Most people can’t pinpoint the moment when they first become aware of sex. They can name an approximate age, but the exact moment? Sex education is not as methodical as education boards would have us believe, but rather a sort of fractured osmosis, transference of knowledge through prolonged contact with the world.
Charles, on the other hand, can name the month, the date, and the time, almost to the hour. The first time his telepathy happened to pick up a sexual fantasy.
Most people can’t pinpoint the time when they first become aware of death. Some can, of course – for some, the knowledge is not a gradual slide into the awareness that everything passes but a sudden drop of terror and horror and blood and pain. Charles can name the moment he became aware of death; it was the same moment his telepathy awakened.
The moment his father shot himself in the head.
Charles remembers being just outside the study door when it happened, the sudden blast of pain/despair/shame that hits him as the gunshot roars through the halls. He drops to the floor as though he’s the one who’d been hit by the bullet, shaking with his father’s emotions as they bleed out from beneath the door like shadows.
Perhaps that might have been the end of it. Perhaps he could have picked himself up and gone for help, if Brian Xavier had better aim.
But as it is, the angle of the bullet is off, and it takes Brian two hours to die.
Charles feels every second of it.
Later, when he’s escaped the people downstairs (because their minds are so loud, too loud, and their pity clogs the back of his throat with a sickly-sweet taste he can’t get rid of, no matter how much he coughs and swallows) to curl up in the attic, he shuts his eyes and blocks his ears and pleads with God to make it go away. He prays like his mother taught him, prays for it to all to go away and leave him in peace.
It doesn’t. Charles Xavier will never know peace – or solitude –again.
Charles has always known that two men and two women can desire each other just a man and a woman do. By the time he’s seven, his time without telepathy seems a distant, unreal dream, and he’s seen enough images tinged with desire/yearning/lust/love to know deep, intimate details of how two people can bring each other pleasure.
Puberty is far over the horizon, so while Charles knows that people desire sex, he has yet to understand why they desire it. To him, it just seems vaguely repellent – messy and clumsy and surely some of those things would hurt, just a little bit?
Anyway, it’s something grown-ups do, clearly, so Charles does his best not to worry about it. Grown-ups do all sorts of things he doesn’t have to, like paying bills and worrying about jobs, so maybe sex is like those things. Just something you have to do when you’re a grown-up.
By the time Charles is ten, however, he’s become more discerning. He’s able to recognise the more nuanced emotions and motivations now, and he’s recognising a sharp divide between views on sex. Images and desires featuring a man and a woman are sometimes tinged with embarrassment/humiliation/furtivenesss/guilt like they’re something to be kept secret, but it isn’t as acute or as common as when it’s two people of the same sex. Shame/horror/guilt/self-loathing snags and snarls at the corners of those images and Charles doesn’t understand why.
He makes a comment at the dinner table – it’s worth the risk of speaking up in Kurt’s presence, just to understand. His mother is horrified, and Kurt…
Well, suffice to say, Charles never raises that subject again.
He lies in his bed, nursing his bruises, and thinks, turning the events over and over in his mind, trying to make them fit. So, a man and a woman together is fine, is acceptable and expected, but two men or two women…aren’t? It’s…wrong, somehow?
He wants to look into Kurt’s mind and find out why, but Kurt’s mind is dark and sharp and it hurts, and he doesn’t want to go in there, ever.
So he lies in his bed, his ribs aching as he breathes, and wonders.
Eventually, of course, Charles understands why people want sex so much. At sixteen, he’s also grasped why a woman fantasising about another woman might feel sick and ashamed, might worry there’s something wrong with her, something evil and perverted.
He’s old enough now to have comprehended society’s judgements on homosexuality, old enough to realise that public opinion holds it as a disease of the mind, as a perversion that must be cured…
Perhaps it’s because he grew up with it, perhaps because it always seemed as natural and unquestioned as heterosexuality, but the scientist in him screams ‘show me proof’.
He stumbled across the complete works of Sigismund Freud in the mansion’s library, so he’s well-versed in the so-called ‘immature desires’. It might just be that Charles is sceptical of the whole premise to begin with, but a lot of those conclusions seem rather shaky. He’s yet to see anything that comes even close to convincing him.
