Chapter 1: day one.
I can feel the heat rising
Everything is on fire
Today's a painful reminder of why
We can only get brighter
The further you put it behind ya
And right now I'm on the inside
Lookin' out, 'cause
I'm standing in the flames
There's a beautiful kind of pain
Setting fire to yesterday
Find the light, find the light, find the light
beautiful pain – eminem feat. sia
Ever since they'd limped away from the disaster area that was now the White House, Charles had two things running through his mind. The first was that he was going to have to find Raven because he had no idea where she'd went, and the second was that Hank was going to have to shut up.
“I can't believe you let him go,” Hank muttered for probably the millionth time during breakfast. It had been almost a month since everything had happened, but Hank just wouldn't let that particular part of it go.
Charles never answered him when Hank said it. Charles wasn't even sure he had an answer to it. Still, Hank poked and prodded, trying to provoke some sort of response, because, as Charles knew, when Charles was silent, it was never a good thing.
“I believed him,” Charles said out of nowhere, surprising even himself.
“Excuse me?” Hank asked, looking up from his bowl of cereal.
“He said if I let them have him they would probably kill him, and I believed him.”
“That doesn't explain why you let him go though,” Hank pointed out.
“No,” Charles said, guiding his wheelchair out of the kitchen. “I suppose it doesn't. Enjoy your vacation, Hank.”
Charles made his way to his study and moved behind the desk. When he was situated, he started looking through old files and going through mounds of paperwork; all the things he had ignored when walking on two legs again was more important than the special gift he'd been blessed with. It would take some time to get the mansion into shape, but it would become a school again. He had to find the people he had promised Logan he would find, and while he was at it, he had better find Logan again as well.
There was a knock at his study door about an hour later, and Charles looked up to find Hank standing there, suitcase in hand. “I'm ready to leave.”
“Tell your parents hello for me,” Charles said, turning back to organizing his files.
“Are you sure you don't need someone here with you while I'm gone? Because I could arrange for a maid or a cook or—”
“Or nothing. I will be perfectly fine,” Charles said, a little harsher than he meant it, but they'd already had this conversation three times.
“Alright,” Hank said, smiling at him. “I'll see you in a couple of weeks then.”
“Enjoy your trip,” Charles said without looking up.
He heard the front door open a few minutes later, Hank yelling goodbye again as he walked out of it. Charles looked out of the window and watched as Hank's car pulled away, then took a deep breath. He was well and truly alone.
He stayed with the paperwork for as long as he could stand it, then slowly left his office and made his way down the hall. So many rooms that used to be filled with students and teachers, so empty and lifeless now. They would be filled again someday, he vowed. The world needed him to reopen the school almost as much as he needed to reopen it for himself.
Hank had been gone for nearly two hours when there was a knock at the door, and Charles slowly made his way to the entry, unsure of whether he should answer the door or not. But then there was another knock, and a voice he hadn't been sure he'd ever hear again filtered through the slightly opened window at the door's side.
“I know you're there Charles. Let me in.”
Charles sat there, dumbfounded until the lock suddenly undid and the door opened on its own, revealing Erik to him. He was wearing sunglasses and had a suitcase in his hand, and he looked not unlike the way he had the night Charles convinced him to stay at Division X, the night they'd first fallen into bed together.
“Why are you here?” Charles finally said, just watching as Erik walked inside and pulled the sunglasses off. The door closed behind him and the suitcase was set down, and Charles just drank in the sight of him, something he hadn't had the pleasure of doing in such a long time.
“You let me go,” Erik said softly, walking towards Charles. “I've been trying to figure out why, and since I can't come up with a reason, I thought I would come to ask.”
“You came all the way here to ask me that?” Charles kept staring at him as Erik crouched down next to the wheelchair, looking him straight in the eye.
“Yes. Why, Charles? Why did you let me go?”
Charles swallowed hard and broke their gaze. “Do you really not know?”
“I wouldn't be here if I did,” Erik murmured, putting a hand on the arm of the wheelchair. “Where's Beast? I suspect he's going to come barreling in to try and kill me at any moment.”
“Hank isn't here,” Charles said, moving the wheelchair away from Erik. “You know where you can put the suitcase.”
Erik had a broad smile on his face as Charles wheeled himself out of the room. He climbed the stairs and put his suitcase in the room next to Charles's, noticing that it had barely been touched since the last time he'd been in it. A thick layer of dust covered all of the furniture, and Erik swiped his finger across the top of the dresser, shaking his head. The Charles he knew would never have let things get like this. He heard bottles clanging together in the kitchen, and made his way back downstairs to where Charles was halfway through a bottle of Budweiser.
“You drink shitty American beer now?” Erik asked as Charles held one out for him.
“I drink what Hank buys,” Charles said. “Hank wouldn't know a good beer if he tripped over it.”
Erik laughed as he opened the bottle and took a long sip. “It really is watered down piss, isn't it? Don't you have anything stronger?”
Charles pointed in the direction of a cabinet that was too high for him to reach. “The good stuff is in there.”
Erik set aside the beer and walked over to the cabinet, opening it to find a mini liquor store inside. “Good lord, Charles.”
“It can never be said that I don't value a good drink.” Charles finished off his bottle of beer and tossed it towards the trash. “Glasses are in the cabinet next to it. Pick something good.”
Erik pulled down a bottle and then found two glasses from the other cabinet, turning to place them on the counter as Charles wheeled himself closer. “Russian vodka, Charles. You went for the good stuff.”
“Only the good stuff,” Charles said, reaching for a glass once Erik had finished pouring it. “I don't remember you ever complaining about the quality of my liquor.”
“I'm not complaining about the quality of this,” Erik said, raising his glass to Charles in a small toast. “But that beer on the other hand...”
“I told you, that's Hank's.”
And then it fell silent, each man sipping at their vodka, trying to figure out what it was that had guided them to this moment, where they were sharing a drink in Charles's kitchen like old times.
“Do you really not know why I let you go?” Charles asked, the vodka loosening his tongue. “Because I thought it would have been obvious.”
Erik polished off his glass and set it on the counter, twisting it around. “I couldn't allow myself to think it,” he said after a minute. “Because it can never be.”
“It could,” Charles said softly, setting his glass on the counter. “Give me another.”
Erik poured them each another glass and slid one in Charles's direction, but he wouldn't meet his gaze. If he did, he knew he'd never have the willpower to walk out of that door again.
“You know we can't,” Erik finally said before picking up his glass and taking a long sip. “No one would understand.”
“And I suppose you think that I care what anyone thinks?” Charles downed his drink and slammed it onto the counter. “For fuck's sake, Erik, I wouldn't give a damn what anyone thought about us. And I've told you that a million times.”
“You may be willing to forget the world we live in, but I am not,” Erik said calmly. “They already want to kill us for being mutants. If someone was to find out the true nature of our relationship...”
“We don't have a relationship,” Charles said cruelly. “You made sure of that.”
Charles wheeled himself out of the room and was pleased when Erik didn't follow him. He reached his study and then locked himself inside, beginning to go through the mounds of paperwork again. He fully expected to hear the front door open, for Erik to leave because that's what Erik was best at. Coming in, destroying things, and then leaving.
Except this time it wasn't a stadium, it was Charles's heart.
The light outside slowly faded away to the point where Charles needed his lamp, and even though he was growing sleepier and sleepier by the minute, he refused to leave the office until he heard Erik leave.
But Erik didn't leave.
By the time Erik decided to undo the lock on Charles's study and go inside, Charles was fast asleep in his wheelchair. Erik sat down across from the desk and watched him for a few minutes, then walked over to him and picked Charles up gently. He carried Charles to his bedroom, laying him out on the bed and pulling the bed linens over him. He turned to walk away but suddenly felt a strong grip on his wrist. He turned back to see Charles's sleepy eyes staring back at him, and he felt a lump in his throat as he remembered all the times when he'd seen those sleepy eyes before.
“Stay,” Charles said softly, and Erik had never been able to say no to that request.
When they were both situated in the bed, Erik looked over at Charles and watched as he closed his eyes. He stared at him for a few minutes, then laughed slightly. “I think I like you like this even more than I did when I first met you.”
Charles laughed but didn't open his eyes. “You like the long hair and the beard?”
“I think it's sexy,” Erik murmured.
Charles turned to look at him as he laughed. “I suppose anything would be sexy to you after all those years in isolation.”
“No, Charles,” Erik said. “Only you.”
Charles took a deep breath. “Why are you really here, Erik?”
Erik looked into Charles's eyes and let a smile come to his face. “Because I wanted to know why you let me go.”
“Erik, I've already told you...”
“You've let me go more than once, you know.”
Charles stared at him incredulously. “Cuba?”
“Yes, I mean Cuba,” Erik said, reaching out to tangle his hand in Charles's hair. “Why did you let me leave?”
“Erik, we both wanted very different things, and I was not prepared to follow along with your vision for how mutants should interact with humans.”
“That's why you let the mutants leave. Why did you let me leave, Charles? We could survive with different philosophies. We already had. It could have worked. We could have made it work.”
Charles let his eyes close once more. “This is something you've really thought about, isn't it? For years now.”
“I had to do something in that godforsaken prison cell,” Erik said, shifting closer. “I kept waiting to hear your voice in my head. Kept hoping that you'd find some way to talk to me. But I came to understand why you didn't. We shared more than just love, Charles. We shared a beautiful pain too. And I don't think either of us can survive without it.”
“A beautiful pain?” Charles asked, opening up his eyes to find Erik's. “Is that what I've been feeling since Cuba?”
“It's what I've been feeling,” Erik said, softly, taking in Charles's face. “It hurts, but it's beautiful because you know why it hurts, and the reason why was perfection that I doubt I will ever find again.”
Charles swallowed hard and stared at Erik with pained eyes. “I knew. I knew from the moment that you told me peace was never an option that I was going to have to let you go. If I couldn't convince you that I could bring you peace, well then...Cuba was just a convenient time to do it. Besides, you'd just helped paralyze me.”
