Finding an expert on "genetic mutation" turns out to be harder than Moira first thought. With all the excitement over Watson and Crick's discoveries nearly a decade ago and all the advances since, she'd assumed that scientists interested in the topic would be thick on the ground. Apparently they aren't, or at least, they're interested in things quite different from diamond women and men who appear out of thin air.
She's called around to the biology departments at a dozen universities and received everything from detailed explanations of a scientist's pet theory to the kind of condescension that makes her want to blow her phone to smithereens. The last time she'd tried, the scientist on the other end had laughed and said, "oh, my dear girl, if you want to know about that, you'll need to read a comic book" after she'd asked about evolution producing "extreme divergences" from normal humans. She's beginning to fear that the only experts in the world are Sebastian Shaw and the people with him.
At last, at long long last, though, she lucks out with a researcher at Harvard. He apologizes for not being able to help her himself – he even sounds sincere about that – but he does know of a young man doing promising work on the subject in Oxford.
"Some of it sounds a bit far-fetched to me," he adds before she can hang up. Gritting her teeth, she braces herself for the inevitable lecture, but the professor only says, "Charles was one of my undergraduates, though, and quite brilliant. Ran rings around all of my postdocs. If anyone can help you, Miss MacTaggert, he can." Moira hangs up, suddenly flush with success and already filled with plans for getting to England.
Persuading her supervisors to authorize the trip, however, is another matter entirely. She's kept the wilder, if still factual, elements of her night at Hellfire out of her report, but what she's left with – Shaw trying to use genetics to manipulate American loyalties – still makes her sound like she'd written her briefing while wearing a tinfoil hat.
"You want me to waste government funds so you can go off chasing science fiction," McCone says with the nasal blandness that still manages to reek of condescension. Moira braces herself for the threat of the typing pool – McCone's favorite for the occasions when she sticks one high heel over the line – and waits as McCone toys with his pen and mutters to himself.
"I sent you looking for suspected Communists, not a story out of Detective Comics," he says at last. "I want you and Levine working on Hellfire – they're a front for something, we just don't know what – but, just so I get you and your bitching off my back, you can send Lehnsherr to Ye Olde England instead. We need to get him away from a potentially sensitive situation as it is; no use having him go in and blow it up."
"Lehnsherr?" Only the knowledge that laughing in McCone's face will get her fired prevents Moira from doing it. "He's already pissed about not being told about Shaw in Vegas. What makes you think he's going to go to England because I tell him to?"
"We have leverage, MacTaggert, so maybe we should use it," McCone says, managing to look down his nose at her even though they're of a height while sitting. He looks down at the files on his desk, the office light shining on the thin, close-cropped gray hair and scalp beneath. After a moment he glances up at her, eyes wide as if surprised to find her still there. "Dismissed, MacTaggert."
Moira stalks out, not bothering to thank him and supervising agent be damned. Best beard the lion in his den when your courage is up, she tells herself, although Lehnsherr is far more ferocious than any lion. He looks down on her, which is nothing new – it rankles; still, nothing new – but he tends to look down on everybody, so it's hard to say that he treats her differently. There's a chilly remoteness to him: aloof doesn't touch it, alone would be better but still not perfect to describe someone so utterly cut off.
She finds him in his cubbyhole of an apartment, the one place she knows to look for him that isn't the CIA Washington offices. He lets her in before she knocks and it really is like the lion inviting something small into its den, how he circles her to herd her into a place where he can prevent her escape if he needs to. It's not often Moira feels at a disadvantage with any man – she's as smart as them, as well-trained, maybe more dangerous because one look at the delicate bones of her is usually enough to write her off as a non-threat – but she does with Lehnsherr, acutely aware of the competent breadth of his shoulders and the calculation in his pale eyes, how every line of him is tense and waiting. She wishes the gun at her hip didn't feel so useless as she looks over the tactical information spread across the kitchen table and tacked on the wall: a map with pins in it, lists of names and aliases and addresses, numbers for safes and bank accounts… a hand-drawn sketch of a man, recognizably Shaw underneath the spectacles, beard and mustache.
This can't be him, she almost says. The Shaw in the drawing – Herr Doktor Klaus Schmidt, Lehnsherr insists – is in his forties, maybe a hearty, calculating fifty; the man she saw last night can only be a handful of years older, if that, certainly not the eighteen years that Lehnsherr says have passed since his captivity.
