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This is what it is: a handful of moments, stolen over the years; a weekend here or there, a few days outside the world. It's not enough, but it's more than Erik can afford. Being around Charles muddies the waters too much, working Erik's head for reasons that having nothing to do with Charles's telepathy.

They go to bed first, always. Later on there will be time for meals, for chess, for long conversations speaking circles around the important topics until they devolve into arguing once again, until they separate with the renewed awareness of all the central things that render these meetings so infrequent. But before any of that, they relearn each other's bodies, the way they move together, the way they kiss.

Erik brings the helmet along, but it's hidden away in his luggage, not on his head. The two men who checked into the hotel are average, rapidly approaching middle aged, anonymous. There's nothing distinctive about them, nothing to show how extraordinary they both are. Only Charles's wheelchair draws any attention from bystanders. Erik walked through the public streets in a suit and a fedora, blending into the crowd.

(The first time they had met after everything happened, Erik came to the mansion, to Charles's bedroom. Charles had cried. Erik hasn't done that since. Charles yelled then, too, and told Erik to take off the stupid thing immediately - there was no way Charles could kiss him, let alone maintain an erection, when he couldn't feel Erik's mind there beside him. Of all the things Erik had expected Charles to yell at him about, that had not been one of them. He took it off, and didn't put it on again until he left in the early hours of the morning.)

"Come here," Charles says from across the hotel room, and Erik goes to him.

The angle he has to lean at to kiss Charles in the wheelchair has become slowly familiar. Charles lets him control the kiss, hungry and deep and desperate. When they break apart, both of them are breathing heavily.

"Let me-" Charles says. Another command, Erik thinks, merely the second of the many he'll hear today. Charles reaches between them, his hands at Erik's fly, unbuttoning and unzipping, moving fabric out of the way until Erik's stiffening cock is exposed. Charles wraps his palm around the shaft and gives one lazy stroke. "Hello, old friend," he says fondly, drifting his fingers over the head in a too-light touch.

"Charles," Erik says, and Charles looks back up to his face, giving Erik a wicked grin.

"You like it when I tease," Charles says softly.

Erik likes everything Charles does when they're together like this. "Not now," Erik says. He places his hands in Charles's hair (no longer the vanity it was a dozen years ago, thinning now and graying, more and more every time Erik sees him) and tilts Charles's head up so he can lean down and kiss him again.

"God, I love you," Charles says, whispering the words against Erik's lips.

Erik can't say the words out loud. He's written them down, a thousand times; some of those he's even sent. And surely there's no end of instances when Charles has been able to see it, read it from Erik's thoughts. And still there's something - he can't -

Charles interrupts his train of thought, saying, "Shhh. Take me to bed, Erik."

Neither of them speak again for some time, until they are both lying together, sticky and sated. Erik is on his back, his chest a pillow for Charles's head, and the thin bed sheet is pulled lightly over their bodies. There is a line of scratches on Erik's back, gouged in by Charles's fingernails. Charles has a bite mark on one shoulder, a hickey beginning to bloom by his collarbone.

Erik strokes his hand through Charles's hair - still so soft, like feathers or down, softer than anything. "Charles, you know-" he starts to say, but he can't continue.

"I know very many things," Charles says agreeably. His face is against Erik's chest, so Erik can't see his expression.

Erik grunts with frustration, and pinches Charles very lightly on the back of his neck. "I don't... Charles," Erik says. "You know there hasn't been anyone else for me."

He can feel the way Charles goes completely still against him. He can practically hear the whir of Charles's mind, weighing and considering and thinking. "I had suspected," Charles says, finally.

"Not for a very long time," Erik says roughly. He wasn't a virgin when he met Charles - there had been two women, years apart, but still he could count the number of sexual encounters he'd had on one hand. It wasn't something he thought about, it wasn't a priority. He had a mission. Everything else was secondary. Charles had changed that, from the first moment they met, awakening needs and desires that Erik hadn't known rested within him.

"All these years?" Charles's hand is warm, solid, comforting against Erik's belly. "You've been celibate."

Erik nods. Charles can't see him, but he will know what Erik is doing.

"Oh, my darling," Charles says, voice muffled as he turns his head against Erik's chest. He kisses it once, and then again. I'm afraid I can't say the same.

It doesn't matter. Erik has never asked that of Charles, no more than Charles has asked it of him. They're not married, they're not committed lovers, they have nothing but these rare trysts. Erik wouldn't expect it of him; he knows Charles too well to imagine him alone all this time. Of all people, Charles is not meant to be alone.

"That's not why I told you," Erik says. "I just... I wanted you to know."

"Thank you," Charles says. He pushes himself up with his arms, until he can look Erik in the face. Charles's expression is serious. "If you have no objections, I would very much like to suck your cock right now, my dear."

It should be too soon after they've so recently finished ruining each other, but it's not as though Erik has so much basis for comparison. The first few times they made love, Charles had responded to Erik's refractory period with pleasure and envy; he's long since taken it as an established fact, one he can take full advantage of. Body and mind, Erik wants as much of Charles as he can get. If things were different- if Charles could only understand -

No. Not now. There's time enough for that later, when this false magic hour has ended and the rest of the world has come back. For the moment, it's just the two of them, this bed, this room.

"Yes," Erik says, his voice low. "Do whatever you want."

He can't read the expression on Charles's face, but it doesn't matter when he closes his eyes. There's nothing but Charles's hands and mouth and the strange deep fog of his love.