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Lieder Ohne Worte (Songs Without Words)

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"As you said, it's been forty two days since I've last had my mouth on you. I must confess, I'm famished for the taste."

For a wonder, Erik has no biting rejoinder. Though he does twirl his index finger in that universal sign to 'move along', the affectation of boredom is unconvincing. There's a tilt to his chin Charles has seen a thousand times, be the challenge mere game or fight to the death. Xavier slithers down the naked form, enjoying the contrast between flesh and his own clad state. Not because this implies some sort of vulnerability on Erik's part or conveys any advantage for the alpha, but because it so clearly delineates his chosen role. "I should be delighted to service you," he continues, whispering the tender threat into the cup of his lover's navel.

_Erik_ is to be the sole recipient of pleasure at the moment, a being both commanding and enticing worship. He carries himself always with such confidence, no matter how much or how little he wears. (Lehnsherr actually fought naked once, a thought that inspires both awe and a prickle of possessiveness.) Charles does not stop to kiss any of the various scars he passes, landmarks on the map of precious skin. That is an indulgence for later, when Erik is adrift in blissful haze, so used and still wanton that caresses to the most innocuous areas draw forth cries of agonized pleasure. It's the now turgid length of the omega's member at which he lingers; all kisses, nibbles, and pettings of the flushed skin. He nuzzles it, suckling the head, taking time to appreciate the interesting differences from his own-- the result of customs Lehnsherr's people have carried all the way from Old Earth. Even before being rendered so desperate as to accept any show of affection his mate might give, Charles was never one for traditional alpha-omega normatives or power dynamics. He'll suck the omega off at some point during the proceedings (there's an additional transgressive thrill to it, for him) but, despite the enthusiastic reactions of the organ, he knows that's not quite the stimulation Erik needs right now.

 

"Do you _mind_?" the other man inquires, hoarsely and rather on cue. He glares at Xavier, shimmying up so he can take advantage of the pillows, and looking as though the alpha's affection for his phallus indicates some sort of collusion between the two. Charles smiles, diving further down rather than obeying the hands that try to draw him back up. It's so wet, the core and primary source of that perfect scent. Beyond any hope of scientific mindset, he allows himself the intense satisfaction that no one else will ever know this intimate aroma. It's not a matter of beastly jealousy or possessiveness

(though he thinks of Erik as his, and began doing so long before he had any inkling of the truth. _His_ Erik was different somehow, obscurely both softer and more harsh than the soldier others interacted with.
'_You_ go tell him,' they said, whenever bad news was abroad. 'You know how to deal with him. The rest of us like living.')

but a sheer physical impossibility. Only Charles can perceive his veritas mate this way, and only Charles can feel the strains of 'want/trepidation/adore/need' seeping through the bond despite dedicated control on at least one end. The sheer, vital warmth of animus can never be fully revoked, but the diplomat does normally adhere to certain rules laid out between them. If one can call ultimatums thrown out during shouting matches-- many of which made sessions of the Provisional Congress look tame-- an organized code.

 

For now, flicking an ardent tongue into that dear little hole, he's open to whatever emanations might make their way past Erik's rigorous shielding. He figures it's found treasure; fair salvage. Dedicating himself with gusto, he narrows his own focus down to the taste and texture of his lover, and to the slow mutual pulsing of their minds. As the 'heart' shape is a cliche rendering of both organ and idea, so too is the bond a psychological crutch for visually obsessed humanity. In moments like these, Charles envisions it as a patch of foreign soil in the landscape of his own mind, a bed of earth in which something struggles for (against?) growth in a radically different clime. It is nearly always still, this part of Erik that exists within Xavier though, as earlier, it is sometimes betrayed by surreptitious stirring in the deep roots. On those rare occasions, Charles can very easily lose track of objective reality, instinctively abandoning the outside world to chase down the timeless and fleeting sensation. Like that exotic carnivorous flower of which bioengineers are so proud; 'dens rosa fatalis', prized for rarity, beauty, and the ability to bite those who tend it.

The omega's sighs are far from biting at present, nor are the aspersions he casts on Xavier and the legitimacy of said alpha's birth possessed of any real heat. There's too little breath to shore them up, though the curses are a veritable linguistic cornucopia. Standard invective mixed with colonial slang, and heavily peppered with that mutation of Hebrew particular to Erik's home world. Xavier has no fluency in the latter, but feels relatively certain of meaning based on context. Whining, his lover pushes up against the wet and flexible invader, the heated sound more than making up for the awkward angle Charles' neck is distantly protesting. Braced with palms flat against the rumpled bedclothes, he's unsurprised and rather pleased when Erik's fingers come down to claw ruthlessly at the hands of the erotic tormentor. Cursing with increased creativity, Erik strains upward for more stimulation, movements fluid even in this extreme. He is not gentle as he rakes nails against the back of his mate's hands, and Charles shudders even as he maintains his firm, unhurried rhythm. It is an expression of his own delight-- the spice of pain added to the rich, mulled flavor of arousal. It also inspires a deep satisfaction of which Erik must always remain ignorant. Xavier will very shortly lick the blood from those well-trimmed nails and, more importantly, shall be wearing gloves in public for the next week or so to hide the damage. Thankfully, such accessories are once more fashionable. Their inconvenience (which delights Lehnsherr) is actually negligible to their wearer, and more than worth the souvenir

(trophy-- dear gods, my love, have you conquered me so thoroughly that even my wounds are precious?)

of this intimacy. Proof of passion, if not affection, for when Erik goes to ground. How cross he'd be to know Charles is aroused by the transitory lacerations! They can be particularly comforting on those occasions when he has what is colloquially referred to as a 'top drop'. The scholar would not have pegged himself as one susceptible to that particular pitfall of dominance, but there's no shame in it regardless of certain outdated but prevalent perceptions of 'alpha-hood'. He will therefore take his easements where he finds them.