He’s learned since Kurt’s beating, though. Raven knows his opinion on the matter, but no one else does – his position is one it’s not wise to advertise, especially while he’s still dependent on his mother’s goodwill. And Raven too; it won’t do to get her thrown out just because he feels the need to stand up for himself, to look his mother in the face and say ‘I want to have sex with men, and there’s nothing wrong with that’.
But of course, that isn’t the whole truth. Charles has found his relationship to sexuality is…complicated, for lack of a better word. He doesn’t drool over pin-ups the way most other boys his age do – people don’t seem real to him without the soft press of their thoughts, and while looking at a photograph of someone he knows can make him recall the flavour and patterns of their mind, it doesn’t work for those women in the magazines. It’s like trying to feel sexual desire for a doll; it simply doesn’t happen.
What he finds desirable is less about the person’s body and more about their mind. And it’s not to do with intelligence or complexity, as Raven once assumed when he tried to explain it to her. No, it’s more basic than that – their mind has to be pleasant for him to touch.
Some people’s minds are like Kurt’s – they bite when they’re touched, and Charles knows enough to steer well clear of those kinds of people. Some people’s minds are like cacti – prickly and unpleasant, only tolerable in small, light brushes. Sometimes Charles feels like Goldilocks; this mind is too hot, this mind is too cold…
He wonders if he’ll ever find one that’s just right for him.
Charles loses his virginity in London at age eighteen, to a woman named Audrey. She’s a year older than him, an aspiring actress, and her mind is like lemonade – clear and sweet and refreshing. She trained as a ballerina and worked to collect money for the Dutch Resistance during the war, and she isn’t afraid to debate with Charles. She smiles into each kiss like she knows a secret, and they share their dreams between the sheets. They’re not in love, though Charles thinks they may be close to it on several occasions, and when she breaks it off for the sake her burgeoning career his well-wishes are sincere and without bitterness.
Years later, Raven will never understand why Charles, who usually hates movies, is so eager to see Roman Holiday.
His first attempt to have sex with a man does not go nearly so well. His telepathy is very free during sex; nothing terribly invasive, but he can’t help picking up on emotions and surface thoughts, and his partner’s are so full of shame and hatred – towards himself and towards Charles, for stirring this desire in him – that Charles simply gets up and leaves. Not very polite, true, but the headache and sudden nausea churning in his gut don’t leave him much choice.
Charles has never been one to be deterred by setbacks, so he tries again. And again. And again.
But it’s no good – it never works. The only way he can even get an erection is by completely blocking off his telepathy, which is somewhat akin to plugging his ears, shutting his eyes, and shoving his head into a bucket of water. Everything becomes very muffled and distant, and people suddenly seem like unreal mirages.
While it’s possible to become aroused in that state, actually achieving orgasm is completely beyond him.
After the eighth time, Charles gives up. It’s not in his nature to surrender to anything, but it’s simply too tiring, too draining to keep doing this. And it’s hard not to feel bitter when yet another discrete, bright-eyed young man spends the evening worrying whether they are being too loud, or whether the curtains are thick enough or, memorably, whether their wife will notice that they smell different when they return to their little lives of domestic bliss.
Charles knows rationally that there must well-adjusted homosexual men somewhere in London. But he hasn’t found them, and he just doesn’t have the energy to keep looking.
So he puts that aspect of his desire to the back of his mind, not without a little bitterness, and concentrates on women.
Charles knows that Erik wants him. He’s been trying to keep his promise to stay out of Erik’s head, but there’s only so much he can keep out, and the flash of desire/lust/want that hits him across the chessboard nearly sears his skin. It’s got to the point that Charles can severely hamper Erik’s strategies just by licking his lips or glancing up at him from beneath his lashes.
Not that Charles is much better. Those tantalising glimpses of Erik’s mind, the memory of it washing over him and into him that night, vaster than the ocean he’d plunged into, shadowed and full of dangerous, hidden currents but no less magnificent for that and god, Charles wants…
But he won’t. He’ll honour his promise to stay out of Erik’s mind, because at times it seems all he has is his honour.
Charles slides his queen across the board, through the avenue opened up by his knight.
“Checkmate,” he declares, letting his voice change into something deep and throaty, feeling a curl of satisfaction and pleasure when he sees Erik’s hands tighten on the arms of his chair.
Oh, he wants to be in Erik’s mind so badly. Everything he’s accidentally picked up from Erik tells him that Erik doesn’t feel ashamed of his desire for Charles, a stark contrast to everything he experienced in England. Perhaps Erik’s been so removed from society for so long that he no longer puts any stock in what it deems acceptable.