“And I feel a tremendous amount of guilt about that,” Erik said, tightening his grip in Charles's hair. “And then to learn that you gave up your gift to be able to walk again, it made me feel even worse. But Charles, I never said that you couldn't bring me peace. Nothing with Shaw but doing what I did was going to bring me peace. Even if it was against what you wanted, even if it went against your principles, even if I'd sent all those bombs back at those ships and you hadn't made me stop them. At that moment I wanted to kill every human and mutant in the world except for you. Those words are important Charles. Except for you. And you basically told me to get the fuck out of there.”
“Yeah, well, that's how I was feeling at the moment,” Charles said angrily, shoving Erik's hand and turning away from him.
Charles took a deep breath and turned back to Erik. “That's enough for one night, alright? I'd like to sleep now.”
Erik nodded and Charles turned back away from him. Soon he heard Erik snoring softly behind him, just like old times, but Charles was wide awake, thinking of everything that had been said. Everything that he thought he'd never hear. Everything he knew he shouldn't have heard. Everything he wanted to hear but didn't.
He never slept that night.
Chapter 2: day two.
Erik was pleasantly surprised to find Charles still in bed with him the next morning until he remembered that Charles's wheelchair was still in the study and Charles was stuck there.
Charles looked over at him after the first noise Erik made and pleaded with his eyes. “Get my wheelchair, please.”
It wasn't a question, it was a command, and Erik was out of bed and walking towards the office without another word being said. He hadn't meant to trap Charles in the bed, and it was obvious from the dark circles under his eyes that Charles hadn't slept at all.
He returned with the wheelchair as quickly as possible and tried to help Charles into it, but Charles snapped at him. “I can do it myself.”
So Erik let him.
Charles wheeled himself out of the room as soon as he was able to, and Erik sat down on the bed, trying to piece together the night before. He had thought they were making progress until Charles abruptly ended their conversation. Now, he wasn't sure any progress had been made.
Eventually, he stood up and went into the room next door, grabbed some clothes out of his suitcase, and headed for the shower. By the time he made it down to the kitchen for some breakfast, Charles was halfway through the bottle of vodka that he'd left on the counter the day before.
“Not for the first time,” Charles said in between sips. “Besides, I think I will handle your presence here more if I'm pissed beyond belief.”
Erik walked over to the refrigerator and opened the doors, sticking his head inside so that he couldn't see Charles's response to his next question. “Do you want me to leave?”
Charles downed his glass and sat there for a moment, then set the glass down and grabbed the bottle. “No.”
By the time Erik shut the refrigerator door, Charles had wheeled himself out of the room.
Erik made himself a quick breakfast from what he found in the kitchen, then began to wander the house. It was obvious which rooms had been set aside as dorm rooms for students, and which had been used as offices for teachers. Some still had books piled on desks, as though they were waiting for class to begin, others had fresh linens sitting on top of dressers, ready for students to make their beds.
Erik always knew that Charles would make the mansion into a great school, but he was impressed with what he found anyway. He finally headed in the direction of Charles's study, this time finding the door wide open. He wandered in and found Charles taking a drink straight from the bottle of vodka.
“Do you want me to get you a glass?”
Charles nearly choked as he heard Erik's voice, tipping the bottle back down and coughing until he'd cleared his throat. “No,” he said after a few minutes. “I'm fine here.”
“May I join you then?”
Charles was silent for a few minutes, but eventually motioned to one of the chairs across from the desk. “I suppose.”
Erik sat down and looked around the study, noticing all the differences since the last time he'd sat in this room with Charles. “This place is a mess.”
“That's because everything is a mess,” Charles said before taking another swig of vodka. “It's been a mess for years, and it'll be a mess until I decide it shouldn't be.”
“Do you still have the chessboard?” Erik asked, looking around to see if he could find it.
“It's over there somewhere,” Charles motioned. “Buried under something probably. Not in the mood for a game anyway.”
“Well, what are you in the mood for then?”
Charles took a deep breath. “Getting pissed.”
“I think you're nearly there,” Erik murmured, noticing that the vodka bottle was nearly empty. “Would you like me to get you more?”
“There's a bottle of scotch in the drawer. Brand new.”
Erik leaned back in his chair and watched as Charles finished off the vodka. “May I have a glass of the scotch?”
“Of course,” Charles said, motioning to the bookcase behind the desk. “Glasses are behind the books on the second row. Have to hide them from Hank.”
Erik stood up and walked over to the bookcase, pulling down a book and reaching for the glass behind it. “Hank doesn't appreciate your love of scotch?”
“Hank doesn't appreciate my love of any kind of alcohol,” Charles said, opening the drawer and pulling the bottle out. “Better get me a glass as well.”
Erik did such and walked back to the desk, setting the glasses down in front of Charles. “Yet he still buys you the alcohol? Or do you go out and buy it yourself?”
“When I could walk, I did it myself,” Charles said, opening the bottle and pouring them each a glass. “But now, it's just easier to have Hank do it. I think he only does it out of loyalty. He certainly doesn't approve of having to go to the liquor store as often as he does, even though I think he has a thing for the girl that works there.”
Charles handed Erik a glass and then picked up his own, raising it in a mini-toast. “To something. I don't know what. Whatever the fuck you want.”
Erik just shook his head as he raised his glass in return. “How about the fact that we're here together?”
Charles froze for a moment, then downed the entire glass in one sip. “Like I said, whatever the fuck you want.”
“Or maybe we should toast what we did on the plane?” Erik said, delighting when Charles turned a bright shade of red.
“That was a mistake.”
“It was a fucking enjoyable mistake then,” Erik said. “No human contact for ten years, and then to find me in your arms again...”
“It was a mistake, Erik,” Charles said forcefully. “A gigantic mistake.”
“You weren't saying that then,” Erik mumbled between sips. “Instead you were telling me how much you'd missed it.”
“That's enough talking about this,” Charles said abruptly, pouring himself another glass. “It's never happening again, so you can just get it out of your head.”
Erik polished off his glass and set it down for Charles to pour him another. “Sorry, Charles, but I'm going to remember that for a very long time.”
“Do whatever you fucking want,” Charles snapped, sliding a full glass across the desk to Erik. “Just leave me out of it.”
They sat in relative silence after that, spending the day polishing off one bottle of alcohol after another, Erik making his way to the kitchen cabinet every time they ran out of one. They were both well beyond drunk by the time that the light outside started to fade, and once Charles was done with his glass, he wheeled himself out from behind the desk, stopping next to Erik's chair.
“It wasn't a mistake,” Charles slurred. “It was a moment of beautiful pain, to use your words. Sleep in your room tonight.”
And with that Charles wheeled himself out of the room, went to his bedroom, and locked himself inside, despite knowing that if Erik really wanted to, he could unlock the door and come in.
But Erik never did, and Charles dreamt of hands on his skin and kisses along his collarbone, of beautiful pain and the feeling of heartbreak.
Chapter 3: day three.
By the time Erik made it down to the kitchen the next morning, Charles had managed to drink the majority of the shitty American beer that was in the refrigerator, and he was sitting in his wheelchair, nursing a bottle and holding his head in his hand.
“Are you alright?” Erik asked as he walked into the room.
“Oh good, you're awake,” Charles said, not even looking up at him. “Get me something stronger than this shit please?”
Erik shook his head but made his way over to the kitchen cabinet, pulling down a bottle of brandy. “You're going to run out of alcohol at this pace.”
“Well, then I'll just make you go get some more for me,” Charles murmured, looking up at Erik as he heard the sound of glasses clinking. “Oh, a turtleneck today. Excellent choice, Erik. Turtlenecks are much better than capes. Capes are ridiculous.”
Erik laughed slightly. “Magneto wears the capes. I wear the turtlenecks.”
“I love how you say that as though you're not the same person, you monster,” Charles said, holding his hand out expectantly. “Drink. Now, please.”
“I'm not a monster,” Erik said softly, walking around the counter and handing Charles a glass of brandy. “I know I probably cannot convince you of that anymore, but it's the truth.”
Charles could feel the pleading and the truth radiating off of Erik in waves, certain that the other man didn't know he was projecting. “You're right. You can't.”
Erik reached for his glass and they both downed the brandy in one sip. “Another?”
Erik took Charles's glass and walked back towards the bottle, and then something occurred to him. “Charles, when was the last time you ate something?”
Charles, who had gone back to holding his head in his hands, shook it slightly. “Fucking hangover. I don't know. I think Hank made breakfast the day he left.”
Erik rolled his eyes and set the glasses down. “You're not getting any more until you eat something. My god, Charles, I don't know how you haven't been sick yet.”
Charles just laughed. “This is nothing compared to the last few years, Erik. I don't need to eat.”
“Well, since I'm the only one who can reach the alcohol you want, you're going to have to eat something for me before I give you another sip.”
“See, I told you that you were a monster.”
Erik walked around and crouched down in front of Charles's wheelchair, gently tipping his face up so he could look at him. “Charles, I'm not a monster. I'm just concerned for your health.”
“You weren't concerned for it when you left me injured on a beach in Cuba!” Charles yelled, shoving Erik backward onto the floor. “You just fucking abandoned me there as though what had just happened meant nothing!”
Erik stood up and grabbed the handles of the wheelchair, not letting Charles escape like he was trying to. “You let me go, Charles. You let me go.”
“I didn't want you to,” Charles whispered, looking straight into Erik's eyes. “You said you wanted me by your side and god, I wanted to say yes. I really did. But we would have been at each other's throats in a matter of days. It never would have worked.”
Erik stared at him for a minute before leaning forward, and all Charles could think was that Erik was going to kiss him, and it was going to ruin everything, this fragile truce that existed between the two of them now, the one that was going to shatter apart the moment Erik left.
“It would have worked,” Erik whispered, leaning his forehead against Charles's. “We would have made it work. Now, what I can make you for breakfast?”
Charles shuddered for having Erik so close to him, invading his personal space and sending shivers down his spine with the intimate touch of their foreheads together. But he maintained his composure, and his steadfast resolve that absolutely nothing could salvage things between them now.
“Eggs on toast.”
Erik smiled and pulled away. “That's more like it.”