 

Eventually, he does trap the fleshy scorpions, lacing his fingers with Erik's to halt the attack. The omega's grip is a fist, as if he believes he must pry his orgasm from his diligent lover. A heel lashes out, beating a brief tattoo against Charles' back, pulling on the lilac silk now sealed to his flesh by sweat.

'Such strain, my love,' the alpha thinks. Then, a promise as silky as the inner walls he laves, 'Be at ease. You need only wait, and I will hurry your pleasure to you.' His jaws ache, gums not far behind in livid protest given the effort of holding back his fangs. Drawing back and tugging a hand free, he gives the palpitating bud one last kiss, an adroit finger coming to penetrate the slick channel. He's rendered the entrance sloppier still with his own saliva; it yields while Erik keens. What he's looking for is easy to find-- the ease of experience, of reading those shades of flush on his mate's face-- and a delight to stroke, the flavor of it earthy and voluptuous on his tongue. Lehnsherr tastes nothing like he smells, since biochemical and perceptive trickery only extend so far, but the alpha hardly minds. Something about the texture, the essential salty musk, gives him a thrill at once reverent and transgressive. As a young buck, he'd bent over illicit folios on omega sexuality-- be they disguised as art or science-- and marveled at the expressions inked on the tender, cosseted prey. So akin to agony, the rictus of these lovers, even as they clung to their alphas in obvious relish. His adolescent fascination occasionally bordered on horror at the depth of intimacy-- but oh! how it pleases him to bring such debaucheries to Erik.
Like little gifts.

 

"The things I want to do to you," he says, applying at last that perfect and very specific pressure. By this he of course means, 'the things you do to me'. And so often with only a glance.

"Water-wasting bastard!" Erik howls in release, cock jerking in a vestigial expulsion of inactive seed. Xavier promptly helps himself to this as well. The insults of a desert world notwithstanding, he's happy to take his mate's advice and ensure the moisture does _not_ go to waste. He's not nearly as frivolous as the other man might think. His finger stills as he watches the storm of pleasure flicker across Lehnsherr's face, each spasm a sustained bolt of lightning, but leaves the digit encased in the tight sheath. After a collection of moments (one-two-three, two-two-three), Charles begins milking the little numb through two more after-shock orgasms, carefully watching his partner and 'listening' for signs of discomfort through the bond. Omegas are quite capable of multiple climaxes even if-- in the case of males-- certain organs do not always participate in the encore.

Deft, attentive, he ceases only when he can tell the stimulation is nearing the fine edge of bodily protest, where pleasure tips over into pain. Erik shudders with one last ripple of satisfaction, as supine and relaxed as he was taut and straining just moments ago. The lightest beads of sweat dapple his angular form-- despite the exertion, his body is as economical with moisture as the man himself. In old habit, the omega even dips his fingers along the notch of his own collar bone, loathe to waste the salty liquid even in this heady trance.

 

Xavier observes all of this in the dim blue glow of the room, divesting himself of the legs thrown over his shoulders and nuzzling the back of each knee as he helps his mate stretch out more comfortably. His own sweat-soaked shirt is the next to go, a puddle of ruined finery on the floor. The alpha himself is still hard, mouth watering at the memory of those slick, powerful muscles massaging and contracting around his fingers. The tumescence is at once all-consuming and utterly immaterial. He wants Erik, wants to sink into the other man with a single thrust and the alacrity of one truly returning home. Pacing during heat is essential however, and none of Lehnsherr's vociferous protests change the fact that it is Charles' duty to protect his bonded. Even and especially from himself. Alphas who approach this vulnerable time with only their own satisfaction in mind-- or, worse still, think the cycle renders their omega the 'perfect whore'-- are lower than beasts. Nature rarely tolerates or even allows for intimate violence, though the pathologies of sentience sometimes prove stronger.
That is humanity's special curse.

 

("And yet we're supposedly the apex of evolution," Lehnsherr muttered ruefully, leaning close so Charles could hear him over the band's truly hideous rendition of 'Alpha Get Angry'. Some dive on an industrial colony, back when lies seemed to make their lives so simple and clear. "Plenty of species are more pragmatic. Many insects simply eat their mates."

"The lower orders do tend to be dimorphic," Charles remembers saying, trying to appear nonchalant while scanning the bar for their informant. "They haven't developed the specialization that has allowed us to be so successful." He flinched, wondering if he'd offended the man he thought was a Null. A throwback, many would say. That wasn't what he meant-- just another example of what Raven called his 'fatal case of foot-in-mouth disease'. "Of course," he added quickly, almost apologetically, "many other highly evolved mammals aren't polymorphic."

"Lucky them." A drink was shoved rather forcefully into the alpha's hand, but Erik hadn't seemed _too_ insulted on behalf of his minority. Xavier assumed he was more irritated with the scholar's placating attempt to walk the thoughtless comment back than anything else. "For water's sake, Charles!" The tone, at least, is good natured. "Eat your chips and have a beer. I'll be the look out-- you're too _verdammt_ obvious."

"It's just that the bond, a textured emotional and intellectual connection, is something our primitive ancestors could never have imagined," the scholar had said, knowing better yet still unwilling to let the argument go. "That-- along with the specialization of protector, worker, and nurturer-- has been the greatest gift of polymorphism." He did take Lehnsherr's advice on the recon, however, focusing instead on the other man's expression. He found Erik's closed yet mobile face fascinating, especially when they were engaged in debate.

