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Debatable Foreplay

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Their discussions are epic, according to everyone at their university. And Erik's not going to lie; he's never had a verbal enemy the way he's got Charles Xavier.

Xavier should be everything that Erik hates. Hell, he is everything Erik hates. Rich, all the academic support imaginable, full of himself, integrationist, good looking and articulate.

And there are discussion venues where they are both barred from taking part at the same time. Debate club can be savage. If the event arrangers can do it, they allow at least an hour between the two of them on the podium. Or, if they really need to fire things up, they let them debate each other. Apparently Xavier brings out the worst in Erik - and vice versa.

In a different timeline, they might even have been friends, Erik muses as he walks across the crisp, frozen grass towards the dorms. As it is, they are mostly only in the same room during classes or debate sessions. They have a few classes together, mostly mutant studies/mutant rights which is an elective for the both of them. Erik knows that Xavier is on the genetics department track while he himself is on the engineering track. The mutant studies is entirely because he needed an elective that wasn't engineering related and because he wanted to. It gives him the opportunity to try to correct all that is wrong with the world.

Speak of the devil, Erik thinks to himself when he gets to the main entrance. He opens his mouth to spew the usual greeting to his rival, when he pauses. He even has the best opening. The new law that Kelly is trying to pass through the Senate. But he bites his tongue.

Normally, Erik is quite sure that Xavier would take it as an insult if Erik held back, but he also knows a few key things about him. Xavier had an accident when he was 14, broke something important. He can walk, on a good day, mostly uses a cane which doesn't make him look any less than an old professor - with the tweed jacket and all.

Today is apparently a wheelchair day though. It's not that Erik wants to lecture him about just for fuck's sake use the chair more often - anyone with half Erik's eyesight can tell that the man is in pain most days. But he also knows that Xavier is a stubborn, proud man, who seems to think it better to be on his feet than being comfortable. Erik wants to tell him that being on his feet won't help - he'll always be a shortass.

"Don't bother, Lehnsherr," Xavier mutters, only halfway turning his head to glare at Erik. He is in the wheelchair outside the entrance, in front of the button. The one that should've engaged the automatics that will swing open the door for him. Which it isn't.

Erik opens his mouth to retaliate, then shuts it again and narrows his eyes. The smell of snow is in the air and it's freezing - couldn't be easy to navigate with your hands, even wearing gloves like that. He lifts one hand and crooks a finger, the door creaking open. "Door mechanism broken?" he asks carefully. He isn't prone to kicking a man already lying down.

"Yes," Xavier says, short and slightly cranky. He rolls through the now open door, turning to stare at Erik, eyes unreadable, nose a little red-tipped from the cold. "Sorry, it's been a long day already."

Erik finds himself smiling in response. "Don't mention it - or well, mention it to maintenance, that's the third time this month it's stopped working." Erik doesn't notice because he has a need for the door mechanism, but when it isn't working-

Xavier shoots him a curious look, for a moment his annoyance with the world forgotten. "How do you know?"

Erik shrugs. "The mechanism has a sort of sour feel to it." Well done, Erik, he deadpans silently. How articulate.

"You can feel when a mechanism isn't working right?" There is a spark to Xavier's eyes that Erik finds almost… unsettling. Not bad unsettling, just… unsettling.

Erik shrugs again.

"Huh," Xavier mumbles to himself. "Well, thanks." He shoots Erik a small smile before heading down towards his own dorm room.

"Is there anything else I can do to help?" Erik asks, before he can stop himself. He isn't even sure why he's asking.

"Not unless you can fix the door mechanism," Xavier says with a grin. That's more like it.

"Maintenance doesn't like me fiddling with those things," Erik replies with a quirk of his lips. They really don't. He's been told time and time again that maintenance is there for a reason - especially when the plumbing goes south - and Erik wants a hot shower. There's no waiting for the maintenance at that point.

Xavier snorts. "I can imagine." He turns his chair and rolls down the hall. "So, the answer is no, unless you can put some pressure on my back when I'm laying down."

"Sure," Erik says. Again surprising himself.