Maybe that's his genetic mutation, the ability to stop aging. She shivers, imagining decades – centuries – in which Shaw can work his particular evil.
Lehnsherr is pacing, the tight, controlled circling of a predator. She remembers that the best way to deal with predators is to show no fear, reminds herself that he needs them, however much he acts as if he doesn't.
"We have an assignment for you." She looks him straight in the eye as she says it.
"Oh, you do," he says, dimensions of sarcasm in the few words.
"If you want to find a way to get Shaw," she doesn't correct herself, even though Lehnsherr gets prickly (even more prickly) when people don't call him Schmidt, "if you want to find a way to bring him down, you're going to get us some help. Believe me, there's no way you're going to be able to get to him with the firepower he's got."
"Firepower I can handle." Lensherr's thin lips twitch into a smirk. "If you tell me where he is, the CIA can be rid of him by tomorrow morning."
"No can do," Moira says with as much false sweetness as she can muster. Lehnsherr glares at her, takes an abortive half-step, and she thinks suddenly he could kill me; he would, if he thought it would gain him anything. She's faced off with killers before, but never felt so aware of it. Still, she soldiers on: "But if you help us out with this, I'll personally guarantee you can come along when we go to bring him in."
"You guarantee it," Lehnsherr says. He doesn't even try to hide his laughter. "You'll pardon me if I don't take your word for it, Agent MacTaggert."
The flawless, sarcastic politeness makes her grind her teeth, but with an effort she says steadily, "That's your choice; just know that if you don't take this dossier and go to England to meet Charles Xavier – and, better, pry him out of his laboratory and bring him back here – you'll have to spend the rest of your life chasing after your ghosts."
Lehnsherr growls, and for a moment she really does think he'll kill her – but there, there is the moment where the broad shoulders lose their tension, and if his resistance doesn't yield, precisely, it's less inexorable than before.
"Some ghosts are still living, Agent MacTaggert," Lehnsherr says at last. "Now tell me why England, or get out."
* * *
Erik Lehnsherr doesn't delude himself when it comes to his arrangement with the CIA. He works for them because, at the moment, it's mutually beneficial: he has access to more money, resources, and technology than he could ever have on his own and they have access to a ruthless, self-trained killer who, with no formal paperwork and no citizenship in any country, they can plausibly claim does not exist if anyone makes a fuss. It's a relationship that will end the moment it ceases to be convenient, and it will end in his disappearance, one way or another.
MacTaggert had almost dissolved that relationship two days ago, stomping into his flat as if she had every right to be there and announcing he would be shipped off, whether he liked it or not, to fucking England, thousands of miles away from the first traces of Schmidt in Las Vegas.
But then she had handed him the dossier on Charles Xavier and told him, sketchily and with obvious annoyance at what she felt was her own credulity, what she had seen in Vegas.
He has the dossier in his briefcase, tucked now under the seat in front of him. Although he rarely allows himself the indulgence, he smokes a cigarette, lit by the obliging stewardess who had passed him a few minutes ago. Next to him his seatmate dozes, drooling on his suit jacket. Erik itches to open the file, but keeps it where it is; he knows every word by now anyway.
Charles Xavier: 27, working towards his doctorate in genetics at Pembroke College, Oxford. He might have it by now; the most recent information the CIA had obtained from Interpol said that he was in his final year, with a fistful of publications already and a bright future ahead of him. He has no work lined up – not surprising, given the dossier's mention of his family fortune, but disappointing and grating nonetheless, which makes Erik remind himself not to be so invested in a perfect stranger's life choices.
Whoever had been responsible for assembling the folder had been in a hurry, or careless, or both: the copy of Xavier's passport photo is blurry grayscale, vague enough that Erik can't suss out what sort of person he might be. Still, it's easy to imagine his type from what the rest of the dossier says.
A scientist. Between that and the wealth (a gigantic private residence outside New York City, a townhouse in Boston, a flat in Oxford, god only knew what else; he'd stopped reading), Erik's already conceived a dislike for him. He's had a taste – too many tastes – of the pain that sort of privilege inflicts, when a man decides he has the power and the right to satisfy his curiosity at the expense of another's suffering. The world isn't so much changed yet that it won't permit another Klaus Schmidt to join its ranks.