Erik made breakfast while Charles sipped at another glass of brandy, and god it felt so domestic that it nearly made Charles sick. He couldn't keep himself from thinking that this was the way it was supposed to be, him and Erik, domesticated and happy. Except he was quite certain that neither one of them was currently happy.
As soon as the food was on the table and Charles took the first bite, he realized how starving he actually was, and ended up eating so fast that it made Erik laugh.
“I told you that you needed to eat.”
When breakfast was finished, Charles told Erik to grab the brandy and wheeled himself out of the kitchen. Erik sighed but did as he was told, following Charles down the hall and into the sitting room with the television. Erik couldn't help the memories of the last time he'd been in that room flowing through his mind.
The morning they left for Cuba. The kids were all in the kitchen eating breakfast, Charles was searching the house for Hank, and Erik had been sitting in there with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. And it felt like home.
At that moment, he had no intention of never coming back. He thought he'd finally found a place he could be safe, a man who made him a better man, and though he'd never admit it aloud, with the kids there, it felt like he finally had a family again after all those years.
“Why are you just standing in the doorway?” Charles asked, and Erik broke away from his thoughts to see Charles had moved from the wheelchair to the sofa. “Come, sit, drink.”
“I think I would prefer to spend the day not drunk off my arse,” Erik said, settling down on the other side of the sofa. “But here, drink all you want.”
Charles took the bottle from Erik's outstretched hand and looked at him like he was crazy. “You don't want to drink with me?”
“I think I did enough of that yesterday,” Erik said softly, turning his attention to the television. “So what is on television these days? Haven't seen anything in years.”
“Ridiculous daytime soap operas,” Charles said, refilling his glass. “That's why we're not turning it on.”
“Alright,” Erik said, looking around the room. “What are we going to do then?”
Charles laughed and sipped at his drink. “Get pissed.”
Erik turned to look at him and sighed. “I did not come here to babysit drunk Charles all the time.”
“Then get the fuck out. My house, my rules.”
“Can we at least talk about something?”
“What would you like to talk about Erik?” Charles asked bitterly. “Would you like to talk about how you dropped a stadium on top of me about a month ago?”
“I didn't know you were there,” Erik said firmly. “However, in hindsight, I should have realized that you would have been. And I didn't mean to drop a stadium on top of anyone, especially you.”
Once again, Charles could feel the truth radiating off Erik in waves, and he absolutely hated it.
“You invaded my mind again that day,” Erik pointed out. “I believe you had just told me a few days earlier that you never wanted inside my head again.”
“I had no choice,” Charles spat out. “I had to get that fucking metal off of me somehow.”
They sat in silence for a little while, and then Erik cleared his throat. “If you're so angry with me, why are you letting me stay?”
Charles downed a full glass and poured himself another before answering. “Honestly, I don't fucking know.”
“Well, whatever the reason, I'm glad that you're letting me stay.”
Charles felt another wave of truth come from Erik's direction and nearly choked on his brandy. God, he was going to have to figure out a way to block Erik quickly. The last thing he needed was to know he could trust the words that the monster was saying.
Because he was a monster. He was.
Charles was having a hard time of convincing himself of that anymore.
Chapter 4: day four.
Charles wheeled himself into the kitchen the next morning to find Erik sitting at the table, reading a newspaper. There was a plate of eggs and bacon sitting across from him, and in the middle of the table was a miniature liquor store.
“What are you, a man after my own heart?” Charles asked as he wheeled himself up to the table, bypassing the food for the moment to reach out and grab a bottle of cognac. “Cognac! I haven't been able to convince Hank to buy me this in years!”
Erik pointedly refused to answer the question, instead turning a page in the newspaper and not even looking at Charles. “Well, you did polish off the rest of the alcohol in the house yesterday. And I even bought some of that shitty beer of Hank's, just so he won't know you drank all of it. Now eat.”
Charles set the bottle of cognac down and immediately picked up his fork, then set it back down. “Did anyone recognize you?”
“Do you think I would be sitting here right now if someone had recognized me?” Erik said, folding the newspaper down so that he could see Charles amidst all the bottles. “I wore a hat that I found in Hank's room and kept my head down. I said very little and the girl at the liquor store just asked me if I was one of your friends. I said yes.”
“You bloody hell are not one of my friends,” Charles exclaimed.
“What would you like me to have said, Charles? No, I'm his former lover who's here to enable his current slide into alcoholism?”
“Don't you ever bring that up again!” Charles declared. “I don't want a single solitary word about our former relationship ever uttered between us or anyone else again!”
Erik straightened his newspaper so he could no longer see Charles, but Charles could feel the hurt radiating off of him. “Fine.”
Charles inwardly cursed himself for not yet coming up with a way to block Erik, then picked up his fork and began to eat. They passed the time in silence, and when Erik was finished with the newspaper, he folded it up, set it down on the table as he stood, and walked out of the room.
Charles felt his heart jump into his throat. You've done it now. He's going to leave and he's never going to come back.
His reaction repulsed him, but it didn't stop him from wheeling himself out of the kitchen and trying to find Erik.
When he found him, Erik was in his room, sitting on the bed with his head in his hands. Charles wheeled himself into the room and stopped in front of him, reaching out to tilt Erik's face up. “I'm sorry.”
“No, you're not,” Erik said, shaking his head. “It was a mistake coming here. I realize that now.”
Charles's hand went from the bottom of Erik's chin to caressing the side of Erik's face before he realized what he was doing and pulled it back. “You're right. It was. But I don't want you to leave.”
“I can't keep doing this, Charles,” Erik said forcefully. “I can't just sit around and listen to how much you hate me. So I think I should leave.”
I don't hate you, Charles thought automatically, and he could tell by the look in Erik's eyes that Erik had heard it. Don't you understand that it would be so much easier if I could hate you?
Erik swallowed hard and slid closer to Charles, breathing in his scent. “I don't hate you either,” he whispered, leaning closer.
Charles watched Erik coming closer and prepared himself once again for a kiss, the kiss that would ruin everything, would break everything apart. But again, the kiss didn't come, but another leaning of their heads together. He never knew how intimate just being this close to Erik was because he had taken it for granted all those years ago. But now, even though it had only happened twice, he found himself craving it.
“Charles,” Erik said, his voice shaky. “I don't know what to do. It still won't work.”
“I know,” Charles said, his voice equally as shaky. “But someday it will. At least, in the future it did.”
“The future we changed,” Erik breathed out, and Charles felt a shiver run down his spine as the warmth blew into his skin.
“That doesn't mean that part of it changed.”
“What if it did?” Erik said, his voice trembling with fear in a way that Charles had never heard before.
Charles closed his eyes and reached for Erik's hand. Have faith, my friend.
He squeezed Erik's hand tightly before wheeling himself out of the room, heading to his study and locking himself inside it. Charles moved behind his desk and reached for a file, opening it up and reading about the student he used to have. He wondered if the young man had survived Vietnam, if he would come back expecting the school to still be open, or if he had perished in the awful war. He supposed that he should probably find out about his students that had been drafted once the school reopened. He'd have to pen a letter to the parents, cautiously and carefully asking if their son was going to rejoin the school. He didn't want to upset a mother who had lost her son any more than he imagined any reminder of him would be.
He set the file down as he heard the front door open, and he quickly wheeled himself to the window, expecting to see Erik walking away. Instead, he didn't see a thing.
Jogging, came the answer, and Charles immediately felt relief. He took several deep breaths and moved back behind his desk.
Don't get lost.
Don't worry, Charles, came the response. I remember this place better than you think I do.
Charles took out a blank sheet of paper and began to write on it, trying to find the right words for the letter that he had decided moments earlier that needed to be written if he was ever going to get students again. But for every word he wrote onto the page, an image of Erik jogging popped into his head.
Erik, sweat dripping from his forehead as he ran.
Erik, breathing hard from the exertion.
Erik, on top of him, sweat dripping onto him, both of them breathing hard, mouth meeting his with every thrust.
Charles closed his eyes and willed it to stop, but when he reopened them to his letter, his concentration was gone.
“Fuck you, Erik,” he muttered, wheeling himself to the door and unlocking it. He went into the hallway and tried to decide where to go next, and before he even realized what he was doing, he was inside Erik's room.
He'd spent a lot of time in this room over the years, though he'd never admit that to anyone, even Hank. Erik's clothes were still in the dresser, his shampoo was still in the shower of the en suite, and when Charles was really drunk, he could convince himself Erik's scent still graced the pillows.
He moved closer to the bed, running his hand across the nicely made bed linens, thought about it for a moment, and then whipped the linens back. He gently moved from the wheelchair onto the bed, then carefully arranged himself in the bed before pulling the linens back over him.
This time, the pillows really did smell like Erik, and he reveled in it. Erik's scent was so masculine, so unlike his own. It was almost animalistic, and Charles had been attracted to it from that moment in the sea when he hadn't even figured out Erik's full name yet. He closed his eyes and breathed in deep, letting familiar memories flow over him.
When Erik returned to his room, he found Charles sound asleep in his bed, and he had no idea what to make of it. So he carefully crept into the en suite to take a shower, and then came back out to find Charles still asleep. He moved the wheelchair so he could get around to the other side of the bed, then gently slid in between the sheets.
Charles didn't move. Erik drifted off to sleep, breathing in Charles's scent and letting familiar memories wash over him.
Chapter 5: day five.
Another day, another bottle. It had been Charles's mantra for years, and he wasn't about to stop now. Erik's presence only served to make it more necessary.
He'd stayed sober yesterday. And he'd shown too much weakness, weakness that he never should have shown. He'd woken up in Erik's bed for fuck's sake, and that could not happen again.
No matter how much he wanted it to.
And that was the real problem now. Erik was invading his every thought, whether he was in the room or not. Just knowing he was in the house was comforting Charles in a way that he at once thought he'd never feel again and felt sick from.
He could handle being dependent on alcohol. But being dependent on Erik Lehnsherr? That would truly kill him.
He refused to let his mind wander down memory lane, to conversations over chess games and scotch, of the vision the two of them had created, the one Charles had realized when he opened the school.
