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It is a truth (almost) universally acknowledged that a single man sucking dick is more gay than a man getting his dick sucked. This is why Charles Xavier's knees are scuffing against cheap hotel carpet, why his palms are pressed against thin hotel wallpaper. It isn't the first time he's been in this position, and it isn't even his first time with Erik. It's never been the other way around, but here's the thing about Charles: he's willing to take one for the team.

--

It's not every night and it didn't happen right off the bat, either. It takes a few weeks of build up--of Charles carefully avoiding the spilling colors of Erik's mind; of soft, fuzzy broadcast confusion that slowly congealed into jealousy and then hate hate hate--and another couple of days of dithering dilemma (moral, mostly).

Just that Charles is a little bit of a lush sometimes, and even when he isn't, he likes it when the world spins a little oddly so that the voices in everyone's heads blur together beautifully. It's easy, then, to focus on one mind without getting all, well, handsy, for lack of a better word: he can have someone in his awareness without learning all her hidden secrets.

Or his hidden secrets.

That's another thing about Charles: mind-to-mind, he doesn't think that gender's a big deal.

--

It starts with a girl that he picks up in bar one night. As far as pick ups go, it's not one of his best--he slurs something about her lovely OCA2 gene--but it does the job. All he needs is her attention, and then his own blue eyes and his smile do the rest, like they usually do.

(That's what Raven doesn't understand: it's not about the lines.)

(It's just: how is a girl going to notice your smile, if she doesn't notice you, first?)

He hails Erik on his way out, the girl entwined in his arms. There's a pause and Erik stays carefully still (his confusion wafts over Charles like the scent of jasmine on a hot summer's night, heady and mysterious), but then he nods and makes a dismissive gesture towards the door, indicating that Charles should go have his fun.

Erik's uncertainty clings to Charles's skin, like salt from a sea breeze, and makes Charles shiver with the scent of it as he comes inside the girl.

--

The next few girls work out nearly the same way. Erik never says anything, either the night of or the morning after.

--

One night the conversation takes longer than usual for Charles, and he glances away from the girl he's chatting up. Erik catches his eye immediately, but Charles tries to ignore him, really. It's no use, though, when he's already plunged into Erik's mind once already. He's like a dog with a scent he knows, and even his usual tricks can't help block out the way he can feel Erik's eyes sweeping the bar desperately, the way his jaw clenches.

Erik doesn't know why he can't--why he can't--

Charles closes his eyes and screams the lyrics to his favorite nonsense songs in his head, because he can't stand to feel how Erik doesn't know what he wants.

His fist clenches with frustration--not his own--and his palms, always dry, are suddenly sweaty. It's not his nervousness, or the way his would manifest.

Still: they have a routine down.

--

He knows that Erik tries to find girls, sometimes. It's not that they're not interested in him--Erik's all long legs, intense eyes, cheese grater cheekbones. Girls glance at him appreciatively all the time, and the cloud of danger danger that surrounds him does nothing to dissuade them.

It's just--

He talks to them, and sometimes he even--he tries--he even manages--

Just--

Erik ends those nights shuddering under then thin hotel blankets, alone, and his fierce hope-dread that Charles comes back soon spikes so sharp and loud that it gives Charles a headache from a couple of blocks over.

--

What if--

(Charles hears it one night, clear as if Erik were speaking into his ear--Erik doesn't think in English; it's mostly German and sometimes Hebrew and sometimes snatches of other things, but none of that matters)

--what if Charles doesn't come back, what if he's hurt, how would I know, what if he knows, what if whatifwhatif

He's staggering out the door while he's pulling his pants up and he's spilling half formed apologies and he's sorry, he really is, but for all his rush, when he gets back to their room, Erik is resolute in pretending to sleep.

Mussed and frustrated and tired, Charles sighs and jerks off quietly in the bathroom.

--

It's not until Charles picks up a man that the swirling-sick vague confusion in Erik's gut sharpens.

It quickens Charles's pulse and it almost makes him gasp, but suddenly Erik hates.

As fast as it hits him, it abates: Erik knows what hate feels like, and he doesn't want to feel it here.

Because: what would that even mean?

--

Here's the problem with Erik: he isn't stupid.

By now, he knows what it means. It's just that he doesn't want it to mean anything.

--

A few boys and men later, here's the problem with Charles:

Erik is driving him fucking crazy.

--

It still takes him a few days to do anything, though.

Charles is a gentleman.

--

They don't skip the bar. They both need it.

Erik is restless, shifting in his seat, alternating like a current between taking shelter in anger (which is familiar, which is the closet thing he knows to safe) and just feeling unsettled, uncertain, ill. His face, however, gives little of it away. It's his body that betrays him.

That, and the fact that his distress has reached a pitch so high that Charles can't drink enough to drown it out.

"I'm tired," Charles says finally, "D'you mind if I head back in?"