The rage building in him wants to redirect to the metal skin and bones of the plane and the guts of the engine. He takes a deep breath and focuses on the coin in his pocket, tracing the harshly-angled lines of the swastika. It's the thing he knows best in the world, better even than himself. Schmidt knows more about him than he does – enough, Erik thinks, to know that Erik's coming for him. He knows about whatever secret it is in Erik's brain or Erik's blood that gives him power over anything metallic, and the key to let it out of its cage.
Well, the cage door is well and truly opened now. That he has his freedom, that Schmidt is out there and that Schmidt will die, calms him enough to loosen his grip on the coin, and the rest of the trip proceeds in a waiting quiet. Xavier, he tells himself, is a means to an end: he'll pass through that target, and reach Schmidt on the other side.
The distance to his target diminishes rapidly: a slide through customs at Heathrow and a fast "borrowed" car out onto the highway. Moira had suggested he take the train – fewer opportunities for rule-breaking, Erik thinks with a smirk as he gears up the engine and tears out of the London suburbs – but she's tied down time zones away and he's playing by his rules now.
By the time he arrives in Oxford, stashes the car, and checks into his hotel evening is well on its way down. Erik considers the city from the narrow window, a faint golden haze outlining the spires and domes of the colleges and churches, voices drifting up to him from below. He should sleep – he's been up for hours now and the jet lag is starting to tell on his endurance, and he's not likely to find Xavier in his office at this time of night – but his second wind is right around the corner. Before thinking too much more about it, he grabs his jacket and heads back out, not bothering to make himself more presentable.
The hustle and tempo on the city's medieval streets had changed from studious to something more chaotic, fueled by alcohol and youth and all the things Erik has no experience of. It's easy to slide into the maelstrom and let himself be carried along, even as he remains separate. The pubs slosh with patrons like over-full glasses, laughter frothing and dripping from the windows and patios, shouts as people argue Kant and football and sexual conquests. Despite the contempt he usually feels, Erik can't help but smile – or nip into a pub for a glass of not half-bad beer. The alcohol softens the edges a little more, blurring the urgency in his head.
As he wanders outside after some space of time, he registers how nothing has slowed. If anything, the activity's become more frenetic, the laughter louder than before, exuberance and triumph and life making the air electric. Erik shivers and tries to back away from it for a moment before spying the sign over another pub, and warmth pouring from the open door, and a stranger tugging him in with a slurred "C'mon, mate, it ain't right to drink alone tonight."
It's an endless party flowing from one bar to another and one hour to the next, held together by laughter as students, professors, and townspeople stagger companionably along the streets. There's no pain, Erik thinks without a trace of his usual resentment, not even his own; the world is kind and gorgeous tonight.
Two more pubs down the line he's not precisely drunk but not precisely sober, somewhere on the unsteady line between the two. A few women have tried their luck with him, well-spoken Oxfordian girls who quote Shakespeare at him (O brave new world) and wear their button-downs with a few strategic buttons undone. They aren't what he's looking for, but it's still hard to turn down the flash of lace over pale flesh, the promisingly soft curve of a mouth.
"Let us go then, you and I," a brunette says to him as she leans over the bar to press a bill into the bartender's hand. Her gaze sidles to the bartender, who smiles hazily back. A few seats down, two women bend their heads together in something more intimate than conversation. A man and a woman – several men and several women, come to think of it, Erik realizes distantly – are flirting with indecency in a corner. The brunette says, "We could go back to my place…" but leaves the offer there along with an empty glass next to Erik's elbow when the bartender indicates the back room.
"Lovely," says a new and admiring voice. Erik catches a flash of sleek mouth and tousled hair. "It's a lovely night tonight. Perfect."
"It is." He focuses on the voice.
The voice's owner is a young man, maybe a handful of years younger than Erik, with the earnest expression worn by a boy who's never grown up. He's very correctly academic in a dark waistcoat and collared shirt, although the collar is very incorrectly unbuttoned to display a hint of throat – enough, Erik decides, to want to lick. Everything about him is sharp at the edges, as if he's carved in relief against the blur of the pub: his blue eyes, stain of pink on his freckled cheeks and that red, red mouth. His sleeves are rolled up, and Erik very much wants to bite the strong-looking bones of those wrists and the delicate skin covering them. The euphoria ratchets a bit higher.
As Erik watches, the young man leans over the bar to deposit a yard glass safely behind it. The curve of his ass is perfect, something Erik wants to shape his palm to. Maybe spank; the pale, flawless stretch of neck promises how lovely he'd look with traces of Erik left on him.