The school. That was what he needed to focus on. There was so much work to do before it could be reopened. The mansion was a mess. He was a mess.
Hank was the only thing holding both of them together, and Hank wasn't there now.
He was halfway through the cognac he had meant to drink the day before when Erik appeared in the kitchen, messed up hair and sleepy eyes. Charles immediately turned his head away from the sight, but not before memories flooded his mind.
He really had a problem.
“You weren't there when I woke up,” Erik said, sitting down at the table. “It surprised me almost as much as the fact that you were there when I got back from my jog.”
Charles laughed. “Did you really think it was going to be that simple? One snooze in your bed and everything's fine now?”
“No,” Erik said quietly. “But I thought maybe some progress had been made. Yesterday was the first day we did anything close to talking since the first day I was here.”
“It won't work, Erik,” Charles said, skipping the empty glass and drinking straight from the bottle now. “Not now. Maybe not ever.”
“This from the man who told me to have faith yesterday.”
“I was sober then,” Charles pointed out. “I am not sober now.”
“Yes,” Erik said, looking over at him. “I noticed that. How much do you spend on alcohol per month, Charles? Because it must be a small fortune.”
“Well, I am a very rich man, Erik, so I hardly even notice.”
“I figured.” Erik stood up and walked over to the refrigerator, opening it and looking through its contents. “You're running out of things I can cook for breakfast.”
“Liquid breakfast then,” Charles said, taking another swig of the cognac. “Come on Erik, grab a bottle.”
“My alcohol tolerance is not what it used to be,” Erik said, rummaging around in the refrigerator. “Ten years without a sip will do that to you.”
“Then it's time to build it back up, old friend. Come on, Erik. Join me.”
Erik knew Charles didn't mean for him to hear it, but that didn't stop him from hearing the quiet please echoing through his mind.
Erik closed the refrigerator doors and walked over to the table where the alcohol he'd bought the day before still sat. He looked through all the bottles before picking up the bottle of unbelievably expensive scotch he'd bought only because he still remembered that it was Charles's favorite.
“That's a good chap,” Charles said, smiling. “Drink it straight from the bottle.”
“You have become so uncivilized,” Erik pointed out, walking over to the cabinet and getting a glass from it. “You were a perfect English gentleman. Now, look at you.”
“I hate to break it to you, my friend, but I was never a perfect English gentleman,” Charles said, shaking his head as Erik took the time to pour the scotch into a glass. “A perfect English gentleman would never do some of the things I've done in my life.”
“Co-eds in Oxford and scientific terms for auburn hair?” Erik said, looking over at Charles as he took a sip. “Moira told me about that you know.”
“Of course she did,” Charles said, shaking his head and taking another drink. “She was useful to have around until I had to make her forget everything about us.”
Erik froze. “What?”
“I cleared her memory of all of us,” Charles said. “It was better that way. We needed to be able to work without government interference. And you know the CIA would have been all over my arse if they realized I was training mutants.”
“So I suppose me breaking Emma out of their prison was the reason the CIA kept trying to find me then,” Erik murmured. “I didn't know you would do that, Charles.”
“I didn't know you would do something as stupid as breaking Emma Frost out of a CIA prison,” Charles replied. “Honestly, Erik. I'm a far better telepath than she is.”
Erik downed his drink. “Was.”
“I'm sorry,” Charles said, “but what?”
“I told you on the plane. She was one of the ones Trask got to.”
“Shit, I'm sorry, Erik,” Charles said. “I didn't realize. That moment on the plane is not exactly as clear to me as it should be.”
“You weren't drunk then.”
“No, but I didn't have my powers, and believe it or not, that makes a difference in my memory sector.”
“Only you can be totally pissed and still say things like memory sector,” Erik said, pouring himself another glass. “And you're right. You are a far better telepath than Emma was.”
Warmth spread through Charles at the comment and he immediately took a very long drink from the bottle. This had to stop.
“This is probably going to sound ridiculous,” Erik said, looking over at Charles, “but when I was in that prison cell, if I concentrated hard enough, I could remember what it was like sitting in your study sipping this fantastic scotch. And that made me miss it all the more.”
Charles polished off the bottle of cognac and set it on the table. “The scotch or me?” he asked before he could stop himself.
“I think you already know the answer to that,” Erik said, giving Charles a pointed look that Charles most definitely did not want to receive because he knew what that meant and it meant it was most definitely not the scotch.
“Fuck,” Charles muttered, reaching for the closest full bottle. “How can you still do this to me?”
“The same way you can still do this to me,” Erik said, setting his glass down and walking towards Charles. “I can't resist anymore, Charles. I'm sorry.”
Charles had hardly any time to react before Erik's lips were on his, and it was like he'd been transported back in time a decade. He'd never forgotten the feeling of Erik's kiss. But it was over as quickly as it had begun.
Erik pulled away and then walked back to his glass, downing it and reaching for the bottle. “You know Charles, getting pissed suddenly sounds a whole lot better.”
Charles sat there, unmoving, as thoughts rushed through his head too fast for even him to grasp. Eventually, he got a hold of one and let it settle into the front of his mind, and of course it had to be the one Charles knew he least wanted to think.
You are in so much trouble, Charles. So, so much trouble. If you let him any closer, you're never going to want him to leave. And you know he will.
Charles practically ripped the cap off the bottle he was holding, bringing it to his lips and letting as much of the alcohol as he could stand wash down his throat. It burned the way all of these hard liquors did, but it was a familiar burn, one he was used to.
He never wanted Erik Lehnsherr's lips on his again.
Except for the fact that he did.
He was well and truly fucked.
Chapter 6: day six.
“Have you run into Raven?” Charles asked at dinner the next day.
“Mystique?” Erik said, shaking his head. “No, I haven't. And you should call her by the name she now prefers.”
Charles sighed and put his fork down on the table. “Does that mean I have to call you Magneto?”
Erik ate a few more bites before looking up at Charles. “No. I never want to be Magneto to you.”
“Alright,” Charles said, turning back to his plate for a few minutes. “She's not the girl I knew anymore, is she?”
“She hasn't been for a very long time,” Erik said softly. “I think she would be happy if you learned to accept that.”
“I think you're probably correct,” Charles answered. “But it's hard not to think of her as the little girl I found in my kitchen that night.”
“Does that mean you think of me only as the man you found in the water that night?”
Charles gave Erik a pointed look. “I think you know the answer to that.”
“Then what do you think of when you think of me?” Erik asked, wanting to know but unsure at the same time.
“I think you're a monster,” Charles said, reaching for his drink. “I think I was so furious with you for what happened in Dallas that I thought the fact that you were locked up was the best thing for society, even if I knew that meant I'd never see you again. I think I cannot believe that you've gone from the man who couldn't turn a satellite dish to the man who dropped a stadium on top of me. I also told you that if you found that place deep inside you, you would wield a power that no one can match. I would be curious to know what that place is, but I feel that is too intimate a question to ask you at this point.”
Erik shook his head. “I'm not a monster.” He heard a quiet I know go through his mind, and he smiled. “The question is not too intimate.”
“Yes, it is,” Charles said, downing his drink.
“It's you,” Erik said quickly, drawing Charles's gaze to him. “You told me to find the place between rage and serenity. And sitting in that prison cell for all those years without so much as a hint of your voice in my head or metal to manipulate, I meditated a lot. And it made me realize that you are inexplicably linked to that place now because you're the one who taught me how to do it. So I think of you, and I can do anything I want.”
“You raised a stadium to the ground because you were thinking of me,” Charles said slowly, reaching for the bottle of whiskey and bypassing the glass altogether. “I'm not drunk enough for this conversation.”
“You're the one who wanted to know.”
“I told you it was too intimate.”
“We've shared a bed for the last two nights, Charles. There's not much more intimate that we can get without taking our clothes off.”
The images that came to Erik's mind were not ones that Charles wanted to relive, but Erik was projecting them, and he still hadn't found a way to block Erik, which should have been the easiest thing in the world, because if he was honest with himself, he didn't really want to. “You're projecting. Stop thinking about that.”
“I can't,” Erik said softly. “I crave it. The plane...it wasn't enough.”
“So that's what you've really come here for, isn't it? To try to lure me back into bed with you,” Charles said bitterly. “I don't even know if that's possible anymore, Erik. Lord knows I certainly haven't tried while in this fucking wheelchair.”
Erik sighed and looked across the table, watching as Charles drank straight from the bottle. “I came here for the reasons I told you on the first day I was here. But I cannot help wanting you, Charles. Ten years without so much as a brush of skin against mine. You were all I thought about sometimes. And, you'll never know if you can if you don't attempt it.”
“And I suppose you think I should attempt it with you?”
Erik grabbed his napkin and wiped at his mouth, then stood up, taking his plate with him to the sink. “Only if you want to, Charles.”
“I think you lost your mind in that prison cell,” Charles murmured, taking a long drink from the bottle.
“I may have,” Erik said, washing off his plate and walking out of the kitchen. “But at least I didn't lose my faith.”
Charles felt those words like a knife through his heart. And what made them worse than anything else was the fact that Erik was right.
He abandoned his food and drank the rest of the bottle of whiskey, then wheeled himself out of the kitchen. He didn't know where Erik was and he tried to convince himself that he didn't care either. It had been a late dinner that they'd been having, and Charles was tired, so he was just going to go to bed.
And that was exactly where he found Erik. In Charles's bed.
Charles just sat in the doorway, eyes locked with Erik's. “Why are you in my bed?”
“Because we've spent the last two nights in mine,” Erik responded. “So I thought tonight we could sleep in here.”
Charles glanced towards the pile of Erik's clothes on the floor, and he realized what it was the other man was trying to suggest. “Are you wearing any clothes?”
“I'll leave that to you to find out,” Erik said, laying his head on the pillow. “Come on, Charles. Join me. You know you want to.”
Charles swallowed hard before rolling into the room. He stopped by the edge of the bed and slowly undid his shirt, tossing it next to Erik's clothes on the floor. He didn't take his pants off, however, wanting some sort of boundary with Erik.
