The waiting list for a first-time client at Xavier's was weeks long. Most people simply requested their names be added to the list and then waited out the time patiently, arriving at their assigned date and time without complaint.
Erik Lehnsherr, it seemed, was not like most people. His emails to Charles had been courteous but specific, full of questions about the interview process and the type of companionship that might be available. Charles did his best to answer all the questions promptly, although when Lehnsherr's emails bent more toward particular interests and fetishes, Charles let him twist a bit. It was one thing to want to ensure one's more unique needs would be met; Charles could understand that. It was something else to get emails like this, where initial communication quickly gave way to flirtation.
And it was definitely flirtation. Charles might not be able to read Lehnsherr's mind at range, but he'd been a companion at Xavier's long before he'd taken it over and given it its new name. As the owner of this operation, he'd had even more cause to pay attention to the subtle nuances of flirtation and seduction-- it might not all be directed his way, now, but it was important to recognize the signs. The more quickly he could do so, the better his chances of directing a client at precisely the right partner, someone with compatible interests and predilections.
But Charles was not on the market these days. He had enough to do simply running Xavier's; he couldn't afford to spend more time in one of the upstairs rooms than in the front office downstairs. Literally, as it happened; when he took over the operation, it was deeply in debt and was only just now beginning to show profit. Thank heavens its reputation had remained intact; better management-- and perhaps more importantly, management that didn't siphon ninety percent of the operation's profit into his own pocket-- was doing the rest.
There were a few key clients Charles maintained a more prurient relationship with, but only a few. Lehnsherr, for all his flirtation over email-- his dry sense of humor; his interest in some of the things that could, after all this time, still send Charles's pulse skyrocketing; the gorgeous photographs he'd sent that went above and beyond the simple headshot clients were expected to submit-- was not going to join that group. Charles really did have plenty to do without fitting a new client into his schedule.
So when Lehnsherr finally arrived at Xavier's and was shown into Charles's office, Charles made no attempt to clean up his image. He was out of his suit jacket, out of his tie, his blue Oxford unbuttoned at the neck and its sleeves rolled up. He smiled at Lehnsherr and came out from behind his desk. "Mr. Lehnsherr, how good to finally meet you. I trust you found the grounds without difficulty."
"None at all. Your directions were perfect." Lehnsherr extended a hand, which Charles accepted. "You must be Charles Xavier."
"I must be."
Lehnsherr's hand lingered on Charles's. Charles wasn't surprised by that, although he was a bit taken off-guard by how openly Lehnsherr's gaze raked down his body. A flirtation was one thing, but this was pushing the boundaries of making an outright offer. Charles slid his hand out of Lehnsherr's grip.
"Based on the points we've discussed in email," Charles said, "I've picked out several of our companions that I'd like you to meet."
"I was rather hoping we'd have a chance to continue those discussions in person." Lehnsherr raised an eyebrow. "If your schedule permits it, of course. There are a few details I'd like to work out between the two of us."
I'm sure you would, Charles thought. Still, no reason to steal the details out of Lehnsherr's mind just yet. Lehnsherr was paying for the time; Charles could allow him to linger if he wanted. "Please," he said, indicating one of the two chairs in front of his desk. He slipped around behind it once again and took a seat.
Lehnsherr folded himself into a chair and crossed one ankle over his knee. Charles leaned forward, hands folded together on his desk. "Tell me about these details of yours," Charles murmured, and if he was baiting Lehnsherr a little with that tone of voice, well... so be it.
"We've talked about why I'm here," Lehnsherr said, glancing around Charles's office for a moment before settling his gaze back on Charles. "Mutation isn't a fetish for me, it's an identity-- I want to be with my own kind."
"You're not the only one who's come here for that reason," Charles reassured him. "We have companions here who prefer to offer companionship to mutants, when possible, and companions who only work with fellow mutants." And companions willing to cater to human fetishes, but Charles was determined to phase that part of the business out within the next six months. He might not have the same attitude toward humans that some mutants did-- that Lehnsherr did, from the tone of his emails-- but there were limits to how far he was willing to go to integrate with human society. Catering to the notion of mutants-as-objects was past that limit.
Lehnsherr nodded. "Would you like a demonstration of my ability?"
Charles laughed, shaking his head. "Mr. Lehnsherr, you're a public figure; your mutation is well-documented." He lowered his eyes for a moment and looked up at Lehnsherr through his eyelashes, licking his lips; it didn't take the use of his telepathy to guess that Lehnsherr wanted the opportunity to demonstrate his ability. Why not indulge the man? "But if you'd like to show me... I'd like to look."
The smile that slid onto Lehnsherr's face quickly moved into smirk territory, and Charles immediately regretted going quite so far with the flirtation; the lip-licking was probably a bit much, making an offer Charles had no intention of delivering on. Still, Erik Lehnsherr and his magnetism were well-known, particularly in the mutant community, and while Lehnsherr had made his fortune working in buying and selling precious metals, these days he bent his ability to more delicate work. He was known for creating tiny sculptures for the mutant interviewers who wrote articles about him, just as a friendly, mutant-to-mutant perk.
What he'd do for Charles... Charles couldn't help but be curious.
Lehnsherr's gaze scanned Charles's desk, lighting on a small dish of paper clips. "May I?"
"By all means."
The paper clips rose as a unit, and as Charles watched, they bent and stretched, untangling themselves from one another, thinning in some places, joining together to create thicker rods. Lehnsherr guided the motion with a gentle wave of his hand, fingers extended-- the man had quite long fingers, and his fingernails were manicured and well cared for, which was almost distracting enough to pull Charles's attention from the sculpture he was creating. But not quite.
This was no abstract form; the wirework was quickly becoming recognizable as a skyscraper. One piece after another fit into place, until Charles was looking at a small but credible replica of the Empire State Building, all its sleek lines set perfectly into place. The tiny sculpture hovered in front of Charles, turning carefully around and around, and set itself down on his desk blotter.
"It's beautiful," Charles said, and meant it.
"Thank you." Lehnsherr smiled. "It's yours."
For a moment, Charles allowed himself to be dazzled... but in this business, nothing was ever truly free. Clients gave their escorts gifts all the time, but in the end it was always an exchange. And Charles wasn't under contract with Lehnsherr, wasn't going to be under contract to Lehnsherr. If Lehnsherr thought the... absolutely beautiful... demonstration of his ability was going to impress Charles enough to get Charles onto the menu, he was bound for disappointment.
And a client who was disappointed before he even met the companions who were there to serve him was going to be hard to please. Which is not at all the reason you're going to do this, I'm sure. You're only doing it to be certain he isn't a danger to you or your staff. This isn't about wanting to look inside his mind and truly feel him at all. The excuse was flimsy, even to Charles himself, but nevertheless, it was standard procedure nowadays for Charles to take a look at any new client from the inside, as a safety protocol. He'd only had to turn out a few people since he'd started doing it, but he-- and even if unknowingly, his staff-- was grateful that he'd turned those few out.
The chances of Lehnsherr being a danger to anyone were remote, Charles knew, but all the same... the temptation of knowing him better, and the necessity of a safety check, were compelling enough to push Charles into action. Charles lifted his fingertips to his temple, leaning forward onto his desk to disguise the motion as a simple thoughtful gesture, as though he were contemplating the sculpture in all its minute detail... and reached out, opening his mind to Lehnsherr's emotions.
Years of practice doing this-- not to mention years of working in this field-- had given Charles an excellent poker face. The swirl of emotion running through Lehnsherr was nothing unexpected: a quiet simmering sense of patience mixed with anticipation, a rolling hunger growing stronger by the moment, determination... oh, that was interesting, the determination was all focused on Charles. On seducing him? Yes, to some extent... but there was no deeper intent there, no sense that Lehnsherr wouldn't be satisfied unless it was Charles himself who joined him in bed tonight. Charles stifled a momentary trickle of disappointment; he did not have time to get involved with another client, he reminded himself. And Lehnsherr might have been interested in taking Charles to one of the rooms upstairs, but more than that, he was looking to impress him. Lehnsherr wanted Charles to remember this meeting-- as if Charles could possibly forget him.
Like so many others Charles had known, Lehnsherr was interested in a few specific acts and kinks... but ultimately he was interested in the chase, with the time-saving feature of a foregone conclusion. The chase might appeal, but he didn't want to devote more than an evening to it. Predictable, Charles thought. It would be easy to find him someone with compatible interests. And, to his relief, no one here was in any danger from Lehnsherr here whatsoever. In fact, if there were an emergency, Lehnsherr himself would probably step into the line of fire to protect his fellow mutants. Keeping his poker face on after determining that was a challenge; there was no reason for him to suddenly feel more warmth toward Lehnsherr than he had when he'd leaned forward in the first place.
He withdrew from Lehnsherr's surface emotions and sat back in his chair, refining the list of companions he'd be presenting to Lehnsherr tonight. Not Hank; Lehnsherr might appreciate his visible mutation, but he'd consider Hank's affectation of nervousness a waste of time. Angel had gone from 'maybe' to 'definitely'; her no-nonsense attitude and their shared disdain for humans would make for good sparks. Lehnsherr didn't seem in the mood for a struggle tonight, but Alex had unpredictable effects on people; the instant some clients laid eyes on him, they were beset with an urge to put him down hard. Fortunately, that was one of Alex's favorite games. He'd keep Alex in the mix. A few others. He knew who was ready and who wasn't, and he smiled at Lehnsherr, stroking a fingertip down his little sculpture. The phallic nature of the symbol wasn't lost on him.
"I'm so glad you're a part of our clientele, Mr. Lehnsherr. Why don't we head into the lounge, and I'll introduce you to some of our companions?"
"It does seem to be about that time, doesn't it?" Lehnsherr answered. "Lead the way."
Charles rolled his shirtsleeves down, buttoned up and added the tie, all quickly. It earned him a lingering look from Lehnsherr, and from the intensity of Lehnsherr's gaze, it was almost as though the reverse-striptease was as appealing as the real thing. Charles smiled politely as he added the vest and jacket, then stepped forward to guide Lehnsherr out of his office.
Lehnsherr didn't move, or didn't make any immediate motions to do so. He let Charles place his hand at the small of his back, and although he wasn't precisely smiling, there was warmth in his look.
No, not warmth. Heat.
People had looked at Charles as though he were an object before, here in this office, all too readily assuming that anything in a brothel was for sale. This was different. Lehnsherr wasn't just interested in Charles because he was there; he was interested in Charles personally.
Charles cleared his throat and nodded toward the door. You don't have time for this, he reminded himself. You've enough to do with the clients you still have and the books and the schedules, remember?
"Follow me," Charles said, and he led Lehnsherr down the hall to the lounge.
The dark leather furniture in the lounge lent itself to any number of mental images. The sectional was a curve along the back wall; there were a pair of armchairs off to one side, and a love seat to the other. Covered ottomans were in reach of the armchairs, but easily shoved aside if necessary; the coffee table was upholstered in the same leather as the long curved sofa, and big enough to hold two, even if they were doing something energetic. This was the first room where it was clear what Xavier's was meant for, and Lehnsherr took it in slowly, finally unbuttoning his suit jacket and slipping it off his shoulders. He tossed it over the back of the sectional before seating himself in the center of it, arms spread wide across its back.
Charles let himself take that in for a moment-- the man had an impressive wingspan that only highlighted the narrow, lean line of his frame. He couldn't help but wonder what Lehnsherr looked like out of those clothes-- as fit and toned as the width of his shoulders implied? Was he smooth all over, waxed and shaved, or did he have a line of hair trailing down from his navel to his cock, just waiting to be licked and nuzzled? Charles could slip into Lehnsherr's mind readily enough, take a glance through his memories for this morning's shower and shave, find out what the man looked like naked, but that wouldn't tell him what Lehnsherr smelled like: his neck, where the aftershave was just a wisp of scent after all these hours; his armpits, with just a trace of the day's sweat lingering, enough to make Charles's mouth water; his cock, the musky scent behind his balls, arousal growing moment by moment as Charles licked his lips and began to slide his tongue over Lehnsherr's sac, and up, and up...
It had been more than a moment. Lehnsherr was looking back at Charles, eyebrows raised slightly, making no sudden moves, saying nothing. Charles cleared his throat.
"May I offer you some refreshment before we begin? Coffee, tea, water?"
"Still or sparkling?"
"Of course." Charles took a deep breath and headed for the wet bar, opening up one of the refrigerator cabinets below. For a moment, he was tempted to stick his head into the refrigerator to cool off, but instead he reached in and selected a bottle from a tiny brand he'd recently started stocking: Steel Waters. Terrible pun aside, the bottles were made of metal: a bit heavy, but reusable or recyclable. Charles came back around the sectional and offered it to Lehnsherr, who raised his eyebrows a bit further and lifted one hand, exerting a bit of pressure with his ability. Charles let the bottle go, and Lehnsherr called it over, catching it easily in one hand, using his ability to twist the top off as well.
"Thank you," he said, and then, looking at the logo on the bottle, "Steel Waters?"
Charles raised an eyebrow. If Lehnsherr asked him when, precisely, he'd started carrying that brand, he'd have to admit it was after Lehnsherr added his name to the list, and Charles wondered whether Lehnsherr would take that as interest. If he wanted Lehnsherr to take that as interest. "So they say."
"Aluminium waters would have been more precise."
A bit relieved, Charles couldn't help a grin; he did his best to turn it into a coy one instead of the grin Raven so often referred to as 'nerdy'. "You can tell metals apart that way? How delightful." Pehaps he was losing on the nerdy scale after all.
Lehnsherr, however, smiled and lifted the bottle to his lips-- and suddenly Charles envied Lehnsherr's ability. He'd heard Lehnsherr's sensitivity with metal was great enough to glean the sensation from having a metal object touched, and if Charles could feel what that bottle was feeling...
"Shall I call in tonight's companions?"
"Please," Lehnsherr said. The cap turned gently in the air, settling itself on the bottle again, and Lehnsherr let the bottle drift carefully to the floor.
At a quick mental call from Charles, the six companions he'd short-listed for Lehnsherr filed through the door. Angel, Hank, Alex, Janos, and two of the newest companions at Xavier's, Piotr and John... Pyro, Charles reminded himself wearily. He could hardly blame anyone for wanting a 'stage name' of sorts, but he would have preferred a stage name that was a name. Still, Pyro raked his eyes over Lehnsherr and grinned widely, as if he were the only possible choice Lehnsherr could make tonight. Lehnsherr met that gaze and smiled.
Charles felt himself bristling, which made no sense whatever; Lehnsherr was here for companionship, and if someone on staff here was interested in serving him above and beyond the incentive granted from a general fondness for their job and their paycheck, so much the better.
But then Charles had auditioned Pyro himself, and he'd taken note of the way Pyro was every bit as arrogant in bed as out of it. That might go over well with Lehnsherr, but Charles doubted it. He lifted his fingers to his temple and sent a quick thought to Angel: «I don't suppose you'd be willing to unfurl your wings? Mr. Lehnsherr would appreciate the view.»
Angel stepped forward and let her wings fly, smiling at Lehnsherr. That did it; Lehnsherr was on his feet in a moment, reaching a hand out to Angel and looking her up and down.
"Spectacular," he murmured. "My name's Erik."
"Would you like to spend the evening with me, Angel?"
She came closer, stood on her toes, and wound her arms around Lehnsherr's neck, her body fitting easily against his. It led to another unexpected reaction from Charles: as he looked at the two of them, all he could think was that she was a few inches too short, and too curvy, and...
Not me. He scratched his hand through his hair and sighed inwardly.
"I'd love to, Erik."
That was that; Charles nodded to the others and watched them file quietly out of the room. Angel ran a fingertip down Lehnsherr's cheek and murmured something Charles shouldn't have been able to overhear-- shouldn't have, but his senses were so attuned to Lehnsherr that he could hardly help it. "Is that a sculpture in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?"
And of course, oldest line in the book or not, it worked on him; she knew who he was, she'd heard of his sculptures, and a compliment on the size of a man's cock almost never went amiss. Lehnsherr's emotions swirled up, excitement pulsing through him, and he grinned at her. "Why don't you show me to somewhere private?"
"Absolutely," she beamed, and she took his hand, leading him to the back door of the lounge.
He hesitated at the door, glancing back to Charles. It was probably only wishful thinking, but that look seemed to linger, heat traveling between them in a warm, solid connection-- it felt so real that Charles could nearly reach out and touch it.
"Thank you," Lehnsherr murmured. "Good night, Mr. Xavier."
"Good night to you, Mr. Lehnsherr." Charles raised an eyebrow. "I hope it's a very good night."
"It will be," Angel purred, her wings fluttering lightly. Lehnsherr's attention was immediately drawn, and that was all; he followed her out of the lounge, and the door clicked closed behind them.
Charles scrubbed at his face with both hands. Ridiculous. Absurd. Pointless. This was the part of the business he'd been glad to be done with, after all these years; he was a better manager than a companion, and he knew a liaison with Lehnsherr would only consist of one thing.
But it was hard to resist the urge to peek in, as the hours went by. He buried himself in ledgers and forced his attention away from Lehnsherr and Angel, and when Angel finally rang his office to let him know Lehnsherr had gone and she'd be retiring for the night, Charles breathed a sigh of relief. Better to have temptation well away from him; better not to have Lehnsherr here any longer than was necessary to keep him satisfied and paying Xavier's high rates for his pleasure.
"Mr. Lehnsherr, welcome back," Charles said, standing up and walking over. He offered Lehnsherr a handshake, and this time when Lehnsherr took it, he didn't let go right away.
Damn. Charles had really been hoping that this ridiculous crush he'd been developing on Lehnsherr would have calmed in the last week. Oh, he'd heard from Lehnsherr-- Lehnsherr had sent an email full of demure compliments for Angel and had requested another appointment in a week's time. But he'd also said there were some details he wanted to discuss with Charles in person, so the appointment hadn't been with Angel, it'd been with Charles.
Once they'd got that appointment marked down, Charles had spent a few moments in his morning showers thinking about seeing Lehnsherr again. Seeing him, in private, in Charles's office, with Charles on his knees and Lehnsherr's warm hand on the back of his neck, tugging him down...
Well. At the very least, Charles could say this for himself: he was motivated to keep Lehnsherr on Xavier's client list. Xavier's Mansion's client list.
"I'm so glad to see you again," Lehnsherr said.
"Likewise," Charles agreed. "Have a seat, please. Can I offer you coffee, tea? Water?"
"Either, so long as I can convince you to share it with me."
"Tea, then," Charles said, heading to the sideboard and switching on the electric kettle. "So tell me, Mr. Lehnsherr-- is there something in particular I can help you with tonight?"
"I wonder if you'd be willing to recommend a different companion for my next appointment."
"Of course. Was your appointment with Angel...?" The followup with Angel had been filled with compliments about Lehnsherr's manners; apparently she'd had a wonderful time. Charles had nearly left that interview flushed.
"She was lovely," Lehnsherr said, in a tone that spoke volumes about just how lovely it had been. So Angel wasn't the only one who'd had a good time. That was nice to hear, but then why...? "It's only that... truthfully, I'm looking for male companionship these days, I've found."
Charles glanced back at him, just in time to catch the way Lehnsherr's eyes were roaming all over his body. It took considerable effort to turn back to the teapot and the tea bags and the cups. "Do you take sugar or milk or lemon, Mr. Lehnsherr?"
"None of the above," Lehnsherr said. "Mr. Xavier, if I may..."
It was all too easy to imagine where that sentence was going to finish. "It's probably best if you don't," he said lightly. "Perhaps I could reintroduce you to Hank. He's the young man with the glasses from your last visit with us."
"I remember him. He seemed a bit timid."
"He can be." Charles shot Lehnsherr a quick, sly grin-- only to be met with slightly widened eyes and a fast flash of tongue across lower lip, which sent Charles right back to the teacups, pouring water and trying not to get caught up in that expression. You've seen attractive men before. Attractive mutants. Calm down, for pity's sake. "What you didn't see," he added, bringing their teacups over to the desk and taking a seat once again, "is the physical manifestation of Hank's ability."
"Oh?" Lehnsherr raised an eyebrow. "And that would be...?"
"Hank has lovely feet with prehensile halluces."
The eyebrow stayed in place. "Prehensile big toes, is it? That is interesting."
"He's also quite agile, and very strong."
"Better and better." Lehnsherr sat back with his teacup. "I'd be interested in meeting him again, then. If you'd be willing to arrange that..."
"Certainly. One moment." A moment was all it took, that and a quick press of fingertips to temple.
He'd been trying to keep his eyes off Lehnsherr this whole time; why couldn't he have resisted the urge to look now? A lump curled into his throat. He'd seen the expression on Lehnsherr's face before, when revealing his mutation to people for the first time; wariness, unease. It took an effort not to flinch in response to that. Charles settled his hands on his desk, lacing his fingers together.
"I'm sorry if my mutation unnerves you," he said evenly. "It's more efficient to use my telepathy than to bother with the intercoms. I don't touch minds with anyone who hasn't given me permission."
Lehnsherr shook his head. "I'm so sorry, Charles."
Five minutes ago it probably would have sent Charles's heart to pounding in his chest, hearing his first name off Lehnsherr's lips. Now... Charles shook his head. "You needn't apologize. I understand."
"I don't have a problem with telepathy," Lehnsherr began, but Charles raised a hand, cutting him off.
"It isn't important. Hank's on his way. Please, have your tea; it's getting colder by the moment."
Lehnsherr's look of regret was almost enough to make up for the look he'd had earlier. "I suppose it is," he said quietly, and took a sip of his tea.
There was no reason to be missing Erik Lehnsherr. He was a client, and he was a client who'd had a poor reaction to Charles's telepathy at that. But when Lehnsherr's emails stopped coming and his Thursday night appointment was canceled, Charles spent the weekend in a dark mood, taking it out on household organization tasks. A new laundry service, a call to the delivery service that kept them stocked in tea and coffee and bottled water, negotiations with the delivery service that handled the food they kept on-site, a stern chat with the kitchen staff...
"You need to get laid," Raven said, with no preamble; she walked into his office, sat down across from him, and crossed her legs at the knee. "When's your next appointment?"
"A week from Saturday," Charles answered, without needing to look at his schedule. "Armando."
"Well, thank God for that." Raven glanced around Charles's office. "That's funny. Where'd the little sculpture go? Didn't Lehnsherr make you a replica of the Empire State Building?"
"Do you want it?"
"Oh, Charles." Raven groaned. "Is that what this is all about? What happened?"
"Nothing," Charles grumbled.
"And that's the problem?"
"It is not the-- what makes you think there's a problem?"
"You gave a forty-minute lecture on how to organize the linen closet," Raven said dryly. "I figured you were just getting cranky because you haven't had it fucked out of your system lately--"
"Raven," Charles moaned, "could you not--"
"Quit being such a prude, for God's sake. We came to work here together--"
"--a decision which I still regret, all these years later--"
"--and okay, I'm part-owner now, but unlike some people, I'm still completely on the market--"
"--I have considered firing you, for the simple reason that it feels very strange paying my sister a salary as a sex worker--"
"Companion," Raven stressed. "Companion, companion, companion... and I'm the one who picks my clients. Like you. So quit with the Catholic guilt complex, we're not even Catholic."
"Fine," Charles sniffed.
"I'm just saying," Raven went on, "that you get pissy when you want something you're not getting. Armando next week, huh?"
"Well, that'll help for a while. So what did happen with Lehnsherr?"
Charles sighed and brought his fingers to his temple. "May I...?"
Raven nodded. "Of course."
It was much easier sharing the brief conversation than recounting it word-for-word, and much faster; when he'd given Raven everything through Lehnsherr's I'm so sorry, Charles, he stopped and sat back.
Raven winced. "Ouch."
"Yes. So that's that."
"Tough getting a crush on somebody who isn't into the telepathy."
"A lot of people aren't 'into the telepathy'," Charles pointed out, trying to keep his tone light. There was a reason Armando was still on Charles's client list, along with a few others who weren't afraid of Charles's mind. The fact that he was running the business made for a convenient excuse, of course, but he'd been very, very glad to stop hearing Oh, he liked you very much, but... he's interested in booking someone else next time, over and over again, as though he couldn't guess why he didn't have more repeat customers.
A house of pleasure that specialized in mutations was one thing, but somehow it was the same here as anywhere. Too invasive. Too powerful. Too likely to whisk away people's secrets. Charles could count on one hand the people he'd known who'd given him full permission to read them whenever they were together, not just communicate information when necessary. None of those people were part of his life anymore. It hardly seemed coincidental.
"Charles," Raven said softly, coming around Charles's desk and putting a hand on his shoulder. "Maybe you need a vacation. You've been under some stress, taking on the business and getting it out of the hole--"
"A bit, yes," Charles conceded.
"I'm sorry Lehnsherr turned out to be an ass about the telepathy. On the bright side..." She tried a smile. "It means you don't have to feel bad about the fact that he canceled on you?"
It should have meant that, yes, but Charles couldn't help being disappointed all the same.
This was ridiculous, it was juvenile, it was absurd, Charles did not need a haircut and a professional shave and a manicure, but he was damned if he'd let Lehnsherr walk into his office this time and catch him in the same unkempt state he'd been in the last few times they'd met. He even stayed on his feet when Lehnsherr's presence was announced, and when Raven ushered him into Charles's office, Charles was in one of his better suits, blue with pinstripes, light blue shirt, and the blue tie with metallic thread he'd run into a week ago, thinking he'd let Hank have it the next time he and Lehnsherr met.
"Mr. Xavier," Lehnsherr offered, as Raven quietly slipped away and shut the door. His eyes tracked Charles, head to foot, lingering on his face, his mouth, that tie, Charles's hands. "My apologies for canceling my last appointment. There was an unexpected situation that required my attention."
"Not a problem," Charles said smoothly. He nodded at the chair opposite his desk. "Would you care to have a seat?"
"Of course." Lehnsherr sat down; Charles remained standing for a few moments but finally took a seat as well.
"I'm afraid I have some unfortunate news for you. When you canceled your appointment, we rescheduled some things for Hank; he's not available tonight."
"Angel's with someone else as well, I fear."
"All right." Lehnsherr met Charles's eyes. "Mr. Xavier... Charles. I wanted to apologize--"
"You already did," Charles interrupted, light but firm. "Let's move on, shall we? If you recall your initial introduction here, perhaps I could arrange a meeting with one of the other companions you met that night. Would any of them interest you?"