"Are you here with someone?" the young man asks once he's upright again, that mouth curved in a smile that suggests he knows the answer, and something of what's just been in Erik's head.
"Just you." Erik drinks, stares directly at the young man as he swallows; the young man's eyes flick down the length of Erik's throat. "Yourself?"
The young man leans against the bar, smile truly delighted now. "Just you."
"It's not right to drink alone tonight," Erik says, remembering someone's words from earlier.
"Then it's a good thing I have you," the young man says, sidling closer. His warmth, even in the congestion of the bodies and smoke in the pub, wraps around Erik like something living.
One of the bartenders – not the one occupied by the brunette – materializes at the counter and asks if he can get anything. "A drop of the Glenlivet, if you wouldn't mind," the young man says, flawlessly British and so proper Erik aches to fuck the properness out of him and see if the blush on those cheeks goes other places too. All around him, the other patrons are caught up in each other or in their alcohol. He could ask, Erik thinks, and never mind how dangerous those questions are if they're asked of the wrong person. Would you mind terribly if I took you back to my place and fucked you? I don't think you'd mind at all.
The young man – have they even been introduced? Maybe it's better like this, Erik decides: no identities, just bodies – shifts, as if catching the tenor of Erik's regard. Erik drinks in the line of his torso (sturdy, capable-looking, he can take what Erik gives him) and burns like he's drunk down fire.
"Let me take you somewhere," he says, and traces a long finger around the rim of his glass where his lips have just been.
Those blue eyes are impossible when they fix on him, the deep, permanent azure of stained glass. The young man licks his lips, nervous and enticing both at once. Erik has the sense that he's wanted other things this badly before, but he can't think of what they are.
"I don't really think…" the young man begins.
"I could go down on you."
The young man makes a sound that Erik very much wants to hear again. His eyes are wide and blue, hypnotic and hypnotized at the same time.
"I'd take you in my mouth," Erik continues, and part of him is wondering what the fuck is he saying in a public place, but he can't stop talking because watching those lovely eyes haze over picturing Erik's words makes him ache. "I'd take you in my mouth and lick you and suck you until you beg me to let you come, and when I finally do I'll swallow you down, every drop of you, but you'd still be able to taste yourself, lick yourself out of me. You'd like that, wouldn't you? Doing that, having me do that to you."
"Yes." It's not much more than a gasp. The young man's head is hanging like it's too heavy a weight for his neck, gaze slowly coming into focus where Erik is tracing a finger across his belt buckle, just above the beginning curve of arousal. The metal of it is very warm.
"And you'd like it if I fucked you." Erik doesn't bother to make it a question, uses the barest flicker of power to press against the metal of zipper. The young man quivers and bites his lip. "I wouldn't even wait; I'd push you down and fuck that perfect ass of yours while you were still wondering how you came so hard."
His fingers are splayed across hipbone and muscle, pressing into the firm slope above that wonderful ass. A small voice inside him wonders what he's doing, why no one else has taken notice, but the question is as insignificant as the voice.
"Why are you here?" His voice grates in his throat.
"Celebrating, and you haven't taken me to bed yet." The stranger looks him dead in the eyes and doesn't flinch away like most people do.
"Let's take care of that, then." He stands, and the young man briefly touches his temple, as if to ward off a sudden headache.
"My sister's heading home with a friend," the young man says, apropos of nothing once they're out of the chaos of the pub and into the relative quiet of the streets. "It seems to be a good night for everyone tonight."
And then, as if his nonsensical announcement about his sister has somehow reminded him, he pushes Erik into the bare shadows of an alley. Cut through here, it's faster, he says, the words vaguely resonant between the tall, echoing rock walls. For answer, Erik kisses him, dragging him along clumsily, and god it's wet, slick, more breath than not before the young man hitches himself up onto his toes and drags Erik down to him.
He's short. Erik's drunk enough that he wants to laugh.
"Yes, yes, very amusing," the young man snorts, sounding aggrieved despite the smile Erik licks at. "I don't think you want… whatever this is on your knees, do you? Those are nice trousers."
"Maybe I just want to fuck you here," Erik suggests.
I really would prefer a bed the young man says into the hollow of Erik's neck.