"How lovely to be trapped in a role by sheer accident of birth, especially with such 'romantic' drivel for justification." The assassin's smile was distant and anything but kind. His friend shuddered, unthreatened but knowing exactly which of Erik's demon ghosts inspired that particular mirthless look. "Rather like being combined to a caste--" an unsubtle dig at Charles' homeworld, "--or considered genetically inferior due to one's ancestry."

Xavier was himself somewhat stunned by his own blundering insistence on pursuing the subject, half expecting his runaway mouth to continue a cycle of circuitous clarifications until he disappeared up his own philosophical ass. "What I mean is--"

"Do quit while you're ahead, dear," his friend suggested. Despite these words, the light in Erik's eyes clearly betrayed he was-- as always-- enjoying the rare occasion in which Charles was so thoroughly flustered.

"An omega might not _need_ protection," the scholar finished lamely, "but it is still an alpha's sacred duty."

"Fine," Erik replied with a thin smile and a one-handed mimic of 'praying mantis' claws. "They can provide dinner, too.")

 

"Get up here," the omega says presently, jerking Charles from his thoughts. Quite literally, too. With both hands fisted in long auburn hair, Erik seems perfectly willing to haul Charles up by it if need be. "Yafeh, ani zkuka lekha… You miserable-- why do you--" he's still fighting to calm his breathing, shivering delightfully where ever Xavier touches his skin. "_Fuck_, get up here!"

Charles is happy to obey, though he inwardly marshals his restraint. Erik is far from 'under', as the slang goes, meaning it is not safe for the alpha to lose control either. Only if they are both in sync-- mentally, spiritually, or however else you want to parse it-- is it possible to let go without risking psychological damage to one another. Level with his mate once more, he is pleased to have his mouth taken in an emphatic kiss. Deliquescent from the pleasures lavished upon him and still trembling with reaction, Erik is easy enough to coax on his side. Face to face, Charles embraces the taller man without breaking their union of mouths. Stroking and petting the other form, his own nerves alight with the knowledge Lehnsherr cannot avoid tasting the remnants of his own seed and slick. They press against one another, less for friction than for the feel of skin on skin, though Charles' demanding phallus is now nearing the edge of pain.

'Easy does it,' he admonishes, addressing all parties involved. Which of course includes those organs occasionally believing themselves to be autonomous. He's almost rocking Erik a little in his arms, fingers adroitly seeking out those places of special sensitivity. The base of Lehnsherr's neck, the articulation of his jaw. 'Slow and careful, just as always.' _Then_ his delicate tracing of skin may draw towards its alluring and ultimate goal: the faint, barely perceptible crescent cluster of scars that compose Erik's bonding mark. The impression of Charles' own teeth in flesh which, unlike a collar, may not be eschewed or removed. His bondmate effects quite a bit of high-necked clothing these days, giving the impression of a decorous omega virgin he never displayed when he actually was one. Like everything Erik does, it is both practical and painfully theatrical. It isn't as though the scar is visible from afar, but the former separatist does love to execute his rebellions by skewing traditional framework. Certainly, the mark he highlights through scrupulous concealment is not as livid as those left by the violence of others, nor Charles would not have it so. Xavier tells himself-- in a catechism repeated so often it feels like grace said before meals-- that it is enough to know the bonding scar is there, and lets the war between his intellect and basil ganglia rage on as though beneath his own notice. Part of the alpha, the vast majority in fact, would see to it that no one ever touches his mate again; in his more primal moments, he can barely tolerate the presence of the ankle monitor. The other is quietly maddened that his own claim is so small and pale in comparison to the evidence of so many others, and seasons this lunacy with hatred for himself.

 

('Used hard and put away wet', Erik said, smirking. Naked and utterly unconcerned by this fact, he stood just as he must have on the auction block, every inch on display. He would have been child of only twelve then, the parchment of his body would already forced to carry certain callous inscriptions of the whip. With their second mating hovering palpably about them, Lehnsherr had tossed out the remark as a challenge, once daring Charles to trip over the precipice of explaining himself. 'Try to do so without sounding like an ass,' every line of his body declared, 'just try'.

Unable to justify any of his actions to himself much less anyone else, there had been nothing the alpha could say. His faulty reasoning was clouded further still by how maddening such self-deprecating remarks had been even when Lehnsherr was 'only' his friend. The difference in that second heat-- for sanity's sake, he avoids thinking about the first-- had been his empowerment to _do_ something. As they tackled one another to the bed, he'd taken appropriate action; kissing each mark, murmuring reverence and the prohibition that Erik must never, never, speak of himself that way.

A mistake, acknowledged as the omega triumphantly continued, "Are you such a fool that you allow yourself to be swindled, accepting damaged goods?" The words might have been grasped out amidst Erik's own groans of pleasure, but they where defiant. It set the stage for their intimate warfare, caresses and words of devotion their weapons of choice. As ever, it remained unclear what either of them hoped to prove.)

 

With his typical reaction to any cosseting, Lehnsherr snarls out of the kiss, jerking his neck at an awkward angle in an attempt to to evade that particular touch. They are too close, still clutching one another in other ways, for this to be successful. Charles merely fingers the scar again, 'seeing' it with his fingers the same way he was trained to read books in the dark-- by the faintest raised traces of ink.