But it doesn’t matter, because Erik has asked him to stay out, so Charles will stay out. He closes his eyes for a moment and builds his shields, high and impenetrable, the ones that will muffle his telepathy completely.
When he opens his eyes, everything has taken on the dream-like quality he associates with these kinds of shields. It’s like he’s suddenly become very remote from his body, like he’s watching everything that happens on a movie screen. Telepathy is such an integral part of himself that cutting it off affects every sense, makes him feel disoriented, as though he’s just stepped off a pitching boat onto solid land and his brain hasn’t adjusted yet.
But Erik wants sex, and Charles doesn’t mind. He’d like to say he looks forward to it but he doesn’t, not really. Still, Erik will enjoy it, and Charles can’t deny he feels pleased at the prospect of giving Erik pleasure when he’s had so little of it in his life.
“My friend,” he says quietly, rising from his chair and deliberately moving close to Erik, laying a cautious hand over his. “I haven’t pried, I promise, but if you want what I want…”
He trails off, deliberately leaving Erik a graceful exit. He wants Charles, true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll act on it. Charles loves Erik – he can feel it, tucked against his heart like a lead weight – but that doesn’t mean Erik feels the same way
For a moment, Charles honestly doesn’t know what to expect. Then Erik’s hand turns beneath his, and he weaves their fingers together. It’s the only signal Charles needs to prompt him to slide into Erik’s lap, bracket his jaw with one hand, and bring their lips together.
Erik kisses Charles the way a man would eat his last meal – desperately, greedily, but slowly, savouring each touch and slide and twist of tongue. His hand tightens on Charles’, and his arm comes up around Charles’ waist to pull him closer.
Charles is quite sure this will progress to sex almost immediately unless he says otherwise. Erik is used to grabbing what he wants, because for him, there’s never been any guarantee it will be around later.
So Charles isn’t really surprised when Erik stands and begins to guide him backwards towards the bed. He wonders if Erik suspected something like this was going to happen – Charles’ suggestion to play chess in his bedroom rather than the study was probably not the most subtle of invitations.
Erik’s hands keep moving, tugging at buttons and zips, tracing over Charles’ skin as though Charles is some alien creature he needs to learn entirely by touch. Charles applies himself to returning the favour, feeling a sluggish stir of desire at the expression on Erik’s face, like he can’t quite believe this is really happening.
Erik is already hard against his belly, and Charles is grateful he tucked some lubricant into the drawer of the side table. He’s not sure if his preference is to be penetrated – he’s not even sure if that’ll be on the cards – but he trust Erik enough to want to try.
It’s hard to focus with his shields up but he manages to pull off his shirt. Erik pushes him back onto the bed, pulling at his trousers so hard that Charles wonders vaguely if he’ll rip them. He shucks them off, kicking them to the floor, and Charles takes that as his cue to shed his own pants and reach into the drawer.
“You might want this,” he says, passing the tin to Erik with his best cheeky smile.
It’s always slightly surreal to hear himself speak when he’s like this – unnerving more than anything else, but Charles finds he doesn’t mind speaking as long as it gets Erik to keep looking at him like that. Like Charles is just too good to be true.
Now Erik is naked, Charles can’t stop staring. He feels his own cock starting to stir and harden, sluggish but still responsive.
He wants to touch Erik’s mind – wants to know what he’s feeling and thinking and what he wants – but Charles won’t let himself. Erik has made it clear he doesn’t want Charles in his head, and Charles will respect that.
Erik plucks the lubricant from his hands and kisses him again, deep and searing, his hand snaking between their bodies to wrap lightly around Charles’ cock. It takes a moment or two to adjust to the sensation but Charles can feel his cock thicken and the urgent pressure of arousal beat against the fog of his mental shields.
Erik breaks the kiss to gasp, as though just feeling Charles grow hard in his hand is enough to take his breath away. He moves back but not away, staring at Charles in a way he simply cannot interpret – no one has ever looked at him like that before. A mixture of awe and reverence and…
His shields groan under the weight of his desire to touch Erik’s mind, and Charles hastily shores up the barricade.
He prepares to roll over onto his hands and knees, but Erik’s hand on his hip stops him. Puzzled, Charles goes still, and Erik takes the opportunity to kiss him again, gently nudging his legs apart.
