Erik's mind is more aswirl than usual tonight; it isn't keeping Charles awake, precisely, but he notices when Erik gives up the battle with sleep and climbs out of bed. He pries one eye open as Erik heads for the door, the moonlight beaming in just enough through the open window to give Charles a look at his silhouette as he goes.
And a few seconds after he's gone, Charles sits upright in bed, blinking.
He is, not to put too fine a point on it, familiar with Erik's hips. He knows the slender, narrow shape of them; the way they flex and move beneath his palms when he's plunging into Erik from behind; the fine bones beneath lean muscle, and the way those hipbones feel beneath his palms when Charles pins Erik down—he especially loves pinning Erik at the hips in order to lavish attention on Erik with his mouth.
So to say that Erik's hips are a known quantity is really quite the understatement.
And Erik's hips do not curve like that.
* * *
It's not just the hips; Erik has been sore in places he has no business being sore. The two of them have determined through a great deal of trial and a very small amount of error that simple intercourse rarely leaves Erik sore, but they certainly have had the sort of sex that leaves him with tender places.
Still, Charles hasn't done anything at all to Erik's chest or nipples in some time, and yet for the past three days or so, when he's leant his head back against Erik's chest, Erik has been squirming away. The one time lately he bent his head down to suck on Erik's nipple, Erik forcibly grabbed him by the hair and stopped him.
As if it had been Charles's fault that Erik's nipples were gorgeous, red and dense and slightly swollen...
Yes, well. Charles begins adding layers, slippers and a robe in addition to his usual pajamas, and heads downstairs.
* * *
Charles heads downstairs and finds Erik sitting in the kitchen. "There you are."
"Did you expect me to be somewhere else?" Erik glowers at him over a jar of olives. The rest of the table is set with a variety of... interesting foods. Sauerkraut? Liver? For a moment he thinks the light brownish paste is liver mousse to go along with the liver itself, that at least would make sense (even if it would be more than a bit rich), but as he comes closer he recognizes it as the last of the butterscotch pudding.
With a diet like this, it's always possible Erik's hips could simply be rounding out naturally. His stomach hasn't been quite as lean as usual either, Charles knows; with the benefit of photographic memory, he can recall to the last detail what Erik's stomach has looked like every time Charles has managed to lay his head on Erik's chest and run a hand up and down that ridiculous torso of his. For a little while now, it's been different; there's been a slight swell just below Erik's navel.
At the time, Charles thought it was nice to see Erik gaining a little weight; certainly his frame had room to spare, and it was good to think that here with Charles and the others, Erik could afford to be a bit less vigilant.
Now, though... Charles has to think of a way to approach this topic gently. Very gently. They are in the kitchen, after all. The amount of metal in this room is staggering.
"It did seem like a restless night for you." Charles comes over and takes a seat beside him, resting a hand on Erik's forearm. "I wasn't sure if there was more to your insomnia than an urge for a late-night snack."
Erik glares down at his jar of olives. "We've been over this. You know I can't always sleep through the night."
Oh, dear. Defensive, more than anything. Charles gets a wave of irritation as well, and examines it the way he'd look over a hand-dyed silk scarf; in his mind's eye, he spreads it over his hands and looks carefully at the dark spots. Hmm, interesting: the irritation isn't so much about Charles coming in after him. Certainly a plus. It's more that Erik doesn't quite know why he's been restless these last few nights. Restless and peckish.
"You have been sleeping better these days... I was so pleased about that."
"Frequent and rather energetic sex does seem to have a sedative effect at night," Erik says dryly. Another little translucent wisp of emotion, a sense of shy gratitude. It's more than just the sex, of course; sleeping with a telepath who shares his own theta and delta waves can lead to very restful sleep indeed, and Erik's finally decided to allow Charles the latitude. They both sleep better for it now; Charles because he needn't concern himself about keeping that drowsy sensation to himself, and Erik because—though Charles knows this isn't how he'd put it—he feels safer with Charles's mind folded around him.
As if Charles could do anything but love this man, really. Every little part of him, down to the smallest, tiniest beginnings of cells...
He rubs Erik's forearm gently, looking over the tableau before them. "I'd ask to share, but I'm afraid this won't do much for me."
"You could have the pudding," Erik offers, though when he puts his hand on the bowl to move it closer, it somehow ends up tugged protectively in front of him, away from Charles's reach.
"No, thank you." And now they come to it; Charles sits back in his chair and simply fords the subject change without preamble. "Do you know, since Darwin came back to us, Hank and I have been doing a bit of research into..."
Erik raises an eyebrow.
"...well." Charles clears his throat. "As fantastic as it might sound... the science of life and death."