"Yalla! Erik cries huskily. An imperative, or so Xavier assumes from context and exposure. He has never asked the house computers to translate anything his mate says during heat. Why court disappointment, or even disaster? "Kapara alecha-- damn your caution, yalla!" The final exclamation is pressed into Xavier's mouth along with the omega's frustration. An agile tongue, perhaps more dangerous and adroit than even the diplomat's, invades with delicious insistence to draw forth a complimentary moan. Before Charles can think beyond sucking on this new and entrancing treat, Erik runs the flexible muscle along his alpha's gums, flicking against a chosen canine. Jerking in reluctant and alarmed ecstasy, Charles tries to disengage, finding the back of his skull cupped like a chalice in one of those powerful hands. By now Lehnsherr is all but performing fellatio on the fang, drawing it forth to impale his own tongue and lower lip.

'Damned, as he said,' Charles thinks with his last fading shred of sense. Erik's blood is warmer than all the warmth that has drawn Xavier to this precipice. Coppery, as all such fluid, it is yet infinitely priceless, carrying the omega's satisfaction at the madness he has just unleashed. 'Damned, and in check.'

Then, as the addition of certain metal powders may result in purple or crimson flame, the two lovers merge, react, and drag one another down to burn.

* * * * * *

Charles wakes still subsumed in Erik's warmth, beneath him and around him. The omega is sleeping sprawled on his stomach across the wide bed, with Xavier drawn across his back like a living blanket. The surrounding debris field of quilts and cushions provides just enough support to prevent the alpha from stifling his lover with his weight. Fully seated in that luscious arse, Charles can feel the swelling of his knot beginning to abate-- doubtless what woke him from a sleep whose engrossing and now-banished depths seemed punctuated only by distant, exhausted echoes. That rhythm is still with him, rolling as it does through the form upon which he rests. Asleep, one of Erik's hands has captured his, their fingers laced together with the larger palm covering what feels like a thorn-bush worth of scratches. The diplomat shivers pleasantly, the vibration communicated to his lover with increasing bliss, even as he begins to frown. The minor wounds may be his secret prize, but any damage his omega might have sustained is highly undesirable.
And unremembered.

 

(There are, predictably, the fading wisps of dreams-- the sort whose tattered remnants become more distant the very moment one seems close enough to catch hold. Lovely coolness surrounds him, that which is attainable only when the body senses some great merciless heat held at bay. The dichotomy multiplies itself further in the sweet, drugging warmth of Erik's hands, which sweep up and down Charles' form with confident and unapologetic intent. There is a pressure on the alpha's wrists; his hands are bound and drawn above his head to afford his mate better access. Hard, so desperately hard, he stands on his knees amidst a pile of strange, scaled-velvet hides while Lehnsherr touches him with a covetousness not the least bit eased by possession. The light is dim and the environs echo oddly, but Charles is alive only for the palms and fingers that play him like a bone lute. _Erik_ is caressing him, handling him with purposeful awe as he has never done in waking life. No fear of preconceived notions or consequences here, just worship burning the threads of his restraint the way Xavier so often struggles with his own desire to consume. 'Modern' notions or no, the diplomat flushes at being so physically bound and vulnerable, a shiver his omega sets to soothing away with a deep chuckle.
"There," that baritone murmurs against Charles' own unmarked carotid. As if the shorter man is one of Lehnsherr's metal sculptures, which must be lovingly coaxed into its potential shape. "There.")

 

With admitted effort, Charles shrugs off the bizarre conjuration, telling himself it matters not. Dreaming of better days is a cliche he has trained himself out of-- he certainly hopes his subconscious wouldn't opt for the more virulent poison of concocting unbalanced fantasies from whole cloth.
Who knows, at any rate, what nonsense might be engendered by such reckless blood-sharing?

"You bastard," he murmurs, kissing the nearest available patch of Erik's skin. True short term recollection consists only of kaleidoscopic images cast in shades of red and want, the only punctuation that of his beloved's cries. A flash of green as Xavier turned his mate's head with a gentle grip; the atavistic gratification at observing the near-eclipse of dark pupils, and the needy flush riding high of chiseled cheeks. The omega-- _his_ omega-- had gone under; pliant, trusting, following Charles' lead in a contented waltz. Every beat bid the alpha pull his dear one closer, every corresponding move on Erik's part communicated only a desire for what his lover chose to give him. No longer frenzied, he'd lain beneath Charles as one ensorcelled, all choice of timing willingly relinquished. Eyes half-lidded, lips relaxed into that little parting of languor, Lehnsherr had accepted Charles' thumb to suck in tandem with the earnest thrusting into his channel. Yet now the alpha thinks he also remembers blood around those lips, something which only spurred the fires of his satisfaction in the confines of the moment.

Lifting his head now, he quickly encounters visual confirmation of the memory. The 'house'-- sensing both occupants of the room had lapsed into slumber-- has dimmed the lights even further, but the stains are too significant to mistake for shadows, especially on a face he knows so well. There are also deep scratches on Erik's biceps and the shoulder upon which Xavier has been resting his cheek. He pets the nearest one with a light, apologetic finger, not disguising his heavy sigh. Conscience having surfaced along with consciousness, the stab of guilt softens his knot enough to withdraw completely, though he can't help but twitch when Erik whimpers sleepily at the loss. The hand holding his own tightens, seeking

(to bind. do you like that, neshama, to be held open and quivering as I constantly am for you?)

reassurance, but Lehnsherr stirs no further. The exhaustion between heat rounds is the only thing that ever makes the former assassin sleep as though dead to the world. He even snores a little at such times, which Charles finds absurdly adorable. It's a humanizing detail for someone who does his best to project almost operatic villainy.

