead, but he finally stepped away from Hank, his hair tumbling down before he brushed it back. Remy was saying something soothing and quiet to Erik that Charles couldn’t hear, but at least Erik was now nodding stiffly.

The wail of an ambulance’s siren cut through the heavy tension, and the relief that swept through Charles was immense. Now the head medic was yelling for everyone to clear the way, but even she did not have the nerve to stop Erik when he came over and swept the sand out of Charles’ hair with shaking hands, an indescribable emotion in his eyes. Charles wondered if Erik knew just how easy it was to read him like a book just from his eyes, and he managed a tired smile for Erik.

“Stay with me?” he whispered, and Erik nodded immediately, grasping Charles’ free hand. Erik stayed steadfastly by his side all the way, climbing into the ambulance, holding his hand like a lifeline. Charles gripped it tightly, biting back the pain, and he was overwhelmed with gratitude when one of the paramedics pressed a needle to the inside of his arm, followed shortly by a wave of warmth sweeping through him, making him feel weightless, like he was floating in space. The flare of pain in his back had now faded away, and he smiled up at Erik who was cradling his face tenderly. Erik's face was the last thing Charles remembered about the ride to the hospital before everything faded to black.

* * * * *

Erik watched from the little glass window as the large, intimidating hulk of an MRI machine slowly swallowed Charles whole, his fists tightening protectively. Charles looked so pale and helpless, lying on the patient table in his hospital gown which was only a shade lighter than his skin. Erik pressed his forehead against the glass, worry and grief clutching at his chest like a claw. At this point, the doctor inside the MRI room spotted Erik and frowned, saying something to the nurse that Erik couldn’t hear. The nurse slipped out of the room, a sympathetic expression on her face as she led Erik away, sitting him on a couch in the waiting room with a hot cup of coffee.

Erik just stared at the coffee until it slowly, slowly turned cold.

His phone had been buzzing in his pocket the entire time, and he was about to reach for it and switch it off when a rather comforting idea occurred to him, and he wondered why he had not thought of it sooner. On the caller-ID, he could see 13 missed calls from Emma and a few more from Bryan and Raven, but he simply deleted those, then pressed the second button on his speed-dial. The first one was Charles’ number, of course, not that he would be able to pick up now, and the thought caused a terrible pang of ache in Erik’s chest.

The international ring tone beeped a few times, and then a beloved, familiar voice answered in German. “Erik? What a lovely surprise!”

Erik’s lower lip was trembling as he squeezed his eyes shut, feeling tears threatening to spill forward. He was not going to cry, dammit. “Mama?”

He must have sounded lost and broken, for his mother’s tone immediately switched from joyful to concerned. “Erik, what’s wrong?”

“I....” Erik pressed the heel of his other hand to his eyes, he was shaking so hard now. “Mama, Charles....”

There was a soft gasp on the other end of the phone, and Erik could hear his father’s concerned voice booming in the background, asking what happened. His mother remained calm, though. “Erik, what happened to Charles?”

“He.....” Erik forced himself to get a grip, not wanting to completely fall apart in some foreign hospital’s waiting room. “Mama, we were shooting a scene from the movie, and there was an...an accident--”

“Oh, Erik.” His mother’s voice sounded muffled, and he could imagine her hand over her mouth, eyes large with worry. “Please tell me Charles is okay.”

“He’ll be fine,” Erik managed to huff out, and there was a sigh of relief on the other end. It made him feel better, for some reason. “The doctors are now doing some scans on him, but they say he’ll be fine.”

“That’s good,” she said, her voice turning into that soft, quiet coo she used to sing him lullabies as a young boy with. “Erik, my love, you need to stay strong, for Charles.”

“I know.” Erik wiped his face, not even bothering to wonder when his cheeks had become wet. “It just hurts so much, seeing him like this, and the thought of losing him...” Here Erik trailed off, eyes shut as he cried into his hand, his mother remaining silent on the other end. His voice was hoarse and thick with tears as he whispered, “Mama, I can’t lose him, I c-c-can’t.”

Alles ist gut, Erik,” she said, her voice as serene and comforting as an old, warm blanket. “Alles ist gut.

He nodded, even though she wouldn’t be able to see it, but she was right. Everything would be okay, and there were many other worse things that could have happened to Charles. At least he was alive, and Erik was here by his side, and there was nothing that could pry him from Charles now. He forced himself to get a grip, wiping his eyes clumsily with his sleeve. “Alles ist gut,” he repeated to himself.

“Remember that the next time you feel like the world is collapsing, my love,” his mother said gently. “Do you feel better now?”

Ja.” Erik took in a long, shaky breath, then let it out. “You’re right, Charles will be fine.”

“And you’ll be there for him, and never leave his side,” she reminded him softly, more a statement than a question. She knew him well, and of course Erik would rather die than leave Charles.

“He’s stuck with me, he has no choice in that,” Erik murmured, and his mother laughed softly on the other end.

“Now I really can’t wait to meet him for myself,” she said, amused. “He must be someone really special, to have my son so captivated.”

“Oh Mama, he really is,” Erik said, smiling for the first time since Charles had fallen at the beach.

* * * * *

Charles slowly blinked, the painkillers starting to wear off. His head felt fuzzy, as though someone had stuffed it full of cotton wool, and his throat felt far too dry. He tried to say, “Erik,” but his vocal chords wouldn’t cooperate and he ended up coughing instead, which just made his head pound a little more. Still, at least the pain in his back had now faded to a dull throb, thanks to the morphine. He winced, trying to shift in bed a bit more, at least so he could reach the glass of water on the bedside table.

The door swung open, and a very rumpled, exhausted-looking Erik slouched in, carrying a book and a blanket. His eyes widened when he saw Charles was up, dropping everything and rushing to his side. “Charles!”

Charles found himself with an armful of Erik, instantly feeling comforted and much, much better than the effects of any painkiller. And then Erik was pulling away and pressing kisses all over his face, ending with a chaste, tender one on Charles’ lips. “Feeling better?” he asked, and Charles could see Erik’s eyes were reddened.

“I am, now that you’re here,” Charles whispered back, trying to kiss Erik again, and he managed a quick one before they were holding each other as much as the back pain would allow him to move. Erik felt warm, solid and safe, smelling of sweat and faded hints of aftershave.

“I was so worried,” Erik admitted, a hand stroking back Charles’ hair, the action soothing and calming. “But my mother told me that things will be all right.”

“I didn’t want to worry her,” Charles murmured against the skin below Erik’s ear, pressing a kiss to it. “You shouldn’t have worried her.”

“I know, but I was going out of my mind.” Erik pulled away to kiss him chastely on the mouth. “I hope you understand, I felt so....lost earlier.”

Charles traced the familiar straight lines of Erik’s eyebrows, the slope of his nose, the sharp planes of his cheekbones. “You’ll never lose me, I promise.”

Erik blinked, and now his eyelashes were wet. “That’s not always up to us, is it?”

Charles felt something tightening in his throat, and he knew it had nothing to do with the after-effects of the medication, and everything to do with the way Erik was looking at him, as though Charles were something very, very precious he had spent years searching for. “No, it’s not,” Charles admitted, caressing Erik’s cheek. “But I’d do everything in my power to make it back to you.”

Erik nodded, leaning into Charles’ touch for a long time. Then he carefully wrapped Charles in a gentle hug, and they held each other for what felt like forever, Charles certain that everything would be okay now that Erik was there.

* * * * *

They were relatively undisturbed until there was a quiet knock at the door. Erik was on his feet the instant the grey-haired, bespectacled doctor walked into the room with a clipboard in his hand. The man’s name-tag read ‘Dr. Abraham Erskine’.

“Mr. Xavier,” the doctor said, pausing as he glanced at Erik.

“This is my partner, Erik Lehnsherr,” Charles said without hesitation. He was addressing the doctor, but looking straight at Erik. “I’d appreciate it if you could keep him updated on my progress and provide him the same courtesy as you would if he were a member of my family.”

Dr. Erskine nodded, appearing nonplussed. Erik realised that he’d clenched his fists only when he had to make himself relax them. The doctor consulted the chart, nodding as he thumbed through the pages, “I have good news. The CT and MRI scans did not show any fractures or ruptured organs, and the tests we ran did not detect any signs of impaired organ function. You’re very lucky, Mr. Xavier. However, there is still a likelihood of a minor concussion. I recommend you stay overnight for observation. Just to be safe, you understand.”

Charles was very obviously reluctant. “But surely, if I have someone keeping an eye on me-” and there was, of course, no doubt about who he meant by ‘someone’.

And yet, as much as Erik hated being in the hospital, hated seeing Charles bruised and uncomfortable in such a sterile, cold environment... “Charles, if the doctor thinks it’s better,” Erik spoke up, “just for one night. I can’t - if something were to happen...” He wrung his hands as he bit down on his lip.

Charles’ gaze softened and he let out an audible sigh. “All right.”

“Excellent,” said the doctor, smiling as he nodded in approval. “I’ll have a nurse come in and set you up for the night. Barring any further complications, you should be able to check yourself out tomorrow morning.”

Erik swallowed. His eyes sought out Charles. Then, his call to his mother heavy in his mind and also picking up on the way the man delivered his consonants, he said, “Thank you, Herr Doktor.”

Nichts zu danken,” Dr. Erskine replied, acknowledging him with a nod as he left the room.

“I’m just glad that I can finally get out of this position,” Charles said once they were alone, rolling onto his side to relieve the pressure on his back.

Erik frowned as he tucked the covers around Charles, pausing before reaching for the extra blanket he had gotten and pulling it over him as well. “I don’t know what I would have done if he’d said you needed extensive surgery.”

Charles reached out and caught his hand, squeezing it gently, and it was only then that Erik realised his hands had started trembling again. “But I don’t, that’s all that matters.” Charles said quietly, his eyes soft and bright.

Erik nodded, leaning in to kiss his temple, lingering on just to remind himself that Charles was still there with him, more hurt and fragile than he ever wanted to see anyone he cared about, let alone Charles, but nevertheless still there by his side. He had always known, right from the start, that he had been playing for keeps, that Charles was everything, and the thought of how close he had come to losing it all shook him to his core.

Erik pressed the call button for the nurse to request a couple of extra pillows and she came in soon after carrying them as well as a dose of some oral painkillers, which Charles gladly took. Erik tucked a pillow between Charles’ knees and gave him the other to hug, relaxing a little now that Charles looked more comfortable.

“I would still love you, even if it had come to that,” Erik whispered later while he sat on the edge of Charles’ bed, stroking his hair.

Charles smiled, wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand before he met Erik’s gaze. “I know...”

* * * * *

It was already getting late, the light outside the hospital window darkening to the soft twilight of dusk, but Erik was showing absolutely no signs of leaving Charles’ side at all. Charles wondered what were the visiting hours at this hospital, and if there was any way they could persuade the nurses to let them bend the rules. Still, he didn’t want to force Erik to sleep in one of the uncomfortable hospital chairs. Hopefully, after lights out, Erik could climb in beside him and hold him while he slept.

Sure enough, not long after, a nurse popped her head into the room, knocking on the door. “Visiting hours are over, Mr. Lehnsherr,” she said politely. Charles squinted at her name tag, which read ‘Carlotta’. “You can come back tomorrow when Mr. Xavier will be discharged.”

Charles could see the lines of Erik’s body go all stiff and tight, reluctant to leave. Before Erik could get into an argument with the nurse, Charles said, “Please, could Erik stay here for the night? It would make me feel so much better.”

The nurse hesitated. “Well, we really shouldn’t--”

“Please, Carlotta?” Charles asked, putting on the same wide-eyed, beseeching look that never failed to make Erik cave. “We’ll be good. And quiet, I promise.”

Carlotta’s face was a little flushed, but she nodded. “All right, shall I get an attendant to bring in a spare bed?”

Erik shook his head immediately, gesturing towards the nearby chair. “No it’s all right, the chair is fine.”

Her face was clouded with doubt, and Charles could practically hear the cogs in her head turning as she thought this over. Surely it must have been obvious that Charles meant for Erik to share the bed with him, which was why he was infinitely grateful when the nurse conceded with a nod. “Will you need anything else?”

“We’re fine,” Erik assured her with a dashing smile that must have melted many women’s hearts, as well as Charles’ own. “We’ll page for someone if Charles needs anything.”

She smiled back at him. “All right, we’ll be done as soon as my colleague gives Charles his sponge bath,” she said, about to head for the door when Erik caught her by the hand.

“Um, could I do it instead?” he asked, and when the nurse turned to look at Charles, he nodded very eagerly.

“All right, I’ll pass you the basin and towel,” she said with a sigh, but she was smiling very broadly. “Just leave those in the bathroom when you are done.”

As promised, she was back in five minutes with a basin of warm water and a small face towel, as well as a larger, fluffier towel and a new set of pyjamas. “Be gentle with him,” she told Erik, who looked mildly offended as though he would even imagine treating Charles any other way. Charles chuckled to himself, waiting until she left and closed the door behind her.

“You heard her, Erik, be gentle with me,” Charles teased him as he started to ease himself up on his elbows, ignoring the dull throbbing in his lower back.

“I wouldn’t even dream of hurting you,” Erik grumbled as he carried the bath items over, setting them on the chair by the bed. After making sure the door was locked and the blinds were drawn, Erik walked over and reached behind Charles, undoing the ties of his hospital gown. Then Erik lifted it away from him, his eyes trailing down Charles’ body. A frown deepened between his eyebrows when he spotted the mottled bruises along Charles’ hip and sides. “Oh, Charles.”

“I’m fine, I really am,” Charles reassured him, recognising the latent anger brewing under Erik’s hurt tone. “If it’s bruising, it means that it’s healing, right?”

Erik’s face was tight and impassive, but he just nodded, picking up the smaller towel and dipping it into the warm water, which had the soothing fragrance of lavender. Charles let out a sigh of pleasure as Erik began wiping his chest tenderly, cleaning him with broad, soothing strokes. Charles just watched him with not quite hidden adoration, his hand gently caressing Erik’s hip.

When Erik bent over to reach behind Charles’ back, their faces were only an inch apart as Erik calmly and methodically wiped his back clean, starting with his shoulders. Charles stared at him, half-lidded, drunk on Erik’s nearness. He could see Erik was trying very hard to behave and do his job, but Charles couldn’t help leaning in just a little closer, their lips brushing together.

“Charles.” The way Erik said it, determined to remain dedicated to his task, was only undermined by how husky his voice had become, usually when he was inside Charles.

“Erik,” Charles whispered against his lips, before kissing him slowly, taking comfort in the chaste kiss. “Thank you.”

Erik pulled slowly away from the kiss, blinking and looking a little dazed. Then he shook his head firmly, continuing with the sponge bath with a little frown. “Don’t do that again, my willpower is only so strong.”

Charles chuckled as Erik wrapped him up in the larger fluffy towel, then went to work on wiping his legs. “Really Erik, it was only my back that was injured, not ‘Little Charles’.”

Erik gave him a wry look. “I can see that,” he deadpanned, casting a glance down at the most obvious evidence that ‘Little Charles’ very much enjoyed having Erik nearby and was rising up to say hello. “But I’m not going to put you in danger just because I can’t ‘keep it in my pants’, as Raven so often advises us to do.”

Charles sighed. “I suppose you’re right. Carry on, then.” He watched as Erik finished wiping his legs, ending with an unexpected - but rather glorious - foot massage. Erik smiled up at him as he kneaded the ball of Charles’ right foot, and for the first time Charles could see the tired lines around his mouth, the heavy bags under his eyes. He wondered when was the last time Erik had rested.

Once Erik was done, he slipped the new set of pyjamas on Charles, who was feeling contented and happy by now. “Go on, Erik, you should take a shower,” he reminded Erik, who cast a longing glance at the en-suite bathroom.

“Are you implying that I reek?” Erik asked with a tired grin, and Charles chuckled, brushing his foot against Erik’s thigh.

“I’m not implying it, I’m saying it. Now go on, I’ll be fine.” Charles pointed to the call button beside his bed. “I’ll call the nurse if I need anything, I promise.”

Only then did Erik nod, reluctantly, and Charles laid back in bed, listening to the sounds of the shower running. There was a brochure by the side of the bed, detailing the various world-class facilities that Hospiten Bellevue had in their care. There was also a small paragraph on the back of the brochure regarding donations to the hospital, and Charles made a mental note to ask Darwin to look into it.

His phone chimed at that moment, and Charles was surprised to see the battery was still full. Erik must have remembered to charge his phone for him. It was Raven’s smiling picture on the caller-ID, and he pressed the ‘Answer’ button. “I’m still alive, if that’s what you’re asking.”

“Ha ha, very funny.” Raven sounded relieved, though. “I came over to see you earlier, but you were getting some scans and Erik was on the phone and he looked so heartbroken, so Darwin and I went off first.”

“Oh.” Charles blinked; it must have been when Erik was talking to his mother. “Um, thank you for coming to see me, but the doctor said I should be discharged by tomorrow. So I’ll see you back at the hotel?”

“Sounds good,” Raven said. “Erik’s still there, isn’t he?”

It was more a statement than a question, but Charles wasn’t really surprised. “Yes, he’s spending the night here.”

“Good.” Raven sounded so vehement that Charles felt his eyebrows jump. “If he comes back here, I’d be tempted to yell at him. He was so mean to poor Hank. It was just an accident, after all.”

Charles just felt very, very tired. “Raven, I’ll see you tomorrow, all right?”

There was a pregnant pause, and for a moment Charles was sure that Raven was going to start an argument, but in the end she just sighed. “Take care, call me or Darwin if you need anything.”

“I will.” He hung up just as Erik emerged from the shower, wearing a new T-shirt and grey yoga trousers. “Where did you get those from?” he asked, surprised even as he was unable to stop ogling Erik.

“Remy came by earlier and passed these to me.” Erik looked down at himself. “I look okay, right?”

“More than okay,” Charles said, as Erik blushed a little. “Come to bed, Erik.”

Erik nodded, towelling his hair dry before tossing the used towel aside. Charles tried to move aside to make room for him, but Erik told him to stop. “There is more than enough room on the bed for both of us,” Erik said gently, and Charles only nodded, holding out his arms to Erik.

Charles rested his head on Erik’s shoulder as Erik laid on his back. He smelled of the same lavender soap that Charles had gotten a whiff of in the bath water earlier, and he sighed happily when Erik draped a careful arm around him, burying his nose in Charles’ hair. “How do you feel now?” he asked softly, his breath warm against Charles’ skin.

It was a good thing that Charles had to sleep on his side, which meant that he could tilt his head up to face Erik while they huddled together on the hospital bed. He slid his palm across Erik’s chest and squeezed his hand, their fingers twining together. “I always feel better when you’re around, injury or no injury,” he said truthfully.

“I meant your back,” Erik said, the smile obvious in his voice. “Let me know if you need any water, food, painkillers, trashy magazines...”

“Good thing all I need is you, then,” Charles said with a chuckle, tangling his legs with Erik’s. “I’m in so much trouble,” he admitted. “I can’t sleep without you next to me.”

Now Erik was leaning over, pressing a kiss to his forehead. His eyes had that indescribable emotion in them again when he pulled away. “I can’t either,” he breathed out, and Charles shifted slightly so they could trade a few kisses. Charles’ eyes fluttered shut as he rested his head back on Erik’s shoulder, their hands still linked, finding it easier to block out the traumatic memory of the fall with Erik there, holding him like he was the only person in the world who mattered. Erik slid the fingers of his free hand into Charles’ hair then, gently rubbing small circles into the nape of his neck with his thumb until Charles slowly succumbed to the blissful comfort of sleep.

* * * * *

Charles sat upright in his hospital bed, legs dangling off the side, already dressed in the change of clothes that Darwin had brought over earlier which Erik had just helped him into. Dr. Erskine had come in about an hour ago during his morning rounds and checked his pupils one last time before cheerfully declaring that he was fit to be discharged, seeing as Charles had not suffered any seizures or nausea during the night. Charles was feeling much better, the pain having lessened overnight to a dull throb even after downgrading from morphine to oral painkillers, and he was now mainly contending with a stiff back rather than anything else.

Erik had left the room to sort out the paperwork for his discharge, and Charles smiled to himself, grateful that he had Erik with him through the whole ordeal. He hated being in hospitals, the thought of so much pain and suffering being trapped within the sterile walls, lying in bed and wondering who else had laid there before him, consumed with regret over a life filled with mistakes and words they could never take back, or struggling to cling on because they were not yet ready to leave. Charles shook his head, clearing his thoughts. Erik had been there every step of the way, and Charles did not want to think of what it would have been like if he hadn’t, not sure if he would have even made it through still whole without him.

He looked up when the door to his room opened, flinching slightly when he saw what Erik had brought along with him. “Erik, what is that for?”

“To help you get into the car. What else?” Erik asked, perplexed as he looked down at the wheelchair and back up at Charles.

“I’m not getting in that. My legs are perfectly fine, I’m not an invalid. I’ll have no problem making my way out of this building on my own two feet. And the photographers that have undoubtedly camped outside will have a field day selling pictures of that pathetic sod Charles Xavier, stuck in a wheelchair,” Charles answered adamantly as he moved to stand, wanting to prove his point.

Erik was beside him in an instant, holding him down by his arms securely but with every bit of gentleness, his tone unyielding, “Dr. Erskine said that you need at least a week of complete bed rest, so you are either leaving in this wheelchair or I am carrying you out because I’ll be damned if I let you walk out of here and aggravate your back due to something as trivial as your pride.”

Charles blinked as the room filled with a stunned silence. Erik seemed to regret the words that had come out of his mouth instantly, letting go of Charles’ arms and stepping back, a pained expression on his face. “Erik,” Charles began softly, “Are we fighting? Why are we fighting?”

“I’m sorry,” Erik said immediately, sitting down on the bed next to Charles. He reached out, about to place his hand on Charles’ thigh before he paused just above his leg, unsure. Charles placed his palm on the back of Erik’s hand, bringing it down to rest on the top of his thigh before looking up at Erik. Erik squeezed his leg gently, continuing, “I’m sorry. Let’s not fight anymore.”

Charles reached over to cup Erik’s face, running his thumb over the bags under his bloodshot eyes. “Did you sleep at all last night?”

Erik shook his head and Charles leaned over to kiss his cheek, his heart breaking a little. “I’m sorry, too.” Charles took an exaggerated breath, smiling broadly as he gestured to Erik, “Come on, help me in. Let’s get this show on the road. Could we attach some bells and whistles to this, do you think? And maybe some helium balloons? To make the picture a little more colourful.”

He let out a yelp as Erik picked him cleanly off the bed and dumped him unceremoniously in the chair. Erik shook his head, retorting, “You know I’d smash their cameras before they even got a shot.”

Charles laughed, trying futilely to get back at Erik before he retreated behind him, “Where’s the fun in that? And you’ll just give poor Remy a heart attack.”

“Good, he deserves one after all the uplifting inspirational crap he’s been texting me non-stop.” Erik answered without any heat.

“Really? Let me see.” Charles continued chuckling as he dug into Erik’s overnight bag for his phone, pausing when Erik began wheeling him out of the room. “Oh you should try levitating me with the chair. Now that would really give them something to talk about.”

* * * * *

* * * * *

The hotel was more than accommodating when they learned that Charles would be recuperating in the suite he shared with Erik, providing them with a direct number to their own personal concierge who would be on call 24 hours a day. The hotel was also very helpful in corresponding with the hospital, and Erik was relieved that he could leave all the small details and do what he did best: taking care of Charles.

He made sure that Charles had his favourite English breakfast, and Remy did a fantastic job in hunting down an entire stack of DVDs for Charles to watch and pass the time (it was no coincidence that the only movies Charles was interested in watching were the ones Erik had starred in, and Remy - the sly idiot - seemed to have foreseen that as well.) Erik also spent the time reading to Charles, and when Charles seemed physically uncomfortable and restless, Erik gave him long, soothing massages, his hands running all over that familiar pale, freckled skin, occasionally stopping to bend down and press a kiss to it. These impromptu massages always ended with Charles holding his arms out to Erik for a hug, and Erik would happily crawl into bed with him, both of them just holding each other and listening to the drone of the TV in the background.

“I think sometimes,” Charles told him sleepily that afternoon, “about what could have happened if I had been more seriously injured. What if I couldn’t work anymore?”

This made Erik’s heart clench in his chest. “Don’t say that.”

“Erik, you know that it could have been more serious.” Charles’ eyes were so clear and blue, and Erik brushed back the hair from his forehead.

“Then I’ll quit and take care of you,” Erik said without question. “We’ll move somewhere nice and quiet, in the mountains, and I’ll cook you meals that made you wish we lived nearer to a McDonald’s.”

Charles laughed, burrowing closer to Erik. “You’d really take care of me?”

“Of course,” Erik said, leaning in close so that their noses brushed together. “What other meaning would my life have, if you weren’t in it?”

Charles smiled at him, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I think you’d make a better rom-com actor than I would.”

Erik grinned at him. “If you’re trying to flatter me into getting you roast chicken for dinner, it’s not working.”

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Erik did end up getting him roast chicken, along with Charles’ favourite scalloped potatoes, and he pretended not to hear it when Remy made a whipping sound before grinning smugly at him when they bumped into each other outside the restaurant.

Unfortunately, Erik had only been given one day off, and he had to report back to the set the very next day. He waited until Darwin and Raven turned up, armed with magazines, movies and a giant teddy bear for Charles. “Don’t worry man, we’ll take good care of him,” Darwin assured Erik, but Raven still wouldn’t meet his gaze, her lips pursed in displeasure. Erik didn’t quite care; Hank had been in the wrong, and she couldn’t be so blindly in love with the man that she didn’t realise this.

While Darwin and Raven went out to get lunch first, Erik seized the opportunity to give Charles a goodbye kiss. “All right, love, I’d better go before Bryan sends a S.W.A.T. team to look for me.”

Charles looked up at him with those electric blue eyes. “Come here, Erik.”

The kiss was meant to be chaste, but Charles tilted his head so that his mouth slanted across Erik’s, their lips parting, and Charles was tightening his fingers in Erik’s hair, making his breath hitch. Erik let Charles pull him down even more, their tongues twining together, and Erik moaned when Charles caught onto his bottom lip, sucking it into his mouth, and this resulted in a second longer, wetter kiss that had Erik hard in seconds.

Charles finally released him, eyes half-lidded, that beautiful mouth bruised and more red than ever. “You’d better go, someone has to pay the bills,” he said, biting his lip teasingly and making Erik stare.

“Uh, okay.” Erik bent down for one last peck on the lips, quickly pulling back before he changed his mind and crawled back into bed with Charles. Charles was recovering, and there was no way Erik was going to make him strain his back for his own gratification.

“All right, I’m off.” Erik brushed back the dark floppy hair. “I love you.”

“Love you, too.”

In the hired car on the way to the set, Erik felt his phone buzzing in his pocket and thought it was Charles, but it was actually Emma’s number. Sighing, he picked it up. “Hello, Emma.”

“Please tell me Charles is all right.” This was the most worried Emma had ever sounded to him. “Remy updated me on what happened, but I’d rather hear it direct from you.”

“He’ll be fine,” Erik assured her, giving her the brief rundown on what had happened at the hospital.

“All right.” Now Emma’s voice sounded a little more relaxed. “How are you coping? How many people have you already torn apart with your bare hands?”

“Very funny,” Erik said with a yawn. He hadn’t gotten much sleep, and the majority of his concentration was still back at the hotel with Charles. “I’ll call you back later during my break? I’m almost at the set.”

“Well, you’d better call me back.” Emma sounded doubtful. “And for god’s sake, don’t do anything stupid like kill anyone.”

“Bye, Emma,” Erik said loudly before hanging up, massaging his temples.

Reporting back to the set, Erik tried his best to take his mind off Charles and focus on work, but it was useless. The worry was always hovering in his thoughts, and as Erik made his way to Bryan’s tent, he could sense everyone around him eyeing him warily, Bryan included. “How is Charles, Erik?”

“He’s fine, resting back at the hotel.” Erik took a deep breath. “Let’s get this done as soon as possible?”

Bryan nodded worriedly. “All right, so since Charles is not here, we’re going to reshoot the scene where you’re getting medical treatment for your arm after the explosion...”

Erik listened as Bryan went on and on, only catching half of what he was saying, but he froze when he spotted Hank walking around the set as usual, laying down cables. “What is he doing here?” Erik said through gritted teeth.

“Who?” Puzzled, Bryan looked around the set, but his frown melted in understanding when he spotted Hank. “Erik, stay calm--”

Erik didn’t even stop to listen as he stalked over, rage blinding the rest of his senses and narrowing his vision down to Hank’s pale, frightened expression. Even though Hank was at least a good foot taller than him, Erik was clutching his shirt and pinning him against the wall, ignoring the panicked shouts of the crew around him. “Why are you still here? Going to try and kill someone else?”

Hank was shaking his head frantically, looking around for help. “I’m sorry Erik, it really was an accident, I swear!”

“Erik!” A sharp voice said to his left, which Erik immediately recognised as the condescending tones of Shaw. “Erik, let him go right now!”

You.” Erik dropped the frightened Hank, spinning around and grabbing Shaw by the lapels of his ridiculously elaborate suit. “We were done for the day, and you were the one who made Charles do it one more time.”

Shaw’s icy eyes were filled with cold fury. “You’d better let me go if you know what’s good for you. I’m not some silly cameraman you can push around.”

Erik felt someone pulling him away, even as his gaze remained fixed on Shaw. “Come on, Erik,” Remy said quietly, and Erik was nonplussed to find that Alex and Sean were tugging him away as well. He could hear Bryan announcing over his loudhailer for a break, but even that didn’t break up the crowd standing around and watching, quickly clearing the path for Erik. It wasn’t until Remy frogmarched him to his trailer that Erik finally started to calm down, taking the beer that Sean was handing him and downing it in one go.

“Relax, mon ami,” Remy said calmly as he sat beside Erik, patting his thigh. “If you get fired, I won’t have a job as well.”

Alex nodded with a chuckle. “And trust me, Sean and I don’t want to have to rewrite the whole script.”

Erik closed his eyes, massaging his temples. “I think I’m losing it.”

“You probably are,” Sean agreed, shrinking back when Erik glared at him. “But hey, I understand, I’ve been in love before.”

’Before’?” Alex snorted, making Remy chuckle as well. “I’m surprised Moira MacTaggert hasn’t slapped a restraining order on your stalker-ish ass.”

Sean rolled his eyes while the other two laughed at him, but Erik was still shaking with anger when there was a knock on the door, and Remy jumped up to open it. An apologetic Bryan stepped in, casting a wary look at Erik. “Can I come in?”

“Sure,” Erik said flatly. “So is Shaw just firing me, or is he suing me for assault and battery as well?”

Bryan shook his head. “He understands you’re on edge. And you’re not fired, but Hank is.”

Now everyone’s heads swivelled towards Erik, waiting for his reaction. He had imagined that he would feel some kind of relief at the thought of it, but the truth was that it didn’t change the fact that Charles was still injured. He didn’t know why he felt so awful, but he was too choked up to say anything, so he just nodded. Bryan sighed with relief, saying, “I’ll see you back on the set in five,” before leaving the trailer.

* * * * *

There was some old Julia Roberts movie playing on TV, but Raven was barely paying it any attention as she continued buffing Charles’ nails, which were starting to look nice and shiny. Darwin was absorbed in the movie, though, stuffing Doritos into his mouth with his feet up on the chair. Raven eyed his toes before continuing to work on Charles’ nails. “You know, Dar, you could do with a pedicure. Badly.”

Darwin made a distracted sound that could have been a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, while Charles rolled his eyes. “You know he doesn’t pay attention whenever Julia is on screen,” he told Raven, before turning to Darwin. “Hey Darwin, the Queen of England is coming here to give me her underwear.”

“That’s nice,” Darwin said distractedly, while Charles and Raven exchanged eye rolls.

“Anyway,” Raven said as she flipped her hair back over her shoulder, “Like I was saying, I think Erik totally overreacted. He completely freaked out, especially the way he yelled at poor Hank. I mean, come on, it was an accident.”

She could feel the exact moment Charles stiffened under her touch, and then he was slowly pulling his fingers out of her grasp. “Erik was just upset,” Charles said a little tightly, his face carefully blank. “He was worried about me. I would have been upset too, had our roles been reversed.”

Raven threw her hands up in dismay. “Are you kidding me? You’re defending his erratic behaviour?”

Charles was blinking very rapidly, a clear sign that he was pissed off. “Let’s talk about something else.”

Raven swallowed back her words of protest, not wanting to upset Charles when he was still recuperating. She could tell that Darwin was paying attention now, giving both of them sidelong glances, and she didn’t want this to erupt into yet another fight. She picked up the nail file once more, reclaiming Charles’ hand and starting again.

“It’s not that I don’t think you and Erik aren’t good together..” she began.

“Good,” Charles said stiffly. “Because I don’t need your approval.”

“Jesus,” Raven muttered under her breath, even as Charles raised an eyebrow at her. “I see spending time with Erik hasn’t toned down your stubbornness one bit,” she said a little louder this time, and she could see Darwin nodding in approval. So he was paying attention after all, the sneaky bastard.

She was expecting an argument with Charles, but to her surprise, he was smiling a little. “Erik does give in to me a lot,” he admitted softly.

Raven snorted, working on the nail of Charles’ ring finger. She suspected it wouldn’t be long until there was a gold band around it. “Are you kidding? Angel said he is as whipped as the family pig.”

There was a loud guffaw from Darwin at this, and even Charles was laughing now. “I suppose he is.” There was a fond, faraway look in his eyes now, and Raven wondered what it would be like to have someone - Hank - think of her that fondly. Maybe if she ever felt that deeply about someone - again, Hank - she might have understood what it was like to see them hurt or injured, and experience the fear of losing them.

“Are you all right?” Charles’ gentle voice interrupted her thoughts, and Raven nodded with a smile.

“Of course, you and me will never fall out over a guy.” Her grin grew wider. “Hos before bros, you know?”

Charles pretended to look indignant. “Are you calling me a ‘ho’?”

Raven shrugged. “A monogamous one, at least,” she said with a giggle. Charles promptly smacked her on the thigh as he shook his head, while Darwin laughed even louder at both of them.

* * * * *

Charles was reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’ when Erik came back, his arms full of paper bags of food, and Charles could smell the tantalising aroma of chicken and pasta for dinner. Still, Charles was far more delighted to see Erik above all else. Charles beamed up at him as he tossed away the book, holding out his arms for a hug and a welcome-home kiss as Erik put down the food. However, he could tell something was off: Erik wasn’t quite meeting his gaze, and the kiss he gave Charles was a little distracted. Charles grasped Erik’s biceps to hold him in place, and he realised Erik was shaking slightly. “Erik, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Erik’s face was tight and impassive as he started laying out the cartons of food on the bedside table so Charles could eat. “Are you feeling better today, Liebling?”

Charles watched him carefully, realising that Erik was hiding something from him because he didn’t want Charles to worry. “Erik, sit down here beside me and tell me what’s wrong.”

Erik hesitated.

Please.” Charles’ eyebrows were knitted together in worry, and Erik sighed loudly as he ignored the food and slumped heavily on the bed, his back resting against the headboard. Charles immediately reached for his hand, twining his fingers in Erik’s and watching him closely. “Tell me what happened.”

“Hank,” Erik said hoarsely, shutting his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose. “I got Hank fired, and I threatened Shaw.”

“What?” Charles’ eyes widened as he slowly arranged himself so he could look at Erik more closely. “Talk to me, tell me everything from the beginning.”

He listened patiently as Erik told him about the events of the day and how he had raged at Hank, then Shaw. He wasn’t exactly surprised; Erik had never really made a secret of his temper, although he had never, ever unleashed it on Charles. Now that Charles was hurt, he could understand that Erik felt lost, angry and worried. Hell, he would be too if it had been Erik in his place.

He waited until Erik was done speaking, staring into space while glumly picking at his nails. Charles wrapped an arm around him so that Erik’s head was resting on his shoulder, thinking carefully over what he wanted to say.

“Charles?” he heard Erik’s tentative voice. “You’re being unusually quiet.”

Charles sighed. There were going to be points in their relationship where he and Erik would disagree, and this was one of them. “Erik, you need to go and talk to Bryan, and get Hank rehired.”

Erik’s head whipped up so fast that Charles blinked. “What? Why?” he demanded.

This was it, Charles thought. He cleared his throat, absently brushing a thumb over the back of Erik’s hand. “Because what happened with Hank was an accident, he didn’t mean any harm.”

“He is a professional,” Erik said angrily, and Charles could see the bright fury in his eyes. “You almost got killed because he didn’t do his job properly. What if something worse had happened to you?”

“But it didn’t,” Charles reminded Erik, noting the tight set of his jaw. “And Hank did do his job properly, it was just an accident. You’ve been on dozens of other sets, you know how accidents happen.” Charles kept his tone gentle, pressing his forehead against Erik’s temple. “Erik, you know Hank wouldn’t harm a fly.”

“No.” Erik’s voice sounded choked. “He harmed you instead.”

Charles let out a deep sigh. “Erik darling, I want you to calm your mind, all right? I know you’re angry now, and upset, and tired, because you went to get dinner for me after a long day of shooting. I appreciate it, I really do. But I need you to listen to me about this. What if it was me who had accidentally caused Hank or someone else to get injured? Would you be as hard on me as you are being on Hank now?”

Erik looked away, but his hand was still gripping Charles’ tightly, so that was a good sign.

Charles tipped Erik’s face towards him, kissing him softly. “Erik, you know I’m right. What happened with Hank was an accident, yes. And all right, maybe he was careless. But we have to rise above this, Erik. We have it in us to be the better men.”

Erik’s face was stricken. “You have no idea how I felt when I saw you fall,” he whispered. “I wanted to hurt everyone else, especially those who hurt you.”

Charles nodded, stroking Erik’s stubbled cheek. “I know, my love, I know. I would feel that way too, if you were hurt in any way. But you must forgive Hank, he didn’t know any better. Look me in the eye and tell me you’re actually glad that he lost his job.”

Erik did look at Charles, but his lower lip was trembling. “Why do I feel terrible and guilty instead?”

“Because you’re a good man,” Charles said, smiling softly at him as he brushed Erik’s hair back. “I would be concerned if you started rejoicing in the misfortune of others.”

They sat in silence for a long time, Charles gently stroking Erik’s back, hearing his breathing get slower as he relaxed. “I need to go and make things right,” Erik finally said, sounding determined.

Charles kissed his temple. “Go apologise to Hank, take him out for a drink. I’ll talk to Bryan, all right?”

Erik nodded, bringing Charles’ hand to his lips and pressing a kiss to the back of it. “You really do make me want to be a better man.”

Charles grinned at him. “You already are.“ He gestured to the cooling food on the bedside table. “Eat something before you go.”

Standing up, Erik shook his head as he tidied his hair and straightened his shirt in the mirror. “I’m not hungry. I’ll go find Hank now, before it’s too late.”

“All right.” They shared a goodbye kiss, then Erik caressed Charles’ cheek before leaving. Picking up his phone, Charles called Bryan immediately. The director sounded wary on the other end of the line, but Charles assured him that he had talked to Erik, and that Hank should be rehired immediately. Bryan was relieved as he agreed, and they talked for a while before Charles heard an incoming call beeping on his phone. “Bryan, I’ve got another call.”

“Okay Charles, thanks again and take care.”

Charles saw that it was Raven’s number, and pressed the ‘Answer’ button. “Hello, my dear.”