"I'm afraid my attention was elsewhere for most of that evening," Lehnsherr said softly.
Damn it. Charles had lost too much of the last week-- of the last several weeks-- to allow himself to be charmed by that tone of voice and this man, this damnably gorgeous man, with the long, elegant fingers and the stunning blue-grey eyes and... there was a reason he'd been out of sorts, for God's sake, and Charles shot Lehnsherr a cold look matched with a solid smile, the kind he was all too used to giving clients who weren't going to get a second chance. "Ordinarily I'd offer to..." He lifted a hand, twiddled his fingers toward his temple. "It's a better matchmaking process than most, I assure you. It's had nothing but stellar results."
"I'll pass, thank you," Lehnsherr said, shoulders straightening, eyes narrowing a bit. "But if you'd like to recommend someone from the initial meeting, I'm sure any of them would be perfectly satisfactory."
"We're hoping you get more than simple satisfaction out of your time with us," Charles said. "Perhaps you'd like to meet Alex again?"
"Alex will be fine," Lehnsherr agreed shortly. "Thank you."
Charles sent out the quick mental call, and in a few minutes, Raven knocked at his office door and swung it open. "Everything's ready," she said, smiling at Lehnsherr. "Can I show you to Alex's suite?"
"Thank you, yes," Lehnsherr said. He spared one last look for Charles, and said, "Good night," holding still for a moment, as if waiting for something.
Whatever it was, a man who was that obviously uncomfortable with Charles's ability wasn't going to get it. "Good night, Mr. Lehnsherr," Charles said, one eyebrow raised, and Lehnsherr followed Raven out the door.
Trying to figure out scheduling was becoming a bit of a nightmare. Raven and Charles sat on the floor of Charles's office, Post-Its and 8x10s scattered all around them.
"I still think we'd be better off with all of this in the computer," Raven complained. "We could use my iPad for sticky notes, there's an app for that."
"It looks more impressive if you simply know things," Charles murmured absently. "Tablets are for places like Hellfire."
"Okay, ew, thanks for that image," Raven said dryly, "now I need to disinfect my iPad just for the association."
Charles smiled a little as he pulled a yellow Post-It off its stack. At the same time, Raven reached for a red one, and both Post-Its landed on Erik Lehnsherr's photo at the same time.
"Yellow again?" Raven asked.
Charles plucked the red Post-It off Lehnsherr's photograph. "Not John."
"Pyro," Raven corrected. "Why not? Pyro's really into him, I've talked to him about it."
"John-- excuse me, Pyro-- is 'into' anything that he can be. Lehnsherr prefers topping. I don't think it's a good combination."
"Okay, okay, fine. How about Piotr?"
Charles hesitated. "Lehnsherr's been happy enough with Hank and Alex..."
"Happy enough, maybe. But come on! Piotr's mutation gives him metal skin! You think Lehnsherr wouldn't eat that up with a spoon? Think what his mutation could do to the guy."
Charles had been trying not to. He sighed. "Piotr's taller than Lehnsherr's stated preferences..."
"So's Hank, but that didn't stop him."
"According to Alex, things went very well last week. I don't see any reason we shouldn't keep them matched up."
Raven shot Charles a look. Charles frowned back at her. "What?"
"How long is it until you meet up with Armando?"
Charles checked his watch. "Three hours."
"Okay, done here, then." She started gathering up the Post-Its and photos, and waved a hand at Charles. "Go take a long hot bath, get a massage, and then get set up."
"I could swear I thought I was in charge around here..."
"Yeah, and if one of our staff was working himself up about some guy who's got issues with his mutation instead of getting his mind in the game for his appointment later that day, what would you be doing?"
Charles sighed. "I'd say to go relax for the next few hours..." Even without looking, he could feel Raven's smirk. "All right, all right. But the yellow Post-It stays. Alex, until Lehnsherr asks for someone else."
"Fine. Fair enough. Alex liked him. He had nothing but good things to say in the followup interview."
"I'm glad to hear it." Charles climbed to his feet and stretched, hands laced together and reaching for the ceiling. "A hot bath would be nice. Let me know if there's anything else that needs my attention, will you? I had some ideas for Hank's next few appointments, not to mention someone called in asking specifically for Janos..."
"I've got it, trust me." Raven waved a hand at him. "Go take that hot bath, get yourself ready for Armando."
"Charles! It's so good to see you." Armando pulled Charles into a warm hug, and Charles stroked his hands all the way up Armando's back. He tilted his head up, and Armando didn't disappoint: he pressed his lips to Charles's, giving him a long, sweet kiss that started off slow and easy, just lips brushing lips, and steadily turned up the heat. By the time Armando's tongue was thrusting gently against Charles's, licking into his mouth and coaxing Charles into just the right rhythm, Charles was arching up against him, touching as much of Armando as he could reach. There was no need to pretend he was trying to retain any dignity with all this; Armando had known him long enough to have figured out just how to take Charles apart. Kissing him was one of the surest ways to get Charles not just ready for sex, but eager for it, and Armando wasn't afraid to kiss him for as long as it took to get him there.
He also wasn't afraid to tease, the bastard. When he pulled back, it was as though they'd only paused for a few moments to kiss. He picked up the thread of conversation right where he'd left it. "It's been too long. How are you doing?"
Charles grabbed Armando by the shirt and dragged him into his room, closing the door behind him. Charles's room was on the near end of the west wing, fairly isolated from the rest of the staff here, but it wasn't entirely unheard of for people to walk by on their way to somewhere else. Armando knew that as well as anyone; he'd been one of Charles's clients for years. Whenever he kissed Charles breathless in the hallway, he knew he was taking the risk of being seen. Charles suspected he liked the element of danger, as ultimately harmless as it was; no one would see them except other companions.
"I've been doing well," Charles told Armando, tugging Armando's polo shirt out of his waistband. "Things are settling down around here, finally."
"About time," Armando grinned. "I hope that means I'm going to get to see you a little more often."
"I wouldn't mind that a bit," Charles said, finally getting Armando's shirt over his head. It was true, although not just because a night with Armando was practically guaranteed to be delicious. You need to get laid, he remembered Raven saying, and yes, all right, Erik Lehnsherr had reminded him all too well that that need probably ought to be taken care of a bit more regularly.
He took a deep breath and let his shields lapse a bit. Charles's rooms were in the west wing for a reason: a bit of distance made a great deal of difference in terms of sensing thoughts. If someone projected to him, he'd hear it, but otherwise he could release the tension of holding his shields and have only fleeting emotions slipping by him.
In front of him, there was nothing. Armando's mutation guarded him from Charles's telepathy, adapting to prevent Charles from reading him or even sensing him. It'd been difficult getting to know him, harder still learning what he liked without the benefit of telepathy. But being with Armando was... restful.
He smiled up at Armando, who smiled back. "Everything okay up there?" Armando asked, brushing his fingertips against Charles's forehead. "Anything I need to look out for?"
"Nothing at all," Charles said, shaking his head. "Can't read a thing."
"Okay. Now... where were we...?"
"I was saying things had settled down a bit, that I might be able to see you more often. And I really would like that. It's been, what, seven months since things changed around here?"
"Changed for the better, but yeah. About seven months now." Armando said. He smiled. "And that wasn't what I meant..."
"Oh." Charles said, and he grinned as Armando started unbuttoning his shirt. "Don't let me stop you." He let his hands drop to his sides, and Armando happily did all the work, getting Charles's shirt off, peeling him out of his undershirt as well.
He kissed Charles again, and Charles hummed with pleasure, twining his arms around Armando's neck. It was such a good fit, the two of them: Armando's slim build, his height, quite a bit taller than Charles but still easily caught for kiss after kiss, especially if Charles stretched upward and stood on his toes. Armando's body was so gorgeous, strong muscles all over even when he wasn't adapting for greater strength. A little broader at the shoulders than Lehnsherr, a little more to his biceps, but then Charles didn't know for certain what Lehnsherr was hiding under his tailored suits and perfectly-fitted button-down shirts. Maybe Lehnsherr had this sort of muscle tone; maybe he worked hard to keep his body in shape, the same way Armando did...
You are thinking of the wrong man, Charles told himself sternly, and redoubled his attention to Armando's mouth, licking across Armando's lower lip, sucking Armando's tongue into his mouth. Every trick he'd ever learned about kissing, in lessons at the Mansion before it became Xavier's, from clients who loved to kiss-- he brought them out now and shared them with Armando, determined to drive Lehnsherr out of his thoughts.
Armando wasn't complaining. When they broke for air, Armando breathed out, "Damn. I don't know what that was all about, but now you're making me really glad I made your short list when you took over." He grinned and eased back, his hands lingering on Charles's hips until he had to break contact. He slipped out of his pants, then, the rest of his clothes, leaving them draped over Charles's couch. "You know what, I'm actually thinking about a trip to Europe this summer." He gave Charles a quick appraising look. "I don't suppose that's the kind of thing you'd be interested in at all..."
"I've got my hands full with the business," Charles admitted, but this was Armando... they'd known each other long enough, he could afford to be honest. "I also haven't done that sort of escort work in quite some time. Public appearances were never my strong suit anyway."
"You always did fine with me." Armando smiled, waiting for Charles to finish undressing, too, and as soon as Charles was nude, Armando put both hands on Charles's chest and started backing him towards the bed. "But if it doesn't get you off, no reason to keep doing it. There ought to be some perks for being the boss."
Charles fell obligingly back on the bed, squirming into place and spreading his legs for Armando as Armando climbed up with him. "This is a nice perk," he murmured, his hand sliding up and down Armando's arm. "I did get to keep my favorite clients."
"Isn't that sweet," Armando smirked, catching Charles's hands in his and pinning them above his head. "You'll tell me if this is too much, right?"
"It isn't too much," Charles assured him. He tugged hard against Armando's hands, and they'd done this enough times Armando knew why: Charles liked feeling Armando's hands as his mutation strengthened them. The pads of Armando's fingers grew rougher to provide more friction and a better grip, and that felt good, too. Charles grinned up at Armando. "I'll tell you if I need you to stop. But what shall I tell you if I want you to give me more?"
Armando laughed, and bent his head down, and for a little while, at least, Erik Lehnsherr really was the last thing on Charles's mind.
Thursday came, went; Alex had another good date with Lehnsherr, and Charles was able to point that out to Raven a few times while Raven rolled her eyes. But when the following Thursday arrived, Charles found himself at his desk again, looking anywhere but Lehnsherr's mouth as Lehnsherr said, "Much as I've been enjoying my time with Alex..."
Charles waited. And waited, and finally had to ask, "Yes?"
"I'm not certain we'll be compatible over the long term. Alex is-- young," Lehnsherr said, tactfully, "and I've been hoping to meet someone I can take to public events."
Charles sat back, looking Lehnsherr over carefully. "You're not bothered by the possibility that the true nature of your relationship might be discovered...?"
Lehnsherr shrugged. "There are a number of events I go to that are little more than obligations. I can't promise whoever it is you find that he won't be bored stiff, but I've had no complaints about your company so far."
"Xavier's." Lehnsherr gestured, generally, at the room, the mansion itself implied in the motion. "Even Alex could have done a perfectly adequate job sitting at my side at some sort of industry banquet, keeping me from growing so bored I start making little catapults out of my silverware."
Charles had been on the verge of being irked by Lehnsherr's bait-and-switch comment regarding your company, but the notion of Lehnsherr creating siege weaponry out of silverware was too charming; he had to laugh. "Catapults, really? So many moving parts, I'd have imagined some sort of ramming implement would have been more compelling."
Lehnsherr paused, looking at Charles for several long moments before saying, "When you've made as many catapults as I have, they don't seem nearly so complicated."
It was impossible to read any innuendo into that, although Charles did his best. When nothing came to mind, he said, "Well. At any rate. If you're not bothered by spending time in public with someone from Xavier's, I'm sure I can find you someone who's qualified for escort work."
He could imagine what Raven would say already: Hmm, new guy, not as young as Alex, a little more spotlight-ready... gosh, who do we know that cleans up real good, keeps his mouth shut unless it's busy, and has metal skin? Was it Peter... Piotr... you know, the guy people are calling Colossus behind his back because of his--
"In the meantime," Charles said firmly-- the tone of voice made Lehnsherr's eyes widen slightly, and Charles fought to get himself under control-- "if Alex was a bit young for you, I do have someone in mind who's available tonight. I think there might be some nice compatibilities between the two of you. Logan has a very unique feature for a man with your particular mutation; shall I introduce you?"
"You've done well with your introductions so far; I don't see any reason why not." Lehnsherr arched an eyebrow. "Unique feature, is it?"
"I could tell you, but you'll feel it as soon as he walks into the room, I'm sure. Why not hold onto the element of surprise for a while."
"Why not indeed," Lehnsherr said, settling back in his seat and smiling.
His smile didn't even vanish when Charles put his fingers to his temple and sent a thought to Raven. «I'd like to introduce Logan to Mr. Lehnsherr; could you bring him down, please.»
«Logan, huh. Is this just so I won't accuse you of keeping all the metallic mutants away from Lehnsherr...?»
Charles cleared his throat. «Not at all. When he's ready...?»
«It could be a while. He had a spill on his bike on the way to work, he'll be along when the report's filed and the bike's been taken to the shop. He says not to worry, he's fine. All the scratches are already healed up.»
With a mental sigh, Charles nodded. "Bit of a delay," he apologized to Lehnsherr, "I'm afraid it'll be a while before Logan's available. I'm sure I could find you someone else..."
"I'm willing to wait." Lehnsherr smiled. "I'm in favor of acting on instinct. If this was the first person who came to mind for me, then let's see how he and I get along."
Get him out of your office, into one of the waiting rooms... offer to have someone come by with a drink. Get him out of your office, Charles told himself sternly.
"Since we're waiting anyway... you made a chess metaphor in one of your emails, early on," Charles said. "I don't suppose you play?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," Lehnsherr said. The smile on his face settled into a light smirk. "And since you have a chessboard handy..."
"How did you-- oh." Charles laughed, reaching into the desk drawer for it. "It's metallic. I suppose that explains it."
"Mmm." As Charles brought the board out and set it on his desk, Lehnsherr moved his chair closer. "I've felt the board in your desk drawer since the first time I came here. The shapes were unmistakeable."
"Mr. Lehnsherr," Charles said-- oh, God, was he purring it? He was purring it. Stop that. For God's sake... "Have you been peeking into my drawers?"
"Only at the metal," Lehnsherr said lightly, eyes drifting down to Charles's waist, and then past the line of the desk, as if sweeping down toward Charles's... belt buckle, perhaps, it was metal. And so was Charles's zipper, and... damn it. Charles wasn't the only man in history who'd tried giving his cock a stern mental command when getting hard was bloody inconvenient, but with his ability, he could actually make that command stick. The arousal ebbed, and Charles hoped the line of his zipper hadn't changed shape dramatically enough for Lehnsherr to notice. He was damned if he'd adjust himself now, though; he wasn't going to give Lehnsherr the satisfaction.
It's all right for you to use your ability to look through someone's personal effects, take stock of what you're doing to their body, but you flinch when my telepathy comes up. He busied himself setting the chessboard up, putting the pieces into place. Double standard, Mr. Lehnsherr.
"Would you care to take black or white?"
Lehnsherr reached up with one hand, but not far enough to touch the board itself. He paused, looking up at Charles. "May I?"
It was tempting to say no-- you haven't been asking my permission to sense the metal around us, why should I encourage you now-- but the lure of watching Lehnsherr use his mutation was entirely too much to bear. "Of course," Charles murmured.
And the chessboard spun neatly around, all the metallic pieces holding easily in place. Lehnsherr set it down with the black pieces facing him-- really, the gunmetal grey pieces facing him, the silver pieces facing Charles-- and lifted an eyebrow as he looked up once again. "Your move."
Charles hesitated. It would have been so easy to lift Lehnsherr's intent along with those words, and it would have been so helpful. Lehnsherr hadn't been making a secret of his interest all this time, not even during their initial flurry of emails, but that look on his face when he'd been confronted with Charles's ability head-on... it was hard to forget. He was never going to get permission to read Lehnsherr, and without it, there was no way the two of them had any sort of future (a future, he thought dizzily for a moment, is that what you want from him?)... but it didn't stop him from leaning forward, licking his lower lip before catching it gently between his teeth. And suddenly Lehnsherr could look nowhere else.
Take him up on it. Just get it out of your system, find out firsthand that he's nothing special, stop obsessing over this man, I don't care how gorgeous he looks in a three-piece suit.
It was his move, as Lehnsherr had said, so Charles reached forward and moved a pawn out. He sat back when done, nodding to Lehnsherr. Lehnsherr seemed to settle back in his chair a bit-- God, how much easier would this have been if Charles could have read him; was that disappointment?-- and waved a finger at the chessboard, bringing out a pawn to match Charles's.
Lehnsherr was good. Three moves in, Charles could tell he was good. He was quicker than Charles, either because he had a knack for strategy or because he was a more instinctive player in general. The game stretched on a while before either of them came back to their conversation.
"You're not asking me if I'm cheating," Charles says, looking down at the chessboard. "It's usually the first thing people ask."
"You promised not to read me without permission."
"I wouldn't be here if I felt you weren't a man who could keep his word."
It irked Charles that even that tiny show of trust meant something. Think about what that means, he reminded himself, moving a rook forward to attack. It means he's happy you're out of his head, and you're excited about that.
Lehnsherr scooped up Charles's rook and put him in check with the same quick move. Damn. Charles obviously didn't have his mind on the game at all. "Check," Lehnsherr said. "I believe I have mate in six more moves."
"I try not to assume an outcome until it's a certainty," Charles shot back.
"If you like." Lehnsherr nodded down at the board.
Charles could see it now; he'd been on the defensive longer than he'd realized, that move with his rook merely falling into Lehnsherr's trap. Six moves was a certainty; the game was Lehnsherr's.
He moved his bishop back anyway, giving way to the inevitable. Lehnsherr chased his king down, and in six moves the game was done, as predicted. Lehnsherr gathered up the pieces, all at once, and set them back on the board. Charles couldn't help staring for a few seconds; thirty-two individual pieces, all moving in unison, twirling and spinning to orient correctly to the board, setting themselves down...
It took another mental command to keep himself from getting hard, and that was so unjust he could barely stand it. It was completely unreasonable for his mutation to make Charles want him, when the reverse was never going to be true.
The phone on Charles's desk buzzed softly, and Charles made a quick apology to Lehnsherr before picking it up. "Yes?"
"I'm here, I'm cleaned up. Raven's briefed me. You still want me to see Lehnsherr?"
"On my way."
Charles put the phone down, and Lehnsherr nodded to him. "My date for the night?"
"I'm afraid so," he said, mentally kicking himself for the automatic flirtation. Patter was just so much easier than real small talk. He was used to it, a polite exchange that left a client feeling wanted in the abstract. Except this wasn't abstract, and if Lehnsherr could read anything about Charles, surely he could read that. Damn.
Charles stood up as Lehnsherr did. "It's always good to see you, Mr. Lehnsherr."
"The same to you, Mr. Xavier. I enjoyed the game quite a bit. If you have time before my next appointment..."
"For the right price, I could make time for you."
He meant it as a tease. If Raven asked him later, he'd swear he meant it as a tease. Friendly banter, nothing more. But Lehnsherr stared at him, that flush of interest all over his face, as though nothing else existed... and Charles held that gaze, unwilling to take the words back just yet. It was too satisfying watching Lehnsherr twist like this, in spite of Charles's telepathy, in spite of the way he'd spent night after night with the other companions here.
And whose fault is that? You could have cut to the chase immediately, part of him thought. And risked his aversion to telepathy coming out while he was fucking me. No, thank you, thought the rest of him.
"Before your next appointment," Charles added, finally.
He actually saw Lehnsherr's face fall, such an obvious look of disappointment that even Charles could recognize it right off. But Lehnsherr recovered himself quickly enough. "Then we'll see each other next Thursday," he said softly. "I'll call next week to make the arrangements."
The door opened, and Logan walked in. 'Cleaned up' was something of a misnomer-- Logan was not one of the more kempt companions on staff here-- but he'd showered and changed clothes, and he was now in boots and jeans and a white tank top, his muscles all shown off beautifully. In all honesty, clients didn't hire Logan for the way he looked in a tuxedo.
Lehnsherr was openly staring at Logan, looking him over from head to foot. "What a delightful... mutation...?"
"Not exactly," Logan said. "Mutation's the healing factor. It's what kept me alive while I had adamantium grafted onto my skeleton."
"That remarkable metal doesn't run through your entire body, does it...?"
Logan smirked at him. "You tell me." He nodded to Charles. "Think I got this from here, Chuck. See you later."
"Yes," Charles said, reining in the urge to tell Logan not to call him 'Chuck'. It never seemed to take, anyway.
He watched Lehnsherr leave, and was a little surprised that Lehnsherr glanced over his shoulder before he went; he hadn't expected to maintain Lehnsherr's interest once a mutant with so much metal in his frame was in the picture. He was wrong. Lehnsherr's eyes held just as much interest and attraction as ever. "Good night, Mr. Xavier."
Charles was beginning to worry about the state of his poker face. He might have to check it in a mirror, later on. "Good night, Mr. Lehnsherr."
"Escort service? That brings back some memories. Very fond memories." Emma's low chuckle made Charles grateful they weren't in the same place; he could shield against her, of course, but then she'd know something was up for certain. "I didn't realize it was still on the menu."
"Let's just say I'm curious if I still have the knack."
"I've a charity dinner this Tuesday. If you have an opening in your schedule, I'd clear the rest of the evening for you as well."
"Tuesday. Perfect. When shall I have my driver meet you?"
"Seven. Dinner starts at seven-thirty; I want to be late enough to miss the chit-chat over drinks before everyone's actually seated."
"Of course. Seven, then."
"See you then, darling. I look forward to seeing where your knack takes you."
"Wow. Look at you."
Charles finished with his bow tie and turned to Raven. "Look at me?"
"The tux! The shoes! Not a hair out of place! If I didn't know better, I'd think you were going out to be somebody's escort." When Charles couldn't bring himself to deny it, Raven stared at him in shock. "Charles, whoa. You don't do that anymore."
"I just wanted to know if I still had the knack," Charles protested. Raven was having none of it, shaking her head already.
"Is this because of Lehnsherr? He wants someone who can provide escort services, so you step up your game? God, Charles, just fuck him and get it over with."
"I don't want to 'get it over with'," Charles said-- and then immediately realized two things. One, it was true; two, he'd said too much.
"Oh. Ohhhhh," Raven said. "God, I didn't realize... this whole thing with Lehnsherr, this is basically foreplay for you, isn't it?"
He hadn't meant for it to be. Looking back, he'd swear to that as well. But he could only stand there, shaking his head. "It's more like sex-by-proxy," he said. "Lehnsherr doesn't want me."
"Lehnsherr would have you on your desk if you said okay," Raven shot back. "You should have heard what Logan said when he walked into the outer room at your office."
"What?" Charles's eyes widened. "What did he say?"
"Ask him next time you see him." Raven gave him a shrewd look. "You've been avoiding him."
"Logan. You don't want to do the followup interview."
"You said you'd handle that--"
"I did handle that. I should have realized, you had me do the followup interviews with Alex, too--"
"You get more out of Alex than I do."
"Uh-huh, a convenient story. But let's face it. You don't want to hear about Lehnsherr spending time with his companions. Not secondhand." He was expecting a smirk, but instead he got a serious look of concern. "Oh my God, Charles, are you jealous?"
Charles brought his hands up, checked his cufflinks a few times. "That would be remarkably unprofessional, don't you think?"
"Uh. Yeah," Raven said. "Jesus, Charles, you can't just... how long have you had feelings for this guy?"
"It really doesn't matter. It's never going to be relevant. I'm not going to sleep with someone who can't handle the telepathy." He grimaced. "That was the best thing about semi-retirement. No more clients who want me to do everything at once, be every fantasy before they know they have it. No more clients who spend half the time I'm serving them thinking, oh, God, I hope he doesn't realize I thought that, I hope he's not listening right now, all the while expecting me to do everything perfectly."
"So now you've got Emma, who's been there and done that, and Armando, who you can't read unless he lets you, and it's all a non-issue." Raven pursed her lips. "Was a non-issue. And instead of just talking to Lehnsherr about that, you're going off to do escort service for someone else, because he wants it with somebody here..." She let out a breath. "It's a good thing you're not doing those followups. Would you be doing everything else Lehnsherr likes, too?"
"I'm not dignifying that with an answer."
"Because we both know the answer would be 'yes'." Raven stepped forward and put both hands on Charles's shoulders. "I think you need to tell Lehnsherr to take his business elsewhere."
The pang Charles felt at that had him shaking his head immediately. "No. These are my-- inconvenient emotions, I'll handle them."
"At least let me take point on Lehnsherr when he comes in. No more chess. No more flirting."
The second pang was worse than the first. "I can't just walk away from him like that."
"If it comes down to it, I'll ask him to take his business elsewhere. I'm not going to watch someone tear you to pieces, you hear me? We have a rule about getting emotionally involved with clients, and we have it for a reason."
"Lehnsherr's not my client."
"He might as well be."
"But he's not," Charles said, so firmly Raven flinched. "I have a date tonight. I need to go."
"Okay." Raven sighed and stroked Charles's hair. "Okay, go. Have a good time tonight. Try to enjoy it for its own sake, not just because of Lehnsherr. All right?"
"Good night, Raven."
It was all easy, just as Charles remembered it. He opened doors for Emma, offered his arm and rested his hand over hers when she took it, made polite conversation, refilled her wineglass, made her smile, made her laugh. They were both fully-aware of the photographers that caught them entering and leaving the restaurant-- Emma's newest jewelry line was keeping her in the public eye, and she'd never quite lost the lustre of her modeling career-- but that was all part of the point, wasn't it? Charles was here to be seen with her, here to look good with her. Perhaps he was a little on the short side for someone of Emma's height, but that didn't mean much-- it just meant people who looked at them made an assumption about who was in charge.
And Emma was most definitely in charge. As soon as Charles had himself prepped and had finished washing his hands, Emma slipped the ropes around his wrists expertly, as always, and secured him to her bedframe with a few elegant, easy motions. He was face-down, already relaxing into it. Being with Emma was familiar after all these years, almost comforting. There were no surprises, no messy emotions. Charles lifted his hips without even needing to be told, let Emma slip the condom onto him and the towel under him, mindful of the way she liked to keep her sheets clean.