 

Erik is not a villain, though Xavier sometimes wonders if he's the only person in the galaxy who knows that-- including the man himself. Who could watch Lehnsherr rail against expoiltation-- outright slavery, the 'bride-bartering' of omegas, the stifling corporate control of so-called 'company' planets whose workers are practically hostages-- and not see how deeply these cruelties offended him? His moral code is stark and stringent, as pitiless as those deserts to which his people long ago fled in search of freedom. In a galaxy whose primary polytheistic religion was government-sponsored in all but name, physical toil and hardship were the price for a space in which to practice their beliefs and simply exist. On Iapetus, the homeworld 'granted' as refuge by virtue of the fact there was nothing on it to exploit, they understand the predation inherent in life. Inescapable, the grasping competition for resources, but also a cycle in and of itself. Even the apex predator must die, bones fought over and picked clean. Those remaining bits too small or too tough for Iapetus' carrion eaters go to nourish desert succulents with existences so tenuous their roots are shallow and actually mobile. Yet it is also an ethos intensely aware of interconnection, in a way that often escapes even the most 'socially conscious' political activists. Eat or be eaten, yes; kill or be killed. But, as one old Earth hero of Erik's people said, 'out of the eater, something to eat.' After centuries during which the ruling planet bragged about its complete failure to produce any goods or services, Lehnsherr's cries for blood and justice stirred many hearts-- and whole colonies-- to insurrection.

The rest of Shamason's riddle is often forgotten, even by those knowledgable enough to be aware of the it; 'out of the strong, something sweet'. With undisguised tenderness, Charles' strokes his omega's jaw. What need has he to hide his adoration in this moment, with not even the presence of a treacherous mirror to betray him? His reverence and his exasperation are complete. The man who played with refugee children in such earnest yet awkward absorption, who made soldiers on the drill field straighten with the faintest word of praise, his friend… is also the same person who so fully shattered vows they'd sworn, turning aside all attempts to make peace. Only total war, total destruction of the prior regime, Lehnsherr's pirate space casts had claimed, would free them from the centuries-old shackles of exploitation.

'I thought,' read the only personal message Erik had ever sent during the years in which the war became three-sided, 'that we were brothers, you and I. That we wanted the same thing. You are _dead_ to me.'

 

Though he's been shifting away from his lover slowly, intent on exiting the bed, Charles cannot quite bring himself to untangle their fingers. Some odd sense of the sibylline persists, not dispersed by the fires of wakefulness. It is hardly surprising that his omega should represent a safe anchor to reality. He is merely fortunate to have the forced closeness of heat for succor. Sometimes it seems his life-- this purgatory which is also paradise-- cannot possibly have reached this point. Changes are being made, albeit slowly, that better the chances and circumstances of millions, to say nothing of fostering opportunities and exchange between planets which should have existed all along. Yet his personal life hangs now in a desolate limbo which sometimes threatens to eclipse any sense of accomplishment. Foolish, selfish, emotional reaction-- a sign, Erik would say, that he has feet of clay after all. Don't they all? Wits and cynics across all the worlds never hesitate to remind the galaxy that she only became amenable to peace once war ceased to profit. The toll of constant trade disruption, firefights, and loss of human life, ought to have been enough to motivate solutions based on self-interest alone. When these came at last to tax the upper echelons, they were most discommoded. The reversal of fortune provided leverage too desperately needed for the mainstream rebellion to ignore. Charles had leapt at the chance, and in his preferred method: without looking first.
Coming up with a practical solution meant giving up the luxury-- Erik's luxury-- of sticking inflexibly to ones principles.

 

Hardly the sole author of the decision, Xavier is never the less an easy target for criticism; chastised, in fact, for luck. He is not without his dead, but a majority of his friends and chosen family live when almost all of them should have been served up on an Imperium platter. Publicly executed by laser, or thrown to designed beasts-- violence du jor. The combined price on the heads of himself, Erik, Raven, and Hank alone could have bought several planets. Though priceless indeed, peace is not enough to quiet the the fallen whose ghosts come to question the living's dedication to the principles for which they died. Charles is not the heir and patriarch of which his mother once dreamed-- too much donation of remaining (or reinstated) property and too few children for that-- but his life is far from the long march of privation many veterans now face. He has a comfortable home, a position in which his service _matters_, and a veritas mate. At times this good fortune is a lodestone, a shaming brand on the forehead of a man whose dreams still revisit burning hulls, wailing static, and the silent decompression of ships in the black of space.
But it's better than the alternative.

 

('That charmed star you live under,' says all-to-accurate version of Lehnsherr's voice that has set up shop in Charles' head. 'Have you forgotten the _eight days_ it took to ratify what should have been a very simple and minor proposal? Is this the change our friends-- our _people_ died for? Or should I just shut my mouth, spread my legs, and be grateful to bask in the umbra of your mazel tov?')

 

The internal mimicry is so clever that Xavier actually checks himself, wondering if Erik is awake, though a glance downward reassures him this is not so. Who needs an eavesdropping bondmate when a guilty conscience does the job just fine? He should know better than to trust his own senses. As his omega is always at pains to persuade him, it can be easily argued that nothing during heat is 'real'.

 

Any contemplation of veracity quickly becomes immaterial in the face of Erik's sleepy but rising distress. Charles has no intention of withholding the closeness his mate needs any longer than necessary, leaning over and hunting in the twist of discarded blankets for the discarded robe. Draping the scent-logged satin over his omega's back, he presses a few kisses to the strong jaw to punctuate the sentiment, "I'll be right back, love."