Nodding slowly, Erik fishes another olive out of the jar. He eats it in one bite, then licks the juice and brine from his fingers. "Useful," he says, eventually. "Shaw's been keeping himself alive all this time through an offshoot ability granted to him by his mutation. If we could counter that—"
"Yes, of course," Charles interrupts, "but I was thinking of something a bit more..." No, gently, especially around this topic in particular. Pots, pans, baking sheets, knives, forks, spoons... Charles recalls from one diner on the road that Erik can be alarming armed only with a soup spoon. "A bit more constructive," he finally decides upon.
Erik merely stares at him.
"Life," Charles offers. "I hadn't expected to be bringing this up so soon after our discovery, but there appears to be some evidence that certain males who carry the X-gene can..." He waves a hand, then realizes he's waving it in Erik's direction, and makes the gesture more swooping. "Carry more than that."
"Either say what you mean or go back to bed, Charles," Erik says wearily, putting the olives aside and reaching for the pudding.
"Children," Charles says at last. "Some males who carry the X-gene may be capable of bearing children."
"This is theory? Or one of our own is expecting," Erik says, glancing over Charles. "Not you, I hope."
"No, certainly not me." Charles shakes his head. "There are obvious signs, much the same as you'd expect from any pregnancy. A slight swelling in the—" he stops himself from saying breasts—"pectoral area. Changes in the hips, as well. Mood swings, sleeplessness, food cravings..."
A flicker of worry runs through Erik's thoughts, though he quickly pushes it aside. "I'm not the most pleasant person in this house on my best of days, and you've known about the insomnia since we met."
"Of course I have," Charles soothes, stroking Erik's forearm.
"As for food cravings..." Erik surveys the bowls and jars on the table. "You're not exactly well-stocked, you realize, and making a full meal would have created quite the racket. No reason to keep everyone else awake." He begins packing up the food, and takes it over to the refrigerator, washing up his spoons and forks afterwards and using his ability to place them neatly in the drawer. Charles props his chin on his hand and smiles at him; no matter how many times he sees Erik use his ability, whether it's to put away a fork or drive an anchor through a luxury yacht, he'll never grow tired of it.
There's no distinct brain pattern to sense just yet, nothing Charles can reach for and get to know, not even with his command of his mutation. He could be gentle enough, he knows; he's been around infants before, and they get along. He could manage.
He wonders whether the baby will inherit his abilities or Erik's, or neither one. A mutant with some gift or another, with two parents that have such powerful X-genes, but...
Erik sits down heavily in the kitchen chair. That worry has grown from a flicker to an all-out flame. "Charles," Erik says hoarsely. "Surely not."
"Maybe not," Charles concedes. "It could be coincidental. Or something else, some other form of secondary mutation coming to bear."
Erik grimaces. "Maybe I should have been a little more insistent about having my turn now and then. At least then we'd have a fifty-fifty chance."
More like eighty-twenty. Or maybe as much as seventy-thirty, Charles can't help but think, much as the thought fills him with immediate chagrin. "Or possibly we'd both be... at risk," Charles says, clearing his throat. "But we don't necessarily have to plan for this. We don't know anything yet."
"Not yet," Erik says, and he looks down at himself, finally, his hand going down to cover that slight swell Charles has been noticing of late. His mind spins out of control: I can't, what sort of father would I be, what if the baby's hurt when we finally confront Shaw, I can't let Shaw orphan my son... my daughter... I won't let him do to it what he did to me... and we never made promises, it was always just for now, how will I get through this alone...?
Charles slips off his chair and kneels down at Erik's side. That short-circuits all of Erik's thoughts, leaving him looking down at Charles with wide, startled eyes.
"I said it when we met, and I meant it. You're not alone, and I don't intend for you to be alone in the future. Regardless of whether there's just you, or—more than just you." Charles takes Erik's hand in his and squeezes it. He lifts himself up to one knee, and opens his mouth to say, "Erik Magnus Lehnsherr, will you—"
Which is all he gets out before Erik chokes and says, "You ridiculous man, get off the floor this instant."
Admittedly, Charles was being a bit flippant; nevertheless, he's more than a little crestfallen at the quick rejection. "Oh." He looks at Erik's hand, caught between his own. He'd already been entertaining fantasies of Erik using—who knows, a tea spoon or a shrimp fork—to fashion rings for the both of them. "All right."
"Wait." Erik leans down slightly and slips his hand out of Charles's grasp, tracing Charles's face with his fingertips. "Don't assume an answer. I just think we need a bit more information before you actually ask the question."
His thoughts come through clearly, projected deliberately for Charles: There will, of course, be rather a lot of words, if it turns out you've inadvertently gotten me pregnant. At least, this had better have been an accident...
Charles laughs. Of course it was, darling, he thinks back, and he runs his hands down the backs of Erik's calves. "You know. While I'm down here..."
"Oh, God," Erik moans, shoving back in his chair and lifting the first of his feet into Charles's lap. "Yes, please, mind the instep and don't spare the ankles," and Charles laughs and laughs and sets to, smiling.