He wasn't ready to know that he could never have sex again.
He moved from the wheelchair into the bed, then turned as best as he could towards Erik. He was pleased to discover that Erik had his underwear on, though he knew those could have easily been discarded to the floor. He reached out and caressed Erik's face, feeling the scratch of stubble.
“What did you think was going to happen tonight, Erik?”
“Whatever you want to, Charles.”
Charles stared at Erik for a moment before curling his hand behind Erik's neck and tugging at him. “Kiss me. Not like yesterday, but like you used to. Like you mean it.”
Erik slid closer and captured Charles's lips with his, deepening the kiss the moment he got the chance. He'd dreamt of this moment for so long, but even memories and dreams didn't prepare him for the real thing. He slowly stroked Charles's arm as they kissed and kissed, breaking apart to gasp in air only to dive back in for more.
They couldn't stop. They didn't want to stop. Erik wanted to slide on top of Charles and have his way with him. Charles wanted to remember what it was like to be pinned down by Erik's familiar weight.
But eventually, they broke apart, and Charles ended up in Erik's arms, his head pillowed on his chest. And it wasn't enough, it wasn't even close, but it was all they had, for now, so it was going to have to do.
Chapter 7: day seven.
Charles didn't want to open his eyes. He felt safe and warm and loved lying there, and the moment he opened his eyes, it would all come crashing down around him. He'd see who it was he was in bed with, who it was he was pressed up against, and it would make him so sick that he might actually vomit.
He'd sworn to himself that this would never happen again.
Of course, he'd sworn that to himself after the first night he'd spent with Erik Lehnsherr too.
The memories of that night came flooding back to him, a combination of shyness and wanton looks, of hesitation and desperate need, of having absolutely no idea what to do yet being in a perfectly natural flow with one another.
That night had changed his life.
He really wished it hadn't.
“Charles,” came Erik's soft voice, lazy with sleep. “I know you're awake Charles.”
He wouldn't do it. He wouldn't ruin this. This was probably the last time he was ever going to get to enjoy this, and he was not about to let Erik Lehnsherr ruin it for him. “Shh. Sleep.”
“Open your eyes, Charles,” Erik tried again, reaching out to brush Charles's hair behind his ear. “Please.”
Without him realizing it, Charles's eyes opened to see Erik's head lying opposite his own on the pillow. His hair was a mess and he looked like he was still shaking off the last tendrils of sleep, and goddamnit, Erik had never looked better to Charles in their lives. Charles was pushing himself closer, drawing Erik into a deep kiss, before he recognized something that he hadn't felt in several years. He settled back down to his spot in the bed, lifted the linens carefully, and looked down.
He was hard.
Charles almost wanted to cry. The thought of never being able to be intimate with someone again had been in his head for so long, since he'd first been lying in that hospital bed, his legs lifeless. But this, this was a sign that maybe, just maybe, he could be.
Then the fact that it was caused by Erik Lehnsherr slammed into his mind like a brick to the side of his head, and suddenly he wanted to cry for an entirely different reason.
“Charles?” Erik asked, seeing the pained expression that came over Charles's face. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes,” Charles said shakily. “And no.”
“That makes no sense, Charles.”
Charles forced himself to turn away from Erik, flipping the bed linens back and maneuvering his way into his wheelchair. He wheeled himself into the en suite and closed the door behind him, and even though he knew it was pointless, he locked the door behind him.
He took a deep breath and then looked down again, and yep, still hard.
There was a knock at the door. “Charles,” Erik's voice came drifting through. “Are you alright? I'm worried.”
Charles didn't answer. He couldn't answer. How could he possibly explain this to Erik of all people? Erik, the man that caused him to be like this.
In more ways than one.
He heard the lock undo and the door opened, Erik coming into the room. “Charles, are you alright?”
“Could you please just leave me alone?” Charles asked, his voice entirely too vulnerable for his liking. “Please? Just for a little while.”
Please, Erik. Do this for me, drifted through Erik's mind, and he nodded.
“I'll go make some breakfast. You need anything, you yell for me, okay?”
Charles nodded and Erik backed out of the room, shutting the door and then sliding the lock back into place from the outside. Charles rolled himself over in front of the mirror and took in his appearance. He supposed he was still an attractive man, even with the long hair and the beard. He certainly didn't look like some sort of stuffy professor, that was for sure.
He ran his hands through his hair before wheeling himself towards the shower and turning it on. He let the water get warm as he carefully worked his pants off, tossing them across the room. He maneuvered himself into his seat in the shower, and it was only then that he allowed himself to look down again.
He felt like a scared schoolboy as he let his hand drift down, wrapping carefully around the shaft and he hissed at the sensitivity of it.
Feeling in it, check.
He swallowed hard and began to move his hand up and down at a snail's pace, letting out a myriad of noises as he felt a mixture of pain and pleasure start to radiate through him. He let his eyes drift closed as he slowly picked up the speed until he finally felt the arousal start to spread through his hips and up to his chest.
Able to be aroused in more than just a physical way, check.
The pain faded away as the sensitivity of his flesh began to wane, his body remembering the fact that he had done this before; it had just been a really, really long time since the last. He groaned loudly when he ran the palm of his hand over the head, then began to really go for it, his breathing quickening with each stroke.
When he finally came, Charles felt like his entire soul was erupting from his cock.
Fully functioning penis, check.
Charles cleaned himself up as soon as he could regain his breath, washed his hair and body, and then got out of the shower. He got a towel wrapped around his waist and then made his way back into his wheelchair. He wheeled himself back in front of the mirror, looking at his appearance again.
The only real difference was that now he was wet whereas before he'd been dry, but Charles was convinced he looked a little more like a man now. Not a disabled, feeble man, but a real man who could do real things like give themselves a handjob in the shower just for the hell of it.
Sex life getting back on track, check.
He made his way back into his bedroom to find it empty, but instead of getting dressed, he made his way into his bed, towel still wrapped around his hips. Erik, he thought, come join me.
Where are you, Charles?
Again? Are you sure you're feeling alright?
Charles laughed as he heard the concern in Erik's voice. Just bloody get up here, will you? Before I change my mind.
And then he sent Erik a memory he knew that he wouldn't be able to resist, from one of their many recruiting trips.
Be right there.
Erik's voice sounded a little shaky in his head, and Charles knew that he was a little shaky too. But he had to have the answer now. He couldn't wait any longer. And, well, Erik had volunteered himself for the job yesterday.
Charles needed to know whether or not he could still have sex. And as Erik came through the door, practically ripping the shirt off his body, Charles grinned.
He was about to find out.
Chapter 8: day eight.
Charles woke up in pain, but not a bad pain, a beautiful pain, just like Erik had told him they both felt that first night.
It had been a long time since he welcomed pain the way he welcomed this.
Memories of the day before slowly surfaced in his mind and he went through them as though he was flipping through a picture book. The hesitation at first, the realization that he could actually do it, the carnal need that took over. Feeling it, something physical that he thought he'd never feel again, something emotional that he thought he'd never feel again. Hard and fast, slow and languid, they'd done everything he was capable of.
They hadn't left the bed all day.
That was a major problem.
Erik was still asleep, his hair an absolute disaster after Charles had threaded his fingers through it so many times. Charles couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Erik like this, and then he realized that he probably hadn't. They never had experienced a day or night like what had happened the day and night before.
Erik's eyes slowly opened, taking in the sight of Charles lying next to him. If he had to describe how Charles looked to someone at that very moment, he'd say Charles looked truly fucked and completely sated. A smile came to Erik's face because he knew he probably looked the same way.
They spent a few moments staring at each other before Erik's hand reached out to thread his fingers through Charles's hair, pulling him closer and kissing him soundly. When they broke apart, Charles removed Erik's hand from his hair and smiled.
“Good morning, Charles.”
Charles took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and said what he knew needed to be said, before this could go any further. “We shouldn't have done this.”
Erik felt his heart drop into his stomach, but he reached forward again, tangling his fingers through the strands of Charles's hair and holding him there. “Don't, please don't.”
“Why not?” Charles asked. “You know it has to be done.”
“It doesn't have to be done yet,” Erik said, his voice becoming more forceful with every word. “Charles, it doesn't have to be done yet.”
Charles swallowed hard. “Do you even understand what it is you're doing to me? I don't want to feel this way, Erik. And every moment that I feel this way, and it's getting deeper by the second, every moment is going to make it that much harder when you leave.”
Erik tightened his grip in Charles's hair, trying to will him into opening his eyes. “I don't have to leave.”
“Yes, you do,” Charles said, opening them. “It's been in the back of your mind since the minute you got here. You're going to leave and I'm going to shatter again and that's just the way this is. It's the way it has to be now.”
Erik sighed. “You've been inside my head.”
“No, I haven't. You have been projecting like crazy,” Charles said, removing himself from Erik's grasp and turning to reach for his wheelchair. “I need a shower. So do you.”
“We can't just leave it like this, Charles,” Erik pointed out. “This can't just be the end.”
“I know,” Charles said. Take a shower with me.
Erik was out of bed before anything else had to be said. “Charles.”
“My house, my rules. You're already going to break me. I might as well let you break me the entire way.”
Charles wheeled himself into the en suite, and Erik stood there for what felt like a really long time. Then a simple it's okay, join me brushed his mind, and Erik found he couldn't resist.
He'd only been able to resist Charles Xavier once. And that was a problem.
But he didn't want to break him again. He'd seen broken Charles on that plane, and he never wanted to see it again. So when he found himself in the shower with Charles, holding him as close as he could so Charles could stand on two feet, he kissed him, trying to put everything he felt for the other man into the kiss.
He wasn't sure if Charles meant it or not, but I know, Erik, I know kept echoing through his mind.
Charles was content. He wasn't happy, he wasn't sure he would ever be happy in Erik's presence again, but he was content. And he hadn't been content in so long, he hadn't been sure he could still feel this way. Other words were flirting with his tongue, but he wasn't going to give them voice. Saying them would make everything worse.
Feeling them, on the other hand, had already broken him.