That last bit is a slip but, other than that, the diplomat's mission to the en suite bathroom and quick pitstop at the kitchen alcove is a success. One completed in record time, making him doubly grateful he does not have to navigate around the wreckage of the old tray while balancing the contents of the new. The dust-eaters-- shiny, efficient little things that look rather like ancient computer mice-- do much more than their name implies. Growing up, Charles hated the cumbersome old models that infested their sea-side villa. The vacuous red sensor 'eyes' were entirely too macabre to inflict on a child, and likely the reason Marko ordered them in the first place. The stout, self-styled businessman certainly enjoyed threatening his stepson with tales of malfunctioning units that punished nasty, nosey little alphas in any number of gruesome ways. This current batch on Graymalkin has been so heavily modified and streamlined by Erik that they seem almost a different species entirely. Lehnsherr, despite his tendency to exploit them for mischief, is rather a marvelous programmer and engineer.

Aside from fresh vitamin cakes and drinks, Xavier has also obtained a soft wet flannel and AfterCare Kit from the bathroom. The former he employs almost at once, pausing only to examine the blood around Erik's mouth in the improved lighting. Still soft enough not to wake the older man, the lamps cast a forgiving glow that seems to strip away the years. Always handsome, Charles' mate now also appears quite the youth-- a pilfering rapscallion asleep and still smeared with evidence of dark red candy or icing. The kisses they'd traded had been slick with blood, but careful daubs of the cloth reveal no other facial wounds save the one Lehnsherr gave himself. That lower lip is already swelling, though that may owe to the way they were supping at one another's mouths.

Now that the alpha is once more sitting on the bed, Erik's out-flung hand gropes in the manner of a reef-beast for its prey. Nearest available grip found (Charles' hip), he hooks an arm around it and pulls the other man close with a somnambulist's insistence.

"Ahuvi," he mutters, likely annoyed by approaching wakefulness.

"Shhh," the scholar soothes, kissing each scratch once it passes reexamination. None of the abrasions on Erik's back are deep enough to warrant ointment, though he caresses them with the warm flannel all the same. He's treading on thin ice, but guilt-- to say nothing of deprivation-- makes him reckless. Still clinging to slumber, Lehnsherr squirms and practically purrs while Charles checks to make sure he wasn't turn or otherwise harmed during what was likely a very savage coupling. Their ice must have been frenetic given the pervasive lethargy in his own body and thoughts. He cannot remember ever having been quite so exhausted this early in heat before. Awake, solicitude would only stir Erik's ire, rendering the alpha all the more determined to cherish him, lavishing attention and indulgence during the involuntary truce. This is parenthetical time; if the omega may disavow all action therein, Xavier feels the same courtesy should be extended to him. Some of this is perhaps perverse defiance (he has no illusions of pristine motives, never mind Raven's aspersions), but the majority of his desire lies in the knowledge that his lover's portion of gentleness in life has been small indeed.

Erik, who is so singular and priceless, views neglect as an actual reward-- any other attention must be negative or come with strings attached. From the beginning of their acquaintance, Charles has watched his friend evaluate even the more prosaic of situations by a single rule: better to suffer alone and fly under the radar than expose weakness to others, whose motives are always suspect. It's an attitude that never fails to inspire a piecing pain beneath Charles' ribs, as if-- like the legends of sympathetic magic-- he and his bondmate were once cleaved apart from the same breathing bed of coral. There are alphas the galaxy over who venerate their omegas for reasons less founded than Charles' own profound admiration, while he is reduced to covertly caressing the man who has stepped in front of blaster-bolts for him. Who must be seduced by the delirium of pheromones before he's willing to even nestle close.

 

This latest of Erik's stunt-- trying to essentially drug the alpha into mauling him-- is a problem. Looking back, a part of Charles is surprised that Lehnsherr hasn't played this card before. Then again, the old omega's tales about blood-sharing strengthening the bond, combined with the attitude of any desert dweller towards exchanging intimate fluid, would have been a strong deterrent. To reach so deeply into an unwanted arsenal speaks to Xavier of desperation, though the catalyst is unclear. Does the omega really need a specific impetus at this point? Three years of imprisonment in a fine astroid-station 'house' is confinement still and must be viewed in concert with the arduous year-long trial, during which Erik's accommodations were far less pleasant. Any attempt to mitigate these hardships has caused contention with both Erik and those members of congress who thought (and still do) Charles is far too lenient with the man meant to serve as a warning to 'passing' or 'pathological' omegas. 'A little psychological pressure garners a much more compliant mate,' some of his more odious colleagues have advised. 'And what's the voodoo bond for, anyway, if not that?' None of them have an ounce of understanding, their marriages being bonds solely of political convenience, but the scholar still shudders in real sympathy for their unfortunate mates. A veritas bond does not guarantee a happy relationship-- he and Erik should be a case study!-- but abuse is far less likely if you're forced to experience the suffering you dispense. Charles can no more understand those rare cases of veritas maltreatment than he can imagine plunging a knife into his own chest.

 

("It helps," Lehnsherr said once, when a night of drinking moonshine devolved into young soldiers wistfully discussing future mates, "if you believe G-d is on your side." Wistful or not, Charles must admit there had also been some lewdness to the conversation. Most alphas in the rebellions were unmated and made no secret of their eagerness to change that fact when (and ah, the blinders of youth which see only 'when' and not 'if') the war was won. Angel wanted an omega who liked to be tied up, Janos found the idea of service-topping intriguing, and Alex expressed an interest in light pain-play. Which led to Hank, thoughtful beta, wondering aloud about kink negotiation and abuse of power.

"Why would you press your omega into something they don't like?" Jean had asked. "Especially if you're _veritas_? You betas don't get it-- you have to fish around for the right partners, and you never know if you've got it right."

