Chapter 1: Mondays Are For Making Eyes at Charles
Erik knew he was pathetic.
He’d visited this particular bank every week, for three months now, every Monday morning. At first he told himself he needed to make sure his not inconsiderable savings were split apart enough that they would be covered by the FDIC quarter million guarantee. Then he decided the interest rate on the saving account was too low, and he’d like the money moved to a money-market account. Then he wanted some of his funds put into bonds. Then he decided he wanted a safety deposit box. (That was his best idea so far, because it allowed him the excuse to return to the bank whenever he pleas—umm, to place and remove things at will.)
And then he’d forced himself, while cleaning his rifle (just because he didn’t use it anymore, didn’t mean he shouldn’t keep it in pristine condition—Anya was his baby), to admit to himself that he couldn’t have cared less for his interest rates, or his shiny new bonds or his safety deposit box (what did normal people put into them, anyway? The gun chamber under his garage was more secure anyway, and he could put whatever he liked in there without having to smuggle it into a bank). He only cared for the ridiculously floppy-haired, outrageously enthusiastic, beautifully intelligent assistant manager whose shift started at seven o’ clock every Monday morning.
His name had burned into Erik’s mind ever since Charles had stood up from behind his fantastically messy desk, peered at him from beneath his spiky brown lashes and said: “Hello, my name is Charles Xavier, what can I do for you today?”
Westminster Bank of the Trust had ensured his loyal and unending business faster than he and his beloved rifle could take out a mark.
Which was why Erik found himself pushing open the glass doors to the aforementioned bank at 9:15 on Monday morning. He’d promised himself this morning, as he’d carefully shaved in front of the mirror, that today was the day he’d ask Charles out on a date. He had already selected five possible social venues.
The bank was busier than normal, but a line hadn’t formed quite yet. Erik nearly growled when he saw Charles was busy helping someone else, a petite black haired woman with beautiful chocolate skin wrapped in a cream sweater. He did growl when Charles threw back his head and laughed.
Erik deliberately walked to the side of the bank, picking up one of the pamphlets on display, as he casually checked over the woman. She’d be an easy mark with her overloud voice, he decided, as he pretended to flip through the glossy leaflet. (“Mortgaging Your Second Home”—maybe that’s what he needed next, a nice little house in the suburbs, one he could pretend to live in, cozy, but not too grandiose for a middling-income-d husband, but no, the commute for Charles would be better where Erik was living now, and much better than the ridiculous apartment Charles rented—not that he’d followed him home or anything. Anyway, everyone needed a professional to case their home to ascertain how secure their floor plan was, and evaluate their security system. Perhaps it wasn’t necessary to break into the neighbor’s to ensure the landlord upgraded the system, but really, who was going to complain about higher-quality alarms and a better response time?)
He watched as Charles gave the woman in question over to Summers, the new employee. Erik watched him warily as he escorted the woman into his new office. Summers had a juvenile record for house-breaking. Erik was currently double checking that the man’s life of crime had stopped at fourteen.
Erik casually sallied up to Charles’s desk. This was his favorite part of the day.
“Good Morning, Mr. Lehnsherr!” Charles’s red-red lips quirked up slightly higher at the sides, brightening into a slightly crooked little smile just for him. Erik just wanted to kiss it right off his lightly freckled face.
“I’d like to see my box today.” Erik tried annunciate and not to mumble. As mortifying as it was, it had happened before. He also tried not to blurt out: “Will you go on a date with me?” in a whine reminiscent of the worst days of adolescence. It was best to wait. It was more socially acceptable to ask Charles out at the end of their business interaction. Erik’s stomach fluttered with nerves.
“Certainly. Did you bring your key today?” It was a valid question. Erik had “forgotten” two weeks ago, and had to return close to lunch hour. That was when he’d forced himself to reevaluate how fond he was of his bank while gun cleaning. Lehnsherr, “the Red Death”, forgot nothing.
Erik held up the item in question in response. “Very well, let’s head back then!” Charles retrieved his own key on its lime green curly ring, and started to lead the now familiar way.
“How has your morning been, sir?” Charles asked brightly, as he unlocked the door to the room of safety deposit boxes by swiping the key card around his neck and entering his pin.
“Pleasant,” Erik replied. He tried not to stare too obviously at Charles’s backside as Charles pushed the heavy door open in front of them. If he succeeded in inducing Charles to go out with him, then in all hope he might be able to run his palms over that beautifully rounded derriere on perhaps a third date. Erik tried not to imagine how absolutely perfectly the two cheeks would fit in his cupped palms if he could hitch Charles up into a kiss.
“That’s wonderful to hear,” Charles said as he held the door for Erik to enter. “Now, as I’m sure you remember, you have fifteen minutes before I return to collect you.” Charles slid his key into the safety deposit box, before gesturing for Erik to do the same. Together they turned. Erik’s box slid open.
“I’ll leave you to it, then.” Charles smiled again, before turning to leave the room. Erik tried not to imagine the whole line of Charles’s back naked as he badly pretended to fiddle around in his lock box.
At the ten minute mark, Erik had rearranged the contents of the safety deposit box to his satisfaction (The shell casing from his first kill, a well-worn book of poetry inherited from his mother, an earring he’d once worn before realizing it made a too obvious identifying mark, the leather glove he’d worn the first day he met with Charles). Or rather, Erik had convinced himself to buck up, be a goddamn man, and just ask Charles out for the evening. He took a deep breath and closed the safety deposit box, before groaning and banging his head against the wall of them. Fuck. He was a spineless coward.
And then the muffled, but unmistakable sound of bullets rent the air.
Erik’s hand shot to his lower back holster before he realized that the bank’s metal detectors ensured that this was the only place Erik ventured without a weapon. “Fuck,” he snarled, before he realized Charles was out there, gallivanting at risk out in the hallway.
Erik sprinted for the doorway, bursting out of the box room, jerking his head side to side, desperately searching for Charles. (Idiot, not even checking the corners first for a gunman in the hallway—a rookie mistake, he scolded himself.)
He almost ran into Charles as he was frantically punching a code into the door keypad. Charles wobbled with the force from their collision, before Erik’s arms shot out around Charles to steady him. “Charles,” his mouth blurted, with no input from his brain whatsoever, “Would you like to—”.