He was still in love with Erik Lehnsherr. Of that, there was now no doubt. It didn't matter what had happened since Cuba; it didn't matter what Erik had been imprisoned for; it didn't matter that there was the remnants of a stadium surrounding the White House.
He loved Erik more at that moment than he ever had loved anyone in his life. And he hadn't had much practice at love before he met Erik. He'd had a few relationships, yes, but nothing like what he had with Erik.
No wonder Cuba had broken him. And it was Cuba that broke him, not Raven leaving with Erik that day on the beach, not the war in Vietnam taking away his students and teachers. It was Erik, asking him to be by his side, and Charles having no choice but to tell him no.
Tears filled Charles's eyes as he thought of what might have been, and even though he tried his best to push the thought to the deepest recess of his mind, it wouldn't go. He broke away from the kiss and buried his face in the nape of Erik's neck, and let the tears flow, hoping Erik would just think it was the water from the shower.
But Charles didn't realize he was projecting or realize that Erik knew he was crying. So the two men stood there, both in emotional agony, one crying and one unable to comfort him, both filled with thoughts of what could have been.
Chapter 9: day nine.
By the time Erik made it to the kitchen the next morning, he realized the miniature liquor store that he'd bought was dwindling. “Good lord, Charles. How long have you been up? And how drunk are you?”
“Not drunk enough,” Charles said, taking a long swig from a bottle that he wasn't even sure contained alcohol anymore. It was all just starting to blend together. “God, the last few days have been such fucking mistakes.”
Erik sighed and walked over to the table, crouching down in front of him. “I thought we agreed not to talk about it.”
“No, we agreed that you wouldn't talk about it,” Charles said, waving the bottle in Erik's direction and making an annoyed noise when he grabbed it out of his hand. “Hey, that's mine!”
“I think you've had enough to drink, Charles,” Erik said, setting the bottle down and reaching for Charles's hands. “I've enjoyed sober Charles for the last few days. I'd like him to come back.”
“Sober Charles cannot handle the fact that you're here, so unless you're leaving, you've got to put up with drunk Charles,” he said, pulling his hands free and reaching for the bottle, taking another long swig from it. “Besides, drinking is the only thing that's going to get me through the fact that you're leaving.”
“I'm not leaving,” Erik said. “Not until you want me to.”
Charles polished off the alcohol in the bottle and then threw it across the room, listening to it shatter against the wall. “See that,” he exclaimed, pointing in the direction of the broken glass. “That's me. That's me if you leave, and that's me if you stay. So there's really no point to you being here. And don't fucking lie to me. I know you're going to leave, and you know you're going to leave.”
Erik shook his head and stood up, carefully walking close to the shattered glass. “Where is your broom, Charles?”
“You think I fucking know that?” Charles asked, reaching for an unopened bottle of something else. “Probably in a cabinet somewhere.”
Erik resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Thank you for narrowing it down for me.”
Charles sat there, drinking straight from the bottle, while Erik looked in cabinet after cabinet until he finally found the broom. He swept up the pieces, and Charles drank. Maybe Charles was right. Maybe there was no reason to stay. Maybe deep down, he'd meant to leave all along.
“You have,” Charles said suddenly, his words slightly slurring together. “I told you, it's been in the back of your mind ever since you got here.”
Erik carefully picked up the dustpan and emptied it into the trash, then put the broom away. He walked back over to Charles and sighed. “It's not in the back of my mind now.”
“It is though,” Charles said, taking another drink. “You're Erik Lehnsherr, the man with no home. You roamed the world looking for Shaw or Schmidt or whatever the fuck you want to call him, and then you barely stayed at Division X for a fucking night and would have left if I hadn't convinced you otherwise, and you barely stayed here for a while too. You could have come home, Erik. At any point, you could have come home. But you never did. And so I stopped thinking of this place as your home. I stopped thinking of this place as my home because of you, you stupid motherfucker.”
“I'm here now, Charles!” Erik yelled. “I have finally come home!”
Charles took a long sip from the bottle. “Yes,” he said quietly. “You have. Except now it's too late.”
Erik just stood there as Charles wheeled himself out of the room. He glanced over at the table, grabbed an unopened bottle, and headed for his room. He couldn't handle this sober. Not anymore.
He laid down and opened the bottle, nursed his way through the entire thing, and then fell asleep, the empty bottle falling to the floor.
And when he woke up, he wasn't alone.
Charles was behind him, wheelchair abandoned by the foot of the bed. He was asleep, yet still clutching a bottle, and Erik gently pulled it out of Charles's grasp. He turned towards Charles and just watched him for a while, letting everything he felt for the man settle into the front of his mind and down into his heart.
God, how he loved Charles Xavier.
He'd thought he'd loved others before. Julia, the girl from school who used to give him kisses before the war had broken out. Magda, the woman that had managed to settle him down, only for him to leave after getting the next lead he had on Schmidt. Even Raven, to some extent, was something of a love affair.
But nothing like Charles Xavier. Not even close.
He wanted to stay. He really, truly, did. But he wasn't cut out to be a teacher in a school, even if that school was full of mutants to train instead of humans to teach. He knew that Charles wouldn't allow him to be here and not be part of the school; he knew that the school had become everything to Charles in the days when everything they had shared seemed like nothing. So he understood why Charles felt like he'd lost everything after the school closed.
But he also knew that Charles had felt that way since the moment he'd left him on that beach in Cuba.
He wondered if telling Charles how much he had Emma check up on him would be enough. He'd said at the time that he'd done it for Raven's sake, knowing that she was worried over Charles's injuries and that she wouldn't settle until she knew he was okay, but really, it had been done for him. He needed to know what had happened to Charles after he'd left him on that beach. And with every report Emma gave him, his heart broke a little bit more.
He had done that. He had put him in a wheelchair. He had taken away his legs. He had broken his spirit.
And that had finally broken him.
Schmidt didn't. The chase after his release didn't. Cuba didn't. But knowing that he'd taken the thing that meant the most to him in the world and broken it beyond repair...
That did it.
Charles's eyes opened then, and there was a myriad of emotions in them, but the one that Erik recognized the most was love. They hadn't said the words to each other, and he knew they probably never would. But they both knew. They knew what this was. They knew what they were fighting for.
They also knew every reason for why it couldn't be.
Erik moved closer to him, kissing Charles softly. Charles's hand came up to tangle in his hair, deepening the kiss. And soon they were desperate for one another, struggling to get clothes out of the way, bed linens falling back towards the floor. Erik tried to stay gentle with him, but Charles didn't want gentle, he wanted hard and fast and painful and he made sure Erik knew it.
It was still weird, moving Charles's legs around his waist because Charles couldn't do it himself, but he forgot all about that once he was lost in the other man.
He never, ever wanted to leave.
In his mind, he started counting down the days until he knew he would.
Chapter 10: day ten.
Hank would be back in four days. It was all Charles could think about since he'd glanced at the calendar on the refrigerator door. Hank was coming home in four days.
And if Erik was there, then Hank would probably try to kill him.
So that was it then. They had four days together. He'd have to tell Erik that, and Erik would just have to understand.
This thing, whatever they wanted to call what the previous ten days had been, had to come to an end in four days.
Just the mere thought broke Charles's heart and made him feel sick.
He always knew Erik was going to leave. He just didn't know that he was the one who was going to be setting the timeline.
Erik stared at him across the table, and he could tell Charles was preoccupied with something. “Are you going to tell me what it is?”
“What what is?” Charles said distractedly, his eyes glancing over to the calendar once more.
“What's on your mind,” Erik said. “What's keeping you from eating.”
Charles turned his gaze back to his plate and realized that he hadn't even eaten half of his dinner. “I'm not hungry.”
Charles decided that there was no other way to do it than to just say it. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out. “Hank comes home in four days.” He heard the clink of a fork against a porcelain plate and took another deep breath. “I'd give us more time if I could, but I can't. You have to be gone by then.”
Erik was studying his nearly empty plate when Charles opened his eyes, and the look on Erik's face just added another crack to his already broken heart. “I'm sorry, Erik.”
“Well, it's what you've been saying the whole time, right?” Erik said, his voice entirely more vulnerable than he wanted it to be. “I'm going to leave. And I guess now I have a timetable for it.”
Charles put his head in his hands and swallowed hard. “This shouldn't be so hard.”
“Except for the fact that it's the hardest thing in the world,” Erik added, pushing his chair back and standing up. “Well, come on then.”
Charles looked up at him, confused. “What?”
“We don't have any time to waste,” Erik said, holding out his hand. “Let me show you something.”
Charles wheeled himself over to Erik, and then let Erik lead him through the hallways to the door into the backyard. Erik opened the door with his powers, and then they both made their way through. Erik stepped into the grass at the end of the cement patio, and Charles tried to follow, but found rolling the wheelchair over the grass to be quite difficult.
“I think I need to stay on the patio,” Charles said, only to yelp when his wheelchair suddenly lifted off the ground. “Erik!”
“Trust me,” Erik said, turning around to smile at Charles. “I want you to see this.”
Charles felt unsettled in his levitating wheelchair as they made their way through the grass, but Erik soon stopped, and gently set Charles's wheelchair onto the ground.
“Can you get onto the grass from there,” Erik asked, “or do I need to help?”
“Why do you want me on the grass?”
“Because what I want to show you is above us.”
Charles looked up at the sky and saw how it was filled with stars, and suddenly the situation felt entirely more romantic than it had on the way out there. “Help me,” he said softly.
Erik walked over and bent down, and Charles wrapped his arms around Erik's neck, nodding when he was ready for Erik to lift him. Erik took him into his arms as though he weighed nothing and then he slowly lowered him to the ground. When he was sure Charles was alright, Erik sat down next to him, then gently pulled Charles so he was lying down.
“Look at the sky, Charles.”
Charles looked up at the stars and smiled. “It's been so long since I've just stared at the stars, Erik. How did you know I'd like this?”
“Raven,” Erik said, and Charles was more surprised at the use of her name than the fact that Erik had learned the fact from her. “She told me stories about how you two would sneak out here in the middle of the night and watch the stars.”
“I thought she was Mystique now,” Charles said softly.