Apparently Erik wants to see his face. Charles realises that Erik hasn’t spoken since they first kissed, and even now he’s keeping himself hushed, trying to mute his moans, almost as though he’s afraid anything louder than a whisper will break the spell.
Erik begins kissing Charles’ neck and shoulders, moving slowly, inexorably down his chest as a slick finger begins to probe between his legs. Charles sighs, trying to lose himself in the dim sense of pleasure and the love that wells in him every time he catches a glimpse of Erik’s face.
But Erik seems to be slowing, darting hesitant glances up at Charles, a slight frown beginning to appear on his face. Charles smiles, hoping to dispel whatever misgivings Erik is feeling, but Erik doesn’t resume his ministrations, just rubs a thumb over the crest of Charles’ hip thoughtfully.
“Charles…this is alright, isn’t it?”
Charles really wants to read his mind, just lightly – people make so little sense when you can’t feel the brush of their emotions and motivations.
“Of course it is,” he assures, reaching down to cup Erik’s cheek. “Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Usually I can feel…something from you when we’re touching,” Erik points out, remarkably self-composed for someone stark naked and inches away from Charles’ cock. “Even through clothing.”
Charles blinks, a feeling of consternation piercing his shielded haze. Physical contact enhances his telepathy, and he can’t deny he’d been getting a small, guilty rush from those brief glimpses into Erik’s mind, but he’d thought it had been one-way.
“I’m terribly sorry,” he blurts out. “I didn’t realise, and I promise I’ll control myself better in the future-”
“Charles, if I minded I would have told you about it before now,” Erik interrupts. “You didn’t answer my question.”
Charles is about to ask ‘what question?’, but then he remembers Erik’s comment about not feeling anything from him. “Physical contact enhances my telepathy, but since you’ve asked me to stay out of your mind, I’ve had to shield very tightly.”
Erik still looks sceptical, but Charles takes his chance to explain the secondary effect of his shields. “Cutting off my telepathy like this is a little disorienting, so please don’t be terribly offended if I don’t have an orgasm.”
Judging by the careful, almost reverent way Erik has treated him thus far, Charles suspects he would have wanted to make sure Charles climaxed. He needs to let Erik know that isn’t likely to happen.
Erik goes still, and suddenly levers himself off Charles’ body. “Explain.”
His voice is terse, almost angry, and Charles wonders what he’s done to offend him.
“Deliberately shielding my telepathy is…well, it’s somewhat similar to complete sensory deprivation,” he begins cautiously. “I suppose the equivalent for you would be if you were gagged, blindfolded, deafened, and suspended in deep water.”
He smiles, trying to be reassuring. “As you can imagine, it’s difficult to have an orgasm in that state, but don’t worry – I’ll still enjoy it. Just because I don’t climax, doesn’t mean it’s not pleasurable.”
Erik swears in German and shoves himself backwards, almost to the foot of the bed.
“Erik?” Charles knows his voice doesn’t hide his confusion.
Erik is shaking his head, staring at the wall. “What did I do to make you think this was necessary?”
The depth of self-loathing and recrimination in his voice startles Charles, and he props himself back up into a sitting position. Erik turns to look at him, and Charles is suddenly very aware of how much clumsier he feels with his shields up, how it always seems to take an extra second or two for his body to respond to him.
“You’re even moving slowly,” Erik observes, his eyes dark and bitter. “Mein Gott, it’s like you’re drunk, or drugged.”
Charles feels a flare of indignation at the implication in that statement. “I am in full control of my faculties and perfectly capable of giving consent, thank you very much.”
Erik gives a hoarse bark of entirely mirthless laughter. “Yes, but hearing you’re essentially undergoing torture is not arousing to me in the slightest.”
“Torture? Erik, it doesn’t hurt-”
Charles voice splinters into nothing because Erik is suddenly right there in front of him, foreheads pressed together, his hands cupping Charles’ face as gently as if he’s made of thread-thin glass, thumbs rubbing over Charles’ temples.
“Stop it,” Erik whispers. “Stop it, just…stop.”
Charles holds himself very still, afraid that Erik will get up and leave if he moves or speaks. Erik’s looking at him expectantly, but Charles has no idea what he’s waiting for – maybe he should kiss him again? It was nice, and Erik seemed to like it…
“Stop shielding,” Erik says eventually, each word carefully articulated as though he were talking to a small child. “You don’t have to do that, not with me.”
