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before that, and colder

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By this point in their relationship, Erik is willing to declare it a recurring theme: no matter what expectations he has, Charles will always, always overturn them. From the night they met, when he heard that new voice in his head, rescuing him from the ocean, all the way to standing out on the grounds, staring up at this ridiculous mansion for the first time. Charles is always more, always different.

Perhaps at some point Erik will stop being surprised. Either he'll stop caring, somehow, and Charles will just become another person Erik can ignore - or he'll get to know Charles so well, everything about him will become familiar.

Some days Erik is not sure which of the two options to hope for. Though it's not as if he'll have a choice, either way.

Charles's bedroom is large by any standards Erik knows, though it's still much smaller than any of the other rooms he's seen in the mansion, smaller than the bedroom he claimed for himself. It's decorated in dark blue and red. There are baseball pennants on the walls, a train set in the corner, model airplanes hanging from the ceiling. It's obviously a room for a child, and Erik finds himself slightly uneasy from it. He stands just a few steps in from the closed door, watching Charles as he stands before the dresser, stripping out of his clothes and changing into his pajamas.

The door has an extra lock on it, besides the one that is built in; Erik hasn't seen that anywhere else in the house, either. It's large but cheap, flimsy. He can imagine young Charles carefully picking it out, purchasing it at a local hardware store.

"Do come in and make yourself comfortable," Charles says. He doesn't look over at Erik, staring down at his own hands as he finishes buttoning up his top.

Erik crosses the room and sits at the foot of the bed, tugging off his shoes and socks and dropping them on the floor. He pulls his shirt over his head and then stands again. He undoes his belt buckle and zipper with a gesture of his hand, and lets his trousers fall around his ankles, leaving him clad only in his boxer shorts. He kicks the trousers away and turns around to see Charles, already tucked under the covers.

"It's a rather small bed," Erik says.

"Mmm," Charles says. "We've made do with smaller, haven't we?" He projects a memory of the two of them, wrapped together in a tiny motel bed. Kansas City, Erik thought. They hadn't found the mutant they'd been searching for there, but it had been a good night, nonetheless.

"We had motivation then," Erik says. He climbs into the bed. Charles immediately turns onto his side, his back against Erik's chest, his ass against Erik's groin. Erik places his hand on Charles's hip, a possessive touch just below the waistband of his pajama pants. "And if I remember correctly, you had a terrible neck crick the next morning."

"That wasn't caused by the size of the bed," Charles says. "And I'm sure we could think up some motivation now." He leans his head back, stretching out his neck before Erik.

Erik kisses it obediently, but he says, "I'm not going to fuck you here, Charles."

"Why on earth not?" Charles sounds faintly surprised.

"Look at this place," Erik says. "We're practically in a nursery."

Charles disentangles from Erik and rolls over to face him. "I shouldn't have to demonstrate for you to what degree I am not an innocent child, my friend."

Erik says, "There's a teddy bear on the window seat."

Charles sighs. "It's - I haven't lived here, in this house, since I was seventeen, you know. That's when Raven and I left for New York." He pauses for a moment, teeth playing with his lower lip, and then continues, "We left rather in a hurry, afraid they would change their minds at the last minute, before we managed the escape once and for all. And I wasn't really inclined to take much from here with me. We were starting over. Until today, I've only been back here for the funerals."

"You could have picked any room in the house," Erik says. "You didn't have to come back to this one."

Charles frowns. "It never occurred to me not to. This is my room."

It's fair enough, Erik supposes. It's not as though he is in a place to judge; he's never avoided any of his memories. They're what give him his strength, after all.

"They're not all bad memories," Charles says.

He sends Erik another image, this time of two teenagers who must be Raven and Charles, sitting cross-legged on this same bed, a Ouija board set between them, their fingertips balanced carefully on the planchette.

Don't make that face, Charles says, of course it's hooey, but it was fun.

In the memory, Raven laughs, a slight and girlish giggle, and says, "The spirits say you're going to meet somebody tall and dark and handsome," and Charles's face reddens quickly, the blush covering his entire face. It just makes Raven giggle harder.

Erik blinks, and the memory fades, leaving him in the present, staring back at Charles's older, more familiar face.

"Of course, the so-called spirits weren't specific about when the meeting would take place," Charles says, "so I suppose I can't complain that it took thirteen years. You were half the world away at that point. Besides, it fueled my fantasies for months."

1949 - Erik would have been nineteen. Out of the DP camps at last; he'd gone to Israel, because where else would he go? There wasn't anything he cared about left in Europe; that was everything old and dead. Israel was new, and if Erik didn't have hope, back then he could fake it, feeding on the hope of everyone else around him. He'd still thought then that being around his people would be enough, that he'd learn to feel not alone again. It hadn't take that long for him to realize differently.

He remembers his first place, the entire thing smaller than his bedroom here - but his and his alone, a sudden freedom from the crowdedness and lack of privacy of some many years. That bed had been even smaller than this one, but he and Magda had made it work when they had to.

Erik pictures himself as that teenager, skinny and awkward and angry, and he thinks of the vision of seventeen-year-old Charles, red-cheeked and bright-eyed. If he had met Charles then, so long ago- god, Charles on his knees, his face against the pillow, Erik would have fucked him through the mattress, held him so tight and never let him go-

"Yes," Charles says, almost a moan, "exactly," and Erik realizes, suddenly, that he doesn't know how much of that fantasy was him, and how much was Charles. "That's exactly what I thought of, every night in this bed, only I didn't know it was you."

Charles, alone; alone as Erik, in his own way. And yet somehow through all that time and distance they'd found each other, matched like a key and lock. If it hadn't been in those waters in Miami, it would have been somewhere else. The two of them, side by side, fighting, fucking, everything together.

"Oh, hell," Erik mutters. He kisses Charles aggressively, fighting past his own sentimentality; Charles welcomes him in, warm and eager. One of Charles's hands lands on Erik's ass, squeezing gently. When Erik reaches down Charles's pajamas, Charles's cock is erect.

"You've never had anybody else in this bed," Erik whispers in Charles's ear, only half a question. "Just me."

"Just you," Charles says. There's a smugness in his tone that bleeds over into the mental feelings he's sending Erik as well, but Erik is well-used to that emotion of Charles's by now.

He doublechecks the locks on the door one more time, using his power to sense the metal, and then he turns his attention completely and fully to Charles.