The arching of Charles slightly bushy brown eyebrow cut Erik off. He realized his hands had moved without his permission, one of them cupping possessively around Charles’s shoulder blade, cradling the slight edge of bone under flesh, while the other was gently stroking the space two inches from Charles’s spine, gently running a light trail from Charles’s last rib to the gentle sway that started the rounded curve of his ass. All while they were standing oblivious and uncovered in the middle of a hallway during a bank robbery!
Unacceptable. Erik fiercely quashed the small part of him wriggling with glee at the feel of Charles’s flesh beneath his suit jacket. It felt like it belonged underneath his fingertips.
Erik hardened his grip on Charles and started to manhandle Charles down the hallway. He had to get Charles out of the danger zone. He mentally called up the blueprints he’d illicitly procured and meticulously memorized of the bank. There was an exit there, through the adjoining hallway, that if he could get Charles down and out before they were discovered, he just might be able to herd Charles into his car and off the scene.
“What are you doing?”, Charles hissed at him, low and quiet, dragging his heels into the carpeting, and sinking his fingers sharply into Erik’s upper arms. For a second, their progress down the hall came to an abrupt halt, Charles leather shoes doing an excellent impersonation of octopus suckers against the floor. “Are you one of them?!?” He sounded harsh and betrayed.
“I’m getting you out of here,” Erik murmured, as he flexed his arms and brought Charles’s body briefly off the floor. Charles thrashed mid-air, and Erik considered slinging him over his shoulder. It would slightly unbalance him, but it would hardly slow him down, with the molasses-slow rate they were currently going. “And—what? No. Hardly. With the way they’re wasting ammunition?” His voice was scandalized. Erik was hardly incompetent, and petty bank robbery was utterly beneath him.
“We can’t leave them!” Charles whispered fiercely, sending out hand to grip a passing doorway. “Alex hasn’t had his Robbery Training yet! He doesn’t know what to do!” Erik slipped Charles’s grip off the frame, trying to catch the grabby fingers of Charles other hand before he could clamp onto something else.
Charles started to wriggle in his grip again, and Erik decided abruptly. Overbalanced or not, over the shoulder would do. Moreover, then he could rest his hand on Charles’s bum, in order to keep him balanced and secure.
Erik dropped a shoulder down to catch Charles in the middle when his ears heard the unmistakable sound of a gun cocking behind him.
“Get down. On the Ground.”
Chapter 2: Cantaloupes Are Not Weapons of Mass Destruction
At the clicking sound of the gun, Erik’s brain switched instantaneously into killing mode. His thoughts were sharp, icy clear, and deadly calm. He raised his hands into the air, and sidled around to face the new player in this game. Without any input from his conscious mind, he angled his body in front of Charles.
Erik couldn’t help the wicked grin from spreading across his face. His mentor, Sebastian Shaw, had once told Erik he could always tell how many people were going to die directly in proportion to how many teeth Erik was showing at any given time. Erik had known Shaw was absolutely wrong. That was the very reason Erik had made sure to take Shaw out up-close and intimate with his own hands, so Shaw would see each shiny incisor and realize it wasn’t how many people were going to meet death via Erik’s bullet, but rather just how very badly Erik wished to introduce them to death.
Erik hadn’t shown this many teeth since Shaw.
“No worries. Look, my hands are up,” he purred. He wriggled his hands side to side as if to show them off.
“Get down!” The guy with the gun shouted. He took a few steps forward and angrily gestured with his gun. Erik mentally measured him up. Six four, thin legs but overdeveloped upper body, weight correctly distributed on the back foot but weak left knee and nasty temper. He didn’t wave the gun around to gesture along with his speech, though, somewhat trained with firearms. Damn the man for not practicing his safety trigger hold. He heard Charles get down on the floor behind him. Good. Less likely he’d be hit if the man managed to get off a shot.
“Okay, okay, I’m getting down, I’ve just got a weak knee, early onset arthritis you see, and it’s hard for me to—” Erik started to ease himself down on one knee, as if he was slow and clumsy and arrogant enough to expect the gunman to wait for him. He heard Charles hiss his name in disapproving censure behind him.
“Get the fuck down!” And the man was crossing those last three steps to him, sliding his gun to down to point at Erik’s temple, finger curling against the trigger of the gun.
Erik shot out his right hand nearly too fast to see, seizing the man’s wrist and jerking the man’s whole arm straight and away from he and Charles, and bringing his other hand to strike at the delicate bend of the elbow.
The sound of the gun firing masked the horrible gristly pop as the man’s elbow bent ninety degrees in the wrong direction.
Erik popped up from one knee like a jack-in-the box, crazy-ass smile and all, following through with his momentum to shove the man’s broken arm across his chest to distract him. He snapped out his hand to cup one of the man’s cheeks like a lover before taking one sliding step behind him, seizing the opposite shoulder and jerking his entire upper body taut. He felt the bones in the man’s neck twist and grate against each other for a one tense second before the muscles around them gave with a thick noise.
Erik dropped the man and his newly loosened head to the ground. Erik rocked his own neck side to side to stretch it, before shucking his suit jacket. Damn, he wished he could have stretched before that. Seeing Charles made him so tight with nerves.
Erik turned to face Charles and locate the gun.
He nearly melted inside when he saw him. Charles was kneeling in front of him, holding the gun in an absolute travesty of a teacup-grip, two fingers in the trigger well and muzzle pointing slightly off center from all the action. He couldn’t help but smile and take a step closer. Charles was so flushed and adorable. He wanted to press kisses all over him and then take him home and show him how to actually hold a gun. Preferably pressed all along his back side. Erik wondered if right now was a good time to ask Charles out on a date. Probably not. He might be shocky.
“Here,” he coaxed, knowing Charles might be anxious and scared. “Give me that.” His voice was gentle as he reached out a hand, slowly, for the gun. He made sure his body was directly out of the muzzle’s sightline.
“Did you just kill that man? With your bare hands?” Charles blurted, as the gun wavered even farther off-target.
Erik lightly right hand over the gun, and gently loosened Charles fingers from the grip. “He was a bad man.”
