Charles rises before the sun, a habit that even blackout curtains have not been able to break. A servant’s habit, he said when Erik once complained. Charles had shrugged then and ducked his head, trying to make Erik understand without words that there was no help for their differing circumstances and that Charles did not care. And Erik mutters and groans and clings, seeming to know without waking whether Charles is only shifting in sleep or preparing to leave the bed.
On the last morning, Charles’s first stirrings bring Erik’s arms around him, trapping him fast against Erik’s chest. Charles allows it, warm and relaxed, until he feels Erik’s breath against his neck, not the soft, even breaths of sleep but the small, stifled gasps of almost-sobs. Charles twists round at once to face him, arms wrapping around Erik's shoulders, their foreheads pressed together.
"None of that, love. None of that." He pulls back to kiss Erik lightly, cheek and brow, before resting his chin on Erik’s head as Erik burrows closer. "We've something to remember now."
From the depths comes a muffled response and Erik’s arms tighten convulsively. Charles allows himself to be held for more precious minutes before he gently extricates himself from Erik’s embrace. Once standing, he crosses to the chair in the corner and pulls on the clothes he had left folded neatly there, not looking at Erik but acutely aware of burning eyes watching him across the small bedroom. He can almost feel the warring emotions in Erik’s mind, the desire for every moment possible with Charles overcoming by the slimmest of margins the terrible lure of despair’s isolation. Charles feels it all himself, if in different proportions, but the sudden knowledge of how thoroughly he has won through Erik’s defenses makes his heart race and his hands shake. He is glad that it is too dark in the room for Erik to notice. He wishes he could do something, anything, to seal his victory, to show Erik that Charles feels the same love and the same fear, but there is no time.
When Charles finishes dressing he glances up to see Erik sitting on the edge of the bed, sheet-wrapped and ghostly in the trapped darkness of their room. Erik slowly holds out his arms to Charles, and Charles’s hands come up, too, in involuntary response. He takes a step, and another, before he can stop himself. He stands very still then, forcing his arms to his sides, wondering whether he can manage to speak.
After a long moment Erik drops his hands to clutch the bed, though his eyes are still on Charles. “This will be a long and very trying day,” he says, and sighs.
Hearing Erik’s voice, sad and resigned but without the despair that Charles feared would begin with Erik and overwhelm them both, releases Charles as though from a spell. He shakes his head and somehow finds his own voice. “Breakfast, then. I’ll just go down and put the kettle on.”
He turns and walks through the door, along the hall and down the stairs. By the time he reaches the kitchen the world of familiar things has reformed around him. He fills the kettle and lights the stove, and his hands no longer shake.