Charles was singing in the shower again. He had a decent enough wavering baritone and inexplicable fondness for the Beatles, and Erik generally found it somewhat enjoyable. But he heard the distinct thump of someone in the next suite flinging what sounded like a telephone directory at the wall, followed by a vague imprecation.
He rapped on the door of the hotel bathroom.
“Charles, I doubt the neighbors are absolutely dazzled by your rendition of – whatever that is,” he said, opening the door a crack. Billows of steam hit his face – Charles liked his showers unconscionably hot; a failure of discipline, Erik thought, probably in childhood at some point. If you didn’t know him you would think Charles was a walking failure of discipline, but once you got past the overdone charm and nonchalance you realized how precise he was, how careful, how absolutely in command of himself and his power at every moment. That was, in its way, more charming, like finding those boys who put on an effort to look like they didn’t study cramped over a book in the library.
“Don’t you recognize it?” Charles asked. “I thought I was doing it justice. It’s mainly ‘yeah yeah yeah,’ which is handy as I keep forgetting which part is the chorus.”
Erik sighed. He stepped gingerly into the bathroom and began to undress.
“Sauna in here, Charles,” he said. “Could you bring yourself to turn the water down a degree or two?”
“It’s good for the pores,” he thought he heard Charles mutter, but the steam decreased perceptibly and he could brush his teeth with a fairly unobstructed view of himself in the mirror. He looked curiously happy, for all that he was driving across godforsaken reaches of America with Charles Xavier to pick up mutants for the CIA, and – he allowed his thoughts to drift for a moment to the other things that had begun happening, first drunk in that cramped motel bed, Charles’ eyes widening below him and the single bulb swinging back and forth overhead as they jounced the mattress, then again after they woke up groggy and half stuck together, and then not for a few days and then almost continuously after the car stopped working in the middle of somewhere Dakota -- he forgot just where; Charles had been navigating and he had been merely driving –hard and fast and panting against Charles’ neck or gentle and slow with their eyes locked on each other, familiarizing himself with Charles’ body and its perfection of imperfections, and then – he hoped – later this evening, the bed here seemed comfortable, with Charles’ legs over his shoulders, pressing unpractised kisses onto Charles’ ankle-
“Erik,” Charles said suddenly from the shower, and his voice sounded a bit different, “would you mind thinking of something – less – colorful?”
“Cheat,” he said, finding himself grinning.
“It’s not that I object to –” Charles made a faint sound like clearing his throat, “the practices depicted, but I’m only human, Erik.”
“No, you’re not,” Erik said. He hooked his arms under his waist and tugged off his turtleneck. “All right, then, something staid. We were talking this afternoon. Hundred years’ war.”
“It’s hardly staid,” Charles said. "That’s exactly the point I was trying to make!" The flicker of suddenly enthusiastic interest in Charles’ voice made him glance over bemusedly at Charles without meaning to. The curtain obscured him except for one arm, raised into the spray of the shower. “And I think it has bearing on the larger question we’ve been discussing.”
“Of mutants.” Erik said.
“I mean, in my thesis, I argue that the arrival of a better-equipped species in a region inevitably leads to the extinction of their less evolved kin.”
“So you’ve said.”
“And Crecy, you would argue, proves that point – Edward’s forces had better equipment, but I’d actually suggest it’s a counterexample.”
“Longbows against knights,” Erik said. “It’s hardly – nuclear missiles, but it’s progress, Charles.” He finished brushing his teeth.
“But the longbow wasn’t exactly high technology. It was a craft, a specialty; that’s like calling cavalry a technological innovation. What made the longbow successful was exactly what meant it wouldn’t be successful long.”
Erik spat. “Well it wouldn’t have been successful short.”
Charles chuckled, his funny rippling laugh. “You know what I mean. But it had been around in Wales for a long time—”
“The crossbow’s ancient. The Greeks had them.”
“Yes, but adaptable. Mass producible. They were arguably the more futuristic weapon, and it made them in fact less effective rather than more.”