“She is,” Erik said, looking over at Charles. “But when she talks about you, she's still Raven.”
Charles looked over at Erik and reached out to cup his face gently. “I don't blame you for her leaving.”
“Yes, you do,” Erik said softly. “And it's okay. I'm the one who put those ideas in her head.”
“They were ideas she already had,” Charles said. “You just were the first person who made her believe in them.”
Erik reached up and grasped Charles's wrist. “I never meant to turn her into a murderer.”
“You didn't,” Charles said. “We stopped her.”
“You stopped her,” Erik pointed out. “I tried to kill her.”
Charles took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He hated what he was about to say, but he knew he needed to say it. “Maybe you should have.”
“No,” Erik said, tightening his grip on Charles's wrist. “I shouldn't have. I just didn't see any other options at the moment. I didn't exactly have a lot of time to prepare for that confrontation. I went with the 'shoot first and ask questions later' mentality, and that was the wrong one to go with.”
Charles erupted in laughter, making Erik look at him worriedly. “Isn't that always your mentality, Erik? From what I heard from you about your chase for Shaw, it certainly sounded like it was.”
Erik sighed and let go of Charles's wrist, settling himself back against the ground. “I'm glad you can laugh about that.”
Charles opened his eyes and shoved at Erik's shoulder. “Come on, it's funny.”
“It's really not,” Erik said, putting his hands behind his head. “That had a purpose. I was single-minded. There was only one thing I wanted, and that was Klaus Schmidt dead. Then I met you and everything went to hell.”
Charles shifted closer to Erik and put his head on Erik's chest. “I'm glad to know that I can disrupt your mindset so easily.”
“Charles, you've disrupted my mindset since the moment you first touched me,” Erik said, taking in the stars above. “You've been in practically every thought I've had since the night we met.”
“Really? I didn't think I would have been on your mind much after Cuba.”
“Oh, Charles, if you only knew,” Erik said wistfully. “Do you know any of these constellations? I never finished learning them. The war started, and then, well, you know what happened after that.”
Charles turned his head so he could look at Erik, then raised himself enough to kiss him softly. “I'll teach you if you want me to.”
Erik smiled up at him. “I'd like that.”
Charles started pointing up at the sky, getting Erik to see certain stars and then connect them. Charles told Erik the story behind each constellation they found, just like he used to do when he tried to teach Raven about the stars. It was almost as if he was back to his childhood, lying in the grass with someone he loved, staring up at the universe and wondering if there was life anywhere else out there.
Erik began to yawn after a while, and it was contagious because Charles began to yawn as well. But he wouldn't let Erik put him back in the wheelchair. Instead, he shifted closer to Erik, wrapping an arm around his waist and holding him close, and soon they were both asleep.
Chapter 11: day eleven.
Charles wheeled himself into the kitchen at around three a.m., wondering why it was he had woken up alone. He found his answer when he noticed Erik sitting at the table in the dark, nursing a bottle of gin. “You're awake early.”
Erik didn't even bother to look as Charles turned on the lights and wheeled himself over. “Needed a drink.”
Charles took notice of a couple of empty bottles sitting on the table. “How many have you had?”
“Nowhere near enough,” Erik mumbled in between sips. “I understand now why you want to be pissed all the time.”
Charles reached for a bottle. “Hank's going to be confused when all the liquor is gone when he gets back.”
“I'll replace it all again before I leave,” Erik said, taking a large drink. “Fuck, it hurts to even say it.”
Charles opened the bottle and took a long drink. “Maybe you don't have to leave.”
“Yes,” Erik said softly. “I do. I can't be the man you want me to be, Charles.”
Charles reached out and put his hand on Erik's arm, making him look over at him. “You are the man I want you to be, Erik. You just don't realize it.”
Erik shook off Charles's touch and tipped the bottle back once more. “You've always seen good in me, Charles. But it doesn't exist, no matter how much you want it to.”
Charles set his bottle down on the table. “May I?”
Erik sat in silence for a few minutes before nodding. “Yes.”
Charles brought his fingers up to his temple and delved into Erik's mind, bypassing all the memories of their time together and all the pain and anger that Erik had suffered since the war had broken out. He went back to the place where he had only ventured once before, the beautiful place that existed in Erik's mind. It was small, and it hadn't been added to for some time.
He went for a different memory this time, bypassing the birthday party that he'd already seen for one of Erik as a small boy, no more than two or three years old. He was sitting in his father's lap, book spread across his legs, and his father was reading to him.
It was beautiful to watch.
When Charles pulled himself out of Erik's mind, he found Erik sitting there, tears streaming down his face. He didn't say anything, just let Erik remember the feeling of that moment.
“What the fuck did you just do to me?” Erik finally asked, polishing off the bottle and reaching for another.
“Reminded you of the good that's still inside you,” Charles said, reaching for his bottle again. “I know you don't think it's there, but it is, and if you gave it a chance, it could override all the anger and pain.”
“That's the good of an innocent child,” Erik said. “I'm not an innocent child anymore.”
“No, you're not,” Charles said. “But you're still a good man.”
They sat in silence for a while, drinking more and more. Erik was already drunk and Charles was well on his way by the time either of them spoke again.
“So what do you think would happen if I stayed?” Erik asked. “I'd become a teacher, help you with the school, agree to your philosophies, and play chess with you every night? There's no fucking way that can happen.”
“I would never force you to work at the school,” Charles said. “Though I do think that you would find yourself wanting to contribute to it if you were here all the time. I know that you'd make a horrible teacher, but I wouldn't have you teaching something like history or science. I'd have you teaching in the Danger Room.”
“The Danger Room. It's not exactly finished yet. Hank's still working on the technology, but he says he can do it in maybe four or five years. It would use holography.”
“I still have no idea what that is,” Erik said, looking over at Charles. “Are you drunk?”
“Almost,” Charles said. “The Danger Room will use holographic technology to teach the kids how to defend themselves using their abilities. I think you'd be good in there.”
“I have no idea what holographic technology is, Charles.”
“It creates three-dimensional images via a computer,” Charles replied. “It would give the kids actual people to fight and defeat without actually hurting anyone.”
Erik just shook his head. “No wonder you didn't want the CIA on your arse.”
“So you really are training mutants then.”
“They need to be prepared to defend themselves,” Charles said, taking a long drink. “I don't entirely believe that diplomacy is the only way forward, you know. I know there will be fights. I'm just terribly afraid that you and I will always be on opposite sides of them.”
“Maybe,” Erik said, finishing off another bottle. “Maybe not. Apparently, something someday is going to bring us back together.”
“Yes,” Charles murmured. “If we didn't change that.”
“What happened to having faith?”
“I do,” Charles said, watching as Erik reached for another bottle. “It's just that I don't know what could drive us together again when we couldn't be further apart.”
Erik ripped off the cap of the new bottle and sighed. “Love.”
Charles let that word settle into his mind, feeling warmth spread out through his limbs from his heart. They'd never admitted that before, and he was surprised Erik had brought it up. “Yes,” he said softly. “Maybe that will be it.”
Erik took a long drink and then sighed. “When I leave, I don't want you to think that I'll never come back.”
“Why shouldn't I?” Charles said. “You won't.”
“Yes,” Erik said, taking another drink. “I will. I'll come home someday, Charles. I promise you that.”
Charles sighed. “Please don't promise me that. Please.”
“Why shouldn't I?”
“Because we both know it's nothing but a figment of your imagination.”
“It's not,” Erik said, the truth radiating off him. “I really do want to come home someday. But I don't know when that will be, Charles. I don't know how much longer I'm going to want to fight for our rights.”
“We're both fighting for our rights,” Charles pointed out. “We're just doing it differently.”
“I know,” Erik said, taking another long drink. “Tell me something Charles. How can getting what you want break your heart?”
Charles polished off the bottle he had been nursing and set it on the table. “I don't know, Erik. But you're not the only one with a broken heart.”
Charles sat there as Erik finished off his bottle, then reached his hand out to him. “Let's go back to bed,” Charles murmured. “We don't have much time left.”
Erik let Charles grasp his hand and nodded. “I need you, Charles.”
“Then have me. Only two more nights after this one.”
Erik didn't even bother waiting for Charles to start moving. He just levitated the wheelchair and started making his way to the bedroom.
“I do hate it when you do this,” Charles mentioned. “But it does get me places faster.”
“We don't have much time,” Erik said as he guided Charles into the room. “Why waste it?”
Chapter 12: day twelve.
Erik walked into Charles's study, smiling when he found him in a familiar seat, setting up a familiar chessboard. “You found it!”
“I always knew where it was,” Charles mumbled. “I just didn't want to play.”
Erik took up the seat across from him, helping Charles put the pieces in their places. “But you want to now?”
“I miss our chess games,” Charles said quietly.
Erik reached to the bottle sitting on the table next to them, pouring them each a glass. “Then we shall play.”
Charles accepted the drink and downed it in one sip. “You really are going to have to go to the liquor store again.”
“It's alright,” Erik said, smiling. “I don't mind.”
Charles set the last piece in place, then looked up at Erik. “I believe that it's your turn to start.”
He reached for the bottle and refilled his glass as Erik made a slight move with his hand and a pawn came sliding forward. Charles couldn't help but shake his head. “Are you really that incapable of picking up a piece and moving it?”
“I like to use my powers,” Erik said, taking a large sip of his drink. “Besides, you've never complained before.”
“I'm not complaining,” Charles said as he made his move. “Simply making an observation.”
They sat there, playing chess and drinking scotch for hours until the light faded and they were both drunk. Charles laughed after the last game they played and knocked all the pieces to the floor. “We have a lot of memories in this room.”
“Yes,” Erik said, sipping at his scotch. “We do.”
“Do you remember when Sean almost walked in on us?” Charles asked with a smile. “Thank god for my ability to manipulate people's minds. He had his hand on the doorknob.”
Erik nodded, polishing off his glass. “He was a good kid. I hate thinking about what happened to him.”
The laughter on Charles's lips died, and he sighed heavily. “I failed them, Erik.”