The immediate anger and vitriol in her voice stunned him. “What the fuck, Charles? You’ve got to get a hold on Erik before he tears the set apart and gets the rest of the crew fired!”

“What?” Charles frowned, tugging at his sheets. “Wait, is this about Hank?”

Raven snorted. “Jesus, of course it is. Angel just told me what happened. I can’t believe you’re letting Erik get away with murder!”

“I’m not,” Charles said sharply. “I told him he was wrong to do that, and now he’s gone to find Hank to set things right.”

The silence on Raven’s end was almost deafening. For a moment Charles thought he had lost the connection, but Raven finally spoke, “You told him he was wrong?” She sounded suspicious and tentative.

“Of course I did,” Charles said indignantly. “Raven, I’m not Erik’s puppet or something. If he does something I don’t agree with, you’ll bet he has to bloody hear about it.”

“Oh.” Raven seemed to be mulling over something. “So is Hank rehired?”

“I’ve talked to Bryan, and he says he’ll gladly do it.” Charles heaved a long, heavy sigh. “It’s been a tough few days, I’ll grant you that.”

“Definitely.” Raven sounded glum. “Anyway, I’m sorry I yelled at you, it’s just...Erik’s been flying off the handle. A lot.”

“I know. And I apologise, on his behalf.” And really, Charles did feel a little bad, but at the same time, this entire episode had served to show him the depth of Erik’s love for him, and it left absolutely no doubt in his mind that they were both in this for the long haul.

* * * * *

Erik knocked quietly on the door, hoping he had gotten the correct room number. There was no answer, and he knocked again. He saw the peephole darkening, but still the door remained closed, so he deduced that Hank was in but still too afraid to open the door. “Hank, it’s me, I’m not going to kill you, I promise.”

A long moment passed before the lock clicked, and the door swung open slowly, Hank’s wide blue eyes peeking out. “I have pepper spray.”

“For God’s sake.” Erik ran a hand through his hair, forcing himself to calm down. “Hank, I came to apologise, okay? I lost my temper, I shouldn’t have gotten violent. It was an accident, I see that now.” Erik held out his hands as though to calm a spooked horse, keeping his voice gentle. “I’m very, very sorry, okay?”

Another long pause, then Hank cautiously swung the door open even wider. He nodded once, and was about to close the door again when Erik stopped him, making him jump back with an ‘eep’.

“No wait, I mean, I want to take you out for a beer or something,” Erik pleaded, feeling even more guilty at the way Hank was quaking in front of him. “Please, let’s just go sit down and have a talk, yeah?”

Hank eyed him like a man on the edge of a shark-infested tank. “Just to talk, right?”

Erik nodded again. “Come on, my treat.”

They found themselves at the hotel’s karaoke bar, where a drunk group of English tourists were currently ripping apart Mariah Carey’s ‘Without You’ and making the bar staff cringe. Erik was already on his third beer, while Hank was still nursing his spritzer, visibly uncomfortable. Normally the tourists would have gotten on Erik’s nerves by now, but their accents reminded him of Charles, so he ended up looking like a complete (and psychotic) sap, smiling into his beer.

“Come on, drink up,” he told Hank, who frowned before downing the rest of his glass in one gulp. “Ah, that’s much better.”

“I can’t really hold my liquor,” Hank said with a sigh, setting down his empty glass. “I don’t want to get too wasted.”

Erik snorted, raising his hand to the bartender to signal for another round. “It’s all a state of mind,” Erik reassured Hank, who looked rather dubious. “You’re only as drunk as you allow yourself to be.”

“I think there are a lot of traffic cops who will disagree with you,” Hank began, but he quickly shut up when Erik shot him a dirty look. The bartender set down two new bottles of Heineken in front of them, and Erik picked his up, clinking it against Hank’s.

Hank drank a lot faster this time, and Erik started grinning when he saw Hank’s bottle was already half-empty. “That’s the spirit.”

Hank blinked dispiritedly at his bottle. “Do you think Raven will go out with me?” he blurted out.

Erik sighed. Charles was the one who was a lot better at these things, at encouraging people to act on their strengths. Erik belonged more to the push-someone-into-the-deep-end school of thought, believing that people would never take action unless they were forced to. After all, he would have kept quiet about his growing feelings for Charles if Charles hadn’t shown up at his trailer door and shoved his tongue down Erik’s throat.

Now Hank was looking at him, brow furrowed in worry. “You really think she won’t date me?”

“Huh?” Erik blinked, chasing away thoughts of kissing Charles out of his head. “Sorry, I was distracted. C’mon, Hank, she really likes you. You just have to open your mouth and take a chance.”

“Really?” The growing smile on Hank’s face was pure sunshine. “I didn’t know. Um, that she likes me.”

Erik downed the rest of his beer, feeling a little too much like he was trapped in an episode of Gossip Girl. “I think we need more alcohol.”

Sometime after their seventh beer, Erik and Hank ended up joining the rowdy English tourists, singing along to ‘I’m Too Sexy’ amidst a sea of hysterical laughter. Erik deliberately put on his natural native accent at its thickest, which made Hank double over with giggles. “Barkeep, more beer!” one of the tourists was yelling, while his wife was waving a €20 bill at Erik. Hank was swaying from side to side like a cobra being hypnotised by a snake charmer, and Erik downed another shot before launching back into the song. “I’m too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts...”

“Take it off, Erik!” one of the women yelled, and Erik shook his head vigorously. Only Charles got to see the goods, and Erik felt absolutely no shame at all in sending Hank to the slaughter, pushing him forward instead.

“What? No, no, no, no...” Hank’s face was beetroot red, flushed with laughter and alcohol and embarrassment. “No, I’m very shy about my body--”

“He’s a liar!” Erik yelled over the music with a laugh. “He dressed up as Superman for Halloween!”

“Oh, now we have to see this,” someone demanded, and Erik couldn’t help snickering even more as Hank tried to escape the sudden flood of attention. Sinking back into the cushioned seat of the booth, Erik picked up the remote and selected another song that sounded familiar and wouldn’t be too hard to do. He blinked blearily at the screen. ‘500 Miles’ shouldn’t be too difficult a song to sing, right?

In minutes the Brits had completely forgotten about taking off Hank’s shirt and everyone was now marching together on the spot, hollering, ‘AND I WOULD WALK 500 MILES AND I WOULD WALK 500 MORE!’ and even the rest of the patrons and staff were joining in.

Da da lat da!” Erik sang.

DA DA LAT DA!” the rest of the bar echoed back at him, and this continued until the song had finally finished, Erik reaching for Hank beside him and hugging him tightly.

“You’re the besht,” Erik slurred, thumping Hank on the back. “I’m s-sorry I yelled at you.”

“S’okay,” Hank mumbled back, waving his hand about ineffectually. “S’ water under the, uh, the, um--”

“Bush?” Erik suggested with a frown. It sounded right, but right now he didn’t really care. “Anyway, I’m sorry. So sorry. I was so scared of losing Charles.”

Hank nodded in understanding, his glasses slipping down his nose. “Would you walk 500 miles for Charles?”

Erik nodded with a laugh, finding it really funny for some reason. “And I would walk 500 more. Wherever he wants me to go.”

“You’re lucky to have each other,” Hank said glumly, before passing out on Erik’s shoulder, and Erik blinked at him in a daze, determined to get him and Raven together once and for all.

* * * * *

Charles was trying to find a comfortable spot in bed as he flipped through the various stations. They had HBO and a few other channels with Spanish subtitles, and there was even a local one that was showing ‘The Blind Date’. Charles grinned as he and Moira squabbled over something on the screen, remembering how their argument had been so natural and organic that the director had really believed they wanted to kill - and then sleep with - each other in that very take.

Just as he was debating whether to give Moira a call, there were sounds of scuffling at the door, and Charles could hear Remy’s muffled voice and Erik’s slurred, louder one. Then the sound of the key card slipping into the slot before the door swung open, a harassed Remy and amused Darwin carrying an extremely drunk Erik between them into the room, depositing him onto the bed.

“My God, what happened?” Charles asked in amazement as Erik started groaning, shielding his face from the lights.

“From what I’m guessing, he and Hank have made up,” Darwin said dryly. “And also, in the process, they may or may not have drunk every last drop of alcohol left in the Canary Islands.”

Charles was shaking his head, holding back a smile. Trust Erik never to do things halfway. “Is Hank all right?”

Remy nodded. “Oui, Alex and Sean helped to carry him to his room.”

“All right.” Charles looked down at Erik’s dazed expression. “Help me get him into bed, and I’ll take it from there.”

Once Erik was settled in more comfortably, Remy and Darwin bid him goodnight as they left, closing the door behind them. Charles stroked Erik’s hair back, fishing for a piece of Kleenex and mopping the light sweat off his brow. Erik murmured something, and Charles wondered if Erik was feeling hot and would prefer to sleep with his shirt off. He started unbuttoning Erik’s shirt, but he was confused when Erik slapped his hands away with a frown, murmuring, “No, I don’t want to...”

Charles was puzzled. “Erik, what do you mean?”

“Leave me alone.” Erik wriggled away from Charles’ hands. “I’m taken, he’s waiting upstairs for me.”

It took a moment before what Erik meant finally sunk in, and Charles just couldn’t stop smiling. “Oh Erik, it’s me, you are already upstairs--”

“No,” Erik said flatly, pulling his shirt closed even tighter. “I want Charles.”

“Jesus.” Now Charles really had to laugh, finally releasing the hem of Erik’s shirt. “I’m going to tell you about this in the morning and laugh really hard at you.”

Erik simply scrunched up his nose at that, but it wasn’t long before his breathing evened out, his hold on his own shirt loosening. Only then was Charles able to get at it, unbuttoning it with practised ease and slipping it off his shoulders. It took far more effort this time, thanks to his injury and Erik’s body being a deadweight, but finally Erik was shirtless, and he seemed far more comfortable now, the little frown between his eyebrows smoothing out.

“Life with you is never boring, darling,” Charles murmured as he shrugged off his own shirt, then curled up with Erik on their sides in their usual spooning position, drifting off to sleep to the sound of Erik’s steady breathing behind him.

* * * * *

Remy walked into the hotel room with a cheerfully startling, “Bonjour, cher, I am here!” that made Charles drop the magazine he’d been perusing. He smiled at Remy as he handed Charles a gold box of expensive chocolates. “Here, chocolat from you-know-who.”

Charles couldn’t stop the broad grin stretching across his face. Erik had taken the time to scribble him a quick ‘Miss you!’, adding a little heart at the bottom of the small card. From the way his usually neat handwriting was rather jagged and messy, Charles suspected Erik must have ducked out quickly during a shooting break to get him this. “Please thank him for me,” Charles told Remy. “And as lovely as your company is, I don’t actually need someone to keep an eye on me at all hours.”

“Who says this is all about you?” Remy retorted airily. “Erik may have patched things up with Hank, but he will continue to be unreasonable and borderline homicidal while you are on the mend, n’est ce pas? So I’m here on everyone’s behalf.”

Charles blinked. “Surely it can’t be that bad.”

Remy gave him a look that conveyed, no telepathic powers needed, how he thought Charles was a sad, sad man with foolish delusions of sanity in people who were named Erik Lehnsherr. “It must be nice, in this imaginary world you live in where your paramour isn’t a nervous breakdown away from moonlighting as a serial killer.”

“Oh, Erik is all bark and no bite,” huffed Charles. Well, he mentally amended, except for when the biting is being inflicted on me. He could feel himself blushing, and ducked his head in the hopes that Remy wouldn’t notice.

Remy’s arched eyebrow indicated that he was not successful. “Merde, it is not like your friends want to know more about your sex life.” Thankfully, that seemed to be all he was willing to say on the matter. He looked around the room. “So, what shall we do?”

“Hmm.” Charles considered the options. “I was thinking we could just watch a movie, and maybe order some food.”

“And here I was hoping that I was wrong about you, that you’re not un pantouflard despite your old man outfits,” said Remy, giving Charles a disappointed look. It was remarkable how communicative the man’s expressions were.

“What does ’un pantouflard’ mean?” Charles asked, half-afraid to know the answer.

Remy gave him a dismissive wave. “Oh, just someone who doesn’t like to party.” Now he seemed to be considering something else. “What about -” he gave Charles a speculative look that had Charles fearing that his immediate future was going to be filled with excitement, likely against his will.

“Just remember - serial killer boyfriend,” said Charles, in a last-ditched attempt to avert whatever was coming.

A handful of playing cards appeared in Remy’s hand, as if by magic. “Ah, I was just going to ask if you know any card tricks,” said Remy. But the speculative gleam in his eyes promised uncertain perils waiting to befall in what did sound like a fairly benign activity. “Non? Then I must teach you some.” He grinned. “I am told that I am quite lethal when it comes to cards.”

“I’m sure,” Charles said dryly as he started to clear the small table in front of him. He could tell that Remy was staying not because Erik had told him to deliver the chocolates, but because Remy genuinely wanted to be there. Remy seemed happy and excited, and not at all in a hurry. “All right Remy, school me on the finer tricks of cards.”

Remy showed Charles a few rudimentary tricks that he had already seen on TV, but he politely kept quiet and pretended to applaud as Remy went through the motions. However, Remy started pulling out more heavy duty tricks that Charles had never seen, the most impressive of which had Charles signing his name on a queen of hearts before Remy took out his lighter and set it alight. Charles was very sure that he had seen the black ashes of the card floating away, so when Remy asked Charles to look in his pocket, he was shocked to find the exact same card with his signature on it. “How did you do that?” he asked in awe.

Remy took a graceful bow. “I told you, I’m superb,” he said with a huge grin.

“More,” Charles said, clapping in glee, and Remy laughed as he reshuffled the cards. This was infinitely better than reading a backdated copy of ‘Hello!’ or watching TV, wondering how long it would be until Erik finished work.

After exhausting his supply of tricks, Charles and Remy started up a leisurely game of blackjack, not that he could remember who was winning because they were caught up in an excited conversation about going home for the holidays. “I can’t wait to go home and eat my mother’s galette des Rois for Christmas,” Remy said, a dreamy nostalgic look in his eyes.

“What’s that?” Charles asked, his curiosity tempered only by the sad realisation that his own mother had never established any Christmas traditions.

Remy thought for a while. “I think the direct translation is called ‘king cake’? It’s this lovely cake made of puff pastry and almond filling.”

“Sounds wonderful.” Charles drew another card, adding it to his fold. “Erik and I are visiting his parents in Munich for Hanukkah.”

Remy laughed. “Mon Dieu, yes I know. He’s told me a million times about that, and pestered me to book the flight tickets and make sure your passports are updated.”

“Oh, sorry.” Charles was now chuckling too. “Erik can be a little....intense, I know.”

Remy shrugged as he drew a card as well. “I knew what I was getting into.” Now he seemed rather thoughtful. “It’s touching, actually, how much he cares about you. I don’t really believe in relationships, but you and Erik are good together.”

Charles eyed him over his cards. “You’re not going to settle down yourself?”

“Ah non, not for me.” Remy winked at him. “I like window shopping too much to actually make a purchase.”

Charles laughed for a minute or so; it was a great analogy. “Well, consider me bought and paid for, then.”

The knowing smile Remy gave him was rather amusing.

* * * * *

“Darling,” Charles began, sliding his arms around Erik’s waist and teasing his lips apart for a slow, sensual kiss. “I’m feeling much better today, but do you know what would make me feel even better?” Charles murmured as he trailed kisses down Erik’s neck, popping the top button of Erik’s pyjama top.

Charles.” Erik protested, shifting Charles’ hands off his open collar. “You still haven’t fully recovered, I don’t--"

Charles hushed him with another kiss, trailing a hand down to hook a finger around the waist of Erik’s pants and pulling him towards the bed. Erik had been denying him all week, and he had needs, dammit. He honestly was feeling a lot better, and the bruises on his back were already fading to green and yellow. Besides, for once Erik had not treated him like he was made of glass when he scrubbed his back, soaking together in the tub just before this. And if even Erik was conceding that he was looking better, Charles needed no further proof that he was well on the road to recovery.

Charles sat down when the backs of his legs hit the bed, still unrelenting with his kisses as he slid backwards across the covers, dragging Erik along. He leaned back when he hit the pillows and was about to work on getting Erik’s sleep pants off when Erik pulled away, shaking his head.

No, Charles,” Erik asserted, sounding completely wrecked.

Charles huffed. “Oh come on, you of all people know my bruises take a long time to go away.” Charles paused, raising an eyebrow teasingly, “I’m almost good as new, really.”

Erik smiled as he shook his head, “No, Liebling. Let’s play some chess.”

“Oh, is that what we’re calling it now?” Charles smirked as he sat up, leaning towards him.

Erik laughed, reaching over to the bedside table and grabbing the bag that he’d placed there earlier. “No, we’re really just playing chess. I saw this set when I was getting you dinner, and you told me once that you used to play when you were in boarding school.”

Charles lit up when he saw the familiar pieces falling onto the bed between them, like old friends suddenly showing up at his door. Chess was one of the few things that he had sought solace in, all those years away at boarding school. “Yes, I did. All right, we’ll play a round, but I’m not done with you yet.”

Charles picked up the white queen, tracing its curves with his forefinger before placing it down on his side of the board. He heard Erik let out a chuckle, looking up in time to see him smiling as he nodded his head. Charles raised his eyebrows in confusion. “What?”

“I’m not surprised at all. White always makes the first move,” Erik replied as he leaned across the board, cupping Charles’ face as he kissed him before picking up the black pieces and arranging them on the wooden surface.

Charles made himself comfortable, and allowed himself to be distracted by the precise movements of Erik’s hands. Lord, but he loved Erik’s hands - strong and broad and long-fingered. Erik touched him a lot; in some ways, he’d been touching Charles more since the accident, as if to reassure himself that Charles was alive and present nearby. But he’d been damnably stubborn about keeping things chaste - well, relatively - between them while Charles was recovering. And Charles missed all the other kinds of touching: Erik possessively gripping his hips while fucking into him, those strong hands holding down Charles’ wrists, those long fingers sliding inside Charles-

Erik cleared his throat, in a pointed way that suggested he’d been doing it for a while. Charles felt his face warm. He took his time arranging the white pieces on his side, though.

The game began fairly normally. Charles advanced a few pawns, watched Erik do the same, assayed a knight in a half-remembered gambit meant to tempt Erik into sending his bishop out into dangerous territory. It was only when the gambit actually worked that Charles realized just how distracted Erik must be.

Charles let out a thoughtful “hmmm” with a purr-like tease at the end. Erik’s eyes immediately darted up, stopped at the level of Charles’ mouth, then dropped back to the board with the weight of a guilty, guilty imagination.

It almost didn’t seem fair to take Erik’s bishop. But then, Charles reasoned, the game had quite entirely changed. He brought out his other knight and plucked the black bishop from the board. No need for Erik to know, just yet, how little Charles’ triumphant smirk had to do with the game.

Erik peered at the board like it held all the secrets of the universe. His next play - another pawn, really? - suggested that his concentration hadn’t improved any over the last few minutes.

Humming again, making sure the sound came from deep in his chest, Charles tilted his head, frowned as if faced with indecision, and absently nibbled on the bishop that was still in his hand.

Charles felt a flash of heat, like lightning, at the way Erik’s gaze zeroed in on the chess piece between Charles’ lips. It was an old habit of his, playing with the pieces while deep in thought, and the suggestiveness of it had never quite occurred to him.

He held Erik’s gaze, and teased the tip of his tongue around the pointed top of the bishop. He saw Erik’s eyes grow darker.

“I was a fairly good player, back at school,” Charles said. He kept his voice casual and quiet, though he steadily met Erik’s gaze and the simmering heat within. “I’m not overtly aggressive, you see. I was known for being able to lure my opponents into a false sense of security.” He pressed the bishop-top down on his lower lip, just enough to flick it lightly. “Once I had... penetrated their defences... and took control of the board, I was free to... have my way with them.”

“Charles,” rasped Erik. Charles couldn’t tell if it was meant to be a warning or a plea or a question - he suspected Erik didn’t know, either.

“My poor darling.” Charles put the bishop down, deciding. “I want to see you.”

“Charles-”

“You don’t have to touch me, if you insist on being noble.” Charles let his eyes drift down Erik’s body, settling on the area between Erik’s legs where his interest was... telling. “But there’s no reason why you can’t touch yourself.”

Erik swallowed, and Charles was momentarily distracted by the cords of muscles on Erik’s neck. “Not fair to you.”

“You think I don’t get off on it?” Charles asked, putting as much heat as he could into his voice. “You think I won’t enjoy watching you touch yourself?”

Erik’s hands lifted and came to rest on the waistband of his sleeping pants. He still hesitated, staring at Charles in a way that made Charles want to fling himself over the forgotten chess board and fuck Erik into the mattress, healing injuries be damned.

“Let me, Erik,” he growled. “Let me make you come without laying a single finger on you.”

That seemed to do it - Erik’s pants disappeared in a flash of fabric. Charles let out a pleased groan at all the bared skin on display: those distressingly long legs, topped by powerful thighs, and the rising glory of Erik’s cock, already half-hard.

“Touch yourself,” he ordered. Erik eagerly gripped himself, letting out a sharp, hitched gasp at the first jerk, the second. “Oh, you are gorgeous.”

A particularly fetching flush was making itself known over Erik’s distinctive cheekbones. Charles discovered that he did enjoy this, very much indeed; being slightly removed from the action and thus able to appreciate the parts of it that tended to get lost amidst the sweat and the frantic drive of lust.

“That’s it,” he breathed, when Erik was fully hard and the skin underneath his hand was distinctly slick, which hadn’t taken much time at all. “A little harder - yes. I love how desperate you are for me. I can almost taste how badly you want to fuck me. How much you’ve been holding yourself back, when all you want is to touch me all over.”

Erik let out a soft whimper.

“I can’t wait to feel your hands on me again,” Charles said huskily. He felt too hot under his clothes, and considered taking them off, but that would mean looking away from the vision that was Erik, flushed and panting with arousal, slowly stroking his own cock with one of his utterly distracting hands. Erik’s eyes roved all over Charles’ body, and then his gaze fixed on Charles’ eyes, heavy-lidded and full of intent, as if he was perfectly capable of ravishing Charles just like this.

Charles felt pinned, for all that there was no physical contact between the two of them, held in place by Erik’s attention alone.

Then Erik was making those soft, hitching little sounds at the back of his throat that Charles was so familiar with, his eyes so dark, pupils fully blown. And all this just from looking at Charles, jerking off to the sight of him and the memory of previous bouts of scorching, mind-blowing sex. Erik’s head fell back as he let out a low moan, baring the beautiful line of his throat which was only interrupted by the bump of his Adam’s apple. Charles could still see the ghost of a mark he had left on Erik last week, and his mouth watered, remembering the taste of Erik’s skin beneath his tongue.

That was it. Charles was only human after all, and which human could resist the sight of Erik Lehnsherr in front of them, stroking himself like this and making those beautiful noises?

Charles rose to his knees, pushing aside the forgotten chess pieces, not caring whether they rolled to the side or fell off the sheets as he climbed over to the other side of the bed where Erik sat with his legs spread. Straddling Erik’s lap, Charles smiled when Erik’s eyes flew open in surprise, mouth already open to protest. “Let me,” he murmured before taking Erik’s mouth in a slow, leisurely kiss, his hand clutching Erik’s hair and tugging on it to tilt his head back so Charles could deepen the kiss. Erik didn’t seem to mind, judging from the pleased noises he was making, and it made Charles greedy, sucking on the tip of Erik’s tongue while his nails scratched down the curve of Erik’s neck. He wanted Erik so, so badly, wanted Erik inside him, driving into him with those short, sharp thrusts that drove Charles insane.

Erik finally pulled away, gasping for air, eyes wild and dazed. “Charles, we can’t--”

“Can’t what?” Charles nuzzled against his stubbled cheek, a hand sliding across Erik’s flat stomach before brushing against his already straining cock. Erik let out a strangled moan, and Charles grinned wickedly in triumph. “Sorry, you were saying?”

Erik grabbed Charles’ head in both hands and brought him down for a blazing kiss, teeth scraping against Charles’ bottom lip and sending a surge of lust curling in his belly, pooling at his groin. Charles let his mouth be claimed by Erik, thoroughly enjoying the desperate way Erik wanted him - so he obviously wasn’t the only one feeling deprived. He ground his cock against Erik’s stomach, simultaneously wanting Erik to pin him down and fuck him, hard, as well as lube himself up and ride Erik until they both came all over the chess board and sheets.

“Oh, Erik,” Charles moaned, wrapping his fingers around the thick shaft of Erik’s cock, needing it so badly inside him, but since Erik wasn’t going to fuck him, he’d be content with this for now after a whole week of deprivation. There was a sheen of sweat on Erik’s forehead, his face flushed with arousal, eyes so dark that his pupils were ringed only with a thin blue-green circle. Charles had never wanted Erik more, his hand pleasuring Erik with the long, slow strokes that Erik liked.

Erik was panting against Charles’ ear, his breath hot and sweet. “Love you,” he huffed out, a hand stroking Charles’ hair as he started thrusting up into the tunnel of Charles’ fist, eyes squeezing shut. Charles buried his nose in Erik’s neck, taking in the sweaty, manly smell of him, his hand starting to get slick with drops of Erik’s precome. Charles was aware he was murmuring nonsense peppered with Erik’s name and ‘love’ and ‘darling’ and he honestly believed he would never, ever want or love anyone this much ever again, that Erik would always be more than enough for him. He began kissing the crook where Erik’s neck met his shoulder, occasionally letting his teeth scrape the skin, making Erik moan as his fingers tightened in Charles’ hair.

“Oh, God--” Erik panted in his ear, then he stiffened, and Charles’ hand was slick with come as Erik’s head dipped, groaning his release against Charles’ shoulder. Charles continued to stroke him still, completely turned on by the way Erik was losing control in his arms, clutching onto Charles so tightly (yet carefully). He took this opportunity to tilt Erik’s head back, slipping his tongue into Erik’s open mouth for yet another kiss - seriously, Charles could kiss Erik all day - the outline of his cock in his pajama trousers rocking against Erik’s stomach. He shouldn’t enjoy rubbing himself against Erik like this, but he was, loving how well their bodies fit together even when he was straddling Erik.

He let out a yelp when Erik unexpectedly picked him up, gently depositing him on the bed so that Charles was laid out before him. Charles was silenced by the intense heat in Erik’s eyes as he began kissing a line down Charles’ neck, then rucked up his T-shirt, the kisses trailing down his chest, and Erik’s tongue swirled around his right nipple, making Charles arch up into his hot mouth.

“Down, boy,” Erik murmured, smiling before continuing the trail of kisses down to his stomach, spending an inordinate amount of time there just nuzzling and mouthing the pale skin. Charles watched, fascinated even though his cock was already straining in his trousers, aching for Erik’s touch.

Erik seemed to get the idea, gazing up at Charles while tugging down the waistband of Charles’ trousers, down until Charles’ aching erection bobbed up, brushing Erik’s cheek. Erik kept his gaze on Charles as his mouth wrapped around the head, so tight and so warm, and Charles slid his fingers into Erik’s hair, gasping for breath. Erik loved sucking him off, loved watching Charles writhe and beg under him like this, slowly losing control. And Charles completely loved surrendering to Erik like this, watching the way his cheeks would hollow as he slowly took Charles into his mouth, getting off on Charles’ pleasure.

“Oh God, Erik--” Charles knew he must be a sight, flushed red, lips parted, fingers deeply entrenched in Erik’s hair. And then Erik relaxed, his mouth fully taking in Charles’ cock, and Charles just lost it, thrusting up into that wet heat and coming so hard, fisting in Erik’s hair, feeling Erik’s grip tight on his hips and holding him still so Charles wouldn’t strain his back. It was messy and hot and wet and perfect, and Charles fell back onto the pillow, fighting to regain his breath. After an entire Erik-less week of deprivation, this was lovely. “Oh Erik, really, your mouth should win awards.”

Erik was wiping his chin, grinning as he climbed up to take Charles into his arms, both of them sweaty and breathless. “Does this mean I’ll have to convince a panel of judges?”

Charles swatted at him. “Then no awards for you, because the only person your mouth is getting anywhere near is me.”

Erik yawned as he spooned himself behind Charles, tucking his knees behind Charles’ own. “Good, because I’m not interested in offering anyone else my services.”

Charles blinked, smiling sleepily. “I’m sorry to deprive the world of the services of Erik Lehnsherr.”

“No, you’re not,” Erik said, smiling against his shoulder.

“Okay, I’m not,” Charles admitted, making Erik laugh. “I missed this.” He searched for Erik’s hand under the sheets, clasping it tightly and pressing it to his chest. “I missed you.”

Erik kissed his ear. “Then it’s good that I‘m not going anywhere.”

* * * * *

Erik had his arm slung around Charles’ back as they waited for their turn outside Dr. Erskine’s door, leaning his head against Charles’ as he watched him scroll through travel websites on things to do in Munich on his phone. Charles was in good spirits, chattering on about Christmas markets and the different types of lager they could try, and to say that it was a huge relief to have Charles back like this would be the understatement of the year. The past week had honestly been the most harrowing experience of his life, the thought that he could just as easily have lost Charles forever on that beach still kept him up at night, and his hands still turned cold each time he remembered how pale and drugged-out Charles had looked the last time they had been in this hospital.

“Charles, at the rate you’re going, you’ll be the one guiding me around my own country,” Erik teased as he kissed Charles’ temple.

Charles laughed, squeezing Erik’s leg. “I’m just doing a little research. I’ve had too much free time, you see. There are so many things I want to do when we get there. Are you regretting asking me along yet?”

“Never.” Erik replied as he held Charles a little closer.

Their number flashed on the queue number display outside Dr. Erskine’s room and Erik held open the door as Charles entered, closing it behind him and walking over to the spare chair while nodding his head in greeting to the doctor.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Erskine,” Charles greeted before he sat next to the physician.

“How are you feeling today, Charles?” Dr. Erskine asked cheerfully as he leaned forward in his seat to shake Charles’ proffered hand.

Charles smiled, sitting up straighter. “I’m doing very well, thank you.”

“Good, good. Any dizziness, memory loss, headaches?” Dr. Erskine questioned as he turned on his flashlight, and Erik found himself thinking back through the past week, looking for instances where Charles seemed to have been suffering from any of those symptoms but not finding anything that stuck out.

“No, none that I noticed,” Charles answered as Dr. Erskine shined the light into his eyes, and Erik felt a warm wave of relief flood through him.

“Excellent.” Dr. Erskine got up and motioned for Charles to get on the examination bed, Erik rising to his feet as well, drawing the curtain around them as Charles climbed onto the mattress. “Now if you could take off your shirt so I could look at your back.”

Charles proceeded to unbutton his shirt obligingly, letting it fall off his shoulders as he shifted on the bed to give the doctor better access to his back.

“How’s your back pain?” he asked as he examined Charles’ back, pressing down lightly on the areas that were still lightly coloured.

“It’s gone now, I’ve stopped taking the painkillers,” Charles replied, eyes flicking off to glance at Erik beside him.

Dr. Erskine made his way back around to address Charles, signalling for him to put his shirt back on. “Your hematomas have resorbed but there’s still some very light bruising which should fade in a few days, nothing to worry about.”

Charles was grinning at that, and Erik wanted so badly to pick him up in his arms and never let go, extremely thankful that the entire ordeal was over. Charles swung his legs over the edge of the examination bed as he buttoned up his collar, and Erik felt that familiar sense of foreboding when he saw Charles’ right eyebrow arch up, “Can I ask a question?”

Dr. Erskine looked up from where he was putting Charles’ file away, smiling. “Just one.”

Charles looked at Erik pointedly and winked before turning back to Dr. Erskine, “It’s all right for us to have intercourse now, yes?”

Erik summoned all his strength in a bid to not to hide his face in mortification. The doctor laughed, his eyes crinkling at the corners. “I suppose that’s the only question that matters. Your back is fine, I don’t see why not.”

Charles placed a possessive hand on Erik’s waist, looking up at Erik and smiling. “Then we’d like to get tested.”

* * * * *

Erik held on to Charles’ hand as he helped him out of the car, brows knitted in concern. “Please don’t push yourself. If you’re feeling uncomfortable at any time, just say the word and--"

“Erik, darling, I’m perfectly fine,” Charles insisted as his kissed the corner of Erik’s mouth. “Dr. Erskine said I could resume all my regular activities, remember? Would it convince you if I dropped to the ground right now and got into the Downward Dog position?”

Charles.” Erik shot back in dismay.

Charles laughed and kissed Erik’s cheek, smirking as he pulled away. “Tonight, then.”

Charles led the way as they headed towards the set, glad to finally be back. He had been bored out of his mind cooped up in their hotel room recuperating and, despite the excellent company that Raven, Darwin and Remy were, he had spent much of his time missing Erik and had even occasionally caught himself staring into space, waiting for Erik to walk back through the door.

“Hey, look who’s back!” Charles heard Alex shout from across the set the moment he and Erik walked in, followed by a high-pitched whoop from Sean as he ran over to grip him in a tight hug.

“Man, I’m so glad you’re back.” Sean said as he released him, grinning uncontrollably. He was followed by a string of people from the crew, some of whom were locals that Charles had only met briefly before the incident, and Charles was beginning to feel slightly overwhelmed by the sudden and odd outpouring of relief and affection.

“Please don’t take this the wrong way, I’m very excited to be back and I’ve missed all of you, but isn’t this a bit much? I’ve only been gone for a little over a week,” Charles commented in bewilderment as he returned a hug from a teary-eyed lady he recognised as being from the local craft service.

Darwin laughed, shaking his head. “You don’t even know... Just yesterday, Erik yelled at Angel just for taking too long to do his makeup.”

“Oh Erik...” Charles exchanged a look with the man next to him as he sighed.

Erik held up his hands defensively. “I just don’t see why we have to waste precious time painting my face when I could spend that time back in the room with you.”

Angel crossed her arms as she spat back, “Excuse me? You expect to get away with shooting a scene showing off dark circles the size of Russia?”

A visibly shaken Bryan appeared before either he or Erik could reply, hurrying over to wrap his arms around him. “Charles, please never leave us again,” he pleaded into his shoulder before grabbing his face and planting a kiss on his cheek. “I’d rather go through hellfire than another week of that.”

“My word...” Charles shifted when Bryan let go, sliding over to Erik and rubbing a hand over the small of his back. “I do apologise for the grief that Erik may have caused any of you and hope you understand that we were all going through a difficult time.” Charles paused, clasping his hands together and putting on his best smile, “I am sure we are all looking forward to a break, so let’s just shoot this scene quickly and then we can all go off and enjoy the holidays, shall we?”

“You heard the man. Everyone, off to your places.” Bryan concurred, earning loud cheers and applause from the people gathered around.

* * * * *

Charles staggered to the back of the ambulance where Erik was sitting, out of breath. All around them, paramedics were rushing to give the victims of the blast medical attention, the area around the Drake Hotel still in the process of being cordoned off and evacuated by the NYPD. Charles warily took a cursory glance around the ambulance, making sure they were alone before he sat down next to Erik, running his thumb gently across the cuts above his left eye.

“Are you all right?” Charles asked as he took in Erik’s bandaged arm, remembering how Erik had used it to shield him from the blast.

Erik nodded. “I’ll be fine. Did you manage to catch him?”

“No, he took off in a speedboat. But we’ll get him, next time.” Charles replied as he rubbed Erik’s knee, cleaning up the cuts on Erik’s face with alcohol swabs from the first-aid kit in gentle dabs.

Charles put the used swabs and bandages away when he was done, taking one last look around them before cupping his hand around Erik’s neck, leaning in to kiss him softly on the lips.

“Thank you... for saving my life.”


Notes:
1. Erik’s freakout over Hank’s mistake is based on Christian Bale’s real life rant at his Director of Photography on the set of ‘Terminator: Salvation’. You can see the original video here or see the hilarious dance remix here.
2. Dr. Abraham Erskine is the doctor in the Marvel universe who created the Super Soldier serum that was given to Captain America.
3. ‘Nichts zu danken’ means ‘No thanks needed’ in German.
4. Hospiten Bellevue is a private hospital in Tenerife, the Canary Islands.
5. The songs that Erik and Hank massacre during their karaoke session is Right Said Fred’s ’I’m Too Sexy’ and The Proclaimers’ ’(I’m Gonna Be) 500 Miles’ which are embarrassing karaoke staples.
6. The ‘king cake’ that Remy refers to is a traditional cake that is popular in the Christmas season (Christmas Eve to Epiphany) amidst Francophile countries. You can see a picture of it here.
7. “Can I ask a question?”, “Just one.” and “I suppose that’s the only question that matters." are quotes from 'Captain America'.

Happy Holidays, everyone! We’re going off for a little break and will be back in the new year with the holiday special! Drink lots of booze, stay safe, and if you’re anything like Hank, remember to wear your glasses at all times.

Chapter Text

* * * * *

December 20th

Erik had never been so glad to be greeted by the familiar, orderly sight of Munich Airport. It had been quite a harrowing experience for both Charles and him in the Canary Islands, so there had been a collective sigh of relief on the set when Bryan finally dispersed all of them for the holiday break. Also, this was the first time he was bringing home someone very important, and from the way Charles was clutching his hand tightly while gazing out of the plane window, it was a good guess that this was a Very Big Deal for Charles as well. “You look very excited,” Erik told him, resting his chin on Charles’ shoulder as the plane started taxiing down the runway. “I have to warn you, Munich isn’t very exotic or exciting like Shanghai or Johannesburg.”

Charles flashed him a smile. “It’s not that, I don’t care about that. This is your home, where your parents live. Of course I’d rather be here than anywhere else.”

Erik took his hand, planting a kiss on the back of it. “You’re such a sweet-talker.”

It didn’t take long to disembark the plane and get through Customs, and thankfully Remy had already arranged in advance for a car to pick them up at the airport, saving them a long queue for a taxi. Charles dozed off in the car, his head resting on Erik’s shoulder while Erik texted his mother to let her know they were both on their way. He raised an eyebrow when her reply was entirely in caps, which should have given him a warning of some kind.

Still, he was glad when they finally pulled up to his parents’ house on the outskirts of Munich, gently waking Charles who was blinking blearily. “We’re here?”

“Yes, let’s get our things.” Erik kissed him on the cheek before exiting the car, but the staff were already helping with their luggage. They were happy to see Erik again, shaking hands and exchanging holiday greetings, and a few were surprised to see Charles emerge from the car as well.

“Frau Lehnsherr is waiting for you inside,” one of the staff told Erik, and he could see the silhouette of his parents by the window, where they were waving at him. By the time he and Charles had made it up the driveway, he could see his parents beaming in the main doorway. His father was smiling quietly, his usual reserved self, but his mother practically had hearts in her eyes as she stared at Charles in utter glee.

“You’re here!” she squealed as she flung her arms around him, hugging him to death. Erik and his father exchanged raised eyebrows, and the servants were chuckling as they carried all the luggage inside. “Ah Charles, you are even more adorable in person than you are in the movies!”

“Thank you,” Charles said, beaming, although Erik had to bite back a laugh when his mother started pinching Charles’ cheeks, then mushing his face together.

“Mama, nice to see you, too,” Erik said dryly as his father started chuckling. “Don’t forget I’m here as well.”

“Oh, psssh.” His mother flapped a dismissive hand at him, still beaming at Charles. “I can see you anytime, but we must welcome Charles properly to our family home!”

“Thank God you’re here,” Erik’s father muttered as he leaned in. “She wouldn’t shut up about it for days.”