"Define 'right'?" Erik challenged before Hank could answer. "At least they're never in a relationship where one party is automatically beholden to the other." McCoy had smiled at him, grateful for what the medic perceived as another outsider's support. Jean's comment, while not intentionally cruel, still betrayed the general pecking order of society, and Charles had seen by firelight the furious blush of shame which swept over her features. Subtle, internalized notions of 'the proper order' were often the most difficult to train oneself away from, as the scholar himself well knew.

"Not _beholden_--" Angel protested faintly.

"Their gods, and even the Nameless G-d, have supposedly decreed it should be so," Lehnsherr smiled mirthlessly, giving fair share of censure to the One. He'd told Charles early on that he disavowed that 'being' on the basis of either non-existence or profound disinterest in His own creations-- sometimes both, if the assassin's mood was poor enough. The small group had become rapt now, even the chill swamp around them seemed subdued in anticipation of Erik's next words. Hank and Alex were particularly engaged, and Charles listened to sentiments he'd heard before with persistent appreciation for his friend's thoughtfulness and diction. How farcical, he'd thought at the time, must society's obsession with primary gender seem to a Null? Even betas had their faint disdain for the heat-ridden sexes. They kept their own gods, paired among themselves, and their complaints were 'tolerated' as long as alphas felt their practical supremacy secure.

"'Alphas are the peak of evolution,'" Erik quoted, the dry, empty tone of his voice more damning than any mocking sneer. "The 'Divine' seems disposed to speak to so many, and that little voice always seems to tell people exactly what they want to hear.")

 

No-- Erik cannot be broken, nor would Charles want him so. It would be a travesty worse than the omega's potential final mistreatment at the hands of some showman executioner. Long ago, Xavier decided in admiration that even Lady Death could not prevail upon Lehnsherr fully. Abscond with him, yes, but hold him? He would slip through her fingers like quicksilver, drops of which he keeps under glass in his quarters like some kind of exotic pet.

But even the finest prison works attrition against the psyche, and Charles knows himself to be a jailor no matter how unwilling the role. His wonder at Erik's tenacity stems in part from his own comparatively paltry experience with confinement. He himself once earned three months in an Imperium prison workhouse for his treatise, 'Biochemical and Genetic Evidence For Post Atomic Polymorphic Divergence'-- a sentence which might have been commuted to public retraction and a fine had he not already lost his title. Being a little less vocal in his outrage might have helped as well, but he had been young and thus too trusting in the appearance of legality too much. The window dressing of so-called 'due process'. The backbreaking labor, theft of personhood, and violent pecking order bred by recidivism, shocked and quickly demoralized him. It is not for nothing he calls Raven his sister, for without her grace and protection he surely would have perished.

 

("You've fallen through the mirror," she'd told him, having drug him bodily from the beating he was receiving in the mess line. His attackers she dispatched with a whistle and a slicing motion of her hand. Later he would learn from whence her clout stemmed but, at the moment, the image of the golden-haired alpha (missing only a bow to be the perfect icon of a vengeful Artemis) standing over him was enough to stun the loquacious academic into silence. She was younger than he, but with harsh hazel eyes and a voice to suit her eventual destiny of commanding troops. "Forget what you've learned," she said, tossing out the words in the same manner she did the cold slab of meat which landed in his lap. Chuckling at his puzzled look, she was never the less gentle as she applied the cool (if slimy) relief to the knot already forming on his skull. "Forget what you've been told of places like these and people like me. This is the shadow-land that keeps the bright, pretty world turning. As of right now, you start at square one.")

 

The truth, every word of it. Raven had been patient with him-- much more than he deserved, looking back-- as he worked to find his feet in a closed society dependent on hierarchies within hierarchies, and in which every single one of his assumptions only served to work against him. Like the 'walking beak-fish' of his home world, his every step was uncertain and ungainly, making him perfect prey unless he was willing to learn-- and fight-- as he went. The first fifteen years of his life had been bountiful, much more than many of his future friends and comrades could have expected in their entire spans of living under the old order. While he'd understood that intellectually (or thought he had) from a rather early age, helping himself to his father's library of uncensored books, he'd made the easy mistake of all innocents in attributing inherent morality in institutions themselves. Surely a true scientist was willing to look at matter without prejudice; all dedicated judges incorruptible; all academics dedicated to the principles upon which they lectured? His opinions-- rather condescending at times, having been formed in the relative isolation of Tethys' rigid caste system-- caused such mortification that he was prohibited from any interaction with children of his 'station' and (more happily) permanently excused from being 'shown off' at dinner parties. If he could not be a charming society alpha, his mother insisted, Charles could at least give her the pleasure of bragging over a family savant. It is to this he owes the rigorous mnemonic, cryptographic, and mentalist training.

Marko's successful suit for disinheritance was a crushing blow but, as with breaking bones, it is better that the fall occurred while Charles was still flexible enough in thought and personality to recover. Turned out on his arse, he'd mistakenly thought the next ten years as scholarship student, desperate scrivener, and intermittent pauper, gave him some understanding of the true inequities dependent on the mere accident of birth. For good or ill, the Academic Guild had invested too much privileged training and esoteric technique in the former aristocrat to simply let him starve free range, disclosing gods only knew what secrets. Far better that he half-starve under their tender auspices, object of disdain and warning, assigned those tasks to menial even for the hired help and shunned as though his financial misfortunes were some sort of crippling disease. His 'political pathologies' helped not in the slightest and, wed to his high-flung principles like the most stubborn of water mules, it had seemed safe (if somewhat self-pitying) to assume he had no more good fortune to spare. Then the University Judge-- one of those logisticians supposedly unclouded by political or person bias-- handed down the redaction, and Charles Xavier discovered he didn't understand the true injustices of Imperium society in the slightest.
Though it was taught him in short order-- quite viscerally.