So the bed it is, after a stumble down more confusing cobblestoned streets, even though Erik has no idea where he's going until he senses the familiar shape of the knife still tucked away in his duffel. They trip and stumble up the stairs, past the proprietor who doesn't even glance up from his newspaper and cigarette, past thin walls and the ghost-presences of watches wrapped around wrists and body-warmed jewelry.
"Your name," he says, nipping at the skin at the nape of that delicious neck.
"Not important," the young man says, and Erik realizes it isn't.
He gets the door open with his ability – foolish, a risk, but the young man is distracted – and once they're in shoves him up against the door to slam it shut. The young man's head hits the wood with a dull sound and he moans, whines, but it's pleased, and his pleasure is a tangible thing when Erik yanks his shirt out of his waistband and drops to the floor.
Oh you meant it, he says, so startled and richly happy it makes Erik happy in turn.
Erik hums as he unbuckles and unbuttons and unzips. Already the cock under his cheek is hard, curving against the thin barrier of fabric. An answering desire pulses low and thick in Erik's gut, and his own cock presses where it's trapped beneath the constriction of his suit trousers. He palms himself absently, more for the shudder of more more more than satisfaction.
"You'll take what I give you, won't you? What I want to give you and no more." He looks up at the young man from under his lashes. In the faint and dirty light he's flushed and perfectly disheveled, and nodding anxiously, yes, anything, whatever you want.
Whatever Erik wants is to yank his trousers and underwear down, down strong thighs and knees with improbable scars, enough that he can slip a hand between those legs and brush the callused pads of his fingers against balls and cock and the soft, sweat-humid flesh. It earns him a hitching, sobbing breath and hips arcing eagerly toward him.
"No more," he murmurs, and shapes his hands to the sweet, flat lines of those hips to push them back. Fingers – strong but still soft, a scholar's hands – tangle in his hair, and just as swiftly disentangle when Erik pinches a reprimand. The now-abused skin pinks beautifully, beautifully enough for Erik want to bite it and taste the warmth and salt, so he does.
The hands Erik won't permit to touch him – there's time for that later – scrabble for purchase on the door when Erik takes that cock into his mouth. It's salty, heavy, heady, and he's almost giddy with the way a thigh jumps spasmodically against the barrier of his chest, the lost-sounding moan drifting down. When he looks up, the tip of that cock cradled on his tongue, the stranger has his head thrown back, gazing blindly off somewhere as if some power in the distance can help him.
Erik takes him in, licking plushly along the underside and sighing across skin made sensitive by need. There's nowhere for the body underneath his hands to go, pinned tight to the door with no leverage except that which Erik chooses to give. He doesn't choose to give much, even as pleasure and desperation swamp him and a disobedient hand fumbles at his shoulder. Through the rush of his own blood and the dawning, disbelieving certainty he'll come from this he hears that voice, a tumble of incoherence, oh god do you know do you even know what you look like please god Erik I could watch this all night watch you please, and a snapshot of himself paints itself across his half-shuttered eyes: mouth curved around slick, hard flesh, lashes dusting his cheekbones (unexpectedly vulnerable; he looks much younger with his eyes shut), thumbs pressed firmly into the divots of hips and riding against the bone almost hard enough to hurt.
He sinks down as far as he can, deep enough that each swallow is airless, his throat twitching against the cockhead buried in it. Come on, he thinks, dizzy with the power that is taking another person apart, come for me, and the body under his hands, held up by his shoulders, spasms and thrusts hard against its restraints. The stranger goes up on his toes when Erik lets one hip go to spit on his fingers, to work a hand into the damp cleft between those legs, and returns to sucking as he presses one slick finger inside.
Something choky and shocked tumbles from the stranger's lips. Erik hums and swallows as best he can. I meant it, he thinks, thinks I could do you up against this door and you would beg for it.
"I would," the young man grinds out. "God help me, I would, god let me – "
Erik twists his fingers to shut him up; that lovely, posh voice breaks off to spiral up into a howl, and rules or not, fingers are twisted in his hair again. When he can, Erik sucks in great breaths through his nostrils, swallowing airlessly around the thick cockhead that's riding his tongue and pressing against the soft inner lining of his cheek. His own orgasm is waiting, growing heavy between his legs; it's an effort to keep his hand and shoulders braced against the body beneath him, to keep from reaching down and palming himself.
"I'm going to come," the stranger says desperately. "Oh god, fuck, I'm going please let me."