"You're not shielding much tonight," Emma observed, heading to her dresser and pulling out her harness. Charles had his head turned to the side to watch; she was down to nothing but her garter belt, her white stockings, and her heels. She buckled the harness on, each strap checked and double-checked for exact placement. "I'm hearing you'd like something substantial up that pretty ass of yours. Is that fantasy or reality?"
"It's up to you, of course." Charles gave her one of his prettiest, most encouraging smiles.
"Of course." Emma smiled back, though Charles felt it more than saw it, since she was facing away from him. "Are you going to tell me about him? You're spending so much time tonight not thinking of him that I can hardly help but notice."
Charles's expression froze. "I'd rather not."
"I don't mind, darling." She drew one of her larger dildos out of the drawer and slipped it into the harness, practice and natural grace leading it to look easy and not the least bit awkward. When she came back over to the bed, Charles groaned a little and rubbed his hips against the towel. It would have been even better if he could have felt the light abrasion against bare skin-- God, his cock needed something-- but he settled quickly once Emma's weight rested on the bed beside him. "You know I don't care what's on your mind, so long as what's on your body belongs to me."
He spread his legs a little wider. "Then please," he breathed. "Please fuck me, ma'am."
"Mmmm. I'd like to see anyone resist that. You do still have the knack for this, for all of this." She knelt between his legs, braced herself on his shoulder with one hand while the other held her cock steady. "You've always begged so nicely, Charles. Do it again."
"Please fuck me," Charles begged, and by now he really was beginning to feel desperate. "Please, ma'am. Please..."
He was already slick, and she could read him for how quickly she could go, how fast he could take it. It was a rough, demanding glide, just this side of brutal, and oh, God, she felt just right inside him, the silicone quickly heating up, the stretch just what he'd needed. He groaned and tugged against the ropes, just the way she liked, and as she picked up the pace, he pulled harder. He was getting rope burn, more than he'd anticipated, but when she felt him getting off on the slight pain, she thrust into him roughly, her hands reaching to his wrists.
«Go on», she told him. «Go on, mark up that pretty skin of yours, see what Lehnsherr thinks when you've got rope burns on your wrists that didn't come from him--»
"Emma," Charles gasped. Too much, too much, oh God, he was close already and only barely managed to hold himself back. "Oh, God, I'm close, I need to come--"
"Do you? Or do you need more marks? I'll give them to you if you want. Leave your neck bitten, just where he'll wonder if it's real or a shadow--"
«This isn't supposed to be about him, don't make it about him--»
«Of course it's about him, I'm no fool, I took it from your mind the moment you came to get me. I know what you need, Charles. Go on, then, come for me, come for him, just come...»
He did, so hard he saw stars and lay dazed on Emma's bed for several minutes, long enough for her to clean up and untie him. By the time he was back to himself, she'd set out a fluffy, thick towel for herself, and was lying beside him, her knees up and parted, a sly smirk on her face.
"Go clean up and then get back here," she said. "Trust me, this won't remind you of Lehnsherr one bit."
Charles laughed in spite of himself, and he crawled up the bed-- making sure to be pretty about it, of course-- so he could offer her a kiss. She took it, warm and forceful, ruffling his hair when she was through with him.
"Be quick," she told him. "I haven't had a mouth as talented as yours between my legs since... well, since the last time you were here, darling. I plan to get every penny's worth out of it."
"I'll do my utmost," Charles promised with a grin, and he headed off to clean up.
"I don't understand," Piotr said, blinking at Charles a few times. "Have I done something wrong...?"
"Not at all," Charles said quickly. "I just wanted to make sure--"
"Because I thought I'd done well on my last few escort assignments, and I know I'm new, but..."
"Piotr, I have every confidence in your abilities," Charles said. That's the problem. "I simply wanted to go over a few things that Mr. Lehnsherr's going to expect from you."
"Ms. Darkholme did brief me," Piotr said hesitantly. "But if there's something else...?"
"Erik Lehnsherr is an incredibly charming, charismatic man," Charles said. Best to put it out there in the open, no matter how oddly Piotr was looking at him now. "It's not uncommon for people in our position--"
"Our position, sir?"
"Your position," Charles corrected himself, "catering to intimate needs--" and how intimate were they going to get, damn it, with Lehnsherr's control over metal and Piotr's metallic skin-- this was the worst idea, Piotr was hopeless, and Lehnsherr... how could he help falling for someone with Piotr's good looks and demure manner and talented, muscular body, this was such a terrible, terrible idea...
God, where had he been going with this? "It's very important for you to be on your guard under circumstances like these," Charles said. Piotr tilted his head to one side, looking confused. "When two people are compatible in a certain way, when there's chemistry, it's all too easy to mistake that chemistry for more. And just because the chemistry goes both ways, there's no guarantee that those feelings will go both ways. Understood?"
"Sir... I haven't even met him," Piotr says. "If you don't think I'm capable of remaining professional... I'm not sure what else I can do." He pauses. "You auditioned me, and I thought there was chemistry then..."
This sounded ominous. Charles had to force himself not to look as suspicious as he felt. "Of course there was," he said carefully.
"And I certainly haven't developed any inappropriate feelings for you..."
Charles rubbed at his forehead. "Certainly not," he said wearily. "Who could possibly do that?"
Stricken, Piotr gaped at Charles for a few minutes, trying to find words. "I don't mean... sir, I... oh, dear. I'm so sorry."
"It's quite all right," Charles said, waving a hand. He was trying not to overhear anything from Piotr now, although Piotr's thoughts were almost painfully loud in the room. Charles could almost visualize them as a series of word balloons floating overhead, SORRY SORRY SORRY filling most of them, I DIDN'T MEAN IT THAT WAY in a few, OH GOD OH GOD covering a couple.
"Sir..." Piotr paused, and since Charles had the impression he was waiting for Charles to look up at him, Charles obliged him, albeit a bit warily. "Have I... Did I..." He took a deep breath. "Am I fired, sir?"
"No, you're not fired," Charles sighed. "Go upstairs and get ready. You've got a date tonight."
For all the time Charles spent looking at himself in the mirror, it was more as though he was the one with the date. Sleeves rolled down, then back up-- show off the rope marks, or not? He was used to leaving the top two buttons of his shirt undone if he'd taken off his tie, but Emma had been serious when she'd said she could leave a mark that would tease a viewer into wondering whether or not it was really there. There it was, just beneath where his shirt lay open, barely visible with the second button undone, not visible at all if it were fastened.
This is pathetic, he thought, grumbling and turning away from the mirror. Lehnsherr had done more than notice him, he'd all but outright asked if Charles were available. Showing off marks was only going to... what? Make Charles feel foolish if Lehnsherr didn't show any signs of interest or jealousy, leave them still at their stalemate if he did. What was the point?
He thought about Piotr and wondered what he'd be wearing tonight. A red polo shirt, maybe. Black dress trousers. And Charles was going to have to tell him to show off his mutation.
He rolled up his sleeves and sat down at his desk, chessboard out, fingering the king. Pathetic, maybe, but he couldn't bear to let Lehnsherr walk out of the office without looking back.
When Raven let Lehnsherr in, Charles stood up, offering the usual handshake. "Mr. Lehnsherr, a pleasure, as always."
"Mr. Xavier, I--" Lehnsherr's hand tightened on Charles's, and he stared down at Charles's wrist. Charles had even left his wristwatch off, hoping to display the rope marks as prominently as possible, stifling his embarrassment at every turn. But it had been worth it. Lehnsherr was staring, and he brought his other hand up, fingers nearly brushing against the marks, before he cleared his throat and stepped back. With a visible effort, he looked back up at Charles. "I... it's... yes," he managed, "it's good to see you as well." He paused, fidgeted, his hands clenched and unclenched at his sides, but finally he asked, "How have you been? This past week." He swallowed. "Busy?"
It felt so good having Lehnsherr's complete attention; Charles refused to waste another moment on feeling ashamed of himself for this ridiculously transparent ploy. "Not terribly," he said. "A bit. Some," he smiled, looking up through his lashes at Lehnsherr, "overtime."
For once Charles couldn't even regret not having permission to read Lehnsherr's emotions; they couldn't have been plainer if he'd been holding little signs above his head that said jealous, disconcerted, discombobulated. The jealous sign was clearly leading the pack, as Lehnsherr's eyes were roaming all over Charles now, zeroing in on that mark on Charles's neck. "I hope..." He cleared his throat. "I hope you... had a satisfactory time of it."
"Very," Charles purred. "Would you care to have a seat?"
Lensherr looked around, as if surprised to be reminded that there were chairs in this office. Or that he was in an office at all. "Yes," he said abruptly, and sat down in one not-terribly-graceful motion. "Thank you."
"Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea?"
"I--" Lehnsherr stared again at Charles's wrists. "Mr. Xavier..."
"Mr. Lehnsherr," Charles murmured. He took a seat and opened his desk drawer, bringing out the chessboard again. "We've some time before your date for the evening arrives; fancy a game?"
Lehnsherr hadn't taken his eyes off Charles's wrists. "Could you at least tell me..."
Charles waited for him to complete the sentence. He didn't. "Could I tell you what, Mr. Lehnsherr?"
Shaking his head, Lehnsherr waved a hand at the chessboard, spinning it to put white facing Charles again. "Nothing. Not important."
It took every effort in Charles's body not to reach forward for the question. It would have been so simple. It was there at the forefront of his mind, he'd come so close to asking... Charles wanted to know. More, he wanted permission to look for himself. He wanted to ask for that.
And until Lehnsherr could hear the question without flinching, Charles wasn't going to ask for anything from him, no matter how much he occupied Charles's thoughts. "My move, then."
Lehnsherr let out a small laugh, but quickly quieted. "Yes. Your move."
Charles made the classic opening move, pawn to E4. He looked at Lehnsherr with an arched eyebrow. "Good enough?"
"You know it's more than good enough." Lehnsherr came out of his chair and leaned forward, hands on Charles's desk. "I can't see how to make this plainer, and I thought it must be more than obvious by now--"
"Can I just say it--"
Lehnsherr rocked back a little, running his hands through his hair. "All right," he said softly. He took his seat again. "If that's how you want it, then... all right."
Charles let it rest there for a while, then said softly, "Perhaps chess wasn't a good idea tonight."
Lehnsherr looked up at him, and damn it-- that was a look it would absolutely take telepathy to sort out. It wasn't anger, but what in God's name was it-- jealousy? Desperation? Hurt feelings?
It was pointless trying to work it out, and even more pointless wishing for the ability to read him. If Lenhserr weren't so put off by the notion of being read, this wouldn't be an issue. Charles would simply have slipped into the next opening on Lehnsherr's schedule.
"Perhaps... not," Lehnsherr said, finally. He seemed to steel himself, appropriately enough, and added, "Which is a shame. I'd been looking forward to this all week."
"Your appointment?" Charles arched an eyebrow. "Then perhaps I can bring your companion in a bit early this evening."
Charles had seen looks before that could have been described as 'smoldering', had even practiced some in the mirror, but while Lehnsherr's expression held a bit of heat, Charles wasn't sure it was a heat that meant anything good. Maybe he'd crossed a line with that.
But Lehnsherr simply snapped out, "If he's available, then yes. Now." He paused, and the autocratic tone muted somewhat as he added, "Please."
Charles narrowed his eyes slightly but nodded, and he kept his gaze directly on Lehnsherr as he lifted his fingertips to his temple and put out the quick mental call to Piotr. "He'll be along shortly," Charles said, searching Lehnsherr's face for any sign that he was still disturbed by a front-and-center example of Charles's ability, but either Lehnsherr had brushed up on his poker face in the weeks since he'd first seen it, or... or...
'Or' really did not bear thinking about, at this point.
"I've been wondering," Lehnsherr said, and oh, there it was. He'd been saving it up.
"Yes? Go on."
"It's a very useful ability. The telepathy," Lehnsherr said.
Charles entertained a brief fantasy of replying with How nice, you can say the word 'telepathy' aloud before answering in earnest. "Yes?"
"I imagine you use it to suss out new clients. To ensure you're not putting any of your staff at risk."
A more dangerous observation, but Charles had no reason to lie. "Very early on, yes, I might do something of the sort. Why do you ask?"
"I wondered what you'd picked up from me. When you did it."
"You're not a danger to my staff."
"That's not an answer."
"It is an answer." Charles sat back, rubbed at the mark on his right wrist. "It's the only thing I gleaned from you that I cared about."
Lehnsherr was silent a little longer. Charles could sense Piotr outside, and maybe Lehnsherr could, too-- belt buckle, perhaps, even if Piotr wasn't metallic yet-- because he stood up, intent enough Charles met him halfway, and said, "Charles--"
The door opened, and Charles didn't know whether to be grateful or to take Piotr over and march him right back out the door. He'd never actually do the latter, but he was sorely tempted.
Instead, he said, "Mr. Lehnsherr, let me introduce you to Piotr."
Lehnsherr looked over at the younger man and nodded. "We've met," he said. "My first night here."
"Piotr has extensive experience in escort work, and his mutation... I'll let him explain it to you himself."
Despite the fact that Piotr was supposed to be Lehnsherr's companion for the night, Lehnsherr all but had his back turned to him. He was still angled towards Charles, only giving Piotr the bare minimum attention necessary to avoid being considered rude--
--right up 'til the moment when Piotr shifted, his skin hardening and gleaming even in the office's low light. When he was fully transformed to his metallic state, Lehnsherr gaped at him, his eyes raking over Piotr's body in a way that made it clear he was using that metal-sensing ability of his to sense everything about Piotr. Forget undressing someone with his eyes; Lehnsherr was practically fucking the man here in Charles's office.
Charles pinched the bridge of his nose and bit his tongue; if he opened his mouth right now, he'd wind up saying You're fired, and that was ridiculous. Not to mention expensive; Piotr's termination clause would see him well taken care of for six months, at Xavier House's expense.
"That is..." Lehnsherr visibly struggled to find the words, his eyes wide, his tongue caressing his lower lip. "That's extraordinary. I wish you'd shown off when we first met, I can't imagine I would have gone away with anyone else."
It was entirely unfair that Piotr was still drop-dead gorgeous in metallic form. Maybe even more gorgeous, to Lehnsherr's eyes. Piotr's smile was still devastating, and turned full-force on Lehnsherr, it drew Lehnsherr forward, as if he were-- all right, go on, think the damn pun-- magnetized.
"I'd be very happy to spend the evening with you, Mr. Lehnsherr," Piotr said softly.
Lehnsherr raised a hand, and Piotr shivered. Fuck. Charles should have been reading one of them to ensure that Lehnsherr wasn't doing anything to hurt Piotr-- the shiver was intense enough Charles really ought to have been worried. But he'd meant it, when he'd told Lehnsherr he didn't believe he could be a danger to the staff, and as Lehnsherr beckoned Piotr forward-- and Piotr floated to him-- those soft sounds Piotr was making couldn't be mistaken for anything but arousal and excitement.
"Oh-- Mr. Lehnsherr, I didn't realize you were--"
"My, what a big mutation you have?" Charles muttered. Depressingly, Lehnsherr didn't even seem to notice.
Piotr did, though, and he glanced over at Charles and got control over his expression very quickly. His attention back on Lehnsherr, he said, "May I show you to my room, Mr. Lehnsherr?"
All this time they'd been flirting and Lehnsherr had never told Charles to call him by his first name. Charles could count on one hand the number of times Lehnsherr had said Charles, and every time it'd felt like he and Lehnsherr were the only people on Earth who mattered.
"Erik, then," Piotr said. He stayed in his metallic form, and he smiled even more broadly.
"I'd very much like it if you'd show me to your room, Piotr."
Every time Lehnsherr had disappeared before, he'd looked back at Charles. If only for a moment.
This time, he simply followed Piotr out.
Charles sat down heavily in his desk chair. He needed a drink.
The lovely thing about being drunk was that it took the range off Charles's ability altogether. Piotr's room was in the east wing; with Charles settled down in the west wing, there was no way he could overhear anything.
So Charles, the west wing, and a bottle of Scotch settled down to enjoy the evening, and it was going fairly well, all in all, when Charles's pants began vibrating.
No. No, that was his mobile, set on vibrate as usual. He reached into his pocket and fetched the damned thing out. A bit bleary-eyed, he didn't particularly feel like talking to anyone, and he'd nearly made up his mind to send the call directly to voicemail when he realized who was calling. He picked up immediately.
"Tony! How lovely to hear from you, how have you been?"
"You're supposed to let me say hi first," Tony teased. "Otherwise you'll have me thinking your telepathy works over the phone now."
"Caller ID," Charles corrected. "Wouldn't we have to sign a new NDA if I could read your mind over the phone?"
"Absolutely. No, not really. I think we could just tack on an addendum."
Charles laughed. "So what can I do for you? Or is this purely a social call?"
"Depends. If I say I want to drop by and do deliciously filthy things to you, are you gonna charge me?"
"Business," Charles sighed. "But such a pleasurable business. What time were you thinking?"
"How about now?"
Charles had to think about it. "I'm a bit on the inebriated side. Things might not be entirely up to snuff."
"Snuff is definitely not on the agenda. I'm not worried. So. Now?"
There was something appealing about the notion of having company instead of wallowing in self-pity and wondering how Lehnsherr and Piotr were getting along. "All right. But I'm charging you the rush fee. This is rather short notice."
"I'm good for it. I'll see you in an hour."
Several well-spent and even more inebriated hours later, Charles saw Tony out through the back door, the one nearest the parking area. It was a little-traveled walk down the old servants' stairs, and it was almost always entirely empty.
Which was why Tony backed Charles into the wall just before walking out the door, and why Charles let him get away with it.
"I'm gonna be in town next Thursday, too," Tony said, one hand sneaking under Charles's cushy black bathrobe. "How about we make another date for next week?"
"I'm sure I'll-- mmph-- be free," Charles panted, winding his arms around Tony's neck. "God, haven't you had enough, you're like a sixteen-year-old--"
"Please, at sixteen I would've left you passed out and sore for a week," Tony laughed. "Be glad I hit forty, you might get some sleep tonight."
"Very little." Charles grinned. If he wasn't fully passed-out, he could still be grateful for the support of the wall behind him. The trip back up the stairs was going to be a challenge, but as he didn't have any further plans tonight, he was reasonably sure he could meet it. Eventually. "Thank you for your company tonight. I had a marvelous time."
"Isn't that my line?" Tony bent his head down and nuzzled the side of Charles's neck. "No, on second thought, go ahead and say it again."
"I had a..." Charles paused, his arms slipping away from Tony as the sensation of someone else's presence came into his weakened range. They were almost here. "Someone's coming."
"Pretty sure anybody else coming down this way can handle the view," Tony said. Discretion was definitely not Tony Stark's middle name; he bent his head down and bit at Charles's neck just hard enough to make Charles's eyes flutter closed.
Charles had been doing so well, not overhearing anything that wasn't meant for him. He'd been trying not to listen in on anything. He'd taken off to the far end of the bloody west wing just to avoid any possibility of getting a brain full of Lehnsherr's thoughts or emotions, and so of course Piotr was leading him down these very stairs, the two of them turning the last corner just in time to see Charles groaning and tilting his head back, giving Tony all the access he wanted.
The flare of surprise and-- was that anger?-- sent Charles scrambling out from between Tony and the wall, tugging his bathrobe back into place and holding it closed. "Ah. Hello." Upright. He needed to stay upright. And not sway. Or stumble. "Good evening."
He focused on Piotr, not Lehnsherr, which was a mistake. Piotr looked very much like the cat who'd got the canary... or, no, bad metaphor. If anyone was the cat, it was Lehnsherr. Piotr was someone very, very happy to have been got by the cat. He was dressed in the same standard-issue black bathrobe as Charles, freshly showered, a bit flushed. No bruises, no love marks. Maybe Lehnsherr had just spent the whole evening feeling up Piotr in his metallic form. Charles really, emphatically, did not want to think about that.
"It has been, yes," Lehnsherr said. Ice dripped off every syllable, and Charles grimaced, reaching up to rub at his forehead, trying again to shut that out. What right did Lehnsherr have to be angry, or... whatever it was? He'd run off with Piotr quickly enough... and from the look of him, he'd had a wonderful time. He had his tie and jacket slung over one arm, his vest unbuttoned, his shirt undone nearly to the middle of his chest. His hair was a little mussed, but not very. Unlike Piotr, he hadn't showered off after the evening's activities. Even someone without an enhanced sense of smell could tell what he'd been up to; the distinctive aroma of sex and sweat was unmistakeable.
Of course it was unmistakeable; it was all over Charles, too, and the fact that they were both left debauched from a night with other people just seemed so damnably unfair. Of all the people to have an aversion to Charles's ability...
Damn it. That was it, that was why. Charles cleared his throat and straightened, trying to retain as much dignity as he could while post-coital, drunk, and in a bathrobe. "I'm so glad to hear that the two of you got along." He nodded at Piotr, who shifted uncomfortably at the sudden attention. "Piotr."
"Sir," Piotr said, quick and quiet. Either Charles was imagining things, or Piotr was trying to hide behind Lehnsherr, which was a bit like trying to hide a tank behind a bicycle. God. Charles was going to have to handle the followup, wasn't he? Piotr was still nervous around him. That couldn't keep happening.
"Piotr, huh," Tony said. He stepped away from Charles and looked Piotr up and down. "I'm Tony Stark."
"Of course you are," Lehnsherr muttered. That got Tony's attention; he gave Lehnsherr a similar once-over. "We've met," Lehnsherr said shortly. "Apparently not very memorably."
"You're--" Tony tilted his head. "Oh, hey, I do remember you." The smile slid back onto his face, and he licked his lips, and oh, God, Charles was going to have to block everyone, find a bucket made of anti-psionic metal and wear it around the mansion from now on, because Tony's memories of Lehnsherr were... vivid. And infuriating. Apparently everyone in this hallway had had Lehnsherr except him.
Lehnsherr was now looking stonily at Tony, who either hadn't noticed or couldn't have cared less. Charles was betting on the latter. "You want to grab some coffee?" Tony asked Lehnsherr. "I've got an early morning tomorrow, might as well go around the horn. An all-nighter or two now and then keeps the ol' brain cells sharp."
For a few precious seconds it looked as though Lehnsherr might be the one person on Earth who could say no to Tony Stark. But then Lehnsherr passed a hand over his face and sighed, and Tony said, "C'mon, you know you're gonna say yes," and Lehnsherr nodded.
He turned to Piotr, though, and Charles stood there, feeling invisible, to say nothing of short-- even Tony had two inches on him, and Piotr was practically a foot taller than Charles. Which shouldn't have mattered, except that there Lehnsherr was, ignoring Charles again, reaching up and slipping his hands onto Piotr's shoulders. Piotr obligingly shifted to metal, earning a long, low whistle from Tony, and Charles wondered if it was possible for him to wipe the memory of this entire unfortunate stairwell encounter from his own mind.
Including how Lehnsherr looked and smelled after a night of sex? Yes, Charles decided, especially that. Of course he'd fantasized about finding that out, but God help him, not like this. Best not try to remove anything from his memories now, though. This drunk, he'd run the risk of taking away something he needed. Or permanently implanting the things he'd prefer to forget.
"I'll see you next week," Lehnsherr said softly. "Good night."
"Good night, Erik."
Lehnsherr leaned in and kissed him, and Charles tried to convince himself to look away. He couldn't. Not when he'd been imagining that damned kiss for... ever since he'd met Lehnsherr in person, if not earlier. There was no point in denying it anymore. Lehnsherr was gentle but entirely in charge, his hand slipping over to curve around the side of Piotr's neck. Charles had never considered whether Piotr's metallic form was malleable enough for this sort of kiss, the kind where lips met lips and caressed each other, coaxed warmth from one another with soft, gentle brushes of contact and easy, patient licks... but now he was seeing evidence that it was. Maybe Piotr's metallic form was malleable enough for anything, with Lehnsherr running the show. Maybe... oh, God. Maybe Lehnsherr had asked Piotr to keep his mouth open just that way, and...
The kiss lasted a long time, and when Lehnsherr finally drew back, Piotr practically had stars in his eyes. He uncurled his arms from around Lehnsherr's waist only reluctantly, and when Lehnsherr finally stepped back, Piotr said, "I'll be looking forward to it." His grin was dazzling. Probably even moreso to Lehnsherr, thanks to their so-bloody-compatible mutations. "I'm already looking forward to it. And if you decide you want to see me again sooner..."
Metal or no, blocking him or no, there was no mistaking the hope in Piotr's voice and expression. Tony's little, "Awww, how sweet is that," made Charles wish he weren't barefoot, so he could step on Tony's foot. Piotr's silvery cheeks reddened a bit, as heated metal might; Lehnsherr cleared his throat and glanced away for a moment.
"I'll be in touch," he promised. He looked from Tony to Charles, and back again. "If that was a serious offer--"
"I try never to make serious offers," Tony said, looping an arm around Lehnsherr's waist. "But I meant it anyway. Let's go have that coffee."
Lehnsherr did look back this time, and Charles was braced to see him looking back for Piotr. But instead, he caught Charles's eyes and held them, until Tony dragged him away and eased him out the back door.
That left Charles alone in the hallway with Piotr, which wasn't the highlight of Charles's evening. Piotr shifted back out of his metallic form, but he was still blushing a bit.
"He's nice," Piotr offered. "He said he'd call to arrange a regular appointment."
"That's wonderful," Charles said, trying very hard to sound as though he meant it. "I thought you might have--" he tried to limit the sarcasm and resentment as he said it-- "compatible mutations."
"Very compatible," Piotr said, with a dreamy tone in his voice that belonged in a teen movie, not in the hallways at Xavier's.
"You remember what I told you about getting emotionally involved with a client," Charles said sternly. Piotr looked down at the ground. "Yes. Well. Be careful. Understood?"
"Yes, sir." Piotr nodded. "Is it all right if I go back upstairs now?"
"Most definitely." Charles slumped back against the wall. "Please. By all means."
A mite too much enthusiasm there, maybe. Piotr gave him a concerned look. "Do you need help getting back to your room, sir...?"
"I'm fine." Charles sighed. "A word to the wise. If Tony Stark offers to make you a drink, one drink is probably more than enough."