"No," Erik says, eyes barely flickering, and he folds out of his seat, ready to go--and suddenly conscious of the fact that Charles didn't imply they should both turn in. It's too late to take back the action, though, so Erik holds steady.

Charles would admire his total devotion to his poker face, if it wasn't so bloody annoying.

"On we go, then," he says, sounding aimless and pleasant.

Erik's thoughts as they head back are all swampy chaos. There's relief, that Charles isn't finding someone tonight, and there's guilt for what that means for Charles, but then there's so much more guilt about just how glad he is, just how bright that relief burns. There's confusion, as ever, boiling in his belly. There's a screaming need for control that's served him well in the past before, or so Erik thinks.

They get to their room and Erik automatically locks the door behind them without touching, without looking--

And then Charles is softly shoving him towards the wall.

Erik's so much stronger than him; so much faster--

But Charles is Charles, and Erik doesn't even dream of hurting him.

He draws back, but he doesn't push Charles away.

Charles drops to his knees: no preamble.

Erik flinches away.

Charles shakes his head minutely, and then his hands, dry and warm, are sliding up Erik's body, under his shirt, to touch his skin.

Erik doesn't make a sound.

He isn't breathing.

Even his thoughts have exploded into white hot silence.

Charles pats his flank for reassurance, undoes his belt, undoes his buttons, undoes his zipper, pulls down his underwear, and slides his red, ready lips over Erik's cock.

--

It's messy; it's desperate; it's fast.

They stumble into separate beds afterwards, and don't talk about it.

--

Their days stay the same: driving, talking, trying to find and appeal to mutantkind.

The nights are where the change happens. They are heavy and expectant and Charles is screaming snatches of poetry at himself so hard that people in the diner two booths over start reciting, but still he feels how much Erik wants.

Here's the problem with the whole thing:

Charles can also feel how badly Erik wants to not want.

--

It's always the same--a quiet moment, nearly no transition, and then Erik's dick is in his mouth. Each time is no less desperate. It's still mostly hot and fast and messy, and Charles knows that the short duration of what they do is just one more layer of shame for Erik. Charles tries to slow it down, but if he takes too long Erik leaks into his head so much that reality goes paper thin transparent. And that would be okay, except that reality is a much nicer place than Erik's waking nightmares.

So, Charles kind of rushes.

Seeing shades of starvation thin men working to death in camps doesn't really do wonders for his sex technique.

--

Erik tries to stay quiet while Charles sucks him off, but he can't help his breathing. It stutters with the uneven heaves of his chest, except for those times when he forgets to breathe at all. The first night, he hadn't known where to put his hands, and he hadn't touched Charles at all. What he really wants to do is lose his fingers in that soft, floppy brown hair--but it seems such an intimate thing. It's something lovers would do, isn't it?

The compromise is one hand, vise-tight, clamped on Charles's shoulder.

It makes his sweater hang off oddly; it pulls away the collar of Charles's shirt. In a rare moment of clarity, Erik sees the side of Charles's throat--pale, white, thrilling. The rush of desire he feels (gott, to kiss that patch of skin, to feel the softness under his lips) makes him weak at the knees, and he almost buckles. Charles adjust the angle so that Erik's cock continues to slide into his mouth, down his throat--but what really keeps Erik upright is the crawling horror he feels at his own thoughts.

Charles gags a little.

All he gets from Erik is a steady stream of yellowpinktriangle and skin drawn so tight over bones it breaks and eye sockets so dark that all hope disappears and none reflects back and it's bad enough to be a Jew and don't need to give them anything else.

He knows what it all means, and he can't help but lose his own erection, as gorgeous as Erik is, as thrilling as his choked back breaths might be.

Charles makes good time in finishing Erik off; he comes with a full body convulsion and hardly a sound, as Charles swallows everything he can; Charles wishes he could swallow more and somehow take away the sickness.

Erik's breathing hard and uneven and this time, this time, he almost reaches out as Charles pulls back, but those blue eyes are so weary--

Erik curls up into himself, even if his body doesn't.

--

It's worse for him, the nights that end like that. The nights that don't end like that are better, but they're still not pleasant. Sometimes Erik hates himself a little less, and when Charles pulls back from his cock there'll be a line of maybe saliva, maybe something else at the side of his mouth, and his pupils are blown so wide his eyes are dark with promise. Erik tries not to look, but he can't help but to glance over and see that Charles is hard in his trousers.

But Charles never pushes and Erik never offers.

It crawls at him and he thinks it will drive him mad--on top of everything else, he's also ashamed that he leaves Charles like that, that he can't--he can't--

Erik tries very hard to not think about how much Charles can overhear.

He always means to stay up the night worrying, maybe planning an escape or sharpening his resolve, but the tangle of emotions Erik feels, the ones that are enough to give Charles headaches, are also draining. It's so tiring, feeling so much, remembering so much, dreading so much--

And release, though complicated, is sweet.

