Erik is discovering new things about Charles Xavier all the time. Charles sometimes talks in his sleep. Often about food. Occasionally in Latin. Charles has a scar on his left thigh from attempting to demonstrate relativity to a girl by sitting on a hot stove. Charles doesn’t mean to be so loud when they make love, but sometimes Charles can’t help himself.
Charles insists he finds it demeaning to sit on his lap, that it's stupid, that he doesn't understand the appeal, that if anyone photographs them like this it'll probably set back some cause a decade. This is what Charles says every time Erik pulls him into his lap and Charles stays there and leans back against him and gets visibly and quickly aroused.
Charles likes his coffee black and sweet. Charles can’t whistle to save his life. Charles forgets how often he’s told the story of the time he was drunk in graduate school and accidentally gave everyone else hangovers.
Charles actively enjoys giving head.
Charles does things in fits and starts. There are days when letters to answer and phone calls to make will pile up, and then there are other days when Charles has done everything in a flash and is making everyone jog around the house.
Charles is peculiarly vain about his hair. Charles doesn’t know he’s beautiful.
As cautiously and scrupulously desirous of not attracting adverse notice as Charles mainly is, every so often he will find Charles’ fingers interlocked with his as they’re walking down a sidewalk somewhere no one is looking, or Charles will say, “Wait,” and glance quickly around and then pull his head down for a kiss, and maybe that is why Charles keeps buying him ghastly scarves, like throwing his arms around his neck in public, or why he insists on adjusting them for no particular reason.
Charles is a voracious reader. Charles has an unspeakably filthy imagination. Charles will try anything in bed twice to make sure he wasn’t wrong the first time.
Charles is unexpectedly fond of Christmas. Perhaps that is not the phrase. “Unhealthily obsessed” might be better.
This last was not something that would have occurred to Erik. Charles had evinced serious signs of interest in Judaism. He’d come to services during Holy Week, stood gamely through all the longest prayers. But he supposes old habits die hard.
“Charles,” Erik says.
Charles is standing on a ladder in the library attempting to string tinsel over the reference section.
“Oh thank heavens you’re here,” he says. “I can’t quite reach the – if you could just hook it over that bust – see, to my right --”
“Charles,” Erik says.
“This is aluminized paper, you know,” Charles says. “That’s what tinsel is. You can move it.”
“Charles,” Erik says again.
Charles turns around on the ladder and looks down at him. “What?”
“Thanksgiving was yesterday.”
“Oh, bah humbug,” Charles says. He attempts to toss the end of the string of tinsel behind the bust. It falls and dangles and begins dragging the rest of the carefully festooned tinsel down with it. Erik almost audibly rolls his eyes and the string picks itself back up and fastens itself behind the bust. Charles grins.
“I thought I’d walked into a window display,” Erik says. “I half expect a mechanical train to be running around the house full of decorative elves.”
“That’s upstairs.” Charles climbs back down the ladder. Erik wonders for about the eighth time whether Charles has always descended ladders like that. It feels mildly obscene.
“I had no idea you were so fond of the holiday, Charles.”
At once a cloud darts over Charles’ face. “Are you – is – I mean, I’m not – ”
“No,” Erik says.
“There isn’t really a train upstairs,” Charles says. Erik waits for it. “Yet.”
“Could you possibly make it take a detour around the master bedroom?” Erik says. Charles looks at him. Erik decides to press the point. He slips an arm around Charles’ waist and pulls him nearer when an unusual hardness at the back of Charles’ trousers makes him stop. “Charles what on— are you happy to see me?”
“Those are decorative wooden candy canes,” Charles says. “They’re for the walkway.”
“Ah,” Erik says.
When he makes it to the master bedroom he is not certain whether to laugh or cry. He settles for the former. The bed is covered in reindeer sheets. A train full of miniature elves comes barreling along the mantelpiece and careens off an abrupt slope and back down the hallway. He is amusing himself by picking out the elves and covering their faces with their hands when Charles comes in and notices. Charles laughs.
“Bah humbug,” Erik says.
“You’re being an excellent sport,” Charles says, “darling.” Erik kisses the endearment off his lips. A few minutes later Charles’s fists are clenching in the reindeer sheets and the elves arrive by train just in time to watch Erik swallow.
And the season brings certain consolations. The sight of Charles eating a candy cane is one of them. Eating might be less the relevant term than “fellating.” Charles sucks it in very slowly with an innocence to his expression that Erik thinks is so patently exaggerated it may not even fool the kids. Then Charles begins doing the most obscene things to the striped mint stem with his tongue. He half expects the candy cane to come. Under similar circumstances that has always been Erik’s response.