"I'll keep that in mind, sir." Oh, God, he wasn't just being polite, was he? He was committing that to memory. "He did look interested. If he does call for me and I'm not--" He looked wistfully at the door, as if imagining he could still see Lehnsherr there. "Otherwise occupied. Of course I'd be happy to see him again."
"Of course you would," Charles said heavily. "I'll bear that in mind. And I'll tell you if he asks."
Piotr seemed to realize the conversation was meant to be over, then, and with a quickly-babbled, "Good night, sir, sleep well," he finally, mercifully, headed back upstairs.
«Earth to Charles. Come in, Charles. Over.»
Charles shifted his attention to the back of Tony's left thigh, licking gently at the crease between thigh and arse as he slid a hand up to Tony's hip and pinned him flat. «Charles here. Are you gearing up for some sort of military roleplay, Raven? Over.»
"God, that's good, don't stop, right there, mmm..."
«Just checking. Are you blowing off Lehnsherr on purpose or did you actually forget he was coming in early?»
"Teeth! Ow! Watch it, not so hard!"
"Sorry," Charles said, going back to licking. «Thank you for the tact, there. I nearly took a chunk out of Tony's leg. What do you mean, Lehnsherr's here early? His appointment with Piotr isn't until seven.»
«Yes. And it's now six. And that means, like I said, he's here early. He seemed really disappointed when I said you weren't available. And before you ask, yes, you can read me for the memory.»
Charles went for the memory immediately, all while nuzzling and nibbling his way across Tony's arse. He breathed out softly against Tony's cleft once he got there, and was rewarded with a moan. "Yeah," Tony groaned, "yeah, give it, want that, lick me, c'mon, Charles--"
But Tony's flattering noises weren't foremost on Charles's mind just now. He was sifting through Raven's thoughts over the last few minutes, playing it all back when Lehnsherr walked in and Raven greeted him.
"Mr. Lehnsherr, it's so good to see you again. May I take your coat?"
"Thank you. How have you been, Ms. Darkholme?"
"Fine, thank you. And yourself?"
Raven's attention to body language came through here; it was always so much easier reading her memories than anyone else's, that kinesthetic ability of hers was almost as good as telepathy. Lehnsherr was impatient for some reason, all but tapping his foot in hopes she'd get on with it.
"I'm fine. Shall I just go in, then-- ?"
"I'm afraid Piotr isn't quite ready yet, although I can certainly call him to see if he can hurry it up a bit--"
Lehnsherr frowned, looking at Charles's office door. "I-- of course I'd be happy to see Piotr early, but-- I usually meet with Charles before--"
Charles. There it was; when they weren't in the same room, Lehnsherr did call him by his first name. Charles slipped his thumbs into Tony's cleft and held him open, licking firmly all the way up and more slowly on his way back down. Fresh and clean from the shower they'd taken together; mmm. Ordinarly Charles would have enjoyed this even more, given Tony more than just half his attention, but what else had Lehnsherr wanted, what had he said...
"I'm afraid Charles is occupied at the moment. Let me go ahead and call Piotr--"
"Occupied. With whom?"
Raven was reading jealousy all over Lehnsherr in that memory, so much that Charles had to believe it was solely for his benefit. «Don't embellish», he sent.
«I'm not, I swear! He really looked like that.»
«I doubt it,» Charles thought with a mental grumble, putting his tongue to work. Tony groaned in a very flattering manner and started thrusting his hips against the bed in time with the strokes of Charles's tongue; Charles read him for the pace that would rev him up and keep him at the edge, and then stayed there as he went back to Raven's memories.
"Oh, Mr. Lehnsherr, I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that's confidential."
"No, of course. Of course it is, how tactless of me to ask. It's only that-- I thought we had a standing... well." Lehnsherr's mouth turned up, but only in one corner; Charles had seen that expression on him before. Through Raven's eyes, it spoke of disappointment and regret. "An appointment of sorts, if not the kind I would have most preferred. I don't suppose you could tell me... what does it take to join his particular, exclusive list of clients?"
«Charles, you are a moron.»
«Thanks ever so!» Charles drove his tongue as firmly as he could into Tony's arse; Tony threw his head back, panting. Moron or not, at least he could do that.
«Hey, that wasn't me just now, that was me in the memory! Are you distracted or-- oh my God. Tell me we're not having this conversation while you're fucking Stark!»
That, at least, was true. In a very literal sense. For the time being. «We are not having this conversation while I'm fucking Tony,» Charles assured her, tongue withdrawing and leaving a slow, curling lick against Tony's hole. «And I'm not... I have my reasons. I told you my reasons. Surely you remember...»
«All I know is that Lehnsherr offered-- well, see for yourself.»
Charles did. "Charles's client list is by invitation only." Raven gave him an apologetic smile. "I'm sure if you talked to him..."
"He tends to shut down that line of conversation. If you could pass along an offer, though..." Lehnsherr reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out-- not his checkbook, which Charles had fully expected. It was a small notepad, in a metal case, and he quickly scribbled something, tore off a sheet of paper, folded it once, and handed it to Raven. "I'd be much obliged."
«Tell me you didn't look at it!»
«I didn't look at it.» That was true. If she'd opened the paper, she'd have known what it said, and Charles doubted she could have hidden the knowledge from him. «But you should. It's on your desk.»
«And where's Lehnsherr?»
«Where do you think? With Piotr.»
Charles looked up at the antique brass clock on the nightstand. It was only six-fifteen. No doubt Piotr had rushed through the getting-ready part of the evening in order to get as much extra time with Lehnsherr as he could.
He finished rimming Tony with one last long lick, then climbed up the bed to reach for the condoms and lube in the nightstand. Tony groaned and tilted his arse up even further. "Yeah," he groaned, "c'mon, that was awesome, but holy shit, I need some cock right now--"
Charles chuckled; at least if he wasn't with Lehnsherr right now, Tony could always see to it that he was never, ever bored. "You'll get it," he promised, rolling the condom on. Lube came next, carefully applied, Tony didn't bottom that often--
But apparently recently enough. Tony simply moaned, opening up easily, taking two fingers with no stretch or burn or need for adjustment at all. Charles blinked down at him, fortunately professional enough not to ask. But a week ago, he'd been all used up, and he'd left with Lehnsherr anyway...
The hell with it. Tony was shoving back against Charles's fingers in an unmistakeable invitation; Charles was going to give him what he was asking for. He tugged Tony's hips back, getting him onto all fours, and with a quick mental «Ready?», and the answering mental «yesyesyesGO» from Tony, he pushed in, hard and solid, drawing back and pressing in deeper the next time. And the next. Recently-fucked or not, it still took a few moments before Tony had him completely, and once he did, he groaned, dropping to his forearms and burying his head against the pillow.
«Yeahyeahgo, fuck me,» Tony thought at him. There was another track of thoughts, too, all having to do with Stark Industries' latest technological advance; Charles ignored it. Tony always had enough going on in his mind to keep Charles intrigued-- genius-level intellect didn't begin to cover it-- and all he'd asked for, with his various military and industrial secrets, was a simple non-disclosure agreement.
Charles drove in a little harder. Tony let out a guttural moan and pushed back.
«That's it yeah that's it-- fuuuuck, I forgot about you, you're almost as big as he is--»
Another thing he'd have to tune out, God knew who Tony was thinking about now. It was a breach of someone else's privacy to listen in on that; he eased away from Tony's mind even as he was driving into Tony's body, over and over and over again.
Tony didn't make it easy, though. «Gimme, gimme, fuck, gimme, oh yeah, so good, Charles, yeah, okay, a reach-around would be good here--»
Charles obliged him with that, but suddenly Tony was thnking of slender limbs and long, elegant fingers and oh, dear God, he was thinking of Lehnsherr fucking him just this way, hard and fierce with his hand around Tony's cock. It was al Charles could do not to go diving for the memory. What the hell had happened to wanting to be with my own kind? He could understand if Tony had come along before Lehnsherr had made that decision, but he was at Xavier's specifically because he wanted to be with mutants, not humans, and Tony was brilliant, but he really was only human. Why him? Why last week? Had he known Charles would be seeing Tony again?
The job, damn it; do your job, for pity's sake, it's just a job, even if you took on Lehnsherr it would only be the job--
He couldn't even convince himself. He finished Tony off with an expert flick of his wrist timed perfectly with a good hard thrust, and as soon as Tony came, Charles let himself come, too, let the warmth of Tony's body blot out everything and everyone else. Or at the very least, he tried.
He eased out as Tony collapsed, quickly taking care of the condom and then curling himself into Tony's side, the way Tony liked. Tony murmured out something appreciative and nuzzled Charles's temple. «so fucking good I should just put you on retainer and keep you but Pepper would kill me and I think Rhodey might be kinda jealous he's been acting weird lately--»
Charles reached up and stroked Tony's hair. "Was I meant to hear any of that?" he asked softly.
"It's fine," Tony murmured. "You know how I am after you fuck me, everything just comes out." He paused and made a face. "Oh, man, that sounded way more scattastic than I meant it to."
"I'd never judge. On any count," Charles reassured him, stroking his fingers through the hair at Tony's temple. "You know I'm not available for retainer jobs. I'm a free agent now."
"Free agent just means you choose whether to take someone on that way. The continuing basis way."
"Still. The front office work keeps me very busy nowadays." Charles let a lock of Tony's hair curl around his fingertip. "And there was something about Mr. Rhodes...?"
"Yeah. There's that." Tony groaned. "Paying for it's a lot simpler."
"No. But he's looking at me like maybe he wants to."
"Do you want to?"
Tony's mind swept over Charles's, images of Rhodey, Tony's best friend for more years than he could count. There were fights, too, conflicts; there was a great deal of history. And there was an emotion so deep and strong even Charles could recognize it for what it was.
«You love him.»
"He scares the crap out of me," Tony said quietly. "He's out of my league, Charles. Decorated military. Never steps a foot out of line. Doesn't drink, doesn't smoke, doesn't fuck his life up six times a week--"
"You should still try. It might lead somewhere you want to go. It might be worth the risk."
"What about you? You got someone worth risking something for?"
Charles tucked in a little closer and didn't answer. Tony pressed a kiss to his forehead.
"Thought so. I don't know, man. I might be living evidence that it's never too late right now, but then again, maybe I go for it and Rhodey says, 'Screw you, Stark, you should have spoken up sooner.' The guy's been seeing an awful fucking lot of that Fury jerk lately."
"Might just be for work," Charles murmured, face pressed tightly to Tony's shoulder.
"Might be. Who knows, though, Fury's hot as fuck, even with the eyepatch." Tony gave Charles a light squeeze. "I don't know. I might try."
"You should." Charles kept his eyes closed, trying to block out everything that wasn't in this room, trying not to go looking for Piotr, for Lehnsherr, for everything he'd been wanting all this time and couldn't find the bravery to ask for. "You should try. Good luck."
"Yeah." Tony stretched out a little better, got both arms around Charles and let Charles curl up on his chest. "So should you."
"I'm so sorry," Piotr said, for what must have been the fiftieth time.
Raven had matters well in hand, though. She was standing at the doorway holding a slim black folder, and as soon as Piotr was finished packing, she flipped it open and started going through the enclosed items.
"Itinerary. You're flying out Lufthansa, first class. I have an alert set to tell me when you've landed, but please do me a favor and text me when you get there-- your cell phone plan has been upgraded to international. There's no limit on charges, Xavier's will pay for everything. Your return flight is open-ended, so just call the airline when you're ready to come back, or text me and I'll make the arrangements for you."
"Thank you," Piotr said, taking the folder. "I really am so very sorry--"
"This isn't like the bad old days," Raven said. Piotr hadn't been there for the bad old days, but maybe people talked; Charles wouldn't be surprised. That, or Piotr was so flustered apologies were all he had left, which had also been known to happen. "We know you're coming home to us. Just make sure you text us to tell us you got there safely."
"Of course." Piotr slung his bag over his shoulder and turned to Charles. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
"The important thing is to make certain your sister's all right. And if there's anything you need-- anything at all-- tell us. We'll do everything we can."
"Thank you." Piotr took a deep breath and looked from Raven to Charles, eventually settling on Charles with a certain amount of nervousness. It went beyond how nervewracked he was at finding his sister had fallen ill, though, and Charles braced himself for whatever Piotr was about to say. "Would you tell Erik--" oh, dear, there it was-- "tell him I'm sorry, please?"
"We'll pass on your regrets to all your clients, of course," Raven said, stepping in gracefully. Piotr still looked worried, though.
Maybe he had every reason to worry. Maybe in the last three weeks, he and Lehnsherr had grown closer than Charles feared. Suspected. Suspected, not feared, there was no reason to be afraid of how close they'd become--
He wasn't fooling anyone, and he knew it. The note from Lehnsherr lay in Charles's desk drawer, beside the chess set; he'd touched neither in the past three weeks, nearly a month now, but they were there, waiting for him to come up with the nerve to act. Three weeks ago Lehnsherr had asked Raven to pass along an offer; for three weeks-- four, really, since he'd deliberately gone missing the week before Lehnsherr's offer-- Charles had been absent when Lehnsherr showed up early, and Raven had quietly told Piotr to start getting ready as though his appointment time were six instead of seven. Piotr had been only too happy to oblige.
So yes, damn it. Yes, Charles was afraid of how close they'd become, and he'd been making Raven handle the followups so he wouldn't have to have his face rubbed in it; yes, he was avoiding both Lehnsherr and Piotr, despite knowing that Piotr thought it was all because Charles was upset with him-- and that Lehnsherr was disappointed, not being able to see him.
And yet for some reason Piotr had asked Charles-- not Raven-- to tell Lehnsherr he was sorry.
Charles sighed. "It's the least I-- we-- can do. Don't worry, we'll be certain he knows this wasn't something you could control. And that you're coming back to him as soon as you can."
Piotr nodded. He took one last look around his room, and Charles could hear the mental checklist ticking off. There wasn't much to it. Clothes. His phone. His passport. His travel documents, from Raven. A book for the plane. He was ready.
"I hope your sister recovers from her illness soon," Charles said softly. "As Raven said, tell us if there's anything we can do."
Piotr nodded and swallowed. "Thank you."
Charles and Raven escorted him out the front door, where a town car was waiting in the drive. After seeing him off, Charles reached for Raven's hand and squeezed.
"Aw," Raven said. "Would you dash off to Russia like that if something happened to me?"
"If for some reason you were in Russia," Charles said. "I hope Illyana's all right."
"So do I. I've got some contacts, though, if we end up needing to find someone to sponsor her for a visa."
"As we obviously can't do that here," Charles said, rubbing at his forehead. "There are times I wish we ran something a trifle more innocuous. Like a school, perhaps."
"Yeah, but if we did, we'd be even more in the red. Might not be able to do things like ship Piotr home at a moment's notice." She glanced at him. "Speaking of that. I've got some appointments to cancel. Unless you want to handle it?"
"I can manage," Charles said. "You've been on the phone with our travel agents for the last several hours; take the rest of the night off."
"Thanks." She squeezed his shoulder and left a kiss on his cheek. "I'm going to take a hot bath and turn in early. Give me a shout if you need anything. Well, don't actually shout--"
Charles smiled. "I'll be fine. Thank you."
Thirty minutes later, he'd called all but one of the people on Piotr's client list and rescheduled their appointments with other companions. Not too difficult; apart from Lehnsherr, there were only three. Lehnsherr had been keeping Piotr busy, between their regular Thursday appointments and the escort work Piotr had been providing. The next appointment Piotr had scheduled with Lehnsherr was another Thursday. Tomorrow, in fact.
His hand hovered over the phone, but he couldn't bring himself to pick it up. Not without knowing-- he needed to know--
He reached into his desk drawer and pulled out Lehnsherr's note, finally unfolding it.
Anything you want.
Name your price.
-- E. Lehnsherr
Charles sat back heavily, staring at the note. He'd expected... he had no idea what he'd expected. Not this.
Lehnsherr would be here tomorrow at six, if Charles didn't call to cancel his appointment. And if Charles were there, he'd walk into Charles's office, ready to start a new game of chess or... anything you want. Dear God. The contents of that note were going to keep him up all night.
He leaned forward for the phone again, but-- no. He'd clear his own calendar if and when it became necessary. There was nothing on his agenda for tomorrow.
There hadn't been anything on his agenda for tomorrow.
He plucked Lehnsherr's note off his desk and headed out of the office, turning the lights off as he went. Anything you want. Not the one thing Charles wanted most from any lover-- client-- but if he kept telepathy off the table, maybe they could come to terms.
Tomorrow. Six. Charles hoped he'd be able to get some sleep.
The door to Charles's office opened, and Lehnsherr walked in. The broad grin that spread across his features made the corners of Charles's mouth turn up in response. "Ch-- Mr. Xavier. You've been away so long I hadn't thought I'd find you here tonight." Charles stood, and Lehnsherr reached across the desk so they could shake hands.
Lehnsherr looked fantastic tonight. Of course, he'd looked fantastic every time Charles had seen him, but tonight he was particularly gorgeous, wearing a dark blue three-piece suit that had obviously been tailored for him. Charles couldn't help wondering if he'd dressed up that way every week, since he'd started seeing Piotr.
Charles had put some effort into his own wardrobe tonight: black pinstriped suit, black shirt, black tie shot through with silver metallic thread. It wasn't just the tie, though. He'd gone out of his way to decorate himself in metal: sterling cufflinks, wide silver tie clasp, his steel Omega watch. His shirt didn't button: it had snaps.
Lehnsherr hadn't let go of Charles's hand right away-- in fact, he hadn't let go at all, and his eyes were moving down Charles's body in a way that would have been rude on any other night. Tonight, Charles let it pass, only pulling his hand away after several seconds.
"Hopefully this isn't a bad surprise," he said, turning a full smile on Lehnsherr.
"God, no." Lehnsherr seemed to gather himself, clearing his throat as he straightened. "No, anything but."
"Good." Charles settled down and schooled his expression. "I'm afraid I do have some bad news for you. Some good news, too, though. Can I offer you coffee before we get started, tea, water...?"
Lehnsherr shook his head, his smile dimming a bit. He took a seat. "Bad news?"
"There's been a family emergency. Piotr's had to head back to Russia for a while; we're not sure how long he'll be gone."
"Ah." Lehnsherr nodded, but Charles couldn't tell if his expression was disappointment, confusion, something else... if he could just open up for a split-second, know for certain what Lehnsherr wanted--
Anything you want. Any time. Name your price. Charles took a breath. God, let him have meant that.
"The good news is," Charles said, "there's someone else I have in mind for you. I'm sure the two of you will get along."
"I trust you," Lehnsherr said softly. "Have I met him?"
"You have." Charles sat back and pulled the chessboard out of his desk drawer. "He's not ready just yet, though. Would you be interested in a game before I send you upstairs with him?"
"If there's time, I'd love one." Lehnsherr smiled. "I hope you won't mind my saying-- I've missed these games. I haven't had a partner who was this much of a challenge in quite a while."
Nervousness almost had Charles laughing at that; was it a line, could Lehnsherr really be that transparent, or did he truly mean chess? He bit his lip, holding the laugh in, and as he placed the chessboard on his desk between them, he could feel the metal vibrating under his fingertips.
Charles set the pace for the game, his fingertips lingering on the pieces at every move. Lehnsherr's control over the metal was admirable, as ever; each piece lifted itself from the board, swept carefully to its endpoint, set itself down. Charles held himself still as much as he could, watching that, but he was thinking about his sculpture again, the one Lehnsherr had made for him when they'd first met. He might not have metal skin, but he could appreciate Lehnsherr's mutation. If only that were mutual...
He set that thought aside and played the next few moves, eyes carefully on the board. When he looked up at Lehnsherr, Lehnsherr was watching him just as carefully.
"This one's going to end in a stalemate, isn't it?" Lehnsherr asked. "We're neither one of us playing aggressively tonight."
"You're welcome to surrender if you'd like."
Lehnsherr held his gaze a long while, and then moved his rook forward. So much for not playing aggressively. Charles grinned and sped things along, making his next move with a fast gesture. Lehnsherr kept up, and in a matter of moments the game belonged to Charles, just the way he'd planned. Lehnsherr sat back, shaking his head. "I didn't see that move coming," he said, lifting Charles's knight off the board and spinning it in a circle before setting it down again. "Your game, Mr. Xavier."
"Charles," Charles said softly. "If you don't mind."
He was watching for any minute change in Lehnsherr's expression, and he got it: a near-imperceptible widening of the eyes. Just as quickly, it was gone. "Erik, then. Charles."
"I've missed these games, too," Charles said. "Erik."
Another tiny motion, Lehnsherr's-- Erik's-- eyebrows tilting up a little. Confusion again? Anticipation? Hope? It tugged at Charles's heart, not knowing when it would have been so easy to find out.
He stood up and walked around his desk, leaning back against it, all his years of seductive instincts at work now. Erik's poker face was starting to crack, his lips parting, his eyes wide and dark.
"Your date for the night," Charles murmured. "I think it's time I reintroduce you."
"Ah." Erik stiffened, and it took him a moment to start smiling again. "Yes. Of course."
Charles offered his hand, palm-up, not meant to shake hands so much as clasp them. Erik frowned, but took Charles's hand and let Charles gently tug him to his feet.
"Charles Xavier," Charles said. "If I'll do."
Erik's grip went suddenly tight, and he stepped forward, into Charles's space but not close enough, not yet. There was still a whisper of breath between them, barely. Charles tilted his face up, looked into Erik's eyes. What are you thinking, what just went through your head, God, I wish I could read you...
"Terms?" Erik asked. "Conditions?"
"I won't read you," Charles promised. Erik nodded once, sharply. "I don't mind if you use your ability in bed. I've picked out some things we might want to play with; they're in my room upstairs."
"Let me clarify," Erik said. "What do you want from me?"
Everything, Charles thought, his own hand squeezing Erik's now. "Whatever you'd like to give me tonight."
He could see Erik's throat working as he swallowed, and Erik nodded slowly. "If you don't want me to kiss you here," he said, and oh, God, Charles did want that, wanted to be spread across his desk and taken, maybe stumbling back to bed once they'd both had a first orgasm just to take the edge off, "tell me now."
This was his office, damn it. He had to stay professional. He took a deep breath and pulled his hand out of Erik's grip.
"Not here," he said. "Let me show you to my room."
They made it inside, barely. Charles shut the door behind them, and Erik was on him, hands cupping Charles's face, head bending down to capture Charles's mouth in a kiss. Charles gave over, gladly, moaning and winding his arms around Erik's neck. He curved himself forward, fit himself to Erik's body. It took all the restraint he had not to throw his thoughts at Erik-- this, yes, please, I've wanted you for so long-- and he was damned if he was going to restrain his body, too.
He rubbed up against Erik, gasping against Erik's mouth. Erik got one arm around Charles's waist, drawing him in even closer, if that was possible. Charles could feel it now: he wasn't the only one who was hard, who was already ready for this. Erik was-- oh, God. Charles couldn't possibly keep his hands off, didn't even want to try. He put both hands on Erik's chest and pressed him lightly back, and despite a protesting noise, Erik let Charles slip away.
The protest ended as soon as he realized Charles wasn't really moving away so much as down, dropping to his knees and running his hands up Erik's thighs. "Charles," Erik breathed. "God, I've wanted you like this for so long--"
"You can have me," Charles said, matching Erik's low tone. "Can I touch you? Taste you?"
"I don't know how long I'll be able to stay upright," Erik warned him. But he slid out of his jacket, letting it drop to the floor. He unbuttoned his vest, but before he could take that off, too, Charles caught his hands.
"Leave it?" Charles grinned up at him. "You look incredible tonight."
"So do you." Erik got a hand free and made a quick gesture with two fingers, his ability catching all the snaps and metal on Charles's body and tugging forward lightly. "My God, Charles, that was all for me..."
Charles reached up and put his hands on Erik's belt. "Every bit of it." He unbuckled Erik's belt, pulled it free of his belt loops, and set it carefully on the floor.
"You knew-- the whole time we were playing chess, you knew it was going to lead to this--"
"It took me a while to work up my nerve." Charles unfastened the hook, the inner button at the top of Erik's fly. The zipper next, taking his time with it. "All your other partners... I had some difficult acts to follow."
"I was sure you'd never--" Erik stopped talking as Charles drew his trousers down around his thighs, and when he managed a breath, it was shaky. He reached out, stroked his fingers through Charles's hair. "I meant it. You got my offer? I meant it--"
"It was a good offer." Charles hooked his fingers into the elastic of Erik's boxer-briefs. "My turn."
Charles spared a glance up; Erik's lips were parted, and as Charles watched, Erik licked them, leaving them wet and shining. Erik was looking down at Charles with complete focus, as if nothing else existed. Charles knew better, of course-- if he opened his mind to Erik's thoughts, somewhere in there he'd get a shopping list, some thoughts about work, probably a comparison to other lovers-- but maybe there was something to this mind-blindness after all. He could at least pretend Erik was as riveted as he looked; he could pretend Erik wanted him so badly that the anticipation of having Charles's mouth on his cock was killing him where he stood.
He drew Erik's boxer-briefs down, and reached up to wrap his hand around the base of Erik's cock. Erik moaned, his hands coming to Charles's shoulders. "Please," Erik gasped. "God. I don't beg easily, but this-- I'll beg for this if I have to, just please--"
"You'll get everything you want. I promise, Erik," Charles murmured, stroking Erik's cock from base to tip, rubbing his thumb over the head. Cut, of course, and absolutely perfect; Charles's mouth was watering just looking at him from this close up. "But keep saying 'please' if you like." I've been waiting for you long enough, he didn't say, and to make sure he didn't say anything else he couldn't bear to let out, he bent forward and licked a slow circle around the head of Erik's cock, taking in Erik's taste for the first time. God. It was everything he'd imagined, more than he'd imagined-- Erik had always smelled good, warm and male and sharp, but getting to taste him was a thousand times better.
Erik's hands were shaking, his thumbs moving in to stroke up the sides of Charles's neck. He wasn't grabbing for Charles's ears, which was always nice. Charles rewarded him with another slow lick, this time lingering long enough to discover a sensitive spot just under the head of Erik's cock. Erik panted for breath above him, and Charles moaned in return, opening his mouth wider and letting Erik's cock rest against his tongue, against his lower lip.
