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beautiful pain.

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The minute Charles opened his eyes, he knew he was alone. He wasn't surprised, he wasn't even angry. He knew that Erik would never stick around to say a proper goodbye. But even knowing all of that, it felt like someone had stuck a knife through his heart.

He turned his head and looked at the pillow where Erik's head should have been resting, but nothing was there but for the crisp white of the pillowcase. He looked to his other side and there was his wheelchair, but nothing else.

The fucking bastard hadn't even left a note.

Charles wanted to turn his head and cry into the pillow, but he wouldn't give Erik the satisfaction. So he forced himself out of bed and into his wheelchair, then slowly made his way to the kitchen.

The kitchen had been cleaned up, all the empty bottles were gone, and there was a plate of bacon and eggs sitting on the table. Charles shook his head and wheeled himself over to it, lifting the plate to feel the bottom of it. Still warm, so he couldn't have left that long ago.

He ate the breakfast that Erik had left him and then left the kitchen, rolling down the hallway towards his study. When he entered it, his jaw dropped. The study had been cleaned up. Books were back on their shelves, boxes were stacked neatly, papers were organized on his desk. And in the middle of it all sat two chairs facing one another, a small table holding a chessboard sitting between them. All the pieces stood upright, and one black pawn had been moved forward.

He'd started a new game.

Charles felt his heart jump into his throat. He willed himself to gather more control, then wheeled himself over to his desk, where a white envelope with Charles scribbled across it sat on top of a stack of folders. He wanted to tear it open, read whatever it was that he had written, cherish every word or curse every sentence, whichever fit better.

Instead, he resisted and reached for the bottle of scotch that was in the bottom right drawer of his desk. He wasn't even surprised that Erik had replaced it.

The front door opened a couple of hours later, and footsteps made their way towards his office. The door creaked open slowly, and Charles didn't even look up, just took another drink straight from the bottle. It wasn't until someone came up behind him and took the bottle out of his hands that he realized it wasn't Hank.

Erik made Charles's wheelchair spin around until they were looking at one another, and Charles felt his heart in his throat again as Erik moved closer. “I forgot something,” he said, then crushed his lips against Charles's in a hard, demanding kiss.

Then, as quickly as he had appeared, he disappeared out the door. By the time Charles made it into the hallway, the front door was slamming shut.

Charles made his way back into his study, grabbed the white envelope, and ripped it open.

He'd been expecting a letter. Instead, there was a small piece of paper inside, and it had two sentences written on it.

It's your move. Better make it by the time I get back.

He set the paper down and reached for the scotch, then rolled his way over to the chessboard and studied it for a few moments before making his move. Erik, Charles reached out with, knowing he couldn't have made it that far.

Charles.

Charles smiled. Your move.

Then I shall see you soon, old friend.

Their mental connection was broken by the sound of the front door opening, Hank calling out as he walked inside. Hank would have a lot of questions when he saw the kitchen, and a whole lot more when he saw the study, but Charles didn't care.

He could withstand some questioning.

In fact, after the last two weeks, Charles felt like he could withstand anything.