He tells Charles this one morning, plucking the candy cane from Charles’ lips and eating it in what he insists to himself is not a vindictive manner. They wind up in a guest bedroom off the main hallway and when Charles kisses him his mouth is redolent of mint and he can almost taste the smirk.
“Got sick of watching you suck off those candy canes,” he mutters, tangling a hand in Charles’ hair, tracing his thumb along the nape of Charles’ neck.
“I think the term is ‘suck on,’” Charles laughs, mouth brushing his ear.
“Not the way you do it,” Erik says, and Charles looks up at him and runs a tongue over his lips and before he can do anything further Charles has dropped to his knees and his fingers are working at the fastenings of Erik’s pants, and Erik is momentarily grateful to the candy canes, thinks something that even he is not quite sure makes sense about how Charles isn’t accustomed to circumcised candy canes, and Charles’ choked laugh ripples through his whole body.
The mistletoe is more problematic.
Charles hangs it in a doorway that is difficult to avoid.
Raven catches Hank with it once. Hank tolerates the kiss but begins trying to steer clear of the doorway. Sean catches Moira. The resulting kiss is less awkward than anyone would like. Alex and Hank walk through the doorway together once and after a complex string of posturing that resembles what happens between two standoffish goats attempting to cross a narrow bridge, decide to pretend that they didn’t. Erik thinks later on his way down to the kitchen he sees Alex shove Hank up against the wall and mutter, “Just so we’re square, Bozo,” and then he doesn’t see what happens next, but when Charles and Hank come back in from their jog Hank’s neck looks decidedly worse for wear and he’s certain it wasn’t Charles.
He tells Charles this speculation later.
Charles traces a line through the fine hairs on Erik’s chest. “About time, I’d say,” he says. When Erik inches closer and mutters, “You could find out, you know,” Charles chuckles and says, “To be quite honest, Erik, the number of times Hank has pictured that happening I didn’t even think to look there.”
“Cheat,” Erik says, ruffling Charles’ hair.
“All I’d say, if they start actualizing Hank’s fantasies you ought to go easy on Alex next week,” Charles says, looking mildly worried. “And avoid the lab samples.”
“You hold up all right,” Erik says, and suddenly this has turned from one of their post-coital discussions into a pre-coital discussion, if that’s a term. From the look Charles is giving him it ought to be.
“I don’t train as hard as Alex,” Charles says. “And – you’re—”
“If you suggest I’m gentler than Hank you aren’t going to walk for a week,” Erik says.
“I wasn’t,” Charles says. “I was going to say, you’re good in bed. You know what you’re doing. You can – ah – control it.”
Metal snakes out from the bedpost and catches Charles’ wrists.
“And you’re considerate,” Charles says. A few moments later his ankles are over Erik’s shoulders and the train comes roaring around the corner again. The corner of Erik’s mind twitches and the train goes toppling off the track.
“Erik!” Charles tries to sound irate, but he clearly is in no position to be indignant, and no one can seem properly annoyed when his back is arching like that.
“Oops,” Erik says.
Later he has to reconstruct the track by himself, because Alex is worried he ruptured something and of course this would be the sort of thing he’d ask Charles. Erik carefully replaces an elf and reflects with mild amusement that this is probably the sort of day that is going to result in Charles wanting to be on top, because it always bothers him that everyone assumes that there is one way things go, and that if you encounter a problem like that of course you oughtn’t ask Erik.
“It might just be that you’re more approachable, Charles,” he thinks, but the warm spot in the back of his mind generally occupied by Charles’ mind huffs irritably and shuts down.
Oddly enough the last time Charles topped was when something else like this happened, Erik can’t remember what, he thinks Sean called Charles “Mom.” He wonders why people think this about them; he supposes it has something to do with their relative heights or the fact that people seem to translate these things into terms of who would win in a fight. As long as Charles is able to do those magical terrible things with the contents of his mind there’s no question for him of who would win but everyone only sees flying shards of metal and assumes –
As it turns out he is right.
Charles is gentle even when he thinks he isn’t. But commanding – and watching him keep some of his usual expression of thoughtful control, even as it frays at the edges when Charles thrusts into him, is worth it. And the way Charles looks at him then – he loves the way Charles looks when he’s being taken, the abandonment, because Charles trusts him, there’s nothing guarded about any of it, and their bodies mesh perfectly, but there’s something a little – wrong about it the other way that he likes more than he’s willing to admit. And Charles looks so amazed every time, delighted too, and like he’s desperate not to break anything, but like he’s afraid he might not be able to help himself, and that’s a look he’s always liked on Charles.