"You're-- my God, I can't-- Charles, please," Erik said; he sounded strangled, and his hands clutched helplessly at the air just above Charles's shoulders. "Do you want me to keep still, because I can't-- I can't, God, I need my hands on you, I need to touch you, I need you to suck me, please--"
As if Charles could possibly resist a please from Erik, let alone after all that. He closed his eyes and slid forward, taking in Erik's cock, slow and deliberate, letting Erik watch as his lips stretched around it. He still had one hand steadying the base of Erik's cock, but the other was free-- and he caught Erik's hand, guiding it to his hair. Without telepathy, he couldn't say Go on, hold me, draw me in, but he pressed Erik's hand against his head as he moved forward, and Erik caught onto the motion immediately, bringing his other hand up to cup Charles's head. Erik let out a shaking breath as he pushed forward, as he drew Charles's mouth onto his cock, and Charles slipped his hands onto Erik's hips, giving himself a way to hold Erik back if he needed to.
He didn't want to, though. He wanted to feel it, taste Erik's arousal, and those hands on Erik's hips became a way to beckon him instead of a way to stop him; he pulled Erik forward, digging his fingers in to show Erik how much he wanted Erik to give it to him. Erik let out gasp after gasp, finally getting Charles's name out, over and over as he drove his cock into Charles's mouth. "Charles... Charles... God, Charles..."
Dear God, maybe they'd be best off sticking to Mr. Xavier and Mr. Lehnsherr in public; after this, Charles was never going to be able to hear his first name off Erik's lips without getting a raging hard-on. He pulled off all the way, taking a deep breath, and then set to it again, tongue pressed hard against the underside of Erik's cock. He tugged Erik forward hard. I want this. Give me this. Come for me.
"Charles-- close," Erik panted. "I can't hold back, you have to stop, if you don't want me to--"
Charles reached up and gave Erik's arse a squeeze; Erik yelped, his fingers tightening in Charles's hair, and he pushed in one last time, coming with a gasp and a growl. "Oh, God. Oh, God, you-- God, yes, Charles... yes..." Erik's knees buckled, and he leaned heavily down against Charles's shoulders. Charles swallowed around Erik's cock, then drew back and tilted his head up, licking his lips showily. Erik shuddered again; Charles was beginning to wonder if he was going to have to sit down right here, on the floor.
He didn't, but from the amount of weight Charles was taking on his shoulders, Charles could tell it was a near thing. After a while, Erik managed to take a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "You didn't even get your jacket off," he murmured. "Can I take you to bed?"
"It's up to you," Charles said-- the light tone didn't quite work with his throat this hoarse, but he still managed a playful smile. "Take me anywhere you want."
"I'm holding you to that," Erik said fervently. He stood up straight and tugged his underwear and trousers back up, but didn't bother zipping; he wasn't going far, after all. The bed was near enough by. "Come on."
When he offered Charles a hand, Charles took it, letting Erik pull him to his feet. It was the most natural thing in the world to press his body against the length of Erik's and tilt his face up for a kiss, and Erik didn't disappoint him. He kissed Charles warmly, softly, and Charles let himself believe there was nothing in the world Erik wanted but to stand here kissing him all night.
Erik didn't end up kissing Charles all night, as it turned out. He drew Charles back to the bed and eased him back until he was sitting down. Not taking his eyes off Charles for a moment, Erik stripped-- quick and efficient he might have been, but Charles still gave Erik his full attention, eyes roaming over Erik's body as each article of clothing hit the ground. The suits Erik wore had always accented the broad stretch of his shoulders and his narrow waist, but seeing him with his clothes off was better than Charles had imagined.
To think he'd found Erik mouth-watering before... he could still taste Erik, and he licked his lips, taking a bit more of the flavor off them. Erik let out a soft sound and hurriedly finished undressing as Charles grinned and grinned at him.
"You look pleased with yourself."
"I'm pleased with you."
Erik smiled back at him, stepping forward a little-- but still keeping his distance, not quite within reach yet. "From earlier, or right now?"
"Earlier was lovely," Charles agreed, beaming up at Erik. "But now is nice, too."
"Mmmm." Charles glanced down Erik's body and licked his lips again, this time for show. "Absolutely."
"Tell me what you like about what you're seeing."
Ah, one of those men-- clients. One of those clients. Charles let his lips curve up into a teasing grin; he'd have no difficulty telling Erik all sorts of wonderful things about his body. He wouldn't have to exaggerate at all. "Well, I could say I like your muscle tone, and by the way, you have to tell me the name of your personal trainer, I'll have to see if I can hire him for my staff--"
"I'm sure," Erik laughed. "As long as I can still see him on Mondays."
Charles let his eyes roam over Erik's chest, down his stomach, over his positively gorgeous cock-- Charles was definitely not done with that tonight, not by a long shot-- and then down his thighs, hard and muscled, and past them all the way down to his feet. There wasn't a spare ounce on the man; Charles was a good five or six inches shorter, and he doubted there was more than five pounds' difference in weight between them.
"I like the way you're shaped," Charles murmured. "I like your shoulders, and your hips--"
"Not too thin?"
"You just make me wonder if I could get my hands around your waist." Charles held his hands up, looked at them, front and back. "Not large enough, I wouldn't think. But it's a lovely fantasy."
"Mmm. Have you been fantasizing about more?"
"Oh, yes." Charles's gaze lingered on Erik's cock, and he stroked a hand up his own thigh, his thumb resting near his cock. "I've been fantasizing about a great deal more. One fantasy, you've already given me, but I can't wait to work on the rest."
"I feel as if I should turn around for you." Erik lifted his arms to the sides and did so, giving Charles a look at his back and shoulders, his arse, the backs of his legs. Charles's attention was caught about halfway down, and he slid off the bed, back on his knees all over again.
Erik glanced back over his shoulder, but Charles had him by the hips, holding on tightly. "Hold still," he murmured.
"What do I get if I do?" Erik's voice was soft, breathless. Charles leaned in and dipped his tongue into one of the dimples just above Erik's arse, licking the all-too-enticing spot and leaving Erik shivering. "Which fantasy is this-- oh..."
"Surely someone's paid homage to these before," Charles murmured, kissing the small of Erik's back on his way to the opposite dimple. "You're a work of art. If I sculpted, I'd want to sculpt you."
"I--" Charles's breath traced a heated path up the length of the second dimple. "God, yes, do it..."
Charles obliged him-- obliged them both, more like, he could hardly pretend this was all for Erik's benefit. All that patter about fantasies aside, he'd had plenty about Erik, and now that he was finally seeing Erik with his clothes off, he had many, many more.
He'd spent the last year or so being largely selfish about his clients, his appointments, choosing only the people he wanted to serve, but there was a difference between agreeing to a night with someone he found reasonably attractive and... this. There was nothing else out there for him, no other people, no responsibilities. There was Erik, finally, in his room, and he was going to take advantage of every moment.
He finished licking Erik's dimples and came back up to his feet, letting Erik's hips go with a lingering brush of his fingertips. Erik spun around, and before Charles realized why he was moving, both his hands were flying up, his balance lost, Erik's ability gripping every trace of metal he was wearing, Erik himself grabbing Charles by the waist and throwing him back on the bed. Charles's hands were pinned down above his head, the cufflinks digging into the mattress, and Erik came after him, straddling Charles's hips and running his hands up from his waist to his shoulders, and further, all the way to his wrists, his fingers circling them, his thumbs brushing over Charles's cufflinks. Charles's tie slid gently across his cheek, smooth and sensual; to think he'd considered it stiff before. He was very glad he'd chosen to wear it tonight.
And so was Erik. "I can't believe you wore all this for me." He grinned. "I've been enjoying every bit of it."
Charles couldn't help grinning back. "Have you?"
"I'll enjoy getting it off you as well," Erik murmured, leaning down and kissing Charles again. Charles opened to it eagerly, arching underneath Erik, twisting his right wrist in Erik's grip just to make absolutely sure he'd noticed Charles's wristwatch. Erik let out a soft hum of pleasure and squeezed Charles's wrist, the wristband on his watch tugging at him slightly; yes, he'd noticed.
It might have bothered him more, not being able to read Erik's emotions, if Erik weren't being so perfectly obvious about how much he was enjoying all this. Small pleased sounds, all those wide grins, the enthusiasm with which he was kissing Charles and rubbing off against him-- he hadn't quite got hard again yet, but the night was young. Charles was planning to be certain Erik got his money's worth out of the evening.
Be honest, you'd have done this for free, his conscience nagged at him, but it was irrelevant. They were here, upstairs at Xavier's Mansion, and whatever the circumstances, he'd finally got Erik Lehnsherr into bed with him. He licked across Erik's lips and, the next time they came up for air, whispered, "I think you have me at a disadvantage."
"Have I? And here I thought we'd been evenly matched all this time." Erik smiled, and it took Charles a moment to realize Erik was teasing him. Charles laughed, and Erik climbed off him, standing at the side of the bed again. Charles started to follow him, wanting to sit up and at least get his suit jacket off if nothing else-- it didn't have any metal accoutrements-- but found he was still pinned to the bed, cufflinks and belt buckle making it impossible for him to go anywhere.
"Do I need to ask permission to get up?" Charles arched an eyebrow.
"I won't stop you asking," Erik said, but he released the hold on Charles's metal, and Charles pushed himself up to standing. He took off his suit jacket and considered whether it was worth taking the time to hang it up properly; the closet was near enough. Except no, it really wasn't-- the closet was out of Erik's reach, and Charles didn't want to go that far, not when they were this new to each other, touching each other for the first time. There were still parts of Erik's body Charles hadn't had his mouth on yet, for God's sake. Hanging up his jacket could wait.
He set it down carefully, folding it, and got his shoes and socks off next. From there, though, Erik took hold of his cufflinks again and stretched Charles's arms up above his head. Charles laughed. "I'm beginning to think you don't want my shirt off after all. You'd lose the cufflinks."
"I'd think of other things to do with you," Erik promised. "But that shirt of yours has been driving me insane. Can I hold you up like this for now?"
Erik stretched out a hand and made a tiny gesture, as if beckoning Charles forward-- but what came forward was Charles's tie, metal clasp and all. Erik narrowed his eyes and concentrated as he undid the knot in Charles's tie, taking it very slowly, but soon enough it was slipping out from under his collar, tie and clasp set aside with Erik's ability. Charles had been with telekinetics before, but something about this felt more personal. The mutation or the mutant... probably both.
"All these snaps," Erik murmured, and with a wave of his hand, the first one popped open. The rest followed, one after another, until Erik was using the snaps below Charles's waistline to tug his shirt out from his trousers. When it was free, he waved both hands, as if drawing open curtains, and Charles stood still as his shirt parted, held open by Erik's ability.
Snaps were really a marvelous invention, possibly the best fastening ever to have been made for clothing. Charles was beginning to think he should have all his buttons replaced with snaps.
"God, look at you," Erik said, coming close and reaching out. He ran his hands up Charles's stomach, up over his chest, his fingertips lighting over Charles's nipples before moving upwards to trace the muscles at his shoulders. "Every time you rolled up your sleeves I wondered how far those freckles went..."
"Find out now," Charles offered, softly, tip of his tongue tracing his lower lip. "I'm at your mercy."
"Really, Charles," Erik said, slipping one hand to the back of Charles's neck, "what makes you think I'm going to have any mercy, now that I have you?"
"Good question." Charles smiled. "Do your worst."
When Erik drew Charles forward for a kiss this time, Charles arched his body against Erik's, all that bare skin too much to resist. Erik moaned, his hand sliding down from Charles's nape, coming up beneath his shirt, rubbing Charles's lower back in warm circles.
"Bed," Erik murmured. "I'm taking you to bed. Finally."
"Finally," Charles agreed, eyes closed, smiling. "Take me anywhere you'd like."
Erik let go of Charles's cufflinks, but he insisted on unfastening them himself; he sent them flying through the air to rest on the nightstand, and then he helped Charles out of the rest of his clothes, his hands practically taking inventory of Charles's body. He watched Charles as he touched every last inch of bare skin, and Charles gave him the reactions he was looking for: a soft gasp when Erik reached a sensitive spot, a stifled laugh when Erik drew his fingertips down Charles's ribs. There were some parts of the profession Charles wasn't sure he could train himself out of, all these flirtatious responses, but when Erik finally had Charles out of his clothes and tumbled into bed, Charles grabbed for him, dragging Erik on top of him and opening his mouth eagerly for another kiss.
He got it. Erik curved his hand around the side of Charles's neck and kissed him, lingering at it, exploring, getting to know Charles's mouth better than Charles could remember anyone else doing, ever. Charles clutched at Erik's shoulders, rocked up against him-- if Erik was still only half-hard, Charles was more than ready, cock leaking against Erik's thigh, nearly at the point where he was willing to rut against him like an animal in heat. His mind nearly tumbled out a telepathic Please before he regained control of himself, panting it against Erik's mouth instead. "Please. Please, I'm close, you have to let me, please--"
"How?" Erik pressed himself up, holding himself suspended over Charles as he looked down Charles's body. Charles wondered what Erik saw, if the view was as compelling as the one Charles had of Erik. Flushed, muscles taut as he held himself in place, his hair falling slightly down across his forehead, cock impressive even at half-mast. Whatever it was Erik saw in him, it was enough to make him drop back down, nearly crushing Charles in his desperation to get his hands and mouth on him again.
One of Erik's hands slid between them, his fingers-- long, oh God, Charles had stared at those fingers time and again-- curled around Charles's cock. He drew his thumb up, the pad of it rubbing gently at Charles's frenulum, nearly taking Charles apart with his gentle, easy touches before he started stroking Charles with a smooth, steady rhythm.
It wasn't going to be enough-- Erik's hand on him couldn't possibly be enough after all these weeks of watching Erik and wanting him, God, what was the man thinking, was he insane-- but Charles couldn't bear to ask him to stop, either, and as Erik stroked him faster and faster, Charles grabbed for his arms, sank his teeth into his own lower lip, and held on tight, knowing he'd never last.
"You're beautiful. You're so beautiful," Erik murmured. "Look at me. Look-- Charles, please, I want to see your face when you come for me--"
A request from a client still sent Charles scrambling to obey, for all that getting his eyes open was going to be a challenge. He met Erik's gaze, his mouth falling open as Erik watched him, and then he was beyond everything, beyond holding back and beyond thinking of this as a job, past the point where he could deny that this meant something.
He collapsed into the pillow, eyes closing again as he took in deep breaths and tried to recover from an orgasm that strong. It was never like that for him, not so intense he forgot who he was, what he was doing, and he stroked Erik's arms, trying to remind himself. Here. The mansion. His room. Erik was a client.
Erik bent his head down and kissed Charles's forehead, and he moved off him, curling up at his side. He was hard again, his cock warm and thick against Charles's hip, but there was no urgency to the way he was lying there. He wrapped an arm around Charles's chest and tipped his head against Charles's shoulder. "Amazing," he murmured.
"Better than you'd imagined?"
"I imagined so many things," Erik chuckled. He kissed the point of Charles's shoulder, but left his lips to linger there for a few moments after. "We won't have the opportunity to try even half of them in my usual allotted time."
"Well, we'll just have to extend your time, then, won't we," Charles teased, turning his head so he could nuzzle Erik's cheek. "I don't have any other engagements tonight."
"I can't stay over." Erik reached up, caressed Charles's cheek with the backs of his fingers. "I've an early meeting in the morning."
"I could have your suit cleaned."
"Ah." Charles tried to stifle his disappointment, and felt he'd mostly managed it until Erik kissed his eyebrow. Perhaps not, then. "We'd better make the most of the night."
"I had every intention." Erik couldn't seem to stop kissing him, now that he'd started; he left small, feather-light kisses on Charles's forehead, his eyebrows, his nose... all the way up to his temple, where he hesitated, his breath coming warm against the same spot Charles touched when using his ability--
Charles pulled back before Erik could make a decision one way or the other; he didn't really feel like having that spot be the one place Erik had chosen not to kiss. He managed a warm smile. "You usually have a late dinner with Piotr, don't you? Why don't I fetch us something from the kitchen?"
"If you won't be gone long." Erik came up on his side, rested his head on his hand as he watched Charles slipping out of bed. "I'm sure we'll need the energy tonight."
"I'll be right back," Charles promised, heading for the closet and drawing out his bathrobe. When he turned back to Erik, Erik's expression had gone flat, but only for an instant-- what in hell, what was that, why can't I bloody read you? He pushed the thought aside and came back to bed, where Erik smiled up at him as he brushed Erik's hair back from his forehead. "Anything in particular you'd like?"
"Anything at all." Erik caught Charles's hand in his and brushed a kiss across his knuckles. "I'm glad to be here," he said quietly. "I'm glad you're here with me."
And in spite of Erik's expression moments earlier, in spite of Charles's frustration at being shut out of his mind, that was reassurance enough to bring a smile right back to Charles's face. "I'm glad, too," he said, and he kissed Erik one last time-- two last times-- all right, three-- before heading quietly out the bedroom door.
Running into someone in the kitchen at this time of night wasn't unexpected, but Charles hesitated a few rooms away, wincing. It would have to be him, wouldn't it? Well, there was no avoiding it now; if he turned and went back upstairs Erik would surely wonder why.
And so he let himself into the kitchen, sighing a little as he nodded to its other occupant. "Logan."
Logan looked at him for a second and took a quick, deep breath through his nose. "Okay then," he said, lifting the beer he'd apparently come to the kitchen for. "Good for you."
"I've promised not to read your thoughts, perhaps you could do me a similar favor and not-- sniff me," Charles muttered, heading to the cabinets for a tray, plates, all the little things he'd need in order to assemble dinner.
"Come on. That's like asking somebody not to look at a big-ass neon sign that reads 'finally laid Lehnsherr'."
"And yet, amazingly enough, I've been managing not to look at those signs for weeks now, haven't I," Charles pointed out, focusing on the refrigerator now, gathering out some of the pre-assembled finger foods. Little sandwiches, crudites, fruit.
"I wondered about that. When Raven did the follow-up, I thought, okay, Chuck's busy. But I asked around. You're skipping the follow-up with anybody who's seeing Lehnsherr."
Charles winced. "I didn't realize it was a topic for gossip."
"At this place? You've got to be kidding." Logan didn't wait for Charles to respond, which was just as well; Charles couldn't think of a witty rejoinder anyway. "You know what you should've done when he got here?"
"I have little hope that you're going to hold off telling me..."
"Called dibs." Logan thumped his bottle against the table. "Seriously, the one time I came in to spend some time with the guy, I thought you guys were already fucking. Over your desk, maybe. He smelled more like sex with you than he did after I was through with him."
"All right, now you're on the verge of invading Erik's privacy--"
"What? It's not like you didn't know. You knew." Logan tapped his own temple. "Why the long wait? Is that his thing or yours?"
Finished with the tray, Charles snapped a pair of napkins out of the drawer and folded each neatly, reaching for the well-stocked vase beside the sink and trimming down a rose for the tray as well. "That's really not your concern, is it? Since you won't be seeing him again. And you certainly aren't going to be sleeping with me."
"Ouch. I'm pretty good, you know. You don't know what you're missing."
"I've read Stark, I know what I'm missing. Not that it wouldn't be magical, but I am your employer." A bit hypocritical, there were always the auditions to take into account, but Raven had handled Logan's, after all. And once the auditions were over, Charles did have a strict hands-off policy. Unlike the mansion's previous owner...
"You've read Stark?" Logan just looked amused. "So this 'privacy' concept, that's kind of fluid for you, huh?"
"Not my permission."
"Not your head."
"Whatever. Have a good night. Pass on my congratulations."
"I won't, thank you." Charles picked up the tray and headed out of the kitchen, shaking his head. Most of the people here were tactful enough, or concerned enough for their future employment, not to pull a stunt like that. Logan was... well, he was Logan.
He smelled more like sex with you than he did after I was through with him. It was a little reassuring, even though it irked Charles having to get a clue about Erik's feelings secondhand-- and weeks later, no less. It might have been helpful to know that before...
He balanced the tray on one hand as he reached his bedroom door, and when he opened it, Erik was standing by the dresser-- still naked, God, and wasn't that a sight, one that was all for Charles now-- looking over the collection of metal toys Charles had assembled for him. Charles just stopped, staring, his lips curving up in a smile that was much more unguarded than deliberate. God, he had to stop that. He had to stop thinking like this. Erik was still a client, technically...
But Erik turned toward Charles, smiled in much the same way as Charles felt he was doing, and extended a hand in Charles's direction. "Shall I take that for you?"
Charles glanced down at the tray and nodded. "Absolutely."
The tray lifted from Charles's hand and floated across the room, settling on the small table beside the window, off in the corner. Erik had found the wet bar, clearly; there were a pair of water bottles on the table as well, the metal ones Charles had first bought with Erik in mind, all those weeks ago.
Erik's attention was still solidly on the metal toys, though, and Charles remembered exactly what he'd picked out for the two of them. Several sizes of metal butt plugs, nipple clamps, steel handcuffs, a collection of metal cock rings. He might have gone a little further with the collection-- a Wartenberg wheel, maybe; ball stretchers; that amazing, enormous, ridged metal dildo he'd seen earlier this week, the one he'd bought immediately, already imagining what Erik might do with it-- if he'd had a better idea what Erik liked. But the plugs and clamps and cuffs and rings seemed like a good starting place.
Charles walked over to Erik, settling a hand on the small of his back, just above his dimples. "Is there something you'd like to play with?"
"All of it." Erik laughed. "Maybe all at once, if you're amenable."
"I think anatomy may limit me to a single plug," Charles teased, "unless you'd like one for yourself."
"Not tonight." Erik swept a hand over all the different toys; Charles shivered a little, watching them tremble under Erik's ability. "Go ahead and choose, then."
"How long will I be wearing it?"
"Through dinner, not much longer."
Charles beamed up at him. "You've got the evening planned out, have you?"
"The next hour or so, at least."
"Well, then." Charles picked up the largest of the plugs and handed it over. "Since it seems my evening's going to be ambitious." A flirtatious glance down at Erik's cock, half-hard, and a coy little smile; Charles looked up through his lashes at Erik, barely resisting the urge to flutter them. It might have been the same thing he'd said to other clients before, but it was different when one meant it.
Erik glanced away, though, focusing on the plug in his hand. "I think I'd like to put this inside you here. With you braced against the dresser."
"There's lube in the top drawer."
"Thank you." Erik opened the drawer, and after looking over the selection, picked out a lube and slicked up the plug. He pulled out a hand towel as well, but nodded to Charles next. "Would you take your robe off, please."
Charles unbelted it, then let it slip down his shoulders and off, where it fell messily on the floor. He kicked it aside and smiled up at Erik again, and this time Erik bent down and kissed his shoulder, mouth lingering there for a tantalizingly long moment. "Feels good," Charles murmured.
"Thank you." Erik drew back. "Go ahead and brace yourself against the dresser. Part your legs, please."
All these pleases-- Charles wondered if Erik was always so polite. And that made him think about Piotr, and Logan, and Alex, and Hank, and Angel, and good God, had Erik really slept with Tony? After all that about wanting to be with his own kind?
Better not to think about it. Charles could avoid thinking perfectly well, especially since Erik was placing one hand on his shoulder, his other hand slipping down to Charles's arse. Just his fingertips, where had he put the plug...? Oh, it was floating, it was down at Charles's side. Charles laughed. "Who needs three hands if one of the things you need to hang onto is metal," he murmured, spreading his legs a little wider.
"Who indeed?" Erik pressed forward a little more, his fingertips circling and caressing Charles's hole. He was being remarkably gentle, as if he were under the impression that Charles didn't bottom often-- and how absurd, Charles did what his clients required of him. Of course he bottomed. Still, Erik's gentle touch was affecting him, and Charles moaned softly as Erik slid two fingers into him, opening him, getting him slick.
"That's good," Charles whispered. "I'd love more."
"I don't want to wear you out early." Erik pressed his fingers even deeper, though his pace stayed slow and patient. "And I want to feel your body pressed tightly around this plug, when I give it to you."
"Feel it." Charles moaned. "You'll be feeling it while it's inside me...?"
"Every bit of it."
"That's..." Charles tilted his head back, pushing against Erik's fingers now. "That's extraordinary, what's it like for you...?"
"Like having another cock to fuck you with, maybe."
"As if the one you have isn't sufficient!"
Erik laughed. "You'll have to tell me, once you've had it."
"I did have it."
"Here," Erik clarified, twisting his fingers. Charles gasped, squirming, trying to get more. "Not to say I haven't been fantasizing about that beautiful mouth of yours since the day we met..."
"Oh, by all means, say that." Charles closed his eyes. "It was the same for me, but as I only had imagination to draw on and I hadn't had a look at you, it was a bit more theoretical-- God."
Erik laughed. "If you can talk this much when I'm where I want to be, it'll destroy my ego."
"Can't have that."
"I'll do my best to go incoherent."
"I'll do my best to make you incoherent."
"Yes." Charles was beginning to sweat; not from the thickness or length of Erik's fingers, but from the tease and the anticipation. "Could we get that plug where it belongs, then, I'm ravenous, and there's dinner to be had as well..."
"If you want it so badly, how could I possibly say no?" Erik's fingers slipped away, and a moment later there was a weight and a pressure against Charles's arse-- warmer than he'd expected by far, given the ambient temperature.
"Can you heat metal things...?"
"A bit, yes. Unless you'd rather I didn't."
"No, no, that's perfect, that's wonderful. So long as it doesn't stay overly warm while it's in me..."
"Don't worry. I've had quite a lot of practice."
Charles almost caught himself frowning at that, but no, he could only be so hypocritical tonight; he'd had years of practice at all this, too. And Erik was telling the truth, bless him; the plug went in easily, just a touch above body temperature, enough to feel warm and pleasant but not warm enough to become uncomfortable. "Mmm." Charles hummed out a few happy sounds as his body adjusted to the unyielding weight inside him. "Oh, that's good... how do you do it? Heat metal? Is it something you do on a molecular level or...?"
"Still curious depsite everything, aren't you?" Erik took the hand towel and cleaned his fingers, and as he did so, the cock rings-- all six of them-- came up from the surface of the dresser. "Are you curious about what I'll be doing with these?"
"I thought I had an understanding of the basic functionality, but six of them?"
"Mm-hm. Turn around for me, will you, please?"
Charles turned and leaned back against the dresser, letting his head fall back a bit. Erik's eyes roamed the length of his body, but they stopped at Charles's cock, fully hard from Erik's attentions. Erik reached down and curved his hand around it, squeezing gently, his thumb slipping under the foreskin and making Charles shiver.