It isn't a matter of letting; Erik's almost beyond his own control in a way he's never been. Come on, he thinks, and wants to see what this man's pleasure looks like when it's pulled out of him the way Erik is doing, when he's wrecked and all that superiority is taken away.
Pleasure hits him like water rushing up to meet him after a dive, a solid wall that gives way and swamps him and pulls him inexorably down.
When he surfaces again he can't speak. His breath whistles rough in his throat and his nose, and his mouth is full of the stranger's taste. They're still both fully clothed – aside from the trousers shoved unceremoniously down around the stranger's calves.
He hasn't come. Erik stares at the hand pressed to the hard bulge of his erection, almost stupid with disbelief.
"You said you wanted to fuck me," the man says, as if that explains everything, and the words would be teasing if they weren't so ragged. He's heaving for breath like a racehorse.
Getting into bed is a haze of fumbling, his clothes being pushed away even as he can't care about the scars – why he usually remains clothed during these things, to hide his history and to keep from being helpless – and he hears whispered, filthy endearments about how perfect and sweet Christ you're huge. Those soft, strong fingers settle around his cock, applying two strokes Erik most definitely does not need. When they kiss, he tastes satisfaction and dirty, flawless pleasure because what he said was true: he can taste the traces of himself in Erik's mouth.
They settle down in the scratchy sheets. Erik very much wants to cover over the cheap detergent with the smell of the two of them, nothing but sweat and come and the elusive scent that hides in the curve of that lovely neck.
"I hope you have something." The stranger's eyes glitter, blown wide and black in the light that comes through from the street. That same light picks out the paleness of his skin and the shadows under ridges of bone and muscle. He runs a thoughtful hand up the length of Erik's cock. "Otherwise…"
"Table," Erik manages. There's a tin in his overnight bag, a sarcastic gift from one of the American agents who'd told him to rub one out, maybe it would relax him for once. He imagines the American here now, shocked at watching a queer Jew fucking a prim-and-proper British academic.
One devilish eyebrow quirks at him, thighs closing tight like gripping a horse as the stranger – name, name, what is your name – reaches over for the tin. He unscrews it with hands made clumsy by Erik touching him all over, and maybe by lassitude: the smile he offers Erik is slow and drugged, and he moves almost bonelessly as he rubs against Erik's erection.
"That will feel rather lovely, I should think," he says musingly, and, slick gleaming on his fingertips and knuckles, reaches behind himself. Erik shivers and arches up, nearly mindless with it and never mind the promise he'd made earlier.
"We'll try that later," the stranger murmurs, and Erik wonders dazedly if he's spoken out loud. He removes his fingers from himself with a slick, obscene noise and, almost unceremoniously, takes Erik's cock in hand and lowers himself onto it.
Fuck. Erik can't tell if he breathes it or if he says it. The stranger rolls his hips once, emphatically, body bowing as he leans down to press his forehead to the hollow of Erik's neck; his own god you're so big, I need you, need you deep come on is spoken to the vicinity of Erik's collar bones. The spine under Erik's fingers is a long and eloquent curve, undulating slowly as those hips begin to move again.
There's nothing to do but hold on and let desire go wherever it's taking him. Erik clings first to whatever skin and bone he can find and, when that's too slick, to the sturdier anchor of the bedstead, and sighs when the stranger's fingers slot over his and they move and move and move together.
* * *
The sunlight comes through the window like knives. Erik shuts his eyes tight, aware that it's the harder light of late morning – the warmth is too solid and too well-established for it to be anything less than hours past dawn. His entire body twinges and aches, small aftershocks of pleasure fracturing his disorientation.
Last night wasn't a dream. Erik works that out fast enough, given the warm solidity of another body stretched alongside his. He'd recoil from the threat – someone else so close, him so vulnerable – except that other body is entirely given up to sleep, naked and defenseless, even more enticing because of those two things. If he weren't so exhausted (emptied, really; there's nothing left in him), he'd try for another round.
He had managed once more the way he'd wanted it the first time: back and belly pressed together, fucking down as hard as he could, sliding a thumb in beside his cock to wrench a howl from that lovely throat. He'd stared at a faint handprint, his own, the edges pink and blurring across sturdy skin and muscle, and the last thing he remembers is collapsing into a tangle and pulling out, nuzzling into the sweaty declivity of neck and clavicle and then – nothing, until just now.