When Charles collapses onto his stomach, sticky but triumphant, hair a mess, fading expression of slightly frayed control, Erik pulls his face down and whispers, “I wish you’d do that more often, Charles,” and Charles looks a little stunned and murmurs, “Ah – all right,” before Erik kisses him.
He has no idea why Charles thought it was necessary to invest in such a sizeable menorah, given the tone of the rest of the décor and the number of times he has reassured him that really, he should save the enthusiasm for Yom Kippur, and then laughed ruefully at his own joke. And it feels very peculiar, surrounded as they are by tinsel and trains and a – he hopes the player piano has always been there and he only noticed it when it began playing carols non-stop, because otherwise Charles really ought to let him intervene in financial decisions – and of course mistletoe and stockings – to be lighting a menorah with Charles Xavier, but none of this has ever made much sense and he doesn’t see why it needs to start now.
“You’re trying too hard to aspirate everything,” Erik says.
“I know,” Charles mutters. “Sod it, Erik. I wish I couldn’t hear myself.”
“Stick to Anglicanism, Charles.”
“I may have to.” Charles chuckles ruefully. “I wish I’d started younger.”
“I don’t,” Erik says. “Here. Just.” He steps up behind Charles and slips his arms around his waist, resting his chin on Charles’ shoulder. “Try again. I’ll pronounce it. You light it.”
“Now this I believe I can manage,” Charles says. He lights the candle thoughtfully, listening to Erik recite the prayer, and then turns his head and kisses Erik carefully on the lips. “Thank you,” he says.
“For what?” Erik says.
“This is for – if I’m grasping it correctly, this is for family,” Charles says.
Erik doesn’t say anything in response, but he doesn’t let go of Charles either. “Thank you,” he says, finally, because Charles has just pointed out something that he hadn’t consciously been thinking. In his mind the logic of it was simple enough – of course Charles wants to be a part of this, too. Of course they’re lighting the menorah together, who else would he light it with, why would he light it by himself with Charles here? For months they have been getting on together based simply on the knowledge that yes, Charles wants to be a part of whatever it is.
“I was thinking,” Charles begins. “I – do you want.” He swallows. “I think your name might easily be added to the name of the academy.”
Erik looks at him.
“Merely a thought,” Charles says.
“Charles,” Erik asks very steadily, trying to isolate the source of the strange hammering in his chest, “did you just propose to me?”
“Not in so many words,” Charles says. He stares down at his hands. “It’s only that this has been going on long enough that I thought it might be nice to formalize the arrangement somehow –”
“I’m not going anywhere, Charles,” Erik says. “Do you think I’m going anywhere?”
“Certainly not,” Charles says. “I mean, I – certainly – I don’t know what I’d do if you were to -- ”
“I won't, Charles,” Erik says.
Nothing could quite have prepared him for the sight of Charles Xavier dressed up as Santa.
“You look ridiculous,” Raven tells Charles as they leave for town.
“For once, on purpose,” Charles answers.
Apparently this is a gig Charles picked up during vacations from university. Erik is only half paying attention to the explanation as he drives, too busy trying not to laugh.
Erik does not realize until the eighth or ninth kid settles on Charles’ lap – God, Charles and kids, will it ever stop sending that warm delighted surge to the base of his stomach? -- the amusing ramifications of having a telepath in the red suit.
“I don’t think that’s what you really want,” Charles is saying to the fifth child to request world peace. “I think you’d like a truck.”
“Not that there’s anything wrong with world peace,” he comments to Erik in the car. The spirit gum keeping his false beard in place is proving more recalcitrant than Charles hoped, and his face is still covered in white hair. “I’m rather fond of it myself.”
“I’d prefer a truck,” Erik says, and then they’re both laughing.
When they get home Erik produces more rubbing alcohol and when he settles into an armchair and pulls Charles onto his lap Charles doesn’t make any attempt to protest.
“What would you like for Christmas, Kris Kringle?” he asks, dabbing at Charles’ false mustache with the alcohol.
“I’d like to get rid of this ridiculous beard,” Charles mutters. He sounds so frustrated that Erik leans in and kisses him. He spends the next several minutes spitting out fine white hairs while Charles laughs.