"I like your recovery time," Erik grinned. "How long can you, ah, keep it up...?"
Charles nearly collapsed in laughter. "When you put it that way..."
"You know what I meant."
It sobered Charles all too quickly; he managed to keep the smile on his face, but only barely. I don't. I don't know what you mean. I'll never be able to just know, will I...
But maybe... maybe it was too early to say never. Maybe... don't think about it now, you've got work to do. The stern reminder got the smile back on his face completely, and he nodded at Erik. "I do. I think I'm good for at least another two or three, depending on how hard you're willing to work for the last."
"Quite, believe me," Erik said, carefully taking his hand off Charles's cock.
The cock rings floated down, and Charles winced a bit. "Those are never going to fit, now. We should have put them on me earlier..."
"Charles." Erik's voice was full of fondness. "I think you've forgotten who you're with tonight." Or... not so much fondness after all? It sounded like it might have been a dig, but Erik's expression hadn't changed. Maybe it was best to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Still, he could hardly let that statement stand unchallenged. "I couldn't possibly forget."
Erik's eyes met his, and Charles fought hard not to be the first to look away. He won out, with Erik's attention going back to his series of cock rings, and just as promised, fit was not an issue. Erik stretched the rings so that they'd fit easily around his cock, the largest one accommodating his balls as well, and then he tightened them just enough for them to stay in place, for Charles to feel comfortably held. Charles let out a long breath as they cinched into place, though; it was all too obvious how much control Erik had over that metal. If he wanted those rings tighter, or tighter still...
"How is it?" Erik asked. He put a hand on Charles's hip. "Is it all right for me to do that?"
"Yes, it's fine, it's just-- heady," Charles admitted. "It takes a certain amount of trust." He couldn't help himself. "Faith in your ability. Your control."
Too obvious. Erik looked up, eyebrows drawn together. "Charles--"
"No. No, I'm sorry, forget it, forget I said that--" Charles reached out with both hands and cupped Erik's face, stood on his toes to kiss him. Forget. Charles could make him forget, but then that was part of the difficulty, wasn't it? All the things Charles could do. All the things he sometimes wanted to do-- had maybe fantasized about doing-- and never, ever would.
"I trust you with this," Charles murmured, when he pulled away. "Let's do the rest."
"Everything else is fair game?" Erik waved his fingers and lifted the nipple clamps off the dresser. They were the clover type, connected by a thick chain, and Charles was familiar with their weight, the sharp pinch that only seemed to get tighter the longer they were on. "These, too?"
"If you'd like them."
"Do you like them? That's a bit more important from where I'm standing."
"Then I like where you're standing." Charles reached up and traced the chain between the clamps. Without his ability, he couldn't tell whether Erik was hoping Charles would encourage the clamps, or if he truly didn't give a damn. Charles would have done his best to please Erik, if he'd had a clue which way to go; without that clue, he took a chance. "They're all right. I like other things more."
"What you've got on me already is lovely."
The clamps sank back to the surface of the dresser. "And the cuffs?"
"Those I like. Although I wonder..." Charles picked them up and let them dangle off a finger. "I don't suppose you can smooth out the inside of them?"
"Round them out, you mean? For comfort?" Erik nodded, lifting them off Charles's finger. They dangled in the air for a few moments as Erik concentrated, and when he was through, the cuffs were smooth and round on the inside, much like a comfort-fit ring. "There. Will you be comfortable with your hands behind your back?"
"Of course." Charles smiled and turned around, offering his wrists as he looked over his shoulder at Erik. "Would you do the honors?"
"The honor's all mine." But instead of taking the cuffs in his hands, Erik slipped his hands onto Charles's shoulders and stepped in close, nearly close enough for Charles to reach out and touch him... and oh, if he reached out here, like this, what he'd be touching, God. Charles curled his fingers up gently, resisting the temptation.
The cuffs floated down, and Erik set them in place, gently tightening them. Charles twisted his wrists, testing the fit-- "One more notch, I think?" Erik accommodated him, and the cuffs felt perfect, by far the most comfortable experience he'd had with steel handcuffs. "I should get you to rework all the cuffs we stock around here. This is marvelous."
Erik ran his hands down Charles's arms to his wrists, holding them just above the cuffs. "Is it?" His breath was warm against Charles's ear.
"Erik..." Charles tilted his head back, resting it against Erik's shoulder. The plug, warm and heavy inside him; the rings, tight around his cock; the metal cuffs. He'd been bound in hundreds of different ways over the years, but he'd never felt as though every piece of bondage on his body made him the property of a client the way these did. He closed his eyes, and when Erik slid his hands up Charles's chest and trailed his fingertips over Charles's throat, Charles had a giddy moment of that too, take that too, put your hand on my throat and tell me you want every single part of me...
"You're beautiful," Erik murmured. "Can I offer you dinner now?"
"Offer me whatever you'd like," Charles said. His voice felt thick; he cleared his throat as he blinked his eyes open and straightened slightly. "Dinner or otherwise."
Erik drew him over to the table in the corner; entirely unselfconscious, he sat down while Charles folded himself gracefully into a kneel, and offered Charles a small bite of sandwich from the palm of his hand. Charles took it up delicately, the way he'd been trained so long ago, and Erik left a soft caress through his hair, fingertips warm and light as they worked through the strands.
The silence might have been soothing if Charles could have read his emotions, at the very least. What are you thinking, why can't I know what you're thinking... I want you so badly, why can't I have you the way I want you...? God. Enough of that, enough; Charles took a second bite, licking Erik's palm after. They were client and companion, and Charles was going to enjoy that for what it was. Take pleasure in the quiet moments as well as the promise of all that metal on his, in his, body.
Dinner was good, pleasant, but Erik didn't linger at it. When he was finished, he took a long drink of water and then held the bottle at Charles's lips, cautious as Charles tilted his head back, careful to let him drink at his pace. It made Charles wonder how often he'd practiced this, helping someone drink while they were restrained, and God, the rings around his cock were feeling tighter by the moment.
"I want you," Erik murmured. "I'd like to put you on the bed, on your stomach, and have you." He set the water aside and gestured down; the rings around Charles's cock eased slightly, and then twisted, gently, back and forth. Charles moaned, head tilting back. "I'd like to do this while I'm inside you. And this..." Instead of twisting, the rings began moving back and forth, caressing him, stroking him. Charles rocked his hips forward against the motion, fucking into those rings-- as good as fucking into Erik's hand, maybe better, because this was Erik's gift, his ability, part of what made them alike.
"Please," Charles whispered. "Erik, please, yes, take me. I want you." I'm yours, he bit back, but there'd be time enough for that. Time and time and time... if not tonight, then the next time Erik came here. Charles smiled up at him, finally getting his eyes open again. "Please."
"Yes..." Erik knelt down in front of him and wrapped an arm around Charles's waist, supporting him as Charles came to his feet. Charles was tempted to feign a bit of weakness, sway on his feet so he could lean against Erik, but it wasn't necessary. Erik pulled him in close, put both arms around Charles's waist. Charles could feel Erik's cock against his stomach, hard again and ready, and all his, and he squirmed a bit in Erik's embrace, rubbing up against it. "I want you. I've wanted you. This night... it's been everything I imagined and more."
"I do pride myself on exceeding expectations," Charles said, flashing Erik a grin. "Take me to bed, Erik. Please."
It didn't take any more convincing than that. Erik was careful, putting Charles on his knees and then easing him down onto the pillows, his weight resting on his shoulder. "All right?"
Charles's breath was already coming fast. "Erik, if you don't get this plug out of me and fuck me soon..."
"Then what?" Erik trailed a finger down Charles's cleft, rubbing the base of the plug; Charles gasped. "What would you do?"
Nothing, I promise, Charles thought, squeezing his eyes shut. "Probably beg you some more. That isn't much of a threat, is it?"
"It might be. With the amount of time I've spent wanting you, hearing you beg me to fuck you might just get me off on its own."
It could if you'd let me in... stop it, stop it... Charles took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Please, Erik. Please fuck me, please, you're going to feel so good inside me, please, Erik, please... please..."
Erik gave Charles's thigh a squeeze and headed over to the nightstand for condoms and more lube. If only there were a mirror; Charles would have loved to watch Erik rolling that condom on, see him smoothing more lube onto his fingers, but instead he merely felt the warmth of Erik's hand on his arse, holding him still, and the plug slowly worked its way out of him, all through Erik's ability.
Erik's fingers slipped easily inside him, then, and that groan... it could have been either one of them. It might have been both. Charles turned his face against the pillow for just a moment, burying a rough moan, but so many clients wanted to hear those noises out loud... Erik was probably one of them. Charles turned his head to the side again, moaning as Erik stroked his fingers into him, opened him up further and further, got him as slick as Charles would need in order to take Erik's cock.
"Please, Erik-- please, I want you, I'm ready, please..." Charles pushed back hard against Erik's fingers. "Please..."
"I'm here," Erik murmured. "I'm right here, Charles, I want you, too..." He leaned in, the blunt head of his cock pressed against Charles's hole, and then he was sliding in, making Charles moan and shake with the gorgeous, intimidating stretch of it. He'd been fucked by big men before, given enormous dildos to put inside himself, fisted, but having Erik inside him was better than any of those things had been in a very, very long time.
"More," Charles groaned. Erik slid forward another inch, making Charles twist against the cuffs. "God. I can take it, Erik, more." Another inch, God, it was almost a tease. "What, do I need to beg you for every single inch of cock, more, damn it, fuck me, don't stop until I have all of you, come on, come on, damn you, fuck me, fuck me, Erik, fuck me--"
Erik let out a strangled, desperate noise, and surged forward, both hands on Charles's hips to pull him back into it. It was a rough, beautiful thrust, opening Charles up so wide he could nearly taste it, and God, it burned, but he was ready for it, needed it, wanted Erik to take him and make him feel so used he'd spend the whole next day remembering it. "Please," Charles moaned, as Erik started to draw back, "please, don't hold back, give it to me, let me have it, fuck me!"
"Keep talking like that and this really won't last long," Erik said, a little laugh at the edge of his words. "Charles, God, you feel so good, I want you so much--"
"You're having me-- God, just keep having me, don't stop, don't ever stop--"
"I won't," Erik promised, easing into a rhythm now. Not too slow, not too fast, hard enough Charles could feel every inch of him with every thrust. "Do you want your arms free?"
"Please." The cuffs snapped open, and Charles got his hands underneath him, giving him the leverage to push back hard. "My cock, the rings, please, stroke me, please, Erik..."
"You feel so good," Erik moaned, and the rings began moving, a motion up and down the length of his cock that matched Erik's rhythm as he drove into Charles's arse. The ring around the base of Charles's cock stretched, the pressure easing entirely, and with no more constriction, it was all up to Charles's willpower to keep him from coming all over the bed right away.
Willpower that was about to be sorely tested. "I want to get you off, I want to feel you come," Erik said, "come for me, will you come for me, please, Charles--"
Oh, God, he very nearly had, hearing that, but clients liked to work for it... Charles groaned, licked his lips, and panted out, "Make me. You can, you will, a little more, please, Erik, please, harder, faster, those rings-- they feel incredible, tighter, please, harder, yes--" Messy, awkward, telling him by voice instead of mind-to-mind, but it didn't matter. Erik was there, inside him, desperate for him, and with another rolling stroke from all those gorgeous rings, Erik got what he'd been asking Charles for. Charles came, throwing his head back, bracing himself on the bed as Erik pounded into him for his last few thrusts, and when Erik came, too, Charles clenched his fists in the bedsheets and groaned.
This. Since the moment he'd laid eyes on Erik, he'd wanted this. And now, all he could think was: please... please. Let it not be the last.
Erik collapsed at Charles's side, curling up with him; Charles lifted himself onto one elbow and smiled at him, touching his cheek, his shoulder, his chest. Erik was beautiful like this, exhausted and spent, flushed all over from exertion... and his, if only for now.
"I'll get something to clean you up," Charles murmured, bending forward to kiss Erik's forehead. "Stay here. Rest. You've earned it."
"Have I?" Erik closed his eyes and smiled. "Thank you."
He climbed out of bed, wincing pleasantly at the ache in his arse and his thighs, and when he came back with a warm washcloth, Erik almost seemed to be asleep. He hummed with pleasure and approval when Charles cleaned him up, and when Charles came back to bed and curled up behind him, Erik drew Charles's arm around his chest, letting Charles spoon up against him.
"You could stay," Charles whispered. "I'd get you up in time to catch your flight. My alarm clock is perfectly reliable, I promise."
"Don't tempt me."
Why not? Charles managed not to ask it, barely. He was here because Erik had hired him. "All right," he agreed, kissing Erik's shoulder. "I've had a wonderful night, Erik."
"So have I."
They managed an hour or so, dozing together, Charles pretending that Erik wasn't going to have to leave, but when Erik finally climbed out of bed and dressed, Charles pulled on his bathrobe and plastered his cheeriest smile on his face. "I hope they appreciate you in Montreal," he said.
"Not the way you appreciate me here," Erik teased, finishing with his tie and reaching out for Charles. Charles's smile felt much less forced after that. "I hope you know-- I hope you understand--"
He didn't seem inclined to finish that. Charles raised his eyebrows. "Understand...?"
"How special tonight was to me," Erik said softly. "Thank you, Charles. For everything."
Erik kissed him goodbye, and Charles clutched at his lapels, holding onto him. If he'd had the use of his ability, he'd know if this was the kind of goodbye kiss that meant I want to stay, and that would have helped. Or I'll see you again soon, I promise, and that would have helped even more.
How special tonight was to me. Maybe the goodbye kiss would have meant This was nice, what a shame we won't ever have it again. Maybe Charles was better off without his ability; maybe there were some things he didn't need to hear first-hand.
"Good night, Erik."
"Good night, Charles."
Erik slipped away, and Charles hugged himself. The room felt colder without Erik's presence. There'd been no see you next week, no promises, nothing...
But good night wasn't goodbye, not really, and Charles held onto that, reminded himself of it again and again as he climbed into bed and slept in sheets that, even to his baseline senses, smelled like Erik.
"Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey!"
Charles actually could smell bacon, which was the only reason he didn't march Raven right back out of his bedroom. Well, that and the fact that he wouldn't. Really. Not even when she'd interrupted the most fantastic dream about last night...
He sat up in bed and looked over at her, smiling as she headed to his bedside with a breakfast tray. Once he'd got himself tucked in, she put the tray over his lap and took a seat at the foot of the bed. "So. How was last night?"
Charles grinned. "Marvelous."
"Any problems? Did he do anything that made you uncomfortable at any point?"
Nibbling a piece of bacon, Charles stalled for a few seconds. He took a drink of juice. "He was a perfect gentleman."
"Did he ask for anything we should know about? Any particular kinks or fetishes we should try to keep in mind when we're booking his future appointments?"
"He does wonderful things with metal," Charles said slowly, putting his bacon down and wiping his hands on the napkin. "Raven, I had an amazing night, why are you doing this...?"
Raven glanced down Charles's body. "No marks," she murmured. "Stand up, let me see your back."
"Absolutely not," Charles sputtered. "I'm not marked, don't worry, there's nothing, you're my sister, for God's sake--"
"I'm also one of the supervisors here, in case you'd forgotten, and last night was your first time assigned to Lehnsherr as his companion. These followups are standard operating procedure, and don't you dare tell me you'd forgotten that. We're not just going to start taking a client on faith because you happen to be the one seeing him."
Charles pushed the breakfast tray away and stepped out of bed, turning in a circle, arms extended. "There. Satisfied? Not a bite, not a bruise, not a mark, I am fine." He glanced around for his bathrobe, and finding it on the floor, he pulled it on, tying the belt with more force than was strictly necessary. "Are you this blunt with all our employees? Because if so, we need to work on that."
"I'm blunt with people who can take it, like Logan, or with people who need a wake-up call, like you." Raven crossed her arms over her chest. "You had a good time with Lehnsherr. That's great. But we need to talk about it--"
"I don't object to followups, you know that, but we usually do this on the computer--"
"When it's someone you've been seeing for years, like Emma or Tony or Armando--"
"--and I think it's hardly reasonable for you to give me the third degree every time I have a date. We're not in high school anymore."
"Date-- high school-- Charles, what did you think last night was?" Raven stares at him. "He's still paying us. He paid for last night. You know that, right?"
Charles glanced down at his robe, picking off a piece of lint. "Last night's time was paid in advance, he's got us on retainer, he's been coming to us for weeks, it's a standard arrangement--"
"This is not standard." Raven walked over to him, putting her hands on his shoulders. "Look, I'm going to give it to you straight. If you were anyone else, I'd tell you flat-out we weren't going to book Lehnsherr with you again."
"You can't do that to me--"
"You're emotionally involved now."
Charles hesitated. "We're friends. That's all."
"That's not all."
"That's all," Charles insisted. "You'll notice he didn't spend the night--"
"He never spends the night."
"My point exactly. And if you'd like to talk about emotional involvement, perhaps you should reinterview Piotr, when he gets back--"
"Next Tuesday. It looks like Illyana's going to be fine, by the way."
Charles reached out and put his hands on Raven's arms. "That's wonderful news," he said quietly. "You could have told me sooner."
"Word just came in this morning." Raven squeezed Charles's shoulders. "Lehnsherr hasn't cancelled his appointment with Piotr next Thursday."
"He's in Montreal. He'll call before next week, I'm sure."
"What if he doesn't? Are you going to be okay with that?"
Raven sighed. "Charles... I don't think you should book time with Lehnsherr again. If you want to see him, ask him out on a date."
"I don't have time to date," Charles scoffed. "And neither does he. We're both busy, a scheduled appointment makes the most sense for both of us--"
"Or maybe it just seems like less of a risk, because you don't have to put your ass on the line. Except in the literal sense." Raven rolled her eyes. "If you were anyone else, and he did call to book you instead of Piotr, I'd turn him down. Even if it meant losing his business altogether. You remember last year, that guy who had the crush on Marie?"
"Remy," Charles filled in. "I remember, but--"
"You remember telling him that due to complications, Marie wasn't going to be available?"
"Yes, but this is--"
Raven brushed the backs of her fingers against Charles's cheek. "You remember how she quit her job, and we found out they'd moved in together?"
Charles caught her hand and held onto it. "I'm not looking for a relationship with the man, and I certainly don't think he's looking for one with me. Seeing him for work is the least complicated option of many."
"It's not uncomplicated at all. It's a bad idea." Raven squeezed Charles's hand. "Have you talked to him about the telepathy thing?"
"I told him I wouldn't read him."
"That is not talking to him."
"He's just one more person who isn't going to want me in his thoughts. And it doesn't matter."
"It doesn't matter," Charles said firmly. "If it were that important to me, I wouldn't have booked time with him at all. Really, let's be honest-- if I could read his mind, I'd probably be half in love with him, and then we really would have a problem."
"This thing where you block out everything I say that makes sense in favor of living in your own little fantasy world. Is that, like, a secondary mutation, or do you have to work at it?"
"That's enough." Charles dropped her hand. "Thank you for breakfast, thank you for the followup, if you have any more questions I'll be happy to discuss them with you in email, but otherwise, you have any number of things to do. Get to them."
"Fine." Raven's gold eyes flashed, and she turned on her heel and stalked to the door, stopping just at the edge of it. "But if it comes to it, I will tell him to take his business elsewhere. I'd do it for anybody here. That includes you."
"It's not going to come to that."
"It better not."
She closed the door on her way out, and Charles sighed, rubbing at his forehead.
He checked Piotr's calendar the next day, and the next day, and the day after that, and the morning Piotr got back. Erik's name was still on Piotr's schedule, four days after Erik should have been back from Montreal.
Charles frowned at his monitor. It was off in the corner of his desk, and his neck was developing a bit of strain from having his head canted over to the side all day. He reloaded the Thursday night schedule again, and after a quick break for a game of Minesweeper, again. And again.
Raven poked her head in through his office door. "Hey. Am I PMSing or are you giving off waves of cranky? Because if I'm PMSing, that's, like, a week off--"
Charles straightened immediately, closing the calendar program, shoving the keyboard drawer closed under his desk. He rubbed at his temples. "That's me, sorry," he said. "Am I bothering anyone else, do you know?"
"I think it was just me. When I went down the hall to the bathroom it was gone. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." He pressed his fingertips into the tendon at the side of his neck, giving it some relief.
"Because it's Thursday--"
"I'm fine." The pain in his neck was only partly physical at this point; he glared up at Raven.
"--and Lehnsherr's going to be here in about half an hour for his date with Piotr--"
"I said I'm fine, how many times do I need to say it? For pity's sake." Charles leaned back in his desk chair, covering his face with both hands. "There was obviously a miscommunication..." He sat up again and looked at Raven. "And I'm sure that once he arrives, we'll work it out. Just send him in to me the way you usually do, we'll talk it through."
Raven crossed her arms over her chest. "You know what? I think that's a bad idea."
Charles was silent, and he shored up his shields, making sure he couldn't read her. "If you have something to say, you're going to have to say it out loud."
"What if he actually wanted the night with Piotr?" Charles drew in a breath, and Raven came over to his desk, perching on the corner and reaching out to take his hand in both of hers. "I'm not saying he doesn't want to spend time with you again, okay? I'm sure he does. You two get along like a house on fire, and believe me, I know how disappointed he was when he couldn't see you before his regular appointment."
The memory was heartening; Charles still remembered how much jealousy Raven had been reading from Erik at the time. "But...?"
"But maybe he's going to want to keep seeing Piotr, too. It's not like it's unheard of for somebody to have two or even three favorites here. Armando, for one. He's been seeing Alex lately."
"I know that. In fact, that was my idea in the first place, wasn't it?" Charles sat forward, drawing his hand out of Raven's grasp. "How is that working out? I'd had theories that their mutations might make for a pleasantly volatile combination, but I did add a safety deposit to Alex's usual fee in the event that Armando wants to set off Alex's ability deliberately. We might lose some furniture, and almost certainly we'll lose some sheets--"
"You're deflecting," Raven said. She reached out and poked Charles in the forehead. "Lehnsherr. Assuming he does want to keep seeing you again, and okay, let's go ahead and assume that--"
"--if he's not seeing you exclusively, are you going to be able to handle it?"
"Of course," Charles scoffed. "When have I ever insisted on exclusivity from a client? That's absurd." He pulled up the calendar on his computer again, though, and reloaded it just to be sure Erik hadn't rescheduled while he wasn't looking. Erik's name was still under Piotr's schedule, just as it had been the last fifty-seven times he'd checked. Raven had finally talked Charles into testing out a computerized schedule, and it was proving very popular with the staff-- but it seemed as though the computer was mocking him every time he looked at it. Especially today.
"Okay. All right." Raven held her hands up. "But do us all a favor and keep a lid on your mind, okay? If it turns out he does intend to keep tonight's appointment with Piotr, we don't need the whole house erupting into shouting matches."
Charles couldn't help flinching. "I've never done that before, have I?" he asked quietly. "You don't have to make a point of it. It's a sore enough spot as it is."
"I'm sorry." Raven sighed, reaching out for Charles's hand again. "Look, maybe you should talk to him about the telepathy again. Find out if there's anything you can do to compromise. Just emotions, maybe...? Moods? It's not like he's ever tried to hide his feelings from me. I get his body language the same way I'd get anyone else's. You could ask him for that. Just tell him you need it in order to be on par with the rest of us. Maybe he'd understand."
"I'm doing all right so far." Charles shrugged, tried to smile. "If we end up having something ongoing, then maybe I'll revisit our arrangement with regard to my ability. But as you've been trying to point out for days now... we're not there yet."
"I hope this works out for you. I really do. But I'm ready and willing to pull the brakes if I need to." Raven stood up. "Don't forget that."
"I won't. Raven?" She stopped, halfway to the door, and looked over her shoulder. "I know you're just trying to look after me, and I appreciate it. I do. Thank you."
"You're welcome," she said-- more gently than she'd said anything regarding Lehnsherr to date-- and she stepped out of the office, closing the door quietly behind her.
When Erik walked into Charles's office, he seemed more tentative than usual. His steps were slower than they'd been all the other times, his eyebrows were tilted up as well as slightly drawn together, and his lips had a faint downward curve. Which might have meant distress-- about being here, or about something else entirely? Or maybe it didn't mean distress at all. Charles sighed inwardly.
"Erik." Charles came out from behind his desk. "Thank you, Raven, that'll be all."
"Let me know if you need anything," she said, and she closed the door behind Erik.
Erik hadn't come any further into the room; he was standing still, just a few feet in from the doorway. "It's good to see you," he offered.
"It's good to see you, too." Charles gestured at the chair across from his desk. "Please. Have a seat?"
"If you'd like." Erik came forward and sat down, and Charles took a seat as well. "How have you been?"
"Fine. Good. Fine. Not too busy." Charles smiled. "And you? How was Montreal?"
"Disappointing. Although it might have been the contrast."
"Between where I left and where I landed."
"I wouldn't let the Canadians hear you maligning one of their own if I were you," Charles said, leaning forward and folding his hands in front of him. "Though there really isn't anywhere else on Earth like New York, is there?"
Erik looked down at his lap for a few seconds, nodding. "No. I suppose there isn't."
"So." Charles waited; Erik eventually looked back up at him. The slight tilt to his eyebrows was gone; he was sitting up straight, one ankle crossed over his knee, hands folded over his lap. "Could I offer you a game of chess before you head off tonight? I'd love a chance to get caught up."
"I--" Erik nodded. "Yes, so would I. Chess would be lovely."
His lips were downturned even more now, and Charles chose to read that as disappointment. He pounced on it. "Unless you'd prefer a change of plans for the evening? I noticed your schedule hadn't been altered-- and while Piotr is back from Russia..." Charles paused. Erik's eyes had gone a little wide, the stiff set to his shoulders relaxing. The downturned curve to his mouth was easing. "Is there something else you might rather be doing?"
"You said just the night," Erik burst out, leaning forward, reaching out for Charles's hands. His hands were warm, his grip on Charles's fingers solid and reassuring. Charles nearly sagged a bit himself, all too relieved. "My date for the night, whatever I wanted to give you that night-- of course I wanted to see you again."
Raven's mind came zipping in from the outer office. «Whoa, okay, something good, but I think I just tingled from the brainstem down--»
«Sorry,» Charles sent. «I've got a handle on it now. At least it's better than shouting matches?»
«You better take him up to the west wing tonight, that's all I'm saying.»