"Really?" Xavier turns the chair and stares at him. And Erik almost says no, but he catches the almost desperate hope in Xavier's eyes.

"Really," Erik says, because he's an asshole, but he's not that much of an asshole.

Xavier hesitates a moment, then nods and leads the way down the almost deserted hallway. It's almost Christmas and most of the students have headed home to their families. Erik doesn't really have the finances for a flight home to see his parents, and they understand. Why Xavier is here during Christmas, he doesn't know, though.

And it's none of his business.

Erik watches in silent respect as Xavier gets out of his chair and sits on the bed. A movement that tells Erik that he's hurting even more than he's letting on. And he feels frayed around the edge - like his telepathy is jagged.

"I'm sorry," Xavier says tersely as he takes off his jacket and shirt, stiffly lying down on the bed on his front. "My gift goes wonky with pain."

Erik huffs out a breath and forces himself over to the bed. He had offered, after all. "Your headache isn't getting any better with you fighting to hold back."

"I have to if you're going to touch me - or you'll get the pain feedbacked from me," Xavier says with a sigh, before burying his face in the pillow.

"No, I can shield," Erik corrects. "One of my friends from high school taught me - it was easier for her than having to shield around me constantly."

"Huh," Xavier says, turning his head to shoot Erik a curious look.

Erik can feel him letting go, but it's not as bad as he expected. He puts his palms flat against Xavier's shoulder blades. It's not bad, this. He can do this.

"So," Xavier says, voice muffled by the pillow. "How come an engineering students knows so much about human anatomy?"

Erik laughs softly. "My cousin took her physio exam last summer - she made me help her rehearse for it. I may be an engineering student, but I know more than I want to about human anatomy."

Xavier makes a strained noise.

Erik stills. "You okay?"

Xavier nods, his face mashed into the pillow. "Yes, please don't stop."

Erik tries not to think how porny that request sounds. If he says…

"Nnng, harder, right there-" Xavier freezes and then shakes, laughter making him wince. "Ow, damnit, sorry Lehnsherr, I didn't mean to-"

Erik snorts, because yeah, it is funny. He lifts his hand to swat at one of Xavier's butt cheeks, but stops himself. He doesn't want to cause him any pain. Quite frankly, he's trying to help some of the pain away. And he's actually enjoying for once not yelling at Xavier across the debate team room. He puts his hands back on Xavier's back and carefully feels for the right pressure points.

"You should do this professionally," Xavier mutters into his pillow. "You've got good hands."

"I'm actually considering using some of that knowledge for my thesis project," Erik admits, again surprised that he's sharing so easily with Xavier. "There's plenty of use for human welfare projects in engineering."

Charles nods. "I can imagine it's an area that could do with an upgrade."

"It's what I was doing my bachelor's in, back in Germany," Erik says, feeling a little homesick.

"You're just here for your masters, aren't you?" Xavier asks.

"Uh, huh," Erik replies. "After that, who knows. Maybe back to Europe."

"I've been thinking of applying for a phd at Oxford," Xavier admitted.

"Would take you far away from your family, though," Erik says before he can stop himself.

"Yeah, but I don't like my family much," Xavier says quietly. "Except my sister, and she wants to go to London to study fashion."

"So you want to go to the UK as well?" Erik asks curiously.

"I've been to the UK often enough," Xavier says. "And I like it there - not to mention it takes us far away from the rest of the family."

Erik considers the soft as butter British accent that Xavier spouts and has to admit that he's not surprised. "You should take better care of yourself," Erik says instead of getting too deep into that family thing.

"I try," Xavier says quietly. "I try, but my pride tends to get in the way."

Erik huffs, trying not to laugh. He's not terribly surprised at this. "I get that you don't want to seem dependent on anything or anyone, but you have to listen to your body, you know," he admonishes. It's not like his cousin didn't rant at him for all the problem areas he'd had in shoulders and neck due to awkward working positions. If not in front of the screen, then tinkering with this or that tech project.

"I know," Xavier says. "Raven, my sister, normally tells me this stuff, and sometimes I need reminding."

"But she's not currently here, is she?" Erik asks quietly.