“That’s like calling wheels futuristic because they’re mass producible.”
“My main contention remains that it was tactics, not equipment. There’s so much more to all this than raw ability.”
“Participants, not accoutrements?” Erik began unfastening his belt. “Like chess.”
“Precisely. A good chess player is worth a dozen knights.”
“Only half a dozen nights yet,” Erik said, grinning. “Or is that too colorful, Charles?”
Charles ignored him. “The French king had at least a dozen knights. A craft. Just like the longbow. They usually prevailed, you know.”
“Fortunately not at Crecy. We’d all be speaking French.”
“Qu’est-ce que tu veux dire?” Erik said, and he could hear Charles snort a little.
“Tais-toi,” Charles said, sounding exceptionally pleased with himself. Erik undid his belt and began unfastening his trousers.
“But larger arguments aside, it’s not a question of technological superiority, is it, Charles? They simply managed to keep the longbows drier. Wet gunpowder’s useless. That doesn’t make gunpowder inferior to slingshots.”
“In some cases it does,” Charles said. “If you are the one with wet gunpowder and your opponent happens to have a dry longbow.” Erik snorted. “I didn’t mean it like that, Erik, that’s not the only thing I can think of.”
“No, I think you did,” Erik said, shedding his trousers and removing his socks. “Although I’d say it wasn’t one of your better lines.”
“Erik,” Charles said, sounding a bit irritated. “I was actually talking about longbows and – the forces under Edward equipped with longbows.”
“Outnumbered. Surrounded. Damp,” Erik said. He pushed open the shower curtain, not minding the sudden hiss of water, and there was Charles – soaked, damp brown hair clinging to his forehead, skin a little flushed from the warm water, eyes wide and that already familiar hungry look that left him unsurprised when Charles reached out and caught his face and they were kissing, mouths coming together and Charles’ tongue parting his lips and making him gasp a little because he always managed to forget Xavier’s wonderful audacity. Charles kissed like a man who was accustomed to getting what he wanted, the first try.
“Do I really?” Charles thought, and Erik said, “You need to stop eavesdropping.”
“You don’t mind.” Charles’ mouth found the hollow of his throat and Charles’ tongue flicked out and traced a hot line there, making Erik gasp a little.
“You shouldn’t know that,” Erik said, and Charles ran a hand down Erik’s chest and yanked impatiently at the elastic of his boxers, and Erik grinned at him with an almost vindictive triumph and said, “I thought you were just lecturing me on the need to keep your longbow dry, Charles.”
“Tais-toi.” Charles caught his eyes and grinned.
“O-level French?” Erik asked, tugging down the boxers and stepping into the shower behind Charles, slipping his arms around his waist, planting a kiss on the side of his neck, and Charles leaned into the touch, gasping a little, already half-aroused.
“Ah but luckily we aren’t all speaking French,” Charles said, with an air of triumph, “because of Crecy.”
“Of course,” Erik said. “Crecy. The only battle the French didn’t win.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t think I do.” Erik said, kissing the damp line of hair at the back of Charles’ neck and beginning to kiss his way carefully down Charles’ spine. Charles gasped. Charles Xavier speechless – Charles Xavier at a loss for words, Charles Xavier with his extensive vocabulary falling in ruins around him as he gasped out Erik’s name like it meant everything, like it could substitute for any word – that was a sight worth seeing, worth doing things that Erik was not generally prepared to do. He was on his knees now, lips brushing the base of Charles’ spine, and he could feel Charles attempting to maintain control. That was the funny thing about Charles, how absolutely controlled he managed to be – years of carefully managed telepathy would do that to a person, he supposed – until he absolutely wasn’t, and then he was magnificent.