«Already planned on it.» Charles came around the other side of his desk; Erik stood to meet him. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about that night." He slipped his hands onto Erik's waist. "I keep thinking about the way you kissed me, and all the marvelous things you do with metal..."
Erik pushed Charles forward a step; the backs of Charles's thighs hit his desk. "I didn't have time for half the things I've been thinking about," Erik murmured, wrapping one arm around Charles's back. "But I thought that was all I was going to get."
"No," Charles breathed, taking the lapels of Erik's jacket in his hands. He tipped himself backward, pulling Erik with him as he lay back on his desk. The surface was clear; there was nothing stopping Erik from just pushing Charles down on his desk and having him. Right now. Right here.
Erik bent his head down, his lips brushing against Charles's. "Should I take you somewhere?"
"Oh, yes, you should take me," Charles purred, rocking up invitingly.
Erik laughed. "I meant... here? Are you sure?" He was still holding back from giving Charles that first warm kiss; Charles couldn't blame him. If they started here, they might not be able to stop...
Charles groaned, lifting his head and resting his forehead against Erik's shoulder. "Upstairs would be better," he admitted softly. "I wasn't thinking clearly. It's been a long week, Erik."
"For me, too. I would have called earlier, if I'd thought I had a chance."
Of all the things Charles had expected from Erik Lehnsherr, a lack of confidence wasn't one of them. Charles rested a hand against Erik's cheek, looking him in the eyes. "You should have called earlier."
Erik's eyes closed, and he turned his face so he could nuzzle against Charles's palm. A whisper of something came brushing across Charles's mind, and he braced his shields, blocking Erik out as hard as he could. Erik didn't want his mind read; that included thoughts he was thinking very loudly, whatever they might be.
A few moments passed, and Erik looked at Charles again, eyebrows drawn together slightly. But the look passed, again, and he straightened, pulling Charles with him as he stood up.
"Yes," Charles agreed. "Come on."
Up in Charles's room in the west wing again, Charles barely had time to pull Erik inside before Erik was all over him. The door latched shut behind them, Charles could hear the click of the lock, but Erik's hands were still on Charles's face, carding through his hair, sweeping down his shoulders and his back and cupping his arse. Charles could feel the weight of Erik's cock pressing against him, too; the walk upstairs hadn't cooled him down at all.
He reached up and cupped the back of Erik's neck in his hand. Good. He didn't want Erik cooled down; he didn't want any less than this, Erik hot under his hands, urging him toward the bed between hungry, insistent kisses.
"Erik," Charles breathed. "God. Yes."
"I thought--" Erik's hands went to Charles's shirt, unbuttoning him as he pushed Charles onto the bed. "I thought we wouldn't have this again, I was sure it was just that night--"
"Shhh." Charles reached up and put his fingertips over Erik's mouth. "I should have made arrangements before you left. I was," he smiled, "a bit rocked off my stride."
"I was difficult in Montreal," Erik admitted. "My associates were cowering in their chairs by the time we were through with all the meetings." He stood up and started taking off his clothes, fast, nearly fast enough to lose buttons. Charles didn't waste any time, either, quickly divesting himself of shoes, socks, trousers, shirt. He slipped his undershirt off over his head, and when he looked back up at Erik, Erik was launching himself forward, tackling Charles onto the bed. He caught one of Charles's wrists in his hand and held it down, and Charles groaned, tugging Erik further onto the bed with him, wrapping his legs around Erik's waist.
"No more difficulties," Charles breathed. "You can have me again." He leaned up and kissed the tip of Erik's nose. "And again. And again..."
Erik kissed him, deep, thorough, his bare skin pressed to Charles's everywhere. Almost everywhere; a thin pair of silk boxers and a pair of boxer-briefs were still between them, and Charles slipped his free hand down the back of Erik's boxer-briefs, squeezing the delectable curve of his arse. His cock jerked against Erik's stomach, and Erik laughed through the kiss, backing off and grinning down at him.
"If I didn't know better, I'd think that was a hint," Erik said, kneeling up, still between Charles's legs. He stroked both hands down Charles's thighs, and Charles groaned, arching up into that touch.
"Only in the sense that we're still wearing too many clothes," Charles said, lifting his hips off the bed. Erik tugged his boxers off obligingly, and Charles grinned at him, drawing his legs back against his chest. "I have read the followups on you." Mostly. "I know where your preferences lie..."
But Erik was clearly distracted by the image Charles presented, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open. He licked his lips and backed off the bed, shoving his boxer-briefs down and off.
"You're-- look at you," Erik said, and when he came back to bed, he held Charles down at the thighs and-- oh, God, Charles lifted his head off the bed to see this, because Erik was bending his head down and leaning in and--
--Erik's mouth, on his arse, licking down, licking into Charles's cleft, and yes, Charles had showered thoroughly, standard procedure, but he hadn't imagined Erik would be one of those clients who wanted to do this. Charles had done it to more people than he could remember, but the clients who wanted to hold him open and slide their tongues deep inside him... oh, those were fewer, further between, and Charles held his legs for Erik, already desperate for more. "You-- I wanted to, oh, God, I would have done this for you," Charles gasped, "you should have let me, I would have--"
Erik looked up at him. "This is what I want," he said. "Are you arguing?"
"Good God, no," Charles said. "Please, by all means, do what you like--"
Grinning, Erik bent his head down again, his tongue strong and wicked against Charles's hole. He slipped his hands down from Charles's thighs to his cheeks, holding Charles open for better access, and... God help him, the man was good at this. Charles could only hold himself still, resisting the urge to get a hand on his cock, trying not to move in any way that would throw off Erik's rhythm, but Erik's tongue pushing against him over and over was getting Charles closer than he'd been from just rimming in... a very long time. He closed his eyes and let himself feel it: Erik close and intimate, inside him in a way that even fucking couldn't always touch, and Erik wanted this from him...
Why this and not my mind, oh, Erik, God, you're almost perfect, why not-- And then Erik's tongue curved on its way up, the sensitive spot behind Charles's balls, Charles's sac, the length of his cock before swirling over the head and licking under Charles's foreskin. Charles lost his grip on his thighs and grabbed for Erik, both hands sinking into Erik's hair. "Please," Charles groaned. "Please, don't stop..."
Erik reached up with one hand and lifted Charles's cock up, angling it towards his mouth. He gave it a few strokes, the foreskin sliding back and forth across the glans, and then he held it there, his mouth open wide as he took Charles in again. Charles tightened his grip on Erik's hair, gasped as Erik sank down lower and lower, and when Erik had him nearly halfway, Charles let his head drop back on the pillows and closed his eyes. Erik's mouth was hot, his suction perfect as he lifted his head and swallowed Charles back down, and Charles stopped thinking about what might be missing and let himself enjoy this for everything it was.
"I-- Erik--" Charles rocked his hips up; Erik pinned them to the bed. Erik's pace, then. "I wanted this," he breathed. "From the-- God-- from the first time we met, I wanted, I wanted you," Christ, he was babbling, he needed to stop-- he bit down on his lower lip, holding it all in.
Erik drew his mouth off Charles's cock, though, and said, "So did I," and bitten lip or not, Charles grinned at him, feeling like his heart was in his eyes. Erik's smile was every bit as broad, and he came back up the bed, left a fast kiss on Charles's forehead before moving to the nightstand and rummaging for lube and condoms.
"Not that I was trying to rush you!" Charles protested, but it came out with a laugh. Erik laughed, too, and when he crawled back down the bed, he pushed Charles's legs apart and knelt between them. "But if you're going to fuck me... God, please, Erik, do fuck me."
"I had every intention," Erik assured him, rolling the condom on and grabbing for the lube next. Charles lifted his arms above his head and took hold of the bedrails, and Erik's eyes went straight to his grip on them, the way his muscles stretched out long and lean from shoulders to wrists. "You look-- don't tempt me, God, Charles, those rails are metal."
Charles gave Erik a wicked little grin and stroked both bedrails up and down, teasing, the way he'd do if it were Erik's cock in his hands-- and Erik fumbled with the lube, gasping aloud like it was his cock Charles was touching. Charles kept going, stroking over and over, and when Erik shoved three fingers into Charles's arse, he was anything but gentle. Charles just spread his legs wider, moaning. He didn't need gentle, not tonight; he needed Erik, inside him, now.
He got his wish. Erik pressed his legs to his chest and pushed into him, and Charles groaned, gripping the bedrails tighter. Erik moaned, but he was starting up again, his cock moving hard and heavy inside Charles, a quick, rough rhythm that was going to get them both where they were going in no time flat.
He'd been good for two rounds last time; Charles wasn't going to complain if the first one was fast. He took one hand off the rails and tried to reach for Erik's shoulder, but Erik quickly pushed his hand back above his head, pressing his fingers around the rails once more. "Please," Erik said, biting down hard on his lower lip. "Please, Charles, just touch me that way--"
Charles went back to stroking, but damn it... touch me that way. He could imagine begging for that, for Erik's thoughts jangling in his head, the clamor of all that sexual desire and need rocking into his mind, not just his body. He'd beg for it now if there were any chance he could get it, but instead he stroked the bedrails for Erik and let Erik pound into him, and if the fantasy of reading Erik's mind was getting him just as close as Erik's cock inside him-- well, the hell with it, it was Charles's fantasy.
A man with Erik's intensity, open to Charles's ability... God, what would it be like having Erik fuck him, body and mind, all at once? What if he agreed to roll over, let Charles in both ways? Charles's thoughts cascading through his, pressing against Erik's pleasure centers, it could be so good, it could be amazing, I'd give you anything you ever dreamed of, Erik, just let me, let me-- "--let me," he begged, close enough he knew he'd come with just the lightest touch.
"Yes," Erik panted, getting one hand around Charles's cock. "Come first, I want--" He groaned, and his mind strained against Charles's shields just as his body was straining against Charles's body; Charles squeezed both eyes shut as tightly as he could and pushed back, keeping his shields solid and his block intact. Erik was incredible, so strong, but shielding took concentration at the best of times, and now, with Erik so loud and Charles's focus so thin--
Erik reached down and wrapped a hand around Charles's cock. "Can I?" he asked. Whatever he'd said, Charles had missed it in the wake of all that effort to shield, but he nodded anyway, reckless; nothing in the reports on Erik had indicated anything Charles couldn't handle. Erik squeezed hard, twisted just right, and Charles couldn't hold back anymore; he came in Erik's fist, his come streaking out against his chest, one jet after another until he knew he was filthy with it.
"You're beautiful. God, look at you," Erik panted, finally letting Charles's cock go. He eased carefully out of Charles's body and brought Charles's legs down, straddling them; he stripped off the condom and started jerking himself off. Oh, this; this was what Charles had missed while trying to shield, and he nodded, licking his lips and opening his mouth-- he didn't know whether Erik could shoot quite this far, but it was always a pretty picture, his clients had loved it every time before. Erik made a strangled sound and came, and if he didn't quite get Charles on the chin, his streaks did land alongside Charles's, making Charles even more of a wreck, his chest heaving and his eyes bright as Erik came on him.
Erik sagged a bit, out of breath but smiling. "Gorgeous," he murmured, and there his thoughts were again, fluttering against Charles's mind. Charles winced, and Erik immediately straightened, reaching out with one hand, his eyebrows drawn together again. Concern? Charles hoped not; there was nothing to be concerned about. Did he really need to think quite so loudly, anyway? Honestly...
"Can I get you something?" Charles murmured. He caught Erik's hand in one of his own and pressed his lips to Erik's knuckles.
"Can you--" Erik laughed. "No. No, it's my turn to wait on you, don't you think? I'll get you a washcloth, if you'd like to clean up."
"I'd tell you not to go anywhere, but then we'd just stick to each other," Charles teased. "You can go if you promise to, one, come right back, and two, hold onto me for a while once I've cleaned myself up."
"Agreed on both counts," Erik said, and he swung a leg over Charles's hips and climbed out of bed, squeezing Charles's hand before he went.
Another late dinner, but this time taken together in bed; another long evening, this time full of slow, easy kisses that felt like they could last all night. They managed another round, on their sides, Erik's arm around Charles's waist while he kept up a steady rhythm and kissed Charles just behind the ear, but when Erik jerked himself out of sleep for a third time, he shook his head and dragged himself out of bed.
He'd slept fitfully the last time, too, drifting only once, that Charles remembered. Charles levered himself up on one arm, watching as Erik started getting dressed. "Another early meeting?"
Erik looked up at him. His eyes were a little round, his lips tight, and he shook his head. "No, I just can't stay. I'm sorry. I wish I could."
"A late meeting," Charles joked. Erik laughed, which unfurled the knot in Charles's stomach before it could get started. "No? No one waiting for you, I take it?"
"I haven't had time to date in years," Erik said, boxer-briefs back on, grabbing for his shirt. "I miss it, sometimes." He met Charles's eyes and then quickly looked around the floor for his trousers, picking them up and shaking them out before stepping into them.
"I could make you a deal on the price of an overnight," Charles offered, and instantly wanted to kick himself. Why not just offer him everything he wants for free and see where that gets you. For God's sake, Xavier.
"It's not the price. Believe me, if I could spend the night, it'd be worth anything." Erik looped his tie around his neck, but didn't bother tying it. He came back to the bed, where Charles kneeled up on the mattress and fastened the top button on his shirt for him, tying his tie in a quick four-in-hand, just enough to get him home. "Could we agree that this wasn't the last time, though? I want to see you again."
"Absolutely." Charles held onto Erik's tie and drew him forward, and Erik went, eager, his mouth already open for Charles's kiss. Charles waited, though, drinking in the feel of that: Erik wanting him, Erik agreeing to a next time before even leaving. Asking for a next time. Erik wanted him. It felt good.
He kissed Erik, finally, lingering at it before letting Erik slip back. "I'll give you my direct line, so you won't have any trouble getting in touch with me," Charles offered. "I'll text you with it."
"You trust me with your direct line?" Erik teased. "Aren't you afraid I'll be taking up all your time, if I've got an open invitation to call you?"
"Oh, I think I can manage. If I can't speak, I'll let it go to voice mail." Charles smiled; the idea of having Erik's voice filling his mailbox was more than appealing. "But I'll be there more often than not, I promise you that."
"I won't object." Erik took a seat at the foot of the bed to put his shoes on, and that was it; he was ready to go. Damn. It felt too early for that, even though it was-- Charles glanced at Erik's watch-- nearly two in the morning. But Erik turned and got his arms around Charles one last time, all but pulling Charles into his lap as he kissed him one more time.
Charles stroked Erik's cheek as they pulled away. "Not goodbye," Charles murmured. "Just... until next time."
"Until next time," Erik murmured, forehead pressed against Charles's. Charles was nearly braced for it when the flutter of Erik's mind came drifting across his own, and this time he didn't panic; he just shored up his defenses and tilted his head up, kissing Erik's forehead. "Good night."
"Good night, Erik."
As soon as Erik was gone, Charles dug out his mobile and texted Erik with his direct number. There was no pause at all between his text and Erik's quick, texted response: [Thank you. I promise only to abuse this privilege within safe, sane, and consensual limits. :)]
[It's a very high limit,] Charles texted back, and then, [Wait, are you texting me while still in the building?]
[At least I'm not texting while driving,] Erik responded. A few seconds later, another text came through: [I'll call you soon. I had a wonderful night.]
[So did I. I'm looking forward to the next.]
Charles set his phone down on the nightstand and headed to the shower-- he was still a bit sticky from the evening as a whole-- and this time when he climbed into bed, he burrowed into the pillow on Erik's half of the bed and smiled himself to sleep.
Telepathy had its side benefits. One of them was lucid dreaming; Charles spent the night replaying his time with Erik over and over again, sinking into the memory as completely as he could. Early in the morning, when he'd reached the point of drowsing more than sleeping, a sound cut into his dreams. Something soft but trilling. A ringing tone. A bell...
His phone. Charles pulled himself out of sleep as quickly as he could and fumbled for his phone, over on his bedside table. He'd already answered and put the handset to his ear before realizing it might not be Erik; he was so wrapped up in his thoughts about Erik that he'd just assumed.
But the voice on the other end of the line was him, warm and purring. "Charles. Did I wake you?"
"Ask me if I mind," Charles yawned. "Did you sleep well?"
"As well as could be expected. I did have to drag myself out of a warm bed with a delightful companion..."
You didn't have to, Charles thought, but no-- he was pleased enough to be getting a call from Erik first thing in the morning, he wasn't going to ruin it, not so soon. "Your companion missed you," Charles said instead.
There was a pause on Erik's end of the line. Too far. Charles winced, struggling to figure out a way to take that back-- a joke, a jest, teasing, seduction--
"I thought I'd call to arrange our next appointment," Erik said at last, and Charles breathed a bit easier. "What does your calendar look like over the next week?"
It didn't take much concentration at all to remind himself of his schedule; Charles could answer right away. "I'm free every day except Saturday and Wednesday. And anything after next Wednesday could be rescheduled."
Another pause. "All right," Erik said. "Sunday, then? Tuesday? Of course Thursday..."
"Yes, any of those."
"No, all of them."
Charles laughed. The smile on his face was so huge it was starting to hurt. He rolled over onto his back, stretching out with a pleased groan. "I'm all yours," he said. "For all of them."
"I suppose Sunday and Thursday would make overnights on Saturday and Wednesday awkward..."
"That depends on when you want to see me," Charles said. "We usually don't see you here until early evening on Thursday, though I'm certainly available before that. And as for Sunday, I'd be happy to see you as early as you'd like."
"Your Saturday engagement may be a bit disappointed, then," Erik said. "In not getting to have you longer, that is... I can't imagine anything about your time with them that could possibly be disappointing."
Charles almost snorted; Saturday was a date with Emma. "Believe me. Clients manage to find ways."
Maybe that was too much, too; Erik was quiet for a while. "I suppose they might," he said. "I should go, I'm on my way to work..."
Now that he mentioned it, Charles could hear a touch of road noise. "You're calling from your car? I hope you're driving safely, Erik."
"Not to worry, I have integrated Bluetooth, so I'm talking hands-free."
"If you were at a stop light in the middle of nowhere I could do something with that," Charles said-- teasing, yes, but he couldn't deny the idea had some merit. Erik, in his car, getting off while Charles talked to him? While Charles could hear everything?
"If you had some time to spare right now I could do something with you," Erik responded. "I've got another ten minutes yet, where are you?"
Now that was almost a better idea altogether. Erik in his car, driving along, listening to Charles getting off... Charles shoved at his covers, trying to be noisy about it. "I'm still in our-- I'm still in the bed we shared last night," Charles said, oh God, what a thing to nearly say... "I'm still just as you left me," he tried, hoping that would make up for it. Erik would be able to visualize him, and if there was one thing Charles had learned about phone sex over the years, it was that getting a client to visualize the right things made all the difference.
"God," Erik murmured. "I wish I could have stayed, Charles."
Then stay next time! Charles sighed out a breath as he ran a hand down his chest, further and further, down toward his cock. There was a bruise on his hip; he remembered Erik's mouth there, his teeth sinking in as he sucked that mark onto Charles's body. "Erik," Charles murmured, thumb grazing that mark. "I wish you could have, too."
"Tell me," Erik urged him. "Tell me what you're doing."
Charles gave him a low, shuddered moan. "Do you remember marking me last night?"
"You'll have to be more specific."
Charles hadn't had the chance to take inventory of himself, of all the marks Erik had left on him. He was looking forward to it. "My right hip." Charles pressed his thumb against the mark again. "Do you remember having your mouth there?"
"Vividly," Erik said, and if it wasn't Charles's imagination, he sounded a bit more breathless than he had a moment ago. "What about that mark?"
"I'm touching it."
"I've got my thumb on that mark-- you really did leave a lovely bruise on me, thank you for that-- and I'm rubbing it in circles."
"You're going to kill me," Erik groaned. "Don't stop. Tell me what else you're doing."
"What else would you like me to do?" Charles kept his thumb on the bruise, kept himself from touching anything else just yet. Ask. You'll have to ask...
"Charles..." He could hear it as Erik took a deep breath, let it out, took another. He was playing up his sounds, too, Charles realized, and there was something about that he liked... maybe it was the idea that Erik wanted him to hear that pleasure, wanted Charles to know this was affecting him, too. After all the time Charles had spent wondering if this was all one-sided, it was so good to hear that Erik wanted more from him, that he wanted to share with Charles just how much he wanted more.
"Tell me," Charles said.
"Put your hand on your cock."
"Going right for that, are we?" Charles teased.
"I've got ten minutes. And you're going to leave me in quite the state when I get to work. I suppose I'll have to hope my briefcase hides all the things I'm going to be thinking about you."
"Is it a large briefcase?"
Erik laughed. "It's what you'd expect."
"Stainless steel? Will it be conspicuous for you to be carrying it by hand at all?"
"Maybe a little. I'll have to take my chances. Where's your hand, Charles?"
"Left hand, up above my head, near the bedrails. Right hand... where was it you wanted me to put it, again? I've forgotten."
"Imp," Erik said, but he sounded so fond Charles could only laugh. "Put it on your cock. Pretend I'm there, and I'm touching you. I want that to be me. My hand. My mouth, the next time we see one another."
"I'll pencil that into our calendar for you," Charles told him, but he was moving his hand now, getting it onto his cock. It didn't take much to have his body ready for this; he'd been half-hard since he woke, fully-hard since Erik put phone sex on the menu. "Did I tell you that I enjoyed last night very, very much?"
"You told me last night... but I'm glad to hear it again. I enjoyed it every bit as much." Erik's voice went a little more stern as he added, "Stroke yourself. Let me hear what it does to you."
"What you do to me," Charles blurted out. He bit down hard on his lower lip and started touching himself, letting Erik hear his blunted moans and pleased noises. It's not just anyone. It's you. I want you, Erik. I want you so much...
"Yes," Erik groaned. "Charles-- yes, say whatever you want, I want to hear it, I want to hear you--"
You want to hear half of me. Charles pushed that aside. There were any number of people who didn't want to share telepathy with him; he refused to let the fact that Erik was one of them get in the way of a mutually satisfying... well, singularly satisfying, actually... morning. "I'm thinking about you. Obviously," Charles gasped out. "I'm thinking about you at work, and the way you're going to have to wait all day to get off. Are you going to be thinking about me all day long, Erik?"
"I was already going to be thinking of you all day long," Erik growled. "But now I'm going to be thinking of your hand on your cock, there because I wanted it there. Because I wanted you to give me that."
"I'd give you anything," Charles promised. He'd found a good rhythm now, a warm steady pace that would get him close and keep him close for as long as he needed. He was going to be breathless for the rest of this conversation, but he could wait until Erik told him before coming. "Just tell me what you want, Erik. Just tell me."
"I want you," Erik said. "I want every part of you. I want to hear you get off this morning... I want to remember the way you sounded all day, and I want to go home and jerk off thinking about your voice. I want to see you again."
"Tonight," Charles offered. "I'm free tonight, I could see you tonight, please, Erik--" He bit his lip again; he didn't need to beg Erik for more of his time, damn it. He couldn't.
They weren't equals, and they certainly weren't dating. This was up to Erik. Erik was his client.
"I won't be wearing out my welcome?" Erik asked.
Charles's heart leapt directly into his throat; he bought time with a few more strokes and another solid moan. "You won't," Charles promised, breathless. "You couldn't. Come here after work, I want to see you again..."
The road noises stopped; everything seemed much quieter. And then the background hum of the engine disappeared, too. Erik must have arrived at work. Charles curled his free hand hard around the bedrails; Erik couldn't just leave, could he? Not yet, not yet--
"Is that what you'd like?" Erik asked quietly. "You'd like it if I thought about you all day, just as you are now, your body marked from our night together, getting off because I told you to, and then came straight to you-- do you know how hard I'd fuck you, do you know what I'd do to you if I came to you after work--"
"I can only hope," Charles said. He was closer than he'd realized; the thought of Erik spending all day worked up and then coming right to Charles to spend all that energy and excitement and frustration... it was pushing him right up to the edge, right there, he was going to have to back off or risk coming before Erik said to. "I want you, Erik, you know that, you must have known..."
"Did you know it was killing me not to have you, that I couldn't stand the thought of you with anyone else-- we met and you were marked once, I couldn't stand it, I wanted you all to myself--"
"Well, that makes two of us," Charles said, and then bit his lip hard. Damn it, he couldn't afford to think that way about Erik, and he certainly couldn't afford to tell Erik that. Erik had said he hadn't had time to date in years. But he'd also said he'd missed it. If he met someone, there'd be nothing Charles could say. Their relationship was business, not personal. Business.
"Do it," Erik said roughly. "Do it. Come. Come for me now, Charles, I want to hear that, I want to know you're--" His voice cut out for a moment, damn mobile connections, this was no time to lose the phone call. "--come, let me hear you," Erik finished.
Charles closed his eyes. Somewhere out there, Erik was sitting in his car, hard and desperate, wanting Charles to come so he could hear it, carry that sound with him all day long. And as soon as he was finished with work for the day he'd be here, coming straight back to Charles, fucking a whole day's worth of restraint into him.
Thinking about all that, Charles might not have even had to touch himself to get off-- but he gave himself those last strokes anyway, moaning loudly into the phone as he came, as the streaks of his come jetted out and landed over his inner thighs, his hand. "Erik."
Erik groaned, too. "God. Charles."
"Erik, yes, I..." I'm yours? Was he insane? Charles settled for another moan and closed his eyes, just letting himself have the moment: post-orgasm, Erik's voice on the phone, Erik sounding desperate to have him. To have him. That was his name Erik was calling, no one else's.
He breathed out softly, and when Erik didn't say anything more, Charles told him, "That was a wonderful way to start the morning."
"I'm glad," Erik said. His voice was a little shaky. Charles grinned. "I have a five o'clock meeting today. I'm going to try to reschedule it."
"I'll be ready whenever you get here. If you'd like me to do anything in particular to get ready, you only have to tell me. Email or text or you can call me once you're on the way..."
"Don't tempt me. If I thought I could spend the day emailing you orders..."
"It's my job to tempt you," Charles teased, and just as quickly realized he shouldn't have. Erik's end of the line went dead silent-- for a moment Charles was afraid Erik had hung up on him, but a glance to the phone display showed he was still on the line. "Erik-- I didn't mean--"
"You're much more than a job to me," Charles got out, hoping he was fast enough to say it before Erik hung up on him. From the quiet sigh on Erik's end of the line, he had, but what did that sigh mean-- was Erik happy about that, unhappy about it? If they'd been in the same place, Charles might have let himself read Erik for a clue. Disappointment? Relief? What?