"No, she's not." They both go quiet for a few minutes, and Erik can feel the tension seep from from Xavier's body. "Do you mind if I ask how it happened?" Erik asks, feeling oddly tentative. He normally steamrollers over anyone - including Xavier, when he can - during debates, but this is oddly intimate.

"I don't mind - " Xavier says, breathing deeply. "I fell down the stairs when I was 14."

That's - Erik pauses for a moment, then rubs at a tense muscle in Xavier's left shoulder.

"Well, when I say fell," Xavier amends, "I did have help."

This time Erik stops fully. "You had help falling down the steps?"

"Mmm, you never asked why I dislike my own family," Xavier said quietly. "My step brother Cain is a bully, five years my senior and twice my build and weight."

Erik carefully undoes his gift where it's curled around the metal frame of the bed. "Am I getting this right? Your brother pushed you down the stairs?"

"Step-brother," Xavier corrects. "Let's not make us more family than strictly speaking necessary."

Erik gets why Xavier doesn't want to spend more time with his family than strictly necessary. The staying at uni during Christmas makes more sense now. "And your sister?"

"She's spending time with her girlfriend in California - so she's good," Xavier replies. "Neither of us have particularly great memories of Christmases past, so we tend to not bother." He turns his head a little. "You?"

"Jewish," Erik says, it's not like it's a secret.

"You still have holidays around this time of year, yes?"

"It's too expensive to travel back and forth for such a short time - my parents understand," Erik replies. They do, even if Erik really does wish he could afford the trip. He goes home during the summer, that has to be enough. It's a longer period for him so he can justify the expense. And if he orders the tickets in good time, he can normally get a deal on them.

"Have dinner with me?" Xavier says, so fast Erik nearly misses it.

He blinks a couple of times. That came right out of the blue.

"I mean, you're doing this for me, you're being nice, you -" Xavier stops. "I'll just shut up now."

Erik can feel the embarrassment radiating off Xavier. It could be that he's just thanking Erik for the help, but. "Am I going to make it worse if I ask if you're asking me out on a date?" Erik's never been good at reading people's intentions, but he'll be branded a liar if he claims he doesn't find Xavier attractive - it's part of the fun when he gets him all riled up on the debate team to watch his cheeks go red, his eyes wide. Erik secretly thinks he's enjoying it as well.

Xavier goes still, Erik can feel the tension somewhat returning. That hadn't been his goal.

"If it is, that's cool too," Erik says, not feeling as out of his depth as he normally does when someone flirts with him or hits on him. Maybe because he's rarely interested and turning people away can be so damned awkward. He's not trying to avoid hurting people's feelings, wouldn't dream of it, but the situations themselves are a pain in the ass.

For a moment, Erik can feel that Charles is holding his breath under his hands, then slowly letting it back out. "Yeah, I mean if you don't mind, I'd like for it to be."

Erik stares at his neck. "Are you blushing?"

"Oh, shut up, you asshole," Xavier mutters, but Erik can tell he's laughing, the tension draining out of his shoulders faster than it appeared. "Now stop poking fun at me and put some more pressure on the right shoulder, or I won't be particularly good company at dinner."

Erik laughs as well and does as he's told. "I can always come back with you afterwards and do this again."

This time something makes Xavier shiver lightly and he finally pushes himself up on his elbows, staring at Erik. "In a hurry, aren't we?" His blue eyes are dark, his pupils larger than normally.

"In a hurry? Xavier, we've been doing foreplay since the first session of the debate club, how can you call our speed anything but glacial?" Erik asks, laughing out loud. He's just poking fun at him, really, because it's not like Erik really saw it for what it was that early.

"Huh, you're not wrong, I guess," Xavier mutters. "And call me Charles, Erik, last names are a bit formal for what we've been doing and for what we're planning on doing?" The last half of the sentence has a soft tip upward in tone.

"Charles," Erik says, enjoying the way it rolls off the tongue. "Now lie down and be quiet, so you can handle dinner tonight."

"Bossy," Charles mutters into the pillow and Erik knows he's not complaining about it. Dinner is going to be either disastrous or damned glorious.