Charles arched his eyebrow as if to say, ‘No shit’ and Erik felt a little chagrined. It had worked for the hero in the action movie on primetime last night. Although, truthfully Charles’s only resemblance to the female lead was his naturally bright red lips. Definitely not a match in the intelligence department. Or the bum area. Charles’s cheeks were much perkier.
He took the gun from Charles, flipped the safety, dropped the clip, and checked the ammunition. Ten rounds left. He slapped the clip back in, slid the top back, checked the safety once more, and slid it into the back of his waistband. A nice little Berretta Storm. Not bad. He preferred a Sig for his hands, but this would more than suffice.
Charles looked up at him with wide eyes. “Who are you?”
Erik reached down and gently lifted Charles up by a grip on the biceps. He fumbled for something to say. I killed people for a living? I’m a highly trained assassin? My job as an accountant gets kinda boring and so I have a lot of time on my hands? I watch a lot of cage-fighting? James Bond was my childhood hero?
“I worked as an agent for the Mossad?” Technically true, if it was a rather long time ago. He’d been doing freelance work for a while. Erik tried to steer Charles farther down the hallway, but Charles was having none of it.
“Charles, we need to go, now, before they send someone else to figure out what happened to him.” Erik jerked his head over to the man he’d downed.
Charles stopped moving completely, flinging out his arms and legs in jumping jack formation as if it would make Erik’s efforts to push him down the hallway worse. The worst part of it was that Charles’s starfish impression was partially effective. “I told you! We can’t leave! They have hostages!”
“Oh yes we can.” Erik shook his head at Charles and considered cutting off blood-flow to Charles’s brain, just for the six seconds or so it would take for him to lose consciousness. He settled for wrapping his arm under Charles’s armpits and hoisting him into his side to drag him down the corridor. He couldn’t hoist Charles onto his shoulder, it would slow down his response time too much.
“Oh no you don’t!” Charles struggled valiantly under Erik’s arm, but Erik ignored him and kept dragging him down the hallway. God, what he would give to have Charles wriggle like this under him while he was seated deep inside. “Erik Lehnsherr! If you make me leave. I will. Never. Forgive. You.” He punctuated each word with a little grunt of exertion that made Erik’s cock take notice. But the words themselves made something in his chest clench.
Erik paused in the hallway next to an open door office door. He swung his head around and checked around and behind him before shoving Charles inside and shutting the door behind him. He hustled Charles into a chair and flicked down the blinds. “What do you mean, never forgive me?”
Charles glared at Erik from his chair and tugged down his blue ‘Westminster Bank of the Trust’ cardigan. It was hardly an improvement, as his oxford underneath had tugged loose from his slacks. Erik saw a flash of pale belly before Charles crossed his hands over his chest. Charles's eyes sharpened as something clicked into place inside his mind. “I mean I will never forgive you.”
In the resulting silence, Charles realized he needed to clarify his threat. “I will lose the key to your safety deposit box and I’ll make McCoy deal with you every time you come into the bank and I’ll change my Monday shift to Wednesday and if I ever see you in the grocery store next to my apartment again like I did last Saturday I will tell the grocer that you are a mean and nasty man who is trying to spoil the lettuce and follow me home and Darwin will kick you out and make sure all the eggs you ever buy are broken and I will never talk to you again.” Charles finished his horrid run-on sentence in a breathy huff.
Erik felt two inches tall. He hadn’t meant to be caught in Charles’s grocery store last Saturday but he knew how fond Charles was of cantaloupe and with that nasty disease outbreak he’d wanted to test the fruit before Charles ate it. And then he ended up buying half a cart of the ridiculous melons because he hadn’t finished testing them before Charles wheeled around the corner and he couldn’t risk him getting sick. Erik looked at Charles for a long moment, measuring just how serious he was.
“Ok.” Erik said, after he’d contemplated a whole lifetime without Charles’s happy babbling. "What do you want me to do?”
Chapter 3: Hand-Holding and Other Heart-Stopping Activities
Erik is a BAMF and Charles's eyes are deadly weapons.
Ok, this part isn’t as funny, and has mild violence/blood. And it also requires some reality suspension. Yes, I know that men fighting is loud. For that matter, I know that women fighting or both fighting is loud. Let’s just say Erik’s an über-ninja who can fight in absolute silence.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
After receiving his directives from Charles, Erik dragged the body of the man he'd killed into the office and tried to stuff him in the leg hole under the desk. If they were going to stick around, they needed to be as under the radar as possible.
Too bad the desk was certainly made for someone with teeny tiny legs, the man's body wasn't quite fitting into the cubbyhole. He had considered breaking an arm or a leg or two to make him squeeze in better, but Charles had vehemently protested that.
"You can't just break the man's legs, Erik!"
Erik had attempted to argue that the man was already dead, but that assessment didn't seem to go over well. It just made Charles's face all splotchy and frowny and pinched, and even though Erik liked all of Charles's faces, this particular one didn't seem conducive to getting Charles out on a date with him.
So, instead Erik had left the man with an elbow jauntily protruding and gone to pick though the things he'd salvaged from the man's person.
Immediately he pocketed the radio, and, after testing the blade on his thumb and tossing it end over end once, (Needed a bit of a sharpening, but nice balance), did the same to the man's knife. Erik wondered idly if the man'd even known how to use it. Then he pocketed the man's bic lighter. You never knew when you might need a little fire. Strange, no cigarettes. Perhaps he'd smoked them in a fit of nerves before this?
There wasn't much else useful to take from the dead man. He truly had an assortment things in his pockets.
Really, who brought Altoids, a pink carabiner, a mini-Sharpie, a packet of miscellaneous screws and two condoms to a bank robbery? After a look over at Charles at the window, Erik snapped up the mints. He told himself that maybe the tin casing would come in handy. For holding...things. Maybe.
"Alright. You want to ensure the hostages’ safety, so this is what we're going to do. We'll head to the second floor with the executive offices and the balcony overlooking the lobby. I'll scope it out, see how many hostages, how many gunmen." He fixed his gaze on Charles, and put on his serious business face. "You will stay by me at all times. You will not wander off. And you will listen when I tell you to do something. No exceptions."