“We both did,” Erik said, reaching for the scotch. “You went into your depression and I ended up in prison. They didn't know how to survive without us.”
“They were just kids,” Charles choked out. “That's why I've got to reopen the school. There are too many mutants out there who need our help.”
“I know,” Erik said, refilling both of their glasses. “I believe we first brought up the idea of the school in this room.”
Charles picked up his drink and nodded. “We did.”
“I'm glad you did it,” Erik said, taking a sip. “And I'm glad you're going to do it again. Kids need a person like you to help guide them.”
“And they need a person like you to teach them how to fight,” Charles murmured. “I've never been good with violence.”
“Charles,” Erik started. “You know I can't. I wish I could, but I just can't.”
“I know,” Charles said softly. “But that doesn't stop me from hoping you would.”
“What are you going to do with them?” Erik asked. “Once they're trained and no longer students.”
Charles took a long sip from his drink. “Well, I'm hoping that some of them will stay on as teachers. Always better to have a mutant teacher teaching mutants, in my opinion. But, I suppose I'll be creating the next generation of X-Men.”
“X-Men?” Erik asked, a bemused tone to his voice. “Who came up with that one?”
“Moira,” Charles laughed. “I said something about not being G-Men anymore and she said we were now X-Men instead. Hank heard about it and ran with it. I should show you downstairs some time. He's got a whole X-Men headquarters set up down there.”
“It sounds very amusing,” Erik said, unable to keep from laughing. “And Hank would run with an idea like that. He is the one who came up with those terrible suits we were wearing that day.”
“Those suits were way better than your purple cape,” Charles pointed out. “And I probably shouldn't show you downstairs. I need to keep some secrets.”
“You're keeping secrets from me,” Erik said, bemused tone back. “I never would have thought.”
“You're keeping them from me as well,” Charles said, shaking his head. “Anyway, back to memories of this room. I do believe that you wouldn't keep your hands off me one night when we were supposed to be playing chess.”
“And I believe there were many times when you interrupted chess games to drag me into kisses,” Erik replied, taking a sip of his drink. “I think about the only thing we never did in here was actually have sex.”
Charles swallowed hard, then glanced at the floor. “Want to?”
Erik stared at him for a moment before standing up. “I'll need to get some things.”
“Of course,” Charles said. “Maybe grab a pillow or two as well.”
Erik nodded. “I'll be right back.”
Charles reached for his drink and polished it off, pouring himself another and downing that one too. He didn't know why it was that he continued to have sex with Erik, because all it was doing was hurting him more and more. He tried to tell himself that it was because he had gone so long without it, but he knew that was nothing more than a lie.
He kept having sex with Erik because Erik was the only person he wanted to have sex with.
They'd really had a hard time keeping their hands off each other since that first day when Charles let Erik back into his bed completely. The sofa in the sitting room, the shower in the en suite, even the grass outside where they'd looked at the stars. Erik had joked about christening the entire house once, and while they were nowhere near doing that, they had christened a few more places at least.
And now it was time for the study.
The study, that was as much of a mess as he currently was.
The study, where he'd hidden from the world and drank himself silly.
The study, where he'd first realized he was going to have to let Erik go.
They were going to lay on the floor, take their clothes off, and have sex. In the study.
Charles found something poetic about it, really. The place where they'd fallen in love would be the place where they finally, completely, broke each other's hearts.
Charles knew they had about one and a half days left after this, but he wasn't sure Erik was going to stay for all of it. He wouldn't be surprised to wake up the next morning to find Erik gone without a trace. Erik always left. This would be no different. Hank would come home, Charles would tell him some bullshit about what he'd done while Hank was gone, maybe even manipulate his mind so that Hank would drop the subject quickly. Hank would have to put him back together again, but he was going to be in more pieces than he ever had been before.
Loving Erik Lehnsherr was going to be the death of him one of these days.
Erik walked back into the room and dropped a couple of pillows, a blanket, and the supplies he'd needed down on the floor. He walked over to Charles and kissed him softly, then carefully picked him up and set him on the floor. Charles reached for a pillow and stretched himself out, and then Erik was on top of him, kissing him hungrily.
Charles never wanted to experience sex with anyone else ever.
So maybe he really was turning into a stuffy professor with no sex life. Maybe that was what was meant to be.
Because him and Erik? That wasn't meant to be.
At least not yet.
Chapter 13: day thirteen.
They spent most of the day in silence, curled together in Charles's bed. Every once and a while, one of them would kiss the other, and their need for each other would take over. Their bodies moved together as though they had been fitted together perfectly, and they slept off their exhaustion once it was over.
They were running out of time, and they both knew it.
“When will Hank be home tomorrow?” Erik asked mid-afternoon.
“Sometime after noon,” Charles said sleepily, pulling Erik closer. “Don't think of him yet. Just enjoy this.”
“I can't help it,” Erik murmured. “We have less than a day left.”
Charles rested his head on Erik's chest. “I saw us, you know.”
“In the future,” Charles said. “I looked into Logan's mind, and I saw us.”
Erik wrapped an arm around Charles's shoulders. “And what did you see?”
“I recognized you instantly. You were standing right next to me, as though that was where you were meant to be. You hadn't given up the cape, much to my horror.”
Erik laughed. “Magneto does like the cape.”
“You like the cape. You are Magneto, you idiot.”
“Whatever,” Erik said, holding Charles tighter. “What else did you see?”
Charles smiled. “Your hair, it wasn't really gray. It was more like silver, more like the color of metal. It fitted you very nicely.”
“And your hair?”
“Was completely gone,” Charles laughed.
Erik chuckled. “Well, you're a proper professor by that point then.”
“Please don't remind me of the upcoming loss of my hair,” Charles said seriously. “I shall miss it terribly.”
“I'm sure you will deal with it with dignity.”
“I'll probably drink myself into next week when it starts to fall out.”
“About that,” Erik said, shifting them around so he could look at Charles. “I want you to get some help.”
“Help? For what?”
Erik sighed. “Charles, you're an alcoholic.”
“I am not!” Charles declared. “I just like a drink.”
“Yes, straight from the bottle at any moment of the day,” Erik pointed out. “You've gone through hundreds of dollars worth of alcohol just in the two weeks that I've been here. You're an alcoholic, Charles, and the sooner you can admit that and get some help, the better you will be for the students you're going to have.”
Erik pulled Charles into a kiss. “At least promise me that you will slow down the drinking then. Please?”
Charles sighed and kissed Erik again. “I will try. And that's all you're getting out of me.”
“Fine,” Erik said, pulling Charles on top of him. “Do you think that if I supported your legs we would be able to have sex like this? Because I have so many memories of you riding me for all that I was worth and I just...”
“I don't know,” Charles said honestly. “You'd have to help guide me up and down. I wouldn't be able to use my legs for that.”
Erik swallowed hard. “Can we try?”
Charles nodded and tried to sit up, sighing as Erik's hands came to his hips to help him. Erik carefully maneuvered each one of Charles's legs into the position they would have been in had Charles been able to move them, and then he looked up at Charles.
“How much prep do you need?”
“None,” Charles said, trying to lift himself and groaning when he couldn't. “Fucking useless legs.”
“I'm sorry,” Erik practically sobbed, grabbing Charles's hips probably harder than was necessary. “I'm so sorry, Charles.”
“Shh,” Charles soothed. “It's okay, Erik. Just help me.”
Erik took a deep breath and then helped lift Charles, groaning with pleasure as he sank back down, their bodies joined together. Charles was shuddering from the feeling, and god, how Erik had missed this. Every single movement, every single sound, every single second of just being with Charles.
He was going to enjoy it while he could.
It was different having to guide Charles instead of just letting him do all the work, but as he came, Erik couldn't help but think it had been worth it. When the world came back into focus, Charles was bent over him, panting and squirming around. Erik immediately lifted him to separate their bodies and brought Charles into his arms, kissing his hair and whispering soothing things in German.
It took him a while to realize that Charles was crying.
“No,” Erik said, reaching up to wipe the tears from Charles's face. “Don't cry.”
“Do you remember what you said to me the other day?” Charles choked out. “About how getting what you want can break your heart? Well, mine's officially shattered, and I don't know how I'm ever going to put it together again.”
Charles buried his face in the nape of Erik's neck, tears continuing to fall. “Don't go. Please don't go. I'll do anything, Erik. Just don't go.”
“I won't,” Erik soothed, stroking his hand down Charles's spine. “I'll stay.”
Even as he said it, they both knew it was a lie. But it was enough to get Charles to stop crying, and he settled into Erik's embrace.
“Do you think,” Charles started, “do you really think there's ever going to come a time where you'll come home and never leave?”
Erik took a deep breath. “I don't know.”
“You're welcome here any time,” Charles murmured. “No matter what Hank or anyone else who may end up in this house says. If you come here, I will welcome you with open arms.”
“You say that now, but I don't think that will always be the case,” Erik said. “Especially if we are on opposite sides of future conflicts.”
“You're a good man, Erik,” Charles said softly. “I just wish you could see it.”
Erik sighed. “A few childhood memories do not make a good man, Charles.”
“I couldn't love a monster,” Charles said, burying his face back in the nape of Erik's neck.
“And yet that is what I am,” Erik said. “Frankenstein's monster, even if my creator is now dead.”
Charles pressed a kiss to the soft skin there. “You're not.”
“I am,” Erik said firmly. “And you shouldn't love me.”
“Then you shouldn't love me either,” Charles said, sitting up slightly so he could look at Erik. “And yet here we are.”
“This would be so much easier if you were a horrible person,” Erik murmured.
“And it would be so much easier for me if you really were a monster,” Charles said, bending down to kiss Erik. “But things between us were never meant to be easy.”
“Maybe one day,” Erik said.
Charles nodded. “Maybe one day. But for now, let's just enjoy the time we've got.”
Erik smiled at Charles and pulled him into a deep kiss, rolling them over so he was on top again.
He knew what he had to do now.
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 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.
thank you to everyone who has gone on this journey with me, whether you commented, left a kudos, or just read along. you made writing this worthwhile, and it has been a very long time since i've felt that way.