 

It is perhaps ironic that Charles is the one with the prison record, and not his infamous mate. This owes partly to Lehnsherr's sheer skill at evasion, the rest finding its roots in the simple knowledge of the stakes he risked if caught. Shut away, Erik's sex would have been revealed in relatively short order, just as it was when the blockers ran out on Orcus. Xavier's shudder is one of deep, undramatized revulsion as he turns away thoughts of what his beloved might have been suggested to in the merciless stone jungles of the jailhouse. Instead, the alpha bows his body over where Erik lies in his lap, kissing and stroking that dear head as if to soothe the mind within. If it also eases the phantom pressure he himself feels, all the better.

 

(Seeking pressure, friction, he finds only empty air. He is burning-- burning in the rut his mate inspires and this precious, cool world of shadow-- while Erik laves the sweat from his skin with wide, feline lavings of the tongue. This attention does not extend to the alpha's member, the knot of which is engorged in a way that ought to be impossible outside the comforting sheath of his omega. A moan, naught but a wordless plea, answers itself over and over again in Charles' ears. His own voice, though he can barely recognize it as such. A clay vessel is held to his lips; thin juice runs down his throat with faint, unanticipated crispness, the overflow dripping down his chin.
"Do you see now?" Erik asks as he kisses up the leftovers, "_Now_ do you understand?")

 

Presently, Lehnsherr issues another sleepy grunt. Is he distressed by the unpleasant turn of Charles' thoughts, or irked by his mate's continued efforts to throw off these odd impressions? Either might well be so, for at the back of the alpha's mind there is a brief but perceptible subterranean stir. Wordless, half-formed thoughts amidst the sleepy gossamer already obscuring Xavier's cognition: 'hush/mine/closer', and the vague notion of a grasping hand.

(… lead you in the darkness, close the shackles most tenderly…)

"Is that your dream, then?" Charles wonders aloud, "Some revenge fantasy I stumbled upon while we were all tangled up?" The thought is surreal; profound depression wrapped in deja vu over something one has never actually experienced. He feels more and more certain the bond was actually open at some point during their mad, animal coupling. At present, its the only explicable culprit for his current state: cognition at once muzzy and invigorated as one trudging relentlessly through stinging winter wind. It's rather reminiscent of a drunk's waking (though thankfully without the hangover), memory reduced to a riot of conflicting sensations and the nagging feeling for some embarrassing omission.

 

("Shhh," Erik murmurs again, brushing a few dry kisses against Charles' forehead. They are more the benedictions of a closed and fleeting mouth, surreptitious as when he nursed Xavier through the worst of Nithamic fever. _That_ was real, however-- perhaps one of the few indications of the assassin's more-than-brotherly affections during their lengthy tenure as brothers in arms. This-- the pervasive hallucinatory uncertainty which eases only in the tight clasp of Erik's arms-- is not real at all, and easily betrays itself as such. The dubiousness of the situation lies not in the diplomat's over-exertion or the pleasure-soaking humming of his nerves, but in the almost vindictive tenderness of of his lover. Only Lehnsherr could form a weapon of intimacy like this, solicitously massaging Charles' now-freed wrists, hovering over the alpha's prone form with all the absorption of a desert cat for its meal. Their surroundings attest to the mirage as well. High, uneven arches of indigo onyx form a strange little natural vestibule, sparkling with faint shy flecks of gold. This spartan luxury is lit solely by furious white lances of light rendered bearable only by the distance and diffusion the source suffers to reach these deep catacombs. Erik arranges Charles in a little nest-like depression of rock lined with thick velveteen hides, curling contented hunter's limbs around the smaller form. "Poor thing," the cloying pity, while laced with satisfaction, is potent with something far worse-- something not at all dissimilar to love. "Just rest, now.")

 

Xavier fists his hands in the fine sheets-- not hides, but _sheets_-- suddenly aware of the terrible juxtaposition between his genuine, logical train of thought and these moments of interference. It is as if some other signal has been brought to bear on his mind, and not a being alive has been able to importune Charles' Will with their own for decades. It is not a matter of psychic embattlement for which Academic Guild prepares and trains, but rather resistance to and reversal of actions and nonverbal cues launched by those with more domineering personalities. Now what the diplomat faces is entirely mental, his opponent already beneath his armor and as close as his own skin. There is something more afoot here than heightened heat-delirium or the expected affects of blood-sharing, and no amount of self-reproach can banish the suspicion. What initially strikes Charles as paranoid must be reevaluated in light of… Erik. Daughtless, clever, inflexible Erik, who can take extreme risks for sometimes unfathomable rewards. Whose seeming unpredictable whim, like the strike of a snake sunning itself, stems always from careful strategy.

"What on all the worlds were you thinking?" Charles asks in a hoarse whisper. That, at least, is preferable to anything shrill. Rigorous training dictates he rarely betray panic outwardly, but he can feel the harsh pitch rising within. Erik cants his hips sleepily, sounding quite put out at his emptiness, and at last raises his head. A brief, unvarnished smile flickers over his countenance, so that Charles must look away.

'Be careful,' the scholar's prudence chants. 'If he's still under, if you hurt him or wrongly accuse him now…' But he can already see his mate's gaze clearing, though whether the oscitant eroticism is banished by detection of Charles' suspicion or mere wakefulness is impossible to tell.

There follows, however, another grin-- one which cannot be misinterpreted. The glint of the leviathan's fangs as it rises to toss the oceans, and the plans of mere mortals, in upon themselves.

 

"Erik," Charles asks carefully, affecting a serenity he most assuredly does not feel. "Erik, what have you done?"

 

.