"Ok." Charles nodded vehemently, his hair flopping in his eyes. Erik's chest did a clenchy squishy thing and his lips tried to smile. Erik tried to quash it. The last date he'd been on, she'd told him his smile made him look like a manic killer. Granted, he was a killer, and sometimes he got a little excited about it (He'd like anyone to tell him that infiltrating a masked costume ball in a blue backless sequined dress and high heels and slinking across the floor in a sensual Argentinian tango complete with ochos and ganchos to lure the mark out of sight and slipping a slender stiletto right between his ribs wasn’t fun), but he didn't want to kill his dates.
And he definitely didn't want Charles to think that.
"Good," he said, voice gruff. "Let's head out."
Erik currently thought he might explode. They'd been sneaking down the hallways, Erik casing every corner, gun in hand, while dragging Charles along after him with one hand holding onto Charles's forearm. It probably hadn't been necessary, but Erik really hadn't liked dragging Charles where there might be people with guns trying to shoot him.
And then Charles had slipped his sleeve out of Erik's grip, almost causing Erik to have some sort of heart arrhythmia, before sliding his freckled hand into Erik's with a soft 'here', and causing Erik the closest he'd ever been to a full-blown heart attack. And Saul down in Chile had once caught him and tried to motivate him into doing a little wet work for him with a parrilla.
Charles's hand was slightly smaller than his, fingers soft and without gun calluses, palm warm and a little sweaty. It was the most perfect hand in the world.
He looked down at Charles's hand, resting perfectly in his, their palms a little tacky from contact, and squeezed his thin fingers just a little around Charles's fuller palm. Erik moved his other hand over his heart to keep it from bursting apart without realizing there was a gun in it, slapping his chest, hard, with the stock. Erik didn't even notice. "Charles, would you like--"
"Do we take the stairs or the elevator?" Charles asked at the same time.
Erik recoiled, and got his head back on right. "The staircase. We would never take the elevator." It would be a death trap. Who knew who could be waiting for a person to come out of it, prompted forth like a little veal calf.
They managed to get up the stairway without incident, even if Erik's inner Elvis was determinedly crooning: "Taaaaaake my haaand; take my whole life tooo, for I can't help, falling in looove with youuuu."
Erik wondered if Charles liked Elvis as he gently installed him behind a potted plant before he slunk to the balcony to peek over and survey the lobby. Charles didn't have any on his iTunes account, last time Erik had checked. (What? Erik had deemed it a necessary first date precaution. Lots of people liked to talk about music on first dates, it was a nice and easy first date topic, but Shaw had flatly told him years ago his taste in music sucked and he's spent a lot of time overseas in the past year, listening to foreign music, and he definitely didn't want to get caught staring blankly at Charles over the dinner table when he told him what his favorite artist was. He had a hard enough time not staring blankly at Charles's lips. He didn't need to compound the problem.)
(Plus, Charles's playlists had been a revelation. Erik had spent a whole afternoon rocking out to someone named Pat Benatar.)
Erik surveyed the view from the balcony with a critical eye. Three gunmen (two with assault rifles and one woman with a Beretta like his), six hostages on the ground with their hands above their heads, and another woman, this one tall and blonde and dressed all in white. Erik wondered how she kept the boots clean. Did she have others lay out a tarp where she was going to walk?
Two of the gunmen were patrolling the bank floor, watching out for moving hostages, where the third was holding up poor Alex Summers for the woman to interrogate. Erik watched as Alex murmured something and she backhanded him across the face hard enough for his head to snap to the side.
Erik weighed the circumstances and sighed. There were way too many gunmen to pick off from up here with a handgun, and they completely. He'd have to think of another recourse. He revisited the 'knock Charles out, throw him over your shoulder and drag him home with you' plan momentarily before wistfully tabling it once more. He doubted that scenario truly led to hot sex in which he pinned Charles hands up against the wall and Charles told him how much he appreciated getting rescued in little hot moans and breathless pants, however much his caveman imagination insisted. He'd been pissed off enough when Erik had told him to hide behind the plant.
Then Erik moved to return to Charles. He was getting antsy leaving him alone so long.
When he got close, Charles popped his head out from behind the small tree and started towards him.
Just in time for someone to come around the corner to the stairs and see Charles bob out towards him and hear Charles enthusiastically whispering, "Well, what does it look like?"
Erik's mind panicked as he saw the man startle at the sight, before raising his gun hand up to fix on Charles.
Erik knew the robbers in the lobby below couldn't hear anything, or they'd have the shoot-out right here on the upper floor balcony where there were only ficus trees for cover. He also knew that if Charles got shot, he could not be held responsible for his actions.
If you asked him later, Erik wouldn't be quite able to tell you how it happened. One second he remembered hefting his newly reappropriated blade in his left hand, and the next the blade was planted in the new man's dominant shoulder. The force of the blade sent the gun dropping from his fingers and skittering across the ground.
Fuck. That was the worst knife-throw Erik had done in years. Even with his non-dominant hand and an unfamiliar blade. He felt vaguely disgusted with himself as he launched himself onto the man. Sure he liked the efficacy and the rapid death of guns, but his game was knives. He loved the press of cold steel. Especially he was required to play with a kill before he made it. He noted retirement was making him unbearably soft as he and the man tumbled to the floor.
Erik swung his fist, hard, to connect across the man's muttonchop as his jaw opened. Erik couldn't let him open his mouth and get help, and so he timed his first hit to slam his teeth closed. Erik had felt the force of the blow all the way up his arm.
Erik drew back to plant another fist in his face before he had a chance to recover, but the man seized his moving arm and bucked his hips to flip them both over. Erik let out a little 'oof' as he hit the ground, and the man just smiled before reaching out one hand to wrap around Erik's throat and squeeze.
Erik knew that with that little smile that to the man it was game accepted. They'd battle this out between them, in silence. Erik gripped at the huge hand at his throat, scrabbling for a finger to break as he reached for the blade still in this man's shoulder.
His fingers ripped it free, and blood slid hot and fresh over his hand.
And the man smiled harder and slammed the hand with the knife hard to the ground with his wounded arm. What is this guy made of? Erik wondered, impressed, as his own hand bounced against the ground, and he fought to keep his grip on the weapon. It would almost be a shame to kill him.
