The image is all blackness. The first sound is a low laugh, and the background noise of shuffling, and rustling fabric. After a moment, colors appear: the dark red of a carpet, and then a dizzying rush of light spinning around, finally the picture finally setting and focusing into a man, lying on a bed. He's just this side of middle-aged, with thinning hair that's not yet a lost cause, and striped pajamas. There's the edge of a wheelchair visible by the side of the bed, just barely within the frame. The man's on his back, pillows propped up behind him, and he's smiling, soft and intimate, directly into the camera.
"You're ridiculous," he says.
"Are you going to deny me a keepsake, then, when you know I have to leave you again so soon?" A different voice, deep and ambiguously accented, speaks from behind the camera.
"You don't have to leave," the man on the bed points out, with a slight rolling of his eyes. He runs a hand down the front of his shirt and continues, "But if you're going to, shouldn't you put that thing down and come and enjoy what time we have left?"
"I am enjoying this," the voice says, but after a moment another body appears, though only the back of him is visible. He's wearing sweatpants but no shirt, and the muscles flex from his wide shoulders down to his trim waist as he crawls across the bed to join the other man, who tangles a hand into the mane of thick silver-tinged hair to drag him down for a kiss.
When the kiss ends, he turns his face back to the camera, and frowns. "Erik, it's still floating over there."
"So?" Erik's voice is barely audible, his face tucked into the first man's shoulder.
"So, if you're using part of your powers to keep that in the air, it means you're not fully concentrating on this."
A chuckle from Erik, as the image changes, drifting to a lower angle, a bit farther away, before settling again. "Always such a hypocrite, Charles. As if you don't have half of that brain of yours devoted to making sure all your little ducklings are safe and sound in their cells."
"Nowhere near half," Charles protests, but then they're kissing again, and there's no more dialogue on the tape for quite a while after that.
After a few minutes, Erik rises up to his knees and begins to unbutton Charles's shirt. He throws the cloth to the side, exposing Charles's chest so he can tease his nipples between his thumb and forefinger until Charles hisses with desire and impatience; then he leans over once more, moving his mouth back and forth from one to the other form a long time, until Charles cries out and shudders against him and pushes him away.
Erik stands up by the side of the bed, and pushes the sweatpants down his hips, bending over to pull them off his feet. When he straightens up his cock is briefly visible, large and flushed and fully erect - Charles is watching him with sleepy but eager eyes, and licking his lips - but it disappears quickly from the camera's view as he climbs back onto the bed, straddling Charles's chest and bracing his hands against the headboard. All that's visible is Erik's broad back, sweaty now, clearly demarcated with any number of old scars; his ass, clenching and unclenching in furious rhythm as he thrusts forward and back; Charles's legs, stretched out flat in front of them; and Charles's fingers, gripping tightly on Erik's hips. The only sound is the harsh panting of Erik's breathing, growing more and more strained as time goes on, and a subtle wet noise, so faint as to be nearly inaudible.
Finally, Erik breathes out a strangled sound that might be the word "yes," and his pumping hips begin to slow. His head is tilted down toward Charles, and there's a murmur between them that can't quite be made out. After a few more moments, Erik scoots back and lies down, draping his body full length over Charles's, and they kiss again.
This is where the edited version of the tape, the one most people see, ends, but in fact the original recording goes on for some time more; a long time kissing, first, and then what can only be described as cuddling. It's only after Charles appears to have fallen asleep that Erik turns his attention back to the camera, giving it a serious look just before it turns off.
Charles says, "I can't believe you kept that."
It is not, Erik has to admit, what he expected Charles's first response to be. Not even in the top ten, in fact. The whole reason Erik had gone to the pains to set up this encounter between them (despite the inconvenience of the timing and the inherent awkwardness of video chat as a medium) was so to have a partner to share in his outrage.
"Of course I kept it," Erik says, a little testily. "That was the whole point."
"I suppose so," Charles says. "I hope you made good use of it over the years." His smile is sly and smirky, even through the dimness and pixelation of the computer screen.
Erik shoots him a glare. "I thought you would be more upset about this."
Charles leans back a little, tapping his fingers against the desk in front of his keyboard. "Well, it's embarrassing, of course, but honestly, Erik, it could be worse."
"Our private lives are a joke, exposed to the entire world. That seems plenty bad enough to me." Erik has never had a problem with negative headlines - he expects as much, given his goals and the society's inherently anti-mutant bias - but being misrepresented in the news or criticized in opinion pieces is one thing, and being an item on the gossip pages quite another.
"It's not as if you can even see that much," Charles says; he's using the same tone he uses when he thinks he's being entirely reasonable and is sure he can make Erik see things the same way. "Surely you can be grateful it wasn't one of the vibrators. Or a time when we made each other cry. Or, oh, what about Paris, last year-"
"I get your point," Erik says, cutting him off. Charles is looking a little dreamy-eyed, and Erik has the feeling he could go on for some time.
(In this, at least, Erik can't entirely blame him. It has been months since they were last able to align their schedules to see each other. He can feel every minute of it, a sensation only enhanced by seeing that tape again. There's a reason, after all, that Erik was attached to it enough to keep it near all these years later.)
"Not to mention it's rather nice to see how young we look, don't you think?" Charles sighs. "Erik, you realize this doesn't really matter. It's a nine days' wonder, nothing more. The only people who will stay interested in our sex lives for very long are you and me."
"How is anyone going to take me - take either of us - seriously now? This is a major step back for mutantkind." He's already noticed some of the younger people looking at him differently. He's not sure which annoys him more, the ones who can't help but smirk or the ones who seem to be appraising and measuring with their eyes.
"You're ridiculous," Charles tells him, "and you're pouting, to boot. I'm not going to bother talking to you when you're in this mood."
Erik sniffs pointedly.
"At any rate," Charles says, letting a bit of his most professioral, old man tone drift into his voice, "let this be a lesson to you about taking better care of your private files, hm? And I'll see you - let's see, was it the second weekend next month or the third?"
"The second," Erik says instantly. "In San Francisco, the same place as always." The same hotel they had stayed in during that first trip, fifty years ago, hunting for mutants for the CIA, and returned to a half-dozen times since. Erik has always been very particular about his tastes; he likes things the way he likes them, and he sticks to that.
Charles grins. "Marvelous. I'll see you then, darling," he says, and with a press of his lips together that's almost but not quite a kiss, he reaches forward to something above the frame, and the screen goes black once more.