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there's a darkness upon me that's flooded with light

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They play in near silence, interrupted only by the occasional pause to refill their glasses. Charles is drinking two sips for every one of Erik's, a fact that he doubts escapes Erik's attention, though Erik's face shows neither the concern nor judgment that Charles occasionally sees cross Hank's face.

But Charles's tolerance is very good these days. He isn't stupid enough to let himself get drunk, when there was so much supposedly riding on tomorrow. Not drunk, nor even tipsy. Not enough, really, to begin to dull the thoughts in his mind -- and wasn't that it, the appeal of alcohol these last few years to begin with? Hank's serum might work to release Charles from the terrible burden of all those voices, but it took something else to escape from the one voice permanently inside his head.

At any rate, Charles appreciates the lack of conversation. A million times over the last decade he's imagined what he would say if he ever saw Erik again. The scene earlier had been merely one of the speeches he had come up with. He couldn't help but feel that it had lost something in its translation to real life. The way Charles's voice had shaken, perhaps. The way he could feel the tears painfully rise up in his eyes. Whatever it was, there was not nearly the satisfaction he had thought, when he had first imagined it.

What would satisfy? Erik on his knees, begging for forgiveness, Charles holding his heart in his hands as Erik had once held his?

Ridiculous. But Erik had apologized. It was more than Charles ever could have expected he would get. More shocking, even, than the knowledge that Erik isn't guilty of the crime he was imprisoned for, all the things the world (and Charles) blames him for.

Erik wins. It's not a close match.

"Congratulations," Charles says, "you're the champion."

Erik stares down at the board with a faint frown, an expression that might be puzzlement crossing his face. "Were you even trying?"

Charles shrugs. "I told you, it's been a while."

"I haven't had a lot of opportunities to play lately, either," Erik says dryly.

Their glasses are empty again; Charles moves to pour more, but he's stopped by Erik's hand on his wrist. Charles startles at the touch. He stares down at the point of contact, as if he's confused by what he's seeing. It can't be real: another ghost, another memory.

Erik says very softly, "Ten years is a long time, Charles."

Charles can't hold back his incredulous snort. "Are you serious right now?"

For a long moment, Erik doesn't respond, just continues looking calmly into Charles's eyes. Then he removes his hand, sitting back into his seat.

However long ten years might be, the time looks good on Erik. He barely seems to have aged, as disgustingly handsome and chiseled as ever. The deja vu hits Charles so suddenly he feels nauseated with it: the image of a younger Erik sitting across the chessboard from him in the library, superimposed over the reality before him.

Tomorrow they'll find Raven. Together. He'll have his sister back, after all these years.

And tonight... well.

"How quiet can you be?" Charles says. He's aware the words sound odd and abrupt as they come out of his mouth, but Erik merely raises a quizzical eyebrow.

"Logan's sleeping," Charles says, "and Hank's not very far away. I can't make them not notice, like I might have once."

Once Charles had kissed him in the middle of the sidewalk, in the middle of a busy street in Boston. People had passed by them, not one even batting an eye, not noticing anything strange at all. It had been -- a treat, perhaps, a present for Erik, who took so much satisfaction in the demonstration of Charles's powers.

"You'll have to be quiet," Charles continues. "Can you do that?" Erik had always been loud, before. Charles had liked it. It had been like a game, trying to discover just how vocal he could cause Erik to be.

Too many memories coming back, now, all at once. Like pins and needles, something asleep awakening. It's almost unbearable. Maybe he should have another drink.

"Whatever it takes," Erik says. His eyes have widened, darkened, and when Charles glances at his hands they're clenched in balls against his thighs.

Charles stands up and crosses to the couch to sit. Erik is still watching him.

"Well?" Charles says.

Erik lets out a harsh breath, and then he's across the plane, too, plastering himself to Charles's side.

It's awkward. It's been so long, of course it's awkward. Everything about it is awkward.

He doesn't know how to touch Erik any longer, and he had thought he was used to being without his powers, that he doesn't miss them, but this -- it's just like those first days getting adjusted to the serum, stumbling around, because here now is another thing he's never done without his telepathy. Every time they touched, back before Cuba, their minds were intertwined as well. He hasn't felt this off-balance in a long time. Maybe he hasn't cared enough to, anyway.

But he wouldn't want inside Erik's head now, even if he could, would he? Never again, he said. There's nothing that could make that worth it. There's nothing there that wouldn't just be painful.

(If he had never seen Erik's mind, only Erik's actions, he would never have fallen in love with Erik in the first place. How much easier that would have been.)

(He pushes aside the memory of Logan telling him that he and Erik are together in the future, just as he pushes aside how Logan already knew he loved Erik, how he spoke of it like it was obvious.)

That's not the only thing, anyway. Erik's spent a decade not only without sex, but without touch of any kind, and it shows. It hasn't been that long for Charles; he notched more than a few meaningless one night stands into his bedpost over these years, before they started to seem more like drudgery and work than pleasure. Lately, though... Charles can't even remember the last time he jerked off.

Between the crowded conditions and the need to not alert the others, they do nothing more elaborate than mutual masturbation, getting each other's trousers open just far enough to wank each other off while they kiss furiously. Erik comes very quickly, managing to hold in his yell to nothing more than a faint grunt. Charles lasts longer, longer than he wants to; he wants to come so badly and yet he's not, and he's afraid suddenly he won't be able to at all, that he can't do this anymore, he's too fucked up, he can't have even this--

But then Erik nuzzles the spot behind his ear, the one no one but Erik has ever found or noticed, and Charles thinks This is real, this is happening, Erik, Erik, Erik, ten years of thoughts he hasn't let himself think, and he's coming, biting down on Erik's shoulder in an effort to keep in his own noises as he spends himself into Erik's tight fist.

When they break off again from their kiss, Erik is frowning again. He looks like he has something he wants to say, but nothing comes out.

"We should follow Logan's example and try to get some rest before we land," Charles says. He pulls himself away from Erik, back into a decent amount of personal space, doing up his trousers again. "We need to be ready."

"I'll be ready," Erik says, in a low tight voice.

Charles glances back at him. "Good," he says, and he stands up and makes his way to the bathroom to wash his hands and rinse his red, overheated face.

Erik takes his turn in the bathroom immediately following, and as Charles falls asleep almost immediately after sitting back in his chair, the next time they talk it's with Hank and Logan as well, going over the plan.

It's a long time before they speak alone and privately again.