Erik finally caught a good grip on one of the fingers pushing into his throat, when the man slammed his head forward and crashed their faces together in a headbutt that slammed Erik's head back into the ground. He hung onto consciousness fiercely as his eyes starred.
Erik snapped his finger back in retaliation, causing the man's grip not to release, as he'd hoped, but to loosen slightly, and, using the man's own blood as slick, slid his wrist free from where it was pinned on the ground.
Erik brought the knife up, clear through the man's guard, before directing it right at his pulsing jugular.
Just as Charles coshed the man over the back of the head with the butt of his own gun. Once. Twice.
The man slumped forward onto Erik and barely cut himself on the knife, nicking his skin as he lost control of his head over to unconsciousness.
Erik looked up at Charles in surprise, from underneath his unconscious attacker. There was Charles standing over them both, face fierce, lips clenched together and eyes blazing. Charles held the gun his right hand tight enough that his knuckles were white, trembling in rage.
Erik had never been so aroused.
His mouth opened without any input from his brain: "Charles, I lo--"
Charles broke in with an appalled whisper. "Oh god. Did I kill him? Is he dead?" The fight abruptly went out of him, and Charles brought his hands up to his face, covering one side of his nose with flesh and the other side with the muzzle of the gun. "Oh, he's dead, isn't he?" He reached forward one hand to feel for a pulse.
Erik rolled the man over before Charles could reach his neck and get his hand bloody, before straddling him and smiling. "Nope. But he will be." He tossed the knife in the air before catching it in a better grip. Maybe he was showing off. Just a little.
"You can't just kill him now!" Charles hissed, eyes wider than Erik had ever seen. Erik frowned, knife in hand. He had to kill him. He had to follow through. They couldn't risk him getting back up.
He started to speak: "If w--"
"Erik," Charles's voice was small, and every single cell of Erik quivered in fear. Was Charles going to cry? He didn't think he could take it if those eyes filled up with tears and his face turned red and blotchy.
"He's unconscious," Charles near-whispered. "He's defenseless." He paused, took a deep breath, and all of Erik flinched at the brightness of his eyes. "If you kill him now, I helped. I'll be a murderer."
Erik's insides turned cold and heavy and the fritzing electricity from that good fight and Charles's takedown died. Something on his upper lip trickled. He wiped it away with the back of his hand, before wiping it off on his black turtleneck. The man had made him bleed. He was good, too dangerous to let live.
He looked at Charles, gun hanging limply from his fingers and morose. "Damn this." He looked down at the man. Then he purposefully wiped the bloody blade over the man's ruined flannel shirt. "I suppose we can tie him up with some printer cables or something." He stood up.
Charles immediately smiled brightly. "Excellent."
And he bounced forward, brushing his red lips against Erik's cheek before bouncing back on his feet and proclaiming happily: "There's a printer down the hall," and speeding off.
Something inside Erik dryly wondered if he’d been played. But he dutifully dragged the downed man after Charles anyway, cheek tingling the whole way.
I mean no disrespect for Pat Benatar here, and her mention is only intended to be humorous. I only picked her because when I was younger, my BFF and I were taken to a Pat Benatar contest by my friend’s father, and he was this tall intensely serious man who was a terror in the courtroom and a renowned lawyer, but when Pat came on stage, he was her slave. He knew every word to every song and sang every one along with her at the top of his lungs. And when she published her book not too long ago, he went to get a signed copy and had the worst time talking to her. And it amuses me to think of Erik singing along to her too.
Chapter 4: Scary Men Bond with the Sharpest of Knives
Darker themes ahead, beware, ye mateys.
Also, the gun/knife thing? NOT MINE. I adapted it, and changed it just a little, but I originally read it in a fic called “Edged Weapons” http://archiveofourown.org/works/218714, by lightgetsin. (Which, on its own, is a scary and fantastic chapter in a series. My favorite is the second installment. I’d never heard of that fandom before I read it, but I had stars in my eyes when I left.)
Onwards to the fic!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The man, surprisingly enough, came to as Erik was tying him to the office chair. It had once had rolling wheels, but Erik had carefully removed them to ensure he was going nowhere. It turned out they hadn’t needed to use the printer cables, because the man himself had once been in possession of an over-the-shoulder sack that held contents much better for bank robberies.
Duct tape. Extra Ammunition. Gloves. An obviously very well loved, sharp, knife. Zip ties. Cashews.
Okay, maybe the last wasn’t truly imperative, but who knew when you’d get hungry? It was hard to be intimidating while your tummy grumbled. Erik often had nerves the mornings he came to see Charles, and breakfast wasn’t always the easiest to eat. He popped a few in his mouth before offering them to Charles. Charles waved him off. He was busy fiddling with the one cup coffee/tea maker in the corner. He’d said he needed to ‘fortify himself’, but was currently marveling at how rapidly it made hot tea. Erik added one to his ‘Gifts to Woo Charles With and Ensure He Spends the Rest of His Life with Me’ list. He slated it down for the two-month mark.
Erik rapidly ripped a piece of the man’s shirt and stuffed it in the man’s mouth before he could fully come around, before slapping a piece of tape over his lips. That should keep him quiet.
Charles carefully sipped his tea in the corner. “Maybe we should ask him what the grand bank robbing plan is?" He offered.
Erik looked at Charles in disbelief, and then at the man, taking in every detail of him from the bleeding shoulder to the saucily cocked, horrendously bushy eyebrow. The hairy thing said to him, voice deep and extremely mocking for an overgrown patch of facial hair, “I dare you to try, bub.”
“Ok.” Erik felt determination rise up inside him, stealing into his muscles and dropping his mind into the correct headspace. Challenge accepted. For Charles.
Erik rolled back his shoulders, before cracking his neck. This was something he was actually good at, and if Charles wanted him to torture the man, than he’d have the man whimpering out his deepest secrets in no time. Erik looked over the room for a minute, planning out his method of attack. Torture, like ballet, required excellent choreography.
Erik slid the man’s knife off of the table and into his hand. He weighed it in his hand before saying, deceptively casually, “This is a nice blade you have here. Nice heft. And you’ve obviously sharpened it recently and did, I must say, a marvelous job.” He smiled, full and toothy, making sure his back was to Charles while he did it.