Charles was now turning a very nice shade of pink. “Um, maybe we can all go inside and get better acquainted?” he suggested, then his eyes widened with shock. Erik was mystified until he noticed that one of his mother’s hands was hidden.

“Ma, did you just pinch Charles on the tuchus?” Erik demanded to know. “No pinching!”

His mother didn’t even look remorseful, bundling an alarmed Charles into the house as Erik and his father watched in disbelief. “Did I just see what I thought I saw?” Erik asked his father, who had a long-suffering expression on his face.

“You can’t blame her, this is the first time you’ve brought anyone home,” he reminded Erik gently, clapping him on the back. “Come on, let’s grab a beer and go save your Charles from your mother.”

* * * * *

When he was a child, Charles had never particularly thought of the family kitchen as a place of warmth and love. For one thing, the one from his childhood was huge and gloomy, even though there were usually a number of sullen servants bustling about to prepare the family meals. His mother had barely ever stepped in, wrinkling her nose in distaste at the various pots and utensils and calling it ‘common work’ to prepare food (thankfully, not in front of the staff). Charles could only recall one clear memory of finding her there, when she had stumbled home drunk in her favourite red dress after some fancy gala. It had been such a shock to find her peeking in the fridge that he had simply stood there in his pyjamas, staring at her, and it had been a bigger shock when she had smiled at him and offered to make him hot cocoa.

Charles had cautiously agreed, tamping down the flutter of hope in his chest that he was getting to see a new, warmer side of his mother. Then, to his disappointment, she had woken up the maid to do it.

Now, as Charles sat in the Lehnsherr family kitchen, he was finally beginning to see why some people called the kitchen ‘the heart of the home’. It was much smaller than the one of his childhood, but there was so much laughter and chatter in comparison. Edie was happily peeling potatoes with Erik, and Charles was helping them to shred the potatoes for the latkes, but he kept stopping to laugh as Edie relentlessly teased a bumbling, blushing Erik. There was no escaping the rehashing of embarrassing childhood stories, of course, and Edie was recounting the story about the time Erik was 5 and liked to take off his pants before running around the neighbourhood.

“Oh my God, this really happened?” Charles wiped the tears of laughter off his face, casting a fond glance at Erik who was trying to hide behind the mountain of potatoes.

Edie was shaking her head with a sigh. “You should have seen him! I’d take my eye off him for just one second and he’d be running off pantless, screaming ‘wheee!’ as he did it. And the neighbours would be yelling, ‘Frau Lehnsherr, your little boy is at it again!’ That was how I got my exercise, running after him.”

“Mama, please stop,” Erik groaned. “I promise I’ll mop the floor, I’ll put up those new shelves that Papa has been putting off, just stop, please?”

Edie lifted her shoulders in a shrug. “Why? It’s a cute story, punim. You were so adorable, running into Mrs. Herschmeyer’s house naked.”

Charles was still chuckling. “Thank goodness Erik grew out of it,” he said, before pretending to throw Erik a stern look. “You did, right? Or is there something you’d like to tell me?”

“Oh God.” There was a soft thump as Erik’s forehead hit the counter, and Charles exchanged a wicked smile with a grinning Edie. He knew he should feel bad about ganging up against Erik with his mother, but it was far too much fun to stop.

Charles leaned in, whispering in Erik’s ear, “You know, I’d have no objections if you wanted to drop your pants now.”

Erik lifted his head, and Charles had never seen such a conflicting mix of arousal and dismay. “Charles, not in front of my mother,” he hissed, and Charles could see his knuckles whitening as Erik’s grip tightened on the counter.

“Oh you boys.” Edie wiped her hand clean before patting Charles on the cheek. “You’re just as bad as when your father and I were first married.”

Charles laughed even more, while Erik was blinking at the potato peeler on the table. “If I stab myself with this, how long do you think it will take me to pass out from the blood loss?” he asked Charles.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Edie instructed, grabbing her groaning son and planting a kiss on the top of his head. “It’s perfectly normal for a couple in love to want to...express themselves.”

“Oh dear God,” Erik said.

“You know, they say men who have more regular orgasms live longer,” she said, leaning in conspiratorially towards a curious Charles. “I think there’s some truth in that. Erik’s father is as healthy as a horse at the ripe old age of 65.”

“Mama,” Erik said, “I swear I will go drown myself in the Rhine river right now if you don’t stop.”

Charles was trying so hard to keep a straight face. “Really Erik, you should be glad that your parents still have such a loving and healthy relationship.”

The soft, adoring expression on Edie’s face was unexpected as she leaned over to kiss Charles on the top of his head, her lips warm and dry. “See, punim, Charles understands.” She patted him heartily on the shoulders before returning to her potatoes, shooting him a fond look that reminded him of the way Erik sometimes glanced at him, from this particular angle.

“It’s true, Erik.” Charles pursed his mouth in amusement as Erik let out a long-suffering sigh. “Isn’t it good that your parents set the example for a strong, long-lasting relationship?” Charles let his eyes say the rest: They will be a good example for us.

Judging from the long, slow smile Erik gave him, his eyes lighting up, it was clear that he got the message, and Charles found Erik’s large, warm hand sprawled on his lap, rubbing gently.

Edie was smiling even harder as she continued peeling the potatoes. “Would you like me to leave the kitchen?”

Blinking, Charles tore his gaze away from Erik’s to look at her. “Why would we want that, Mrs. Lehnsherr?”

“Hush, child, call me Edie or Mama,” she said with a quick wink. “And I’m offering to leave because Erik clearly looks like he wants to bend you over the counter and--”

“Mama!” Erik interrupted, entirely scandalized. “Okay that’s it, I’m going to see what Papa is doing.”

“Oh Erik, come on.” But Charles was laughing far too hard, and so was Edie as Erik firmly pushed off his stool and gave both of them a quick kiss each before hastily escaping the kitchen. Now it was just the two of them there, chuckling amidst a mountain of potatoes as Charles picked up another one to grate.

“I’ll bet Erik has gone to join his father in watching football in the garage.” Edie sounded vastly amused as she shot Charles a mischievous look. “You know I’m just teasing, right, Charles?”

“Of course.” Charles shot her a grin just as mischievous. “Now I know where Erik gets his sense of humour from.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Edie said airily, but she was grinning even harder. “Help me mix these with the onions, and I’ll show you how to fry the latkes.”

“Yes, Mama,” Charles said with a smile, and this made Edie clasp her hands over her mouth in joy, right before she came over to hug him tightly.

* * * * *

It turned out that Edie was one of those mothers who kept every single news article that had mentioned her baby boy, and of course she owned all of Erik’s movies, even the ones where he had no speaking parts. Charles was absolutely amazed by her collection as she led him inside the den, where there was a sleek LED TV mounted on the wall in front of a curved brown sofa. On the walls were several framed articles of Erik in ‘People’, ‘Entertainment Weekly’ and the centerpiece was the ‘GQ’ article that Charles and Erik had done together. Surprised and touched, Charles ran a finger down the picture of the both of them, Erik sprawled on the floor and leaning back against Charles’ armchair. They really did look good together.

“That’s one of my favourite pictures,” Edie was saying, coming to stand beside him. “And believe me, I have a lot of pictures of Erik. He looks....happier now.”

Charles smiled, before letting his hand trail away. “Erik really is photogenic,” he said modestly, although he did think, deep down, that Erik had started smiling more ever since they started dating.

Judging from her scoff, Edie seemed to be thinking the same thing. “He’s always been so moody in pictures before you came along, I know the difference.” She smiled at him before bending down to retrieve a box of videos from under the entertainment console. “You mentioned you wanted to see some home videos of Erik when he was younger? I don’t have that many, because we couldn’t afford a video camera until he was in his teens.”

“Oh, yes please,” Charles said eagerly, kneeling down beside Edie and peeking into the box. There were quite a few tapes, but he didn’t know their contents as the labels were all in German. There was a DVD-R at the top of the pile, though, and it was labelled ‘Erik und Charles’. “What is this?”

Edie laughed. “Oh, this is a collection of all the clips on the Internet of the two of you. I’m not good with computers, but one of our staff helped to compile this for me so I could watch it on a bigger screen, on the TV.” She tapped the corner of her eye. “My eyesight isn’t so good now, you see.”

“Ah, sorry to hear that,” Charles said sympathetically, making a mental note to rope Erik into bringing Edie for an eye check-up.

She gave him a dismissive wave. “I’ll be fine, Erik basically threatened the finest of Munich’s eye doctors to take a look at me.” She popped the DVD into the sleek Bose player, then pressed the ‘Play’ button. The screen flickered to life, and Charles found himself watching the TMZ footage of them leaving the Bossa Nova restaurant together, Erik shielding him from the paparazzi and yelling at them to back off.

There were also quite a few segments about Charles and Erik ‘coming out’ on E! News and Entertainment Tonight. It wasn’t anything that Charles hadn’t already seen before, but his eyebrows jumped when a video of them on stage with Lady Gaga during Halloween started playing. “Oh my goodness, you have this?”

“Of course I do.” Edie sounded both triumphant and amused. “Jakob was quite sure that with a wig, Erik would look like me, but this proves him wrong.”

Laughing, Charles stroked his chin as he watched the video of them singing ‘Bad Romance’ on stage. Wow, he seemed really drunk in the footage, and he was amazed they had made it home in one piece (and even managed to have sex in the limo). Edie didn’t need to know that, of course.

However, there was something else that he hadn’t noticed before. While Charles was busy riling up the crowd and getting them to sing along, Erik was staring at him throughout the whole thing. At first Charles thought Erik might have been staring at Gaga, but when she moved away to grasp a fan’s outstretched hand, Erik’s gaze was definitely still fixed on Charles.

And the way he was looking at Charles, mouth all soft and fond, eyes like a blue-green lazer, as though Charles were the only person in the world who mattered....Charles swallowed around the lump in his throat.

“Charles? Mama?” There were footsteps clumping down the stairs, and Erik appeared in the den. “What are you two doing?”

“Watching videos of the two of you,” Edie said cheerfully, but Erik’s attention was already fixed on the screen. Charles turned to him with a soft smile as realisation dawned on Erik, who was now looking rather embarrassed.

Charles now crossed over the den to stand in front of a flushed Erik. “I didn’t know you were looking at me,” he said, stroking the side of Erik’s face.

Erik gave him a gruff shrug, but there was a smile tugging at the corners of that beautiful mouth that Charles loved to kiss. “I am always looking at you, Liebling,” he said softly. “Even when I’m not aware of it.”

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Charles said, brushing back Erik’s fringe. His cheeks still had a pink tinge, which was funny because Erik was always teasing Charles about being the one who blushed so easily. Now that the tables were turned, Charles found it absolutely endearing: no wonder Erik liked to tease him just to see him turn pink.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” Edie was saying, sounding amused as she slipped out of the den, heading up the stairs. “I’ll call you boys when dinner is ready.”

Charles shot her a grateful smile before wrapping his arms around Erik’s neck, tugging him forward so that their foreheads rested against each other’s. They just stood there quietly, Erik’s thumbs bracketing the base of Charles’ throat, occasionally brushing against his collarbone. Charles let out a contented sigh, just soaking in the feeling of Erik in his arms.

“Thank you for bringing me here,” he said quietly. “I really feel at home.”

Erik’s smile could have lit up the whole of Munich Airport. “I’m glad you do, because my parents love you almost as much as I do.”

In a flash, Charles thought about the way Erik had looked at him in the Halloween video. “I really doubt anyone loves me the way you do,” he said with a laugh, as Erik stole a kiss. “And I’m glad for that.”

* * * * *

“Hank?”

Raven tentatively stepped into the editing suite, not wanting to startle Hank when he was knee-deep in editing. She had done that once, by accident, and he had almost accidentally erased an entire sequence, much to Bryan’s chagrin. However, the suite was empty, and Raven relaxed a little. It wasn’t that she was uncomfortable with Hank - far from it - but she had no idea where she stood with him. Some days he blew hot, and others, he blew cold, avoiding her and making her wonder what she could have done wrong. Charles had prodded her to just tell him, but she was understandably hesitant about throwing herself at the guy she liked.

Just because it worked for Charles didn’t mean it would work for her.

“Oh, Raven,” she heard behind her, and she spun around to smile at Hank, who was not-so-subtly averting his eyes from her gaze. Fuck, it was going to be another one of those Cold Days again, then. Her smile faded a little, particularly when Hank pretended to busy himself with a stack of tapes. “What do you want?” he asked.

“Oh, um, I have an idea for a Christmas present for Charles and Erik,” she explained, trailing her fingers down the cushioned back of Hank’s favourite chair. It was still warm, from his body heat. “I was wondering if you had the raw footage from the kissing scene? It would be fun to send them a video with several different angles of it.”

To her surprise, Hank was now looking directly at her, thoughtful and a little pensive. “That’s a really nice present,” he finally said, blushing a little as he frowned down at his tapes. “I wouldn’t have thought of that.”

Raven shrugged. “I mean, if I got to kiss the man of my dreams for the first time, I’d love a video of it too,” she admitted, feeling her cheeks heat up. Fuck, she hoped she wasn’t blushing like a stupid teenager. “So I think they might like that.”

Hank was now biting his lip, considering. “I think I have the dailies for that day either in here or in Bryan’s office,” he said speculatively, tapping a finger against his bottom lip. “Let me take a look.”

They both rummaged around the small suite, and Raven felt her face heat up even more when Hank’s chest brushed against her back at one point, his breath warming the back of her neck. Maybe it was her imagination, but she thought he heard him taking an extra deep breath, his nose barely nuzzling her curls. Before she could turn and confirm it, he was already stalking out of the suite. “I think I left it in the office,” he called out over his shoulder as he hurried out. “I’ll be right back.”

Raven took in a long, shuddery breath, remembering how close Hank had felt earlier, towering behind her, so warm and solid and safe. She shook her head as though to clear it, distracting herself by sifting through the stack of memory cards on the editing console. However, one of the dates caught her eye. Wasn’t this the date Charles and Erik first kissed? She remembered it particularly because she had to withdraw money from her Boots Fund to pay Emma when she had lost the bet, and she had been sore about it.

It was worth a shot. Raven slid the card into the slot, then clicked to open the video files. She was disappointed when she realised this was footage of a scene that was shot after The Kiss, and she was about to click the little red ‘X’ at the top right corner when she realised the camera was slowly zooming in on her walking behind the cameras, smiling as she talked on the phone. Wow, she looked rather dorky there, but she was at least having a good hair day.

The camera lingered on her for quite a while, and she was starting to get curious. She closed the file, then opened one of an even later scene. She could see the top of Sean’s red curls, and he was chuckling with someone. Then the camera quickly panned to where she was standing, sipping her iced coconut latte and chatting with Marie near the director’s chair. Then Sean’s loud, recorded voice shocked her: “Hank, what are you doing? The scene’s over here, man!”

“Sorry, sorry,” Hank was saying, and then the camera panned back to the set where Charles and Erik were chatting, not at all hiding the fact that they were eyefucking each other. Rolling her eyes, Raven quickly closed the video file and opened another one.

Her face, again. This time, her head was tilted as she watched Bryan talking earnestly to one of the actors.

Another video showed yet another variation of the same thing, Raven pointing at Alex’s shoes and teasing him about his small feet. When she looked up at the camera, it quickly spun away.

“Oh, my God.” Raven was now opening videos at random, and they were all of her. The last straw was one where Raven was talking to Erik, and Charles was behind her, mouthing at the camera: ‘Make a move, Hank!’ while Erik silently smirked the whole time as Raven chattered on obliviously. Holy fuck, was everyone in on it? How long had she been in the dark?

“Raven.” The stunned voice behind her made her turn around, facing a shellshocked Hank who by now was definitely aware she had found the footage. His face was flushed a deep beetroot red all the way to the tips of his ears. “Raven, I can explain--”

“They’re all of me.” Her voice sounded faraway, even to her own ears. She just kept staring at him, and he just stared back at her, his jaw tightening.

“Yeah,” Hank admitted, seemingly at a loss for words, just nodding. “Yeah, yes.”

They stood there in silence for a long, drawn out moment, Raven trying to absorb this new information while Hank shifted his weight from one foot to the other, seemingly agonised. “Um, don’t show it around too much,” he finally mumbled as he handed her a memory card, scraping a hand over his face. “Needs a bit of, uh, editing--”

“Hank.” Raven was surprised at the steel in her own voice. “Shut up and kiss me.”

Hank blinked at her like a goldfish. “Wait, what?”

She grabbed fistfuls of his shirt and yanked him down, so he had to stoop over for their mouths to meet. She teased his lips apart, licking at the seam until he parted them to let her in, their kiss deepening as he unexpectedly surged forward, wrapping his strong arms around her waist. The thought of him filming her secretly every day and worshipping her from afar was overwhelming, and she gently bit down on his bottom lip, sucking on it to soothe it. Hank made a drugged, muffled ‘mmph’ sound that Raven greedily swallowed, stroking the soft hairs on the back of his neck.

When they broke apart for air, Hank’s glasses were askew and half of his hair was standing up in spikes, having been mussed by Raven’s hands. “Um, wow.” He suddenly laughed, scooping her up in her arms.

“You should have said something earlier,” she chastised him, running her hands down his firm chest.

“Glad you finally listened, then,” he murmured, before his hands landed on her waist, thumbs brushing against her skin as they kissed once more.

After all, they had a lot of lost time to make up for.

* * * * *

Charles didn’t know much about Hanukkah, despite having several colleagues and friends in Hollywood who were Jewish. It had always seemed like a quiet, family celebration of sorts, as opposed to the glitz and tinsel of modern-day Christmas. The Lehnsherr family were more than happy to school him on the eight days of Hanukkah, starting with the lighting of the menorah on the first day, right after sunset. After Jakob recited the three blessings, Erik lit a candle, then guided Charles’ hand to use it to light the tallest candle in the middle, which was the shamash. Next, they then lit the first candle for the first night of Hanukkah. Charles learned that for the subsequent night, a second candle would be added, and this would continue for all eight nights. He looked forward to doing it tomorrow night as well, guided by Erik's careful hand just like tonight. His parents watched from a short distance away, Jakob smiling widely while Edie kept wiping her eyes.

After the candles were lit, Jakob stepped forward and led his family in a solemn hymn that Charles later learned was called ‘Ma'oz Tzur’. He didn’t know the words so he kept silent out of respect, smiling as Erik reached over and squeezed his hand.

After they were done, Charles was surprised as Edie reached over and hugged him tightly, followed by a more reserved but just as warm hug from Jakob, who patted his back affectionately. “Now we can exchange presents, eat and spin the dreidel!” Edie announced, tugging Charles to sit at the table that was laden with the latkes they had made earlier, along with a smorgasbord of other fried food. “Charles, what would you like to do?” she asked him, her hand clasped on top of his.

“We could exchange presents?” Charles suggested, because it seemed like a good opportunity to finally give them the gifts he had brought for them.

Erik nodded immediately. “Excellent idea, Liebling. Come, let’s get our presents.”

A good while later, Edie was still fawning over the Hermes scarf she had received from Charles, pestering Jakob to tie it on for her. After she was done, she helped to knot the Christian Dior tie that Charles had bought for Jakob. It went well with the cufflinks that Erik had gotten his father, and of course Edie loved the Cartier necklace from Erik, which he tenderly latched for her around her slim neck.

Charles was very surprised that he had received gifts as well: Jakob had gotten him a sleek, volcanic black Mont Blanc fountain pen that was identical to the one that everyone in the Lehnsherr household used, and Charles had a feeling that Jakob was very subtly trying to tell Charles that he was already a part of the family as far as he was concerned. Edie’s gift was no less touching; it was a double-sided picture frame, joined in the middle by hinges, and the left frame bore a photo of Erik as a baby, smiling up at the camera. Charles was stunned to find his own baby picture in the opposite frame, a photo that Raven had once passed to People magazine when they were doing an in-depth article on his rise as a rom-com star. His hair had been lighter in colour and curlier as a child, and he had been snapped mid-laugh while reaching for something off-camera, most probably the photographer’s assistant. “Where did you get this?” he asked a beaming Edie.

“I found it on the Internet, and one of our staff helped to print it out on glossy paper,” she told him, squeezing his shoulders. “Do you like it?”

Charles was so touched that he could do nothing but pull her into a hug. She had a tall and thin frame, which Erik had inherited, so hugging her felt familiar. “Thank you, Mama,” he whispered, holding on to her and the photo frame even tighter.

* * * * *

It was good to be back in LA. Sean enjoyed travelling, he really did, but at some point he would start missing the comforts of home, the people he loved hanging out with. And okay, maybe there was one person in particular he was eager to hang out with, and she had promised him a dinner date. During several points of the trip he had taken out her agent’s name card, now creased and dog-eared, and stared at the numbers scrawled on the back in her neat, careful handwriting. He had wanted to call (or at least text) her, but he had always lost his nerve. This wasn’t some random girl he wanted to take out on a date, this was Moira freaking MacTaggert.

“That thing again?” he heard Alex groan beside him. Sean quickly shoved the card back into his pocket, but it was too late. Alex was already giving him that look, the same look when Sean dragged his feet about going to the gym or writing a particular scene. “How many times are you just gonna stare at it?”

“I’ll call her,” Sean said defensively, looking down at his bitten nails. “I’m just, you know, waiting for the right time.”

“Look, man.” Alex’s voice was surprisingly gentle as he slumped down beside Sean on the sofa. Their apartment was in the exact same mess it was when they left it, and the half-ripped copy of ‘People’ with Kim Kardashian on the cover was still on the table. Sean found himself staring at it now as Alex loped a companionable arm around his back. “If she gave you her personal number, I’d say that’s a pretty good sign. Don’t wait until she forgets who you are, y’know?”

A dull panic rose in Sean’s chest. “She’s not going to forget me,” he said, hating how his voice came out sounding so unsure. “I’m sure she’s busy.”

Alex heaved out a sigh. “Okay, whatever.” He got up, striding across the living room and pausing outside his bedroom, glancing at Sean. “When you’re a sad old man living alone, you can tell your 48 cats about how you once had Moira MacTaggert’s phone number.”

“Dude, shut up.” But Sean couldn’t help thinking Alex was right. What was he so scared about? Since she had given him her number, it was as good as giving him her implicit permission.

He quickly pressed in the numbers before he lost his nerve. Nothing could describe the terror that flooded his veins, making him cold all over. The phone rang twice, and then the soft, sweet sound of that well-loved voice: “Hello?”

Sean shut his eyes, forcing himself to concentrate. “Hi, Moira. How’s it going?”

“Um, fine.” She sounded rather amused. “Who is this?”

“It’s Sean Cassidy.”

“Oh, Sean.” The warmth that flooded her voice was reassuring. “I thought it might be you, but I wasn’t sure.”

Holy shit she remembers me. “Um, uh...” Sean fought his nerves and forced himself to take a deep breath. “Yeah, sorry it took me so long to call.”

“It’s all right,” Moira said cheerfully. “So I take it you just came back from the Canary Islands? Must be fun, trapped on an island with a homicidal maniac.”

Sean was surprised by the loud laugh he just emitted. “Yeah, Erik was pretty crazy,” he said, feeling a little more at ease. “It was like working on set with a deranged pitbull. At least, until Charles came back.”

“Bet you guys were kissing the ground he walked on,” Moira said dryly, which made him laugh again. “I had to listen to Charles bitching on the phone about how the injury meant no sex for him.”

“Gah, my brain,” Sean groaned, which now made Moira giggle. “Please don’t make me imagine them doing...anything, it’s like thinking about my parents having sex.”

“God, you’re right.”

“Anyway, are you free Friday night?” Sean asked. Better to rip the band-aid off quickly, he thought. To his surprise, she made a pleased noise on her end.

“Yes, actually, my yoga instructor cancelled, he has the stomach flu,” she said.

“Pussy,” Sean snorted, while Moira laughed. “Anyway, his loss is our gain. Dinner?” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Alex dancing in front of him, heartily giving him two enthusiastic thumbs up.

“I’d love to,” Moira said, the smile obvious in her voice. “I’ll meet you at Madeo? Around 8?”

“Sounds great, see you there.” Sean stared at the phone in disbelief. He had a date with Moira freaking MacTaggert. “Holy shit, she agreed to dinner to me,” he told a gleeful Alex.

“See? I told you to stop being such a wuss,” Alex said, grinning as he dumped an overnight bag onto the couch, smoothing his hair in the mirror.

“Wait a sec, where are you going?” Sean blinked, still not quite over his initial euphoria. “Didn’t we just get back?”

Alex ran his fingers through his hair, teasing it into spikes. “Yeah, but I’m heading up to New York for a bit to see one of my brothers. I might as well spend New Year’s Eve watching the ball drop.” He flashed a grin at Sean. “Want anything? A T-shirt? A hooker?”

Sean rolled his eyes. “If you end up in jail, please don’t call me and interrupt my dinner with Moira.”

“Some friend you are,” Alex grumbled, walking over and picking up his bag.

Sean checked his watch. “Come on, I’ll drive you to the airport.”

“Great!” Alex clapped him on the back. “And on the way, I’ll give you tips for getting Moira in the sack.”

“Dude, shut up,” Sean said with a laugh as they both left the apartment.

* * * * *

As glad and warmed as Erik was to see his parents again, he couldn’t help letting out a sigh of relief the moment he closed his bedroom door behind him. He let himself slump back against it - sturdy, seasoned wood, nothing like the well-loved but oft-repaired features of his childhood home - and lazily cast his gaze over to where Charles was rummaging through his bag on the bed. A low chuckle escaped Erik; slung over Charles’ shoulder was one of the pair of His & His towels that Erik’s mother had prepared for them.

It rushed over him, in a wave of warmth and an aching tightness in his chest: Charles with his family, chatting warmly with Jakob and smiling earnestly at Edie’s enthusiasm. He could so easily imagine many more holidays with similar scenes. And birthdays. Milestones. Anniversaries.

“Erik?”

Blinking, Erik realised that he must have been staring for a while. Charles was smiling, though, his eye soft with affection, so Erik figured the other man had an inkling of what was going through his mind.

Erik cleared his throat and went over to his own bag, slipping a hand inside. He drew out a small box, wrapped expertly in red paper with embossed silver designs. He held it out to Charles. “I, um. Here is your gift.”

Charles’ smile grew wider, and he took the box with an eager “thank you!” The unabashed delight on his face as he tore at the wrapping left Erik smiling hard enough for his jaw to start aching. He felt strangely light, like gravity had lost a little of its pull, and also unexpectedly nervous.

But the nerves melted away when Charles opened the box stamped with Cartier and let out a soft gasp. He carefully drew out the elegant silver men’s watch that Erik had spent ages dithering over after scouring the length of the Champs-Elysées. “Oh, Erik, it’s beautiful.”

Charles immediately put the watch on. He sent Erik a soft, wide-eyed look, face flushed with pleasure when he saw that the strap fitted his wrist perfectly. Erik let his gaze flick to the floor momentarily before returning it to Charles, once again feeling a little shy. “I think I’ve waited for you all my life, this is just so we don’t waste another minute.”

Charles slid a hand through the hair at the back of Erik’s head to tilt it down, resting his other hand against Erik’s throat as he tiptoed so that he could whisper against Erik’s temple, “My sincere apologies, I did not mean to keep you waiting.” The kiss that followed was not unexpected, but Erik gasped into it all the same, parting his lips and happily inviting Charles’ tongue to lick inside his mouth.

“I have something for you, too,” Charles said a few minutes later, distinctly breathless. The reason for his earlier rummaging was made clear: he pulled out a clumsily wrapped package, including a bow that had apparently gotten tangled with the sleeves of a knit sweater, and placed it in Erik’s hands. “Happy Hanukkah, love.”

Erik carefully tore off the wrapper, realising it was a standard A5-sized Moleskine in black leather. It seemed like a practical present, which was rather uncharacteristic of Charles, and Erik was about to say “thank you” and put it away when Charles impatiently tapped on the cover. “Open it,” he instructed. The light dancing in his eyes was hard to miss.

Erik flipped through the first few pages. He was stunned to see it was filled with receipts, stubs, Charles’ messy writing and even some restaurant napkins. Ah, there was a paper napkin emblazoned with the Bossa Nova logo, which Erik recognised from their first date. On another page, there was a photo of Charles and Moira at the Ivy, which Erik had snapped for those fans, and he unexpectedly chuckled when he saw Charles had drawn an arrow pointing to Moira and written, ‘I really wanted to take the photo with YOU, Erik!’

It amazed him just how Charles had been keeping track of their relationship from its infant stages, and Erik’s hand shook when he saw the hospital wristband from the Canary Islands, and Charles had scribbled, ’Thank you for taking such good care of me, darling.’ and it left Erik feeling choked up.

“Do you like it?” Charles asked rather anxiously, but his features eased when he saw how visibly touched Erik was.

“Thank you,” Erik said. His voice was oddly scratchy. He pulled Charles in close, crushing their lips together hard. Several more thank-you’s escaped his lips, mumbled right into Charles’ mouth, and Charles breathed each of them in, sucking wetly on Erik’s lower lip for good measure.

They ended up on the bed, Erik on his back with Charles on top of him, both of them lost to the heated exploration of each other’s mouths. Erik skimmed a hand up Charles back and, in the same motion, pulled Charles’ shirt off. Charles hummed in agreement and retaliated by removing Erik’s shirt, and then both of them were sliding off all remaining clothing without separating their lips for longer than a few seconds.

“Love kissing you,” whispered Erik, during an irritating few seconds when Charles’ trousers got caught on his socks and he had to sit back to pull it all down.

“Oh, reminds me, wait,” gasped Charles, “there’s something else.” He flailed his arms, though not to any particular effect since he went right back to kissing Erik. Yet his hand must have managed to snag the crumpled ball of wrapping paper. Erik reluctantly detached his lips from Charles’ when he felt Charles shoving it at his chest; he looked down to see Charles pulling something out of the mess of wrapping.

It was a fedora. “Complete with mistletoe!” Charles pointed out. He was flushed and naked and panting and brightly smiling, the worst of all temptations rolled into one. Erik wanted to devour him. “So I have a ready excuse to kiss you whenever I want.”

As if anything could stop Charles kissing Erik whenever he wanted. “You seem very dedicated to maintaining holiday traditions,” Erik said, grinning. He carefully detached the mistletoe from the fedora and held it over their heads. Charles grinned back at him and obliged with a kiss. Erik pulled back before the kiss could deepen. Charles whined in protest.

“According to tradition,” continued Erik, “does the kiss have to be on the mouth?”

Charles’ eyes widened, and took on a familiar gleam. “But where else could I kiss you?” he asked, affecting a look of innocence.

“I have a few ideas,” said Erik. He lowered the mistletoe, and held it over his chest. Charles obediently kissed the skin under the green sprig, lips trailing down the line between Erik’s pectorals. Erik’s hand drifted to one side, and Charles followed with his mouth, sealing his lips over Erik’s nipple and teasing the nub with the flat of his tongue, as if he was playing with Erik’s tongue.

Erik’s let out a gasp, breath hitching. When he transferred the mistletoe to the other nipple, Charles started using teeth, grazing the sensitive skin as he would Erik’s lips. Erik arched his back, unable to help it, gasping, “God, Charles, your mouth, what you do to me.”

The mistletoe drifted lower. Erik forced himself to go slow, trying not to think about how hot and wet Charles’ mouth felt on his skin, ignoring how much his cock was aching to plunge into that heat. Charles worked his impatience out by biting and sucking on every inch of Erik’s skin that passed under his lips.

Good thing it’s winter, Erik thought through the haze of lust in his mind. He wouldn’t be able to go anywhere shirtless without advertising the exact path Charles was taking to go down on him.

A path directed by Erik.

He finally placed the mistletoe right below his belly button. Charles let out a low, hungry noise, and those blue eyes flicked up to meet his, heavy-lidded and pupils blown. He eased off a little and placed small, dry kisses along the light trail of hair leading downwards. Erik’s hips jerked up, despite his best efforts.

“Charles,” he groaned.

The first touch on Erik’s cock was a welcome relief, but Erik looked down and saw that it was not Charles’ hand, as he was expecting, but Charles’ cheek. Charles’ pale skin, brightly flushed, was a contrast to the darker flush of Erik’s cock, and when the pre-come at the head left a slick streak right next to Charles’ candy-red mouth, Erik nearly came there and then.

“Mmm,” Charles said, breathing over the sensitive skin, “is this what you want me to kiss?”

Charles.

“Well, it is tradition,” Charles conceded, and swallowed Erik down.

* * * * *

December 22nd

Charles could not help feeling a slight sense of unwillingness as they made their way to the front door. Edie and Jakob had welcomed him into their home with open arms, graciously inviting him to be a part of their family traditions, and Charles had truly felt like he belonged with them that night, lighting the menorah as Erik guided his hand. Edie had embraced him after dinner and showered him with kisses that his own mother never had, even getting slightly handsy again much to Erik’s chagrin, and Charles was thankful and glad knowing that Erik had grown up in a home filled with so much warmth and love.

He smiled to himself as he recalled the breakfast all of them just had together, how he and Erik had arrived at the table and he had spotted the fried matzah among the spread. Charles had felt his eyes mist over as he remembered that morning all those months ago when Erik had wrapped him up in his arms and they had fed each other fried matzah as they looked through old albums after their first night together. It felt like they had come full circle, the faces he’d come to love from the photos finally alive and moving before him, not just hazy imaginations he’d constructed from Erik’s memories. He must have spent a good deal of time sitting there staring at the dish, because when he had turned to Erik, he’d found him looking right back at him tenderly, eyes bright like they were sharing a secret. They had just stayed that way, smiling at each other like fools as the world faded away, as it so often did these days, while he remembered how it had felt like that morning in Erik’s house, as though they were standing at the brink of the rest of their lives, until Jakob had cleared his throat and said that the food was going cold. Erik had placed some of the matzah on his plate then, and Edie had rested her face on her hand and smiled as Charles kissed Erik’s chastely on the lips, not letting go of his hand under the table the whole time while they enjoyed their breakfast.

“Have a nice time in Hohenschwangau,” Edie said, gripping Charles in a tight hug while Erik loaded their suitcases into the car.

“We will,” Charles replied as he kissed Edie on the cheek, hugging her one last time when he noticed that she had started to tear.

“Mama, I promise I’ll bring Charles back soon. You’re acting as if I’m stealing Charles away from you forever,” Erik said dryly as he kissed her other cheek. Edie finally released her hold on Charles, clasping Erik’s face in her hands and pulling it down to plant one on his forehead. Charles wrapped an arm around Erik’s waist as he tried his best not to snicker.

“Take good care of Charles, yes?” she said, smiling.

Erik’s father laughed as he gripped his son’s shoulder. “I suggest you leave now, or your mother might insist she goes along.”

“Ma, no. You wouldn’t dare...” Erik warned, appalled when her face lit up, which was also the point when Charles lost the battle and had to stifle his guffaw with his hand.

They said their last goodbyes, Charles embracing Jakob before taking Erik’s hand and walking to the car. They climbed in, waving through the window as the engine started up and the driver set the car in motion down the driveway.

"Your parents are lovely, Erik," Charles said as they drove past the front gate, rearranging himself into a comfortable position draped over Erik for the long ride to Hohenschwangau. Charles found he wanted to stay, for dinners, for holidays, even forever.

Erik snorted, and Charles could feel him shaking his head as he buried his nose in his hair. "I think my mother wants to throw me out onto the streets and adopt you instead."

"Don't be silly, we'll be sure to put you up in a nice little home," Charles teased, laughing when Erik squeezed him in his arms and growled as he nipped him playfully on the ear.

They were driving through the medieval townscape of Füssen in an hour, and Charles could see the magnificent Neuschwanstein Castle sitting serenely on the top of the snow-clad hills as they took the B17 to Schwangau, then on up the beautiful frozen hillside to Villa Jägerhaus where they were staying. The staff were very helpful once they spotted Erik, and Charles smiled in amusement seeing as they were clearly fans of Erik’s, the receptionists and porters exchanging excited words in German before promptly handing them their keys to Room 62 and sending their bags up.

Their suite was in the attic of the villa, luxuriously decorated and with a canopy bed in the middle. Charles walked across the room and drew the curtains apart, momentarily awestruck by the stunning view of Neuschwanstein Castle surrounded by snow-capped Ammergau Alps in the distance, like something straight out of a Christmas card. He felt Erik's arms around him then, strong and safe, and Charles pressed his back up against Erik's chest as Erik began mouthing at his neck. Charles hummed as he rested his hand against the cold windowpane, warm breath ghosting on the glass.

"Are you ready to leave?" Erik asked as he slipped a hand under Charles' shirt.

Charles gasped as Erik's thumb rubbed across his left nipple, his voice shaky when he replied, "You say one thing but do another."

"It's my revenge for all the torture you put me through over Hanukkah. Do you know how many times I almost bent you over the kitchen counter? In front of my parents?" Erik retorted indignantly as he slid his hand in a slow path down Charles' stomach. Charles’ breathing went erratic, fogging up the glass as Erik’s other hand pinned the one Charles had raised against the window flat onto the surface, their fingers laced together.

“We really should go,” Erik whispered against the shell of Charles’ ear, hot breath sending shivers down his spine, and Charles felt himself on the verge of begging Erik to fuck him there and then against the window, in broad daylight for the world below to see.

Erik picked his other hand up, balling it into a fist but leaving his index finger out before sliding his own finger torturously slowly down the back of it. He held it against the fogged up window, rubbing it in measured circles against the windowpane until they could see the castle through the patch of clear glass. “I made a reservation for us at Neuschwanstein, don’t want to be late.”

Charles made a sound of protest, tilting his head back to nudge at the side of Erik’s face, “Just twenty minutes isn’t too late.”

“Do you honestly think we’ll be done in twenty minutes?” Charles could hear the smile in Erik’s voice, and he let out a laugh when Erik kissed his cheek and pulled him away from the window by the waist.

He had in fact wanted to see the fairytale castle, before Erik had distracted him with his maddening hands. Charles raised a finger and looked Erik in the eyes, “Very well, under the condition that we’re not leaving this room tomorrow.”

Erik grinned devilishly. “You have my word.”

They shrugged on their winter coats, Erik making sure Charles put on his proper leather gloves instead of the fingerless woollen ones he usually favoured, and then they were out the door and making their way down to the lobby. The staff wished them a pleasant day as they left, and soon they were stepping out onto the snow-covered sidewalk and making their way up the slope.

Charles gripped Erik’s hand tighter when he saw the horse-drawn carriage parked a stone’s throw away outside Hotel Müller, immediately excited by the prospect of dragging Erik on it with him. Erik always put on a show of protest, but Charles knew that deep down inside, Erik enjoyed doing all these embarrassing touristy things as much as he did. “Erik, you know we could spend an hour climbing up or--“

Erik just rolled his eyes and pulled him in the direction of the horses, “Really, Charles. A little exercise never killed anybody.”

“Well, that’s what tomorrow is for.” Charles answered, quirking an eyebrow up and giving Erik a lopsided smile before kissing the corner of his mouth.

Erik spoke to the coachman and slipped him some money as Charles climbed into the carriage and tried his hardest not to laugh. Not even in his most unabashedly cheesy movies had he had the occasion to show up in a horse-drawn carriage, and yet here he was riding one up to the inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle for Sleeping Beauty, surrounded by a winter landscape that any director making a holiday movie would sell non-vital organs for.

Charles intertwined his fingers with Erik’s as he climbed in beside him, kissing him just above the collar of his turtleneck before pointing towards Neuschwanstein. “Take me to your castle.”