As he watches, the stranger – scholar – young man – still nameless – stirs slowly into life again. It's a gradual change, like colors shifting one into the other, something Erik registers only because he's looking so closely.
"Hm, it's a good job I don't have anywhere to go today," the stranger says drowsily. His eyes flicker open and prove Erik's hasty recall of last night isn't misremembering that spectacular shade of blue. Those eyes fall shut again as the young man stretches unselfconsciously, the sheet falling away from him to expose pink bruises and marks. Erik can't help the wolfish grin when he winces and doesn't want to.
"Oh, bugger off." It's good-natured, though, as the young man sits up. He rolls his neck and shoulders, soft pop-pop of tendons loosening. When he turns his head to the side, his jaw drops open, his lips bowing into a silent o.
Erik twists to look over his shoulder.
The cheap metal of the frame is bent, the rails warped around eight impressions, the divots that would correspond to two thumbs. Not bent, Erik realizes, curving, as if the metal had melted like ice and then re-frozen to accommodate the fingers wound around it.
(He'd done that last night, he'd had to hold onto something while gripping, thrilling heat rode up and down his cock and strong thighs gripped his flanks, because it was either that or fly to pieces.)
He braces himself for violence and it's only the brief, fiercely sincere regret that this stranger – this one stranger, out of all of them – will have to die that makes him pause long enough for the young man to say. "Oh, I suspected, but that – how marvelous."
And then, without moving his mouth, while Erik's head still echoes with his astonishment: Truly lovely. I'd thought, I'd hoped there were more of us, but you…
"What – " Erik's entire body locks in disbelief; somewhere under the heavy blanket of it, something like hope stirs before fear obliterates it. The last person to evince such an interest in his ability – the last time he was out of control – had taken his mother and his childhood. He pushes himself upright, as far away as he can get.
Calm rolls over him, not enough to remove fear entirely, but enough that he abruptly doesn't want to get his hands around a slim throat and squeeze until he has answers.
"What… who are you?"
"Charles Xavier," the young man says, his animated face overlaid briefly by a blurry, grayscaled one – a memory, Erik can see his own thumb stroking the corner of the paper. He smiles, tentative and at the same time desperately welcoming; it's more naked than Erik's seen him. "It's been a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
Erik is said in that silent voice, warm like the fingers twining through his. Erik strongly considers pulling away, but is caught, harnessed quite against his will when the stranger – Charles – says You're not alone, and with it comes conviction sufficient to make Erik believe enough to stay where he is.
"The CIA, eh?" Charles asks, and his smile now is whimsical. "Well, that is a change of pace, isn't it?"
It occurs to Erik to ask how much Charles knows – he can read minds, he's been in Erik's head – and then it occurs to him to order Charles to stay out. He thinks as hard as he can about steel walls and iron gates swinging shut; Charles wincing says he's gotten the picture.
"Since you already seem to know the plan," Erik says, "I don't suppose I have to waste time trying to convince you to come with me back to the States. And, since I'm assuming you were celebrating your doctorate last night, you don't have any ties keeping you here."
"I did get a bit out of hand," Charles admits ruefully. He swings his legs stiffly over the side of the bed, wincing almost comically over his shoulder. "It's projection… generally I have very good control, but last night I did need to release several years of stress. I don't make a habit of it."
"You can do that? Make people feel what you feel?"
"If I wish," Charles says cautiously.
Erik can't think for a moment. All that power, more than what the CIA can offer. Far more. He could find Schmidt, perhaps, or clear the way to him. Not kill him – that, of course, is Erik's honor – but an alliance with him would be far more profitable than with a legion of bureaucrats.
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Charles says with a serenity that Erik decides is aggravating. He stands, wincing some more but also making himself stretch into the pain. He is, arrogance aside, quite beautiful; Erik wants him even more, thinking of all that power harnessed in such an unassuming frame.
"First things first, I am still a bit," Charles indicates his forehead, "from last night. Breakfast is in order, wouldn't you say? I know a place."
"Breakfast?" It's utterly mundane, but Erik's stomach and head agree. "Breakfast it is then."
"Lovely," Charles says, and his smile – full, unapologetic – promises the future.
And if Erik can't quite pick out the contours of it, he's willing to imagine it and fill it with what he needs and, later, shape it to his desires. He takes the shirt Charles has excavated from his suitcase and slips it on.