Erik sauntered two steps forward, sliding into the bound man’s personal space and looming with his entire body. “I’ve always preferred knives over guns,” he stated, conversationally. He slid the flat of the blade over his palm before cocking his head to the side and allowing his smile to widen. Erik made sure he looked deep into the man’s eyes as he pulled up his slacks to drop down to eye-level. “Do you know why?”
Erik snapped his hand out, snake fast, seizing the back of the man’s head and jerking it up close to his face. He viciously pulled the man’s head back by his hair so they were close enough to kiss and bared every single tooth he owned. “Because if you hold a gun on someone, they’re thinking about the gun. If you hold a knife on them, they’re thinking about how it’ll feel as sinks into their flesh.” He laid the knife against the man’s face, pressing just barely hard enough for the skin to dimple under the pressure of the blade.
“What. Do you think. You are doing.” Charles barked from the side of the room. Every word was clipped and poshly English, and dripping with disapproval. Erik’s head snapped over to him, but he kept the knife resting against the man’s cheek. Charles put his tea down with a small slam, and glared at him, viciously. Erik’s mind abruptly dropped out of ‘I will cut you, I will cut you until you tell me everything I want to know, until you tell me the name of your second-grade pet rock in the acute desperation for me to stop’ mode and straight into ‘Chaaaaarrrrleesss, my macaroni necklace isn’t done yet, you can’t look yet, I prooooomise it’ll look better when it’s done’.
Erik fumbled for something to say. Intimidation was a vital part of the proceedings. He’d talk much faster if Erik established that he was entirely crazy and to be royally feared early in the proceedings. “You wanted me to make him talk?” he asked, nonplussed, a little confused furrow forming between his eyes.
“I wanted you to ask him if he knew the plan! You know, a simple ‘What is your bank robbery plan?’ I didn’t want you to cut him!”
Erik straightened and released the man’s head, still looking at Charles. Erik caught the full power of Charles’s glare and hid the knife behind his back. He offered a lame: “I thought you knew what I was doing. I thought that’s what you wanted?” Erik felt disappointed. This was something he didn’t particularly enjoy but knew he was very good at, something he’d thought Charles had asked for and would be pleased with receiving. Erik, for the first time, felt small inside, even smaller than Charles, and fought the impulse to look at his shoes.
He looked at Charles’s shoes instead.
“I didn’t know what you were doing! I thought you were doing some sort of special scary-man bonding-thing! Talking about knives and other deadly objects in an attempt to get to know each other better and be friendly!”
Erik looked back down at his captive, not wanting to look at Charles while Charles said Erik was scary. Potential boyfriends were not supposed to be scary. It had said so in the quiz Erik had taken a few nights ago, “Is Your Boyfriend Secretly a Psycho-Killer?” (He’d taken it as if he was Charles, trying to catch any behavioral tip-offs he might make before they became obvious identifiers.)
Despite being bound, the man shrugged up his shoulders at Erik and raised his eyebrows up in a non-verbal, ‘I dunno, I was on the same page as you, bub.’ Erik felt marginally better that he hadn’t been the only one who thought ‘ask him about the bank robbery plans’ had pain in the subtext.
Charles strode forward, piqued, and inserted himself between Erik and the man with a curt. “Here, I’ll ask him.”
Moments later, Charles had gently peeled the gag from the man’s mouth and was somehow getting valuable information out of him.
(“What’s your name, then?” “That’d be Logan.” “It’s a shame we didn’t meet in a more pleasant context, Logan. Would you like some tea?” “No thank you.” “Would you mind telling me what your plan here today was when you broke into this bank, Logan?” “Yeah. Ms. Frost, that’s our leader, she’s got a really impressive rack—“ “I’m sure Ms. Frost has other distinguishing attributes, perhaps you could use those to describe her?” “Well, she… she’s the most monochromatic broad I’ve ever met, dresses all in white, I guess, well, she wants to—)
Charles had even insisted that Erik do something for Logan’s shoulder. So here he was, doing a basic field dressing with duct tape and the remains of Charles’s cardigan (Charles had volunteered his cardigan!) on Logan’s shoulder.
On the plus side, Charles’s face wasn’t all pinchy and displeased, and he was now only wearing a white button down. Erik could make out the outline of an undershirt beneath it. It was very distracting. He supposed this was how people back in the day felt, when they went to Moulin Rouge and got a flash of ankle. Erik didn’t think he’d ever seen Charles’s collarbones, but now they were peeking out of neck of the shirt, just barely enough to be seen. He’d never wanted to bite something so much in his life. Just little scraping nibbles until blood rose to the surface of the skin, and then, if Charles liked that, maybe he could sink his teeth down a little harder, and suck bright red blushes into the skin with his teeth and tongue, beautiful little hickies that would carry the unique shape of Erik’s mouth like little identifiers, as if he’d inked his hands and put his fingerprints all over Charles…
Erik only realized he’d tuned out of the conversation when he heard Logan say to Charles: “Would you mind fishing out a cigar for me? Back rear pocket.” He angled to the side in his seat, shifting his weight off one cheek.
Erik’s fingers tightened on the knife he still hadn’t put down, and his whole body bristled. He wondered if he could get Charles to walk down the hall a bit, just long enough for him to sever a few fingers. But no, he couldn’t leave Charles alone.
“I’m afraid there’s no smoking allowed in this bank,” Charles said proudly. He’d somehow reclaimed his tea and was back to sipping it delicately with a polite little smile.
“No need to light it. Just put it in my mouth.” Logan’s horrid eyebrows waggled like the huge black facial caterpillars they were.
Erik watched Charles’s face to see how the blatant flirting would be received. But Charles only smiled a little wider, and Erik had had enough. It was bad enough that Charles thought he was scary now because he had tried to do something Charles had asked for, but there was no way Erik could take being placed underneath the man who had tried to shoot Charles, on Charles’s ‘Favorite Persons in the Room’ rankings.
Erik grabbed up Logan’s duct tape. The last gag from where Charles had placed it on the desk after gently working the tape off of. “That’s enough. We need to get back down stairs. It’s easier to defend, and there’s no way Logan’s compatriots have not realized that this is their second partner to go missing. We need to get back downstairs before the rest try and do something about it.” He couldn’t help that his voice was grumbly.