The want that rushes through Charles at those words actually leaves him shaking, but no – he has to hold himself back, he has to make sure.
“You told me to stay out of your head,” he whispers.
Erik’s lips quirk as though they’re trying for a friendly smile but don’t quite remember the expression. “I did – as I was leaving. You don’t think some things might have changed since then?”
Charles can feel his breath coming in fast and hard, scraping the back of his throat. “Are you sure?”
One of Erik’s hands slips to the back of his neck, fingers curling in his hair as he leans forward and says, almost right against Charles’ mouth, “I’m sure.”
His shields drop as if they were waiting for that exact cue and they were, they were. For a moment everything’s a tangled jumble of his emotions and Erik’s sensations and his sensations and Erik’s emotions, and he’s probably blasting exhilaration and love through Erik’s mind like a trumpeting fanfare and he might have to be embarrassed about this later...
But no, because that’s Erik’s love he’s feeling, a slightly darker flavour than his own, layered with protective instincts frightening in their intensity. The tidal flow ebbs somewhat, and suddenly Charles is painfully, breathlessly aware of the fact that he and Erik are both naked and nearly on top of each other.
When he lunges forward, snagging Erik’s mouth in a kiss as he makes a clumsy grab for that gorgeous cock, he thinks he catches a thought of that’s better! flitting from Erik’s mind to his own. He can’t swear to it, though, because in that same moment Erik runs his blunt fingernails down Charles’ spine, which makes him shiver and arch which makes him accidentally rut up against Erik’s hip and the feeling of his own pleasure snapping into Erik’s mind is enough to take his breath away.
The lube is abandoned as Charles gives himself over to rubbing their cocks together mindlessly. He whimpers into Erik’s mouth, so desperate it might have been embarrassing if he couldn’t feel Erik’s awe and pleasure and lust at the picture he made, the snippets of thoughts of look at him/I’m doing that/he’s like that because of me!
Besides some small, still-sane fragment of Charles’ consciousness thinks he can be forgiven this wildness. He’s in Erik’s head and Erik doesn’t mind – no, Erik’s correcting him, Erik wants him here, actually wants him/needs him/loves him. With his shields up he was only getting the barest taste of Erik, and now it’s like being given jam or sweet chocolate after eating only bread and water. He just wants more, more, more, and is only half-surprised when he comes after barely five minutes, dragging Erik into orgasm alongside him.
It’s an intense, full-body spasm, and the aftershocks leave his limbs watery and useless. Erik eases him down to the bed, stroking sweat-clumped hair out of Charles’ eyes, his thoughts tingling with love and possessive devotion.
“I’m sorry,” Charles manages to gasp. “I-”
But then he can’t speak, because Erik’s kissing him again. Not particularly hard or deep, a kiss that speaks more of affection than lust.
“Save your apologies for things I’m actually upset about, Charles,” he says, draping an arm over him and pulling Charles into his side.
Charles doubts that Erik will actually fall asleep in his bed, but he certainly seems content to hold Charles close while they catch their breath.
“Besides, aren’t you always saying practice makes perfect?”
Charles suspects the grin on his face probably looks rather stupid, but he can feel Erik’s pleasure at the sight of it, so he doesn’t bother to dampen the expression.
Abruptly, Erik’s thought patterns suddenly go still and steady, and his face falls into grim lines.
“We’re not all telepaths,” he says in a low voice. “When you need or want something, if I’m asking for something you’re not comfortable with…you need to tell me.”
Charles doesn’t have to read Erik’s thoughts to know that this is very, very important to him. As far as Erik’s concerned, it’s absolutely vital that Charles is happy and comfortable and safe, and if Charles wasn’t already in love with Erik he would have fallen very hard in this moment. As it is, he merely basks in the soft, warm glow possessed by someone whose love is given to someone who richly deserves it and returned in full measure.
“Charles,” Erik prompts, and Charles realises he hasn’t actually replied.
“I’m not good at that,” he admits.
He can’t help but think of Kurt, of wishes ignored even when they were voiced, sometimes actively denied to punish him – in the end, it had been easier not to speak up at all.
Erik’s mouth flattens, his thoughts twisting into darkness, and Charles wonders if he inadvertently leaked some of those thoughts and memories to Erik.
“Promise me you’ll try,” Erik says at last.
That, Charles can do. “I promise.”
And he seals it with a kiss.