Against his wishes, every night, Erik sleeps.

--

Sometimes, Charles doesn't.

--

More and more often, he doesn't.

--

Maybe Erik is catching, or maybe memory is a disease transmitted by fluids, and he's infected Charles with his sweat slick skin.

When Charles does sleep, half the time he's young and starving in a place he's never been. People are dying all around him, and he doesn't need to be a telepath to know it. Everyone's marked into a neat little category--

bad enough to be a Jew, someone says.

And it is, here, in this place, it's more than bad enough.

And it's more than bad enough to be German, but to be homosexuell.

But to be both--

Charles wakes with a gasp that's a choked back scream, tearing himself away from the memory of young Erik seeing what happens to a man who is both.

--

Charles isn't naive; Charles is well read, even about overseas atrocities.

How come he's never heard of these things?

But they are true. He can taste Erik to know how true they are.

--

It's one thing to have your friends and neighbors turn you in.

And it's a different, horrible thing to see a man with a pink triangle get stomped by jackboots until he's so much pink-red-grey mush.

But it's a new, horrible thing to see prisoner turn on prisoner, when Erik watches a man wearing a patch of pink and yellow triangles overlaid into a star, watches how he dies.

--

So Charles, by nature patient, becomes something a little less hopeful.

He doesn't press.

--

"You overslept," Charles hears one morning, and his eyelids are so sticky with sleep that it hurts to pry them open, to look up at Erik.

Erik's face is too careful, too closed, to offer sympathy, exactly. But he watches Charles a little too steadily.

"Sorry," Charles says.

--

At dinner, Erik fidgets.

Charles is so tired that finally, finally, Erik's mind is a dull roar. Everything is sloshing together, and there's a pretty girl on the opposite side of the room looking at them, and Charles can't care. He excuses himself early; he hopes to tumble into bed, to escape their dance tonight.

Erik stays, and tears a paper napkin into countless tiny pieces.

--

4 AM, moonlight streaming in through poorly closed curtains, and there's a faint hum that wakes Charles up.

It's hard to sneak up on telepaths, or to watch them sleep for too long.

Charles blinks up at his friend, so bone-tired he can't feel anything from him besides the fact that he exists, and a brush of soft curiosity.

"Erik," he says, quietly.

"I." Erik pauses. "I couldn't sleep."

Under his sheets, Charles shifts, licks his lips absently, and waits.

Silence stretches out.

Patience, he thinks, but it's to himself.

"Did you--" Erik stops again, and he's blinking, too, and a frown tugs at his lips, "--did you...do anything? Before? The other nights."

inmyheadinmyhead what did you do? It's so loud and it doesn't need to be; Charles knows what the question is, thank you so much.

"Not that I know of," Charles says, and, really, he's so tired of trying to give everyone the space they need. Erik most of all. "Beyond the obvious, I mean. Which I don't think is what you meant."

Silence, again, but this time it's Erik who shifts, while Charles stays carefully still.

Erik's taller, stronger. Yet for all of that, Erik is crouched by the side of his bed, folded up on himself and ready to run--

"I want to sleep," he says, so quietly that it's almost louder in his head.

"Erik, I can't--are you asking me to go into your head to--"

"With you," Erik finishes, and his sharp eyes are downcast, and his skin is chill with a long dried sweat.

Charles is the one who forgets to breathe now, but he shifts again, this time to offer space.

Erik feels fragile as a bird as he moves in, as he slides under the covers--but he's warm and real and his breath is moist when he ends up forehead to forehead with Charles. His eyes slide shut.

For once (and he will remember this, always), Charles is the one exploding out into a million emotions, while Erik holds himself still. Desire howls within him; gratitude floors him and his very sense of being is twisted into knots. It's like shouting into a bell-jar: Charles can keep himself quiet.

With a shaky breath, he extends out a thin, deliberate tendril of awareness--

And taps into the strange calm that Erik feels.

They sleep.

--

After that, the days change.

--

Three nights later Charles is on his back, sprawled out on a hotel bed, and even if he's still dressed, it's the first time that Erik touches him, light and tentative but there, and Charles is so wound up in want and relief that he could sob.

Erik can't bare to undress him yet, but Charles comes under his hand, breathing ragged cries into the crook of Erik's neck.

--

It's another day until they kiss, but then everything changes.

--

Here's the thing about sleeping, skin to skin and entwined in each other's arms:

Sometime soon they'll have to go back, but not yet.

Not yet.

--

Sometimes the nightmares still happen, passing so quickly between them that they don't know in which head the memories started. They can kiss away their fear, but Erik will never be able to hold him in public without panicking.

Not with the world as it is.

And here's the thing, really the thing, about Charles, at the end of the day: he doesn't care.

Erik wants him, despite everything. Charles wants him, because of everything.

And sometimes, that's enough.