Charles looked balefully at the tea still in his cup, before setting it back down on the desk. “I suppose you’re right.” Erik felt momentarily guilt that Charles couldn’t finish his tea, before he slapped his insides into submission. Tea was not important. Charles was. Erik would buy him all the tea he liked, and make sure not a drop of it went lukewarm if he could just get Charles out of this mess. And that meant the hostages too. For Charles.
“It was a pleasure to meet your acquaintance, Logan.” Charles said, rising. “Thank you for the information. It is invaluable.”
“Sure, anytime.” Logan was smirking, and Erik thought he saw him look Charles over, head to toe.
Enough was too much. Erik stepped forward with the tape and the reappropriated bit of Logan’s shirt. He would enjoy this.
Logan bared his teeth at him, daring to come close. Erik bared his too. He took great pride in the fact that his were scarier. And whiter. Tooth health was very important.
“I suppose a gag is necessary.” Charles looked forlorn, “I’m truly sorry, Logan.”
Logan double taked, and looked over at Charles. He raised one eyebrow to communicate ‘Is he for real, bub?’
Erik felt like that every day. If he’d been a mathematician, Erik would have tried to prove Charles’s realness with a proof. If a philosopher, with mind-melting logic similar to ‘if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound’. As it was, he was an ex-hitman, a profession where he usually measured realness by the marker ‘Does it bleed?’, making the act of proving Charles’s reality completely and absolutely Not An Option. It was so not an option that it deserved italics and shark smiles and big shiny guns.
But Erik had spent the better part of a year contemplating Charles’s complete lack of reality, and liked to think he had developed some small amount of Charles-immunity. So, Erik took the respite from Logan’s teeth and snuck the gag in his mouth, before slapping over it with tape. He made sure to get the sticky adhesive in his truly barbaric muttonchops. If he couldn’t kill Logan, he could at least kill a few hair follicles.
Erik had finally hustled Charles out of the offices, down the balcony hall and back into the stairwell. He’d been worried that his hand-holding privileges had been revoked by virtue of the scary, but when he’d cautiously reached out a hand for Charles’s, Charles had squeezed his fingers tighter, and had even gone so far as to link their fingers together. Erik could feel the heat from Charles’s fingers in between each of his, and all he wanted to do was lift their joined hands until he could press kisses all over them.
Erik was cautiously chalking this one up to a positive sign on the boyfriend front.
He and Charles were on the split landing between floors when he heard the tell-tale sound of footsteps on the decorative bank tile. Erik stopped immediately and gestured for Charles to be quiet. He cocked his head and listened.
The bank robbers had finally come for them. Erik smiled. He pulled the extra Beretta from his waistband, and handed it to Charles.
Charles shook his head, emphatically no. Erik simply lifted Charles’s hand, still in his, and reached for the free one. Charles half-heartedly played keep away with his hand, until Erik fixed him with a stern look and forced the gun into Charles’s hands. Charles gripped it as he awkwardly had in the hallway, before Erik rearranged Charles’s hands around it. He pointed it away from them both as he silently demonstrated flicking the safety on and off. Then he ran a hand over his chest and torso to suggest what Charles should aim for.
Charles swallowed, and then nodded at him. Then he leaned in, really close to Erik, and stood up on his tiptoes. He brought his mouth right up to Erik’s ear, and whispered, ever so lightly, into his ear. “Try not to kill anyone. Please.” Charles’s breath puffed into his ear as if to caress it, his voice so light, Erik barely heard it over the sound of his blood departing his brain.
Erik fought not to close his eyes. It was not good to whisper like that in someone’s ear before they entered a potential gun fight. His tailored trousers were suddenly ill-fitting.
Erik nodded and took the hardest step he’d ever took away from Charles and his hot mouth.
When he peered around the corner, he saw one of the gunman walking slowly down the corridor, assault rifle held at the ready. Erik took in every detail. Lanky, not as muscled as the other two males, long arms, thin fingers. Erik noted he held his finger over the outside of the trigger well, proper trigger safety. Each time he stepped the heel of his shoe clicked down on the hallway tile.
Erik thought about ways to incapacitate him. It was actually harder to incapacitate someone then to straight up kill them. If this had been one of his straightforward assassinations, he would have simply dropped the man with a bullet to the head, right there. He sent up a silent mourn for his silencer. It was hardly silent but it was infinitely preferable than the sharp rap of gunfire.
Erik measured the distance between them. If he could manage, the best would be to sneak up behind the man and choke him into unconsciousness.
Erik gestured for Charles to be silent and still, and then snuck around the corner on his lightest feet. He felt vaguely ridiculous trying to be silent in the shoes he’d worn today, creeping up on his quarry. Erik wondered if this would have been easier if he’d taken off his shoes, but ever since Shaw had tried to train him once in worst case scenarios by opening fire on his windows when he was sleeping, and Erik had had to sneak out of his bay window apartment shoeless and returning fire, (in his defense, he’d been young and arrogant enough to believe no sniper could get the drop on him, and too proud of the money he’d earned from his first hits to not buy an extravagant flat), and now he always liked to keep his shoes on and his bedrooms windowless. To make himself feel better about the whole shoe issue, Erik played the Pink Panther theme in his head. It always made him feel stealthier.
Erik got within arm reach of the man when, despite Erik’s attempts at stealth, the man’s instincts pinged, and he whirled around. Erik brought the palm of his hand up and broke his nose immediately, shoving the mouth of the assault rifle away from his body and praying the man didn’t open up fire and burn his hand to the barrel, or just shoot him full of holes.
The man reeled backwards and keened with the force behind the nose blow, and Erik decided that perhaps choking the man into the submission wasn’t the best plan now. He grabbed the barrel of the gun with his other hand, tightened his grip, and snatched it free from the man’s pain-loosed fingers. Then he brought the stock around like a bat, and coshed the man in the head. It hit with a satisfying wet thunk.