Erik chuckled as the horses began trotting up the hill, “I’m sorry if it’s a mess. I’ve been spending all my time with you, and you just can’t trust the help these days.”

Charles laughed. “That’s all right, I’m only interested in your wine cellar.”

It was getting chilly now that they were going up the slope, and Charles unfolded the thick blanket that was on the seat beside him, wrapping it around them before slipping his arms around Erik’s waist and pressing a cheek against Erik’s chest to hide it from the biting wind. Erik tucked Charles under his arm, holding on tightly. Charles sighed contentedly as he watched the pine trees that were coated in a thick layer of snow go by them and listened to the calming sound of the horses’ hooves on the road, getting lost in the familiar scent of Erik’s cologne as he stayed warm and nestled in his arms.

He heard his Blackberry beep then and reluctantly extricated himself to fish his work phone out of his pocket. “You have to hand it to your countrymen. The reception here is excellent.”

Erik’s Blackberry went off as well, and they exchanged a look before hurriedly checking their devices. Charles’ eyes lit up when he saw the screen. “It’s from the hospital.” He grinned brightly as he held the e-mail up to Erik, “My tests came back clean.”

Erik smirked as he flashed him his results as well, “Mine, too.”

And that was all he could remember before Erik’s mouth was on his, hot and wet and insistent, a gloved hand tugging on the curls at the nape of his neck to tilt his head back for better access as Erik fucked into his mouth with his tongue. Charles grabbed fistfuls of Erik’s clothing as he let Erik crowd him into the corner of the carriage, his mind fully occupied with thoughts of how he couldn’t wait until tonight when they were back in their room to let Erik claim every last part of him, the anticipation of finally feeling Erik inside him already making him half-hard. Charles let out a hitched breath when Erik bit down sharply on his bottom lip before proceeding to sooth it with his tongue, and was about to grab Erik’s face in his hands and kiss back when they were interrupted by a loud grunt from one of the horses in front. Erik buried his face in Charles’ shoulder and laughed, and Charles kissed Erik’s ear before smiling into his hair.

“I’m pretty sure that one’s name is Raven.” Charles remarked lightheartedly, thankful that the coachman had not turned around.

Erik let out an exaggerated sigh before prying himself off Charles, “I suppose it’s too late to go back to the room now.”

“And whose fault is that? Someone thought it would be a lovely idea to whisk me away to a beautiful castle up on a hill,” Charles teased as he kissed Erik chastely on the lips, running his thumb over Erik’s reddened mouth, proud that he was the one that had made it that way. “I feel like we need a moment of silence for all those condoms we wasted. Poor Darwin.”

Erik smiled as he shook his head and Charles laughed, full and hearty. That whole ‘Louie Louie Debacle’ was actually hilarious in retrospect, and Charles imagined they could tell it someday (when they were thoroughly sloshed) just to torture Darwin.

They were at the castle soon enough, and Charles thanked the coachman sincerely when he hopped off the carriage, thereafter sneaking into Erik’s coat to steal some warmth. “Let’s go inside somewhere, grab a snack since we’re early?”

Erik nodded, bundling Charles in his arms as they made their way across the snow and into Schlossrestaurant Neuschwanstein nearby. They settled into a booth seat in the restaurant, Charles choosing to slide in next to Erik instead of across so he could slip his hands under his turtleneck in an attempt to warm them up. Erik shuddered but did not move away, tucking Charles under his arm instead. “Liebling, you’re freezing.”

Charles rubbed his palms in circles across Erik’s lower back and stomach, both to speed up the thawing process as well as to take advantage of the sudden access he had gained to Erik’s skin. “Not anymore.” Charles answered, smiling as he peered over the menu. “What are we having, darling?”

“How about some Glühwein to get you warmed up?” Erik suggested as he rubbed his leg against Charles’ under the table.

Charles wrapped his arms around Erik’s chest and hugged him tightly, resting his chin on his shoulder. “That sounds splendid.”

Erik called the waitress over and placed an order for two glasses. They did not have to wait long for their drinks to arrive, and Charles handed Erik his cup of mulled wine, turning to face him as they clicked their glasses, “Prost, love.”

Charles locked eyes with him over the rim of his glass and a corner of Erik’s mouth turned upwards as he blew on his drink, “Careful, it’s--"

Too late, Charles choked as the vapours of alcohol from the warm drink shot up his nostrils, holding up his hand when he saw the alarmed look on Erik’s face. “I’m fine, really,” Charles said as he cleared his throat before downing a couple gulps of the red wine. There were strong hints of cinnamon and cloves with a slight zing of orange and a generous dash of rum, and Charles hummed contentedly as he slouched back down against Erik, feeling the drink warm his tummy. “This is delicious. The cinnamon reminds me of some of your mother’s cakes.”

“I wouldn’t know. You ate all of them.” Erik chuckled when Charles grumbled while shoving at him playfully, and Erik retaliated by cupping Charles’ face and kissing him, running the tip of his tongue tenderly along the seam of Charles’ lips, warmer than usual thanks to the drink, and Charles really had no choice but to melt against his chest, that sly bastard.

Charles kissed the tip of Erik’s nose before pulling away. He picked his glass back up, taking a large sip from it and warming his hands on its sides as he stared into the deep red liquid. “Oh, I just remembered. I’d like to send Raven a postcard. We should head to the souvenir shop before we start the tour, if we have the time.”

Erik raised his glass, clicking it against the side of Charles’, “Bottoms up.”

* * * * *

“Isn’t this postcard lovely? Almost as beautiful as the real thing,” Charles said over his shoulder as he pulled out one with an aerial shot of Neuschwanstein Castle.

Erik nodded his head, sliding up behind Charles to hold him around the waist, taking a deep whiff of Charles’ neck before resting his chin on his right shoulder. He should probably have gotten Charles to wear a scarf prior to leaving their room, but now he was enjoying pressing his face against the warm skin of Charles’ neck too much to fret over that. As far as Erik was concerned, he should be given an award for not attacking Charles’ throat in public, what with it being so long and pale and smelling as good as sin. “I’ll send one to Emma as well, pick one for me?”

“That’s very sweet of you,” Charles remarked, humming in approval as he rubbed the shell of Erik’s right ear between his bare fingers, turning the postcard rack with his other hand as he searched for one for Emma. “How about this?” he asked, showing Erik a postcard that was similar to the one he had chosen himself, except that this one had the castle and surrounding woods blanketed in a thick layer of snow and frost.

“Wonderful.”

Charles brought them over to the cashier and made the payment, and then they headed for a quiet corner to write on the postcards. Erik was done in no time and busied himself watching Charles pen what appeared to be a short essay on the back of his postcard, amused at how his forehead would wrinkle up in concentration every once in a while when he paused in between sentences. Charles finally looked up when he was done, smiling, “We could go to the post office later when we head down into town, get them to express mail these so the postcards get there in time for Christmas.”

“Sure, Liebling,” Erik responded as he handed his postcard over to Charles.

Charles took one glance at the back of Erik’s postcard and shot him a look that was somewhere between disapproving and fond amusement.

Erik chortled at that, shrugging his shoulders innocently. “What?”

Charles burst into giggles, sliding an arm around Erik’s lower back as he leaned against his chest, “Darling, can’t you be a little nicer?”

Erik tried his best to hold back his laughter as he guided them towards the exit, feeling quite lightheaded. Fine, perhaps it was not a very wise decision drinking that wine on an empty stomach. “This is me being nice, I even said I was thinking of her,” Erik responded, attempting to sound incredulous. “And we got her diamonds for Christmas, I’d say that’s being very, extremely nice.”

“Oh, right, of course,” Charles replied as they stepped out into the snow, shaking his head and smiling, “You’re a bona fide Prince Charming.”

Erik arched an eyebrow as he glanced down at Charles, with his blood red lips and pale skin, chuckling as he kissed the apple of Charles’ cheek, which was rosy from the cold winter air, “I guess that makes you Snow White.”

Charles let out a noise of mock irritation as he shoved at Erik’s chest with the hand that wasn’t slung around his waist, and it was a testament to how tipsy the Glühwein had made the two of them when neither Charles nor Erik managed to steady the other before the two of them went tumbling onto the snow in a tangle of limbs. Charles landed on top of him, a familiar weight pinning him down, and the pair simply stayed there laughing until the thin, frozen air left them gasping for breath. The truth was Erik would have been contented to remain that way, holding on to Charles until they ran out of hours and days.

Charles propped himself up eventually, bare hands pressing against Erik’s shoulders as he brushed his lips lightly against Erik’s, just a whisper of skin on skin, before he got back onto his feet. “I’m sorry, love. You’d think we’d be able to hold our liquor better after all our binge drinking.” Charles bent over and grinned, brilliant as the sun, holding out his arm. “Take my hand.”

Erik simply stared into Charles’ devastating blue eyes, somehow even deeper than the sky behind him from Erik’s vantage point, as though it had been Charles’ gentle gaze that had overwhelmed Erik and knocked him flat on his back. Erik understood then that everything felt different when he looked at Charles, not at all like how he would glance at people he had been acquainted with for years and get the sense that he fully knew them. With Charles it felt like he recognised him, like Charles was that someone he had been looking for his whole life. He gaped for so long that he was sure that the people around them were beginning to stare at them as well, and yet he couldn’t bring himself to care. Charles tilted his head, his smile growing softer as he extended his fingers, “Erik, take my hand.”

Erik reached out and grasped it. He had always been aware that Charles’ palm fitted perfectly in his, soft and comforting against the bony angles of his own, his skin warm once more thanks to the wine. Erik let Charles pull him back up on his feet, unable to shake the feeling that this one action alone defined what they were to each other, with Charles always the one reaching out and pulling him out of the depths to which he had fallen to, rescuing him from himself.

“You’re being very maudlin all of a sudden,” Charles commented as he stroked his arm. “There’s that look on your face again.”

“What look?” A corner of Erik’s lips quirked upwards right before he leaned in and kissed Charles deeply, hands burying in his hair.

Erik placed a light peck on Charles’ lips before pulling away, and Charles let out a short laugh, the puff of mist his breath created distracting Erik momentarily. “I can’t describe it, I’ll be sure to have my camera ready the next time.” Charles sidestepped and dusted off the snow on the back of Erik’s coat, lacing their fingers together and tugging Erik along, “We best get going, or we’ll never make it inside the castle.”

Erik had arranged a private tour for the two of them, and their guide was already waiting for them at the entrance when they arrived. She seemed like a pleasant enough middle-aged woman, thankfully not one of those deranged fans hoping to try and get closer to them, and she walked over to greet them with a warm, “Guten Tag!” prior to shaking their hands. “I am Kristin and I will be your guide for today.”

“Good afternoon, Kristin. I’m Charles, how do you do? And can I just say that you have such beautiful hair?” Charles began running his fingers through her blonde curls, and Erik was starting to feel just a little sorry for her, knowing exactly where this was going.

“Oh, thank you.” She blushed, tucking her hair behind her ears as Charles continued, “Might I ask you for a huge favour, love? I was hoping that perhaps Erik and I could view the castle on our own? And you could have the lovely afternoon off to relax, I’m sure you’ve had such a tiring morning.”

She looked around the room uncertainly. “Oh... I’m sorry, but we require that all visitors be accompanied by a guide.”

Charles turned the full devastation of his large pleading eyes on her, complete with a quivering lower lip, and Erik had to summon all the skills he’d picked up from his years of acting to keep a straight face. He knew that look very well, had been at the receiving end of it countless times, the poor woman was done for. “But Erik has been here before, I’m sure he could show me around. Please? I promise we won’t cause any trouble.”

She chewed on her lip, nodding after a pause. “Okay, but please stay along the tour route. And no photography inside the castle.”

“Thank you so much, my dear.” Charles took the maps and brochures from her and kissed her on the cheek, and Erik smiled at her before following Charles down the hallway, trying not to laugh at her shell-shocked expression.

Erik slung an arm around Charles’ waist, stifling a chuckle into his shoulder now that they were out of earshot. “I really should be more alarmed at how you have no qualms about manipulating unsuspecting bystanders.”

Charles stared up at him innocently, “What do you mean? All I did was ask her nicely.”

Erik patted Charles’ cheek on the opposite side of his face fondly. “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately? Your eyes are a weapon of mass destruction. Also, the one time I came here, I spent most of the tour making sure my mother didn’t break anything. I’m probably not going to be a very good guide.”

“I get to kiss you in nooks and on spiral staircases, I’d say that already makes you the front-runner for the best guide I’ve ever had.” Charles gripped his hand, smiling from ahead as he walked backwards, “Come on, Your Majesty. Show me around your palace.”

* * * * *

It took all of five minutes for Charles to realise that Erik’s claims to not know anything of the castle were simply him being terribly modest. Erik went into detail about how the murals on the walls were in Gothic and Romanesque styles, depicting the original myths that Richard Wagner’s operas were based on. The paintings were exquisite, portraying scenes of love and guilt, repentance and salvation, and Charles could not help but wonder how anyone could have thought that King Ludwig II, with his appreciation for culture and beauty, was stark raving mad. Poor chap, he’d probably be rolling in his grave knowing that the castle he had ordered to be built for his own personal retreat from the public eye was now one of the most visited castles in the world. And it was truly such a shame that it never was completed.

They made their way to the topmost floor of the castle that was open to public and found themselves in the Singers’ Hall with its elaborate coiffured ceiling, meant to host banquets and musical performances and offering awe-inspiring views of the countryside, which reminded Charles of a place he hadn’t been to in a while. Charles stepped in front of Erik, resting his hands on Erik’s hipbones as he peered up at him after he was done explaining how the room was a monument to knights and legends of medieval times. “You know, I have a little retreat myself, tucked away from the rest of the world. No one would find us there. Not as nice as this place, of course. Though I swear it is most definitely in livable condition, if perhaps a little dusty.”

“Charles Xavier, are you asking me to run away with you?” Erik teased, leaning in as he tilted Charles’ chin up with the side of his curled forefinger.

“Yes, I am.” Charles smiled, wanting desperately to kiss the mouth that had been spouting all about European history, music and literature. Nothing turned him on more than an intelligent man, and of course it helped that Erik was basically sex on legs. Charles slid his hands up Erik’s chest, coming to rest on his shoulders so he could use them for support as he closed the distance between them, eyes falling shut as he began kissing Erik languidly in the middle of the large hallway, not caring whether a tour group decided to come barging in.

He loved the way Erik kissed, tipping his head down to make up for their height difference, tongue instinctively sliding into Charles’ mouth to claim it, to claim Charles for himself. Erik was a possessive man by nature, apparent from the way he often let a hand settle on the small of Charles’ back at the most random times. In fact, he was doing that right now, his fingers splayed across the curve of Charles’ spine, pushing Charles closer into Erik’s space. Charles let out the slightest, breathiest moan which Erik was quick to capture, his other hand sifting through Charles’ hair like grain.

Erik stepped closer so their bodies were flush together, pressed tightly from chest to thighs to feet, and Charles let himself be manoeuvred backwards a little so Erik could thrust his tongue in even deeper, losing himself to the feeling of Erik inside him and the heady scent of Erik’s skin. Charles did not notice it at first, the distant sound of music that had begun wafting down the hallway, likely from a nearby room, the soft instrumental phrases shimmering in strings and harp, lapping over one another in burgeoning harmonic tension. Erik withdrew himself slowly, only to whisper breathily into his ear, “That’s the ‘Liebestod’, from Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’.”

Charles grinned, taking in how Erik’s hand was still on the small of his back and the way his palms were still resting on Erik’s shoulders. Erik’s other hand was now warm against his neck, and Charles wrapped his fingers around it, holding it out to the side. “Can I have this dance?”

His mother had made him pick up ballroom dancing once he had come of age, for high society charity dinners and debutante balls, which he had tried his very best to get out of as much as possible, though the skill set had come in very handy for a few of his movies. They had all been obligations, snotty displays of poise and pretence, and Erik was the first person he had ever really wanted to dance with. Erik raised his eyebrows in response, looking highly amused. “You’ll have to teach me, Liebling. I’ve never learned how to.”

“Oh, we could practice together someday. The steps I was taught are all wrong now, seeing as how you’re taller than me,” Charles nuzzled the side of Erik’s neck, taking a small step backwards and smiling when Erik followed perfectly. They continued that way, just swaying slowly with the music, not bothering about posture and poses, just letting the prolonged cadences move them gently in small circles on the spot. Charles angled his face a little, just enough for Erik’s nose to brush against his, and soon their lips found each other again, trading chaste kisses as their bodies melded together. Charles could have stayed that way forever, with the soft orchestra music and the sunlight streaming in through the windows that ran along the length of the hallway. The notes began to swell then, and Erik tipped him backwards as the music climaxed, swallowing his small gasp of surprise with a passionate kiss that would have made his knees buckle had they not already, and all Charles could do was wrap his arms around Erik’s neck, never wanting to let him go.

* * * * *

“Is this thing working?”

Charles practically draped himself over Erik’s back in order to lean over his shoulder and tap at Erik’s iPad. Erik could have brought the device closer to himself, but it wasn’t exactly a hardship to feel Charles pressed against him. “I think it’s still trying to establish a connection. Give it a minute or two.”

The blank box in the center of the screen flickered, and then Raven’s face was peering out at them, several seconds before her voice joined in: “- I think I can - hey boys, how’s it goin’?”

Charles winced. Erik quickly lowered the volume on his iPad. “Very well, thank you,” answered Charles, beaming at the blonde. “Europe is beautiful in the winter. We just sent you a postcard!”

Raven grinned. “I’ll keep an eye out. Where are you right now?”

“Neuschwanstein,” Erik replied.

“Still a bright beam of sunshine, you are.” Raven tilted her head and adjusted the webcam on her end. “So, how did it go? Meeting the in-laws, I mean.”

“Splendidly. Jakob and Edie are lovely people, and they were very welcoming to us.”

For a brief moment, Raven’s expression softened. It was gone before Erik could be sure, but it made Erik wonder if she’d somehow been worried about Charles meeting Erik’s parents. “Of course,” she sniffed, as if the occasion couldn’t have gone any other way. “I bet they absolutely love you. I mean, your acting career has practically set you as the bar for all the nice boys mothers want to be introduced to.”

Erik cleared his throat. “How are the video and audio on your end, Raven?”

“Clear as a bell. The video lagged a little at first, but it seems to have figured itself out.”

“Thanks for helping us test it out,” Charles chimed in.

“No problem. Thank fuck for technology, right?”

Erik could only nod in agreement. Charles gave her a rueful grin. “It’s not anywhere as good as having the real thing close,” he said, one hand grabbing on to Erik’s shoulder to help keep his balance. “But it’s better than nothing.”

“Oh, hey, I have a present for you guys!” she announced. A second later, Erik’s iPad notified him that he had a message. He opened it to find that it had a video attached. “Enjoy! Though, on that note, maybe watch it later after we’re done talking. Don’t want you guys getting all distracted with me still on the line.”

“We have a present for you, too,” Charles announced, sporting a faint flush over his cheeks.

“Oooh, what is it?”

“You’ll have to wait and find out.” Charles was laughing as Raven huffed out an annoyed scoff which blew at her fringe. “Wow, this app is so good that I can tell just how irritated you are with me right now.”

Raven rolled her eyes. “Isn’t that my usual frame of mind?”

Erik, who had been distracted by a patch of Charles’ exposed skin just below his collar, suddenly spoke up. “Now kids, be nice,” he said, waggling a finger at Raven in a no-no-no manner. “Let’s not play this game.”

“But Charles was the one who--” Raven began, but she was promptly cut off as Charles hit the ‘mute’ button.

Mein Gott, you two really are like brother and sister sometimes,” Erik said with a laugh, un-muting the indignant Raven.

“All right, I can take a hint,” she said, giving them a quick salute. “Enjoy the video, you ingrates.” Her expression softened as she halted above the ‘disconnect’ button, “And enjoy the holidays together, you two.”

The brilliant smile Charles shot her ensured that all was forgiven. “You too, my dear.”

Once she logged off, Erik scooped Charles into his arms. “Come on, let’s go watch this mysterious video she sent us.”

* * * * *

All in all, Raven and Hank had done an excellent job with the video. It really covered every angle of The Kiss, and Erik felt like he was rediscovering a well-treasured memory shot for IMAX 3D. He chuckled as he held Charles closer, the two of them gaping at the screen. No wonder people always told them to knock it off whenever they kissed in public: they did look like they were trying to eat each other.

However, there was something about the way Charles kissed that Erik had never noticed before from his usual vantage point. Now, from an outsider’s perspective, he couldn’t help noticing the earnest, sweet way Charles kissed him, slow and exploratory, eyebrows knitted together in concentration, his plush lips slowly teasing Erik’s apart. It was a world of difference from the way Erik kissed him, possessive and focused, his mouth firm and fully intent in pillaging Charles’ sweet red mouth. It made Erik mad with desire all over again, breathing deeply as his trousers got tighter and tighter.

Fuck, all this just from kissing. No, actually, just watching himself kiss Charles.

“Erik, are you all right?” he heard Charles ask, and when he turned to look at the real flesh-and-blood article, Charles’ eyes were unreal. His pupils were dilated, surrounded by a ring of electric blue. Maybe Charles wasn’t even aware he was doing it but he was running his tongue over that plush bottom lip, the same lip that Erik loved to suck and nibble on.

Erik didn’t even know he was instinctively leaning in until his lips were brushing against Charles, their breaths mingling, and he was so close he could see Charles’ dark lashes resting on his cheek as he gazed down at their almost joined mouths. Almost, even though Erik didn’t know why he was holding back. Drawing out the anticipation, probably.

His head dipped forward, lips seeking Charles’, and the resulting kiss was long and drawn out, agonizingly slow as Charles’ fingers threaded through his hair. Erik loved this, loved the feeling of Charles’ fingernails scraping gently against his scalp. Then Charles was tilting his head, half-muffling a soft moan, one of the most erotic, sweetest sounds Erik had ever heard. If he were a scientist he would record every single one of the noises Charles made during sex and study them. Best of all, he would study the different methods to see which would produce what sound.

Erik leaned in closer, capturing the tip of Charles’ tongue and sucking on it like he would the head of Charles’ cock. Ah, this produced a helpless ‘ngh’ sound that made Charles shudder sweetly, his cheeks turning pink. Erik ran an experimental hand down Charles’ chest, stopping halfway to rub the hardened nub of his left nipple through his shirt. That produced a hitch of Charles’ breath, his eyes fluttering shut in ecstasy. Oh yes. Erik could spend an entire day just seeing what brought Charles pleasure.

Now his hand continued sliding down past Charles’ stomach, caressing it gently before Erik’s hand dipped between his legs, cupping the growing hardness he could feel. He rubbed the heel of his hand against Charles’ crotch, and that caused Charles to moan desperately into Erik’s mouth, his fingers tightening in Erik’s hair. Erik rubbed some more, enjoying the fact that he could feel a damp spot growing where the head of Charles’ cock would be.

He pulled his mouth away and Charles immediately chased after it, but Erik denied him the kiss, keeping his hand between Charles’ legs. “I love you so much,” Erik blurted out of instinct, because this was something he did without having to think, it was so deeply ingrained in his bones that he felt like Charles was in his blood all the time, even as he slept. Charles in his dreams, Charles in his head, Charles in the very place that mattered, the space in Erik’s chest that had been dark and empty for a long time.

“I love you, too,” Charles whispered back, equally as instinctive, his arms looping around Erik’s neck as he climbed into his lap. The kiss this time was far more urgent and uncontrolled, raw with bites and the scraping of teeth, and Erik felt more than heard Charles gasp when he began stroking Charles through the fabric of his trousers again. Erik smiled into the kiss, pulling Charles even closer to him before his lips started trailing down Charles’ jaw, kissing a line down to that smooth, pale neck.

“Love the way you taste,” Erik murmured before latching his mouth there, feeling a surge of lust at the broken way Charles moaned. He loved knowing the spots that Charles was extra responsive, whether it was his neck or that warm patch below his ear. Erik made his way up there now, holding Charles steady as he started to arch into Erik’s hand, greedy and impatient. “Patience, Liebling,” Erik whispered, before sucking on his earlobe, the soft curls of Charles’ dark hair tickling his nose. Charles smelled so good, like shampoo and sweat and the soft worn cotton of his cardigan.

“Erik, oh Erik.” The way Charles was grinding against his hand was ridiculously sinful, as though Charles were made to this, to move with him in sync like this. “Erik, please take me to bed, please.”

Fuck, the way Charles begged him for something Erik was dying to give him anyway...Erik couldn’t stop his hips from giving a slow, experimental thrust upwards into the valley of Charles’ open thighs, making Charles gasp into Erik’s hair. Despite the fact they both still had all their clothes on, there was no mistaking the intent of what Erik wanted to do to Charles. Repeatedly. All night. Naked.

“Your wish is my command,” Erik whispered against the shell of his ear, making Charles shiver. He slid both his arms around Charles’ body, manoeuvring them off the couch and as he slowly rose to his feet, Charles obediently hooked his legs around Erik’s hips, clinging onto him tightly. “Hang on, Liebling,” Erik huffed as he carried them both to the bed, but it was hard to concentrate with the way Charles was kissing his neck, sucking wetly on his skin. Erik shivered as he gently laid Charles down on the bed, the mattress creaking softly with their combined weight.

However, the way Charles was looking up at him now - eyes half-lidded, lips moist and parted, cheeks flushed pink with exertion - was making Erik weak in the knees. He climbed on top of Charles, who was already slipping his hands under Erik’s shirt, warm against his skin. “You’re beautiful,” Erik whispered without even realising it, bending down so that his nose was brushing against Charles’ flushed cheek. It felt warm and downy, heated against Erik’s own skin. Erik pressed a kiss there, feeling Charles’ cheek muscles flex as he smiled.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” he whispered into Erik’s ear. “Can’t wait to feel you inside me, with nothing between us this time.”

Yesyesyes, Erik thought, drunk with anticipation. Since they both had a clean bill of health, condoms were out the window. The thought of having Charles like this, without any barrier within them whatsoever, was intoxicating. “I want you,” Erik murmured against his ear, feeling Charles shiver in his arms. “I want to come inside you.”

“Oh, fuck yes,” Charles huffed out, arching up against Erik, but he was trapped by Erik’s larger body, and Erik managed to claim those red lips in a kiss as he reached up to pin Charles’ wrists down.

“You’re not going anywhere,” Erik growled, watching as Charles started panting below him, writhing in anticipation. As silly as it sounded, Erik truly believed Charles’ body - shorter, softer, paler - was made to fit against his own perfectly in every single way, to respond to his every single touch. He pushed a knee between Charles’ legs, spreading them further apart. “You’re mine, and I’m going to fuck you so hard that you won’t be able to get out of this bed tomorrow.”

“Yes, yes, please yes,” Charles frantically begged, twisting under Erik’s grip. With his dark, mussed hark and sweet parted lips, he really did look like Erik’s wet dream come true. Even better, one that could interact. Charles thrust up against Erik’s hips, and Erik moaned shakily when he could feel the hard, hot line of steel sliding against his own. “Erik,” Charles was pleading, his voice bringing Erik back down to earth. “Erik, I want you so badly.”

Erik bent down, brushing his lips against Charles’ wet ones. “I know, Liebling, I know.” And then they were kissing again, soft and sweet and tender this time.

He pulled away just so he could unbutton Charles’ shirt, feeling like he was unwrapping a prize. Charles watched him, smiling as he palmed the side of Erik’s face. Erik took in the pale, flushed chest, his gaze raking over the hard, pert nipples that were begging for his mouth and, as Erik finally finished unbuttoning the shirt, the smooth, white stomach. Erik couldn’t resist bending down to lavish kisses there, feeling Charles lazily raking his fingers through his hair.

“Erik...” He could hear Charles’ singsong voice above him, but there was an edge of urgency in it, signalling Charles’ impatience. Erik took his time, though, running his tongue over the smooth, slightly salty skin, and he let it nudge into Charles’ soft belly button.

There was a groan above him, and Charles’ hands tightened in his hair. Erik licked again, and he swore he could feel Charles’ cock twitch in his pants. Smiling against Charles’ stomach, Erik began undoing the button, then dragged the zip slowly down with his teeth.

They both let out a soft whoosh of breath, and Erik locked eyes with Charles as he slowly slid down Charles’ trousers. Charles grinned slyly at him, lifting his hips to help as Erik tugged down his underwear as well. Charles was already more than hard, his cock as pink and rosy as the rest of him but just a little darker, a drop of pre-come beading at the tip. Before Erik even knew what he was doing his mouth was kissing it away, licking it up greedily and making Charles surge up with a moan.

In the background, Erik could hear Bryan yelling “CUT!” on the video, and they were both startled. Erik hadn’t even realised Raven’s video of the kiss was still playing, since he and Charles had gotten so carried away. Now Charles was chuckling breathlessly, pink spots of colour high on his cheeks, and Erik couldn’t resist crawling back up for a kiss or ten.

“You taste so good,” he whispered before fucking Charles’ mouth with his tongue, hearing a muffled noise of agreement from Charles trapped beneath him. He could feel Charles’ hands sliding down his chest, then tugging insistently at the hem of his turtleneck. Erik didn’t need to read his mind to know what Charles wanted; he broke the kiss so that Charles could whip off the offending garment, then he was running his hands reverently down Erik’s chest. His eyes were following the same path, and Erik couldn’t get over just how hypnotizing those eyes were.

“Charles?” Erik waved at him, and those electric blue eyes jumped up. “Charles, I’m up here.”

There was a wry twist to Charles’ mouth. “But I like the view from here.”

Erik pretended to look surprised. “You do?” Although he was reluctant to pull away from Charles’ touch, he had to do so, so that he could get his pants off. Erik was about to roll off when Charles began kissing down the path his hands had traced, gripping him by the hips and flicking the tip of his tongue against the skin just below his navel, which Charles had come to learn was especially sensitive, driving him mad. “Charles,” he gasped out, arms starting to tremble from the things Charles was doing to him and from supporting his own weight.

Charles released the hold he had on one of his hips, reaching up to nudge Erik’s corresponding hand out of place before mercifully rolling Erik onto his back. Charles popped the button of his pants, pinning Erik’s thighs down and attacking the freshly exposed sliver of skin with his tongue and teeth before blowing on the wet skin gently, the cool air sending shivers down Erik’s spine and straight to his straining cock. Charles arched an eyebrow up, voice deep and dark, “Would you like me to take off your pants?”

“Yes, oh God, fuck, Charles. Yes,” Erik groaned out, hands clawing at the sheets.

Charles pulled the zip down, mouthing at Erik’s cock through his underwear as it was slowly released from its confines. He hooked his fingers over the waistline and pulled roughly as Erik lifted his hips, tugging Erik’s pants and briefs all the way off and throwing them onto the floor. Charles crawled back up the bed, running his thumbs in circles around the pulse on the sides of Erik’s neck as he kissed him, loose dark curls falling in waves around them. “Better?”

Erik’s only response was to cup Charles’ ass in his hands, gripping them tightly like how he remembered he had that day they kissed in the studio, thrusting his cock along Charles’ as he would have, had the entire world not been watching. They both let out a groan, Charles digging his nails into Erik’s shoulders as Erik had his way with him for a while, rubbing their erections against each other with abandon, and Erik felt Charles’ hot, wet cock twitch against his as Charles pressed his forehead against the crook of his neck and keened.

Charles then rested his hands on Erik’s chest and pushed him down into the mattress. Erik stilled and Charles grinned wickedly just before he brushed his lips against Erik’s sternum and slid his tongue out, licking circles down Erik’s chest and the line of his abdomen as Erik arched up towards him, then finally wrapping those swollen, red lips around the head of Erik’s cock and taking Erik into the devastating heat of his mouth as far as he could go.

Erik let out a shout followed by a string of mindless babbling punctuated by “fuck” and “Charles” and “yes”, having no idea how he was going to keep this up without coming embarrassingly early, what with Charles tracing patterns down the inside of his thighs with his fingers.

“Wait, wait.” Erik’s hands were scrabbling at Charles’ shoulders, urging him to stop. He was too close, gasping for air as he fought down his impending orgasm. It didn’t help that Charles was looking up at him through his lashes, rubbing his cheek against the head of Erik’s straining cock. “Wait, I’m close. If you keep this up, I’m going to come soon.”

Charles raised an eyebrow at him. “Erik, that’s the point.”

“No.” Erik was shaking his head, propping himself up on his elbows. “Not like this. It’s our first time barebacking and I want to be inside you.”

Charles visibly melted, pressing a last kiss to the tip of Erik’s erection and crawling up to kiss him again, Erik wrapping him in his arms and tasting himself in Charles’ mouth. This turned him on even more, and he flipped them over gently, mindful of Charles’ back injury, so that Charles was now laid out in bed beneath him. Erik bent down, pressing a kiss to a prominent freckle on his shoulder. God, he loved Charles’ freckles.

“My mouth is here, darling,” Charles said, sounding amused. “You’re kissing the wrong spot.”

Erik trailed his mouth upwards, pressing kisses all the way. “Am I?” he whispered as his mouth finally reached Charles’, their lips only an inch apart. “For me, the ‘wrong spot’ means ‘anywhere not on Charles’.”

“You giant sap.” Charles gifted him with a slow, sensuous kiss, a warm hand squeezing his ass. “Go get the lube, I can’t wait any more.”

Erik got in another quick kiss before he groaned, remembering where his bag was. “Dammit, I left my bag in the other room.”

Charles grinned at him, those remarkable blue eyes lighting up. “No need, my bag is right here.” He pointed to the side of the bed, wiggling his eyebrows at Erik. “I thought to bring my own tube, just in case.”

Erik shook his head, laughing. “This is why I love you.” One last kiss, and then Erik bent down over the side, rummaging through Charles’ bag for the lube. He spotted something that looked like a page torn out of a magazine, and out of curiosity, he pulled out the rumpled page, realising that he was staring at a shirtless photo of himself at the beach. Laughing, he held it up to show Charles, who was quickly turning pink with embarrassment.

“It was just something I saw in one of the mags Raven brought me when I was recuperating in the Canary Islands,” Charles babbled, trying to take it out of Erik’s hands. “I mean, you looked so good, and I was missing you a lot--”

“Oh, Charles.” Erik kissed his forehead gently, letting the forgotten page flutter to the floor. “I think it’s cute.”

“Thank God you don’t think I’m some kind of stalker,” Charles mumbled, and Erik gave him a quick grin before diving back inside the bag for the lube. He finally found it, a brand new tube still in the original packaging.

“I wonder what the cashiers think when we’re paying for these,” Erik remarked as he tore off the plastic, settling in between Charles’ legs again. Charles eagerly spread them for Erik, wrapping his arms around Erik’s neck and pulling him down.

“Stop talking so much,” he whispered in Erik’s ear. “And fuck me, hard, before I tie you down and ride you like there’s no tomorrow.”

Erik shivered deliciously at the thought of that. “And what if I want that?” he mouthed against Charles’ jaw.

“Too bad, you’ll have to fuck me first.” Charles’ eyes had that naughty, defiant spark in them, and Erik could feel Charles’ foot rubbing against his leg. He was losing himself in the various sensations of Charles touching him, rubbing against him, all a silent plea to get Erik inside him now.

Well, who was Erik to deny Charles?

He slicked his hand with lube, warming it between his fingers before reaching down between Charles’ legs, circling that tight, familiar entrance. Charles locked eyes with him, letting out a slow, relaxed breath. Erik gazed right back at him, feeling something tighten inside his chest. He had never done this with anyone before, laid himself so bare in more ways than one. He leaned down to nudge a kiss against Charles’ cheek, wanting to tell Charles just how much he meant to him. But then, he suspected Charles already knew.

Charles gasped a little as Erik slid his fingers inside, an overly familiar routine for them by now, but one that Erik would never get tired of. In the beginning he often had to go slow with just one finger first, for Charles had been so tight. Now, he knew Charles could take two, sometimes three immediately. Judging from the pleased sound Charles just made, he was relaxed enough to take more, so Erik kissed him again, this time on the lips as he added another finger. God, Charles was so sinfully tight around him, no matter how many times they had already done it.

Charles was now attacking his mouth eagerly, and when Erik hooked his fingers at that particular angle he had memorised by now, Charles let out a deliciously broken whimper, which Erik swallowed greedily. He loved seeing Charles come apart in his arms like this, just from his touch.

When Charles tightened his grip on Erik’s shoulders, he knew it was code for Charles being ready. He broke off the kiss so he could look for the tube and slick himself up, but the way Charles was now kissing his neck was incredibly distracting, his mouth hot and wet. Erik forced himself to take deep breaths, quickly spreading lube on his aching cock. The lubrication felt cool and tingly, so different from when he had a condom on.

“You ready?” he murmured, catching Charles’ reddened, kiss-bruised lips. Charles nodded eagerly without breaking the kiss.

Erik guided the tip of his cock to Charles’ entrance, then pushed in slowly. He was shocked by the vast difference in not having a condom on, the sheer intimacy of being buried in someone, skin on skin. Judging from the way Charles’ mouth was dropping open, his eyes dazed and wild, it felt different for him too. Maybe it was a psychological thing, maybe it was an emotional one. Whatever it was, Erik didn’t care. He was inside Charles. Bare.

“Oh, my God.” Charles was biting his lip, his eyes so blown, irises darkening to a stormy blue, and the tender way he cupped Erik’s face made Erik’s heart clench. “Erik, I feel you,” Charles whispered out into the ether between them, and Erik knew Charles meant it in so much more than just the physical sense of the word because he felt it too, like the same soul flowed between the both of them, just divided in two. Once Erik sank all the way in, he took Charles’ hand off his face, pressing a reverent kiss to the centre of his palm before twining their fingers together. He had never felt so connected to Charles, and it seemed like everything he felt for the man was thrown into the mix, transcending the experience to a few levels beyond the physical and emotional intimacy they were accustomed to sharing during sex.

“I love you.” Erik squeezed Charles’ hand, and Charles squeezed back, hooking his legs around Erik’s hips in a vice-like grip.

“Love you, too.” Charles let his other free hand tug Erik’s face down and they were kissing once more, imperfect and sloppy and messy, and Erik dragged his cock back out, then thrust in deeply again into Charles’ slick, tight heat. This made Charles groan into Erik’s mouth, and Erik was happy to swallow all the hot, needy noises Charles was making.

Charles arched up against Erik, and it was Erik’s turn to groan when he felt the hot burning line of Charles’ cock pressed between both their stomachs, the pre-come leaving a wet smear on his skin. Erik was already reaching for Charles’ cock with his free hand when Charles stopped him, twining his fingers with Erik’s as well. Erik was puzzled. “Charles, don’t you--”

“Shhhh.” Charles was smiling, panting against his cheek. “I want to come like this. Without you touching me.”

The thought of bringing Charles to orgasm just from his cock alone drove Erik almost insane, and he attacked Charles’ mouth with a feverish gusto, his tongue fucking that sweet, beautiful mouth that could go on about genetics or wine or method acting, the mouth that belonged to the man he loved. He was thrusting faster and harder now, locked between Charles’ thighs, the bedsprings creaking from their combined exertions. When Erik broke off the kiss for breath, he could see Charles’ eyes rolling up in delight, completely losing himself to Erik as his grip tightened on Erik’s hands. “Oh fuck, Erik, harder, please fuck me, harder, Erik--

The broken way Charles was moaning his name sent a surge of lust pooling in the base of Erik’s stomach, and he desperately wanted to come inside Charles and fill him up with his seed. Mine, all mine, Erik thought as he watched Charles completely unravelling beneath him, he wanted this for all eternity, and he thrust in so hard that he could feel Charles’ toes curling against his back, his cock twitching against Erik’s stomach.