"Charles..." Charles held his breath, waiting for Erik to say more. Anything more. "It's the same for me. I thought you knew that."
I don't know half the things about you that I'd like to, Charles thought, but he was more than mollified by It's the same for me. "I'm sorry for the misstep."
"I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions." Erik paused again, and then finally said, "I really do need to go. I'll be in touch, Charles. Have a good day."
"All right. You, too."
Erik hung up, and Charles groaned, tossing his phone aside. It had all been going so well, and he'd nearly ruined it. There were some clients who knew full well they were getting something transactional from him-- Tony never minded that sort of banter, it was part of the appeal for him. And then there were clients who hated to be reminded that any part of what they were getting from him was an act. Emma could read his mind, and she still preferred the illusion that they were two acquaintances who happened to get together for sex now and then, with Charles's attraction to her all-natural, all real.
Erik had seemed so comfortable with the idea that they were still on client-companion terms-- he was the one who'd talked about making appointments instead of making dates, he was the one who'd mentioned climbing out of bed with his companion instead of his-- whatever else he might have preferred to call Charles. But Charles had managed to cross the line anyway. It was better not to tease when he didn't know for certain what the reception was going to be, and not only was Erik someone who preferred not to have his mind read, Charles had gone and teased him that way over the phone. Something was clearly wrong with him; he was losing his knack for everything, all his training flying out of his head where Erik Lehnsherr was concerned.
And no wonder. He'd never been so honest as he had been when he'd said You're much more than a job to me, and the warm relief he'd felt when Erik had responded with It's the same for me. I thought you knew that was still flowing through him.
It was worse than he'd thought.
There was a routine for mornings-after, and as much as it had galled him to have Raven come into his bedroom and insist he follow that routine, maybe she'd had a point. He rolled onto his side and dug a fresh hand towel out of the bedside table. He'd clean up, he'd take a shower, and he'd ask Raven to meet him for breakfast in order to do his followup.
And if, when he got to the bathroom, he stood in front of the full-length mirror for a long time, cataloguing every one of the marks Erik had left on his body... well, that was his business, and it didn't have to go into the followup report.
Marks on neck, shoulder, hips, inner thigh. All marks given with full consent and participation of both parties, thoroughly enjoyed. No unusual or aggressive behavior from client. Client needs to reschedule a variety of appointments and will be seeing me Sunday and Tuesday in addition to Thursday, with possible Friday night engagement as well. Client's interest in metal, while already well-established, should be noted again for last night: metal used included the bedframe (returned to normal shape when he was finished with it). Client's responsiveness to companion touching metal objects is more keen than originally suspected...
Raven knocked once on Charles's office door and then let herself in. "Lehnsherr's going to be here four days next week?"
"Ah. You read my report."
"Technically Friday is part of this week, so we only have plans for three days next week--"
"If he were seeing Piotr all those days we'd be renegotiating his contract with us. That much of Piotr's time would mean Piotr would be used up one side and down the other-- we'd only be able to book Piotr with people who don't mind if he's stamped all over with somebody else's marks, which, hello, aren't you seeing Emma on Saturday?"
"Emma knows about Erik."
"Right. Of course." Raven dropped her forehead into her hand. "So. He might be coming here tonight, huh?"
"He said he'd be here. There was a meeting he had at five that he was trying to reschedule."
"He's rescheduling work meetings to spend more time with you?" Raven blinked. "Seriously, why hasn't he asked you out on a date yet?"
It wasn't a question Charles cared to dwell on. "I'm free tonight, there's nothing preventing me from meeting him. Unless you're planning on threatening to pull rank with me, in which case I'd like to point out that I checked in with my followup report before you were even awake this morning."
Raven rolled her eyes. "Yes, yes, I get it, you're completely objective and reasonable about Lehnsherr, there's absolutely no reason for me to worry about you getting in over your head at all. And when he comes over tonight, you're going to have a perfect evening, and you won't even mind tiptoeing around the telepathy thing because sooner or later he'll come around, right?"
Charles drew back, flinching. "It's one thing to be concerned, but it's something else entirely to lean on my-- issues-- that way. That was uncalled for."
"I'm sorry." Raven reached across Charles's desk and slid her hand over his, squeezing gently. "I really am. I'm sorry."
"Look, if nothing else, here, I'm at least enjoying my job, and four days of Lehnsherr's time will do a lot for the business. He's never booked Piotr for four days in a week before."
"Okay. Look, I'm sorry I've been making you justify this. But if I were losing it over somebody, you'd be just as ready to make sure I wasn't getting in over my head, wouldn't you?"
"Of course I would." Charles raised an eyebrow. "There isn't anyone like that for you...?"
"No. No, there's not. If there were, I wouldn't be seeing anyone else." Raven leaned back in her chair. "I do think you should talk about renegotiating his contract. If he's going to want to see that much of you, we could have him put you on retainer..."
"I'll think about it," Charles promised. "It's a little soon for that."
"Please, the two of you have been eye-fucking over chess since you met." Raven held up both hands. "But if you say it's too soon, then it's too soon. He can keep up the a la carte payments for as long as that works for you two."
"It's working now," Charles said. As he said it, a text came in, and when he checked his phone, it was from Erik.
[Cleared my afternoon. I can be there by 4:30 if you have the time available.]
"Holy crap, blinding smile is blinding," Raven said, making a show out of shielding her eyes. "The man himself?"
"He'll be here at 4:30." Charles quickly sent a return text: [I'll be here with bells on. Literally, if the metal would amuse you.]
[No bells needed. Just you.]
"4:30," Raven said. "I'll mark it on your calendar."
Four o'clock came, went; Charles took a fast shower, shaved, dressed casually for once. He owned three pairs of jeans, all ridiculously low-slung-- it had been the fashion back when he was dressing to clients' preferences more often than he had to today. He had no idea whether Erik had any sort of denim fetish, but figured all the brass rivets would be sure to get his attention. And with the jeans on, he could wear steel-toed boots without feeling over-the-top. A metal-studded belt completed the industrial look; he wore a black t-shirt and checked his reflection a dozen times, wondering what Erik would make of it.
At 4:30, Erik walked into Charles's office, and came to a sudden stop as the door shut behind him. Charles stood up and slowly walked around his desk, smiling. As usual, Erik had come to him in a three-piece suit, and he looked spectacular. He was even clean-shaven. He'd taken care with his appearance before getting here, too.
Charles couldn't claim to be unaffected by that, but Erik was all but gaping. Erik's gaze traveled down to Charles's boots and then slowly up again, over his jeans, lingering at Charles's crotch, and then further and further up... up to his belt, where Erik actually stopped long enough to let out a shuddering breath and lick his lips. When his eyes met Charles's again, Charles grinned at him, and he wasn't at all surprised to find his feet stuck to the floor with Erik's ability, leaving him helpless and pinned in place as Erik strode over to him and kissed him, hard, like he wanted to devour Charles in one bite or less.
His hands roamed down Charles's back, and finally to his belt, exploring all the rivets and studs. By the time his hands got to Charles's belt buckle, Charles was having to struggle to keep from sliding down to his knees, taking Erik in his mouth right here and right now.
"All this," Erik panted softly, stealing kiss after kiss between words. "All this... for me... Charles, my God..."
"It's--" Charles broke away long enough to smirk and say, "casual Friday. You've never been here on a Friday before..."
"If this is what Friday gets me with you, I want all your Fridays," Erik said, his hands going to Charles's hips.
"That could be arranged." Charles reached up and cupped Erik's face in one of his hands. "If you mean it."
"I mean it," Erik said, and he claimed Charles's mouth again, hands moving to Charles's thighs. With one fast push-- and a little help from his ability, Charles could feel the tug in his belt and his jeans and his boots-- Erik got Charles up onto the edge of his desk. Charles spread his legs wide, making room for Erik between them, but Erik was already going to the floor, hands on Charles's knees.
"Erik," Charles groaned. He got his hands into Erik's hair; Erik responded by yanking at Charles's belt buckle with his ability. The buckle came free, and so did the first button on Charles's jeans-- followed by the second, third, fourth, oh God, Erik wasn't going to waste any time, not today. God help them both, he hadn't even taken his jacket off. "Erik, please--"
"I spent all day long thinking about this. Thinking about how I promised you I'd do this." Erik licked his lips again, and then he helped Charles push his jeans down. Not very far down, though; just enough to expose the mark Erik had left on his hip. Erik reached up for that, his thumb pressing into the mark, his palm covering Charles's belt and all its metal decorations. With his other hand, he reached into the fly of Charles's jeans and boxer shorts, and Charles tilted his head back and gasped as Erik found his cock, his hand hot and firm against it as he drew it out of Charles's pants. "I promised you my mouth, Charles. I promised I'd suck you, and you said you'd put it on my calendar."
"I-- ahhh..." Erik gave Charles a long, hard stroke from the base of his cock to the head, and Charles bit his lower lip, trying not to groan so loudly he'd draw attention from outside the office. "I didn't... actually... put it on your calendar," Charles gasped, using his grip on Erik's hair to draw him back, make Erik look him in the eyes. "I thought you might want room to improvise..."
"You had your hand on your cock this morning," Erik breathed, and he was so close, so close-- if he'd just lean forward with his mouth open, that teasing bastard. "Show me."
Charles managed to flutter his eyes open. "Show you," he repeated. "What...?"
Erik gently took his hand off Charles's cock and took Charles's hand in his. It shouldn't have been a surprise when Erik wrapped Charles's hand gently around his own cock, but when he put his hand over Charles's, Charles had to bite his lip, shaking with need.
"Show me what you did this morning. When we were on the phone." Erik flicked his eyes up to Charles's face, and Charles took a breath, finally settling down and starting to stroke himself. Erik licked a long, slow circle around the head of Charles's cock, which nearly threw off Charles's rhythm, but he could do this, damn it-- he could keep going while watching himself jerk off into, against, Erik's mouth. He could stay professional long enough to give Erik what he wanted.
Erik took another slow lick, around once-- twice-- tonguing at Charles's foreskin-- and then sat back a little, putting his hands on Charles's inner thighs.
"I came so close to getting off with you this morning," Erik said. "I wanted to so badly, you can't even imagine how badly I wanted that..."
"As badly as I wanted you to do it?" Charles worked his cock harder for a few strokes, leaning back a little and groaning. "God, Erik, I wanted you, I still want you..."
"I'm going to suck you," Erik said, and it sounded like more than just a promise-- it sounded like a vow. "I'm going to suck you while you jerk off into my mouth, I want to feel your hand on your cock while I suck you..."
"Oh, God," Charles gasped. "God, yes, Erik, I-- please, do it, suck me--"
Erik was every bit as ready for it as Charles was; he leaned down and sucked the head of Charles's cock into his mouth, and he kept sucking while Charles stroked himself off. His hand slid up to Erik's face again and again, and he wanted-- oh, God, he wanted-- he put his other hand in Erik's hair, drawing him down, needing a faster pace. He was going to come in Erik's mouth-- he'd fantasized about that so many times, and now it was going to happen, it had to happen, he couldn't hold back any longer.
He felt a firm brush against his shields, as if Erik were trying to push a thought through. Wishful thinking, Charles's imagination, some kind of near-orgasm-induced hallucination-- it didn't really matter what it was or where it came from, Charles was coming, and that blotted out everything else, all other considerations. He pumped his cock hard, fast, using Erik's mouth, and Erik squeezed Charles's thighs and moaned, sucking and swallowing and taking Charles's come, making sounds that Charles could either interpret as intense pleasure or intense pain.
As soon as Charles was through, Erik leaned back, his belt flinging itself open, his zipper dropping as his trousers unfastened themselves. Charles laughed hoarsely-- it was all he could do, too breathless to come up with any sort of teasing remark. But soon enough Erik was tugging the tails of his shirt out of the way, slipping his cock through the hole in his boxer-briefs, and jerking off fast, as if he wasn't waiting any longer than he absolutely had to.
Charles bent down, cupped Erik's face, and kissed him, and Erik made a strangled, urgent sound, pushing his tongue into Charles's mouth. Charles shivered at the way Erik tasted-- like him, oh God, like Charles's come, Charles had his claim all over Erik's mouth. But then Erik was breaking off the kiss, gasping for breath, coming-- he managed to hit Charles's boot with one of the jets, and Charles had to steady himself on Erik's shoulders to keep himself upright. The idea of Erik licking that boot clean-- it wasn't the type of client Erik was, but oh God, Charles could fantasize about that, and he would. He absolutely would.
He whispered, "I hope we haven't wrecked your suit," and Erik laughed. He glanced down at his hand, shaking his head ruefully. Charles had spare handkerchiefs in his desk drawer; he leaned back and fished one out, offering it to Erik. Erik hesitated for a moment and then took it, cleaning off his hand, his cock, the spot he'd left on his trousers... and he swiped the handkerchief over Charles's boot before handing it back.
"I have an excellent dry cleaner," Erik said, coming to his feet. All tidied up now, he put his clothing back in order, and for an instant he looked as calm and well-put-together as he probably had this morning.
This morning. When Charles had wrecked him in a completely different way. Charles grinned up at him, and Erik licked his lips, his eyes fluttering closed. No, he didn't look calm. He looked like he needed a thousand different kinds of debauchery.
Fortunately, Charles was an expert in exactly that.
He buttoned up his jeans, leaving the belt undone, and reached out for Erik's tie. Slipping it out from Erik's vest and winding it around his hand, he pulled Erik close-- close enough their lips were just a breath apart.
"Come upstairs with me," Charles murmured. "I want every single second you can give me."
"I'm all yours," Erik whispered back, and they were close enough to one another to feel each other's grins.
It was nearly noon by the time Charles woke up on Saturday. Erik had stayed until just about three in the morning, and Charles had refrained from asking, again, if he'd spend the night. As a result, Erik had given Charles a warm kiss just as he was drifting off for the last time, and then Erik had slipped out the door.
Waking up alone wasn't the highlight of Charles's day-- or then again, maybe it was. After he'd showered and shaved and dressed and gone down to his office, the day actually managed to get worse.
He checked the calendar three times to make sure there wasn't a mistake. It was still there, despite how often Charles closed and reopened that damned calendar program.
Piotr -- 6:00pm -- Erik Lehnsherr. It overlapped Charles's date with Emma, covering the time from an hour beforehand to two hours after.
«Raven, may I see you for a moment, please?»
Raven let herself into Charles's office, took one look at the calendar, and winced. "Right, about that--"
"When did he arrange this?"
"This morning. And while we're at it--" She leaned over his desk, hit a few buttons on his keyboard, and pointed at Wednesday. "He's seeing Piotr on Wednesday, too." This one overlapped Tony's date with Charles by a similar margin. She looked at him. "Are you going to be okay with that?"
Charles took a few deep breaths. "Of course." He scrolled the calendar back to today. "I just need to make a phone call."
"If you're going to cancel on Emma--"
"I wasn't planning on it."
"You're going to call Lehnsherr?"
"I think I'd better."
"Okay. Good luck." Raven gave him a quick pat on the shoulder and bolted for the door, not that Charles could really blame her. He wouldn't have wanted to deal with himself this morning, either, if he could help it.
Fair was fair; he'd given Erik his direct line, he had Erik's number programmed into his phone. He dialed, waited for Erik to pick up, and grimaced when the line went to voice mail. There was no way he was going to allow himself to conjure up mental images of what Erik might be doing this afternoon-- picking out something to wear when he saw Piotr... tossing off while thinking about the night's plans... imagining the ways his control over metal could play off Piotr's fully-armored form...
"Erik, it's Charles," he snapped at the voice mail system. "I think we've got a conflict in our schedule here; if you could get to Xavier's a half-hour ahead of schedule, we'd like to sort that out with you."
Schedule conflicts. It was obviously that; it wasn't Erik taking every possible opportunity to be with Piotr while Charles was otherwise occupied. It couldn't be that.
All these times Erik had been early to his appointments, and this once, when Charles had asked him to be early... Charles kept staring at his watch, waiting for Raven's mental signal from outside his office. 5:25. 5:26. 5:27...
It was 5:39 before Erik showed up, and when he walked into Charles's office, Charles didn't waste any time. He shoved Erik back against the door, barely even getting a chance to take in Erik's more casual clothes-- a button-down shirt and jeans-- before he was tugging at Erik's belt.
"What-- Charles," Erik gasped, his hands moving to Charles's hair. He leaned in for a kiss, but he was too late; Charles was already slipping to his knees, Erik's belt down, his jeans unbuttoned and unzipped. "What--"
"Shut up," Charles whispered. "Hold onto me."
Erik nodded and tightened his grip on Charles's hair, and Charles drew Erik's cock out of his boxer-briefs, giving it a few quick pumps with his hand before swallowing it down.
"Charles--" Erik clutched at him, drew him forward as Charles kept going, taking more, letting Erik's cock fill his throat. An appointment with Piotr, for God's sake, as if Charles wouldn't rather have spent the night with Erik, as if this whole arrangement were Charles's idea--
"God, I can't-- I need you," Erik whispered, thrusting into Charles's mouth again and again. Charles was going to be hoarse after this, might have to spend the whole evening with Emma silent-- but she wouldn't mind that, she'd just lean on him and his feelings for Erik, and he deserved it, he'd been stupid enough to want this all to mean something--
He drew back, sucking hard at the head of Erik's cock before pulling off entirely. Erik met his eyes as Charles got his hand around Erik's cock again, and Charles opened his mouth, put his tongue on his lower lip in invitation. Erik's eyes went wide.
Something moved across Charles's shields, and he shored them up. It was getting to be habit with Erik; he could keep Erik out no matter how hard Erik was thinking at him. Erik was never going to have to worry about Charles taking something he wasn't given; he was safe, damn him, perfectly, completely safe.
"Can I," Erik babbled out, "God, look at you, I have to, Charles--"
"Do it," Charles told him, giving him one more fast stroke, and Erik gasped, lashes fluttering as he struggled to keep his eyes open, trying to watch every jet as he came all over Charles's face.
Erik leaned heavily against the door once it was over; Charles pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and cleaned himself off. He struggled up to his feet, and Erik reached for him, trying to pull him close.
"You're a bit--" Charles nodded down between them and handed the handkerchief over; Erik swabbed himself off, grimaced as he got his cock back into his jeans, and zipped up. By then, though, Charles was back around the other side of his desk, taking a seat, and Erik stood there at the door, looking at him, his eyebrows drawn up and together. "Yes?"
"What was--" Erik glanced down at himself, then back to Charles. "What just happened?"
"Don't worry, Mr. Lehnsherr, that one was on the house."
He'd seen Erik frustrated, tired, conflicted, but it didn't take his telepathy to tell that Erik was angry now. Both his hands balled into fists; Charles could see the tension all the way up to his shoulders. Erik came forward and leaned both hands on the desk, bending over to stare into Charles's eyes.
"You're the one who was unavailable tonight," Erik bit out. "If you'd wanted to see me instead of whoever it is you've got on the schedule, you could have said so."
"You could have asked if I could rearrange things for you, but you didn't do that, did you?" Charles shot back. "You just waited until you were finished with me and then made an appointment to see someone else. One person's as good as another here, is that about right?"
"That's nothing even close to right," Erik said, eyes flashing. "Am I supposed to be grateful for this?" He gestured down at himself. "Glad you were able to fit a five-minute blowjob into your busy schedule? And thank you for wrecking my plans for this evening, by the way."
"Don't be absurd, you've always been good for twice in an evening before," Charles said, sitting back in his chair. "Quite a bit more than twice, depending on how late an evening you make it. How late were you planning to be here tonight?"
"I hadn't thought that far ahead. It's not as though I've ever run short of ideas for what to do with a partner who has metal skin."
"Isn't he lucky," Charles muttered.
"I said," Charles snapped, "isn't he lucky. To have a mutation you actually want to be near, rather than--" He sketched out a tap to his temple.
And, unsurprisingly, Erik's thoughts were so loud for a moment that Charles had to shore up his shields against them. A reminder of his telepathy invariably made it the elephant in the room; Erik didn't want Charles reading him, so his thoughts were more obvious than ever.
The crashing wave of Erik's mind broke after a few moments, dwindling down to nothing. Charles exhaled, meeting Erik's gaze, waiting for him to say whatever he might have wanted to say out loud.
"If there's nothing else," Erik said quietly, "then I'll be going."
"Yes," Charles said. "I think you'd better. I've an appointment to get ready for myself."
Erik let himself back out of Charles's office before Charles could send for Piotr, but the presence and weight of Erik's thoughts and emotions stayed sharp in the outer room, deep and thunderous until Piotr finally came for him, and the two of them disappeared.
Charles headed upstairs. Emma. He needed to clear his mind; he had a date with Emma. She was the only person he needed to be thinking of now. Erik was taken care of; Piotr wouldn't leave him wanting. Maybe after all this, Erik would end up rescheduling again, making certain Piotr was the only person on his schedule. It might be easier for everyone if that happened.
"Text him," Emma said, no preamble, no greeting.
"I beg your pardon," Charles said, stepping back and tightening his shields.
"You're not going to be of any use to me at all tonight, so I might as well see you squirm another way. Text your lover. I'll just sit back and watch." She crooked a finger at him and guided him into the living room, where there were already cushions set out on the floor for him. Charles knelt down on one of them, and when Emma took a seat and raised an eyebrow, he sighed and drew his mobile out of his pocket.
"What exactly am I meant to text him?"
"Whatever occurs." Emma glanced at her fingernails and dusted them against her chest. "You could start with an apology."
"I owe him an--"
Emma narrowed her eyes, and Charles gritted his teeth; they could go back-and-forth with telepathy and shielding all night long, but eventually he'd let his shields slip. Not because she was stronger, but because he needed to talk to someone about all this, and Emma could give him the plausible excuse of being unable to avoid it.
He opened for her, and she slipped into his thoughts with a little sigh.
«Charles, you're a fool. Why are you here? I don't pay you that much... and Lehnsherr's giving you double that.» Emma crossed her legs and folded her hands on her knee. "Get out of my house, Charles," she said, sweet and pleasant, and it made Charles feel as though he were flushing to his hairline.
"I'm meant to go back to the mansion and wait for Erik to finish up with Piotr? I'd rather be here. Surely you have something for me to do. Ironing, perhaps?" Charles flashed her one of his best smiles. "I think I remember where you keep your housekeepers' uniforms."
"And waste both our evenings instead of only yours? No." Emma shook her head. "I've made an arrangement with someone else at the mansion on the off-chance you were too distracted to be useful."
Charles's stomach dropped. "Raven told you I've been seeing Lehnsherr."
"I asked; she confirmed it. Is it really necessary to be this stubborn? Think of where you'd be if you weren't."
In bed with someone who only wants part of me, Charles thought, and Emma's expression softened just a fraction. She reached out and cupped Charles's face in her hand.
"It's like that for all of us," she said softly. "You're never going to be like me-- you'll always want his blessing. If you could learn to live without it--"
"I wouldn't be worth having." Charles shook his head and came to his feet. "I'm sorry for spending your time unwisely tonight," he said, offering her his hand.
Emma took it and came to her feet herself. "It's not often I get to give someone relationship advice." She smirked. "Even less often that he takes it. Go home, Charles, and see about salvaging the evening for both of you."
"Good night, Mistress Frost."
"Good night, Charles."
Charles was home before ten, and after checking in with Raven, went upstairs to his room.
He couldn't think of anything particularly insightful to send to Erik. Eventually, he settled for, [I'm sorry about tonight.] It was true in a number of different ways.
His phone rang a few moments later, and he answered it. It was galling to think Erik might be over in Piotr's room, on the phone with Charles while Piotr was tied to the bedframe or somesuch, but then again, he'd gotten Erik's attention away from Piotr immediately. That was worth something.
"Charles." Erik sighed. "I'm sorry, too."
"I'm in my room-- the one in the west wing-- if you'd like to have this conversation in person."
Erik hesitated; when he started speaking again, Charles could almost hear a smile in his voice. "I'm at home," Erik said. "I could drive back, but--"
"You're home?" Charles repeated. All right, damn it; he was smiling, too. "What about your evening with--"
"What about yours?"
"It never happened. I was sent home for being a bit useless."
"Charles..." Erik's voice trailed off, and he finally finished with, "You've never been useless."
"To someone else," Charles clarified. "You didn't answer me."
"I was more or less the same."
"I'm sorry about that." Or he ought to have been, which amounted to mostly the same thing.
"It wasn't because of--" Erik paused. "It wasn't because of anything you did tonight. I just didn't think it would be fair to-- my partner," he stumbled, "to spend the night with him when I wanted..."
Say it. Charles closed his eyes; if Erik were here, if his thoughts were banging at Charles's mental door as loudly as they so often were, it would be all Charles could do to keep them out. "When you wanted what, Erik?"
"When I wanted you."
Charles took a deep breath and held it, savoring the sound of those words. "I wanted you, too," he murmured. "You could come back if you wanted."
"I wasn't even certain you'd want to see me tomorrow."
"I always want to see you." Too much? The hell with it; the words were out there now.
"I always want to see you, too." Not too much. Charles couldn't stop himself from grinning. "I'll be better off if I get a good night's sleep first, but-- what does your schedule look like tomorrow? Could you meet me for lunch?"
"Of course we could have lunch," Charles said. He was starting to feel warm all over. "When would you like to come by?"
Erik paused. "I didn't mean at Xavier's," he said slowly. "I meant-- could you meet me? Off-site?"
Charles blinked a few times. "As your escort...?"
Forget warm; Charles was feeling hot, and halfway to dizzy with pleasure. "Are you asking me out on a date, Erik?"
"Yes. I--" Erik stopped. "If I'm allowed to. If I still need to pay for your time, then of course I will, I don't mind, but yes. If you can accept it as a date, then it's a date."
"There's an Italian place I like. Casual, but charming. Nice and quiet." Charles smiled. "I'll text you the address. We can meet at noon, if that works for you."
"Noon would be perfect." Erik laughed. "I can't wait."
"Can't you?" Charles laughed, too. "I'm glad. I want you thinking about me tonight."
"I think about you every night," Erik said, and then groaned. "I'm sorry, that was a ridiculous thing to say--"
"But very flattering," Charles said lightly. "I'll be thinking about you, too."
"Good night, Charles."
It was. "Good night, Erik."