Erik caught the man one-armed before his body could fall, and lowered the gun and the unconscious man to the ground. The weight of the rifle unbalanced and misheld in Erik’s remaining hand forced Erik let go of the barrel of the gun as soon as it touched the ground. Erik tried to identify it, but he was unfamiliar with this type of assault rifle and how exactly was best to use it. It looked vaguely like something of M-4, but not entirely. He wondered if he should give that to Charles, instead of the Beretta. More bullets fired did make a bigger chance of hitting something. But Erik remembered the first time he’d fired something like that, and the recoil had jerked the gun upward harder than he’d estimated, and he’d missed his target by a mile. Not to mention how sore his arms were the next day.
Then Erik’s ears pricked and the hair all along his spine stood straight up.
A small ‘ooomf’ hit his ears and Erik heard the tell-tale sound of a gun skittering across the ground behind him. Fuck. Erik whirled around, hand flying to draw the Beretta from behind his back. He purposefully ignored the assault rifle, knowing it was worthless for detail work, and his insides cried a little for the simplicity of riddling something entirely full of holes, lying there on the useless on the floor.
Erik was met with the sight of Charles held in the grip of a tall, sveltely muscled woman. She held Charles with his neck in the vee of her arm, just like Erik had wished to do with her partner at his feet. Charles was struggling viciously, scrabbling with both hands at her arm, kicking and flailing with his feet. The woman jerked him backwards and off of one of his feet, and Charles lost his balance for a moment. “Don’t move,” she whispered to Charles, mockingly, as she fit her gun underneath his jaw. “Don’t move a bit.” Charles froze, and even from where he was, Erik could see his throat bob up and down in a swallow.
The woman was two to three inches taller than Charles, with beautiful dark hair pinned down in an elegant French braid. “Is this your little friend?” She called out to Erik, entirely calm. She tightened her grip on Charles’s neck, forcing the vee of her arm deeper into his throat. Erik saw Charles’s face turn a bright red. “Would you mind terribly if I killed him?”
Erik’s insides went completely still, and only the ache at the corners of his face told him exactly how widely he was smiling. Erik aimed the Beretta directly at the woman’s forehead and shifted into the hold.
“Let Charles go,” he asked, pleasantly.
“Put the gun down,” the woman returned. Her voice was falsely saccharine, with the slightest hint of flirtation, and she dug the nose of her weapon deeper into the skin just underneath Charles’s jaw, her finger light on the trigger. She knew how to use her gun, and didn’t feel threatened by him, didn’t feel twitchy and fearful and dangerous.
Erik let his mind go, let it quiet into that dark place where the only sound was the small pause between inhale and exhale. The gun became an extension of his own body. He was the grip, he was the chamber, he was the barrel, he was an instrument of pain and death pointed and aimed. His body cried with the desire to drag her into permanent silence.
He was the very bullet itself that burrowed into her face and stole her life.
Erik tried to soothe Charles, gun still held aloft, as Charles tried to suck in deep punishing breaths. The woman had dropped to the floor, dragging Charles half with her. Charles had wrenched himself free, stared at the woman, and then vomited all over the floor.
“Shhh. Shhh. Just breathe. I need you to breathe for me. Please, breathe for me.” Erik tried to stroke Charles’s back, tried to give him comfort. Erik felt miserable. He was awful at this. He stroked back Charles’s hair, and tried to watch the entrance to the lobby, but his eyes would barely tear themselves away from Charles. “I’m…” It hurt to get it out, because in no universe was he happy he hadn’t killed someone who threatened Charles, but he knew that the woman dead on the floor wasn’t what Charles had wanted. “I’m sorry.”
Charles looked up at him, eyes bright and hair falling into his eyes, face pale and lips too red. Erik wanted to scoop Charles into his arms and hold him to his chest. He wanted to shrink Charles down, and stick him in his jacket pocket, so he could hold the entirety of Charles’s body right above his heart and warm him with the heat of his own body. Erik wanted to wrap his whole body around Charles and ensure that he was never touched by anyone else ever again. It hurt him to have to settle for rubbing over Charles’s shoulders with his left hand. Charles blinked at him, straightened up a bit, and licked his slightly chapped lips. “Thank you,” he breathed out. Erik smiled, and for once he wasn’t worried that it was frightening. “Thank you,” Charles repeated.
Erik nodded and his thumb over Charles’s cheekbone, soaking up the sight of Charles’s face. The woman’d hit Charles, it seemed, because Charles’s nose was a bit swollen and purpling and the smallest trickle of blood was trailing down towards his upper lip. If he hadn’t already done it, Erik would have killed her again, just for this. Gently, ever so gently, Erik dropped his finger into Charles’s blood, and felt the tackiness against his finger. Whaddya know, his mind said. Charles was real after all.
“We match, now,” Charles said, gesturing at Erik's own nose.
Erik looked down into Charles’s face and realized he’d never wanted to kiss someone this badly in his whole life. He knew, without the tiniest smidgeon of any doubt, that if he pressed forward right now, it would be the best kiss of his entire life, vomit or no. Erik started to lean forward.
And then he slapped his insides into submission. Charles was still in danger. He was supposed to be watching for other threats.
Erik forced his hand to drop from Charles’s body. “Let’s get you locked into an office where you can lie down, and then I’ll go deal with the rest.”
“No.” Charles said, and Erik could see the strength blazing in Charles’s eyes, bringing color back into his flesh. “I’m alright. I just. That’s never happened to me before.” A pause, and Charles took a deep breath through his mouth, nose swelling. Erik wanted to kiss him even harder. “Let’s go talk to Frost. Together.”
Erik didn’t think there was any way to reply to that, to counter the sheer determination Charles threw on. His heart swelled inside his chest and it hurt, in that beautiful way that said that it could turn into pleasure with just the press of a certain someone’s hand in his. As much as Erik would like to lock Charles up in an office regardless, Erik just rummaged in his pocket. He handed Charles his confiscated Altoid mints.
Charles smiled up at him, still a bit weakly, and still a bit shaky. “Can’t negotiate with bad breath, can we?” he said, and popped three in his mouth.
Erik shook his head and reached for Charles’s hand.
Sorry, there'll be another chapter. I just couldn't get it all into this one.
This fic now has awesome fanart! Check it out and marvel at the adorable Charles, Erik's angry eyebrows, and Logan's scary hair and flannel shirt!