“Erik--” Charles was meeting his thrusts now, their fingers still locked together, cheeks so red that he looked like he’d just run a mile. Erik bent down to claim a kiss, thinking, This is what you look like when you’re being fucked, this is what I’ve been imagining ever since I shook hands with you at the first meeting, you in my bed, you in my sheets, moaning my name with my cock deep inside you, you in my life, forever and always--

Erik’s eyes snapped open when he felt the telltale pressure building at the base of his spine, knowing he was right on the edge. He wanted to come with Charles, and thank God that Charles was close too, eyes almost black, mouth open and slack with pleasure, skin flushed pink from head to toe. “I’m going to-” Erik warned him with a gasp, and thankfully Charles understood, nodding urgently and pulling Erik even closer.

“I want to feel you,” Charles pleaded, and Erik’s hips drove in one last time so hard that the bed creaked, and at the exact same time Erik was spilling everything inside Charles with a shout, he could vaguely feel Charles spurting between them, his mouth a wide open ‘O’ of pleasure as he coated both their stomachs, their fingers locked tight. Erik bent down so their foreheads were touching, thrusting again as if to push his seed even deeper inside Charles, and this caused a corresponding moan from Charles, as though he wanted to be completely filled up by Erik.

Charles’ eyes, though, his eyes. Erik was completely bewitched by them, the same blue after a sommersturm in Düsseldorf, and he held onto that gaze even as his hips did one last thrust of their own volition, deep inside Charles. In return Charles let out a soft, stuttered laugh, his head tilted to the side as he fought to catch his breath. “This was so different, so amazing,” he panted wondrously.

“I know.” Erik leaned down, nuzzling a kiss against his mouth. His grip on Charles’ hands had loosened, but he could feel his fingers trembling from where they rested against Charles’, belatedly noticing that Charles was shaking, too. It felt like a whole new level of making love, something so intense that Erik had never experienced before, not even when he had lost his virginity. He was surprised when Charles frowned up at him, then brushed his thumbs against Erik’s cheeks, and he was stunned to realise they were wet.

“Oh Erik, I love you so much.” Charles’ lashes were starting to look moist as well, and Erik was close enough to watch them slowly peel apart as Charles blinked in the soft lamplight. Then Charles was wrapping his arms around Erik’s neck and dragging him down for a proper kiss, and Erik let himself get lost in it, feeling like an utterly new man.

* * * * *

* * * * *

December 23rd

Moira showed up at Madeo at a quarter to 8, wearing her favourite red peasant top and black capris. At first she had been unsure of what to wear; it seemed like a date, but at the same time, she wanted to keep it light and informal with Sean. Levene had laughed when she had told him about it, gently teasing her about robbing the cradle, but there was something mellow and quirky about Sean that she liked. The men she dated were all usually older and rather jaded, and Sean seemed like a fresh burst of sunshine in comparison.

He showed up exactly at 8, wearing a grey blazer over jeans and a Ramones T-shirt. He also had on a straw fedora, and it made Moira wonder briefly if he was a hipster.

Sean seemed beyond delighted when he finally spotted her, grinning from ear to ear. “Hey, you made it!” he said, leaning in to kiss her on the cheek.

“Of course, I wouldn’t turn down the offer of free food,” Moira said with a wink, making Sean chuckle. They headed to the entrance, but before Moira could even give her name for the reservation, the head waiter was already fawning over her, immediately showing the two of them to the best table in the house. By now Moira should have been immune to intense public scrutiny, but the addition of Sean’s presence made her all the more aware of the curious eyes following them. Sean seemed oblivious though, taking off his fedora and ordering a bottle of wine from the waiter.

“Everyone’s looking at you,” he said once the waiter had gone, but he said it in a very amused way, as though he were encouraging her to vent about it. “Do you ever get used to it?”

She offered him a listless shrug. “It becomes like background noise after a while,” she said honestly, observing the way he was leaning in, listening to her. “I don’t notice it, except when I’m dating someone and then the paps are shoving cameras in my face.”

Sean took a mischievous look around them. “Like now?”

Moira couldn’t help grinning at him. “If this is a date, then sure.”

He blinked at her earnestly. “Of course it is. Should I have brought along a baseball bat to keep the paps away?”

Laughing, Moira crossed her legs under the table. “You could always do it the old-fashioned way like Russell Crowe and knock someone unconscious with your phone.”

Sean chuckled, running a hand through his red curls. “Cool, I didn’t know a phone can double as a weapon to bludgeon someone with.”

“Of course,” Moira said with a wink. “It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to sock a pap in the eye.” She belatedly realised what she had indirectly said, and of course Sean was sharp enough to pick up on it. To his credit, he kept his voice casual as he played with the salt and pepper shakers.

“It’s been a while since your last date?” His voice was soft, a little husky with disbelief. “I find it hard to believe, you’re amazing. I bet men are beating down your door, but you just don’t give them the time of day.”

Moira didn’t know what to say, and luckily she was saved by the server, who brought them their angel hair vongole appetisers. She was deep in thought as she picked up her fork, twining the pasta around it. Sean was still watching her, eyes bright and attentive, completely ignoring his food. Of course he’d be waiting for an answer.

“Well, maybe it’s been a while,” she conceded with another shrug. “I don’t know, sometimes I get tired of trying.”

“Of dating?” Sean prodded.

Nodding, Moira continued to wind the pasta around her fork. “It’s just that it always seems to be the same old thing. Go out with some guy, hang out for a while, and either my work will get in the way, or he’ll lose interest.” She didn’t know why she was telling Sean this. Maybe it was part of how he made her feel at ease, in general, and he seemed genuinely attentive to her. “I mean, for the large part of it, men sometimes stay away from me because they think I’m dating Charles. Well, not anymore, obviously.”

Sean laughed, curling back in his seat. “Yup, I’d put a huge, giant ‘NO’ for that one.”

Moira rolled her eyes. “Trust me, even Erik thought we were dating at first. And the way he stared at me! Good God, if looks could kill, I’d be dead of multiple stab wounds.”

Sean raised an eyebrow at her. “Want me to smack Erik around a bit for you?”

Moira gave him a look, which made Sean dissolve in laughter.

“Okay, okay fine, I admit he can kick my ass,” Sean said with a grin. “I could always grind something up and put it in his coffee. He’ll be too busy making eyes at Charles to notice, I promise you.”

Moira waved him away with a laugh. “No, it’s fine, I get it. I’m glad Charles is happy. He waited for the right person, and I’m glad it paid off for him. Which is why I’m doing the same.”

Sean had begun to dig into his food, swallowing before he asked, “Why do you think you haven’t found the right person yet?”

“I don’t know,” Moira said with a sigh. “I think most men just have this expectation of me from the movies I’ve been in, you know? Like I’m some illusion that they dreamed up, and they get disappointed when they realise the real girl is some jeans and T-shirt-wearing tomboy who likes eating Doritos and crying at sad movies.”

Sean didn’t say anything, but he nodded for her to go on.

Encouraged, Moira calmly continued: “It’s like what Rita Hayworth used to say, ‘They go to bed with Gilda; they wake up with me.’"

“Who’s Gilda?” Sean asked.

“Gilda was her most famous role,” Moira explained, before eating a forkful of the pasta. It was really delicious, as usual, yet she had lost her enthusiasm for the food. “Men went to bed with the dream; they didn't like it when they would wake up with the reality. It was sad, really. I believe Marilyn Monroe went through the same thing as well.”

Sean was now eating quietly, deep in thought, and Moira concentrated on her plate as well. Great, now I’ve gone and scared him off as well, she thought wistfully, not that she could blame him. This date was supposed to have been fun and informal after all, and she had no idea why it had spiralled into melodrama so quickly.

To her surprise, Sean spoke, once more quoting a line that was very familiar to her: “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.

Her smile softened. “That’s my favourite Shakespearean play.”

Sean nodded happily. “I thought it was the best way of saying that the roles you play don’t define who you are,” he said a little sheepishly. “But the Bard said it much better than I ever could.”

Moira tilted her head at him, grinning even wider. “That’s a beautiful sentiment,” she said. “And do you know I played Rosalind in my high school play?”

To her surprise, Sean nodded a little shyly. “Trust me, you don’t want to know just how much I know about you,” he muttered into his pasta.

Ordinarily Moira would have been a little creeped out by this, but Sean was so open and unassuming with her that she couldn’t help but find him harmless. It reminded her of her own crush on River Phoenix when she was growing up, and how she had always imagined meeting him one day and finding out what he was really like. It was a little strange, to be on the other side of the equation, but Sean really was cute. And oh so harmless.

“At least you don’t have some deluded illusion of me,” she said with a little smile, before quirking an eyebrow at him. “Right?”

“No.” Sean was now looking at her directly, the food forgotten as the smile on his face grew wider and wider. “I want you to be nobody but yourself.”

They were interrupted by the server setting down the main courses at their table, and Moira let out a small scoff. “You must think us actors are such a whiny bunch of divas, complaining about our lives when we have it so good.”

Sean lifted an angular shoulder in a shrug. “I think the loss of privacy is more detrimental than people might realise.” His voice now seemed softer, huskier. “It must be terrible, when you get your heart broken and you have to read about it in the papers and news.”

Moira’s fork paused on its way to her mouth, then she set it down again before reaching over and squeezing a surprised Sean’s hand.

“I’m glad you understand I’m not trying to be a diva. It’s just that sometimes I feel as if we’re like animals in cages at the zoo, on display for the world to see,” she said with a sigh, her thumb brushing over his knuckles as she offered him a smile. “You seem to understand actors really well.”

Sean, who was now turning a very nice shade of red, gave her a goofy grin. “First I grew up worshipping actors, and now I work with them for a living. Of course I’d understand.” He pretended to narrow his eyes speculatively. “Maybe I should write a manual for people who date actors. ‘The Proper Care of Actors’, or something like that. What do you think?”

Moira chuckled, letting go of his hand so she could tuck her hair behind her ear. “I think people continually underestimate your brilliance, Sean,” she said a little teasingly, even if she meant it. “I sure won’t make that mistake again.”

Sean’s brilliant grin stretched from ear to ear. “You know what, you can do whatever you want with me.”

* * * * *

December 25th

It was difficult to miss the way Charles’ footsteps began to lag as they trudged up the path towards the London home of the Xavier family. Even a casual passerby would have been able to read the hitch of reluctance in every movement Charles made. The polite blankness of his expression was, in its own way, far more worrying to Erik than heartfelt ranting.

Charles was a man who wore his heart on his sleeve and displayed every emotion on his face for the world to see. This new look - or old look - was just wrong. Like a twisted facsimile of Erik’s cool indifference, at least from his pre-Charles self, and it sat unnaturally on Charles.

The door opened just as they reached it. Sharon Xavier looked nothing at all like Charles - the color of their eyes matched, but Erik was only able to tell because he would recognise that remarkable shade anywhere. She was sleek and sharp and neat, where Charles was all warmth and a little unruly around the edges. Her form-fitting red dress might have fit the palette of the holiday, but the way she wore it made Erik remember, suddenly, the cloaks he’d worn for ‘Sparta’. He felt like he should be carrying some kind of weapon.

“Mother,” Charles greeted her. Erik remembered, now, the care Charles had taken in selecting his shirt and coat for today, the way he’d compulsively checked over his appearance the whole ride here from the train station.

“Charles,” she replied. This seemed to be a sort of cue: Charles took the remaining steps to her and lightly air-kissed over both cheeks. She barely moved for it, only getting the half-filled wine glass in her hand out of the way.

Charles stepped back. “And this is Erik Lehnsherr.”

Barely a minute after seeing her in person for the first time, and Erik was already braced for the calculating look she cast over him. He’d been prepared to fake warmth and happiness to be here - he was an actor, after all - because this was Charles’ family, but he quickly realized that it would have been a bad idea, anyway. He settled for holding out his hand. “I am glad to finally meet you, Mrs. Xavier.”

Sharon let out a dismissive “hmm”, but conceded to briefly touch her hand to his. She turned back to Charles. “Your usual room has been prepared. Dinner will be in an hour.”

Charles nodded. “Father?”

“He just called. He won’t be joining us tonight.” She drank a big mouthful of wine. “Still at CERN, or so he says. Some issues with the Large Hadron Collider.”

Sharon disappeared back into the house. A man in uniform came out and offered to take their bags. Erik politely declined. Charles blinked, and suddenly looked so tired that Erik wanted to wrap his arms around him. Charles must have read his concern on his face, because he gave Erik a small smile, switched his bags to one hand, and took Erik’s hand with his freed one.

At any other time, Erik would have stared at the opulence of the house. Everything screamed expensive in that understated way that only old money could achieve. But his eyes were all on Charles, and he only peripherally registered the slick marble flooring, the polished dark wood of the banisters, the art lining the hallways. One of the reasons Erik was glad for his profession was in how the money had allowed him to move his parents out of the serviceable home of his childhood into a much bigger, much sturdier house, with cheerful staff to help them. The Xaviers lived on an entirely different level, though.

Charles’ bedroom was not particularly extravagant, but it was still large enough to have made for a studio flat for a couple of starving students in London. Charles didn’t speak until they were inside, the bags stowed away next to the wide bed.

“I’m sorry,” was the first thing Charles said. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “For my mother. She’s not the warmest person in the world. I’d hoped that my father would be here. He could at least have warned me-”

“Hey,” Erik interrupted him gently. “It’s all right.”

“We just have to survive through dinner,” Charles said, a touch desperately. “I’m sorry. I can’t promise it will be pleasant, or even civil, not after Father has stood her up again.”

Erik decided to ratchet up his counter-offensive by kissing Charles firmly. “Stop apologising - you have nothing to be sorry for. What, do you think I’ll leave you if your mother is less than polite over the Christmas turkey?”

Charles, to his credit, hesitated only a little bit before he let out a breath and a timorous, “No?”

“You’re ridiculous,” Erik said fondly, kissing him again. “You know, I was very nervous about this part of the trip.”

Charles’ eyebrows settled into a complicated configuration on his forehead. “Why on Earth for?”

“I’m not exactly the best at ‘meeting the parents’,” Erik confessed. “Or meeting new people in general, as you know well.”

After a moment, Charles leaned in close, relaxing slowly against Erik. “I guess we really are perfectly suited to one another, then.”

“Besides,” Erik said, “this dinner cannot possibly be worse than some of the meals I had with executives and agents when I was first starting out.”

Charles laughed. Erik felt more than a little proud of himself for coaxing some of the tension out from Charles’ body. “Oh, God, don’t remind me of those. You’re probably underestimating just how horrible this dinner is going to be, but, fine, fair point.”

Erik changed his mind halfway through the meal. It was almost exactly like those lunches and dinners with bored rich Hollywood producer types and sharp-eyed individuals with purported connections, all looking at him like he was only slightly more interesting than the usual cattle line outside auditions. He couldn’t remember the last time he wanted to drink so badly, but couldn’t, because Charles had decided he was not going to survive the evening sober, and Sharon Xavier was already tipsy when she joined them at the elegantly-set dining table.

They exchanged a few pleasantries - Charles complimented Sharon on her dress, Erik made admiring comments about the house and the dining room.

“It’s been in the Xavier family for generations,” Sharon said to the latter. “I thought about redecorating a little bit, but Brian is terribly attached to it.”

After all the main courses had been brought out and placed on the table, Erik noticed that Charles was staring at the food, tenser than Erik had ever seen him before.

“Mother, I told you that Erik is Jewish,” Charles said. A muscle on his jaw jumped.

“Did you? That’s interesting,” Sharon said distractedly. “Thomas, uncork another one of the Chateau Mouton Rothschild Pauillac, will you?”

Mother.” The sharpness in Charles’ tone was uncharacteristic enough that Sharon actually looked directly at him. “He is Jewish, and some of these dishes are not kosher.”

Sharon blinked for a long moment, then let out a disdainful sniff. “Really, Charles, you can’t expect me to remember every little thing you natter at me. And Christmas is a Christian holiday. I’m sure your friend doesn’t mind.”

Erik could only send Charles a conflicted look. Truthfully, he was so used to having to figure out which of his food options would be kosher that he wouldn’t have really noticed if Charles hadn’t said anything. Sharon went on as if Erik had given some sort of satisfactory answer. “There. I do wish you’d stop trying to embarrass me, Charles. You’re a grown man, now, despite your choice of profession. I have been incredibly patient with you, and I expect you to accord me with some respect.”

They tucked into their meal in silence. Erik did his best to act like he was comfortable, even though every clink of his silver utensils against the the fine china plates sounded disproportionately loud. From what he could observe of Sharon and Charles, this seemed to be the usual atmosphere for Xavier dinners. Sharon did not seem to notice that anything was amiss, and Charles was eating with careful precision, taking small servings and small bites despite the deliciousness of the fare.

“Charles tells me you are German?” Sharon said to Erik after a while.

“Yes,” Erik answered. “My parents are currently living in Munich.”

“We saw them over Hanukkah, as a matter of fact,” Charles added. Erik didn’t miss the flash of wistfulness on Charles’ face, nor the bitterness in his tone.

Sharon didn’t look as if she even heard Charles. She leaned towards Erik and partly lowered her lashes in a manner that she probably thought was artful. ”I have always found German men to be refreshingly direct."

Erik fought to swallow his water properly. Oh good God, was the woman flirting with him? Across the table, Charles’ eyes had widened in horror and mortification.

Erik knew that he could take anything, could suffer through any embarrassment or insult flung at him. But he realised, right then, that watching Charles take hurt, seeing Charles endure the casual negligence of his own mother in silence, was affecting him far more than anything anyone could do to his own person. He heard a rattle, and looked down to where his fingers had curled tight around the handle of his fork.

"Then allow me to be direct, Mrs. Xavier," he said.

"Sharon, please," she breathed at him.

"Mrs. Xavier," he repeated firmly. "I think you should be asking your son about his work, instead of propositioning his boyfriend in front of him at the dinner table."

He tensed, not knowing how she would react. Confusion lined her face for a brief moment, then she downed the rest of her wine in one go and held it out for a refill. The alcohol was clearly affecting her by now, but her gaze still conveyed an icy sort of consideration.

"I expect Charles has been telling you all sorts of things about me," she said. "He's very good at that, you know. I'm not surprised he became an actor. His grandfather must be rolling in his grave." She took a drink from her fresh glass of wine and peered at Erik over it. "You're an actor, too, aren't you? I've seen your face somewhere."

Erik cast a worried glance over at Charles. He thought he'd made things worse, but for some reason Charles had relaxed, though he bit his lip when his mother addressed Erik again.

"Yes, I'm an actor as well," he answered Sharon.

She let a dismissive huff, likely not realising in her drunken state that it was louder than she intended. "New money, too, I bet." She set the wine glass down on the table hard enough that its contents would have sloshed out, if she hadn't already drunk most of it. "I don’t know what expectations you had in coming here, but I've made it clear to Charles that his father and I will not give him a single pound as long as he persists in this ridiculous sham of a profession. If you’ve got hopes for the family fortune, then I’m sorry to disappoint.” She hiccuped. “Never, you’re not getting it, not as long as Brian or I are alive. You’ll have to make do with just Charles.”

Charles was staring at him, concern and alarm clear on his face. If the table wasn't so wide, Erik would have reached over and taken his hand. He hoped his expression conveyed to Charles how little he cared about what Sharon thought of him. And he could feel no insult in being called 'new money', when said money was providing a better life for his own parents, and one product of 'old money' was in front of him listing dangerously to one side of her chair and giggling at some unknown joke. And to imply that he was only with Charles for his family’s money!

“I assure you,” he said, once he could speak again past the sheer rage, “Charles and I are managing perfectly well on our own. And I don’t give a fuck about your money. You can take it to your grave and be buried with it.”

There was a kind of pudding for dessert. Erik barely tasted it - which was a pity because he was sure it was excellent. The worst part, he decided, was how little his anger and Charles’ hurt mattered to Sharon. She was already waiting for a new bottle of wine to be uncorked. Her eyes, too bright and glazed over, floated over Charles and Erik with as little awareness as a butterfly had for worms in the damp earth; they’d clearly been dismissed, and no longer existed.

* * * * *

By the time they made it to bed, Charles looked like he’d gone through a week’s worth of action-heavy scenes and night shoots. He’d perfunctorily brushed his teeth, then shrugged off his expensive evening wear and flopped face-down on the large bed.

Erik took a little more care, though he couldn’t stop casting worried glances at the motionless figure on top of the covers. Charles’ body radiated tension so strongly that Erik’s back began to ache in sympathy.

Charles didn’t say anything when Erik climbed into bed and gently gathered him up, arranging them both so that Charles was resting on his side, cradled by Erik’s long limbs. There was a certain tightness around the edges of Charles’ face, not quite pain but not far from it. Erik rubbed a soothing hand up and down Charles’ side; he was reminded of Charles’ injury, and had to wonder if the effort of maintaining a civil demeanor and a perfect posture through dinner was taking its toll on Charles’ freshly healed back.

“I always tell myself that she cares, in her own way,” Charles’ voice broke the quiet, distinctly raspy. “She’s just - it doesn’t come naturally, to some people. I don’t think she ever wanted to be a mother. But it was the done thing.”

Erik tightened his hold around Charles. “Doesn’t change the fact that it hurts you.”

He had no idea how long they laid like that. When Charles began to shake, mild tremors that he tried to disguise or hold off by tensing up, Erik caught Charles’ hands, one in each of his own, and pressed their interlocked fingers down over Charles’ chest. This pulled Erik’s arms around Charles’ upper body, solidly folding him into Erik’s slightly larger form.

“Let it out, Charles, if you need to,” he whispered into Charles’ hair. “I love you. I’m here.”

Charles resisted for a little while longer. And then he slumped, letting out a defeated sigh that broke Erik’s heart. Erik held him even tighter, even though he was practically squeezing Charles at this point. Charles didn’t complain; the fingers locked with Erik’s were gripping down just as hard. Charles shook in earnest, great wracking sobs that were eerily silent, as if even now he was trying not to be heard, not to draw attention to his hurt.

Erik held him through it. Charles slipped out a soft, hitching gasp and immediately tried to curl in on himself, like he was mortified by that more than anything else; Erik had to blink back angry, helpless tears and remind himself that there wasn’t anything he could do about the past. Charles had saved himself long before Erik ever came into the picture.

He expected that they would just fall asleep like that, and so was surprised when Charles, after his breathing had steadied down some, suddenly twisted around and up and literally shoved his mouth against Erik’s to take a hard, salty kiss.

"Please, Erik," whispered Charles. "Touch me. Give me something else to think about."

Erik hesitated. Charles, impatient, moved their joined hands down to his stomach. Erik groaned low in his throat and took over. He reluctantly untangled their fingers and rubbed Charles' arms, swept his hands over pale shoulders and down Charles' front, fingers ghosting over his nipples and his navel but not stopping. Charles whined, pushing his ass back against Erik in an unmistakable message.

"Let me, love," Erik said soothingly. He was relishing the feel of Charles’ skin beneath his fingertips. The two of them were always raring to get right to the sweaty bits; it was nice to just feel Charles, to let everything Erik felt about this man rise briefly, simmering, to the surface.

Charles was the one who impatiently slid off both their sleeping pants and pushed the lube into Erik's hand. Erik refused to be hurried. He took his time preparing Charles; especially when, for all his apparent eagerness, Charles' body was tense. Erik patiently worked his fingers in, gently coaxing Charles' muscles to relax. He thought he could get off like this, just from feeling the heat and pressure around his fingers, and Charles didn't sound too far from it, either.

"Please, Erik," Charles whispered again, sounding a little broken, a little lost.

Thanks to his extended ministrations, the first slide in felt easy as breathing. Erik gasped quietly. He was self-conscious of being in a strange house, of not knowing just how thick the walls were. The thought of Charles' mother overhearing them horrified him. But he didn't want to hold back all noise, as they were signs of Charles' effect on him.

Charles had lived too long in silence.

"Can you feel me, Liebling?" he groaned straight into Charles' ear. "I'm here. I'm inside you. Fuck, you feel so good. I'd be inside you always, if I could."

"I want you to be," Charles moaned back. "Oh God, Erik, please, move, I need you, need you to make me feel it."

It took a great deal of self-control for Erik to resist rolling Charles onto his front, pulling his hips up, and fucking him into the mattress like Charles wanted him to. Instead, he wrapped his arms around Charles' upper body, like before, keeping them both on their sides, and rolled his hips in a steady rhythm. His thrusts were slow, but deep, and Erik kept Charles locked in place.

Charles gasped approvingly, though he also tried to wiggle out of Erik's hold. Erik suspected he wasn't trying to escape so much as trying to goad Erik into doing more. He tensed his arms, and hovered his mouth over Charles' ear, "Always so stubborn, Charles. But you won't get your way this time. I have you, I'm having you right now," he punctuated his words with a particularly sharp snap of his hips, "and you'll take my cock the way I want you to."

A noticeable shiver ran down Charles' body, and Charles moaned, loud, his body going pliant in Erik's arms. Erik just held him tighter, making it clear to Charles that he was locked in place.

This was for Charles, all he could think about was Charles, and so Erik was surprised to hear that his own breathing had become short, stuttering; there was a tightness in his throat and a heaviness on his chest that wasn’t all due to the press of Charles’ body. The rolling motion of his hips took on a regular rhythm that was not too far from his heartbeat. Each thrust into Charles’ body, his cock piercing that clenching tightness, seemed echoed by the pounding under his ribs.

A particularly hard thrust had Charles gasping out a strangled, “Er-ik,” his fingers interlocking with Erik’s over his chest. Erik moaned, licked along the back of Charles’ neck.

His muscles were starting to ache, because of the angle, but he fucked Charles even harder, not speeding up but putting more power into his thrusts, until he was pounding into Charles with punishing force.

The sounds coming out of Charles made him fervently hope that the walls were very thick in this house. Preferably lined with sound-dampeners.

Charles let out a strangled shout when he climaxed and Erik tried to muffle it by shoving his tongue into Charles’ mouth. Charles greedily kissed him back, and drank in Erik's loud moan in turn. Erik still felt a heady rush from being able to come inside Charles, feeling the slickness around his cock as he rocked out their aftershocks.

It was too dark to see properly, but Erik could hear the watery quality of Charles' voice, and imagined Charles' eyes wide and shining a touch too bright. "God, I love you," Charles said fervently.

Erik could only kiss him again, slow and gentle. He realised, with a jolt, that he couldn't regret coming here with Charles. Most of the time, Charles would be the happy and friendly and energetic one between them. But now they both knew that Erik could be the solid, steady calmness when Charles needed him to be. Erik was willing to be that, and more, for Charles. "I love you, too," he replied softly.

* * * * *

December 26th

Erik had wavered on his plan, wondering if pulling an act that could, at the very least, be construed as rude and likely also stank a bit of intervention would only make matters worse. But the easing of Charles’ features, the loss of the tension that had crept into all his lines and joints until he seemed fit to turn into a figurine or a toy, like the sad Nutcracker, convinced Erik that he’d made the right decision.

The day after the most excruciating holiday dinner Erik had ever experienced in his life, Erik calmly asked one of the house staff to flag down a cab, bundled up their still-packed bags, then bundled up Charles, and walked bags and half-asleep Charles down the grand staircase and out the front door, where one of the ubiquitous London black cabs was waiting. The one whom he thought might be the butler, Thomas, loaded the bags while Erik loaded Charles into the car. Erik thanked Thomas and instructed the driver to head for St. Pancras.

Erik only looked back once, to see the place where Charles’ mother lived disappear from view as they turned a corner. At this point, Charles’ head was lolling on his shoulders, as if he was exhausted despite it still being morning and he’d only left bed an hour ago. Charles never looked back.

“Why don’t you take a nap, Liebling?” Erik suggested quietly. “I’ll wake you once we reach the station.”

Charles made a tired little noise that constricted something painful in Erik’s chest. “I should be more concerned that you’re kidnapping me to places unknown,” mumbled Charles. He shuffled closer, claiming a comfortable spot on Erik’s shoulder for his head. “But, really, anywhere is better than...” He made a vague backwards gesture.

Erik briefly buried his face in Charles’ hair, pressing a kiss. Home will mean something better, he wanted to promise. Make a home with me, and I will show you how. It helped to know that his own parents would be more than willing to help him.

“I’ll let you know when we get there,” he whispered, securing an arm around Charles’ relaxed, dozing form.

* * * * *

Despite the early hour, St. Pancras station was already fairly crowded by the time they got there. Erik muttered several uncomplimentary comments under his breath.

“It’s the holiday rush, I suspect,” Charles said. He still looked a little wan, but he was sitting up and his eyes were alert. He agreed to look after the bags while Erik picked up the tickets he’d ordered online. Erik was initially concerned by this uncharacteristic acquiescence, but when he came back, he saw Charles casually trying to get a better look at the set of tickets in his hand.

Erik wordlessly handed Charles his own set. He felt a touch nervous; the idea of kidnapping Charles was fun and carried a number of interesting possibilities, but he didn’t actually want to take Charles anywhere against his will.

Charles’ eyebrows arched up when he read the destination printed on the last ticket. He blinked at Erik.

“My Mama always said that if I ever found myself not knowing where to go next,” Erik said quietly, “going home would help me find out.” After a moment, he added, “She loved your latkes, you know. I’m sure she has a million other recipes she wants to teach you.”

Charles looked away then, and Erik could see him blinking hard. “She’s just a good teacher. And she probably wants to make sure I’m able to feed you when she’s not around.”

Erik reached out and took his hand. He could no longer remember a time when this small action hadn’t felt easy and natural. Charles smiled, first at the floor and then looking up at Erik, letting Erik see the wet glimmer of his eyes. Words failed Erik, as they were wont to do. But now he knew there were other ways of communication that Charles would understand perfectly.

So he kissed him, letting himself sink into the warmth of the moment, while all around them people surged to wherever they were going next, and the trains pulled sweetly into the station.

* * * * *

Raven had planned to visit her parents over Christmas, but her father had whisked her mother away on a last-minute cruise to Florida, so she had ended up spending the holidays with Hank instead. It wasn’t exactly a hardship, given that they were still in the honeymoon period and unable to keep their hands off each other. Now she knew why Charles and Erik were seemingly insatiable, and felt a little bad about every snarky remark she had thrown their way now that she was in the same boat.

Hank had come over for Boxing Day lunch, bringing a stack of Star Wars DVDs with him that they intended to spend the day watching together, cuddling on the couch. She greeted him at the door with a kiss, which was getting handsy until he hitched her up onto the nearby table where she put her keys and her mail, and she accidentally knocked the stack of letters off the table. “Dammit,” she murmured as she broke off the kiss.

“I’ll get them,” Hank said gallantly, and Raven tried not to laugh when she saw how fogged up his glasses were. She watched as he picked up her mail, before he paused as he squinted at one small FedEx package. “Hey, did you see this? It’s from Charles, it’s marked ‘Urgent Delivery’.”

“Oh?” She held her hand out for it, then ripped it open. She was surprised to find only a name card for a limo driver and a messy, handwritten note from Charles: “Dear Raven, please call this number and take Hank with you, the driver will bring you to a place where you will receive your present. Happy Christmas!” Charles then signed off with a row of X’s, making her smile.

“What is that?” Hank asked curiously as he read over her shoulder.

“Only God - and Erik Lehnsherr - knows the mysterious ways Charles’ mind works,” Raven said as she gave him a kiss. “Come on, let’s find out what the talented Mr. Xavier is up to.”

The car arrived very quickly, and Raven got into the backseat with Hank. The driver was polite but tight-lipped, refusing to divulge where they were going. Raven became even more and more curious as they left the city behind, taking the freeway towards the San Fernando Valley.

Although Hank still seemed mystified, Raven was starting to get an inkling of what Charles was up to when the driver deposited the both of them at the Van Nuys Airport with nothing more than a mysterious smile and another letter. Taking Hank’s hand, she read the letter as they ventured further inside the airport. Being Boxing Day, it was not that busy, but there were quite a number of passengers about.

Charles was just as vague in this letter: “Head towards the information counter and look for Irene. Tell her your name, and she’ll do the rest.

“Really, Charles?” Raven said with a sigh, but Hank squeezed her shoulders gamely.

“Come on, it sounds fun,” he said, tugging her towards the customer service counter.

They found Irene, who promptly led them to Hangar 2 while chattering about what a great actor Charles was and how much she liked his movies. Raven was glad when they finally reached the massive hangar, lined with rows and rows of private planes. Irene brought them to a cute Cessna Skycatcher, handing over a piece of paper to Raven. “This set of co-ordinates is from Mr. Xavier,” Irene said with a smile. “You know how to fly this, right?”

“Yes,” Raven said, as Hank turned and gaped at her. “But I don’t have my license with me.”

“It’s all right, Mr. Xavier faxed it over when he booked the plane, so you’re all set to go,” Irene said, as she walked away. “Have fun! If you need anything, just call my personal cell.”

“Wow.” Hank was astounded, his tone full of admiration. “You have a pilot’s license?”

“Only for small planes.” She closed his jaw with a finger before leaning up to kiss him. “Do you think you’ll be able to figure out the co-ordinates? I’m just afraid Charles will send us on a wild goose chase to Morocco or something.”

Hank blinked down at the piece of paper. “Oh don’t worry, it’s not too far from LA.” He whipped out his phone and keyed in the numbers, before bursting into laughter. “Raven, are you up for a quick trip to Big Sur?”

“Oh, my God. He remembered!” Raven was shaking her head in amazement, before explaining to a puzzled Hank, “We were there once to shoot a scene from one of his movies, and it looked so beautiful there that I mentioned it would be a great place for a really romantic date.”

“Well.” Hank smiled down at her, his lips quirking up in a way that made him look both amused and happy. “Shall we proceed to this date then, since Charles has gone to all this trouble?”

She held out her hand to him, grinning. “I may not be able to fly you to the moon, but Big Sur sounds doable.”

* * * * *

December 27th

If it wasn’t for the fact that Scott lived in New York, Alex would never come here of his own volition. Compared to the breezy, laid back wide sprawl of the Californian landscape, Manhattan was a chaotic, crowded mess, and Alex had no desire whatsoever to visit the other four boroughs. Now that it was the holidays, there were more tourists than ever in the city, and Alex had to squeeze past several gawking idiots who were clogging up the sidewalk outside Rockefeller Center. Seriously, what was everyone’s eternal fascination with New York? What was so alluring about a city that left its garbage openly on the sidewalks to be collected?

Grumbling under his breath, Alex checked his watch. Scott had to entertain a few Korean clients who were in town, and would only be free to meet up at 9. Alex wondered if he had enough time to pop down to St. Mark’s. Although he actively disliked New York, the East Village wasn’t that bad and had a lot of interesting little shops. If anything, he could at least get an interesting T-shirt from ‘Trash and Vaudeville’ for Sean.

Alex was not in the mood to take the subway, which added to his never-ending list of reasons to hate New York. It was so confusing, and he often got lost when switching train lines (unless Scott was with him). It looked like he’d have to splurge on a cab, then.

Trying to get a cab to stop for him proved to be another Herculean effort, and Alex was almost ready to give up and brave the subway when a gleaming yellow cab pulled up to the curb right in front of him. “Oh, thank God,” he muttered as he opened the door and got in, about to thank the driver when he saw the confusion on the driver’s face.

Alex turned to his left, and saw a stunned Darwin in the backseat staring right back at him. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Alex said, his mouth dropping open.

“Hey man, what are the odds?” Darwin was now smiling, clapping Alex on the back.

“Where to, fellas?” the driver interrupted brusquely. “I don’t have all day.”

Alex looked to Darwin, who shrugged. “I’m headed to St. Mark’s,” Alex offered.

Darwin shot him a pleased grin. “Oh, I’m going to Union Square. You could drop me at St. Mark’s then, it’s just a couple of blocks away.”

“Cool.” Alex gave the driver the address, receiving only a curt grunt in response. Well, it wasn’t as though NYC cab drivers were known for their world class customer service.

“So what are you doing in the Big Apple?” Darwin asked, shifting a little closer to Alex. Normally Alex would have frowned at this, but he really did like Darwin, who was a genuinely nice guy just like Charles.

“Oh, I’m in town visiting my brother Scott, the one I told you about.” Alex slowly relaxed as he leaned back in the seat, feeling more at ease now that he was with someone familiar. “What about you?”

Darwin’s grin widened. “I live here. Brooklyn born and raised, that’s me all over.”

Alex’s eyebrows shot up. “You’re a native? But...you’re such a nice guy!”

Darwin laughed long and loud at this, his teeth gleaming in the dark gloom of the cab. “So are you saying us New Yorkers are not a nice bunch?”

“Um, well, not exactly--” Alex began, but he was cut off when the cab jerked to a stop, and he felt Darwin’s hand clap over his chest protectively, as if to protect him from some oncoming impact. The driver was now swearing colourfully at a cyclist who was blocking the road, and both Alex and Darwin let out a sigh of relief that an accident had been narrowly avoided. “Whoa man, what the fuck?”

“I know.” Darwin frowned, his hand still on Alex’s chest, warm and reassuring. He didn’t seem to notice it though, and Alex felt his face turn warm as Darwin’s hand slid down to his stomach. “You okay, man?”

“Yeah, yeah, I am.” Alex was trying not to move too much, not wanting to dislodge the nice hand on his stomach. When the hell did this happen? he thought in dismay, giving Darwin a nervous side glance.

The cab started moving again, and to Alex’s disappointment, Darwin slowly took his hand away. “Anyway, don’t be scared of New Yorkers. We really are nice,” he said with a laugh. “We don’t bite. Much.”

Now Alex wanted to disappear into the seats as he imagined Darwin doing precisely that, his teeth pressing down gently on Alex’s collarbone or shoulder. He kept quiet instead, hoping Darwin wouldn’t be able to read the steamy thoughts in his head.

“We’re here,” Darwin announced as the driver came to a stop in front of a corner bookshop with a red sign that Alex found vaguely familiar. “Come on, I’ll show you around the place.”

“I thought you were headed to Union Square?” Alex said, then wanted to kick himself for making it sound like he was chasing Darwin away, which was the last thing he wanted.

“Oh I’m not in a hurry, I’ll show you around first.” Darwin paid the cab driver first, refusing to accept Alex’s share, then hopped out of the cab. Alex followed him, more than looking forward to Darwin bringing him around the East Village, willing himself to forget the warm press of Darwin’s hand on his stomach only moments ago, firm and proprietary.

* * * * *

Charles let out a pleased moan as the cold beer hit the back of his throat, closing his eyes to savour the sweet overtones of banana that lingered on his palate. “Oh, Erik. You were right, weißbier is so good.”

Erik grinned as he took a large gulp of his own. “I told you German beer is das beste.”

It had gotten dark outside and they were now seated in a booth in the enormous Hofbräuhaus beer hall in the heart of Munich after spending the day walking around Marienplatz. They had stood beneath the Rathaus-Glockenspiel at 11 A.M. when its bells chimed, and Charles had set his watch to it as the life-sized figures danced around the two levels of its facade. The rest of the day had been mostly spent strolling through the Viktualienmarkt, trying the local produce and buying all sorts of souvenirs for their friends, and Charles had later dragged Erik up the bell tower of Peterskirche at sunset to take in the views of the city centre. It was lovely to finally rest their legs, and Erik had brought him here to Hofbräuhaus saying he would like it because it was Oktoberfest all year round. Charles exerted some effort as he lifted his large 1-litre mug, still amazed that it was the standard size they served, and swallowed a third of it happily at one go, grinning as he wiped the slight trace of foam off his lips with the back of his hand. “And it’s so big.”