“Oddly that’s also what I’d like for Christmas, Charles,” he says.
On Christmas morning he gets up a little before Charles does, slipping his arms out from around Charles’ waist. Charles stirs a little in his sleep but doesn’t budge. Erik dons one of the ghastly holiday scarves that Charles picked out over his usual turtleneck.
He pads downstairs to the predictably immense tree and slips another present underneath. Then he starts fixing breakfast. Alex shows up before Charles does and they grump at each other over the sound of the bacon sizzling. Alex seems to be adjusting his shirt a great deal and when Erik asks, “New shirt?” he avoids eye contact and mumbles into his coffee.
From Hank’s baffled, delighted expression when he gets to breakfast Erik assumes that he’s found the source of the shirt.
Then Raven and Charles come banging down the stairs wearing some sort of coordinated ghastly holiday pajamas he assumes can only be family tradition, followed shortly by Sean, and he sees the flash of elated recognition in Charles’ eyes when he spots the scarf. Charles walks over and adjusts it.
“Good morning,” Erik says.
“Happy Christmas,” Charles says.
They begin opening the gifts over breakfast. When they are done eating and Sean is scrubbing the dishes Charles finally discovers the new box under the tree. He shoots Erik a look. “It’s not –” he mouths. “I can – in front of the kids, I mean?”
Erik chuckles. “Would I do that, Charles?”
“You did for my birthday,” Charles points out, justly. At the time he’d claimed that the handcuffs could conceivably have other uses. Absolutely no one had believed this excuse.
Erik settles behind him, a little closer than they generally allow themselves in front of the students – this is always a balancing act, but it’s Christmas, for God’s sake – and Charles unwraps the paper, tearing it open – Erik’s boxes are neatly wrapped with hospital corners – and then he turns and looks at Erik. His eyes are a little wet.
“I thought it was too big for a toaster,” he says, and Erik knows that this is not at all what Charles means, that Charles sometimes has difficulty saying the right thing, and thank God he hadn’t had that problem on the beach in Cuba just over a year ago or things might have gone very differently, and Charles is actually crying.
“What?” Raven says.
Charles holds up the box with the helmet in it.
“Oh,” says Raven.
“Are you sure you might not want it?” Charles says, looking at him, and the things that are brimming from Charles’ eyes are things that they have hardly ever put words to, but he knows and Charles knows and –
Erik tries to find how to say what he means, that – he has no idea what miracle has permitted this, that he imagines it won’t always be this way, but that he hopes more than anything in the world that it will, but even if it sours, that he hopes never to be the sort of person who would want Charles Xavier out of his mind, that if they’re together against someone else – Shaw’s telepath, or some new menace, Charles will understand, he’ll use the helmet, but otherwise, he wants the warm sensation of Charles there, the same way Charles is warm in his arms when they sleep and the admittedly ridiculous lights of the house are a warm spot in the winter nights.
Instead of saying any of this he kisses Charles.
“Merry Christmas,” Erik says. He feels his own eyes getting a bit damp.
“Oh my God,” Raven says. “Not again. You two. I swear. If I had a nickel for every time you cried together I would – be able to – buy something awesome.“
“Stop ruining the mood,” Alex says, and Erik very nearly laughs.
“Never expected my best Christmas present would be Jewish,” Charles murmurs against Erik’s ear.
Erik smiles. When he gets upstairs he notices a wrapped box on the foot of the bed and Charles sticks his head in from the bathroom where he’s brushing his teeth and says, “Although I’m sure the sweater was all you wanted from me, I thought, well –”
Erik neatly undoes the packaging, folding the paper on the chair, and there’s a framed picture of the two of them – Raven must have taken it, he doesn’t remember posing – Charles is settled on his lap and his arms are latched around Charles' waist and attached to it is a note in Charles’ instantly recognizable if slightly illegible handwriting that says, “I love you. (Over)” Erik turns it over and reads, “If it were legally possible you know what I’d ask you. Even as it’s not, I still think something might be arranged. If you were at all amenable. Would you be?”
Charles comes in. He has mercifully divested himself of the pajamas top.
“Charles,” Erik says, “why do you always ask questions to which you already know the answer?”
Charles settles on the bed next to him. “Because I like hearing you say it.”
“I would, Charles. I am. I do.”
“Splendid.”Charles leans over and kisses him.
Erik gazes awestruck at the wall. “Charles,” he says, “the train’s gone.”
Charles grins. “Happy Christmas.”