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Erik liked living in the city, and New York pulsed with an energy he truly couldn’t find anywhere else. He let his mutation seep into the skeletons of buildings, into the veins of electrical cords, listening to the comforting hum of Wi-fi as he walked steadily into the lazy afternoon throng.

His shift at the bar wouldn’t start for another two hours, so he had the time to amble along as much as the street allowed—there always seemed to be a sense of urgency in urban jungles. Erik flexed his fingers, glad that he didn’t need gloves. The weather was warming already in deference to the turn of the season.

The streetlight changed colors; Erik fell easily into the rhythm with other walkers. Woe betide anyone not paying attention to where they were going. Someone knocked clumsily into his shoulder. He tsk-ed, but he was in a good enough mood not to engage in anything more.

There was one particular pedestrian coming towards him that had caught Erik’s eye even before the light changed. He was like a bright spot on the otherwise dreary day: tousled hair, striking eyes, lips reddened from biting. He was so occupied with his cellphone he didn’t notice the crack in the pavement until he was tripping on it already.

Erik heard his gasp, and instinctively tugged on the man’s watch to keep him standing. Unfortunately, he calculated wrongly and had to bodily haul him up. The man flailed in his arms, and Erik frantically adjusted his grip—the result looked like a parody of a dance, one of Erik’s hands on the small of the stranger’s back, the other arm stretched back parallel to the man’s arm that was wearing the wristwatch.

The stranger was breathing quickly, eyes wide, a shade so startlingly blue Erik could practically drown in it. They stayed in that exact pose for the longest, most beautiful moment of Erik’s life, before the honks of cars and the bustle of the city made itself known once more.

“S-Sorry, I was just—” The man stuttered, flushing a deep red.

“Come on,” Erik said, setting him upright and guiding him back to the sidewalk. He was still shaking by the time they got there.

“Charles!” Someone called out, and Erik turned just in time to see a blonde woman fling her arms around Erik’s perfect stranger. Erik scowled, stomach curdling. Girlfriend? Wife, perhaps?

“Oh my god, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, I’m really fine,” Charles insisted. He turned to Erik, looking so painfully embarrassed Erik couldn’t help but feel bashful too. “Thank you for saving me, my friend.”

“It was nothing,” Erik murmured, distinctly feeling like his ears had caught on fire.

“It wasn’t nothing,” the blonde said. “You practically saved my brother from making a fool of himself in the middle of the street. And that was really smooth of you,” she winked.

Charles cleared his throat. “I’m Charles, by the way.”

“Erik.” They clasped hands.

Charles smiled at him, and it was as if the universe had pointedly declared that this was the start of something beautiful because the clouds opened up just enough so that a sunbeam fell on his handsome face.

Oh no, Erik thought. He’s hot.

As are you, Charles replied, though his lips didn’t move and his hand was raised up to his temple, the common gesture for telepathy.

They might have stared a tad too long at each other, minds alight and clamoring with attraction.

“So when’s the wedding?” Charles’ sister chimed in.

“I’m really sorry, again,” Charles said, shedding his coat and draping it over his chair. They’d found refuge in a coffee shop not far from where they’d met. Charles’ sister insisted that she had some shopping to do, although it was a poorly disguised maneuver for leaving him alone with Erik. Charles could hardly believe his luck when his clumsiness had landed him in someone’s arms—a very good-looking someone, at that.

“It’s really not a problem, Charles.” He liked the way Erik said his name, his accent making his tongue curl around the ‘r’. The cup of coffee looked delicate in his hands, and Charles marveled at the sight, wondering if Erik would be inclined to put them on him someday.

“...So.” He began, although he felt foolish for saying anything at all. When Erik looked at him like that, every word went dry on his tongue. The man had a mind that, well, gleamed, for lack of a better term. All shiny corners and well-kept edges.

“So,” Erik repeated, mouth curving up into a winsome grin. “How’s your drink?”

“Oh! It’s er, it’s very good.”

He could tell Erik was laughing at him in his mind. Charles hadn’t even taken a sip of his tea yet.

“Listen, er, I’m usually very good at conversation. Promise. I don’t mean to be so quiet.”

“I don’t mind quiet,” Erik said.

Charles sipped at his tea and met his gaze, feeling utterly caught. He bit his lip and let himself graze the surface of Erik’s mind, just to see how well this whole thing was working out. His cheeks flushed with what he found there, because Erik was focused solely on him, and he was staring at Charles’ mouth with a flattering intensity.

“Would you mind if I…” Charles gestured to the space beside Erik on the booth. He slid in as soon as Erik nodded, right up until their knees and thighs were touching. “Is this alright?”

“It’s very alright. Can I…?” Erik was thinking very hard about putting his arm around Charles. They slotted together warmly, still looking at each other as if magnetized.

The city teemed with life beyond their little bubble, but Charles ignored it all. Erik leaned down until his forehead was nuzzling Charles’ temple, his breath wafting warmly over his cheek. Charles tilted his head and stole the first of many kisses, feeling as if life as he knew it would never be the same again.

It wasn’t. It was so much better.