“Careful, Charles. If you keep this up, I’m going to hate myself for being jealous of a mug of beer.” Erik cautioned as he suppressed a laugh.

“Oh, come now. It’s not just this beer that’s huge, even the pretzel is monstrous. It’s almost twice as big as my head!” Charles reached over and picked it up from the basket, breaking off a piece and leaning towards Erik on the opposite side of the table to pop it into his mouth, trailing his fingertips over Erik’s lower lip and tugging it down. He pitched his voice low, lips curving into a seductive smile as he titled Erik’s chin up, “They really do make everything bigger here.” Charles flicked his eyes down to Erik’s crotch pointedly from where he was hovering, giggling as he fell back into his seat when Erik had trouble swallowing the pretzel.

The brass band had switched from playing traditional Bavarian music to pop numbers, and Charles smiled when he recognised his favourite Elton John song. Erik took another swig of his weißbier, shaking his head incredulously. “I really can’t bring you anywhere, so I’m just going to sit here and pretend I don’t know you.”

“Oh, is that so?” Charles raised an eyebrow with a smirk. Erik shot him a puzzled look when Charles got up and brought his beer with him, sliding into the seat next to Erik and placing the mug down on the table as he leaned in. “I would have been a gentleman and offered to buy you a drink first, but I see you already have one.”

Erik seemed to be trying to hide a smile behind his mug, but when he set it down, his face was serious again. “I’m flattered, but no thank you,” he said casually. “I’m waiting for my boyfriend to come back.”

“Well, my friend. I don’t see him anywhere, so I guess it’s just you and me,” Charles replied as he brushed a stray lock of Erik’s hair back, tucking it behind his ear.

“Oh?” Erik was now pretending to look around, before he turned back to Charles, now leaning in closer. Charles swallowed as he caught a whiff of Erik’s woodsy cologne, fighting the temptation not to lean in and bury his nose in the crook of Erik’s neck. From the way Erik was slowly licking his bottom lip, it was clear he was fighting temptation too. “My boyfriend is the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen,” Erik murmured, brushing the tip of his nose against Charles’ cheek, but only just a breath away from a kiss. “If he walked in the front door right now, you could tell his eyes are blue, even from this distance.”

Charles felt a shiver run down his spine and knew he was blushing, trying his best to hide a smile as he turned to face Erik, “And you have a mutated EYCL1 gene. That’s in reference to your eyes, which I have to say are stunning.” He pressed the hand that was closer to Erik onto the seat, leaning into Erik so he was crowded up against the wall, deepening his voice to a low purr, “You see I can’t tell if they’re green or they’re blue.”

This seemed to have quite an effect on Erik, who was now shifting in his seat, which Charles knew meant that his trousers were getting tight. His gaze was flitting between Charles’ eyes and mouth, as though he couldn’t decide which deserved his attention more. “I guess in a certain light, they’re green, and in others, they’re blue.” Erik let his thumb trace the corner of Charles’ right eye, gently brushing against his lashes. It tickled a little, but Charles arched into his hand like a cat, crowding him even more against the wall. Erik didn’t seem fazed, though. In fact, his breathing seemed to get deeper and harsher. “Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen.” Erik’s mouth crooked up in a grin. “But don’t tell my boyfriend that.”

Charles placed a palm up against the wall and grabbed Erik’s shoulder with his other hand as he crawled into his lap, running the bridge of his nose against the shell of Erik’s ear before he whispered against his temple, “All your secrets are safe with me.”

He could feel Erik trembling with sheer effort not to jump him in the middle of the beer hall, in front of all these people. Charles knew he was playing dirty, because he was openly exploiting one of Erik’s main weaknesses: Charles sitting on his lap. He heard Erik take in a shaky breath, then exhaling against his cheek. “Charles,” he was pleading in a hushed voice, and his breath noticeably hitched as Charles adjusted himself on Erik’s lap. “I can’t think straight now, not with you on my lap like this, smelling so good.” Still, it seemed Erik couldn’t resist running a warm hand up the inside of Charles’ thigh, stopping just at the crease where it met his leg and rubbing slow circles there, inches away from Charles’ now very interested cock, which was starting to fill out.

“Well, you’re not exactly playing fair, either,” Charles replied, gasping when Erik stroked a thumb along the length of his cock. “Oh God, Erik, your fingers.” Charles shifted so that they were pressed against each other and began kissing Erik, chasing the lingering taste of the wheat beer with his tongue, Erik’s hands instinctively sliding around to cup his arse. Charles greedily swallowed the sounds Erik was making and was mentally weighing out the pros and cons of dragging Erik into a stall in the gents and sucking him off when he felt something vibrate against the inside of his left thigh. Charles let out a moan, tightening his hold on Erik’s shoulders and around his hips as the muscles on the inside of his thighs began to tremble. However, his brain eventually caught up with the rest of his body and he reluctantly released Erik’s lips, panting into the crook of his neck as Erik stroked his back soothingly. “You should probably answer that.”

Erik groaned pitifully as Charles climbed off him, wrapping a warm arm around Charles’ shoulders as he fished his phone out from his pocket. Erik took one glance at the screen and whimpered. “It’s my mother,” he stated, sounding horrified. Erik exhaled a deep breath and momentarily rested his forehead against the heel of the hand holding the phone before he took the call, “Hello, Mama.”

Charles covered his mouth and laughed, suddenly feeling like a teenager caught with his hand down his pants. He leaned his head on Erik’s shoulder, smiling as he tried to listen in. “We’re leaving soon,” he heard Erik say breathlessly, followed by a short pause and a strangled ‘Mama!’ before Erik hastily said goodbye.

“She wanted to know what time we’d be back,” Erik explained after he ended the call. He ran a hand over his face and let out a cry of dismay, “I can’t believe I just talked to my mother with a hard-on.”

That was it, and Charles broke out in hysterics, laughing so hard that he started wheezing. “I’m sorry, darling. I suppose this is largely my fault,” Charles choked out between fits of laughter.

Erik sighed exaggeratedly, his stern expression lasting all of two seconds before he quit the charade and chuckled along with Charles. Charles let out a startled yelp when Erik messed up his hair in revenge before sliding Charles’ mug over and picking up his phone, shaking his head the whole time, “Just finish your beer. I’m going to call for the car.”

* * * * *

December 31st

Ordinarily, traffic in New York was never easy to navigate, no matter how many times Erik had visited the city. However, on New Year’s Eve, traffic was an utter nightmare, thanks to the millions of tourists flooding the three main airports and streaming into Manhattan just to watch the ball drop at Times Square. Sitting in the hired car, Erik wistfully glanced up at the paparazzi helicopters roaring through the sky, wishing he could somehow control metal and bring one down so he could fly Charles straight to the hotel.

He glanced back down at the dark head resting on his shoulder, Charles chuckling as he watched some video on his iPad. It was lovely to see him smiling and laughing again, after the whole fiasco with his frosty mother in London. Erik pressed a soft kiss to the crown of Charles’ head, breathing in the smell of his shampoo.

From this angle, Erik could see the corners of Charles’ eyes crinkling, which meant he was smiling. “Erik, you have to watch this,” he said, taking out a earbud and putting it in Erik’s ear.

Erik tugged him closer, watching over his shoulder, and he groaned when he realised it was a very old Guinness commercial he did when he was much younger. “Oh Charles, come on--”

“But you look so cute here!” Charles argued, pushing away Erik’s hand as he tried to tap the ‘Close’ button on the window. “I used to love watching this over and over again.”

Erik’s eyebrows jumped up. “Really?” Erik tilted his head at Charles, who suddenly looked a little wide-eyed and panicked, as though he had made a disastrous slip of the tongue. “But this came out a long time ago.”

“Is that so?” Charles’ feigned surprise didn’t fool Erik one bit. “I had no idea. Anyway, let’s watch the next--”

It suddenly dawned on Erik why Charles was so nervous. “Liebling, do you mean to tell me that you’ve had a thing for me long before we met?” he asked slowly.

Charles was now biting his lip, his cheeks flushing an endearing pink. “Uh, maybe just a little crush?” he offered, avoiding Erik’s gaze.

Erik was both very amused and touched, wondering if he could tease an answer out of Charles. Casting a quick sideways glance at the driver, who seemed to be busy stabbing at buttons on the GPS navigator, Erik turned his attention back to Charles, who was worrying that luscious red bottom lip with his teeth. “Just a little crush?” Erik murmured, nuzzling against the warm, pink shell of Charles’ ear. He smiled when he heard Charles’ sharp intake of breath.

“Okay fine,” Charles hissed out, eyes fluttering shut as he nuzzled back against Erik, who was greedily taking in the contrast of Charles’ dark lashes against his smooth, pale skin. “MaybeImighthavebeeninlovewithyouforalongtime--”

“Wait, wait, what was that?” Erik asked, not quite sure if he heard correctly. “A long time? Really?”

Charles only nodded, and Erik brushed a thumb over his cheekbone before leaning in, kissing him soundly. He could feel Charles’ fingers curling around his wrist, rubbing against his pulse point and drawing him closer. As tempted as Erik was, he kept the kiss chaste, no matter how sweet the taste of Charles’ mouth. They were in midtown traffic, after all, and their driver wasn’t blind.

“You should have told me earlier,” Erik said quietly, but his smile was so huge that his cheek muscles were starting to hurt. His fingers curled around Charles’, who was grinning just as broadly. “Now I’m starting to think it is a shame that we did not meet earlier.”

Charles shrugged, putting away his iPad. “I just think that things fall into place when they’re supposed to,” he said simply. “And if it’s not meant to be, or meant to happen later, then we can’t force it. Anyway, I’m still here, with you. And that’s enough for me.”

Erik just stared at him, his heart feeling a few sizes too big for his chest. “You never fail to surprise me,” he said fondly, leaning in for another kiss which Charles gladly gave him.

“We’re here, Mr. Lehnsherr and Mr. Xavier,” the driver said, sounding a little exasperated, although Erik didn’t know if it was from battling the traffic or watching them make out in the back seat. Still, a few kisses were very tame, compared to the wild night they had in their limo after their Halloween party.

The Marriott bellboys quickly helped them with their luggage, while Erik tipped the driver, who did really seem irritated with the people swarming around the car. So it was the traffic, then. “You guys have a good New Year,” he called out, and Charles stayed back for a while to shake his hand and sign an autograph for his daughter.

The streets were swarming with more tourists than usual, most of them wearing the tall, floppy blue NIVEA hats and cheesy ‘2012’ glasses. Some of them stopped to stare at Erik as he made his way to the hotel entrance, and a woman screamed when she spotted Charles trailing behind Erik. “Oh, my God. It’s them!” Although Erik was tired, he forced himself to put on a smile and wait as Charles stopped to talk to the woman, taking a picture with her. Thankfully, the Marriott doorman helped to break up the small crowd forming around them, and Erik slung his arm around Charles’ shoulders as the two of them finally made it inside the hotel lobby.

“I know New York has always been crowded, but that was rather chaotic,” Charles said, blinking a little. Even the lobby was packed with New Year’s revellers on their way out to Times Square, and there were some people in glittery costumes whom Erik suspected were performers for tonight’s countdown.

“It was, Liebling. Aren’t you glad we have our own private party tonight, after seeing the madness outside?” Erik grinned down at Charles, who chuckled as he slid his arm around Erik’s waist.

It was a good thing that the trappings of fame allowed them to skip the long check-in lines, and the concierge promised that he would take care of everything else for them. Thanking the staff, Charles happily dragged Erik over to the elevator, pressing the button and checking his watch. “I can’t wait for a shower, I always need one after long flights,” he said with a sigh, rotating his shoulders.

“We should save water and take one together,” Erik said in mock seriousness as he massaged Charles’ shoulders, feeling them shake with laughter under his grip. Chuckling, Charles was about to reach up for a kiss when they heard a very familiar voice behind them.

“Charles? Erik?”

Charles’ eyes lit up with surprise as he stared over Erik’s shoulder. “Ryan!” As Erik turned, he wasn’t exactly surprised to see that the Ryan in question was Ryan Seacrest; they were in Times Square on New Year’s eve, after all, and this was Ryan’s territory. He walked over, still in casual clothes and jeans, although his hair was as impeccable as always. Erik guessed that he was probably on his way to rehearsal.

“Hey guys, you came out for New Year’s Eve?” Ryan unwittingly asked, before he spotted Erik’s wince. “Whoops, poor choice of words, huh?”

Charles was laughing. “We came out much earlier before that, Ryan,” he said with a grin. “I’m sure you covered it on E! News in excruciating detail.”

Ryan rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine, you’re right. So was I right in guessing that your honeymoon will be in Barbados? Or was Giuliana right when she guessed Italy?”

Before Erik could reply, Charles was already looking speculative. “Italy does sound enticing. I mean, we just came back from Europe and had a fantastic time there, so maybe we’ll do a European road trip of sorts.” He turned to look at Erik. “What do you think?”

Erik was far too happy to answer, just staring at Charles in delight. So he was open to marriage, then. “As you wish,” Erik managed to say, grinning from ear to ear. “If you’re happy, I’m happy.”

“Whoa, whoa.” Ryan was laughing as he held his hands up in surrender. “Downey warned me during the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ press tour that you guys were sappy, but I thought he was just pulling my leg.”

“What exactly did he say?” Erik asked as Charles wrapped his arms around him, but Ryan held up a hand to pause him, whipping out his phone.

“Hello? Yes, yup...I’m in the lobby. I’ll be right there.” Ryan grimaced apologetically. “Okay guys, I got to run, but I’ll see you later at the countdown? You’re welcome backstage anytime.”

“We’ll see, we’re probably just having a private party,” Charles replied, resting his head on Erik’s chest. “But thank you for the offer, Ryan.”

“Hey, no problem. How about a group photo?” Ryan held up his phone. “Let’s give the denizens of Twitter a nice send-off for 2011.”

“Sounds good,” Charles said, and they posed for a photo in front of the elevator that a passing hotel staff helped them take.

“Thanks guys, Happy New Year!” Ryan waved cheerfully to them before he had to run off, and Erik shook his head in amusement.

“An ominous start for our party tonight,” Charles said mysteriously, while Erik laughed and squeezed him closer, the two of them heading into the elevator together as Erik pressed the button for the penthouse suite.

* * * * *

The party was already well under way when Erik entered the function room with a sated and freshly showered Charles on his arm. It was an intimate affair, with only their close friends in attendance. Erik had never been one to socialise much, and having this many new faces in his life still took a little getting used to, but people seemed naturally drawn to Charles - not that he could blame them - and Charles’ friends automatically became his by extension. Erik grabbed a couple of hors d'oeuvres from a passing server, feeding a beef canapé to Charles as they made their way through the room.

Mon ami!” Erik turned when he heard the unmistakable voice, just in time to see Remy sashaying over to them, a glass of champagne in his hand. He had to admit that he had missed the pretty-boy moron, just a little bit.

“What do you want, Remy?” Erik asked, unable to stop the corner of his lip from twitching up into a half-smile.

Non, I am not here to talk to you,” Remy replied, laughing when Erik rolled his eyes, “I am here to see how Charles is doing. Is your back all better, cher?”

Charles grinned brightly beside him, releasing Erik’s arm to give Remy a warm hug, “I am doing very well, thank you for asking. How was home?”

“Ah, I had too much galette des Rois. Does it show?” Remy took a step back, twirling with a flourish so Charles could inspect him while Erik rolled his eyes heavenward yet again.

“Nonsense, you look as dashing as ever,” Charles replied, repositioning himself under Erik’s arm and sliding his own around Erik’s waist.

Remy grinned, straightening his dinner jacket, “Charles always knows the nice thing to say.” He paused, spreading out his arms with flair, “I must make sure I look my best. American girls are very beautiful, oui? I have been in New York only since yesterday and already I have seen more beautiful girls than all week back home in Toulouse. And they are also very friendly.”

“You have your accent to thank for that. Just make sure you don’t chase so many skirts that you forget to collect my pants from the dry cleaners,” Erik quipped, smiling when it earned him a playful swat on the chest from Charles.

Charles lifted his head then, something over Remy’s shoulder having caught his eye, “Speaking of beautiful women... Hello, Emma. You look stunning this evening, I love your makeup.”

Emma floated over, all poise and elegance in her shimmering white gown and frosted eye shadow. “Thank you, Charles. It’s to go with the lovely pair of snowflake earrings you and Erik bought me. I’m assuming you picked it, since Erik is terrible at choosing jewellery. I must say, I never thought the day would come when Erik would get me diamonds from Van Cleef & Arpels.”

“I beg your pardon? What’s that supposed to mean?” Erik asked, unsure if he should feel insulted, though unfortunately what she had said was in fact true. He found himself calming down instantly when Charles started rubbing soothing circles down his back, all but forgetting everything when Charles smiled into the soft kiss he placed at the back of his ear.

“Mademoiselle Frost, it is such a pleasure to finally meet you,” Remy cut in before she could answer the question, bowing as he kissed the back of Emma’s hand.

Erik tried to hold back a laugh when Emma flicked her wrist and grabbed Remy by the jaw, and he ended up letting out a snort instead. It seemed not even the great sweet-talking Remy LeBeau could break through Emma’s defences when they were up. Emma tilted Remy’s face from side to side before finally releasing it, “Hmm... You look better than in the pictures.”

Erik was starting to wonder if she really had just picked Remy out of a modelling catalogue. Remy, to his credit, remained unperturbed, simply holding out his hand and bowing again charmingly, “Shall we go somewhere more private? I will tell you all about the terrible things Erik did while I was babysitting him.”

Emma laughed at that, much to Erik’s surprise. Her smile was dazzling as she took Remy’s hand, “Sugar, I think I like you already.”

Erik blinked as he watched Emma and Remy make their way over to the couches, feeling like he had been royally had. Charles cuddled up to him then, pliant and affectionate as he wrapped his arms around Erik’s neck. “Don’t mind them, we could always get back at them later,” Charles raised an eyebrow and smiled, and Erik bent down to kiss him, soft and sweet.

“Wow, I don’t see you for almost two weeks and it’s like the face-sucking somehow got even worse. I should never have sent you guys that video.” Erik opened his eyes to find Raven staring at them, grinning. Hank was by her side and waved tentatively at him, which Erik acknowledged with a nod.

“Raven, my dear,” Charles greeted as he went over and kissed her cheek.

She hugged him tightly in return, “How was the honeymoon?”

“Wha- ...what?” Charles sputtered as he stepped back. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He wiggled his eyebrows when he noticed her arm hooking around Hank’s, looking back and forth between the two of them and grinning expectantly, “But more importantly, is there something you’d like to tell me?”

Raven burst out laughing, shoving Charles lightly, “What the hell, Charles? Did you think you were hosting ‘The Bachelor’? And for your information, Hank and I had already gotten together on our own, without any of your silly meddling.”

Poor Charles’ jaw dropped at that and Erik slid over to pull him to his side, kissing the shell of Charles’ ear as he remembered how many phone calls they had made between the two of them to arrange everything. Charles slumped against him and groaned, “All my grand romantic gestures down the drain.”

“Oh don’t be such a drama queen,” Raven teased as she came over and kissed Charles’ cheek, “Thank you, anyway.” Raven stepped to the side, tugging Hank along, “I’m starving, so Hank and I are going to head over there and get some food.”

“All right, we’ll catch up with you later,” Charles replied, waving them off. He grabbed Erik’s hand when they’d gone, leading the way to the bar, “Come on, Erik. I think the both of us need a drink.”

* * * * *

If there was one thing Charles loved almost as fervently as he loved Erik, it was champagne. He had tried them all, savouring each glass like a connoisseur, but in the end he would always, always be partial to an elegant bottle of Dom soaking in a bucket of ice. Bless Erik, who generously kept the Dom coming in an endless stream, and Charles was quite sure he was solely responsible for at least two of the empty bottles that had been carried out.

At one point, he felt someone catching him by the waist, warm breath huffing against his ear. “Enjoying yourself, I see.”

Charles smiled blissfully, nuzzling against the familiar crook of Erik’s neck. “I just want to ring in 2012 in style,” he murmured, wrapping his arms around Erik’s narrow waist. “2011 has been good to me, so I’d like to see it go out with a bang.”

“2011 has been good to us,” Erik admitted. ”We found love in a hopeless place...”

Charles chuckled against his throat. “I remember that song! From the night we first got together, at that club. With Perez,” he clarified.

“Of course,” Erik said with a smirk. “And love, we’ve been together since the minute we shook hands. We just didn’t know it yet.”

Charles grinned, his tongue sliding out to lick at the pulse point on Erik’s neck, feeling it jump under his ministrations. “You’re soooo good to me, Erik.”

“Now now, Charles, save some Dom for the rest of New York,” Raven cheerfully shouted over the music, tapping her empty glass. “Really, you’re worse than a camel.”

Erik was blinking blearily at her, and Charles realised that he must be quite tipsy as well if he didn’t have a ready comeback for her. “Charles likes champagne,” he finally said, sounding indignant. “And I like Charles.”

They were both not prepared for the loud exasperated chorus of “WE KNOW!” from the people around them, and it just sent Charles into a further fit of giggles. He really shouldn’t be laughing this hard, but he felt nice and light-headed, and Erik was firmly supporting him, preventing him from faceplanting on the floor. What a perfect New Year’s, really.

Mon Dieu,” he heard Remy’s amused voice saying from somewhere behind him. “Do I need to tag you two out? Should I get coffee? A lifetime membership to AA?”

“Get lost,” Erik said serenely. “We’re allowed to get sloshed, it’s New Year’s.”

Oui, and I don’t want to spend New Year’s searching for a new liver,” Remy said, guiding both of them to the couch. Charles slumped on top of Erik, who felt nice and warm, if a little bony. “Wait while I get coffee--”

“Kahlúa!” Charles said with a cheer, while Erik kissed his cheek. “I love Kahlúa!”

“No, I mean ‘coffee’,” Remy said sternly, before holding up a finger. “I will be right back.”

While waiting for the Kahlúa, Charles started making out with Erik on the couch, clutching fistfuls of his shirt, too drunk to take it off properly. Erik tasted like Dom and mint and Erik, and they were only a few seconds away from dry-humping on the couch when Charles felt a cool hand on his shoulder, the aroma of coffee wafting to his nostrils. “Charles, come on, drink this,” he heard Remy say gently.

Charles reluctantly dragged his mouth away from Erik’s, who made a soft sound of protest. Stroking Erik’s hair back in consolation, Charles turned and blinked dazedly at a hazy figure he assumed was Remy, parting his lips when he felt the press of hot ceramic against his mouth. The coffee was sharp and bitter, making him recoil with a shudder as he struggled to swallow it. “Ugh, that’s terrible.”

He could hear Remy laugh. “It’s doing its job of sobering you up, at least.”

“Hmph.” But Charles obediently guzzled the rest of the disgusting coffee, because it really was helping him think straight (metaphorically speaking, of course). He smacked his lips when he was done, and he felt Remy taking away the cup. “More?”

“Hang on, Charles, I’ll go get some more,” Remy told him gently, easing the cup out of his grip. Charles watched him go, then turned back to Erik who was watching him with a very fond and lazy smile. Now his hand was cupping Charles’ cheek, his thumb brushing against Charles’ lips.

“We shouldn’t have drunk all that Dom,” Charles said with a slight slur, leaning into Erik’s touch. “Why did we drink all that Dom, Erik?”

“You like champagne,” Erik reminded him, his smile growing. “In fact, earlier you announced that you wish Moët made champagne-flavoured lube so you could combine your two favourite things.”

Charles collapsed in laughter against Erik’s chest, the two of them giggling like stoned teenagers. Although the coffee did help to sober him up a little, Erik’s chuckles were very infectious. Charles grabbed his wrists, linking them around his waist so that Erik was holding him tightly again. “Mmmm, my human seatbelt.”

Erik’s laughter was now subsiding, and he kissed Charles sloppily on the mouth. “I’m your human everything,” he said, sounding amused. “Especially your human sex toy.”

Merde!” Remy complained as he appeared at their booth again, this time with two cups of coffee. “I was hoping the sex talk would have stopped by the time I got back, but non! Please give a man a break, s'il vous plaît?”

“I’m sorry,” Charles said, not at all contrite. He took the second cup of coffee while Remy passed the other one to Erik. The second cup wasn’t as effective as the first, but at least it made Charles thirsty for more Dom. He got up off Erik’s lap, squeezing his hand when Erik made a soft murmur of protest. “Remy, I’m sober enough for more champagne now.”

Remy laughed, taking away the cup from him. Erik was still guzzling his own. “Non, you need to sit down and sober up.”

Charles did what he instinctively resorted to whenever Erik was withholding something from him: he tilted his head at Remy, lips pursing as he stepped closer. “Just one more?” he said, placing a hand on Remy’s chest like he would with Erik. He was really only half-joking, but when he saw how wide and alarmed Remy’s eyes were, he decided to keep going with the joke.

“Come on, Charles, sit down.” Remy was casting a nervous glance at Erik, who must have been glaring daggers at him. Sure enough, when Charles turned to take a peek, Erik was staring very intently at an increasingly uncomfortable Remy. However, when Remy wasn’t looking, Erik winked at Charles.

Oh. This should be interesting. Charles hid his smile before turning back to Remy, making a show of blinking drunkenly.

“Oh Remy, you don’t have to be so uptight,” Charles drawled, running a hand over the buttons of Remy’s shirt. “Erik doesn’t mind if I have fun elsewhere from time to time. And you look like you’d be a lot of fun.”

Jesus.” Remy was now outright panicking, trying to get Charles’ hands off him while he looked around desperately for help. “Charles, mon cher, while I am very flattered, I’m sure that Erik--”

“Oh, I don’t mind,” Erik interrupted, a corner of his lips lifting up in a handsome smirk. “I think you and Charles would be beautiful to watch together.”

Charles turned back to Remy with a broad smile. “See? Erik doesn’t mind. He’s probably been thinking about it since you were hired.”

There was a snort from Erik’s direction, but when Charles glanced at him, Erik was keeping a perfectly innocent expression. Poor Remy, however, was flustered and babbling. This was the most unsettled Charles had ever seen the poor chap. Usually, Remy was always so calm and cool, always in control. A large part of Charles pitied him and wanted to give up the ghost, but an even larger part - the drunk part - wanted to have fun with this, especially when Erik was playing along.

“I have to go,” Remy said, trying to take Charles’ hands off his chest. “Uh, Alex is waving to me.”

“Don’t be silly, he’s with Darwin,” Erik said, stretching back against the couch. Even now, Charles’ mouth watered as he ogled Erik’s long, lithe body, completely forgetting about Remy until Erik said, “Come on Remy, take off your shirt and kiss Charles.”

Remy made a sound like a squeak, shaking his head fervently. Charles looked away so Remy couldn’t see he was desperately trying not to laugh, and judging from the way Erik’s lips were pursed in amusement, so was he. “Uh, I, uh, I think--”

“You know what?” Charles whispered in his ear. “I’ll let you off the hook if you go and get us another bottle of Dom.”

Remy didn’t even question it; he scampered off quickly, leaving Charles to collapse in laughter on Erik’s lap, both of them laughing until their stomachs were weak. “My God, Erik, we’re horrible people,” Charles gasped out, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes. Erik’s body was still shaking with mirth, holding Charles tight against him.

“Why do I get a feeling I’ll be receiving his resignation letter tomorrow?” Erik mumbled, which made Charles chuckle all over again.

“Would you really have wanted to watch me and Remy make out?” Charles asked innocently, although he got his answer when he felt Erik’s arms tighten around him possessively.

“Even though you were acting just now, it was hard enough watching that,” Erik said, his smile just this side of tipsy. “So what do you think my answer is?”

Charles kissed him soundly, twining his tongue around Erik’s as his hand slipped down, caressing the inside of Erik’s thigh. “I’m sorry it was hard for you.”

“You’re a very devious man.” Erik chuckled against Charles’ mouth, his thumb rubbing gently across Charles’ jawline. “I can’t wait to spend all of New Year’s day with you in bed.”

Charles hummed in agreement. “That sounds like the best plan ever. Not just for New Year’s Day, but for the rest of the year as well.”

“That sounds like the most brilliant idea I’ve ever heard, Liebling.”

They were still kissing when Charles heard a loud ‘clunk’ on the table, and he turned in time to see Remy trying to sneak away after leaving a fresh bottle of Dom on their table. “Wait, Remy, come here,” Charles called out, trying not to laugh when Remy looked absolutely petrified at the prospect.

“If you don’t do as Charles says, I’m going to tell every girl you hit on in the future how tiny your peen is,” Erik threatened, and that was when Remy finally sidled over by the barest of inches with a sigh.

“Remy, I apologise, my friend. We were just messing around with you,” Charles said, reaching out for Remy’s shoulder and almost poking him in the eye instead. “Oops, sorry. But yes, Erik and I were just teasing you. We didn’t mean to scare you.”

I sure did,” Erik grumbled, but let out an “oof” when Charles elbowed him, his aim much better this time.

Anyway,” Charles continued, shooting Erik a pointed look, “maybe you could get us more coffee and take away the bottle of Dom so Erik and I aren’t faceplanted on the floor by midnight?”

Looking extremely relieved, Remy nodded happily as he nicked the bottle of Dom off their table again. “Coffee and aspirin coming right up,” he announced, before toeing his way over to the bathroom to forage for the medicine cabinet.

“Good idea,” Erik said, blinking a little blearily at him. “I do want to be sober for the countdown.”

“Me too.” Charles smiled at him, raking his fingers through Erik’s soft, fine hair. “It’s officially your job to keep me off the sauce till midnight.”

Erik shot him a crooked grin. “I’m sure I can think of something else to keep your mouth occupied, so you can’t drink,” he whispered against Charles’ lips, before kissing him soundly.

* * * * *

“Erik, look. It’s Lady Gaga!” Charles tugged on Erik’s arm as he pointed at the huge TV that was mounted on the wall. Lady Gaga was wearing a sparkling silver hat that doubled as a mask with a large circular design on the front that looked very similar to the giant ball suspended over Times Square, her hair done up in curls and dressed in a skin-tight silver outfit with diamante accents. By all accounts it seemed very tame, according to her usual standards.

Erik tilted his head and smirked. “How can you tell it’s her? You can’t even see her face.”

They were standing against the full glass windows that were facing the New York Times Building that the ball was being dropped from, and Charles turned back towards Erik, draping his arms over his neck. “You never did tell me how you managed to get her for Halloween.”

Erik slid his hands around Charles’ waist and onto the curve of his hips, hooking his thumbs over the waistline of his pants. “She owed me one after borrowing my helmet from ‘Cyborg Cop’ for one of her showcases and returning it all covered in glitter.”

Charles laughed, shifting his hands to hold Erik’s shoulders as he whispered into his ear, “I’m sure you wore it better.”

They were distracted by an announcement from the TV, watching as Lady Gaga and Mayor Bloomberg pressed down on the lighted miniature of the Times Square ball together and the countdown for the final 60 seconds of 2011 began on the billboard below the actual illuminated structure while it descended, accompanied by small bursts of pyrotechnics in an array of colours.

Charles turned his gaze back to Erik and wrapped his hands around the nape of Erik’s neck, the ticking of each passing second booming from the speakers and echoing in his ears. He could feel the cool metal of his watch pressed against the underside of his wrist, trapped between him and the heated skin of Erik’s throat. He liked to think that he was carrying a piece of Erik with him always, the steady rhythm of the second hand as constant as the love Charles felt for him. Charles had never really fixated on the passage of time, seasons could come and go and he would barely bat an eye, yet he could remember moments with Erik in the past months better than he could entire years. He was struck then with the realisation, while watching the last seconds of the year flash across the billboards all over Times Square, that time travels far too fast, and had to fight back the sudden inexplicable urge to cling on to however long they had left. Who knew how much time they had here, and all it really takes is just one blink to miss the moment that could have changed everything. And yet, regardless of the uncertainty the future held, the one thing he knew for sure was that Erik would eternally define the person he was.

Charles shifted closer, locking eyes with him as he spoke, “Erik, before we run out of time on the clock, I want you to know that I will always be yours.”

Something softened in Erik’s eyes, his gaze boring into Charles as he palmed the side of Charles’ face, his thumb brushing against the apple of Charles’ cheek. He seemed too touched to speak, but that was all right. Charles had become an expert in reading the minutest change of expression on Erik’s face, and it was easy to communicate without words as well. “Me too,” Erik said, his voice a little hoarse, his eyes half-lidded. “Sorry, I’m just at a loss for words. I don’t know how to tell you that you’re everything to me. Forever doesn’t feel like enough time.”

Charles canted his head, leaning into Erik’s tender touch. “Then we’ll make every second count,” he murmured, only just barely aware of the millions of people in the streets below them, all counting down the end of the year.

“Ten!”

They were interrupted when the room began shouting out loud along with the timer, and Charles took a cursory glance around with Erik still wrapped up in his arms while the rest continued on with the countdown, grinning when he spotted Raven and Hank holding hands nearby. They all had so much to be thankful for this year, and if Charles could wish for anything at all, it would be for everyone he loved to feel as deliriously happy as he did right now. He looked out the window, the short sparks of fireworks growing more intense with each passing second. Charles sensed it then, that telltale clench in his chest whenever Erik entered the room, and turned his gaze back up to find that Erik was staring at him instead of the dazzling display of pyrotechnics just beyond the glass, exactly like how it was on that stage at Halloween. He’s really always been doing this, Charles realised in dismay, wondering how he had missed it all this time.

Charles smiled softly, thinking the lights from the explosions outside looked more beautiful reflected in Erik’s eyes, his own feeling a little too moist. He stroked the back of Erik’s neck with his thumb before speaking, barely above a whisper, “Four.”

“Three,” Erik replied as he leaned in, until their foreheads were almost touching.

The rest of the world faded away then, when all he could see was Erik, and all he could feel was the warm press of Erik’s body against his, every line and curve fitting perfectly against each other. He breathed out, inches from Erik’s lips, “Two.”

Erik closed in, holding him a little tighter, their lips just brushing together lightly, “One.”

Charles parted his lips, the tip of his tongue sliding into Erik’s mouth and meeting his, licking at it tenderly until Erik took over the kiss. Charles let out a soft moan as Erik thrust his tongue into him, allowing himself to be claimed and kissing back with all the love he felt for Erik, until they were both breathless and the cheers from the rest of the room had long quietened down, replaced by the sound of baritone horns playing the first bars of ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

“Happy New Year, darling.”


Notes:
1. The title of this chapter is a quote from 'Love Actually'.
2. Latkes are a Jewish potato pancake, and they are typically eaten during Hanukkah.
3. The scene where Raven finds all the videos of herself is based on this scene in ‘Love Actually’.
4. On the first night of Hanukkah, the menorah is lit. The entire process is detailed here.
5. This is the watch that Erik gave Charles.
6. Hohenschwangau is the village where the castle that Erik and Charles are visiting is located, and this is the hotel they stayed at: Villa Jägerhaus. Room 62 is in the attic and has views of both Hohenschwangau Castle and Neuschwanstein Castle.
7. The restaurant beside the castle is called Schlossrestaurant Neuschwanstein and the mulled wine that Erik and Charles drink is called Glühwein.
8. This is the interior of the Neuschwanstein Castle and the music that plays when they kiss is from the Wagner opera ’Tristan und Isolde’.
9. ‘Facetime’ is an app on the iPad that you can use for face-to-face video calls.
10. The restaurant that Sean and Moira dine in is ’Madeo’, one of the top restaurants in LA.
11. “It’s like what Rita Hayworth used to say, ‘They go to bed with Gilda; they wake up with me.’” - the quote that Moira references regarding Rita Hayworth is from ‘Notting Hill’ and the Shakespearean quote that Sean references is from the play ‘As You Like It’.
12. Raven being able to fly a plane is a reference to how Mystique is seen piloting a helicopter in the X-Men movies. The place they visit, Big Sur, is a beautiful place on the Californian coast between LA and San Francisco.
13. Darwin and Alex sharing a cab is a reference to Darwin’s profession in the XMFC movie. St. Mark’s is a street in the East Village, and Union Square is also in Manhattan, not too far away.
14. The beer house that Erik and Charles visit when they are back in Munich is Hofbräuhaus and this is an example of the HUGE beer pints and pretzels they serve.
15. You can watch a video of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel here.
16. The pop song that the polka band plays is ’Your Song’, Charles’ favourite Elton John song.
17. The Guinness commercial that a younger Erik starred in is based on the real Guinness ad that Michael Fassbender did some time ago.
18. The video of Lady Gaga and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg counting down at Times Square and watching the ball drop is here.

Chapter Text

Throughout his career so far, Charles had rarely come across difficult scenes that greatly challenged his abilities as an actor. Romantic comedies didn’t tend to veer into the territory of serious drama, except for that one scene where the father of Moira’s character in ‘The Blind Date’ had died, and Charles’ character had to fly out to New York to comfort her. That had been quite a taxing scene to shoot, and Charles did feel rather emotionally wrought in its aftermath, thinking about his own father and their distant, tepid relationship.

So now he completely understood why Erik was having problems with this major upcoming scene where Michael was grappling with the fear of losing James just like he had lost his previous partner. Charles studied Erik quietly, sipping his scotch and watching the faint furrow of Erik’s brow, the way his lips moved silently as he practised his lines. They were in the hotel room, an hour away from meeting Raven and Hank for dinner, and Erik had wanted to look over the scene again. It was amazing, how focused and dedicated Erik could be, reading the script over and over until it was imprinted in his brain. Charles had a more fluid approach to this, but then again different things worked for different people.

“Everything all right?” Charles put down his scotch and sat on the bed, resting his chin on Erik’s shoulder and peering at the script on Erik’s lap. All of Erik’s lines were neatly highlighted, and he had studiously scribbled notes in the margins. Erik turned to press a kiss to Charles’ hair, then sighed deeply.

“I just can’t get the hang of this scene,” he said, sounding both tired and perplexed. “Bryan keeps saying I’m so wooden in it when I’m supposed to be emotionally conflicted.”

“What are you having a problem with exactly?” Charles said gently, combing through Erik’s hair with his fingers and thinking that he needed a haircut.

“I’m not sure.” Erik’s frown deepened. “I think I just can’t seem to make myself convincing. I can’t quite get fully immersed in the scene.”

Charles thought for a while, letting a hand rub at the nape of Erik’s neck in an effort to soothe him. It seemed to work, as Erik’s features relaxed and he burrowed against Charles like a cat, the tension in Erik's shoulders melting away. "Let's go through our lines together, and maybe we can see where you think you're having trouble," Charles suggested.

"All right." Erik scooted over to make space for Charles to sit beside him, so they could both share the script. Charles frowned down at the parts which Erik had circled and underlined repeatedly. This was a difficult scene for both their characters, so it was also a good chance for Charles to get in a read-through.

"Where do you want to start?" Charles asked, shifting his position so he was nestled against Erik, who instinctively wrapped an arm around his waist.

"How about here?" Erik pointed at somewhere halfway down the scene, and Charles nodded, closing his eyes as he immersed himself in James' mindset. When he spoke, it was in the flat and Americanised tones of the accent he used for James.

JAMES: I know what you're thinking, Michael. You're thinking about your old partner.

When Erik looked up at him, the set of his jaw was tight and his voice sounded strained, somewhat off.

MICHAEL: Today is the six-month anniversary of his death.

