Wesley’s lounging against a building opposite Westchester Academy’s wrought-iron gates, smoking a cigarette and coolly ignoring the pedestrians that flow around his slouched form like water around a stone, when Charles emerges from his chess club meeting, blue eyes bright and animated, round cheeks flushed and dimpled with pleasure. He’s talking to someone, waving his hands excitedly, and Wesley scowls when he notices that Charles has forgotten his gloves again. His hands will go stiff and red with cold before too long, and he’ll whine when Wesley tries to warm them by rubbing Charles’ fingers between his calloused palms: “Not so hard, Wes, your skin’s scratching me…”
“Wes!” Charles interrupts Wesley's daydream. Lighting up, he waves like they’re two hundred feet apart instead of twenty, like he’s not seen Wesley for years instead of hours. It makes Wesley want to blush and roll his eyes at the same time; instead, he grinds out his cigarette beneath the heel of one combat boot and smirks a little as Charles draws up to him.
“Hey, Charlie.” Pointedly not looking at the tall boy with whom his twin has been conversing, Wesley gives Charles the rough side-hug he reserves for their more public interactions. Had they been alone, Wesley might have embraced him fully, let Charles snuffle into the collar of his leather jacket even as he protested that they were too old for this, really, Wes… “Good day?”
The guy next to him looks surprised as Charles nods. “I didn’t realize you had a twin,” the stranger says to Charles, and Wesley catches a German tang in his precisely-articulated consonants. “He doesn’t go to our school, does he?”
Charles blushes and opens his mouth, but Wesley beats him to it. “I got kicked out,” he drawls, pulling another smoke from his coat pocket and lighting it, “back in ninth grade.”
“I don’t—” begins Charles. Wesley ignores him in favor of continuing:
“Some upperclassmen broke Charles’s leg. The school thought a week’s suspension was a harsh enough punishment for them. I disagreed.” He exhales, and if some smoke gets in the German boy’s face, well, the wind’s a bitch today.
Charles’s friend looks faintly admiring. “That’s a good reason to get expelled.”
Wesley shakes his head. “It was a dumbass move. Now I can’t be there for Charles at all.”
Now, why the hell did he say that? Wesley blinks, jarred by his own honesty. This German must be pushing him closer to the edge than he'd thought. Go on, he thinks as the strange boy raises an eyebrow. Say something about it, Cheekbones, I dare you. But Charles swoops in before he can vocalize the threat:
“What’s done is done,” he intones, laying a hand on Wesley’s elbow, “and I’d just as soon not revisit it, if it’s all the same to you two. Erik, I hate to dash, but Wes and I have some errands to run…”
“Of course.” Erik grins. He looks like something vaguely dangerous when he does that, and Wesley has a policy about not allowing dangerous things to get close to Charles. But Charles yanks him down the sidewalk before Wesley can find an excuse to pop Erik a good one. “See you tomorrow, Charles.”
Wesley snarls low in his throat even as Charles tightens his grip around his twin’s arm, making Wesley drop his cigarette. “Goodbye, Erik,” he calls back, then resumes putting as much distance between the two boys as possible.
“What on Earth was that about?!” he demands a short while later, releasing Wesley once they can no longer see Charles's school-mate in the distance. “You looked like you were going to maul him, Wes!”
“I didn’t like him.”
“Yes, you made that abundantly clear!” snaps Charles. He stands panting with anger and exertion, stewing for a long moment, then he inhales slowly, deeply, and releases the air in a tired sigh. “…I’m sorry, Wesley. I didn’t mean to get angry,” he says, rubbing his forehead.
Only Charles would apologize when Wesley is the one being a total asshole. It pisses Wesley off, but he forces himself to cool it, raking a hand through his hair and muttering, “Fuck that, Charlie. I was a dick. It’s my fault.”
“I know you don’t always like my friends…”
“That’s my problem, not yours.”
“I know,” Charles says gently. “I was just disappointed; I thought you and Erik might get along. He reminds me of you in many ways.”
Wesley snorts before he can stop himself. “I like to think I don’t look at you the way he does,” he blurts, and almost jams his fist down his throat as Charles’s brows draw together confusedly.
“Look at me how?”
Shit! Fuck! “Nothing.”
“Wes…”Charles’s hand comes up as though to grasp his arm again, but Wesley intercepts the motion, catching his twin by the wrist. “Wes,” Charles breathes, surprised and uncomprehending and so fucking innocent that Wes wants to be fifteen and beating the shit out of the guys who put his brother in a cast all over again, just to blow off the helpless anger that’s surging through him now.
“Charles,” he says lowly, forcing himself to hold Charles's stare, “just leave it.”
Innumerable emotions dance their way through his brother's eyes, then subside as quickly as they rose. Charles bites his lip, ducks his head.
“Okay,” he murmurs.
Wesley lets the stillness hang between them for a minute. Then, transferring his grip from Charles’s wrist to his hand, he rubs his palm against it, brings his other hand up to sandwich his twin’s fingers.
“You forgot your gloves again,” he mutters.
“Your skin is too rough,” replies Charles.
Neither of them can make it seem like they’re complaining.