“The point I was trying to make about Crecy,” Charles said, fingers bracing on the tile, “was that logically it ought to have been a – gah – ” Erik’s mouth had moved southward, planting kisses around Charles’ entrance, and Erik was grinning, “French – a fucking French victory and –”
“Taking a turn for the Anglo-Saxon already, Charles?” Erik thought, and Charles actually moaned, gorgeous little spurt of sound that tugged something strange and warm to life in Erik’s stomach, and then he was kissing Charles there, tonguing him obscene and slow as the low noise Charles made in his throat, and Charles choked, “but the – gah, the English army managed – Oh God, God that’s – Erik -- to – Oh God – to – ” and then Erik had teased a finger in as well “Oh God Oh God Oh God – you’ve got to – fucking – Erik – the English – under -- Erik – under Edward – in spite of their – Oh God there, that – God I want you in me – the English – managed to -- prevail, and –”
“What’s that about the English?” Erik said, pulling back, and Charles said, “Here” and handed him the tube. He finished the preparations in feverish haste, Charles turning to face him, kissing him hard and careless and devouring his mouth, and then he’d shoved Charles up against the wall, slippery fingers gripping tight to the underside of Charles' thighs, and then –
“Charles,” he gasped, and their eyes locked.
Charles smiled down at him like unexpected victory in the rain, and then he felt Charles’ fingers dig into his shoulders as he began thrusting.
“Tell me more about -- Crecy, Charles,” he managed.
“The English bloody won,” Charles said, and his voice was thick and breathy and marvelous, “but not because they had – God yes there – superior equipment, rather the opposite, and yet it was a Good Thing.” He grinned at furnishing the schoolboy’s capstone, but then Erik thrust into him again and his eyes flickered shut and his neck arched and Erik thought, “What is this, why are you so beautiful, like one of those paintings of saints but ten thousand times better in bed, I assume, I’ve never slept with a painting of a saint—I’ve never been able to argue with someone and fuck them at the same time--“
“Stop thinking,” Charles muttered, thrusting back against him, and Charles didn’t need to ask again, the rush of sensation at being hilt-deep in Charles Xavier, Charles panting, neck arching, lips parted, damp hair clinging to his forehead, was enough to do that to anyone.
“You know I’m right,” Erik managed. “And you don’t see any longbows here, do you?”
“Or French,” Charles said, “--Fuck I’m close – Or crossbows.” His eyelids fluttered open and Erik thrust into him again. They moaned simultaneously, and he could feel the familiar tensing in Charles that indicated he was about to come, and felt himself tumbling over the precipice, muttered, “Going to – shoot my bolt,” and came as Charles laughed, felt Charles’ body clench and Charles came too, painting his stomach. He released Charles’ legs and sagged against him, feeling the water, cold now, pelting his back, grinned. Charles kissed his neck.
“That was a Good Thing,” he said, grinning.
“Eventually the better men prevailed.” Erik said, his fingers running caressingly along Charles’ arm, and Charles looked at him, his expression bemused but tolerant and refreshingly well-fucked.
“There are better counterexamples,” Charles said, reaching for the soap.
“Mm,” Erik said, not feeling much like talking, suffused with a vague warmth and delight, thinking of Charles gasping and willing and desperate and trying to talk about Crecy, and then their mouths had tangled again, the kiss slow and lazy and a bit sloppy. He tried to engrave all of it to stuff into a safe corner of his mind, next to another crumpled store of memories -- Mama. Papa. The smell of his old bedroom. Warmth and the lambent light of candles. Then he felt Charles’ fingers on his chin, catching his face. He opened his eyes and looked at Charles.
“Stop doing that,” Charles said. “There’ll be more. Just enjoy it, Erik. It’s not a limited supply.”
“That’s what they said about longbows,” Erik said.
“Besides all of European history is a minefield of unexpected victories,” Charles added, beginning to soap Erik’s chest, his mouth quirking up into a grin. “I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time to talk through them when I have things more in control.”
“But Charles,” Erik hissed, bending so his mouth brushed Charles’ ear. “When you have things in control it’s not as much fun.”
“Mm,” Charles said, and Erik could feel his smile. Unexpected victories indeed.