JAMES: Oh Michael, I'm so sorry. [Here, Charles placed his hand on top of Erik's, squeezing it with feeling.] Were the two of you....close?

MICHAEL: We were great buddies. Nothing like....[Erik gestured between himself and Charles, who gave him a small smile.] But we were still very close. Once when I was on assignment overseas, he looked after my mother for a month. None of my other friends came to even see her.

JAMES: He was a wonderful man. And now you're bringing his killer to justice.

MICHAEL: That's precisely it, James. What if Cobb gets away scot-free? Or even worse, what if I lose...

Here, Erik turned to stare at Charles, but his eyes were vacant and distracted, even a little glassy. Suddenly, Charles had an idea why Erik was having trouble with the scene, and why Bryan kept saying he was so 'wooden'.

Charles broke character here. "Erik, I think I know what's wrong."

Erik's chest deflated as he let out a sigh of relief. "Please, tell me."

"You're shutting your emotions away because this is hitting too close to home for you, isn't it?" Charles kept his tone gentle and sympathetic. Erik opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it, looking away. He didn't say anything for a long time.

"I can't go through that again." Erik's voice had an odd tremor. "Seeing you in the hospital like that...losing you is not an option, Charles."

Charles took in a deep breath, then exhaled slowly. “I’m sorry Erik, I know it’s difficult, but if you really want to get into it, you have to immerse yourself in everything you’re feeling now and not lock it away.”

Erik’s nostrils flared as his eyebrows drew together, clearly unhappy. “You mean the rage I felt at Hank, seeing you fall off that pier? You want me to channel that?”

Charles studied him for a long moment, taking Erik’s hand between his and rubbing it. “You know, I believe true focus lies between rage and serenity,” he said thoughtfully. “Do you mind if I...” he trailed off, eyebrows raised at Erik for permission.

Erik shook his head a little hesitantly, probably wondering what Charles was up to. Charles took his time, palming Erik’s cheek and searching his eyes. Erik seemed a little uncertain, but his ever-present trust in Charles made him stay still. Smiling, Charles leaned up to press a chaste, lingering kiss on Erik’s lips. He could feel the clench of Erik’s jaw loosening, melting into Charles’ light touch. Unlike their other kisses, which either one or both of them would try to deepen or prolong, this felt different, pure. Charles shut his eyes, putting everything he felt for Erik into the soft press of his lips, hoping Erik could sense it somehow.

When Charles finally pulled away, Erik was blinking slowly, as though coming out of a daze. “What did you just do to me?” he whispered.

For some reason, Charles found it difficult to speak, but he cleared his throat and brushed Erik’s hair back. “How do you feel now?”

Erik took a shaky breath, but his smile was wider this time, reaching his eyes. “At peace.”

Something in Charles’ chest did a somersault of joy. “There’s so much more to you than you know. You’re a good actor, Erik,” he said softly, glad that Erik nodded instead of flinching as he always did with compliments. “Trust me, I’ve watched all your movies at least twice, I know. I saw the anguish in your eyes in that movie where your daughter was kidnapped. All I wanted to do was reach into the screen and give you a hug.”

Erik let out a subdued huff of laughter. “I’m glad that was convincing for you, at least.” His smile was slowly fading. “For that scene, I kept imagining what would have happened if someone took my parents from me.” The flash of anger returned to Erik’s now reddened eyes. “The pain was almost too much.”

Charles nodded understandingly. “Remember the serenity,” he said quietly, leaning up to kiss Erik again. “If you need to, think of me.”

Erik blinked, ignoring the tear that was tracking down his cheek. “I am always thinking of you.”

Charles tried to swallow around the lump in his throat, caressing Erik’s cheek as his thumb brushed away the moisture. “So come on, let’s try again,” he managed to say, and Erik nodded against his hand. They both looked down at the script again, and it didn’t escape Charles’ notice that Erik’s hands were trembling slightly. He picked up from where they had left off.

MICHAEL: That's precisely it, James. What if Cobb gets away scot-free? Or even worse, what if I lose you? I can’t keep losing the important people in my life.

The words flowed so much smoother this time, and Erik’s earlier hesitance was gone. Charles could see the distress in Erik’s eyes and the tight lines around his mouth, and for a second Charles felt like they really were in the Sixties, fighting for social justice and civil rights, and falling for the one person they’re not supposed to.

JAMES: You won’t lose me. I will not leave your side.

The script now called for an emotional kiss, but neither Erik nor Charles had to fake anything about this, Erik dropping the script onto the floor as he palmed Charles’ face, claiming Charles’ mouth before Charles tugged Erik down onto the bed for a scene that was most definitely not part of the script.

Still, it wasn’t as if Erik was complaining.

* * * * *

The mood on the set today was a lot more sombre than most days, and Charles had a pretty good idea why. Bryan was sitting with him and Erik in a little circle, hands steepled in front of his chin as all three of them frowned down at the script. They were shooting the pivotal Big Emotional Scene today, the one that Erik had dubbed the ‘Rage and Serenity’ scene. After lots of rehearsal (followed by just as many rewards) Charles was quite confident that Erik would nail the scene. However, the doubt on Bryan’s face was still there as he quietly observed Erik.

“Don’t forget, this is the breaking point for Michael,” Bryan reminded Erik, who was running his hands through his hair and leaving it standing up in little tufts. Charles absently smoothed them down again.

“I know, I know,” Erik said gruffly, eyeing Bryan. “I can do this, okay? Charles has been helping me.”

The frown on Bryan’s face cleared. “Okay, good. I’ll take it that we’re ready to do this?” he asked as he got up, backing towards the director’s chair.

Erik let out a long breath, then nodded. Charles smiled at him, rubbing up and down his back in long, slow strokes. The corner of Erik’s mouth lifted in the tiniest smile, right before he leaned in and gave Charles a slow kiss. “Wish me luck,” he whispered.

Charles cradled Erik’s head in his hands. “Remember, the point between rage and serenity,” he said quietly to Erik, who nodded before both of them stood up, walking over to the hotel room set to take their places. Bryan curled up in his chair, discussing the close-up camera angle with Hank and the DP. Charles stayed still as Angel swanned over and ran her brush over his face, dabbing powder in the right places. She hesitated with the lip balm though, her mouth pursed.

“Nah, I don’t think you’ll ever need lip balm, hon,” she said with a wink, making Charles laugh.

“It doesn’t matter, because Erik will kiss it off in a short while,” he retorted as Angel rolled her heavily made-up eyes. He watched as she ran her brush over Erik’s face as well, but the distant look in his eyes gave Charles the impression that Erik was already trying to transit into Michael’s headspace. Charles remained quiet, reaching over to squeeze Erik’s knee in support.

“Are we good?” The DP called out to them, and Erik nodded. Charles raised his hand in a thumbs-up gesture, and when the DP saw this, he nodded back and yelled, “Set!”

“Roll sound!” Bryan instructed, and Charles heard the sound mixer’s distant reply of ‘Rolling!’

“Roll camera!” was next, and Hank squinted through the lens before yelling out, “Speeding!”

The slate operator stepped forward and announced the scene number, followed by the loud ‘clack’ of the clapper board.

“Action!” Bryan called out, watching the scene keenly.

Charles closed his eyes, getting under James’ skin and recalling his fears, his hopes and dreams. When he opened them again, Erik was as tense as a taut guitar string, tension lines bracketing both sides of his mouth. Charles rested a tentative hand on top of Erik’s, keeping his voice low. “I know what you're thinking, Michael. You're thinking about your old partner.”

The rest of the scene went exactly as they had rehearsed, but Erik was so amazingly convincing, his eyes welling up at one point, and Charles was so caught up in the scene that he didn’t even realise it was the end of the take until Erik kissed him soundly, like the script called for, before Bryan yelled, “Cut!” Blinking into the kiss, Charles’ eyes fluttered open in a daze as the crew started applauding around them, Alex and Sean letting out loud whoops and exchanging a high five.

“You guys, that was great,” Bryan said warmly, adding in a few claps as well. “Especially you, Erik, you improved by leaps and bounds. I mean, wow. I don’t know what you did Charles, but keep it up and an Oscar is as good as yours.”

Charles simply had to swallow around the proud lump in his throat, kissing Erik’s temple before tugging him into his arms for a tight hug. “You were amazing,” he whispered in Erik’s ear amidst all the cheers and applause. “Well done.”

Erik’s grip around him tightened, and although his voice was muffled against Charles’ shoulder, he could hear Erik’s every word. “It’s because of you.” A pause, then, “I’m nothing without you.”

Charles couldn’t stop smiling, even as he hastily wiped a tear away. “It’s all you, Erik. When you put your mind to it, you have an acting ability that no one can match.” As Erik pulled away to stare at him, Charles couldn’t resist adding as a joke, “Not even me.”

“Um, guys?”

Charles tore his gaze away from Erik’s to face Hank, who was dithering nearby and slowly turning a nice shade of red. “I apologise,” Hank mumbled, “but I feel it is my duty to inform you that the boom is picking up everything you’re saying and Bobby the sound guy is slowly losing his lunch.”

Charles let out a shaky huff of laughter, while Erik rolled his eyes, regaining some of his composure at least. “Please send him my genuine apologies,” Charles told Hank, who was eyeing Erik nervously. Surprisingly, Erik didn’t snap at Hank, although he did look a little shaken as he ran a hand through his hair, mussing it up a little more.

“Makeup,” Bryan called out, settling down in his director’s chair once more. “Okay, although the first one was really solid, let’s get a few more takes.”

They redid the scene again a few more times, changing up a few minor details but Bryan didn’t seem as satisfied as he had been with the very first take. Charles was relieved when Bryan finally called for a break, and he wasn’t exactly surprised when Erik’s first action was to stand up and literally drag Charles over to the trailer they shared.

“Erik?” Charles knew he was smirking, because it had really been a good day for both of them. Erik’s successes counted as his own too, after all. “Why are we in such a hurry?”

Erik was grinning at him as though he had just won the lottery. “Because I have to properly thank you for coaching me and giving such great advice,” Erik said, his lip curled in a wicked smile as they reached their trailer, right before he slowly backed Charles up against the trailer wall, pinning him against it with his body.

“Mmmm.” Not to be outdone, Charles wriggled under Erik’s weight, watching his eyes go dark. “I can think of many ways for you to thank me, you know.”

Erik chuckled throatily before pressing forward and claiming Charles’ mouth in a filthy kiss. “Come on then, I hope it’s one that involves me on my knees,” he said with a wink before he moved away, opening the door and disappearing into their trailer.

“Oh God, I love you,” Charles said with a laugh as he followed that wonderful arse into the trailer, kicking the door closed behind him.

* * * * *

There were quite a number of good clubs in Chelsea, so when Charles mentioned that he wanted to hit a gay club, Erik had to think for a while. His favourite was Boxers, a sports bar that had really good pizza and excellent beers on tap, but he wasn’t sure if Charles’ idea of entertainment was kicking back with a pint and taking in a soccer game. There was also another club that Alex had recommended called the ‘g Lounge’, but it was a little too campy and glam for Erik’s tastes.

“Then just take me to Boxers first,” Charles suggested as they hopped into the waiting car. “We can hang out there for a while and see how it goes.”

“What if you don’t like it?” Erik asked, stroking his hair back. “I wouldn’t want you to be bored.”

Charles waved away his concern. “We could always walk around and see what’s what since we’re in the area.”

The driver let them out somewhere near the Flatiron district, and Erik happily held hands with Charles as they walked down the street towards the bar. From this distance, Erik already spotted the prominent ‘Boxers NYC’ signboard, the trademark cartoon bulldog clearly visible. Groups of men were streaming into the entrance slowly, laughing and chatting and slapping each other on the back.

“What do you think?” Erik asked, turning to Charles who seemed more curious than anything else.

“Looks like quite a down to earth place, let’s take a look,” he said gamely, and Erik pressed a kiss to his temple before they stepped into the warm interior of the bar. There was a football game being broadcast on the main screens, and the various patrons were all yelling at the screen, cursing the referee for some ridiculous call. Erik felt a tugging on his sleeve and turned to Charles, who was staring with a raised eyebrow at the topless bartenders behind the long wooden counter, serving up drinks in the blink of an eye.

“Are they all normally shirtless?” Charles sounded more puzzled than anything, which made Erik laugh and squeeze him tighter. Now he could sense quite a number of the men starting to stare at them, giving each other discreet nudges and look-who-just-walked-in nods.

“Holy shit, it’s them,” he heard someone hiss at his friend, and Erik decided now was a very good time to go find a table and get Charles and himself a nice cold drink.

They managed to snag a booth somewhere in the corner, where there was a screen showing a secondary game, and Erik was pleased to discover it was a Bayern Munich match against Barcelona. “Hang on, Liebling, I’ll go get us some drinks,” he said as he gave Charles a quick peck on the lips. “What would you like?”

“See if they make an Adios Motherfucker,” Charles said with a wide grin, making Erik laugh. “You know, for old times’ sake.”

“Fair enough.” Erik couldn’t resist leaning in and giving him another kiss. “And if they don’t have that?”

“Then get me a Jack and coke.” Another short kiss before Charles finally released him, giving him a parting pat on the ass as Erik headed for the bar with a chuckle.

Since most of the other men were still distracted by the Giants game, Erik found it easy enough to attract the attention of one of the bartenders, a muscled, blonde giant who was even taller than Erik and reminded him of Chris Hemsworth as Thor. The bartender smiled at Erik, nodding at him. “Hey, welcome to Boxers. What can I get you?”

“Can I get a Sam Adams?” Erik had to lean in further over the counter to shout his order over the noise. “And I don’t know if you make this drink, but do you know what an Adios Motherfucker is?”

Not-Thor nodded a little dubiously. “I think so, the drink sounds familiar. But we don’t serve it here, though.”

“Oh.” Erik didn’t want to disappoint Charles. “That’s too bad.”

However, Not-Thor seemed to think for a while before giving him a smile. “But tell you what, I’ll make one just for you, special. Just don’t tell my boss, okay?”

Erik grinned at him, looking forward to watching Charles’ eyes light up as he brought over the drink later on. “Thanks so much,” he said, and as Not-Thor went about mixing the drinks, Erik turned to look back at Charles, who waved at him from his booth. Erik shot him a grin, then turned back to watch the soccer game on the small screen above the bar.

Not-Thor placed the two drinks in front of him, then followed Erik’s gaze. “Oh, you support Bayern too?” he said, beaming.

Erik was surprised. “Yeah, they’re my father’s favourite team. I grew up watching them play. You like soccer?”

Not-Thor nodded enthusiastically. “Oh yes, I played soccer in college. Franz Beckenbauer was my hero.”

Erik would have liked to stay and chat about soccer with this guy, but the need to get back to Charles outweighed everything else - as usual - so he pulled out his wallet instead. “Anyway, how much do I owe you for the drinks?”

Not-Thor waved away his offered cash. “Forget it, it’s on the house for a fellow soccer fan.”

Erik’s eyebrows jumped. “Won’t you get into trouble?”

“It’s fine.” However, Not-Thor was leaning in rather close, a little too close for Erik’s comfort and he instinctively backed away. The bartender didn’t seem at all deterred, though. “Instead of paying me in cash, why don’t you give me your number instead?” He grinned knowingly at Erik. “Then we can talk more about....balls.”

Oh. Erik was disappointed that his new friend had an ulterior motive for being so nice. Drawing back, Erik shook his head firmly. “Sorry, I have a boyfriend.”

Not-Thor dropped him a wink. “He doesn’t have to know.”

Recoiling, Erik was seriously contemplating hopping over the bar and punching the guy in the face when he felt a possessive grip on his arm, and he turned to find Charles staring at the bartender, eyes like blue steel. “Excuse me, he said he wasn’t interested.” Charles may have sounded polite, but anyone who knew him could see how his lips had thinned and how tight his fists were, his knuckles almost white.

The bartender gave him a lazy shrug. “Sorry, I was just talking to my new friend so it’s none of your business-”

“I’m not your friend,” Erik said sharply, “and this is my boyfriend, so it’s very much his business.”

One of the other bartenders, a tall Jamaican man with light eyes, nudged Not-Thor with a frown. “You idiot, don’t you know that is Erik Lehnsherr and Charles Xavier?”

Not-Thor’s jaw dropped. “What?”

Charles suddenly surged forward towards the startled bartender, and even Erik was taken aback by this new, possessive side of Charles. “I’ve been watching you hitting on Erik for the past ten minutes and Erik was too nice to figure out what you were doing,” he said evenly to the man, “So I’m asking you - very nicely - to back off before you have to find out in a hurry where the nearest emergency ward is.”

Not-Thor was just staring at Charles with an open mouth, while his Jamaican colleague was laughing and shaking his head. Some of the patrons around the bar were grinning openly as well, but Charles seemed oblivious to all of them. His dark, grim stare was focused only on the blonde bartender, who was mumbling to himself as he finally backed away. Erik was still too amazed by what he had just witnessed, staring at Charles as though he were the world’s eighth wonder.

“Come on, Erik,” Charles said, casting an irritated glance at the bar. “Let’s head to another place.”

Still a little shell-shocked, Erik left their drinks on the bar and meekly followed him out of the bar, and the two of them continued walking down the street, Charles still fuming while Erik watched him closely. After a while, Erik wrapped an arm around Charles’ shoulders, and it was only then that Charles finally relaxed a little, the deep frown on his face easing a bit. Erik decided now was a good time to finally ask. “Are you all right, Liebling?”

Charles took in a deep breath, then released it. His features were still tight and drawn, and he was blinking rapidly. “It’s just...seeing that guy, trying to get his hands on you--”

“I know, I know.” Erik stopped, tugging Charles into his arms and holding him close, feeling the tension slowly ease out of Charles’ body as he melted into Erik’s embrace. They stood like that for a while, Erik running a calming hand up and down the curve of Charles’ spine. “I’d hate watching someone else hitting on you in front of me, too,” Erik admitted.

Charles’ arms tightened around Erik. “They should know you’re mine.”

Erik smiled into his hair, massaging the back of Charles’ warm neck. “I would have thought the whole world can tell just from the way I look at you.” He pulled away just to press a kiss to Charles’ forehead. “That guy was a fucking moron,” he added, glad to see that at least Charles didn’t look quite so furious anymore.

“I’m sorry,” Charles said with a sigh, nestling his cheek against Erik’s chest. “I shouldn’t have caused a scene back at the bar.”

“What?” Erik pulled back with a frown. “Liebling, trust me, I understand. If it were me in your place and some skeezy bartender started hitting on you, I would have turned that guy into a human pretzel. You handled it really well, actually.”

Charles arched an eyebrow at him, but the corners of his mouth were trying not to tug up into a smile. “Really? You don’t mind I got jealous?”

Erik leaned down, brushing his lips against the pink shell of Charles’ ear before whispering, “If I’m going to be honest, you’re really hot when you’re angry.” He felt Charles shiver in his arms, and Erik artfully slid a knee between Charles’ thighs, making his breath hitch. “So commanding, your eyes blazing with anger...you didn’t even care that the bartender was twice your size, you just demanded to protect what is yours.”

Erik,” Charles whispered, nuzzling back against Erik’s mouth. “You’re bloody right you’re mine, no one else can have you or even touch you.”

Erik could barely hold back a low moan, his hands roaming all over Charles’ chest and sliding under his shirt. “Damn right, no one else makes me feel like I want to get on my knees in front of you right now and take you into my mouth.” Erik grinned triumphantly when he heard Charles’ low gasp. “You like my mouth, don’t you, Charles?”

Nodding shakily, Erik could feel Charles’ grip tightening on the folds of his shirt. “I like your mouth very much,” Charles said, running his fingers over Erik’s moistened lips. Here, Erik kissed his fingers before tilting his head down and claiming Charles’ mouth slowly but intently, still unable to get the image of a possessive, angry Charles out of his head. Erik usually disliked the feeling of being fenced in when he was in a relationship, but with Charles, it was something he craved. He wanted to be owned by Charles very desperately.

Erik broke off the kiss, which was getting intense. “Do you want to go to another gay club?” he asked, his voice a little husky as he couldn’t resist nipping at Charles’ bottom lip. “Or do you want to go back to the hotel?”

Charles stared at him, eyes half-lidded as he licked his abused lips. “What’s the point of going to another club when I know I’ll be leaving with you at the end of the night?” His smile was a little on the sly side as his fingers traced a slow path down Erik’s chest, his touch warm even through the fabric. “Of course, I have every intent on proving that you are indeed well and truly mine.”

Erik swallowed around the sudden dryness in his throat. “And just how do you intend to prove that?” he asked, the challenge clear in his voice despite the fact that he would have carried Charles off all the way back to the hotel in his arms if Charles commanded him to.

The smile on Charles’ face grew wicked. “I intend to take the whole night doing just that,” he said calmly, stroking the back of Erik’s neck. “Maybe I’ll tie you up and have my way with you, make you beg for it.”

Erik was unable to hold back the low, stuttered moan at the image of Charles bending him over the edge of the bed and doing exactly what he wanted to Erik. “Fuck, yes,” he managed to murmur before Charles yanked him down and took his mouth forcefully, and Erik let him lead this kiss, his knees almost buckling at the way Charles was cleverly manipulating Erik’s tongue with his own.

“Jesus, man, get a room,” Erik heard someone say as they walked past, and when he broke away from Charles, he saw two skateboarders who were passing by and snickering, but their faces froze when they realised who they had interrupted.

“Wait a sec, aren’t you--” one of the skateboarders began, but Erik shook his head.

“You’ve got the wrong person,” he said as he wrapped an arm protectively around Charles, shielding him from view as they started back in the direction of the hotel. Charles slid an arm firmly around Erik’s waist, his grip possessive and strong, and Erik felt a sharp thrill running down his spine. Charles being jealous definitely had its benefits.

It was quite a long walk back to the hotel, and they caused their fair share of double takes and outright stares, not to mention a number of people whipping out their mobile phones to snap a discreet picture of them. Erik ignored them all, caring only about the man half-tucked under his coat, his arm still hooked around Erik’s waist until they were back in the hotel lobby.

The concierge looked surprised when she saw them. “Back so soon?” she asked pleasantly.

“Something urgent came up,” Charles told her, and from the way Erik was staring hungrily at Charles, the concierge nodded with an ‘ah’ of realisation. To her credit, she kept her smile professional, and Erik nodded at her before tugging Charles to the elevator, pressing a kiss against his temple.

“I’m such an idiot,” Erik lamented, dropping his arm to drape it around Charles’ waist. “How did I not see that the bartender was hitting on me?”

Charles snorted. “I’m not surprised. You didn’t realise it either when I kept throwing myself at you in the beginning, right from the start.”

Erik’s mouth was open to protest, but he realised Charles was right. “Really? Right from the start?”

Charles shot Erik an incredulous sideways look as the elevator arrived with a ‘ding!’ and they stepped in together. “Raven kept saying I couldn’t be any more obvious if I ripped off my clothes right in front of you and handed you a barrel of lube.” Charles leaned up to kiss Erik's jaw. "And trust me, I was ready to do just that, I was at my wits' end."

Erik couldn't help chuckling. "I thought being a rom-com actor meant they'd teach you a hundred different ways to get the girl."

Charles rolled his eyes. "Sure, but they didn't teach me how to get a grouchy, surly, aloof German action hero in my bed."

Erik turned Charles around by the shoulders so they were facing each other. "Well, now he's in your bed all the time. I'd say your methods were successful." He couldn’t resist another kiss, his lips making their way now to tug down Charles’ shirt collar so Erik could suck on that sweet spot on his neck that never failed to make Charles gasp.

“Fuck, Erik,” Charles hissed, fists tightening on Erik’s turtleneck, and Erik could feel Charles sliding a knee between his thighs, a hand reaching down to grip Erik’s ass firmly, possessively. Erik groaned against the curve of Charles’ neck, not caring that they were probably being videotaped by the security camera right now, and he hitched Charles up onto the railing, lavishing kisses on the long, pale line of his throat. Charles was frantically pulling at the button of Erik’s jeans, and he was so forceful that the button flew off, hitting the door of the elevator. Unfortunately, there was another ‘ding!’ and they hadn’t reached their floor yet, so it had to be someone else.

“Erik!” Charles whispered in warning, and Erik quickly let him back down onto his feet, the two of them smoothing over their clothes before the door slid open. To their surprise, it was a smiling Hank and Raven, who walked in holding hands. “Hey, you guys!” Raven beamed at them as she pressed the floor for her suite. “I thought you were going out to Chelsea tonight?”

“Hello, my dear.” Charles was remarkably composed, even though his cheeks were a little flushed. “We just remembered something urgent we had to take care of, that’s all.”

“Rrrrright,” Raven said with a laugh, while Erik just stood there wishing the elevator would turn into a TARDIS and transport him and Charles far away. To make things worse, Hank was openly staring at the open button of Erik’s jeans, a sceptical eyebrow raised. “So,” Raven continued, looking extremely innocent, “does this ‘urgent matter’ take place in your hotel room, by any chance?”

Charles simply rolled his eyes, while Erik tried to move and stand behind him, just to get away from Hank’s goggling. Understanding, Charles bravely stood in front of Erik and clasped his hand, but Hank was already bending down with a frown, picking up a round object. “Is this yours?” he said to Erik, holding it up.

“What are you talking about?” Erik huffed, although he could see Charles’ shoulders shaking with barely contained laughter.

“It’s yours, it’s from your jeans,” Hank insisted, still holding out the button to Erik, but thankfully Raven, God bless her, was pulling him back and frowning ‘not now’ at him.

“Anyway, this is our floor,” Raven said cheerfully as the elevator door opened, tugging a puzzled Hank out with her. “Have fun with your ‘urgent matter’, guys!”

The moment the door slid closed, Charles burst out laughing while Erik groaned, burying his face in Charles’ shoulder, completely mortified. “That was so embarrassing. Stupid Hank.”

Charles reached back to stroke his hair. “You’re right, it was. Sorry, I’m not being a very good boyfriend, am I?”

The last statement made Erik look up, turning Charles around in his arms so they were facing each other. “You’re das beste.” Erik smiled, bending down and kissing his forehead. “I’m very lucky to have you.”

Charles’ ensuing smile was radiant, and when the doors opened again, he happily yanked Erik out to their suite, sliding his card and shoving the door open. Erik didn’t even get a chance to turn on the lights before Charles pulled him down and started kissing him in the dark, the room filled with slick noises and gasped breaths. Erik fell headlong into the kiss, threading his fingers through the soft silk of Charles’ wavy hair, feeling something tightening in his chest that had nothing to do with lust, and everything to do with the way Charles kissed him, all-encompassing and tender and purposeful, as though Erik was the only person in the world who mattered. No one had ever made him feel this way before.

“Erik.” The need in Charles’ voice was raw and husky, and Erik found himself slammed up against the wall, Charles scrabbling at his torn jeans and yanking it down, not wasting a minute in wrapping his hand around Erik’s aching erection. Erik made a high, keening noise as he thrust up instinctively into the tunnel of Charles’ fist, desperate for his touch.

“Mine,” Charles said determinedly before using his other hand to fully tug down Erik’s useless jeans so they were now pooling on the floor, and Erik clumsily stepped out of them, tumbling into Charles’ arms. Charles chuckled a little, his free hand steadying Erik while the other was still stroking him long and hard, just the way Erik liked.

“All right?” Charles whispered in his ear, and Erik shivered at the hot breath kissing his skin. He nodded shakily, swallowing a moan when Charles let out a pleased sound, murmuring “Take off my clothes,” into Erik’s ear.

Erik almost fumbled with the buttons of Charles’ shirt, far too eager to see more of this dominant side of Charles. When Erik started undoing his pants, he couldn’t resist running a finger along the length of Charles’ straining cloth-covered erection, making Charles do that delicious open-mouthed gasp he always did during sex, especially when he liked something Erik was doing.

However, his words contradicted his obvious pleasure. “Did I say you could touch me?”

Wordless and dizzy with want, Erik shook his head and whispered, “No.” He just couldn’t stop staring at Charles’ cherry-red mouth, moist and abused from Erik’s kisses.

Now that mouth was quirking up into a wicked smile. “I’ll say it again. Take off my clothes, but no groping.” Erik’s breath hitched as Charles leaned in, a hand sliding around to grip his ass tightly. “Because I intend on having you my way tonight, darling.”

Truth be told, Erik was really dying to kiss Charles now, but it warred with his even bigger desire to see Charles take charge and manhandle him, for once. Forcing down his ever-present need to fuck Charles into the nearest mattress, Erik swallowed around the dryness in his throat and began undoing Charles’ shirt. The buttons were still warm from his body heat, and Erik deliberately let a stray thumb graze Charles’ left nipple, making him shiver just a little. Subduing the triumphant smirk bubbling to the surface, Erik slid the shirt off Charles’ shoulders, then brought it to his nose, inhaling the scent as he locked his eyes with Charles’ stormy blue ones. A mixture of cologne, the bergamot shampoo Charles liked to use, and his own indefinable, intricate scent that never failed to make Erik hard. And sure enough, he was hard now, burying his nose in the warm fabric. “Mmmm, Charles.”

Erik felt himself being tugged down and Charles was kissing him deeply, grinding his hips against Erik’s pelvic bone and he groaned when he felt the hard stiffness of Charles’ cock rubbing against him needily. Fuck, he desperately wanted Charles inside him right now, wanted Charles fucking him into incoherence. It seemed Charles wanted that too, because the kiss was turning rough, Charles biting and nipping at Erik’s lips and just taking his mouth as though it were Charles’ property.

Which, technically, it was.

When Charles pulled away, Erik was panting and more turned on than he had ever been in his life. “Thought you said...no touching,” he said breathlessly, as Charles stroked the back of his neck, studying Erik’s lips with an intent gaze.

“I’ll do whatever I want with what’s mine.” Charles was now whipping off Erik’s turtleneck, and once Erik was done tugging off Charles’ pants, they kissed again, finally naked and skin to skin, and Erik rubbed his thumb over the familiar warmth of Charles’ skin just above his hip. Charles had a curve there that seemed perfect for Erik to rest his hand on, just before the swell of his backside.

Charles was now nuzzling against Erik’s lips. “Come to bed, Erik.”

Erik was using every ounce of his strength not to bend Charles over the nearest flat surface, and instead he obediently followed Charles to the bedroom, staring at that pale, firm ass that still had a set of Erik’s hand prints from this morning.

Once they got to the bed, Erik tamped down the familiar urges to push Charles down onto the bed and crawl on top of him, and he shot Charles a half-lidded glance, licking his lips. “Where do you want me?”

Charles was running an appreciative hand down Erik’s flank. “On your hands and knees on the bed, please.” The last word was spoken as a breathy purr, dripping with sex. Balling up his fists, Erik summoned all his self-control and took the few steps to the bed, getting on all fours on the wide, smooth posturepaedic mattress. It was strange and alien, being on this end of such a familiar and oft-practised act, and he shivered when he felt Charles’ fingers tracing the knobs of his spine.

He waited, willing himself to be patient even as his cock ached between his legs, demanding Charles’ familiar touch. There was the sound of a drawer sliding open, then a ‘click’ of one of their many tubes of Glide opening. Erik braced himself for the first touch, which was why he was surprised by the feel of Charles’ mouth travelling down his back, leaving a trail of kisses.

Liebling?

“Shhh.” Charles was now mouthing the small of his back, leaving a trail of warm kisses and humming against Erik’s skin. It was strange, how the small little vibration heightened Erik’s pleasure even more. However, nothing could prepare Erik for the first few exploratory licks of Charles’ tongue, so wet as it teased him open and Erik was only faintly aware that he was shouting, fists balling in the sheets and half-ripping them off the bed.

“Oh fuck, oh God, Charles, fuck--”

Charles’ only response was to let his tongue burrow deeper, leaving Erik slick and wide open and panting and sweaty and practically wailing as he scrabbled at the rumpled bedsheets. He could soon feel his orgasm building at the base of his spine while Charles fucked him with his tongue and he let out a shaky, muffled warning. “Charles, going to--”

Mercifully, Charles pulled his mouth away, holding Erik’s trembling hips steady with his hands. “Are you all right, my love?”

“Ngggh.” Erik was still trying to gather his wits about him, not bothering to raise an eyebrow at Charles for his smug tone. “Are you trying to make me beg you to fuck me until I can’t remember my name?” he said over his shoulder.

He yelped in a most undignified manner when Charles grabbed him and flipped him over onto his back, staring at his boyfriend with completely new, besotted eyes. Here was sweet, gentle, trusting Charles manhandling him in bed, deceptively strong, his eyes shining with dominance and possessiveness as he crawled on top of Erik now, his hair hanging down as he ran a hand up Erik’s sweaty body.

“As long as you remember mine, we’re good,” Charles said with a wicked smile, and Erik just wanted to kiss it right off his face. “But I won’t say I’m adverse to hearing you beg me.”

Erik let his gaze drop down to Charles’ full, flush-red erection, and already he wanted so much to wrap his lips around it, to let Charles take his mouth. When he looked up at Charles again, he was staring at Erik intently, running his tongue over his plush bottom lip as he slicked his right hand with lube.

“Darling, you want this, yes?" Charles’ smile this time was more familiar, the one he flashed at Erik whenever he thought Erik wasn’t looking, all soft at the edges.

Erik returned the smile, running his foot up Charles’ leg. “Yes.”

Charles bent down and kissed him, and Erik gently sucked on the tip of his tongue, his cheek muscles straining to smile. He spread his thighs when he felt Charles’ hand resting on his pelvis, and his eyes widened at the unfamiliar sensation as Charles slowly slid a finger into him, breaking off the kiss. “Tell me if it gets too much,” he whispered to Erik, who nodded, trying to mask his eagerness.

Erik didn’t quite feel the stretch until Charles slid in the second finger, and he writhed a little, trying to adjust to the feeling. He felt a little full, but there was no pain. He was glad that he had always made sure to go slow when prepping Charles, because he suspected it would be a lot different - and far more painful - if Charles wasn’t taking the same care now.

Erik focused on Charles’ face instead, his features taut with concentration, eyebrows drawn together in a slight furrow. Charles was really the most physically beautiful person Erik had ever seen, and he couldn’t help running his fingers over the plush red bow of Charles’ mouth. Charles smiled at him, and Erik should have known what was coming when that smile turned wicked and Charles began sucking on his fingers, his mouth soft and warm. “Oh God, Charles...”

Charles only sucked harder, and in response Erik rolled his hips against Charles’ questing hand in a silent bid for more. Charles smiled around Erik’s fingers, then slowly slid in the third. Now Erik could feel the slight burn, wriggling his hips in an effort to adjust.

Slipping Erik’s fingers out of his mouth, Charles bent down and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Tell me if it’s too--”

Charles let out a startled yelp when Erik yanked him down and stuck his tongue down Charles’ throat, but he quickly got with the programme as he melted into the kiss, Erik fucking his mouth with his tongue until they were both breathless and panting. “Fuck me now, please,” Erik mouthed against his lips, his cock hard and leaking, nudging against Charles’ smooth pale stomach.

Nodding quickly, Charles hurriedly slicked himself with the lube, and Erik enjoyed the free show for a moment; the sight of Charles stroking himself was always one he enjoyed. Sadly, it was over too soon as Charles leaned over Erik, guiding the tip of his cock into Erik very, very slowly. Erik’s breath hitched as he felt Charles pushing in, and he could feel Charles trembling in his hands, fighting to go slow and give Erik time to adjust. “God, Erik, you’re so tight--”

Liebling.” Erik pressed kisses under his ear, nuzzling against him lovingly before sucking on Charles’ earlobe, and Charles emitted a muffled, strangled groan before his hips surged forward, and he was finally buried deep inside Erik.

“Oh.” Erik was wide-eyed, panting, his breath huffing against Charles’ ear. He had never trusted anyone enough to surrender himself completely to them, always maintaining his defences, but everything was different with Charles. There was never any point hiding anything from Charles, who already knew Erik inside and out, sometimes even better than Erik understood himself, and Erik would give Charles his entire being, even hand him the world on a platter if he would let him. Erik was his to do whatever he pleased, and right now he felt stretched and full and, most of all, intimately connected with Charles in a way he hadn’t even anticipated. “Oh, Charles.”

“Are you hurting?” Charles asked, worrying his bottom lip with his teeth, and Erik could only shake his head, letting one hand card through Charles’ sweat-damp hair while the other skated up and down his back, tracing the curve of his spine before squeezing the plush swell of his ass.

“You feel fucking amazing,” Erik said in between kisses against Charles’ skin. “Now move.”

However, it was an entirely different matter when Charles finally started to thrust. Now Erik did feel a slight flare of pain, and he fought back his grimace, not wanting Charles to get worried and stop. Instead he forced himself to relax like he would during a particularly difficult scene to shoot, taking deep breaths and calming his mind the only way he knew how: focusing of Charles. Erik concentrated on the soft lines of Charles’ face, willing away the initial pain and discomfort by leaning up and claiming Charles’ mouth in slow, languid kisses.

“Erik.” Charles’ eyes were so dark, ringed only with a thin line of blue, and he looked as though he had just run a mile, panting and wild. “God, Erik, I love you.”

“Love you, too.” Erik kissed up his jaw, rubbing his thumbs against the jut of Charles’ hipbones. Charles’ resulting moan was low and dirty before he started kissing his favourite spot on Erik’s neck, his mouth hot and wet. This made Erik surge up, meeting Charles thrust for thrust as he slammed into Erik, He lifted his hips a little, and this changed the angle so that when Charles slid home again and hit a particular spot, Erik felt a sharp spark of white hot pleasure spreading through his body.

“Fuck,” Erik gasped, and now Charles was starting to pick up the pace, gripping Erik by the thighs and fucking into him slow and hard, making him feel every inch of his cock and Erik was finally getting what drove Charles so wild in bed all the time, the slight edge from feeling too full giving way to bursts of unbelievable, toe-curling pleasure, and this same pleasure only intensified when Charles wrapped a still-slick hand around Erik’s cock, stroking him just the way Erik liked it.

”Mine, you’re mine,” Charles mouthed against his jaw, but he squeezed his eyes shut when Erik’s thumbs brushed against his pert pink nipples, and Erik wished he was flexible enough to bend down and suck on them at the same time. He settled for running his nails down Charles’ back, making sure to leave marks the two of them could see come morning. Charles was almost entirely flushed now, and they locked eyes, Erik jerking up into the tight tunnel of Charles’ fist, Charles fucking him in long, fluid thrusts. “Oh fuck, Erik, so tight--”

Erik wanted to respond, but when Charles’ hand tightened on his cock during a particularly hard thrust, Erik was stunned to find himself coming all over both their stomachs and Charles’ hand, voice hoarse from shouting Charles’ name as his eyes squeezed shut. Charles managed a few more thrusts, then stilled as he moaned Erik’s name into the crook of his neck, and Erik stroked his back gently, wondrous at the feeling of Charles coming inside him and filling Erik with his seed.

Once they had managed to get their breath - and their brains - back, Erik maneuvered Charles into a better kissing position, refusing to let him pull out yet. “You’re inside me,” he whispered, before resuming the slow, languid kiss. “No one’s ever done that before.”

There was a strange light in Charles’ eyes. “I’m your first?”

Erik nodded, smiling at Charles’ delighted grin. “And the last,” he said with a chuckle, before tugging the covers up over both of them, Charles resting his cheek on Erik’s chest, and Erik knew Charles could hear the rapid pounding of his heartbeat.

* * * * *

It had been their mistake, letting Cobb slip through their fingers in the confrontation at Rockaway Beach, but at least now they had a clearer lead and knew exactly who they were looking for. Their colleagues back in HQ were now working around the clock to track down Dominic Cobb, and the Bureau was sill keeping 24-hour surveillance on Cobb’s residence. Charles could only hope that a major lead would come in any day now. Still, it wasn’t quite a hardship, holing himself up in a Manhattan hotel room with Erik and sharing a rickety queen bed every night.

It was five days until they finally received a call from Oliver, who sounded rushed and harried on the phone. “We got a tipoff that Cobb will be at La Guardia today and he’s ready to strike,” their boss said. “We also have it on good faith who his next two targets will be: Arthur Reyes and George Eames, who will be on Oceanic Airlines flight 815 this afternoon. You guys got that?”

Charles quickly gestured to Erik for a pen and notepad. Erik quickly passed him the hotel stationery, and they scribbled down the necessary information.

An official car was waiting for them downstairs, and they remained silent in the car. But Charles was gratified to feel Erik’s hand searching out for his own, and he grasped it tightly until they reached the airport.

They headed for the gate number that Oliver had given them, and the flight attendants were just about to close the boarding door. “I’m sorry, sirs--” one of them began, but they looked stunned when Erik and Charles flashed their FBI badges at them.

“We need to check if a Jack Titanic has boarded the plane,” Erik said briskly, giving the alias that Oliver suspected Cobb would be using. Checking the flight manifesto, the attendants confirmed that a man of Cobb’s description had indeed boarded, but the more senior flight attendant informed Charles and Erik that the plane was already going to take off, and that they would have to go down to the tarmac.

“That’s fine,” Erik said quickly, gesturing for Charles to follow him. “Come on James, let’s get this son of a bitch.”

Charles didn’t know why he had a really bad feeling about this.

* * * * *

“And action!”

Erik took off from his mark, only a few seconds ahead of Charles. The enormous windfan blew his hair away from his face, causing his suit to flap around him, simulating the air coming from the plane’s enormous engines if they were actually on. He could hear Charles’ shoes pounding over the tarmac right behind him, and if he looked up, he could see the extras inside the plane peering anxiously down at them through the round windows.

“Michael!” Charles called after him. The edge of urgency and breathlessness in that familiar voice was... not putting Erik in the right mindset. Well, not the right mindset for the film. “Backup’s on the way! They’ll be here in fifteen minutes.”

Erik slowed and changed direction once they cut across in front of the plane. He gesticulated wildly at the ‘pilot’. Thankfully the scowl on his face fitted his character and this scene; even the mild exertion on his legs and lower back muscles was drawing his attention to a pleasant soreness in certain areas.

“We don’t have time to wait for backup,” he said. In the cockpit, the ‘pilot’ appeared to be conferring with his ‘co-pilot’ and, presumably, air traffic control. Off the side, the ramp stairs were waiting to be trundled towards the plane.

“This is a really bad idea,” Charles said but he followed when Erik ran towards the stairs in a heroically determined fashion, and Bryan yelled “Cut!”

They took a several more takes of the scene, including a few times where Charles called him “Fassbender” instead. Opinions were divided on how familiar McAvoy would be towards his partner in public at this point. Alex pointed out that McAvoy would be more diligent about maintaining appearances now that they actually had something to hide. However, Sean argued that this was a special circumstance, what with the case ending and the two investigators nearing their quarry; McAvoy using Fassbender’s given name would heighten the tension by revealing how anxious the man was about the whole situation. Alex persisted that McAvoy could not know how the confrontation would end and Shaw reminded them that this was a movie and skipping out a chance to add a bit of foreshadowing was practically a crime.

Eventually everyone seemed to decide that this can be left to post-production to sort out. The crew brought the ramp stairs over to the side of the plane and locked it in place. Cameras were switched out, the crane brought closer for the exterior shots, cameramen squeezed in with the extras playing the passengers. Angel and her makeup minions fluttered in to touch up Erik and Charles, and gave them both a very disappointed look for deigning to sweat from their dramatic dashing about on the tarmac.

“And - ACTION!”

“Evacuate the aircraft,” Erik ordered the flight crew hovering just inside the door.

Hurrying in behind him, Charles said, “We’re here with the FBI. Please begin evacuating all the passengers from the plane.”

The crew jumped into action. Most of the passengers went obediently enough, though a couple of them were visibly escorted out. Charles stayed by the door and visually scanned each and every face carefully before letting them out, while Erik dove into the stream of people going the other way and used his height to seek out the two would-be victims: Eames and Arthur.

The crush of people made it hard to see anything, however, and Erik practically collided with the two men. But the scene was still rolling, so he grabbed them both by an arm each and none-too-gently marched them over to where Charles was nearly vibrating in anxiety. Arthur peppered him with questions the whole way, which Eames backed up with smart remarks, the two of them holding onto each other’s hands the whole time.

“Get them out of here,” he said to Charles, shoving the two men at him. Both of them were distinctly taller than Charles. Well, if they’d really wanted to escape, Eames alone could have taken on Erik. “Make sure they don’t leave your sight. Our backup should have arrived by now.”

Erik turned to go back into the plane. “Michael,” Charles called after him. The distress in his voice was obvious. Erik turned around, and the look on Charles’ face blindsided him, like a punch in the gut. Fuck, he hoped Charles never looked at him like that for real. “Please, be careful. And - be the better man.”

Erik nodded just the once, swallowing thickly. “Keep everyone out of the plane, James. That means you, too.”

He went to hunt down Cobb.

* * * * *

It had been a rough day for everyone, especially poor Charles. Erik could tell that this particular shoot where Charles had to run all over the tarmac and later rush Arthur and Eames to safety was taking its toll on him, his eyes wandering over the tight set of Charles’ shoulders and the tired lines around his eyes. Erik longed to bundle Charles into his arms and sweep him away for a relaxing day at the spa, but the shoot was already way behind schedule and Bryan wore the perpetually harassed, worried look of a man who knew this. Erik knew that above all else, Charles hated to look unprofessional and would stay as late as he needed to just to finish his scenes, so he had no choice but to wait until the day’s shoot was over.

As per Erik’s instructions, Remy had found a renowned, exclusive spa on Fifth Avenue, and Erik told him to make a booking for a massage at 5:00 P.M. However, the shoot stretched all the way until past 6:00 P.M., and Bryan only called for a wrap because half the crew and cast were tired and caustic from low blood sugar and exhaustion. They had all been shooting since 6:00 in the morning, after all. Charles immediately headed for his trailer, pausing only when Darwin asked him a question and Charles shook his head before continuing on his way. Erik quickly followed, realising the spa appointment had to be cancelled, but there was something else he could do instead.

He texted Remy to check if tickets were still available, and his assistant texted back immediately: Oui, I’m on it.

Letting himself into the trailer they shared, he found Charles already sprawled on the couch, a folded damp towel across his eyes as he massaged his own temples. He sat up a little when he heard the door open. “Is that you, darling?”

“Sorry, Erik is busy so he called someone from the escort agency to entertain you instead.” Erik smiled as he bent down, brushing back Charles’ dark hair so he could press a kiss to his forehead.

At least Charles gave him a weak smile at that. “I’m so tired,” he said, taking off his makeshift blindfold and Erik never, ever failed to be stunned by those cornflower blue eyes, no matter how many times he had gazed into them. Even now, despite the dark eye bags and tiny lines of stress around them, Erik was completely captivated. He leaned in, pressing a gentle kiss to the sweet moue of that beloved red mouth.

“I can’t describe how much I admire you for being so professional today,” Erik said, carding his fingers through the dark strands. “Well, you’re professional every day, but especially today. If it were me, I would have thrown in the towel and snapped Shaw’s spine in two.”

Charles chuckled, turning into Erik’s hand cupping his cheek and nuzzling his palm. “Violence doesn’t solve everything, Erik,” he murmured, looking better than Erik had seen him all day. “Maiming Shaw will not bring you peace.”

“Only one thing brings me peace,” Erik said, leaning forward so that their foreheads touched. “You.”

Visibly touched, Charles brushed his lips against Erik’s in the lightest and airiest of kisses. It was just Charles, conveying how glad and happy he was that Erik was here, and in turn, Erik was grateful that Charles had given him this privilege to be part of his life. He had a pretty good idea that there were many who would line up for the chance to be with Charles for even just one night, and here was Erik, given the key to a lifetime - hopefully - of nights. And days.

The chiming of Erik’s phone interrupted the moment, and Erik gave him a quick kiss before checking to see if it was Remy. Thankfully it was, and once again he had proved his weight in gold by getting exactly what Erik requested. He tucked away his phone, looking at a curious Charles. “Are you up for a quick walk down Broadway to the Majestic Theatre?”

“Why?” Charles was sitting up, tugging Erik towards him. “What’s showing there?”

Erik smirked at him. “I thought you might like tickets to a private box while we listen to....the music of the night.”

Charles’ eyes were round with surprise. “Erik, you got us tickets to Phantom?”

Erik nodded happily, taking out his phone again. “Yes, I saw how tired you were earlier and I tried to book a massage for you at a spa. But since the shoot ran late, I thought we could take in a show.”

Charles grabbed Erik’s head with both hands, planting kisses all over his face. “You” - kiss - “are” - kiss - “a wonderful” - kiss - “man.”

Erik felt his face warm, kissing Charles back quickly. “Come on, before we’re late for the show.”

* * * * *

Lunch was a wrapped sandwich and a bottle of Fiji water for everyone on the set, but Charles didn’t really have the heart or appetite to eat. He was sitting beside a trolley loaded with fake suitcases, watching as Bryan instructed the camera crew on how he wanted to get the next shot. Beside him, Erik didn’t seem as though he had much appetite as well, tearing pieces of bread off his sandwich and munching on them despondently. Charles put his food aside and tugged Erik closer to him. “The next scene is going to be so difficult,” Charles said with a sigh, kissing Erik’s cheek and watching the controlled chaos on the set.

Erik only swallowed his bread with difficulty and put the remainder of it aside as well, wrapping his arm around Charles’ waist. “Can we convince Bryan to scrap this scene and let James and Michael get married instead?” he asked, making Charles chuckle.

“You know that would have been impossible in the Sixties,” he chided Erik, who lifted his head with a small smile and pressed a kiss to Charles’ temple.

“I know.” They sat there quietly, and Charles wondered if Erik was thinking the same thing he was. Good thing it’s possible for two men to get married now. But Charles didn’t want to jump the gun and give Erik the impression that he wanted to storm down the aisle with Erik. It wouldn’t be fair if Erik wasn’t ready for the commitment, even though it was something that Charles thought about every day.

They watched Hank discussing something with one of the camera operators, not at all looking forward to the next scene they would have to shoot once lunch was over.

* * * * *

Erik ran down the plane aisle, eyes scanning over the empty seats for a telltale blonde bump of a head, but Cobb was nowhere to be seen. Slowing down when he came to the galley, Erik’s hand stole inside his jacket, hunting for the familiar shape of his Glock. A sharp spiral of panic rose in his gut when he realised it was missing from its usual hidden compartment, but he knew it was no time to lose his head. He had to find Cobb.

He silently tiptoed past the closed lavatory doors. Both were locked, which meant Cobb could be hidden inside either of them. Taking a deep breath, Erik focused on the lavatory on his left. Then he sharply kicked it open, but there was no one there. Before he even had a moment to turn, he heard the squeak of the other door opening and suddenly there were thick, strong arms grabbing him in a chokehold from behind, cutting off his air. “Thought you were so goddamn smart, huh Fassbender?” Cobb’s smug, breathless voice said in his ear.

Erik hurled himself backwards, and there was a choked-off groan as Cobb’s head bounced off the door, and his tight hold on Erik loosened. Erik grabbed this opportunity to whip around and elbow him deep in the gut, causing Cobb to shout in pain before they both fell to the floor, wrestling violently. Erik had fought bigger men before, but Cobb was especially nimble and wiry, and when he had an arm loose, he almost managed to punch Erik in the face.

“Goddammit!” Erik managed to kick Cobb in the leg, and as Cobb howled in agony, Erik rolled on top of him, pinning him to the ground with an arm braced across his throat. Cobb was struggling under him, one arm flailing about while the other was trapped under Erik’s knee.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” Cobb spat at him, eyes filled with fury. “Go on, take revenge for your stupid partner.”

Anger rose in Erik’s chest, making him bare his teeth and tighten a hand around Cobb’s neck, but he forced himself to remember what Charles had said about being the better man. He loosened his hold on Cobb’s throat, reminding himself to reach for his handcuffs before he did anything stupid.

“Michael?” Erik’s head whipped up when he heard Charles’ tentative voice, and he kept Cobb pinned down when he peeked above the seats to see Charles at the doorway, a gun pointed squarely in Cobb’s direction. “Michael, you all right?”

“Dammit James, I told you to stay off the plane!” Erik shouted, and when he saw Charles’ horrified reaction he instinctively knew Cobb had gotten loose, and his first fear was that Cobb was going to somehow harm Charles. Sure enough, Cobb shoved Erik off him and pulled out a gun, aiming it at Charles.

Erik didn’t even need to think twice; he reached for his second gun which was holstered at his waist and pumped two bullets straight into Cobb’s chest before he could even do the slightest damage to Charles. Slumping down onto the floor with a cry, Cobb was clutching his chest, staring down in horror at the blood gushing from the wound and pooling on the carpet.

“James?” Erik shouted, relieved beyond words when Charles yelled back, “I’m fine!”

“Thank God,” Erik mumbled, keeping a foot planted on the dying Cobb’s chest just to make sure he stayed down, and Charles was standing in the doorway, smiling at him in relief. It had been a really long day for both of them, and Cobb was finally down for the count, unable to ever hurt anyone else again.

“We did it,” Erik said as Charles walked over, running a hand through his hair as he eyed the fallen Cobb splayed on the ground. He was pleasantly surprised when Charles wrapped his arms around him, relaxing into his hold. It was Charles who let go first, clapping Erik on the back and saying, “Good job, Michael, I’m proud of you.”

Erik glanced down at Cobb’s limp body under his foot, feeling vindicated for all the pain and loss he had been through. “We worked well as a team, James,” he admitted, and Charles gave him a smile before it froze, and those blue eyes widened with horror as he stared at something behind Erik.

“Michael, get down!” Charles shouted, and before Erik knew what was going on, Charles was yanking him down, then shielding Erik with his body. A loud shot rang out in the cabin, and then Charles was slumped over Erik with an agonized groan.

“JAMES!” Erik called out in a panic, but he had to think fast. He whipped out his gun and shot in the direction that the bullet had come from, and there was a choked-off female scream from the vicinity of the galley before a body fell to the ground with a thump. Erik frantically bundled Charles into his arms and applied pressure to his chest wound, only sparing a glance at the body of the woman beside Cobb who had blood gurgling from her mouth. Mal.

Now that she was incapacitated, Erik focused all his attention on Charles, who was lying on his lap, and Erik gently cradled Charles’ head in his hand, blinking back tears. “James, oh God, James, try not to move.”

Charles squeezed his eyes shut in pain, and blood was now trickling out of the corner of his mouth, making Erik’s heart constrict. “I’ll be fine,” he whispered, but the trembling, iron-tight grip he had on Erik’s wrist betrayed his words.

“Hang on, I’m going to radio for help,” Erik whispered, yanking out the walkie-talkie strapped to his belt, and it took him a few tries to calm down so his shaking fingers could press the button. He desperately tried to ignore the fact that the buttons were slippery with blood - Charles’ blood. “Officer down! I repeat, officer down. Requesting emergency vehicles!” Erik shouted into the walkie, which only returned a loud buzz. “Hello, is anyone there?”

There was a pause, and thankfully a clear reply, “We’re on our way right now, hang tight.”

“Thank God.” Erik’s hand was now trembling so badly that the walkie dropped to the ground with a clatter, and the way Charles’ face was rapidly turning white was not at all reassuring. The only colour now in the deathly pallor of his face was those bright blue eyes, as well as the blood slowly seeping out of his mouth and down his chin.

“It’s going to be okay, just hang on,” he whispered, pressing down harder on the wound. There was just so much blood. Despite his rapidly weakening body, Charles let out a soft groan before dragging himself closer to Erik, his trembling hands pulling Erik down.

“Stay with me,” he pleaded, and the broken hitch in his voice made something in Erik’s chest shatter. “Don’t leave me, please.”

Erik didn’t care that he was openly crying now, the tears blurring his vision. He rested Charles’ head on his lap and fiercely wiped the tears away with the back of his hand so that he could see Charles. “This is my fault,” he blurted out, unable to stop the tears even when Charles took his clean hand, lacing their fingers together before kissing the back of it, the trail of blood from his mouth smearing across Erik’s pale knuckles.

“I love you.” Charles was shaking now, letting out a cry of pain as he shifted on Erik’s lap.

Erik stroked back the dark hair, his tears landing on Charles’ blood-soaked shirt. “You promised you’d always be by my side.”

Charles’ mouth twisted into a pained smile. “I promised you a great many things, I’m afraid.”

The distant wail of the ambulance interrupted the moment, and Erik had never been gladder to hear the sound of its sirens. He clutched Charles tighter, whispering, “Just hang on, help is here, just...” but he trailed off when he felt Charles’ grip on him loosen, his breathing going shallow.

“James?” Charles’ head was lolling to the side, his eyelids fluttering. Erik shook him in despair, but it was no use: he was just in time to see the light fade from those bright blue eyes, and Charles’ hand slipped from his own. “No, please don’t leave me. JAMES!”

Erik was violently shaking his head as he yanked Charles up into his arms so that Charles’ head rested on his shoulder. Erik was shaking all over, his shoulders heaving with sobs as he clutched Charles’ lifeless body to himself and wept. It felt like the world was collapsing around him, slipping away from his grasp along with Charles, and Erik was barely aware of the sounds of the paramedics clattering up the staircase all too late, choking where he knelt completely soaked through with blood.

* * * * *

“And cut! That’s a wrap, folks!” Bryan called from his chair, igniting thunderous applause and cheers from the crew gathered around. Charles blinked himself back to reality, shifting in Erik’s arms so he could lift his head from his shoulder. However, Erik’s hold on him tightened as he did so, and Charles felt Erik’s hands tremble where they gripped him, quiet sobs still wrecking Erik’s body.

Charles cocooned Erik in his arms instinctively, soothing his back with broad strokes as he nuzzled against Erik’s ear, the trail of synthetic blood that ran from his mouth smearing across their cheeks. “Erik, it’s okay. I’m fine, see? None of that really happened.”

Erik seemed to calm down somewhat, but Charles could still feel the warm trickle of tears along the side of his face, snaking down his neck. Charles brushed his lips against the corner of Erik’s eye, tasting the salt from the moisture there as he slowly kissed his way to Erik’s temple, beads of tears rolling from his own eyes. Erik had gone too deep into his character, and the scene had also been too similar to that day on the beach, one of the many possible “what if’s” that had once kept both of them up at night. Charles had felt it too, had imagined what it would be like to know for sure that that was it, his last chance to say goodbye, and channelled everything into the scene despite how much it pained him. He carded his fingers through Erik’s hair, still pressing kisses to his temple, and whispered gently against his skin, hoping to reach into Erik’s mind and pull him out from the dark recess that he had slipped into, “Come back. Come back to me.”

Charles felt Erik’s shoulders relax as he exhaled deeply, smiling when Erik placed a soft kiss to his neck. He gave Erik a quick squeeze before pulling away to wipe the blood smears off their faces with the back of his hand. “You had me rather worried for a minute there.”

“I’m forbidding you from taking a role where you end up dying ever again.” Erik half-joked and Charles laughed, kissing the tip of his nose. “But in all honesty, Charles. I don’t think I’ll be able to watch this scene in the film. I’ll close my eyes and wait for you to tell me when it’s all over.”

Charles sat up, taking one of Erik’s hands in his and threading their fingers together. He was glad that they were living in the here and now, and not the era when their movie took place. Would they have made it then, in a society that would not accept them for who they were? He would have loved Erik anyway, that much was clear, even had he known his heart would break. “You’re behaving as if it was easy for me to picture never seeing you again.”

Erik frowned, and Charles stroked the side of Erik’s face with his free hand when he saw that his eyes were beginning to well up again. “I can’t imagine a life without you.”

“Then don’t, because that’s never going to happen,” Charles said with resolution, leaning in to kiss Erik tenderly, the hand on Erik’s face finding its way into his hair. Charles pressed his forehead against Erik’s when they parted, breath ghosting against his lips, “And I’ll always be there, darling.”

* * * * *

Although Sebastian Shaw was a rather annoying and condescending man, he was certainly a generous one. He had spared no expense for the wrap party, judging from the lavish spread that awaited the cast and crew of ‘First Class’ in the Marriott ballroom. Charles’ eyes widened when he spotted the tray of various grades of caviar, all accompanied by mother-of-pearl spoons and a haughty waiter on hand to serve them. Right beside the caviar were several other hors d’oeuvres such as lobster canapes and smoked salmon rolls, which Sean was already in the process of wolfing down.

And these were only the appetisers. Charles eyed the main table which boasted an array of entrées like beef wellington and a whole array of red lobsters. Typical food for him at any of the galas his parents were fond of throwing when he was a child, but he much preferred the warmth of Edie’s simple, home-cooked casseroles, or the hearty sandwiches Erik would prepare for him whenever they would stay in to watch a movie.

Of course, anything prepared with love would taste infinitely better than the best, most expensive, ostentatious meal that money can buy.

Liebling?” He heard Erik coming up to stand beside him. “Why are you looking at the lobsters and smiling?”

Charles laughed, wrapping his arms around Erik’s waist and tiptoeing up to give him a peck on the lips, which of course turned into a slightly longer kiss. Erik was much calmer now, after they had showered and removed all traces of that synthetic blood from their skin. “Just thinking that food made with love usually tastes so much better than all...this.” He made a vague gesture meant to encompass all the expensive food on display, and thank goodness Erik seemed to understand, smiling as he slid his hands into the pockets of Charles’ jeans, his palms warm even through the fabric.

“Like Mama’s cooking,” Erik whispered against his temple, and Charles nodded immediately, glad that Erik knew what he was talking about.

“Come on, guys.” Darwin was laughing as he walked past, Alex in tow. This was a common sight these days, Alex and Darwin almost joined at the hip while Sean looked perplexed but amused. Darwin clapped Charles on the shoulder as he teased, “Instead of devouring each other in public, why not devour the food?”

Erik was shooting Darwin a wry, unimpressed stare. “Don’t you have something else to do? You seem to have more free time now that you don’t have to top up our supply of cond-”

“Whoa, stop right there!” A horrified Darwin held up his hands in surrender, while Alex merely turned a whiter shade of pale. “Okay, you win this round, Lehnsherr.” Darwin quickly fled, taking Alex with him and leaving Charles to gasp with laughter against Erik’s chest.

“Darling, you’re terrible.” Charles still couldn’t stop chuckling at the twin looks of horror on Darwin’s and Alex’s faces. He shot Erik a fond smile. “You should be nice to them, you’re going to miss them now that the shoot is over. I mean, you’ll see Darwin again, but probably not the rest.”

Now Erik did look a little sad. “As much as I make fun of them, you’re right.”

“See?” Charles patted his chest consolingly, taking this opportunity to molest his boyfriend a bit. “So be nice to them, it’s the last day after all.”

Erik made a noise of agreement as he lifted two flutes of rosé wine from a passing waiter’s tray, handing one to Charles. “So what are we actually going to do, now that filming is over?” he asked, sounding genuinely curious.

Charles paused, thinking it over. “You’re right, we’ve never properly discussed this, have we?”

Erik lifted his shoulder in a shrug. “We only discussed staying together somewhere, but we never actually did decide where in detail.”

“I didn’t really care much as long as we were going to be together,” Charles admitted, remembering their conversation in the Neuschwanstein castle. “But I do have a suggestion, if you’re interested?”

At that moment, a couple of the crew walked past, clapping Charles on the back and wishing both of them well, and Erik even smiled at them as they walked away. Now he turned back to Charles, brushing back his hair, that intensely focused gaze on Charles again. “Of course I’d want to hear your ideas. What is it?”

Charles smiled, stroking a hand down Erik’s side, “Remember I told you I had a place of my own out in the country?” Erik nodded, pulling him closer by the small of his back as Charles continued, “Well, it’s just upstate, actually. In Westchester, surrounded by acres of empty plains. If it’s anonymity you want, that’s where we could go. No one will bother us out there.”

Erik smiled as he raised his glass to Charles, “Let’s leave tomorrow.”

“Splendid,” Charles grinned and clinked their glasses together, the two of them knocking back their drinks in unison and making plans in hushed whispers as the rest of the party carried on without them.

* * * * *

Erik stirred when he felt the soft brush of Charles’ lips against his eyelid, smiling as he nuzzled into the crook of Charles’ neck.

“Good morning,” Charles murmured, the greeting muffled into Erik’s hair.

“Morning, Schatz,” Erik whispered in reply. He kissed the soft skin at the base of Charles’ throat, curling an arm around Charles’ waist as Charles rolled him over onto his back, legs tangling together in warm sheets.

Erik finally pried his bleary eyes open, blinking as they adjusted to the muted sunshine. He had always been fond of the sunsets on the West Coast, sitting on a pier and watching the sun burn down into cinders on the horizon, but nothing could compare to waking up with a pliant Charles in his arms, the late morning sunlight catching in Charles’ sleep-mussed hair and making the crystal blue of his eyes appear even brighter than usual. Erik leaned up and kissed him, one hand splayed across the nape of Charles’ neck, thinking that, yes, he would very much like to try watching sunrises instead. With Charles.

“Mmm... Darling, we have to check-out,” Charles said after a while when Erik’s hand started venturing south. “Come on, shower and then we really should go.”

Erik willingly let himself get dragged out of bed, going through his morning rituals quickly when he realised it was already almost 11 A.M. To be fair, the party had run late, and the private after-party the two of them had in their room, which had involved far less clothing, had run even later. He took one last cursory look around the room before bringing their bags down to the lobby, looking up Google Maps on his phone while Charles checked them out of the hotel.

“Let’s leave our bags here for a while, I think I should get a car,” Erik suggested when Charles made his way back over to him. “There’s a Mercedes-Benz showroom on Park Avenue.”

“That’s quite close, I’ll ask concierge to arrange for someone to drive us over,” Charles agreed, bouncing off with a smile to make the request.

The efficiency of the Marriott staff was truly commendable and they were out the lobby, into the town car and dropped at the showroom in no time at all. Erik tipped their driver generously as they got out of the vehicle, Charles waving farewell to him when he rolled down the window with a friendly “have a good day, sirs!” before driving off. The dealers sprang to their feet the moment he and Charles stepped through the door, a man in his thirties who appeared to be the sales manager rushing over to tend to them immediately, barely able to contain his excitement. “Good morning, Mr. Lehnsherr and Mr. Xavier. I am such a huge fan of your movies.”

“How nice of you, thank you very much,” Charles replied as he shook the manager’s hand, and it never failed to amaze Erik how Charles always seemed to genuinely believe that everyone who came up to them on the street claiming to love their work was sincere about the words that were coming out of their mouths, rather than assuming that they were nothing but meaningless platitudes.

Erik returned the handshake with much more detachment. “We’d like to see some of your latest two-seater models,” Erik announced, cutting right to the chase.

"Yes, sir. Right this way." The manager brought them to the showroom with their latest line-up of sports cars, rattling off the specifications of each model in detail. Erik had always appreciated well-engineered automobiles, and there was nothing quite like the feel of being in control of a top performance model, all that metal under his command with just the flick of a finger or a twist of his hand. However, Erik had a feeling Charles paid far less attention to the horsepower of the engine and how many seconds it took the car to go from 0 to 60mph, likely more focused on the exterior design and the feel of the leather of the seats.

"Charles, did any of the models catch your fancy?" Erik asked when they reached the end of their tour. Charles would be spending just as much time in the car as himself, and Erik placed Charles' comfort above all else.

"Oh yes, the SL63 AMG looked beautiful." Charles’ eyes were already fixed on that particular model, and Erik was quick to recognise the first signs of falling in love. “What do you think?”

Erik had heard only good things about that particular model, and the most important thing was that Charles was happy with it. “We’ll take it,” he told the stunned sales manager.

“That was quick,” the man said, but when he saw Erik’s expression he hastily added, “But sometimes, you know immediately when it’s the right one, right?”

The slow, beatific smile Charles gave Erik made his skin tingle all over, and Erik would have bought ten more cars just to see it again and again. “Yes, sometimes you just know,” Erik said with a little grin, before the sales manager gave them a pleased nod and led him to the office for payment.

After signing the necessary papers, Erik was about to hand over his credit card when Charles stumbled into the office, looking a little out of breath. “Wait, Erik, use our AMEX card,” he said, and Erik guessed that Charles was referring to the newly minted joint credit card that Remy had helped them apply for.

“I don’t mind, Charles, I can pay--” Erik began, but a determined Charles plucked Erik’s wallet right out of his hands and slid out the AMEX instead, the sales manager watching all this with an amused expression.

“You always pay for everything else, it’s not fair to you,” Charles chided him gently, before handing the card over to the cashier. “Besides, what is the joint account for if not for big purchases?”

Well, Charles did have a point. Erik reached over and squeezed his hand while the staff processed the payment, looking forward to driving out of the showroom in the brand new car.

Their brand new car.

* * * * *

There was something relaxing about grocery shopping that Charles liked, the aimless feeling of browsing the numerous aisles and picking out interesting, quixotic products that happened to catch his fancy. They were in the Whole Foods right smack in the middle of Union Square, shopping for supplies before heading up to Westchester. So far, their grocery cart was already half-filled with an array of sweet desserts (organic chocolate bars, ginger biscuits and gluten-free vanilla pudding) and Charles was idly wondering if Erik would violently object to having pudding licked off his skin.

“...things only. Am I right, Charles?”

Charles blinked, still caught in his pleasant daydream. “Sorry, what was that?”

Now Erik was shooting him this faintly amused look of exasperation. “I said, we can’t live only on sweets, Liebling. We need to get proper food as well.”

Charles looked down at their shopping cart. “Looks like proper food to me,” he said with a grin.

However, he wasn’t prepared for Erik stepping closer, his eyes hot as they raked over Charles’ body from head to toe, making him feel naked. Now he was leaning in, murmuring, “But Charles, we’ll need good food to keep up our stamina.” The dark heat in his eyes made it very clear just what they would need all that stamina for.

Not to be outwitted, Charles proved he was more than Erik’s equal as he slipped his hands under the hem of Erik’s shirt, sliding across his warm, flat stomach, his fingers tracing the narrow trail of dark hair disappearing under Erik’s pants. Charles ran his tongue over his bottom lip as he locked eyes with Erik, the heat between them fizzling like sparks off a grinding wheel. “Then we’d better stock up so we’ll barely need to leave the house,” he murmured back. “Or the bed.”

Erik’s mouth twitched here, and his ears were bright red. Charles didn’t even feel the hand on his waist until Erik used a belt loop to tug him forward, their bodies pressed flush together. “Who said we’ll be leaving the bed?”

Charles was unable to stop the barrage of images in his head of him and Erik tangled up in the sheets together, making love until they both collapsed from sheer, sweaty exhaustion. He was about to lean up and meet Erik’s already parted lips for a kiss when he heard the soft click of a camera phone, and both of them pulled back, a little dazed. In the same aisle was a group of teenage girls watching them eagerly, all of them brandishing their phones to take photos. “Now KISS!” one of them yelled, making her friends giggle.

Charles gamely smiled at them, while Erik rolled his eyes. “Have a good day, my dears,” he called out as he followed Erik, who was already pushing their cart away. The girls were now pouting, but Charles only spared them a wave as he caught up to Erik, who seemed a little irritated. “You can’t blame them, you know, we are rather recognisable,” Charles reminded him, wrapping an arm around Erik’s waist to soften his words.

Erik’s eyebrows drew together in displeasure. “I know, I just wish we had our privacy,” he said a little reluctantly, before coming to a stop in front of the wholewheat pasta section. “We should get some of this, right? It’s easy to cook, and I don’t care what my trainer says, I’m having carbs on my vacation.”

Charles answered this by loading their cart with various pasta shapes and bottles of ready-made sauce. “Life is short, darling. Besides, I have a feeling you’ll be burning all those carbs off in many different ways,” he said, giving Erik a sideways flirtatious smile.

Erik was now grinning again, his head tilted at Charles in what Raven called his ‘lovestruck look’. “I very much look forward to exploring these ways with you.”

They continued shopping for a while more, Charles religiously studying the ingredient labels while Erik read them over his shoulder, his chin a warm, familiar weight. Charles loved how they were always touching, as though they were both conductors of electricity and had to find some way to be connected to each other, by hook or by crook. The firm clasp of hands, the soft weight of Erik’s hand on the small of his back, the way Charles’ thumb would stroke the back of Erik’s knuckles....just non-sexual touches that felt like a different plane of communication, a non-verbal way of saying I’m-glad-you’re-here.

However, Charles practically lit up when they stumbled across the wine section, which was separate from the rest of the supermarket. It was all organic, of course, and Charles happily started loading their cart with various bottles of Californian wine. He pretended not to notice when he saw Erik’s raised eyebrows. “Are we really going to be drinking that much?” Erik said doubtfully. “And I don’t think we have space in the trunk.”

Charles tried to think of a feasible argument. “It’s all organic, and you know how doctors say drinking a glass of red wine every day is good for you.”

Erik eyed the bottles in the cart. “Yes Liebling, a glass, not a carton.”

“Stop exaggerating,” Charles said with a laugh, leaning up to give him a kiss on the lips, and it was easy to point out the exact moment Erik caved, his shoulders sagging with defeat.

“I suppose we could try and fit it in the trunk somehow,” he said with a sigh, as Charles grinned happily at him.

They headed for the cashier, paid and were heading for the exit with their groceries when there was a faint flash that temporarily paled Erik’s face. Now Erik was peering out at the street, his features tight with anger. “How the fuck did the paps know we’re here?”

Charles followed his gaze and saw a few photographers on the street outside, their motorbikes idling on the curb despite the busy traffic. Not this again, he groaned inwardly. He didn’t have that much of a problem with the press, but Erik hated them and it could all become a very unpleasant experience. As a woman walked past, carrying a bag of dog food, an idea popped up in his mind. Maybe Erik could be persuaded to be nice to the media? And Charles had a very pleasant and enjoyable bargaining chip up his sleeve.

You do realise you’re going to try and condition your boyfriend with sex to be nice to people, a voice in his head that sounded like Raven chided him. Charles didn’t feel guilty, though. He wanted people to see the nice, sweet side of Erik that came out whenever he was with Charles and have everyone understand that he was a wonderful man. And so what if this method felt a little like the experiment Pavlov conducted with his dogs?

“Erik?” Charles leaned up to whisper in his ear. “Be nice, all right? They’re just doing their jobs, it’s not like they invaded our home or anything.”

Erik’s mouth was still very tight. “But we can’t even go grocery shopping without them taking pictures all over the place!”

“Oh for God’s sake, Erik.” Charles thought for a while, then used his most sultry, seductive tone, the one he’d employ to get Erik into bed. “If you’re nice, I’ll make sure you’re rewarded later on.”

He could see faint stirrings of curiosity in Erik’s expression. “Reward? What kind of reward?”

Charles traced the lapels of Erik’s jacket with an amused smile, knowing exactly which of Erik’s buttons to push. “You know how I love having you in my mouth,” he whispered, wetting his lips and hearing Erik’s sharp intake of breath. “I know I normally can’t take all of you, but I think I’ve gotten enough practice deep-throating. Later, we can see how good I’ve gotten.”

Erik squeezed his eyes shut, his cheeks flushed with arousal. When he opened his eyes again, they were dark and dilated. “Deal.”

Charles almost wanted to jump for joy at how easy that was, and ultimately, it was a win-win situation for both of them. “Good boy,” he said with a sly smile, patting down Erik’s jacket. They both nodded at each other, then stepped out into the chaos of camera flashes, and Charles was pleased to see Erik was smiling at the paps, his grip tightening on Charles’ hand.

* * * * *

* * * * *

Charles trailed the pads of his fingers idly over the back of Erik's hand, enjoying the familiar warm press on his thigh where Erik's palm was resting. He'd missed going driving in Erik's car, a luxury they hadn't had since they started filming on location, Erik beside him the only constant as the rest of the world went flying by. They were already off the I-87 and making their way through upstate New York, the skyscrapers of Manhattan long gone from their rear-view mirror, replaced by low-lying hills and marshland. The country road was empty for the most part save for them, and Erik was breaking the speed limit a little, fast enough that Charles almost felt drunk whenever the view shifted abruptly due to the car drifting on a bend in the road. He listened contentedly to the quiet purr of the engine beneath the song playing on the radio, humming along as it faded out.

“And that was Lady Gaga with her number one smash hit, ‘Marry The Night’,” the DJ cheerily announced. “And speaking of marrying, LGBT activists and supporters will be pleased to know that in California, the 9th Circuit Court has just ruled that Prop 8 is unconstitutional...”

“Wait,” Charles said sharply, turning up the volume for the radio. He was unsure whether he had misheard the news, but judging from the widening smile on Erik’s face, it seemed to be true. “Erik, did you hear that?”

Erik nodded, squeezing Charles’ knee in affirmation as they both listened to the DJ. “It’s a step in the right direction, at least.”

Charles had expected Erik to be just as ecstatic as him, which was why his lukewarm reaction was confusing. “Don’t you think it’s a triumph for civil rights?”

Erik conceded with a nod. “It is, but there’s still the Supreme Court, Charles, we can’t be too hasty.” He kept his eyes on the road, but his hand was still sprawled on Charles’ lap. “But I agree we’re getting somewhere. Changes in legislation, voters exercising their voice...that’s how it starts.”

Charles beamed at him, taking Erik’s hand and planting a long kiss on the back of it. “Say what you like, darling, it’s still a cause for celebration. So pull over.”

Erik raised an eyebrow at him. “What? Why?”

Laughing at Erik’s reluctance to stop the car, Charles wickedly decided to continue with his plan to celebrate. Undoing his seatbelt, he quickly reached over and unbuckled Erik’s belt before unzipping his trousers, a familiar manoeuvre that took him less than five seconds to perform. “Charles?” Erik sounded confused as Charles eased out Erik’s cock. “What are you--”

The car almost swerved when Charles bent over and placed his mouth over his erection, taking in as much of Erik as he could, and he could hear Erik’s faint curses and shouting. “Fuck, Charles, what the-- oh God, your mouth--”

Charles’ only response was to suck harder, hollowing his cheeks as his tongue swirled around the head of Erik’s cock, and Erik let out a broken moan, his thighs trembling under Charles’ hands. Charles was only barely aware of the car skidding to a stop, and then Erik was unbuckling his seatbelt, bucking up into Charles’ mouth with a low, desperate groan. “Oh God, Charles. You could have killed us, road safety is important...”

Charles pulled his mouth off, licking his abused lips and staring at Erik, who seemed to have melted into his seat. “Fuck road safety,” Charles said with a laugh as he reached down and pulled the lever under Erik’s seat, pushing it back. Before Erik could ask what was going on, Charles climbed over and straddled Erik on the driver’s seat, twisting his fingers in Erik’s hair and yanking his head back for a hard, punishing kiss.

When he finally broke away, Erik was dazed and pliant, blinking. Charles grinned at him. “The bad thing about the countryside is that no one can hear you if you scream.” Charles traced the wet curve of Erik’s lips. “The good thing about the countryside is that no one can hear you when you scream.”

Erik